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CNN Newsnight Aaron Brown

Bush Will Send Special Envoy Zinni Back to Mideast; Accusations of Greed Over 9/11 Fund

Aired March 07, 2002 - 22:00   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again everyone.

The e-mails are about as harsh as you can get. No, not e-mails sent to me. This is different. "I am very bothered by what I perceive as greedy people," one reads. "You should rot in hell." "Their greed is sickening" came from another person, and one simply said this, "what a disgrace."

The e-mails weren't addressed to some Enron executive. They were meant for the families who lost someone, a brother, wife, husband, whatever, on September 11 and there are dozens of them on the government's Web site for the Federal Compensation Fund, which announced its final rules on a pay out today.

You only need to search under the word "greed" to find them. It is a backlash against the families and it is such an unsettling thing to talk about, as we are just days away from the six-month mark of the attack.

One New York Congressman had an intriguing phrase for it, we thought, irrational begrudgery. We want to tread very carefully on this story. The tragedy is so fresh, especially here in New York, bodies literally still being pulled from the rubble, two last night while we were on the air.

But the questions behind the backlash are worth looking at, because there is clearly some anger out there, even among people who say they donated money after September 11th. Is there a point when you can say the families have received enough? Does a big tragedy deserve the sort of government aid, but small ones do not? It all is extremely sensitive and we'll take a look at it tonight.

But we begin in the Middle East, more bloodshed, more diplomatic efforts to stop it, and events happening as we speak. Sheila MacVicar is in Jerusalem. Sheila, the headline please.

SHEILA MACVICAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a week, Aaron, that Israelis are calling the darkest week. Israelis and Palestinians quoting Winston Churchill saying, "perhaps it's darkest before the dawn." Right now, dawn seems a long way off and you're right, President Bush has decided he has no choice but to send him envoy General Zinni back here to see if he can make some peace. BROWN: Sheila, you'll be at the top of the program, back to you shortly. Now onto the war, Operation Anaconda, Martin Savidge is at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Marty, the headline tonight from you.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, it sees the weather may be the latest opponent that those involved in Operation Anaconda, U.S. and coalition forces, are facing. It has turned bad. We'll also have the view from the tail gunner of a CH-47 combat from the air. Aaron.

BROWN: Thank you, Marty. Now to the Pentagon, some remarkable pictures of American Airlines Flight 77, which hit the Pentagon on September 11th. Jamie McIntyre on duty tonight. Jamie, the headline.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Aaron, for six months only a handful of people actually saw what it looked like when that plane hit this building. When I first saw those pictures today, I was surprised by something. You'll see them. They were seen first on CNN today. Aaron.

BROWN: Jamie, thank you very much. A lot of other things to deal with tonight, we'll take a look back at candidate George Bush, with reporter Frank Bruni who's out with a new book. He covered the campaign, and it is a fun read.

We'll also take a look at Cuba, 90 miles away, and a world away from the United States. The question of lifting the economic embargo has been around for years, but the politics these days seem murkier than ever. And a high level White House resignation that's getting an awful lot of attention. A top enforcement official at the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, Eric Schaeffer joins us tonight on why he quit.

We begin as we indicated in the Middle East. More of the same on both sides, much more tonight. Late tonight, we got word of the killing of a senior Palestinian security commander. A deadly shooting as well at an Israeli settlement in Gaza, five dead there. It's gotten to such a point that the President's envoy, who was pulled from the region because there was too much violence, is now heading back to the region for the very same reason.

The administration has bobbed and weaved some here where the Mid East is concerned. From a distance at least, it seems sometimes unsure how it wants to be engaged, how much it really can accomplish, and how hard to push one side or the other. It's clearly tonight back in the pushing business. Back to CNN's Sheila MacVicar on duty in Jerusalem. Sheila, good evening to you.

MACVICAR: Aaron, everybody here is hoping that when General Zinni gets here he, in fact, has some new ideas, some very concrete steps say particularly the Palestinians, to try to get out of this situation.

Again tonight, we have seen Israel press home its military plans. We have had Israeli warplanes in action again over Gaza. We have tanks and helicopter gun ships in Bethlehem, and in the refugee camps immediately south of Bethlehem. We have a whole slew of military actions taking place, in a whole variety of places, and no sign of any let up.

Prime Minister Sharon again has said that this is a war and a war that Israel is determined to win. General Zinni's objective in coming here has to be to find some way, one hopes, to find some way out of this for both sides. Aaron.

