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Lance Armstrong Announces Retirement; Karl Rove Interview; Tom DeLay Battles His Critics; Mechanics of Choosing a New Pope

Aired April 18, 2005 - 15:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: The papal vote 2005. We're live with the latest on the pomp and politics in Rome.

The architect faces new challenges. We'll talk at length with Karl Rove about his boss, second-term strategy, and the people and proposals that may be bogging them down.

Tom DeLay takes aim at his critics, with allies in the NRA watching his back.

HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER TOM DELAY (R) TEXAS: When a man's in trouble or in a good fight, you want all your friends around them, preferably armed.

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


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

The first day of the papal conclave at the Vatican has come and gone, and the Catholic Church still does not have a new leader. As you saw live on CNN about 90 minutes ago, black smoke billowed from a chimney atop the Sistine Chapel. That means the cardinals voted, but failed to choose a successor to Pope John Paul II.

Let's get the latest on the selection process and what comes next from CNN's Jennifer Eccleston, live in Rome -- Jennifer?

JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. Just about 90 minutes ago, a little later than expected, we saw that black smoke rising from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, indicating that there was no selection, no election of the pontiff, the successor to Peter and, of course, the successor of John Paul II.

As you can imagine, as it was seen live across the world on television, there also were thousands of people at St. Peter's Square there to witness what can only be called a very historic event. And those crowds were there from the very early morning, when they had the special mass for the election of the pope, and when they went into the Sistine Chapel from the Apostolic Palace, seen live for the first time on television. And a little more about that. So has much has been said, John, about the secrecy and the mystery behind the election of the pope. And today we had a rare glimpse into the pageantry and the practicality of choosing a successor to Peter, and that was because for the very first time, as I mentioned before, we saw the procession live on television, perhaps to millions if not billions across the world.

And what we saw was the gathering of 115 cardinals electors. A number of priests and altar boys proceed from the Apostolic Palace to the Sistine Chapel. Here, chanting as you can hear the Liturgy of the Saints. Now, inside the chapel, underneath Michelangelo's magnificent frescoes, the cardinals filed through by seniority and took seats on platforms, raised platforms, along tables opposite each other.

What we had at that time was the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, leading a hymn, "Come, Holy Spirit." Of course, as you know, it's Catholic tradition, whereby it is the Holy Spirit that will guide the cardinals, 115 of them from 52 different countries, into the selection of the new pontiff.

From that point on, we had the reading of the oath to keep the secrecy and preserve the secrecy of the conclave that was done by all of the cardinals together. And then one by one, they filed up to a podium, they placed their hands on the Gospel and they recited the oath in person. Now the masters of this ceremony, who's called Archbishop Marini, then shouted out the extra omnes, which means, everybody out. That is, all the cardinals -- all those staff and the secretaries to the cardinal and to the dean of the College of Cardinals had to leave, with the exception to the masters of ceremony. And then the doors were shut and the election process began.

And as we know right now, there was not an election of the pope tonight. We saw that black smoke and we also saw the thousands of crowds -- thousands of people in St. Peter's Square, waiting for the election. And we should expect more of those people to show up tomorrow when the voting begins in earnest -- John?

KING: Jennifer Eccleston live in Rome, tracking this remarkable and historical process for us. Thank you, Jennifer.

And we want to go now live to Georgia. Lance Armstrong, the six- time champion of the Tour de France, has just announced that this summer's race, one more crack at the Tour de France, will be his last. Let's listen in for a few minutes.


LANCE ARMSTRONG, CYCLIST: ... came along and picked up a program last year, and believed in our sport, believed in the team, believed in the Tour de France, believed in cycling. I can't thank them enough. Obviously, the relationship with Discovery will continue for years to come, and I'm excited about being involved in programming there, helping Billy, helping all of the Discovery networks to do different things, and sort of parlay success on the bike into something else. Also, I'd like to thank this guy right here, Johan Bruyneel, who has been in my view -- well, arguably, I guess in anybody's view, has to be the greatest sports director of all time, since he's directed six Tours and won six. I don't know that anybody else can claim that record. This is the guy that came along and believed in me in 1998 and said that you could do it, and this is how you're going to do it, and let's go for it.

And along the way, he helped shape and mold a team and put together a group of people, not just riders, but staff and sponsors and advisers that helped make this all reality and...

KING: Lance Armstrong speaking live in Georgia. The six-time Tour de France winner announcing just moments ago that this summer's Tour De France, in which he will be seeking his sixth victory, will be his last race. Let's play you back that announcement from Lance Armstrong just moments ago.


