Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields
Bill Bradley Discusses His Campaign for PresidentAired January 29, 2000 - 5:30 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: From New Hampshire, EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS. Now, Robert Novak and Al Hunt.
ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: I'm Robert Novak. Al Hunt and I will question the challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination.
AL HUNT, CO-HOST: He is former Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey.
HUNT: Senator Bradley, after months of turning the other cheek against attacks from Vice President Gore, went on the attack himself. In the last presidential debate before Tuesday's Democratic primary, Bradley accused Gore of not telling the truth.
BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why should we believe that you will tell the truth as president if you don't tell the truth as a candidate?
ALBERT A. GORE JR., VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's be honest here, Bill. What you are uncomfortable about is that when you put out your health care plan, you realized you made a mistake. But instead of correcting the plan, you decided to shoot at the messenger that pointed out what's wrong with the plan.
HUNT: It was most spirited of the six Gore-Bradley debates, and the two Democrats continue to hammer at each other in the closing days of New Hampshire campaigning.
BRADLEY: Last night I decided I'd had it. I'm going to call my opponent on what he's been doing, and we did it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BRADLEY CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: Of the seven men running for president, only one candidate has been pro choice for everyone all the time: Bill Bradley.
BRADLEY: This is the kind of issue that you can't straddle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: Now in the closing days of this contest, he has raised another phony issue, condemning negative attacks while launching negative attacks himself.
HUNT: Senator Bradley, "The Concord Monitor" says that you're trying to have it both ways, both being above the fray and also going on the attack. As you just saw, Al Gore said he'd never personally attacked you but now because you're behind, you're the one that's going negative.
BRADLEY: You know, Al, for almost 13 months I was in New Hampshire. I was talking about what I was for. I was giving a positive vision for the country. I built up a real relationship of credibility with the people of New Hampshire.
And then in the last week, I decided it's time to correct the record. The misrepresentations have been made about my health care program. And I did so very directly the other night in the debate and I will continue to do so. Because quite frankly, I've had it up to here.
HUNT: Well the ad you're running now about Al Gore's 20 year ago votes or positions on abortion is not correcting the record. And isn't that just like when he brings up your 1981 Reagan budget cut vote? Isn't that really petty politics?
BRADLEY: Well, I don't think it's petty politics. I think on issues of fundamental principle, the question of consistency is relevant. And I look at a record where he was 84 percent pro-life and then he switched to pro-choice.
Now I respect people who are pro-life. I think they hold their views from deep religious convictions. But when somebody moves from an 84 percent pro-life position to a pro-choice position, I think that he has an obligation to tell the American people what was that journey that he took. What was that intellectual, moral journey that he took to that position to determine what's right and what's wrong?
And instead, he's denying it. And that's another issue here. He's simply denying -- that he says he's always been for Roe vs. Wade. But his record says the exact opposite. If he's to be held up to his record, say that's what the record is, this is why I changed, it wouldn't be a problem. But to deny...
HUNT: So, what you're saying on this and other issues is that he's deliberately lying. You've also drawn parallels to Richard Nixon. Doesn't that really raise serious questions about his qualifications to be president?
BRADLEY: Well, what I said Al, is I said -- and I think the setup piece had it -- that when a candidate doesn't trust the people enough to tell them the truth, that how should the people trust that candidate if he were president to tell them the truth? If a candidate doesn't care about the people enough to tell them the truth, why should the people believe that if he were president that he'd care enough about them to fight for health care, to fight for education policy? If a candidate doesn't respect the people enough to tell them the truth, then why should the people respect the candidate in terms of fighting for campaign finance reform?
And I think that this is a time -- and I said this the other night as well -- that, you know, sometimes politicians make misleading statements because they don't know any better. But he knows better. And he is deliberately saying what is untrue.
NOVAK: Senator Bradley, you have mentioned the 1996 Democratic campaign alleged improprieties. Without going into great detail, do you think that Vice President Gore in his telephone calls from the White House and the Buddhist temple solicitation crossed the line of ethical conduct?
BRADLEY: Well, from what I know, I think that these are problems. Clearly I hear the Republicans, I hear John McCain talk about these almost every time he speaks. And I think if we don't clean our own house, the Republicans will in the fall. And it's as simple as that.
NOVAK: Did he cross the line, do you think?
BRADLEY: I think he could, yes.
NOVAK: Think he did?
BRADLEY: Well, I -- I haven't heard the full explanation. He's never made a full explanation. This is another example that something happens that he doesn't want to talk about so he doesn't make a full explanation.
