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INSIDE POLITICS

President Bush to Address Nation

Aired June 24, 2005 - 15:30   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: The president on the offensive in Iraq.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, if give a timetable, you're -- you're conceding too much to the enemy, this enemy that will be defeated.

ANNOUNCER: What more might he say to the American people in a primetime address next week?

Women as casualties of war: a new attack on U.S. troops in Iraq spotlights the debate over women in combat.

Democrats keep "roving" for an apology and a White House slap at the president's political architect.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MINORITY WHIP: His slash and burn track record speaks for itself.

ANNOUNCER: The search for a new Supreme Court justice. The White House can't afford to wait for an official vacancy.

C. BOYDEN GRAY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: They probably got about five possibilities on that list. And they've probably already decided.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, HOST: Thanks for joining us. I'm Dana Bash. The White House promises the president will be very specific about the mission ahead in Iraq in a primetime television address on Tuesday. But as the president prepares to respond to lagging public support for the war, a new attack in Iraq may make things even wearier as far as Americans are concerned.

As many as six U.S. military personnel were killed and 13 wounded in a suicide bombing near Fallujah last night, including a number of women. But we begin our coverage here in Washington, where the president started his PR offensive to regain public confidence in the mission. And our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Dana. Well, President Bush making it very clear today that he is facing some pressure to bring the troops home and as quickly as possible. But he says that he does not believe that's the right approach. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Mindful the public relations war over Iraq is not going his way, President Bush has engaged in a highly orchestrated campaign to win American support.

BUSH: They figure if they can shake our will and, you know, affect public opinion, then politicians will give up on the mission. I'm not giving up on the mission. We're doing the right thing.

MALVEAUX: While the president and his administration build their case for Americans to stay the course, U.S. and Iraqi casualties continue to mount there from insurgents' attacks. Mr. Bush faces increasing pressure from lawmakers to set a timetable to bring the troops home. But he insists that's the wrong approach.

BUSH: Why would you say to the enemy, here's a timetable, just go ahead and wait us out. It doesn't make any sense to have a timetable.

MALVEAUX: The Bush administration's strategy to regain American support is to counter the negative images coming out of Iraq with positive images of their own.

BUSH: So we're optimistic.

MALVEAUX: At the White House, Mr. Bush hosted Iraq's prime minister Ibrahim al Jaafari. The two leaders spoke of Iraq's military and political progress. And the need to continue to work together. Al Jaafari even opened his remarks in English to emphasize the point.

IBRAHIM AL JAAFARI, PRIME MINISTER OF IRAQ: This is not the time to fall back.

MALVEAUX: Tuesday evening on the one year anniversary of Iraq's sovereignty, Mr. Bush will deliver a primetime address to the nation against the backdrop of American troops at Ft. Bragg to lay out what the White House calls its strategy for success.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And That, too, is part of the White House strategy, to go around the media and to take the message directly to the American people -- Dana.

BASH: Suzanne, thank you very much. We'll certainly be watching next Tuesday. And we will have more ahead on the latest on the insurgent attacks in Iraq and for realities for women not officially in combat but very much on the front lines.

Well, Democrats meanwhile are continuing to fire back at Bush political adviser Karl Rove for saying that liberals wanted to, quote, "offer therapy and understanding to terrorists after 9/11." On the House floor today, Democrats repeated demands for an apology from Rove and they urged President Bush to repudiate the deputy chief of staff for his remarks. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STENY HOYER, (D-MD) MINORITY WHIP: I do not know whether Mr. Rove's statement was calculated to exploit collective national pain for partisan political gain, although his slash and burn track record speaks for itself. But Mr. Rove should apologize and retract it. And the president of the United States, who represents not Republicans, not Democrats, but all Americans, should repudiate it today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Well, the White House is still standing by Rove and his comments, saying he was simply pointing out the parties' different approaches on the war on terrorism.

Well, some other Republicans may be less comfortable with this. And we will potentially talk to one very shortly, but we are going to take a quick break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Well, as we've been reporting, President Bush is going to try to turn around waning public support when it comes to the mission in Iraq. And certainly some members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, are saying that perhaps it's about time for the president to start doing that. And joining us now is Connecticut Republican Congressman Chris Shays joining us from Capitol Hill.

And congressman, I want to first ask you about President Bush's remarks today standing with the leader from Iraq. He said that there's not going to be any timetable for withdrawal of American forces and vowed victory over the insurgents. You have called for benchmarks. So when you hear the president say no timetables are you disappointed?

REP. CHRIS SHAYS, (R) CONNECTICUT: No, I'm disappointed at all. I think we need benchmarks. I think we need to know what we need to do in order to eventually reduce the number of troops. And when we reach those benchmarks, then we can take action, reduce our troops.

But to say we'll accomplish it at a particular time I think is really not sensible at all. Because that will encourage terrorists to do certain things, the insurgents to do certain things to throw us off that timetable.

BASH: Congressman, you have been to Iraq I believe eight times. From your perspective, is the president, is the White House being straight with the American people about the reality on the ground there?

SHAYS: Well, I think they are. The reality is we're in a knock- down, drag-out fights with insurgents, particularly in three provinces. The reality is that Syria is not making life easy for us.

