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Campaigning, British-Style; House Ethics Questions Remain; Atlanta Runaway Bride Representative Faces Reporters; Police Investigate New York Explosions

Aired May 5, 2005 - 15:30   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: This just in to CNN: we're following that explosion which happened in mid-town Manhattan this morning, outside offices which contain, among other things, the British Consulate. Police are still (ph) calling them a couple of novelty- type grenades.
Noone was injured in that. Police are also telling us that a security camera on the building picked up a good image of an individual and might provide them some leads. And they're also telling us this: we had told you earlier that a Dutch national, employed by the United Nations Weapons Inspection Agency UNMOVIK, was detained for questioning as a result of all of this. Well, police are now telling us, he was detained because he crossed that yellow police tape there, that you see, inadvertently. Apparently he had been drinking. Perhaps there was a language barrier issue, we don't know. In any case, he's completely blameless as it relates to this explosion, according to the authorities.

Meanwhile, the authorities will be combing through that videotape of that security camera to see if they can break this one. As we said, it was a couple of novelty-type grenades. No serious injuries reported, but on this day of British elections, in front of the British consulate, many people are wondering about it. We'll keep you posted on that much and more. Stay with CNN. Now, "JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS."


ANNOUNCER: Fuel and finger-pointing. Do Americans blame the president for the high cost of gas? We have some new poll numbers out this hour.

Election day in Britain -- serious business, but with some Monty Python-like moments.

ALAN "HOWLING LORD" HOPE, MONSTER RAVING LOONY PARTY: My name is Howling Lord Hope. I'm the leader of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

ANNOUNCER: The runaway bride plans to make amends. Will that satisfy the public and authorities? We'll carry a news conference by her lawyer and her pastor live.



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

Many Americans are fuming about the high price of gasoline these days, and they're looking for some place to vent their anger, or someone to blame. This hour, we have new poll numbers on fuel prices and the economy, and they don't bode all that well for President Bush. Here's our national correspondent Bruce Morton.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Gas prices are high. Everybody knows that, and Americans think it isn't fair. Seventy- eight percent in our latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll say gas prices are unfair, and they're not optimistic about the future either. Fifty-seven percent say gas prices will keep going up, while a third think they'll stabilize and just nine percent think they'll actually go down.

Who's to blame? President Bush told his most recent press conference he wasn't.

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: Listen, the energy bill is certainly no quick fix. You can't wave a magic wand. I wish I could. It's like that soldier at Fort Hood that said, how come you're not lowering the price of gasoline? I was having lunch with the fella, and he said, go lower the price of gasoline, president. I said, I wish I could. It just doesn't work that way.

MORTON: The public doesn't exactly agree with that, though. Two-thirds of our sample think he could take steps to lower prices. Thirty-eight percent said they blame the Bush administration a "great deal" for the high prices; 27 percent says it's moderately to blame. That's more people than blame those of us who drive those big SUV gas guzzlers. Just a quarter of our sampler says they're greatly to blame.

But the people we polled blame the president as much as the oil companies: 47 percent they are greatly to blame, 32 percent, moderately. And the champions in the blame game are the oil-producing countries. Fifty percent of our sample said they were greatly to blame, 27 percent moderately. So, three-quarters of our sample gives them some of the blame, and gas prices are probably why most of our samples said recent economic news has been bad.

Overall, though, people we talk to split down the middle on whether economic concerns good or poor, and split down the middle again when we asked how conditions would be a year from now: 51 percent said good, 48 percent said bad. So, pain at the pump, enough blame to go around and mixed opinions about the economy in general.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WOODRUFF: Here in Washington, President Bush gave thanks today for freedom and asked for God's help in defending it. It was part of an interfaith ceremony at White House marking National Prayer Day. Another event was held on Capitol Hill. There, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay joined in prayer and took the stage to talk about pride, sin, and responsibility.


REP. TOM DELAY (R), TEXAS: Just think of what we could accomplish if we checked our pride at the door, if, collectively, we all spent less time take credit and more time deserving it; if we spent less time ducking responsibility and more time welcoming it; if we spent less time on our soapboxes and more time on our knees. For in God, all things are possible, ladies and gentlemen, and even greatness from lowly sinners like you and me, especially me.


WOODRUFF: Tom DeLay, the theme of the Hill prayer service was humility. DeLay told reporters, quote, "humility is something I work on every single day," end quote.

