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Larry King Live

Democratic Presidential Candiates Hold Debate in L.A.

Aired March 1, 2000 - 10:30 p.m. ET

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

LARRY KING, HOST: Good evening.

I'm dressed in this garb not because I'm envious of Tucker Carlson and the bow-tie look. But right after this program, I'll be fortunate enough to get the Will Rogers Award tonight from the Beverly Hills Chamber. That's a very coveted honor, and I'm very proud of it. So that's why we're dressed this way.

And one program note, Friday night -- we just learned this today -- Bob Jones, the president of Bob Jones University, will be on this program for the full hour.

What did you make of tonight's debate Joe Klein?

JOE KLEIN, "NEW YORKER": Well, we've seen a lot of amazing things in this year and a lot of political firsts, and this was, to me, another political first. This was the first political debate between candidates I've ever seen after the campaign has ended.

KING: It was a post-debate.

KLEIN: I mean, this was, you know, this was not even a debate. You know, Bill Bradley, in effect, was saying, it's over, I'm not going to attack, I'm not going to go after Gore, I'm just going to, you know, go through my routine for one last time, and goodbye. I mean, what may have seen is the beginning of Bill Bradley's vice presidential campaign.

You know, the biggest question is, can you have a vice president that tall?

KING: Katrina, what's your read?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, "THE NATION": Well, it was certainly muted. It was tame. It was respectful. It was very different than the debate at the Apollo, but I think Bradley was unwilling to on concede that it was over, though his reply about mistakes and coming to terms with failure certainly showed that he doesn't think he has a lifeline left on March 7.

But there are many purposes to this presidential campaign, and you saw it tonight. Vice President Gore should be indebted to Senator Bradley. You wouldn't have heard many of these themes in the debate we heard tonight if Bradley had not been as ambitious and bold in pushing a vice president and an administration has made a light motif of, sort of, the small policy miniatures over the last seven years. Whether Bradley used the strategy of, you know, you were the poster boy of the NRA, when he says that to Gore, whether that was wise, or was it better to say, where was your administration in the last seven years on health care, and children and poverty, et cetera? So tonight, I would say it was a sign of how different the Democratic Party is than the Republican Party that will meet tomorrow might, but it was also a sign of purpose of the presidential campaign and debates can play, and we saw that.

KING: Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, they finally admitted they agree on everything, you know, after months of trying to paint one another as wackos, they come out and tell us the awful truth.

KING: Bill's right. Yes, Al's correct. That was a good point, Bill.

CARLSON: Exactly. That's right. And it was almost actually insulting the way that Gore was so nice to Bradley after hammering him relentlessly.

KING: You think it's like victor being nice to the spoil?

CARLSON: That's right. Well, actually, it's like the Mafia kids, which is one of the reasons that I think the McCain people ought to worry. I mean, you noticed that about five times during the debate, Gore said, well, you know, I think Senator McCain has an excellent point. You know, just think shivers up their spine.

KING: Do you think Gore would rather run against Bush?

CARLSON: Well, of course he would. I mean, sure. I mean, for a lot of reasons, but the basic one is that polls -- every poll shows that McCain is going to be a rougher challenge to Gore.

KING: Were you surprised that Bradley didn't attack tonight?

CARLSON: I was. I mean, he did at the end. He had that sort of implausible line about how Al Gore is some sort of segregationist, and it was also metaphor really for the whole Bradley campaign. He attacked at the end. His attack was hard to understand, and it was ineffective.

KING: Tony Blankley, what was your read on this 90-minute encounter?

TONY BLANKLEY, FMR. GINGRICH SPOKESMAN: Well, I agree with everybody else.

I also think that -- I found it interesting to note that Gore was going after Bush and not after McCain. I assume he has made the judgment that McCain is not going to be the man he's going to oppose. I thought that was significant. He complemented McCain several times and used McCain as a contrast point for Bush. So I guess he judged him to be the best candidate.

I thought it was interesting, that viewing both this debate and the ones that led up to this, we find, I think, that the Bradley candidacy, which obviously, is now in its terminal stages, has moved Gore to the left, which will pay -- and Gore will pay a certain price in November, on the issue, for instance, of gun control, where Bradley has had the harder position. That's going to pay a price for him in Georgia, in Michigan, Indiana. There are going states that Gore should be well positioned to do well in, where he may not be because of the Bradley candidacy.

I thought it was the interesting, the Al Sharpton comments, both of Bradley, but more significantly of Gore, because Gore is obviously going to be the nominee, with the minor exception. said there were a few things he said we didn't like, he spent most of his answer complimenting Sharpton, which I found a rather shocking statement. I think that will play against him in the fall also. So I think the Bradley candidacy has positioned Gore to the left.

KING: And has the McCain candidacy positioned Bush to the right, Tony?

