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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Dan Rather Steps Down; Pentagon and Intel Reform; Uphill Battles

Aired November 23, 2004 - 15:29   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: Anchors away. Dan Rather announces he's leaving the hot seat at CBS. Did election year slipups and criticism drive him out?

Intel intrigue. Are Pentagon officials changing their tune about the blocked reform bill? And are the bill's supporters on the Hill still steamed?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: How can two members of the House stand up to the commander in chief and somehow say that they're going to protect the war fighter better than the president and the rest of us are?

ANNOUNCER: Beyond the burbs. Republicans plant their flag on a new frontier.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.

After nearly a quarter century as anchor of the "CBS Evening News," Dan Rather announced today that he is stepping down from one of the most influential jobs in journalism. Rather's long and distinguished career suffered a serious blow during the campaign season when he anchored a controversial and questionable "60 Minutes" report on President Bush's National Guard service.

CBS says that Rather's decision to leave is independent of the network's investigation into that report, which is due out soon. But a spokesman did acknowledge the impact of the controversy, saying, "We are part of the modern world. Everything feeds into the decision."

In a statement of his own about his departure, Rather said, "This past summer CBS and I began to discuss the matter in earnest and we decided that the close of the election cycle would be an appropriate time. I have always been and remain a hard news investigative reporter at heart. I now look forward to pouring my heart into that kind of reporting full time."

Rather says that his last broadcast as anchor will be on March the 9th, the 24-year anniversary of when he took over for Walter Cronkite. The 73-year-old newsman says he plans to stay on at CBS News, working on "60 Minutes." There's been no official word about his replacement.

Rather's announcement comes just eight days before another veteran broadcast news anchor, Tom Brokaw, steps down at NBC. Let's talk about this milestone in American journalism with Howard Kurtz of "The Washington Post" and CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

Howard Kurtz, was Dan Rather pushed? Or is this of his own doing?

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Well, the timing is voluntary. But I think if there had not been a National Guard story debacle, and if there wasn't an investigative report hanging over the network that is expected to come in the next few weeks, I don't think we'd be seeing this announcement today about Dan Rather stepping down.

This is a guy who loves his job. People used to joke that you'd have to pry his fingers off that anchor chair before you'd get him out of it. He had two more years to run on his contract, Judy. And I think that he wants to go out on his own terms, rather than having to do this, voluntarily or not, after a critical report by this outside investigative panel.

WOODRUFF: When you put this together, Howie, with -- with what is going on at NBC, with the departure of Tom Brokaw, what does all this represent, in term of television journalism?

KURTZ: It represents the changing of the generational guard. Brokaw decided two years ago that he would step down, as he will next week, handing over his anchor baton to Brian Williams. Rather, even if he had not had this problem and had not had to, in my view, speed up his exit, would have been departing by 2006, when his contract was going to expire.

Rather is 73, as you mentioned, Brokaw 64. It is time for them to make room, I guess, for younger people who inevitably are going to be derided as less experienced and not having the gravitas. People forget that when Peter Jennings and Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw took over in the early 1980s, they were in their 40s. And some of the same criticisms and worries about them.

WOODRUFF: Has journalism changed, Howard? You're somebody who watches it very closely. Has journalism changed in the two, three decades that Dan Rather's been reporting?

KURTZ: Well, a classic example of how it has changed is what happened when this National Guard story began to crumble. Because it was the Internet bloggers, people who barely existed a few years ago, who were the first to blow the whistle on those disputed and apparently bogus National Guard memos from the early 1970s that were at the crux of the story about President Bush's National Guard record.

So we're in an age now where the outside world, the criticism of journalists, and particularly high-profile and controversial anchors like Dan Rather, is more intense than it's ever been before. And at the same time, the audience that Rather and Brokaw and Jennings inherited in the 1980s is much, much smaller for network newscasts simply because there's cable, there's Internet, there's talk radio. There are so many more media choices now for people to get their news.

WOODRUFF: Well, do you think Dan Rather would be leaving, though, Howard if it hadn't been for that National Guard story?

KURTZ: There is very little doubt in my mind, Judy, that had it not been for this mistake, for which Rather apologized unfortunately after about 10 days of defending the story, after its authenticity came after fire, that he would not be leaving. He certainly would be leaving sometime in the next couple of years. Even Dan Rather is not going to be in the chair at the age of 90.