Democrats have been eager to take aim at House Majority Leader DeLay and questions about his overseas travel and ethics. But today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi refused to take the attacks to a new level when a reporter asked her if DeLay is a crook.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D) MINORITY LEADER: That's not for me to decide. That's up to the ethics committee. I don't get into the details of any ethics, and I think that everyone is innocent until proven otherwise. But that's a matter for the ethics committee, and not really an appropriate question, and you know that.


WOODRUFF: Pelosi's comment came a day after two Republicans on the House Ethics Committee said they would step aside from a DeLay probe, acknowledging that they contributed to his defense fund. Both Republicans and Democrats are urging that panel to clarify rules on travel sponsored by private groups. House Democrats introduced a bill yesterday aimed at clearing up some of the confusion.

With me now, to offer a Republican perspective on the ethics debate much and more, House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier of California. Congressman, good to see you.

REP. DAVID DREIER (R), CALIFORNIA: Hi, Judy, always good to be with you.

WOODRUFF: Is this whole ethics business -- especially now that you've got two Republicans recusing themselves on the ethics committee -- proving to be an even bigger liability for your party? DREIER: Not at all. I will tell you, Judy, what has happened is, is the ethics process has really been in deadlock for the last four months. The reason being that the Democrats refuse to meet, and they refuse to meet and organize the ethics committee because of changes that we made at beginning of the Congress. We think those were very appropriate changes. But, Speaker Hastert, in a very magnanimous move said, it's more important for us to have an ethics process than it is to stick with the rules changes we thought were very appropriate -- due process, making sure that people can choose their own lawyers, common sense things that virtually every American has.

But he wanted to have an ethics process, and so what's happened now is, we have seen for the first time yesterday, a 90-minute meeting held. Chairman Doc Hastings had a meeting put together of the ethics committee, and they're going to take these issues on. The speaker also dramatically increased the level of funding for the ethics committee, and so we believe that every member of Congress should be held to the highest possible ethical standards, and we want to do everything possible, Judy, to depoliticize the process, because a political football in the ethics area is not helpful and it's..


DREIER: Sure, go ahead.

WOODRUFF: Let me quote one of your Democratic colleagues, Congressman Marty Meehan. He's one of the co-sponsors of this legislation that was announced yesterday that would essentially require much stricter reporting and transparency on lobbyists dealings with Congress. He said, there is an ethical cloud over Congress right now. He said, in fact, the majority of the Americans have lost confidence because of all this in this Congress.

DREIER: You know, it's interesting, Judy -- for starters, that legislation about which you've spoken, when I heard about it, I asked our Rules Committee staff to get a copy of it to me. Nothing has been introduced. People have been talking about it, but there is nothing out there on it, and the only reason...

WOODRUFF: Well, are you saying they're not going to introduce it?

DREIER: I don't -- I don't know what they're going to do, but it's just, I want -- because I knew you were going to talk about it, and I'd been hearing about it, I said, well, why don't I do something that's unique -- read the bill. There is nothing that has been introduced, and so I look forward to it.

The thing that's troubling to me is -- is the -- the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee who's supposedly going to be one of the lead co-sponsors of this legislation, has said that the ethical issue is the cornerstone of the political campaign, and remember, our goal is to depoliticize the political process. If there is, as Mr. Meehan was -- you just quoted as saying, some ethical cloud hanging over the Congress, it's really because of the fact that they have been out there pounding away on this without talking about the fact that, on bill after bill, we have been able to deal with bankruptcy, class-action lawsuit reform. We just had 143 Democrats join with us to pass the very important supplemental appropriations bill to get, you know, the resources to our men and women in Iraq.

WOODRUFF: Let me...

DREIER: So, the point is -- well, Judy, the point is if -- the point is that if there's an ethical cloud, it's raised by people trying to politicize the ethical process.

WOODRUFF: One other very quick angle on this ethical story, because I want to ask you about Iraq budget. But, that is the story today about leadership in the Congress, both parties accepting rides on corporate planes. Are you comfortable with that? We know that it's legal, but are you comfortable with it?

DREIER: Judy, it's very clear that all of these issues are going to be looked at by the ethics committee. That's why I said, Speaker Hastert step forward, we dramatically increased the funding so that research and investigations can be held to ensure, again, that members of Congress are held to the highest possible ethical standards. The American people deserve that, and we should do that. So, if it's ending these corporate flights, then so be it. That will be a decision that will be made, if the ethics committee decides to make that recommendation, I'm sure we'll accept.

