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Reno Heading to Miami to Negotiate Transfer of Elian Gonzalez; Gore Slams Bush's Record in Texas; Bush Proposes New Health-Care InitiativeAired April 12, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's face it, the Bush approach on these issues is a headline without a story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore slams George W. Bush's efforts to encroach on traditionally Democratic turf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is not the usual Republican M.O., but Bush is trying to smooth the sharp edges of the GOP image.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Candy Crowley on Bush's anti-Gore strategy. Is it working?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Talk to Susan McGraw and it's clear the vice president faces a suburban struggle.
SUSAN MCGRAW, SUBURBAN VOTER: It feels like he's so political and he just wants to be giving the right answers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: John King talks to swing voters in suburbia.
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff.
WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Bernard is on vacation.
We begin with an update on the Elian Gonzalez case. Attorney General Janet Reno has left Washington and is on her way to Florida at this hour to meet with some of the boy's Miami relatives. CNN has learned that Reno hopes to persuade them to return to Washington with her and to bring Elian to his father.
A high-level government official says Reno plans to travel to the home of Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin, where Elian now is staying with his great uncle Lazaro and his cousin Marisleysis. Because of Reno's plan, the official says the letter telling Lazaro Gonzalez where and when to turn over custody of Elian will not be sent today, as originally planned.
Let's go now to Miami Beach and to CNN's John Zarrella outside the home of Sister O'Laughlin. John, is the attorney general going to be able to leave there with Elian Gonzalez?
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: That is the $25,000 question, Judy. No one really knows for sure exactly what will transpire. The hope is that the attorney general can convince the Miami relatives that in fact it is in their best interests, in Elian Gonzalez's best interests, most importantly, that she indeed leave with the boy or that they go ahead and at least agree to a transfer point and get that out of the way, that she can get at least that concession from them.
We understand that Lazaro Gonzalez has actually returned to his Little Havana home, that Elian is here with Marisleysis Gonzalez. Marisleysis, of course, got out of the hospital today where she had been for several days suffering from stress related to this. About an hour ago, though, Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin came out and told the media gathered here that it appears that for the Miami relatives reality is finally setting in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SISTER JEANNE O'LAUGHLIN, PRES., BERRY UNIVERSITY: I think the family is becoming more reconciled and facing what perhaps could be pain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZARRELLA: This is, of course, the second time that Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin has played host to Elian Gonzalez and his Miami relatives. You may remember that back in January she was host for the grandmothers when they came to visit the boy.
There was that one failed attempt for the meeting, the grandmothers flew back to Washington, then came back to Miami after Sister Jeanne interceded and said she would play host. All the sides agreed, and then, of course, a day after that meeting took place she came out and said she felt that the boy should stay here in Miami and not go back to Cuba at least until the appeals process is over. But it appears once again she is playing a major role in mediation of this event.
This is John Zarrella reporting live from Miami.
WOODRUFF: Thank you, John.
Well, Al Gore today reasserted his position that the Gonzalez case should be resolved based on the best interests of the child. But the vice president's most pointed remarks were reserved for his Republican rival, as CNN's Beth Fouhy reports.
BETH FOUHY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After weeks of fighting questions about his own credibility and sincerity on campaign finance reform, Elian Gonzalez and other issues, Al Gore decided to turn the tables, skewering the credibility of his GOP opponent George W. Bush through a stinging assessment of his record as governor of Texas.
GORE: How can we believe what he says he would do nationally when we see what he actually has done as governor.
FOUHY: Addressing the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Gore called for a careful review of Bush's record, particularly in connection to several high-profile proposals Bush has made in recent weeks on education, taxes and environmental protection.
GORE: Earlier this month, Governor Bush started talking about his deep commitment to protecting the environment. Never mind the fact that Texas is first in the nation for toxic releases into the air, water and soil.
FOUHY: Gore saved his toughest rhetoric for the issue of health care after a major health care proposal Bush delivered Tuesday received extensive news coverage.
GORE: I hope that he will start by trying to enroll some of the hundreds of thousands of uninsured children and families in his own state of Texas who have no health insurance, who are legally eligible for it but do not have it because of the political malpractice of the Bush administration in Texas.
FOUHY: Gore backed up his claims with reams of documentation, much of which Bush aides called misleading. For instance, while acknowledging that as a large industrial state Texas does release a lot of toxic pollution, they point to evidence that the state now leads the nation in the reduction of toxins. Bush aides also took issue with what they call Gore's own lack of credibility on making many of the claims.
MINDY TUCKER, BUSH CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: What we're seeing is him attacking on a lot of issues that he's also had eight years to fix as vice president of the United States yet he has failed to do so.
FOUHY: They specifically point out that during the Clinton-Gore administration the number of Americans without health insurance has grown nationally at a rate four times faster than in Texas.
(on camera): Gore aides are calling today's speech part of a virtual debate with Governor Bush, and they say Gore will continue to critique the Bush record until the two candidates debate face to face.
Beth Fouhy, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)
WOODRUFF: Some Bush campaign aides, meanwhile, suggest that Gore is afraid that the governor can and will make big inroads on issues near and dear to Democrats.
