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Larry King Live
What Do Republicans Want to Say at Their National Convention?Aired July 29, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: From Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, it's countdown to the 37th Republican National Convention.
Joining me, Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania -- he's a Republican, and this is home state turf -- Governor Tommy Thompson, chairman of the GOP platform committee; the Bush campaign's convention chairman Andrew Card; and Governor Christie Whitman, Republican of New Jersey. And, in Washington, William Bennett. He'll be here tomorrow. He's in D.C. tonight. He's co-director of Empower America.
And they're all next on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE from the Republican National Convention.
Good evening from the beautiful Comcast Arena near downtown Philadelphia.
We're here tonight with one show, and then Monday through Thursday is -- a program note -- two live shows each night at 9:00 and at midnight. Normally, midnight is a repeat. We'll have a special live show at midnight, 9:00 Pacific, all next week, in addition to our 9:00 show.
We begin with Governor Tom Ridge, the host governor of this convention. He was prominently mentioned...
How close did you come to being the vice presidential nominee?
GOV. TOM RIDGE (R), PENNSYLVANIA: You'll have to ask Governor Bush.
KING: You were on the short list.
RIDGE: That's what they tell me.
KING: And you're a very close friend.
RIDGE: Very close friends. We've been friends for 20 years.
KING: So the truth. Did you want it?
RIDGE: It's a very attractive, very seductive idea, but I have two jobs that I've said publicly that I really enjoy doing. One's being governor of this great state. And then my children are at such an age now, 13 and 14, I think I've got another job to do to get them through the next couple of years before I could entertain anything nationally.
KING: So you can't say you were disappointed.
RIDGE: No, not at all. I think -- I'm actually pretty excited. I've known Dick Cheney for the six years we served together in Washington. I think it's a great team. I think he's a great choice. He's a -- there's probably no public servant in America that has the depth of experience from chief of staff to a president of the United States to his incredible performance as secretary of defense, and he also -- his approach toward governing and politics is very similar to my friend Governor Bush's. It's very civil in tone, he's very conservative, but people on both sides of the aisle respect him. He's a very thoughtful, deliberate kind of person, and he'll reach out.
KING: But this friendship you have with Governor Bush began where and how?
RIDGE: Yes, we tried to put those pieces together, and I think when we were campaigning together for his dad in...
KING: Eighty-eight? Ninety-two?
RIDGE: No, back in '80.
KING: Oh, the vice president.
RIDGE: Pennsylvania delegates in '80 weren't for Ronald Reagan, but the popular vote went for George Bush, and I think it was during that period of time we had our first contact. I saw him occasionally when his dad served as vice president, president, obviously. I've seen a lot of him since we've served as governors now in the past five years.
KING: How do you feel about hosting this whole thing?
RIDGE: Wonderful. I mean, I feel great.
KING: You've got a Democratic mayor. So you've got to share the bill a little with him.
RIDGE: Well, I'm happy to do that. I mean, we kind of work together with my friend, Mayor Rendell, who's now chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and now Mayor John Street, and we're happy to showcase this incredible town. It's got the cultural, the historic, the economic significance of its sister cities on the East Coast. It gives us a chance to showcase Pennsylvania.
But, more importantly, we can win some of these states in the Northeast, but we have to take our message to the Northeast. If you take a look at Governors Rowland and Whitman and Pataki and Taft and -- and others, governors -- Republican governors practicing their brand of compassionate conservative politics have won overwhelmingly.
KING: But you -- you lost those states to Clinton, the ones you mentioned...
RIDGE: Well, we did, but...
KING: ... sometimes in a row.
RIDGE: ... the beauty of it is that this is a candidate -- a governor who understands that you need to build, you need to reach out and -- and try to attract non-traditional constituencies, and he understands that you don't get any converts unless you leave the church, and he understands he's got to take the message to Democratic cities and Democratic states.
KING: Because there are more registered Democrats in Pennsylvania than registered Republicans. So...
KING: ... you started as a minority in a sense to win the governorship.
RIDGE: Correct. Correct. But, interestingly enough, Larry, in this state, it's probably -- we pride ourselves on being the most Republican state -- Republican governor, lieutenant governor, two U.S. senators, Republican majority in the House and in the Senate. It -- and what I think -- why I believe the compassionate conservative message resonates here is because all -- not only the governors practice it, but Governor Bush is here delivering it.
He's not conceding any issue, not conceding any region, and Governor Bush views every voter as an opportunity, and, you know, Republicans and Democrats alike share common aspirations. They want safe streets and better neighborhoods and family-sustaining jobs, and we have ways -- we differ in how we get there, but you'll never get people to take a look at your point of view or vote for you unless you go out and try to deliver the message.
KING: You're going to speak Thursday night, right.
KING: You're going to be one of the people introducing the nominee.
KING: Is that correct?
RIDGE: It's a great honor, and I'm very pleased to do it. I'm not -- I'm not going to bother giving everyone a litany of the extraordinary accomplishments that Governor Bush has had as...
KING: You're not going to bore us.
RIDGE: No, I'll try not to. I want to talk to you a little bit about my friend, though, what I think about the personal qualities that he brings to the most important office, not only the country, but as leader of the free world. I want to talk about the leadership qualities that I've seen develop and evolve over the years. He's a good friend. I think he'll be a great president.
KING: Were you disappointed that the platform committee -- you know, that they weren't going to go the way you feel about pro-choice but that they even turned down the recommendation to say "We welcome everyone in"...
KING: ... "that pl -- in that plank of the platform."
RIDGE: What is more important to me isn't -- isn't necessarily what the platform says but how my fellow Republicans who disagree with me respect my point of view.
