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CNN PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

Profiles of Tony Blair, Donald Rumsfeld

Aired January 29, 2005 - 11:00   ET

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


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, I'm Betty Nguyen here at the CNN Center in Atlanta. "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" begins just 60 seconds from now, but first, here are the headlines right now.
As expected, insurgents in Iraq have stepped up their offensive ahead of tomorrow's elections. The deadliest attack has been in the northeastern city of Khanaqin. Two bombs exploded at a U.S./Iraqi military center. At least eight people were killed and seven wounded. Also today, insurgent attacked a police station in southern Baghdad. Two officers were wounded. And mortars were fired in the eastern part of the capital.

An ice storm has raked across much of the Southeast, snarling traffic both on the ground and in the air. A treacherous coating of ice has caused limited closures on every interstate in and around Atlanta. Meanwhile, at Hartsfield Jackson Airport, dozens of flights were canceled. So far, power outage has not caused a widespread problem.

More news in 30 minutes. "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" begins right now.

ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, as Iraqis go to the polls, a look at two key players in the war in Iraq. First, he's the outspoken and often controversial secretary of defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: A stand-out wrestler in his youth, he came to Washington with his eyes on pinning the old guard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK CARLUCCI, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: He has wanted to change the establishment. He has always been a change agent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Now, he's grappling with Iraq. After toppling Saddam Hussein's regime, winning the peace has proved more difficult. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEN POLLACK, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: Iraq is just not safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, then, Britain's premier politician and the United States' closest ally.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America has no truer friend than Great Britain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: He came from a middle class background and had early dreams of being a rock star.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was incredibly enthusiastic. He sat there and did this kind of Mick Jagger impression.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: He would become the youngest British prime minister in over a century, but his support for George W. Bush and the Iraq War has put his political future in danger.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't trust Tony Blair in the way in which he made the case for war in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: British Prime Minister Tony Blair, their stories now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Hi, welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, I'm Paula Zahn. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has never been one to back down from a fight. Throughout the war in Iraq, he has remained defiant. But with the ongoing violence in Iraq and an uncertain election just one day away, Mr. Rumsfeld is increasingly under the microscope. As Iraqis prepare to head to the polls, a look at one of the chief architects of the Iraq war. Here is Jamie McIntyre.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's been one of the most influential and controversial members of the Bush administration.

BUSH: You are a strong secretary of defense, and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude.

MCINTYRE: A Washington power player who went from Navy pilot to Congressman to two-time secretary of defense.

RUMSFELD: This has been the coalition's goal, an Iraq run by Iraqis and secured by Iraqi security forces.

MCINTYRE: Never shy of the spotlight, he took center stage during the war on Iraq. He took heat over the continuing struggles to secure the country, and he took the blame for one of the United States' most notorious failures in Iraq.

RUMSFELD: These events occurred on my watch. As secretary of defense, I am accountable for them and I take full responsibility.

MCINTYRE: He's weathered calls for his resignation and he's become a growing target of criticism not only from rival Democrats.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Don't listen to Rumsfeld. He doesn't know what in the hell he's talking about in this.

MCINTYRE: But from fellow Republicans...

MICHAEL O'HANLON, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: It's an open question as to how effective he can be at this point.

MCINTYRE: Now with Iraqi elections this weekend, he's a man whose legacy is on the line.

POLLACK: If Iraq turns out well, then Rumsfeld's legacy in Iraq may actually be pretty good. On the other hand, if Iraq goes badly, I think that Secretary Rumsfeld will probably be portrayed as one of the great culprits in this.

MCINTYRE: Donald Rumsfeld, the man with the distinction of being both the oldest and the youngest secretary of defense in U.S. history.

Throughout his life, Rumsfeld has been a competitor. As an honor student at Chicago's Nutriar High School, he played half back on the football team and dominated the wrestling mat.

CARLUCCI: He had come out of Nutriar High School. He was a very good wrestler.

MCINTYRE: Former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci was a teammate of Rumsfeld's at Princeton.

