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Crossfire

Will Bill Bradley's Endorsement Help Al Gore?

Aired July 13, 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)

BILL BRADLEY (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, I want to make it clear that I endorse Al Gore for president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Tonight, finally an endorsement from Bill Bradley, but as a new poll shows Al Gore trailing George W. Bush, how much will it help?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Mary Matalin. In the CROSSFIRE, Haley Barbour, former Republican National Committee chairman and an adviser to the Bush campaign, and Ron Klain, former chief of staff to the vice president and an adviser to the Gore campaign.

PRESS: Good evening. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Well, he finally said it. In Green Bay, Wisconsin today Bill Bradley finally used the "e" word, and Al Gore was mighty happy to hear it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I treasure Bill Bradley's support. He is a good Democrat who speaks and stands for principles we all believe in.

(CHEERING)

GORE: And Bill Bradley will be an important part of this campaign and an important part of America's future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: And it looks like Gore is going need all the help he can get. The latest Gallup sounding shows him trailing George W. Bush by an uncomfortable 9 percent, 50-41. Bush, warning his supporters not to be overconfident, after all, it's only July 13, campaigned in Pittsburgh today, proposing a $75 million plan for veterans to mentor troubled youth.

And meanwhile, speculation about vice presidential running mates has reached a frenzy level. Both candidates say they've narrowed their choices. So will it be Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania or Frank Keating of Oklahoma for Bush? John Kerry of Massachusetts or Bob Graham of Florida for Gore? Do tonight's guest know? Will they tell? Let's find out.

MARY MATALIN, CO-HOST: What's your best guess on that? I'm not even going to ask you, Ron Klain. I'm just going to say congratulations on that endorsement today, finally. I guess your guy did not get the memo on the dress, right? Are we ever going to put him in a tie again? He's running for president.

RON KLAIN, GORE ADVISER: Mary, he wore a tie yesterday. I think that the right dress for the right event. I don't think we need to do anything program on Al Gore's clothes, let's hope.

MATALIN: Well, dress him up. He's running for president.

OK, let's go to this endorsement. What lad on the wires after the endorsement was Bradley's quote: "Winning is a team support." He didn't say one good word about Al Gore. He said nothing about Gore or his agenda. He said, "We're uniting to beat Bush." He said nothing for Gore.

KLAIN: Mary, you've got to actually listen to the event, OK?

MATALIN: Bill Bradley talked about the vice president's agenda, about what he wants to do for this country, about his leadership on technology, on education, on the environment. This was an important event, not just because Bill Bradley uttered the "e" word, endorsement, but because of all the other "e" words at stake here -- economic growth, education, the environment. These are the issues we're united on. These are the issues we're going to win on these fall. And on those issues, Bill Bradley and Al Gore see eye to eye, and there's a world of difference between where they stood and where George Bush stands.

MATALIN: There is a world of difference between where these candidates stand, but I don't blame Bradley for not going into the non-Gore agenda. It's hard to know what Gore's for, because Gore doesn't know what he's for. This week, he went to iteration number seven. He's now attacking the governor of Texas for a so-called "do nothing" Congress. Is this a stretch or what? Let's listen to what the Republican majority leader had to say about your latest incarnation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: This is an absentee vice president. He's not here. He never meets with the leadership of the majority side. I cannot recall having received a call, an inquiry or anything from Vice President Gore in months, if not years, and now he's complaining that somebody from Austin, Texas should be making calls to the Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATALIN: Let me say in a shorter version, as the governor of Texas said, you, the vice president, are the president of the Senate.

KLAIN: Yes, and unfortunately, though, we don't have a majority in the Senate or a majority in the House. The Republicans run both chambers in the Congress, and they need to answer for why this Congress is doing nothing to help the American people, on health care, on prescription drug coverage, on quality health care, on economic growth, on education. Governor Bush, if he wants to, can do what say, Bill Roth did this week, and break with the pharmaceutical industry and endorse a patient -- a drug coverage plan that would actually accept senior citizens families, but George Bush is lined up with the special interests, and he won't make that phone call to Republicans to tell them to let all this legislation go.

Let me tell you something, it is in George Bush's hands to make this Congress not just a do-nothing-for-people Congress, but the do- something Congress, and he won't do it because he's lined up with special interests.

