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Will Women Stand by Al Gore?

Aired August 22, 2000 - 7:30 p.m. ET



GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think women appreciate my views on education, changing the tone of Washington, D.C.



AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let there be no doubt: I will protect and defend a woman's right to choose.


MARY MATALIN, CO-HOST: Tonight, courting female voters: A new poll shows Al Gore with a big lead among women, but will they stand by their man?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press; on the right, Mary Matalin. In the crossfire, Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, a Gore supporter, and former New York Congresswoman Susan Molinari, a Bush supporter.

MATALIN: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE. In these dog days of summer, the presidential contenders are picking up their pace. Al Gore followed George W. Bush at the VFW Convention in Wisconsin, rebutting his charge that the Clinton-Gore administration neglected many U.S. military needs. Bush spent today in Illinois and Missouri pitching his $5 billion school reading initiative.

While the candidates are actually working, the pundit class continues to ruminate over Gore's post-convention polls, zeroing in on the so-called "gender gap," attributing his surge to new female support. According to a CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup post-convention poll, Gore is winning women 58 to 36 percent, but Bush is winning men 56 to 37 percent.

Will the gender gap beat the guy gap? Which women are this year's targets: soccer moms, waitress moms, single moms? And are there gender-driven issues?

Well, joining us after a rollicking opening night, back by popular demand, and with us all week is Robert Reich, former Clinton labor secretary, now a professor at Brandeis University. And let's just hope ladies that his beauty is a match for our brilliance.

ROBERT REICH, GUEST HOST: No chance. No chance.


Susan -- Susan Molinari -- may I call you Susan?


REICH: You can call me "Mr. Secretary."


No, call me Bob.

Al Gore's post-election -- post-election bounce -- and it really was an extraordinary post-election bounce. He's now, if you can believe the polls -- and I think you can believe the polls at least even, if not ahead, of George W. Now, that was almost entirely women.

Look at the data. Before the Democratic convention, 35 percent of likely male voters supported Gore. After, 37 percent of men. Now, that's statistically insignificant. But now, if you look at women -- god bless women -- before the convention, 42 percent of them supported Al Gore. After the convention, 58 percent -- a 16-point leap. Why?

MOLINARI: Well, first of all, let me agree with you: God bless women, absolutely.

What we're seeing here with the polls are several things. First of all, George W. still holds a 15-point lead with regard to working moms, and that's going to be a significant voting block come this November. That's something that's not going to change. That has held.

His policies with regard to tax cuts, with regard to small business tax credits, with regard to adoption, health care, and particularly his emphasis on education are going to keep those powerful voting blocks of working women moms, moms with children who are working, correctly in his corner. And they, by the way, vote twice as much as single women, who are supporting Al Gore.

Look, Al Gore had one place to go, and that was up. So he is receiving his convention bounce from some women who wanted to see some sort of leadership, some sort of identifiability, some sort of distancing from President Clinton. That gap's going to close just like the rest of the gaps that the pollsters are talking about right now.

REICH: But you admit, there is a big, big gender gap emerging...

MOLINARI: No, I do not.

REICH: You don't?

MOLINARI: No, I do not.

REICH: Well, we'll just have to see about that, but I want to look at just one more issue, and that is abortion. That issue, abortion, does divide, continues to divide Democrats and Republicans. There was a major, major difference in terms of how those two candidates approached it at the convention in their nominating speeches.

MOLINARI: Well, that's right, and in his nominating speech you will both recall Governor Bush said one thing on abortion. And that was -- well, he said two things: one, that he wanted to change people's minds about it, and I think we all will agree that that is an absolutely accurate approach to try to talk about it and change people's minds with regard to this. However, he also said he would sign a ban on partial birth abortion. And I have not seen the recent polling, but I would basically say that an overwhelming majority of women -- single mothers working or otherwise -- would agree with that.

MATALIN: Mary -- excuse me, senator.


MATALIN: My sister from the South, my adopted home state, Louisiana. Pardon me, senator. Let me pick it up there, because you noted in that Gore sound bite there "I will protect and defend a woman's right to choose." Joe Lieberman, his running mate, who had previously suggested there might be room for reasonable restrictions was practically run out of town.

The vice president reaffirmed for the party this different dialogue: unrestricted, no restrictions on abortion, not even for parental notification, not even for partial birth. Even President Clinton ran on safe, legal and rare. Do you think this dividing on this issue of abortion, and taking the country or the party to this unrestricted, unlimited right to choose is the right place to take the party or the country?

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, that's a very important issue, and it matters deeply to many, many, many people. And you've outlined the positions fairly clearly, although I do believe that Vice President Gore would support some reasonable restrictions, particularly late term, if a woman's health, her physical health is taken into consideration.

