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Inside Politics

Gore Claiming Credit for the Strong Economy; Clinton Administration and Republicans Sparring Over Cost of Prescription Drugs

Aired June 13, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to make this election about the big choices we have to make to secure prosperity and progress for a new American century.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore firmly hitches his presidential prospects to the state of the economy.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: But, will Gore's focus on prosperity actually help George W. Bush? We'll consider both sides of the coin.



ANNOUNCER: Hemlines are down. Down with hemlines, up with Bush. Sorry, Al, that's the rule.


WOODRUFF: Our Bill Schneider on the ups-and-downs of unscientific election forecasts.

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

SHAW: Thanks for joining us. We begin with Al Gore's bid to convince voters that he had a hand in the nation's economic growth, and perhaps more importantly, that he is the man to keep the prosperity going.

WOODRUFF: Gore kicked off that effort today with some additional "oomph" in his delivery, and with the song "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" as his anthem.

We have two reports on Gore's new strategy, beginning with Chris Black, covering the vice president in New York.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seeking to reframe the political debate, Vice President Al Gore invoked Ronald Reagan's famous question...

GORE: Are you better off than you were four years ago? Let me go even further: Are you better off than you were eight years ago?

BLACK: Gore launched his so-called "prosperity and progress" tour as the happy warrior, with an upbeat look at the government's role in an unprecedented era of economic good times.

GORE: Those who say that prosperity has achieved its full reach, I say, "just watch us."

BLACK: He drew the contrast to the proposals of his rival, George W. Bush, by inference.

GORE: Here is what I will not do: I won't be profligate with your money. I won't spend money that we don't yet even have on a huge tax cut our economy can't afford in ways that could end our prosperity and progress.

BLACK: Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, a Wall Street baron, vouched for Gore's role in the economic policies of the Clinton administration.

ROBERT RUBIN, FORMER SECRETARY OF TREASURY: I worked with the vice president for 6 1/2 years. He was deeply involved in every major economic decision we made.

BLACK: Gore says he would use the budget surpluses to build a stronger America, by creating a Medicare lockbox to safeguard Medicare money from regular government spending, setting up tax-free voluntary savings accounts to supplement social security, and by creating three new national trusts to finance programs for education, health care and the environment.

Gore defended the Clinton administration record, saying the economic boom was no accident, but the result of a deliberate strategy.

GORE: ... that unlocked the full potential of our people. Balancing the budget, paying down the debt, and investing in the best enterprise of all: people.

BLACK: Chris Black, CNN, New York.



JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is John King at the White House.

The timing of all this was no coincidence. Al Gore's week-long focus on prosperity and spending priorities was carefully orchestrated, designed to give the vice president a chance to frame the campaign debate before the White House releases new figures showing a mushrooming federal budget surplus.

New estimates due out in the next few weeks will raise this year's projected surplus from $167 billion to well in excess of $200 billion, and add as much as $1 trillion to the projected surplus over the next decade.

It's a windfall that already has a legacy-minded president urging Congress to think big when it comes to creating a new prescription drug benefit for the elderly.


KING: But the politics of prosperity could cut two ways. A bigger surplus could make it harder for Gore to argue that the big tax cut pushed by Republican George W. Bush is too risky.

ROBERT REISCHAUER, URBAN INSTITUTE: It takes away one of the clubs that Gore was using to beat Bush over the head with. He'll have to use it much more gently. He'll have to say, "Let's be prudent."

KING: Governor Bush will call the bigger surplus numbers more proof there's room for a tax cut, and more proof Gore is a textbook liberal.

ARI FLEISCHER, BUSH CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: If we let it all come to Washington, the politicians will surely spend it on bigger and more government, and that's not a good way to provide for the future.

KING: Top White House aides warned the Gore campaign several weeks ago that the new surplus numbers could change the campaign debate over taxes and spending. And senior administration officials helped the vice president draft a response that will continue to argue against a broad-based tax cut.

Instead, Gore will push more spending on popular domestic programs, doing more to pay down the long-term national debt, and additional targeted tax cuts aimed at lower- and middle-income Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it's not that the Democrats are saying no way to any kind of tax cut. The Democrats are talking about the tax cuts that appeal to the majority of voters.


KING: Now, most Republicans begrudgingly give the president credit for selling that targeted tax cut approach and turning the public against an across-the-board tax cut like that favored by Governor Bush. The Republican hope now is that the vice president doesn't have the political skills evidenced by his boss -- Bernie.