HALEY BARBOUR, BUSH ADVISER: What's unbelievable to me about this is it's Democrats in the Senate, the House passed a prescription drug benefit, the House passes a patient bill of rights -- the Democrats in the Senate, we have to get 60 votes, you've got to get at least five Democrats. They stop anything from happening, and then the vice president turns around and says, oh, those terrible Republicans.

I mean, the truth is, Tom Daschle needs a call from Al Gore.

KLAIN: The plan the House passes, and "The New York Times" covers this in Nevada last week, it won't cover anybody. It's a sham gig by the prescription drug industry, and you know it.

PRESS: All right, let's get back on to our topic for tonight. I just want to say as we begin about this endorsement today, it was a heck of a lot more enthusiastic than John McCain's endorsement of George W. Bush, if you recall, when he wouldn't even use the "e" word, I just want to remind people of that.

But Haley Barbour, you know, the governor is always saying, I've got a lot of experience, just look at what I've done in Texas. You know, Haley, when you look at Texas, it ain't always so pretty. Projected today came out a $615 million deficit for the state of Texas under Governor Bush this year. Now I ask you, if he can't balance the books in Texas, why should we trust him with the Oval Office?

BARBOUR: You know, Bill, a little funny math there. Texas has a surplus well in excess of a billion dollars, of which they're going spend $610 million dollars under their biennial system. They're still going to have a surplus well in excess of half a billion dollars after they spend this through their biennial budgeting system. Texas has done this every two-year cycle under Republican governors, under Democrat governors, and that's the way you plan with a biennial budget, is that you set up a surplus so that you know next year you've got a cushion, and if have you to spend like the Congress, the Republican Congress in the Democratic administration have spent $90 billion dollars of supplemental appropriations since the Republicans came over. This is exactly the way it works in Texas, out of the surplus.

PRESS: Haley, just a minute. The funny math is on your side, my friend. I mean, the senior citizen groups in Texas today, the teachers came out in Texas today and said, this shortfall comes out of their pockets, comes out of Medicaid and comes out of insurance for retired teachers. And you know, I say again, and also they point out, it's due to the fact that Bush pushed through this trillion-dollar tax cut in 1998. That's the same plan he's trying to push on the American people today, Haley. It doesn't work.

BARBOUR: Bill, I know argument is something y'all like to do.

PRESS: Facts is something we like.

BARBOUR: But the fact is that the Texas state controller, who is in charge of the Texas State Treasury, said today that the budget surplus in Texas will still be well in excess of half a billion dollars, and that the budget, by the way, in Texas for the biennial will be within one percent of what was projected by the Texas legislature and the governor. Now those are facts. We can, you know, when in the minority talk, but when in the majority, let's look at the facts.

KLAIN: Well, let's talk about facts, which is that there was supposed to be a billion dollars set aside in Texas to pay for long- term needs, because Governor Bush's budget busted. They're digging into that money to pay for today's needs. Now if George Bush brings that same approach to Washington, what will happen? democrats and Republicans working together, Haley, have set aside the $2 trillion to save Social Security for the next generation. George Bush's tax cut plan, just as it did in Texas, will bust into that surplus, squander the money being set aside for Social Security, and people in their 40s and 50s now will not be able to have Social Security because George Bush will squander that money on a tax cut plan that benefits the richest 1 percent.

BARBOUR: You know, Ron, if I were losing the election as bad as y'all, I would come up with these scary horror stories that are not based on facts. The fact is Texas has a big surplus, and the fact also is, where George Bush wants the taxpayers to keep about a half a trillion dollars out of a $3 trillion surplus, Al Gore doesn't because he wants the government to spend three times more than even Bill Clinton.

KLAIN: Al Gore wants to see us save Social Security and Medicare for the next generation. George Bush has a tax cut plan that's going to take that surplus, just as he did in Texas, squander it on short- term needs and not have the money there for the future, and that's what we're seeing in Texas right now, Haley.

BARBOUR: The fact of the matter is -- and I don't blame y'all for being loud about this, but the fact of the matter is that Bush's proposal, and Gore's proposal, and about Clinton's proposal and Dennis Hastert's proposal all set aside about the same amount money to pay down the debt and pay -- protect Social Security and Medicare. The difference is, Gore wants huge spending. Bush says we don't need that big a spending increase, we need some selected people to teach some of their...

