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Capital Gang

Al Gore and George Bush Push Their Favorite Themes, Health Care and Education

Aired September 2, 2000 - 7:00 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: From Washington, the CAPITAL GANG.

AL HUNT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Welcome to CAPITAL GANG. I'm Al Hunt, with Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.

Our guest is Democratic activist James Carville.

It's great to have you back, James.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC ACTIVIST: Thank you, Al. Good to be back.

HUNT: Good to have you.

The week before the traditional Labor Day starting day for presidential campaigns, Al Gore and George Bush pushed their favorite themes, health care for one, education for the other.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you're for a prescription drug benefit, Let's see your plan. If you're for saving Medicare, let's see your plan.



GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm offering a system of real accountability. Vice President Gore only offers and illusion of accountability, words with no actions. He maintains the status quo when it comes to student testing.


HUNT: Both sides accelerated their television advertising campaign.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Bush leaves out middle-class seniors and takes no action to slow the rising cost of description drugs.

Bush sides with the drug companies. Gore's plan helps all seniors.



UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: There is Al Gore reinventing himself on television again, like I'm not going to notice. Who is he going to be today? The Al Gore who raises campaign money at a Buddhist temple or the one who now promises campaign finance reform? Really.


HUNT: Bob, what are these candidates trying to do, and which one is doing it best?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Well, what the gore people always do, they're very boring, but they're very disciplined, and they just think they have a terrific issue in this drug prescription issue, and they just pound it, pound it, pound it, and say, on the other hand, you don't have such a plan. And obviously, the Bush people are off balance. The first time they've been behind, not very much behind, the last week, but I think they reacted with this negative ad, which is just a silly ad. I thought the one that Governor Bush killed last week, if he had put the date on the interview with Gore, would have been a better ad, but this was ad hominum. It was personal, instead of responding on the issues and pushing his own issues. So I'd say there was an advantage in this little fight for Vice President Gore.

HUNT: Advantage Gore, Margaret.

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, it is an ad hominum ad, and it gives the lie to Bush's -- the hallmark of his campaign, which is he's above the politics of personal destruction and he's raising the tone, whatever that means, because certainly, we see what the tension is the between the two campaigns. Gore wants the election to be about issues, because he's good on issues. Bush wants it to be about personality, because he thinks his is better than Gore's, and Gore looks vulnerable on issues of character. Therefore, this wickedly sarcastic ad, which I don't think is going to be that effective, because it's a little too sarcastic, but now we know where the lines are drawn.

HUNT: Kate, I've been away for 12 days covering the Pacific Coast highway and California, not exactly with the people. But the one thing that strikes me after 12 days is the Gore people, the Democrats I talked to the last couple days seem confident; the Bush people seem defensive, seem off guard. This can change. It has changed in two weeks. It could change back again. But isn't that the Labor Day situation at least?

KATE O'BEIRNE, "NATIONAL REVIEW": I think you're right, Al. It certainly was not the mood in Los Angeles during that convention among the Democrats. I mean, they thought they had a losing candidate on their hands. But I think two weeks later, it's certainly true that they have been buoyed, and the Bush people and his allies seems sort of down.

I agree about the ad, the Buddhist temple ad. I think one symptom of Clinton fatigue is people don't want to much hear or think about these scandals anymore. And I think that Al Gore, despite his desire his desire to run on issues, he is vulnerable on the issues. I think George Bush has erased the typical disadvantage Republicans have on education. It's an issue that he speaks about with some passion. He's fluid on the issue. He has a real record in Texas. He's boosted minority achievement there more than any other state of the union. Al Gore is not talking about education, because he's lost that advantage.

Clinton and Gore have precious little to talk about on the education front. But that issue will only help George Bush so much. He's got to go after Al Gore on prescription drugs. It's time for a campaign of fear. When the public understands that his plan will have the government controlling 60 percent of the pharmaceutical market, what does this mean? Well, look how the government controls the programs they currently run. They limit access to drugs. So I think that the Bush campaign ought to be running issue-oriented ads and they ought to take on Al Gore on this plan that's going to bankrupt Medicare.

