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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

The President's Regrets; Sacrifice & Compensation; Remembering Rosemary Kennedy

Aired January 14, 2005 - 15:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wanted, dead or alive.

ANNOUNCER: It was one of the president's most memorable remarks. Is Mr. Bush now expressing regret?

How much is a soldier's life worth?

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: We see other people getting far, far more than soldiers do when they give their life in defense of their country.

ANNOUNCER: Now a push in Congress to increase death benefits for troops killed in action.

She was the inspiration for the Special Olympics. One week after the death of Rosemary Kennedy, an exclusive interview with her sister.

EUNICE SHRIVER, ROSEMARY KENNEDY'S SISTER: All of the people around Rosie wept and were so depressed when she passed away because they received so much from Rosie in terms of laughter and love.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

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

President Bush has said he's not big on self-reflection. But with his second inauguration less than a week away, the president has been opening up a bit with reporters. And it turns out that despite what he said in the campaign, he has some regrets.

Our White House correspondent Dana Bash traveled with Mr. Bush to Florida today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: During the campaign the president in one instance seemed unable and another unwilling to recall any mistakes or regrets from his first term. At the time he was criticized for that, but he didn't want to give ammunition to his opponent. Now the election is behind him, and the president is giving a series of pre-inauguration interviews where he is coming up with a few examples of errors in the way he used language, vowing to be more careful with words in the next four years. He cited both the infamous "dead or alive" quote about getting Osama bin Laden in the days after 9/11, and also saying, "bring it on" in reference to the Iraqi insurgency just heating up then as poor choices of words.

In an interview with regional papers, Mr. Bush said, "It certainly is a lesson that a president must be mindful of that the words you sometimes see I speak plainly sometimes, but you've got to be mindful of the consequences of words. So put that down. I don't know if you call that a confession, a regret, something."

The president is also now admitting his administration, which is known for its adept and disciplined message machine here in the United States, is not doing so well in a critically important PR campaign in the Muslim world.

(voice over): And in an interview with ABC's "20/20"...

BUSH: I said some things in the first term that were probably a little blunt. "Bring it on" was a little blunt. And I was really speaking to -- to our troops. But it came out and it had a different -- different connotation, a different meaning for others. And so I've got -- I'll be -- I'll be more disciplined in how I say things.

BASH (on camera): A new report by the CIA's think tank says Iraq is now a breeding ground for terrorists for, as the president put it, those who would like to spread hatred. But going to war in Iraq is one area neither the president nor his aides see any mistake.

The White House welcome that report, but also called it speculative and said they see it as not a condemnation of going to war in Iraq, but rather a confirmation that as the White House spokesman Scott McClellan put it, their strategy to, "stay on the offensive and spread freedom is working."

Dana Bash, CNN, Jacksonville, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Dana.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said today President Bush should admit the error of his ways in Iraq now that he has admitted the error of his words. Meantime, Mr. Bush spoke about Iraq during his trip to Florida to promote education and job training. He again voiced his hopes for democracy in Iraq as the January 30 elections near.

His former rival, Senator John Kerry, says what happens after the Iraqi vote is even more important to that country's future. Speaking in London after a meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Kerry said, "Political reconciliation is needed after the elections to make Iraq more stable." On Capitol Hill, there is a new push to better compensate the families of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and other combat zones. In the process, lawmakers must do the unthinkable, put a price tag on the loss of a life.

Here is CNN's Joe Johns.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For military families, it's the very worst that could happen, a loved one in uniform far from home killed in a combat zone. Right now, when a member of the military is killed in action, the government gives the family a funeral with full military honors, a folded American flag and a check for $12,000 to cover their immediate needs. Senator Jeff Sessions calls that woefully inadequate for people making the ultimate sacrifice.

SESSIONS: They're so proud, they don't ask for anything. They accept what they're given. But it just is -- as the months have gone by and I've looked at the numbers, we see other people getting far, far more than soldiers do when they give their life in defense of their country.

JOHNS: Sessions and cosponsor Democrat Joe Lieberman want to increase the death benefit for combat zone deaths from $12,000 to $100,000. With military recruitment becoming more difficult and concerns growing about the number of people leaving the service, the measure to be introduced this month is a seen as overdue.

It would make the changes retroactive to cover Americans already lost in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan at a cost of more than $400 million in the first year. Advocates don't anticipate much of a fight over the price tag in the Congress because of how constituents might react.

ADM. NORBERT RYAN, MILITARY OFFICERS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA: We know that the average American citizen wants to send a signal to these young men and women desperately that they are truly valued and that their service and their sacrifice is on a pedestal.

