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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Up-Hill Battles? Bush, Kerry and Congress; Laura Bush's Role; Interview With Liz Cheney, Interview with Ralph Nader

Aired May 20, 2004 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: Back to his day job. Will a Senate detour protect John Kerry from critics, still miffed about a missed vote?

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: Jay, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST: Really?

ANNOUNCER: Laura Bush lets loose. What's behind the first lady's higher profile?

All in the family. Vice presidential daughter Liz Cheney tells us about her campaign to convince America that "W" Stands for Women.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

Well, both President Bush and Senator John Kerry are trying today to smooth ruffled feathers in the Congress. This hour, Kerry is on Capitol Hill to jump into a battle over the budget and to prove that he is not shirking his Senate duties. Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, keeping tabs on the Democratic candidate.

First of all, Candy, what is Senator Kerry up to? And what's the politics here?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's going to give a speech there discussing the budget. It's a good time for him to be up there to make the case that Democrats, in particular, this Democrat, is the one who will do the most about the deficit. He'll hit Bush on how high the deficit is, and, in fact, he has some Republican help. There are some Republican senators that will probably vote against this budget because of -- they don't think it's serious enough about cutting down on the deficit.

So it's a good time for him to go and show those kind of moderate credentials that he wants to show as we move into the general election period. They say also, by the way, that this has nothing to do with the fact that he got some heat for not showing up for the unemployment benefits extension, which lost by a single vote.

Kerry tried to explain why even if he had voted it wouldn't have made any difference in the general outcome. They say this is purely about scheduling, he can come back. They know that Republicans will go ahead and make hay out of votes that he does miss, but this is one they said that was convenient schedule-wise. It was in the area, which is to say, Philadelphia. And it's a good time again for him to have a forum to talk about budget deficits.

WOODRUFF: All right. Something else I want to ask you about. Kerry getting new flack today over the issue of abortion. I want to let our viewers listen to what he said, what Kerry said to The Associated Press yesterday about whether he would consider a judicial candidate who disagrees with his support of abortion rights.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That doesn't mean that if that's not the balance of the court I wouldn't be prepared ultimately to appoint somebody to some court who has a different point of view. I've already voted for people like that. I voted for John Scalia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Now, later, Candy, Kerry issued a clarification and he pledged not to appoint anyone to the high court who would undo abortion rights, undone Roe v. Wade. But he did leave open the possibility of appointing anti-abortion judges to lower courts. So how is all this playing out?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, again, it's playing into the Republicans' ability to say this is a flip-flopper, this is a guy who stood before women's groups and said I will never appoint someone who doesn't support apportion rights, who then seems to kind of back off a little bit. In any case, it required another explanation from Kerry. That's never a good thing when you have to do that, because Republicans are going to use this.

They know that through commercials and various things, they've been able to make some hay here on this is a guy who says one thing to one group and one thing to another group. So they're obviously using it. Again, the Kerry camp sort of dismisses this as yet another obvious thing for Republicans to jump on, but nothing that's really going to attack Kerry. The Republicans are going for the drip, drip effect here.

WOODRUFF: Our ears always perk up when they issue those clarifications.

CROWLEY: Right.

WOODRUFF: OK. Candy, thank you very much.

Well, President Bush also was on the Hill earlier today to give what amounted to a pep talk to House and Senate Republicans. Some members of his own party have been a little anxious about the president's sinking approval ratings, as well as setbacks in Iraq. We'll have a report on Bush's reception and tensions within the GOP later.

As Mr. Bush's political fortunes have slumped, first lady, Laura Bush, has boosted her public profile. It's no coincidence and it is no secret that Mrs. Bush is trying to make her husband seem more appealing to women voters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm proud to be a compassionate conservative.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): Last time's message, this year's messenger.

L. BUSH: He has a good and compassionate heart.

WOODRUFF: Laura Bush hits the trail, working to inject a little warm and fuzzy into her husband's campaign. On a two-day, five-state swing, the first lady emphasized the administration's domestic accomplishments and her husband's leadership as commander in chief. Nothing, if not upbeat, Mrs. Bush pitches the President without ever mentioning his challenger, at least not overtly.

