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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Laura Bush a Hit at Correspondents Dinner; North Korean Nuclear Issue Festers

Aired May 2, 2005 - 15:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: President Bush by the numbers. Where does he stand with the public, more than 100 days into his second term?

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: Laura, Leno, Bush.

ANNOUNCER: The first lady revels in her new role as a stand-up comic.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: George, if you really want to end tyranny in the world, you're going to have to stay up later.

ANNOUNCER: Was there a serious reason Mrs. Bush went for the laughs?

The elephant in the room: we'll examine the images and words in a fierce political ad war now playing on a TV near you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST "INSIDE POLITICS": Thank you for joining us.

President Bush's second term honeymoon has been over for some time, but after passing another 100-day milestone, he may be getting a glimpse of his lame duck days ahead given his headaches on the Hill and the results of our just released poll. Our national correspondent Bruce Morton crunches the numbers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Forty-nine percent of our sample disapprove of the job Mr. Bush is doing as president; 48 percent approve. No change since we last asked that question 10 days ago. More worrying for the president maybe that our sample disapproves of how he's handling a whole string of major issues: foreign affairs, 45 percent approve, 49 percent don't; the economy, 43 percent approve, 53 percent don't; the situation in Iraq, 52 percent approve, 55 percent don't; Social Security, the issue he's campaigning around the country on, just 35 percent approve. That's gone down since he started speaking about it, and 58 percent disapprove. Energy policy, 34 percent approve, 52 percent don't. Gas prices, 27 percent approve, 67 percent don't. The president himself concedes there's nothing in the energy bill he sent Congress which will bring gas prices down in a hurry.

(on camera): So, on a range of major issues Mr. Bush appears to be out of step for the country. The president said right after the election that he had a mandate to do big things in his second term, but his new initiatives haven't been popular with the voters.

(voice-over): Still, Congress shouldn't be feeling too cheerful either: just 42 percent of our sample approve of the way Republicans in Congress are handling their job, 50 percent disapprove. The Democrats, slightly worse marks -- 40 percent approve of what they're doing, 52 percent don't.

On Social Security, a majority of our sample is against the plan that would allow workers to invest part of their Social Security tax in the stock market. The majority is also against cutting benefits for middle and upper income workers in the future, something President Bush has suggested. The people we polled trust the Democrats more than the Republicans to deal with the issue and they'd rather raise taxes than cut benefits.

There's been a lot of talk lately about religion in politics: 43 percent of our sample thought the Christian conservatives had too much influence over Republicans in Congress. Roughly a quarter said they had too little, roughly a quarter said, about the right amount. And, when we asked how the Democrats in Congress felt about strongly religious people, just under half said the Dems had neutral feelings, roughly a quarter said positive feelings, roughly a quarter said negative ones.

Finally, the filibuster. We explained that it's a Senate procedure to prevent the Senate from confirming nominees or approving bills with a simple majority, that you need 60 votes to break the filibuster. Our sample favored its use, 52 to 40.

So, an America out of tune with its president but not too thrilled with this Congress either.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Bruce, and let's talk more about the poll, the president and his political problems. We're joined now by CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein of the "Los Angeles Times."

So, Ron, the president was re-elected, 51 percent, just last November, but here we are, May 2nd. His poll numbers down a little bit, but he's having real problems with some of the big initiatives that he wants.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, if you look at this by historical comparison, these are weak numbers for a president at this point in his second term. I went back the other day and looked at Gallup numbers for every re-elected president, and the president now, President Bush, is now tying Harry Truman 1949 and Richard Nixon in the midst of Watergate in 1973 for the lowest approval rating after only 100 days. His disapproval rating is the highest we've seen for a re-elected president this early in the second term, and, Judy, if you look inside your numbers today at independents -- traditionally, the critical swing vote in the electorate, his approval rating is down to 39 percent with 57 percent disapproval, which is obviously a weak number.

Now, if you ask the next question, how concerned is the White House about all this, the answer is, probably not as much as you would think, that reflects a different kind of political strategy.

WOODRUFF: Which is?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, the White House, I think, feels that it has developed a different model for how President Bush and Republicans can thrive in this era. In the 1990's, Bill Clinton was focused on the middle voters, on those centrist, independent voters. Much of his agenda was to bring them over to his side. The White House is very comfortable operating in a 50/50 polarized environment. As long as they can maintain intense support among their base, they believe they can get a turnout that will in effect produce an electorate slightly to the right of the country that we're measuring in these approval polls, in these job approval polls, and today in your poll he's still at 87 percent, 88 percent, among Republicans.

