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Capital Gang

Gary Bauer Discusses Last Week's Presidential Debates and the Upcoming Super Tuesday Primaries

Aired March 4, 2000 - 7:00 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.


I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, Kate O'Beirne, and, in Los Angeles, reporting on the California presidential primary, our own Robert. D. Novak.

Our guest is former Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer.

And it's great to have you back here, Gary.

GARY BAUER (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Good to be here, Mark.

BAUER: My pleasure.

SHIELDS: Texas Governor George W. Bush scored a clean sweep this week against Senator John McCain in Virginia, North Dakota and Washington state. Next up is Super Tuesday, with primaries in 13 states, including California.

In Los Angeles, the two Republicans debated campaign finance reform.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that Supreme Court case was a liberal interpretation of the Constitution, I do. I believe in freedom of speech.

I believe the best reform policy is to say individuals can give, and we ought to have instant disclosure on the Internet.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Maybe that explains why there have been the sleepovers in Austin at the governor's mansion by the Pioneers.

BUSH:: You talk about people staying with me at the governor's mansion, these my friends, John. These...


BUSH: These are my relatives.


SHIELDS: In the closely contested New York primary, the two candidates fired at each other via radio ads.


NARRATOR: John McCain opposes many projects dedicated to women's health issues. It's true. McCain opposes funding for vital breast cancer programs right here in New York.



NARRATOR: George Bush is at it again, and it's shameful. This time, it's his new radio ad distorting John McCain's record on, of all things, cancer research. George Bush is dead wrong. John McCain's record in the fight against cancer is strong and consistent.


SHIELDS: Bob in Los Angeles, what is the Bush McCain outlook for Super Tuesday?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Not very good for Senator McCain, Mark. It looks as though, from the John Zogby polls, that there's a trifecta looming for Bush, winning in New York, winning in Ohio, and winning in both the beauty contest and the delegate count in California. That just about would do it for the McCain phenomenon, I would say, in this -- in 2000.

California was vital for Senator McCain to win the popular vote here, and he didn't help himself by a stubborn decision not to appear on the stage at "The Los Angeles Times" Thursday night. You saw the picture of him. He's in a box debating a real person -- not a smart decision.

SHIELDS: You mean visually in a box.

Gary Bauer, is Bob Novak right? Is it over?

BAUER: Well, I certainly think it's going to be over in the next 10 days or so, and obviously Senator McCain is swimming upstream. But I have to tell you, Mark, given the things that have happened in recent weeks on both sides, and particularly this latest controversy with the breast cancer ads and so forth, I think the only place where champagne corks are being popped is Gore headquarters, because the party, my party, has been tearing itself apart.

SHIELDS: Tearing itself apart -- Kate O'Beirne.

KATE O'BEIRNE, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, I agree with the criticisms John McCain is leveling against those ads in New York. The problem you have with a candidate like George Bush, when you have the kind of endorsements he has in all the states, the locals, in this case, like Governor Pataki, make an awful lot of strategic decisions for your campaign. And rather than recognize the fact that Republican voters in New York are actually conservative and you can talk to them about tax cuts and education and smaller government, they're doing this parochial stuff, making a very unfair charge against John McCain that he is somehow opposed to breast cancer research, when one of his chief assets from a conservative point of view is that he is against those kind of spending in Washington. So I think that really is regrettable.

I hope it doesn't -- it won't be responsible for helping George Bush, if he were to win New York, because it actually shouldn't be rewarded, that kind of behavior. But I agree that aside from a Vermont or a Rhode Island or a Massachusetts next Tuesday...

SHIELDS: All of which are states.

O'BEIRNE: Absolutely, those New England states -- no offense, Mark. John McCain will be in real trouble if he fails to take New York, California, at least the popular vote in Ohio.


AL HUNT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": I agree with most of what my conservative colleagues have just said. It's high noon for McCain. To remain credible, Mark, he has to win New England, he has to win New York, he has to finish ahead of Bush and preferably Gore, too, in a popular vote in California. And even then, it's uphill to get the nomination.

