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Crossfire

Will Al Gore Ever Get Out from Bill Clinton's Shadow?

Aired August 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.

BILL PRESS, CROSSFIRE: Live from the Democratic convention in Los Angeles, a special edition of CROSSFIRE.

Tonight: It's supposed to be Al Gore's party, so why are Bill and Hillary Clinton getting so much attention and so much money?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Los Angeles, CROSSFIRE.

On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Mary Matalin.

In the CROSSFIRE, California Senator Barbara Boxer, an Al Gore supporter and Democratic convention co-chair, and Congressman Christopher Cox, California co-chair of the Bush campaign.

PRESS: Good evening, and welcome to CROSSFIRE, live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where the Democratic national convention kicks off tomorrow -- minus Al Gore and Joe Lieberman. They're still on their way to L.A.

Gore was in Cleveland today, accompanied by actor Rob Reiner, making health care for all kids one of his top priorities. His running mate, pulling a Bill Ginsburg, appeared on all five morning talk shows to explain and defend his policy differences with Al Gore, most notably on school vouchers.

As for George Bush, he started a week's vacation on his new ranch. And down in Long Beach, Pat Buchanan accepted his half of the Reform Party's nomination, blasting both Bush and Gore.

Meanwhile, with everybody else out of town, it's been party, party, party for Bill and Hillary Clinton. Last night he helped her raise $1 million for her Senate campaign. Today Barbra Streisand helped him raise 10 million bucks for his presidential library. And tomorrow both speak to the convention.

In fact, Democrats have given so much attention and so much money to Bill and Hillary, some people are wondering, will there be anything left over for the next guy? That's our CROSSFIRE tonight. Will Al Gore ever get out from Bill Clinton's shadow? And whose convention is this anyway, Bill Clinton's or Al Gore's?

Mary?

MARY MATALIN, CROSSFIRE: Senator, thanks for joining us. We love your state.

REP. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA), DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION CO-CHAIR: Nice to be here.

MATALIN: We're having fun already.

BOXER: Good.

MATALIN: Good eats. Let's pick it up where Bill left off.

BOXER: Good politics, too, Mare.

MATALIN: Well -- well, that remains to be seen.

(CROSSTALK)

MATALIN: ... good politics amply represented on both sides.

Let's pick it up there. Barbra Streisand had a few of her friends over for brunch today, $10 million for the library. It was more like $4 million last night for Hillary, two prime-time speeches. Yesterday Bill and I were here. She was on the floor. She was on the floor again today. In total, the Clintons will be spending more time in Los Angeles than the vice president and his vice presidential selection.

Despite that, Mrs. Clinton had to say in "The New York Times" today "We're going to be staying out of sight. Really. We want there to be nothing but a focus on the convention back in Los Angeles. We don't want there to be any attention except on Joe and Al." This is the longest good-bye of all time, isn't it, Senator?

BOXER: It's hard to say good-bye! But I have to say something here. What would you be saying -- not just you, Mary, but Bill and everyone -- if the president didn't come to this convention? I can just see the stories -- "Is there a rift?" This is so natural. And for them to come to California is great.

You know, I have to say when I ran for the Senate -- and Chris well remembers -- it was a hard race. It was hard-fought. Hillary came into this state six times to help me. I'm very happy that people are donating to her campaign. I want to see her in the Senate. And as for the presidential library, I think people who can write those checks will happily write a check to Al Gore. So my view is it's perfectly natural.

And the last point I'd make is, this is a triumph for both, I think, Al Gore and Bill Clinton. What has happened in the last eight years -- you know, seeing the worst recession since the Great Depression, seeing this terrible deficit, $290 billion...

MATALIN: OK, we'll get there.

BOXER: ... go to a surplus.

MATALIN: Whoa! I know you're going to... BOXER: You know, why not say...

MATALIN: ... your talking points. We'll leave those...

BOXER: ... thank you to the president, though? That's not TP, that's realistic.

MATALIN: That's not -- you know what? That's not the issue, though, because the option is not to stay or not to go.

BOXER: Well, Mary, you don't want to make it an issue.

MATALIN: It's the Reagan option. No, the Reagan option, which Bill Clinton is studying, was to come and take credit for what happened and applaud your heir apparent and then to move on. Here's the problem. Al Gore has a leadership deficit, and the truth is these delegates here are crazy for Bill Clinton. They think he is Elvis. And the truth is, the longer that he is around, Al Gore pales in comparison. Clinton's presence hurts your nominee.

