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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Biden Expects Long-Term U.S. Commitment in South Asia; Plight of Tsunami Orphans Still Uncertain; Bush Pushes for Tort Reform; Schwarzenegger to Give State of the State Address; Marine Corps Issues Arrest Warrants for Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun

Aired January 5, 2005 - 15:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: The tsunami disaster, hitting Americans close to home.

DR. CAROL RITTER, OBSTETRICIAN: I don't know that I've ever seen anything that's had such an emotional impact on me.

ANNOUNCER: The State Department offers new figures on the U.S. death toll.

When all the lost, what will happen to thousands of tsunami orphans? And what can you do to help?

A very different kind of crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just can't be your doctor anymore.

ANNOUNCER: The high price of medical liability insurance. President Bush promotes his plan to solve the problem, but will it work?

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

A short while ago, President Bush made another personal pitch for Americans to donate to the tsunami relief effort. During an appearance in Illinois the president thanked Americans for their generosity, and he praised U.S. troops for their role in delivering aid to the disaster zone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our military is doing heroic work in helping to save lives. They're flying rescue missions 24 hours a day. They're making a huge difference in the people's lives over there by delivering supplies directly to those in need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: U.N. officials say the international community now has donated or pledged $3-4 billion in aid to Southeast Asia.

And we have new word about President Bush's personal contributions. The White House says that he has given a total of $10,000 to various relief organizations.

The death toll from this disaster stands at nearly 156,000, with thousands more people still missing.

Across Europe today, cities came to a virtual standstill at noon to observe three minutes of silence in memory of tsunami victims.

CNN correspondents and anchors are reporting throughout the tsunami disaster zone. And we'll have a report later from senior White House correspondent, John King.

It is still not clear exactly how many Americans were killed in the tsunami disaster. In addition to the 16 confirmed dead, the State Department said today that another 20 Americans are presumed dead.

Officials still are looking into 3,500 inquiries from U.S. citizens about missing loved ones, narrowed down from the total of 24,000 at the beginning of this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADAM ERELI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We've done that by either identifying where people were, putting people -- getting in touch with their loved ones, eliminating as much duplication as we can from those lists. So right now we're working with about 3,500 welfare and whereabouts inquiries that we still have not been able to resolve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: If you have not heard about the status of a loved one in the tsunami-affected region, CNN would like to hear from you. We want to find out about your efforts to locate missing friends or relatives.

Please call CNN at 404-878-1500. The phone will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern. After those hours a line will connect you to voice mail.

There is also a link on our website at CNN.com/tsunami.

The Bush administration has gone a long way in recent days to try to show the world that it is committed to helping rescue and recovery efforts in Southeast Asia.

I talked about the disaster just a short while ago with Senator Joe Biden, ranking Democrat on the foreign relations committee. I asked him first if he thinks the United States is doing enough right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: It is doing enough in the sense that it's made a commitment to do whatever we have to do. I think this is an evolving story. It's going to get worse and worse. I think the end of the day we're talking billions of dollars in U.S. aid, not millions. I think we're talking about a long-term commitment to help rebuild that country.

And I think we've got to lead. And I think we will. I think we will.

I know it's easy to be critical now of President Bush, the numbers he started with. I think we should forget the numbers and focus on what I believe this administration will do and that Congress will do, and that is step up to the ball to do whatever is needed. And I think we're going to find we're going to end up spending billions not millions.

WOODRUFF: I asked because right now the Australians, the Germans, the Japanese are all pledging significantly more than the United States at $350 million.

BIDEN: Well, two points. One, they're pledging. Pledging and delivering are two different things, No. 2

No. 2, they couldn't absorb all that's needed now. And I think that the administration, and I know I'm confident that General -- Secretary Powell will come back and recommend that we have to ante up considerably more than we are right now.

But I think, as former President Clinton said, we should be looking forward here. And I believe that the Congress, the country, the president will step up to the ball and lead.

WOODRUFF: Aside from the unimaginable, unimaginable loss of life in the countries, how would these countries be affected?

BIDEN: Look, the thing that is understandably not focused on yet, because it's -- there's too much immediate need, is some of these countries are politically very unstable.

And part of our leadership, leading the rest of the world, will be to make sure that there's a coordination between the aid we're giving and the ability of these economies to get up and running so that the more radical elements in them do not find it an opportunity to essentially undermine these Democratic governments in these places.

And so it's going to be a real, real difficult job, but -- and that's why I say, Judy, we're talking -- and I know Americans aren't going to want to hear this -- we're talking not a couple weeks, we're talking years of us being more deeply involved in that region of the world. There's so much at stake there.

And how, you know, for example, right now, in one part one of the countries in the north has had trouble with it's -- they're worried about these extreme -- how can I say it, threat to the government's capability of the country.

