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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Harry Reid Interview; Olympia Snowe Interview; Dean Remarks; Patriot Act Renewal; Senate and Stem Cell Research

Aired June 9, 2005 - 15:30   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: Howard Dean meets with top Senate Democrats and tries to move the spotlight off his rousing rhetoric.
HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: I think a lot of this is exactly what the Republicans want and that's a diversion.

ANNOUNCER: He called the president a liar, so does Harry Reid stand by his words?

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: American people deserve the truth. I'm going to continue telling the truth. That's who I am.

ANNOUNCER: Dana speaks one-on-one with the top Democrat on the Hill.

His party controls both houses of Congress, so why is the president having trouble getting his agenda passed?

NICOLLE DEVENISH, W.H. COMMUNICATIONS DIR.: The Democrats have decided that what they stand for is obstruction.

ANNOUNCER: We'll speak with the White House communications director.

The fight over defending America.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Patriot Act has not diminished American liberties. The Patriot Act has helped to defend American liberties.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD, (D) WISCONSIN: It's a great threat to the liberties of Americans, and the president and the administration refuse to tell the truth about the U.S.A. Patriot Act.

So who's right?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

DANA BASH, ANCHOR "INSIDE POLITICS": Thank you for joining us. I'm Dana Bash.

Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean traveled to Capitol Hill today for a meeting with Democratic senators, of course, but the official topic was the party's agenda. The issue of the moment, of course, remains Dean's outspoken criticism of Republicans. For the latest on the meeting and what was said in public and in private, I'm joined by our own congressional correspondent Ed Henry.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dana, it was not necessarily a happy coincidence for Senate Democrats that this long- planned meeting with Howard Dean just so happened to fall on the day after the DNC chairman kicked up another controversy by saying that Republicans are, quote, "pretty much a white Christian party." That and other spicy comments from Dean have sparked media speculation that the party chair is distracting from the Democratic agenda, hardly the kind of questions that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid wanted to talk about and deal with when he originally invited Dean to the Hill to discuss education, health care, economy and the war in Iraq.

But, Reid tried very hard to put the best face on the situation today, telling reporters, Democrats will not be pulled off stride by any outside controversies. Reid acknowledged that Dean had misspoken, but the senator suggested that's nothing new for lawmakers and strategists in both parties, like Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REID: I think that all of you know that there isn't a single person, whether it's any of us in this room, or Governor Dean, or Mehlman, that hasn't misspoken. We're here today to talk about the American people. We're talking about common sense reform with issues they care about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: As for Dean himself, he said this whole matter is exactly what the Republicans want, a diversion over the battle of the issues, like the president's struggling Social Security reform plan. The DNC chair said he will not be taken off course by what he called a media circus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: We're going to talk about our agenda. We're not going to let the Republicans set the agenda, and to be quite honest, we're not going to let you set the agenda. We're going to set the agenda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: But Republicans are keeping the heat on Dean. House Majority Whip Roy Blunt charged today that Democrats are trying to have it both ways, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi publicly running from Dean's comments yesterday, while leaders in the Senate like Reid have the party chair in the next day for private strategy talks.

Blunt said, quote, "Howard Dean continues to throw some of the most below-the-belt political punches in recent memory. Leading Democrats tell the American people that they don't agree with the nasty rhetoric after each Dean cheap shot, but behind the scenes tell a different story. Is the Dean -- DNC chairman just one voice or is he their strategic leader?"

The Democrats, though, say Republicans are making much adieu about nothing here and that Dean in fact is just one voice in the party.

BASH: OK, that's all of the public show. What are you hearing about what the Democrats are saying in private?

HENRY: Well, Democrats privately do continue to say, look, this is hardball. Both the DNC chair and the RNC chair, both sides do this all the time. The Democrats feel privately the Republicans are whining here, but also privately, Democrats are admitting to us that in fact they want Dean, although they know he's a lightening rod and that's part of the reason why he got the job, to try to rally the liberal base -- they think he needs to tone it down just a wee bit.

BASH: Ed Henry, thank you as always. Thank you.

And, a short while ago, I spoke with Senator Harry Reid. We talked about a wide range of topics, but I asked by asking him about his meeting today with Howard Dean, and in the first part of my interview, I asked Senator Reid what the Democratic chairman said to him today and if he would describe Dean as apologetic or defiant.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REID: We meet every month. I was there with Senator Schumer, Senator Durbin, Senator Stabenow -- my leadership. And we talked about the issues before the American people. We didn't discuss any statements that any of us have made.

BASH: Didn't come up at all?

REID: No.

BASH: Let me just ask you about the statement -- he said recently, Monday, that the Republican party is pretty much a white, Christian party, not very friendly to different kinds of people. Recently, he has called Republicans -- he said Republicans have never made an honest living in their lives. Are those mistakes to say?

REID: There are a lot of statements that people make in public life that they wish they hadn't made, but what we're going to talk about is not statements that Ken Mehlman made or Howard Dean made. We want to talk about the positive agenda for the American people. American people don't care about statements that people make that may not be totally accurate. What they do care about is what we're doing about the war in Iraq; what we're doing about high gas prices; what we're doing about education, both secondary and elementary education; what we're doing about the staggering deficit that we have; pension reform; and on and on with issues that we think are positive and the American people care about.

BASH: I hear you talking about those issues a lot, and clearly you're trying to talk about that now, but the question is, even when your top leader, the chairman of your party, talks about those issues, because, perhaps, not necessarily of the message, but the messenger, because he makes other statements and those are reacted to, and have -- they're such -- they end up being so controversial, doesn't that step on exactly what you are trying to do?

REID: I think we have to focus on what is happening around the country. For example, in Nevada we just had some municipal races. The national party was involved in those races. We did well, and in the city of Las Vegas, we had a race that we probably wouldn't have run -- won -- but for him.

We have, in 18 different states, grass roots organizations are now established as a result of what Governor Dean has done. He's doing a great job in having grassroots activity across the country that were never there before.

BASH: With all due respect, I have to ask you one question about, not just about Howard Dean, but about a statement that you made. You caused a little bit of a dust-up recently when you called the president a loser, then you apologized for that, but then you also said he was a liar and that you didn't apologize for that. Why is the president a liar?

REID: Of course, one statement I made about the president was four years ago, when he said he was involved in nuclear waste in Nevada and he misled the people of Nevada, clearly, without any question, and I said so.

In the past couple of months, he said, on this nuclear option, told me personally he wasn't going to get involved. That wasn't true, and I said so. I think the American people want people to tell the truth and I'm going to do the best I can to tell the truth.

