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A European Thaw?; Secret Bush Tapes; Off the Record?

Aired February 21, 2005 - 15:29   ET


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No temporary debate, no passing disagreement of governments. No power on earth will ever divide us.

ANNOUNCER: The Bush appeal in Europe. Are allies seeing a kinder, gentler version of the president?

Caught on tape.

BUSH: I wouldn't answer the marijuana question. You know why? Because I don't want some little kid doing what I tried.

ANNOUNCER: Newly revealed recordings offer insight into the president's past and political feature. Will there be fallout?

What happens in Vegas is not staying in Vegas. We'll look at population growth and the spread of red.



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

President Bush began his European visit, joking that he hoped he would get the kind of adulation Benjamin Franklin got there centuries ago. But he deadpanned he is a realist. Kidding aside, Mr. Bush may have been hoping his meetings in Belgium today would at least put him on less chilly terms with the Europeans at the start of his second term.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is with the president in Brussels.

Hello, Suzanne.


Well, President Bush today called on the U.S., as well as European allies, to put aside their differences when it comes to the Iraq war, to move forward in a new-era transatlantic unity, but not all here are buying it. Thousands of protesters gathered outside the U.S. embassy in Brussels. Their message, urging President Bush to take his message back home. The setting, of course, the president would like to set a more civil tone with Europe. And also, of course, a priority to rebuild Iraq. That is at the top of his agenda. President Bush wants help in training Iraqi soldiers and is expected to get it when NATO and European union leaders official sit down with President Bush tomorrow.

Now, in return, President Bush addressed what many Europeans were hoping to hear. That was an unequivocal commitment from the United States on Middle East peace.


BUSH: When Europe and America stand together, no problem can stand against us. As past debates fade, as great duties become clearer, let us begin a new era of transatlantic unity. Our greatest opportunity and immediate goal is peace in the Middle East.


MALVEAUX: Now, late in the day, President Bush met with one of his harshest critics when it came to the Iraq war, French President Jacques Chirac. The two of them sitting down for a dinner meeting.

They also issued, of course, a joint statement calling for Syria to end its occupation of Lebanon. And both of them going out of their way this afternoon to convey that the rift is over.


BUSH: This is my first dinner since I've been re-elected on European soil, and it's with Jacques Chirac. And that ought to say something. It ought to say how important this relationship is for me personally and how important this relationship is for my country.


MALVEAUX: And Judy, the French reporter joked and asked, well, this new alliance here, this newfound friendship between Jacques Chirac and President Bush, does it mean that Chirac is going to get an invitation, that exclusive invitation to President Bush's beloved Crawford ranch, to which the president joked and laughed and then simply said, "Well, I'm looking for another cowboy" -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: It's quite a change from what we were hearing about the French two years ago.

Suzanne, the president is going to be meeting with almost every major European leader over the next five days. He's going to be going next to Mainz, Germany, then he's going to Bratislava, Slovakia, where he's going to meet with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. What are we expecting to come out of that meeting?

MALVEAUX: Well, we really got kind of a preview of what we expect from that meeting. A very important meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Bush. Here is what President Bush said today. He said that he supports the membership of Russia to be a part of the World Trade Organization, putting that forward. But at the same time, also criticizing Putin in public, saying he believes he should not back away from some of those democratic reforms.

And, of course, some other things that are going to be talking about that -- of some concern is Russia's support for Iran's nuclear program. The U.S. says it's a weapons program, Russia says it's an energy program. And also, of course, Russia's sales of missiles to Syria.

All of these things expected to be on the table. And you can also probably expect some public statements about it as well.

WOODRUFF: Some dicey -- dicey trip -- or dicey meetings coming up during the rest of this trip. All right. Suzanne, thank you very much.

Back here in Washington, the Bush trip is being overshadowed to some degree by the Bush audiotapes. Author and family friend Doug Wead secretly recorded his conversations with Mr. Bush in the late 1990s. Now those tapes have been made public, and they are providing a new window into the president's political views and what he has called his irresponsible past.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): The tale of the tapes new and yet in many ways familiar. The secretly recorded conversations between the president and his friend show the George W. Bush we've all come to know, a family man, a man of faith and ambition, a man who made mistakes in his youth. Mistakes he doesn't want to run away from, but doesn't really want to talk about either, like whether or not he used drugs and why he wouldn't address that question.