Yet at the moment the whole country is open, and aid is going in everywhere. The question is, what happens once the immediate -- the immediate needs are met. And that's why I think it's a much more long-term commitment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: I'll talk more with Senator Joe Biden ahead about another global crisis spot, Iraq.

But right now let's talk about U.S. officials who say they are appalled by reports that children who were orphaned in the tsunamis or separated from their parents might be kidnapped by criminals taking advantage of the situation.

Orphanages in the disaster zone are filling up quickly. Officials have estimated as many as 13,000 children may have been orphaned, losing their parents, their homes and their hope for the future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BISMIYA PADMA, ORPHAN (through translator): When it happened my sister and me were at the mosque attending Sunday school. We got a message that there had been a tidal wave. We ran into higher ground and after that, we went back to our home. All the houses in our neighborhood were destroyed. My mother is dead. We found her body near our house.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: So now let's talk about the plight of tsunami orphans with a representative of an organization that handled adoptions in some of the disaster stricken countries.

Holt International Children Services bills itself as a pioneer in intercountry adoption. We're joined now by a vice president of that organization, Susan Cox. She's on the phone with me from Eugene, Oregon.

Susan Cox, the numbers are numbing. They say as many as a third to a half of those killed are children but what about the survivors? What do we know about the circumstances of children who survived?

SUSAN COX, HOLT INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN SERVICES: Well, Judy, one of the things that Holt feels quite fortunate about is that we've had a program in Thailand, especially, for about 25 years.

So it wasn't until yesterday that we were able to actually get a report from our partner staff there. And actual numbers, I think, are still going to be very difficult to come up with.

But as Senator Biden said earlier, this is a very long-term kind of effort that's going to happen. We have had hundreds of families call, wanting to adopt children. And a very compassionate response for the children that they are seeing on television and in news reports. But in fact, these children really are going to be absorbed back into the communities where they lost their families. The circumstances of the children, they were with their families, probably, at the time that all of this happened. And children always are the most fragile and vulnerable.

But we need to make sure that we're very careful about the response that we have to them. And it's really too soon to know what the final results are going to be, because there's still so much confusion. And everyone has not been able to get back together yet.

WOODRUFF: Why is adoption outside the country not a good option right now?

COX: You know, this is a typical response, I think, when you see the images of children and how hopeless it looks for them. I believe it speaks well to the compassion of American citizens, that they want to do more than just give money. They are wanting to just literally reach out and take care of these children.

And yet for this effort, the children really are going to be the future. This is something that's going to go on for generations. It would be one more victimization for them to be taken out of everything that they know.

And while there were thousands of children who perished, there are also families whose lost their children. And so very likely, all of those things are going to, you know, come together.

Our -- our partner agency in Thailand says that their assessment has really shown in provinces throughout the country, families are really helping each other. Everyone is really coming together.

And the community elders and leaders are very concerned that the children do not go into orphanages and institutions, that they stay within the loving care of the community that they're already a part of.

WOODRUFF: Well, that's certainly very good news, that part of it. Finally, Susan Cox, what should Americans who are listening do? How can they help?

COX: They need to remember that this is going to go on day after day after day, well into the future. And when it isn't featured every day on the news.

And Holt is not a relief and development agency. We weren't there in the first swoop of agencies coming in. But what we know now is that, while they have to build up the Infrastructure of buildings and roads, and schools, we also have to support the infrastructure of families and communities.

And even a family that completely is intact, they likely will have lost their home, their livelihood, everything that is stable around them. And those kinds of supports will be well into the weeks and weeks ahead. WOODRUFF: Susan Cox, who is with the Holt International Children Services based in Eugene, Oregon. Susan Cox, thank you very much for helping put this terrible, terrible story in some perspective. We appreciate it.

COX: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: And we urge you who are watching to stay with CNN throughout the day and evening for complete tsunami coverage. Our nightly special report, "TURNING THE TIDE," begins at 7 p.m. eastern.

And Thursday at 10 p.m. Eastern, we'll have a prime time special, "SAVING THE CHILDREN." Anderson Cooper and Christiane Amanpour will focus on the youngest tsunami victims.

President Bush talked about more today than tsunami relief. Up next, his pitch for medical liability reform in this country. Is it what the doctor ordered?

Also ahead, as Governor Schwarzenegger prepares to deliver his State of the State address, we'll update the state of his political career.

And later, damage done in Muslim nations. Can the U.S. repair its image by providing tsunami relief? Our Bill Schneider is gauging the reaction from the Arab world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: President Bush is on the road today, making the case for limits on what juries can award for medical mistakes. Our White House correspondent, Dana Bash, is traveling with the president in Collinsville, Illinois.