BASH: Last month is a speech, you said, quote, "Americans are sick and tired of getting caught in the crossfires of partisan sniping." Listening to Howard Dean and even, you know, using a word like liar, are the Democrats also contributing be to the partisan sniping that you say is eroding Washington?

REID: What I think is partisan sniping is when we have two months of our time taken to deal with five people who already have jobs, when, during that period of time we could have been done the Defense Authorization Bill. We have 1,700 American dead in Iraq, 15,000 wounded and we're not even taking that bill up here in the Senate. We should do that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Harry Reid, standing by his words.

Next up, the top Democrat in the Senate talks tough about hanging tough against the John Bolton nomination. More of my interview with Senator Harry Reid, the minority leader, when we return, plus, is Social Security reform in trouble on Capitol Hill? I will talk with a crucial lawmaker who could help make it a reality.

And later, the fight over renewing the Patriot Act. President Bush wants to make the permanent but does the law encroach on your civil liberties?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: And we are going to have the second part of our interview with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid in just a few minutes, but first we're going to talk broadly about the overhaul of Social Security. It has been at the forefront of President Bush's agenda since his reelection, but the Democrats aren't buying it and based on the polls, most Americans aren't either.

So joining us from Capitol Hill to talk about that and other issues is Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine. And Senator Snowe, I'll start by asking you about a meeting you had this morning on the very important Senate Finance Committee, of which you are a member, about Social Security. At this point, do you think that there is movement? Is it going to happen?

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE, (R) MAINE: Well, I think it's very difficult to say at this point. I think, obviously, Chairman Grassley, the Finance Committee, is determined to try to reach, you know, a decision on whether or not at least the Republican members of the Finance Committee can reach an agreement on a particular proposal.

But I think it's too soon to say. Frankly, I think it's going to take a great deal of time. And we really shouldn't rush to judgment, unless we can build a broad bipartisan support that's going to be essential on such a key question.

BASH: Too soon to say, in part because frankly, people like you, a Republican, are not -- you're not crazy about the central part of the president's plan, which is creating private accounts for younger workers. Have you talked to anybody in the White House at all -- have they reached out to you, even hinted that perhaps they were willing to drop that or negotiate that in order to get a bill done? And will they have to get a bill done?

Well, at least at this point, that's not, you know, my understanding. Obviously, they have indicated that they'd be prepared to be flexible. But I do believe that the personal savings account, in with the car vowd (ph), is still a key part of the president's proposal.

I think on an issue of this consequence, it really does require building confidence and consensus, not only within Congress, but with the American people. Because ultimately, it affects all Americans. And certainly current and future retirees and younger people in the future.

And I think we ought to take our time in building the broad support that's going to be essential in assuring that we do not undermine the fundamentals of have a program that's worked extremely well over the last 70 years.

BASH: Take your time, but take us into the discussions into the Finance Committee, which is going to write this bill. Is -- are private accounts on the table? Are you talking about that? Are there enough votes to get that through right now?

SNOWE: Well, it doesn't -- you know, it doesn't appear to be so. I mean, obviously, there's, you know, a strong support among some of the members of the committee, and, of course, among Republicans. I think it's a question at which point would they come into the question on the overall Social Security reform effort. And obviously, I have concerns about that, because if you carve out for personal savings account, that does erode a defined guaranteed benefit as we know it under Social Security.

When I look back to what it required to accomplish a prescription drug program under Medicare and providing a benefit to seniors, that took a better part of four years. I was part of it, day in and day out, on a weekly basis, in developing a bipartisan program. So I think in this instance, it's going to require considerable more time for, I think, senators on both sides of the political aisle to get together. That should happen on the committee and it should happen within the Senate.

BASH: Very quickly, Senator, is -- do think that this is going to happen this year?

SNOWE: I don't know. I think it's an uphill battle. I mean, anything's possible. I know there's a determination, you know, on the part of the chairman and others and the president. But I think we -- it's more important to get it right. So I think it remains to be seen.

BASH: I want to switch topics now and ask about something that I know is near and dear to your heart. And that is the announcement of base closings in your state. You know firsthand how politically important this is. When you first came into the Senate, you won in part, my understanding is, because your opponent was for base closings. So how -- you've got to be incredibly concerned about this. And are you in discussions with the White House or the Pentagon at all?

Well, certainly, the Pentagon, in getting the information, in trying to release all the data, which they have yet to do, and to declassify much of the data. I think, frankly, this base closing round was ill-timed, inopportune, given where we are today in a threat environment in the future. And not to mention a post-9/11 environment. The Department of Defense, today and in the past, has failed to reliably predict future threats.

Even when we had six-year forecasts for the previous base closing round, this one's 20 years. My state's been devastated, obviously. And what's so devastating is that these facilities are so important to the Navy and to America. And so hopefully we'll be able to overturn it. But I think, frankly, for all of America, we should not even be having this base closing round.

BASH: Senator Snowe, appreciate your time. Thank you very much for joining us today from Capitol Hill. Thank you.

SNOWE: Thank you, Dana. BASH: And now we will go to more of our interview with Senator Minority Leader Harry Reid. I began by asking him about the compromise between Democrats and Republicans on the filibuster for judicial nominees except in extraordinary circumstances, and if that leaves the door open for possible filibusters if the president's Supreme Court nominees come through and they don't like them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REID: The filibuster that's conducted here is for extraordinary purposes. Of course, if the president submits somebody without consultation that is someone like Janice Roberts Brown, who hates government, wants to go back to the last century with law in this country, doesn't believe in precedent, doesn't believe in protecting people who are hurt in the workplace, like wages, hours. If it's somebody like her, of course, we will take a real close look at that.

But if the president consults with us and sends us a conservative judge like he wants to do, I think things will be just fine. But we have the right to filibuster. We've always had that right. And we'll continue to have the right. Judges have been filibustered since the beginning of this country. And we'll continue to do that.

BASH: Social Security. There's no question that polls show that the president's plan isn't going very well. But polls also do show that he has been able to convince Americans that there is a problem with Social Security that needs to be fixed. And Democrats have not presented a plan, and President Clinton said last month, quote, "I think that the Democrats should have a plan and they should talk to the president and the Congress and Republicans about it." Why don't you offer a plan?

REID: We are not going to deal with Social Security as long as President Bush talks about privatization. That's a buzzword for let's destroy Social Security. When he ran for Congress and lost in the late 70s, he said at that time Social Security was going to go broke and it should be privatized. He's never changed his opinion. He does not believe in Social Security. We do.

