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Inside Politics

Anti-Milosevic Uprising Takes Center Stage in Campaign 2000; Cheney and Lieberman Prepare For Debate

Aired October 5, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It is time for Mr. Milosevic to go.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to add my voice to those in Serbia who are saying to Milosevic, get out.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: A mass protest against Yugoslavia's president becomes something of an issue in the U.S. presidential race.

Also ahead...


DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This is a memorable day for us, it's obviously a very important part of the campaign.


WOODRUFF: The final run-up to tonight's debate between Joe Lieberman and Dick Cheney. We'll have all the angles on the first and only face-off between the vice presidential candidates.

Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS, I'm Judy Woodruff here at CNN Center in Atlanta, our campaign headquarters, along with my colleagues, Jeff Greenfield and Bill Schneider. And we thank you for joining us.

Bernie Shaw, of course, is in Danville, Kentucky now to moderate tonight's vice presidential debate.

We begin with another big story that could come up in that debate, the unrest in Yugoslavia. Right now, it's about 11:00 p.m. in Belgrade. Opposition forces in the capital city remain in control of the parliament building they stormed earlier today. More than 100,000 demonstrators demanded that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic admit that he lost the September 24 election to Vojislav Kostunica and resign. Kostunica has been declared president-elect by the state news agency, which has cut its ties to Milosevic. Police resistance to the demonstrators apparently has collapsed, and Milosevic has not been seen. In this country, President Clinton says the United States recognizes the will of the people in Yugoslavia, but he says U.S. military intervention there is not appropriate, and the White House is urging Russia to recognize that Kostunica won the election.

The dramatic events in Belgrade were addressed by both Al Gore and George W. Bush out on the presidential campaign trail today. Here is our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The campaign trail is often called "the bubble," but the outside world has a way of piercing it. So they heard the streets of Belgrade in a school house in Royal Oak, Michigan.

BUSH: The people have spoken. It is time for Mr. Milosevic to go.


CROWLEY: And they too heard the streets of Belgrade at a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

GORE: We call upon Milosevic to get out of power. It will be taken from him if he does not, because the people of Serbia have spoken and now they're rising up.

CROWLEY: Two candidates who want to be president issuing almost identical statements about an ongoing international crisis -- almost identical.

BUSH: Our country must work closely with our allies in Europe and the international community, including Russia, to pressure Mr. Milosevic to leave office.

CROWLEY: Emphasis intended -- a top Bush aide says the governor fully meant to remind voters that he spoke of pulling the Russians into the diplomatic mix during Tuesday's debate, but Al Gore questioned the usefulness of the Russians at this point. It was an exchange many scored for the vice president.

But Thursday, the White House and the State Department indicated Russian President Putin could play a constructive role, and the vice president shut down the debate.

QUESTION: Governor Bush says that -- he thinks the Russians should be called into assist.

GORE: I'm not going to get back into that.

CROWLEY: The debate postscript came as the Republican nominee campaigned in Michigan. In a media market that reaches almost 50 percent of the state's suburban swing vote, Bush outlined ways he thinks the government can help parents parent. He calls it "tools for parents," a set of mostly new, largely no-cost initiatives: a tax break for home workers using employer-provided equipment like a computer or Internet access; legislation to prevent federal health and safety regulations in home offices; and legislation allowing private- sector workers to choose comp time instead of overtime pay.

Bush would also require Internet filters to block porn and violence in schools and libraries receiving federal money. In the category of "bully pulpit," Bush says he would encourage the networks to provide an hour of family TV every night and to offer a more informative ratings system -- attention Al Gore.

BUSH: I'm not the kind of person during the day to scold Hollywood and then at night go out there and say, well, I really didn't mean it. I'd like your contributions.

CROWLEY (on camera): In an election where Al Gore is stressing his government experience, George Bush incorporated his planned domestic agenda into the unexpected events in Yugoslavia to form a single straightforward message: I am up to the job.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Appleton, Wisconsin.


