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Inside Politics

Debate Gives Bush Forum to Drive Home Differences With McCain; Democrats Return to Campaign Trail After Testy Debate; Buchanan Criticizes Ruling Tying Debate Appearances to Poll Numbers

Aired January 6, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT BUCHANAN (REF), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's like Coke and Pepsi saying no other soft drink can enter the market unless they meet a certain criteria. That's preposterous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Pat Buchanan takes aim at a special commission's decision likely to bar him from presidential debates this fall.

Also ahead:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hopefully be able to talk about the difference of ideas that we may have. There's a difference between a chief executive officer and someone from the legislative branch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: George W. Bush prepares to drive home his differences with John McCain in tonight's Republican presidential debate.

The Democrats keep trying to one-up each other a day after their face-off in New Hampshire.

Plus, a portrait of happy homeowners. Details of the Clintons' first night in their new digs.

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Judy Woodruff and Bernard Shaw.

SHAW: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off today.

Six Republicans will debate in New Hampshire tonight, but in the minds of many voters there, it will be a showdown between candidates: George W. Bush and John McCain. And this time around, there are signs McCain might find himself on the defensive about whether he has walked the walk for campaign finance reform. CNN's Candy Crowley joins us from the debate site in Durham, New Hampshire -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Bernie, this is the fourth debate that all six of the Republican candidates have participated in, but you're right. Really, the two men of the hour are John McCain and George Bush. We go into this debate with a little bit of a problem for McCain. He hasn't seen much. But now there are these reports, and he confirms, that he has written a letter to the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, on behalf of the a campaign contributor who was trying to get a television license.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was trying to see that a bureaucracy did its job, which is under my oversight. But again, I fully understand that with all of these hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars of money that's washing around in Washington in the control of special interests that we're all under suspicion. It renews my vigor for campaign finance reform.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: McCain says in the letter he did not advocate that his contributor get the TV license, he merely tried to push the bureaucracy around and did absolutely nothing around.

As for George Bush, he was peppered with questions about the McCain problem. He demurred.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Senator McCain must answer these questions. Senator McCain is the chairman of a very powerful committee in the United States Senate. He's a committee chairman. He has been there for a period of time to the point where he could earn this chairmanship, and he, you know, you ask him these questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: As you can see by Bush's attempt to paint McCain as a Washington insider, the relationship between Bush and McCain, which thus far has been very cordial, seems to be fraying around the edges a bit. But Bush says as far as he's concerned the gloves are still on. He says he wants this to remain a civil campaign. McCain says the same thing.

So tonight, the fourth debate between these two men. What Bush will try to do, he says, is to accentuate some of the differences between himself and the senator. Primarily that will be around the tax cut. McCain has said that Bush's tax cut is too much. Bush is prepared to note that difference and to stand on the plan he's put out -- Bernie.

SHAW: OK, Candy Crowley from the site.

The Republicans will appear on the same New Hampshire stage where Al Gore and Bill Bradley exchanged often sharp words last night.

Today, the Democrats returned to the campaign trail, apparently pumped up by their debate performances, as CNN's Jonathan Karl reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you cold? Let's see if I can warm you up.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For an energized Bill Bradley, Boston's Faneuil Hall was the backdrop for a chilly post-debate rally that attracted more than 500 supporters.

BRADLEY: This campaign is based on the radical premise that you can go out and tell people what you believe and get elected.

KARL: Bradley picked up the endorsements of more than 50 local Massachusetts politicians in what the campaign billed as a counterpoint to Gore's endorsement from the king of Massachusetts Democrats, Teddy Kennedy. Here, Bradley did not even mention his opponent by name, keeping it positive in contrast to Wednesday night's debate.

BRADLEY: I think you're in the Washington bunker. And I can understand why you're in the bunker. I mean, there's Gingrich, there was the fund-raising scandal, there was the impeachment problem. And I think that the major objective in the last several years in the White House has been political survival. I understand that. But the reality is the Democratic Party shouldn't be in the Washington bunker with you.

KARL: Gore responded with his familiar charge that he stayed in Washington to fight, in contrast to Bradley, who left the Senate after the Republicans took control of Congress.

Gore used the debate clarify his offer of mutually-forgoing TV ads, saying he would do it just in New Hampshire, where Bradley holds a lead in several polls.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we had to rely on actually being the details of the policies, not just once every while but twice a week, every week until the nomination is decided, I think we might have a chance to really elevate the tone of our democracy. I mean it, seriously.

BRADLEY: You know, Al, your underdog pitch brings tears to my eyes.

GORE: Well, I hope that my upset victory brings tears to your eyes on February 1st.