I mean, one of these days, I think, the -- the focus and the attention will be on how Republicans who differ on that issue are mutually supportive of each other because there are a lot of things around that issue we agree on. No public funding. If there's a minor involved, you should have parental consent. Opposition to partial- birth abortion.
So there are a lot of issues there around which we agree, and it's not as important to me that the platform language agrees with my point of view but that other -- my fellow Republicans, the men and women that I work with and respect agree -- disagree with me but respectfully.
KING: How's Pennsylvania going to come out in November?
RIDGE: We're going to win.
RIDGE: I believe it. Well, listen, it's -- it's a steep climb because of the registration edge that the Democrats have, but, again, I think Governor Bush has committed his time, his resources. He's already spent a lot of time here, and, like I said before, I think he speaks to what the people are interested in. He's a new kind of leader. I mean, this is a different kind of convention.
But he -- we're going to talk to people about issues they care about. Quality education. When he talks about people on the outskirts of poverty, he means those people working one or two jobs under the heaviest tax -- federal tax burden in the history of the country. When he's talking about the -- the subtle racism of lowered expectations, he's talking about kids who need a better public education. So it's a good message.
KING: Something your party maybe should have spoken about more.
RIDGE: Well, I -- it's -- it's a new millennium, a new party, a new messenger, a great messenger.
KING: Always great seeing you.
RIDGE: Thank you. KING: We'll see a lot of you.
RIDGE: You will. Thank you.
KING: Governor Tom Ridge, the host governor of this convention, the 37th Republican National Convention here in Philadelphia. It convened here back in the early '50s, nominated a guy named Dwight David Eisenhower. You might have heard of him.
Governor Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin is next. Don't go away.
KING: He's so popular in his home state that Governor Ridge told us that people in Wisconsin think Tommy Thompson is elected in perpetuity. He's the governor, and he is the chairman of the GOP platform committee.
Why did you take that role? It's a no-win, isn't it?
GOV. TOMMY THOMPSON (R-WI), RNC PLATFORM CHAIRMAN: It certainly is, Larry. It's taken a lot of work, a lot of time. In fact, I've gone out, and I've met with anybody that wanted to meet with me, that wanted to talk about the Republican platform. I've traveled all over the country, had hearings in Billings, Montana, and Mount Rushmore with a bunch of motorcyclists, and -- and even in Dayton, Ohio, and I did not seek it, but both Governor -- my friend, Governor George Bush, and Jim Nicholson for the National Republican Party asked me to do it, and so when they both ask you to do it, you -- you finally say, "OK."
KING: As chair, does it mean you agree with everything in it?
THOMPSON: Absolutely not, and neither does the candidate. What it does -- it means that a committee of 107 delegates have come together, and with their principles and their ideas, they have -- they have formulated a plan, a -- the principles of the Republican Party to move forward for the next four years, and I'm very -- very happy. I -- the tenor was so exceptional. I mean, people that were different on -- on other issues and different views all came together and says this was the best type of -- of opportunity to come together in reaching an agreement.
KING: So when a candidate or the chairman says "Here is our platform. I stand by our platform," it doesn't mean "I stand with every word."
THOMPSON: It doesn't, and I don't think anybody -- I don't think there's anybody that could say that they agree with every line in this particular platform. I don't. I know the governor doesn't. But, overall, it sets the tone, and it really is the cornerstones of, the basic principles of our party.
You've got an opportunity to differ, and in the preamble, which I wrote and which I gave to the delegates this afternoon, I says there's a lot of people that disagree. But we've got a big tent, and we want people to -- that believe in the basic principles of our party -- you have the opportunity to improve the quality of education, solve the social problems with health, improve Social Security, make sure that Medicare is there for our elderly citizens, improve our foreign policy so our allies know which direction we're going.
These are the kind of principles that a vast majority of the Republican Party and the Republican delegates can rally around and say, "We really believe this, and we want this -- this new party, this new compassionate conservative with his new philosophy that is much more positive, much more uplifting, that's -- to go forward in the future and win the election in November."
KING: Governor, was -- we talked with Governor Ridge about it. Was the abortion plank the toughest thing to deal with?
THOMPSON: Well, there were several tough issues, but the abortion issue is always a tough thing because it's -- it's one that really goes to the heart of the basic principles of -- of people, and you have personal beliefs, you know, and...
KING: And you have a big divide in America.
THOMPSON: Yes. It is, and it's difficult to know how to bridge that. But I want to tell you when we - when we discussed the abortion issue, everybody was courteous. Everybody listened to each other. Everybody realized, you know, there's passion there. There's hard- felt and strong feelings. But, overall, the -- it's the -- the party by majority is a pro-life party.
But there is a lot of people that are pro-choice, including some governors, and -- and we want to make sure that they're included. That's why I drafted the preamble saying that, you know, we've got a lot of people that dissent from basic principles of our party, but, overall, it's the -- it's the fact that we want to move forward as a party with principles, and we want people to come into our tent.
KING: Tommy, should gay -- I'm just -- excuse me, Governor. I've known you a long time.
THOMPSON: You know me well enough, Larry. I call you -- you call me Tommy. I appreciate it.
KING: Should gay Republicans vote for this ticket?
THOMPSON: Absolutely. And I sat down with the Log Cabin Republicans, and -- and I tried to put some language in there that was beneficial and was more tolerant and -- than the platform of '90 and '9 -- or '92 and '96, and I -- I think they were appreciative of the fact that I reached out, as well as Governor Bush did, to -- to meet with them and to understand, you know, that we can't agree on all issues, but on basic issues -- there's a lot of issues we can agree upon, many more than what the Democrats can.
KING: How does Wisconsin look?
THOMPSON: I think Wisconsin looks great. In fact, George Bush -- Governor Bush is up by 6 to 8 points in Wisconsin, and we lost it in the last three presidential elections.
