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CNN Late Edition
Latest Polls Show Bush Leading Presidential RaceAired October 22, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6 p.m. in Cairo, and 8 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this 90- minute LATE EDITION.
We'll get to our guests shortly but first, the hour's top stories.
BLITZER: And we now turn to the U.S. presidential race.
With just over two weeks until the election, the latest CNN/"USA Today" Gallup tracking poll being released at this hour shows Governor George W. Bush maintaining his lead over Vice President Al Gore, 50 to 41 percent. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader has 3 percent, Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan has 1.
And joining us from Miami to help sort out these new numbers, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.
And just to put these numbers, Bill, into some sort of perspective, the Newsweek new poll of likely voters has Bush 48 to 41 over Gore. The MSNBC/Reuters number is 45-41, Bush over Gore. The ABC News number is 48 Bush, 45 for Al Gore -- all relatively close not that far apart from the margin of error. What does that say to you?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: What that says is: Well, you remember George Bush said he didn't really want to debate and he tried to have a different format? He came out of these debates pretty good. He's opened up a lead in all the polls over Al Gore -- in our poll as we just reported, about 10 points -- and that lead in our poll, our tracking poll, has been pretty steady since the last debate last week, Bush has been maintaining a lead in around the 10-point range. As you can see, it's now 9 points. It's been nine to 11 points ever since the last debate last Tuesday. So it looks like the debates were pretty good for Bush.
BLITZER: What some of the Gore folks are saying to me, Bill, and probably to other reporters as well is, forget about the national polls right now, they're irrelevant, you got to look at the state polls in those handful of battleground states where this election, as far as the electoral college is concerned, is going to be decisive.
SCHNEIDER: Well, let me tell you what's really happening in these polls, both nationally and in the battleground.
What happened as a result of the debates was that the Republican base really mobilized. Very unusual, because at least in the first and third debates, most viewers thought that Gore won. But they didn't vote for him because they looked at the debates and they said they didn't like Gore.
And debates -- the effect of the debates was to mobilize the Republican base. They were more determined than ever to turn out to vote.
So the tighter you screen for likely voters, the better Bush does. And we have a screen that gets us what we believe will be the likely electorate, about half of the voting age population.
Now what that means is, that what Democrats have to do, particularly in the battleground states, is mobilize their own base. They have to get them out to vote. They haven't really done that yet. Since that costs money, they want to concentrate that effort in the states where it really counts, like Michigan and right here in Florida.
BLITZER: Well, speaking of Florida, very briefly, Bill, what are the latest numbers in Florida showing because a lot of people believe that despite the popular vote, if Governor Bush doesn't carry Florida, he probably won't win the electoral college?
SCHNEIDER: That's right. This is the critical battleground state. Bush has to win here. Of course his brother is the governor.
The latest polls show a very narrow lead for Governor Bush. It certainly too close to call by any standard. All of them show a narrow Bush lead.
This state has become competitive. Everyone, when you say Florida, they think of three groups: Jews, Cuban-Americans and retirees. The Cuban-Americans seem solidly Republican this year, mostly because of repercussions of the Elian Gonzalez case. Jews are voting almost completely Democratic with Joseph Lieberman, Al Gore's running mate. Retirees are tilting to Gore.
But they forget, there are a lot of new Florida voters right through the center of the state. Here they call it the interstate 4, the I-4 corridor. A lot of companies have moved to Florida. They're not retirees, most of them are not Jewish or Cuban-American, but they are new to Florida, they've come from other states. And their political loyalties are unknown. That's what's making Florida a battleground state.
BLITZER: All right, Bill Schneider in Florida, thanks for joining us.
As his poll numbers have increased, George W. Bush has taken a more confident tone, at least in recent days.
CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is in Austin, where in just two hours the Republican presidential candidate will kick off an event with his fellow GOP governors.
Candy, tell us what's going on.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: A lots of company for George Bush here in Austin on this rainy Sunday. Twenty- eight fellow Republican governors will join him as a kickoff event for what they call "Barnstorm for Reform." After this event the governors will collect in seven different groups and take off to fan out across the country, talking reform, talking first about the ability of governors to get things done. George Bush has often emphasized that in Texas he can get things done by reaching across the aisle. That is the message they will take out as long as well as issues.
But there is another thing at play here and that is that these governors are helping the grass roots that you just heard Bill Schneider talk about. They want to get out and mobilize that vote.
Now of course the mobilization and talking is going on at every level, including the Sunday talk shows, where they talk issues. But on both sides, everybody believes that there is something else play in this election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. TOM RIDGE (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I also think it ends up, at end of the day, being the simple fact that people like George Bush. They are comfortable with George Bush, they believe in him, they want principled leadership and they believe they are going to get it from him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: He doesn't have experience. I think that is very clear, in foreign policy in particular. This is a serious position we are electing, as president of the United States. People want to know that this person himself, not his staff, has the capacity to be the leader of the free world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Now on the experience issue, the Bush team likes to point out that Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton all came from the governor's house, none of them with any foreign policy experience to speak of.
BLITZER: Candy Crowley in Austin, thank you very much.
And joining us now to talk about presidential politics, the Middle East and a lot more is White House chief of staff, John Podesta.
Mr. Podesta, welcome back to LATE EDITION.
And I want to begin with the crisis in the Middle East. The president was at Sharm el-Sheikh this week, negotiating, trying to broker a truce, if you will. It seems to be, by all accounts -- you saw a report from Jerrold Kessel -- unraveling, if it had ever achieved anything.
JOHN PODESTA, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, look, Wolf, it's a very difficult situation. There is still violence. I think that first and foremost and I think what was achieved at Sharm el-Sheikh was a commitment to try to get that violence under control, to try to reduce the violence, for both sides to make efforts and to keep some commitments that they both have made to reduce the violence and then find a pathway back to the negotiating table.
Until the violence is reduced and eliminated, that is going to be very difficult. But we are going to work very hard at it. The president talked to Chairman Arafat on Friday, he talked to Prime Minister Barak last night. He's going to talk to him again today. And we are working hard to try to implement that agreement.
BLITZER: What about Prime Minister Barak's call today for what he says is timeout in this peace process, undefined how long, that may be?
PODESTA: Well, again, given the circumstances, you can understand the frustration. And as we have said, until we can get this violence suppressed and under control, it is very difficult to find a pathway back to the negotiating table.
There have been timeouts in the past, and they have -- and what I think is important is that we get the violence reduced, under control, and then I think we can get back to the pathway to find a peaceful resolution and a long-term solution to this conflict.
BLITZER: So you don't have a problem with the timeout per se. One step at a time.
