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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Debating the Debate; Steam and Ash Spew From Mount Saint Helens

Aired October 1, 2004 - 15:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: On the road again after their showdown in Miami. Who's getting more mileage out of the leadoff debate?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last night, Senator Kerry only continued his pattern of confusing contradictions.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I laid out a policy last night, and the president keeps trying to debate himself.

ANNOUNCER: It's enough to make heads spin.

HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was John Kerry that had the substance.

KAREN HUGHES, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: They also got to see the president's heart.

ANNOUNCER: We'll look beyond the campaign claims to find out if Bush and Kerry had their facts straight.

The cutaway conundrum and other questions about media coverage. Did reporters get it right?

Now what? It's never too early to set the stage for the next round of the debate series.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us on this day after the first Bush/Kerry debate. Overnight polls of voters who watched it say the face-off -- they say that the senator outperformed the president. But even John Kerry acknowledges that that's not good enough. He told supporters today that he needs to win every day from now through November 2.

We begin our coverage with the Kerry campaign and with CNN's Frank Buckley. He's on the telephone with us from Tampa, Florida.

Frank, what are they saying?

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, Kerry campaign officials very happy about the performance of Senator Kerry at the debate last night.

He came here to the University of South Florida to rally supporters the day after the debate. Campaign officials believe that Senator Kerry was effective in putting President Bush on the defensive about his policies on Iraq and the war on terror, while simultaneously making the argument that he could be a stronger commander in chief, one with a plan to make America safer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: I told you last night, I'll add active duty forces to our armed forces. I'm going to double the number of our special forces. We're going to do what we need to do. We will have the intelligence network that we need and deserve in America and we're going to have a national director of intelligence with all of the intelligence gathered under one roof. This president is still resisting that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCKLEY: And now the campaign making the pivot to domestic issues as we move towards the debate this coming Friday on domestic issues. Senator Kerry mocking President Bush today, who questioned Senator Kerry's proposals for homeland security and how Senator Kerry might pay for them. Senator Kerry bringing that up during the rally here (AUDIO GAP)

WOODRUFF: Pick up where Frank left off in just a few minutes.

Well, meantime, President Bush is heading to rally in New Hampshire in the next hour after spending this morning after the debate in another showdown state, Pennsylvania.

CNN's Elaine Quijano traveling with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Campaigning here in Allentown, Pennsylvania, President Bush called last night's matchup against Senator John Kerry a great debate and said it highlighted some of the fundamental differences between the two candidates.

Now, as he's done before, President Bush continued to hammer away at the Massachusetts senator for what the president said is a pattern of contradictions and inconsistencies in the war on terrorism. At one point, the president cited Senator Kerry's mention of a global test and suggested it demonstrated weakness in fighting terrorism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I will never submit America's national security to an international test.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BUSH: The use of troops to defend America must never be subject to a veto by countries like France. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BUSH: The president's job is not to take an international poll. The president's job is to defend America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: But the Kerry campaign says this is just another example of the president taking Senator Kerry's statement out of context. They say the test is one of credibility, so people know a leader is telling the truth.

Meantime, the president continues campaigning. He heads to New Hampshire for a rally there and then it's off to another key battleground state on Saturday, Ohio.

Elaine Quijano, CNN, Allentown, Pennsylvania.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, that overnight polling we mentioned suggests President Bush did not gain much from the debate, but he didn't really lose ground either. The CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll found 53 percent of registered voters who watched the debate thought Kerry did the best job, compared with 37 percent for President Bush.

I want to make sure we said that right. Other post-debate polls also suggest that Kerry came out the winner. But on a major point of debate, who would better handle Iraq, President Bush still holds a double-digit lead over Kerry, as he did before the debate. Kerry did pick up a few points on the Iraq question after his performance last night. We'll have more on all these poll numbers later on INSIDE POLITICS.

Well, both Bush and Kerry are pointing fingers at one another today, accusing the other guy of playing loose with the facts last night.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve watched the debate in search of any misleading moments.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Truth may be the strongest argument, but it was twisted and turned in the debate by both candidates, first on Iraq.

KERRY: So today, we are 90 percent of the casualties and 90 percent of the costs, $200 billion.

MESERVE: Actually, $120 billion has been spent thus far. Anticipated spending in the next year could bring it to $200 billion.

BUSH: My opponent at one time said, well, get me elected. I'll have them out of there in six months.

MESERVE: What Kerry actually said is that he might start drawing down U.S. troops within six months of taking office.

KERRY: He's got 10 times the number of troops in Iraq than he has in Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden is.

MESERVE: Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan? No one knows for sure, but intelligence officials believe he's in Pakistan.

BUSH: Seventy-five percent of known al Qaeda leaders have been brought to justice.

MESERVE: Seventy-five percent of about two dozen known al Qaeda leaders on September 11. What about those that have replaced them?

The International Institute For Strategic Studies estimates that al Qaeda has about 18,000 potential operatives. But Iraq and the war on terror were not the only issues about which there were misstatements.

KERRY: Right now, the president is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to research bunker-busting nuclear weapons.

MESERVE: No, the budget is less than $35 million, though $500 million has been set aside for future budgets if Congress and the president agree to go ahead with production.

BUSH: Ten million people have registered to vote in Afghanistan in the upcoming presidential election.

MESERVE: Human Rights Watch says the number is so high because so many voters have registered more than once. Neither candidate had a monopoly on misstating facts. On that score, this debate was a draw.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And CNN has some breaking news, some pictures coming in to us from the state of Washington. This is Mount Saint Helens. And what you're seeing, live pictures of an eruption of steam from that volcano. We're told the plume of smoke rising as high as a mile up in the air, all this activity coming on the -- in the -- just in the time, in the matter of hours after geologists have identified the volcanic dome within the crater of Mount Saint Helens moving what they describe as about three inches since last Monday.

Now, it was just late last week that the seismologists began recording what they call swarms of earthquake activity out of this volcano. The activity increased, we're told, last weekend. And the Cascades Volcano Observatory, scientists are now reporting three to four quakes a minute, with the largest measuring 3.3, all this happening as we're telling -- as we told you, in the hours leading up to this.

These live pictures coming in now to CNN from this volcano in Washington state. One scientist in Washington state is quoted as saying, "It looks like something similar to back in the 1980s, what they call dome building eruptions." He said, "The one thing that cannot be ruled out is an eruption accompanied by a small explosion."

So scientists in Washington state watching what is happening at Mount Saint Helens. They say they, at this point, don't expect a repeat of the eruption, the very large eruption we saw back in 1980, although some areas around the mountain have been closed to climbers and hikers already.

Once again, you're looking at live pictures from Mount Saint Helens, the volcano that has been inactive for some time in Washington state now showing some activity. Since an earthquake hit the Western coast of the United States a few days ago, seismologists have recorded increased activity in the center of that volcano.

And today, just now, a steam eruption reported. That's what you're seeing live pictures of right now, a plume of smoke. They're saying it's about a mile into the sky.

And now we have CNN's Kimberly Osias, who is at the scene.

Let's see. Kimberly, you are where? You are where in Washington state?

KIMBERLY OSIAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (AUDIO GAP) Helens, Washington, just under the Johnson Ridge Observatory.

We've all been waiting for this. And almost at noon on the dot, for about seven or so minutes, Mount Saint Helens has been blowing a giant plume of smoke and ash. You can tell. We'll show you if we can just push in a little bit behind us.

There is a 925-foot dome. That dome is what has now moved upwards, obviously. So much pressure has built up inside. What caused that pressure, scientists are still not sure whether that has been a magma that has moved around since 1998. There were some rumblings and some small earthquakes then. But obviously this is an absolutely incredible sight.

Moving -- I'm told that the winds are now moving in a northeasterly direction, carrying this ash and this cloud of smoke that you're looking at right now, a spectacular picture here in Mount Saint Helens on a beautiful, clear day.

WOODRUFF: So, Kimberly, this steam started coming out of the volcano, what, just within the last hour or so?

OSIAS: Well, actually, it started almost right at noon, straight up, Judy, just, you know, seismologists were seeing an enormous amount of movement.

