Skip to main content /transcript


The Political Week in Review

Aired June 29, 2001 - 19:30   ET


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: ... into the hospital tomorrow morning, possibly to install what he calls a pacemaker-plus. It is his third heart procedure in just seven months, which raises the questions: is he healthy enough for the job? Is the job too much for him, or is this no big deal?

If Cheney's problem is his personal health, a new poll shows that President Bush's problem may be his political health. But things weren't all so rosy for Democrats either. Roger Clinton kept the pardon scandal alive with reports he may have pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars for trying to deliver pardons from big brother Bill.

And over in the Senate, Chuck Schumer said Democrats would rate President Bush's judicial nominees on their ideology. And by the way, where is Al Gore?

Bay Buchanan is here again tonight to help sort it all out. Bay, welcome back.

BAY BUCHANAN, GUEST CO-HOST: Thanks very much, Bill. Glad to be here.

PRESS: Alex Castellanos, let me start with you. We all wish Vice President Cheney well. He's working hard at the job. He's going in for this procedure tomorrow, but I want to ask to you look at this in light of his medical history. He has had four heart attack. The first was in 1978. The second was six years later, in 1984. The third one was four years later, in 1988. His fourth one was in November, 2000. He was back in the hospital in March 2001. He's going back in tomorrow.

So, the last three incidents have been all in the last seven months. Doesn't that really indicate some concern that this job is placing too much pressure on him and causing some serious health problems?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think, Bill, this is something that the doctors who treated the vice president the last time said they thought they would have to do anyway. It is a preventative measure that is very common. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have had this. Besides, you know how stiff Republicans are. They need something to help them keep rhythm, and -- but if you want the real question, the real question -- I say that as a Republican. But the real question is: can the vice president do the job, and then I think you just look at the job that the vice president is doing. He is doing a great job. This administration so far, the president, vice president, you know, education reform, tax cuts, an energy policy -- they are getting a lot done. I think maybe we should all get one of these things if we can accomplish that much.

PRESS: On the radio this morning I talked to a lot of people -- men -- who have had these little devices installed, but they were all retired. I mean, Dick Cheney is hardly -- let me just take a look with you at some of the responsibilities that he has had as vice president.

You know, we know he is the head of the energy task force. He is also the head of the anti-terrorism commission, he's head of the global warming task force, he's also the liaison between the administration and the Congress, because he is a former member of Congress. He is also the chief foreign policy adviser, because he is former defense secretary. He was a transition leader in putting this new team together, and put together the cabinet for the president.

I mean, this is pretty scary. You know, I mean, it just shows that George Bush is only a heartbeat away from the presidency. I mean, doesn't it -- don't you think that maybe that G.W. should pick up some of the slack to give this guy a break after all? Seriously.

CASTELLANOS: Pretty impressive record of accomplishment, I think, for the president and vice president...

PRESS: What's Bush doing?

CASTELLANOS: ... so far, Bill, don't you think? And despite all of that, all those responsibilities, the vice president still has time to fish occasionally. The doctors say the vice president is in great health, that this is not a problem, this is standard preventative procedure, it is something that may never even kick in. Just a little insurance policy, it's a nice thing.

BUCHANAN: We have heard a lot today about this concern over the vice president's health. Let's go right to the vice president, I want you to hear him say one or two more points here. Let's go right to that.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My entire career in politics, in elective office, in Congress, in the Defense Department, eight years in the private sector and now as vice president, has all taken place after the onset of coronary artery disease.


BUCHANAN: Here you have the vice president explaining his whole political life has been knowing that he has had this health concern, this congenital problem. And yet, we have today -- we know from the doctors -- there is no additional problem. His health is in the same condition it was last month and two months ago. This is strictly preventative. Is there any concern, as Bill would suggest?

VICTOR KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think Bill started of -- and I think we all as Americans say we hope and pray that there is no problem, that the vice president comes through this. As much as I disagree with his ideology, I wish him the best and I care about him in that sense.

I think that I have to take him at his word, that he has said also -- which you didn't have in the interview -- that he will be a judge of whether or not he can continue his job and do the role that is wanted, based upon what the doctors tell him tomorrow.

The process is preventative, as you just said, but we don't know what condition he is in until he has his tests tomorrow. He said once he has the tests, he will make a judgment as to what to do. He is expecting everything will be well. I'm hoping everything will be well and he continues, but we don't know what the future holds for this gentleman, and we just can only pray for him.

