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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Dick Armey Discusses Patients Bill of Rights in the House; Senators Feinstein and Shelby Discuss Legislative Battles in the Senate; Who Does the McCain-Kennedy Bill Benefit?

Aired July 1, 2001 - 12:00   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 7 p.m. in Cairo and 1 a.m. Monday in Tokyo. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this two- hour Late Edition.

We'll get to our interview with U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey shortly, but first, the hour's top story.

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney is back at his home after being hospitalized to have a device implanted to regulate his heartbeat. CNN's Kelly Wallace is at the White House with details.

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: And joining us now with some insight into the procedure that the vice president underwent and how it will impact his health is Dr. Edward Platia. He is a heart specialist who heads the Cardiac Arrhythmia Center at the Washington Hospital Center here.

Dr. Platia, thanks for joining us.

Given the vice president's history and what he has undergone only yesterday, does this mean that his whole heart situation is deteriorating?

DR. EDWARD PLATIA, WASHINGTON CENTER HOSPITAL: Well, not necessarily. We have heard about the plumbing and the prior heart attacks he has had.

This is an electrical problem, and so it doesn't necessarily mean that the fundamental heart artery disease has progressed. This sort of electrical problem is a relatively common one in the setting of heart artery disease and doesn't mean that the heart muscle function has deteriorated necessarily.

BLITZER: Now, as you and everybody else knows, he has a 23-year history of heart attacks -- four heart attacks, a mild one only last November. But in 1988 he had quadruple bypass surgery. How long does that quadruple bypass surgery usually last? Is he in the likely stages of having to have it redone any time soon?

PLATIA: Well, that is difficult to say. It depends in large part on control of the progression of the heart artery disease. And as we have heard, he has done a good job, I gather, of controlling the cholesterol. He has lost 20 or 25 pounds of weight and is continuing. And so that will hold him in good stead. And it may be that the degree of coronary disease will remain relatively static, and the prognosis is, as we've heard, relatively good.

BLITZER: If he were your patient, and you have done these procedures, obviously, many times -- you do you them almost every day -- what would you be advising him as a course of action right now?

PLATIA: Well, this device that they have implanted, this defibrillator, will offer protection against potentially lethal arrhythmias. He may or may not ever have any of these arrhythmias.

The fundamental issue, though, is the coronary artery disease, that atherosclerosis, which he is going along toward controlling by watching his weight, watching cholesterol, following through with the medications the doctors have been giving him.

BLITZER: I know that you brought one of these defibrillators with you. We have one on the screen. But show us here what the -- just pick it up and show us the size of it and how it's connected to the heart.

PLATIA: Well, these things used to be big as hockey pucks 20 years ago when they were first brought out. But they, as you can see here, have come down in size considerably.

And so, it really is true that the procedure is a relatively minor one. An incision is made under local numbing medication. And this, the computer, really, battery driven and quite accurate, long- lived and very reliable, is a monitor of the heartbeat. It has one other part. The lead system here, which serves as the antenna of the system.

So this computer monitors every beat, while this lead, which is placed in a vein that leads to the heart, senses the heartbeat. And so this device really does act as...

BLITZER: And if there's anything irregular, it takes measures right away to deal with it.

PLATIA: Exactly. Exactly.

BLITZER: And presumably, this -- he should have had this probably a long time ago, shouldn't he?

PLATIA: Well, difficult to say. It may not be. Obviously, he's done well, so hasn't had need for it yet. But now, certainly, he has the protection if ever, God forbid, that rhythm disturbance does go awry.

BLITZER: When you put one of these in one of your patients, do you tell them about any possible complications that could develop? What precautions they have to take wearing this in their upper chest? PLATIA: Well, there are potential complications. But the procedure, as I said, is pretty minor nowadays. And so, while infection and the like are possibilities, they're really pretty rare complications. And as we've seen, the procedure is a straightforward one; takes less than an hour. And as we've seen, too, patients can go home later the same day.

BLITZER: They just have to make sure they don't talk on the cell phone on that side of the body if it's on the left side?

PLATIA: Well, that -- cell phone interactions really are a rare occurrence. And so the doctor's have held that out as a precaution. A few inches away is more than enough. Would you advise him, if he were your patient, to have the kind of high stress job that he has? Is that a factor in coronary heart disease?

PLATIA: It really hasn't been shown definitively that that accelerates coronary disease, so I don't see any problem with the stressful life that many of us are exposed to. Certainly, the protection of this device will hold him in good stead in the event of an arrhythmia surfacing.

BLITZER: OK. Dr. Edward Platia, I want to thank you so much for joining us.

And moving now from a medical procedure to a controversial medical piece of legislation. The U.S. Senate, Friday night, approved a so-called patients' bill of rights that allows patients, among other things, to sue their HMOs, or health maintenance organizations. President Bush opposes parts of that key provision, as do leading Republicans in the House of Representatives where similar legislation is up for consideration later this month.

Joining us now from Dallas to talk about what could be ahead is U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

Congressman Armey, good to have you back on LATE EDITION. Thanks for joining us.

REP. DICK ARMEY (R), TEXAS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's begin right now with the patients bill of rights. That's going to be coming up in the House in the next few weeks. It's likely to have a huge debate, obviously. What are the prospects that what passed in the Senate, namely the McCain-Kennedy-Edwards legislation, is going to pass in the House of Representatives?

ARMEY: Well, Wolf, what we're trying to accomplish with this is a good, effective, reassuring and, if necessary, corrective medical review for the patients and for the security and the confidence of the patients. What we're trying to avoid is a spate of litigation that drives up health costs and increases the number of uninsured.

The Senate bill has failed on both of those accounts. It, in my estimation, does not give the patient and the patient's family the review that they need and really have to have, nor do they -- they risk enormous increase in the number of uninsured in America.

So we believe, we in the House will get the better piece of legislation. And at that point, I would invite Senator Daschle, in his commitment to get this job done -- because it is important. We've been trying to do it in the House since '92. We should get it done. He should compromise and recognize that he can work with the House and get to the president a bill the president can sign.

BLITZER: The bill in the House that's similar to the version that passed the Senate is the so-called Norwood-Dingell bill that you opposed. The question is, since that legislation had passed in earlier sessions of the House, do you believe you can stop Norwood-Dingell as it's currently written?

ARMEY: Yes, I think we can. You can't stop something necessarily, but you can put out a better bill.

The president has indicated he will veto that. The speaker of the House, who has been working on this problem since '92, and is really, quite frankly, the moral and intellectual leader on this subject in Washington, in my estimation, has worked with our three committees of jurisdiction. We've produced a bill that will in fact give the patients and their family the review and the corrections they need. And if you have what I would call "malevolent noncompliance" with that review process, there's an opportunity to go to the courts. But the review process must come first.

Secondly, you don't just unleash the lawyers in the system and drive up the medical costs, increasing the number of uninsured with what I'm calling the speaker's bill. I think the speaker's bill will win in the House, and that'll give Tom Daschle an opportunity to come to the table, and participate in this compromise that he so clearly says he'd like to see us accomplish.

BLITZER: You probably heard what the Democratic leader in the House, Richard Gephardt, said on Thursday, in outlining his strategy in dealing with this patients' bill of rights legislation. Listen to what Gephardt said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: What we're trying to do is to pass a bill here that is as much like the Senate-passed bill as we can, so that we can avoid a conference. We believe that the Republican leadership wants to do with this bill what I think they will try to do with patients' bill of rights, and that is, if you can't beat it, then put it into an endless conference and kill it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is that your strategy?

ARMEY: No, that's not our strategy. And let me remind you, the first person to head a task force on this subject, the person with the greatest commitment, the greatest understanding to this, is the speaker of the House. He was there before any of the Democrats discovered this issue.

We are committed to getting this job done, but we don't want to do it incorrectly and increase the number of uninsured while we deny the patients and their families the review, just out of deference to the lawyers' right to sue. That is the place we do not want to go.

We think we can do it right, we think we can help millions of patients across the country and their families have a piece of mind and a satisfaction that Daddy's getting the right treatment. And that's where, in fact, we are spending our heart on this matter.

I think we can get it done. Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle, in my estimation, want it as a political issue. They do not want to see us complete it. And it's that reason why Tom Daschle defiantly said, "I'm sending you this bill, Mr. President, that you have said you would veto, just so I can have the issue."

We've got to get beyond the politics and get to the patient and the patient's family.

BLITZER: Well, you make the point -- and you probably appreciate it, a lot of Democrats privately, behind the scenes, suggest that they're almost salivating at the notion that the president would veto the patients bill of rights or that you would block it up in some sort of conference committee. They think this would be a great issue to run on in 2002 next year and try to regain majority in the House of Representatives.

ARMEY: And there's the difference, isn't it? I've not heard any Republicans say, let's keep this as an issue for our politics. Every Republican that I know who have spoken on this subject is talking about how important it is to respond to the concerns of the patients and their families, to get that review out there, keep the medical professionals in the decision-making, keep it out of the courts, don't drive the costs up, get this thing resolved, so that people can feel more confident in their coverage and more pleased with their treatments and more satisfied with a longer life. That's our commitment.