We've seen several thousands of small quakes. Most of them have been very shallow, though. Some have had a magnitude of 3 and 3.3 of recent. But even as recently as this morning, we were on what's called a level two alert, which is just one under the highest alert, which is a level three, meaning that volcanic activity and a volcano was imminent. So I think this has taken everybody a bit by surprise, that it happened actually today and happened right now.

WOODRUFF: All right, Kimberly Osias, who is on the scene reporting for CNN.

Let's bring in be CNN's Miles O'Brien to get a little of the scientific explanation.

Miles, we know the seismologists have been watching this since the earthquake hit the West Coast of the United States a few days ago. What exactly are they measuring? How do they know that something might happen, and why might they be surprised right now?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, here's a couple things to consider, Judy.

This is as heavily instrumented as probably any volcano in the world. That dome, that lava dome in the center of the crater of Mount Saint Helens -- of course, the mountain itself is roughly around 8,500 to 8700 feet in peak. Inside that crater is a 900-foot bulge of hardened magma and lava, which beneath it is, of course, you know, essentially a pipeline from the magma, which sits underneath the plates that we call mother earth.

So what they do, in order to try to figure out what's going on in a situation like that, is put a series of instruments on there, which are able to very carefully and precisely calibrate the movements of that dome. And that dome is always moving. This is an active volcano. It has never ceased to be an active volcano since that tremendous eruption in 1980, with that huge pyroclastic flow.

Now when we say pyroclastic, that means it's not a stream of lava, like you'd think about for, say, a Hawaii volcano. This is just a hot dose of rocks, a huge, huge hunk of ash and rocks and superheated rocks and magma all kind of mixed together, which literally knocked down trees for many miles around, killing 50 people, in excess of 50 people.

In any case, what they do, over the course of time, is look at some of the telltale signs of what might be brewing beneath the surface of the planet. Of course, a key one are those earthquakes, because that indicates movement in those plates. Those plates that we sit on which are terra firma as we know it really are sort of sitting on a sea of hot magma.

And as they sort of collide and move around on that hot magma, little fissures or pipelines are opened up to the surface. And that's what creates what we know as volcanoes. So the earthquakes are the first telltale sign. Then, on top of that, what they do is, they put all kinds of laser devices on top of the lava dome itself, which tell them the slightest movement in any direction, whether it's bulging, shrinking, moving in any particular way.

And another thing they have to watch very carefully for are for cracks in that lava dome. The cracks are once again indicating that activity. Now, what they have to know is what's normal kind of routine activity for a kind of lightly rumbling sort of simmering volcano, and when, you know, the heat has been turned up for whatever reason and it's about to boil over, which is what we're seeing here right now.

Over time, they build up a database and that gives them a sense of kind of what's the normal simmer and when the thing might boil over. And that's why we've had, since the 29th, this volcano warning for this area. Now, the question is, what's inside that cloud? That's a real key question. Is it just kind of a hunk of steam or is it that pyroclastic material that we're talking about, which would cause significantly more damage as a result?

Steam, obviously, is just water vapor. Of course, it's not going to be as widespread as that eruption in 1980. We know that. It doesn't have the force of that eruption, never has had that. And thus, people, for example, you can see in the foreground of this shot, if you lose the banner for just a moment, you can see people there are actually watching, tourists kind of taking in the sight.

That would be not something you'd want to do some 24 years ago.

So, Judy, we'll watch it unfold and there will be key some questions to ask as to what the cloud is all about -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK, Miles O'Brien talking about this new activity at Mount Saint Helens in Washington state, steam pouring out of what had been the top of an inactive volcano.

But now in the wake of the earthquakes that hit the West Coast last week, there's been activity Miles has been explaining under the ground, and it's causing whatever it was under the ground to come out.

Now, we went a few minutes ago to our Kimberly Osias. She is with us again. You can see the steam just shooting up into the air here.

Kimberly Osias still with us. And she has a guest with her from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Kimberly, are you there?

OSIAS: Yes, I am here, Judy.

And joining me is Tom Pierson. He's a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey. They of course have been studying things, monitoring very, very closely since everything started to wake back up last Thursday.

And Miles O'Brien, Mr. Pierson, was just speaking a little bit about the ash and the smoke, obviously, that we are looking at. What is that? Do we know if it's steam or if there's something a little more ominous underneath? Can you tell us what we're seeing here, please?

TOM PIERSON, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: Well, what we've just seen is a relatively small explosion of the kind that we were -- exactly the kind we were expecting to see due to our predictions, as a result of our predictions.

The white -- what appears to be white smoke is actually steam. Now, that was the first puff to come out. That was followed by a small cloud that just barely got up to the top of the crater rim. And that was dark gray because it had some pulverized rock material in it. Probably, that was rock that was included in the explosion debris and not necessarily fresh magma.

We can't tell that for sure until somebody goes up and collects some samples. But very often, these first explosions are just rock debris that are clearing the way in the vent.

OSIAS: You know, I know this was a bit of a surprise, because scientists were saying as recently as just a little while ago that it was about 70 percent likely that something would happen. And we were, of course, watching at a level two. Why did this happen just -- and right now?

PIERSON: Well, we've seen this gradual increase in the seismic activity.

And then, as was reported this morning, we first started seeing this bulge just over the last couple days, confirmed this morning that a bulge on the ice on the back side or the south side of the dome had occurred. And that was our first evidence that something was getting really close to the surface. And so a lot of us were saying today could be the day.

OSIAS: Obviously, the earth is a live organism. It's nothing more obvious than to see something like this happen. And there are a lot of people that are looking and enjoying this.

But speak to me about the risk factor that is involved right now, if any, I know not immediately. We're about five and a half miles from the crater. I must tell people we are not in danger. But if you could share that with our audience.

PIERSON: We predicted a hazard zone around the mountain that would include a circle with a radius of about three miles. And that's the distance we thought that rocks could be thrown out in explosions just like the one we've just seen, if they have enough power to do that.

We don't think anything further than that right now will be affected, except perhaps if we have some rapid melting of the snow and ice in that glacier up there, could cause a small little flood or a debris flow. Sometimes we call these lahars, flows of rock and water that can come down. And we might see one of those come slowly over the edge of the crater and down into the valley below us.

OSIAS: I want to speak to you a little bit about the smoke and the ash. I know there was concern for aerial traffic and I know there were some infrared devices that were going to be utilized coming in from Alaska this morning. Can you tell me if that will stop and if there's a risk at all or aerial traffic will be halted as well? What will be happening now? PIERSON: Well, what we've just seen was not big enough to affect much air traffic, other than helicopters or small planes flying very close to the mountain.

But I should emphasize, this is one small explosion. It could be the first of a string of these explosions. Some could be bigger, and once we engage the magma that is deeper down, we could get a little bit bigger ones yet. So we're still not expecting things to go much above 10,000 feet, and we're not expecting things to go much further than that three-mile radius right now, unless we start picking up earthquakes that are deeper down.

If that were to occur, you know, deeper than the one-mile or half-mile depth that we've been seeing them at now, things should remain about the same.

OSIAS: Now, Mr. Pierson, I know, for you, you've been studying this. You're a geologist. You've been looking at this for quite some time. There is certainly a buzz in the air with all of us covering it. And to watch this, I know you've felt this as well, but it's got to be a little bit of thrill for you to see this now. What's going through your mind?

PIERSON: Oh, it's very exciting. These are just a lot of fun to see. You get your pulse up. You get the adrenaline going, and you don't get a chance to see them very often. So it's great to do.

OSIAS: We all have remembered back to 1980, when that devastating volcano took place. This is obviously nothing like that, but there are people probably at home looking at it and sort of hearkening back, seeing this cloud of smoke and ash.

And tell me where -- I know things are headed -- sort of the wind is going in a northeasterly direction what is happening and if you could sort of compare and contrast with that picture for us.

PIERSON: Well, right at the moment, it looks like the -- what little ash is in that cloud -- and we do see one drifting off to the west of the volcano right now, and we can also see it falling. We see some of those dark little stringers underneath the cloud. That's ash coming down.

