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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Ethics Questions in the House; Princeton U. Joins Filibuster Fight; Britsh Elections Upcoming

Aired May 4, 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: Tom DeLay is still in the center of an ethics storm, but new reports link two Democrats to the growing scandal. So how concerned are you about ethics on Capitol Hill? We've got new poll numbers out this hour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The courts belong to all Americans, not just the party of power.

ANNOUNCER: Why are students and faculty at one ivy-league school staging their own protest in the fight over filibusters?

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: My faith is important to me.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: My faith gives me the hope that we will come together.

ANNOUNCER: Religion plays a large role in our politics, but what about over there?

PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR, ENGLAND: I don't want to end up with an American style of politics.

ANNOUNCER: Are British campaigns free of faith?

Keeping it clean in Texas? Lawmakers move toward outlawing sexually suggestive cheerleading.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You tell them to clean up their act, and I bet you, they'll do it.

ANNOUNCER: But, just what should be banned?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The problem with the bill is that there is no definition of what is sexually suggestive.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

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

Tom DeLay isn't the only House member facing questions today about past trips and who picked up the tab. But that may not be helping the majority leader contend with critics who portray him as something of a poster child for ethics concerns on Capitol Hill. Our just-released poll shows DeLay's unfavorable rating among Americans nationwide has gone up seven points in the past month, a time when his conduct is under intense scrutiny. More reason, perhaps, for DeLay to try to keep his contact with reporters at a minimum.

Our congressional correspondent Joe Johns picks up the ethics story on the hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: House Majority Leader Tom DeLay briefly ventured out in front of the cameras Wednesday, but when he slipped out of a news conference early without taking questions, the chase was on. DeLay was keeping quiet for the most part as the House Ethics Committee prepared to begin dealing with the controversy over whether lobbyist Jack Abramoff paid for some of DeLay's overseas travel.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Dennis Hastert was defending the importance of foreign travel for Congress, but also suggesting the ethics committee needs to set some standards on who foots the bill.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: They can rule and tell people and give them guidance before they take a trip about what's right and what's acceptable and what's not acceptable. I think people need to have that standard.

JOHNS: Democrats are already calling for comprehensive changes to federal lobbying laws.

REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D), ILLINOIS: When the speaker's gavel comes down it is opening the people's house, not closing the auction house.

JOHNS: It's a situation for both parties to watch. A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows 46 percent say they would consider it a very serious matter if their member of Congress went on a trip that was paid for by a lobbyist.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (on camera): Meanwhile, a Democratic advocacy group, the American Progress Action Fund, has launched a campaign to try to get some major corporations to back away from donations they made to the Tom DeLay legal defense fund. So far, three corporations have now issued statements to American Progress saying they plan no donations in the future, including statements from Verizon and American Airlines. The companies all say those donation were made years ago -- Judy?

WOODRUFF: Joe, what about these reports yesterday and today, indicating that Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist at the center of all this, apparently now has paid for more trips, not only Republicans, but Democrats as well? JOHNS: Right. Well, there were, of course, reports that he did at least pay for, and then was later reimbursed, some travel expense for Congressman James Clyburn and Congressman Benny Thompson. Now, both of those Congressmen, through their offices or in person, have told me that they had no idea Abramoff was paying for any of this at all. They say they were under the impression that the National Security Caucus Foundation was paying for that. They say it was also written on the invitation that they received. So, today, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the House, also said that in her view, this is completely different from what's going on with Tom DeLay, essentially, apples and orange, Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Joe Johns, digging on that story. Thank you very much.

And there was another kind of challenge for Tom DeLay today back in his home state of Texas. Former Democratic Congressman Nick Lampson (ph) made his bid for DeLay's House seat official today by filing the required campaign papers.

Over in the Senate, the fight over judicial filibuster shows no sign of abating. In fact, you could say it has spread to the campus of Princeton University, where students are doing some filibustering of their own. Here now our national correspondent Bruce Morton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...just as long as we keep talking about...

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She's making a speech about filibusters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The courts belong to all Americans, not just the party in power.

MORTON: He's reading from Frank Herbert's science fiction classic "Dune."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...from the manual of Muad'Dib, by the Princess Irulan...

MORTON: People, maybe 200 so far talking, reading, around the clock. Sounds like a filibuster.

BEN STRAUSS, GRADUATE STUDENT: People have spontaneously done, kind of a improv literary criticism on their feet. We've really had everything from A to Z.