JOHNS: Still, there are unresolved issues. Kathy Moakler is an expert on survivor benefits for the National Military Family Association. She and her counterparts from similar groups are already questioning whether the government should make distinctions on death benefits between service members killed in combat zones and those who die in training accidents, or from illness while on active duty.

KATHLY MOAKLER, NATIONAL MILITARY FAMILY ASSOCIATION: We consider that all service members are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

JOHNS: Sessions and Lieberman are also proposing an increase in life insurance for all service members up to $400,000. Right now, the maximum coverage is $250,000.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: Now, there could be some competing proposals. Senator George Allen and Senator Chuck Hagel are both talking about increasing the death benefit for anyone on active duty. Hagel introduced a similar bill late last year, but we're told there wasn't time to get it through -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK. Such a tough, tough issue. All right. Joe, thank you very much.

We will take a closer look at the terror threat in Iraq. Ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, does the current situation contradict what President Bush has been saying about America's goal in Iraq?

Also ahead, is Howard Dean having second thoughts about Iowa a year after his Democratic caucus defeat?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking the Friday edition of "Political Bytes," Howard Dean says the Iowa caucuses can hold on to their coveted kickoff spot on the Democratic primary calendar. Dean, of course, is now running for party chairman. He tells the "Des Moines Register" he sees no reason to modify the party's current calendar. The party recently created a commission to consider changes to its primary season lineup.

"The Wall Street Journal," meanwhile, reports the Dean presidential campaign last year hired two Internet bloggers as consultants as a way to get positive spin about Dean onto their online journals. One of the blogs, Daily Kos, is among the most linked blogs on the Internet. A Dean campaign spokeswoman says the deals were not unethical because both bloggers disclosed their connections to the Dean campaign.

Jeb Bush has said it himself, and now his brother the president is weighing in on the odds that the Florida governor may one day run for president himself. In an interview with ABC, President Bush says of his brother Jeb, "I don't think he's interested in running."

Incoming Republican party chairman Ken Mehlman has asked an abortion rights supporters to be his cochairman. Jo Ann Davidson is a former Bush campaign official for the Ohio Valley and an advisory board member for the group Republicans for Choice. Davidson's nomination will have to be approved by the Republican National Committee.

Coming up next...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHRIVER: She was very well liked, she was fun, she participated in a lot of things. But I think the biggest problem and horrendous problem in those days, nobody knew anything about being intellectually slow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: One week after Rosemary Kennedy's death, her sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, shares her memories of the woman who inspired the Special Olympics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: One week ago today the least known member of the Kennedy family died at the age of 86 after a lifetime mostly spent in a special institution for the mentally retarded. Rosemary Kennedy was the sister born soon after President John Kennedy, at a time when anyone with an intellectual disability was hidden away.

When she was 23, her father, Joseph P. Kennedy, allowed doctors to remove part of her brain, believing it might improve her condition. It didn't. But Rosemary became an inspiration to the other members of her accomplished family, especially her sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who in the 1960s founded the Special Olympics.

Yesterday, I sat down with Mrs. Shriver and her son, Tim Shriver, who now heads the Special Olympics to talk about Rosemary and her legacy. We began by talking about her childhood.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHRIVER: I come from a very large family, nine children. And Rosemary was number three in the family after Joe Jr. and President Kennedy. And she was very lively, a very good human.

I remember my great memory of her as a swimmer. We used to go five girls, every day, have a swimming lesson. And Rosemary was by far the superior of all of us. So we were in awe of Rosemary.

But she was very well liked. She was fun. She participated in a lot of things. But I think the biggest problem and a horrendous problem in those days, nobody knew anything about being intellectually slow. There was just nobody to talk to.

WOODRUFF: It's obviously been reported the decision to have surgery for her. Back then, that was known to be an option. How did -- what was the discussion in your family about that?

SHRIVER: At that time Rosemary was in her 20s, and she was getting more aggressive and somewhat more demanding. But nobody had any answers to it until the suggestion came to my father that if she could have this operation -- and others had had it, and it seemed in a number of cases to work well -- that Rosemary then would be able to do more and be happier and fit in even more easily.

But those -- my father's great ambition was not to make Rosemary like his other eight children, but to try to clarify the cloudiness that lived inside her and to allow her to be more aggressive and, as I say, more optimistic, and be one of us. But there was no desire to think she was going to be like our president -- like my brothers.

We -- she already was handicapped and we all knew that. So the only question in my father's mind was, can I help her more? And that was the reason she had the operation. Completely the reason.

WOODRUFF: And what was your -- what was the family's reaction after that? I mean, how did she change?

