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Verbal Barrage Between White House, NRA Gets Uglier; McCain- Bush Truce Far From Reality; Is Ongoing Gun Control Debate Hurting Bush?Aired March 16, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: The verbal fire between the White House and the NRA gets uglier and more dominant in the political debate.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Is this matter a minefield for George W. Bush as he tries to find his footing on gun control?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aides to Senator John McCain say that far from winning McCain's endorsement, George W. Bush is driving the Arizona senator further away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAW: Jonathan Karl updates the McCain mutiny.
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Judy Woodruff and Bernard Shaw.
WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us.
Well, any discussion of guns and violence tends to be politically and emotionally charged, particularly in an election year.
SHAW: But the current feud between the National Rifle Association and President Clinton has reached a new level of animosity.
CNN's Major Garrett has an update on accusations that may be overshadowing the gun-control debate.
MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The gun-control debate got tougher with another personal attack on President Clinton by the National Rifle Association on the network news.
WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXEC. V.P., NRA: The key question here for the president is, has he looked into the eyes of Ricky Byrdsong's family? Because that blood is on his hands.
GARRETT: A deranged gunman killed former Northwestern basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong last July, something the NRA says the federal government could have stopped if the killer had been arrested when he failed a Brady law background check.
LAPIERRE: That death is on the president's hands.
GARRETT: The facts say otherwise. Byrdsong was killed in Illinois, which conducts its own background checks of gun buyers. That check stopped Byrdsong's killer from buying a gun at a store. After being denied, the killer bought a gun through the black market. The federal government did not learn of the illegal gun purchase or the failed background check until six days after Byrdsong's death. The president's spokesman said NRA charges have hit a new low.
JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Even in the reduced level of political discourse in this town that we've seen over the last few years, there's still minimum standards, and they're not even close.
GARRETT: Earlier this week, the NRA's LaPierre said the president was willing to accept "a certain level of killing to advance his political agenda." In response, Mr. Clinton said he did not want to provoke a shouting match. Asked about the Byrdsong matter, the president again demurred.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think getting into a personal spat with Mr. LaPierre about tactics that I don't think any American appreciates and that all Americans can see through is now worth doing.
GARRETT: Beneath the strident rhetoric is the issue of enforcing federal gun laws. The White House agrees with the NRA that federal prosecutions should be increased. Mr. Clinton asked Congress this year for money to pay for 500 new federal agents to crackdown on gun crimes, plus 1,000 new prosecutors, federal, state and local, to take gun cases to court. That request, along with Mr. Clinton's gun- control legislation, is pending on Capitol Hill -- Bernie.
SHAW: Thank you, Major Garrett at the White House.
Well, the NRA's attacks on President Clinton may have made George W. Bush's political life more complicated.
CNN's Pat Neal looks at Bush's efforts to fine tune his gun- control stance heading into the election this fall.
PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George Bush is not a member of the NRA, but as Texas governor he's generally supported the group and its goals. But Bush is distancing himself from the comments of NRA official Wayne LaPierre that President Clinton is taking advantage of gun violence to promote his gun-control agenda.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The comment that somehow violence -- you know, the president condones violence and death, I don't -- you know, there's ways to debate the issue without casting aspersions on the president like this. I just -- I think they have gone too far.
NEAL: Those comments reflect what Texas critics call a change in Bush's views in order to broaden his appeal on the national stage. As a presidential candidate, Bush is promoting a number of gun-safety measures he never pushed in Texas, like instant background checks at gun show.
NINA BUTTS, TEXANS AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE: We don't have that in Texas. Ban on high-capacity ammunition clips, we don't have that in Texas. Raise the minimum age for handgun possession to 21, we don't have that law in Texas. Trigger locks on handguns, we don't have that law in Texas. Governor Bush has never initiated or worked to pass any of these gun-controls in Texas.
NEAL: Last year, when cities across the country were suing gun makers over gun violence, Bush signed legislation to prohibit Texas communities from suing the gun manufacturers and Bush campaigned for and won an end to a hundred year old ban on carrying concealed weapons. Still, many observers here say Bush has staked out a safe position, being pro-gun owner without being too pro-NRA.
ROSS RAMSEY, "TEXAS MONTHLY": No, I think he can stay in a fairly moderate position without doing a tap dance against his prior record. I think they have been defendably moderate even when you take what they've done in Texas to other parts of the country.
NEAL: Bush's campaign says the governor has broken ranks with the NRA many times. He's now looking favorably on many aspects of a gun-control proposal sponsored by GOP Governor George Pataki of New York, most of which the NRA opposes. But Republicans say the flap this week between the NRA and President Clinton has hurt Bush.