Now, they are pushing it. I mean, this is a road test of a strategy when you're down to 39, 40 percent of Republicans -- among independents -- you need a very big turnout among our base to overcome that.

WOODRUFF: Let's look at the Social Security numbers. Who do you trust more on Social Security? Forty-six percent are saying Democrats, 36 percent are saying Republicans. I mean, this is a real warning sign for the White House, isn't it?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, it's a sign they have not made progress in the 60 days. In fact, in almost every poll, including this one, over the 60-day period that he's been out selling his Social Security initiative, he has lost ground in terms of job approval, comparison with Democrats or, for that matter, support of the idea of carving out individual accounts. I think this is a critical number in this way: the White House, when it put out the plan last week to go to the so- called progressive indexing of benefits, changing the way benefits are calculated in the future -- one of the things they were trying to do was push -- pressure the Democrats into coming forward with their own plan. But I think, as long as his numbers are weak, Democrats are not going to feel compelled to do that. They're saying they don't feel that there is political danger in opposing something that doesn't have majority support.

WOODRUFF: Now, we have Bill Thomas, who's the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee coming up with a plan in an effort to push the president along. Is that going to make much different?

BROWNSTEIN: I think that can help him by -- any activity at this point, I think, from the point of view of Republicans is positive because the whole thing seems stalled. But, Bill Thomas -- the indications I'm getting -- is speaking for himself at this point in this sense. He wants the ways and means committee to act and move this to the floor. The House leadership has not committed to acting on the floor on whatever he produces. As you know, their basic model has been they want proof that the Senate can pass something before they ask House members to take this difficult vote. They don't want to be out on a limb with a controversial vote of Social Security that can't happen in the Senate.

So, I don't think Bill Thomas has won that battle yet, but if he does move it forward, it would be something to get the ball rolling and right now, they're kind of stuck at square one.

WOODRUFF: Ron Brownstein, and, before we let you go, we want to say congratulations. You are being married this weekend to Eileen McMennomen (ph), a former CNN producer who now works on the Hill for Senator John McCain. We are thrilled for both of you.

BROWNSTEIN: I am thrilled that you're thrilled. Thank you very much.

WOODRUFF: Congratulations. We'll see you very soon. OK.

So, the president's political fortunes are serious business here in Washington, but they became a laughing matter for a time this weekend with Mr. Bush's blessing, when his wife took the stage at annual White House correspondent's dinner.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

L. BUSH: It's now my honor to introduce America's history buff in chief, George W. Bush.

G. BUSH: Way to go, baby. Couple of funny lines one evening, and she gets carried away.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): It's hard to upstage a president, but Saturday night, Laura Bush made it look easy.

G. BUSH: And so the city slicker asked the old guy how to get to the nearest town...

L. BUSH: Not that old joke. Not again.

WOODRUFF: She stole the spotlight and the show.

L. BUSH: 9:00, Mr. Excitement here is sound asleep, and I'm watching "Desperate Housewives," with Lynn Cheney. Ladies and gentlemen, I am a desperate housewife.

WOODRUFF: With zinger...

L. BUSH: I said to him the other day, George, if you really want to end tyranny in the world, you're going to have to stay up later.

WOODRUFF: ...after zinger...

L. BUSH: I'm quiet, he's talkative. I'm introverted. He's extroverted. I can pronounce nuclear.

WOODRUFF: ...after zinger.

L. BUSH: But I'm proud of George. He's learned a lot about ranching, since that first year when he tried to milk the horse. What's worse, it was a male horse.

WOODRUFF: Enough to make even a Bush blush and the leader of the free world seem, if only for a moment, like a regular guy, and that's just how the White House wants it.

L. BUSH: People ask me all the time whether George has changed. He's a little grayer, and, of course, he's learned and grown as we all have.

WOODRUFF: Laura Bush has long been her husband's not-so-secret weapon, pounding the campaign trail last year to show the softer side of the commander in chief, the compassion in the conservative.

L. BUSH: He'll always tell you what he really thinks. You can count on him, especially in a crisis.

WOODRUFF: While the president's popularity has roller-coastered, the First Lady's keeps soaring higher and higher. And as her Saturday night showstopper made clear....