But we've seen amazing progress. The Iraqis -- we should never have disbanded their army, their police or their border patrol, and so we dug a deep hole. We're getting out of that hole.

So, I think they could have been more candid we caused some of our own problems. But we've seen continual progress since we started to train their troops.

BASH: Congressman, I'm sorry, we're going to have to interrupt you for one minute. We'll get back to you. We have a press conference coming in now from the USDA talking about perhaps another case of made cow disease. Let's listen.

MIKE JOHANNS, AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: I asked Doctor Matthews to join me for a couple of reasons. First, to ensure that I accurately relay the test results and information that he has provided. And then secondly, because he is recognized worldwide as an expert in this area, so he brings independent perspective to our discussion. And again, I thank you for being here.

Today, I do have quite a bit of information to share with you, including the test results from England and some changes to USDA protocols for BSC testing. So I'll just get started.

Let me say at the outset that the USDA has spent a tremendous amount of time on this issue. Secretary Brenneman did before me and I have -- certainly our scientists have and today I'll share what I've learned, the concerns that I've raised and the steps that I intend to take to address those concerns.

So, let me start first with the test results. As you are aware, last November we had an inconclusive report from a rapid screening test. USDA then conducted two I-8C confirmatory tests and both came out negative. A few weeks ago, an additional confirmatory test was conducted and that test is referred to as the western blot test. On June 10, I learned that test was reactive and shared those results at that time.

We now have the test results from the lab in Waybridge, England, as well as the results from additional testing in our own lab. And, again, I am here today to share those results with you.

Results confirm the presence of BSC in this animal, an animal that was blocked from entering the food supply, thanks to the firewalls that are in place. It is critically important to note that this animal was identified as a high-risk animal. A sample was taken and the carcass was incinerated. These steps insured that...

It is also important to remember that we are currently testing about 1,000 cattle per day. That's nearly 400,000 total to date as a part of a BSE enhanced surveillance program.

Frankly, we have said all along...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All I heard is a beep, sir. If you can hear me, all I heard is a beep. So, if your speaking right now, I can't...

JOHANNS: Additional positive test results. One positive result out of 388,000 tests in our enhanced surveillance program indicates that the presence of the disease is extremely, extremely low in the United States. The fact that this animal was blocked from entering the food supply tells us that our safeguards are working exactly as they should.

I'd like to talk to you for a moment about...

BASH: OK. You were just listening to a press conference telling the American people that there is now a confirmed new case of mad cow disease. And we have with us our medical correspondent Kristy Feig to put this all in perspective. And one very important point that he made, which is that it's not in the food supply.

KRISTY FEIG, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. This would be the second case of mad cow disease we've ever seen in the U.S. A lot of other countries had a lot more problem with this. It did not get in the food supply. When these animals come in, it's called downer cows, because they can't walk. When they see one of those, they separate it from the rest of the animals in the slaughterhouse. And it does not get into the food supply anymore. But that's the red flag that makes them do this test.

BASH: Now, not in the food supply. But what does this tell the USDA the Department of Agriculture, about the potential for more cases of this?

FEIG: Yeah, mad cow disease is something that's plagued a lot of different countries and the beef industry all over the world, frankly. The biggest problem has been in the United Kingdom. They had a lot of cases in there in 1990s.

Cows move between countries. I mea, we get a lot from Canada, for example. The one we had in 2003 came from Canada. So, it's hard to trace. It does exist out there, but that's why we have very stringent rules about where we import cows from and what we feed cows. We have a lot of rules about that, because that's how they get infected. And which we test, which are kept out of the food supply.

BASH: OK. So, this won't affect people's health we don't think but it certainly could affect the markets. We know that from recent experience, right Kristy?

FEIG: Exactly right. That is the nuts and bolts of this. It's not going to effect the food supply, because it did not get into the food supply. The only way you can get mad cow disease is if you eat the spinal cord or the brain, because that's where it is. This animal didn't even get in the food supply, so they say that's not an issue.

But the economic implications are absolutely huge. You'll remember in 2003, the day the announcement came out, literally as we told the story, reports came in from countries banning beef imports from the U.S., cost the cattle industry about $4 billion a year. And with this positive test result, we still don't have all that trade re- established yet.

BASH: Do they have any idea where this comes from? I mean, how this actually happens?

FEIG: They know how this happens and they know what this is. It's a diseased that's caused by proteins in the brain that they mutate a little bit and cause plaque in the brain and eats holes in the cow's brain. The cows get it when they eat other animals that had it. And it used to be before 1997 we would fed animals animal byproducts. So when we slaughtered one animal, we would feed them the brain and thing like that, because it's a lot of protein and it really beefed up the cattle. We didn't know then, now we know the USDA has banned that. That practice doesn't happen anymore. But this cow was born before that ban was put in place.

BASH: Kristy, thank you very much. Again, important to note, a confirmed case of mad cow disease, but not in the food supply. So people should not be concerned about their health.

Kristy, thank very much you for putting that all in perspective for us. Thank you.

And now I believe we are going to go back to our conversation with Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut. We're going to go back to talking about the issue of Iraq and perhaps more about what the president's adviser, Karl Rove said, yesterday, that sparked an uproar on Capitol Hill, particularly among Democrats. Congressman, are you with us?