You know, I -- jokingly or not jokingly, for this administration's sake, I think he has to stay, because he is the strongest thing we've got in the cabinet, in the administration.

BUCHANAN: There is no more concern for this administration or his health than yours or mine. This fellow is in excellent shape right now, and he is supposed to be back at work on Monday. He's doing it on Saturday and back at work on Monday.

KAMBER: I hope that's right, Bay. I just don't -- unlike you all, I mean, I want him to wish him the best, I'm not playing games here -- I don't know that he is in the best of health, as you are saying. I don't know what's going to happen, what the future holds.

CASTELLANOS: The record is pretty clear...


KAMBER: The record is that he has had three heart attacks.

CASTELLANOS: Well, he seems to be performing at a very high level. Saw him at a dinner the other evening, he looked great.


PRESS: ... and I also want to say something else. I think he has got a more serious problem. I think his more serious problem is that he is under investigation, the first investigation of the Bush administration, the General Accounting Office is looking into his energy task force to find out whom they met with, and what influence they had over the decisions.

Now, the GAO has asked for the dates of the meetings they held, the locations of the meetings, the names of the people that they met with, that the task force met with, and the issues they discussed. And the White House refuses to turn those documents over. Why, Alex? Why are they stonewalling?

CASTELLANOS: You know, this is unusual, but there are some people actually when putting together an energy policy for America, they would actually talk to the people who produce energy and try to get some input from those folks, and there is nothing in his having private meetings, there's nothing required by law that's different in that at all. It is done all the time.

Now, what this is is basically another political investigation. The smile on your face said it all, Bill. You guys are so...


CASTELLANOS: ... you guys are so happy to throw another brick through the window, the first investigation.

PRESS: No, you know what the smile on my face is? That for eight years, all I heard from you guys was stonewalling, stonewalling, stonewalling. Hillary Clinton had a health care task force, and Republicans said, correctly, that the law required that those be open meetings and the records be open. It's the White House, it's the identical procedure, but now you are saying no. We are going to stonewall. Why can you stonewall, but Clinton couldn't stonewall?

CASTELLANOS: There is no stonewall...

PRESS: And what are they trying to hide?

CASTELLANOS: There is nothing to hide here. There is an energy policy, as a matter of fact, coming out this week.

PRESS: Then why not release all the meetings?

CASTELLANOS: ... coming out this week. You know, a lot of people...

PRESS: Don't you think they should?

CASTELLANOS: You know, I know that the news media is such a kind and gentle organism in this country, but a lot of people who come forward and offer their best advice just don't want see themselves splattered all over the news media...


KAMBER: ... they don't want to give their names because they are oil companies, they are the people who are going to net and gain from this process.

CASTELLANOS: You have discovered the scandalous story in here -- no really, he has -- the scandalous story is that America's energy companies would like to produce more energy. Alert the media!

KAMBER: But I as a consumer and as an American want to know who is meeting with the president and his people on these policies. I absolutely do, I have a right to know that. BUCHANAN: Do you have a right to know every single person that the vice president or the president speaks to?

KAMBER: Absolutely!


KAMBER: On business I certainly do. On business I certainly do.

BUCHANAN: You mean, you can't pick up the phone and say, look, I need a little advice, just as you and I would do?

KAMBER: If he's cutting deals, Bay, with people, deals that could impact...

BUCHANAN: You are suggesting...

KAMBER: I don't know what I'm suggesting. I'm suggesting what you for eight years suggested about Bill and Hillary Clinton, I am suggesting the same thing. I trust the vice president, I trust the president, I think they are honest, honorable people, but I have a right to know.

CASTELLANOS: Vick is suggesting a Washington where no one can meet in confidence. That's the kind of Washington you would like to have.

KAMBER: I don't want them meeting in secret.

PRESS: But this is a government task force...


CASTELLANOS: ... shouldn't you be able to meet in private in Washington if you want to offer your best advice? Shouldn't you have that right?

KAMBER: Of course, you should be able to meet in private, but we have a right to know who is meeting with whom.

BUCHANAN: Then it's not in private!

CASTELLANOS: That's not private.

KAMBER: What they are saying is private.