We're not interested in the politics of next year. We're interested in the health care of the future of this country.

BLITZER: After you deal with the patients bill of rights, or around the same time, maybe even, you have to deal with campaign finance reform. Just as Senator McCain in the Senate teamed up with Kennedy and Edwards to get the patients' bill of rights through, he teamed up with Russ Feingold and other Democrats to get campaign finance reform through.

There is support in the House, as you well know, including from some Republicans, Chris Shays of Connecticut.

I want you to listen to what he says now about the prospects of getting this campaign finance reform legislation through the House of Representatives. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: We passed this bill in 1998, and I was very worried but hopeful. We passed it again in 1999, and I was very worried but hopeful. And we're dealing with it now in the year 2001, and I'd have to say I'm worried but hopeful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What about you? Do you think you can kill that Shays- Meehan legislation in the House of Representatives?

ARMEY: Again, we don't want to kill their work.

First of all, I have a great appreciation for Chris Shays. I know he has worked very hard on this. He's very committed to it.

But we think we can put together a better bill, a bill that really takes on his principal concern, which is these horrible issue ads funded by soft money. We're going to impose real restrictions on that, but we're not going to intrude against the First Amendment rights of people in the campaign session. And we're not going to have a bill that inadvertently, as his bill does and as McCain's bill does, enfranchise the press to govern the discourse of politics in America.

So, yes, I think Chris is correct trying to be hopeful for this, push forward on that. I think, again, the House, through our work in our committee, will produce a better bill that gets to those concerns and restricts the use of soft money, stops these awful ads that most of us are so tired of. And then, also allows the American people to have their voice heard in politics over the voice of the press, rather than to have us subservient to the press's mandates of political discourse.

BLITZER: Congressman Armey, the president's top economic adviser, Larry Lindsey, dropped a sort of mini-bombshell on Friday in saying that they now expect the budget surplus for this year to be about $56 billion short of previous estimates. He blames the worsening economy, reduction of revenues, taxes, in effect, coming in to the government.

I want you to listen to what Tom Daschle said earlier today about what Larry Lindsey's statement suggests, at least to Tom Daschle. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: That's the most disconcerting thing. To hear now Mr. Lindsey admit that we may need to use Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds to reach our commitment, to make our commitment in the budget is a disastrous statement. The ramifications of that are every bit as serious and problematic as we said they would be a couple months ago. I hate to say I told you so, but we told you so.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: He's obviously blaming the president's tax cut proposals for this budget surplus, at least the reduction in the budget surplus.

ARMEY: Well, that doesn't surprise me that he blames that, but he draws the wrong conclusion.

Let me just be very clear on this. The House of Representatives are not going to go back to raiding Social Security and Medicare trust funds. Tom Daschle can go that way in the Senate, but it will not happen in the House.

Secondly, the clear and obvious step for us to do as we complete this budget spending cycle is to recognize the budget cycle had a generous 4 percent increase in spending, twice the rate of inflation.

And we believe that if we have to make that up difference, we must make it up on the spending side. And that means every one of us is going to have to be willing to make some trade-off decisions in this budget process, and that also means no raid on Social Security.

You can't take the tax cut back from the American people, so let's get busy and get serious about how we spend people's money and hold the line on spending. I hope Tom Daschle will be as energetic for holding the line against increased spending as he seems willing to take their tax cut away from them.

BLITZER: Dick Armey, the House majority leader, we are all out of time. I want thank you very much for joining us.

ARMEY: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: And have a nice Fourth of July.

ARMEY: You bet.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And just ahead, has passage of a patients' bill of rights emboldened the Democratic-controlled Senate on other issues? We'll ask California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining us now to talk about legislative battles in the U.S. Senate are two leading members. Here in Washington, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. And joining us from Montgomery, Alabama, Republican Senator Richard Shelby.

Senators, of course, it's always good to have you back on LATE EDITION. Thanks for joining us. SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: Thank you.

BLITZER: And, Senator Shelby, I want to pick up where we left off with the House majority leader, Mr. Armey. On this new budget projection, the surplus projection that Larry Lindsey, the White House economic adviser, saying could be about $56 billion short this year.

The director of the Democratic House Budget Committee, Thomas Kahn (ph), he said this in Saturday's "New York Times." I want to read to you what he said: "We have been saying since the get go, since last year, that a tax cut of the size President Bush was pushing would drive us back into deficit spending. There is a very high probability that the Bush tax cut is so large that it will force us to spend the Medicare surplus."

What do you say about that?

SHELBY: I don't believe that will happen. I heard the words of the majority leader of the House, Dick Armey, a minute ago. All of the figures are based on projections, based on the economy, how the economy does, as we well know. But at end of the day, the tax cut is over 10 years. A lot of people thought it was high, a lot of people thought it was not high enough. But we are not going into deficit spending.

BLITZER: Senator Feinstein, as you know, Larry Lindsey made the point that the tax cut is not the problem with this budget surplus. In fact, it's the weak economy that is generating less revenue for the government. As a result, he says the solution has nothing do with the tax -- that's going to be part of solution. The problem has nothing to do with tax cut; that's the solution. When people get more money, that will help improve the economy, in the form of tax rebates and lower tax rates.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Right. Well, let me make two points. The first time -- economic forecasters are predicting a downturn in California now. That's new. The energy crisis certainly plays a role in it. The hope is that the part of the tax cut that's meant to be a stimulus can move forward and offset some of the increased costs that people are having in California and that that will be helpful.

Secondly, I'd say this. What this does mean is that there will probably be no additional tax cuts.

And thirdly, what I think it means is that the appropriation process this year becomes a very serious one. We'll have on the floor this month, three appropriation bills. The defense bill will be the last bill on the floor. Defense is $33 billion more for '02 than '01. That's a huge increase in defense.

BLITZER: Well, let me pick up with Senator Shelby on that point.

FEINSTEIN: So that will obviously be an issue.

BLITZER: On that point, Senator Shelby, if defense is going up by some $30 billion and the surplus projections are going down by some $56 billion, how is the government going to be able to do all of this -- increase defense spending, get ready for national missile defense, which is going to cost, obviously, several billions of dollars, at least in the preliminary stages. Where is the money going to come from if the surplus is going down?

SHELBY: Well, Wolf, you ask a very good question, a central question to the appropriations process. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I can tell you that, at the end of the day, we're going to have to make some tough decisions. And I don't believe they're going to be more and more spending. They're going to be offsets. If we're going to increase spending in defense in certain areas, we better be looking for cuts in some. And we can go through the whole appropriations process that way.

I believe, led by Senator Byrd and Senator Stevens, our chairman of the Appropriations Committee, the former chairman, that we're going to do in the next several months, what we have to do to keep us on target as far as fiscal responsibility.

FEINSTEIN: Well, let me just respond, because I'm also a member of the Appropriations Committee and I'm also on the Defense Appropriations Committee and chairman of Military Construction. And I have a lot of concern about that budget. There is no question but there's some necessary increases.

I have real questions about deploying a missile defense before it has been tested. And I have real questions as to at what point do we violate the ABM Treaty. I am one that does not want to violate the ABM Treaty. I will not vote for a budget that violates the ABM Treaty.

And I think, the caps are there. And it's defense that's going to push people to break the caps. And frankly, we're going to see who will and who won't.

BLITZER: Well, on that point -- and I want to move on, Senator Shelby, and talk about some other issues. But on the specific point, is it your understanding that the Bush administration is going to deploy a missile defense system before it has been tested and proven that it can at least work?

SHELBY: I hope not. And I don't believe it would happen, and I don't believe that the Congress would support it. We will support a proven, necessary ballistic missile defense.

But, you know, we have to make, ultimately, the money decisions on the Appropriations Committee. We have had a lot of hearings on it. I'm for ballistic missile defense, but I want it to be tested. I had want it to be proven, and we want to know it is really going to work.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on, because I want to get to some other issues that are going to be coming up in the next few weeks.

President Bush, Senator Shelby, has to make a major decision on what's called stem cell research, and he's torn. The Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, Orrin Hatch, your colleague from Utah, say, yes, go ahead with the stem cell research. It potentially could help in dealing with Parkinson's and diabetes and other diseases.

But some in the White House -- Karl Rove is concerned that the conservative base, the anti-abortion elements, some Catholics might be opposed to this stem cell research.

What do you say about this debate? What advice do you have for President Bush?

SHELBY: I would say to this president what I am saying to myself as I weigh this issue. I think we've got to look at all aspects of stem cell research to see what it really does, what's the promise, and what's the downside.

But there is a lot of promise, I have been told. There is some political downside. But are we going to go forward or are we going backward? We are not sure, yet. But I don't think the president has made an ultimate decision. A lot of us in Congress have not made that decision yet.

BLITZER: What about you? I know that you probably support stem cell research, Senator Feinstein.

FEINSTEIN: Look, I'm a doctor's daughter and my husband who died was a physician. I believe this is a major breakthrough. I think all the cells that are used are frozen cells as a product of clinic work. And when you think of what they can do when they differentiate in terms of diabetes and Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis and a whole host of diseases, and really extend human life, Wolf, stem cell research has to be the wave of the future. We've got to do it. We've got to see that it's done that's morally positive, and I believe it can be done that way.

