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Inside Politics

What do Local Clergy have to say about Recent Vatican Meeting?; Stern Warning to President Bush; Possible Leadership Challenge to Lott

Aired April 25, 2002 - 16:00   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. I'll take you to a local Catholic church to hear what clergy and parishioners about the Vatican meeting on abusive priests.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Major Garrett in Crawford, Texas, where the Saudi crown prince has delivered a stern warning to President Bush.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill where the Senate Republican cloakroom is buzzing with speculation about a possible leadership challenge to Trent Lott.

BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Brooks Jackson in Washington, where lobbyists are playing the fear factor. And this reality show is costing millions.


WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. At last word, President Bush and Saudi Prince Abdullah were still together inside Mr. Bush's Texas ranch, after their one-on-one meeting lasted twice as long as expected. Administration officials have been braced for fireworks over U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Well, some are asking: did the sparks fly? Our White House correspondent Major Garrett is with the president in Crawford, Texas. So, Major, what have you learned so far? Has this meeting been as tense as the White House feared?

GARRETT: Well, we don't know if it's been as intense as the White House feared. And we're not really sure, Judy, exactly how much the White House feared an intense or fireworks-riddled meeting in the first place. They knew the Saudi crown prince would come with some stern language about the situation in the Middle East.

And in fact, that's what's transpired. Adel al-Jabir, who is a top foreign policy adviser to the Saudi Kingdom, telling reporters here that the crown prince came to see President Bush with a very blunt message about his policy in the Middle East, that it was too tilted in favor of the Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, and that if it didn't change, the U.S. would face -- quote -- "grave consequences in the region" if in fact it did not at least listen more receptively to Saudi and other Arab nations' requests for more pressure on the Israeli prime minister to withdraw troops from all parts of the occupied territories and end the sieges in Ramallah and at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

But one other significant development here, Judy, the Saudi officials have made it abundantly clear they in no way intend to use oil as a diplomatic lever in any of their conversations with the U.S. government. Saudi officials here have been absolutely emphatic about saying oil is not a weapon.

It is not a negotiating lever and will never be used to place the United States under any diplomatic pressure to change its policy, vis- a-vis Israel or anything else in the region. Adel al-Jabir said, "Oil is not a weapon, it's not a tank. You can't fire it and we don't intend to."

Those are a couple of headlines from here in Crawford -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Major. We'll be looking for that meeting to end and what is said about it after it's over. Major Garrett in Crawford, thanks.

Major mentioned oil. It is oil, the Middle East crisis and religion that have all helped to make the United States' ties with Saudi Arabia rather complicated. Our national correspondent Bruce Morton looks at the relationship and what's at stake.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It goes way back. The Saudi kingdom was unified in 1932, gave its first oil concession to Standard Oil a year later. Franklin Roosevelt persuaded King Abdul Aziz to declare war against the Axis, to join the United Nations and to let the United States use an airfield in the Kingdom.

The relationship has had low points. Then-King Faisal led the oil embargo meant to punish the U.S. for supporting Israel in 1973, fighting with the Arab states. It's had high points, U.S. troops on Saudi soil driving Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War.

But some Saudis resented that, infidels in Islam's most holy places. A car bomb killed five Americans at the embassy in 1995. A truck bomb killed 19 at U.S. Air Force apartments in 1996.

The two countries are different, but have common interests. They want high tech. U.S. wants oil.

RICHARD MURPHY, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: So if our values may differ, the interests are nonetheless very clear and very substantial, that have linked us over these decades.

MORTON: The trouble now, a U.S. base in Saudi Arabia, which was vital in the fighting in Afghanistan, and what Arabs, even moderates, see as President Bush's all-out support for Israeli Prime Minister Sharon. GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Israelis have made it very clear that they will not negotiate under terrorist threat.

MORTON: The crown prince, former ambassador Murphy thinks, will be bringing the president a different message.

MURPHY: You are losing your relationships in the Arab world as you appear to be, at least appear to be, passive and unwilling to take the lead role in bringing peace to the region.

MORTON: Georgetown professor Rob Sobanhi is just back from a Middle East visit.

ROB SOBHANI, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: The message from moderate Arab leaders was this: We are with you in your war against terror. We are with you in your campaign against the Taliban and al Qaeda. But we want you to put more pressure on Israel.