L. BUSH: George and I were just meant to be. I was a librarian who spent 12 hours a day in the library, yet somehow I met George.

WOODRUFF: Laura Bush remains the administration's not-so-secret weapon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And she gets credit for a boffo performance. And we want to mention, the man who wrote many, if not all of her lines, Landon Parvin (ph), a familiar face in Republican White House's speechwriter for the president, and for the First Lady.

Well, from a secret weapon to real weapons and potentially dangerous consequences. Up next, North Korea sends an ominous message just before nuclear disarmament talks get underway at the U.N. What can and should the Bush administration do?

Plus, campaigning on the cheap in the U.K. Could American politicians learn a thing or two from the British?

And the photo-op Washingtonians can't get enough of.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: A White House spokesman said today that North Korea's weekend test launch of a short-range missile would only serve to, quote, further isolate North Korea. The missile apparently was fired into the Sea of Japan on Sunday. A short time ago, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters the U.S. is working to resume multi-nation talks with north korea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States maintaining significant, and I want to underline significant, deterrent capability of all kinds, in the Asia Pacific region. So I don't think there should be any doubt about our ability to deter whatever the North Koreans are up to.

But that does not mean that it is not a serious problem and that the North Koreans shouldn't come back to the six party talks, because all of their neighbors consider this to be a problem. This is not just between the United States and North Korea. And, yes, missiles will at some point have to be a part of the discussion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Condoleezza Rice. With me now to talk more about North Korea is former ambassador Wendy Sherman. She was a special adviser to the president and the secretary of state on North Korea during the Clinton administration. Very good to see you again.

WENDY SHERMAN, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR: Good to be with you.

WOODRUFF: What is the significance of this test firing?

SHERMAN: I don't think the test in and of itself has tremendous significance, because they have done other short-range missile tests. But the timing of it is significant. And I think it's North Korea saying we're moving ahead, we're going to have a deterrence, we're going to be able to defend ourselves. No matter what you do, United States, no matter what you call us, we're going to keep going here.

I think it's been planned for some time, but coming as it does on the heels of all of the statements of the last few days and the upcoming review conference of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, timing does matter.

WOODRUFF: Well, we just heard Condoleezza Rice, secretary of State, again say there shouldn't be multi-party talks that North Korea can take part in. Clearly, other political leaders in this city feel differently. What's the right answer about that?

SHERMAN: I think the right answer is to have direct talks between the United States and North Korea in the context of the six party talk. It is a good idea to have all the players in the region involved and responsible, and for North Korea not to be allowed to create a wedge between the parties and play one of us off against the other.

But every single other country has direct talks with the North and at the end of the day, the North wants regime to survive want and they want to know that the last remaining superpower, the United States, is going to guarantee that survival. We're the big country, they're the little country. We shouldn't be afraid to talk.

WOORDUFF: Let me ask you about some of the rhetoric. We know the United States has been consistently been critical of North Korea. The president has called Kim Jong Il a tyrant. And let's just very quickly listen to what White House chief of staff Andy Card had to say yesterday here on CNN about the North Koreans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Kim Jong Il is not a good leader. He's not a good leader for his people. His people are living in abject poverty. Many of them are in concentration camps. They do not have any exercise of democracy or freedom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Andy Card on "LATE EDITION." Wendy Sherman, is this the right approach for the administration?

SHERMAN: I don't think it's exactly the right approach. There's no question that virtually everyone in the United States would not wish to live in North Korea. We all understand the kind of country that North Korea is. But nonetheless, it is a sovereign country with a sovereign leader. People have to be able to maintain their dignity and a sense of face in the negotiation. And the United States sort of calling names and using the same bellicose rhetoric that the North does doesn't take us any further down the path.

We all hope that North Korea changes how it governs, what the prosperity and the life of their people is into the future. But in order for those changes to take place to help North Korea join the international community, we have to talk with them and deal with them as they are, not just as we wish them to be.

WOODRUFF: So what does that mean -- are the next steps for the U.S., for this administration, should be?

SHERMAN: I think that the administration ought to take the rhetoric down, ought to talk about Kim Jong Il being a sovereign leader of a sovereign country. That although we may not agree with how he governs, we, in fact, understand that he and his people have made some choices. We will deal with him. We will engage with him. I think it's important to get the other countries involved, to say to Kim Jong Il, you ought to come back to the talks, you are not safer. That, in fact, there will be consequences if we don't move forward.

