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Inside Politics

Decision to Tap Strategic Oil Reserve Fuels Campaign Debate

Aired September 22, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



BILL RICHARDSON, ENERGY SECRETARY: The president will do everything within the power of the federal government to ensure that Americans have the fuel they need to heat their homes.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CO-HOST: Al Gore's new oil initiative becomes even more of a political football now that the president has agreed to tap into the nation's oil reserves.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me say that I think it's time to stand up to the apologists for big oil.

GOV. GEORGE BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The reason why Florida is going to vote for this team is because they don't want flip-floppers as the president of the United States.


WOODRUFF: We'll have the latest from the campaigns on oil and politics, and whether they mix.

Plus, a political "Play of the Week" that's sealed with a kiss.

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Bernie is on assignment.

The Clinton administration says the president has decided to dip into the nation's oil reserves to help the American people. But, a day after Al Gore recommended the action, critics are accusing Mr. Clinton of trying to help Gore's presidential campaign.

We begin our coverage of this new action and the reaction with our senior White House correspondent John King -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Judy, not since the Persian Gulf War, 1991, has the government authorized release of oil from its 571-million barrel strategic reserve, but President Clinton signed off on doing just that earlier today.

The announcement was made by the Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. This, a very heated policy debate within the administration; many of the president's senior advisers in disagreement over this. Obviously it's become a very hot political debate in the Congress and on the presidential campaign trail as well.

In making the announcement a short time ago, though, the Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said the president made this decision for one simple reason: He says supplies are down, prices are up.


RICHARDSON: The intended result of this exchange is simple: to increase oil supply. The temporary infusion of 30 million barrels of oil into the market will likely add an additional 3 to 5 million barrels of heating oil this winter, if refineries could match higher runs and yields seen in the past.


KING: Now, technically, this is a swap; the companies that buy this oil from the government would be required to replace it once oil prices fall so the reserve would get the oil back.

So, the administration saying this is not a big deal, it's an exchange or a swap program, designed to deal with a temporary crisis.

Republicans, though, from George W. Bush to many of the GOP leaders in Congress saying this: a political ploy. They say the president is trying to help the vice president as the election and the winter approaches.

Secretary Richardson said, that's not so.


RICHARDSON: This is not political. The president wants to help the American people get home heating oil and have enough heat in their homes. We have extremely low home heating oil stocks; low crude oil stocks for the winter, especially in the Northeast area, and the reason that we are doing this is not for price, but to deal with disruption. To deal with the problems of extreme shortages.


KING: Now, Republicans rushing to note that this is a major flip-flop, in their words, from just months ago when both the president and the vice president said they thought it was a bad idea to tap the strategic reserves.

Administration officials don't dispute that. They say, when oil was about $25, $28, approaching $30 a barrel, the administration did not think it was a wise idea. But in the past week, they say, the price has reached $38 a barrel; came down a little bit today to about $33 a barrel. They say the president and the vice president changed their mind. Even those who opposed tapping the reserve in the top ranks of the administration said, in the end, they decided to go on because they couldn't come up with a better idea -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And John, is there a downside in all of this for the administration?

KING: Well, there's a threat if the markets don't react. This is not enough oil -- not enough to increase supply by so much that, by the laws of supplies and demand, prices would automatically fall. This, perhaps a penny or so here or there.

This is more about psychology, showing the markets and showing the OPEC cartel that the administration is willing to intervene in the energy markets. If it does not increase supply and drive down prices, Secretary Richardson said the president would consider authorizing even more, but that would only increase the controversy.

So there is a risk here that, if this doesn't work, the president will have very few options facing him and the election will be approaching; and, once again, people will be questioning the vice president about what he would do.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King at the White House, thanks very much.

Well, Al Gore played up the oil issue again today, and the president's decision to follow his advice helped fuel his argument.

Our Jonathan Karl is covering the Gore campaign.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Gore campaign applauds the president's decision to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. But Gore aides are not surprised by the move. And the decision won't stop Gore from continuing to pound big oil.

Earlier in the day, Gore listened to the stories of people in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, concerned about rising oil prices.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But what really concerns me is, oil reflects into gasoline, gasoline reflects into groceries, it reflects into clothing, everything; everything is going up because of this, not just fuel.

KARL: He also launched a pointed attack on his rivals.

GORE: Let me say that I think it's time to stand up to the apologists for big oil. I reject an agenda that is of big oil, by big oil, and for big oil.

KARL: Gore didn't mention those "apologists" by name, but his campaign made it clear he was talking about George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. A woman in the hand-picked audience did too. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, of course, Governor Bush being a big oil man, he isn't going to do too much about it.


