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What Does Al Gore Need to Say in His Acceptance Speech?

Aired August 17, 2000 - 6:40 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from Los Angeles, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press; on the right, Mary Matalin.

MARY MATALIN, CO-HOST: Welcome to a special edition of CROSSFIRE live from Los Angeles on this final night of the Democratic National Convention. And before we get to Gore's big night, we have to get to today's big news. Independent Counsel Robert Ray impaneled a new grand jury to hear evidence against President Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky case to determine if his conduct was criminal.

To discuss this first and then Gore, we're joined by Republican governor of Virginia, Mr. Jim Gilmore, and North Carolina Senator and Democrat John Edwards.

Let's begin with you, Senator. Thank you for joining us.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Glad to be here, Mary.

MATALIN: Democratic superstar. Well, there's no other way to say this: This vice president cannot get away from this president. He's stepping all over his convention. This is his big night and there's yet another Clinton scandal-ette.

EDWARDS: Mary, I can tell you this: Everybody I talked to is tired of this. They want it gone. They want it behind them. And I don't know what's going on with the independent counsel, but the timing of this certainly seems a little suspicious.

MATALIN: Really? Do you really think that the Republicans -- there is something good in this for Republicans. The Bush spokesman, Karen Hughes, said it was inappropriate. It was wrong. What they wanted to talk about today was the fact that Governor Bush has agreed to five debates. This is about the past. That's not what -- what good would the Republicans get out of this?

EDWARDS: I don't know. I mean, I don't know if the Republicans have anything to do with this. Maybe there is some legitimate legal basis for doing it, but it certainly appears that it's been leaked on the day of the vice president's speech. And I have no idea why that was done. The reality is, though, Karen is exactly right. And you are exactly right.

This election is about the future. And the American people are not interested in this. They're tired it. They want it behind them. And they want to hear people talk about the real issues.

MATALIN: Well, then do you think this it is appropriate for the White House to intimate that the Republicans or the Bush campaign did this?

EDWARDS: I just think it's a reasonable question. I mean, it looks awfully suspicious that today, on the day of the biggest speech of the vice president's life, this information is leaked. It doesn't -- it's hard to explain it. That would be my response.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: I wanted to ask you about that, Governor Gilmore, because this panel actually started its work on July 11th. We didn't learn about it until today, the last day of the convention, the day when Al Gore takes the reigns of the Democratic Party, and just happens to be the second anniversary of Bill Clinton's testimony to the first Monica Lewinsky grand jury.

Now, you want us to believe this is a coincidence, that it leaked today?

GOV. JAMES GILMORE (R), VIRGINIA: I didn't know anything about all that timing.

PRESS: I'm not accusing you, Governor.

GILMORE: No, no, or anybody else for that matter. You know, this has nothing to do with this race, it has nothing to do with this convention. The Republicans are winning this election on the basis of issues. Governor Bush is succeeding on the basis of issues. This whole debate that's going on in this election is about tax cuts, real Social Security reform, quality in education. Those are the issues the Republicans are winning on. We don't need to be concerned about any of the old matters.

PRESS: Well, I hear what you are saying. And Ray's office has denied that they leaked this the same way that Ken's office denied they leaked it. And yet his chief spokesman in now in court because of the leaks.

GILMORE: That's the trouble with leaks: you don't know where they're coming from or why they are being done.

PRESS: But I just heard what you said about the issues. And yet in Philadelphia and on the campaign trail, we hear Bush talking over and over again about restoring dignity to the Oval Office. That is a reference to Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. In Philadelphia, Dick Cheney talked about it. George Bush talked about it. And now you have got this. I mean, are you Republicans really feel that you are going to run against Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky again?

GILMORE: I think we are going to have a have a more reasoned debate tone in Washington, D. C. And I think that's how Governor Bush feels. And he wants to really discuss these kinds of issue. That's the issues of education, Social Security reform, and education. That's really where he's headed. We're winning on the issues. We don't need to be doing anything else but that. I think it's very unfortunate this leak, from wherever it came from, occurred today.

We are just looking forward to seeing whether or not Al Gore can put forth any type of vision for the future, because he certainly hasn't up to this point.

MATALIN: That's -- let me pick up that point, Senator. The Republicans are calling this the reinvention convention. Which Al Gore do you think we'll see, alpha Al, angry Al, centrist Al? Because it so far has been confusing. Lieberman, with whom you have shared many policy positions, was picked to be a centrist. But then all week long, he was backpedaling. What does the party stand for and where is Al Gore going and what is he going to do tonight?

