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Inside Politics

Columbine Anniversary Sparks Presidential Campaign Dialogue; McCain Tells GOP: Change or Lose; Reno Faces Pressure for Immediate Reunion

Aired April 20, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But if we are serious in the aftermath of the...



GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... horrible incident that took place in Columbine...



GORE: ... we have to stand up to the NRA and the gun industry.



BUSH: ... teach our children character.


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: One year after a school shooting that stunned the nation, personal tributes and a presidential campaign dialogue.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Also ahead, John McCain -- is he eager to utter a line some moms bandy about? And who would be the target of his "I told you so?"



JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can't think she's going to have much of an impact on the race, unless they run Malibu Barbie, and then maybe California will be impacted. Beyond that...


SHAW: Sorry, Joe, but Barbie's handlers say she's not only running for the White House, she's playing to win.

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Judy Woodruff and Bernard Shaw.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. On this first anniversary of the shooting rampage at Columbine High, many people in Colorado and others across the nation have been clinging to one another and to the hope that nothing like it ever happens again. That hope has helped make Columbine a reference point, and a rallying point, in the political debate about school violence. Both Al Gore and George W. Bush marked today's anniversary by underscoring their different proposals to try to keep students safe.

We begin with Bush's remarks in Texas and our national political correspondent Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cater Elementary School in Central Texas teaches universal values through a program called "Character First." It was here that George W. Bush came to mark the first anniversary of Columbine.

GEORGE: We can pass all the laws we want, but the problem is, what government can't do is to make people love one another. The great false hope it seems like to me in the past is that all we have to do is have the government will pass a law and everything will be fine.

CROWLEY: For Bush, violence in America is not as much a matter of the law as heart. On matters of the heart, Bush has called for: increased federal funding for character education grants, the incorporation of character building lessons into federal youth programs and more vigilant parenting.

GEORGE: If you're a mom and dad, you've got to be responsible for loving your children; and if you've got a son or daughter who's wandering through the dark dungeons of evil on the Internet, pay attention to your child.

CROWLEY: On the matter of law, Bush favors instant background checks at gun shops and gun shows. He says he would sign a bill to require trigger locks to be sold with guns, and he also favors a lifetime ban on gun possession for any juvenile found guilty of a serious gun or violent offense. But Bush's emphasis is on making existing laws count for something.

BUSH: It is important for the next administration to do something a little differently, and that is to enforce laws on the books, federal laws.

CROWLEY: Still, at the core of it, Bush sees the antidote against future Columbines not in the law, but in leadership, from teachers, from parents, from presidents.

BUSH: Can we change a culture? And can we teach children right from wrong? And the answer is absolutely. This is America we're talking about. This is a country that can achieve anything, given the right perspective and the right leadership.

CROWLEY: Which begs the question whether the man who wants to head the next administration thinks the current one has helped the nation's character.

BUSH: The president has disappointed us, has disappointed a lot of Americans.

Candy Crowley, CNN.


SHAW: As he has before, Vice President Gore took issue today with Bush's approach to combating school violence, but Gore also found reason to compliment his Republican rival.

CNN's Frank Buckley covered Gore's appearance in New Jersey.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The vice president of the United States.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vice President Al Gore was at New Jersey's Fort Lee High School on the one-year anniversary of the violence at Columbine High, Gore saying the issue of youth violence was a complex problem that did not have what he called an easy answer. But the Democratic presidential candidate said stricter gun controls are part of it.

GORE: One of the lessons of Columbine is that we have to stand up to the NRA and the gun industry, and get guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them in our society.

BUCKLEY: Gore was also critical of his Republican opponent, George W. Bush, for signing legislation as governor of Texas which allows Texas residents to carry concealed weapons with a permit. And Gore said that while he cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate on legislation to close the so-called gun show loophole, a measure that called for a three-day waiting period, Bush supported an NRA-backed measure that provides for instant background checks.

GORE: More than one of the guns used in Columbine was purchased at a gun show. Now why wouldn't we close that loophole? I voted to close that loophole. And as I said, my opponent has said that he would have been against closing that loophole. What gives? What gives?

BUCKLEY: Gore said confronting youth violence would require a variety of efforts, from decreasing access to guns, to increasing investment in after-school programs, to better support for parents. Gore recalling what the parent of one student killed in Columbine said to him.

