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Capital Gang

Bush Adviser Charlie Black Discusses Campaign 2000, Elian Gonzalez and the IMF Protests in Washington

Aired April 15, 2000 - 7:00 p.m. ET



MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Margaret Carlson.

Our guest is Charlie Black, the veteran Republican presidential strategist who is advising the Bush campaign.

Good to have you here, Charlie.


SHIELDS: The week began with a CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll showing George W. Bush jumping some nine points ahead of Al Gore. That same day, Governor Bush unveiled his health-care plan.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will not nationalize our health care system. We will and must promote individual choice. We will rely upon private insurance. But make no mistake about it, in my administration, low-income Americans will have access to high-quality health care.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will welcome him to the debate, and 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.


SHIELDS: Addressing newspaper editors, the vice president gave journalistic advice.


GORE: I worked in journalism long enough to know that some claims -- whether they come from somebody pretending to be a funeral director or whether they come from somebody asking you to support them for president of the United States -- some claims demand serious scrutiny.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SHIELDS: Bob Novak, this time is the Gore campaign in trouble?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": I think that the vice president is having a little trouble running against George Bush. You know, I thought this meeting with the American Society of Newspaper Editors was very interesting because Bush stiffed it. He just didn't show up -- probably not a good thing for him to do. But Gore had a great opportunity to show some kind of vision to these people, and all he did was read from a prepared text saying, you've got to show greater scrutiny on Bush, attacking Bush. And I think all he knows how to do is attack, and that's why this Gallup poll that shows Bush nine points ahead shows that he is ahead of Gore on character and faith of the American people in his leadership qualities.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, what about that?

AL HUNT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, in all due respect to CNN and Gallup, this is not a nine-point race right now. I looked at a whole bunch of other polls, I looked at state surveys, this is a dead- even race right now, which is what you would expect. Gore has made mistakes -- the Elian Gonzalez thing. I thought his opportunism showed. I'm sure he must be worried about the stock market crash. That could be very bad news for him. But Bush is not doing so well either.

There's a mad dash to the center right now for George Bush. You're not going to hear him talking about Bob's tax cuts very much. He's going to talk about kids and health. This week he met with gays after saying during the primaries that he wouldn't appoint an openly gay person in his administration. Now he says he's a better person because he met with gays -- I'm not quite sure what that means. And I think the health care issue is not a good issue for him. Texas has an abysmal record, and his own health care commissioner's from the dark ages. He said this week that Hispanic women, in essence, like the idea, if they're unmarried, of getting pregnant.

This race has 29 1/2 weeks to go for better or worse, Mark.

SHIELDS: Charlie, in looking at Governor Bush health care plan, I had the feeling of Vice President Gore on campaign finance reform. He was trying to inoculate himself, because, quite frankly, in the last six years he's made a grand total of two speeches on health care before this statement last week.

BLACK: Well, listen, he also expanded the children's health insurance program in Texas using the federal dollars to help insure more children. This is an excellent program, Mark. What Governor Bush is proposing is to give the working poor who do not have health insurance a chance to get health insurance by providing refundable tax credits, up to $2,000 for some families. Now it won't pay for the whole premium on the policy, but for some families it will pay up to 90 percent. It's a serious effort, and instead of nationalizing or putting the government in charge of health care to improve access, it preserves individual choice and the kind of private-sector competition that's necessary to hold down the costs. It's a very serious plan. The American people like it. By the way, Al, you didn't look at enough polls. If you take all the polls that have been publicly published in the month of April and average them, Bush has a six-point lead. Because...

HUNT: Charlie, you're making that figure up.

BLACK: I didn't, I didn't. I'll give you the documentation tomorrow.

HUNT: No, no, I have it. We do one, too.

BLACK: I know you do. But the fact is the reason for that is that since the nomination contests were over, Governor Bush has been out proposing comprehensive education reform, health care reforms, a positive program. Meantime, Gore is busy carping about Bush's reforms, flip-flopping on issues and hiding from the press because of the cloud of scandal over his campaign.