MORTON: Yes, it is a filibuster, on the Princeton University campus. Why Princeton? Because Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who may ask the Senate to change its rule on filibusters, is a Princeton man, class of '74. In fact, his family endowed the Frist Campus Center just behind the filibusterers. They've been at it over a week now. Undergraduates, graduate students, some faculty, some passers-by. STRAUSS: I came because I believe passionately in keeping our democracy functioning well. I think this is one of the most important issues we face because it has to do with how government works.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's just start off with the part that everybody knows, 3.14.

MORTON: She's reading the derivation of pi. You remember, high school math, out to 1,000 digits or so. The filibuster has made campus paper front page and editorial cartoon. The university has cooperated with the filibuster.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...1885752724...

MORTON: It's not quite Huey Long giving the Senate his recipe for fried oysters, but it has a certain charm.

How long will they go?

STRAUSS: We have no plans to stop it. We want to go on at least for another week, maybe more. We want to filibuster during the whole period that Senate's in recess and we want to still be here when they come back.

MORTON: Sounds like a filibuster all right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...549303819644...

MORTON: Bruce Morton, CNN, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Frist filibuster -- has a ring to it.

Back on the ethics front, Tom DeLay says he isn't the only one doing it. We'll talk about congressional junkets and the proposed crackdown on questionable financing, ahead.

Plus, federal money and medical research: is the government spending enough to find cures and save lives?

And later, church with something of an afterthought for the most recent British royal wedding. Is religion a big factor in the U.K.? Our Bill Schneider will compare faith and politics there and here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: With ethics questions swirling around House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, House Democrats are introducing new restrictions on how lobbyists operate here in Washington. Representative Marty Meehan of Massachusetts is co-sponsoring a bill that includes tougher lobbyist disclosure rules and new requirements for members of Congress to reveal details about their trips. The bill also requires former House members to wait two years before lobbying their former colleagues.

Congressman Marty Meehan joins me here in Washington. It's good to see you.

REP. MARTY MEEHAN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Judy, great to be here.

WOODRUFF: Thanks for being here. Why are you doing this? Is this something that you believe is really -- is realistic?

MEEHAN: Well, I think there's an ethical cloud over the Congress right now. In fact, the majority of Americans have lost confidence in the Congress. We haven't had any lobbying reform legislation pass for ten years, and it is clear that we need to have more disclosure. We also need more transparency, so that the American public sees who is paying for what, that we make sure there isn't a resolving door that undermines public policy, and that we make sure that the public is able to get information they need about how Congress works.

WOODRUFF: But lobbying has become such a wealthy industry of its own. I mean, it grew from what, $1.5 billion in 1998 to $3 billion last year. How do you really get your arms around something like that?

MEEHAN: Well that's -- the fact it's grown that way, Judy, is precisely why we need to pass major reform. The public sees a Medicare prescription drug bill that's debated during the middle of the night, and then they read stories about how it was drafted in some lobbyist's office beforehand. Then they hear about public officials who are working on the bill get big jobs with pharmaceutical companies.

I think the growth that we've seen over the last half a dozen years requires us to rein in the ethics laws so that there's more transparency, more disclosure. For example, I think if somebody is negotiating a new job at the same time they're pushing through a Medicare prescription drug benefit, they ought to have to disclose that to the American public. It shouldn't be a secret.

WOODRUFF: Has that happened? Has that happened?

MEEHAN: It has happened. I mean, there are people that are working on a Medicare prescription drug benefit that benefits the pharmaceutical industry and then come to find out they were negotiating and had negotiated a new job with the pharmaceutical industry.

If members are going to take foreign travel, for example, or any kind of privately-financed travel, the public has a right to know who paid for it. And the law says that lobbyists can't pay for it. So there needs to be adjustments in the law, and I'm confident that we can do this in a bipartisan way.

WOODRUFF: Now this is this is two Democrats who are co- sponsoring this legislation, is that right? I'm asking because the Republicans are saying there's politics in this. Congressman Patrick Henry of North Carolina was quoted today as saying the Democratic leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi, demanded an investigation of Tom DeLay. But he said she hasn't said a word about those Democrats who have done the same thing. And he said if she doesn't call for an investigation to fellow Democrats, it's clear she's a being a hypocrite. Isn't this getting extremely partisan?

MEEHAN: This bill is not about any individuals. This bill is about reforming the institution of Congress. And clearly, your polling that just you showed demonstrated, all the polling that we're seeing, demonstrates that the institution needs to be reformed. We're looking to get Republican members of the House to look at the bill. I've talked to a number of leading Republicans.

