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CNN Late Edition
Elian Gonzalez Takes Center Stage in the Political Arena; John McCain Pledges to Push Reform AgendaAired April 09, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: This is LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANET RENO, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It is time for this little boy, who has been through so much, to be with his father.
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BLITZER: The Justice Department draws a line in the sand in the case of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez. It's not whether he'll be reunited with his father, but when. We'll get the latest from Attorney General Janet Reno.
And we'll hear the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDA OSBERG-BRAUN, GONZALEZ FAMILY ATTORNEY: We are protecting Elian himself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: How will the Gonzalez family in Miami, who's been caring for the boy, respond? We'll speak to one of the lawyers, Linda Osberg-Braun.
And the politics of the Gonzalez controversy: two members of Congress face off: Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democrat Maxine Waters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This is one of the seminal elections in the history of this country.
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BLITZER: Senator John McCain's Straight Talk Express hits the road again, campaigning hard for Republicans across the country, but not yet for George W. Bush. We'll ask him about Campaign 2000, the New York Senate race, and what he would do about Elian Gonzalez. Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable: Steve Roberts, Susan Page and Tucker Carlson.
And Bruce Morton has the "Last Word" on the census: How much does Uncle Sam need to know about you?
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is LATE EDITION with Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: It's noon in Washington and Miami, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5:00 p.m. in London and 8:00 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this 90- minute LATE EDITION.
We'll get to our guests shortly, but first let's check in with CNN reporters covering the hour's top stories.
We begin at the Pentagon where the Marine Corps is investigating a training exercise that turned deadly last night near Tucson, Arizona. For the latest, we're joined by CNN military affairs correspondent, Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Marine Corps officials say that a V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft crashed at night at an airport just northwest of Tucson, Arizona, where it was supposed to land and refuel after conducting an exercise to practice evacuating -- evacuating civilians. All 19 Marines on board were killed.
Some eyewitnesses said they saw the V-22 take a nosedive and think it my have caught fire before it crashed.
The pilots were wearing night-vision goggles, which can limit peripheral vision, but officials say there's no way to know at this point if that was a factor in the crash.
The V-22 Osprey is new technology for Marines. Only five production models have been delivered so far. Two were taking part in the evacuation drill when the one crashed. The V-22 takes off like a helicopter, then rotates its propellers to fly like a plane, much faster and higher than a helicopter. Despite being in production for more than a decade, no V-22s have yet been deployed with U.S. troops. The Marines plan to buy about 360 of them.
Prototypes of the V-22 crashed twice in the early 1990s. The only other fatal accident occurred in July of 1992 when a faulty designed caused the engines to catch fire as they were being rotated in the hover mode. Seven people were killed when the aircraft plunged into the water near the Quantico Marine base.
This latest crash, with its death toll of 19 Marines, will again raise questions about whether the V-22 is battle-ready technology. The answer will have to wait until investigators determine whether the crash was the result of a design flaw and whether they can rule out the most common cause of aviation accidents: pilot error -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jamie, shifting gears completely, there's been a development in last summer's U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. The Clinton administration now taking new steps in regard to that. What is the latest on that front?
MCINTYRE: Well, the CIA is stepping up and taking responsibility for the slopping intelligence that resulted in that embassy building being mistakenly bombed by a U.S. B-2 bomber. They have fired one employee, disciplined seven others.
The Pentagon says it doesn't anticipate any of its employees will be disciplined despite the fact that this faulty intelligence was then reviewed at the Pentagon and also at NATO headquarters by military staffs before it was passed on to the pilots who dropped five 2,000- pound bombs on the embassy by mistake.
So the CIA is admitting its part in the intelligence foul-up. The Pentagon at this point says it's not going to share any more of the blame than it already has -- Wolf.
BLITZER: OK, Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, thanks.
We now move to the battle over the custody of Elian Gonzalez. There has been some movement in the story today.
And joining us live from outside the office for the attorney for Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, is CNN's Havana bureau chief, Lucia Newman.
Lucia, what is happening there today?
LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Wolf. On this very, very cold and windy day here in Washington, I'm speaking to you from outside the office building of Gregory Craig, Juan Miguel Gonzalez's attorney. An hour and a half ago, Elian's father arrived, went inside for a meeting with the two fishermen who rescued Elian Gonzalez on Thanksgiving Day. They met a long time. First, one fisherman came out, he said that he was convinced that Juan Miguel Gonzalez and his son should be together.
His cousin came out later saying he would remain here in Washington to continue pushing for a meeting between the family, the family members in Miami and Juan Miguel Gonzalez and the boy.
Juan Miguel Gonzalez he said told him that meeting would be possible perhaps, but first he would have to get his son back.
Now, he also told the fishermen that they would be welcome to go to Cuba whenever they liked to continue to maintain a relationship with his son Elian.
Now, as you know, Wolf, many people in Miami, the fishermen themselves have made it no secret they would like to see Juan Miguel Gonzalez and his family stay in this country with the boy. But earlier today on Meet The Press, the president of Cuba's National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon said that people should believe Elian's father when he says he does not want to remain in the United States.
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RICARDO ALARCON, PRESIDENT OF CUBA'S NATIONAL ASSEMBLY: When Miguel Gonzalez had a unique opportunity, if he wanted to remain there, he was not with any Cuban official. He was alone with his wife and his 6-months-old boy. He would be granted immediate asylum, I imagine. He had the unique opportunity, and he freely decided what he wants to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWMAN: Now we understand that at this moment, Juan Miguel Gonzalez is meeting with health specialists who were chosen by the Justice Department to try and make out a plan for the smoothest and least traumatic way for the changeover, for the handover of Elian to his father. Juan Miguel Gonzalez says he wants that to happen, he wants to make it as easy as possible for his son and he is listening them.
Those talks, we understand, are taking place at this moment.
This is Lucia Newman reporting live from Washington.
BLITZER: Thank you, Lucia.
Meanwhile, in Miami, the 6-year-old Cuban boy's relatives may be spending their final weekend with him.
CNN's Martin Savidge is outside the home of Elian's great uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez. That's where Elian of course is staying.
