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CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN

U.S. Intelligence Warned About Insurgency Before Iraq War; Bush, Kerry Prepare for Debate

Aired September 28, 2004 - 22:00   ET

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


AARON BROWN, HOST: Good evening again, everyone. We're in Portland, Oregon, tonight on the banks of the Willamette River, the city behind us. In that category of livable cities, this one ranks very high.
The smart political people disagree about whether Oregon is really in play come November. But the first lady was here today, which gives you an idea the Republicans believe it can be won. And maybe they're right. But in some respects, the political debate that defined this state was over the right to die.

Not once, but twice, Oregonians voted on doctor-assisted suicide and twice passed it. The state has since fought off attempts by the Federal government to deny people the right to end their lives with the help of doctors. And so far, so far, the state has won.

But beyond that, there's an even better story about assisted suicide in the Oregon experiment. It's one of the stories we'll tell you tonight, on an issue about as personal as any issue can get. You may be surprised to learn what really happened when the state's voters gave themselves the right to end their lives when facing terminal illness.

That comes later in the program tonight from the banks of the Willamette in the Rose city of Portland. First comes "the whip" in Iraq and more evidence the current problems in Iraq were neither unforeseeable, nor unforeseen. CNN's David Ensor with that tonight. So David, a headline?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, as you say, they were foreseen by U.S. intelligence, which warned the White House two months before the invasion of Iraq, that post-war and insurgency would unite regime loyalists with Islamic terrorists, that an American invasion of Iraq could lead to a violent nation with increased support for radical Islam -- Aaron.

BROWN: David, thank you. We'll get to you early tonight.

Next, the debate and the tale of the tape, or the tapes if you will, as gleaned from the candidate's performances from debates gone by, courtesy of our senior analyst. Jeff Greenfield. So Jeff, a headline.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Aaron, both these candidates have succeeded in debates with two very different approaches, approaches that were evident years before they ever ran for the presidency. We'll show you what I mean in a few minutes -- Aaron.

BROWN: Jeff, thank you. More from you and the rest in the program tonight.

Also coming up, as we said, the emotional and controversial issue of doctor-assisted suicide and the power of having the choice.

Also tonight -- the perfect picture of small town America. And we do mean small population, seven people.

And from the city hall bombing to the Trailblazers national championship, the headlines from Portland over the years in morning papers. All that and more in the hour ahead.

We begin tonight with another piece of what the president knew before taking the country to war in Iraq. A report intended for official eyes only, elements of it now in the public domain and naturally, a part of the presidential campaign. How it came to leak and when it came to leak, raises all the inevitable questions of beltway grudges and bureaucratic payback of politics. But what it says, on the other hand, seems quite clear. We begin tonight with CNN's David Ensor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR (voice-over): Classified reports prepared for President Bush two months before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, warned, sources say, of an insurgency, that would unite ex-Baathists and Islamic terrorists. Reports of January 2003, from the National Intelligence Council, warned that an invasion would increase support for radical Islam and result in a divided Iraqi society prone to conflict.

JOSEPH BAMFORD, AUTHOR, "A PRETEXT FOR WAR": The United States was warned but you won't hear that from the White House and that's why I think the CIA is quietly trying to leak this information out.

ENSOR: Word of the intelligence reports was seized upon by Democrats. Vice presidential candidate Senator John Edwards saying, quote, ignoring the truth has been the hallmark of George Bush's presidency. But in Crawford, Texas, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the administration has always talked about how it is hard to transition from a brutal dictatorship to democracy. But what we're working to achieve, he said, will make America more secure.

The reports were prepared under the direction of Paul Pilar, a senior official at the National Intelligence Council, a quasi- independent think tank based at the CIA. Word of their warnings before the war, comes after news of a gloomy intelligence estimate, done in July of this year, about the future prospects for Iraq. An estimate at first disparaged by the president.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And they were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like.

I used an unfortunate word, guess. I should have used estimate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR: U.S. officials say suggestions of a battle between the CIA and the White House over Iraq policy are way off the mark. But clearly information about warnings given to the White House before the invasion is coming out at an inconvenient time for the administration. Aaron?

