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Inside Politics

Bush and Gore Spar Over Social Security; Poll Shows Bush With Eight-Point Lead Over Gore; Giuliani Still Undecided on Senate Race

Aired May 16, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a man who, everything I say evidently is risky.



AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think that's good enough for tomorrow's retirees. I really do not.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Dueling barbs and dueling videotapes in the Bush-Gore battle over Social Security.

Also ahead...


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Will you love me in November as you do in May? Hopeful suitors ask that question every spring. So do presidential candidates.


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Bill Schneider on the sometimes fickle nature of voters over the course of an election year.

WOODRUFF: Plus, Hillary Clinton's campaign hoping for upbeat headlines after her formal Senate nomination tonight.

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

SHAW: Thanks for joining us.

As the presidential candidates zero in on Social Security reform and the risks of investing in the stock market, Wall Street and the Federal Reserve may have offered new ammunition for this debate. The Dow Jones industrial average was up nearly 127 points at the closing bell, despite the Fed's announcement today of a 1/2-point increase in a key interest rate.

The biggest rate hike in five years was aimed at slowing the supercharged economy and keeping inflation in check. But it did not cool down the sparring between Al Gore and George W. Bush.


GORE: It's not supposed to be a system of winners and losers. Social Security is supposed to be a bedrock guarantee of a minimum decent retirement. And there's just no question about the fact that the Bush privatization plan puts that at risk.

SHAW (voice-over): At a Social Security forum in New York, Al Gore enlisted one of Wall Street's most respected wise men, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, to knock down George W. Bush's plan to allow workers to invest a portion of their Social Security contributions in the stock market.

Too risky, said Rubin. Just look what happened in Japan.

ROBERT RUBIN, FORMER U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: The Japanese stock index, the Nikkei, in 1989 -- you all know all this -- hit 39,000. Today it's about 18,500, something like that. So if you bought in the Japanese stock market near its high, here 10 years later you'd have lost half of your money.

SHAW: Campaigning in Oregon beneath a huge mock-up of a Social Security card, Bush rejected the too risky argument. Bush said even the most conservative private investments easily outperform the current 2-percent-a-year return on Social Security.

To help make his point, Bush enlisted none other than Al Gore, pointing to the vice president's 1999 support for investing a portion of the Social Security trust fund in private markets.

BUSH: And amazingly enough, you'll find support for investing it in the private sector and its reliability from some surprising places.

Why don't you roll that tape.


GORE: During this whole national discussion, one of the single- most important salient facts that jumped out at everybody is that over any 10-year period in American history, returns on equities are just significantly higher than these other returns.


SHAW: The Gore team had its own "gotcha" tape. Economist Larry Lindsey helped develop Bush's plan and traveled today with Bush to help explain it. But the Gore campaign today pointed out that Lindsey has frequently warned of a market downturn, as he did during this December appearance on CNN's "MONEYLINE."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MONEYLINE") WILLOW BAY, CNN ANCHOR: The bad news then under your scenario means -- what? -- surely not a recession, but a bear market, a market correction?

LARRY LINDSEY, FORMER FED GOVERNOR: Well, again, that's going to be up to the stock market to decide. But yes, I think that that's probably the case.


SHAW: In fact, Lindsey took his own money out of stocks long ago and said he's not getting back in.


LINDSEY: You know, I just -- I like to sleep at night.


SHAW: Gore's point: If the market is too risky for Bush's adviser, why should workers put their Social Security there?

To the Gore campaign, the irony of Bush's own adviser arguing against stocks was just too rich to ignore. But the irony cuts both ways.

By questioning the strength of the stock market, Gore may be raising questions about the nation's economic boom, among his strongest arguments for election.


SHAW: For now, the public appears to be leaning Bush's way on this issue. Two new national polls show a majority of Americans favor a plan that would allow them to invest some of their Social Security contributions in the stock market.

WOODRUFF: And now let's bring in our Jonathan Karl and Jennifer Auther, who are covering Gore and Bush on the campaign trail today.

Jon Karl, to you first: How is the Gore campaign handling this videotape that George W. Bush just showed?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in 1999, President Clinton in his State of the Union address did propose a plan that would shore up Social Security by investing some government money in the stock market.

Today, citing that tape, Vice President Gore acknowledges that his opinion has changed, that he thinks that idea proposed by President Clinton just a year and a half ago was a bad idea, that at the time he was open to the idea, he said. But after talking to people around the country, the response, he says, was universally negative. And now, he is opposed to investing any Social Security money or any money in the stock market to shore up Social Security. WOODRUFF: All right. Jennifer, with regard to Governor Bush, now he has faced some criticism because of the shortage of specifics that he was willing to put forward yesterday when he talked about his Social Security ideas.

