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Congress & the Schiavo Case; Rehnquist Returns; Young People and Social Security Reform

Aired March 22, 2005 - 15:29   ET


ANNOUNCER: Terri Schiavo's fate remains in legal limbo after a federal judge refused to heed the wishes of her parents and Congress.

BOBBY SCHINDLER, TERRI SCHIAVO'S BROTHER: Every minute that goes by that Terri's being starved to death, I'm very disheartened, and I'm very concerned.

JAY WOLFSON, ATTORNEY: This ruling by the judge is a legal decision. It's the application of the law.

ANNOUNCER: Republican leaders went to great lengths to intervene in the Schiavo case. Was it worth it? And will someone pay a price?

Back on the bench. Chief Justice Rehnquist stands tough against cancer and the speculation about his retirement.



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us. I'm John King. Judy is off today.

The political wrangling over the Terri Schiavo case continues here in Washington and in Florida, even as the legal battle over the brain-damaged woman's fate has shifted to a federal court in Atlanta. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals now is considering an emergency request by Schiavo's parents to reinsert her feeding tube.

Just hours earlier, a federal judge in Tampa refused to do just that, effectively rebuffing those urgent moves by President Bush and the Congress to keep Schiavo alive. The White House says the administration had hoped for a different ruling and that President Bush continues to stand on the side of "defending life."

Back in Florida, hospice officials will not discuss Schiavo's condition on the fourth day now after her feeding tube was removed in keeping with her husband's wishes. Meantime, some state lawmakers in Florida are trying to pass last-ditch legislation designed to make sure Schiavo is given food and water again.

Republican leaders who pushed fast and hard to get Congress to intervene in the Schiavo case now are putting their faith in the appeals process. Our congressional correspondent Joe Johns has reaction from the Hill and new evidence that Republicans are not in lockstep in this life-and-death debate.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a written statement, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay called the judge's decision disappointing and said, "Congress explicitly provided Terri Schiavo's family with recourse to a federal court and this decision is at odds both with the clear intent of the Congress and the Constitutional rights of a young woman."

Republican aides argue that Congress essentially ordered a new trial which all but requires reinsertion of the feeding tube until the parents' legal claim is exhausted. But here was a new sign of Republican dissent. Senator John Warner of Virginia, who has buffed the Senate leadership before, said he opposed the bill giving Schiavo's parents standing to sue in federal court.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: I feel as sad about this case as anybody in America, but I do believe that the Congress must move very carefully, particularly as it relates to the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which simply says, unless the federal government has express authority of the Congress, the states have to handle these situations.

JOHNS: Warner could have stopped the bill in its tracks.

WARNER: I will not object. I further ask you get a statement by the senator from Virginia here on the record prior to the vote.

JOHNS: He said he voice-voted against it but allowed it go through because the Senate had already expressed its will on the matter. He did put a statement in the Congressional Record that said, in part, "Greater wisdom is not always reposed in the branches of the federal government."


JOHNS: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist also released a statement saying he was disappointed with the district court's decision and hoped for a different result on appeal. John.

KING: Joe, I want to ask you to stand by for just a minute. We want to bring our viewers some more of the political fallout of all of this and then bring you back in for some reaction.

The Democratic National Committee chairman, Howard Dean, is accusing congressional Republicans of grandstanding on the Schiavo case. Dean was especially critical of fellow doctor-turned-politician Bill Frist. Dean bristled at comments the Senate majority leader made on the floor last Thursday.


SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: On the video footage, which is the actual exam by the neurologist, when the neurologist said, "Look up," there is no question in the video that she actually looks up. That would not be an unresponsive state.


KING: In Frist's home state of Tennessee, Dean told reporters that, "For Frist to say he could make a diagnosis based on a videotape is certainly not medically sound." Dean went on to add, "I would not want my doctor making any diagnosis of me on videotape."

Joe Johns, Senator Frist, I understand, has something to say to Chairman Dean.

JOHNS: I just talked to his office a little while ago. He did not address specifically what Howard Dean said, but what his office says is that Dr. Frist did not make a diagnosis. He was simply questioning a diagnosis that had been previously made.

The office also says he spoke with the last neurologist who saw Schiavo, also looked at all the affidavits and documentation. And they say in their view he believes he's qualified to at least discuss this issue -- John.

KING: Joe Johns on Capitol Hill, tracking the continuing political fallout of the Schiavo case.

And now a closer look at the legal issues at play now that Schiavo case is before a federal appeals court and how the politics of this controversy may factor in. We're joined by Ken Connor, who was Governor Jeb Bush's legal counsel in the Schiavo case. He is here in Washington. And by Alan Dershowitz, who's at Harvard University Law School and the author of a new book that addresses these issues, "Rights from Wrong."