GORE: No comment.

KARL: Campaign officials are accusing the Bush campaign of proposing solutions that would benefit the oil industry, specifically Gore's proposal to open up Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, something Gore strongly opposes.

GORE: We do not have to sacrifice our environment and our environmental treasures in order to satisfy the appetite of big oil companies to go into new areas.

KARL: The Gore campaign says drilling in Alaska would be a financial windfall for the oil industry in general and, in particular, the Halliburton Corporation, Dick Cheney's former employer.

Just seven months ago, Gore opposed opening up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, calling it an ineffective way to increase supply. Today he explained his change of heart.

GORE: At that time we had pledges from OPEC that they would increase production to bring down the price and stabilize it at lower levels; they have not followed through on those pledges.

The situation is very different today.

KARL: It was Gore's first press conference in more than two months; 31-minutes long, it covered a range of topics, including the state of the campaign.

GORE: This is very much out there to be won or lost. This is a jump ball right now. It is an extremely close, hard-fought race.


KARL: In the face of charges that tapping the reserve is a political move designed to give his campaign a boost just 6 1/2 weeks before an election, the vice president has a response: He says, for families and for small businesses struggling with rising fuel prices, the current situation is an emergency that justifies an emergency response -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: John, I just asked John King at the White House about the potential downside of tapping the petroleum reserve; namely, that if prices -- if supplies don't go up and prices don't go down, there's a limit to how much more oil the administration can turn to.

What do the Gore people say about that?

KARL: Well, that's something we may not even find out about for another month-and-a-half, until after the election is over. You know, he's going to do these test sales -- these test sales would happen over the course of a month; test sales that Gore, today, called for six or seven or five million barrels at a time; and today, the administration talking about 30 million barrels.

We may not know the true impact of this until after the election.

WOODRUFF: All right, John Karl on the road with Vice President Gore, thanks.

A short while ago, George W. Bush commented on the Clinton administration's decision to tap into the emergency oil reserves.


BUSH: It's a bad idea because these petroleum reserves need to be used in case of war or major disruption of energy supplies.

This is an administration that has had no energy plan. Their own secretary of energy said that they got caught unawares about the world situation. And I am -- I believe that the vice president has made this decision, with the president's support, to achieve short-term political gain.


WOODRUFF: Bush spoke in Florida, where he hammered on the oil issue and Gore earlier today.

Our Candy Crowley is on the road with Bush.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Winter energy costs don't move the political meter much in Florida, but George Bush thinks Al Gore's support for tapping into the nation's Strategic Oil Reserve is something he can run with anywhere.

BUSH: He has flip-flopped on the issue; and the reason why Florida is going to vote for this team is because they don't want flip-floppers as the president of the United States.

CROWLEY: The Bush camp thinks the oil issue works at many levels for the Republican nominee.

First, they say Al Gore now supports what he once opposed. Coming less than two months before an election, the change gives Bush another verse in his long time refrain that Gore will say and do anything to be president. And second, Bush thinks the idea is a bad one designed to make up for faulty policy.

BUSH: The Strategic Petroleum Reserve should not be used as a for short-term political fix for somebody whose administration has been asleep at the switch.

(APPLAUSE) CROWLEY: Bush was in Florida for another round in a surprisingly fierce battle here. Wooing the state's powerful senior vote, he promised to put major money behind government and private medical research.

BUSH: As president I will fund and lead a medical moon shot to reach far beyond what seems possible today and discover new cures for age-old afflictions.

CROWLEY: Bush wants to pump $67 billion in new money into research at the National Institutes of Health over a 10-year period. That figure includes doubling funds for the National Institute of Cancer.

BUSH: It is amazing and hopeful to think that one day people might speak of cancer the way we speak of polio or small pox. We cannot begin to calculate the lives spared and suffering avoided by these cures and the genius behind them.

CROWLEY: Bush would also make permanent a tax credit given to encourage private research, something Bush says the Clinton administration promised but never delivered. The vice president has said that he would support a program similar in size to the Bush proposal.

(on camera): The fact that less than two months before an election George Bush has returned to Florida for the second time in two weeks is a political message in and of itself. This is a Republican-leaning state run by Governor Jeb Bush. It was once considered a certainty in the Bush column. It no longer is.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Sun City, Florida.


WOODRUFF: Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, sizing up this week on the campaign trail. We'll talk to E.J. Dionne and Ramesh Ponuru.