KING: Sure did. Three.
THOMPSON: In the -- and it's a Democratic state. But it's looking good, and George Bush has been in there several times, three times. He's coming back again in August and September. We're actually spending money for the first time on -- on television ads for our candidate for president. I think we're going to win Wisconsin. I really do. I can tell you, Larry, I've been coming to national conventions ever since 1976, and I've never felt the -- the kind of emotionalism, the kind of wanting to win, you know, that -- the real fervor, and it's all over, and it was...
KING: Four years ago, though, you did think Dole would win.
THOMPSON: Well, I -- I told you that I thought we were going to have a tough struggle, and he -- we never really got out of the starting blocks in Wisconsin, and...
KING: No, you didn't.
THOMPSON: ... and this guy is doing a -- a tremendous job, and Dick Cheney is a wonderful pick for vice president. I'm -- I'm very optimistic about Wisconsin and the country, and I believe my friend, as Tom Ridge agrees, George Bush, is going to be an exceptional candidate and a fantastic president.
KING: Will it be a very close election?
THOMPSON: Oh, it's going to be close because America's close, but I think that, right now, with Al Gore never really being able to get a -- higher than 44 -- even his highest poll numbers -- 44, 45, that's -- that's the high watermark of -- for Al Gore. George Bush has been over 50 percent several times, and in the last poll by CNN the other evening, it was 59 to 39, 11 points, and this...
KING: Despite the economy.
THOMPSON: In spite of the economy, and it -- there's other issues. The education issue -- and that's why -- the education issue was the centerpiece of our platform. George Bush passionately believes that every child can learn and has the opportunity to learn and needs that opportunity, and he's going to make sure that every child in America gets that opportunity, and that was -- that's what's so nice, is to -- to deliver on that compassionate conservatism in the platform and give George Bush, our candidate, the platform for him to run on, especially on the issue of education.
KING: Be seeing you all week, Thomas. Thanks.
THOMPSON: Thank you, my friend.
KING: Governor Tommy Thompson, Republican of Wisconsin, the chairman of the GOP platform committee.
Next, we'll talk with Wolf Blitzer and Candy Crowley. We'll -- Candy's on the floor. Wolf is on the podium.
And then, we'll meet Andrew Card. Mr. Card is the president of -- in fact, he's convention chairman of this whole get-together. He put it all together.
And then, Governor Whitman. And later, William Bennett.
This is LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back. Don't go away.
KING: This is the scene outside on a muggy night in summertime in Philadelphia. The Comcast First Union Center across the street. The Phillies and Dodgers are playing baseball. And here we're all getting ready for this 37th Republican National Convention.
Let's go down to two of our stellar reporters. On the floor is Candy Crowley, CNN Convention Floor Correspondent, CNN Senior Political Correspondent, and on the podium -- I don't even know if it's a podium anymore; we'll ask him to describe it in a minute -- is Wolf Blitzer, the host of LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER, will be hosting that from here tomorrow.
All right, Candy. Where -- where are you, and what will your role be in the four nights ahead?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm pretty much where I'm going to be in the four nights ahead. I sort of -- we've divided this place up into sections, and there'll be four of us down here. I'm actually on the wrong side of the Texas delegation. This is where John King will be, but I have half this sec -- the Texas delegation over into California and then up the aisle.
But this is -- you know, Texas has the best seats in the house, and you probably can figure out why. And, you know, California's got a pretty good seat, too. It's -- it's fun to sort of see where the states have ended up just because, you know, you're kind of wondering now, "Gee, how did they get there?" because --
We have California, sort of a megastate, lots of electoral votes. Bush would love to be competitive there. Texas, of course, gets to be in the front because it's their guy. Pennsylvania is over here because, of course, they're the host. But like way back in -- it would take the rest of the show for me to get there, but way back in the cheap seats is New Hampshire. I'm -- I'm reading a lot into this, but to be an inter -- it's an interesting seating arrangement.
KING: Now you're -- you -- how do you know when they come to you because there are like three dozen reporters on the floor? Do you have a light that triggers to you?
CROWLEY: Well, yes. No, I don't have a light, but, I mean, for instance, speaking to you right now, I know where the camera is, but we've got cameras all around this arena, and...
KING: So you know the camera -- it's behind you now. We're picking you up...
CROWLEY: And so they will say -- they will say to you -- say to me, "Go to camera eight" or "Go to camera 11" and, you know, that's how we know where to go because they -- it will be -- I mean, this place will be packed in the really important times. So half the time, the cameras have a hard time seeing you.
At least last time around, we had color-coded things that we held up over our heads so that the -- the camera guys could spot us, and you sort of, you know, do one of these so that you can see each other. It -- it helps, I must say, to be female because you can wear red clothes. They can just spot you.
KING: Candy, we'll be checking with you every night.
KING: Thanks so much.
KING: Now let's go up -- that's Candy Crowley on the floor. Now let's go up to the podium which looks completely different.
Wolf, will you describe this because it -- it ain't no standard like the old Roman coliseum with the candidates looking down on the masses.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, they're putting the finishing touches right now. I was here earlier in the day, and it was a lot different. It's getting that final look. It's beginning to look very impressive the way they're going to do it.
Let me take you a little bit on a tour of what we're going to be seeing here on this podium. I'm going to walk over. The speakers are going to be walking on the stage, and this is the stage over here. They were just putting some blue shoe polish to make sure there were no specks on this blue area where I'm walking around.