EDWARDS: Well, I hope he's going to do two things at least. One is talk about himself, his background. He has an extraordinary life story. I mean, here is a man who volunteered for Vietnam, went to divinity school, was an investigative reporter, and then has spent two, 2 1/2 decades representing Tennessee in the Congress first and then in the United States Senate, and then has been vice president for the last eight years,

It's hard to imagine anybody better qualified to be president of the United States. The second thing he needs to do is talk about his vision for America: fiscal responsibility, targeted tax cuts, investing in education, passing a real patients' bill of rights so that folks get to make their own health care decisions, having a prescription drug benefit. preserving and protecting Social Security and Medicare. I think he's going to talk about all those issues.

And I think one thing that's going to happen tonight, I suspect, is we're going to hear some real substance, as opposed to rhetoric.

MATALIN: See, this is a false attack. And this is what, if you guys do, we know we are going to win; 46 out of 49 speeches in Philadelphia were on substance. Bush himself has 21 specific policy proposals in his speech. I don't understand why you just don't attack reality if it's so bad, instead of distorting and attacking the distortion?

EDWARDS: Well, I think that what we are going to hear from the vice president tonight is a vision that's mainstream America. It's a vision that's going to work with voters, because it's what most of the people of America believe in. And the other thing that's going to happen tonight, if I can add one other thing, is I think it is very important for people to understand the Al Gore that I've come to know personally. This is a good man. He's a good father, a good grandfather, a good husband.

He's gotten up every day of his adult life and gone to work to make this country a better place.

GILMORE: No, well...

PRESS: Governor, you want to jump in, go ahead.

GILMORE: Well, let me -- that's nice. And we think that Governor -- that Al Gore is a good guy and all that in terms of his family and all that. But that that's not what the election is about. The election is about the policies of the Democratic Party and the policies of Al Gore. And look at Earth in the balance if you really want to see where this country is headed for working men and women.

PRESS: Well, let me pick up on your comment, because I thought Joe Lieberman gave a masterful speech last night, a very emotional speech and a very effective speech. And one of the lines that he was quoting Al Gore was, by the way, that the Democrats, for them, it's not so important how big the feast is, but how many people can squeeze around the table -- in other words, using prosperity to benefit as many Americans as possible, as opposed to the Republican policy, which is give the wealthy still one more tax cut that they don't need. Isn't that the central issue in this campaign?

GILMORE: Bill, no. Two points that I want make to you right now. Number one: Tax cuts are more important to working men and women. The big fraud has always been that tax cuts are for the rich. Tax cuts are for working men and women and for families and for people who really care about the money they get back and the money they need relative to their gross income.

And the second point is, Joe Lieberman is a fine man, nobody is concerned about his personality or anything about Joe Lieberman. But it was very telling what he said last night, when he made that little joke and said that the Republicans believe that the way to feed the birds is to give oats to the horses.


GILMORE: Very, very telling comment. The Democratic Party believes that the people of the United States are baby birds who should be fed by the mother state. And that's the approach that they've always had, and that is what is demonstrated by...

EDWARDS: But I do have to say, somebody, though, will have to explain to me -- I mean, the American people, who have a huge part in the prosperity that we've enjoyed over the last eight years, the American people were working just as hard in 1989, 1990, 1991. We had soaring deficits, we had huge unemployment. I mean, the country was in the middle of a recession. And look at what's happened over the course of the last eight years, and it's happened as the direct result, at least for the government's involvement, of the fiscal responsibility of the Clinton-Gore administration.

PRESS: Governor and senator, I know you could keep on and on and on. So could we, but we're out of time.

Thank you very much, Governor Gilmore, for joining us. Good to have you in Los Angeles.

GILMORE: Thank you, Bill.

PRESS: Senator Edwards...

EDWARDS: Thank you, Bill. PRESS: ... good to have you here. I'm sure we'll be seeing lots more of you on CROSSFIRE and other places. And you'll see Mary Matalin and me back with closing comments in just a couple of moments.


PRESS: You know what, Mary, I don't believe for a second that the Republicans had nothing to do with the leak of this report. It was just like when Ken Starr conspired with Henry Hyde to deliver that Monica Lewinsky report to Congress just before the elections. Robert Ray conspired with the RNC or the Bush campaign, or both...


PRESS: ... to drop a stink bomb on this convention, and it's outrageous.

MATALIN: You know what? You think like you think. You know, we don't want to talk about the impeachment. We...


PRESS: So stop talking about it then!

MATALIN: ... all over the place saying, oh, there wasn't an impeachment manager to be found. You can't have it both ways. We don't want to talk about it. We don't -- the Bush campaign doesn't operate like that. You're thinking like you think, because you guys are so conspiratorial, always pulling little stunts like that.

PRESS: You're always denying. Ask John McCain if the Bush campaign had anything to do with those breast cancer ads in New York. He thinks they do, even though they deny it.

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

MATALIN: And from the right, I'm Mary Matalin. Thank you for joining us. Continue joining us for special coverage from CROSSFIRE. Now back to Wolf Blitzer at the podium.



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