PODESTA: Well, I think you have to deal with it on a one-step- at-a time bases. We don't want to see a long timeout, if you will, from the peacemaking process. There has to be a way back. But under the circumstances, today, the first and foremost need is to get the violence under control and to reduce that level of violence.
PODESTA: And the president, obviously, will be talking to the prime minister about what he specifically has in mind. But, as I said, we've got to work with both parties to meet their obligations, meet their commitments under the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement, and then we got to find our way back to the peacemaking process.
BLITZER: Our reporters and producers who cover the president, telling us the president is on the phone right now, even as we speak, with Prime Minister Barak. Do you believe the president is satisfied with the way Prime Minister Barak and the Palestinian Authority President Arafat have implemented the agreement at Sharm el-Sheikh?
PODESTA: Well, you know, some implementation has taken place. I think both sides need to do more, obviously, while the violence still goes on in the streets in the West Bank in Gaza. Not enough is being done and both sides need to commit themselves to the path of dealing with the violent confrontations that are taking place.
BLITZER: Well, specifically, tell us what both sides have to do. What does Yasser Arafat have to do, first of all?
PODESTA: Well, I think that obviously he controls his security forces and they need to do more to try to make sure that the provocations don't take place. And he's made some specific commitments in that regard.
He did issue his call for peace after Sharm el-Sheikh, but he's got use his offices and the security forces that he has under his control to stop this from continuing and, in fact, you know, the possibility of it escalating.
I think we need to get those commitments made, then we can go on to the other steps in the process in terms of both standing up -- this committee, which is U.S. led, to see what caused the particular flare- ups that occurred several weeks ago and what we can do to prevent them in the future.
BLITZER: But as you know, many U.S. officials and many Israeli officials are no longer convinced that Yasser Arafat has the authority, can control what's happening on the streets.
PODESTA: Well, maybe he can't control everything, but it's clear he can control some things, and he does have considerable authority, and he needs to get on and try to use the authority that he does have to try to deal with this current situation.
BLITZER: And on the other side, what is Prime Minister Barak have to do that he hasn't done yet?
PODESTA: Well, again, I think that what we do is to try to keep the commitments that were made -- we moved forward on some of them in terms of opening the airport, et cetera -- opening some of the inner passage ways.
But I think we got to do -- every one needs to use their best efforts not to have this confrontation, not to have the clashes, to keep the parties separated and to try to deal with this, to try to restore calm.
And I think over the course -- now that the Arab summit is over, over the course of the next days and into the next week, we'll see whether that's possible, and we certainly hope that it is and we're going to continue to work and use our best efforts with both sides to get on with it.
BLITZER: You heard Brent Sadler report from Cairo just a few minutes ago the Arab summit has ended. Tough talk against Israel, but no call to suspend relations with Israel completely. And a lot of money being promised to the Palestinians, especially from Saudi Arabia. What does the White House think of that?
PODESTA: Well, I think a lot of hot and frankly unfortunate rhetoric coming out of the summit, but I would say that with regard to action, the moderate voices won out. They rejected the calls that the Iraqis and some of the other radicals were taking and made a strategic judgment that a peaceful negotiation and a peace process in the interest of the entire region and in the interests of their people.
So I think it's, you know, it's kind of mixed news coming out of there, but I think it's a -- we're pleased that, with regard to the actions that are called for there, that the moderate voices led by President Mubarak have won out.
BLITZER: Let's move to area not that far away, in the Gulf, the Arabian-Persian Gulf, the attack on the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen, right in the harbor in Aden. Is the U.S. government any closer to identifying who is responsible for that attack?
PODESTA: Well, as you know Director Freeh has returned. They brought back a considerable amount of physical evidence.
BLITZER: The FBI director.
PODESTA: ... FBI Director Freeh -- considerable amount of physical evidence which is now being analyzed by the FBI. I think that there are no breakthroughs that I can report to you this afternoon, but I think that what is clear is that we have -- for the investigation going on at this time, I think we've assembled a considerable amount of evidence, and I'm sure that we are going to continue to work this case and we're going to crack this case. We're going to find out how is responsible. We're going to take appropriate action.
BLITZER: Appropriate action, meaning what? If you find out who is responsible, what does that mean?
PODESTA: I think it's -- it's inappropriate to sit here and to make -- and to say anything specifically. First, we need to crack the case. But I think we have shown that we have the capacity to reach a long way to find the perpetrators of this crime and to bring them to justice and call them to account.
BLITZER: The national security adviser to Governor Bush, Condoleezza Rice, issued a statement referring to his proposal that the U.S. should withdraw eventually its ground troops from the peacekeeping presence in the Balkans and Bosnia, in Kosovo. She went on to say in her statement, Condoleeza Rice, "Police functions in civil administration are not appropriate long-term roles for the American armed forces, and Governor Bush has made clear that our men and women in uniform should eventually be freed up for other missions."
That sounds like a reasonable position to the average person out there. Is it?
PODESTA: Yes, but in fact it was really kind of a stunning about-face from the U.S. leadership of our NATO mission in the Balkans. And it was, I think, particularly surprising to do that at a time when you saw the fruition of a long-term application of diplomacy and force in the Balkans, when you saw Milosevic voted out of office, when you see peace on the ground now.
And you see the U.S. leadership in that effort to reverse ethnic cleansing, to do an about-face at this point and to walk off the field and abandon the U.S.-NATO leadership role in there, was really, I think, kind of surprising.
And, you know, very often people suggest that Governor Bush -- don't worry about what he says in foreign policy because his, you know, his team will get it right. Well, this looks like a fully coordinated proposal that his team completely endorses. And I think it is wrong for the U.S., it's wrong for NATO, and I think it's wrong for the Balkans. And maybe they should crack out the history books and reread the history of the 20th century before they chart this risky course for the 21st century.
BLITZER: We have to take a quick break but one final question on an international issue before we do: Will the president include a visit to North Korea in the aftermath of his run upcoming trip to Vietnam, after the election?
PODESTA: Well, you know Secretary Albright is on her way there, I guess maybe getting there shortly. And she will assess progress that can be made with regard to missile proliferation and the other issues that we have with the North Koreans. She will be meeting with Kim Jong Il, and then we will make a decision about what the next steps are.
BLITZER: Right now it looks promising.
PODESTA: Well, right now I think we are waiting for Secretary Albright to meet with Kim Jong Il and figure out what the next steps are and what would be appropriate.
BLITZER: I'm sure John Podesta would want to go to Pyongyang if possible, but we'll hold off on that one.
Stand by. We have to take a quick break.