But at the same time, we need to get back to these talks in a direct way and put some things on the table and try to get them underway. It may be too late. We have had four years of a policy that so far has not worked and in fact, North Korea is more dangerous today than it was four years ago.

WOODRUFF: Ambassador Wendy Sherman, thank you very much. It's always good to have you on the program.

SHERMAN: Thank you. WOODRUFF: We appreciate it. Thank you.

Well, we turn our focus to the week's vote in Britain next. Their campaigns are short and they cost a lot less than those here in the U.S. As Tony Blair runs for a third term, we will look how the British conduct elections on a budget.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: By the time voting ends Thursday in Britain's general election, the entire campaign from start to finish will have lasted an entire month. Now that is a sharp contrast to elections here in the United States, which, of course, usually last a lot longer, in fact years and get more expensive with each election cycle.

CNN's Robin Oakley has more from London.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Making a choice between John Kerry and George W. Bush cost some $1.2 billion last year. Congressional elections boosted the bill to nearly $4 billion. Making a choice between these three men -- Labor's Tony Blair, the conservative's Michael Howard and the Liberal Democrat's Charles Kennedy, with 646 members of the House of Commons thrown in on the deal -- comes for little more than $18 million.

PETER RIDDELL, THE TIMES: The amount of money spent in a big state in the U.S. is as much as all the parties are going to spend in Britain, or putting it another way, if you look at how much is being spent by the three main parties in Britain, it wouldn't you get elected to the Senate in California.

OAKLEY: To get elected you have to advertise, to canvass support to get the name across. Corruption in the 19th century, when many rich men bribed their way to Westminster, led to strict limits on what would-be members of Britain's parliament can spend in doing so.

SAM YOUNGER, ELECTORAL COMMISSION CHAIRMAN: A candidate in the constituency can only, on their own account, spent broadly -- There are variations according to the exact size of the constituency -- but can broadly spend up to about 10,000 pounds. Now 10,000 pounds, in today's terms, doesn't buy you a great deal.

OAKLEY: Indeed not. Nor would the equivalent $19,000 buy you many fireworks in the U.S.

BUSH: I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message.

OAKLEY: What helps to make politics costly in America is the freedom to buy time on television, whether to boast about your own qualities or to do down your opponent. In Britain, the parties get a few minutes each of free air time for party election broadcasts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But if you really believe in those values, there's nothing that should stand in the way of that. OAKLEY: But they're banned from buying more air time, and they're limited to spending 20 million pounds, some $38 million, in total in the run-up to the election, which doesn't make them sad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The parties on the whole are relieved they've got restrictions, particularly the overall spending restriction and the ban on advertising restriction. Because their fear is if they went to a U.S. system, where it's a free-for-all, effectively, not necessarily in fund-raising but on spending, the bills would soar here and where would they get the money from?

OAKLEY: (on camera) Elections still come comparatively cheap in Britain, and that's the way most want to keep it, because if they get any more expensive, then rich backers will have to be enticed to pay the bills, and their cash rarely comes without strings.

Robin Oakley, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Robin. In the fight over filibusters, the Senate here isn't the only battleground. Both sides are also duking it out in commercials. When we return, we'll take a look at on-air fight and whether you can believe what you see.

Plus:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Isn't that a beauty? It's a Bill Clinton sax doll. Wonder how much I could get for it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Is it a collector's item or is it junk? Our Bill Schneider checks out the great political garage sale.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: It's a little before 4:00 Eastern time, and as the markets get set to close on Wall Street, I'm joined by Kitty Pilgrim in New York with "The Dobbs Report." Hi, Kitty.

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

We have a last-minute rally coming up on Wall Street. Let's take a look. Dow Jones Industrials -- they're adding about 61 points right now. the Nasdaq slightly higher. Again, that happened in the last few minutes. Crude oil jumped more than a dollar, to nearly $51 a barrel today.

And on the economic front, we're looking at some really weak economic news here. Manufacturing is growing at the slowest pace in two years. The numbers for April are in. It was the fifth straight month of sluggish growth, and that really backed up last week's report on GDP, which also showed that the economy was expanding at the slowest rate in two years.

Even with all of these signs of slow-down, Fed chairman Alan Greenspan still expected to raise key interest rates tomorrow by another quarter point, to three percent.