BLANKLEY: McCain candidacy to the right? Well, no. I...

KING: No, pushed Bush to the right, pushed him to the right in South Carolina.

BLANKLEY: Oh sure. Bush certainly has moved off where he wanted to be, because McCain -- but for a different reason. Bradley went to the left and Gore followed him. McCain went to the center and Bush went further to the right. So for opposite reasons, they did get mispositioned.

KING: We're going take a break, come back. I'll talk with Al Gore, and then more comments from our panel. We'll be with you for a full hour on late because of the debate.

This is LARRY KING LIVE. We'll talk with the vice president right this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We are now going to spend some moments with one of the participants in the just-seen 90-minute debate, the vice president of the United States, Al Gore. Are you as -- our panel here, Joe Klein and Katrina vanden Heuvel, and Tony Blankley and Tucker Carlson have all said that it looks this is all over, but they're the shouting.

Do you have that feeling that you are a confident winner already?

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not taking a single vote for granted, Larry. The fact is there are more delegates to be selected this coming Tuesday than ever in the history of presidential nomination campaigns, and I am not taking a single vote for granted, much less a single primary or caucus. And so no, I'm not letting myself feel that way at all. KING: What has surprised you the most in this race?

GORE: Well, you know, to give you a deeply personal answer, sometimes your strength can be your weakness. What surprised me was at the end of last summer, when I really had to completely re-evaluate the way I was campaigning and change what had been, I think, a strength as vice president, namely responding to every question and challenge by instantly thinking how I can move the ball down the field for the Clinton-Gore administration and just completely get rid of that approach and respond spontaneously and directly with my own feeling. And that may sound like an obvious thing, but I had to learn that freshly after seven years of doing the best job I could possibly do as vice president, and I had to realize, running for president is a lot more important than being the best vice president you can be to the Nth degree.

And since I made that change, since I learned the need for that change, everything has been a lot more fun for me. It's been a lot more enjoyable, and I've made a direct connection with people all over this country, and I've been able to learn a lot more from them.

KING: So, you're saying then, running is not running. Running for Congress or the Senate or the vice presidency, ain't running for president?

GORE: Well, that's right, running for president is a unique challenge and also, running for president as a vice president isn't like waiting on the sidelines and watching where the line of scrimmage has moved to for when you come into the game.

It's a whole new game, and I honor my responsibilities as vice president, but I am focused on running for president and speaking directly from my heart to the American people about how we can keep this prosperity going, how we can make sure nobody's left behind, how we can bring the revolutionary improvements that we really desperately need in our public schools, how we can get every child health care and then move to universal health care. How we can protect the environment and confront global warming and create millions of good new jobs in the process, and keep our economy growing.

KING: In a sense, Mr. Vice President, are you glad that Bill Bradley ran, in that it gave the American people a chance to see you in battle more?

GORE: Well, I think the competition has been good for me and, perhaps more importantly, good for our democracy. I think it's been good for the Democratic Party and, perhaps more importantly, well certainly more importantly, for our country.

But for me personally, the competition gave me a chance to dig deeper, and to come to the realization that I talked about a moment ago, and to find better ways to communicate directly to the American people.

The competition has been good. I wouldn't have preferred it. As I said the other day, I've run both ways and I prefer unopposed, but my preference would have been to my detriment because the competition has been good.

KING: You mentioned Senator McCain tonight, frequently favorably. We can conclude from that that you expect to run against Vice President Bush?

GORE: No, no not at all.

KING: I mean, I -- I said Vice President Bush, Governor Bush, I'm sorry.

GORE: No, not at all. I criticized both of their positions on choice, on the environment, on guns, on Social Security, Medicare, the economy. I think both of the Republican candidates have a set of positions and a platform that would really be harmful to our prosperity and to our future. And I don't think the American people want what they're proposing.

But I give credit where credit is due. I agree with him on campaign finance reform, as I've said. I agree with him on big tobacco and taking on the special interests. And I think it's obvious that the Republican Party is in a massive identity crisis. There is a struggle for the soul of the Republican Party playing out right now across our country. But both of them have positions on most of the issues that are important to the American people that are unacceptable to a majority.

KING: Couple of other things, there are times during this campaign Senator Bradley has been very rough on you, and you back. What are your feelings about him tonight?

GORE: Well, I respect Senator Bradley. Let me say again, I'm not taking a single vote for granted. I'm not talking about this race in the past tense. This is a contest that -- it's aimed toward this Tuesday. Now, I do think that the elections March 7, this coming Tuesday, will likely be decisive for the nomination, but the people are going to decide, and that's what I'm focused on. But I have respect for my opponent, I've said all along I think he's a good man. I disagree with a lot of his proposals and plans, but I think he's a good person.

KING: And if you are the nominee, do you want President Clinton out on the road for you?