It's not going very high, as you can see, so it's almost at the same height as the top of the crater rim right now. So that's a good thing. We don't want it to go too high. And the pulse has stopped. That was one, shall we say, one burp from the volcano, and it has stopped for the moment.

OSIAS: Now, breathing this stuff -- I know we were talking to some people yesterday. They were getting masks. It's not coming this way. I mean, risks for people living in this vicinity, living in town just down a ways?

PIERSON: This was a small enough amount of ash that it is not going to travel very far. Most of it is going to fall to the ground within the next few miles. So it's really not going to get to people very far downwind. If it were, it's -- the one thing, you just want to stay indoors or have a dust mask. You don't want to breathe it in. It's like any kind of dust. It does have silica in it. But most of the time, people, healthy people can cough that dust out if they happen to breathe some.

OSIAS: I'm noticing and I can't help but notice that you're smiling, because -- can you share with me your thoughts? And you're laughing as well.

PIERSON: Well, it is. I am. It's a lot of fun to see it, and a lot of excitement in the air.

OSIAS: Fun to see it now, because it isn't quite the same danger or risk to everybody else that certainly 1980 was and even the rumblings back in 1986.

But talk to me, if you would, if we could get a little bit technical again. The crater wall, if you all can take a look, is shaped, I heard one of the scientists talking, much like a horseshoe. And behind it, there is a layer of ice, a glacial layer. And I thought this was absolutely fascinating when we talked about sort of six feet and a crack, enough that you could see actually blue ice, if you could share with me a little bit about that.

PIERSON: Yes, it is a real glacier. In fact, it hasn't even been officially named yet. It's been forming ever since the early 1980s, when the crater was formed.

And that high crater wall all around that forms the horseshoe provided shade for that snow to accumulate and not melt every summer. So we've been getting more and more. It's mixed in with rock that falls off the crater walls. We've been accumulating a thickness of ice and it's now actually started to flow and we see crevasses in it, like any glacier.

OSIAS: Excuse me. I can't help but notice that it's starting to dissipate here and pass. Does this mean this is it, or when you were talking about sort of the percolating underneath, could there be another hiccup, to use your words?

PIERSON: Yes, there could be another one and I think likely there will be more of these little bursts of steam and a little bit of ash, yes.

OSIAS: So it doesn't mean that we're completely out or this it, the show is over? We could have some more? And could they even be more serious? Or what could happen next?

PIERSON: They could be a little bigger once we get the real magma involved. I suspect that really this was just a steam explosion. Once magma's involved, they can be bigger.

But as we've pointed out and the USGS has said in its information updates, that we think that the magma does not have a lot of the volatile gas in it. And that's an important thing for keeping the level of the explosions and the level of the eruptions down.

OSIAS: And the other thing about the magma that we were chatting about earlier this morning was that there wasn't heat associated with it, that the rocks were actually cool more towards the surface when they were doing testing yesterday.

So that, they thought, would indicate that there wasn't a lot of warm stuff and molten magma moving underneath.

PIERSON: Well, it's just that the hot magma just hasn't got quite close enough to the surface to show that effect yet.

OSIAS: Well, this is -- will we actually see -- I know this is active. And everybody points to sort of Kilauea. Are we going to see some moving lava or something a little bit more fiery, maybe?

PIERSON: Well, it's very possible that this eruption will culminate in some lava coming out on to the surface.

We suspect that it will be fairly quiet as it comes out toward the end. We'll have some explosions in the beginning, like we've just seen. But we think it will be quiet toward the end and pasty and maybe add to the lava dome that's already there.

OSIAS: And going back, hearkening back to 1980, was there lava then? Some people were here and remember that, but if you could share with us a little bit about that.

PIERSON: Well, back in 1980, it was such a vigorous explosion and there was so much gas mixed in with the magma that, when that hot material actually reached the surface, it exploded and blew into smithereens, so to speak.

What would have been lava was blasted apart into tiny fragments that became the ash and the pumice that was carried up by the wind and carried over into eastern Washington and beyond.

OSIAS: If we could, I'd like to talk a little bit about this ecosystem that we're looking at around us.

It's very interesting, because since that earthquake, obviously, the ecosystem has been struggling to regenerate and rebuild. We see quite a dichotomy with the replanted trees and then those that are very, very dry. What will happen now with this ecosystem with what's just happened?

PIERSON: Well, what we're seeing happening now really shouldn't affect anything more than just in the crater. So hopefully life will get on regaining its foothold out in the valley below us and on these ridges.

OSIAS: Really continue on.

PIERSON: Continue on, that's right. It's been struggling to get going ever since 1980. OSIAS: Well, it's amazing to see this picture. It really is. It's absolutely a beautiful day, a clear day and to watch that -- the ash and everything move on.

PIERSON: It is. It's a real exciting thing to see.

OSIAS: Now, talk about, if you would, just a little bit about the testing that will be done now. I know that there were some infrared devices that were coming in from Alaska and they were actually going to go in and test. Are you going to halt all of that now and just sort of wait until this dissipates, or what will you all be doing?

PIERSON: No, the USGS will continue to go on full steam ahead in its monitoring, continue to watch very closely, because we would expect more than just this one little burst to occur and we want to be on top of that when it does occur.

OSIAS: Well, all of us will be watching and waiting as everything continues on here.

I know there are a number of tourists also that have been in the area that are taking photographs and memorializing this. If you were to give us sort of a comparison with all the other earthquakes that have happened and also activity, volcanic activity, where would you put this? Because there have been a lot. All of us remember 1980. We hearken back to (AUDIO GAP) 1986, but there have also been a number of other ones here. This is a definitely an active volcano. Things are still going on. But where would you put this sort of in the broad picture of Mount Saint Helens?

PIERSON: Well, in the broad picture of Saint Helens, this is still a pretty small part of the whole story. Mount Saint Helens has had lots of really big eruptions (AUDIO GAP) addition to that long history.

OSIAS: Yes, it's a hiccup, as you said. I would like to use that word, because it is. This is a live, living organism.

Now, I actually went over in a helicopter over Kilauea recently. And it's amazing to look at that activity. And you see this and you think, gosh, this is alive, too. And when you compare them both, how do they compare, if you would? Give us a little sketch.

PIERSON: Well, the volcanoes in Hawaii are very different volcanoes. They're composed of a rock called basalt. These rocks here are composed of a rock that's called dacite.

They're chemically quite different and they're physically quite different when they come out of the ground. The basalt lava flows in Hawaii are very runny, comparatively. They can form lava flows that will flow for many miles.

The rock in these volcanoes is must pastier and thick and viscous. It can't flow very easily, and it has more gas dissolved in it. So it tends to be more explosive. OSIAS: That thick, pasty magma that you talk about. But why don't we see -- like I looked at some of the aerial footage. Of course, I would love to go up and take a look at it myself, but -- along with everybody else.

But why did we not see that kind of activity like you would in Kilauea? Is it because of the basalt or is it because of something else?

PIERSON: You mean here?

OSIAS: Yes.

PIERSON: Yes. Right now, we don't have basalt lava here or magma. St. Helens has in the past had basalt lava flows, but this current cycle seems to be a dacite type of rock. So that's just the character of the rock.

OSIAS: Are you going to go up in a chopper? Are you chomping at the bit to go?

PIERSON: Well, I'd love to. I think I'll probably be answering a lot of questions here for a while.

OSIAS: I'm sure. I'm sure. Well, it's an absolutely amazing day, and we'll all be watching to see if something else happens.

Anything else that you want to share with us, Mr. Pierson?

Tom Pierson with the U.S. Geological Survey, you have been incredibly busy. And I thank you for your time for joining us out of the cascade region.

WOODRUFF: Thanks, Kimberly Osias. Thanks very much.

Kimberly talking there with a gentleman from the U.S. Geological Survey, Tom Pierson. We want to thank both of you. We'll try to get back to Kimberly in a few minutes when we can get that audio problem straightened out.