L. BUSH: But these are times that require particularly strong and determined leaders, and I'm proud that my husband is that kind of leader.

WOODRUFF: The first lady's remarks peppered with a familiar word, whether talking about the troops in Iraq...

L. BUSH: The vast majority of our military has conducted themselves with honor and compassion.

WOODRUFF: ... or the American spirit of...

L. BUSH: ... compassion and ingenuity.

WOODRUFF: It's a theme the campaign hopes will resonate with women and help close a gaping gender gap in the contest. While the latest CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll shows George Bush and John Kerry roughly tied among all likely voters, Kerry has an 11-point lead among women. The campaign is calling Laura Bush an open weapon in the battle for women's votes. Her political travels this week come on the heels of a star turn in an Internet ad placed on Web sites with high female traffic.

L. BUSH: The President is so committed to education reform because he looks at schools as a parent looks at schools.

WOODRUFF: On the road, the first lady is careful never to overshadow her husband. Demurring when asked about her own views on hot-button issues like abortion and gay marriage, refusing to breach the president's confidences. As she told Jay Leno last night... L. BUSH: Jay, what happens in the White House stays in the White House.

LENO: Really?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Mrs. Bush last night with Jay Leno.

Well, some members of the vice president's family also are working to close the Bush campaign's gender gap. Dick Cheney's wife, Lynn, spoke about education in New York today, one of her frequent campaign appearances. And their daughter, Liz, is active in the campaign as well, co-chairing the "W" Stands for Women leadership team.

Liz Cheney joins us now on INSIDE POLITICS here in Washington.

Very good to see you. Thanks for being with us.

LIZ CHENEY, DICK CHENEY'S DAUGHTER: Thanks, Judy. Great to be here.

WOODRUFF: So we just talked about this 11-point gender gap. Do you think you all are going to be able to close something that big.

CHENEY: Well, I do. I actually don't agree that the gender gap is that large. I think what you've seen consistently since the 2000 election is the closing of the gap. And, you know, it depends what poll you look at, but in a couple of the polls that we've seen in the last few weeks, in fact, the gender gap has just about disappeared. So we feel very confident that the president's strong and steady leadership is going to resonate with women, as well as men.

WOODRUFF: Well, I know those numbers we were quoting were from early -- or I should say in last few days in May. So I know our poll may be recent. But specifically, with regard to Iraq, we know that this is one issue clearly dividing men and women. Again, in our latest poll, by a margin of 50 to 38, women prefer John Kerry's approach to Iraq. How do you deal with something like that?

CHENEY: Well, again, I think that, you know, when you look at what this President has done to keep the country safe since September 11, which obviously includes the liberation of Iraq, the liberation of Afghanistan, we see that national security is going to be a critical issue for women voters this year, as well as for men voters, and the more that people pay attention to Senator Kerry and his positions on the issues, and the extent to which it's very hard to pin him down on key issues, you know, the more we see that they're very nervous about that.

And I can tell you what I hear from women as I travel around the country is a real concern, a real fear that when you're looking for somebody to be commander in chief at a time of war, you want somebody whose position you can pin down. And Senator Kerry too often has changed his position on really critical issues. WOODRUFF: Well, it's not just Democrats. It's now some Republican who are questioning the president's handling of Iraq, handling of the deficit. I want to quote very quickly something that the former Senate majority leader, Trent Lott, said just the other day.

He said, "I don't think they're necessarily out of ideas, but they're not advancing ideas." He said, "They're running short on fuel in terms of ideas that turn people on." Leadership is fine, but leadership to do what?

CHENEY: Well, I think it's absolutely clear, leadership to win the war on terror and leadership to continue the economic recovery. If you look at where we were after September 11 in terms of the situation where the Taliban was in power in Afghanistan, where Saddam Hussein was in power in Iraq, and the steps the President has taken since then both to keep America safe, creating the Department of Homeland Security and liberating 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan, there's simply no question but not only have we got ideas we're advancing, but the President now has a proven track record. The same holds true on the economy, as well.

WOODRUFF: Liz Cheney, I also want to ask you about an issue that's getting a lot of attention this year, a domestic issue. The first lady, Laura Bush, said yesterday that she thought the subject of gay marriage is something that people should talk about and they should debate.