BUSH: I wouldn't answer the marijuana question. You know why? Because I don't want some little kid doing what I tried.

DOUG WEAD, AUTHOR: Yes, and it never stops the question.

BUSH: But you've got to understand, I want to be president. I want to lead, I want to set -- do you want your little kid to say, "Hey, Daddy, President Bush tried marijuana. I think I will"?

WOODRUFF: More interesting in the current political climate, perhaps, the then Texas governor's comments about his devotion to Christianity. Bush told Doug Wead the bible was his guide. But the man now pushing a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage saying a more tolerant tune back then on gay rights.

WEAD: He's saying that you promised you would not appoint gays to office.

BUSH: No. What I said was I wouldn't fire gays. But I'm not going to discriminate against people. WOODRUFF: In the tapes, Bush also took stock of his potential political rivals, praising future Attorney General John Ashcroft as a man of integrity and potential vice presidential material, belittling Steve Forbes as to preppy and mean-spirited. And Bush waved off challenger John McCain. "He's going to wear very thin," predicted the future president, "when all is said and done."

Doug Wead, who's coming out with a book, says releasing the tapes doesn't constitute a betrayal. Insisting they offer key insights into a historical figure.

WEAD: My feeling was that because of his indiscretions as a young person it took the pressure off him, the expectations that he would have to achieve and live up to the -- this Bush image.


WOODRUFF: Well, the White House has not disputed whose voice is on those tapes, calling them casual conversations with someone Mr. Bush thought was a friend.

Just to be sure, CNN contacted the investigator who confirmed the authenticity of the tapes for "The New York times." Tom Owen is the man's name. He used high-tech equipment to analyze 12 audiotapes lasting several hours, and he says he came to this conclusion...


TOM OWEN, OWL INVESTIGATIONS: These tapes are for real, and the mission or the quest was, is this really George Bush? That's basically the question that I was asked to answer. And I conducted an evaluation using a methodology which I ascribe to and have written about, and I've determined that it is absolutely George Bush on the tapes that I examined.


WOODRUFF: Owen also told CNN that as far as he can tell, the tape that he listened to had not been edited or surprised, changed, in other words, in any way, as far as he could tell. We'll talk much more ahead about the Bush audiotapes with political veterans and with an historian. And we'll find out if the bloggers are buzzing about this subject in our "Inside the Blogs" segment.

While the United States observes President's Day, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton wrapped up their tour of tsunami-stricken southeast Asia. At a children's trauma counseling center in Sri Lanka, the former presidents highlighted the emotional damage to the region and how the youngest tsunami victims are trying to move on.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So this was a special day for us because we got to see these children beginning again. You know, they're so resilient and yet they're so sensitive. You can still tell (UNINTELLIGIBLE). GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For me, more than the fallen bricks and mortar, is the effects on the children. We saw it in Aceh, we've seen it again here, and you just can't help but feel in your heart something about these children.


WOODRUFF: As leading figures in the tsunami relief effort, former presidents Bush and Clinton once again tried to assure private donors that their money will be spent where it's really needed.

Turning back to those secret Bush tapes, will there be any political fallout for the president? Up next, we'll ask two veteran White House insiders for their takes on the tapes and the possible consequences.

Also ahead, more early positioning for the 2008 presidential race. Why are some possible contenders being so nice to one another?

Plus, he broke new ground in campaign reporting by making himself a part of the story. We'll remember Hunter Thompson and check out what's being said about him in the blogosphere.


WOODRUFF: Just about an hour and a half ago I discussed the president's trip to Europe and those secretly recorded conversations with then Governor Bush with two of our regular guest. Jack Valenti was an adviser to President Lyndon Johnson, and Ed Rollins is a longtime Republican strategist. I started by asking Valenti if we learned anything new from the taped conversations that were made public over the weekend.


JACK VALENTI, FMR. ADVISER TO PRESIDENT JOHNSON: Well, I think first you learn that to be betrayed by a friend is, in Shakespearean pros, the unkindest cut of them all. I think it was an act of betrayal.

But the marvelous thing about this is, it's all of a piece with President Bush. There's nothing in these recordings that show him verging. I think it shows that his convictions and resolves and his beliefs were then just as they are now.

There is no change. I think that's part of the -- of the -- I guess the persona of President Bush is that he stays the course and he doesn't waiver or wobble.

