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Gore Attacks Bush Tax Plan; Bush Stresses Bipartisanship in Ohio; Republican Leaders Propose Hearings on Elian GonzalezAired April 25, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that George W. Bush's entire economic agenda is built on a foundation of irresponsibility and risk.
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JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore punches up his effort to poke holes in George W. Bush's economic plan.
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GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a man who speech after speech after speech exaggerates the numbers the size of my tax relief program, and I'm not going to let him get away with that.
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WOODRUFF: Are Gore's attacks on bush on target or off base? We'll check the facts.
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SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: We don't need more politics in the Elian Gonzalez case.
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SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: I felt like a number of the questions were not adequately answered.
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WOODRUFF: The attorney general's trip to Capitol Hill doesn't stop Senate leaders from scheduling hearings on the Elian Gonzalez case.
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff.
WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Bernie is on assignment.
Al Gore has been calling George W. Bush's tax plan a "risky scheme" for months, but now that Bush has added detail to his economic vision, Gore is fleshing out his line of attack. In the process, the vice president may be hoping to sharpen his presidential campaign.
Our Jeanne Meserve covered Gore's speech today in New York.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Al Gore put a little muscle and steel into what has been a rather lethargic campaign, contrasting his economic plan with what he called the "fiscal fiction" of his Republican opponent.
GORE: I believe that George W. Bush's entire economic agenda is built on a foundation of irresponsibility and risk.
MESERVE: Gore claims Bush's tax cut plan would cost $2.1 trillion over 10 years, bigger, he says, "than anything Newt Gingrich ever tried to get away with." It's implementation, Gore said, would have dire consequences.
GORE: The Bush tax plan could shatter confidence in our economy, sending a message to the world that in a George W. Bush administration, the era of fiscal responsibility would be over. That could raise interest rates, hurt investment, put our property at risk, and drive us into inflation and recession.
MESERVE: Gore described his own economic policy as consistent, conservative, responsible. Gore says he would balance the budget every year without using Social Security surpluses, retiring the debt by 2013.
The Bush plan, he says, would result in exploding deficits and put Social Security and Medicare in jeopardy.
Gore, of course, did not neglect to give the Clinton/Gore team credit for these good economic times. Likewise, he did not neglect to mention the economic legacy of his opponent's father.
GORE: Should we really go back to the politics of illusion? After emerging from the Bush/Quayle deficits and recessions, should we really risk a George W. Bush deficit and a George W. Bush recession?
MESERVE: Gore says Bush has been engaged in what he calls a "post-primary search for rehabilitation." Bush has certainly proposed a number of new programs, which have moved him closer to the center of the political spectrum.
Has Gore given Bush too much time to redefine and reposition himself? Campaign officials say, "no."
CHRIS LEHANE, GORE CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: George W. Bush ran the "Seinfeld" of campaigns for a long time, a campaign about nothing. Now, over the last several weeks, he finally put out some ideas and thoughts. Now we can compare those.
MESERVE: Expect the same sort of rhetoric on different sorts of issues in the days to come. Gore will be drawing distinctions between himself and Bush on health care, on education, on crime, on global policy -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Jeanne, if memory serves, this is not the first time Gore's used this lean of attack, is it?
MESERVE: That's right. We saw it during the primary season, when he went after Bill Bradley, starting with Bradley's record on flood relief for Iowa farmers and on from there. It was successful in that instance. In part, because Bradley was slow to respond to Gore's characterizations and attacks. We expect George W. Bush will be a little bit faster out of the gate -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Jeanne Meserve, reporting from New York.
George W. Bush did some comparing and contrasting of his own while talking economics in Ohio today.
As our Candy Crowley explains, Bush portrayed himself as "Mr. Bipartisan" and characterized Gore as a nasty naysayer.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Al Gore ripped apart his tax plan, George Bush was in Ohio talking about helping low- income Americans put aside money for a home or business.
BUSH: As opposed to dedicating a speech trying to tear him down, I talked about a speech how to lift people up, how to give people a chance to save. That's how I spent my morning.
CROWLEY: It is kind of a political version of good cop/bad cop, an attempt to frame Al Gore as a divisive, negative kind of politician who contributes to Washington gridlock, and George Bush as a positive, upbeat politician who can make things happen.
