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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Road Warrior; Race and Reform; Bloomberg Kicks off Campaign
Aired February 16, 2005 - 15:29 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to talk to the American people over and over and over again.
ANNOUNCER: Another day, another platform for the president's Social Security hard sell. Is he making any headway?
Racial politics and potshots. We'll hear new accusations against the president and a questionable comment by Howard Dean.
Views of Europe. Are Americans still saying "non" to all things French? Or is it safe to eat French fries again?
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.
If the miles the president has logged tell you anything about his determination to promote Social Security reform, consider this, Mr. Bush has delivered his reform pitch in eight states over the past two weeks, including his swing through New Hampshire earlier today. Right now, at 3:30 Eastern Time, the president is back at the White House. And that's where we find CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, too.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, hello, Judy.
You can bet that President Bush, of course, is using the bully pulpit to sell his Social Security plan. The last time that he swung across the country, it was to red states where at least it was one congressman, a Democrat, who opposed the plan. This time around it was in an area, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It was actually in a district Republican Congressman Jeb Bradley, who had also run for Congress, opposing the privatization of Social Security.
Now, today the president's message was very clear. He reiterated that, in addition to creating these private investment accounts, he would be open to allowing more of one's income to be taxed. That is, to raise the current $90,000 cap on wages that is subjected to Social Security payroll taxes. That to make Social Security solvent in the future. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: It's important to keep the options on the table. And it's important for me to say to the members of Congress, if you've got a good idea, bring it forward. There will be no political retribution.
President Clinton thought raising the age might have made sense. Patrick Moynihan had an idea. Tim Penny had some ideas. And so my message today is, bring them forth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Now, Judy, of course, that is not a new idea. It's not news. But it is the first time that the president has actually said this publicly.
But a White House spokesman, Trent Duffy, who was traveling with the president, said, "Make no mistake. This does not mean that the president is endorsing or embracing that particular option. But it does leave the window open for that possibility."
And, of course, if you look at strategy here, both Republicans and Democrats are really trying to shape the debate here. House Republicans saying that they're going to go home to their home districts armed with a DVD of the president, really kind of like a commercial, showing him selling his Social Security plan.
And then today, of course, the Democrats said that they're going to make their own pitch. They had a conference call with reporters featuring a Nobel Prize economist who said that the president's idea was a bad one -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Well, at this point we're still reading every single tea leaf that we can get. OK, Suzanne.
WOODRUFF: Thanks very much.
Well, even as President Bush hit the road, there were reminders of the opposition to his plan for private investment accounts. Here in Washington, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer apparently has been counting Republican votes instead of Democrats. According to the publication "The Hill" Hoyer released a whip count of 29 house Republicans he says are on the record opposing all or major parts of the president's Social Security reform plan.
Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan is urging a go-slow approach on private Social Security accounts. Testifying on Capitol Hill today, Greenspan said he supports the idea of personal accounts, but he said he is concerned about keeping the financial markets stable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN GREENSPAN, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: If you're going to move to private accounts, which I approve of, I think you have to do it in a cautious, gradual way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Greenspan did not offer any thoughts on how to fix the Social Security system long term.
Congressional Democrats have been hammering the president's Social Security reform plan for days, but now Congressman Jim Clyburn has come up with a different criticism. He has accused Mr. Bush of "playing the race card," in his words, by arguing that African- Americans would benefit from personal investment accounts because they don't live as long as whites. Well, I spoke with Congressman Clyburn just a few minutes ago, and I asked him if he believes the president intentionally is making this charge.
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC),VICE CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: Well, I don't know what he meant by that, but the language is pretty clear to me. But I also know what the facts are.
The facts are these, that on average, African-Americans do die sooner. But the fact of the matter is, Social Security is a real good benefit for African-Americans because, on average, African-Americans earn less. And because they earn less, they pay less into Social Security. And Social Security has a better payout for low-income earners than upper income earners. So, on that count, African- Americans got a better deal.
Also, survivor benefits and disability are a big parts of Social Security. Over a third of what Social Security is all about. And because of the jobs that African-Americans work in, they are more prone to have disabilities, and they are also more prone to need survivor benefits.
So if we will allow the president's position to go unchecked, the next thing we will hear, white Americans will be saying that survivor benefits are no good and ought to be gotten rid of because white Americans don't benefit as greatly on survivor benefits and disability as black Americans.