BLITZER: OK, Senators, we have a lot more to talk about, but we're going to take a quick commercial break.

When we return, we'll also be taking your phone calls for Senators Dianne Feinstein and Richard Shelby. Late Edition will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION, we're continuing our conversation with California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby. Richard Shelby is also the chairman of -- he used to be the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, but he's now the ranking Republican on that committee.

Senator Shelby, this whole issue of Osama bin Laden, the threat that has apparently prompted the U.S. military in the Middle East to go on the highest state of alert, to remove ships from ports in the Persian Gulf, in the Mediterranean, how serious of a threat is this?

SHELBY: Well, I think it's a very serious terrorist threat, Wolf, not only with Osama bin Laden's group but others. There are a lot of groups that have been cloned. A lot of them have just been indigenous all over the world.

But the Persian Gulf area that I was in several weeks ago is very volatile, very dangerous, and I think the heightened alert is just common sense, considering what happened at Aden with the USS Cole. But I believe, in a sense, as I said the other day, I believe we have had Osama bin Laden on the run himself. But we haven't caught him yet. But there are many, many other groups, it's serious, serious business.

BLITZER: And I know, Senator Feinstein, you're a member of the Intelligence Committee as well.

FEINSTEIN: Right.

BLITZER: Why, if the U.S. has Osama bin Laden as so-called terrorist number one, the most wanted person on the U.S. list, why is it so hard to find Osama bin Laden?

FEINSTEIN: Well, that's a good question, I think. One of the things that has begun to concern me very much as to whether we really have our house in order, intelligence staff have told me that there is a major probability of a terrorist incident within the next three months. So Senator Shelby is right. This is a very serious concern.

The vice president, when he spoke to the Democratic caucus, mentioned that the administration was going to be working on the issue of homeland defense, around this particular issue.

Our counterterrorism efforts are spread over 41 to 45 departments. I believe very strongly, and, if I had a chance with Senator Shelby present, Senator Gramm, Senator Kyl, in the Intelligence Committee, to be able to put forward an outline of what I think we should do.

And I think we need to strengthen the administration in the coordination of counterterrorism effort. Give a director of an office budget authority. The amount of money spent on terrorism is about $13 billion a year -- counterterrorism. And yet we don't really know what it's going for.

So we're going to take a good look at it, an internal audit, in that direction and try and find out. And then I think, in conjunction with the administration, we need to recoordinate our effort in the counterterrorism area.

BLITZER: Well, let me just pick up on that, then we'll move on.

Senator Shelby, do you have strong confidence in the U.S. intelligence community, that they're on top of all of these potential threats, that the U.S. is not going to necessarily be blindsided in the next few weeks?

SHELBY: Well, that's a big, tall order you just spoke of. I believe they're are on top of things dealing with terrorism, but that doesn't mean they won't be blindsided somewhere in the U.S. or overseas, because look what happened to the USS Cole, look what's happened in the past here.

But we're doing a lot better job. And I want to commend Senator Feinstein for the leadership she was just talking about to try to bring a lot of agencies together to where we'll know what we're doing, what amount of money we're spending and where we're going on terrorism.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on. I want to bring in Senator Feinstein. You're also a member of the Judiciary Committee.

FEINSTEIN: That's right.

BLITZER: ... if I'm not -- well, I'm right.

FEINSTEIN: You're right.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Senator Schumer, who's a member, he was on "Meet the Press" earlier today, expressing his opinion that there should be a litmus test for judicial nominees, for Supreme Court nominees after all. Listen to what Senator Schumer had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The president has said he is going to make ideology part of why he chooses judges. Now, if it's good for the president to choose a judge of a certain philosophy, strict constructionism, very strict like Scalia or Thomas, why shouldn't it be appropriate for the Senate to ask questions about what that strict constructionism means and how it goes?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you agree with Senator Schumer on that?

FEINSTEIN: Yes, I do on that point. And this -- we do this. It was just really the verbalizing...

BLITZER: Will you ask Supreme Court nominees whether they support abortion rights or not?

FEINSTEIN: No, wait a second. When somebody, a president, presents a nominee who is from a very conservative background, you can pretty much figure what their views are going to be. They're going to be anti-choice, they're going to be very pro-death penalty, they're going to be certain other things.

Now, the Republicans have always said they want strict constructionists; they do not want judicial activists. In a way, that's a good point. However, the American people are really mainstream. So to be able to gather judges who represent the majority of the views of the American people, I think is important...

BLITZER: All right.

FEINSTEIN: ... and judges that are going to follow the law.

BLITZER: Senator Shelby, what about that Schumer-Feinstein argument now that there should be these kinds of litmus tests for judicial nominees?

SHELBY: I don't know about litmus tests for judicial nominees. I believe that any nominee for a judicial post -- let's talk about the Supreme Court -- ought to have unimpeachable integrity. They should be qualified for the job because of education and training. And they should, you know, be -- I'd call it mainstream. What I call mainstream might not be what Dianne calls mainstream.

But if they have these basic qualifications and I believe they're going to be fair, I'm going to support them whatever party, whatever president nominated. I have done it in the past.

But I believe that every judicial nominee is -- there's going to be an inquiry. He or she is going to be rigorously examined, and they should be. But at the end of the day, let's vote on them, and let's try to keep in mind, will they be a good judge for the Supreme Court of the United States?

FEINSTEIN: May I say one other thing? I've been on the committee for nine years, and I've watched how the blue slip functions. And I think we ought to get rid of the blue slip.

You have a situation whereby a member from a home state can essentially blackball a nominee, and the nominee never knows what hit them. They never know why. The member may never have met the nominee. There is no ability to have a hearing to explore it. The nomination just stops dead. One year, two years, three years, four years go by. It is a bad process in a public democracy, and I strongly believe we ought to get rid of it.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, we are all out of time. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Richard Shelby, I want to thank both of you for joining us on Late Edition. Thank you very much.

And when we return, party politics. How will campaign finance reform and other hot button issues impact the fight for control of the House and Senate next year? We'll ask Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe and Republican Party Chairman Governor Jim Gilmore.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm really proud to be here at what used to be called the House-Senate dinner. And I'm glad to have something to do with the name change.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: President Bush headlining a Republican fund-raiser this past week that raised more than $20 million. The event had been known as the Senate-House Ball, but this year the name was changed to the Black Tie and Boots Ball, inspired by the president's Texas roots.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Joining us now to talk about fund- raising, campaign finance reform and much more are the chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties. Here in Washington, Republican National Committee Chairman and Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, and in Detroit Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe.

Gentlemen, always good to have you on our program. Thanks for joining us.

Governor Gilmore, let me begin with you. The most recent major national polls, as far as President Bush's job approval ratings, we will put them up on the screen. "The Wall Street Journal" poll has the president at 50 percent; Reuters-Zogby at 51 percent; "The New York Times" poll at 53 percent. All relatively low numbers. And "The Wall Street Journal" number -- "The Wall Street Journal" says, "This is the lowest in five years," as far as presidential job approval is concerned.

Why is the president apparently in a little bit of trouble here?

GOV. JIM GILMORE (R), VIRGINIA: Well, I don't think so, Wolf. And the Gallup Poll which was not up there, is 55 percent.

BLITZER: But that was earlier.

GILMORE: But still within this same time frame for the last several weeks. If you look at the polling historically in way things are going, this is pretty much in line. Mid-50's, somewhere in that range, is pretty much in line. And I think things are going to go up and down.

But the truth is, Wolf, the president doesn't govern on polls. He goes on doing exactly what he thinks is right, and I think is doing a terrific job. He's off to a great start.

BLITZER: In one of the major races, Terry McAuliffe, that just happened, an open House seat to fill Norm Sisisky's seat in Virginia, the Republican Randy Forbes defeated the Democrat. That was a closely watched seat because Sisisky, as you know, passed away, was a Democrat and held that seat for many years. What does that say to you about Democratic prospects for trying to recapture the House next year?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: Let me say this, Wolf. George Bush is in real trouble. He's turned our government over to the special interests instead of looking out for family interests. We have gone eight for eight this year in mayor's races around the country.

We are going to have two big elections this year -- governor of Virginia. Mark Warner will be the governor there. And in New Jersey, Jimmy McGreevey, a Democrat, will win in New Jersey. So the future of our Democratic Party has never been brighter all because we are there fighting on the issues.

I think Bush is in real trouble. His poll numbers are down because he is not for anything that working families are for. He's not for patients' bill of rights, a minimum wage increase, a prescription drug benefit. All he wants to do is to put more oil wells in the ground. And, you know, he's not out there fighting for the things that people want.

BLITZER: But why couldn't you hold on to a Democratic seat in the House of Representatives?

MCAULIFFE: Listen, Louise Lucas ran a great race down there. Dynamic woman, African-American woman, single mother of two. She used to work at a shipyard. She ran a great campaign. That race, people said she would lose 12 to 15 points. She only lost by 4 points. She's going to run again. I have talked to Louise. We are very excited about that. But she only loss by 4 points. It was a great race for us.