SHAYS: I am.

BASH: OK, great. Let's -- first of all, just one quick last button on Iraq. The president is going to give a primetime address at Ft. Bragg surrounded by troops on Tuesday night. How important is that? And what is critical for the American people, for you to hear from the president then?

SHAYS: Well, I think the president needs to be as candid as he can possibly be. And he can be very candid. I think he needs to point out where some of our mistakes were and where some of our successes were.

If people said, well, in April 2003 we were here and now we're at this point, they don't know that after April 2003, we made some decisions that were a mistake. We disbanded the army, the police and the border patrol. And so we left this huge void. We dug ourselves a deep hole. If you realize what we got ourselves into and realize the progress we've made since then, it's a much different and a much better picture.

So I just think he needs to be very candid. And I think he needs to be very clear that we're not leaving Iraq.

When I visit with Iraqi leaders, I say what's your biggest fear? they don't say the insurgents. They say, that you'll leave us, that you'll just leave us. And I say, we are not going to leave you.

BASH: Congressman, thank you. We were hoping to get some quick reaction from you have on Karl Rove. SHAYS: Saved by the bell.

BASH: Saved by the bell is right. We'll get that from you soon. But unfortunately you were talking about Iraq and the insurgents. We have more on that on the latest attacks in Iraq. We have our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre for the latest on that. More developments -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, we are getting more details on what is shaping up to be the deadliest day in Iraq for women American troops in Iraq. An attack last night in Fallujah against a marine convoy has claimed the life of at least two female marines and wounded 11 other female marines who are apparently of what's called a Lioness Team.

These are female troops that are used to help search Iraqi civilians. They were traveling in a convoy. Overall, it appears that six people have died in this attack and 13 wounded. One of the dead is confirmed to be a male marine and two of the wounded were also males. But, again, of this group, at least two were women and at least 11 women were also wounded in this incident.

So it highlights the fact that even though women are barred from direct ground combat in the U.S. military, they're serving in a very dangerous area in Iraq. There are essentially no front lines there. And just traveling in a convoy from one place to another can put you in the line of fire.

Again, it looks like this is going to end up being a tragic footnote in the history books, a day when more women have died and were wounded in a combat zone than any other time in U.S. military history.

BASH: Jamie, thank you for that update. And we are actually going to talk later on with our own Jane Arraf about the role of women in combat in Iraq later on in this show. And we are going to take a quick break. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. We want to update you on a story we just reported a few minutes ago. And that is that the Department of Agriculture has confirmed the second case of mad cow disease in the United States. The department is saying that they do not yet know where the cow came from, but they are saying that it was not sold to consumers as either food or as animal feed. So they are confirming that there is another confirmed case of mad cow disease.

Now we go back to politics and President Bush. He says he'll consult, to a point, with Senate Democrats, if he's faced with selecting a new Supreme Court nominee. It's fair to say that the number one parlor game in Washington right now, hands down, is speculating about the high court.

Will the chief justice step down next week when the court wraps up its term? Will it be another justice? Will the president tap his confidante and attorney general Alberto Gonzalez or is he talking about an appellate court judge?

Well, Bush allies already have lined up former colleagues, clerks, friends and potential nominees that are all ready to sing the praises to the press of whomever the president gives the nod to. Inside the White House, though, they're ready to go, but mum is the word.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Selecting a Supreme Court nominee is a little like picking a pope. That's how a senior official intensely involved in the process describes it. But unlike the Vatican, the Bush White House is not waiting for a vacancy.

C. BOYDEN GRAY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I know that there's a team in the White House that has interviewed the candidates.

BASH: Bush aides and advisers, like former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray, say the goal is to announce a nominee as soon as the chief or any other justice steps down.

GRAY: They probably got about five possibilities on that list and they probably already decided, but not for sure. But they probably pretty well decided, I would think, in this case.

BASH: Deliberations are top secret, limited to just a few senior officials: the vice president, chief of staff, the White House counsel and her predecessor the attorney general, and Mr. Bush's political adviser.

BUSH: I'm obviously going to spend a lot of time reviewing the records of a variety of people and looking at their opinions and their character.

BASH: Records of candidates like Judges Michael Luttig (ph) and Harvey Wilkinson, now on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Samuel Alito, an appellate court judge in Philadelphia, John Roberts on the D.C. Circuit, Emilio Garza, a Texan on the Fifth Circuit.

HELGI WALKER, FMR. BUS ASSISTANT COUNSEL: Right out of the box, the White House counsel's office started working on the issue.

BASH: Helgi Walker worked in the Bush counsel's office and back on day one more than four years ago, she and her colleagues began scrutinizing records, writings, rulings, building profiles.

WALKER: To see what kinds of issues in their background might make them harder to confirm than other candidates.

BASH: Ron Klain worked in the Clinton counsel's office, says they didn't have the luxury of prep time and recalls an early morning surprise just 60 days into the new administration.

RON KLAIN, SR. CLINTON WHITE HOUSE AIDE: I had been a law clerk for Justice White. He invited me over for breakfast. He gave me his letter announcing his retirement, told me to go to the White House and deliver it to President Clinton.