Those four guys yukking it up with George Bush are former or current Texas lawmakers. More to the point, they are Democrats.
BUSH: The reason they're here is it sends a signal to America about the kind of president I'll be, somebody who's willing to work with both Republicans and Democrats.
CROWLEY: And with that, the news conference turned into a testimonial by Texas Democrats who have worked with the Republican governor.
HUGO BELANGO (D), FMR. TEXAS STATE REP.: He was extremely inclusive. He was an extremely good listener. He was willing to disagree without being disagreeable, and that meant you don't go out publicly and start bashing each other, which is a lot of what we see in Washington these days.
CROWLEY: Democrats who have passed bills with him:
KEN ARMBRISTER (D), TEXAS STATE SENATE: Let's look at the Texas record under this man's leadership, and let me emphasize leadership. We rewrote the education code in Texas the first time in 45 years.
CROWLEY: And democrats who support his campaign:
ROB JUNELL (D), TEXAS STATE HOUSE: You match the record of the vice president and you match the powers that the vice president has with the powers that our governors in the state of Texas have, and I'll take George W. Bush each and every time.
CROWLEY: The four are a part of Bush's spring strategy of laying out both his agenda for the presidency and his Texas record, letting Al Gore go on the attack while Bush stays positive. Well, mostly.
BUSH: Today, I understand Vice President Gore unleashed yet another attack. He's willing to stretch the truth and exaggerate in order to get ahead. He's willing to talk about my budget numbers in terms that just aren't accurate.
CROWLEY: Candy Crowley, CNN.
WOODRUFF: Well, even as Bush tries to deflect Gore's attack, voters may be asking themselves, are the vice president's charges true?
Our Brooks Jackson sorts through Gore's criticism and the nuts and bolts of the Bush economic plan.
BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): According to Al Gore, the economic contrast is sharp and clear. He claims he'd pay off the national debt and George W. Bush wouldn't pay down a penny.
GORE: He provides for no reduction in the debt and no reduction in interest on the debt
JACKSON: But wait, Bush said over and over he won't touch any of the budget surplus generated by Social Security, and that amounts to an automatic $166 billion reduction in the national debt next year alone, and a total $2.3 trillion reduction over the next decade, according to the latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office. It's the biggest budget issue by far in dollar terms, and Gore and Bush actually agree.
But Gore claims Bush has overpromised and won't be able to pay down the debt.
GORE: A risky $2.1 trillion tax scheme.
JACKSON: That $2.1 trillion estimate comes from Citizens for Tax Justice, a liberal-leaning group. Bush says other unnamed experts put the cost at $1.3 trillion. Those estimates are for 10 years. Anything can happen in 10 years.
(on camera): So is there room in the budget for all Bush's proposals? Let's look at five-year figures, which tend to be more solid.
(voice-over): Bush puts the five-year cost of his tax plan at $483 billion. Health care: Bush says he'd add $43 billion in new spending over five years. Military spending: Bush would raise military pay by $1 billion a year. Plus:
BUSH: I will also commit an additional $20 billion to defense research and development.
JACKSON: A total of at least $25 billion in added military spending over five years. And education, Bush would add $13 billion in new federal spending, bringing the total for just those four items alone to $564 billion over five years. To that, add, conservatively, $50 billion in added interest payments on the part of the national debt that would not be paid off, and you get a grand total of $614 billion in Bush promises.
(on camera): So how about it? Is there enough money? Maybe. It depends.
(voice-over): Officially, yes, the Congressional Budget Office projects a non-Social Security surplus of $739 billion over five years, but only if Congress actually makes deep spending cuts needed to meet budget caps agreed to in '93. Even the Bush campaign admits that won't happen. It estimates the five-year surplus at $586 billion. And there won't be nearly enough if federal spending rose just enough to keep up with inflation. In that case, CBO estimates a surplus of only $247 billion.
Does that mean Bush overpromised? Maybe not. His aides say he'll be proposing spending cuts, too, and the red hot economy is bringing in much more tax revenue than CBO expected this year.
(on camera): Whether Bush or Gore are right depends mainly on future economic growth, and Bush clearly is taking a more optimistic view than Gore.
Brooks Jackson, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: Well, for more on the Bush-Gore race and more, let's check in with Bob Novak of the "Chicago Sun-Times."