BROWN: Sheila, has there been much reaction there to the administration's words of yesterday, an admonition to Prime Minister Sharon about waging war and its effectiveness in the region?

MACVICAR: As you might expect, the Israeli Prime Minister reacted quite strongly, and appeared to be in a certain way affronted by those words. They basically said, "look, we are doing - this is our war against terrorism. You have your war against terrorism. We have our war against terrorism, and we are doing what we think is right."

It has to be said though that clearly this is a gamble for the prime minister. Not only has he taken the step of announcing that he will pursue peace by waging war. The question for the prime minister and for other Israelis is what happens if this doesn't work? What happens if he doesn't get what he says he wants, which is to basically bomb Yasser Arafat back to the negotiating table? And that is a question that is worrying a lot of Israelis.

It seems that once having embarked on this plan, and this again is something that probably is also driving the Bush Administration, is that if this level of violence doesn't produce desired results, then the prime minister has no option but to order more violence and that, Aaron, is something that is deeply worrying to everyone.

BROWN: Sheila, thank you. Sheila MacVicar is in Jerusalem for us tonight. On to the war now - no. Before we go on to the war, one other piece of the Mid East equation and that is getting U.N. weapons inspectors back to Iraq. Our apologies here. Iraq's foreign minister was at the U.N. today to meet with the secretary general. No breakthrough to report. They did agree to meet again next month. It's been more than three years since the U.N. weapons inspectors have been allowed in Iraq.

Now, on to the war in Afghanistan, as best we can report on Operation Anaconda, it sort of feels like the lights went out here. American forces seem to have the upper hand. There's a solution. It appears the enemy is taking significant casualties. We'll stop reading and just turn things over to Martin Savidge who is covering it all for us. Marty.

SAVIDGE: Good evening to you, Aaron. U.S. military officials here say that they are on plan and on target when it comes to Operation Anaconda; however, they do point out that weather is becoming increasingly a factor and a negative one as far as continuing the operation. The weather has closed in, not only in the Bagram area, but also, most especially in eastern Afghanistan in the lower Shahi Kot Valley, which is where this battle is taking place. Snow has moved in. The clouds have come down, and that poses a problem for air operations, and almost all of this is being conducted from the air, bringing in re-supply, bringing in fresh troops, and also the CAS they call that. That's the close air support. That's the backbone of the attack. It's expected to be bad for the next couple of days.

I want to show you some video from a CH-47 that was lifting off yesterday and apparently came under some ground fire attack. There are at least three machine gun positions on that helicopter. The rear gunner of that helicopter opened fire. You have to keep in mind it's about an hour and ten flight for these helicopters to go into the battle zone, and it's a very difficult, almost 100 mile an hour roller coaster ride, if you were.

And what they do is not fly over the mountains, but fly in between them, weaving, twisting, winding, and many times they're only a few feet off the ground racing above the valley floor. That means anybody above them with some sort of weapon could be very much a threat. So these gunners do not take anything lightly. The moment bullets fly at them, they will immediately return fire.

We were on one flight. You could hear the bullets whizzing past the helicopter and the rear and side gunners opened fire, trying to suppress it. It's a very dangerous operation that they're up against, not just trying to fly the terrain, but also trying to fight back as they fly.

It should be pointed out they claim that in the last 24 hours, 100 further Taliban and al Qaeda forces have been killed. They say hundreds have been killed since this operation began. No losses reported on the part of U.S. and coalition forces, other than there was a sprained ankle and a few cases of altitude sickness, and they have taken some prisoners, and they're under interrogation, Aaron. So they continue to say they are pushing the fight despite the weather.

BROWN: Two quick things. One is do they give you any sense of a timetable when they think they'll have this wrapped up?

SAVIDGE: No they don't, Aaron, and in fact they're not really looking for any sort of specific timetable. They don't feel that they're under any sort of deadline and, in fact, they're glad to see that the number of forces that they have been engaging apparently has been on the rise. They now say at the height of the battle, there may have been as many as 1,000 Taliban and al Qaeda forces.

The reason they like to see that is, rather than having these forces spread all over in small clusters, they would prefer to take them on en masse and get this over and done with. So the more forces they find in the area, they say the better the fight is going to be, and the closer to ending all the hostilities in Afghanistan.

