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Clinton Touts New Deal to Make Guns Safer; Vermont Takes Step Toward Approving 'Civil Unions'; Giuliani vs. Clinton Plays Out on Parade RouteAired March 17, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This agreement is a major victory for America's families. It says that gunmakers can and will share in the responsibility to keep their products out of the wrong hands.
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JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: The president touts a new deal aimed at making guns safer. Will it change the election year debate?
It's not quite gay marriage, but it's close. We'll discuss Vermont's latest step toward approving civil unions.
And amid the St. Patty's pageantry, Giuliani versus Clinton plays out on the parade route.
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff.
WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Bernie is on assignment.
President Clinton found quite a way to cap a week in which the Democrats have taken the offensive on gun control and the NRA has tried to portray Mr. Clinton as, in essence, enemy number one.
The administration today announced an unprecedented deal with the big gunmaker Smith & Wesson.
CNN White House correspondent Major Garrett explains what is in the agreement and what is behind it.
MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House hopes its deal with Smith & Wesson, the nations largest gun manufacturer, will transform the way all guns are manufactured and sold.
CLINTON: This agreement is a major victory for America's families. It says that gunmakers can and will share in the responsibility to keep their products out of the wrong hands, and it says that gunmakers can and will make their guns much safer without infringing on anyone's rights.
GARRETT: Smith & Wesson made the deal under economic duress. It and other gun manufacturers faced class-action lawsuits from 30 cities. The suits sought to hold the industry liable for contributing to gun violence.
In exchange for dropping all the lawsuits pending and threatened, Smith & Wesson has agreed to do the following: install child safety locks on all guns, a step other gun manufacturers have already undertaken.
Smith & Wesson will also design handguns within 12 months that no child under 6 will be able to operate.
The company vows to develop so-called "smart-gun technology." This means designing guns that cannot be fired by anyone other than the owner.
It will also require authorized dealers to perform a background check on all guns sold at gun shows, no matter how long the check takes. Congress has fought for nine months over imposing a 24-hour or 72-hour background check on gun shows sales. At least for Smith & Wesson, that question is now moot.
Install hidden serial numbers that cannot be erased. Criminals often shave off serial numbers to prevent authorities from tracing the gun. In December, the Department of Housing and Urban Development threatened to join the lawsuits, increasing pressure on the industry to settle or face staggering legal costs.
The threat of lawsuits remains real for other gunmakers. The White House hopes the Smith & Wesson deal will encourage other gunmakers to settle soon.
Due to inclement weather, Smith & Wesson's CEO was forced to announce the agreement by telephone.
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ED SHULTZ, CEO, SMITH & WESSON: The decision to enter this agreement as we know will not be popular with everyone, but to us it makes sense and is the right thing to do.
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JOHN VELLECO, GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA: Now, it has taken the full weight of the federal government at taxpayer expense to put a stranglehold on one of the largest producers of a legal product in this country to force to it change its behavior.
GARRETT: A spokesman for the National Rifle Association described the deal between the White House and Smith & Wesson as tantamount to back -- to back-door blackmail. The spokesman from the NRA also predicts that other gunmakers will not follow suit and will continue to manufacture and sell guns the way they always have -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Major, is this agreement likely to have any effect on the gun debate over on Capitol Hill?
GARRETT: Judy, I've had a chance to call several congressional offices this afternoon, and I must tell you Republican congressional aides are staggered by this decision by Smith & Wesson to make this agreement with the White House. They're not sure of the political impact. House Democrats could not be happier. What they see now is a political situation where the No. 1 manufacturer of guns in the country has agreed with the White House, not agreed with the NRA. They're sure that's going to change the political atmosphere on the floor of both the House and Senate -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right. Major Garrett reporting on this story from the White House.
Well, as we heard, Mr. Clinton proclaim the Smith & Wesson deal, "a major victory for America's families." But even before the agreement a winner was emerging from the political wrangling over guns.
Let's turn now to our senior political analyst Bill Schneider -- Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Judy, we have just completed week one of the long, long campaign.
Now what you're supposed to do in week one is define your opponent. Republicans tried to define Al Gore on the issue of fund- raising sleaze, but Democrats saw an opening to define the GOP on the issue of guns.
Bull's eye: The Democrats hit their target and win the prize for political sharp shooting: the political "Play of the Week."