Do you agree with the President -- and I'm asking you this personally -- the fact that he has call for a constitutional ban on gay marriage? Are you comfortable with that idea?

CHENEY: Well, I am. I think that the position my dad laid out in 2000, which is that this is an issue that ought to be one for States to decide, it's a very important issue and it's a very difficult issue. And I think that it's wrong for us to be in a position where you've got, you know, four, I believe, activist judges in Massachusetts who are essentially taking the ability away from the people to decide and debate the issue. So it's a very important one and one that should be discussed.

WOODRUFF: So you're saying you agree with what your father said back in 2000, when he said it is something that should be left to the states?

CHENEY: Left to the people of the states.

WOODRUFF: Because recently he said he supports the president's call for a ban.

CHENEY: He has made clear, and the president believes this, too, this is an issue that the people should be able to decide. And what has happened now is, because of the actions, as I said, of a few judges in the state of Massachusetts, we're in a position where that decision has been taken away from the people. So I think, as I said, it's a difficult issue, one people ought to debate and decide. And it's a tough one. But ultimately, in a democracy, it should be in the hands of the people and not in the hands of a few activist judges.

CHENEY: So that means you would be in favor of at least a vote on a constitutional ban?

CHENEY: I think you have to look at what it takes.

WOODRUFF: OK. Liz Cheney, what is your goal in this campaign? I mean, you were just telling me a minute ago you're going to give birth you think on July 1 or thereabouts. How much longer can you campaign?

CHENEY: That's right. Well, I plan to campaign up and until the delivery as much as I can, and then be back on the campaign trail again after that.

The campaign itself and the issues that are at stake are so important in terms of our children. And I think of my own children in this regard. The direction of the country really will be determined who we elect in November. And I think that the choice for America couldn't be clearer. So I am very committed, as my entire family is, including my sister, Mary, who is director of vice presidential operations for the campaign, to working very, very hard to make sure that the president and my dad are reelected in November.

WOODRUFF: Well, we appreciate your coming by and we wish you well...

CHENEY: Thank you very much.

WOODRUFF: ... with this pregnancy. And we'll wait to hear the news in the weeks to come.

CHENEY: Good. Well, great to be here. Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you very much.

CHENEY: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Three new polls lead the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily."

President Bush is holding on to his support across the South, while Florida and New Jersey are still very much up for grabs. A Zogby survey in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution polled likely voters in 11 southern states. The results show that southerners are standing with the president over John Kerry by double digits, 52 to 37 percent.

Now, in Florida, one of the states included in that poll of southern voters, the race is much tighter. A poll by the American Research Group finds Bush and Kerry tied at 47 percent each. With Ralph Nader in the race, Bush leads by one point. Nader receives 3 percent. Looking north to New Jersey, John Kerry is holding on to a slight edge. A university poll gives Kerry 47 percent to Bush's 44 percent. Kerry also holds a three-point lead when Nader is included in the poll.

In the fight for Iraq, we'll get a Kerry adviser's take on the latest setbacks and scandal. I'll talk with former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke next.

Plus, the Democrats find another way to focus on high gas prices by making a game out of it.

And later, Ralph Nader gives us his read on his meeting with John Kerry and whether the two found any common ground.

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In Iraq, another American soldier was killed today in a hand grenade attack in Baghdad. Three other American soldiers were wounded.

In yet another development, the U.S. military is sticking by its claim that an air strike yesterday targeted a suspected safe house for foreign fighters and not a wedding, as reported by Iraqis. U.S. officials say soldiers recovered satellite communication gear, foreign passports, weapons, including AK-47s, and a large sum of Iraqi cash. Iraqi witnesses say the U.S. raid killed more than 20 wedding guests.

Well, joining me now with his take on the situation in Iraq, Richard Holbrooke, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and also an adviser right now to John Kerry's campaign.

Richard Holbrooke, good to see you again.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, ADVISER, KERRY CAMPAIGN: Great to be here, Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Right now, President Bush is telling Republicans -- he said this today on Capitol Hill: "We're staying the course in Iraq. The handover is going to happen on June the 30." If that happens and if the Iraqis begin to control their own country, what is it that John Kerry would do that's any better?