WOODRUFF: And now, let's bring in our senior political analyst Bill Schneider -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, today, reality intruded into the presidential campaign, an international crisis that instantly raises the stakes in this election.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): In Tuesday night's debate, the moderator asked a hypothetical question: What if Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic refuses to leave office? Today it's a deadly serious reality. When asked what the U.S. could do, Vice President Gore was sensitive to the realities.

GORE: Now, we have to take measured steps, because the sentiment within Serbia is for understandable reasons, still against the United States because...

SCHNEIDER: Governor Bush's lack of world experience showed.

BUSH: The Russians have got a lot of sway in that part of the world and we'd like to see them use that sway to encourage democracy to take hold.

SCHNEIDER: Gore called him on it.

GORE: Being as they have not yet been willing to recognize Kostunica as the lawful winner of the election, I'm not sure that it's right for us to invite the president of Russia to mediate this dispute there.

SCHNEIDER: And Bush was forced to backtrack. BUSH: Well, obviously we wouldn't use the Russians if they didn't agree with our answer, Mr. Vice President.

GORE: Well, they don't.


SCHNEIDER: Gore acknowledged that while Bush's knowledge was weak, his instincts might have been good. The vice president noted that the Russians were helpful in Kosovo and might be again, but only if the Russians agree that Milosevic must go. You know, this is not a school board election anymore, and that creates a little problem for Bush, whose international experience is limited.

WOODRUFF: Now, can Dick Cheney, though, somewhat help make up for that in tonight's debate?

SCHNEIDER: Well, you know, that's where I think George Bush is lucky, he has Dick Cheney on the ticket, a man of substantial international experience, a man who said he doesn't even bother to vote in school board elections.

WOODRUFF: Bill, could the -- however this turns out, could the resolution of all this have an effect on the presidential election?

SCHNEIDER: Well, sure it could. If Milosevic manages to stay in power, he's a symbol of what Republicans say is wrong with Clinton's international policy, that this administration is too quick to put American lives at risk with no clear victory or exit strategy. But if Milosevic is forced out, Kosovo looks like a triumph for the Clinton- Gore administration; it worked, with no American ground troops involved.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Well, even before tonight's vice presidential debate, former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney offered some limited comments about the upheaval in Yugoslavia.

Our Jeanne Meserve is in Danville, Kentucky, where the debate begins in less than four hours.


CROWD: Go, Joe, all right!

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It may well be the most important day in the vice presidential campaign and it is certainly the most important day this central Kentucky city of 18,000 has ever seen, but even at this time in this place there were questions about Yugoslavia. Joe Lieberman responded that he'd have more to say later. Dick Cheney wanted to know more before commenting on any U.S. role.

CHENEY: It's a serious situation, you hope it can be resolved peacefully with the people that won the election in power. MESERVE: Joe Lieberman tried to stay loose for the debate, he's taking a morning jog with his wife and son.

QUESTION: Are you in Muhammad Ali's fighting mode?


MESERVE: Lieberman likes the boxing analogy, and his shirt, a gift from his staff, already proclaims him the winner. But when the Cheneys arrived in Kentucky, the candidate's wife told supporters a fighting-ring image was all wrong.

LYNNE CHENEY, DICK CHENEY'S WIFE: This is a good-old fashioned Western, and Dick is the straight-talking sheriff riding out of the West to kick the bad guys out of town.


MESERVE: Showdown at the OK Corral? Even people inside the campaign doubt it will be that decisive.

FLEISCHER: People have a right to see who their two vice presidential contenders are, how they will govern, who is serious, that becomes a part -- a factor in a voter's behavior. But ultimately, it always does come down to the two presidential contenders.

MESERVE: Cheney has sparred with the press and opponents in Congress, but Lieberman has debated more recently and successfully. At least one observer rates him the likely winner.

LARRY SABATO, UNIV. OF VIRGINIA: He is marvelous in a debate format. He is quick-minded. He can move from one subject to another without a transition, and it seems natural and normal, and most of all, he uses humor very well in debates. That combination is going to be very tough to beat.