GORE: He said, "Promise me that these children have not died in vain," and then after a moment's pause, he repeated with urgency and force, "Promise me." And as any of you would have done, I said "I promise."

BUCKLEY: In a rare moment, Gore applauded Governor Bush for something, saying he should be congratulated for promoting character education. But then Gore suggested that Bush's approach was too simple.

GORE: But if we are serious in the aftermath of Columbine, we have to make some serious changes.


BUCKLEY: Gore's comments today were targeted to hit what his campaign considers a vulnerable spot for Governor Bush. That is Bush's position on gun control. While positions on gun control have not received a great deal of weight from voters in past presidential elections, at least one recent poll suggested that a majority of voters said a candidate's position on gun control will be an important factor on who they choose as president -- Bernie.

SHAW: Frank, how does the vice president regard, say, New Jersey in the fall election?

BUCKLEY: Well, New Jersey is widely considered one of the swing states in the this election, one of five states, including Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. And so the vice president is certainly doing his best to target this state. This is a state with a growing number of undecided voters and independent voters. It's a state where you have a Republican governor and two Democrat senators, so voters have shown they'll go either way. It's the ninth most populous state, so both sides are really going after this state.

SHAW: OK, thank you, Frank Buckley.

We're joined now by Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times."

Ron, can voters immediately see the difference in these two candidates' positions on gun control?

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Yes, Bernie, I think that in a year, where on a lot of issues the two candidates are converging and blurring the differences on questions like education, for instance, guns is an area where they are quite distinct. I mean, Al Gore, as president, would pursue a more ambitious gun control agenda than Bill Clinton has pursued with great political cost already. Gore talks things like photo licensing for all gun owners, limiting purchases to one a month, raising the age of handgun ownership, making it 21, as well as the package of things that are stalled in Congress.

Now Bush has tried to, you know, narrow the distance on some of these issue. For instance, I think he also supports raising the age of handgun ownership. But gun control would not be a central priority of his administration. And in Texas, being part of the belt of states where the gun culture has been historically quite strong, he has been much more supportive of NRA-type priorities.

SHAW: Well, let's got to something that Frank Buckley just alluded to. Regionally, how does this issue play in the key battleground states? Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey and Michigan, of course?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, I think one of the things that's really interesting about the gun issue and is quite striking about the gun issue is that it has enormous crosscurrents and fractures in it. Men and women differ on the priorities they put on. You see the public supporting more gun control initiatives, maybe the more traditional left position. But at the same time, being dubious that they will have as much affect as the proponents believe, which is the more of the NRA position. And above all, you have big regional distinctions.

The gun issue -- gun control is a very powerful force along the coast. In a state like New Jersey, I think it is very difficult for a candidate who is seen as pro-gun, especially if abortion is thrown in there, they're seen as anti-abortion, very hard in places like New Jersey or California, along the coast. But inland, the issue is much different; in much of the South, and certainly the Rocky Mountain states, and even in parts of the industrial Midwest, places like Pennsylvania, the issue is much less potent.

So I think that to the extent that the gun issue is prominent, along with a number of other sort of cultural wedge issues in 2000, it tends to accelerate or exacerbate the regional and cultural divides we already see emerging in these election as the two candidates build their strongholds.

SHAW: And as we look to the fall and the run-up to the fall election, November 8, how important do you think the NRA will be?

BROWNSTEIN: The NRA is an enormously effective institutional force in American politics, no question about it. In states where they have a presence, they can be a factor. I think Pennsylvania is going to be one to look at. That's a swing state, where the sentiment on guns is much less one-sided than it is some other places. You had a pro-gun Democrat win that Senate primary there, for instance, a few months ago. I do think the way guns -- historically, you know, the idea has been that only people who oppose gun control vote on the issue. I think that's obsolete now.

I think that guns are part of a complex of issues along with abortion, environment, perhaps education, in which voters sort of put all of this together and tend to get a sense of whether this candidate is someone like me or not, and in that sense it is a risk for Bush along the coast. I think it does make a place like California, New Jersey, a lot harder than it would be than if he wasn't on the concealed carry side of the argument.

