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Bush, Gore Stage Battle of Photo-Ops; Is Giuliani's Personal Life Becoming a Campaign Problem?Aired May 5, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: A snapshot from the presidential trail, a battle of voter-friendly images caps a week of warfare over issues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK CITY: I think I told you everything that I believe you have a right to know about, and the rest of my private life. And as far as other people are concerned, they're absolutely private.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Is Rudy Giuliani's personal life becoming a campaign problem?
Plus, a truly out of this world political "Play of the Week."
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff.
WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Bernie is on assignment.
We begin with the political premise refined by the Reagan campaign of two decades ago, that good pictures can define a candidate sometimes better than words can. Today, both Al Gore and George W. Bush are using photo-ops to help spread their messages and to try to soften some hard edges. In Bush's case, the backdrop is California, where he's trying to overcome a Republican image problem.
Our Jonathan Karl reports.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For George W. Bush, a made-for-TV swing through California, capturing the images he hopes will define his campaign.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What's in this? KARL: Making paper mache with kindergarteners in Mission Viejo, joining with Catholics at San Juan Capistrano, and everywhere the candidate is with Hispanics, each moment captured by Bush's ad maker Mark MacKinnon and his film crew -- fodder for future campaign ads. For Bush's image makers, the challenge is erasing the images that have helped sink the Republican Party in California.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, WILSON CAMPAIGN AD, 1994)
ANNOUNCER: They keep coming -- two million illegal immigrant's in California. The federal government won't stop them at the border.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Images like this 1994 ad by then-Governor Pete Wilson, an ad that ran while Republicans were pushing Prop. 187, a ballot initiative to cut all services to illegal immigrants, including throwing their children out of school.
BUSH: The signal of this country is we welcome you.
(SPEAKING IN SPANISH)
BUSH: You're welcome in America. That America is meant for everybody.
KARL: Bush used the Cinco de Mayo holiday commemorating the fight for Mexican independence, to distance himself from the stridently anti-immigration rhetoric associated with the California Republican Party for much of the last decade. And for good reason. There are now more than eight million Hispanics in California, 25 percent of the population, and nearly 13 percent of registered voters. In the last presidential campaign, Bill Clinton won the Hispanic vote by more than a 50-point margin.
KARL (on camera): Bush tells virtually every crowd here that unlike the last two Republican presidential campaigns, he won't write off California. He says he'll be back here in two weeks, and again, a couple of weeks after that, and so on, throughout his campaign.
Jonathan Karl, CNN, San Diego.
WOODRUFF: Now to Al Gore's pictures of the day and the tone his campaign is setting after more than a week of attacking Governor Bush.
Our Candy Crowley traveled with the vice president to Michigan.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Physics and English in the morning, French fries a pizza for lunch.
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think I'd like a slice of pepperoni pizza, OK. Thank you very much.
CROWLEY: The vice president's fourth back-to-school day looked pretty much like the first three, talks with parent, teachers, bus drivers and career plan discussions with students.
GORE: You'd be amazed at how few kids dream of growing up and becoming vice president.
CROWLEY: Gore strategist look at these events, staged mostly in key battleground states, as kind of mini New Hampshires, a way to create grassroots buzz among voters through one-on-one contact and great local media coverage.
The gore campaign thinks he's sowing seeds for the October campaign, when individual voters blur into crowds at one airport rally after another.
Still, even if the pictures have a deal old, golden school days look to them, the ambience of the Gore campaign, trailing by a bit in most polls, is fall like. There is an urgency in his schedule, generally five days a week, and a fever to his pitch.
GORE: I want to fight for you! I need you to fight for the Democratic Party. Let's do it and win.
Thank you very much.
CROWLEY: An there is as well a subtle condescension in his now daily assaults.
GORE: Any teacher in America knows you don't judge a term paper by its cover, but no matter what students might wish. But when you take a close look inside the Bush education plan, it is mostly blank pages.
CROWLEY: The rhetoric, the pace, the intensity are part of an overall strategy to keep Gore out there and moving on offense, to define Bush before voters get locked in. It worked on Bill Bradley.
Bush, who reminds reporters he is not Bill Bradley, responds to the Gore charges when asked, with a tone of sad resignation.
BUSH: Yesterday, the vice president of United States again said that the governor of Texas does not prepare a budget. I -- as I said yesterday, I still feel the same way. I'm disappointed that someone running for president would continue to take a position that is just not true, particularly on something that is real.
