FTN - 7/22/01

face the nation logo, 2009

BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on Face the Nation, Senate Republican leader Trent Lott on the Senate agenda and President Bush's trip to Europe.

Once again, violent protest has rocked the summit of world leaders in Genoa. What did the president get out of this trip, and is his agenda in big trouble back home? How's he going to decide the stem cell issue? All questions for Senate Republican leader Trent Lott of Mississippi.

Then we'll look at the first 180 days of the Bush presidency with Rick Berke of the New York Times and Michael Duffy of Time magazine.

Gloria Borger will be here, and I'll have a final word on the defining experiences of our lives.

But first, Senator Lott on Face the Nation.

ANNOUNCER: Face the Nation, with Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer. And now from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.

SCHIEFFER: And good morning again.

Joining us in the studio, the Republican leader in the Senate, Trent Lott.

Senator Lott, welcome.


SCHIEFFER: The president has concluded his meeting with the European allies, the so-called G-7. And we have a news conference this morning where he and Russian President Putin say they have agreed to tie talks on missile defense to reducing the nuclear stockpiles of both countries. This is a bit of a surprise. Is this a big deal?

LOTT: I think it's a very big deal. In talking to Secretary Powell on Saturday night, he indicated that he thought they were going to have a really good meeting with some good results. He didn't get into details.

But tying these two together is a surprise. I think it shows once again that Putin and the Russians are willing to talk about the future and move beyond the past, move to further restricting these strategic nuclear weapons and looking at missile defense.

Actually, he and his Russian representatives have been more forthcoming, more interested in discussing this than a lot of our European allies.

I think it shows that President Bush and President Putin are developing a relationship.

Now, he specified that we're not ready to go into the details, that this was a surprise agreement. And the national security advisor, Condi Rice, will be going to Russia to further explore that.

So I think this is really significant. You're talking about further reducing nuclear weapons that are aimed at each other and thinking about the future in a more defensive way. That's big.

GLORIA BORGER, U.S. News & World Report: Well, the allies - speaking of the allies, they have also told the American president that they're going to go ahead and try and ratify the Kyoto accord on global warming without American participation. So what's your reaction to that?

LOTT: Well, President Bush and we in America continue to say that we want to make sure that we're looking sensibly nd reasonably at this question of greenhouse gases and the warming effect they may have and to do additional research and to give more thought into how we can deal with this problem.

The problem with the Kyoto Treaty, it is flawed. It doesn't include some of the biggest polluters in the world. It would put the economy of the United States in real jeopardy. And the Europeans need to remember now, this is not just President Bush. The United States Senate voted 95-0 not to go forward with the Kyoto Treaty in the way that it was designed.

BORGER: But Senator Daschle this week told reporters - and let me quote this to you - "I think we are isolating ourselves, and in so isolating ourselves I think we're minimizing ourselves." One of the things he was referring to was this global warming issue. So how do you...

LOTT: Well, I think it was totally wrong for Senator Daschle to suggest that. In fact, the facts just don't bear that out. This is a president that has already been to nine or 10 countries since he's been president, more than at least his three predecessors. We are on the brink of having the best relationship in several areas with Mexico we've ever had. He has been very aggressive in communicating with our allies. We are certainly by no means isolationists.

If Senator Daschle wants to do something about isolationism and having a greater outreach to our allies and to the poor of the world, he needs to call up the trade promotional act. We need more open and fair trade so we can sell American goods around the world and so Americans will have access to goods from around the world.

Now, you know, I thought that Senator Daschle's timing at least was inappropriate. He has a right to state his position, even when I disagree with him, obviously - and I do in this case - but the timing was inappropriate in that the president was leaving. But I had the impression that Senator Daschle indicated that that probably was at least emphasized out of context, and that, you know, he might have, if he had had time to think about it, he would have done it that way.