Hi, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy.

And this is the president's first trip of the year to sell his second term agenda. This, of course, is a tough agenda item, and that is to curb what he calls excessive lawsuits.

And at this stage of the game the White House strategy is to simply set up the problem. And this problem, according to the White House, is that there are out of control lawsuits that hurt patients, that hurt doctors in the area of medical malpractice. And the idea is to do that so that it makes his reform plan much easier to sell with members of Congress.

Now that is the reason why President Bush came here to Madison County, Illinois. This is a place notorious for courts that favor plaintiffs and tend to give big awards.

Now, in the case of medical malpractice lawsuits, the president says what happens is that results in, quote, "defensive medicine" that hurts doctors and patients. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Every time you read about big jury verdicts or out of court settlements or lawsuits being filed here or there, you're paying for it.

For some physicians, even raising costs for patients isn't enough to afford the premium increases caused by these lawsuits. And so physicians are faced with a terrible choice: give up medicine entirely or to move to another place where they can afford to practice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Now the president calls malpractice reform a primary way to make healthcare more affordable and available. But it's an issue that is, of course, incredibly popular with Republicans. This is something that got him huge applause on the campaign trail when he was running for reelection.

It was, of course, especially got him applause when he talked about his opponents running mate, when he put John Edwards on the ticket. He, of course, was a trial lawyer.

But this is a highly partisan issue. Trial lawyers, who are big financial supporters mostly of Democrats, as you can imagine, vehemently oppose this idea, and they have their own compelling stories to share and are trying to do that. They organized a group of 29 victims of medical malpractice and brought them out before the cameras here in Madison County yesterday to show how important it is, they believe, that victims still get adequate compensation.

Now, most Democrats do disagree that curbing lawsuits will help make healthcare more affordable and accuse the president, essentially, of trying to push this to help insurance companies and to help big business at the expense of people who have been harmed.

The president today said, though, that he wants Congress to put this at the top of their agenda. He wants to sign reforms for not only medical malpractice but also class action lawsuits in this year, the year 2005.

Democrats are saying that the fact that the president is pushing this, something that has stalled twice in Congress -- got through the House but not through the Senate -- shows that perhaps he doesn't necessarily mean it when he says he wants to reach across party lines.

Ted Kennedy, the Democrat from Massachusetts said today, quote, "Barely two months after promising to unify and heal the country after a bitter election, the president's again pushing for legislation that will further divide."

Now, at first blush it shouldn't seem too surprising that Ted Kennedy would put out a statement like this. But of course, you remember, Judy, it was at the beginning of the president's first term that Ted Kennedy did work with the president to give him his first legislative victory, which was education reform -- Judy. WOODRUFF: Very different second term so far. OK. Dana Bash, thank you very much.

Aside, we know, from the individuals who are injured, doctors and patient attorneys are the main combatants in the political battle over liability reform.

CNN's Joe Johns reports that the two sides can't even agree on whether a crisis exists.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dr. Carol Ritter just got named as the best baby doctor in Baltimore.

RITTER: After all those troubles we had getting you pregnant, and here you are.

JOHNS: But she's decided to stop delivering, because her malpractice insurance costs too much.

RITTER: Never. Never dreamt that it would come to this.

JOHNS: Ritter's insurance premiums have nearly doubled in one year, forcing her to turn away patients.

RITTER: I can always, if I use a friend.

JOHNS: Christine Burchett's first baby was delivered by Dr. Ritter but now she needs a new obstetrician.

CHRISTINE BURCHETT, DR. RITTER'S PATIENT: We actually thought hard and long about whether we were going to have another child without having Dr. Ritter.

JOHNS: Doctors leaving their patients is one side of the malpractice controversy. On the other side are those who defend the system that allows big money for claims.

In Maryland, where the malpractice system recently prompted a special session of the legislature, most ob-gyns and neurosurgeons have been sued by patients at least once, which tracks with national estimates. But the vast majority of cases don't go to court.

In fact, a study by public citizens suggest there's no crisis, that malpractice payouts have increased by less than one percent in the last decade.

Still, blame for a perceived crisis gets spread around. Reform advocates blame trial lawyers. Trial lawyers blame medical errors and insurance companies.

DENNIS O'BRIEN, MARYLAND TRIAL LAWYERS ASSOCIATION: I think it's clearly the insurance carriers squeezing the doctors and pointing then to the lawyers as being the culprits. JOHNS: Much of the debate over reform has centered on putting limits or caps on the amount patients can recover. More than half of the states currently have some kind of limit on damage awards.

But in states like Maryland, where the limit is over $600,000, doctors are still looking for tighter reforms.

