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Inside Politics

New York Gov. George Pataki Proposes New Gun Control Measures; Bush Says He Would Support Most of Governor's Plan

Aired March 15, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I could support trigger locks. I just don't know how we convince people to use them.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: In his evolving views on gun control, George W. Bush appears to embrace new proposals by his ally, New York Governor George Pataki.


GOV. GEORGE PATAKI, NEW YORK: I am not concerned about the politics. I am concerned about the policy, and the policy will make our streets safer, and that's the bottom line.


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Is Pataki's plan something Al Gore and other Democrats might cheer about?

Thanks for joining us. We begin with an issue major political figures are focusing on today, and likely throughout this election year: gun control. New York Governor George Pataki outlined new proposals that go farther than many of his fellow Republicans are prepared to go in an effort to ease gun violence, and he apparently has the blessing of his presidential choice, George W. Bush.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick has details on Pataki's plan and the politics surrounding it.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In proposing new gun control legislation, the Republican governor from New York crossed party lines. He's sounding a lot like the Democrats, both locally and nationally, who for years have been pushing what they call common-sense gun laws.

PATAKI: By taking these common sense steps to monitor and control the use of handguns in New York State, we will continue to lead the nation.

FEYERICK: Pataki's five-point proposal includes mandatory trigger locks on all new handguns, banning assault weapons, raising the minimum age of handgun purchasers from 18 to 21, instant background checks at gun shows, and the newest proposal, ballistic fingerprinting, tracing the unique marks left by bullets and using that information for future crime solving.

PATAKI: What we would require is that every handgun sold in New York have a ballistic test made of the shell casing and of the bullets, and that ballistic test would be put in our state police computerized records in Albany.

FEYERICK: Aside from ballistic fingerprinting, the proposals are not exactly new. The difference is how Republican governors continue breaking with their more ideological GOP congressional colleagues.

Of the five states with mandatory trigger lock laws, four -- New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania -- have Republican governors.

RICHARD ABORN, NEW YORKERS AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE: The governors and the mayors in both parties are going to start exercising more weight. They know what actually works on the front lines.

FEYERICK: GOP-led Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Colorado are also tightening gun policy, and like Governor Pataki, getting high marks from gun control advocates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I greatly applaud the governor's courage in reaching out across the divide in his own party, unfortunately, and in saying to them, we need to support the gun control effort.

FEYERICK: But will the proposals from the New York governor, a man of national ambition, cause friction with another GOP governor, Republican presidential contender George W. Bush. Bush has generally resisted most forms of gun control.

PATAKI: I'm not concerned about the politics here. I'm concerned about the policy. And the policy will make our streets safer, and that's the bottom line.

FEYERICK (on camera): The proposed safety measures are no doubt significant, but the Republican Party remains split on how far gun control policy should go. While states are taking their own steps to tighten gun laws, without a national policy, any impact will be uneven at best.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.


SHAW: Now, Governor Bush's reaction. Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley interviewed Bush in Austin, Texas today, and she asked him about Pataki's proposals.



CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): It came out that he wants to propose some anti-gun legislation in his legislature. In part, it includes the idea of mandatory trigger locks installed at the point of sale. Is that something that you could support?

BUSH: I could support that, yes, but you have got to understand, trigger locks are separate -- are -- you can remove them from a gun, and the question is, how do we convince people to use them?

What I think the ultimate solution to much of our worry is about when it comes to guns is to have smart guns, where guns won't be able to be used unless the gun itself matches the palm print or the fingerprints of the owner. To me, that's where the ultimate solution is going to come. In the meantime, I could support trigger locks. I just don't know how we convince people to use them.

CROWLEY: Sure, but in the interim, you could see supporting an idea where they're installed at the point of sale -- here's your gun, the trigger lock's already in it.

BUSH: Right, but what happens is you can take a key and take the trigger lock out.

And that would be fine. I mean, 80 percent of the weapons sold today are sold with trigger locks, and if what he's talking about is getting the other 20 percent to be sold, that would be fine with me.


BUSH: Bush appears to be going a step further in his views on trigger locks. He has previously says he supports voluntary efforts to equip all guns with safety locks. Recently he said if Congress passed legislation requiring mandatory legislation requiring trigger locks for all new hand guns, he would sign it. We're going to have more of Candy Crowley's interview with the governor a bit later.

