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Gore Supporter Rob Reiner Discusses Democratic National Convention

Aired August 15, 2000 - 6:41 p.m. ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer on the podium at the Democratic National Convention. Time now to turn things over to my friends over at CROSSFIRE. From the left, Bill Press; from the right, Mary Matalin.


Welcome to a very special edition of CROSSFIRE, and a very special guest tonight, actor/director, renowned/award-winning Gore adviser and supporter Rob Reiner.

Thanks for joining us.

ROB REINER, GORE SUPPORTER: Pleasure to be here.

MATALIN: Well, let's just start right in. As a supporter and adviser, you had a very...

REINER: I might give advice. I don't know if he'll take it.

MATALIN: Well, he actually had one of best events of the whole season, thanks to you, the other day, so let's hope he does take it.

Now the press description -- obviously, I wasn't invited there -- but the press description of your support there was that you savaged a George W. Bush, saying that the audacity and hypocrisy of him -- his positions on -- were staggering on leaving children behind, using that on education and health care. I just want to go over some of the Texas record and see -- have you comment on that. On education, Texas leads the nation in closing the achievement gap. Minority kids are learning better than anywhere else in the country. And George Bush increased salaries for teachers by one-third. On health care, there are 500,000 more children insured in Texas during the Bush term, and there are 2.4 million fewer children insured under Clinton. These are not Bush statistics; these are Clinton administration statistics.

So does the record comport with your description of it?

REINER: Well, we know that he fought very hard to keep 220,000 children from being enrolled in the CHIP program. That is also on the record as well, because it cut into his tax cut, and made it difficult to have that tax cut of -- I think it was a billion-six or a billion- six. And also he had I think about 600,000 children that were eligible for Medicaid that weren't able to get it, because of that tax cut. And he talked about the chip program as being shoved down his throat.

So these are also on the record. And as far as education record is concerned, I think Ann Richards has something to do with that as well. A lot of these things that are affecting Texas's record on education had a lot do with the administration before, the programs that were put in place before George Bush became governor. So you know, I just feel that odd that he would appropriate the Children's Defense Fund slogan, which is, "Leave No Child Behind," when he fought to keep 220,000 children from getting health insurance.

MATALIN: But the reality is there are more children insured in Texas today than was the case in Ann Richard's tenure, and there are fewer children insured today than was the case in the Bush administration. That's just the fact.

Let me ask you the follow-up question to that, though -- this is more to the point -- that our convention was about changing the tone, and Al Gore had vowed only 72 hours before your event that he, likewise, would have a change the tone. Do you consider that changing the tone? Savagely attacking and, by some accounts, misrepresenting the Texas record?

REINER: Well, listen he's doing it. I'm a citizen, I can do what I want, and I can say what I'm want; I'm not running for president. I just feel it's important that people see the difference in what Al Gore is proposing and what George Bush is proposing.

Al Gore is proposing a health insurance program for children that will sign every child up for health insurance by 2004. There is nothing in George Bush's proposal on health care that comes anywhere close to that, and I think it's important that the voters see the difference between what Al Gore is proposing and what George Bush is proposing.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Rob Reiner, last night was certainly Bill Clinton's night here at this convention center. Tomorrow night is Joe Lieberman's. And I'd like to remind you of something Joe Lieberman said last Sunday on ABC's "This Week," if you'd just listen up for a second, please.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love the movies. I love music. And it's -- those are some of the ways in which I relax. But there is still too much violence, too much sex, too much incivility in entertainment, which makes it very difficult for parents who are working so hard to give their kids values and discipline to do so.


PRESS: Now, aren't you getting tired of being the whipping boy for Joe Lieberman? REINER: Well, I'm tired of Hollywood being the whipping boy for the problems of society, I am tired of that. I think that if you're going to address violence in society, you have to address it at the roots, which is children who are exposed to domestic violence, who are abused, who are physically, emotionally, sexually abused and neglected. These are the causes of violence and how children act out later on.

There is no question about it, that Hollywood does have responsibility, and that there is an exacerbating factor to children exposed to media violence. There's no question about it.

But if we're going to have to debate and this discussion, let's really talk about it the way it really needs to be talked about. And if we're going to address it, let's address it the way we need to talk about it, which is to get into intervention and prevention-type programs for children.