DR. KARL RIGGLE, SAVE OUR DOCTORS: Looking probably most importantly at the economic damages of the case, the finance really numbers as opposed to made-up numbers, in controlling some of the costs.

JOHNS (on camera): One of the biggest disagreements at all is whether changing the system will lead to lower healthcare costs for consumers. That question is likely to echo throughout the malpractice liability debate.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: A debate that is only beginning to heat up.

Well, California's governor has a way of stealing the spotlight. Up next, Arnold Schwarzenegger, prepares to assess the state of his state. We'll preview his speech and consider his effect on Golden State politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger delivers his State of the State address later today, and already there is a rebuttal on the airwaves. State Treasurer Phil Angelides is using a political action committee to launch a TV ad campaign criticizing the governor's economic policies.

As for the governor, it has been an eventful year, and 2005 promises more political fireworks.

Here's CNN's Ted Rowlands.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: Coming together, we are taking the state back again. It is our state.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Loved by the people and feared by opponents, the Terminator in his first year as governor, observers say, has completely taken over California politics.

SCHWARZENEGGER: The special interest just don't like me in Sacramento, because I'm always kicking their butts.

DAN WALTERS, "SACRAMENTO BEE": He sucks all the oxygen out of the air for other politicians. They're all jumping up and down, saying, "Look at me. Look at me. Look at me. I'm not irrelevant. I'm not irrelevant. I'm not irrelevant."

In fact, they are irrelevant, because Arnie is the only game in town.

ROWLANDS: Since winning a recall election and taking office in November of 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger has made headlines as much for what he has said as for what he has done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you give this fiery speech at the Republican convention. How long did it take you before you talked to each other?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, there was no sex for 40 days.

ROWLANDS: Schwarzenegger has had first-year success like helping to overhaul the state's workers compensation laws and negotiating new deals for the state to split Native American gambling revenues.

SCHWARZENEGGER: The Indian gaming drive, proposition 70, are trying to rip off California.

PHIL MATIER, "SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE": He says, "I've got this plan that we can work on. If you don't do it, I'll take it to the people." So he always carries a club around. He's still the Terminator, and you're always wondering when he's going to pull out the big gun.

MAYOR JERRY BROWN, OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA: Intellectually, emotionally and just image-wise, Arnold is positioned very well.

ROWLANDS: Schwarzenegger has an approval rating that's about 70 percent, which is through the roof for a state with many more Democrats than Republicans.

Californians like Johann Elam, a Sacramento parking attendant and self-described moderate, says he loves Arnold's style.

JOHANN ELAM, PARKING ATTENDANT: He's not afraid to tackle the big issues. So that's what I like about him.

ROWLANDS: Aides say Schwarzenegger has used his first year to get a feel for the office but has big plans for 2005, including redistricting plans that he hopes will change the makeup of a bitterly divided legislature.

They also say if his opponents get in his way, he'll use ballot initiatives to go directly to voters to accomplish his goals.

SCHWARZENEGGER: Every governor proposes moving boxes around to reorganize government. I don't want to move boxes around. I want to blow them up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROWLANDS: Schwarzenegger ran and was elected in large part to deal with the state's financial mess. There is still an $8 billion deficit. It is one of the things that critics say he must address tonight in the State of the State -- State of the State address -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Ted, all right. We'll all be watching. Want to hear about it again tomorrow. Thanks very much.

Well, John Ashcroft has been one of the most controversial members of the Bush cabinet. Will his potential successor as attorney general be just as divisive? Coming up, the fight over Alberto Gonzales.

Plus, he's been in the heat of battle, but Colin Powell says he has never seen anything like what he saw today. Our coverage of the tsunami disaster continues after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: It's 4:00 on the East Coast. And as the financial markets close on Wall Street, I'm joined by Lou Dobbs in New York with "The Dobbs Report." Hello, Lou.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon, Judy. No recovery on Wall Street today. The major indexes have moved lower for the first three sessions of this year, in fact. The Nasdaq hasn't done that since back in 1991. As the final trades are now being counted, the Dow Jones industrials down just over 30 points. The Nasdaq is down less than a percent on the day.

Airline stocks tumbling. As expected, Delta Airlines announced big fare reductions and that could pressure others in the industry as well, setting off a fare war.

And as the death toll from the tsunami continues to rise, nations around the world are escalating their aid packages and pledges. Australia upped its commitment today to nearly $800 million. That's the largest from any nation. And Germany dramatically raising its aid from $26 million to more than $600 million. The United States has pledged $350 million and is footing the bill for aircraft, helicopters, military personnel to deliver the global relief supplies to the region.