SHIELDS: Forty-ninth, though, Margaret in health care coverage in Texas.

CARLSON: Second to last.

SHIELDS: Second to last, yes, among states.

CARLSON: Yes, 27 percent of the people in Texas are insured. And, in fact, Bush was very slow to embrace the federal children health insurance program. So his record there is not good at all.

But I agree with Bob on something, which is that Gore wasn't quick to come back with these facts against Bush, challenging the newspaper editors to go do his work for him. I think Gore...

NOVAK: Well, "The New York Times" did his work for him.

CARLSON: "The New York Times" did a lot of his work, and then he says, you know, let -- yes...

BLACK: (OFF-MIKE) good piece,

NOVAK: I think they did his work.

CARLSON: And so readers of the New York...

HUNT: They did a good journalistic piece, Bob. I'm sorry, Margaret.

CARLSON: Readers of "The New York Times" on health care would vote for Gore over Bush, but that's about all at the moment, because Gore hasn't really made this case.

What Gore has done is he beat a weak candidate, Bush beat a strong one. And I think he became weak in the process. He's not at fighting weight.

SHIELDS: "He" Gore, you mean. CARLSON: "He" Gore.

NOVAK: He Gore.


CARLSON: He Gore, he man, he Gore, yes, the alpha male...

BLACK: Let me tell you something, He Gore is going to be weak...

CARLSON: But, Charlie, let me just finish something...


CARLSON: ... which is that Gore came out -- I mean, Bush came out storming out of the gate on Democratic issues and is kind of taking them from Gore -- the environment, education, health care. And Gore's not responding. He's being a little like Bradley, which is kind of going on a little bit of a personal attack and engaging in the high rhetoric as opposed to engaging.

NOVAK: I thought he was responding, Margaret. And that's -- I think that's all he knows how to do is attack. But I want -- of course Bush is moving toward the center. It was inevitable that he would. It's in the family genes and it's probably the advice he's been getting.

But I want to disagree with Al on something, and that is -- the thing I want to disagree with him is I think he better stick to his tax cut position.

HUNT: Oh, I didn't say he wouldn't.

NOVAK: I think he'd better stick to his tax cut position because of this: I believe that this stock market crash -- I think the only intelligent analysis of this crash came from Jude Wanniski, who -- you can laugh, but he carefully -- he accurately analyzed the 1929 crash as being caused by the Smoot-Hawley Act -- Tariff Act.

And on this, what was happening was that the market started falling on March 30th because of these incredible payments that were required on capital gains by people selling their stock in order to pay this horrific capital gains tax. So they were cut in a box. The market had gone up, this huge tax had given these paper amounts of tax to pay, they sell the stock, and this can wreck the economy for your man Gore.

HUNT: Mark, I love to hear Bob's autobiography -- which is what we just heard. I wish we all were so wealthy and had that problem. Let me tell you something, I never said that Bush would back away from his plan, he just won't talk about it very much because he has another problem, Mark: The numbers don't add up. You know, if you take his tax cut and the other things he's proposing, pretty soon people are going to find out these numbers simply don't ad up.

And now, I guess, Bob, what you can tell us is that the stock market's going up, we don't need a tax cut, only when it's going down.

NOVAK: We always need a tax cut.

HUNT: Oh, I see.

CARLSON: People who sold on March 30th actually got a benefit from the government, which is they got out before the market crashed.

NOVAK: Oh, come on. They crashed the market, Margaret.

CARLSON: But listen, you know, on this -- the health care, the education, everything, there's not enough money even for these very modest programs that Bush is proposing.

BLACK: Of course there is. Three quick points, Mark.

First of all, Bob, the governor hasn't moved right or left. He's got conservative solutions to important issues, and nobody can challenge that is compassionate conservative.