SCOTT REED, FMR. DOLE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Clearly, Wayne LaPierre overshot the runway with his comments earlier in the week and have caused the Republicans and the Republicans in Congress to be put on the defense over this issue.
NEAL (on camera): Surveys show about twice as many Texas households own guns as compared with homes in the rest of the country. Bush's approach to gun control reflects the sentiments in his state. The question is whether what works here in Texas will play in the rest of the country.
Pat Neal, CNN, Austin.
WOODRUFF: Well, let's talk more about guns, the NRA and Governor Bush with one of his leading supporters, New York Governor George Pataki. We just heard this mentioned. He joins us now a day after he proposed a wide-ranging package of gun-control measures in his state.
Governor Pataki, thank you for being with us.
You have proposed banning assault weapons, requiring trigger locks on all guns sold in New York, raising the minimum age for ownership, ballistic fingerprinting and so forth, and yet many Republicans in the state of New York say they're surprised by this because never before in your time as governor have you offered any gun-control legislation.
GOV. GEORGE PATAKI (R-NY), BUSH SUPPORTER: Well, Judy, let me say I am very proud on our record against violent crime since I have been governor. Over the last five years, New York state has led the nation in reducing violent crime because we have done things like end parole for violent felons, raise minimum sentences, end early release -- work release. And the next logical step is to give law enforcement another tool, a tool such as having ballistic testing of bullets and gun casings that -- on handguns that are sold in New York.
The next logical step is to do everything we can to reduce gun violence by making -- having a 21 age for the purchase of a handgun instead of 18. And we have made dramatic changes in our criminal justice system consistent with the Republican philosophy that the root cause of violent crime is the violent criminal. And if we can take these next logical steps we're going to continue to drive crime down here in New York state more than any other place in the country.
WOODRUFF: But, Governor, how can you take these steps without the support of leading Republicans in New York? And today the leading Republican in your state Senate, the majority leader is saying he has serious doubts about the plan, in particular doubts about the feasibility of this ballistic fingerprinting idea?
PATAKI: You know, Judy, every single criminal justice initiative I proposed in New York has met significant opposition. When we wanted to end parole there was enormous opposition. Now that we want to do more on gun violence there will be very real opposition, but what you have to do is make the case to the public as to how this is going to advance public safety, why it's in the public interest.
And I am very, very hopeful that when the Senate and the assembly get a chance to take a look at this package of gun-violence bills that will reduce gun violence that we're going to get it passed here in New York. And I would hope that in Washington both parties would take a look and say that we can find common ground, take intelligent steps to eliminate gun violence in this country and move us forward.
WOODRUFF: Well, but right now this puts you at odds with certainly the Republican congressional leadership here in Washington. Are they on the wrong side of this issue?
PATAKI: Well, let me say that on many of the criminal justice issues, the Democratic leadership in Washington has been on the wrong side, and what we have to do is put aside partisanship. If it becomes a partisan issue in an election campaign, nothing is going to happen. If we look at the proposals on the merits, are they right for the people of America? Are they going to advance public safety? Are they going to reduce gun violence? And I think both parties have an obligation to try to do their best to pass them.
But I just saw your clip. Governor Bush is very strongly in favor of raising the purchase age for a handgun to 21. He's opposed to assault weapons. He wants to -- he will sign a trigger lock bill. So I think this isn't a partisan issue. It's an issue where the Clinton administration has had eight years in Washington and hasn't achieved anything. Let's try to get it done now.
WOODRUFF: So are you saying Governor Bush has the right position now on gun control?
PATAKI: I think many of his issues are exactly the right issues for gun control, like supporting raising the handgun age to 21. I think that's a very positive thing. Closing the loophole...
WOODRUFF: But he has not yet signed on with your proposals, is that right?
PATAKI: Judy, no one's yet signed on in either party to my proposal because we have dramatic new things like the ballistic fingerprinting of every handgun that's sold in New York state. But he supports generally the package I have advanced.
And I would think that this gives us the opportunity in Washington this year to get rid of the partisan rhetoric, look for common ground, advance public safety and pass a meaningful bill. I believe the Republican leadership in Congress could do that if the rhetoric were toned down, the politics were toned down and the public interests put first.
WOODRUFF: Have you talked to Governor Bush about this?
PATAKI: I haven't talked to him specifically. My office has spoken with his campaign. They're aware of my proposals, and they have indicated his general support for the package that I've advanced.