BROWN: Are there -- based on what we've been able to learn about the document, obviously some things were seem to have been spot-on. Are there other elements that were way off?

ENSOR: They gave a range of possibilities, I understand. But I am told that some of the language is -- that has not been made public, yet is eerily prescient. There was a range, though. So, there presumably were some more favorable scenarios than the ones that are being leaked, shall we say.

BROWN: And just one more point. I think maybe I'm asking you to be a mind-reader here, which is unfair. But given how dismissive the president was, the report that came out -- that we learned about a week ago, the July report and how the White House handled it today, should we read anything into that?

ENSOR: ... into the way they are handling it today? Well, I think they are concerned about these reports coming out. And clearly, there are people in the bureaucracy, whether at the CIA or elsewhere in the U.S. government, who are going to make sure that the White House can't just accuse the intelligence community of making all the mistakes anymore. So, they -- the White House is realizing, if they didn't know it already, bureaucrats can get tough when they want to.

BROWN: David, thank you. David Ensor, national security correspondent tonight from Washington.

BROWN: More, now on the politics of war, among other things, and a gentle rebuke to the late Marshall McLuhan, who famously said the medium is the message.

So far, where Iraq and terror are concerned, you can make the case that the messenger is the message. The president enjoys an advantage, even though his record is mixed. And the challenger has yet to fully make his case. It appears to be driving the poll numbers so far. A newly released Pew survey shows the president out in front by eight percentage points among registered voters. Zooming out a bit, an average of eight polls released in just the last few days, gives the president a margin of six points. Our political folks tell us that this poll of polls, if you will, fluctuates a bit less than the individual variety, based simply on the sheer number of people surveyed, the more the better if you will.

As for what it means just two days from the first debate, here's our senior political correspondent, CNN's Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CROWLEY: Tuesday, the voice of the Democratic campaign was John Edwards.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We know what needs to be done in Iraq. But the honest truth is, in order to do it, we're going to have to have a fresh start with a new president. It cannot be done. George Bush made this mess and he can't fix it.

CROWLEY: And the Democratic National Committee kicked in with a new ad to amplify the message.

CAMPAIGN AD: 1,000 American soldiers have died in a war poorly planned. But no one can tell him he's wrong.

CROWLEY: Despite the assists and a newly-focused campaign, John Kerry is behind in every national poll. And the president holds double-digit advantages on specific issues, like Iraq, terrorism and leadership. All the senator has to do in Thursday's debate is reverse all that.

SUSAN RICE, KERRY FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: It is an opportunity for the American people to see that he is a strong, smart, tough leader, that he will make America safer, that he'll get us out of this mess in Iraq and lead us to win the war on terror.

CROWLEY: As he continues preparing for debates in an out-of-the way golf resort in Wisconsin, the good news for Kerry, a highly skilled debater, is that most people think George Bush will do better in the debates. There is no greater opportunity than low expectations. So the Kerry campaign is happy to further the cause, in a back handed kind of way.

JOE LOCKHART, KERRY CAMPAIGN: George Bush has proved time and time again, that he's a persuasive debater. It does of course seem at times like he doesn't have all the facts straight. But he seems to do it in a way that gives you a sense of commitment and a sense of what direction he wants to go in.

CROWLEY: For Kerry, debate preps have included the usual briefing books and mock debates. But most important for Kerry is getting his thoughts into sound byte form, as his advisers put it, focusing on the most salient points.