First of all, Bob, what are you hearing about Al Gore and rumblings in his own party? ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Some of the Democrats I talked to, Judy, are not happy with him on a couple scores. They really -- practically everyone I talked to unhappy that he broke with the president on the Elian Gonzalez case and a factor is that it got him off message. It -- not only was this eclipsing the news, but everything you saw about Al Gore up until this speech today attacking Bush was about Elian Gonzalez and going the wrong way. So they're a little concerned that this very focused candidate was unfocused. But what you see today is the way he's going to campaign always and that's on the attack against Bush.
WOODRUFF: Well, on the subject of Bush, he announced today the formation of his vice presidential advisory committee to be headed by former defense secretary, former Congressman Dick Cheney. What are you hearing about who may or may not be on any list?
NOVAK: The hot item on vice president right now is Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, comes from a key state. He likes Bush, Bush likes Ridge, Ridge is a tax cutter, he's just pushing through the Pennsylvania legislature his sixth tax cut in six years. But -- and Bush really likes him, but it is a prospect fraught with danger, because Governor Ridge is a pro-choice Catholic and for the social conservatives that's worse than a pro-choice non-Catholic. It is a very -- to use a Gore word -- a very risky choice. But Ridge is flying high right now.
WOODRUFF: Bush scheduled to meet with John McCain in about two weeks, in fact, two weeks from today. What are you hearing about the state of their relationship?
NOVAK: The Bush people think it isn't going to amount to much. They don't think they're going to get a formal endorsement from McCain. They don't think they're going to come to any agreements. But the McCain people are a little more positive. They said there can be an endorsement if they agree on campaign finance reform, and I am told that McCain is not pressing for anything like McCain-Feingold, which Governor Bush could never propose, but a much more moderate, simple plan.
Now, the big question is, when the president -- rather when the Governor Bush says, would you like to be considered for vice president, what does John McCain say? Everybody has figured he'll say, no, don't consider me. But I'm not so sure about that and neither are his people. I know that all of McCain's advisers are urging him to please don't say no, say OK, you can consider me, it doesn't mean I will say yes if you offer it to me.
WOODRUFF: And getting back, finally, to Elian Gonzalez, what are you hearing now in the wake of all this, Bob, about White House planning and what was really going on ahead of time?
NOVAK: I am told that the White House resident pollster Mark Penn polled this extensively to the question of, what do the American people want, the little boy reunited with his father? Absolutely. Even if he went back to Cuba, absolutely, even if it meant forcibly taking him from the Miami relatives, absolutely. Now, I'm not saying a pollster -- God forbid -- is making White House policy, but there is no question that before President Clinton gave Attorney General Reno the go-ahead, they knew that the American people was behind that move.
WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Novak, thanks very much, appreciate it.
NOVAK: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: And still ahead on INSIDE -- excuse me -- on INSIDE POLITICS: the Elian Gonzalez case goes to the Hill. Why do some senators feel hearings are in order? A look at the political aftermath of the custody transfer of one little boy.
WOODRUFF: A new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll shows Americans still support the government's action in removing Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives and they support it by almost a 2-1 margin. But some members of Congress feel differently, so much so that next week the Senate Judiciary Committee will convene hearings on the issue.
Our Chris Black reports.
CHRIS BLACK, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senate Republican leaders have called a public hearing for next week to explore the federal government's decision to use force to return Elian Gonzalez to his Cuban father, saying there are too many unanswered questions.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: Why did you use this amount of force at this particular time? Why did it have to be done that day? When negotiations are going on and there is even an indication by some of the independent negotiators that they were making progress, why would you say, all right, it's over, on a particular day, on the Saturday of Easter weekend?
BLACK: The decision came after Attorney General Janet Reno spent almost two hours describing the rapidly deteriorating situation in Miami, leading her to send in federal agents, but she changed no minds.
SEN. CONNIE MACK (R), FLORIDA: I am deeply troubled, horrified as a matter of fact, that our government would use armed force in a family home to remove a 6-year-old child at gunpoint.
BLACK: But another participant said enough is enough.
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: We don't need more politics in the Elian Gonzalez case. We do need some decisions made around here on issues that affect average lives of citizens in this country, such as gun control.
