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Crossfire

Has Education in Texas Really Improved Under George Bush's Leadership?

Aired October 25, 2000 - 7:30 p.m. ET

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

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Is Bush's education record a Texas tall- tale.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Contrary to all that we've been told, the achievement gap for Texas students has not narrowed, it has widened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Is Gore unfairly spooking voters about Social Security?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know it's Halloween time and I know the man is trying to scare you into the voting booth, but not this time, Mr. Gore, and not that year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Tonight with just 13 days to go, how can Bush or Gore win this election?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press; on the right, Mary Matalin. In the crossfire, Senator Bob Kerrey, Nebraska co-chair of the Gore campaign, and Congressman Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, a Bush supporter.

PRESS: Good evening. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Education. Until today. it's been the cornerstone of George W. Bush's campaign. Now it could become its tombstone. A new study by the RAND Corporation debunks Bush's claim of vast education improvements in Texas, calling reported test scores -- quote -- "misleading, biased and inflated." The Bush campaign immediately denounced the RAND study as politically motivated.

Al Gore also hit a bump in the road today as Republican senators held a hearing accusing him of making a secret deal with Russia allowing arms sales to Iran. With charges and counter-charges flying, both candidates were on the road fighting for states they should have locked up by now, but don't. Bush getting help from brother Jeb to deliver Florida; Gore fighting to hold on to his home state of Tennessee in a race that still looks like it will go right down to the wire.

So tonight, will George W. flunk the latest education test? Did Al Gore help deliver arms to a terrorist state? And what will push voters in one direction or another? Sitting on the right again tonight, "The Weekly Standard's" Tucker Carlson -- Tucker.

TUCKER CARLSON, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Senator, as Bill pointed out, Al Gore spent today campaigning in Tennessee. Now, of course, he grew up there plowing hillsides for his youth, and yet his campaign has been forced to spend about $1 million in Tennessee. You don't see George W. Bush campaigning in Texas. Of course, Gore in the next week will campaign in 11 states that he and Bill Clinton won in '92 and '96. This looks like a melt-down to me. What's going on?

SEN. BOB KERREY (D), NEBRASKA: Well, I don't think so. I mean, the difference is that Governor Bush lives in Texas. He's campaigning in the state that he just recently campaigned for re-election for governor. So Texas really has become the issue in the campaign. Tennessee is not.

And that's what this whole education thing is about. It's about Texas. The governor loved RAND when it said Texas scores were good. He doesn't like RAND when it says Texas scores are not good. And it's relevant because, Tucker, he's proposing his educational policies based upon his supposedly successful experience in Texas. So I think the trouble the vice president is having with Tennessee is that he is vice president of the United States of America. He's no longer senator or governor or representing just the people of Tennessee.

CARLSON: Right, but -- I guess that is the point. He is vice president and he has been for eight years. Now all he these political scientists have come out and said this -- not only is this race his race to lose, but we're going to have to rethink political science as a discipline if he in fact does lose, And yet, if the race, of course, were held today, the election, he would lose.

KERREY: That would be one of the best...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I still don't understand -- what is going on?

KERREY: I would applaud that outcome. If you could promise me that would be the outcome, I might even vote for George Bush.

CARLSON: It is sort of a feeling, but is it -- you know, consultants always say, you know, you can promo the dog food all you want, but if the dogs won't eat it, it won't sell. People aren't eating Al Gore's dog food. Why?

KERREY: They certainly are. I mean, his polling now is moving in his direction. This was a 10-point race 10, 12 days ago. Now it's a one- or two-point race. I mean, they are unquestionably moving in his direction in part because they are beginning to examine the policies that the governor of Texas is proposing. I mean, he's proposing an economic plan -- I don't criticize his plan, by the way, on the basis of fairness. I mean, wealthy people over the past seven or eight years have paid a substantial amount of the deficient down.

However, it is unarguable that the policies were begun by the governor's father in 1990, continued by President Clinton in 1993 have worked. Voodoo economics were a failure in eliminating the deficit. And what the governor is proposing, based upon not having experience the trauma of deficits. Had he been governor in the '80s or the early 1990s he might be proposing something different than voodoo economics, too.