The numbers do add up. The Congressional Budget Office projects $4 trillion in surpluses over 10 years. Two trillion of that goes to Social Security to make it sound. That's also paying down debt. The Bush tax cut requires $1 trillion of that. There's another $1 trillion for these programs and for Medicare reform, education reform. It's not...

HUNT: What numbers, Charlie?

BLACK: Congressional Budget Office, bipartisan numbers.

Last point: Al Gore has got nothing positive to say, and there's a cloud of sandal over his campaign. He's not going to go...

SHIELDS: That's a second cloud of scandal, Charlie. You only get two in one segment. It's a limit. I'm sorry, only two clouds. This is not a weather show, Charlie.

Charlie Black and THE GANG will be back with the Elian status report.

And later, demonstration time in D.C.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

After negotiations failed to resolve the future of Elian Gonzalez, Miami relatives of the 6-year-old cut a video message from him to his father and then gave it to the news media.


ELIAN GONZALEZ (through translator): I am telling you now that I do not want to go to Cuba. If you would like, stay here. but I do not want to go to Cuba. LAZARO GONZALEZ, ELIAN'S GREAT-UNCLE (through translator): The Gonzalez position is not to give up this child. The child will have to be picked up by force.

GREGORY CRAIG, ATTORNEY FOR JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ: Today, Lazaro Gonzalez broke the law. Elian Gonzalez is being held unlawfully in Miami against his father's wishes.


SHIELDS: The Justice Department was ready to turn the boy over to his father.


JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am prepared to enforce the law. We intend to do so in a reasonable, measured way.


SHIELDS: But Elian's return to Cuba will await the end of court appeals.

Margaret Carlson, if Elian wants to stay in Florida, why does the U.S. government oppose that?

CARLSON: Because Elian is 6 years old and Elian is not able to tell -- boss people around -- adults around, even though in that finger-wagging video he's turned into the uncle. He was so coached. And these relatives who have been guilty of contempt of court and keeping the child against the father's wishes are now guilty of child abuse. It was a horrible thing. He looked like the little godfather in the bed, talking to his father in ways that, you know, he should be sent to his room forever. It was just an awful display of what's happened to this child in the care of the Miami relatives.

And I think Janet Reno should be applauded. She spent what little political capital she has going to Miami under circumstances where she was not likely to win, violating a major political commandment, which is don't go if you can't achieve your aims, and put it on the line and did what she could. And now we come back, we're in a standstill for the moment, but this child will go back with his father where he belongs, and the relatives should be brought before a judge and charged with child abuse.

SHIELDS: You just want to say ditto to Margaret?

NOVAK: Well, I will say ditto. Of course, the boy is going to be forcibly returned, because it's a failure of the American people. And if the American people knew that they were -- would realize they're sending him back to a communist dictatorship and cared about it, the president, who said today he would go back, wouldn't be moved.

To say any praise on Janet Reno, who's a tool in this whole miserable business, is sad. But I will say this, that I can understand the family doing this video because they are desperate, and they know that this boy's life is going to be miserable. I just want to it be on your conscience, all of you around here -- and I'll wag my finger -- that he is not going back to his village. He is going to have a miserable life, because he is going to be under scrutiny of the communist government there, and he'll be forced to hold to there line. I just dread for that boy's future.

SHIELDS: Charlie?

BLACK: Mark, Bill Clinton and Janet Reno have mishandled this case from the beginning by treating it as immigration case. It should be a custody case, under family law in family court, where the father could testify, the Miami family could testify, and evidence could be submitted of what would happen when he goes back.

The father won't have custody of him, Fidel Castro and the communist state will have custody of him, which means when he's about 12 years old he'll be put into forced labor, brainwashed with communism and given no freedom. It's an outrage.

SHIELDS: Am I wrong that people who live in Hungary for the past 50 years or Czechoslovakia, that they didn't love their children? That kids didn't enjoy their playmates? I mean, we've kind of put this into some sort of an ogre-like view in prism through which men who live in -- fathers in Cuba don't love their children because they live in a communist state. Is that the premise here?