WOODRUFF: Ed Rollins, it was 1998 when these recordings were made. You don't see any change?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, obviously if this was -- if this was when he was first running, it may have some impact on a re-election or on an election. But obviously today it doesn't. And I think the president has never -- has never denied that he had an irresponsible youth, as did many of us.

At the end of the day, I think Doug Wead is a very nice guy who served his father well. I think as Jack said, did betray a friendship.

I think the fact that the president was seeking him out because he had sort of served as the liaison for the evangelicals in President -- his father's White House, and he saw him as someone who wanted to ask some serious questions to. And I think to a certain extent by taping and certainly by putting them out today was a violation of that confidence.


VALENTI: I think President...

WOODRUFF: Go ahead.

VALENTI: I think President Bush comes off looking quite good. I think people like to know that -- what a man felt when he was a governor of a state and what he felt when he was president means that he's on a straight line.

ROLLINS: I think that's true. I think that's very true.

WOODRUFF: Ed, what do you -- and both of you -- what do you make of the president's or what's described as then-Governor Bush worrying about the reaction of Christian conservatives to his unwillingness to criticize gays?

ROLLINS: Well, I think that's a real positive thing, being perfectly honest. I mean, I think, to a certain extent, tolerance of any group is important in this country. And certainly that's what you want in a leader.

And you may disagree with lifestyle, and you may disagree with political philosophy. But at the end of the day, what you want most and foremost among any leader is a tolerance for all different viewpoints, lifestyles.

VALENTI: I certainly second that. I think Ed is absolutely right.

I think that President Bush showed a great compassion and a belief that all people have a right to their life. Gays are no different than anybody else. They have a different lifestyle, as Ed said, but they're human beings just like you and me, and I think this was a remarkable admission on President Bush's part that I think serves him well in the next four years.

WOODRUFF: Ed, do you think he still feels that tension?

ROLLINS: Well, I think there is a tension only in the sense that the Christian right has made this one of their planks in their ongoing battle. And I think to a certain extent a lot of Americans disagree with them. They may -- they may agree on the sense of the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman, but they certainly disagree with any kind of intolerance towards alternative lifestyles. WOODRUFF: Jack, let's talk for a minute about the president's trip to Europe this week. There clearly have been some rough times, rough -- certainly tough moments between the Bush administration and what they call old Europe, France and Germany. He's meeting with the leaders of those countries this week.

How important is it that relationship gets on a -- on a more even footing, if you will?

VALENTI: I think it's indispensable. I think it's very important.

I think, though, that President Bush is now heading towards the sunny uplands. I think that it's important for Europe and the United States to draw back together again, and it's in the long-term interest of all European countries for a stabilized Iraq, governed by Iraqis for Iraqis.

That, I think, in a large measure will diminish the kind of terrorism that's being experienced all over Europe now. So this visit has far reaching objectives, and it's in the long-term interest, I think, of Europeans to welcome him.

By the way, he's going to be there for four more years, and every politician in Europe knows that. So it's in their interest to make sure that when Bush reaches out to them, they reach back.

WOODRUFF: Ed, what about the president's efforts to patch this up? Is this something that can be fixed with just a few nice exchanges over dinner and some meetings this week?

ROLLINS: Well, it's a long-term -- it's a long-term process. It began with the new secretary of state's visit last week, and it will take -- it will take a long period of time. But I think he is -- he certainly is making the gesture. And certainly as a leader of the free world, the most significant leader, taking the first step is very, very important.

He began with his domestic agenda here, laying out before the Congress what he wanted. And now I think he's beginning his international agenda, which is to bring all sides back together to fight terrorism and basically stand up to the threats in Iran and the threats in North Korea.

VALENTI: I think, also, it's important he's not only visiting with President Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder. He's also going to Brussels to visit with the European Union, the European Commission.

I don't know that any other president has done that. I think he's -- that is very visible evidence that he's trying to reach out and tried to exile all these past antagonisms, and that there be a new kind of relationship, which I think is very much forthcoming and very much needed.


WOODRUFF: Jack Valenti, Ed Rollins, we thank them both. A look at how shifting population trends affect presidential politics. When we return, predicting future votes is a real roll of the dice. But new census projections cause some to wonder if the red states will remain red for a long time to come.


