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Inside Politics

Gore Returns to His Home Town With Lieberman; Bush Campaigns in California; Chaos Reigns at Reform Party Organizational Meeting

Aired August 9, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know everything important in my life it seems has started right here in Carthage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: It's location, location on the campaign trail, as Al Gore goes home again with Joe Lieberman at his side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Come November, you mark my words, when the nation's watching, California will be in the Bush-Cheney column.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush keeps making a play for the state hosting next week's Democratic National Convention.

Plus...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AUDIENCE: Go, Pat, go!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The chaos plaguing the Reform Party, as its members appears likely to launch two rival conventions tomorrow.

ANNOUNCER: This is INSIDE POLITICS, with Judy Woodruff from Washington, and Bernard Shaw from Los Angeles.

SHAW: Thanks for joining us. Five days from now, this city, Los Angeles, will be in the spotlight, as the Democrats open their convention here. But today, the party's message is: There's no place like home. Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman went back to their roots today to showcase their new partnership and their campaign themes.

Our John King has been traveling with the Gore campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was homecoming day for the Democrats -- first stop: Carthage, Tennessee. Al Gore brought his new running mate along to meet the locals and a campaign ad team to capture any made-for-TV moments.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, make sure they are good stories, incidentally.

KING: Most of them were.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just wanted to let you know that I am so proud of you and I am so proud of what you believe in.

KING: But this teacher questioned Senator Lieberman's support of school vouchers, one of the few areas where these new partners are at odds.

LIEBERMAN: And I think it is a mark of the strength of leadership of this man that he didn't need to choose somebody who agreed with him on every issue.

KING: Gore echoed the point.

GORE: I am not afraid to have a vice president who disagrees with me on some issues. I think that is fine.

KING: But he also was clear about the bottom line.

GORE: Our administration will be opposed to private school vouchers.

KING: A local doctor recalled how a young Congressman Gore pushed the national law requiring child car seats. A mother saluted his work to set federal standards for infant formula. And the country doctor who gave young Al Gore his shots complained a lot has changed since then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not doctors practicing medicine now. We're practicing insurance, I'm afraid. And it's wrong. It's very wrong.

KING: The folksy testimonials are part of an urgent effort by the Gore campaign to reshape the candidate's public image; 42 percent of those surveyed in a CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll last week had an unfavorable opinion of Gore. Just 28 percent viewed Governor Bush unfavorably; 51 percent said Governor Bush shared their values. Only 38 percent said that about Gore; 52 percent said they would be proud to have Bush as president compared to just 34 percent said to Gore.

Bush also had the edge when voters were asked which candidate was more honest and trustworthy, had a vision for the country's future, and could manage government effectively. PETER HART, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: They don't see him as comfortable and as loose. They feel, let's say less affinity or less closeness to Al Gore at this stage.

KING: The campaign believes adding Lieberman to the ticket is already paying dividends, and creating a more positive image is now Gore's most urgent task in the run-up to next week's Democratic National Convention.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: To that end, the vice president today promised to elevate the tone of the campaign to refrain, he said, from any personal attacks on his Republican rivals. That does not mean, however, that the vice president and his fellow Democrats will be shy about using the pre-convention spotlight or the convention itself to draw sharp policy contrasts with the Bush-Cheney ticket -- Bernie.

SHAW: John, in terms of tactics and strategy, why isn't Gore attacking Republicans now?

KING: The Republicans, even Gore aides would concede, have been quite successful in painting Al Gore as a calculated politician, a man who is an attack dog, a man who is in a hurry to attack his rivals instead of fighting on the issues. The Gore campaign says that is unfair, but they do concede that the Republicans -- and this was a big theme at the Republican Convention -- that they have been successful so far in casting Gore as attack dog. So he's trying to be -- to quote former President Bush -- a bit kinder and gentler.

But behind that, they will still draw very aggressive policy contrasts with Bush and Cheney.

SHAW: Does Gore need a new image?

KING: Hard to believe a vice president needs a new image, but again, they look back to 12 years ago, when Vice President Bush ran for president. They say he faced the same problem, that he was defined by his eight years at Ronald Reagan's side -- Al Gore now defined by his eight years at Bill Clinton's side.

One of the reasons he came home is to remind people here in Carthage and around the country that he was a Congressman before he was a vice president in the House and in the Senate, trying to draw attention to his record, his individual achievements, because right now he is defined by the Clinton administration, not as -- in the words of his campaign -- the boy from Carthage.

SHAW: And in Carthage, John King, thank you -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, George W. Bush tried to get mileage out of sounding positive today, as he began a campaign train tour of California.

Our Candy Crowley has more on Bush's tone and his strategy in the Golden State. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A trip to California and a mellow Republican nominee as he offered his first public comment on the Lieberman choice.

BUSH: Joe Lieberman is a man who is praised by people from both sides of the aisle. That is a good sign. He is a -- I don't know him personally, but I do appreciate his strong positions on ethics that he has taken. He is a man of integrity.