At the same time, I do think that Gore's very aggressive stance on gun control are probably going to add to his difficulties and holding places like Kentucky and Louisiana who are on the other side of this cultural divide that Bill Clinton managed to win in '96.

SHAW: Well, you've given us a lot to think about. But let me come full circle by saying Bush, Gore, who will prevail on this issue?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, quite strikingly, I think that right now, you know, you look at the polling, they both come out pretty even when you ask who is better able to handle the issue of guns. I think that regionally -- as I said, that polling masks big regional divisions on the issue.

In the end, I think it is probably more of a problem for Bush than Gore, because there are states that Bush would like to contest, New Jersey I think being a prime example, where it is very hard to see a anti-gun control pro-life Republican has a lot of hurtles to overcome. I mean, you have -- Christie Todd Whitman is the governor there, but she's on the opposite side of both of those issues. Illinois is another one.

There are states where Gore's gun-control position could be a problem for him, but they are not as prominent as the ones where it is for Bush. Though, let me just add quickly, Bernie, that the key -- very key swing states of Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, Pennsylvania, inland states, heartland states where this issue is not as prominent are probably the ones where Bush has the best chance of getting to 270.

SHAW: Ron Brownstein, "The Los Angeles Times," thanks very much.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

SHAW: You're welcome.

And still ahead here on INSIDE POLITICS: the campaign coffers of the White House hopefuls. We'll have more of that in a moment.


WOODRUFF: George W. Bush is scheduled to meet with former rival John McCain next month, and Bush has made a clear effort to reach out to McCain supporters. Yesterday, McCain spoke to a South Carolina audience and he called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the state house. But was there a deeper message?

Our Bill Schneider joins us now with the answer -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, McCain's speech in South Carolina was really addressed to the Republican Party. The message was, change or lose. It's the same message McCain tried to sell in the primaries. But the party sent McCain a message back, we don't want to change that much. How can McCain get the GOP to listen?


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): It usually takes three losses for a party to figure out that something is really wrong with its message. Democrats lost with Jimmy Carter in 1980, and then with Walter Mondale in 1984. When they nominated Michael Dukakis in 1988, Democrats honestly believed they were moving to the center.


MICHAEL DUKAKIS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because this election is not about ideology, it's about competence.


SCHNEIDER: But it didn't take the voters long to figure out that Dukakis was not the real thing. The Democrats had nominated another out of the mainstream liberal. Republicans gave them some help in reaching that conclusion.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who opposes capital punishment in all cases and even vetoed the death penalty for cop killers?

Michael Dukakis.


SCHNEIDER: After three losses, Democrats finally got the message. This isn't working, the party has to change, and lo and behold a candidate came along with just that message. This year, Al Gore intends to expose George W. Bush as an out of the mainstream right-wing conservative. If it works and Republicans lose for a third time, they might just get the message, this isn't working, the party has to change.

That happens to be John McCain's message. It's George W. Bush's message too, in a way. He says he's a compassionate conservative. Bush has always kept a distance from hard-line conservatives, he endorses their issues, but he embraces their adversaries.

BUSH: Well, I say to them I welcome gay Americans into my campaign. But I want the Republicans, conservative Republicans to understand that we judge people based upon their heart and soul, that's what the campaign is about, and while we disagree on gay marriage, for example, we agree on a lot of other issues and it's important for people to hear that.

SCHNEIDER: But is that enough? Al Gore will say no and point to Bush's positions on hate crimes and guns and abortion and the Confederate flag. When it comes to moving the GOP to the center, McCain sounds like the real thing. He even says he wants to do for the Republicans what Clinton did for the Democrats.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: You can't help but admire the job that President Clinton did in assembling coalitions, moving to attract the great center in American politics.

SCHNEIDER: To conservatives, the great center is the great Satan. They believe Republicans lost in 1992 and '96 not because the party's message was too conservative, but because it wasn't conservative enough.

STEVE FORBES (R), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Twice they have lost, and if we allow ourselves to be seduced by the siren song of these mushy moderates, make no mistake, they will take us down to defeat again.

SCHNEIDER: But Republicans rejected Forbes, too, this year. They believe nominating Bush makes the right statement. Sure we want to move back to the center, a little, at least that's what's in our hearts.


