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Capital Gang

Scott Reed Discusses the Presidential Race, the Budget Battle and the New York Senate Contest

Aired October 28, 2000 - 7:00 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.


I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Margaret Carlson.

Our guest is Republican consultant Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole's presidential campaign.

It's great to have you back, Scott.


SHIELDS: Good to have you here.

With 10 days left before the presidential election, Al Gore and George Bush sounded familiar themes.


GOV. GEORGE BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's what America needs: somebody to go to Washington and end the partisan bickering, the politics of division, the name calling, the ugliness that has so much dominated our scene.



AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to tell you what is the basic nature of the choice between me and Governor Bush. What it comes down to is who we're intending to fight for. I want to fight for you. I want to fight for middle-class families and working men and women.


SHIELDS: Their television advertising took an even tougher tone.


NARRATOR: George W. Bush is promising young workers a trillion dollars from Social Security to put in private investments. Bush is also promising seniors that same trillion for their Social Security checks. One promise gets broken. Next question: which one?



NARRATOR: Why does Al Gore say one thing when the truth is another? Non-partisan analysis confirms George Bush's plan sets aside $2.4 trillion to strengthen Social Security. Newspapers say Gore has a problem telling the truth.


SHIELDS: Today's CNN/Gallup poll -- tracking poll -- gives George Bush a seven-point lead. Other polls vary, showing Bush with leads from six points down to one point.

Al, is Governor Bush now firmly in the driver's seat?

AL HUNT, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Not firmly, but he's got several advantages. He's got a two- or three-point lead in the polls. Republicans have a lot more money. George Bush is not going win California but he's won a big strategic victory by forcing Al Gore to go back there to secure his lead on Tuesday. And finally, Ralph Nader continues to chip away at Al Gore.

But Mark, also, if you look at the big battleground states, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and all three -- I think Gore has a very slight edge. So the question is, do both of these guys have a ceiling because neither can achieve any kind of closure. On the substance of those ads, apparently the Bush campaign, like the candidate, really doesn't understand their own Social Security plan because he would take a trillion dollars out over the next ten years to allow people to invest it -- and the issue is, are you going to cut benefits to make up for it or are you going to have a bigger deficit?

SHIELDS: You know, Al does bring up something very important, here, Scott; and that is that Republicans criticize Bill Clinton for getting 49 percent one time, 41 percent the other. Do these guys have a ceiling? Neither one of them can break through. I mean, people have doubts about Bush's ability, they say, and they have doubts about Gore's straightforwardness and honesty.

REED: I think Bush is going to prove everybody wrong on that. Look, all these polls are trending Bush's way. And what Bush has done very cleverly is he's positioned Gore as the defender of the status quo. He's the incumbent. Even in this great economy we're running in right now, Gore's not been able to close the deal.

See, all this talk about all these undecideds -- they've decided. They've decided they don't like Al Gore, they're not going to vote for Al Gore. As the incumbent he's going to get 1 or 2 percent of the undecideds, the rest is going to go to Bush -- and I think Bush is going to get 51, 52 percent of the vote. Strong finish.

SHIELDS: Strong finish. Bob Novak, what about a strong finish? ROBERT NOVAK, "THE CHICAGO SUN TIMES": I'm not sure I would say he's reached that point yet, but I think he's in a much better position right now than Al Gore. There are some indications that he has taken the lead in Pennsylvania, for example, which was considered strictly Gore country -- it looks like Bush may have taken the lead. Still hasn't closed the deal, may be trailing in Florida.

So still a very close race, but there are very few states, major states, right now, New York being an exception and probably New Jersey, where Gore is very safe. Now, I was with -- in one of the swing states, Missouri, which is very close. I think Bush has the edge. I was there for a rally by Al Gore on Wednesday night.

I thought he gave one of the single worst speeches I've ever heard in my life. He just shouted. He was completely negative all the time. I think all he knows how do when thing get tough is attack and I don't think that is attractive and I don't think he -- I don't think George Bush has sold himself to the public, but Al Gore is really a negative with the public right now.