GORE: Well, sure. You know, I've got to win this on my own, and I am presenting my own vision for the future, and talking about my own agenda, which is very different from the one that was needed seven years ago when Bill Clinton and I took over in the current administration.

We've made progress in the Clinton/Gore administration. We've got the strongest economy in history now, we've got a lower crime rate, we've made a lot of progress, and that makes it possible now for us to lift our sights and go to higher common ground. And so, you know, in the fall election campaign, I welcome the help of anybody who can help me and I'm sure that President Clinton will be out on the trail. KING: Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President.

GORE: Thank you, Larry.

KING: We'll be seeing you out in the road.

GORE: My best to your young, growing family.

KING: And to yours as well. Your growing, grandparent family.

GORE: I'm going to grandson tomorrow, and I'm very excited about it. Thank you.

KING: Vice President Al Gore.

When we come back, Senator Bill Bradley and then back to our panel.

This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEY: I think that, if you look at what the two Republican candidates have done, they have gone to South Carolina, and Governor Bush has gone to Bob Jones University, the university that practices racial discrimination, and he has gone there to give a speech on the new conservatism.

Based upon going there and sending that symbolic message, I believe that the new conservatism, from his standpoint, is not a lot different than the old conservatism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're now joined by former senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey, the other member of that sparkling 90-minute debate.

Senator Bradley, would you say you're up against it? Are you -- To put it in the parlance of Knick basketball, are we trailing in the fourth quarter and time is running out?

BRADLEY: Well, Larry, where we are is it's 41-27 with delegates, that's all we are. There's a greater difference that separates the two Republicans than separates the two Democrats. There have only been 250,000 people who have voted, so far, in this presidential race. On next Tuesday, they'll be 8 1/2 million people. It will be about a third of the delegates that will be selected, and that's the day when we have to take off.

And I think if the people of this country want to change the political process, they want political reform, campaign finance reform, change the way Washington works, I'm their person. And I know that there's been some people who have been flirting with John McCain, but with me they can have reform, plus the right position, pro-choice on abortion, on pro-gun control, major investments in education and health care, as well as strong on the environment.

KING: Bill, what do you need to happen next Tuesday, frankly and logically? What states do you need to win?

BRADLEY: Well, I have to win several. The 7th through the 14th is one big primary, but clearly, I have to win several.

KING: All right, now have you ear-marked certain of those several and will you travel in those several, the next week?

BRADLEY: Well, yes, we'll be leaving here tonight, going to New York. We'll be in New York a good part of the time. We'll be in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and probably Maryland. And we'll be working very hard in those states and feel that with the people understanding where I am and where I want to take the country in terms of access to quality affordable health care, and above all in terms of offering people that clear mountain stream that will run through Washington and get rid of the special interests and really seek to get real political reform, that that's our ticket.

KING: What will that tell you, though, Bill if the public rejects that?

BRADLEY: Well, ask me if that happens? I'm not sure that's going to happen.

KING: Do you think the public does want it?

BRADLEY: Yes, I think the public desperately wants a new kind of politics in America. I think that they feel, as I said tonight, that democracy is like a broken thermostat, you turn the dial and nothing happens. I think that people become more and more disillusioned with the process. That means fewer and fewer people vote, and if fewer and fewer people vote, special interests have a bigger and bigger role, and if special interest have a bigger and bigger role, it means less is done to help real people where they're living their lives. When less is done to help real people where they are living their lives, fewer and fewer people vote. And you get into a downward spiral.

And the only thing that is going to break this is a change, a dramatic change in the way business is done in Washington. I offer that, and people know that I'm the only candidate in this race who will be for reform and also for the things that they really want in terms of health care, environment and education.

KING: In retrospect, and to this point, retrospect to this point, should you have been tougher sooner? I mean, everyone is saying that, the pundits say: Bill Bradley had a message. He didn't hit hard enough to this point.

BRADLEY: Well, people tell me that I was too tough in the last debate. So, I mean, it's all in the eyes of the beholder. I felt it was important to correct misrepresentations. I did that in January. We came to New Hampshire, we were 18 back. We closed it in a matter of six days to only four. And I think we've gone on from there. Of course, after New Hampshire, basically I disappeared from the media for three weeks, and we tried to make our case. We made major policy statements, and we'll continue to do that because I people really do want reform and we still have a week. Our television is up for the first time. Tonight's debates set a tone for the kind of presidency I would like to have and I think, therefore, it's only 41- 27.

KING: I know you hate hypotheticals, but it is a fair question. If you are defeated for this nomination, and if the vice president asks to you run with him, would you? That has been speculated by one of our guests tonight Mr. Joe Klein, a prominent observer of the political scene. Would you accept, if asked?

BRADLEY: No, I'm not -- I'm running for president of the United States, and that is position that I want because I think I can offer the leadership that the country needs at this time. I would not do vice-president.

