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Inside Politics

'Third Rail' Takes Center Stage in Election 2000; Giuliani Undecided as Hillary Prepares to Accept Party Nod; Can Moms Overcome Clout and Money of NRA?

Aired May 15, 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)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am here with a message for America and to put my opponent on notice: The days of spreading fear and panic are over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush tackles Social Security. Is his proposal more about ideas than details?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Those details that George W. Bush isn't giving are important. Depending on the approach, proposals like his can be expensive or painful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: Our Brooks Jackson on the potential costs of Social Security reform.

Plus:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe you deserve a guarantee that Social Security will be there for you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: The vice president weighs in, as the "third rail" takes center stage in election 2000.

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

SESNO: Thanks very much for joining us. Bernie and Judy are off today.

The two presidential candidates locked horns today in a pattern that is becoming increasingly familiar: First, George W. Bush proposing significant changes to shore up Social Security, and within hours Al Gore denounced the Bush plan and pushing his own proposal. Today's duel began in California, with Bush's plan to let workers wager part of their government lifeline on the often-volatile stock market.

First, CNN's Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George Bush thinks young workers should be able to take a small portion of the money they pay into Social Security and invest it.

BUSH: A worker who invests even a limited portion of his or her paycheck could over a career end up with hundreds of thousands of dollars for retirement.

CROWLEY: Not since Barry Goldwater has a party's presidential choice proposed a major change in Social Security, and with good reason. Conventional wisdom goes this way: Seniors and near-seniors don't want the system changed, and they vote, which is why, as he spoke of his six principles for reform at a California senior center, George Bush said this one:

BUSH: Let me put this as plainly as I can: For those on Social Security or close to receiving it, nothing will change.

CROWLEY: Not once, but twice.

BUSH: Let me say this again: For those who are retired or near retirement, there will be no changes at all to your Social Security.

CROWLEY: Bush's other principles: The Social Security surplus must be for Social Security only, Social Security payroll taxes must not be increased, the government must not invest Social Security funds in the stock market, and reform must preserve disability and survivor benefits.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nice to see you.

BUSH: Good morning, thanks.

CROWLEY: First, that voters will see Bush's proposal as a sign of bold leadership. Second, that he can raise his voice above the din to reassure skittish seniors. And third, that aging baby boomers and their children believe what their parents and grandparents did not: that there are few better long-term investments than the stock market.

BUSH: Al Gore, who calls these bipartisan proposals risky, has a substantial amount of his money invested in the stock market. If he's building his own retirement security in the market, why does he object to young Americans doing the same?

CROWLEY: Bush aides also believe they can make inroads among low-income Americans with this plan, offering up a way to build wealth, which they can retire on or pass on to their children. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Bush aides say that the -- Bush offered very few details because this is merely a framework and that the details need to be worked out on a bipartisan way, lest this plan befall the same fate as the health care plan of Hillary Rodham Clinton, which saw no bipartisan agreement and was picked to death by people who didn't like one thing or another -- Frank.

SESNO: Well, Candy, we all know what the stock market's about. It can go up, it can go down over time. Presumably, it goes more up than down. But how do Bush's advisers address the issue of possible losses under a plan like this?

CROWLEY: Well, basically, they say the idea of losses is minuscule. They point out that not since the Depression has there been a 20-year period in which the stock market has not shown a return on investment. Bush himself said, look, no day-trading. There will be no single investments. They have in mind more government-approved mutual funds. He says that in those details there will be government regulations and requirements for the safety and the security of whatever is invested in.

SESNO: And is he saying whether these funds will be invested by the individual or by the government?

CROWLEY: Well, the individual gets to choose. Now whether you pay all your payroll taxes and somehow you direct someone within the government system to put them into this or that fund or you actually get that money and you invest it yourself is one of those details that they just haven't put out there yet. They really do believe that, first of all, there's some cover here, as you know, political cover. The more details you put out, the more there is for Al Gore to fire on.

And secondly they also believe that if the plan is to have any chance in Congress, should George Bush become president, that there needs to be a bunch of Democrats and Republicans on board so that they can all take the fire for whatever seems to be inpalatable.

SESNO: All right, Candy Crowley on George W. Bush on Social Security, thanks.

In suburban Philadelphia, meanwhile, Al Gore had plenty to say about the Bush proposal to retool Social Security. But Gore's critique centered on a single word -- you've heard it before: risky.

CNN's Jonathan Karl is with the Gore campaign in Ambler, Pennsylvania.

Hello, Jonathan.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Frank.