Just ahead, the race for the White House, on the campaign trail: Is President Clinton a friend or a foe for Vice President Al Gore? We will ask John Podesta when LATE EDITION continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a campaign that I am running my own. I'm running in my own right with my own vision about the future of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Throughout the campaign, Vice President Al Gore has been trying to stay out of President Clinton's shadow.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with White House Chief of Staff John Podesta.
Mr. Podesta, does Al Gore, as far as you know, and you're the White House chief of staff, want President Clinton in these final two weeks to go out on the campaign trail and work for him?
PODESTA: Well, sure, I think he wants the president to do what he can that will be effective to support the ticket, the Gore- Lieberman ticket, to support congressional candidates around country, and to, frankly, do what he has been doing.
But, first and foremost, what he wants him to do is to continue doing his job as president of the United States, to work on the Middle East, as we have been just been discussing, to work to bring this congressional session, which has been highly unproductive prior to the last couple of weeks, to a successful conclusion so that we can get some important investments in education that the president has been pressing for done. But I think we have time left over to go out and try to be helpful in this election.
BLITZER: You've got some days blocked out available for the president. Will he appear together -- does Al Gore want to appear together with Bill Clinton on same platform?
PODESTA: Look, I think that Al Gore has said what is the right strategy, quite frankly, and I think one that the president agrees with, which is that he needs to get out there and talk about the future, talk about how he's going to build on the progress that we have had over the last eight years, and talk about where he wants to take the country.
The president can play very much a supporting role in that effort and in some key places and in trying to motivate our core Democratic voters, but it's the vice president and his voice that's going to convince people to take the path that he's laid out for a prescription drug benefit for Medicare or strengthening Social Security or the other key issues that are at issue in this campaign.
BLITZER: The Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney was on Evans, Novak, Hunt and Shields on CNN this week, and listen to what he said about the possibility of Clinton going out to campaign for Gore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD B. CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's a sign of desperation on their part. I assume that since Al Gore has wanted to stay as far away from Bill Clinton as he could all through the campaign, the fact now that they are apparently talking about bringing him out is an indication that they think they are in big trouble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is Gore in big trouble right now? That's why he may ask Bill Clinton for some help? PODESTA: No, I don't think he's in trouble. This is a very tight race. You did an analysis at top end of this program about where it's at. I think he's in a good place in the key battleground states. And the reason I don't think he's in trouble is because he has got the right prescription for where we ought to go in future in this country and I think that is what he's going to be out talking about.
And I think that Mr. Cheney maybe ought to hold on to his seat a little bit, because I think he is going to be out there pressing the Bush-Cheney ticket on Social Security, on Medicare, on privacy, on other key, important issues that the American people really care about.
BLITZER: You spend a lot of time dealing with the leadership in Congress, the Republican and the Democratic leadership. The next stop-gap measure that keeps the government spending going expires, I take it, Wednesday night, and another continuing resolution, as it is called, will have to be passed. Is there any possibility at all, in the nature of what's going on -- three spending bills still have to be passed -- that there could be a government shutdown?
PODESTA: Well, we have said all along that that would be a terrible outcome. And we don't see any reason to have a government shutdown. But what the president said this week was, "Look, I have let you go, week at a time. You leave for five days, come back, work a day, and that is not getting the job done."
So, come Wednesday, if they still have not completed their work on the critical issues that are before this Congress, then we are just going to have go on a day-to-day basis. And he'll sign CRs on a day- to-day basis to keep the government running.
But what they've done is, they've put the most important priority for the American people -- educating our children -- as the last priority for this Congress, which, perhaps given the rest of the track record of this Congress, isn't surprising. But it's time, now, that they sit down with us and they address the critical needs that the president has been pressing since the State of the Union address in the budget in February.
BLITZER: We only have a second, as far as education being important, is minimum wage something that is absolutely critical, getting that increased this time around?
PODESTA: Yes, absolutely. I think they found the time to raise their own pay. It's now time for them to raise the pay of 10 million hardworking Americans who are struggling to stay out of poverty by working hard. And they ought to do it before they leave here.
BLITZER: OK, John Podesta, the White House chief of staff, always good to have you on our program, thanks for joining us.
PODESTA: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you. Coming up next, with the contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore still close, some key states are up for grabs. We'll talk about what both candidates need to do to win the battleground states.
Joining us will be Michigan Republican Governor John Engler and Democratic Party Chairman Ed Rendell.
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GEORGE BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me tell you what I think. I think Michigan is going to be Bush-Cheney country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: God bless you. Let's win western Michigan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: George W. Bush and Al Gore are locked in a close contest in several key battleground states like Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Joining us now to talk about that are two guests: in Austin, Texas, one of George W. Bush's earliest supporters, Michigan Governor John Engler; and in Philadelphia former mayor of that city and the current general chairman of the Democratic Party, Ed Rendell.
Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION. Good to have you.
Let me begin with you Governor Engler. There is a new poll, relatively new in the last few days, a poll in Michigan shows Governor Bush with 43 percent, Al Gore with 43 percent.
I was there this past week. I don't think it can get much tighter in your state, can it?
GOV. JOHN ENGLER (R), MICHIGAN: No, that is right. It is a very hard-fought state. I think Michigan is going to decide the presidential election. That is fine with me.
That same poll a couple of weeks ago showed Al Gore leading George Bush by eight points, so there has been a nice bit of movement there. But we still have work to do.
And two weeks is a long time in a campaign, so we've got a lot planned.
The barnstorming governors are going to leave Austin today, Wolf, to fan out over the country stressing that George Bush is, as advertised, a man who can get things done. And we think the strength of Republican governors and the executive leadership we provided at the state level transfers very neatly to Washington with Governor Bush.
BLITZER: Mayor Rendell, what about Michigan, Al Gore? Is it time for the vice president, the Democratic presidential candidate, to ask the president, Bill Clinton, to come into Michigan and try to bring out the Democratic base, bring out some of the votes in the urban areas of Detroit and elsewhere, union members, where Bill Clinton is still very popular?
ED RENDELL, DNC CHAIRMAN: Well, you know, the vice president, as he said, is running his own campaign. And although the president is popular, so is the vice president.
Wolf, I was in New Orleans Friday night at a rally with the vice president and Philadelphia last night, and the mood of the crowd was explosive. The vice president is hitting his stride, he's talking about keeping the prosperity going, prosperity on the ballot, he's talking about framing the issues well.
I think he is our best get-out-the-vote person. People want to hear and see the candidate. And the vice president is on fire. He's doing great.
And as far as those Republican governors, I think Governor Engler has done a great job. But remember the Michigan primary. Governor Engler, who has done a great job in Michigan, couldn't persuade the Michigan Republican voters that Governor Bush was ready for prime time.