I think this comes from being new on the job. I confess that I was surprised sometimes at some of the things that were emphasized about what I said. And you've got to be really careful, particularly in foreign policy, when you're the leader of your party in the Congress.

SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, we should note that this morning Senator Daschle was on another Sunday broadcast, and - Meet the Press - and he says that he is not apologetic about what he said. He said he's not taking anything back, which leads me - and you talked a little bit about this - what advice do you have for Senator Daschle? Because you had the job. You were the leader of the Senate.

LOTT: Yes.

SCHIEFFER: Now he's the leader, he's in his first month. So what advice do you have for him?

LOTT: Well, I think you just need to be consciou of the fact that things you might have said in the past down in a story may be emphasized beyond your expectations.

And particularly in foreign policy, you need to be careful because of, you know, the Vandenberg rule that partisan politics stops at the water's edge really needs to apply, particularly when you've got a president that is leaving the country, going to meet with the G-7, now the G-8 with the Russians, and discuss a lot of important, difficult issues. Just be very careful, particular in foreign policy.

And let me just say on Senator Daschle's behalf, while he said he didn't apologize, it seemed to me that he was saying, well, if I had thought about it, maybe the timing was not appropriate. I thought he said the right thing when he kind of backed away from it late this past week.

SCHIEFFER: Is that really still the rule, though, Senator Lott, that foreign policy stops at the...

LOTT: Well, I mean, you've got a right...

SCHIEFFER: ... because I can remember when you have criticized President Clinton when he fired those cruise missiles.

LOTT: Well, I think that there is a little bit of a difference when you're talking about a military action. Of course, once we are engaged, then we all support the commander in chief and support the troops.

But it's right to have a full debate about, as we did, about putting troops in Bosnia, putting troops in Kosovo, and also about how many times we're going to bomb Baghdad and Iraq. So that is a legitimate discussion. But even that, you have to be careful when you do it.

That was the biggest problem with what Senator Daschle did last week - not so much what he said. Obviously, I think he's wrong, and this is certainly not an isolationist government. Secretary of State Powell is leaving this week to go to five countries.

There is a lot of engagement going on, not only in our own hemisphere but in a careful, thoughtful way in the Middle East, as well as with North Korea.

BORGER: If I could just shift gears for a moment to talk about embryonic stem cell research. The president has got to make a decision on this. The White House says they're going to do it sometime in August. Last week, Senator Bill Frist, who is a doctor, advises the White House on health and medical issues, came out in favor of embryonic stem cell research with certain restrictions.

You oppose that, but do you think that Senator Frist is providing the White House with the political cover it might need?

LOTT: Well, let me just say first, Gloria, that there appears to be significant promise in terms of being able to use the stem cell research in helping with a number of very debilitating diseases, all the way from infant problems to Alzheimer's. And your heart goes out to people that are dealing with this in their families. So we need to see what can be done.

Secondly, obviously I have a great deal of respect for Senator and Dr. BilFrist. He is a heart surgeon. And by the way, at various points along the way, I'm sure that, as a heart surgeon, he and others had to deal with the bioethics of that - taking, in effect, a heart out of what medically could be described as a living being and putting it into another person.

But having said that, this gets into very serious moral, scientific, ethical considerations. I think we should go forward with research, particularly in an ethical way in the private sector. I think a lot can be done in terms of...

BORGER: But not federal funds?

LOTT: Well, let me say what I'm for first - with adult stem cell research, with stem cell research perhaps on naturally discharged fetuses, perhaps from the umbilical cord, perhaps from the fertilized eggs, and that gets to be a little more difficult.

But once you get into the embryonic and fetus area, you're getting into very complicated area. We do not want to start growing embryos to harvest them for their sales. And that's where the line gets to be very difficult to deal with.

But I know the president is thinking very carefully about this. He's listening to advice from experts on all sides and from members of Congress. And we all in the end have to live with our own conscience and how we come down and how we vote.

BORGER: Well, just very quickly, aren't there 70 votes in the Senate for this anyway?