Again, what we're watching here is a mini eruption -- I guess you could call it that -- of mainly gas and some ash from Mount St. Helens, the volcano in Washington State, the volcano that 24 years ago, in 1980, erupted, killing more -- what, 57 people. As you've been hearing from Tom Pierson and other scientists, they don't expect this eruption to do anywhere near the damage that this one did.

We're going to show you some video now. This is it.

This is just from a few minutes ago, maybe about five, six minutes ago, when the -- there was an explosion of gas and ash from inside that volcano. All this activity we are told by the scientists triggered by the earthquakes hitting the western part of the United States a few days ago. They've been watching -- the seismologists have been watching activity inside this volcano ever since, sensing that something might happen. They had no way of knowing when. But today, they began to see signals and signs that it might -- it might happen. And then just a short time ago, steam started pouring out, spewing out of the -- of the volcano about a mile high. And then as we had our cameras on it -- and this is video from just a short time ago -- we saw live pictures of what was a gas -- or rather steam coming out, turning into gas and ash. And we heard the -- Tom Pierson of the U.S. Geological Survey explaining what we're seeing.

Is Miles O'Brien still with us from Atlanta?

Miles, are you with us?

O'BRIEN: Yes, Judy. Yes, I am. Yes, I am.

WOODRUFF: I wanted -- I wanted to ask you -- one thing Mr. Pierson said that struck me, he said, "I don't think this is going to get serious," he said, in so many words, "Unless," he said, "there's an earthquake deeper than a half a mile or a mile or so underground. Explain why that would be so significant.

O'BRIEN: Well, a deep earthquake would essentially kind of stir that pot. I don't want to belabor that analogy about the simmering pot of water on the stove, but if -- if you have some tectonic activity, those plates are shifting, and there's a deeper earthquake underneath, that could lodge free another stream of magma potentially, magma heading upward, lava, whatever you want to call it, which could cause this.

As a matter of fact, I've got a cutaway here we can show you. This is -- this -- this particular volcano at Mount St. Helens is like a lot of famous volcanoes, Mount Fuji among them. It's a stratovolcano, a stratovolcano.

And if you can take that graphic we have there on SP102 (ph), I'm just going to run through it very quickly. I know you've got some important pictures to show there as well.

But we can just show people kind of -- if we can peel away and do a cutaway of Mount St. Helens, it's very likely we'd see something not unlike this. You see that you have sort of a thick hunk of magma in the lower regions beneath all kinds of layers of that plate. If there's some kind of earthquake under there, that breaks through another vein or opens up that vein, you're going to get some kind of activity. That's what he's talking about.

Now, these stratovolcanoes are -- you can tell them by the way they have that kind of straight beeline up to the point of eruption. And it is at the top of that, where you get that crowning effect, that kind of dome I was telling you about. And in this case, since Mount St. Helens already had that eruption, you know, this portion is off and the dome is sort of like that.

Now, when they talk about these pyroclastic flows, what happens is it's not just like 100 percent lava flowing out, like you'd see at Mauna Loa. What you get is these layers of rock and so forth are explosively ejected out with the eruption.

And what that does is it sends a huge cloud of ash into the air, but it also sends kind of an avalanche of material. And it includes dry rock fragments that are super hot, hot gases, all of that moving at very, very high speeds. This is the real killer in a situation with a pyroclastic flow.

They move so rapidly that people can't get out of the way. Also in it is molten or even solid rock fragments, all kind of mixed in together, flattens those trees. All kinds of poisonous gases come along with it.

And then, as we said, that ash plume goes up in the sky and that presents a hazard to aviation, among other things. Airplanes have flown through the clouds of volcanoes in the past, Pinatubo one of them, and it's actually shut down engines on aircraft.

Now, the ash from Mount St. Helens in 1980, sure, it saturated the area around there, but there was ash that dropped as far away as Oklahoma, believe it or not. So these things are literally, Judy, events that can impact big hunks of the weather patterns and just in general the atmosphere for a good chunk of the world -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Miles, we've just been told the scientists at the observatory there, it's the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington, that's the name of the town there, are preparing to hold a news conference. We're going to try to take that live when it gets under way. But Miles, as we watch this, why is it that they don't expect this eruption to be as bad as the one in 1980?

O'BRIEN: Well, a lot of it has to do with the level of seismic activity, the eruptions. It doesn't nearly match the force, the magnitude and the frequency that they experienced in 1980.

Also, you'll see, quite frankly, it already blew its lid off. The damage that was done in 1980, in some sense, cannot be replicated, because all the material that created that much higher mountain there, if you can imagine that chunk, that bite being taken out, is not there.

But they -- you know, it's interesting, they do a pretty good job predicting them, because obviously we've been paying attention to this for a little while. But there's still a little bit of black science involved in all of this.

They know a lot, but there are also some things they can't predict, right down to the moment. A lot of volcanoes will do this kind of thing and kind of get into a heightened state of -- of a more rapid simmer or close to a boil for a long period of time and never culminate in that eruption that is anticipated.

So it's difficult, like predicting earthquakes, despite all the science that we have. It's difficult to make solid core predictions about this, except to say that there is a linkage between the level of that seismic activity, the number of earthquakes, the magnitude of those earthquakes, and the size ultimately of the eruption. WOODRUFF: Miles O'Brien talking to us from Atlanta about what is going on in Washington State. Mount St. Helens, the volcano, has been spewing ash. And what we saw, a large column of white steam today after days of rumbling. And all this on the heels of earthquakes that struck the West Coast just -- just days ago.

Kimberly Osias, our reporter who is on the scene not too far away, Kimberly, you were -- you were talking with Mr. Pierson, Tom Pierson, with the U.S. Geological Survey. And I was just asking Miles why they don't think this incident is going to be as bad as 1980. But refresh everybody about what did happen in 1980.

More than 50 people died. Remind everybody what happened.

OSIAS: Well, Judy, you know, Miles is exactly right. It certainly can't be replicated.

In 1980, 57 people were killed. And when you look back at the dome ago, which is the area of activity behind me, quite a bit of steam and ash has already dissipated from there. But what is remarkable is a third of the mountain actually blew off the north face.

I mean, when you talk about mountain -- and one thing that is actually very, very visual, if you put your fingers together and sort of put it over the -- over the mountain there, you can see what it once was before 1980. So that time will never actually come again.

And they really weren't prepared technically. Now, of course, you know, you learn from times past. There are GPS devices and they're constantly measuring seismic activity here.

And so they were able to have a much better barometer than they did back -- back in 1980, Judy. So definitely a different picture now.

And we want to show you. If we could, we'll take another look of sort of what is left from 1980.

It is definitely very -- very much a fragile ecosystem that is still in flux. And you heard Mr. Pierson talking about carrying on and healing. And we can show you from above the crater right now, a live aerial shot, if we can take a look at that.

This is the 925-foot dome that has caused sort of all the attention to be focused on it. That moved, I understand, about five centimeters, moving up about four and a half centimeters. That's about an inch and a half upwards, and outwards as well. That -- you hear geologists talking about the deformation of the dome.

Now, what caused all this? We still are not sure.

Typically, Judy, this time of year a lot of rain water collects underneath. That percolates around, gets a lot -- a lot of heat, and then could have moved and pushed that dome area upwards. Now, that dome that you're looking at, that is the earth that has reformed since that 1980 volcanic activity. And, you know, we don't know that this is necessarily over.

Mr. Pierson, from the U.S. Geological Survey, said again -- and I think this is such a great word -- is a hiccup. We could, in fact, see more activity here. Just because the steam has dissipated doesn't mean that everything is over right now.

WOODRUFF: Kimberly Osias is with us from very close to Mount St. Helens, the volcano that has erupted a bit, sending some steam and ash into the air this afternoon. To our viewers who may be just tuning in, normally you'd see INSIDE POLITICS at this hour. We have a lot to talk about with the debate that happened between President Bush and Senator John Kerry last night in Miami.

But this is breaking news from out West, from the Pacific Northwest. This volcano that erupted, a killer volcano 24 years ago, 57 people were killed then.