MORTON: The U.S. gets only a relatively small portion of its oil from Saudi Arabia. But if relations with them turn bad, so might relations with other moderate Arab countries. Stakes are high. Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: And for more on the U.S.-Saudi relationship, stay with CNN tonight for a special "Live from the Texas White House" at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. It will be hosted by Wolf Blitzer.

And now to the crisis in the Catholic Church. Across the United States there are mixed reviews today of the Vatican summit on sex abuse by priests. I went to a cathedral here in Washington to get a sample of the reaction.


(voice-over): Noon mass at St. Matthews Cathedral in downtown Washington, where parishioners renewed their faith in this time of crisis and talked about cardinals' promise to crack down on serial sex abusers without imposing a zero tolerance policy. Opinions are mixed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really complicated. I'm sure they're going through a lot of torment with what's happened in the past, and how can you reconcile that? I don't know that you can do that overnight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The cardinals themselves are part of the conspiracy of silence and criminal conspiracy, in retaining and transferring sexual deviants.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something had to be done. I think a lot of people were disillusioned that there wasn't a quicker response from the church. And even some of these things that were 20, 30 years ago, probably have to be reckoned with. WOODRUFF: Monsignor Ronald Jameson is the director of St. Matthews. He oversees daily parish life. I spoke with him just before mass about the outcome of the cardinals' meeting at the Vatican.

MSGR. W. RONALD JAMESON, ST. MATTHEWS CATHEDRAL: I'm especially happy to hear what the Holy Father had to say on the first day when he met with the cardinals. I was very pleased to hear him be more specific than he had been in the past, especially when he said that definitely pedophilia, sex abuse of children, is a crime against society.

He said that, and then he talked about that, you know, it's a sin. And it's an offense against God. Because our concern for the children is paramount. And that is what we really must look after.

WOODRUFF (on camera): In the statement that came out of these meetings, there was a distinction made in dealing with the priests who have been guilty of abuse -- between those who were, in their words, notorious priests who had committed serial, predatory acts, and on the other hand, an instance that was not notorious, and where the case is less clear-cut. Is that appropriate, in your mind, to make that distinction?

JAMESON: I would say for a starter, it's fine. Because what I would hope is that that is just the beginning. So that when the cardinals return and they meet with all of the bishops in Dallas in June, I would hope that that would be really a starting point for the bishops as a whole to see where they are going, with perhaps a national statement

WOODRUFF: Reporters have been talking with either victims who are now adults or the parents of victims. In one case I read a mother whose son actually committed suicide, she said, because he was abused as a child. They're saying that this is not enough. That this is just damage control.

JAMESON: We're going to hear a lot more, I can assure you of that, before June. Because I think the cardinals, in coming back and talking to their fellow bishops, they will be talking again. They'll be talking to the priests of their dioceses. And I think they'll be talking as well to some victims. I think they'll will be talking to others who are involved, as experts, you might say. So I think there is going to be much wider discussion.

WOODRUFF: Finally, your parishioners, are they angry?

JAMESON: Are they angry? I think when all of the happenings were revealed in Boston, I think that my parishioners, they were angry. They couldn't understand how that could happen. But the one thing that came out of all of this is that there are extremely supportive of good priests.

But yet, at the same time, they're still looking for the cardinals, the bishops, to take a real lead and to come up with a real, workable plan. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And, for the record, Father Jameson told me that he personally favors a zero tolerance policy.

We will head to Capitol Hill when we return, for my interview with House majority leader Dick Armey and his latest political slaps at the Democrats.

Also ahead...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This stem cell research debate...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of people in Congress have their facts confused.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm shocked.


WOODRUFF: Harry and Louise are back to talk about a hot topic. Is it a clever move or a desperate one?

And later, highlights from the big Democratic show at the Apollo, and the review of the Party's dependence on the African-American vote.



WOODRUFF: Here we are on the House side of the Capitol. This is the Reagan room. There are many mementos of Former President Reagan here. I'm with the House majority leader, Dick Armey of Texas.

As we speak, the House is just about to pass immigration reform legislation, doing away with the current INS. How do you know -- I know you're supportive of this -- that creating two different agencies is going to solve the problems this country has, with regard to immigration?

REP. RICHARD ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, I have studied this for a long time and the president talked about it on the campaign, so I thought about this idea. It's been a matter of focus. The agency doesn't know whether to jump to the right or jump to the left. It's got two very distinct duties, obligations, to be performed.

