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Gore and Bradley Face off in New York; Bush and McCain Face Voters in Michigan and Arizona

Aired February 22, 2000 - 7:30 p.m. ET


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Tonight, Gore and Bradley face off in New York and Bush and McCain face voters in Michigan and Arizona. Did the Democrats get too nasty? And are Republicans getting even nastier with new attack telephone calls?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press; on the right, Mary Matalin. In the crossfire, Gore adviser Ron Klain, and in New York, Bradley press secretary Eric Hauser, and later, former presidential candidates Gary Bauer, a McCain supporter, and in Columbus, Ohio, Congressman John Kasich, a Bush supporter.

PRESS: Good evening. Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Well, no more Mr. nice guys in either party. For Democrats last night, it was a raucous and sometimes nasty debate between Al Gore and Bill Bradley of Harlem's Apollo Theater. Bradley not only challenged Gore's character, he even called him a conservative -- low blow. Gore said Bradley was sounding desperate, and the audience ate it up.

For Republicans in Michigan, it was prerecorded phone calls by Bush supporters attacking John McCain, by McCain backers attacking Bush. Both sides, of course, denied knowing anything about them.

CNN's election coverage starts right here in less than half an hour, the minute the polls close in Michigan, and we'll take you right up to 8:00 with a look at both party's contests, starting with the Democrats -- Mary.

MARY MATALIN, CO-HOST: Let's start with the Democrats last night. One couldn't help but notice that this really quite high decibel and wonderful debate, I must say -- the first question, the honor of the first question decided upon by both Democratic candidates went to Al Sharpton. I have asked this, Ron, of the Bradley people before. Why Al Sharpton? He's a racist. He's a hatemonger. He hates Asians. He hates Jews. He's been involved in incidents that have resulted in arson and murder. Don't you all have a better black leader that you can kowtow?

RON KLAIN, GORE ADVISER: Mary, the first question went to the Harlem Host Committee. The Host Committee selected Reverend Sharpton as a representative. It isn't our place to judge that or respond to that. Reverend Sharpton did play a key role in helping to bring that debate to Harlem last night. And the most important thing was that both candidates, they were responding to a number of folks in the community who wanted to see them come to Harlem and discuss their views.

And I thought the most interesting part of the debate was the end last night, when Bernie Shaw invited the Republicans to come to the Apollo Theater. I hope they do what Senator Bradley and Vice President Gore did last night and discuss the important issues that were debated last night at the Apollo.

MATALIN: Well, you don't have the nomination yet, so just let's stay in the primary for the moment.

So you don't renounce Al Sharpton?

KLAIN: It's not my place to renounce Al Sharpton.

MATALIN: Al Gore? Al Gore?

KLAIN: The vice president wants to support everyone in this race. He's not picking and choosing. He would like to have the broadest possible support. He's getting it. I think that's why he's going to be successful on the seventh of March.

MATALIN: Why when he went to visit Al Sharpton did he lie to the press and say he was having a private meeting with his daughter in his apartment, snuck in to see Al Sharpton?

KLAIN: He did not sneak in to see Al Sharpton. He and Mr. Sharpton met. He and Rev. Sharpton met at his daughter's apartment. He spoke with a number of other political leaders there.

MATALIN: And he told the press he was meeting with his daughter.

KLAIN: He did not tell the press anything different. The fact of the matter is, the issue of this race isn't Al Sharpton; it's Al Gore and Bill Bradley. Their differences were on display last night, and I think that it was a very helpful debate in sharpening up those differences and moving the agenda head.

MATALIN: Good segue. Let me show you some of their differences, just a few snippets clipped together for your edification here. I thought you would appreciate this. This is, of course, your candidate from last night.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, racial profiling practically began in New Jersey, Senator Bradley.


GORE: Well, that's not a plan. That's a magic wand. I cast the tie-breaking vote to close the gun show loophole. Where were you? You had left. You had left.


MATALIN: Relax, smile, attack. This is just like 1988, which "Newsweek" says the Gore debate strategy was to eviscerate, and attack and force a confrontation with his opponent, not go to the issues and not go to his record. Isn't that what he was doing last night, and has done and will continue to do against Senator Bradley...

KLAIN: Of course not, Mary.

