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Crossfire

Which Democrat Will Win in New Hampshire?

Aired January 6, 2000 - 7:30 p.m. ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, Al, your underdog pitch brings tears to my eyes.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I hope that my upset victory brings tears to your eyes on February 1st.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Tonight, the New Hampshire primary is just weeks away. After votes are counted, which Democratic candidate will be laughing, and which will be crying?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Robert Novak.

In the CROSSFIRE, Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore and an adviser to the Gore campaign. And in Des Moines, Eric Hauser, press secretary for Bill Bradley.

NOVAK: Good evening, welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Al Gore and Bill Bradley squared off in their fourth Democratic presidential debate. And it's not just the vice president calling the former senator a quitter. The former basketball star also took off the gloves.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEY: When I hear you talk, Al, it reminds me of a Washington bunker. I think you're in the Washington bunker. And I can understand why you're in the bunker. I mean, there's Gingrich, there was the fund-raising scandal, there was the impeachment problem. And I think that the major objective in the last several years in the White House has been political survival. I understand that.

GORE: I'm proud that I stayed and fought against the Gingrich Congress. I'm proud that I was where I think the American people needed a lot of folks to be, fighting against that, preventing them from shutting down the government.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NOVAK: But what made front pages of the nation's newspapers was the vice president saying, yes, he would impose a gay rights litmus test in naming members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Senator Bradley didn't go quite that far but did say the generals and admirals he picked would follow his orders to allow gays in the military.

If you didn't catch debate number four last night, never fear. Debate number five will be in Des Moines Saturday afternoon, broadcast live on CNN. Who's winning these debates? And are the debates really preparing the Democrats to run against Republicans next November?

Bill?

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Eric Hauser, I started out in politics with Gene McCarthy in 1968, so I like somebody who's independent, I like somebody who's an outsider. I thought that's what Bill Bradley was, and then I hear him last night giving this answer when challenged to give up 30-second commercials.

Let's remind everybody what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEY: Let me tell you, if you are not known by a million people in the country, as Al is -- I'm not known by as many people. My only opportunity to get known is through a 30-second television commercial, which, quite frankly, if you know what you believe is really not a problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Now, Eric, that is classic insider establishment BS, isn't it?

ERIC HAUSER, BRADLEY PRESS SECRETARY: No, not at all. The couple points are, one, it is true. You can say -- you can have an important impression in 30 seconds if you're clear and candid and direct with people. Thirty-second ads, 60-second ads are not the only way to communicate. You do it in living rooms, you do it in debates, you do it in speeches. But the other part of it is 30-second ads aren't the problem, 30-second attack ads are the problem. People aren't saying they want to hear less of politicians through the air, they're saying they don't want to hear attack politics through the air. So we'll keep a mix of communication, and we'll keep it positive.

PRESS: Eric, you're doing what your boss does. You're avoiding the question. Look, Bill Bradley is not an unknown, and his answer is the same answer you hear from Mitch McConnell and Republicans on campaign reform. They say we can't do it because we need to keep raising money, basically, to fight the other side.

HAUSER: Bill, Bill, he is a lot less known than the vice president. And, more importantly -- and it was interesting. The vice president sort of agreed to this last night when said, now this time, Bill. It's not a ploy, meaning last time it was, meaning it still is a ploy. And it's a gimmick. There's a lot of stunts. There's a lot of gimmicks. It's a foolish idea, and I don't think we'll do it...

PRESS: And...

HAUSER: ... under any circumstances.

PRESS: And...

HAUSER: It's a form of communication with people. And If you say what you believe...

PRESS: And...

HAUSER: ... about health care and guns and campaign finance reform and look in the camera, tell people...

PRESS: And...

HAUSER: ... what you believe and why, that's fine.

PRESS: And, Eric, standing up -- Bill Bradley standing up with John McCain in New Hampshire and shaking hands was not a campaign ploy?

HAUSER: Absolutely not. These have been guys that have committed to campaign finance reform since the very beginning of this campaign, that have made it centerpieces, that have proven something very important, which is you need cooperation and a national purpose to get campaign finance reform done. We haven't had that in the last seven or eight years, and you need that if you're going to get it accomplished.

NOVAK: Ron Klain, I was reading today the "Hot Line" publication, all the reaction to last night's debates from people who aren't committed -- journalists, analysts, neutrals. They all say your candidate lost. You doing something wrong?

