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Inside Politics

Al Gore's Fund-Raising Past is Scrutinized Again; Death Penalty May Haunt Bush; Where Does Travelgate Report Leave Candidate Clinton?

Aired June 23, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the truth is my friend in this. The full -- the truth, the full truth, and nothing but the truth, and then you can judge it for yourselves.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore goes public with his latest statements to campaign finance investigators. We'll focus on the transcripts and Gore's effort at damage control.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My attitude about this is if America is tired of scandals and investigations, let's elect somebody different other than the Clinton/Gore people, people from the Clinton/Gore administration.


WOODRUFF: George W. Bush seizes the chance to take aim at Gore and talk about something other than the death penalty.



REP. RICK LAZIO (R-NY), SENATE CANDIDATE: The other camp is about tearing people down. This is their MO. I understood that, I guess I understood that going in. We're going to be about building New York up. I'm not going to be dragged down in the mud with them.


WOODRUFF: Hillary Clinton rival Rick Lazio suggests the White House may have a hand in the federal investigation he is facing.

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

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Bernie is on assignment. Al Gore says he does not want the American people to think he has anything to hide about his fund-raising tactics during the 1996 campaign. So today, he ordered the release of the full transcript of his interview with a federal prosecutor who has recommended that Gore be investigated by a special counsel.

We begin our coverage of the legal and political angles of this story with our justice correspondent Pierre Thomas.

Pierre, you've been going over the 150-page transcript. What have you learned?

PIERRE THOMAS, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Judy, Robert Conrad, head of the Justice Department's campaign task force, wants to know whether Vice President Gore told the truth about fund-raising activities in the 1996 campaign.

According to sources, part of Conrad's concerns stem from Gore's visit to the Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple. Today Gore released transcripts of 1998 interview with Conrad to prove he's done nothing wrong. "The very fact that members of a finance-related event were present at the event was the only connection that I had to the possibility that it was finance-related. But I did not know that it was a fund raiser. And I do not to this day know that it was a fund raiser."

Conrad asked Gore what he meant when he referred to the Hsi Lai Temple as, quote, "finance related."

Gore: There were people associated with the DNC finance operation who were present at the event, and that there was an implicit assumption that the time spent, the honors shown, the communication that took place, all would create a warmer, friendlier relationship, a sense of closeness that would greatly enhance the likelihood that later on some of those would be more likely to say, I want to be a part of what this person is doing politically and I want this, in person, doing politically what I can to support the DNC.

Gore emphasized that he did not see the terms "fund raiser" and "finance-related events" as synonymous. Now Attorney General Janet Reno finds herself in a familiar position -- on the hot seat.


(voice-over): At her weekly press briefing, Reno declined to specifically discuss Gore, but she made clear her investigative mandate.

JANET RENO, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Make the best decision I can. Make it free of pressure from anybody so that at least the American people can understand that the decision was made in the best manner I could and not by other people dictating or pressuring me into making a decision.

THOMAS: Reno has rejected calls for outside investigations of the Clinton/Gore 1996 campaign before, despite the urgings of senior aides, including FBI director Louis Freeh and the former head of the Campaign Task Force, Charles LaBella. She's always maintained there was not enough evidence to warrant further investigation. LaBella says new Campaign Task Force head Robert Conrad can expect some difficult days ahead.

CHARLES LABELLA, FMR. JUSTICE DEPT. INVESTIGATOR: I am sure that he is under the gun. I am sure he's feeling fairly radioactive. I am sure he's feeling that he's isolated, because that's what they do to you. They are probably saying to themselves, we're going to show this guy what team play is all about, and I think that's what happening, and I feel sorry for him. I've been through it. I know how lonely it can get.

THOMAS: But LaBella says the bottom line is still the same.

LABELLA: This needs to be investigated. It warrants and investigation, and someone independent, outside the Department of Justice, should be tasked with investigating it fully. That's it.

THOMAS: Sources tell CNN there is a fierce debate within the Justice Department about Conrad's recommendation. On one side, some officials say there is essentially nothing new. Others agree the Justice Department has as conflict of interest in probing Gore.


THOMAS: What everyone seems to agree on is that this is a reoccurring nightmare -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And just quickly, Pierre, how would the decision to appoint a special prosecutor here be different from what might have happened when there was independent counsel law in effect.

