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Burden of Proof

Republican National Convention: How Could the Party Platform Impact the Law?

Aired August 3, 2000 - 12:30 p.m. ET



DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They will make accusations. We will make proposals. They will feed fear, and we will appeal to hope. They will offer more lectures and legalisms and carefully-worded denials.

GEN. COLIN POWELL, FORMER JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We must understand the cynicism that exists in the black community, the kind of cynicism that is created, when, for example, some in our party miss no opportunity to roundly and loudly condemn Affirmative Action that helped a few thousand black kids get an education. But you hardly hear a whimper when it's Affirmative Action for lobbyists who load our federal tax codes with preferences for special interest. It doesn't work.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, BUSH FOREIGN AFFAIRS ADVISOR: I found a party that sees me as an individual, not as part of a group; I found a party that puts family first; I found a party that has love of liberty at its core; and I found a party that believes that peace begins with strength.


ROGER COSSACK, CO-HOST: Today on BURDEN OF PROOF: They're the issues that shape the GOP, how the Republican Party platform could affect the election, and if Bush-Cheney are voted into the White House, could that platform impact the law?

ANNOUNCER: This is BURDEN OF PROOF, live from the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, with Greta Van Susteren and Roger Cossack.

COSSACK: Hello and welcome to a special edition of BURDEN OF PROOF.

Last night, Texas Governor George W. Bush was nominated as the Republican presidential nominee for the president of the United States. Tonight, the GOP nominee will address his party behind us at the Comcast First Union Center.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CO-HOST: Bush's speech will close a week of discussions on issues such as foreign policy, Affirmative Action and U.S. defense strategies. But the convention has also, quietly, finalized a platform for the ticket and the party.

COSSACK: Joining us today here in Philadelphia is Bush general counsel, Ben Ginsberg.

VAN SUSTEREN: also joining us: Governor Tommy Thompson from my favorite state, Wisconsin, who is also the chairman of the Platform Committee. And law professor, Anita Allen-Castellitto.

Governor, let me go first to you, and of course, I can't help but ask the question starts first with that University of Wisconsin beat Roger's alma mater twice.

GOV. TOMMY THOMPSON (R), WISCONSIN: Quite easily too...

VAN SUSTEREN: Quite easily in the last six years.

COSSACK: This is the cross I bear.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, the platform, is it binding on Governor Bush?

THOMPSON: No, it is not. When you bring together 107 individuals from different walks of life and different sections of the country, and they come together, and they are usually the most ideologically pure individuals of a political party, whether you be a Republican or Democrat, and they put together a platform, which is really the cornerstones of the party. But the candidate cannot be expected to agree on every item in that platform.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me give you a good Wisconsin question, what's the point?

THOMPSON: The point is is that the platform is the party. The platform gives the candidates the opportunity to run on that, but it gives the delegates the opportunity to form, you know, the core of what the political party stands for, and that's what the platform is all about. It is very important, it's the essential tool to build a political party.

COSSACK: General counsel Ben Ginsberg, will George W. Bush come on tonight and tell the delegates here that the platform that they put together, that represents their views, really isn't binding upon him, and in fact he perhaps doesn't intend to follow most of it?

BEN GINSBERG, LEAD COUNSEL, BUSH CAMPAIGN: Well, what the governor is going to do tonight is set forth his positive agenda for the future of the country. He is going to talk about setting a new tone in Washington, to be able to reach across the aisle and come up with bipartisan solutions to deal with the problems of the country.

COSSACK: So then the platform, I suppose, by your failure to refer to it, Ben, is that the platform, which has some very strident messages in it which are completely contrary to what we've seen here on the floor, really don't mean anything.

GINSBERG: No, the platform is an important tool for participation for delegates, who make up the core of the Republican Party.

COSSACK: Is it just something for the delegates to do?

GINSBERG: It is an important expression of participatory democracy in the party. But this election, as always, will come down to the agendas and proposals of the two candidates, or perhaps the four candidates, as they debate with each other. But it is the governor's own personal agenda, compared with Vice President Gore's agenda, that at the end of the day, the people of this country will vote upon.

THOMPSON: This platform, George Bush embraces a good share of this platform. It doesn't mean that he discards the platform, not on every item he is going to agree upon, such as the abortion issue. He has had some exceptions. But on the education plan, he was very much involved, foreign policy he was very much involved, and the defense of the military, he was very much involved. A good share of this platform are things that George Bush really embraces and articulates.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let's talk about...

ANITA ALLEN-CASTELLITTO, LAW PROFESSOR: I would be politically very unwise, and maybe even suicidal for the Republicans to stress their platform, knowing that positions on, for example, abortion, possibly gay rights, are now far right of center.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, let me ask you...