Our Candy Crowley reports from Missouri on Bush's latest efforts to do just that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, it's so nice to meet you.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Me, too.
CROWLEY (voice-over): For the second day in a row, George Bush reached into areas traditionally seen as Democratic to address issues traditionally seen as Democratic strengths.
BUSH: The most difficult places to build a quality health facility are the very areas where the need is greatest and where patients have the least ability to pay. For these Americans, community health centers are the answer.
CROWLEY: Grace Hill Health Centers in St. Louis delivers care to the uninsured and the underserved, using federal money, donations and pure determination.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I go to different places, different organizations, and I get what I need most of the time.
BUSH: I can tell that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
CROWLEY: Bush came to this inner-city facility to add another paragraph to his health-care plan: a $3.6 billion initiative to build 1,200 more neighborhood health care centers across the nation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sound a little bit like a -- sound a little like a Democratic side than a Republican.
BUSH: No, this makes sense. It makes a lot of sense to do this.
CROWLEY: It is not the usual Republican M.O., but Bush is trying to smooth the sharp edges of the GOP image, and in doing so, broaden his appeal for the November election. With the word opportunity now emblazoned on the banner behind him, Bush seeks to include the unincluded.
BUSH: The people in our nation whose basic needs too often go unmet, children in the poorest neighborhoods, rural families who live in isolation, recent immigrants and migrant farm workers and the homeless. CROWLEY: Traveling through key battleground states, Bush is laying out a series of policy initiatives on central issues. His post Super Tuesday agenda focused on education for three weeks, followed by an environmental speech. He has now turned to health care. Bush intends to continue in this pattern into the early August convention, using the months ahead to discuss government reform, senior citizen issues, foreign policy and defense.
Though Bush is a natural cut-up, given to irreverence, the game plan is designed to showcase the serious side, to address Democratically-stoked doubts about whether he is White House-ready. Aides also believe the business-like focus with specific proposals contrasts in their favor with the vice president's schedule. As one explained: "Gore looks like an actor going around to schools, pretending to be a teacher and attacking the governor. We are out talking positively about an agenda."
(on camera): Though he has and will go after the vice president at time, Bush is trying to avoid incessant sharp exchanges. The more this race settles down, explained one strategist, the more it's about policy and ideas.
Candy Crowley, CNN, St. Louis.
WOODRUFF: Bush's strategy is designed, at least in part, to appeal to suburbanites in Missouri and other states where both campaigns believe the presidential race will be won or lost.
Our John King has been talking to swing voters in the St. Louis area about Bush and Gore, and about President Clinton.
KING (voice-over): Floy Borgman is one of the suburban women who helped Bill Clinton win the presidency, and she can't wait to vote for his replacement.
FLOY BORGMAN, FLORIST: Right now I am angry and outraged and very disheartened. There's no way in good conscience that I can vote for a party that approved of what he did.
KING: Al Gore lost Borgman's vote when he called Mr. Clinton a great president after the impeachment trial. She calls herself a liberal driven by race and women's issues, and a Bush voter.
BORGMAN: It's the only way I can show my protest for the lack of any kind of accounting on the part of the Democratic Party for Clinton's behavior.
KING (on camera): Conversations here in suburban St. Louis eight years ago revealed profound economic anxiety, disappointment with President Bush, a sense of hope about a newcomer named Clinton. Fast forward to April 2000, and the race is far less defined: No one issue dominates. And most of those who meet the definition of "swing voter" say they're keeping an open mind.
(voice-over): But talk to Susan McGraw, and it's clear the vice president faces a suburban struggle. She has two young daughters, works part time in real estate, voted for Clinton twice, leaning Bush now.
SUSAN MCGRAW, REALTOR: I just feel he's a little bit more honest, and he just seems to have a little bit more credibility. I just thing -- to me, when I hear Gore, I so often hear that it feels like he's so political and he just wants to be giving the right answers.
KING: Married suburban women now favor the Texas governor by about five points.
BILL MCINTURFF, GOP POLLSTER: And that's kind of where he needs to be. He can win an election winning those groups by five or eight points.
KING: Laurie Mersman is part of the early Bush advantage, yet proof the race is far from over.
LAURIE MERSMAN, COMMERCIAL PRINTING SALES: I'm not totally wowed by this guy or anything. I just don't like Gore.
KING: Frank Blair's in charge at the hardware store, but says he usually takes political cues from his wife, whose early call on Gore isn't favorable.
FRANK BLAIR, HARDWARE STORE PRESIDENT: And she said, he's pretty slick too. So I think maybe in the Midwest we are a little leery of people who are too polished. At least I am.
KING: Jon Hunt spends a lot of time polishing the wares at his thriving suburban antiques shop, and he's found Bush to have more early sparkle.
JON HUNT, ANTIQUES SHOP OWNER: He's comfortable with the people. He mixes in with the people. He talks to the people.
KING: But many suburban swing voters say their first impression might not be their last. Bush has appeal when he talks tax cuts and values, but Gore's support for abortion rights and gun control is echoed by many suburban voters and suggests openings for the vice president when people tune in more closely.
