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Bush Reaches Out to NAACP; Gore Takes Aim at a Do-Nothing Congress; Have Once-Pivotal Political Conventions Lost Their Luster?Aired July 10, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is no escaping the reality that the party of Lincoln has not always carried the mantle of Lincoln.
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JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush reaches out, but can he convince NAACP members that the GOP is the party for them?
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AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let Governor Bush pick up the phone, call the leaders of his own party and ask them to pass legislation instead of blocking legislation.
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BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore takes aim and raises the specter of a do-nothing Congress.
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HOWARD KURTZ, CNN MEDIA ANALYST (voice-over): Al Gore and George W. Bush are both hoping for some convention magic this year. But what if many Americans never see the conventions?
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WOODRUFF: Howard Kurtz on why Americans will have to turn to cable if they tune in at all.
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff.
SHAW: Thank you for joining us.
George W. Bush is selling himself again to groups outside the Republican coalition. After recent speeches to two Hispanic organizations, Bush appeared today before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Four years ago, the group got the cold shoulder treatment from Republican Bob Dole. Bush is trying to show he's different.
CNN's Chris Black followed the Bush campaign to Baltimore.
CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George W. Bush wasted no time in pointing out how unusual it was for a Republican candidate to be at the NAACP convention.
BUSH: While some in my party have avoided the NAACP and while some in the NAACP have avoided my party...
... I'm proud to be here.
BLACK: The last Republican presidential nominee skipped the NAACP, complaining it was a setup for a Republican candidate because of the Democratic party's strong ties to the black community. But Bush sought out the opportunity to say 140 years after the Civil War racism still exists in America.
BUSH: For our nation there is no denying the truth that slavery is a blight on our history and that racism despite all the progress still exists today. For my party there is no escaping the reality that the party of Lincoln has not always carried the mantle of Lincoln.
BLACK: But Governor Bush could not dodge his recent history. Four demonstrators, protesting the execution of Gary Graham, a black inmate in Texas, disrupted his entry to the hall.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remember Gary Graham!
BLACK: And a Democratic National Committee press conference featured Texans attacking his record as governor.
REP. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON (D), TEXAS: Governor Bush is proving that his talk of compassion is simply that: talk.
BLACK: The NAACP convention is the final stop of two weeks of appearances before prominent organizations of African-Americans and Hispanics, all traditional Democratic stops and all aimed at presenting Bush as more receptive to the needs and aspirations of minority groups than the typical Republican.
BUSH: And for those of you who support me -- I see a couple here...
Maybe more than a couple. BLACK: But the president of the NAACP said Bush has to offer black voters more than rhetoric to win their votes.
KWEISI MFUME, PRESIDENT, NAACP: His task is to say who he is. His task is to lay out a plan. His task is to go on the record in a well-defined way in terms of what he will do and not what he believes in so much.
BLACK: Bush recycled his proposals for widening the path to the middle class for African-Americans but offered little else to this crowd beyond a commitment that President Bush will enforce existing civil rights laws -- Bernie.
SHAW: Chris, in terms of votes November 7th on election day, by appearing before this group today, in an optimum sense, what is it Bush hopes to accomplish?
BLACK: Well, at the optimum sense, Bernie, he -- in an ideal world he would hope to get a lot of black votes on election day. But frankly, the strategy of the Bush campaign is not only for black Americans but also women, a big Democratic constituency, is to minimize the losses, is to basically hold his own, to cut in a little bit so in a close race it could be the winning difference.
SHAW: OK, thank you, Chris Black in Baltimore -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Now onto the Gore campaign and its growing reliance on populist themes. Last week, the vice president promised to stand with the people against the drug-makers and the oil industry. Today, he launched an attack against the Republican Congress, which he accused of siding with powerful special interests. Gore's intended audience: working families.
CNN's Bill Delaney was with Gore in New Britain, Connecticut.
BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With a new tact, Vice President Al Gore set sail on a several-state campaign swing. At Central Connecticut State University, coloring in the latest shading of his campaign, with its latest populist motto, "the people, not the powerful."
GORE: Here is the reality: The Republican leadership in this Congress, instead of taking bipartisan action for prosperity -- for prosperity and progress, which is possible, instead, they have chosen a different course. Their course: Do nothing for people, pass nothing that offends the special interests, serve the powerful, not the people.