BASH: Back then, he says, only Supreme Court devotees knew much about the prospective candidates. No more.

KLAIN: Because of the Internet, because of the blogs, because of all the information that's out there, every piece of paper this person has ever written in their life will be available to every person in this country within 24 hours.

BASH: Senate Democrats are demanding consultation on any Supreme Court nominee. The White House has been using can have confidantes like Boyden Gray to back channel, not with Democrats, but to a group of seven Republican senators.

GRAY: The interesting thing is that the universe that I think the president's looking at would not create a problem for some of the Republican group of seven, so that was reassuring.

BASH: Assuming things go according to plan.

GRAY: You'd be surprised what funny things can happen. And as I say, there's nothing quite like a vacancy.

BASH: And another prospect, former White House counsel, now Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, he has a unique advantage, a close personal relationship with the president, a trusted adviser dating back to President Bush's days as Texas governor. But social conservatives have made clear through the years they would oppose putting Gonzales on the high court. They call him too moderate, citing rulings on abortions and other cases back when Gonzales was a justice on the Texas State Supreme Court.

Well, with the possibility that a vacancy could open up, perhaps within a matter of days, on the Supreme Court there is a lot of buzz, as we've been talking about, in Washington. And joining me now to talk about that, Dan Balz of "The Washington Post" and Ken Herman, White House correspondent for Cox newspapers.

And Ken, I'll start here with you. You have been covering this president for a long time. You know his decision-making process. First, is, is Gonzales, do you think, a real possibility?

KEN HERMAN, COX NEWSPAPERS: Well, I think he'd have to be clearly considered a contender. It's a real struggle, I believe, for this White House because there is, obviously, the historical nature of appointing a Hispanic and obviously, some opposition of conservative groups. As usual with this White House, as you know, you don't learn about this. And this is as fascinating a game as we've played, because we don't know who, we don't what, whether it's an associate or the chief. We don't know when. About all we know for sure is that this may make recent slug fests look like thumb wrestling.

BASH: Yes, and that's exactly what I was going to ask Dan about. Dan, you know, how much does the whole atmosphere that we're in, whether it's the former debate about judges, whether it's the state of the president's agenda, play into the decision that he makes, if he has to make one?

DAN BALZ, "WASHINGTON POST": Dana, this is probably as supercharged an environment as we've ever had going into a Supreme Court -- potential Supreme Court fight, given the fact that we do not know who the nominee is likely to be, if there is a vacancy. A lot of ifs, and yet, both sides are as geared up as they've ever been. They are ready for a fight. Whether we will really get one, I think, remains to be seen.

A lot depends on what President Bush does. And as Ken says, they play their cards pretty close to the vest. It is clear, as Boyden Gray said in your setup piece, they are very well-prepared. They have done a lot of homework, they are not going to take a lot of time in moving on this. But what that fight actually looks like, I think, remains to be seen.

BASH: I'm going to turn now, Ken, to you, to Karl Rove and the remarks that he made that created this huge uproar, Democrats calling him -- for him to take it back. You have known Karl Rove for a long time. He doesn't say anything by accident. He knows his audience. He knows who he is.

HERMAN: Karl plays the game as well as anybody. And what you see -- and it happens on both sides -- is you play olive branch politics in public, always reaching out to the other side, but it's a red meat world when you meet with your own constituents and supporters and have to tell them what they're getting for the support and perhaps the money they've given over the years. And you don't rally your own troops by talking nicely about the other side. Whether he went too far on this one, up to everyone to interpret on their own. But he doesn't give many speeches, but when he does, he -- they tend to be memorable.

BASH: And Dan Balz, do you think that this was, as some Democrats are alleging, that this is an attempt to sort of go back to old reliable when it comes to the president's favorability? And that is, 9/11 and terrorism?

BALZ: Well, I think it certainly is. You know, Karl Rove doesn't say things by accident, and this was one in the prepared text, so he deliberately went out and wanted to make this statement about 9/11 and liberals. He did not say it was Democrats. He did say it was liberals. It is clear that Karl Rove and a lot of Republicans, dating back many presidencies, believe that if they can keep a fight on a national security going, it is going to benefit them and hurt the Democrats even if there are people in the Democratic party who are protesting that Mr. Rove went too far.

So, you could tell by the reaction of the White House yesterday that they relished this fight, that they were happy to get into this fight and they've continued on today. So, it does not suggest to me that they think that they created a problem for themselves.

BASH: Absolutely not and they're hoping that they can create a problem for Democrats. We're going to have to leave it there, unfortunately. Dan Balz from the "Washington Post." Ken Herman, thank you very much for joining us.

And we're going to go back to discussion about the U.s. military convoy in Iraq. The attack there could intensify the debate over women at war. Coming up: A frontline report on the role of service women in Iraq and the risk they face.

And: Karl Rove, as we've been talking about, still under fire from Democrats and a hot topic in our "Strategy Session."

More ahead on INSIDE POLITICS

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET UPDATE)

BASH: Well, minutes ago, the U.S. Agriculture Department confirmed a case of mad cow disease in the United States. It is the second case of the brain-wasting illness ever confirmed in this country. Government officials emphasize that the animal was identified early and never entered the food supply. Officials say consumers have every reason to continue to be confident in the safety of the beef supply.