KING: And Bill, finally, are you saying we will see Bradley victories next Tuesday?

BRADLEY: I'm saying that we are ready to take off in a couple states. If things go right, you will see Bradley victories.

KING: Thanks very much, senator. See you down the road. Always good to talking with you.

BRADLEY: Thank you so much, Larry. Good talking with you.

KING: Senator Bill Bradley, former United States of New Jersey. Back with our panelmates right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We are back on LARRY KING LIVE. We have heard from the two candidates. We have met the earlier members of our panel. Let's introduce everybody, Tucker Carlson of "Talk" magazine, "The Weekly Standard," CNN political analyst. Joe Klein of the "New Yorker," got a novel coming, going to be a book of the month feature selection next month called "The Runningmate." Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor of "The Nation," is with us in New York.

Now back with us in Los Angeles is Jeff Greenfield. He participated in that debate tonight, CNN's senior analyst, and he is at the office of the "L.A. Times," And in Washington is Tony Blankley, the former press secretary to Newt Gingrich, contributing editor of "George," and also a regular on CNN as well.

OK, anything either of those two said, before we bring Jeff in, Tucker -- or start with Joe, surprise you?

KLEIN: Well that wasn't a ringing no to the vice presidency by Bill Bradley, number one. The other thing that struck me was that he was talking about fewer and fewer participating in the electoral process. Well, that's been kind of true up until now, and it's certainly been true in the Democratic primaries this year. In the Republican primaries this year, however, we have had a tidal wave of people who have voted. I mean, double the number of people in the last Michigan primary, same in South Carolina, and that is attributable to the excitement that John McCain is causing, that Bill Bradley has not caused.

KING: What were your impressions, Katrina, what was said post- debate?

VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, someone once said that McCain was like a warrior and Bradley was like a priest as a reformer, and Bradley spoke of reform plus. This whole issue of reform has factored very heavily in this campaign. Everyone is a reformer. George is a "reformer with results," McCain is a reformer.

But the real reformer in this race, I think, has been Bradley. I mean, McCain has landed some body blows on the establishment, but if you think about taking on some of the systemic problems in the society, Bradley is right when he says he is for reform plus. But he hasn't caught on, and that is partly because he is like a priest. And there is something aloof. He hasn't played the game, and he hasn't, you know, talked about his favorite novel or his religious beliefs. And I think that's been a major factor, though the turnout issue that Joe pointed to is very important. Though the question is: Will that translate in the general election into higher turnout or will we see a reduction if McCain is not in the race, which is likely.

KING: Tucker, is the fault in the messenger?

CARLSON: I think partly. I mean, you heard this clear mountain stream water line as, you know, it sounds like a beer commercial. I mean, part of it is that he is not a great messenger, but part of it is that his message is wrong. Bradley is always talking about the new politics. He's going to usher in an era of the new politics.

The fact is, if we have learned anything from all of this, and the McCain-Bush race too, it is that the old politics, savage your opponent, go negative, works. It has always worked. It still works. The new politics, at least as Bradley has attempted to define it...

KING: Is a failure.

CARLSON: It is a failure.

KING: And Tony, what did you read out of the post-debate comments by both of them with us a moment ago.

BLANKLEY: Well, I mean, obviously, Gore very confident, very respectful, more respectful of Bradley tonight than I think his tone has been in the past. Bradley sounds like a man, despite his words, who has given up. I mean, it amazes me that during the debate and then following after the debate that on the question, for instance, of American soldiers on food stamps, that he never reminded the public that it was the Clinton-Gore administration, which is overseeing that condition. I mean, that was such a wide open opportunity, he chose to not take that, both during the debate and after the debate. KING: We will take a break and come back and get the thoughts of Jeff Greenfield, who was there on the scene, and continue with our panel. They are with us the rest of the way. We will include some of your phone calls as well.

We are on late tonight because of the debate, and we will be on one hour late tomorrow night at 10:00 Eastern. Wolf Blitzer will be around with that one. And don't forget, Friday night on LARRY KING LIVE, Bob Jones exclusive interview for the full hour, the president of Bob Jones University.

We will be back with our panel right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEY: In his congressional career, Al voted five times to support the tax-exempt status for schools that practice racial discrimination, such as Bob Jones. Republicans are down at Bob Jones University preaching the old conservatism. And I guarantee you, we should be attacking them for that. But when we attack them, if you attack them for that, then they're going come right back and point to those votes and it's going to be a very difficult case to make.

GORE: Well, I'm sorry you brought that up again because I disposed of that in the last debate by pointing out to you that Bob Jones University still doesn't have its tax exemption because it lost its tax exemption under the law that I supported.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with you late tonight because of the debate.

Let's bring Jeff Greenfield into the discussion. He was there.