KARL: But Gore has stepped up his New Hampshire ad campaign. Although so far Bradley has outspent Gore in New Hampshire by nearly a two-to-one margin, with a new ad running today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEY: And that's why I propose training 60,000 new teachers a year for the next 10 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: By the end of the week, the Bradley campaign says it will have spent $2 million on TV ads geared towards New Hampshire.

(on camera): Gore and Bradley now turn their attention to Iowa, where Gore still holds a commanding lead in the polls. That lead will get a test this weekend, as the two candidates face off in their first Iowa debate.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Boston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: Let's talk about the Democrats' debate and tonight's Republican face-off with Richard Berke of "The New York Times" -- he joins us from Durham, New Hampshire -- and Robert Novak of "The Chicago Sun-Times." He's here in Washington.

Rick, first to you. In your judgment, what were Gore and Bradley trying to do on that stage last night and appeal to whom?

RICHARD BERKE, "NEW YORK TIMES": They were both trying to appeal to the liberal wing of the party. I was struck, Bernie, by the fact that they both said, asked about whether they would apply a litmus test in their appointment of Joint Chiefs of Staff, a litmus test on gays in the military, they didn't necessarily agree with the word litmus test, but they both said they would agree with that concept.

And they both also were asked about the liberal label and if they would accept that for themselves. And they both said, call me whatever you want. They didn't reject the liberal label, something you never would have heard out of from Bill Clinton while he was running for president.

So they're both really appealing to the farthest left wing of the party, the core Democratic loyal voters.

SHAW: Let's go to the exchange you just referred to. The question was, would they require their appointees to the Joint Chiefs of Staff to fully support allowing gays in the military?

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: I would insist, before appointing anybody to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that that individual support my policy. And, yes, I would make that a requirement.

PETER JENNINGS, MODERATOR: Mr. Bradley, would you, sir? BRADLEY: I can say it in much shorter words, I think. And that is when you're president, you are commander in chief. And you issue orders. And soldiers are good soldiers, and they follow your orders.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: Now, Bob Novak, your assessment of what Gore and Bradley were trying to do on that stage last night in New Hampshire and appeal to whom.

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Well, Richard is correct. They are trying to appeal to the left wing of the party, the base of the party, as they call it. I thought that Vice President Gore went farther than Senator Bradley on the gays in the military. He said he would do a litmus test. Bradley just said well they all obey orders. Maybe that's a distinction without a difference.

But, Bernie, I've talked to some old-time Democratic politicians today, and they were very concerned about this debate and the way this whole campaign is going, because they believe that these sound bites are going to be stored and used by the Republicans in the fall. They question whether taking those positions really helps either one of them that much in the campaign, and -- in the primary -- and it could hurt quite a bit in the general election.

SHAW: Now, Bob and Rick, let's look at one of the humorous moments of that debate, when Bradley was asked about his reputation for being aloof.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEY: Am I aloof? I'm not aloof at all.

JENNY ATTIYEH, NHPTV: Let me finish.

BRADLEY: The best thing I like about politics is going out and meeting people. I've just finished my 46th town meeting in New Hampshire. You can't be aloof in a New Hampshire town meeting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: Bob?

NOVAK: One other sound bite that wasn't used, Bernie, was Vice President Gore saying, there, is that aloof again? By -- I suppose in jest, but nothing is in jest in these debates -- in regard to Bradley. Gore is so poised to seize on anything that Bradley does wrong. I think this was a superior performance by Gore, compared to the "Meet the Press" performance, when he was rolling his eyes and sighing and all that sort of thing. But I do believe that he still comes off as much more tight, much less relaxed than Bradley, and that's an opinion that is shared by some of his own supporters.

SHAW: Rick Berke, what's the watch word for the Republicans tonight where you are? BERKE: I think it's going to be fascinating to watch the dynamics between Governor Bush and Senator McCain. Their last debate, it was practically a love fest between the two of them, so much so that I went and wrote a story about their relationship the next day because it was striking to me how they went out of their way to praise each other and say how great the other was.

You're not going to see that -- I don't think we will see that tonight. I think we're getting down to the wire. We're getting into a very competitive race where already they are questioning each other's tax cut plans, Social Security plans, so forth. So I think we're going to see the gloves may start coming off tonight for the first time in a debate format.

NOVAK: That's quite correct, and there's going to be an emphasis, Bernie, on this tax cut question. Senator McCain made his first serious tactical mistake in the campaign. This is a Republican primary, and he's worried about having a tax cut for the rich, and instead saving Social Security. That sounds like Al Gore. I guarantee you that Governor Bush is going to attack Senator McCain on that tonight.

The question is, will Senator McCain back off from the idea that tax cuts for the -- for people who have been successful in this world, are improvident and unwise? Because there are some of his supporters who feel he has to get off that position if he is going to get Republican as well as independent votes in New Hampshire.

