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Crossfire

Will Gore or Bush Have a Woman as Their Running Mate?

Aired June 26, 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: They've both been mentioned as running mates and they're both women: Tonight, the latest on the contest between Al Gore and George Bush, including whether a woman on the ticket is the winning ticket for 2000.

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press; on the right, Mary Matalin. In the crossfire, Democratic Senator Patty Murray, Washington state co-chair of the Gore campaign, and in Trenton, New Jersey, Republican Governor Christie Whitman, a supporter of Governor Bush.

MATALIN: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Soaring gas prices have become a centerpiece of campaign 2000. Pumping out $2.50 per gallon, voters in the critical Midwest battleground states have the summertime blues. They're looking to blame someone and the candidates are blaming each other. Gore says it's all because of Bush and his "big oil" buddies. Bush says eight years of nothing on energy and too much on the environment are taking their toll on consumers.

Explosive gas prices are only one distraction for Gore. Revelations of a third Department of Justice recommendation for outside counsel to investigate his 1996 fund-raising activities dominated the political talk shows. With Janet Reno testifying this week, that issue is unlikely to go away.

Equally unlikely to go away is the tenacious Ralph Nader, who received the Green Party nomination this weekend and lots of publicity since his poll gains appear to be coming at Al Gore's expense.

With or without Nader, Gore continues to slip in national polls, garnering only 39 percent to Bush's 52 percent of the vote in the just-completed CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll.

Adding to the campaign year cacophony, Clinton came out with his prosperity plans for the new surplus, almost double earlier projections.

So tonight, campaign 2000: Can Gore change his negative trajectory? What can he do to regain loyalty among women voters Democrats traditionally enjoy, and will anyone pay in the fall for prices at the pump today? -- Bill.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Governor Whitman, welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

GOV. CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN (R), NEW JERSEY: Nice to be with you.

PRESS: Thank you. Let's start with gas prices and start with not talking politics. Governor, when you look across the country and you see that gas prices suddenly spike up in one part of the country but not in another part of the country, and they suddenly spike up and then they just as suddenly start to disappear, isn't it pretty clear to you that the oil companies are manipulating the prices?

WHITMAN: Well, there are a whole lot of things going on that don't make any sense, and they've been going on since mid-winter. And I had a chance to speak with the energy secretary at that time, and I did ask that there be an investigation to see whether price gouging was part of what we were suffering or whether it was a lack of supply, whether the president shouldn't look at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve at that point.

And I think we still have to take at that. We have to take a hard look at what's happening around this country. We can't afford to ignore it.

Of course, it has a relationship to the fact that we're so dependent on foreign oil, and OPEC has been tight with supplies until recently and then it takes a while for those supplies to reach the marketplace. But there has to be a question as to whether or not speculators, whether it's the oil companies or Wall Street, taking some advantage of this.

PRESS: Well, I appreciate the fact that -- your candor in saying that the oil companies might very well have a role here. Of course, Vice President Gore has been saying that. Governor Bush has been strangely silent, hasn't said anything about the oil companies. I wondered until I saw in The New York Times the other day, Governor -- I'm going put this up on the screen for you and our viewers to see -- that the leading contributors to Governor Bush's presidential campaign happen to be -- surprise, surprise -- Texas oil companies, starting with Enron, going down through El Paso Energy, Koch Industries, Exxon- Mobil, Coastal Corporation, Bass Brothers Enterprises. All together, he's got 15 times more money from the oil companies than Al Gore.

He's not talking against them because they own him, right, governor?

WHITMAN: Oh, I would disagree with you, Bill, on that. First of all, George Bush has said everything should be looked at and that does include looking at what's happening with the oil companies. He hasn't hidden from that. But it's not surprising. He comes from a state that represents -- that's where the oil industry is based. If I were to run anywhere, I would presume that I'd get pretty good support from the pharmaceutical industry, because we're the medicine chest of the nation, and we work closely together, so they know me well. The same thing is true with the oil industry and George Bush.