Is it over, Jeff?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Yes. I hate to do this. No, I mean, I just hate so much to make these kinds of statements before people have a chance to vote. Senator Bradley make a perfectly fair point, that there are 8.5 million people who are going to vote on Tuesday, and I suppose something could happen in six days, some kind of buyers remorse, but I don't see any even illogical explanation, and I think you saw it tonight. Compared to the Apollo Theater debate, this looked like two completely different people, making, basically, general election themes, with the rare exception I think that you just showed, rarely engaging each other.

I think Senator Bradley has decided that whatever tactic there -- whatever hope there was in challenging either the character or the consistency of the vice president's record, it wasn't cutting.

So I'd just make two other quick points about the debate. On, the name Bill Clinton, as far as I can remember, never passed either of their lips, and second, both candidates were instructed in the Bill Clinton maneuver of stepping out from behind the podium and facing the audience. So I think maybe Al Gore is rehearsing for the first general election debate.

KING: Was Harlem much better from your standpoint as a viewer and a participant?

GREENFIELD: Look, I'm one of these people who, you know, when I see headlines saying it was a raucous, nasty debate wonder what planet the critics are coming from. The British House of Commons is a place where people hoot and holler, and high-minded debate is also encouraged.

My own feeling is that we have made politics so sterile, put it inside this glass tube called television, taken people out of the idea of getting passionate about politics. That may be one of the reasons why the turnout is so low. And as has been pointed out by Joe, you know, this Republican race, which is fractious, and sometimes unpleasant and bare knuckle, is producing record high turnout. So yes, I like the Apollo Theater better, even if the Five Satins weren't singing there that tonight.

KING: Joe, would you call tonight a disappointment? Did you have expectancy that wasn't reached? Or did you not have one?

KLEIN: Yes, It was mostly platitudes. I mean, I like substance. Substance is fun.

KING: There was substance tonight?

KLEIN: But they could -- you know, they're -- I would love to see a debate where two politicians actually debated each other on substance, and disagreed and illuminated issues. This didn't happen.

Let me dispute my friend Greenfield on one thing. I was keeping track, and Gore mentioned Clinton no fewer than three times. They were shall working together on "Internet 2," whatever that was. He praised Clinton for sending the fleet through the Taiwan Strait, and mend it, don't end it, and then he -- in his closing statement, he was proud of his record of accomplishment. The reason why I was watching this is because Gore has gone through vast periods of this campaign, where he couldn't -- where the one world leader he probably couldn't name was the president of the United States.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Katrina, did you have an expectancy tonight that wasn't reached, or did you have not have an expectancy?

VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, I agree with Jeff Greenfield. One wants more spirited debate in politics, but some of the functions of the breeding out of spirit is that we don't have as much many issues on the table or as wide a spectrum of political views represented in our system. I mean, for example, on the trade question that came up very briefly, both Bradley and Gore are very much aligned with the free- trade position, and there are many people in the Democratic Party who are not, who see that one has to have a kind of globalization with more civilized rules for labor and environment.

But I think the Jesse Ventura phenomenon, the fact that wrestling. the fact that has taken even on such appeal, is a sign that people are searching for something, and until more issues and more of the spectrum of politics that one sees perhaps in countries with multi-party systems is brought forward, then it will become more exciting.

I wanted to make one point about Gore's positioning, which I think Joe Klein will appreciate. I think Gore is well positioned to now take on -- if it's Bush, because Bush has aligned himself with the most intolerant forces. But the question that was asked about Sharpton, I believe it was Jeff Greenfield, is so interesting. When you look in the audience and you saw Jesse Jackson, who has just endorsed an Al Gore, and you think back to '92 -- I believe it was '92 -- and Bill Clinton defining himself as a new Democrat by dissing, by insulting Sister Souljah, the rap singer, as a sign to a community to say, I'm not going to be pandering, as he thought, to those who are talking about race in ways that many Americans need to understand, and that's a very important moment I think, and I don't know where that's going to go in terms of general election and how that will be used by the Republicans.

KLEIN: Let me respond to that. One of the most disappointing things to me about this Democratic race throughout has been the utter unwillingness of both of these candidates to ever say anything that would even vaguely disappoint Democratic core constituencies. In the Republican race...

KING: Maybe they don't agree with -- they agree with the core.

KLEIN: It's a remarkable -- oh, come on. I mean, you know, Al Gore used to be a new Democrat, and there he is praising Al Sharpton, who was behind an anti-Semitic boycott as recently as two years ago, a boycott that ended in a fire bombing and death. I mean, you know, supporting Al Sharpton after that? Both Republican candidates, McCain now famously, but also George Bush, on many social policy issues have been willing to go up against the core constituency of the Republican Party.

KING: Are we saying, Tucker, there is no -- like him or not like him -- Bill Clinton here?