The oldest trick in the book in economics is divide the labor, so you have border security totally focused on that. INS totally focused on people's legal status as citizens, residents, guests, in this country. Keep their focus on their work and get their work done in a manner that's humane, courteous and efficient.

WOODRUFF: And this is something the president is going to sign in its present form?

ARMEY: I believe so. The president, it's originally his idea. He's looked at the legislation. There are more things he would like to do, which we can do later. But for right now, we have the two great missions in America, is be a good host nation to people who love freedom and want to come here and work and take care of their families. And secondly, keep our borders secure from people who would come here illegally.

WOODRUFF: Social Security, Mr. Leader, there are Republican strategists who are telling the leadership of your party that it is trouble for them to continue to talk openly, publicly, about privatizing Social Security. They say that it is a losing issue for the Republican Party. The speaker, Dennis Hastert, has already delayed a debate on this issue. Do you agree with this approach, that some would call timid, when it comes to Social Security?

ARMEY: There's nobody in the Republican Party talking about privatizing Social Security. Democrats are accusing us of. We are being instructed by our people how to carry that accusation so we can focus on fixing Social Security, making it work for all generations, and making it be truly secure, in a manner of some confidence, for today's seniors.

Democrats have attacked Republicans on this issue since 1964. They're going to do it again. And what the speaker is saying, let's learn to be smart. Find out what language they'll use in the attacks and then carry that language.

WOODRUFF: But you are considering legislation down the road that would have people have more personal say over these savings accounts.

ARMEY: That's absolutely...

WOODRUFF: That is privatizing.

ARMEY: No, I would call it personalizing. In fact, the way I was -- when I was a youngster my grandfather explained Social Security to me. I thought I had a personal retirement account in the Social Security administration. And what we are saying is, people ought to have a personal control of their own retirement account, have some say on how it is managed, and be able to count on it. And indeed, if it has value, leave it to their children.

WOODRUFF: It is reliably reported today that the White House is in serious discussions about treating mental health illnesses, giving it the same coverage as all other illnesses. If the president goes along with this, will Dick Armey go along with this as well?

ARMEY: Well, there are two problems. One is, we've got real cost considerations. And you have to prioritize in health issues, just as you do with everything else. The other is, definitions as applied in mental health.

Now, I'm familiar, for example, with the standard diagnostic manual. My wife is a therapist. And there is a place within that manual where you say, this is in coverage, this is not. And these are going to be the tough decisions.

WOODRUFF: Will you go along, though, if the president agrees?

ARMEY: I think the principle idea, that we should attend to the entire health of the human being, as best we can with the resources we have, physical and mental, is right. But you must understand, there are a lot of things that can be covered on mental health that are just not necessarily those life, make-or-break things. And some places you have to say, we can go this far but we can't go any further.

WOODRUFF: Your son recently ran in the Republican primary for Congress. He lost. Obviously he was disappointed. How did you take it?

ARMEY: Well, of course I was disappointed. I was disappointed in the way Scott was treated in the campaign. It was a vicious campaign. I'm a father. This is my son. He is a decent person, did not deserve to be treated that way.

Now, here's the good news. He and his lovely wife, Carissa, have their life. They will have a better life. He'll be home at night every night. So I don't regret that he's not serving. He would be a good congressman. But I enjoy watching him being a better father because he can be home with his baby.

WOODRUFF: Dick Armey, good to see you again.

ARMEY: My pleasure.

WOODRUFF: Thank you. Thank you.


And we should have mentioned, the majority leader's son was running for his father's seat. His father retiring after this term.

Just ahead, Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan. We'll check in with their thoughts on the Vatican summit and some of the day's other top issues.

An we'll have the latest on what is being called a tragic accident, an explosion that injured dozens of people in Manhattan.


WOODRUFF: Checking the stories in our INSIDE POLITICS "Newscycle," Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah is meeting with President Bush this afternoon at his Texas ranch. The two men are trying to find ways to advance peace in the Middle East. At one point the Saudi crown prince warned Mr. Bush about the risks the United States faces if it continues with a policy widely perceived in the Arab world as biased towards Israel.

An explosion damaged two buildings in Manhattan earlier today, injuring about 40 people, some of them critically. Authorities say the explosion involved chemicals used by a sign company. Foul play is not suspected.