BASH: Republicans over the past two cycles have been be able to gain seats -- Democrats have lost seats -- primarily because they have called Democrats obstructionists. You can argue that your office was vacated, essentially, that the Democrat leader, Tom Daschle, was defeated for that reason. Are you concerned that this is going to happen all over again and you can lose even more seats by not offering a Social Security plan and perhaps other issues that you are standing firm on?

REID: Well, this name-calling about obstructionism. I think if you were going to give a name to this presidency, it would be obstruction. They will not allow us to take up issues that affect the American people, like why we pay so much for gas, why aren't we doing anything about healthcare reform, why aren't we doing something about education, why we aren't we doing something about pensions, the staggering deficits. I think the obstructionism comes from the White House. BASH: John Bolton, the president's nominee for the U.N.. It's at a standoff right now. What is your plan? Is your plan, essentially, just to hold off right now and wait and just to see who blinks first, to see if the White House gives the Democrats the documents?

REID: The president -- the president is obstructing a vote on John Bolton. We've asked for simple information that Congresses, over the many decades that we have been in existence, have been given by the White House. This White House does not believe in the separate but equal doctrine that's in our constitution. They want to ignore the Senate. He can't ignore the Senate.

We've told him what we wanted. The ball is in his court. If they want John Bolton to be ambassador of the United Nations give us this information. If they don't, there will be no Bolton.

BASH: That's it. So, you are standing firm, you're confident that you have the votes to hold onto this, that no Democrats will go ahead and vote procedurally to let this go through.

REID: I told Senator Frist yesterday, he said I'm having pressure to have a vote on Bolton. I said if you want to have a vote on Bolton, go ahead and have one, but it's not going to change until we get information, until Senators Dodd and Biden are satisfied that their request -- one being the member of the Foreign Relations Committee, the other being a person who is on the Foreign Relations Committee and has worked on is these issues for many years -- unless they are satisfied, the Democrats are not going to move, because it's the wrong thing to do.

BASH: One issue that's come up recently, not necessarily on the agenda here, but Guantanamo Bay, what to do about Guantanamo Bay. Senator Biden has said close it, former President Carter said close it down. What do you think

REID: Well, President Bush yesterday said that he thinks it's something -- I'm paraphrasing but -- it's something that should be looked at. And I agree with President Bush. I think we should hold some hearings, and that's going to be done and make a determination whether the positive effects of Guantanamo outweigh the negative effects.

We have received with this whole prisoner interrogation situation that's come from this administration, some terribly bad press around the country. We have had the situation with the Koran. We have had the situation of Abu Ghraib that is just terrible. And it's hurt us for generations to come in our relations with other countries. And so with Guantanamo, let's take a look at it and make a decision based on facts.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Ahead reaction from the White House over the Democrats vow to hold up confirmation of John Bolton as ambassador of the United Nations until the White House gives Democrats what they want. I will talk with the communications director Nicolle Devenish. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: We've got a lot more for you here on INSIDE POLITICS. Next up the fight over the Patriot Act. The president wants to renew the law, but he's facing opposition from some lawmakers. We will go live to the White House for the story.

Plus, she was sexually assaulted when she was only 8-years-old, now teenager Amy Zila (ph) takes her crusade to Capitol Hill. Coming up, we'll have live coverage of her testimony before Congress.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: As the markets get set to close on Wall Street, I am joined by Christine Romans in New York with the "Dobbs Report" -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Dana.

Well, stocks slightly higher despite a big run-up today in oil prices. Oil rallied almost $2.00, moving back above $54.00 a barrel. With the final trades being counted on Wall Street, the Dow Industrial is up 27 points and the NASDAQ is adding three-quarters of one percent.

Fed Chief Alan Greenspan provided a little big of help, telling a congressional committee that he believes the economy remains on track with inflation under control Analysts think the upbeat tone means the fed will continue to raise interest rates. Fed policy makers may raise by another quarter point when they meet at the of this month.

The House has voted overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the U.S. in the World Trade Organization. By a 338 to 86 vote, it rejected a motion to withdraw congressional approval of the WTO. Opponents argue the trade group has voted too often against the U.S. But the White House opposed the withdraw resolution, saying it would hurt American businesses and lead to discrimination against U.S. made goods.

A new study concludes that using a cell phone behind the wheel is a major cause of traffic accidents and those hands free devices provide very little safety. The report found accidents were often preceded by distraction, most frequently from the use of a cell phone or other electronic device. The study found hands free devices don't help the problem. It's the act of conversation that leads to distraction by drivers.

Coming up on CNN at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, the western United States has had plenty of snow and rain in recent months. We'll take a look why it still isn't enough to reverse one of the worst droughts in decades.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT MULRUY, SOUTHERN NEVADA WATER: We don't know if last winter was simply a wet year in the middle of a dry cycle or whether it really signaled the end of a drought period.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Also tonight, we take a look at a controversial plan that would unite Canada, Mexico and the United States into a common community, allowing people and goods to move freely between the three countries.

Plus, Congressman Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul tell us why they believe the United States should have withdrawn from the World Trade Organization.

And the potential for wildfires has the governor of Montana demanding the Pentagon return National Guard troops to his state. Find out why, 6:00 Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." Now back to Dana Bash.

BASH: Thanks for seeing (ph). And we'll all be watching "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."

But now we're going to go back to INSIDE POLITICS, where we are keeping watch on several developing stories on Capitol Hill.

Up first, another of President Bush's judicial nominees looks headed toward final approval in the Senate. A vote is now underway for the choice of William Pryor to join the 11 Circuit Court of Appeals. Under terms of the recent deal among Senate centrist, members voted yesterday to end the filibuster of the Pryor nomination clearing the way for today's vote. When the vote is over, we'll update you on the outcome.

The president gave Pryor what's called a recess appointment last year, but that move was only temporary. Pryor is a former Alabama attorney general. And Democrats had blocked his nomination in part over objections to his views on abortion and homosexuality.

Also, on the Hill this hour scheduled testimony by Wisconsin teenager Aime Zyla. She will speak in favor of a proposal to allow authorities to publicly disclose the names of juvenile sex offenders so residents will know if they're living nearby. Zyla was a victim of sexual assault when she was eight-years-old, and a similar law named in her honor is already books in her home state. We plan to bring you live coverage of Aime Zyla's testimony when she appears before the committee.

Meanwhile, President Bush left Washington for Ohio this morning to try to rally support for the Patriot Act. The anti-terrorism measure was passed shortly before the 9/11 terror attacks and some of its provisions will expire at the end of the year. Mr. Bush wants those provisions made permanent, but opponents say the law has been abused. With me now for more on the president's remarks is our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.