HOLBROOKE: Well, I hope that all happens, but it is an unbelievable situation that, with less than 40 days to go, the U.S. doesn't know who they're handing off to. The status of the American forces will be undetermined. They will be at even greater risk.

There's a real chance of a civil war. American policy has been handed off to Lakhdar Brahimi, a Sunni Arab U.N. official, very smart. I've worked with him closely. But who knows what he's going to do?

So I don't understand the policy. And, frankly, Judy, I don't think the U.S. government has a policy. Secretary Rumsfeld said today that he didn't even know that Chalabi's house was going to be raided today. And how chaotic can a situation be?

WOODRUFF: This is the Iraqi leader who had been in exile for many years. And U.S. troops and Iraqi police went into his house.

HOLBROOKE: But he got $27 million of U.S. taxpayers' money and only got cut off from that money a few days ago. Then they raided his house. Maybe they're looking for those missing weapons of mass destruction that Chalabi and only Chalabi knows about.

But, I mean, before we say what Senator Kerry would do, let's look at the facts. This is the biggest mess the U.S. has been in since Vietnam. I supported President Bush's right to go in. Saddam Hussein was a terrible man and we're better off without him. But this is a huge mess, and Senator Kerry has laid out very clearly already in his Fulton, Missouri, speech his program to improve the situation.

WOODRUFF: Well, let's talk about what Senator Kerry did, because, as you know, there are now Democratic foreign policy experts who are saying that a united Iraq is impossible, that it makes much more sense now to talk about three different regions, Shiite, Kurd and Sunni, under a loose confederation.

You've got Peter Galbraith in the New York Review of Books, you've got Leslie Gelb in The Wall Street Journal today. What's wrong with an idea like that?

HOLBROOKE: Well, let's be clear on what Les Gelb, Peter Galbraith and others were proposing. They're trying to create the kind of situation which we created in Bosnia nine years ago with the Dayton Peace Agreements, a single country, but not a tight central government.

The reason being that, with three major ethnic groups, Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, you can't get there from here. The administration laid out a set of goals a year ago, none of which, Judy, with the sole exception of Saddam's capture, did they achieve. These proposals you're talking about are a very interesting way to move, and the Bush administration should...

WOODRUFF: Are they something that you would tell John Kerry to take a serious look at, or have you already discussed this with him?

HOLBROOKE: Senator Kerry and I have discussed this many times. Senator Kerry's position on these issues has been consistent for over a year. He has always said internationalize, deal with the ethnic problem.

WOODRUFF: I know that, but would he endorse something like this, having three regions under a loose confederation?

HOLBROOKE: He's not going to endorse an article in The Wall Street Journal and the New York Review Books. He has laid out clearly a process in which this is a logical possibility, but he is not going to lay out a specific program, nor does he need to.

WOODRUFF: You've got another idea being pushed out there. Jim Steinberg, who worked in the Clinton -- you know him well -- Clinton National Security Council, he's saying the United States should announce plans to end this deployment by the end of next year, once you've got a constitution in place. Why not...

HOLBROOKE: With all due respect to Jim Steinberg, who's a terrific guy, and I worked closely with him, I don't think the U.S. should set a date certain for departure because that only hardens the hard liners. But we need a success policy.

It's not enough just to go around and say failure is not an option, which we all agree on. You need to define success. This administration hasn't done it, Senator Kerry has.

WOODRUFF: So specifically what? I mean, internationalizing, which the administration says it's doing.

HOLBROOKE: No. The administration can say anything it wants, but look at the track record. Day after day after day, the situation gets worse. And in 40 days, our troops are going to be left exposed in a political situation over which our marginal control will have disappeared.

Ambassador Bremer's mission is a failure. Senator Kerry's laid out a good alternative. And people like Les Gelb and Peter Galbraith, Jim Hogland (ph) and others are now making very interesting proposals.

WOODRUFF: It sounds like you're talking about them in the campaign.

HOLBROOKE: Well, it's going to be a critical issue.