BLITZER: Well, that's because -- and Governor Engler on that point, John McCain did win the Republican primary in Michigan. But I want to ask you this question.
ENGLER: And yesterday John McCain and John Engler were standing side- by-side with Dick Cheney saying, "Look, don't risk the Michigan economy with Al Gore. Let's get George Bush elected."
RENDELL: Except, Governor, John McCain said Governor Bush's tax plan was a joke and it left not a penny for Medicare, not a penny for Social Security. He said that in the Michigan primary.
ENGLER: Well, John McCain spoke out very directly yesterday and said that Al Gore is the wrong choice for America, that he had full and complete confidence in Governor George W. Bush and urged all of his supporters, indeed all Michiganians, including a lot of UAW members who were there yesterday, to stand with us to make sure that in fact we don't put Al Gore in charge.
RENDELL: So he took back that stuff about the tax cut.
BLITZER: All right, let me just get back to Governor Engler for one second about this whole question: Bill Clinton, Michigan. Bill Clinton carried Michigan twice in '92 and '96. What do you think, Governor Engler, would be the impact of Bill Clinton now coming into Michigan trying to help Al Gore?
ENGLER: Well, I don't know. I have been certainly enjoying the Democratic angst over what to do with Bill Clinton. I mean, love him and hate him.
I think by the end Al Gore is going to be begging Bill Clinton to come in and help him out. I think that they will probably have Bill Clinton in there because I think Al Gore will be trying anything at the end.
I think his campaign tone, you can see it in some of the ads that Mr. Rendell is running. They're getting increasingly shrill, increasingly hard-edged, and I think that these are desperate folks. And they can feel it slipping a little bit, just a little bit more each and every week.
And George Bush winning the debates has really had a galvanizing effect among Republicans and independent voters. And I think you are seeing where the Democratic party now, and Al Gore himself, I think increasingly are going to be frenzied and frenetic as they rush about the country. I think they will say and do anything, as Bill Bradley indicated.
RENDELL: Can I just say one thing on that?
BLITZER: Yes, Mayor, go ahead.
RENDELL: Wolf, I was -- talk about enthusiasm, I was in Grand Rapids about eight days ago, and a week before I was there, the vice president was there, and we drew 9,000 people to a rally in the town square.
Governor Bush was there the night I was there and drew 4,000 people to an auditorium.
RENDELL: So in terms of enthusiasm, it's coming. Our voters always get enthusiastic late in the day, and now every major newspaper today in battleground states, like the Detroit Free Press in Michigan, in Washington, in Georgia, in Minnesota, they're all endorsing Al Gore as the best qualified, best experienced candidate. It's going to roll now as people start to get serious about the election.
BLITZER: Well, let me ask you a question about Pennsylvania, your state. It's very close in Pennsylvania, and it could go either way. Why is Al Gore having such a difficult time locking up the Democratic base and the rest of the vote in Pennsylvania?
RENDELL: Well first of all, Wolf, understand, Pennsylvania has no state-run elected Democrats, except Bob Casey. It's got a Republican governor, Republican senators, Republican legislature. So, the fact that Bill Clinton carried twice is a testament to the Clinton-Gore team. Al Gore's been ahead, he's back ahead in our own internal tracking polls above the margin of error, and we're going to have a great get-out-the-vote program in Pennsylvania.
As a Pennsylvanian, I'm taking the last seven days off my national schedule, and I'm doing a bus tour with Pennsylvania elected officials, union leaders, African American leaders. We're going to go around the state, we're going to galvanize Pennsylvania and we will win Pennsylvania.
BLITZER: All right, Ed Rendell, John Engler stand by, we have to break. Up next, your phone calls for the Michigan governor and the chairman of the Democratic party. LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We are talking about the presidential race, as it heads into the final two weeks, with Michigan Republican Governor, a Bush supporter, John Engler, he joins us from Austin, Texas, and the Democratic Party General Chairman Ed Rendell, who's in Philadelphia.
Gentlemen, let's take a quick caller from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Go ahead with your question, please.
QUESTION: Yes, thanks for taking my call.
Ed Rendell, I was wondering -- I think it is a good idea to bring President Clinton out onto the campaign trail, and I was wondering if any other big-name people could possibly join him, possibly even Monica Lewinsky?
BLITZER: A little humor there. We won't take that seriously.
But, Ed Rendell, the whole question of the National Rifle Association -- there are a lot of hunters, sportsmen in Pennsylvania, as there are in Michigan. Wayne LaPierre was on ABC earlier today. I want you to listen to what he said. He's of the NRA, and what he's planning on doing to get out his vote. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NRA: I think tens and hundreds of thousands of people are going to vote because the union guys and the women in the shops, they don't believe George Bush is a threat to their job, but they know in their heart Al Gore is a threat to their freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: How much of a role will gun control play in the vote in Pennsylvania and in Michigan, as far as you can tell, Mayor Rendell?
RENDELL: Well, I think what Wayne LaPierre said is a bunch of junk. Let's be clear. Bill Clinton and Al Gore have done some things for gun safety to control the flow of automatic weapons into the hands of criminals and young people. But as the president says, no hunter has lost a day in the deer woods, an hour in the deer woods, because of the Brady bill, which has been so successful in keeping the guns out of the hands of criminals.
What Al Gore wants to do makes sense: decent waiting period, mandatory trigger locks, stop these automatic weapon clips from being imported. They're illegal here in the United States.
But in no way do we intend to take away any of the rights of hunters or homeowners, and I think in areas like the Philadelphia suburbs, the Detroit suburbs, gun safety plays very, very well.
And, you know, people are -- the NRA members are more sophisticated than Wayne LaPierre gives them credit for. In a poll I saw, 65 percent of the NRA supported the Brady bill, even though NRA members -- even though the NRA was against it.
BLITZER: Well, Governor Engler, on that issue, the vice president is also supporting licensing for new handgun owners. In your state, in Michigan, there are serious differences on gun control between Governor Bush and Al Gore, differences that the NRA is trying to exploit, obviously. Is this going to hurt Governor Bush in those suburban areas of Detroit, as Ed Rendell is suggesting?
ENGLER: No, because Governor Bush takes a very common-sense position that I think everyone agrees with: Let's prosecute to the fullest extent of law people who commit felonies and crimes using a firearm.
And we have seen the federal prosecutions decline under the Clinton-Gore administration. We have seen things like Project Exile really kind of languish under the Clinton-Gore administration.
So I think Bush is right on tough enforcement of the law is the best deterrent. And the union folks, the rank-and-file men and women in the truck plant, for example, that Governor Bush recently visited, treated him like a rock star. I mean, they are for him, not just because of the gun issue, but things like "Earth in the Balance."
