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INSIDE POLITICS

Courthouse Shooting in Seattle; Bolton Nomination Before the Senate ... Again; The Hunt of Osama bin Laden Continues; Saddam and the Downing Street Memo in the Blogs

Aired June 20, 2005 - 16:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
FOREMAN: The stock market is just about to close up on Wall Street. I am joined by Kitty Pilgrim in New York with "The Dobbs Report." Kitty?

KITTY PILGRIM, "THE DOBBS REPORT": Thanks, Tom.

Well, let's start with the Dow Industrials, nine points lower. NASDAQ is flat now -- that snaps a seven-day losing streak. Oil prices above $59 a barrel, another all-time high there, and one of the big stories is the disappointing reading on the economy. The Index of Leading Economic Indicators fell in May, 4th drop in the past five months, basically at the lowest level since October 2003. That points to an economic slowdown.

D-day for Adelphia, John and Timothy Rigas sentenced today in New York Federal Court. John just received 15 years; Timothy will be sentenced shortly. We're keeping our eye on that.

And, it's happened again. Computer hackers thought to have tapped up to 40 million credit card accounts, 200,000 of those accounts are showing fraudulent activity. Now, this time the problem occurred with the credit card processor, who shouldn't even have had the information.

Coming up on CNN 6:00 p.m. Eastern, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," we're going to look at just who's in charge with monitoring your data and protecting your identity. We'll keep you up to speed on that; it's a very big issue.

Also, Captain David Rosell (ph) just returned from his most recent tour of duty in Iraq. We'll have his amazing story. Also, Bill Moyers, author of the best-selling book, "Moyers on America," tells us why he thinks democracy is at risk in the United States.

And also, there's a growing divide in the European Union. And member nations can't agree on a constitution. Is Europe falling apart? We'll take a look at that.

All that, and more, tonight, 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." But for now, back to Tom in Washington -- Tom?

FOREMAN: Thank you, Kitty. We'll look forward to it. We want to do an update now on what's happening in Seattle at that shooting up there. What we understand now is a man carrying what appeared to be a hand grenade went into the federal courthouse in Seattle about noon Seattle time.

Police said that the suspicious man appeared to have a hand grenade, went into the lobby of the downtown officer. Police agents were called. They responded, and the man was shot. And according to a police spokesman, he went down.

We don't know what the extent of his injuries are or what else happened with that, but we know that, because this was an unknown device, the bomb squad was then called to ensure that it was safe for officers to begin treating the man. That's the only injury we know of at this point, but it was in the federal courthouse in downtown Seattle, a busy place on a Monday.

The FBI is going to lead the investigation into what happened there. And of course, we'll be bringing you more about the evacuation and about the shooting as we get details moving along here.

Now, let's get back to INSIDE POLITICS.

The Senate here in Washington is about two hours away from a vote on whether to end debate on John Bolton's nomination to be U.N. ambassador. The outcome could convince the White House to act on its own and appoint Bolton to the post while Congress is in recess. As we reported earlier, the White House is refusing to rule out that option, at least at this point.

So let's go now live to Capitol Hill for more on the Bolton debate with our congressional correspondent, Joe Johns -- Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tom, the Senate expected to try once again on the Bolton nomination. No clear indication that that nomination will succeed the second time around. It failed on just about three votes. No clear indication right now that any Democrats are planning on changing their votes.

Two Democrats, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, continue to seek information from the administration. The administration does not want to give up, including information about those secret National Security Agency intercepts that Bolton had requested just a little while ago at the Capitol. Democratic Leader Harry Reid telling reporters, if the nomination is blocked, then the rest, of course, is in the president's hands.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Unless the president comes forward with information which we are certain we are constitutionally entitled to, Bolton will not get enough votes to invoke cloture. The president will have to make a decision whether he wants to send this flawed candidate to the United Nations under an also-questionable constitutional measure which is being tested in the courts as we speak with a recess appointment. (END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: For the record, no clear word from the White House right now as to whether a recess appointment will be issued in the event the nomination is blocked, as expected. Now, Republicans are preparing to blast the opponents of Bolton for blocking the nomination tonight. In fact, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, telling reporters through a press release earlier today, that this is, quote, "Washington gamesmanship."