WOODRUFF: But how do you know the president isn't simply acknowledging what is? And that is, that because African-Americans don't live as long as whites, that they are, in effect, subsidizing the system?
CLYBURN: No. But that's not true. I'm saying because they don't live as long, means that disability and survivor benefits are more quickly accruing to black Americans.
WOODRUFF: So your colleague, Congressman Mel Watt, made that statement to me. Are you saying you disagree with him?
CLYBURN: Well, if he made that statement without regards to survivor benefits and disability, yes, I would be in disagreement with him. Because I'm going where the facts are. Now, look, a study was done and released in March 2002, three years ago. That study was from the Social Security network. And that study indicated that it is absolutely a false claim that African- Americans do not get as good a deal in the final analysis on Social Security as white Americans.
WOODRUFF: Have you heard anything from the White House about what you said?
CLYBURN: No. I hadn't heard what I said, to tell you the truth. I remember what I said, but I haven't seen any reports about it.
WOODRUFF: Congressman, let me ask you about something else, and is that the newly chosen chair of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean.
WOODRUFF: In comments to the Democratic Party Black Caucus last week, Governor Dean said -- and I'm quoting -- "You think the Republican National Committee could get this many people of color in a single room?" He went on to say, "Only if they had the hotel staff in here."
What's your reaction to that?
CLYBURN: Well, I didn't hear that, and so I don't know the context within which he said it. And therefore, taken out of context, I would not have any reaction to it.
I do believe that the DNC made a good choice when they choose Howard Dean. I think he's going to be good for our party. I think he was -- being a governor, a very successful governor, being a candidate for president, he brings to the chairmanship of the DNC a kind of background and experience that we've never had before, and I think he's going to make a good chair.
WOODRUFF: I ask because former Republican Congressman JC Watts, and the current lieutenant governor of Maryland, Michael Steele, are both today putting out a statement calling on Howard Dean to apologize. They are saying this is a racially insensitive, intolerable remark and they want him to say -- to apologize.
CLYRBURN: Well, as I said, things like that when said within a certain context could very well be appropriate to say. And there are certain circumstances when they may not be appropriate. But having not been in the room and not known the context with in which he said it, I will not pass judgment on it.
WOODRUFF: So you're not prepared to ask him to apologize for that?
CLYBURN: Oh, absolutely not. It sounds like something Jim Clyburn would say under certain circumstances.
WOODRUFF: You're speaking of yourself of course. CLYBURN: Yes.
WOODRUFF: All right.
CLYBURN: I sometimes speak in the third person.
WOODRUFF: Congressman James Clyburn, he is the vice chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
We are going to get a Republican view of race and Social Security reform just ahead.
Republicans are firing back at their Democratic critics, meantime, in a new video spoof. It plays off a popular commercial featuring actor David Spade to portray the Democrats as saying "no" to everything.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will the Democrats help strengthen Social Security?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about pay as you -- no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about health care?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think I care? That would be an HM -- no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about working to improve the security of our borders?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: The video was played at the House GOP conference meeting today.
In the battle over Social Security, a heated ad war is under way. We'll tell you who's providing cover for the president and his opponents.
Plus, Condoleezza Rice tried to warm up U.S. relations with France, but are Americans in general feeling friendlier to our allies overseas? We have some new poll numbers to chew on.
And later, did the president overlook some well-bred contenders for cabinet posts? Our Bill Schneider will have some fun with the Westminster Dog Show.
WOODRUFF: We just heard the comments of Democratic Congressman James Clyburn, who says President Bush is using what Clyburn calls the race card to promote his Social Security reforms. Which me now is Robert Traynham. He is the communications director for the Senate Republican Conference, which, we should explain, is the main message arm, as you called it, for Senate Republicans.
Thank you very much for being with us.
ROBERT TRAYNHAM, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, SENATE REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE: Thanks for having me, Judy.
WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.
TRAYNHAM: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: What about the comment by Congressman Clyburn? I asked him about it, challenged him on it, and he said the reason he accused the president of doing -- using what he called the race card is because he said it is not true that African-Americans are subsidizing Social Security. He said and studies have proven that.
TRAYNHAM: President Bush is using the reality card here when it comes to the African-American issue and Social Security. The fact of the matter is, is that African-American males are -- die younger than their white counterparts. And so the fact of the mater is, is that when they die, you know what their spouses receive? $250. That's it.