But what's driving these numbers, I really believe, is the message, which Al Gore gives and it is real. It's not just a message. It's real policies. It's about economic security for this country and for women and for their families.

And you can say all these other issues are important, but I think good jobs and good pay, good pension benefits, Social Security, Medicare, help with prescription drugs, the specifics that Al Gore took a risk -- people said, do people want to know the specifics? He took a risk. He outlined it. Women liked what they heard. Women usually get things a little quicker than men...


Excuse me. Then the men will come along is my philosophy, and I think the vice president is going to do a beautiful job...

MATALIN: Let me just say on abortion he did -- he's made it very clear, protect and defend. He's vetoed -- they will veto again the partial birth ban. But let's move on, because you and Gore and the whole party keep saying specifics. Bush had 21 specific policy initiatives in his speech. What Gore -- why Gore could be so specific is because he's denying particularly for women the one thing they want: We all want control, control over our own lives. And you know how you get control in this country? Economic freedom.

All those specific, 35 new government programs that Gore laid out, restrict women's freedom. You've got to jump through hoops to get a tax cut, you've got to do his kind of retirement plan, his kind of government health care, his school choice.

LANDRIEU: Mary, I have to -- I just have to respectfully disagree, because I thought -- and I think most women agree -- government has a job to do, and when government doesn't do its job well, women have to do it more. And women are already working so hard in this country. They need a health care system that works. They need schools that work. They need all sorts of programs that not only government, but government in conjunction with private sector does, because when it doesn't, the women pick up the slack and do a lot of the work.

So I think that's why Gore's doing very well...

MOLINARI: I agree with you 100 percent on that analysis...


MOLINARI: ... and I think that's why, when you look at all those issues that you just outlined, those are miraculous changes that Governor Bush has made in Texas, which is why he won last time with 67 percent of the women's vote.

REICH: Susan Molinari, let's -- no spin. We don't have to spin.

MOLINARI: We're just friends. Just among friends.

REICH: Just among us. Let's have a candid conversation. Look at that...

MOLINARI: OK. You go first.


REICH: Look -- no, I want you to answer. I can now ask questions.

Look at that Republican platform. I mean, not only uncompromising on abortion -- I mean, it doesn't matter whether it's the health of the mother, rape, incest -- uncompromising. It's the old abortion -- anti-abortion plank. Plus you have -- the Republicans are saying no -- nothing with regard to the Equal Rights Amendment in that platform, nothing on (UNINTELLIGIBLE) pay gap. A call -- they want to eliminate affirmative action, which women have benefited by. They want to -- no increase in the minimum wage. Most minimum-wage workers are women.

Now, tell me, honestly, is this a Republican platform that favors women?

MOLINARI: I'm not going to talk about the platform, although I don't want to get away from it, but I want to talk about what Governor Bush has talked about, and that is increasing education spending, changing the direction of the Department of Education to give more local control to states and to parents while backing up the federal Department of Education, talking about insurance for uninsured families and particularly young children.

When we talk about those whole host of issues in terms of security and tax cuts, I mean, what impacts a woman more than the fact that when she gets married she has to pay more taxes, and this is something that the Democrats have staked their, you know, future on in this campaign. They're against the marriage penalty -- you're for the marriage penalty, Mary.

LANDRIEU: We are not. But no, I am for an elimination of it, but so are the Democrats. Al Gore spoke about eliminating the marriage penalty, but...

MOLINARI: I must have missed that.

MATALIN: You just vetoed it on August 5th for the...

LANDRIEU: No, no, no, no.

MOLINARI: For the second time.

LANDRIEU: No, he will do it in the right way, because the Democrats offer tax cuts, tax cuts that help middle-class and moderate-income women struggling to raise their families, taking care of their children, working inside the home, working outside the home. These tax cuts that the Democrats have outlined and that Vice President Gore has advocated will give the greatest benefit to middle- and moderate-income families, and that's why people are listening to the message.

MOLINARI: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to what? The marriage penalty?

LANDRIEU: Now, I support tax cuts as do many, many Democrats, but there's a right way to do it and a wrong way. The Republican plan has front-loaded it so that it costs not that much in the first five years, but lo and behold, it triples in the next 10.

And I'll tell you one thing, Susan -- I think you and Mary would agree, and Mr. Secretary -- women are pretty particular about balanced budgets. I find most women are very concerned about it, because that represents to them some financial security or some security that they know when that next meal is going to come, and I think that's why the Democratic message is working, because it's within the context of fiscal responsibility.

MOLINARI: Senator, that clearly cannot be, because I was in Congress when Bill Clinton stood up and said, time and time again, it doesn't matter when we balance the budget -- we can do it in five years, we can do it in 10 years, we can do it in seven years. It wasn't until the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives that they forced him to get in the game with regard to a balanced budget. And Al Gore was standing right there beside him, or behind him, letting him just completely ignore the need for a balanced budget. History will show that. The only way they even came close to balancing the budget was increasing taxes. Remember the old economic stimulus package?


