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Iowa Press #2933
April 12 and 14, 2002

Borg: THE 107TH UNITED STATES CONGRESS IS BALANCING THE PRIORITIES OF THE WAR ON TERRORISM WITH THE NATION'S SOCIAL NEEDS AND NOW THE ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLAGRATION. WE'LL DISCUSS THOSE ISSUES WITH THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES DEMOCRATIC MINORITY LEADER, RICHARD GEPHARDT OF MISSOURI, ON THIS EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS."

ANNOUNCER: FUNDING FOR "IOWA PRESS" HAS BEEN PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS" OF IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA... THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE; AND BY IOWA NETWORK SERVICES AND YOUR LOCAL INDEPENDENT TELEPHONE COMPANY... IOWA NETWORK SERVICES, YOUR CLOSEST CONNECTION.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, APRIL 12 EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: CONGRESS RECONVENED THIS WEEK FOLLOWING THE EASTER RECESS, AMID A CRISIS IN THE MIDDLE EAST THAT THREATENS TO UNRAVEL OR, AT THE VERY LEAST, COMPLICATE NEARLY EVERY OTHER ISSUE ON THE CONGRESSIONAL AGENDA. SIMULTANEOUSLY, THIS NATION'S OWN WAR AGAINST TERRORISM DEMANDS CONGRESSIONAL ATTENTION TO MILITARY COMMITMENTS, FOREIGN AID, AND IMMIGRATION POLICY. ILLUSTRATING THE DIVERSITY OF PRIORITIES, CONGRESS MUST ALSO PROVIDE FOR THE NATION'S SUPPLY OF FOOD AND FIBER WITH NEW FARM LEGISLATION. AND TO COMPLICATE MATTERS, THERE ARE ELECTIONS APPROACHING AND CAMPAIGNS TO PLAN. THOSE ISSUES DOMINATE LIFE FOR MISSOURI CONGRESSMAN RICHARD GEPHARDT. HE LEADS THE DEMOCRATIC MINORITY AT THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. CONGRESSMAN, WELCOME BACK TO IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION.

Gephardt: GREAT TO BE HERE.

Borg: AND ACROSS THE TABLE, TWO MEN YOU KNOW WELL: "DES MOINES REGISTER" POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN AND "ASSOCIATED PRESS" POLITICAL REPORTER MIKE GLOVER.

Glover: CONGRESSMAN GEPHARDT, YOUR LATEST OF MANY TRIPS TO IOWA. WHAT BRINGS YOU OUT THIS WEEK?

Gephardt: WELL, AS YOU KNOW, WE ARE STILL ENGAGED IN AN EFFORT TO WIN THE HOUSE BACK. WE HAVE A NUMBER OF WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITIES HERE IN IOWA TO WIN BACK HOUSE SEATS. I WOULD SAY THIS MAY BE THE EPICENTER OF OUR EFFORT TO WIN BACK THE HOUSE. WE'VE GOT LEONARD BOSWELL WE'RE HOPING TO RETAIN. HE'S DONE A GREAT JOB FOR THE PEOPLE OF IOWA, IN OUR VIEW, AND WE'VE GOT A NUMBER OF OTHER RACES ACROSS THE STATE THAT WE'RE WORKING HARD ON, AND THAT'S THE MAIN REASON THAT I'M HERE.

Glover: WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU THINK DEMOCRATS NEED TO TAKE TO VOTERS THIS YEAR?

Gephardt: I THINK THE MESSAGE HAS TO BE ONE OF PROSPERITY, OF JOBS, OF HEALTH CARE, AND EDUCATION. ESPECIALLY SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE ARE AT STAKE IN THIS ELECTION. THE PRESIDENT HAS SAID THAT HE WANTS TO PRIVATIZE THE SOCIAL SECURITY PROGRAM. AN OLD IDEA OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, FRANKLY, BUT I THINK HE'S SERIOUS ABOUT IT. AND THE TRUTH IS THAT IF THE REPUBLICANS RETAIN THEIR HOLD ON CONGRESS, I THINK THEY'LL TRY TO PRIVATIZE SOCIAL SECURITY IN THE NEXT TWO YEARS, AND THAT'S SOMETHING THAT I THINK IS A VERY BAD IDEA.

Yepsen: FIVE CONGRESSIONAL SEATS IN IOWA. YOU GUYS ARE COMPETITIVE IN FOUR OF THEM. GIVE US YOUR ASSESSMENT OF NOT ONLY THE LAY OF THE LAND HERE BUT ALSO AROUND THE COUNTRY AS TO HOW YOU THINK YOU'RE GOING TO GET A MAJORITY OF THE SEATS IN THE U.S. HOUSE.

Gephardt: WELL, DAVID, WE NEED SIX TO WIN BACK THE MAJORITY IN THE HOUSE. EVERY TEN YEARS WE HAVE SOMETHING CALLED REDISTRICTING, WHERE ALL THE LINES GET REDRAWN SO THAT IT'S ONE PERSON, ONE VOTE. AND THAT REDISTRICTING PROCESS HAS BEEN VERY POSITIVE FOR US. WE THINK IT'S, AT A MINIMUM, A WASH FOR US. AND IT MAY EVEN TURN OUT LATER IN THE YEAR TO BE A PLUS OR A POSITIVE FOR THE DEMOCRATIC SIDE. IN ADDITION, WE'VE GOT GOOD CANDIDATES THAT WE HAVE GOTTEN INTO RACES ACROSS THE COUNTRY. AND HERE IN IOWA, YOU HAVE A RACE LIKE THE NORRIS/LATHAM RACE. JOHN NORRIS IS PROBABLY ONE OF THE BEST CANDIDATES IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY, ONE OF THE BEST CANDIDATES I'VE EVER MET. SO WE THINK WE HAVE A GREAT CHANCE TO PICK UP THE SIX SEATS THAT WE NEED ACROSS THE COUNTRY NET TO WIN BACK A MAJORITY IN THE HOUSE.