WOODRUFF: We're going to have to leave it there. Hope we can talk about it some more soon. Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, advising the Kerry camp. Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Question: can rising gas prices play political dividends? Up next, more efforts by the Kerry team to profit from consumer anger over the price at the pump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The Kerry campaign apparently continues to see the potential for political gain and the rising cost of gasoline. Earlier today, the campaign organized a conference call for reporters featuring the Democratic attorneys general from four states. The officials want the White House to help them investigate the rise in gas prices. In Iowa, the campaign is even touting a guess the gas price contest, where people can predict how much gas will go up by the end of this summer.

Over on Capitol Hill, some Republicans have not been on the best terms lately. We'll talk about the election year conflict with a member of the GOP leadership.

Plus, despite recent victories for the gay rights movement, one state party is giving homosexuals the boot.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Party united? President Bush goes to Capitol Hill to rally Republicans in Congress. Will today's meeting bring an end to recent fights within the party?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a good team meeting.

ANNOUNCER: He's battling President Bush for the White House, but John Kerry's got another fight on his hands with his own church.

A major meeting between John Kerry and Ralph Nader. Did the two agree to disagree? We'll speak with the Independent presidential hopeful.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

WOODRUFF: Welcome back.

Well, there's nothing quite like a personal visit by President Bush to pick up Republican spirits. After days of bickering and hand wringing among GOP leaders, many Republican lawmakers came out of their meeting with Bush today sounding like cheerleaders. Here now, our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president came to Capitol Hill to rally the troops. House and Senate Republicans emerged from the closed-door meeting and said Bush touted his record on everything from the economy to Medicare and Iraq.

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: He's resolved. He's going to stand strong for freedom. It was a good teem meeting.

REP. DEBORAH PRYCE (R), OHIO: He was very upbeat and positive about the direction we're going, and asked us to keep the faith and keep the pressure on and keep ahead on the right track. And I think that, to the last person in there, we're all behind him.

HENRY: That support is critical for the president amid Republican concerns about his falling approval ratings.

SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Look, I mean, this was no surprise to anyone here that this has been a roughly couple of months for the president, particularly on the issues of Iraq and I think he was here to remind folks that we do have a policy and this policy is going to be tough. Things, as I think he commented, are very likely to get worse before they get better. HENRY: When Bush vowed to finish the job in Iraq, he received one of several standing ovations. Senator Lamar Alexander said he could have had as many as he wanted. This was the choir and the choir was in tune today. But Democrats were singing a much different tune.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I believe that the president's leadership in the actions taken in Iraq demonstrate an incompetence in terms of knowledge, judgment and experience in making the decisions that would have been necessary to truly accomplish the mission without the deaths to our troops and the cost to our taxpayers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Judy, Republicans were unified in denouncing those remarks by Nancy Pelosi with Speaker Dennis Hastert and House Majority Leader Tom Delay coming together this afternoon to say that Pelosi really crossed a line here. Delay said, quote, "she apparently is so caught up in partisan hatred that her words are putting American lives at risk." That's a far cry, that unity from what we saw earlier this week with people like Speaker Hastert and Senator John McCain getting locked up in inter-party squabbles. Instead it looks like maybe things are getting back to normal a little bit with Republicans beating up on Democrats rather than each other -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Nothing like a shot across the bow from the other party to unify the other party, right?

HENRY: Exactly.

WOODRUFF: Ed Henry, thank you very much. Now, let's hear a little more from one of those Republican who spoke to Ed Henry. She is GOP conference chair woman, Deborah Pryce joining us from Capitol Hill. So all is sweetness and light, Congresswoman Pryce, all that bickering that we saw yesterday and the days before has disappeared?

PRYCE: Republicans are unified behind the president, absolutely and his arrival on Capitol Hill today to talk to us was great. It was a nice thing to have happen before our Memorial Day break and shame on Nancy Pelosi.

WOODRUFF: You said that he has, I guess you and others who were interviewed after the president's visit, said he has a clear plan for Iraq. What is it?

PRYCE: Well, the change to Iraqi sovereignty is on schedule for June 30. They're going to have a ministry form of government with a prime minister and several ministries under it. He made it very clear that the peace won't happen overnight, but the responsibility of the United States will become less and less as Iraqis take more and more of it upon themselves. He said he was going to have the Iraqi government take the training wheels off.