And American Catholics are weighing in on the Vatican summit on sex abuse by priests. U.S. cardinals who attended the summit said that they would try to dismiss any notorious priests found guilty of serial predatory sex abuse of minors. They stopped short of endorsing a zero tolerance policy. Some Catholics say the position doesn't go far enough. Others say it is a good first step.

Well, here now joining us, former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause. Bay, to you first. Did these cardinals go far enough in this statement from the Vatican?

BAY BUCHANAN, AMERICAN CAUSE: No, nowhere near. Basically what they're saying is if you do it many, many times, then this is something we'll have to take action. But you can't accept one abuse of a child when you're in a position of authority as a priest.

If they want to put this story behind them, they have to take far more decisive action, far more bold action, and put a policy which one strike and you're out. And that's not just for future abusers, but those in the past as well. And move them out of the priesthood entirely.

WOODRUFF: Donna, how do you read their unwillingness to do that?

DONNA BRAZILE, FMR. GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think that the cardinals, many of whom should really take another look at their jobs and see if they want to stay on the job, glossed over some of the underlying causes and problems within the church. They condemn the sin but not the sinners. And so by leaving this policy open -- open to what? Open to the bishops to come back and do it, and perhaps come up with a policy?

I agree with Bay on this one. They should have just endorsed a zero tolerance policy and rid the church of all these sexual predators.

BUCHANAN: And you know, it goes even further than that, Donna. The cardinals, as you just pointed out, those in authority who have allowed this to continue. Cardinal Law up there in Boston, he's the Bill Clinton of the Catholic Church.

Instead of resigning, when he knows it's in the best interest of the church, and moving on because he recognizes the terrible thing he did, to allow these priests to continue to abuse these young kids, he should resign. And he won't. And that's when, I believe, that someone in the church has got to step in and let him know he's gone.

BRAZILE: I agree there was not enough contrition. I guess it's hard to give a penance to those who are guilty of covering up this crime that has gone on in the Catholic Church. And I'm Catholic and I believe you are Catholic...

BUCHANAN: I was certainly raised Catholic. BRAZILE: You were raised Catholic. I'm still there. But it's very difficult, Judy, to go to mass on Sunday and hear our local priest stand up and defend the church, when you say, OK, there's not "there, there." I think the church really needs to take a strong stance in June, and rid the church of these pedophiles.

WOODRUFF: And it must be difficult for some of these individual priests, like the one I interviewed here in Washington, who said he personally favors zero tolerance, completely.

BUCHANAN: And you know the overwhelming majority of these priests are just wonderful men who have really devoted themselves not only to the church, but to the people in this church, and the kids. And I know people now who go to functions, they look across the hall and see priests, and they wonder. That's an awful situation for these fine, fine people who are in the church.

WOODRUFF: I'm going to bring up another subject now that, at least a lot of us in Washington are paying attention to, and that's is the famous Harry and Louise characters who were part of the whole debate in the early 1990s, over what to do about health policy.

Well, Harry and Louise have resurfaced, this time supporting cloning legislation. Let's look at what that ad looks like.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's with this stem cell research debate?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of people in Congress have their facts confused.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One bill works puts scientists in jail for working to cure our niece's diabetes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, cure cancer, go to jail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Alzheimer's, heart disease, take your pick.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, it uses an unfertilized egg and a skin cell.


WOODRUFF: Bay, an effective argument?

BUCHANAN: No, it's not an effective argument. It's typical spin. A very effective ad, I'll say. But cloning is clearly, the situation is just unethical and immoral, to create a person, to create a human being for the sole purpose of doing research on it, and then just disregard it.

There's no defense whatsoever, no matter what the purpose is. And I believe you'll see a complete ban on cloning.

WOODRUFF: Donna, any circumstances?

BRAZILE: First of all, I think it's a clever ad. And finally Harry and Louise have repented for what they did back in the '90s in destroying health care reform. Look, there's a distinction between human cloning and therapeutic cloning, which will hopefully find cures for Alzheimer's and Parkinsons and other diseases.

And that's what this ad is trying to do, is to make that distinction between human cloning, which I believe all people, in this country, at least, that is should be banned, but allow some therapeutic cloning, research cloning, to help save lives.

WOODRUFF: What's the distinction?

