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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Interview With Senator John Kerry; Social Insecurity?; Tom DeLay Fires Back

Aired March 15, 2005 - 15:29   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: He lost the election, but John Kerry thinks he's making a mark at the White House anyway.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president has adopted the John Kerry policy.

ANNOUNCER: In a rare interview, Senator Kerry talks to Judy about the hot issues and his own political future.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My view about taking on a tough issue is that what's the American people expect the president to do.

ANNOUNCER: The president stands by his Social Security sales pitch despite a survey suggesting Americans don't like what they hear.

The ethics questions keep on coming about the House majority leader.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that the longer that Tom DeLay stays in office the better it is for reforming the ethics process, because he is causing such a stink in the United States Congress.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

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

More than five months after his presidential election defeat, Senator John Kerry seems to be putting himself out in the political arena more earnestly and more often. In recent days he's been speaking out on the road and on the Hill, promoting, among other things, his plan to expand health care coverage to all children.

Today, Senator Kerry agreed to sit down with us in his Senate hideaway office for one of the few television interviews he's given since Election Day. I began by asking him if he agrees with Vice President Cheney's assessment that President Bush won a mandate in November for the centerpiece of his Social Security reform plan, personal retirement accounts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KERRY: No. No, I don't agree.

I mean, look, the president won re-election and we honor that and respect it. But if 60,000 people had voted the other way, half the people in a football stadium in Columbus, Ohio, on a Saturday, you'd have a different outcome in this race. The president won by the narrowest margin of any incumbent president winning in history.

I think what he won a mandate for is to govern by unifying the country, bringing people together and seeking the common ground, not pushing an ideological agenda, notwithstanding every other point of view. So I hope the president in the next weeks, months, will reach out.

We're ready to work, we're ready to work in the interest of the country. That's what the country wants, is really get rid of the politics, get rid of the fighting, and find the common interest of the American people.

WOODRUFF: You say get rid of the fighting, but Democrats have made it clear, you and others, you oppose the president's plan, and yet it's clear that Social Security in the long run has a real solvency problem.

KERRY: Sure.

WOODRUFF: You've got people, baby boomers retiring. Don't Democrats have an obligation to talk about what you would do?

KERRY: Sure, and we have and we will continue to. But what we're opposing by the administration's own admission does nothing, nothing -- understand that -- zero, to cure the problem of solvency.

Privatization is not related to solvency. And so what we're trying to do is stop something that requires borrowing $2 trillion or more, adding to the debt of our nation and putting Social Security at risk.

That's a moral responsibility. That's not politics.

If the president will stop pushing the privatization and admit it's not going to pass and it's a failure, and move to a broad discussion of how we strengthen Social Security for the long run, he'll have a lot of partners here. We're ready to do that.

WOODRUFF: So you're saying that will happen?

KERRY: I'm convinced. But you know what, Judy? The real crisis facing America -- you know, once again the president is out selling something in an artificial way. The real crisis facing America is not Social Security. It's health care, it's Medicare, Medicaid, and that's why I'm pushing so hard to get 11 million children who have no health insurance at all, to get them covered.

WOODRUFF: But this is a point. You call it Kids First.

KERRY: Right.

WOODRUFF: And you just put this plan out there last week. It would cost $22 billion a year. Is that realistic, Senator, at a time when we are in such -- this country is in such tight fiscal constraints?

KERRY: You bet it's realistic. You bet it's realistic.

You know what the president's tax cut that he hasn't yet given to people to make it permanent costs over the next 10 years? $1.6 trillion. Just next year alone, the president's tax cut for people earning more than $1 million a year costs $32 billion.

So this is a value's choice. What are your values? What are the values of the American people?

Do we cover children with insurance who are not getting immunizations for diseases that we know we've cured, who don't get medicine for asthma? One out of three kids doesn't get medicine for asthma. Do we cover them or do we give millionaires a tax cut? That's the values choice for America.

And I know where I stand, and unfortunately we know where the president stands. He wants a tax cut for millionaires. I want to cover children.

WOODRUFF: Now, you've also said you would go into the districts of members of Congress who vote against this plan. The Republicans are saying, good, they'll pay for your plane ticket to do that.

KERRY: Oh, that's...