BOXER: Not at all because he's leaving after he gives his speech. It's very appropriate. He is setting the stage for Al Gore and Joe Lieberman. So I don't know. If he did what Reagan did, you'd say, "Look at him. He's copying Ronald Reagan." He's doing his -- he's Bill Clinton, and Al Gore's Al Gore. And I think the country's going to get to know Al Gore. I certainly know him. And that's going to come across. It's going to be good to get to know both these fine gentlemen, and they're going to win this election. It's going to be awfully hard, but we're going to take it.

PRESS: Congressman Cox, I think there's enough sunshine in California for both Bill Clinton and Al Gore. I'm not too -- I'm not too worried. But I want to ask you about your vice presidential nominee, Dick Cheney. It was reported yesterday in "The New York Times" that he's got -- he got a $20 million bonus from Halliburton for resigning to run for vice president. Now -- and this is on top of the $5 million in stock options that he got at the time that oil prices were high and gas prices were high, by exercising his stock options at Halliburton.

My question to you, you know, these golden handcuffs are designed for somebody to kind of keep them there and keep running the company. Why should he get a $20 million reward for running for vice president. Do you think that's appropriate?

REP. CHRISTOPHER COX (R-CA), BUSH CALIFORNIA CO-CHAIR: Well, of course, the reason that the board of directors of a company as significant as that is willing to pay its executives as much as they do is that the company's performance depends upon attracting the very best people to run the operations. They won't be able to...

PRESS: And staying.

COX: ... attract a replacement unless it's very clear that the standard retirement package is something that's available to Dick Cheney as much as it would be to anyone else. The truth is that what distinguishes Dick Cheney's oil money from Al Gore's is that he earned it. The Occidental money, the Occidental Petroleum money that Al Gore's family trust has from Armand Hammer, was a political gift. And that's a big difference. So the connections of big oil to Al Gore are much dirtier than anybody's letting on, whereas Dick Cheney, who is a very honorable man, earned his money.

PRESS: Congressman, all of our viewers understand the difference between a family trust that nobody touches and $20 million that just slipped into Dick Cheney's pocket just last week when he's still -- when he's running for vice president. But at the very least, then, don't you think that if he were ever elected -- God forbid -- he should have to recuse himself from deciding on any energy matters because he's so clearly a pawn of the big oil companies? He's one of them.

COX: Well, as a matter of fact, he shall, and so shall Governor Bush put all of their assets into a blind trust. The important thing is that you have no financial stake in the decisions that you make as president or as vice president of the United States. It's something that Bill Clinton, by the way, did not do, like his predecessors did not, when he came to office, set up a blind trust, but rather exposed himself to all the Whitewater fiasco. That's one of the reasons we...

PRESS: No...

COX: ... want to make sure that we have an administration in the future...

PRESS: Maybe you don't understand.

COX: ... that brings dignity and honor back...

PRESS: Maybe you don't understand.

COX: ... to the White House.

PRESS: I'm not talking about where he puts his money. I'm talking about the decisions he might be called upon to participate in as vice president. This guy's coming out of the oil companies, rewarded by the oil companies with a huge bonus, and then you trust him to make impartial decisions when it comes to off-shore drilling or when it comes to pollution from oil refineries. When it comes to anything to do with the oil industry, he ought to be out of it. He ought to have to recuse himself, don't you agree?

COX: I think the very pointed difference is that he has said before he's inaugurated he won't even have any stock. He's going to liquidate his position, and he's going to have a blind trust control his assets, whereas Al Gore's family trust...

PRESS: But we know where his interests are.

COX: ... as far as we know, hangs onto that Occidental Petroleum stock.

BOXER: Chris, this business about a family trust -- you've got two oil men on your ticket, face it, and we know here in California if you talk to people, they're livid every time they pull up to the pump. So oil companies are not exactly well thought-of in California and many, many other states. And I think Bill raises a really good point. I can't believe this has happened at this particular point, and I think it's going to be an issue. I think consumer protection is an issue. And I was rather stunned when I saw $20 million. And Chris, you're saying that's kind of a standard retirement package? I don't know. It sounds awfully rich to me.

COX: Well...

BOXER: But you're a Republican. Maybe it's not.

COX: The truth is that we have in Dick Cheney one of the most honorable men that anybody in this group right here knows. You served with Dick Cheney. And Democrats as well as Republicans said so until it was time to trash his character and his reputation. And I think right now...

BOXER: I have never, ever trashed either his character or reputation. I've just looked at his voting record, which is frightening and far to the right of anyone I've ever seen.