Martin, what's happening there today?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, activity outside of the home here has picked up around this noon hour in part because the young boy himself was seen, the 6-year-old in the middle of this political whirlwind Elian Gonzalez was out walking about for a bit.
There are also a number of political leaders that are here, both on the local and on the state level.
There's also Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and she was here meeting with the great uncle, Lazaro. She went inside and met with Elian himself for a short time.
And as that is ongoing, there is another noisy demonstration that is winding its way through the streets of Miami, a caravan of about 40 vehicles all bedecked with signs and banners and flags. These are people that are boisterously saying this young boy should remain here in the United States.
Then there is a letter that has been released reportedly from Elian Gonzalez's great uncle Lazaro which he wrote directly to U.S. Attorney Janet Reno. One of the things that is brought out in this letter is that the family here, the Miami family, maintains from the beginning of this ordeal, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, Elian's father, has stated that he wanted to come to the United States, that he was making plans apparently as this ordeal began, to sell his automobile in Cuba that he might buy a boat and make the trip here to the United States.
They also claim that before it became so politicized, that the man himself was going to apply for the visas and proper documentation so this his current wife and child could come to the United States and be united with Elian.
Now the family is asking, pleading, for Janet Reno to intercede for a direct meeting between themselves, privately, to meet with Juan Miguel Gonzalez to find out his true feelings.
BLITZER: OK. Marty Savidge reporting from Miami, thanks.
And joining us now to talk more about the U.S. government's plans for having Elian Gonzalez return to his father is the United States Attorney General Janet Reno.
Janet Reno, welcome back to LATE EDITION. Always good to have you on our program.
You've now had a chance -- we've given you a copy of this letter that Lazaro Gonzalez has written directly to you. You had not received this letter directly, you received it from us.
RENO: That's correct.
BLITZER: And what is your reaction to his suggestions in there that you personally meet with the relatives of Elian Gonzalez in Florida to hear their side of the story?
RENO: They had indicated -- they indicate in the letter that we have not met with their attorneys. But a man by the name of Roger Bernstein, who represented himself to be one of their attorneys, was in my conference room and we heard from him.
We have arranged an appointment with them. They canceled it because of other circumstances, I understand it -- I understand.
We have said that we would be happy to meet with them, and they have never followed through.
RENO: But here we have a situation where a father has done a good job of raising his son to date, where a distant relative has -- because of a tragedy fallen to be responsible for him, and in four months has formed a bond, that father and the sacred relationship between a father and a son is what should be paramount in this situation.
BLITZER: Now if Juan Miguel Gonzalez does get custody of his son, you want the family to remain in the United States until the judicial process is played out. But attorney for Juan Miguel Gonzalez, Gregory Craig, he says that in order for that to happen, they need some help from you.
Listen to what Gregory Craig said specifically on that question. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY CRAIG, ATTORNEY FOR JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ, FATHER OF ELIAN GONZALEZ: He's asked to come to the United States to provide a support group so that his classmates, some of his teachers -- because it looks like the appeals process may be as long as eight or 10 months, we think that would help Elian, that it would be beneficial to Elian during that period of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Are you going to allow that support group to get visas to come to the United States in order to help Elian stay in the U.S. during the prolonged judicial procedure?
RENO: Mr. Craig says that he thinks it will take eight to 10 months. I don't think it will. We want to be mindful of all of the issues. To have children taken away from their families and circumstances like that are all issues that will have to be considered, but we will certainly work with everybody concerned if we can effect an orderly, thoughtful, constructive transfer now. I think it could be worked out so that there would be no doubt but that the boy would remain here till the process was resolved.
BLITZER: Well, you have it within your authority to mandate that he not be allowed to leave, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, if you decide to invoke that authority.
RENO: We'll work it all out, I think, so that that won't be necessary.
BLITZER: Is it your sense that if the family -- and obviously this is a hypothetical -- if the family does not comply with the court order -- with the instructions that you come up with, at what point would this, in your opinion, become a kidnapping case of Elian Gonzalez allegedly being kidnapped by the relatives in South Florida if they were to violate that court order?
RENO: I don't ascribe motives like that to the Miami relatives. I think they have been caring. They love the little boy very much. And I don't think that they would involve themselves in something like that.
BLITZER: All right. So if you had to look ahead, this week, give us a sense what you think is going to happen in the next few days.
RENO: My hope is that this will be resolved in a thoughtful way, that the people of Miami will accept it, that the Miami relatives will do as they have done, which is have respect for the law, and love that little boy and think of what they would like to see happen if he has to be transferred.
BLITZER: All right, Janet Reno, the attorney general of the United States, thank you so much for joining us on LATE EDITION.
RENO: Thank you.
BLITZER: And when we return: Will Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives resist handing him over? We'll ask one of the attorneys representing the family: Linda Osberg-Braun.
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture of some demonstrators down the street from the home of Elian Gonzalez's great uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez. that's where Elian of course has been staying since his rescue off the Florida coast last Thanksgiving.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We now get the view from the other side in this case. Joining us from Miami is Linda Osberg-Braun. She is one of the attorney's representing Elian's great uncle Lazaro Gonzalez.
Welcome to LATE EDITION Ms. Osberg. A quick reaction from you to what you heard the attorney general Janet Reno say why she thinks that the reunification of father and son should go as smoothly as possible within the next few days.
LINDA OSBERG-BRAUN, GONZALEZ FAMILY ATTORNEY: Well, the family has always welcomed Juan Miguel and it's very important that he reintegrate with his boy's life. The problem and the fundamental flaw with the plan that they have is that it doesn't entail talking to Elian at all. The three psychologists they have proposed on our suggestion during the negotiations are not going to meet with Elian himself. They've already concluded what they're going to do without meeting with their subject. And that's against all principles of psychology. So if the true issue is really Elian, then they must exercise care. The second issue is that Juan Miguel has refused and rejected to speak with his own family. He and the family in Miami need to be a part of the reintegration, they can't be separated like that or little Elian is going to lose his mother figure for the second time. It ties into Juan Miguel not being able to speak freely yet, and our country is not assisting him to do that.
