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John King: Logging issue dogs Bush trip

CNN's John King
CNN's John King  

PORTLAND, Oregon (CNN) -- Protesters greeted President Bush in Oregon as he pushed for an easing of logging restrictions, which he said would help prevent wildfires.

CNN White House Correspondent John King, who is with the president on his Western trip, discussed the controversial proposal with CNN's Aaron Brown.

KING: There were some protests earlier [Thursday] up near Medford, Oregon, where the president was, and more protests here in Portland. More than 100 tried to walk up on the president's hotel. Police in Portland used pepper spray to keep them away. There was a fiesty altercation between the police and the protesters. After the police asked the protesters to leave the area around the president's hotel, as I said, some pepper spray was used there. It is a calm situation now.

It's not unusual for the president to encounter protesters, especially when his focus is on environmental issues. But it has been some time -- not since those international gatherings -- since we've seen some jousting like this.

BROWN: Did the president see any of this?

KING: He did not, to the best of our knowledge. He was inside the hotel. He is always briefed when this happens by the staff, especially when the incident involves law enforcement personnel. But to the best of our knowledge, the president did not physically lay eyes on it.

BROWN: Now back to the forest plan and the politics of it all. Given that the president is kind of in the crosshairs on these environmental questions, does the White House see this as a plus for them, that they can convince enough people that good, solid forest management and not big business or big timber industry is what's in play?

KING: On this one they think they will win. And the reason is, the plan the president is pushing actually dates back to 1994. It was crafted during the Clinton administration, a Democratic president. Here in Oregon it has the support of a Republican Sen. Gordon Smith, a Democrat, Ron Wyden, Western governors are for it.

And, the White House notes, the biggest Democrat of all in the Senate, Tom Daschle, the majority leader, recently put some money into an emergency budget bill, a supplemental spending bill, to do the very same thing -- thinning, they call it -- in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The president did make a point -- he understands the politics here of noting in his speech -- if it's good for South Dakota, why isn't it good for Oregon and the rest of the country?

BROWN: And at the risk of making you absolutely crazy, can you simply explain how the president plans to limit the litigation that often follows this sort of thing?

KING: Well, Congress would have to pass a law there, and that will be the big test. This won't happen this year before the elections. It will not happen.

The president needs Congress to pass a law that limits the number of appeals, that says, if you want to challenge this, you have to go into the district federal court. You then get an appeal up the line, but then it stops. You cannot, once the issue is settled, go back to court or go to a different court. Congress would have to litigate that.

There are such laws in place, whether they be medical liability or other laws. The president needs to have the Congress pass the process. It's difficult to get the Congress on any issue that limits lawsuits, whether it affects the environment or not. It's a very difficult issue in the Congress.

On this one, though, the White House thinks it is much more a geographical divide than a Democratic/Republican divide. Most lawmakers from the West understand the problem. They don't necessarily agree with the president on all the details of the solution.




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