ARMSTRONG: I will cut right to the chase and say that after a lot of thought, considering the season, the races that I was going to do this year, and deciding to focus on the tour, at the same time, I've decided that the Tour de France will be my last race as a professional cyclist.


KING: Last race, Lance Armstrong announces in Georgia. Joining us on the telephone, Austin Murphy, senior writer for "Sports Illustrated." Austin Murphy, what does this mean for Lance Armstrong and what does it mean for the sport that he made, at least here in the United States, a much more high-profile sport than it had been?

AUSTIN MURPHY, SENIOR WRITER, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED": You know, it means that Lance is going to get some rest finally, and it means that we're watching, I guess, the sun set on one of the careers of one of the great athletes of our time. You know, the Tour is 101 years old and only one man has won it six times. He had an incredible run and he sort of sparked a renaissance in road-racing in this country and it remains to be seen who's going to pick up the slack now.

KING: And what next for Lance Armstrong? An inspirational story because of his victories, a much more inspirational story because of his bout and his survival of cancer. What next for him?

MURPHY: You know, he's a tired guy, who mentioned in signing off here, in announcing his retirement, that you know, he thanked his children, who -- he said they told him it was finally time to come home. He will now throw himself into the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which has raised literally tens of millions for cancer survivors and cancer research since he started it. And so he'll wear that hat, and you know, he'll hang out with Sheryl and perhaps show up in a few more cameos like that one in "Dodgeball." I don't know if that's good news or not. KING: We will wait to see the Hollywood reviews. Austin Murphy, senior writer for "Sports Illustrated," thank you for your analysis. Again, if you missed it, Lance Armstrong, six-time Tour de France champion, saying this summer's Tour de France race will be his last as a professional cyclist.

And now back to politics here in the United States. President Bush got a friendly reminder today that his plan to overhaul Social Security faces some stiff resistance. He took his sales pitch to South Carolina, a state he won quite handily last November. But even there, a letter on the front page of the state newspaper in Columbia warned him his plan for personal retirement accounts would be, quote, "a hard sell."

Mr. Bush told South Carolinians he's trying to bring Social Security into the 21st century.


GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: See, telling younger workers they have to save money in a 1930s retirement system is like telling them they have to use a cell phone with a rotary dial. If young people are confident they can improve their retirement by investing in a conservative mix of bonds and stocks, the government should not stand in their way.


KING; Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove is one of those with quite a bit invested in the president's attempt to overhaul Social Security. Up next, I'll talk live with Karl Rove about the hottest topics and the biggest headaches facing the Bush administration, from Social Security to the Tom DeLay ethics controversy.

And later, a negative indicator? We'll look at the stock market's recent slide and what that might mean for the centerpiece of the Bush Social Security plan.

And of course, we're keeping a close eye on the selection of the next pope and what that may mean if and when the smoke clears.


KING: He's known across political world as "The Architect," the mastermind behind both of George W. Bush's presidential election victories. Now he's the deputy White House chief of staff with a broad portfolio that includes both Social Security and national security. Joining me now, live, from the White House Lawn -- it is our privilege -- Karl Rove.

Thanks for joining us, Karl. I want to start with the Social Security debate -- Mr. Bush was on the road again today in South Carolina. You have to be frustrated from the fact that he's going to so many districts won handily by Republicans, and yet they will not step forward and say yes, Mr. President, we endorse your personal investment accounts?

KARL ROVE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I don't know if I agree with that. He went to South Carolina today, where the two United States senators and the governor are in favor of Social Security modernization and where both houses of the South Carolina legislature have passed resolutions of support for what the president is attempting to do. So we see a broad support across this country, a growing recognition that the Social Security system faces a terrible economic problem that's going to affect our kids and our grandkids and that Congress ought to deal with those problems now rather than leave them for future generations to deal with.

KING: If you have the broad support, why is it the White House says you have -- need more time for the education phase before you can get into the solution phase?

ROVE: Yes, look, this is a big, important problem. And we committed, within this first 60-day phase, working with the leadership in Congress, to draw attention to the fact that it is a problem worthy of action by Congress now.

I would remind you that not too long ago, there were a great many people -- in fact there are still people today who say it's not a problem. Let's not worry about it. Let's leave it around for our kids and our grandkids to solve. And that's not the attitude that we should have.

It's a large problem. Unfunded obligations in Social Security are $12 trillion. In 2008, the payments into the Social Security system will peak, and the Social Security surplus peaks. In 2017, we start spending more money each year than we're taking in. And by 2041, about the time that our kids and our grandkids get set to retire, the system goes bankrupt.

That is a problem. And the American people are learning more about the facts and learning more about the situation and, we're confident, will insist that Congress deal with the issue.