BROWN: Marty, thanks. Martin Savidge who's at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan tonight. A little later in the program, we'll take another look at the fighting from the pool camera crew who was out front with the U.S. soldiers. That's coming up a little bit later. I did an interview this afternoon for a unit of CNN, which is putting together a long piece on September, and I told the story I told many times before, how on that first night of the 11th, when we finally got off the air and found a bed to sleep in, every time I closed my eyes, I kept seeing the planes hitting the towers.

Those pictures of that horror had been played so many times that day, I had seen them so often, and they were searing. Today, we see pictures again, pictures of planes hitting the Pentagon. Not as powerful, but plenty painful enough. Again, here's CNN's Jamie McIntyre.


MCINTYRE (voice over): The sequence of five photographs obtained by CNN was taken by an automatic security camera at a Pentagon checkpoint and shows what, up to now, was seen by only a few eyewitnesses, that the American Airlines 757 came in extremely low before hitting the ground floor of the Pentagon.

MIKE WALTER, EYEWITNESS: I looked off, I was, you know I looked out my window. I saw this plane, a jet, American Airlines jet coming, and I thought this doesn't add up. It's really low. I mean, it was like a cruise missile with wings, went right there and slammed right into the Pentagon, a huge explosion, a great ball of fire. Smoke started billowing out and then it was just chaos on the highway as people either tried to move around the traffic and go down either forward or backwards.

MCINTYRE: At first glance, it's hard to see the jetliner in the first frame, but it's there just a few feet off the ground. The plane hit the Pentagon at a 45-degree angle, and was reduced to tiny fragments by the impact. The biggest piece of fuselage that could be found outside the Pentagon was only about three feet long. The only other recognizable feature can be seen in this exclusive CNN photograph, the shattered cockpit window. One hundred eighty-nine people were killed, 125 on the ground, 64 on the plane, including the five hijackers.


MCINTYRE (on camera): These pictures are the first to be made public, but they are not the only images of the plane hitting the Pentagon. Sources tell CNN that the FBI on September 11th confiscated a nearby hotel's security camera videotape, which also captured the attack. So far, the Justice Department has refused to release that videotape. Aaron.

BROWN: Why? Do we have any idea why they won't release it?

MCINTYRE: Well, the claim - we have filed a freedom of information request for it. They claim that it might provide some intelligence to somebody else who might want to do harm to the United States. But officials I talked to here at the Pentagon say they don't see any national security or criminal value to that tape. The FBI tends to hold on to things. But the government may eventually release that tape, and if they do, we'll bring it to you.

BROWN: Jamie, thanks. I must have missed something in how, where the intelligence possibilities are there, but that happens with me sometimes. Thank you for your work today, nice job.

Still ahead on NEWSNIGHT tonight, the families of September 11th feeling a very different challenge these days. There is some anger directed at them. It's over money. This is NEWSNIGHT from New York.


BROWN: Well today the House overwhelmingly passed a bill that extends unemployment benefits, but does not have most of the tax relief proposals the Republicans wanted. This used to be called the economic stimulus package, but it isn't called that anymore and the Senate is more likely to support this bill, as opposed to three others that passed the House. And the President today said he looks forward to signing this bill, but he can't be very happy about backing down from his insistence the business tax cuts were needed to create jobs.

And in one of those oh-by-the-way postscripts, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was on the Hill today, saying what most other economists have been saying recently, the recession is probably over.

Now the latest on aid to New York. It's still a little hard to think of rebuilding Lower Manhattan honestly, but what we saw last night on this program, more bodies pulled from Ground Zero, as we were on the air, and now we know that they were two New York City police officers.

But the rebuilding effort is a huge part of the recovery plan. It's important to the economy of the city and today New York politicians won support they've been after from the federal government. The President announced a deal to funnel more than $21 billion to New York. There was a bit of a dust up over this aid package last month when the White House budget director accused New York politicians of playing "a little money grubbing game." He apologized for the comment.

It's one thing, of course, to accuse politicians of money grubbing for federal dollars. It's another to attack the families of the victims of September 11th, but this has been building for a while. You might remember a couple months ago, we had two brothers on the program who wanted money to compensate their sister, who survived the attack, but the said was suffering emotional distress.

The reaction from many people that night was quite harsh, greed they said, and greed seems to be what a growing number of people feel.


KENNETH FEINBERG, SPECIAL MASTER, VICTIMS' COMPENSATION FUND: The dignity of the American people doesn't accept something like greed. I don't think that has anything to do with this.

