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Inside Politics

Tapes Show Nixon Planned to Go Nuclear; Daschle Says U.S. War on Terror Will Fail if bin Laden Is Not Found; Interview With John Sweeney

Aired February 28, 2002 - 16:00   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. We'll discuss the newly-released Nixon tapes and how the former president considered going nuclear.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill, where the Senate majority leader says the war on terrorism will be a failure if the U.S. does not find Osama bin Laden and other key al Qaeda leaders.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm John King at the White House. An afternoon apology from the Bush team, after a morning suggesting Former President Bill Clinton is to blame for months of violence in the Middle East.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider in Washington. Gather around the hot tub, as an old school former president meets new age politics.


WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. His office says that Senate majority leader Tom Daschle did not intend to criticize President Bush or his execution of the war on terrorism. But some Republicans are interpreting Daschle's comments today as political fighting words. Here now, our Congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl. Hello again, Jonathan.

KARL: Well, Judy, since September 11th, no elected Democrat here has been willing to utter even a single word of criticism of the war effort. But that is beginning to change.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: Clearly, we've got to find Mohammed Omar, we've got to find Osama bin Laden and we've got to find other key leaders of the al Qaeda network, or we will have failed.

KARL (voice-over): Senator Daschle's comments, which came in response to a reporter's question, were echoed by another key Democratic leader. SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: We have bombed the caves in Afghanistan back all the way into the dark ages, which lasted a thousand years. But where's Osama bin Laden? Where is Mullah Omar?

KARL: The comments signal a coming fight over the Pentagon's request for a record $379 billion budget. Before signing off on that, Senator Byrd has concerns about the direction of the war.

BYRD: Now we're talking about going into Georgia, the Republic of Georgia. Now it's Yemen. Where is the end? Where is the end?

DASCHLE: I think there is expansion, without at least a clear direction today. But we will continue to ask the questions required to better understand that direction. And before we make commitments and resources, I think we need have a clear understanding of what the direction will be.

KARL: In a written statement, Republican leader Trent Lott shot back, saying -- quote -- "How dare Senator Daschle criticize President Bush and our war on terrorism, especially when we have U.S. troops on the ground. Our country is united and Senator Daschle should not attempt to divide us."

But even some Republicans have raised similar questions. Two weeks ago Republican Jim Bunning repeatedly grilled General Tommy Franks on how bin Laden got away.

SEN. JIM BUNNING (R), KENTUCKY: A billion dollars a day. That's $370-some billion. Are you telling us that we cannot do a better job, that -- in finding out who escaped, where they escaped to? I'm not pleased, and I don't think any Americans are pleased that we haven't done a better job on al Qaeda.


KARL: That was Jim Bunning on February 7th. Now, today Senator Daschle has put out a statement, his office has, with the complete transcript of his remarks today, with an accompanying note that says some have chosen to characterize remarks Senator Daschle made this morning on the war on terrorism as critical of President Bush.

In fact, the transcript of Senator Daschle's remarks indicates no criticism of President Bush or his campaign against terrorism. But clearly, an affirm on the part of Senator Daschle's team to say that they are not criticizing the president, they're just raising some questions that need to be raised -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jon Karl at the Capitol. And now to the White House, where there is a little bit of backtracking, too, and our John King. John, first of all, what's the reaction there to what Senator Daschle said?

KING: You're right, Judy. Some clarifying here as well today. Perhaps something in the water in Washington. Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, at the briefing today saying on the one hand, anyone in Congress is free to say whatever they want and criticize the president. On the other hand, saying -- quote -- "perhaps some of these people are running for president." That would be a clear reminder of Senator Daschle's presidential ambitions.

Mr. Fleischer saying, as you heard Senator Byrd say in Jon Karl's piece, the White House hopes this criticism doesn't mean the president won't get what he wants when it comes to defense spending. They know here, Judy, Democrats are beginning to draw some lines, when it comes to the campaign for the midterm Congressional elections. One of them will be about spending on defense. One of them will be about going from surpluses to deficits.

They understand here Democrats are going to ask questions. And they say, yes, the president, from time to time, is going to have to get out in public and offer a more detailed explanation of where the war is going, especially when you have these reports about helping the country of Georgia, helping Yemen and others. So they have some explaining to do here at the White House. They know that. They say they believe the president has the public on his side.