But that's not why he is not saying what you want him to say. He has in fact said that he is open to making sure we look at everything. But we have to understand that we need an energy policy that doesn't have us relying on foreign oil, because you have to say this is where a lot of the problem has come. It's been supply. And we also need to look at alternate sources of energy.

PRESS: I could not agree more. It's supply and it is demand, and in terms of alternate sources of energy, in terms of energy efficiency, in terms of energy conservation, the vice president today laid out a program. Tax credits, as we used to have by the way -- you remember -- under Jimmy Carter for solar and for wind and all those alternative sources of energy.

Isn't the vice president on the right track? Isn't that where we have to go to get independent of OPEC, this OPEC monopoly?

WHITMAN: Well, I do think that we do need to look at alternate sources of energy. Absolutely. We need to look at things alternate to coal fuel for a lot of our power. We need to look at having a good kind of disbursement, because we face the same kinds of problems as they do in the Midwest. It hasn't been as bad here. But we obviously have problems when we hit the top -- the peak of the summer season. And we had -- we had brownouts, rolling brownouts, last year.

So we have a concern here as well, but it's a comprehensive energy policy. It's a little late to just be starting that now, with all due respect to the vice president. He has talked about his focus on energy. He's talked about his focus on the environment and how much of a partner he's been in this administration, not just someone who sat in the background and went to funerals as so many vice presidents have been relegated to doing. So -- and it's a little surprising that only now is he making this kind of a statement and laying out this kind of a plan.

MATALIN: And senator, let me pick up there. Only now is he talking about this being a market-driven plan despite the fact that it requires, his aides say, significant infusion of federal dollars. Let's talk about where the vice president has been philosophically for the past eight years, because there's no way the governor of a state can impact oil prices, but an energy and environmental policy can.

This vice president for his book, "Earth in the Balance," has long been for higher taxes on fossil fuels. He says it's one of the logical first steps in changing our policies on the environment. He's long been the driving force behind these regulations, this reformulation in the Midwest, which is when the spikes occurred in the Midwest, when these gas stations had to reformulate their gas. He has long been against encouraging independence of foreign oil by not encouraging domestic research for oil.

So now he comes up with a market-driven plan after eight years?

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D-WA), GORE WASHINGTON CO-CHAIR: I would say we're looking to who's going to be the president for the next eight years, and I think we want somebody who understands what's happening today and what we need to do long term.

We've been in gas price trouble before. I remember the lines of the '70s. I know it comes and goes, and it will again.

But I think the vice president is absolutely on the right track to say what are our energy policies going to be so we don't continue to be so dependent on oil. And I would say that the governor of Texas probably doesn't have the same interest in making sure that happens.

MATALIN: When the vice president was in a position to say that, here's what he did -- not what he said. Here's what he did. He cast the tie-breaking vote on the gasoline tax and send subsequently on PBS he's very, very proud of that vote. He has long been against -- he has resisted exploration for new sources of domestic oil. He's voted against that. He's argued against that. This is what he's done in office.

Why should we believe what he's going to do when we have a record to look at here?

MURRAY: Let me remind you that that vote was a vote that brought us to a balanced budget and a budget surplus for the first time in 30 years. And this gas tax has not been raised since 1993, despite all the rhetoric that we hear about that.

I think what the vice president is doing in calling for an investigation of the oil companies so the public knows whether or not there's anything going on in terms of gouging is critical, and Governor Bush has been silent on that issue.

MATALIN: No. Let me correct both of you. You've both misstated George Bush's position. He has agreed that there should be a price gouging investigation. So you're both wrong on that. Christie Todd Whitman is right.

Let's talk about energy policy of the Clinton-Gore administration. It was your energy secretary, not the governor of Texas, who said about this surge and increase in energy prices, "It's obvious the federal government was unprepared." Quote-unquote. Quote again: "We were caught napping." That's your secretary of energy. You have no energy policy.

