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Crossfire

Will Super Tuesday Bring an End to the Campaigns of John McCain and Bill Bradley?

Aired March 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.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Live from Los Angeles, a special edition of CROSSFIRE. Tonight, a preview of Super Tuesday: Will it be the end of the game for Bill Bradley and the end of the road for John McCain and his Straight Talk Express?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Los Angeles, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press; on the right, Mary Matalin. In the crossfire, California Congressman David Dreier, state co-chairman of the Bush campaign, and in San Diego, Mayor Susan Golding, a John McCain supporter. And later, in San Francisco, California Congressman George Miller, a supporter of Bill Bradley, and Mayor Willie Brown, an Al Gore supporter.

MARY MATALIN, CO-HOST: Good evening and welcome to a special edition of CROSSFIRE from Los Angeles.

After weeks of going mano-a-mano state-by-state, campaign 2000 goes nationwide on Super Tuesday tomorrow, and racking up delegates is the goal of all candidates on the day when more than half needed to win their nominations will be chosen.

Both Republicans crisscrossed California, the mother lode of delegates, while both Democrats knocked around New York with the second-biggest batch of delegates.

The Republican contest remains competitive, but with Bush continuing to fare best among Republicans in contests where only they can choose. Gore says he's taking nothing for granted but blowing past Bradley to bash Bush.

We turn to the Grand Old Party for their prognostication, and we'll be joined later by Democratic leaders here in California to find out will Super Tuesday mean "Black Wednesday" for McCain and Bradley, and what will Super Tuesday's outcome mean for "Junior Tuesday" next week? And have the hard-fought primaries hurt each party's general election prospects?

And now to the man who once ran the Democratic Party in this great state of California, Chairman Bill Press.

(LAUGHTER)

PRESS: They were the good old days before I got an honest job at CNN. Congressman Dreier...

REP. DAVID DREIER (R-CA), STATE CO-CHAIRMAN OF THE BUSH CAMPAIGN: Welcome to you both. I welcome the CROSSFIRE team to the big enchilada.

PRESS: We're...

DREIER: We're glad to have you back, and we're glad it's temporary, Bill.

(LAUGHTER)

PRESS: And I'm glad to be back hope.

Congressman, the Bush campaign has become a tale of two ads. I want to ask you about both of them. The first ad is a radio ad being run by the Bush campaign, which accuses John McCain of being against breast cancer research when in fact he's voted at least 10 times in the Senate for breast cancer research. He's sponsored a tobacco bill which pumps millions and millions of dollars into breast cancer research. And the one time he voted against it for this New York hospital was because it was typical pork barrel spending tagged on to a bill that had nothing to do with health care. It had to do with military spending.

Do you agree -- my question -- with conservative columnist William Safire in this morning's "New York Times" that this is breast cancer deception and a deliberate distortion of John McCain's voting record.

DREIER: You know, the interesting thing is, Bill, this has all come not from voting records: This has come from information on the Web site that Senator McCain has in which he points to $13 billion that he describes as garden variety pork, which includes money for cancer research as well as a wide range of other things.

I mean, I'm troubled that so many of these issues have been brought to the forefront. And I think it's very credible to raise this as a concern, because we all are concerned about the fact that John McCain's sister suffers from breast cancer. We know this is an issue which is of -- is trying to be addressed by a wide range of people in Washington and around the country.

But the fact is he has said that he would support, as president, cutting what he described as garden variety pork, and I think that's wrong.

PRESS: He voted -- first of all, I thought Republicans were against pork. But...

DREIER: He -- he describes...

PRESS: Now you're pork.

DREIER: He describes it as garden variety pork, Bill. That's the point we're trying to make. PRESS: Because -- it's the point I made -- because it was not in a health-related bill. It was in a military bill where it doesn't belong. It was tacked on there.