WOODRUFF: Now, separately, Jon, getting to the backtracking at the White House, what about this little brouhaha over what Ari Fleischer had to say today about the Middle East?

KING: Well, Judy, the White House had hoped today, if it came to the Middle East, the focus would be on the fact that a top U.S. diplomat is on his way to Saudi Arabia to discuss with the Saudis their new peace proposal. But a much different story here at the White House. It began early this morning when Ari Fleischer met with reporters and suggested that all of the violence now can be traced back to the collapse of the Camp David negotiations, in the very final moments of the Bill Clinton administration.


(voice-over): "I think you can go back to when the violence began, you can make the case that the attempt to shoot the moon and get nothing, more violence resulted. As a result of the attempt to push the parties beyond where they were willing to go, that it led to expectations that were raised to such a level that it turned into violence."

By the afternoon on-camera briefing, a much softer tone.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: But the point is that for decades American presidents have wrestled with how to bring peace to the Middle East. President Clinton tried valiantly to do so. Nobody should be surprised if President Bush has a different approach. What it is important to correct is an impression left by a question this morning that President Bush's different approach has been what led to more violence.

KING: And then an outright about-face. This later statement from Fleischer: "I mistakenly suggested that increasing violence in the Middle East was attributable to the peace efforts that were underway in 2000. That is not the position of the administration. No United States president, including President Clinton, is to blame for violence in the Middle East."

Mr. Bush himself is known to believe his predecessor had unrealistic expectations at Camp David. But senior officials inside the Bush White House and at the State Department did not take kindly to the public blame game and the "shoot the moon" remark. "Reckless freelancing" is how one top State Department official put it.


The former president's office, Bill Clinton's office, called the initial statements unfortunate, then said it was happy that the White House had corrected what it called inaccurate and unnecessary comments from Ari Fleischer. And we know that the latest White House statement came after Sandy Burger, national security adviser in the Clinton days, a key architect of the Clinton Middle East policy, called Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser here now. Neither party wants to discuss that conversation.

But, Judy, we are told Sandy Berger made his views quite clear that the Clinton camp did not appreciate what Mr. Fleischer said this morning, and thought it was not helpful at all -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, John, you're right. Maybe there is something in the water in Washington today.

KING: Maybe.

WOODRUFF: Thanks. Now we want to update you on a breaking story. NORAD fighter planes are shadowing an Air India commercial flight due to land in New York later this hour. Questions have been raised about whether one passenger on board may be on an international watch list. CNN's Michael Okwu joins us now from Kennedy International Airport -- Michael.

MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, that flight is Air India 101, is expecting to land here at John F. Kennedy International Airport at 4:55 this afternoon. There is some confusion as to why all of this is happening.

We can tell you this: that federal officials say that a screener at Heathrow International Airport, where the Air India flight originated, noticed that the person's name resembled one of a name that is on an international watch list. But we are also told by another federal source that the face, the appearance of this particular man, also resembled the face of a man who was on the no-fly list.

Now, according to FBI officials, there have been no disturbances on the flight. They haven't had any reason to restrain the man. And we are told that the flight is going comfortably at this point. We understand again that NORAD has scrambled jets to shadow the flight. The U.S. military government, at this point, has not ordered any escorts in the skies -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Michael Okwu at JFK Airport in New York. You have to wonder about the decision to go public with this, when we know people on board the plane -- many of them have access to telephones. We'll be watching that flight and go to that story once that plane lands. Michael, thanks very much.

Question: steeling for a fight? Up next, we will have the inside story on political sparks over steel. And I'll ask AFL-CIO chief John Sweeney to go on the record about it.

Also ahead, pigs, protesters and a lobbying showdown over Internet access.

And you only had to watch the Grammys to be reminded how colorful people can be in California. Why can't the same be said about the state's leaders? This is INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: On the record today, the White House and organized labor. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney will join me in a moment. But first a look at the proposed new tariffs on imported steel. United Steelworkers Union made its case in Washington today, staging this rally to lobby support for new trade protections.

For more on this, I'm joined by Jay Carney of "TIME" magazine. Jay, the steel industry and its workers want a 40 percent tariff increase. Is the president seriously considering this?