WOODRUFF: You don't have a Republican at this time?

MEEHAN: We don't at this point, but we're working hard to try to make this a bipartisan effort. Even in the bill, we talk about establishing not only a GAO report for tougher enforcement and oversight, but also a bipartisan group to look at it for us within the House. So, I mean, this bill, the thrust of it is reform of the institution. And I want it, as much as possible, to be bipartisan.

WOODRUFF: Do you think the problems that exist are in both parties equally or do you think they're greater among Republicans? What's your sense?

MEEHAN: I think the problems are with the institution and with the rules. The rules need to be adjusted. It's just not transparent enough. The public doesn't have the ability to look at -- for example, who pays for private travel ought to be available on the Internet and it ought to be clearly illegal for somebody to pay for travel when, in fact, it shows up in a report that somebody else paid for it. We have the technology to do this. We can require any group that sponsors a member's travel to file, under pains of penalty and perjury, who paid for the trip.

WOODRUFF: But you don't think -- you're not worried about Democrats being exposed here as much as Republicans?

MEEHAN: I'm worried about the integrity of the institution. I'm worried about the fact that half of Americans don't believe that the Congress is ethically up to the task of getting things done. I worry about going back to my district and having people think that bankruptcy bills, Medicare prescription drug bills, are all -- and the energy bill are all a matter of how the lobbyists pay, rather than what the merits of the argument are. And the only way to remove this ethical cloud is to pass real lobby reform.

WOODRUFF: Representative Marty Meehan, we thank you very much.

MEEHAN: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Good to have you. Thanks for being here.

Well, we're going to have more on the proposed changes in House rules for lobbyists. Tomorrow on INSIDE POLITICS, I'll talk with a top Republican leader in the House to get the GOP's perspective on the issue.

Coming up next, we're going to hear from the attorney for the runaway bride, Jennifer Wilbanks. There's been an interview done with her attorney. We're going to share that with you.

Tomorrow, we'll be doing an interview -- airing an interview we've done with the head of the National Institutes of Health, on funding for medical research. That's coming up tomorrow. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: One story that's been all over the news in recent days is the so-called runaway bride -- the young woman in Georgia who was about to get married who disappeared, and we all know what happened next. She turned up in Arizona -- or New Mexico. I'm going to let Fredricka Whitfield pick up the story from there, because, Fredricka, she's now possibly in trouble with the law.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. But the district attorney for Gwinnett County has yet to determine if they will indeed pursue some kind of criminal charges, or in some way try to get Jennifer Wilbanks to pay the some-$60,000 that was spent over that three-day search.

Meantime, just moments ago within the past hour or so, we learned from the attorney of Jennifer Wilbanks that a statement will be delivered tomorrow, a comprehensive statement is how Lydia Sartain is describing it, from Jennifer Wilbanks. However the statement will not be delivered personally by Jennifer Wilbanks, the 32-year-old runaway bride. Why? Well, because the attorney says that over the past few days, she has undergone an awful lot of emotional pressure, and she is falling apart so to speak. And in fact, she's having such a difficult time completing her sentences without crying, and now, the attorney says, it's likely she will seek professional treatment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LYDIA SARTAIN, ATTORNEY FOR JENNIFER WILBANKS: He has been with her. He's very supportive. He's very protective. He's very concerned. And so he's been, you know, very important to her.

QUESTION: Are they physically together now?

QUESTION: I understand she's getting a complete physical.

QUESTION: Are they working on this?

SARTAIN: She is going to, you know, seek professional assistance, and so, you know, there will be things that she'll need to do in that regard.

QUESTION: Has she -- we know that John wants to marry her. Is she ready now to marry John?

SARTAIN: Jennifer, I think, is really just taking this really virtually one hour at a time -- certainly a day at a time. She has suffered. I mean she's had some problems, and she's trying to deal with those and then deal with this at the same time. So she's got a lot going on in her life. QUESTION: Does she want to --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you all very much.

QUESTION: Does she want to pay the town back?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you all.

SARTAIN: Pardon me?

QUESTION: Does she want to pay the town back, the money, 40- to $60,000 they've spent?

SARTAIN: She had me -- she asked me to give the mayor a call, the City of Duluth, which I've done, and we've spoken. And we have talked about what issues or concerns the City of Duluth might have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll have --

QUESTION: Does she have any --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me. I'm sorry. We'll have much more time tomorrow. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Now you'll be making a statement alone tomorrow?

