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Crossfire

Should Rudy Run?

Aired May 12, 2000 - 7:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: If I had an easy answer to it, I would give it to you right this minute, and say yes or no -- yes, I can; no, I can't; or yes, I should no, and no, I shouldn't. I don't have an easy answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARY MATALIN, CO-HOST: Tonight, should Rudy Giuliani drop out of the New York Senate race? Can he battle cancer, marital troubles, and Hillary Rodham Clinton?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press; on the right, Mary Matalin. In the crossfire, in New York, Republican Congressman Vito Fossella, a Rudy Giuliani supporter, and Joe DioGuardi, a New York Senate candidate.

MATALIN: Good evening, and welcome to CROSSFIRE. The New York Senate race soap opera is getting record-breaking ratings and reviews. Press, pundits, politicians, and even normal people are all opining nonstop on Rudy Giuliani's conundrum since the back-to-back political body blow revelations of prostate cancer and a marital separation: the latter problem compounded by a not-so-happy wife who claims Rudy two- timed her twice. Rudy's own party is on the verge of two-timing him.

Though party leaders profess solid support, the sharks are circling. At least two congressmen and a near billionaire have said they're in if Rudy's out. So an anonymous senior official close to the mayor claimed Rudy's -- quote -- "heart, soul and body are not in this thing" -- end quote.

Speaking for himself on his weekly radio show, Rudy says he just needs a little elbow room.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: With regard to the candidacy for public office, you know, I'll decide that. I'll decide it pretty quickly. There are so many different decisions that have to be made now that I have got to kind of put them in order.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MATALIN: Behind the scenes, Mrs. Clinton's camp is confused. At least Rudy's a devil they know. One thing they're sure of is they won't make dysfunctional marriages a campaign issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: Out of respect for the mayor and his family I have nothing to say about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATALIN: So tonight the human heartbreak and political theater of the New York Senate race. Can a human deal with a Senate race and with a disease that killed his father? Can a man deal with an ambitious woman and a woman scorned simultaneously? And will the political system make those decisions for him? -- Bill?

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Verdi wrote this script, I'm telling you.

(LAUGHTER)

Congressman Fossella, good evening. Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Now, I know, congressman, you are a Giuliani supporter, you are loyal to your man. You're here tonight to put the best possible face on these horrible circumstances. But I think New York voters summed it up best in this morning's The New York Times when he said: "Stick a fork in him. He's done."

Your guys toast, isn't he, congressman?

REP. VITO FOSSELLA (R), NEW YORK: I don't think so. I think in fairness to Rudy Giuliani, he's had a couple of tough weeks, and as any good American, any good New Yorker would wish him the very best, and hope that his personal life and his family life, that he prevails, and we wish the best for him.

But as far as his Senate candidacy is concerned, I think it's all systems are go. I think -- the reason why he's been the strongest candidate for the Republican Party, aside from his accomplishments as mayor of New York City -- lowering crime and reducing the welfare roles and cutting taxes -- he also is able to articulate, I think, the core principles of what we want in a senator to represent in New York state. And that is more personal freedom and liberty and cutting taxes and a strong national defense, as opposed to what the other side projects.

And I still think, after all is said and done, that Rudy will stay in the race.

PRESS: Well, congressman, as Mary pointed out today, the sharks are circling, and not -- we're not talking Democratic sharks. We're talking conservative sharks.

Double whammy on "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page this morning: Paul Gigot, no liberal he, urging Rudy to get out so somebody else, maybe Pataki, can get in. And then Peggy Noonan, who's the chief Hillary hater of all, writes her column in which she says -- quote -- about this race -- quote -- "This candidacy isn't going to work. He's in the kind of mess that needs time and space and a quiet area in which to play itself out."

Are you going to be the last rat on this sinking ship here, congressman?

FOSSELLA: I have no problem being loyal to someone who I think has demonstrated his ability to run this city and turn this city around, at the same time, still stand strong. But I will, when all is said and done, pay great homage to the fact that if he were to drop out, if he were to drop out for personal reasons, I respect that.

And I think anybody in this country, anybody as a citizen of New York state, will respect that as well.

But you know, there are times when in public life that you're confronted with situations that you don't anticipate, or if anything, you know, the light is to bright. But if he were to weather the storm, I think I and many New Yorkers would support him. But at the same time, I would respect the decision that he makes, whatever that -- whatever that is.

PRESS: Well, let me ask you the more important question, rather than will he, the more important question. Here's a man, he has never really officially announced for the Senate. He only reluctantly traveled upstate. Now he's got this serious health problem, and he's got these serious personal problems.

For the good of the party, congressman, wouldn't you tell him tonight that he should drop out of the race?