I say to you today that must change, and it must change before the election.
(APPLAUSE) DELANEY: The vice president said the Republican Congress either blocked or stalled a patients' bill of rights, a prescription drug benefit, raising the minimum wage, closing the gun show loophole, among other legislation.
GORE: Let's face it: Never has so little been done in so much time to benefit so few. This is the do-nothing Congress of the 21st century.
DELANEY: And Gore said the governor of Texas could change that.
GORE: Let Governor Bush speak up on prescription drugs, on a patients' bill of rights, on raising the minimum wage, on 100,000 new teachers for our schools. Let Governor Bush pick up the phone, call the leaders of his own party, and ask them to pass legislation instead of blocking legislation.
DELANEY: The alleged cloud of a call from Governor Bush derided by the Texas governor's camp, which said the vice president was just acknowledging his own lack of clout around Washington.
(on camera): What links Gore's last theme, progress and prosperity, with his latest, the people not the powerful, isn't immediately clear, beside that seeming tendency to alliterate the letter "p." This continues to be a restless campaign, not so much of mixed messages as many messages.
(voice-over): Gore continues to shift his emphasis. The danger: that it can all get hard to follow. And the vice president remains a candidate lagging in polls and in need of followers.
Bill Delaney, CNN, New Britain, Connecticut.
SHAW: The presidential race is dominating talk among the nation's governors. The National Governors Association is meeting this week with some of its members high on the lists of potential running mates.
CNN's Gary Tuchman has the story from the town of State College in Pennsylvania.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The governor of the state that offers the richest electoral prize has been mentioned as a possible presidential running mate for Al Gore. But Gray Davis is now saying...
GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: I intend to keep my commitment to the people of California and serve for four years.
However, the popular Democrat, whose term as California governor is up in 2003, says he doesn't want to use the words "I rule it out," because he hasn't been offered the position. Nevertheless... DAVIS: Please interpret that as a negative response: I'm not leaving any weasel room.
TUCHMAN: So Gray Davis is all but out. But here at the National Governors Association summer conference in State College, Pennsylvania, others who are being considered say they'd be happy to be in, like the governor Gray Davis is talking to here, Iowa's Tom Vilsack.
(on camera): So if he asked you to be his vice presidential nominee, would you accept?
GOV. TOM VILSACK (D), IOWA: Well -- yes, I would. Of course I would. But the reality is that they're an awful lot of really qualified people in this -- in this party.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): The leader of that party, who's attended quite a few of these meetings in his day as a governor, spoke at the gathering Monday afternoon, praising governors of both parties.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Across all of our partisan differences, you have never stopped supporting as a body bringing back common-sense notions of fiscal discipline to Washington. By cutting the deficit, expanding trade and investing in our people, we've got the longest economic expansion in history.
TUCHMAN: For their part, the Republican governors have also been dealing with the vice presidential question. The event's host, Pennsylvania's governor, Tom Ridge, is one of the most prominently mentioned names. The first-term GOP governor says the job would be an attractive and very appealing opportunity. But...
GOV. TOM RIDGE (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I just think that any public comment as to any discussions with any prospective nominee should come from Governor Bush rather than any wannabe, hope-to-be, might-have- been, would-have-been, that crowd.
TUCHMAN (on camera): Some of the governors being considered for the No. 2 slots are having fun with it. Others prefer to say little if nothing at all. All of them are trying to be appropriately modest about the honor of even being considered.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, State College, Pennsylvania.
WOODRUFF: Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, running mates aside, could Al Gore be upstaged by another member of his party?
And is George W. Bush's appeal to minorities working? We will talk about both issues with Beth Fouhy and John Harris.
WOODRUFF: Joining us now, John Harris of "The Washington Post." He joins us from the "Post"'s newsroom, and Beth Fouhy, executive producer of CNN's political unit.
Thank you, both for being here.
Beth, let me start with you. Today we know Al Gore is out on the campaign trail, appealing, in his words, to working families in clearly a populist approach. Why is he doing this?
BETH FOUHY, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, CNN POLITICAL UNIT: Well, he's been doing it now for a couple weeks, Judy, and they obviously feel like they're getting some traction on it. What I think is funny is he's doing the Harry Truman do-nothing Congress line this week. Last week, it was drug companies, the week before it was oil companies.