BLACK: Reno told the senators she was convinced the Miami family would never give up the child without a show of force. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chronology was pretty compelling, the chronology of a family that kept changing their agreements, kept saying, we'll talk about this tomorrow, oh, I'm sorry, Uncle Lazaro is tired, he's gone to bed now, maybe come back to us tomorrow, and on and on. She acted as she acted.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: We were told that the real possibility existed that guns were going to be in the house, the real possibility existed that in order to carry out their responsibilities, they would have to use force. They chose to show force in order not to use force, and I think they did it appropriately.
BLACK: Senators described the private meeting as businesslike and cordial.
SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: The tone was about the tone that you would have in a courtroom where there were sharp opinions being held and advocates making their points and cross-examination of statements.
BLACK: One of the Miami family's biggest champions, Bob Smith of New Hampshire says the hearing may be moot, because events are moving faster than Congress can.
SEN. BOB SMITH (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I'm not opposed to hearings. I just don't think at this point they're going to produce very much other than just additional information.
BLACK: Janet Reno told the senators that it was not the government's job to get the warring factions of the Gonzalez family back together, but Senator Lott said that in the upcoming days senators would try to bring peace back to a divided family -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Chris, other than Senator Bob Graham of Florida, are there many Democrats who are opposing the administration on this, and conversely, are there many Republicans who are supporting them?
BLACK: There are very, very few Democrats that have been critical of the Clinton administration. Even Bob Torricelli of New Jersey, who has a large Cuban-American population in his home state, has been quite restrained in his reaction to the events of last weekend. He was also at the meeting today. But he was noticeably absent from the press conferences afterwards.
So I think it's fair to say that the Democratic caucus is quite unified. In fact, Doris Meissner and Eric Holder got a standing ovation from the Democratic caucus during their policy lunch today.
In terms of Republicans, they are a very divided caucus. The number of senators within that caucus that feel passionately about it -- and some do, no question about it -- is rather small. And they haven't been able even to maintain a majority of support within their own caucus. WOODRUFF: All right. CNN's Chris Black at the Capitol, thank you.
Well, joining us now with more on the administration's position on the Elian Gonzales case, our senior White House correspondent, John King -- John.
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, not long after leaving Capitol Hill, the attorney general found herself at the White House. She has not always been a welcome figure among senior Clinton administration officials, not very close to this president throughout the administration. But he made clear at an event designed to discuss proposed hate crimes legislation that when the Senate has these hearings and if the House decides to look into this matter too, that he will not only stand by the attorney general, but that he will aggressively defend the administration's tactics.
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WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would like to commend the attorney general and Deputy Attorney General Holder, the law enforcement and the INS. They had a very, very difficult job to do with no easy choices, and I am grateful that they were able to safely reunite the young boy with his father.
Thank you, ma'am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, about an hour before the president spoke here, the young boy was moved from Andrews Air Force Base to a location elsewhere in Maryland. The president said it was time for the politicians and the media to just let this story go away.
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CLINTON: Now that they have been safely reunited, I believe it's time for all of us, including the media and those of us in public life, to give this family the space it needs to heal its wounds and strengthen its bonds, to work to lessen the pressure on them as the matter goes forward in the courts.
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KING: Yet, earlier in the day, the president's spokesman, Joe Lockhart, continuing the political debate over this, took issue with comments made by the House majority whip, Tom DeLay, and the New York City mayor, who, of course, just happens to be running for Senate against the first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
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JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The House majority whip traveled to Montana yesterday and called federal law enforcement officers jack-booted thugs. The mayor of New York has called them stormtroopers. This sort of attack, gratuitous ad hominem attack on law enforcement is not acceptable. Those who are making these attacks should stand up and set the record straight, and those who are in leadership positions should stand up and either repudiate them or back them up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, the White House believes that public opinion is on its side as this case goes forward: not clear whether the House will have hearings. One Democratic leader we have not heard -- you heard from Senator Daschle in Chris Black's piece. Dick Gephardt has been out of town because the House is in recess this week. He will be at the White House, though, tomorrow morning for an event to promote the president's Medicare prescription drug proposal. We're told at that event he too will make a public statement saying that he believes the Republicans would be wrong to hold any hearings on this issue.