What kind of questioning did he get on any of this today?

JENNIFER AUTHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, today, Governor George W. Bush got some very tough questions, but the tough questions came from reporters: not really from the panel of people that he was sitting with here at Gunderson Incorporated. He was talking with blue-collar workers who have 401(k)s, and they invest part of the 401(k)s and they have matching funds. They're very much in favor of what they -- at least the people on the panel said they were very much in favor of what George Bush had to say.

However, when reporters asked him how he would fund his program, he stayed light on details. He tried to intimate that he would bolster it by part of the Social Security surplus, that $2.3 trillion, he said: that and having a portion of what you would be able to make if you were able to invest part of the Social Security tax into the stock market.

But very, very light on details here, again, today.

WOODRUFF: And then Jon Karl, back to you: How are the Gore people dealing with the fact that these early public opinion polls do show that Americans favor a plan that would allow them to invest some of this money in the market.

KARL: Well, Gore's aides are delighted that this issue is being raised. They say it will be one of the top two or three issues in the campaign. They say that the polls now will change as people begin to understand the implications of the Bush plan.

As a matter of fact, you've seen a very restrained Al Gore over the last two days taking apart Bush's plan, but not using some of those phrases that he always seems to use, like a "risky scheme" or a "secret plan."

Bush -- Gore's been very methodical on this. He has been very restrained. His aides say he is holding fire because he believes that Bush is very vulnerable on this issue.

They want to methodically, over the next several months, continue to raise questions about Bush's plan, including about implications for Medicare and also combined with Bush's tax cut proposal, what this would do in terms, according to the Gore folks, making it impossible to pay down any national debt.

But I do want to point out one thing: The Gore campaign did issue a statement about that Larry Lindsey point today where Gore press secretary, Chris Lehane, said that the Bush campaign was proposing a "do as I say, not as I do, risky" (AUDIO GAP) bamboozle.

So although Gore has been restrained in talking about Bush's plan, his campaign clearly has not.

WOODRUFF: It already sounds like October on the campaign trail, doesn't it? All right, Jonathan Karl covering Vice President Gore, Jennifer Auther with Governor Bush. Thank you both -- Bernie.

SHAW: This campaign wrangling over Social Security follows several national polls which Bush leading Gore. But how committed are voters at this point in the election year?

Here's our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill.

SCHNEIDER: Bernie, will you love me in November as you do in May? Nothing personal, but hopeful suitors ask that question every spring, and so do presidential candidates, like George W. Bush, who's leading Al Gore in the polls right now.

But what does it mean for November? Does love last? Let's look.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): May 1976: Jimmy Carter is 13 points ahead of President Gerald Ford. Carter keeps his lead right through the summer, widening it to over 30 points after the Democratic convention. But things start to tighten up in the fall once the debates get going. The romance fades.

Carter wins in November by just two points.

May 1980: Carter leads Ronald Reagan by eight points. In June, Reagan woos the voters with a big tax cut and wins them over, for a while.

The Democrats use their convention to warn voters that Reagan may be sexy but he's dangerous. The race stays close for most of the fall campaign until the very end, when Carter and Reagan have their one and only debate, and Reagan sweeps the voters off their feet with his closing statement. Voters fall head over heels in love, and Reagan wins the election a week later by 10 points.

May 1988: Michael Dukakis leads Vice President George Bush by 16 points. Dukakis stays in the lead right through the Democratic convention in July, but no sooner do the Democrats start measuring the White House for curtains than the Republicans hold their convention, where Bush plights his troth. Marry me, he promises, and we'll have no new taxes forever. Bush moves into the lead and the voters never look back. He beats Dukakis by seven points in November.

May 1992: Three candidates and the race is dead heat between two of them: President Bush and Ross Perot. Bill Clinton is running third -- yes, third -- in the race for the voters' affections. Like your mother said, it's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor man, and by June, Perot is leading.

But after voters get a good look at the Texas billionaire, they figure money isn't everything. They decide to play it safe and go back to Bush. Then right in the middle of the Democratic convention, Perot drops out and he declares Clinton the better man. Clinton jumps ahead and stays there for the rest of the campaign, even after Perot has second thoughts.

Final result in November: Clinton by six.


SCHNEIDER: Message: Beware the polls of May. Right now, Bush leads Al Gore by eight. The voters seem to fund Bush pretty sexy. Democrats believe that by the fall they'll come to their senses and stick with the guy who's been a good provider.