FOSSELLA: No, I wouldn't. I think we all are confronted with personal problems, health or otherwise, and I wish him the very best, that he combats the cancer that he has and prevails. And his personal life I think will be distinguished from his public life and his accomplishments as mayor. And I think ultimately the people of New York when they go to the polls in the -- in November will determine who is going to be their best representative in the United States Senate on behalf of the citizens of the state of New York. And that's the ultimate decision that the voters have to make.

And despite the storm, despite the stormy seas, if you will, in a month or two months, the people -- the candidates will be back on message, and I think the issues will be who is going to best represent the interests of cutting taxes, a strong national defense, or standing up for the people of New York. And Rudy Giuliani at this point is the best candidate.

If he decides, if he decides for personal reasons to drop out, I think you and I and most New Yorkers would have to appreciate -- to respect that decision.

MATALIN: OK. OK, Congressman Fossella, thank you. Congressman DioGuardi (UNINTELLIGIBLE) exactly those positions that have resulted in your jumping in. Even before these latest revelations, you announced your candidacy for the Senate after the mayor's announcement of prostate cancer, you're saying, and we, of course, believe it had nothing to do with that announcement.

You're saying you want to get on -- win the Conservative, independents, and right-to-life lines.

JOE DIOGUARDI (R), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: And why not the Republican? Don't forget, Mary, I'm a registered Republican, and yesterday, I put in the mail 391 letters -- I had to bring them to a regional post office to the members of the state committee, the Republican committee, and Bill Powers will get that letter on Monday.

You know...

MATALIN: OK, let me talk about...

DIOGUARDI: ... you just had a -- Mary, you had a set-up piece...

MATALIN: Can I ask you a question? I want to ask you a question, about your Republican prowess, congressman, because it is true you served two terms in the '80s, but then you went on to lose three general elections and one primary. So with respect, sir, how do you think you can, if you can't win your own district, you can't even win a primary in your own party, how do you think you can win statewide?

DIOGUARDI: Mary, you've got to do your research. I didn't run in my old district. You know what happens every 10 years? You are get redistricted. And what Nita Lowey did with her friend Mario Cuomo after I lost in 1988, she took my district and snaked it out for one mile a block-wide across the Throgs Neck Bridge until it get to where she was born and raised with Donald Manies (ph) and the governor.

And I was put at the last minute -- don't forget New York state was the last state in the union to declare its borders, or its districts, in 1991. And here I'm campaigning for three months in what I thought was my new district, was Ben Gilman's, and now I'm put into a Democrat district in Queens.

So you can't say it was my old district, and still I got 44 percent.

Mary, I've been competitive in every race I've been in, and you know, you go back and look at the races I've had. I announced against Dick Otinger (ph)...

MATALIN: OK...

DIOGUARDI: ... Bella Abzug in 1986 multimillionaire Nita Lowey...

MATALIN: OK, let me get back...

DIOGUARDI: ... the race that you talked about, the primary. MATALIN: Can I get back to Mayor Giuliani? Because the reason you got in, having nothing to do with the any of reasons all these other sharks are getting in...

DIOGUARDI: I made that decision months before.

MATALIN: I know. I know. Can I ask the question?

DIOGUARDI: Sure.

MATALIN: Because you objected to his policies. But are his policies that are -- that his -- I'll agree with you. He's not a social conservative. I don't think he's a social liberal; he's a social libertarian. But are those policies such that he offends voters that you think are only going to be attracted to you? And if that's the case, why did you have him come down and campaign for you and raise money for you?

DIOGUARDI: Well, first, let me say something about the congressman's loyalty: I admire that loyalty. I wish that Rudy Giuliani was as loyal to the party that started him in politics by making him the assistant attorney general back in 1983 under Reagan. You remember what he did in 1994: When Pataki wanted his support, he gave it to Cuomo.

So I think loyalty is nice, but I would wish that he would have followed suit, the people that are loyal to him.

You know, this didn't start just in the last couple of weeks for me. It started last February when the Conservatives had their so- called "convention" or conference, the C-PAC (ph) conference in Albany, and my name kept popping up because people were very disaffected with Rudy Giuliani. And it took several weeks for me to make a decision to jump into the race.

This race so far, Mary, is a joke. It's been one of personality. It's been one of celebrity. Look at the polls. The Marist poll last month, 55 percent of the New Yorkers want someone else besides Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton in this race. The Siena Research Institute poll said 51 percent of Democrats want someone other than Hillary in the race and 40 percent of the Republicans...

PRESS: Congressman...

DIOGUARDI: ... feel the same way about Giuliani.

PRESS: Congressman, we've seen those polls. Let me just switch back to Congressman Fossella for a second, because, Congressman Fossella, you sound, if I must say, more optimistic about Giuliani's candidacy than Giuliani does himself. I mean, he said he's not thinking about politics now. He said politics is in the third like -- second, their, fourth place. And here's what he said today on the radio about taking a lot longer than he thought to make a very important decision. Please listen up. I'd like to get your reaction.