WOODRUFF: All right, John -- actually it's Judy.

And we're joined once again by Chris Black.

Chris, let me come back to you for just a moment. When you talked to the Gore people, are they aware, do they talk about the fact that there may be pitfalls with Gore associating himself with the economy if it were to take a downturn?

BLACK: They don't really see that in the immediate horizon, Judy. Right now, the president still gets very high marks for job performance and all the economic barometers are still pretty solid. A bigger problem to the Gore campaign is convincing voters that a president matters, because voters seemed to be convinced that nothing's going to slow down this economy. In fact, recently we saw during the China trade debate, that organized labor gave up making the economic argument because nobody would believe that trade or anything else could slow down the economy.

WOODRUFF: And John, a question to you. What is -- when you talk to the people at the White House, what do they -- how do they explain the fact that we have this enormous surplus, and Gore isn't benefiting necessarily in the polls, that many people still feel lukewarm about him?

KING: Well, one of the stunning things to White House aides and the Gore campaign, recent polling showing that the vice president has just a slight advantage, almost even with Governor Bush. When voters are asked about who would handle the economy best, that's one of the reasons we see this tour the vice president pushing now.

But it's largely skepticism. White House officials and pollsters in both parties say after 15 years of hearing about deficits, the public is just not convinced yet that these surplus numbers are real. So while they're enjoying a strong economy right now, they don't trust the politicians when the politicians tell them there's so much money now here in Washington left to spend, or as Governor Bush would argue to give back in the form of a tax cut.

WOODRUFF: And, Chris, to you again. When the Bush people, I mean -- sorry, when the Gore people talk about the so-called "progress and prosperity" tour, do they really think something like this can make a difference for them?

BLACK: Well, they certainly do, Judy. They would never say that this was a turning point because they would argue that the vice president is doing pretty well for this point in the campaign for a vice president, for an incumbent vice president.

But it's important to set the terms of the argument, because it's easier to win the argument if you do that. And they think it's important for the vice president to set out his marker and to show his vision for the future. They think they can win this argument.

WOODRUFF: And John, on a slightly more political note, we -- you and others have been reporting criticism from the White House of the Gore campaign. Does this fact, that they seem to be working together, mean that this is going to continue, this kind of coordination? KING: Certainly on economic policy they say there is much more coordination. Think back to Elian Gonzalez, other cases where White House aides have been caught off guard by what the vice president is going and harshly critical of it. In this case, they say the treasury secretary, Larry Summers, the president's top economic adviser, Gene Sperling, these are two people working very closely behind the scenes, they would say in free time, with the vice president's staff on this matter.

So when it comes to economics, there is no divide between the White House and the vice president, at least so far in the campaign. White House officials saying the president will support the vice president and try to help him now when these new surplus numbers come out, try to make the case that even now the country still can't afford a big tax cut.

WOODRUFF: All right, at the White House, John King. Chris Black reporting with vice president Gore. Thank you, both -- Bernie.

SHAW: Now to another issue that is getting play in this election year: the rising cost of prescription drugs. The Clinton-Gore administration and congressional Republicans jockeyed for a position on the subject today.

CNN medical correspondent Eileen O'Connor looks at some proposals on the table and the politics behind them.


EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is the issue seniors arguably care the most about: how to afford the prescription drugs they take. That's why, with seniors voting in disproportionately higher numbers, senators, House members, the president, and most importantly, the presidential candidates, are all promising ways to provide relief.


ANNOUNCER: They're using money and lobbyists to stop progress in Washington. Al Gore is taking them on, fighting for a Medicare prescription drug benefit for seniors.


O'CONNOR: But Republicans are laying claim to the issue, too. GOP leaders Tuesday offered details on their own proposal to subsidize private insurance plans.

REP. BILL THOMAS (R), CALIFORNIA: It is a Medicare prescription drug program, a benefit and entitlement inside Medicare. It will be voluntary and it will be universal.

O'CONNOR: The White House is offering a more expensive proposal: a standard drug benefit for all seniors who use the Medicare program. The president argues private insurance is unaffordable to many. WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can afford to do this right, and we must not pass a plan that claims to offer something to everybody and is a false hope to most, and therefore inadequate.

O'CONNOR: The administration and its supporters call the Republican plan nothing more than political cover for the campaign trail.

RON POLLACK, FAMILIES USA: It's going to get raised over, and over and over again, and undoubtedly, what we're going to hear is the Republicans saying, well, we offered a proposal, we really care.