CROWLEY: Asked whether Lieberman's sharp criticism of Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky offers a shield to Al Gore, Bush passed up the chance and sidestepped.

BUSH: I think it is more about tone. And remember who is going to be president. The race is between Al Gore and me, and who best sets the right tone for Washington. The American people are going to need to ask the question: Who is going to get something done?

CROWLEY: Then it was off to more of what the campaign calls "Change the Tone" train tours, more photo-friendly than necessary, an eye-catching way saying: I am here. I am in the game.

BUSH: No, we are not writing off any place, particularly this important state. This state is the biggest, it's the most powerful state in the Union. And come November, you mark my words, when the nation is watching, California will be in the Bush-Cheney column.

CROWLEY: This is Bush's 10th trip to California since January, a visit designed to grab a share of the Southern California media now preparing for the oncoming Democratic Convention.

NELSON WARFIELD, GOP CONSULTANT: Bush is taking a chance. He's prospecting for votes. And it's probably not a bad use of his time now, to determine whether he can narrow the gap there in the polls to see whether it's a worthwhile fight for November.

CROWLEY: But campaigns in this giant, time-consuming state are not about the hours you spend on the ground, but about the money you spend on the air. California campaigns are largely waged in television ads. It is wildly expensive and too early to say whether the money would be well spent. Bush aides say they won't decide how much and where to spend ad money until the polls settle down after Labor Day. Translation: If Bush is down too far in the California polls, the money might be better spent elsewhere.

Most of the territory Bush rumbled through Wednesday went for Clinton-Gore in the past two elections, but the wins were often squeakers and the demographic makeup of most of the areas make it fertile ground to court swing voters.

(on camera): Swing voters and ticket-splitters are also the focus of a Thursday train tour, and the Bush campaign has hired on a designated hitter. John McCain will be aboard, as the Bush camp tries to tap into some of the McCain magic that made him such a force in the primaries.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Ventura, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: Bush and his running mate, Dick Cheney, went their separate ways today -- on the campaign trail, that is.

Our Bob Franken reports on Cheney: on his own and trying to keep a high profile.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The campaign makes it clear Dick Cheney will not be relegated to second-tier appearances. His first solo campaign event was in the battleground state of Missouri.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Me too.

DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The cameras here make me nervous.

FRANKEN: He started with this photogenic appearance at an inner- city missionary center in St. Louis, a prime spot for the campaign message of compassionate conservatism.

CHENEY: And one of the things about an organization like Sunshine Ministries is that it demonstrates that government doesn't have a monopoly on the wisdom of how to deal with society's problems.

FRANKEN: Cheney repeated several Bush campaign proposals -- among them, removing requirements that would prohibit religious organizations from their practices and customs in social services that receive federal funding. Cheney's style was as low key as ever. Still, he is trying to reclaim the spotlight from Al Gore's new running mate, Joe Lieberman.

CHENEY: I've got a lot of experience in the executive branch, obviously, running the White House and the Defense Department. Joe's background: stronger legal dimension as an attorney and attorney general. So I've, I mean, clearly, I think when the chips are down, I hope the American people will believe my experience and what I've got to offer adds more to the Bush ticket, shall we say, than Joe adds to the Gore ticket.

FRANKEN (on camera): The next stop for Cheney is Ohio, and then it's on to Kentucky. Both are also considered key battleground states.

Bob Franken, CNN, St. Louis.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: In this period between GOP and Democratic conventions, the Reform Party is presenting quite a contrast to those events, but not in a positive way.

CNN's Gary Tuchman has an update on the unscripted political slugfest that's unfolding on the eve of the Reform Party convention in California.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWD: Go, Pat, go! Go, Pat, go! Go, Pat, go!

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He has arrived in Long Beach, California firmly convinced he is the presidential nominee in waiting for the Reform Party.

PAT BUCHANAN (REF), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We start building this party up into the teens in the poll, then we get into that debate with Albert and W.!

TUCHMAN: And former GOP presidential candidate Pat Buchanan says this is just the beginning.

P. BUCHANAN: You see the energy and enthusiasm. We're building this party. We're going to give the American people a real choice in November with a fighting third party, which is eventually going to be the second party and then the first party in America.

TUCHMAN: But will the party stay intact?

(SHOUTING)

Within the Reform Party, there is an implosion in progress.

RUSS VERNEY, FORMER REFORM PARTY CHAIRMAN: This committee that's meeting in this room is not the duly appointed committee of the Reform Party.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Listen, I am so sick of these threats!

TUCHMAN: The party has literally split into two wings: one in favor of Pat Buchanan, one against him. There are two different credentials committee, two different national committees, two different chairmen, all in time for the beginning of the party's nominating convention Thursday.

Former party chairman Russ Verney is against Pat Buchanan.

VERNEY: It is very likely and probable that there will be two separate conventions and two separate convention rooms.

TUCHMAN: Pat Buchanan's sister is his campaign chair.