LOTT: There may be. But I think everybody is dealing with it very seriously and trying to do the right thing. And I believe we will come to a conclusion that will be the right thing in the end.

SCHIEFFER: I want to talk a little politics with you. When the campaign finance reform legislation, which passed the Senate, did not come to a vote in the House, some people said, what's happening here is that the Republicans are setting the stage for John McCain to run as a third party candidate, because when you deny passing this, you are giving him an issue that he can run on.

And these same people say, look, I know campaign finance reform is not a number-one issue with a lot of people, but corruption is and can be an issue for a third party candidate.

And some would make the case that when the two parties can't clean up their own mess, that opens a way for John McCain.

Do you think John McCain is getting ready to run as an independent? And do you think not voting on this really kind of plays into his hands?

LOTT: No, I don't think Senator McCain is getting to run for anything right now. And John McCain is not a one-dimensional person. I mean, yes, he cares about campaign finance reform.

I disagree with him on this issue. I think we need legitimate campaign finance reform. I just think that this bill is not the answer that we really need to try to develop.

But John also is interested in a lot of other issues, including health issues. And I'm going to be working with him this coming week to make sur that we have a relationship with Mexico that is appropriate, one that is not anti-Hispanic and one that is not anti-NAFTA. We're trying to make sure that the bus and truck border crossings of U.S. and Mexican trucks are done in a fair way. And Senator McCain, being from Arizona, is knowledgeable, cares about that. We'll be working together.

I think a lot of this is excitement by the press because Senator McCain is involved in the campaign finance reform issue. But there are a lot of other issues he also cares passionately about.

BORGER: Very quickly, Senator, on energy policy. The White House right now is sending out the vice president and Cabinet members to promote its energy policy. Yet the Democratic-controlled Senate seems to have very little inclination to bring up any of the president's energy plan quickly. Is there anything you can do about that?

LOTT: Absolutely. One of the great things about the Senate is the majority leader does not determine exactly what's considered. Any senator and certainly a minority can offer other issues.

Energy policy is very important in this country. It's about our economy. It's also about national security. So far this year, 60 percent of our energy needs comes from OPEC oil. That is dangerous.

So the direct answer to your question, energy policy will be considered this fall.

BORGER: What will you do? How?

LOTT: We will offer it as a package. Hopefully, Senator Daschle will agree to bring it up and have a free and open debate.

BORGER: What if he doesn't?

LOTT: Then it will be offered to other bills or it will be offered in parts as we go along. This is too important for the future of our children and the future economy of our country.

We've done some things now that are going to help the economy. The checks are in the mail. People will be getting their checks over the next few days, but it will do other things to encourage economic growth, but part of that is energy. If we don't have the energy to drive this economic engine, then we're going to run into real problems soon.

SCHIEFFER: So you're going to attach it to whatever else may come.

But that reminds me, Senator Daschle this week said that he intends to attach campaign finance reform legislation on to some piece of legislation that Republicans really want, if the House does not bring it up. What do you make of that?

LOTT: Well, he could do that. But I think that the best thing for us to do would be to work in what people have referred to as a bipartisan manner to make sure that we do consider energy policy, we do get up the trade promotion act. And if he feels so inclined to attach campaign finance reform and he has the votes to make that happen, which may require 60 votes by the way, then he might could do that too.

The Senate, while it sometime appears messy, is a free-wheeling and open institution, and senators can ofer what they want to or block what they want to quite often.

Over the past few days, for instance, we feel like Senator Daschle and the Democrats have not been moving nominations appropriately because of some objections by Senators Kyl and Craig and others. We were able to clear 75 nominations in the last two weeks. Now, I think that's important. I think some credit goes to those two senators, and also I think some credit goes to Senator Daschle that he did, in the end, work with us on getting those nominations cleared. I hope he'll do that in the future because only three federal judges, three, have been confirmed this year for this administration.