Glover: HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT REDISTRICTING HAS BEEN A POSITIVE? I MEAN THE POPULATION SHIFTS SINCE THE LAST CENSUS HAVE BEEN POPULATION MOVING SOUTH AND POPULATION MOVING SOUTHWEST INTO TRADITIONALLY REPUBLICAN AREAS, WHICH HAVE PICKED UP SEATS. HASN'T IT BEEN A GAIN FOR REPUBLICANS?

Gephardt: WELL, WE DID LOSE SEATS FROM POPULATION LOSS IN STATES LIKE PENNSYLVANIA, OHIO, MICHIGAN, NEW YORK. BUT THE TRUTH IS WE'VE HAD GAINS IN SOUTHWESTERN STATES LIKE CALIFORNIA, ARIZONA, NEW MEXICO, TEXAS, COLORADO, AND MANY OF THOSE SEATS ARE HEAVILY PEOPLED BY HISPANIC-AMERICANS, AND THEY TEND TO VOTE MORE IN A DEMOCRATIC WAY. SO WE FEEL THAT WE CAN HAVE BIG PICK-UPS IN THE SOUTHWEST. WE'VE ALSO HAD A GOOD EXPERIENCE IN THE SOUTH. WE LOST A LOT OF SEATS IN THE 1990 REDISTRICTING IN THE SOUTH, BUT WE'RE PICKING THOSE SEATS BACK UP. THE SOUTH IS COMPETITIVE, BUT WE ARE NO LONGER GOING TO BE SHUT OUT OF A LOT OF THESE RACES. I THINK WE CAN PICK UP THREE OR FOUR SEATS IN GEORGIA ALONE.

Borg: LET'S MOVE TO THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH, MAYBE YOUR OWN PLANS. WHAT'S IT GOING TO TAKE FOR THE DEMOCRATS TO WIN THE WHITE HOUSE IN 2004?

Gephardt: WELL, THAT'S A BIT WAY AHEAD. I THINK IT'S PRETTY HARD TODAY TO REALLY TRY TO FIGURE OUT 2004. I'M HAVING ENOUGH TROUBLE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT 2002.

Borg: WELL, WHERE MIGHT THE PRESIDENT BE VULNERABLE FROM WHAT YOU'VE SEEN ALREADY?

Gephardt: WELL, I THINK YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT THE ELECTION OF 2001. WE HAD A GENERAL ELECTION IN TWO STATES, VIRGINIA AND NEW JERSEY. THE PRESIDENT WAS PROBABLY AT HIS HIGHEST POINT IN THE POLLS AFTER THE HORROR OF SEPTEMBER 11. AND WE PICKED UP THE GOVERNORSHIPS OF BOTH OF THOSE STATES PRETTY HANDILY, AND IT WAS DONE ON DOMESTIC ISSUES. IT WAS DONE ON HEALTH CARE, ON EDUCATION, ON THE ECONOMY, ON JOBS, THE KIND OF BREAD-AND-BUTTER ISSUES THAT PEOPLE USUALLY RESPOND TO IN ELECTIONS. WE HAD GOOD CANDIDATES. THEY HAD SOUND, STABLE PLANS FOR MOVING FORWARD. THEY TALKED ABOUT THE ISSUES THAT PEOPLE REALLY CARE ABOUT. I THINK IF WE DO THAT IN 2002, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A GOOD ELECTION.

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, WHAT ABOUT YOUR OWN PLANS? I MEAN YOU'RE CERTAINLY MENTIONED FREQUENTLY AS A CANDIDATE FOR THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION IN '04. YOU'RE IN IOWA. YOU WON THIS STATE IN THE '88 CAUCUSES. WHERE ARE YOU IN YOUR OWN THINKING ABOUT A RACE FOR PRESIDENT IN '04?

Gephardt: DAVID, I'M TOTALLY FOCUSED ON 2002. YOU KNOW, I'M A RAMS FAN AND I USE THIS ANALOGY: IF KURT WARNER WAS ON THE ONE YARD LINE -- AN IOWAN, I MIGHT ADD -- HE'D BETTER BE WORRIED ABOUT GETTING ACROSS THE ONE YARD LINE AND NOT ABOUT THE NEXT GAME. AND THAT REALLY IS THE WAY I SEE IT. I WANT TO WIN THE HOUSE BACK SO THAT THE HOUSE -- "YOUR" HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES HAS AN AGENDA THAT IS FRIENDLY TO THE PEOPLE, THE WORKING FAMILIES OF THIS COUNTRY. AND I DON'T THINK WE HAVE THAT TODAY. I DON'T THINK WE'RE TALKING ABOUT STABILIZING SOCIAL SECURITY AND STRENGTHENING IT. WE'RE TALKING ABOUT WHAT IT TAKES TO REALLY IMPROVE PUBLIC EDUCATION, WHAT IT TAKES TO GET EVERYBODY COVERED WITH HEALTH CARE. THOSE ARE THE ISSUES THAT PEOPLE CARE ABOUT OUT HERE IN IOWA AND MY HOME STATE OF MISSOURI.