Laurie Mersman wishes the candidates would make her decision easier.
MERSMAN: They have to be actors to a certain degree to be able to do all this, pull all this off. But you know, what are they really like? Take down all the coverings, and you know, what...
WOODRUFF: We are interrupting that report to take you directly to the statement from Greg Craig, who is the attorney for the father of Elian Gonzalez.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
GREGORY CRAIG, ATTORNEY FOR JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ: ... Senator Torricelli and said that he had been talking with officials from the Cuban-American National Foundation who in turn had been talking to Lazaro Gonzalez. Senator Torricelli, who had also been talking to Lazaro Gonzalez, said he was authorized to make the following proposal: Lazaro and Marisleysis Gonzalez were prepared to fly to Washington, D.C. with Elian on Wednesday morning. They were prepared to transfer custody to Elian's father at a venue in the District of Columbia, which in their view was neutral territory.
Their only requirement was that Juan Miguel Gonzalez would be willing to talk with the relatives after the transfer for 30 minutes. They would happy -- they would be happy to fly to Washington, D.C. in a government plane and would be grateful for a U.S. Marshals' escort.
After consulting with Mr. Gonzalez, we agreed to this proposal. We began working with officials at the Justice Department to implement the terms of this proposal.
In the course of the evening, Senator Torricelli's proposal changed somewhat. The number of relatives was increased from two to six. The airplane became a private charter. The amount of time for the family conversation was increased from 30 to 180 minutes. But the essential condition that we cared about and that caused us to agree to this proposal remained unchanged, that the family meeting would be preceded by the transfer of Elian's physical and legal custody to his father.
We were surprised by Lazaro's announcement at midnight last night that he would not be traveling with Elian to Washington, D.C. today, and we were also surprised by the press conference earlier today when representatives of the Cuban-American National Foundation stated that there had been no agreement to transfer custody of Elian to his father.
To us, the essence of yesterday's agreement was precisely that, the voluntary transfer of Elian's custody. The agreement described by the foundation's officials is not the agreement that we signed on to yesterday.
Juan Miguel Gonzalez came to the United States expecting to be given custody of his son. He has been here for seven days and Elian is still in Miami.
Every day of delay, as we have seen in the recent hours, does enormous damage to Elian. He needs to be with his father. It is time for the Justice Department to instruct Lazaro Gonzalez to follow the law and to do the right thing. This son needs his father.
Thank you very much.
WOODRUFF: We have been listening to Greg Craig, who is the attorney for Juan Miguel Gonzalez, the father of Elian Gonzalez, in effect saying that there was a deal yesterday whereby the relatives of Elian, with whom he's been living in Miami, had agreed to bring the boy to Washington to meet with his father, that they were only asking to talk with the father for 30 minutes afterwards. But as you just heard Greg Craig explain that those terms changed yesterday, and he's now calling on the Justice Department to call on the family, on the relatives to turn the boy over to his father.
Now we go to a very different story, to Cleveland, Ohio, where in a Cuyahoga County courtroom a jury that has been hearing for the third time the case of Dr. Sam Sheppard and the murder of his wife in 1954, a jury which took the case today is now prepared to deliver a verdict.
Dr. Sam Sheppard was convicted in his wife's murder in 1954. He served 10 years behind bars, was acquitted at a later retrial, died in 1970 four years after his acquittal. This case brought by Dr. Sheppard's son seeking a declaration of his father's innocence.
Let's listen now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You may be seated.
JUDGE: Ladies and gentlemen, have you reached a verdict?
Mr. Foreman, would you hand the verdict form to my bailiff?
This verdict form is signed by all eight members of the jury. "We, the jury, being duly impaneled, do by here -- do hereby find for the defendant, the state of Ohio."
Ladies and gentlemen, is that your verdict?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
JUDGE: Anything further? Do you wish the jury polled?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Poll the jury, your honor.
JUDGE: Mr. Voisaw (ph), is that your verdict?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
JUDGE: Ms. Gibson, is that your verdict?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, sir.
JUDGE: Mr. Simular (ph), is that your verdict?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
JUDGE: Mr. McQuig (ph), is that your verdict?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
JUDGE: Ms. Teacatch (ph), is that your verdict?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. JUDGE: Mr. Zahorsky (ph), is that your verdict?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
JUDGE: Ms. Thomas, is that your verdict?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
JUDGE: And Ms. Thornton (ph), is that your verdict?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
JUDGE: Ladies and gentlemen, that will conclude your service to this -- to the county in this case. I want to advise you that there are several groups of people who would like to meet with you. First, I'm going to send you back to your jury room where I would like to talk to you for a few minutes if you would be willing to speak with me. The lawyers will then be permitted to talk to you for a few minutes in your jury room if you would like to speak with them. Finally, the press would like to talk to you...
WOODRUFF: We have been listening to a courtroom in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where the son of Dr. Sam Sheppard, seated there at that table, has just learned that a jury has decided against him, against his effort to declare his father innocent in the murder of his wife.
The murder occurred -- the death occurred in 1954. Dr. Sam Sheppard was found guilty, served 10 years behind bars. Later, the Supreme Court overturned the verdict in a ground-breaking ruling, and Dr. Sheppard was acquitted at a retrial. Four years later in 1970, Sam Sheppard died.