WOODRUFF: Ten-second question: Congress, today, passing legislation, more funding for Iraq and Afghanistan, $75 billion worth. Meanwhile, we're hearing that something like $100 million is just missing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is this something that can be tolerated?

DRIER: It can't be tolerated and it's absolutely outrageous. The American people's hard-earned tax dollars are going to make sure we have success there. And that's why we have inspectors general, that's why we need to make sure that we do everything we possibly can to get the resources there. We're having phenomenal success. Still troubled times, but we're having phenomenal successes that expanding democracy throughout that region as a byproduct of what we've done in Iraq.

Eight-and-a-half million Iraqis voting. Yes, there are problems. There will still be problems. But I think that we've had a lot to show on this, and I'm actually very, very encouraged. And to have 143 Democrats join with us on this, again, great indication of bipartisanship going on these important issues.

WOODRUFF: Chairman David Drier. Thanks very much for being with us.

DRIER: Happy Mother's Day to you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it. Thank you, thank you.

In Britain, this is election days. Up next, we'll look at the lead-up to today's big vote, including some sights and sounds you probably would not see in an American campaign.

Also ahead, Hillary Clinton takes on all-comers. We'll fill you in her latest poll numbers.

And we're expecting a news conference at the top of the hour in the runaway bride case in Georgia. We plan to bring you a statement from her attorney and her pastor, live.


WOODRUFF: Millions of voters have been casting ballots across Britain today, including Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose Labor Party is expected to win an historic third consecutive term in power. When the polls close in about an hour and a half, analysts will be looking to see if Blair's party wins a clear mandate over his main opposition, the Conservative Party and its leader Michael Howard.

The war in Iraq weighed heavily on this election, but as our senior political analyst Bill Schneider reports, there have been plenty of lighthearted moments as well.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): In the United States, candidates run for office. In Britain, they stand. Sounds more dignified. But is it? There is a certain "Monty Python" spirit in Britain.

HOPE: My name is Howling Lord Hope. I'm the leader of the official Monster Raving Loony Party.

SCHNEIDER: You know all those annoying paid political ads you see on TV during a U.S. campaign?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No checks. No balances. One party rule!

SCHNEIDER: They don't have them here. But imagine going to the movies and seeing something like this pop up on the screen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I was home secretary, crime fell by 18 percent. Under Mr. Blair, it's gone up.

SCHNEIDER: In Britain, you can bet on the outcome legally, with your local betting agent.

KEN EYMES, BETTING STORE MANAGER: Labor at the moment, a one to 33 to actually win the election.

SCHNEIDER: They even poll at the pubs. Pull a pint for Labor. Negative campaigning? How about Prime Minister Tony Blair as Pinocchio and his conservative opponent Michael Howard as Dracula.

An anti-war columnist urged readers to hold their noses and vote labor. She offered to send leaders a free nose peg. Hundreds of requests came in for voters like this. Negative campaigning reached a new high, or low, in Britain this year. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's told lies to win elections.

SCHNEIDER: And nasty billboards. That could be driving turnout down.

LADY SHEILA ATTENBOROUGH, LIBERAL DEM. SUPPORTER: He's very quiet this morning and I...

SCHNEIDER: She's a vote counter for the Liberal Democratic Party and the wife of noted actor and filmmaker Richard Attenborough.

ATTENBOROUGH: I'd love to have your number when you come down, sir, please.

SCHNEIDER: We asked her conservative counterpart what is done with those vote counts?

RODNEY BENNETT, CONSERVATIVE PARTY SUPPORTER: We will be chasing up those who have said they're going to support us, but who have not apparently yet voted. That's how things work in this country.

SCHNEIDER (on camera): Winston Churchill described the U.S. and Britain as two countries separated by a common language. You might also call them two democracies separated by a common politics.

(voice-over): In Britain, all you need is a polling card, like this one, to vote.

EVA SKORSKI, BRITISH VOTER: If another lady took my polling card, yes, really, there is no reason why she shouldn't be able to go and vote. So I suppose it is open to abuse to a certain extent. But we have to be trusting.


SCHNEIDER: Trusting? Trusting? Who ever heard of such a thing in American politics? Judy.