Hey, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, hey Dana. President Bush, of course, used his trip to Columbus, Ohio really to actually highlight and defend the U.S. Patriot Act, also of course, to call for the renewal of those provisions that will expire by year's end.

Now, the location was important for him here, really to highlight a success story. There was a Columbus truck driver, as you know, by the name of Iyman Faris, he was captured and convicted for allegedly plotting attacks against the United States, meeting with Osama bin Laden, providing aid to al Qaeda and Afghanistan. And the Bush administration is arguing that there are provisions within the act itself that allowed the FBI as well as the CIA to talk to each other that led to his arrest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Patriot Act has accomplished exactly what it was designed to do, it has protected American liberty and saved American lives. The problem is at the end of this year, 16 critical provisions of the Patriot Act are scheduled to expire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Now, civil liberties groups are saying and calling on Congress essentially for those 16 provisions to take a second look at them, to mend them. They say they go just too far. They allow the government to actually obtain library records, to hold detainees indefinitely. Many other examples they say they do not want to get rid of those provisions, but they say at least we need to fix them, take another look at them before we decide to make them permanent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD, (D) WISCONSIN: The president basically was doing a bait and switch. And this is what the administration has done all along. They talk about the provisions that we're all fine with to justify their argument and then they try to defend the other provisions that have problems in them by saying somehow that relates to the issue before us.

So the truth is the provisions need to be changed. It's a great threat to the liberties of Americans. And the president and administration refuse to tell the truth about the USA Patriot Act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Now, the ACLU says that the Justice Department has received some 7,000 complaints when it comes to abuses of the Patriot Act, but interestingly enough, Dana, the Senate Judiciary Committee when they looked at their own findings, they could not come up with evidence to support one case. But they do look at the law and they say they make this argument that the law at least is flexible enough to allow that that abuse could occur. That is why they want to take a second look -- Dana. BASH: Suzanne, we just heard Russ Feingold, a Democrat say that this law should be changed. But how is the White House explaining why some Republicans are also saying it should be changed, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, you have Senator Larry Craig as well. How do they explain that?

MALVEAUX: Well, actually they're saying that this is a violation of civil liberties that go too far. All of the players in this are essentially saying we want to pass it, but we want to mend that language. The president very clear, however, saying that he is not willing to change one word of this. This is going to be a very controversial, very heated argument of course, as we get closer to the end of the year.

BASH: Suzanne, thank you very much. See you soon.

MALVEAUX: Sure.

BASH: Now back to Capitol Hill where House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is accusing his Democratic counterpart of stalling action by the House Ethics Committee. DeLay says House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is intentionally preventing the Ethics Committee from functioning so that DeLay's own ethics troubles will drag into the 2006 election year.

DeLay said yesterday, Pelosi has been personally involved in a dispute over the makeup of the Ethics Committee staff. Today, Pelosi said it's Republicans who are ignoring established House rules.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) MINORITY LEADER: It's hard for the Republicans to grasp the concept of play by the rules, because they've abused the rules, they've abused the process, they've abused their power so much that their hubris is just blinding them to the proper course of action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Congressman DeLay is also weighing in on the president's immigration proposals. After a meeting with Mr. Bush yesterday, DeLay told reporters that the president acknowledged he still has work to do when it comes to shaping public opinion. Referring to the president, DeLay said, quote, "he admitted he hasn't done a very good job in being clear to the American people where he's coming from and he's going to try to do better."

We focus on would be presidential candidates and their travel plans to New Hampshire in today's "Political Bytes." The Democrat's former vice presidential candidate John Edwards is heading back to the Granite State this month. He will be the featured guest at fundraisers for the New Hampshire Senate caucus on June 21.

Former Democratic presidential hopeful Wesley Clark is also headed back to New Hampshire. He will keynote the Manchester City Democratic Committee's Flag Day breakfast this coming Sunday. The Manchester Union Leader reports Republican Senator George Allen will be scheduled as a speaker at a Manchester luncheon on the 25th of this month. They event will be hosted by the state's Federation of Republican Women.

And Colorado GOP Congressman Tom Tancredo is making his second trip to the state this year. He will be in Concord for a Republican Party breakfast this Saturday. Tancredo is perhaps best known for his outspoken opposition to illegal immigration.

Democrats fire another shot in their fight over the White House -- at the White House over John Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the United Nations. I'll get reaction from White House communications director Nicolle Devenish over the Democrats' vow to stand firm until they get what they want.

Also, reaction from the bloggers to Congressman Charles Rangel comparing the Iraq war to the Holocaust.

And in our "Strategy Session," Donna Brazile and Bob Novak weigh in on Howard Dean's latest controversial and other issues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: As the Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, mentioned earlier in the show, the Democrats are standing firm in their opposition to John Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the United Nations. Reid says that position won't change until the White House hands over information the Democrats say they need before they'll agree to a confirmation vote.

Earlier I asked White House Communications Director Nicolle Devenish to respond to Reid's comments.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEVENISH: Well, the Democrats are standing firm in their obstruction to the president's nominees and to the president's agenda. So, it's not surprising to hear that kind of rhetoric out of the Senate leader -- Senate Democratic leader -- today.

But the United States Senate has confirmed John Bolton four times. This request for additional information is clearly a stalling tactic and one that I think the American people are really growing weary of.

BASH: It's a stalling tactic, but they say they have the votes. So, here we are. We're at a stand-still, and the Democrats say they've got the votes, so the ball is in your court.

DEVENISH: Well, look, standing against everything the president is for is not an agenda. So, at some point, the Democrats' obstruction to the president's nominees, the president's efforts to reform Social Security, the president's work to pass an energy bill, are going to catch up with them.

And, again, this is another stalling effort, another effort to distract from the work that the people want to see done here in Washington.

BASH: I want to ask you about Guantanamo Bay, the prison camp there. The president said in an interview yesterday that the government was looking at all alternatives regarding Guantanamo and terror prisoners. The press secretary, Scott McClellan, essentially said the same thing today.

The defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said that no one in the U.S. government is looking into the possibility of closing Guantanamo. So, who's right?

DEVENISH: Well, look, I think that the president of the United States is always looking at the best way to accomplish our objectives here. Now, we remain a country at war. It's important to keep in mind who the prisoners are that are at Guantanamo. These are enemy combatants who were picked up on the battlefields of Afghanistan primarily, and when the president talks about looking at alternatives and the best ways to get -- to meet our objective, that objective is keeping America safe, so of course, the president of the United States is always looking for the best way to keep America safe.

BASH: So, it sounds like there's a formal review underway.