WOODRUFF: Well, for his part, Al Gore and his fellow Democrats are making the case again today that they will do more to ease gun violence than Republicans. Gore made a gun control pitch in Pennsylvania this afternoon during a discussion of school safety. Back in Washington, President Clinton tried to push Congress to act on gun control.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Conventional wisdom is in election years we're not supposed to do anything. I think that's wrong. We all still draw a check in election years just like we do in non-election years, and we're all here, and these kids, they keep dying every day. They don't know it's election year.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: The president criticized the GOP congressional leadership for not permitting House and Senate conferees to meet on pending gun control bills. And he proclaimed that the instant background checks he signed into law under the Brady Bill are working, with the number of gun crimes falling by 35 percent since 1993.

Now let's talk about gun control and other matters political with Margaret Carlson of "Time" magazine and Tucker Carlson of "The Weekly Standard."

Tucker, this proposal by Governor Pataki, is this the kind of thing that's going to have an affect on this issue and on the race?

TUCKER CARLSON, "WEEKLY STANDARD": It's pretty typical for New York. Governor Rockefeller, when he was governor of New York, was, I think, at the time the strongest sort of pro-gun control Republican in the country, kind of typical for the state.

This is part of, on the presidential level, an overall strategy by the gore camp to paint George W. Bush as a sort of Tom DeLay figure, as a scary right-winger. Going to be hard to pull off.

WOODRUFF: But you're not saying that what Pataki is doing is part of the strategy.

T. CARLSON: No, of course not, but I mean the gun control as one of the key Democratic issues this year, I think it plays well in New York. I think that's the single reason Pataki himself is behind it. You know, it's a smart move for him in New York.

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, Bush may want to see how Pataki does with this, because Bush does have a problem if he's labeled with the concealed gun ban in Texas that allows guns in churches, parks and stadiums. The Bush people argue, well, it's safer now because criminals don't know if the noncriminal is packing a gun. I don't think people like the idea that people are armed and dangerous all over, you know, every place they go. And obviously, Bush going with the trigger locks is trying to find a way back a little bit on guns because he knows it's a big issue.

WOODRUFF: Is it likely that Bush could come back far enough, as Margaret is saying, Tucker, for this to become less of an issue or no issue for the Democrats?

T. CARLSON: I don't think it matters where Bush goes on this. I mean, I think the fundamental Gore strategy remains unchanged from six months ago, which is to paint Bush as a scary right-winger and to use guns and abortion primarily as a way to do it.

So I mean, look, the key case the Democrats are making here is that somehow the Congress and/or gun manufacturers are responsible for gun deaths. That's a tough case to make logically. It's a cousin of the case that was made in the past couple of years, the tobacco industry is responsible for smoking deaths. The public seems to have bought it. I don't know, maybe it'll work in this case. M. CARLSON: But there are facts, and they're stubborn things, not stupid things, as Reagan says, that the gun lobby and the tobacco lobby have not helped fix up the things that they can fix, like trigger locks, and gun show checks and things like that. And I don't think that Gore can paint Bush into that corner if bush Moves out of it. In fact, the changes that Bush makes will get a lot of attention.

T. CARLSON: That's true, but keep in mind, this is not a debate that takes place primarily on the level of policy. People -- you know, you don't see a lot of experts on crime trends out there testifying. What you see is a lot of gun victims standing with politicians, who then in turn make, sort of, teary pleas to the population on -- for whatever they're -- you know, for their party essentially. That's where this debate is taking place, on an emotional level.

WOODRUFF: But, Margaret, I -- you don't -- or do you agree with Tucker that no matter what George Bush does, no matter how far he moves that this is going to remain a central issue in this campaign? I think it remains a issue, and I think it tilts towards the Democrats, but I disagree with Tucker in that I think that Bush embracing trigger locks and saying he might even go further to where Pataki is I think helps him a lot on this issue.

WOODRUFF: What else are we seeing in this campaign? You still have this sort of daily, even hourly, back and forth, Tucker, between Bush and Gore over campaign finance reform. I'm going to -- Gore says, I am ready to ban soft money, why don't you? Bush saying, no, you're not sincere, and so forth. I mean, how long does this go on?

T. CARLSON: Well, for eight months.


T. CARLSON: For the longest general election campaign in American history. We've pointed out today...


T. CARLSON: Well, that's right. You see this weird kind of thing going on where each candidate has morphed into his opponent. So you have all of a sudden Gore going strong on guns, which was of course one of Bradley's signature. You have Bush basically becoming John McCain. In fact, Gore becoming John McCain. I mean, one of them is going to start talking about his time in prison camp at some point. I mean, I think in his speech the other day, Gore five times said, I agree with John McCain, my pal John McCain, as John McCain said. It's amazing.

