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Interview with Bill Clinton, Chris Tucker

Aired April 24, 2002 - 16:00   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I am Judy Woodruff at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. It will be show time for the Democrats here tonight on this stage where the party will be hosting its biggest fund-raising extravaganza since election 2000. And I'll be interviewing the headliner tonight, somebody we rarely hear from, former president Bill Clinton.

Thank you for joining us for this special but abbreviated edition of INSIDE POLITICS at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Just a few feet away from me the entertainers who will be on stage tonight have been going through their sound checks. They've got a roster of big names tonight. But the biggest name of all, former president Bill Clinton. Today the former president proved once again his ability to wow the crowds during a voter registration event here in New York City. I caught up with him and we talked politics.


How many seats are the Democrats going to win in the House? What do you think this year?

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know. I think it will be a close race. I think -- the redistricting didn't change as many as people as we thought. So we get about -- I think we're about net down two or three in the redistricting, depending on what happens in Pennsylvania. But I think we can win somewhere between 12 to 15. I expect when this election is over, I think the House will still be quite closely divided. Even if we win, I think we have a pretty good chance to win.

WOODRUFF: Unusual for a former president to be out doing this kind of party-building activity. Why are you doing it?

CLINTON: Because I really believe that a big key to the future of the country is getting all of these young people to vote. And because America's youth population is increasingly diverse. We have a more and more -- you look out here, a lot of these young people are first generation immigrants that came here with their families.

And I think, you know, getting them to feel like they have a stake in America is really, really important. We so far have avoided the kind of wrenching cultural and racial and religious conflicts that you see, even in Europe now, in a lot of these anti-immigrant elections, and it has been a bipartisan thing. Let me say one thing, I agreed with the president on one of the best things be did after September 11 is go to a Mosque and say to the Muslim leaders that our fight is with terror and not with Islam.

So if we want to avoid from now on the kind of conflicts that other countries have within them, we have to get these young people mobilized and comfortable with the idea that they share a common citizenship and they are going to exercise it.

WOODRUFF: When you talk about the past, the election of 2000, as Terry McAuliffe just did, and said we will never forget, do you run a risk there, as Democrats, focusing too much on the past and what happened in November?

CLINTON: Well, I don't think -- I think that, you know, he's the party chairman. That's his job to do that. And I think it keeps people -- keeps our activists energized, but most important thing is always to have an alternative and positive vision. It is always the most important thing. In '92 I was elected president because people bought into what I said I was going to do if they hired me for the job.

And I always tell all candidates all elections are job interviews. The most important thing is for us to be out there talking about, what is our alternative vision? What will would our people do that is different from what the others will do, and I think that's what this election will be about.

WOODRUFF: Are you going to keep on doing this kind of thing?

CLINTON: Well, I like these voter -- you know anything I can do to kind of encourage young people to vote, I'll do that, but I'm also trying to talk specificallyy. Today wasn't the time, but I also like to talk about the kind of specific things I think they should be doing because that's good for America. It is good for America for us to have all these debates about the real substantive issues that are out there.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): Bill Clinton is expected to get a rousing welcome when he plays a starring role at the Apollo. His first major party fund-raiser since leaving White House.

In his new work base of Harlem, the former president will help the Democratic party reach out to its base. With help of performers including Michael Jackson, Tony Bennett Rubin Vlades (ph) and Chris Tucker. The Apollo event is expected to raise $2.5 million to help finance voter registration drives across the country. The Democrats are signing up new voters in several parts of New York today with a special focus on 18 to 24-year-olds.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: We are showing why it's important. We're showing them what the Bush Administration has done on the issues that matter to them.

WOODRUFF: But with the Apollo as a showcase there clearly is an emphasis on African-American voters as well. Many still angered by their belief that they and the Democrats were robbed in the 2000 presidential election. DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe says he will talk about Florida tonight.

MCAULIFFE: Don't let anyone tell you ever again that every vote doesn't count. After at happened in November of 2000, when Al Gore got more votes than George Bush did for president of the United States of America, we will never forget it.

WOODRUFF: Meanwhile RNC chairman Marc Racicot questions whether the Democrats will be successful with a "Remember Florida" strategy.

MARC RACICOT, RNC CHAIRMAN: Elections are never perfect however, and I suspect that there are some who still have grave concerns about that, but were proceeding along positive lines and gauging our fellow citizens all across the country.


WOODRUFF: That was Republican Party chair Marc Racicot. Well, just after I talked with President Clinton I caught up with popular actor comedian Chris Tucker. He is joining the Democrats tonight in their voter registration drive, and I talked to him about why he is doing that.