SHIELDS: Bob, you're talking about attacking is like James Beard talking about cooking, you know -- Margaret.

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: The cooking reminds me that there are some people who come over to your house -- they're shy and so they want to help out in the kitchen. Gore has this personality that is only comfortable when he's yelling and screaming and fighting and doing that thing that we saw on this thing.

On the other hand, Bush is comfortable walking back and forth and strutting and being cocky at these rallies, which is not -- a little premature and not his best look. And I have a Republican friend who -- believe me Scott, I have a Republican friend, who says that whoever is ahead the longest coming in is going lose because the public is so uncomfortable with both of them.

They have these reservations about both, that Bush isn't up to the job and that Gore is just not a comfortable, confident person in his own self; so that this discomfort level, whatever it is on Election Day, that person loses.

SHIELDS: I think Margaret put her finger on something very important here, and that is, Bush -- Gore does not have a format or forum that he's developed that he's developed that he's comfortable with in this whole campaign.

He's bad on interviews. He had a terrible interview with Charlie Gibson, had a terrible interview with Ted Koppel. I agree with you on the rallies. But Bush, the smirk returns as soon as he starts strutting back and forth. I mean, it's just self-satisfied city and it doesn't work.

HUNT: It's not only that, Mark. I agree with your -- with the characterization, or at least partial -- I partially agree with the characterization of Gore, but George Bush is being just as negative. I mean, restoring honor and dignity -- I'm sorry. He's slashing away, he's talking about honor and dignity, whatever that's supposed to mean.

I mean, does that mean a return to his father's administration? I don't know what he's talking about...

REED: He's talking about bringing a new breath of fresh air to Washington, that's why...

NOVAK: It's a different tone, Al, it really is.

HUNT: Going through your ears, Bob, but it's not a different tone to someone -- a different set of ears.

NOVAK: Let me say -- one of the most interesting things in the polls right now is everybody's not -- right about this time, October 30, near Halloween, Margaret, that Ralph Nader would start to turn into a pumpkin and he's not.

Now, he can still fade, but the tremendous effort being made by the Gore people to say, you lose your vote, if you vote for Nader it's a vote for Bush. That just isn't selling. People who are for Nader don't think in those kind of terms.

SHIELDS: The secret, though, on Nader is truly, though, he could help the Democrats in the Congress. I mean, the Nader voters are Democratic voters at the House level.

REED: He could, and Republicans have to be careful they're not a little too cute in states like Washington, Minnesota and Michigan where we've got very competitive Senate races. But get ready for the big surge. Now you're going to see the liberal media on Gore's closing. It's an artificial surge, they do it every time, it's coming this week.

SHIELDS: OK, let me just say, in closing that Jim Castelli -- remember Jim Castelli, religion editor and writer for "The Washington Star" said -- quoted Richard Nixon. He said Richard Nixon said that you campaign in poetry, you govern in prose.

He said this year George Bush is campaigning in nursery rhymes an Al Gore is campaigning on the federal register, and that's the problem with this campaign.

Scott Reed and the gang will be back with gridlock on Capitol Hill and later with combat in New York.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

With Congress two weeks beyond its scheduled adjournment, President Clinton threatened to veto a scaled-down tax bill.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whenever the Republicans shut the Democrats and the White House out and go behind closed doors and try to make an agreement among themselves for the benefit of the elements in the right wing of their caucus, we wind up with a bill that is unacceptable to the American people.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: We're still negotiating some of the president's concerns, but it's very hard to get agreement with him because they keep moving the goalposts.


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, other than Bill Clinton's reluctance to agree to a tax break for the richest Americans, what's the problem between Congress and the president?

NOVAK: I'll tell you what it is. I've covered Congress for a long time. My first year in Congress was 1957, and I've never seen anything quite like this. Because the terrified Republicans have been trying to get home for ages to campaign, and they say, whatever you want to the Democrats, whatever you want to the president, we won't push anything. And it's never enough.

Now what's happened this week is -- I know you people are going to disagree -- but a lot of these hopes for a Democratic House are going south. They're losing in the polls. And it has been mandatory for the president to build up this phony battle. So what he has done, he has taken this miserable little tax bill, all of which has been negotiated out with the White House, and tried to make this an issue that he can go to the public on. The public isn't listening.