HUNT: James, how about that, taking on Al Gore on prescription drugs?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, some of the these ads, remember that George W. Bush was a man that said that John McCain was for breast cancer. That's the most negative ad ever run in the history of presidential politics. He's also -- we know that he's a protege and admirer of Lee Atwater, who ran in the 1988 campaign, so I'm not surprised by this, nor should anybody else be surprised by it.

Look, the Republicans don't like the Gore plan because it uses Medicare. Republicans don't like Medicare. That's plain and simple. So what they ought to do is go out and attack Medicare, which they have spent most of their lives doing. Under the Gore plan, everybody gets coverage and they get covered through Medicare. Under the Bush, plan half the people have access to it, and they've got to go through the their HMO.

Now think of this one fact in the campaign. Bush calls for spending more money for tax breaks for the top 1 percent of taxpayers than the entire Gore prescription drug plan calls for. Think of that, more money going the top 1 percent of taxpayers than the entire Gore prescription drug plan.

HUNT: Now have you thought about that, Bob?

NOVAK: Yes, I have. I was very surprised that James took a whole minute before he got to class warfare. See, that is the whole point of the matter, that this is not a good prescription drug plan by the vice president. First benefit will be for two years, and it won't be fully active until 2008.

HUNT: 2002 you mean, right? NOVAK: No, 2008. But what I can't understand is why the Bush people, they wanted to be negative -- and all politics is negative, as you well note. But why aren't they negative on the issues?

And secondly, I would say -- I talked to people on the phone around the country today, and they're very dispirited, the Republicans, not because of the polls. It's because they don't like the way Bush is campaigning, and he's not coming out on the tax issue to knock down this evil Marxist propaganda about the top 1 percent.

CARVILLE: What is Marxist about saying, George W. Bush wants to spend more money giving a tax break to the top 1 percent of the taxpayers than Al Gore wants to spend on a prescription drug plan that will give everybody access to prescription drugs. I think it's a simple choice. And you know what, we don't have to be negative. Let America decide what's more important, a tax break for the top 1 percent or prescription drug benefits.


HUNT: Can we get Margaret in?

CARLSON: Here's why Bush doesn't want to talk about the issues, because other than education, as Kate points out, he's not really that good on the issues. This week, he said I haven't been able to explain my tax cut.

NOVAK: That was last week Margaret, I'm sorry.

CARLSON: Last week -- whatever week, he can't do it.

HUNT: I think Margaret has a point, though -- he has to talk about the economy and taxes if he's going to win this election.

O'BEIRNE: He's really missing a huge argument on the economy, frankly, because his tax cut, unlike what Al Gore plans to do with the surplus, will help the economy. Al Gore ignores all sorts of families who don't behave the way he thinks they ought to. And if you make $40,000 as a family, but if you don't do the things Al Gore thinks you ought to be doing, you get zero tax relief. He wins the tax argument.

NOVAK: What I can't understand is why the Republicans and Bush don't say that you have to jump through hoops to get this piddling little tax cut that he's proposing. You're not going to get tax cuts if...

HUNT: I told Bob earlier that the Bush people are trotting out the $22,000 a year teacher, the $32,000 a year librarian. I'd like him to try out the $4 million a year CEO, because this man deserves a tax cut.

And James Carville and the GANG will be back with Joe Lieberman and God.



HUNT: Welcome back.

On the day that he was tapped for vice president, Joseph Lieberman sounded a theme that he since has repeated.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I ask you to allow me to let the spirit move me as it does, to remember the words from Chronicles, which are to give thanks to God.


HUNT: Last week, the Anti-Defamation League told senator Lieberman, -- quote -- "We feel very strongly, and we hope you would agree, that appealing along religious lines, or belief in God, is contrary to the American ideal" -- end quote.


GORE: He and I feel strongly about the separation of church and state.


HUNT: But the ADL still was unhappy with Senator Lieberman.