This is an effort by -- has been an effort by his son to have a jury declare his father innocent so that the son could seek monetary damages.
As you have just learned, the son has lost in his effort to find his father innocent.
We have a background report on the Dr. Sam Sheppard case from CNN's Ed Garsten.
ED GARSTEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the final chapter of a story that began in 1954 when Dr. Sam Sheppard was convicted of bludgeoning his pregnant wife, Marilyn, to death. The newspapers tried and convicted him long before a jury was even chosen. It was dubbed "the trial of the century" when the century was barely half over, a case that inspired the TV show and movie "The Fugitive."
After spending 10 years in prison, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Sheppard's conviction, saying pretrial publicity tainted the jury. Ten years later, Sheppard died a broken man.
His son, Sam Reese Sheppard, has never been satisfied even though the Supreme Court cleared his father. He's always wanted a jury to declare him innocent and wants damages for his father's wrongful imprisonment. When the civil trial began two months ago, Sam Reese Sheppard said he was nervous, but ready.
SAM REESE SHEPPARD, SON: Well, it was -- is difficult. I was obviously traumatized as a young child both by the media and the events themselves. I have -- I'm ready to face what's going down here.
GARSTEN: Sheppard believes his father was railroaded and that the real killer was Richard Ebberling, a window washer who worked at the family home near Cleveland. Ebberling was convicted of an unrelated murder and died in prison in 1998. In the civil trial's opening statements, prosecutor William Mason said Sheppard killed his wife as their marriage fell apart.
WILLIAM MASON, PROSECUTOR, CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OHIO: The powder keg of emotion and conflict exploded and Marilyn was bludgeoned to death by her husband.
GARSTEN: The star witness for Sheppard was famed lawyer F. Lee Bailey, who successfully defended his father at the retrial in 1966. Bailey believed Marilyn Sheppard was killed by her lover's wife, who caught them in bed together.
F. LEE BAILEY, FORMER SHEPPARD ATTORNEY: I'm not sure if it was jealousy, but somebody was with her man and she didn't like it.
GARSTEN: Both sides used DNA evidence taken from the bodies of both Sam and Marilyn Sheppard. Technology that wasn't available at the time of the two criminal trials. For Sam Reese Sheppard, this is his last chance to clear his father's name and put his parents' memories to rest.
Ed Garsten, CNN, reporting.
WOODRUFF: And in this effort by the son of Dr. Sam Sheppard to clear his father's name, he has failed. In this instance, a jury in Ohio in Cuyahoga County has found against the son of Sam Sheppard, again in an effort to have his father's name cleared, to declare his father innocent in the death of his wife in 1954. We'll take a break. INSIDE POLITICS in just a moment.
WOODRUFF: Before the interruption for breaking news, we were listening to a report from John King on swing voters, moderate voters in the St. Louis suburbs. Now John King joins us live from St. Louis.
John, you have been talking to these voters not just in St, Louis, but in other parts of the Midwest. What are you hearing from people who say they did vote for Bill Clinton. They like President Clinton, but they're having difficulty with the vice president? KING: It's a very interesting dynamic, Judy. If you look at the national polls right now, Al Gore holding only about 60 percent, 66 percent of the vote Bill Clinton received in 1996. Some of the voters tell us they're not voting for Gore right now because they're unhappy with Bill Clinton, but it runs deeper than that.
In some of the research, especially women voters, women we're told by the pollsters often make their first impression based on visual cues and these women tell us they find Gore to be detached. They don't believe he's speaking directly to them, and they believe he is calculated in what he says. They're much more comfortable with George W. Bush, the person.
However, we should stress it's still April, and when you lead them through the issues and many of these voters say they're not paying close attention, when you lead them through the issues, there are openings for the vice president the try to exploit as the campaign goes on.
WOODRUFF: There are those, John, who say they're keeping an open mind, what do they tell you they're looking for?
KING: Well, that again, very interesting, in 1992, obviously the economy was the issue. In 1996, Bob Dole never really got close to Bill Clinton. Right now, no single dominant issue. Many people tell us there's a moral crisis in America, and we're exploring that in a piece for later this week. There's great disagreement over, though, what is the cause and what would be the cure. So, people don't have a clear issue right now.
Again, when we remind them that in Washington, say they're debating benefits for Medicare -- the pharmaceutical drug benefit in Medicare, they think about that. Many of the parents we've talk to -- suburban moms worried about guns, but they'd also like a tax cut. So, there's a conflict right now. The pollsters call it cross pressure. These voters might like Governor Bush on some issues, the vice president on others. They're not very excited about this race or their choices, many say they really don't want to tune in until late August, perhaps September.
WOODRUFF: All right, John King, out talking with voters across the country, thanks, John.
Well, Bob Novak of the "Chicago Sun-Times" has been following the goings on of, among other things, the George W. Bush campaign. And he joins us now.
Bob, you're hearing that the candidate's father, former President George Bush, is upset. About what?
ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Yes, he called Austin this week to express how unhappy he was with reports, published and on the air, that he had expressed discomfort with the team in Austin and wanted some of his old hands to come in and run the campaign to save his son's campaign. The president said he was not unhappy. The only person from Washington he had talked to for several weeks was Senator Paul Coverdell of Georgia, didn't talk about this. I think the people who are unhappy with the campaign are not the president, but some of the president's old hands who have been kept out of the campaign so far. The problem is that the CNN/Gallup poll shows Bush eight points ahead of Al Gore. If you're eight points behind, the old guard would have a better talking point.
WOODRUFF: All right, another Bush-related story, Bob, the revelation in the last few days that Ralph Reed was hired by Microsoft to lobby people to put pressure on Governor Bush. What are the people around Bush saying?
NOVAK: They are very unhappy with Ralph Reed, that they didn't tell him -- that he didn't tell them he was working for Microsoft and that he didn't tell them that there were people in his organization who wanted him to lobby the governor, although I am convinced that Ralph Reed himself did not lobby the governor. I hear there was a heated discussion between Karl Rove, the governor's chief strategist, and Ralph Reed.
But the interesting thing is that Ralph Reed was not forced to give up the Microsoft account, and even more important, he was not fired as a consultant to the governor even though the Bush people aren't happy. Why didn't they fire him? Because he has very important contacts with the Christian conservatives. He is a valuable asset to that campaign. And they didn't want to throw him over.
WOODRUFF: So his position is safe?
NOVAK: His position is safe, but I think he better not mention Microsoft when he's talking to Governor Bush.
WOODRUFF: Finally, some staff changes at the Republican National Committee. What are you hearing about that?
NOVAK: This week, earlier this week, everybody was a twitter, I think it was Monday, about new people coming in, big names coming into the Republican National Committee from the Bush operation. Turned out, it was Fred Meyer (ph), a former Republican state chairman of Texas, and Maria Seeno (ph), a veteran Republican operative. Bush loyalists, good people, but not big names. It wasn't Charlie Black or Haley Barbour.
The thing is a lot of people in Washington don't understand that the Bush people intend to run that campaign from Austin. They're not going to have an old hand up here running it. They're going to use people like Barbour and Black to do special projects. I hear they're going to war-game a Gore campaign, what Gore would do. But that campaign, for better or for worse, is going to be run from Austin.
For the people in Austin, they ought to be happy that they're nine points ahead because if they weren't nine points ahead, the Washington would really be putting pressure on them.
WOODRUFF: All right. We heard it here first, Bob Novak, thank you very much.
And much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS, still to come:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Colorado is here to say we have lost enough of our children. It's time to have prevention, too, in this important area of our national lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: President Clinton applauds a Colorado gun control effort as the anniversary of the Columbine shooting approaches.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PROTESTERS: No blank checks! No blank checks! No blank checks!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: ... labor rallies around the cause: a look at the issue they are fighting against. And later: Can George W. Bush campaign against Al Gore and against his own Texas record? We'll ask Margaret Carlson and Tucker Carlson for their perspective on campaign 2000.
WOODRUFF: President Clinton left Washington again today to highlight one of his top election-year issues: gun control. This time he chose an especially symbolic backdrop, Denver, where memories of the Columbine shootings are still fresh and painful.
CNN's Kelly Wallace is traveling with Mr. Clinton.
SINGERS: 525,600 minutes: How do you measure a year in life?
KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A week before the Columbine anniversary, President Clinton told gun-control supporters in Denver the country is watching Colorado's efforts to toughen gun laws.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know it's a state with a broken heart over Columbine. We know it's a state where people can put aside their partisan differences and maybe even their lifetime culture to look at the facts.
WALLACE: Mr. Clinton endorsed a state ballot initiative requiring background checks at gun shows. Tom Mauser is leading the campaign to get the referendum on the November ballot. His call to action came from his son, Daniel, two weeks before he died at Columbine.
TOM MAUSER, FATHER OF COLUMBINE VICTIM: He said those words to me before he was murdered: "Dad, did you know there were loopholes in the Brady bill?" That gives me just so much desire to address that, to close that loophole, and to feel like I'm carrying on his work.
WALLACE: Outside the Colorado convention center, gun rights supporters protested. Inside, Mr. Clinton offered this.
CLINTON: Colorado is here to say we have lost enough of our children, it's time to have prevention, too, in this important area of our national life.
WALLACE: It is the second-straight day the president spent in a state capital focusing on gun control. Tuesday, he saluted Maryland's new law requiring trigger locks on handguns. White House aides hope both visits put pressure on Congress where gun-control legislation has been frozen for nine months.
Tuesday, the chairman and ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Republican Senator Orrin Hatch calling for a meeting on the stalled bill. Also Tuesday, the House passed a measure which would provide $100 million in grants to states which impose mandatory sentences for gun crimes.
Republican Bill McCollum sponsored that bill.
REP. BILL MCCOLLUM (R), FLORIDA: It takes the criminal off the streets so he can't commit the crime, and it sends a powerful deterrent message.
