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Gerald Ford Honored in Michigan; Democrats Take Over on Thursday; Giuliani's Presidential Gameplan Exposed
Aired January 2, 2007 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, guys.
And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.
Happening now -- Gerald Ford home again. The former president being honored in Michigan after a final official tribute in the nation's capital. We go live to the ceremony in Grand Rapids and capture the day's stirring words and powerful images.
Also this hour, Democrats on the brink of controlling the Congress. Will they try to sideline Republicans during their first hours in power? We'll have some new details on Thursday's takeover and our brand new poll numbers that set the bar for Americans' expectations.
Plus, Rudy Giuliani's top secret presidential game plan exposed. It outlines his fundraising goals and his political baggage. The former New York mayor's camp suggests dirty tricks are being played.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
On this national day of mourning for Gerald R. Ford, a final journey from the pinnacle of power here in Washington to the hometown where his personal and presidential powers were formed. The 38th president is being honored this afternoon at his presidential museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He will be buried there tomorrow, capping six days of ceremonies and tributes. A national funeral service was held for Gerald Ford at Washington's National Cathedral this morning. President Bush remembered his predecessor as a man whose name was a "synonym for integrity," his words.
Let's begin our coverage this hour in Grand Rapids. We'll go to CNN's Jeanne Meserve, she is standing by with what is happening right now. Jeanne?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the military cordon has now fallen into place. The military band is ready. They're awaiting the motorcade to arrive here at the Gerald R. Ford Museum.
Throngs of people are lining the motorcade route to show their respect and pride and love for this man who spent so many years here in Grand Rapids. This is the town where he was born -- not born, raised, I should say. He was an Eagle Scout here, he was a star of the high school football team and they elected him 13 times to go to Congress and they are mighty proud of him.
His -- the plane carrying his remains arrived at the Grand Rapids airport just a short time ago. There was a ceremony there, very much like the one at Andrews Air Force Base on Saturday that greeted the arrival of his remains there. On hand for the festivities or the ceremonies there, I should say, the University of Michigan band.
You will recall that Gerald Ford was a football player at the University of Michigan, a good one at that. He was offered a couple of professional football offers at the conclusion of his college years. He chose not to take advantage of those, but to go to Yale Law School instead, but they are mighty proud of this alumni so they were out playing today at the airport, playing the fight song for the University of Michigan as that casket is loaded into the hearse.
It will come here. There will be a brief ceremony here in the museum then the body will lay in repose. They are expecting a good turnout of the public. There has been a condolence book here at the museum and as of last night, about 50,000 people had signed it. A sign that not only did Gerald Ford love Grand Rapids, but Grand Rapids very definitely loved Gerald Ford.
Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And, indeed, everyone seems to of loved Gerald Ford, at least now especially with historic hindsight. We are going to get back to you, Jeanne, very, very soon especially when the motorcade arrives at the museum there carrying the casket of Gerald Ford.
Here in Washington earlier today, Gerald Ford's service to his country and Congress over at the White House clearly remembered by many of the most powerful and prominent people in America. The former president's body was taken from the U.S. Capitol to Washington's National Cathedral. President Bush escorted the President Ford's widow Betty to her place of honor at the funeral service.
With former Presidents Bush, Clinton and Carter looking on, the current commander in chief praised Gerald Ford's steady hand and strong character in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Amid all of the turmoil. Gerald Ford was a rock of stability. And when he put his hand on his family Bible to take the presidential oath of office, he brought grace to a moment of great doubt.
In a short time, the gentleman from Grand Rapids proved that behind the affability was firm resolve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The president's father also paid tribute to Gerald Ford along with former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and the former NBC News anchor, Tom Brokaw.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: Gerald Ford brought to the political arena no demons, most hidden agenda, no hit list or acts of vengeance. He knew who he was and he didn't require consultants or gurus to change him. Moreover, the country knew who he was and despite occasional differences, large and small, it never lost its affection for this man from Michigan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And let's go back to Grand Rapids, Michigan. That motorcade about to arrive at the Gerald Ford Museum. Jeanne Meserve is on the scene for us. I suspect, Jeanne, you can hear or at least see that motorcade arriving now?
MESERVE: Yes, I can see some of the cars coming down the street now. In fact, I see the hearse as we speak. This part of town, of course, closed off to traffic. But people, when they've been able, have gotten close to the roadways there. Many people deep, waiting to get a glimpse and pay respects to this native son.
You can see the military here standing at attention, getting themselves ready for the arrival here. I have to tell you when the hearse arrives, we are told we have to be quiet out of respect, so excuse me if I stop suddenly. Of course, traveling in this motorcade, Betty Ford, the children, and also President Carter and Mrs. Carter, who came in on the plane with them, inside the museum already. Other notables are going to be taking part in this relatively small ceremony.