BROWN (voice over): Even the man in charge of the Victims' Fund, Kenneth Feinberg, has heard these accusations of greed.

FEINBERG: I think that criticism is definitely unwarranted. It's unfair. This program and these families that come to me, it has nothing to do with greed.

BROWN: Yet slowly, it seems, and it is not at all clear how many people feel this way, some Americans are breaking the national taboo against criticizing the families. There are even some signs of a kind of national fatigue over references to September 11.

Take this e-mail sent to the Justice Department Web site on victims' compensation. "What a bunch of crybabies" it reads. "The U.S. Government should never have agreed to compensation for them."

Or take this nationally distributed cartoon. In it, a widow says, "I keep waiting for Kevin to come home, but I know he never will. Fortunately, the $3.2 million I collected from the Red Cross will keep me warm at night."

STEPHEN PUSH, FAMILIES OF SEPTEMBER 11: There is a fundamental misunderstanding, I think, of what the Victims' Compensation Fund is. I think a lot of people think it's a welfare program, which it's not.

BROWN: Stephen Push is a widower whose wife was killed in the attack on the Pentagon.

PUSH: I've been very outspoken on behalf of our organization, Families of September 11, on the Victims' Compensation Fund that the Federal Government set up. You know we feel that the fund rules don't follow the law that was written by Congress. And after I did that, I got some really nasty e-mails, some of them quite vulgar, accusing me of being a greedy bastard.

BROWN: Sometimes the criticism seems self-consciously muted, and then sometimes it is quite blunt.

DANIEL HARRIS, AUTHOR: In my view, they shouldn't receive any compensation. I think that it should be treated like any other disaster. I don't see why this should get special treatment.

BROWN: Author Daniel Harris believes what happened on September 11th was a disaster, of course, but only an outsized one, like a very, very big bus accident.

HARRIS: In doing something on precedence is like compensating the victims for an accident. We are trying to put this event out of the reach of normality. It simply demands a special kind of response, and I don't think it necessarily does, economically anyway.

BROWN: That kind of thinking, as the country approaches the six- month anniversary, appears for now at least to be the minority.

PUSH: The vast majority of the people have been very supportive, but there are a - it is a small minority that is either ignorant or mean spirited or both.


BROWN (on camera): The debate over greed. Coming up on NEWSNIGHT, why a top EPA official quit his job. A good to person to ask, the official himself. Eric Schaeffer joins us in a moment.


BROWN: I think it's fair to say, I hope it is, that the environment remains a tough issue for the White House. There's oil drilling in Alaska, and in the Gulf of Mexico, rejecting the Kyoto Treaty. All these things and more have environmentalists up in arms, and here's another problem. The Clean Air Act requires energy companies to install new pollution control equipment when they upgrade their power plants. The industry has never liked this. It's quite expensive and the President ordered a study to see if there is a less costly, more effective, in the White House view at least, solution.

The answer displeased the man in charge of enforcing the policies at EPA. He resigned in protest. The EPA's Enforcement Director Eric Schaffer is with us tonight to explain why. It's nice to meet you, sir.

ERIC SCHAEFFER, FORMER DIRECTOR, EPA: Good evening, sir. Thank you.

BROWN: As I read through what is a lengthy resignation letter today, it seems to me it can be summarized as the fox guarding the hen house. Is that how you see it, that the industry is calling too many shots here?

SCHAEFFER: I think that puts it very well, and just if I could be clear, I didn't walk out because of a squabble over some study. We've got some big power companies that have broken clear air laws that are supposed to protect us. EPA's job is to enforce those laws, and I thought we weren't really going to be able to do it, and I thought the public should know about that.

BROWN: And just to put a slightly finer point on it, in some cases, in a couple of cases at least, the power companies and the government had reached an accommodation, a settlement and then that settlement seemed to come off the table. Is that - am I characterizing that right?

SCHAEFFER: Yes, sir. That's absolutely right. That's the most frustrating part about it. Sixteen months ago, we announced the settlements publicly. Together they would have reduced pollution by about 750,000 tons, and 16 months later, we're still waiting for those agreements to be signed.

If I could just give a little bit of a background on why this is so important to people's health.

BROWN: Sure.

SCHAEFFER: The companies we sued put out about five million tons of sulfur dioxide a year, and when you're talking about that kind of pollution, we're really talking about a killer. We're in fact talking about something that kills over 10,000 people a year, and you can add to that lung diseases, childhood asthma and all kinds of terrible things.