MURRAY: And I think our problem is today what it was in the '70s, is that we are an oil-dependent country, and we need to have a president who I believe would be Al Gore who would understand that and work us to an energy policy so that we aren't so oil-dependent. And I again will tell you that that will not be Governor Bush that takes us down that road.

MATALIN: So the -- the vice president for the last eight years, when he had a chance to reduce our dependence, did nothing about it but will if we elect him. Is that your position?

MURRAY: Well, there have been proposals to do a lot of different studies, and we, you know, in Congress have been working to move us in that direction. But I will tell you the oil industry has been opposed to that and has put up big blockades. So it's not surprising (UNINTELLIGIBLE)... PRESS: And actually, President Clinton and Al Gore have a program in Congress -- and they've had it there for the last two years; the Republican Congress has refused to act on it.

But governor, I want to jump to another subject, which is the -- which is the surplus. The president today said the surplus -- I'm not sure if this is good news or bad news -- but the surplus is twice as big as it was projected. It's about 1.9 trillion instead of just $1 trillion, which I'm sure you would agree that Clintonomics is working.

WHITMAN: No. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) tax cuts and good constraint on spending are working.

PRESS: Now, in looking at this surplus, both Governor Bush and Al Gore have come up with different ways of saying how people might invest some of this good economic gain into the private market. We know that Governor Bush's plan says we would take part of Social Security and let people invest in the market. He insisted at the time that this would mean no cuts in benefits.

I've got here, governor, this week's "Newsweek." Larry Lindsey, Governor Bush's economic adviser, says -- quote -- "Reductions in the guaranteed amounts of benefits that will go to plan participants are absolutely obvious, so I will say it."

That plan cuts Social Security benefits, governor. Governor Bush was just lying when he said it wouldn't, wasn't he?

WHITMAN: No, I disagree with you. I don't think he is lying. He's talking about a lockbox on Social Security and no reduction in benefits, allowing people, though, to do some investment into the marketplace so that they can see some of their own (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Something that, you know, fascinates me: Al Gore said that this was terrible, the worst thing in the world you could do was to allow that. And then all of a sudden -- I guess it must have looked good in the polls -- because yesterday he comes out with a plan that says: You know what would be a good idea? Let's let people set up their own 401(k) type program for Social Security and do their investment there.

I believe that this is an appropriate position to take. I trust, as George Bush does, you trust the individual. You trust them to make some good decisions. And allowing them to take part of it, their Social Security money, and invest it, and use those returns to help ensure their future is, I think, a very sound policy. And now apparently, Al Gore does as well. So there's not as -- as big a difference as people would say.

PRESS: Well, as we've shown on this program, governor, the difference with the Gore plan is it doesn't touch Social Security. It's supplemental on top of Social Security. And again referring to this "Newsweek," when people were asked about the Gore plan, the support was 67 percent favor that plan, not touching Social Security, 20 opposed. When people were shown the original Bush plan, they said 55 supported it. When they were told it would cut Social Security benefits, only 17 percent support it. I mean, Bush came out with a plan before he thought it through. Isn't it pretty obvious?

WHITMAN: Well, I -- you have an advantage over me and I have not seen anything from "Newsweek," because I haven't seen anything that would support that. But the plan as proposed with a lockbox on Social Security, with a promise of no increase in Social Security tax and a promise of holding people harmless so that the benefits remain the same for those who are in the system now, I see nothing that would argue that in fact that they would lose it. And obviously, that's a key component, and George Bush would never be someone who would say that he's going to cut Social Security. He's been very, very clear on that.