But you're a fair man, David Dreier. I want to ask you, if a guy votes over 18 years at least 10 times on the record for breast cancer research, if he sponsors major legislation again that would pump all of this money into breast cancer research, why is it fair to run an ad saying he's against breast cancer research? Isn't that a blatant lie that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) campaign ought to be ashamed of?

DREIER: We're talking about not something that was research. We're talking about public statements that are promoted on a Web page. That is...

PRESS: I'm talking about your campaign ad.

DREIER: But we're -- this has been raised because of what appears on that Web page. To describe breast cancer research dollars as garden variety pork is just plain wrong. And I think that -- the fact that he said as president he would bring about cuts in those areas, I think it's wrong to do that.

MATALIN: Mayor...

(CROSSTALK)

Well, Mayor Golding, can I ask you a question before you and David get into your tag team that you've been doing so well on behalf of your candidates. First, very simple yes or no questions: Do you think George Bush is an anti-Catholic bigot? Yes or no.

MAYOR SUSAN GOLDING (R), SAN DIEGO: No, I don't.

MATALIN: All right. Let me ask you yes or no before I get into the bigger questions.

Do you think it's right...

GOLDING: OK. I'll give you a chance to do that.

MATALIN: Do you think it's right for Senator McCain to continue charging that George W. Bush is an anti-Catholic bigot, as he does?

GOLDING: Well, first of all, I have never heard John McCain use those words. And every time he is asked, the only thing that I'm aware of that happened, which was quite some time ago -- and the Bush people seem to keep going back to that in spite of the fact they're now running the most negative campaign I have seen in a long time. There were...

MATALIN: All right, mayor...

GOLDING: But let me answer the question. John McCain stated that Governor Bush went to Bob Jones University and that Bob Jones University was anti-Catholic. That is quite a bit different than the way it's being spun, saying that's what John McCain said about George Bush. And as you know, Bob Jones University has now, because Senator McCain spoke out, changed their policy on interracial dating. And you need someone as president who has the courage to take on somewhat controversial stands and has the backbone to do it.

MATALIN: Well, mayor, mayor, mayor...

GOLDING: Yes.

MATALIN: ... we don't have a lot of time here. I don't know how courageous it was for McCain to take them on after he was negotiating to go there and didn't get the trip. But if he wasn't trying to infer by his charges connecting Bush to Bob Jones that Bush wasn't anti- Catholic, why did his supporter there, as one Senator John J. Marchi from the 24th district of New York sent a letter today -- this is not old news; this is today -- Senator Marchi sent a letter to John McCain, whom he supports, saying "Such campaign tactics are inconsistent with my perception of your impressive record as a military man and as a leader in the United States Senate. I..."

GOLDING: Well...

MATALIN: Let me finish, please!

"I sincerely hope you will see to it that attacks on George Bush painting him as one of anti-Catholic views will stop immediately."

Will you join your Senate colleague in New York in urging the senator to stop calling Bush anti-Catholic?

GOLDING: If John McCain is personally doing that, yes, I think he should stop. I don't have any problem with that. I'm not aware that John McCain has ever done that. And I know it may help the Bush campaign to say that, but to the best of my knowledge that has never been done.

And I have to comment on the breast cancer ads. David did his best to defend them, but David knows he can't defend them. We all know about omnibus bills at the end where all members of Congress sneak stuff in into some piece of legislation that has nothing to do with what it's supposed to be about, that doesn't go through committee, that doesn't get hearings, that doesn't have examination. And John McCain says that's not fair to the American people, so he votes against it.

PRESS: Susan...

GOLDING: Where the breast cancer -- he has definitely supported breast cancer research for many years, and as you know, George Bush's response to that was very cold.

PRESS: Susan, we have to move on. David Dreier, let me ask you about this second ad. Here you've got an ad where there are two guys from Texas, big supporters of Governor Bush, spending $2 1/2 million for this ad that's attacking John McCain as being against clean air. It's a television ad. Now, putting aside whether or not it's factual, putting aside whether or not the campaign knew -- Bush campaign knew about it, my question to you is when two millionaires spend $2 1/2 million of their own money in soft money on television and cronies of George Bush attacking his opponent, isn't that the best argument we have seen yet for campaign finance reform?