Republicans have enlisted the senior equivalent of "Harry and Louise," likening Clinton's plan to nationalized medicine.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Millions of seniors could lose the coverage we have now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And end up in a big government plan.


O'CONNOR: Meanwhile, candidates nationwide have seized the high cost of prescription drugs as an issue to run on -- candidates like Democrat Brian Schweitzer, running for the Senate in Montana against GOP incumbent Conrad Burns. Schweitzer is making the issue the centerpiece of his campaign, escorting senior citizens across the border to Mexico, where even U.S.-manufactured drugs are less expensive than back home.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Join Brian Schweitzer's crusade to embarrass Congress into action and lower prescription prices.


O'CONNOR (on camera): But with so much disagreement and so much politically at stake, any action to lower prescription drug costs or to provide a prescription a Medicare benefit is likely undoable, at least in this election year.

Eileen O'Connor, CNN, Capitol Hill.


SHAW: And still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS:


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Watch out Yankee fans, old and new, you root for the Yankees, you're rooting for George W. Bush!


SHAW: Bill Schneider on baseball as a political barometer. How a world series win might predict the next president?


WOODRUFF: George W. Bush is spending another day at his family's retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine, working on plans for the GOP convention. One item still on the Bush agenda: selecting a vice presidential running-mate. Former Senator John Danforth has removed his name from consideration for that post. He says that he called Bush last week and told him that he wanted to remain in Missouri near his family. Danforth is the special counsel investigating the government's handling of the 1993 Branch Davidian Standoff in Waco, Texas.

SHAW: Choosing the right running-mate may be key in a tight presidential election, and this race shows every indication of being very close. But that's not stopping some folks from picking a winner.

Bill Schneider joins us now with a report on some things they look for -- Bill.

SCHNEIDER: Well, Bernie, maybe you haven't noticed, but the presidential election is over. Academic forecasters from very important universities claim they can predict the outcome based on impressive looking equations. What goes into those equations? Oh, the condition of the economy, the incumbent president's job rating, obvious things like that. Well, the economy's strong, and Clinton's still very popular, so what do the forecasts show? Gore. Tough luck, Mr. Bush. You can't argue with the numbers. Or can you? We've consulted our soothsayers and found out there's more than one way to say the sooth.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Hemlines, for instance -- here's the rule: hemlines up, Democrats win; hemlines down or unchanged, Republicans win. Why is that? Let's ask a Democrat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like them as short as possible.

SCHNEIDER: And you madam?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, traditionally always one inch below the knee, and I never change it.

SCHNEIDER: Obviously a Republican. But does the rule work? Let's see. Hemlines went up in 1960, 1964 and 1976. Democrats won all three years. They went down or didn't change in 1952, '56, '72, '84 and '88, all Republican years. Pretty good record. But has the rule ever failed? Yes, a few times. Hemlines went up in 1968 and 1980, and the Democrats still lost. Hemlines went down in 1992, but Bill Clinton still got elected. You'd think he at least would pay attention to hemlines.

So the hemline model has been successful in eight out of 11 elections. Hey, not bad. This year, hemlines are down -- down with hemlines, up with Bush. Sorry, Al, that's the rule.

Here's another model: If it's a good year for Bordeaux wines, the Democrat wins; a poor vintage, it's a cinch for the GOP. Three years saw good Bordeaux and Democratic victories. Five years saw lousy wines and good Republicans. The rule didn't work in 1988, when the Bordeaux was good, but the Dukakis went bad. In 1960 and 1992, Democrats won even though the wine was bad. This rule may not have worked during prohibition, but it has a pretty good success rate for the last half century -- eight out of 11 predicted right.

What about this year? Well, the grapes are still growing, so we don't know the quality of the wine yet, but we intend to conduct comprehensive and thorough tests on a large sample. We'll let you know.

How about this rule? If the National League wins the World Series, the Democrat wins. If the American League takes the title, the Republican wins. It's worked for the Democrats three times and for the Republicans five times. But the National League won in 1980 and 1988, and so did the GOP. And three times both the American League and the Democrats came out on top. The success rate for the World Series rule is not quite as good -- eight out of 13 correct predictions. But the implications are clear: If the Atlanta Braves win the Series this year, Gore gets in. A CNN bias, perhaps? But watch out, Yankee fans, old and new, you root for the Yankees, you're rooting for George W. Bush.