CARLUCCI: Princeton is not an easy university, and he did well at Princeton. He's a serious-minded person. He sets goals and strives toward those goals.

MCINTYRE: A political science major on academic scholarship, he picked up extra cash doing one-armed push-ups for money. Upon graduation in 1954, he served three years as a Navy pilot, and won the All-Navy wrestling title. During this time, he also married his high school sweetheart, Joyce Peerson. But it was his first job after the Navy, a two-year stint as a congressional aide that set the stage for his biggest competition yet. He built powerful connections, then moved home to Chicago to work as a stockbroker, and run for Congress.

GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was tremendously impressed. He was about 29 years of age, attractive, obviously, dedicated. So I was real pleased to see him be a candidate, and I was more pleased when he won the election.

MCINTYRE: In Congress, Rumsfeld maintained a conservative voting record, but made a name for himself with his no-nonsense style and his progressive instincts.

CARLUCCI: He wanted to change the establishment. He's always been a change agent. He wants to improve things, bring about a different status.

MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld joined the Young Turks, a feisty band of Republican congressmen rallying to replace their old guard minority leader; their choice, Michigan Republican Gerald Ford.

FORD: They came to me as a group, and Don was one of the leaders, urging me to be a candidate against Congressman Charlie Hallic (ph), and I won by the landslide margin of 73 to 67.

MCINTYRE: In 1969, midway through Rumsfeld's fourth term, President Nixon tapped the congressman to head the Office of Economic Opportunity, an expansive anti-poverty program.

The former congressman quickly reined in the agency, downsizing and asserting his newfound management style.

KEN ADELMAN, FORMER RUMSFELD AIDE: He holds people very accountable for what they do. You know you're doing a wonderful job with Rumsfeld not when he tells you you're doing a wonderful job, because that'll never happen. You know when you're doing a wonderful job with Rumsfeld when he gives you more things to do.

MCINTYRE: After two years, Rumsfeld left the bureau, taking an economic adviser post in Nixon's cabinet. He left behind a loyal staff impressed with his quick mind and according to one speechwriter, frustrated with his red pen.

ADELMAN: I had a quote from Percales right in the middle of the speech, and he went and he marked that up as well. And he says, "Let me see that." So I fling it over to him in a kind of angry way, and he takes that, and he scratches it, and he says, "That'll solve it." I said, "Solve it? What do you mean?" So I take that draft from him and I look at the introduction, and he says, "As Percales should have said."

MCINTYRE: When we come back, Rumsfeld's political star rises in the face of scandal.

JEFFREY KRAMES, AUTHOR, "THE RUMSFELD WAY": He has the rare distinction of being in the right place at the right time and avoiding the wrong place at the wrong time.

(END VIDEOTAPE) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: We now return to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): By 1971, Donald Rumsfeld was in Richard Nixon's inner circle. He was an economic adviser, a member of the cabinet, and yet he felt uneasy.

KRAMES: He had sort of bumped heads, if you will, with people in the Nixon administration, and he wanted to put some distance, I believe, between himself and the administration.

MCINTYRE: With discord on the job and a withering economy, Rumsfeld put in for a new position.

KRAMES: He actively sought that NATO ambassadorship, and fortunately, he has the -- you know, the rare distinction of being in the right place at the right time and avoiding the wrong place at the wrong time, because, of course, when the first hint of Watergate surfaced, he was, of course, in Brussels with his family, you know, serving as NATO ambassador.

RICHARD M. NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.

MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld was well removed from the scandal that toppled President Nixon.

Shortly before his swearing in, Nixon's successor, Gerald Ford, was asked who he wanted as chief of staff. He wrote down one name -- Rumsfeld.

FORD: I picked him because I knew Don was a great person on integrity, who was a well organized, highly disciplined person.

DAVID HUME KENNERLY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHER: What President Ford realized, he needed somebody to not only guard the gate but to be a personal adviser and someone who he trusted 100 percent and their relationship was and is excellent.