SHAW: Robert Novak of the "Chicago Sun-Times."

And Rick Berke - very quickly from you.

BERKE: I was just going to say I think you're also going to see McCain asked about the whole campaign finance questions that you talked about earlier. You know, he's trying to be the reformer in this state, can -- I don't think Bush himself will bring it up, but I would expect the questioners to, and that's going to certainly be an issue tonight.

SHAW: Well, we'll be watching. Richard Berke of "The New York Times," Bob Novak of the "Sun Times" and "THE CAPITOL GANG." Thanks very much.

And still ahead here on INSIDE POLITICS, we are going to talk to Pat Buchanan about something he and Donald Trump actually agree on. They are fuming about a new move that makes it very hard for third- party candidates to take part in presidential debates. We'll have extended coverage of the decision by the presidential debates commission, and we'll tell you what it may mean for the party that Ross Perot built.

This is INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: When the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees debate one another this fall, it now seems unlikely that a Reform Party candidate will be on the stage with them. A special commission announced new criteria today for participation in those debates.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve begins our coverage of a decision that may cause serious problems for the already fractured Reform Party.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL KIRK, CO-CHAIRMAN, COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: The candidate, regardless of party, regardless of affiliation, have a level of support of at least 15 percent of the prospective voters in the general election.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With that, the Commission on Presidential Debates settled one of the most controversial issues of campaign 2000: How a candidate gets a seat in the all-important fall debates.

One week before the first debate, the commission will take an average of five polls: CNN/"USA Today" Gallup, NBC/"Wall Street Journal," CBS/"New York Times," ABC News/"Washington Post," and Fox News/"Opinion Dynamics." Anyone with 15 percent or more gets into the October 3rd debate, as well as the vice presidential debate two days later. Everyone else is cut out.

The commission will repeat the exercise for the last two debates. It's a major change from 1996, when a far more complex formula was used to exclude Ross Perot. Perot sued the commission and lost. But the criticism stung, and this time the commission decided to keep it simple.

FRANK FAHRENKOPF, CO-CHAIRMAN, COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: So there's no question of anyone being able to hide the ball, change the results. The results are out there. They're very transparent.

MESERVE: Meeting that 15 percent standard could be critical to this year's Reform Party nominee. The last time a third-party candidate got into the debates was 1992.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1992)

ROSS PEROT (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And you are going to hear a giant sucking sound of jobs being pulled out of this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: Perot took 19 percent in that election, but four years later, after he was excluded, Perot got just nine percent.

Whether Perot's poor showing was a result of his exclusion is an open question, but there are certainly examples of long-shot candidates boosting their polls with a good debate performance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1998) JESSE VENTURA (REF), MINNESOTA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: What is matter with industrial hemp? There's a product that will create new jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: In the 1998 Minnesota governor's race, Reform Party candidate Jesse Ventura was going nowhere until he was allowed into the debates. And the rest is history.

Pat Buchanan is a skilled debater. Here he is in a 1996 GOP primary debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1996)

PAT BUCHANAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My flat tax is a middle-class tax cut. Yours looks like one that was worked up by the boys at the yacht basin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: But he's got a long way to go to get into the 2000 presidential debates. In our latest hypothetical three-way match-ups with the leading Democratic and Republican candidates, Buchanan draws around five percent. His possible Reform Party rival, Donald Trump, draws 10 percent in a similar match-up.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: The special commission says the 2000 presidential debates will be a mix of formats, from a town-hall gathering to a traditional "stand at the podium" event.

And they will be held in a variety of cities. The October 3rd debate will take place at the John F. Kennedy library in Boston. Then it's on to Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for the October 11th face-off. Washington University in St. Louis will host the October 17th presidential debate. A vice presidential debate also has been scheduled on October 5th at Center College in Danville, Kentucky.

Pat Buchanan suggested today that he hasn't given up hope that he will take part in those fall debates. He and other Reform Party figures wasted no time in blasting the Debate Commission's new 15 percent rule.

That story from CNN's Pat Neal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three-time presidential candidate Pat Buchanan was preaching against a new world order that would favor globalism over national sovereignty. But in Buchanan's world order, the Reform Party contender would be included in the presidential debates, 15 percent in the polls or not.

PAT BUCHANAN (REF), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think it's fair to say you have to be on enough ballots so that you can win the presidency of the United States, but these other criteria are artificial.

NEAL: Buchanan said the decision amounts to a conspiracy between Republicans and Democrats, since they're the only ones on the Debate Commission.

BUCHANAN: It's like Coke and Pepsi saying no other soft drink can enter the market unless they meet a certain criteria. That's preposterous.

NEAL: Buchanan's likely rival for the Reform Party nomination, Donald Trump, agreed:

"I am not surprised that the two-party political establishment wants to keep the American people from having a third choice. I am confident that were I to become a candidate, I would register strong poll ratings."