But I must say, picking up what Kate said, I have never -- you've got to go back to George McGovern who, while ostensibly winning, is losing as much as George Bush has these past couple weeks.

You know, again my three conservative friends here all passionately believe that one issue in the fall ought to be the moral decadence of Bill Clinton. I assure you, Al Gore is not going to be hurt by Monica Lewinsky, he's not going to be hurt by the travel office, he's not going to not be hurt by Whitewater. The one place he's vulnerable is campaign finance. And yet George Bush, by this week saying there ought to be unlimited contributions, rich people give as much as they want to, by these sleazy, you know, so-called "independent" ads by Bush partisans -- I'd love to see Karl Rove take a lie-detector test. He didn't know about that -- and finally by what I think will be the increasing focus on how contributors have been rewarded in Texas, you know, he's the one guy that can't take advantage of it.

SHIELDS: Let me just jump in there, because I really think that there's a pattern that's emerged in the Bush campaign. And that is, an independent actor acts and -- in the governor's behalf, and then when things don't turn -- work out -- for example, Governor Pataki trying to keep him off the New York ballot -- the Bush campaign then exercises leadership, and he's let -- John McCain's let on the New York ballot. Pat Robertson making phone calls in South Carolina, they boomerang in Michigan, then immediately Pat Robertson is pulled up short.

We now have this independent expenditure in New York, and it is a fraud of total proportions. This is exactly what editorialists on the conservative organs went after Bill Clinton on, and legitimately so. It's all there. It's all there. You've got a guy who's got $2.5 million, who's a beneficiary -- has already given 200,000 to George Bush, and it's not an independent expenditure under the definition. And I'll tell you...

NOVAK: Mark...

SHIELDS: I'll tell you this. It's going to catch up with him, Bob. It may not catch up with him before Tuesday, but he is disabled to raise the campaign finance scandal ads against Al Gore.

NOVAK: Mark, Mark, the -- let me demure from what Al said. I have never said -- and you can look at Hunt for me ever saying that this 2000 campaign was going to be waged on the morale -- moral dysfunctionality of Bill Clinton. I never...

SHIELDS: Bob -- Al...

HUNT: Bob, I didn't say that.

NOVAK: Just a minute, just a minute.

HUNT: No, no, Bob, I did not say that, though.

NOVAK: Well let me have my say, Al.

HUNT: OK, all right.

NOVAK: I never said that, and I would say, Mark, it's not going to be raised on campaign finance reform, it's not going to be raised on the '96 campaign finance excesses. I will agree with everybody, with Kate, that not only the independent expenditures in New York, but the Bush expenditure on this ridiculous breast cancer ad are stupid. They're really stupid.

But that isn't what's driving John McCain down. He has come over not as the interesting, inspirational figure he was in New Hampshire, but when he was giving the debate in Los Angeles from a television box -- as I said, that was a huge mistake -- he came over as mean, talking about who slept in the governor's mansion. Eight friends of the governor slept there who gave money to him. That is the problem, that John McCain came over as the guy who is disliked in the Senate instead of the guy who was liked in the 113 town meetings in New Hampshire.

SHIELDS: Quickly, Gary.

BAUER: I just want to say to Al, Al, there's plenty of things to run against Bill Clinton and Al Gore on in this election. I mean, the decline of our values is one thing, but there's plenty of other things, the decline in the military and other issues, all of which are going to be very important. HUNT: But the scandal issues, the only one that hits Al Gore is campaign financing. I did not say, Bob, you thought that would be what the campaign would be waged on, I just said I thought that you all thought that Clinton-Gore ought to pay a price for that in the fall.

SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt.

Gary Bauer and the gang will be back with continuing religious warfare. Where? In the GOP.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Senator John McCain began this week by going to Virginia Beach, Virginia, there to attack one of its residents, Christian Coalition President Pat Robertson.


MCCAIN: We are the party of Ronald Reagan, not Pat Robertson. We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, not Bob Jones. Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right.


SHIELDS: Meanwhile, the controversy about Governor Bush's visit to Bob Jones university refused to die.