WOODRUFF: And will that new government have the ability to ask U.S. troops to leave? I'm asking because that's been a subject of some dissension it seems in the administration. PRYCE: Well, it seems to me that if they will have total sovereignty they have total sovereignty. That means if they vote to have us withdraw, that that would probably be honored. I'm not a State Department guru, but that seems to be what the president was saying today.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about something back here at home, Congresswoman Pryce. There's a report in the Capitol Hill newspaper, "The Hill," saying that Republicans are more worried about the president's poll numbers, approval ratings, and, in fact, in your home state of Ohio, which obviously voted for George W. Bush back in 2000, right now, John Kerry has a five-point lead. Are you worried?

PRYCE: We're not worried. We have the greatest grassroots organization ever in history in Ohio going on. We're organized to the hilt. Things -- we've had a couple bad weeks. That goes beyond saying and we have some ways to go in terms of jobs but they're coming back. The economy continues to improve every day and that's finally happening in Ohio, too. By November, I think we're going to be in fine shape and George W. Bush will carry the state. That's my prediction.

WOODRUFF: But in the bigger picture when you have Speaker Hastert criticizing John McCain for not supporting tax cuts sufficiently and when you have Duncan Hunter, the chairman of the House armed services committee criticizing his counterpart in the Senate, is that a Republican party that's going to stay united?

PRYCE: We're going to stay united. There's so much at risk, we have to stay united. It's just end of session squabbling that goes on. There's a lot going on this week. The pressures are humongous on both sides of the Senate and the House, the leadership is -- we're trying to finish our work and get things done, try and make the government work for the American people and sometimes that hits on a raw nerve on occasion but Republicans will be united and we'll carry Ohio for George Bush.

WOODRUFF: One subject I know of some disagreement between the White House and Congress is this transportation funding measure. It would fund highway programs all over the country. You're very familiar with it. The White House approved spending in the neighborhood of 250 billion. The House hiked that number to 280. The Senate added more, now it's $318 billion. The president is saying he may veto it. How much do members want this resolved so they can take something home?

PRYCE: It's not just taking something home, it's also providing jobs for Americans and in Ohio, that's very, very important. I think the president realizes the importance of that, I think in the end you'll see a compromise between the House number and president's number and I believe in the end, the president will sign it. I have my fingers crossed.

WOODRUFF: You think he'll sign it? Have you been given some firm...

PRYCE: No.

WOODRUFF: Pledge that that's going to happen.

PRYCE: No. Absolutely not. I think he wants us to keep that spending number down the best that we can. But we can only pass what we can pass, and I think once the bill hits his desk and he sees that it's a reasonable figure, that he will see it as a signable bill and he'll see that the bill will create the jobs that he needs to go forward with the economy booming and all that is kind of a basket full of things that he would like to see the country have.

WOODRUFF: I want to ask you very quickly about something I just asked the vice president's daughter Liz Cheney about. And that is the president is asking Congress to pass an amendment to the U.S. constitution to ban gay marriage. Is that something Congress is going to give this president?

PRYCE: I'm not sure there is that much support in our House conference for that. We're very divided on it. If it turns out that there's a hue and cry from the American people and that becomes a burning issue of the day and the events in Massachusetts may make that turn one way or the other, right now, I don't see it happening.

WOODRUFF: Are you in favor of it?

PRYCE: I'm not.

WOODRUFF: You're not?

PRYCE: No.

WOODRUFF: OK. She said it flat out. Representative Deb Pryce, she is the chair woman of the GOP conference in the House. Good to see you. Thanks for being with us.

PRYCE: Thanks, Judy. Sure.

WOODRUFF: And now checking our second edition of campaign news daily, Connecticut Governor John Roland's ethics troubles appear to have cost him a high-profile post with the Bush campaign. Roland's spokesman says the governor has decided to step aside as the Connecticut chairman of Bush's reelection campaign. The governor has also decided not to serve as a convention delegate. Roland is facing possible impeachment and a federal corruption investigation involving gifts from state contractors.