WOODRUFF: 46 days before the election, our daily snapshot of the presidential race looks pretty familiar. Al Gore leads George W. Bush by eight points in today's CNN/"USA Today" Gallup tracking poll of likely voters.

As we close this week, the results look much as they did last week, with Gore's support hovering near the 50 percent mark and Bush's backing in the low to mid 40s.

And joining me now to talk more about the race, E.J. Dionne of "The Washington Post" and Ramesh Ponuru of "The National Review."

Gentlemen, thanks for being with us.

E.J. DIONNE, "WASHINGTON POST": Good to be with you. WOODRUFF: First thing that we want to talk about is this announcement from the president today that he is going to dip into the petroleum, the oil reserves.

E.J., does this help Al Gore? Is it a wash? Where are we on this question?

DIONNE: I think mostly it doesn't hurt. I was struck in the discussion earlier in the show, is this political or will people like it? Well, sometimes something can be political and people can like it. And I think in this case the administration wants to make sure that it gets as little blame as possible for high oil prices, which after all undid an earlier Democratic administration run by Jimmy Carter.

And so I think the idea is they do something. If prices come down at all, they can claim credit for it, whether or not this little move had a lot to do with it, and if prices don't come down, at least they'll do something, and they'd be stuck with that problem anyway.

WOODRUFF: But, Ramesh, is there some -- we were talking with the correspondents earlier. Isn't there some risk in here, because if prices don't move, what do they do next?

RAMESH PONURU, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Absolutely. I mean, we're now in a position to test this argument that Gore has been making that if we did this, the price would come down. If they don't come down -- and it doesn't seem likely that this move will bring them down -- I think he's got a problem on his hands.

WOODRUFF: E.J., if George W. Bush is arguing, as we've been hearing, that this is something that should be saved for a time of national crisis, that nation -- our security is not at stake. Are voters going to listen to an argument like that? Does that resonate with them?

DIONNE: Well, you know, it's actually an interesting philosophical argument. It parallels a bunch of other philosophical arguments that got joined this week about what is the role of government. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is a very big government investment to collect a lot of oil for some purpose for the country. And the question is, what purpose?

The Republicans say we only do this kind of big government thing if it's about national security, at least in this instance, whereas the Democrats are saying, no, this can serve like a social purpose. They often -- they almost want to use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as if it were the federal reserve, where we could use some of this oil to nudge prices a little bit and we can make things better. And the proof will be partly in what happens to supply and the price.

But I think in principle, most Americans probably take a pragmatic view, if it helps, they don't mind if the government puts this oil out there.

WOODRUFF: Ramesh, what about the week overall? George Bush has been out there. He's not only been on "Oprah." He's been on "Regis Philbin," the talk show circuit. He's been on the attack. Has he helped himself this week?

PONURU: I think so. I mean, I think it's not necessarily entirely reflected in the polls yet, but I think a lot of Republicans are taking heart. You know, there had been some worrying, a lot of worrying, although interestingly enough not so much in Austin, not really -- there's never really been signs of panic there.

And a lot of Republicans across the country, they're seeing Bush on the attack. They're seeing him get the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police, which Clinton got last time around. And they're seeing him every day explain why Gore's plans on prescription drugs and on Social Security are not going to work, and I think that's going to have an effect.

WOODRUFF: Is that -- is any of this throwing Gore off-stride, E.J.?

DIONNE: I don't think it's thrown Gore off-stride yet. He threw himself off-stride a little bit with this problem he had with the dog's prescription versus his mother-in-law's prescription.

WOODRUFF: His mother-in-law.

DIONNE: I think if there's a new subliminal ad, it will have the word dog in it this time. And that was Gore's problem, and I think that's a good warning to Gore, because he can't afford to make a lot of mistakes like that.

On the Bush side, Gore has actually forced Bush to run the campaign that Gore wanted him to run, and now we actually have a much more important election, because we're really having a big argument about what's government's role in providing prescription drugs and how should the government do it and should it do it through Medicare or should it do it through some other kind of plan through the private insurance companies.

And Social Security privatization? Bush has been very quiet on this very big proposal, and this week he actually came out and defended it.

WOODRUFF: But Ramesh, some Republicans have asked whether George W. Bush can win this election if he's focusing primarily on issues, worthy, though, they may be?