Tom, back to you.

FOREMAN: Joe, we have been hearing this, "John Bolton, John Bolton, John Bolton, John Bolton." Is there any sense that either side is saying, "We may be getting into that dangerous zone there where the public gets frustrated with both sides," and says, "Enough already, either vote this guy in or vote him out, but get it over with"?

JOHNS: Well, I mean, if you look at the totality of the picture, the fact of the matter is, polls show the American public has a very low approval rating, vis-a-vis the Congress at this time. There is some concern here on Capitol Hill about that.

Of course, Republicans have so far decided they're going go to go forward with this, because, at the end of the day, this nomination, once it is blocked, presumably on the floor, if that happens tonight, it ends up in the president's lap, and he's the one who has to decide. It's also out of the realm of the United States Senate unless for some reason they think they can bring it back up again -- Tom?

FOREMAN: All right, Joe Johns. Thank you very much.

To talk more about this, we are bringing in Ron Brownstein of "The L.A. Times."

Ron, let me ask you this. It winds up in the president's lap. Is that good or bad?

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, it's bad. It's obviously the less preferable alternative. He wanted his man confirmed by the full Senate.

But look, Tom, from the beginning, from the moment that he appointed John Bolton, he knew he was not appointing a 60-40 choice in the Senate. It was a controversial decision. He thought that he could squeeze it through, and he hasn't, if the Democrats, in fact, do hold together, and there isn't an agreement on the information in the next few hours, he will not have gotten there.

I think the White House has been consistently surprised on a broad range of issues, not just Bolton, but Social Security and many others, on the willingness of the red state Democratic senators, the senators from the state where Bush is strong that Bush won, to hold with the rest of the party against him and to give them enough votes to sustain a filibuster.

FOREMAN: Why can't the Republicans make the case on this guy? Why is it so hard?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, first of all, Bolton has gotten into a situation which is not unusual for controversial appointees. I think members of the Senate of both parties are reluctant to do a head-on ideological confrontation and say, "This is the wrong person for the job. The president should not be able to have his choice."

They are more comfortable when they have an ethical or a process kind of argument to fall back on. And in this case, they have been able to construct an argument over Bolton where we are now not arguing necessarily about his qualifications for the job, but the prerogatives of the Senate to demand information from the executive branch. And that is grounds on which the Democrats, even, I think, the vulnerable Democrats from the more, as I say, Bush-friendly friendly states, feel comfortable standing.

FOREMAN: Same question I had to Joe Johns there, though. Doesn't this do, ultimately, a lot of damage to both sides? And frankly, right now, both sides are in pretty bad shape.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, right. I mean, I don't know about this individual fight. John Bolton probably isn't a household name. But, yes, the broad context of what we're seeing in this month is both parties are being hurt by a sense that Washington is driven by unusual partisan division, not getting a lot done, not focusing on the problems that concern ordinary Americans, the economy, gas prices, health care prices, and Iraq.

But the question is, with the Republicans as the party in power, historically, they have had more to fear if there's a pox on both your houses. Now, they argue the Democrats are casting themselves as obstructionists. They can fire back. But historically, when approval for Congress is down to where it is now, in the low 30s, even the high 20s, the party in power is the one that has had the most to fear at election time.

FOREMAN: Do you think that the Republicans can win the battle on Bolton, through a presidential appointment or whatever, but lose the war?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think they can obviously put him in place. If the president wants to make the recess appointment, he's done it before. Bill Clinton has done it. I mean, they can do it.

Bolton is changed, though, as a U.N. ambassador, if, in fact, he is forced to come through that way, not only through Democratic opposition, but George Voinovich of Ohio, the Republican senator, other Republicans raised many questions. It would be a different appointee. It would be more of a statement by the president he's not going to be pushed around, but John Bolton would not be the same U.N. ambassador, I think, in terms of credibility, as he would have been had he been able to win a majority or supermajority of votes.