WOODRUFF: For sure. Bill, no hanging chads over there. So Bill, tell us about turnout. You've been at some of the polling places today. What does it look like?

SCHNEIDER: It looks light in the polling place I visited in Richmond. They said that a lot of people are voting by mail because it's now much easier to do that than it used to be in Britain. But there also appears to be a lot of voters who are expressing a protest by failing to turn out. And Labor is very worried that some of their traditional supporters, particularly in the middle class who are anti- war, may not turn out to vote as a show of protests against Mr. Blair and the war.

WOODRUFF: Hmm, that sounds potentially ominous. Well, we can't wait to hear what the results are. And I know you're going to be following it for the entire evening. Bill Schneider, thank you very much. So the polls close in Britain in just over an hour, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, and Bill will be back to report the first election results on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

A major move by the Bush administration today could open up nearly 60 million acres of national forest land to development. The land is mostly in Western states and Alaska. It was put off limits by President Clinton just before he left office in January 2001. But the announcement by the Agriculture Department could open up the land to road building, logging, mining, and more recreational usage.

And now here's something you certainly don't see every day. Earlier today on Capitol Hill, dozens of women took part in a nurse-in to reintroduce the breast-feeding promotion act. The event was hosted by New York congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, and among other things, seeks to promote the health of infants whose mothers return to work. Breast-feeding in the workplace is protected under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978.

Just ahead, the race to '08. How does Senator Hillary Clinton do against her potential re-election rivals in New York? And we'll also update the travel plans of five other potential White House hopefuls.


WOODRUFF: More would-be presidential candidates are making travel plans in today's "Political Bytes." Democrats Wesley Clark and Bill Richardson are heading to New Hampshire next month. The Manchester Union Leader reports that Clark will be there June 12 for a Flag Day fund-raiser. The newspaper also reports that Richardson, the current New Mexico governor, will deliver a speech in the Granite State on June 7.

Indiana Democratic Senator Evan Bayh is also on the road. He is in Ohio tonight where he will keynote the Truman Kennedy Holcomb Dinner in Butler County.

On the Republican side, Florida governor Jeb Bush insists he is not interested in the White House, but we note that he is in Savannah this weekend for a speech to Georgia Republicans.

Kansas senator Sam Brownback, meanwhile, is in Allegheny County, Michigan, for tonight's Lincoln Day Dinner.

And in New York, a new poll finds Senator Hillary Clinton with commanding leads over two potential rivals in her race for re-election next year. Matched against Governor George Pataki, she holds a 28- point advantage. When paired against former Massachusetts governor William Weld who is now back in his native New York, she holds a 37- point lead.

We are minutes away from a news conference in the runaway bride case in Georgia. We plan to bring you a statement from her lawyer and her pastor live when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: We want to let you know, we are waiting for that news conference with the attorney for the so-called runaway bride and her family's pastor. Of course, we're going to bring that to you live just as soon as it gets under way.

But right now it is just a couple minutes before 4:00. And as we do every day at this time, we go to New York today to Christine Romans for a quick check of the markets. Hi, Christine.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up at 6:00 Eastern on LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, "Broken Borders." The landscaping industry relies heavily on illegal aliens. We'll take a look at how that may be contributing to our immigration problem.

Then our national parks are being overtaken by illegal aliens smugglers. Interior Secretary Gale Norton joins us to discuss this growing problem.

And a new poll suggests American feel our borders are not secure enough. That special report and more, 6:00 Eastern on LOU DOBBS TONIGHT`. Now back to Judy Woodruff -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Christine. And we will be watching.

So as we mentioned, we are waiting for two news conferences to begin. One from New York on the explosion early today in front of the building in New York that houses the British consulate.

The other news conference in Georgia, where we are expected to hear from the lawyer and the pastor of Jennifer Wilbanks. She is the so-called runaway bride. We may here a statement from Wilbanks who has been holed up since her return to the Atlanta area last Saturday.

The lawyer says that Wilbanks will quote "make amends" for the money an the time that was spent searching for her after she disappeared just four days before her planned wedding.

Prosecutors, we are told, still are considering criminal charges against Wilbanks for faking her own kidnapping before police say she confessed that it was all a hoax and that she had gotten cold feet.

Well, right now, the -- as we wait for that news conference around the run away bride, let's go to Gainesville, Georgia, and to CNN's own Carol Lin who is there on the scene. Hi, Carol.


