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Crossfire

Is William Daley the Man to Lead Al Gore to Victory?

Aired June 16, 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)

WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: I am privileged honored to be asked to be chairman of this campaign, and I look forward to a very strong and vigorous campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Tonight Al Gore's new campaign chairman. As new polls show George W. Bush out in front, is Bill Daley the man to lead Al Gore to victory?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Robert Novak.

In the CROSSFIRE, Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, incoming Gore campaign chairman.

PRESS: Good evening, welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Last night, we told you how brave Al Gore's new campaign chairman is. Tonight, he proves it -- he's here, in the CROSSFIRE, Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, tapped by Gore to replace ailing Tony Coelho and breathe new life into an operation that everybody agrees badly needs it. He steps in just in time, while CNN's latest sounding shows race statistical dead heat Bush 49, Gore 45. "The L.A. Times" poll today gives Bush a double-digit lead, 50-40. But Daley's takeover is not good news to all Democrats. Because he led the fight for passage of NAFTA and permanent trade status with China, Labor boss John Sweeney blistered Daley as, quote, "squarely on the opposite side of working men and women." Ouch.

So tonight, before he leaves for Nashville, how does he see the campaign? What are plans to change it? And where does he start? Commerce Secretary and new Gore campaign chair Bill Daley -- Bob.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Mr. Secretary, why did you take that job?

DALEY: Well, Al Gore is a friend of mine. Al Gore, I have watched over the last three and a half years in this administration, and I have enormous respect for him. I think he will make a great president. And no doubt I was privileged to be commerce secretary. President Clinton and the vice president give me the opportunity 3 1/2 years, and Tony Coelho was ill, and Tony Coelho had to leave the campaign, and the vice president asked me. And when the friends ask you to do difficult things, one should step forward, and that's what I did.

NOVAK: Mr. Secretary, maybe you can explain something to me. About a week ago, my source in the Democratic Party said that you had to replace Tony Coelho. He was so burdened by scandal he couldn't even come on CROSSFIRE. And there was no talk about illness. They were saying that we need Bill Daley in that job, and I wrote that in my column, I've said it on the air. Is this an invented diplomatic illness?

DALEY: No, it isn't at all. Tony Coelho, as everyone knows, has had an illness over the years. He's been able to control it. The stress of a campaign has been enormous. I talked to Tony. I know that his illness is real. He gave a tremendous amount of energy over the last year. When Tony Coelho joined this campaign, people were saying Al Gore wasn't going to win the primaries. He won every primary. He went out there. He was aggressive. He had a message to Democrats, listened to it, believed it, and he won every single primary.

NOVAK: There is a general feeling in town, Secretary Daley, that you are going to do a couple of -- that this means a couple of thins. One thing it means is that the campaign, as a general campaign generally will, will come toward the middle, as George Bush's campaign in going toward the middle. You're a new Democrat. Is that a fair assumption?

DALEY: I would say that this campaign is going to be about addressing the issues that the majority of the American people feel strongly about.

NOVAK: You don't want to answer that question.

DALEY: No, I'll answer it. Al Gore has been a middle person, but it depends how you define that. Some people would like to describe Al Gore as way to left. Some say he's too far to the right. The fact of the matter is, he's where common sense. He has common sense on issues that the American people feel strongly about.

NOVAK: But what almost everybody feels is that you're being in there, and the campaign that he's now waging about talking how good the economy is, is that he has shucked off his misgivings about being too close to President Clinton, and says hey, if I'm going to win this election, I got to be under the president's wing. Do you think that's fair to say?

DALEY: No, I think if Al Gore is going to win this election, he's going to win it because the vast majority of the American people believe that he's the leader for the future. It's not about the last eight years, even though they have been spectacular, contrary to what most people think or thought eight years ago about the ability to change the economy. Fact is, the projections of the deficit eight years ago were unbelievable. Today, we have a surplus. No one would have ever dreamt that, except those who believed in President Clinton and Vice President Gore's economic policies. PRESS: Mr. Secretary, organized labor has supported Bill Clinton and on everything issue down the line, but two: NAFTA and China. You led the fight on both. Isn't your appointment a poke in the eye to organized labor?

DALEY: No I've had a good relationship with organized labor all of my life. I believe. I've worked with organized labor. I headed a bank in Chicago that was one of the few organized banks in America. And I have consistently, as commerce secretary, tried to work with labor because it's an important constituency on behalf of our economy. We have a disagreement on trade issues, and that's been clear with the president, vice president. But if you look at where organized labor is, and the issues that are important to the working men and women of America, that's where Al Gore is.