SHRIVER: Well, she obviously became far slower in all her reactions. And she -- but she still lived at home some of the time. And we -- my mother tried to find a place where other children lived so Rosemary could accommodate herself more easily.

WOODRUFF: Tim Shriver, growing up this there was this member of your family, your mother's sister, your aunt. What was your earliest awareness of her, your -- and what was your sense of her life and what it meant to the rest off your family?

TIM SHRIVER, ROSEMARY KENNEDY'S NEPHEW: Well, as a young person, you know, Rosemary would always come to visit. And she did really -- I mean, her last visit was just before Christmas here at our house. And we had Christmas dinner before the holiday with her.

So, you know, throughout my life Rosemary was a regular visitor just like any other family member, although Rosie would stay longer and spend more time with me than most other family members. But I have many images her from my childhood. Most of them were swimming images.

She was just an avid swimmer. And she had this extraordinary capacity just to swim for seeming like for hours. You know, when you're a little kid you're struggling, you go from one end of the pool to the other. And Rosie would just be out there in the middle of the pool going back and forth, never touching the bottom, as though she sort of had buoyancy tubes under her.

And I was always marveling, like how is it that she says up like that and how is it that she has such physical strength and resilience. Obviously she had limitations, you know. So it was clear to me that -- you know, as it was to anyone later in her life, that her disabling conditions were quite severe.

E. SHRIVER: One of the things that's important is Rosie participated in all the things we did. My father was appointed to represent the United States in the coronation of the pope. And we all dressed up in black, Rosie was dressed as well, and she came to the coronation.

We were presented a cord (ph) in 1939. Rosie went along with my sister Kathleen and my mother, and she was presented a cord (ph). This was, of course, before the operation, but still, everything that we tried to do, we'd go sightseeing.

I used to go with Rosie in Austria, and we would go around to the museums, and she participated. So my mother was very strong and everybody else in having Rosie do everything we did. We didn't say keep her in a room and say, "Well, we'll tell you about it when we come home."

WOODRUFF: How much was she an -- I think people assume that she was an inspiration to you in coming up with the whole idea of the Special Olympics and from its early -- is that true? I mean, how did it...

E. SHRIVER: I think it is true because, as Timmy had just pointed out, she could swim like a deer. She just went across that pool like mad. And indeed, the first games we had were in Chicago, and the mayor called up and said, "We're going to do these things, it's wonderful, but we can't have a swimming pool." I said, "Why?" He said, "Well, we don't want to be responsible for these kids drowning."

And I said, "Well, then we don't -- thank you very much, but we won't have the games there. We'll look for..." -- and then he called me the next day and said, "A three-foot pool you'll have." And I said, "That's good enough," and we went.

So -- because I knew that if we didn't have swimming, a big block in her life would be there. So they are wonderful swimmers, our special friends.

T. SHRIVER: I think if you look around the world, as my mother said, you know, there's still tremendous obstacles to inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities or any kind of disability. A tremendous indifference to their plight. There's a tremendous sense often not stated that they don't count as much.

The unstated message is they'll have to wait. There's just too many other things that have to get done. The unstated message of even a wealthy country like ours is, well, there are other problems that are more important.

We've got to solve Social Security. We've got to address transportation issues. We've got to address the problems in Iraq. We don't -- you know, this is not the right time.

What's the unstated assumption? They don't deserve it. They're not quite as deserving of the chance that we expect for others. And I think, you know, that's part of human nature, sadly, that if we see someone who on the external looks different, looks slower, looks less capable, we're not so good at looking at the internal.

You know, we judge the book by its cover. We fail to look at the spirit. And that's just I think a constant struggle for all of us.

WOODRUFF: When you mention issues that are before us today, you mentioned transportation, you mentioned Social Security. These are issues that are before us in 2005. How far has the country come?

E. SHRIVER: Well, I think quite a distance. When President Kennedy was in office in 1960, I went around to various places to try to find out how they were responding to the mentally handicapped. I couldn't really find anything.

And I spoke to him about it and he did something. He formed a committee on mental retardation immediately within a couple weeks after he got into power, and community centers. WOODRUFF: It's been reported that your son-in-law, who happens to be the governor of California, was considering some cuts in programs affecting people with disabilities, among others, and you were among those who lobbied him not to do that. Is that true? Can you straighten that out for us?

E. SHRIVER: I think you can straighten out my daughter more. I think she brought it to his attention in the early days, and he did make a change and he did put many of those discriminating...

WOODRUFF: So you didn't play any role in that?