WOODRUFF: John, clearly, the person in the administration who has been subject to the most criticism on this whole Elian Gonzalez matter is the vice president, Al Gore. Now, he was interviewed today on National Public Radio. What did he have to say about it?
KING: He broke no new ground, but he made clear once again that he disagrees with the president's handling of this. The vice president did not specifically address the issue of the raid, criticize the president in that regard. But he said he would have handled this differently from the very beginning. And of course, you can read into that, that he believes it never should have come to this.
The vice president's position is that this should have been dealt with in the family court system in Florida and that the boy should have been given rights in that court system and the federal government should have stayed out of this. Privately behind the scenes, many administration officials still quite critical of the vice president's public comments on this, but they are hoping now that this will go away.
WOODRUFF: All right, John King, thank you very much.
And much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Still to come, the gender gap returns: a look at how men and women have split over the fate of one Cuban child. Plus, which television shows have the most political payoff? A telling look at the ad placement by presidential candidates. And later...
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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's a sign of a renewal of a relationship, a relationship that has come a long way in the intervening 25 years.
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WOODRUFF: Senator John McCain in Vietnam once again. We'll talk with "TIME" magazine's Jay Carney about the former POW's journey and his political future. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WOODRUFF: We will have more of the day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories.
As protests continue in the Elian Gonzalez case, a strike shut down much of Miami's Little Havana. Some Cuban-American children in Little Havana attended classes while others did not. And several businesses took the day off in protest of Elian's removal from the home of his Miami relatives.
Four Florida Marlins baseball players and several coaches will not be taking part in tonight's match with San Francisco. They are taking the night off with pay.
Gang activity is suspected in the shooting of seven youths at the National Zoo. Police say they were looking for a lone gunman, and the NAACP has posted a $25,000 reward. Washington, D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey says two rival groups of teens had clashed outside the zoo. The confrontation apparently escalated from bottle-throwing to gunfire.
WOODRUFF: Throngs of demonstrators prayed and chanted through a rainstorm outside the Supreme Court today as an abortion case again made its way before the judges. This time the issue involved a Nebraska law and midterm abortions. Twenty-two people opposed to abortions were arrested because their signs were larger than federal regulations allow.
CNN's Charles Bierbauer has more on the case before the court.
CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dr. Leroy Carhart is the only physician in Nebraska performing mid-term abortions, but he says the proposed state law would put his patients at risk.
DR. LEROY CARHART: This puts the state between a patient and her physician.
BIERBAUER: The words "partial-birth abortion" are a highly politicized description, not a distinct medical procedure. What the statute Nebraska passed in 1997 would have banned is in dispute.
DON STENBERG, NEBRASKA ATTORNEY GENERAL: What it says specifically is that it's illegal for an abortionist to deliver all or a substantial portion of an unborn child into the vagina and then perform a procedure that is intended to kill and does kill the unborn child.
BIERBAUER: Dr. Carhart says the ban is vague enough to prohibit many procedures.
CARHART: It would criminalize over 98 percent of abortions in Nebraska today. BIERBAUER: In 1973, the Supreme Court assured a woman's right to abortion in its landmark Roe v. Wade decision. In 1992's Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, the court reassured women they had not lost that right, but allowed some state limits.
STENBERG: As long as in regulating that they do not impose what the courts call an undue burden on a woman's right to have an abortion.
BIERBAUER: Charles Bierbauer, CNN, the Supreme Court.
WOODRUFF: A bill to allow same-sex civil marriages wins final approval from the Vermont legislature. The bill supporters reacted with hugs and cheers. The legislation grants same-sex couples some 300 state benefits that husbands and wives receive. Vermont Governor Howard Dean plans to sign the bill into law.
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GOV. HOWARD DEAN (D), VERMONT: I think that this is a matter of civil rights. I think that there will be people who are disappointed and will be people who are fearful for traditional marriage and for what may become of their children, but the truth is that this bill defines marriage as between only a man and a woman, it supports traditional marriage.
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WOODRUFF: Once the governor does signs the bill, the new law takes effect on July 1, making it the broadest gay partnership law in the country.
Stiff winds ground space shuttle Atlantis for a second day. NASA will try again tomorrow. There is some pressure to get the mission off the ground. The astronauts will use Atlantis to boost the international space station into higher orbit. The station's orbit is slipping at the rate of nearly two miles per week.