LANDRIEU: ... passed with not one vote to spare, and it was all the Democrats. But let me concede that it was done in a bipartisan way, it was done in a bipartisan way. But nobody can take away the credit from Clinton and Gore that have balanced the budget, largest surplus in history, lowest unemployment, and that is why, Mr. Secretary, women think, this is a pretty good thing, we'd like it to continue, and you know, that's what it looks like.


MATALIN: We've got to go to break, ladies. But you what I love about -- and gentlemen. What I love about this is the only person running on abortion at this table is the man, proving our point. And our girl guests, our lady guests, will be joining us after tonight's show, a debate online just for you at Stay with us for more issues.


REICH: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. I'm Robert Reich, the alpha male here tonight. In fact, I'm the only male.

We've been talking about the new politics of gender and why Al Gore's big post-convention bounce has been most entirely among women. Our guests, Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and former New York Representative Susan Molinari -- Mary.

MATALIN: Well, At the risk of turning to some guy issues, OK, you sit on the National Security Committee, you're an expert on these issues, you actually brokered a five-year partisan deadlock on national missile defense, thereby allowing the Senate to go forward with a very smart missile defense. But both of the guy candidates have been visiting with the VFW, talking about military policies. And Bush is making the point that this administration was given a military that worked and we now have one that -- I don't want to say hollowed out -- but this is absolutely true. The Air Force, which was 85 percent mission ready at the start of the Clinton administration, is only 65 percent mission ready. These troops are overdeployed. There have been 33 army deployments in the '90s versus 10 from 1950-89. And the facts made the point, don't they?

LANDRIEU: Well actually, they could, but the facts are not accurate in this case. I mean, this is spin that isn't going to stick. We have, and everyone knows the finest, most well-trained, well-equipped fighting force in the world. And under President Clinton's leadership, we have the greatest increase for increased pay in retirement in a generation.

In addition, Mary -- and I'm a very strong supported of a strong national defense. Our about combined defense budget is larger than France, Germany, Great Britain and China. We spend over $300 billion dollars on defense. That's what the American people want, that's what they're getting, a fine force, but we don't want to waste money, and we're a superpower. So we have responsibilities.

MATALIN: Wait, you can't compare us to those countries. This budget, the military budget is as low as it was before Pearl Harbor. There's a 40 percent reduction.

LANDRIEU: It is 90 percent of the Cold War budget, which is sufficient in that we are no longer the Cold War. Now do we have to continue to upgrade? Yes, and the president is doing that. So I think this is a spin. You know, Governor Bush wants to say the military isn't ready, but the military is ready.

I flew into Kosovo. I was one of the first groups after the war. These guys and gals are up, they're morale is up, they're tough, they did a great job, and they're proud of it, so.

MOLINARI: Wait a minute, this can not be, this is not spin. The figures that Mary just talked about, 85-65 percent, that was a the big release had on "CBS Evening News." "The San Diego Tribune" said the U.S. Navy last month confirmed that the USS Decatur would have to cuts its missile deployment by one month. The Navy cites a cutback on training and delayed maintenance. These are all newspaper reports. This is CBS that's saying that. And in addition to the fact, it's not just the military, it's also the Veterans Affairs. And Jesse Brown, the secretary of Veterans Affairs, said with regard to the first Clinton budget, he testified against it in Congress. He said it would devastate the Veterans Administration.

REICH: OK, If I may interrupt. Al Gore today laid it out very, very clearly in terms of his commitment to a strong military, laid out all the data. But let me bring this back to the gender gap, if I may. There is a relationship between military and the gender gap, I understand.


REICH: But no, let's leave abortion. You don't want to talk about abortion. How about guns? Now, women tend not to be big fans of handguns and guns. Men like guns. I mean, even little 2-year-old, 1-year-old men like guns. Is this part of the gender gap? Does this partly explain what's going on?

MOLINARI: You know, again, you talk about a gender gap. First of all, I will repeat what I said when we first started the show. There's a 15 percentage point increase with regard to Governor Bush's support amongst married, working women. That's very significant. Those are women who have a 2-1 chance of going out to vote. What you're talking about right now -- and let's do the show a week from now -- is the bounce that we saw in significant categories, but particularly among women, that came out as a result of this convention. Why? Because Al Gore started to certainly finally solidify his base by coming out and defining himself, saying he's standing by his own man, talking about issues that after seven and a half years you think would be clear to everybody in terms of where the vice president stood, but yet, he needed four days to get that message across. That's what you're seeing right now.

And the military is important, particularly with respect to the way we treat our men and women in the Armed Services with regard to their education. Governor Bush was up today talking about the decrepit, falling down schools that we send our military, and it's a result of the Clinton-Gore budget. He wants to change those things. That is a woman's issue, isn't it?