And so what President Bush is saying is, listen, African- Americans, you all get a raw deal in this card. And so let's fix the system, let's save and strengthen the system so that future generations will be able to invest a portion of their income so they can have a nest egg to pass on to future generations.
WOODRUFF: Well, Congressman Clyburn -- and let me just cite, because he's the one who brought this study up. He said there was a study done by a group that came out in 2002, the Social Security Network, he said, which showed that Social Security is a good benefit for African-Americans because he said African-Americans in general earn less than white Americans, they pay less, therefore, for Social Security. And therefore, the payout is better for them in relation to what they've earned.
TRAYNHAM: When President Roosevelt signed Social Security into law, he said this was a three-legged stool. He said that Social Security should supplement savings, as well as other income that should be coming in when you do retire.
The fact of the matter is, is that African-Americans do, in fact, die much younger than their white counterparts. And so I'm not familiar with the study, but what I do know is that from relatives and from friends and other individuals that happen to be African-American, they get a raw deal under this system, no question about it.
WOODRUFF: Congressman Clyburn also pointed out -- he pointed to survivor benefits being a big part of what African-Americans earn. And he said, again, because of the jobs African-Americans are in, so often -- he said they're more prone to disabilities and therefore they benefit more from these survivors' benefits.
TRAYNHAM: Actually, that's not true. The studies showed that African-Americans get the raw end of the deal. Again, I'm not sure exactly what Congressman Clyburn is looking at, but the facts simply just do not add up, Judy. That's just not the facts.
WOODRUFF: All right. Separately, let me ask you very quickly, Robert Traynham, about something that I also asked Congressman Clyburn about. These are comments by Howard Dean, last Friday, talking to the Democratic Black Caucus.
In effect, saying Republicans couldn't get as many people in this room unless it were the hotel staff. Congressman Clyburn said he wouldn't call on Howard Dean to apologize because he said it sounds like something he would say.
TRAYNHAM: You know what's interesting? As we celebrate Black History Month, it's very unfortunate, and I'm very saddened that Howard Dean made those comments.
I don't work in a hotel staff. And I'm the highest-ranking African-American staffer on the Republican side of the Senate. It's a slap in the face to all African-Americans, it's a slap in the face to all the civil rights individuals out there that really have fought their heart, sweat and tears into this moment. Mr. Dean should -- should apologize for those comments.
WOODRUFF: Wasn't he talking, though, in terms of numbers, that Republicans -- I mean, I'm just -- I'm asking you. One interpretation might be Howard Dean was saying Republicans couldn't get as many African-Americans in a room unless it were.
TRAYNHAM: Let's take a look at facts. The facts are is that, if you take a look at Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania, President Bush received double-digit African-American numbers in those states. He did a -- he made a significant impact or inroads in those communities.
Howard Dean should be ashamed of himself for saying something like that. It's a slap in the face against all African-Americans. No question about it.
WOODRUFF: All right. And, by the way, we are attempting to get a reaction from Howard Dean himself.
TRAYNHAM: I should hope so.
WOODRUFF: OK. Robert Traynham is the deputy chief of staff and director of communications for the Senate Republican Conference. Thank you very much for coming in.
TRAYNHAM: Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.
Later on in the program, a CNN "Security Watch" update. The CIA director gives senators a blunt assessment of the terror threat still facing the U.S.
Plus, are the days of freedom fries officially over? A new poll on how Americans view other countries, including France.
WOODRUFF: Word of yet another political pilgrimage to New Hampshire leads off our Wednesday "Political Bytes."
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is scheduled to speak in New Hampshire next month at the state Republican Party's Lincoln Reagan Dinner. Frist has pledged not to run for a third Senate term next year, and he's often mentioned near the top of the list of 2008 presidential hopefuls.
Democrat John Edwards, among others, has already visited the Granite State this year. When Bill Frist leaves the Senate, Democratic Congressman Harold Ford is among those reportedly planning to run for the open seat. "The Hill" newspaper quotes three sources who say that Ford has already made up his mind, with plans to announce his decision as soon as next week.
In Pennsylvania, a new poll finds Republican Senator Rick Santorum could be in for a battle if his Democratic challenger is Democratic state treasurer Bob Casey Jr. A Quinnipiac survey finds that Casey leads Santorum by five points in a hypothetical match-up. Santorum enjoys comfortable leads, however, when matched up against three other prominent state Democrats.
And in California tonight, former Vice President Al Gore is to deliver a speech criticizing the Bush administration for pulling out of the Kyoto treaty designed to slow global warming. The treaty takes effect today.