BLITZER: What happens, though, if you lose in this process in the next few days, you as an officer of the court, your colleagues, the other attorneys receive instructions to bring Elian Gonzalez to some sort of neutral location so to hand him over to the federal authorities who in turn might hand him over to his father or directly to his father. Will you comply with that court order?
OSBERG-BRAUN: You as you asked the attorney general, correctly stated that the attorney general has the power to make sure Juan Miguel keeps Elian in the jurisdiction of the United States. She has refused to commit to doing just that and that's why the negotiations broke down. The family will obey the law, but the law states that INS has the authority to invoke reasonable conditions on Lazaro. We submit that it's reasonable to employ psychologists without meeting with Elian himself. So there may be a problem with the method that's they impose on Elian, which we hope to work out and we hope that they do the right thing.
BLITZER: So, are you suggesting that you don't, you would not support any civil disobedience by supporters of the family in South Florida, a human chain for example around the house, if you were ordered to deliver the boy?
OSBERG-BRAUN: We will recommend to Lazaro that he obey the law, we cannot control the crowds, we can speak to the crowds and Lazaro has. In this country there is a right to protest peacefully and there is a right to speak freely unlike the people in Cuba demonstrating on demand. Lazaro welcomes the support of the community, but cautions about safety. He will obey the law in letting INS pick up the boy in his house, but he's in a moral obligation and in a moral dilemma of not contributing to do anything that will harm Elian in any kind of way. That's where the problem lies.
BLITZER: What if the law comes down to the order to deliver him to a certain location elsewhere in Miami? Are you saying he would not obey that?
OSBERG-BRAUN: It depends, and it depends on how the order is effectuated. If INS orders it, it's different and perhaps the Department of Justice will be going into federal court to get a court order which I have heard through the channels that they may do. If there's a federal court order, it will be my obligation to inform my client that he must obey the law and we'll explain all the ramifications of that order. Lazaro Gonzalez will obey the law.
BLITZER: And he would actually physically take the boy and deliver him to another location?
OSBERG-BRAUN: He would have a lot of difficulty morally doing that. I believe he will do as the law instructs him to and we will certainly counsel him to obey the law.
BLITZER: Are there any other legal steps that you're planning, you and your legal team in the next few days to try to prevent that scenario from unfolding?
OSBERG-BRAUN: Tomorrow we'll be filing our appeal brief and as you know, the appeal persists, we are protecting Elian's right to a political asylum hearing. That remains and we're hopeful that the attorney general will make sure Elian Gonzalez is here to realize his appeal because once he leaves, he will never be able to come back to the United States. The second thing we are also doing, we filed an emergency motion in the state court so to explore the custody issues, not only to in a forum that is prepared and qualified to evaluate Juan Miguel, but also evaluate whether or not it would be abuse to send Elian to Cuba where he will be fighting for milk rations, going to cut sugar cane and also working in the military, not to mention now that he's a global symbol of communism trying to prevail over democracy.
BLITZER: OK, Linda Osberg-Braun, we are all out of time, but thank you so much for joining us, and we'll all be watching this week to see what happens on the streets of Miami. Just ahead, exploring the politics of Elian, we'll talk with two members of Congress who have very different views to case. California Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Florida Republican Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen. LATE EDITION continues after this.
BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture of the U.S. Capitol where the fate of Elian Gonzalez has been the subject of much debate.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We now get two perspectives on the political implications of the Elian Gonzalez case. Joining us from Los Angeles, California Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters. And in Miami, Florida Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Good to have both of you on LATE EDITION.
And let me begin with Maxine Waters. You have made the point repeatedly that if the family -- if the fmaily decides that they don't want to comply with this order, that the Justice Department must start getting a lot tougher in implementing what they say they're going to do. Do you still have problems with the way Janet Reno and the Justice Department are behaving, INS, in this situation?
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: No, I have no problems with the way Janet Reno has handled this case.
WATERS: If I could do anything or say anything, I wish that it had been speedier.
But I think she's been extremely responsible and she has used great care in the way that she has approached dealing with a very difficult subject and a very difficult occurrence here. And so I'm hopeful that Janet Reno will continue to use her wisdom.
I do believe that Elian will be united with his father. He should be. And I'm just hopeful that it all turns out well and that there is no trauma.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, you're outside the home where Elian is, and I understand you were in there earlier today. You had a chance to see the family. Give us a sense, tell us what's happening right now since you had an opportunity to see things we didn't see.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: Well, I'm very proud to be associated with the Gonzalez family. This is a very hard-working, humble Cuban exile family, much like so many others in our community who've come here seeking freedom and democracy and opportunity to live free, and that is exactly what drove Elian's mother, Elisabeth Broton, to come to these shores. She was not able to fulfill her last dying wish, but she was able to get her son over here. And in fact, the other two survivors of that ill-fated freedom journey say that her very last thoughts was always to have Elian live here.
ROS-LEHTINEN: And the family right behind me, all that they want is for the opportunity to speak for the best interest of Elian, whether it's to stay here or whether it's to return to Cuba.
But they want and they plead and they're begging for a private meeting with Juan Miguel. That's all the family wants, away from politicians like Maxine and like myself, from Janet Reno, from lawyers. They want a one-on-one meeting with Juan Miguel and they're begging for it.
And this last letter is a pleading to Janet Reno. Doesn't anyone want to interview Elian? He's very clear -- I just came from this house. That little boy is only 6 years old. I'm not saying he should decide his future alone, but, gosh, isn't anyone going to interview him to find out what it is he wants? He's very clear.
BLITZER: Congressman Waters, what do you say about that? Why not take the advice of Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen and let the officials go in and actually talk to the little boy?
WATERS: Well, I don't know what the psychiatrists or psychologists recommend, but I think most of us do not believe that a 6-year-old can be responsible for deciding whether or not they go someplace or whether or not, in this case, he will return to Cuba, he wants to be with his father.
Most of us suspect that Elian in the past four months, having been given gifts, being talked to by relatives who want to keep him in the United States, may have been influenced, and that may be what's rolling off his tongue. We don't know. But we don't believe that this business about Elian deciding what he wants to do and how he wants to do it is something that can be taken seriously.