M. CARLSON: Bush is pretty soon going to say he got shot down over Oklahoma while he was in the Texas Air National Guard. They don't have all that much to disagree over every single day, so they do have to come up with some things to disagree on, and one would work in Gore's favor which is the soft money. And this new gambit where he says, I won't run -- I'm not going to -- I have told the DNC, don't put up one soft money -- ad paid for by soft money until the Republicans do. I think then puts the onus on Bush, and the minute he runs an ad, that's news.

WOODRUFF: Tucker, what about this new -- this effort that McCain is going to begin to -- he's going to launch his PAC, political action committee, raising money for Republicans running for Congress, Republicans who support campaign finance reform? Is this going to have an affect on the race?

T. CARLSON: Straight Talk America -- well, it will keep John McCain in the news, which from a reporter's point of view is always a good thing, very quotable guy, and it will keep a lot of his staff employed, which is also good, a lot of consultants who have worked for McCain are going to find it very hard to get jobs, because Bush supporters -- you know, I think there's a sense in which if you worked for McCain and criticized Bush publicly, it's going to be tough for you to work again. I am not sure that the reform agenda apart from John McCain has a lot of resonance. The campaign finance reform as an issue distinct from the man himself gets voters excited and on their feet.

M. CARLSON: Right. Not as much as he did, and when they keep mentioning him, both Gore and Bush, it's not for campaign finance reform. It's try to get part of the aura on to them. But McCain is smart in that he's -- this is the first exploratory committee to be for the presidency in 2004.

WOODRUFF: I talked to John Weaver today and came away clearly with the sense that if there's any sort of coming together between Bush and McCain, it's not going to happen anytime soon. They think the ball is in Bush's court, Tucker?

T. CARLSON: I think that's absolutely right. I mean, I -- this sounds simplistic, but I think it's true -- a lot of this is personal. I mean, I think that the attitude that the McCain campaign or what's left of it has about Bush comes directly from McCain himself -- he's mad and -- I don't know. A week in BoraBora will soften almost anybody up. So who knows?

M. CARLSON: Yes, right.

T. CARLSON: But I -- there's nothing not to his advantage.

WOODRUFF: We'll see.

M. CARLSON: Actually, we should send Bush and Gore to BoraBora and see if it softens them up.

T. CARLSON: Hula skirt possibilities.

WOODRUFF: All right, Margaret Carlson, Tucker Carlson, we should all go to BoraBora, thank you both.

M. CARLSON: Aloha.

T. CARLSON: Aloha.

WOODRUFF: Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS -- we're staying here -- the Texas governor talks, more from Candy Crowley's interview with George W. Bush.

Plus, the vice president has words of thanks for his labor supporters as he enlists their help for the next phase of the election.


SHAW: George W. Bush took a little time away from the campaign trail today after officially clinching the Republican nomination in yesterday's primaries. But he did talk to our Candy Crowley and we have more now from her interview, as the Texas governor discusses his campaign and which states will be key to the November election.


BUSH: Well, I think it's a little early to say. But step one is to make sure that my base is solid, Florida, all the way across the South to the West and certainly Midwestern states. California is going to be a battleground state. I think I've got a good chance in New York state as well. And obviously, states in the Midwest -- I am going to Illinois tomorrow to campaign. That's a state where I can do well, Ohio, Michigan -- I don't want to leave anything out.

CROWLEY (on camera): Let me go back to something that we hear all the time which is that you may take some foreign trip.

BUSH: I am not sure what our trip schedule is going to be. I think one is just the logistics, secondly, can it be the right kind of forum. I know many of the leaders, for example, in South America. I look forward to -- if I had a chance to go back and continue to strengthen our friendship I would like to do that. I know President Zedillo well. And so, we're looking. We're looking.

I would love to take a trip in our own neighborhood, though, because I think it's so important to send a signal that a market- oriented neighborhood, and a peaceful neighborhood, and a prosperous neighborhood -- and when I mean neighborhood I mean Canada all the way down to the tip of South America.

CROWLEY: Let's look back just a little bit. What turned it around, do you think? When did it begin to get back on track for you?

BUSH: Well, when people -- when I sharpened my message after New Hampshire, when I reminded people what I think my strength is, that I am a reformer with results, that I have done a job of reforming education, for example, in the state of Texas and I have got the results to show it. In other words, I got defined and I wasn't going to let that happen again. I need to stand up and talk about where I was going to lead.

CROWLEY: What was your lowest point when you look back, when did you just feel the worst about it?

BUSH: I have always been an optimistic guy, seriously. I mean, as -- you follow me pretty closely. I never let anything get me down. I've been patient. But I guess right after New Hampshire when the whole world was saying, well, he can't win, and I was reminding our team we can win, was probably the toughest moment.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, you got an e-mail from Al Gore, I understand?