NOVAK: When you were on this program over -- almost three months ago -- we asked you why you didn't criticize the vice president and this is what you said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRADLEY: I'm not going to get into trying to trash Al Gore. I'm just not going to do it. I'm focusing on a positive vision for the country and that's what I intend to continue to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOVAK: Now you had information then or at least your staff did, about the vice president's pro -- or anti-abortion letters of 20 years ago. Do you think you made a mistake in not using that material then?
BRADLEY: I do not think so. I'm trying to do a new kind of politics that tells people what you are for, that works from beliefs and conviction, that isn't obsessed with tactics and negativity.
And I essentially ran that kind of campaign. I'm still running that kind of campaign for a year. But you can only take misrepresentations and misleading statements up to a certain point. BRADLEY: And as I said at that time -- I don't know if I did in that interview -- that, you know, I'm -- I was a basketball player for 10 years. You can only take an elbow so long, then you've got to return the elbow. So I've started to return the elbow.
NOVAK: But as to the timing of returning the elbow, the current New Hampshire Democratic primary poll by CNN, "USA Today" and Gallup shows not much time left, shows Mr. Gore eight points ahead of you. Waited too long?
BRADLEY: Well, this time yesterday it was 18. So I think we're moving.
And the point is, most people in New Hampshire make their judgment in the last few days. Everybody knows that. That's the nature of New Hampshire politics, particularly in primaries. And that was why, in the last week, I had to make sure people knew where he stood, and that he was misrepresenting my record.
So, that if he says anything to people in the last couple of days about my health care plan, that they can take that into the context of how he has misrepresented it over the last -- over the last six months.
HUNT: Senator, here in that extraordinary debate the other night, he had a response the very next day on what you said about your health care plan. He said you misrepresented the Clinton-Gore success in getting 2 million kids in health insurance. And he said you misrepresented in refusing to acknowledge your health care plan would risk federal nursing home standards.
BRADLEY: It won't risk federal nursing home standards. I've told him that in open debate. He -- that's another example. He continues to assert that it will. It won't risk federal nursing home standards.
HUNT: How about the Clinton -- Clinton-Gore initiative this week on health care in the State of the Union? Did that satisfy you? Good? Is it enough?
BRADLEY: It is not enough, Al. I mean that's one of the things that I was struck with. Here we are at this time of unprecedented prosperity. Productivity is going up for the last two years at 2.75 percent. Growth the last couple of quarters has been above 5 percent. And if it continues in this way for the next decade, our economy is going to be a third larger than it is now.
And at this time of unprecedented prosperity, we ought to be able to provide access to affordable quality health care for all Americans. That's not what that plan does. That plan nibbles around the edges, continues to deal with a system that has giant holes in it, the Medicaid system, where in order to be eligible, you have to be poor and remain poor.
I want people, whatever their income level, to be able to get into a federal employee health system, the same kind of system that has the congressman and senators insured. And I want that to happen because I think we can afford to do this.
The question is, can we afford not to do this? That's my view.
NOVAK: Senator, the vice president has been hitting you hard, apparently with some effect, in every debate since this started about your health care plan providing $150 subsidy or a -- or a voucher, which he says will not supply HMO in the state of New Hampshire, for example.
Now the question is, is there a specific HMO in New Hampshire that your subsidy or voucher would pay for? So you wouldn't -- these people would able -- would be able to buy health insurance?
BRADLEY: The problem with that analogy is that it's a $150 figure. That's what he keeps asserting. That's not what it is. There are 24 states in...
NOVAK: Well, what is it in New Hampshire?
BRADLEY: Well, in New Hampshire it's going to be much higher than $150. The amount will be set in the course of the legislative process. The average is $150 given where we are right now.
But the fact is that there are 24 states in this country right now that have Medicaid to managed care, to HMO's. And they've done that with a waiver given by the Clinton-Gore administration. And every one of those states has a per capita cost under $150.
NOVAK: We have -- we have to take a break, but I want you to answer a quick question. Are you saying that your legislation if you got to be president, would be crafted so that everybody would be able to get some kind of an HMO care under your program?
NOVAK: OK. All right we're going to have to take a break. And when we come back, we'll get Bill Bradley's views on race, on taxation and on his own health.
HUNT: Welcome back.
Senator, you're running a campaign of quote "big ideas." Your signature big idea was tax reform back in the mid-'80s. Since that was enacted, the tax rates have gradually crept up. Tax loopholes have gotten more and more back into the code. Overall, taxes are the highest since 1944. Why have you abandoned tax reform in your campaign of big ideas?