That's right. You know, Gore's central argument here is that Bush's ideas on Social Security would put at risk the federal government's largest and perhaps most popular program by subjecting it to the ups and downs of the stock market.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: I believe that we have to maintain Social Security as a bedrock guarantee of retirement security. On top of that foundation, people can and should build more: savings, investments, IRAs. But you shouldn't have to roll the dice with your basic retirement security. And you shouldn't have to pay for others who do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Now in the past, Gore has criticized Bush for pursuing what he call a "secret plan" that would undermine Social Security or alternatively talking about a risky scheme. But today, Gore was positively restrained, avoiding all those buzz phrases he's used in the past, and promising to have a civil debate on the issue, even as he took apart Bush's plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: We're not talking about a minor difference here. We're talking about a fundamental difference on the most successful social program in the entire history of the United States of America. Why not have a debate on the future of Social Security, how to reform it? What is the right way? What is the responsible way? That's an issue that is important enough to the future of our country that we ought to have a debate on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Now Gore's aides acknowledge that he was more restrained today in his attacks, that he was less negative, that he was trying to keep a more positive tone, again, even as he was drawing those contrasts. But they say that that sharper edge that we've seen from Al Gore will not be gone for long, that this is a long debate. They Look forward to the debate on Social Security, and in fact they will pick it apart for the months to come. As one of his senior aides said, the vice president will take apart this plan bit by bit by bit. And after three or four months, the plan will be ripped to shreds. That a quote from one of his senior aides.

On another footnote here, Governor Bush had talked about how Vice President Gore has investments in the stock market, and that why should Gore invest himself but not allow others to invest? The vice president's campaign saying here that the vice president does not have any holdings in the stock market, does not have any money, whatsoever, invested personally in the stock market -- Frank.

SESNO: Jon Karl, thanks very much, with the Gore response.

As we mentioned, it was Governor Bush who sparked today's debate with his plan to reform Social Security. But the changes Bush are proposing raise several questions that the candidate didn't answer.

CNN's Brooks Jackson looks at the nuts and bolts of some of the options being floated. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORTON (voice-over): Those details that George W. Bush isn't giving are important. Depending on the approach, proposals like his can be expensive or painful. Example: The plan offered by a bipartisan group of senators, including Republicans Gregg, Thompson, Thomas and Grassley, and Democrats Breaux, Kerrey and Robb. Under this bipartisan plan, payroll taxes would stay as they are: $12.40 of every $100 in taxable wages, half paid by employees, half by employers.

Under this plan, $2 of that would go not to the government but into "individual savings accounts" owned by workers, to be invested in diversified funds of stocks or bonds. The advantage is no new taxes or spending. The disadvantage is major cuts in the level of future Social Security benefits provided by current law. For anyone now below age 62, future cost of living adjustments would be held down, reduced half a percentage point per year. Additional "longevity" cuts would be triggered if the trend to longer life spans continues. No wonder the sponsors have been called "the pain caucus."

Bush avoids talk of pain, more of how he'd pay.

ROBERT GREENSTEIN, CENTER ON BUDGET AND POLICY PRIORITIES: In the absence of any more detail, it simply looks like the numbers don't add up until he provides more detail on how could he finance a plan like this.

MORTON (on camera): And avoiding any future cuts in basic Social Security benefits would cost a bundle. Just look at another so-called 2 percent plan:

(voice-over): Harvard economist Martin Feldstein has proposed an add-on plan: In addition to the $12.40 now going to Social Security for every $100 of taxable wages, the government would pay an added $2.30 into private retirement accounts to be invested in mutual funds. The advantage is a guarantee of no cuts in future retirement benefits, which would actually increase some. The disadvantage is a huge new expanse, $81 billion in the first year alone, according to Feldstein's own projections, growing every year to $117 billion a year within 30 years.

(on camera): Bush has rejected the pain-free, add-on approach and left the door open for cuts like those proposed by the pain caucus. But doing nothing also involves either pain or cost.

(voice-over): Left alone, the Social Security trust fund runs out of money in 37 years, according to latest official projections. At that point, benefits would have to be cut 28 percent to avoid a tax increase, with even greater cuts in years after that. Vice President Al Gore has proposed increasing some benefits and using general tax revenues to keep the system going until the year 2050.

GENE STEUERLE, URBAN INSTITUTE: Neither candidate wants to give much in the way of details. The truth be told, during campaign time, candidates try to identify who they're going to help. (END VIDEOTAPE)

JACKSON: There is no pain-free, cost-free solution to the Social Security problem, but now at least the trade-offs are about to be debated in the most public way possible: a presidential campaign -- Frank.