WOODRUFF: Who's bluffing whom here? I mean...

KERRY: Look, this was a very close election. And the fact is that a lot of parts of the country were a margin of less than a percentage point.

They can put all the bravado out there they want, they can use their talking points, and can play their game. But I can tell you this, when the American people start to get organized around this issue, as they are, they're going to feel it at the ballot box. And that's how you make issues move here.

What I'm going do is take this incredible energy that people gave as a gift to our country to change our nation. Three million people on an e-mail list, countless numbers of people -- we have over 600,000 people who have signed on as cosponsors of this effort. When those people start organizing in their districts, I think you're going to see senators and congressmen sing a different tune.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: We'll hear the rest of the interview with Senator John Kerry a little later on INSIDE POLITICS, when I ask him about a potential rival in 2008. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Right now, Senator Hillary Clinton is out front in a couple of polls. Is she the frontrunner?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: What does John Kerry have to say about Hillary Clinton's presidential prospects and his own? Find out ahead.

As you heard, Senator Kerry doesn't think much of President Bush's plan to overhaul Social Security. Well, it turns out the public is also skeptical.

A new ABC News-"Washington Post" poll shows 56 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Mr. Bush is handling Social Security. And 58 percent say the more they hear about the president's proposals, the less they like them. Mr. Bush was asked about all that survey today, even as he prepares for another Social Security sales trip later this week.

Let's check in now with our senior White House correspondent John King.

Hi, John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Judy.

I'm sure it will shock you that the president did not want to discuss those numbers that essentially say that he has failed miserably so far to make the sale when it comes to Social Security. Instead, though, when this issue came up in the Oval Office today when the president was meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan, mostly to discuss the Middle East -- but the question did come up about that new ABC-"Washington Post" poll, and those numbers showing the more Americans hear the less they like the president's plan on Social Security.

Mr. Bush ignoring that part of the question, focusing instead on another number in that poll, one that shows the percentage of Americans who think there is a problem in Social Security is on the rise. For a president who acknowledges he still has not made the case, that was a glimmer of hope.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: In that same survey I was heartened to see that over two- thirds of the Americans recognize we have a problem. And therefore, the administration and members of both parties in the legislative branch must come together to permanently solve the problem.

My first concern was that members of Congress would think the public didn't think there was a problem. But they do. And I am -- I am mindful that when the public says there's a problem, we've got to work to solve it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, as the president tries to raise that number, the percentage of Americans who thing there's a problem, he, of course, is also trying to do a much better job selling his plan. The president was on the road several days last week. He will be on the road several days in the weeks ahead.

The administration saying that this is not a week's long issue, it is a month's long issue. And the way they put it, if the president can raise that bar, get 70 percent of the American people or so to think that there is a problem, then the White House says there will be pressure on the Democrats to come to the table to stop, as the White House says they are, for the most part just saying no to the president's plan in coming to negotiations.

But, Judy, even as the White House says it is making progress in selling the administration on the fact that there is a problem, aides do concede behind the scenes that with all of the opposition and without the echo of Republicans -- remember in the tax cuts debates every time the president said "cut taxes" Republicans went home on the weekend and said "cut taxes." The Republicans are nervous about Social Security. The president does not have that echo. The White House acknowledges that's a problem.

WOODRUFF: And so, John, what are they planning to do about it?

KING: Well, they're going to keep the president out on the road and they are going to continue to refuse to negotiate with us publicly. But behind the scenes, administration officials lay out a scenario like this... the president campaigns throughout the spring, there's some pressure on Democrats to come to the table.

You already hear some centrist Democrats saying we're going to ultimately have to make a deal. The White House saying it hopes to get into a negotiation, maybe even an invitation from the president a few months down the road for Democrats and Republicans in Congress to engage in bipartisan negotiations. And then the administration will have to look at those numbers again and see if support is still there for those private accounts the president wants and try to cut a deal. First the president says he has to put more pressure on Congress.

WOODRUFF: So, but quickly, John, they don't have a loose deadline in mind?

KING: They don't. But obviously they want it done this year, which gets you into the summer to build political pressure. Then you've got to negotiate in the fall.

WOODRUFF: OK. John King at the White House. Thank you.