The speakers will be coming through this door, for the most part, although some will be coming through the other door on stage right over here. And, of course, they'll be walking down right here. This will be the main podium speaker location and, of course, the president -- who wants to be -- George W. Bush will be speaking here Thursday night, Dick Cheney Wednesday night; on Tuesday night, John McCain and Condoleezza Rice; and on Monday night, Mrs. Laura Bush and General Colin Powell. They'll be speaking from here on...
KING: All right.
BLITZER: ... this podium.
KING: Now, Wolf, it's not the big standard thing we used to see where they're like 30 feet high.
BLITZER: No. This is much lower and, of course, when they look out, they'll see Texas right in front of the podium. Texas and California to the right. Pennsylvania, the host state, to the left.
My job, Larry, is going to be -- I'm going to be on that stage left with other reporters from the other networks, and we're hoping that, in the course of the -- the days -- the four days here, the speakers will come and talk to us for brief interviews either before or after the -- the event -- the speaking engagement. We'll try to grab them and do some -- do some brief interviews with them on the podium.
We'll be here for hours and hours, including during LARRY KING LIVE at 9:00 p.m.
KING: That's right. We go to you regularly.
And they're promising the biggest balloon drop in history, right?
BLITZER: Oh, you know, the -- it's going to be pretty amazing. I can see those balloons. I don't know if we have a camera, but they're packed up there, and they'll be coming down, of course, at the end of the night on Thursday night. It will be a huge, huge balloon drop, but, then again, they're always doing something colorful like that.
KING: Thanks, Wolf, as always. Wolf Blitzer and Candy Crowley.
We'll go to break, and when we come back, the man responsible for all of this, Andrew Card. He was the former secretary of transportation. He's now the Bush for President convention chairman. Got a big job. We'll talk about it. Don't go away.
KING: Welcome back to this special pre-convention edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Again, we'll be with you all next week. Two shows every night, 9:00 and midnight. Normally, midnight is a repeat of LARRY KING LIVE. Next week, there'll be two live shows each night.
We now welcome Andrew Card, the former transportation secretary who is the general co-chair of this convention.
Meaning your job is to do what?
ANDREW CARD, BUSH CAMPAIGN CONVENTION CHAIRMAN: I make sure -- supposed to make sure that Governor Bush has the best presentation to America. You know, he's a different kind of candidate, and this will be a different kind of convention. He's...
KING: So your job is the show.
CARD: My job is the show.
KING: If we like the show, we thank you. If we don't like it, we blame you.
CARD: Throw me off the cliff. But it's going to be a great show. It's going to be very different. This is not going to be the convention that you remembered.
KING: All right. How different?
CARD: Well, first of all, the stage, as Wolf just said, is very different. It's a stage, rather than the turret of the castle from which candidates used to speak.
The second thing is that we've got a different kind of candidate who's talking about issues the Republicans traditionally don't talk about. He grabbed the third rail of politics called Social Security, and he said he's going to reform it. He talked about education the way Republicans don't talk about education.
KING: So that will affect this look how?
CARD: It's going to -- well, it's...
KING: Will we have a different feel here?
CARD: The stage will be set one night with a classroom. You'll actually see students on the stage and a teacher, so that when you look at the platform, you'll know that we're talking about education. Laura Bush, the first lady of Texas -- she was a teacher. She was a librarian. She is a parent. She's the first lady of Texas, and when she comes out to speak, there will be a classroom set behind her. So that will be very different.
KING: Do you gear everything, frankly, to television?
CARD: No, but...
CARD: We're sensitive to the fact that people -- most people will get their information about this convention from television. But we're also very, very active with the Internet. In fact, if you want to become a dot-com delegate, sign up at gopconvention.com. You can register as a dot-com delegate with your state, get special access to the convention, and find out all kinds of things that are going on here. So gopconvention.com. Go to that Web site right now.
KING: The governor promised us about 10 days ago in Austin that this -- you're not going to see vituperativeness here. You're not going to see slashing at the other folks.
CARD: Well -- well...
KING: You can't control the speeches.
CARD: Conventions traditionally have been -- the first night, you look back, and you kind of pat yourself on the back. The second night, you whack the other team as hard as you can. The third night, you have the balloons and the vote and the roll call. And the fourth night, you listen to the vice presidential candidate and the presidential candidate.
This is going to be a very different convention. We're going to start off talking about Opportunity With a Purpose. The overall theme of this convention is Renewing America's Purpose Together. But we want to talk about leaving no child behind. So we'll hear from a real live teacher, a parent, someone involved in adoption and foster child care. We'll hear from community activists. Yes, we'll hear from some of the people that set policy, but this is really about people who personify the policies that Governor Bush believes in.
The second night of the convention, there'll be Strength and Security With a Purpose, and we'll talk about not just national security or defense. We'll also talk about the strength of America's character and how we as Americans are ready to help around the world through the American Red Cross or AmeriCares. And we'll also hear from General Norm Schwarzkopf. We'll hear from John McCain, Elizabeth Dole, and a wonderful speech from Condoleezza Rice who is a national security adviser.
KING: Foreign policy.
CARD: That's right.
KING: And we'll pick up on that in a minute.
We'll be right back with Andrew Card, the general co-chair of the convention.
We'll meet in a little while Governor Christie Whitman of New Jersey. And then, Bill Bennett. Don't go away.
KING: I see my friend and colleague, Bernie Shaw, over there. He's prepping. Tomorrow night, they're going to have a big one-hour special of INSIDE POLITICS at 8:00, LATE EDITION tomorrow afternoon.
We're all set here in the City of Brotherly Love, and we're with Andrew Card, the general co-chair of this convention.
OK. Night three. Wednesday.
CARD: Wednesday night. Prosperity With a Purpose. We're talking about Social Security reform, tax cutting, and budget policy. We'll also hear from a small businessman, someone involved in the new economy in America. We're going to hear from a farmer. This is going to be a great night because it will end up with Governor Bush securing the -- the nomination of the party.