THOMAS: The primary difference is Reno would go to a three-judge panel to request an independent counsel. In this particular case, she will consult her staff and then make the decision on her own.

WOODRUFF: All right, Pierre Thomas, our Justice correspondent. Thanks very much.

And now to the vice president's comments and his attempt to limit any political fallout, as his past fund-raising past is scrutinized again.

Our John King traveled with Gore to California today.


JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The vice president insists he did nothing wrong and that he has nothing to hide.

GORE: I think the truth is my friend in this. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and then you can judge it for yourselves.

KING: Gore's damage-control strategy included ordering his lawyers to release the full transcript of his April interview with Justice Department prosecutors, as well as memos and other documents he says show he cooperated fully. The vice president said it wasn't his place to tell the attorney general what to do, but top campaign and legal advisers voiced confidence she would reject the recommendation to launch a new investigation.

GORE: I have admitted that I have made mistakes in fund-raising, but I want the American people to know I have always told the truth about this matter.

KING: The Gore legal defense is led by Nashville attorney James Neal. Sources tell CNN he is considering filing another brief with the Justice Department making Gore's case against naming a special counsel. And the vice president's political team is reaching out to veterans of past administration damage control efforts for help. This group includes former Clinton White House lawyers Lanny Breuer and Lanny Davis, and Washington attorneys Richard Ben Veniste and Michael Zeldin.

ED GILLESPIE, BUSH CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I don't understand, frankly, what is new here.

KING: The vice president's strategy mirrors the approach President Clinton used time and again to defend himself against scandal allegations, but some Republicans say it's still a risk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, if he releases 150 pages, people will pore over it. Maybe he seems to think that he'll be vindicated by that, and maybe he will, but maybe it will raise more questions than it answers.

KING: And the questions come as Gore struggles to get his campaign in order. He trails Governor Bush in national polls, recently shook up his top campaign staff again, and just recently tried to refocus his public message on economic issues.

PETER HART, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: It's a negative impact, because it takes Al Gore back into the Clinton administration and talking about the past. Al Gore need to be talking about a Gore administration and the future. It hurts him.


KING: Now perhaps ironically, the vice president attending a Democratic fund-raiser at this hour in California, due here at this adult education center in a short while to promote a new job training program. Aides knowing they need to counter the new controversy. Already Gore allies pointing out the prosecutor recommending this new investigation is a past contributor to the conservative Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina. On Air Force 2, the vice president raised questions about the timing of all this, saying he wondered why it was coming out in the middle of the presidential election. That's all part of a Gore strategy aimed at convincing voters this is about partisan politics, not about serious wrongdoing by the vice president -- Judy. WOODRUFF: Well, John, in connection with that, is the vice president's campaign providing any evidence that it is campaign or politically related or motivated?

KING: No, and in part because they don't have any, Judy. They're trying to make the case basically based on the fact that Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, the first one talking about this yesterday. They are blaming him for the leaks here. Now today hear from some Gore allies, Democratic loyalists, that Mr. Conrad, the prosecutor, got his job as a prosecuting attorney thanks to Jesse Helms, obviously fierce critic of the investigation.

They have no firm evidence this is at all part of a partisan smear, but this closely follows the playbook the Clinton administration used throughout the Monica Lewinsky scandal, throughout the past fund-raising controversies: Put out all the documents you can, make the documents prove you told the truth, and as people pore through the documents, make a separate political argument that this should all have been ended a long time ago, and that those raising it are political critics.

The strategy is familiar. The question now is whether the vice president is as successful as the president was in convincing the American people that's the case.

WOODRUFF: So, John, if that is the case, and if they've put out the transcript, what's the next thing? What else can they do here?

KING: Well, what they hope for is a very quick decision by the attorney general, hopefully in their view in the next week or two. They are hoping and say they are confident, the attorney general will decide, there's no new evidence, as Pierre Thomas was discussing, and there should be no special counsel. They know if that is the case, they will still face Republican criticism, and Reno will, that this is some kind of a cover-up, some kind of partisan favoritism by the attorney general. They say they could deal with that political controversy. There biggest fear, of course, is that there would be a special counsel investigation, that the vice president would be questioned again, that his top aides and past top aides would be questioned again, and that this controversy would drag on through the Democratic convention and throughout the general election.