QUESTION: Can you get her to show up tomorrow? It would help us so much. We'd leave her alone from now on if she would just be here.

SARTAIN: Yeah, I know it. But if she were like me, I'm happy to be here. She, you have to understand, has suffered a trauma. So she's not, you know, in it to come please the public. She want the public to know that she's sorry, but she really is not well.

QUESTION: If you were reading this statement, her statement tomorrow, will she be standing there at least present?

SARTAIN: I don't know. Just -- you know, what I just want to see is how she's doing. I mean, my concern is really how Jennifer's doing.

(END VIDEO TAPE.)

WHITFIELD: Those words from Lydia Sartain, who is the attorney representing Jennifer Wilbanks. The attorney says right now, the family, along with the fiance, John Mason, and Jennifer Wilbanks are still trying to draft that statement. So they're working on a lot of the language that will be revealed tomorrow, and read by whom? Possibly Lydia Sartain, the attorney, not, again, Jennifer Wilbanks.

Is the marriage still on? That, of course, is still the burning question. Well, John Mason has made it clear that he still wants them to proceed and walk down the aisle. But according to the attorney, Jennifer Wilbanks still has a few issues to work out, and she's not quite sure.

Judy?

WOODRUFF: All right, Fredricka Whitfield, thanks very much.

Religion, often front and center in politics here in the United States, but what about in Great Britain? Is faith playing a large role in the national elections to be held tomorrow? We'll go live to London to try to find out.

And later, should high school cheerleading be regulated? Some Texas lawmakers want to tone down what they say are sexually suggestive routines.

More INSIDE POLITICS after a short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: It is a couple of minutes before 4:00, and as the markets get set to close on Wall Street, I'm joined by Lou Dobbs in New York with The Dobbs Report. Hi, Lou.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Judy. Thank you. We're having a nice rally on Wall Street today as the final trades are now being counted. The Dow Jones Industrials up more than 120 points. The NASDAQ up more than a percent.

The main reason for the market's rally: General Motors shares jumping 17 percent today. That's because billionaire Kirk Kerkorian has offered to pay about $900 million to raise his stake in the company to 9 percent. Wall Street likes the idea, but says GM may not like it, and could try to block Kerkorian's purchase.

Toyota, despite all of the problems that Ford and General Motors are having, is looking to expand its operations in this country. Toyota may build a hybrid model of its Camry sedan and build it right here in the United States. Toyota's move could make hybrids cheaper and more readily available to U.S. consumers. Toyota has not been able to keep up with demand for its Prius hybrid.

Coming up tonight here on CNN at 6 p.m. Eastern, "Broken Borders." A hearing on Capitol Hill taking a closer look at the effect of illegal aliens on our nation's workforce. The effect is extremely negative -- the criticism that employers and government are both encouraging a lack of enforcement of our immigration laws.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN CAMAROTA, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: Businesses will continue to say, quote, immigrants only take jobs Americans don't want. But what they really mean is that, given what those businesses would like to pay and how they would like to treat their workers, they cannot find enough Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Well also tonight, the legendary Warren Buffett is our special guest. We'll be talking about politics and economics, global terrorism, Social Security reform, corporate ethics and a lot more.

Also tonight non-for-profit governmental organizations. We'll take a look at who is funding those organizations, why they are multiplying at a dramatic rate, and how their real agenda, collectively, may not be in line with the American agenda.

All of that and more, 6 p.m. Eastern on "CNN TONIGHT".

Now, back to Judy Woodruff. Judy?

WOODRUFF: Lou, the interview with Warren Buffett, so much to talk to him about, AGI, so many other things. What are you thinking you want to press?

DOBBS: Warren Buffett, as you well know, Judy, is one of the great personalities of our era, not only a wonderfully successful businessman as everyone knows, but a deep and profound social and political thinker, as well. We'll be talking about everything from Governor Schwarzenegger's California to the political problems that are besetting this country, the economic issues that we have to confront, a plunging dollar, a record trade deficit and his take on where our society is now and where it's headed. I can't wait to talk to Warren Buffett.

WOODRUFF: Well, we will definitely be watching. Lou, thanks very much.

And now back to INSIDE POLITICS.

In Britain today, Tony Blair might as well as borrowed Bill Clinton's old campaign line, it's the economy, stupid. The prime minister today urged voters to judge his eight years in office on the country's strong economic performance, not on Iraq.

Guns and butter issues, as they are often known, are key to politics in the United Kingdom and in the United States. But when it comes to religion, that's a different matter. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider is in London and counting down to Thursday's vote.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): American candidates often showcase their religious values.

SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: My faith gives me the hope that we will come together and rise to that challenge.

SCHNEIDER: In Britain, religion is not part of the political vocabulary.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: How can I put this? I don't want to end up with an American type of style politics with us all going out there and beating our chest about our faith. I mean, you are what you are because of your faith, of course that's right. SCHNEIDER: Prime Minister Tony Blair is known to be a man of faith and a regular churchgoer, something that has to be kept private in Britain.

JEREMY CORBYN, LABOUR CANDIDATE: Blair's sort of up front religious beliefs don't actually help him very much indeed.

SCHNEIDER: That sentiment was shared even by London churchgoers on the Sunday before election day.

GERRY LYNCH, BRITISH CHURCHGOER: They think he is sort of messing -- it does make a lot of people here quite uncomfortable.

SCHNEIDER: More than that...

ROLAND JEFFREY, BRITISH CHURCHGOER: I think religious politics of the Americans is sort of obnoxious.

SCHNEIDER: When Blair was asked about his relationship with President Bush the question seemed intended to embarrass the prime minister.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically you and he have a greatly men of faith and so on. Do you pray together?

BLAIR: Pray together? How do you mean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you say prayers together for peace you and the president?

BLAIR: Well, we don't say prayers together, no. But I'm sure he in his way hopes for peace and I hope for peace, too.

SCHNEIDER: Blair understand the rules of British politics.

BLAIR: Faith is very important on a personal level. It can get very quickly misinterpreted.

SCHNEIDER: As it very nearly was in an incident recounted by an observer.

PETER KELLNER, BRITISH POLLSTER: A couple of years ago around the time of the Iraq war, Tony Blair wanted to finish a televised address to the nation with the words God bless you.

SCHNEIDER: Was that a problem? Apparently.

KELLNER: He was advised by his staff that would go down very badly in Britain, because people don't like their politicians getting into religion and he didn't say it.

SCHNEIDER (on camera): Separation of church and state? Not here. Kings and queens are crowned and buried at Westminster Abbey, but the British separate religion and politics, unlike in the U.S. where religion is at the center of political life.

Bill Schneider, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: So now let's bring in Bill Schneider live from London. Bill, this election is one day away. What is it looking like?

SCHNEIDER: Well, all the polls point for a Labour majority, and that is in terms of the number of seats. The polls are mostly in agreement, in fact they are all in agreement. They show Labour at about 37 percent of the vote, and the Conservatives at 32 with the third party the Liberal Democrats trailing at about 23 percent.

37, 32, that does not sound like a landslide, but in fact given the way the British political system works, whoever gets the largest number of votes wins the seat. Then 37 to 32 would give Labour about a 70 or 80-seat majority in parliament. Comfortable, but about half of the majority they are enjoying now.

WOODRUFF: Bill, are they doing exit polls?

SCHNEIDER: Yes. And who knows. We're going to have exit polls. The polls close, I should point out, tomorrow night, 10:00 p.m. London time, which is 5:00 p.m. Eastern time in the United States.

They are doing an exit poll, both of the major television networks, the BBC and the ITN are getting together to do one exit poll. The forecast will be out shortly after 5:00 p.m. Eastern in the United States. And our experience in the United States is any indication, be careful.

WOODRUFF: Well, I wish we could get it early enough for INSIDE POLITICS. But we'll get it when we can. All right. Bill Schneider, thanks very much. And you know we'll be talking to you tomorrow.

Here in the United States gay marriage is back on the political agenda in Massachusetts. In today's "Political Byte," the Massachusetts Democratic Party is expected to add an endorsement of same sex marriages to its platform next week. If approved, Massachusetts Democrats would join state Democrats in Iowa and Colorado in formally endorsing gay marriage.

A new poll finds the New York attorney general and Gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer hold strong leads over incumbent Republican Governor George Pataki as well as potential GOP opponent William Weld. According to a new Quinnipiac survey, Spitzer leads Pataki by more than 20 points about the same size lead Spitzer held in a February poll.

Former Massachusetts governor William Weld, a New York native who has moved back to the Empire State has said he might run if Pataki does not. The poll gives Spitzer a commanding lead over Weld 60 percent to 16 percent.

Here in Washington, day time talk show host Montel Williams joins several members of Congress today to promote legislation that would protect medical marijuana users from prosecution. Williams says he uses marijuana to reduce the pain of multiple sclerosis.