SCHNEIDER: Now here's an interesting model devised by author Pete Nelson, writing in He claims that it's correctly predicted the winner of every election since the first Super Bowl in 1967. The model says that DV, the Democratic share of the two-party vote, depends on two things: One is SBLP, the number of points scored by the losing team in the Super Bowl. If the losers have a high score, that pumps up the Democratic vote. OB stands for "Olympic boycott." If a superpower boycotts the Olympics, that hurts the Democrats. Notice the minus sign. Well, we're not expecting an Olympic boycott this year, and the Super Bowl was a pretty hot game. So plug in the numbers and what do you get? Gore wins, narrowly.

The Tennessee Titans may have lost the Super Bowl, but they scored enough points to deliver the election for their own Al Gore.


SCHNEIDER: Now, remember the 1998 midterm, when all the experts forecast that the Democrats would lose seats in the House? Well, the rule was that the president's party always loses House seats in a midterm election, except in 1998 when they didn't.

So remember "The Schneider Rule": Forecasting models always work except when they don't work. Or maybe the Yogi Berra rule: "Never make predictions, especially about the future."


SHAW: And it ain't over until it's over.

SCHNEIDER: That, too.

SHAW: Thank you, Bill Schneider.

WOODRUFF: But I'll make a prediction: Hemlines down this year, but they'll be up next year.



WOODRUFF: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) presidential elections.

SHAW: Write that down.

WOODRUFF: Much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

SHAW: Still to come...


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From sign on to sign off, your television airwaves are deluged with political ads during the election season.


SHAW: Our Bruce Morton on money, television and the endangered status of local political coverage.



RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Voters in the land of dot.coms and microchips can't always be counted on to swing to the left or to the right.


WOODRUFF: Rusty Dornin on a competitive race to represent Silicon Valley.

And later...

SHAW: The candidate from Metropolis? A comic book look at the presidential campaign.


WOODRUFF: We'll have more of the day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories. The governor of Colorado declares a state of emergency as two major wildfires burn out of control. The fires erupted yesterday southwest of Denver. The two fires have burned more than 5,500 acres. Hundreds have fled their homes.

SHAW: Now to Los Alamos, New Mexico, where last month's devastating wildfires may have led to the misplacement of two computer hard drives containing nuclear secrets.

CNN's Greg LaMotte reports.


GREG LAMOTTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Los Alamos Laboratory officials speculate confusion caused by last month's devastating fires here may have caused someone to misplace extremely sensitive classified information regarding nuclear weapons. The classified information was found to be missing May 7th when fires were burning on the laboratory's property. But for some unknown reason, laboratory officials weren't told about it until May 31st.

The classified information was stored on hard drives that were said to be clearly marked.

GENE TUCKER, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF SECURITY, LOS ALAMOS LABORATORY: I can't rule out espionage nor can I say specifically espionage is at the heart of it. We do know that the vault in question was secure, that the people who entered the vault were authorized to enter the vault. There was no evidence that the vault had been tampered with.

JOHN BROWNE, DIRECTOR, LOS ALAMOS LABORATORY: We turned this lab upside down. We had people looking in every conceivable place, and we did not find anything. So we ran into a brick wall and asked the Energy Department and the FBI to come in and help us.

LAMOTTE: Every employee with access to the vault where the classified material was taken has been interviewed. This incident comes on the heels of the arrest of a former lab scientist, Wen Ho Lee, who's accused of mishandling classified materials.

(on camera): The classified information is said to be on hard drives, two of them, each about the size of a deck of cards. Laboratory officials say they do not believe there is any connection between this incident and the arrest last December of Wen Ho Lee. He was a scientist who was accused of mishandling classified information. The Department of Energy and FBI are currently involved in the investigation.

Greg LaMotte, CNN, Los Alamos, New Mexico.


WOODRUFF: A nationwide search is on for the son of basketball Hall of Famer Dr. J. His family says 19-year-old Cory Erving has been missing for 16 days and may be in danger. Today, Julius Erving made a public plea for help. He is offering a $25,000 reward for his son's return.

SHAW: Pledges to work toward one united Korea set off today's historic summit in Seoul. Hundreds of thousands gathered around televisions to watch the event. This is the first time leaders from the North and South are meeting since the Korean War, nearly 50 years ago to the week.

An emotional day in Syria climaxed with the burial of President Hafez al-Assad. Leaders from around the world as well as thousands of mourners turned out for the funeral procession. The crowd chanted its support for Bashar al-Assad, who is set to assume the presidency.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns, two views of the way local TV news covers, or does not cover, the candidates.