SESNO: Brooks, something that once upon a time was a good idea or so some thought was Daniel Patrick Moynihan's notion of reducing the way the government calculates inflation, because they say it's overstated, that would reduce the cost of living adjustments and save some money. Whatever became of that?

JACKSON: Well, some reductions have been made. In the way the CPI is calculated it doesn't quite overmeasure inflation the way it used to. There is still some overstatement of inflation there. But on the other hand, you could argue that for old people, medical costs and medication costs both of which increase at more than the CPI are a bigger part of what they spend. So it may not be the cost of living for an older person.

SESNO: Not part of either candidate's calculus right now?

JACKSON: Not right now, no sir.

SESNO: OK, we'll see, we'll watch.

Brooks, thanks.

And when we return, good intentions, or just good politics? We'll have more on the long-running struggle over the future of Social Security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DANIEL PATRICK MOYNIHAN (D), NEW YORK: This is not political, Social Security should never be political.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: Next on INSIDE POLITICS, a debate that has burned some candidates and buoyed the careers of others.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESNO: And more now on the Social Security battle, which flared again today on the presidential campaign trail. As the political heirs of FDR, Democrats have guarded Social Security as one of their party's sacred cows, and it's no small wonder why. It's an issue that's played in Democrats' favor time and time again.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO (voice-over): On the vaunted third rail of American politics, Republicans have been getting burned for 35 years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, LYNDON JOHNSON CAMPAIGN AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Goldwater's voluntary plan would destroy your Social Security. President Johnson is working to strengthen Social Security. Vote for him on November 3.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: Lyndon Johnson's classic 1964 attack ad helped mobilize senior citizens and knock out Republican Barry Goldwater. By the early 1980s, Social Security faced severe short-term problems. The Reagan administration lofted this trial balloon: cut future benefits. It didn't fly for long.

New York Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan helped kill the idea, and in the 1982 mid-term elections, his party used Social Security as a powerful campaign attack theme. It contributed to a big Democratic victory. In the House, 26 incumbent Republicans lost their seats. Accused of demagoguery, Democrats reached for the high road.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOYNIHAN: I hope the administration will listen to us and understand this is not political. Social Security should never be political.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: In 1983, a rare moment of accord as the two parties joined in approving a massive bailout paid for with a big payroll tax increase. By the 1984 campaign, the Democrats were on the offensive again, Reagan's response was unambiguous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A president should never say never, but I'm going to violate that rule and say never. I will never stand for a reduction of the Social Security benefits to the people that are now getting them.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: The lessons of political history are clear: tinkering with Social Security is a high-risk behavior,

So why is George W. Bush sticking his neck out now? He says it's because the times have changed.

BUSH: The days of delaying, dividing and demagoguing are over.

SESNO: Bush is gambling that the lure of a larger nest egg will overcome old suspicions. Right now, contributors can expect about a 2 percent return on their Social Security contributions, only about half of the return on a no-risk government bond, less than a third historical returns from stock funds. What's more, with more than half of all Americans having money in stocks, Bush is banking that they're quite comfortable assuming some risk for a bigger payoff.

Bush is clearly hoping the plan will prove popular among young people faced with the unwelcome prospect of having to support the vast Baby Boom generation through its looming retirement. But its success as a political issue may depend on how the Boomers themselves see it. After all, they're still young enough to be comfortable with stock market risk, old enough to be concerned about retirement.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO: And joining us now, Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times." He covered Governor Bush's speech today.

Hello, Ron.

RON BROWNSTEIN, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Hey, Frank.

SESNO: Well, you wrote in your piece today and we heard it underscored in Al Gore's comments that this is, in fact, a fundamental difference between these two. Just how fundamental?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, both on Social Security and Medicare I think we are seeing what will be one of the fundamental choices Americans have to make in this election. On both programs, Al Gore is essentially making the same argument, that with the government's fiscal position improved to the point it is we can take the surplus that's anticipated and stabilize these programs for decades without major structural changes. In fact, by adding benefits on each count, a prescription drug benefit under Medicare and under Social Security new benefits for widows and stay-at-home moms.

Now, Governor Bush is making the case that most conservatives make and even some centrist Democrats make, which is that in the years ahead as the Baby Boom retires, the cost of these programs are going to go unsustainable unless we make some structural changes now and the structural changes in each case that he's talking about involve shifting power and control from government to individuals through the individual investment accounts under Social Security, but also through the Medicare changes that he talked about today.