DREIER: I can't follow your basis there, Bill. The campaign did not know about it.

PRESS: I didn't say...

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER: ... the fact of the matter is they didn't know about it.

PRESS: Don't go there. I'm not talking about that.

(CROSSTALK)

I'm saying, doesn't this argue for campaign reform?

DREIER: And let me just -- let me just tell you -- let's talk about the substantive issue here. What we've got is once again on that Web page $13 billion in pork, including cutting in San Diego $100,000 for San Diego shoreline development -- I mean improving the environment.

PRESS: I asked you about clean air.

DREIER: I'm talking about environmental issues, I'm talking about environmental issues, Bill. And the fact is John McCain again has said that he wants to take -- you and I are Californians, and we're proud of our attempts to improve the environment here. We're proud of our attempts to improve clean water, transportation and air quality. And you know what? We need to have a president who is going to help work -- work with us jointly on that. And John McCain has said that he wants to cut $13 billion in what he calls garden variety pork, including environmental issues.

PRESS: Let's talk about the facts. Let's talk about the fact that since Governor Bush has been governor of Texas, Texas is now No. 1 in toxic air pollution in the entire country. Houston has now surpassed the city we sit in, Los Angeles -- let me finish -- as the smog capital of the world. And here these Bush cronies are attacking John McCain for being against clean air.

Isn't that the ultimate in hypocrisy?

DREIER: You call these guys Bush cronies. The fact of the matter is these are people who have programs to dramatically improve our environment. That's what their business is. And that's why they are committed to getting a president who's going to work on cleaning up our environment.

PRESS: I call somebody who gives their candidate $250,000 a crony. I think the fact sticks.

David Dreier, thank you for being here. We're out -- we've got to move to the Democrats. Thank you, David Dreier, for being here. And Susan Golding, thank you for joining us, Susan, from San Diego.

(CROSSTALK)

I'm sorry. We're out of time. Thanks to you both.

Now, there is, believe it or not, still a race for the Democratic primary, Bill Bradley and Al Gore. We get to that one next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: Welcome back to a special edition of CROSSFIRE from Los Angeles, on the eve of the all-important Super Tuesday primary elections.

We now turn to the Democrats where it's not over yet, but may soon be. Bill Bradley, lagging in the polls, says he'll pull a Harry Truman-like upset, but Al Gore, ignoring Bradley, is already attacking George W. Bush.

So after the votes are counted here in California and across the country in 14 other states, will there still be two Democratic candidates left? Sizing them up, for Bill Bradley, Democratic Congressman George Miller from Alameda County. For Al Gore, San Francisco Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr. -- Mary.

MATALIN: Well, Mayor Brown, we're so happy to be in your great state. Thanks for joining us.

Let me go right to what Senator Bradley had to say in these waning days of the campaign and ask you a question after you take a listen to this please.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that he has distorted the record considerably. He said a number of things untrue about his own record and about mine. And I think that -- I had hoped that we could get to an election where people would be choosing between two politicians they esteem as opposed to one they can barely tolerate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATALIN: Well, to be honest, of course, mayor, I could barely tolerate Al Gore before these primaries. Now he's validated what we all thought about him, and all the pundits are already saying before this thing is over that the vice president won ugly. Is that going to matter in the general election?

MAYOR WILLIE BROWN (D), SAN FRANCISCO: First, I don't share their view. He did not win ugly. He talked about education. He talked about campaign reform. He talked about getting the "Saturday night specials" off the streets and removing the handguns. He talked about protecting Social Security. And above all else, he talked about maintaining the unprecedented prosperity that's been part of the Clinton/Gore administration.