CROWLEY: But in his day-to-day activities, Bush remains relentlessly, buoyantly on his own agenda. The Bush camp thinks that in the contest of candidates, Al Gore will look like a standard-issue partisan politician. (on camera): The political reality is that campaigns get aggressive because more times than not it works. The risk for Al Gore is in the fine line between a candidate who looks dynamic and one who looks desperate.
Candy Crowley, CNN, Lansing, Michigan.
WOODRUFF: The vice president's credibility has been repeatedly questioned by the Bush campaign, and today the Gore camp tried to turn the tables. At issue, Bush's suggestion yesterday and earlier that Gore had been a member of the National Rifle Association. The Gore campaign tells INSIDE POLITICS it has no record of Gore being an NRA member, and the vice president has no recollection of joining the group. Reporters questioned Bush today about what he said and why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: It's up to them to let us know whether he was or not, and the man had a voting record that indicated that he certainly had an affinity toward their positions in the '80s. That's not an accusation. The man can clear it up. And yesterday he had a chance to, and his spokesman said he may have inadvertently joined.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: The Gore camp says, quote, "for a guy who is obsessed with credibility," end quote, it is irresponsible for Bush to suggest Gore was an NRA member and not be able to back it up.
Also today the vice president challenged Bush to clarify whether he would approve national legislation restricting lawsuits against gunmakers an dealers, similar to a measure Bush signed in Texas.
And we are joined now by E.J. Dionne of "The Washington Post" and Bill Kristol of "The Weekly Standard."
Gentlemen, thank you for being with us.
Picking up on this gun theme, we now know there are political ads that been have been made by Handgun Control, showing an NRA official saying about George Bush, quote, "If we win, we'll have a president where we work out of his office." Does this play in the campaign? Does it hurt George Bush, E.J.?
E.J. DIONNE, "WASHINGTON POST": You were saying earlier correctly that good pictures can make good moves for a campaign; bad pictures also are bad. And the fact he's saying NRA is going to be in the office, I think is very good for Gore. It's good for Gore because he's going suffer from the pro-gun vote anyway. They're going to vote for Bush, it's very clear. He not only needs to make this an issue, he needs a lot of people out there voting on this issue, and I think an image like this makes it easier for Gore to launch his attack, and say, you know, it's not just that Bush has a few positions, he's really going to on these guys side, and he needs that. It's not a huge constituency, but it's a sliver that's very important to Gore, and it appeals to those famous suburban women voters where Bush is running much better than Republicans usually do.
WOODRUFF: Where is this gun thing going?
BILL KRISTOL, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Look, a lot of suburban women are married to suburban men in suburbs of Detroit, Michigan and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Trent, New Jersey, and those men own guns. More than one third of American families own guns. CNN did a very good poll on this, came back, it showed that Bush was even with Gore on how to handle the gun issue. Bill Schneider was so struck I think by the results that he asked the pollsters to go back and do it again -- Bush was a little ahead of Gore on the gun issue. I think it's a huge mistake for Gore campaign, it's classic Washington D.C. thinking, because no one around here is much of a gun owner and everybody around here hates the NRA, to think that you can go beat Bush on the gun issue. It's not going to happen.
DIONNE: See, I think the flip is true. I think the reason Gore needs to talk about this issue is because Bush sounds quite moderate on all sorts of issues these days, and I think that what you found in 1996 is that there were votes moved toward the Democrats on the gun issue. There are surely a lot of gun owners out there. Most of them are lost to the Democratic Party at this point. The question is moving the rest back to the Democrats, just like they did in '96.
KRISTOL: I think it's a distraction. I mean, George Bush is about to propose the partial voluntary privatization of Social Security, which is a very bold move by Governor Bush. It's going to be a controversial one. That is a potential winning issue, politically, for Gore, whatever the merits. And I think it's a big mistake for Gore to get into this kind of mini, you know, attack dog mode with Bush on issues that are not going to be the fundamental issues that Bush wants to take Gore on.
WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you about this Social Security position -- or statement that was put out. Gore then accuses Governor Bush of being smug on this whole thing, of having a secret plan to privatize Social Security. Where is this going?
DIONNE: Well, "smug" sounds like one of those focus group words, and it's not a bad word to throw at him.
It is bold, as Bill says, for Bush to do this. It is also risky. And I think the difficulty is that if he puts out a detailed plan, Al Gore has already shown with Bill Bradley on health care how good he is at picking apart a detailed plan. And Social Security is really important to a whole lot of voters.