Meanwhile, several of the richest nations are working on a plan to offer debt relief to the afflicted nations. The plan would put a hole on the interest payments on their massive debts. Britain, Canada, Germany, and France have all expressed interest in the idea, and Treasury Secretary John Snow says the United States is absolutely on board.

Detroit's car makers are losing more ground to Japan. The combined market share of General Motors, Ford and Daimler Chrysler's American unit fell to an all-time low last year, despite a heavy dose of buyer incentives. The three own now less than 59 percent of the U.S. automarket. Japanese car makers pushing new models out faster last year than their U.S. rivals. Toyota, Nissan and other Asian car makers now controlling more than 30 percent of the market. Coming up here on CNN at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," shadow economy. We'll have a special report for you on what is a growing underground economy in this country. This shadow economy is, in fact, projected to top one trillion dollars, almost 10 percent of the GDP of this country, fueled in part by the swelling ranks of low-wage illegal aliens who don't pay taxes on their wages and whose employers don't pay taxes either. Experts estimate the IRS should be receiving billions of dollars more a year from tax evaders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD ALEXANDER, FMR. IRS COMMISSIONER: We have a deficit of over $400 billion a year. If our tax laws actually worked fully, we'd almost be...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Also tonight, Unicef's executive director Carol Bellamy joins me. She's in Indonesia. We'll be talking live. She'll update us on the tsunami disaster relief efforts and what more is needed.

Also the United Nations nuclear watchdog today warned the North Korea nuclear crisis must be resolved as soon as possible. Congressman Curt Weldon, vice chairman of the Armed Services Committee, will be leading a delegation to North Korea this weekend. Congressman Weldon joins us tonight.

And in our face-off, with the violence escalating in Iraq, should the elections there take place January 30th as scheduled or delayed? We debate the issue tonight 6:00 p.m. Eastern. We hope you'll join us.

Now back to Judy Woodruff -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Lou, the president, as you know, was on the road today making the case that there need to be limits on jury awards to victims of medical malpractice. Is the president right, Lou, that this is something that must be addressed by Congress this year?

DOBBS: We've reached a point that Congress is going to have to deal with a lot of issues if the Bush administration has its way. The idea of tort reform is important because tort costs in this country, the legal system does place an immense burden on the economy. But the fact is the balance between corporate interests, particularly U.S. multinationals and working men and women in our middle class, has to be balanced. Simply putting a $250,000 limit on medical malpractice awards for pain and suffering is not the answer, in my opinion.

WOODRUFF: All right, Lou. Well, we've got days to think about this one. Thank you very much. We'll see you at 6:00.

DOBBS: Thank you. That will be all.

WOODRUFF: INSIDE POLITICS continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ANNOUNCER: Surveying the disaster zone.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I've been in war and I've been through a number of hurricanes, tornadoes and other relief operations, but I have never seen anything like this.

ANNOUNCER: Colin Powell renews the administration's pledge to assist the devastated region.

Will American efforts to help the ravaged countries in the tsunami's path help heal relations with the Muslim world? Bill Schneider takes a look.

Here in Washington, we'll tell you about two brothers keeping company.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where Ken does the laundry.

ANNOUNCER: The Salazars, Capitol Hill colleagues and roommates, too.

Now, live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.

WOODRUFF: Welcome back. Even the most decorated war veterans, the most experienced relief workers, still can't seem to find the words to express what they have seen in South Asia other than to say they have never seen anything like it. More than 150,000 people are dead, including at least 367 tourists.

The United States now says that 20 more Americans are believed to have been killed, in addition to 16 confirmed dead. U.N. officials say television images of the disaster have been the driving force in encouraging people all over the world to donate to tsunami relief efforts, which climbed today to above $3 billion. CNN anchors and correspondents are out in force in the region to bring you up-to-the- minute coverage of the disaster.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and Florida Governor Jeb Bush are continuing their tour of the disaster area and finding the destruction beyond belief, the pain beyond comprehension. Our senior White House correspondent John King traveled with them to Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a stunning bird's eye view: the devastation of Banda Aceh stretching nearly 100 miles. Mud and water where roads and homes once stood. Other buildings ripped to pieces. Residents by the thousands washed away in the giant wave.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I cannot begin to imagine the horror that went through the families and all of the people who heard this noise coming and then had their lives snuffed out by this wave.

KING: Ships tossed like toys, trees snapped like matchsticks. This pilot describes Secretary Powell as in shock as he looked down on a place where they are still counting the dead, still searching for bodies and still aching for food 10 days later. POWELL: I've been in war and I've been through a number of hurricanes, tornadoes and other relief operations, but I have never seen anything like this.

KING: On the ground, an update from relief workers on the humanitarian requirements. The displaced in Banda Aceh now number an estimated 400,000.