KING: Let me ask you a political question about the problem. The president today was complementary to a proposal put forward by a South Carolina lawmaker, Senator Lindsey Graham. The White House, of course, doesn't agree with everything in the proposal, but the president has said this should be an open debate; put your ideas on the table. And yet a White House ally, the Club for Growth, is attacking Senator Graham in ads. And a newspaper editorial today, his homestate newspaper, "The State" said this: "If the president asked him to, Karl Rove could end this attack on Lindsey Graham with one phone call. Why, if he wants a full and open debate, wouldn't the president do that?"

ROVE: Well, look, I appreciate "The State" giving me powers I don't have. If you have a free and open debate, people are able to express their minds. And some in the Club for Growth are expressing their opinions. But we do believe that the cause of Social Security modernization is well-served by having a forthright debate about the pluses and minuses of any proposals laid out there. And we welcome Senator Graham's efforts. He's been playing an important role in making it clear that there is a problem and that there are ways to deal with the problem.

KING: Let me ask you a question: In your new portfolio as deputy White House chief of staff, you also keep track of national security matters?

ROVE: Well, that's not exactly true, John. I should have corrected you at the beginning. I don't really have much in the way of national security responsibilities.

KING: Well, the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, said that North Korea has aggressive new rhetoric saying it may revive its nuclear weapons program. And Mr. McClellan said, at some point, the administration has to give up if North Korea won't come back to the table, and might go to the United Nations seeking sanctions. Is that an issue that is now being discussed inside the White House, a timetable, if you will?

ROVE: Well, the -- this is an issue that's got the attention of policymakers and has had for a number of years. We remain confident that the influence of the so-called Six Party Talks can resolve the situation. But if North Korea remains intransigent, there are other options available to the world to bring about relief and a change in direction from this despotic regime. I mean, that's a -- you know, if they will not listen to their neighbors, they may need to listen to a wider view of the world.

KING: The administration has said that for some time. Are you reaching a point now where you are trying to decide when to circle a date on the calendar, to say, if they don't listen by this point, we will move on?

ROVE: Well, I think this is a matter to be discussed closely with our allies who are involved in the talks: the Russians, the Chinese, the South Koreans and the Japanese. I know this is being done on an ongoing basis. Well, let's leave it up to the policymakers who are most intimately involved in this to arrive at what needs to be done and when it needs to be done.

KING: A lot more ground to cover, including the question of whether the embattled House majority leader, Tom DeLay, will give up the fight and resign. We'll be back with our interview with Karl Rove as we continue on INSIDE POLITICS in just a moment.



ROVE: The president's making an incredible presentation to the audience here in Fargo, North Dakota. The crowd has received an overwhelming -- his reform message of Social Security. The crowd broke into a strong applause when the president attacked the mainstream media.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: That, Karl Rove, taking the microphone from a certain John King back in February in Fargo. I don't know if you're aware, Karl, we have an opening in the CNN White House unit if you're interested.

ROVE: You promised me a check in return for my airtime, and I never got it.

KING: The check is in the mail, I promise you.

Let's move on to some of the big political debates in the country right now. As you know, the House majority leader, Tom DeLay -- a key leader of the Republican Party and its leadership in the House -- facing ethics questions right now, constant attacks from Democrats. Last week, the president said he looks forward to continue working with Mr. DeLay as leader. But some Republicans thought that was somewhat tepid, perhaps not strong enough -- among them, the former Senate majority leader, Trent Lott. I want you to listen to this and then react.


SEN. TRENT LOTT, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I do think the White House needs to remember that people who fight hard for you as a candidate and for your issues as a president deserve your support. I read very carefully what he had to say last week.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: It wasn't very fulsome.

LOTT: Well, I wish it had been more, frankly.


KING: "I wish it had been more," Trent Lott said. Trent Lott went on to say, frankly, he needs Tom DeLay. Now, as you well know, many thought it was tepid reaction when Trent Lott was in trouble that helped accelerate his downfall. An analogous situation?

ROVE: Look, we strongly support Tom DeLay. He's a good man. He's a close ally of this administration. He was down here last week visiting with the president a couple of times. I'm very confident that this issue is going to be resolved to everybody's satisfaction -- well, to Tom DeLay's satisfaction and those of the Republicans, because a lot of charges are just, as you said in your introduction, attacks by Democrats, and I suspect for partisan reasons.

KING: Well, the Democrats see an opening here. You know well the political debate going on, not only over the...