JAMES CARNEY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: He is, Judy, because while that rally was meant for public consumption, a far more important meeting took place on Tuesday in Carl Rove's office on the second floor of the West Wing in the White House. Rove, as you know, is the president's chief political adviser. And the president is serious about steel because steel country is really -- really holds the balance of any election, as it did in the year 2000. It will hold it again in 2004.

The president can effectively split away some of the lunch pail Democrats from the Democratic Party represented by the Steelworkers Union. He could secure Pennsylvania, potentially. He could win West Virginia again, as he did, narrowly, against Al Gore in 2000.

Today the president is meeting with -- almost as we speak -- with senators and congressmen who support a high tariff. He has to make a decision by next Wednesday. All indications are that he will support a high tariff, although not quite as high as the unions and industry want.

WOODRUFF: But, Jay, what about the fact that this president ran as a pro-free trader?

CARNEY: He did, Judy, but he kind of made an exception when he visited some of those steel states. Even during the campaign, he made it clear that he would he do more -- or at least he promised to do more, for steel, which has been an ailing industry for decades now -- than the Clinton administration. The Clinton administration was supposed to be a pro-union administration, but the steel workers and the steel industry were never quite happy with what the Clinton administration did and didn't do on their behalf. WOODRUFF: So you're predicting perhaps he'll go along with an increase, but not the 40 percent?

CARNEY: Not the 40 percent, but I bet at least 30 percent, which is fairly substantial and will upset a number of our trading partners.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jay Carney, "TIME" magazine, thanks for that.

For more now on tariffs and other issues facing the president and organized labor, I'm joined by AFL-CIO president, John Sweeney. Mr. Sweeney, thank you for being with us.


WOODRUFF: If the president does go along with a significant increase in the tariff on imported steel, as Jay said, if it's 30 percent, something in that neighborhood, does this erase much of the ill will that has appeared between the president and organized labor?

SWEENEY: Well, it certainly will send a strong message of a positive reaction on the part of the administration on a very serious issue, which affects the steel industry and really affects hundreds of thousands of steel workers around the country, who will suffer if he does not come out with a meaningful tariff package.

WOODRUFF: Is it your reading that this may be what the president does? What is your sense of what will happen?

SWEENEY: These workers that are gathered on the Mall here today, really are looking for the 40 percent. And there has been no talk about any compromise. There is also a big issue in terms of retiree health care.

WOODRUFF: What do you mean?

SWEENEY: The funding for health care for the retired steel workers, which has impacted on so many of the bankruptcies that are going on in the steel industry.

WOODRUFF: And if the president were to go along, let's say, the 30 percent level, that would towards alleviating that?

SWEENEY: That would help, there's no question about it. But they estimate that the 40 percent would be the most effective.

WOODRUFF: Setting steel aside, John Sweeney, how sensitive has this president been, overall, in the last 14 months of his presidency, 13 months, to the concerns of your members, of working Americans, across this country?

SWEENEY: Well, we have been on opposite sides on a number of issues. The president, in his State of the Union message, really touched on so many important issues to working families. He mentioned jobs so many times in his speech, and health care and retirement security. But the proof is in what programs is he proposing to address these issues.

And we really think that the White House could be more positive in responding to working family agenda and paying -- raising the level of workers' issues to a higher priority, instead of favoring corporations and the wealthy.

WOODRUFF: What are the -- just name two issues that are at the top of your list.

SWEENEY: Well, the Enron situation highlights the concerns over retirement security, and the fact that there is a tremendous amount of corporate greed out there. And -- but if you look at the stimulus package, the focus on tax relief for the wealthier and the corporations. And very, very limited focus on worker protections and unemployment and health care.

WOODRUFF: It's been speculated, a number of analysts have said that one of the reasons organized labor isn't getting better treatment, in its own view, from the White House, is because your close ties to the Democratic Party. You supported Al Gore in 2000.

Right now you're talking about -- and just to make this point, move it along a moment -- the political dues that you assess your membership went up in July. You said that you'd like to make that permanent. But an official of the Teamsters union is saying this money is really only going to go to the Democrats. It's not going to get to the Republicans. The organized labor would be much better off if it reached out more to Republicans.