(voice-over): In 1988, Republicans used a few shorthand issues to define Michael Dukakis: the Pledge of Allegiance, the ACLU.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1988)
GEORGE BUSH (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A card- carrying member of the ACLU.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Boston Harbor, criminal furloughs...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "1988 BUSH CAMPAIGN AD")
ANNOUNCER: His revolving-door prison policy gave weekend furloughs to first degree murderers, not eligible for parole.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: This year Democrat have started putting together their own shorthand description of George W. Bush.
Item one: Bob Jones University...
AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't let those Confederate- flag waving, Bob Jones-embracing, right-wing extremists divide us.
SCHNEIDER: Item two: the NRA...
GORE: Governor Bush overturned a 150-year ban on concealed weapons in Texas.
SCHNEIDER: In its new campaign, the National Rifle Association goes after President Clinton for advocating new gun laws instead of enforcing existing laws. Fair enough, but the language is getting vicious.
WAYNE LAPIERRE, PRESIDENT, NRA: He's willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his political agenda.
SCHNEIDER: Accusing him of having, quote, "blood on his hands."
LAPIERRE: People are dying, and this administration won't do anything about it.
SCHNEIDER: Democrats immediately linked the NRA with Republican congressional leaders who have kept gun control legislation bottled up.
CLINTON: And I'll bet in their heart of hearts they're pretty embarrassed by some of the things that their allies have said in the last few days.
SCHNEIDER: "Allies" of the NRA is one way of putting it -- lackeys is another.
GORE: Efforts such as those that would take place in this Conference Committee if the NRA would allow its legislative lackeys to meet.
SCHNEIDER: What about Governor Bush, whose father resigned from the NRA to protest the organization's attack on federal agents as, quote, "jack-booted thugs."
On Monday, the governor conciliated.
BUSH: I think we can have a civil discussion on emotional issues without name-calling.
SCHNEIDER: On Tuesday, the governor disagreed.
BUSH: I don't think the president supports killing of people in America. I don't believe that.
SCHNEIDER: On Thursday, the governor repudiated.
BUSH: There's ways to debate the issue without casting aspersions on the president like this. I just -- I think they've gone too far on that statement.
SCHNEIDER: Democrats have Bush now on the defensive, again. Bob Jones, that's one. The NRA, that's two. Three strikes, you know what happens. Two strikes, that's the political "Play of the Week" -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thanks.
Well, the Democrats may be scoring political points on guns, but a new bipartisan poll shows likely voters nationwide are evenly split on whether George W. Bush or Al Gore would better deal with gun issues.
The survey indicates gun control is the fifth most important issue for likely voters: behind moral values, education, Social Security and health care.
We're joined now by one of those who conducted the Voter.com/Battleground poll. He is Republican pollster Ed Goeas and he joins us from Atlanta, CNN Center.
Ed Goeas, thank you for being with us.
ED GOEAS, GOP POLLSTER: My pleasure.
WOODRUFF: On -- first on this, on the gun control question: What does your poll show about how voters feel about this?
GOEAS: Well, they are ranking it as a fairly important issue. We continue to see voters looking at a variety of issues as important in this election with no one issue really taking a strong lead.
On the issue of gun control, as you mentioned, they see both George W. Bush and Al Gore being even in terms of who can best handle the issue. Some of the internal numbers, however, look even better for George W. Bush.
There's so much emphasis on children and guns, what we find is when you look at mothers, both Al Gore and Bush continue to be split. But the dads in the country give George W. Bush a 20-point lead on handling of that issue.
We also see from the rural areas all the way through the suburbs, Bush leading fairly strongly over Al Gore on handling that issue. It's just the urban areas that are giving the lead to Al Gore.
WOODRUFF: And that's just -- that's just on the gun issue, to be clear. GOEAS: Right.
WOODRUFF: Ed Goeas, what about just the overall match-up between Bush and Gore? What do you see there?
GOEAS: Well, we saw that Bush is having a four-point lead in terms of the overall ballot. He leads 48 to 44. That lead holds as you look at even more likely voters at about a 78 percent turnout, which is normal for a presidential race.
You see him doing extremely well in California, extremely well in the South. The battleground of the Midwest is the thing that is really surfacing as a key area between the two races.
WOODRUFF: And how does this differ from previous polls?
GOEAS: Well, we have seen -- Bush has come down a little bit and Gore has increased his support marginally during this period of time, but at least from a Republican perspective, after the tough primary that we just finished up on the Republican side, the fact that George W. Bush is leading or even even, is quite encouraging for Republicans.