Professor Dershowitz, let me begin with you. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals now has this case before it. What do you know of that court and its history?

PROF. ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: Well, it's a very divided court. There are more Republicans than Democrats. But it's a very good court, and it's a court that tends to apply the law.

The law here is very complicated. Look, personally, I wish Florida law were different. I actually side with the parents here, personally.

I think that when there's a doubt -- and I side with President Bush, who says, when in doubt, err on the side of life. I wish President Bush would be more consistent when it came to the death penalty, too.

But when you have a situation where parents want to take care of their child and where the husband is involved in a relationship with somebody else and has two children, and there are doubts -- at least some doubts -- about what her wishes were, I would err on the side of life. But this is a matter of state law. And the hypocrisy here on both sides is just so rampant.

Congress jumping in and, in effect, overruling the constitutional separation of powers. The Constitution basically says the courts decide cases and controversies and the legislature decides broad issues.

And this idea of a statute for one person in one case only is so inconsistent with the tradition and division of powers that it's hypocritical. But if it were the opposite -- for example, if Congress jumped in and tried to stop an execution -- you would get a lot of liberals saying, oh, what a wonderful thing, and conservatives saying, oh, what a terrible thing. So hypocrisy rules the day here.

KING: Ken Connor, you certainly disagree with Professor Dershowitz, I know. As you rebut him, or respond to him, also address, if you will, your reaction to the fact that the federal judge in Florida, the federal district judge in Florida, essentially said to the president and the Congress, go away.

KEN CONNOR, LEGAL COUNSEL FOR GOVERNOR JEB BUSH IN SCHIAVO CASE: Well, I'm surprised and disappointed at that decision. Obviously, if Terri Schiavo dies while the courts are pondering these complex legal issues, that's going to moot the case as far as that goes. Nothing could be worse.

People have worked hard: the courts; the Congress has been responsive; the president's up in the middle of the night -- all efforts being made to preserve Terri's life during the pendency of this litigation.

The Supreme Court in Cruzan got it right when it said the hallmark of these cases really is to make sure we get it accurate, not finality. Because mistakes aren't correctable.

In this case, John, we're really doing something in the finest tradition of the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment provides that no state shall deprive any person of their rights to due process of law. It explicitly gives Congress enforcement authority.

States have a long and sad record of violating the constitutional rights of unpopular or vulnerable individuals. That's how the 14th Amendment came into being in the first place.

The Congress is not making the decision here. Pursuant to its constitutional authority, it has simply conferred on the federal district court for the middle district the authority to make the decision to review whether or not Terri Schiavo's constitutional rights were respected and protected in the state court proceedings.

KING: It is emotional, political and an emotional legal debate. I would like to ask you both, one of the arguments is that Terri Schiavo's religious rights are being violated. And those who say that refer to a statement issued by the Vatican and the pope last year in which the pope said that "Catholics are morally obliged to continue to receive nutrition and hydration even though it is through a feeding tube." Professor Dershowitz, that is a message from the pope, a religious statement. Does it have any relevance in a federal court?

DERSHOWITZ: It's an extremely dangerous argument, because it says that if you happen to be a Catholic, the courts will require you to abide by Catholic doctrine. Look, I'm Jewish. And there are many things that I disagree with in Jewish doctrine. I don't want any court telling me what I have to do as a Jew.

Your religious obligation must be completely voluntary. And the issue in this case is who has the authority to make the decision for her?

And remember the Florida courts have said this is her view, not the view of her husband, this is her view. They've made a determination about that. I think they were wrong on the merits myself. But, you know, we're talking about a system that constantly allows states to make mistakes. And the very people who are so concerned about this one person's life, as we all are, are willing to abolish review in capital cases, to rush people to their deaths in capital cases.

So I think a little consistency is required from everybody on all sides of this issue.

CONNOR: Well, John, we -- our position very simply is that Terri Schiavo, who is innocent utterly of any wrongdoing, receives the same kind of due process protections and rights of review that convicted killers like Ted Bundy would get. I'm sure Professor Dershowitz would not advocate that we eliminate federal review of state claims for prisoners on death row.

DERSHOWITZ: I've done that.

CONNOR: All we're saying is that an innocent person ought to be able to get the same kind of protections as a serial killer like Ted Bundy.

KING: OK. Let me ask -- let me ask...

DERSHOWITZ: But the same people who voted for this law voted against review in federal cases. They have restricted habeas corpus consistently. And if Congress ever tried to interview in a capital case, even involving an innocent person on death row, the very people who are clamoring for this law and this very special treatment would be jumping up and down and yelling "federalism."