NOVAK: Are you asking me a question?

SHIELDS: I'm asking Al a question.

NOVAK: Oh, great. Al's question is framed.

HUNT: I'm afraid it is. And, you know, I hope Charlie will want to put all these Haitian kids now in family court, too. Charlie, I just hope you'll be consistent on this.

I think Margaret got it absolutely right, including her well- deserved praise of Janet Reno. By putting this little 6-year-old kid on tape, what this Cuban -- what the Cuban-Americans in Miami demonstrated was that they care more about the politics than they do about the welfare of this child. A couple days ago, we thought there was kind of a pervasive confidence this whole thing was going to end amicably.

I think what happened is the fringe elements in that community, a distinct minority, have bullied the others and they caved. This kid ought to go back to his father as any kid ought to go back to a parent, Mark, and the only question is whether these people in Cuba -- in Miami, rather, want a (OFF-MIKE)

NOVAK: Let me just say that what Al said just confirms that with all this is an attempt to demonize the Cuban-American community in Florida, make them look bad so we can have normalized relations with Castro. That's what it's about.

SHIELDS: That's what it's about, Bob? OK, thanks, Bob. Next on CAPITAL GANG, strange bedfellows protesting.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Union members demonstrating against permanent trade relations with China heard from political leaders.


REP. DAVID BONIOR (D-MI), MINORITY WHIP: We're for an America where no working mom or dad ever lays awake at night worrying what's going to happen to their family because their job, their paycheck, and their future was ripped off, boxed up and shipped away to some factory in China.

PAT BUCHANAN (REF.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You stop threatening my country or you guys have sold your last pair of chopsticks in any mall in the United States of America.


SHIELDS: Also in Washington, protesters are seeking to disrupt International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings.


HAN SHAN, MOBILIZATION FOR GLOBAL JUSTICE: There are thousands of people of conscience who are going to hit the streets with a very specific mandate: to shut down these meetings and send a very clear message.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, what are these demonstrations trying to achieve?

HUNT: Well, Mark, I'm disappointed. I watched last week's show. Bob said he might go and demonstrate. I wanted to see Bob out there today with the Mad Anarchist League and the Institute to Eliminate Genocide and Poverty. I thought you'd feel quite naturally -- natural out there, Bob, so I'm disappointed.

Look, there are serious people among these dissidents and they make a serious point about globalization, in which there has been a spreading of the income disparity both among countries and among people. Unless you have Bob Novak's glorification of economic Darwinism, that is a serious problem.

But, Mark, those that want to either deny the reality of globalization or don't appreciate the fact that on balance it is a clear plus -- the economy, the world's economy, is going to grow 4.2 percent this year, fastest in more than a decade -- are either Luddites or demagogues and they will hurt their cause. SHIELDS: But, Bob, a big majority of Americans, according to "Business Week"'s survey, are concerned that the U.S. trade policies have essentially ignored the concerns of U.S. workers, of the environment and of slave labor and forced labor around the world.

NOVAK: They're ignorant, people who think that.

First place, the labor demonstration was the labor movement at its worst. It was demagoguery, talking about boxing off people -- jobs and sending them off to China. What nonsense.

Now the other demonstration against the IMF and the World Bank were doing the right thing for the wrong reason. Those are terrible organizations and waste taxpayers' money, but these people are anti- growth and they are Luddite, Al. And these are young people who regret they weren't born in the Vietnam War and are trying to make up for it.

SHIELDS: Charlie.

BLACK: Well, Mark, look, the fact is that these demonstrations might encourage President Clinton to change his position on behalf of free trade, like he did in Seattle when he tempered his position on GATT because of the demonstrations. And that would be too bad. American workers have better jobs with higher pay due to exports. We want to open trade to as many countries as we can so we can have more exports. We get prosperity, plus they get prosperity. Trade and the free enterprise system are working. Everybody in the world -- except in Cuba and Al Hunt -- know that. The private enterprise system works.