CARLSON: But what you're articulating is a fundamentally negative proposition. You're saying that Gore is moving up in the polls because people are beginning to find fault with George W. Bush. My question is why isn't the Gore vision catching on. His theme changes every single week. This week it's smaller government. There's something about Al Gore that people are put-off by.

KERREY: It doesn't -- I mean, I don't think it's fair to say that it changes every week. I mean, he has a fundamentally solid plan. By the way, he agrees, you know, with Governor Bush on number of things, including trade, including crime, including a number of things having to do with defense. I mean, one of things that Al Gore has done is reached across the aisle when the Republicans came to power in 1995 and said we've got to continue moving to balance this budget. But we didn't in 1997.

The Republicans that didn't come in, in 1997 say, hey, why don't we repeal what George Bush started in 1990. We kept tax rates high on upper-income people. We kept the budget caps in place. We just -- the Republican Congress just voted in the Senate, at least, $1 trillion over the next 10 years of additional spending. So it didn't -- what I'm saying is I think you've got a consistent policy with Vice President Gore. He's saying this is what I want to do, and people are at this stage in the game are beginning to examine critical differences between the two individuals.

PRESS: Congressman Lindsey Graham, always good to have you back on the CROSSFIRE.

REP. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you, Bill.

PRESS: I want to start talking about education in Texas because we've been hearing about this Texas miracle for a year, to the point we start to believe it. Now we find out it's a Texas mirage. This is a new ad by the Democratic National Committee, admittedly a biased source, but it does summarize what the RAND report summarizes. Here are the conclusions of the RAND report as stated in this ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DNC AD)

NARRATOR: Now the new RAND study reports the achievement gap for Texas students is widening. There is serious question about the validity of scores on state tests. Texas students do not show the same gains on national tests. The percentage dropping out or failing a grade is increasing. The author concludes the Texas miracle is a myth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Now those are quotes from the study. Governor Bush has been lying about his record, hasn't he, congressman?

GRAHAM: Well, no. Here's what the RAND Corporation said after a three-year comprehensive study in July, and it's here to be seen. Mass scores in Texas have improved at twice the rate of the national average. Texas leads all states in the comparisons of students from similar socio-economic and family backgrounds. African-American students and white fourth-graders ranked first on the NAT math test in 1996. Hispanic fourth-graders ranked fifth.

The RAND study that was a three-year compilation that was released in July of this year said that Texas is tied with North Carolina in terms of making progress. Recently, four guys got together and issued an opinion paper questioning some of the results, but if you don't believe the RAND study of July, ask the Education Trust, the Fordham Foundation, the National Education Goals Panel -- three other groups that studied the same phenomena and it was a big success in Texas.

PRESS: Well, I know about this RAND study in July because Ralph Reed and everybody else connected with the Bush campaign, they were trumpeting that thing all around the country. But the point is, as the head of the RAND Corporation has pointed out -- let me make my point, congressman, please.

GRAHAM: Absolutely. I won't interrupt you on this show. I'd never do that.

PRESS: Not on CROSSFIRE. No. 1: that study in July was based on national test scores. This one is based on Texas test scores. And No. 2: that that earlier study was based on the years 1991 to 1996. George Bush didn't become governor until 1995. So to the extent that there was any good done in Texas before then, it was Ann Richards or Mark White, I think -- Ann Richards or Mark White, not George Bush. So the study that looks at Texas test scores again says the Texas miracle is a myth. Again, the governor has been lying about his record.

GRAHAM: The National Education Goals Panel, the Education Trust Fund looked at the research paper of the four people at the RAND Corruption that released their information here a couple of days ago and said, no, you didn't use all the Texas data, and Texas has, by outside groups, performed very well compared to other states in improving the quality of education for Hispanic, African-American and fourth-graders because they're insisting on accountability.

PRESS: You say that, but again...