ABRAHAM FOXMAN, NATL. DIR., ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: For the last 20 years, he has been the same individual, and he hasn't flaunted it, he hasn't worn it on his sleeve.


HUNT: Margaret, will the ADL change Joe Lieberman's tune?

CARLSON: You mean Joe Lieberman's hymn? Listen, I'm surprised that Mr. Foxman didn't call Joe Lieberman and say these things. I mean, it is the Anti-Defamation League, and I didn't is see any defamation. And save that public criticism for somebody who crosses the line. Joe Lieberman hasn't urged any public policy changes -- not prayer in school, you know, anything in the public square. Now that being said, a little bit of religion goes a long way in public policy debates. I mean, the country fought to have a secular and pluralistic politics, not one which favors religion, and it worries people that you tilt one way or another. I mean, religion -- everybody should have freedom of expression, not being tilted one way. And it's simply no more attractive for a fundamentalist, an Orthodox Jew than it is for an evangelical Christian to seem to be imposing their religion on the public.

HUNT: Kate, I agree that Joe Lieberman probably should modulate a little bit, but I think one thing ought to be said, politics of both parties have been sometimes real phonies in using religion. This guy's real, and he really believes this. This is a very genuine person.

O'BEIRNE: Yes, I think that's absolutely true. He's a Democrat with real religious convictions he's comfortable talking about.

But there was a lot of precision targeting in coming up with a Democrat who can talk about his religious convictions. He still supports partial-birth abortion, will not ban it, and he supports gay rights. I mean, that's a pretty precision targeting. The Democratic Party is still not safe, despite this new comfort, with talking about religion, for a faithful Catholic on the ticket, who would oppose abortion and who would oppose a gay rights agenda, as James well knows, having worked for Bob Casey. So as I said, there was some precision targeting there.

But increasingly, which is why think a senior Gore adviser said many, many months ago, we're going take God back, voters with religious conviction were increasingly voting for Republicans, and more secular voters voting for Democrats. So I think Joe Lieberman's talk about religion has some real broad appeal, although I do, as a person of faith, and I think other people of faith, really, unlike Joe Lieberman, would not compare Bill Clinton and Al Gore to Moses.

HUNT: James, a plus?

CARVILLE: Well look, he's a religious man, and being an observant Jew is not an easy way to go through life. You have to follow the sabbath. But the day he was picked to be vice president, he said thank God. I don't have a problem with that. Why should anybody have a problem with that? As long as that's sort of part of who he is, as part of his fabric as a human being, then he ought to be able to that you can about it. And as long as he doesn't advocate interjecting something into public policy or, you know, then it's fine, I think fine, I think it's good, and by the way, people out there think that the Democrats could do with a little more religion in our party. You can't have too much of it.

NOVAK: I remember when all the Democrats were just raising hell because George W. Bush won the debates and said his greatest philosopher was Jesus Christ. I guess if it's Chronicles instead of Jesus Christ, it's OK.

I want to tell you something, Margaret, Abe Foxman wrote a letter to all the primary candidates just at the time of that Jesus remark, so he writes -- he does it by letters -- and I give Mr. Fox some credit that he's not as hypocritical as some other people are about making these escape routes, if it happens to be Joe Lieberman.

Joe Lieberman, you're right, he talks the talk, but he doesn't walk the walk, and he always votes wrong on school prayer and all these religious issues, while he talks a big religious game.

CARLSON: Why isn't prescription drugs a religious issue? Why isn't affordable health care a religious issue? Why isn't student loans a religious issue?

HUNT: Let me jump in here and say, you're absolutely right, it's not wrong, Bob, it's your position. Let me say one thing, though, Joe Lieberman, whatever the issue here is, Joe Lieberman is the happy guy out there and in contrast to Dick Cheney. Bob Novak wrote a devastating column about the Cheney campaign this week. I mean, Joe Lieberman looks like a Jewish Hubert Humphrey and Dick Cheney looks like Henry Cabot Lodge. He's a stiff.