WALLACE: And late today, House Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde sent a letter to President Clinton. Hyde's spokesman says the letter offers up a new compromise that addresses all of the concerns raised by the president about closing the so-called "gun show" loophole. But the White House's initial reaction is that the proposal doesn't go far enough. So at this time, both sides don't appear to be any closer to compromise -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Kelly Wallace traveling with the president.
Well, as it turns out, Congress is not the only potential obstacle to Mr. Clinton's push for gun control. Our Bill Schneider has been gauging public opinion and the political climate -- Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, next week's one-year anniversary of the Columbine school shooting has become a political deadline. News stories will ask, what has the government done in the past year to prevent future Columbines? Now if that means gun-control measures, the answer's going to be not much.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER (voice-over): President Clinton has challenged Congress to pass a new gun-control bill by April 20th, the Columbine anniversary. That won't happen. Instead, President Clinton was in Annapolis, Maryland yesterday, attending the signing of that state's tough new gun law and using the ceremony to send a message.
CLINTON: I hope that the United States Congress is paying attention to this event today, because every child in America deserves the protection you have given Maryland's children and only Congress can provide that.
SCHNEIDER: Maryland Governor Parris Glendening offered a prediction.
GOV. PARRIS GLENDENING (D), MARYLAND: I predict that ceremonies like this will take place in statehouses all across this country.
SCHNEIDER: Will it? According to Handgun Control Incorporated, Maryland is one of only eight states that have toughened their gun laws since Columbine. New gun laws have failed in 10 states, including New York, Texas, and notably, Colorado, where the Columbine tragedy occurred.
Why so little progress? Americans strongly support new gun laws.
Before Columbine, 60 percent favored stricter laws. Just after the Columbine shootings, the number jumped to 66 percent. Now it's settled back to 61.
The strongest support for new gun laws comes from women. A whopping 71 percent of women with school-aged children favor tougher laws. As it turns out, 71 percent of all women favor stricter gun laws. It's being a woman, not being a mom, that matters.
Fathers with school-aged kids also favor new laws, but by a smaller majority. Among men without kids, the number drops below half.
The strongest opposition comes from the more than 40 percent of Americans who own guns, most of whom oppose new gun laws. Owning a gun makes a huge difference, for both men and women.
So the battle lines are drawn. It's the moms versus the gun owners.
SCHNEIDER: On Mother's Day next month, a "Millions Moms" will take place here in Washington, but so far, gun owners have been winning most of the battles. Why? Because they let legislators know that they will vote the issue come election day. The message from gun owners is, if you vote for gun control, you lose my vote.
Can moms send a message saying, if you vote against gun control, you lose my vote? Only if they get organized and they get tough. You know, child-rearing experts tell moms not to threaten their children. They say it's not good for them. But it certainly works pretty well for politicians.
WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much. And much more on INSIDE POLITICS coming up.
WOODRUFF: The House of Representatives will not vote on China's trade status for more than a month. But today, organized labor made a show of opposition on Capitol Hill, asking Congress to reject permanent free trade status for China.
Our Chris Black reports.
PROTESTERS (shouting): No blank check! No blank check!
CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thousands of union workers marched on Capitol Hill, opposing a bill to end annual reviews and grant China permanent normal trade relations.
JOHN SWEENEY, PRESIDENT, AFL-CIO: Until there is freedom of speech and freedom of association in China, until there is freedom of religion and freedom to join unions in China, there can be no permanent free trade agreement with China.
BLACK: Labor says normal trade with China costs the United States jobs and exploits Chinese workers. That message, aimed at 100 undecided House members, came from the roof of the Teamsters headquarters to the front steps of the U.S. Capitol.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: Nothing is more important or more eloquent to a member of Congress than the voice of his or her own constituents. You're the boss!
BLACK: The legislation is a top priority for the White House and a broad business coalition. But this day was dominated by opponents at two separate rallies. Participants ranged from left to right. Reform Party presidential hopeful Patrick J. Buchanan with his new friends, the Teamsters Union.
PAT BUCHANAN (REF), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'd tell them, you stop persecuting Christians, you stop threatening my country, or you guys have sold your last pair of chop sticks in any mall in the United States of America.
BLACK: From the union chiefs to rank-and-file members, the demonstrators also walked the halls of Congress to buttonhole members. Labor officials say some union members will withhold support from those who vote for permanent normal trade with China. But that strategy could confound labor's other goal, a Democratic House in 2001. And undecided Democrats are torn between losing crucial labor backing in the campaign and the appeals of their president.
The White House pointman in the House says his colleagues are feeling the heat.
REP. ROBERT MATSUI (D), CALIFORNIA: The pressure on Democrats is enormous -- the fact that organized labor is our natural constituency, we're into the 2000 election year.
BLACK: Across town, Vice President Al Gore restated his support for the trade bill, though his position puts him at odds with allies in organized labor.
GORE: Some have not endorsed me because we disagree on this issue, but I have long felt that expanded free and fair trade is very much in the interest of our country.
BLACK (on camera): This day of demonstration and lobbying steps up what promises to be an intense campaign by both sides on the China trade bill. Next week, both sides take the campaign on the road to confront undecided lawmakers at home.
Chris Black, CNN, Capitol Hill.