WOODRUFF: All right. CNN's John King, thanks very much.

Well, George W. Bush did his part today to try to turn up the heat on Gore after several days of being in the hot seat himself.

CNN's Pat Neal is with the Bush campaign in Alabama.


PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George W. Bush's campaign got a lucky break Friday, as the controversy over Thursday night's execution of Gary Graham in Texas was overshadowed by the vice president's latest fund-raising troubles. BUSH: This decision is going to be made by an attorney general appointed by the president, who has put in place people -- the people that are looking at this issue. My attitude about this is if America is tired of scandals and investigations, let's elect somebody different, other than the Clinton-Gore administration -- people from the Clinton-Gore administration.

NEAL: Bush came brandishing a new line of attack on the vice president, turning Gore's own words against him on the topic of soaring gasoline prices.

BUSH: He writes in a book that he thinks we ought to have higher fuel prices. And now that he is running for politics -- running for president -- and there's higher fuel prices, he seems to be changing his tune.

NEAL: Bush was referring to Gore's 1992 best seller, "Earth in the Balance," where Gore suggested raising taxes on fossil fuels might be one way to reduce overconsumption.

But the issue of rising oil prices is a sensitive one for Bush, too. The industry continues to make big profits, and Bush, a former oilman and governor of a huge oil-producing state, has received numerous donations from industry executives.

BUSH: But I receive a lot more support from people who drive cars who rely upon, you know, who want to see the price of gasoline down. And this is typical of an administration that refuses to accept responsibility. It's amazing. They have been in office for seven years. The price of gasoline has gone up during their period of time.

NEAL: The governor came to this Alabama publishing company to push his plan to let Americans invest a small portion of their Social Security taxes in the stock market. And he slammed Gore's retirement savings plan as out of reach for many Americans. Under Gore's plan, people would be required to save money on top of their Social Security taxes in order to be eligible for a government match.

BUSH: Some workers, like these two ladies up here, can't afford to make a contribution. I can -- these are people doing the hardest job in America. And where does he think the money is going to come from for them to contribute?


NEAL: Throughout the campaign, George Bush has made trust a central theme. And recent polls show that Americans find Bush more trustworthy than Al Gore. Bush hopes the vice president's latest problems only widen that gap -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All Right. CNN's Pat Neal with the Bush campaign. Thank you, Pat.

And we are joined now by E.J. Dionne of the "Washington Post" and Bill Kristol of "The Weekly Standard."

Thank you both for being with us.

So much to start at -- I don't know where to begin. Let's talk about the vice president. Bill Kristol, what do these transcripts tell us, as much as we're able to see them in the last 30 minutes that they've been out?

WILLIAM KRISTOL, "WEEKLY STANDARD": I think the details of the transcripts matter less than the fact that we now have four attorneys in the Clinton Justice Department, ranging from the FBI director down through career attorneys who have recommended an independent counsel or a special counsel to investigate Vice President Gore, and particularly to investigate his truthfulness. Trustworthiness is an issue in this campaign. This certainly can't help the vice president.


E.J. DIONNE, "WASHINGTON POST": I think distraction, by name, is the Gore campaign. Last week they were rolling out their prosperity tour and -- prosperity and progress tour. They get buried under a new campaign manager this week. They have two things going for them: his new retirement proposal, and then George Bush has to answer all these questions on the death penalty. And bang, this story hits the news yesterday.

I think that John King is exactly right in what he said before: that the strategy Gore is using is just like the Clinton administration strategy. Mark Fabiani, who worked for the Clinton administration has moved over to the Gore campaign. Bury people under documents, and hope that there's nothing in those documents that implicates you.

WOODRUFF: When the...

KRISTOL: I think Bush has an opportunity here, and this is the opportunity. He needs to pick up the phone right now and privately call John McCain and say: you know what? You should be my vice president. It's the obvious and logical ticket. And the best way to exploit Gore's ethical problems, Gore's campaign finance problems, is to get John McCain on the ticket.

Now it's going to take some private fence mending for that to happen. But if Bush begins today and spends the next month working quietly with McCain, it could happen. And I do think that would really bring this home. To have a Bush-McCain ticket going after Al Gore, would really make a big difference.

WOODRUFF: Maybe the governor is listening right now.