SWEENEY: Well, we are doing a lot of reach to Republicans and Democrats, based upon the working family agenda. And we support a number of moderate Republicans. But this is not about Republicans and Democrats. This is about mobilizing our members around the issues that are important to them, educating them and getting them involved in their own communities, and supporting candidates in both parties who support them and who can be held accountable on their issues.

WOODRUFF: Still, when the Teamsters official says none of this money is going to end up with Republicans...

SWEENEY: Well, that's not true. And I think that there was a little misstatement there. The fact of the matter is, none of this money that we're talking about, or that we discussed last week in New Orleans is going to candidates. It's all going to mobilization and to educating our membership about the issues, and raising the focus on these issues.

WOODRUFF: And more Republicans than in the past?

SWEENEY: There are a fairly good number of moderate Republicans who have been supporting workers and their issues.

WOODRUFF: And they will get support from...

SWEENEY: Sure, sure. These endorsements remain at the local level. They're made in the states and in the congressional districts, by the workers and their representatives.

WOODRUFF: All right. John Sweeney, good to see you again.

SWEENEY: Thank you. Nice to be with you.

WOODRUFF: President of AFL-CIO. We appreciate your joining us today.

SWEENEY: Thanks again.

WOODRUFF: Thank you. When we come back, new tapes of Richard Nixon at the White House on George Wallace, on the war in Vietnam and more. We'll be right back with that.


WOODRUFF: More than three decades after President Nixon began secretly recording White House conversations, hundreds of hours of previously unreleased tapes are getting their first public airing today. Our Bruce Morton has been listening to the tapes and the take they offer on history.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a grab bag of tapes, 426 hours of conversations from January to June, 1972. John Connolly talking to Richard Nixon about John Kennedy's assassination -- Connolly, then governor of Texas. He and his wife, Nellie, were in the car with Kennedy. Connolly was wounded.

JOHN CONNOLLY, FMR. GOVERNOR OF TEXAS: I knew he was dead before I became unconscious. I was lying down in Nellie's lap like this, and she had her head on top of mine and I had my eyes open. And I heard that bullet hit his head. And immediately there was brain matter -- I know brain matter -- it was all over the car.

MORTON: In 1972, Arthur Bremer, who had once thought of shooting Nixon, shoots presidential candidate George Wallace. Nixon wants to make sure the liberals are blamed.

RICHARD NIXON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why don't we play the game a bit smarter for a change. They pinned the assassination of Kennedy on the right wing, the Birchers. It was done by a Communist and it was the greatest hoax that has ever been perpetuated. And I respectfully suggest, can't we pin this on one of theirs?

MORTON: Aide Chuck Colson reports to the president on Bremer.


NIXON: Is he a left-winger or a right-winger?

COLSON: Well, he's going to be a left-winger by the time we get through, I think. NIXON: Ah, good. Keep at that. Keep at that.

MORTON: The president with his wife, Pat.

NIXON: Bad people did it.


NIXON: The liberals.

MORTON: Nixon, meeting with aide HR Haldeman and the Reverend Billy Graham, talks about Jewish control of the media.

NIXON: All three networks. Brinkley or Cronkite may not be of that persuasion, but the writers (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 95 percent are Jewish. Now, what does this mean? Does this mean that all Jews are bad? No, but it does mean that most are left-wing.

MORTON: He talks again about the media.

NIXON: It happens, though, that insofar as the media is concerned, the powerful media.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've got it.

NIXON: They've got it right by the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they're the ones putting out the pornographic stuff, and putting out everything.

MORTON: One fascinating, hard-to-hear scrap, Nixon and Henry Kissinger talking about how to escalate planned attacks in north Vietnam.

NIXON: No, no, no, no, no, I'd rather use a nuclear bomb.

HENRY KISSINGER, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: That, I think, would just be too much.

MORTON: Nixon escalated, but did not go nuclear. Scraps of history, with bad sound. Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: Bruce Morton knows that his report on the Nixon tapes was based on what he and our producers could hear. We did not receive any official transcription of those recordings.

Now let's talk about the tapes with presidential historian Robert Dallek and with former Nixon aide, David Gergen, author of the book, "Eyewitness to Power."

David Gergen, to you, first. What strikes you in these excerpts we just heard?