BUSH: I did. I found out about it on your network last night.

CROWLEY: And have you e-mailed him back?

BUSH: We may be doing that today, yes. The essence of the e- mail, of course, will be, well, we appreciate your congratulations, I congratulate you as well and let's let all the facts be on the table in terms of what has gone on in the past before we really contemplate the future. Let's make sure that, for example, that all the facts are on the table about the Buddhist temple or the phone calls out of the White House.

CROWLEY: And do you foresee -- one of his things is that the Democratic Party will go ahead and raise soft money, but they will not use it for advertisement unless the Republican Party does.

BUSH: This guy's got no credibility on the issue as far as I am concerned, Candy. I mean, these are people that, you know -- laying out these proposals, expect us to forget what's gone on in the past, and not only -- I mean, not only that, but he's given a speech to the unions, I understand. Why doesn't he convince them not to spend the millions of dollars they do? And you know, I wish I could trust him, but I don't when it comes to campaign funding reform.


CROWLEY: Just as a postscript, Judy, that e-mail that the governor talked, an e-mail reply to the vice president has indeed gone out. In it the governor congratulates the vice president for getting the delegates he needs for the Democratic nomination.

As far as the various proposals for campaign finance reform, the governor says, look, campaign finance reform is needed, but what's more important, says Bush, is that the duty of public officials to comply with existing laws. And then he adds, "I'm afraid your own record does not inspire trust."

Bush went on to say: "Thank you for your e-mail. This Internet of yours is a wonderful invention."

Judy, I am predicting a very long and heated summer.

WOODRUFF: Hmm, got in a little dig there. All right. Candy Crowley reporting from Texas, thanks.

Well, Vice President Al Gore is in Pennsylvania today meeting with labor leaders at the state's AFL-CIO convention. His message to them was two-fold as he thanked them for their support and urged them to keep up the fight.

Our John King reports.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was half victory lap, half battle cry. Organized labor helped the vice president coast to the Democratic nomination, so he came to the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO convention to say thanks, but also to warn against complacency.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a huge battle that lies just ahead, and you can make all the difference. You already have this year.

KING: Gore's speech was standard fare stump: a reminder of the 21 million new jobs in the Clinton-Gore years.

GORE: I want to keep the prosperity going and make sure no one is left behind. I want to raise the minimum wage $1 an hour to make sure that those who need it the most have it.

KING: No mention of the administration's feud with industrial unions over free trade, but several promises to advance labor's agenda.

GORE: We need to pass a change to outlaw permanent striker replacement in this country.

KING: Philadelphia is host to the Republican national convention, and Gore urged his audience to give Texas Governor George W. Bush a polite reception.

GORE: I just want you to make sure that as close as he gets to the White House.

KING: One in four Pennsylvania workers is an AFL-CIO member, and labor's organizing effort here is part of an unprecedented nationwide campaign to help Gore and the Democrats.

STEVE ROSENTHAL, NATIONAL POLITICAL DIRECTOR, AFL-CIO: We're in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Wisconsin. In a number of the key states, union members in the last few elections have made up as much as, in some cases, as high as 35 to 40 percent of the vote. So we're going try to do everything we can to bring more and more union members into the process.

KING: Tuesday night's victories in six Southern states gave Gore a mathematical lock on the Democratic nomination, allowing the campaign to focus exclusively on the general election.

Sources tell CNN the campaign manager, Donna Brazile, is meeting with Democratic National Committee officials Thursday to review staffing and budget issues.

(on camera): And several top Gore campaign officials are attending a focus group session with undecided and swing voters in suburban Philadelphia, the first of several sessions planned across the country to study the lessons of the primary campaign and to help craft a strategy aimed at winning critical November battlegrounds.

John King, CNN, Philadelphia.


SHAW: And there's still much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

WOODRUFF: Still to come, a rising issue: politics at the pump as gas prices capture American attention.


SHAW: ... a look back at the last time gasoline was a campaign issue. Are there lessons to be learned?

And later...


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They did clinch the nominations, Al Gore and George W. Bush, but you could have missed it.


WOODRUFF: ... our Bruce Morton on why the White House race is no longer front-page news.


SHAW: We will have more of this day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories. A suspected tornado ripped through southern Louisiana this afternoon, damaging homes and knocking out electricity. It touched down in Houma. At least 30 people were taken to area hospitals. A roof was ripped off a discount store.

WOODRUFF: As President Clinton prepares to visit Pakistan, that country bans all public political rallies, strikes and processions. The government says the move is intended to restore order and to present Pakistan as a responsible state. It is the first ban on political activity since last October's bloodless military coup.