PRESS: But John Sweeney obviously voiced a lot of protest, met with the vice president today. Have you talked to John Sweeney since you were named chairman?

DALEY: No, I called John yesterday. He was traveling. I'm going to try reach him over weekend. I talked to numerous labor leaders today and last evening, and I've told them, my goal is to elect Al Gore, that's why I'm here, and I'm going to work closely with him.

PRESS: Twenty-four hours he can't find you on the phone, I mean,

DALEY: Well, he's a busy man.

PRESS: All right, we'll take it at that. But the danger -- isn't the danger that labor is not run and support George W. Bush? Isn't the danger, that labor can just sit on its hands and you don't have the ground troops you need?

DALEY: Organized labor and working men and women are not going to so interest hands with an election this important to them and to their futures. They're going to be out working for Al Gore and for Democrats, and that's what it's about. It's not about campaign manager, it's not about the inside baseball stuff, it's about who's going to lead this country, and who can best represent those people on their issues, whether it's health care, patients bill of rights, education issues, and, number one, keeping the economy strong. Organized labor is stronger today. There are more working men and women today, organized working men and women today, more organized working men and women, because of the policies of this administration.

PRESS: Mr. Secretary, I just want to follow up on Bill's questioning. Did you ever hear of a guy named Mike Mathis?

DALEY: No.

NOVAK: He's the government affairs director teams of the Teamsters union. I want you to see what he said about you today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE MATHIS, GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS DIRECTOR, TEAMSTERS UNION: Certainly this appointment to be a real slap in the face to organized labor and really to all of American workers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Not too nice a compliment.

DALEY: Right.

NOVAK: Do you think you're going to get the Teamsters endorsement for the vice president?

DALEY: Well, look, the key to this is the vast majority of the voters on Election Day, whether the Teamsters endorse or not, they had a rally with Pat Buchanan, that's -- I don't know where they're going. We want the endorsement of the working men and weapon. We want members of the Teamsters union to vote for Al Gore. And if they look at the issues, the Teamsters look at issues, that have been the front of Al Gore's career, they will be for Al Gore.

NOVAK: Another union -- you say don't what the Teamsters -- another union, the United Auto Workers. When I was growing up, when you were growing up, the United Auto Workers were the heart of the Democratic Party. Haven't endorsed Al Gore yet. Do you think they will?

DALEY: We sure hope they do. We believe that they should, because of what Al Gore is saying, and the sort of leadership he's going to give, and if you look at his career. Again, the fact of the matter is, organized labor understands they endorsed Al Gore, AFL-CIO, and they helped Al Gore win those primaries, and he understands that, and he's close to organized labor, and has had in his entire career strong UAW support.

NOVAK: Mr. Secretary, polls in June don't mean that much, but I like to read the internals in the polls. They're very interesting. All these polls show that among white men -- white men, one of the really processed minority groups in America today -- Bush leads Gore by 20, 25 points. What can you do to change that? I mean, that's a big handicap to start with.

DALEY: Well, as you said, these polls right now don't mean very much, the externals or the internals of them. The fact of the matter is this campaign is organized well, we are moving forward, the vice president talking about issues, that he is not targeting white men, or white women, or tall men, or bald people or short people, he's talking to vast majority of the American people across the ethnic racial lines, and he's not going to have a targeted message to one little group, whether those are what's you believe are oppressed are white men or whoever, Bob.

NOVAK: You think they're oppressed white men.

DALEY: We don't look very oppress, do we? PRESS: Mr. Secretary, you're one of the Cabinet members closest to the president. In 1996, he wanted you to run his campaign, didn't get his first pick. He's called on you for some important tasks. There are rumors that the president hasn't been entirely happy with progress of the Gore campaign, and here you are. Is this the Clinton takeover of the Gore campaign?

DALEY: No, not at all. The fact of matter is, the way the vice president called -- and as the vice president said yesterday, he didn't even have time to tell the president, which was unfortunate, but it had to happen.

The fact is, I'm proud of serving the president and vice president. The president understands that this is a race that Al Gore has got to win. And it's got to be the future in the things that Al Gore lays out.

But the president knows politics better than anybody in America, and I would assume that I will call on his advice and his suggestions, absolutely.

PRESS: When the vice president asks you to take over, you are in charge?

DALEY: Yes.

PRESS: You are in control?

DALEY: Well, I'm chairman. I'm not -- in -- I believe that a chairman doesn't have to run everything. That's not the way I operate. But he has given me full authority to help run this campaign.