DIONNE: This is an opening for Bill Kristol's McCain-for-vice- president campaign. What's interesting about that is I was told by somebody close to McCain this week that he doesn't want to be considered. He wants to be asked. He doesn't want to be put on a list. The only way Bill's scenario would ever come to pass is just to go straight to McCain and say, "I want you."

WOODRUFF: E.J., what about the Gore strategy of -- or comment that this is politically motivated, that's it's coming out four months before the election, that these are people who have given money to Jesse Helms and otherwise have conservative connections?

DIONNE: Well, I don't know about this particular gentleman at the Justice Department. We'll have to see if that's true. What we do know is the story hit the papers because Senator Specter yesterday said that this recommendation had been named. That does give the Gore people an opening to say, you know, whenever something is going our way in the campaign, some -- the Buddhist temple story miraculously reappears.

It doesn't mean that Gore doesn't have a problem with this. And I think what was smart about the move to put out all these transcripts is they've got to kill this story at some point. And they've got Janet Reno, they have to hope, is going to say at some point -- is going to go out there, hold a news conference, say I made a decision. And Gore obviously hopes it's a decision not to name a special counsel.

I think she got very wary of special counsels in the course of this administration, especially after the Bruce Babbitt case and the Mike Espy case. And I think she's been reluctant ever since. But she's got to go out there, make a decision and defend it, and then he's got to pray this thing is over.

WOODRUFF: Bill Kristol, yesterday we were talking about the death penalty and Governor Bush. Has that just gone away altogether?

KRISTOL: No. I don't believe the death penalty was hurting Governor Bush. I think most Americans are with him in being in favor of the death penalty. And I though he made a strong statement last night. And I think the media has ginned up this issue. Al Gore, of course, has been quiet on it, since he's allegedly for the death penalty.

No, the issue hasn't gone away. There'll be one execution a week, apparently, for the rest of the campaign in Texas. And, you know, they had a very high crime rate 20 years ago, and now they are finally getting around to giving these murderers their due. So I don't think it hurts Governor Bush.

WOODRUFF: Do you agree?

DIONNE: No. I think that this has not become an issue because of the media. It became an issue because of Governor Ryan, Republican governor of Illinois, who earlier this year called a moratorium on executions. He said: Look, there are people who are being executed who didn't have fair trials and might, in some cases, be innocent.

I think the real lesson of this week is how different the world is on the death penalty compared to eight years ago. Eight years ago, Bill Clinton presided over the execution of a man who was mentally retarded or partially mentally retarded. And all of the pressure was, he's got to show he's tough by executing this guy who probably shouldn't have been executed. Now the questions are being raised of Governor Bush, not by -- necessarily by people who are against the death penalty. I do agree with Bill, that politically that's still a popular position. But by people saying, how was justice administered in Texas and is the death penalty such a good idea? I think the low crime rate allows people to take a second look at the death penalty.

WOODRUFF: Last quick question, Bill Kristol, on gas prices. We heard Governor Bush going after Al Gore holding up the book. Is this going to work for the governor to do this?

KRISTOL: It think it could in the Midwest. Al Gore is on record as basically saying higher gas prices is a good thing and it is his Environmental Protection Agency that has partly, I think, driven this increase in gas prices in the Midwest. It'll hurt Gore marginally.

DIONNE: It's Al Gore's book versus oil company contributions to George Bush, and I think that it'll be a wash.

WOODRUFF: All right. E.J. Dionne, Bill Kristol, gentlemen, thank you both.

KRISTOL: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: And just ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, Bill Schneider on a serious issue that merits a political "Play of the Week."


WOODRUFF: With the state of Texas scheduled to execute more than a dozen inmates between now and November, George W. Bush could continue to face questions about the death penalty. More now on the politics of this issue with our own Bill Schneider -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, the death penalty is now an issue in the presidential campaign. How did it get there? Neither Al Gore nor George W. Bush wants to make it an issue. Well, it happened because troubling questions began to emerge about death penalty procedures. Death penalty critics saw those questions as a political opportunity, and seized it, and made it the political "Play of the Week."


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Troubling questions about the death penalty emerged most dramatically in Illinois this year, where DNA evidence showed that miscarriages of justice were not uncommon.

GOV. GEORGE RYAN (R), ILLINOIS: Those are blatant errors that shouldn't happen. We have now freed more people than we have put to death under our system.