But there will also be the nomination of the next vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney, and it's the first -- first time in history that the vice presidential candidate of the Republican Party will be able to speak as the only primetime speaker. So he'll give the ultimate speech that evening. He won't be standing in the shadow of the presidential candidate.
And then on Thursday night, we're going to talk about a President With a Purpose, George W. Bush, and he'll give the acceptance speech to close the evening out on Thursday night.
KING: And then the balloons come down.
CARD: Balloons and Chaka Khan. You'll get to hear Chaka Khan sling -- sing as we close the convention on Thursday.
KING: Whoa. Who's doing National Anthem? Different one every night?
CARD: We've got a different person singing the National Anthem every night. Monday night, you're going to hear from Kate Smith.
KING: In this arena?
CARD: In this arena.
KING: Where she sang it before every -- well, next door -- but every Flyer game.
CARD: That's right.
KING: Good thinking, Andrew. Bringing back Kate. The moon comes over the mountain, and the National Anthem.
The -- the concept of the roll call of the states -- I read somewhere where -- since that's a foregone conclusion, that will not be a primetime event then.
CARD: Oh, I tell you we are making this a very different convention because we're going to have a rolling roll call. The roll call of the states usually takes sometimes two hours, two and a half hours.
CARD: It is boring. It's exciting for the state when you stand up and say your...
KING: The great state of...
KING: Oh, yes.
CARD: But this is going to be stretched out over four nights. The governor's name will be placed in nomination during the daytime session on Monday, and then the states will start to vote for him on Monday night. We're going to do about 16, 18 states on Monday night, 18, 20 states on Tuesday night, over the top, securing the nomination on Wednesday night, and then every state will have a chance to finish up voting on Thursday night, and Texas will secure the nomination for him. KING: All the -- so this is as planned a convention as you can get. This...
KING: You're -- you're betting against anything extraneous happening.
CARD: It's a different kind of convention. Again, we've got a different kind of candidate running for president, and -- and this convention will be different because it reflects his principles.
KING: Are you worried about anything happening outside?
CARD: We're sensitive to what's going on, but the City of Philadelphia has been such a terrific host and...
KING: How's the Democratic mayor been?
CARD: The mayor has been wonderful. We've been meeting with him, and he understands the responsibilities that he has as a host mayor, and we've been working with...
KING: This is not political. He's got...
CARD: Non-political. Governor Ridge has been terrific. So we think this will be a great convention, and if you've never watched a convention before, this is the one to watch. Real history will be made here. This is going to be a different convention. Great candidate running for president.
KING: And what do you do when it's over?
CARD: I go back to my real job.
KING: Which is?
CARD: I'm the vice president for government relations for General Motors.
KING: A little company we've heard of.
CARD: A small company that does very well.
KING: Do you want to come back to government?
CARD: I have been very blessed with opportunities in government, but I'm here to help Governor Bush because I really believe in him. I've known Governor Bush for a long time, and I have tremendous respect for him. I've known his parents. I have tremendous respect for them. But my respect for Governor Bush is independent of the tremendous love and respect I have for his folks.
KING: You don't love him because he's their son.
CARD: I love him partly because he -- he's their son but more because he earned my respect by his leadership in Texas.
KING: What's a quality of his that we may -- the general public may not know or see?
CARD: He has a great sense of duty. He's got a wonderful heart. He really, really believes that no child should be left behind in this country, and he wants...
KING: It's not a platitude.
CARD: This is not a platitude. It's deep down. He's married to a wonderful woman. They care desperately about kids, and they want to make sure every kid has an opportunity.
KING: And Dick Cheney.
CARD: Dick Cheney...
KING: Do you know him well?
CARD: I know him well. I served with him in President Bush's Cabinet. He is a real statesman, and he's a leader respected around the world. He's a wonderful listener, and he's a wonderful counselor, and he knows how government works, and he'll be a great No. 2 to Governor Bush.
KING: And Nancy Reagan told me there's going to be a special tribute to the three presidents, Ford and Bush and Reagan. Nancy will represent Ronald Reagan.
CARD: Tuesday night, President...
KING: ... and they'll stand up.
CARD: Oh, I tell you...
KING: No speeches, though, right?
CARD: This is going to be a wonderful, emotional period. We're going to have a tribute to President Ford and Betty Ford, and then they'll be recognized by the convention delegates. Then we'll have a tribute to President Reagan and Nancy Reagan, and Nancy Reagan will accept the applause. And then, a wonderful tribute to President and Mrs. Bush, and -- and they will stand and receive the acclamation of the convention.
This -- you know, Tuesday night, we're going to pay -- pay special tribute to the greatest generation in America, the World War II vets. We're also going to have General Norm Schwarzkopf highlight the role that 340,000 Americans played in securing the Gulf and -- you know, next Wednesday is the anniversary of Saddam Hussein going into Kuwait. So here we are with -- honoring Norm Schwarzkopf and all of the team that made America so proud, and we'll be paying tribute via Bob Dole to America's greatest generation. We'll pay tribute to the presidents. It's just going to be a great night.
KING: And Dick Cheney speaks.
CARD: Dick Cheney speaks on Wednesday night. That's the night we'll hear from John McCain and Elizabeth Dole and Condoleezza Rice.
KING: So it's Tue -- Tuesday.
CARD: Tuesday. Did I say Wednesday?
KING: Yes. You said Wednesday.
CARD: I meant Tuesday.
KING: Tuesday's the anniversary.
CARD: Tuesday is the ann -- no, Wednesday's the anniversary, but Tuesday is the night that we'll pay tribute to the veterans.