But I don't think he'd be leaving now. I think it's very hard to separate the two.

And it's a shame, because in his 40-year career with CBS, he's done some remarkable things, some controversial things, as well, ranging from taking on Richard Nixon at a Watergate press conference, to his remarkable on-air shouting match with then Vice President George H. W. Bush, to his interview with Saddam Hussein before the war began in Baghdad.

So he's had an amazing career. Always controversial. Always high-profile. It's a shame in a way that the thing that people will most remember right now is this problem he had with the National Guard story.

WOODRUFF: Do you think this is some sort of victory for conservatives?

KURTZ: Well, certainly conservatives have never been part of the Dan Rather fan club. And I think a lot of them -- I talked to a couple today -- are not sorry at all to see him go. They think it's a just punishment, not just for the National Guard story, but for other instances in which he has seemed to them to be biased against -- against -- in favor of the liberal agenda.

Rather has always denied that. He always sees himself -- even when he was kind of chained to that anchor desk as a hard-nosed investigative reporter who would take anybody on. But there's no question that the people who are not shedding any tears over this announcement today are those on the right.

WOODRUFF: But at the same time, Dan Rather himself has always insisted that he played it right down the middle.

KURTZ: I've seen him conduct tough interviews and do tough stories on partisans of all stripes. At the same time, he's always been a lightning rod. More so than Brokaw or Jennings.

Whatever he did, whether it was a mistake, whether it was a controversial interview, whether it was questions he didn't ask Saddam Hussein, whether it was his attitude toward the Bushes, it always seemed to resonate much -- with a much higher force on the Richter scale than for other anchors. It's just something about his edgy, hard-charging personality.

Some people loved Rather. Other people couldn't stand him. He was controversial. And he did a lot in 40 years, beyond just this National Guard piece.

WOODRUFF: Howard Kurtz, thank you very much. And we want to say congratulations. The father of a brand-new baby daughter.

KURTZ: Thank you very much.

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Howard. We appreciate it.

And we're going to have more ahead on the highlights and low points of Dan Rather's career my colleague, and Rather's former colleague, Bruce Morton.

Now to a lightning rod here in Washington, the blocked intelligence reform bill. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers were asked today to clarify their position in that political dispute. Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, was at the news conference just a short time ago.

Jamie, is it now clear what their positions are?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, relatively clear. I mean, it's been clear all along that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has had some opposition to provisions of this bill which the Pentagon thinks will put some obstacles in the way of getting intelligence quickly to U.S. commanders on the field.

But today, Rumsfeld denied that he played any role in torpedoing the bill or lobbying against it. He was particularly irked by a "New York Times" editorial that said, "Despite his denials, it seems obvious he lobbied against the president's stated policy." And he took exception to a statement by Congressman Christopher Shays that he was blatant in his opposition.

Here is what Rumsfeld said in denying he had anything to do with the impasse over the bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The congressmen who are saying that I had blatant opposition to the bill is incorrect because the bill didn't exist in the form that it currently is. And the president didn't have the position on the bill at the times that I was briefing him.

Needless to say, I'm a part of this administration. I support the president's position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCINTYRE: Now, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Richard Myers, wrote a letter to Congressman Duncan Hunter, who has been working against the Senate version of this bill, in which he said essentially that he didn't support the president's position. In that letter he wrote, "It's my understanding the House bill maintains a vital flow through the secretary of defense through the combat support agencies." That's the flow of intelligence. "It is my recommendation that this critical provision be preserved."

Now, Myers explained that when he took the oath and was confirmed as chairman, he had to make a promise to give his unvarnished views, even if they don't agree with the administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: When senior officers go before the Senate Armed Services Committee to be confirmed, one of the things they ask you, "Would you be willing to provide your personal opinion if it differs from the administration on whatever matter?" And, of course, you tell them yes, you will. And that was the situation...

RUMSFELD: If you want to be confirmed.

MYERS: Only if you want to be confirmed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCINTYRE: Now, it's clear the Pentagon does have some concerns about the provisions of this bill and the transfer of budget authority away from the Pentagon. And Congressman Hunter has been working on those in the conference committee. And it's clear that they still haven't ironed out the compromises that will be necessary there.