Wolf, I brought my dog-eared copy along. Today, the Detroit News, in a full-page editorial of Governor Bush, cited the threat that Al Gore represents to Michigan workers and their jobs. And I think that it comes down to this business of continue the prosperity, but I think people are saying George Bush is the way prosperity gets continued.
In fact, even when it comes to trusting people with their own money, through tax cuts or investing their own Social Security, again, George Bush will look in the eye that young man or woman working in the plant and say, "I trust you."
RENDELL: Wolf, I have to correct one thing, though, Wolf. Governor Engler made a mistake, and I know it was unintentional. Federal prosecutions are up. I have a Project Exile in Philadelphia underway; it's doing very good, thanks to the United States attorney's office, and everybody should remember that Governor Bush's own Department of Safety did not enforce those gun laws that he's talking about, and the first thing Governor Bush did as governor was sign a bill overthrowing 125-year ban... ENGLER: There they go again.
RENDELL: ... 125-year ban on carrying concealed deadly weapons in Texas. That was the first thing he did. That's a fact, governor, that's a fact.
ENGLER: All right, but all of the governors are here, all of the governors from across the country representing urban states, and some of the smaller states, and we're all here with one thing in mind, that we look at George Bush and we see this man has done the job in Texas, he is a leader among all leaders, and we think he's the right man for the presidency, and on these issues, he's right.
BLITZER: Governor Engler, Mayor Rendell, unfortunately we are all out of time, but...
RENDELL: Thanks Wolf.
BLITZER: ... we will love to have both of you continue this conversation another time on LATE EDITION.
ENGLER: We've only got 14 days, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, we'll see.
RENDELL: Thanks Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.
And the fight is also on for control of Capitol Hill, but for Democrats in the Senate, it's an uphill battle. We'll talk with two senators responsible for making sure their parties are in charge, Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, and New Jersey Democrat Robert Toricelli.
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
BLITZER: In addition to the presidential race, November's election will determine which party controls the next Congress. Joining us now are two senators responsible for making sure their party is in the majority.
In our New York bureau, New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli. He's chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
And here in Washington, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell. He chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Senators, it's always good to have you on LATE EDITION.
I want to begin with you, Senator McConnell. And before we get to politics, you chair the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee responsible for foreign aid. There are some members of the Senate who want to cut off aid to the Palestinians, to Yasser Arafat, because of what's going on in the Middle East. What do you say about that?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: I think we will not take that step. Basically the attitude is that we ought to give the administration a chance here to try to get the parties back together.
But I must say, support for continuing help for Palestinians is at an all-time low, and if things don't improve, Wolf, over the next few months, that will be a real problem for the PLO next year.
BLITZER: What about that, Senator Torricelli? You are a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. You have to deal with authorization bills involving aid to the Palestinians. Is that aid in trouble?
SEN. ROBERT TORRICELLI (D), NEW JERSEY: I agree with Mitch McConnell. I think it is very difficult to any longer believe that Yasser Arafat is attempting to control this violence. If he didn't instigate it, he's certainly not helping to control it. And I think it makes it very difficult to explain to the American people continued aid to the Palestinians under these circumstances. Time is very short for Mr. Arafat to get back in this peace process and be responsible.
BLITZER: All right. Let's shift gears and talk about politics.
And I want to ask you, Senator Torricelli, on this whole issue of whether Clinton is a help or a hindrance to Al Gore at this late stage in the campaign -- what's your take?
TORRICELLI: Well, let me answer first from a senatorial context, I met with White House officials on Friday and I spoke with the president on Friday night. He will be campaigning for candidates for the U.S. Senate. I asked him to go to several specific states and he accepted.
I believe in the closing days he will be equally helpful to the Gore administration.
I understand, Al Gore wants to be seen as his own man. He is his own man; I think that is established. But we have a lot to be proud of in the last eight years: this record economic growth, growing federal surplus, changing federal priorities.
And I think while the focus remains on Al Gore, Bill Clinton has an important role to play.
BLITZER: You want Bill Clinton to be campaigning for those Democratic Senate candidates?
MCCONNELL: Well, we welcome the president to the fray. It's taken all the discipline he could muster to stay out of it this long. He's been chomping at the bit to get into it. Now apparently he will and we are glad to have him in the contest.
BLITZER: Arguably, a lot of people say whether you love him or hate him, he may be one of the greatest politicians of our age. MCCONNELL: He may be. But 73 percent of the American people wouldn't vote for him for a third term. And I think he probably would be smarter to keep quiet and exit the stage at end of the year.
But we are happy to have him in the race, and welcome him obviously in any of these contests he wants to make appearance in.
BLITZER: Senator Torricelli, what states did you ask Bill Clinton to visit to help Senate candidates?
TORRICELLI: If I tell you that, are you going to tell Mitch McConnell?
BLITZER: I'll tell the whole world watching right now so go ahead and share that information with us.
TORRICELLI: Well, he's obviously going to spend a great deal of time campaigning with Hillary here in New York, which one would expect and that is the right thing for him to do.
But there are several other close Senate contests where I think Bill Clinton uniquely can give the contrast to these issues on prescription drugs, health care, and education and also turn out the Democratic base. Otherwise, in the specific geography, let's leave it at that.
BLITZER: Let me bring Senator McConnell back in.
At the debate the other night, the third and final presidential debate, you heard the Republican candidate, George W. Bush, say he wants a patients bill of rights. Listen to what he said at that debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We're one of the first states that said you can sue an HMO for denying you proper coverage.
I support national a national patients' bill of rights, Mr. Vice President. And I want all people covered. I don't want the law to supersede good law like we've got in Texas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, Senator McConnell, two days later President Clinton weighed in on what the Republican candidate said. Listen to President Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I almost gaged when I heard that answer on the patients' bill of rights in Texas. Could you believe that? Here's a guy takes credit for a bill that he vetoed, and then he was bragging about how you have the right to sue in Texas. Did you hear that? You know how that got in? Without his signature.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is the president wrong? I mean factually, he did veto that and then he never signed it into law.
MCCONNELL: We all know the president has a great record for telling the truth. The truth is that Governor Bush did veto the bill, it left out two of the biggest HMOs in Texas. He subsequently issued an executive order that included those two HMOs, and by all accounts was a much better way to go in assuring the kind of patients' protections that the people in Texas wanted and deserved to have.
BLITZER: All right, Senator Torricelli, you familiar with what happened in Texas?
TORRICELLI: I am familiar with it and you know, if Al Gore is going to be held responsible for how long a little girl didn't have a desk, we should apply the same standards to George Bush. There's a patients' bill of rights in Texas that happened without George Bush's support, and the right to sue people who might hurt you or your family exists over his objections.