In Kosovo, French peacekeepers today fired tear gas on Serbs in the divided city of Mitrovica. Serbs became angry and began throwing bottles and stones when the troops ordered Serbs, who were guarding a bridge, to disperse.

NATO is defending the peacekeepers' action.


GEN. KLAUS REINHARDT, NATO COMMANDER: There were two different ideas. We wanted to get those guys who were calling themselves bridge-watchers out. We gave them a time. They didn't want to do that, so we cleared them out, because we said it's our intention which will be installed.

Some people didn't like it. They demonstrated against that, but the demonstrations are over. The bridge-watchers are out. And this is just one step for future normality.


WOODRUFF: For more on the situation in Kosovo, U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin will be on CNN "WORLDVIEW" in just about half an hour. Rubin recently returned from the region.

SHAW: Officials from the Mexico and United States governments plan to discuss a border shooting incident. Mexican soldiers on an anti-drug mission strayed into U.S. territory Tuesday night in Santa Teresa, which is near El Paso. When they were stopped by U.S. border agents, someone among the soldiers fired two shots. No one was injured. Some of the soldiers surrendered to authorities and were released a short time later.

Several Amtrak cars, including two sleepers, ended up on their side when they derailed in Carbondale, Kansas early this morning. The Southwest Chief was rounding a bend when 16 cars jumped the tracks. Police say 32 people were hurt, none seriously. Amtrak says it was going well within the speed limit. Federal investigators are at the scene. The train was heading from Chicago to Los Angeles.

WOODRUFF: Fans of author Stephen King may be a little frustrated in their attempts to read his latest work. The 66-page ghost story is available only on the Internet. When and offered the story early Tuesday morning, the sites were swamped with requests. A spokeswoman for King's publisher says that all of the computer servers were at 100 percent capacity and then some.

If you're still trying to download the story, the best advice is to try, try again.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns, new fuel in the partisan sparring over gas prices.


WOODRUFF: Here in Washington, the effort to politicize gas prices ratcheted up today, a reflection of the steep increases consumers have been seeing at the pumps.

CNN's Bob Franken has an update on the way fuel costs are figuring into the election-year picture.


BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If the question is "What price politics?" the answer seems to be close to $2 a gallon.

REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY WHIP: These gas prices are going up and I think that's very, very sad.

FRANKEN: House Republicans came up with a photo opportunity to dramatize the political opportunity they see over what they're calling the "Clinton/Gore gas crisis." DELAY: This administration has done nothing to eliminate this problem.

FRANKEN: Republicans charge the Clinton administration has failed to keep the pressure on OPEC and has allowed U.S. oil production to diminish.

For a while, they thought they had another political issue: the 4.3-cent-a-gallon gas tax added in 1993.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm considering calling for a temporary decrease in the Clinton/Gore gas tax hike.

FRANKEN: But congressional Republicans are backing away from that after concluding it would endanger billions of dollars in popular highway projects.

REP. MARTIN FROST (D-TX), CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: It's now you see it, now you don't. A day or two ago they wanted to repeal the 4.3 gasoline tax, now they don't want to repeal the 4.3 gasoline excise tax.

FRANKEN: Gas tax or not, the Republican drum beats on.

REP. GEORGE RADANOVICH (R), CALIFORNIA: The American people are paying almost $2 a gallon for gas while the Clinton administration is asleep at the wheel.

FRANKEN: The GOP is well aware that the last time there was a hew and cry about gasoline with the long gas lines of the '70s the Democratic president in the next election was beaten by the Republican.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: I think it's time to have a new administration so that we have a fresh energy policy and we don't get in this problem.


FRANKEN: Now, the White House charges that the GOP is guilty of grandstanding. Republicans argue that it's administration energy policies which give them something to grandstand about -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bob Franken at the Capitol, thanks -- Bernie,

SHAW: As Bob mentioned, the current political hand-wringing over gas prices is something of a flashback to the 1970s.

Our Bill Schneider's been looking at the angst level in America, then and now.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Bernie, a lot of Republicans look at the gasoline prices shooting up and say, aha, it's 1979 all over again, we can turn Bill Clinton into Jimmy Carter and the election is ours. Is it? Can they? Let's look at the evidence.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): America is a nation of suburbs. The country runs on cheap gas. When Americans had to wait in line to buy gas back in the '70s, or when they were told they could only buy it on certain days, it very nearly caused a revolution. President Carter called it a "malaise," which it certainly was for him.

Now we've got gas nearing $2 a gallon in some parts of the country. That, along with the drop in the stock market, looks like a clear and present danger to Vice President Gore's election.