KING: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Meantime, back on Capitol Hill, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay denies any wrongdoing. But he can't seem to come out from under an ethics cloud. Is his career on the line? Also ahead, the Senate majority leader keeps his eyes on a bigger prize. We'll examine Bill Frist's early positioning for a presidential race.

And later, the latest court ruling on same-sex marriage. Does it put unwanted pressure on the president?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Some recent news reports have raised new ethics question about House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The latest allegations involve two overseas trips, one to South Korea in 2001, which was paid for by a group which only days before the trip had registered as a foreign agent. "The Washington Post" has also raised questions about funding for a trip DeLay took to Britain in 2000.

Earlier today, DeLay strongly defended himself and fired back at his critics. We get more now from CNN congressional correspondent Ed Henry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tom DeLay does not want to come on camera to address the swirling allegations. Instead, DeLay is trying to project an image of business as usual, delivering red meat to a friendly audience of campaign donors.

REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: Today we are 10 years into the Republican Party's majority status in Congress. And in the last decade, our nation has changed forever.

HENRY: But in an off-camera session with reporters, DeLay denied any wrongdoing in two overseas trips, one paid for the by the Korea U.S. Exchange Council, the other funded by an Indian tribe and a gaming company. DeLay defiantly blamed Democrats for what he termed "a growing frenzy" and said he is eager to work with the House Ethics Committee to clear everything up.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I rise in regard to a question...

HENRY: But Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi charged the ethics process is broken because Republicans have changed the rules to shield DeLay. She offered a resolution rejected along party lines to toughen the rules. Bipartisan watchdogs also urged reform and lashed out at DeLay.

TOM FITTON, PRESIDENT, JUDICIAL WATCH: This no longer is about whether or not Tom DeLay is ethical. I think the conclusion is he's not. The question is whether or not the Republican Party wants that type of person in a leadership position speaking for them on issues that important to the nation.

HENRY: So far, rank and file Republicans are sticking with DeLay. Congressman Steve LaTourette, a form member of the ethics panel, says the charges are overblown, adding that as long as conservatives continue to support DeLay, his job is safe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: But other Republicans say that the drip-drip of allegations may be too much for DeLay to withstand. One influential Republican who has clashed with DeLay predicted privately today that he believes eventually DeLay will start losing support among conservatives and then have to step down, telling CNN, "He's lived his whole career on the edge, right up to the edge" -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Why does this person you talked to, Ed, think that eventually DeLay is going to lose the support among conservatives?

HENRY: Because there are Republicans now privately saying that they believe the constant defense that it's Democrats drumming up allegations may no longer stick. That, in fact, these allegations have been building for years, they've intensified in recent weeks, and now it may be a liability for the Republican Party and DeLay may not be able to withstand it now -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Ed Henry watching that story. Thank you very much.

Well, the 2008 White House race draws closer every day. Yes, we're watching the calendar. Up next, as the Senate majority leader lays the groundwork for a White House run, a Democratic governor heads south to share his message of party renewal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking the "Political Bytes" on this Tuesday, the first potential challenger to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has officially entered the race. As we reported last week, Democratic state treasurer Phil Angelides announced his candidacy in San Francisco. Angelides plans to link Schwarzenegger to President Bush, who is much less popular than the governor among Golden State voters.

Virginia Governor Mark Warner is the featured speaker tonight at the Georgia Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Atlanta. Warner is often mentioned as a 2008 White House candidate, and he tells CNN's John Mercurio that his remarks will focus on how Democrats can improve their appeal to rural voters. He'll also argue that moderate Republicans are the country's "most endangered political class."

Well, keeping our focus on 2008, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is also frequently mentioned as a potential presidential candidate. Chuck Todd, the editor in chief of "The Hotline," has more on Senator Frist and his early preparations for a White House run.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR, "THE HOTLINE": Of all the potential 2008 presidential candidates, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is clearly the most focused on the prize right now. He's already decided not to run for re-election, so he doesn't have that distraction with him. He's already not going to have the distractions of being the Senate majority leader, a problem that Bob Dole experienced in 1996. So he seems more focused and more attuned to exactly what he needs to do to do this.

BUSH: We have put some of the best minds to work at creating solutions.