So before you take the polls of May too seriously, Mr. Bush, talk to your dad: He can explain the facts of life to you -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you, Bill Schneider. We'll be watching Cupid's arrows.


SHAW: Still ahead here on INSIDE POLITICS, is the Texas governor's Social Security plan a political gamble? Well, Judy will talk with Kate O'Beirne and Bill Press, who will weigh in. Plus, their perspective on the New York Senate race and the future of Mayor Rudy Giuliani.


WOODRUFF: Joining us now, Kate O'Beirne of "The National Review," a member of CNN's "CAPITAL GANG," and Bill Press of CNN's "CROSSFIRE."

Bill, to you first, the Fed raising interest rates today: Is this something that has political implications?

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST, CNN "CROSSFIRE": I don't think so. I think everybody -- nobody's surprised by this. Everybody expected it. It's the, I think, the sixth time in the last year that the Fed has gradually upped interest rates. So I think the market and the economy are strong enough to absorb it. It's just going to keep on going.

To that extent, perhaps -- I guess you could say it has political implications because it's good for Al Gore.


KATE O'BEIRNE, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": Oh, the markets seem to have reacted OK, although the justification for doing it, I think, is questionable. But it didn't seem to bother the markets. So, that's helpful: to both candidates now that George Bush is talking about investing in the market.

WOODRUFF: Speaking of which, Social Security, Bill: Does the governor of Texas make a persuasive argument here?

PRESS: Well, I think the difference between the son and the father in this case is that when the son jumped out -- when the father jumped out of an airplane, he had a parachute. I think the son just did without a parachute. I think it's a very bold move, but a very risky move that leaves far too many questions unanswered, Judy, and will create far too -- thereby, create far too many concerns in the minds of, particularly, senior voters.

O'BEIRNE: I agree with Bill that is bold and I also agree that it's a gamble. Unlike Bill, I think the fact that it's a gamble is a plus for the governor. Judy, I'll tell you why. I think he's going to be credited with taking a gamble.

It -- it signifies leadership. It signifies somebody who wants to do something as president rather than be president. It forces Al Gore to react all the time to these proposals George Bush is coming up with, making him look defensive and pessimistic and defending the status quo.

Polls certainly show there's widespread support for the proposition that we shouldn't get stuck with a 2 percent return on Social Security, and rather should have an opportunity to take a modest amount, if we choose to -- it's optional -- and get a far better return (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the market.

PRESS: But Judy, I think this -- this is really breathtaking in its scope. I mean, it's almost "Mondalian," if I can coin a word, I mean, because he's really going...

WOODRUFF: As in Walter Mondale.

PRESS: ... as in Walter Mondale, saying -- they'll say I won't raise your taxes. I'll tell you I will. Bush is saying they'll say they're not going to tinker with Social Security. He says, I will, for the first time in 65 years.

But he doesn't say, for example, you know, how much of the money you're going to be able to invest, whether they're going to have cut benefits, whether they're going to have to raise the Social Security tax, what happens if you get bailed out, whether they're going to raise the retirement age.

He says we're going to appoint a commission to look into all of that. I think it would have been wiser to study it first and embrace it later.

WOODRUFF: But most people -- most voters, at least the ones they polled -- and obviously, that's not everybody -- but the ones they polled, representative sample, say they are comfortable with the idea of investing this money in the market.

O'BEIRNE: Judy, I think the politics of Social Security has really changed dramatically. The Democrats, Al Gore here is being really lazy. They have demagogued the Social Security issue for so long, so successfully against Republicans. In fact, Bill, they've tinkered with this program plenty since 1935. There's been 21 tax increases and three major benefit cuts. And what they're looking at now, not too far into the next century, is the program in real crisis. What's risky is Al Gore's plan. He can raise taxes, which he's looking at, income taxes to begin funding Social Security, or cut benefits. What George Bush is saying is, I'm going to save Social Security by letting the market do some of the heavy lifting. That's why people are responding positively, I think.

PRESS: Judy, remember Bill Bradley's health plan: sounded great until you started knocking holes in it.

O'BEIRNE: It didn't sound so great to me.


Big government plan. Big government plan.

PRESS: Sounded great to a lot of Democrats.


O'BEIRNE: This is the private market, the private sector.

PRESS: Sounded great to a lot of Democrats, though, Kate. And the more Al Gore raised questions, the more people began to doubt it. I think the same thing is going to happen to Bush's Social Security plan.

