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Crossfire

Should Democrats Mess With George W. Bush's Texas Record?

Aired October 10, 2000 - 7:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DNC AD)

NARRATOR: What you're seeing is the worst smog in America. The city? Houston, Texas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DNC AD)

NARRATOR: When the national minimum wage was raised to 5.15 an hour, Bush did nothing and kept the Texas minimum wage of 3:35.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARY MATALIN, CO-HOST: Tonight, Democrats take aim at Bush's Texas record, but should they mess with Texas?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Come on down. We welcome to talk about the Texas record.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press; on the right, Mary Matalin. In the crossfire, in Austin, Gore Texas co-chair Garry Mauro, former Democratic candidate for governor, and Texas Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry, state chair of the Bush campaign.

MATALIN: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE.

With all the latest polls showing a dead-heat or a Bush lead, Democrats launched a multimedia assault on the governor's Texas record. While Democratic Party truth squads assailed Democratic designated Texas trouble spots on the ground, the airwaves are spewing attacks crosscountry in battleground states.

Gore, down for debate prep, said he hadn't seen the ads, and Bush, campaigning in Gore's home state, welcomed the scrutiny of his record.

So tonight, two Texans talk tough. Is Texas a mess or will Gore's messing with Texas backfire? -- Bill. BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: All right. Let's get some Texas talk tough -- tough talk.

(LAUGHTER)

Hell, I'm not from Texas. Governor Perry, good evening. Thank you for joining us on CROSSFIRE.

LT. GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), STATE CHAIR OF THE BUSH CAMPAIGN: Good evening. Glad to be here.

PRESS: Let me just start with a procedural question, governor, if I may. Governor Bush has said from the beginning of this campaign, I'm a proven executive, I'm a governor of the nation's second-largest state, I've got a track record, basically look at my record and you can see how well I do.

So, governor, you would agree that examining the governor's record to see how it stands up is fair game and does not constitute a personal attack, correct?

PERRY: Well, absolutely. We're proud of what we've done here in Texas over the course of the last six years under Governor Bush's leadership, and we don't mind people looking at Texas. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of folks that use Texas as a model today.

PRESS: All right. Well, let's take a look and let's start with the environment. This is an ad that the Democratic National Committee is running, just a little bit of one, which is very similar to an ad that the Sierra Club has been running in this campaign in Texas and other states.

Please listen to just a little bit of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DNC AD)

NARRATOR: There's nothing wrong with your screen. What you're seeing is the worst smog in America. The city? Houston, Texas.

As governor, George W. Bush made key air pollution rules in Texas voluntary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: So, governor, since 1995, when George Bush became governor, Houston is now the No. 1 dirtiest city, in terms of air pollution, city in the country, and Texas, the No. 1 dirtiest air- polluted state. Do you think having the nation's dirtiest air is anything to brag about?

PERRY: Well, even CNN said that's old and outdated data. As a matter of fact, the Environmental Defense Fund called the mandatory bill that Governor Bush signed last legislative session the strongest in the nation.

What you're seeing is those emissions in Texas going down during the Bush administration, going down significantly, as a matter of fact, whether it's SO2, whether it's NO2, whether it's volatile organic compounds, down by 43 percent, while the rest of the nation we're seeing numbers not even close to that.

So under George Bush's leadership, there's been some extraordinary progress made in cleaning up the air in Texas. And that's the facts and that comes from Carol Browner, the EPA data.

PRESS: Well, governor, I've got the EPA's data right here. I also have the transcript of what you referred to on CNN yesterday, which showed that last year -- and by the way, I'm from L.A.; I know what dirty air is.

Last year, Houston had 50 days of unhealthy air, according to Carol Browner at the EPA. Los Angeles had 27. So we're going to believe you or do we believe the EPA and the Sierra Club?

PERRY: Well, the data's there in front of you. When you talk about the percentage of decreases in Texas in all of those categories that I just mentioned, including carbon monoxide, they're down. That is irrefutable evidence of making progress in Texas.

PRESS: How can you be rated, Houston, the No. 1 dirtiest city in the air, governor?

PERRY: Well, when you want to look at one measurement -- and that's ozone and that's what you're looking at -- Texas has been out of compliance with ozone. And one of the reasons is very simple, and that's where Texas is relative to its longitude. It is down literally in the tropic part of the world where the heat is what causes ozone. If New York City were in the same area as Houston, it would be knocking the top out of the numbers.