Well, Wall Street's been wondering, waiting. Finally looks like we have a deal for MCI. Qwest Communications is dropping out of the bidding, as MCI's board accepted Verizon's latest offer. And here's the punchline: even though Qwest is offering more money, MCI maintains that Verizon is the stronger company.

PILGRIM: Another breach of security has exposed thousands of personal records. This time, it's fairly close to home. Time-Warner, which is the parent company of this network, says 40 computer backup tapes containing personal information -- as many as 600,000 individuals -- they lost those tapes.

Well, coming up on CNN, 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," right now the American taxpayer pays for mass transit in this country. So, why is most of the equipment made overseas?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVEN LATOURETTE (R), OHIO: You could have a machine that has a thousand parts -- every one of those could be made in China, and as long as you assemble it in a garage in the United States, it's got the stamp of "made in the USA."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PILGRIM: Also coming up on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," broken borders -- we've heard the debate over illegal aliens, but tonight we're going to take a closer look at just how much of our country's farming industry benefits from illegal immigration, and then, a group of U.S. students, suing the governor of Kansas. He lets illegal aliens get in-state tuition rate. Plus, we have Congressman Ed Royce (ph), and he will tell us why he strongly supports the passage of the Real I.D. act. We'll have all that and more, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," but, for now, back to Judy Woodruff. Judy?

WOODRUFF: Thanks, Kitty, very much.

And, before we return to INSIDE POLITICS, this breaking news out of Fort Hood, Texas: a military judge has accepted a guilty plea from Private First Class Lynndie England. She is the soldier who was -- pled guilty for her role in the abuse of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison facility in Iraq. Among other things, she was photographed with a leash around the neck of one of the prisoners and in various other poses. Again Lynndie England pleading guilty. A judge has now accepted her guilty plea.

Now, back to INSIDE POLITICS.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says he is running out of options in the battle over President Bush's judicial nominees, and "USA Today" quotes Frist as saying that a show-down with Democrats over their power to filibuster judges may be inevitable. Both parties are trying to calculate the political and financial cost of such a show-down. With our new polls showing that 52 percent of Americans favor the use of a filibuster in the Senate, Democrats appear to be coming out ahead in this controversy right now. Forty-five percent of those surveyed say they favor the Democrats position over the Republicans.

Meantime, the filibuster fight is getting expensive for opposing interest groups which are vowing to spend at least $1 million on ads just over the next two weeks. Howard Kurtz of CNN's "Reliable Sources" examines this costly and combative ad war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIMMY STEWART, "MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON": Wild horses aren't going to drag me off of this floor until those people have heard everything I have got to say.

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN "RELIABLE SOURCES": Jimmy Stewart, in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" is a great movie hero for liberal groups. They're fighting Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist over Republican plans to abolish the filibuster for votes on President Bush's judicial nominees. In this $5 million campaign by People for the American Way, Mr. Smith yields the floor to firefighter Ted Nonini, who describes himself as a common sense Republican.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I also know that our democracy works best when both parties are speaking out and being heard. Mr. Smith knew it, too.

KURTZ: Maybe, but Senate filibusters also prevent the majority from getting its way, in that the president hasn't been able to get an up or down vote on 7 appeals court nominees being blocked by the Democrats. Liberals used to denounce filibusters when Southerners like Strom Thurmond used them to talk civil rights legislation to death. And Democrats used to complain when Republicans threatened filibusters and blocked votes on some of President Clinton's nominees. But now, to the Democrats in the minority, filibusters don't look so bad, and to the Republican majority, they do. The liberal group MoveOn uses stampeding elephants to symbolize an out-of-control party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republican presidents appointed the majority of judges on most of our appeals courts, but radical Republicans want absolute control of the entire government, so they are planning to break the rules to get more extremist judges approved.

KURTZ: Trying to abolish filibusters doesn't exactly add up to "absolute control" of government, but it would make it far easier for Senate Republicans to get their way on a simple majority vote.

And are the president's seven disputed nominees really extremist or just too conservative for the Democrats? As for the breakdown on appellate judges, the majority of judges now sitting on federal appeals courts, were appointed by Republican presidents.

On the pro-Republican side, Progress for American has just launched a $1.5 million campaign with an ad that talks up the qualifications of the nominees, such as Janice Rogers Brown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Janice Brown is the daughter of sharecroppers. She put herself through school and rose to become the first African-American woman on the California supreme court. Brown has won praise from Republicans and Democrats for being fair and honest.

