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Bill Schneider: The Bush Agenda

January 29, 2001
2 p.m. EST

William Schneider is CNNís senior political analyst, and is regularly featured on CNNís "Inside Politics."

CNN Moderator: Is there any concern in the Bush administration about the issue of church-state separation regarding this faith-based initiative?

Bill Schneider: I think there is concern. The president attempted to address it by calling attention to the fact that representatives from a diversity of faiths were included. Steven Goldsmith, who will run part of the operation, observed that federal funds will be used to fund the social services but not religious activities. However, civil libertarians still find those distinctions troubling and doubt that the administration will be able to draw those lines.

CNN Moderator: Why is President Bush turning to faith-based organizations rather than relying on the traditional government-based agencies?

Bill Schneider: Because conservatives believe that faith-based organizations are more effective since they promote spiritual and values-oriented approaches. There is some evidence that those approaches are more effective. Democrats suspect that this may be a way to divert resources from government programs. It is the same criticism they make of school vouchers.

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Question from chat room: Who is likely to come out against Bush's faith-based charity initiative and can it be defeated?

Bill Schneider: Civil libertarians will argue that this initiative crosses the line separating church and state. Some religious leaders have also argued that this is a way for the government to allow private organizations to perform social service functions that are properly done by government. So there are serious sources of opposition. It is too early to tell whether the initiative can be stopped by its opponents. Much depends on the public's response.

Question from chat room: If a religious-based organization allows abortions, will Bush allow them to get money?

Bill Schneider: I am not aware that the president has addressed that issue. It is reasonable to assume he will not because he has already ordered funding cutoff for international family planning organizations that provide abortion counseling.

CNN Moderator: Turning to other issues, how delicate is the working relationship between McCain and Bush as they try to find common ground on campaign finance reform?

Bill Schneider: Very delicate. They need each other but they do not entirely trust each other. McCain needs the president to support a campaign finance reform bill, which he sees as his legacy. Bush needs the kind of support from Democrats and independents that McCain brings. This is a relationship based on mutual need, not on love.

Question from chat room: Is McCain tooting his own horn here so he can challenge Bush in the 2004 primaries?

Bill Schneider: If that is his motive, he is very foolish because it is nearly impossible to unseat a president in his own party, even if the president is massively unpopular. Teddy Kennedy tried it with Jimmy Carter in 1980 and failed. McCain's motive appears to be his assumption that he came out of the 2000 campaign with his own mandate and he intends to implement it as if he had gotten elected.

Question from chat room: Do you think Bush can convince McCain to hold off on campaign finance?

Bill Schneider: Well, they have convinced McCain to hold off until late March. I doubt if they can convince him to wait any longer than that.

CNN Moderator: Democrats have been postponing a vote on the Ashcroft nomination. Are they just postponing the inevitable?

Bill Schneider: Not entirely. Opposition to Ashcroft has increased among Democrats in the past week and it now seems likely that a majority of Democratic Senators will vote against Ashcroft. He is still likely to be confirmed, but Democrats are determined to make his confirmation as partisan as possible.

Question from chat room: How long will Powell stay at state once he finds himself outside the "real" national security policy team?

Bill Schneider: If that were to happen, I believe Powell would make his displeasure known. He is not the kind of figure who will stand on the sidelines. He is the most respected figure in the administration, with higher public regard than either the president or vice president. They would be foolish to try to keep him on the sidelines.

CNN Moderator: There are several potential honeymoon-ending votes on Capitol Hill, such as Ashcroft, school vouchers and now the faith-based initiative. Which issue may be the greatest challenge for the Bush administration?

Bill Schneider: I would have said tax cuts until Greenspan weighed in last week. Now I think itís likely to be the president's prescription drug plan, which Democrats claim is inadequate. That's an issue where Democrats have a strong standing and they are likely to promote their own initiative.

CNN Moderator: Thank you for joining us, Bill Schneider.

Bill Schneider: My pleasure to be with you this afternoon.

Bill Schneider joined the Allpolitics Chat via telephone from CNN's Washington bureau. CNN.com provided a typist. The above is an edited transcript of the interview, which took place on Monday, January 29, 2001.



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