MATALIN: All right, Mr. Mauro, I want you, if you can, clear up a curiosity for me. As you know, as you well know, Governor Bush was the first governor in Texas history to receive consecutive four-year terms. He beat you by 37 points, 68 to 31 percent. So if all these attacks ads that the Democrats are running about the Texas are true, Bush's Texas record are true, there's only two possible explanations: that Texans are really stupid or you're the worst candidate in the world. I don't think either of those are true. So what is your theory on why George Bush, George W. Bush was rewarded by the citizens of Texas with that historic landslide re-election?

GARRY MAURO, TEXAS CO-CHAIR OF THE GORE CAMPAIGN: Well, the fact is I was the worst candidate for raising money. I did get outspent 17-to-1. It's tough running against an incumbent governor, especially whose father has been president of the United States.

But all of the research has always shown that if Texans understood Governor Bush's positions on the issues -- in other words, if I'd have had enough money to run TV, we would have beat him. And that's why I announced.

I'm not a silly candidate or a stupid candidate. I ran because I believed that if they understood his record on the environment, for instance, they'd vote for me.

I mean, the fact is we still have grandfathered plants: 35 percent of the pollution in this state is still created by grandfathered plants -- that is, plants that don't have to abide...

MATALIN: All right, Garry, I want to stick to the big picture here, because the EPA has said that Texas leads the nation in reducing toxic emissions. I want to ask you something again about the...

MAURO: That's -- but they still lead...

MATALIN: Excuse me. Excuse me, Mr. Mauro. This historic landslide re-election -- in that race against you, the godfather of your daughter, the leading -- the late great Bob Bullock, lieutenant governor, leading Democrat of the state, did not endorse you, his near flesh and blood. He endorsed a Republican.

Do you think the lead Democrat in the state would endorse a Republican over his near flesh and blood if George W. Bush hadn't done right by Texas?

MAURO: Well, you know, Bob Bullock and I were good friends for a long, long time, and when he died we were good friends. And I was at his funeral and I consider myself very close to that family. But I didn't make my career by agreeing with Bob Bullock, and when I worked for him, one of the reasons he kept me around was because I told him when he was wrong, and he was wrong about George Bush and his record as governor. And I have no qualms about disagreeing with Bob Bullock.

Bob Bullock is a great lieutenant governor, but he's not a great person to tell everybody who they ought to vote for in the state of Texas.

Bullock and I had a great relationship, but the relationship was based on me telling him when he thought I was wrong, him telling me when he thought I was wrong. And the fact is he was just wrong about George Bush.

MATALIN: So he is the leading Democrat who worked most closely with George Bush in the Texas legislature that passed all the legislation that George Bush campaigned on in the first instance, that was supported by 68 percent of Texans in his re-election bid. Everybody in Texas is wrong and the attack ads are right?

MAURO: Well, the attack ads happen to be right. He is wrong on the environment. He's wrong on a lot of other things. His record on the education isn't good. His record on health care isn't good. He vetoed a patients' bill of rights. He tries to claim now he's a big supporter of a patients' bill of rights.

I mean, the guy's got a record that if you really examine it, Mary, doesn't -- isn't in step with most Texans.

PRESS: Governor, I -- I'm sorry. Governor Perry, I want to pick up on the point of education, because it is the issue that Governor Bush talks about probably more than any other, and I believe it's an issue that he genuinely cares about.

At the same time, you know, the Bush people have been bragging about this RAND study that showed that Texas is No. 1 in the nation when it comes to education. If you look at that study, governor, as you know, that study is based on performance in Texas between the years 1990 and 1996. Bush didn't become governor until 1995. So if credit is due in Texas, be fair, isn't it due to Mark White, to Ross Perot and to Ann Richards, and maybe an eensy-teensy bit to George Bush?

PERRY: Well, certainly, even the Fordham Foundation that did their study also said that Texas is one of the top two states in the nation relative to education reforms. If you look at the congressional study that was done that also had Texas at the top of the list.

The bottom line is that George Bush has done a great job with education in Texas. It is the model in the nation. If you want to see how to make a real difference in children's lives, you come to Texas and see what we've done with our reading program here.

Our African-American fourth-graders are leading the nation today. We've had an 89 percent increase in our minority students test scores. That's on George Bush's watch. And if the people of America want to see that happen in schools all across the nation, elect George Bush as the next president of the United States.

PRESS: Well, let's take a look at the record, in fact. I'm not saying there hasn't been improvement in some areas, but according to "The L.A. Times" just last month, governor, they went down, they looked at the record in Texas. Here's what they reported.

In terms of teachers' salaries, Texas ranks 29 out of 50 states; spending per pupil in education, 35 out of 50 states; high-school dropouts, 45 out of 50 states.

Governor, that's a model before the nation?

PERRY: It's a good thing they didn't come down before George Bush got here, when Ann Richards was the governor and Gary's party was in power. The bottom line is George Bush has increased teacher pay a substantial margin in the years that he's been here, over 35 percent increase in teacher pay with George Bush.