Secretary Powell was told desperately needed relief flights are slowed by air traffic control problems. With the permission of Indonesian officials, U.S. and Australian military units will rush to make improvements.

POWELL: We can increase the throughput, as it's called, the rate of arrival of planes and supplies, and that's what we'll be working on.

KING: U.S. officials have shipped 16,000 tons of rice and soybeans to Indonesia, but much of it is being trucked to Banda Aceh from three days away. Deliveries were suspended once already this week for eight hours because of a firefight between Indonesia troops and separatist rebels.

The emotional visit left the U.S. delegation stunned.

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: It is with a heavy heart that we're here, but we're friends forever.

KING: Governor Bush is heading back to the United States. Next for Secretary Powell is a regional conference in Jakarta to coordinate relief and reconstruction, then a visit to Sri Lanka for another look at the tsunami's fury.

(on camera) Secretary Powell and his delegation were on the ground here less than two hours, rushing in and out so that their visit would not complicate or delay the urgent relief effort.

In fact, while the delegation took its helicopter tour and met with relief workers here on the ground, Secretary Powell's plane circled the island overhead, so as to not clog this critical runway.

John King, Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Unbelievable pictures. Well, Secretary Powell is no doubt keenly aware that U.S. efforts to help tsunami victims may have political implications, whether intended or not. That is especially true in the Arab and the Muslim world.

Here now our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Secretary of State Colin Powell raised the prospect of a political dividend for America's humanitarian effort.

POWELL: I think it does give the Muslim and the rest of the world an opportunity to see American generosity, American values in action.

SCHNEIDER: The U.S. relief effort has been extensively reported in the Muslim and Arab press. Will it help? Maybe.

MOHAMMED ALAMI, AL-JAZEERA TV CORRESPONDENT: The footage of U.S. soldiers giving, you know, bottles of water will go a long, long way to rectify some of those bad images streaming out of Iraq and elsewhere.

SCHNEIDER: But maybe not far enough. For one thing, the U.S. has to meet high expectations.

ALAMI: It's very natural for people in the Middle East and around the world to expect the country as such powerful as the United States and rich as the United States to do something in face of such disaster.

SCHNEIDER: It may be difficult for Americans to understand, but people in the Muslim world who are not free, who see themselves as victims of their own repressive governments, may feel less sympathy for others.

SALAMEH NEMATT, WASHINGTON BUREAU, AL HAYAT: There are people who think, you know, why should we care about the others when we cannot solve our own problems? We have our own humanitarian disasters.

SCHNEIDER: Salameh Nematt, a columnist for the Arab newspaper Al Hayat, says many don't see the U.S. as on their side.

NEMATT: On the one hand it looks like it's helping Muslims, it's helping on a humanitarian scale. On the other, the war in Iraq and the situation in the Palestinian territories give a different message, if you like.

SCHNEIDER: In building good will, U.S. policies are likely to matter most to Muslims.

MOHAMMED ALAMI, AL-JAZEERA TV CORRESPONDENT: When you are faced with two major conflicts in the area, Iraq and Israeli-Palestinian issue, probably what this administration will do about this too, probably, will have more than feelings people get from seeing good footage.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: What's likely to change the U.S. image in the Muslim world? Success, not just in delivering relief, but also in creating a stable democracy in Iraq and in reviving the Arab-Israeli peace process.

WOODRUFF: True. And we know a lot of money pouring in from other Western developed nations as well.

SCHNEIDER: Yes. But there's been a lot of criticism of Arab nations for not giving enough money, particularly oil rich Arab nations have not contributed, in the view of many Muslims, their fair share to this relief effort.

WOODRUFF: We'll have to watch. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

And you can stay with CNN in prime-time for up-to-the-minute reports on the tsunami disaster and relief efforts. Our nightly special report "Turning the Tide" begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. And on Thursday at 10 p.m. Eastern, Anderson Cooper and Christiane Amanpour will focus on the youngest tsunami victims in a prime-time special, "Saving the Children."

While much of the world is focused on the tsunami disaster, the violence continues in Iraq. Up next, Senator Joe Biden on the threat to Iraqi elections later this month.

Also ahead, we'll set stage for the fireworks when Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales begins confirmation hearings tomorrow.

And later, a Colorado political pair. The Salazar brothers give us a taste of their new life on Capitol Hill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Anti-government insurgents in Iraq continue their almost daily assaults on government security forces and political figures. Among today's attacks, a suicide car bomber in the city of Hilla drove into a crowd of newly graduated police officers, killing 10 people. In response to the violence, interim Iraqi President Ayad Allawi said once again today that the January 30th elections will go forward as planned.