SCHNEIDER: Questions of fairness were also raised from all sides of the political spectrum.

PAT ROBERTSON, PRESIDENT, CHRISTIAN COALITION: What's happened is an unequal application of justice that weighs heavily on minorities, African-Americans particularly.

SCHNEIDER: Those kinds of questions came sharply into focus in the Gary Graham case this week in Texas, mostly because the condemned man chose to raise them.

LLOYD GITE, KRIV, HOUSTON: He said this is genocide in America. He also said this is what happens to black men.

SCHNEIDER: Death penalty opponents seized the opportunity...

REV. JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: It was the action of Governor Bush and the silence of Al Gore that is our challenge tonight.

SCHNEIDER: ... while death penalty supporters were forced to defend the system.

JOHN CORNYN, ATTORNEY GENERAL, TEXAS: His claims have been reviewed over and over again during those 19 years since he was convicted of killing Bobby Lambert. All of his claims have been found to be without merit.

SCHNEIDER: The Graham case put both presidential candidates on the spot. Opponents used the case to challenge Bush's compassion.

MARTIN LUTHER KING III: He claims to be a compassionate conservative, but where was the compassion in this case?

SCHNEIDER: But Bush used it to demonstrate his consistency.

BUSH: And the reason I support the death penalty is because I believe it saves lives. That's why I support it.

SCHNEIDER: Meanwhile, Gore tried to keep his distance.

GORE: I support the death penalty. I have not tried to involve myself in the specifics of cases in the criminal justice system.

SCHNEIDER: Gary Graham turned his execution into a political statement, a statement that was certainly open to challenge.

REV. ALBERT MOHLER, PRESIDENT, SOUTHERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: The issue here is not a blood-lust of a society seeking to make its point. It's about the demands of justice.

SCHNEIDER: The death penalty debate has been forced onto the campaign agenda over the resistance of the candidates. Death penalty opponents, including a condemned murderer, saw their opportunity and took it, and made it the "Political Play of the Week."


SCHNEIDER: Even the American public has been forced to rethink this issue. For the majority of Americans, the issue is not whether the death penalty should be available, it's whether the procedures are fair and the safeguards are adequate. WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

And still ahead on this edition on INSIDE POLITICS:


LAZIO: No, I am totally comfortable with everything that I have done.


WOODRUFF: The New York Senate hopefuls and the investigations: a look at the questions raised and the current state of the campaign.

Also, the states and their electoral outcomes: Bob Novak on which states make a winning combination.

And later:


BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Clinton administration many students grew up with is widely seen as diminished by scandal. This summer's political conventions as utterly pre-scripted. So what's a politician to do?


WOODRUFF: Bill Delaney takes a closer look at America's disinterested youth.


WOODRUFF: We'll have more of this day's political news coming up, but now a look at a breaking story. Six-year-old Elian Gonzalez is another step closer to returning home to Cuba. A decision this afternoon by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals dealt another blow, legal blow to the boy's Miami relatives.

CNN's national correspondent Bob Franken fill us in -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they could very well be making travel plans here in the estate where Elian Gonzalez, his father Juan Miguel Gonzalez and his entourage from Cuba, has been staying, waiting for the legal traps to all be run here in the United States so he can return to Cuba. We're told that he absolutely wants to return to Cuba and has gotten quite impatient.

Of course, now the day to watch is next Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. That is what the Appeals Court said, as the end of its injunction, would have refused to rehear the case, which would allow Gonzalez to leave back for Cuba. Now the only possibility is the Supreme Court. We're waiting for a news conference by the relatives in Miami to tell us what their next appeal step is going to be. They've already said they do plan to go to the Supreme Court. It's a matter of timing.

Meanwhile, the lawyer for Juan Miguel Gonzalez and the family are starting to prepare to make some travel plans.


GREGORY CRAIG, JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ'S ATTORNEY: Juan Miguel is grateful that the 11th Circuit has denied the petition for rehearing and has lifted all stays and all injunctions as of Wednesday afternoon of next week.