WOODRUFF: But aren't both of them saying Social Security can be reformed without raising taxes? Right now, I mean, you may suggest that down the road, but right now, without cutting benefits, without rising the retirement age right away. Is that realistic?

O'BEIRNE: Al Gore does allow that over time we're going to have to. He proposes...

PRESS: No, no.

O'BEIRNE: ... for the very first time in the program's history to begin using income taxes.

The program in year -- what? -- 2030, we can only pay 70 percent of benefits, and it's becoming more immediate, because the first baby- boomers begin retiring in eight years. So this is hugely popular. Everybody who's on the program (UNINTELLIGIBLE) by George Bush, hugely popular among younger voters.

PRESS: No -- no, Kate, I have to disagree with you on that. There's a big difference. What Al Gore is saying is I'm going to take this existing surplus, non-Social Security surplus, I'm going to use it to fix Social Security through 2035.

Now, admittedly, he doesn't go all the way to 2050. He leaves some questions on the table too. But you know, that's certainly a more solid commitment than George Bush's, which starts out right away saying, how are you going to continue to fund the program if you start taking money out of it, and how much money are you going to take out of it?

O'BEIRNE: Well, a year ago, the administration was proposing having the government invest some portion of Social Security in the markets. So a year ago, Al Gore did support the proposition that the market, the strength of the market could play a role in saving Social Security.

The difference between the two of them is George Bush says, I want the individual to be in control, and Al Gore, which contributes to his arrogant, knows-better-than-everybody-else, says, I don't want the individual.

PRESS: The question remaining is what happens when the individual takes a flyer on a stock that fails. Is he going to expect the government to bail him out? I say no.

WOODRUFF: Less than a minute left: We've got to mention the New York Senate race. Is Rudy Giuliani going to run?

O'BEIRNE: People in New York insisted on telling me that they don't think so, but given Rudy's record, I think he's certainly capable of doing so despite everything that's happened over the past three weeks.

PRESS: As some brave New Yorker said last week, stick a fork in him, he's done.

Look, the sooner he gets out of this race, the better off for him and the better off for his party. I think it's not a question of if. I think it's now a question of when.

I think he's hurting his party by continuing the self-absorption. Get it over with, Rudy.

O'BEIRNE: I don't disagree, Bill, but that doesn't mean he's going to get out.


WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Press, Kate O'Beirne, thank you, both.

PRESS: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Grateful to have you. Thank you very much.

And Bernie, much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

SHAW: Still to come, the first lady will soon have the party seal of approval as the Democratic nominee in that New York Senate race.



PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Flashback four years to 1996. Immigration was one of the hottest and most contentious issues in the presidential race. Fast-forward to 2000.


WOODRUFF: Pat Neal on what a difference four years makes on the issue of immigration.

And later...

SHAW: After four decades and eight presidents, the journalistic grande dame, Helen Thomas, says goodbye to the White House press room.


We'll have more of this day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories. Officials fear today's dry, windy conditions could fan the massive wildfire in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Investigators are now on the scene trying to determine this fire, intentionally set by the U.S. Park Service, flared out-of-control.

CNN's Charles Zewe is in Los Alamos, and he joins us now with the latest -- Charles.

CHARLES ZEWE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, right now, the firefighters are getting a real break from the weather. There's a high cloud cover here. The humidity has come up, and the winds have not gotten quite as strong as they had been forecasting it during the day today. That, of course, could change at any time.

But for right now, out on the fire lines, the fire crews there have been working very hard to put out hotspots to try to contain this big blaze that has consumed more than 46,000 acres of land since breaking out May 4th as a controlled burn by the National Park Service.

As you said, an investigative team is looking at conditions here, looking at how the fire and why the fire was set. They are expected to make their report on Thursday here, at least a preliminary one.

Meanwhile, fire-fighting officials in command of the situation on the fire lines are saying it's a toss-up as to whether this big fire will be able to be contained.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a 50-50 chance of losing it today. But like I said, they way the winds are today and the way things look this morning, we fell real good about holding it, but like I said, that's a 50-50 chance we're taking right now.


ZEWE: They believe that they will be able to hold this fire. If they don't, it's an entire -- another proposition. The town of Los Alamos, however, would not be threatened, they say, under any circumstance. They think this town is in the clear now along with the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the nuclear research facility. One final note, the Congress during the night last night approved a concurrent resolution making it the sense of the Congress that it was the government's fault and that the government should now pay for all of the damages here -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Charles Zewe, thank you, Bernie.