When I spoke with senator Joe Biden a little while ago, I asked him if he thinks the elections will take place as scheduled.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BIDEN: I just got back from my fourth trip over there, and met with the major players in each of the communities. We are faced with a Hobbs' choice here, two very bad choices. One is delay the election and run the risk of civil chaos because of the Shia response to that, which is 60 percent of the population. Or two, go forward with an imperfect election, and try to figure out how after the fact, looking at who voted and who didn't vote.

And so I, on balance, Judy, think we probably have to go forward with the election, but we're suffering a terrible -- we're paying a terrible price for the fundamental mistakes made by the administration going into Iraq with too little legitimacy and too little force.

WOODRUFF: Very quickly, The Baltimore Sun reporting today that the top general in the U.S. Army Reserve has sent a memo to his bosses at the Pentagon saying that the Army Reserve is, in his words, "rapidly degenerating into a broken force" largely because of the demands being placed on it in Iraq. You have got something like 30,000 Army Reserve out of the 150,000 U.S. troops?

BIDEN: Absolutely, positively. And again, I am perplexed at the administration's strategy relative to Iraq and the use of force and how we're going about this, and the failure to train an Iraqi force. We're going to pay a tough price, the same with the national guard. I hope I'm not sitting here with you a year and a half from now, and the debate is that both the national guard has been drained in terms of people not re-upping and not enlisting people.

WOODRUFF: You're talking about the draft?

BIDEN: I'm talking about the draft. I don't predict it will happen. But I think it is a clear possibility unless the administration is able to more rationally deal with Iraq and the use of force in Iraq, that you will find the strain on the national guard and the strain on the reserves remains so intense that they will not fill their quotas, and we're going to be looking down the road, three, four, five, six years from now with a force structure that is not capable of the missions that are out there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: One more topic I covered with Senator Biden was the upcoming confirmation hearings for Alberto Gonzales, the president's nominee for attorney general. Confirmation hearings for Gonzalez begin tomorrow before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Gonzalez has been criticized for his role in approving controversial policies for handling of terrorism detainees while serving as White House counsel.

I asked Senator Biden if he thinks Gonzalez will be confirmed?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BIDEN: If you had asked me that question three weeks ago, I'd say it's a certainty, he'd be confirmed. I think he's probably going to be confirmed, but quite frankly, he has some things he has to answer for, answer to, about the memos to the president relative to torture, relative to the treatment of prisoners, relative to his advice to the president on how to proceed, and how that will affect what he would or would not advise as the attorney general?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: For more now on the Gonzalez confirmation hearings, I'm joined from Capitol Hill by our congressional correspondent Ed Henry.

Hello, Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Judy. That's right, just like the man he's trying to replace, John Ashcroft, Judge Gonzalez has become a lightning rod, and that's why we're expecting some real political fireworks tomorrow when he faces the Senate Judiciary Committee. To his supporters he's almost like a Horatio Alger figure. They say he -- Judge Gonzalez is somebody who has pulled himself up by bootstraps, that he has reached the highest level of the government, serving President Bush ably, dating back to their days in Texas.

Even a Democrat, a fellow Hispanic, Henry Cisneros, has now written an op-ed saying that Judge Gonzalez -- his life record makes him more than qualified to be the next attorney general. But his critics see a more sinister figure. In fact, you will see Democrats tomorrow zero in on his role in shaping administration policy on the handling of prisoners in the war on terror.

And in particular, they zero in on August 2002 memo that critics charge came up with such a narrow definition of torture that it opened up the door to abuses and some of the scandals like we saw in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

But you are also seeing now the political ramification here, the liberal group moveon.org on the eve of these hearings has started running ads, started putting together ads in which they demand that the Bush administration denounce torture.

And Republicans up here on the hill are saying this is a political dirty trick because they say the administration has already renounced torture, so has Judge Gonzales. They say this is a political trick on the eve of those hearings, and people like Republican senator, Senator John Cornyn, he says in the process, a good man is being smeared.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Well, it's clear to me that the issue is not so much about Judge Gonzales and his confirmation, but those folks who have continued the sort of political insurgency after November 2, people who oppose the president and his policies, and who are disappointed in the outcome of the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: CNN has obtained a copy of Judge Gonzales' opening statement for tomorrow's hearing, and in that, he'll try to assuage the concerns of his critics by saying he will, in fact, support nontorture policies, that he will support the Geneva Accords, and goes on to say, quote, "wherever we pursue justice from the war on terror to corporate fraud to civil rights, we must always be faithful to the rule of law."

So that is what Judge Gonzales will say. He is going to face a grilling from Democrats on the judiciary committee. The bottom line up here on Capitol Hill is that while Judge Gonzales is expected to be roughed up, even a lot of Democrats are privately saying he very likely will be confirmed -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: That is what Joe Biden said, too, with his long experience on the judiciary committee. All right, Ed, thank you very much.