Yepsen: ISN'T IT, IN FACT, UNLIKELY THAT YOU'LL BE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT? I MEAN IF YOU WIN THE U.S. HOUSE IN THE '02 ELECTIONS, YOU'RE GOING TO BE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE. AND IF YOU LOSE, YOU'RE GOING TO BE DAMAGED GOODS. EVERYBODY IS GOING TO SAY, "WELL, DICK GEPHARDT WENT OUT AND TRIED TO SELL THE COUNTRY AND COULDN'T DO IT." SO UNDER EITHER SCENARIO, ISN'T IT UNLIKELY YOU'RE GOING TO BE A CANDIDATE IN '04?

Gephardt: MY MOTHER USED TO ALWAYS SAY TO ME, "YOU CAN ONLY CROSS ONE BRIDGE AT A TIME." AND I REALLY THINK THAT'S WHERE WE ARE. I DON'T THINK YOU CAN ASSUME ANYTHING. I THINK THAT'S AN ISSUE THAT GETS DECIDED PROPERLY AFTER THE 2002 ELECTION. I'LL LOOK AT ALL THE FACTS AT THAT POINT AND MAKE THAT DECISION.

Glover: AND HEADING INTO THIS ELECTION AND HEADING INTO THE NEXT ELECTION, THERE'S A BIG DEBATE IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY COMING OUT OF THE LAST ELECTION. THERE ARE SOME IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY WHO SAY THAT IT'S TIME FOR THE PARTY TO GET BACK TO ITS ROOTS, TO GET BACK TO THE LIBERAL LABOR OF LEADING TYPES OF THINGS THAT FIRE UP ACTIVISTS. THERE ARE THOSE WHO SAY THE PARTY NEEDS TO MOVE TO THE CENTER TO ATTRACT INDEPENDENT VOTERS. WHERE ARE YOU IN THE INNER PARTY DEBATE?

Gephardt: MIKE, I THINK YOU'VE GOT TO GET 51 PERCENT OF THE VOTE, AND I THINK THAT TAKES TWO THINGS. ONE, YOU'VE GOT TO ACTIVATE, MOBILIZE, ORGANIZE, MOTIVATE BASE, DEMOCRATIC VOTERS, PEOPLE THAT ARE PLEDGED TO THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY AND DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES, AND GET THEM EXCITED ABOUT VOTING. ONE OF THE REASONS I FOUGHT SO HARD FOR CAMPAIGN REFORM IS I WANT US TO GET BACK TO GRASS-ROOTS POLITICS. THAT'S WHERE I STARTED. I STARTED AS A PRECINCT CAPTAIN WITH MY WIFE IN ST. LOUIS IN 1965, AND I WENT DOOR TO DOOR. I GO DOOR TO DOOR IN EVERY CAMPAIGN I'VE BEEN INVOLVED IN. THAT KIND OF POLITICS IS WHAT WE NEED TO BRING BACK TO AMERICA. I CALL IT PEOPLE POWER. CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT. IT'S GETTING PEOPLE BACK INTO THE POLITICAL PROCESS. BY THE SAME TOKEN, WE'VE GOT TO ATTRACT MODERATE INDEPENDENT VOTERS AS WELL TO GET THE 51 PERCENT. SO IF WE CAN INCREASE OUR TURNOUT, GET PEOPLE EXCITED ABOUT POLITICS AND ABOUT GOVERNANCE -- I USE THE PHRASE TODAY "CLAIM THE POWER." THERE'S ONLY ONE THING WE ALL HAVE AN EQUAL MEASURE IN THIS COUNTRY, AND THAT IS OUR VOTE. WE ONLY HAVE ONE VOTE. HALF THE PEOPLE DON'T VOTE IN A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. A MAJORITY OF THOSE I THINK ARE DEMOCRATS. WE'VE GOT TO GET THEM OUT --

Glover: AND A PROCESS QUESTION: THIS WEEKEND THE FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS HAVING A CONVENTION. VIRTUALLY EVERY POTENTIAL DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE IS DOWN THERE FOR THAT CONVENTION. WHY AREN'T YOU?

Gephardt: AGAIN, I THINK WE OUGHT TO BE CONCENTRATING ON 2002. THAT'S THE NEXT CHALLENGE. THAT'S THE NEXT EVENT. BUT RIGHT NOW WE'VE GOT TO FOCUS ON 2002. AS I SAID, THE EPICENTER OF CHANGING YOUR HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES MAY WELL BE RIGHT HERE IN IOWA.

Yepsen: I WANT TO FOLLOW UP ON MIKE'S QUESTION ABOUT WHAT THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY HAS TO DO. WHAT WENT WRONG FOR DEMOCRATS IN 2000?