TODD: The easy way to track his presidential candidacy right now is by his travels to places like New Hampshire and South Carolina. It's what he's doing behind the scenes that are by far -- show how far along this process he really is.

His experience as a surgeon gives him these -- easy access into the health care issue, which is by far going to be one of the two or three most important issues in 2008. But he's also got the benefit of being a surgeon and having these life-saving moments that show that he is quick, that he can make decisions under pressure.

If he's got some liabilities, one is his inexperience on the political trail. He's never faced a close race, as we saw with other candidates in the past who they have experienced losing or even a close call. That can become a problem when the going gets tough in a primary campaign.

For somebody that hasn't been in politics for very long he has a very well established kitchen cabinet that's happening him with his presidential campaign: Mitch Bainwol, who currently is head of the recording industry; Linus Catignani, who actually runs VOLPAC (ph) and makes a lot of those decisions; Jack Oliver, who was instrumental in Bush's finance team in both 2000 and 2004 already seems to be on the Frist team; and then Alex Vogil (ph) who worked with Frist at the Senate committee, is sort of the guy that's trying to put the entire structure together and have it make sense.

Two things that he needs to do. One is to have an issue that he owns. He's trying to do that with health care.

FRIST: There is medical liability which is destroying health care today.

TODD: But the second is the personality gap. Republican primaries love personalities sometimes more than policy. And he does not have this trend-setting cult of personality that surrounding him yet. If he can get that and get -- and sort of fill his personality gap, then he could go a long way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Chuck Todd in one of a series of conversations on the 2008 contenders. We just heard about Bill Frist.

"The Hotline" is an insider's political briefing produced every day by "The National Journal." You can go online to nationaljournal.com for subscription information. Well, they didn't see eye to eye in last year's campaign. But is President Bush now borrowing from John Kerry's playbook when it comes to Iran? More of my interview with the senator from Massachusetts when we come back.

Plus, does a gay marriage ruling in California have national implications? Our Bill Schneider investigates.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Just before 4:00 on the East Coast, and as the markets get set to close on Wall Street, I'm joined by Kitty Pilgrim in New York with "The Dobbs Report."

Hello, Kitty.

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. Thanks.

Well, first off, let's talk about stocks. They're slipping on Wall Street. Final trades still being counted. But let's take a look.

The Dow Jones industrials losing 56 points. The Nasdaq is nearly one percent lower.

Oil prices, we're looking at this a lot lately. They rose slightly, settling above $55 a barrel. That's 12 cents shy of the record high on oil prices.

We have a major business headline today. Judgment day for Bernard Ebbers, former chief of WorldCom. He was found guilty on all nine counts. The $11 billion accounting fraud was revealed in 2002.

WorldCom was the largest bankruptcy ever. It wiped out thousands of shareholders and employees. Ebbers testified in his own defense. He claimed he had nothing to do with cooking of the books. He says he left the accounting decisions to others.

Well, at 63 years of age, he could spend the rest of his life in prison. His sentencing is set for June 13.

Now, here's a list of other high-profile executives on trial for fraud: former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski, and Richard Scrushy, former founder and chief of HealthSouth. They're currently on trial. Former Enron executive Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, they face trial early next year. And just today, the SEC sued Joseph Nacchio, the former CEO of Qwest Communications, for fraud.

Coming up on CNN, 6:00 p.m. Eastern tonight on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," "Broken Borders. A smuggling ring reveals dangerous weapons brought into this country by illegal aliens.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID KELLEY, U.S. ATTORNEY: It appears from the conversations that we intercepted that the defendants were unphased and perhaps didn't care who the end users were, so long as they were getting the money and they were selling to somebody who was trustworthy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PILGRIM: Also tonight, Lou is live from Washington and he'll sit down with Senator Chuck Hagel to discuss his plan to reform Social Security. Plus Democratic Congressman Dennis Cardoza. He and his Blue Dog Coalition are calling for the Bush administration to take fiscal responsibility. And Senator Evan Bayh plans to introduce a new bill that will explain trade release for U.S. companies. He joins Lou tonight 6:00 Eastern.

But for now, back to Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: Well, we'll be watching him because he'll be right here in our town. All right, Kitty, thanks very much.

