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Crossfire

Who Will the Presidential Candidates Choose as Their Running Mates?

Aired May 23, 2000 - 7:30 p.m. ET

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

MARY MATALIN, CO-HOST: Tonight, the No. 1 man at the Pennsylvania Statehouse and the No. 1 man at the Department of Energy. Will either be No. 2 on their party's presidential ticket?

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press; on the right, Mary Matalin. In the crossfire, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, an Al Gore supporter, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, a supporter of George W. Bush.

MATALIN: Good evening, and welcome to CROSSFIRE. George W. Bush and Al Gore were in full-throttle general election mode laying out foreign policy priorities in Washington, D.C., followed by forays into targeted states stumping for key demographic voters.

Bush began his public day at the National Press Club flanked by foreign affairs heavyweights, including Colin Powell and Henry Kissinger, to lay out his defense plans for a new era of nuclear security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is time to leave the Cold War behind and defend against the new threats of the 21st century. America must build effective missile defenses based on the best available options at the earliest possible date.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATALIN: The Texas governor then made his seventh trip to must- win Ohio to lay out his latest literacy program. The vice president addressed the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee and responded to Bush's charge that the Clinton administration had butted into Israeli elections and pressured Israeli lawmakers to expedite the peace process.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Clinton and I decided that the United States needed to chart a new course with regard to the Middle East peace process. Unlike our immediate predecessors, we chose to get intimately involved.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MATALIN: Al Gore then tended to domestic business also in a must-win state, Pennsylvania, addressing his second union group in as many days to press for or explain his support for permanent normal trade relations with China.

Meanwhile, pundits who can't get enough of veep watch 2000 got a fresh charge when Bush met with potential VP pick New York Governor Pataki to discuss the New York Senate race. Not that we're oblivious to the search for the perfect No. 2 and won't be able to resist asking our guests, who are both on their candidate's short lists.

So tonight, two party megaleaders on how their guys are doing post-primary, and what strategies and issues will lead to victory 2000 -- Bill.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Governor Ridge, good evening.

GOV. TOM RIDGE (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Good evening, Bill.

PRESS: Good to see you. And I promise you and promise the energy secretary we're not going to spend the whole show talking about your next job, but...

RIDGE: Good.

PRESS: But we've got to start there. And you know, governor, a lot of people have been talking about you as on the short list, but there's only one person that really matters when he talks about it. And I'm sure you've heard this bite before. Listen once more time, please.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I'll consider Tom Ridge. He is a friend of mine. He has been a good governor of the state of Pennsylvania, and he's under serious consideration, as are a lot of other people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: So governor, do you want the job and did you ask him for it?

RIDGE: Well, the caveat is there are a lot of other people, and if I get the phone call and have to make a decision, I'll make it at that time. But you know, Bill, I've got a job I love. I love being governor of Pennsylvania. And what people don't understand about this -- and this is a direct answer -- it's not as much political as it is family.

I mean, I've got a wife that gave up her job so I could be governor. I have two young kids. So it'll be a political calculation, but I think some family considerations as well.

PRESS: Well, not everybody's been jumping up and down with joy at the idea you might be on the ticket. Pat Robertson actually...

RIDGE: I noticed that.

(LAUGHTER)

PRESS: Pat Robertson said he could support it, but he said a lot of other people might have some trouble. Today, some of them came out of the woodwork in an article appearing in "Human Events" magazine.

Several conservatives led by James Dobson, Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer said that if you're on the ticket, they're going to take a hike, they can't support the ticket with you on it. What do you tell them? Take a hike themselves?

RIDGE: Well, I tell them -- and I basically refer to the observation you made initially: The choice is Governor Bush's. And whomever the governor selects, he will become the next vice president of the United States, because George Bush is going to get elected. And at the end of the day, hopefully Alan and Gary and Jim will support Governor Bush.

That's their goal. That should be their ultimate objective: not worry about who No. 2 is, but getting George Bush elected president.

PRESS: One other possible issue, up in Erie, Pennsylvania, your hometown...

RIDGE: Yes.

PRESS: ... a few years ago the bishop said that pro-choice politicians, Catholic politicians, were not welcome at church- sponsored events. Didn't mention you by name -- no doubt who he was talking about.

Does that one fact alone exclude you from the list, governor? That your bishop has basically shown you the door?

RIDGE: Well, actually that's not true. The bishop is my faith community leader, expressed belief in the church and expressed obviously some concerns about my opposing point of view on an issue that's fundamental to the church. But I respect him, and he didn't create the problem. I'm the one that disagrees with my church on that.