THOMPSON: That is absolutely incorrect. The pro-choice people had more access in this platform than any time before, the Democrats will not even allow pro-life people to be heard at the platform, big difference.

COSSACK: But Governor Thompson, look what the platform says, it doesn't even make an exception for a woman's health.

THOMPSON: But it also says, and George Bush has said that, he says that he does not support that. He supports the fact that it is in the platform, but he has also made quite clearly that he is not going to have a litmus test on judges, and he has also indicated that he does support exceptions.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, let me talk about the issue of Affirmative Action. I thought that Colin Powell really poked the Republicans right in the eye with a stick when he talked about lobbyists having special interests, and getting special favors, and that the Republican Party is not in favor of Affirmative Action. How does the governor address that when he hits the campaign trail? that issue, which has been part of the court decisions for years.

THOMPSON: You will know that George W. Bush has been reaching out to minorities, just look at this convention. There are more minorities speaking from the platform...

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, you are right, there are more minorities, but I tell you, I have taken a look around the convention hall here, and I've got to tell, there are probably as many minorities on that platform up there speaking, as there are in the entire...

ALLEN-CASTELLITTO: There were more Black delegates 90 years ago at the Republican convention than there are at this time.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm not so sure that the Republican Party has attracted a lot of African-Americans.

COSSACK: They are trying to attract them.

VAN SUSTEREN: If you don't have Affirmative Action in the platform, you run the risk.

GINSBERG: What you do have is affirmative access, and the governor is looking for fresh way to deal within intransigent problems. And that's what this convention is really all about is setting a new tone that the governor will be able to put forward.

For example, he has stressed that one of the fundamental civil rights that you have to have is the right to read for all children. That is a solution to a structural problem that leads to many of the other problems that you are dealing with on a regular basis.

COSSACK: Anita, let me just ask you, in terms of this notion that there's a platform, and then there is what the nominee decides to adopt from that platform and not adopt from the platform, isn't that a rather new approach to convention politics? I always thought that the platform was what the party thought, and the nominee...

VAN SUSTEREN: I think you are the only one that thought that, Roger.

ALLEN-CASTELLITTO: I don't want to say that that is what people thought, but it is this time around that the Republicans are trying to set aside one extreme of their party by having a platform that reflects the conservative Republican agenda, but have a convention that reflects a more moderate stance. That's perfectly clear.

GINSBERG: Well, I think what it shows is that the Republican Party is trying to become and is becoming a much more inclusive party. And like any broad-based governing coalition in the country, you bring in people from all sides, and all sorts of different ways, with all sorts of different ideas.

THOMPSON: I also want to point out that this platform is very optimistic, there are a lot of changes in here, and it is a lot more futuristic and visionary than any platform before. It has got many things dealing with education, that are very outstanding, women's health, dealing with the environment, natural resources, and all of these things are in this new policy, a new direction for the Republican Party.

VAN SUSTEREN: We are going to take a break. When we come back, we are going to get a look inside that new RNC platform. Is it a message which has been silenced from the podium? Stay with us.

(BEGIN LEGAL BRIEF) Philadelphia's Old City Hall was home of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1791-1800



COSSACK: Good news for our Internet-savvy viewers. You can now watch BURDEN OF PROOF live on the World Wide Web. Just log on to We now provide a live video feed, Monday through Friday, at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time. If you miss that live show, the program is available on the site at any time via video-on-demand. You can also interact with our show, and even join our chat room.

VAN SUSTEREN: The Republican National Convention has finalized its platform, which is available to read at The platform addresses issues such as taxes, civil rights, and the Supreme Court's recent ruling on a type of late-term abortion.

Governor, campaign finance reform law: What is going is the Republican Party going to do about that, if anything?

THOMPSON: Well, in the platform, we took a very hard stance in regards to soft money, that it should be limited. We also put in the check-off so that people have an opportunity to make sure that they don't have money deducted from their paychecks unless they so desire.

We also want to make sure strict accountability, as far as filing who contributes, and I think it was a very good platform.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you deal with the issue of issue ads, which in some ways almost seem to be the dirtiest form of politics, on both sides?

THOMPSON: Well, you have to change the Constitution, Greta, you know that, it is the Buckley v. Delalio (ph) decision that really limits that.

I wish we could. I wish we could require that all ads have to come from either the candidate or the political party, and that there could not be independent expenditures, but the constitution does not allow that. Free Speech Amendment says you've got to be able to protect that.

COSSACK: Does the candidate agree with the position on the plank?