CARLSON: Well, I don't know, You saw Gore sigh a lot, and he empathized rather aggressively and sort of walked around in ways...

KING: Are you kidding? Or are you...

CARLSON: No, no, no, I'm actually being serious.

KING: Gore is Clinton-like.

CARLSON: Well, he was making a good stab at it, and you know, as phony as that is, it is important actually. Voters, it turns out, like that, and I think Gore has gotten a lot better at it, and he can thank Bill Bradley. But if you were going to pick a candidate who would make Gore seem lifelike sort of emotive, it would be Bill Bradley, which is why I think it was a setup in the first place; it was conspiracy. I mean, clearly, the Gore people got Bradley to run to make Gore look better.

KING: Now back to the Rush Limbaugh...

CARLSON: Tony, do you think the candidacy of Bradley has helped Gore?

BLANKLEY: Well, it's helped him in his performance skills actually, although I must say -- and I disagree with Tucker a little bit -- I don't think that Gore is remotely in Clinton's class as a performer, and in fact, I think it's going to hurt him some, because if you saw the polls I think coming out of New Hampshire that even people who voted for Gore, many of them didn't like him, and typically Americans vote for the president they like the best, particularly when they're not any big issues.

Now we did like Nixon, but Humphrey had the Vietnam War around him. So I think that Gore's personality has improved. His technical skills have improved, though, just as far as the management of his campaign.

KING: Tony, who of these four is the most liked, do you think, just liked?

BLANKLEY: Oh, I suspect that probably Bush and then McCain, or maybe McCain and then Bush, and then Bradley and Gore would be last would be my hunch.

But I'll tell you something interesting, we were talking a few minutes ago about whether we wanted to have a more vigorous debate here tonight, because all of us like politics and would like to have seen a vigorous debate, but what we saw tonight it something you see both parties do, which is at a certain point, the parties start telling the losers to cool it, to back away, to stop destroying the guys. Now we saw that, and obviously, people have been calling Bradley over the last several day. We saw that in the Republican side, when Forbes started getting messages, don't go too negative on Bush, and that what we -- I mean, sort of reporting tonight, this was evidence that the Democratic Party has gotten to Bradley and told them, stop making -- stop mussing up Gore's hair.

KING: The plot thickens.

We'll be back with more, and we'll take some calls as well.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: Both of the Republican candidates have pledged to overturn Roe v. Wade, and Governor Bush went into a private meeting with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, and when they came out, both patted him on the back, and said, well, we heard everything that we wanted to hear. Both Governor Bush and Senator McCain are as anti-choice as you can get.

So I think it's awfully important that we have a president who will appoint justices to the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution, in keeping with America's tradition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Jeff Greenfield, in our interview with Bill Bradley, he as much as admitted that he has to win several states next Tuesday. If he doesn't, is he gone?

GREENFIELD: Yes, you know, and it's not even several states. I mean, winning Vermont and Rhode Island and Maine is not going to do it because, you know, these are serious delegate Numbers. Yeah, he is.

And I think one of the reasons, you know, to paraphrase John Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs: Victory has a thousand fathers and defeat has a thousand kibitzers. Back seat drivers, for people, you know, in other parts of the country.

But I do think that if you come back to first principles in politics, and you note that sitting vice-presidents in the modern age who want their parties nomination almost always get it. And then you look at the track record of the Clinton administration, in terms of the economy, in terms of what William Bennett once famously called the index of leading social indicators, there are plenty of issues on which to confront Al Gore, but the performance of the economy and the general contentedness of the electorate don't happen to be on the table, in my view. And those are two pretty powerful ones.

And so for Bill Bradley to come in and say to Democrats, who more approve of the president than even the country, and say: You need to move away from the vice president and here is why, and the reason turns out to be because is I have big bold plans. I think that was a longshot to begin with. Deconstructing the errors of a campaign or how Al Gore reinvented himself will happen, but basically this was a long shot, I think, from the beginning.

KING: Why, Joe, hasn't he done better in New York, which would seem made for Bill Bradley?

KLEIN: Well, part of the reason is that he spent the last six days in Washington, competing in a race where no delegates were at stake.

KING: Michael Jordan would win Illinois if he entered tomorrow.

KLEIN: To continue to premature internment, let me go back to something that Katrina said at the very beginning, and that is that Bradley did do some very valuable thing in this campaign in terms of issues. The health care issue that he raised is a very big one in this country and he raised it in a way that wasn't left-wing top-down single payer or employer mandated, as Hillary Clinton did, but in a way that was originally introduced by the Heritage -- conservative Heritage Foundation.

KING: Correct, same thing.

KLEIN: Vouchers, in fact, you know, he was proposing a huge tax cut for the working class. Gun control, which is going to be a huge, maybe even the biggest, issue in the fall, he took it and he made it his own very early on, and also campaign finance reform.