But again, the president sets the policy. And the defense secretary salutes smartly and carries it out, even if he doesn't agree. Or, as Rumsfeld said, you don't stay part of the administration. By the way, asked about that, he says he still hasn't discussed his future with the administration with the president -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Jamie, very quickly, so Secretary Rumsfeld supporting the president's position. But chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Myers, saying he sticks with the letter, criticizing the administration.

MCINTYRE: Yes. And the Pentagon and the White House say they understand why that is.

There's a special relationship that exists there. And as the chief military adviser to both the president and the defense secretary, and to members of Congress, Congress exacts that promise from each of the senior chiefs, that when they ask for the opinion, they'll get the street opinion, without any political spin. And that's what General Myers was doing in this case.

WOODRUFF: An interesting division today. Jamie McIntyre, thanks very much.

Over on Capitol Hill, many lawmakers of both parties still are fuming about the fate of the intelligence reform bill. And that is not the only thing making some members hot under the collar.

We're joined now by our own congressional correspondent, Joe Johns.

Hello, Joe. Bring us up to date.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Judy.

That last-minute rush to try to ram through the intelligence bill and that catch-all spending bill has really caught the attention of a lot of members of Congress from both parties and on both sides of the Capitol. And they are expressing concerns about being asked to vote on bills without knowing what's in them, in fact.

Now, CNN has gotten a hold of a copy of a letter from Friday signed by seven Republicans and one Democrat. The republicans include, Senator John Warner, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. It's essentially a warning.

It says, "Senators should not be expected to vote on this conference report without adequate time to review it. Therefore, we ask that we be consulted prior to any Senate action."

I spoke to Senator Warner on the phone today. And he said as of 1:00 on Saturday, he'd only gotten bits and pieces of the bill and needed more time to review it. It begs the question, is Warner opposed to the intelligence bill in its current formulation? He will only say that he is in line with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who apparently has gotten behind the House version.

Now, on the House side, the issue is last-minute bills again. And it boils down to that provision that was put into the big omnibus bill, essentially allowing congressional Appropriations Committee to look at tax returns.

Tomorrow, the Republican leadership is expected, or at least was expected, to essentially bring the House in to session pro forma and basically, by a wave of a hand or unanimous consent, pass a piece of legislation that would wipe out that problematic tax provision. However, they need unanimous consent to do that. And they're not getting it.

Democrats say they want to get rid of the custom in the House of allowing votes on bills the same day they're cleared for floor consideration. It's called martial law. And Democrats are arguing it's the reason why members don't know what's in the bills.

They're saying they'll give unanimous consent only if the Republicans get rid of martial law. Republicans don't like that idea at all.

The bottom line right now is the Congress obviously has a unanimous consent agreement. That unanimous consent agreement is not necessarily going to happen.

They also have a CR. That is a continuing resolution to keep the government running. That runs out on December 2 or 3. And they have to figure out a way to keep the government running until they pass the big spending bill and work out this problem with the Democrats. The fun continues here on Capitol Hill -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: No wonder the American people scratch their heads sometimes when they watch the Congress at work.

JOHNS: Yes, that's for sure.

WOODRUFF: OK. Joe Johns, thank you very much.

Over at the White House, one of President Bush's top economic advisers is stepping down. Stephen Friedman will leave at the end of the year as director of the National Economic Council. A senior administration official denies that Friedman is leaving out of frustration that he wasn't offered a cabinet post.

In the battle to stakeout political turf, Republicans found a welcoming home in the suburbs. But why stop there? That story ahead.

Plus, will every vote be counted in Ohio? The legal wrangling is under way today.

And later, is there a connection between a controversial new movie and the mood of American voters?

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: When Republicans plot strategy for the next race for the White House, they will surely pay a lot of attention to a new political frontier. The so-call exurbs, on the edge of suburbia provided President Bush with some crucial support in this month's election.

In fact, Mr. Bush carried 97 of the nation's 100 fastest-growing counties. Most of them exurbs.

In 40 of those counties, his support topped 70 percent. It was 60 percent or more in 70 of the counties.

With me now, CNN political analyst, Ron Brownstein, who takes a closer look at this new political frontier in today's "Los Angeles Times."

We were just looking at all the math and the map. Ron, let's talk about, first of all, what are the exurbs? People generally know what suburbs are. What's the difference?