E. SHRIVER: Maria and I talked, but Maria is the one who said to Arnold, "What are you doing?" And he said -- which I thought took a great deal of courage. You rarely see anybody in political life that changes their mind and says I'm going to be for this now. And he did. He changed it so that they did get certain kinds of additional financial rewards.

T. SHRIVER: I think the thing that I would underscore that struck me the most is that Rosemary had a successful life. And there are mothers and fathers who wonder about a child with special needs, can this child have a really meaningful, successful life.

There are siblings who wonder, how do I explain my brother or sister who has a special need to the world? There are people with special needs who are themselves trying to figure out, how can I have a meaningful life, what can I amount to with my skills, with my capabilities.

I think they can all look to Rosemary. This is a woman who had a successful life, lived 86 years, was happy most days, loved ice cream and chocolate, made other people happy, had a strong faith and made a difference. Never wrote a book, never started a company, you know, never got married, never had children, but had a really wonderful, successful life.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: The story of Rosemary Kennedy. And our thanks to Tim Shriver of the Special Olympics and Eunice Kennedy Shriver for talking with us about her.

Has the war in Iraq done more harm than good? A massive new report from the CIA is adding fuel to the fiery debate over the U.S. mission there. The story next on INSIDE POLITICS.

Plus, to push his Social Security plan through Congress, President Bush will need the help of big lobbying firms here in Washington. So does he have their support? Our Bob Novak has the inside scoop.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: It's just before 4:00 Eastern Time. 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. Let's start with stocks. And they're posting solid gains as investors cheer a pretty positive report on inflation. We'll get to that in a second, but right now with the final trades being counted, we have the Dow up about 52 points and the Nasdaq is nearly one percent higher. Today was a big anniversary and a reminder of better days on Wall Street. Five years ago today the Dow industrial average hit an all-time high level of 11,722. That's more than 1,100 points or 11 percent higher than what's today level, anyway.

Well, let's get to the inflation report. There's been growing concern about inflation lately, but today's number on producer prices dropped sharply, so that's relieved some of the anxiety, but only temporarily. Now, economists are still warning rising prices remain a major concern. Producer prices in December fell seven tenths of percent. That's mostly because of a sharp drop in energy prices. If you take out the cost of energy and the food prices, then prices edge slightly higher. Still, most economists believe the federal reserve will raise interest rates again at their meeting next month.

Then some news on Macy's. It will pay $600,000 to settle charges that it mistreated some customers and employees. The department store was accused of allowing its security force to use racial and ethnic profiling to combat shoplifting. An investigation by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer followed several complaints from Hispanics and black employees and customers. And in some complaints, Macy's was accused of false imprisonment.

Well, coming up on CNN at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," we continue our series of reports, "Overmedicated Nation." And tonight we focus on the complicated relationship between doctors and drug companies. If doctors get free drugs from pharmaceutical companies, are they likely to diagnose and treat you differently? Well, we'll look at the evidence.

And then, our nation's widening trade gap. We look the economic impact of our nation's trade policies with China with the head of U.S./China economic security commission, Michael Wessel.

And an interesting new phenomenon. U.S. public schools are aggressively recruiting teachers outside the United States. We'll find out why. All that tonight at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

But for now, right back to Judy Woodruff in Washington -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Kitty, thanks very much. And we do have some breaking news to share with you. CNN has learned that there has been an avalanche in a ski area in Utah. It is at the -- or near the Canyons ski resort just north of Park City, not too far from Salt Lake City. We are told that there are unconfirmed reports, these reports coming from resort employees that are some skiers who were skiing the outside ski area boundaries who are trapped. Again, CNN learning about an avalanche near Park City, Utah, at the Canyons ski resort and there are reports skiers who were skiing outside authorized ski boundaries who are trapped. We're attempting to get more information and we'll get that on the air as quickly as we have it. Right now, INSIDE POLITICS continues.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Did the ouster of Saddam Hussein turn Iraq into a breeding ground for terror? We'll take a look at the conclusions from a new CIA report.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should not be a party that litmus tests on abortion.

ANNOUNCER: Is there room in the Democratic party for both sides in the fight over abortion?

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Abortion rights are here to stay!

ANNOUNCER: We'll speak with a top abortion rights advocate.

A fashion frenzy in Washington, D.C. Are Laura Bush and the twins going glitzy when they dress up for the inauguration galas?

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Welcome back. The White House is downplaying a government report that says the war in Iraq has created a training ground and recruitment center for Islamic terrorists. But the assessment is giving new fuel to critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy and to those who question the president's justifications for the war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF (voice-over): The almost daily insurgent attacks in Iraq may be a harbinger of even worse things to come. A new U.S. intelligence report on long-term global trends suggests Iraq is the new Afghanistan, a training ground for terrorists. It is written acknowledgment by the National Intelligence Council, which reports to the Bush administration that the toppling of Saddam Hussein opened a new front in the war on terror.