Well, now we go back to the political debate over Iraq and the dangers to American troops serving there. President Bush is well aware that he has a lot of explaining to do when it comes to speaking to the nation and he intends to do that on Tuesday night.

The mission there has claimed the lives of more than 1700 military personnel including more than three dozen women and as we learned a short while ago, an insurgent attack on a convoy in Fallujah last night was one of the worst ever in terms of casualties for women. Two women were among those killed and 11 were wounded.

Our most reason poll shows Americans remain uneasy about women troops directly in the line of fire: 54 percent of those survey said they oppose women serving in combat positions, but by a wide margin, most say they favor women serving as support troops in other positions throughout Iraq.

CNN's Jane Arraf is a veteran correspondent in Iraq and I spoke with her earlier and asked her what servicewomen really are doing in the battlefield despite Penatagon policy against females serving in combat roles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): ...not really, Dana. The reality is that at battalion level and even lower, there are women out here. The thing that has changed, I think, is that combat has a very wide definition. There are no front lines in Iraq. Any highway is the front line, when you have the prospect of improvised explosive devices, those deadly road-side bombs, those deadly car bombs.

We have met women in combat helicopters, flying combat helicopters, who are being shot at from the ground. We ran into them just a few weeks ago in Kilafor (ph). We have met women who drive trucks who on those roads where they could hit IEDs. We've met women pretty well everywhere. They are a still a small minority, but because this fight is evolving, the war is involving, the tactics are changing, they are out actually out there in combat, whether they're met to or not -- Dana?

BASH: So they're essentially in more danger, perhaps, than their commanders would concede?

ARRAF: As is often the case, the reality here on the ground a long way from D.C. and the Pentagon is quite different what the policymakers might envision. There are no safe places here. This is a war zone. In the heart of the biggest bases in Iraq, for instances, where you would think people would be safe since they don't leave the base, there are mortar attacks, there are rocket attacks.

Anywhere in Iraq, in central Iraq, with this insurgency raging around us, is going to carry considerable risk and that's is the reality. The reality is that anyone out here faces the risk of being hurt or killed whether they're female or male. These bombs, obviously, do not discriminate.

BASH: And you talked to women who are in that situation, very often. What do you hear from them? What do they say about the fact that reality is that they are in a combat role?

ARRAF: Particularly the younger women, you see them out there doing extraordinary things, doing -- acting as part of the personal security detail for the commanders, for instance, being the gunners in Humvees and they take it for granted. They don't realize what an extraordinary thing they're doing. They don't like being singled out as women in combat -- as females in combat. They tend to want to be -- and are to a great extent -- one of the guys. When you talk to the men about what it's like having women working with them, a lot of them will say, though, that they have trouble with it, that they feel that they need to protect female soldiers, female marines, the way they wouldn't with their male buddies. It's still an issue, but probably far less of an issue than it would have been a couple of years ago even -- Dana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: That was Jane Arraf with some incredible insight from Iraq about the role of women there.

Well, another war time concern for many Americans is still the draft. A new Associated Press/Ipsos poll shows the public remains overwhelmingly opposed to reinstatement of the military draft with 70 percent saying they're against it. And the poll found most Americans wouldn't encourage their children to voluntarily enlist either.

Well, with Washington bracing for a possible battle over the next Supreme Court justice, will the fight play out the way most people think. Well, our Bob Novak tells us what he's hearing.

And also ahead, was it a gamble or did he simply tell the truth? Our Bill Schneider has the answer in his "Political Play of the Week."

And, when we go inside the blogs, the only frenzy still over Karl Rove's comments about Democrats and the war on terror.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Well Bob Novak joins us now with some of his "Inside Buzz." And Bob, we have been talking about a potential Supreme Court vacancy. What are you hearing?

BOB NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Today -- Monday ends the term of the court. There's a lot of feeling that there's going to be a resignation.

Now, at one time everybody thought Chief Justice William Rehnquist was in poor health, might retire. Doesn't seem like now that's the case.

The most likely to retire is Sandra Day O'Connor. She's been changing her residence from Washington to Arizona. Her husband is quite ill. Moving him out there. Sandra O'Connor may leave. And the speculation, the leaks from the White House, has been that it is Attorney General Gonzales. This will create a tremendous stir among the conservative community. They don't want him named. And these may be trial ballons, or they may just be things to shoot him down.

I will say this, Dana, that if Justice O'Connor resigns and it isn't Gonzales as a successor, I think it's going to be another woman. It will probably be an appellate court judge.

BASH: I'm going to turn you to one of the president's top priorities and having some trouble with, the Central American Free Trade Agreement. But there's a split among Democrats.

NOVAK: Yes. The rank and file Democrats in the congress and all of the leaders are against this. First time there's been so many Democrats against the free trade bill. But the establishment is still pulling for it. And there's going to be an ad in Sunday's "Washington Post" signed by a who's who of big shot Democrats. Just some of the names, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, former chief of staff Mack McClarty, former ambassador to the U.N. Dick Holbrooke, former senator Bob Graham of Florida, and many more. So, there's a big split in the Democratic Party between the rank and file and the establishment.