WOODRUFF: When we return, Margaret Carlson and Tucker Carlson on the Justice Department's handling of the Elian Gonzalez case and much more.
WOODRUFF: With so many developments coming almost hourly in the Elian Gonzalez case, when I sat down a short time ago with Margaret Carlson of "TIME" magazine and Tucker Carlson of "The Weekly Standard," I started out by asking them how they think the U.S. Justice Department has handled the situation.
TUCKER CARLSON, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, from the beginning there has been this strange push to get things tidied up quickly. I'm not clear why. I mean, now it has been four months and it really isn't clear why things can't wait a couple more weeks to sort of come to fruition. And yet throughout you're getting signals from the Justice Department that the Miami relatives must obey. They're being disobedient. And if they're not obedient, we're going to send, you know, armed federal marshals down there to make them obey.
It's a kind of a curious strategy, particularly from this Justice Department. If there's a showdown, who's going to lose? Who's going to look bad? Is it the Cuban community in Miami? Probably not. It's probably this administration's Justice Department.
I think the -- sort of the ultimate coup for Janet Reno would be if she emerged from the house, maybe tonight, with Elian in tow. I mean, I think that would be probably a victory. Otherwise, though, a showdown doesn't benefit this Justice Department at all.
WOODRUFF (on camera): Margaret, has the Justice Department been too heavy-handed?
MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Not at all. I mean, the reason for the rush -- and in fact, there's been no rush at all. It has been forever for a 6-year-old boy who lost his mother not to be with his father. And at this point, you know, the father is the one who makes sense and he says, listen, give me my son.
That the attorney general is coming -- I mean, you know, no one calls her general. She's going to look like a general for the first time, kind of taking command, and if this happens without incident, she will, you know, be a heroine.
WOODRUFF: Tucker, Tom DeLay, the House Republican whip, said today that the fact that Juan Miguel Gonzalez would not go to meet with Republicans on the hill is proof that he is under thumb or the control of Fidel Castro's communist thugs. Is he right about that?
T. CARLSON: Well, I'm not sure that not meeting with Tom DeLay is a measure of your affinity to Marxism, but you know, I think there may be other signs that, you know, his speech at Dulles Airport was written, as Greg Craig admitted later, by the members of the Cuban government, was, you know, was a sign that, you know, he wasn't coming here and speaking extemporaneously from the heart. I am not sure it's helpful when Tom DeLay makes statements like that. But yes, I think it is fair to say that his movements are being orchestrated by members of the Cuban government. That seems to be a fact.
M. CARLSON: Well, he's a citizen of Cuba caught up in an international incident not of his own making, and a security from Cuba seems like an unlikely person to be writing his own statements. And Tom DeLay putting himself in the center of this, saying proves he's a Marxist because he won't meet with me is just pure, velvet hammer Tom DeLay talk.
WOODRUFF: Let me turn you both to the Bush-Gore campaign. Remember that? Al Gore accusing George W. Bush today of political -- these are his words -- "political malpractice," saying the Bush health care plan is headlines without a story.
Is this warranted criticism, Tucker?
T. CARLSON: Well, I mean, he read that play in fast. I am impressed by the quick turnaround. I mean, he digested it probably quicker than almost anybody else in Washington. You know, it's interesting Gore's tact on this. It's very hard to out-compassion George W. Bush -- he's going to have more photo-ops and barrios. He's going to out-barrios Gore. There's no way that I think is going successfully hit him from the left. So he's doing, or attempting to do, what he did to Bill Bradley, hitting him from the right, saying essentially, this is reckless, you will do away with the surplus if you spend 40-some million dollars on these health care tax credits. Maybe that will work. I'm not sure. But it's interesting that Gore somehow is the fiscally responsible character in all of this.
M. CARLSON: But Gore really needs to change the subject, in that it's hard to get anything through these days but Elian, and Gore did not show himself to be steady in that regard, and Bush outflanked him. I think Bush wanted to make Elian a citizen, and Gore only wanted to make him a permanent resident. So to get the subject Elian, he does a quick turnaround on the health thing, which is, you know, on this, on children's health, one of the things we know, is we know what Bush did in Texas. A lot of times you have to rely on what a candidate tells you he's going to do, not what he has done. And you know, that piece yesterday in "The New York Times" outlining Bush's health care record in Texas was very damming for George Bush.
WOODRUFF: Margaret Carlson and Tucker Carlson, they talked to us just a short time ago.
INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.
WOODRUFF: Several developments, just recapping now, in the case of Elian Gonzalez. The boy and his cousin at the private estate of a Catholic nun in Miami Beach. This, the airplane is carrying U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. She's just landed in Opa-locka, Florida, close to Miami, an airport near Miami. We are told that her plans are to go and meet with the relatives of the boy at this hour.
The boy's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, is staying at the home of a Cuban diplomat in Bethesda, Maryland, outside Washington. Although there are signs of movement there, he may be leaving the house. We do not know where he would be headed if he left.
Again, this plane carrying the attorney general of the United States, Janet Reno, who's just landed in Florida and is expected to meet with the relatives of Elian Gonzalez.
CNN's Pierre Thomas, who has covered the Justice Department for us, is here to bring us up to date -- Pierre.