KING: And John McCain and Bob Dole will be on this program Monday night, and Colin Powell will be on the late edition at midnight.
CARD: See, it doesn't get any better than that, Larry, does it?
KING: You've got pretty good -- Chaka Khan, huh?
CARD: Chaka Khan.
KING: Kate Smith.
CARD: Kate Smith.
KING: Wait a minute. You're touching every generation.
CARD: Jimmy Vaughn. We've got some swing dancers that will be here.
KING: You're turning it on, Andrew.
CARD: It's a different kind of convention.
KING: It's a General Motors touch to this, isn't it? Who's the co-chair?
CARD: The -- Jim Nicholson, the chairman of the Republican National Convention.
KING: Oh, good man. Great.
Thank you, Andrew.
CARD: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Andrew Card. He's the general co-chair of this convention, and -- you've heard it -- it's going to be quite a layout for the next four nights.
When we come back, Governor Christie Whitman of New Jersey next. Don't go away.
KING: She's not only an old friend. She hosted this show. That's right. It's on her resume. Hosted LARRY KING LIVE.
GOV. CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN (R), NEW JERSEY: One of my prouder accomplishments there.
KING: Governor Christie Whitman, the Republican governor of New Jersey.
Happy -- you can't be totally happy with the platform.
WHITMAN: Well, I mean, there are parts of it that I don't agree with, but, you know, it's -- overall, the statement, I must say -- the preamble that Tommy Thompson wrote is something, I think, we could all agree with. I wish the platform just sort of stopped there. I think we'd all be better off with that, but, you know, it really isn't -- you know, the platform -- it's...
KING: Well, he said nobody agrees with everything, right?
WHITMAN: No. You don't. You can't. You can't get that specific when you have a diverse party and have -- expect everyone to agree with every part of it, and...
KING: Tell us about New Jersey this year. A pivotal state.
WHITMAN: Very important state. It's going to be very competitive. I believe that George Bush has a good chance of winning it. Of course, we have this super spender on the Democrat side in the Senate race called Jon Corzine against Bob Franks who's...
KING: He's going to bring out a lot of people, right?
WHITMAN: Oh, he's going to spend a lot of money. I don't know that he's going to bring out a lot of people. It's going to be interesting because he is so far to the left that...
KING: He's the richest person running...
WHITMAN: ... that might hurt Al Gore.
KING: ... in America, right? Maybe.
KING: By far.
WHITMAN: ... certainly. I mean, he spent over $34 -- $35,000 -- million on a primary. That's just extraordinary, the money that he spent. KING: Jersey has gone for Clinton, though, right, so you...
WHITMAN: It has. It has, but this time...
KING: Would you say you're the underdog today?
WHITMAN: We're within the margin of error. It's very competitive, and George Bush -- the message of George Bush -- the message that he's been articulating and his ability to point to accomplishment as governor in the areas of education, tax policy, those kinds of things that people really care about in New Jersey, are the messages that are going to bring people to the polls, and I really think they're going to bring them out for George Bush.
KING: Tell us about that famous picture. You haven't had a chance to answer it nationally, and I -- as an old friend, I was really concerned about that, that you took a bad rap.
WHITMAN: Well, it was a -- it was one of those things that -- I had gone out with a...
KING: You went out on a ...
WHITMAN: ... the state police. I'd gone out with them for two nights and, unfortunately, I have a habit -- I've been with our firefighters when they've been fighting fires in the pine barrens and I've lit backfires with them. I -- I drove a snow plow during a blizzard for a -- an hour or so to see what I was asking people to do, and I wanted to see what I was asking the state police to do, and I also wanted to see what the people of Camden were facing at night, and from those two trips, a lot of changes came to Camden, but that particular instance, a trooper asked if I wanted to...
WHITMAN: ... to frisk somebody, to pat somebody down, and I said yes, and I shouldn't have crossed that line. It was that simple. It was not done with any malice aforethought. It wasn't done as a lark or anything like that. It was just one more thing that -- the kinds of things that I do. Like lighting backfires with the fire department.
KING: Not easy in politics, is it?
WHITMAN: No, it isn't. It isn't. It's -- especially when you hand up something like that.
But, you know, Larry, the thing that's been really, really gratifying to me is that the African-American community, the leaders in New Jersey have said, "She's not a racist. This isn't -- this should not be significant. There's too much going on, too much we need to do in Camden, too much we've already accomplished. Let's put this behind us." It's really the outside people and the political people, the pol -- the Democrats who are trying to use it, but the community isn't.
KING: Do you think you were on the list for the vice president, and did that send you off? This is what the pundits said.
WHITMAN: Oh, no. Oh, no.
KING: No, you don't believe so?
WHITMAN: Yes. No, because -- you know, that happened, what, two weeks ago maybe? The list had been decided long before that.
KING: You don't think you were on the short list.
WHITMAN: I don't think so. I was never asked to give over documents.
KING: Oh, no?
KING: So you weren't on that list.
WHITMAN: No, I was not on the list.
KING: Did you want it?
KING: Didn't want it?
WHITMAN: No. I mean, obviously, if I'd been asked -- it was -- it was highly flattering to be in the mix because that, I believe, is reflective of all that's happened in New Jersey, all -- the 38 tax cuts and the crime rate going down and all those good things that we've been able to accomplish in the state, but I love being governor. I mean, I -- if I -- asked, of course, I would have sat down and had a long, hard think about it, and would have been flattered to have been asked, but I didn't do any of the things that, you know, people sometimes do to push their name out, and I certainly never got in contact with anybody. It was just never -- I never expected to be asked, and I didn't waste any time thinking about it.
KING: What does Jersey do as that important yet middle state between Pennsylvania and New York?