BASH: We're talking about the Supreme Court. Of course, the whole discussion in Washington had been the nuclear option. It's not gone, is it?

NOVAK: Harry Reid said it was off the table. It's not off the table. And Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has got a speech at the Heritage Foundation, 10:30 am next Tuesday. And I am told he is going to unleash the nuclear option again in preparation perhaps for a Supreme Court nomination battle.

BASH: OK. Bob Novak, thank you very much. And be sure to tune in tomorrow to see Bob in the "Novak Zone" at 2:30 pm Eastern when his guest will be ballet legend Suzanne Farrell.

And ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, Bill Schneider's "Political Play of the Week." Our blog reporters will take a look at the buzz about Karl Rove and what bloggers on the ground in Iraq are saying about the war. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Well, didn't your mother always tell you that honesty pays? Well, that was especially true for one man, here in Washington, who came clean in a multi-million dollar money trail investigation and our Bill Schneider is going to give us the latest on that.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right, Diogenes the cynic is said to have wandered the street of ancient Athens searching in vain for an honest man. Well, we found one 2400 years later in Washington, of all places and that's rare enough to qualify for the political "Play of the week."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The setting: A hearing on lobbying activities of a highly questionable nature, one witness argued.

DONALD KILGOR, MISSISSIPPI CHOCTAW INDIANS: It has become apparent that Jack Abramoff and Mike Scanlon engaged in a consistent pattern of kick backs, misappropriated funds, payment induced under false pretenses and padded billings.

SCHNEIDER: Several witnesses took the fifth.

BRIAN MANN, FORMER DIR., AMERICAN INTL. CTR.: I must respectfully decline to answer your questions, based on my rights under the fifth amendment.

SHAWN VASELL, FMR. JACK ABRAMOFF ASSOCIATE: I assert my privilege under the fifth amendment.

KEVIN RING, FORMER JACK ABRAMOFF ASSOCIATE: My constitutional right under the fifth amendment.

DAVID GROSH, FMR. DIR., AMERICAN INTL. CTR: I'm embarrassed and disgusted to be a part of this whole thing.

SCHNEIDER: What thing? Grosh, a former lifeguard, was approached by his long-time friend, now a high-powered Washington lobbyist.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), INDIAN AFFAIRS CMTE. CHMN.: And He approached you in some way?

GROSH: Phone call MCCAIN: And said?

GROSH: Do you want to be the head of an international corporation?

(LAUGHTER)

A hard one to turn down.

SCHNEIDER: What did the job entail?

GROSH: I asked what I had to do and you know, he said nothing. So, that sounded pretty good to me.

SCHNEIDER: What did Grosh get for being head of the American International Center, located here in the basement of his house?

GROSH: No more than $2,000, $2,500.

MCCAIN: A month?

GROSH: No, total.

SCHNEIDER: Plus, fringe benefits.

GROSH: We went to a Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguin hockey game.

SCHNEIDER: But apparently others got something out of the American International Center.

MCCAIN: According to Mr. Abramoff quote, "I'm going to try to get us $175,000, $100,000 to Ralph, $25,000 to contribution, $5,000 to immediately -- to conserve -- to the conservative caucus. Rest: Give me five.

SCHNEIDER: Grosh decided the whole deal smelled bad.

GROSH: When I found out it involved the federal government, Indian tribes and gambling, I knew that was a tad down the wrong way.

SCHNEIDER: An honest man in Washington?

GROSH: I've got nothing to hide. Plain and simple.

SCHNEIDER: Grosh's testimony got him on the front page of the "New York Times," the next day, above the fold. Straight talk: A rarity in Washington and the political "Play of the week."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Lawyers for Mr. Abramoff and his partner claim that their clients are being singled out for lobbying activities that are commonplace in Washington. In other words: It's worse than you imagined. And let me add a word of thanks to my wonderful and talented producer, Shirley Zilberstein. She's been with me for several years. She's moving up to New York where she will continue to work with CNN producing political shows from New York city, wherever that is.

BASH: Wherever that is. Just a train ride or a shuttle away. We'll miss her but she'll certainly be in touch. Thank you very much, Bill.

Well, military recruiting problems, fledgling support for war in Iraq and the Karl Rove fallout are all causing buzz in the blogosphere. We check in now with our CNN Political Producer Abbey Tatton and Jacki Schechner, our blog reporter.

Hi, Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN BLOG REPORTER: Hi.

Karl Rove's speech, on Wednesday night, to Manhattan conservatives had the left outraged yesterday. That continues today. We go over to Kevin Drum at WashingtonMonthly.com. He has the picture comparison with Karl Rove on the left and Senator Joseph McCarthy on the right. They are also particularly focused today on one portion of Rove's speech. That's being where he suggests that some of the motives of liberals include putting our troops in harm's way.

ABBI TATTON, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: And we were talking last week about Senator Dick Durbin's comments really rallying around the right side of the blogsphere. Well, these comments from Karl Rove are doing the same for the left and the theme here is: Apologize or resign. There's an online petition that lots of people are linking to. Not the first one of these we've seen, I'm sure; not the last.