MCINTYRE: The chief of staff controlled access to the president. Many resented his power. Until 1975, George Bush Sr. was enjoying his own stellar career in the GOP. He blamed Rumsfeld, a potential rival, for his appointment to CIA chief then considered a political dead-end.

KENNERLY: I think there was a characterization of Rumsfeld as having performed some Machiavellian maneuver to put Bush over there, to get him out of the political way. And from everything I know, which is quite a bit, I don't think that's true.

MCINTYRE: At the same time, President Ford transferred Rumsfeld to a first term as secretary of defense. The 43-year-old secretary was hawkish. He pushed for updated weapons systems, but with only 14 months on the job, little changed at the Pentagon. JIMMY CATER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.

MCINTYRE: With President Ford's defeat in '76, Rumsfeld was out of a job.

That quickly changed when troubled drug company, GD Searle, took a chance.

KRAMES: Here you have $1 billion-plus company, and you hire on a man who has never, besides being a stockbroker many years earlier, who had zero experience in the business world. And he wasn't coming in, you know, sort of as a mid-manager; he was coming in as CEO.

MCINTYRE: In government, Rumsfeld developed a brazen management style, one he readily unleashed in the private sector. The new CEO slashed jobs and restructured the leadership. It was a painful process, but the company began to turn around. Rumsfeld was making a name as a manager.

KRAMES: In 1980, "Fortune" magazine named him as one of the 10 toughest bosses in America, saying he "will demolish anyone not in complete control of the facts." That was the quote.

MCINTYRE: He laid off nearly 60 percent of the corporate staff, sold off unprofitable business units, and sued the FDA to approve the Searle product, NutraSweet.

KRAMES: And then in 1985, helped sell the company to Monsanto, netting Rumsfeld his first personal fortune, if you will, of over $10 million.

MCINTYRE: All the while, Rumsfeld stayed involved in government. He traveled throughout the Middle East as a special envoy for President Reagan, even meeting Saddam Hussein in 1983.

RUMSFELD: One of the pieces of it was to go to Iraq. They were engaged in a conflict with Iran, and our interest was in having them be more of a balance in the -- with respect to the Middle East situation.

MCINTYRE: In the mid '80s, Rumsfeld briefly set his sights on the '88 presidential race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don, welcome.

MCINTYRE: Despite his government and corporate reputations, Don Rumsfeld was not a household name.

RUMSFELD: As someone who Jimmy the Greek has at 50-1 odds, you know, you really can't be picky anyway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.

MCINTYRE: He returned to the business world in 1990, taking the helm of electronics firm, General Instrument. He also participated in Bob Dole's '96 presidential run, but it would be an election four years later that would bring him back to the halls of power.

MCINTYRE: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues, the old hawk ruffles feathers as he returns to the Pentagon and faces calls for his resignation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): January 2001, George W. Bush becomes the 43rd president of the United States, his choice for defense secretary, his father's former rival.

FORD: President Bush knew of Don's background and his capabilities, and decided he wanted someone with Don's experience running the Pentagon.

MCINTYRE: For the second time in his life, Don Rumsfeld took the oath of office as defense chief, but this run would be a far cry from his previous Cold War term.

CARLUCCI: It's a much more complex job than it was then and the management has gotten no easier.

MCINTYRE: The management part of the job got particularly hard when President Bush asked Rumsfeld, a traditional hawk, to cut defense spending.

KENNERLY: Everybody was after him, from people on the Hill whose constituents were going to lose bases in their hometown to contractors who were not getting as much money as they thought they would get. But Rumsfeld didn't care. The president told him to cut back and he was going to cut back.

MCINTYRE: The cutbacks put him at odds with the uniformed military. Rumsfeld kept counsel with his own inner circle, and his popularity dwindled. Newspapers predicted an early departure for the secretary.

KRAMES: Even "The Washington Post" on September 7 was painting Rumsfeld as a dinosaur of the past, and even in that "Washington Post" piece naming successors for the secretary.

MCINTYRE: Four days after that "Washington Post" piece, on September 11, the Pentagon and the whole country were jolted into a new reality.