KING: Let me ask you both quickly -- about 15 seconds each. The White House says the president is in touch with the Justice Department. If they lose this case in the federal courts, they're exploring whether there's anything else the federal government can do.

Ken Connor, to you first, is there?

CONNOR: Indeed, I think there may very well be. They are studying the options for relief. As to Professor Dershowitz, I would simply say that states rights and federalism do not give a license to the states to trample the constitutional rights of vulnerable adults who are going to die pursuant to a court order.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, but that's exactly right.

KING: Very quickly.

DERSHOWITZ: And that's why seven years have gone by and litigation after litigation, and she has been given due process. Due process doesn't necessarily mean...

CONNOR: The merits have never been reviewed by a federal court.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, of course not, because there's no federal right involved here. And never before -- and, by the way...

CONNOR: Well, how about the 14th Amendment right to due process and equal protection?

DERSHOWITZ: But we don't have that right. Only the Schiavo family has that right.

KING: Gentlemen, we need to...

DERSHOWITZ: The statute didn't give anybody else that right. It's special legislation for this person only, and that's inconsistent with the way Congress is supposed to legislate general laws for everybody.

KING: Gentlemen, I need to shut the debate down there. Gentlemen, I thank you both. Alan Dershowitz in New York, Ken Connor here in Washington, obviously quite an emotional debate. And we will continue to cover it in the hours and days ahead.

And we will, of course, bring you here on CNN any new developments in the Schiavo case as they happen.

Also ahead, talk radio, not surprisingly, is buzzing about this case. And the blogs are too. We'll have a sample of the punditry on air and online.

Up next, our Bruce Morton shares his thoughts on Chief Justice Rehnquist's return to the bench and his battle against cancer.

Plus, another close-up of a possible presidential contender come 2008. How does John Edwards fit into the field?


KING: To the surprise of many here in Washington, Chief Justice William Rehnquist is back on the bench at the Supreme Court this week, hearing cases in person for the first time since he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last October. CNN's Bruce Morton has more on Rehnquist's return and the continued speculation about his potential retirement.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chief Justice William Rehnquist on his way to work this morning. He walks more easily and generally seems more himself than when he swore in President Bush last January.

CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAM REHNQUIST, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Will you raise your right hand, Mr. President and repeat after me...

MORTON: In court, he heard arguments yesterday and today. Court watchers see the Rehnquist they know standing up to rest his sore back occasionally -- he's done that for years -- asking pointed questions, and keeping strict track of how much of their allotted time the lawyers had used.

He's been chief justice since 1986, 19 years. But nowhere near the record. John Marshall, with 34 years, holds that. And probably no decision of the Rehnquist court is as famous as the Marshall court's Marbury versus Madison, which established the court's right to nullify acts of Congress or state legislatures if it finds them unconstitutional, an issue the Terri Schiavo case has raised again.

Rehnquist is 80, but lots of justices have been older. However, Wendell Holmes was 90 when he stepped down. Hugo Black was 85. John Paul Stevens turns 58 next month, and he seems fine.

Some have been asked to step down. William O. Douglas suffered a stroke, insisted on participating on decisions when he really couldn't. The other justices postponed cases where his vote would have been decisive and finally asked him to leave.

No one watching Rehnquist this week believed he wasn't up to the job. So, assuming his cancer is responding to treatment -- and he does seem better -- will he retire when the court's term ends in June? No one knows.

He may. Many think he will. But his wife died in 1991, his children are grown, and the court, these last few years, has been what his life is all about.

Might he decide to stay a little longer? Yes, he might.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


KING: Thank you, Bruce.

Next year's Pennsylvania Senate race already looks tight. We'll have a new poll ahead in "Political Bytes."

Also, where does John Edwards stand in the race for 2008? "The Hotline's" Chuck Todd joins us with an insider's view.


KING: Former Senator John Edwards is, of course, one of the early favorites in the race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. With me now to talk more about Senator Edwards and the '08 race is Chuck Todd, editor in chief of "The Hotline."

Where is he? And where does he stand when it comes to the '08 field?

CHUCK TODD, "THE HOTLINE": Well, he's sort of in that Gary Hart position that Gary Hart was in right after 1984. He's the guy who finished second, except unlike Gary Hart he actually got to be on the national ticket. And so he's a well-known national name.

So he's well positioned to be a national figure, but at the same time he still has to answer for a defeat. So he's in an awkward situation and he doesn't have an office. He doesn't hold any office. So he has got to start things and create things on his own, which is some things that he's already been doing.

KING: Well, you say create things on his own. So what steps is he taking?