PRESS: Well, here's my point -- and you know you and I have worked together in this town. I mean, your work is great, great family entertainment. Sid Sheinberg does that kind of stuff, so does Steve Spielberg, so does Sid Gannis, a whole mess of people, probably 95 percent of the people in Hollywood. But all you hear about are the 5 percent who are putting the trash out. Not fair to the rest of you.

REINER: Well, yes, you could say it that way. But you know, to me, I think he has a right, I think he has a right to talk out against Hollywood, because I think there is some irresponsibility there, and I think we do owe it to the public not to litter the airwaves and the movie screens with lots of violence. I feel it does pollute the culture. I think when you have that overt kind of violence, when people giggle about it, particularly the kind of violence where you see a lot of shoot 'em ups and then they make jokes about it, I think it deadens the public, and I do think there is responsibility.

I don't agree that we should have any kind of censorship or there should be any kind of repeal obviously of the First Amendment or any kind of regulation, and I don't think Joe Lieberman is calling for that either. But he is calling for Hollywood to be responsible, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

MATALIN: Well, the top of the ticket is Al Gore. This convention is about getting out of the shadow of his president and defining himself to America. Tonight, as we're calling it on my side, "lefty night," three of the most liberal men who have ever ran for president in this country, Jesse Jackson, Bill Bradley and Ted Kennedy, are highlighted tonight. Six percent of Americans consider themselves liberal of the nature that those men represent. Is that a good way to define Al Gore to the centrist voters who dictate the outcome of this election?

REINER: If those were the only people speaking at this convention, I would agree, that would be -- but as we say, the Democratic Party has a very large tent. We are the party of inclusion. I mean, when we hold a convention, it's not like a Utah Jazz basketball game, where there's a lot of black people on the floor and white people in the stands. We do actually have inclusion. We have a Southern Baptist and a northeastern Jew, and we really are -- I mean, I was concerned when I saw them talking about diversity, like the Republicans were talking about the party of diversity and the party of inclusion, I mean, how do they define diversity? Having two guys to head the ticket from two different oil companies? Is that the definition of diversity?

MATALIN: You've been practicing your lines, Rob.

REINER: But come on, we are the party of inclusion, and the fact that we are seeing a certain wing of the party being -- their views being expressed tonight, I think it's great, and I think Al Gore and Joe Lieberman embody all these points of view in the Democratic Party, which is why we are an inclusive party.

PRESS: So there is a place still for liberals in the Democratic Party?

REINER: We don't say "liberals" anymore; we say "progressives."

MATALIN: That's right, you're so proud of them, you can't even call them by what they are.

PRESS: I say liberals.

REINER: Yes, they are. They are liberals. I mean, there is a place, without question.

PRESS: And you're a great one. Thank you very much for being with us on CROSSFIRE. And it goes fast.

REINER: Thank you.

PRESS: Thank you.

But Mary and I will be back with closing comments, coming up, right away.


PRESS: Well, Mary, I'm glad we are finally having a lefty night at this convention: Jesse Jackson, Bill Bradley and Ted Kennedy. They're great Americans. I mean, at least we get one night out of four. You know, until tonight, I was starting to feel like Dick Armey must have felt in Philadelphia.

MATALIN: Oh, that's really funny.

PRESS: Oh yes.

MATALIN: Of course, Dick and all the boys were everywhere.

PRESS: Were hidden, were never to be seen -- never on the podium.

(CROSSTALK) MATALIN: If you think this is a good night, just think of this: Six percent of Americans agree with them. And Clinton doesn't agree with them. And Al Lieberman -- I mean Al Gore's running mate doesn't agree with them.

PRESS: Joe Lieberman.

MATALIN: Joe Lieberman -- I know. I love him -- might actually vote for him. So go ahead, have your night. No one else agrees with you. And if this is the definition of Gore, this is what Republicans love, the "reinvention convention."

PRESS: No, no, no, the definition: the big tent and we're part of it.

From the left, I'm Bill Press, liberal and proud of it. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

MATALIN: And from the right -- he really is -- I'm Mary Matalin.

Join us all week for special editions of CROSSFIRE.



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