WOODRUFF: I ask you because in an interview he did with CNN yesterday, Candy Crowley asked him the whole idea of trigger locks, and he said that idea is fine. And he said, 80 percent of the guns already now have trigger locks. He said the real problem now is getting people to use them.
PATAKI: That's right. And Governor Bush has said, he will sign a trigger lock bill as president if passed by Congress. He also said he'll sign a bail closing the background check loophole at gun shows. I think these are all positive steps. But in Washington too often, it seems that the leadership, particularly the administration, the Clinton/Gore administration, loves to talk about an issue, but doesn't work quite so hard to achieve the common ground and get a bill signed into law that'll effect people's lives. Hopefully, that will be the focus now.
WOODRUFF: But don't your proposals actually move you closer to the position of the Clinton/Gore administration and away from most Republicans?
PATAKI: Well, I don't know that there has been a fair, intelligent discussion of the proposals that I've advanced. I've just put them out over the course of the past few days. I would hope that we could tone down the rhetoric, tone down the rhetoric from the NRA and their supporters, tone down the rhetoric from the Clinton/Gore administration that every Republican is inherently anti-gun violence measures, and look at the merits of the proposals. If that happens, I think we have the opportunity to put together a bipartisan majority under the Republican leadership in Washington to pass meaningful gun control legislation.
Part of the problem, Judy...
WOODRUFF: All right.
PATAKI: ... has been that the administration, I believe, has always insisted it has to be their way. Let's do it in the public interests, not in any one's particular way.
WOODRUFF: Governor George Pataki, we thank you very much for being with us.
PATAKI: Thank you, Judy. Good being with you.
WOODRUFF: And you, governor.
Still ahead, out of sight but not out of mind. Jonathan Karl looks at how the Arizona senator is still affecting the GOP race.
Plus, sizing up the Texas Governor. E.J. Dionne and Bill Kristol on how Bush is handling the issues.
WOODRUFF: Since the suspension of John McCain's White House bid last week, there has been much talk about a possible truce between McCain and rival George W. Bush.
But so far, McCain has not endorsed Bush, and, as Jonathan Karl reports, Bush is not making any concessions either.
KARL (voice-over): Aides to Senator John McCain say that far from winning McCain's endorsement, George W. Bush is driving the Arizona senator further way. McCain's top aides are outraged by Bush's comments in a "New York Times" interview, where Bush was asked if he will make any concessions to win McCain's support. Bush answered, "No, I think what I need to do is explain to John that we agree a lot more than we disagree."
In the interview, Bush was also asked if he had any regrets about the negative tone of his campaign against McCain. His answer, "Like what? Give me an example. What should I regret? I didn't take the negative tone." McCain's aides sharply dispute that, pointing to Bush's attacks in New York, accusing McCain of opposing breast cancer research.
In an effort to do damage control, Bush campaign manager Joe Allbock (ph) called one of McCain's top aides to say "The Times" selectively quoted Bush, leaving out the positive things he said about McCain.
But McCain's they are looking for a commitment from Bush to incorporate at least part of McCain's campaign finance reform proposals into the Republican agenda this fall.
In a speech in Illinois, Bush offered an olive branch of sorts to McCain.
BUSH: I appreciate the hard campaign that John McCain waged. He ran a good race. He highlighted the need for reform, and I appreciate the ideas that he brought forth in the campaign. Of course, he and I agree on a lot. And it starts with this: The best reform for America is to end the Clinton-Gore era in Washington D.C.
KARL: And Bush's advisers they are serious about winning McCain's support.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to work very hard behind the scenes with Senator McCain's staff, with Senator McCain's advisers, with Senator McCain. We want to unify our party. We want to win back the White House.
KARL: Meanwhile Al Gore, delighted by the ongoing Republican tensions. seized on Bush's comments in the "Times."
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In interview in this morning's "New York Times," he even dismissed John McCain's campaign and said that he had learned nothing from it and had no intention of taking any advice from the -- from the McCain group, and I'm telling you, he should have been taking notes during John McCain's campaign. He should have been listening.
KARL (on camera): As for McCain himself, he is thousands of miles away and virtually incommunicado, on vacation in Bora Bora with his wife. He returns next week to Washington and to life again as a United States senator.
Jonathan Karl, CNN, Capitol Hill.
SHAW: Joining us now, E.J. Dionne of "The Washington Post" and Bill Kristol of "The Weekly Standard." Was the Bush "New York Times" interview a further tear in the McCain relationship, Bill?