WOODRUFF: Ed Goeas, I just mentioned the issues that your poll shows voters are most concerned about. What changes do you see there? What surprises you there?
GOEAS: Well, probably the big surprise, first of all, before this surprise, you see George W. Bush leading on handling taxes, on keeping America prosperous. Keeping America prosperous being a key issue the Democrats have to be leading on in order to win the White House. You see Al Gore building a lead on both Social Security and health care.
The big surprise, however, is education where the two candidates are currently split on handling that issue along with guns, a very traditional Democratic issue, one that George W. Bush has focused on, and that focus is paying off with the voters.
WOODRUFF: You started to touch on this just a minute ago, Ed. What does this poll tell you about who the swing voters are going to be in this election?
GOEAS: Well, we found some interesting things. George W. Bush is holding a lead with Hispanic voters, breaking even with Catholic voters, while he has a four-point deficit with women overall. He has a 12-point advantage on the ballot with men. We also looked at Reagan voters and saw that -- Reagan Democrat voters -- that George W. Bush is holding about a 13-point lead over Al Gore, so he's coming out of the primary with that voter group doing fairly well.
WOODRUFF: But you said among women, Bush is behind.
GOEAS: He's behind by four points. However, if you look at Hispanic women, he's even. And if you look at white women in the country, he is leading by about a six or seven-point margin. So it's really the African American women, and to a certain extent, white senior women who are driving any gender gap that exists.
WOODRUFF: There was a -- I know that our people had talked with both you and with Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. And one of you had talked about the national mood being maybe at a turning point. What did you mean by that?
GOEAS: Well, in January, we saw people feeling the country was moving in the right direction by a majority. In this particular poll, we see voters turning a little bit more negative, actually quite a bit more negative. about the direction of the country, and also drove declining moral values up as the number one issue again amongst the electorate.
WOODRUFF: I was just going say, why is that, do you think?
GOEAS: Well, what we see is men are extremely negative about the direction of the country. Women are still holding a marginal lead in terms of feeling the country is moving in the right direction or off on the right track. However, we have seen the biggest decline really comes this January with women not being as positive about the country. Some of it's driven by the economy. Some of it's driven by some of the shootings that have happened.
WOODRUFF: Congress, Ed Goeas, another key battleground. What are your numbers showing you there in terms of Congressional...
GOEAS: We show that on the overall generic ballot, Democrats are leading by 41 -- 42 to 41 percent. If you look at the more likely voters, the 70 percent of the electorate that are likely to vote, the Republican lead moves to a 3-point lead, where the gender gap with men for Democrats is about the same at the presidential level. You do see the deficit Republicans have with women increase from the presidential race to the congressional level.
WOODRUFF: All right, Ed Goeas, Republican pollster, on this poll done for the dot.com voter -- dot.com battleground state.
Thank you again.
GOEAS: Thank you, Judy.
And still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: Vermont takes a step forward on a controversial issue. Plus, the first lady shows off her Irish pride, but is she marching through a political minefield?
Frank Buckley looks at parade politics when we return.
WOODRUFF: In Vermont, the state Senate is preparing for the debate over same-sex domestic partnerships. Yesterday, the Vermont House passed a bill allowing so-called "civil unions" for same-sex couples. The House bill grants gay and lesbian couples many of the rights and responsibilities reserved for married couples, but it does not legalize gay marriage. Some state senators predict the civil unions bill will have Senate approval by May.
Joining me now to talk more about this issue, Garrison Nelson, professor of political science at the University of Vermont.
Professor Nelson, how did this become an issue, a bill in the state house there?
PROF. GARRISON NELSON, UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT: Well basically, this became an issue as a result of a Supreme Court decision in December of last year. A very activist Supreme Court ruled that partners in same-sex unions should be extended the same benefits as those in traditional marriages. And so in some ways, it was a top- down circumstance, different from California, did not come out of an initiative or referendum petition.
WOODRUFF: Now we're saying it does not legalize gay marriage, so what's different
NELSON: Well, it's basically called a civil union, so it's a cut above domestic partners, but it is not a marriage in the sense that marriages, for example, you know, recognize full faith and credit, and then marriage vows can be -- people who are married can move from state to state and have the marriages recognized. These unions are only recognized in Vermont, but they do afford a great deal of protection in terms of adoption, in terms of insurance, in terms of medical treatment and even spousal abuse; the kind of protection that exists for partners in conventional marriages are extended to those in civil unions.
WOODRUFF: Should we assume this is a politically popular move in the state?