And so I don't think that it's necessarily disqualifying. But at the end day, regardless of what anybody else says, it's Governor Bush's choice to make.

PRESS: Mary, maybe you can get an answer out of the secretary.

MATALIN: Well, Mr. Secretary, you've not answered this question so many times I don't even know how to ask in such a way that would elicit any information. How about this: You're on the short list. Everybody knows it. You shaved off your beard. Keep putting you ever higher on this short list.

How about this? What do you think are your strengths for the job? BILL RICHARDSON, ENERGY SECRETARY: First of all...

(LAUGHTER)

I think this is -- this is a terrific guy. We came into Congress together, and he was a great congressman, now governor. So I want to put that aside. And if it helps him, I'll endorse him.

RIDGE: Goes both ways. Goes both ways.

RICHARDSON: Thank you. Thank you, governor.

Look, I think the vice president should have somebody that, one, is qualified to be president; No. 2, has foreign policy experience; No. 3, has a broad range of domestic experience; No. 4, somebody that is also compatible, chemistry with the vice president. That's what I think the vice president, the main qualification should be. And there's a whole range of candidates...

MATALIN: What on that list isn't you? That's all you. You've just described yourself.

RICHARDSON: There's a whole range of people.

MATALIN: And you're cute.

(LAUGHTER)

Well, that counts.

RICHARDSON: There's a whole range of good people. So, Mary, I'm going duck this one again.

MATALIN: OK. Let me ask it a different way. Were you to be the choice, and God forbid, that ticket gets elected, what would be your priorities?

RICHARDSON: Well, a vice president is somebody that has a very simple job: to do whatever the president tells him or her to do. And I believe secondly that the vice president should be somebody that has a good relationship with the Congress, somebody that has broad range of experience in the national security area, in the area of domestic policy. But most importantly, you do what the president wants you to do.

MATALIN: All right. We're getting nowhere fast. Let's move on.

PRESS: Let's turn to a couple of issues and one related to my last question, governor.

By the way, I'm sorry if I didn't call you cute. I left it off the list somehow.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK) On the important issue of choice, which, as you say, is an important issue to you and to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) church, some Republicans -- John McCain for one, Congressman Tom Campbell from California, I understand even the candidate or the presumed nominee's mother, Barbara Bush -- have said that the Republican Party platform ought to be changed either to take abortion out or to reflect that Republicans can differ on that issue.

Do you agree with that, governor?

RIDGE: Well, I agree with the principle that the platform should represent the point of view of the nominee, and it's pretty clear what the -- Governor Bush's point of view is on this. And I suggest that it probably will reflect the majority view of the delegates that are there.

So I think at the end of the day, while you would probably love us to have us change just one word in that, I think it's better that we confine our efforts, our collective efforts not to change that, because it's not the nominee's will, it's not the majority of the delegates who'll be there, and focus our efforts on defeating Vice President Al Gore.

He's a very formidable candidate, and this is not an issue that should divide us.

The journalists -- 15,000 journalists coming to Philadelphia would love it. Bill Richardson and Al Gore would love to see us, all that in-fighting. And I say that's -- this is not the time, this is not the place. Let's defeat Vice President Al Gore.

PRESS: Even if it's not -- even if it's not you, do you believe that Governor Bush can or should ask a pro-choice person to be his running mate on the ticket?

RIDGE: I believe that Governor Bush has set up the mechanism, including a close friend and confidante, and a widely recognized and admired man, Dick Cheney -- he's also got a list of a group of other people running that will give him a great deal of input.

The governor has said that he needs somebody that can be presidential, somebody with whom he has good personal chemistry. That means there's a long list. It's a deep bench on our side of the aisle. I suspect it's a deep bench on the Democratic side of the aisle.

Ultimately, it's the governor's call.

PRESS: Let me jump to another issue, governor, that's bound to be an issue in this campaign and one which two candidates certainly differ, and that's gun control. Over the weekend, the NRA said they were likely -- did not yet -- but said they were likely to endorse Governor Bush. And re-elected, newly re-elected President Charlton Heston actually raised the ante against Al Gore in a pretty dramatic moment.

You may have seen this. Let's look at it again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLTON HESTON, NRA PRESIDENT: So as we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away, I want to say those fighting words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed, and especially for you, Mr. Gore.

From my cold, dead hands!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Do you think that helps George Bush?

RIDGE: I think Charlton Heston has done a very theatrical -- very theatrical gesture. I don't know whether you want to take that gun out of Ben Hur's or Moses' hands...