WOODRUFF: Advocates of political reform often decry the huge amount of cash spent on campaign ads, particularly in presidential and Senate races. Well, there's new evidence today of the big money being poured into campaign commercials and why many voters rely on those spots to get information about candidates.

In his "Campaign Journal," our Bruce Morton looks at the dynamic between television commercials and political news coverage.


MORTON (voice-over): From sign-on to sign-off, your television airwaves are deluged with political ads during the election season. In fact, according to a new study in the 75 top media markets, local TV stations took in $114 million -- a record -- for playing 151,000 political ads in the first four months of the year.

Jon Corzine, who won the Democratic Senate primary in New Jersey, is the poster boy of this trend...


NARRATOR: Two-hundred-and-eighty-thousand people lost their jobs.


MORTON: ... thirty-seven-hundred-eleven ads on four New York and Philadelphia stations. You have to buy those markets to campaign in New Jersey. Viewers, the study says, were 10 times more likely to see a Corzine ad than a political report on local news. Corzine, a rich unknown, spent mostly his own money.

As for political coverage, 30 days before the local primary, the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California surveyed coverage on 19 stations in 11 cities: three, WCBB in Boston and WMAR in Manchester covered New Hampshire, and WEWS in Cleveland gave more than three minutes coverage a night. The other 16 provided an average of 39 seconds. To be fair, that's a sound bite from the candidates and doesn't count stories about campaign strategy, who is ahead and so forth.

(on camera): Many assignment editors believe and some surveys indicate that a lot of Americans aren't very interested in politics. These new studies should probably be read along with a Pew Foundation Report released Monday which shows Americans less interested in news and increasingly turning to the Internet for the news they want.

(voice-over): Virtually all news organizations -- newspapers, networks, and so on -- have Web sites; so do virtually all campaigns and a lot of special and public interest groups: labor unions, the NRA, and so on. Television may be doing less and may be watched less in politics. The Internet is certainly doing more.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


SHAW: Joining us now, Martin Kaplan, associate dean at the Annenberg School For Communication, which conducted that study of political news coverage on local television stations; and Dan Bradley, news director of WFLA-TV in Tampa, Florida.

Martin, first to you, how did you determine the average 39 seconds of news coverage nightly?

MARTIN KAPLAN, ANNENBERG SCHOOL OF COMMUNICATION: We had volunteers taping the shows from 5:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., and then using time codes went through and scored for all the times that candidates were shown speaking on the news programming, and then the stations were ranked and grouped and averaged and statistically cross checked.

SHAW: Can you say that in some major cities as diverse as Philadelphia and Tampa, Florida, that some averages were six seconds a night?

KAPLAN: Yes, that's true, but I do want to say in the case of WFLA in Florida, for example, measuring how much time candidates' sound bites are on the air may not indicate the full range that a station is doing. In their case, voices of the voter was a pioneering effort to put the voices of ordinary citizens on the air, and it counted for a good chunk of programming.

That's not the same thing as having candidates on the air and it's also not the same thing as having three or four or five more hours a night of campaign coverage, as some other stations did. Nevertheless, there are stations that are trying to do something innovative.

SHAW: Point well taken.

And to you, Dan, what's your basic reaction to these findings, given your market there?

DAN BRADLEY, NEWS DIRECTOR, WFLA-TV: It's not -- it doesn't surprise me too much, but I appreciate the doctor pointing out the fact that we don't specialize in just chasing the candidates around and putting their stump speeches on TV, because quite frankly, they don't differ that much often times from the advertising.

We try to keep our political coverage very focused on the issues that through our own polling we have determined the people in our market are interested in and concerned with, and we feel our role is to kind of dissect the politician's message and allow the viewers to kind of understand where the various politicians have voted in the past, what their activity has been in the past on the issues that have meaning and impact on their lives within our own market, and that's not necessarily accomplished by taking sound bites off podiums where they make stump speeches at the airport.

SHAW: Well, given these national findings, what do you think it would take, Dan, for local stations to cover politics, political news more?

BRADLEY: Well, I think you have to work very hard to put the coverage in a -- in the context of each local market. I think the coverage has to be relevant and it has to be important, and that does not necessarily mean just turning the microphone over and letting the sound bites start rolling. I think you have to focus it on the issues that are important.

All politics is local. I don't care if you're running for president, or you're running for circuit judge, the only thing that the people in Tampa, or St. Petersburg, or Sarasota care about are the issues that are important to them, and that's often detached from what's going on in Washington. That's why we focused our coverage primarily on issues and away from the candidates.