PRESS: All right. I just referred to "Newsweek" of July 3rd and Bush's economic adviser, Larry Lindsey. We're going to have a break, senator and governor, and when we come back, you've seen them now for half of the show. Will one of these two women be on one of the national tickets, and if not, who will be?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Ralph Nader yesterday became the first presidential candidate to receive his party's nomination, the Green Party, and the first to name a vice presidential running mate, a woman, Winona LaDuke. Is he setting a trend? Will Bush and Gore follow? If so, tonight's guest may not only be here defending their candidate? They might also be auditioning.

Supporting Governor Bush, New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman? On Al Gore's team, Washington state Senator Patty Murray -- Mary.

MATALIN: You just want to dispense with that question right off the top?

(LAUGHTER)

You in, you out?

MURRAY: I tell you, there are a lot of really good people out there who I think both candidates will have to choose from. Could be a woman, could be a man. But I think the real decision is going to be who voters feel confident in, and I think Al Gore'll pick a good running mate.

MATALIN: But you know what's an advantage to you is contrary to previous Democratic presidential contenders, Al Gore is losing or is tied in Washington state. It's been won by Democrats in the last three contests. That's your home state. Couldn't you carry him over the edge in a state he badly needs?

MURRAY: We are a long way from election day and I feel confident that Al Gore will win Washington state when the voters look at the issues we traditionally care about in Washington state: education, health care, particularly the environment, the issue of choice for women. Those are issues that Al Gore wins in, and as voters get to know who he is and how he stands, I think he will do well.

MATALIN: After eight years, they don't know who he is. OK, let me go to some national polls we just got done out of the field last night, because Bill was citing one of the four -- one of only four polls that supports Gore. In our poll...

PRESS: That's baloney.

MATALIN: In our poll, out of the "Los Angeles Times," the Gallup and "The Wall Street Journal," our polls showed that the problem for Gore right now is he hasn't pinned down his base. He's only getting 63 percent of the Democratic Party -- 25 percent say he shouldn't be the nominee -- as compared to George Bush: 80 percent of Republicans are saying he should be the nominee.

He won the primary. He won it ugly. And he won it unproductively. Democrats aren't supporting him.

MURRAY: I really disagree with that, and I think that the only people to pay attention to polls is all of you guys, which is great. But voters today are not paying attention to the election yet. It's still a long ways off. They're -- they will. They absolutely will once the conventions hit and they go: Oh my gosh, I'm going to have to elect somebody for the next eight years, four years at least to run this country. What do I really want?

And the issues about the economy, and again about health care and education, are going to be what drives people in this election and they will pay attention.

PRESS: OK, governor, it's your turn to answer the vice presidential question. Now, I'm not going to ask you whether you've talked to Governor Bush about it or I'm not going ask you whether you would take the job if offered. What I'd like to do is listen to a quote from Pat Robertson on CNN's "LATE EDITION," where he was asked about another potential running mate, Governor Tom Ridge. But governor, this could apply to you. I'd like to get your response please.

Here's Pat Robertson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT ROBERTSON, PRESIDENT, CHRISTIAN COALITION: I personally could live with him. I'm a pretty tolerant individual. But I don't think the people I represent would, and I have said on another occasion that if George Bush appoints or selects a pro-choice running mate, it may well cost him the presidency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Is the fact that -- is the fact that you are pro-choice, governor, mean that you are poison for Governor Bush? WHITMAN: No, absolutely not. George Bush has said that he would pick a vice presidential candidate based on his loyalty, their compatibility on issues, and whether he thought that...

PRESS: Or her.

WHITMAN: Or her. And whether he thought that person could step into his shoes should anything happen to him. And that's exactly what he's going to do.

He's been very clear about not making this a litmus test, and that's precisely why you have such an extraordinary support of the Republican base behind George W. Bush.

He's a proven leader. He's been a governor. He's been in the executive branch. He's actually gotten things done. He says where he stands. He doesn't govern by polls.

And you know, it's got to be concerning for the vice president at this point -- he's been so well-known for the last eight years, certainly within his party -- that he isn't seeing -- doing better in the polls and the numbers.