Now, the price of that, Frank, as you mentioned in your piece, is there is opportunity, but there is also a shift of risk from government to individuals, and that's the part that Vice President Gore is going to seize on.

SESNO: And isn't that, though, also Vice President Gore's risk in all of this that people get it, they understand there is some risk, but they also understand there are great returns in the markets certainly witness the last decade or more?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, the question, though -- the question, though, is going to be to what extent do people want a baseline, a sort of a common safety net that is essentially immune or separate from the risks of the market. To what extent do people believe there should be a sort of communal program here, and to what extent are they willing in this era in which more people have money invested in the stock market, but perhaps not as pervasive as sometimes thought, to what extent are they will to accept that greater level of volatility?

And you know, we're going to see this debated in a way that we really haven't in decades in this campaign.

SESNO: Ron, you write in your piece -- and I'm going to quote from it -- "Bush is betting that fear over the two programs" -- Social Security and Medicare -- "the fear over the two programs' long-term viability creates a critical mass for change, particularly on Social Security. That could prove one of the most fateful political gambles."

Explain.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, we don't think of Bush as a guy with huge vast policy ambitions. On a lot of issues, he's been relatively incremental, moving toward the center.

But here he is proposing, even without many key details, some basic changes in programs that a lot of people depend on. Now in Social Security with the individual accounts, there has been some groundwork lately. We've been debating this for a number of years. There is some initial support in the polls, although the Democrats believe that as the issue is debated further that support erodes.

On Medicare, where he's talking about moving from the current fee-for-service system into one where the government basically gives you a sum of money and tells you to buy private insurance, there's much less of a framework there, much less groundwork laid.

And again, on both of these, you have the opportunity for the Democrats to come back and say he is introducing unnecessary and unacceptable risk into the system.

What Bush can say in return is the status quo is risky, too, because we're going to have these huge unfunded liabilities into the future, and it's not clear whether the surpluses are large enough to make up that difference, as Gore is suggesting.

SESNO: Ron, very quickly. Does it surprise you that these two candidates are engaging on an issue that is so controversial and cuts so close to home to so many voters?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, it does. I think what's been really striking is right from March 7th, from his speech on the night of winning the California primary and effectively the nomination, Governor Bush has went out, gone out, and said, look, Gore and Clinton have had the opportunity to modernize these programs and they haven't done it. It's an issue where Republicans have usually played defense. He's trying to play offense, but we'll have to see whether the environment has really changed as much as he thinks in order to make that pay off, and Frank, also whether he can get through the election, especially on Social Security, without giving out the kinds of details like how he's going to pay for it, how large, whether people will be held harmless from losses.

Those are questions a lot of Americans want -- are going to want to have answered, and it's not clear whether Bush can go all the way through November without answering them.

SESNO: Well, they'll continue to be asked, those questions, of Bush and of Gore.

Thanks very much, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

SESNO: Good to see you.

And there's much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

Still to come:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I have no major announcement to make. I have no major announcement to make today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: The New York mayor ponders his political future and his health just as the first lady prepares to accept her party's official nod.

And American moms find strength in numbers, but can they overcome the political clout and money of the gun lobby?

And later:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With countries like North Korea developing missiles capable of reaching the United States, both Al Gore and George W. Bush are talking tough on building missile defenses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: Jamie McIntyre takes a look at the candidates and their differing approaches to this campaign issue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESNO: We'll have more of the day's political news coming up. But now a look at some other top stories.

A minute-by-minute account of the massacre at Colorado's Columbine High School is now available. Authorities released the CD- ROM report this afternoon. It contains photo clips and audio. A judge ordered its release after families sued investigators over the way they handled the incident.

The suits claim the sheriff's department ignored warnings of an attack and that SWAT teams took too long to enter the school after it began.

Last year, two teens went on a rampage killing 12 students and a teacher before taking their own lives.

Indiana University head basketball coach Bob Knight will continue in that capacity but under careful scrutiny. Following charges of abuse by Knight against players and others, Indiana University President Myles Brand says he's imposing a three-game suspension on Knight, plus a $30,000 fine.

IU trustees conducted a two-month investigation into the abuse allegations.

Brand added that any further abusive behavior by Knight will be cause for immediate dismissal.

In Los Alamos, New Mexico, firefighters are racing to get a handle on a huge wildfire as winds steadily grow stronger. The fire is 28 percent contained.

Over the weekend, some of the people who lived in the devastated neighborhoods were allowed back in for a look.

CNN's Charles Zewe reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLES ZEWE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Newly homeless fire victims went back to their charred neighborhoods in convoys of school buses, stunned by the hellish aftermath: heaps of smoldering ash, gnarled metal, stairways to nowhere.