WOODRUFF: Last November, a big percentage of President Bush's support came from states in the South and the West. Now the Census Bureau reports that people are moving to these so-called red states in big numbers. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider considers how the nation's shifting population could affect future elections.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): What's the fastest-growing state in the country? Ladies and Gentlemen, place your bets. That was a clue, because the answer is Nevada.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a great feeling about Nevada.

SCHNEIDER: Nevada did end up going for Bush and Cheney. Nevada's typical of population trends around the country. Domestic migrants, mostly white, are leaving crowded and expensive coastal cities like Los Angeles and moving to the interior, places like Las Vegas. They tend to vote Republican.

Those states are also attracting a lot of immigrants, especially Hispanics. They tend to vote Democratic, eventually.

The same thing is happening in the nation's second fastest- growing state, Arizona, right next door to Nevada. Also for Bush.

Number three in population growth since 2000? A double Bush state, governor and president.

BUSH: On Tuesday, Florida will vote for strong leadership and send me and Dick Cheney back to Washington.

SCHNEIDER: Other states among the 10 fastest growing since 2000? Texas, Georgia, Idaho, Utah, John Kerry's Colorado. Wait a minute. John Kerry's Colorado? Actually, yes.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC) FMR. VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're so proud to be here with all of you today. You know, to be in Colorado, the birthplace of the cheeseburger, the birthplace of the rodeo, and the birthplace of the next president of the United States, John Kerry.


SCHNEIDER: Not quite. Colorado voted for Bush.

John Edwards' home state of North Carolina was the ninth fastest- growing state, but Edwards on the ticket didn't seem to have much impact. North Carolina voted for Bush.

Can Democrats claim any of the 10 fastest-growing states? Yes, number 10.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, California was founded by prospectors who came out here looking for silver and gold. And I'm following in that tradition tonight.

SCHNEIDER: California is now solidly Democratic. Well, almost.

Overall, the red states, the ones that voted for Bush, gained 7.5 million people since 2000. The blue states gained two, but at a slower rate, 4.6 million.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Los Angeles.


WOODRUFF: Thank you, Bill. We love reading those census numbers.

He was one of the first reporters who not only covered the news, but became a part of the story. Next up, we'll look back at the life of Hunter S. Thompson. And we'll hear what the blogs are saying about the legendary journalist.

Plus, President Bush travels to Europe with an olive branch in hand, but do such trips make a difference? I'll speak with presidential historian Robert Dallek.



ANNOUNCER: He was the counterculture writer who helped pioneer Gonzo journalism. But Hunter S. Thompson also covered presidents from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton. Our Bruce Morton shared the campaign trail with Thompson and looks back at one amazing story.

They're sharing the stage as they visit Iraq. But will senators Clinton and McCain share an even larger stage in 2008? We've got our eyes on the next race for the White House.



WOODRUFF: Welcome back.

A book about "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail" might sound pretty up to date after the election year we just went through. But it was more than 30 years ago that Hunter S. Thompson invented a new sort of political coverage. In fact, a whole new sort of journalism.

The 67-year-old Thompson was found dead in his Colorado home yesterday. Apparently he had committed suicide. Our national correspondent Bruce Morton knew Thompson back in the day.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a different time. 100 or more Americans dying each week in Vietnam. At atmosphere that still remembered Woodstock, sex, drugs and rock and roll, they said. Passionate politics. And as Hunter Thompson reported the 1972 campaign, the day of Gonzo journalism. Personal, facts-be-damned, sometimes.

Was Democratic candidate Ed Muskie on some drug called ibocane (ph) nobody's ever heard of? Did Thompson get an interview with President Nixon by promising only to talk football? No wonder he called his book "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail." It was funny, irreverent. He was funny, irreverent, talking about the booze he'd drunk, the drugs he'd scored.

But you were always glad to see him on the campaign bus or plane because things would liven up. The rest of us were trying to make sure we had the quote right, he was rocking and rolling. He got one vote for vice president at the 1976 Democratic convention.

And he never mellowed with age. In a 1994 Nixon obit, he wrote, "Henry Kissinger made the gang of four complete. Spiro Agnew, J. Edgar Hoover, Kissinger and Nixon. A group photo of these perverts could say all we need to know about the age of Nixon."