This one: The fire Karl Rove petition. People on their blogs are also posting letters that they want people to copy and write to their Republican senators, their Republican representatives seeing what kind of support they have for Karl Rove. They're also targeting Republican candidates in upcoming elections. Doug Forrester, the Republican candidate in New Jersey for the governor's race -- people -- a few of the big blogers like MyDD.com (ph) urging people to contact Forrester and saying: Do you support these comments?

Now, we found this interesting, over at BullMooseBlog.com. This is the unofficial blog of Democratic leadership counsel. They have their own letter which says: Thank you, Karl. Why are they thanking Karl Rove? Well, "You've performed a great service for the nation and for the party -- Democratic party that is. You've succeeded in uniting the Daily Kos Democrats, the Bullmoose Democrats, the Move On Democrats, the old Democrats and new Democrats. Whatever, you truly are a uniter and not a divider."

SCHECHNER: Every Democrat out there.

Over on the right, Glenn Reynolds at InstaPundit.com coming to the conclusion that, "Rove is just as smart as many people say he is." Saying, "in the wake of Dick Durbin's apology, Rove goes and says something that makes the Democrats want revenge. This opens the door for Republicans to dig up every dumb or unpatriotic thing that a Democratic politician has ever said and that is exactly what some of them are doing."

TATTON: And Glenn Reynolds also pointing out the use of the word liberal and not Democrat by Mr. Rove and that's also picked up by GayPatriot.net. This is a conservative site and what they're saying is, "Why is there all this outrage about the word liberal?" He said, "liberal is not necessarily Democrats. While, the Democrats, who in the 2004 presidential election couldn't run fast enough from this word liberal, now they now seem to be embracing it whole-heartedly in their outrage.

SCHECHNER: One liberal is writer Dave Pell over at ElectaBlog.com He is a liberal who refuses to get worked up over this point, says, "This is exactly what Karl Rove wanted. Also brings this issue up: That in the aftermath of 9/11, it wasn't the conservatives that were preparing for war, it was the men and women of the U.S. military who were preparing for war. Saying, "It makes sense to get that right. Don't mistake tough talk for tough walk" -- Dana?

BASH: Jacki, Abbi, thank you very much.

Well, pressure is mounting as the public support lags for the U.S. military mission in Iraq. President Bush plans to go primetime and take his case to the people, but he's already saying no to timetables. That aimed at critics calling for a date to begin withdrawing troops.

A "Strategy Session" all on that, just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS and our "Strategy Session" on today's hottest political topics. With us today, CNN political analyst and Democratic strategist James Carville, and Republican strategist Terry Holt.

Today's topics, President Bush meets with Iraq's new leaders, stands his ground on calls for U.S. withdrawal, and prepares to take his case on Iraq to the American people. No apologies and no excuses from the White House about strategist Karl Rove's remarks that still have Democrats hopping mad.

And finally, Big Bird can feather his nest, with federal founds restored by congress while a new Public Broadcasting boss prepares to take the helm.

But first, President Bush is sending a signal that he won't be pressured into leaving Iraq on someone else's clock. During a joint news conference with Iraq's new prime minister today, Mr. Bush struck back at growing calls to schedule a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: Why would you say to the enemy, here is the time table, you should go ahead and wait us out? It doesn't make any sense to have a time table. You know, if you give a time-table, you're conceding too much to the enemy -- this enemy that will be defeated

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: The president will deliver a prime-time speech to troops at North Carolina's Ft. Bragg on Tuesday. He has asked U.S. TV networks to carry it live.

And James, I will start with you. Republican president, commander in chief, standing in a sea of troops, talking about how important it is to stay in Iraq. Is that -- pretty good strategy. Do you sort of wish you thought of it yourself?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, obviously, the Republicans in the Congress and people are telling the president, look, support for this thing is eroding, you have to go out and make a case for this war. It might be, but it might be a little dangerous. I think people are in a pretty somber mood about this. And if it comes across like it's a campaign rally, it might not be so good.

I don't know what they're using, or how they're doing it. But I don't think people are in the mood for a campaign speech here. But I think that they want to hear from their president. I think they want to know what's going on here. And it could work fine. It could work not so well.

I would have probably opted for an Oval Office thing. Whether the networks pick it up or not, I don't know, because they may say this looks kind of like a campaign speech you want us to cover as opposed to a fireside chat or an Oval Office address. I don't know.

TERRY HOLT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: But what's wrong with talking to the troops? The speech is about them. I guess I would say the president does need to go out and reconnect with the American people on the thing that he's strongest.

Over the past five years, the president's strongest leadership qualities are that he's resolute and he knows where the lead the nation. And I think that whenever he's the one making the case for why we're in Iraq, why that is the battlefield that we need to control, that comes across well. He is his own best advocate. And that's, I think, why he's going TV next week.

BASH: And I just want to put up a poll that we have that really illustrates what we're talking about on Iraq. The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll -- just look at the numbers -- now, support for Iraq 39 percent. Just look at the way they've really plummeted since 2003, 71 percent.

And James, you know, you heard just listening to these senators yesterday in a hearing with Donald Rumsfeld -- Lindsay Graham, Susan Collins, them telling the brass that they're constituents are concerned -- Republicans. CARVILLE: Well, obviously, the constituents are concerned. You don't go from 71 to 39 without somebody being concerned.