All of those resonated very well with people who are working for the first time, living in a house for the first time and having a little bit of savings. That's what Al Gore talked about, and if you want to call that winning ugly, then he won ugly.

MATALIN: Well, he did talk about that. That's true, Mayor. But what you didn't say that he also talked about, and what catapulted him above and beyond Bradley, who was leading initially, was that he did distort Senator Bradley's record. He did distort his own record. And today, he's blowing past Bradley, and he's distorting George Bush's record.

Don't you think America is sick and tired of these Clintonian demonizations of the opposition?

BROWN: Well, I would tell you this: I don't think that all of America, most people, most voters share your view on Al Gore's conduct. I think Al Gore has conducted an appropriate campaign.

I think he's left Washington, shed himself of all of the things surrounding the vice presidency, took his tie off, and went virtually door to door throughout America shaking hands and asking people to vote for him, and talking what people wanted to hear. He wants to keep the prosperity going. He wants to ensure that everybody gets a fair shot. He wants to ensure everybody gets education, good health care, protect Social Security. He talked about those things. He didn't distort anybody's record. And above all else, he talked about a woman's right to choose.

All of those are important issues and they have resonated well with the voters, and Al Gore's campaign foundation and his success has been rooted in his expressions on those issues.

PRESS: Congressman George Miller, I think Mary was confusing George -- Al Gore with George Bush, the one who really has been campaigning ugly. But let me ask you about your candidate, Bill Bradley.

Senator Pat Moynihan of New York, who is the biggest Bradley supporter probably on the East Coast, as you are on the West, said of Bill Bradley today -- and please listen carefully to the tense he used -- quote -- "He fought handsomely, gallantly, and right to the end."

Do you agree, George Miller, that he "fought," meaning it's all over, especially if he doesn't win California tomorrow?

REP. GEORGE MILLER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, obviously, the public opinion polls are telling you that the likelihood of Bill Bradley winning in these key states is not very good. But I do agree that he has fought very, very hard. He tried to bring to the American people a debate on the issues within our party, and hopefully, among others, in this country about the -- about the need for health care, about the need for a first-class education for all of America's children, about the need for licensing handguns, and he was well-received.

And I think that he -- we're very proud of that -- of that campaign, but as you know, politics is about timing and situation. And once the media left the Democratic primary after the New Hampshire primary, you haven't been back until this week. And the food fight that we just witnessed on the other side among the Republicans has obviously occupied almost all of the -- all of the media attention, I think in the long run to the benefit of the Democratic nominee, because I think what we see going on in the other party is -- is just a precursor of their disaster in November.

PRESS: But Congressman, you alluded to it without saying the words: that the media paid so much attention to John McCain that John McCain sort of sucked all the oxygen out of the insurgent campaigning and so there was no attention left to Bill Bradley. I mean, isn't that -- I mean, isn't that ridiculous? Are you saying America can only handle one insurgent campaign at a time?

MILLER: Well, there's -- you know the political history. The political history is America can't handle much of -- has a hard time handling even one insurgent.

Yes, I think that's probably -- when we look at this campaign and we do the post-mortems that's what we'll decide: is that there really was only room for one insurgent and the media made that decision that that was going to be -- that was going to be John McCain. But I think that Bill Bradley has clearly broadened this debate.

It's rather interesting that after the vice president so criticized Bill Bradley's health care plan that they gave California a waiver to do exactly what Bill Bradley was talking about doing. And now, Al Gore has added a prescription benefit to his plan.

So I mean, I think in many ways the Democratic Party has been a -- a beneficiary of this -- of this debate on the issues, not what's going on, on the other side about debating who is running sleazy ads against one another based upon soft money and hidden contributions.

PRESS: OK.

MATALIN: All right, Mayor Brown, speaking of that, today the vice president did attack Governor Bush for that independent expenditure ad, which he had nothing -- nothing to do with in New York. Now, I am wondering, if the vice president is so upset about these independent expenditures, particularly in the Republican side, where was he when NARAL and the Sierra Club was spending millions of dollars in New Hampshire, liberal groups, attacking George Bush? Does he want all of those groups to go away as well?