GINSBERG: The candidate does agree, and one of the other assets the campaign has used is the ability to disclose, virtually instantaneously, all the contributions that come into the campaign, really the first campaign to take advantage of the Internet by full disclosure.

COSSACK: All right, so that's going to a part of the plank then, the platform that everybody is going to be in favor of, the candidates and the delegates. Now what about the stance on abortion? THOMPSON: I would not say all the delegates, but a good share of them are.

COSSACK: Many who support the plank. Now, let's talk about abortion. Now we have one where the plank is a much tougher position than what the candidate believes.

THOMPSON: Well that is very true, but the candidates has came out very clearly and said that he does not want this changed, he does not want a fight, but he wants to make sure that everybody in the convention knows that he has exceptions, as far as abortion is concerned, and he will not require a litmus test for the appointment of federal judges or any appointments, and I that's only fair.

I don't think anybody should expect a candidate running for president of the United States should have a litmus whatsoever, and George Bush has articulated this very well.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anita, don't you think in some ways, I mean I agree with the governor that Governor Bush has said that there won't be a litmus test, but he has come out and said that he thinks Justice Scalia is his best example of a Supreme Court justice, which in some ways is a little bit of a litmus test. Do you think that if the governor, Governor Bush, is elected president we are going to see a different Supreme Court? and that it will have the sort of quasi litmus test, that is Justice Scalia.

ALLEN-CASTELLITTO: Well, I do think that there will be some effort to find candidates for judgeships who will be malleable, or who will be open politically to both the right ways. But we've seen in the past you can't predict a judge. A judge sits on the bench, whether appointed by a Republican...

THOMPSON: You talking about David Souter? You are talking about a number of judges.

ALLEN-CASTELLITTO: So we are not going to see any attempt to pack the court. But I do think...

COSSACK: On the other hand, you can predict, I mean, Clarence Thomas got on the bench as a very conservative member of...

ALLEN-CASTELLITTO: But Clarence Thomas is an unusually ideological judge, I think. He's someone whose views are extremely predictable. He is an extremely...

COSSACK: So is Justice Scalia.

VAN SUSTEREN: Some people say his prediction is which way Justice Scalia is voting.

ALLEN-CASTELLITTO: But the idea of finding lots of people like that out there who are qualified to be a Supreme Court strikes me as odd. What does strikes me as odd, also though, going back to your point a minute ago, is that it is great to say that Governor Bush is more open to exceptions on abortion than the platform. But there is another possibility, right, that he would actually be in favor of abortion rights, which he is not in favor of women having access to abortion, unless they have been rape, because of incest, or have a health problem. I think that the American public may have a somewhat different view of what restrictions ought to be available.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, ask you a question...

THOMPSON: The Republican Party is a pro-life party, there is no question about it, but we also allow for challenge. We allowed the pro-choice people to come in and bring in their amendments to have complete access, and they will say that they've never had as much access in the party, and the party has never been so open as it was in this platform hearings this year. I pride myself on that, and I'm very proud of that.

But Democrats will not even allow a pro-life person in the Democrat Party to testify, that shows how closed-minded the Democrats are on that side. Republicans are very open-minded, and we put a minority report at the end of the platform, and I think that shows how inclusive this party, the Republican, the new Republican Party, is all about.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, do you think that in the selections, not to mention I don't think it is in the platform, the issue of death penalty, whether that is going to be an issue. Governor Bush comes from a state where there are going to be two execution in one night next week, you come from a state where there is no death penalty.

THOMPSON: That is correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think that the death penalty is just a non- issue in this campaign or going to be?

THOMPSON: No, I think the press is going to make it an issue.

VAN SUSTEREN: Should it be?

THOMPSON: I'm not so sure it should be. You know, George Bush is a governor, he comes from a state that does have a death penalty. But he is running for the president of the United States, and the death penalty...

ALLEN-CASTELLITTO: It has to be an issue, it absolutely has to be an issue.

THOMPSON: Well, the press is going to make it.

ALLEN-CASTELLITTO: Yesterday, President Clinton stayed the execution of a man who had been the first person -- federal inmate to be put to death in 40 years, and that was a Mexican-American man, and he did so based on evidence that there are lots and lots of mistakes happening, that there's a disproportionate number of minorities being put to death, and where you live determines whether you get put to death or not.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, there was the other added part, though, is that the Justice Department has not set up a procedure yet. The federal death penalty is relatively new and...

COSSACK: But there is also the other issues. The death penalty is now recently more than even come into disfavor, the DNA tests and many other reasons, it has to be I think an issue.

Ben Ginsberg, don't you think that the death penalty is a legitimate issue.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, Gore is for the death penalty too, let's not forget that.