Amongst them, three men who were on that 1930 championship high school football team with President Ford. They are the three survivors. I spoke with one of them today. He spoke glowingly of Gerald Ford and what a leader he was on the field. He had not only played football with him, but basketball, also done track with him. Said such an outstanding athlete, such an outstanding man. And thrilled to know him and to have kept in touch with him. That's the quite wonderful thing, that over the years, they did correspond, they saw each other at annual events, still felt very close to the man.
Other people participating today, Boy Scouts. President Ford the only Eagle Scout who ever made it to the Oval Office, the Boy Scouts incredibly proud of that and they are lining the motorcade route today. So are some military personnel, veterans, because, of course, Gerald Ford was a veteran of the Second World War, served in the navy.
And as we speak now, the motorcade is just pulling into position in the circle right in front of the Gerald R. Ford museum. And we expect things to unfold fairly rapidly from this point forward. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Jeanne, stand by.
Tom DeFrank is with the New York "Daily News" and spent quite a bit of time covering Gerald Ford when he was vice president and later when he was president and got to know him rather well. He is joining us as we watch these pictures. The motorcade now at the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids where this next leg of this national day of mourning will unfold.
Tom, you were in the National Cathedral earlier today and witnessed what was going on. Give us some thoughts, as you watch these current pictures from Grand Rapids, Michigan.
TOM DEFRANK, "DAILY NEWS": Wolf, I think President Ford would have really enjoyed the ceremony in the Washington National Cathedral although I think he would have been embarrassed about all the hoopla. But I can tell you from personal experience, that he would absolutely be loving his return to Grand Rapids right now. He loved Grand Rapids.
He was born in Omaha, but he always felt like Grand Rapids was home. As a matter of fact, when I saw him in May for our last interview and his last interview, we had lunch afterwards and it was a very nostalgic lunch. And at one point in the lunch he said to me - he was talking to me to me how he had trouble sleeping. He said to me -- a very poignant moment -- he said when I wake up and can't sleep, I always think about Grand Rapids. Well, now, I think it's only fitting that he will be in repose in Grand Rapids for perpetuity. It was a place that he really cared about very, very deeply and I think the outpouring here shows you just how much Grand Rapids thinks about him.
BLITZER: And as we take a look at these pictures and get ready for this next part of this national day of mourning, Tom, I'm looking at the list of the honorary pallbearers who have gathered in Grand Rapids to participate in this memorial service. Among them, Mary Sue Coleman, the president of the University of Michigan, Richard Ford, the brother of the late president. Jack Nicklaus, to professional golfer, he is there as well.
These are people who don't come from the Washington part of his life, but come from the 30 years that he's lived since he left office and, for the many years that he spent as a congressman and even earlier.
DEFRANK: Jack Nicklaus is interesting because most people would say, well, Nicklaus must have been one of Ford's golfing partners, which was true many times. But at one point, President Ford was a business partner of Jack Nicklaus. They had some commercial dealings together and they had a very good business, as well as a personal relationship.
And so I was not surprised when I saw Nicklaus' name on this list. Everybody knows about the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. I think his last big heartbreak came in October when he was too frail to travel to Ann Arbor for the dedication of the Gerald R. Ford of School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.
BLITZER: Another honorary pallbearer, Pepe Gramschamer (ph) from Vail, Colorado, a former member of the Austrian national ski team, he spent quite a lot of time with Betty Ford at their home in Beaver Creek not far from Vail. They loved to ski, they loved that part of Colorado and the Colorado aspect of his life being represented today here as well. We're looking at these live pictures of the former President Jimmy Carter, Rosalind Carter. They made the trip from Washington. They were at the National Cathedral earlier in the day and now at Grand Rapids. This relationship that emerged since they both left the White House, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, was an extraordinary bond between two former presidents.
DEFRANK: Well, they had their ups and downs, Wolf, I got to be honest about that, but they were close. There is no doubt about it.
Gerald Ford helped Jimmy Carter raise some money for his library at a time when Jimmy Carter's reputation was not what it is now. That forged a bond. They traveled together to Egypt for the funeral of Anwar Sadat in 1981 along with Richard Nixon. They got to be very friendly and every once in a while, Ford would feel like Carter maybe was meddling in foreign policy too much as a former president but that did not alter the fundamental relationship between the two of them.
And I'm not surprised that Jimmy Carter will be speaking tomorrow, as I understand it, at services in Grand Rapids.