RON KLAIN, GORE ADVISER: Bob, you're reading something different than what I'm reading. I heard a great reaction from people all over the country to the vice president last night. And it's no surprise. Once again, I thought he was right on the issues. I think he was right on the issue that Bill just raised, which was the question whether or not Senator Bradley would be willing to give up 30-second spots and focus the campaign on the issues through a series of debates.

And what the vice president said last night was if Senator Bradley isn't known throughout the country, he'd limited it to New Hampshire alone, where Bill Bradley is leading us, and where there's no reason why he can't agree to the vice president's proposal.

NOVAK: Ron, I'll send you that sheet from the...

KLAIN: Thanks, Bob, thanks. I appreciate that.

NOVAK: You'll see. But let me -- I try to be helpful. And I want to tell you what's wrong with the vice president. And let's just...

KLAIN: Thanks, Bob. I appreciate that.

NOVAK: Let's just look at this little piece from the debate last night.

KLAIN: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEY: First of all, Al, let me explain to you, Al, how the private sectors works, OK? If you have -- if you have a health care plan...

GORE: Try not to be aloof.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: You may not have heard that. What Vice President Gore said was "try not to be aloof." And, you know, they're having a debate about health care, and he has read somewhere in some of the polling data that you have piled onto him that Bradley is too aloof. He reads it in the paper, and so in the middle of the health care thing, he says, try not to be aloof. That's the whole problem.

KLAIN: Well, no, no. Look, first of all -- by the way, I think the first question in that debate was a question from a journalist asking Senator Bradley about his aloofness. And, frankly, I thought Senator Bradley's answer was just plain, old condescending. He doesn't want to defend his health care plan because he...

HAUSER: Ron, Ron, wait a minute.

KLAIN: Eric, let me finish. I didn't interrupt you. Let me finish.

HAUSER: All right.

KLAIN: He doesn't want to defend his let care plan because he can't. It's a bad plan. It gets rid of Medicaid, it gets -- unstabilizes the health care system, it would explode the deficit. It's a wrong plan. That's why Senator Bradley can't defend the program.

NOVAK: You didn't answer my question, but I didn't expect you to. But I want to raise one other thing. You have been -- the vice president has been really attacking Senator Bradley as being the tool of the pharmaceutical companies. And he answered that last night.

And let's take a look at what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEY: Less than one percent of the money that I ever raised when I was running in all of my Senate campaigns came from anybody connected to a pharmaceutical company, less than this 3/10 of a percent in my presidential campaign. So from my standpoint, that's not a problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Now don't you think the vice president owes Senator Bradley an apology, raising this red herring of pharmaceutical contribution, when less than one percent of his contributions come from those companies?

KLAIN: Look it's thousands and thousands of dollars, whatever the percentage is. And Senator Bradley has been, as I think has been documented in most of the major newspapers -- "The New York Times did a story about this a couple of weeks ago -- a very loyal and overly loyal friend of the pharmaceutical industry. And just this week, when he announced his big plan to close corporate tax loopholes, none of them were addressed to the pharmaceutical industry once again.

On the tax issue, the difference between these two candidates couldn't be clearer. Al Gore supports middle class tax relief, and Bill Bradley hasn't pushed that issue in this campaign.

PRESS: Eric, I've got a question for you here, but if you want to...

HAUSER: Let me...

PRESS: ... give a quick response, go ahead.

HAUSER: Let me -- can I ask a question for Ron?

PRESS: Yes, go ahead.

HAUSER: Ron, how much, I mean, $150 billion, $350 billion, the vice president's tax cut range is extraordinary. And that's why we don't know exactly how much he's trying to spend. The fact is the vice president, by his own numbers, has overspent the surplus. So any talk of a tax cut...

KLAIN: Eric, that's just not true. The vice president has been right there on taxes...

HAUSER: Which one? No, he hasn't, Ron.

KLAIN: He's very clear on taxes, very clear.

HAUSER: How much? How much?

KLAIN: He's talked about getting rid of the marriage penalty. I wish Senator Bradley would support that.

HAUSER: But how much, Ron?

KLAIN: Health care tax cuts, savings tax cuts, a total of almost $300 billion. And his plan, unlike Senator Bradley's, fits within the balanced budget...