ROVE: I'm not certain they see an opening, John. I think they're just desperate. They don't have -- they're not offering ideas in the debate. They're not being constructive. And so some of their members are taking potshots at Tom DeLay. But think about it -- they're attacking him for having his wife and daughter on the campaign payroll. Many Democrats have relied upon their family members to help campaign for them and serve as members of their staff. So this is all going to be resolved by the ethics commission -- committee, we think, in an appropriate way. And Tom DeLay is going to continue to be a strong and effective majority leader for the Republicans in the House.

KING: Let me ask to you, then, to put on your political strategist hat. I know you want to retire, but bring it back for just a minute here. The Democratic National Committee chairman, Howard Dean, apparently thinks that he can make an issue of Tom DeLay next year and beyond, not only over these ethics cases, but also, over the decision to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case. Governor Dean saying this -- let me read you this quote before you react: "This is going to be an issue in 2006, and it's going to be an issue in 2008, because we're going to have an ad, with a picture of Tom DeLay, saying, 'Do you want this guy to decide whether you die or not?' "

ROVE: I think he also went on to say, "We're going to make use of the Schiavo case." I mean, I'm sorry that the Democratic Party has been reduced to this kind of drivel. But, I mean, if you don't have ideas, if you're not articulating a vision for America, if you're doing nothing but obstructing, as Dean and others in his party seem to be intent upon doing, I guess you're stuck doing this kind of thing.

What is going to matter to the American people is whether a party is offering a positive and optimistic and hopeful vision for the future and working to achieve that vision on behalf of all Americans, or whether the party fails to do that. And our Republican Party, with the leadership of Tom DeLay and Bill Frist and Speaker Hastert and President Bush and Vice President Cheney, is going to be offering a positive and optimistic vision to the American people of what our society and what our country can be.

KING: One of your key issues with the Congress and one of your key complaints about Democrats in the Senate is that they will not act on the president's judicial nominees -- at least not in a timely enough fashion from the White House perspective. Mr. Bush last week told the bipartisan leadership --

ROVE: John, I would suggest four years of delay, of not bringing up the names that the president sent forward in May of 2001, of not allowing them to be voted on in the United States Senate in four years is more than just a delay.

KING: So, if that is more than just a delay -- to quote Karl Rove -- why won't the president get involved? He told the bipartisan leadership that he's not going to intervene in this dispute about whether the Senate Republicans should go to the so-called nuclear option and tie up business until you get votes on the judges. If the president believes they are wrong, why doesn't he lead and get involved in this fight?

ROVE: We respect the right of the Senate to set its own rules and procedures. This president believes very clearly -- and has said very clearly in the past -- that every judicial nominee deserves an up-or-down vote in the Senate. These are good men and women of excellence and ability that he has nominated to the federal bench. The way that their reputations have been trashed and the way they've been denied an up-or-down vote in the Senate is really a travesty. Never before in American history have we seen such obfuscation and delay and filibuster use in judicial nominations as has been used over the last four years.

I repeat, some of these nominees that we sent forward in May of 2001, and these good men and women have been denied a vote up-or-down on the floor of the United States Senate. We're willing to take our chances on the floor. Let the votes be heard. These men and women have been -- many of them serve in judicial office today. They've been reviewed by the American Bar Association and found qualified or extremely well qualified. They're filling -- many of them are needed to fill judicial vacancies that are emergencies. The Sixth Court of Appeals, for example, has only half of the judges now sitting on cases, and we believe they deserve a vote up or down on the floor of the United States Senate.

KING: I have a long list of policy questions here, but I want to close -- have some fun with a little politics, if you will. The president, when he was in Rome, spent quite a bit of time with Bill Clinton, his predecessor -- two men you would not think would get along so well. Did they talk at all about the challenges facing second-term presidents, or what did they talk about? Take us in the room.

ROVE: Well, I wasn't in the room, so I can't tell you. I was back here holding down the fort. I wish I had been in the room, because it was -- the president said it was an extremely moving visit and both thoroughly enjoyed ijt and was extremely moved by particularly the Memorial Mass on Friday morning.

KING: And Karl Rove, you have said that you will not get involved in the next presidential election. I want to play devil's advocate here. If you could pick the most interesting Democrat and run his or her campaign, who would it be?

ROVE: John King.

KING: You're saying I'm a Democrat. You don't know that.

ROVE: Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you said the most interesting candidate.

KING: At the moment, I'd have to run as an Independent.

ROVE: There we go.

KING: No interest at all. What would it be like to be Hillary Clinton's campaign manager?

ROVE: I'm going to leave that up to Democrats to decide.

KING: Do you worry at all -- let me ask one more question the. If you have...

ROVE: Keep trying, John. It's not working very well, but keep trying.