Russ Verney, a Ross Perot loyalist and former head of the Reform Party, called the decision an absolute fraud, and said it's the same situation as 1996, when Perot was left out of the debates.

Like Perot before him, Buchanan says he'll battle to be included.

BUCHANAN: We're going to fight this before the FEC, and we will fight it before the federal courts.

NEAL: One reason the long-time Republican made the leap to the Reform Party was the potential of participating in the debates, where he believes he could sway voters with his fiery pro-America talk.

Thursday's speech was classic Buchanan, declaring the United States should only go to war when attacked, or its vital interests are imperiled.

BUCHANAN: If ever sovereignty becomes obsolete, we may expect America's involvement in endless wars, until one day we pay the horrific price in some act of cataclysmic terrorism on our own soil. For interventionism is the spawning pool of international terror.

NEAL (on camera): Buchanan says he'll start his fight to be included immediately. Meanwhile, his rival, Donald Trump, goes to Minnesota for a long-planned summit with Governor Jesse Ventura, the highest-ranking Reform Party official. There, talk of the debates is sure to be on the agenda.

Pat Neal, CNN, Boston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: And when we return, we'll talk to Pat Buchanan about that Debate Commission's decision, and how he and the Reform Party may suffer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NEAL: Pat Neal, CNN, Boston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: And when we return, we'll talk to Pat Buchanan about that Debate Commission's decision and how he and the Reform Party may suffer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: More reaction now to the Presidential Debate Commission's decision to require third-party candidates to get at least 15 percent in the polls to participate in debates this fall. We're joined from Boston by Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.

Are you sweating the possibility that you won't get 15 percent?

BUCHANAN: No, Bernie, I am not. I believe we can get that. But what I do think is an outrage and an insult to the Democratic process is to have the two major parties engage basically in a conspiracy to corner the market on the presidency of the United States. I represent now and am a candidate of the Reform Party. I expect to be its nominee. The Reform Party will get federal matching funds for its convention. We get federal matching funds in the fall. We're one of three recognized national parties, and to have the other two set criteria to keep us out of a debate that is going to determine the outcome of the election 2000 is just illegitimate, it is outrageous, it is an absurd conflict of interest.

SHAW: How do you mean this is a conspiracy? How can you prove that?

BUCHANAN: You can't demonstrate that, but let me ask you, Bernie, if Coca-Cola and Pepsi set up criterion by which Sprite could get into the market, it had to pass a certain threshold or it would not be allowed to compete, that would be a criminal conspiracy and restraint of trade. We have the two national parties, Mr. Fahrenkoph, former member of the Republican Party, million dollar a year lobbyist for the gambling industry, deciding whether the one major outside party should even be able to compete for the presidency. It seems to me, on its face, we've got a conflict of interest.

SHAW: Well, you're being very cost caustic, which is your wont, but you're denigrating Frank -- is it illegal for him to make a million dollars a year?

BUCHANAN: It is not illegal for him to belong to the Republican Party or Mr. Kirk to the Democratic Party. But let me ask you, Bernie, why should the Democratic and Republican Party, two out of the three parties that are federally recognized, decide the criterion by which the third party may compete?

SHAW: Pat, let me ask you this question -- instead of complaining about the decision, why don't you go out and get 15 percent and you'll be in the debates?

BUCHANAN: Exactly. That's what we intend to do, and I believe we'll do it. We're going to be the nominee. But, Bernie, what they've set up is a situation where both parties, if they don't want you in the debate, can launch with their five times as much money as they get, attack ads on me to drive me down in their own polls or the other polls, below 15, at that particular moment, and then say he's out of the debate, and we don't fairly compete. Bernie, they should not be deciding this issue. You have two parties deciding on the fate of the third.

SHAW: OK. We're fast running out of time. I've got three or four questions I have to ask you.

BUCHANAN: Sure.

SHAW: Does the presence of Donald Trump complicate your goals?

BUCHANAN: No, because this is going to be in the general election, and it'll be Buchanan the nominee.

SHAW: How are you going to fight this?

BUCHANAN: We're going to file suit with the Federal Election Commission. I believe they've got 120 days to decide.

SHAW: When?

BUCHANAN: If they decide against us -- as soon as we can -- we will go into federal court, and we will tell the federal court that you have got two parties trying to kill a third's chance for the presidency of the United States, and this is a conspiracy, and it ought not be decided by Republicans and Democrats, but all Americans ought to decide whether I am in that debate, not the parties I'm running against.

SHAW: Of course you know the FEC has never been overruled by a federal court.

BUCHANAN: The FEC is made up of three Republicans and three Democrats. That is another absurdity when we have a third party.