KENNERLY: You know the day that the plane ran into his building; he was right out the door helping pull people out of the burning rubble. That's who he is. I mean that's not an act.

MCINTYRE: After helping on the scene, the secretary returned to his office to prepare a military response. Don Rumsfeld, crisis manager, was in his element.

O'HANLON: Rumsfeld is a very good secretary of war. Maybe that's a different job from a peacetime secretary of defense.

MCINTYRE (on camera): I'm told that you point this out to people a lot when they're in your office.

RUMSFELD: I always liked it, and I think Theodore Roosevelt is an enormously interesting American figure, but it says there, "Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords," and indeed that's true.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): Rumsfeld's first fight for the right in the post 9/11 world was taking out the Taliban in Afghanistan.

O'HANLON: I think you have to say he got the invasion phase right. He got the manhunt for bin Laden wrong and he contributed to a mediocre stabilization effort after the Taliban was out of power. On balance, I'd say it's roughly a 50/50 record.

MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld would further challenge the military over its initial plan for invading Iraq.

RUMSFELD: It didn't reflect any of the lessons from Afghanistan, that it didn't reflect the current state of affairs in Iraq.

O'HANLON: To Rumsfeld's credit, he allowed himself to be talked out of this initial plan where he thought maybe 30,000 to 50,000 American troops would be enough to overthrow Saddam Hussein. He went much more in the direction of the Army, closer to 250,000.

MCINTYRE: Coalition forces overthrew Saddam Hussein's regime in less than three weeks.

POLLACK: Clearly, the United States knew what it was doing and had the forces available. By the same token, I think it's also become clear that we didn't have a very good plan for handling post-war Iraq. We did not have enough troops.

MCINTYRE: The job of planning for post-war Iraq also came under Rumsfeld's oversight.

O'HANLON: The mission to stabilize Iraq once Saddam was gone was naturally a State Department kind of mission. It required politics, economics, rebuilding, financing, foreign aid, and of course, military presence. It's just the kind of thing the secretary of state job was created to oversee, but Rumsfeld won the job.

MCINTYRE: But the job has not gone smoothly. Although Rumsfeld and the Bush administration point to successes in rebuilding Iraq, the country remains racked by violence. Suicide bombers and insurgents have made security a critical problem.

POLLACK: Iraq is just not safe. And that insecurity is a tremendous problem for Iraqis in all aspects of their life, their daily lives, their economic activities, everything that you can imagine all comes back to security, and it's their greatest complaint about the failures of the United States.

MCINTYRE: However, last April, security issues in Iraq were overshadowed by something even more disturbing -- photos and videos showing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: This is not the way for anyone who wears a uniform of the United States of America to conduct themselves.

MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld was called before Congress and as secretary of defense, took full responsibility.

RUMSFELD: So to those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the U.S. Armed Forces, I offer my deepest apology.

MCINTYRE: In the fallout of the Abu Ghraib scandal, calls mounted for Rumsfeld to step down.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: Mr. Rumsfeld has been engaged in a cover-up from the start on this issue and continues to be so.

MCINTYRE: However, President Bush gave his secretary of defense his full support.

BUSH: You are courageously leading our nation in the war against terror.

MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld kept a lower profile following Abu Ghraib, a noticeable change for one of the administration's most visible figures.

O'HANLON: He and his Bush Administration colleagues are good enough politicians to know that when someone has become a little radioactive, the best thing to do is to keep your distance.

MCINTYRE: However, in December, Rumsfeld again found himself at the center of controversy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now why do we soldiers have to dig through local land fields for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up armor our vehicles and why don't we have those resources readily available to us?

RUMSFELD: As you know, you go to war with the Army you have and not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.

MCINTYRE: Critics again blasted Rumsfeld with Republican Senator John McCain telling the Associated Press he has -- quote -- "no confidence" in the secretary of defense.

O'HANLON: That fire storm would not have happened if Rumsfeld had not already been widely criticized and held responsible for the poor planning of the post-Saddam effort in Iraq.

MCINTYRE: However, President Bush continues to stand by Rumsfeld. BUSH: And I asked him to stay on because I understand the nature of the job of the secretary of defense and I believe he's doing a really fine job.