PONURU: Well, sure. I mean, the conventional wisdom has always been the issues favor the Democrats, and so you have to make it a personality contest. But I'm not sure that's entirely true. I don't think that the Bush campaign thinks it's true, either. I think that they've got -- they think they've got potential winners on issues like tax and Social Security, and I think they think they can make the prescription drug thing boomerang on Gore by making seniors think they're going to have higher premiums to pay, I mean, which is clearly true, and that -- that the Gore plan would stop medical innovation. DIONNE: Actually, it's not clearly true in the sense that this is a subsidized premium for a lot of seniors who can't afford any insurance now, and that's the kind of debate that's going to be joined. But the one area where I disagree is I think the Bush campaign really has, if not panicked, radically changed its strategy, because the Bush campaign really wanted to win this on character.

Their whole convention said that they didn't want to fight about issues. They wanted to talk about integrity in the White House and bringing us all together. Now, it's a much sharper debate about issues, and I think in the long run that's good for the country. But I don't think it's a campaign that the Bush folks wanted to run in the first place.

WOODRUFF: All right, gentlemen, we're going to have to leave it there. E.J. Dionne, Ramesh Ponuru, thank you both for coming in on a Friday.


DIONNE: Good to be with you.

WOODRUFF: See you both soon. Thanks a lot.

And there is much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

Still to come:


JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Who do you expect would you go to if you were running for office, other than your friends?


WOODRUFF: The first lady's supporters and their overnight stays: Brooks Jackson takes a look at the list.

Plus, how are the presidential hopefuls faring on television? A look at coverage and the jokes. And later, taking a cue from the silver screen: the campaign trend that is earning a "Political Play of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: We will have more of the day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories.

A court in Great Britain today ruled that doctors may separate conjoined twins, despite the parents' objections. The operation means one of the girls will certainly die.

ITN's Lawrence McGinty has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LAWRENCE MCGINTY, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): Lawyers representing the parents left the court of appeal disappointed that they'd lost and that the operation to separate the twins can now go ahead. They had wanted nature to take its course and God's will to prevail.

JOHN KITCHINGMAN, FAMILY'S LAWYER: They must now consider whether to take the case to the House of Lords or to the European Court of Human Rights. No decision has yet been made.

MCGINTY: The officials solicitor, who's acting for the weaker twin, Mary, said he, too, is considering an appeal.

LAURENCE DATES, LAWYER FOR "MARY": This has no happy solution so far as she is concerned. And as I said, I have wanted to make sure that all the arguments that could be advanced on her behalf are considered by the court.

MCGINTY: This drawing of court photographs shows how Jody and Mary are joined at the lower abdomen. Facing each other they may look similar, but they're not. Mary, the weaker twin, has an enlarged heart that doesn't beat properly. Her lungs are rudimentary and cannot inflate to breathe. Jody has a healthy heart and lungs. Indeed, it's her circulation that's supplying Mary with oxygen, keeping her alive.

In court, Lord Justice Ward, the senior judge, says separating the twins would inevitable result in Mary's death. But he was wholly satisfied that was the least detrimental choice.

(on camera): The operation would be doctors coming to Jody's defense and removing the threat of fatal harm to Jody caused by Mary's draining her lifeblood. It would be a killing, but a killing in self- defense.

(voice-over): But to the archbishop of Westminster, who made a submission to the court, today's decision could be a dangerous precedent.

CORMAC MURPHY O'CONNOR, ARCHBISHOP OF WESTMINSTER: A precedent might be set in English law that might allow an innocent person to be killed or lethally assaulted even in order to save the life of another. If such a precedent has been set, then I would have grave misgivings about this judgment.

MCGINTY: But leaving the court this evening, Lord Justice Ward told ITN that today's ruling would not be a precedent.

LORD JUSTICE WARD, APPEAL COURT JUDGE: This is such a unique case, the circumstances are probably never likely to be repeated again.

MCGINTY: It was, in his own words, an impossible decision to make, but he and two fellow judges had to make it.

Lawrence McGinty, ITN, at the Court of Appeal. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: A warning by computer chipmaker Intel leaves the Nasdaq market grappling with large losses. Intel shares took a dive today after the chipmaker said that its third-quarter revenues would be below expectations. The market did recover slightly, as investors began buying old-line financial and drug stocks.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns: Hillary Clinton issues a counter- challenge to her Senate rival on the subject of soft money.


WOODRUFF: The White House today released a list of the first family's overnight guests since Hillary Rodham Clinton unofficially launched her Senate bid last year. The move came in response to questions about whether contributors to Mrs. Clinton's campaign were rewarded with stays at the White House or Camp David.

Our Brooks Jackson has been looking at who is on the list and whether they were big donors.


BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Steven Spielberg made the list. He and his wife Kate Capshaw-Spielberg were recent guests of the Clintons at the White House, according to a list released Friday. And they also gave a total of $30,000 to Hillary Clinton's political committees, since she started running for the Senate, public records show.