When he put the little red schoolhouse on the White House lawn and said, we've got to build schools, he didn't get on one television program, not even CNN.

CARLSON: I saw it on TV.

SHIELDS: But, Margaret, just one question.

The Republicans wrote this bill in closed doors, without any Democrats in, kept the Democrats out, and included in it, in their rush to do it, if I'm not mistaken, a six-month repeal of the minimum- wage law. So for six months we'd have no minimum wage.

CARLSON: Right, right, and the only reason they were getting any of this was in exchange for the minimum-wage bill. And, you know, here's the thing. Clinton always wins these battles. That's how they go. The advantage to Republicans this year is that they're having a budget war and nobody's coming. It's not getting that much attention for this reason: Bush has so distanced himself from Dick Armey and Tom DeLay and the Ole Miss cheerleader, who looked pretty upset on the lawn there talking about this.

SHIELDS: That's Trent Lott.

CARLSON: Yes, that's Trent Lott -- that it doesn't really matter for this election, and so no one's paying attention. You see Bush out there with all the governors. There's absolutely no desire to be seen with any of those people. SHIELDS: Scott, why the decision to campaign exclusively with the governors? I know he's a governor, but...

REED: Because the Republican governors are the base and the background of the Republican party. They know how to win statewide races in all these battleground states, and those are the right folks to be battling with.

But on this issue with Congress, I always marveled at how Clinton always boxed Republicans who never seemed to have an endgame. We've got a great endgame this time. Nobody scares about Congress. It's irrelevant in the presidential race. These guys can stay in until Thanksgiving or Christmas and it's not going to matter.

The Republicans are going to pick up four to six sets in the House this week. Bush is going to California to help Republicans. That's where we could lose three or four. That's the only danger. He gave a million dollars to the congressional committee this week to help Republicans pick up seats, so this is playing out just perfectly.

SHIELDS: And doing it very quietly. I mean, so he's...

REED: The way it should be. He doesn't need to rap around the Senate.

SHIELDS: He's not joined at the hip with Newt. I mean, he doesn't have to resign from the senate like -- the governorship.

Go ahead.

HUNT: While Bob may even think the Democrats are going south on the House races, they don't think that, at least right now.

And I'll tell you something. This Congress, Mark, is going to go down as the worst in the last 50 years. They've achieved a dubious double. It's unbelievable. They are a do-nothing Congress. The only thing they've done is China trade. They have caved in to all the special interests on HMOs, drug -- prescription drugs, they haven't given Bob a tax cut.

At the same time, it is the biggest-spending Congress in 25 years. Once you adjust for inflation, they've increase non-defense spending more than any Congress. And you know why? Because it's about pork barrel. That's what the revolution's come to. It's come to highways and dams and reclamation projects.

NOVAK: Can I...

HUNT: Yes.

NOVAK: ... agree with everything you just said? But it has...

HUNT: Except?

NOVAK: No, all of it -- but it has nothing whatever to do with what's going on now. The president has decided to try to have this phony fight. The only thing that they're really interested in is that the labor bosses are saying you've got to have Davis-Burton on building these schools. That won't -- will not pass.

HUNT: OK, thank you. Can I ask one question.

NOVAK: That's -- that is the only real issue. This repealing the minimum wage for six months was a drafting error. That wasn't intentional.

CARLSON: Oh, now I understand.

NOVAK: Get serious, will you?

HUNT: May I ask a simple question? Did the HMO bosses say no, no patients' bill of rights, Bob?

NOVAK: Who are the HMO businesses?

SHIELDS: Oh, I'll introduce you to them sometime, Bob, the HMO bosses.

NOVAK: HMO? I didn't know that.

SHIELDS: Let's get -- there will be no prescription drugs, there will be no insurance -- there will be no HMO patients' bill of rights, there will be no school construction. And if Bill Clinton will be on one side and the Republican Congress on the other. If I'm a Democratic...