HAUSER: No, it doesn't. KLAIN: ... and doesn't destabilize the economic future of our country.

HAUSER: No, it doesn't.

KLAIN: I'm sorry, Eric. Those are the facts.

PRESS: All right, let me jump in here with a tax question that didn't come up in the debate last night, Eric, which is the senator's statement yesterday that he wanted to eliminate or close some tax loopholes. Liberals love that, right? Tax loopholes amounting to $125 billion. My question to you, Eric, is this is a senator who authored, when he was in the Senate, a tax break for pharmaceutical companies doing business in Puerto Rico, also a senator who flip- flopped on one of the worst tax loopholes, which is the ethanol subsidy in Iowa. I mean, isn't it kind of hypocritical of him to talk about tax breaks when he's -- I mean, loopholes, when he's the author of these two?

HAUSER: No, I -- you know, he is the author of the 1986 tax reform act, which was probably the greatest reform in of the tax code in American history, taking out billions of dollars in loopholes and lowering rates for millions of Americans.

PRESS: But he can't have it both ways, Eric.

HAUSER: No, but the point is, the interesting thing the other day after we made the proposal to save $125 billion, is the Gore campaign said that Bill Bradley was new to the issue of tax reform. That's like saying he's recently tall. I mean, you guys have got to get the facts right. He offered the biggest bill on tax reform in the country, and we're going to continue that tradition in the White House.

NOVAK: I have to get away from the debate for a moment, Mr. Klain. The Gore campaign manager, Donna Brazile, made this statement, quote:

"The Republicans bring out Colin Powell and J.C. Watts because they have no program, no policy. They play that game because they have no other game. They have no love and no joy. They'd rather take pictures with black children than feed them."

And a black Republican, Governor Colin Powell was...

PRESS: General -- you said "governor."

NOVAK: I'm sorry -- General Colin Powell was absolutely outraged by that. He called it playing the race card. Are you identifying yourself with the outrageous statements by Donna Brazile?

KLAIN: Donna Brazile was 100 percent right. Look, General Powell is a great American. He's a great leader. He's a national hero. J.C. Watts is a great man, too. But the fact is that their presence in the Republican Party, as great leaders as they are, doesn't make up for the fact the Republican Party has no real agenda to help...

NOVAK: So you like to play the race card.

KLAIN: This is not about playing the race card; it's about playing the truth card, Bob. And the truth card is this: The Republican Party doesn't have an agenda to help minorities.

In fact, just yesterday, as this controversy was erupting, the Republican Party once again renewed their opposition to the vice president's plan to support school construction in our inner-cities. Where is their agenda for African-Americans in this country, Bob?

PRESS: Gentlemen, we're going to have to take a break. We've got more issues and more differences coming up. But as we go to this break, here's one issue that both candidates found last night that they could agree on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I respect, Bill. I really do. I am not just saying that as a ploy. I think he's a genuinely good person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You agree with him? ?

BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I agree with what he said, yes. I think I'm a genuinely good person.

(LAUGHTER)

GORE: He also thinks he's a genuinely good person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

In the first debate of 2000, Bill Bradley and Al Gore agreed last night on gays in the military, but they clashed over health care, Medicare and relations with Russia, among other topics. Tonight, we continue to probe the difference on the issues with representatives of both candidates. In Des Moines, Eric Hauser, press secretary to Bill Bradley. Here in Washington, Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice President Gore and now adviser to the gore campaign -- Bob.

NOVAK: Eric Hauser, I almost fell off my chair last night when I heard Senator Bradley, not only raise the impeachment issue, when he talked about Al Gore in the bunker, but say this about his Democratic administration's policy to Russia. Let's take a look at it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEY: I look at our relations with Russia over the last eight years, and I think we've had a missed opportunity. They came, they wanted to know what to do. I think that we have not pushed hard enough for a reduction in strategic nuclear weapons, destruction of nuclear stockpiles. I believe that we sent IMF money to Russia knowing that corruption was rampant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Eric, any one of the six pack of Republican candidates debating tonight at Durham, New Hampshire could use that -- are you just cutting all of your ties with the Clinton administration?