Gephardt: WELL, A NUMBER OF THINGS WERE AT PLAY. FIRST, THE ELECTORATE HAS BEEN PRETTY SQUARELY 50/50, AND THAT ELECTION JUST REPRESENTED, I THINK, THAT AGAIN. THERE'S NO QUESTION ABOUT THAT. I ALSO THINK THAT WE ACTUALLY WON THE ELECTION IN 2000. THERE'S A LOT OF EVIDENCE TO THAT EFFECT, SO I'M NOT COMPLETELY DOWNTRODDEN ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO US IN 2000. BUT I THINK THE COUNTRY WAS BEGINNING TO BE IN A STATE OF CHANGE: WHAT COMES AFTER BILL CLINTON? AND IT WASN'T CLEAR TO PEOPLE. THEY DIDN'T FEEL DIRECTLY ONE WAY OR THE OTHER. I THINK THE GORE CAMPAIGN WAS WELL RUN. I THINK THEY DID THEIR BEST. WE ALL WORKED AS HARD AS WE KNEW HOW. IT JUST TURNED OUT TO BE A TIE, AND WE DIDN'T QUITE WIN THAT TIE IN THE END. I'M SORRY ABOUT THAT. I WISH WE WOULD HAVE WON IT. WE PICKED UP SEATS IN THE HOUSE, AND WE EVENTUALLY, WITH JIM JEFFORDS, PICKED UP THE SENATE. SO I WOULD SAY WE MADE PROGRESS IN THAT ELECTION.

Glover: THERE'S ANOTHER HOUSEKEEPING MATTER GOING ON IN CONGRESS, AND THAT INVOLVES CONGRESSMAN TRAFICANT. HE'S BEEN CONVICTED. YOU'VE CALLED FOR HIS RESIGNATION. HE'S THUMBED HIS NOSE AT YOU. WHERE DOES THAT GO FROM HERE? IS THERE A PROCESS THAT HAPPENS IN HOUSE? DOES THE ETHICS COMMITTEE LOOK INTO IT? WHAT HAPPENS FROM HERE?

Gephardt: WELL, I WAS SIMPLY MAKING A SUGGESTION THAT I THINK IS APPROPRIATE. WHEN YOU'RE A CONVICTED FELON, I DON'T THINK YOU SHOULD CONTINUE IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. WE HAVE A PROCESS. WE WILL NOW GO THROUGH IN THE ETHICS COMMITTEE. THEY WILL BRING BACK A RECOMMENDATION TO THE HOUSE FLOOR, AND EVERY MEMBER OF THE HOUSE WILL HAVE TO VOTE. I DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT RECOMMENDATION WILL BE. I DON'T WANT TO PREJUDGE IT. BUT IN SIMILAR CASES, I THINK EXPULSION HAS BEEN CALLED FOR.

Glover: IS THERE SOMETHING YOU CAN DO TO AVOID PUTTING THE HOUSE THROUGH THIS, OR IS IT ALL ON YOUR SHOULDERS?

Gephardt: THAT'S WHY I SAID -- MADE MY SUGGESTION YESTERDAY, WHEN YOU'VE BEEN CONVICTED OF TEN FELONY COUNTS BY YOUR PEERS AND A JURY, IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THE BEST THING TO DO IS TO RESIGN AND MOVE ON.

Yepsen: ONE THING YOU DID OUT HERE THIS WEEKEND WAS ENDORSE CHUCK GIFFORD, A CANDIDATE FOR THE IOWA STATE SENATE. HE HAS A DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY AGAINST AN INCUMBENT STATE SENATOR, MATT MCCOY. THERE'S SOME CONTROVERSY ABOUT YOUR DECISION TO DO THAT. WHY ARE YOU MEDDLING IN A LOCAL DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY?

Gephardt: WELL, I DON'T DO THAT VERY OFTEN. IN FACT, IT'S VERY UNUSUAL. AND IT WAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MATT MCCOY. HE'S A FINE YOUNG MAN AND A FINE CANDIDATE AND A GOOD DEMOCRAT. CHUCK GIFFORD IS A FRIEND OF MINE FOR OVER FIFTEEN YEARS. HE HAS BEEN A LOYAL FRIEND TO ME, AND I BELIEVE IN BEING A FRIEND. MY MOTHER USED TO SAY, "IF YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE A FRIEND, YOU'VE GOT TO BE A FRIEND." THAT'S THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT, AND IT'S NO MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT.

Yepsen: PRESIDENT BUSH IS IN IOWA ON MONDAY TO TALK ABOUT TAXES. ONE OF THE THINGS HE'S GOING TO DO IS SAY THAT THE TAX CUTS THAT CONGRESS IMPLEMENTED SHOULD BE MADE PERMANENT, THAT THEY SHOULDN'T EXPIRE AFTER TEN YEARS. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?

Gephardt: WELL, DAVID, I THINK THAT BEFORE WE TAKE UP THAT BILL, WE OUGHT TO TAKE UP A BILL ON SOCIAL SECURITY: HOW ARE WE GOING TO MAKE IT STABLE AND STRONG FOR THE FUTURE; WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE OTHER FISCAL ACTIONS AND BUDGETARY ACTIONS WE TAKE IN RELATION TO OUR BEING ABLE TO KEEP THE SOCIAL SECURITY TRUST FUND SACROSANCT? WE PASSED FIVE LOCKBOX BILLS IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS. THE REPUBLICANS HAVE SAID THEY DON'T WANT TO TOUCH THE SOCIAL SECURITY FUND. AND YET IN THIS BUDGET, WE'RE GOING RIGHT BACK INTO THE SOCIAL SECURITY TRUST FUND AND SPENDING THAT MONEY AS GENERAL REVENUE MONEY. I DON'T THINK WE OUGHT TO DO THAT, SO I THINK BEFORE WE TAKE UP ANY MORE BUDGETARY BILLS, WE OUGHT TO TAKE UP THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL SECURITY AND WHETHER WE'RE REALLY GOING TO KEEP THE LOCKBOX SACROSANCT.