NELSON: No. There are 114 towns that participated in some form of vote on this bill. Fifty-one towns actually had a vote and 63 towns had a sort of informal surveys passed out. Only three of the 114 towns have voted for same-sex marriage. Thirteen voted for domestic partners support. So it did not enjoy a groundswell of support amongst those from our towns who chose to vote on it. However, those towns constituted less than half of the towns in the state. And only two of the towns in Chitney (ph) County, which is where Burlington is located, participated in the poll. And Burlington did not. Burlington is a very liberal city.
WOODRUFF: But it sounds as if the state is, at best, quite split on this. If that's the case, how did it do so well in the House? And the assumption is it'll pass the senate?
NELSON: Well, it got to the House 76-69, so it was a narrow vote in the House. It will do better in the Senate. The House is a -- because there's 150 members of the House and they're sort of closer to their constituents, the Senate is, in many cases like, sort of countywide, so you don't have the same degree of constituent pressure in the Senate that you do in the House.
And the feeling was one that the House would be the real battleground, that the Senate is more liberal, and that they guard the -- the only hope for the opponents was to stop it in the House because they knew once -- if they couldn't stop it in the House, that it would go to the Senate, be passed there and the government would sign it.
WOODRUFF: But given the fact that, what 30 some states have passed laws denying recognition to same-sex marriage, Vermont is really going in the opposite direction assuming it's passed by the state Senate.
NELSON: Not the first time Vermont's gone in the opposite direction: one of two states that voted for Taft in 1912 and one of two states to vote for Landon in 1936. Where Vermont goes, few states seem to follow.
WOODRUFF: Well, professor Garrison Nelson at the University of Vermont, we appreciate your coming on and talking about it. Thank you very much.
NELSON: You're welcome.
WOODRUFF: In New York, more than 60 gay and lesbian demonstrators were arrested today while protesting their exclusion from the city's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Senate-hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton both took part in the march.
But, as Frank Buckley reports, the first lady could pay a high political cost for her participation.
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FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani assumed his familiar position at the head of the annual St. Patrick's Day parade.
For Hillary Clinton, a few blocks behind on Fifth Avenue, the appearance in the parade was a first, providing an opportunity for Giuliani to get off a blast.
MAYOR RUDI GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: This is her first parade. This is my 20th. I've lived in this state all my life. I've lived in this city all my life. I've marched in this parade when I was a little boy.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: I love being a New Yorker, and this is the first time I've been able to march in this parade as a New Yorker. And I'm excited and, you know, could not be happier to be here.
BUCKLEY: While Mrs. Clinton can now claim New York resident status, having moved here in January, many spectators along the parade route expressed their unwillingness to welcome her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go home!
BUCKLEY: The first lady was met with jeers at numerous times during the parade.
But signs of support were also evident -- for Mrs. Clinton and Mayor Giuliani.
(on camera): But Hillary Clinton's appearance in the parade has angered gays and lesbians in New York because the parade traditionally excludes a gay and lesbian organization.
(voice-over): Sixty-nine members of ILGO, the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization, were arrested by police before the parade got under way. Staging a sit-down protest in this their tenth year of being banned from the parade, a position upheld by court rulings. Mrs. Clinton was aware of the parade's policy on gays but decided to appear anyway.
CLINTON: I would hope that this parade would become inclusive. I think that would be a very positive step, and I will certainly speak out for that. I understand the concerns that people have about it not being. But this is a day also to celebrate the values, the contributions of Irish-Americans.
But ILGO's leader says Mrs. Clinton's marching in the parade revealed a lack of knowledge of New York, a state where parades and ethnic politics play major roles.
ANNE MAGUIRE, IRISH LESBIAN AND GAY ORGANIZATION: She's already put her foot in it certain times with different ethnic communities across the city. I don't know why we would think it would stop here, you know. So there may be a lot of other places where, you know, her ignorance of New York City, New York City politics, the people who live here, may well be exposed again.
BUCKLEY: Something Mayor Giuliani is betting on as the campaign season marches forward.
Frank Buckley, CNN, New York.
WOODRUFF: Much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Still to come: George W. Bush fires first. A look at his new ad against Al Gore.
Plus, John McCain will soon be back on Capitol Hill, but will he lose some of his convention delegates?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every American is a little Irish on St. Patrick's day. The parades here, Irish people will tell you, are bigger than the ones in Ireland.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Our Bruce Morton on celebrating the Irish and their political history in America.
WOODRUFF: We'll have more of the day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories.