INSIDE POLITICS continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: He came so close last time around, so is John Kerry thinking about another run for the White House?

WOODRUFF: You know, Senator, that we can't avoid presidential politics on INSIDE POLITICS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We couldn't ask for a better anniversary present and it's a beautiful day. We're so happy.

ANNOUNCER: A major ruling in favor of gay marriage, but what are the political implications?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What this does, it puts rocket fuel under this federal marriage amendment and I think that there are going to be people all across the country that are very upset about this.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Welcome back. Senate Democrats issued a new warning today to Republicans in their partisan cold war over the president's judicial nominees. The message, proceed with a so-called nuclear option at your political peril. But are Republicans anywhere close to taking such drastic action?

Here now our congressional correspondent Joe Johns. Hi, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy.

This is an effort by Senator Harry Reid and the Democrats to get front of the judicial nominations issue. He is issuing a challenge and a warning that he will shut down much of the Senate, if Republicans change the rules so that filibusters can no longer be used to block federal judges. Today, he got a show of solidarity for many of the Democrats in the United States Senate. On the Senate steps, he delivered a short speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MINORITY LEADER: Only 10 of 214 nominations have been turned down. So it is clear that this is an attempt to strip away those important checks and balances. It's not about judges. It's about the desire for absolute power.

JOHN: Now, Reid put a lot of the specifics in a letter to the majority leader today. You see it there: "Needless to say, the Democrats will continue to work with you to enact legislation supporting our troops and other legislation needed to ensure the ongoing operations of the federal government. Beyond that, we will be reluctant to enter into any consent agreement that facilitates Senate activities, even on routine matters. We would decline to provide such cooperation in the future if you implement the nuclear option."

So what has prompted all of this. As early as Thursday, a number of federal judgeship nominations could be before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Also a number of Senate Republicans continue to insist that they do have the 51 votes needed to invoke the nuclear option. As well, they are flatly accusing Democrats of trying to shut down the government.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: For the Democrats to say that they're not going to cooperate if we actually exercise this constitutional option, from what I can see, there won't be any difference. They're still going to obstruct on Social Security strengthening, they're going to obstruct on welfare reform, they're going to obstruct and try to stop us on the budget. So I don't think we ought to be timid. We ought not cower.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Of course the question is whether this is a risky strategy for Democrats. One thing does seem clear. A number of senior Republicans remain very reluctant and skeptical about the nuclear option because they're afraid it could one day be used against them -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: So, Joe, is there evidence -- real evidence that the Republican leadership and the Senate is about to employ this rule- tightening that they call the nuclear option?

JOHNS: The Republican leadership says, in their view, this is something they very much want to avoid. They say the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter, has tried to avoid it. They say Bill Frist, the majority leader, is also trying to avoid it. They call it their last resort. Nonetheless, it's still a possibility out there as time grows near. Democrats, meanwhile, say they don't think Senator Frist will do it because in the first place, they say they don't think he has the votes -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, he sure is getting a lot of attention. OK. Joe, we appreciate it. Thank you.

About this time one year ago, John Kerry was hoping that the crisis in Iraq would help him defeat President Bush. We all know how that turned out. But Senator Kerry is not backing away from his criticism of the president's Iraq policy. In our one-on-one interview today, I asked Senator Kerry whether the situation in Iraq is better now than what he had predicted during the campaign, given on the recent elections there and the moves towards democracy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KERRY: No, I think it's what I said it would be. In fact, when I came back from Iraq about a month and a half ago before the elections, I said that we will -- that we ought to have the elections, that the Iraqi people want to vote and they're going to turn out in significant numbers.

But the real issue is how do you patch this government together and provide services to the Iraqi people as rapidly as possible so we can get our troops home and so we can reduce the risk to our troops? I don't believe the administration has done all that's possible to get further international cooperation. They're certainly not training at a rate that the king of Jordan or the president of Egypt told me they're prepared to train. They're just not doing it.

So, I think you can do a better job of moving faster, but that doesn't mean -- we're all excited about what's happening in Iraq. I think it's great, even if it's not the reason that the president gave us for going to war and it's not the reason that the Congress gave him permission to go to war.