FRANKEN: The case, of course, happened in the middle of winter -- actually in November, before winter officially started. We're now in the heat of summer. They're making their plans. They are going to have meetings over the weekend to try and decide what they will do once all the injunctions run out and Gonzalez can return to Cuba -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, CNN's Bob Franken here in Washington. And as Bob was just saying, the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez are expected to hold a news conference literally any moment now. When they do, CNN will bring it to you live.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns, an investigation of the New York Senate race. Will probes of Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio affect their contest?


WOODRUFF: In the New York Senate race, Republican Rick Lazio said today he is cooperating with a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of his options trading in 1997. Lazio earned a quick profit of almost 600 percent after purchasing options in a firm headed by his political supporters. He denies any wrongdoing.

Lazio defended his integrity by quoting his wife:


REP. RICK LAZIO (R-NY), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: He's just terrific. Because she said, listen, you know what? We are honest, decent people. I clean my own house. We work hard. We have nothing to be ashamed of. If they're trying to drag you down to the mug, don't let them do it.


WOODRUFF: Lazio and his campaign are suggesting the Clinton administration may have had a hand in launching the SEC investigation in an effort to help his rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Meantime, the first lady's campaign says that an independent counsel report on the White House travel office flap is unlikely to affect her Senate bid one way or another.

Yesterday, independent counsel Robert Ray said that he found evidence that Mrs. Clinton did have a role in the 1993 firings of the travel office employees. But, he said, there was insufficient evidence to prove her denials of involvement were, quote, "knowingly false." In an interview with CNN, Ray refused to say that Mrs. Clinton had been exonerated.


ROBERT RAY, INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: I'm not in the business of exonerating individuals. I am not passing judgment, I am not criticizing, I am not condemning anyone. My job as a prosecutor is to make an evaluation based upon the evidence of whether I have a case. And the answer is, I do not have a case. And once -- having made that judgment, I have an obligation -- I feel I have an obligation to inform the country, and that's what we have done today.


WOODRUFF: All right, now let's discuss this investigative angle of the New York Senate race and more with Tish Durkin of "The New York Observer."

Tish Durkin, now that Robert Ray is out there saying that Mrs. Clinton is not exonerated but, where does this leave her position in this race?

TISH DURKIN, "NEW YORK OBSERVER": I actually tend to agree with those who say that unless we find out something that is not currently apparent, that it probably won't make much of a difference one way or the other. I mean, basically, I think at this point her campaign will say with some resonance that, look, if you can't indict her after this length of time, let's move on.

I also think, though, that that same line of reasoning complicates any attack that the Democrats may make against Congressman Lazio based on the SEC investigation that you've mentioned, because it's difficult to say on behalf on one's own candidate, look, unless and until you can make a legal case against her, it's not relevant to her electability, while at the same time raising questions about the congressman.

WOODRUFF: So you're saying even though the Ray report indicates, quote, "that there was substantial evidence that the first lady played a role in these firings," that it's not going to matter to the voters?

DURKIN: I think it will matter to voters to whom -- for whom it's already a problem. I think that if you already -- if the Clinton's do not seem shady to you now, they will not seem shady to you as a result of this report.

I think that Mrs. Clinton is going to, you know, she has been suffering and will continue to suffer from a very substantial anti- Hillary vote that now has her in a dead heat with a Republican in a state that has got 2 million more Democrats than Republicans. But it's hard for me to see how that is going to be exacerbated by this report.

WOODRUFF: And in your mind, Tish Durkin, voters are not going to make much of a distinction between these kind of charges against Mrs. Clinton and on the other hand this charge against Congressman Lazio that he may have profited using insider information.

DURKIN: Look, make no mistake about it, these revelations are bad for the congressman on their face for the simple reason that they muddy the key contrast that he'd like to make between the shady, untrustworthy first lady from out of state and this sort of Eagle Scout son of Long Island. So in that sense, of course it's not good news for him. I don't want to downplay it too much.

But I do think that where the first lady this week has done some negative campaigning that will absolutely fire in terms of some issues, she's very effectively attacked the congressman for missing a home heating oil vote just last week, and so on and so forth.

I think that this is the type of negative campaigning, anti -- you know, the scandal-type of stuff that in the case of Mrs. Clinton could really misfire. And that's -- because in bringing up these allegations against the congressman, voters automatically will be reminded of what perhaps they don't like about her.

WOODRUFF: When you step back, Tish Durkin, and you look at this race as a whole, what do you see?

