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Senate Votes to Lift Cloud of Secrecy From 527s; Gore Tackles High Gas Prices in Chicago; L.A. Police Concerned About Democratic ConventionAired June 29, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Today is only the first step, but it's a great first step, and it's indeed a great day for democracy and a government that's accountable to the governor.
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JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: The Senate votes to lift the cloud of secrecy from so-called 527 groups, a win for John McCain and his cause of campaign finance reform.
Chicago is the backdrop as Al Gore adds another page to his platform, but might this scene be on his mind? It's giving police in the Democratic convention city the jitters.
Plus, round and round they go: a veepstakes update.
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Judy Woodruff and Bernard Shaw.
Thanks for joining us. I'm Jeanne Meserve, sitting in for Bernie and Judy.
We begin with legislation heading to the president's desk, designed to destroy a stealth missile, of sorts, in the campaign finance system.
As our Chris Black reports, the Senate vote that made it possible today is a landmark for Congress and for Republican John McCain in particular.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The yeas are 92, the nays are six. The bill is passed.
CHRIS BLACK, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first campaign finance reform to pass Congress in 21 years tears away the veil of secrecy from tax-exempt organizations engaged in political activity. MCCAIN: Today, indeed, marks a seminal day in our battle to reform our election system and restore the faith of the American citizenry that ours is a government of and for the people.
BLACK: A sweet moment for Senator McCain, whose presidential candidacy felt the sting of TV attack ads financed by these so-called "stealth groups." The measure passed just two weeks, after McCain generated momentum by unexpectedly attaching a similar provision to an unrelated bill.
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: John McCain is to campaign finance reform what Claude Pepper was to Social Security -- when he speaks, a lot of people listen.
BLACK: The bill requires 527 organizations, named after a provision in the tax code, to report all political spending greater than $500, and the names of donors who give more than $200. The information would be posted on the Internet every three months in an election year.
Bowing to political reality, the leading opponent of campaign finance reform, the senator responsible for electing Republicans to the Senate, surprisingly urged his colleagues to vote for it, even though he questions its constitutionality.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: The a wiser course of action was to let this measure go. It effects, we believe, very few groups.
BLACK: Virtually every political action committee has 527 tax- exempt status, and most are obliged by federal election law to disclose donors, but this law is aimed at about three dozen more obscure groups, organized by little-known interests, engaged in issue advocacy. Opponents say the new law will have little effect, because 527 organizations can simply give their tax-exempt status, and continue to finance political activities in secret, and money raised before the laws takes effect will not be disclosed.
But supporters of campaign finance reform hailed the Senate vote as a significant first step to its broader reform, including outlawing unregulated soft money.
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: This vote today and the vote yesterday in the House of Representatives is like a boulder dropping in the water: It creates a ripple effect.
BLACK: President Clinton says he will sign this as soon as it reaches his desk.
BLACK: But the outlook for broader reform remains unclear, because Senate leaders are still -- Republican leaders are still strongly opposed to a complete overhaul of campaign finance law, and time is running out of the legislative year -- Jeanne.
MESERVE: Chris Black on Capitol Hill, thank you. Al Gore says he's thrilled by the Senate vote on 527s. He is, of course, trying to move beyond the latest stir over his past fund- raising. Gore went to Chicago today to revisit another issue, an issue that hits home for many voters there: high gas prices.
CNN's Patty Davis is traveling with Gore.
PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Using Chicago as a backdrop, Vice President Al Gore called the price of gas "outrageous," and again urged the Federal Trade Commission to hold public hearings on possible price gouging by oil companies.
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm calling today for them to swing the doors open for those hearings so the voice of American consumers can be heard.
DAVIS: Nowhere are consumers feeling the pain of those high prices more than in Chicago, where gas prices are the highest in the nation, averaging $2 a gallon.
Gore also offered a long-term energy proposal aimed at helping cities like Chicago. Gore's $25 billion plan would provide federal grants to cities to convert to cleaner and more fuel-efficient buses, upgrade and extend rail systems, and build new ones. The vice president also proposed a high-speed rail system from coast to coast.
If we give people choices, we are going to reduce pollution, we're going to reduce the consumption of energy, and we're going to improve the quality of life.
DAVIS: All those options, he said, would pressure oil companies to keep gas prices down.
Earlier in the week, Gore announced $123 billion in tax breaks for businesses and consumers who are more fuel-efficient. His latest proposal comes in the swing state of Illinois, which he acknowledged will figure prominently in the fall election.
(on camera): After a week spent telling voters he's trying to do something about high gas prices, next week Gore will tackle another issue important to them: health care, as he extends his prosperity and progress tour into a fourth week.