KURTZ: But some Democrats, such as Ted Kennedy, have accused her of pushing extremist views on such issues as worker protection laws and civil rights. Another spot by the Judicial Confirmation Network takes aim at arrogant judges -- no names provided -- who the group says want "god" out of the pledge of allegiance. It's true that one appeals court ruled to change the pledge, but that was unanimously over turned by the Supreme Court.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who are these people? Arrogant judges, ignoring the Constitution and writing their own laws. The president believes judges shouldn't impose political views, yet his nominees are blocked by a minority of liberal senators.

KURTZ: You might think that Senate rules changes would be too arcane a subject for an advertising blitz. The fact that liberal and now conservative groups are spending millions show how high the stakes are for both parties. They seem to love Mr. Smith-type talkathons when they are in the minority, and despise them when they are in the majority.

Howard Kurtz, CNN's "Reliable Sources"

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Looking ahead to a showdown in 2008, we've got the current crop of possible contenders covered. Up next, who could help the Democrats get past a panic stage?

Also ahead -- one person's junk is another's treasure. We'll show you what is popular with political memorabilia collectors.

And, when we go inside the blogs, on-line pundits run the gamut from reviews of the president to opinions of the run-away bride.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Political news from the heartland leads off our Monday edition of "Political Bytes." Republican congress Tom Osborne (ph) has announced plans to run for Nebraska governor next year. Osborne (ph) entered politics back in 2000 after he retired as University of Nebraska football coach.

Nebraska GOP Senator Chuck Hagel is spending several days in New Hampshire in week. The potential White House candidate plans to visit several college campuses around the state, as well as breakfast forum in Bedford.

And religious broadcaster Pat Robertson said yesterday on ABC's "This Week" that even though he differs with former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani on social issues, Giuliani would be quote, "a good president." Robertson also said he doesn't think Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will end up running for the White House. In Robertson's words, "I just don't see him as a future president." Robertson had positive things to say about two other Senate Republicans sometimes mentioned as White House hopefuls. He praised both Sam Brownback of Kansas and George Allen of Virginia.

Well, staying with the race for 2008, I recently discussed Indiana senator Evan Bayh, one of the potential Democratic contenders, with Chuck Todd, the editor-in-chief of "The Hotline." I started by asking Chuck what sets Evan Bayh apart from the other potential Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR, "THE HOTLINE": Well, some people say 2004 election, the panic stage with Democrats -- it's like, it's all about red states. Well, he comes from as a red of a state as you can have in Indiana, votes Republican all the time. And here he's won, as I said, five state-wide elections. He's been a governor, which of course, we all know, is now a prerequisite if you want to be president. You need to have been a governor. He looks good on television. He's telegenic. That, of course, matters. He's from the centrist wing of the party.

So he's got the electability factor, at least -- and he comes from the right part of the country. Being in Indiana, he's next door to Ohio, near the heartland, which right now, is sort of the dwindling but last part of the Democratic base.

WOODRUFF: What do we know that he's been doing to lay the groundwork? I know you've been talking to a lot of people.

TODD: Well, he's got a -- he's probably farther along than most presidential candidates on the Democratic side, farther along than even maybe a John Edwards or Hillary Clinton. He's got a very interesting kitchen cabinet, folks that include Ron Klain, a veteran of Gore presidential campaigns, who's known Evan Bayh since 1980; Tom Sugar, his longtime Senate chief-of-staff; Richard Gordon, his chief- of-staff as governor; Don Baer, a former White House communications director for Bill Clinton.

And he's got a very smart and savvy political kitchen cabinet: Anita Dunn, who helped run Bill Bradley's insurgent campaign of 2000; Steve Bouchard, who ran Wesley Clark's New Hampshire efforts in 2004; and Paul Maslin, Howard Dean's pollster. And Nancy Jacobson is leading his fundraising. So he's got a very sophisticated and nationally known group of advisers.

WOODRUFF: But he -- one thing he doesn't have is the kind of national experience. He's never run a national campaign. What do we know about his ability to survive in an Iowa and a New Hampshire and so on?

TODD: Well, I think that's the big question. Now he's campaigned in Iowa and New Hampshire before. He campaigned on behalf of his father, who ran for president in 1976. And it's funny, it's the experiences with his father that seem to have the most influence on him. He saw his father lose in 1980 in a Republican landslide year, when Birch Bayh got defeated by Dan Quayle. And if anything, it's been almost the most influential political event in his life.