Now I agree with the senator that it's far too early to take any kind of solace from polls if you're ahead or to be panicked if you're behind, but they certainly are indicators that would be a little bit troubling when you know this is going to be -- and I think it will be -- a close election. Then you're going to have to count on getting your people out, And I think George Bush not only will get the Republican vote, but he's going to get a lot of crossover vote.

PRESS: Governor, in The Washington Post this morning there's an article about Governor Bush's military service when he was in the National Guard. During that time, he was sent down to Alabama to work in a presidential -- or in a political campaign, was transferred. He says he reported for duty as he was supposed to in Alabama, yet the campaign can find no records, zero records of his ever served in the National Guard in Alabama. And the former commander of the National Guard to whom George Bush was supposed to report says he never showed up.

Don't you think, governor, he owes an explanation of why he basically took a year off his military service if he did?

WHITMAN: Well, I presume you will find, if he did, that he will have an explanation for that, if he did. But he lived up to his military commitment. He didn't go to Canada. He stayed here. He went -- he wasn't off demonstrating.

I mean, if you're going to hold this against him, why -- if that's going to be a relevant issue -- I would argue that it wouldn't even be a relevant issue when the current president was over in Europe demonstrating against the war.

This is not the issue. The issue is going to be one of competence, the issue is going to be one of can you trust this person. And George Bush has a strong record.

PRESS: Well, that was used as an issue against Bill Clinton and so it's a fair issue.

WHITMAN: And it didn't work. It didn't get very far, did it?

PRESS: It's a fair -- but it's a fair issue for George Bush if in fact...

WHITMAN: Yes, he has...

PRESS: ... he did not complete his military service, correct?

WHITMAN: If in fact he did not complete his military service, absolutely, he has to answer that. But it's still not going to be a deciding issue. And I think you will fund that he did complete his military service. But that's not going to be the major issue. Neither is the choice issue going to be the one that people are going to care about.

They're going care about what are our schools doing for our children. Are they really educating them? Are we safer in our homes, in our streets than we were before, the way they are in Texas now? Children are doing better in their schools. Their crime rate is way down.

Are they going to care about what's going to happen to their taxes and their economy? Again, you look at Texas and things are much better than they were when George -- before George Bush took over.

PRESS: Quick last word, senator.

MURRAY: I would argue that choice is going to be an issue in this election, because it has a lot more to do with your life or how you see your life than just the issue of whether or not you believe in abortions or not. And that really is whether a president or an elected official trusts people to make decisions about themselves or whether they think they should dictate them from the government.

And I think in the issue of choice it makes a difference to them.

MATALIN: Giving them back more of what they earn, taxes. Thank you, Senator Murray. Thank you, Governor Whitman. Both great contenders. Maybe we'll see you on the ticket.

When we come back, Bill and I, we'll have our closing comments. Stay with us on CROSSFIRE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: Mary, the bottom is falling out of his Social Security plan. The death penalty is going to dogging him from now until the election, and now there's serious question about whether or not he actually completed his military service. I'm sorry your guy is having such a hard week, but you know what, it's only going to get worse. MATALIN: Nice try. The commander at that base said they don't keep records like that. What do you think, he snarked out for a year? You're nuts.

The Social Security issue, you're just investing a whole new "big government" entitlement. I hope Gore runs on that. Oh, "Newsweek," the only poll out (UNINTELLIGIBLE) anything good for Gore.

Look, you can't keep saying of all these polls, including ours -- you take that over our poll? You think that's a better poll than ours?

PRESS: No, it's not a poll. It's Larry Lindsey, his economic adviser, saying benefits will be cut. Believe it.

MATALIN: Listen, and Gore has lost eight points amongst women in a month. He's going -- he's tubing it, baby. Tubing it. Get over it.

PRESS: At least we know what "W" stands for now. We stands for AWOL.

MATALIN: Oh, geez!

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

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

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