SHAW: Farmers in the South and Midwest are warned to brace for a severe drought. Government forecasters say the summer months will see little relief from the heat. The drought is expected to singe the heart of America's corn production.

WOODRUFF: The state of California is fining the HMO Kaiser- Permanente $1 million for making a 74-year-old woman wait hours for treatment of a ruptured aortic aneurysm. The woman later died.

Kaiser says that it will appeal the fine as well as the findings of an investigation.

Coca-Cola initiates a billion-dollar diversity campaign to give a leg up to women and minorities. The company spokesman says the plan is unrelated to a discrimination lawsuit filed by eight current and former black employees.

SHAW: Two of Hollywood's legendary leading ladies are now true dames. Britain's Queen Elizabeth today awarded the Order of the British Empire to actresses Elizabeth Taylor and Julie Andrews. The 68-year-old Taylor was honored for her contributions to the entertainment industry and for her AIDS charity work. Andrews called the award the greatest honor of her life.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns, interviews with Rudy Giuliani's campaign manager, Bruce Teitelbaum, and Hillary Clinton's campaign spokesman, Howard Wolfson.



WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just decided I ought to be there. I mean, it's a big deal for her, a big night for her, and I want to be there with her. I just want to be there to support her.


WOODRUFF: The president explaining his decision to be in Albany, New York this evening, when state Democrats formally nominate Hillary Rodham Clinton as their U.S. Senate candidate.

Mr. Clinton will not address the state party convention, but he will make remarks at a reception afterward. The event comes as a new Quinnipiac poll of registered voters in New York state shows Mrs. Clinton remains in a statistical dead-heat with Republican Rudy Giuliani even after the mayor's disclosure of his marital and health problems. Well, as CNN's Frank Buckley explains, the Clinton camp may be hoping the first lady's nomination will give her a bounce.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: We will make a great team in the United States Senate.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York Senator Charles Schumer will officially nominate Hillary Clinton as the Democrats' choice for the U.S. Senate seat, but she's been the party favorite for a year-and-a-half, and the convention is expected to only affirm that conviction.

JOEL SIEGEL, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": This is a very unusual situation for the New York Democrats, to have an open seat and they don't have a primary pretty much. And that's -- nobody can remember the last time that's happened, and it will be more of a coronation than anything, I think.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: I will work for the next month in this campaign to earn the trust and the vote of every single New Yorker.

BUCKLEY: Congressman Charles Rangel was among the first New Yorkers to approach Mrs. Clinton with the idea of running. Despite never having run for any office and never having lived in New York, she was viewed as a potential heavyweight contender against the formidable presumed Republican candidate New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Given Giuliani's recent diagnosis of prostate cancer and last week's revelation regarding his intentions to seek a separation from his wife, Rangel believes Mrs. Clinton is now the one to beat.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: It is a good feeling to win, but not nearly as good if we had a health candidate that had no problems at home, and we just whooped them good.

BUCKLEY: The first lady began her campaign with what she called a "listening tour."

H. CLINTON: Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us.

BUCKLEY: It was also a learning period for the novice candidate. Mrs. Clinton made mistakes: failing to consult with Hispanic leaders on clemency for Puerto Rican nationalists; waiting too long to issue a statement denouncing anti-Israeli comments made by the wife of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during a trip to the Middle East.

Polls have generally showed Mrs. Clinton and Giuliani in a statistical dead-heat. But a perceptible shift occurred in Mrs. Clinton's favor following the police shooting death of unarmed security guard Patrick Dorismond in March.

MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: Ultimately, it will be relevant as to whether or not the police officer actually caused his death or Mr. Dorismond caused his own death by struggling and fighting with the police.

BUCKLEY: The mayor's release of Dorismond's juvenile arrest record angering some voters and providing Hillary Clinton with an opportunity to criticize and gain ground.

H. CLINTON: At just the moment when a real leader would wait for the results of a full and fair investigation, he has led the rush to judgment. That is not leadership.

BUCKLEY: Giuliani's announcement of prostate cancer has softened Mrs. Clinton's campaign and tonight she is not expected to attack the mayor or do much more than accept her party's nomination during her appearance.

LEE MIRINGOFF, MARIST INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC OPINION: Nothing big. You don't want to drive Rudy's bad news off of page one with something of your own.


BUCKLEY: The image that Mrs. Clinton hopes to see on the front page of tomorrow morning's newspapers one of party unity, with the party -- party unified behind her, providing a sharp contrast to the Republican Party, which doesn't know yet if Rudy Giuliani is still in the race.