SCHNEIDER: If Bush loses, McCain's case will be made. Bush was not the real thing. He was the Republican's Dukakis. After three losses in a row, Republicans might be ready to listen to McCain. He'd become "Mr. I told you so" -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

And I think we're going to Bernie.

SHAW: OK, thanks, Judy.

There is still much more ahead on INSIDE POLITICS.

Coming up: the White House weighs in as the attorney general considers the next move in the case of Elian Gonzalez.

And later...


MARIE C. WILSON, PRESIDENT, WHITE HOUSE PROJECT: Barbie is running a clean campaign, she is winning fair and square.


SHAW: Move over Bush and Gore, there's a new candidate in this race. A look at one doll's quest for political greatness.



BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: We will have more of this day's political news coming up. Now a look at some other top stories.

Updating a story we told you about earlier, it was a day of remembrance in Littleton, Colorado, a day to reflect on the 15 people who lost their lives at Columbine High School one year ago today. On April 20th, 1999, two students carried out the worst school shooting in United States history, killing 12 students and a teacher before taking their own lives. At least 2,500 people gathered today at a community remembrance service near the school. They listened as a bell tolled for each victim. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cassie Bernall, Steven Curnow, Corey DePooter, Kelly Fleming, Matthew Kechter, Daniel Mauser, Daniel Rohrbough, Dave Sanders, Rachel Scott, Isaiah Shoels, John Tomlin, Lauren Townsend, Kyle Velasquez, may they rest in peace forever and ever.


SHAW: A candlelight vigil will be held tonight.

Now for an update on the April 8th crash of an MV-22 Osprey which killed all 19 Marines onboard. The Marine Corps said today it still has no idea what caused this crash. None of the preliminary data points to the two most likely causes of the crash, pilot error or mechanical malfunction. Still, the Marines say nothing has been ruled out at this stage.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright lunches with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. The two met at her Georgetown home to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Mr. Arafat is now meeting with President Clinton. State Department spokesman James Rubin says Arafat is being asked to work harder on compromises. Rubin says Israeli President Ehud Barak was told the same thing in meetings last week.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns, a discussion of the political pressures coming to bear on Janet Reno because of the Elian Gonzalez case.


WOODRUFF: George W. Bush and Al Gore are filing their latest campaign finances reports with the Federal Election Commission in advance of today's deadline, but the latest figures reveal some interesting trends in the way the presidential candidates are managing their coffers.

Our Jonathan Karl now looks at the hard count to find out which candidate has a financial advantage.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even more remarkable than George W. Bush's ability to raise money is his ability to spend it. Despite breaking all fund-raising records on his way to becoming the $80 million man, Bush's spending has erased his cash advantage over Al Gore.

Although Bush has raised more than $80 million, he has spent more than $73 million, leaving him with just $6.8 million in the bank. The Bush campaign expects to raise another $4 million before this summer's party convention. He'll need it. Since the beginning of the year, Bush has depleted his war chest at the rate of $2.8 million per week. In contrast, Gore has spent $1.1 million per week. Gore has raised a total of $41.5 million, about half as much as Bush, but he has also spent about half as much, leaving him with $3.8 million in the bank. But add in federal matching funds Gore is expected to receive, and his campaign has $9.8 million to spend between now and the summer's Democratic convention, and Gore expects bring in another $2 million.

And Gore has something else going for him. Democrats are beating Republicans at the soft money game. The Democratic national, congressional and senatorial committees all have more cash on hand than the Republican counterparts. Add them all up, and the advantage is considerable. The Democratic committees have $68.8 million in the bank, compared to just $45 million for the Republican campaign committees.

(on camera): Republicans strategists say they can quickly erase the Democratic soft money advantage. For evidence, they point to next week's Republican fund-raiser, featuring George Bush. The gala is expected to bring in $15 million in a single night.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: Joining us now, Democratic consultants Peter Fenn and Scott Reed, the former campaign manager for Bob Dole.

Gentlemen, thank you for being with us.

Scott Reed, you've run a presidential campaign. You look at these numbers, what do these numbers tell you about the relative strength of these candidates?