He went from politics back to Aspen, Colorado. But it's the campaign Hunter I remember. The last time I heard from him was a probably a year or so after Nixon's re-election. I got a call, something about I'm being held by the CIA, can you lend me 20 bucks? The 20, I think I answered, is no problem. Getting you away from the agency is something else.


WOODRUFF: Bruce Morton joins us now. Bruce, Hunter Thompson really reached his zenith in the 1970s. Did people copy him? Did journalists come along thinking that was a style they wanted to emulate?

MORTON: I think some young people tried to write that way. He was, among other things, a very good writer, full of outrageous phrases and exaggerations. But when he wanted to be bang-on, he could be. He wrote a terrific book, the first book he ever wrote, about the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang. Quite straight and you learned a lot about them. But he didn't influence mainstream journalism. I mean, you couldn't work for The New York Times. You couldn't work for CNN and write that kind of copy. They just wouldn't let you.

WOODRUFF: What would you say his legacy is? Or is there a legacy? Is this just a one-off thing here?

MORTON: I don't know that there's a legacy. I think it encouraged a lot of young writers to experiment in different ways of doing it. Jackson Bond (ph), who was on the bus along with me, along with Hunter -- I told a CNN colleague today, he would have been a good blogger. And I guess he would. It doesn't really matter what you say, you know. And if it's entertaining, people will click on and read it.

WOODRUFF: Did everybody know, Bruce, when they were around him, that he was somebody that was doing alcohol and drugs and so forth?

MORTON: Oh, sure. He told you non-stop. Hey, today, we got some great, we had some of this and some of that. I don't mean -- it's a political press corps is puritanical or anything. Scotch, whiskey, we certainly all understood. But Hunter was exotic, by our standards.

WOODRUFF: Did people stay in touch with him? You said back then that you hadn't heard from him in a while.

MORTON: I didn't. People went out there occasionally, doing the retrospective interview and things like that. He wrote some other things. But I think his moment in the mainstream spotlight was really the 1972 campaign.

WOODRUFF: Why do you think that was it? Why do you think he didn't endure in the '80s and '90s? Was that by choice?

MORTON: It was kind of a feverish period in our history. Exaggeration seemed at home. You know, the world was full of strange, enormous things happening. As I said in the package there, rock and roll, the Vietnam War and all that. And he was a good outlet for that kind of intense emotion. I don't think the country is as wrought-up today. The war on terror is real, but it's much quieter. And you don't have the fevered public discourse that you had back then.

WOODRUFF: Bruce Morton, looking back. Hunter S. Thompson. Never been anybody like him. There may never be anybody like him again.

MORTON: Quite right.

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Bruce.

We look ahead to the 2008 election in our President's Day version of political bytes. Senators John McCain and Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared on a Sunday talk show. And Senator McCain had a ready answer when asked if he thought Senator Clinton would make a good president.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I am sure that Senator Clinton would make a good president. I happen to be a Republican and I would support, obviously, a Republican nominee. But I have no doubt that Senator Clinton would make a good president.


WOODRUFF: It was meet the press, and when Senator Clinton was asked the same question about McCain, she replied, quote, "Absolutely." McCain and Clinton are now in Iraq as part of the Senate delegation.

Former senator John Edwards also praised Hillary Clinton during a weekend talk show appearance. When asked about his own prospects in 2008, he said his decision won't depend on whether John Kerry runs again, but instead will be based on, quote, "what's going on with my own family." End quote.

Massachusetts Republican governor Mitt Romney is in South Carolina today for a speech to the Spartanburg County Republican party. South Carolina holds the first major presidential primary in the south. This gives Romney a chance to test his more moderate Bay state credentials on a more conservative Red State audience.

Activists attending the annual Conservation Political Action Conference over the weekend took part in an unscientific but always interesting straw poll. According to ABC News, conference-goers predicted Rudy Giuliani would be the GOP nominee in 2008, but just barely followed by Condoleezza Rice. Senators George Allen, Bill Frist and John McCain tied with 11 percent. When asked to predict the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton was the runaway winner. All others were in single digits, including John Edwards, governors Bill Richardson and mark warner and Senator Evan Bayh. John Kerry finished with two percent.

The current president has his hands full in Europe, with all the fence-mending he's trying to do with America's allies. Up next, will his effort rank a page in the history book someday?

Plus, our reporters are standing by to take us inside the blogs. Which is getting more play online? The new secret Bush tapes? Or the death of Hunter Thompson?