BUSH: Had I had to do it over again I would stand up and say, I don't appreciate that school of thought that denigrates one religion, and I don't appreciate the politics that is happening in America today that's using religion as a race card.

MCCAIN: I think it was straight talk because we wanted to tell people exactly what Governor Bush had done. I did not -- it did not accuse him of being an anti-Catholic bigot, it did not call -- say anything except that he was there and waited three weeks before he repudiated it.

BUSH: If you don't think those phone calls labeled me an anti- Catholic bigot, then you weren't paying attention to what your campaign was putting out, I guess, because the clear message was I was an anti-Catholic bigot.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, who, if anybody, is winning this religious war? O'BEIRNE: There are some clear winners here, Mark: Al Gore and the Democrats. John McCain keeps calling himself a Reagan -- proud Reagan Republican. Can you imagine Ronald Reagan fueling racial tensions like this in order to suit...

SHIELDS: Racial?

O'BEIRNE: Religious tensions in order to suit his short-term political gains. In Virginia Beach, it seems to me, John McCain picked on two strawmen, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. I mean, the last we heard Jerry Falwell, he was talking about Tinky Winky, which I guess was divisive among his -- Teletubbies, but he has not been a force...

BAUER: Silly savage (ph)

O'BEIRNE: He has not been a force in Republican politics for years.

But he does that to delight his friends in the media at the expense of conservatives. The reason why they're so easy to pick on, both Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, as far as the media is concerned, let's face it: they are intolerant and divisive because of their positions on abortion and gay rights. Yet John McCain insists he shares those positions, so he criticizes Pat Robertson because of his position, Robertson's position on the Freemasons, which has not exactly been a preoccupation of Republicans.

So, even conservatives who don't particularly -- aren't particularly fond of Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell, resent John McCain's picking fights with the conservative base. Essentially it boils down to the fact that these two oppose John McCain on campaign finance reform, and anyone who opposes John McCain on that issue is corrupt and venal. I guess that's what it comes down to.

SHIELDS: Let me just take -- I do not think that the media criticism of Jerry Falwell is rooted only in position on abortion and gay rights, because otherwise Henry Hyde, who's been a media darling, would not get good press. But

Gary, tell us what you were involved in this.

BAUER: Well, Mark, I saw the speech before it was delivered, minutes before it was delivered, I thought immediately that it would be a terrible mistake for Senator McCain to attack Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. I said so. The speech had already been passed out, unfortunately. I called very strongly for him to take the comments back. I think they were divisive, but I think, from his own self interest, it took the attention away from his reform message off to a side bar that's damaging for the party but damaging to his campaign.

I think Senator McCain, Kate, is pro-family and pro-life, he's got an 85-percent pro-life voting record over 15 years. I feel like he'll have a pro-life running mate from conversations I've had with him. He has said he wants Roe vs. Wade overturned. None of those things matter right now because the noise of this controversy has drowned out everything else.

Kate, you're right, the only place where champagne corks are popping is at Gore headquarters.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, what about your -- got a lot of friends at Gore's headquarters. What about those champagne corks? Are they -- are they on ice?

NOVAK: They think, and some of the people on this panel obviously think, that this election is over; it's got a long time to go. And as last I saw, Bush was still ahead of Gore in the polls.

But the fact of the matter is this was really a self-defeating speech. The people I talked to in the McCain campaign say that this was McCain very angry that Pat Robertson had attacked him with a very hard telephone message, calling Senator Rudman, though not by name, a vicious bigot; he was very angry. And really, you shouldn't make decisions in politics based on -- based on anger. When you have Gary Bauer, who was a McCain supporter, when you have Senator Bill Bennett, who looked like he was going to be a McCain supporter, upset about this -- and let me tell you something else: He hasn't said anything but Lindsey Graham, congressman from South Carolina was not happy about this speech; he wants to run in the Senate sometime. So this was really shooting yourself in the foot.

And I agree with Gary: It distracted him from a message of trying to win over Republican voters.