If he doesn't put out a detailed plan to be picked apart, he is open to these attacks, where Gore can say, look, Social Security is, by everybody's measure, one of the most important programs of the federal government. And if he's going to propose radical change, he's got to tell you about it. Now Senator McCain actually did a great service to George Bush this week. He had this news conference, he had Senator Kerrey there, he had Senator Moynihan there. He suggested that there about be a commission appointed. And Bush came back and said Social Security doesn't have to be a partisan issue, praising McCain. He doesn't want it to be a partisan issue because he knows how risky this is and how helpful it could be to Democrats.
KRISTOL: Yes, Bush's secret plan isn't going to be secret too long because he's giving a major speech on this on Wednesday.
WOODRUFF: You mentioned McCain. Big meeting coming up -- at least the expectations are that it's a big meeting. What are the expectations for this May 9th Tuesday get-together which a few people in the press will pay attention to, Bill.
KRISTOL: They will. The press corps will descend on Pittsburgh Tuesday morning for this great summit. I imagine it won't quite be as exciting as people expect. Look, I think McCain is going to say, I support George Bush. There's no question in my mind that George Bush will be a much better president of the United States then Al Gore, A. But B, I continue to disagree with Governor Bush on several issues. I'm committed to a reform agenda that I will continue to advance. And I think he can do both of those at the same time: strong support for Bush over Gore, but continued commitment to the reform agenda.
But I think on Social Security is one issue where McCain can really help Bush. McCain is for partial privatization of Social Security. He ran on it in the primaries -- this is what Bush is going to talk about Wednesday -- but McCain is worried that Bush's tax cut takes up too much money. You need to spend a lot of money for this 2 percent set aside for Social Security, and I think McCain is going to push Bush to leave some wiggle room on his tax cut. I think what Senator McCain is going to tell Bush is, look, you can be committed to the tax cut, but make clear that Social Security is a priority, that saving Social Security is the priority, and that if you have to you'll scale back the tax cut. Social Security comes first. I think that would give Governor Bush a much more defensible position on what is going to be a huge Al Gore onslaught on Social Security.
WOODRUFF: What are your expectations, E.J.?
DIONNE: Well, first of all, Bill is right. And there's a lot of footage of John McCain saying just what Bill said, attacking Bush for not leaving enough money aside to pay for the partial privatization of Social Security. So it's going to be -- I think McCain is going to be asked a lot of questions himself, especially if Bush doesn't move off this tax cut.
It's still striking when you talk to some of the McCain people, I think -- you know, of course McCain is going to try to do the right think as a Republican and he's going to emphasize his differences with Bush on campaign reform. But there are an awful lot of angry McCain people out there who think Bush has been a poor winner. And it's not hard to pick up a phone and call one of them and have them complain about the behavior of the Bush campaign. I think the other thing is Al Gore is going say after this meeting, my position on campaign financing reform is a lot closer to John McCain's than George Bush's is. And you're going to hear that all year long.
WOODRUFF: Bill Kristol, just two quick questions. One to you, you've been talking to the Bush campaign. What are you hearing about a running mate for Bush?
KRISTOL: Well they don't tell me who...
WOODRUFF: I know -- well...
DIONNE: Bill is on the list.
KRISTOL: They believe McCain -- me? -- I think they expect McCain to take himself out of the running. They will make one more run at Colin Powell. He will presumably say no. I think their first choice right now is Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, a Vietnam vet, a personal friend of Governor Bush, someone who's been a successful governor in what is probably the key swing state of the election. Ridge is pro-choice. You'll see a lot of private explorations over the next month whether they can get away with making a pro-choice pick as vice president.
WOODRUFF: And a real quick question for you, E.J. You were in California this week. Is Bush making a serious effort for California?
DIONNE: Bush is making a serious effort to look like he's making a serious effort. Democratic polls show he's down by nine points at a moment when he's when he's running ahead of Gore in the rest of the country. If California ever really gets close, Bush is probably sweeping an awful lot of other states.
There are several problems Republicans have. Latinos reacted very negatively to Prop 187, which cut off aid to illegal immigrants. They blame that on the Republicans. Labor is mobilized, and the Reagan Democrats don't have any social issues that pull them to the Democrats. So they've dropped the Reagan and are starting to vote Democratic again, those blue-collar voters. I think he's going to run at it from now until the convention, and then we'll probably -- if the election stays close, we'll see less of him in California in the fall.
WOODRUFF: All right, we're going to leave it there, but you know we're coming back to that one and the one about the vice president and McCain.