We can tell you that just a few moments ago Mrs. Clinton did come here to the Pepsi Arena and entered, and shook hands, signed some autographs and said hello. We can also tell you that things are already starting to run a little late. Call to order was set for 5:00 p.m. Eastern. It is just now getting under way right now here in the convention center -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you, Frank Buckley, with the latest from there.

In a moment, we'll talk to Mrs. Clinton's campaign spokesman, Howard Wolfson, but first my interview earlier -- about an hour and a half ago -- with Giuliani campaign manager Bruce Teitelbaum.

I began by asking if it burns him up that some New York Republicans are saying, "Rudy Giuliani, make up your mind."


BRUCE TEITELBAUM, GIULIANI CAMPAIGN MANAGER: No, Bernie, we understand that. The mayor said a few days ago that he does understand the obligation he has to the Republican Party, and he will make a decision soon.

In my comments, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with Republican leaders, they've all told me the same thing: They very much want the mayor to run. They're eager for him to make an announcement, and we'll hopefully do that very soon.

SHAW: Well, one county chair is quoted in The New York Times as saying that "Rudy seems to be going through a public catharsis." Is he?

TEITELBAUM: Well, no. This is a difficult decision, Bernie, you know being confronted with prostate cancer and only being told about it 2 1/2 weeks ago. The mayor hasn't really had the opportunity to sit quietly and to talk to his physicians and make this very, very difficult decision. He's doing that right now. It is a tough decision. And hopefully, he'll come to this soon. He's said he'd like to make the decision as soon as he possibly can so he can move on with this process.

SHAW: Is how cancer treatments might affect his ability to campaign a prime element in his thinking?

TEITELBAUM: Yes, the mayor has said repeatedly that the course of his medical treatment will dictate in large measure, if not entirely, his decision to continue with the Senate race. And obviously, the mayor will have to take into account what kind of treatment he will be using and all of the things that, you know, result from cancer treatment. And that will in large measure dictate whether or not he can continue with the Senate race.

That's something he's said over and over again, and nothing has changed on that measure.

SHAW: Now, you know and the mayor knows there are lots of rumors out there to the effect that he really wants to be governor, and my question is, does Rudy Giuliani have a fire in his belly for this position?

TEITELBAUM: Look, Bernie, you know the mayor, and the mayor is someone who passionately believes in public service. He wants to continue in public service. He said long ago that he'd like to be a senator, he'd like to use the Senate as a platform to do what he's done for New York City for the rest of the state.

So you can be sure that once he gives us the thumbs-up, Bernie, he'll give his 100 percent. He'll go out there, and he'll be a great senator from New York.

SHAW: I want to ask you a question that goes to your heart of hearts. In two weeks, when the New York state Republican Party nominates its Senate candidate, will that candidate be Giuliani?

TEITELBAUM: It is my -- not only my hope, Bernie, but my expectation it will be. I know that if the mayor can go forth with this that he will. He'll do so enthusiastically. And I know that the Republicans around the state -- including Governor Pataki, and the chairman of the Republican Party in New York, Bill Powers -- are solidly behind Rudy Giuliani.

And the latest poll reveals, that Republicans around the state want Rudy Giuliani to run. They think he can win. And that's exactly what we think will happen.

It's my hope that that happens, but we'll see very, very soon, Bernie. SHAW: You said, "We'll see," and I have to ask you this last question. If Giuliani is not a candidate, would Rick Lazio be the next-best choice?

TEITELBAUM: Well, you know, Bernie, other people will determine that, and that'll happen. I'm focusing on Rudy Giuliani. Right now, he is best-positioned to beat Mrs. Clinton. The latest poll shows that. That's always been my belief. So I'm focusing on the mayor and on our ability to go forth with this campaign. That's my hope. But we'll see in a couple of days, hopefully, Bernie, what will happen.

SHAW: In a couple of days. Bruce Teitelbaum, thanks so much for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS.

TEITELBAUM: Thank you.


SHAW: And now as promised, we're joined by Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson.

Mr. Wolfson, would the campaign prefer a candidate different from Giuliani?

HOWARD WOLFSON, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, that's not a decision that obviously is under our control. We're going to run up against whomever they put up on the ballot. We're going to talk about the issues, as we've been talking about since the beginning of this campaign.

You know, Hillary has been to 62 counties in the state, every single county, talking about what she'd do in the Senate. She's going to keep doing that regardless of who the Republican opponent is.

SHAW: How is the Giuliani situation affecting Mrs. Clinton's campaign strategy?

WOLFSON: Well, she -- Bernie, she is doing what she has always done. She is working hard, getting up every day to earn the trust and the support of every single New Yorker. She's campaigning from Buffalo to Brooklyn and place in between.