HUNT: Mark, look, McCain should have done a better job of delineating between Christian conservatives, most of whom are very descent, good people, and their political leaders, like Gary Bauer and Pat Robertson, who is a mean-spirited political hustler who spews hate and masquerades as a religious leader. And Kate, you're right on follow-up, but don't tell me Pat Robertson doesn't have influence in the Republican Party, because he and his old buddy, Ralph Reed, sure do. McCain may lose politically in the short run, Mark, but I'll tell you, in the long run, you know, what Robertson is no longer going to be able to do is what his buddy Ralph Reed said, where we're most effective is flying below the radar screen, because most Americans really don't, and I include many Christian conservatives, don't go for the hate that this guy (OFF-MIKE).

BAUER: Al, I don't think, Al, that Pat Robertson spews hate, and I have to speak up when you say that.

But let me say this: Al Sharpton...

HUNT: (OFF-MIKE) killers, Gary.

BAUER: Well, Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan do spew hate...

HUNT: As does Robertson.

BAUER: It's amazing to me that Vice President Gore is unwilling to denounce them and to separate himself from them. In fact, he and Bradley are kowtowing to both of them in, I think, a really pitiful display of looking for a certain voting bloc.

HUNT: I will denounce Farrakhan and I will denounce Sharpton as hates mongers, just as Pat Robertson is.

BAUER: Look...

O'BEIRNE: John McCain had plenty of time to think long and hard about his Catholic-voter alert phone calls that engaged in shameless guilt by association in Catholic-bating, and he still had those phone calls going up in Washington. Now he's saying we're not -- we're the Abraham Lincoln Party, we're not the Bob Jones Republican Party. That's so unfair. The vast number of Republicans never heard of Bob Jones University.

SHIELDS: OK, if you want to talk about...

NOVAK: Let me say -- let me say something.

SHIELDS: Let me just say -- Bob, let me just -- I haven't said anything, Bob, OK, just one thing.

If you want to talk about a strawman, the strawman is George Bush standing up there and saying, they accuse me of anti-Catholic. They're not accusing him of being anti-Catholic, they're accusing him of moral cowardice, of going to Bob Jones University and remaining mute in that presence and not speaking truth to power. That's what it is, lacking the moral courage to say, I disagree. It took him three full weeks to disagree. That's it.

Next on CAPITAL GANG: Bill Bradley's last stand.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

In what was probably the last Democratic presidential debate, in Los Angeles Wednesday, former Senator Bill Bradley was asked why he has spotlighted Vice President Al Gore's past record in Congress.


BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you run for president, your public record is important. I think, no question, 84 percent right to life voting record in Congress.

AL GORE (D), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I never supported the criminalization of abortion. In those days, many of us saw the phrase pro-choice as referring to supporting Roe v. Wade. I was always attacked in those days for supporting Roe v. Wade.


SHIELDS: As the debate ended, the challenger took a parting shot at the front-runner. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEY: In his congressional career, Al voted five times to support the tax exempt status for schools that practice racial discrimination, such as Bob Jones.


SHIELDS: The vice president enters Super Tuesday leading in all 16 primaries.

Al Hunt, why has Bill Bradley's campaign failed?

HUNT: First, Mark, those clips aside, I think he basically is going out with some grace, which was the main part of that debate last week. He made one major strategic mistake and several tactical mistakes. The strategic mistake was this above the fray, I'm not going to hit back when hit. As a former NBA player he should have known, when you're elbowed, you better elbow back.

He then also, I think, ended his sense of being different by coming in and reversing his position on things like ethanol.

And I think he also came to believe in the myth called the Iowa bounce, which demonstrably does not exist. He shifted sources from New Hampshire and time to Iowa. If he hadn't done all those, he would have won the New Hampshire primary. And who knows? He might have been competitive this Tuesday.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, a switch at 3,251 votes in New Hampshire, and Bill Bradley would have won.

NOVAK: The problems of Bill Bradley, for all that Al said, can be described in two words: John McCain. If there had been no John McCain, Bill Bradley would have won the New Hampshire primary, he'd probably be ahead in New York, and Al Gore would be fighting for his life.

But having said that, all the contrast that Bradley makes with Gore was -- turns out to be long-ago votes by Gore...

O'BEIRNE: That's right.