NOVAK: You think this is a good issue...

SHIELDS: If I'm a Democratic House member going into the last week, you better believe I want to be on one side rather than the other.

NOVAK: That's -- you just admitted that's what this phony battle is all about. They could be out of there now.

SHIELDS: Hey, they're real battles because the vested interests, of which you are one, are on the other side.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Focus on 2000" takes a second look at Rick versus Hillary.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

"Focus on 2000: The New York Senate Campaign."

In their third and final debate, Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio were at their most combative.


REP. RICK LAZIO (R-NY), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: In Arkansas, Mrs. Clinton, when you had responsibility for education, the student performance when you left was at the bottom of the barrel. Spending was up, taxes were up.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm not here to defend Arkansas, I'm here to run for the Senate to represent New York.

LAZIO: Can I -- can I finish my point, though?

CLINTON: But I take -- I take great, great offense...

LAZIO: Can I finish my point?

GABE PRESSMAN, MODERATOR: OK, you finish your point.

CLINTON: ... at his misinterpreting and mischaracterizing what went on.

He received a million dollars in contributions. He fought to weaken the safety standards in manufactured housing and in-home building.

PRESSMAN: True or false.

LAZIO: That's absolutely false, and you know it, Mrs. Clinton. Please, do not make up things.


SHIELDS: In the two most recent polls, New York One News gave Mrs. Clinton a seven-point lead, and John Zogby gives Congressman Lazio a one-point lead.

Margaret Carlson, does the first lady really have this race under control?

CARLSON: Well, she has this under control more than some other things she has not had under control.

But, you know, the debate last night illuminated nothing because they are both -- you know, both their negatives must be going off the charts today. I mean, there was eye-rolling and sighing and a new low point when Hillary Clinton offered to bake cookies for Gabe Pressman...

SHIELDS: Gabe Pressman, yes.

CARLSON: ... going for the soccer mom vote or something, I don't know what.

I think that, you know, Hillary will pull it out, but she should have taken off after that first debate, when the over-caffeinated Lazio, you know, came over -- and unfortunately the microphone didn't have a leash on it -- and just went at her.

But the Mideast has hurt her, she's not the best campaigner. But what's helped her this last week is I went to New York on a presidential trip, and Clinton was campaigning with her. She's 10 times better with him. And while Gore may not want Clinton by his side, Hillary likes having him there. And I think he raised about $2 to $ 3 million in a few days.

SHIELDS: But she's not using soft money, we know that.


SHIELDS: Scott Reed.

REED: She needs the fund raiser-in-chief as much as she can get him. Look, Republicans are very upbeat about this race in New York. Zogby's going to have some new numbers in the next couple days. It's trending their way. He's over-performing upstate in Syracuse and Rochester.

SHIELDS: He, Lazio.

REED: Lazio is. He's still trailing a little in Buffalo. The most important thing right now is Bill Powers, the Republican state chairman, has now taken over. He's going to be running the turnout operation. He's an expert. He elected Giuliani in '93, Pataki in '94. But this is what Clinton got caught on this week, when they had to give this $50,000 back to this Hamas fellow. When they filled out their FEC report they put down $50,000 that it went to the American Museum Council. It was really American Muslim Council. And that's the type of game they play. Clinton, she got caught just like she learned from big Bill.

HUNT: Well, listen. They may hurt, Bob, personally, but Bob, I got great news for your column. Hillary is going win. You know, electorates sometimes are perversely calculating. And I think in New York they wanted to win -- a majority of New Yorkers, they don't want to win by much. That's why I think she didn't win by 51, 52 percent.

And the problem with Ricky Lazio, maybe he could beat her, but he does have this stature gap that just won't go away. He gave a major foreign policy speech this week, and which was apparently very well prepared, and he was reading and talking about the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il except when he read it he said Kim Jong the Second. Maybe he's got a kid that we don't know about, but I am afraid little Ricky isn't quite up to it -- I haven't heard George Bush do it.



SHIELDS: OK, I'm going directly to you. But Bob just one thing. I know you're not afraid of strong woman leaders. I know you're not afraid of strong women leaders who are even manipulative and can move men around to their ends because you loved Margaret Thatcher. What is it about Hillary Clinton...