The United States moves to improve relations with Iran and lifts a ban on some imports. For the first time in 20 years, Iranian carpets, caviar, fruits, and pistachio nuts will be available in American markets.
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MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, SECRETARY OF STATE: Our purpose today is to make clear America's willingness to move ahead in a way that will advance the interest of both countries and to demonstrate in a specific and meaningful way that further progress towards a democratic an open Iran will have an impact on or policies, but that impact must be limited until we begin to see those changes reflected in Iran's actions abroad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Iran's envoy to the United Nations welcomed the ease in sanctions. However, he accused the U.S. of adopting, in his words, "an insolent and domineering spirit in its offer."
Former Black Panther H. Rap Brown is wanted in the shooting of two sheriff's deputies in Atlanta. One of the deputies died of his wounds a short time ago.
Police say the other victim identified Brown, who is now known as Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, as the shooter. The deputies were shot while attempting to serve a warrant charging Abdullah with failure to appear in court.
A Missouri man who disrupted an Alaska Airlines flight last night was arraigned today in San Francisco. He faces federal charges of interfering with a flight crew. Thirty-nine-year-old Peter Bradley Jr. is accused of bursting into the cockpit, injuring the pilot and copilot, and grabbing at the controls. The pilot called for help over the intercom and several passengers came to the rescue.
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BOB BENJAMIN, PASSENGER: When the door came off the cabin, five or six of us just shot forward and encountered (INAUDIBLE), he was subdued. And then we had to drop our weight on him to try to hold him down and it took quite a bit to get his hands out from under him because he wouldn't let go of him (INAUDIBLE). So we strapped the cuffs on him. And the gentleman over there strapped his legs and I strapped his arms and we picked him up and pulled him out of the cabin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: If convicted, Bradley could get up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In Boston, some fluffy white is mixing in with St. Patrick's Day green. A late winter storm is passing through the northeast and is expected to bring several inches of snow. Temperatures had been in the 70s yesterday. Today, lows were in the 20s.
The May issue of "Life" Magazine will be its last monthly publication. Time Incorporated announced the magazine will be published only periodically to commemorate landmark or special events. "Life" became the nation's first picture magazine when it began 65 years ago.
And when INSIDE POLITICS returns, John McCain's Senate comeback. Gail Collins and Jay Carney offer some possible scenarios.
WOODRUFF: George W. Bush is kicking off the election year ad wars with a new spot slamming the Clinton-Gore administration on education.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP BUSH CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: Is the status quo in America schools good enough? Under Al Gore and Bill Clinton, national reading scores stagnated. America's high school students placed almost dead last in international math tests. The achievement between poor and non-poor students remains wide. Gore and Clinton had eight years, but they've failed...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: The one-minute ad goes on to outline Bush's education reform proposals. The spot airs today through Tuesday in much of Illinois, including stations that reach into Kentucky, Iowa and Missouri. Illinois holds its primary on Tuesday, but the ad clearly is laying groundwork for Bush's fall battle against Al Gore.
Gore is responding with an ad of his own, which will run in the same media markets. It defends the vice president's education record. And implies that Bush is using the same, quote, "dirty politics" against Gore that he used against John McCain.
While Gore versus Bush has taken center stage, the fallout continues from Bush versus McCain.
CNN's Jonathan Karl reports on a brewing battle over GOP delegates.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the latest sign of tension between the Bush and McCain camps, George W. Bush's top ally in Michigan is taking steps to strip John McCain of the delegates he won in the Michigan primary and replace them with Bush supporters. A spokesman for Governor John Engler told CNN, quote, "Most of McCain's support came from Democrats and Independents. He might be able to slip a few people through to the delegation, but most of the delegates will be Bush supporters."
The response came from top McCain adviser, John Weaver, quote:
"That's disappointing given the fact that Senator McCain won the overwhelming majority of delegates in Michigan under Governor Engler's own rules. Governor Bush can stop this. If he doesn't, it will poison an already troubled relationship."
A Bush campaign official said Governor Bush would not interfere with the selection of Michigan delegates, saying that needs to be worked out between McCain and the state party. McCain won Michigan and 52 of the state's 58 delegates, but the actual delegates won't be chosen until May, at the state GOP convention, which is controlled by Governor Engler and his supporters.
Michigan was the biggest of the seven states won by McCain. All told, he won 235 delegates, delegates he wants to keep so that he can force roll-call votes on issues like campaign finance reform and Social Security at the Republican National Convention this summer. McCain also hopes to push his agenda in the Senate when he returns to Washington next week.