FOREMAN: Well, heaven knows how this is going to end. It's been going on for -- Ron Brownstein from "The L.A. Times," thanks so much. More news in. Breaking news from Philadelphia. The jury now has the case, the murder case against a former Klansman charged in the slaying of -- excuse me, in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the murder case against a former Klansman charged in the slaying of three civil rights workers went to the jury this afternoon after prosecutors made an impassioned plea for conviction, saying the victims' families have waited a very long time, 41 years, for someone to be brought to justice.

We're going to have more about what's being considered in that case and how it wrapped up as it headed to the jury all of a sudden, as we go on. And of course, if the jury were to come back quickly with a verdict, we would have that, as well.

The search for Osama bin Laden from a military man's perspective, that's coming up. Our military analyst, Brigadier General James Marks, joins us to talk about the hunt for the world's most wanted terrorist. Plus, American troops who have stood guard over Saddam Hussein shed new light on the former Iraqi dictator and his life in captivity. You don't want to miss this.

And in our strategy session, we'll talk more about the battle over John Bolton's nomination as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Stick with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: As we've reported, the search for Osama bin Laden is back in the spotlight today. CIA director Porter Goss says he has an excellent idea of where the Al Qaeda leader is hiding. CNN's military analyst, Brigadier General James Marks, joins us now to help talk this over a little bit.

Thanks for coming in.

BRIG. GEN. JAMES MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Thanks, Tom.

FOREMAN: Look, if we know where he is, why don't we have him?

MARKS: Let me complete your sentence, "Why don't we go get him?"

FOREMAN: Exactly.

MARKS: Well, there are a lot of challenges attendant with that, as you can imagine. And as the director of Central Intelligence indicated, we have got to do it within acceptable means that we have, in terms of our relationships with those potential locations, those countries, and those potential locations where he might be.

FOREMAN: Iraq and Pakistan is what we are talking about right now, right? The border regions.

MARKS: We are. We are.

FOREMAN: Do you think that Pakistan is fully cooperating? MARKS: I think on multiple levels, they are cooperating. Fully cooperating, I mean, that's an adjective that you are using -- I would say that there probably is not a good definition of full cooperation. I mean, I don't know that it's a full and open kimono, to allow me to mix the geographic metaphors here. But I don't know that that is completely open and complete disclosure.

FOREMAN: From a military standpoint, let's break it up into parts here. From a military standpoint, are we capable of it? If we said right now, "He's somewhere in this 100-mile region," nothing barred, just go get him -- we have the biggest military ever -- can we do it?

MARKS: It's not the size of the dog in the hunt, it's the precision and the clarity of the intelligence that's going to lead to where he is.

FOREMAN: But are we capable of doing it?

MARKS: So the short answer is, sure, we can do it. Are we going to be able to do it without the cooperation of the Pakistanis, if, in fact, that's where he is? No. We won't be able to do that. He will be tipped. There will be enough cues that will allow him to move at the very last minute before we can lay our hands on him. There has to be a cooperative effort with the Pakistanis, again, if that's where he is located.

FOREMAN: Now, on this question of the diplomatic front and what we're going to do about that, look, many Americans would say Osama bin Laden is one of the most hated men in the world. Just go get him and work out the apologies later on. Nobody's going to really complain that much, if you get him.

MARKS: I agree with you, but on the political and the strategic levels, there are issues that have to be addressed, long-term issues. It's more than just Osama bin Laden. I think that's really the answer to the question.

Sure, we could go get UBL and we could dispose of him appropriately, but the larger issue is, how does that fan the larger insurgency, Islamic jihadism? How is this going to be affected?

FOREMAN: Let's turn to that bigger picture right now, because, frankly, I feel like we're getting utterly mixed messages on what is happening in Iraq. On one side -- I want you to look at some quotes here -- this is from Vice President Dick Cheney.