HUNT: Charlie -- Charlie, I came out for free trade.

SHIELDS: He just came put for free trade, Charlie.

HUNT: You missed it, Charlie.

SHIELDS: Charlie, you're under that damned cloud again, Charlie.

CARLSON: Yes, yes, it's so easy -- wait.

SHIELDS: Go ahead.

CARLSON: It's so easy to make fun of these protesters. You know, no more structural debt doesn't have the ring of give peace a chance. It seems, you know, what are we doing here? And, Bob, I meant to bring you my love beads.

But, you know, free trade should be tempered. And if the Democrats remember their promise to their base, which is working people -- listen, we're going to have this unfettered capitalism and globalization, but we're going to cushion the blow to those of you who aren't going to get on this gravy train.

NOVAK: Why do you hate capitalism?

CARLSON: I'm not...

BLACK: Free markets get them on the gravy train.

CARLSON: No, the cost of unfettered capitalism is some protection for people...

SHIELDS: All right, let's just get what...

CARLSON: ... and some protection for workers, which has been ignored.

SHIELDS: Let me just end the line what Margaret said. Let's get one thing very straight. There are all sorts of pledges and promises made at the time of NAFTA about the environment and side agreements and about the workers in Mexico. Today, wages are lower in Mexico, immigration is unchecked, and the environment is a human disgrace.

And that's the last word.

Charlie Black, thanks for being with us.

THE GANG will be back for the "Outrage of the Week."

ANNOUNCER: Our viewer "Outrage of the Week" is from David Epstein. He writes:

"My outrage concerns the lack of knowledge about our Constitution by most of our nation's leaders. Governor Bush and Vice President Gore talk about who will lower or raise taxes once in office. The United States Constitution in Article 1, Section 8 specifies that taxes shall be raised or lowered by the Congress. I would suggest that those seeking office read the Constitution of the United States. They might be surprised at what is says."

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


SHIELDS: And now for the "Outrage of the Week."

Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition, has been a key paid adviser to George W. Bush's presidential campaign, most essentially in the critical South Carolina primary. But now, thanks to "The New York Times," we learn that Ralph Reed's firm has also been hired by Microsoft, the high-tech giant, to recruit senior Bush supporters around the country to lobby Governor Bush on behalf of Microsoft. After this arrangement was exposed, Ralph Reed did not quit the Microsoft account and the Bush campaign did not drop Ralph Reed. Conflict of interest, anyone?

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Hard to believe what Federal Trade Commission Chairman Robert Pitofsky planned to do Thursday. He's a leading federal regulator of high-tech companies, but he agreed to appear at a meeting of high-tech executives who paid at least $25,000 each to elect Democratic senators. Chairman Pitofsky said he didn't know the meeting was limited to Democratic donors and saw nothing wrong with it, canceling, he said, only because of controversy. Pitofsky may be stupid, but the Democrats show they haven't learned anything from the Clinton scandals.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson?


Fearing for her life, Esta Pierre fled Haiti for Florida in 1993 on a fake passport. She scrubbed toilets for a living, married and had two children. Now, threatened with deportation, she faces a horrible choice: take her children, American by birthright, back with her or leave them to the better life she's made for them. As we obsess over one boy, the government is about to destroy the thousands of Haitian families. Esta's children's only crime is not to have been born in Cuba, like Elian.


HUNT: All three of you were right, Mark.

HUNT: In one front-page "New York Times" story yesterday, the American Federation of Teachers, after years of resisting tough standards for new teachers, finally is supporting this much-needed reform. In another front-page "Times" piece, it was revealed that Smith & Wesson, the gun manufacturer, is trying to weasel out of a gun safety deal that it cut last month to avoid lawsuits. Cheers for the teachers. And if Smith & Wesson doesn't keep its word, let's hope its legal adversaries show no mercy.

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

Next on CNN's "SPORTS TONIGHT," reports on the pro football draft.



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