It is a credibility issue, again. You are who you are in public life. He would have done better simply to state the position of his party, which is opposed to patients' bill of rights and if to this date, George Bush really wants a patients' bill of rights for the American people, we could use his help right now, because we could pass one in the United States Senate with one or two more Republican votes. He should get on the phone and get to Washington today; we could still do it in the closing days of the Senate.
BLITZER: Well, let's ask Senator McConnell, what about that? You want the governor to help you pass a patients' bill of rights in the Senate?
TORRICELLI: Our problem is not the governor, our problem is the president and the vice president, who want to reward their rich plaintiffs lawyer friends, rather than get a real patients' bill of rights that includes an expedited both internal and external review that guarantees that you'd get health care quickly, rather than a lawsuit that may benefit your beneficiaries.
BLITZER: All right, I think by all accounts, Senators, this race in the final two weeks is going to get ugly; it's going to be a lot meaner than it's been. Listen to this exchange that occurred earlier today on "Meet the Press" between Bill Bennett and Jesse Jackson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BENNETT, EMPOWER AMERICA: I believe Al Gore is a habitual liar, yes, I do, and it's not easy to say but the record says it.
JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COOALITION: It does not serve any of us well for us to be calling these men liars... BENNETT: Well, I'm sorry.
JACKSON: ... because one of these men will be our next president, and I think that Mr. Bennett wants to cut Gore down so that he and Bush can have equal stature, and neither of us should do that.
BENNETT: I'm not interested in cutting Mr. Gore down. Mr. Gore has cut himself down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator McConnell, is Al Gore a habitual liar as Bill Bennett says?
MCCONNELL: I think it's going to be a robust discussion here at the end of the campaign. Certainly he has habitually embellished things to his own detriment. Even his own staff in his '88 run for president, sent him a memo saying, "You got to watch this, you're getting yourself in a lot of trouble." It's been a long-standing practice of the vice president and everybody knows it.
BLITZER: Let me ask Senator Torricelli. Is Governor Bush ready for prime time. Is he ready to be president of the United States? Some of your colleagues are suggesting, like Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, he's not ready for the job.
TORRICELLI: You know Wolf, first I think the race is likely to deteriorate, and I think it is very unfortunate that Mr. Bennett used those words. Al Gore is a fine man who has served his country for years; the American people deserve better than those kind of comments, and so does Al Gore.
I think both of these men seem to be fine gentlemen and patriots, and I think both have served their country well. I think there is a legitimate question about whether or not George Bush has the preparation and the experience to be president of the United States. Bob Kerrey probably said it best: "He is a high risk choice." The country has extraordinary prosperity, a performing economy. It is a complex international situation,
I cannot imagine in the last week with the situation in the Middle East, with President Clinton going to meet with the leaders of Palestine and Israel, if George W. Bush was cast in that role. I think most Americans need to go through a sobering process here about what it is we are doing as a country. We may like this man, we may agree with some of the things that he might say. But the American people cannot feel comfortable with giving the reins of power to George W. Bush, given his experience and apparent intellect.
BLITZER: Senator Torricelli, stand by, Senator McConnell. We have to take a quick break.
For our international viewers, world news is next.
For our North American audience, there's still another 30 minutes of LATE EDITION. We'll get the hour's top stories, then take your phone calls for Mitch McConnell and Robert Torricelli.
Plus, our LATE EDITION roundtable, and Bruce Morton's "Last Word."
It's all ahead when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll get to your phone calls for Senators Mitch McConnell and Robert Torricelli about campaign 2000 in just a moment.
BLITZER: Back to our conversation with New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli and Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell.
Senator McConnell, you are trying to get the Republican majority in the Senate to continue that Republican majority. The New York Times, today, endorsed in its editorial Hillary Rodham Clinton against Rick Lazio, saying this: "We have concluded that Mrs. Clinton is an unusually promising talent on the key issues of health care and education. Mrs. Clinton has the knowledge and the instincts to make a lasting impact on the Senate on national policy and on everyday lives of New Yorkers."
MCCONNELL: Well, it's not surprising that The New York Times would endorse a liberal Democratic candidate for the Senate in New York. I mean, that is kind of a -- not an unusual development.
What is unusual here is, Hillary Clinton, after developing something of a lead, Wolf, is falling sort of like a sinker at the Yankee stadium last night. She's back into a dead-even contest.
The people of New York I think are reluctant to elect someone from some other state to the Senate. And ironically, the World Series kind of sums it up. She is neither a Mets fan nor a Yankees fan. She's really a Cubs fan in all of this.
BLITZER: But she says she is a Yankees fan.
MCCONNELL: I bet she won't show up at a single game.
BLITZER: Well, let's see.
Senator Torricelli, you were among those encouraging the first lady to run for that Senate seat. Is she going to win or is she going to lose?
TORRICELLI: Well, Mitch McConnell was citing a single poll that has shown the race has gotten close. Indeed, our own polling, and I know Hillary's polling, is still showing a gap of 6 or 7 points. She is at 50 percent. Her endorsement by The New York Times today was very strong, that she is an unusual candidate of great intellect and to the standards of representing one of the great states in the nation, as they said, in the Robert Kennedy and Moynihan traditions. I think this is a race that she will win and win by a comfortable margin.
BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk about another subject close to the heart of Senator McConnell -- Kentucky.
There's an editorial in the Louisville Courier Journal today. Let me read to you an excerpt from that editorial: "We find Mr. Gore, the Democrat, to be clearly the superior candidate, and we endorse him. Mr. Gore offers sounder proposals for safeguarding Americans' economic security and for advancing American interests and principles abroad. Governor Bush demonstrates an intellect and grasp of issues that are mediocre, to be generous."
Your home state newspaper of the Courier Journal, in Louisville, endorsing Al Gore.
MCCONNELL: They've never endorsed a Republican for president in history.
BLITZER: Well, they've endorsed you twice when you were running for county judge.
MCCONNELL: But never for the Senate. This is not at all surprising. Governor Bush is going to carry Kentucky. He's way ahead there. Kentucky, which is typically thought of as a bellwether state, is so Bush this time that the Democrats have essentially abandoned it and shifted their money elsewhere.
BLITZER: It's irrelevant, another endorsement.
Let's take a caller from Lincoln, Nebraska. Please go ahead with your question.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. I would like to know why the media seems to -- or why these gentlemen seem to think -- or think that the media seems to ignore Governor Bush's foibles but they very much focus on those of Vice President Gore...
BLITZER: Do you believe that...