Thank you both. E.J. Dionne, Bill Kristol, thank you both.
DIONNE: Thank you.
KRISTOL: Thanks, Judy.
WOODRUFF: And still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Alabama for Bush and Mississippi, Rhode Island for Gore and Massachusetts. It's still a country of regions. The trouble starts when you get to the toss-up states.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Our Bruce Morton looks at the map to find out where the battle for votes will take place.
WOODRUFF: George W. Bush and Al Gore will map out many campaign trips over the next six months. Among the factors that will matter most in their planning are whether polls show that a state is still in question and its share of electoral college votes.
Our Bruce Morton takes a look at the current numbers.
MORTON (voice-over): Some states are easy. Virginia started voting for Republican presidents with Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, and except for Barry Goldwater in '64, it's voted for every one since. It's a lock for George W. Bush.
Some states are closer. California, with its 54 electoral votes, elected a Democratic governor in 1998, voted for Bill Clinton twice -- leans Democratic. What do you look for?
STUART ROTHENBERG, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": Well, the most obvious thing, you look at past partisan performance -- how states have behaved in blowouts but more particularly in close contests. And I think the states fall out rather easily. At least three dozen of them do.
MORTON: Sure. Alabama for Bush and Mississippi. Rhode Island for Gore and Massachusetts. It's still a country of regions.
ROTHENBERG: You can divide the country into the more liberal New England in the Northeast, the South, the Rocky Mountain states, the Pacific states. And they each have a political tendency. And you factor that in as you evaluate individual states and individual candidates.
MORTON: The trouble starts when you get to the toss-up states. Many think this election will be decided in the old Rust Belt: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, this row of five. All have Republican governors, all voted for Bill Clinton twice.
ROTHENBERG: If you were going to pick out the states that were going to pick the next president, you'd have to include places like Ohio and Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, all the way maybe over to Wisconsin and down to Missouri. There are some states that are terrific indicators as well that have very few electoral votes but are good indicators to see which party has an advantage. So you look to Delaware, you look to maybe New Mexico as states to you an inkling on how the election is going to go.
MORTON: OK, here's our map. The states that are solid or leaning Democratic are in blue. The states that are solid or leaning Republican are in red. And the tossup states, including those good indicators, Delaware and New Mexico, are in white. Five hundred thirty-eight electoral votes, it takes 270 to win.
Our map shows the Democrats with 182 votes, the Republicans with 202, and the 13 tossup states with 150. Other lists would differ slightly, but clearly the election is close and up for grabs. Can Al Gore use the economy to win? Can George W. Bush use character, the desire for change? What will happen when they debate each other on TV? We don't know, but things are close and it should be an interesting fall.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: It certainly should be.
There's much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.
Still to come:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: I told you all about my health. That affects my public life. There's nothing else you need to know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Privacy, personality and politics in the New York Senate race.
Plus, strength in numbers? A look at a new Democratic alliance and its effect on Capitol Hill.
And later, our Bill Schneider on the campaign encounter of the third kind that lands the political "Play of the Week."
WOODRUFF: We'll have more of the day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories.
The body of Cardinal John O'Connor is in front of the main altar of New York City's Saint Patrick's Cathedral. Regular masses will be celebrated in the presence of the cardinal's body through Sunday. The cathedral is expected to be filled to capacity for his funeral on Monday. Cardinal O'Connor will be interred in the crypt under the altar, where all previous archbishops of New York are buried.
United Nations officials believe rebels in the West African nation of Sierra Leone now hold as many as 318 of its peacekeepers and observers. These include some 200 members of a Zambian contingent sent in to reinforce other peacekeeping units. The U.N. also reports that its surveillance shows that rebel troops using personnel carriers with U.N. markings taken from the Zambian forces.
The State Department has discovered two more laptop computers missing, one of them signed out to a senior official. The realization came during an inventory check, after a laptop containing highly classified information disappeared in February.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We know that there are two unclassified laptops that have -- that we know are missing. And there's an inventory under way. The secretary asked for everyone to conduct an inventory to make sure we know where all these machines are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told a closed congressional committee today that she is appalled at the recent security laps at the department.
The Linda Tripp wire-tapping case is set for trial in Maryland in July. A judge dismissed a motion to dismiss the state's case against Tripp today. The judge also set limits on Monica Lewinsky's testimony in the trial. Lewinsky will be able to testify only about whether she had given permission to have her conversations recorded.