WOODRUFF: The Middle East, more broadly. In Lebanon you've got big moves to get the Syrians out of there. The Palestinians are sounding more moderate. You've got stirrings of democracy in other parts of the Middle East. Is it -- couldn't it be said that all of this is an outgrowth of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein?

KERRY: No. The assassination of Hariri, we don't know why that took place and what happened. We just don't -- nobody has a rationale for it yet. The death of Arafat was a God-decided moment, not a war- decided moment. And everybody will tell you that those are the two principal reasons for what's happening.

Now, have things changed because of the election? Of course they have. I mean, I'd be silly not to honor what happened in terms of that election. It's wonderful. I was there in the West Bank the day that the Palestinians voted. And it was -- you couldn't help but be moved and touched by the way in which they took pride in what they were doing and trying to accomplish. We've all of us always advocated democracy and pushed democracy.

I put out an initiative two years ago called the Greatest Middle Eastern Initiative, which could push democracy faster. I still believe we could be doing a more effective job of transitioning were we to have more of the world at our side in this effort. WOODRUFF: Well let me ask you about Iran. Right now the president is engaging some U.S. allies. He's taking a less confrontational approach.

KERRY: Good for him, long overdue.

WOODRUFF: Is that any different from what a John Kerry would have done?

KERRY: It's what I advocated for long time. The president has adopted the John Kerry policy. I said you ought to be involved with the French, the British and the Germans. I raised this during the campaign, Judy. You can go back and see it in the course of debates and otherwise. I'm glad it's happening finally.

But, you know, should we jump up and down and be so excited in America because four years later we do things we should have done four years ago? Look, I hope it works. I want to keep moving in this direction. I'm glad the president's attempting a better and different diplomacy. It's good for our country. But I believe there's still more we can do more effectively and I hope we continue to move in that direction.

WOODRUFF: You know, Senator, we can't avoid presidential politics on INSIDE POLITICS so...

KERRY: Can't avoid it anywhere, evidently.

WOODRUFF: Recent -- we're already asking people what do they think of 2008, who do they think should be the Democratic nominee? Right now Senator Hillary Clinton is out front in a couple polls. Is she the frontrunner?

KERRY: If she wants to be. I don't -- it doesn't matter to me who's the frontrunner right now. I think all of this talk about 2008 is unbelievably premature and then we have barely three months beyond the last election or four months, whatever. It's just too early. And I think the focus for our party and for everyone really ought to be on these issues that we're just talking about and on 2006. We've got to win governorships, we've got to win state houses, legislators, Congress, senators. I'm going to focus on those efforts and, you know, what happens in the future will take care of itself.

WOODRUFF: Well, we checked, we looked back into -- and realized that it's been over a hundred years since a losing presidential nominee came back to win the White House. It was Grover Cleveland in 1892. Does that history discourage you?

KERRY: I don't know what you're talking -- I mean, I thought Richard Nixon came back from losing and won in 1968. I don't think that's correct research, actually.

WOODRUFF: Since a losing presidential nominee came back...

KERRY: Yes, Vice President Clinton ran in 1960, lost to President Kennedy and he won the election in... WOODRUFF: Four years later was the caveat. I didn't make it clear.

KERRY: Oh, well, I'm not sure.

WOODRUFF: Four years later.

KERRY: Look, you know what, I don't care what has happened or not happened. It's too early to be making decisions or thinking about it. I'll make my judgment when the time comes and I don't care what history says or did. Now is now and these are the -- you know, the whole different set of issues, whole different set of circumstances. But it's way too early to be thinking. It's just -- it's crazy to be thinking about it now. We've got 2006, all of us, to work on together as a unified party and that's what we're going to do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: I also asked Senator Kerry about the criticism lately of his top strategist Bob Shrum and the senator said he, himself, accepts responsibility for anything that went wrong with his campaign.

In California, a judge has weighed in on the state's gay marriage ban. We'll consider the consequences for President Bush and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. And we'll find out how the story's playing online when we go inside the blogs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Opponents of gay marriage are expected to file an appeal in California after a judge there ruled that the state could no longer ban same-sex marriage. Our Bill Schneider looks at the legal and political ramifications of the ruling.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): No one thinks the judge's ruling in California will settle the issue of same-sex marriage.