BILL KRISTOL, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, I don't think it was very wise. You know, Churchill said, "In victory, magnanimity." And fairly or unfairly, whether the quotes are selective or not, Governor Bush comes across as a little bit petulant and resentful of McCain's success. He needs the McCain voters. Governor Bush and the minor Republican candidates together got about 6.5 million votes in the contested primaries. Gore and Bradley together got about 7.2 million votes. McCain got five million votes. They are the prize. They are the swing voters. And I don't really understand why Governor Bush isn't going out of his way. Whatever personal resentments he harbors, he should be incredibly nice to Senator McCain.
E.J. DIONNE, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think it's remarkable that Bush is in a box on the issues. He came out and I attacked McCain so hard for his campaign reform proposal, that if he just came out, and said well, never mind, I didn't really mean any of that, I'll sign on, that is difficult. But what is not difficult is putting out a lot of nice words about John McCain, and it's very unlikely to me "The New York Times" story eliminated all the nice words about John McCain. It seemed an awfully tough and unfriendly interview, and sort of friendly words don't cost you very much, and I don't understand what stance he's taking.
But I think when somebody in his campaign said some tough things about McCain last week, she was criticized, turns out she was reflecting George Bush's views when she did that.
SHAW: Do you think the tone was intentional?
KRISTOL: No, I suppose found himself in an interview, and I think it reveals what he feels. He's resentful that McCain has gotten good press. He's resentful that McCain has got in the way of the coronation. He probably does not want to pick John McCain as his vice presidential nominee, but I think -- The irony is this: I had lunch today with one of the senior McCain person -- the more Bush seems to diss McCain, the more he seems to give him a stiff arm, the more the logic of the situation demands that he offer McCain the vice presidency. What is the way to get the McCain voters back, to really show respect for McCain and for his achievements this spring? It's to offer John McCain the No. 2 spot on the ticket. And I think it's going to happen.
DIONNE: And I'd be surprised, for the very reasons reflected in that interview and from his tone. But it's very clear right now that George Bush is not getting the share of the McCain vote he needs. Al Gore is getting a third to 40 percent of that vote. A lot of that vote came from independents and even some Democrats. Bush needs a lot more of that vote than he's getting now, and I think Al Gore is going to change his bumper stickers to read "Al McGore." He's trying to sound as much like John McCain as he possibly can.
SHAW: Another McCain matter: Back in 1976, Ronald Reagan formed a political action committee after he lost the nomination battle with Gerald Ford, who lost the White House battle with Jimmy Carter. John McCain forming a political action committee now? For what reasons?
KRISTOL: Well, I think if Governor Bush loses, which, of course, Senator McCain doesn't at all wish for, and I'm sure as a loyal Republican will be working hard for Governor Bush. But if that were to happen, obviously it sets him up, gives him a platform to work on for 2004. But they're going to be doing things this month and the following two months.
Senator McCain's going to come back from Bora Bora, where I trust he's having a good time, on Monday. He'll come back to the Senate, have kind of a hero's welcome, I think make floor remarks to the Senate Tuesday, try to attach some of his issues to some of the legislation that's moving. Then I believe on Friday he's going to be in New York campaigning for Rudy Giuliani, running for the New York Senate against Hillary Clinton. That is a race Republicans care a lot about.
If Rudy Giuliani says, I need John McCain's help, that helps me legitimize John McCain as a Republican. And what this political action committee allows him to do is to campaign for a ton of Republicans around the country. And to the degree that the primary campaign against Governor Bush hurt McCain among Republicans -- he became a favorite of independents and Democrat, but he hurt himself with conservatives and Republicans -- getting out there and helping a Rudy Giuliani beat Hillary Clinton is a way to lay a groundwork for himself among Republicans.
SHAW: Fascinating -- E.J.
DIONNE: Well, I think if you look at what McCain is doing in the Senate and what his people are doing in the Senate, the other fascinating subtext here is there's a very complicated negotiation going on over whether Republicans can agree on a campaign finance bill that would satisfy the wing of the party that doesn't that like campaign finance reform and also satisfy John McCain.
Chuck Hagel has a proposal out there. A lot of the strong campaign reformers think it's inadequate, but it has some elements that McCain would like. And I think you're going to see some very interesting behind-the-scenes politics in that there will be a lot of pressure on Republicans who very strongly oppose campaign reform to come up with something to make John McCain happy.
SHAW: Judy just interviewed New York Governor Pataki on gun control. Does this running battle between the White House, President Clinton and the National Rifle Association hurt Governor Bush...
SHAW: ... on gun control.