DAVID GERGEN, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": Judy, once again, the excerpts show a raw Nixon, a Nixon often at his vilest. The comments about the Jews are echoed in what we've heard in the earlier tapes. One day I hope we'll hear the good side of Nixon, because he often could be extremely thoughtful as well. But these tapes are tough.

WOODRUFF: Bob Dallek?

BOB DALLEK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, Judy, the political cynicism that you see is so disturbing. Here Wallace is shot. You thinking Nixon might show some compassion. And what he is talking about is, let's blame it on the liberals.

After all, the man who killed Kennedy was a left-winger. He wasn't a right-winger. But to be so preoccupied with politics at a moment like that is really kind of shocking. And, also, these tapes were -- Nixon knew the tape machine was running, that it was constantly on. And not to be self-conscious about saying such things is really rather appalling.

WOODRUFF: David Gergen, when Richard Nixon says -- when he is told about Arthur Bremer, the man who shot George Wallace and he says, "Can we pin it on one of theirs?," referring to the liberals, was it his sense, was in the sense then in the White House that they could actually orchestrate the blame here?

GERGEN: Richard Nixon was paranoid. And he felt that the liberals had been manipulating those kind of stories for years, as he felt they had with the John F. Kennedy assassination.

As he said in the tape, he thought that they successfully made it, in the beginning, look like it was the right-wing had done it, when, of course, they had not. And he took that to heart. And he played politics hardball the other way around. Yes, he did feel that, if he worked hard enough, occasionally he could score one on his side, from his perspective. Was it perspective that one should welcome or applaud in politics? No, of course not.

But it was deep-seated in those days in Nixon and in others, frankly, on the left, that one could do those kind of things, that you could manipulate the press into putting stories out like that.

WOODRUFF: Bob Dallek, does this tell us something, even in a nuanced way, about what was going on there?

DALLEK: Well, it does. I mean, we know in general the kinds of things that were going on at the White House. But this, in a sense, deepens the cynicism of the country about politics, I think, because you see in such detail.

For example, the discussion about using a nuclear bomb, Kennedy, constantly confronted with this question, said it would be the ultimate failure. Lyndon Johnson was pressed by some people to think about using a tactical nuclear weapon in Vietnam. And he resisted that. And so to listen to Kissinger and Nixon talking about this, frankly, it sends chills up my spine.

GERGEN: Can I just respectfully disagree on that particular issue?

Nixon did like to think big. But, as I recall, Douglas MacArthur wanted to use nuclear weapons in the Korean War as a way to seal off South Korea, or Korea, from the Chinese. This is not the first time the use of nuclear weapons has been raised in Oval Office discussions by presidents or by their aides and then dismissed.

DALLEK: But you know, David, Eisenhower, for example, also saw this as a terrible idea when he was -- the question was raised, should he use a tactical atomic weapon to defeat the Viet Minh when (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was about to fall in 1954. He rejected this and said it would be an awful thing, the second time in a generation, to use such a weapon against an Asian people.

So, to find Nixon even talking about it, I find -- now, I know they talked about it, but, gosh, he seems to be more serious than some of these other presidents.


WOODRUFF: Go ahead, David.

GERGEN: I just think when someone with a military record like Douglas MacArthur raises the questions of nuclear weapons, it is not a surprise that Richard Nixon might later use that. Was it a bad idea? It was a bad idea. Henry Kissinger properly put it down. As far as we know from this tape, it went away.

I'm far more disturbed by the sort of anti-Semitic in these comments. It appeared now on several times the anti-press view, the sense that you can manipulate. All of those things haven't disappeared from our politics, but we did go through a very cynical period and Nixon was one of the cynics.

WOODRUFF: One of the other items that we didn't have time to run and we won't have time to comment on now is that, when the subject came up of the photograph of the young girl in Vietnam who had been hit with napalm, Nixon is heard saying, "Could that photograph -- could that scene have possibly been staged?"

Again, a lot to listen to, a lot to look at here. And we will hope to do more with it later on.

But we want to thank you both of you for coming in today. David Gergen, Bob Dallek, we appreciate it. Good to see both of you.

DALLEK: My pleasure.

WOODRUFF: An update now on that Air India flight scheduled to land just a little later this hour in New York. That's coming up next in our "Newscycle."

Plus, the president revisits his plan to partially privatize Social Security, just one of the issues up for debate in our "Taking Issues" segment.