But I think what needs to be done, and the person that can do it is George Bush, is to bring the discussion back to a more rational expression of differences of opinion. We had a mothers march here, and our Pennsylvania moms were concerned, afraid for their kids. My children are 14 and 12 years of age. We're all concerned about this, but there has to be respect on both sides of the aisle. I think too much theater against gets us away from what we need to do, and that's dealing with some of the mechanics of getting access, but there's also a deeper cultural, social problem with young people here who resort to violence.

And I don't think -- ace said before, I expected something like that from Charlton Heston, it's very theatrical, it's very dramatic, but I don't think it advances the debate the way George Bush will advance the debate.

MATALIN: And, Mr. Secretary, what Bill has done is what Gore has tried to do, is paint George Bush as a radical, as extremist on guns and abortions.

PRESS: I didn't say anything about Bush.

MATALIN: Charlton Heston appearing before his group, not speaking for George W. Bush. But while Al Gore has been attacking Bush at every turn, let's look at the status of where the race is, and I'm not trying to put too much weight on the polls, but the latest Zogby was 46-41, Bush up, more importantly, or ominously for you candidate, he's down in states that Dukakis won for Pete's sakes. He's losing in the Pacific states. He doesn't have his based pinned down.

What's going on with that campaign? Why has he had such a bad post-primary season?

RICHARDSON: Well first of all, all the polls I've seen are within 1-7 points. It's a very close race. It's early. Some encouraging polls: very close in Kentucky, in Florida, very close all over the Northwest. We believe the Midwest is going to be the battleground. It's very close there. Michigan, dead heat.

In the end, I believe the American people -- 81 percent I saw in one poll -- care about maintaining economic prosperity, education and preserving Social Security. Those are Al Gore's issues. That's where he's come out very strong.

MATALIN: But Al Gore is now losing. Forget about the states for a moment. He's losing every demographic except for seniors. In particular, he's losing women an independents, which Al Gore absolutely needs. You haven't pinned down your base. Bradley is still getting -- last week, he got 27 percent in Nebraska. Nader, your third party nightmare, is pulling almost 10 percent in California, 11 percent in the Pacific states.

RICHARDSON: Mary, nobody is focusing on this race. I remember Vice President Bush in 1988, he was behind 16 points.

MATALIN: Seventeen to be precise.

RICHARDSON: My point is that it's too early, but I think there's a big difference. There's a big difference.

MATALIN: Al Gore is not George Bush.

RICHARDSON: I've got to say, I mean, that Al Gore is with the Million Mom March, and you heard Charlton Heston.

Look, the NRA has talked about having access in the Oval Office with Governor Bush. Social Security, Al Gore wants to preserve Social Security, payoff the debt. He doesn't want an $800 billion tax cut that is going to blow the deficit on education. The vice president is for universal education. Governor Bush is for vouchers. We're going to win the election, because on the basic fundamental issues the American people care about, Al Gore is winning.

PRESS: Governor, very quickly, governor.

RIDGE: I think it's pretty clear that Al Gore has got so tied into the entrenched interests of the Democratic Party that he can't possibly provide 21st century leadership. We need to take a look at delivering Social Security in a different way. It's very progressive to throw that idea out. So far and one of the reasons, Mary, to your point, that Vice President Gore is not doing very well, is I think people are going to reject this Dr. Dark. I mean, everything is risky. Everything is irresponsible. I think if Al Gore would have been around in Philadelphia when they were signing the Declaration of Independence, he would have refused to sign it because it was a risky document. We need somebody who that's going to be a 21st century leader, and that's George Bush.

PRESS: All right, we're going to take a break. Governor Ridge and Mr. Secretary, we'll be right back. There are more issues on the table we're going to get to, including which of these two candidates has a better track record, can be better trusted on foreign policy, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Bush/Ridge -- has a nice ring to it, don't you think, almost as good as Gore/Richardson, but of course neither man is seeking the job. They're just working to get their man elected. And tonight, debating gun control, education, campaign reform, abortion, and all those other issues where Bush and Gore disagree, two strong supporters and two men most often mentioned as potential running mates, Republican, Pennsylvania's governor, Tom Ridge, and Democrat, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson -- Mary.