SCOTT REED, FMR. DOLE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, to begin with, Al Gore is in a little bit of a jam, because the Bush campaign made a decision about a year ago that they were not going to take federal matching funds, so they can raise and spend whatever they want. Gore is about to run up against this ceiling on how much he can and can't spend. He will still be able to go out and raise soft money, lots of union money. Hopefully, it will be from the United States this time around, but he's really bumping up against this ceiling, which is something that the Bush campaign does not have a problem with.

WOODRUFF: So even though Jonathan was reporting that Gore is going to have about almost $10 million to spend between now and the convention, you're saying he's still at a disadvantage here?

REED He is, because Bush is going to be able to raise $4 million or $5 million a month to add on to what he already has now to spend. And the important point of time in this period is now is when you go out and try to take a few states and put them in play for the general election, which means spending big dollars on advertising. And Bush is going to will have a slight advantage now, because he's going to be able to go out and pick a state or two, be able to go on the air, and try to move that into the leaning-Republican side before the big party convention this summer. WOODRUFF: Peter Fenn, is that the way you see it?

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Not at all. I mean, if someone had come to me and said last December that we were going to be even, that it looked like we were going to have about the same amount of money between now and the convention, I would have said you're from another planet. I mean, the fact is that we all were terrified last fall that the $80 million man was going to have a lot of money left over, was going to use it in advertising in the spring and early summer against Al Gore, negative ads, and we knew that game from four years ago.

You know, the fact is now that they're going to have about the same amount of money. Look, George W. may raise a few more dollars between now and the convention, but in the end, I think you're going to see this as it's very, very even.

WOODRUFF: Scott Reed, one thing that's striking here is that Bush $73 million of the $80, twice as much as Gore. What has he spent that money on?

REED: At least first of all, the nomination fight that they thought they were gliding to turned out to be the fight of the century, probably the most contested race the Republican Party has had in 30 or 40 years. He's a lot of it on advertising, he's spent a lot in March, because they still had to contest John McCain through the early part of March, when Gore did not have that problem. Right now, they're in a retooling phase. They're looking at how they spent their money. Clearly, all candidates look back and they see they'd made some mistakes on their spend, and the good news is they have time to get it together before you get to the main event.

FENN: I'm not sure that money is going to be that big factor, to be honest with you, in the next six months, I really don't think so, because once they hit the convention -- of course, they both take federal funds, they both have equal amounts to spend, there will be soft money in this campaign. But you know, Al Gore has said he's not going to spend any soft money, he's not going to do any ads until George W. Bush goes up. He's not going to be the first one out there. And I think that's going to be a big issue in the next several months, and you know, George W. is showing no signs of it.

The other point I would make, Scott, is that the overhead for George W. Bush is a lot higher than Al Gore's overhead, and he's got four more months before that convention. He's going to spend a lot of money.

WOODRUFF: Is that going to stay that way, Scott Reed?

REED: I believe it is. They've built up a campaign to a point where they're probably burning $300,000, $400,000, $500,000 a week on overhead. They're used to it. They're traveling around the country very aggressively. You know, Gore has an advantage. He gets to travel around on Air Force II. These are official events when he's doing all these events with schoolchildren all over the place, and that gives him an advantage, nothing we can't deal with is what the Republicans recognize. That's one of his big assets.

WOODRUFF: If the money is fairly even, as Peter is saying, does that work to anyone's disadvantage? Did either one of these guys really need to have a lot more money?

FENN: Well, I think that the Bush campaign and the Republicans had thought initially that they were going to have enough money to do to Gore in a sense what Clinton did to Gore last time, which is run those ads in the spring. They're not going to be there. They're not going to have that money. So it's going to be about issues now.

REED: I would agree. Money is the least important issue right now. It's each candidate going out, uniting his party, pulling the team together, setting up the issues on how they want to run the campaign, especially in these key battleground states.

WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you both that final question then: What are the main challenges for these candidates? If you just set money aside, if you well, Peter Fenn, what's the main challenge for Al Gore?

FENN: I think Al Gore would like to have George W. Bush in a debate for the next four months, for the next six months, until November, about the key issues, about education, about gun control, about health care. I mean, 38 percent of the American people right now...

WOODRUFF: Is that going to happen?

FENN: Well, there would be some form of debate. I mean, I think...