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, generally, the exurbs are the next county further out. As Americans continue to decentralize in their housing patterns, these are the -- sort of the frontier, the distant frontier of the suburbs and the countrysides. Places where there used to be farms and now there are subdivisions and shopping malls. They are generally the fastest-growing part of America, and they are clearly the fastest-growing part of the Republican presidential coalition. If you look at this election, as you just said, we found that 97 of these 100 counties, fastest-growing counties in America, voted for President Bush.

Judy, what's even more striking, they gave him a cumulative margin of 1.7 million votes. That's 60 percent higher than just four years ago and almost four times as high as Bob Dole's margin in these same 100 counties in 1996. So this is a compounding asset. The population growth is providing greater margins for the Republicans and allowing them to offset Democratic strength elsewhere.

WOODRUFF: Why is this fertile territory for George W. Bush and for the Republicans more broadly?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, clearly, it's an area that both parties, I think, have to explore further. But the shortest answer seems to be that these are voters, by and large, defined more I think by aspiration than accumulation. They tend to be people early in their life cycle.

Young families with children, who have been a good Republican group in general, often tend to be people who want to put some distance between themselves and cultural influences in the urban areas. So they may be more socially conservative.

They tend to be open to a kind of development argument, not as -- not as prone to environmental arguments, as you might see in inner- tier suburbs. And they are kind of an upwardly mobile group with young families. And that has been a very good group for Republicans.

WOODRUFF: What about the so-called moral issues however they are defined? How did they do with these voters?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, I think one of the things you're seeing I think very clearly in a lot of places now is a real clear line of me demarcation between the inner-tier suburbs and the outer- tier suburbs. One of the most important things that happened politically in the 1990s was that a lot of the affluent first-tier suburbs around the country, whether it's Oakland County in Michigan or Montgomery and Delaware County outside of Philadelphia, with a big socially moderate to socially liberal constituency, moved from voting Republican in the '70s and '80s to voting Democrat in the '90s.

And what's happened is -- in these two elections -- is increasingly, these exurbs are blunting or even trumping those gains for the Democrats. It's a more socially conservative constituency further out. For example, right here in the Washington area, Fairfax County this year voted Democratic for the first time since 1964. Loudoun County, one county further out, Prince William County, very strongly Republican.

WOODRUFF: Is there hope for the Democrats in these -- in these places, Ron? Or is this Republican territory for years and elections to come? BROWNSTEIN: I think it's clearly going to be leaning Republican. I mean, you're looking at margins, as you pointed out.

Overwhelming. Bush, I think, on average, if I recall from the story, 63 percent of the vote he carried in these 100 counties. So Democrats are not going to be carrying large numbers of them anytime soon.

But clearly they have to reduce the margins. They can't allow Republicans to dominate places that are growing this fast.

As I said, if you look back only eight years ago, compared to eight years ago -- it's only two election cycles -- Bush's margin was four -- almost four times greater out of these counties than Bob Dole's. And you can imagine the trajectory that you're on if you can't at least begin to cut into those numbers.

The Democrats are solidifying in the inner-tier suburbs. Kerry held almost all of the places that Clinton and Gore moved to the Democrats in part maybe because some conservative white voters are moving further out in these exurbs. But they can't allow the Republicans to have these big margins.

WOODRUFF: But -- and you say this is where the population's growing.

BROWNSTEIN: The fastest. It helps in the electoral college, as well, for the GOP. It moves votes toward them.

WOODRUFF: We can keep on talking about this for some time to come.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Ron Brownstein doing some very interesting research, showing up in today's "Los Angeles Times." Thanks very much.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Well, there's still a lot of interest in how the presidential race played out in the battleground state of Ohio. Now there are new moves aimed at betting a recount in the Buckeye State. The story just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily," in Ohio, new moves aimed at getting a recount. The Democratic Party says it is now behind the campaign to review the votes in that battleground state even though a recount would not change the outcome of the presidential race. A federal judge in Ohio has been hearing a lawsuit today by two third-party candidates seeking a recount of the Ohio ballots before returns are certified next week.

After recent buzz about a possible cabinet job for Senator Ben Nelson, the Nebraska Democrat says he's staying in the Senate. There had been talk that President Bush might tap Nelson for agriculture secretary. But the senator says he is not under consideration for the job.