Bernie, the Reform Party has made it. We are recognized. We get federal matching funds. We get funds for our convention. We get funds for the election. We are a third party, and the other two are trying to kill what is new, and hopeful and different.

SHAW: Do you think -- just possibly, do you think that this decision, these criteria, issued by the Presidential Debate Commission might, in fact, boomerang, ricochet and actually energize Reform Party members.

BUCHANAN: They're not only going to energize Reform Party member's, the American people, even those who disagree with me, are a fair-minded people. I mean, look, can you imagine if George Bush and the folks said, look, all the candidates who got less than 15 percent in the polls -- that's Mr. Bauer, Mr. Keyes, Mr. Forbes -- you are not in the debates, and these are the only two in the debates. When George Bush tried that in 1980, Ronald Reagan said, you know, I've paid for this microphone, and I want these fellows in that debate. When Bush said no, he was finished as a candidate.

This is going to backfire on these fellows, pulling a stunt like this. And we are a legitimate party.

SHAW: Pat Buchanan, Reform Party candidate, talking to us from Boston, thanks very much.

BUCHANAN: Thank you.

SHAW: Quite welcome.

There is much more ahead here on INSIDE POLITICS. Coming up:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Quiz question: How many third-party candidates in this century have gotten at least 15 percent of the vote?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: Bill Schneider has the answer, and he explains why it does not bode well for the Ross Perots of the future.

Plus:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A top priority for the House Republican majority is remaining the majority.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: Bob Franken on the key issues on the Republican agenda for the coming year. And later:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: We are so pleased that we are finally here and moved in, and looking forward to, you know, many happy days here in the days and months ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: Hillary Rodham Clinton, on her first night of being a New York resident.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: We will have more of the day's political news coming up. But now, if you will, a look at some other top stories. President Clinton has rejoined those high-level peace talks between Israel and Syria. Administration officials are concerned about the pace of negotiations in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Four committees have been set up to discuss key issues. By late afternoon, none had met. A State Department spokesman says Mr. Clinton hopes to get all parties, quote, "rolling up their sleeves" to do substantive work.

A NATO spokesman confirms a report in the German press. Altered videotape of a NATO airstrike on a civilian train in Kosovo bolstered NATO accounts of that attack. Turns out the tape, released by NATO last April, was played three times faster than normal. Now that served to support NATO's claim the attack played out too swiftly to abort. Now notice how fast the train appears to be traveling as the bomb zeros in. Now notice the effect produced when the tape is slowed by a factor of three. NATO says it had no knowledge the tape had been altered and stands by its account. At least 14 people aboard the train were killed.

A computer malfunction brought air traffic to a near standstill today in the northeastern United States. The problem grounded dozens of flights. It happened when a central air traffic control facility near Washington experienced a data-transfer mishap. The trouble has since been fixed, and normal airport operations have resumed. Federal Aviation Officials say it does not appear the glitch was Y2K-related. To learn more about today's air traffic mishap and get updates on conditions at airports around the country, please log onto our Web site at cnn.com.

It's been a day of more protests in Miami, Cuban-Americans voicing their disapproval of the Immigration and Naturalization Service's decision to have Elian Gonzalez returned to his father in Cuba. Earlier today, at least three dozen people were arrested. The 6-year-old is expected to be reunited with his father soon. To facilitate the process, his father is asking the National Council of Churches' help. Elian was plucked from the waters off the coast of Florida on Thanksgiving. His mother drowned on the trip from Cuba.

Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker has been ordered to undergo psychological testing. The order follows Rocker's disparaging remarks about homosexuals and minorities in comments to "Sports Illustrated." The remarks left the Braves organization wondering what to do about the outspoken pitcher.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STAN KASTEN, ATLANTA BRAVES: What we had was a player who was remorseful, acknowledged not just a horrible mistake on his part but also serious wrongdoing and was eager to take whatever steps he could to fix this, to get whatever help would be required to ameliorate this problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: The Atlanta Braves baseball team are owned by Time Warner, which also owns CNN. When INSIDE POLITICS returns, Bill Schneider takes a look back at third-party candidates and their support to find how many would qualify under the new debate rules.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: Now, again, the issue of who should be included in presidential debates. New rules announced today by the commission on presidential debates allow only candidates who have at least 15 percent support in national polls to participate. Now that could eliminate third-party candidates from these debates this year.

Joining us now with some historical perspective, our own Bill Schneider.

SCHNEIDER: Quiz question.

SHAW: What?

SCHNEIDER: How many presidential candidates in this century have gotten at least 15 percent of the vote? If you say three, well, we can't give you $1 million, but you're right.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): Teddy Roosevelt got 27 percent as a Progressive Party candidate in 1912, came in second, carried six states, too. He was a former president after all. Another progressive, Robert LaFollette, got 17 percent in 1924, carried only his own state of Wisconsin. And Perot, 19 percent in 1992 -- no states.