That's why I'm saying that pressure from fellow Republicans is one of the reasons that the president is going out right now and making the case for this war. Because, obviously, if his support has dwindled to that level, they're hearing about it back at home. But not much doubt about that.

Coming back -- it's fine. The troops can certainly hear from their commander in chief. But I think the White House has to be careful that this doesn't come off like a pep rally, a campaign rally. People are in a pretty somber mood about this...

HOLT: I agree.

BASH: Terry, the White House says that he is going to get specific.

HOLT: This is a serious moment. The president said it's a serious moment today during his presser. And I think it is a time to reconnect and to say this is why we're doing this. They will get it. They know and they still remember what they felt like on September 11. They did want vengeance. And I think that he's got to go out and talk seriously about it.

In fact, I thought it was unusual today for this president to say it hurts me personally to see people losing their lives. That's not what you normally see from this president. And I think it demonstrates that we do have to speak to the anxiety of the American people.

BASH: Right, he said it hurts me today. Earlier in the week, he said, I think about it every day. You're right, really trying to make it personal.

HOLT: And that's true, I think he does.

BASH: Really trying to make it personal.

CARVILLE: It happens when you get 39 percent support -- you're hurting.

BASH: Is the bottom line here you have to make a distinction between the strategy and the reality? And he might talk about it...

CARVILLE: Let me say this. There's a rule of politics that I has never, ever -- I've never known any exception to it. And this is what you see it. When a policy gets in trouble, the politician and the policymakers always say, we have a terrible communications operation here. There's nothing wrong with the policy itself, it's the way that the policy is coming off. Democrat, Republican, I don't care who it is, that's the way it comes across.

I think what the president is saying under a lot of encouragement from Republicans is you know what, I'm the chief communicator here. I'm going to take matters into my own hands. I'm going to explain my policy to the American people.I think people want to hear that. I just think that they have to be careful as to how it comes across.

But it's almost like, I care about Iraq. I think about Iraq is the kind of message this week. Again, when you're in an organization, be it an organization, a campaign, the White House, or anything, when support goes from 71 to 39, that's something that you feel. It effects the way you think and it effects the way that your do things.

BASH: Well, we're going to turn a different subject that may or may not be related to the subject of Iraq. We'll see -- we'll see what you have to say. And that is the man to be considered to be architect of President Bush's successful reelection bid isn't backing down on comments he made, but Democrats are still steaming over Karl Rove's comments suggesting that liberals are soft on terrorism. Coming up, should Rove say he's sorry?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Well, our "Strategy Session" continues now on INSIDE POLITICS. Still here, James Carville and Terry Holt.

The White House aid says it's puzzling that Democrats are demanding an apology from Bush strategist Karl Rove. Easy for me to say. They're outraged at comments that he made Wednesday night suggesting that liberals responded too softly after the 9/11 attacks almost four years ago.

Today, that outrage spilled over to the House floor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOYER: Mr. Rove should apologize and retract it. And the president of the United States who represents not Republicans, not Democrats, but all Americans, should repudiate it today. The president came to office stating he wanted to change the tone in Washington, today -- today, he can demonstrate that he meant it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: So there you see, Democrats still calling for an apology. We know that is not going to happen. The White House is certainly backing this. But before we start the discussion, I want to put up a full screen, a quote -- the full quote about of what Karl Rove was talking about here. Because it wasn't just liberals, he was pretty specific. He said, "MoveOn.org, Michael Moore and Howard Dean may not have agreed with this, but the American people did. Conservatives saw what happened to us on 9/11 and said, we will defeat our enemies. Liberals saw what happened to us and said we must understand our enemies. Conservatives see the United States as a great nation engaged in a noble cause. Liberals see the United States and they see Nazi concentration camps, Soviet gulags and the killing fields of Cambodia."

So he certainly was pretty strong in his rhetoric there, but he wasn't talking about all liberals, trying to specifically talk about a few. That's what the White House is saying at this point.

CARVILLE: Again, what going into the merits of it, I think that the happiest person is all of this is Dick Durbin, because Mr. Rove -- you know what I mean -- stopped that story.

BASH: And he had some choice words for Dick Durbin, too.

HOLT: Not the same category.

CARVILLE: Now, it's all -- it's Rove -- too bad there's not a Democrat congressman name Wade, so it could be Rove vs. Wade and we could all have a lot of fun with that.

But it -- I think from the standpoint of people, it is just another example of how Washington is sort out of touch with their life. And I don't have anything in here. And it's arguing about what someone said. Did he meant liberals or did he mean Michael Moore, did he mean this and parsing stuff out. Meanwhile, gas is at $60 a barrel, health care costs at whatever.

So, I think that this just adds on to the kind of disconnect that people have in Washington. I think that's a dangerous thing for both the Democratic and Republican side. Maybe Democrats might be smart enough to just let the doggone thing go. And say, look, he can call us anything he wants. Let's do something on gas prices, health care costs, Iraq.

HOLT: Well, I think that -- yeah. I mean, they took this chance to give Karl's points more attention. The fact is, he's talking about a basic disconnect...

BASH: Terry, Terry -- I'm sorry, we have to interrupt you for one minute. We have to go to pictures we have right now of a fire blazing in South St. Louis.

(BREAKING NEWS)

END

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