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Terrorists are coming to Iraq and carrying out horrible murders and actions. If you want to call that training, call it training, we call it murder. And the fact is that there are terrorists in Iraq that need to be defeated.

WOODRUFF: The idea that Iraq would become a terrorist training ground is far different from what President Bush predicted in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion. He said then the war would strike a blow to terrorists. GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The passing of Saddam Hussein's regime will deprive terrorist networks of a wealthy patron that pays for terrorist training.

WOODRUFF: To this day, Mr. Bush portrays Iraq as an important battleground in the war on terror.

BUSH: The terrorists will be defeated, Iraq will be free and the world will be more secure.

WOODRUFF: The global forecast by the intelligence community does not make any predictions about what will happen in Iraq, but it warns the world will still be fighting terrorists 15 years from now. Terrorists who may get their hands on the kind of deadly weapons the Bush administration once claimed Saddam Hussein possessed.

JOHN GANNON, FMR. CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL INTEL. COUNCIL: Terrorist groups getting access to weapons of mass destruction has to be the major fear that we have to deal with and the major issue I think we have to deal with in security terms, not only in the United States, but in the world for the next 15 years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And let's talk more about the terror threat in Iraq and upcoming elections with Michael O'Hanlon, a senior research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution.

Michael, how does this square with what the Bush administration was arguing? Their main rationale, I think, people believe going into Iraq was that going in by U.S. forces would deprive the terrorists of their principal patron.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUITON: Well, Judy, this does sort of throw the Bush administration back on its heels because, without saying the war in Iraq was a mistake, I think it does have some benefits for getting rid of Saddam Hussein. It was never really about weakening al Qaeda. al Qaeda was not present in Iraq. It was always a bit of a false argument. And now it turns out it may be even have been exactly wrong in the 180 degree direction in the sense that the Iraq mission, even if it does have benefits for getting rid of Saddam, may actually, in some strange sense, be helping al Qaeda.

I don't think it's a dramatic development, necessarily. Most of the people who are in Iraq today on behalf of global terrorism were already terrorists before this operation, so we're not necessarily giving these people a whole lot of new recruits in this particular context. But I do think that tends to invalidate the Bush administration argument to the extent they justified the invasion of Iraq on anti-terror ground.

WOODRUFF: Who was wrong, Michael? Was it the CIA? Who -- I mean, there's always -- somebody out there who was doing research, bad information.

O'HANLON: I do not think it was the CIA. The CIA has taken a lot of hits, it deserves some of them. But on this point, the Bush administration knew full well there was no documented link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, except some context that it occurred essentially at the level of meetings of mid to low level operatives. There were no operational collaborations, the CIA had worked very hard on this question and it was very clear in the information that it provided to lawmakers. And I think George Tenet was on the record as basically acknowledging this several times as well.

On this point, the Bush administration chose to call the Iraq invasion part of the global war on terror for its own political purposes in a very deliberate way. I say this not as an opponent of the Iraq invasion per se, there were arguments for doing that, but they were not based on terrorism, they were based on stabilizing the Persian Gulf by getting rid of Saddam Hussein, not going after al Qaeda.

WOODRUFF: You said this is not a dramatic development. The Bush -- the White House today is basically dismissing this and saying it's just speculation. Does it have any consequence at all?

O'HANLON: Well, it does. I say it's not dramatic in a sense. It's not cataclysmic. Most of the people who are in Iraq and are terrorists, again, were already terrorists before they went to Iraq, they may have learned some new tactics, they may have developed some new networks and they may have won over a few new recruits, but for the most part, they were already bad guys in advance and we were going to contend with them at some level anyway.

Also, the tactics they're using against American troops in Iraq may not be all that effective for striking the American homeland. Two very different kinds of terrorism, if you will. So I think it's bad news. It's not necessarily horrible news, but it does tend to invalidate what the Bush administration was saying about the rationale for this war.

WOODRUFF: Very quickly, our latest poll shows 71 percent of Americans say it is not likely that there's going to be peace and stability in Iraq after these upcoming elections. You now have former state -- Secretary of State Jim Baker saying he thinks the U.S. should look at pulling troops out next year. Where does that stand, do you think, in the administration's calculations?