KEN DUBERSTEIN, MCCAIN ADVISER: He returns to the Senate, in all fairness to the two leaders, as one of only two United States Senators who truly have a national constituency. John McCain has one and Ted Kennedy has one.
KARL: McCain's aides say he is already raising money for his new political action committee. McCain will use the money to stump for like-minded Republicans.
DUBERSTEIN: I think John McCain this autumn is going to be on the top of the most-wanted list among House Republicans, especially who need a "Good Housekeeping" seal of approval on reform.
The first candidate McCain plans to campaign for is New York Mayor and Senate candidate Rudy Giuliani, a Bush supporter, but one who went out of his way to avoid attacking McCain.
(on camera): McCain plans to outline his post-campaign agenda with a speech from the Senate floor on Tuesday. Afterwards, he'll hold his first press conference since suspending his presidential campaign.
Jonathan Karl, CNN, Capitol Hill.
WOODRUFF: Well, let's talk more now about McCain's return to the Senate and Election 2000. "New York Times" columnist Gail Collins joins us from our New York Bureau, and "CNN & Time" correspondent James Carney is with us from our time studio in New York. Thank you, both.
Jay Carney, to you first. John McCain: What kind of a reception is he going to get on Monday or Tuesday?
JAMES CARNEY, "CNN & TIME" CORRESPONDENT: Well, his colleagues in the Senate will welcome him with open arms and cross fingers behind their backs. We have to remember that these Republican senators overwhelmingly supported George W. Bush in the primaries. They've never had very good relations, most of them, with John McCain.
But they've been ordered by Paul Coverdell, George Bush's top supporter in the Senate, and Trent Lott, the majority leader, and George Bush himself through his aides in Austin, to be as kind and welcoming to Senator McCain as possible, because they don't want to do anything to exacerbate the already very tendentious relationship between Bush and McCain.
WOODRUFF: Well, Gail Collins, you write in your column today that McCain never was much one for a senatorial courtesy. How does that bode for his return?
GAIL COLLINS, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well it'll be OK. He always jokes that he just never won -- he's won the miss congeniality award every year -- not -- no. I just -- it's going to be wonderful.
I don't think he cares much about how he's received in the Senate. Even if they hold a party for him, it's not going to make up for the fact that they're trying to take his delegates away in Michigan. The tension is not between him and the senators as much as it is between him and George W. right now.
WOODRUFF: Well, after speaking of George W., after that interview he gave "The New York Times" -- I guess it ran yesterday -- in which it sounded like he really didn't want to give much at all to John McCain, then he took great pains after that to sound as if he really was trying to reach out. Which is it, Jay Carney?
CARNEY: Well, I'm afraid with that interview the damage is largely done because the person that interview affected most was John McCain. And even though he's in Bora Bora as we speak, he's very aware, we're told, of the interview and the tone of what George W. Bush said about not learning a thing from John McCain and not particularly impressed by the turnout that McCain inspired.
So he and his aides and supporters have reached out to McCain in these last 24 hours to try to sort of smooth over the ruffled feathers, but I think that McCain is looking for ways to remain an independent figure in the Republican Party even if he does eventually endorse George W. Bush and this just gives him more cause.
WOODRUFF: Gail Collins, which is it? I mean, is it that George W. Bush really is resentful still of John McCain, or is he, as his emissaries would have us believe, anxious to work out some kind of a rapprochement? COLLINS: Well, I think he's anxious -- both. I think he's anxious to work out an agreement, yes. He's bitter about the way the campaign went just as John McCain is. They both feel like they were slimed by the other guy, and they're both still angry about it.
But the problem really is that they don't agree on a couple of core issues, most notably, about campaign finance. And all of Governor Bush's talking today about how we really agree about what to do about young Social Security recipients being able to take some of their money and invest it. That's not going to do the deal. They don't agree about campaign finance reform, and that's John McCain's core issue.
WOODRUFF: And, Jay Carney, is John McCain going to settle for something -- I mean, he had already scaled back his position on campaign finance reform. Is he likely to scale it back even further in order to reach an accommodation with Bush?
CARNEY: You know, Judy, I'd be surprised, because the core element of his stripped-down version of the McCain-Feingold Bill is a complete ban on the unlimited donations to the parties known as soft money.