FOSSELLA: Sure. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: I've learned with the health decision that I do need more time than I originally thought. It could be that it's a more complex decision than I thought or it could be that the, probably more so, it's the events of the last week, which are of a personal nature, have taken, you know, a lot of time away from doing the things, having the time, having the consultation and everything else that you need to get closer to making a decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Congressman, he doesn't sound like a candidate to me.

FOSSELLA: Well, yes, I think -- let's take a step back and not look at Rudy Giuliani as a mayor, not look at Rudy Giuliani as a candidate for the United States Senate, but Rudy Giuliani as a human being. He's confronted with some very serious private and personal problems...

PRESS: Right.

FOSSELLA: ... health and otherwise.

PRESS: Right.

FOSSELLA: But at the same time, he's confronting them in a public way, unlike many, if not all, people in New York state and across the country.

PRESS: I understand.

FOSSELLA: And we're seeing this. But at the same time, I think he's demonstrated his ability to govern the city, to stand up for what he believes is right.

I've had the privilege of working with him in the Congress and in the City Council. And...

PRESS: But the question...

FOSSELLA: And I want to emphasize this, because it's such a unique situation, that if he were to decide for personal reasons that he weren't to -- to run for the Senate, so be it.

But I think that he should take the time on a personal level to determine what's in his best interests for him and his family, and for his well-being. And I think people will respect the decision that he makes, one way or another.

PRESS: OK. All right, congressman, we're going to have to take a break. Both of you, please hold on there. We'll come back, and when we come back, let's ask the question that all Republicans in New York, most of the Democrats, too, are asking: If not Rudy, who?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PRESS: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

So will Rudy Giuliani bear down or bail out? He says he'll decide over the weekend, but if he does bail, tonight's guest, Joe DioGuardi, won't have the Republican field to himself. Congressmen Pete King and Rick Lazio are waiting in the wings. So is businessman Ted Forstmann, and so, it's rumored, is Governor George Pataki.

Who steps in if Rudy steps out? One of our challenges tonight for two New York Republicans: Congressman Vito Fossella, a Giuliani supporter, and former congressman, now Senate candidate, Joe DioGuardi -- Mary.

MATALIN: Congressman DioGuardi, you talked about the issues: Hillary saying we shouldn't do anything except focus on the issues. Let's talk about Rudy's record on the issues that everyone cares about.

As mayor of New York City, he reduced crime, he reduced taxes, he reduced welfare, he increased jobs, he increased test scores, he increased the surplus. These are breakfast-table issues. Those are the issues he'll run on and be able to beat her on because he has a record. He's not running on abortion or gay rights...

DIOGUARDI: Neither am I.

MATALIN: ... or any of those things that he thinks he's social on. But he has a record on these issues.

DIOGUARDI: And I have a record, too. I've been in Congress, as you know, four years. But he's a mayor and she's a first lady. I was a legislator. So there's an experience gap right there.

But let's talk about -- he did some very good things, Mary, and no one's going to take away some of the great improvements that have been made in New York. But you know, when you talk about a fiscal conservative, fiscal conservatives don't insist on taxing commuters that come into New York City from Suffolk County, Nassau, Westchester County.

When he started his mayoralty his first year, he promised that he would reduce the payroll by 35,000 jobs. I daresay it's increased by more than that since he's been mayor.

So you know, he may have accomplished some good things for the city, but there are some gaping holes in whether he is a conservative as a fiscal conservative or social conservative.

And let's not brush over the issue of abortion, because -- and I'm not a one-issue candidate. But on this -- in this race, you've got two candidates here that are for something that Mayor Koch, a well-known liberal Democrat, and Senator Moynihan, who's vacating the seat, called "infanticide": in other words, murder. This is what Hillary Clinton and Giuliani are supporting.

And we know in New York state the polls show that two-thirds of the people are against that procedure. So I daresay that we've got some issues here that have to be discussed on the social side and on the conservative side.

Mary, there's a big difference...

MATALIN: OK, congressman, I -- let me ask you something else here, because Bill raised the other candidates. Let's just say Rudy drops out -- I hope he doesn't. But if he does, are you prepared to then challenge in a primary Governor Pataki or Rick Lazio or Pete King, your former colleagues?

DIOGUARDI: Well, I paid my respects to my party yesterday by sending a letter to the 391 members of the state committee, the -- I guess it's the executive committee -- and letting them know that I am a registered Republican. And by the way, Mary, the difference between me and the other Republicans you mentioned is that I'm in the race whether Rudy Giuliani drops or not. I expect to have the Conservative right-to-life lines, and it's looking better and better each day for the Independents line.