BUCHANAN: Yes, what is the distinction?

BRAZILE: The distinction is that we're talking about unfertilized, cluster cells. We're not talking about embryos.

BUCHANAN: These are embryos.

BRAZILE: No, they are not. They are not embryos, and embryos are not humans, are not persons. These are cells, somatic cells, that can be used to create stem cells that will help save lives. So we're not talking about embryos. We're not even talking about fertilized eggs. These are unfertilized cluster cells.

BUCHANAN: There is a reason they call it cloning. And the whole reason they call it that is because indeed, what they are doing is creating a human being here. And the reason they call is therapeutic is because the purpose is not to further the development of this human being, but rather to kill it in its earliest stages.

BRAZILE: No, there's nothing killed because there's nothing developed. These are cluster cells that will be used primarily for research purposes.

BUCHANAN: It's not justified.


WOODRUFF: I can tell we're not going to resolve this one. Now, we may have to come back to this in the future. Bay Buchanan, Donna Brazile, great to have you both. Appreciate it.

Bob Novak has the "Inside Buzz" next on INSIDE POLITICS. He's going to tell us about a clever coup during President Bush's trip to South Dakota.


WOODRUFF: And now the "Inside Buzz" on a member of the leadership on Capitol Hill who may be on shaky ground.

Our congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl is here.

Jon, you're picking up some buzz on a challenge to Trent Lott?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very interesting buzz directly from the Cloak Room, Judy.

CNN has learned that Don Nickels, who currently holds the No. 2 job in the Senate leadership for the Republicans, is testing the waters of a possible leadership challenge to Trent Lott. Lott, of course, is the current majority leader. What we're hearing is that several senators have told me -- senators and candidates for the Senate who have recently met with Nickles have told me that they have come away with the clear impression that Nickels is not only seriously considering running a run for the top job, but is also beginning to take the first steps in that direction.

Nickels, by the way -- his office and Nickels himself is doing everything to downplay this speculation publicly, saying that Nickels is concentrated on one thing, one thing only. And that's getting the Republicans back in control of the U.S. Senate. But one Senate candidate who recently met with him said to me -- quote -- "There's no doubt in my mind that, if the Republicans win back the Senate, Nickels is going to run for majority leader."

Now, that said, one of the things that you obviously need to do to run for leader is, you need to do a lot of favors for the people that will be voting for you, those Republican senators and people that will be in the Senate after the November elections. And that means giving away money, having a leadership political action committee and giving away money.

And take a look. Trent Lott has done a lot of that. Trent Lott, the current leader, has given almost $245,000 last year and in the first quarter of this year. But look at Don Nickels. He's not even the leader of the Senate, but he's actually given more money to candidates than Trent Lott. And he's been very aggressive, especially with those that are not yet in the Senate, the incoming freshman class.

Take a look at Don Nickels' April travels, April fund-raisers he held for events. This is just one month. And we're not even through April yet. He's held fund-raisers for Tim Hutchinson in Arkansas, Norm Coleman in Minnesota, Greg Ganske in Iowa, John Thune in South Dakota, Lindsey Graham in South Carolina.

And he's got upcoming events for Saxby Chambliss in Georgia and Jim Talent in Missouri -- very aggressively going out there, knowing that if he is going to win the top job in the Senate for the Republicans, if he decides to run, the votes that he is especially going to need are the incoming freshman class, because, obviously, Trent Lott has got a lot of loyalty built up within the current Republicans.

They feel that Don Nickels would need help from those incoming freshmen -- so very interesting. Again, Nickels will not say this publicly. He is saying he's focused on one thing, getting those Republicans elected, Judy. But one thing that is interesting is that Don Nickles cannot stay in his current job. He has got the No. 2 job now, but he's term limited. So he either needs to go up or move out of the leadership.

WOODRUFF: OK, Jon Karl, and we assume that last comment you made is the reason he's doing this. Is that right, just quickly?

KARL: That's the clear impression up here. Don Nickels has been in the Senate almost 30 years and I'm told feels he's ready to move up.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jon Karl, thanks very much.

Here now with more "Inside Buzz," our Bob Novak is joining us.

Bob, what is your take on this South Dakota meeting yesterday, if you will, between President Bush and Tom Daschle?

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is a delicious story.