But the first lady's biggest donor did not make the list. Money manager Jack Dreyfus has not been a recent White House guest, yet he's given $250,000 to her committees.

The White House Friday released a list of 361 persons who have been guests at the White House or Camp David since July 1st of last year, when the first lady began her "listening tour" of New York. Most of those on the list gave nothing, but several did, and the White House said that shouldn't be surprising.

LOCKHART: Who do you expect would you go to when you are running for office other than your friends.

JACKSON: Among the guests who were also big donors: old friend Erskine Bowles, former White House chief of staff. He and wife Crandall gave $52,000 total.

Other big donors who were recent guests: Richard and Lisa Perry, more than $58,000; S. Daniel Abraham and wife, $54,000; Philip Levine: $35,000; Kenneth and Jill Iscol, $33,000; Haim and Cheryl Saban, $32,100.

But the vast majority of the first lady's biggest financial supporters were not on the list of recent guests, including the 10 largest donors. And most of those who were guests did not give anything.

Former CNN President Rick Kaplan was a guest but gave nothing. Former CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite also was a guest, also gave nothing. And many of the guests who did give were not major contributors, like musician Quincy Jones, who gave $2,000, and comedian Chevy Chase, who also gave $2,000.


JACKSON: The White House did not release the date any of the guests stayed, so it's not possible to compare those dates with when donations were given. The campaign manager for Mrs. Clinton's Senate opponent, Rick Lazio, issued a statement saying, quote, "We demand that Mrs. Clinton release the dates. New Yorkers deserve to know if she was there getting to know these big donors or if they were merely renting out these taxpayer-owned monuments like a cheap motel," end quote.

The Clinton campaign issued a statement saying, quote, "There has not been any quid pro quo for contributions, and less than 1 percent of the campaign's contributors have stayed overnight," unquote -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Brooks Jackson, thanks very much, appreciate it.

Now another matter involving money and Mrs. Clinton.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick has an update on the moves toward banning soft money in the New York Senate race.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Speaking to a thousand well-heeled suburban women, Hillary Clinton accepted part of Rick Lazio's debate-night challenge, urging her Democratic Party not to buy anymore soft-money radio and television ads.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: All it will take to do this is one word from Mr. Lazio: OK. So, how about it Mr. Lazio, OK?

FEYERICK: Soft money collected by political parties can by donated by anyone in any amount. Four million dollars have been spent on Mrs. Clinton, less than half a million on Lazio. The two sides were close to a deal, then came a sticking point: Lazio wants a total soft money radio and TV ban that includes independent groups like unions.

REP. RICK LAZIO (R-NY), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: This is New York's opportunity and my opportunity, and frankly Mrs. Clinton's opportunity, to make a statement about our commitment to campaign finance reform.

FEYERICK: Clinton's campaign spokeswoman says the talks between the two sides Thursday covered soft money ads only from the major Republican and Democratic parties and not independent groups.

HILLARY CLINTON: The Lazio campaign told my campaign that they didn't expect the labor unions and the truly independent entities, like labor unions or NARAL or the Sierra Club, to be included in this.

FEYERICK: But a Lazio spokeswoman tells CNN they should be included, and that after Mrs. Clinton pulls all soft money ads. Then they've got a deal.

Only once before, in the 1998 Senate campaign of Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, has a candidate renounced soft money. Feingold's opponent did not. What kind of impact would a ban in the New York race have?

MATT KELLER, COMMON CAUSE: I think the effect it would have would be a longer-term effect, a more positive effect on other campaigns, where people could say, well, you know what? They did it in New York, why can't we do it in Nebraska? Or why can't we do it in California or Texas?

FEYERICK (on camera): Both sides accuse the other of double talk. With six weeks left until voters head to the polls, by the time the two work out the details the election could be over.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.


WOODRUFF: Well Mrs. Clinton decided to launch her Senate bid in the aftermath of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the president's impeachment. A new book, "The Breach" offers some insight into her state of mind, Mrs. Clinton's, during that during that period, and the turmoil within the administration.

The book's authors's, Peter Baker, shares some of what he learned about what was going on inside the White House at that time, beginning with the president's struggle.


PETER BAKER, AUTHOR, "THE BREACH": In private, he was consumed by this. He was obsessed by this, as anybody might be in the same circumstances. He spent hours thinking about this in private. He fumed about it. He was angry. Aides would find him in the Oval Office sometimes distracted, playing with the old campaign buttons he kept there as a collection. He would watch television late at night and make late-night phone calls to friends and fume about the things that people were saying. So there really were two presidents during this period.