BRADLEY: I haven't abandoned tax reform Al. I still think the best income tax system is the one with the lowest rates and the fewest loopholes.
But when I look at a country today with this tremendous prosperity and decide how I -- what I want to do because I think you have to have focus if you're the President of the United States in order to get things done, my focus is first of all health care, to make sure that we can guarantee children all health insurance, that we provide a prescription drug benefit for the elderly, that we make major investments in prevention and early intervention, and that we provide access to affordable, quality health care for all Americans.
Second, I want to eliminate child poverty in this country. I set a specific target for the first four years of 3 million kids less in child poverty.
And third, I want to help working families have a chance to get ahead in this country.
And fourth I want to get campaign finance reform because it eats away at the core of our system. It is the worst of the old politics.
And last, I want to have common sense gun control.
And so those are the emphases. It's not that I don't think that the best income tax system is the lowest rate and the fewest loopholes, but that's really not what I'm emphasizing right now.
HUNT: Let's turn to one foreign policy question. Do you think the Clinton-Gore administration has been too soft on China and in particularly Russia?
BRADLEY: I don't think they've been too soft on China. I do think there have been a lot of mistakes made with regard to Russia. I think that of instead of moving early to reduce strategic nuclear weapons, and to destroy nuclear weapons that existed, that they got too caught up about being missionaries for a particular kind of capitalism. And therefore, they presided over a policy that has the result of impoverishing a large segment of the Russian population. And in the best of circumstances, the United States is viewed as irrelevant to the Russian people. And in the worst of circumstances, we're viewed as the cause of their misery.
I mean in the great depression here, 30 percent of -- we lost 30 percent of our GDP. In Russia since 1991, they've lost 50 percent of their GDP. And it's had a profound impact on the lives of people. And now we see of course this Chechen war which is a disaster. It's a human disaster. And the administration is unwilling to even cut off EX-IM Bank financing for Russia at this time.
It seems to me if we're going to send the message to the Russian people of who we are and what we stand for, that we have to be consistent.
I don't think they've been consistent.
NOVAK: Senator, you -- of all the presidential candidates in both parties, you're the only one that has not proposed an increase in defense spending. Now when it comes to military personnel being on food stamps, would you just let that continue or would you raise their pay at the expense of weapons systems? BRADLEY: No, I would raise their pay and I think that we can make -- we can make savings by having more consolidation of bases, and eliminating unnecessary weapons systems that were really meant for the Cold War and that are not relevant now.
For example, the F-22 air-to-air fighter. It costs $125 million a plane. Now what was that? That was supposed to be our next add on to air-to-air combat with the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is now spending 15 percent on their defense as to what they were spending in 1991. We don't need that plane. We can use an F-15 with improved avionics and information technology, and do the job.
If you make tough choices on eliminating weapons systems that were meant for the Cold War and you consolidate bases, I think that what you can do is not only pay people adequately, but that we can with a steady state defense budget, defend our interests in the world.
NOVAK: Vice President Gore has attacked you for voting for school vouchers in the past. You said you don't think that's the way to go. Now in places where they've been tried -- in Cleveland and Milwaukee -- they've been very popular with minority groups. Have you changed your position because of the power of the teachers' unions in the Democratic Party?
BRADLEY: No. My position has always been that I voted for vouchers on an experimental basis.
BRADLEY: I don't think that the experiments in Cleveland or Milwaukee have given us enough information. As I look out there at the country, I don't think that the answer to the problems of public education are vouchers.
And I think if you simply look at the numbers you'll understand why. There are 47 million kids in public schools. There are about 6 million kids in private schools. And 90 percent capacity in those private schools. So how could 600,000 slots be the answer to the problem of 47 million children in public schools?
I think what we need to do is make our public schools more accountable. We have to make sure that teachers are qualified. And that means making sure that they know the subjects that they're teaching in. And I think over the next decade we're going to lose 2.2 million teachers, so I proposed a program to put 60,000 new teachers a year in public schools in urban and rural areas of this country.
Now I think that is the most important thing that the national government can do. Accountability, qualifications and new talent into the system. And I've done that through a program that would give $7,500 a year to every kid who studies math, science, foreign language or computer and then agrees after they graduate to teach for five years in an urban or rural school. And $5,000 a year loan forgiveness for a kid willing to study anything -- reading, writing, language skills -- and teach four years in an urban or rural school.