I will now obviously seriously consider the Republican line, but I'm not going to fight my way into that primary. I've already made a statement that I would love to see them open it as they did for Mr. McCain.

PRESS: Congressman Fossella, let's talk about the possibility that the mayor may drop out. If he does, here's a governor, popular governor of the state, the only one of the candidates who's got instant statewide ID. He's got a free ride. He can't run again for re-election anyhow in 2002.

Isn't it a no-brainer that George Pataki is automatically the strongest candidate if there is no Giuliani candidacy?

FOSSELLA: Well, you're making a big assumption, that is that Rudy Giuliani drops out of the race.

PRESS: But I'm -- but I'm just asking you, in that possibility, isn't Pataki the strongest one, hands down?

FOSSELLA: He is clearly in the top two or top there in terms of the strongest candidates. And -- but at the same time, Bill, with all due respect, he's indicated he won't run. So we have a hypothetical that Rudy Giuliani will drop out of the race, that George Pataki will jump into the race.

George Pataki has been a good governor, but at the same time -- and he has statewide recognition -- but I think it's too early to make that prediction. At the...

PRESS: OK.

FOSSELLA: At the root of all of this, at the root of all of this is that New Yorkers want somebody who's going to be strong and firm for them representing them in the United States Senate.

PRESS: Let me -- but let me ask you about...

FOSSELLA: Whether it's taxes or national defense, missile defense, welfare reform, that's who (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And whether it's Rudy Giuliani or George Pataki, it's clearly better than the alternative at this point.

PRESS: All right. Almost out of time. I want to ask you just another -- about another aspect of this, which is Cristyne Lategano. The mayor's wife accused him of having an affair with her. Both the mayor and Miss Lategano have denied it. But she quit her job and the mayor lobbied to her the job as the head of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, an area where she had no experience, $150,000 a year.

Doesn't that have all the appearances of a political payoff, congressman? Isn't that a problem for the mayor?

FOSSELLA: I don't think so, and I'm not going there at all. I mean, I don't think ultimately, when people go to the polls in November, that's going to be worth two cents when they walk into the voting booth.

The people of New York, god bless them, are intelligent enough to understand who is going to be the strongest person in United States Senate to represent them. And these issues today, whether it's today or next week, are background noise to ultimately who the person is.

Right now, as I see it, the race is between Rudy Giuliani and Mrs. Clinton. And as I see it, the people -- the people I represent in Staten Island or Brooklyn, Bay Ridge or Gravesend or Bensonhurst or Dyker Heights, what they want and who they want in the Senate to be strong is Rudy Giuliani.

Now, that may change next week. But this other stuff and these decisions...

MATALIN: You're a great...

FOSSELLA: ... and things that you try to...

MATALIN: ... Congressman Fossella, you're a great loyal Republican. You've been great, loyal to the mayor. Thank you for joining us. Congressman DioGuardi...

FOSSELLA: Thank you.

MATALIN: ... good luck to your race. Really. We mean it. Thank you for joining us. We hope you'll join us again soon.

And Bill and I will both be back with our own...

PRESS: Thanks, guys.

MATALIN: ... closing comments on CROSSFIRE. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PRESS: Stick a fork in him! He's done! I mean, the -- the wisdom that comes from the streets. Mary, I have a serious question for you.

Here's a man that has a news conference announcing he's separating from his wife before he informed -- without informing his wife that he was going to do that. Why are you supporting this guy?

MATALIN: Do you want to ask me why I'm supporting a guy whose wife...

PRESS: Who would do something like that?

MATALIN: ... when he had not enjoyed a marriage for four years, by her admission, while you continue to support a guy, who...

PRESS: Wait a minute.

MATALIN: Do you even want to go through this?

PRESS: This is not about Clinton. Don't you think...

MATALIN: No.

PRESS: ... Rudy should have the decency to tell his wife...

MATALIN: Oh, please! Please!

PRESS: ... I'm having a news conference announcing we're having a separation?

MATALIN: Let me tell you -- just don't even go there.

PRESS: Go there!

MATALIN: You've got no place to go.

PRESS: How can you defend him?

MATALIN: What I find abominable about this situation right now, and what I did in the Clinton situation, even more abominable than his behavior, was rats jumping the ship, the rats that he brought to the party, OK?

These guys should just back off, give him the elbow room he needs to make the kind of decision. He's done good by the city. He's done good by the party. They ought to let him make his decision on his own time...

PRESS: He is a loser...

MATALIN: ... without the pressure.

PRESS: ... with baggage. You ought to throw him overboard.

MATALIN: Loyalty, something your party is not famous for. PRESS: From the left, I'm Bill Press. Have a good weekend. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

MATALIN: From the right, I'm Mary Matalin. Happy Mother's Day.

PRESS: Right.

MATALIN: We'll see you next week with more CROSSFIRE.

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