MESERVE: Both campaigns say their candidates are here to talk issues, but we know they're ready to pounce Cheney on Lieberman's -- on the Clinton-Gore record, but also on the shifts in Lieberman's positions that he's made to accommodate Al Gore. Cheney -- Lieberman on Cheney's voting record in Congress, and on the Bush record in Texas. Keep in mind, the analogies these men are using. They're talking about boxing matches, they're talking about gunfights. Nobody here is talking about a political science seminar -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jeanne Meserve. And we'll be coming back to you throughout this night. Thanks a lot.

Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, more on the number-two match-up. We'll talk to Donald Rumsfeld and John Breaux about their colleagues and friends.

Plus, insight from our own Jeff Greenfield. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Live pictures of the auditorium at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, where tonight's vice presidential debate will take place just about four hours from now. The vice presidential candidates Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman will begin in Danville. The candidates will be seated at a table with our own Bernard Shaw. Each will have two minutes to respond to questions, although we saw that rule was broken a little bit last night. However, the moderator, again, has the discretion to continue the discussion beyond that time limit.

The candidates also will have two minutes each for closing remarks.

And joining us now from Washington, Democratic Senator John Breaux, and from Danville, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Gentlemen, thank you for being here.

Let me start out by asking you both, what is it -- and let me turn to you first, Senator Breaux, what is it tonight that Joe Lieberman most needs to do to help Al Gore?

SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: Judy, I think to get elected on a national level, two things are really important. First of all, you have to be smart, and both candidates, obviously, I think are very smart men. Secondly, you have to show you are a likable person that connects with people, and I think that Joe Lieberman in this case has it all over Dick Cheney. I think he does connect with people, I think he shows that he can work here in Washington as vice president, and I think that in that case, he has it all over Dick Cheney, who I think doesn't like campaigning in particular, I don't think he likes elections. He hasn't voted in very many of them. And I think it shows. I think Joe's a better choice.

WOODRUFF: Donald Rumsfeld, is that a problem for Dick Cheney? According to Senator Breaux, he doesn't like campaigning, hasn't even voted that often?

DONALD RUMSFELD, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, he's never missed an important vote in his life, and I think that what's going to happen tonight is the Cheney appearance will be a conversation with the American people, and they'll see an enormously talented man. I've known Dick for over 30 years, and he is a man of great integrity, and probably has the best background to serve as vice president of any person I can think of in modern times. He's got that wonderful background of having actually run something. Senator Gore has never run anything larger than a Senate office.

WOODRUFF: You mean Senator Lieberman.

RUMSFELD: I mean Vice President Gore served in the Senate.

WOODRUFF: Oh, you mean Vice President Gore.

RUMSFELD: Exactly. And Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney both have extensive executive experience. It's a big help.

WOODRUFF: Senator Breaux, for the last few days, and really more than that, Governor Bush has hammered away at Al Gore's credibility, his believability, his trustworthiness. What can Joe Lieberman do tonight to back up the vice president on any one of these points?

BREAUX: Well, Judy, number one, he just has to be himself. I'm from the South, and a lot of people were actually worried about Joe being Jewish would play well in the South. And I find he plays extremely well in the South, even among a more conservative, religious-minded people who feel very strongly about religious, moral values. They see in Joe Lieberman a person who exemplifies those type of values, and I think he has helped Al Gore separate himself from many of the accusations that George Bush might try to bring up.

WOODRUFF: How, though? How specifically?

BREAUX: Well, just by being himself, because they know that he's going to be involved in this administration, that he has been a leader on moral values in the Congress. He's taken a lead on TV violence and pornography, on education proposals. I mean, this is a person who practices what he believes, and is an outstanding background. That's going to upon help the ticket.

WOODRUFF: Don Rumsfeld, on the other hand, we've heard Al Gore hammer away at the unfairness, in effect, of George Bush's tax cut proposal, his prescription drug plan for seniors.

What specifically can Dick Cheney say about any one of these things to help out the governor?