MATALIN: Ron, before we get quagmired in policy, let me go off of something Bradley the endorser today had to say earlier in his contest against Gore, and it was -- quote -- "He talks a lot about, but Gore's had seven years to demonstrate his accomplishments." This says everything about Gore. He and Clinton had seven years to do something about Social Security, seven years to do something about Medicare. Bipartisan commissions were blowing it off because they wanted an issue for the election, not a solution.

KLAIN: No, Mary, we have done -- we have amazing things with Social Security and Medicare. Social Security will be solvent for 20 more years, than we showed up here in Washington, Medicare for an additional decade than when we came. That's changed.

What Governor Bush would do by taking, if he did what he does in Texas, taking the surplus and squandering it because he doesn't -- set aside enough money through his tax cut plan, if he does that to the federal budget, we will undo the progress we made on Social Security, undo the progress we've made on Medicare.

Look, there is a difference between the two plans. Wait.

BARBOUR: There's a huge difference...

KLAIN: They both -- they both say they're going to set aside the Social Security surplus. Only Al Gore, not George Bush, says he wants to set aside the surplus for Medicare. And on Social Security, if Bush does in Washington what he did in Texas, the surplus will be gone.

BARBOUR: The Senate Democrats are keeping the Social Security trust fund surplus from being put in a lockbox. Albert Gore ought to pick up the phone and call them, and let's tell the truth about Medicare.

This year, the Clinton administration is going to spend $18 billion less on Medicare than Congress put in the budget. Last year, the Clinton administration spent $21 billion less than Congress had in the budget for Medicare.

Look at the facts. Cut the rhetoric out. Look at the facts.

They've shortchanged Medicare $40 billion below what Congress budgeted for '99 and 2000.

MATALIN: All right. Hold that right there, you substantive policy-makers. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) today the vice president was endorsed by Bradley. Is his real opponent George Bush or is his biggest problem going to be Ralph Nader? We'll talk about that when we come back.

But if you missed today's Bradley endorsement, not a problem. We've got you covered. Watch the announcement at cnn.com -- cnn.com/crossfire. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATALIN: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Campaign 2000 marches on as Al Gore and George W. Bush turn their attention to Philadelphia, Los Angeles and the vice presidential selections, as they do, turn their attention. But will the electorate turn its attention to campaign 2000 and will that close the gap in the polls for Gore? Two longtime political pros and candidates, confidantes, prognosticate for Gore: the vice president's former chief of staff, Ron Klain, and for Bush, former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour -- William.

PRESS: Haley, I know it always makes you uncomfortable when we take the governor at his work and look at Texas, I'd like to do so again. Thanks, by the way, to one of our viewers, who sent me a tear- out from "The Austin American-Statesman." Now, I want to give you one, OK, because the governor says he's popular in Texas, and here's what "The Austin American-Statesman" poll showed today if the election were held. Bush 57 percent; Gore, 24 percent. No surprise, people of Texas like him, right, Haley?

BARBOUR: Sure.

PRESS: All right. I'll give you that one.

But then this "Austin" -- "The American-Statesman" went on to ask, well, you know, the governor says he's running, he's a reformer with results. Now can you tell us the one -- No. 1 result, the No. 1 thing that Governor Bush has accomplished in the state of Texas? Here's what that poll showed, Haley: 63 percent of all of them asked said they had no idea; 56 percent of the Bush supporters said they had no idea; and of course, 70 percent of the Gore supporters said they had no idea. Two-thirds of the people of Texas after five years have no idea what the guy has done.

Haley, and he wants to be president of the United States?

BARBOUR: You know, Bill, when you've got a record that's got so many good things in it, it's hard to pick...

(LAUGHTER)

... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what's the one good thing.

You know, what's funny to me, I see you...

KLAIN: That is funny.

BARBOUR: ... I see you guys, you know, Texas is 39th in this and 42nd, and it's funny. Bill, when you were chairman of the Democratic Party in Texas, I never heard you talk -- of California...

PRESS: California.