He's finding things to hook on to and do an us-against-them, sort of David and Goliath move, which he thinks is really working for him evidently. They were planning to do welfare reform this week. It was going to be a big sort of new Democrat week, sort of to reclaim the center, the Bill Clinton constituency. And they realize, I think, now that what they really need to do is reclaim their base. And reclaiming the base is happening, or at least their internal polling is starting to show that, by him really getting fired up and talking about the different things he would help and protect people from. So they're going to stay with it for a while.
WOODRUFF: John Harris, is this working for Al Gore?
JOHN HARRIS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I would guess that it probably will. It seems possible what Beth said, that the internal polling is improving. I think it's noteworthy the situation they were in, though. If you look a month or so ago, George W. Bush had roughly 95 percent of self-identified Republicans saying yes, they supported him. The figure for Al Gore was considerably lower, something like 70 percent.
There were two problems. He wasn't claiming all of the traditional Democratic base, and a lot of Democratically leaning swing voters also weren't enthusiastic. So clearly it's an effort to energize that base before you go for the nonaligned voters.
WOODRUFF: Is there...
WOODRUFF: Go ahead, Beth.
FOUHY: Well, I was going to say, I mean, a big problem that I think Gore is realizing he has and I'm not sure this new approach is going to help is the issue of leadership. The Republicans and the Bush campaign especially are having a field day by saying this is a guy who's vice president of the United States, and he couldn't make any of these things happen. He's got to call George Bush to get on with his colleagues in the Congress, his Republican colleagues, and make things happen.
They can really jump on this issue of leadership, which is definitely a big deficit for him tonight now. And it's probably the worst deficit he faces. He does not look like a leader to many people in the American public, many voters. I don't know if him suddenly looking like the little guys, the populist, you know, David versus Goliath is necessarily the right thing for him right now.
WOODRUFF: John, you've been talking, obviously, over time to people in the Gore campaign. Is this something that they recognize?
HARRIS: I'm sorry, recognize their weakness among...
WOODRUFF: In terms of looking -- coming across like a leader.
HARRIS: Oh, well they recognize that as the sort of clear challenge of the campaign. That's the one area that Gore has been short on consistently. A lot of that they've attributed to the fact that he's vice president, and all vice presidents to some degree have trouble emerging as plausible leaders, since they've been so -- they're so fixed in the public mind as the No. 2 man.
I think, you know, in addition to that sort of historical fact which burdens Gore, he does have some traits of personality which people don't -- a lot of people don't see him as that of a leader.
WOODRUFF: John, in connection with that, at the Democratic convention -- you wrote about this over the weekend -- some tension in the Gore camp with the perception, anyway, that Hillary Clinton's campaign and she herself wants her to have a main role, a prominent speaking role, Tuesday night. They may not want that. Where does all that stand?
HARRIS: Well, it exaggerates to describe it as a big rift. I don't think it is that because I think fundamentally the Clintons, both President Clinton and Hillary Clinton, are at the end of the day willing to defer to what the Gore campaign wants. They want this to be a good convention for him.
Nonetheless, it is kind of a ticklish thing. Hillary Clinton also sees herself as a leader among national Democrats. Many of her people feel that she's due a prime-time spot on her own, on a separate night from President Clinton. He'll be on Monday. A lot of her people feel she should be on Tuesday. The problem with that is if you do that plan, then it becomes a 50 percent Clinton convention and only the final two days for Gore.
The Gore people really feel to address this problem that we're discussing, this image of him as a leader, this convention has to be a defining event, in other words three solid days of Gore's speakers and Gore's message dominating. So it's a little bit of a juggling act.
WOODRUFF: Beth, let's switch over here real quickly to George W. Bush. Today he speaks before -- spoke before the NAACP. Can this make a difference for him in winning the election, to reach out to minority groups like this?
FOUHY: Well he's been very lucky because he's been so far ahead in the polls for the last couple of months that he's had the latitude to be able to go out and continue this outreach he's been doing right from the beginning to non-traditional constituencies. He's going to be doing that for the next week, week and a half. He's going to be going to welfare centers, he's going to be going to talk to single parents. He's definitely moving into this -- this very comfortable mode of talking to people and reaching out.