PRESS: There have been reports that there's been some friction with Donna Brazile, the campaign manager, Tony Coelho, that everything is not really going right in Nashville. What other changes, particularly, is Donna Brazile going to stay where she is?

DALEY: Yes, Donna Brazile is a campaign manager. I had breakfast with Donna this morning. I've known Donna for 15 years. We brought new people in. There's got to be a build up of this. There's only about 75 people working.

PRESS: So no house cleaning?

DALEY: No. There will be changes. There will be additional people put on. There has to be. We're getting to general campaign. Donna's got a great job. Ted Devine's doing a great job. Carter has done a great job. There's a whole host of people that have, I think -- are an excellent team.

NOVAK: We're going to have to take a break. And when we come back, we'll ask Bill Daley to open up his playbook for this campaign, and show us a lot of things, including the next vice presidential nominee.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Secretary of Commerce William Daley is the new national chairman of Al Gore's presidential campaign. What will he do to get some momentum for the vice president? Is he heading the Gore campaign back to the center of the road? What kind of vice president does he favor? We're asking Bill Daley himself, the new face of the Gore campaign -- Bill Press.

PRESS: Mr. Secretary, you know, in Washington, those of us in the media and in politics live and die by the hotline and the quote of the day. The hotline is what everybody wants. Today the quote of the day went to Senator Evan Bayh. He was asked what he thought about the new Gore campaign chairman, and here is what he said. Quote, "Bill is the full package."

I mean, such a wet kiss I've never seen before, Mr. Secretary. I'm just curious, how many of the people who are in the VP running list called you today to tell you how wonderful you are?

DALEY: I don't think any of them called. I didn't hear from Evan Bayh, but I'll take the compliment. "Full package," I've got to think about that.

PRESS: Bill Richardson's one of the names on the list. A lot -- I mean, they did find the missing hard drives...

DALEY: They say.

PRESS: ... but a lot of problems. Bob, still skeptical? A lot of problems still with the labs, with the security business, gasoline prices -- all of these problems knock Bill Richardson off the list?

DALEY: Bill Richardson's a solid secretary. He's done a great job. He's been a good elected official. The fact of the matter is that's a tough job and tough issues.

The vice president has -- is playing the -- as he should, the vice presidential selection process very close. This is his decision. This is not a political decision that's going to be made. This is a decision that he has said is about who could become president if, God forbid, something happened.

PRESS: But I heard you say earlier today that the vice president would even be willing to consider somebody so far outside the box, that that -- he or she would be even maybe outside the party. I mean, come on, Mr. Secretary.

DALEY: Well I think that was -- that was said at a weak moment of -- with no information as to the process at this point. That was my own judgment. I hadn't transferred yet into the chairman's job.

PRESS: You take it back?

DALEY: Sure, I take it back because I -- I hadn't transferred yet into the chairman's...

NOVAK: Does that mean Bill Cohen is a possibility?

DALEY: No, I -- once again, Bob, I was making the comments. The vice president has kept this real close. And, as it should be, this is his decision. It is not a political decision that's going to be made. And so I was just speaking a little too freely.

NOVAK: Mr. Secretary, since he clinched the nomination, Vice President Gore has done very well in polls, and, coincidentally or not, he has been rather aloof from the media. The Republican National Committee was putting out pictures of me and Mark Shields with our hands in the stocks, you know, media held captive. But, coincidentally or not, since you're -- you've been named, Vice President Gore gave a little press conference yesterday. He had a lot of press interviews today. We hoped to get him on EVANS NOVAK HUNT AND SHIELDS. Is this a new day dawning?

PRESS: On CROSSFIRE?

DALEY: I think the vice president is -- has a very aggressive, not only press strategy, a very aggressive campaign going on.

NOVAK: But that's you, isn't it?

DALEY: These decisions were made before I got here. And so I think, it is about the vice president wanting to make sure he gets his message out, and get people get to know him as the next leader of the United States.

NOVAK: You think he's been too aloof the last few months?

DALEY: I think aloof's -- I've known Al Gore for years. He is not an aloof person.

NOVAK: No, I mean aloof from the press.

DALEY: No. I don't think so. I don't think so at all. I think he's been trying to take a message to the American people, and trying to deal with the press, who can be -- very rarely, not you two -- difficult to deal with.

NOVAK: Let me -- let me go to the back, to the CNN/(TIME) poll. And here is one that knocked my head off because Al Gore has a certain amount of foreign policy experience, dealing with the leaders of Russia and so on. Governor Bush's foreign policy experience is mostly with Mexico on the border.

Who would be good in an international crisis? Governor Bush: 53 percent. Vice President Gore: 45 percent.