DEVENISH: I'm not aware of that, but, you know, I think the president spoke clearly and plainly and you heard from the White House, as well.

BASH: You're the communications director. Has this been a bit of a PR nightmare for you?

DEVENISH: Oh, there are no PR nightmares in Washington. It's always an opportunity to get to talk about the president's vision for getting things done.

You know, I think what is interesting, and what we do see happening here as we head into the summer, is the president fighting hard. Today he's in Ohio fighting for renewal of the Patriot Act. He's focused on Social Security reform and focused on an energy bill, and it's quite a contrast from the other party.

BASH: One other thing that -- I know you know -- that the president is focusing on is Social Security. Nicolle, yesterday was his 34th event by our count to sell the Social Security plan, and all polls show it's still very much lagging in support. You have virtually no Democratic support on Capitol Hill. Only one House member has proposed a bill and that is clearly not going anywhere at all.

Why is it in the first term on big, even partisan, issues, the president was able to pull over some Democrats, but on this issue, not?

DEVENISH: I think it goes back to where we started, Dana. The Democrats have decided that what they stand for is obstruction. They stand against making progress on the things people care about. Now, the president has been real clear about those who govern by the polls. It's like a dog chasing his tail is what he said, and it's not what we do here, and I think you've covered us long enough to know that.

Now, a few plain and simple facts that I think cut through the polls. People understand, especially people my age and younger, that Social Security will not be there for us when we retire. This Congress, Democrats and Republicans, are going to face the consequences of not acting to save Social Security for future generations.

BASH: Nicolle, yes, I do know, I'm well aware of the president's focus on big issues like Social Security and certainly, many Republicans applaud him for that because he is so decisive, but other Republicans are saying, you know, perhaps he is mistaking being decisive for really being unrealistic and it's time to move on.

DEVENISH: Well, I think the American people appreciate a leader who comes to Washington, tackles big issues, and really has optimism. He feels like we're on the verge of getting a lot of things done here in Washington. He's very inspired by the fast-changing events in the Mideast, the spread of freedom and democracy there.

He's very pleased that, working with Congress, we passed a budget that was very responsible with a taxpayers' dollars, very pleased that we're on the verge of passing an energy bill, and he remains focused on Social Security reform as well.

BASH: OK, Nicolle, I'll end on a freebie here. Howard Dean, what do you make of his controversial comments or at least -- even some Democrats are saying they're controversial.

DEVENISH: Well, look, it's a very interesting voice for a Democratic party who at this moment doesn't seem to stand for anything positive for the American people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: White House Communications Director Nicolle Devenish joining us earlier today from the White House. We thank her for joining us.

Well, two Democrats are speaking out loud and clear. Coming up, a look at what bloggers are saying about Howard Dean's tough talk about Republicans, and Congressman Charles Wrangle linking the Iraq war to the holocaust.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Democratic Representative Charles Rangel minces no words when it comes to slamming President Bush over the Iraq war. In his latest attack, according to "The New York Daily News," Rangel said what's going on in Iraq is, quote, "just as bad as 6 million Jews being killed." For what bloggers are saying about this and other stories, we check in with CNN political producer Abbi Tatton and Jacki Schechner, our blog reporter. Jacki?

JACKI SCHNECHER, BLOG REPORTER: Hi, Dana.

Yes, a little bit more about those comments just to give you an idea of what he said. Rangel said those comments on a radio show on Monday and then the story popped up on NewsMax.com yesterday, the right-wing bloggers linking to that as early as yesterday afternoon.

What he said essentially is that there's a similarity between the Bush administration keeping quiet about alternative reasons for going to war in Iraq and the international community keeping quiet over the Holocaust. Obviously, people are weighing in.

Lorie Byrd over at PoliPundit.com, a conservative blog, was one of the first to pick up on it and to link that story, saying she's not surprised because the Democrats have been comparing President Bush to Hitler for years. What we should mention though is, not long ago when Senator Rick Santorum made a comparison of the Democrats to Hitler and the liberal bloggers were crying foul. So, it's happening on both sides.

But, over -- back at PoliPundit.com, she says, I wonder if it occurred to Rangel that his question about what the world knew and his comments about those remaining silent could be much more appropriately be applied to those who ignored what Saddam Hussein had been doing for so many years.

ABBI TATTON, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: Another conservative site that's popular on this topic today is Crankoff.blogspot.com (ph). Interesting that this is a blogger who's actually in Australia, a conservative writer and lawyer who blogs a fairly popular site. He says, though, in a week that saw Guantanamo Bay described as a gulag, I can't say I'm too surprised anymore by Rangel's remarks.

Over to Decision08.blogspot.com, where Mark has been blogging since November about the up-coming -- well, not the up-coming -- the presidential election three years away, he says, because it's never too early. He's noting this rhetorical excess occurs on both sides of the aisle and he says that he has a pledge for all politicians, journalists and bloggers to never compare a politician to Stalin or a prison to the gulag; to never compare a politician to Hitler; to never compare any event whatsoever any time, any place, to the Holocaust. Arthur Crankoff (ph) linking back to that and saying, we should be so lucky.

SCHECHNER: Another Democrat whose words have gotten him into trouble is DNC Chairman Howard Dean, and now a lot of the Democratic bloggers are willing to put their money where Dean's mouth is.

We start over at LiberalOasis.com on this story, and what they're saying is that Dean cannot succeed in empowering us in the grassroots if we don't empower him. So, what they're saying is, the media will pay attention if there's real money on the table, and the way to do that is fill the DNC coffers. They have put a link on their site. If you click on it, it goes to the DNC site. It's a way contribute some money and they're one of many blogs that were doing that today.

TATTON: Another one that's doing that is Duncan Black (ph) at Atrios (ph).blogspot.com, a very popular liberal blogger. He's raising -- he said he's only -- had over 500 contributions there. He's up to almost 21,000 by using this tool, again through the DNC web site. He is saying, now, giving the numbers, saying, well, that's one fewer wealthy donor with a sense of entitlement Dean has to waste time with, making the point that the grassroots, the netroots as they like to call them, should get involved to show their support for the party chairman.

Now, this is the kind of -- the exact kind of political activity that's currently being reviewed by the Federal Elections Commission, looking into whether this kind of activity should be regulated because bloggers as we've talked a lot about here are advocates for candidates. They are fundraisers, and bloggers on both sides of the aisle have been very clear in saying no, we don't want any regulation here. They've been putting forth comments to the FEC in the last month.

The FEC is going to hold public hearings about this issue of regulation on June 28th and 29th.