Hey, what about George Wallace in 1968? Sorry, he only got 13.5 percent of the vote, but he carried five Southern states. The race between Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon was so close, Wallace almost denied either of them an electoral vote majority, which would have thrown the election into the House of Representatives. Wallace didn't get 15 percent, but he almost had a decisive impact on the outcome.

Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond carried four Southern states in 1948, but he got less than three percent of the vote nationwide.

The 15 percent rule clearly excludes regional candidates like Thurmond and Wallace, whose support is concentrated in one part of the country. This time, the debate commission isn't asking, can the candidate carry any states, it's asking, is the candidate viable nationally?

Look at John Anderson in 1980. In September, Anderson was getting about 14 percent in the polls. The League of Women Voters invited him to debate on September 21st. President Carter refused to show up. Most of Anderson's vote came at Carter's expense, so Carter didn't want to give Anderson legitimacy. Anderson and Ronald Reagan ended up debating alone. In October, Anderson's support dropped below 10 percent in the polls. The league decided not to invite him to the second debate. On October 28th, it was just Carter and Reagan. Anderson ended up with less than seven percent of the vote and no states.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: This is a case of what the recently deceased writer Joseph Heller called "Catch 22." You need to show you're a nationally viable candidate to get into the debates, but the easiest way for you to become a nationally viable candidate is to get into the debates.

The debate commission is saying, we're not going to make you viable. You have to figure out some other way to do that on your own -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you.

We're not done with this subject. Joining us now for more, the co-chairmen of the commission on presidential debates, Frank Fahrenkopf here Washington, and Paul Kirk, who's in Boston.

Gentlemen, a very simple question: Are these new rules meant to deny some candidates a free ride?

Paul Kirk?

PAUL KIRK, CO-CHAIRMAN, COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: Bernie, thank you.

These rules are meant to give the American voter, the prospective voters in the next election, the decision-making power to decide whether they want -- who are the principal rivals they want for the presidency of the United States. And we're now nine, 10 months away from that decision. The campaign is a long way from over. Campaigns are a winnowing out process, a time for candidates to accumulate strength, to gain respect, to build support. That's what it's about.

At the end of the day, when the decision is made, if, on the average of these polls, that 15 percent of the American people, the prospective voters, say, we'd like to see this candidate as a president of the United States, we favor him or her, that candidate comes into the debates. But let's not misunderstand it. The whole purpose of this criterion is so the American people, the voters, will decide by the support they bring to whoever candidate they decide to support.

SHAW: Frank Fahrenkopf, is this meant to deny some candidates a free ride?

FRANK FAHRENKOPF, CO-CHAIRMAN, COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: Well, I don't know what you mean by a free ride. If it means that you...

SHAW: Getting in on the debates, a stage full of candidates.

FAHRENKOPF: Well, yes. I mean, you know, most people don't realize it but that in every presidential year there's over 100 candidates who run for office. Of course you can't have 100 people on the stage. You also have legitimately over the last six and eight years the third-party movement in this country. We tried to come up with a system that was fair, where everyone would know nine months out in advance what the barrier was going to be.

And I thought Pat Buchanan's arguments were very, very interesting, because just a few months ago on "Meet the Press," he said, if I'm at 15 percent, I ought to be in the debates. He has repeated that 15 percent figure on a number of shows, including on this network. Well now, apparently, he's unhappy with it. So he can't have it both ways. I think he's being a little disingenuous.

The purpose here is to present to the American people in the fall the leading candidates, those who have a realistic chance of getting elected. We think the American people will tell us that by taking the average of the five polls.

SHAW: For you to say that Pat Buchanan is unhappy is an understatement. He excoriated everything you have done. He said that this is a stunt, he warns of a national backlash, he calls it outrageous and he said very seriously that what you have done is committed a conspiracy.

FAHRENKOPF: He's saying that there is a conspiracy among the two parties, while Paul and I are ex-chairman of the two national parties. The national parties have nothing whatsoever to do with the debate commission. We get no money from the national parties, we get no money from the federal government. We raised the money privately. There is no conspiracy, Pat knows that, but Pat's, you know, trying to develop his own following, and he's got to say what he has to say to get the nomination, I guess.

SHAW: Paul Kirk, he says he's going to take you to court.

KIRK: Well, that's OK, Bernie, we've been taken to court at the end of every cycle. In all these cycles, the courts, the FEC, others have said what the commission has done, the criteria they've applied is objective, it's pre-established and it stands as it always do. What we've tried to do this time, we've changed somewhat and modified, streamlined the criteria, so would be absolutely no doubt in whose hands this decision rests.