WOODRUFF: We are told that President Bush served up beef and chocolate cake to French President Jacques Chirac, along with some kind words about the importance of U.S.-French relations. The working dinner capped Mr. Bush's day in Belgium.

Meantime, back here in the United States, the president was featured in a different forum, on secret recordings of him, talking to an author and family friend back in the late 1990s. At this point in the tapes, Mr. Bush discusses his refusal to answer questions about whether he used illegal drugs in his youth.


BUSH: Well, Doug, but it's not -- it doesn't matter, cocaine. It'd be the same with marijuana. I wouldn't answer the marijuana question. You know why? Because I don't want some little kid doing what I'd tried.

DOUG WEAD: Yes, and it never stops.

BUSH: But you've got to understand, I want to be president, I want to lead. I want to set -- do you want your little kid to say, hey daddy, President Bush tried marijuana, I think I will.


WOODRUFF: From the audiotapes. And let's talk about them now and the Bush trip to Europe with historian Robert Dallek.

Very good to see you, thank you for being with us.


WOODRUFF: Before we talk about what's on the tapes, let's just talk about the whole idea that this friend, so-called friend, Doug Wead, he says he did this because he thought the president would be a huge historical figure. And for that reason, he did this secretly, didn't tell George Bush what he was doing. Is that in any way justified?

DALLEK: Well, no. It's not justified. And he said he only did it in states where it was not illegal, but still, you know, you're someone's friend, you don't betray them that way by taping them. What's interesting about these tapes of course is that they're so different from the Kennedy and Johnson and Nixon tapes because those presidents were doing the taping. And the people who were being taped didn't know they were being taped. The shoe is on the other foot here. Bush is being taped and he doesn't know about it.

What I found interesting in the tapes though is how consistent the personality is with the man we've seen in the White House. There is a kind of continuity there. And also what I'm struck by is, of course, how much of a politician he is. But surprise, surprise, this is what people are doing when they're running for president.

WOODRUFF: Does anything strike you at all about the positions he takes on -- whether it's gay rights, or any of the other issues that come up here?

DALLEK: Well, what was striking on the gay rights was he wasn't eager to bash gays. On the other hand, he did say quite straightforwardly that he's opposed to gay marriage.

WOODRUFF: Which is consistent.

DALLEK: Consistent with what he's done in the White House.

WOODRUFF: He didn't want to answer -- we just mentioned this, he didn't want to answer questions about whether he had used drugs because we had heard him say, he didn't want some -- as he put it, some little kid to listen to that and say, hey, George Bush tried marijuana, mommy, why shouldn't I? Has there been a change though, Robert Dallek, in the view of the American people toward politicians and their use of marijuana? We all remember Bill Clinton and "I didn't inhale."

DALLEK: Well, I think, Judy, in general, there is a change in mood in this country about presidents' private lives. They have been so much more put under scrutiny, since John F. Kennedy, who we know was, of course, a great womanizer. And the press turned a blind eye to it in the 1960s. No president would get away with that now, or even a presidential candidate.

But I think the public is growing more tolerant of this. They see presidents as human beings. They're not saints. They're not people who are so different from the rest of us. And so they cut them some slack, as they say.

WOODRUFF: That's happened pretty quickly.


WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about the president's -- what he's doing this week. He's over in Europe, meeting with the leaders of France and Germany in Brussels, talking about Atlantic unity. But he's doing it in a context of advancing freedom. How important is it that he makes some progress with these European leaders in terms of what he's able to do as president?

DALLEK: Sure. Well, I think it's very important because Europe is such an important force in the world now. The population, the wealth, they rival the United States in their economic and political power, in a sense. And so, I think it's very important that he brings them to his side. But what I find interesting, thinking now as a historian, is the many times presidents have gone abroad, Woodrow Wilson failed miserably at that Versailles conference, Franklin Roosevelt at Yalta. Kennedy, meeting Khrushchev in Vienna in 1961, it was not a happy conference that he had.

So these meetings do not always come off as well as presidents would like them to.

WOODRUFF: And yet, today, it seems to me there's so much sort of precooked. I mean, there's a lot of planning. There are advanced trips by the secretary of state. Condi Rice went over there last week. Are they building in -- is failure harder to...