BARBOUR: ... I never heard you talk about Arkansas is 50th in this, 49th in that, 50th in this. The fact of the matter is Bill Clinton wasn't the reason Arkansas was 49th and 50th and things. What George Bush has done is move that state forward in huge ways and in areas that threaten the Democrats so bad that Albert Gore felt like yesterday he had to go to the NAACP and attack George Bush because he's so worried about the inroads that Bush has made.

And look, when you look at school scores for school kids in Texas, for African-Americans -- and they've improved a huge way -- you can see the attraction. I can see why Gore's afraid.

PRESS: You say he's moved the state forward. The point is he moved the state forward in a way that two-thirds of the people in Texas have no idea about.

Now you mentioned the NAACP -- and I'm glad you did -- because George Bush goes to the NAACP on Monday, and you know, I'm glad he did, right. But then at the very same day his campaign out of Austin, Texas puts out a press release from Strom Thurmond, Mr. Dixiecrat, Mr. Racist in 1948, who left the Democratic Party, went to the Republican Party because the Democrats were going to shut down the Jim Crow laws down there in South Carolina.

I mean, George Bush and Strom Thurmond, is the team? Isn't that a poke in the eye to African-Americans everywhere in this country?

BARBOUR: You know, the phoniness of that, Bill, is...

PRESS: Phony? Strom Thurmond...

BARBOUR: Does Albert Gore want to say I will -- I won't have Robert Byrd ever say anything good about me. You know, he used to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan. That's the biggest crock I've ever heard of in my life.

PRESS: How many press releases did he put out the day he went to the NAACP with Robert Byrd or anybody else's name on it? You laugh about that. Julian Bond was quoted today in "The Washington Post" as saying some people may dismiss the election of 1948. He and African- Americans will never forget it. It's history, Haley.

Why trot out Strom Thurmond when you're in front of the NAACP?

BARBOUR: Let me ask you a little question, Bill. Who was the first federal official from the state of South Carolina ever to hire an African-American staff member? Strom Thurmond was. And I'll you what, a whole lot of people all over the country said it's good times are changing, and Strom Thurmond said it's good times are changing. And Robert Byrd...

PRESS: So you put him up as your model -- you put him up as your model -- you put him up as your model for African-Americans...

BARBOUR: ... who was once -- who was once in the Ku Klux Klan, he also said it's good things are changing too. One thing you always count on about the Gore campaign. It's always, what are we going to try attack Bush on? Who are we going to try to attack? And I don't blame you all, Ron, for attacking the Republican Congress. If I had to run against Bush, I'd want to run against somebody else, too.

PRESS: But you know, Haley...

KLAIN: Well, you know, Haley, I think that Governor Bush gives us plenty to run about. He's lucky that 63 percent of the Texas people can't name what he's done, because if they knew what he'd done, if they'd focus on it, they'd realize all the ways in which he's taken that state backwards.

The state now has five of the cities with the worst air pollution in the United States. That wasn't true when he came to office.

MATALIN: OK. OK.

KLAIN: Their education system has gotten worse.

MATALIN: OK, OK, Ron -- Ron...

(CROSSTALK)

KLAIN: ... blown a whole in it.

MATALIN: Tort reform, tax reform, education reform.

BARBOUR: He's done so bad he only got 70 percent of the vote running. His record in Texas is so bad that the Democrat lieutenant governor endorsed him. I'll take that record all day, Ron. Tell me more.

MATALIN: You know what, if he -- if his -- if he had such a bad record and was running such a bad campaign, why have you announced, your campaign, that you're going to announce your VP right after the Republican convention to step on what you know is going to be Bush's big bounce, about which...

PRESS: Ohhh...

KLAIN: Oh, Mary...

MATALIN: ... Bush said -- quote -- "Sounds like I've got him worried. If he's doing things based on what I'm doing, that's a pretty good sign, isn't it."

Bush has been controlling this agenda. He does Social Security reform, you come out with a copycat plan. He has tax cuts, you come out with a copycat plan.

KLAIN: Mary, the agenda here is the agenda that Al Gore has set for the American people. It's about economic growth. It's about protecting retirement, not slashing Social Security the way George Bush does. It's about setting aside money for Medicare, not squandering all of it and failing to set aside a single penny like George Bush does. Al Gore will announce his vice president...