RUMSFELD: Well, the truth has a certain virtue. Here's a man who says I'm going to fight for you, American people. Well, where was he for eight years fighting to fix Social Security? Why didn't he spend the last eight years providing prescription drugs for the elderly? He says I'm passionate about this. Well, he hasn't been passionate about it, or they would have done something about it.

WOODRUFF: Is that what you expect him to say, to say, why didn't they do it before now?

RUMSFELD: Well, I think there's that. But to go back to the other question you asked, it seems to me also that Bill Bradley's comment is important. When he was against Vice President Gore, he made the point that it's important for the American people to be able to trust a person who's running for president and be able to trust a person who's serving as president. And Bill Bradley found Vice President Gore wanting in that respect.

WOODRUFF: Well, Senator Breaux, how -- what exactly does Joe Lieberman say tonight? You said a minutes ago, he's himself, but what can he say to help the vice president on this?

BREAUX: Well, I think it's very important for him just to show that he's a person of knowledge, and experience and high moral capability. Also the fact he's a person who can connect with people and going to be himself and have people trust in what he says.

WOODRUFF: Well, do you think the vice president has a credibility problem?

BREAUX: No, I don't think he does at all. I mean, we're talking about why he didn't pass Social Security and Medicare reform. One of the problems is we've had a Republican Congress, both in the House and the Senate. It's very difficult to get those plans adopted when, in fact, the opposition, both in the House and the Senate, controls the debate. He'll continue to fight for it, but it's going to be an uphill battle if you don't have the right Congress.

WOODRUFF: All right, gentlemen, Jeff Greenfield has a question.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Secretary Rumsfeld, we don't expect either you or the senator to be here as neutral, dispassionate commentators, but -- to the extent that we can plead for a tad of candor, when you pick up the papers today, and the reports, and you see that a lot of conservatives were shaking their heads to some extent about Governor Bush and say, you know, he really had a chance to hit Vice President Gore on school choice, on his tax plan, he didn't seem to know his own plan enough.

Does that give you a little bit of pause as to what happened with Governor Bush the other night?

RUMSFELD: Not at all. Governor Bush knows -- he's been so successful with respect to education, for example, in the state of Texas. He has served as an outstanding governor, he knows the plans that he has and he's put them forward very forcefully.

I think that it is a difficult thing in a debate to decide and calibrate exactly how forceful you want to be with respect to the weaknesses of your opponent and I think that, in this case, Vice President Gore has been a part of an administration that has done a very poor job for this country in many areas and I think it's important that those areas be brought forward.

GREENFIELD: Senator Breaux, I'm going to take another shot at this one on your side. One "New York Times" columnist today, clearly not of conservative bent -- I mean, a natural supporter of Gore, referred to Vice President Gore as Eddie Haskel. He was shaking his head in print about what he called Gore's sanctimonious performance.

Did you sense some of that as you were watching the other night, that there is just something about this guy that just can't connect the way you think Lieberman connects on that basic ground?

BREAUX: Well, I wished he wouldn't have sighed so much. I agree with that.

But I'll tell you one thing, I think he showed that he had the knowledge and the experience and knew what his plans were all about when he tried to explain them, which he did very well. And I think you're not electing the person who is the most popular, but the person who can do the best job; and I think, in that case, when you're talking about facts, talking about programs and understanding your own programs, Al Gore came out way ahead.

He's been part of the administration for eight years, but it's an administration that has brought us the greatest economic recovery that we've had in generations.

WOODRUFF: All right, Senator John Breaux, former Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, thank you both.

RUMSFELD: Thank you.

BREAUX: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: And we'll see you later.

And Jeff Greenfield, you have some thoughts of your own about tonight's face-off.

GREENFIELD: Yes; what should the candidates do tonight, you might ask? Well, maybe the real question is what not to do.

Offered for your consideration, a mercifully brief history lesson.


GREENFIELD (voice-over): One: Do not accuse the other party of starting every war of the 20th century. Bob Dole did that in 1976 and it was a clunker. Also: try not to look like the angel of death, a harsh demeanor turneth away the undecideds.