(on-camera): Outside the campaign, they put it more bluntly. Said one Democratic operative, there has been a failure to communicate with voters. Kerry needs to drop the mumbo-jumbo and speak directly. Candy Crowley, CNN, Dodgeville, Wisconsin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: As if to underscore the so-called sound byte gap, the vice president today did what vice presidents do in tough campaigns, by way of a sound byte or two of his own.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, with 35 days left in the campaign and just in time for the debates, Senator Kerry says he has a plan for Iraq. Yet, the plan he announced is not a plan. It's an echo of the strategy that President Bush laid out many months ago. And it's a strategy that Senator Kerry has ultimately supported and opposed, depending on his assessment of the political advantage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: A strong campaign message is one thing, of course. Making sure it's heard is something altogether different. Today, billionaire George Soros promised to provide a megaphone that could, maybe, help the Kerry campaign. In Washington, with a retired general and former presidential candidate, Wes Clark at his side, Mr. Soros announced the multi-million dollar campaign to prevent President Bush from being re-elected, a reminder of how private money and lots of it, may help shape this race. We're joined now by Mr. Soros, who is an author, a philanthropist and clearly now a political activist. It's nice to see you sir. In your talk to the press club today, you used very strong words. You said the president has misled. The president has used fear. This isn't just a disagreement over policy. This is almost, in your view, a malevolent president.

GEORGE SOROS, AUTHOR, "THE BUBBLE OF AMERICAN SUPREMACY": I think that we have been misled by him. He took us in the wrong direction. And I lay out my case, in a book and in a pamphlet. I'm not a man of sound bytes. I'm not a politician but I do have a strong case. And I hope that the public will listen to it. That's what I would like.

BROWN: Mr. Soros. I'm I apologize for interrupting, sorry. But do you believe the president has deliberately misled, lied, to the American people?

SOROS: Yes, I do. I think that he, inadvertently made a -- led us into Iraq. I think that the group of people around him led by Vice President Cheney, prevailed on him, after 9/11, to attack Iraq. Wolfowitz said, let's go to Iraq. It's doable. And he actually acceded to it. So I don't think he deliberately decided to take us there. But it's under his command that the people under him persuaded him to do it. Now, he's the -- he is not coming clean with the facts. He's not telling us what is really going on in Iraq, how serious that situation is.

BROWN: It's one thing, I suppose for the president to frame what he is doing in the most favorable light. We all try to do that I suppose in one way or another. But just, can you tell me what it was that they deliberately were untruthful about?

SOROS: Well, take the statement that John Kerry is giving, emboldened the enemy. What evidence is there? Vice President Cheney said that al Qaeda wants John Kerry to be elected. What evidence is there for that statement? These are lies. And misleading the public, they're playing on the fear. They're being traumatized by 9/11. This administration has exploited it to pursue its agenda, which has very little to do with 9/11. And actually, instead of making us safer, makes us much more in danger because it creates an atmosphere of hatred and resentment and rage in Iraq and in the Arab world.

BROWN: I think -- it is true that the Bush campaign and its surrogates have said in one way, shape or form, that al Qaeda would like to see Mr. Bush defeated. It's also true I think that in your speech today, you said the war in Iraq had been a great recruiting tool for Osama bin Laden, which is just the flip side of the same coin. And you can't know that any better than they know what they said.

SOROS: Well, look. There's one thing that I can testify to because I have spent half my fortune and the last 15 years of my life, promoting, fostering democracy and an open society throughout the world. And I can tell you from my personal experience, that the idea that you can introduce democracy in Iraq, by military force, is a quaint idea, that there's no possibility of success.

BROWN: Let's talk about one other area, sir, if you don't mind. Do you have -- you're spending millions and millions of dollars. Other very wealthy people on your side and on the other side are spending millions and millions of their money. Do you ever wonder if it's good public policy for people, simply because they have a lot of money to be able to shape the political debate?

SOROS: I don't think it's simply because I have a lot of money. I have a -- an argument. I presented that argument in my book, "Bubble of American Supremacy." I predicted in that book, what is going to happen in Iraq. It's all in that book. And President Bush got a lot of expert advice, telling him, warning him but he refused to allow criticism. He actually suspended criticism. And that, since I'm a believer in an open society. An open society is based on the recognition that we may be wrong and we therefore to have a public debate and he suppressed that debate. That's how he could have taken us so far off the track. We are really in big trouble now. And I think that is because he has suppressed criticism.