O'HANLON: The election that put him into a second term was largely about the Rumsfeld legacy. Mr. Bush was reelected. So in a sense, Donald Rumsfeld was validated.

MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld remains a lightening rod for criticism; something he says comes with the job.

RUMSFELD: You know, if you do something, somebody's not going to like it. Therefore, you've got a choice. You can go do nothing, or you can go do something and live with the fact that somebody's not going to like it.

MCINTYRE: And Donald Rumsfeld will never be accused of doing nothing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Well, Secretary Rumsfeld has apparently been doing plenty over at the Pentagon. Just this week, newspaper accounts reveal that the Defense Department has set up a new clandestine spy unit. The previously undisclosed organization called the Strategic Support Branch reportedly came out of Mr. Rumsfeld's written order to end his -- quote -- "near total dependence on CIA for human intelligence."

ANNOUNCER: Up next, he's been leading Great Britain for almost a decade. But with the future of Iraq still in question, how much longer can he hang onto power?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every time he goes over to Washington and sees George Bush, his power ratings drop.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This prime minister is all talk.

CROWD: Yes!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Prime Minister Tony Blair under attack when PEOPLE IN THE NEWS returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Well, good morning, everyone. I'm Betty Nguyen here at the CNN Center in Atlanta. "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" continues in 60 seconds, but first, here's a check of the headlines now in the news.

Iraqis living abroad defiant defiantly raise purple fingers that shows they cast pre-election day ballots in their homeland's first independent election in half a century. Iraqis in 14 countries were eligible to vote. We will go live to a U.S. voting site in Nashville in about 35 minutes from now.

Snow, sleet and ice is the order of the day in the usually mild southeast United States. Massive power outages are feared as ice builds up on trees and power lines. Freezing rain shut down several interstates in the Atlanta area. Utility and road crews are preparing for the worst in the Carolinas.

We'll have more news in 30 minutes. "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" continues right now.

ZAHN: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been America's staunchest ally throughout the war in Iraq, but his aggressive stance has cost him at home, where the Iraqi conflict is unpopular with many, including some of Mr. Blair's own party. Here is Jonathan Mann.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tony Blair has called No. 10 Downing Street home for more than eight years. After two election victories, he's become the model for modern British politics, transforming his party, his country and the office of prime minister.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It is New Britain, one Britain; the people united by shared values and shared aid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tony Blair is a totally new kind of British politician. He is a media friendly politician. He's an effective base of intelligence.

MANN: Media savvy like Bill Clinton, driven by faith like George W. Bush; Blair has consistently formed close bonds with his American counterparts.

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN EUROPEAN POLITICAL EDITOR: Because he had a very strong belief that any new British leader should work closely with the president of the United States, whatever the political infraction.

MANN: But it's the prime minister's close relationship with Bush and his support for the war in Iraq that could cost him his government.

OAKLEY: He has been weakened by being seen as somebody who is too dependant on George Bush, too willing to do his bidding.

MANN: When it comes to defending his decision to go to war, Blair has remained unflinching.

BLAIR: Removing Saddam was not a war crime. It was an act of liberation for the Iraqi people.

PROFESSOR AMITAI ETZIONI, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: He supported the war in Iraq. He thought that democratizing the Middle East was and is an important mission. And whatever came, he was not swayed.

MANN: Unlike George W. Bush, Blair faces an upcoming election saddled by divisions within his own party.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: A lot of Labour members don't like him. They don't trust him. The left certainly has always mistrusted him.

MANN: While his political survival may be at stake, Blair the politician has proven nimble at deflecting opposition criticism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How does he explain that failure?

BLAIR: That is simply not the case.

MANN: It's a skill that's coming naturally to Blair. Despite his privileged education, Tony Blair has always been the face of the British middle class.

Tony Blair was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on May 6, 1953. His father, Leo, was an active communist until he joined the army in 1942. But when he became an officer, he turned to conservative politics.