MATALIN: ... and will continue to do to against Senator Bradley?

KLAIN: Vice President Gore was laying out his record and responding, frankly, to a number of very personal attacks from Senator Bradley last night. He's made his agenda in this race very clear, and he's made his goal to make this race about our nation's future, about his plan for economic growth, for health care, for protecting the environment, for protecting Medicare, for improving the quality of lives of most Americans. That's what he wants to talk about. That's what he has talked about. In each of those cases, Senator Bradley has been on the attack. The vice president isn't going to take that. He's going to respond. He's not going to let Senator Bradley make the sort of unfair charges he made last night.


MATALIN: Eric Hauser...


PRESS: Go ahead, Bill. Coming to you now please.


MATALIN: Oh go ahead. I'm sorry, Bill.

PRESS: There was a flyer being passed out in New York by your campaign just before -- the days before the debate, which quoted Senator Bradley as saying -- quote -- I won't spend my time attacking my opponent in votes from long ago. Why did you spend so much time doing that last night?

HAUSER: Well, it's not attacking to tell the truth, and I think that's a big difference between the Bradley campaign and the Gore campaign. I mean, I think what you saw last night is the vice president can't handle the truth about his record . He couldn't take the record on the votes on Bob Jones and the discrimination in universities, and he's voting five separate times to allow them to have tax-exempt status.

The problem, Ron, is there is a pattern...

KLAIN: Let's talk about the truth. Do you want to talk about the truth?

(CROSSTALK) HAUSER: Hold on. Let him finish. Go ahead, Ron -- go ahead, Eric. Go ahead, Eric.

HAUSER: There's a pattern. When Al Gore has been on his own, before he borrowed Bill Clinton's views, when he was his vice president on guns, on tobacco, on choice, on health care, on race, where he has used the conservative line. Now I don't know what Al Gore's convictions are. Senator Bradley gave a speech today talking about those issues. The record is the record. You can't deny it. You can run away from it, but you can't deny it. So what we have here is a contrast between two candidates, one with a more ambitious agenda, a more consistent record you can count on and trust, and Al Gore with a conservative record in the House and the Senate and an unclear record on issues that have moved forward since then.

I am not quite sure how Al Gore stands, but I think the public knows where Bill Bradley stands...

PRESS: Let me ask, I am a voter, Eric, OK. This is the 2000, year 2000 Democratic primary. If Al Gore is pro-choice today and has the support of NARAL, if he's pro-affirmative action today and has the support of most of the members of the Black Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, if he's pro-gun control today and is an enemy of the NRA, I have to ask you, why should I care and who does care how he voted 20 years ago in the United States Congress?

HAUSER: Well, several things, Bill. First of all, it wasn't just all 20 years ago. It was a long period through the late '80s. Secondly, he has talked about trying to stop affirmative action at the federal level. That we brought out last night. Third, there are issues now that he still has not -- I think in mainstream with Democratic voters: not for universal health case, not for registering all guns, not put out a plan, a major plan, on child poverty, and certainly not a credible force on campaign finance reform. And I think that's why Democrats are seeing these differences between Bill Bradley and Al Gore on who's going to move the country forward on the Democratic values that they are really adhering to, and I think that came out last night very clearly.

MATALIN: Well, and there's nothing this Republican likes to see more than you Democrats fighting. For Bradley, Eric Hauser, thank you so much for joining us. Ron Klain, for Gore, thank you for joining us. Keep up the fight, boys.

Well, we're just over 15 minutes -- excuse me, 20 minutes -- I don't want to make it come closer than it is -- until the polls are closing in Michigan. CNN will be bringing you full coverage at the top of the hour.

Don't go anywhere, because when we come back, John Kasich and Gary Bauer step into the CROSSFIRE.


MATALIN: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Only three days after the critical South Carolina primary, McCain and Bush face another crucial contest in Michigan today. McCain continued to pitch to crossovers while Bush crisscrossed the state to boost GOP turnout. And once again, with only about 15 minutes until polls close, pundits predict a race too close to call with turnout being the determinative factor.

CNN will have full election coverage following CROSSFIRE, but first, former presidential warriors for opposing sides now: for McCain, Christian conservative Gary Bauer and for Bush, budget meister and new double-daddy Ohio Congressman John Kasich.