CARLSON: I thought you were going to say you love Margaret Carlson.

NOVAK: I'll tell you what, on the debate last night, I thought Congressman Lazio was inartful. I couldn't believe he was jumping around. He was getting out of the box that they had when they had a two shot of him and he wasn't looking at the camera. She was looking at the camera. Very badly prepared. I was surprised that had happened, but...

CARLSON: But I hate her.

NOVAK: I'll tell you, but she is scary. I don't scare easily, but she scares the hell out of me. That's Madam DuFarge. I thought she is so sinister. I mean, I know how much she has lied. I mean telling, I mean, sitting there and saying these hateful things. I know there's a private poll that shows that she is down at 45 percent right now. Forty-five percent at this stage of the game. She is in big trouble. Don't be so sure, Al. You're a good reporter.

HUNT: What is it...

NOVAK: Just a minute -- Just a minute. Take another look at that because I think she is in huge trouble not because Lazio is a good candidate. Turns out that Giuliani would have been much better, but she's still hated.


CARLSON: Guiliani would have been...

SHIELDS: So you think Lazio will win?

NOVAK: Yes, I do.

CARLSON: But name one hateful thing that she said. He was on the attack. She kind of you know...

NOVAK: She interrupted him. She rolled her eyes.

CARLSON: But hateful. You said hateful.


NOVAK: She claimed he was -- all right. I say what's hateful. She said he didn't have anything to do with the breast cancer bill and she said that he was on the take to the housing and banking industries.

SHIELDS: Last word, and when it comes to sinister, Bob Novak knows sinister.

Scott Reed, thanks for being with us again. THE GANG'll be back with the "Outrage of the Week."


SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week." The last time we heard from Arizona Republican Governor Jane Hull, John McCain was stumping her candidate, George W. Bush, in that state's primary. Now Governor Hull and Arizona Republicans have enacted a truly bad tax-cut law. If anybody goes Arizona and buys a $45,000 SUV, you can get back from the state treasury up to $25,000 just for choosing a propane fixture -- a propane-using feature which you don't even need to use. When enacted last April, the predicted cost to Arizona was $10 million. It has already cost $420 million. Even tax cutter Bob Novak knows it's an outrage -- Bob.

NOVAK: In the key state of Michigan, the Democratic Party phoned voters with this recorded message from a Houston woman named Charlotte Cherry attacking George W. Bush.


CHARLOTTE CHERRY: The air in Houston is so filthy that my two kids are frequently not allowed to go outside for recess. Governor Bush has accepted $1.3 million from corporate polluters and he's allowed them to keep polluting while my kids suffer.


NOVAK: That's a smarmy and disgusting tactic in a campaign for the nation's highest office.

CARLSON: I loved that ad.

NOVAK: I'm sure you did.

CARLSON: Polls show Bush may take the traditionally Democratic West Virginia away from Gore. So guess what? Dick Cheney followed in Buchanan's footsteps and went to Weirton, West Virginia to visit hurting steel workers to close the deal. He promised that George W. Bush would get tough on cheap steel imports. Republicans in a union suit? What's next? Will coal miners soon be seeing "Big Time" Dick Cheney in a mine worker's hat doing "The Full Monty?"

SHIELD: Al Hunt, big time.

HUNT: The tragic death of Governor and Democratic Senatorial candidate Mel Carnahan has roiled Missouri politics. Republican Candidate Senator John Ashcroft is petrified that Mr. Carnahan, whose name has to remain on the ballot, might win and then Mr. Carnahan's wife would be appointed to the Senate seat. The state GOP chairwoman has called the promise to appoint Ms. Carnahan a violation of the Hatch Act. Other Republicans talked darkly of legal action. Senator Ashcroft ought to quit hiding behind others and be a man and tell Missourians what he really thinks.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for the "CAPITAL GANG."

Next on CNN, "SPORTS TONIGHT" reports on No. 1 versus No. 2 in college football, Nebraska against Oklahoma.



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