Patty Davis, CNN, Chicago.
MESERVE: Another Democratic National Committee ad featuring Al Gore begins airing today in 17 states. The subject of the 30-second TV spot: education.
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GORE: Strengthening education begins with us, not with government. Parents simply have to get involved and take responsibility to make sure that their children study and learn. But government has to take responsibility for what it can do.
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MESERVE: The ad goes on to cite Gore's main education objectives: fixing failing schools, reducing class size and setting higher standards. The Republican National Committee says it has concluded that DNC ads such as that one have not helped Gore's presidential bid. That is why the RNC says it pulled its ads promoting George W. Bush from the airwaves this week. However, the Bush camp says it may launch its own ad blitz before the party's convention with primary season funds Bush is still raising.
Also on Bush's preconvention agenda, the selection of a running mate. Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley joins us now.
Candy, what are you hearing about the latest steps in bush's selection process?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, slowly but surely. A top-level source in the campaign says the next big meeting is Monday. No vice presidential people will be there, but it is between Governor Bush and Dick Cheney, who is spearheading the vice presidential selection process. Largely, they've been communicating via phone. Cheney is operating out of Dallas. Bush of course is on Austin and on the campaign trail. But they will have a meeting to discuss the status of the search and some of the particulars of it. It will be at Bush's ranch, which is in Crawford, Texas.
MESERVE: Who is Bush talking to beside Cheney about his list?
CROWLEY: Up to now, this was a very small group: Cheney, Bush, and Bush's wife, Laura Bush. I am told by people who've been in meetings with the governor about the vice presidential selection process that indeed he is reaching out to -- quote -- people he trusts as long as two close staffers, not so much tipping his hand to any of them, but saying, so, what do you think of this person? And what are the, you know, pros and cons of this person or who do you think? So it's that kind of conversation. The reaching out is now beginning.
MESERVE: Do you have any sense of whether the list is still growing or whether it's shrinking at this point?
CROWLEY: Well, one would think at this point it's not still growing, but I can tell you that Karen Hughes, who is the communications director, said we are not down to the finalist list yet. So one assumes they are working off a broad list. Because there is no piece of paper, because he has not told staffers, doesn't necessarily mean that in the governor's head, there isn't a short list or an unofficial list.
But as far as him telling anyone, here, look, is my list of finalists, there doesn't appear to be one yet. Hughes also says that of course he's talking to these people, pointing out he was with Governor Ridge and had dinner and that he was with Governor Engler in Michigan, had dinner there. But she also mentions that Bush will want to talk in-depth and face to face with whoever the finalists are, so that's pretty much -- I mean, you get the sense that things are moving. What you don't get the sense of is in whose direction.
MESERVE: Candy Crowley, our Sr. political correspondent, thanks a lot.
And for more on Bush's VP search and other political matters, we're joined by Bob Novak of the "Chicago Sun-Times."
Bob, are you hearing any new names on the Bush list?
ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Believe it or not, I've got a new name. You know, from the very beginning, the Bush people have been talking about Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee as a possibility, somebody who would keep Al Gore busy in his home state of Tennessee. But Thompson is kind of a dangerous choice. He's bigger, he's more flamboyant than Bush is.
So a new name was given to me by a very good source, the other Tennessee senator, Senator Bill Frist, who is a doctor. Governor Bush respects him on health care issues, very popular in Tennessee, not big and flamboyant. But the problem is that Dr. Frist on his response to the president -- Clinton's State of the Union message this year didn't do so well. But Frist is on the list, I'm told.
MESERVE: What about the other presidential campaign, the Gore camp? Are they depressed by these polls they've been reading?
NOVAK: I think they are. I was told by one of them that Mark Penn, the White House pollster, had taken a small national sample 500 and came out just about even. Well, maybe, maybe not. But what some of the -- excuse me -- what some of the Gore people are saying is that these double-digit leads in some polls, including the one done for CNN by Gallup, come from the fact this terrible publicity, really terrible about another recommendation for a special prosecutor coincided with the polling. They feel that they are -- the margin will go down once, if ever, this talk about a special counsel gets -- subsides.
MESERVE: As Patty Davis was telling us, Gore was talking today about gas prices. How is that issue playing up on Capitol Hill?
NOVAK: This week, Jeanne, the house Republican whip meeting, two of the deputy whips, Jack Kingston of Georgia and I forget who the other one was. It was Kingston of Georgia and a couple others, propose they either reduce or suspend the gasoline tax before they leave for the 4th of July recess -- did not do it.