TODD: Well, besides a PAC -- and everybody does the PAC thing, and his is called One America -- he's gone another step further. At the University of North Carolina they created the Center for Poverty. So it's sort of a think tank where he can produce papers, maybe do studies, teach a course, have all these things, do some things.

Gary Hart, he did a similar thing, except he traveled around the world and became Mr. International Relations Guy. It looks like John Edwards wants to sort of pick up the Bobby Kennedy thing, focus on poverty and try to -- try to be a one-issue guy that sets values -- you know, that fills this values problem that Democrats have doing it through an issue, a compassionate issue like poverty.

KING: Can we only find him in North Carolina, or, could we say, go somewhere else and maybe run into Senator Edwards?

TODD: What's amazing is that more than of these guys, more than on the Republican side, anywhere, he's traveled the most. He's already been to Iowa and New Hampshire, but he's been to Missouri, he's been to Kansas, he's already been to Los Angeles doing public events, San Francisco. He's been to -- and he's headed to Wisconsin. So he's probably busier than anybody, and that's because he doesn't have a job.

I mean, when you don't have a full-time job, you can run for president full time. Any of these guys that have been able to run full time in the past always have had a little bit of a leg up on folks like Senator Clinton this time is going to -- she's going to have to have another job.

It was a problem for John Kerry. It was a problem for John Edwards when he was a sitting senator. This time he's not going to have that problem. KING: Now, he had in the primaries before he became the vice presidential nominee, he had in the primaries a pretty hard-core loyal staff. Are they still with him?

TODD: Gone nowhere. It's the same four core people: Nick Baldick, David Ginsberg, Fred Barren (ph), who's big in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) community and was able to set up what was an incredible fund-raising deal, and Harrison Hickman, his pollster, who's been with him all the way since his first elected office.

But the most important person in the kitchen cabinet is Elizabeth Edwards. She's very much almost the CEO of this -- of Edwards, Inc. She's very influential, more so than most spouses. She's got a political acumen a lot of campaign spouses don't have.

KING: You mentioned fund-raising. One of the challenges for a guy who has been on a losing ticket -- and Joe Lieberman went through this last time -- is that fairly or unfairly, some people just say, you were part of the losing ticket, no thank you. Is there any indication that Senator Edwards will have a fund-raising problem?

TODD: Well -- and that's, I think, going to be the first question, is, does that trial lawyer community that Fred Barron (ph) set up stick together? They really were huge for John Edwards that first time. But it did stop when he hit that pitfall in the polls back around November, December of '03.

There was some question whether he was going to make it to the finish line. The money dried up for a little while. The question is, is it going to dry up this time?

Look, everybody's got to position themselves as a chief alternative to Hillary Clinton. If he can be that person -- and right now he's the person that has the highest favorable ratings of any of the four guys that ran for president or vice president. His name I.D. is second probably only to Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side.

So he's got some built-in advantages that would allow him to become the chief alternative. And if he is, then he might be able to continue money flowing that way.

KING: Short time, but a quick "yes" or "no." Joe Lieberman said four years ago, six years ago, if Al Gore were to run in the 2004 race he would not run. Has John Edwards said that about John Kerry?

TODD: It depends on who you talk to. There was this big "New York Times" story that claimed that John Edwards supposedly said that. And you talk to some people that are loyal to Kerry and they say that happened.

You talk to Edwards' people and they say that did not happen. I would be shocked if it actually happened. Edwards I don't think would -- I think he would learn from Joe Lieberman and not make that same mistake.

KING: The questions that come. We'll answer it definitively some time to come.

TODD: Absolutely.

KING: "The Hotline," where Chuck is the editor in chief, insider's political briefing produced daily by "The National Journal." Go online, for subscription information.

Checking the "Political Bytes" on this Tuesday, Pennsylvania's Democratic state treasurer, Bob Casey Jr., is running neck and neck with Republican incumbent Senator Rick Santorum in a new Key Stone poll. Casey leads by one point in this survey. He held a five-point edge in a different poll taken about a month ago. Santorum is up for reelection next year.

The Key Stone poll also gives Democratic Governor Ed Rendell strong leads over three potential Republican challengers, including Football Hall of Famer Lynn Swann. Former Lieutenant Governor Bill Scranton runs the closest race, but he is 10 points back.

In New York, more signs of a possible uphill reelection battle for Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg. A Marist College poll finds 56 percent of New Yorkers say it's time to elect someone else mayor. Thirty-nine percent say Bloomberg deserves to be reelected.

And in the upcoming runoff for Los Angeles mayor, Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa will soon pick up some big-name support. Sources tell CNN that Senator John Kerry plans to endorse Villaraigosa. The Californian was an early supporter of Senator Kerry in last year's Democratic primary.