Two: Do not compare yourself to John Kennedy, even if it is true, as it was with Dan Quayle 12 years ago -- that he had exactly the same experience as JFK had had in the House and Senate. And if you're being attacked, stare your opponent down, do not stare off vacantly into the middle distance.

Three: Do not ignore repeated attacks on your ticket's presidential candidate. In 1992, Al Gore stood mute while Vice President Quayle launched heavy artillery aimed squarely at Bill Clinton's honesty and credibility.

Secretary Cheney: Insist that Governor Bush's numbers do add up.

Senator Lieberman: Insist that Al Gore does not make stuff up.

Four: Do not let yourself be killed with kindness. Four years ago, Vice President Gore showered praise on Jack Kemp for not being like all those other mean, nasty Republicans, Kemp smiled with pleasure and found himself almost completely disarmed.


GREENFIELD: And remember, these guys are No. 2 tonight, but five vice presidents have succeeded to the presidency just since World War II, so you might want to pay some attention -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, and we will be, and you'll be here with us to do it. Jeff Greenfield, thanks a lot.

Well, much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Still to come -- I apologize, right now we want to go live to Belgrade where the opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica is addressing the Yugoslav people on state-run television.


WOODRUFF: Back in the United States, 33 days before the presidential election, Al Gore appears to have gained some ground on George W. Bush nationwide. However, the full effect, if any, of the first presidential debate still is being sorted out. Gore leads Bush by 11 points in our daily tracking poll of likely voters.

But, only about 1/3 of the interviews with likely voters were conducted after Tuesday's presidential debate. So, based on our survey, Gore appears to have been gaining strength before the debate. It is too soon to tell whether the debate changed the dynamic of the horse race in any significant way.

Since that first presidential debate, both Gore and Bush have been zeroing in on key battleground states. Today, the vice president went to Michigan to press his case for targeted tax cuts.

Our John King is traveling with Gore.


JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fireworks capped a lunch-hour rally that drew a crowd approaching 10,000.

GORE: We have got to put the children first. We have got to put working families first. We have got to fight for middle class Americans.

KING: The refrain is familiar. The vice president says his approach to tax cuts -- targeted measures to help families pay for things like child care and college costs -- is a far better alternative than Governor Bush's plan.

GORE: The other side's proposal would give the alternative choice, blow the surplus on a giant tax cut, mostly for the wealthy, and starve the priorities that are in most need of attention.

KING: The targeted tax cut in the spotlight this day was Gore's proposal to increase the child care tax credit available to middle class families and to make the credit refundable to lower-income Americans who don't pay taxes.

GORE: Bye-bye. In space. In your face.

KING: The vice president is ahead in Michigan, but not comfortably, and is looking to pad the lead by courting the conservative-leaning independent voters found in abundance here in western Michigan.

GORE: There you go. There you go.

ED SARPOLUS, MICHIGAN POLLSTER: Gore should win those hands down. He's tied with Bush right now. But that's more due to the issue of the of the educational issue and the family values issues. Family values is not from the Right to Life issue, but what they want their kids to be taught right and wrong.

KING: It is a fight reflected in the aggressive TV ad war here in the Grand Rapids market.


BUSH: We need the courage to raise standards in our schools. We need more accountability and more discipline. It's easy just to spend more. Let's start by expecting more.



NARRATOR: Fight violence and pornography on the Internet, helping parents block out what children shouldn't see. Al Gore -- he'll put his values to work for us.


KING: Organized labor is key to the vice president's effort here, and he put in a plug for laws that make it easier for unions to organize and for increasing the minimum wage.

(on camera): The race remains a dead heat in the national polls, but the Gore campaign believes it has the edge on a state by state basis, and that if the vice president can defend his leads in Illinois, Pennsylvania and here in Michigan, he is virtually assured of winning the White House.

John King, CNN, Grand Rapids, Michigan.


WOODRUFF: Well despite those new poll numbers we mentioned showing Al Gore ahead nationwide, according to a new sampling by the Evans-Novak Political Report, George W. Bush has regained his Electoral College lead.