BROWN: Mr. Soros, you made your argument forcefully this afternoon and again tonight. And people can think about what you said and read about -- read about it all and come to their own conclusions. We're pleased to have you with us tonight. Thank you for your time. George Soros, the philanthropist and quite clearly now a political activist.

One other note before we head to break here in Portland -- a little less than 24 hours after he was abducted at gun point in Gaza, CNN producer Riad Ali was set free thankfully today. He told reporters he didn't know who had taken him. Earlier, a videotape surfaced in which Mr. Ali an Israel (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Arab, said he was being held by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. That group along with Hamas and Islamic jihad, have all condemned the kidnapping. Our concern, mostly, is that he's free. And he is tonight.

Still ahead -- from the rose city, the debate. The first presidential debate took place here a very long time ago. So, from Portland, this is "NEWSNIGHT." (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Four there came from out of the northwest. Portland takes its politics seriously. It's a point of pride around here that Portland was in fact the site of the first presidential debate ever on May 17th, 1948. The debate between Thomas Dewey and Harold Stassen, were battling for the Republican nomination at the time. It was a radio debate, of course heard by an estimated 40 million to 80 million listeners. It was the only debate to ever focus on an single issue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. For the past few weeks, Oregonians have been participating in a red-hot political campaign between Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York and former governor Harold E. Stassen of Minnesota. As the campaign has progressed, it appears that the primary issue, on which these candidates are diametrically opposed is -- should the communist party in the United States be outlawed?

BROWN: Harold Stassen spoke first and argued that it should.

HAROLD STASSEN: It must always be open for any individual in this country to protest, to object, to dissent. But there is no constitutional right to carry on organizations above ground or below ground erected by the rulers of a foreign power, for the purpose of overthrowing the government of the United States and taking away the liberties of its people.

BROWN: Dewey was passionately opposed.

THOMAS DEWEY: To outlaw the communist party would be recognized everyplace on earth as a surrender by the great United States, to the methods of totalitarianism. Stripped to its naked essentials, this is nothing but the methods of Hitler and Stalin. It is thought control borrowed from the Japanese war leadership. It's an attempt to beat down ideas with a club.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: It is said that Governor Dewey clinched the nomination in part because of his strong performance in that debate here in Portland. And then of course he went on to beat Harry Truman in the general election, that is if you believe everything you read in morning papers and we occasionally do. That was then. So is this a more recent then, to be sure. But it speaks to now and two days from now. So, here's our senior analyst, on debates, Jeff Greenfield.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREENFIELD (voice-over): President Bush and Senator Kerry both have had plenty of debates in recent years. But sometimes the most intriguing clues to their strategies can be found earlier in their careers. Look back and you find that the contestants are both highly effective debaters, but with very different approaches. Here is John Kerry back in 1984 in a Senate primary debate with a more conservative Democratic (UNINTELLIGIBLE). What how he fuses his Vietnam record and his more liberal war and peace stance, as he poses a question to his opponent.

KERRY: I'm concerned. You voted for the Mx missile and then you said that that was a mistake. You voted for the anti-satellite flight testing and that's a mistake. I fought in a mistake called Vietnam. How are we to have confidence that you're not going to vote in a war and peace issue for another mistake at some time in the future?

GREENFIELD: Or consider this famous exchange during his tough 1996 re-election fight against Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld. Weld challenged him to explain to the widow of a murdered police officer, whether his death penalty opposition mean that Kerry valued a murderer's life more than her husband's? Note the cryptic reference Kerry made to his combat experience.

KERRY: Yes, I've been opposed to death. I know something about killing. I don't like killing. I don't think a state honors life by turning around and sanctioning killing.

GREENFIELD: If Kerry is a counter puncher, quick on his feet, then Bush's strength is something else, a relentless capacity to stay on-message. In 1994, Texas Governor Ann Richards repeatedly challenged Bush's business credentials. Here's how he turned that around.

BUSH: I think that this is a diversion away from not talking about the issues that face Texas. I want to discus welfare, education. I want to discuss the juvenile justice system. And I think an attempt to smear my business record is simply a diversion away from trying to determine what's best for Texas.