Now one could say very easily in a cynical sense that it's a photo-op. There are those who are very happy to say that about him, that he's just doing it to position himself as a centrist and to reach out to suburban voters, women, who have not liked the way that the Republican Party has gone in the past and thought it was too conservative. But I think it's also a very -- it's a real sign of how strong he is, that he doesn't have the shore up the base, as John was saying that Gore has to do. He's got his base, so he can move out. He can at least try to wedge his way into some of these non- traditional constituencies. If he makes any ground there, that can only help him.
WOODRUFF: And, John, to you just quickly. Over the weekend, "The New York Times," a story, an interview with former President Bush and Barbara Bush about their son. An interesting -- in fact, a number of interesting quotes from the two of them. One, the former president saying perhaps his son's success this year having more to do with voters' fickle interest than with any particular accomplishment or achievement on his own part?
HARRIS: Well, I think what he was saying is the Clinton fatigue is a very genuine factor, and that is going to sort of work to his son's benefit.
The point that he seemed to be making is that in some ways historical trends are more important than anything individual candidates say. And that's also obviously one way he's come to terms with own defeat in 1992, that there was something larger going on that he was powerless to overcome.
WOODRUFF: Beth, any thoughts on that very interesting interview?
FOUHY: Yes, I had the same reaction as you did, Judy, that he was really saying, hey, if my son wins it's going to be these forces of history, the fact that people like change. After a term or two of one party, they tend to want the other party.
As John was saying, yes, it's a way for George Bush the president to explain to himself and to others why he lost when he did. But he really is attributing the potential that his son may be president outside of his control, which I thought was fascinating.
WOODRUFF: All right, we'll leave it there. Beth Fouhy, John Harris, thank you both for joining us -- Bernie.
SHAW: There's much more here on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.
Still to come:
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Middle East worries American presidents. But how they do with the Middle East doesn't have much to do with how they do with voters here in the U.S.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAW: Our Bruce Morton looking back on the peace process as another Middle East summit begins.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1992)
GOV. WILLIAM J. CLINTON (D-AR), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I still believe in a place called Hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1988)
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Read my lips: no new taxes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAW: Have the once-pivotal political conventions now lost their luster? A view from Howard Kurtz.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First lady Hillary Clinton, the unanimous choice among delegates to be the party's nominee for the U.S. Senate. Then came Mark McMahon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAW: Frank Buckley on the first lady's primary competition.
WOODRUFF: We'll have more of the day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories:
Mexican authorities are holding one of the FBI's 10 most wanted fugitives. Ajustin Vasquez-Mendoza is accused of masterminding the 1994 death of a DEA agent in Arizona. Justice officials say Vasquez- Mendoza operated a methamphetamine trafficking organization in the U.S. at the time of the agent's murder. The U.S. plans to extradite Vasquez-Mendoza to this country for trial.
SHAW: Scientists say AIDS will cause the life expectancy in South African countries to drop to age 30 within 10 years. Such predictions emerged at the international AIDS conference now under way in Durban, South Africa. Experts say South Africa is now the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic. South African President Thabo Mbeki told delegates poverty is helping spread the disease in Africa. Several drug companies have agreed to lower the costs of AIDS medications in poor countries.
An Alzheimer's epidemic is predicted in the next 25 years. Experts attending the World Alzheimer's Congress in Washington are warning 22 million people worldwide could have the disease by 2025. Currently there are 4 million Americans with Alzheimer's, a number that could balloon to 14 million by 2050 unless a prevention or cure is discovered. In addition, scientists say people who develop a mild form of memory impairment as they age stand an excellent chance of progressing toward Alzheimer's.
WOODRUFF: Closing arguments today in the penalty phase of the landmark class-action suit against big tobacco. An attorney for the Florida smokers in the case is calling for a weighty judgment. Attorney Stanley Rosenblatt says the bottom dollar jurors should consider when deciding what the tobacco industry should pay in penalties is $118 billion. But Rosenblatt says punitive damages of $196 billion would be even better. Jurors are expected to begin deliberations by Friday.
President Clinton moves to help people in the Northeast stay warm this winter. He wants to make home heating oil available from the strategic petroleum reserve. However, Mr. Clinton needs congressional approval and is seeking support for his overall energy proposal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Take up my energy budget initiatives and the tax incentives, pass comprehensive electricity restructuring, reauthorize the strategic petroleum reserve. These are things Congress can do right now to build a better, safer, more secure and more affordable energy future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: The strategic reserve was tapped once before, by President Bush during the Persian Gulf War.