We're here today to get the nomination of a united Democratic Party. You're going to see more of the same from Hillary Clinton over the next few months, a continuation of our focus on the issues that New Yorkers care the most about.

SHAW: Your candidate and the mayor are running neck-and-neck in the polls. How do you read this?

WOLFSON: Well, you've seen a steady climb of Hillary's numbers over the past few months, as your report indicated at the top of the show. And I suspect that as more and more New Yorkers are focusing on the race, you'll see a continuation of that steady increase in Hillary's poll numbers.

SHAW: How are the revelations about the mayor's marital life affecting this campaign?

WOLFSON: Well, that'll really in the end be up to New Yorkers. It'll be up to the mayor if he decides to run. It'll be up to New Yorkers when they go to the voting booth.

What we are going to do is what we have done throughout this entire campaign, focus relentlessly on the issues that New Yorkers care about, the issues that, as Hillary is traveling around the state, that she hears about from New Yorkers: education, health care, the future of Social Security, and Medicare. Hillary is telling people every day what she would do in the Senate. That's what a Senate candidate should be doing.

SHAW: Take us into your campaign strategy sessions and tell us what's the internal betting in the Clinton camp: Will he run or won't he?

WOLFSON: Well, I have no idea. You know, I watch CNN for all the latest information, and I follow it closely. But I really don't know, and the best thing that we can do and what we are doing is focus on the things we can control, which is our campaign, the issues that we're talking about, the positive issue agenda that we're laying out for New Yorkers.

SHAW: So you're not going to share with us what the internal Clinton campaign is betting on.

WOLFSON: I'm not a betting man, and I know that we're going to have a Republican opponent, and whoever that opponent is we're going to run the same way. We're going to run a positive, issue-oriented campaign.

SHAW: Howard Wolfson, thanks very much for joining us.

WOLFSON: Good to be here.

SHAW: Thank you. Good to have you.

And just ahead, the administration has one more yes vote on a key issue, plus an issue that is not getting a lot of attention from the presidential hopefuls: a look at immigration policies and politics, when we return.


WOODRUFF: The White House has a new ally on the issue of permanent normal trade status for China. Today, New York Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel announced that he will support the trade bill when it comes up for a committee vote.

Chris Black joins us now from Capitol Hill with more -- Chris.

CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, Congressman Charlie Rangel gave a major boost to White House lobbying campaigns on the China trade bill today. The congressman had been under a lot of pressure from President Clinton and other members of the administration as well as from organized labor. But the New York Democrat says that after he weighed the argument on both sides, pro and con, he decided that giving permanent normal trade status to China was good for the country because it would expand China's markets for the United States and create more jobs.


REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Coming from what people refer to as a so-called "safe district" and having what others might call a 100 percent union support record, it is very difficult for me to understand why at this time, in this place, the unions have decided to make this a litmus test.


BLACK: The congressman had a cautionary note for his friends in organized labor. He pointed out that it would not in their interest to have Republicans retain control of the House next year. In fact, if the Democrats regain control of the House, Charlie Rangel will be chair of the House Ways & Means Committee.

The congressman helps the White House in two big ways. He helps influence other Democrats on the Ways & Means Committee, which will be marking up the China trade bill tomorrow, and he also is very influential with other members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

There's a strong sense, Judy, now on the Hill that even though the vote count on both sides of this issue is still a little bit squishy, that the momentum seems to be heading in favor of the administration. The White House seems to have gotten over a hump. There's also a strong sense right now coming from the Republican leadership on the House side that there will be companion legislation creating an independent commission to monitor human rights in China, which again will help with some of those House members who have concern -- concerns about human rights -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Chris Black, reporting from the Capitol, thanks.

A coalition of conservatives and liberals, led by two former housing secretaries -- Republican Jack Kemp and Democrat Henry Cisneros -- is calling on Congress to ease immigration laws. Today, the coalition launched an effort to lobby Congress in favor of admitting more immigrants into the country and granting amnesty to illegal immigrants.

With the nation's immigration policy at issue, Pat Neal takes a closer look at where the presidential hopefuls stand.


PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Flashback four years to 1996: Immigration was one of the hottest and most contentious issues in the presidential race. It was a staple of GOP candidate Pat Buchanan's fiery "America First" message.


PAT BUCHANAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We still need a security fence along the 66 to 200 miles of border, where the huge masses of illegal immigrants are coming into the country.