And there's a lot of complaining in the rank and file of the Republicans -- nothing done on gas taxes. But they've got a bigger problem before they adjourn this week. And that is that the Senate has already spent the $4 billion that was set aside by the House for deficit -- for reduction -- for debt reduction, not deficit reduction -- debt reduction in the Military Construction Bill. It's all been put into pork in the Senate bill. And that just proves that Congress will take that surplus and spend it if it can. But they've got a real problem on military construction because the Senate has already spent the House debt-reduction cushion of $4 billion.
MESERVE: I can't let you leave without asking about our favorite U.S. Senate race up in New York. What's the latest?
NOVAK: The most interesting thing I find is that Congressman Rick Lazio is just on a fund raising binge because he has to raise a lot of money in a hurry. And the lobbyist community here in Washington getting about an invitation a day. One lobbyist has received over 20 invitations in New York and Washington, the Lazio fund raisers.
There was just a fund raiser in Washington last night at the home of -- guess who? Senator and Mrs. Bill Frist on Woodland Drive in Washington sponsored by some big Republican names. Wayne Burman (ph), C. Boyden Gray, the former White House counsel. One thousand dollar contribution to get in and he is just a money-raising machine to try to catch up with Hillary Rodham Clinton. I bet he does too, in money anyway.
MESERVE: Bob Novak, thanks so much.
And still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, the U.S. Supreme Court and a controversial issue. We will talk to Congresswoman Nita Lowey and Gary Bauer about the ruling and its impact on the campaign trail.
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WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The court decision is clearly the only decision it could reach consistent with Roe v. Wade.
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GORE: The next president will nominate at least three and probably four, perhaps four, justices to the Supreme Court. One extra vote on the wrong side of those two issues would change the outcome, and a woman's right to choose would be taken away.
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MESERVE: President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore both hailed the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a Nebraska ban on a controversial type of late-term abortion.
GOP hopeful George W. Bush says he is disappointed in the court's ruling that the ban was unconstitutional. In a statement, Bush said -- quote -- "I hope to be able to come up with a law that meets the constitutional scrutiny. And, unlike Al Gore, I pledge to fight for a ban on partial-birth abortion." Joining us now, Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey and former GOP hopeful Gary Bauer, who is now the chair of the campaign for working families.
Mr. Bauer, let me start with you. This decision propels the issues of the court and the abortion to center stage. Is that a god- send for Al Gore?
GARY BAUER, CAMPAIGN FOR WORKING FAMILIES: No. I think it's a disaster for Al Gore. Look, you all were just talking about how far the vice president is behind George Bush right now. If Al Gore thinks he can save his presidential campaign by doing things like agreeing with the Supreme Court decision a couple weeks ago against prayer, and then this week agreeing with the Supreme Court decision that strikes down the attempts to end partial-birth abortion, he'll destroy his campaign.
The American people overwhelmingly are against partial-birth abortion. That's why so many states have passed laws outlawing it. So I think Al Gore is playing to left-wing base, to the pro- abortionists etcetera. And he's making a colossal mistake.
MESERVE: Congresswoman, I have to guess you disagree with that?
REP. NITA LOWEY (D), NEW YORK: I certainly do. And I think that this decision is a wake-up call for American women. The majority of women and men support the right to choose. They support Roe v. Wade. And, in fact, this decision was a temporary reprieve on the continuous assault on Roe v. Wade, the right to choose. This is why we need Al Gore to be the next president.
George Bush doesn't mince any words. He's against Roe v. Wade. He's against the right to choose. And that's why women have to understand how critical a vote for Al Gore is. We must ensure that Al Gore can appoint the next Supreme Court judges.
MESERVE: But Congresswoman, doesn't it motivate conservative voters to get out there when they see this decision just 5-4? Does it propel them to the polls to change the balance on the court?
LOWEY: Well, in fact, since the Republicans took over the Congress, unfortunately we've had to vote over 122 times in supporting the right to choose. This Congress tries to chip away right by right at the right to choose. And with George Bush possibly in the presidency, women have to understand that right is gone.
So American men and women in great numbers support the right to choose. This is a precious right that should be -- and the decision should be made, in my judgment, by the women, by their religious adviser, by the family. Not by Gary Bauer. Not by George Bush. And not by this Congress.
MESERVE: Mr. Bauer, you -- we know you oppose abortion rights, but you're not the only voice in the party. There are many people in the Republican Party who support abortion rights.
MESERVE: And to this point Governor Bush has tried to say very little about the subject.
MESERVE: Could this potentially divide the party and be harmful to Republicans?
BAUER: No, Jeanne, the Republican party started many, many years ago in an argument over human rights -- whether black men and women were people or not. And my party proudly proclaimed they were. That's how the party began. This is a human rights issue. And our viewers shouldn't be mistaken about this at all. The Congress that the congresswoman is a member of has overwhelmingly voted against partial-birth abortion time and time again. Not just the Republicans, but many Democrats in the Congress have voted against it.