Last week, many of these people were smugly referring to lotteries as a tax on the mathematically challenged. What a difference $80 million makes. Tonight's Big Game jackpot has rocket to $230 million, and for millions of big dreamers the temptation to buy tickets is just too much.
Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and Virginia all take part in the big game.
And when INSIDE POLITICS returns, the New York Senate race and questions about whether a friend can be a campaign liability.
WOODRUFF: In a Senate race where the candidates' personalities have eclipsed their differences over issues, Rudy Giuliani's public image is getting a lot more complicated. First came his announcement that he had cancer, handled with a grace that may have softened his tough-guy image. And now, new details about the mayor's personal life. How they may affect public perception is anyone's guess.
CNN's Beth Fouhy reports.
BETH FOUHY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A tabloid broke the ice on Wednesday. "The New York Post" ran a picture of Mayor Giuliani with a woman, not his wife, identified as his lunch companion, Judith Nathan. Other papers followed up.
Giuliani has never tried to conceal the relationship, which has reportedly been going on for months. Reports say he dines with Nathan in public, openly spends weekends at her condo on Long Island, sometimes with her parents. But he doesn't want to talk about it either.
MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: She's a -- she's a good friend, a very good friend. And beyond that, you can ask me questions, and that's exactly what I'm going to say.
QUESTION: Are you annoyed that "The New York Post" did this?
GIULIANI: Oh, you get way beyond that. No.
No, I mean, yes, I get -- Honestly, yes. Sure, I'm annoyed. You would like to have a lot more privacy in your life than you do. And unfortunately, as the mayor, you don't. But people who are private citizens should really be left alone.
FOUHY: It's no secret that the mayor's marriage to actress Donna Hanover has been troubled. During his first term, she was often by his side. But since 1997, they're seldom seen together.
Giuliani has long insisted that his private life is no one else's business.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")
LARRY KING, HOST: Should the personal lives of you or Hillary or anyone be examined in a Senate race?
GIULIANI: Not unless somebody can honestly show that it affects your job performance. And by and large, most often, people can't show that. They just act as voyeurs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOUHY: Hillary Clinton, of course, has had her marriage raked over the coals for seven years, and she's not touching this one.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: No, I'm going to be running a campaign based on issues and ideas. That's what I think the people of New York are interested in and that's what I'm going to be talking about.
FOUHY: Beth Fouhy, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: Well, joining me to talk about the sudden surfacing of the mayor's personal life in the New York Senate race, Tish Durkin of "The New York Observer."
Tish Durkin, is it the case that the press in New York City has just become aware of this? TISH DURKIN, "NEW YORK OBSERVER": Well, no, Judy. I think we've just become aware recently of this particular individual. But as the report pointed out, it's been well-known for a number of years now that the mayor and his wife, Donna Hanover, have led largely separate lives and that their marriage is somewhat strained.
WOODRUFF: They are still married, correct?
DURKIN: Yes, they are married. Yes, the mayor is no longer wearing a wedding ring, has refused to inform anybody as to why that is. But I do think he's got a point that -- that he has never made his private life a public issue. And I think that's why this bombshell is not exactly Hiroshima or Nagasaki, so to speak, for New Yorkers.
WOODRUFF: When he says Judith Nathan is a friend or a good friend, we assume that that's all he's going to say about it?
DURKIN: Right, yes, I think that's all he's going to say about it. And actually, I think that it's particularly, given the marital conundrum that is the Clinton marriage, they're really only two ways I can foresee this possibly becoming a problem for the mayor in any significant sense. One is if for some reason it helps to inform a decision on his part -- also informed, as you know, by the cancer diagnosis -- to withdraw from the Senate race. Then, of course, it will have had an impact. And the other instance is if for some reason Donna Hanover decides to break her long-held silence on the subject and decides to speak out about it.
Other than that, I think it will be very hard for people to make an issue of this.
WOODRUFF: Are you saying that the evidence is that most New Yorkers don't really care about the mayor's personal life?
DURKIN: I really feel, in all honesty -- and again, the usual caveat, which is nobody really knows anything and perhaps six months from now this will be a very embarrassing piece of videotape for me to view -- but I just think that in 1997 when the mayor ran for re- election, his wife was not really around. I mean, she wasn't there for his election night.
You know, people -- not to put too fine a point on it -- but people who really, really deeply value the idea that their public officials have good old-fashioned strong marriages just don't have a dog in this fight. So I don't really see how it's going to become much of a wedge, absent the two things I just pointed out.
WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about Mrs. Clinton and her campaigning. She's -- has criticized just within the last day or so the mayor's comments on the Elian Gonzalez congressional hearings, also on his comments about Senator Jesse Helms. Is this the kind of thing that works to her benefit?
DURKIN: Well, so much for the idea that she can't attack him once he's been diagnosed for cancer, first of all. I think that they've decided that if he's going to be vigorous and be pursuing an active campaign schedule then she's going to also have to be vigorous, although a little bit more careful perhaps, in attacking him.
Their game plan, very clearly from the very beginning, has been to try to box the mayor in to as much of a conservative Republican coterie as they possibly can. Of course, in a state like New York, where there are almost 2 million more Democrats than Republicans, and where the mayor is going to try to emphasize his credentials as a moderate, that's the game that they're playing. Whether or not it works, of course, will remain to be seen.
WOODRUFF: All right, Tish Durkin, "New York Observer." Thanks very much for joining us.
DURKIN: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.
Well, whoever becomes New York's next junior senator will find a group of Democrats working to push the party to the center and trying to get Al Gore to stay there, too. We get an inside view from our congressional correspondent Chris Black.
CHRIS BLACK, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana was only 6 years old when Edward Kennedy won his first Senate race in 1962. Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana was still in grade school when his father, Birch Bayh, was aligned with Ted Kennedy in the Senate.
Now Landrieu and Bayh, freshman senators, are challenging the primacy of Kennedy's liberal ideology among Senate Democrats. With 10 other like-minded moderates, they are emerging as a force to be reckoned with.
SEN MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: Our new Democratic coalition is really about shaping what comes out of the Democratic caucus, sort of moving our caucus in a way to embrace new ideas, new approaches, but holding onto our traditional values.
BLACK: The new Democratic moderates favor free trade and promote economic globalization and high technology. These centrists hope their influence will grow with the election of another new Democrat: Vice President Al Gore, who shares most of their views.
THOMAS MANN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: The next president, in order to have any chance of governing successfully, is going to have to be building coalitions in the center. And I think the emergence of this new informal group of centrists in the Senate is one of the more encouraging developments in our politics.
BLACK: The moderates agree with Gore on deficit reduction and accountability in education. But some are frustrated with Gore's election-year concessions to organized labor and his resistance to partial privatization of Social Security. On the House side, moderates are the largest block within the Democratic caucus. They are led by California Representative Cal Dooley, who says the group is crucial to House passage of President Clinton's China trade initiative.
REP. CAL DOOLEY (D), CALIFORNIA: The greatest market opportunities for working men and women, as well as businesses and farmers in this country, are international. And Democrats have to be at the forefront providing leadership that maximizes our opportunities to tap into these growing international markets.
BLACK: In the Senate, nine new Democrats used their muscle to win concessions on the Democratic version of a major education bill. Some are still threatening to break party ranks and side with Republicans in an effort to craft a compromise. Their leaders say voters share their position on education and other issues.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: We think that we have a winning formula. We think it's the right set of policies, but we also think it's in touch with the majority of the American people. It is part of why President Clinton got elected twice and we think it's still where the American people are.
BLACK: The number of new Democrats on both sides of Capitol Hill has grown with every recent election cycle. And new Democrats say their influence is also growing: They've put in place an active political network to try and make sure that trend continues -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Chris, it was only -- what? -- seven or eight years ago, a little bit more than that, the Democratic Leadership Council, another group of moderate Democrats, was active. A number of members of Congress were associated with that. How is this group different from that group?
BLACK: Well, they're very closely aligned with the Democratic Leadership Conference. In fact, that really is their think tank.
What has happened, Judy, is that the new Democrats on both sides of the Hill have reached a certain critical mass, and though moderates by their nature tend to be moderate, and they don't throw bombs and they don't tend to defy their leaders, there are enough of them now, and they're frustrated enough now because of the partisanship on Capitol Hill that so little is getting done that they're more willing to things that perhaps in the past they were not willing to do, which is to maybe cut a deal with Republicans on certain issues.
WOODRUFF: All right, Chris Black reporting from the Capitol, thank you.
And coming up next, the politics of the economy and a scoop from our Bob Novak.
And are Pat Buchanan's conservative views on social issues likely to tear apart the Reform Party? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Most Americans have never lived in a peacetime economy with unemployment as low as it is today. Indeed, it's the lowest rate overall in over 30 years. Over the last seven years, our nation has created 21 million new jobs, cut the unemployment rate almost in half.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: President Clinton, relishing today's report that the unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent last month. A good economy is, of course, a plus for Al Gore's bid to succeed Mr. Clinton. But is a new setback on the horizon? We're joined by Bob Novak of "The Chicago Sun-Times."