There was plenty of raw emotion, from sadness to anger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not going to ask you again. Go!

JUDY OPSAHL, FIRE VICTIM: The bicycles were in here and the skis.

ZEWE: Judy and Dick Opsahl, who moved to Los Alamos only nine months ago, lost everything. Hardest to take: the loss of the simple beauty of her backyard.

OPSAHL: The last day I was here, the day before the fire, there were hummingbirds coming to our hummingbird feeder. That apricot tree was loaded with apricots. It's all gone. It's not just the house; it's the beauty of this whole place.

ZEWE: The fire, meanwhile, continues to rage just north of Los Alamos. Fire lines built to contain the blaze are holding, but that could change.

JIM PAXON, U.S. FOREST SERVICE: This fire is growing at will, and it seems like every time we think we're starting to get a handle on it, we get a wind event and the fire takes off again. ZEWE: A government investigation of the fire is due by week's end. National Park Service workers started the controlled burn to thin brush in the Bandelier National Monument despite Weather Service warnings conditions were risky.

An Albuquerque newspaper quotes park superintendent Roy Weaver, the man who approved setting the fire and has been put on paid leave, as saying, quote, "We knew this one was going to push the limits a little bit."

Charles Zewe, CNN, Los Alamos, New Mexico.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO: And when INSIDE POLITICS returns, we'll talk to one Republican who has been mentioned as a possible New York Senate candidate if Rudy Giuliani pulls out of the race.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESNO: Tomorrow night, it all happens. The New York Democratic Party will nominate first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton as its Senate candidate. But the status of her Republican opponent is less clear, as New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani continues to considers his next move.

Frank Buckley reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rudy Giuliani entered a room packed with reporters and photographers anticipating a decision from the U.S. Senate candidate on his course of treatment for prostate cancer and on whether he plans to stay in the race.

MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI, NEW YORK CITY: I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I have no major announcement to make.

BUCKLEY: The New York City mayor telling journalists his decision on whether or not to run would be made after he decided what medical treatment he would pursue.

GIULIANI: I haven't decided on the treatment yet. When I decide on the treatment, I will then, reflect on whether or not that puts me in a position that I will be able to run the way I want to run.

BUCKLEY: Giuliani stunned reporters, and apparently his wife, when the mayor said he would be seeking a separation agreement from his wife of 16 years, Donna Hanover. That followed the mayor's earlier acknowledgement of a relationship with another woman not his wife. The marriage revelations, coupled with the mayor's cancer diagnosis have sparked intense speculation in New York about Giuliani's intentions in the Senate race.

Republicans are eager for an answer because their state nominating convention is now just over two weeks away. Democrats are already set to nominate Hillary Clinton tomorrow, the first lady saying Giuliani's decision will not affect her one way or the other.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: Whatever's happening on the other side is not affecting my efforts every single day to convince the people of New York that I will work my heart out to be the best senator they could have.

BUCKLEY: Giuliani acknowledged speaking to the state's Republican chairman over the weekend, but says the only pressure he feels comes from within himself.

GIULIANI: Actually, I don't feel under pressure from the state Republican Party. I feel under pressure. I feel it's right that I make a decision. I feel the internal pressure of making the decision.

BUCKLEY: Meanwhile. CNN has learned Ted Forstmann, the Wall Street investor, has decided not to run for the U.S. Senate. Republican state parties officials considered Forstmann an attractive candidate with vast personal resources he could tap as a candidate and a public profile in New York as a vigorous children's philanthropist and an advocate for education. Last year, Forstmann donated $50 million of his $900 million fortune for children's scholarships.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BUCKLEY: Mr. Forstmann does intend to continue to have a role in this Senate race, and he is joining us now here in New York to talk about that.

First of all, let me ask you, sir, why have you decided not to run for the U.S. Senate?

TED FORSTMANN, CO-FOUNDER/SENIOR PARTNER, FORSTMANN, LITTLE & CO.: Well, it really wasn't foremost in my mind at all. What I want to do is create an environment in which every child in America has an equal opportunity for a quality education. And this business happened with Mayor Giuliani, and people started calling me and saying, you ought to run for the Senate. It started about 10 days ago, I guess, and I gave it some thought, and I wondered whether that might be a better way to accomplish what I really want to accomplish. And I decided that it really wasn't a better way. It was really not a particularly effective way at all.

BUCKLEY: Give us a sense, sir, within the Republican Party -- and you're a member of the Republican Party -- how much pressure there is on Rudy Giuliani and how much pressure you're feeling with regards to the deadline coming up on May 30th by which the Republican Party needs a Senate candidate in place?