Just ahead, an update on where the Terri Schiavo case stands in the federal courts.

Plus, emotions run high in the streets and on talk radio. We'll listen in to see what people are saying.

And later, the president and Senator John McCain sharing the stage in Arizona as the president continues his efforts to drum up support for reforming Social Security.


KING: As the markets get set to close on Wall Street, I'm joined by Kitty Pilgrim in New York with "The Dobbs Report" -- Kitty.


Well, stocks on Wall Street turned broadly lower. That was after the Fed statement on interest rates this afternoon. Let's take a look.

The Dow industrials down about 90 points right now. The Nasdaq is nearly 1 percent lower.

And here's the big story. The Fed raised its key interest rate by another quarter point to 2.75 percent. That is the seventh increase since last June.

The Fed did hint in a statement that inflation is becoming a larger concern. And that's what basically spooked Wall Street.

Well, despite record-high gasoline prices, the cost of driving has not increased. AAA says the cost of insurance, licensing, registration and maintenance all decreased since last year. They've cost an average of $8,400 a year to own and operate a new car.

IBM is creating a spam boomerang of sorts. Now, the program can actually identify the machine that created a piece of spam, and then it sends the junk mail right back to the -- where it came from. It's selling it to businesses. Now, this technology could also help businesses from being hacked.

Coming up 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," critics call the Commerce Department's approach to Chinese textile imports a case of too little, too late.


AUGGIE TANTILLO, AMER. MANUFACTURING: But to use an analogy, it's important to know the extent of the cancer within the body, but if you never take a remedy or no one takes steps to deal with the sickness, then all you're doing is standing by and watching the patient die.


PILGRIM: Also tonight, ahead of the trilateral summit, we'll take a look at the major issues facing the United States, Mexico and Canada. And we'll have the latest on the Terri Schiavo case and hear from leading experts in the field of medical ethics.

Also, the commissioner in Canyon County, Idaho says illegal immigrants are draining the county's funds. He says giving amnesty to illegal farm workers is bad for the United States.

That and more, tonight 6:00 Eastern. But, for now, back to John King.

KING: Thank you, Kitty, we'll be watching. INSIDE POLITICS continues right now.


ANNOUNCER: The Terri Schiavo case is the talk of talk radio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is sent from God, folks, this kind of starvation and dehydration.

ANNOUNCER: Power opinions on the airwaves, influencing the political debate over life and death.

Young people and Social Security reform. Are personal accounts up their alley? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I worry about those that won't know what to do with their money. I think they'll end up being left out in the cold and their money will be squandered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're the ones working for the money, why can't we, you know, handle it ourselves?

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


KING: Welcome back. Judy is off today. I'm John King.

Terri Schiavo's parents say their brain-damaged daughter is, quote, "fading quickly," and they're pleading with a federal Appeals Court in Atlanta to order her feeding tube to be reinserted. The appeal comes after a federal judge in Tampa ruled against the parents and in favor of Schiavo's husband.

Here in Washington, Republican lawmakers who pushed a bill through Congress aimed at keeping Schiavo alive say they hope the Appeals Court will rule differently. The White House suggests President Bush feels the same way.

Standing by for us outside that courthouse in Atlanta, where the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is considering the case, our Miles O'Brien.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: John, that three-judge panel has been considering this appeal of that temporary injunction denial by that Florida-based federal court. They've been doing that for all day today in secret. It's very secret deliberations in general in the circuit court appeals. And, generally, they do take some months for them to come up for appeal rulings. But in this case, of course, time is of the essence.

But the issue today clearly is how much time does Terri Schiavo have? The Schindler family indicating that she is fading fast and death, in fact, could be imminent and that in order to preserve her in order to make the legal case that they would like to make before that federal court in Florida, they would like to have an emergency injunction that would force that feeding tube to be reinserted.

Meanwhile, the estranged husband of Terri Schiavo, Michael Schiavo, has put in his own filings today here at this same court, indicating to them that, number one, she is not fading as fast as they might be led to believe, that she could last for quite some time, even without the feeding tube inside. And that the reinsertion of that feeding tube imposes a violation of her rights, anyway. So, that is the specific issue, which is before the appeals court right now.

The separate issue, which still remains to be discussed, which was laid by Congress -- the groundwork was laid by Congress over the weekend, is what the federal courts will say about what has been a state court issue now for more than seven years since Michael Schiavo first petitioned to remove the artificial life support from his wife. That issue will still be played out regardless of what happens here.

We're going to watch this closely. Could be a ruling on this injunction today, perhaps tomorrow. In the meantime, we'll be hearing more from that district court in Florida and then, of course, depending on how that plays out, back to the U.S. Supreme Court.