SHAW: The name Williams is making a definite impact on tennis at Wimbledon this year. Today, Venus and her sister, Serena Williams, teamed up to take the women's doubles' crown. This is the first time sisters have ever won the title. Saturday Venus won the women's single's championship.
And next here on INSIDE POLITICS. the Middle East summit: a last- minute view from the White House.
SHAW: The road to peace in the Middle East will again lead tomorrow to the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland in the Catoctin Mountains. Depending on the outcome, it could be a path to the history books or again no progress. President Clinton will try his noted skills of persuasion on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
CNN's John King reports.
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president voiced hope for a summit of progress despite the domestic political storm in Israel.
CLINTON: Both Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat have the vision, the knowledge, the experience, and the ability, and the sheer guts to do what it takes, I think, to reach an agreement, and then to take it back to their people and see if they can sell it.
KING: The Israeli leader left for Washington after narrowly surviving a vote of no confidence in the Knesett, the Israeli parliament. His coalition is in shambles, but Barak vowed to press on and he dismissed critics who say he is too eager to compromise.
EHUD BARAK, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL (through translator): If there is an agreement, it will require a compromise not only by ourselves, but also a painful compromise by the Palestinians. Otherwise, there will be no agreement.
KING: The bulk of the Palestinian delegation arrived in Washington Monday morning, with Arafat due in later and facing domestic political pressures of his own.
SHIBLEY TELHAMI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Although most Palestinians have continued to support the peace process, his credibility ratings have gone down. His -- the confidence in him has gone down over time. Less than 50 percent of the Palestinian population expressed confidence in his leadership.
KING: Mr. Clinton will convene the summit Tuesday morning at the secluded Camp David presidential retreat, looking to bridge the issues that have divided the Israelis and Palestinians for more than 50 years.
CLINTON: This is difficult. It is perhaps the most difficult of all the peace problems in the world, certainly dealing with the most difficult issues of the whole Middle East peace process, on which I have worked for nearly eight years now.
KING: The president has a week blocked out for the talks and promises to spend as much time as he believes is necessary trying to broker a breakthrough.
KING: Now U.S. officials are well aware this could be President Clinton's last opportunity to negotiate that breakthrough, get a Middle East agreement and add that to his legacy. And they say that while Prime Minister Barak's problems back home are certainly an unwanted distraction, they're voicing confidence that they will not undermine his ability or his willingness to negotiate in good faith -- Bernie.
SHAW: John, given everything that you've just reported to us, is President Clinton's mindset, attitude on the eve of this summit, nothing ventured, nothing gained?
KING: That's absolutely right. He has said that to not try would be to guarantee failure, that while there's no guarantee of success, if you don't try, nothing will be achieved. One of the things he will say, Bernie, we're told, when he gets together with the leaders tomorrow is that all of them have domestic political constraints. For Mr. Clinton, obviously, he has just six months left in his term.
The point the president wants to make, we're told, is that these three leaders have become very familiar with each other, they know the issues, they know the differences, but they also know what needs to be done to resolve them.
The president will make the case that if Mr. Barak wants to boost his standing back home, he should negotiate a peace agreement; if Mr. Arafat wants to secure his legacy, he should negotiate a peace agreement; and that this president, him, Mr. Clinton, is best prepared to deal with this now, because if this waits until after the U.S. election, it could wait a year or more before the next president has time to focus on these very difficult problems -- Bernie.
SHAW: John King on summit eve at the White House -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: For more on how Americans view the Middle East summit, we are joined from Los Angeles by our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.
Bill, have we seen any shift in the American public's sympathies in the Middle East?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Not really. Ever since Israel won the Six Day War back in 1967, Americans have been broadly sympathetic toward Israel. Now the latest Gallup poll reports that just over 40 percent of Americans sympathize with Israel and just 14 percent with the Palestinian Arabs. That hasn't changed much in recent years.
But almost half of Americans really don't favor either side in this conflict.
WOODRUFF: Bill, does that mean that the public is likely to support then Israel's position in these negotiations?
SCHNEIDER: Not necessarily, Judy. The biggest issue is an independent Palestinian state. And the American public favors the idea of a Palestinian state 40 to 24 percent.
Americans support Palestinian aspirations as long as they do not endanger Israel's security or provide a base for Arab terrorism. Look at the public's view of the two principal negotiators. Americans have a negative opinion of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The public's view of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is positive by comparison, but almost 60 percent of Americans have no opinion at all of Israel's leader, who was just elected a year ago.