WATERS: All of us are parents and grandparents. We've raised children. And we don't expect that 6-year-olds will be making decisions about what is in their own best interest. That's why they have parents to do that.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen...
ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, that's why we have a court set up...
BLITZER: Go ahead.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Wolf, that's why we have a court set up to handle these very difficult custody battles. We have a wonderful program called Guardian Ad Litem, we have a family court system all throughout the United States where the judge can make that decision in a very fair and impartial manner, and where we would have people come in and testify, and where the little guy's voice would be heard.
Now I would think that someone who's a child advocate as Maxine Waters would be would understand the grave and serious implications of Janet Reno's heavy hand on this matter will have for freedom-seeking children from all across the globe. What the Department of Justice is saying that unlike their own guidelines, no child in this situation is allowed to even apply for political asylum. We're not saying that that asylum request would be granted, but she's saying they don't even have the right to do that. If, God forbid, things go badly again in Haiti, we would be facing a real difficult situation, and we would be telling Haitian children, as we are now telling Cuban children, they don't have the opportunity to apply. And I think this is a dangerous precedent, and that's why we have groups like the ACLU and many immigrant, pro- immigrant, groups filing for briefs because they agree that this sets a very dangerous precedent for other freedom-seeking young people.
WATERS: Haitians are treated quite differently. I have not mentioned that, but since you brought it up, had that been a Haitian child, he would have been repatriated immediately, and you know that.
ROS-LEHTINEN: We have been very helpful to the Haitian community when they have been seeking equality, and we will continue to do so. However, I think that people are correct when they say...
WATERS: Well, they do not receive the same treatment as Cubans. You know that, they don't.
ROS-LEHTINEN: ... for any communist regime. And as soon as Haiti once again will be called a communist regime, they will be afforded the same rights. And we hope that Janet Reno does apply these same terrible standards. Many have called what the attorney general is doing as bureaucratic sadism.
WATERS: That's the point.
ROS-LEHTINEN: It is a custody case.
WATERS: This is not a custody case.
ROS-LEHTINEN: It is not immigration.
WATERS: Elian Gonzalez's father has a reputation for being a good father.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Why, because of one way conversation? No one has cross examined Juan Miguel.
BLITZER: Stand by both of you. Unfortunately, we have to take a quick commercial break. We still have a lot more to come, including a interview with John McCain. When we return, we'll also be taking your phone calls for representatives Waters and Ros-Lehtinen.
And LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking about the politics of the Elian Gonzalez case with Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California, and Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros- Lehtinen of Florida.
Congresswomen, listen to these polls that recently have come out, a new "Miami Herald" poll in Miami-Dade County, should Elian stay or be returned? Fifty percent in Miami-Dade County in Florida say he should remain here, 44 percent say he should be returned to Cuba, slightly different than the national policy which show about 53 percent saying he should stay here, 31 percent or so saying he should be returned.
But look at this in the Miami-Dade poll in Miami-Dade County when African-Americans were asked should Elian stay or be returned? Ninety- two percent say that he should be returned to Cuba, only 5 percent say he should say here, and among Cuban-Americans in the same poll, almost completely the opposite, 83 percent say he should remain here, 9 percent say he should be returned to Cuba.
Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, why is there this dramatic split between Cuban Americans and African-Americans in your home base of Miami-Dade County?
ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, you can study polls or you can stand by principles. I don't know that I represent the community, I know that I don't. But I represent my principles and I take my stand and maybe that will be in congruence with polls or surveys, or maybe they won't. I know that it's important to fight for principles, and the principle here is fairness and justice, and due process rights. Rights that have been denied to Elian Gonzalez. Everyone else should have the right to appeal but a little 6-year-old boy should not. And I think that that's important, I don't know what accounts for the discrepancy but there are polls and there are principles, I prefer to stand with my principles.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Waters, the same question to you, why is there this split between African-Americans and Cuban Americans?
WATERS: There is no split. And I don't know why you did not show the national polls of everybody. We have no split with Cuban- Americans. We have a great relationship for the most part with Cuban- Americans, and we respect their right to dissent, even in this case.
We have strong family values, and we believe in the unification of families. We do not like the idea that a child can be taken away from a father or a mother. This father obviously loves his child very much. He spent the first six years of his life with his father. His reputation for being a good father is intact.
Anybody you ask will tell you he's spent quality time with his son. This child's mother and father both loved him dearly and agreed to bring him into the world despite the fact of their divorce.
BLITZER: All right. Unfortunately...
WATERS: And so I don't see any split...
WATERS: ... and I would not like to see this characterized as some split...
ROS-LEHTINEN: You know, Wolf, I think one of the answers lies in the discrepancy... WATERS: ... between Cuban-Americans and African-Americans. There is no split.
BLITZER: Congresswoman, unfortunately we are all out of time.
WATERS: Thank you very much.
ROS-LEHTINEN: But, Wolf, if I may say something.
BLITZER: Unfortunately, we're going to have to continue...
ROS-LEHTINEN: But, Wolf, if may say something...
BLITZER: We're going to have to continue this another time. We are all out of time for this segment. I want to thank both of you, though, for joining us on LATE EDITION. I know it's frustrating, given the short amount of time that we have.
But just ahead: Arizona senator and former Republican presidential candidate, John McCain lays in on the Elian Gonzalez case. And we'll also turn to politics. He's back on the campaign trail. We'll ask him what he's up to when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Although he suspended his own campaign, Senator John McCain is back on the stump for other Republican candidates. I spoke with him earlier this morning.
BLITZER (on camera): Senator McCain, welcome back to LATE EDITION. Always good to have you on our program. Now that the father of Elian Gonzalez, Juan Miguel Gonzalez is in the United States, has said to Janet Reno inside her office without the presence of any Cuban government officials that he wants his son immediately, has that changed your position as to what should be done with Elian Gonzalez? .
MCCAIN: No, it hasn't, Wolf, because I think the basic facts remain the same in the case. The boy's mother gave her life in order that he might be able to live in an environment of freedom and opportunity. The most oppressive and repressive regime probably left in the world, or certainly in the top four or five, is Cuba where people are still not allowed even fundamental basics of freedom. And I believe that this young man would clearly have a better life growing up in the United States of America.