Leo Blair began studying law at Edinburgh University. In 1954, he was offered a position teaching law in Australia. He took his wife, Hazel, their eldest son, Bill, and Tony to Adelaide.

Three years later, the Blairs moved to Durham, back in northern England. Leo Blair was doing well enough to send the boys to the Chorister School, where Tony excelled academically, skipping a grade.

BLAIR: We had a perfectly, good average middle class standard of living. I was very lucky in my background; very lucky indeed, that that's something I have cause to be fortunate for because not only did I have a strong family I got a decent education. That's one of the reasons why I think education is so important.

MANN: At the age of 40, Leo Blair, was nearing his dream of landing a conservative parliamentary seat but his political career came to a sudden end on July 4, 1964, when he had a stroke. Eleven- year-old Tony was devastated.

Leo Blair lost his ability to speak for three years. It was during this period that Tony was sent to Fettes College, an elite boarding school in Scotland. But he didn't like being away from home and rebelled against some of the traditions that were still being upheld in British schools.

JOHN RENTOUL, BIOGRAPHER: He got into trouble with the authorities at school a lot. That posture of being a sort of rebel drove him to the left in politics, I think.

MANN: Tony was not a straight A student, but he did well enough to be accepted as a law student at St. Johns College in Oxford. But Tony wasn't ready to go back to school. Instead, he decided to take a year off before starting school and move to London where he managed rock bands. This eventually landed him a gig as singer in a group called Ugly Rumors. Bandmate, Mark Ellen (ph), remembers Tony's audition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He sat there and did this kind of Mick Jagger impression actually sitting in an armchair, you know, sticking the old chin out, stabbing the finger in the air, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) into a microphone, which was plugged into a record player. And we thought if this guy can dance so well sitting done, he's going to be sensational standing up, so get him in, you know, this is our man.

MANN: Oxford was still recovering from the politically charged student revolts that had swept across Europe and U.S. when Blair arrived there in 1972. But as a student, Blair wasn't active in politics. Instead he chose a spiritual path.

RENTOUL: He met this renegade priest called Thompson, who sort of had these chats about putting the world to rights in his room late into the night and that sort of got the young Tony Blair going on sort of a crusade to change the world.

ETZIONI: In part, he's a very devote Christian. In some of his ideas you find Christian theology.

BLAIR: The basic motivation, the belief in social justice, the notion that a fair and more decent society helps the individual, to me that is a Christian as well as a socialist idea or ideal. But I don't -- I don't preach God at people and I don't like politicians that do. And it's something I -- you know, it's a part of me and it's important.

MANN: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues, Tony Blair finds his voice and gets some tips from another rock 'n' politico from across the pond.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Now back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANN (voice-over): Tony Blair had just graduated from Oxford in June of 1975, when his mother, Hazel, died of throat cancer at the age of 52. Later that summer, he joined the Labour Party, a party formed by trade unions to fight for workers' rights. Since its formation in 1900, the Labour Party has ruled Britain for less than 30 years. In the late 1970's, even though Labour was in power, it was losing its grip.

BLAIR: I joined the Labour Party at a time when there was huge cynicism even within the Labour Party about the Labour Party. But nonetheless, it always seemed to me that its basic principles were correct. It was on the side of those that didn't get the chances in life.

MANN: It was the same year that the conservative Tory Party elected a new leader. Her name was Margaret Thatcher and when she was elected prime minister in 1979, Labour was sent into a tailspin for years to come.

In the fall of 1975, Tony Blair started preparing for his bar exam. While applying for a scholarship to sponsor his long residency program, he found himself alphabetically seated next to another contender named Cherie Booth.

RENTOUL: I don't think she had much time for him to start off with because she thought he was too posh. And she didn't have a lot of time for, you know, white middle-class men who had been to elite universities. But he's got charm.

MANN: Cherie Booth's background was very different. Her father, Tony Booth, was one of the stars of the 1970's BBC series, "Till Death Us Do Part." He walked out on his family when Cherie was a child. Cherie and her father have since reconciled.