In a call with news reporters yesterday, Gore accused the administration of what he called a "stunning example of moral cowardice." The Clinton administration signed on to the Kyoto accord in the late 1990s, but then never submitted it to the Senate for approval.
Has enough changed on the international stage to make Americans love the French again? It may not be time to break out the baguettes and champagne yet, but in some way, in the same way Americans feel about -- the way Americans feel about France may be changing.
Bruce Morton takes a look at American attitudes toward some friends and foes.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What foreign countries do Americans like? Well, Gallup found our favorite is Great Britain. Ninety-one percent of us have a mostly or very favorable opinion of the Brits.
No wonder, of course. Prime Minister Tony Blair has been President George Bush's most faithful ally in Iraq.
Americans like Canada and Japan and Israel. Nineteen percent have a very favorable opinion of Israel, 50 percent are mostly favorable.
Who don't we like? Well, Iraq, 66 percent mostly are very unfavorable toward it. Not surprising again when American troops are getting killed there. Still, Iraq got worse marks in earlier years. Americans may think things are improving there.
Saudi Arabia gets low marks, along with Cuba. Mr. Bush is Fidel Castro's tenth president, but he wouldn't win any elections here.
Americans don't like Syria, don't like Kim Jong-il's North Korea. Eighty percent have an unfavorable opinion of it. But Iran is in dead last place.
Most of these haven't changed much in recent years. But some, what Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called "Old Europe," have.
Almost three-quarters of Americans have a favorable opinion of Germany. That's up from a year or two ago.
And what about those pesky French? Remember freedom fries in congressional cafeterias, attacks on John Kerry because he looked French and Condoleezza Rice's phrase, "Forgive the Russians, ignore the Germans, punish the French?" And yet, there was the secretary of state in Paris last week holding out not a whip, but an olive branch.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: The history of the United States and that of France are intertwined. Our history is a history of shared values, of shared sacrifice, and of shared successes. So, too, will be our shared future.
MORTON (on camera): Fifty-one percent of the Americans polled told Gallup they have a favorable opinion of France, up from 34 percent just two years ago. That's not the 70-plus ratings of earlier years, but it is progress.
France, as Rice noted last week, was America's first ally. A Frenchman designed this city, the capital.
So relax. Take a glass of French wine if you want and try the pommes frites, the French fries. They won't make you thin, but at least they're not wicked anymore.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington. These are good.
WOODRUFF: He didn't bring any for us. And I guess that means it's time to break out the baguettes and the croissants.
It was an open bar and Michael Bloomberg was picking up the tab. Coming up, New York's mayor kicks of his re-election campaign. We'll spotlight what could be one of the most interesting races this year.
Plus, selling Social Security reform. Get ready to be inundated by ads on both sides of the debate. We'll explain when we come back.
WOODRUFF: It's just before 4:00 in the East. And as the markets get set to close on Wall Street, we're joined by Kitty Pilgrim in New York with "The Dobbs Report."
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. Thanks.
Well, Fed chief Alan Greenspan testified on Capitol Hill today. He warned that interest rates will continue to move higher, but stocks are little changed on that. And the final trade still being counted.
Let's take a look at the Dow. It's up -- down -- down about two right now, so it's really very little change. Nasdaq slightly lower.
Taking a look at crude oil, it rose nearly a $1 to $48 a barrel. That's after OPEC warned of an increased worldwide demand.
Well, as we mentioned, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan today signaled the Fed's campaign of gradual quarter point interest rate hikes will continue. He said the economy continues to grow at a health pace. And that's despite slow job growth and our nation's low savings rate. He also said consumer spending is strong and that business is improving.
Let's take a look at some other things in the economy. More signs of strength. Another boom in construction. Housing starts jumped to 21-year high last month. And that's due to record construction in single family homes.
Let's take a look at what's happening in Washington. President Bush, losing one of his top economic advisers, Gregory Mankiw, after two years as head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. He came under heavy criticism last year for saying the U.S. economy might benefit from outsourcing jobs. We have absolutely no replacement announced on that. Federal Reserve governor Ben Bernanke is thought to be the leading candidate.