Failed Illinois Senate candidate Alan Keyes says that he's making good on his promise to stay in the land of Lincoln. He's moved to Illinois from Maryland to run against Democrat Barack Obama. Now he is reportedly getting an apartment in Chicago and moving his political organizations there to try to push the state Republican Party to the right.

From the "Monday Night Football" fiasco to the violent clash between NBA players and fans, it has been a rough couple of weeks. But do these incidents indicate that the country is in moral crisis? Our Bill Schneider investigates when we come back.

Plus, we'll have much more on Dan Rather's departure from the anchor set. We'll take a look back at a career full of highs and lows.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: It's just after 4:00 in the East. And as the markets get set to close on Wall Street, I'm joined by Kitty Pilgrim in New York with "The Dobbs Report." Hi, Kitty.

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Judy. Thanks. Let's start with the Dow. The final trades are being counted. The Dow Industrials up about two points. The Nasdaq about one point lower. Chip maker Intel lost 3 percentage after a brokerage downgrade. Crude oil prices settled up 30 cents at just below $49 a barrel. But earlier in the day prices topped $50 a barrel.

The dollar continues its downward spiral, weakening further against the euro and the yen.

Let's go to some corporate news. After seven months on the job, McDonald's chief executive Charlie Bell is stepping down to focus on his battle with colon cancer. McDonald's said the current vice chairman Jim Skinner will take over immediately. Skinner started out at McDonald's as a manager trainee back in 1971. He is the company's fourth chief executive in two years. Investors approved the appointment of Skinner and McDonald's shares climbed 2 percent on the news.

Congress has approved a special visa program allowing employers to hire a larger number of high-tech workers from other countries. Companies had been limited to hiring no more than 65,000 workers annually through the H-1-B visa program. But that quota was already met eight weeks ago. To deal with the problem, Congress is raising the limit by exempting up to 20,000 additional international students. This plan is part of the $388 billion spending bill that was passed over the weekend that is now awaiting President Bush's signature.

Coming up at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" we take a look at a new report that shows the nation's immigrant population is at an all-time high with a significant percentage made up of illegal aliens.

Homeland and security, we take a look at a bridge between the United States and Canada that could become a bombing target for terrorists. And your privacy at risk, a look at the outsourcing of legal work overseas. The practice could threaten attorney/client privilege. That's the latest. Now back to you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Kitty, thanks very much. INSIDE POLITICS continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: We all know that moral values were a key issue in this month's election but do Americans think the country's in a moral crisis?

DAN RATHER, "CBS EVENING NEWS": No, I love my work, I love being in journalism.

ANNOUNCER: After 24 years in the spotlight, Dan Rather stepping down as anchor of the "CBS Evening News." We'll look back at his colorful and sometimes controversial career.

More and more Americans are using touchscreens to cast their ballots. But is the voting tamper-proof? We'll take a look. Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Welcome back. For many Americans, the Thanksgiving holiday ahead is about prayer and reflection as well as feasting and football. It's a time when traditional values are often on display, a fitting ending perhaps to this November when values appear to play a considerable role in the presidential election. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider takes a closer look at morality and political reality.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Is the country in a moral crisis? Some are making that argument. First we had the Janet Jackson incident at the Super Bowl last February. Now we have a controversy over a suggestive promotion for the TV show "Desperate Housewives" run during a Monday night football broadcast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was borderline softcore pornography.

SCHNEIDER: A new movie about sex researcher Alfred Kinsey has stirred up yet another controversy.

ROBERT KNIGHT, CULTURE AND FAMILY INSTITUTE: Kinsey may have died in 1956 but his cold dead hand is still on the throttle of the sexual revolution and it's still harming lives.

SCHNEIDER: A finding in the exit poll of voters on election day heightened the sense of moral crisis. Given the list of seven issues and asked to pick the one that mattered most in their vote, moral values topped the list ahead of jobs, terrorism, Iraq, health care, taxes, and education. Conservatives saw a moral mandate.

PETER SPRIGG, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Clearly the big issues are pro-life issues, concern about the unlimited abortion license and the issue of same-sex marriage.

SCHNEIDER: So did some Democrats.

SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: But yet we still lost the election and I think the moral values were a real issue.