And all of his other political decisions, when it's come for what to run for, when to run for it, have gone back to those lessons that he learned in 1980 so well. He's never lost an election. Having experienced that defeat, a lot of people think that that will toughen him up to take on a Hillary Clinton, which is not going to be easy if that's who his primary opponent is in 2008. And that he's -- that that toughness is there, because I think that is a question.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Chuck Todd. "The Hotline," an insiders' political briefing, is produced every day by "The National Journal." You can go online to nationaljournal.com for subscription information.

Report cards from the blogosphere when we return. We'll check in with our blog reporters to see what the online community has to say about the first 100 days of the president's second term.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Some performance reviews for the president and the first lady, as we go "Inside the Blogs" now. We check in with CNN political producer Abbi Tatton and Jacqui Schechner, our blog reporter.

Hi, Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN BLOG REPORTER: Hi, Judy. It's a Monday all around. So President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush both getting reviewed on the blogs today, he for his performance in the first 100 days of his second term, she in her performance at the White House correspondents dinner on Saturday night. Now, how President Bush is doing depends on who you read in the blogs.

We start out on the left. Emergingdemocraticmajorityweblog.com. It is a mouthful. The title is "Donkey Rising." And it's Ruy Teixeria posting over there, calling Bush the quagmire president and saying that he is being called that as a result of the failure of his Iraq and Social Security initiatives, and his plummeting numbers in recent opinion polls on both topics.

But then over on the right, Hugh Hewitt (ph) saying that the president is doing a good job. He says he's had a pretty good 100 days and he's just warming up, citing torte reform, bankruptcy reform, the budget and ANWR and internationally, the elections in Iraq, among other things.

ABBI TATTON, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: Now First Lady Laura Bush brought down the house at the White House correspondents dinner over the weekend in Washington. Now if you didn't get your invite in time or you didn't get to go to that, and you want to watch it, go to one of the video bloggers. Treyjackson.typepad.com has the video, you can click there, download it and watch the whole speech.

SCHECHNER: All right, we're trying to load bullmooseblog.com right now. It's a white screen, so it's not very visual. But they are commenting on the larger political ramifications of Laura Bush's speech, saying basically that as W's popularity wanes, expect to see more of Laura. She's going to be a huge asset for him in the future.

TATTON: Some of these blogs offering commentary like that, some of them offering news, some of them offering satire. Here's one of them. Theswiftreport.blogs.com. It has a satirical take on Laura Bush's speech. "Conservative Christians not laughing at First Lady's Comedy Act," citing a fictional group, a conservative group that's upset, saying that, "A pastor from the group warns that the first lady's performance comes at a time when Mr. Bush's manliness is already under attack." I might add, again, a satirical post, but one that some people fell for.

SCHECHNER: They did. A lot of the bloggers on the right fell for it. "The Drudge Report," not a blogger, but a lot of people know Matt Drudge and his news site -- he fell for it, took the post down. James Joyner (ph) over at Outside the Beltway, Andrew Sullivan, among some of them. And Joyner (ph) over at the Outside the Beltway -- if we can pull that up -- quickly, but what he says is, "Sadly, differentiating satire from reality becomes more difficult every day." Again, when you read the blogs, be careful that you know what you're reading.

TATTON: You might be completely baffled...

5.2.05

SCHECHNER: ...satire from reality becomes more difficult every day. Again, when you read the blogs be careful you know what you're reading.

TATTON: You might be completely baffled by this whole blog thing that we're talking on "Inside the Blogs" every day. You may not have a blog. You may not ever read them. You're actually in good company: it's only 26 percent of people say that they are somewhat or very familiar with blogs according to a recent CNN poll.

But with -- help at hand. We wanted to show you the MudvilleGazette.com -- MudvilleGazette.com -- which has a great post which is making the rounds right now: "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Blogging:" how to start, how to find out how popular your blog is becoming, how to post open threads so other people can comment on it. It has lots of stages here. It's a lot of information but one you should really check out.

Why is he doing this? This is Tiger Hawk, a military blogger at this site. He says, "why would I be so willing to help you? Because when you become a huge blogger I want you to remember me and to link to me from time to time, OK? That's how this whole thing works." SCHECHNER: And before we go over to the next story -- real quickly, I think I forgot to mention, it's BrendanLoye.com (ph), the Irish trojan blog. He's the guy who found a lot of the right-wing blogs who had mistaken the swift boat for a true story.