GREENFIELD: And watch as Bush uses the same kind of defense against Richard's very tough indictment.

ANN RICHARD, FORMER GOVERNOR OF TEXAS: The question is, if you have got to have had some experience in the public sector, before you get the chief executive's job.

BUSH: This business about trying to diminish my personality, based upon my business career, is frankly, astounding to me. Here we are in the middle of a political campaign. The incumbent governor of the state of Texas is spending all her money on TV, trying to make me something I'm not.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GREENFIELD: So the question Aaron is are there any clues to what we might see Thursday night and I think the answer is yes. I think you can expect to see John Kerry turn a question about inconsistency into an indictment on President Bush for stubbornly refusing to face reality. And I think you can expect to see President Bush, as often as the chance arises, come back again and again, to the theme that he (UNINTELLIGIBLE) against Saddam Hussein, that the country is safer with Saddam Hussein out of power. And doesn't John Kerry agree? Or does he disagree that we're better off without Saddam? BROWN: Did the rules at play, seem to favor one or the other?

GREENFIELD: Yeah. I think given the relative strength of these candidates, they favor Bush because they have bled or wrung virtually every chance of spontaneity out of these debates. The chance, for instance, for John Kerry to turn to George Bush and pose a question that he has to answer, forbidden the rules. The chance to mix it up in a spontaneous way, if they were at a table, as opposed to podiums. That's gone. And I think for a candidate who is as good as staying on-message as George W. Bush is, there's less of a chance for Kerry to say, wait a minute. Stop with the sound bytes. Let's have a real conversation.

BROWN: Jeff, thank you. We'll continue this conversation tomorrow. Thank you very much. Jeff Greenfield. Take a break here. When we come back, some Oregon stories, from Oregon. This NEWSNIGHT on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: You could not buy a better night than we found in Portland tonight. On the banks of the Willamette, you're not far from a few minutes' drive from the future or from the past, for that matter. Old growth and new ideas live in close proximity here and there, then and now, same as ever.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): It's been said that Seattle and San Francisco were settled by people looking for gold. But Portland was settled by people looking for Eden. Some days, they think they've found it.

RANDY GRAGG, ARCHITECTURE CRITIC, "THE OREGONIAN": What we're seeing is a tremendous influx of young people under the age of 35, and, you know, deciding that they want to come to Portland because of the values the city embodies. And so I think that that -- you know, what we're seeing is a kind of new tradition form around the city that is making it, you know, very, very distinct.

JEFF JAHN, ARTIST: I remember seeing it in your studio. I noticed that a lot of other young artists were moving here. And it seemed like this was like the one city on the West Coast that hadn't really developed yet and that the artists could actually take over. Here, art could be the top thing. And I thought that was important.

BROWN: A town once famous for its timber barrens is fast becoming famous for its artists.

PETER BEEMAN, SCULPTOR: Part of what I wanted to do was do big, kinetic, sort of very visible visual sculpture that was interactive, because I see Portland as being a very interactive place. I think that a lot of artists in Portland are responding to the energy around them and using the energy around them as sort of fuel.

BROWN: They seem to say energy a lot out here. LARS LARSON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: These are the political issues.

BROWN: But Portland isn't just about its art. Portland is a political town as well. This is a political town in a complicated political state.

LARSON: Twenty-nine after the hour. You're listening to "The Lars Larson Show."

BROWN: And even liberal Portland has its conservative talk show hosts.

LARSON: I contribute by contributing the only conservative voice in this town.

BROWN: Which may or may not explain why Lars Larson is the most successful talk show host in the state, a state that is blue in the West, and very red east of the Cascades.

LARSON: We know that about two-thirds of the people listening to my radio show think like I do. And about a third of them are liberal Democrats who listen because I raise their blood pressure. I make them mad. I illustrate everything they don't like about politics.

BROWN: Norma Paulus would agree, except she's a moderate Republican, who after a long career in state politics has serious concerns about the political split in her state.