MAYOR GAVIN NEWSOM, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA: We're hopeful, though, that we could get through the appellate process and ultimately get to the Supreme Court in the state of California as soon and as quickly as possible. The reason being is lives are in the balance.

SCHNEIDER: But the decision ratchets up the stakes. In his ruling, Judge Richard Kramer considered all the legal arguments against same-sex marriage. The state argued for upholding the traditional definition of marriage, same as President Bush.

BUSH: I think one way to guarantee that traditional marriage is defined as between a man and a woman is through the constitutional process.

SCHNEIDER: Judge Kramer ruled same-sex marriage cannot be prohibited solely because California has always done so before. What about the argument that civil unions give same-sex couples the same rights as married couples? The judge ruled, "The idea that marriage- like rights without marriage is adequate smacks of a concept long- rejected by the courts -- separate but equal."

And that the argument that the purpose of marriage is to produce children? The judge ruled, "One does not have to be married to procreate, nor does one have to procreate in order to be married."

TERRY THOMPSON, ALLIANCE DEFENSE FUND: This sort of a validation of our logic.

SCHNEIDER: Both sides claim the ruling will energize their forces. Last November, 11 states passed measures banning same-sex marriages.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What this does, it puts rocket fuel under this federal marriage amendment.

SCHNEIDER: What it really does is intensify the pressure on politicians to deal with an issue they really don't want to deal with. In January, for instance, President Bush said he didn't want it spend a lot of capital on an issue that had no chance of passing the Senate.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There really needs to be more of an openness in the Senate to be able to spend more capital on moving it forward, but the president's going to continue to make his views known.

SCHNEIDER: Now the governor of California is being forced to struggle with the issue.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: Clearly, I don't believe in gay marriage.

SCHNEIDER: But he also said he would abide by the will of the people.

SCHWARZENEGGER: I think that as we go on I think people will be feeling more comfortable with the idea of domestic partnership and also of marriage.

SCHNEIDER: So the governor's view is, let the courts figure it out.

SCHWARZENEGGER: Whatever the Supreme Court decides, that's exactly what...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's consistent with your philosophy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Most politicians avoid divisive issues like same-sex marriage and abortion because whichever side you take, you're bound to make some voters angry. The decision in California makes this issue harder to avoid.

WOODRUFF: OK. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

Well, that California court ruling has people talking online. Up next, we check in with our blog reporters for the latest buzz about that judge's decision on same-sex marriage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Some breaking news now. There are results -- authorities say they have new results back on suspected anthrax at several Pentagon locations. And for the very latest, let's bring in our security correspondent Jeanne Meserve. Jeanne, tell us what's going on.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, let me say, first of all, that these are not the definitive and final results, but they are another set of results. You'll recall there was positive test results from the mail facility, remote delivery facility at the Pentagon. Samples were sent up to Fort Detrick, Maryland, to the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material command. Two sources tell CNN that results have come back on the first set of tests and they have come back positive. As I say, these are not the definitive results.

One official tells me they have yet to do a second test in which they try to grow a culture from the sample. This would determine whether or not they are dealing with live anthrax. I am also told by an official that the state of Virginia is going ahead and preparing as if this were a real anthrax incident, that they are moving their pharmaceutical stockpile to northern Virginia, that they are moving personnel to northern Virginia. That they are acting as if this is the real thing.

In the meantime, a couple of postal facilities in the Washington area have been shut down protectively. These are facilities that processed mail that went over to the Pentagon. Here in Washington, D.C. on B Street northeast, there's one facility -- about 250 D.C. postal workers there today went down to D.C. General, where they received Cipro. That is the antibiotic that is used prophylactically against anthrax.

Officials in this city were anxious to say they have not received any positive results from that facility or from another facility in Virginia. But this is a precaution, something they're doing protectively. They also have geared up the epidemiological surveillance here in D.C. They are looking at hospital admissions and everything else to see if they detect anything that could indicate whether or not there, in fact, has been an anthrax incident.