FORSTMANN: For me, no pressure at all. This came out of left field. It wasn't my idea, it was the idea of a lot of other people. And I just considered it relative to what I wanted to accomplish in education, which is to end the monopoly in education.

BUCKLEY: How crucial is it, do you feel, that Rudy Giuliani be the candidate representing the Republican Party against Hillary Clinton? FORSTMANN: I really don't have a comment on that.

BUCKLEY: At this point, a number of names have been surfaced. One of them your name, Rick Lazio is a name that's come up. George -- Governor Pataki is one who's come up a number of times. He has said he's not interested. Are there any names from that speculation list that interest you?

FORSTMANN: Well, they're all good people. And, you know, whatever happens happens. That's really not my area. My real area is what I said, which is trying to completely reform the education system in America. Our kids really deserve it. And what bothers me a great deal about both parties and all the candidates is they all accept the monopoly, the government monopoly, as a starting point. And so, for example, Vice President Gore says we just need more and more and more of the same thing. And George Bush says, well, the monopoly's OK, but we need standards. And, you know, we knew 100 years ago that monopolies create bad products at high prices, and the education monopoly is no exception. And that's what I'm interested in.

BUCKLEY: You gave us a sense of the pressures involved in the Senate race, in terms of you received a number of calls. Can you give us some insights into that process? How many people called, what kinds of people, and what were they saying to you?

FORSTMANN: Well, lots of people called, hundreds, but not really to exert any pressure. The people that knew me, and they were in politics and in business and so on -- and in the media, actually, a bunch of people -- said that this would be a great way to pursue this goal of yours, which is to, it's I have said, to make life a lot better for a lot of the children in America. And I -- and they got me thinking about it. And when I started thinking about it and thought about it, I said, you know, it really isn't as good. I'd have to be very -- I'd have to be a partisan, which I really am not. This should really be an unpartisan issue.

BUCKLEY: OK, Mr. Forstmann, thank you very much.

FORSTMANN: Thank you.

BUCKLEY: And that is Ted Forstmann from New York. He is not running for the U.S. Senate if Rudy Giuliani decides not to.

Frank, back to you.

SESNO: Frank Buckley, thanks very much.

And New York Governor George Pataki today made it clear that he also has no plans to enter the Senate race if Giuliani backs out. Pataki says a bid for a third term as governor in 2002 is, quote, "the most likely scenario." Pataki says there is still a lot to be done in New York.

Just ahead, Senator John McCain cancels campaign events with Michigan Republicans. We'll find out why.

Plus, they marched on Washington, but can the tens of thousands of mothers fight the politics of the pro-gun forces?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESNO: The Supreme Court today ruled that Congress exceeded its authority in passing the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. The portion of the law in question allows the victims of sexual violence to sue for civil damages in federal court.

As Charles Bierbauer reports, one factor in today's decision was the issue of states' rights.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lawyers for Christy Brzonkala say she is very disappointed with the Supreme Court ruling. The court overturned the provision of the Violence Against Women Act that would have made a federal case of the former Virginia Tech student's charge she was raped by Antonio Morrison in a university dormitory in 1994.

CHRISTY BRZONKALA, PLAINTIFF: Rape is like having your soul torn out.

BIERBAUER: A Virginia grand jury did not indict Morrison, but Chief Justice William Rehnquist, writing for a 5-to-4 majority, said: "If the allegations are true, no civilized system of justice could fail to provide a remedy. That remedy must be provided by the Commonwealth of Virginia, not by the United States."

KATHY ROGERS, NOW LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: And Congress also found that even where states have laws that say women can sue for gender- based violence or for violence against them, they don't enforce them as seriously as they do other kinds of violence.

BIERBAUER: While the Constitution assigns most responsibility to deal with crime to the states, Congress used its authority to regulate commerce in passing the 1994 Violence Against Women Act.

Brzonkala's case contended that because she suffered emotional distress and dropped out of college, her employment and financial future were affected.

The court rejected the commerce argument. Chief Justice Rehnquist: "Gender-motivated crimes of violence are not, in any sense, economic activity."

While Brzonkala loses her appeal, Congress also loses.

MICHAEL ROSMAN, ATTORNEY FOR MORRISON: The court has said that it is its duty and its job to interpret the Constitution, and that while Congress is entitled to some deference when it makes constitutional judgments, that the final stay has to be that of the court.