NEAL: Bob Dole, who won the GOP presidential nomination that year, also embraced the anti-immigrant fervor. He spoke out in favor of proposition 187, which California voters had passed in 1994. It would have cut off almost all government benefits to illegal immigrants and their children.


NARRATOR: Two million illegal aliens in California: 20,000 in our prisons, 400,000 crowd our schools. Every year they cost us 3 billion tax dollars.



NEAL: Fast forward to 2000: Immigrants, people born outside the United States, now make up about 10 percent of the U.S. population. That's the largest percentage in 70 years. And a new Republican candidate is setting a different tone for his party.

BUSH: Family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River, that if you're a mother or dad and you're worried about feeding your children, and you can't find work close to home, and you hear of opportunities somewhere else, and you're worth your salt, you're coming.

NEAL: Why has the anti-immigrant fervor died down? Experts say two big reasons: a booming economy and the lowest unemployment rate since 1970. Americans don't feel their jobs are threatened by immigration.

High-tech industries from George Bush's hometown of Austin to those in Silicon Valley are pleading for more workers. Both Bush and Democratic candidate Al Gore want the U.S. to increase the number of visas given to highly skilled immigrants, currently set at 107,000 a year. President Clinton has even called for that number to be doubled, after long opposing the idea. He wants the increase in visas to be tied to new fees charged to employers who hire immigrants. The fees would be applied to training programs for American workers.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We should also recognize that we have to do more to educate our own people and give the job training necessary for American citizens who are already here to fill those good jobs.

NEAL: Bush also believes American agriculture needs help. The governor has proposed increasing the number of visas for immigrant farm workers. But Gore opposes that move, saying there's no proof that extra help is needed now.

Organized labor wants even more: Eying more workers and potentially more union members, the AFL-CIO is calling for a blanket amnesty for the estimated 5 to 6 million illegal immigrants currently in this country. Neither Bush nor Gore backs widespread amnesty.

Gore did announce a limited amnesty proposal on behalf of the administration in March. If approved, it could allow legal residency for about a half a million undocumented immigrants here. And last summer, Bush told the Spanish-language Univision network that he could be open to amnesty proposals.

Seeing a potential new pool of voters, both candidates are courting immigrant communities. They are most heavily concentrated in the top electoral states of New York, California, Texas, Florida, and Illinois.

MARK KRIKORIAN, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: Immigration is probably the most important social force that will shape the United States over the next 50 years.

NEAL: But neither Gore nor Bush has made any major speeches on immigration or announced any comprehensive policy proposals.

KRIKORIAN: It's going to have significant effects on the economy, on the labor market, on urban sprawl, a whole variety of issues. And of all the issues that could be discussed, this is one of the more important ones, and it's kind of surprising and distressing that there's almost no discussion of it by the candidates.

NEAL: As seen in the Elian Gonzalez case in Florida, immigration is a complicated issue that experts say can inflame quickly.

(on camera): Its importance to Americans rises and falls with economic trends. Polls show now that anti-immigration feelings are at their lowest point in decades. But since no one can predict the state of the economy four years from today, immigration experts say that the presidential candidates should be proposing policy now.

Pat Neal, CNN, Miami.


SHAW: And when we come back, a White House fixture for 40 years calls it quits.


SHAW: An empty chair on the front row in the White House briefing room this day, that chair normally occupied by Helen Thomas of United Press International. The dean of the White House press corps announcing her resignation after UPI was bought by News World Communications, which has links to the Unification Church.

She's 79-year-old, and Helen Thomas has been a fixture at the White House since the early days of the Kennedy administration. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Presidents come and go, but Helen's been here for 40 years now, covering eight presidents and doubtless showing the ropes to countless young reporters, and I might add more than a few press secretaries.

I hope this change will bring new rewards and new fulfillment to her. Whatever she decides to do, I'll feel a little better about my country if I know she'll still be spending some time around here at the White House.


SHAW: Well, one of the things Helen Thomas will do is make speaking engagements, and she will be promoting her recent book, "Front Row at the White House."

WOODRUFF: She will be missed. She was there the entire six years I covered the White House. She was there at 7 o'clock every single morning and left later than anybody else.

SHAW: And she was there when I was there in '68.

That's all for this edition of Inside Politics. We're going to see you again tomorrow when we'll bring on the campaign trail with George W. Bush in Seattle and Al Gore in Orlando.

And of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's

WOODRUFF: And this programming note: columnist William F. Buckley will be talking about the presidential race and the New York Senate race tonight on "CROSSFIRE." That's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

SHAW: I'm Bernard Shaw. "WORLDVIEW" is next.



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