SCHECHNER: If you're interested in reading all of the comments accumulated, one place to go today is SkepticsEye.com. It's an interesting site. This is by Allison Hayward, who is an attorney who splits her time between D.C. and California. What's most interesting about Allison, however, is that she used to work for Commissioner Bradley Smith at the FEC. And, you might remember that Bradley Smith was the one whose interview with C-Net.com sparked the bloggers' interest in this issue, saying that the blogs might in fact be regulated by this campaign finance reform.

So, if you go to her blog today, SkepticsEye.com, she says the comments are up. She's got a link to FEC.gov. It will take a second to pull that up, but if you do, you can read everything that was submitted to them by e-mail, by fax and by snail mail. So the FEC regulation issue continues. It is something that we'll be following as long as it continues on, Dana.

BASH: Well, Jacki, you both have talked about how much discussion the blogs there is about Howard Dean. Well, Howard Dean is saying, stop talking about me and start talking about the issues.

In today's "Strategy Session," we'll look at Dean's meeting with congressional Democrats and whether he can really stop being so controversial. That's ahead on INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. We promised we'd update you on on-going stories on Capitol Hill. This just in. In the Senate, William Pryor was just confirmed by a vote of 53-45. He is President Bush's nominee to the 11th circuit court of appeals. He is the third judge to go through the Senate, to be confirmed since Senators made a compromise deal to -- not to filibuster -- at least these judges -- and let them go through. Judge Pryor is already serving on this court because he was put there by President Bush in a recess appointment. This vote makes that permanent.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, in the House, we told you about a congressional hearing going on. That is before the Judiciary Committee, a subcommittee of the judiciary, and Amie Zyla -- she is 17-years-old. She is testifying before that committee in order to talk about a law that was passed in her home state of Wisconsin by her name. Her name is on it. She was 8-years-old when she was assaulted and the person who assaulted her, his records were kept sealed. Because of that, he was able to attack other people. She wants the law that prevents that from happening to be national. Let's listen in.

AMIE ZYLA, TESTIFYING IN CONGRESS: ...to protect our communities. No matter how old an offender is, Josh Wade proves that sexual predators will continue seeking out new victims and hurt more people. In Wisconsin, the community and government agree with us, and enact Amie's Law, but that is not enough. We cannot sit back and allow kids to continue to be hurt. The simple truth is that juvenile sex offenders turn into adult predators. Kids all over the country need the same kind of protection as in Wisconsin.

I pray that by coming forward again, sexual abuse victims who can hear the sound of my voice understand that it is not their fault. That they must come forward and find healing and purpose, stand up to your abusers and help law enforcement stop them from hurting anyone else.

Abuse does not have to affect your whole life. If I can overcome the hurt and trauma, then so can you.

That began to make my attack -- my attackers pay for his actions. Unfortunately, that was not the end of my journey. I had to come back and work to change the law to prevent juvenile offenders from getting the chance to harm other victims.

At this very moment, somewhere in this country, a child's heart is being stolen. He or she is young, afraid, confused and feeling dirty. That child is being terrorized by the most horrible kind of criminal. It happens every day, and it still hurts me deeply to hear another kid is experiencing that same kind of pain I did at eight- years-old.

I want to challenge you to look deep down inside. Isn't it time to put our kids' safety before the rights of sexual offenders, adult or juvenile? What is -- when is enough going to be enough? Must we have even one more Jessica Lunsford or one more Sara Lunde, or even one more kid like me who must keep reliving the nightmare?

We need a national sex offender registry that includes juvenile sex offenders. Mr. Green has introduced a bill that will do just that, a bill that will ensure all offenders, regardless of their age, will be on the registry and not able to work with children or hurt anyone else. I ask you to support Mr. Green's bill and in many other proposals you have heard about today. I ask you to help protect kids, kids like me.

Thank you for your time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Aime. Very well done it did a nice job. Dr. Berlin.

BASH: And that was Aime Zyla testifying before Congress, trying to make a law in her home state of Wisconsin -- help make it a federal law. That is a law that would make records for juvenile sex offenders public if they are a danger to other people.

And when we come back, we are going to have more of INSIDE POLITICS. Our "Strategy Session." Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS and our "Strategy Session" on today's hottest political topics. With us today, Democratic strategist Dana Brazile and CNN political analyst Robert Novak.

Today's topics, Democratic Chairman Howard Dean heads to the hill and tries to put controversy behind him. The Senate confirms another of President Bush's judicial nominees, but more bench battles could be ahead. And Mr. Bush says America needs the Patriot Act. We'll look how he's trying to push that and the rest of his platform through Congress.

First up, today, Howard Dean met -- as we've been reporting -- with fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill. Afterwards, Dean said the controversy over his recent remarks about Republicans won't overshadow the real issues, namely jobs, Social Security and the Iraq war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD DEAN, CHAIRMAN: DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: You know, I think a lot of this is exactly what the Republicans want, that's a diversion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Bob, a diversion. Bob, our analyst here.

BOB NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Let me make a disclaimer, I have never been a political strategist. Whatever I am, I'm no strategist.

BASH: We read your columns, Bob. We want to -- let's ask about Howard Dean. He says this is a diversion. Do you think it is a diversion?

NOVAK: It is. Of course, it's a diversion. But who made the diversion? He did. It think it's really -- it's really crazy. It's a stop me before I kill again.

He says crazy things, because he always has and he always will. He'll say them in the future.

I've had one prominent Democrat say that he's not going to last out the year. But for the same reasons that the Democratic Party let him be nominated, they'll probably let him continue because the inmates are running this asylum and there's no adult supervision.

BASH: Donna, do you think that's true? Do you think he's not going to last throughout the year?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Oh, I think Dean will not only last throughout the year, but Dean will go down in history as one of the most successful chairs.

Look, he's been on the job for four months. He taken the party in places where it hasn't been in many, many years. He's traveled over 23 states. He's raising the same amount of money we raised in 2003. And today, what happened on Capitol Hill is that Harry Reid and the Democratic senators said let's focus on our agenda, let's talk about how we want to help lower gas prices for the American people. And Dean -- they said to Howard Dean, look, you're in our states, you're helping to galvanize the troops, continue to do that job.

BASH: Is he crazy like a fox, though, Bob? Because he's getting all this attention and then he, you know, has the cameras on him and he gets to talk about the issues.

NOVAK: He says it's a distraction. We're not talking about issues. We're talking about Howard Dean. It's the last thing Democrats need.

You know, it's an absolute sham that all the chairman of the party is supposed to do is raise money and organize. He is way behind the Republicans in raising money. He's not a good money raiser. And he doesn't do any organizing.