The current compromise in the Senate, on which there will be hearings in the next couple of months, sponsored by Senator Chuck Hagel, a McCain supporter, does not ban unlimited soft money. It only caps it. And even by capping it, there are still huge loopholes for individuals and corporations and unions to funnel money into the state parties, which then effects federal elections.
I think to compromise on that would be totally out of character for John McCain, so I don't see it. And, like Gail says, this is the core issue for Senator McCain, so he's going to have to agree to disagree with George W. Bush on this.
WOODRUFF: And conversely, Gail, how likely is George W. Bush to change his position?
COLLINS: Not likely. The people who nominated him, the people who've supported him, the people who gave him the first $70 million that he's run through and he now has to go back and get all over again, are not people who are crazy about the whole idea of a soft money ban. It just goes against his core constituency. So that -- it could be a great show, because it doesn't really seem like there's a whole lot of room for compromise here.
WOODRUFF: I want to ask you both about the issue that started off the program: the gun control. Clearly a lot has happened this week. We reported on a poll done by the Voter.com group, we talked with Ed Goeas. Is this whole gun control mess likely to have a significant affect in November, Jay?
CARNEY: Well, if Al Gore can do anything, he'll certainly try to make that the case. I mean, he will use George W. Bush's fairly pro- gun record in Texas and try to hang Governor Bush with it. Governor Bush has a couple of issues which will be difficult to explain to the nation at-large, and that is he actively promoted and then signed a concealed weapons law in Texas that is really kind of out of sync with a lot of areas in the country, especially heavily populated areas on the East and West Coast. And he also allowed them to pass into law or signed a law that prohibited localities in Texas from suing gun manufacturers, another thing that Gore will try to use against Bush.
WOODRUFF: And Just quickly, Gail Collins, you think it will be a big issue?
COLLINS: It could be a big issue. It's a -- if Clinton and Gore have anything to say about it, it will be a huge issue.
All right, Gail Collins, Jay Carney, thank you both. And we'll see you again soon.
Still ahead, a conversation with Pat Buchanan on his new message of reform and his criticism of the Washington political culture.
WOODRUFF: Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan is taking on both Democrats and Republicans in his latest campaign message. Yesterday, Buchanan referred to Washington as the "swamp" and called both the Republicans and Democratic Parties the "Beltway parties."
When I talked with Pat Buchanan this afternoon, I asked him about those comments and the fact that he has lived in Washington himself most of his life.
PAT BUCHANAN (REF), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've never been endorsed by a member of Congress or a governor or a senator for the presidency of the United States. I've never been part of the Republican establishment.
But the reason the Reform Party can do a lot of reforms the other two can't, Judy, is we don't get any soft money. And the two of them are going to collect half a billion dollars this year. They're addicted to soft money. And I think the only way you can change the establishment is from within -- excuse me, from without. John McCain tried from within and it didn't work.
WOODRUFF: You talked about reform for some time, and yet in your last campaign, in '96 and '92, you talked a whole lot more -- you were taking on world trade, you were taking on the U.N., and particularly abortion. If I'm not mistaken, in your speech at Harvard this week you barely touched on particularly abortion.
BUCHANAN: Well, the speech at Harvard was exclusively about campaign finance reform and political reform, term limits on members of Congress, getting rid of congressional pensions and a lot of other changes, political changes. But the reason I left the Republican Party is because on trade, on foreign policy, it's frozen in a Cold War mindset. I mean, we got to ask ourselves even about NATO. It defended us in the Cold War. Now that the Soviet empire has collapsed, the Warsaw Pact is dead, the Soviet Union is gone, do we need NATO? Why don't we ask some fresh questions?
So we're going to have reform of not only of politics not only of campaign finance but reform of the trade policy and the foreign policy of this country and the military policy right down the line.
WOODRUFF: But at the same time, the Reform Party's nomination you're trying to get has historically not taken stands on social issues, on abortion, and yet those things have been very important to you. How do you reconcile that?
BUCHANAN: Very simply. We're going to have a platform which deals with the foreign and trade policy and immigration policy, and I will append to it a personal statement saying that I am pro-life. I've always been. I will appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court, and if I'm nominated, I will be the most pro-life candidate in the race for president of the United States.
But I am also committed to a new foreign policy that keeps us out of places like Kosovo, and frankly, Judy, as of today, a trade policy that stands up to communist China when it threatens us and our friends with war and tells them, look, no free access to our market unless you behave like a friendly partner.
WOODRUFF: But the question I'm asking is, are you putting your views on social issues, and particularly on abortion, pretty much on the back burner for this campaign?