The only reason we haven't banned the gruesome procedure of partial-birth abortion is because the president of the United States has never seen one abortion, out of one and a half million a year, he's been willing to end. So he keeps vetoing it. I think that Al Gore is making a colossal mistake here. And I have great confidence that Governor Bush, when he becomes President Bush, will end partial- birth abortion, and will put justices on the court who are more reflective of the values of the American people.
MESERVE: Do you want to see Governor Bush talking more about the abortion issue?
BAUER: I don't think I can decide what his strategy is, but, Jeanne, this isn't going to go away. The court decisions this term have been very controversial. And everything from the Boy Scout case to this case to the prayer case, those are profound questions. And the American people ought to debate them in this campaign. And they ought to know very clearly that one candidate, Vice President Gore, likes these sorts of decisions that strike down prayer, that allow partial-birth abortion to go on, and that Governor Bush has generally sided with the idea that traditional values ought to prevail more than they are now.
MESERVE: I'm surprised to hear that you say you are okay with the fact he isn't talking about it much. This has been a big issue for you. And I wonder if you are willing hear less about it because you recognize that if he stresses this issue, he risks losing some of the crucial swing voters that he needs to attract to win this election?
BAUER: Jeanne, there is no evidence, zero evidence in any poll, that talking about life, the protection of innocent human life, loses you votes in a presidential campaign, a Senate campaign, or a House campaign. I would love Governor Bush to talk about it frequently. I asked him about it in every presidential debate. I think it's presumptuous of me to tell him how often he has to talk about it. But look, this is going to be a big issue. It will be a big issue in the debates. It's going to be a big difference between these two candidates.
And I think it's a big detriment for Al Gore and the liberals in the Democratic party because they are way out of step with the American people on this.
MESERVE: Congresswoman, you want to respond to that?
LOWEY: I certainly do, Jeanne. The majority of the American people want to preserve the right to choose as a very personal decision. And I do wish that George Bush would be very clear that he opposes Roe v. Wade, that he's going to appoint anti-choice justices of the Supreme Court. The majority of the people will vote for Al Gore to protect their rights, to protect the right to choose, and in fact protect the right to appoint Supreme Court justices consistent with their views. And that's why they'll get out and vote for Al Gore.
The reason that George Bush doesn't talk about this is he understands what the American people believe. Christie Whitman, Dick Ridge (ph), many Republicans share that view. But George Bush is anti-choice, and the voters should know it.
BAUER: Well, I would...
MESERVE: Congresswoman, can I just follow up with you? Because the abortion issue does appear to be moving front and center, do you think that lessens the chances that George Bush will in fact pick a pro-abortion-rights running mate?
LOWEY: Well, I don't know what George Bush is going to do. He is clearly anti-choice, opposes Roe v. Wade, opposes the views of the American people. And I do believe that if the American people know that, they're going to come out in droves to support Al Gore as the next president of the United States. And, in fact, it's going to affect the Senate race in New York, because Hillary Clinton is pro- choice. And we say that Rick Lazio, who's a good friend, is multiple choice. He is not straight pro-choice, and the American people and New Yorkers will know that.
MESERVE: Congresswoman Lowey, Mr. Bauer, I'm afraid we have to leave it there. Thank you both for joining us.
There is much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.
Still to come...
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CLINTON: I am proud to add to Norm's string of firsts by naming him the first Asian-Pacific-American ever to hold a post in the president's Cabinet.
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MESERVE: The president's choice of the next Commerce secretary makes history. We'll take a look at the man who will replace William Daley.
Plus, the political aftershocks of Northridge: a look at the disaster and the scandal that forced a California Republican to give up his post.
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BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the perfect 4th of July gift for the family that has everything, because they absolutely, positively don't have one of these.
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MESERVE: Our Bruce Morton on buying a piece of American history.
MESERVE: We will have more of the day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories.
A SWAT team is negotiating with a man holding a boy and a worker hostage inside a Disney World Resort hotel. Police say it appears to be a domestic crisis, with the man wanting to talk to his estranged wife. Several floors in the affected wing of the BoardWalk Inn have been evacuated and traffic is being diverted from the area.
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DIANE LEDDER, DISNEY SPOKESWOMAN: Well, this is a domestic dispute, Chris. It involves one room, a guest in one room of the BoardWalk Resort. And at this point in time, we have evacuated rooms that are in proximity to this particular room, and all the guests are in a safe area down in the lobby and public areas of the resort.