HAUSER: No. We've got a disagreement with some of how -- some of the Russia policy over the last six or seven years, but there's a thread that extends far beyond Russia, and it's missed opportunities, and it's settling for far less than we could do, whether it's Russia, or gun control, or child poverty, or health care, or campaign finance reform and on and on and on. The vice president made very clear last night that he was willing to settle for a lot less than Americans want, and that's unfortunate. And it's clear on health care, in particular, that he is leaving millions of people behind without insurance, without finances for insurance...

(CROSSTALK)

HAUSER: Well, let me make one other point on this one. You've talked about step by step to universal care. There is no more money in your budget for any steps. What you've proposed is as far as you're going to get in a Gore administration, and that's what you have settled for and that's how...

(CROSSTALK)

HAUSER: Ron, talk about yourself for a minute.

PRESS: One at a time.

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: Eric, OK, hold on.

KLAIN: Senator Bradley's proposal costs six times and covers one percent more persons and leaves nothing, nothing for education, to save Medicare, to promote fiscal responsibility and for tax cuts. Bill Bradley has the small agenda here. It's an agenda here; it's an agenda just focused on health care. Al Gore has leadership for the 21st century on health care, education, Medicare , Medicaid, the whole range of issues. That's the biggest difference here.

NOVAK: That's fascinating, but that's not the point I was making. You know, the first election I voted in was 1952, and the Democratic candidate, Adlai Stevenson, just trashed the Truman administration up and down America. They missed opportunities, they didn't do well enough, and he ended up winning nine out of 48 states for one of the worst Democratic showings ever.

Isn't there a danger when you really dump on your own record, Democratic record of eight years, you're giving a windfall to the Republicans? HAUSER: No, it's -- Bob, I think it's a difference of opinion on a critical issue in global relations. There have been some things the Clinton administration has done right. There have been things that Senator Bradley believes have not been done as well as they should have been. That's normal politicking. What's not normal politicking is attacking relentlessly on issues that are distorted, are unclear, are -- that's the difference in the Gore campaign, Unfortunately, he started with that back in October.

NOVAK: I want one more thing about the general -- looking forward to the general election. Last night, your candidate said that he would force members of the joint chiefs of staff to accept his views on gays in the military. Vice President Gore said he would have a litmus test on members of the joint chiefs of staff.

Don't you know, Eric, that the Republicans are going to take those soundbites in the general election and whichever of you is nominated, just cram it down your throat?

HAUSER: No I don't think so. I mean, I think it's an issue of common human respect, and that gays in the -- we believe gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military. And what Senator Bradley talked about last night was establishing that principle and that working in consultation with the Joint Chiefs and the military on enacting that principle in the course of his administration. He made the point that military officers follow their commander in chief and they'll follow this principle that he's laid out and the vice president has agreed with.

PRESS: Let me pick up on that, Ron, with you, because you know, I thought -- I remember as a Democrat attacking the Republicans all the time, because they wanted litmus test for appointees to the Supreme Court. Are you saying now and is Al Gore saying that we are for litmus tests when it comes to the military?

KLAIN: What the vice president said last night was that litmus tests for an independent branch of the government, like the Judiciary, is one question, but it's, of course, common sense that people he will appoint to jobs in his administration will support his policies. That's why it's the executive branch. That's why the president is the commander in chief. And I think it's common sense that the vice president, who wants to rid our military of discrimination, is going to seek people to serve in high posts in that armed forces that share his views against discrimination. I think that is common sense. I think it's why both Al Gore and Bill Bradley agreed on that last night.

PRESS: Well, I totally agree that the "don't ask don't tell" policy is outrageous. It should never have been adopted. It should be eliminated right away.

But I think the question is: What is the proper role of the military? Let me just read you what one of the former marine commandants said today, quote, this is...

NOVAK: Commandant. PRESS: ... commandant -- Carl, General Carl Mundy. Quote:

"Military officers certainly execute the orders of the president, but a litmus test beforehand would place an officer in an untenable position, saying: Do you believe what I believe? I think it would be unworkable."

Isn't that the issue? It is not that a soldier won't obey orders, but you can't -- are you going to demand of the soldier that he agree with you ahead of time?

KLAIN: The vice president as commander-in-chief is going to demand military officers be prepared to support and execute his policies. I think that's common sense for someone who is trying to bring an anti-discrimination approach to the U.S. military. I am sure that's what Harry Truman did when he integrated the armed forces, and I think it's sensible for Al Gore to want to do the same thing now.