PRESS: Congressman Kasich, congratulations and welcome to CROSSFIRE.

KASICH: Hey, I have to tell you, I watched the debate last night at the Apollo Theater that the Democrats had and it was better than the WWF. I mean, I'd never seen anything like that, attacks and everything. It was unbelievable theater.

PRESS: Made those Republican debates look like Sunday school.

KASICH: It was amazing.

PRESS: If you were living in Michigan this time of this primary and you picked up the phone, you might hear a familiar voice coming to you about this primary. I'd like you to listen to a message that -- being -- has been heard in Michigan the last couple of days.


PAT ROBERTSON, BUSH SUPPORTER: Tomorrow's Republican primary may determine whether our dream becomes reality or whether the Republican party will nominate a man who wants to take First Amendment freedoms from citizens' groups while he gives unrestricted power to labor unions.

A man who chose as his national campaign chairman, a vicious bigot, who wrote that conservative Christians in politics are anti- abortion, homophobes, and would-be censors. John McCain refused to repudiate these words.


PRESS: And that of course is the voice of reverend Pat Robertson, a Bush Supporter.

I want to ask you congressman, do you believe that George Bush did not know about those telephone calls?

KASICH: Well, I can't speak for George Bush, Bill. But you know, I don't believe that George Bush would associate himself with those kind of phone calls. I really don't.

And I -- look, I think that George Bush is a great man of faith. And I just don't think he would on the short, you know, try to take advantage or smear, you know, name call. But you know, these telephone calls have been going on between both campaigns. And you know, all it does is, in a sense -- of course, in South Carolina, it actually drove voter turnout up, which is pretty bizarre. But this is not good in the long term for the -- for our system and for politics in general: the name-calling, calling Bush -- saying that Bush is anti-catholic and this kind of a phone call -- I mean, it's just not what we ought to be doing in politics.

PRESS: Well, Gary Bauer is here tonight. I don't think anybody would ever doubt Gary Bauer's moral credentials. Do you think Gary Bauer would be supporting George Bush if he were not convinced -- I mean supporting John McCain -- I'm sorry, if he were not convinced that John McCain has strong moral character?

KASICH: Oh, I think John McCain has very strong moral character. I think...

PRESS: So where is Pat Robertson coming from?

KASICH: Now, Bill, you know, you've got to call Pat and ask him. Nobody tells Pat what to say or how to think. Pat's -- I know Pat very well. I know Mary knows him very well. Pat just -- Pat feels strongly about things, and he says what he thinks.

And, you know, I don't always agree with him. And I don't agree with name calling in this case, but I don't think that -- I mean, George Bush would be make a huge mistake if he had been part of this. I don't believe that he is anymore than I think that John McCain knew about these calls that label Bush anti-Catholic because he went to Bob Jones.

MATALIN: Well, we're going to get to that in a minute, but let's talk about, Gary, the pattern that is emerging in this process, and it is simply that John McCain is not winning Republicans even in those states that he won -- the one state he won -- New Hampshire. He didn't win Republicans. He didn't win them in South Carolina, he didn't win them in Delaware, he's winning them nowhere.

Non-Republicans are backing him four to one, but Republicans are backing Bush three to one. Tell me how do you win the Republican nomination, particularly when we look at the rest of the calendar which is going to be closed to non-Republicans, how are you going to win the nomination without winning Republicans?

BAUER: Well, Mary , I'm a little puzzled by this concern about independents and Reagan Democrats participating in our primary. That's something good. That's something we ought to encourage. It was just a few months ago that supporters of Governor Bush were saying that he was the only one that could win because all of these Democrats in Texas had voted for him.

Now the Democrats are voting and independents are voting for Senator McCain, suddenly it's viewed as some sort of big problem. I -- you know -- I was following the questioning between Bill and John. I think there's a very important issue here and that is the effort to savage Senator McCain in this campaign. Mary, we need to make sure that the debate... MATALIN: Not a victim, Gary.

BAUER: We need to make sure -- OK -- well, let me just...

MATALIN: I am not done with these Democrats, let me follow-up -- No, no, no, let me follow-up on the kind of Democrats that are coming into the party.