GRAHAM: Voters four years after George Bush elected him with a huge majority. That's never happened with Bill Clinton. He's never been able to get the majority of American people. George Bush has been able to get a majority of Texas voters: African-American, 25 percent; Hispanic, 50 percent. He's done a good job as governor and you can't take that away from him. PRESS: Let's just lay it out as clearly as we can. You've got one report the Bush campaign bases its whole record on, saying we're doing great in Texas. Now the same people come out and say that study does not say that. What the study...

GRAHAM: You've got four people...

PRESS: ... says is Texas is doing a lousy job, biased and misleading and inflated records. If you can't believe George Bush about the central issue of his campaign, what can you believe him about? Doesn't this really go to his credibility and his experience?

GRAHAM: You can believe the National Education Goals Panel, the Education Trust, the Fordham Foundation, and a three-year RAND study that shows that education in Texas is moving forward, they're doing better. And the key question is what will George Bush do differently than Al Gore if he is president. Here what the key difference is -- and I'd like to see what Senator Kerrey thinks about this.

Governor Bush is saying that if I'm president and we give federal money to help school districts, we're going to have some accountability standards. They're going to be strong. They're going to be firm. They're going to be fair. And if a school district with adequate funds after three years of failing with some objective criteria, we're going to empower parents. Now to me, that's a dang good idea.

PRESS: Senator.

KERREY: Well, it's a terrific idea. The trouble is we've already been doing it. I mean, if you go look at what's happened in El Paso, El Paso's had tremendous narrowing of the differential between the performance of minority students and lower-achieving students and students that were doing quite well. And the reason is the National Science Foundation, under the leadership of Al Gore and George -- and Bill Clinton, have provided substantial federal assistance and partnering. So it's already going on. I don't object to it, but it's nothing new. And...

GRAHAM: But what happens when a school district continually fails? What do we do as politicians, as a society, when a school district three years in a row fails objectively to improve the quality of education?

(CROSSTALK)

KERREY: I mean, the answer is, the National Science Foundation doesn't fund anything unless it's successful. If you look at...

GRAHAM: The National Science Foundation doesn't run schools.

KERREY: No, sir, they do not. In fact, that's exactly why George Bush is wrong when he says that Al Gore is proposing to run the schools.

GRAHAM: Let me... KERREY: The National Science Foundation went into El Paso. They signed a contract with the school district of El Paso, as they have done with the school district in Omaha and across the country, saying what are you're objectives, what are your goals? Perform and we'll fund you; if you don't perform, we don't fund you. It's a terrific partnership. The trouble is we are already doing it.

CARLSON: Let me ask you a question about sort of the ugly reality of politics. There was a "New York Times" story today that indicated that basically, suddenly in the last week, the Gore campaign woke up and said, wow, there is this guy Ralph Nader, who may actually lose the race for us nationally, may kill us in Oregon, in Minnesota, may even hurt California. I'm proud to say we here in the TV yapping community were on to this months ago.

Where was the Gore campaign? You are involved in the Gore campaign. Has anybody called up and said, gee, guys, why were you asleep? Why didn't you notice that?

KERREY: I do have to stipulate that the introduction of me was incorrect. I'm not the co-chair of the campaign. But I mean, I don't think they've just woken up to it, and point in fact, the reason that Ralph Nader has done well in some states is because Al Gore, despite what George Bush has said, has worked with the Republicans. Ralph Nader has attacked his positions on trade, has attacked his positions on welfare, has attacked his positions on balanced budget, all of these things he -- Al Gore worked with Republicans on the crime bill and other areas.

I mean, Ralph Nader makes a lot of -- gets a lot of mileage in these areas, and the reason he's making -- getting mileage is that Al Gore has worked with Republicans in a bipartisan way on things that he believed were too important just to allow partisan differences to carry the day.

CARLSON: That's a good answer.

KERREY: Thank you.

CARLSON: And we'll get back for more. Don't miss tonight's online CROSSFIRE debate with Congressman Lindsey Graham, followed by Gore national spokesman Doug Hattaway, right after tonight's show, at cnn.com/crossfire.