Glover: BEFORE WE LEAVE POLITICS ENTIRELY, I'D LIKE TO ASK YOU A MORE GENERAL QUESTION. WHAT DO YOU THINK -- AND I DON'T WANT YOU TO LOOK AHEAD TO 2004 BECAUSE, AS YOU SAID, THAT'S DOWN THE ROAD A PIECE. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO DRIVE THE ELECTORATE IN THIS MID-TERM ELECTION? WHAT'S GOING TO MOTIVATE VOTERS?

Gephardt: I THINK THE ISSUES THAT AFFECT THEIR LIVES. YOU KNOW, ELECTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES. ELECTIONS -- POLITICS IS A VERY SERIOUS BUSINESS, BECAUSE THE ISSUES THAT GET DECIDED IN THE CONGRESS AND THE STATE LEGISLATURE HERE AFFECT PEOPLE'S LIVES EVERY DAY. SO SOCIAL SECURITY IS RIGHT AT THE TOP OF THE LIST. I TELL THE STORY -- MY MOTHER IS 94. SHE LIVES IN INDEPENDENT LIVING IN MISSOURI, AND SHE GETS $1,200 A MONTH FROM SOCIAL SECURITY. SHE ASKED ME THE OTHER DAY, "WHAT WOULD WE DO WITHOUT THIS $1,200?" IT'S A LIFE-AND-DEATH ISSUE FOR HER AND MILLIONS LIKE HER AND FAMILIES ALL OVER THIS COUNTRY. THAT ISSUE IS GOING TO GET DECIDED IN THE NEXT TWO YEARS. THE ISSUE OF HEALTH CARE COVERAGE AND HEALTH CARE COSTS -- PRESCRIPTION DRUG COSTS IS A BURNING ISSUE ALL OVER THIS COUNTRY, AND WE'VE GOT TO TAKE SOME STEPS TO HOLD DOWN THE PRICE OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS. EDUCATION, AGRICULTURE, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A BIG AGRICULTURE BILL COMING OUT. THAT'S BIG IN THE MIDWEST. IT HAS TREMENDOUS RAMIFICATIONS FOR WHAT HAPPENS OUT HERE. THOSE ARE THE ISSUES THAT THAT ELECTION WILL BE DECIDED ON.

Borg: AND AS I SAID IN INTRODUCING YOU, OF COURSE, THE TENSION RIGHT NOW OF THE WORLD, NOT ONLY CONGRESS BUT THE WORLD, IS ON THE MIDDLE EAST. IS THAT THE RESULT, IN YOUR OPINION -- AND IT'S ALWAYS BEEN A FESTERING SITUATION THERE -- BUT IS IT THE RESULT RIGHT NOW OF BENIGN NEGLECT BY THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION AND THIS NATION? IN OTHER WORDS, SHOULD THE U.S. HAVE BEEN DOING MORE SOONER?

Gephardt: WELL, I'VE THOUGHT FOR SOME TIME THAT WE CAN ALL MAKE OUR POTSHOTS AT ONE ANOTHER FOR WHAT DID OR DIDN'T HAPPEN IN THE MIDDLE EAST. THE PRESIDENT THE OTHER DAY HAD TO CLEAR UP A STATEMENT THAT HAD BEEN MADE THAT CLINTON WAS TO BLAME FOR TAKING THEM SO FAR ALONG THE PEACE TRAIL AND THEN FAILING. THEN HE BACKED OFF THAT, AND I THINK IT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO BACK OFF. I DON'T THINK WE GET ANYWHERE BY SHOOTING AT ONE ANOTHER POLITICALLY ON WHAT HAPPENS IN THE MIDDLE EAST. THIS IS A LIFE-AND-DEATH MATTER. THIS IS ABOUT TERRORISM. IT'S ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT WE CAN SECURE A PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST THAT WOULD HAVE RAMIFICATIONS FOR EVERYBODY IN THE WORLD. AND WE NEED TO WORK TOGETHER, DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS, ONLY AS AMERICANS, TO TRY TO DO THE RIGHT THINGS TO HELP BRING ABOUT PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST. YES, I THINK WE HAVE TO BE ACTIVE. WE HAVE TO LEAD. THERE'S ONLY ONE COUNTRY IN THE WORLD THAT HAS THE CAPABILITY TO BRING THESE OPPOSING SIDES TOGETHER. AS WE DID IN IRELAND, WE NEED TO HELP DO IN THE MIDDLE EAST. I PRAY FOR SECRETARY POWELL AND HIS ABILITY TO MAKE PROGRESS. I HOPE HE CAN DO THAT. WHEN YOU HAVE 18-YEAR-OLD GIRLS BLOWING THEMSELVES UP AS SUICIDE BOMBERS, YOU KNOW WE'VE ALL GOT A PROBLEM. THIS IS A CULTURE OF SUICIDE AND DEATH. THIS IS MASS INSANITY AND WE HAVE TO STOP IT, JUST LIKE WHAT YOU SAW HERE ON SEPTEMBER 11. THE COMPETITION GOING FORWARD IS BETWEEN TERRORISTS WHO RUN THEIR OWN AFFAIRS AND GOVERNANCE AND ORDER. AND AMERICA NEEDS TO STAND FOR THE UNIVERSAL VALUES THAT WE BELIEVE IN -- FREEDOM, PROSPERITY, DEMOCRACY ACROSS THE WORLD -- IN ORDER TO MAKE THE WORLD SAFE FOR US. THE WORLD IS A LITTLE BITTY NEIGHBORHOOD NOW CALLED PLANET EARTH AND WE'RE ALL STUCK IN IT AND WE'VE GOT TO MAKE SURE IT'S SAFE FOR EVERYBODY.