BLITZER: But the argument, even among some conservative Republicans, is that family values, the boy's relationship with the father -- the father is a warm, involved father over the six years of Elian Gonzalez's life, that should take priority.
Steve Largent, the Republican of Oklahoma, let me read to you what he wrote in The New York Times this week. He said this: Some conservatives see this case as a long-sought opportunity to stick a finger in the eye of Fidel Castro. This is a family issue. To forget that and allow our hatred for the Cuban regime to keep us from doing what is best for the child is shameful. I say reunite Elian with his daddy today.
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I'm not in favor of sticking my finger in the eye of Fidel Castro. In fact, I would favor a road map towards normalization of relations such as we presented to the Vietnamese and led to a normalization of relations between our two countries.
I think it's a fundamental fact that Cuba is a country where the automobile of choice is a '56 Chevrolet Impala, young women are encouraged to engage in prostitution in order to have hard currency. There isn't a semblance of free enterprise, freedom of the press or freedom of speech.
And I believe that family values, fundamentally, are based and grounded on the principle of someone living in a free and open society. So we have an honest disagreement here. We'll see what happens to the young man if he goes back to Cuba. I certainly would not condemn any child to a life under Castro with or without his father, particularly given the circumstances where's the child's mother literally sacrificed her life in order that the child might live free.
BLITZER: There are some in the Cuban-American community in South Florida raising the possibility of civil disobedience if Janet Reno and the INS, the Immigration and Naturalization Service. If they decide to go ahead and force the boy's family in South Florida to be reunited with the father, they will engage in a human chain around the house or whatever. Would you support that kind of civil disobedience if it came down to that to prevent the federal government taking Elian Gonzalez and returning him to his dad?
MCCAIN: I would not. I don't believe that Elian has been allowed all the options that are available to other people who come to this country. But the fact is, I don't support civil disobedience and breaking the law. Because the reason why I would like for the young boy to live here is because we observe the rule of law and fundamental principles and observance of it. And I think that in Cuba, that that would not be the case. So I think that if the decision is made that I would not support civil disobedience or breaking of existing laws.
BLITZER: Is it your sense, senator, that this case right now has the potential, though, for creating the kind of violence situation in South Florida, given the passions, given the emotions, that could erupt and what advice would you give Janet Reno, the attorney general, to prevent that kind of scenario from unfolding?
MCCAIN: Well, I think you have to, if necessary, use law enforcement agencies, including seeking cooperation of local law enforcement people to make sure this doesn't happen. We're trying to save a life here and when you engage in the kind of explosive activity which may transpire, then we may risk losing lives. So I would have a plan, I would make sure that Cuban people, Cuban-American people understand that we do observe the rules of law here. And we don't allow people to break them no matter how worthy the cause is. So peaceful demonstrations I not only support but encourage in this case. But breaking the law, I think is not something that's appropriate. And I think that the Justice Department is capable of carrying out this mission without unnecessary violence, I hope.
BLITZER: And do you have confidence right now in the justice department and Janet Reno, Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder that they will do what's best in this case?
MCCAIN: I don't think they have from the beginning, because I don't think they have placed the proper priority here. But at the same time, we have a duly elected administration and she is the appointee of the president of the United States and these people have been confirmed by the United States Senate. And so I will, even if I disagree with their decision, I will support it because that's the way our government works.
By the way, it's not exactly on the same subject, but Mr. Charles LaBella's now open statements about his recommendations on the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate the abuses of every institution of government in 1996 by the Clinton-Gore campaign in raising money, clearly indicates that the attorney general of the United States has not done her job at least in that instance.
BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk a little bit about the political ramifications of all of this. Some, including some of the Democratic Party, are accusing Vice President Al Gore of pandering to the Cuban-American community in Florida, New Jersey, elsewhere, by his open split with Janet Reno and President Clinton on what should be done with Elian Gonzalez. Do you go that far in suggesting that the vice president may not necessarily be completely sincere in his statements?
MCCAIN: I won't question the Vice President's motives. I think the facts are clear that he has been to say the least, ambivalent and made certain statements which would be viewed as contradictory on this issue. We do too much questioning of people's motives in American politician today and I won't do that. I agree with his present position.
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little bit about the Vice President and George W. Bush. On the campaign trail we've been listening closely to what Al Gore's been saying. Listen to this little snippet over the past few days of the kinds of things he's been saying, specifically regarding you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: Like John McCain, I bring a commitment born of personal experience to the battle for campaign finance reform.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: John McCain pointed out the fiscal irresponsibility of Governor Bush's proposal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: John McCain was right and George W. Bush was and is wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You're getting a lot of support from Vice President Gore. How do you feel about that?
MCCAIN: Maybe he will ask me to be his running mate.
BLITZER: Well, would you be interested if he did?
MCCAIN: No. The vice president is clearly, understands that there are many, many independent voters that could determine the outcome of this election, who supported my candidacy. I don't blame him for doing that. I do say, however, if the vice president is sincere about campaign finance reform, he will demand a complete and thorough investigation of the abuses in the 1996 campaign.
I believe there were breaches of national security that took place because of their incredible unconscionable money raising activities. So I think the vice president can prove his sincerity and his siding with me on this issue if he would demand and get a complete and thorough investigation because we can't fix the system that's badly broken unless we know what transpired.
BLITZER: What will it take for you to aggressively and enthusiastically go out on the campaign trail and work for George W. Bush? So far, it's sort of been a tepid, kind of cool relationship since Super Tuesday.
MCCAIN: Well, we had a good conversation about a week ago and I'm sure we'll be having conversations in the future. I support the nominee of my party, Governor Bush, and I certainly want him to be president of the United States. I'd like to have some further understandings with him and I'm sure we'll reach those in the days and weeks ahead.
BLITZER: You probably say what Michael Beschloss has written in "The New York Times," if you didn't, let me point it out to you, he says this: There are suggestions that Mr. McCain might support George W. Bush only weakly. He might be tempted to look to the examples set by Ronald Reagan in 1976. Reagan offered pro-forma support to the successful nominee Gerald Ford, but not much more. Mr. Reagan's passive, aggressive approach allowed him to come back four years later to win the nomination and the presidency. Beschloss, the presidential historian writing in "The New York Times."