MATALIN: Mr. Secretary, let me pick it up where the governor left off. Today, George Bush gave a speech, his defense strategies for a new era of nuclear security, about which the vice president immediately responded by calling it irresponsible, reckless. Let me go through the list of every Gore story, everything Gore said about any of Bush's proposal: risky, reckless, irresponsible, arrogant, smug, naive, clumsy. Bill just said we're talking about debating about where these candidates disagree. Gore is not debating. He's is Dr. Dark. He's just attacking George Bush. And isn't this why he has a 44 percent negative? We don't know who Al Gore is. We just that he knows how to attack George Bush.

RICHARDSON: First of all, Mary, ever since Super Tuesday, the Vice President Al Gore has gone out and talked about education, foreign policy. He visits a school a week. He has a constant dialogue at town meetings with the American people.

The questions that are being asked are fundamental are fundamental on national security issues. Governor Bush today said he's again for "Star Wars," a huge missile defense system. How will we pay for it? I mean, even the Pentagon isn't for it. He's against the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty? What's does that mean. He's going to start nuclear testing? He's got this impressive group of people backing him on national defense, but...

MATALIN: Do you think Kissinger and Colin Powell are reckless, irresponsible?

RICHARDSON: No, no, no, they're very distinguished people, but they're not running for president, and Governor Bush is, and Governor Bush on national security issues compared to Al Gore, who is an expert on arms control, on the Middle East, who is somebody that has had a distinguished career in international economic and trade policy. I mean, there's no comparison.

RIDGE: I have to respond to that briefly. I don't know if Bill had an opportunity to see Governor Bush's speech today, but he talked about the difference of a 21st century threat as opposed to the Cold War. He's not talking about the kind of -- in my sense, the kind of massive SDI program that was debated down the road. It may be, but the fact of the matter is, his speech said it's a different kind of threat, it's a different kind of time, we need a different kind of strategy and we need a different kind of leadership. He basically said we have to take a look at our nuclear arsenal and see if we really need -- even as a country, maybe we need to reduce the number of nuclear warheads we have, regardless what anybody else does.

I mean, I think he's trying to the put 21st century leadership on an issue, on that issue, on Social Security, on education, on the environment, and everything that Governor Bush tries to do, the only response we get from Dr. Dark is it's risky, it's irresponsible.

PRESS: Well, governor, at the risk of sounding like Dr. Dark myself, you're talking about new leadership, you're talking about 21st century leadership, look who was there today. I mean, he had George Schulz. He had Donald Rumsfeld. You had Henry Kissinger, for God's sakes. I mean, these are like the ghost of Christmas past. That's not new leadership. It's the same old guys that left Saddam Hussein in power two years back.

RIDGE: These are trusted, well-respected and admired advisers, recognized around the world, who have helped -- worked with government leadership.

(CROSSTALK)

RIDGE: The new leadership is Governor Bush. The new leadership is President Bush. But with these trusted advisers, whose experience is grounded in several previous administrations, helped lead him to the conclusion that the nuclear deterrent that we need today is different than the one we needed yesterday, that the nuclear arsenal that we confront today and the challenges is different than we did in the Cold War, and that we need a new strategy; that's new 21st century leadership.

RICHARDSON: But governor, it is risky when you say you're going to privatize Social Security, and 20 percent of it you're going to put in the stock market. It is risky when you have an $800 billion tax cut, and you're not going pay off the national debt and bust the Social Security surplus.

MATALIN: That's a whole another show, and you'll both have to come back for that.

RIDGE: Well, we'd love to continued this discussion, wouldn't we?

RICHARDSON: We sure would.

MATALIN: The perfect number twos, both cute presence. That's the girl word for presence. You both have it.

Thank you, governor. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Bill and I will be back with our closing comments after this quick break.

Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATALIN: Richardson has more presence, that's the word I was searching for, not "cute" than his candidate. Those two were great. That would be a real debate, unlike your candidate, who all he's done is distort Bush's position, and then he attacks the distortion. That is not the way to win. The way to win is what Richardson was doing today, but he's not on the ticket, yet.

PRESS: Gore uses adjectives because he knows them, and George Bush doesn't know any. But having said that, I just have to say, I think Bill Richardson is an excellent choice, would be an excellent choice, and I also thing Tom Ridge would too. I think George Bush has to think out of the box if he wants to prove he's not a Pat Robertson Republican. He ought to stand up to these religious conservatives. Tom Ridge for vice president.

MATALIN: The reason to pick Ridge is because he's great, a great record, and he's cute.

PRESS: Talk about the kiss of death. I just endorsed him.

MATALIN: And he's cute.

PRESS: From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

MATALIN: He's cute, but he ain't going to make the short list.

From the right, I'm Mary Matalin. Join us tomorrow night for more CROSSFIRE.

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