I just want to bring you up-to-date right now. I'm standing in the foyer of the Lakewood Baptist Church where, behind me, you can see the assemblage of media. You are hearing the voice of the P.R. representative of the church who is setting up -- setting the scene here, just telling us who to expect. We're expecting to hear from the pastor of the Lakewood Baptist Church. We're also waiting for Jennifer Wilbanks' attorney to show up. She has spent a majority of the day in court today on unrelated matters.

But, I can tell you, as we're waiting for the players to assemble here to bring you up to speed, I spoke with the mayor of Duluth who said that she was willing to consider, basically, community service as well as some kind of financial settlement with the city of Duluth to pay for some of the expenses of searching for Jennifer Wilbanks. We do not know yet whether Jennifer Wilbanks' attorney has had formal conversations yet with the city of Duluth, so we're waiting to hear from her regarding that. But, the attorney earlier did give a very graphic description of how troubled Jennifer Wilbanks is feeling right now. She is in seclusion with her family. Her attorney has said that she is so emotionally and physically distraught that she was unable to even complete sentences or have a conversation with her attorney.

We are very curious whether we're going to get a statement from Jennifer Wilbanks at this news conference, whether she has gathered her thoughts, gathered her wits, well enough to articulate what happened to her in the past week. So, Judy we're waiting to see whether we are going to hear from the attorney shortly, who is trying to make her way to the church right now -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Now, the other spokesperson that we're supposed to hear from, Carol, is the family pastor, is that right?

LIN: Uh-huh, yes, that's right. This is the church where Jennifer Wilbanks' father attends, and the pastor was taking part in some premarital counseling with Jennifer Wilbanks and her fiance, John Mason. I tried to get some clarification what sort of counseling they may be offering her at this point. Her attorney did say that, while she has been getting some counseling from the church, that she would be seeking some professional help at this point. I'm going to turn it over now to the podium, Judy. Just a moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll be glad -- we'll be glad to take your first set of questions at the conclusion of his prepared remarks. And I'll just -- we'll just follow the order there. OK. Thank you, Dr. Smiley.

REV. THOMAS SMILEY, PASTOR, LAKEWOOD BAPTIST CHURCH: Good afternoon. I want to thank you for your patience and your cooperation, and I'm pleased to welcome you to Lakewood. This ministry has been representing Christ in this community and in this region for nearly 50 years. It's the home of many who worship the lord Jesus Christ. Lakewood is also ministered to Jennifer's family for over four generations.

Today is the National Day of Prayer. We are encouraged to pray for the five centers of power: government, education, the church, media, and families. It's appropriate then for me to take just a moment to thank the host of folks who have contacted Jennifer, John, and their respective families, with words of encouragement and prayers of support. I encourage you to e-mail Jennifer at prayers@lakewood- or find the link on our ministry Web page. Look for the button named "prayers."

I am honored that Jennifer has trust and confidence in me to share her statement today and to walk beside her. I can absolutely assure you that Jennifer has poured her heart and her soul into this statement. These are her words and these are her feelings.

Jennifer writes, "At this time I cannot fully explain what happened to me last week. I had a host of compelling issues which seemed out of control, issues for which I was unable to address or confine. Please, may I assure you, that my running away had nothing to do with cold feet, nor was it ever about leaving John. Those who know me know how excited I've been and how excited I was about the spectacular wedding we planned, and how I could not wait to be called Mrs. John Mason. In my mind, it was never about timing, however unfortunate. I was simply running away from myself and from certain fears controlling my life.

Each day, I am understanding more about who I am and the issues that have influenced me to respond inappropriately. Therefore, I have started professional treatment, voluntarily. I'm sorry for the troubles I caused and I offer my deep and sincere apology. I ask for John's forgiveness and that of his family. I also ask for forgiveness of my family, our friends, our respective churches, our communities, and others I may have offended unintentionally. I am deeply grateful and appreciative to everyone who responded on my behalf. I thank you for every expression of support and effort. Your sacrifices of time and personal inconvenience touched me deeply. I truly hope your spirit of care is not lessened.

I understand that many people wanted to hear from me personally today and I wanted to be here. However, I look forward to the days ahead when I am strong enough to speak for myself. As John said on countless occasions recently, may we follow the teachings of scripture in being kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving, just as god in christ forgives us. Thank you."