WOODRUFF: Now checking the INSIDE POLITICS "Newscycle": FBI agents are in New York and they are waiting for the arrival of an Air India flight at Kennedy Airport in just about 30 minutes. Flight 101 is en route from London with 307 people on board. The security concerns arose after a screener in London reported a passenger on the flight resembled someone on an international watch list. There have been no reports of any disturbance on the plane. The flight is being shadowed by NORAD fighter planes, but no U.S. military escorts have been ordered.

Well, joining us now with their take on some of the issues of the day: Acel Moore of The Philadelphia Inquirer" and DeRoy Murdock of the Scripps Howard News Service.

Gentlemen, good to see you both.

Let's just begin with the news yesterday and today: Democrats, from Robert Byrd to Tom Daschle, raising questions about whether the war in Afghanistan, the war on terror has been successful, about how long it has gone on, the fact that Osama bin Laden has not been captured.

Does this represent some kind of turning point here, DeRoy Murdock?

DEROY MURDOCK, SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE: Well, I think it a very strange argument that we somehow the lost the war on terror because we haven't found Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar. To date, there are still a lot of questions about the whereabouts of the bodies of Adolf Hitler and Martin Bormann, so maybe we didn't really win World War II either.

I think people have got to be patient. This has not even been six months since the September 11 terrorist attacks. It is going to take a while to find these terrorist cells, root them out and destroy them. And I think we have to be patient. Unfortunately, we have a very, very short attention span in this country.

We also should remember that, in about two months, we were able to wipe out, essentially, the Taliban government and do it from a distance of 10,000 miles with something like about a dozen U.S. casualties. I think that is a tremendous step forward. And I think we need to continue until we actually win.

WOODRUFF: But, Acel Moore, the fact that the Democrats feel free to say this, does this demonstrate a new chapter in all this?


I think patience is a two-way street, too. I think that the administration shouldn't be putting out signals that they have been successful and that it has been a great success. This is a very complex situation, unlike any other engagement or war that we have been involved in. I don't think you can -- I think the jury is still out. I don't think, on either side, you could say one has failed or is successful at this point.


MURDOCK: I think one of the challenges in this war is, unlike World War II, or even the Persian Gulf War, where we could say, well, we have now liberated Kuwait. We, therefore, won. We reached Berlin. Therefore, we won.

With the terrorists being basically in the shadows, it is a little hard to tell exactly when we have won, because they don't, essentially, other than Afghanistan, control a lot of territory.

MOORE: It looks like journalists are in the shadows, too. But I'm not going to deal with that. But this has been restricted coverage more so than any engagement in the history of this country.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you both about a domestic issue, and that is Social Security. Now, not only Dick Armey, the House majority leader, but the president himself today referring to privatization, at least partial privatization of Social Security, beginning to move in that direction.

DeRoy Murdock, is this emerging as one of the key issues for this year's midterm elections?

MURDOCK: Well, I'm very happy to see that President Bush has brought this issue back up again. I think it is very important for Americans to have the option, if they are not satisfied with the way Social Security works, to be able to take their money and put it into private accounts that they own and they control, rather than people in Washington, D.C. owning and controlling.

Now, unfortunately, since the whole Enron mess, people have said, well, this is the last place you want to put your money. Look at all the people who suffered from Enron. And I think the Enron situation actually proves the opposite: that it would be much better for people to have diversified portfolios, a wide variety of options, and be able to spread their money across a number of different assets, rather than either put it all into one company stock, stock in their own company, or even worse, just rely on Social Security with all of its tremendous financial problems.

WOODRUFF: And, Acel Moore?

MOORE: Well, Enron is the biggest red flag I have ever seen that should hinder and stop this movement towards the privatization of Social Security.

I think that, until the failures, until laws are changed to prevent the scandal and what happened in the Enron situation occur, I don't think we should move forward towards privatization of Social Security. My concern is not about the sophisticated -- and even the sophisticated people were fooled when you are lied to about the financial and credit-worthiness of a company.

But the average Joe blow, the average baggage handler, or the person who -- the truck driver, the taxi driver, people who are on Social Security who do not read "The Wall Street Journal" or the annual reports, or don't know how to read the annual reports of a corporation, I think there is a danger of them being taken advantage of until we can have more assurances and more regulations in this field.