KING: This is an easier one, from you perspective. You will have an open race next time. The vice president has said he will not run. Does that concern you from the aspect of, it's starting even earlier than the obscenely early time these races start. Do you become a, quote/unquote, "lame duck" earlier?

ROVE: Yes, I'm not certain I agree with you. I think everybody is focused on the legislative business before the Congress and the 2006 elections. There'll be a geological age that's going to come and go before the 2007/2008 presidential election begins to warm up.

KING: We will wait for the geological age. Karl Rove, we took a little more time than we promised. We thank you so much for it today.

ROVE: You bet.

KING: Take care, Karl. Thank you.

ROVE: Thanks.

KING: The black smoke tells the story. One vote complete and no new pope. Up next, we'll go live to the Vatican for much more on the secret ballots and papal politics.

Plus, will the recent slide in the stock market make the president's push to overhaul Social Security even tougher than it already is. We'll ask our Bill Schneider when INSIDE POLITICS returns.


KING: As the markets get set to close on Wall Street -- and we certainly hope Monday was better than Friday -- I'm joined by Kitty Pilgrim in New York with "The Dobbs Report" -- Kitty.

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. I'm happy to report it was. Stocks on Wall Street stabilized after last week's sell-off. And right now we have the Dow industrials down about 17 points. The Nasdaq, however, is slightly higher.

Now, the Dow industrials have lost nearly eight percent in just the past six weeks, and the Nasdaq has slipped 11 percent since December. The main problems are weak corporate earnings, for the moment, and also fear of slower economic growth. And the event cool-down in oil prices has not helped stocks. Today oil prices fell slightly, to just above $50 a barrel.

New York Senator Charles Schumer says gas prices could go even higher if the government lets a major energy merger go through. Schumer is asking President Bush to block the proposed deal between Chevron Texaco and Unocal. According to the senator, if that deal is approved, it gives the new company too much control on the market, and he says its daily oil production would exceed every member of OPEC except for Saudi Arabia and Iran.

In other news, Adobe Systems agreed to acquire Macromedia. It's a deal worth more than $3 billion. The combined company will be able to broadly distribute a wide range of media to computers and mobile phones, and that makes it a much bigger challenge to Microsoft.

Coming up, 6:00 on CNN, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." In our special report, "Broken Borders," are illegal aliens turning our federal court system into an administrative mess?


MATT HAYES, FMR. IMMIGRATION LAWYER: People that are here are usually voluntarily appearing for a hearing and trying to find a way to stay in the country, and there are uncounted thousands of others who never show up at the hearings.


PILGRIM: Also tonight, we look at the impact of illegal immigrants on our country's natural resources. We'll hold a debate between two members of the Sierra Club who have opposing views on whether the organization should back tighter restrictions on immigration.

And then, nuclear North Korea, the threat. Is the country on the verge of making more nuclear bombs? We look at satellite pictures and tell you what the experts say.

And also, critics of education say our nation's youth are not prepared to compete in key areas such as science and engineering and technology. In tonight's report "Failing Grades," we talk to Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, president of the Rensseler Polytechnic Institute, about the impact on our economic and national security. All that and more 6:00 p.m. Eastern. But for now, back to John King.

KING: Thank you, Kitty. And now back to INSIDE POLITICS. It's just after 10:00 p.m. in Rome and the cardinals gathered to select a new pope have retired for the night for another round of balloting tomorrow. Even in this first papal election of the live TV era, the Vatican kept with tradition, using black smoke that let the world know that a new pope had not yet been chosen.

Here in the United States, a new CBS News poll shows most American Catholics have either a great deal of confidence or some confidence that the cardinals will choose a pope in touch with Catholics today. That same poll shows most Catholics in this country think the next pope should let priests marry, let women become priests and allow birth control.

CNN Vatican analyst Delia Gallagher joins us live from Rome. And Delia, out of that poll, let me begin with the question. Most American Catholics are likely to be disappointed, are they not?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: Well, yes. I mean, if that's what you're referring to in detail. On questions, for example, of women priests, on questions of abortion, birth control, those moral teachings of the church are pretty much set. However, there is some latitude with regard, let us say, to married priests. There are instances in the Eastern churches where there are married priests and some of the cardinals we know are considered open to talking about that.

But, of course, that a pope would come in and sort of change all the tradition and the teachings of previous popes is very unlikely. A pope works always within the tradition of Catholicism. And so the real difference is whether a pope would be open to discussing some of those issues.

With regard to women priests, for example, there's not really a discussion amongst the cardinals about women becoming priests, but there is a discussion, perhaps, of women having a larger voice at the Vatican, more authority in the hierarchy of the church. So there is a small amount of latitude on some of those issues, but probably not what the majority of those people polled would be wanting -- John.