Officials at the Pentagon have said they have done repeated testings on site. Those have come back negative and several officials tell us that they have not found any other sorts of evidence. They haven't found any letters or anything of that sort, as they did during the anthrax attacks of 2001 -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: So, Jeanne, they are taking no chances? Even as they continue to do these investigations of what they found, they're taking no chances. MESERVE: That's correct. They're going ahead, they're treating people prophylactically, they're taking a very careful look at health histories. They're surveilling the city. There has already been some disruption. Ted Barrett (ph), our Capitol Hill producer, tells us that mail deliveries on the Hill are going to be disrupted because of the this.

WOODRUFF: In Capitol Hill. OK. Jeanne Meserve reporting on suspected anthrax at several Pentagon locations, remote locations. Jeanne, thank you very much. INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Time now to go inside the blogs with CNN political producer Abbi Tatton and our blog reporter Jacki Schechner.

Jacki, first off, what kind of reaction are you seeing to the decision yesterday in the California case on same-sex marriage?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN BLOG REPORTER: It is sparking discussion on both the left and the right, as you can possibly imagine.

Let's jump right into it. Over to Iowa Diaper Diaries. They are a family of religious conservative fanatics in Iowa City. Fanatics their word, not mine. They say: "This has brought the debate back to the forefront and reemphasizes the need for constitutional amendments that bind the courts of this country into recognizing the will of the people."

Now, on the left, it's Kong Fu Monkey, which happens to be my favorite blog name of the day. He totally disagrees. I'm not going to highlight this for you because you won't be able to see it if I do, but he says: "You can disagree with a judge overturning a law if you like. Fine, that's democracy. But implying the judge has no right to overturn a law because said law represents the will of the majority? Sadly, that reveals a depth of ignorance about the Constitution that automatically disqualifies you from the discussion."

ABBI TATTON, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: Now, just in case you're mishearing from Jeff Gannon. Jeff Gannon, the White House -- now discredited White House reporter with Talon News. You can go to jeffgannon.com because he weighs in on this issue today. Each day he posts today's briefing question on a different topic, the question he would have asked if he wasn't on hiatus from the White House briefing room. His words, not mine. Today it's on this issue of the California judge and that ruling. Sounds like he misses it there.

Now, we mentioned a story yesterday, a "Newsweek" article that is sparking discussion in the blogosphere about how diverse the blogosphere is. Now there are eight million blogs out there, but it's widely accepted that there is an A-list of blogs, very widely read and widely linked-to blogs, that kind of dominate the blogosphere. And some people are wondering how to get in on this if they're not in this A-List.

SCHECHNER: Going over to Citizen's Rent. This is Kathy (ph), a left-leaning moderate, by her own words. KBonline.typepad.com. She says she personally is going to quote, "build on Brad DeLong's call for us to subvert the dominance of the A-list, inbred linking" that Abbi was just talking out about. Brad DeLong is a U.C. Berkeley professor. He's got his own blog, it is widely read. And this was back on February 24, 2005 that he brought this issue up.

TATTON: Halley's Comment here. Halley issues this challenge to some of big bloggers to start linking to more people. She says she wants people to find ten new voices and promote them by writing a post about each as an introduction and blogrolling them on their site.

SCHECHNER: There's more action being taken, too. Two women out in California who are putting together a conference based on bloggercon. They want to call it blog-her-con, a conference for women bloggers.

TATTON: One of them here is Lisa Stone. She wants to find a way of people to link to women's blogs without having to go through the A- list here. "I suggest bloghercon because we have to be able to find quality bloggers in order to read them and link to them." Lisa's one of the two there.

SCHECHNER: The other woman is Alisa at Worker Bee's blog, and she raises some of the questions and issues that they would talk about at this conference, and she's been addressing this and updating this as it goes on.

First, she says, if you didn't know a blogger's name, can you always tell the gender, something we talked about yesterday. If there is no picture and no name, how would you know? Also, how can such a new medium already have an all-boys club? So, she updates this as it goes along and then talks about some of the reaction. They aren't saying there aren't enough women bloggers, basically, they just want to come together, network and brain storm about blogging.

So, Judy, that's what's going on in the blogosphere today.

WOODRUFF: OK. Much to think about, and we're going to keep talking about who's on that A-list and how do you get on it.

SCHECHNER: We're going to keep trying.

WOODRUFF: Abbi, Jacki, thank you both.

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

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