There's a lot of talk about cost. In fact, that kind of health damage costs the country money. For every ton of this pollution that goes into the air, we pay out in health costs over $7,000. But it costs less than a ton to take that - it costs less than $1,000 to take that ton out of the air. So really, controlling these pollutants are a good deal, both economically and for people's health.

BROWN: Let me take a run at summarizing, if I can, the administration's view of this. It seems to me what the administration is saying is, maybe there is a way that is less likely to end up in litigation, that is less expensive for the industry that will encourage the industry, not penalize the industry, for upgrading plants, and why isn't that reasonable? At least to look at another way?

SCHAEFFER: I think they're working on the less expensive for industry part. It's the rest of it that I think they've forgotten and that's what troubles me. You know, in our settlements, we take a very practical approach and we end up working toward a compromise and trying to deal with the cost issues. As I said, the cost of not controlling these pollutants are a lot higher than putting pollution controls on.

BROWN: Does the - is it your view that the administration essentially does not pay enough attention to the EPA Director, or is the EPA Director in part at fault here?

SCHAEFFER: I think I'll probably pass on that. I think, I'm not sure between EPA at this point and the White House where the problem lies. I do know that we're getting an awful lot of lobbying in and out of the White House, in and out of the Energy Department, and I haven't seen anything like that at EPA in over 12 years of service there.

BROWN: But in just a minute, in battles where let's say the energy department and EPA come up against each other, where they may have a different view, is it your view that energy department wins those disputes?

SCHAEFFER: Oh, no question. I would say the energy department, really representing the energy lobbyists, is winning those battles. The administration's floating something they're calling Clear Skies Proposal. I think it's got a little smog in it if you look closely, and I think it actually does less than what we can get under current law. And I think when people look at the fine print, when the details come out, they're going to see that.

BROWN: Mr. Schaeffer, it's nice to talk to you. Thank you for your time.

SCHAEFFER: Thank you, sir. BROWN: Thank you very much. Eric Schaeffer the former Enforcement Director at the Environmental Protection Agency. When we come back, smoking with the enemy. We'll take up the question of Cuba, the embargo, and all Americans who seem to be breaking it left and right, Segment 7 and NEWSNIGHT for a Thursday.


BROWN: Richard Goodwin tells a story about his days in the Kennedy administration. He had just drawn up an executive order invoking the Trading with the Enemy Act against Cuba. And the president was about to sign it, but not before his press secretary got back from buying up every Cuban cigar he could find.

Eight presidents later, Cuba remains the enemy. The economic embargo remains in place. It was designed to punish Castro, perhaps cause his downfall, but Castro is still there. And as far as we can tell, no weaker.

American businesses are virtually begging to go into to Cuba. Why leave all that business to the rest of the world, they aruge? And Americans, of course, still travel to Cuba more than ever, and spend money there, which does break U.S. law. Does this policy make any sense anymore? A debate on that in a moment.

First some background from CNN's Lucia Newman.


LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every year, cigar lovers from around the world descend upon Havana for the International Cigar Festival, among them of scores of Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're having a wonderful time in Cuba!

NEWMAN: They come to huff and puff on Cuban cigars, and to rub shoulders with Cuban President Fidel Castro at the gala dinner and auction. But the fact is, attending this week-long cigar-fest is forbidden for Americans, with the exception of journalists and a few others.

JAMES SUCKLING, "CIGAR AFICIANDO" MAGAZINE: There's probably 500 to 600 people in total that've come. And I probably estimate, 100 and 150 Americans have -- I wouldn't want to say, well, I guess they've broken the law to come here, but your know, their passions -- they have such great passion for cigars. And Cuba is really the holy grail.

NEWMAN: And it's not just cigars. Americans are coming to Cuba by the tens of thousands through third countries to taste the music and the culture of the only Communist nation in the Western hemisphere.

GARY HEATHCOTT, AMERICAN FILM PRODUCER: So there's no question about it, if you get on the airplanes, and whether you're coming from Cancun or some of the other places that you might come in from, you definitely see a lot of Americans.

NEWMAN: Americans who come in outright violation of U.S. government travel restrictions, which forbid them from spending money in Cuba without a specific license, a forbidden fruit, made more enticing to many, precisely because it's off limits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It always seems to taste better when it's forbidden. I think that's sort of the American way. When you can't do something, you have to do it if you really like it.