GINSBERG: That's why I think it won't be such a terrible issue in the campaign because both candidates seem to have a general agreement on the subject. But what Governor Bush has done is uphold the laws of Texas, is there in place in his state, and executed them fully.

The people who have been put to death under the laws of Texas have had full access to the courts, there has been the reviews of evidence provided by Texas...

VAN SUSTEREN: But that...

COSSACK: Nobody innocent has ever been executed in Texas, and you know statistics would perhaps at least make an arguable claim.

GINSBERG: But you can't give an example of where that's not happened. That's why the media makes it an issue.

COSSACK: Let's take a break. The issues range from education to conservation and retirement security. How the GOP platform reflects the political and legal viewpoints of the party, when we come back. Stay with us.


Q: To what has the Republican Party dedicated its 2000 platform?

A: The memory of Sen. Paul Douglas Coverdell from Georgia.



COSSACK: The Republican National Convention platform outlines a central importance on family, stating that high standards and clear values are the tools needed for social and economic progress.

Ben, I want to go back to this issue, again, of delegates coming in and saying, these are the values that we want our party to embrace, and yet having a candidate who says: I'm going to embrace some of them but I'm not going to embrace all of them. What -- to whom does he have to be true? what happens if, in a debate Senator Gore says: Which one are you not telling the truth to? are you not telling truth to the delegates about the platform? or are you not telling the truth to the American people about what you're going to do? GINSBERG: I'm confused.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think the thing here is though, that Gore will have the same question posed to him, though, that's the problem.

GINSBERG: Well, I'm confused about your confusion on this. The truth of the matter is every candidate who runs needs to be true to him or herself in their beliefs. The Republican Party is a broad- based governing coalition. We have candidates all across the political spectrum, you find different prevailing philosophies in the northeast than you from the southwest.

COSSACK: Then why have this platform? why have a platform at all?

GINSBERG: Because it is a wonderful expression of participatory democracy, when the delegates who are most politically active can come together and hash out the major issues. The fact of the matter is, Roger, it's fun and it's important, and that's why the delegates do it in both parties.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me offer you a hook on Roger's question, let me let you off the hook on Roger's question, I going to ask you that you are the national counsel to the Republican Party?

GINSBERG: It's the "Bush for president."

VAN SUSTEREN: Or "Bush for"-- what is that? what do you do?

GINSBERG: It's the most -- that's a good question, it's the most wonderful job any lawyer can have, I think. It is a deeply, deeply satisfying and rewarding practice. But it goes from helping a political campaign get started both in the highly regulated area of campaign finance reform, to an entity that's going to spend many millions of dollars over the course of an 18-month period; and all the legal issues that come with any startup business ranging from contract law to insurance to side agreements.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anita, does that sound fun? as a lawyer?

ALLEN-CASTELLITTO: It sounds great, it sounds great.

GINSBERG: It is, it is.

ALLEN-CASTELLITTO: Especially if you don't have to defend the platform.

GINSBERG: And it's an honor, it's an honor, it's a particular honor to work for a candidate like Governor Bush, who had just put so much energy into his campaign, and has attracted wonderful people to work on it.

COSSACK: Governor Thompson, you were, of course, involved with the platform.

ALLEN-CASTELLITTO: I'll say. THOMPSON: I lived with them for the first seven weeks.

ALLEN-CASTELLITTO: He is the platform.

COSSACK: Were you in contact with Governor Bush?

THOMPSON: Absolutely.

COSSACK: And tell us how that relationship worked. You know, you would see certain planks being made that you perhaps realize would not go with what he wanted, how did you -- did you call and did you say: What happens now?

THOMPSON: I didn't particularly call Governor Bush. But there was no question that my office was in daily contact with the Washington office and with the Austin office. And we had a great communication, great opportunity. And Governor Bush said to me, he says, Tommy, he says, I want you to deliver a platform that is going to be one in which I can run on and one that is going to be inclusive, one that is positive, one that does not bash the other side , one that's going to have a centerpiece on education, foreign policy, military and domestic affairs. And he said, I will do everything I possibly can to assist you.

COSSACK: There came that point, let me give you a hypothetical...

VAN SUSTEREN: Let cut you off, Roger, because Governor Thompson, of my state, gets the last word.

Roger, you better bring Governor Gray Davis from your state, from Los Angeles.

COSSACK: The chips are down, Governor Davis, please don't let me down.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's all the time we have for today. Thanks to our guests and thank you for watching.

Today on "TALKBACK LIVE": will Bill Clinton effect your vote? that's at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time, noon Pacific.

COSSACK: Stay tuned to CNN for complete coverage of the Republican National Convention. And we'll be back tomorrow with another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF. We'll see you then.



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