Coming up on CNN, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," believe it or not, outsourcing has spread to our nation's schools. Increasingly, our school systems are looking to the Internet to help raise scores. Often online instructors are not in this country. One California school is using an online program from Inida.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAROLE COWNAN, FRANKLIN SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: After receiving some dismal test results, we knew that we needed to emphasize science instruction more here at Franklin School.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Also tonight, "Culture in Decline," teens and sex. President Bush is pushing abstinence-only sex education programs, but critics say these programs are not effective. We have a special report on that. And then we debate the issue further on tonight's face off with guests, Congressman Henry Waxman and Dave Weldon.
Also, Chinese spies in the United States. Now, the FBI has seen a significant increase in economic espionage with China using spies to steal sensitive military technology in the United States. We will have that story and more tonight, 6:00 p.m. Eastern. But for now, back to Judy Woodruff.
WOODRUFF: Thanks, Kitty. And we'll be watching at 6:00. INSIDE POLITICS continues right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can the man who renounced his country's symbols now be trusted?
ANNOUNCER: They made a huge impact on last year's race for the White House. But will 527's have the same influence on this year's battle over Social Security reform, as well?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks to George Bush's plan to Social Security benefit cuts, up to 46 percent to pay for private accounts, it won't be long before America introduces the world to the working retirement.
ANNOUNCER: He sound likes a Democrat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody should be allowed to marry anybody. I don't happen to think that we should put restrictions on who you can marry.
ANNOUNCER: But Gotham's mayor is a Republican. Can Michael Bloomberg win reelection in the bluest of city?
Best in show. Do any of the dogs from the Westminster Dog Show have political potential? Our Bill Schneider is going to the dogs.
Now live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back. As Democrats try to pin down the president on what sort of Social Security reform he wants, Mr. Bush seems intent on keeping his options open. He took his campaign for personal retirement accounts to New Hampshire today after refusing to rule out raising the limit on Social Security taxes, now capped at the first $90,000 a year in wages. While staying vague about the details of his plan, the president appears to be of the mind that he can't say enough about the need for reform or saying it too often.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Every week I'm out of Washington, D.C. in forums like this. And I'll continue to do it. I'm going to talk to the American people over and over and over again until the members of Congress recognize we have a problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: It turns out the president's getting a lot of help in his effort to sell Social Security reform. So are opponents of his plan. It is all playing out in a costly new television ad war. Here now our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Castellani, president of the Business Roundtable, has formed a new coalition spending at least $20 million to promote the president's Social Security plan, the latest salvo in an ad war expected to dwarf the epic health care battle of a decade ago.
JOHN CASTELLANI, PRES., BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE: We'll spend what it takes. It's going to be a long campaign.
HENRY: Democrats believe these Fortune 200 corporations have been sent on a rescue mission.
SEN. HARRY REID (D), MINORITY LEADER: The way the Bush Social Security plan is going, they'll need to spend tens of millions of dollars. It's not doing well at all.
HENRY: But Democrats are playing the same game. CNN has learned a powerful labor union, the 1.4 million member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, is leading a new coalition to defeat the Bush plan. The former campaign manager for ex-senator Tom Daschle, Steve Hildebrand, will be running the coalition, which faces an uphill fight.
In addition to the Business Roundtable, conservative groups like Club for Growth and Progress for America are providing cover for the president with millions of dollars in TV ads.
REP. EARL POMEROY (D), NORTH DAKOTA: They want to privatize Social Security and they've gotten into pony up vast sums of money. Now they are about to roll a big lie out across the country in paid media advertising.
HENRY: But both sides have gotten caught bending the truth. The liberal group moveon.org has been running TV ads, charging the president's plan will lead to, quote, "the working retirement." The highly respected independent group factcheck.org points out the MoveOn ad falsely accuses the Bush plan of cutting benefits by 46 percent. In his State of the Union, meanwhile, the president said Social Security is headed for bankruptcy. But even when the system faces trouble decades down the road, it would still pay out a large share of benefits now promised.
The TV ads intensify next week when members of Congress head home for the President's Day recess. At their Town Hall meetings, Democrats will be armed with talking points claiming the president wants to create a crisis where none exists. Republicans will show off a new DVD.
HENRY: And that DVD will take a look at talk -- in that DVD, talk about the president's plan. And congressional Republicans are privately still privately very nervous about Social Security blowing up in their faces, but they believe the president is their best weapon. As Republican senator Rick Santorum said, the president is like a pitbull and he's got a pair of trousers in his mouth and he's not going to let go. So there you have it, a little dog analogy.
WOODRUFF: Yes, OK. We're going to hear about the dog show later. You know, let's step back here, though, Ed. Neither side has come forward with a specific plan, so what are they arguing over?