SHAW: Let's look a little closer at one of the criterions within these criteria. How -- where did you come up with 15 percent, why not 10 percent, why not 12 percent?

KIRK: That's a question that can be debated anywhere. This was the considered judgment of people on the commission. Others -- some looked back at history, Bill gave us some, that 15 percent was a fair and reasonable threshold. You have to keep in mind what the mission of the debate commission is and what -- where we are at the time those decisions are made. We go through a long -- some of the campaigns are four years long.

We get to the end and what the American people, I think, want and what the commission is charged to do is put forth a debate in which the principal rivals for the presidency debate and compete. Not as was mentioned earlier we'll give some other candidate who hasn't built up the strength an opportunity to go at the end of the campaign and see if he can make it or not. That's not what campaigns are about. The debates are just a specific format within a long campaign period.

SHAW: But, Paul and Frank, you mean to say that if Pat Buchanan gets 14.5 percent, 14.9 percent, you would deny him a place on the stage?

FAHRENKOPF: Well, let me tell you how to it works -- go ahead, Paul. I'll follow.

KIRK: No, I was just going to say there have to be at the early part of a process like this, there have to be clear lines and rules of the road and rules of the game. And now all the American people know what the rules are, every campaign knows what the rules are, I don't -- yes, you can argue, well, 14.8, but it's not going to...

SHAW: Will you?

KIRK: It's not going to vary. People know what the benchmark is, we'll abide by it, and the choice will be made. Otherwise, it would be totally unfair.

SHAW: OK. I just want to be clear.

KIRK: You can't set the rules and then change them at the end of the game.

FAHRENKOPF: It's 15, Bernie. It's 15.

SHAW: It's 15 percent.

FAHRENKOPF: Frank Newport of Gallup, who is an adviser to the commission, who also does work with this network, indicates to us that the five polls that we're going to average in fact already round either up or down. It shouldn't be a second rounding.

SHAW: OK. Wait a minute. We're fast running out of time. But what about this reality when polls are taken, they have a plus or minus 3 percent margin of error, what do you do about that? Doesn't 14.5 or 14.9 percent then become very relevant?

FAHRENKOPF: Well, what the indication is to us from the experts out there is that -- sure you can -- with every poll you have a certain margin of error, but we're talking about give polls here, that's going to be thousands and thousands of people that will eliminate and lower down that margin of error.

And I also want to say, because I have to, because Pat has charged us with a conspiracy, we've gone back to a system that is very much like the League of Women Voters used in place, setting out there a number that had to be met. Clearly, the League of Women Voters weren't conspiring to keep third-party candidates. We allowed Ross Perot in the '92. He was right to be in then. We think he was not right to be in, in 1996. So, you know, we reject those charges made by Pat Buchanan. SHAW: Frank Fahrenkopf, Paul Kirk, co-chairmen of the Commission on Presidential Debates, obviously we think this is a very important subject, that's why we devoted more than 12 minutes to it today on INSIDE POLITICS, and we'll be following it very, very closely.

Gentlemen, thank you.

KIRK: Thanks, Bernie.

SHAW: Quite welcome.

Up next: Is Al Gore's campaign manager ruffling Republican feathers.

Plus, the Republican agenda: Bob Franken looks at the GOP's top priority.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: Democratic candidates fanned out from their debate in New Hampshire last night. Vice President Al Gore on the road now, as is Senator Bill Bradley arriving here at a rally at the Des Moines, Iowa airport.

Al Gore's campaign manager, Donna Brazile, has a reputation of being outspoken and assertive, qualities the vice president wanted as he revamped his campaign team. But on the subject of race and politics, she has infuriated one very prominent Republican.

Wolf Blitzer joins us now with details -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Bernie, he is an African-American Republican, an icon in many respects: General Colin Powell. Now, Donna Brazile, of course, is African-American as well. And yesterday, she gave an interview to Bloomberg.com, an outspoken interview.

Among other things she said this: "The Republicans bring out Colin Powell and J.C. Watts, the congressman from Oklahoma, because they have no program, no policy. They play that game because they have no other game. They have no love and no joy. They'd rather take pictures with black children than feed them." Strong words from Donna Brazile.

To which General Colin Powell today has written a very tough letter to Vice President Gore, reminding him that the two men together with President Clinton worked on many projects to help America's children, black and white. Among other things General Powell in his letter to Vice President Gore said this, "I do so to help feed, educate and spiritually nourish all of America's children, black and white, and not just for a photo op. And I do so as a Republican."

The vice president, in the letter that he received from General Powell, was also reminded of this by General Powell:

"We can debate and disagree over specific programs and approaches, but let's not start the new century by playing the polarizing race card, which immediately contaminates and destroys the opportunity for open debate on issues of importance to all of our children."