One likely opponent sees a conspiracy.


PAT BUCHANAN (REF), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We defend Saudi Arabia, we defend Kuwait, they conspire against us by holding this oil off the market. What does Mr. Bush have to say about that? Nothing. He agrees fundamentally with Clinton.


SCHNEIDER: That's not quite true. He contends that a president named Bush would know how to deal with this problem.

BUSH: I don't understand why the administration can't get cooperation from countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Mexico, who -- to open up the spigots to increase the supply of crude oil, which would drop the price of crude. These are countries with which we should have enormous amount of capital. These are countries where it wasn't all that long ago that a President Bush helped Kuwait.

SCHNEIDER: Aha, Buchanan might say, so it's a conspiracy between former President Bush and the Kuwaitis to get his son elected. If it is, it's not working too well.

By nearly two to one, Americans see the rise in gas prices as a temporary fluctuation rather than a more permanent change. They feel the same way about the stock market.

By three to one, the public believes the stock market is going through a normal fluctuation, not a long-term downturn. What explains this resilient optimism? It's that old temptress, "Rosy Scenario."

After a record nine-year boom, more than 40 percent of Americans say the economy is in very good shape, the highest figure since Clinton took office. And the better people think the economy is, the less worried they are about gasoline prices, and the stock market, especially because the Clinton administration, in the person of the secretary of energy, seems to be doing something.

BILL RICHARDSON, ENERGY SECRETARY: I am going to countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Mexico, Venezuela, Norway -- a lot of these countries are our friends, we have mutual interests. And I say to them, it's good for you and good for us to have stable oil prices.

SCHNEIDER: Because if we don't, it may not be so good for you, and it may not be so good for Gore either. But for the time being, voters don't seem to be too worried. They assume good times, just like they assumed bad times in the 1970s. It's the "What, me worry?" economy, and it's saving Al Gore.


SCHNEIDER: What did in Jimmy Carter wasn't gas prices, exactly. It was gas lines. In fact, higher prices were the solution to gas lines. Once Americans started to pay more for gas, the lines disappeared.

There's a lesson in that. Americans accept price rationing, even if they grumble about high prices. They will not accept bureaucratic rationing. If we end up with gas lines, then Gore's in big trouble -- Bernie.

SHAW: Bill Schneider, thank you.

Up next, the life story of Al Gore, from the cradle to the campaign trail.

Judy will talk to Bill Turque about his new book, "Inventing Al Gore: A Biography."


SHAW: Returning briefly to our lead story, we want to clarify Governor George Bush's position on the new gun control legislation proposed by New York Governor George Pataki. Bush aides say the campaign has not formally reviewed Pataki's plan yet, but they say Bush supports all the proposals in Pataki's plan as they understand them, except for the so-called ballistic fingerprinting, which is so new Governor Bush is not taking any position on that yet -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Vice President Al Gore is looking to the future and the possibility of a seat in the White House as we all know, but a new book looks back at the choices that brought him to this point in his life. The book, "Inventing Al Gore," a biography written by "Newsweek's" national correspondent Bill Turque. Turque joins now.

Thank you very much.


WOODRUFF: It's clear in your book that Al Gore is a creature not just of his father, but also his mother. What do you mean?

TURQUE: Well, Pauline Gore, as many people in Tennessee will you, was probably the most astute politician in the Gore family. She was someone I think that gave him his pragmatic side. Perhaps his father was somewhat of an idealist and a globalist. His thinking was concerned with arms control and the environment. His mother was more of a people person and more willing I think to show the human side of politics.

What I say in the book is that Al Gore honored his father by going into politics, but he honored his mother by doing what it took to win.

WOODRUFF: What did you learn from the almost three years you spent on the book, two and a half years? What drives this man?

TURQUE: I think it's just the relentlessly competitive nature about the guy. I think one of my favorite stories goes back to his days at St. Alban's when there was a competition to see...

WOODRUFF: The prep school?

TURQUE: The prep school, that's right.

Who could get down the flag pole the soonest. And usually the kids wore big ties to get down in a hurry, but Gore tore the back out of a white dress shirt so he could sort of don it like a surgeon's gown and not waste the extra seconds to button it up.

And all through his life, you see stories about his compulsive, relentless desire to compete and to win, and of course we saw that in full-flower in his campaign against Bill Bradley.

WOODRUFF: You also write, Bill Turque, about what you describe as a defining moment in his professional life, in his political life, being his father's campaign in 1970? How so?