NEWMAN: Maybe so, but it's no longer so easy to get away with it. Since taking office, President George Bush has promised the Cuban American community, not only to maintain but enforce the 40-year old U.S. economic embargo.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My administration will oppose any attempt to weaken sanctions against Cuba's government until the regime. And I will fight such attempts until this regime frees its political prisoners, holds democratic free elections, and allows for free speech.

NEWMAN: On President Bush's orders, the U.S. Treasury Department has begun tracking down and punishing Americans who travel to Cuba from third countries, such as Mexico, the Bahamas and Canada. That's what happened to Donna Schultz, a retired social worker from Chicago, whom we spoke to last year after she returned from a bike trip to Cuba. U.S. Immigration and Customs officials were waiting at the Toronto Airport.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This woman was leafing through my passport very carefully. And then she said to me, "Have you been to any place else besides Canada?" And I figured I'd better, you know, I'd better say something. So I said, "Well, yes, its probably obvious that I had my passport stamped in Cuba."

NEWMAN: A couple of months later, she received a notice from the Treasury Department for a $7,500 fine. The fines that can go as high as $50,000. Moves are afoot in Congress to lift the travel ban.

(on camera): But President Bush is expected to fight till the end, or at least until November. That's when his brother, Governor Jeb Bush, is up for re-election in Florida, the stronghold of the Cuban exile community, which insists that every American dollar spent here helps President Castro stay in power.

Lucia Newman, CNN, Havana.


BROWN: Well, I think it's fair to say that most everybody wants change to come to Cuba. The split being over how best to make it happen, and whether isolating Cuba is the best policy. Passions run very high on this, as I know you know, especially in South Florida and the large Cuban-American community there.

Joining us tonight, two members of that community: Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and also, Elena Freyre, executive director of the Cuban American Defense League. It's good to see you both.

Congressman, we talked about this in your office a few years ago.


BROWN: Let's try it one more time here. Explain to me why it makes sense in a free society, that Americans can travel to China, they can travel to Burma, for goodness sakes, an incredibly repressive regime, they can travel to Vietnam, I don't think they are free elections there. They can go to all the places, spend all the money they want, but they can't go to Cuba.

DIAZ-BALART: Well, obviously, geography's important. And the only country in this hemisphere that is suffering a dictatorship, and a totalitarian one, is Cuba. And we have a national interest in the United States, to see a democratic transition in Cuba. And no democratic transition, Aaron, has occurred anywhere, especially after decades-long dictatorship without some form of external pressure.

And that's what the access to the U.S. market and credits and yes, massive tourism dollars is. It's leverage so that when Castro is no longer in the scene, and nobody can say he's going to much longer physically, that there be a transition.

And every -- if you look at Spain during Franco, 40 years of Francoism. When Franco was gone, the European Union, it as the common market then, said you have to be a democracy. And that was instrumental to achieve a democratic transition.

In the case of Portugal, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), 50 years, they wanted to be part of Europe. And they are now. They had to be a democracy.

There's always been -- every time there's been a democratic transition, some form of external pressure. That is what conditioning the U.S. market to the three conditions that President Bush mentioned.

BROWN: Right.

DIAZ-BALART: Free the prisoners, free speech and free elections is. It's the key leverage to achieve a democratic transition when Castro is gone from the scene.

BROWN: All right, Elena, let me turn to you here, because if I read this right, I think you're arguing that A, the policy isn't going to get it done anyway. It only, perhaps, makes things worst. And B, it's based on very narrow political considerations in Florida and perhaps in New Jersey, where there's also a large Cuban-American community.

ELENA FREYRE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CUBAN AMERICAN DEFENSE LEAGUE: No, I think you're right about that. And I'd like to address some of the issues that the congressman has addressed. This is a policy that for 40 years has not achieved its goals.

Also, I would like to point out, he mentioned Spain. And I'm particularly interested in that. I'm very familiar with the Spanish transition. The European community exerted pressure, but it also engaged Spain on many fronts, including commercial fronts, in order to get Spain to go through the transition in an easy, free-flowing way.

So I don't understand how the Spanish transition applies to this particular point. I think that if we were to engage Cuba, it would be a very positive thing, not for the Cuban government, but for the Cuban people. I think that they're very desirous of having engagement with the rest of the world. And I think this would ease the transition in a very large way.