NORMA PAULUS, FORMER GOP STATE OFFICIAL: A good 10 years ago, the Christian coalition came in with a vengeance. And they still control the Republican Party, which means they control the House. And they are quite rigid. There's no compromise. And abortion is their litmus test, prayer in schools. And these are things that the average Oregonian, for years, has -- they've just rejected that kind of politics.

BROWN: While the quality of politics may mirror the rest of the country, there is something in the spirit of Portland today that does not.

JAHN: A lot of the focus seems to be on what makes life better and what makes a life, a successful life, worth living, which is very different. It's kind of Swiss in that way.

BROWN: It's that energy thing again.

ELIZABETH LEACH, GALLERY OWNER: There's a whole energy to the scene. I think there's a huge optimism as well. I think people feel like something's going to happen here. And I feel that Portland's the last jewel on the West Coast to develop.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: When we come back, we'll turn our energy to a couple of political issues out here, one settled, but with a surprising twist, and one in doubt that could affect the presidential race.

A break first. From Portland, Oregon, this is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: A number of political stories here, beginning with one off the AP wire just now. Ralph Nader will -- not be -- not be on the presidential ballot in Oregon. And that could make a difference.

All this week, we're looking at key political issues, how they're playing out in the West. There are a couple things about Oregon to note. It is a swing state, seven electoral votes. Its state motto, she flies with her own wings. Fourteen years ago, Oregon voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have required the state to discourage homosexuality. Now they're about to vote again. The question this time in Oregon and in 10 other states in November, should same-sex marriage be banned, a constitutional amendment? The legal status of more than 2,400 gay marriages performed last March in Oregon may turn on the outcome.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so thrilled. We're so excited. This is such a big day for our family.

BROWN (voice-over): It was Newton's law applied to social science. The action, gays getting married. The reaction was opposite, though perhaps not equal.

GEORGENE RICE, DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE COALITION: We successfully, in a period of five weeks, collected 244,000 signatures, which for Oregon is a state record. And the length of time is the shortest that that kind of feat has been accomplished here.

BROWN: So, come November, voters in a state often considered quite liberal will decide whether to amend the state's constitution and ban same-sex marriage, an idea that has yet to lose in any statewide vote anywhere.

WILLIAM LUNCH, PROFESSOR, OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY: The proponents of this measure start out ahead. But that doesn't mean they'll prevail in November. But they are in a strong position, at least initially, and may indeed prevail.

BROWN: So Oregon has settled into the now familiar arguments over marriage and tradition, tolerance and fairness.

RICE: It's imperative upon us that we communicate the message very clearly, that marriage ought to remain one man and one woman and to clarify why that's an important value we're preserving here in the state of Oregon. I think people largely believe that. And I think they need to be assured that, yes, this is a position worth preserving.

REBEKAH KASSELL, "NO ON 36" We're going to talk about the way it hurts Oregon families. We're going to talk about how social disagreements don't belong in our constitution.

BROWN: But there is a twist in it all out here, out West. Because the initiative is on the November ballot, the presidential ballot, it could have a profound effect on the outcome of the presidential race by drawing new voters who feel strongly about marriage, but who vote for presidents as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Seven years ago, Oregon voters were in the thick of another extraordinary debate over how life should end, more to the point, whether doctors should be allowed to help patients end their own lives. They should, voters decided. And, in doing so, they made this state a pioneer in the frontier of medical ethics.

Those who fought to repeal the law warned it would lead to an epidemic of suicides, something that has not happened.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Don James spent his career in public education in Portland. He's been an advocate for assisted suicide. And now, at 78, in the late stages of prostate cancer, he is glad to have a choice, though he's not sure he will use it.

DON JAMES, CANCER PATIENT: I have discussed the first step with my physician, who is very agreeable. He has written I think about five prescriptions before. Interestingly enough, I believe every one of them, except maybe the most recent one, the person's died with the prescription still in the cupboard. But they just have the comfort of knowing it was there if they would choose it. And that's where I stand, because I don't know what I face in terms of loss of dignity.