HENRY: That's right. They're all trading charges and one of the ironic parts is the president has actually not put forward a plan with specifics yet. The Democrats -- you saw Harry Reid there. Yesterday I asked him about his own plan because he mentioned that Democrats have a plan, he was talking about plan to deal with all of these ads. I said, well, what is your plan? He stopped, looked at me, and sort of chuckled and said nice try.
Democrats don't want to go on record, either, because they know as soon as they come up with a plan that maybe raises taxes, Republicans are coming after them. I asked the Business Roundtable that's coming out with new ads, what's your plan? They said we don't want to raise taxes, we don't want to cut benefits.
All the independent experts say if you don't want to raise taxes, you don't want to cut benefits, you really can't reform the system. So the bottom line is nobody wants to put their plan on the table. They just want to accuse each other of everything.
WOODRUFF: Because they know the other side will chew it up once they get specific.
WOODRUFF: OK. But's that not stopping them.
HENRY: That's right. They'll still lob those charges.
WOODRUFF: Ed Henry, thank you very much.
Now to today's "Security Watch," CIA director Porter Goss told Congress today that the threat of a terrorist attack by groups such as al Qaeda still is imminent. It was Goss' first public testimony since taking the helm of the agency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PORTER GOSS, CIA DIRECTOR: Al Qaeda is intent on finding ways to circumvent U.S. security enhancements to strike Americans in the homeland. One. Number two, it may be only a matter of time before al Qaeda or other group attempts to use chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons. We must focus on that. Three, al Qaeda is only one facet of the threat from a broader Sunni jihadist movement. And four, the Iraq conflict, while not a cause of extremism, has become a cause for extremists.
WOODRUFF: Porter Goss, the new head of the CIA. And you can stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.
In New York City, security is a top concern for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but how is his security, as in job security? We'll catch up with his reelection campaign.
Also ahead, we'll continue our special segment this week, "Inside the Blogs." Our blog reporter will tell us what people are buzzing about today.
And later, a story for those of you who believe Washington is a dog-eat-dog kind of place.
WOODRUFF: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he is ready to run for a second term. And just in time, his poll numbers seem to be improving. In a New York Times survey, 43 percent of city residents say they approve of Bloomberg's job performance, 45 percent say they disapprove. That is actually an improvement. Two summers ago his approval rating had dipped into the 20s. Last night Mayor Bloomberg kicked off his reelection campaign with a party for his campaign volunteers.
WOODRUFF (voice-over): In the cost-conscious world of politics you don't often find "campaign event" and "open bar" in the same sentence, unless, of course, you're talking about New York's billionaire mayor. Michael Bloomberg launched his reelection campaign last night with free drinks for more than a thousand volunteers. As usual, he picked up the tab.
But victory will prove more expensive, perhaps, even topping the $75 million Bloomberg spent on his first campaign. The mayor is, after all, a Republican in a city where Democrats hold a five to one registration advantage. The city where many find voting GOP tougher than nailing a cab in rush hour.
Still, Bloomberg is hardly your average Republican. For one thing, he joined the party only four years ago. And in the past two weeks he has managed to disparage the president's Social Security plan and voice support for same-sex marriage.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: Anybody should be allowed to marry anybody. I don't happen to think that we should put restrictions on who you can marry.
WOODRUFF: That says a lot to Tom Ognibene, the former city councilman who is challenging Bloomberg in the Republican primary. TOM OGNIBENE (R), NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: A leopard doesn't change his spots. And deep down inside he was always a Manhattan liberal Democrat. And I think he will remain that way.
WOODRUFF: But ask Fernando Ferrer, three-time mayoral candidate and one of four Democrats running this year, and he'll tell you Bloomberg is too Republican for New York.
FERNANDO FERRER (D), NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Bloomberg has sided, in my view, a little too much with a president and a governor, both of the Republican Party, his party, that have promulgated policies that hurt this city.
WOODRUFF: A subliminal Democrat message, Bloomberg is just too rich to identify with his constituents. So who is Michael Bloomberg? The dean of the ferocious city hall press corps will tell you Mayor Mike is "Mayor Mild."
DAVID SEIFMAN, NEW YORK POST: His style is to create no controversy in public. His style is to get along. It's essentially the exact opposite style of his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani.
WOODRUFF: And that could be a problem in this town where people tend to elect love 'em or hate 'em types, as outsized as the city itself. One of them says, don't worry.