WOODRUFF: So, Bill, what role does the public want the United States to play?
SCHNEIDER: Honest broker. Nearly three-quarters of Americans say the U.S. should not favor either side in these negotiations. These negotiations are very important for President Clinton. It's his last chance to establish his image as a peacemaker. But they have far less urgency for the American public. Only a third of Americans say it's very important to the United States to get a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
Since the end of the Cold War, the Middle East has lost urgency for Americans. Even the spike in gasoline prices hasn't made much difference. President Clinton's may be thinking about his legacy, but you know, most Americans are fat and happy.
WOODRUFF: So based on what we know, Bill, could a peace deal become politically controversial?
SCHNEIDER: Who's going to pay for it? The principal leverage that the United States has over these negotiations is money: economic aid to Israel and to the Palestinians. You remember that handshake on the White House lawn back in 1993? Even after that dramatic ceremony, the public still opposed giving economic aid to the Palestinians by two to one.
Now usually, if a president makes a peace deal, you can expect Congress to grumble a little and then cough up the money. But this Congress is controlled by the other party, and we're in the middle of an election campaign. So Congress might balk and make aid a campaign issue -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: OK, Bill Schneider from Los Angeles, thanks -- Bernie.
SHAW: Well, come this fall, the political parties can make what they will of the Middle East. But as CNN's Bruce Morton reports in his journal, it is not the type of issue that decides presidential elections.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Middle East worries American presidents, takes up a lot of their time, a war always waiting to happen. But how they do with the Middle East doesn't have much to do with how they do with the voters here in the U.S.
Take Jimmy Carter. Historic meeting at Camp David in 1978. Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin signed the Camp David accords making peace between Israel and Egypt. Historic, no question about it. ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: And I remember vividly the dark clouds that had gathered, and it started pouring and thundering, and there was a moment of awe that something historic had been achieved.
MORTON: But the voters didn't care. Carter suffered from gas lines, inflation, high interest rates, American hostages Iran wouldn't free. The voters turned to Ronald Reagan. He, in turn, didn't have a very successful Middle East. A truck bomb blasted the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. Just months later, another truck bomb killed U.S. Marines at their encampment near the Beirut Airport.
And then, Iran-Contra, the U.S. selling weapons to Iran -- Reagan had said he wouldn't -- in exchange for the release of U.S. hostages in Lebanon. The voters didn't care. Reagan carried 49 states against Walter Mondale in 1984 and left office a very popular president.
George Bush, his successor, had a triumph in the Middle East. When Iran's Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Bush promised to get it back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE H. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORTON: And he organized and kept together the coalition which launched Operation Desert Storm and drove Saddam out of Kuwait. Bush soared in the polls, for a moment, and then the economy got in the way. Like Carter, he was a one-term president; an overseas triumph didn't guarantee re-election.
And then Bill Clinton. In 1993, the Palestinians and Israelis signed a draft accord. The PLO's Yasser Arafat and Israel's Yitzhak Rabin exchanged a famous handshake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SEPTEMBER 18, 1993)
CLINTON: Above all, let us today pay tribute to the leaders who had the courage to lead their people toward peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORTON: But Clinton's easy re-election in 1996 owed more to the economy than to the Middle East.
As his term winds down, he is still seeking a legacy, still seeking peace. For a series of American presidents, it hasn't been easy.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
SHAW: And in 20 minutes, Judy and I will have more on the summit at the top of the hour on "WORLDVIEW."
WOODRUFF: And just ahead, party conventions past and present: Howard Kurtz on why today's political gatherings lack the content and controversy of years past.
HOPKINS: With the GOP convention less than a month away, cable television news organizations, as well as a legion of Internet sites, are already gearing up for wall-to-wall coverage. At the same time, the broadcast news division, where most Americans still get their news, are scaling back coverage plans.
In today's "Inside View," Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" looks at why the networks are turning off the politics.
HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Political conventions can often be defining moments for presidential candidates. Remember these?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1992)
GOV. WILLIAM J. CLINTON (D-AR), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I still believe in a place called hope.