DIONNE: I mean, I think the answer is yes. I think with gun control, the people who feel most passionately about it are the minority, but a very substantial minority of Americans, who oppose all gun controls. They vote on the issue.
When this is a low-level issue, the anti-gun control people tend to win. The best thing going for the Democrats is to have this be a much bigger issue, because suburban swing voters, especially in the Northeast, parts of the Midwest and California, are in favor of gun control. The famous soccer mom, whom we have retired but I don't think will be retired for this whole campaign, is the sort of person who likes gun control. When this is a high-level issue, it tends to work for Democrats because they start picking up votes. They've already lost the anti-gun votes.
I think the other thing is when Mr. LaPierre, the head of the NRA, makes rather intemperate remarks, saying that President Clinton wants a higher -- you know, tolerates a higher level of killing, I don't think that makes the anti-gun control side look very good.
KRISTOL: Well, I talked to one senior Republican, a Bush supporter, in Washington today, who said Wayne LaPierre is a nightmare for George Bush. All he needs is to -- now he has to distance himself from LaPierre, and then you have Governor Pataki, a Bush ally, introducing gun control measures that go further than where a lot of the Republicans want to go on the Hill. And it forces debate on an issue, as E.J. said, that Governor Bush doesn't want to be the headline issue anyway, and it puts Governor Bush in a difficult position.
But look, the last thing Republicans need is to have someone like Wayne LaPierre with his kind of rhetoric characterizing the Republican position.
SHAW: Bill Kristol, "The Weekly Standard," E.J. Dionne, of "The Washington Post," thanks very much.
DIONNE: Good to be with you.
SHAW: You're welcome -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, well cross one name off the list of possible Bush running mates, apparently. A spokesman for retired General Colin Powell says nothing has changed since Powell's 1995 decision not to seek elected office. The spokesman says Powell is, quote, "quite content with where he is." George W. Bush has mentioned Powell as a possible running mate in recent days, though the Bush campaign has not approached the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
SHAW: There is much more ahead on this edition of "Inside Politics."
WOODRUFF: Coming up, the candidates and the issues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vice President Al Gore attacked George W. Bush on what the Texas governor considers his No. 1 issue: education.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Patty Davis looks at the battle over education, as the two candidates square off on a number of topics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When you're Pat Buchanan, Reform Party candidate, and you come to Harvard, there's a good chance you'll be booed a bit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAW: Bill Delaney on a not-so-warm welcome for the Reform Party candidate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): In this campaign, the contest isn't between candidates, it's between states. It's a high-stakes race that's just as tough and just as competitive as any political campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Our Bill Schneider on the high political stakes of the 2000 census.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAW: We will have more of the day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories.
The Dow drives into record territory, taking the Nasdaq along for the ride. And Wall Street rebounds with the largest one-day Dow point gain in history.
The Dow soared nearly 500 points, closing up 4.9 percent at 10626, as investors returned to old economy stocks. Technology-heavy Nasdaq was up 134 at 4717.
WOODRUFF: The high cost of gasoline has fueled another truckers' rally in the nation's capital. About 150 truck drivers parked their rigs outside the national mall today, hoping to persuade Congress to give them financial help. They say soaring diesel prices threaten their livelihoods and soon could hike the cost of food and other products.
Today is the deadline for President Clinton to answer a challenge to his law license. The Southeastern Legal Foundation wants Mr. Clinton disbarred over statements he made during a deposition in the Paula Jones civil trial. The president is asking the issue be put off until he is out of office.
The independent counsel has cleared the White House of any criminal wrongdoing in the FBI files case. A report prepared by the counsel says neither Hillary Rodham Clinton nor any White House official was involved in seeking confidential FBI information. The report also says there is no evidence Mrs. Clinton helped hire a former White House security director who has admitted abusing FBI files.
The Florida man arrested for abducting a 10-year-old girl is under a suicide watch. In his first court appearance today, James Paul Johnson was ordered held under $1 million bond. The unemployed father of three is charged with abducting a child under the age of 13 for the purpose of committing lewd or sexual acts.
WOODRUFF: When INSIDE POLITICS returns: Does the Gore campaign have an IRS problem?
SHAW: Now we focus on the schools as a political battleground. Al Gore and George W. Bush are making education reform centerpieces of their campaigns and both men addressed the issue on the trail today.
We have two reports, beginning with Patty Davis, covering Gore here in Washington.
DAVIS (voice-over): Seizing upon what will be a key campaign issue, Vice President Al Gore attacked George W. Bush on what the Texas governor considers his No. 1 issue: Education.
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can't reform public schools by draining money away from public schools into private school vouchers. That is a mistake.