And we have more news from the Hill in today's political bites. A confirmation hearing gets under way this hour for commerce secretary nominee Carlos Gutierrez. If confirmed he will succeed Don Evans. The committee is expected to vote on the nomination immediately after today's hearing.

An interesting change at the upcoming presidential inauguration. Vice President Cheney will be sworn into office by House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Chief Justice William Rehnquist swore in both President Bush and Vice President Cheney four years ago. We're told that House speakers have sworn in vice presidents three times in the nation's history. Rehnquist, who has been battling cancer, still plans to administer the oath of office to President Bush.

And now one other item we want to tell you about. Tomorrow is the day that members of Congress will meet to certify the results of the presidential election last year, and Senator John Kerry has just sent an e-mail to supporters in the last hour or so saying he will not take part in a formal protest of the Ohio electors, despite what we he calls widespread reports of irregularities, Kerry says his legal team has looked over what's happened in Ohio but they found no evidence that the change the outcome. Still Kerry pushing for electoral reform.

One is a senator, the other is a representative, but there's no turf war in La Casa De Salazar. When we come back, we'll meet two of the newest members of Congress, brothers who are as close as they get.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: They aren't the only siblings serving in Congress, but they are perhaps the closest. Brothers Ken and John Salazar are Colorado's newest lawmakers. Not only do they work together, they live together. CNN's Bruce Morton takes us on a personal tour on their, well, not so palatial Washington pad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here's other siblings, Michigan's Senator Carl and Congressman Sandy Levin, California's two Congresswoman Sanchezes, but they never shared an apartment. Colorado's new two, Senator Ken Salazar, 49, and his brother Congressman John, 51, are. 1,200 square feet, $2,300 rent a month, two bedrooms, two baths, small, cluttered this day with reporters and camera.

REP. JOHN SALAZAR (D), COLORADO: This is our little humble bathroom. And it's a one-seater.

MORTON: Well, who needs a two-seater? The bedrooms are small, the furniture rented. Ken's wife has left a book in his, "Paranoia."

SEN. KEN SALAZAR (D), COLORADO: That's her feeling coming to Washington, D.C.

MORTON: The Internet has arrived. A high-speed work station.

K. SALAZAR: We'll have to share.

MORTON: And cable TV has arrived.

K. SALAZAR: We just put it in yesterday.

J. SALAZAR: Comcast came in yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to watch CNN.

MORTON: Laundry?

J. SALAZAR: Hey, we each have to do our own there.

MORTON: Who thought it was all junkets and champagne receptions? Their wives will stay in Colorado, John's will run the family farm.

J. SALAZAR: We keep in contact and we're still a team. We'll always be a team.

MORTON: He's the early riser, up at 4:00. Ken sleeps until 5:00 or 6:00 sometimes. They are two of eight children, used to sharing, grew up poor.

K. SALAZAR: We didn't have electricity and we didn't have a telephone in the house. Our toys were toys made out of sticks and wood and whatever boards we could find on the farm.

MORTON: But all eight kids finished college and now two of them are in the Congress, wearing their cowboy boots. So it's a small apartment. So what.

K. SALAZAR: Certainly it's a tremendous historic significance to our family and something we're very proud of.

MORTON: A family journey that isn't over yet. Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: There's been a new development in that American marine who went AWOL in Iraq. We'll have that right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: There's been a development in the case of the U.S. marine who was found to have gone AWOL in Iraq. For the latest, let's go quickly to our Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. Hi, Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun has been declared a deserter by the marine corps. You may recall that he was charged with desertion for failing -- for leaving his post in Iraq back in June. Now he's failed to return to Camp Lejeune from authorized leave. He was facing charges of desertion and unauthorized use of government property. He was supposed to return to Camp Lejeune by 12:00 on January 4. That was yesterday, but he did not return. An investigation by the marine corps revealed that he apparently changed his airline ticket. Instead of flying to Camp Lejeune, apparently flew to Canada and got on another flight to Lebanon.

You may recall he had family in Lebanon, and turned up in Lebanon a week or so after his disappearance from Iraq. He was facing serious charges of desertion and theft of government property, partly because he took his service revolver with him. An investigation has also shown some ATM withdrawals, it shows that he took some cash out before he disappeared this time. Again, he may have left the country, that's the suspicion, and the marine corps is issuing warrants for him to be arrested if he can be. It's unclear if there is any extradition from Lebanon. It does appear that's his destination, he has been officially declared a deserter because he failed to return to Camp Lejeune to face the legal proceedings against him -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Sounds like he was worried about what he faced. Jamie McIntyre, thank you very much. A lot of questions about what the Lebanese will be doing with Mr. Hassoun. That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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