Their breakdown puts the Texas governor at 278 electoral votes to Gore's 260. Now three weeks ago, Evans-Novak had Gore ahead by a margin of 296 to 242. The new survey gives Bush 19 states with 154 electoral votes, including most of the South. Another 11 states with 124 electoral votes are said to be leaning Bush. The report gives Gore 11 states with 161 electoral votes, including California and New york, with another nine states with 99 electoral votes leaning toward Gore.

Joining us now from Danville, Kentucky, our own Bob Novak of the "Chicago Sun-Times." Hello, Bob. Tell us a little bit, Bob, first of all, about the change that, you know, three weeks ago you had Gore ahead and now it's Bush. What has happened in the intervening three weeks?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": What you have to remember, of course, Judy, as you well know but a lot of people sometimes forget, is that this -- there are -- these are 50 state races that, the way we elect a president. And so when you have these battleground states, which are very close, as John King just said, if you have a change in two or three of the big states, it tips the whole electoral college count.

Now what we have is contrary to what John found. Our information from Michigan and in the polling data is that Bush has moved slightly ahead in Michigan, maybe one or two points ahead as of the debate the other night. Whether that changed anything or not, I don't know. Also moved ahead in Florida, also moved ahead in Missouri.

You take those three states, that's 54 electoral votes. Just a tiny lead in all of those states. It could easily go the other way and in that case, Gore would be in front. That's what makes this electoral so fascinating. There are a handful of states, so keep your eyes on those three states, which tend to wobble back and forth: Florida, Michigan, and Missouri. We put them all in Bush's camp right now.

WOODRUFF: And Bob, just how reliable are these numbers. They are accurate, obviously, in your view, as of today. But given the fact you got tonight's debate, you've got another debate next week,

NOVAK: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: ... and the one after. You've got other things at work at here. A lot of money being spent on TV ads. How much -- how likely do you think it is that the numbers could keep changing?

NOVAK: I think they'll keep changing because there's about nine states that are very much in play. For example, we give Michigan, I'm sorry, we give Washington and Oregon in the Pacific Northwest to Gore. Of course he has a very narrow lead there. But those states are in play. Contrary to some things you have heard, Pennsylvania is in play. Gore's lead is fairly narrow there. Illinois still in play. Gore has a lead.

So these things could change. The states that don't seem to be in play. Texas, with a huge Bush lead, naturally. New York, with a huge Gore lead. They're not going to change, and they also distort the popular vote. They have this huge proportion of the vote, two-to- one in each of those states, which tend to change the popular vote. Popular vote is very unstable, as we've seen in the polls, but there's a little bit more stability in these battleground states.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bob Novak, thanks very much with the latest look at the Evans-Novak Report and its assessment of the electoral college map. Thanks a lot. We will see you later tonight.

NOVAK: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: And when we come back, Mike McCurry and Mary Matalin on the significance of tonight's vice presidential face-off.


WOODRUFF: Former Clinton Press Secretary Mike McCurry and Mary Matalin of CNN's "CROSSFIRE" at George Washington University: They join us now.

I want to turn to you, Mike. Twelve years ago, you were the spokesman for then-Senator Lloyd Bentsen, coming out of the vice presidential debate. Do these vice-presidential face-offs really matter?

MIKE MCCURRY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in a word: no. That was a good reminder. If ever there has been a knockout in one of these debates, I think Senator Bentsen did it to Vice President Quayle.

They do affect, though, at the margin, the way people think about this race. And we have a very important thing going on today. There is a real important event going on in the Balkans right now. CNN has been covering it all day long today. And I think it's a reminder. This is probably going to help both of these candidates tonight.

Former Secretary Cheney will be able to talk about the importance of global events and, you know, obviously offer some of his own expertise. I think that Senator Lieberman will be able to point to the role that Vice President Gore has played as someone who has fashioned our policy in the Balkans. And it really, you know, brings home the fact that these -- these events on the world stage matter, even when they sometimes seem remote to the American people.

I expect the news of the day is going to, you know, be a factor in this debate tonight.