WOODRUFF: When INSIDE POLITICS returns, an update on public opinion on the Elian Gonzalez case, and the opinions of Mark Shields and Kate O'Beirne.
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GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: It just seems that it was unconscionable that this was done. There are a lot of broken hearts, a lot of sadness in Miami now. Once again, I urge for calm and allow people to peacefully demonstrate to express their concerns about this.
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WOODRUFF: Florida Governor Jeb Bush calling for calm Miami amid today's general strike to protest the removal of Elian Gonzalez from the home of his U.S. relatives.
Nationwide, our new poll shows that most Americans approve of the boy's return to his father over the weekend, but their views about the government force that was used are divided: 45 percent say too much force was used; 46 percent say it was the right amount. The number of undediceds has decreased considerably from Saturday, the day of the raid, when views were still forming and the day's pictures were still being absorbed.
Our Bill Schneider has been looking over these new poll numbers.
Bill, are we seeing any changes in public opinion?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and they're happening among women, Judy. When they initially heard the news and saw the pictures of the government raid on Saturday, men were more supportive of the raid than women. Now women are coming around.
On Saturday, 66 percent of men approved of the government's action, but only 48 percent of women did. Now when we polled again last night, we found a 10-point jump in support among women. Now that the boy appears to be safe and happy with his father, more women are saying the government did the right thing. Democrats are also rallying to the administration's support. But are Republicans picking up cues from GOP critics on Capitol Hill? No. On Saturday, 57 percent of Republicans said they approved of the government's seizure of the child. That number has hardly changed -- 56 percent of Republicans continue to approve. There's a growing consensus on this issue.
WOODRUFF: And how do you explain that?
SCHNEIDER: Well, By 2-1, Americans believe that if the agents who went into the Gonzalez home on Saturday had not been carrying weapons, the Miami relatives would never have turned Elian over peacefully. In fact, most Americans believe the government should have gone in and removed him earlier. People's major quarrel with the policy is that the government let it drag on too long.
WOODRUFF: And what about the Republicans calling for congressional hearings?
SCHNEIDER: Well, only 28 percent of Americans say they want congressional hearings. Two-thirds oppose hearings. And even that is not a nonpartisan issue. Three-quarters of Democrats say no hearings, two-thirds of Republicans say no hearings. There is a growing consensus out there what had to be done was done, get over it.
WOODRUFF: And the future of Elian Gonzalez -- what do people think about that?
SCHNEIDER: Well again, the big differences on this issue are not political. If anything, they're between men and women. Women are more likely than men are to say that the boy should live with his father in Cuba rather than remain in the U.S. with relatives. Politics? Not all, because men are more likely than women to favor re-establishing U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba. Overall, a majority of Americans wants to re-establish ties, but women are more reluctant to break with the status quo. This is not about Cuba. This is about family.
WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider, thanks very much.
And now we he are joined by Mark Shields and Kate O'Beirne of CNN's "CAPITAL GANG." Let me just start out by asking you about this poll.
Kate, does this change the political equation now that these kinds of public polling numbers are coming in, do you think?
KATE O'BEIRNE, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, all along, during the whole tug-of-war over Elian Gonzalez, the majority of Americans felt he should be with his father, even if that meant returning to Cuba, so those of us, including myself, that didn't think it was the right result have always been battling the public opinion. But I think roughly the number of people on Capitol Hill, Republicans on Capitol Hill who want to have hearings, is roughly the small minority that Bill found in his polls. There's no real appetite for hearings on Capitol Hill. They might do something in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but the party recognizes, I think, that being the party of investigations is not a plus for them.
MARK SHIELDS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Elian is personal, not political, and that's, I think really how people see this. Those who see it politically want hearings. Those who see it politically and feel that Castro remains a tyrant and a despot and we are sentencing Elian to a life of cruel abuse, they want hearings. There is an ideological resistance, anger and fury, but for the vast majority of Americans this is a question of a boy -- a son being reunited with his father and they don't want it politicized. I really think that is the case.
O'BEIRNE: Now, there are some factual questions outstanding. You know, the mediators had a press conference yesterday, what exactly did that warrant look like? I do think that conservatives maybe in particularly who are really worried about seeing this use of force do want those factual questions answered and a Senate hearing could do that.