PRESS: The law says that official government task forces, of which this is one, those meetings, the records of those meetings must be public. Period!

BUCHANAN: All right, let's go on to -- let's go on another issue. Vick, we have Senator Schumer over there in the Senate from New York, and he has now suggested that while Senate has the right to confirm the federal judges and the president of the United States actually appoints them, that he now thinks we should change the standards and look at ideology. In other words, they don't want conservatives being put on the bench, and so they have decided to change all the rules and make certain no conservatives go over there.

KAMBER: No, that's not quite what he said. If you were reading his op-ed, which is the basis of all of this, and then a speech that he recently gave, he said historically that is what we have done in this country, and he cited going back to George Washington, one of the Supreme Court judges confirmed by Washington.

He said the difference is, we are not being hypocrites anymore, let's talk the truth. We used to say we don't deal with ideology and we found other things...

BUCHANAN: All right, let me ask you...

KAMBER: He is also saying, which I totally agree with, you have a president that was elected with an even margin basically, in this country -- I am not even sure he was elected -- but he is the president, we have a Congress that is split evenly, 50-50, he is saying, ideologically, let's make sure we put people in center.

BUCHANAN: All right, let's make a point. Bill Clinton was elected, 43 percent OK...

KAMBER: And had a hard time getting any judges.

BUCHANAN: No, 377 judges were approved and every one, both of his Supreme Court judges, and do you know how many people voted against the Supreme Court judges? Three in one case, 9 in the other.

I'm asking, let me ask you, if it was ideology should the Republicans have voted against, Ginsberg and Breyer?


BUCHANAN: That's what you are asking us to do.

KAMBER: No, you are assuming, that the Democrats are going to vote a certain way and that Schumer is going to vote a certain way.

BUCHANAN: Ideology.

KAMBER: Yes, but ideology, he is saying centrists. I don't want extremists. I don't think Clinton's judges were extremists.

CASTELLANOS: Look, let's give credit where credit is due. When Ronald Reagan was president, Democrats let him have the justices that he wanted. When Bill Clinton was president Republicans let him have the judges he wanted. What's going on here is that Schumer is a afraid he's becoming the junior Senator from New York.

Hillary's poll numbers are getting up above 50 -- oh, how does he get in media? I know, he is just going to violate that little thing called the constitution and all of a sudden he gets to pick the president of the United States. It shouldn't work that way. PRESS: I want to jump in here for just a second because you and I might agree on this. Look, I think Schumer is right. I mean we are talking about judges, we are talking about federal judges, we are talking about lifetime employees, and lately, when these people come up, all we talk about is, did they smoke a joint, did they have a girlfriend, I mean you know, did they write a political contributions?

That is -- baloney. Isn't it much more important for a lifetime appointment to look at their ideology and where they are coming from. That is what's important, not the personal life stuff. Wouldn't you agree?

CASTELLANOS: But you know what the Constitution says is, yes, but let the president do that. Congress' roll is to consent an to advise, but not to pick the justice.


KAMBER: ideology means something. He is saying we don't want extremists of the left or the right.

BUCHANAN: Is pro-life an extremist for you, it means no pro- lifers and that's where we are going.

KAMBER: The law of the land right now is pro-choice.

BUCHANAN: It does not matter. We are talking about the president being allowed to appoint his judges.

KAMBER: He is allowed. He just have to advise and consent.

PRESS: I suggest we go back and read John Adams on the meaning of "advise and consent."

We are going to take a break, wait there, folks. Speaking of the United States Senate, a lot going on in the United States Senate. Right now in fact they are voting, as we will see, the final vote on passage of the patients' bill of rights. So far not enough to indicate whether the bill is going to pass or not, there are the senators walking around as they vote. We are going to take a break. We will come back with more political news including a look at the latest of the Clinton brothers, Roger and Bill. What are they up to? More CROSSFIRE coming up.


BUCHANAN: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE, I'm Bay Buchanan sitting in on the right. The Clintons are back, that is Bill and Roger Clinton and with them, stories about money and scandal. Can this be good news for the Democrats?

Then there's the surgeon general's report about sex and teenagers. Who is that going to help? With us to talk about these are two top strategists, Republican Alex Castellanos, and Democrat Victor Kamber.


KAMBER: Yes, ma'am.