This we are -- what we're hearing from Miles O'Brien and from Kimberly and the scientists there, this is a smaller possibility, I guess you could say, but when it came out, when that ash and steam came out, these are pictures from about 20, 25 minutes ago. We had our cameras trained on the volcano when it erupted. Very dramatic pictures.

Kimberly, if you're still -- I know you're still there. Describe for us that area, the population around there. I mean, how close do people actually live to Mount St. Helens? How far away are you from there right now?

OSIAS: We are actually five-and-a-half miles from the crater. We are certainly not at risk, Judy. I don't want anybody to think that we are not safe. And if, in fact, we were, the forestry service individuals would certainly not let us be here.

This is -- this is certainly a safe distance. They believe everything is still contained to that crater area, to that dome area.

In fact, a number of trails are still open to tourists. Just several have been shut down.

Now, in terms of population, this is really out -- out quite a ways from substantial civilization. There's a town maybe about an hour from here. But otherwise, very few -- very few people live this close in. They have to shuttle in from the nearest area.

WOODRUFF: I'm assuming, Kimberly, that the Geological Survey folks and -- and not only that, the state officials have a way of informing people who may be hiking in the area, vacationing, or whatever, when something like this happens to alert them? How does that work?

OSIAS: Oh, certainly. I mean, all the emergency management people have been on the ready, and Red Cross has been standing by as well. But they don't think that it is necessary at this point.

I mean, this is just smoke and steam and ash that is moving. And they moved people from those areas that were -- that could possibly be danger areas, danger zones, many, many days ago, when things started picking up. In fact, back last Thursday.

That's when they started seeing seismic activity, seeing signs of shallow earthquakes.

And remember, just because there were earthquakes didn't mean that anything dangerous or ominous was going to happen, because this is an active volcano and that happens frequently. And these earthquakes that we've seen in the last week have all been very, very shallow.

I mean, even the ones that have a magnitude of 3.3 in the grand sort of geological scheme of things, it is still relatively shallow. And just comparing it just last week with that activity, the earthquake activity that happened, I believe it was in Parkville, California, that was a magnitude of 6.0, just for comparison purposes.

WOODRUFF: Kimberly Osias, she's reporting for us from, what, about five-and-a-half miles away from Mount St. Helens, where we've been watching fairly spectacular eruptions of steam and ash this afternoon, just within the last hour. All this -- these are live pictures coming into CNN from Mount St. Helens near the town of Vancouver.

We are going to -- we are now going to go to a news conference, the scientists at the Cascades Volcano Observatory. This is all courtesy of KATU.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we have Evelyn Roeloffs here, who is a geophysicist, and she's going to talk to us a little bit about why this activity has completely stopped -- Evelyn.

EVELYN ROELOFFS, USGS: Well, it looks like what happened is material that wanted to come out of the earth had succeeded in clearing the pathway it needed by breaking rock and creating lots of seismic events. And once it had done that, it just basically flowed out for about 10 or 11 minutes without any major large seismic signal.

And after it was done, and the steam emission ended, the seismic signal became very low level. So it's looking very quiet, indeed, right now. No events since that steam emission ended.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we've been seeing earthquakes over the last several days, ranging from 1.0, all the way up to 3.3. That's the highest magnitude quake that we've seen.

And, of course, these two seismographs recording those quakes. Now those quakes have stopped, in some cases, and slowed down in others. Are we going to see that ramping back up again? Scientists have talked about this kind of rollercoaster effect, where we have a spurt of earthquakes and then we don't see any earthquakes, then we see it spurt up again? ROELOFFS: Well, that's certainly possible. I'm don't think we really know what's going to happen.

We were not envisioning a major eruption at this point, so it's possible that this is all that's going to happen. However, we're not going to presume that, and we certainly are pretty sure that we're not going to have anything else happening without some more increased seismic activity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know that back in the mid to early '80s, we saw the lava dome building events. And so a situation like this, where you have the steam, the ash coming out of the crater there, from what we've experienced in the past, can you safely say that we may have another event like this? This only lasted about 15 minutes.

ROELOFFS: Well, this is the first such event that we've had in over a decade. And so this may be signaling a change in the character of the volcano's behavior.

We haven't -- we know that it's likely that some magma came up to the surface in 1998, and we don't really know how much or what condition it's in. And I think it's possible that what we'll see is more events like this until that event -- that magma has totally given up its water and what ash it needs to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, I know I spoke with John Major (ph), who is a hydrologist, here earlier. He said that of course there was this thermal imaging device that was being used, it was going to be mounted on a helicopter and taken out to the mountain today.

They were in the process of doing that. Well, John just told me that, in fact, they have not seen anything, any of these increased hotspots that they were looking for, any of the magma that they were looking for to see if it actually came up to the surface.

So this, as he's calling it, is a cold event. Can you describe what a cold event is to our viewers?

ROELOFFS: Well, I think it just means that we have magma there that has gone part of the way toward cooling down. It's still obviously got some mobility to it, but it doesn't represent anything hot coming from great depth, which is what you need to drive any kind of a big eruption.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And talk to people a little bit about where this magma is coming from, because I think a lot of times we think that this is new magma that could create a huge explosion, which is what we saw back in 1990. But this is actually a pocket of magma, leftover magma, so to speak.

And a lot of those gases that scientists have been looking for over the last several days were not associated with this particular magma. Of course, now we're seeing the steam, now we're seeing the ash.

ROELOFFS: That's right. To have a really major eruption like 1980, you really need to have a big supply of fresh magma from depth. And in the case of Mount St. Helens, it's seven or eight miles below the surface.

We didn't see any seismic activity that deep. We didn't see any deformation of the volcano that implies there's a lot of material coming up from depth. And we saw no gas, which implies that nothing new has come up. So we're -- we're really quite confident there's not the supply of fresh magma that would cause this to build into a major eruption.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell me what happens now. Of course, I've been at the USGS office here in Vancouver for the last several days, I've been watching you guys work around the clock.

People have been here 24 hours a day. I saw a cot, in fact, last night. Someone spent the night on a cot.

Now where do you go from here as far as interpreting what happened and then in the future what could happen, because this may not be the end of the activity?

ROELOFFS: Well, I think it's going to -- there's certainly a large backlog of seismic events that need to be processed and looked at. And we also have crews out in the field now that are installing more sensitive seismographs at greater distance from the volcano. And those instruments will be very well situated to see if there's any renewed deep activity.

In the future, we really do hope to have better instrumentation at Mount St. Helens. There's been some financed by NSF, which actually we're speeding up the deployment of and we should start getting more GPS deformation monitoring stations in within a week or 10 days.

So I think this event is really a good wake-up call to everybody to help keep us on our toes, but also to bring forth the funding we need to do a better job of monitoring Mount St. Helens in the future.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I've also talked with several of the scientists that have actually gone out to the mountain. Nobody at this point has landed on the glacier. That's what I was told, as far as looking at those cracks. All of those pictures from some type of helicopter or plane.

Now, with this activity, how do you make sure that the crews are safe in the research that they're conducting? Because I would imagine that you want to have somebody out there monitoring what's going on and then collecting data as well.

ROELOFFS: Well, there certainly would be some interesting information to get out of the crater. But safety is our first concern.

And we don't have any plans at this point to be landing people in the crater anytime soon. We'll be watching the seismic activity very carefully. And when people do go in, we will have a helicopter right on call with them to get them out very quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Evelyn, thank you so much for talking with us today. I know you've been busy. We appreciate you taking the time.

So as you just heard, this event now looks like it's kind of slowed down. And as you can see with the seismographs here, no activity for the first time in several days.

The needles -- one needle that you're looking at practically not even moving. And then just at the St. Helens lava dome above, this was just a few hours ago. This entire piece of paper was a big strip of blue, a wide strip of blue, because of all of the activity, the seismic activity.

Now very thin. Not a lot going on. But that, of course, could change. We don't know. And scientists monitoring the situation very closely.

Ken, back to you in the studio.

WOODRUFF: All right. We want to thank our affiliate, KATU, in -- out in Washington State for that interview with the scientists at the Cascades Volcano Observatory.