COX: Well...

BOXER: And I've never trashed his...

MATALIN: Senator, it is true...

BOXER: ... character.

MATALIN: ... that the Democrats launched an attack that distorted that record. I'm not going to relive that. Let's go to your vice presidential selection. And it's true he made all five shows today, but Karl Rove, the Bush manager, managed to squeeze in a word edgewise, and here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, BUSH CAMPAIGN CHIEF STRATEGIST: He attacked Governor Bush as being unworthy of being president for having some of the same views that he now compliments his running mate for having. I guess it's risky if you're a Republican to have those views, but it's courageous if you're Joe Lieberman. Just it underlines why Al Gore just simply can't believed -- be believed when it comes to issues and policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATALIN: True. Doesn't this selection, as Karl just pointed out, of this man of conviction, Joe Lieberman, who has a current record, not 20 years old...

(CROSSTALK)

MATALIN: ... this man of conviction -- picking him -- doesn't that exacerbate the vice president's credibility problem?

BOXER: Al Gore's credibility problem, because what? I missed you.

MATALIN: Because Al Gore has not -- has not followed -- he has no positions that he can point to. His voting record -- that he's been consistent on. His voting record, when he overlapped with Cheney in the House, was the same as Cheney's. Today he's somewhere else.

BOXER: Oh, that's not true, Mary. I just looked at the same voting record and...

COX: Well, wait a second. He got an "AA" from the NRA!

BOXER: ... it certainly wasn't the same...

PRESS: Just one at a time. Let her finish, and then you can...

COX: He had a 94 percent voting record...

PRESS: Please...

COX: ... with the National Right to Life Committee.

BOXER: OK, but...

COX: He's been on both sides of every issue.

PRESS: Let her finish, and then -- OK. Please.

BOXER: All right. The fact of the matter is, we're talking about Dick Cheney, who when he was in the House of Representatives -- and I did serve with him -- was to the right of anyone. When you have someone voting against the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Water Quality -- I mean, you're shaking your head. Mary, this is what your legacy is about.

MATALIN: He voted...

BOXER: It's about your votes.

MATALIN: I'm talking -- and I will say this again. We're not talking about Dick Cheney. But you're distorting the record. He voted against those measures because of suspension of rules. There was no debate allowed.

BOXER: That isn't fair. You said about...

MATALIN: He's explained all of those -- let me talk about Lieberman, OK? He is with Bush on vouchers, on Affirmative Action, on Social Security and Medicare. He reiterated all of his stands this morning that are closer to Bush's than to Al Gore's.

BOXER: Well, I heard Joe Lieberman, and I -- I mean, many times talk about this. And what he said on privatization is he did look at privatization, but in the last several years, when Republicans have come to him and said, "Joe" -- because Joe is somebody who does reach across party lines, which is to his credit. They said, "Will you come with us? Will you do this with us?" He said, "You know, I've been studying this. I don't think it's going to work. Social Security's better as it is." So he does not share George Bush's view. He says it's going to cost a trillion dollars to go the way George Bush wants to go in transition costs, and...

MATALIN: Well, he doesn't share Al Gore's view. Al Gore said he would fight against efforts to raise the minimum -- raise the age of retirement for Social Security and Medicare, which we have to do, as Joe reiterated this morning, because we're getting older. So the point is, he disagrees...

BOXER: He does.

MATALIN: ... with his own president.

BOXER: Look, he agrees with Al Gore about 90 percent of the time, Mary. Now, you show me anybody -- do you agree with Chris Cox, you know, 100 percent...

MATALIN: Oh, 100 percent of the time? Pretty much.

BOXER: You know, I bet you don't.

MATALIN: Yes. I'm -- well, you -- you...

BOXER: Ninety percent of the time. And all you guys do is point to the disagreements. It shows that Al Gore's a big man to be willing to do this.

PRESS: Congressman, you want to make a quick point?

BOXER: I think.

PRESS: OK. We'll take a break, and you're up first when we come back.

(CROSSTALK)

MATALIN: And when we come back, we'll see if Bill -- Bill Clinton -- excuse me -- I can't even get over Bill Clinton -- if Al Gore got a pre-convention bounce for that and more.

Don't forget to sign in with us on cnn.com/crossfire for the chat room after the show.

Stay with us for more CROSSFIRE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATALIN: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're live from Staples Center at the Democratic national convention in Los Angeles, the City of Angels.