Glover: DOES THAT INCLUDE THE USE OF U.S. TROOPS IN THAT REGION, IF THAT'S WHAT'S NECESSARY TO IMPOSE PEACE?

Gephardt: I HOPE THAT ISN'T NECESSARY, BECAUSE THEY WOULD OBVIOUSLY BE IN HARM'S WAY. AND I HOPE WE CAN FIND A ROAD TO PEACE THAT PRECLUDES THAT FROM HAPPENING. BUT I THINK WE'VE GOT TO BE READY TO BE ENGAGED IN EVERY WAY THAT WE NEED TO BE ENGAGED TO HELP BRING ABOUT THIS PEACE. I THINK THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT MATTER TO EVERY AMERICAN. WHAT WE SAW ON 9/11 IS NOT, UNFORTUNATELY, AN ISOLATED INSTANCE. THIS CAN HAPPEN AGAIN AND WE HAVE TO STOP THE FORCES OF VIOLENCE AND HATRED AND BITTERNESS WHICH HAVE BROKEN OUT SO OFTEN IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD.

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, I WANT TO BRING THE QUESTION CLOSER TO HOME... THE FARM BILL. IT'S IN A CONFERENCE COMMITTEE BETWEEN THE HOUSE AND SENATE RIGHT NOW AS WE SPEAK THIS WEEKEND. HOW DO YOU SEE THAT -- FARMERS ARE GETTING READY TO GO OUT AND START FIELDWORK. HOW IS THIS FARM BILL DEBATE GOING TO BE RESOLVED? WHAT'S THE OUTCOME GOING TO BE?

Gephardt: WELL, I HOPE THAT TOM HARKIN, WHO HAS BEEN A REAL LEADER ON THIS BILL IN THE SENATE AND IN THE WHOLE CONGRESS, CAN PREVAIL WITH HIS VIEW, WHICH IS THAT WE NEED TO PUT MORE OF THE SUPPORT PAYMENTS UP IN THE FRONT PART OF THE BILL IN THE NEAR TERM, BECAUSE FARMERS TODAY NEED HELP. CORN IS BELOW $2 A BUSHEL. SOYBEANS ARE AT SOME OF THEIR LOWEST PRICES WE'VE EVER SEEN, EVEN THOUGH THERE'S BEEN A LITTLE BIT OF BUMP UP LATELY. SO WE NEED THE COMMODITIES PROGRAM UP IN THE FRONT PART OF THE BILL, BUT WE NEED CONSERVATION, WE NEED ENERGY PROGRAMS, WE NEED RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS. WE NEED TO MOVE THIS FARM BILL AWAY FROM JUST A SUBSIDY BILL TO BEGIN TO HELP DEVELOP THE RURAL ECONOMY IN STATES LIKE IOWA AND MISSOURI AND THE MIDWEST. AND TOM HARKIN IS, I THINK, DOING THE BEST JOB OF DESCRIBING WHAT CAN BE DONE RIGHT NOW.

Yepsen: DO YOU EVER SEE A TIME WHEN WE CAN WEAN AGRICULTURE OFF OF ALL OF THESE SUBSIDIES? WE WANT TO KEEP A SAFETY NET UNDER FAMILY FARMERS, AND YET THERE ARE HUGE SUBSIDIES PAID OUT AND MANY PEOPLE ARE CRITICAL OF THEM AS MAKING FARMERS WELFARE DEPENDENT. DO YOU EVER SEE A TIME AND A WAY WE CAN MOVE THE COUNTRY AND AGRICULTURE OFF OF THAT?

Gephardt: I THINK WE CAN IF WE ARE INTELLIGENT ABOUT WHAT WE TRY TO DO AND WE START WORKING IN SOME OF THE AREAS I JUST MENTIONED. RURAL DEVELOPMENT HAS NEVER BEEN ATTENDED TO IN BILLS. CONSERVATION HAS NEVER REALLY BEEN INCENTED AND INDUCED THE WAY I THINK IT CAN BE, AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN RURAL COMMUNITIES AND THE ENERGY ASPECT OF ALL THIS. ONE OF THE REASONS WE'RE IN TROUBLE IN THE MIDDLE EAST IS THAT WE'RE SO DEPENDENT ON THESE COUNTRIES FOR OUR ENERGY. ETHANOL, OTHER SOURCES OF ENERGY, SOLAR ENERGY, WIND ENERGY, COULD BE HARVESTED IN A LOT OF THESE MIDDLE WESTERN STATES, BUT YOU'VE GOT TO HAVE A VISION OF WHAT YOU'RE TRYING TO DO IN ENERGY AND AGRICULTURE IN ORDER TO MOVE THE THING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. WE'VE JUST BEEN PAYING OUT SUBSIDIES TRYING TO PUT BAILING WIRE UNDER THIS THING YEAR BY YEAR, AND WE'VE NEVER HAD A VISION FOR WHERE WE CAN GO. I THINK THE COUNTRY IS READY TO GO THERE.