He is a -- it is a disaster. But -- I'll tell you something, Donna, I talk to a lot of Democrats off the record. I have not talked to one that didn't say that he is a joke and ridiculous and they don't know what to do about him.

BRAZILE: Well Bob, these are the same Democrats that put the Democratic Party in this strategic place where people don't hear our message and they don't exactly know what we stand for. So, they may think Dean is a joke, I think they're laughable because if you look at the state of the Democratic Party -- what Dean is trying is to rebuild the Democratic party. He's trying to get the message out there. And you know, he's putting organizers in states like Nebraska and Kansas -- call Roger Wilson, who is the state chairman of Missouri and say is he helping you? I'm going down to Louisiana and he's helping people down in that state.

NOVAK: Can I ask you a question?

BRAZILE: Yes, sir.

NOVAK: Do you think it was a good idea to refer to white Christians when they have a Jewish chairman of the Republican National Committee? Do you think that make any sense to have a white Christians, does it?

BRAZILE: You know, the Democratic party is a very ecumenical party. And I don't know what the Republican party is. But I'm sure, given the fact that you have a Jewish chairman and a good friend of mine at that, that the Republican party is just as ecumenical as the Democratic party.

NOVAK: Then you he made a mistake in calling them a white Christians.

BASH: OK. Let me throw something else out there that they were talking about on blogs, and that is, comments that Charlie Rangel made. Because it's not just Howard Dean making apparently explosive comments.

Let me put up on screen what Charlie Rangel said, Congressman Charlie Rangel, "The Iraq war is the biggest fraud ever committed on the people of this country. This is just as bad as the 6 million Jews being killed." -- Donna.

BRAZILE: Well, I just read that today and I don't know what context he put it in, but look, Mr. Rangel was probably referring to that Downing Street memo, and the fact that the American people still don't know the truth about why we went to war and what led the administration to cook the books, so to speak, and put us in harm's way. But in terms of his comment, I'll let Mr. Rangel, who's very articulate, speak for himself.

NOVAK: Donna, everybody likes Charlie in the press. I like him.

BRAZILE: I love him.

NOVAK: If a Democrat -- if a Republican had said that, comparing anything like that with the Holocaust, he'd be in huge trouble. I think Charlie's probably sorry he said it. The thing is, you get -- saying -- you get into talking politics. You say the wrong things. That's just a totally stupid thing, terrible thing to say and I'm sure he's sorry he said it.

BASH: All right, well, we're going to move on to something that we just reported just happened on Capitol Hill, and that's another one of the president's judges getting confirmed, William Pryor, nominated and now confirmed to the federal appeals court. Pryor is the third and final judicial nominee covered by a deal in the Senate, meaning there could be fireworks ahead. Several nominations still have to be dealt with which are not covered by the agreement.

All of this could be a prelude to an even bigger test, perhaps the biggest test this summer. There's speculation that Chief Justice William Rehnquist might retire from the Supreme Court.

Donna, let me start with you. You now have the third judge confirmed that Democrats did not want and did not like, so how is this a win for Democrats? BRAZILE: I don't think it is a win for Democrats. I'm one who opposed the deal. I thought it was a sour (ph) deal. I mean, to allow right-wing extremist judicial activists to get on the court was a mistake and I join members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the National Organization for Women, a group that Bob is well aware of, in condemning the deal. But, now that the deal is over with, the compromise that got the three judges through -- I think that this period was like spring training.

You -- the activists on the left will continue to battle the activists on the right in trying to make sure we can get mainstream jurists on court in the future.

BASH: Spring training, Bob?

NOVAK: Back to where we were, exactly, except they got three very good conservative judges on the court who were being blocked. The next two test votes I'm told are going to be Brett Kavanaugh who is a White House aide and District Judge Terrence Boyle of North Carolina who's been trying to get on the appeals court it seems forever.

Now, these will come up and the question is, will they be filibustered? If they are filibustered and the Democrats don't give them 60 votes, we're back to square one. And that is the so-called nuclear option or the constitutional option where you use parliamentary procedure to do it by a majority vote. And that -- so it's -- nothing was settled by this so-called compromise because they're either going to let these people go through or they're going to use the so-caused nuclear option. When Harry Reid said the nuclear option is off the table, it isn't off the table.

BASH: The Democratic leader said something interesting after our interview. I asked about Brett Kavanaugh, who not only works in the White House, but is known because he worked on the Whitewater case for Ken Starr. He said it's 50/50, which -- better odds than I thought a Democrat would give for him. Donna, what is it?

BRAZILE: This is, as we said, I think the Democrats will let through -- not all judges are, you know, meet the extraordinary circumstances that the Democrats laid out in their part of the deal, but I do believe that some of these judges are extremely conservative and outside of the mainstream and Democrats have every right under the system to launch a filibuster against them.

NOVAK: But see, that's -- they have the right, but the question is, once the filibuster is launched, I can tell you -- I have talked to three members of the seven Republicans who were involved in the compromise, who say if they launch a compromise against Kavanaugh or Boyle, that they will then go with the nuclear option. All they will need is two more. See, all they need is 50 votes.

So this is -- this is a situation that is not settled. It is very alive and I think the high cards are with the Republicans if they've got the guts to play them. BASH: I just want to pitch forward very quickly. Bob, you've covered a lot of Supreme Court nominations in your couple of years here in Washington.

NOVAK: Yes.

BASH: What -- what's your prediction for if and when we do have one, for how huge this fight is going to be compared to in the past?

NOVAK: Well, that depends who they name. If they name Justice Scalia as chief justice, there'll be a lot of moaning and groaning, but he will be confirmed without a filibuster.

The question is, who then replaces Justice Scalia? A lot of people think that a very conservative one will come in and there'll be the fight. But, the real fight will be if Stevens leaves the court in one way or the other. He's the oldest member of the court. He's very, very liberal, and if they -- put in a conservative to replace him, then you're going to have the same fight whether they use the so- called nuclear option.

I think it's going to be a real struggle, and that's the kind of fights I live for. Ordinary voters may not like 'em but I love a battle like that.

BASH: And Donna, this is like -- this is going to be the campaign all over again, right?

BRAZILE: Well, this is the campaign all over again. Even if it's Scalia that he -- if Rehnquist stepped down and he tried to elevate Scalia, it will be a very difficult, very bloody fight so to speak. But no matter what happens, this will continue to be in the news for Democrats and Republicans because this is the fight over the American judiciary.

BASH: OK, well, we're going to broaden the discussion now to the rest of the president's agenda.