President Bush went to South Dakota for one reason. And that was to boost the candidacy Congressman Jon Thune against the Democrat senator, Tim Johnson. Control of the Senate might be at stake. He had talked Thune into running for the Senate over dinner at the White House. Thune had a sure shot for governor, made him go into this tough race. So, Bush is going out there to help him.

The last thing he had in mind was to have Tom Daschle sharing the spotlight with him. Well, Daschle said: "Gee whiz, the president is going to my state. I've got to be there." And Bush made the -- the White House made it so difficult that Daschle almost backed out several times. But good sense prevailed. It was a coup for Daschle to be there, because the only hope of Tim Johnson beating John Thune is the fact that the people of South Dakota don't want to lose their majority leader in that little state of Tom Daschle.

So, that is really -- I don't want to take Bill Schneider's "Play of the Week" away, but that was the "Play of the Week" for Daschle.

WOODRUFF: Fascinating stuff.

Quickly, move to Massachusetts, the Republican nominee there, Mitt Romney, what's this? He's having some difficulties.

NOVAK: Well, I have got to tell you, he was secretly in town at the Occidental Restaurant with a big fund-raiser, some of the lobbyists. The lobbyists were told to get $10,000 a piece. How do they get all that kind of money when there is a $500 limit? Well, they bundle it with 20 different candidates.

But there are people I talked to here who think that Mitt Romney has made a big mistake in not putting out his tax returns. He challenged Teddy Kennedy when he ran against him six years ago to do that. And Kennedy didn't do it.

WOODRUFF: So far, Romney is saying no. NOVAK: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: But you're saying he's going to have to.

Just quickly, supplemental appropriations, something we love to look at here.

NOVAK: And the president is asking for $27 billion. And Jim Dyer, the arrogant, autocratic staff director of the House Appropriations Committee, says they're going to go way over $27 billion. A lot of people are saying this is a time when President Bush has to say no more. There has to be a line on this spending. We'll see if he does it.

WOODRUFF: OK, I know one person who will be looking. And that's Bob Novak. Thanks very much.

The Democratic National Committee pulled in $2.7 million, slightly more than expected, during its big fund-raiser at Harlem's Apollo Theater last night. But many Democrats who enjoyed the appearances by former President Clinton and a lot of entertainers felt the evening was priceless.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I love being in Harlem. And I'm glad you're all here with us tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You might be wondering why the title, "Every Vote Counts" was picked. I'll let Chris tell it.

CHRIS TUCKER, ACTOR: Maybe because of Florida?


TONY BENNETT, SINGER (singing): You ain't seen nothing yet. The best is yet to come. And, babe, won't that be fine.

CLINTON: The king of pop, Mr. Michael Jackson.

MICHAEL JACKSON, SINGER (singing): You've been struck by a smooth criminal.


WOODRUFF: Democrats know how to put on a show.

Well, if the Democrats were hoping to use that fund-raiser at the Apollo to expand their support within the black community, our Maria Hinojosa says that may not have happened. She noticed that the audience at the Apollo last night was mostly white.

The Democratic Party relies on the African-American vote for much of its success, as we know, at the ballot box.

CNN's senior political analyst Bill Schneider checks in now with more on the importance of that vote -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, how dependent are Democrats on the African-American vote?

Without black voters, the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections would have been virtually tied, just like the 2000 election. Oh no, more Florida recounts!


(voice-over): What would have happened if no blacks had voted in 2000? Six states would have shifted from Al Gore to George W. Bush: Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Oregon. Bush would have won by 187 electoral votes, instead of five. A Florida recount? Not necessary.

Right now, there are 50 Democrats in the Senate. How many would be there without African-American voters? We checked the state exit polls for the 1996, 1998, and 2000 elections. If no blacks had voted, many Southern Democrats would not have made it to the Senate. Both Max Cleland and Zell Miller needed black votes to win in Georgia. So did Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Bill Nelson in Florida, John Edwards in North Carolina, and Ernest Hollings in South Carolina.

Black votes were also crucial for Jon Corzine in New Jersey, Debbie Stabenow in Michigan, and Jean Carnahan in Missouri. Washington state and Nevada don't have many black voters, but they were still crucial to the victories of Harry Reid in Nevada and Maria Cantwell in Washington.