SCHNEIDER: But a "New York Times"/CBS News poll asked about issues a little differently. Which mattered most to you, economic issues, national security issues, or moral issues? As a category of issues, moral values dropped to third place. Suddenly, the nation's moral crisis looks smaller. OK. But what about the fact that 70 percent of Americans are worried that popular culture is lowering the nation's moral standards? That's nothing new. In the latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll, 73 percent think the country's moral values are in terrible shape. That figure is slightly lower than it was in 2002 and even earlier this year. The concern over values is not being driven by moral panic gripping the nation, it's being driven by the political division gripping the nation. Most Kerry voters told the "Times"/CBS poll they do not think Bush voters share their values. And most Bush voters don't believe Kerry voters share their values.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(on camera): But actually, they do seem to share the same appetite for racy TV shows. According to the "New York Times," "Desperate Housewives" is a top rated show in both red markets and blue markets.

WOODRUFF: But Bill, you know, if people are so worried about morals and where the country's going in terms of its moral values, what about when they start talking about specific solutions with politicians -- when politicians start saying, OK, let's regulate television or radio or let's put some barriers in what you can see in the movies.

SCHNEIDER: Well, when they start to do that then you're going to see the controversy spill over and become really political, because for the most part conservatives who claim a mandate coming out of this election are going to demand more regulation. And we saw what happened when the FCC imposed fines after the Janet Jackson incident. That became intensely controversial and now it seems to have changed the broadcast industry.

WOODRUFF: More to come on all that. Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Well, in the election year clash between the red states and the blue states Dan Rather at one point became part of the story, instead of just reporting on it. The CBS newsman announced today that he will leave the anchor desk in March exactly 24 years after he took over the job. CNN's Bruce Morton who formerly worked at CBS reports on Rather's remarkable and sometimes controversial career.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been a long road for Dan Rather. Wharton (ph), Texas to a TV station in Houston, to CBS News starting in 1962, where he covered the war in Vietnam, covered president Richard Nixon during his fight to avoid impeachment and then in 1981 replaced Walter Cronkite as the anchor of the "CBS Evening News." But he never quit being a reporter. War in Afghanistan, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was there.

Or in the Middle East, he's there.

RATHER: Bomb goes off. Not on the bus eyewitnesses say.

MORTON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with presidential candidate George Herbert Walker Bush over his role or lack of it over Iran-Contra. He was the most controversial of the anchors, lightning in a bottle, one CBS News president called him. You never knew what he'd do next.

Along the way we all learned Texasisms. That dog won't hunt, I feel like I've been roadhogged and put away wet. And Dan endured.

He's stepping down now from a job he always wanted to keep.

RATHER: I love my work. I love being in journalism. As long as my health holds and as long as they want me to do it I'm really eager to do it.

MORTON: But the story about this President Bush and his National Guard service apparently got in the way.

HOWARD KURTZ, "CNN'S RELIABLE SOURCES": There's no question that Dan Rather would not be announcing his resignation today if it had not been for the botched National Guard story, a self-inflicted wound after a long career or controversial career but a very distinguished career in many ways as well and it's too bad that this is the thing that will be uppermost in people's minds when they see Dan Rather giving up that coveted anchor chair.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Bruce Morton, the conservatives look at Dan Rather and they say he's a liberal, he's against George W. Bush. You know Dan Rather. You've worked with him for many years. What's the truth?

MORTON: The truth is in the first place that we very seldom talk party politics. Reporters don't do that on the bus, on the airplane, wherever. I would say that Dan was a reporter who just loved it. You know, he liked being an anchor and that was fine but what really got him excited was we're down in the dirt, we're here in the news, we're in the war zone, we're in the middle of the campaign. We're sensing it every day. And that's what turned him on.

WOODRUFF: Do you feel -- you've been watching this business for a long time. Do you feel this is kind of the end of an era? MORTON: Oh, sure. Maybe Walter Cronkite was the end of an era. The broadcast networks have been declining and influence viewership is down. There are so many outlets now. A lot of young people get their news on the Internet. There's cable news. There are all these other things so I think there was never going to be another Walter. There's probably never going to be another Brokaw, there's probably never going to be another Dan.

WOODRUFF: Do you think there's still going to be the premium on reporting that Dan Rather and others of his generation felt were so important in the television news business?

MORTON: I think it's harder now, Judy, because cable can't possibly put well-produced, well-photographed stories on 24 hours a day. It would be expensive. Networks (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 23 minutes every day. If young people are at the website, on the blog, no, it's a different kind of reporting. And blogs in particular have no obligation to be accurate.