WOODRUFF: Well, gentlemen, we are going to have to leave it there.

Acel Moore, I'm sorry. And DeRoy Murdock, we appreciate both of you stopping by. Thanks very much.

MOORE: OK, good to be with you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

Question: Did big bucks win a high-stakes political battle for the telecom industry? Kate Snow has the "Inside Buzz" next.


WOODRUFF: These are live pictures of an Air India flight from London to New York's JFK Airport just landing in New York, apparently safely. And we have no reason to believe that there has been any problem on board, although the investigators have been in a flurry the last few hours because a screener in London believed that one of the passengers appeared to look like someone on an international watch list.

Because of that, the media was notified and NORAD fighter planes were scrambled. The bottom line is, at this point, we have no reason to believe there is a problem. But, of course, the FBI will be greeting the plane when it comes in and settles in in just a moment. We will report any further information we get.

The House of Representatives last night passed a bill which would allow the four Baby Bell phone companies to offer high-speed Internet access. Well, the fight over this legislation has long been the obsession of telecom lobbyists at a cost of millions of dollars.

The "Inside Buzz" on this fierce political battle now from CNN's congressional correspondent Kate Snow.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How has the lobby been going?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pretty good. Pretty good.

KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For months, opponents of the bill have been going door to door. By the day of the big vote, they were running a war room in a House office building complete with empty pizza boxes and monitors of the action on the House floor.

The group is called Voices for Choices, better known to the public as AT&T, Sprint, WorldCom, and groups representing hundreds of small phone companies that sprouted up after 1996, when local phone service opened to competition. The chairman of Allegiance Telecom, with 125,000 customers, has spent months telling lawmakers his business would go under if the Baby Bells could suddenly enter the broadband market with few restrictions.

ROYCE HOLLAND, CHAIRMAN, ALLEGIANCE TELECOM: They get a little taste of competition over the last six years and they go squealing to the government to close that off. "Give us back our monopoly."

SNOW: Lobbyists for the Baby Bells say it is not creating a monopoly, but a level playing field. They, too, have been putting in 14-hour days, six days a week.


SNOW: It's a complicated issue, not a partisan one. And lobbyists know that. Just off the floor, they swarmed members, spinning one side or the other. The vote would come down to impressions, allegiances, who they trust.

HERSCHEL ABBOT, BELLSOUTH: This was a little dirtier than I have seen it. And, frankly, I was surprised. Some of the opposition were dressed in pig suits yesterday on the steps. And, you know, we're not going to sink to that level.

SNOW: And that was just the tip of the iceberg.


ANNOUNCER: The Tauzin-Dingell bill will bring real competition...


SNOW: Ask TV viewers in Washington, D.C. and they have actually heard of Tauzin-Dingell.


ANNOUNCER: Tauzin-Dingell will turn the Bell giants loose on America.


SNOW: For nearly a year, the two sides have spent more than $3 million each advertising in Washington and other large markets.

REP. BILLY TAUZIN (R), LOUISIANA: Perhaps Americans can start enjoying Coca-Cola and Pepsi commercials again instead of this mass of commercials advertising for or against Tauzin-Dingell. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: In addition to spending on TV ads and lobbying, all of these companies are also aggressive contributors to campaigns.

The Center for Responsive Politics did an analysis this afternoon. And they found that those who received more money from Baby Bells, at least twice as much from them as from AT&T and the long-distance carriers, those lawmakers were likely to vote for this bill by a 4-1 margin. And, on the other side, those who got twice as much or more money from AT&T and the long-distance carriers voted against the bill 19-1.

Kate Snow, CNN, Capitol Hill.


WOODRUFF: Our second look at Air India Flight 101, which has just landed at New York's Kennedy Airport, safely landed at Kennedy, as you can see, after a flight from London. Now, there's been a lot of flurry of interest in this flight since a screener in London said one of the passengers appeared to look like someone on an international watch list, but, as far as we know, no disturbances on board, no reason to believe anything is wrong. But, of course, authorities are keeping an eye, as are we.

Many Californians pride themselves on being trend-setters. And, politically, the Golden State often has been ahead of the curve. But is that always a good thing?

Our Jeff Greenfield is continuing his stay in California.


JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: One of the temptations in California, apart from the sunshine and the beaches and the organic food, is the impulse to seek clues about America's political future.

Since California helped berthed everything from progressivism to the environmental movement to the tax revolt, it is only natural to come out here and ask: What's coming next? Well, one answer that certainly gets high marks for originality is the growing political appeal of the bland.

(voice-over): A generation ago, Californians sought out larger- than-life figures to lead them, the charismatic, powerful personality of a Ronald Reagan for eight years, followed by the new age Aquarian Jerry Brown, whose quirks led one journalist to dub him "Governor Moonbeam."

But then came 16 years of colorless Republicans. George Deukmejian served as governor for two terms without uttering a single memorable phrase. Voters seemed to like that self-effacing quality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The honorable Pete Wilson. GREENFIELD: His successor, Pete Wilson, was similarly unendowed with sizzling charisma. Indeed, there was almost a Midwestern quality to his face and voice.

Four years ago, the Democrats figured this out. They nominated Gray Davis, often called the appropriately named "gray" Davis, a determined centrist who seemed to find the exact political center of California: pro-death penalty, pro-choice, cautious on spending, cautious on rhetoric. He won in a landslide.

(on camera): By the end of Davis' term, Californians will have lived under 20 straight years of bland centrist governors. Is there some explanation for this?

One Californian said to me: "You New Yorkers, you need combative, controversial politicians, an Ed Koch, a Rudy Giuliani, a Mario Cuomo, an Al D'Amato, a Hillary Clinton. We don't. Here in California, life is so colorful we prefer a governor whose favorite color is plaid" -- Judy.



WOODRUFF: Jeff Greenfield, nothing neutral about him.

Are some Californians, speaking of that Western state, getting a bum rap from the 41st president? Up next, our Bill Schneider says the flap is all about hot tubs, stereotypes, and old political grudges.


WOODRUFF: Once again, New York's John F. Kennedy Airport, where that India Flight 101 has landed safely after a flight from London. As far as we know, nothing amiss on board the plane. But FBI agents are there just in case.

And, for the very latest, on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" at the top of the hour, our Michael Okwu will have an update from New York.

Back to INSIDE POLITICS now: Even as Republicans are hoping to improve their political fortunes in California, one of the party's former standard-bearers does not appear to have helped the cause.

Our Bill Schneider is here with a story that has made a splash in Northern California, Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, former President Bush -- former President Bush -- is known as a gentleman, not the kind of guy who goes around insulting people.

So, why did the former president feel compelled to write a letter of apology to the good people of Marin County, California this week?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) (voice-over): Was it something former President Bush said? Yes. This remark he made last month about American Taliban fighter, John walker Lindh, who is from Marin County.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not on the side of this poor, misguided, Marin County hot-tubber.

SCHNEIDER: Boy, did that upset the folks in Marin County. Was the former president guilty of, gasp, perpetuating a stereotype? Yes. And stereotyping is, like, a bad thing in laid-back, politically correct Marin County, a place where the 1970s live forever.

Marin is the upscale suburban county populated by trendy high- income professionals, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Marin has lots of new age retreats. Hot tubs? Yes. We checked. Nationwide, one out of every 24 households has a hot tub. In Marin County, it's one out of two. That's right. Half the households in Marin County have hot tubs.

But why did Mr. Bush pick on Marin? Does he have something against hot tubs? Well, he is a Republican. And Republicans have something against Marin County. In every presidential election from 1948 through 1976, say 1964, Marin County voted Republican. Then, in 1980, Ronald Reagan took over the GOP and Republicans support in Marin County started falling off.

Former President Bush got 23 percent of the vote in 1992. His son barely did any better: 28 percent in 2000. Marin stopped voting its pocketbooks and started voting its values.


SCHNEIDER: Ever the gentleman, former President Bush wrote a letter to the "Marin Independent Journal" this week saying -- quote -- "Call off the dogs, please. I surrender. I will never use hot tub and Marin County in the same sentence again." Now, Mr. Bush also wrote, "I will now soak in my own hot tub and try to be more sensitive to the feelings of others." What a sensitive new age guy.


WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider.

And if you're a Republican out there and you have a hot tub, we want to hear from you. We don't want to perpetuate the stereotype.

All right, CNN's coverage continues now with "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.