KING: Miles O'Brien, outside the federal courthouse in Atlanta. If there is any word on a decision by that court, we will, of course, get right back to Miles. Thank you, Miles.

And in the battle over Terri Schiavo's life and possible death, a majority of Americans, 56 percent, say they favor removing her feeding tube. And our CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll suggests this is not a partisan issue for the public. While Democrats are slightly more in favor of removing Schiavo's feeding tube, a majority of independents and a majority of Republicans say they feel the same way.

Of course here in Washington, partisan politics is a factor in the Schiavo debate. And that's true on talk radio, as well.


KING (voice-over): On the G. Gordon Liddy show, the host rails against liberal judges and says the answer is obvious.

G. GORDON LIDDY, TALK SHOW HOST: What clearly needs to be done here is the tube be reinserted and a full and fair hearing be held, in which all this information comes in and Terri Schiavo has adequate counsel to represent her and her interests against that of her husband.

KING: On conservative talk radio, there was joy when Congress and the president intervened, and frustration now that a federal judge has refused to order doctors to resume feeding Schiavo.

John from Wyoming:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I found out this Judge Whittemore came out of the Florida court system. He was a state judge. He was appointed by Clinton. I turned to the wife and I said there is no way he's going to reinsert that tube.

LIDDY: Yes, it's good old boy system. Those Florida judges taking care of each other.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, TALK SHOW HOST: We're treating her in far worse fashion than prisoners in the war on terror would be permitted to be treated.

KING: Rush Limbaugh says the blame extends beyond the judges.

LIMBAUGH: The pro-Democrat media stands for ending the life of a human being who needs only a feeding tube to survive. And they get away. -- they get away with calling themselves, they get away with being called, the party of human and civil rights.

KING: Neal Boortz' nationally syndicated show is conservative, but with a Libertarian bent. He opposes reinserting Schiavo's feeding tube and received more than 2,000 e-mails in 24 hours. "Spawn of Satan" is how one listener labeled Boortz. Another wrote: "You think you are qualified to put a price, a value, on human life, so you are a Nazi."

AL FRANKEN, TALK SHOW HOST: Let's talk about this reverence for life that Bush supposedly has.

KING: Liberal shows, not surprisingly, have a very different take. Radio America's Al Franken took particular aim at Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who is a surgeon.

FRANKEN: This guy is willing, as a medical doctor, to spread misinformation for political purposes.

KING: Franken took heart in polls, showing a majority of Americans think it was wrong for Congress and the president to get involved.

FRANKEN: I think Americans and -- I just think Americans have good instincts. And I think that they saw this and they saw these guys doing this for political advantage.


KING: Hard sells, strong words and -- I kid you not -- even thong underwear in the Social Security debate.

Coming up, the AARP throws everything, including the kitchen sink, into its appeal to young people.

And we'll tell you how Saddam Hussein's name came during the political sparring over Social Security retirement accounts.

Plus, more opinions on the Terri Schiavo case when we take you "Inside the Blogs."


KING: Another day, another Social Security sales pitch for President Bush. His latest stop, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Senator John McCain has been along for the ride out West, trying to lend his bipartisan appeal to Mr. Bush's proposal and perhaps trying to curry a little favor with 2008 Republican primary voters.

Vice President Cheney is on a Western swing of his own, trying to build support for the president's plan to overhaul Social Security. Yesterday it was California; today, Nevada. The Cheney roadshow prompted Democratic Senator Jon Corzine to charge that the vice president made quote, "a virtual career of disdain for Social Security." And Corzine went on then to liken Cheney's roadshow to sending Saddam Hussein to campaign for democracy in Iraq.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman fired back, calling Corzine's remark desperate and outrageous. Meantime, Mehlman is trying to put his own spin on the Social Security debate. In a memo and on a conference call, he said more Americans are beginning to support the president's idea of personal retirement accounts.

That may depend on how the question is presented to them. Our new poll shows just a third of Americans support the retirement accounts when they are told future benefits would be reduced. When the question does not mention reducing benefits, the percentage of those who favor private investment accounts jumps to 45 percent.

Now some interest groups with a lot at stake in the Social Security debate are reaching out, trying to win, in some cases, unlikely allies. Our White House correspondent Dana Bash reports now on the AARP's surprising new outreach program.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our local TV will be in all the 210 markets around the country.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At AARP, they draw battle plans against the president on Social Security.

BILL NOVELLI, CEO, AARP: You know, we've had a lot of conversations about how we reach out to the 30 to 45-year-olds.