SCHIEFFER: All right. On that happy note we're going to say thank you very much, Senator. Thanks for being with us.

LOTT: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: We're going to do a little talking about politics when we come back in just a moment.


SCHIEFFER: And with us now, two of the smartest guys in Washington, Rick Berke of the New York Times - remember that the next time you write about us...


SCHIEFFER: ... and Michael Duffy of Time magazine. Glad to have both of you here this morning.

Mike, what did you think about what Senator Lott said about this agreement apparently between Putin and Bush? I tend to take it as fairly important, as he certainly seemed to.

MICHAEL DUFFY, TIME: Well, all week long Bush and Putin had been having a kind of poker game about whether they were going to do a deal or not on missile defense. The White House kept saying for the last 10 days, you know, "He's more interested in doing this than y'all think. He's not saying no. He's sort of saying yes." And Putin said something this week that kind of left you unsure about where he was.

And so finally, this morning they, obviously, had a meeting in Genoa. And they've agreed, basically, to look at this, missile defense, in the context of reducing strategic weapons, which is a big win for Bush.

RICK BERKE, New York Times: Bob, I think there's a real question about Bush's foreign policy and the polls. People question his ability as a foreign leader and as a leader overseas, and I think this really helps him. Any images of him out there with the foreign leader, with any kind of accomplishment, I think it's good for him.

We just saw him at the beginning of this trip defend himself from comments by Daschle saying, "You're too isolationist." And I think Bush had to even say, "I'm plenty capable in my foreign policy." For him to have to come out and defend himself as a leader on the foreign stage, it really shows the problem they have. And I think this could only help him today.

BORGER: That kind of reminded me of Bill Clinton coming out after the, you know, 1994 mid-term elections which they lost control of the House, saying, "I'm still relevant." You know, you don't want a preident getting on the defensive particularly in Europe, and there he was. I think he would have been better off if he had just not said anything at all.

SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, I agree with you. I mean, I think one could question the timing of Senator Daschle's remarks whether you agree or disagree with him, but it seemed to me that the White House totally overreacted. I mean, I can recall people making criticisms of Ronald Reagan when he just sort of said, "Ah, oh, sure."

DUFFY: We're trying to figure out what state Senator Vandenberg was from because none of us can quite remember.


DUFFY: The rule is a relic. It's an old, kind of quaint relic, and it hasn't really been true . If there's a rule not to criticize, there's another rule that says break the other rule, go ahead and criticize them.

BERKE: I think what the White House and Republicans are doing, what Trent Lott is doing, is trying to demonize Senator Daschle. The problem they have is, he's a farm boy from South Dakota, fiercely partisan, but he's hard to demonize. He's a mild-mannered kind of nice guy. It's very hard to turn him into a Newt Gingrich.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let's talk about the Bush administration. We're six months into it. Bill Clinton was having his troubles six months into his administration, as you remember; a lot of presidents do.

How do you think he's doing right now, Gloria?

BORGER: I think he's having a very hard time right now. You see the public opinion polls heading south a little bit on him.

And I think that he's got problems within his own party. A lot of people in the party say he looks both ideological and weak at the same time, which is pretty hard to do.

He's got his moderates in his party angry at him over an energy policy. He's got conservatives in his party angry at him over his education compromise. He's got a big political decision coming up on stem cell research. And it's really an ethical decision, but it looks very political because his political adviser is smack in the middle of it.

So, I think he's going through a really rough patch right now.

SCHIEFFER: Well, isn't this interesting? In the Bob Schieffer rule of politics, the political adviser is always invisible, because every time you attach the political adviser to any issue it becomes political. And yet over and over, as Gloria is saying, we're seeing Karl Rove, the president's political adviser, sort of the lightning rod and sort of the person that people come to see.

DUFFY: You know, Bush's father kept his political advisers out of the White House. He didn't even want them in the West Wing. He pushed them out and kept trying to say, "I hope they're not around." His son has learned the lesson of that and said, "I want them near me. I want them close."