DURKIN: Oh, it's amazing to me that they are virtually tied in every single poll. I mean, this congressman was completely unknown just -- almost completely unknown within the past couple of weeks, so obviously there is a tremendous anti-Hillary vote out there, and Mrs. Clinton has got to, therefore, focus on a very specific and relatively small number of what would be characterized as swing voters and give them an affirmative reason why they've got to vote for her.

And I will say that in the past week or two, albeit under the rubric of what might be considered negative campaigning, she's started to do that. She released an ad recently where Mayor Koch had a very good line which -- former Mayor Koch, I should say, had a very good line, in which he said, you know, I like Rick Lazio, but I'm not going to vote for him because, you know, I disagree with him on too many issues.

As I mentioned, the congressman missed a vote recently, which kind of strikes at his own rationale, which is that he's -- allows her to make the argument that, look, I'm from out of state, but if you give me this job I might show up and do it on an issue as key as home heating oil.

So I think those types of things are the things that she may focus on to really good effect. I think that anything that's scandalous about her opponent will hurt him. And it's certainly not a plus, but it may be best to leave it to the media to dredge that up and not let the Democrats -- the Democrats ought not to give themselves a pot-calling-the-kettle-black problem.

WOODRUFF: All right, Tish Durkin, "New York Observer," with a take on the New York Senate race as of June 24th, I think it is.

Thanks a lot. We appreciate it.

DURKIN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Coming up next, Bob Novak's electoral college forecast.

Plus, a look at Pat Buchanan's efforts to win the support of American Muslims.


WOODRUFF: Bob Novak of "The Chicago Sun-Times" is issuing an updated state-by-state forecasts of the presidential race. Breaking news prevented us from getting to Bob's report yesterday. But I talked with him this afternoon, and I began by asking just how tight this presidential race is.


ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": It's still a very close race, Judy. The "Evans-Novak Political Report," did our last one three months ago, when we found it, just by coincidence, dead even. Now we find if the election were held today that Governor Bush would win by 58 electoral votes, but that's not really very many.

If you look at support of Vice President Gore, he has California, he's got the Northeast, and he's got some key states in that Midwestern industrial complex: Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan and Iowa. On the other hand, if you look at Governor Bush's strength, he's got the whole Great Plains. He's got the Western states, also got one Pacific Coast state, the state of Washington, and we give him Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin, in the Midwestern, and he's got the entire South, except for Tennessee and Arkansas, the homes of Al Gore and Bill Clinton. So it's a -- 58 votes is a very small margin in electoral votes. Much closer in electoral votes than it is in the popular votes according to the polls.

WOODRUFF: And closer than it looks from looking at that map.

Bob, even so, we are four and a half months out, how hard is the support that's out there right now for Governor Bush and for Vice President Gore?

NOVAK: That's very hard to tell. But what I think is interesting from our map, Judy, is that a lot of people have felt that losing California and New York, that Governor Bush will have to win three of those critical four internal states, and that's Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois. I think that that isn't quite true. We still have him 58 ahead, and we have him losing Michigan, where we had him ahead before, and also losing Illinois, partly because of Bill Daley as campaign chairman. These margins are very small, however, in all of these states, and the electoral votes could swing in a different direction.

WOODRUFF: Because of that, could a Pat Buchanan or a Ralph Nader make a difference in some of these states? NOVAK: They really could, in some of those states, if they ever got their campaigns going. Their campaigns are -- Pat's campaign is really quite comatose, and Nader's isn't much better. That's why they want to get into the debates, so they can get something going. But it doesn't take much to change the he margins in these states, and let me repeat that, you know, I don't believe anybody is going to catch Al Gore in New York or California, and certainly nobody is going to catch George Bush in Florida or Texas. But these Midwestern states, if you had a surge by either Gore -- I am sorry, either Nader or Buchanan, any one of them, they could swing the election one way or the other in those states. A lot of people still don't understand that we do operate on electoral votes, and that's what makes forecasting presidential elections, close presidential elections, very tricky.

WOODRUFF: I have a feeling that the Gore and the Bush people are listening to you very closely.

NOVAK: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Bob Novak, thanks very much.


WOODRUFF: The outcome of the November election will indeed hinge on a number of possible factors, among them, the support of a key voter group: American Muslims. Today, Reform Party hopeful Pat Buchanan reached out to the American Muslim council here in Washington.