We are going to participate with the campaign for better elections, though, and we will be providing free time within our newscast for candidates for statewide and federal office to state their positions, and we'll do that in an unedited manner.

KAPLAN: Which is a phenomenal thing, and you should be applauded for it, as should be the other news directors who are in competition, murderous pressures for ratings, still trying to do something in addition to crime, traffic, sports and weather. So, the fact that you're going to incorporate that into your fall coverage is amazing. The more stations that can follow your lead, the better we are.

SHAW: Yes, but, Martin, you know and Dan knows, our viewers know that Dan's station is the exception, it's not the rule.

KAPLAN: And so, what we are in the midst of doing, thanks to a new grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, is to take best practices and make them available around the country, and give...

SHAW: All right, let me -- I'm sorry. Let me ask...

KAPLAN: Go ahead, Bernie.

SHAW: No, please go ahead, finish your point. KAPLAN: The -- there are terrific things going on in newsrooms all around the country that other newsrooms are hungry to find out about. They are dying for the tools and they don't have the money, they don't have the resources to hire political reporters, they don't have political producers.

SHAW: Let me ask this question of Dan Bradley. Why are local news executives so afraid to walk the plank and extend five minutes of free air time to local candidates?

BRADLEY: Well, Bernie, that has the potential of being a deadly five minutes of television and we are talking about an audience that often times has an attention span in large part because of the way that we've trained them of about a minute and a half to two minutes at best.

And so, it's going to be important that if we do this -- if every television station in the country could turn over five minutes to everybody running for office, and if most of the viewers changed the channel or turn it off, what have we accomplished? I'm not certain that just giving a free microphone and free podium to allow them to keep the same basic stump speech going is the answer.


BRADLEY: I think the answer is addressing the issues that people care about.

KAPLAN: On the other -- but on the other hand, WCBB in Boston and WEWS in Cleveland managed to bring in politicians and bring in reporters doing analysis as part of produced pieces, and they were the number one in their markets before, during and after they did this.

SHAW: And very quickly...

BRADLEY: And we are going to do much of the same thing. And I'm not concerned about whether it's going to hurt the ratings. I am concerned about our mission to the community that we have. We have an obligation to provide a community service and part of that is making sure that the electorate is informed and educated when they go into the booth to make their choices, and we have to do that...

SHAW: And let...

BRADLEY: And just putting more sound bites on the air is not the solution. Coming up with ways to cover important issues is where the coverage has to go.

SHAW: And quickly to you, Martin Kaplan, did candidates always accept free air time?

KAPLAN: No, indeed, front-runners notoriously don't want to take it. The truth is that the Gore Commission, which looked at what the public interest responsibilities of broadcast stations should be, decided that candidate discourse, sound bites were a good measure and that five minutes was a good idea. Some stations were able to figure out what to do with that.

SHAW: OK, Dan Bradley, WFLA-TV news director in Tampa, Florida; and Martin Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center, University of Southern Cal., and the associate dean of the Annenberg School of Communication, very interesting conversation, gentlemen. Thank you.

KAPLAN: Thank you, Bernie.

BRADLEY: Thank you.

SHAW: Quite welcome.

And just ahead: Who will represent California's high-tech district? A look at the candidates and their fight for voter support.


WOODRUFF: With Democrats needing to pick up just six seats to take control of the House of Representatives, open seats are crucial to both parties: that is, seats without an incumbent running. That is the case in California's 15th district, where a close race is shaping up.

Rusty Dornin reports.


DORNIN (voice-over): Voters in the land of dot.coms and microchips can't always be counted on to swing to the left or to the right. Silicon Valley is known for its political crossovers: one reason why the 15th congressional district race will be a tight one.

TERRY CHRISTENSEN, SAN JOSE STATE UNIVERSITY: A lot of money is going to come in from around the state and around the country because this is such a key seat.

DORNIN: Key for the Republicans to hold power in the House; key for the Democrats to gain control. Moderate Republican Tom Campbell is giving up his seat to run for Senate against Democratic incumbent Dianne Feinstein. Democrat Mike Honda, a longtime grass-roots politician, faces Republican Jim Cunneen, a former high-tech executive who casts himself as a leader for the new economy.

JIM CUNNEEN (R), CALIFORNIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: At least I'm a guy who's actually been to Beijing on behalf of a high- technology company, and Shanghai and Taipei. I've been all over Asia in the role of a high-technology worker.