O'HANLON: Well, that's a remarkable development, what Jim Baker has recently said. And to the extent people like him are starting to say we need a plan for staged withdrawal, I think it's likely to become a very important development in the American debate, but I don't think it will happen this month. We'll try to get through the elections first. Whether we should or not, we'll try to get through the elections first and then talk about this starting in the spring.

WOODRUFF: Michael O'Hanlon with the Brookings Institution. Very good to see you.

O'HANLON: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thank you. We appreciate it. The field of candidates for Democratic party chair has been getting bigger and bigger. Up next, is abortion rights advocate Kate Michelman throwing her hat in the ring? I'll ask her, next.

Also ahead, does former Senate majority leader Trent Lott still have a few surprises up his sleeve?

Later, a taste of Hollywood style right here in the nation's capital.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: An update now on that breaking news we shared with you just a moment ago. An avalanche near Park City near the Canyons Ski Resort. Joining us now on the telephone is the Summit County Sheriff David Edmonds. Sheriff Edmonds, tell us what you know at this point. I'm sorry, we appear to have lost that phone connection. We'll try to get that up just as soon as we can. As we said, there do appear to be some skiers trapped. They were outside an authorized skiing area and as soon as we can get some information we'll share that with you.

Moving on to INSIDE POLITICS now. The field of candidates running to succeed Terry McAuliffe as chairman of the Democratic National Committee has now grown to seven and abortion rights activist Kate Michelman said recently that she might enter the race, as well. She is the longtime president, now president emeritus of NARAL Pro Choice America. Kate Michelman joins me here in Washington. Are you running?

KATE MICHELMAN, ABORTION RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I am not running. I've decided that I can best serve the women of America and the issues that matter greatly to them and to me and the party by leading a vigorous effort to reassert the party's leadership on women's fundamental rights and its commitment to women's fundamental rights including a women's right to choose. So, I decided the best way for me to continue my longtime advocacies on these issues is to work from that perspective and I intend to lead an effort to make sure that the party remains true to its core value of human rights and civil rights and privacy rights for women and it's -- and also that the party elects a chair who reflects those core values, that commitment to women's rights.

WOODRUFF: Well, it's very clear, everybody knows that one of the candidates running, Tim Roemer, the former Congressman from Indiana is pro-life, anti-abortion rights. Should there be a litmus test that no one should be elected chair who holds that view?

MICHELMAN: I don't think it's a litmus test, but a value's test.

WOODRUFF: What's the difference?

MICHELMAN: The difference is that the party is a party of tolerance and inclusiveness, always has been, always will be. There are a range of personal views about abortion. But the issue we're talking about is much, much, much bigger than abortion. It's about human rights and civil rights and privacy from government for women. It's about equality of women and the leader of the party, the chair of the national party must be someone who reflects those values and who will fight for those values. There is a difference between a litmus test and a value.

WOODRUFF: It sounds like you're saying that precludes anyone who holds that view, in your mind.

MICHELMAN: From being chair of the party. The party's core values should be expressed by, in many ways, but including by the record and the views of the person who is the chair of that party. Tim Roemer has been an opponent of women's rights and particularly their right to choose all of his life in Congress. And he cannot effectively lead the party and speak to women and their rights when they are at greatest, under greatest assault by the way. How does the chair of the party speak to the value of the constitutional right of privacy and freedom of choice when President Bush nominates a justice to the Supreme Court who is clearly going to be in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade. That's really what is at stake here.

WOODRUFF: If not Tim Roemer, who do you believe should be the next chair?

MICHELMAN: All the candidates other than Tim Roemer are pro- choice, so there's no question that...

WOODRUFF: So you're not going to pick.

MICHELMAN: I'm not going to pick. The party activists are committed to women's rights and reproductive rights.

WOODRUFF: Does it bother you, though, that there's no women in the list?

MICHELMAN: One of the reasons that some of the leaders of the women's movement approached me to consider running, which I gave careful thought to, careful thought was that there is no woman running and then Roemer's candidacy reflecting a concern that the party could elect someone who does not embrace women's rights. It is time for women to be out there.

WOODRUFF: But not this time, apparently.

MICHELMAN: I guess not.

WOODRUFF: Kate Michelman, we thank you for coming by.

MICHELMAN: Thank you for inviting me.

WOODRUFF: Bob Novak has the word of a possible split within big labor. He joins me next with his reporter's notebook.

Bob also has the latest on Senator Trent Lott's political future and what it could mean to GOP prospects in Mississippi.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Bob Novak joins us now from the "CROSSFIRE" set at George Washington University with some inside buzz. So, Bob, what is this about a split among labor leaders?