PRESS: Let him finish his sentence.

MATALIN: That's a whole different topic...

BAUER: What kind of Democrats are coming into the party?

MATALIN: Well, these kind of Democrats. Here's a McCain brochure: "Courage, integrity, reform -- paid for by John McCain 2000 -- even if you vote in Tuesday's Republican primary, you can still participate in future Democratic party, political activities."

BAUER: Of course you can.

MATALIN: The kind of Democrats that are coming over for Bush are staying over for Bush. What is being encouraged in Michigan and in South Carolina.

BAUER: Mary, come on, Mary, you're smarter than this.

Mary: This is a John McCain...

BAUER: Well taken, it's fine, that's wonderful. So what? So you tell a Democrat that the vote.


BAUER: You can tell a Democrat he can vote in the Republican primary but he has to stop being a Democrat? The Reagan Democrats, Mary, that made the guy we work for...

MATALIN: Are now Bush Republicans.

BAUER: ... Who have the guy we work for president in two terms by overwhelming elections didn't leave the Democratic party. We lost them in the last two presidential elections when we got our heads handed to us.

Mary: So Debbie Dingell, the wife of the huge Democratic leader, who got two turnout calls to vote...

BAUER: You know, Mary.

MATALIN: ... for McCain is going to stay and vote for McCain, right?

BAUER: You know, Mary, I've been in rallies all over Michigan, I didn't see Debbie Dingell. Who I saw were the kind of people that used to be at Reagan rallies: veterans; people that love their country; people that want to have a sense of honor again in the oval office; people who believe that we ought to appeal to the better angels of our nature instead of slash and burn campaign.

PRESS: John Kasich, I hear you wanting to jump in.

KASICH: You know, I'd like to just say...

PRESS: Go ahead, please.

KASICH: I want to just say one thing about this. And Gary, I love Gary Bauer. He's a man of deep compassion...

BAUER: Thank you, sir.

KASICH: ... and here comes the but, right? But there's not a but here. I think Gary, however, as Republicans, we've got to be careful that we may have people choosing the menu who aren't coming to the dinner. Now when Kevorkian's lawyer is up there trying to recruit Democrats into our primary, I think we've got to think about this as Republicans.

In addition, Bill Schneider, your political expert on CNN made a comment I thought was pretty clever. He said the Reagan Democrats now are all Republicans. I get very concerned -- look, we want independents and Democrats to come into our party, but we don't want people who come into this party who then go back and are Democrats in the fall which is what we're going to see, a number of these.

BAUER: John.

KASICH: But, Gary, that's not even the issue.

BAUER: Yes, well, let me answer what you just said. John, if the Reagan Democrats were Republicans, we wouldn't have gotten 40 percent of the vote in the last two presidential elections. We even had the Reagan Republicans back since the last time Ronald Reagan ran for office.

I was with John McCain in Michigan a couple of days ago and he was asked about Kevorkian's lawyer. He said he didn't want those votes.

KASICH: No, of course not.

BAUER: He wasn't campaigning for those vote. Of course not. So let's not raise straw men.

KASICH: Well, look I'm not trying to...

BAUER: The people in that audience are conservative Democrats who haven't seen a clear Republican message in the last two presidential races. They like John McCain. And that's why in the national polls, the guy that you and Mary are supporting, George Bush, is now tied with Al Gore, but Senator McCain, the guy I'm backing, has got a 15-point lead. KASICH: Gary, my only point is, is that you may not have seen Debbie Dingell or Jack Kevorkian or his lawyer at this rally, but the fact is there is a concerted effort by a number of Democrats to hijack this election. Now...

BAUER: John, is Senator McCain...

KASICH: That's just an issue for us...

BAUER: Is senator McCain a conservative, John?

KASICH: That's just an issue for us to discuss in the future. But let me just say this to you.

PRESS: I want to jump...

KASICH: We're going to be heading into a number of primary states where only Republicans and people who come across and declare themselves Republicans are going to be able to vote. And I think that'll be healthy also for our party. But Gary, I'm just talking to you as a fellow Republican to make sure that...

BAUER: Right.

KASICH: ... we attract new people, but we don't have people coming in here and trying to disrupt things. I mean, the party faithful ought to choose its nominee.