WOODRUFF: Mary, back to what Mike said originally, though, that traditionally the vice-presidential debates don't matter as much. Do you agree with that?

MARY MATALIN, CNN "CROSSFIRE": I agree with that in the big picture. But this is a very peculiar year, where it's clear that these four debates are going to add up, each sides hopes, to a whole greater than the sum of the parts. And they cannot miss an opportunity tonight -- either side -- to flush out the philosophical foundation that the principals laid out two nights ago.

So Cheney is going to lay out more details of Bush programs -- and Lieberman the same. And another thing that is important for tonight -- and we were shocked in 1992 when then-Senator Gore did not defend reservations about President Clinton. There are recurring reservations about Vice President Gore that Senator Lieberman is going to have to address tonight.

So it's an important event, more important -- it may not move votes, but a significant event for those two reasons.

MCCURRY: Judy -- Judy, I think you're going to see tonight that Lieberman will be debating Bush. And Cheney will debating Gore. That's really the dynamic that is at play. But in the process, my guess is both of them are going to look pretty good to the American people. These are two very smart, very capable people, who have got a lot to say about both domestic and foreign issues.

WOODRUFF: But, Mike, what about Mary's point, that what among other things, one of the main things Joe Lieberman has to do is speak to the criticisms of his boss. I mean, Bush has been hammering away at Gore the last few days on his trustworthiness, his credibility. Can Joe Lieberman help him out there?

MCCURRY: Well, no person better than Senator Lieberman to actually, in a sense, credential Al Gore and say: Look, I know this man. I have worked with this man closely. And he is someone that can be trusted. He is a man of integrity.

That will mean a lot coming from someone like Senator Lieberman, who is very highly regarded by the American people on exactly those measures of trustworthiness and credibility. So I think that is a very important assignment for him.


WOODRUFF: Go ahead, Mary.

MATALIN: We are not just talking about the Buddhist temple and the events of the administration. It's not looking backwards eight years. It's looking backwards to the last two weeks, from the mother- in-law and the dog and the, you know, made-up story about the Texas fires. These are things that Lieberman is going to have a difficult -- difficulty explaining. But he is going to be asked.

WOODRUFF: Mary, what about, conversely, on Governor Bush's, he's been -- there are still questions raised about, in so many words: Is he up to the job? Questions about some of his answers at the debate Tuesday night. Can Dick Cheney help him on that score?

MATALIN: Well, Bush's objective -- which was met the other night -- was to lay out the philosophical differences and the broad outlines of his governance approach. That was the plan. That was met. And it was always designed that Dick Cheney tonight would begin fleshing out the details of those programs, which will be followed -- and must be followed up -- by Bush himself in the final two debates.

But Cheney cannot miss this opportunity to fill -- start filling in those blanks.

WOODRUFF: Mike, what is your take on that?

MCCURRY: Well, I just am -- I was thinking of what Mary said. I just feel, with these events going on today in Serbia -- remember, you know, a year ago, we were at war with Milosevic. And now it looks like he is gone. And it's a reminder of the changes that have occurred in this world. Those are profound things. And the American people sort of understand that.

I think if they get down into, you know, some of the things that have occurred in the campaign storyline in the last two weeks, they will look kind of puny. My guess is they are going to try to talk a little bit more about foreign policy, about the world than they might otherwise do. But Mary is essentially right that they're there to make the best case for the people that the American voters really do vote for: the candidates for president.

And the candidates for the vice president really only affect the equation at the margin.

WOODRUFF: All right, Mike McCurry and Mary Matalin -- and we are going to see you both in a little while, both before and after tonight's debate. Thanks a lot.

And that is all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. But of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's

We'll see you again tomorrow, when Al Gore will be on the campaign trail in Florida and New York. George W. Bush will be in Iowa and Illinois. And a reminder: Our special pre-debate coverage begins tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. The 90-minute vice-presidential debate starts at 9:00 Eastern. And we will have post-debate analysis immediately after at 10:30 Eastern.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

"WORLDVIEW" is next, with the very latest on developments in Yugoslavia.



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