BLITZER: He did not speak at the National Cathedral today, the former president, George Herbert Walker Bush spoke, the current president, the former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger. It was interesting to me, at least, that Jimmy Carter did not speak today in Washington, nor did former President Bill Clinton. I know the speakers, virtually every aspect of these elaborate funeral arrangements were coordinated with President Ford before he passed away.
DEFRANK: That's exactly right. He's been working on this plan for 25 years. So there's no doubt that whatever does or doesn't happen today and tomorrow and throughout this entire six-day funeral, everything that's being done or not being done is with the personal approval of President Ford.
BLITZER: The Michigan part of his life, because he was born outside of Michigan, in Omaha, right? But he lived in Michigan most of his life. In recent years, he spent a lot of time between Southern California near Palm Springs, also in Colorado and Beaver Creek. But his roots really were Michigan.
DEFRANK: Exactly right. I think I made a mistake the other night on your program, Wolf. I think I was talking about the 6th Congressional District. I think it was the 5th Congressional District of Michigan and that is where he always felt his roots were. I can remember one of the very first trips he took as vice president was back to Grand Rapids and I still have the credential and it has a big picture of him and it says, "Jerry, our favorite son, comes home." Today, he has come home for the last time.
BLITZER: The whole Michigan aspect of his life was so powerful because, also, it was at the University of Michigan where he became a star athlete. He was the center on the University of Michigan football team. And a lot of people don't realize that when he graduated, he was offered a contract with both, what, the Green Bay Packers, the Detroit Lions but, instead, decided to go to Yale to coach there and also study law at Yale Law School.
DEFRANK: That's right. I mean, people forget when they think that maybe he wasn't the smartest guy around. Yale Law School does not hand out degrees to lightweights and just ask Bill and Hillary Clinton who like President Ford are Yale Law School alums.
But he loved Michigan. There is no doubt about it. He loved playing football at the University of Michigan and as recently as 10 days ago, he was talking to friends and aides about watching yesterday's rose bowl between his beloved Wolverines and the University of Southern California Trojans.
BLITZER: What a game he would have been thrilled, no doubt, to watch that game. Michigan in the rose bowl. Let's also talk a little bit about Betty Ford. We're going to be seeing her momentarily. In fact we're seeing her live right now. There she is with her son, she is accompanied by a U.S. military officer, as she has been throughout all of this. Betty Ford and Gerald Ford, they met in Grand Rapids after World War II, after he served in the U.S. Navy. He came home and he met this beautiful woman.
DEFRANK: She was a divorcee, Betty Bloomer and he fell head over heels. He had a fling with a beautiful New York model for almost three years. That's well-known to his biographers. I'm not letting anything out of the bag there. But he came back to Grand Rapids because he wanted to come back and practice law in Grand Rapids so he and his New York model girlfriend broke up. Actually, she dumped him.
But came back to Grand Rapids and was fixed up with Betty Bloomer and tumbled head over heels into what has been a 58-year-old love affair that is a model for any couple to aspire to.
BLITZER: And it's been a fabulous marriage, a fabulous relationship ever since. A true love affair between Betty Ford and Jerry Ford. Tom, hold on a second. John King, our chief national correspondent, is joining us as well. John, you were there at the National Cathedral today. It was a very, very moving tribute to this man. It was a moving tribute indeed to the whole family.
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly was. To pick up where tom just left off talking about Betty Ford and the love between her and former President Ford. It was quite interesting and the most moving part for me was after the memorial service inside, she, obviously, is a bit frail. It was a very cold, bone-chilling day in Washington. She was escorted in going up the stairs but when she came out, when they were bringing the casket out into the hearse, Betty Ford coming outside and standing just off to the side essentially watching her husband loaded in, making sure he was comfortable for the final ride home to Grand Rapids.
I think perhaps of all the moments President Ford would have cherished today, that would be the one that he would cherish and want to look down on the most, if you will.
BLITZER: Let's listen briefly.
(MUSIC, "HAIL TO THE CHIEF")
(MUSIC, "AMAZING GRACE")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible)
BLITZER: The former first lady, Betty Ford, she is now in the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum where the next part of this national day mourning will begin shortly. The casket has been placed once again on a catafalque here at the museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We heard "Amazing Grace" played by a Grand Rapids Police Department bagpiper as the casket was brought inside from the hearse. Jeanne Meserve is on the scene for us. Jean, a very emotional moment for the people of Michigan.
MESERVE: Very definitely. This is a man who they held close to their heart and they are sad to see his passing. As I mentioned earlier, there has been a book of condolence at the museum since his death and as of last night, about 50,000 people had stopped by to sign it. Of course there are condolence books at other locations but that is just here in Michigan in this one town where Gerald R. Ford grew up.