I think that's what we need to do with our public schools. HUNT: Senator, on personal note, you disclosed another episode of an irregular heartbeat last Sunday, the day before the Iowa Caucuses. Two questions. Number one, do you worry that some of this may be -- may be related to stress? And secondly, why not do a John McCain and just release all of your medical records, full details of all physicals and the like?
BRADLEY: Well, I know that many people have talked to my doctors. And they've gotten all the information they need. I released a full report of my last medical examination in which this is the only problem, if you want to call it a problem. To me it's a nuisance; it's not a problem.
And I think that, you know, if you look out there, President Bush had this. It doesn't impede anything. There's occasionally an irregular heartbeat. It comes back in.
As to what causes it, you know, the doctors don't know what causes it. They have a whole series of possibilities I'm slowly eliminating. I found, for example, I shouldn't be drinking caffeine. So, I cut out coffee, cut out chocolate. But lo and behold, I found that creme soda had caffeine in it after I was drinking, you know, gallons of creme soda. And I find other things that might contribute to it. So, you learn in the process.
It simply is a nuisance. It is however not anything that prevents me from running an aggressive schedule. Nor would it prevent me from being a very vigorous president pursuing the agenda that I've set for the American people in terms of health care, in terms of -- essentially a $25 billion tax cut for people who earn under $50,000 a year.
NOVAK: We have to take a break. But I want to ask you one question to clear it up. In the Black and Brown debate in Des Moines, Vice President Gore said that Sharpe James, the mayor of Newark, went to you when you were a senator on the problem of racial profiling. He indicated you ignored it. Is that true or not?
BRADLEY: No. If that happened, that happened in somebody's dream. I mean, I don't remember that happening at all.
NOVAK: Got to take a break. And when we come back we'll have "The Big Question" for Bill Bradley.
NOVAK: "The Big Question" for Bill Bradley. Senator, you have an ample war chest to continue into the primaries well beyond New Hampshire. But if you are wiped out in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, would you at least consider -- seriously consider -- dropping out?
BRADLEY: Absolutely not. First of all, I think that the people of New Hampshire are going to send a message to this country that they want a new kind of politics. I think they're going to send a message to this country, that they want a politics that tells people what you're for, not what you're against, and doesn't involve the misrepresenting and trashing another opponent.
I think that's what's going to happen on Tuesday. I think we're going to go on from there. We will have the first five -- we will have the first national primary in history and we will have five weeks to pursue that across this country, taking our message of a new politics, of new beginnings, to people all over America.
HUNT: Senator, very quickly, if you do win New Hampshire, obviously you're going to go on, but if you lose, some Democrats say all you're going to do is help Republicans in the fall. How do you answer that?
BRADLEY: Well, I just reject that. I mean I think whoever emerges from this competition will be stronger because of the competition. I'm for more competition, not less competition. That's what this (ph) is all about.
HUNT: So, you're in it even if you lose in New Hampshire?
BRADLEY: I don't think we're going to lose in New Hampshire. I prepared to accept that. I mean, you know, I want the people in New Hampshire to send that message. They're independent, spirited people. They can change the direction of this campaign, and with me, hopefully they'll change the direction of this country.
HUNT: Senator Bradley, thank you for being with us.
Bob Novak and I will be back in just a moment with an observation or two.
HUNT: Bob, the past few days, the Gore camp has been putting out the word that Bradley is desperate, that his candidacy is flailing about. Sure didn't come across that way today. I thought he was both determined, and, yes, confident.
NOVAK: But, Al, I think he probably waited too long to respond to the vice president's attacks. He had all that information about Gore's anti-abortion position -- at least his staff did -- months ago. He didn't respond quickly to the health care attacks. Kind of waited too long.
HUNT: Bob, I agree with you. The talk is of a Gore blowout. I doubt that's going to happen. I think it's more likely to be a narrow win, and I think Bill Bradley probably -- that strategic miscalculation probably will have cost Bill Bradley this primary.
NOVAK: There have been signals from the Bradley staff that if there is a blowout, the senator might just not run, might drop out after New Hampshire. But he sure didn't sound that way with us. He kind of indicated that he's going to be in there no matter what happens on Tuesday. So we still have a primary election to cover.
I'm Robert Novak. HUNT: And I'm Al Hunt. In one half hour, a special live edition of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" from New Hampshire, as the news media fully deploys in the Granite State.
And at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, more from New Hampshire, as "THE CAPITAL GANG" looks at the battle for the Republican and Democratic nominations.
NOVAK: Thanks for watching.
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