KING: Help us understand, Delia, how the high drama of today, the first ballot, the black smoke at the end of the day, how does that change the dynamic going forward? Do the cardinals now know, for example, who the two or three leading contenders are, perhaps?

GALLAGHER: Yes, absolutely. That's why this vote was so fundamental for them to get in there and get started and have an idea, because prior to this, it is likely that they did not know in its entirety where the college would be voting. They knew the men that they were speaking to, who they might be supporting, but this was very important so they could see who are the names and how many votes are each person getting.

Now, of course, we should caution that the frontrunners don't always end up the final man. So it could be that the frontrunners get a certain number of votes and then they have to go back and say, now, do I want this job? If I don't want it, maybe I want to try to encourage those people that voted for me to vote for somebody else.

So there is a lot of politicking that can occur now that really they couldn't do before. They had a huge choice before. Now it's probably been narrowed down a bit for them and one of the things that has happened in the past is the two frontrunners have given way to a third candidate. That's what happened to elect John Paul II.

So I think the next two days are really crucial if it goes that long, to work out whether that third candidate is going to come up or whether it's going to stay with one of the two frontrunners, assuming that there are two frontrunners, of course. This is all speculation based on what's happened in past conclaves.

KING: And we are lucky, watching this secretive process, to have Delia Gallagher, one of our Vatican analysts, in Rome. Delia, thank you very much.

And stay with CNN primetime tonight for complete coverage of the papal election, including a special report on "PAULA ZAHN NOW." That's 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

And if you're away from the television, log on to for an update. You can even sign up for an e-mail alert when the conclave elects a new pope. Now we turn to the intersection between politics and the financial markets. A tumble in stock prices is rarely, if ever, a good thing for the president. And as our senior political analyst Bill Schneider tells us, the recent slip in the markets may be making George W. Bush's campaign for Social Security reform even more complicated.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): The stock market has become political news. Here's why.

BUSH: What we're saying is, if you decide to, you should be allowed the opportunity to invest about a third of your payroll taxes in a conservative mix of bonds and stocks.

SCHNEIDER: Last week's stock market plunge was not good news for President Bush. Is there a link between people's assessment of the stock market and their support for the president's Social Security plan? You bet there is.

In a February Gallup, poll nearly half of those who said they expect the stock market to go up thought private Social Security accounts were a bad idea. Among those who thought the market would stay the same, two-thirds called private accounts a bad idea. That number rose to three-quarters of those who thought the market would go down.

If you are bearish on the market, you're really bearish on private Social Security accounts. And Americans were becoming bearish even before last week's market decline. In February, more than twice as many people expected the stock market to go up rather than down in the next year.

In early April, the two numbers were much closer. Fewer bulls, more bears. What's spooking the stock market? Bad news about oil prices, retail sales, exports, corporate earnings.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The market tends to go up, gradually, and then, very often, when the market declines, it declines violently. When you see these declines of 100, 200 points in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, nothing terribly out of the ordinary.

SCHNEIDER: Investors have to keep their focus on the long term. The president's pretty bullish about that.

BUSH: We've confronted those challenges head-on with good economic policy and today our economy is the fastest-growing of any major industrialized nation.

SCHNEIDER: But the dangers of stock market investing are in the short-term.

CHERNOFF: If you are close to retirement age, and the stock market all of a sudden takes a plunge, you could be in real trouble.


SCHNEIDER: The dangers facing President Bush's Social Security plans are also short-term. He needs public support now. If the market takes a plunge, the president's plans could be in real trouble.

KING: In real trouble if the market takes a plunge. This may be putting the cart before the horse, but what does the market expect that if the president gets his way or something like his way and you do have Social Security money?

SCHNEIDER: Huge infusion of money into the stock market would drive up prices, no question about that. But the point is, it would be probably a short-term effect. The stock market analysts I spoke to said every year they get an infusion of money at the beginning of the year from IRA contributions, where people give their IRA money into the stock market. And that lasts about a month or two, but it's rarely sustained if the basic underlying health of the economy isn't good. So what really makes a difference is the health of the economy.

KING: The president hoping he gets to put that analysis to the test. Thank you, Bill.

Also here in Washington, the arguing about Tom DeLay's ethics continues. After weeks under fire the, House majority leader spent some time this weekend on friendly and quite familiar turf. Here's our congressional correspondent, Joe Johns.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tom DeLay needed this: A keynote speech at the National Rifle Association's convention in his hometown of Houston, a golden opportunity to rally conservatives to his defense amid unrelenting criticism.

HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER TOM DELAY (R), TEXAS: Thank you so much for that warm welcome. I hope the national media saw that. When a man's in trouble or in a good fight, you want all your friends around them, preferably armed. So I feel really good tonight.