Chris Tucker, you have quite a fan club here in New York City

CHRIS TUCKER, ACTOR: Yes, I love it.

WOODRUFF: Now, you were just at this voter registration rally put on by the Democratic National Committee. Here you are a successful movie star, you're making movies, you're going to make more. Why do something like this?

TUCKER: Well, it is a great opportunity because I'm doing a new movie called "Mr. President." I'm playing the president of the United States in my new movie and I'm sort of going around voter registration helping them with getting out the vote thing, and then also promoting my movie and also learning a lot from my movie and filming from my movie. I filmed a lot of stuff today, so it is just a great, great opportunity to do a lot of things and it is just a great thing, you know.

WOODRUFF: But it is for the movie, but it is also for voter registration. Why do you care about getting people registered to vote?

TUCKER: Oh, it is so important because I know I'm one of those kids who thought, why should I vote? What's the importance in that? And now, you know, that I'm doing all of these researches, I can talk to the former president Bill Clinton and he can tell me personally how important it is to vote and why my vote counts, and why I should get out and vote, so now I can go tell other young kids to vote because it does work.

WOODRUFF: Why does it matter? Why does it matter? TUCKER: Because President Clinton said something very important today, I was listening. He said this is our country and we have to vote to have our voice heard. And wherever direction we want this country to go, we need to give our point of view and vote and put the people in office that we want to be in office (UNINTELLIGIBLE) something greater than what it is.

WOODRUFF: Are you a committed Democrat?

TUCKER: No, I not with any parties. I'm with the best person who can do the job. Whatever party can do the job. I'm really not -- I like a lot of stuff the Democratic party does and a lot of stuff the Republicans do.

But I'm mostly like whoever does the job and that is what I'm all about.

WOODRUFF: Tell me, you said you talked to president Clinton about this movie you're making about the first black person elected president. What advice was he giving you about that?

TUCKER: He just gave a lot of good things. You know, I've watched, gone out to dinner with him and talked to him and he's just knowledgeable about so many things and this character I'm going to play in this movie is so big because I have to be knowledgeable about the world, what is going on around the world.

It is not just a comedy like my other movies. It is bigger and a more challenging role. So it was incredible to sit down and talk with a former president about what's a day in the life of a president. And he could tell me and I said what's the funny part about it? And he was like, no, it's nothing but work. So it is great.

WOODRUFF: He said nothing fun about it, nothing fun about it?

TUCKER: He said there's great things with everything. And I could just see by the day he said being the president is great because you get to go places you never thought you would go and a lot of things.

WOODRUFF: Do you believe a black person could be elected president in your lifetime?

TUCKER: Yes, yes, I do. I think, you know, of a black man, a black woman comes up and is prepared and has innovative and new ideas and could take the country to another level, of course, the people will get out and vote for them and they will definitely be president.

This country is just that great that the opportunities are there for a Hispanic president, a black president or any other race for a president, yes.

WOODRUFF: One last question. Young people, as you said a minute ago, they may not see the reason it's important to vote, to get involved in politics. What would you say to them if you could take every young person by the shoulders and say you need to be involved. Why?

TUCKER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) So that they're heard, what everybody does, you have to really learn, how to work some stuff, and I had to find that out myself by meeting people in politics and find out how it works and it does work. And you can put a person in office who -- you know, who you want and who you believe in. And I would stress that, vote and give it a chance. You do other stuff and you don't believe it. You don't know if it is going to work. Why don't you vote and give it a chance.

WOODRUFF: One other thing, the election 2000, did George Bush win fair and square do you think?

TUCKER: I don't know. All I know is he won and I hope he does a great job, and I hope he just, you know takes this country to another level and, you know, and keep God first and, you know keep it just so we all live in peace and, you know and happiness.

WOODRUFF: All right. Well, Chris Tucker, thank you very much. We really appreciate you talking to us.

TUCKER: Thank you so much.


WOODRUFF: So to wrap up, the Democrats getting together in New York City tonight at the Harlem's Apollo Theater to raise $2.5 million to boost voter turnout. We want to tell you that my colleagues Candy Crowley, Jeff Greenfield, Marina Hinojosa, all standing by to do reports. We got squeezed because of the news conference in the Vatican. We hope to hear from them tomorrow and in the days to come.

I'm Judy Woodruff in New York. We want to leave you with just a taste of one of tonight's great acts, the phenomenal Harlem Boys Choir.





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