LANDRIEU: It is, education is a woman's issue, whether it's in the military or not. Let me say that the military now has one win of the finest daycare systems in the world, better than the federal government generally and better than many private agencies, and bipartisan work did that, but Clinton-Gore put a big focus on it.

But talk about crumbling schools, our administration, Clinton and Gore, have been talking about fixing crumbling schools in America. And yet, the Republican Party, many of the leaders, and I think Governor Bush, have been opposed to investing some of the surplus, which we want to spend on tax cuts, which women feel important about, and investments. The military is a good investment, I will agree, but so is education, and so is health care so is and shoring up Social Security, and that's what the American people are saying.

MOLINARI: Right, absolutely.

LANDRIEU: They don't want to squander the surplus on just a tax cut that gives most wealthy families the benefit. They had want to see hard-working families get benefits and investments.

MOLINARI: Let me just say something with regard to education funding for the schools. Let's be up front and honest about this. Governor Bush is governor of Texas. He has not been in Washington, D.C. He has not been here for all the fights that we have just talked about and some of the things you have talked about that Congress has done. He's been in Texas. And in Texas, he's talked about what he had has done for crumbling schools, for education.

He has talked about, as a presidential candidate, what he wants to do to shore up Social Security and Medicare. He's not been a part of these old fights. He wants to come in and correct those mistakes.

LANDRIEU: Well, let me. I'm not going to beat up on Texas. I've never agreed with that strategy. It's our next-door neighbor. I'm crazy about Texas. But this is about the United States. And this is about policies that work for America.

MOLINARI: Absolutely.


LANDRIEU: But he has outlines -- Vice President Gore -- Mary, just a minute -- has outlined a wonderful way to give tax cuts to middle class families and make the investments in the military that we need to continue to


LANDRIEU: ... and say, you know, it's too risky.


MATALIN: Senator, OK, you have got every single talking point in, but it's not what Gore has been talking about on his riverboat tour. What he's been doing, speaking of Texas, is attacking big polluters, big oil. And in fact, he's attacking Bush as a big oil polluter. As a daughter of Louisiana, an oil producing state, you know what? There's a byproduct from the production of oil. Don't you think the American people should get on their hands and knees and thank the people of Texas and Louisiana that they are willing to put up with that byproduct of oil?

And we -- what, you think attacking big oil is really the way?


LANDRIEU: Well, I think attacking...


LANDRIEU: I think attacking polluters is good. And there are some in that industry and others. So I'm fine with that. But I do believe that this administration has supported -- and one of the things that I've actually worked on, and we've gotten bipartisan support, but President Clinton has been leading it -- is taking a portion of that offshore oil gas revenue and reverting it back to local governments, to Texas, Louisiana, for impact assistance...


MATALIN: Oil isn't all that bad.

LANDRIEU: ... and reinvesting some of that money back for our country's and our coastal areas. That's smart politics and that's smart policy. And it will work for the country and Louisiana and Texas.

MATALIN: Well, you're a smart senator. If they're more like you in that party, I might consider looking at it every once in a while.

MOLINARI: Don't even


MATALIN: OK. Yes, you're right. Senator Landrieu, Senator, thank you.


MATALIN: Well, she doesn't agree with anything really. She's making good spin, but not agreeing.

Thank you as always, Congressman Molinari. Love to your family, Senator.


LANDRIEU: My pleasure. Nice to be here. Secretary...


MATALIN: Secretary Reich and I will be right back, I guess, talking about the there aren't really girl and guy issues, are there? Stay with us.


MATALIN: They took our questions. Now they will take yours online. Just go right after these -- right after this show and our few remaining comments, which are simply this: You know what women want? There is no gender gap. You know what women want? There is no gender gap. Then you would have to say there is a guy gap.

But you know what we want? Let me repeat it: economic freedom. We don't want your tax cut, your government health care, your school choices, your retirement plan. Just give us our money back and let us spend it the way we know how to do best .

REICH: You know, Mary, it was interesting to me that we denied -- or there was some denial that there is a gender gap. Of course there is a gender gap. There was a gender gap now. There was a gender gap in 1996, There was a gender gap in 1992.


REICH: And women vote more than men. And that means that Al Gore is going to win.

MATALIN: No, it doesn't.

REICH: It does.

MATALIN: Because men think you're a goober, and women are soon going to


REICH: No, no, no, and these are important issues. They're important issues to men and women. But women get the biggest benefits from the Democrats.

And from the left, sitting in for Bill Press, I'm Robert Reich.

MATALIN: And if you want to be a dependent woman, vote for the Democrats. From the right, I'm Mary Matalin.

Join us again all week for more CROSSFIRE.



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