If we find, at a later time as this goes on, and we need to move those guests to other rooms, we have rooms elsewhere on property. But I just want to stress that it is a domestic dispute and is confined to this one small area on property.
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MESERVE: Police say they have made it impossible for the man to watch television coverage of the standoff.
The top Roman Catholic priest in Texas speaks out one day after he was held hostage. Archbishop Patrick Flores calls the nine-hour standoff a terrifying experience. He says the suspect threatened to kill him and others in his church office, and then commit suicide.
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ARCHBISHOP PATRICK FLORES, SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS: I would try to talk to him in between, about not doing what he was planning on doing. I said: If things are bad for you now, they're going to be worse for you after that. He said: It can't be worse if I commit suicide, and if I kill you. He kept saying that over and over again.
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MESERVE: The situation ended peacefully with the arrest of the suspect, an unemployed man from El Salvador.
Firefighters in southeastern Washington state say they have stopped the spread of a brushfire that has burned more than 150,000 acres. About three dozen buildings, some of them homes, are destroyed. Thousands of people have been evacuated. Flames scorched a third of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Officials there say no structures are threatened and no hazardous materials have been released.
John Hinckley Jr. won't be allowed unsupervised visits with his parents. A federal judge has dismissed a hearing to consider that option. Prosecutors disclosed evidence of Hinckley's continued interest in books and music with violent themes. Hinckley has been at St. Elizabeth's Hospital since being found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 1981 shooting of President Reagan.
Attorney General Janet Reno says she had hoped Juan Gonzalez would decide to remain in the United States with his son, Elian. Instead, the family is spending its first full day at a guest house near Havana, Cuba. The home has been sealed off to outsiders. Cuban sources explain Juan Miguel says he never wants to see a camera pointed at his son again.
Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker skips the subway and takes an unmarked police van to meet the Mets at New York's Shea Stadium. It is Rocker's first time in the city since making disparaging remarks about the city's residents to a "Sports Illustrated" reporter. Mets third baseman, Robin Ventura, says no one in the media has bothered to ask any questions about the weekend series.
When INSIDE POLITICS returns, it's a matter of protests, not politics. Why some L.A. officials may be having second thoughts about hosting the Democratic Convention.
MESERVE: At a time when Al Gore is trying to overcome some setbacks on the road to Los Angeles, he probably is not comforted by the prospect of violent protests outside the Democratic Convention in August. But L.A. police seem increasingly concerned that may happen.
CNN's Charles Feldman reports.
CHARLES FELDMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The last thing L.A. city officials want delegates to this summer's Democratic National Convention to see, let alone the rest of the world, is a repetition of this: Seattle, 1999. Violent street protests at the World Trade Organization summit. The Los Angeles Police Department says it is preparing for as many as 50,000 protesters and some, the department claims, may be up to no good.
COMMANDER THOMAS LORENZEN, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: We fully expect to be involved in mass arrests and civil disobedience with a very small element -- a very small, yet effective -- element of demonstrators, even before the convention begins. And we anticipate a level of activity similar to what we saw in Seattle, if indeed not more intense.
FELDMAN: Some 5,000 delegates are expected to attend the convention, along with a small army of friends and guests. Add another 30,000 or so media types to the mix, and you may see why the LAPD chief says:
CHIEF BERNARD PARKS, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: Our number- one mission here is to make sure the people who live and work here continue to have free access to their city.
FELDMAN: But not everyone is buying the LAPD's portrait of impending doom and gloom. Some L.A. city council members think law enforcement officials are over-reacting. "Just chill out," says one. And some expected protesters are protesting the climate they say is being created by police.
GARRICK RUIZ, PROTEST ORGANIZER: I think that they were very sensational in their attempts to create this atmosphere of fear, that people are -- people from outside of Los Angeles are going to come to Los Angeles and destroy the city, which is totally false.
FELDMAN: There is a lot at stake for both city officials, who lobbied hard to convince the Democrats to come to L.A., and for the LAPD, which is facing the possibility of federal intervention because of an alleged pattern of abuse by some of its officers.
Charles Feldman, CNN, Los Angeles.
MESERVE: We are joined now by Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times."
Ron, the first rule politics: shore up the base. Who's doing a better job?
RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, right now George Bush. Clearly a big reversal from the situation four years ago when at this time, Bob Dole was struggling with large defections in the poll among Republican. And Bill Clinton had and overwhelming consolidation among Democrats. That allowed his to focus on swing voters, the soccer moms in '96.
The reverse is happening this time. George W. Bush is consistently polling and has been all year at about 90 percent among Republicans, extraordinary high numbers. As high as Ronald Reagan achieved in the 1980s.