ERSKINE BOWLES, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: And I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BAKER: Erksine Bowles felt devastated and betrayed by the president. He was not only the president's chief of staff, he considered himself a good friend, maybe the best friend the president had in the White House.

He walked in the State of Union in the aftermath of the first story about Monica Lewinsky, and he told people, he said, I'm going to be smiling when I walk down the aisle, but inside I'm going to be dying.


CLINTON: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.


BAKER: When the president told Erskine the story isn't true, and then to discover seven months later that he had lied, Bowles felt very, very betrayed. He wouldn't work on the damage-control effort. He wanted nothing to do with it. He tried to get out of the White House as soon as he could without piquing Clinton on the way out. But he just couldn't work for him anymore. And his betrayal was really symbolic of the way a lot of the staff felt.

Al Gore really very deliberately absented himself from this whole matter to the extent that he really could. This was nothing but trouble for him from any perspective. If he said anything publicly or even privately that created even the slightest bit of distance between him and the president, he would be seen as furthering his own ambitions at the expense of Clinton. If he defended him too strongly, he risked damage with the public, which didn't want to see somebody like Clinton defend. And so there was no good way. And the only way to get through it was to keep out of it as much as possible.


GORE: To voice a strong support for my friend the president, and I'm not going to get into anything else. So thank you all very much.


BAKER: I think for Gore this was quite a devastating moment, because this was endangering not just Clinton but him and everything that the party and the White House had worked for for eight years, seven years. A moment of indiscretion on the part of Clinton and his subsequent attempts to cover it up had thrown all of that into jeopardy. And I think he just thought that it was time for Clinton to act more responsibly and to take into concerns other than his own, to realize that many people were relying on him.

So when it came to the impeachment several months later in December of 1998, he walked as the president was watching the vote, and he said, it's not fair what they've done to you. And then he went out on the White House lawn, of course, and said...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GORE: ... to a men I believe will be regarded in the history book as one of our greatest presidents.


BAKER: That line has come back to haunt him.

Hillary Clinton's distancing was actually really and genuine and personal. She wasn't talking to the president for an awful long time. She was very hurt by this. They went up to Martha's Vineyard following his grand jury testimony. It was a very, very chilly couple of weeks. And so she kept distance. But it wasn't a political distance, it was a personal distance.

And in the end, she politically did come through for him. She made calls, she appeared on the Hill to rally House Democrats on his side. But it was done only after a long period of nursing her own wounds.

What I was fascinated was by on the very day the Senate was voting on whether President Clinton should remain in office, Hillary Clinton was at the White House meeting with an aide about her Senate campaign. Literally, her campaign for Senate began the day the trial ended. And that's, of course, appropriate in a way, because, in fact, her popularity, her resurgent position with the American public was born out of her position as a victim, if you will, as much as she hates that.


CLINTON: He is the right person to be the first president of the 21st century: Al Gore.


BAKER: If Al Gore wins and if Hillary Clinton wins, President Clinton is going to see that as a vindication for him, a sign the public still stands with him and that the impeachment was nothing but an illegitimate partisan hatchet job. And he hopes that history will see it the same way. And he may be right.


WOODRUFF: That was Peter Baker, the author of a remarkable new book. "The Breach."

Just ahead, adding up to the TV hits: the serious and comedic mentions of George W. Bush and Al Gore.



GORE: My father was one of the first commissioners of labor in the state of Tennessee. And our family came into public service by that route. And, you know, I still remember the lullabies that I heard as a child.

(singing): Look for the union label.

It's just...


WOODRUFF: Vice President Al Gore says that comment to the Teamsters Union on Monday was a joke, one that he says he has told at many labor events over years.


GORE: If -- if somebody didn't get the joke, then I -- you know, I can't -- maybe I better tell better jokes then. But that -- but that was a joke. You know, nobody sings a lullaby to a little baby about union labels. OK?


WOODRUFF: The George W. Bush campaign had questioned Gore's credibility over the song, nothing that the "Union Label" jingle was written in 1975, when Gore was 27 years old. Gore spokesman, Doug Hattaway, had responded to the criticism by telling reporters that Gore was actually referring to a 1901 union song. Hattaway now says that that was an incorrect assumption.

Well, joke or not, the union label story made the rounds on the late night talk shows this week. As the campaign progresses, both candidates are likely to find their flubs and foibles turned into monologue material on the late night circuit.