BROWN: Well, Mary, I think that the vice president will speak for himself as the campaign unfolds against Mr. Bush, and I believe his message will be one of, who do you trust to do the reforms on the campaign reform side, George W. Bush or Al Gore? Do you trust Democrats or Republicans? And I think the answer consistently will have to be, I trust Democrats. There is no way you can accumulate $70 million in campaign contributions and then say you are for campaign reform. There is no way you can have the kind of expenditures that have been referred to in gross terms by individuals and say you're for campaign reform. And I think Al Gore will carry that message and I think it will be believed.

MATALIN: Well, that's a very good segue. Who do you trust? Do you really think the vice president has any credibility on campaign finance reform after the mess he brought -- drug your party into in 1996? That question was raised today and here was George Bush's response to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The man must have amnesia when he's talking about campaign funding reform. He must have forgotten that he went to a Buddhist temple here in California raising money from people who have made a vow of poverty. He must have forgotten that his close associate was indicted and convicted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATALIN: That's Maria Hsia, of course, who was convicted for illegally fund raising with the vice president in 1996, which first he denied knowing about, then he said there was no controlling legal authority, and then today he finally said he made a mistake. Do we really expect Americans to trust the vice president on campaign finance reform?

BROWN: Well, I have to tell you this, as you walk through the process of the elections in the fall, when George W. Bush is there, when George W. Bush will have expended something in excess of a hundred million dollars, when he refuses to accept the limitations and polls by public financing of campaigns as Al Gore is doing, I think all questions will be brushed aside very quickly.

There's no way you accumulate the war chest that George Bush is talking about and think you're going to have any credibility whatsoever on campaign reform. Yes, Al Gore is going to be the force, and Al Gore is going to win the presidency.

PRESS: George Miller, we're almost out of time, a very quick question for you. Bill Bradley said no way would he accept the vice presidential nomination on an Al Gore ticket. Should he have said yes, George?

MILLER: No, I don't -- well, I can't second guess him. He's made this statement now over and over again that that's not why he was campaigning, that's not what he was trying to do in this primary season, and we'll have to take him at his word. I don't -- I'm not here to second guess that.

MATALIN: OK, Congressman Miller, thank you so much, Mayor Brown, thank you. May the worst man lose tomorrow in California.

Bill and I will be back, as usual, with our closing comments on CROSSFIRE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: Hey, we still have a lot more to say, believe it or not, about those crucial Super Tuesday elections tomorrow and we want to hear from you, so Mary and I will be in CROSSFIRE's chat room right after the show. You can join us at cnn.com/Crossfire and we'll see you there.

You know, Mary, if the pollsters are right, it looks like we'll have the final round starting tomorrow and I can't wait, because I don't think -- I think George Bush has done nothing in this primary season but give Al Gore ammunition for the fall. Bob Jones is going to be his Willie Horton and this Wily brothers commercial is going to be his Buddhist temple, which he'll never explain.

MATALIN: You guys are so predictable. Gore starts distorting Bush's record today, Mayor Brown distorted his record just now and his policies, and you of course distort his environmental record. Do you know he has taken more -- under Bush, since 1995, more cancer causing and toxic elements have been removed from the air than all the rest of the other 49 states put together. So you can try to lie as you have in the past two Clinton contests.

PRESS: But this is a typical thing.

MATALIN: But Americans are sick of this.

PRESS: You distort McCain's record and you accuse others of distorting Bush's record.

MATALIN: No, we didn't. No, no.

PRESS: We'll find out about Bush's record.

From the left, I'm Bill Press, good night for CROSSFIRE from California.

MATALIN: And from the right, I am Mary Matalin. We're not going away. Join us next on the chat room and tomorrow night for more CROSSFIRE.

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