We'll be back in a minute. More bad press for Dick Cheney's previous employer, Halliburton, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Two weeks from today, Americans will wake up with a new president elect. The question is, who will he be? It's the tightest race in decades, and the rhetoric from both sides is getting hotter by the moment.

Joining us to add fuel to the fire, Senator Bob Kerrey, Democrat of Nebraska, and South Carolina Republican Congressman Lindsey Graham.

PRESS: Let's throw gasoline on the flames, gentlemen.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

PRESS: Congressman...

GRAHAM: Yes, sir.

PRESS: George Bush isn't the only one to hit a bumpy road today. Dick Cheney's -- more questions about Halliburton Inc., the company he led for five or six years. The latest is Halliburton admits that one of its subsidiaries, Brown & Root, is under investigation by the Justice Department and by a grand jury in Sacramento, which is not controlled by the Clinton administration, by the way, for stealing money from the government, basically for billing the government for $6 million for work that it never performed.

Don't you think the American people have a right to know before the election whether under Dick Cheney's leadership Halliburton was stealing from the government?

GRAHAM: Apparently, this individual made an accusation three years ago that they cooked the books at (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and it's about -- what -- 13 days before the election and all of a sudden we understand there is a grand jury being empaneled to investigate this. Now, people are going to take that for what it's worth.

Dick Cheney is -- whether you disagree with him politically, this is a -- you know, this is what makes America great, disagreeing. But he's a nice man and he's not involved in anything illegal. The guy involved hasn't laid any blame at Dick Cheney's feet.

This just stinks. Three years ago they make the accusation, now we find out about it. People are going to take it for what it's worth.

PRESS: Well, but wait a minute, this started with an employee of Halliburton.

GRAHAM: Three years ago.

PRESS: Right. A whistle-blower, who went to the Justice Department, under federal law, and said...

(CROSSTALK)

GRAHAM: ... we know about it now.

PRESS: ... I was told to bill the government for work that was never done. Whether we learn about it now or not, what's the difference? That is stealing from the government.

GRAHAM: And here's the deal, and anybody who stole from the government should go to jail. We should investigate this.

PRESS: And shouldn't we know it now rather than after November 7?

GRAHAM: Here's what we shouldn't do, we shouldn't take an accusation three years ago, leak the information about a grand jury and try to smear a guy like Dick Cheney. That's what's wrong with politics. That's what we shouldn't do, and that's what's going on.

PRESS: I guess -- that's the first time...

GRAHAM: We shouldn't sign a breast cancer bill in the dark because Rick Lazio is involved. That's shameful. All this needs to stop.

PRESS: That's the first time I ever heard about grand jury information being leaked in this town.

GRAHAM: Yes, and...

PRESS: Shocking.

GRAHAM: And people who do it need to be disciplined.

PRESS: Tucker.

CARLSON: Well, speaking of shocking politics, senator, people are always whining about tough political advertising, but every once in a while a political ad comes along that crosses the line from rough to offensive. And I want you to look at an ad put together by the NAACP on behalf of Al Gore. Take a look at this.

KERREY: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NAACP AD)

RENEE MULLINS, JAMES BYRD'S DAUGHTER: I'm Renee Mullins, James Byrd's daughter.

On June 7, 1998 in Texas, my father was killed. He was beaten, chained and then dragged 3 miles to his death all because he was black. So when Governor George W. Bush refused to support hate-crimes legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again. Call George W. Bush and tell him to support hate-crimes legislation. We won't be dragged away from our future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: "It was like my father was killed all over again" -- now, keep in mind, the Willie Horton ad didn't accuse Mike Dukakis of rape. This is implying that Governor Bush was responsible for a hate crime. Will you go to the NAACP in your capacity, senator, and say, take this ad off the air, it's racially divisive, it's offensive, stop it now?

KERREY: No, but if they're listening right now, I'll say it's racially divisive and offensive and take it off the air. I don't want to call anybody a name.