JOHNS His opponents in Texas smell blood. They, too, were out in force protesting on the street outside the convention hall.

In Washington, DeLay faces serious ethical questions about lavish trips and whether they were paid for by lobbyists. And in Texas, three DeLay operatives have been charged with illegally funneling corporate money to state campaigns.

DeLay has denied any wrongdoing. The investigations continue.

WAYNE SLATER, DALLAS MORNING NEWS: He's got problems. And what he's trying to do is build support among conservative groups all over the country. You see the Heritage Foundation, you see Focus On The Family in Washington rounding up support for him inside the Beltway. And he's here in Texas trying to appeal to grass roots conservative NRA members in hopes that they'll bolster his support and allow him to keep power. JOHNS: The district, Sugarland, is just outside of Houston. Immigration and redistricting have given Democrats inroads, but it's still solid Republican turf. Still, DeLay's margins of victory have been shrinking -- 63 percent in 2002; 55 percent in 2004.

SLATER: He has fairly strong support, but there's evidence that it is eroding. Now, a majority of the people in the district say they still support him. But if you have a continued drip, drip, drip of problems, he could be in trouble at home.

JOHNS: He's up again next year, and DeLay staff were busy raising money and recruiting supporters outside the speaking hall. The NRA made its support clear, handing out pro-DeLay stickers, and the crowd greeted him warmly. Everyone we spoke with said they supported DeLay and see him as a victim of a slur campaign by Democrats and the so-called liberal media. But they also know he's in trouble. Said one participant: "If Tom DeLay goes down the drain, I'll go down it with him."

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


KING: And still ahead -- move over, Hillary Clinton. Former Senator Bob Kerrey may be the next new New Yorker to seek an important office there.

Plus the cardinals strike out in their first attempt to choose a new pope. How is that playing in the blogosphere? The answer when we go "Inside the Blogs." And, find out why pundit Ann Coulter is creating a stir on line.


KING: A campaign no-go and a maybe top today's "Political Bytes." Senator John Kerry's stepson, Chris Heinz, says he will not seek political office next year. He was rumored to be considering a challenge to GOP Congresswoman Melissa Mart of Pennsylvania. Heinz was an active and popular figure in Senator Kerry's presidential campaign.

In New York, former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey has injected some excitement and uncertainty into the mayor's race. In something of a bombshell, the Democrat was quoted in the "New York Times" yesterday as saying he might run against Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But today, Kerrey issued a statement saying it's unlikely he'll enter the race as a candidate. But he says he'll announce a final decision later this week. Stay tuned.

Something for Kerrey to think about: "Time" magazine cites Bloomberg as one of America's top five mayors. The magazine consulted with urban experts to come up with its list, which also includes Democrats Richard Daley of Chicago; Shirley Franklin of Atlanta; Martin O'Malley of Baltimore, and John Hickenlooper of Denver.

Back here in Washington, Democrats and Republicans are gearing up for a controversial vote. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee weighs in tomorrow on John Bolton's nomination to be the United States ambassador to the United Nations. Republican committee member Chuck Hagel offered a less-than-ringing endorsement yesterday, saying he'll vote for Bolton's nomination, quote, "if nothing more comes out." Hagel told CNN's LATE EDITION he has been troubled by allegation about Bolton's style and method of operation.

Picking a successor to Pope John Paul II. Black smoke means cardinals did not elect a new pope -- not on their first vote anyway. We'll see what the bloggers are saying about that in today's activity at The Vatican.


KING: The fact that 115 Roman Catholic Cardinals meeting in the Vatican failed to elect a new pope in their first vote is getting a lot of attention around the world, including from bloggers. We'll check in with our blog reporters, Cal Chamberlain and Jacki Schechner. Jacki?


The same watching and waiting that is going on in the mainstream media is exactly what's going on in the blogs, so far today and over the weekend.

We start at, her "Open Book," over there, the top Catholic blog for 2005, so we wanted to check in. She has a picture of the chimney and the black smoke coming out, and it says, "let the fevered, hysterical speculation begin." So, people just posting their comments underneath, nothing too serious at this hour.

Then, Bob Waters over at WatersBlog, and that's at He's got a whole post about the process that's going on right now, a lot of what we've been hearing elsewhere. But he's also got some links to the odds on the election of the various candidates. And you can either check out for the pope odds, and the Cardinal Arinze from Nigeria is actually in the lead right now at three to one odds. You can also place your bet on the name that the pope who is chosen will choose to take. Benedict being the top one over there, right now. Watersblog, though, by the way -- Bob is weighing in on what he pick would be and he thinks it's going to be Cardinal Ratzinger. He thinks it is going to take three days. He thinks he will take the name John Paul III. So, he's not going with the obvious choice right now.