MATALIN: All right, if your -- if your...

KLAIN: ... when he is good and ready.

MATALIN: ... stuff is so good, why is Bush getting more Republicans than you're getting Democrats? The reason you need this Bradley thing done is because Nader is kicking you all over the place. He's making statements...

KLAIN: No, Mary...

MATALIN: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) never been competitive. You're losing in Minnesota, in Michigan, in Washington, in Illinois, in Pennsylvania.

KLAIN: Look, I hear this from my Republican friends all the time. They're taking great solace in the polls now. I welcome them to do it. At this stage -- same stage in the process in 1992, a Texan named Ross Perot was in first place. Another Texan named George Bush was in second place. Bill Clinton was leading in one of the 50 states. So the polls don't phase us at all.

What we know is this: As the American people focus on this race, the differences on progress and prosperity versus taking this country backward will make the difference.

PRESS: Real quickly, because we promised our viewers, George Bush's No. 1 choice for vice president in your opinion?

BARBOUR: I have no idea.

PRESS: Oh, you do so!

BARBOUR: Look, anybody that sits here and tells you that they have an idea is just pulling your leg.

PRESS: All right. Is Tom Ridge still on the list?

BARBOUR: I would certainly think so.

PRESS: OK. No. 1 for Al Gore?

KLAIN: It will be a highly qualified person.

(LAUGHTER)

That will be -- that will be two on our ticket, which will be at least one more than on the Republican ticket.

PRESS: John Kerry and Bob Graham, one of those two.

KLAIN: He's got a good list. He'll get a good vice president. And like I say, it'll be two highly qualified people on our ticket. That's one more than will be on the Republican ticket. MATALIN: All right, we heard it the first time. Bob Graham...

BARBOUR: And you almost got your grammar right both times.

(LAUGHTER)

KLAIN: Thank you, Haley.

PRESS: All right, gentlemen...

(CROSSTALK)

MATALIN: We're out of time.

PRESS: Gentlemen, thank you for those insights into who's going to be the vice president. Thanks for being here, Haley Barbour. Always good to have you back.

BARBOUR: All right, Bill.

PRESS: Ron Klain, good to see you.

KLAIN: Bill, thank you.

PRESS: I'm sure we'll see you again. Mary and I, back with our closing comments on all the above, just a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATALIN: I have never seen anything like this. It's unprecedented that Bush has grassroots organizers from all over the country in Austin even as we speak. Our base is totally solidified while Gore is lurching to the left, and his new -- his third staff shakeup chairman is calling Nader celebrity supporters trying to knock him off. Bradley is barely touching him for an endorsement. You don't even have your base pinned down. It's a month from your convention.

PRESS: You are living in a fantasy land.

MATALIN: No, I'm not.

PRESS: I think you ought to listen -- I think you ought to listen to your candidate and stop counting your chickens before they hatch. Let me tell you something. So what did we learn tonight, Strom Thurmond for vice president tonight?

Mary, let me just tell you something...

MATALIN: If you have to bring up criticisms from 50 years ago...

PRESS: Pardon me. I didn't interrupt you. I didn't interrupt you.

MATALIN: ... can you say Lester Maddox (ph) and George Wallace?

PRESS: Let me just finish. You know what...

MATALIN: When you play the race card, I'm going to attack you and I'm going to interrupt you.

PRESS: I didn't play the race card. George W. Bush played the race card by (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Strom Thurmond -- poking him in the eyes of the NAACP.

MATALIN: George Wallace -- oh my god!

PRESS: Shame on him. And let me tell you something...

MATALIN: Shame on you!

PRESS: Red my lips: We're not going to elect somebody who has a shortfall in Texas while there's a surplus in Washington. One can do the economy, one can't do the economy. I think the facts speak for themselves.

MATALIN: Do you think we'll ever do a show where you have anything positive to say about Gore? No, because there's nothing to say about Gore. The only way you have a scintilla of chance to win is to do what you've been doing...

PRESS: Positive about Gore. I've been saying...

MATALIN: ... is to keep attacking Bush.

PRESS: ... positive about Gore my whole life.

He's more experienced than George W. Bush. He's ready to be president.

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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