NOVAK: .. I mean, that nobody cares about. And even for a Gore basher, that gets a little boring.

SHIELDS: I have to say one quick thing. The other thing that hurt him was George Bush. As long as George Bush had a 15-, 20-point lead, he looked invincible. And the Democrats, I think, were willing to take another look at Al Gore. But when John McCain emerged and showed George Bush to be vulnerable, all of a sudden Democrats said, well, jeez, let's go with Gore.

O'BEIRNE: Al Gore, right.

SHIELDS: Gary. BAUER: Well, Mark, I agree with Bob. The press has room for one reform candidate, and this year it ended up being John McCain, and that sort of cut the ground out from underneath Bradley.

But, Mark, I have to say, it must break your heart, because I know what kind of Democrat you are -- you're a pro-life Democrat -- to see Bill Bradley and Al Gore argue over who's going to most aggressively support one and half million abortions a year. It's a pretty pitiful display.

SHIELDS: It was tough to get to the left of Al Gore on that issue watching that debate.

Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Well I think Bill Bradley would have been a much easier candidate for Republicans in November, so it's yet something else Republicans can be grateful to John McCain for, by forcing out the weaker Democratic candidate. But Al Gore should be grateful to Bill Bradley. By knocking off this liberal challenger, he looks like more of a centrist Democrat, and that's going to be helpful in November.

SHIELDS: Good point, Kate O'Beirne. Gary Bauer, thanks for being with us.

THE GANG will be back with "The Outrage of the Week."

ANNOUNCER: Our viewer "Outrage of the Week" is from Michael Shapiro from Brunswick, New Jersey. He writes:

"It is an outrage that Senator Bradley is attacking Al Gore on the subject of abortion rights, stating that he cannot be trusted because of his flip-flops on the issue. Senator Bill Bradley in his earlier life was an evengelical Christian with strong ties to pro-life groups. Americans should wake up and see Senator Bradley for what he really is -- the ultimate hypocrite."

If you have an "Outrage" for next week, our e-mail address is Or call the toll-free number at 1-888-847-8660. We will choose one outrage to air at this same time next week on THE CAPITAL GANG.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

And now for "The Outrage of the Week."

Is John McCain popular with many reporters who cover his campaign? Yes. Why? Because McCain is exceptionally accessible, candid, funny, and he seems to enjoy press people. Now is there a press conspiracy to back McCain? No. Here are the most important conservative voices in the United States: George Will, Robert Novak, Rush Limbaugh "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page, "The National Review Magazine," "Human Events" and "The Washington Times." Each and every one on this list has been ardently critical of McCain and strongly supportive of Bush. So much for any conspiracy.

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: I'd say I was just being objective, Mark.

As predictable as night follows day, after any gun-related tragedy, President Clinton can be seen on television demanding new legislation. He did it again this week, but once again failed to answer this question: How can a chronic lawbreaker be expected to follow new gun control laws? Specifically, would a guns-for-drugs dealer keep safety locks on his weapons? Only the law-abiding will obey new rules, and they are not the problem.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: This week, Al Gore's longtime fund raiser Maria Hsia, identified as an agent of the Chinese government by a congressional committee, was convicted of five felony counts for illegal fund raiding, including the infamous Buddhist temple event. Although Secret Service and Gore staff memos all refer to the temple visit as a fund raiser, the vice president implausibly insists he had no idea money was being raised there. Now that his old friend has been convicted, Gore, the beneficiary of her illegal activities, refuses to discuss them. As long as the network news all but ignores Hsia's conviction, Al Gore can continue his dodge.


HUNT: Mark, after an ugly primary marked by the bigotry and intolerance of Bob Jones and flying the Confederate flag over its capitol, you'd think South Carolina Republicans would have learned a lesson. But this week in the statehouse, Republicans pushed through a measure to prohibit recognition of the Martin Luther King holiday, remaining the only state not to recognize Dr. King, and to defend the flying of the Confederate flag. They seem bent on making the Palmetto State the Mississippi of the 21st century.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG.

Next on CNN, "SPORTS TONIGHT," with the upset loss of the nation's top college basketball team.


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