CAL CHAMBERLAIN, CNN BLOG REPORTER: And, another fan of Ratzinger is Oswald Sabrina (ph) from Catholic Analysis at Under the title, "Why Ratzinger Would be a Great Pope," he says, "Ratzinger will be able to charm the media because of his -- his charm is authentic. They will see the opposite of the stereotype of the mean conservative, they will see a conservative who is intellectually brilliant, sincerely pious in the best sense of the term, courteous, curious, and quite willing to engage in dialogue on any issue with anyone." And then we have the Pope Blog -- what pope coverage would be complete without checking in with the Pope Blog? And that's, and this is the conclave edition. They were blogging the conclave as they went into the closed doors earlier today. The neat thing they have is the smoke cam, so if you're away from your TV tomorrow and you want to keep an eye on the smoke on the chimney, you can click this link here and it will bring up Real videoplayer and you can watch the smoke live.

SCHECHNER: So, for a light-hearted post and a way to pass the time Frank J. at IMAO likes to have one funny post a day he says, and todays is pretty cute. It's "Frank Advice on Picking the Pope." He has a haiku that he wrote, and then he has a long list of Frank's tips for picking the pope -- one of them being that you may think you have found the right person for pope, he says, but try to imagine him in a big pointy hat and make sure that it's flattering before you finalize your vote. The other thing he says is that it is ultimately a popularity contest, so make sure to vote for the same guy that everyone else is voting for so the other cardinals will think you are cool. Just a funny way to pass the time.

CHAMBERLAIN: And, then, over the weekend, there were some people linking to the stories about the bloggers who actually went to Lebanon to help the pro-democracy activists. Instead of just blogging about it, they went there, and one of them is Michael Totten and his boss Jim Hake who is the founder of Spirit of America. They created a website called Spirit -- actually a blog on Spirit of America -- to start blogging over in Lebanon. And they have a ton of photos, they did a bunch of photo blogging. They just added a video blog. They also -- at the last post talks about how they helped the people at Freedom City, which is a tent city which is at the center of the Cedar Revolution, set up a website called Pulse of Freedom so they can keep you updated.

SCHECHNER: You can check out that blog at They're updating; the latest thing now is that, by April 29th, they want a public demonstration of when the elections are going to be. That would be one month before the final deadline for the election which is May 29th. So you can go to that website,, every day to find out what they are doing to help the cause of the revolution in Lebanon.

Now, the other story today, back at home and on a completely different note, is Ann Coulter has made the cover of "Time" magazine. And as you can imagine, that is stirring up a lot of chatter and controversy all over the blogs. "Ann Coulter is evidence of the conservative media," according to Oliver Willis. He says, "The 'Liberal Media,'" in quotes, "Can we just take the liberal media (INAUDIBLE) outside the barn and shoot it?" He's done with that phrase, he says. He's also got a link to a whole list of articles of all the things that Ann Coulter has said or written that has been controversial over the past year or so, to show why she is not a good choice for "Time" magazine, according to Oliver.

CHAMBERLAIN: And, then, we have David Serota (ph) at, the Serota blog who has a different take on whether or not the media is bias to the left. He says, under the title "Proof of the Media's Hard Right Bias," "When was the last time you saw someone of equal or if not more important on the left promote on the cover of America's -- god -- the American mainstream magazines?" And one of the people who found that is Pike's Peek and under the title, "Left's Worst Nightmare," he shows who is represented and its Michael Moore. So, that's it.

SCHECHNER: All right. So, we'll send it back to you, John. That's what is going on in the blogs right now. There is some Bolton stuff, by the way, but we're going to pick up on that tomorrow as that becomes bigger news.

KING: Bigger news, indeed. Thank you both. I'm guessing David Serota is going through the Karl Rove interview right now.

Stay with us. INSIDE POLITICS will return in just a moment.


KING: I keep reading in the newspapers that I don't like sitting in this chair, but actually it's not to bad. Still, if you are wondering where Judy is today, she's out in California on a very important assignment. She sat down an hour ago with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Golden State Governor is in a rough political fight with just about everybody, not just Democratic lawmakers in California, but also the state's teachers, nurses, firefighters, and police. Are this year's political battles a prelude? In next years gubernatorial campaign, will Schwarzenegger run for reelection? You will hear what the governor has to say about this and much more, as Judy talks one-on-one with the governor of California, tomorrow, on INSIDE POLITICS.

That's it for today's INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for watching. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.



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