Is that your strategy?
MCCAIN: No, it's not, Wolf. My strategy is to make sure that Governor Bush is the president of the United States. I just need to reach some understandings with him. I'm sure we'll reach those understandings, I'm not making any demands nor doing any negotiating. I have to also have an allegiance to those millions of voters who trusted in me and my commitment to a reform agenda.
For me to abandon them or give the appearance of abandonment would not be appropriate for me because I think I owe them a certain allegiance and certainly they worked very hard for my candidacy and I'm very grateful for it.
BLITZER: We have to take a break for our international viewers, World News is next. For our North American audience, just ahead we're going to check on the hours top stories plus more of our interview with John McCain. LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. More of our interview with Arizona Republican Senator John McCain in just a moment.
BLITZER: Now, back to my conversation earlier today with Arizona Senator and former Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
BLITZER (on camera): George W. Bush says he would like to meet with you. In fact earlier this week, I want to run this clip, he suggested that effort was underway. Listen to what Bush had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: There's an effort to get our calendar straight. John is busy; so am I. And I look forward to meeting with him. I'm confident it's going to take place. And I look forward to it.
BLITZER: The word is that he even offered to send a plane to bring you over to one of his events so the two of you could have a photo opportunity and get together. What's the problem right now, the obstacle in a formal meeting between you and the governor?
MCCAIN: I don't think there's any major obstacles. As he said, we've both been busy, I'm sure we will talk soon. I would like to have a couple more conversations. But I think things are progressing along satisfactorily for both of us and for the party.
BLITZER: So if had you to put a little time frame the next week, two weeks, month, when do you think that meeting and the formal going out and working for Bush, when do you think that will occur?
MCCAIN: I think sooner rather than later.
BLITZER: All right. Can you be a little bit more precise? MCCAIN: Well, we have a full week this week and then we're in recess. And I'm campaigning around the country pretty heavily for House and Senate candidates but I'm sure that we will be getting together soon.
BLITZER: All right. You know, David Nyhan, "The Boston Globe" columnist, someone you know I'm sure quite well, wrote this week in "The Boston Globe" -- listen to what he wrote: He said, "The smartest move Bush could make would be to embrace McCain's personality, accommodate to a reasonable degree with McCain's reformist agenda on money and politics, and make the acknowledged MVP of the primary season his running mate."
MCCAIN: I'm obviously flattered by comments like that but I think traditionally and appropriately the President of the United States waits until the convention to choose a running mate. And I've stated unequivocally that I don't think I can serve the country as effectively as I can in the Senate if I were vice president. And I would not want to do that.
BLITZER: So you're basically saying under no circumstances would you either seek or accept the vice presidential nomination?
MCCAIN: I'm saying that again, Wolf.
BLITZER: OK, good. Just wanted to make sure.
BLITZER: Now, I know that one of your priorities is the Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Rodham Clinton senate race. In fact, this week the Giuliani campaign rushed out a campaign commercial following your bus trip with the New York City mayor. Let's run a little snippet of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Together they road a bus to spread a message of hope and humanity to the people of New York. One an authentic hero dedicated to integrity and reform, the other an authentic New York leader.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You've seen the latest polls in New York state showing Mrs. Clinton not only catching up but surpassing Mayor Giuliani. In the CBS-"New York Times" poll, 49 percent for Mrs. Clinton, 41 percent for Giuliani. He has an uphill struggle right now.
MCCAIN: I think the polls are going to bounce back and forth. I think it's going to be decided in the last couple weeks of the campaign. You and I agree this is the most extraordinary Senate campaign in history and I think it's going to be very tough. I believe Rudy Giuliani at the end of the day will get credit for his superb job as mayor of the city of New York, and the most difficult job that I can imagine. I think that people will recognize he will make a great senator and that he can address the issues of big cities and the problems associated with that kind of governing. And I tend do everything I can for him. I think he's a heck of a guy and I enjoy his company.
BLITZER: And I'm sure he will be grateful to you. We only have a few seconds left, Senator McCain, a lot of us noticed at the Radio- TV Correspondents' dinner Thursday night, you were there, President Clinton was there. The two of you got together and you seemed to be enjoying a few moments slapping each other on the back, talking to each other. This is the president, you voted to convict him of the impeachment charges yet you seem to be pretty warm with him.
What is your relationship with President Clinton right now?
MCCAIN: I've always had a very cordial and warm personal relationship with the President of the United States. I've admired his political skills, and as I mentioned earlier, sometimes we get a little too personal in American politics. I obviously don't agree with him, but I respect him and he is the President of the United States.
BLITZER: Senator McCain, always good to have you on Late Edition. Thanks for joining us today.
MCCAIN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And just ahead, what's the political fallout from the Elian Gonzalez case. We'll go 'round the table with Roberts, Page and Carlson, when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable. Joining me, Susan Page, White House bureau chief for "USA Today"; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News & World Report"; and Tucker Carlson, political writer for "The Weekly Standard."
Let's begin, Steve, with a quote from a Richard Cohen column in "The Washington Post" this past week: "Certain people believe Elian Gonzalez was sent to America for a purpose. They believe that in the sea he was ringed by dolphins who protected him from ravenous fish. I too think Elian was saved for a purpose. It is to make fools of politicians." Now, you've changed your mind.
STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: I have.
BLITZER: One hundred eighty degrees on what should happen to Elian Gonzalez.
ROBERTS: Well, like a lot of people I originally thought as Janet Reno has said, parental rights should control the situation, should go back to his father. However, I have -- four months have gone by, he has bonded very, very closely with his Miami family, particularly his 21-year-old cousin Marisleysis. I talked to Doctor Gunther Perdigo, who went down to Miami, speaks Spanish, talked to Elian for over two days, he said he changed his mind completely, that it would be like a second death to remove this boy from this family he's bonded so closely to. Four months is a very long time in a life of a 6-year-old, and I'm just looking at one question: What is best for the emotional and psychological well-being of this child now? And the doctors say he should stay in Florida, and that's what I think now too.