MIKE HONDA (D), CALIFORNIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Certainly he's paying attention to a lot of the captains of the industry. I've paid attention to the needs of the folks who work, and you know, support the captains of the industry.

DORNIN: Paying attention to both candidates are Washington's movers and shakers. President Clinton personally asked Mike Honda to run and Cunneen has gained Republican endorsements from George W. Bush and John McCain.

Democrat Mike Honda has more name recognition here. Democrats outnumber Republicans by 8 percent. Honda easily won the primary, but Republicans say he is a labor Democrat and member of the old guard.

HONDA: Latin America and Asia are going to be the two major new areas. I'm bilingual in Spanish. I've got an Asian face. I've got an Asian culture. And I'm American, too. So you get three in one.

DORNIN: Both are state legislators. Both are pro-abortion rights and strong environmentalists. Cunneen bills himself as a moderate on social issues, but a fiscal conservative who wants to create an environment where high tech will flourish.

CUNNEEN: Silicon Valley is a special place, and who represents this area needs to understand its role in the new economy and its place in the global economy.

DORNIN (on camera): Silicon Valley, home to the new economy, may also be home to a new breed of politics, one where party lines don't necessarily define the candidate.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, San Francisco.


SHAW: And then we have this story from Michigan: Republican Senator Spence Abraham's attacks on his Democratic opponent, Congresswoman Debbie Stabenow, have attracted the attention of a well- known snack cake company. McKee Foods, the makers of Little Debbie snacks, says Abraham's "Liberal Debbie" logo is a trademark infringement. The company wants Abraham to pull the image based on its Little Debbie logo from Abraham's Web site. McKee Foods says the look-alike logo also mistakenly suggests the company endorses the senator's bid for re-election.

The Abraham campaign will consider the request, but a spokesman says they don't feel they've done anything wrong.

WOODRUFF: Up next, George W. Bush and capital punishment, Al Gore and the economy. We'll ask Mary Matalin and Bill Press for their perspectives.


WOODRUFF: Mary Matalin and Bill Press of CNN's "CROSSFIRE" join us now.

Mary and Bill, great to see you both.



WOODRUFF: Questions being raised in the last few days about Governor Bush of Texas and the implementation of the death penalty in his state.

Mary, is this an issue that he is going to be and should be worrying about right now?

MATALIN: Well, I don't see how it can become an issue in the presidential race. It's not being raised by his opponent, Al Gore. Why is that? Because they agree on everything. They're both pro- death penalty. They're both against a moratorium. They're both for DNA evidence.

The difference between George Bush and Al Gore is that George Bush is taking a leadership stand on this. He is the only person in this race who has been in a position to make those hard decisions and to implement those hard decisions, and Al Gore won't even speak to the issue.

So I don't know how it can become an issue other than the absence of leadership on the part of the vice president.

PRESS: I think it already is an issue. I think George Bush is already the executioner in chief. I mean, since he's been governor, 131 executions in the state of Texas, Judy. And unfortunately for George Bush, there are 18 more scheduled between now and election day.

Now, I would agree with Mary. I'm not sure -- I don't see how Gore, unfortunately, can use this against George W. Bush. But I think it's an issue that people can raise to question George Bush's sincerity and to question the phrase "compassionate conservative." I mean, you simply cannot say that all 131 of those people were -- he knows that they were guilty. He cannot make that statement.

MATALIN: Here's how he can say it, if I may, because this is one of the states in the Union which has a nearly impeccable procedure. On average, a convict who is sentenced to death goes through at least, at a minimum, 23 appellate processes. The error rate in Texas is well below the national average. The system works in Texas. When George Bush says he's confident of the innocence, or the lack thereof, of those who have been executed, he means it. And he knows it because his system works.

WOODRUFF: So despite this investigative piece in the "Chicago Tribune," you're saying there's nothing there?

PRESS: No. The system in Texas is one of the worst in the country. They have no...

MATALIN: They have done what?

PRESS: Pardon me, pardon me, I didn't interrupt you. They have no public defender system in the state of Texas, for example, which means that judges appoint the drunken local attorney who happens to be their buddy, like Ronald Mock that The New York Times profiled the other day. There's so many -- and he's one of the guys, you know, who's been proven incompetent in the courtroom.

And you have this system where these guys who -- their defense attorneys are asleep in the courtroom. They don't make the arguments. They don't bring on witnesses. It's a sham, and George Bush has presided over it.