We've had $8.7 billion more spent in Texas on our education on K though 12. I mean, that's a substantial increase. For anyone to come down here and point fingers at George Bush or the Texas legislature -- Democrats and Republicans alike, I might add, working together, I think don't have their facts together.

We're proud of what we've done in Texas, and George Bush is rightfully proud for leading this state in education reform.

PRESS: But governor, it may have been wherever you were before -- 35 or 40 -- certainly there's been improvement. But in terms of teachers' salaries you're still 29th out of the 50 states. I mean, come on.

PERRY: We had a record teacher pay raise last session of the legislature; and you, yourself, Bill, are even saying that we're making improvements in Texas; and I'll tell you, we're making some great improvements down here.

My children are both in public schools in Texas and, let me tell you, I know first-hand what's happening out there, and our children are getting a class education in the vast majority of the places in Texas and George Bush is one of the main reasons for it.

PRESS: All right, we've got more parts of the record. Garry Mauro just hold on there just a second, we'll be right back.

More parts of the governor's record to look at, including: Does his experience as a governor of Texas give him any experience in foreign policy? We'll get into that and a lot more when we come back.

More CROSSFIRE coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. After five years as governor of Texas, George Bush says he's a proven leader -- just look at his record. And that's what Democrats are doing this week, even sending vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman to Texas on what he calls a failed leadership tour; but Bush supporters insist his record on education, tax cuts and running the nation's second-largest state makes him ready for the oval office.

What's the truth? That's what we're trying to find out tonight with two Texas leaders, Rick Perry the Republican lieutenant governor of Texas and a Bush supporter on the right on your screen; and Garry Mauro, former Democratic candidate for governor of Texas and co-chair of the Texas-Gore campaign, appropriately sitting on the left -- Mary.

MATALIN: Mr. Mauro, let's -- before we go back to distorting Bush's record -- let's talk about the strategy of this attack, because you are a good candidate, you are a good strategist.

I want you to listen, for a moment, to something your candidate had to say today about this new attack launching.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: I will never make a negative personal attack against the governor. He has made a has been a habit of aiming them at me, but I will not reciprocate. Now, the DNC, you'll have to talk to them about their ads and Web sites. I haven't seen them. I will accept responsibility for what is done on my behalf.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATALIN: OK, Garry, first of all, he has launched multiple personal attacks on George Bush. That's a Jim Lehrer leg within the last debate. The Web site says and his hired thugs are calling George Bush woefully and purposely ignorant and babbling and incoherent.

But my point is this: Do you think, if Gore has dipped in the polls because of his attack strategy, don't you think it's dangerous for him to go on the attack?

MAURO: Not at all. I think that the majority of Americans and Texans would disagree with George Bush when they find out his position on issues.

I'm amazed that Rick sits there and talks about a teacher pay raise. In the '98 governor's race, I supported a $6,000 pay raise for teachers, which would have taken Texas teachers to the national average. George Bush opposed that. The Texas legislature, the Democrats forced him to accept a $3,000 dollar pay raise -- otherwise, we'd be close to 39th instead of 29th.

You know, we don't even have universal access to kindergarten in this state. George Bush says, I want local control. Local control means that 15 percent of the five-year-olds in this state don't have kindergarten because their school districts choose not to provide kindergarten.

We want to give universal access to four-year-olds. George Bush doesn't want to mandate school districts to give universal access to five-year-olds.

The more people know about George Bush's record, the more they're going to like Al Gore. "The Dallas Morning News" said the other day -- two weeks ago, that we aren't even abiding by our 24-student-to- teacher ratio from one through four.

MATALIN: So your explanation, Mr. Mauro, for Texas leading the nation in student improvement, particularly among Hispanics an African-Americans, your explanation for that is?

We're just making it up? Those tests scores, we're just making them up?

MAURO: No, no, no. I support the accountability strategy.

Now, there's a whole lot of people in Texas that think that we're teaching the toss test -- that we're spending too much time teaching kids how to take tests and not enough time educating them; but I think the Rand study is right.

But the Rand study, it's already been pointed out, covered through '96 and the fact is, Governor Bush had only been in office one session and less than a year. So he can take part of the credit for that, but accountability isn't all education is about. We've got to give universal access to kindergarten for kids. We've got to have class size mandates. We don't have them in this state.

PRESS: Governor Perry, let me come back to you on an issue that nobody's talking about in the campaign, which is foreign policy.

But, certainly, when you look at what's happened this week around the world -- when you look at what's happened in Serbia, when you look at what's happening now, still, in the Middle East, it's clear that everybody in the world looks to the president of the United States as the global leader.