"The level of activity that we see today, from a military standpoint" -- talking about the insurgency -- "I think will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."

Porter Goss says, "I think they're not quite in the last throes, but I think they're very close to it." And he goes on from there to say a little bit more about the insurgency. On the other hand, we have folks in this country, like Senator Hagel and some other folks who are looking at this. Just a short while ago, we were talking to Senator Rockefeller who are saying, "We don't know what's happening. We don't know if we're winning." What are we supposed to make of this?

MARKS: You have many elements that are involved. Clearly, you have the foreign fighters that are coming across the border into Iraq. You've got the indigenous Iraqi Islamic jihadists in various ilks and colors, and then you have the former regime elements that are producing and enabling architecture that allows all this to occur.

See, the FRE, the former regime elements, have to be a part of the political solution as Iraq moves forward. So on the one, what you have is they are establishing a mechanism that allows all this to occur. They also can come forward and say, "We want to be part of the solution."

It's a very complex and a confusing mix, and we are going to routinely end up with some very mixed signals.

FOREMAN: Well, with all of our tremendous experience in the military, do have a sense -- I mean, I'm sure you have a sense when you're involved in these things whether you are winning or not.

MARKS: Yes, you always establish measurements.

FOREMAN: Do you have a sense in this one whether we're winning or not?

MARKS: I think at the tactical level, we are achieving great success. And when you talk to the tactical commanders on the ground, General Webster, who is in Baghdad with the 3rd Infantry Division, and you talk to those two-star and those three-star commanders that are on the ground.

Then, more importantly, you talk to the sergeants and the captains that are on the ground that are out there with actionable intelligence going after the bad guys, they are achieving great success. The challenge is, this is like trying to kill rats with a hammer. There is an endless supply. So how do you cut back, how do you eliminate the recruitment writ large across the Mideast?

FOREMAN: And very shortly, you don't sound like you are nearly as convinced that that's working right now.

MARKS: Oh, it's not working. No. You have got to cut down on the recruitment activities that are taking place throughout the region.

FOREMAN: Well, thanks so much for coming in, General James Marks. Appreciate your time.

MARKS: Tom, thanks very much.

FOREMAN: It's an issue that continues to create a lot of chatter in cyberspace. Straight ahead, we'll be going inside the blogs to find out the latest buzz over, yes, once again with feeling, the Downing Street Memo. Stick with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: Now it's time for absolutely my favorite story of the day, Saddam Hussein's favorite snack food and other stories from the former Iraqi dictator. They're all things that he told his guards.

Five members of the Pennsylvania National Guard who stood guard over Hussein for nearly 300 days are profiled in the upcoming issue of "GQ" magazine. They report the highest-profiled detainee has a taste for Doritos and Raisin Bran Crunch cereal. Won't touch Froot Loops, for some reason.

He's a bit of a clean freak, constantly washing his hands, and he is certain that one day he will return to power, and that President Bush knows he will never find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That is the news from inside the cell of Saddam Hussein. A fascinating bit of news.

The so-called Downing Street Memo is still getting a lot of attention in cyberspace. It raises question about when the Bush administration made the decision to invade Iraq. And now, some bloggers are questioning whether or not this memo is even authentic. We check in now with CNN political producer Abbi Tatton and Jacki Schechner, our blog reporters.

Oh, this is so inside baseball, it makes my head hurt, Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, BLOG REPORTER: I thought you were going to say from your favorite story to your favorite segment. Where was that?

FOREMAN: Exactly. Well, that's true, too, yes.

SCHECHNER: We have been talking a lot about the Downing Street Memo. And that was the memo that suggested that perhaps the Bush administration had plans to go to war with Iraq as early as July 2002. Now, up until now, the authenticity of that memo and other corresponding British papers had not been called into question.

But a couple of stories that broke over the weekend through the associated Press and through RawStory.com now have a lot of the blogs on the right talking about whether or not the Downing Street Memo and other papers are actually real. One of those that's talking about it a lot is Captain Ed over at captainsquartersblog.com.