BLITZER: All right. Steve Roberts changes his mind, you heard it here. All right, Tucker, the Republicans, of course, are involved in this as are the Democrats, Vice President Gore. But "The Weekly Standard," the publication you write for has some tough words on Republicans this week in an editorial. I don't expect you're going to disagree with your editorial superiors over there, but listen to what they say. There used to be an institution that could be trusted to remain vigilant about the actions of communist regimes. It was the Republican Party, but Trent Lott has refused to bring to the floor a bill to give Elian citizenship. House Speaker Dennis Hastert is AWOL. George W. Bush has been more interested in snickering at Al Gore's vacillation on Elian than on Elian himself. Tough words against Republicans. Fair words?
TUCKER CARLSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: I think fair. I mean, I think there's a general hesitance among people, not just Republicans but certainly among Republicans, to weigh in on a case that involves a 6- year-old and his father, and to be seen as sort of separating the two. I think in this case, though, the father doesn't necessarily know best, and I don't think enough attention has been paid to what will probably will happen to Elian if he goes back to Cuba. I mean, he will be -- apparently Castro's built this enormous reviewing stand.
BLITZER: So you agree with Steve that the boy should stay here?
CARLSON: Of course I do, that's absolutely right. I mean, it's not clear to me why the Justice Department is in such a hurry, why Janet Reno is in such a hurry to send this boy back to Cuba, and if all this is being done on his behalf, in his best interest, then why isn't anyone pointing out that when he gets back to Cuba he will be put to just terrible and relentless use as a propaganda tool by Fidel Castro. That's not good for him.
BLITZER: Now, Susan you had a chance to interview Vice President Gore, who's been widely accused of pandering, and in fact when you interviewed you in the column you wrote in the article you wrote in "USA Today," you were pretty descriptive of his reaction when you asked him that question, among other things he said to you. "I don't care what the polls show. I don't care how people try to interpret it because I'm going to say what I think is right and there is never for an instant but a doubt in my mind about what is right."
He says the Justice Department is wrong, the president's wrong, this case should be adjudicated by a family court and the boy should stay.
SUSAN PAGE, CNN COMMENTATOR: He was very sensitive about it in the interview I did this week. He pounded the table. His face got kind of red, his voice was rising. That's not the normal Al Gore when you engage in an interview. The question I asked him was to respond to criticism from prominent Democrats, among others, that he was pandering. He argued with some passion that he was reflecting his true feelings. But I do think that No. 1, some senior aides to Al Gore have told him that he's wrong on this issue and that there are some signs that it's costing him generally in the electorate.
In at least one poll his standing has fallen by about five points in the past two weeks, and the only big event we've had in the past two weeks that involves Al Gore is this case. So he may be paying some price, whatever his motivations in terms of the electorate generally.
ROBERTS: You read this quote from Richard Cohen who said this is to make fools out of politicians, the truth is most politicians are both sides of this issue are being outrageous. They are using this little boy as a pawn. You had Maxine Waters and a lot of other members of the Black Caucus arguing, if this were a Haitian boy, why he'd be sent back. They're pandering to their constituency. You have the Cuban-Americans who are raising the flag of, you can't a raise a child under communism and be a loving father. Everybody is using him as a pawn. I think the vice president is to some extent too.
I think you have to focus on one simple question: What is best for this child? But no one's doing that.
BLITZER: Well, people are arguing. They're trying to do what is best for this child.
ROBERTS: Not any of the politicians are, Wolf. Some of the psychiatrists I think are, and I think Janet Reno is deeply emotionally involved in this. She has clearly talked to the father and been affected by that. A lot of the politicians have a very different agenda in the welfare of the child.
BLITZER: All right, let's speculate and go around the table. What is going to happen this week? Will this father be reunited with his son, the first step to going back to Cuba?
CARLSON: Well, Janet Reno seems intent on pushing some sort of confrontation. I think until this point the Cuban-American community in Miami for all the hits its taken, actually it has been outrageous. People seem to feel free to attack Cuban Americans in Miami in a way that no other ethnic group is attacked in public. In any case, I think they've been pretty responsible but I think the Justice Department is going to force some sort of confrontation.
BLITZER: And you think there will be force used to try to get the boy out of the house?
CARLSON: I think that's clearly the plan, that's what Justice Department officials are saying off the record and I think they mean it.
BLITZER: Susan, that's not what the president wants to see another kind of violent incident like that. PAGE: I can't imagine there's any of us who wants to see that.
BLITZER: He is still is the president of the United States, he could overrule on that kind of (OFF-MIKE).
PAGE: He could, but there's a long tradition in this country that when there's a surviving parent and there are not charges that the parent is unfit, that they should be reunited with their child and I think that's likely to prevail in this case.
BLITZER: All right, we have to take a quick break but we have a lot more to talk about. When we return, we'll talk about John McCain, plus Bill Clinton, comic in chief. We'll have highlights of the president's comedy routine earlier this week. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our roundtable.
You saw the interview with John McCain. He's obviously still wants to be involved. He doesn't want to be vice president. He says he's going to be aggressively supporting George W. Bush. A lot of people think, though, that he's looking at Ronald Reagan's 1976 playbook when he lost to Gerald Ford, only to come back four years later. What do you think?
ROBERTS: I think he wants to be president, and I think he's planning to run again as soon as possible. And that sets up an interesting tension, because in many ways he has a vested interest in George Bush losing, because if George Bush wins -- you've got to remember, John McCain's going to be 67 in the next go round; 2004 would be his shot. If he's ever going to be president, it's got to be four years from now.
I think the fact that he's been very tepid in his endorsement is indicative of his ambivalence.
One of the things to watch for, he's going to campaign very heavily for Republican -- he mentioned Giuliani -- for Republican House members. Not only did Ronald Reagan do this in '76, Richard Nixon followed this exact same playbook in the '60s, helped get him the nomination in '68.
He's going to earn a lot of due bills with a lot of people doing that.
BLITZER: Well, what about that Tucker?