PIERRE THOMAS, CNN JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, Janet Reno is going to make a personal quest, a personal plea to the family of Elian Gonzalez, the Miami relatives that is, to tell them that she wants them to cooperate, and that she wants an orderly transfer of the boy. She's trying to emphasize, think about the good of the child, and she wants their complete cooperation. Even our sources are telling us this is a risky proposition, and Reno may not be able to convince them.
WOODRUFF: Will lawyers be present? How many relatives do we know, that sort of information, Pierre, when the attorney general does meet with these relatives?
THOMAS: Some of that's unclear, but we do know that Reno wants to talk directly with Lazaro Gonzalez, his daughter and possibly also to visit with Elian. She wants to talk with them, look them in the eye, make a personal plea, try to get them on board to cooperate. Reno thinks it's very important to have a family-to-family transfer with very little trauma to the boy. Again, she's trying to make this personal plea. She's from Miami. She feels like if she can get there, she knows the landscape, that she can make a personal plea and it might make a difference.
WOODRUFF: This small plane carrying Attorney General Janet Reno, who has just landed in Opa Locka, Florida, just outside of Miami.
Let's go now to Miami Beach to CNN's John Zarrella, who is at the private estate of the Catholic nun, Sister O'Laughlin. This is the place where Elian Gonzalez and his cousin are staying right now -- John.
ZARRELLA: That's right, Judy, and apparently, the final preparations are being made here for what appears to be an inevitable meeting between the Miami relatives, and Elian Gonzalez and Attorney General Janet Reno. We also understand that INS Commissioner Doris Meissner was on the plane. She, too, probably will be coming here to the home.
We probably all remember that Sister Jeanne played a very prominent role back in January, as the mediator, when Elian grandmothers, his Cuban grandmothers, came here to Miami. It was here, behind the gated estate that she played host to that meeting, and it was shortly that meeting, within a day or so, that Sister Jeanne came out and very bluntly said that she believed that the boy should stay here in the United States, at least through the appeals process, before he was reunited with his father. That did not sit well on the Cuban side. Of course it sat very well with the family side.
We are told that Marisleysis Gonzalez, the boy's cousin, who had been hospitalized the last several days, is the one that requested inform come here to Sister Jeanne so they could have some peace, some quiet to think things out. Many of their attorneys have come and gone throughout the day and many are still inside behind the iron gates of the estate here, and now apparently, it is only a matter of time, Judy, before the attorney general gets here and tries to sit down and have a face-to-face and talk the family into what appears to be moving very rapidly now toward the inevitable -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: That's right, John Zarrella. And we should point out that the attorney for the boy's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, made a statement just within the past hour, calling on the Justice Department to move swiftly now to make arrangements, to transfer this boy. In so many words, the attorney said every day that the boy is not with the father is doing Elian Gonzalez damage -- Pierre Thomas.
THOMAS: Well, Judy, one of the thing we have learned that Reno will tell the family in Miami is a very specific but very frank order. She said, she wants them to fly to Washington as early as tomorrow to meet with Juan Miguel Gonzalez and to give him his son. That is one of the things she will inform the family that she wants them to have happen. She also will them it's a critical time for their immediate cooperation. So those will be two major points that she will make to the family. Again, who knows how the family will react to her specific request?
WOODRUFF: There we see Attorney General Janet Reno, I believe dressed in Yellow, but you can't be certain until we get a better picture of her.
THOMAS: That is the attorney general.
WOODRUFF: There she is, carrying a briefcase under her arm, walking away from a private plane that has carried her from Washington D.C. to Opa Locka, Florida, just outside of Miami, an airport that was agreed on. From there, she will travel to the location in Miami Beach, where the Catholic nun -- a private estate, where the boy Elian and his cousin, Marisleysis, are now staying.
The father of Elian Gonzalez, I'm told, Juan Miguel, is leaving the house in Bethesda, Maryland. It is the home of a Cuban diplomat, and I'm now told that the father traveling. You can see, this is a picture of the father, Juan Miguel, getting into a car. He is going to be traveling to the Cuban Interest Section in Washington D.C. The Cubans, of course, do not have a embassy in Washington.
CNN's Bob Franken has been watching there, reporting from outside this residence in Bethesda -- Bob.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we were told he was going to the Cuban Interest Section to speak to some supporters there, which of course leaves one of the possibilities aside for the moment, and that was is that he would be leaving and heading to Miami or the Opa Locka Airport. Apparently, that is not the case, at least not yet. And of course what we've been told all day is that it's now up to the Justice Department, as far as Juan Miguel Gonzalez and his lawyers are concerned, that they're really sort of ended the negotiation. As you can see, the van is pulling away now. He has a Secret Service motorcade as he goes from place to place. And as you've mentioned just a moment ago, the place tonight is in Washington, the Cuban Interest Section -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Franken, at the place just near Washington, where the father of Elian Gonzalez has been staying for the past week.
That wraps up this coverage for now. When we come back we'll be back with "WORLDVIEW," much more, all the updates and current developments in the case of Elian Gonzalez.
I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. We'll be right back.
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