In fact, if you don't mind, on the earlier question to Lindsey, I might -- perhaps this violation of grand jury rules can get Democrats so riled up that the Republicans will join with us, because they're riled up on it -- I mean, the grand jury system is really flawed and I think it needs to be reformed.

But anyway, as to this ad, yes, it's offensive and it's divisive and it's apt to lose -- it's apt to actually be counterproductive. I can't imagine it's going to persuade very many people.

CARLSON: Well, you're rattling me, here, senator -- you're agreeing.

PRESS: The worst thing that could happen on CROSSFIRE is to have a guest agree with you, I can tell you that.

Here's one that you're going to, I'm sure, agree with me. I want to go back to the question of experience with Governor Bush.

In the second debate on foreign policy, Governor Bush said, you know what we ought to do in the Balkans, we ought to get Europe to put troops in so we can bring our troops home. I'm sure you know, congressman, I know the senator knows, there are 62,000 troops in the Balkans, only 11,000-some are Americans, less than 20 percent.

I mean, isn't that appalling that George Bush didn't know the facts before he shot off his mouth and told the Europeans -- they've got -- 80 percent of the troops in there are from different European countries. He doesn't know what he's talking about.

GRAHAM: Well, I've been there a couple times, I's sure the senator has and he's -- when it comes to serving our nation, there's no finer person right here in terms of sacrifice. But here's what I think Governor Bush is saying...

PRESS: Why didn't George Bush know the facts?

GRAHAM: Well, I think he does know the facts.

The facts are that five years later -- we were promised a year intervention -- five years later we're still there with no exit strategy. We're going to be the British army in Northern Ireland if we don't watch it. And we can't be everything to everybody. We've been there five years, this has cost several billions of dollars, when are we going to bring our kids home?

PRESS: Here's the point: He gets it wrong. He says the Europeans should send in troops there -- already 85 percent of the troops are European troops, he doesn't know what he's talking about. Isn't that appalling for somebody who pretends to be commander in chief?

GRAHAM: What's appalling is to send young men and women from America all over the world with no exit strategy, spend billions of dollars and have no way to come home. Five years into this thing we're no closer to getting our kids home than we were before. And this whole idea of making people come to peace because it would help us politically over here is blowing up in our face in the Mideast.

PRESS: I'm sure even the senator might disagree with that statement, but we can't let him because we're out of time. Sorry about that -- hate to do it.

Gentlemen, thank you very much for being here: Congressman Graham, senator we're going to miss you, but you can come back from your new job and CROSSFIRE from your new job, too.

And Tucker Carlson and I will be right back with closing comments, wrapping up the latest on the campaign trail.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: Now you can find out what's coming up in the CROSSFIRE: Sign up for a daily e-mail sent free of charge telling you what we are planning for that night. Log on to cnn.com/crossfire to sign up for your daily CROSSFIRE e-mail.

And now can you take the CROSSFIRE online. First, debate Congressman Lindsey Graham and then Gore national spokesman Doug Hattaway. That's right after the show at cnn.com/crossfire.

PRESS: Tucker, this race still is very, very close, but I've got to tell you, I think this RAND report is bad news because if George Bush is phony on education he's phony on everything else. And according to the RAND Corporation, he's phony on education, no matter what he says.

CARLSON: Yes, I think that would have been a good issue if Gore had brought it up, maybe, several years ago. It's too late, Bill, Gore's going to lose.

And I think -- it was interesting talking to Kerrey, who's a pretty straight guy. He didn't answer the key question, which is, why is Gore so exquisitely unattractive to voters? There's something wrong with Gore in the eyes of voters and nobody seems to know what it is.

PRESS: No. 1, there's plenty of time, Tucker.

CARLSON: Thirteen days.

PRESS: Particularly when the race is neck-and-neck, particularly, there's plenty of time. No. 2, when the race is neck- and-neck you cannot say Gore is unattractive to voters. What you are you seeing is, I think, with the momentum going toward Gore, people are recognizing that Bush is not experienced enough.

CARLSON: Maybe. I don't think so.

PRESS: From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE. CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

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