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Judy, there was a closed- door meeting of the AFL-CIO executive committee this Monday. No news came out of it, but big news inside. These are the big shots of big labor and James Hoffa of the Teamsters Union and Andy Stern of the Service Employees' Union, two of the biggest unions usually considered on opposite sides agreed that the dues money ought to be kept in the unions for organizing to build up the roles of labor and not sent to the AFL-CIO but John Sweeney, the president of the AFL-CIO opposed that bitterly. Nothing was settled, but this could be a big split in organized labor.

WOODRUFF: OK. Social Security. Now you're learning that there's a fairly important constituency that's not on board.

NOVAK: Big time Republican lobbyists in this town are massively unenthusiastic about Social Security reform, doesn't do anything for their clients. They like tort reform. It helps their clients and that's one reason there is very little buzz around town on Social Security. The president, whether he knows it or not, I think he will have to kick start the big lobbyists to get something going on this subject.

WOODRUFF: So, we'll be watching that. You have been talking to Mississippi Senator Trent Lott and what are you learning?

NOVAK: I haven't talked to the senator, but I've talked to people close to him and people who know what is going on. It was thought six months ago that Trent Lott, after losing the majority leadership would not seek another turn in 2006, and now the guessing is he definitely will. I'm told that he feels it is a lot more fun in the Senate when you don't have to worry about the leadership. That's a break for the Republicans because it would have been a tough race and Democrats will probably, if Lott was not running, put up a former governor if former governor Musgrove, the Republican candidate would probably have been Congressman Chip Pickering who has never run statewide, but Lott would just about be a shoe-in for re-election if he runs.

WOODRUFF: So all we need is a phone call from Senator Lott to confirm this.

NOVAK: Yes.

WOODRUFF: Finally, the DNC chairman race. We just heard from Kate Michelman, she's not running. What are you hearing?

NOVAK: People I talked to say it's really down to a three-way race. It's hard to tell who will win because just the members of the DNC and a lot of them aren't saying, but the three are two former Republican congressmen, Tim Roemer -- I mean two former Democratic congressmen. Tim Roemer of Indiana and Martin Frost of Texas and, of course, Howard Dean. The establishment candidate is Martin Frost of Texas. He's not the most charismatic guy in the world, but he was very effective as House Democratic caucus chairman. A moderate, he thought -- he opposed Nancy Pelosi for Democratic leader, thought she was too liberal. He's from the red state of Texas. Just got endorsed by a fellow Texan, former national chairman Bob Strauss. A lot of people think Frost is going to be the person who wins. He is OK on abortion. Tim Roemer is pro-life, but Frost is pro-choice.

WOODRUFF: We're going to keep taking your temperature every few days on that one to see how that race is shaping up. Bob Novak, thanks very much. Please, catch Bob this weekend as he previews inauguration day. That will be in "The Novak Zone" tomorrow morning 9:30 a.m. Eastern.

There is word today that New York's Republican Governor George Pataki has decided not to challenge Senator Hillary Clinton for her Senate seat next year. In an interview taped for the news channel, New York One, Pataki, says, "I do not want to be a United States senator." He says he has what he calls, quote, "no expectation that he will ever make a Senate run." Pataki also said he has not made up his mind about running for a fourth term as governor.

Here in Washington meantime the word conservative does not only apply to political leanings. Up next, high fashion in a high-powered city. How will it play?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Inauguration anticipation is building here in Washington for some reasons that are obvious to the political crowd here and, for some that are not. Here now senior political analyst Bill Schneider. Hello, Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, you know every inaugural involves a big race behind the scenes and the results were announced this week. The winners made a political statement, in fact, they won the political play of the week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): Who are you wearing? You hear that question every year at the Academy Awards and you hear it asked more politely every four years at inaugural time in Washington. The answer is right there on the White House website. An Oscar De La Renta evening gown for Mrs. Bush. What does this mean for a designer?

MICHEAL FINK, SAKS 5TH AVENUE: What we see at Saks Fifth Avenue is an immediate uptick in interest in a designer that is involved in this kind of event.

SCHNEIDER: For example...

FINK: Jackie Kennedy -- Ole Cassini (ph) rose to great prominence.

PHILIP BLOCH, ACTOR-CELEBRITY STYLIST: Adolfo is very well known for dressing Nancy Reagan. The one shoulder dress she wore to one of the inaugurations.

SCHNEIDER: What kind of statement is Laura Bush making by wearing Oscar De La Renta?

BLOCH: She's a very -- stepping into the footsteps of some very important society ladies that wear Oscar's dresses. I think that she is really coming out saying I'm fashionable yet I'm chic.

SCHNEIDER: Is the first lady making a political statement? Oscar De La Renta designed Hillary Clinton's inaugural gown. Sounds like something bipartisan is going on here.