And what he's saying is that Michael Smith, the reporter who got a hold of the memo, says that he made copies and then destroyed the original, according to one article, or either made copies and returned the original back to the government, according to another one of those articles.

What Captain Ed is saying is that, the fact that certainly stands out from all of this is that Michael Smith cannot authenticate the copies. And then they lose their value as evidence of anything. ABBI TATTON, POLITICAL PRODUCER: So Ed Morrissey there really calling into question the authenticity of these documents.

But not all conservatives are agreeing with that. Even though Captain Ed's post is a widely linked one today, one that lots of people are talking about, but over now to Powerlineblog.com. This is the three conservative lawyers who blog over here and maintain this site.

They were the ones who were widely credited, along with their readers, with really blowing what is called in the blogosphere as Rathergate, those CBS documents last year about Bush's National Guard service. They're looking into these memos today, and what do they say?

They seem to think that they are probably real, for two reasons. First of all, no one in the British government has denied the authenticity so far, even though there's been plenty of time to do so. But second of all, and this is their main point is that, if they were faked, surely they would say something a little bit more interesting, something more explosive. The right has said consistently that there is no smoking gun here in these memos at all and that's why the mainstream media is right not to pick up on it so much.

"The Downing Street Memos, while interesting, are innocuous. If someone went to the trouble of faking them, I would expect him to fake something better."

SCHECHNER: Now, over at the Volokh Conspiracy, what to do if you get leaked government documents. This is Eugene Volokh, who is a law professor at UCLA. In case this happens to you, what do you do?

Well, what he says is he's not familiar with U.K. law, but U.S. law dictates a couple of things. One, it is not a violation of government property rights to copy the material, but he says it is illegal to hold onto government property. So he says that, by standards of U.S. law, Michael Smith did do the right thing, but does indicate he is not an expert on U.K. law.

TATTON: We should point out, as well, that the left is still maintaining the authenticity of the documents and also their importance as a story. Kevin Drum, the Political Animal, this is washingtonmonthly.com, he's picking up a similar point as Powerline saying, "No one has come out and said they're not authentic," and then linking to a few articles where officials, including Tony Blair himself, seem to suggest that these are real.

SCHECHNER: Now, in a totally different story we wanted to bring to you is Senator Joe Biden made an announcement yesterday that he does, in fact, have some intentions to run for president in 2008. And he says he's going to see if he's got enough support to win the nomination.

This is getting him kudos online. Over at The Yellow Line, a centrist blog, Alan Stewart Carl called this "a rare moment in politics," saying one of the great white lies is that "I haven't decided yet." And he says he doesn't think this is going to hold any long-term political ramifications for Biden, it does earn him some points right now.

TATTON: Some of the bloggers looking into Senator Biden's record, really, you know, digging on that one, but others are looking ahead to the wider race, the potential candidates. The first Daily Kos presidential straw poll today, ten candidates there. You can get the results. Almost 7,000 people voting. Not scientific, we should point out. Ten candidates, plus other, and "no frickin' clue." That candidate is second at the moment on that straw poll. So we'll keep checking to see if Daily Kos has more of those in the future -- Tom?

FOREMAN: Jacki, Abbi, we're going to have so many of the, "I'm running, I'm not running" folks in the coming years, unfortunately.

We have an update on a story that's been getting its share of attention in the blogosphere. Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham says he has been served with four subpoenas in his home state of California. A clerk read Cunningham's announcement on the House floor today.

No details on what the subpoenas are for, but there are reports a federal grand jury is looking into the sale of the California Republican's house to a defense contractor. Cunningham is on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, and that contractor received defense contracts after buying the house. Cunningham has denied any wrongdoing in that case.

A high-ranking intelligence official says he has an idea where Osama bin Laden is, as we've been reporting. In today's strategy session, is knowing where bin Laden is the same as being able to catch him? That's coming up on INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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