And Mark Warner, listen, we're going to win the governor's mansion in Virginia.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little bit about some of the races that are coming up, Governor Gilmore.

GILMORE: Sure, I'd love to.

BLITZER: If we take a look at the Senate races next year, for example, there are 34 seats that are going to be open -- 14 Democrats, but 20 Republican. Take a look at the governor's races next year -- 36 governor races open, 11 Democrat, 23 Republican, two independent.

A lot more Republican seats than Democrats seats. You have an uphill struggle to try to hold on to a lot of those seats, don't you?

GILMORE: But we have very strong Republican incumbents in many of those seats and very weak Democrats that we are going to be running against.

But you know what? What really shows up is the fact that we just had the Virginia 4 special election. It was a bellwether election. We won that seat. I'm going to tell you right now, that was a Democrat seat. It was designed and gerrymandered to be a Democratic seat. It was held for the last 10 years by a Democrat. And we really had to work to win that race, but we did.

And you know what? Louise Lucas fought against the president. She complained against the president's policies. And what was the result? Republican victory. Scare tactics like Terry was using a few minutes ago didn't work in the Virginia special election, and they're not going to work next year either, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, let me give Terry McAuliffe a chance to respond to that. Go ahead.

MCAULIFFE: Well, Jim talks about how they worked very hard. You bet they did. They put a lot of special interest money down there in Virginia.

I love how Jim now says this a bellwether race. He and I were quoted in the Wall Street Journal several weeks ago talking about the big gubernatorial races coming up. And Jim says, oh, of course, these are not bellwether races. They're not bellwether races when in they're in trouble.

These are the races that, as you know, eight years ago, the Republican won the governorship in New Jersey and in Virginia. Won big races in New York mayor's races, as well as Los Angeles.

We've already won the L.A. Jim Hahn, a Democrat is back in office in Los Angeles. We're going to put a Democrat in the mayor's office in New York. And we're going to win the two big governorships.

BLITZER: All right.

MCAULIFFE: The Republican Party is in real trouble today because they've walked away from working families. It's plain and simple.

BLITZER: Governor Gilmore, you took an unusual step -- a lot of political writers were reporting this in the last few days -- organizing a conference call on Friday with political reporters to try to make the point that the president is not in trouble as far as these job approval numbers are concerned, when, in fact, as several pundits have pointed out, even during the worst days of impeachment and Monica Lewinsky, President Clinton's numbers never went as low as 50 percent to the job approval rating.

GILMORE: But at a comparable time, all the presidents have been, at the beginning of their campaign, roughly in this kind of situation. Not only is the Republican Party not in trouble -- because, by the way, the same polling is showing we're now at 59 percent in the Hispanic community. And that is exactly what we want to do, broaden our party, reach into the Hispanic community to a whole group that are the natural constituents of the Republican Party.

Not only are we not in trouble, the Democratic Party is in a lot of trouble. They don't report their fund-raising. I don't know how their fund-raising's doing. But they put a lot of special interest money down at the Virginia 4th District.

BLITZER: All right. Well, let's ask the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. How much trouble are you in? And why aren't you reporting your fund-raising, Terry McAuliffe?

MCAULIFFE: I don't know. Jim must be from outer space or something. The DNC reports every six months. They've done it through the entire history of the Democratic Party. Our numbers will be out in the next two weeks. That's how we've always done it.

But the party, we're doing great. We are strong, and the reason we're strong is that we're out there fighting for the issues.

Let's just take the patients' bill of rights, big piece of legislation coming up. You have a majority of the doctors, you have a majority of the nurses, you have a majority of the American public and you have a majority of the House and the Senate that are for this, all on one side. On the other side, you have George Bush, the HMOs, the insurance companies and Jim Gilmore.

What does George Bush do? Either he sticks his finger in the eye of 84 percent of the Americans who want a patients' bill of rights, or to 100 percent of Americans he looks weak and has to capitulate and sign a piece of legislation that he doesn't want. He's in a tough political situation. He's not going to be able to get out of it.

Once again, he's in the pocket of a big special interest, the same people that went to that Republican fund-raiser the other night, $20 million. We had a concert, $100 tickets. You know, we only raised $2 million, but we don't need as much money as the Republicans because we're right on the issues.

GILMORE: I might point out, Wolf, that at $100 a ticket, to raise $2 million, you've got to have 20,000 people. So I'll bet you there were a lot of fat cats over their supporting the Democrats on their event. And Bill Clinton was still their leader. He's still there pumping for money out there just the same way that it's always been.

But we're going to talk for one minute about the patients' bill of rights.

BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt you for a second.

GILMORE: Sure.

BLITZER: We'll talk about it in a second. We're going to take a quick commercial break. We'll talk about the patients' bill of rights, talk about Bill Clinton. We'll talk about a lot more politics.

When we return, more with the Republican Party chairman, Governor Jim Gilmore, and Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You know, Governor Gilmore, a lot of people believe that because this legislation that passed the Senate, the McCain- Kennedy-Edwards legislation, is now commonly called the "patients bill of rights," that the Republicans who are opposing that already lost, because, no matter what the president does, if he signs the patients bill of rights, it seems like a Democratic work, if he vetoes it, he could be in trouble because it could undermine a lot of Republicans.

So has he lost already simply by everyone calling it the "patients bill of rights"? Who, after all, could be opposed to a patients bill of rights?

GILMORE: Well, of course not, and the Republicans aren't so, and the president aren't opposed to a patients bill of rights. We're for a patients bill of rights. We supported the Frist-Breaux-Jeffords tripartisan bill as a matter of fact. In fact, Jim Jeffords even abandoned the Democrats on this issue and voted against the Democratic version.

But let me tell you why, because we're concerned that they're going to put together a plan that's going to throw a lot of people off of insurance. We're concerned that poor people aren't going to have insurance. We're concerned that 11 million Hispanic people in this country without health insurance are going to end up in a real trouble here, as that number continues to grow.

But I'm going to tell you another thing. I didn't get my chance to talk to my friend Terry here -- that the real challenge that we're facing right now is the obstructionism of the Democrats in the United States Senate. They got charge of Senate, and the first thing they're doing is obstructing education. They want to appoint a conference committee. Obstructing on energy, won't bring the bill up.

BLITZER: All right.

GILMORE: Obstructing on the military, they won't bring the bill up. I mean, that's our concern.

BLITZER: Let's bring Terry McAuliffe back in.

Mr. McAuliffe, in the speech that you delivered this morning in Detroit before Democratic Party leaders, at least the text that was faxed to us, the advance text that you presumably read from, you say this about Governor Gilmore, and I want to give you a chance to explain what you mean. You said, "Under Governor Gilmore's leadership, Virginia Republicans are at war with each other. If Governor Gilmore does for the RNC what he's done for his state party, then this job's going to be even more fun than I thought."

What are you suggesting here?

GILMORE: Yes, what are you suggesting?

MCAULIFFE: Well, I'm just saying, if you watched the Virginia Republican primary, it was one of the meanest, nastiest fights between two members of the Republican Party. Their party has come out of their primary in absolute shreds. Mark Warner's going to be the governor there.

And the problem is, you know -- and I feel bad for Jim Gilmore. He is the first governor in Virginia's modern history that hasn't been able to pass a budget. He's got a Republican state House, a Republican state Senate, a Republican governor, he can't get a budget.

And you know what's happening? Teachers are not getting the raises they deserve in Virginia. Professors on college campuses are leaving because of the pay freezes out there today.

That's the problem with the Republicans.

And on the patients' bill of rights, there were nine Republicans that voted for us. BLITZER: All right.

MCAULIFFE: This is a big piece of legislation, and it's only here today because Tom Daschle is now the leader in the Senate.

BLITZER: I'll let Governor Gilmore respond.

GILMORE: Everything he says is nonsense about Virginia, but that's hardly the point here.

The point is, this kind of attack kind of approach that Terry McAuliffe is bringing to the Democratic Party, attack, attack, attack. He's put on ads and spent millions of dollars of special interest money on ads to attack the president. We've got an ad right here to the Hispanic community that is an absolute lie, that says that we're opposed to Hispanic people voting.

I mean, that's not the kind of tone that we want in Washington. And the president is trying to raise the tone in Washington, and I think he's doing a pretty good job. But this kind of stuff isn't going to work.

BLITZER: Let me let Terry McAuliffe respond.

GILMORE: It didn't work in the special election, and it won't work this time.

BLITZER: Are you familiar with this ad focused toward Hispanics?

MCAULIFFE: Yes, I mean, what a joke, you love these Republicans. For eight years, they like to throw it out there, they do ads, they do personal destruction. And now they've got a guy that will punch back every once in a while and a Democratic Party that's on fire, ready to fight, and they all start whining, how could we talk like this?

Listen, George Bush came to Washington saying he was going to change the tone. He hasn't changed the tone at all. He's moved to the ultra-right wing, not where this country is, not where America's working families want to be. He has not consulted with the Democratic leadership on his fiscally irresponsible tax cut. He has not talked to the Democrats about his budget, which now you hear $56 billion deficits coming up, but what's going to get cut? Medicare. It was fiscally irresponsible, it benefits the wealthy.