Bob, what are you hearing now about interest rates?
ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": I think I have some very hard information of what the Federal Reserve is up to. I reported on this program on Wednesday that the Fed might act before the next meeting on May 16th of its policymaking meeting, the open market committee, and raise interest rates one quarter of one percent, 25 basis points before the meeting, and then another quarter at the meeting.
That news was circulating around the markets on Wednesday, had a terrible effect on the markets, Nasdaq and the Dow both fell. So the Fed has decided not to do that. But because of the good news today, the interest -- the employment rate going down, wages going up, which is bad news in the upside down world of the Central Bank because of fear of inflation, they are definitely going to raise the interest rates 50 basis points, one half of one percent on May 16th, biggest increase in a long time in interest rates.
And this -- all this raising of interest rates for a year is starting to build up. Is the Fed going to overshoot the mark, tighten too much, and really slow down the economy? A big danger of that, and that's not good news politically for Al Gore.
WOODRUFF: Not good news for Al Gore despite the fact that unemployment is so low? Most people are working, wages are up.
NOVAK: But looking at the Fed tightening, if the Fed tightens and slows down this economy, the election is not in May, Judy, it's in November. And so this could happen at the worst thing. And it's very frustrating for the administration, because they have no impact whatever on what the Federal Reserve does.
WOODRUFF: All right, let me turn you to a slightly different subject. The man running who's against Al Gore, George W. Bush, has an important meeting coming up on Tuesday with John McCain. What are you hearing about that meeting?
NOVAK: What I hear is that Senator McCain does not want to be asked about the vice presidency. That's what he almost canceled the meeting about a couple weeks ago, But I am told that there's no question that Governor Bush will ask Senator McCain whether he wants to be considered or whether he wants to be ruled out definitely for the vice presidency. If it's no, it's no. That will come up.
Also, neither side expects that there will be an endorsement, a real formal endorsement yet, that probably Senator McCain will disagree on enough points that there will not be an endorsement. That irritates some people, even some McCain supporters who think that maybe it's time for an endorsement.
WOODRUFF: But McCain will say, if asked, I'm not interested?
NOVAK: Yes. I don't think that's going to be publicized, but I think -- I know the question will be asked, and my information is that Senator McCain will still say, no, I'm not interested.
WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Novak, thanks very much. We appreciate it. Thanks for stopping by.
And now we focus on the Reform Party. This week, Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign said he would not attempt to force the party to include his tough stands on abortion and other social issues in its platform. But that may not have eased concerns within the party about Buchanan's believes, particularly after he called homosexuality a disorder yesterday and ruled out choosing a gay running mate or Cabinet member.
CNN's Tony Clark has more.
TONY CLARK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ever since he jumped ship from the Republican Party last fall, Pat Buchanan has been campaigning for the top spot on the Reform Party ticket. The political party Ross Perot created, Pat Buchanan now takes create for saving.
PAT BUCHANAN (REF), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have built this party. We have energized this party. We have brought new strength and new people to it.
CLARK: Buchanan not only wants to head the Reform Party ticket, he wants to mold the party in his own image.
BUCHANAN: It will be, when I leave, a real third party offering the American people a real choice of destinies for this republic. It will reflect the ideas and the beliefs and convictions I've brought into politics.
CLARK: Ideas and beliefs that go far beyond the economic and political issues upon which the Reform Party was founded.
PROF. DENNIS SIMON, SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY: He's not a candidate of reform, he's a candidate of resentment. CLARK: Reform Party National Secretary Jim Mangia, who is gay, says Buchanan's views on social issues, such as homosexuality, are, quote, "hateful and intolerant" and "in direct violation of the principles of the Reform Party."
Former Party Chairman Russ Verney says Buchanan's focus on such issues could split the party.
RUSS VERNEY, FORMER REFORM PARTY CHAIRMAN: If there's a whole general election campaign that's solely on social issues, that's not going to sit well with the Reform Party members. It's going to be a problem.
CLARK: Even so, Buchanan remains the front-runner for the party's presidential nomination. Though about a dozen presidential contenders are listed on the Reform Party Web site, Buchanan's only real challenge may be from Natural Law Party leader John Hagelin.