Up next on the "Strategy Session," President Bush goes on the road to push the Patriot Act, but with his own party in control of Congress, why does the president have to fight so hard for his agenda? That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, HOST "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Coming up at the top of the hour, the investigation into an alleged California terror plot widens with a fifth arrest.

And there are three more arrests in Aruba today in connection with the disappearance of 18-year-old Natalee Holloway.

And, is the Arab Middle East really ready for democracy? We'll talk with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Congressman Vin Weber. All those stories, much more, only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Now, back to INSIDE POLITICS.

BASH: More now on our "Strategy Session" on INSIDE POLITICS. Still here, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and CNN political analyst Robert Novak.

President Bush was on familiar campaign-reminiscent terrain today. He was in the state of Ohio. Standing in front of state troopers, President Bush called on lawmakers to renew expiring provisions of the Patriot Act.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: My message to Congress is clear, the terrorist threats against us will not expire at the end of the year. And neither should the protections of the Patriot Act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Bob, is the president in trouble on the Patriot Act?

NOVAK: It's the least of his troubles, Dana. It really is.

The only people really worried about it and a small portion of the act are the libertarians, out of the left libertarians in the Democratic Party, the right libertarians in the Republicans. Most people, it doesn't really bother them. And there's a big majority in Congress for renewal.

BASH: Let's talk about Social Security. You heard Senator Snowe -- Senator Olympia Snow, a very important person on the Senate Finance Committee saying what she said all alone, that she doesn't think this could potentially get through with what the president wants, private accounts. I'll start with you on that, Bob. I mean, is the president barking up the wrong tree here?

NOVAK: Well, I don't know if he's barking -- he's in big trouble. This is his big legislative proposal. And you can really criticize that he hasn't done it that well. He would have been better to put a set program out.

I think there's a good possibility that a bill close to what he wants will pass the House. I don't see how it gets through the Senate. I think the Democrats think they have a good position here. And they -- if they keep away from trying to increase taxes and cut benefits as some of the crazy ones are talking about -- but I think this is a real problem for the president.

BRAZILE: Well, I've got to say something about the Patriot Act. I know Bob had a good answer for it. But let me tell you, there is a bipartisan bill that's being floated on Capitol Hill by Larry Craig of Idaho and Dick Durbin of Illinois to mend it and not -- perhaps not end it. But there are still some disturbing provisions that are set to expire and many people will want to try to modify it. Over 7,000 people have complained of abuse. And until we know exactly what happened. Now, on Social Security, the more the president explains it, the less people like it. I mean, the longer he's out there -- and perhaps Democrats should give raise some money and give him more money to go out and explain it. Because the more he's explaining it, the less the American people are buying it.

So, I think he's going to have trouble getting it through both Houses. The Republicans are not buying it, and Democrats have said take it off the table and we'll talk about our own initiatives.

BASH: And Donna, you mentioned Larry Craig, who is not exactly a Democrat, a Republican. So Patriot Act sort of divides Republicans, but another issue that very much divides Republicans is stem cell research. And lifting the funding limits for embryonic stem cells. I asked Harry Reid about that earlier today, about what's going to happen in the Senate. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REID: We're going to have a debate on stem cell research before August break. We'll either do it with the cooperation of the majority, or we'll do it on some other bill. We are going to take up stem cell research. This is a wave that is sweeping this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Bob?

NOVAK: Well, my own opinion, it's an unfortunate wave. And because there's no evidence that this is going to cure any diseases. But we're not scientists here, but we're talking about politics. The political situation is that it's popular, because they think it's going to cure a lot of things that ailing Aunt Nelie and Uncle Ike. And so they think that this is a really good thing.

Now, the White House would like the bill to be buried by the Republican Senate. And they're really very upset that the Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is saying we'll bring it along for a vote, because they don't want to veto the bill. They're going to have to veto it. He will veto it. The veto will be sustained. It won't be overridden. But that's not politically popular. They like to have it suffocated.

That's a very interesting thing that the president can't get the Republican Senate to do a little quiet execution on that, but he's having a lot of trouble with the Congress on a lot of fronts.

BASH: That's just a quick wrap from you, Donna. Isn't that the bottom line? It's not going to pass and make law in the end.

BRAZILE: It raises a lot of hope. I hope it passes. It also is a bill, but it also a bill that could provide more research opportunities for us to find cures, then why not?

BASH: Thank you, Bob Novak, Donna Brazile. Thank you very much. We're going to go back to talking about President Bush and his possible nominees to the Supreme Court. Our Internet reporters join us again to look at what's new in the blog world, assessing potential Supreme Court nominees.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Well, we just talked here in our strategy session about looking forward to Supreme Court nominees, potentials. Let's get a sense of what they're saying on the blogs about that, CNN political producer Abbi Tatton and Jacki Schechner, our blog reporter, are there -- Jackie.

SCHECHNER: Hi, Dana.

It's been a big week for nominations on the Hill. As we just heard in the show a little while ago that Justice William Pryor has been confirmed. A lot of people very much interested in the entire process. Why? Because they are anticipating the big one, a Supreme Court nomination in the not too distant future.

We told you earlier in the week about Scotusblog.com. This is a law firm that created a blog dedicated to the Supreme Court of the United States. Now they have a sister blog called SCTnomination.com. And this they call a clearing house for information on the confirmation and nomination process of the Supreme Court.

TATTON: Obviously, no vacancy right now, but it's not too early to start speculating over at Goldstein and Howe. And they are certainly doing that. They're wondering about possible resignations, retirements, they're also talking about this campaign to draft Prado. This is a group of progressives who are trying to get an online campaign going for a moderate nominee.

And their choice is Judge Ed Prado, a Hispanic-American from Texas who they point out was nominated in the past to previous positions by both Presidents Reagan and Bush. Imagine a Supreme Court nominee with a mainstream approach to the law who has earned the respect of both Republicans and Democrats.

SCHECHNER: Well, lots a liberal and progressive blogs talking about this. One of those, the Princeton Progressive Review. You might remember them as the people who put on the anti-Frist filibuster not too long ago. They say anyone who is skeptical about this needs to take a second look that there is a very real possibility -- and this is their quote, "if they can convince the centrist loving mainstream media that a centrist judge is what they need, they might actually have a shot."

TATTON: Over at the Vola (ph) Conspiracy -- this is a conservative legal blog, they're looking into who's behind this draft movement. Note that they are progressives, they are definitely liberals who have worked in the past to run against Bush, but the people behind the organization just hoping that this online campaign will take off -- Dana.

BASH: Abbi, all that and no vacancy yet. Just wait until there is one. Thank you very much.

Well, that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Dana Bash. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.

END

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