What we are learning today is that George Bush and his administration just aren't for us. They are not for working families. They are for special interests. The American public has said enough is enough, and it's not only George Bush, the Republicans in Congress are in trouble. That same poll you looked at, they'd rather have a Democrat because they're out fighting for working families.

BLITZER: You have 10 seconds, Governor Gilmore.

GILMORE: Just scare tactics and nonsense like that didn't work in the special election in Virginia. A Democratic seat flipped over to the Republicans because we ran on a great platform. We're running on the president's platform of tax cuts and education. It's good to know that the Democrats are against the tax cut, because that's what's good for working men and women in this country.

BLITZER: All right.

MCAULIFFE: It's been great for the budget so far.

BLITZER: Governor Gilmore, Terry McAuliffe, unfortunately we're all out of time. I want to thank both of you for joining us.

MCAULIFFE: Good to see you again, Governor Gilmore.

BLITZER: We'll continue this discussion the next time.

GILMORE: Great.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. Have a nice 4th of July.

We have to take a quick break. For our international viewers, World News is next.

For our North American audience, stay with us for the second hour of Late Edition. We'll check the hour's top stories, then talk with three guests about President Bush's dip in approval ratings and Bill Clinton's return to Washington. Plus, our Late Edition roundtable and Bruce Morton's Last Word. It's all ahead in the next hour of Late Edition.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome to the second hour of Late Edition, the last word in Sunday talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: It's about time an administration came up and told the truth to the American people and laid out a common-sense agenda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But how is that agenda playing with the American public? We'll ask former Reagan chief of staff Ken Duberstein, former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta and political analyst Norm Ornstein about Mr. Bush's declining poll numbers and Bill Clinton's return to Washington.

Plus our Late Edition roundtable: Jake Tapper, Susan Page and David Brooks. And Bruce Morton has the last word on the role of sex, lies and videotape in the judicial nominating process.

Welcome back. We'll get to our discussion about President Bush's standing with the public in just a moment, but, first, let's go to Brian Nelson in Atlanta for a check of the hour's top stories.

(NEWS BREAK) BLITZER: Despite early legislative victories on tax cuts and education, recent polls have shown a drop in President Bush's job approval ratings.

Joining us now with some perspective on the president's troubles and what he needs to do to rebound are three guests. John Podesta, he served as the chief of staff to President Clinton. Ken Duberstein, he was chief of staff under President Reagan. And Norm Ornstein, he is a political analyst here in Washington. He's a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Gentlemen, always great to have you on our program. And I want to get to President Clinton's return to Washington, but I want to begin with the vice president.

The fact is that he did have this heart procedure yesterday. Afterwards, President Bush spoke about what the vice president, Dick Cheney, needs to do in the coming weeks. Listen to what President Bush had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I know Dick Cheney well. And if I were to say you've got to slow down, Mr. Vice President, he's going to say, forget it, because he's got a job to do. And he's a valuable member of my administration. He and his doctors made the right decision. And I'm told that he's going to be back to work Monday morning, and I look forward to seeing him in the Oval Office Monday morning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Ken Duberstein, is that wise to rush back Monday morning? Because the impression a lot of people are getting is that he's doing this for more political reasons, that his doctors probably would have preferred he spend a few days at home.

KEN DUBERSTEIN, FORMER REAGAN CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I think Dick Cheney is a very prudent guy. He is not going to risk his health. If his doctors and he agree that he can come back to work on Monday, fine, all the better.

You know, I was with the vice president and Mrs. Cheney last week. And he was eating sushi, which is not one of my favorite meals. And I said, "Dick, how come sushi?" He said, "I'm eating healthy, and, Duberstein, it's about time you started eating healthy."

So he is on a very good regimen, not only with diet but also with exercising. And I think if he's comfortable coming back on Monday, all the better, because Dick is so central to everything that the Bush administration is doing.

BLITZER: And obviously, John Podesta, it goes without saying that all of us wish that Vice President Cheney a speedy recovery, that he gets healthy very, very quickly.

But you're a former White House chief of staff. Looking at how the current White House is dealing with the Cheney health problems -- going back to November, three or four appearances at hospitals -- how are they handling this kind of a situation, which is a very delicate situation?

JOHN PODESTA. FRM. CLINTON CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I think they've done OK with it. I think they've put out information to the public. There's been some criticism in the press. It seems to me that the doctors are out there explaining his health situation, and that's appropriate.

But, you know, I think, as Ken said, he is an integral part of their team. I wish him well. I expect that the doctors will give him the right kind of advice. You know, we shouldn't be practicing medicine on TV. They should tell him what he can and can't do, and I suspect he'll be back there on Monday.

BLITZER: You noticed, probably, that some of the medical reporters who cover Dick Cheney and his health problems, Norm Ornstein, have said that he hasn't released all of his medical information about his cholesterol and all of the specific details that they would like. Is that potentially a political problem for this White House, that they've held back in releasing everything that a medical reporter really wants to know to have an objective sense of how sick he may be?

NORM ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: You know, it's interesting. They've changed, in fact. And what we saw with this latest episode was they were immediately forthcoming, talked very directly about it.

So they're moving, I think, in a different direction than they were at beginning of the administration, or back during the campaign, where there was a natural tendency, I think, almost a visceral one, to withhold. We wouldn't even be talking about this 20 years ago, given the role of the vice president then.

This is a different vice president. He is playing such an integral role. Although, I have to say, Wolf, I also spent three days around Cheney at a conference last week, and I have never seen him more vigorous, actually looking healthier.

But this is going to be maintenance. All along the way, there's just no question we are going to have incidents, there are going to be times when they're going to have to maintain things. And it's a different world that we live in.

BLITZER: When you were the White House chief of staff and when you worked in the Reagan White House, there were medical issues that obviously came up during that period. Is it your advice to this White House to come clean, let it all out, let everything about Dick Cheney's health problems be available to reporters, or to resist?

DUBERSTEIN: I think they are getting the right message and putting out the right information. And as John said, let's not play doctors on this program. If the doctors are saying that he is fine, he is doing everything normally, he is following a good diet, following good exercise, the long-term prognosis is very favorable, I think that's where we should let it go. But certainly the White House is putting out all the relevant data now.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little bit about President Bush right now. As we did earlier in the program, we pointed out that some of the recent poll numbers show his job approval ratings around 50 percent, 51, 53 percent. "The New York Times" poll, the Zogby poll, has him at 51 percent, 50 percent. And "The Wall Street Journal" poll, a low, a five-year low.

Although, early on, John Podesta, as you will remember, in '93, the first year of the Clinton administration -- let's put it up on the screen. There was a New York Times poll in June of '93. President Clinton's job approval rating at similar point in his administration was only 39 percent. So as worrying as these numbers may be for Bush, they were a lot more concerned for Clinton at that point.

PODESTA: Well, I think that, you know, that is a snapshot that's done early in administration. But I think the interesting thing about the Bush numbers is that he has had some success on his program, in terms of putting forward what he wants to do, and the American people really are not buying it. He is standing right now saying that he is going to veto a patients' bill of rights, which is very popular. It just passed the Senate with bipartisan support. He's put out an energy and environmental policy which I think has been rejected by the American public.

So, without really having to cross many hurdles, take on many tough fights, he is still coming down in the polls. And I think that has got to be something that they are concerned about. They are going to have to rework and try to figure out.

BLITZER: But as you well remember, that first year of the Clinton administration, when he was at 39 percent job approval, he came back from that. But that was a moment he took major corrective action, as you remember.

PODESTA: That's right. And we came back by, you know, he had managed to pass the budget that put us on the path of fiscal discipline. And I think was large part of what led to the longest expansion in history. He passed NAFTA. His numbers came back up. And then the failure of health care, I think, in '94 led to the Republican takeover of the Congress.

BLITZER: Norm Ornstein, as you look at President Bush's problems, right now, assuming he has some problems -- although some people are suggesting this is not a major source of concern -- should he be concerned right now as he looks at his job approval numbers at six months into his administration?

ORNSTEIN: Well, it's certainly no time for panic by any stretch. And if you're over 50 percent, you're still doing all right. Remember, we've got a completely evenly divided country politically. It's in a sustained way we haven't seen this at least in 50 years, and maybe not ever, where the two parties are at parity. What the president has not been able to do is extend his approval much beyond his base. He has done tremendously well with his base. They are enthusiastically behind him, far more than they ever were for this father. Now, the tasks becomes moving considerably beyond that base to capturing that middle ground.

And he's now at an interesting crossroads, because we've got these issues ahead -- patients' rights, embryonic stem cell research -- where there's going to be a temptation to keep solidifying that base. It will move him further away from the middle or to make bold move towards the middle. So this is really an important time for him.

BLITZER: And campaign finance reform coming up, too. Ken Duberstein, a very tough editorial in today's Washington Post. Let me read a little excerpt from it this morning.