Glover: A SUBSET OF THIS WHOLE FARM BILL DEBATE IS THE DEBATE THAT'S GOING HERE IN IOWA -- IT'S GOING ON IN YOUR HOME STATE; IT'S GOING ON IN A LOT OF STATES IN THE MIDWEST -- AND THAT'S WHAT TO DO WITH CONFINEMENT LIVESTOCK AGRICULTURE. THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT WANT TO PUT SOME NEW RESTRICTIONS ON IT. THEY SAY WE NEED TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT WITH THESE FACILITIES. A COUPLE OF QUESTIONS: ONE, WHERE DO YOU COME DOWN ON THAT WHOLE DEBATE ABOUT THE LIVESTOCK INDUSTRY VERSUS THE ENVIRONMENT; AND TWO, DOES CONGRESS HAVE A ROLE IN THIS? DOES THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAVE A POTENTIAL ROLE TO PLAY?

Gephardt: I THINK WE HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY, ALTHOUGH IT LARGELY HAS BEEN A STATE ISSUE. I KNOW HERE IN IOWA YOU HAVE A COMPROMISE, I'M TOLD, BEING WORKED ON IN THE STATE LEGISLATURE BETWEEN THE ENVIRONMENTAL AND THE LIVESTOCK INTERESTS. AND I HOPE THAT COMPROMISE, IF IT'S A POSITIVE ONE, CAN GO THROUGH. ONE THING THAT I'M PARTICULARLY INTERESTED IN IS AN EFFORT THAT I'VE HEARD ABOUT THAT PEOPLE ARE MAKING TO PRODUCE FUEL, ENERGY, GASOLINE, IF YOU WILL, FROM LIVESTOCK WASTE. AND THERE'S A NEW PROCESS THAT'S BEING DEVELOPED. AND WE NEED TO DO MORE RESEARCH ON IT AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL. WE NEED TO INCENT IT AND INDUCE IT, PERHAPS WITH TAX INCENTIVES AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL. IT MAY WELL BE THAT WE CANNOT ONLY MAKE ETHANOL OUT OF CORN, BUT WE CAN ALSO MAKE ETHANOL OUT OF LIVESTOCK WASTE, WHICH WOULD CLEAN UP A LOT OF THESE LOTS, CLEAN UP A LOT OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS AND BE A WIN/WIN SOLUTION FOR EVERYBODY. I'VE BEEN TALKING TO THE GOVERNOR HERE ABOUT IT, AND I'M GOING TO TRY TO GET HIM IN CONTACT WITH THE PEOPLE THAT I'M AWARE OF THAT ARE WORKING IN THIS DIRECTION.

Glover: IS THERE A POTENTIAL THAT FEDERAL ENVIRONMENTAL OFFICIALS CAN GET INVOLVED IN THE ENFORCEMENT END OF THIS THING IN TERMS OF IF STATES DON'T ACT, WILL THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT STEP IN AND ACT FOR THEM?

Gephardt: IT COULD BE. I THINK IT'S A VERY SERIOUS ISSUE. IF YOU'RE ENVIRONMENTALLY IMPACTED BY THESE CONFINEMENT LOTS, IT IS A VERY SERIOUS HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEM. AND I HOPE THE STATES WILL DEAL WITH IT POSITIVELY. I THINK THEY CAN. I THINK THERE ARE A LOT OF OTHER THINGS IN THE WHOLE MEAT PACKING AND LIVESTOCK AREA THAT WE NEED TO LOOK AT. THE CHECKOFF IS ONE AREA THAT I THINK SHOULD BE CHANGED, AND I WISH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WOULD MOVE IN THAT AREA. I THINK THAT'S IMPORTANT. I THINK THIS BUSINESS OF TAKING POSSESSION OF LIVESTOCK AT THE MEAT SLAUGHTERING FACILITIES TWO WEEKS BEFORE IS ANOTHER THING THAT OUGHT TO BE LOOKED AT.

Borg: THE CHECKOFF IS FOR PROMOTION OF THEIR OWN PRODUCT. WHAT DO YOU WANT DONE ON THAT? YOU DON'T WANT LIVESTOCK PRODUCERS TO PAY FOR PROMOTION OF THEIR OWN PRODUCT?

Gephardt: I THINK A LOT OF THE SMALL FARMERS OUT HERE IN THE MIDWEST HAVE BEEN WANTING, BY REFERENDUM, TO GET RID OF THE CHECKOFF BECAUSE THEY FEEL THAT IT'S NOT HELPING THEM, IT'S ONLY HELPING THE BIG PRODUCERS. IN FACT, I THINK THEY VOTED IN MANY OF THE STATES AND MAYBE THEY VOTED HERE TO GET RID OF IT, BUT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HASN'T DONE THAT. THEY'VE SAID THAT THE REFERENDUM WASN'T RUN CORRECTLY. I THINK IT WAS RUN CORRECTLY, AND I THINK WE -- THE CHECKOFF OUGHT TO BE REEXAMINED AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL.

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, ANOTHER ISSUE ON THE MINDS OF A LOT OF IOWANS IN THE WAKE OF THE ENRON SCANDAL IS RETIREMENT SECURITY. THE HOUSE HAS PASSED A BILL TO ADDRESS THAT PROBLEM. WHAT'S GOING TO -- WHAT'S CONGRESS ULTIMATELY GOING TO DO TO GUARANTEE WORKER PENSIONS? WHEN IT'S ALL SAID AND DONE, WHAT DO YOU THINK CONGRESSMEN WILL COME UP WITH?