MATALIN: Judy, I must again answer that. When there is incompetent counsel -- that's why I interrupted you, because you say it's the worst in the nation based on nothing -- it's one of the best systems in the nation. If there is incompetent counsel, which is frequently the case, that's a problem in the system. That is grounds for a new trial. Twenty-three, on average, appellate processes before this -- that error rate in Texas, I will repeat again, is way below the national average. If you want to make that case at large, fine. If you're just trying to make a political case and you want to use yet another case to attack Al Gore -- George Bush...

PRESS: I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I know the death penalty. I know the processes. You cannot defend the Texas system. There's so many people -- Ronald Mock, incompetent attorney, has so many people on death row, they've renamed death row "Mock Wing." Explain that to George Bush. It is an issue.

WOODRUFF: All right, let's turn the corner to Al Gore.

Mary, he's on what they're calling a "Progress and Prosperity Tour," likening himself to how well the economy is doing; smart move on his part?

MATALIN: Well, you can change your issues. You can change your hair. You can change your clothes, but you can't change the fact if you're Al Gore, that he has a problem with his candidacy. He is weak. He shows weak leadership. This is -- what? -- his sixth incarnation? He first was chasing George Bush around. Now, he's trying to run on an issue that isn't his to run on. Alan Greenspan and anybody who knows, including the American people, understand that the productivity -- or the progress and prosperity that we enjoy is the result of increased productivity of the American worker, not something Al Gore did.

PRESS: Here's something I find very funny, Judy. When there's a Republican president: always get credits for any economic good news. When there's a Democratic president: deserves no credit at all. And that's just baloney, Mary. I would give Ronald Reagan some credit. I give George Bush some credit. He -- "Read my lips," right? He still raised taxes, and that was a good move.

But Bill Clinton, seven out of these nine years have been under Bill Clinton, starting in 1993 with his economic recovery plan, with not one Republican vote in Congress. I think it's the worst-kept secret that this is the best economy we've known, and Al Gore should be taking some credit for it, and he should get credit for it.

WOODRUFF: But Mary, can Al Gore make the case that under George Bush, things would necessarily get worse?

MATALIN: Well, how can he make that case if the economy is the result of an unexpected surge in technology, which is what Alan Greenspan says, if it's the result of workers making use of that technology to increase their productivity? What George Bush would do is keep the economy growing by giving people more of the money they earned back. He would also give then people more control over their own lives, their own retirement, their own education, their own health care. That's the difference between Bush and Gore.

PRESS: Here's the challenge, Judy, that George Bush has to prove: It ain't broke, but we've got to fix it anyway. That's a tough challenge. What Al Gore has to prove is: We're doing great; we put Alan Greenspan in; we kept him in; we cut the deficit -- eliminated the deficit -- we cut the budget; we have this huge surplus; and we have to spend it wisely.

WOODRUFF: But right now, he's not reaping the benefits of that.

PRESS: That's true. And you know why? Because they haven't tried. He and Clinton have not reached out to try it. I think it's about time they did.

MATALIN: I would love for Al Gore to talk about leaving the money here and spending it wisely. It doesn't even matter if there's a conservative congress. Money kept in Washington is never spent wisely. The riskiest thing to do is keep more of that money that we're -- it's our money, it's not the government's money doing it here. Go ahead, go for it.

PRESS: Fixing Social Security, fixing Medicare, paying down the national debt is spending the money prudently and wisely.

MATALIN: All a wish, which Bush is supporting with better policies than Gore.

PRESS: Not with a big tax cut, he's not.

WOODRUFF: Bill Press, Mary Matalin, thank you both. Great to see you -- Bernie.

SHAW: Well, first Doonesbury, now D.C. Comics. Lex Luthor, of the "Superman" comic book series, will make a bid for the White House this election year. Superman's nemesis will announce his candidacy tomorrow in the latest issue of the "Superman" comic. Luthor, who has reformed his evil villain ways, has the distinction of being the only person to have saved both Gotham City and Metropolis. In case you're wondering, Lex Luthor is running on a third party ticket.

And Judy, that means we have yet another race to follow.

WOODRUFF: And where would Bill and Mary come down on him?

SHAW: Well, that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you again tomorrow, when our Chris Black will be with the vice president in Pennsylvania as he continues his -- quote -- "Progress and Prosperity Tour" -- unquote. And of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's

WOODRUFF: And this programming note, Republican Senate candidate George Allen of Virginia, and California Democratic Governor Gray Davis will be discussing capital punishment tonight on "CROSSFIRE." That's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

I'm Bernard Shaw.

"WORLDVIEW" is next.



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