There could be no more appropriate place to have the service too today than at this museum. It is, of course, all about the man, his life and accomplishments, his Eagle Scout badge is in there as other merit badges. His football helmet from the University of Michigan, mementos from the wedding day of Gerald and Betty Ford.
And of course, many things that hark back to his presidency. There is talk of his accomplishments in foreign policy and on the economy. There are also, of course, mementos of Watergate and the incidents that led him to the White House.
There are some of the Watergate tools that were used in the break-in and there also is a tape recorder, part of the system that was set up in the Oval Office that captured Richard Nixon on tape implicating himself in Watergate.
A lot in there and when this museum was designed, it was designed as a burial place for Gerald Ford, beyond the museum here, there is a small hillside built into it, a wall with the name of Gerald R. Ford and Betty Ford. She will eventually be buried here, too. This all part of the original design. Nothing that was added later in time. He knew this was home. He knew this is where he wanted to be. Wolf?
BLITZER: And Mrs. Ford now being escorted to her seat by U.S. Lieutenant General Guy Swan who has been her military escort throughout this entire ordeal ever since the passing of Gerald Ford. This has been a six-day period of mourning here in the United States. Today, a national day of mourning to pay tribute to the 38th president of the United States.
Tom DeFrank, as you watch this unfold, the service about to begin, as I pointed out earlier, you were in the service over at the National Cathedral. I suspect all of this is emotional for Betty Ford but here in Michigan it may be even more emotional. DEFRANK: Well, absolutely, Wolf. Because she had had a very strong attachment to Grand Rapids as well. She loved it almost as much as he did, if that's possible. This is home for her. And it's not coincidence she would want to be buried there in Grand Rapids with her husband. Grand Rapids was the place that they always wanted to come back to.
BLITZER: I can't help be struck, John King, as you watch this, both of us were involved in covering Ronald Reagan's funeral only a few years ago. Some similarities but many differences.
KING: This seems much more low-key, Wolf, less flowery speeches. Still, great tributes and heartfelt tributes. But I think a reflection of the men. Ronald Reagan considered more of the dreamer and Gerald Ford more of the doer, if you will, and to see him back at his final stop in Michigan is to be reminded, as has been said, many times, that he viewed himself most of all as a man of the House and this is the district and the people he represented for a quarter of a century. His dream was to be the speaker of the House, not to be vice president and not to be president, but as we reflect on his final stop you reflect not only on the man but his legacy.
And what I was struck by watching today at the National Cathedral is you watch all of these people. They were the children, if you will, the young men of the Ford administration, they were the Alan Greenspans, they were the Donald Rumsfelds, they were the Dick Cheney's. They are men who have gone on to serve this country in other administrations. And so this president passed from Washington and is now passing from the scene, if you will, but his legacy is still active in politics. John Paul Stevens his only pick for the Supreme Court, now quite an influential voice on divided court.
BLITZER: The honorable George Heartwell, the mayor of the city of Grand Rapids delivering the invocation right now.
MAYOR GEORGE HEARTWELL, GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN: We celebrate your servant Gerald Ford who gave a lifetime of service to your country. Who heard your call spoken through the votes of the people of this congressional district, spoken through a confirmation process for vice president and spoken through a succession process that placed him in the highest office of our land. Each time that he heard your call to move higher, he faithfully responded.
Now, in his spirit, he meets you face-to-face and hears your final call -- well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master. We, who are left behind can only mourn his passing, pray for his soul, and look to a bright future for America. Which he saw so clearly.
Comfort us in our grief. Especially comfort his family whose sadness surpasses all. Comfort the nation which strives for the decency and honor which President Ford embodied. Yet, though we mourn, we are not a people who mourn without hope, or who grieve without purpose. Our purpose must be to grasp what you have given us and to understand what you have shown us so that out of our night of mourning, might come a dawn of quiet resolve. Thus, today, we resolve to be the great nation President Ford challenged us to be, a nation that is strong and courageous in the face of opposition, a nation that forgives freely and seeks forgiveness from others. A nation that adheres to the highest standards of ethics and diplomacy, a guiding light to the world. Bless the soul of Gerald Ford with homecoming joy and bless those of us who remain behind with the confidence of eternal life. Amen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Betty, Mike, Jack, Steve, Susan, brother Dick, members of the Ford family, and friends of Ford -- I do have a group here that I'm not sure are friends or family, so let them be both. And those are the group standing behind me on the steps.