DAVIS: Bush's education policies in Texas have drawn bipartisan support in the state. Gore, receiving the endorsement of a low-income advocacy group Thursday, also criticized the governor's trillion dollar tax cut proposal, saying it would eat up so much of the budget surplus, there'd be little left for education improvements.
Gore was only too happy to point out that a Republican House panel failed Wednesday to sign on to what he calls Bush's "risky tax scheme," the equivalent, he said, of economic snake oil. The House Budget Committee instead approved a much smaller tax cut as part of next year's budget.
GORE: Now if it is so risky that even the group that Newt Gingrich ushered into the United States Congress will not vote for it, you know it is risky indeed.
DAVIS: Gore also reiterated his challenge to Bush that neither party spend so-called soft money on issue ads in the fall presidential campaign. It's a challenge Bush has rejected.
(on camera): Gore may be taking the high road on the issue, but he will be hitting the road next: four events in three days raising hard and soft money for the Democratic National Committee.
Patty Davis, CNN, Washington.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I'm Gary Tuchman with the Bush campaign.
One hundred forty years after Springfield, Illinois's most famous resident became the Republican's presidential candidate, a man who now has that in common with Abraham Lincoln came to town.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm proud to stand before you as the nominee of the Republican Party.
TUCHMAN: On his first campaign trip since securing the nomination, the Texas governor highlighted education at the annual Lincoln Day luncheon.
BUSH: I'm going to make it clear to the people all across America: I do not want to be the federal superintendent of schools.
TUCHMAN: George W. Bush told the Illinois Republicans that a key way to improve the schools is through local control.
BUSH: There's all kinds of excuses coming out of the administration why children can't learn. You know, it's money or not enough bricks and mortar. What we need to have in America is trusting parents and local folks and teachers. We must provide more flexibility. We must have a system that praises success.
TUCHMAN: The Texas governor, whose one-day trip to Illinois includes his first campaign fund-raiser since November, told students and teachers at a Springfield middle school there needs to be a change of mindset in some schools.
BUSH: It's just much easier to move children through than to teach -- much easier. And we've got to challenge that.
(on camera): Now that he has the delegates he needs, Mr. Bush's hectic campaign schedule is being cut down considerably. But less campaigning means more time for fund-raising, as the Bush team starts rebuilding its depleted campaign warchest.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, Springfield, Illinois.
WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, Governor Bush may be developing a new line of criticism against Vice President Gore.
CNN's Bob Franken reports on questions being raised about contacts between Gore aides and the IRS.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George W. Bush, responding to a Congressional committee report, is demanding answers from Vice President Gore.
BUSH: I think it's important for the vice president and his office to clearly explain to the American people why his office made the contact.
FRANKEN: Report charges that three years ago, two of Vice President Al Gore's aides, twice in one day, inappropriately tried to obtain information from the Internal Revenue Service, "taxpayer information that may not be disclosed," according to the report. They were refused.
The requests, said the congressional committee staff director, were at the very least inappropriate, particularly coming from the White House.
LINDY PAULL, JOINT COMMITTEE ON TAXATION: There certainly, you know, can be the appearance of influence and the appearance of putting pressure on an agency.
FRANKEN: But officials in Vice President Gore's office tell CNN the calls were merely inquiries about the status of a ruling on withholding tax procedures sought by a labor union. A Gore spokesman charged that the Republican-led committee was clearly leaping to conclusions without facts to support them, a sentiment echoed by White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart.
JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think they took a -- they took a long, hard look at this and in an atmosphere where often the charge is much more important than the fact.
FRANKEN: The accusations against the Gore aides grew out of charges made three years ago that anti-Clinton groups were being targeted for tax audits. The committee report concluded there was no evidence of that.
FRANKEN: Still, the Bush campaign continues to firing away at Gore, and the Gore campaign is going to be just as aggressive at challenging the ethics of George Bush. It could well continue up until Election Day, long after the voters end up disgusted -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right. Bob Franken at the Capitol. And please go in now from out of the rain. Thank you, Bob.
When we return, the Reform Party candidate: We will talk with Lenora Fulani about the campaign of Pat Buchanan.
WOODRUFF: Calling himself the true reformer, Pat Buchanan took his message to the audience of Harvard University today. Even as the Reform Party candidate delivered his criticisms on the established parties and their politics, he faced a number of questions on his own positions.
Bill Delaney reports.