WHITMAN: The valley of humility between two islands of conceit, as Benjamin Franklin said. Not me. Not me. Benjamin Franklin.
KING: Is it -- is it tough to get recognized?
WHITMAN: It's very hard because we have no television station that covers the whole state, that is indigenous to New Jersey. We don't even have a newspaper that covers the entire state. So everybody gets their news either from New York or from Pennsylvania, and, of course, those media outlets tend to focus on where they're located geographically.
KING: But you have 15 electoral votes. WHITMAN: We do. We're a very important state, and we're a swing state. We've gone with the winner in the last several presidential elections. We've gone -- we've been on the winning side, and that's why...
KING: So you look at New Jersey and you'll look at the winner.
WHITMAN: And you'll see the winner.
KING: What did you think of Dick Cheney?
WHITMAN: I've known Dick Cheney for 30 years, and I think he -- I know -- I hate to -- I hate to admit that.
KING: When he was in Congress?
WHITMAN: Back in OEO (ph) when I worked for Don Rumsfeld at OEO and Dick Cheney was -- was a friend of Rumsfeld's and -- I saw him a lot then. He's someone whose intelligence I respect, who has a broad range of experience in foreign policy, and, in Washington, I believe that he is a won -- fills out the ticket just wonderfully because you've got a leader in George Bush who's proven what he can accomplish as a governor, who, when he talks about educational reform, doesn't just talk about it, he can point to changes that he made that resulted in better scores for some of the most challenged districts in his state. Now he's got that.
You've got Dick Cheney who comes to it with extraordinary foreign policy experience as secretary of defense, who's been a chief of staff to a president, who's been a congressman, who understands how to get an agenda moving through Congress.
And I really think it's reflective of how George Bush is looking at this. He is saying, "Look, I'm the candidate. I'm the one you're going to vote for for president, and I'm showing you that I take the idea of the office very seriously, and I have picked the person that I believe can step into my shoes if anything should happen to me without a second thought."
KING: Is his voting record fair measure for pol -- I mean, he voted against some things which the Democrats are going to point to, and that's...
WHITMAN: Oh, sure.
KING: That's -- that's part of the game. You would do it.
WHITMAN: You know, all's fair in love and war, as they say. This is a revolution -- an election, in this instance, which is even worse in this country -- but I think you've got to look at who the candidate -- what they're saying now, where they are on the issues. It's so easy, as you know, with congressional votes. Most of these bills are omnibus bills that have a whole lot of other things. You can pick one little thing out that was ancillary to the overall bill or leave out a critical part that resulted in a particular vote. He'll have to answer to those, but more important is to listen to what he's saying now and what he's been doing over the last years and listen to George Bush.
KING: And are you going to go around...
WHITMAN: He's the candidate.
KING: ... campaigning?
KING: Are you surprised how well Bush is doing in the polls with women?
WHITMAN: I'm delighted. I'm delighted. I don't -- I'm not surprised.
KING: Not surprised.
WHITMAN: He's talking about the issues women care about. Women care about the...
KING: ... doesn't it?
KING: Gore and Clinton?
WHITMAN: I don't know. They've been talking about a lot of different things. Gore's been talking about a lot of things but without conviction. You see, George -- when he does it, he does it not -- he doesn't just mouth the words, he means it. This isn't something that he comes to because the poll of the day says this is the issue that he should be focusing on. He can point to a record of accomplishment in all of these areas on tax policy, on a good, strong economy, on education, on crime, reducing crime, reducing welfare. Those are things women care about.
KING: Always great seeing you.
WHITMAN: Good to see you again.
KING: We'll be seeing a lot of you.
WHITMAN: I hope so.
KING: Governor Christie Whitman might host this show again. She was terrific. Republican of New Jersey.
And when we come back, our old friend, Bill Bennett, the co- director of Empower America. He won't be here until tomorrow. We'll talk to him from Washington next. Don't go away.
KING: That's the top of the arena here at the center in downtown Philadelphia, the Comcast. It's all part of this big complex. It's the sports complex in Philadelphia, and that's what's going to happen on Thursday night after George W. Bush speaks following his nomination.
Joining us now from Washington is William Bennett, the co- director of Empower America. He'll head here tomorrow. He was education secretary under Ronald Reagan and director of drug control policy under George Bush.
How -- does this ticket please you?
WILLIAM BENNETT, CO-DIRECTOR, EMPOWER AMERICA: Yes, it's a good ticket. It's a good, strong ticket. When I was on your show a couple of months ago, you asked me who I thought he should pick. I said he should lean in the defection -- direction of defense and shoring up strength there because I think we're going to need some help in that area. The world's a tricky place. He got a guy of great solidity and strength. He solidified his base, and I think it's a good -- good ticket.
KING: Why didn't your friend, Colin Powell, want this?
BENNETT: I don't know. You know, I was hoping Colin would run, you know, back in '96. Several of us were. But personal reasons, family reasons, whatever the considerations are. I -- he could be part of this team, though, Larry. I wouldn't be surprised to see a team of Bush, Cheney, Colin Powell, McCain, some of the best from the old team, you know, the Gulf War team, plus new additions.
KING: Out on the hustings or named to jobs?
BENNETT: Well, I -- both. I think both. Out on the hustings for sure but possibly named to jobs as well.
KING: Will you -- anything about the platform surprise you?
BENNETT: No, I actually haven't read the platform in any detail yet. I'll -- I'll read it when I'm up there. But I -- I would say one thing. This -- there's a lot of good feeling about -- at the convention, and your guests have all indicated that, and I feel good, too. I'm a good Republican. But make no mistake about it. This convention's going to be a nice occasion. It's a little bit like a gathering before -- of a team before a big sporting event or a -- you know, a -- the troops before a war.