Gore, on the other hand, in a number of recent polls, including our own and the CNN Gallup pole, is in the 70s among Democrats, way below where he needs to be.
MESERVE: Why is that?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, Gore seems to be caught a little bit of a cross-fire now from both sides. In the one hand, he's getting some resistance on ideological grounds from the left, whether it's Ralph Nader or the United Auto Workers focusing on the trade agenda -- the free trade agenda, or Nader's broader critique that Gore and Clinton has made the Democratic Party too much like the Republican Party.
That argument didn't work too well for Bill Bradley during the primaries. But you don't really need that many people to accept it to being to sort of nudge away at the vote in some of these key states.
On the other side, he's clearly having trouble with more culturally conservative elements of the Democratic coalition, especially men. Union votes, he's running only even in some polls. Latino voters, Bush is showing some strength. And in a number of polls, Democrats who call themselves conservative or moderate are defecting to Bush in much larger numbers than liberal and moderate Republicans are to Gore. So you have a comparative disadvantage there.
MESERVE: I have been told that Clinton's most important legacy may be the fact that he moved his party to the center. Are you saying that Gore is not going to be able keep it there?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, that's a very good question. I mean, Clinton -- that is clearly Clinton's biggest legacy. And the Democratic Party had lost the ability to compete for the presidency. In the three elections of the 1980s, it averaged the smallest share of the electoral vote than any party in about 100 years. So it really had fallen off on the map.
And Clinton has laid out a formula that Gore has, by and large, tried to stick to -- fiscal discipline, talking about personal responsibility, free trade, and a number of ways, you know, trying to portray a more centrist image. But what's happened so far is that Gore is coming short on both ends. He's not consolidating his base, and he's running poorly in the Senate.
Bush's ability to consolidate the Republican base has given him an enormous amount of freedom to focus, as he has all of this week, on non-traditional Republican voters. to go around the country, to talk about bi-partisanship, to talk about being a different kind of Republican, to go into states that Democrats have dominated.
While Gore is having to spend times in places that he should be able to count on already.
MESERVE: Now, how has Bush been able to make this move toward the middle without alienating the right wing in his own party? Are they all just motivated by the prospect of victory to stay with him?
BROWNSTEIN: Call it Clinton's bequest, for one thing. I mean, the prospect of moving the Bill -- ending the Bill Clinton era by defeating Al Gore is enormously attractive to Republicans. And that's one key reason why he has been able to consolidate the base so early.
Second reason would be the sheer fact that they've been out of office for eight years. Just as Bill Clinton in 1992 was given a lot of leeway by liberals on issues like the death penalty and welfare reform, defeat tends to soften ideology.
And the third thing I think is the least expected is the way the primaries worked out. I mean, George Bush was positioned in the primary as the defender of the base against this -- what was called the "hostile takeover" by John McCain, this coalition of Independents and Democrats and moderate Republicans. And so Bush sort of invented this identity very early on that has stuck with him even as he has tried to move toward the center on a variety of issues since.
MESERVE: Do you think that in the end some of these groups in the Democratic base who are currently having a problem with Gore, will relent and will back him when their faced with that ballot?
BROWNSTEIN: You know, historically, we have moved to very polarized national elections, and I would suspect that Gore in the end in all likelihood increases a number among Democrats. But everyday he has to spend focusing on states and demographic groups that should be his is one less day that he can focus where Bush is putting his energy, the real swing states, and voters will decide the election in the end, and that is an advantage for Bush.
MESERVE: Ron Brownstein, thanks so much for joining us.
MESERVE: In California today, legal and political aftershocks are being felt following the forced resignation of the state insurance commissioner.
CNN's Greg LaMotte reports on the shakeup outside the Beltway.
GREG LAMOTTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Northridge, California, 1994: a devastating earthquake caused hundreds of millions of dollars in destruction, and it appears the damage continues.
Now, California insurance commissioner Chuck Quackenbush has resigned over a scandal stemming from the '94 Northridge quake. Hundreds of residents filed lawsuits against their insurers for failure to pay for damage.
Rick Bennett's condominium complex still has damage related to the '94 quake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just been a living hell, and the horrors just continue.
LAMOTTE: Quackenbush threatened six insurance companies, accused of mishandling earthquake claims, with up to $3.7 billion in penalties, but Quackenbush then let the insurers off the hook if they agreed to donate a total of $12.5 million to a nonprofit fund intended to finance consumer assistance and earthquake damage research.
But an investigation by the California Assembly Insurance Committee found no money went toward either. Instead, several million dollars were spent on TV advertising featuring Quackenbush. Hundreds of thousands more went to groups with no connection to earthquake issues.