I think it is a step forward in our society. It's a step for eliminating discrimination in the armed forces. I think it's the right place for the next president to be.

PRESS: Let me ask you just one other quick one on handguns.

KLAIN: Sure.

PRESS: Because I was surprised last night when Bill Bradley -- I mean, Al Gore has been good on handgun control.

KLAIN: Right.

PRESS: Bill Bradley said one simple thing: I want to license and register all hand guns. And the vice president would not go along with it. Why not? What is wrong with that policy?

KLAIN: Because what the vice president has is a policy that makes a heck of a lot more sense, which is licensing gun owners, and making sure that before you can go buy a handgun you have a photo ID, basic safety instructions, and a legal entitlement to buy them.

Registering handguns would be a bureaucratic nightmare. There is no way to actually implement it. Senator Bradley has no plan to do it. It would be an absolute disaster. It can't be done right now in our country.

And why not -- and why not do something that will make our streets actually safer?

PRESS: Eric...

HAUSER: Yes.

KLAIN: This is like a lot of things Bill Bradley has proposed.

HAUSER: No, no, no, Ron...

KLAIN: It sounds good at first blush...

HAUSER: Ron, first of all...

KLAIN: but it wouldn't work.

HAUSER: Ron, first of all, we support licensing, but what you're doing is leaving 66 million guns in America without any check. The guns that are already out there, the only way to trace them, the only way to track them, the only way to know how they're used in crimes and how to find the people who use them, is to register. It's symbolic of so many things.

You have got to step up and do the big thing, because it's going to help a lot of people. And with that many guns out there unregistered, you're not going to be able to trace them, and...

KLAIN: It is symbolic of many things, Eric.

HAUSER: ... you're selling people short, you're selling people short.

KLAIN: It is symbolic of many things. It's a complicated plan Senator Bradley has laid out there that wouldn't work, that hasn't been thought through, that has no details, and wouldn't actually do anything to make this country better off.

NOVAK: All right, we're going to -- we're going to have to take a break.

I want to ask a quick question: Richard Berke of "The New York Times" on "INSIDE POLITICS" on CNN today. I think he's an objective reporter. He said both of you are running well to the left. Is that true? Eric?

HAUSER: I think we're running right to common sense, which is where most Americans are. You're not going to tell me that most Americans don't want health insurance for everybody, don't want guns off the streets, don't...

NOVAK: Ron, quickly, are you running to the left?

KLAIN: The vice president is running on a common-sense agenda that will make America a better place in the 21st century.

NOVAK: You're both wrong, you're both running to the left, and that old left-winger Bill Press -- thank you very much, Ron Klain.

KLAIN: Thank you.

NOVAK: Thank you Eric Hauser in Des Moines.

HAUSER: Thanks, guys.

NOVAK: And that old left-winger Bill Press and I will be back with closing comments in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: OK, if you love politics, CNN is the network to watch, and here a couple of programming notes: Iowa and New Hampshire, of course, aren't the only states where votes matter. The GOP candidates meet in South Carolina tomorrow night for still another debate. And in the CROSSFIRE tomorrow, to preview it, we'll be joined by Bush adviser Ralph Reed, and McCain's top man in the state, Congressman Lindsey Graham. That's Friday, tomorrow night, at 7:30.

And Saturday at 2:00, tune in to watch Democratic candidates Al Gore and Bill Bradley face off in still another debate, this one in Des Moines, Iowa. And of course, that is all on CNN.

Bob, first I have to tell you, I agree with you on -- I thought Donna Brazil's comments were out of line, and she certainly deserves an apology to Colin Powell, at least, and to J.C. Watts.

The other thing I have to tell you -- you know what I picked up last night from this debate? I think Bill Bradley is surprisingly thin-skinned. I mean, he loves to put out these big ideas, but when you challenge him he really bristles -- and question whether he's really tough enough for the long haul.

NOVAK: Well, I've spent my whole life looking for a thick- skinned politician and I haven't found one yet.

But I -- let me tell you this, 27 percent of the U.S. -- of the officers in the U.S. military say they'll resign from the service if this "don't ask, don't tell" policy is abandoned. And when the -- when Vice President Gore says on national television that he would demand a litmus test for members of the Joint Chiefs, that is gold, porcelain, the platinum for the Republicans to use in the fall campaign.

PRESS: And they will, but it won't work.

From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

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