The president's plan to overhaul Social Security is more detailed than it used to be. Up next, is the push for reform on track or still troubled? We'll talk timing and strategy with Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile.

Also ahead, why some Texas lawmakers are cheering a move to sideline sexy halftime shows at high schools?

And when we go inside the blogs, a Congressman finds himself in a compromising position.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: With me now, former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan, president of America Cause. Thank you both.

Let's start with lobbying and all the stories about that. We have a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. We've got 46 percent of Americans -- they think it is very serious if a member of Congress has a lobbyist pay for their trip. We've got new information, it's not just Republicans, it's Democrats. Are both parties going to end up getting hurt by this, Donna?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, let me just say this. Today, Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois and a Marty Meehan from Massachusetts introduced a lobbying and ethic reform bill that will close some of these loopholes. Bay, there's some serious problems where, you know, organizations can, you know, type a letter, send it to a Congressman, and then allow lobbyists to pay for it. So, this legislation will close that loophole and make the transaction a little bit more transparent. so, I think it's important that we close the loophole and give members of Congress an opportunity to go and amend their reports -- that they should.

(CROSSTALK)

BAY BUCHANAN, AMERICAN CAUSE: Yes, I think it's very interesting how we're changing the topic now to reform. I'm all for that reform. But it wasn't but a day or two before we talked about investigating DeLay, getting it all out there, see what he's done -- Pelosi's -- Congresswoman Pelosi's been after him. However, now we find that the Democrats are doing exactly the same thing. We've got four Democratic Congressman, have the same problem as DeLay, and they, too, should be investigated. Let's just investigate all, see what kind of -- the seriousness of the problem, and then draft this kind of legislation, and see how we can close the loopholes.

BRAZILE: But, again, it's apples and oranges. I mean, what people are saying about Mr. DeLay is that these lobbies actually influence legislation. They wrote the legislation, essentially, and he went out and got their bills on the floor and through a committee. So that's the difference between...

BUCHANAN: They have no evidence whatsoever.

BRAZILE: Well, that's why we need an ethics committee.

BUCHANAN: You know, Donna...

BRAZILE: The party has been right to get a new -- the ethics economy reconstituted so we can look at all the allegations.

BUCHANAN: Look it -- you think all the allegations -- all, Democrat and Republican, because, you know what, they don't -- lobbyists don't spend $3 billion, as they did last year, on Democrats and Republicans and walk away and say the only person that was really benefited -- benefited us is by using the money against -- was DeLay. It's obviously everybody. They are buying influence and it should be stopped should be investigated.

BRAZILE: Well, we both agree on that.

WOODRUFF: And -- but my question, Donna, too, in picking up on what Bay said, we now have new information about Democrats who had lobbyists like Mr. Abramoff pay for their trips.

BRAZILE: Well, Mr. Clyburn today, Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, produced a letter from this National Security Caucus signed by a real admiral saying that we want you to come and do this congressional fact-finding tour. That was the reason. He didn't know Jack -- Casino Jack was paying.

BUCHANAN: And Norm Dixon and James Clyburn, as you said, Benny Thompson, Neil Abercrombie -- they are all -- and Tom DeLay. And Tom DeLay says he didn't know someone else was paying for it either. So they've all got exactly the same problem.

WOODRUFF: Let's talk Social Security. The president did put out some more detail in that last few days about what he wants, aiming toward solvency. You also have, now, Bill Thomas, who's the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, saying he's committed to get something done. Is Social Security back on track, Bay?

BUCHANAN: Well, there's no question -- everybody thought it was over. They were wondering if it was going to be introduced. And I give this president credit. He gets an idea. He believes it's the best direction for the country, and he fights for it. Independent of what anyone else says, he's got ideas out there. He's willing to come up with plans and proposals, and the Democrats are empty-handed. There's no leadership, no guts, no ideas, on their side whatsoever except to be against what Bush proposed.

BRAZILE: But Democrats have a vision of keeping the current system solvent and making sure...

BUCHANAN: How?

BRAZILE: ...that it is not dismantled. And that's what Democrats are going to continue to focus on. They will not support the privatization. They will not support the president's mean test and proposal. Mr. Thomas now has an interesting proposal that will be offset by a consumption of value-added tax. I don't believe Democrats will buy that as well. So, I think it's important now -- look, the president's plan has fallen flat, even with Republicans. Mr. Grassley might move his bill out of committee without having his privatization.

WOODRUFF: What about the means testing, Bay? I mean, even Republicans, like Clay Shah of Florida, are saying this would change the whole nature of it, which is supposed to be an earned benefit.