Quackenbush stepped down just one day before he was again expected to be questioned extensively by the state insurance committee. Some consumer groups say his resignation isn't enough.
HARVEY ROSENFIELD, CONSUMER ADVOCATE: Quackenbush should be punished for it, and the insurance companies should be punished for that as well. And so, we're absolutely advocating that law enforcement continue its investigation of what happened in Northridge.
RICK BENNETT, HOMEOWNER: What he has done basically is worse than murder, because murder might impact 30, 40, 50 people. What he has done has impacted the lives of tens of thousands of southern Californians.
LAMOTTE: California Governor Gray Davis issued a statement saying he would appoint a new insurance commissioner with unquestioned integrity. As for Quackenbush, the investigations will apparently continue.
Greg LaMotte, CNN, Los Angeles.
MESERVE: CNN has learned the Justice Department has closed its investigation into Loral Space and Communications CEO Bernard Schwarz without finding any evidence of wrongdoing. Schwarz was the largest individual contributor to the Democratic National Committee during the 1996 campaign. Several investigators say they found no concrete evidence of any illegal acts in connection with a waiver requested by Loral and approved by President Clinton in 1998 permitting the export of satellite technology to China.
And still to come, the next commerce secretary and a cabinet first. A look at President Clinton's nominee, Norman Mineta.
MESERVE: With Commerce Secretary William Daley leaving to head Al Gore's presidential campaign, President Clinton today announced his nominee to fill the cabinet post. His choice: former California Congressman Norman Mineta.
Major Garrett reports.
MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Clinton reached for a touch of history to fill the commerce vacancy. CLINTON: I am proud to add to Norm's string of firsts by naming him the first Asian-Pacific American ever to hold a post in the president's cabinet.
GARRETT: Unlike predecessors Mickey Kantor, Ron Brown, and William Daley, Mineta lacks close political ties to the president. He rose through the ranks on his own, becoming the first American of Japanese descent to be mayor of a major city, San Jose, and to lead a major House committee, Public Works.
Mineta served in Congress 21 years. He left in 1995 after Republicans won control and he lost his chairmanship. A leader in Congress on trade and technology issues, Mineta said he would make the most of his brief cabinet tenure.
NORMAN MINETA, COMMERCE SECRETARY NOMINEE: Some might say that the months remaining in this administration is not a lot of time to make a difference in the life of our nation, but I disagree. Six months is a virtual eternity in the new economy.
GARRETT: Mineta used politics to overcome an injustice of his youth. He and his family were shipped to an internment camp at the start of World War II. More than 40 years later, Mineta led the charge in Congress for the U.S. to issue a formal apology and provide $20,000 to each surviving internment victim.
Republican Bud Shuster worked with Mineta for 20 years.
REP. BUD SHUSTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: He's very capable, soft- spoken but determined, and he gets along well with everybody, with both sides of the aisle. I expect he will be a very, very popular choice, and more important than popular, I think he will be a very effective secretary of commerce.
GARRETT: Mineta has been working for Lockheed-Martin, lobbying state and local governments on transportation issues.
GARRETT: Senate Republican sources tell CNN that Mineta is well- liked and respected in that chamber, and they expect his nomination to sail through later on this summer -- Jeanne.
MESERVE: Major, at that Oval Office ceremony today, the president talked about another subject with some rather strong words, that was prescription drugs, specifically the bill passed by the House last night. Tell us what he had to say.
GARRETT: Well, the president criticized the House Republican bill, and he cited a new congressional report that said that more than half of the 39 million Americans now on Medicare would obtain no prescription drug coverage under the Republican plan. The president used that as further evidence to say that his plan, which would use Medicare, is the only one out there that would provide universal prescription drug coverage to America's seniors -- Jeanne.
MESERVE: Major, what have you heard about how Democrats on the Hill are going to respond?
GARRETT: Well, right now, Democrats on the Hill consider this a very big public relations war and there is some sentiment on the Hill among Democrats that they are losing that public relations battle.
CNN has learned that this afternoon, House Ways and Means Democrats met in private session to sort of reassess their strategy and communications. There is some sentiment now that Republicans have passed a bill that has something that they are in favor of. Democrats did not have an alternative that they could vote in favor of. Some Democrats believe that puts them at a tactical disadvantage as this issue plays out in the summer and the fall -- Jeanne.
MESERVE: Major Garrett at the White House, thank you.
And while Norm Mineta may be poised to become the first Asian- American member of the cabinet, both Mr. Clinton and Vice President Gore often tout the number of Hispanics in top jobs in their administration. But one of the most politically promising of these is under fire and that is provoking some hard feelings in the Hispanic community.
CNN's Beth Fouhy reports.