QUESTION: What role has faith played in Jennifer's ordeal, please?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a moment please. We'll pass out the hard copies of this statement now. It won't take but just a moment, here. They are coming on both sides.

WOODRUFF: We've been listening to the beginning of a news conference by the pastor of Jennifer Wilbanks, the so-called run away bride in Gainesville, Georgia. But we want to take you now to another story developing in New York City, and that is Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, around two explosive devices that went off early this morning in the building that houses the British consulate. Let's listen to Ray Kelly.

RAY KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: The video also shows a cyclist riding northbound on Third Avenue after the blast. A taxicab is also seen on the video, passing in front of the location just as the explosion occurs. We ask any of these individuals or anyone else with information on this incident to come forward.

WOODRUFF: All right. We appear to have lost the signal from New York. I know we're trying to get that back up again. Let's see whether we can or not, because we do want to hear Commissioner Kelly's comments.

Essentially what happened in New York this morning, very early in the morning, before 4:00 a.m., outside of an office building that houses the British Consulate, there were two very simple, unsophisticated explosive devices, one in the shape of a -- they almost look like toys. One shaped like a pineapple; the other, a lemon, and they went off early in the morning. No one was hurt. No one was nearby, but they did knock a chunk of concrete off. That went into a window, so there was glass broken.

But at this point it is not clear who the target or what the target of these explosives might have been. We do know it has been reported that authorities, among other things, have questioned an employee in that building. But we don't have much more information than that. So, we're reluctant to talk publicly about it until there's some formal connection, but we are following that story. We're trying to get the line back up from New York City and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's news conference. We'll try to go back there just as soon as we can.

In the meantime, we're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.


WOODRUFF: Just a few minutes ago, we heard from the pastor of the young woman whose been labeled a runaway bride, Jennifer Wilbanks, in Georgia. That news conference that he start a few minutes ago saying she was so sorry for what happened, that it all had to do with her own fears that's continuing now. And we're going to go back.

This is the Reverend Thomas Smiley of the Lakewood Baptist Church. Let's listen.


QUESTION: Is she worried about going to jail?

REV. THOMAS SMILEY, LAKEWOOD BAPTIST CHURCH: I think naturally she has some concerns about what the future holds. But that is really beyond her control. And I'm sure that Miss Sartain and those working with her in that area will be advising her of those possibilities.

QUESTION: Speaking of Miss Sartain, is she a long-time family friend? Or was just retained because of her expertise as a criminal attorney?

SMILEY: Miss Wilbanks and Mrs. Sartain have been friends for quite some time. There is a difference...

QUESTION: Is Miss Wilbanks, the older...

SMILEY: Jennifer Wilbanks.

QUESTION: OK. SMILEY: And Mrs. Sartain, Mrs. Sartain have been friends. At one point they served together in the Junior League here in the community. There is a difference in their age brackets just a little bit. But they did, I believe, meet for the first time during their service in the Junior League.

Jennifer also reminded Mrs. Sartain that they also knew each other through social sets of friends in that Jennifer has -- through the years has been a baby sitter for some of Mrs. Sartain's close friends.

QUESTION: Long-time...

SMILEY: There's -- I would say a long association there. And remember, Mrs. Sartain has been a member of our legal community here since 1987 with some fairly high profile duties, elected duties, in the legal community, serving as the solicitor of the state court. And then serving as district attorney. So, obviously a whole lot of folks know Lydia Sartain.

Mrs. Sartain is a member and a deacon at First Baptist Church -- a member and a deacon at First Baptist Church.

QUESTION: Dr. Smiley, talk about ongoing problems. Can you give us some time relevance? These problems she had since she was younger? Are these problems John knew about?

SMILEY: I think the problems that Jennifer referred to as ongoing are problems that she recognized she has been dealing with or perhaps not dealing with for quite some time. Now, the extent to which John was personally aware of those, I'm not aware.

QUESTION: Dr. Smiley, can you shed any light on what these issues might be? The statement is very eloquent, but it denies emphatically that cold feet was a motive. Can you give us any idea what motives or what issues were involved?

SMILEY: No, I can't. And I'm not skirting that issue, because Jennifer can't really identify those issues. I mean, it's one thing to recognize that you have some concerns and some issues. It's another thing to identify them and begin to work on them. She is now in the identification stage of trying to further unpack and determine what were those issues that caused her to respond inappropriately as she knows that she did.