BUCHANAN: Congressman Burton over there in the House has gotten a lot of grief for his investigations from you all. You, Democrats.

KAMBER: Me in particular, too.

BUCHANAN: And you in particular. I remember very, very well on many, many occasions you have fond memories.

KAMBER: You notice he hasn't done any investigations since the Republicans have taken over. He now wants to be a legislator.

BUCHANAN: Well, he's got one, it's about Clinton and -- Clinton.

And what he has found and what the press is reporting is that we have $50,000 dollars that was paid to Roger Clinton, from the daughter of a fellow who was convicted of heroin trafficking, and also has ties into the syndicate, the Mafia.

In addition to that we now know $250,000 of cashier's checks coming from Taiwan, and Venezuela that were deposited in his account. Do you not think, considering what business Roger Clinton does, and that is if you could you help explain to us all, what he does, what's his business, how he makes money -- is this not an extraordinarily legitimate investigation by Congressman Burton?

KAMBER: Well, No. 1, I'm not Roger Clinton's keeper. So I couldn't tell you -- I don't know what he does or doesn't do any more than any brothers of presidents, and we can go back as far as I have been in Washington, whether it's Richard Nixon, which is Richard Nixon's brother's or this one's brothers or that one's brothers.

It sounds strange, it sounds unusual. I know of nothing that, again, untold that has happened. If people are stupid enough to pay money to Roger Clinton and hope that can gets something out of it I think those people should be investigated and possibly put way, because I think it is stupid.

BUCHANAN: Alex, you want you to add to this?

CASTELLANOS: It's just an amazing story, really. You have one of the leading organized crime families, the Gambinos, possibly giving money to one of the leading disorganized crime families, the Clintons.

KAMBER: No, they didn't gave it to the Clinton family, they gave it to Roger -- if it's true.

CASTELLANOS: Why the Clinton's would be selling pardons, if they were, who would understand that? You would think they would be hoarding them...

KAMBER: By the way, did the people get pardoned that he worked for? No, they did not. Did the people who got the $250,000, did they get pardoned? The answer is no. So again, I come back to the people who paid the money are stupid.

BUCHANAN: This is the brother. Does it not concern you that the brother could think that he can show up at his brother, the president's office and get a pardon?

KAMBER: Yes, absolutely it looks bad and I don't like it and I think Mrs. Clinton was the first to scream about it too, when she found out about it, but to suggest that the Clintons as a family are a part of this is ludicrous. The stupidity here is the people who paid Roger Clinton.

PRESS: As long as there have been American presidents there have been family members of American president's who have done bad things trying to use their family's name.

CASTELLANOS: But there has been a lowering of standards and I think this part of it.

PRESS: I want to ask you about the president. He has had the five months, go some things done. Got his tax cut passed, got his education plan passed, went on his first big first big trip to Europe.

The American people don't seem to be impressed, Alex. Let me show you "The Wall Street Journal" poll that came out this week. This is the third poll to show such low numbers, the third one in the last week or so.

"Wall Street" says the job approval rating for the president, 50 percent. That is down from 56 percent just last month. It's the lowest rating for any president in the last five years. I mean, this guy, the American people see, don't they, that he just can't cut it?

CASTELLANOS: Do you -- is your next graphic the other seven polls that have his numbers up? Another news network, which will remain unmentioned, has him at 59, ABC has him at 55. Bloomberg has him, I think, at 54. "New York Times" has him at 53. He has approval ratings in the 50s. He's scoring on education, traditionally a Democratic issue,

PRESS: I'll tell you another one, Zogby, which is probably the most Republican poll, and I'd say the best, is 51. OK?

CASTELLANOS: His numbers are better than either Reagan's or Clinton's at this point, and here's why.

PRESS: Oh, no...


CASTELLANOS: Yes. You know why? No, let me explain.

PRESS: No, they're not.

CASTELLANOS: The reason -- the reason why is they're still in the 50s, like those other two presidents, who did come in with mandates, but President Bush is operating in a much more polarized and divisive environment because of all these Democrat attacks. For him to sustain these numbers in this kind of environment is terrific.


PRESS: Hold the phone. Hold the phone.

CASTELLANOS: Is terrific. There are very good numbers.

PRESS: Hold the phone. No. 1, it's the lowest in five years. It's lower than Bill Clinton was. It's lower than his daddy was. But let me just say...