BETH FOUHY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bill Richardson has been called the fastest rising Hispanic star in the Democratic Party, but his fortunes have changed in recent weeks, and many Hispanics are angry.
MANUEL MIRABAL, NATL. PUERTO RICO COALITION: He is a member of our familia. We, as Latinos, must stand together and defend him and call out loudly when this happens to any of us, but certainly when it happens to a man like Bill Richardson, we must express our outrage, and that's what we are doing today.
FOUHY: As energy secretary, Richardson has been taking the heat for two of the summer's biggest controversies: sky-high gas prices and security lapses at the Los Alamos Nuclear Lab in New Mexico. The latter issue has provoked angry calls from several GOP senators for Richardson's resignation.
MIRABAL: We are calling on the Senate to apologize publicly to Secretary Richardson for smearing his good name and for affecting his character internationally.
FOUHY: But some Hispanic Republicans disagree.
JOSE RIVERA, REPUBLICAN NATL. HISPANIC ASSEMBLY: He's the top man in Energy, so the buck stops there. I'm sure that nobody believes that he had anything to do directly with the situation, but he's responsible.
FOUHY: With Hispanics wielding political power in the U.S., as never before, Bill Richardson's name has been on Al Gore's vice presidential short list.
But amid Richardson's problems and his own stumbling fortunes, Gore appears to be stepping away.
At a speech to Latino-elected officials last week, Gore hailed the presence of many Hispanics at top levels of the Clinton administration without ever mentioning Richardson's name. Hispanics have had a mixed experience in the Clinton cabinet.
While Federico Pena, the former transportation and energy secretary, won generally high marks for his work, former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros saw his political stock tumble, after conflicting stories about payments he made to a former mistress launched an independent council investigation. That's led some Hispanic leaders to detect a troubling pattern.
RAUL YZAGUIRRE, NATL. COUNCIL OF LA RAZA: We don't want to rush to judgment, and we don't want to use the race card every time there is a problem, but there seems to be a pattern and that does indeed concern us.
FOUHY: Those close to Richardson tell CNN they are frustrated by the lack of public support he's gotten from Vice President Gore, and they say they do believe Republicans are trying to damage him politically, because he is so popular among that critical base.
Beth Fouhy, CNN, Washington.
MESERVE: And just ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, a pricey way to celebrate the nation's birth. Our Bruce Morton will explain.
MESERVE: As Independence Day approaches, Americans may stop top consider their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Today Sotheby's offered one lucky bidder a chance to buy those words on an original copy of the Declaration of Independence.
Our Bruce Morton considers the possibility.
MORTON (voice-over): It's the perfect 4th of July gift for the family that has everything, because they absolutely, positively don't have one of these -- unless they were at Sotheby's Web site, too -- a copy of the Declaration of Independence, printed when it was brand new.
DAVID REDDEN, VICE CHAIRMAN, SOTHEBY'S: It's as close as you can get to the founding of our country. Printed on the night of July 4, 1776, the most important single printed piece of paper in the world.
MORTON: Hard to argue. The original, which Thomas Jefferson wrote by hand on parchment, is in the national archives, so is one of these. But 25 of these first editions survive: 21 are in institutions like the archives, museums and so on, three are in private hands, but promised to institutions, and then there's this one, almost mint. How did it get here? It's rags to riches, such stuff as dreams are made on.
REDDEN: Back about 10 years ago, a man bought a picture frame in a flea market outside of Philadelphia, took it home, spent $4 on the picture frame. The picture frame kind of disintegrated. I mean, what do you get for $4? And in the back of it was found this document. He didn't know its value at the time, he didn't know its importance, but he saved it, which was wonderful. He was a good man for saving this document, and later a wealthy man for saving this document, because he showed it to us, and we said, "Look, it's worth $1 million or more." We sold it at auction. I was the auctioneer back in 1991. Sold for nearly $2. 5 million.
MORTON: Now, on the Web site, the guessing is between $4 and $6 million. This is a first edition. This is the printing that went to the colonies, to Revolutionary troops in the field. This was the word, on paper, who we are -- a new nation, men created equal. Well, not equal at the auction Web site, of course. Still, how could you pay too much for those words on this paper?
Bruce Morton, CNN reporting.
MESERVE: And this update, bidding on the document has exceeded Sotheby's estimations -- estimates rather. It sold moments ago for $7.4 million dollars. That's $8.1 million with commissions.
And that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you again tomorrow when we look at Al Gore's apparent surge in Florida, a developing battleground state where George W. Bush still leads in the polls but is no longer the odds-on favorite to win in November. And, of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics. com.
I'm Jeanne Meserve.
"WORLDVIEW" is coming up next.
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