The first daughters' gowns are by Badgley Mischka, a favorite with Hollywood starlets.

FINK: The girls are right on in terms of the trend. It's young, sexy, body conscious. They're doing color, you know there's no black.

SCHNEIDER: The Badgley Mischka team has dressed J.Lo.

And Winona Ryder.

What kind of statement are Barbara and Jenna Bush making?

BLOCH: Shows that they're stepping up to be first daughters. They're not the beer-drinking, running around party girls that we maybe thought of the first time around.

SCHNEIDER: Aren't those dresses kind of revealing?

BLOCH: I don't think we'll see any wardrobe malfunctions.

SCHNEIDER: That's a relief because then we might have to take back this week's political play of the week.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(on camera): The first lady will wear De La Renta gowns and he's from the Dominican Republic and won by Carolina Herrera who comes from Venezuela. Could be an outreach to Hispanic Americans.

WOODRUFF: Bill, what are you wearing for the inaugural?

SCHNEIDER: I was in Paris last month and so I have a very special inaugural get up that I'll be wearing. But I haven't yet decided what to do with my hair.

WOODRUFF: You know, you look terrific every day. We appreciate it.

SCHNEIDER: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: And before we go we want to take you back to a story that has broken over the last hour and that is reports of an avalanche in Utah at the Park City ski resort known as the Canyons.

Joining me now on the telephone is a woman who was skiing in the area when the avalanche happened, her name, Jill Atwood.

Ms. Atwood, are you there?

JILL ATWOOD, KSL REPORTER: I am.

WOODRUFF: Please tell us what happened.

ATWOOD: OK.

Well, what happened was, I was riding up on the gondola with the supervisor of the ski patrol when word of this happened literally minutes later. I could tell you, I was then able to come up to the top of the mountain and take a closer look.

And we're talking about a 300-to-500 yard slide, which is a huge slide. It happened in an area called Dutch John off of the 99-90 lift here, which is out of bounds of the Canyons resort, meaning this is an area for experts. It's their choice. They take off their skis and they hike to that particular area of the resort to get the best powder. They call them powder hounds.

We have had a lot of snow here in Utah in the last week or so. And I can tell you just by looking at it, it looks like someone took a knife and cut through the side of the mountain. Just a huge slab has fallen off and you can see where it came to rest down in a valley. And right now, I can tell you search-and-rescue are down there with their dogs.

I have a LifeFlight helicopter hovering overhead as we speak. They're using dynamite to blow away some of the extra snow., the loose snow that could still threaten some of the ski patrol that are down there right now trying to help. It was a huge slide.

WOODRUFF: Jill Atwood, we were told there were people, believed to be people trapped. What are you hearing about how many?

ATWOOD: We're hearing -- of course, all these reports unconfirmed -- we're hearing anywhere from one to 15 people. The number I keep hearing is about 15 people. I can also tell you, in just listening to the ski patrol, this is the one that they were worried about. This is the one that they feared.

It is not an area of their avalanche control, obviously. It is out of bounds, but it's an area that they keep their eye on. And, of course, they warn people heading out of bounds. And, yes, we're told possibly 15 people buried under who knows how much snow. It's an awful lot.

WOODRUFF: And, again, this is an area that is marked out of bounds, is that right?

ATWOOD: Right.

You have to traverse a ridge to get there. And the slide was so big that some of it actually triggered and came down in bounds just a little bit. But, at this point, it's just a race to get these people out, because, if they are buried, they only have a certain amount of time.

WOODRUFF: And, once again, Jill Atwood, who was on the scene right about the time this happened and got a look at it right after, there was some sense going into today and in recent days that there might be avalanche activity?

ATWOOD: Well, right now, here in Utah, in Northern Utah, anyway, there's a huge avalanche risk.

There always is this time of year, when you get a huge amount of snow after you had such a warm spell with not a lot of snow. I can tell you, I report the news here in the Salt Lake City area, and we're consistently warning people about back-country snowshoeing, snowmobiling, skiing, because of the avalanche dangers. So, yes, there's warnings -- there's warnings everywhere, absolutely.

WOODRUFF: Jill Atwood, who was skiing -- she said she was on a gondola going up the mountain when word came of this avalanche. And you just heard her say that unconfirmed reports of one to 15, as many as 15 people possibly trapped under what she described as a large, large avalanche, again, this in Utah in the Park City area, near the Canyons ski resort.

CNN following this story. And when we have more information, we will share it with you. There will be more on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" at 5:00 Eastern.

For now, that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff.

"CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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