BASH: 35-year-olds? The AARP? You heard right. The granddaddy of seniors' groups is targeting younger people to oppose private accounts in Social Security with an edgy new $10 million ad campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to have to tear down the entire house.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you had a problem with the kitchen sink, you wouldn't tear down the entire house.

BASH: CEO Bill Novelli explains the majority of AARP's 35 million members are already convinced. Younger workers, the president's target, are not.

HANS REIMER, WASHINGTON DIR., ROCK THE VOTE: We need to get those people to understand what these private accounts will do, what the consequences will be. And so even though we are not well-versed at communicating to younger people, we're going to do it.

BASH: With cross-generational help with youth focused Rock the Vote. Wristbands, posters, buttons, even thong underwear is in the works. "I Love My Social Security" is the campaign, a unique roll for Rock the Vote. They want young people skeptical about seeing any Social Security at all to think hard before backing private accounts. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will be stuck with paying back a very large debt for their entire life in order to transition through these systems.

BASH: Together, Rock the Vote and AARP are working the grassroots, organizing townhall meetings for younger people, like this one in Michigan, with the older people, like the longest-serving member of the House, John Dingell. They're following the White House sales team across the country and getting noticed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I would say to AARP members -- and we've worked with the organization in the past -- sometimes we agree, sometimes we don't. But what I would say to them is, this isn't about you.

BASH: AARP worked with the White House to pass a prescription drug benefit for Medicare. As a result, 70,000 members resigned in protest.

REIMER: We don't have any permanent friends. We don't have any permanent enemies. We just have our members' interests at heart.

BASH: Conservative critics accuse AARP of fighting personal accounts to win back traditional Democratic support. They're trying to discredit the group.

CHARLIE JARVIS, CHAIRMAN, USA NEXT: We do have to make sure that AARP is held accountable. Since they are our opponent, they are the largest left liberal lobbying organization on this planet.

BASH: For now, the president and his allies are trying a more diplomatic approach, like this appeal in New Mexico.

JARVIS: I want to say to our friends in AARP -- and they are my friends, in AARP -- come to the table with us.

BASH (on camera): AARP says they'll work with the White House, but not until they give up private accounts. And listening to the president in the 20 states he's pitched his plan, he's not ready to do that, at least not yet.

Dana Bash, CNN, Albuquerque, New Mexico.


KING: Another big player in the Social Security ad war, the conservative advocacy group Progress for America is running ads on local TV stations in 30 congressional districts at a price tag of $1 million. The spots accused Democratic lawmakers of standing in the way of the president's efforts to make Social Security solvent.

When the current Social Security debate began, young people were seen as easy converts to the cause of private investment accounts. After all, polls show that support for that idea is highest among the nation's youngest workers. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider, looking for any excuse to get out of the office, recently talked with some of the younger set to get their views on paying for retirement.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Do younger workers really think much about their retirement? We were skeptical. So we caught up with some at a bowling alley. One of those funky, trendy bowling alleys where you won't find Homer Simpson, but you will find a lot of young people. For them, retirement was not a remote concern.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife -- we've been married for a year and kind of just getting our life started. So we definitely have to think about these things. It's suddenly become important to us.

SCHNEIDER: The younger you are, the more you like the idea of personal retirement accounts. Older workers say no way. They depend on Social Security. Younger workers say, way. By a small majority, but they're more supportive than any other age group.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call me a cynic, but I never spent much time thinking about Social Security as a part of my retirement.

SCHNEIDER: They wonder, what are we paying for?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are told not -- we're not going to be able to count on it when we're there. So it's virtually nonexistent, even though we pay for it.

SCHNEIDER: They sort of get what's going on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Baby Boomers, they're getting older. There's a lot more of them than there is, you know, of us. It's just a matter of time, you know, when Social Security is just going to go all to them.

SCHNEIDER: The idea of personal retirement accounts appeals to them because they want to control their own money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, we're the ones working for the money. Why can't we, you know, handle it ourselves?

SCHNEIDER (on camera): It's like bowling. You control your money like you control your ball.

(voice-over): You roll it and, with some skill, you get a strike, or at least, a spare. Financial security. I can do that, young people say. But a lot of people throw gutter balls. What happens to them? Young people care about that, too. That's their big problem with President Bush's plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I worry about those that won't know what to do with their money. I think they'll end up being left out in the cold and their money will be squandered. SCHNEIDER: But the idea of risk doesn't bother most young people. How can it be any riskier than what they're getting now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As it is right now, it's a risk. You probably won't even get the money when you retire. So it probably won't even be any different.

SCHNEIDER: President Bush is targeting his Social Security message at young people like these, and hoping for a strike.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Bethesda, Maryland.