That's the United States Army Chorus, as Betty knows so well, that she and President Ford, they became her favorites in the White House. And they have been with you for so many significant events since that time.
So, it's only appropriate that they're here, as they were for the dedication of this museum in 1981. And, standing right behind me, I just know President Ford is smiling. It's like I could feel Alvie Powell (ph) standing right behind me.
And, I think, Alvie (ph), you have been so many times. So, it's so good to see you.
Grand Rapids, Michigan, a place from which a man can journey far and never leave -- those are the words of Jim Cannon, who wrote a book about President Ford entitled "Time and Chance."
And what Jim did is, he came to the city, knowing full well its Midwestern background. But he wanted to find out more about this young man.
So, he came here. And he found about his family that lived by the golden rules, that we heard President Ford say them so many times, tell the truth, work hard, and be on time for dinner.
He also became a Boy Scout here. And, as you saw coming in today, it's a reflection of him. He -- he knew how to work hard. He worked hard and got all of his merit badges, so he could become an Eagle Scout. And he knew what it was like to live to the Boy Scout oath.
He experienced discipline and courage as a football player at South High School. He learned how to be very competitive, but he also learned how to respect his opponents.
It was those values that would endure throughout his life, and evolved in the character -- and evolved in the characteristics that we have heard so much about this week, decency, integrity, civility, and goodwill.
A place from which a man can journey far, but never leave -- to the University of Michigan; the Yale University; the South Pacific during World War II; Alexandria, Virginia. And, I might add, it was a very moving trip through there and when we arrived in Washington -- the White House, Beaver creek, Colorado, Rancho Mirage, California.
But, wherever he journeyed, the values forged in Grand Rapids never left him. And that is why he never left Grand Rapids. And most important to him, of all the memories and experiences of Grand Rapids, it was this city, where the great love story of Jerry Ford and Betty Bloomer had its beginning, a beginning that would have no end.
The concise, but powerful words selected by the President and Mrs. Ford inscribed at the burial site says it all -- and I quote -- "Lives committed to God, country and love."
We have just completed the 25th anniversary of this building. And, for 20 years, I have had the privilege, yes, the pleasure, during the course of that time to be here whenever he visited. And I would meet him at the doors we just came through. And I greeted him the same way every time.
I would simply say, "Welcome home, Mr. President."
And he would say to me, "It's good to be home, Marty."
Well, following the governor's remarks today, the U.S. Army Chorus will sing a beautiful hymn that asks the question in the title, "Shall We Gather on the River?" And it's answered in the refrain, "Yes, we will gather in the river."
And, so, the journey that started in California and went to Washington, D.C., and now nears the end in Grand Rapids, we all join and say, welcome home, Mr. President.
BLITZER: And there is Betty Ford, the widow of the late president, the 38th president of the United States, at this memorial service in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. There, the body lies in state right now.
We will continue to watch this unfold. We will continue our coverage. We want to stay on top of this story, but there is other important news we're watching, as well.
And coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM: When will President Bush make his major address on the war in Iraq? And what will he say? We're going to go live to the White House. There are new details unfolding right now.
Also, we're just two days away from the Democrats taking over both houses of Congress. What's on their agenda? What are they going to do first? We're going to take a closer look at that.
Plus: Do Americans think the Democrats are up to the task of running the country? We have got some brand-new CNN poll numbers that are just coming out this hour -- much more of our coverage right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back. Let's go to Iraq right now and the growing controversy over Saddam Hussein's execution.
The Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has ordered an investigation into the way the hanging was conducted and who leaked the cell phone video of it. The video showed guards at the execution taunting the ousted Iraqi leader. Prime Minister al-Maliki ordered the new probe, amid revelations that he rejected efforts by the U.S. officials in Baghdad to delay Hussein's execution.
A parliament member close to al-Maliki tells CNN, the prime minister feared a delay would fuel a fuel a new surge of violence.
In Baghdad today, more violence -- a roadside exploded, killing three civilians, wounding seven others. And Iraqi officials report 1,226 bodies were found dumped across the country last month alone. One additional American soldier was killed in another roadside bombing southwest of Baghdad yesterday. And that brings the total troop death toll for U.S. forces in Iraq since the war began nearly four years ago, 3,003.
Tonight, a special edition of "ANDERSON COOPER 360," honoring the fallen troops in Iraq, "Ambush at the River of Secrets," that airs 10:00 p.m. Eastern tonight, 7:00 Pacific, only here on CNN.