The North Carolina Republican state convention gets underway today but it will not include the Log Cabin Republicans. A top state party official has advised the group of gay Republicans that they will not be allowed to set up a booth at the event. A state party spokesman says the group is, quote, "not really a Republican organization." The state GOP platform describes homosexuality as, quote, "not normal."

The Catholic Church has not exactly been rolling out the welcome mat for John Kerry. Up next, the latest twist in the showdown involving Catholics, communion and Kerry.

Plus...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to asking John Kerry to both disown these efforts and to disapprove them.

WOODRUFF: And if he doesn't?

NADER: If he doesn't, I'll criticize him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Ralph Nader has a warning for John Kerry a day after they made nice with one another.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The 21-year-old son of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has been charged with driving while intoxicated. It happened early yesterday morning in New Jersey near the campus of Princeton University where William Harrison Frist Jr. is a sophomore. He was released and is scheduled to appear in court next week. Senator Frist would not comment on the arrest, saying, it is a personal matter. INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: John Kerry headed to the showdown state of Pennsylvania today to talk about education. It was Kerry's ninth trip to Pennsylvania since clinching the nomination. He used the visit to criticize parts of the president's No Child Left Behind reforms and to promote his own initiatives to help at risk young people get into college.

John Kerry's political views that are in conflict with the teachings of his Catholic faith have focused new attention on Catholics who serve in public office. Our Bill Schneider reports the terms of debate have shifted dramatically over the past four decades.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): The last time a major party nominated a Catholic for president was in 1960. John F. Kennedy went before a meeting of Protestant ministers to defend his independence.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate will tell the president, should he be Catholic, how to act. And no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote.

SCHNEIDER: It worked. Among Protestants, the Democratic vote for president was no lower than it had been four years earlier. But among Catholics, the Democratic vote shot up from just over 50 to nearly 80 percent. That's evidence of Catholic pride, not anti- Catholic prejudice. This year, Democrats are nominating another Catholic for president, but the problem Kerry faces is different. Not bigotry from non-Catholics, pressure from the Catholic Church. Kerry supports abortion rights.

KERRY: There is no overturning of Roe v. Wade. There is no packing of the courts with judges who will be hostile to choice.

SCHNEIDER: That view, of course, is incompatible with church teachings, but then the views of many American Catholics are incompatible with church teachings. Most Catholics, even more than Protestants accept stem cell research which the church opposes. The church opposes gay marriage, but Catholics are more favorable to it than Protestants and more Catholics than Protestants believe abortion is acceptable in all or most circumstances.

This year, several Catholic bishops are threatening to deny communion to Catholic politicians who are pro-abortion rights. 48 House Democrats including several abortion opponents have written a letter to Cardinal McCarrick of Washington who chairs the Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians.

"As Catholics," they wrote, "we do not believe it is our role to legislate the teachings of the Catholic Church. They warned the church that threats against Catholic politicians will revive anti- Catholic prejudice. So this year when Kerry echoed Kennedy's words, he had a different target in mind.

KERRY: I'm not a spokesman for the church and the church is not a spokesman for the United States of America.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: In 1960, Catholic politicians worried about problems with non-Catholic voters. Now they worry about problems with the church. Times have changed.

WOODRUFF: They have. 40 years later, very different. Bill Schneider, thank you.

So why does Ralph Nader say John Kerry is very presidential? That's what he said yesterday. Coming up, the answer to that and much more in my interview today with the Independent presidential candidate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In an unusual meeting yesterday, John Kerry and Ralph Nader sat down and talked about their competing bids to defeat President Bush in November. Just about two hours ago, I spoke to Ralph Nader about his independent campaign and I started by asking him that since he described Kerry yesterday as very presidential, is he now ready to endorse him?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NADER: No, I'm just looking at the way he spoke and the way his demeanor. We have very serious differences with John Kerry and not as many as with George W. Bush. I was trying to get him to join in a common effort on big issue to crack down on corporate crime and to get rid of billions of dollars in corporate welfare and to provide workers with an easier opportunity to form trade unions.

WOODRUFF: I gather he's with you on those issues, is that right?

NADER: Yes, but as I said to him, it's all about the intensity with which he supports the visibility he's willing to give them in the campaign.