RENTOUL: She was abandoned as quite a young child, had a very tough early life but was brilliant at school and became one of the best law students in London. And so she was up against, you know, the chap with the silver spoon in his mouth, the chap with all of the privileges in life.

MANN: Tony and Cherie were married in Oxford on March 29 1980. Then, in 1983, at the age of 30, Tony became the youngest member of Labour in parliament.

PETER MANDELSON, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER: The party was in a state of civil war. We were tearing ourselves apart and heading for many successive electoral disasters. And into that situation, Tony Blair was elected to parliament and started his assent up the political, greasy poll.

MARGARET THATCHER, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We decided to set up an office for free elections...

MANN: Blair's climb up the greasy poll coincided with a conservative government that lasted 18 years. During this time, Blair held a variety of posts in the opposition or shadow government. In 1992, he was appointed shadow home secretary, the minister in charge of Britain's domestic affairs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I therefore declare that Tony Blair is elected...

MANN: In 1994, Tony Blair was elected the party's leader. But the victory was bittersweet.

OAKLEY: His opportunity came about because of the sad premature death of his predecessor as Labour leader, John Smith. Tony Blair has told friends that he got the job at least seven or eight years before he might have expected to in politics. And when John Smith died, there were really only two serious candidates to become leader of the Labour Party. One of them was Tony Blair, the other was Gordon Brown.

SCHNEIDER: So a deal was made between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, a famous meeting at night in a restaurant in a fashionable part of London. And supposedly this deal was brokered whereby it was agreed that Gordon Brown would let Tony Blair become the leader of the party. He would be the chancellor of the X checker. And ultimately, Gordon Brown would take over the party after Tony Blair. Well, Gordon Brown is still waiting.

MANN: Blair, now the voice of his party, was a mission to redefine it and take back power. He renamed the party New Labour and borrowed some ideas from a new friend.

SCHNEIDER: I can tell you that the Blair people, the British Labour people, looked very, very closely at what Bill Clinton did. And there was some philosophical imitation. The third way, that's what Bill Clinton and Tony Blair supposedly had in common. Neither left nor right, but a third way that borrows some things from the left and some things from the right. MANN: As he distanced himself from many of Labour's traditional socialist symbols, Tony Blair's third way left some party stalwarts reeling. Noted socialist Amital Etzioni helped inspire Blair's domestic policy.

ETZIONI: He ditched the socialist (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- the socialist image and he argued that we needed -- the Labour Party needed a whole new approach. And he centered it on three concepts -- community, responsibility and opportunity. It's a long way from the notion of socializing industries and making them into a state property.

BLAIR: One of the things that has always irritated me is this notion of modernizing. It means taking the Labour Party away from its traditional or working-class support. Rubbish. It's actually about reconnecting it with it. And the Labour Party came into being because it looked at British society and wanted to change it. And if it wants to change British society, it's got to have the courage and guts to change itself.

MANN: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS returns, Blair sets his sights on becoming prime minister and confronts critics from his own party.

BLAIR: I cannot bring myself to say that I misrepresented the evidence since I do not accept that I did. And what is more, it's worth...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLAIR: Yes, thank you.

MANN (voice-over): On the campaign trail in the spring of 1997, Blair was riding high on the wave of a new generation of young and trendy pop groups, fashion designers and restaurants. The press called it Cool Britannia and Blair's youthful image fit right in.

MANDELSON: We started from the experience of Clinton in '92.

MANN: In 1996, his campaign manager, Peter Mandelson, visited the U.S. to see what he could learn from the success of the Clinton campaign.

MANDELSON: It gave me a lot of confidence. It gave me a lot of insight. He tailored it to British circumstances and British needs. He talked to us about modern communications.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is beginning to sound as though there may be an election.

MANN: A sluggish economy and the repeated discovery of corruption among senior ministers left Tory prime minister, John Major, on shaky ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How very nice to see you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thanks for coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you happy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very happy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good, I thought so.

MANN: Blair took to the offensive.

BLAIR: Isn't it extraordinary that the prime minister of our country can't even urge his party to support his own position? Yes, weak, weak, weak!