CASTELLANOS: ... misinformed...

PRESS: But Alex, are you saying that George Bush has had anything like Bill Clinton, the attacks that Bill Clinton got from day one? George Bush had the House...


PRESS: ... George Bush had the Senate. George Bush had Al Gore, disappear. George Bush has had the most positive press of any president, and this is the best he can do.

CASTELLANOS: I'll tell you, these -- the numbers have changed from amazingly good to wonderfully remarkable.


The only change here -- the only change here -- the only change here -- compare the two presidents, though, Clinton and Bush. The problem Clinton had was that there was no real core to the man. No one really felt they knew who he was, so the scandals and problems would come and go and the numbers would bounce up and down. I think the difference here is people have a sense of George Bush, who he is, who he believes.

KAMBER: You're right. You're right.

CASTELLANOS: They think he's a decent, good man with...

KAMBER: No, I'll stop -- stop where you are.

CASTELLANOS: ... with real principles.

KAMBER: They have a sense of him.

CASTELLANOS: So his numbers, Vic, I predict are not going to move around that much.

KAMBER: See, I agree with you, they're not going to move around much, because I think the biggest problem he has is a poor communicator. What we're seeing is the reality that people do not get a sense of him and what he stands for. He's going -- until he screws up something bad...

CASTELLANOS: 61 percent approval on the tax cut, he's winning on education...

BUCHANAN: Wait a second. Isn't it also something -- we used to always say with Bill Clinton the economy is so strong and people are responding. His performance is good because we feel good. And people right now are a little bit nervous about the economy with that stock market...

KAMBER: Absolutely correct.

BUCHANAN: ... and so, that's going to be reflected in these polls. It has nothing to do with his performance as president.

KAMBER: Yes, except that he's the president overseeing that economy...

BUCHANAN: But he has nothing to do with...

KAMBER: Well, he may or may not.

BUCHANAN: I agree, I agree entirely.

KAMBER: He gets the credit or the blame, and as I come back to say, he's not a reassuring president because he's not a communicator. I'm not saying he's dumb. I'm not saying any words. He's not -- his ability on television isn't one of the greatest...

BUCHANAN: It's not.

KAMBER: ... so therefore, he suffers from it. And I think that's a reality of what the polls are showing right now. I really believe that.

BUCHANAN: You have Bill Clinton coming into a Democratic fund- raiser last night. Do you think that's in the best interests of Democrats to have a president who came in with a scandal and out with scandal?

KAMBER: I think Al Gore made the biggest mistake in the world not using Bill Clinton. I would use him every day of the week I could to raise money. I think this country grew under Bill Clinton and I think the country likes Bill Clinton. And I think we're in Bill Clinton remorse period right now...


Why don't we have him back?

CASTELLANOS: That's why -- that's why there's so many -- so much White House furniture on eBay...

(LAUGHTER) ... for Democratic fund-raisers here.

PRESS: Last cheap shot, but it's going to have to be the last word. Alex Castellanos, thank you so much for coming -- Victor Kamber.

Who's up, who's down? Not sure we know but it was sure fun. Thanks for being here, guys.

Well, Bay Buchanan and I, we'll tell you who's up and who's down when we come back with our closing comments. Be right back.


BUCHANAN: Bill, you know, in spite of what our guest had to say, Victor had to say about Bill Clinton, the Democrats are very nervous about Bill Clinton. They didn't mention that he was coming to that fund-raiser. They brought him in under the cover of night and introduced him. Wasn't that a wonderful way to do it for a former president?

PRESS: No. In fact, I learned on CNN yesterday that he was going to be there. Listen, Bill Clinton is the best thing the Democrats have going for them. This guy is a great spokesman, a great fund-raiser.


Better having him out than your guy, Rudy Giuliani.

BUCHANAN: He's not my guy.

PRESS: Look at George Bush, 50 percent. You know, Bay, the more people look at him, the less they like them.

BUCHANAN: Not true.

PRESS: That's what that proves.

BUCHANAN: Not true, not true. Not at all. I think you are -- have too much hope in those polls.

PRESS: Yeah...


All right, that's it for now. From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE. Have a good weekend, everybody.

BUCHANAN: And from the right, I'm Bay Buchanan. Join us again next week for more of CROSSFIRE.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

Back to the top