BUCHANAN: I have some problems with the plan as well. I mean - but, the key is, what the president's saying is, here's a way where we could dramatically help the Social Security, keep it solvent for many, many years to come. If you disagree with it, come up with your way. But we do have to work on this. We do have to resolve something. The Democrats, as Donna just said, we want to keep it solvent, but how? There's no how. There's no answer to the how. They just don't like what he proposes. It's time for them to show a little leadership.

BRAZILE: First of all, we're not saying it's a crisis that's going to come due tomorrow. If we did, we would have a plan that we would put forward. We are going to put forward a comprehensive retirement security plan that will help enable all Americans, working families...

BUCHANAN: I have been hearing that for weeks.

BRAZILE: Bay, why are we going to put out a bill just so it will lay in the trash can and Republicans say, oh, they put out a plan and it was bad?

BUCHANAN: But you said you would come up with a plan. Time and time I've been on television, and there's no plan.

BRAZILE: Well, I'm not in charge.

WOODRUFF: See, if Donna were in charge it would be different.

BRAZILE: Absolutely. You know I have a plan for just about everything under the sun, Bay. That's why I'm a Democrat.

WOODRUFF: All right, Donna and Bay, thank you very much. We'll see you next week. We appreciate it.

There is some breaking news out of the Pentagon at this hour. We're going to turn to our Jamie McIntyre for that. Jamie?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, officials now confirm that the second pilot has been found as a result of an incident on Monday, when it's believed that two F-18 fighter planes from the aircraft carrier Carl Vincent, may have collided in midair over southern Iraq.

Yesterday, one of the pilot's bodies was recovered, identified as the executive officer of the Marine fighter squadron, a Major John Spar (ph). The identity of the second Marine pilot, who was recovered today, has not yet been released.

The planes were flying at about 30,000 feet over southern Iraq when apparently contact was lost with both of them at the same time. It was also what appeared to be an explosion in the air observed by other plane planes in the area, according to military sources. Those facts have led the Navy and -- to believe this was a result of some sort of midair accident -- but, again, both of the bodies now, the pilots have been recovered. An investigation is under way to determine exactly what happened. There's no belief here, though, that hostile fire was a factor in this incident. Judy?

WOODRUFF: All right. Jamie McIntyre reporting that the second body of the pilot involved in that midair collision has been found. Jamie, thank you very much.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: It's not often that you see lawmakers wave pom-poms during a political debate, but that is exactly what happened in Texas yesterday when members voted to crack down on high school cheerleaders performing routines they believe are too racy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF (voice-over): The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders help make risque entertainment a staple on the sidelines, but some Texans don't think high school cheerleaders should shake their stuff like their professional counterparts.

BRAD PAGE, CHEERLEADING COACH: I don't think provocative dance moves belong on the sidelines or in front of the crowd. I mean, when the audience is family oriented, I mean, it has to be G-rated.

WOODRUFF: Many state lawmakers agree. The Texas House passed a bill that would ban, quote, overtly sexually suggestive cheer routines at school-sponsored events. It covers all public schools and includes the drill teams and any student group that performs. Opponents say state law already bars lewd performances by students on or near campus. And they complain the measure does not spell out which moves should be censored.

PAM UHR, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: I don't think we do want our kids doing stuff like that. The problem with the bill is that there is no definition of what is sexually suggestive.

WOODRUFF (voice-over); Houston lawmaker Al Edwards echoes late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's famous line about obscenity. He knows it when he sees it.

AL EDWARDS, TEXAS STATE HOUSE: Rather than trying to describe it or make movements, if you are an adult you've been involved with sex ever in your life, you know it when you see it.

WOODRUFF: It would be up to the Texas Education Agency to determine when routines get too raunchy and to enforce penalties. That is if the bill also gets the green light from the State Senate and the governor. Texas is one of those states where Friday night football is practically akin to religion. So, look for more passionate debate before any final vote to keep high school cheerleaders from crossing the line.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Straight ahead, we go inside the blogs. A Pennsylvania Congressman apologizes to his family and his supporters. Our blog reporters gauge reaction online when INSIDE POLITICS returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Pennsylvania Congressman Don Sherwood has issued an apology to his family and reporters following reports that a 29-year- old woman called police to his apartment last year and accused him of choking her. Police declined to file charges, because the officer who investigated the case said Sherwood and his accuser were unwilling to discuss what happened. The incident which happened last September was first reported over the weekend by Pennsylvania's "Wilkes-Barre Times Leader" newspaper.