BUCHANAN: Not at all. In my opening statement as a Reform Party candidate, I said I am committed to life and I'll be the most pro-life candidate. The Reform Party doesn't take a stand on that. Judy, I kept the Republican Party pro-life in its platform in '96. What happened? My good friend Bob Dole as soon as we did said, I didn't read the platform, and we're not bound by it. I'm tired of platforms. You got to have the candidate believe these things in his heart and be personally committed as I am.
WOODRUFF: Speaking of the Republican Party, you know most analysts are now saying that what votes you get are mostly going to come away from the Republican candidate, George W. Bush. Does that worry you at all?
BUCHANAN: When I made a decision go with the Reform Party and be its nominee, I decided I want to beat both parties. And that's my objective. Right now we're only drawing a small amount of the vote and it's equally from both parties. I've got strength in places like Michigan and Wisconsin and upper New England. I think that Mr. Bush isn't going to win.
So, Judy, I don't know that. Our battle is to win the presidency of the United States, to create a new party where people who have populist, conservative traditionalist views cannot only feel comfortable but they can look at their candidate and say he's standing up forthrightly and defending the things we believe in. We don't have that anymore with this Republican establishment.
Judy, those two establishments are Xerox copies of each other on trade with China, on Kosovo, on NATO expansion, on immigration. There's not a dime's worth of difference between those two establishments, and they got the two candidates they wanted.
WOODRUFF: So even if candidacy were to cost George Bush the election by just a few votes, Pat Buchanan would believe what, would feel how?
BUCHANAN: Well, look, I don't know what's going to happen here, but I don't believe that the Republican nominee, who is a good, decent man, has any preemptive claim on the presidency of the United States simply because an establishment got together and gave him $70 million and vaulted him into the candidacy and said, everybody, we've all got to now support George W. Bush. He's a nice fellow, Judy, but I don't see any peremptory claim that his family or he has on the presidency of the United States.
WOODRUFF: Finally, you're certain that Ross Perot is not going to run for president?
BUCHANAN: I am not certain, but I am certain we will stay in right to the end, no matter who gets in against us. We are out there. And even though we may be moving at a turtle pace, we are well up that road. They better get in quick.
WOODRUFF: Pat Buchanan, thanks again.
BUCHANAN: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Happy St. Patrick's Day.
BUCHANAN: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: And when we return, our Bruce Morton on the history of the Irish in America and their contributions to U.S. politics.
SHAW: On this St. Patrick's Day, there are parades across the country as Americans, Irish or not, celebrate.
Now our Bruce Morton takes a few moments to reflect on the political contributions of the Irish Americans.
MORTON (voice-over): They came by the thousands in the 19th century, flooding into Ellis Island, lining up for the medical check, for registration. They poured into the cities, where they were not welcome. "No Irish need apply," the signs read at construction sites and factory gates. A cartoon of that time showed an Irish immigrant with a monkey's face. But they worked their way free of that, and one of their vehicles was politics. Maryland Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend reminisced about that a couple of years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1988)
LT. GOV. KATHLEEN KENNEDY TOWNSEND (D), MARYLAND: It was a wonderful way for the Irish to do well, probably because they weren't allowed to get a job in the normal course. They weren't getting hired. They were discriminated against, so politics was the one way they could make their way in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORTON: What a flowering it was. Many mayors of Boston -- that's the famous James Michael Curley, partially blocked by some French general. Mayors of Chicago named Daley -- two so far. A speaker of the House named Tip O'Neill. And many more, including two presidents -- very different men, both very popular. John F. Kennedy, the first Roman Catholic president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1961)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORTON: And Ronald Reagan, who left office as lightheartedly as he'd arrived, with a line from one of his movies for his successor, George Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1988)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: George, just one personal request: Go out there and win one for The Gipper.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORTON: They've succeeded in other ways, of course: war heroes, the five Sullivan brothers who all died together in World War II; Movies -- are you old enough to remember "The Bells of St. Mary's?"
Every American is a little Irish on St. Patrick's Day. The parades here, Irish people will tell you, are bigger than the ones in Ireland.
Oh, and one thing more. In Ireland, they don't drink green beer.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: Some of us kicking ourselves for forgetting to wear green today.
That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. You can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com.
This programming note: Gun control is the topic on CNN's "LATE EDITION" Sunday, with guests Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association and White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart.
Be sure to tune in at noon Eastern, 9:00 a.m. Pacific.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
"WORLDVIEW" is next.
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