Nebraska and Wisconsin don't have many black voters either, but Ben Nelson would have lost Nebraska without them and Russ Feingold would have lost Wisconsin, too, in both cases by less than half-a- percent. Bottom line? Without the African-American vote, the number of Democrats in the Senate would be reduced from 50 to 37.


SCHNEIDER: A hopeless minority. And Jim Jeffords' defection from the GOP would not have meant a thing -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: We know the Democrats are aware of this. Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

In today's "Campaign News Daily": Former Senator Bill Bradley is endorsing fellow Democrat Robert Reich's campaign for Massachusetts governor. Bradley is scheduled to announce the endorsement at a fund- raiser in Boston on May 14. Former Labor Secretary Reich supported Bradley's 2000 presidential bid.

Florida's Democratic Party is asking Governor Jeb Bush to pull all public service ads featuring Bush and Lieutenant Governor Frank Brogan. The Democrats say that a new $2 million Republican ad blitz for Bush shows the governor is campaigning full-time. So, Florida Democratic Party Chair Bob Poe says Bush must not use state government PSAs as a stealth arm, they say, of his campaign. John McCain adviser John Weaver reportedly will work for the New Hampshire Democratic Party's bid to elect Governor Jeanne Shaheen to the Senate. Weaver served as political director of McCain's 2000 presidential campaign. And he still advises the Republican senator. But last February, he revealed that he had switched to the Democratic Party.

Coming up: As President Bush and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia meet face-to-face, each country is also giving diplomatic signals to the other. We will get Jeff Greenfield's thoughts on those signals just ahead in his "Bite of the Apple."


WOODRUFF: With President Bush and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah meeting in Texas today, our Jeff Greenfield has been taking a close look at diplomatic signals.

Jeff, we know that diplomatic language is almost always polite and it's almost always upbeat. So, how do the players signal their real feelings?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Well, actually, one way is to look at today's newspapers.

Both "USA Today" today and "The Washington Post" have stories quoting high Saudi officials arguing that the U.S. support for Israel is a problem for the Saudis. It stirs up anti-American feeling and puts pressure on the Saudi regime.

But I think the real clue is the front-page story in "The New York Times." It quotes a source -- quote -- "familiar with the thinking of Crown Prince Abdullah," the de facto ruler, warning of a possible rupture in U.S.-Saudi relations. And that's the real signal here.


GREENFIELD: Well, because that kind of phrasing is almost always a code. A source -- quote -- "familiar with someone's thinking" often means that someone himself. It's like a burlesque dancer's costume: just enough to provide cover while revealing everything important.

It's a way of telling, in this case, the U.S. government officials, the pro-Israel Congress, and opinion-makers: "Look, we've got a serious problem." And if you look at that quote from that source toward the end of "The Times" article that "under some circumstances, your national interest is no longer our national interest; the anti-terror coalition would collapse," that is about as blunt a warning as you could imagine.

WOODRUFF: So, if that's the Saudi signal to the U.S., what do you see in way of U.S. signals to the Saudis?

GREENFIELD: Well, that same story talks about moves that the United States is making, relocating military forces into Kuwait and Qatar. And that's a way of saying to the Saudis: "You may think we need you as a military staging area in the region. Maybe not." "The Times" also quotes U.S. officials about the massive new weaponry that the U.S. had on display in Afghanistan. And I think that's a way of saying to the Saudis: "Don't be so sure we can't do this on our own."

Now, the biggest signal yet is going to come down the road when and if we learn how President Bush decides to come down on this long- simmering debate we've heard about between those in his administration who say only a broad coalition can go after Iraq's Saddam Hussein and those who think the U.S. can do it even if the Saudis won't help. Think of it as three-dimensional chess and you get some idea of the complexity here.

WOODRUFF: It is not just reading between the lines. It is really reading what's said.

GREENFIELD: I think so, yes.

WOODRUFF: Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much.


WOODRUFF: Senator Jesse Helms is reported in stable condition after surgery today to replace a faulty heart valve that was installed a decade ago. The 80-year-old North Carolina Republican was hospitalized earlier this week after he complained of fatigue. Helms' chief of staff says the senator's doctors are -- quote -- "very satisfied" with the outcome of the operation done at a suburban Virginia hospital. Helms announced earlier that he would not seek reelection this year.

Still to come: The fear factor is at the center of a new national campaign aimed at keeping a nuclear waste site out of Nevada -- the story when we return.