JAY LENO, HOST: Oh, Al Gore is in trouble again. You know, we love Al. But I -- you know, he does tend to exaggerate. He was in Vegas the other day and he told the Teamsters -- told the Teamsters that his mom used to sing him a song when he was a little kid.

(singing): Look for the union label...

You know that song?

KEVIN EUBANKS, BAND LEADER: Oh, yes, right, right.

LENO: He says it's a childhood lullaby his mother would rock him to sleep.

(singing): Look for the union label.

The only trouble is, the song was written in 1975, when Al was 27 years old!

You know my favorite thing yesterday -- and all of the politicians do it, it's not just Bush -- like when Oprah asked him what's his favorite gift to give, he said his favorite gift to give was a kiss to his wife. Oh, shut up. Any guy's been married more than three years, you got a good laugh on this one.

Let me tell you, if it's your wife's birthday, and your only gift is a little kiss, well, that kiss is going to have to hold you for a long, long time.



DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: George W. Bush, it looks likes now, he's really going to jump start that George W. Bush presidential campaign. He has shifted into overdrive. He has supercharged that campaign ticket. It looks like he's going to now select Dick Cheney. So, we'll get -- as his running mate, we'll get some of that Dick Cheney mania, ladies and gentleman -- Dick Cheney.



BILL MAHER, HOST: Al Gore urged President Clinton today to tap the strategic petroleum reserve to force down oil prices. And Bush immediately attacked him about this. Bush said the reserves are only used for emergencies, like when he used the Reserves to get out of Vietnam.



CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST: An article in -- speaking of politics -- in this month's "Vanity Fair" speculates that George W. Bush may suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder. That's what they're saying. That is right. Yes, the article also speculates that if Al Gore is elected, we'll all suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder.

So I thought...


Still working on my Gore impression -- and my George W. I'm working them out one by one. I'll have every impression.



WOODRUFF: Well, to find out how comedians and members of the news media are dealing with the candidates, I sat down a little while ago with Robert Lichter of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, and Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution.

And I began by asking Lichter about his study of late night talk shows and which politicians are favorite targets.


ROBERT LICHTER, CENTER FOR MEDIA AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Well, Bill Clinton is the undisputed king of late night comedy. He has gotten more jokes this year than either Gore or Bush Jr. In fact, Bill Clinton just passed the 5,000 mark in the total number of jokes about him since he became president. Nobody else is even a close second.

WOODRUFF: What about among -- between the two candidates? In fact, you have got a chart we can show here. This is -- should be showing January of this year through the end of August. And you can tell us a little bit about that.

LICHTER: George Bush has won the race for the late night talk show host. And since the general election started in September, there have been three times as many jokes about George Bush as Al Gore. So that -- I am not sure that is a race that he wants to win, but he is well in the lead.

WOODRUFF: And I understand now -- we were talking just before the interview -- that just in the first two weeks of September, Bush has been mentioned more than ever.

LICHTER: Yes, about 70 jokes in two weeks, and just over 20 votes -- jokes for Al Gore. Of course, it was a funny time for Bush between his off-color remarks into the microphone and mispronouncing subliminal. The late night talk shows hosts loves gaffes. That is what they really go after: gaffs and personal foibles.

WOODRUFF: And they have had some ammunition.

LICHTER: That's right. And Bush has had plenty to feed them.

WOODRUFF: All right, that is late night television.

Now, Steve Hess, you have been looking at the network and -- evening news shows and PBS. And what are you seeing for this last week?

STEPHEN HESS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, I'm seeing, as Bob shows the number of jokes going up, I am showing the number of stories about -- with substance in it going down over the first two weeks. The horse-race stories are going up.

So you see a descending line on substantive stories, an ascending line on horse-race stories. Now, of course, part of that relates to the fact that it's a close election. The closer the election, the more horse-race stories you are going to get. And some of it I think relates to the fact that we have become a very poll-dominated news media. Now we track -- every single day we have a poll.

And some, of course, have to do with the peculiarities of a particular election; 1992, of course, was the: "It's the economy, stupid." So that was a substance issue. That was way up. And 1996 wasn't a very close election, Dole versus Clinton, so the horse-race stories were way down. But what is potentially troubling here, Judy, is that usually it's in the first month, September, that you get your policy stories.

And then, almost a switch turns and, in October, you get your horse-race stories. So if we are not getting the substance stories now, when are we going to get them?

WOODRUFF: Robert Lichter, from your perspective, is it -- is this the kind of thing -- where do the late night talk shows, the daytime talk shows, the Oprahs, the Regis Philbin, where does all that fit in to how the public is learning about these candidate right now?