WOODRUFF: You mean, literally debating?

FENN: I think literally debates. I'm not sure that George W. is going to agree with that. But you know, we'll raise the issues. We'll push this out, and I think right now, 38 percent of the American people think that there's not much difference on these two folks on the issues. There is a lot of differences, and we want to make sure that they understand it.

WOODRUFF: Scott Reed, what's the main challenge facing George W. Bush?

REED: The main challenge -- polls us this week show that 89 percent of Republicans are now supporting George Bush. That's a number as a candidate you hope to get when you leave convention, not in April, so he's ahead of the poll right now. They last three weeks, they've been out laying out issues in a substantive way. Al Gore has been hiding from the press. He has a huge problem with the national press corps right now, that he won't go out and speak to them, won't have a speak conference, hasn't had a press conference in 60 days. That's starting to snowball out there.

WOODRUFF: So you're saying Bush has no challenge then? REED: No, Bush's challenge is to continue and go out and put meat on his bones, like he's doing, and talk about issues so he gets to be known.

WOODRUFF: Scott Reed, Peter Fenn, thank you. It's only just begun.

FENN: It's only just begun.

WOODRUFF: Thank you both.

And INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


WOODRUFF: New pressure on the Clinton administration today from the father of Elian Gonzalez. More than an hour ago in Maryland, Juan Miguel Gonzalez called on the American people to contact the president and the attorney general, Janet Reno, and to press for an immediate reunion of father and son.


JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ, ELIAN GONZALEZ'S FATHER (through translator): My son is only a 6-year-old child. He is a son like any other son or child that the Americans may have. He is no different. So anyone who has any feelings, and who truly knows what the love of a parent for a child is, please help me. Don't let people put politics before all of this. It's simply a father and his child. I just simply want help. Thank you.


WOODRUFF: That plea came a day after a federal appeals court extended an order to keep 6-year-old Elian in the United States. Attorney General Reno has said the ruling does not prevent her from having Elian removed from the home of his Miami relatives and reunited with his father in this country. A senior Justice Department official says Reno has been reviewing the ruling today and "all options remain on the table."

To get the White House perspective on all this we turn now to CNN's Major Garrett -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Judy, well, White House officials are receiving regular updates on the situation from the Justice Department. And publicly, their position on the case can be summarized two ways: that Elian should be reunited with his father in a prompt and orderly fashion; and number two, that nothing in the appellate court announcement yesterday should cause any anxiety among the Miami relatives as to what will become of Elian if he is transferred to his father. That is to say he will not be rushed off to Cuba before the legal process has run its course.

Also, senior White House officials are awaiting word from the Justice Department on various efforts underway to bring about that reunification of Elian with his father. In the meantime, press attention on this case develops and intensifies day by day. Meanwhile, the White House wants to remain circumscribed in its public position, doesn't want to say too much, doesn't want to fuel the fire. That conflict prompted some testy exchanges in today's White House briefing with press secretary Joe Lockhart.


QUESTION: You said that the president recognizes that there is a tension between his two goal and having this resolved promptly and orderly. First of all, what does he mean? And secondly, what scenario does he fear most at this point?

JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I am not going to go down the road of speculating about particular parts of this process or scenarios.

QUESTION: Well, wait a second, I mean, I'm asking I think a fair question.

LOCKHART: That may be a fair question which I am not going to answer. Next.


GARRETT: Next, indeed. Well, the White House is monitoring what's going on at the Justice Department, like I said, almost on an hourly basis looking for hope that this situation can be resolved, as the president has said, orderly and promptly. But as the White House concedes, there is a tension between that and they'll see how it sorts itself out -- Shaw.

SHAW: Thank you, Major Garrett at the White House.

Now, more on the Gonzalez case with an eye toward Janet Reno's dilemma. We are joined by David Vise of "The Washington Post."

David, for context, how much did the Waco disaster affect or influence this attorney general?

DAVID VISE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, Bernard, the Waco debacle seven years ago this week in which 75 people perished in a fire has had a dominating influence on Janet Reno's thinking. In that situation, she relied heavily on the FBI and other experts. She went off to give a speech in Baltimore even as the fire was taking place. And the lesson that she learned from that what was that when matters of life and death were at stake, she needed to get deeply and personally involved.