WOODRUFF: The House of Representatives moved closer today to endorsing President Bush's decision to put a nuclear waste site at Nevada's Yucca Mountain. A House committee overwhelmingly approved a resolution that would overrule Nevada's protest of the waste site.

But opponents are not giving up, as our Brooks Jackson report.


BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Look out: radioactive trucks, terrorists. Whole cities may be left uninhabitable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This waste can deliver a lethal dose of radiation in a few minutes time.

JACKSON: That's the frightening message of a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign aimed at killing a plan to store used-up nuclear fuel at a desert site 90 miles from Las Vegas. The first TV ad went up last week.


ANNOUNCER: With over 50,000 nuclear trucks and train-loads moving through our streets, even the government admits nuclear accidents are inevitable. And terrorist attacks will become harder than ever to prevent.


JACKSON: For now, it is only aimed at Vermont's senators, especially ex-Republican independent Jim Jeffords. But other states may see similar ads, too, and demonstrations like this one at the Capitol, raising fears of nuclear spills.

Part of the plan is to stage low-budget street theater using props like this, looking something like the canisters that would be used to ship 77,000 tons of nuclear waste. Nevada does not want the waste, but it has only two Senate votes. So, opponents hope to raise fears in other states through which the shipments would travel. The pro-nuclear lobby responded first with newspaper ads calling it a scare campaign, then this week with their own TV.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Granddad, you're an engineer. Is this plan to move waste from the nuclear power plant safe?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Actually, we've been doing it for decades.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Nope, 3,000 shipments, no one harmed.



JACKSON: There is help from Hollywood for the anti-nuclear side. A recent "West Wing" episode had a truckload of radioactive fuel rods crashing head-on in an Idaho tunnel.


MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR: Are there populated areas nearby?

ALLISON JANNEY, ACTRESS: Alcourn (ph) is about 20 miles away with a population of 20,000.


JACKSON: There's even a CNN connection:


ANNOUNCER: On the left, Geraldine Ferraro. (END VIDEO CLIP)

JACKSON: At last they agree on something. Former CNN hosts Ferraro and John Sununu, who was chief of staff in the first Bush administration, have both been hired by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to lobby for the storage plan. Meanwhile, former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta and former Reagan Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein have been hired by the state of Nevada.

Nevada has scraped together $5.5 million in public and private money to lobby against Yucca Mountain and is shooting for $10 to $12 million -- serious money -- not enough to stop the Republican House, which is expected to clear the Yucca Mountain site easily, but, opponents hope, enough to sway a few votes in the Senate. It's an uphill struggle. By one count, Nevada was 15 votes short before the lobbying campaign began.

(on camera): The Senate vote will come sometime before August. And a pro-nuclear spokeswoman said her side would do whatever it takes. So, until then, this campaign could make for a hot, scary summer issue.

Brooks Jackson, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: And there is more INSIDE POLITICS ahead.

But, first, Wolf joins us from Crawford, Texas with a look at what's coming up next on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" -- hi, Wolf.


We will have all the latest details form the summit that is just wrapping up between the president and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah. I'll speak with his chief foreign policy adviser, Adel Al- Jubeir. We will also get the latest from Ramallah and Bethlehem. We'll also get the latest from that building collapse in New York City, a lot closer to home.

It's all coming up right at the top of the hour right after INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: It is take-our-daughters-to-work day. And a number of CNN people have done just that. We're showing you our control room in Atlanta, where Kip Grossnick's (ph) daughter, Shelby (ph) Grossnick -- Kip is one of our Atlanta producers -- she is there, along with Madison Mahelick (ph). Madison is the daughter of our technical director, Matt Mahelick.

So, Shelby and Madison, welcome to CNN. We hope you're having a good time this day.

And now checking what's in the works here on INSIDE POLITICS: Tomorrow, comedian Steve Bridges impersonates President Bush.


STEVE BRIDGES, COMEDIAN: I'm going to lead by example right now. And I'm going to face a fear that I faced that almost took me down. It almost got the better of me. You know what I'm talking about: a pretzel.


BRIDGES: I'm going to take a bite out of this sucker right here right now.



BRIDGES: Just kidding you.


WOODRUFF: He's pretty good. We'll see that tomorrow.

CNN's coverage continues now with "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Thanks for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.