We're joined by the Democratic co-chair of the convention, California Senator Barbara Boxer, and the California co-chairman of the Bush campaign, Congressman Christopher Cox.

Bill?

PRESS: Congressman, as sort of a preemptive strike at this convention, Governor Bush was here in California last week. We're going to show video of Governor Bush. He was on a train, and he was campaigning up and down the central valley of California. There he is with his vice presidential running mate right alongside of him. He was -- he had his vice -- oh, wait a minute! That's not Dick Cheney, that's John McCain!

Come to think of it, Chris Cox, why didn't George Bush bring Dick Cheney to California last week? Is it because his anti-choice position and his pro-oil position is just poison to Californians?

COX: As you know, Dick Cheney is campaigning...

PRESS: Where was Dick?

COX: ... very publicly and very actively simultaneously. The good news about the Republican bench is that it's deep, and we have a lot of people that were very, very strong candidates in their own right both for president and for vice president. And you're still seeing them out on the campaign trail because, as you saw in Philadelphia, this is a united party that's reached out to the whole country in a way that I think they're going to have trouble doing here in Los Angeles.

The big difference, I think, between the Bush approach and what we've seen in the past is that they are stressing an ability to get things done and get along and to make sure that we have agreement in Washington that doesn't break down when the White House wants more spending and the Congress wants less with more spending. We've had Congress controlling spending all this last many years very successfully, but we'd like a president who'll help us out.

PRESS: I was still -- still wonder where Dick Cheney was last week. But while George Bush was with John McCain, it appears that not too much rubbed off on him. Here's a little line that the governor came up with last week, with John McCain standing right alongside of him, while he's aboard a Naval ship, Congressman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH (R), TEXAS GOVERNOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wish I could turn to the soldiers on that ship. I wish they could hear me. I'll turn to -- but I wish they could hear me. Stay in the military! There's a new commander-in-chief coming, a commander-in- chief!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Soldiers on a ship, Congressman? I mean, I hate to rub it in, but you know, this guy can't operate without a script, can he? Soldiers on a ship? I wasn't in the military. I know there ain't no soldiers on a ship. COX: And so does Governor Bush, as you know. If you're being filmed all day long, this is going to happen. The difference between...

PRESS: Stuff happens?

COX: ... Governor Bush and the current administration is that he intends to strengthen the military, to make service in the military something that people can be proud of, to restore the nation's pride in our military. You know how much that we have cut, by a full quarter over the last several years, while the Clinton-Gore administration has been increasing deployments. The OPTEMPO in the military is destroying families. We've not paid enough. These people are still coming off of food stamps. This is the kind of thing that Governor Bush intends to fix. And on this...

(CROSSTALK)

COX: Just on this point about misspeaking...

BOXER: Chris, you should run for the Senate. You're good at this...

COX: Al Gore -- Al Gore, who for eight years has been in charge of Russia policy, talked about the Potemkin Village incident of World War II. Now, this was a story about Catherine the Great, and he didn't know it, after eight years. I didn't hear you pouncing on that.

PRESS: Go ahead, Senator?

BOXER: Well, could I just say, you know, people are going to make mistakes. I agree with Chris. I did it -- embarrassing mistakes. Oh, my God! So OK.

MATALIN: No, not you!

BOXER: Yeah. So the bottom line is this happens. But I think it's a question almost of how often it happens, and is it really a question of just being forgetful or is it really a question of not knowing the facts. We don't' know this. We'll see both candidates out there. But what really gets to me, Chris -- and you got to explain this -- is when Dick Cheney was leading the Department of Defense as the defense secretary very honorably, at that time under George Bush, who I know that Mary has such a love and beautiful warm spot for, military spending was cut $30 billion over that period. And under Clinton, it's been up $30 billion. And so when you talk about the "hollow force" and -- I don't get it. Are you looking at the actual numbers? That's something that always puzzles me about how there's this attack in Clinton-Gore, and you say you're going to rebuild, and when Dick Cheney...

COX: This is the very first year...

BOXER: ... was the head of...

COX: ... that the Republican Congress...

BOXER: Thirty billion down.

COX: ... put more money in defense...

BOXER: Well, but...

COX: ... for the entire Clinton-Gore...

BOXER: ... am I right?

COX: ... administration.

BOXER: Thirty billion cut when Dick Cheney was in charge of the military? So I find that kind of bizarre and very strange kind of campaigning.

COX: Well, if I might reply, there's a very good reason for this. The...

PRESS: For the $30 million in cuts?

BOXER: Billion.