SHIELDS: I think that would -- I think -- I agree with Kate, except if people -- someone would have been hurt. I mean, the fact -- it's tough to hold the hearings now on what they did when there aren't -- there is no evidence of anybody having been hurt, I mean, or hurt severely certainly.
O'BEIRNE: Well, Elian was hurt, I suspect.
WOODRUFF: Let me ask you both about -- you know, so much talk about how much Al Gore is hurt politically by the position he's taken. Is this damage that's lasting, Kate? O'BEIRNE: I don't believe he's hurt owing to the merits of the position he took, even though it was the minority position on the part of broad public opinion. It does contribute to the charge that he will do or say anything, position himself to benefit himself politically, no real convictions on the issues. I do think to that extent he has been hurt.
SHIELDS: I think that the vice president is accused of being an opportunist by Kate and by George W. Bush and by all kinds of his critics
O'BEIRNE: Bill Bradley.
SHIELDS: And Bill Bradley -- his critics. I would include Bill Bradley in that group. But the problem was this was an opportunistic move, if it was that, that didn't work. I mean, it didn't help him politically. So I think, Judy, it is fair to say that Al Gore is tied to the Clinton administration policy on this. Any efforts on his part to just get daylight between himself and it are silly now, and given Bill's numbers it probably don't not make any sense politically either.
O'BEIRNE: Right. And the fact that he doesn't say a thing about the raid, hasn't criticized, it was apparently no part of it, I think will be added to the litany that the most experienced, involved vice president in history has not been there for some of the big decisions, and to that extent I think it will be a charge leveled against him.
WOODRUFF: Let me ask you know about what Gore was trying to make news with today and namely that is really stepping on -- stepping up the criticism of George W. Bush's economic plan, saying it is risky, way too much money in there, much more than we can afford. Mark, is this a smart move on the part of the vice president?
SHIELDS: It's a necessary move and I think for that reason a smart move. For the past seven weeks really, since the nominations were sewed up, it has been George Bush's race, I mean, to the degree that people that are paying attention, but he's dominated the terms of the debate. And Al Gore on Elian and others and the 61 days without a press conference, there has been real questions about his campaign.
I'll say this about Gore: Gore is an established and proven counterpuncher and anybody who doubts his ability, who can say that he has waited for Bush to lay his proposals out, $56 million and all, tax and cuts -- tax cut and spend Republican, as Dan Balz of "The Washington Post" called him, then Al -- watch Al Gore. I mean, Al Gore will come counterpunching and George W. Bush will know very soon that he is in a real fight.
O'BEIRNE: Clearly, Al Gore believes the good economy to be an issue that benefits him enormously. I can't disagree. To the extent that Austin might be tempted to sort of accede the economy to him and try to make some other argument, prosperity without purpose, is a big mistake. George W. Bush has got to have an economic message. I am not entirely clear what it is yet, but he better not accede the economy of Al Gore. WOODRUFF: Should Gore have done this sooner, Mark?
SHIELDS: Well, we'll know that when we're doing the retrospective in the middle of November. But I don't think it has been a fatal mistake, but the economy -- Bush did have a big lead earlier on which candidate was going to be better and who would be better. Now they are about even on it and I think Kate is right, when you have three out of four people saying that the country is in excellent, good economy you have got to -- and you've been in office for eight years -- you have to somehow make it yours.
WOODRUFF: All right, we're going to leave it there.
Kate O'Beirne, Mark Shields, thank you both.
O'BEIRNE: Thanks, Judy.
SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Nice to have you both.
All right, and up next, do presidential candidates ignore the nation's younger voters? We will look for answers in the political ad strategies of the primary campaigns.
WOODRUFF: Last night, the president, the vice president, and first lady joined forces for a fund raiser in New York. The event, to benefit the Democratic Party, was their first joint appearance of the 2000 campaign. The dinner raised $2.2 million with a $1,000-per-plate minimum. The entertainment for the gala: singer Tony Bennett and comedian Jon Stewart.
If you watched the popular NBC sitcom "Friends" during the early presidential primaries, there's a good chance you never saw a political ad. But if you tuned in to the "Today" show, the ads were inescapable. Why were "Today" and certain other public-affairs programs so popular with the politicians? Because older Americans watch them and they vote.