BROWN: And congressman, isn't that an argument that, in fact, we make in lots, as a country, in lots of other places that the more we engage, I mean, this is exactly what we say about China, by the way, the more we engage them, the more they benefit from opening up. Why is it right in one case and illogical in the case of Cuba?

DIAZ-BALART: Well, I'm totally opposed to our policy with regard to China.

BROWN: Well, but the government is not.

DIAZ-BALART: Right, it is not. But I think the geography, Aaron, is very important, as well as history. And you cannot study a situation. As much as I oppose turning billions and billions of dollars over to the Chinese regime, I recognize that there is a different geographic and historical reality there. And in this hemisphere, what we have in Cuba is a country 90 miles from our shores, with a 43-year-old dictatorship.

And the -- Ms. Freyre talked about trying to distiguish Spain. Obviously, every historical example can be distinguished. But one thing that is common to all democratic transitions that we've seen, like in the case of Spain, or Portugal or Nicaragua, or South Africa, all these transitions after decades of dictatorship has seen some form of key external pressure. And imagine now, who gives something for nothing?

BROWN: But congressman, we've been doing this for 43 years. Nothing has changed, has it?

DIAZ-BALART: But -- well, first of all, as I mentioned before, sometimes things take, unfortunately, longer than we would like them to take. But because we have not seen a democratic transition, should we now act when Castro is 75-years-old and turn over to the regime credit and financing and the infusion of cash that would see the situation last more than 43 or 45 years, and perhaps this dictatorship could then survive the dictator?

Or can we remain on this course and say no, if you want access to the U.S. Market, and imagine how important access to the U.S. market in this hemisphere, 90 miles away. Liberate the political prisoners.


DIAZ-BALART: Legalize political parties, labor unions, the press. Don't beat them up, like Castro beat up two days ago, 17-year- old independent journalist and hold the free elections. What's wrong with those three conditions?

BROWN: Not a single thing, congressman. Not a one single thing.

DIAZ-BALART: And where has the democratic transition happened without some form of external pressure?

BROWN: Let me give Elena the last word here. We're down to about 20 seconds.


BROWN: What would happen in your community in South Florida, if this ban were lifted tomorrow? Would it be riotous?

FREYRE: I don't think so. We're very peaceful people. I think that probably people would be very upset. But I think at the end of the day, the is the law of the land. And if ban is lifted, then so be it. Let Americans go to Cuba.

BROWN: Thank you both. I suspect we'll revisit this. Thank you both for talking with us tonight.

FREYRE: Thank you.

BROWN: When we come back on NEWSNIGHT, we'll go back on the bus, on the campaign trail. A look at candidate Bush in a moment.


BROWN: Last night, it was a book about former President Clinton. Tonight, it's President Bush on the table. I actually wrote a long introduction here and I don't want to do it. Frank Bruni covered candidate Bush for "The New York Times". He's written a book called, "Ambling into History." Hope I got that right. And he's with us now.

It's nice to see you.

FRANK BRUNI: Nice to see you.

BROWN: All right, you had a nickname?

BRUNI: Oh, I had many nicknames, yes.

BROWN: And what did he call you?

BRUNI: Poncho, Ponchito, Bruini, Frankie boy.

BROWN: I want to ask a serious question about nicknames seriously.


BROWN: They're seductive in a way. I mean, does he seduce, did he seduce the press? He's a very warm and engaging guy. It's one the points you make in the book. Does it earn him better press? BRUNI: Well, I think he certainly tries to seduce the press so that it does earn better press. I think he understands. And it's one of the ways in which he is a clever guy instinctive guy, that if he can get people to see him as a human being, that they're interacting with everyday, if he can get them to see him as a three dimensional guy, they're going to have a harder time writing him as a caricature or anything else.

BROWN: I asked Joe Klein last night about Bill Clinton. Do you think you know him? And he said no. Do you think you know President Bush?

BRUNI: I think I know him as well as somebody who is in a journalistic role can know him. But do I really know his heart and mind? I mean, no one really knows someone unless they're maybe his or her spouse or parent or child. But I think I know him as well as a journalist can or I have a sense of him.

BROWN: I guess it almost sounds a little crazy now, but maybe not. But you know, you go back a year and a half, two years, and then knock on the guy is that he was dumb. Not that smart. You argue not so?