QUESTION: She left three days before her wedding.

SMILEY: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Going back to work or things like that?

SMILEY: She is looking forward to some sentence of normalcy. And I just don't know exactly when that will occur. She, as I indicated, is under voluntary treatment. And she is continuing that. That is a fairly intensive schedule right now. So I suppose after she gets some of that under her belt, so to speak, that she will be able to get back to some sense of schedule or normalcy.

QUESTION: Did she have an anxiety attack? Is that what this was?

SMILEY: I can't really speak to any specific professional issues. That's something for her counselor and medical team and professionals to address. I'm not sure.

QUESTION: Has she said why she didn't leave a note or say, hey, I'm under a lot of pressure, I can't do this? Why didn't she leave a note?

SMILEY: I think what people need to recognize about that question is that if she was in the frame of mind to have left a note or to have told her mother or to have told her friend, she probably wouldn't have done it in the first place. So I don't think we can apply rational behavior to an irrational act. I think that needs to be stated.

QUESTION: I know you said this church has ministered to her family for four generations. I know she is leaning very heavily on this church now in the aftermath. What I want to know is how well you knew Jennifer before she ran away? Were you over to her house for dinner? Did she see you very often? Are you the minister, also, that was going to performing the wedding?

SMILEY: She had a minister in Peachtree Corners Baptist Church, Allen Jones, who was going to officiate the wedding. She and John are members, or participants in that church. That is really her home church.

This is her family church, and I'm her family pastor. I have seen Jennifer on several occasions at family gatherings, at family funerals and those type of interactions, but I would not say I had in depth knowledge of Jennifer prior to this experience.

QUESTION: Had you even spoken to her on a one on one conversation before she ran away?

SMILEY: I'm sure I have.

QUESTION: When might we hear from Jennifer again? Who else helped her with the speech? Sounds like you did.

SMILEY: I will tell enthusiasm is her statement. And as we talked about it since I was the one that was going to read it, she wanted me to be well aware of her thoughts and feelings. And I can assure you these are her words.

QUESTION: It wasn't like outside people helped her.

SMILEY: Absolutely not. I'm telling you emphatically these are her words. These are her feelings. She believes that those of her friends will recognize them as her words.

QUESTION: Why has it taken... SMILEY: Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: It sounds like she is is -- publicly in a couple of days or so. For those us (INAUDIBLE).

SMILEY: I can tell you that her heart and her desire is to speak publicly and to speak for herself. And I think that she is continuing her treatment and her work with her professionals. And I'm sure they will give her some assistance as to when that is. I would say sooner than later.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: How many times has she had...

SMILEY: She and John have been extremely together during this last week. They have been together -- I have been with them as they are together. John, of course, has been also visiting with his folks. But he has given some very intentional and specific attention to Jennifer and -- I believe so. I would say every day, yes.


SMILEY: I can't speak to what she could do in -- relative to any type of criminal responsibilities or activity or court appearances. I can tell that you her plan is to be -- to speak publicly as soon as she is able, and she will.

QUESTION: Could that be this weekend?

QUESTION: Is she able to make a court appearance?

SMILEY: As of this very moment, no, she is not.

QUESTION: This treatment that she is receiving, is it faith- based treatment? Is it professional treatment? What type of treatment is she receiving?

QUESTION: And how much of it?

SMILEY: She is receiving professional therapy with certified and competent professionals, and I cannot go into detail as to what their prescription or what their particular course of treatment is.

QUESTION: Is voluntary-committal or is it outpatient?

SMILEY: It is outpatient and it was voluntary on her part. She asked to have some contacts made on her behalf. She was recently interviewed, evaluated, and she began her treatment this week.

QUESTION: You said she needs evaluation. (INAUDIBLE) She's not a psychopath or (INAUDIBLE). Why does she really need this counseling?

SMILEY: Any course of counseling requires, before you begin to deal with a particular issues that you might want to address, requires an in-depth, intake evaluation. That's just common, standard operating procedure. Yes?

QUESTION: You have an internet site listed, and sometimes people in crisis seek donations, like Tom DeLay has a legal defense fund. Through the internet site, are you seeking any donations for this woman with her predicament?

SMILEY: This internet site is provided for people to indicate their support and their prayers, as they have already, and we're just simply making it available. We have received numerous -- and I want to emphasize that, numerous positive support, especially from people in families, ladies and gentlemen, who have experienced this very similar thing in their life. Those people are extremely compassionate and caring and they want the best for Jennifer, as they have seen the need for the best of their own family members.