RUSS VERNEY: He does have the ability to raise money. He does have the ability to get ballot access. So if he is serious about pursuing it, he'd be competition for Pat Buchanan.
CLARK: But so far, party activists say, Hagelin has done little to show he will go after the nomination. As a result, Pat Buchanan could end up being the only viable candidate when the party selects its presidential nominee.
(on camera): As for Reform Party founder Ross Perot, he's staying out of the political fray. Perot is not expected to comment publicly about politics until the party's national convention in August.
Tony Clark, CNN, Dallas.
WOODRUFF: And this update on the Reform Party, Pat Choate resigned today as its chairman because of an illness in his family. Vice Chairman Gerald Moan will take his place until a new chairman is chosen at the party's summer convention.
Up next, the planets have aligned. Is it a cosmic sign or the political "Play of the Week"?
WOODRUFF: George W. Bush is celebrating Cinco de Mayo out in California today. But there was something else worth marking today, and it was an event of astronomical proportions. And our Bill Schneider joins us now to explain -- Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, today was very nearly doomsday. At 4:00 this morning, scientists tell us, the Earth, the moon, the sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were all in alignment. Now, that won't happen again for hundreds of years. Why didn't the world come to an end, as many doomsayers expected? Well, we think it had something to do with this week's political play of the week.
(voice-over): It's all about the alien vote. Little green men from outer space. It turns out they have a lot of influence in American politics.
We have evidence. This picture was taken in 1950. And this one in 1991. Those pictures come from a highly reliable source.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEN IN BLACK")
WILL SMITH, ACTOR: These are the hot sheets?
TOMMY LEE JONES, ACTOR: Best investigative reporting on the planet. Go ahead. Read The New York Times if you want to. They get lucky sometimes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EDDIE CLONTZ, "WEEKLY WORLD NEWS": Well, the space alien contacted "Weekly World News." I think it was probably in early 1990.
SCHNEIDER: According to "Weekly World News," the aliens started out supporting George Bush in 1992. Then came the shocker. He unexpectedly switched to Bill Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. WILLIAM J. CLINTON (D-AR), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This campaign is broadening its base.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Did it make any difference? One-third of Americans believe intelligent beings from other planets have visited the Earth.
CLONTZ: In reality, few Americans know this, but "Weekly World News" readers certainly do, is that about 42 million Americans are actually from other planets, simply in human form. So you have a sizable chunk of the population that could, you know, swing an election.
SCHNEIDER: And they did. Clinton won. It was the aliens, stupid.
The big question hanging over this year's campaign: Who would the alien endorse? John McCain?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not have any evidence whatsoever of any aliens or UFOs. (END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Ha! And just look at what happened to him.
This week, we got the answer. "Weekly World News" reports that after a two-hour hush-hush meeting in Washington, D.C., on April 8th, the alien endorsed George W. Bush, which raised a question to one of the country's leading alienologists.
JOEL ACHENBACH, AUTHOR, "CAPTURED BY ALIENS" Why endorse Bush when they could just abduct Gore? It would be so much easier.
SCHNEIDER: And why not another Texan?
ACHENBACH: I'm surprised he didn't endorse Perot. I mean, it seems like that's a natural fit to me.
SCHNEIDER: Needless to say, Governor Bush was thrilled with the endorsement.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It just goes to show that I'm willing to reach across (UNINTELLIGIBLE) certain demographic lines.
SCHNEIDER: Message? They care.
ACHENBACH: The aliens, they come across this enormous distance, 150 trillion billion miles, to come to help us with our political situation. And in fact, this is why people love aliens so much, is they care.
SCHNEIDER: And we care, too, enough to award Governor Bush the first "Extraterrestrial Political Play of the Week."
SCHNEIDER: The truth is not out there. It's here, on INSIDE POLITICS. Back to you, Earth lady.
WOODRUFF: All right. My name is Judy Woodruff. Who are you?
SCHNEIDER: I am Steve Forbes' long-lost brother, Freddie.
WOODRUFF: Thank you, Freddie.
SCHNEIDER: You're welcome, Earth lady.
WOODRUFF: You've seen everything now.
And that is all for this Earth edition of INSIDE POLITICS. But of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's Allpolitics.com. This weekend's programming note: Republican senators Chuck Hagel and Mitch McConnell will be Wolf Blitzer's guests on "LATE EDITION" at noon Eastern Sunday. Among the topics: campaign finance reform and next week's meeting between George W. Bush and John McCain.
I'm Judy Woodruff, still. "WORLDVIEW" is next.
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