WOODRUFF (voice-over): The evidence is clear: older Americans were the candidates' top target in their primary ad campaigns, while young Americans in comparison were all but ignored.
BRENT MCGOLDRICK, THIRD MILLENNIUM: You have a generation of young adults in this country who are just simply feel they are -- you know, no one is targeting them, no one is even asking for their vote.
WOODRUFF: The non-profit Third Millennium project compared TV demographics to political ad buys in the New Hampshire, New York city, Los Angeles and South Carolina media markets from December through March 7th. They found a clear bias toward the 50 and older set.
Some findings: early morning, daytime and evening news shows were by far the most popular programs with the political campaigns, accounting for nearly half of the ad buys and those shows had an overwhelmingly older audience.
A total of 36 political ads run in the NBC sitcom "Friends," whose audience is young. The total for the "Today" show? Six hundred and fifty one. People over 50 made up 43 percent of the voting population in the four states, but 58 percent of the audience that saw political ads. Eighteen to 34-year-olds made up 26 percent of potential voters, but were just 17 percent of the ad audience.
One reason politicians shun programs popular with the young: those shows tend to be in prime time and that means they are expensive. Another: young Americans had the lowest turnout rate of any age group in the 2000 primaries, while older Americans had the highest.
MCGOLDRICK: It's a compounded "bang for the buck" phenomenon in which they get old -- they get a lot more votes from older people by advertising when they can find them, and on the other hand, it's also a lot cheaper to advertise during those time periods, regardless of what their viewership is.
WOODRUFF: And you can read the Third Millennium project's complete report on youth participation in the 2000 primaries at its Web site and that is www.thirdmil.org.
Still ahead, a look at John McCain's travel abroad and his future here at home.
WOODRUFF: Former presidential candidate John McCain is in Vietnam this week, revisiting the country where he was held as a prisoner of war for more than five years.
Jay Carney of "Time" magazine is in Vietnam with the senator, and he takes a look at the trip and its political implications.
JAY CARNEY, "CNN & TIME" CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Senator McCain today flew into Hanoi this morning and immediately participated in a repatriation ceremony.
There was a solemn ceremony at the airport, where what are believed to be the remains of as many as six U.S. pilots were transferred from Vietnamese control to U.S. control, and John McCain participated in the ceremony, witnessed it, as they he took these boxes of remains, placed them into transport-like coffins, and then loaded them, wrapped in American flags, loaded them into a U.S. military transport plane, and McCain stood there and watched that in the sweltering heat on the tarmac while that ceremony took place.
And given the place that John McCain has now taken in the American psyche because of his very high-profile run for the presidency and what many people now know about his history as a POW in Vietnam, his participation in that ceremony I think added a certain solemnity to it.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thankfully, it brings closure to agony and uncertainty that many families have undergone now for more than 25 years, as much as 30 years.
CARNEY: Later in the day, the senator went to meet with the foreign minister of Vietnam, which was a fairly standard kind of meeting, where a visiting dignitary, like Senator McCain comes and meets with a high-ranking government official.
What I've learned here, interestingly, is that the Vietnamese governor is not very pleased with Senator McCain these days because of the comments he made during his presidential campaign about his Vietnamese captors. He referred to them in derogatory terms, racist terms really, and the official government types here in Vietnam did not appreciate that, and they're still kind of angry about it.
The interesting thing about this is that this is not John McCain's first visit back, by any means. Since he's left the country as a . returning prisoner of war, he's actually been back seven or eight times, but this is the first time he's been back, obviously, since he ran for president and became such a national figure, and I think that John McCain's political career is so rooted in his experience as a prisoner of war and the courage he showed by refusing to take early release, the torture he suffered as a POW, that for him to return here, I think is a way of in some ways continuing his political campaign by continuing to remind Americans his background and the kind of image he brought to presidential politics just a few months ago.
WOODRUFF: "Time" magazine's Jay Carney.
That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. But of course you can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com.
This programming note: Wolf Blitzer will host a "LATE EDITION" town meeting on the New York Senate race tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will join Wolf at the State University of New York in Buffalo. New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will join Wolf for a second town meeting at a later date.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
"WORLDVIEW" is next.
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