Over at the White House right now, President Bush, we're told, is moving closer to unveiling a retooled war plan in Iraq. We have some new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM about when he will make his announcement, what he has decided, what he hasn't decided. We will bring that to you at the top of the hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Democrats are less than two days away from taking charge of both houses of Congress. And they're busy fine- tuning their efforts to try to get off to a promising start. But are the American people optimistic that the power shift in Washington will necessarily be a good thing?
Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is standing by with some brand-new poll numbers.
But let's go to Capitol Hill and our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, with the latest on the Democrats' agenda -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, as soon as Democrats -- House Democrats officially take control on Thursday, they will start debating the dizzying legislative agenda they promised in the first 100 hours of the new Congress, which translates in -- into two-and-a-half weeks of work.
Now, Democratic leadership aides say this will be the schedule. Thursday and Friday, they will pass measures perform -- performing -- or reforming, I should say, House lobbying and ethics rules. And we will get details on that tomorrow.
Now, next week, House Democrats will vote to implement outstanding 9/11 Commission recommendations, vote to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, lift federal funding limits on stem cell research, take up a measure intended to negotiate lower prescription drug prices for Medicare.
If you can follow all of this, then, next week, they are going to cut student loan rates -- that's their plan, at least -- in half, and also cut subsidies for oil companies.
Now, in order to get all of that passed, and fast, Democratic leadership aides say they will limit Republicans' ability to offer competing measures. Now, that's exactly the way Republicans ran the House for 12 years, shutting out Democrats on most key legislation. But Republicans are crying foul.
They're pointing to quote after quote from incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi, promising open debate and room for opposition. And GOP leaders are even holding a press conference tomorrow to propose a set of what they call minority rights that Pelosi herself demanded before the election.
Now, Wolf, we're told some House Democrats were worried about looking and sounding hypocritical here, but the leadership decided that this is the only way to ensure their campaign promises are kept, and insist that, down the road, Republicans will have more rights -- Wolf.
BLITZER: First 100 hours while the Congress is in session, work hours, if you will, that translates into about two-and-a-half weeks, according to their schedule. It's...
BLITZER: ... one thing for the House to try to get all this done in the first 100 hours that they are in session. It's a totally different animal on the other side, in the Senate, isn't it, Dana?
BASH: It's totally different, because the Senate rules make it a lot harder for the Democratic majority to sideline Republicans. Institutionally, the minority simply has a lot more power.
Now, knowing how that and knowing how razor thin his majority is, Harry Reid told CNN that his first order of business, which is lobbying and ethics reform, is going to be a good old-fashioned free- for-all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: It's going to be totally open to amendment. And, then, Democrats and Republicans can take a look at it and see if there are ways they want to strengthen that. If they do, we will have debate and make a determination. I think the American people really need this. I mean, think about what is going on in Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: Now, on the issue of ethics, Reid also told us he is now open to something he has resisted in the past. And that is a ban on lawmakers being able to use corporate jets -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, we will continue to watch all of this Thursday as it unfolds, the swearing-in ceremonies for the Senate and the House.
Dana, thanks very much.
The public will be watching very closely this new Congress in the coming days to see if the Democrats can deliver on all their promises. Do Americans have high expectations right now?
Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, it has been 12 years since the last time control of Congress changed. Are people as optimistic now as they were then?
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Nineteen ninety-four, Republicans take over Congress for the first time in 40 years -- people thought the new Republican Congress would be good for the country by 50-26 percent; 2006, Democrats regain control of Congress after 12 years. Sixty-one percent say Democratic control of the Congress will be good for the country, and 32 percent bad.
Both elections were negative judgments about the president. Bill Clinton's approval rating at the time of the 1994 election? Forty-six percent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I accept my share of the responsibility in the result of the elections.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: George W. Bush's approval rating at the time of the 2006 election? Thirty-five percent.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No question, Iraq was on people's minds.
SCHNEIDER: Men feel about the same way now about the Democrats coming to power as they did in 1994 about the Republicans, fairly optimistic.
The big shift is among women. Sixty-four percent of women say Democratic control of Congress will be good for the country. Nancy Pelosi will be the first woman speaker of the House. Fewer than half of women felt optimistic about Newt Gingrich and the Republicans in 1994.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SCHNEIDER: Remember how excited Republicans were to take over Congress in 1994?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I mean, if this is not a mandate to move in a particular direction, I would like somebody to explain to me what a mandate would look like.
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SCHNEIDER: Then, 81 percent of Republicans thought a Republican Congress would be good for the country. Well, guess what? Democrats are even more excited now. Ninety-one percent of Democrats believe a Democratic Congress will be good for the country. But, in 1994, fewer than half of Democrats thought the Republican Congress would be bad for the country. Now, nearly three-quarters of Republicans believe a Democratic Congress will be bad for the country.