Joining me now on the telephone is Dawn Smith. She owns the Eco Park Resort in Toutle, Washington, which is, we're told, about 28 miles from Mount St. Helens.

Ms. Smith, what -- what have you seen and what have you heard today? And how does this compare from the big eruption back in 1980, which -- and I understand you were there at that time as well.

DAWN SMITH, OWNER, ECO PARK RESORT: Yes. I'm seeing everything on the news. Unfortunately, from our resort I can't see the mountain. But just a nice steam plume.

Nothing huge. But just enough to get all of the scientists excited. And in comparison to 1980, I mean, this is just a tiny little eruption in comparison to the 1980 eruption. But it's still exciting.

WOODRUFF: How often do you see some kind of activity out of Mount St. Helens?

SMITH: Not very often. I mean, we have close friends that are -- do very close work with the mountain and get updates all the time, but this is the most exciting since 1980, I think.

WOODRUFF: You use the word "exciting," rather than in any way dangerous. I mean, what would it take for you to be concerned that it might be more serious? I mean, do you simply listen to news reports? How does the word get spread where you are?

SMITH: Well, the Forest Service actually checks in with us every day and lets us know what's going on. The sheriff has -- came and given us actual reports. We watch the news and contact our friends at the USGS, and things like that.

But to me, this is -- I don't think anything they can do right now would -- anything that would really scare me. It's very exciting because there is a large hole in the side of the mountain. So, I mean, what it did in 1980 is something it could never do again until it rebuilds. So it is still very exciting.

WOODRUFF: Now, I'm talking with Dawn Smith, who owns a resort in Washington State, about, what, we're told, 28 miles -- 28 miles or so from Mount St. Helens. How many people actually live in that area, live closer to the volcano than you do? And any sense of how many hikers or people might being in the area vacationing right now?

SMITH: We have a lot of people in the area vacationing. It's my husband, myself and my daughter that live here at the resort. And we have a few neighbors on adjoining property across the road.

So there's probably about, oh, a good 10 of us that live here full time. So, I mean, we don't have, you know, a ton of people right here.

My closest concern was New Zealanders are coming in on Tuesday and Wednesday, and they made a few phone calls to me, making sure that, you know, everything is still OK, everything is open, we're not in the blast zone. So that has been the only concern lately, is my group that's coming in from New Zealand.

WOODRUFF: So the Forest Service, you rely on them for information?

SMITH: Yes. They actually call us every day and check in with us and let us know what's going on.

WOODRUFF: Do you live closer to Mount St. Helens than anybody else?

SMITH: Yes, we do. We are the closest. The only one that would live any closer would be housing there at the Forest Service there at Coldwater Lake.

WOODRUFF: Dawn Smith is the owner -- she and her husband own a resort, Eco Park resort in the town of Toutle, Washington. And you just heard her say they live closer than anyone to the volcano, except for the employees of the Forest Service.

Thank you very much for your -- for talking with us this afternoon. We appreciate it.

SMITH: Thanks, Judy. You have a great day.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

And Miles O'Brien is with us now from Atlanta.

Miles, from what you're hearing and what you're seeing, does it look like this has quieted down, at least for the time being? O'BRIEN: So it seems, Judy. So it seems. And, you know, let's put this into some perspective for folks.

I think we might have isolated some footage from 1980. And why don't we roll it just -- and we could almost do a split screen.

First of all, look at this tremendous, tremendous eruption that occurred. It happened on May 18, and it happened about 27 seconds after an earthquake with magnitude 5.1, which sent a lot of -- created enough of a fissure that allowed the eruption to kind of come through.

So it was kind of a cause and effect kind of thing with the earthquake, clearly. And this pyroclastic surge I've been telling you about, which means, you know, it's hot material, hot rocks, throw in some lava, initially moved at 300 miles an hour. You can see it kind of went down that gaping open ramp there. It slowed down to about 100 miles an hour.

There were people, Judy, who were driving away from Mount St. Helens at 100 miles an hour with that pyroclastic flow on their back side and lived to tell the tale. But what's more to the point for today, you should remember that the run-up to that event included about eight weeks of very intense seismic earthquake activity, hundreds of steam-driven explosions, not unlike we saw here, and then a big bulge that finally came out of it.

So there's really not -- it's really an apple and an orange. And as it was -- been pointed out time and again here, all the material that caused the devastation, the deforestation, the damage and the deaths in Mount St. Helens has been blown off. It was a third of the mountaintop and it's gone. So in that sense, it's going to take well beyond our lifetimes for Mount St. Helens to build back up to become the threat that it was in 1980.

Having said all of that, it is just fascinating to watch Mother Nature at work here. This is -- this is how mountains are born, how the Earth is formed. This is really almost like having a window to the center if the earth, if you will. And what lies beneath these plates we call terra firma is nothing but this hot pool of molten rock.

And these plates are shifting over it. And there are these spots. And one of the big areas is all around the Pacific Rim, where those plates bang together and collide.

And as they move, as they float across that magma, little fissures and pipes and various avenues of escape head to the surface that allow that magma to rise. And every now and then out it comes.

And boy what a picture it makes -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And it does remind us that this is a living planet that we're walking on. It's not just a piece of rock. All right, Miles O'Brien. And we're going to come back to you in just a moment.

We are watching the aftermath. These are live pictures now. It's quieted down a little bit. A small explosion and eruption of steam and ash at Mount St. Helens in Washington State.

We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. We've been spending much of the last hour -- normally it's "INSIDE POLITICS" but we've been watching Mount St. Helens in Washington state. A small eruption. We're going to bring you an update on that in just a moment but right now it is 4:00 on the East Coast when the markets close and let's go quickly to New York to Ali Velshi for an update on how the markets did today. Hello, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Judy, the first day of the fourth quarter has ended. Triple digit gains on the Dow, all three major averages rallied today even though oil prices have closed above $50 a barrel for the first time.

Final trades are coming in now. You're looking at the big board. Up 113 points on the Dow, the Nasdaq is up 2.3 percent right now, almost 3 percent, the Dow, Nasdaq, S&P, all posting solid gains for this week. Shares of Peoplesoft rallied 15 percent after the company fired its CEO. Investors are thinking, maybe hoping that the bid that Oracle has made for the company might get a warmer reception under the new administration.

Merck shares bounced back a bit closing up 1 percent. The stock plunged 27 percent yesterday after the company pulled its top-selling painkiller Vioxx off the market. Merck lost $26 billion in market value yesterday. For a little perspective, that's more than General Motors is worth.

Speaking of General Motors, big promotions and rebates helped the automaker report strong sales for September, up 20 percent from a year ago. Chrysler sales up nearly 9 percent but Ford up 7 percent. Shares of all three automakers closed solidly higher.

And finally, mixing business and politics, if you want a good sense of who's going to be the next president, track the stock market, when the Dow has rallied in the two months ahead of the election, the incumbent president or party has won 15 out of 16 times but the incumbent has lost nine of the 10 times when the Dow has fallen during the same time period. The key level to watch this year, 10,290. The Dow closing now at 10,192. Now back to you, Judy, for "INSIDE POLITICS."

WOODRUFF: Ali, thanks very much and we are going to get to "INSIDE POLITICS" in just a moment. But first a quick update on that activity at Mount St. Helens out in Washington state. Let's go to Kimberly Osias for that update -- Kimberly.

OSIAS: Judy, I guess you could say we are in a bit of an intermission, an intermission to what maybe is a geological play. We don't know if anything is going to happen again. Scientists are actually scurrying around very excited, one actually that we just interviewed a little while ago, you recall, Mr. Tom Pierson, he was taking pictures fervently because this is an amazing scene.

While there have been earthquakes, a number of earthquakes, very very shallow, nothing as much as the spate of activity that we have seen of recent in the past week. And it was just about almost right at noon Pacific Time when things started to change. The earth moved even more and the dome moved up a bit and cloud, a big cloud of smoke, and steam blew upwards, up and then out. The wind carried it for about 20 to 25 minutes then things started to dissipate.