DELANEY (voice-over): When you Pat Buchanan Reform Party candidate and you come to Harvard, a self-declared conservative, political guerrilla fighter, behind enemy lines, if you will, there's a good chance you'll be booed a bit, and Buchanan was. And there's a good chance that the contents of your speech on reforming government won't be what you get asked about in the Q&A. Instead, Buchanan again and again wound up defending himself against charges he's anti-woman, anti-gay, pro-Hitler.
PAT BUCHANAN, REFORM PARTY CANDIDATE: What I said in that column in 1977, which was utterly noncontroversial at the time, that indeed in World War I, Hitler, that won the Iron Cross twice, was a brave soldier in that war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My question is simply, will you go out on a date with me tonight?
BUCHANAN: One question, can I ask Shelly? Shelly, would it be OK if I went out with him? She said she didn't care
DELANEY: Low comedy that shadows what is arguably the most wide- ranging rallying cry to reform still in the running this political year.
BUCHANAN: All contributions should come from citizens from voters. None from corporations or unions. And all contributions must be disclosed within 48 hours of their receipt.
DELANEY: Buchanan called for members of Congress to raise half their campaign funds from their home states or districts, or replacing congressional pensions with personal 401(k)s.
But does Pat Buchanan matter? And what makes him run?
MARC EDWARDS, HARVARD JFK SCHOOL OF GOVT.: What really drives Pat Buchanan is not any kind of insane a ambition that he will be president, but that he is driven ideologically. He wants to have an impact on public policy, and I think he sees this as the way to do it.
DELANEY: Having seemed to quietly fade away in the noisy, just- completed primary season, Buchanan still registered 6 percent support in the most recent CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll, if he wins the Reform Party nomination, what could yet seem like big numbers in a tight Bush-Gore race next fall.
DELANEY (on camera): Buchanan seems at the moment kind of a political jack-in-the-box, but whether his run is eventually seen as something noble or a merely a nuisance, he remains a candidate with just enough support not to be the next president of the United States, but to have a real impact on deciding who will be.
Bill Delaney, CNN, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
SHAW: And campaign co-chair Lenora Fulani joined Buchanan at today's event. Now she joins us from Boston.
Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS.
LENORA FULANI, BUCHANAN CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIR: Thank you. Hi
WOODRUFF: Hi, there. You're working awfully hard for Pat Buchanan, but what happens if Ross Perot jumps in to cut him off.
FULANI: Well, we'll have a primary, and I think it will be an interesting primary at that, and whoever wins the nomination of our party will be the candidate, will be our candidate.
I'm very excited about Pat's speech today, Bernard, because he took the rhetoric of campaign finance reform and he went beyond that to talking about the real structural reforms that will level the playing fields in this country. Political reform isn't just about taking big money out of elections; it's also about letting the American people in. And he talked very specifically about those issues that are of importance to the American people at this point.
SHAW: You and Buchanan's views seem so opposite. What's the political attraction? A Marxist-Leninist background. A social conservative background. What's the attraction?
FULANI: Well, I think on many levels. One is the issue of reform and the importance of giving ordinary people a voice in the political process. I am very, very excited about the opportunity to build a bridge between the African-American community and other communities of color and the Reagan Democrats, white voters, that have been supportive of Pat and part of his base. I think that we've been able to come together even though we share, in terms -- I'm talking about the basis -- share a real interest in ending globalism, impacting upon the special interests that control economic and trade policy this country, and also helping to shape foreign policy in America. I think we a lot of interest. We also have interests going back to the issue of political reform, shared interest, in implementing things, like say same-day voter registration, opening up the debates.
The American people want to see a third party candidate in the debates. Initiative and referendum -- all of the issues that will make a big difference that only a political independent can make happen.
WOODRUFF: Fred Newman said he supports Buchanan as an agent for political reform, but said -- "if he" -- Buchanan -- "got elected president as vote for social conservative positions, I would pack my bags and go to Canada," -- unquote. Is that your view as well?
FULANI: Yes, I think that the interest I have in Buchanan's campaign -- number one, I think Mr. Buchanan is a populist who's coming to terms with the importance of political reform. I think he's come to Reform, which was a coup for the Reform Party, because of the failure of social conservatism in this country. I think the American people are libertarian in there spirit, and I think that Buchanan will have a major impact if he speaks to issues of political reform. I agree with Fred. We've worked very closely together for many, many years.
WOODRUFF: If Buchanan gets the Reform Party nomination, will he get 15 percent of the popular vote to make him eligible for the fall presidential debates?