DALLEK: It is in a way, because they manage the public relations so much more effectively. Back in the days of Roosevelt and Truman you didn't have television. And now, of course, the camera follows these presidents everywhere. And so they are quite mindful of this. And they are, as you say, building into it an image that is going to be constructive and positive. But of course, historians later find out how much substance there is to these discussions. And often there is far less substance than the images suggest.

WOODRUFF: Is this -- you know, there is a lot of discussion about whether this president is already thinking about his legacy. He likes to say right now that he's very focused on the job to be done. But what's your sense of it? How much of it -- how much is legacy already coming into play?

DALLEK: Judy, they all think about their legacy. Why do they go out and spend millions of dollars building presidential libraries? They want historians to think of them as great presidents. And what's his agenda? What is he trying to achieve? Is he going to sit back over the next three-and-a-half or four years and do nothing? He wants to achieve big things and be remembered as a great president. I think every one of them does.

WOODRUFF: He describes himself as very action-oriented right now.

DALLEK: Absolutely. Yes. And it is interesting, because after, he's a Republican who lives under the Reagan mantra, that government is not the solution, government is the problem. But once they get into government, they want to use it to achieve big things.

WOODRUFF: Robert Dallek. It's always good to have you on. We appreciate it.

DALLEK: Good to talk to you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you, especially for coming in on this Presidents Day.

DALLEK: My pleasure.

WOODRUFF: Just ahead, inside the blogs. We'll check in with our blog reporters to find out what people are saying online about those secret tape recordings of then Governor George W. Bush.


WOODRUFF: It may be a holiday. But it turns out there's plenty to talk and blog about in cyberspace on this Presidents Day. With me now to tell us more about what's happening on the Web is our blog reporter, Jacki Schechner, she's back, along with CNN political producer Abbi Tatton.

So Jacki, what are you seeing?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Judy, we're going to talk about those Bush secret tapes in just a moment. But the blogosphere today is teeming with reaction to the news of the death of Hunter S. Thompson. And it's actually an incredible outpouring of support and respect, talking about how great he was as a Gonzo journalist and an interesting writer.

We went to Protein Wisdom, a local Colorado blog that has a nice photograph of Hunter S. Thompson. The address of that is celluloid/ And it says the Libertarian, pro-drug and pro- gun pro-citizen journalist in all of us is saddened by this loss. Some of the interesting comments that are being sort of portrayed out there in this community.

ABBI TATTON, CNN PRODUCER: Right. And just heard CNN's Bruce Morton say that Hunter S. Thompson would have, in fact, made a good blogger. And that's a theme that's out there. We found this site, Petrified Truth, which sums up a few of the reactions on the blogs out there to his death.

And we like this particularly from Whiz Bang: "Thompson's legacy, Gonzo journalism, in many ways was the first manifestation of the form of writing many of us practice today, though not nearly as well. I'll be the first to say it: Thompson was the grandfather of the blogging movement."

SCHECHNER: Something that we all seem to agree on at this point. Again, talking about President Bush. He's in Europe on his trip, meeting with world leaders. And that seems to be the top story in the mainstream media. Also talking about the tapes. But the tapes, more interesting on the blogs today, or at least it seems.

We went over to I'm going to try to pull it up. There we go. We're lucky. A couple of minutes ago it wouldn't come up. A conservative site, talking about Doug Wead, the family friend of President Bush who went ahead and recorded these tapes and is now releasing him. Talking about -- he calls him Judas Preacher, because I guess Wead was a one-time preacher. It doesn't have anything favorable to say about him. And the quote was, "He's a disgusting piece of human slime." The blogs seem to agree that what Doug Wead did was pretty scummy.

TATTON: Left and right, they seem to agree the same thing. There's more reaction on Doug Wead then there is about the actual content of the tapes. We're looking at Daily Kos (ph) now. Daily Kos is one of the most heavily trafficked of the blog. It's a liberal blog. Kos is not a big fan of the president. And he talks a little bit about the content, but his point here that he's making is, "I do think releasing these tapes is a betrayal. Could you imagine one of your good friends secretly taping a conversation with you and then leaking it to 'The New York Times.'?"

SCHECHNER: So interesting in the blogs. A little less concern. I would imagine over the next few days, they'll probably talk more about the contents of the tape. But a little less concerned than actually what happened and Doug Wead and him being kind of slimey.