WOODRUFF: So without Dan Rather in the anchor chair, we're going to miss some of those Dan Ratherisms (ph).

MORTON: Yes. You know, a worker -- one thing you would never say of Dan which he sometimes said of other people, he was never all hack and no cattle.

WOODRUFF: OK. Bruce Morton who spent how many years at CBS before you came to CNN?

MORTON: 29.

WOODRUFF: We're glad to have you at CNN. Bruce Morton, thanks very much.

As President Bush faces another four years at his job, he's under pressure to reign in some fellow Republicans. Can he push intelligence reform through Congress? We'll consider that challenge ahead.

Plus, electronic voting under investigation. Our new balloting systems fixing problems or creating new ones?

And later, the Christmas spirit comes to Washington.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: As we reported earlier, opposition to the intelligence reform bill put some Republican leaders in Congress in direct conflict with President Bush. The pressure for help them to fall in line behind the president is growing. But will that happen? And what can we read into the standoff? With me now, Norman Ornstein with the American Enterprise Institute and somebody who's been watching the Congress for a long time. First of all, is President Bush really behind this intelligence reform bill? He says he is.

NORMAN ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: He didn't particularly want this to begin with, Judy. The administration has not shown great enthusiasm for it in the past but he got pretty much dragged into it, invested now some of that political capital he talked about right after the election. And now he almost can't stay out of it. If this bill goes down, now he has called members of Congress of his own party right after an election that he won and they spurned him and it will be his loss going into the new year. So he's got something invested in this that he never expected to have.

WOODRUFF: Well, he says he made his support for this bill clear. So what fell apart?

ORNSTEIN: I think what happened here is you've got a couple of committee chairs who have their own views and for one of them, Duncan Hunter, the chairman of the House armed services committee, he's also clearly reflecting the views of the Pentagon. So you have not just Republican in Congress taking on the president, but pretty openly as we saw today on CNN with General Myers and Don Rumsfeld, his own Pentagon.

Then you've got Jim Sensenbrenner, the chairman of the House judiciary committee who is famous for digging in and not listening to anybody. The president has to decide whether he's going to try to get him into his position, ignore them, bypass them and tell the speaker to vote on this even though many Republicans will oppose it and rely on Democrats or take a defeat.

WOODRUFF: What's the significance here, Norman, if this doesn't go through, what's the significance for President Bush?

ORNSTEIN: This is -- this would be the first time really that President Bush has taken a significant defeat in the Congress itself, that it's happening now, too, the timing of this, remember that he started four years ago in a much less advantageous position, got his tax cuts and education reform and went on from there. There have been issues like campaign finance reform, didn't matter very much. For him now, after this election Republicans picking up seats in Congress and winning a clear majority, to lose on this, even if it's not an issue that he placed great stress on, would be a blow just at a time when he's trying to build momentum for some of the major things like Social Security reform that lie ahead.

WOODRUFF: Do you think he can turn this around? Yesterday I interviewed Congressman Hunter, Chairman Duncan Hunter of the House armed services committee. He doesn't show any signs of changing his mind. We just saw this news conference at the Pentagon where the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Myers, says he's still with the position that he indicated before, really against the president on this.

ORNSTEIN: Yes, this is such an interesting choice for the president and for the speaker of the House who is, of course, his ally here. If they want, they can bring this bill up in the House and pass it. But they would pass it with more Democrats than Republicans. Speaker Hastert a year ago in a conference said he views himself as leader of the majority of the majority, more than the House as a whole. Now do they want to take on some of their own base before they begin or suffer defeat or figure out a way to push this through by making the changes that Sensenbrenner and Hunter and their allies want and alienating the people in the middle like Susan Collins or the speaker who had been behind this compromise.

WOODRUFF: What would have been so bad for the Republicans to use the Democrats to get a majority to get this bill through, because you have the 9/11 commission, families of the 9/11 victims, all of them lobbying for this?