That isn't who you want to elect president. It's just one little thing. You're not getting message out, are you?

DALEY: Well, I think one of the things, to be honest with you, Bob, is the American people, one because they really haven't focused on this, they haven't looked at the candidates to make a real -- in my opinion, a judgment as to who really can lead this country.

Al Gore knows foreign policy as well, if not better, than any one out there on the national scene. And I think that if there is an issue that Al Gore knows more about, other than the economy, it's foreign policy. And I think as the campaign develops, as the debates take place -- and there should be numerous debates -- that the American people really get to know these people, and know their capabilities and their future.

NOVAK: Well, let me just raise one other issue. And that is the question of the hardworking people who make a lot of money and pay a lot of taxes, and whether you're just ignoring them.

Let's see what the governor of Texas has to say about that this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In order to have a tax relief package that encourages and stimulates economic growth, there ought to be a cut across the board as well. Everybody who pays taxes ought to get tax relief.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: What's wrong with that?

DALEY: Well, everyone wants tax relief, and the vice president's got a very targeted tax relief program.

NOVAK: Not for everybody.

DALEY: He is for everyone enjoying -- continuing to enjoy this economic prosperity we've got and not putting that at risk with a risky plan.

NOVAK: So you don't think everybody should get tax relief, then. People who are successful...

DALEY: I believe...

NOVAK: ... can get less relief.

DALEY: People are successful today because of the economic policies of this administration. They're doing very well, and we should all -- we have a right to want tax relief...

PRESS: Mr...

DALEY: ... we have an obligation to pay our taxes.

PRESS: Mr. Secretary, this campaign, the Gore campaign, has obviously had problems since the primary, most of them, in my judgment, self-inflicted, for example, Mr. Gore's breaking with administration over Elian Gonzalez. Don't you think, honestly -- you've been very honest tonight -- don't you think that was a colossal mistake on the vice president's part?

DALEY: The vice president stated what he believes. And that was consistent. People didn't focus on what he was saying back in November. The fact is a lot of people maybe didn't like what he said, but he said what he believed and he stuck by it.

PRESS: But if you look at it, you know, he didn't gain any votes among the Cuban-Americans, he ticked off a lot of Democrats, it forced him, as Bob indicated, to stay out of the media and not to hold any news conferences for two months, and he broke with the president who made him what he is. That's the downside, what's the upside?

DALEY: The upside was that he stated what he believed.

PRESS: And...

NOVAK: I thought it was right, too. That's an upside, isn't it? When I say something wrong?

DALEY: I've got to reconsider, I guess, my answer.

(LAUGHTER)

PRESS: Tell me this. As Commerce secretary and chairman, I mean, you've led the fight to open up trade with North Korea, with China, with Vietnam. Why not with Cuba? Isn't that inconsistent? And isn't that one area Al Gore could really show some bold leadership? Lift the sanctions against Cuba? Why not?

DALEY: Because there's been action by Congress which prevents that. The fact of the matter is Cuba will change, eventually, when leadership changes there. And the fact is that's what the American Congress believes, that the sanctions are -- should be in place. And we believe that democracy is important in the world, obviously, and we want to see a change in Cuba.

Mr. Secretary, Mr. Chairman, you've got a big job. Good luck...

DALEY: Thanks, Bill.

PRESS: ... Come back and tell us how you're doing.

DALEY: Great, thank you.

PRESS: All right.

NOVAK: Thank you.

PRESS: Commerce Secretary Bill Daley. Bob Novak and I will be back with our closing comments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Bill, there has been sort of a Saturnine darkness about the Gore campaign. Tony Coelho doesn't go on television, Donna Brazile doesn't go on CROSSFIRE. Bill Daley is really a dash of sunshine coming through -- going to be on five shows on Sunday. And I think he's a good politician. But beyond that, he's a happy face to present to the people. I think that's something the Gore campaign needs.

PRESS: As much as I hate to, Bob, I have to say I agree with you. And I want to add one thing, which the secretary did tonight, something we rarely see politicians do, which is admit he was wrong. When I asked him about, you know, about appointing somebody who was a Republican as a vice president, he said, hey, I spoke too soon. I shouldn't have. I take it back.

NOVAK: And also, I asked him about the Teamsters and the UAW going to endorse him. He said, I hope so. He didn't say they definitely will. So, that's...

PRESS: Good match...

NOVAK: He's a straight shooter.

PRESS: ... I think he'll do a good job, and we'll be watching.

From the left, I'm Bill Press. Have a great weekend. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Happy Father's Day and happy Grandfather's Day, too.

Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

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