WOODRUFF: If he's with you in a large sense, then why stay and run against him still?

NADER: Because there are all kinds of differences, differences in foreign policy. He won't touch the bloated redundant wasteful military budget. He's not really speaking out sufficiently on the criminal injustice system, the failed war on drugs, ballot access. You know, the Reform Party has endorsed us and in part, because small parties can't get on the ballots on states where the two parties obstruct them like Texas and North Carolina.

WOODRUFF: You also talked about Iraq briefly. Is that right? You told him what?

NADER: I said to him that our policies differ on Iraq, but he doesn't have an exit strategy and if you look at it from the point of view of the Iraqi people, if all they see is permanent U.S. military and corporate occupation with a puppet government, they're going to be sympathizing and supporting the insurgents. So I said to him you have to have an exit strategy and he said, "I do have an exit strategy and I'll be talking about it more."

WOODRUFF: But beyond that, you didn't go?

NADER: No.

WOODRUFF: But a lot of people have looked at this, Ralph Nader, and they say, all right, yes, you have disagreements but it sounds like you're coming together. I mean, is this meeting a signal, a symbol that Nader and Kerry may be able to do business together down the road?

NADER: Not in the way you're implying. If you look at our website VoteNader.org, you'll see very vast differences in detail increasingly between our position and John Kerry and, of course, George W. Bush. It's all about forming two fronts against George W. Bush to defeat him and keeping our freedom to pursue our own policies.

WOODRUFF: But yesterday, before your meeting, John Kerry told a reporter, he said a vote for Ralph Nader is a vote for George Bush.

NADER: That was a serious mistake on his part. Because that signals that somehow third party or independent efforts are second- class citizens. Either we're all spoilers of one another trying to take votes from one another or none of us are spoilers because we have equal rights to run for elective office.

WOODRUFF: On -- the sense -- on the issues that you're together on, you're not going to be having these kind of meetings with George Bush, right? I mean, to talk about where you agree?

NADER: I don't care who in politics. If he wants to give workers the right to form trade unions and get out of the peniary of the Wal-mart type wages, I will meet with him. But the chances are pretty slim because George W. Bush is presiding over a government of big business. Not workers, consumers, environment or a sane foreign policy.

WOODRUFF: You were just telling me about these 527s, these independent groups that are out there, and you were saying that may be an obstacle to your meeting with John Kerry again. But haven't you planned to get together with John Kerry again?

NADER: Yes, indeed and to talk often. But you see, if his supporters through separate entities are going to engage in dirty tricks and smear tactics and harass our constitutional right to run for political office by obstructing us and delaying us with their lawyers, I'm going to ask John Kerry to both disown these efforts and to disapprove of them.

WOODRUFF: And if he doesn't?

NADER: If he doesn't, I will criticize him for it because I would expect the same would be applied to me and to anyone else who believes in fair play in American politics.

WOODRUFF: The bottom line, Ralph Nader, people still look at your candidacy and they say, you know, if you're dividing the effort against George Bush, then George Bush is the one who's going to benefit.

NADER: We're going after George Bush. This is an independent candidacy. Lots of Independents, lots of conservatives are furious with Bush over deficits, over corporate subsidies, over the Privacy Act, they view as big government, they don't like what he's doing in the war in Iraq. There's going to be a lot of either shifts to an Independent candidacy or they're going to stay home. We're at 7, 8 percent in many polls nationwide. That's far more than we were in the year 2000 and we're raising more money, as well, only from individuals at VoteNader.org, not political action committees or any commercial interests. We will not take money from those.

WOODRUFF: But you're staying in this race and no matter how much John Kerry may privately want you out...

NADER: Of course, this is a political movement against the corporate government in Washington and the two parties are proxies and we've got to get the people in charge of Washington, not giant corporations.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Ralph Nader singing the same tune. INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: That's all the time we have for INSIDE POLITICS. Thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff. Be sure to join me again tomorrow for all the latest news from the campaign trail. I'll be joined by the Reverend Jesse Jackson to talk about John Kerry's campaign relationship with African Americans. Plus, we will look at some of the more unusual places you can go online to give to the candidate of your choice. But that's all for today. Have a great evening. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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