KING: So you agree with you Tucker, it's the messenger.

KLEIN: Yes, well, but also there was no second act. After he did that, and he did that very, very early in this campaign, he didn't have anything else to say.

KING: We will pick right up with more on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. If you joined us now expecting to see sports, you're not because we are running late because of the debate. Tomorrow night the program will air one hour later, the Republican debate tomorrow night is one hour. And Wolf Blitzer will be along with you.

And don't forget, on Friday night, Bob Jones, the president of Bob Jones University, in an exclusive interview for the full hour with your calls. We will be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: I want to be tough on crime. I want to be tough on discrimination too. Our future depends on a much lower crime rate and ending discrimination, especially in law enforcement.

BRADLEY: The real tragedy was how deeply racial profiling had seeped into the mind of those who were in the police department so that a wallet in the hands of a white man would be viewed as a wallet, but a wallet in the hands of a black man would look like a gun.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Tucker, what are your expectations for tomorrow night, if any?

CARLSON: I think that there's more pressure than there has been on the McCain campaign to do something dramatic.

KING: He will not be there. He will be remote.

CARLSON: That is right.

KING: Disadvantage.

CARLSON: And Bush may be remote too.

KING: Is that the way it works now.

CARLSON: Well, I think the sense is neither one of them wants to be sitting alone with Alan Keyes in the studio.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Also it adds a diminishing effect on the candidate.

KLEIN; They both might be in Missouri, which would be pretty weird. You know, I'm just looking at that end of table, where McCain was in South Carolina and he was pretty remote that night. He's going to have to do a lot better I think.

KING: He was not strong that night was he?

KLEIN: No.

KING: What are you looking forward to, Katrina, tomorrow night?

VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, I think will be far more raucous than tonight. But I think we are going to see clearly the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. There has been a seduction of the press. McCain has seduced the press and there are people, even in the liberal community, who see in McCain, this reformer, this person who is going to take on the system, and he is on campaign finance reform, though not to the extent of public financing, and tobacco interests, taking on establishment interests. But this man, maybe not today, but until recently, had almost 100 percent ratings from the Christian Coalition. And even though he has taken on Robertson and Falwell, let's not forget by his side are Gary Bauer and James Dobson, very powerful members of the Christian right in this country.

So I think there is a seduction that is going to be stripped away.

KING: Tony.

BLANKLEY: I think...

KING: Bauer did criticize him today.

BLANKLEY: Well, he criticized part of what he did. I think you are going to see Bush very much on the attack tomorrow night, and McCain very much on the defense. I think McCain's misplay of the anti-Catholic charge against Bush has made him and his team very defensive. And I think Bush is going to try to go in for the kill tomorrow night. I don't know whether he will succeed, but I expect to see a lot of blood on the floor.

KING: Jeff, what do you expect?

GREENFIELD: Well, I would wonder if either one of these people is going to, at some point, turn to Alan Keyes and ask politely, but firmly, what is he doing there.

KING: No one has yet.

GREENFIELD: No, and there are a lot of complicated and not so complicated reasons for that, but the fact is, you know, he is very eloquent, but at this point, he has lost his federal funding. I frankly think there is every reason at this point to say: Mr. Keyes, you shouldn't be in this debate. Maybe there will be one down the road.

But I think we come back again to the fundamental first principles of any campaign, and this is so simplistic that I'm almost embarrassed, but I do work in television. You can't get the Republican nomination without getting Republican votes. John McCain has been trying ever since Michigan to make this argument to Republicans. I think he has to hope that the attack he launched on Pat Robertson and company in Virginia was a bank shot to echo in the more moderate Republicans of New York and California. His message has to take the fact that he's now more electable, if the polls are right, and fuse it to ideas that Republicans like, because tactical voting, I think, doesn't happen enough in Republican primaries to help McCain. He's got make an argument that will resonate will with Republicans.

KING: Bob Jones is going to be here Friday night, so most of America will get a chance to see him the first time maybe. I mean, he's not a figure you'd know walking down the street, and he's become a major part of this campaign.

KLEIN: And I think it's attributable to a great change that's happened in this country over the last four or five years, and that this is, that this is the first time that anybody going to Bob Jones University would not have been acceptable, not to mention the interracial policy, or the anti-Catholic policy.

KING: Amazing change, right? CARLSON: Yes, but also, it's amazing given Bush.

KING: America used to look at interracial couples weirdly, and now...

CARLSON: Well, that's right. But also Bush, I think, made a series of explicit and implicit promises early in his campaign to be a different sort of Republican.

KING: To bring everybody together.

CARLSON: Right. And I think it's the betrayal of those that's most striking.