ORNSTEIN: Frankly, Judy, it amazes me that they didn't go ahead and do that because they would have had I think, close to 300 votes or even more if the president had said, let's go ahead and do this and the speaker had followed with them. But this is a party, the Congress, the president together who have had success over four years by keeping their troops together, it's that unity in the House that got the tax cuts through. It's that unity in the House in the end that's given him most of his major accomplishments. When they don't have the unity, they don't like it very much and they've been willing to put a greater stress on keeping their own party together than on an accomplishment in this case. It doesn't bode well, frankly, for building broad bispartisan majorities in the middle when you lose people on either end if that's the way we continue.

WOODRUFF: What does it look like to you at this point?

ORNSTEIN: I think we're going to end up with a bill, it may not happen in December. It might be put over until January. But I don't think the president can afford to let intelligence reform die at this point. They're going to have to find some way of making this happen. And frankly, I don't think they can make it happen without at least causing some bruised feelings on the party of Chairman Sensenbrenner and maybe Hunter.

WOODRUFF: You've got 9/11 families saying these members of Congress will have blood on their hands. Some very strong language.

ORNSTEIN: And what the president will do about the Pentagon because they prided themselves on a lot of discipline inside. This is not showing discipline for the administration.

WOODRUFF: Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. Thanks you for coming by. We appreciate it.

Just weeks after the presidential election, the focus on voting in the future and how to make it as fair and problem-free as possible. A live report from technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The government's General Accounting Office is moving forward with an investigation into some irregularity in this month's presidential election. Among other things, the GAO will check the security and accuracy of new voting technology, and the distribution of voting machines. The issue of electronic voting problems was also the focus of a public hearing today here in Washington. Details now from CNN technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg in Atlanta. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Several groups including the GAO and the Election Assistance Commission are still dissecting the voting booth problems of November 2nd, 2004. There was nothing quite like those Florida hanging chads in 2000, but U.S. elections still have a ways to go before the public's confidence level goes up.

DEFOREST SOARIES, ELECTION ASSISTANCE COMMISSION: We didn't have machine malfunctions that would suggest some kind of conspiracy, but we also know that there is a growing concern about the inner workings of electronic voting devices that are literally indiscernible.

SIEBERG: Congress created the bipartisan Election Assistance Commission as part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002. That measure was designed to help eliminate old and unreliable technologies like those infamous punch cards. Part of that means keeping tabs on new technologies like stopping hackers from compromising machines and compromising votes the old fashioned way, with fraud.

Commission member Paul DeGregorio saw that in Wilmington, Delaware.

PAUL DEGREGORIO, ELECTION ASSISTANCE COMMISSION: They showed us a stack of fraudulent voter registrations that they had turned over to the law enforcement officials. And they were concerned about groups that are paying people to register to vote.

SIEBERG: The commission got an earful from confused and angry voters on Election Day. More than 700 calls placed to their hotline, complaints about long lines, lost registrations, and provisional ballots. And while the public and the media might be fixated on high tech mischief, some of the commission's concerns involve better training for the humans who have to run the elections and the machines.

RAY MARTINEZ, ELECTION ASSISTANCE COMMISSION: We are giving out millions of dollars, billions of dollars of federal assistance, and we have to keep in mind that it's not just to upgrade technology.

SIEBERG: The EAC is also supposed to establish standards for state and local governments and participate in voter education projects. Overall, they admit there's a lot of work still to be done.

SOARIES: The good news is that more Americans voted this time than in history. The bad news is that we still don't live up to the expectation that democracy demands.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIEBERG: Among the commission's goals before the next presidential election will be to establish testing and certification for all types of voting systems. There are of course standards now but the process is very convoluted and very secretive. Those technical guidelines are being developed by NIST, that's the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The idea being that the standards are based on sound technology and not on partisan politics, something, Judy, we can all agree on.

WOODRUFF: That's for sure. But the fact that there are still so many different voting systems around the country, I think, is still a problem.

SIEBERG: Certainly a concern. Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: OK. Daniel Sieberg, thank you very much.

SIEBERG: You bet.

WOODRUFF: It is a symbol of the holidays. Coming up, we'll give you a glimpse of this year's National Christmas Tree. It's now topped off and waiting for the lights to be turned on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The calendar says it's just November 23rd, but it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in the nation's capital. Dignitaries, including Vice President cheney's wife Lynne were on hand today for the topping of the National Christmas Tree. The star- studded 40-foot live tree is on the Ellipse, just south of the White House. The lighting ceremony takes place late next week.

And on that holiday note already that's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Tuesday, I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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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