BIERBAUER: Senator Joseph Biden, who wrote the Violence Against Women Act, says he sees no way for Congress to remedy this decision. Senator Biden says the only thing that will change this struggle between Congress and the court is when the composition of the court is altered by a new president appointing some new justices.

Charles Bierbauer, CNN, the Supreme Court.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO: Republican abortion rights activists are using the words of former first lady Barbara Bush to urge change in the party's platform.

Radio ads by Republicans for Choice quote Mrs. Bush saying "An anti-abortion plank should not be in the national party platform."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "REPUBLICANS FOR CHOICE AD")

NARRATOR: We think that both George W. Bush and the GOP should heed her, not Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed.

Listen to your mama: That's a family value we can all agree on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: The ads are scheduled to run on Philadelphia stations in the two weeks prior to the Republican convention.

Tens of thousands of mothers brought their voices and their opinions on gun control to Washington over the weekend.

Participants in the Million Mom March, as they called it, urged common-sense gun control legislation. But will they sway Congress?

Major Garrett reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Flanked by police honoring 139 comrades killed last year in the line of duty, President Clinton said Congress should heed the gun control message of the Million Mom March.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope we will listen to what they had to say. It will also save a lot of police officers lives.

GARRETT: Mr. Clinton also released $24 million Congress OK'd last year to buy new bulletproof vests. By year's end, some 180,000 cops will wear the new body armor. But gun control advocates say society and the police who protect it need more. At the top of the list, trigger locks on handguns, closing the gun show loophole, and banning the importation of high-capacity ammunition clips.

To get these and other gun control laws, organizers of the Million Mom March vowed to rally against the National Rifle Association for more than just one sun-splashed Sunday. DONNA DEES-THOMASES, ORGANIZER, MILLION MOM MARCH: We know that there are candidates who have been fence-sitters because they're afraid that the NRA is going to pour money in their district and defeat them. We want to assure these candidates and these congressional leaders and elected officials that we got 750,000 people on the National Mall from a grassroots effort that started nine months before. We delivered; now we expect them to deliver.

GARRETT: Congress failed to pass gun control legislation by the one-year anniversary of the Columbine massacre. Senator Larry Craig, who led the charge against Mr. Clinton's legislation, says the Million Mom March won't change many minds on Capitol Hill now or defeat gun rights lawmakers in November.

SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: I don't believe that a grassroots movement will shift the debate. Guns laws in this country are based on constitutional rights, and no grassroots movement is going to take away a constitutional right.

GARRETT (on camera): On the gun control issue, the only wildcard in election 2000 is whether the mothers who marched on Sunday will march in equal numbers to the polls to defeat gun rights politicians.

Major Garrett, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO: And now another snapshot along the campaign trail. A new poll showing George W. Bush running nine points ahead of Al Gore in a traditional bellwether county, Macomb County, Michigan. Bush gets 50 percent to gore's 41 percent in the county known for its so-called "Reagan Democrats." They, of course, helped sweep Republicans to the White House in the 1980s.

Statewide, the EPIC/MRA poll shows the race remains a statistical dead heat. There is some discord in the Republican ranks in Michigan, however. Senator John McCain has canceled campaign fund-raising appearances this weekend for Senator Spence Abraham and two GOP congressional candidates. McCain is upset that the state convention over the weekend chose Bush supporters to fill many of the 52 national convention seats that McCain won in the February primary.

McCain did get a weekend victory in his home state, however. His wife, Cindy, will lead Arizona's delegation to the national convention. Governor Jane Hull, who you remember backed Bush over McCain during the primaries, stepped aside after earlier saying she wanted to lead the delegation.

And still ahead, two views on missile defense: a look at where the presidential hopefuls stand on this critical military issue -- next.

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SESNO: George W. Bush and Al Gore both support spending billions of dollars to build a new system to defend against enemy missiles, but they still don't see eye to eye on the issue, not by any means.

CNN military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With countries like North Korea developing missiles capable of reaching the United States, both Al Gore and George W. Bush are talking tough on building missile defenses.

BUSH: If I am commander-in-chief, we will develop them and we will deploy them.

(APPLAUSE)

MCINTYRE: Gore says Bush is overanxious to buy a gold-plated system that's too big, too expensive, and too much like the old Reagan-era Star Wars concept, a space-based impenetrable shield against any missile attack.

GORE: In the 1990s, most serious analysts took a look at the implausibility of this endeavor, the fantastical price that our taxpayers would be expected to pay, and the dangerously destabilizing consequences of traveling down that path and rejected this notion.