What we are told is that rocks perhaps the size of a fist, we don't know because obviously scientists are busy interpreting the data. They're going to wait until it is safe to go back in obviously. And again, we don't know if something else will happen. The term that Mr. Pearson with the U.S. Geological Survey used was "a hiccup." A geological hiccup. A great term because in fact this is a very, very dynamic environment but this is the most activity that we have seen in Mount St. Helens in quite some time.

There are a number of tourists and obviously a host of media looking at this and catching this historic moment -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Kimberly Osias, what -- Kimberly, you're, what, about five and a half miles away from Mount St. Helens, at the scientist station there?

OSIAS: That's exactly right. We are just around the Johnston (ph) Bridge area. Five and a half miles. Very safe distance I must say from the crater. That is where they believe that the activity remains and the ash and everything. They don't believe that this is a danger to anybody in the area as you can tell. It has dissipated now but that doesn't mean that things or the show is completely over.

WOODRUFF: All right. Kimberly Osias keeping an eye on it for CNN. And the scientists keeping an eye, a very close eye on this. As you just heard Kimberly describe, the most activity they've seen out of Mount St. Helens in quite some time. They are watching it because there is a possibility there will be more eruptions later.

We, of course, are going to bring you updates throughout this evening and a report if anything develops. Kimberly, thank you very much.

Well, "INSIDE POLITICS," we normally show it at this time of day and we're going to get back to it because there's a lot going on in the world of politics at this pivotal moment of the presidential campaign, George W. Bush is back where much of the campaign action traditionally begins, New Hampshire. It's another chance to reach to showdown voters and to cast his debate performance against John Kerry in the best possible light.

Let's go to our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. Hello, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Judy. President Bush in Manchester, New Hampshire. That is where of course it is the critical battleground state. Earlier he was also in Pennsylvania back on the campaign trail. We are told that the president is not paying attention to the critics' analysis of his performance in the debate including that poll that shows by some estimates that Kerry won about 20 percentage points over Bush in that debate. We are told that the president just did his last stop Allentown, Pennsylvania, saying that it was a great debate, that he really thought that it showed the fundamental differences in how both of the candidates simply actually approach this war on terror. The president again hammering away at what the campaign calls Kerry's contradictions on Iraq and what is either more important perhaps equally important as the message is who is helping him actually deliver that message today. That is the maverick Republican moderate Senator John McCain who referred Kerry's Iraq position, his policy saying that a summit is not a plan.

McCain however telling reporters earlier today he says that Kerry came out swinging, he did a nice job, he said in the last six weeks, he was probably his brightest moment but he also said that he did not reconcile those inconsistencies that they see with Kerry's position.

President Bush, also using Kerry's position when he talked about building those alliances to portray Kerry as week on defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senator Kerry last night said that America has to pass some sort of global test before we can used American troops to defend ourselves. He wants our national security decisions subject to the approval of a foreign government.

Listen, I'll continue to work with our allies and the international community but I will never submit America's national security to an international test.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Now a senior public official responding to that poll, that CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll showing that Kerry, at least some people believe who were watching the debate that Kerry beat out Bush by at least 20 percentage points that senior officials say that it is one thing to win the debate and it's a whole other thing to convince people that you would make the better president. They say certainly that Bush wears better, wears well on the American voters. They also say that his number one priority last night was to show resolve and simply to be calm and they say that he could have basically what they call punched Kerry in the nose rhetorically. They say that he held off on that. He just wanted to make sure he got his message across. They're still very confident that President Bush still in the lead.

WOODRUFF: All right. Suzanne Malveaux traveling with President Bush today. He's in New Hampshire.

Senator Kerry chose to stay closer to the debate side today. He's campaigning still in Florida and he's echoing some of the lines that got the most attention from last night. Here again CNN's Frank Buckley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Did you watch the debate last night?

BUCKLEY (voice-over): Senator John Kerry rallied a crowd of thousands of supporters at the University of South Florida continuing the debate the day after rebutting critical comments from President Bush like this one.

BUSH: One of the things I've learned in the White House is that there is enormous pressure on the president and you can not wilt under that pressure.

BUCKLEY: Kerry fired back.

KERRY: Mr. President, nobody is talking about leaving. Nobody is talking about wilting and wavering. We're talking about winning and getting the job done right.

BUCKLEY: Kerry also seized on the president's criticism of his proposals for improving homeland security.

BUSH: I don't think we're going to get to how he's going to pay for all these promises. It's a huge tax gap. Anyway, that's for another debate.

BUCKLEY: A debate that Kerry was already taking up.

KERRY: My friends, this is the president who created a tax gap by providing a tax cut to the wealthiest Americans instead of investing in homeland security and the United States. Let's get real.

BUCKLEY: Kerry strategists say that tax-gap criticism is a metaphor for the campaign's focus in the days ahead as it pivots from foreign policy to domestic issues. Bush, Kerry will say, has consistently made the wrong choices.

KERRY: But when this president had an opportunity to lower your taxes and to lower the cost to seniors by letting Medicare go out and actually negotiate for bulk purchasing, this president chose the drug companies.

BUCKLEY (on camera): Kerry's strategists say they don't believe the poll numbers will change immediately as a result of the debate. But they do believe that Senator Kerry's performance in the debate will cause undecided voters to give Senator Kerry a fresh look, just as the discussion in the campaign turns to domestic issues. That debate set for next Friday.

Frank Buckley, CNN, Tampa, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, you heard a number of people say it yesterday. Winning a debate is not everything. Then again, it doesn't hurt. Here now our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Judy, the polls are in and the results are clear. Viewers say John Kerry won the first debate. Now does that mean the Democrat will win the election? Not necessarily. But it does mean he wins the "Political Play of the Week."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Who did a better job in the debate? That is what the CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll asked a sample of debate watchers. Before the debate these voters said they favored President Bush by 8 points. But by a whopping 16-point margin they said they thought John Kerry did a better job in the debate.

ABC News asked their sample of debate viewers who won. The answer, Kerry by 9 points. CBS News polled uncommitted voters who watched the debate. Again, Kerry won by 15 points. Kerry has often given murky, complicated explanations of his views. But in this debate Kerry's answers were mostly crisp and clear.

KERRY: I've had one position, one consistent position, that Saddam Hussein was a threat, there was a right way to disarm him and a wrong way. And the president chose the wrong way.

SCHNEIDER: Viewers noticed. By nearly 2-1 they thought Kerry expressed himself more clearly than Bush. But the debate was not all bad news for Bush. Viewers said they trusted Bush more to be commander in chief.

BUSH: What kind of message does it say to our troops in harm's, wrong war, wrong place, wrong time? That's not a message a commander in chief gives.

SCHNEIDER: Both the ABC and CBS polls found the debate had very little immediate impact on people's vote. But look at the record of who viewers thought won the first debate in previous presidential campaigns. In 1984, they thought Walter Mondale beat Ronald Reagan in the first debate. In 1988, Michael Dukakis edged out then-Vice President George Bush. The first debate in 1992 was a big victory for independent candidate Ross Perot. And in 2000 debate, Al Gore edged out George W. Bush. None of those first debate winners won the election.

Now after seeing Kerry side by side with Bush for the first time, voters may take another look at the Democrat. A breakthrough for Kerry, and the "Political Play of the Week."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: This was a debate about world affairs and it took place in the Miami area where there are a lot of Cuban-Americans and Jewish voters. Oddly, no one talked about Cuba and Israel only got a couple of passing mentions.

WOODRUFF: Huge interest in Iraq. And that clearly took up more than two-thirds of the debate.

SCHNEIDER: It overshadowed all other international issues.

WOODRUFF: Although there's a possibility some of that could come up in the town meeting debate where voters will have a chance to ask questions.

SCHNEIDER: Yes. And voters can ask essentially anything they want. There are no limitations on them. I don't think they are covered by the rules.

WOODRUFF: All right. OK. Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Well, with all the statements to sort through and the demand for instant analysis, the question is did journalists do the debate justice? Media analyst Howard will try to answer that question when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: A few minutes ago we looked at some polls showing general reaction to last night's presidential debate. But how much is public opinion swayed by reporters and by the pundits who quickly size up these political events and often declare their own winners and losers? Well, Howard Kurtz of "The Washington Post" and CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" joins us, he is in New York.