ED KOCH, FMR. NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: I'm sure there are people who love him. But I don't know anybody who hates him. And I know that most people like him. That's terrific.
WOODRUFF: Thank you, Ed Koch. Well, Mayor Bloomberg last night told the crowd that he's not worried about fund raising. Once again, he says he plans to pay for his campaign with his own money.
Straight ahead, we go inside the blogs. We check the latest buzz online when INSIDE POLITICS returns.
WOODRUFF: As we have been doing all this week, it's time now to check in on what has people talking and blogging online. With me here again in Washington are Jacki Schechner, she's our blog reporter, and joining her today, CNN political prouder Abbi Tatton.
Jacki, we start with you, what are you seeing?
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Judy. We start today with The Hotline. And one of the headlines there reads "Blogsport." Underneath it: "Are reporters personal lives fair game?" Now what we have been doing -- Abbi and I have been doing all day is watching Technorati, which is basically the ratings vehicle for blog discussion.
And The New York Observer article that came out last night has been really, really hot, talking about CBS, two CBS executives asked to resign over the Rathergate incident. They are not. Instead they are going to hire lawyers and they are going after top management.
The first site that we went to was ratherbiased.com. Let me pull that up here. And again, a lot of these are opinions on the issue. And the question here is: "Is executive producer Josh Howard just upping the settlement ante by doing this?"
ABBI TATTON, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: So this story appeared last night, The New York Observer story, and then people started linking to it, then they started blogging on it, started commenting on it. And one of the common themes here on the Web today is that bloggers want accountability. They want to take this all the way to the top of the CBS. They are not happy where it is right now.
CaptainsQuarters is interesting on this one. Captain Ed at CaptainsQuarters, let me pull that up right there. He's a conservative blogger but he finds in this case to be siding what he deems a liberal producer, because he feels it hasn't gone far enough up the food chain. And that's what he says. "I think that people higher up the food chain at CBS participated in this decision." And he wants these documents released. I think the story may be sticking around for a little while.
SCHECHNER: It will be around for a long time. We also took a look at TalkingPointsMemo. And the quote here from this one is: "When you are hung out to dry, why go easily if the people hanging you out have dirty hands too?" So there seems to be a lot of support for executive producer Josh Howard.
TATTON: Now we can't bring you every single story that's being linked to, we can't bring you everything that is being blogged about, there are 8 million blogs out there after all. But what we can look at is some of the top stories that are in the top three. And one of those right now is about Jimmy Carter.
Jimmy Carter, he has a new attack submarine that is going to be commissioned on Saturday named after him, a nuclear power sub. And this has been causing a great deal of amusement on the Web today. Right now it's so popular you can't even pull up the site.
SCHECHNER: It's a nuclear attack submarine. And even though it is appropriate because Jimmy Carter was commander in chief...
TATTON: He was also in the U.S. Navy.
SCHECHNER: Graduated from the Naval Academy. So it's not inappropriate, but it is actually kind of funny. What we did is found some of the smaller blog sites. We found transterrestrial.com under the title "My Oxymoron Meter." It says: "It will have enough firepower to take at least out killer rabbits." Another one that we found, another of the smaller blogs, scrappleface.com, the quote says: "It will have many new features including multiple warhead Nerf missiles."
TATTON: Now one of the main themes on the blogosphere this week has been, what is the role of bloggers? Suddenly they have shot to the fore, people are talking about them. They seem to be bringing people down left and right. And one of the questions we were looking at yesterday was posed by Jay Rosen. He's an NYU professor, and his blog is PressThink. The question that he asks: "Is the point to have a dialogue with the mainstream media or cause its destruction?" And that's something that we have been talking about all this week.
SCHECHNER: He did specifically ask this question of Will Collier, who does one of the blogs that we talk about, VodkaPundit. And will took a couple of days to respond. He has a day job, he's very busy. But when he did get around to responding to it, it's actually a very interesting write-up. And if you get to it, you should read it. Concisely what he says back is, quote: "What I'm interested in is not destruction, but rather disclosure, transparency and reform."
Also on Technorati today as we were as we were watching. I want to bring it up because it's a cartoon, and you can see it. There we go. It's "Pajamas at the Gate." It's a castle. It has got the mainstream media up top, saying: "Bloggers again? What do they want this time? The usual." the bloggers in their pajamas swarming at the base of the castle with placards that say "facts," "objectivity" and "truth." What we've been talking about all week.