The story involving Congressman Sherwood is one of the big topics in the blogosphere today. Let's check in now with CNN political producer Abbi Tatton and Jacki Schechner, she's our blog reporter -- hi Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN BLOG CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. It's actually a great example of how a story that's first reported locally can spread very quickly through the blogs. We start over today at Badpolitiks.blogspot.com. That's politics with a K.

Politics Coast to Coast is run by Drew. And he does it with a few of his friends. They span from D.C. to La Jolla, California. They posted on Sunday from their congressional scandal department. And it was the excerpt from the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader story.

They followed it up then on Tuesday when a lot of the other blogs started to pick up on it a little bit. There was an A.P. story that came out they followed up on. They had some questions for the Congressman, among them, what really happened? How did he know the woman? Why was he giving her a back rub? And was she just tense?

Then today, they have posted a further follow-up as a recap of a lot of the other blogs that are talking about it and a recap of the story of those who are just getting into it.

ABBI TATTON, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: Over to some Pennsylvania bloggers. This is grassrootspa.com. Describes itself as the epicenter of conservative grass roots activity in Pennsylvania. This is a site run by a conservative law student Chris Lilik. He's actually from the district that the Congressman Sherwood represents. And has voted for the Congressman in the past.

Chris himself is not weighing in on the issue. He's just posting articles and has been for the last few days, but letting his conservative readers weigh in on what they think -- some support the Congressman, some don't.

The comments are very interesting to see what people are saying. The public should be -- the public should know about this, he should be up front about it. And then maybe he won't have to worry about a primary challenge, says one. Another one says, I don't know how this is anyone's concern outside of that. It was a private matter between her -- him and now his family.

Some people not being so charitable. And with 40 to 50,000 new blogs turning up each day, it's not surprising one is already dedicated to this incident to the story with Congressman Sherwood. This is dumpsherwood.blogspot.com. This is run by a conservative Republican activist. He doesn't give his name -- or he or she. But thinks President Clinton should have resigned and so should Congressman Sherwood. This one just cropped up a couple of days ago.

SCHECHNER: Over at mightyd.com, a Democratic political blog started by Jerome Armstrong back in 2001. He has since been joined by Chris Bowers and some other guest bloggers over there. He says that the impact of this story of the Republicans in that district is going to be zero. He says it's already guaranteed that there will be no political ramifications, because no Democrat has challenged Sherwood for two consecutive election cycles. In 2002 he defeated a Green candidate. And then in 2004 he defeated a Constitution Party candidate

He says the Pennsylvania tent is highly conservative, but not out of reach. And now with the scandal the Democrats would have a chance, but he thinks they have completely given up.

TATTON: On to another topic. On to the issue of the nuclear option that Republicans are considering to end judicial filibusters. One conservative blogger is weighing in with an alternative solution to this problem that the Republicans are considering. He asks the question, "is there some way to win this war without resort to the parliamentary equivalent of nuclear weaponry?" This from Patterico, this is patterico.com.

This is what he suggests, his proposal. Republicans would force a floor vote on a nonbinding resolution of support for qualified judges who are being filibustered. The vote would increase political pressure on Democrats by concretely demonstrating that those filibustered judges enjoy majority support in the Senate. He says this way publicly shaming the Democrats would work for the Republicans.

Now he says this doesn't have to be used just solely on its own. It could be a precursor to the nuclear option. It goes on to say it is really like a series of air strikes at the beginning of a war. It may not win the war, but even if it doesn't it softens up the enemy for the eventually attack.

SCHECHNER: Also on this weighing in is Ace over at Ace of Spades. And it's ace.mu.nu -- an anonymous poster. We tried to get some background information on him. He wants to remain anonymous, but did come back to me with the following. "I am a concentrated dose of pure Lorenzo Lamas." But, back to the Patterico post, he likes the suggestion, thinks it may be too much of a gamble. Colin, Snow, Chafee, McCain and Specter currently don't have to actually vote on the nominees because the Democrats are doing it. And perhaps they would defect, joined by Voinovich and Hagel and the tactic would backfire.

So an alternate suggestion to the nuclear option, or a precursor to the nuclear option, Judy, something that they are suggesting on the blogs.

WOODRUFF: All right. Jackie, Abbi, I'm still thinking about the fact that you could put a blog on and not say who you are. It's very interesting. Maybe we can talk about that. See you tomorrow.

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

END

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