BROWN: Choice, comfort, empowerment, are what the Oregon law has produced, but, relatively speaking, few suicides. Since 1997, only 171 people have opted to end their lives.

DR. SUSAN TOLLE, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR ETHICS IN HEALTH CARE, OHSU: Over the past six years, about one person in 1,000 who die in Oregon use the Oregon Death With Dignity Act. And that number hasn't changed much over time. What that means is lots more people think about it, talk about it with families and ask their doctors to start the process than ever follow through.

BROWN: Talking about this tough issue is having an impact.

TOLLE: Open dialogue does have some utility. It does mean that a person's deeper fears might be able to be talked about openly. And many of them can be addressed.

ANN JACKSON, DIRECTOR, OREGON HOSPICE: I'm very surprised that people would believe that the law would be used frequently. We know that people generally want to live.

KATHY ROMNEY, WIDOW OF JAMES RODNEY: Of course he didn't want to leave me and his kids. And he wanted each day to wake up and still be together and do some things together.

BROWN: Jim Romney, a high school principal, decided to end his life before ALS did. And he had the pills. Although his wife opposes assisted suicide, she supported her husband's choice.

ROMNEY: When he was going to tell me that, yes, a week from now, I'm going to take the medication or tomorrow will be the day I'll take the medication, and I knew that would be extremely difficult.

BROWN: But that moment never came. Jim died suddenly after surgery last year. During the course of his awful illness, a choice he never used still made a difference.

ROMNEY: Knowing that he had the option of that and that gave him some peace of mind, that also gave me some peace of mind, knowing he was feeling more comfortable about what might happen with this disease.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: So far, the Oregon law has withstood every attempt by government, federal government, to overturn it

We'll take a break. When we come back, small-town story, a really small town.

Around the world, this is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Henry David Thoreau wrote this a while back: "Let me live where I will. On this side is the city, on that, the wilderness. And ever I am leaving the city more and more and withdrawing into the wilderness, I must walk toward Oregon and not toward Europe."

Last night in Seattle, we said that where we choose to live could say something about what we value. Tonight, another building block on the theme.

Here's NEWSNIGHT's Beth Nissen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BETH NISSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the high desert in central Oregon, a picture of small-town America, really small. This is Millican, Oregon, population seven, all members of the Murray family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

NISSEN: Two years ago, after a family deli and bakery went bankrupt in nearby Klamath Falls, the Murrays were looking for a place to make a new start.

JAY MURRAY, RESIDENT OF MILLICAN, OREGON: We saw an ad in the paper, said two homes and a storefront for $800 a month. We came out. And this place was a dump.

PATRICIA MURRAY, RESIDENT OF MILLICAN, OREGON: I wouldn't even come in this room here. It smelled so bad. There were dead cats and stuff in here. And I was walking around. And I could just see it as a little town.

NISSEN: The way it used to be just after the turn of the last century. The town was founded by homesteader George Millican in 1868. At its peak, it had a population of about 60.

J. MURRAY: About the time the Model A was showing up out here, they did have a garage, two schools, the motel and a blacksmith.

NISSEN: But water ran short. People moved on. By the 1930s, the population of Millican had dwindled to Billy Ron (ph), who was featured in "Ripley's Believe It or Not" as the one-man town. One of Ron's successors, Bill Mellon (ph), also lived here alone in the 1980s, until he was shot to death in the store in 1988. Millican went into slow decline, was finally abandoned to fugitives and transients, until the Murrays arrived, 21st century pioneers.

DANIEL MURRAY, RESIDENT OF MILLICAN, OREGON: In America now, most of the things you hear are people that have already made it. And to hear about someone that is doing something out of nothing is -- it's rare anymore.

NISSEN: For months, they lived without electricity, hauled water from a cistern. They still chop wood for heat. Wood stoves warm the front rooms. Back corners are stuffed with newspaper to keep out the winds that can reach 90 miles an hour.

