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Transcript of CNN's 'Inside Politics Weekend'

Guest: Former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm

July 7, 1996
Web posted at: 1:40 p.m. EDT

JEANNE MESERVE: Thanks for joining us for our weekend look inside politics -- the events, the issues, the battles and the bites. I'm Jeanne Meserve. Wolf Blitzer is off today.

Will there be a major third-party candidate for president in 1996? At least one man knows the answer. Former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm says he has decided whether or not to seek the Reform Party's nomination.

We'll talk to him and get a sneak preview. Then Bill Schneider's story behind the story on some surprising results from the new Motor Voter Bill. Plus, our political roundup and our weekly visit from Mark Russell.

But first, a quick look at the origins of the Reform Party and where it may be headed.

MESERVE: Ross Perot garnered 19 percent of the vote when he ran for president as an independent in 1992. The movement launched that year now has a home in the Reform Party organized earlier this year. Its goal: a spot on the ballot in all 50 states and a presidential candidate who may not be Perot himself.

ROSS PEROT (on video): This is not about me. It's about creating a party that belongs to the American people, not the special interests.

MESERVE: The Reform Party will pick its nominee this summer. Ballots being mailed to supporters contain only two names -- Perot and Richard Lamm, who made a splash at the California Reform Party convention in June, laying out his stands against immigration, health care for the terminally ill and deficit spending.

He is a former three-term Colorado governor, a Democrat who supported Bill Clinton in 1992.

MESERVE: Joining us now from Denver, Colorado, is Richard Lamm. Governor, thanks for joining us. I know your formal announcement isn't going to be made until Tuesday, but you can tell us -- are you going to run, or are you not?

RICHARD LAMM: Off the record, I can tell you, huh?

MESERVE: That's right.

LAMM: Yes, right. No, I'll wait until Tuesday, thanks.

MESERVE: Can you tell us what criteria you are using to make the decision?

LAMM: I'm almost embarrassed about this because what I said originally was that I had to figure out whether Ross Perot was going to run. I didn't want to run against a billionaire in his own party.

Number two is that could I get the financing? And there's a number three is I want the Reform Party to know that I've taken some very controversial stands, and I have some -- I believe in them. But I want them to know how that is.

Some of those issues I haven't been able to resolve, so I've had to go ahead and make a decision in the absence of all the information.

MESERVE: Do you believe that Mr. Perot is going to make a run?

LAMM: I guess my best guess is no. But anything could happen. I believe that he probably has got a very mixed emotions on this. Politics is a love-hate relationship. I sure know that.

MESERVE: Has he said anything to you about the possibility of your running?

LAMM: Well, yes. I met with him in Los Angeles on June 1st. He encouraged me to get in the process. He didn't put his arms around me. He's still looking for George Washington II, and I looked in the mirror and I don't think there's any resemblance there.

MESERVE: If he chooses to run and you do, too, is it a bit thorny for you to run against him in the party he created?

LAMM: I don't think so. I don't think so, but that may be the most foolish statement I've ever made.

MESERVE: Why don't you think that?

LAMM: Because the average Reform Party person really honors Ross Perot, thinks that he's done a marvelous thing in giving America a third choice in this the most disenchanted of times of American politics, but they feel that they need a new face.

MESERVE: Some people believe that you would be a more credible and more formidable candidate than Mr. Perot because of your experience in elective office and because of your oratorical skills. Do you agree?

LAMM: I don't know. I certainly -- I appreciate those advantages, but like everybody else, I come with advantages and disadvantages. My strengths are my weakness. I really feel so strongly that America's problems are all running at solutions and that we have to start making some hard choices.

I teach a course at the University of Denver. I've written extensively on hard choices and a lot of those are very tough choices.

MESERVE: On the issues, are the points of difference between you and Mr. Perot?

LAMM: Well, I'm not so sure that there is very many. I think we certainly have a little bit of different cut on trade, but I'd also think that Ross Perot did a wonderful job in 1992 to really pointing out that America was facing a fiscal crisis, that retiring the baby boomers was going to be a major effort in this country, that Medicare and Social Security were unsustainable.

I really think that he did a wonderful job in '92. And I am saying those same themes.

MESERVE: If he should decide to run, he could use his considerable wealth to bankroll his bid. You do not have that. Do you think you could raise the money you need?

LAMM: Big question still. I think that Ross Perot is absolutely committed to building this party, whether he runs or not, he is going to on the night of August the 18th, he's going to appeal to the American public to raise some funds and I believe that if we have $20 million -- and I think we can raise that -- I'm hopeful hat we can, the Reform Party can have a credible race even if it isn't Ross Perot.

MESERVE: Have you done any fund-raising?

LAMM: I have an exploratory committee and I've raised the -- the Democrats and the Republicans are going to shake in their boots on this. I've raised about $6,000.

MESERVE: And you think you have the potential to raise that $20 million you say you'll need?