Gephardt: WELL, I THINK THE BILL THAT THE HOUSE CAME UP WITH WAS VERY INADEQUATE. IT WAS SLANTED TO THE TOP EXECUTIVES, AND IT DOESN'T NEARLY DO ENOUGH OF WHAT IT OUGHT TO DO TO HELP THE EMPLOYEES. IT KEPT EMPLOYEES SUBJECT TO CONFLICTED ADVICE FROM RETIREMENT FINANCIAL ADVISORS. IT LEFT IN PLACE A DIFFERING SET OF RULES FOR TOP EXECUTIVES AND EMPLOYEES ON WHEN THEY CAN SELL THEIR STOCK AND WHEN THEY HAVE TO GET NOTICE THAT THE TOP EXECUTIVES ARE SELLING THEIR STOCK AND HOW THEY'RE BOTH TREATED AFTER BANKRUPTCY OCCURS, WHICH IS GOING ON RIGHT NOW AT ENRON. THE TOP EXECS GOT TO SELL OUT AND POCKET MILLIONS OF DOLLARS. THE PEOPLE WHO WERE LEFT IN THE PLANS WHO COULDN'T GET OUT OF THEM ARE STUCK WITH NOTHING. I MET ENRON EMPLOYEES IN WASHINGTON WHO HAVE NO PAY COMING IN, NO HEALTH INSURANCE, AND LOST THEIR 401(k) AND THEIR RETIREMENT. THEY HAVE NOTHING. THEY HAVE BEEN DECIMATED WHILE THE TOP EXECUTIVES HAVE POCKETED $100 MILLION. IT'S JUST WRONG! AND THE BILL WE PASSED JUST THE OTHER DAY DID NOT TREAT THOSE PROBLEMS BECAUSE THE REPUBLICAN MAJORITY WOULD NOT FACE THOSE PROBLEMS. I HOPE IT CAN BE CLEANED UP IN THE SENATE.

Glover: THERE ARE THOSE WHO SAY THAT THE ENRON SCANDAL AND THE ANDERSON SCANDAL THAT FALLS IN THE WAKE OF THAT INDICATES THAT THE GOVERNMENT JUST DOESN'T REGULATE BUSINESS TIGHTLY ENOUGH, THAT IT'S BEEN TOO COZY AND ALLOWS TOO MUCH LAX ETHICAL BEHAVIOR IN BUSINESSES. WHERE DO YOU COME DOWN ON THAT?

Gephardt: WELL, AS YOU PROBABLY KNOW, I'VE BEEN A BIG ADVOCATE OF CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM. I'M HAPPY TO REPORT TO YOU THAT WE PASSED THE MCCAIN-FEINGOLD BILL IN THE HOUSE ABOUT A MONTH AGO. I WORKED VERY HARD TO DO THAT. I THINK THE CONGRESS HAS BEEN TOO PROTECTIVE OF WEALTHY SPECIAL INTERESTS IN THIS COUNTRY, AND I THINK PART OF THE REASON IS THAT WE'VE HAD THESE HUGE CONTRIBUTIONS COMING TO THE CONGRESS TO THE POLITICAL PARTIES FROM WEALTHY SPECIAL INTERESTS. AND EVEN IF YOU CAN'T TRACK A SPECIFIC ACTION TO A BIG CONTRIBUTION, I THINK JUST THE APPEARANCE OF IT TO THE PUBLIC IS ABSOLUTELY WRONG. IT'S NO WONDER PEOPLE ARE CYNICAL ABOUT POLITICS WHEN THEY SEE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS GOING INTO CONGRESS FROM WEALTHY SPECIAL INTERESTS.

Glover: IN THE WAKE OF THE ATTACKS IN SEPTEMBER, THE ECONOMY HAS GONE SOUTH. THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF NEW HOMELAND SECURITY PROGRAMS PUT IN PLACE THAT ARE PRETTY EXPENSIVE. CAN THE COUNTRY AFFORD ALL THE SECURITY STUFF THAT IT'S DONE?

Gephardt: I THINK WE'VE GOT TO DO WHAT WE'VE GOT TO DO. PEOPLE WANT TO BE SECURE. THEY WANT TO BE SAFE. BUT WE NEED TO BE CAREFUL AND INTELLIGENT ABOUT WHAT WE ACTUALLY FUND AND WHAT WE DON'T FUND. IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT, YOU COULD LITERALLY SPEND THE WHOLE BUDGET AND PROBABLY THE WHOLE NATIONAL WEALTH ON MAKING ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN THAT EVERY POSSIBLE TARGET WAS INVULNERABLE. WE OBVIOUSLY CAN'T AFFORD THAT. WE DON'T WANT TO BANKRUPT THE COUNTRY TO TRY TO MAKE THE COUNTRY SAFE. BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, THERE ARE REAL DEFICIENCIES IN OUR SECURITY SYSTEM THAT WE NEED TO TAKE CARE OF. A LOT OF IT'S COORDINATION BETWEEN HOSPITALS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES AND EMERGENCY SERVICES, TRYING TO MAKE SURE OUR NUCLEAR FACILITIES ARE SAFE. THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS THAT WE SHOULD DO, AND WE'RE TRYING TO MAKE THOSE RIGHT PRIORITIES.

Borg: THANK YOU, CONGRESSMAN GEPHARDT.

Gephardt: THANK YOU.

Borg: ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS," THE FOCUS SHIFTS FROM THE NATION'S CAPITAL TO IOWA'S CAPITAL. WE'LL REVIEW THE WORK OF THE 79TH IOWA GENERAL ASSEMBLY WITH IOWA STATEHOUSE REPORTERS, AND WE INVITE YOU TO EAVESDROP ON THAT REPORTERS' ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION AT 6:30 NEXT FRIDAY, SUNDAY AT NOON. AND THAT'S IT FOR THIS WEEK'S EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY.

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