Howard, last night I was in the filing center with the print reporters, I saw how they watched the debate. They watched it on screens with a video fed, I guess the straight feed from the commission. We didn't see what the viewers at home saw. So does that...

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Reporters from all over the world fly to Coral Gables and see a different debate than the rest of America, which meant that we didn't see most of the reaction shots which are drawing a lot of attention after the fact, and certainly what people at home saw.

The president sometimes looking a little defensive, a little testy, a little annoyed. The Democratic spinners in that big spin room afterwards certainly made this point. But it wasn't a big topic of conversation among the journalists because they missed that particular part of the action.

WOODRUFF: How much -- in this debate, every debate is different. But you've been paying attention today and last night to a lot of what the pundits were saying. How much of that is tracking with what voters are saying?

KURTZ: Well, there has been, in my view, a kind of a stampede to judgment. You know, you sit there in the filing center with all these reporters and they, well, I think Kerry is winning this thing. What do you think? And then the quickie polls come in showing him up 10, 16 points. Everything I have read on the Internet and the morning papers, watching television today, I'm not finding very many people who thought President Bush won this debate. But I want to wave a big red caution flag here, which is, this instant punditry, this sort of rush to declare a winner is often wrong.

We saw that in the polls, as Bill Schneider just mentioned. But in the next few days, as people talk about the debate, as the stories focus on who mangled the facts, for example, and as more polls come out, there may be a reevaluation, and people who are now saying that Kerry won hands down may end up saying that it didn't help him all that much. It's too soon for us to know.

WOODRUFF: Do you have a sense at this point, Howard, though, of what the press may be overlooking or missing or just not focusing sufficiently on?

KURTZ: Well, you know, this was a serious debate and it got serious coverage. There was no endless replaying of the one line zingers because there were no one line zingers in this debate. So in that sense it was a substantive affair.

But I think that when we look to see -- when we look at who has seen more concise, more crisp, more in command, and all of those things, we sometimes miss out on the fact that voters who are watching, many of them tend to get reinforced in their views of whether they already like John Kerry or George W. Bush, or they may have thought that Kerry was the better debater, but as some of these poll findings suggest, it doesn't mean they're going to change their vote.

And so there tends to be sometimes revisionist history a few days later as there was in the Democratic Convention. All of us geniuses in the press said it was a great convention for Kerry up in Boston. When he then didn't gain any ground in the polls, people said, well, it was a missed opportunity, he talked too much about Vietnam. We might see that in the coming days. Again, too soon for me to say right now.

WOODRUFF: Howard, what is different about the way the press covers a first debate like this when the expectations or at least understanding going in was that John Kerry was running behind in the polls and really needed to do well. What will be different about the approach the press takes do you think to the second and third debates as well as the vice presidential debate?

KURTZ: Well, I heard more than one journalist say in the last 24 hours, Judy, that Kerry has gotten back into the game that he has given himself new life, that people will be giving him another look in the second and third debates.

If Kerry had been perceived as not doing well by all the people who manufacture news and opinion in our business, then I think because he is trailing in the polls, and sometimes of course those polls are wrong or they are all over the map, there would have been a consensus in the press, at least subtly, that Kerry would have less chance of catching up.

Now I think the press has the horserace that it wanted all along. Again this could change with the polls in the coming days. But I think that the focus on the second and third debate is going to be a little less pressure in the eyes of media people on Kerry having to score some kind of knockout punch.

WOODRUFF: All right. What media are you going to be reading and watching yourself this weekend, Howard, to see how the fallout continues from this debate?

KURTZ: Well, I'll certainly be paying attention to a lot of the cable chat shows because they form a giant media echo chamber and sometimes things take resonance there. But newspapers, fact-checking, what the candidates are saying, what their handlers are saying, newspapers play a big role here and I'll be -- and everybody should, I think, spend some time looking at those stories as well.

OK. Howard Kurtz of "The Washington Post" and CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES," thanks very much, Howard. We'll see you on your show this weekend. Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Well, now that the first debate is over, what do Bush and Kerry do for an encore? Up next, we'll talk more about how they did last night and what they need to do better next time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking the Friday headlines in our campaign news daily. Two new showdown state polls taken before last night's debate finds tight races in two states won by Al Gore four years ago. Out west in Oregon a survey for "The Oregonian" and KATU Television gives John Kerry a two-point edge over George W. Bush. 47 percent to 45 percent. Back east in New England, a survey of voters in Maine by Strategic Marketing Services gives Kerry 42 percent, Bush 39 percent, Ralph Nader 4 percent.

CNN's predebate analysis of the overall battle for 270 electoral votes finds the race unchanged since last week. Again, all this before last night's debate. According to our research Bush would win 301 votes. Kerry, 237.

Independent candidate Ralph Nader watched the debate from a University of Miami cafeteria. But he does have encouraging news from the battleground state of Wisconsin. The state supreme court late yesterday ordered that Nader's name be put back on the Wisconsin ballot reversing a lower court's decision from earlier in the week. Nader is now on 35 state ballots plus the District of Columbia. His status is in legal dispute in seven states and he's been denied ballot access in nine states.

All right. With me now from the "Washington Post," Dan Balz, who is their senior political reporter. First of all, Dan Balz, how do you size up how John Kerry did from last night and how George Bush did last night? DAN BALZ, "WASHINGTON POST": Judy, I'm not sure that I could quarrel at all with the instant polls that were taken that judge Senator Kerry to win that debate. I think he had a stronger performance than President Bush. I thought and I think a lot of people that watched the debate that I talked to today thought it was one of the best presidential debates we've seen in a long time. That these were two candidates with very different visions of the world, with a very clear sense of what those differences were and how they wanted to articulate them. They were passionate through most of that debate. It was essential that a big debate occur over Iraq to show voters where those distinctions were. I think that Senator Kerry obviously had much more on the line going into that debate. His people today certainly feel very very good about the way they came out of it. The Bush people are a little more muted in their response, hopeful that this is not going to significantly change the shape of the race. It's too soon to tell how much or whether it will.

WOODRUFF: Dan, what is your sense of that? Is the race changed or do we just wait and see what happens in the days to come.

BALZ: Judy, I think what we have to do is now go through the rest of the debates. I think there was a sense going into last night that if Senator Kerry had a pretty bad performance or if President Bush looked extraordinarily strong, that a race that was beginning to look as though President Bush could take control of it might well have been the case. I think now what we have is a two-week period in which these debates will be very important and in which a lot of people will be taking a second or a third look at both of these candidates before they finally make up their mind.

We have said throughout this campaign that this is very polarized electorate and I think that's still the case. But there are people who are undecided. And I think as a result of last night there will be more attention paid to these final debates and I think including the vice presidential debate on Tuesday night, as well.

WOODRUFF: What is your sense of what Kerry and Bush and their vice presidential candidates need to do in these next few days?

BALZ: Senator Kerry needs to continue to do what he did last night which is to try to lay out as clearly as he can his differences with Bush and to show that he has got some sense of where he would take the country both in foreign policy and domestic policy. But for President Bush, I think one of the things that last night showed is that he has a lot of questions that he still has to answer for voters. One of the things we know is that voters generally disapprove of what he has done in Iraq or the way Iraq now sits. There is a perception gap between the reality that people see in Iraq and that the portrait that President Bush has been painting. I think last night showed he has questions to answer about that. That will continue to be the case in these debates as we go forward. Beyond that, we're going to get into domestic areas where Senator Kerry's people have always believed he has an edge and with a town hall meeting coming up, there will be questions about the style and demeanor of these candidates. There's a lot on the table in these next few debates. WOODRUFF: Dan Balz, watching it all from "The Washington Post." He was on an airplane like the rest early this morning. Dan, thank you very much. We appreciate it. We'll take a short break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: That's it for this abbreviated version of INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. We'll see you on Monday, from Cleveland, the sight of Tuesday night's vice presidential debate. Have a good weekend. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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