It says this: "Through arrogance and ineptitude, the Bush people have lost control of the Senate and the agenda. Their enduring bipartisan spankings on oil drillings in Florida and the Great Lakes, from here to 2004, will be one slow slide. That's especially so if the economy continues to weaken, which itself may have more to say about Mr. Bush's success and popularity than any policy question."

DUBERSTEIN: That's very simple. He is in 51, 52. Other polls have him at 55, 56. You're right, Bill Clinton was at 39, and look how he came back. The answer is, he has to stay on message. He has had twin victories on his signature issues, on tax cuts, and he's about to have one on education. He says he wants to sign a patients bill of rights. About 90 percent of the Senate bill is to his liking. We're in the moment of sausage-making right now.

Let's see how the House goes, and in conference, and I wouldn't be surprised if we will find a bill that George W. Bush can fundamentally sign, and there'll be a big Rose Garden ceremony.

But I think what you're seeing is George W. Bush trying to build a governing coalition. Yes, you begin, in the honeymoon moments, in your own party and building his base, but now he's trying to start moving out. There is a minor recalibration. We are talking about Medicare reform, Social Security reform, hopefully, on stem cell research, as Norm pointed out. I think the president should do the right thing, and go forward with federal research, because, in fact, it perhaps will find a cure for Alzheimer's for our beloved Ronald Reagan, but also for diabetes and Parkinson's.

So even if that means him saying no to some important constituency, it gets back to him being a compassionate conservative.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to pick up that point, but we have to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll continue our discussion with John Podesta, Ken Duberstein and Norm Ornstein. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: When we come back, more with John Podesta, Ken Duberstein and Norm Ornstein. We'll talk about former President Clinton's return to Washington, and they'll also be taking your phone calls. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta, former Reagan White House chief of staff Ken Duberstein and political analyst Norm Ornstein.

Let's take a caller from Arkansas. Please go ahead with your question. Arkansas?

CALLER: Recent polls show clearly that a majority of Americans favor Democratic proposals on most issues, patients bill of rights, prescription drugs for seniors, the environment, energy, economy and campaign finance reform. Is President Bush and the Republicans more interested in driving their conservative agenda, or will they be responsive to what a majority of Americans feel on the most important issues of the day?

BLITZER: Ken Duberstein?

DUBERSTEIN: I think you're going to see George W. Bush reach out and try to build an enduring governing coalition. And I think you're going to see on patients bill of rights, on prescription drug benefits, something that passes the Congress in a responsible fashion that George W. Bush will be given credit for as far as working out a governing solution.

BLITZER: On that patients bill of rights, the president spoke out about it on Wednesday at a White House meeting. And I want you to listen to this, John Podesta. And the president, once again, made his threat that he will veto this Kennedy-McCain-Edwards legislation. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: There are some other alternatives that are working their way -- being debated on the House and the Senate that will run up the cost of health insurance for American workers and could conceivable cost millions of people their health insurance. I can't accept that kind of legislation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do Democrats secretly want him to veto that legislation so they'll have an issue to run on in the elections next year?

PODESTA: No, I don't think so. They've been working on it for five years. I think one of the things we haven't really talked about in the polls is that, for the first six months, I think George Bush has been projecting an image of standing up for the special interests on energy for the oil companies and the mining companies, on patients bill of rights for the HMOs and the insurance companies. And I think that's what's gotten him in trouble. And I think if he doesn't correct on this, I think he will be in trouble.

But Democrats want a good bill. They've been working on it since, really since President Clinton put it forward in 1997. We've now got a good bipartisan bill with nine moderate Republicans voting for it in the Senate. Sixty-four Republicans voted for even a stronger bill in the House in the last Congress. And I hope that we'll see the product of this being the president either signing a bill or doing what he did in Texas, which is letting it go into effect without a signature.

BLITZER: Norm, at the expense of getting too inside politics, and I know you love politics, as all of us do, there are some who say that's true as far as Democrats in the Senate are concerned. Tom Daschle wants to show a great victory.

ORNSTEIN: Yes.

BLITZER: But Democrats in the House of Representatives, do they want an issue to run on so they can try to regain the majority next year in the House? Or do they want this patients bill of rights signed into law?

ORNSTEIN: There's no question. They were six votes down. They can taste a majority. They want a majority. They don't have a responsibility for governing the way the Senate Democrats now do, so they like issues.

But they can't block legislation from moving forward, if it is moving forward. We're seeing the impact of a Democratic Senate now because all these issues the caller talked about -- and he's right, certainly, in terms of where the public is.

Democrats are pushing an agenda now because they've got that piece of the agenda. They moved patients' bill of rights way before the president wanted to. Framed it the way they wanted to. The Senate Republicans couldn't block it. They wanted to use their ability to filibuster. They couldn't, because it would have blocked the other parts of the president's agenda. And we're going to see this on the environment, where they've got a lot of Republicans who are nervous about looking anti-environmental. So they've got the president a little bit back on his heels.

But I think there's a fundamental point that Ken made that's absolutely right. George W. Bush was the kind of governor and, I think, will be the kind of president, that will threaten veto. I would be stunned if he didn't eventually sign a patients bill of rights and declare victory, sign a prescription drug benefit that isn't his and declare victory, sign campaign finance reform and say we're helping to clean up the special interests, and try and turn these issues around. And the president usually is able to do that...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: To some hardcore Democrats, that may be nightmare.

(LAUGHTER) BLITZER: Let me just move on, Ken Duberstein, and talk about energy, which is an issue that, of course, seems to have gotten the Bush administration into some trouble, in part because of some of the mixed messages that we've seen unfold over these past several weeks.

Listen to what Dick Cheney said on April 30 in Toronto -- very famous remarks -- and what President Bush said only this past Thursday, to get the contrast in the message they're trying to send out there. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To speak exclusively as conservation is to duck the tough issues. Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis, all by itself, for sound, comprehensive energy policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Thank you. Thank you very much. OK. Conserve your energy.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: That's the message I'm sending to Congress today in a comprehensive energy strategy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You understand why some people may be confused by what the strategy is?

(LAUGHTER)

DUBERSTEIN: The answer is that it doesn't take just conservation, nor does it take just increasing the supply. It takes both. You need two wings in order to fly.

I think George W. Bush has in fact done a bit of recalibration. He is very much on target.

You know, John says that he is out of tune with the American people. I think, at 50 or 55 percent, he's doing very well with the American people, on tax cuts and education. And, in fact, when you come to whether it's patients' bill of rights, he is going to wind up signing one, he is going to wind up with the sausage-making at a bill that he can approve of.

BLITZER: All right.

DUBERSTEIN: You're going to see an awful lot of that in the months ahead.

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about your former boss, Bill Clinton, coming back to Washington this past week. He spoke at a Democratic fund-raiser. Listen to what the ex-president had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For eight years I tried to bring this country together and move it forward with policies that would bring people together.

I think it's obvious to everyone that there are deep, honest, honestly held differences between the two parties now. Obvious with a level of clarity that perhaps wasn't there just a few months ago.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: And, so, all I can say...

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: ... all I can say is that we tried it our way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What about the ex-president's agenda right now? What is he up to?

PODESTA: Well, I think he's been doing a lot of different things. He's been in Africa trying to work on moving forward on the HIV crisis...

BLITZER: But getting back into the political arena, attending fund-raisers. Are we going to see lot more of Bill Clinton in a political...

PODESTA: I don't think you'll see him out there and directly doing politics. I think he wants to work on the things that motivated his presidency and will motivate his post-presidency, trying to deal with issues of racial reconciliation, trying to deal with issues -- as I mentioned, he's been deeply involved in trying to get the world moving in the right direction on the HIV crisis. He's working on India earthquake relief, and I think he's going to spend some of his time working on trying to bring people into public service.

And, you know, he still is a draw amongst Democrats, in terms of fund-raising, and I think you'll see him do a little bit of that. But I don't think you'll see him actively involved in politics.

BLITZER: How active should he be for the good of the Democratic party, Norm Ornstein?

ORNSTEIN: This is a tough one. We've never had in our lifetimes an ex-president this young and this vigorous, much less a Bill Clinton, who's a unique figure. And he's going to be very active.

The Democrats, you know -- remember Al Gore has not filled this vacuum at all. He has stayed studiously out of everything, including these issues of energy and the environment, which are right at the heart of what he's always been interested in.

So Democrats need somebody larger than life to help fill that vacuum in fund-raising and in other ways and almost to bring them together. Tom Daschle is the number-one Democrat in the country right now, but I suspect we'll be seeing more of Bill Clinton. There's no way he can stay out of the public fray, that's just not in his fiber of being. And at some point it may cause some problems for those other Democrats trying to get a national voice.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. Norm Ornstein, John Podesta, Ken Duberstein, always great to have you on our program. Thanks for joining us. Enjoy the Fourth of July.

Just ahead, will Vice President Dick Cheney's health problems mean a new running mate for President Bush in 2004? We'll go 'round the table on that and much more with Jake Tapper, Susan Page and David Brooks. Late Edition will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable. Joining me: Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today"; sitting in for Steve Roberts, Jake Tapper, Washington correspondent for salon.com and a regular on CNN's "TAKE FIVE"; and David Brooks, senior writer for "The Weekly Standard."