LAMM: I have no idea. I really have no idea. But I really think because of programs like yours, because of the importance of my message I think that I would be able to get it out. I mean, in weighing, making this decision, I definitely did have to make a decision as to whether or not I could get my message out. I don't want to embarrass the party and without having that kind of money, I don't want to be a poor candidate.

But my feeling is that the national press will understand the importance of the issues that I'm raising if I decide to run.

DESERVE: Boy, it sure sounds like you're going to run.

LAMM: Well, I can't sue you for libel on that one.


MESERVE: Is that a confirmation that you will?

LAMM: Ah, no, come on. I can't do that now.

MESERVE: Federal money is another issue. The Federal Election Commission has said that if Mr. Perot does run, he is eligible for federal money. They have not ruled another Reform Party candidate like yourself might be eligible for federal money. Is that a surmountable obstacle in your opinion?

LAMM: Well, it's one -- yes, it's surmountable but it's not one that one can count on. We don't declare a national party until sometime in the future and the Federal Election Commission has 90 days to make a decision. And so, theoretically, they could almost extend right up to the election or beyond before they make a decision. So I don't think I -- maybe if it comes through of course, it would be a windfall to whoever runs, but I think in the meantime it's nothing that anybody can count on.

MESERVE: Does your voter registration card still say Democrat?

LAMM: It does.

MESERVE: It does?

LAMM: It does.

MESERVE: The popular wisdom is that a Lamm candidacy would draw more Democratic vote than Republican votes. It might ensure that Bob Dole would be elected president. As a registered Democrat, how do you feel about that?

LAMM: Well, I really spent weeks thinking about this and the more that I thought about it, the more I realized that nobody could tell my message, in fact, in taking on Social Security, Medicare, getting ready -- taking on entitlements -- those are messages I think that the sort of the moderate Republicans and the fiscally responsible Democrats -- either of them -- are really happy hunting ground for the Reform Party.

MESERVE: Why have you turned from the Democratic Party? Is it because of Bill Clinton or a particular or the course of the party in general?

LAMM: The course of the party in general. Bill Clinton is my friend. I feel very strongly that the Democratic Party has, in the past, been the party of the future. I think when you look at Social Security and Medicare, when you look at the civil rights movement, the women's movement, I think the Democratic Party has always been in the forefront of change.

But I feel it's right now looking in the rearview mirror. This country has staggering problems. It's not facing them. I believe also that it's become just simply another special interest party. I think both political parties are controlled by special interest money, and I've had enough of it.

MESERVE: You say Bill Clinton is a friend, but your candidacy, if there is one, could jeopardize his re-election.

LAMM: Listen, in politics, there's still friendships despite the fact that there's common goals. But I do believe -- listen, Bill Clinton is somebody that I've known since -- we went out for a run together the first time I met him, and I got him a little bit lost. We ran six miles when he only wanted to run three miles.

MESERVE: Could be like the presidential race.

LAMM: Yes, it could be. It may be a metaphor, huh? But I do think that this is not a matter of personality. I think both political parties that these people that are nominated are sort -- come out of a political process that is itself is too influenced by special interest and too influenced by special interest money.

MESERVE: Critique Bob Dole for me.

LAMM: Wonderful man. I think, again, he took a bullet for me when I was eight-years-old, and I think that he is truly a patriot and somebody that wants the best for America. But I think that 30 years of politics or more, and I believe has -- he has just simply come out of this Republican process where you have to almost subcontract your conscience to Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition and a lot of other, the special interests.

The Democrats are too close to the trial lawyers and the National Education Association. The Republicans are too close to the radical right. I think this is a wonderful time for the middle to get together and come up with a new party.

MESERVE: Should you decide to run and should you win the Reform Party nomination, your chances of winning a general election are probably quite slim. So let me ask you why are you running, simply to use this as a bully pulpit?

LAMM: Actually, I disagree with that statement. I guess I would think that enough of it would be to have as a bully pulpit. You know, democracy runs on information, and if both political parties are going to run away from what entitlements are going to do -- here you've got the Medicare trustees, you know, signaling we've got five years and it's going to be insolvent.

And both political parties are running away from the tougher issues in American future. So the bully pulpit would be enough, but I have to tell you I think that whoever gets the Reform nomination this time in this time of maximum disenchantment with American politics, there's a chance.

This is the kind of year that anything could happen.

MESERVE: Spell out for me what you think those issues are that the major parties are running away from.

LAMM: Well, I think that Pete Peterson, who was one of my heroes, said it so well. He said, making fiscal sense out of the future of America without taking on entitlements is like trying to clean the garage without removing the Winnebago.

LAMM: I think we've got to come to grips with Medicare, Social Security and all of the entitlements. I believe second of all, is we need a reform movement in the United States. It may not be a Reform Party only. It may be a reform movement, which would really question the political culture of America, how close it is to so many special interests.

MESERVE: Richard Lamm, we will be watching to see what you do on Tuesday. We wish you'd told us what you were going to do. One more opportunity here.

LAMM: Can't do it.

MESERVE: Oh, shucks. Thank you so much for joining us from Denver, Colorado, Richard Lamm.

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