But be sure after Thursday what they're going out into is not going to be nice and shining and pleasant and warm. We're going to have the Democrats. We know they will do anything to win. They will be ruthless. This is Bill Clinton's party. It's Al Gore's party. It's Jim Carville's party. They'll play hardball all the way, and they better be ready.
So the era of good feeling is nice. It's good for people to come together and get a sense of camaraderie, but do not expect the Democrats to look at our convention and say, "Gee, you know, they saluted the greatest generation. What a great bunch of guys they are." They're going to come right down our throats.
KING: And the secret will be what? Not to be defensive?
BENNETT: I think...
KING: To attack back? What?
BENNETT: Well, you know, Bennett -- Bennett has one rule of politics. I wrote it in a book a few years ago. It's been quoted a few times. If you're not on offense, you're on defense. You know, in politics, it's like football. It adds up to 60 minutes, and it -- the minutes add up offense or defense and, so far, Bush has been brilliant.
This is, I think, the best general election campaign I've seen. I notice Michael Barone said that, too. He's got Gore off balance. The Democrats have a problem in that they're playing defense all the time and, frankly, their candidate is dull. He's not -- he's not hitting. They keep presenting different personalities to Gore. You get affable Al. You get angry Al. You get Al in Polish shirts. You get Al in tuxedos. And none of it seems to be gelling.
You -- you've got 33 percent -- I'm not working off Republican talking points, by the way. I -- you know I take my own counsel. They're going to be nice in Philadelphia. I'm going to say what I think, but you've got 33 percent of the Democratic Party saying they wish they had nominated someone else. They've got a problem.
BENNETT: Right now, we're on offense. We should stay on offense.
KING: You will admit, though, that Gore is a very good debater.
BENNETT: I've -- I saw him on your show. I saw him handle Ross Perot. I saw Dan Quayle, however, do -- do pretty well with him. He is -- you know, he's a guy who will be terrifically well prepared. However, we'll see. I -- it's fine. If people want to expect Al Gore to -- to wipe up George Bush, they can expect that. We've heard a lot this year, haven't we, about Junior Bush and, you know, "He's not real sharp." He's sharp enough to be up 12 points and have Gore scrambling. So right -- at the moment, I think George Bush looks a lot smarter than Al Gore.
KING: We'll be right back with our remaining moments with Bill Bennett who heads here tomorrow. This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: John McCain and Bob Dole will be here on Monday night. We're talking with Bill Bennett. Two shows Monday through Thursday, 9:00 and midnight each night, both of them live.
May I ask, Mr. Bennett, who your advice to the Democrats would be for their vice presidential selection?
BENNETT: Well -- gee, I hate to do it. Do you think they'll listen to me?
KING: They might.
BENNETT: My friend, Bill Kristol, gave them very good advice the other day. He wrote a column and suggested Bob Kerrey. Kerrey would be terrific, but I -- I expect Kerrey is unacceptable to a lot of people in that party. Now, you know, they say Gore can pick whoever he wants, but I don't think Gore has as much leverage as people -- as people think. So I don't know. Bob Graham, I guess, would be a sensible choice in some ways because it would put Florida in play, and -- and maybe George Mitchell -- go for the -- you know, the gravitas on the Democrat side to match Cheney, but -- who knows? Maybe he'll go to his left and -- and pick Gephardt. I -- I do not know what makes Democrats tick.
KING: But Mitchell and Cheney would be excellent choices in that both are obviously wonderful Americans who -- who have higher purposes than just politics.
BENNETT: I think that's fair. And, of course, my friend, Joe Lieberman, and -- I certainly hope they don't do that because -- I think Joe's great. I don't know if Joe would help the ticket that much, but he would help to, you know, blur the taint of the last eight years being as he is a truly high-minded and high-living person.
KING: Would you be in a quandary if Lieberman were the nominee because you are so close?
BENNETT: Oh, no. I mean, there's no question about Bush -- Bush versus Gore and -- and the platforms and -- and what they're running on. So there isn't any question. I couldn't possibly vote for Al Gore under -- under any circumstances.
KING: And do you think, by the way, we're -- how close are we to electing a Jew -- Jewish president, a black president, a woman president?
BENNETT: Oh, I -- I think we're very close. I think we're very close. I think the country -- if you had the right person now -- I mean, do -- do you have any doubt, Larry, that if Powell had been our ticket in '96, he would have been elected or this time he would have been elected. I don't think there's any question. So I think we're there. We just have to get the right person.
And, you know, Joe Lieberman is a great person. He would be a great candidate for the Democratic Party if it had its head -- head set -- had a head on straight.
KING: Are you going to be involved a lot, Bill? Are you going to be out speechmaking, or are you going to take a little sort of overview?
BENNETT: I'll be -- I'll be doing some pundit work for another network, but I'll also be helping on some of the education issues. I -- I've tried to help before, and I'll continue to help on the drug issue and -- and some other issues I know a little about.
KING: Always great seeing you. We'll see you here in Philly tomorrow.
BENNETT: I'll be there. Thanks, Larry.
KING: Amtrak is running right on time.
BENNETT: Yes, sir. Good.
KING: William Bennett, the co-director of Empower America.
We hope you enjoyed tonight's program. Stay tuned for more complete coverage on CNN around the clock. LATE EDITION tomorrow. INSIDE POLITICS special edition tomorrow. And we'll be back Monday night with live editions, 9:00 and midnight, and Monday night's guests will include John McCain and Bob Dole.
Thanks very much for joining us. From the Spectrum Complex in Philadelphia where all the sports are going on. The Dodgers are playing. Comcast is here. Stay tuned for more on CNN.
I'm Larry King. Thanks for joining us, and good night.
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