Now, as governor, you know, Bush has been able to deal with, and had to deal with, fires and with floods and with tax cuts and with trial lawyers and with guns.

You'd have to admit, though, wouldn't you, that he has zero experience when it comes to foreign policy?

PERRY: Not at all. When your neighbor is Mexico and what's happening in Mexico and has happened over the course of the last six years and the relationship that George Bush has had with the government of Mexico, with Vicente Fox -- Governor Bush sent me on a trade mission to Chile, into Santiago, in 1995. I mean, all of George Bush's foreign policy -- in particular, dealing with Mexico, I think is very helpful to him.

You know, one of the interesting things for me was to watch that debate when George Bush was giving the right answer on how to deal with Milosevic and Al Gore sitting there saying, I don't know if we'd do that or not, I don't know if we ought to do that or not. That's kind of risky stuff.

And that's exactly what the administration was doing.

Either Al Gore doesn't know his foreign policy or he needs to be paying a little more attention to what's going on in D.C.

PRESS: Just to clarify the record, there, governor, at the time Russia did not support the outcome of the election, which elected Mr. Kostunica, which is why Al Gore said, we shouldn't put Russia in charge.

But I want to come back to what you just said about Mexico. You know, I used to work for a governor of -- I was policy director for Governor Jerry Brown in California. That's a neighbor of Mexico. I've been down there to Mexico with a governor -- a neighboring governor.

I've been in meetings in Mexico. I've been in meetings in California with the Mexican officials. Governor, are you telling me that those kinds of meetings qualify George Bush to negotiate an agreement between Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak? I mean, come on, governor. There's no comparison.

PERRY: Absolutely, I'm telling you that dealing with our friends in Mexico, dealing with the governor of Chiapas -- or dealing with the governor of Guanajuato, dealing with the president of Mexico -- if you're trying to say that Mexico is some kind of a second-rate country, then we will -- we disagree with you greatly here in Texas. It is a major-league country that's going to be even important, not only to Texas, but the United States.

MATALIN: Garry, I just want to ask you a true or false. We're running out of time here. Governor Bush ran on tort reform, welfare reform, education and juvenile justice. He ran on four issues. He delivered on four issues. He did that reaching across the aisle, because both chambers were controlled by Democrats. True or false?

MAURO: False. He didn't deliver on education. He didn't...

MATALIN: Deliver on all of those.

MAURO: No, he didn't. I mean, the fact is we don't have universal access for kindergarten in Texas. We have the highest drop- out rate for teachers. No teachers stays in Texas with the pay salaries -- the salaries we are paying our teachers right now. The fact is, we have a lot to do in education.

Our classes are overcrowded. The "Dallas Morning News" says there are thousands of classrooms in this state that have more than 24 kids in them. We all know that 24 kids is way too many kids to have in a classroom.

MATALIN: Well, you know what, Mr. Mauro, something must be right about the Texas public schools, because your partner there and the governor himself both sent their kids to the public schools.

Thank you both for joining us. We hope you enjoy all these visitors from your nation's capital and other places. Thanks for joining us.

And Bill Press and I will be back with our closing comments after this quick break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: You know, Mary, I agree that Texas is number one. It's number one in air pollution, number one in water pollution, number one in executions, number one in children without health insurance and working people without health insurance. Great record.

MATALIN: I can go one by one. There are more insured children in Texas State, 423,000 to be precise. And there are more uninsured American children today: over two million. OK. Texas leads in every one of those statistics relative to what's happening in the nation.

PRESS: Is that why a federal judge ruled against him?

MATALIN: But I want to ask you about this strategy of -- if you're trying to dig out from being a liar, why would you go about and point a strategy that distorts and lies about Bush's record? I don't understand this crazy desperation strategy.

PRESS: Well -- it's not a desperation strategy. I would point out, for the last year -- if I may -- George Bush and now Dick Cheney have been attacking Bill Clinton an Al Gore's record over the eight years. It is fair game to look at George Bush's record. And he has invited it.

MATALIN: Not to distort it. PRESS: He says: Look at my record.

MATALIN: Come on down. They're excited. We are excited to talk about his record of leadership and reform.

PRESS: They're not distorting it: number one in air pollution. You know, you don't have to mess with Texas. He already messed up Texas.

MATALIN: Leadership and reform.

PRESS: Phony record.

MATALIN: He promised. He delivered.

PRESS: From the left, I'm Bill Press. Go down to Texas, take a look for yourself. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

MATALIN: And proudly from the right -- come on down -- I'm Mary Matalin. Join us again tomorrow night for the debate and more CROSSFIRE.

PRESS: Right.

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