BRUNI: I argued from the beginning not so. It was pretty clear if you spent anytime with him, especially in informal settings. And I remember early on, did a couple of interviews with him, where after my time limit was up, and he would turn off the tape recorder, he would start chatting. And it was odd because to run for president or be a candidate, usually you have to be most impressive in your public settings. With him, that formal stuff always kind of unnerved him a little bit and didn't feel natural to him. And it was when he would talk off the record to you, that you'd think, well, this is a smart guy. He's got a good sense of things. You know, he sizes things up in a good way. It was pretty clear, he was not a dummy.

BROWN: You write about guy who, maybe he had in fact grown out of this. He's been in the job for a while. But in fact, it was kind of goofy in inappropriate times and ways?

BRUNI: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

I mean, one of the first times I was with him, covering him, watching him was at a funeral, a public memorial service in Fort Worth, Texas for victims of a church shooting. I mean, this is an incredibly somber event. And he is turning around in his seat, to look at some of us in the press and wiggle his eyebrows, and make little funny faces, and you know, kind of what are you up to back there?

I mean, at this incredibly somber event, it was the kind of thing that over time, he learned to control. He learned not to do. And one of the things the book does is sort of trace that evolution to a point, where he could fit the role of leader with more credibility.

BROWN: We've got a minute, 45 seconds or so here. The candidate who you covered all that time and the president you now look at, is it a transformation or is it something else?

BRUNI: I think evolution is a better word than transformation, because it's not as if we have a completely different person or a new man. What we have is a guy, who has learned, I think, to reach inside himself for some different stuff, who has learned to temper certain elements of his personality and bring others to the fore. He has learned a better sense of balance, different sides of himself.

BROWN: It's nice to meet you. I thought you did a terrific job covering the campaign.

BRUNI: Thanks.

BROWN: And the book is a fun read and good luck with it.

BRUNI: Thank you very much.

BROWN: Frank Bruni, "The New York Times".

When we come back, a -- no, right. I just got to read what's there, don't I? Tonight we have a peek under the covers of the U.S. Senate. That's why this is here. We were talking about politics.

You know, the Senate is a place where people pride themselves on decorum. They always in public, of course, address each other as distinguished senator from this, or the distinguished senator from that. But their true feelings, sometimes do bubble to the surface.

Take today, the Judiciary Committee hearing over the nomination of the controversial Judge Charles Pickering to an appeals court seat. Senator Orrin Hatch, who supports Pickering and Senator Patrick Leahy, who does not, had a bit of a testy exchange before the hearing started. Listen.


SEN ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Don't play games with me.

SEN PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: We will certify to the White House your strong dissupport in there, guy.

HATCH: I think they know that.

LEAHY: One, two, three...

HATCH: I'm just tired of it all. I'll tell you.

LEAHY: That was uncalled for.

HATCH: Well, it's uncalled for you to do this. Every time you start pulling that kind of stuff, I get sick ofit.


HATCH: Oh, give me a break. I don't control this thing.


HATCH: I didn't say that I would not...


HATCH: This was not a problem.

LEAHY: You have every right to (UNINTELLIGIBLE)>

HATCH: That's right.

LEAHY: I took you at your word.

HATCH: I did not give them (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


HATCH: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) any problems with that.

LEAHY: All right.


BROWN: Do I love an open microphone or what? Ultimately with their argument put aside, decorum restored, the committee decided, at Hatch's request, to delay the vote on Judge Pickering for a week, in hopes they can calm everybody down.

Now as I was saying a moment ago, when we come back, a soldier's eye view of the war. This is NEWSNIGHT. We're in New York.


BROWN: 55 minutes past the hour. I feel like I have control of the program tonight. Finally another look at Operation Anaconda from the point of view of the people fighting it. It comes, as it did last night, by way of one of the network crews that was chosen to be the pool crew. So tonight, CBS News has provided the sound and the pictures. We added a very brief narration.


(voice-over): For days now, the Sahikot (ph) Valley has been alive with the roar of American Chinook helicopters, ferrying troops and supplies. On the ground, there is the waiting that has been part of a soldier's life since there were first soldiers. And on this day, it means watching the battle being fought by others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You mean, mountain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a mountain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's either that or a shadow from behind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, check that careen.


(on camera): The battle continues. That's our report for tonight. Tomorrow, we don't know what's in the program, but we do promise to do it all in the right order and keep the lights on as well. Join us to see what happens. Good night from all of us at NEWSNIGHT.