QUESTION: ... particularly after each debate?
BLITZER: Senator Torricelli, do you believe that the media ignores the foibles, if you will, of Governor Bush, but exaggerates the foibles of Vice President Gore?
TORRICELLI: I think these men have been held to very different standards. And the best authority of it is probably George W. Bush, who said on Letterman the other night that standards were so low for him, expectations in the debate, that if he said his name and said "Here I am," he won the debate. They have not been viewed equally. But I think as these endorsements from newspapers around the country begin to be written, something new is going to happen, a new phase in this campaign. They will be seen equally because I think the word is going to be in the final weeks, the emperor has no clothes. George W. Bush may be a fine fellow, but he simply cannot bear the scrutiny and the enormous responsibility of the presidency.
BLITZER: On that note, we will have to leave it Senators McConnell and Torricelli, thank you so much for joining us.
And up next: Al Gore says he is his own man, but does he need some 11th hour help from President Clinton? We will go around the table with Roberts, Page and Carlson when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable.
Joining me, Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief for U.S.A. Today; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for U.S. News and World Report; and Tucker Carlson, political writer for "The Weekly Standard."
Let's get right to it, Steve. Bill Clinton and Al Gore, what if anything should Bill Clinton be doing in these final two weeks?
STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, there is this -- this is the longest running psychodrama in American politics, and I think in the end that Al Gore's missing a beat. I know that Bill Clinton is not popular with a lot of people, but on the other hand, 81 percent, 81 percent of Americans say they're satisfied with the economy.
For the life of me, I do not understand why Al Gore's not running more strongly on the good record of the last eight years, not repeating the Ronald Reagan question, "Are you better off than you were eight years ago?" I know it's all tied up with this complicated, "Am I my own man, can I" -- his body language -- he seems to shrink in the presence of Bill Clinton. I think he needs Bill Clinton and more than that, he needs to run on the record of the last eight years, because running on his own personality is not going to win this election for him.
BLITZER: I spoke with a Gore campaign adviser who made the point that yes, in terms of the Democratic base and others, that's fine, but when you're talking about those swing voters, those undecided voters in Michigan and Florida, a few other places, you do focus groups, you bring Bill Clinton into the equation, it turns them off.
TUCKER CARLSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: Look, the most interesting part of this story is where did it come from. This idea that Gore isn't doing well because Clinton isn't at his side. Did it come from the Gore camp? No, of course not, it came from Bill Clinton, and it tells you something about Clinton's inability to get off the stage. Nobody has gotten the hook, someone ought to.
And I also take issue with the idea that Clinton is always and everywhere, a boon. I mean, take the interview he did with The Advocate the other day, in which he said -- in which he compared himself to the victims of Jim Crow in the way he was treated by Congressional Republicans during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. That's outrageous that he would say something like that. He isn't always a great politician, and I don't think it's at all clear that he would help Gore everywhere.
BLITZER: Maureen Dowd may or may not disagree with you. She writes in The New York Times today -- she's an excellent columnist whether you like her or not -- she writes, 'Mr. Gore is willing to campaign with any big name Democrat, except the man have who may be the most popular and articulate leader in the world."
SUSAN PAGE, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, he's a -- you know, he's the only Democrat since FDR to win two terms, so he's got something to offer politically, but we interviewed Vice President Gore yesterday, and he said the most important lesson he learned to this campaign was that he has to run as his own man, that initially he tried to run as a vice president seeking promotion and that was a mistake, and I think he's pretty well set on this course, even though he is getting advice from some very senior Democrats saying, that Clinton should be out there, he should be out there doing big get-out-the-vote rallies in some of the big cities in the battleground states.
ROBERTS: You know, I spent Friday in one of those battleground states, in Pennsylvania, just talking to voters for a whole day, and I came away with a very distinct impression that even voters who agree with Al Gore on the issues, and who do think the economy's pretty good, just don't like have him. It's that simple, it's that basic, it's that powerful. Lifelong Democrats saying they were not going vote for this guy.
And you notice his plan for the last two weeks has nothing to do with saying, "Al Gore's a wonderful guy." It's going to be two things: demagogue Social Security, and attack George Bush's qualifications, as Ed Rendell did. It has almost nothing to do with the kind of president he's going to be, because they know they can't sell him.
PAGE: You know, the Democrats think George Bush has now given them a big opening on that second question, the question of capacity to be president, with this discussion of whether to withdraw U.S. peacekeepers from the Balkans. That's something that Condoleezza Rice repeated on Friday. The campaign has said, yes, 100 percent, this is his position. Al Gore describes this as something that would undermine NATO, have serious international repercussions, and something that raises questions about whether Bush knows enough. No one who knows the repercussions of this decision would outline such a policy, he says.
BLITZER: Tucker, is that realistic that at this late stage, the effort to try to question Bush's credibility, his qualifications to be president, that that's going to resonate with anyone?
CARLSON: Look, attacks work and I'm totally for them, but they don't work well at the and. People tend to turn off. Three weeks and counting from an election people tend to discount attacks, and I think this attack, specifically, is a little esoteric to be effective. It's along the lines of Dingell-Norwood -- you know, the bill that Gore brought up in the last debate. I think the majority of people, especially undecided voters -- think about what it means to be undecided at this point -- hear Dingell-Norwood, or pulling out troops in the Balkans and say, you know, huh?
ROBERTS: On the other hand, I have thought, and we discussed this before, that the unrest in the Middle East could work for Gore's advantage, not just because of the Balkan question, but Torricelli brought up this question, and Rendell said as well: Can you imagine George Bush being the mediator between Arafat and Barak?
ROBERTS: Does he that kind of stature? Does he have that kind of knowledge? Does he have that kind of experience to be able to do that? The answer is, it's a much tougher thing to imagine than Al Gore in that situation. Now, how important that's going to be for voters, I'm not sure. But at least it's something that Gore has an advantage on.
BLITZER: But can you imagine Dick Cheney or Colin Powell, who would presumably might be in the Bush administration, being that kind of mediator?
ROBERTS: Sure you can. But, in the end, the buck does stop at the desk of the president, you know. And he's got to make the basic decisions. It's his judgment, his priorities, his temperament that decides the policies of the administration.
CARLSON: But the question is, do people care? And it's striking to me that Bush is still winning on defense. I mean, all the polls say he is more in line with the way people feel about where the defense policy should be. So even if people do have questions about his qualifications, which are fair questions, they don't seem to be bothered by them.
BLITZER: Susan, why is Bush doing as well as he appears to be doing on a snapshot, day-to-day basis in our CNN-USA Today Gallup tracking poll?