So, and then the other story we wanted to tell you about was the story of the bride Jennifer Wilbanks who went for a jog and just kept on running and setoff a massive man hunt. Some of the blogs saying the mainstream media is paying way too much on the story, but a lot of the blogs themselves have an opinion and are weighing in. Over at IronMagnolia.myblogsite.com, "I'm not saying she deserves to be crucified but this woman needs to take the beach towel off her head, look into a camera and apologize to all the people that worried and looked for her and pray the next time someone take a jog and doesn't come home the same people that were scared to death about her won't be a little bit jaded and a little bit slower to act."

This is LaShon Barber (ph) Corner -- this is LaShonBarber.com -- a real rising conservative site. She has a problem with the designation. "Dump the run away bride designation. Such fairy tale notions have no place in this scenario." Then she goes on to tell her readers who are all commenting there just exactly what she thinks of the woman. Over to you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. I've just written down Mudville Gazette. That's one I'm going to check out. Jacki and Abbit, thank you both. We'll see you tomorrow.

Internet users have ebay but some people like to find collector items the old fashion way. Up next, we'll take you to a giant garage sale packed with political memorabilia.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: If you are ever tempted to throw away an old campaign button or some more obscure item from the political past, think twice. Because apparently political memorabilia is a hot commodity. Let's go shopping now with our Bill Schneider.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Look at all this junk: campaign buttons, ribbons, bumper stickers, signs, bobble heads, bottles, dogtags and a game of chads made in, where else, Palm Beach County, Florida. It's the great political garage sale held by a group called American political items collectors. Junk, you say? Here's a poem printed on silk from Teddy Roosevelt inaugural.

UNIDENTIEFIED MALE: It may be a quarter at the time, plus, it can be yours now for $265.

SCHNEIDER: You come across some interesting specialties here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I specialize in Grover Cleveland and his wife, Frances.

SCHNEIDER: I bet you didn't know this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had a child that they named Ruth, and everyone called her Baby Ruth. That's how the candy bar was named, so I also collect Baby Ruth memorabilia.

SCHNEIDER: What's the most valuable political item?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That would be what we typically call the holy grail in our hobby which is the Kahtz-Rutobout Juuget (ph). It was used in 1920, supporting James Cox as the Democratic nominee, and Franklin Roosevelt, the vice-presidential nominee.

SCHNEIDER: Why are they so rare?

Cox had a personal problem with the size of his nose. He did not like to be photographed, so as a result, there were very few of these pins existing.

SCHNEIDER: So if you happen to find one in grandma's sewing box.

UNIDENTIEFIED MALE: ...it can bring $75,000.

SCHNEIDER: What kind of people come to these things?

MORT BERKOQITZ, POLITICAL ITEMS COLLECTION: I have been collecting since 1956. I have met Adlai Stevenson at a high school event. I became -- I was in love with him. He gave me a copy of what I think, a collection of his speeches. And I was hooked.

SCHNEIDER: Are they political activist?

They are a very, very, very few arguments. This is not the United States Senate.

Reporter: Although, occasionally, politics creeps in, like with this mechanical bank labeled Reaganomics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just like the plan it wasn't very successful. Here we go.

SCHNEIDER: One dealer told me he cornered the market on this little item. Isn't that a beauty? It's a Bill Clinton sax doll. Wonder how much I could get for it?

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Bill. We love looking at all that stuff.

Well, Washington is usually associated more with presidential lame ducks than the waddling, quacking kind, but this mallard mama has become a bona fide D.C. celebrity. After weeks of nesting near the U.S. Treasury building, under Secret Service protection, her ducklings hatched over the weekend, all 11 of them. The ducks were whisked away to a more suitable home, Rock Creek Park, right in the center of the district. Now they are getting used to their new digs and they are still basking in the spotlight.

The head of the House Ways and Means Committee, not a duck story, promises a Social Security reform bill by June. We're going to speak with the committee chairman, Republican Congressman Bill Thomas tomorrow. Also, starting tomorrow, live updates from London. Our Bill Schneider is over there. We're going to talk to him about this week's British elections. What are the key issues that could keep Tony Blair from winning a third straight victory.

But, for now, that's INSIDE POLITICS for this Monday. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

END

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