HUNT: And on that note, guys, we're going to have to take a break, because next on CAPITAL GANG, though, another train wreck on Capitol Hill.


HUNT: Welcome back.

As Congress prepared to reconvene next week, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott sent Republican senators this warning -- quote -- "As we work to finalize the remaining spending bills, it is increasingly apparent that President Clinton and Vice President Gore are engineering a train wreck to affect the political environment" -- end quote.


GENE SPERLING, NATIONAL ECONOMIC ADVISER: We can get prescription drugs. We can get a patients bill of rights. It's just a matter of whether they want to send the president bills that they know he'll veto so they can have election issues.


HUNT: That includes the bill to repeal the estate tax.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are not willing to turn our backs on the rest of the American people who deserve tax relief.



BUSH: I would have signed the bill.

Our plans only help the wealthy, they claim. It's class warfare.


HUNT: Kate, is there going to be a train wreck?

O'BEIRNE: Al, Trent Lott is completely right -- Bill Clinton is going hold the 11 appropriations bills that haven't been signed yet and that he has refused to talk about in order to win a presidential signature, he's going hold them hostage, and he's going to try to nationalize the congressional races by making House Republicans an issue -- look at these terrible people, they're blocking the plan for patient bill of rights, they're blocking prescription drug plan, because -- and he couldn't care less about either issue, unless he can use them to demonize House Republicans, because part of his legacy, it's not a policy legacy; he wants to win the House back for the Democrats because they lost it owing him.

HUNT: Is that the kind of guy, Bill Clinton, you know, James Carville?

O'BEIRNE: I'm afraid so.

CARVILLE: You know, I say to you folks out there in television land, if anybody knows about a train wreck and shutting the government down, it's Senator Lott. He did it twice. They got all the experience in the world. These are people that say we don't even need a government. What do you need student loans for? What do you need school lunches for and all of this kind of foolishness? And Medicare and Social Security.

Look, the truth of the matter is, there are some encouraging signs. Speaker Hastert has already came out and said that they're willing to go along with the minimum wage, and I suspect by the time that they get there the Republicans will be sufficiently in the president's corner, which are things that he wants to do, the prescription drug benefit, the partial. It won't be as good as the vice president's plan, so we'll still have an issue on election day, but they'll want to show that they're moving toward that. They'll want to show something on -- and, Bob, you agree with me, you know I'm talking the truth here. There's a good history since the Gingrich- Lott government shutdown of 1995.

NOVAK: The Republicans have been surrendering.

CARVILLE: They capitulated and they will again.

NOVAK: They capitulated, and it hurt the Republican voting base in 1998 in the midterm elections.

CARVILLE: But you say they ought to fight this prescription drug benefit?

NOVAK: Here's what goes on. This has nothing to do with appropriations. They have no argument on appropriations. It's that the president and the vice president, who is running for president, want to attach prescription drugs, prescription drugs, prescription drugs right on in the patient bill of rights, right onto this legislation, so the question the Republicans have to decide is, do we capitulate? Do they ask themselves? Do we capitulate, give them everything they want, or do we fight it?

Al and I on "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS" today interviewed earlier today John Kasich, and John Kasich, the House Budget Chairman, said we should fight them, he said, and we should bring George W. Bush up from Texas to take part in that fight. I don't think the boys in Austin want to take part in it. CARVILLE: I think they ought to come up here. I will pay for his ticket to come up here and fight putting a prescription drug benefit in this thing. Let me just say this, send me the bill. You can go right there.

HUNT: Something tells me that George W. is not going to take James up on that.

CARLSON: No, I think he's keeping as far away from congressional Republicans as possible. I mean, all he did in Philadelphia was to shake Henry Hyde's hand across a ropeline. He's staying away from those people.

CARVILLE: What about Tom DeLay?

CARLSON: Yes. Yes. Or Bob Barr. They're nowhere to be seen. And you know, I disagree with you, rich people do need government. They need air traffic control, and your mythical guy here, who looks a lot like Dick Cheney, who finally sold his stock options, you know, the party does not -- forfeited his stock options.