FULANI: I hope, by then, we will have won a case in the streets of America and pressured the commission on presidential debates. There's a national campaign going on that I'm participating on to force them, number one, to change the question they ask in the debates. And we are also very interested in challenging this 15 percent benchmark. If, in fact, that been in place for the Republican debates, the only candidate who would have been in those debates would have been George Bush. Ventura would never have won the governorship in Minnesota if this had been a requirement. He got in the debates. He's now governor there.
So one thing about the 15 percent requirement and the commission's demands relative to this. When they go out and do the polls that the 15 percent would come out of, they don't and the American people, "Who would you like to see in the debates?" They ask, "Who are you planning to vote for?" So that's a trick question, and we are trying to pressure them, because we don't think the 15 percent is fair.
Also, by the way...
SHAW: We've ran out of time. I'm sorry.
FULANI: OK. I'll come back.
SHAW: Buchanan campaign co-chair Lenora Fulani. And we will have you back on INSIDE POLITICS.
FULANI: Thank you.
SHAW: Quite welcome -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: That's to be continued for sure.
To Vermont today, where there was new fuel for the national political debate over gay rights. The Vermont state house is expected to approve landmark legislation to create so-called "civil unions," which would grant homosexual couples the same legal rights as married couples. Leaders in the Vermont senate say the measure is likely to win approval there as well. And Democratic Governor Howard Dean has promised to sign the bill.
SHAW: Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: a different kind of rainbow coalition crying out to be counted.
WOODRUFF: Census forms are now arriving in mailboxes across the country. This year, the Census Bureau is waging an all-out campaign to make sure every resident is counted, because the once-a-decade task is about more than numbers.
Joining us now to explain, our own Bill Schneider -- Bill.
SCHNEIDER: Well, Judy, the primary contests may be over, but the next campaign is already getting started. A huge get-out-the-vote drive is underway now. In this campaign, the contest isn't between candidates, it's between states. It's a high-stakes race that's just as tough and just as competitive as any political campaign.
(voice-over): April 1st is Census Day. What's at stake? Congressional seats and billions of dollars in federal funds, both dependent on how many people get counted in each state.
This year, California is spending almost $25 million on outreach, putting reminders on lottery tickets, running ads in Armenian and in Asian languages. The Census Bureau is helping out with ads targeted at American Indians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CENSUS 2000 AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's time to unite as one tribe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CENSUS 2000)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We empower ourselves because there is strength in numbers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: And working mothers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CENSUS 2000 AD)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look, it doesn't happen every day, and I'm really sorry. I just don't have anywhere else to take him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It should never happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you get your fair share? Fill out your census. It helps determine public funding for day care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Population estimates show eight states losing seats in the House of Representatives: Connecticut, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Mississippi, each down one seat. The big losers: New York and Pennsylvania, down two each.
The winners? One new seat each in California, Nevada, Montana, Colorado, Florida and Georgia, and two additional seats for Texas and Arizona. Georgia could pick up a second new House seat if the state came up with a little over 8,000 more people. That seat would most likely come from Montana. But you can't get Georgians excited about competing with Montana. But the Civil War? The World Series? Now that's a real competition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, GEORGIA CENSUS 2000 AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So when your census form comes, fill it out and mail it in, or Georgia money will be educating New York children for another 10 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Georgians resent New Yorkers. So, who do Nevadans resent?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NEVADA CENSUS 2000 AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Nevada. You, like, so didn't fill out your census forms and that means beau coup dinero for me! You're awesome!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Californians, dude. And everybody hates Texans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NEVADA CENSUS 2000 AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure would like to thank y'all out in Nevada for not filling out your census forms. Just means more for me. Fresh Nevada money. Whoooeee!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: The governor of Georgia has even gotten into the act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, GEORGIA CENSUS 2000 AD)
GOV. ROY BARNES (R) GEORGIA: I'm Roy Barnes and I've got a $2 billion question for you. Ten years ago, how many Georgians didn't return census forms?
A) 4,000 B) 14,000 C) 40,000 D) 140,000
The answer is D) 140,000 Georgians weren't counted in the last census.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: They say politicians will do anything for money and votes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, GEORGIA CENSUS 2000 AD)
BARNES: Fill it out and mail it in. That's my final answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: And the final answer from the Census Bureau? Well, we'll get that at the end of the year. To be followed, of course, by lawsuits and recriminations over how many people did not get counted -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Fun math game to watch.
SCHNEIDER: It is.
WOODRUFF: Thanks, Bill Schneider.
SHAW: Well, that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. You can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com.
WOODRUFF: And this programming note: Hillary Rodham Clinton is the guest tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE," starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
SHAW: I'm Bernard Shaw. "WORLDVIEW" is next.
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