GEORGE BUSH, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Read my lips, no new taxes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Al Gore and George W. Bush are both hoping for some convention magic this year. But what if many Americans never see the conventions? NBC, CBS, and ABC are now so dismissive of the quadrennial ritual, they plan to cover only a couple of nights during each four-day affair, and then only for an hour at a time. ABC is blowing off two evenings for "Monday Night Football," pre-season "Monday Night Football" at that with new anchor, Dennis Miller.
The conventions are increasingly becoming a cable-only affair, with CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and CSPAN carrying the action, along with PBS. The political parties once used their conventions to actually choose their nominees. Now, with voters picking the candidates during the primaries, the broadcast networks complained the conventions have become scripted, pre-packaged infomercials. And they have a point: the use of such non-political celebrities as Christopher Reeve in 1996; the release of balloons timed to the second. All this has turned the conventions into a show, a show with less scintillating ratings, a show so dull that Ted Koppel walked out of the '96 Republican convention.
So why bother? Why are 15,000 journalists converging on Philadelphia and L.A. at all?
E.J. DIONNE, "WASHINGTON POST": The networks owe the people a certain amount of coverage, especially of the big speeches, because this is a time when people pay a lot of attention.
WILLIAM KRISTOL, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Most Americans have never seen George W. Bush give a speech. Most Americans have never seen Al Gore give a full-fledged speech. And lots of people will be watching those speeches on the Thursday nights of the conventions. So they really will matter.
KURTZ: In the old days, the pre-cable days, the big networks saw their big skyboxes as a matter of prestige. And conventions often erupted into real news: the Democratic convention in 1960, John Kennedy surprising everyone by picking arch rival Lyndon Johnson as his running mate; the GOP convention in '64 that signaled a right return of the Republican party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1964)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the defense of liberty is no vice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: The infamous '68 Democratic showdown in Chicago, which blew up during violent clashes between police and anti-war protesters; 1972, where Democrats were so torn by infighting that George McGovern didn't get to speak until 3:00 a.m.; and '92, Pat Buchanan's confrontational talk of a culture war damaged President Bush's chances of reelection.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1992)
PAT BUCHANAN: We must take back our cities and take back our culture and take back our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ (on camera): But the 2000 conventions will be carefully choreographed: no messy platform fights or interminable speeches. Gore and Bush will make sure the precious airtime is used to show them and their running mates in the best possible light. The question is whether many Americans will follow the broadcast networks and tune out.
This is Howard Kurtz of CNN's "Reliable Sources."
SHAW: Well, you can be assured that CNN will cover both those conventions in Los Angeles and Philadelphia until the lightbulbs burn out.
The major-party conventions won't be the only events in town. Shadow Conventions 2000 will also take place in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The Shadow Conventions will parallel the party events, but focus on several issues not on the Democratic or Republican agendas. In addition to a serious look at issues, they will also offer a daily dose of political satire. Among the many speakers: Senator John McCain, comedian Bill Maher, and actor Warren Beatty.
Joining us now from Los Angeles, a key force behind the Shadow Conventions, syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington.
Really, why are you doing this?
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Because, Bernard, as your report indicated, the two major party conventions have been completely drained of politics, of meaning, of any relevance to people's lives. And, as a result, more and more Americans are tuning out. It's not just the media that are turning out. If the current trends continue, the majority of eligible voters are not planning to vote in November, and especially the young ones.
So our intention is to put the spotlight on three critical issues that both parties are ignoring: campaign finance reform; the need to take a new look at our drug war policy that has led to two million Americans in jail at the moment; and also the need to admit that, in the middle of this unprecedented prosperity, millions of Americans are left out. And in Los Angeles -- where the Democrats will be coronating Al Gore -- one out of three children lives below the poverty line.
So our Shadow Conventions are going to spotlight these issues. And we are really a coalition of conveners that include the key groups working in these areas, like Common Cause, Public Campaign, the Call to Renewal, the Lindesmith Center, and our hope is that we reengage the American public.
SHAW: But if fewer people will be watching the two major party political conventions, how do you expect to get people to watch yours, what you call a Shadow Convention?
HUFFINGTON: Because we are also calling ourselves the Citizens Intervention in American Politics. I think that people are going to tune in and also watch our proceedings -- which are going to be simultaneously Webcast -- because we are talking about real issues that affect people's lives. The two conventions are saying again and again through their spokespeople that they are going to spotlight all those real Americans that benefited from the growing prosperity.