VANDEN HEUVEL: There's also a nostalgia about Reagan, I must say, because today McCain talking about how he wants to, you know, bring back the Reagan part of the remember Republican Party. I think it's worth remembering that it was the Reagan administration that returned the tax-exempt status to Bob Jones University. So there's a bit of a whitewashing of the extremism of the Reagan era in this attempt on McCain part to be this broad umbrella of the Republican man.

KING: Spoken like a true editor of "The Nation."

(LAUGHTER) KLEIN: I think the thing that I'm going to most interested in tomorrow night is just how personal this is going to be. I think that at the point of the South Carolina debate, McCain was feeling very personally angry at Bush because of the phone calls that were going out in South Carolina. I think that's kind of reversed at this point, and that Bush is very, very personally angry at McCain for the campaign that he's been running, especially on this Catholic issue, and also for pinning him, for calling him a Pat Robertson Republican. I don't think that George W. Bush, in his wildest imagination, would have ever thought that he would be accused of that.

CARLSON: And he's so mad about it, in fact, that Bush refused to call and congratulate McCain or concede after Michigan, which is really unusual in politics and ungentlemanly.

KING: We'll back with more, our remaining moments with our panel on this late edition of LARRY KING LIVE, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's get a call in.

New York City, hello.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Do the CNN reporters feel a sense of professional responsibility to the sanctity of the electoral process by refraining from writing off Bill Bradley as a potential candidate when only a fraction of the returns are in?

KING: Well, they're just giving opinions. They're here to give opinions. They believe that Bradley will not do well.

But, Jeff, do you want to respond? Are we making an error in discussing it in that vein?

GREENFIELD: If this were November, if it were December, if it were January, if it was even after New Hampshire, I think the caller might have a point but you know, first of all, journalists have predicted things that are so wrong that I'm not sure we have an overriding impact.

What we are doing here is not walking in and pronouncing things out of thin air. We are doing the best job we can looking at the lay of the land.

And, Larry, how many times have you asked me to predict things where I have said, I can't do it? Everything I think I know about politics tells me that the Bradley campaign will be over on Tuesday.

And by the way, I think as some of these reporters will tell you , it's not only coming from people outside the Bradley campaign.

And so we're giving you the best shot we can. If the voters prove us wrong, that's a great story.

KING: Tony, you have to have an opinion, do you not? I mean, you were just expressing it.

BLANKLEY: Yes, well, sure. Yes, look, we are contrasting Bradley's performance, the vigor and energy level at Apollo and the other debates with the energy level tonight. Now something has to explain why it switched. I think most of us think we know what it is, which is that he's pretty much given up making a fight out of it.

And of course we all have heard, I think through various of our grapevines, that Bradley has been hearing from fellow Democrats to cool it. So I think with a combination of reporting and judgment, I think it makes sense tonight.

KING: Katrina, do you think there's a chance, as Joe mentioned earlier, that Gore would ask Bradley to run with him?

VANDEN HEUVEL: I think it's unlikely. Never say never, but I think at this stage, it seems to me that there is enough bad blood between the two that it wouldn't be in Bradley's interest and it wouldn't be in Gore's. And I think he would want to find someone, depending on the who the Republican nominee is, who would be someone who could reach out.

But it seems to me one interesting thing about the independent vote and the strength of the independent vote and what we've seen in the primaries is the glimmers of a realignment of our politics, which may be something, you know, beyond what the caller asked, but something no one predicted, and it in a way it relates to what the caller was complaining about, that there is a blight in our political life called polling, and no one predicted that the independent vote would be such an important factor.

KING: That's right. Very true.

We only have a little over a minute left -- Joe.

KLEIN: Can I make the caller happy by saying I couldn't tell you, I don't I have the vaguest idea what's going happen on the Republican side next Tuesday in all of these primaries, and I don't have a clue about what's going happen next fall, but I think that...

KING: From the Democratic side, you have an experienced opinion.

KLEIN: Like Greenfield, I never make predictions, but I think that it would be very surprising if Bradley did well.

KING: Do you agree?

CARLSON: Yes, it would be a great story, though.

KING: I mean, if Bradley were to come back.

CARLSON: Can you imagine President Bradley? It would be fantastic. Bad news conferences, though. (LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: We would eat crow and celebrate at the same time.

KING: Coming out of nowhere won't be dull. Thank you all very much.

Tucker Carlson, Joe Klein, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Jeff Greenfield, Tony Blankley, and earlier, Vice President Al gore and Senator Bill Bradley.

A couple of notes. Tomorrow night, the Republican debate It will be one hour. Judy Woodruff will be the host and the moderator, and it will air in our regular time slot, at 9:00 Eastern. So LARRY KING LIVE, with Wolf Blitzer, will follow at 10:00. And then on Friday night, back in our regular time slot at 9:00 Eastern, with Bob Jones, the president of Bob Jones University.

I'm Larry King in Los Angeles. Thanks to all our guests. Thanks for watching. Good night.

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