TURQUE: I think the lessons of that campaign are still playing out today. His father lost a very tough, brutal campaign, some would say, to Bill Brock in Tennessee in the 1970s, a very negative campaign, a lot of personal attacks. His father was a high-road campaigner. He was not the kind to sort of fight back or punch back, and I think Al Gore learned from that about the power of attack politics and not letting attacks go unanswered.

His father was also badly outspent in that campaign. I think he learned the importance of playing the fund-raising game aggressively.

WOODRUFF: And in terms of Al Gore's own first campaign for president back in 1988, lessons from that for him?

TURQUE: Well, I think, and he will tell people now that he was not ready to be president in 1988. I think the lessons again are stay on the attack. He is a candidate who is most comfortable on the attack. He did that to Dick Gephardt, helped drive Gephardt out of the race, and I think you will just see eight months of that.

WOODRUFF: His relationship, something interesting in the book, his relationship with Hillary Rodham Clinton -- what did you learn about that?

TURQUE: Well, it's been very intense and very awkward, especially in the early years of the Clinton administration.


TURQUE: Well, because they were both very ambitious people who had their own agendas and who were vying from primacy, a sort of first among equals as number two in the Clinton administration. And Gore was very zealous of his prerogatives, face time with the president. That included the weekly lunches that Mrs. Clinton, at one point, tried to pry loose from the schedule, but Gore insisted on them, and sometimes they would have lunch at 4:30 in the afternoon no matter...

WOODRUFF: Just to make sure he had his face time.

TURQUE: Make sure he had his face time.

WOODRUFF: And his relationship with the president?

TURQUE: The relationship with the president is complicated, obviously complicated by the Lewinsky affair, but even before that. They're not really buddy; they're not friends in that sense. I think they're two people who are fond of each other, were fond of each other, and just committed to seeing each other succeed.

I think that one reason he picked Al Gore, I think, and people tell me, is that Gore reminded him of Hillary Clinton, in terms of his stubbornness, his steadfastness and his loyalty.

WOODRUFF: Any particular thing stand out as you research this book and talk to what you said 200 or 300 people, 250 people. Anything stand out that really surprised you?

TURQUE: I think people are starting to get a sense of this, just the contrast between this Dudley Do Right image, this sort of vaguely comical figure who stood behind Bill Clinton for seven years and the Al Gore as a candidate. The Al Gore as a candidate is very different. And you can see, just every race he ran, he is a warrior, and he is a warrior who is willing to carve up opponents, stretch the truth when he has to, and he's just a very, very tough political competitor, and that something that didn't really come out as he was vice president.

WOODRUFF: All right. The book is "Inventing Al Gore," a fascinating biography by Bill Turque, and we thank you for very much joining us.

TURQUE: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thank you -- Bernie.

SHAW: Senator John McCain will be making his return to Capitol Hill on Monday, fresh from a vacation following his loss to George Bush. Bob Novak of "The Chicago Sun-Times" joins us now.

Bob, what kind of reception can he expect on the Hill?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Very, very warm. You know, the senator on the campaign trail used to say that he wouldn't have won any Ms. Congeniality Award in the Senate, but the Republican senators are going to be very nice to him because they want him to endorse George Bush as soon as possible. They also hope that he will use his tremendous support around the country to attack Al Gore and attack the Clinton budget. They want him to go around the country to the districts campaigning.

But what they're scared to death of, Bernie, is that Senator McCain will insist on pressing for campaign finance reform, which is a divisive, splitting issue for the Republican Party.

SHAW: Governor Bush has the nomination wrapped up. Is he going to put anyone in place at the RNC to coordinate the fall election?

NOVAK: I am sure he will, but not some of the people that have been mentioned. There's been public reports that former Congressman Vin Weber might do it. Other people mentioned former National Chairman Haley Barbour, former Congressman Bill Paxon, but, Bernie, all three of those gentleman, who I think are terrific Republicans operatives, but they wear a scarlet letter, the scarlet letter "l" -- they are Washington lobbyists. And I can tell you, that in Austin, the Bush people do not want to give the opposition ammunition by having a lobbyists as their man at the Republican National Committee.

SHAW: What's this about a battle within the GOP over a Senate appropriations bill?

NOVAK: Last weekend, on "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS," Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said he didn't want a supplemental appropriations bill because there's so much pork that comes out on it. Well, Senate Appropriation chairman Ted Stephens of Alaska says I am going to do that bill. He has announced he's going to have a markup, but how is he going to get the bill on the floor if the majority leader, Lott, sticks to his guns and doesn't put it there. They may be saved, because the way the Republicans are going, they may not get the bill out of the House where it has to originate.

SHAW: And some Democrats like it, too?

NOVAK: Oh, yes.