LICHTER: Well, there's no question that we are becoming a talk show campaign at this point. The polls show that eight years ago, a quarter of the public said they got news about the candidates from the late night talk shows. This year, a majority of the electorate gets that kind of information.

And I think, to some degree, the journalists are driving the candidates into the arms of the talk show hosts -- literally, in the case of Bush and Oprah -- with abbreviated sound bites, horse-race- driven coverage. The only place the candidates get a chance to try to show themselves off as human beings who can complete more than about an eight-second sentence on air is in these talk shows.

WOODRUFF: Steve Hess, Robert Lichter, thank you both.

Fascinating stuff.


WOODRUFF: And after all the talk about getting the widest possible television audience for the presidential debates, NBC says that it will not carry the first debate, except on the West Coast. The network says it has a contractual obligation to carry a baseball playoff game on October 3, when the first debate is scheduled.

It will carry the vice presidential debate and the second presidential debate, but baseball also could prevent its coverage of the final debate on October 17. ABC, CBS, CNN and several other networks will carry all debates.

Just ahead, improving on an old campaign tradition.

Our Bill Schneider explains.


WOODRUFF: From talk shows to campaign stops, there has been one common thread in the actions of Al Gore and George W. Bush; and that's caught the eye of our Bill Schneider -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, they used to say, tax, tax, spend, spend, elect, elect.

Well, times have changed; and now it's, kiss, kiss, vote, vote, elect, elect. Whoever wins the kissing primary wins, if not the White House, at least the political play of the week.


(voice-over): "Kissing is like the presidency," Henry Clay once said, "it is not to be sought and not to be declined."

These days, candidates are less demure -- about seeking the presidency and about kissing. Candidates kiss their wives and they kiss the voters. Sometimes figuratively; sometimes literally...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I'm dreaming.

SCHNEIDER: ... Very literally.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now I really think I'm dreaming.

SCHNEIDER: They even kiss nonvoters.

BUSH: This is heaven. All kinds of babies to kiss.

SCHNEIDER: Remember all those great kisses in the movies? Like this one in "Gone With the Wind"? Or the really hot one in "From Here to Eternity"?

What makes for a great movie kiss? We consulted an expert.

LARRY SUTTON, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: What we found is that it's not the length, it's usually what builds up to it, what leads up to that moment in time.

SCHNEIDER: Same thing in politics.

SUTTON: Well, the Al and Tipper kiss was a cinematic moment, they had everything going for it. It was unexpected. You expected a little kiss; you didn't expect a big, boom, plant-one-right-on-the- lips kind of kiss.

SCHNEIDER: Round one of the kissing primary went to Al Gore. But Gore didn't do so well in round two; the one on "Oprah."

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: OK -- no kiss? I was hoping for something like...

SCHNEIDER: Bush saw an opportunity, and this week he seized it.

WINFREY: Thanks for the kiss.

BUSH: It's my pleasure.

SCHNEIDER: The commentators did not fail to notice.

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": What is it with kissing and politicians? You got Bush kissing Oprah, you got Al Gore all over his wife.

See, I miss Clinton already, at least he did all his kissing in the privacy of the Oval Office, you know what I'm saying?

SCHNEIDER: Round two of the kissing primary goes to Bush, who was careful not to take things too far.

REGIS PHILBIN, TALK SHOW HOST: He gave Oprah a kiss, but he wore my shirt and tie.

SCHNEIDER: Think Bush can score a comeback in the debates next month? There is more than one kind of kiss after all.

The Olympics think they have everything. But they don't have competitive kissing. That's reserved for politics, and for the political play of the week.


And I have a little something special for you, too, Judy. Would you like a little kiss?


WOODRUFF: Sure, Bill...


... I thought you were serious.

SCHNEIDER: That's for you.

WOODRUFF: You shouldn't have, Bill.

SCHNEIDER: Well, it's part of the political tradition.

WOODRUFF: It's a good ad for Hershey's. Thanks a lot.

I gave him my cheek, but he didn't take it, all right.

Bill Schneider, thanks a lot.

That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. But, of course, you can go on-line all the time at CNN's

In these weekend programming notes: House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt will be the guest tomorrow on "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT AND SHIELDS," that's at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.

Whitewater independent counsel Robert Ray will be among the guests on "LATE EDITION," that's at noon Eastern on Sunday.

Also on "LATE EDITION," Republican vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney.

I'm Judy Woodruff, with a kiss. "WORLDVIEW" is next.



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