Then again, BatesLine.com. A story we brought to you yesterday. A local Tulsa, Oklahoma, blogger, it was Tulsa World, a local newspaper had sent them a letter, basically a cease and desist letter that said, stop printing portions of our newspaper on your Web site. And he had a call to arms for the blogosphere. They rallied around him. There was the blogswarm that we anticipated. And we will explain terms like blogswarm and other things like that as we go along.
Judy, we'll go back to you right now.
WOODRUFF: And we look forward to that. Jacki, one point I would quickly make. Jimmy Carter was an officer on a nuclear submarine when he was in the Navy. So there is some justice there. But just to sort of step back and look at this, the blogs for just a second, so much of what they write about does seem focused on the mainstream media. Is that an accurate perception or not?
SCHECHNER: That what they are writing about is on the mainstream media?
WOODRUFF: They are writing about the media.
SCHECHNER: Well, they are writing about the media. They are writing about what the media is saying. It's the interest to them. They consider themselves the watchdogs. They consider themselves the fact-checkers. They are looking for the truth. The question then becomes who is fact-checking these fact-checkers? And that's what we're going to delve into I think a little bit later on in the week.
WOODRUFF: OK. Jacki Schechner, our blog reporter, today joined by CNN political reporter Abbi Tatton. Thank you both.
SCHECHNER: You're welcome.
WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.
The House of Representatives today overwhelmingly approved a dramatic increase in fines for indecent broadcast programming. Supporters say more drastic penalties are needed to encourage broadcasters to clean up their programs. This bill stemmed from lawmakers being upset over incidents such as last year's Super Bowl quote "wardrobe malfunction."
And a story just coming into CNN from the Associated Press. And that is that Howard Dean, just a few days into his job as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is today calling for the Republican state party chair -- Republican state party chair in New York to apologize or to resign over remarks that Stephen Minarik, that's his name, made yesterday linking Democrats to a civil rights lawyer convicted of aiding terrorists. Dean is calling Minarik's comments offensive. He said the American people deserve better than this.
In effect Minarik touched all of this off earlier this week when he said in electing Dean as national party chairman over the weekend that, quote: "The Democrats simply have refused to learn lessons of the last two election cycles. Now they can be called the party of Barbara Boxer, Lynn Stewart," who is a controversial civil rights attorney, "and Howard Dean." So there you have it. Already some controversy with Howard Dean.
Up next, they are well groomed and ready for the spotlight. Are there some good contenders for high office among these canine candidates?
WOODRUFF: The Westminster Kennel Club awarded its Best in Show prize last night to a German shorthaired pointer. Seeing all those well-trained, well-prepared canines got our Bill Schneider to wondering if some of those dogs might have a future here in Washington.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): A few months ago Republicans met in Madison Square Garden to pick a winner. And this week...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another sell-out crowd here at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
SCHNEIDER: The president could find some good cabinet picks among these contenders. How about this guy for secretary of defense?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not sure I want to cross him.
SCHNEIDER: Who needs wiretaps when you have got an attorney general with ears like these. For Treasury you want someone that looks like money. Look at that fur coat. Here's a good pick for agriculture.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will herd anything that moves.
SCHNEIDER: The commerce secretary is supposed to promote American products.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This American dog, the Chesapeake Bay retriever...
SCHNEIDER: For secretary of state, you want someone classy and worldly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In its native land of Afghanistan he was the hunting dog of the royal family.
SCHNEIDER: Whoops, isn't Afghanistan now a democracy? What says transportation better than a greyhound? And for deputy secretary, this walking car wash might come in handy. Energy Department, how's this for energy? You need someone really smart for education, like this border collie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Might be the smartest dog.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was built for heavy sledding.
SCHNEIDER: Put this guy at homeland security and he'll sniff out the terrorists. An interior dog has to be pretty quiet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Known as the barkless dog.
SCHNEIDER: And for Veterans Affairs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The briard was the official dog of the French army.
SCHNEIDER: Oh, no, won't do at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a wide range of roles in search and rescue and law enforcement. This is German shepherd dog.
SCHNEIDER: Much better. You need street smarts to deal with Urban Affairs and HUD, someone with attitude. You talking to me? And to keep the cabinet on message, who better than the new deputy chief of staff, "Karl Ruff"?
Bill "Schnauzer" -- make that Schneider, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: See, the dogs fit right in. That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff. Tomorrow join us. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay will be our guest. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.
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