SCHNEIDER: Pelosi takes over in a more deeply divided country than Newt Gingrich did -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thanks very much -- Bill Schneider reporting for us.
Remember, Bill Schneider and Dana Bash, they are both part of the best political team on television.
And, remember, for all the latest political news at any time, go to our CNN Political Ticker, CNN.com/ticker.
Coming up: Was Rudy Giuliani's game plan for 2008 leaked or stolen? The Republican camp charging dirty tricks -- the story and the reaction in today's "Political Radar."
That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Let's turn now to the road of the White House and an early misstep for Republican Rudy Giuliani. His political playbook for 2008 wound up in a reporter's hands. And details of it wound up in a newspaper. The former New York mayor's camp is fuming right now.
Let's get some details from our Mary Snow. She is in New York -- Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a spokeswoman for Rudy Giuliani claims the document was removed from a staffer's lost luggage and photocopied. She says it happened while Giuliani was traveling this fall to campaign for Republican candidates. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
SNOW (voice-over): It is a Rudy Giuliani for president campaign strategy meant to stay behind the scenes -- among its contents, budgets, fund-raising and a list of concerns, including an ex-wife and former police commissioner. But the 140-page document made it into the hands of "Daily News" reporter Ben Smith.
BEN SMITH, "THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": I got it from a source who is sympathetic to one of -- one of Giuliani's opponents, and who -- and the source said it had been left behind on -- during -- during his kind of pre-election campaign swing.
SNOW: Giuliani's team suggests it's political dirty tricks. Smith declined to show us the entire document, saying he was keeping it in a safe place.
But one page he provided shows, the Giuliani camp aims to raise at least $100 million in 2007 alone. Smith says the strategy shows Giuliani is planning to run, but says there are also concerns expressed among staff that he may also drop out.
SMITH: The most striking thing was that there was the explicit worries about some of these issues with his campaign, his -- mentioning his -- his ex-wife, Donna Hanover, his current wife, his business. Social issues was -- was last among -- among the worries.
SNOW: Republican strategists say it's not surprising these concerns would be listed. Giuliani supports abortion and gay rights, which clashes with Republican Party ideals.
While he was mayor, his divorce from second wife Donna Hanover was made very public. And his former aide and Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik has become a source of embarrassment, due to Kerik's own publicized problems.
Strategists say, what they do find surprising is that these concerns were written down.
JONATHAN GRELLA, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It would seem that these are not the kind of things that you would want to put down on paper. That is an -- that is an old political maxim, not to -- not to ever put to paper on -- on situations like this.
SNOW: Republican strategists also say, the fact the documents made front-page news shows the competitiveness of those potentially entering the 2008 race.
SNOW: A Giuliani spokeswoman also says the document is simply someone's ideas committed to paper over three months ago -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary, thanks for that.
Let's get some more now on this and other political issues of the day.
Joining us in our "Strategy Session," our CNN political analyst and Democratic strategist Paul Begala, and Terry Jeffrey, the editor at large at "Human Events."
Dirty tricks or just a lucky break for a journalist?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, both. Congratulations to Ben Smith of "The New York Daily News," who got this.
But I was troubled by what the Giuliani camp said to Mary Snow. They said, well, it was in our luggage that got lost. Look, a big part of Rudy's appeal is, he is going to be good on security. Well, if he can't even handle his own documents, you know, then, that's -- that kind of undermines his whole point.
It's -- it's -- but welcome to the 2008 presidential campaign. Everything will get out -- everything. It will be like -- like -- it will be like a -- a proctoscopic exam without the tender, loving care of the doctor.
BLITZER: What do you...
BEGALA: And, so, get ready, Rudy, and everybody else, because here it comes.
BLITZER: What do you think, Terry?
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMAN EVENTS": Well, it makes me wonder whether Giuliani is about to launch a campaign that is of, by, and for political consultants.
In other words, he has the ability to go out and raise money from major interests on the East and West Coasts who basically have views that are alien to the conservative grassroots. Much of that money, if he raises it, is going to end up in the fat pockets of political consultants in this town.
And, at the end of the game, Rudy might very well fizzle before the Iowa caucuses, for the very reasons outlined in material put out by his own political consultants. Who are the winners? The people who get the money, the political consultants.
BLITZER: I suspect he is not necessarily your candidate, Rudy Giuliani.
JEFFREY: No, he's not. But you know what, Wolf?
I don't believe there is a large body of political professionals, even, in the Republican Party who share his extreme views on abortion.
BLITZER: But why among registered Republicans? In all of the recent polls...