Our Jeanne Meserve takes a look at the politics and the potential clout of these voters.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are more than six million Muslims in the U.S., and their religion is one of the fastest growing in the country. So guess what? Politicians are coming courting. On Friday, presidential candidate Pat Buchanan addressed the American Muslim Council.

PAT BUCHANAN (REF.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE Islamic influence is on the rise, and I believe the influence of your community in this country is positive. It is beneficial.

MESERVE: Bill Bradley paid them their due during the primary season, as did every other presidential hopeful. It's a far cry from 1988 when fear of Jewish backlash lead Democrat Michael Dukakis to decline the endorsement of Arab-American leaders.

JAMES ZOGBY, ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE: When I look back 20 years ago to see where we were, see where we were at 10, and look at where we are today, the transformation is unbelievable.

MESERVE: That transformation is still very much under way. This election season, Muslim organizations are mounting a massive voter education and voter registration drive. ALY ABUZAAKOUK, AMERICAN MUSLIM COUNCIL: We told our community that if you are voteless, you are weightless in society.

MESERVE: The Muslim community is an extraordinarily diverse one with roots in more than 60 nations, but its members have a common viewpoint on issues surrounding peace in the Middle East. They also favor the lifting of sanctions against Iraq, they have immigration concerns and have fought to end discrimination against Muslims.

REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: If the Muslim community in America is persistent and tenacious, it will win, and that's what this is all about.

MESERVE (on camera): With large numbers of Muslim voters wedded to neither political party and with large numbers of them in critical battleground states, like Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and New York, they could be key players in this election, and they like it that.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: And when we return, politics and college students, a rare combination? A look at the latest study on the disconnect of young voters.


WOODRUFF: George W. Bush and Al Gor may be in a close race for the presidency, but both candidates and their political colleagues are losing the attention of younger voters.

Our Bill Delaney reports now on two students with an inside view of the lack of political interest of their generation.


DELANEY (voice-over): In Harvard Yard, that younger generation, you may have heard is only interested in money. Here, though, everybody's in training to be an unpaid camp counselor, volunteering their time to do good works, as do fully three out of five students college students, according to a new national survey. What 90 percent of students are not interested spending time on: politics.

(on camera): College students are disillusioned, distrustful, often downright disgusted about politics according to a new study conducted here at Harvard by the Institute of Politics. Eighty-five percent of students say they prefer community activism to political engagement. Less than 10 percent of students say they have taken part or plan to take part in a political campaign this year.

Harvard undergraduates Erin Ashwell and Trevor Dryer spearheaded the national survey.

ERIN ASHWELL, HARVARD STUDENT: We're interested in making positive change in our community, in our nation. The problem is that we just don't see politics as a way to do that.

Overwhelmingly, students in the survey told us that they see politicians and politics as something that's self-serving, and they're turning away from that.

DELANEY: What concerns the young, education, the environment, our violent culture, the authors of the study say just aren't what politicians seem concerned about.

TREVOR DRYER, HARVARD STUDENT: You have the same old rhetoric you hear time and time again. There's a lot of talk about Social Security and Medicare, and, you know, young people don't think they're ever going to die, let alone be retired sometime.

DELANEY: Let alone expend time now to gradually pave a way to political power.

DRYER: Technology has provided a lot of people in college, or young people in general, the chance to, you know, go out and start on their own, start creative projects, start a Web business, you know, manage a hedge fund, things like that where...

DELANEY: So much for ringing doorbells.

DRYER: They see more results when they go, you know, for example, to a soup kitchen, or they tutor. They see the actual difference that they're making in the community.

DELANEY: The Clinton administration many students grew up with is widely seen as diminished by scandal, this summer's political conventions as utterly pre-scripted. So what's a politician to do? The grown-up pollster who helped the students says politicians need to inspire.

JOHN DELLA VOLPE, POLLSTER: And show people that it can be fun. And that -- what motivates people, young people to get involved in things? You know, 94 percent are motivated by enjoyment of the activity, and seven percent said that politics was fun.

DELANEY: Making politics fun, wouldn't that throw an awful lot of candidates off-message?

Bill Delaney, CNN, Cambridge, Massachusetts.


WOODRUFF: Maybe, maybe not. Well, that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.



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