KING: Next time we'll actually get to see Bill bowl, promise.

We go inside the blogosphere next. The Terri Schiavo is a hot topic, but so is an opinion column featuring tales of corruption here in Washington. Our blog reporters are standing by.


KING: Time now to take our daily look "Inside the Blogs." With me, our blog reporter Jacki Schechner and CNN political producer Abbi Tatton. Jacki, I assume, quite a bit of discussion about the Terri Schiavo case.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN BLOG REPORTER: Yes, John, you would be assuming correctly. The Terri Schiavo conversation today is multi- faceted. We've got religion. We've got politics. And we've got law. We're going to start off with religion and politics.

Over at Balloon Juice, under the title, "This is a religious issue," John Cole over there saying the metanarrative of this story is one of religion, politics and abortion and that has been clear from the very beginning. Of course, referencing the pro-life rhetoric being used heavily on the right.

Then we go over to Informed Comment and this is, not to be confused with John Cole. And he says, "The Schiavo Case and the Islamization of the Republican Party." Interesting read, if not frightening, I have to say. He says, "The Muslim fundamentalists use a provision of Islamic law called bringing to account, which is called hisba." And he says, "In this practice, any individual can use the courts to intervene in the private lives of others." Going down to the bottom of the posting, he says Republican hisba will have the same effect in the United States that it does in the Middle East. It will reduce the rights of the individual in favor of the rights of religious and political elites to control individuals."

ABBI TATTON, CNN PRODUCER: Now, there's some discussion on the blogs, playing politics with this morning's ruling. Discussion of the federal Judge James Whittemore, who denied the request of the parents this morning to reinsert the feeding tube. Whittemore, as we heard earlier in this show, is a Clinton appointee and that is coming up a lot on the blogs. Over at the right here,, "Clinton nominated judge rules for death." Over to the other side, This is a blog related to crime-related political and injustice news. Over at talkleft, they anticipated that this would be a theme and started looking into this judge's background, his published opinions, and says that his decisions do not show political partisanship or even liberal tendencies. So, trying to stave off some of the criticism from the right there.

More on Whittemore over at Captain's Quarters, but on a different part of this ruling this morning. "The fact that Whittemore, this federal judge, didn't do what Congress wanted, didn't treat this case from scratch, treated it more like an appeal says that therefore this judge should have -- if did treat it as a fresh filing, should have restored nutrition and hydration to Terri while both sides presented evidence and testimony."

SCHECHNER: More from the right at the Conservative Revolution. A surprising title, "The Terri Schiavo Issue: Her husband is Right." Goes on to talk about the law in this situation. "Speaking of the people of Florida and the situation in Florida," he says, "if the people currently in office won't change the laws, then they need to elect new people who will. That is how we make changes in this country, not by using Congress as some 24/7 one-stop law shop when it suits our needs."

TATTON: Looking ahead here at Talking Points Memo. They're looking forward in this case at kilgoredemocrat, blogging there today. He's saying that if the Supreme Court, if this gets to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court doesn't want to take it up, what's going to happen then? Having framed the Schiavo case as murder and barbarism, does Tom DeLay now just say, well, the family had its day in court and forget about it? Or will the cultural implications of the case make it escalate?"

SCHECHNER: And finally on this issue, has a blog called How Appealing, which is an actual blog dedicated to appellate litigation and over there, not a lot of commentary, but a lot of links to decisions and discussion on this. And you can go over there to get some of the documentation that's being released on the Terri Schiavo case.

TATTON: Just quickly to get to something else out there. It's not all -- on the blogs, it's not all Schiavo. There's some other discussion out there. One of them, a "New York Times" column today by conservative columnist David Brooks, where he takes on Republican lobbyists. "Masters of Sleaze." You can see it right here.

Liberal bloggers really enjoying this. Brooks focuses on Jack Abramoff, amongst others -- Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist with ties to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. You can take your pick of the liberal bloggers today looking to see what they're saying about this. Noting this with glee over in the liberal blogs.

SCHECHNER: Over at Political Animal, the Washington monthly, one we like: "The Republican party has finally become so sleazy that even David Brooks can't stand it any more."

Then if you go over to the Stakeholder, he's got a warning over there under the title of "Sleazo-cons" and down at the bottom, he says, "David Brooks, these people are not parasites on your party, they are your party." And when you go back tomorrow to slopping out the spin, they'll be who you're working for.

So that's what is going on in the blogs right now, John. Mostly Schiavo, but some other stuff to talk about.

KING: Thanks, Jacki. Thank you, Abbi. And INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


KING: And that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Thanks for joining us. I'm John King and I'll be back at the top of the hour for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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