They slowly rebuilt, restocked the store. It now just breaks even, selling snacks and cold drinks and hot coffee to local ranchers, passing truckers.

J. MURRAY: Where you going?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rochester, New York.

NISSEN: Money from bills and groceries comes from son Daniel, who works as a chef in Bend, Oregon, 30 minutes drive away. A few wind-blown chickens provide some eggs. Patty (ph) grows what vegetables she can in her garden.

P. MURRAY: Pick some for dinner.

Didn't think anything would grow in this soil, it's so sandy. But it just takes water and seed and sunshine.

NISSEN: The Murrays take care of basic community services in Millican, from sanitation to schools. Daughter-in-law Katie homeschools 6-year-old Jacob.

KATIE MURRAY, RESIDENT OF MILLICAN, OREGON: You remember how to write a nine? Yes. Good job.

NISSEN: There is no sheriff in town.

J. MURRAY: Breathe in deep.

NISSEN: Jay is teaching Patty to shoot a .22, although wolves have been more a threat than crime. There isn't much the Murrays miss about what others call civilization.

J. MURRAY: We are on the Internet. We have satellite TV. We've got three phone lines. We're plugged in.

NISSEN: Yet, they are miles away from air pollution, rush hour traffic, noisy neighbors.

K. MURRAY: When I was little and I read "The Little House on the Prairie" books, I always wanted to live on a house where you didn't see your next-door neighbors right out your window.

NISSEN: This is what they see out their windows, and this and this. The Murrays would love to scrape together enough to buy the two-acre town and the 80 acres around it, build back the original storefronts.

P. MURRAY: We could be a lighthouse in the desert here. We could help people. We could serve people. We could make something out of this mess.

J. MURRAY: This little area out here is not going to change the world. But it's a little piece of history that we can pull together.

NISSEN: Beth Nissen, CNN, Millican, Oregon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(ROOSTER CROWING)

BROWN: All right, time to check the morning papers. We asked the local papers to send us some of their favorites. We have only got about a minute tonight, but we'll try and do these fairly quickly. They're very cool headlines.

"The Eugene Register-Guard." Eugene is just a bit south of Portland." "Pre's Death the End of an Era. Steve Prefontaine, Nation's Top Distance Runner, Killed in a Single Car Accident." This was in 1975. The lead on the story. You have got to be a news guy maybe to like this stuff. But here's the lead they wrote. "Steve Prefontaine, America's greatest distance runner, is dead," a straight- ahead lead on a big story.

Two years later in this city, "Blazers Win." "Bill" -- that would be Bill Walton -- "And Company Claim Title," the NBA title, edge the 76ers. You have to live in a town this size, a kind of medium- large-sized town, to appreciate what a national championship in pro sports means to them. It's really cool. And here's something that's really uncomfortable, "The Register- Guard" again down in Eugene. "Tragedy Hits Home." This was in Springfield, Oregon, a school shooting. I remember doing this one. Kip Kinkel killed his family and a lot of his classmates as well.

That's a look at morning papers. We'll wrap it up from the Rose City of Portland in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: There are a number of people in Portland who hoped that they would get Major League Baseball, that the Montreal Expos would move here. But baseball decided tonight that baseball is going back to the nation's capital, Washington.

Before we leave you, a look down the road a bit. San Francisco tomorrow night for a program featuring, among other things, an assessment of Governor Schwarzenegger's performance so far. Rave reviews from surprising corners. Also, a story of other immigrants. I love this story. And a battle over jobs lost and jobs gained.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): We often hear about immigrants taking jobs from Americans. But a study by the Public Policy Institute of California found that highly-skilled immigrants own and operate nearly a quarter of all the Silicon Valley businesses, businesses that employ Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came here as an immigrant. Sure, I took a job from some other American national who was here prior to me. But what I have given back, right, I have generated 100 jobs and continuing to generate these jobs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: That's tomorrow night on the program, that and much more. If it's Wednesday, it must be San Francisco. But it's Tuesday, and it must be Portland.

We'll see you tomorrow. And good night for all of us.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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