PRESS: Billion. Sorry.

COX: The reductions in the military that Dick Cheney commenced were based upon a complete reconfiguration of our geopolitical strategy after the victory in the cold war.

BOXER: Good point.

COX: Bill Clinton, on the other hand, has taken this opportunity and decided that the new deployment for the United States military will be as peacekeepers everywhere on the planet. And the number of deployments and the number of countries in which U.S. troops are now serving is greater than any administration in American history. You cannot simultaneously tax the military so much, make them work so hard, put them in so many places and stretch them so thin, and at the same time cut their budget. You've got to pick.

BOXER: Well, saying putting our troops -- peace troops "everywhere on the planet" is a little overstatement. But I just wanted to set the record straight. And the pure fact of the matter is, when Cheney was in charge, money went down. By the way, I agree with you. I don't think it's necessary to throw more money at the military. But I think George Bush is talking about throwing a good deal more money at the military, while he gives this enormous tax cut. Where's he going to get it from? We're going to go right back to the days of these deficits, high interest rates...

COX: Well, the days of the deficits...

BOXER: ... high unemployment...

COX: ... were brought to us... BOXER: I'll tell you...

COX: ... by 40 years of unbroken Democratic control of the Congress. You know, the year that the Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives in 1994, we were looking at a projected deficit for the federal government of $4 trillion. Today, after five years of Republican Congress, $3 trillion projected surplus.

BOXER: You could try to put that on the Democrats, but the fact is...

COX: They controlled spending in the Congress!

BOXER: ... under Bill Clinton -- under Bill Clinton and Al Gore, the bottom line is...

COX: Who controls Congress?

BOXER: ... we have never done better. And that's what the people are going to look at in this election. And that's why I hope and I think we're going to make it.

PRESS: Just a preview of how exciting this convention is going to be!

(LAUGHTER)

Thank you both for being here and kicking this off.

BOXER: Thanks.

PRESS: Congressman Cox...

COX: Happy to be with you.

PRESS: ... good to be here in California with you, and good to be here with California's Barbara Boxer. Thank you very both -- thank you both very much.

And Mary and I will be right back with a couple of closing comments here from Los Angeles.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: Now you can find out what's coming up in the CROSSFIRE. Sign up for a daily email sent free of charge telling you what we are planning for that night. Log onto cnn.com/crossfire to sign up for your daily CROSSFIRE email.

And don't forget. Don't miss us in the CROSSFIRE chat room right after the show. We'll take all your convention questions right here from Los Angeles at cnn.com/crossfire.

Mary, I know you're feeling sorry for Al Gore. I don't want you to. Look, you know what's happening here? There are really two conventions. First there's Bill and Hillary's convention. That ends tomorrow. They'll go out of town. And then there's Al Gore's convention Tuesday -- and Joe Lieberman's -- Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Both conventions are more exciting than that insipid...

MATALIN: I -- I...

PRESS: ... infomercial we saw...

MATALIN: I -- I...

PRESS: ... in Philadelphia.

MATALIN: I do not -- you know, you'd be foolish not to present a positive version of what liberalism is today. I don't feel sorry for Al Gore. I feel sorry for Joe Lieberman, who agrees with George Bush on abortion, on Affirmative Action...

PRESS: No, no, no, no, no.

MATALIN: ... on tort reform...

PRESS: No, no, no.

MATALIN: ... on education, on Social Security, on Medicare. He agrees more with Bush than Gore. What Gore wanted him for was to be a centrist and to bring a moral component. Morality doesn't rub off. And he's pushing poor Joe to the left. That's who I feel sorry for.

PRESS: Look, Mary, let's get the facts straight. Number one, he is a centrist. He disagrees with George Bush on abortion. He disagrees with George Bush on Social Security. He disagrees on George Bush with a hell of a lot more than he does on Al Gore. So don't try to paint him as a Republican. He's not.

MATALIN: I'm not painting him...

PRESS: He is a centrist...

MATALIN: ... as Republican!

PRESS: ... Democrat, and he is loyal to Al Gore. And you know what?

MATALIN: I didn't say he wouldn't be loyal. I said he represents a mainstream thinking, and Al Gore doesn't. And Al Gore's moving him to the left.

PRESS: Al Gore is a moderate, and so is Joe Lieberman. Let me tell you something. Dick Cheney was George Bush's worst decision.

OK, from the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

MATALIN: And from the right, I'm Mary Matalin. Join us all week for special editions of CROSSFIRE from Los Angeles.

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