PAGE: Well, you know, I think the place where he could have stumbled in the three debates, he did not. He was good enough. Now, you can argue maybe Gore looked more confident in the third debate, and seemed to know the programs that he and Bush were both proposing in more detail. But Bush did not stumble, and I think that this argument about whether he is competent to be president is one that was better addressed in the debates. Having gotten through the debates, I think it's a hard thing to make when the candidates aren't head to head.
ROBERTS: You look at the poll, and Gore is only leading among women by two points in that poll, Wolf. And when I talk about people who I met in Philadelphia, who were drifting away from Gore, most of them are women, and they're doing it because of the personality questions.
BLITZER: And another huge wild card in all of those battleground states, at least several of them, the Ralph Nader factor, which we don't have time to talk about right now, but we will another time.
We have to take a quick break.
Coming up, campaign comics. George W. Bush and Al Gore keep making the talk show rounds, but is it really having any impact on voters?
The roundtable will weigh in when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our roundtable. Susan, some self- deprecating humor at the Al Smith dinner in New York Thursday night. Listen to a couple of snippets of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: I know some people are going to keep accusing of me exaggeration, so let me be clear: Those people seek nothing less than the complete destruction of the American way of life.
BUSH: I'm especially pleased that Mr. Milosevic has stepped down. It's one less polysyllabic name for me to remember.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Does that kind of stuff help with voters out there, undecided voters?
PAGE: Oh, yes, so much. In fact, I think both of these candidates missed a bet in the debates by not showing a little humor. I mean it's so completely disarming. You know, Steve talked about the way the voters are judging these candidates on their personalities. Surely showing a little self-deprecating humor is one of the best way to show yourself as a human being.
BLITZER: You know, Bob Dole says he should have done a lot more of that self-deprecating humor in '96. It might have helped him.
George W. Bush was on Letterman the other night reading the top 10 list. Tucker, listen to a couple of examples.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")
BUSH: Number three: Will not get sick on Japanese leaders like other President Bushes have.
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: Why can't we let bygones be bygones?
BUSH: Number two: Give Oval Office one heck of a scrubbing.
BLITZER: Pretty funny stuff.
CARLSON: Oh, just too fantastic. No, I mean you can say things with humor that you can't say otherwise. A lot of people have remarked correctly, I think, that politics, especially the national, is becoming sort of less formal, sort of less dignified than ever before. But this is one trend I think we can applaud. It's good to see people -- I think candidates owe an obligation to at least try to be funny and good.
BLITZER: Some people think it's not good because it does demean, supposedly, the office of the presidency. Does it?
CARLSON: Oh, please. I mean, I think, you know, I have always believed that Americans want a president who understands average people, but is not average himself. And I think that if -- you know, the whole Clinton thing with the running shorts, the answering stupid questions like boxers or briefs, that did diminish the presidency. Elizabeth Drew, Washington writer, had a wonderful line. She said, "Clinton lost the protective wrapping of the presidency there for a while." And I think he did demean himself. But I think he pulled back.
I think humor is very good. I think in the debates, I think Susan is right. Because these debates, taken together, really gave anybody who listened a chance to get a sense of these guys as people. In the end, we can talk all we want about issues, personality does matter. And I think in the end, the camera didn't lie and did show genuine insight into these two guys.
BLITZER: Susan, last word, briefly.
PAGE: Love humor; let's see more of it.
BLITZER: That was very briefly. We've got time to talk about the Yankees and the Mets. Forget about it.
ROBERTS: Go Yankees!
BLITZER: Steve, Tucker, Susan, thank you. We'll be back next week.
Just ahead, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines, plus Bruce Morton's "Last Word."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We don't need a rehash, "Who is that woman in the beret?" But we would like to know, do you think lying under oath about sex is an impeachable offense?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: For all of the debating, did George W. Bush and Al Gore ignore some key issues?
BLITZER: Time for Bruce Morton's "Last Word." The candidates did a lot of talking in the presidential debates, but Bruce thinks some important issues may have been overlooked.
MORTON (voice-over): The debates are over, of course. Still, there are some questions they never answered, never even got asked. Governor Bush, you've told us often that you spend serious time weighing the death penalty cases that come before you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The death penalty is very serious business, Leo . It's an issue that good people obviously disagree on. I take my job seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORTON: So, it was odd when you told us that all three of the men who killed James Byrd got the death penalty, when it turned out only two of them did. Sure, you'd be more accurate if it were U.S. infantry divisions or aircraft carriers, but it's a little worrying, you know.
Mr. Gore, the question we need you to answer is, who are you? Are you the relaxed, regular guy who gave your acceptance speech? "I am my own man," remember? Or the squirming, sighing fellow from the first debate?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: ... there's differences...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORTON: Wow. Those sighs made me miss silent movies. Or are you the sedated, maybe just sleepy, candidate from debate number two? The tough debater from number three? If you're going to be the one deciding what do we do about an Arab invasion of Israel, say, or a rogue atomic bomb in Dubuque, we'd want to know which Al Gore woke up that morning. And we'd probably feel happier if we thought it were the same one everyday.
And then, this isn't a question exactly, gentlemen, but how about a little candor. Governor Bush, you might admit that if we cut Social Security taxes so people can invest in the stock market, we either have to cut benefits or take money from some other program to make up for what's been cut. And, sure, people might do better in the stock market, but they might lose, too. We don't hear much about that.
Mr. Gore, you could explain your not cutting Social Security, your giving extra money to low income people so they can invest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: My plan is Social Security plus. The governor's plan is Social Security minus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORTON: More government spending? Sure, you could say. But we're doing it to try to narrow the gap between rich and poor, which we think is too wide.
Finally, impeachment. We don't need a rehash: Who is that woman in the beret?" But we would like to know, do you think lying under oath about sex is an impeachable offense? And how would you define high crimes and misdemeanors? What would you say is impeachable?
Just a few leftover odds and ends, gentlemen, for whenever you have a spare moment. I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Thanks, Bruce.
And now a look at what's on cover of this week's major news magazines.
"Newsweek" roots for New York, New York, in baseball's Subway Series, with the Yankees' Derek Jeter and the Mets' Mike Piazza on the cover.
"Time" magazine has early puberty: why girls are growing up faster, on the cover.
And on the cover of "U.S. News & World Report," do animals have feelings? New evidence suggests that animals experience a variety of emotions.
And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, October 22. Be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday, at noon Eastern, for the last word in Sunday talk.
I'll be back tomorrow night at 8 p.m. Eastern on "THE WORLD TODAY."
Up next on "CNNdotCOM," the business of on-line porn. How the Web's most-downloaded woman built a multimillion-dollar, adults-only empire.
For now, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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