MANN: Eighteen years of conservative rule in Britain ended with a whimper on May 1, 1997. Britons looking elsewhere for leadership voted overwhelming in favor of Tony Blair. At 43, he became the youngest prime minister since 1812.

BLAIR: A new dawn has broken, has it not?

MANN: But his platform of low taxes and privatization had many referring to New Labour as Tory like.

BENN: I mean the Conservative Party is dead because their policies have been adopted by Blair.

MANN: But Blair claimed that they were offering a third way.

MANDALSON: Blair washed all of that away and said, "No, we can be both in favor of, you know, civil liberties and being tough on crime. We can be in favor of social justice and an efficiently, competently run market economy. We can, in other words, replace the politics of all with the politics of and."

MANN: Family values was always something that Blair both practiced and preached.

BLAIR: Hit it now. Good goal.

If you don't make the time for your family, then I think your politics actually becomes much less effective.

Hello, monsters.

MANN: Tony and Cherie had three children when he became prime minister but moving into 10 Downing Street didn't seem to disrupt his personal life as much as one would expect. On May 20, 2000, Leo Blair was born, making Tony Blair the first British prime minister to have a child in office in more than 150 years.

MANN: The economic boom that occurred in the U.S. when Blair's friend, Bill Clinton, was in office was also being felt in the U.K. The two leaders collaborated on and influenced each other on many issues, most notably in Kosovo and Northern Ireland where after more than 100 years of bloodshed, a settlement was reached in April of 1998.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There has been a lot said about how different you are...

MANN: When George Bush became president in 2001, there seemed to be little common ground between the two leaders.

BUSH: Well, we both use Colgate toothpaste. I don't know if you found any common ground or not.

BLAIR: I think that's enough to be going on with.

MANN: But 9/11 and the Iraq War soon brought the two leaders closer.

OAKLEY: On the level of policy, they needed each other because there weren't many other people around who were prepared to support the war in Iraq. George Bush needed to say, "Look, it's not just me out there. Our friends, our traditional allies in Britain, they're backing us on this too even if the French and Germans aren't."

BLAIR: I wonder why.

MANN: Blair has taken a beating over his decision to invade Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This house is now suspended.

OAKLEY: People have been rather disillusioned with Tony Blair on the question of Iraq. After all, it was brought up bigger protests on the streets on Britain than anything we've ever seen in British history.

MANN: Throughout, he's remained a steadfast supporter of Bush. But some in Britain feel Blair hasn't received anything for his loyalty. SCHNEIDER: And that's what a lot of British commentators and politicians and voters say what have we gotten from this. We've gotten trouble in Iraq. We've gotten a huge expense. We have been isolated from Europe just as the United States has. What have we really gotten out of it?

MANN: Despite his recent unpopularity, it's not the opposition Tory Party that threatens Blair's premiership. The real danger comes from within his own party. The British press is reporting that Gordon Brown, Labour's long time No. 2 man, wants Tony Blair to step aside so that he can now lead as they had allegedly agreed in 1994.

OAKLEY: Gordon Brown wants to be prime minister, wants to lead the Labour Party, feels that the deal was he should have been doing it by now, resents the fact that Tony Blair is there still leading the party and being prime minister. But if Gordon Brown mounted some attack on Tony Blair, some friction against him, then he probably wouldn't profit by it.

MANN: In the meantime, Blair's not going anywhere. Surviving has become a familiar theme at No. 10 Downing Street.

SCHNEIDER: He keeps going to the brink and when his own survival is at stake, he always knows what buttons to push, how to play the press, how to spin the story so that he survives. It's been a politically amazing tightrope walk, his entire career.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Prime Minister Blair's political future will be decided during Britain's next general election, which is expected to take place in May. If he's reelected, Mr. Blair has said he would retire at the end of what would be his third term in office.

That's it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Coming up next week, Michael Jackson on trial.

I'm Paula Zahn, thanks so much for joining us, hope you'll be back again with us next week.

ANNOUNCER: And for more PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, please pick up a copy of "People" magazine.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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