Jake, Dick Cheney, how did you think he handled this latest episode involving his heart from the political standpoint?

JAKE TAPPER, SALON.COM: Well, they dealt with it much better this time than they have in the past. In the past there had been a whole bunch obfuscations about what exactly was really going on. You might remember, in November, they even denied he had had a heart attack. And then in March, they said it was a precautionary.

BLITZER: It wasn't "they." The president, himself, was given bad information. President Bush...

TAPPER: I'm trying to change the tone, Wolf.

BLITZER: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: So, but, yes, you're right. President Bush and the White House, the official line was no heart attack had happened. He had had one. In March there was the stent that was put into his heart, and they acted as if that was -- they called it a "precautionary measure," which it is not. It is a very serious device. And this time they were a little bit more honest and up front about it. But there is still this whole feigning of machismo, this whole idea that it's an out-patient procedure, which it's not. This idea that he's going to report to work first thing Monday morning, which is ridiculous. So, I don't know, I still think it's kind of like a weird deal for them.

BLITZER: David, wouldn't the American public be a little bit more reassured if he did spend a few extra days resting and relaxing after a procedure like that?

DAVID BROOKS, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, well, the doctors were just bubbling with how great things were going. So, are we supposed to doubt them?

I think, you know, I think he has done fine. He's dealt with this since his first run for Congress in 1978. His heart has been failing longer than Egypt took to fall.

(LAUGHTER)

BROOKS: It's really been a long term problem he's had his whole political career. He survived it. He's thrived with this problem. He has a very high stress life for the past 20-odd years. So, I think, you know, this is just nothing really.

BLITZER: And as Dick Cheney always says, Susan, as stressful as whatever he is going through right now may be, it's by no means as stressful as the Gulf War was when he sent half a million U.S. troops into harm's way.

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Well, you know, it's no surprise that Cheney has a bum ticker. We have known that, as David says, for quite some time. And they have handled this in a very matter-of-fact way.

You know, I was interviewing Tom Daschle Friday afternoon about 2:30, and I said, "Well, before I talk to you about the patients' bill of rights, have you been briefed on the vice president's condition?" And he said, "What condition?" Things were sufficiently low-key that he didn't even know that this announcement had been made at 9:30 in the morning.

And I do think the country...

BLITZER: He obviously was not watching CNN...

(LAUGHTER)

PAGE: That's right. I think may have been on floor of the Senate on this legislative matter.

But, I think that, actually, the country, I don't sense any great alarm among people about his condition. Although, certainly the fact that he has been in the hospital three times since the election gets everyone's attention each time he goes in.

BLITZER: And, Jake, the vice president was asked about it at that little news conference he had in the White House briefing room Friday morning. 2004, should he, should he not be on the ticket? Is it premature to even start looking three years down the road whether Dick Cheney should be on a reelection ticket?

TAPPER: Not for us, of course. It's never premature for us to do that.

I did think it was interesting that Tom Ridge, the governor of Pennsylvania, was with Bush at Camp David this weekend. And, of course, he asked the White House about it and they guffawed. Of course, there was no correlation, whatsoever.

But, no, I don't think it is ridiculous at all. He is a very, very sick man. This device they just put into his heart, he can now not go through a metal detector without setting it off; he cannot hold a cell phone right here because it might affect it. I don't think it's ridiculous to assume, or at least to guess, that he might not be on ticket in 2004.

BLITZER: If it's not ridiculous to look ahead, David, who is going to be on the ticket in 2004?

BROOKS: Oh, you're making me do this. I even disapprove of the exercise.

BLITZER: You don't like the question, do you?

BROOKS: It is going to be Governor Ridge, obviously.

PAGE: I think it could be Governor Ridge. I think that he put Dick Cheney on the ticket last time because it served his needs. It addressed a concern people had that he didn't have the expertise to be president. That won't be his problem in 2004. I think we should look at women, black and Hispanic candidates for 2004. What about Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe?

BLITZER: What about Colin Powell?

PAGE: Or Colin Powell, exactly.

BROOKS: There is one change here in the last couple months. It was assumed that Dick Cheney was just running the government. And I think I have heard less of that in the last several weeks. And people who go to meetings with the president say he is running the country. People defer to the president. So, I think it's less of a crisis, or less of a psychological crisis, for the country than it would have been six weeks ago.

BLITZER: I think you are absolutely right on that. As far as the DNC is concerned, they're trying to make points now on this patients' bill of rights, which, as you know, passed relatively wide margin, the Senate Friday night. They're going after George W. Bush personally on this issue. Take a look at this DNC ad that's been running around the country lately.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NARRATOR: George W. Bush kept his word...

BUSH: I support a national patients bill of rights.

NARRATOR: ... to the special interests. Insurance companies, HMOs, big corporations -- they've contributed $51 million to Bush and the Republicans. And now Bush says he will veto a real patients' bill of rights that lets patients hold HMOs accountable when they make bad decisions or medical mistakes.

BUSH: I support a national patients bill of rights.

NARRATOR: President Bush, it's time you kept your promises -- to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Jake, do the Democrats really want him to sign this patients bill of rights into law?

TAPPER: Oh, no, of course not. This is a great campaign issue they think. That is a fairly disingenuous commercial, I'd have to say, Governor Bush -- President Bush.

But as governor, he did sign a bunch of serious patient protections into law. The one he did not sign was the one that allowed a patient to sue their HMO. That's always been a problem for him. That does not mean he doesn't support any patients bill of rights or any patient protections. But of course, when people talk about the real sticking point, it is the matter of suing.

BLITZER: We heard Dick Armey earlier today on this program say that the version -- the so-called Dingell-Norwood, or Norwood-Dingell, version, which is roughly equivalent to the Senate-passed version, he doesn't think that's going to pass. Do you?

BROOKS: Yes. I suspect something will come out of the House which caps the litigation, what the trial lawyers are going to get out of that. And that'll be enough for Bush to sign it at the end of the day.

But listen, the significance of this issue is that this is the first episode in the second act of the Bush presidency. The first act was taxes and education, a record of accomplishment. The second act is more dangerous for Bush because it could be him just being in favor of more responsible versions of what the Democrats propose, which is a defensive posture.

What he's got to do, as that ad signifies, is, one, pick a fight with some corporate interest anywhere and show that, you know, he can grow and he is not the person people think he is vis-a-vis corporations and American business.

BLITZER: Is he going to do that?

PAGE: I don't know. I do think it's one of his big vulnerabilities. On energy, on the environment, on patients' bill of rights, the sense that he stands with big corporate interests, not with people.

You know, the first act of the second -- what'd you say, second scene? Whatever.

BROOKS: First episode, second act, whatever.

PAGE: Also, first act for Democrats having won the Senate, the first concrete thing that's happened that reflects the fact that Jim Jeffords switched parties and tipped control. Ironically, though, Jim Jeffords did not vote for this, although it's because he switched parties that it was able to be debated and passed.

BLITZER: And there's no doubt that Tom Daschle wants to see a legislative victory. He wants to see this patients' bill of rights signed into law. Maybe there's some other Democrats who don't, but I think Tom Daschle really does because it would be a source of pride, something he could point too politically.

PAGE: Yes.

BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about with our roundtable. Late Edition will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our roundtable.

David, I know a lot of people probably over the years have confused have you with the David Brock -- David Brooks, David Brock, but they're two different writers. David Brock, of course, wrote a book after the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas episode, in which he was totally attacking Anita Hill, all of her statements. He now has come clean, I guess, in effect, in this Talk magazine article, which is part of a new book that he's been writing.

He writes this: "I continued to malign Anita Hill and her liberal supporters as liars. I trashed the professional reputations of two journalists for reporting something I knew was correct. I coerced an unsteady source. I knowingly published a lie, and I falsified the record." Can we believe him when he says that?

BROOKS: No, of course not. He did everything but give back his million-dollar advance.

(LAUGHTER)

BROOKS: Listen, he was a muckraker on the right, now he's a muckraker on the left. A muckraker, the definition of that, and what separates that from what we do, is that he never takes any opposing argument into account. And there is some virtue of that in American journalism, but he's merely shifted sides.

To me, the most piquant thing about this whole episode is the main lie he says he told was whether Clarence Thomas had pornography. And suddenly you've got all these Clinton-defenders, who excused Bill Clinton for all of the whole series of sexual piccadilloes, all of a sudden upset again because some guy may or may not have had pornography.

To me, in the post-Clinton era, one of things that's illustrated by this, is how the standards, the harassment standards, have all been washed away. And the things that we were offended about which Clarence Thomas may have done, forget it, that was small beer.

BLITZER: You know, David Brock has a history, too. On the Troopergate, he broke that story in the "American Spectator," about Bill Clinton and the troopers in Arkansas. Later he said that wasn't accurate either. So why should people believe what he's saying right now, when he says, yes, there was evidence that Clarence Thomas was engaged in pornography?

TAPPER: I mean, you have no way of knowing whether he was telling the truth then or now. But, I mean, I think the inclination is to take some of the things he is saying now seriously, at least my inclination, because...