We are going to spotlight children whose mothers are in jail for 20 to 40 years on first-time, non-violent drug offenses; or families living on buses in Santa Clara County because there is no affordable housing; or small businessman losing their businesses because they don't have access to big money to contribute to candidates. All these real cases are going to be left out of the main conventions.
SHAW: And you are going to have political satire, why?
HUFFINGTON: Political satire -- as Lewis Lapham, the editor of "Harpers," who is going to give the key speech at both of our conventions on the subject -- political satire is a very powerful tool, a very powerful weapon in waking people up. It has been used since Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain. And that's the way it's going to be used in the Shadow Conventions, People like Bill Maher and Al Franken and Paul Krassner and Harry Shearer going to participate again, and sound alarm bells around these three issues, but through comedy and through satire.
SHAW: Have you had any concerns that some reporters covering your convention might focus on the funny rather than the serious?
HUFFINGTON: I am sure some will. But already, we've had a lot of coverage about the Shadow Conventions, and the result has been very positive. It has driven thousands of people to our Web site, shadowconventions.com; and hundreds of offers of volunteers from around the country. In fact, there are going to be people converging to the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia and the Patriotric Hall in Los Angeles from all around the country.
SHAW: Well, we will be watching, covering, and reporting.
Arianna Huffington, thanks very much. And, Bill, my apologies for pronouncing your name "Mayor" rather than "Maher" -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: It's all right. I've made mistakes worse than that.
Next on INSIDE POLITICS, making trouble on the trail for Mrs. Clinton. Opposition springs from an unexpected source.
SHAW: First it was Rudy, then Rick. And now, Hillary Rodham Clinton faces another potential opponent in her bid for the U.S. Senate.
As CNN's Frank Buckley reports, the new competition comes from within her own party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUCKLEY (voice-over): It was the picture of party unity st New York's Democratic state convention, first lady Hillary Clinton the unanimous choice among delegates to be the party's nominee for the U.S. Senate.
Then came Mark McMahon.
MARK MCMAHON (D), NEW YORK SENATE HOPEFUL: Well, like Hillary Clinton, I've never held office before.
BUCKLEY: He's an orthopedic surgeon and attending physician at respectable New York City hospitals, a native New Yorker who says he has volunteered on political campaigns in the past and is now ready to be a candidate himself, who claims the unanimous support Mrs. Clinton received at the state convention isn't reflected among the voters at the grassroots level.
MCMAHON: There's a huge disconnect between the 100 percent support of the delegates at the Democratic convention and the people on the streets. The people on the streets do not 100 percent think that Hillary should be the nominee. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you take a second top fill out this petition? We're trying to get Mark McMahon on the ballot.
BUCKLEY: And McMahon says he's got the signatures to prove it. The surgeon says he has well over the 15,000 signatures required to force a Democratic primary in the fall. If elected, he says, he would instantly become a national leader on health issues, despite his inexperience in government.
MCMAHON: This is a good thing. People expect that the candidate is going to be another career politician, another lawyer. I think it's a good thing that I'm not a career politician or another lawyer.
BUCKLEY: New York political observers say that McMahon has virtually no chance of winning a primary. By the standard measures of legitimacy in modern-day politics, money, name recognition and previous experience, he is, as one put it, a nothing from nowhere.
But in such a highly covered race, the doctor could at least be a nuisance for Mrs. Clinton, who says for now it will not affect her schedule or strategy of campaigning.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: We'll just have to wait and see what he says and what happens.
BUCKLEY: Mrs. Clinton says the doctor's potential candidacy was no surprise to him.
REP. RICK LAZIO (R-NY), SENATE CANDIDATE: Everyone I have gone there have been many people who describe themselves as Democrats, lifelong Democrats, who are completely disaffected by the prospect of a Hillary Clinton candidacy.
BUCKLEY (on camera): McMahon has until Thursday to turn in his petitions. If they are certified by the state board of elections, Mrs. Clinton will face a political challenge before November, in September, in a primary election coming from a political neophyte within her own party.
Frank Buckley, CNN, New York.
SHAW: And that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. But, of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com.
WOODRUFF: And this programming note, Congressmen J.C. Watts of Oklahoma and Robert Menendez of New Jersey will be discussing how minorities are responding to the presidential race. That's tonight on "CROSSFIRE." at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
SHAW: And I'm Bernard Shaw. "WORLDVIEW" and that Middle East summit.is next.
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