And I think after six months you can break down the whole thing about conservative instincts but ery fast reflexes. When they make a mistake and get out of touch, they work very quickly to fix it, whether it's on energy or the environment, arsenic, even foreign policy. You know, they've really reengaged quickly on a bunch of fronts that they were not inclined to at first.

BERKE: And I think a lot of it, Michael, could be overcompensating from the mistakes of the father. I think they're determined in this White House to do whatever it takes to make conservatives happy because the father didn't do that. And his son is very conscious of that fact that that could have caused him or contributed to costing him reelection. So, I think you're seeing a reaction to that.

One thing that really struck me is, in talking to Republican officials about the polls, these dips in the polls, they are now saying, "Well, what did you expect? This is a divided electorate. Look what happened in Florida. How well do you expect him to do?" So they're conceding that he's not doing that well, but they're using Florida as an excuse.

SCHIEFFER: Well, now, you're just back from the Republican National Committee meeting, and your sense of it is that they're very happy with Bush.

BERKE: They are happy. It was in Boston, of all places, for the Republicans.

This is the first time in - you know, I've gone to these things for 15 years - this is the first time in eight years where they're not trashing the president. They finally have the White House back. And they're really happy, the base of the party's happy. George Bush can do no wrong. They're much happier with him than they were with his father.

The problem is, however, once you get beyond the base, when you get to the voters that Bush will need for reelection - to the independents, to the moderates, to these Catholic swing voters that are at stake in the stem cell debate - that's where the real problem is for this president.

SCHIEFFER: Mike, let me ask you, what do you think has gone wrong at the Pentagon? Because on defense policy there's clearly no consensus on Capitol Hill among Republicans and certainly not in a bipartisan way. There seems to be great irritation in the uniformed services with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. There also seems to be real questions about Rumsfeld in the defense lobby community and among defense industries.

What's happened out there?

DUFFY: It's an interesting strategy. They've brought back someone from the Ford administration to run the Pentagon. And he is not scared of anybody. He's not scared of people on Capitol Hill. He's not scared of the joint chiefs. He's not scared of the lobbyists.


DUFFY: He wants to go in there and do a bunch of things. And he has sort of run up against everybody over and over again.

Now, it's interesting. On missile defense, which Bush and Putin just got done talking about, you know, the Pentagon wants to go forward fast. And the scretary of state, Colin Powell, not so sure, a little fuzzier on the timetable. So that fight's still to come.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Gentlemen, thank you very much.

We'll be back with a final word in just a minute.


SCHIEFFER: Finally today, Hamilton Jordan came through Washington last week. You may remember him as the boy wonder of American politics who devised the plan an obscure governor named Jimmy Carter used to become president. As Carter's chief of staff, Jordan became one of the most powerful men in government and left Washington believing what he did here would be the defining experience of his life.

Today, he would tell you all of that was mostly irrelevant, because he contracted cancer and then he beat it three times. Cancer became the defining experience of his life.

These days, he and his wife run a camp for children with cancer, and he travels the country telling people to get regular checkups to watch for cancer signs. His message is a simple one: If cancer is found, take control of the treatment of your disease. Learn all you can about it before you commit to any treatment.

He also brought some sobering statistics. Forty percent of us, he told us, will eventually get the disease. Yet we spent less on cancer last year than we will spent on our newest aircraft carrier.

It is a vital message, and with his contacts, he can get it to the right places to get something done.

But as I was listening to him, I was struck by something else as well. We can never know what's next in life, nor can we pick its defining moments. That is done for us. It's how we deal with the unexpected, the things we cannot control, that defines our life and reveals our character.

Life dealt Ham Jordan some bad cards for a while there, but the way he played them is making the world a better place and tells us who he really is. We can all be grateful for that.

That's it for us. We'll see you next week on Face the Nation.

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