BAUER: Then you ought to close the primaries, then, and only allow Republicans to vote. But you know, the wing of the party that liked us for years suddenly doesn't like it because they can no longer control the outcome.

PRESS: All right. Hold it.

KASICH: Well, Gary, you know, your dad was a truck driver; my dad was a mail man.

PRESS: Let me jump in here.

KASICH: We want blue collar Democrats. But I'm telling you, a lot of them have come over and they vote Republican, which has given us control of the House.

PRESS: All right, John, I just want to put you at ease, OK? I'm a Democrat. I don't belong to any organized party. I'm a Democrat.

For you to think that Democrats have organized this is a total red herring. I want to...

KASICH: I'm not saying that, Bill.

PRESS: No, I want to quote -- but I want to quote Bill Schneider back you. Bill Schneider polled those Democrats that voted for John McCain. Do you know why they said they're voting for John McCain? Not to make mischief. They're voting for John McCain because they like him.

But I've got a more important question for you, John, OK? There is somebody else who is around here, people think he's going away, he hasn't. He's the president of the United States. He had a news conference last week, and here is what he said about both of you guys' candidates that I would like to get on the table. President Clinton.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They can't run against the longest economic expansion in history or the lowest crime rate in 30 years or the lowest welfare rolls in 30 years, the progress America has made in promoting peace around the world, or the fact that our party overrode theirs and passed the Family Leave, and it's benefited 20 million people and it hasn't hurt the economy.


PRESS: There's the question: The times are so good these days that if you ask the question, "Are you better off than you were seven years ago?" the answer is yes, John Kasich. Why make any change?

KASICH: Well, Bill, I think that, first of all, it's going to be a very tough election this fall. I have been saying that for a solid year, and I think Al Gore will be the nominee, and I think he'll be very aggressive and I think he'll be very tough. But Bill, I think people have kind of had enough of the whole Clinton-Gore thing intuitively?

Now can Al Gore turn that around? You know, it's possible he can. But I think that people intuitively like George Bush, and I think they like John McCain, and I think that's going to be a big advantage. And I think, when I watched that debate last night, at that -- at the theater last night, I've got to tell you, they are so far out in left field they're not even on the field anymore.

I think that the people are unsettled about the future, which is curious in a time when things are so good. And I think that the big issue is going to be about self-governing and about the ability of people to be decent to one another.

PRESS: All right.

BAUER: Bill...

PRESS: Gary, real quick.

BAUER: Yes, Bill, I think there's a lot to run against. There's the decline of the military, which is underfunded and overcommitted. There's the...

PRESS: All right, polls are closing, so we've got to go. Gary Bauer, thank you for being here. BAUER: All right. OK, thank you.

PRESS: John Kasich, thank you so much for joining us, from Columbus, Ohio. Get back to changing diapers, and Mary Matalin and I will be back with closing comments.


PRESS: Mary, I can't tell you how surprised I was to pick up The New York Times this morning, and here's Bush's -- I mean McCain's campaign manager saying, quote, Rick Davis -- quote -- "I'm really getting tired of being defended by Bill Press."

But look, I'm tired of defending John McCain, Mary. So what I want you to do is get off this Titanic called George Bush, come over to the winning side, then I can go back to being a Democrat.

MATALIN: This rat...


I am not a rat jumping the ship like these weak-kneed. This is now the time to separate the boys from the men here, and Bush is going to win. You know why he's going to win? Because he's running as a Republican nominee. That it is so easy for you to defend McCain shows his appeal to Democrats who are never going to vote for him. He's making such an aggressive appeal to Democrats he should have been at the Apollo last night.

PRESS: Mary, listen, if you believe that, I have an asbestos firewall in Michigan I would like to sell you. The fact is John McCain is attracting those votes. He's attracting the Democrats. He's attracting the...

MATALIN: They're not going to stay.

PRESS: .... that you need to win...

MATALIN: No, they're not going to stay.

PRESS: ... Mary. Don't you get it?

MATALIN: They're not going to stay.

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

MATALIN: From the right, I'm Mary Matalin. Stay right where you are. The polls are about to close in Michigan, and the primary results are coming right up.


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