QUESTION: John Mason says he wants to go through with the wedding. In your conversations with Jennifer, has she given you any indication whether or not she does?

SMILEY: Jennifer has indicated to me and in her statement that she longs to have the title Mrs. John Mason. That's her hope and that's her goal.

QUESTION: Where is she staying now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll take a couple more questions, and then we must...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has anyone not asked a question who would like to that we can...

Reporter: Where is she staying now?

SMILEY: She's in a location that -- she is in.



SMILEY: Excuse me now?

QUESTION: What is the professional title?

SMILEY: I wouldn't -- I couldn't -- I mean I have an understanding of what she did and where she worked, but I couldn't state exactly what her job title or description was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Smiley -- Dr. Smiley appreciates all of your questions...

WOODRUFF: We're listening to a news conference by the pastor of Jennifer Wilbanks' family. Her father's pastor, apparently of a Baptist church in Gainesville, Georgia, not her own pastor, which we may have indicated earlier. That's incorrect. The bottom line is, he read a statement from her. She apologized for running away. She blamed it on a host of issues or compelling issues that she said seemed out of control. No details. We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.


WOODRUFF: We've been listening to a news conference by the pastor of the father of the run away bride, the young woman in Georgia who ran away before her wedding. Let's get a quick summary from our Carol Lin in Gainesville.

LIN: Hi, there, Judy.

The best thing I can do is sum up for you the statement that apparently came directly from Jennifer Wilbanks, that she spent most of the night up writing the statement herself. She says, please, may I assure you that my running away had nothing to do with cold feet nor was it ever about leaving John, that I was simply running from myself and from certain fears, controlling my life.

Judy, just a few minutes ago we learned from Dr. Smiley that she is undergoing professional treatment. He describes it as outpatient treatment, and voluntary. However, it is a form of treatment for some issues that physically prevents her from either making a public appearance or even dealing with any possible criminal charges, for example, just the physical trip of going to court. So, we've learned now that she is in seclusion, seeking professional help. Judy?

WOODRUFF: All right. Carol Lin, reporting from Gainesville. Thank you very much. So, more on this story, let's turn to our bloggers, our blog reporter Jacki Schechner and CNN political producer Abbi Tatton. Hello, Jacki.


Fair to say, we've moved beyond most serious conversation on this topic right now, on the blogs, and now some of the bloggers, having a little fun. We start at, or Christa T, rather. She's in Decatur, Georgia. She went around searching for Jennifer Wilbanks memorabilia on eBay, and found that you can buy Jennifer Wilbanks image on a piece of toast. I'm not sure I can do this without cracking up. But even funnier than that, it's going to $550 at this point. And we've found you can also buy the Jennifer Wilbanks jelly to go along with your toast. According to the poster over there, it will not run on you.

ABBI TATTON, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: And, remember that blanket that she was wearing when hiding from the media? Well, one knitting blogger has posted the pattern just recently. Here it is. Now you too can have your fashionable blanket to wear over your head when hiding from the media.

But, on to some politics across the pond. The voting in the U.K. is coming to an end in just about a half hour for the general election. Bloggers on both sides of the Atlantic are going to be live blogging the results as they come in. Over to This is Chicken Yoghurt. He has a round up there of all the people, live blogging, if you want to follow along the results. He is a lefty. This is Justin McKeating, a lefty blogger, but not a fan of Blair as you can see from some of these images here. "Vote Labor today and wake up with George Bush," he says.

More blogging over at the Guardian Unlimited site. This is the left leaning Guardian newspaper. They have an election blog with a lot of coverage. There you can read the blog entries of big liberal lefty blogger over here, Markos from the "Daily Coast (ph)," he's been over there covering the election, looking at the differences between the U.K. and American elections. His post today, "they don't take too long over at these Brits," remarking on the campaign cycle there. "Only about a month," he makes the point, "so I must laugh when British journalist express relief that the grueling election is coming to a close." A lot longer obviously over here. Back to you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Abbi, Jacki, for a shortened version of our blog report. Apologies all around from the British elections to the runaway bride, and by the way, there will be the first results from the British voting at 5:00 eastern, at the top of the hour, on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

For now, that's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Thursday. Thanks for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.



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