NOVAK: Big difference.

CARLSON: They don't want to stand for simply a tax cut and being against prescription drugs and against a minimum wage. If I were the Democrats, I'd raise that minimum wage and phase it in faster.

O'BEIRNE: Who are these Republican anarchists? They have increased the budgets to $1.9 trillion, up $600 billion sine Newt Gingrich became speaker in 1994? Who are these anarchists who hate government?

CARVILLE: Name one government program that George W. Bush wants to cut.

O'BEIRNE: Oh, I wish I could. I wish I could.

HUNT: But that's important, because I think it's being fought out on Democratic turf. Whoever wins these last battles, it is being fought on Democratic turf right now.

NOVAK: Yes, but Trent Lott is exactly right, and so is Kate O'Beirne, that they want to have a train wreck, they want to have a budget shutdown so the people like my friend, Mr. Carville, can go out with the demagoguery, and say, you shut down the government.

CARVILLE: They did it twice before.


HUNT: Well then, Bob, is Denny Hastert an agent of Clinton in this, because he certainly seems to be taking a different...

(CROSSTALK) NOVAK: There's two schools of thought. There's one school of thought that says give them everything they want and let's get out of town, but you can't give them everything they want. That's the Gore program.

CARVILLE: We don't want everything, we just want 90 percent.


O'BEIRNE: He doesn't want policy. He doesn't want bills. He wants this shutdown. They want to run against Newt Gingrich is what they want to do, because frankly, things look pretty good at the moment in the Republican...


HUNT: Margaret, just quickly in closing, who do you think is going to win this battle in the end?

CARLSON: Oh, the Democrats have Republicans over a barrel here.

NOVAK: It's a great dilemma for the Republicans. It's really very difficult, but you know, sometimes you get a little too cocky, a little too arrogant.


HUNT: James Carville, you have been duly warned by Mr. Novak himself. That's the last word. And, James, thanks for being with us.

The GANG will be back with the "Outrage of the Week."


HUNT: And now for the outrage of the week. Too few Germans, especially Jews, were permitted refuge in the United States in the 1930s. But scores of writers who were given asylum, a new book, "Communazis," by an Ohio State professor discloses, were spied on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which sometimes kept dossiers on their sex lives. How many more revelations do we need to rename the FBI building, which currently honors J. Edgar Hoover, the perverted director who ordered these outrageous intrusions?

NOVAK: It's a happy Labor Day weekend for AFL Secretary Treasurer Richard Trumka. He's under investigation by the FBI and has taken the Fifth Amendment about his role in embezzling AFL-CIO funds in the 1996 Teamsters election scandal. But he keeps his number two spot in the labor organization in violation of a 30-year AFL-CIO rule, and addressed the Democratic National Convention as a key Gore supporter. No wonder Al Gore's working families agenda proposes still more power for such labor bosses.

CARLSON: Al, Independent counsel Robert Ray argues that a mid- September release of the Whitewater report -- which will be as much about Hillary as about the president -- leaves Hillary enough time before the New York Senate race to rebut any negative information. What's the rush? He's taken his own sweet time, spending millions more on a case in which there's no basis for indicting anyone. If there's no new stunning revelation worthy of prosecution, and if Ray cares at all about his reputation, fair play requires that he stand aside. What's another month after nearly seven years and $52 million?

HUNT: Kate.

O'BEIRNE: Last month, boy scouts were booed by Democratic delegates in L.A., and this week, we learned that the Interior Department is using a Clinton executive order that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation to justify an intimidating review of the department's relationship with the Scouts. The Supreme Court has upheld the Scouts' right to prohibit gay scoutmasters, even if this administration disagrees. Why doesn't Al Gore tell Bill Clinton to keep his hands off the Boy Scouts?

HUNT: This is Al Hunt wishing you all a happy Labor Day and saying good night for the CAPITAL GANG.

Next on CNN, "SPORTS TONIGHT" with the first big weekend of college football.



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