CARLSON: I just -- I don't see McCain as capable of that strategizing. McCain is not a master tactician. He's a person who's goals appear and he goes after them...
BLITZER: Looking ahead four years is not his strength, is that what you're saying?
CARLSON: It's hard -- I must say, it's hard to imagine that. I think his endorsements of Bush have been -- if they've been tepid, it's because McCain doesn't really like Bush.
Though I must say I was struck today by how kind of overt he was in saying: My goal is to make George W. Bush president. I'm willing to take that at face value he means it.
PAGE: Well, what's the alternative? That he wants to make Jesse Ventura president? Or Al Gore...
CARLSON: Great question.
PAGE: You know, it's funny. When you go out with Al Gore and George W. Bush, the candidate who spends the most time -- the more time going after McCain voters in a direct way is Al Gore. Al Gore mentions his name in every speech, he talks with great affection and respect for the points that he made in the campaign.
I don't understand why George W. Bush is not doing more to go after those voters. That was the race -- that was the candidate John McCain who really energized the GOP in the primaries.
BLITZER: All right. You know, we also saw this week Bill Clinton, the president of the United States in his last year as president doing what he's done fairly well at these dinners with correspondents, the radio-TV correspondents dinner, that'll be at the White House correspondents dinner in a few weeks.
But look at this excerpt, because he was pretty funny at that dinner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't you newspeople ever learn?
It isn't the mistake that kills you. It's the coverup.
CLINTON: I don't really want to be a member of the Senate spouse's club.
I want to be president of the Senate spouse's club.
CLINTON: When I visited the Buddhists in India, it cost the taxpayers millions.
When Al meets with Buddhists, he turns a tidy profit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That's some pretty funny stuff, the business about the coverup. That was ABC News and Leonardo DiCaprio, whatever it was, interview, conversation, walk-about with the president.
But he was pretty funny, the president.
ROBERTS: Well, you know, humor has never been one of Bill Clinton's strong suits. He reads a joke pretty well, but he's not naturally a very funny guy.
You know this is a humor-deprived administration when the funniest member is Al Gore.
BLITZER: Not by choice then.
ROBERTS: Not by choice.
You know, under the surface there, there's a real resentment of the press, though. Bill Clinton really feels the press has treated him badly, and he's not going to miss dealing with the Washington press corps, I don't think.
BLITZER: Is he going to miss that Washington press corps, Tucker?
CARLSON: Oh, I didn't think it's ever going to end. I mean, I think is all preparation for his career on cable television.
I mean, we're not going to see the end of Bill Clinton.
Look, every year he gives these talks at these dinners that, you know, are always self-serving, he always mocks things that are sort of sacred. But I must say, they are always very -- they're genuinely funny, and he gets better every year. He was terrific this year, much as I hate to admit it.
BLITZER: You know, Susan is the president of the White House correspondents.
BLITZER: Is he going to be there at the White House dinner?
PAGE: He's going to be there April 29.
BLITZER: Is he going to be funnier then? Can you guarantee that it will be funnier that night? PAGE: I'm sure he's -- yes, absolutely, he's going to be funnier. It's going to be terrific. BLITZER: And what about you? You got some good one-liners?
PAGE: I'm not going to be funny.
BLITZER: We want you to be funny, but we'll be watching. We'll all be there as well.
ROBERTS: And he's just not going to be -- he doesn't want to just be president of the Senate spouse's club, friends of his say that he's seriously considering running for the Senate from Arkansas in a couple of years.
CARLSON: Oh, no, please.
ROBERTS: Oh, yes.
BLITZER: Our roundtable, thanks.
When we return, Bruce Morton's "Last Word" on the census.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Concerns about the census are part of a bigger question. Many Americans think their privacy is being invaded, and they're right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is Uncle Sam getting too personal when taking count of us? Stay with us.
BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's "Last Word." There's been a lot of concern recently about questions asked on the 2000 census forms. Bruce shares some thoughts about why.
MORTON (voice-over): Is the census an invasion of privacy? Some major Republicans think so. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott suggests you skip questions you don't like if you got the long form and answer the rest. George W. Bush, the apparent presidential nominee said:
BUSH: But I can understand why people don't want to give all that information to government. And if I have a long form I'm not so sure I want to either.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Relax America, he got the short form. "The Washington Post" reports some Republicans urging a voluntary census, which is of course, an oxymoron, like a placid hysterical frenzy. The question does have a point. The celebrated one about do you have bathrooms in your house has been on the form since 1940. It is meant to discover which areas have substandard housing and need federal help. Millions of federal dollars are allocated according to census questions. And though members may have forgotten, Congress approved the questions two years ago. And historically the census people are good about keeping your name secret.
But concerns about the census are part of a bigger question. Many Americans think their privacy is being invaded and they're right. President Clinton ordered White House files opened to discredit Kathleen Willey who said he groped her.
CLINTON: When the decision was made to release the letters, I didn't even have any conversations with anybody about the privacy act. I never thought about it.
(on camera): And the Pentagon leaked Linda Tripp's file including a teenage arrest. And it's not just the government. My supermarket offers discounts if you take one of it's cards. It uses those cards to profile you: what kind of things you buy, how much you spend and so on. And it trades that information with other businesses. All sorts of things get recorded: your credit rating, what kind of prescription drugs you take, what books you may have bought lately recorded by various businesses and traded around.
And your Social Security number, which was never supposed to become a national identification number, now is one. And if that isn't enough, the story this past week reported on the growing number of companies that read their employees e-mail, or at least the e-mail they get at work. Having an affair? Don't write sweet love notes on your desktop, unless you want the boss to see them.
The census is good cause and we are rapidly losing any privacy we might have left. That's true too. I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Thanks, Bruce.
Time now for a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines: "Time" magazine has Elian Gonzalez and his dad on the cover with the poignant tale behind the political battle. On the cover of "Newsweek," Elian's ordeal with a look at what his life would be like in Castro's Cuba. And "U.S. News" has the good news about teens on the cover. A year after Columbine, kids are doing a lot better than anyone thought.
And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, April 9. Be sure to catch us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. And I'll of course be back tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on "THE WORLD TODAY." For now thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com
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