MCINTYRE: The Bush campaign claims that's distortion, that in fact Governor Bush, like Gore, favors a limited system designed to defend against a small-scale attack by terrorists or so-called "rogue states."

Bush says the Clinton-Gore administration's plan to base 100 interceptor missiles in Alaska at a cost of more than $30 billion is too feeble. He wants at least double the number of missiles and possibly ship-based systems as well to protect not just the United States, but also its allies.

Perhaps, though, the biggest difference between the two candidates is over how to handle Russia's fierce objection to modifying the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which sharply limits missile defenses. Bush calls the treaty a "Cold War artifact," and says he'd offer Moscow changes on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

BUSH: If Russia refuses the changes we propose, we will give prompt notice, under the provisions of the treaty, that we can no longer be a party to it.

MCINTYRE: Gore says he'd take a less confrontational approach aimed at preserving the ABM Treaty and its doctrine of "mutual assured destruction," which he argues has kept the peace between the United States and Russia for 50 years.

(on camera): Gore portrays Bush as a big spender who would risk arms control agreements with Russia. Bush portrays Gore as willing to settle for less missile defense to appease Moscow. Neither candidate wants to be pinned down on too many specifics, especially now when voters aren't paying much attention to the issue.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO: What an important issue it is.

And joining us now, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider. Bill, how much politics do you see behind this strategy of Bush's missile defense plan?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Politics in a presidential campaign, I suppose it could happen. You know, Bush is positioning himself as the candidate of bold new ideas, the forward thinking innovator who's not trapped in the stale thinking of the past.

Gore is making the interesting charge that Bush is the one who's trapped in the past, he says he has a Cold War mindset because his missile plan would provoke a confrontation with Russia. Now, Gore here is really playing the conservative role. His message is: mutually assured destruction and arms control have worked for 50 years, so why fool around with some risky new scheme? Bush is saying it's a whole new world, let's try something new.

SESNO: Little bit like his message on Social Security. Same sort of thing?

SCHNEIDER: Exactly the same thing. Bush's Social Security plan is designed to appeal to Baby Boomers and to young voters who don't have much faith in Social Security, but they have a lot of faith in financial markets and in their own ability to manage their affairs.

Gore, again, the conservative role: Social Security has worked for 50 years, why fool around with some risky new scheme? And you see this pattern in the polls, younger voters are going for Bush, the only age group that's going for Gore are voters over 65.

SESNO: What about selling change in an era of relative peace and prosperity, how easy/difficult is that?

SCHNEIDER: Well, that is a very big problem for Bush, because, you know, why does the country need an expensive new missile defense system if nobody really threatens us? The answer is, well, there are small-scale threats, as Jamie McIntyre just said, from rogue states and from terrorists. Why make big changes in Social Security if there is no impending crisis? The answer is because people have lost faith in the long-term viability of the system.

Bush is betting that people may be willing to take some risks now precisely because they feel prosperous and secure. While Bush is trying to portray -- while Gore is trying to portray Bush as cocky and restless. You know, there are two slogans that often work in American politics: you never had it so good and it's time for a change.

Now, what's interesting is, both slogans -- they rarely work at the same time, but both of them seem to be effective this year. People believe, well, we have never had it so good, but they also believe it's time for a change, which is why this election is rather odd and rather close.

SESNO: Well, try this one on for size. Maybe the Fed tomorrow is going to say, you never had it so good and it's time for a change, and raise interest rates. What impact might that have on the campaign trail?

SCHNEIDER: Well, that's going to be a very interesting thing, because the Fed is trying to be very cautious in saying, we're worried about inflation so we're going to raise interest rates by a big jump, half a point, but we don't want to frighten people so they lose confidence in the economy.

If the markets start, you know, going down and people then lose economic confidence and fear a downturn, interestingly, that's not supposed to help Gore because Gore is the candidate of the incumbent party, but yet if people feel insecure, then they're going to wonder, can we take a chance with Bush, is he too much of a risk? When they seek protection, they usually go for Democrats.

SESNO: Also may make it a tougher sell on the Social Security. If they start seeing markets go down, they're going to say, look at my Social Security.

SCHNEIDER: Right. Then they're going to look like it's too risky, then they may not want to take any more risks.

SESNO: Will be very interesting tomorrow, interest rates.

SCHNEIDER: Yes.

SESNO: Bill, thanks.

And that is it for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you again tomorrow, when our Frank Buckley will be in Albany, New York, where Hillary Clinton is to accept the state -- the Senate nomination at the state Democratic convention. Of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com.

I'm Frank Sesno, for Bill Schneider here, thanks for joining us.

"WORLDVIEW" is next.

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