BLITZER: Because you agree with some of the things he's saying.

TAPPER: Well, I agree with some of them. I mean, I think what happened to Clarence Thomas in a lot of ways was unfair, but, at the same time, you know, it's not -- David, it's not just the fact that he has pornography in his apartment, or supposedly allegedly had pornography. It's the idea that, the whole claim of him having sexually harassed women who were in positions subordinate to him at the EEOC and other places, was whether or not he made references to that pornography.

And so, it's not just whether or not he has porn or -- I could name the movies, but whatever, but I won't. But the question is whether -- it got to the credibility of the charges against him. So there is a serious thing here about whether or not Clarence Thomas was sexually harassing or saying inappropriate things to subordinates.

BLITZER: Susan, in the scheme of things, what is this article and this new book by David Brock going to mean, if anything?

PAGE: I don't think it means much, I don't think it's likely to change people's opinion about whether Clarence Thomas should have been confirmed or not. And it certainly doesn't change the fact that he was confirmed, that he's on the Supreme Court for life.

BLITZER: It's just going to be a lot of people looking and it and saying, I was right, I was wrong, whatever. But they're going to be reading it, I guess, in Talk magazine.

Let's talk a little bit about a much more serious subject that came up for the, apparently, the first time in a long time, if ever. A former head of state Slobodan Milosevic has now been extradited to The Hague to face a war crimes tribunal. In the scheme of things, this potentially is a big story. BROOKS: It's a big story -- to me, a little dangerous. Short- term, we all feel good that this guy's going to get his just deserts. In the long term, though, I wish the Serbian people themselves were punishing him. I wish they themselves were taking, you know, account of what happened and what their country did.

I mean, to me the problem is that we've got this pseudodemocratic institution in The Hague, which is imposing its will on those people, imposing its will on the American people in some decisions. And we don't know who elected them, where they come from. And I'm a little nervous that we're not letting people and institutions in countries take care of problems. We're shuffling it off on some bureaucrats.

BLITZER: What do you say about that?

TAPPER: Well, I agree with what David says. I also think that this is another excuse for the American people and for American politicians to make themselves feel good: "Oh, look, this is a just universe after all."

In actuality, Bob Dole was on the floor of the Senate in 1988, 1989, warning the country about Milosevic, warning about the genocide that was about to happen, about the hundreds of thousands of lives. No one listened to Bob Dole. And I think there has to be some responsibility and accountability in the U.S. Congress, in the Senate and the House, and among us as journalists for not heeding those warnings.

BLITZER: Well, what about the other point, though, that David makes, Susan, that -- today Slobodan Milosevic has been extradited to The Hague. You know, there are all sorts of people that say Henry Kissinger should be tried for war crimes because of Vietnam or whatever. Who's in charge of these war crimes tribunals?

PAGE: Well, this is a difficult question and not one easy to answer. Although, I don't think it's really fair to compare Henry Kissinger to Milosevic. But of course, there are people who believe that...

BLITZER: I wasn't. But I'm just saying that there are groups out there who say Henry Kissinger is a war criminal. Some say Ariel Sharon, the prime minister of Israel, is a war criminal too.

PAGE: You know, it obviously would have been better if the world, including people in the United States, had reacted earlier to avoid some of the atrocities that are now -- he's going to face trial on.

But I do think there is something good about holding the leader, the head of state, accountable for the actions taken in his behest. And that's something that doesn't happen very often. I was trying to think of another example in modern times. And it's hard to come up with examples where heads of state are really called to account. It's as though, as a foreign editor of USA Today said, so Hitler lived and was taken to Nuremberg and tried. And I think that is a good thing. BLITZER: In fairness to the people of Yugoslavia, former Yugoslavia, of Serbia, they didn't put him on trial in Yugoslavia. But they did arrest him and they did extradite him to The Hague. Those are pretty dramatic steps.

BROOKS: Hey, they rejected the guy as much as you could reject a guy. The problem is, they now -- and some people in the country can say, well, it's the West who's causing -- they're the ones imposing their will and taking away our Serbian national pride. They are the ones saying you've got to hand this guy over or we won't give you $100 million or $1 billion. So they can impose it all -- this whole thing becomes not about Milosevic; it becomes about the West and about America imposing on Serbia.

BLITZER: And it does look like a payoff because Yugoslavia, the government in Belgrade is now going to get about $1 billion in loans from the World Bank, other international financial institutions and the United States.

TAPPER: It is a payoff, I mean, completely. There's no ifs, ands or buts about it. It is a payoff. But another thing that this does is this enables individual Serbs to avoid any sort of prosecution. Because if it all goes on Milosevic, if he dies for everyone's sins -- remember, everybody was involved in this war. This wasn't just Milosevic walking through the streets with a gun. I mean, he had the police, the secret service. There are a lot of people who are going to escape any sort of punishment in this because it's all going to be focused on Milosevic and a few of his top leaders.

BLITZER: Jake Tapper, thanks for filling in for Steve Roberts.

TAPPER: Of course. Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: David Brooks, not David Brock. David Brooks, Susan Page, thanks for joining us.

Up next, Bruce Morton's "Last Word."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Thomas confirmation hearings were bitter because they were so personal. The Senate also rejected, back in 1987, Robert Bork, a Reagan nominee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Has the process of confirming judicial nominees gotten too personal?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for Bruce Morton's Last Word on the sometimes harsh process of confirming lifetime judges.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MORTON (voice-over): Washington was reminded this past week of one of the ugliest confirmation fights in recent history, when the first President Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT GEORGE H. W. BUSH: And I believe he'll be a great justice...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON: And the confirmation hearings featured personal attacks on Thomas -- had he rented pornographic videos, for instance? And Thomas' own charge he was facing a political lynch mob.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS, U.S. SUPREME COURT: As far as I am concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON: Thomas won confirmation. Last week, a reminder of that fight came when "Talk" magazine ran excerpts from a confessional book by David Brock, in which Brock said he'd attacked Thomas' attackers without interviewing them, and, in reviewing another book about those hearings, had lied, written things he knew weren't true.

That all comes as the Democratic Senate is wrestling with the more general question of how to deal with the Republican president's nominations.

Usually the Senate confirms presidential nominees who will work for the president. Judges and Supreme Court justices are a different matter, because those are lifetime appointments. The judges may serve during the terms of half a dozen presidents. And so senators, especially those on the Judiciary Committee, take confirmations more seriously and feel entitled to weigh the nominee's ideology.

The Thomas confirmation hearings were bitter because they were so personal. The Senate also rejected, back in 1987, Robert Bork, a Reagan nominee. That was a tough fight, but it wasn't personal; it was ideological. Bork had opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act as unconstitutional, for instance, and a lot of black voters wrote their senators about that.

Similarly, in 1999 the Republican Senate rejected a Clinton nominee for a federal judgeship, Ronnie White, on grounds they thought that he wasn't sufficiently in favor of the death penalty. So ideology matters.

And sometimes, if one senator from the nominee's home state objects, the nomination never gets out of committee. That's not true any longer, though Democratic leader Daschle has said he expects senators from the nominee's home state to be consulted and that, if both of them oppose a nominee, that would be serious. For a time, Republicans were demanding a new rule to guarantee that the full Senate would vote on all nominees, whether or not the Judiciary Committee approved them. A formal rule seems unlikely now. Daschle has said he'll be fair and that he'd consider taking a defeated nomination to the floor.

For the record, the Senate confirmed 377 judges nominated by Bill Clinton during his two terms, 382 nominated by Ronald Reagan during his. The Senate didn't vote on 73 of Clinton's nominees, as against 27 of Reagan's.

The process is ideological and political and will stay that way. With luck, it won't be what the Thomas hearings were -- mean and personal on both sides.

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thanks, Bruce.

Now it's time for you to have the last word about a patients bill of rights.

John writes this: "The Kennedy-McCain bill is intended to assail the HMO system with so much litigation cost and award expense that it will fail and leave fully socialized `Hillarycare' arguably the only remaining option."

But Randy has a different view. He says this: "I don't know how the Republicans can sleep at night. Do they have no compassion at all?"

And Frank, a 17-year FBI agent from California, had this thought about agency after our discussion last week: "The FBI needs to get back to its core strengths, and Congress needs to stop dumping more jurisdiction on us. We just need real leadership."

As always, I invite your comments. You can e-mail me at lateedition@cnn.com, and don't forget to sign up for my weekly e-mail at cnn.com/email.

When we return, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And now a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines.

"Time" magazine features "America's best artists and entertainers, the first in a series that profiles Americans at the top of their game," with actress Julia Roberts on the cover.

"Newsweek" examines the stem cell wars, declaring, "Embryo research versus pro-life politics." It says, "There is hope for Alzheimer's, heart disease, Parkinson's and diabetes, but will Bush cut off the money," on the cover.

And "U.S. News and World Report" reports, "Defining moments: How photography changed our world."

That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, July 1. Please join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. And if you missed any of today's program, you can tune in tonight, 7 p.m. Eastern. for a one-hour replay of LATE EDITION.

I'll see you tomorrow night on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" at 8 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and have a safe and happy Fourth of July. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

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