SHAW: And finally, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Senate bid in New York. What's this about a fund-raiser for her?

NOVAK: Howard buffet, the Omaha billionaire, is having a little trouble on stock selection lately. He also has trouble as fund- raiser. He did a fund-raising event in his hometown of Omaha for Mrs. Clinton. He raised -- get this, Bernie -- $50,000. That is not even a tip in today's politics, and that was a big disappointment for Mr. Buffet, who usually uses $50,000 for buying odd lots in the stock market.

SHAW: OK, Bob Novak. That's Warren Buffet.

NOVAK: Warren Buffett -- I'm sorry.

SHAW: It's OK, thank you.

NOVAK: We all make mistakes. WOODRUFF: For Bob Novak, almost never.

Well Mrs. Clinton's campaign is taking aim at the actions of likely Senate challenger Rudy Giuliani. GOP officials say the New York mayor has set up a political action committee to collect soft money for his Senate bid. The Clinton campaign had this to say about Giuliani, who has criticized the first lady on fund-raising issues and for establishing similar soft money committees. From communications director Howard Wolfson -- quote -- "Rudy's rules are that it's wrong until Rudy says it's right. The mayor should come clean, start talking straight with New Yorkers, and stop" -- quote "playing them for suckers." -- end quote.

The Democratic Senatorial Committee, which has set up a soft money operation for the first lady, also released a statement today, saying that Giuliani's action has -- quote -- "the stench of hypocrisy" -- end quote -- Bernie.

SHAW: And when we return, tuning out the presidential race, our Bruce Morton on signs that the voters and the media are losing interest.


SHAW: As George W. Bush and Al Gore prepare to engage in a lengthy general election battle, they face one crucial fact: the voters of this great country appear to be losing interest. Turnout was low in yesterday's presidential primaries, and as our Bruce Morton reports, even the news media are less than enthralled now that the nominees have been decided.


MORTON (voice-over): They did clinch the nominations, Al Gore and George W. Bush, but you could have missed it. Not on the front page of "The Washington Post," at least the edition I got. Not on the front page of "The Washington Times" either. The gas tax was the lead there. "The Los Angeles Times" did lead with the election, though those cloned piglets got the picture.

"The New York Times" went the other way, front-paged the candidates' pictures, but put the story on A18. Same in "USA Today": pictures up front, story on pages 10-12. "Wall Street Journal?" Front page, but teensy. You could go right by that. "New York Daily News?" Nope, psychic secrets. And "The New York Post?" Insider trading was the big story there.

How about TV? CNN at 7:00 a.m. led with an Amtrak train derailment, at 8:00 with the weather, and at 9:00 with statements on guns from the president and New York Governor George Pataki. So the election is not the hottest story going just now, and the probability is that the various editors who decide what the lead is are right. Most Americans are electioned out for the moment and would rather hear and read about other things. And the piglets, of course, are very cute. Political reporters would love for politics to come back to life, but Bill Bradley and John McCain can't start running again. No one really thinks Colin Powell will be a running mate. He's turned down running for the number-one job twice. Pat Buchanan and Lenora Fulani and those Reform Party people? Maybe if Jesse "The Mind" ran, but he's said no, too.


MORTON: So we're stuck, drifting back in the paper toward the classified ads, back in the TV newscast toward closing good-byes. Americans are tuning out, to some degree at least. March Madness is getting underway and the election -- you remember the election? -- the election is still eight months away.

Happy trails, Judy, Bernie. How are the two of you going to fill all that time?

WOODRUFF: All these great issues we're going to be covering, education, crime, Social Security.

SHAW: I have a suggestion. We can have Bruce Morton do a 40- Part series, 10 minutes each piece, titled, "Campaigns I Have Known."

MORTON: Oh, yes. The longest campaign in the history of mankind.

SHAW: Exactly.

WOODRUFF: We're going to be here every step of the way and you are, too.

MORTON: Makes you envy the British, three weeks.

SHAW: What was that joke? We're going to cover this campaign until the last dog dies and then we're going to cover the funeral.

WOODRUFF: That's right. Is that a Jeff Greenfield line?

SHAW: It is Jeff's, yes.

WOODRUFF: We'll give him credit. Hey, Jeff.

SHAW: That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you again tomorrow when our Bill Delaney will be with Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan on a visit to Harvard University. And of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's

WOODRUFF: That won't be dull.


WOODRUFF: This programming note: Congressmen John Conyers and Bob Barr will debate gun control tonight on "CROSSFIRE." That's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

SHAW: I'm Bernard Shaw. We'll be right back with "WORLDVIEW," which is next.



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