To which the vice president's press secretary Chris Lehane, the campaign press secretary responded that General Powell is a great American, he has contributed a lot to this country. But Chris Lehane goes on to condemn the Republicans for being a party that is not conducive to helping African-Americans in this country, and he goes on to say, "Donna Brazile is doing a great job as campaign manager," suggesting she's not about to be fired -- Bernie.

SHAW: Wolf Blitzer, very, very interesting, thank you.

Congress won't reconvene until January 24, but the Republican leadership met today to announce its agenda for the year.

Our Bob Franken takes a look at the familiar issues that top the list.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: The Republican leadership met today to announce its agenda for the year.

Our Bob Franken takes a look at the familiar issues that top the list.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. J.C. WATTS (R-OK), CONFERENCE CHAIRMAN: A top priority for the House Republican majority is remaining the majority.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: The American people have a choice, of voting for a Congress and a party with new ideas and new energy, or going back to a Congress of old ideas.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This year's Republican ideas are last year's ideas, starting with...

DICK ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: Tax relief for the American family.

FRANKEN: In fact, the first order of business for House Republicans will be another effort to repeal the marriage penalty. But coming out of two days of meetings may produce a new wrinkle in their tax strategy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to be honest with yourselves.

FRANKEN: GOP sources tell CNN the large majority in their party wants to avoid an all-encompassing tax cut, like the $792 billion proposal in last year's budget.

Instead, Republicans want to discourage another presidential veto by passing popular tax cuts one by one.

They also will emphasize trade, as well as high-tech legislation.

And fending off the Democrats.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: We're still aware of how much of our agenda from last year is undone.

FRANKEN: That means HMO reform again, gun control, prescription drugs for Medicare recipients, minimum wage legislation, as well as a new Democratic proposal to spend federal money repairing decrepit schools.

Democrats feel they have the upper hand.

GEOFFREY GARIN, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Right now I would much rather be the Democrats than the Republicans looking ahead to the 2000 elections.

REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY WHIP: The best part of this is to look over the last five years.

FRANKEN: It's five years since Newt Gingrich and Republicans wrenched control of Congress away from the Democrats.

(on camera): Now it's the Democrats storming the Capitol, and the Republicans trying to hold on to their precarious position at the top of the hill.

Bob Franken, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: And still ahead, the first couple returns from their Empire State home. A look at how they rate life outside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: The first couple returned to Washington today after spending the first night in their New York home. While much unpacking remains, Mrs. Clinton can now tell the voters of the Empire State she is indeed a New York resident.

Kelly Wallace reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILLARY CLINTON, FIRST LADY: Welcome to our house.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president and the first lady beamed as they strolled down their driveway to tell reporters about their first night in their new home.

H. CLINTON: We loved it. Well, it was a little overwhelming because there is so much to be done, and we stayed up very late.

WALLACE: Until after 1:00 a.m., in fact, unpacking boxes and moving furniture inside their $1.7 million colonial in the upscale New York City suburb of Chappaqua, their first home after years in the Arkansas governor's mansion and the White House.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is the first home we have had since January of 1983, 17 years ago, when we moved back into the governor's mansion in Little Rock.

WALLACE: A family friend brought over a home-cooked dinner, and neighbors dropped off a bottle of champagne.

W. CLINTON: We also want to thank our neighbors who have been long-suffering with all the attention.

WALLACE: But not everyone is so understanding of all the security and all the media tracking the new occupants of Old House Lane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are causing a big furor.

H. CLINTON: I'm really going to work on that, I'm going to talk about it a lot. In fact...

WALLACE: Of course, this is also a political move, and so the likely Senate candidate took the opportunity to shake a few hands in downtown Chappaqua.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mrs. Clinton, how does it feel to officially be a New Yorker?

H. CLINTON: It feels great.

WALLACE: The first lady needed to establish residency in New York in order to run, and is now a registered voter in the Empire State. Her husband plans to follow her lead.

W. CLINTON: I've got a particular interest in the election up here next year, so I want to make sure my vote counts.

WALLACE: The Clintons stayed in Chappaqua less than 24 hours before heading back to Washington.

(on camera): The first lady refused to answer questions about the financing of her campaign. Instead, she wanted to focus on the new home, and clearly try and get the message out to New Yorkers that she is now one of them.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, Chappaqua, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: Well, that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

We'll see you again tomorrow, when our Bruce Morton will be live from Columbia, South Carolina, previewing that Republican presidential debate in that state.

And as always you can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com.

And, please, this programming note: The Democratic presidential race will be the focus tonight on "CROSSFIRE." The guests will be Bradley New Hampshire campaign director Mark Longabaugh, and former Gore chief of staff Ron Klain. That's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Bernard Shaw. and "WORLDVIEW" is next.

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