BLITZER: ... registered Republicans, including our two most recent polls, he comes out atop that list, ahead by three or four points of John McCain.
JEFFREY: It's a good question.
I think the reason is, is because the image that is dominant in the public mind right now of Rudy Giuliani is the man who behaved so magnificently in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, and also someone who took a New York City when he became mayor that was crime- ridden and filthy, and cleaned up the crime, and cleaned up the filth.
What Republican voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Arizona, places like that don't know yet is how extreme his views are on the social issues, how weak he is on immigration. He will be defined in a campaign, I believe, in a way that will not attract the majority of Republican primary voters.
BLITZER: You're a Democrat, but what do you think?
BEGALA: I think -- I think Terry has a much better bead on social conservatives than I do.
But what is also instructive in both the -- the "Daily News" report and in Mary Snow's report here on CNN is that the Giuliani camp seems to be more concerned about Giuliani Inc., his business practices, rather than his -- his personal life or his position on social issues.
And that could be a big problem, because, as Mary pointed out, he was in business with Bernard Kerik, the now disgraced former police commissioner of New York City. There might be a lot there. That sort of piques my interest as a Democrat and an analyst.
I would like journalists to take a look at Giuliani Inc. and see, why is Rudy so worried that his business practices could be something that could sink a presidential campaign?
JEFFREY: Wolf, you know, another -- another angle on that is, I think, a good presidential campaign, a candidate will have people who are dedicated, loyal to him, who basically share his vision.
George Bush had Karl Rove and Karen Hughes. Bill Clinton had Paul Begala and James Carville. Where are those people for Rudy Giuliani who share his vision, who are loyal to him, who have the political smarts to go out and manage a campaign? It doesn't -- it's not apparent, from this memo, he has those kind of people around him.
BLITZER: Let's shift gears briefly.
Thursday, big day for the Democrats -- they take over the House. They take over the Senate. They have got a game plan, specifically, Nancy Pelosi, the new speaker in the House. What do you think of this game plan? We heard Dana Bash unveil it here just a little while ago.
BEGALA: It's great -- so far, so good.
The first thing they're going to do is ethics. And this was a big debate behind closed doors within the Democratic Party. Believe me, I'm sorry so to say, there are still some Democrats who believe in pretty good government and didn't want real reform.
But Pelosi pushed this through. A couple of other top leadership Democrats wanted this, Harry Reid in the Senate. So, the fact that they are starting out with congressional reform, where I think even most Republicans would say things have gotten badly off track -- Duke Cunningham and Mark Foley, and all the scandals -- it's a very good thing.
I -- I think that -- that Nancy Pelosi, especially, and Harry Reid on the Senate side, have managed this transition extraordinarily well, where they have great opportunity to make mistakes, but no real power to deliver yet. They get that gavel this week. And they will be able to deliver. So, I -- they start out in a very strong position.
BLITZER: It looks what they are going to try to do on the House side, as the majority, they are going to roll -- try to roll over the Republicans, the way the Republicans used to roll over the minority Democrats.
JEFFREY: You know, they are definitely going to try and do that in the House.
But, at the same time, I think Nancy Pelosi realizes they have a honeymoon that could be short, if they don't pass real legislation. She understands that the Republicans have more power in the Senate, and she's going to need signatures from President Bush.
I think you are actually going to see cooperation between the Bush White House and Nancy Pelosi to get things done. I don't necessarily think that's a good idea, because a lot of the public policies they're going to pursue, I oppose. But I think you're going to see a lot more comity between Pelosi and the White House than people might expect.
BLITZER: And this notion that, among the Democrats now, there is -- there is a pretty wide gap over there between the very liberal Democrats and the much more conservative Democrats, and there could be friction within the Democratic Party itself.
BEGALA: There could be. And there generally has been.
But I do think these 12 years in the wilderness have been cleansing...
BEGALA: ... of some of that animosity within the party.
We will be watching for that, as a Democrat. And I talk to -- I get along with everybody. And I have -- I'm good friends with some of the very conservatives and some of the very liberals. And, so far, they understand they have to get together and get things done.
And -- and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have done a good job of making sure. Harry Reid is probably more conservative than most Democrats in the Senate, Nancy probably more liberal than most Democrats in the House. They have reached across and given key committee assignments to people who have very different views from them -- a very smart move.
BLITZER: We will watch it all together unfold. We will have a lot of coverage of that here on Thursday.
Guys, thanks very much, Paul...
BEGALA: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: ... and Terry.
And coming up next: When will President Bush make his major address on the war in Iraq? And what will he say? We are going to go live to the White House. Our Suzanne Malveaux is standing by. She has some new details to share with all of us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
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