TATTON: If you're looking at the conservative blogs today, you'll see a story out there that isn't really being covered in the mainstream media. This is a story about New York Democratic Congressman, Maurice Hinchey. Now Hinchey, back at the weekend, Congress is out. And he'd gone back to his district to give a forum on Social Security.

In the Q and A session of the forum, he was asked about Karl Rove. And he accused Karl Rove of planting the documents at the center of last year's Rathergate scandal at CBS. Now, what he didn't know was that in the audience was a person from Little Green Footballs, a self-proclaimed operative of Little Green Footballs, which is one of the popular web blogs here, which has been following the CBS story. Now, they posted the audio of this. And you can hear Hinchey saying: "It originated with Karl Rove, in my belief, in the White House."

SCHECHNER: We went over to right-wing news, conservative news and views. Chock full of sarcasm over there. They call Maurice Hinchey a Democrat from Moonbat Junction, saying he's sort of divorced from reality a little bit. TATTON: I think that's the word of the day.

SCHECHNER: That is the word of the day. We had an explanation on that from (ph), one of the sites we like to go to, that's a glossary site. They said it's "someone on the extreme edge of whatever their ism happens to be." So Karl Rove, apparently, if he's ever lost a sock, according to the site, Karl Rove's fault. Any time it rains on a peace march, that's because of Karl Rove. Making fun of...

TATTON: They're making fun. They're making amusing comments about it, but they're also delving deeper into it. We went to the site Carpe Bonum (ph). This now has a profile, who is Maurice Hinchey? They're looking at his background, his district, different things like that. Is this a blog storm in the making? Who knows?

SCHECHNER: I say we go on record and we predict that this is going to be a blog storm.

TATTON: It's going to get bigger. The start at the beginning of the day. And more and more conservative blogs are linking to it, so it looks like it's going be out there for a few days.

SCHECHNER: I think the anticipation is they're going to dig deeper into Hinchey at this point and try to find out what he's all about and why he's coming out, avoiding Rove.

TATTON: And whether they want him to apologize or what they want him to do.

SCHECHNER: Well, the other thing on Carpe Bonum that we thought was interesting is they think the presence of the tapes will help and not hurt in the aftermath of this and they anticipate a quick retraction and apology. Now over at Myopic Zeal, one more site we just wanted to show you real quickly. Then, we'll get to our -- our hospiblogging. But at Myopic Zeal, a right wing blog, they have a nice roundup of what the other blogs are saying about the Hinchey situation. So a good place to go to get a general idea of where the blogs are going. But we wanted to mention real quickly about hospiblogging.

TATTON: Hospiblogging. We saw this last week. A couple of the big profile sites out there, Instapundit and also Captain's Quarters. They have people in their family who are sick. And they've been blogging from the hospital.

SCHECHNER: So Judy, a term we hope we don't hear more of. But hospiblogging, something we wanted to share with our viewers. And we hope everyone is OK.

WOODRUFF: Tell us again, Jacki, what exactly that is. That's a term that's new to most of us.

SCHECHNER: Yes, we wanted to give you the opportunity to learn what that was. Hospiblogging. We've got Instanpundit Glenn Reynolds, whose wife is sick. So he is doing his blogging from the hospital. Also over at Captain's Quarters, Captain Ed, who calls his wife the first mate, he's hospiblogging. And it's a sad trend that we don't want to see any more of. And we're hearing that everyone's OK and we're happy to hear that and we'd like to wish them well. But hospiblogging -- one of the terms that is coming out of this new blogosphere explosion.

WOODRUFF: OK. We've got to stay up all night long to keep up with all this. OK. Jacki Schechner, Abbi Tatton, thank you both. We'll see you tomorrow.

Coming up next in Ohio -- and by the way, we're going to want to get some reaction from the White House on that Maurice Hinchey story. An Ohio candidate puts himself on eBay. Why would a man who wants to be the state's next governor willing to help the highest bidder with odd jobs around the house?


WOODRUFF: Here's a different story. An Ohio man running for governor has put himself up for bids on eBay as a way of raising money for his campaign. Republican Larry Bay is a Wayne County park commissioner, is offering to work an eight-hour day once a month, for the first year after his election. Bay says he will paint, clean or do other handyman-type jobs, even if he loses the election. The starting bid is $900, but there are no takers so far. We're going to follow that one.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS on this Monday. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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