SHAW: How is her decision-making process affecting her staff, people at Justice?

VISE: People at Justice are up in arms at the moment. There is a great deal of disagreement among the attorney general's senior staff about the best way to proceed. There were very, very large questions about the attorney general's decision last week to fly to Miami to try to mediate the situation herself. And even those who are working most closely with Janet Reno remain unsure of what she will do next.

SHAW: Does she have the clout? Does she have the president's backing?

VISE: She was reassured aboard Air Force-1 in a private conversation with President Clinton Wednesday night that she has his support. She has it privately. What we haven't seen, Bernard, is we haven't seen President Clinton publicly come forward and say, I am the president of the United States and I am directing the attorney general to take the following action." That is something we haven't seen yet that we have seen some past presidents do in tense situations such as this one.

SHAW: Now, David Vise, strategically, what is this attorney general's prime problem right now?

VISE: Her prime problem right now is, how does she reunite father and son. How does she make good on the promise she made to that boy's father to reunite him with his son without provoking any violence, without provoking a riot in Miami? And Attorney General Janet Reno is especially sensitive to this question and this dilemma, because she is a former prosecutor in Miami and she lived through and saw riots in Miami that followed some unsuccessful prosecutions in which she had involvement.

SHAW: Is she too close to this case?

VISE: Well, there are some at Justice who think she is too close to the case. Janet Reno herself doesn't think so, but there are those who think that based on Waco and based on Miami, that she is a bit too close. The attorney general told me she looks at each and every individual case, including this one, on its own merits, and she is not being unduly influenced by any of the other elements that others are mentioning.

At the same time, the attorney general has conceded that even she is not sure she is handling this matter correctly. The one thing she is sure of, Bernard, is that she believes that there is a bond between father and son and she is absolutely determined to find a way to reunite them.

SHAW: And very quickly, do you think she will act sooner or later?

VISE: I think she will act at what she believes is the most opportune moment. I think they are -- she has today been with her top aides, with her senior advisers, talking with officials inside and outside the government about the best way to remove the child from that house while provoking the least violence, and they're looking for the most opportune moment to move. That could come, as you might imagine, not at 2:00 in the afternoon when they might have to break through a human chain of protesters. Instead, it could come at a moment when others least expect it.

SHAW: Much to think about. Thank you, David Vise of "The Washington Post." And when we return, question: Can one doll make a difference? A look at Barbie's presidential ambitions and the driving force behind her White House bid.


SHAW: Warren Beatty and Donald Trump dangled their little toes in the water, but now a bigger celebrity than either one of them has decided to take the plunge and run for president.

WOODRUFF: CNN's Jeanne Meserve reports on a candidate who is telegenic and has proven appeal for many females and tremendous first name recognition.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With Elizabeth Dole out of the race, you might have thought the chance of electing a woman president this year was nil -- not so. There may not be a Dole in the race, but there is a doll, Barbie.

M.G. LORD, AUTHOR, "FOREVER BARBIE": I've heard her accused of being kind of stiff and lifeless. But actually, I mean, that hasn't hurt Al Gore.

MESERVE: Barbie's presidential Web site went up on Thursday. Her box, appearing in toy stores May 1st, lays out her platform : equal opportunity, environment, fitness.

One of Barbie's big backers in the race promises she will run like an all-American girl.

WILSON: No attack ads. Barbie is running a clean campaign. She's winning fair and square.

MESERVE: But in some quarters there is skepticism about her chances.

PATRICIA IRELAND, NOW: Barbie would have an uphill battle to assure people that she had a real serious brain and a depth of knowledge on foreign policy, that she new what a throw weight was.

MESERVE: She brings a depth and breadth of experience to her candidacy that few can match. She has been a working woman, a pilot and NASCAR driver, not to mention an Olympic athlete. And as for governing experience, remember, Barbie has been a princess and even a queen.

There is no arguing she would bring a certain va-voom to the White House. She already has the perfect innaugural gown. And just think how she could jazz up those state dinners.


SHAW: Sorry we had to interrupt Jeanne Meserve's Barbie doll story, and Judy and I will be back at the top of the hour with "WORLDVIEW."

Thanks for joining us.



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