BAY BUCHANAN, BUCHANAN CAMPAIGN CHAIRWOMAN: I would have hoped that these people would have heard the fat lady singing 30 days ago and that they would have stepped aside, recognizing the defeat that they had.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are we doing out here? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, don't you push me, mister!

TUCHMAN: The Reform Party's Hatfields and McCoys are likely to each nominate their own presidential candidate. The Ross Perot wing of the party is endorsing physicist John Hagelin. But the winner is supposed to get control of $12.6 million in federal election funds.

B. BUCHANAN: Once the $12.6 million is transferred into our account, it will be pretty clear who the nominee is.

JIM MANGIA, REFORM PARTY NATIONAL SECRETARY: I think what we have to express today is the complete dismay and disheartening activities of the Pat Buchanan for President Campaign in their corrupt attempt to steal the Reform Party nomination and make off with $12.6 million in federal matching funds.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN: Just in case you haven't noticed, there is a lot of antagonism here. There is a lot of posturing, a lot of chest beating, but the fact is nobody knows what's going on. Police are on the standby in case there are any problems. Already one Reform National Committee member has filed assault charges against another member, saying that he was pushed.

So Tomorrow here in Long Beach, California, at the convention center, we face the possibility of the unusual spectacle of two separate conventions taking place in the same building.

As far as the logistics, absolutely nobody knows the answer to that: neither wing of the party or the people who run the convention center. They just don't know how it will work out.

Now, the $12.6 million, that's the big question. The Federal Election Commission says it's already investigating the scenario. Both sides anticipate the matter will end up in court, but they also anticipate they will win.

Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: And Gary Tuchman, I guess we'll just have to clone you so you can cover both conventions.

(LAUGHTER)

TUCHMAN: That's right.

WOODRUFF: All right. And still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, more on the Reform Party dispute over the candidacy of Pat Buchanan from two reporters covering that party's convention.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: Now, more on the upheaval at that Reform Party convention. Joining us from Long Beach, California, Thomas Edsall of "The Washington Post" and Megan Garvey of the "Los Angeles Times." Starting first with you, Megan, has Pat Buchanan effectively seized control of this party?

MEGAN GARVEY, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": I guess that depends on whom you ask. Pat Buchanan believes he's effectively seized control of the party, and he says he has Gerry Moan, who was the Reform Party chairman at least coming into this whole thing, and he's the man who controls the checkbooks. And Moan appears on Pat's side. But there's a whole other group of people who have a very different opinion about who's in control of this party.

SHAW: What about control, Tom?

THOMAS EDSALL, "WASHINGTON POST": I think the advantage is right now with Buchanan. He -- one, he's a real candidate. The other side does not have a guy who you really consider a strong, credible candidate in John Hagelin. Secondly, the Buchanan people did take over the national committee and they look pretty good for the event tomorrow.

SHAW: But where was...

EDSALL: So...

SHAW: I'm sorry, go ahead.

EDSALL: Basically, they've got the party machinery at this point, and the other guys are doing a rump convention to a certain extent. And it's always much harder to bargain from the position of being a rump alternative group than be having the real ball game in your hands.

GARVEY: The question becomes how much trouble they can make for Pat Buchanan. I mean, today at a press conference Bay talked about what -- when she would need to get her hands on the $12.6 million that comes to the Reform Party nominee. She said September 1st. The question then becomes how effectively they can hold up distribution of that money, if they can at all.

SHAW: Well, that was going to be my next question: Can people opposed to Buchanan block the receipt of the $12.6 million?

EDSALL: They can try in the courts. What will happen is there will be an application made by both sides to the Federal Election Commission. The Federal Election Commission will have to rule. That will be interesting, because it has to be a 4-2 decision or better. And there are three Republicans on the commission, and they may not want the money to go to Buchanan.

Then, whatever happens will then be appealed by the losing side. Conceivably both sides could lose at that stage. And then it'll go to the courts. There is no precedent in this, I don't believe, to determine how long this kind of process could be dragged on.

SHAW: To understand one point about Buchanan's perceived control of the party, as some perceive it, if he indeed is in control, how did he pull this off?

EDSALL: He went from state to state to state, and he just took over state party after state party. He won all the delegates. He won the national committee seats. He played hardball, by his own account. As one of his people says, he played smash-mouth football, but he played by the rules. The other side says he did not play by the rules. It's a real dispute.

GARVEY: He's argued all along that this is no hostile takeover, that the part was moribund, that it was dormant, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and that it was he -- he came in with his people and they worked hard to energize the Reform Party. He's made those comments for months now and he made them again today when he stepped out of his SUV into a crowd roaring approval for him. So...

SHAW: Why do you suppose that during this fight for the heart and soul of the Reform Party, the founder, Ross Perot, has kept such a low profile?

EDSALL: No one can really figure that out. His percentages went down. He only got half as much in '96 as he did in '92. The campaign was a much worse event. His debate with Al Gore on CNN was a real bad showing for him.

He may have felt really soured by the whole process, but he has kept to himself. He went to one Reform Party convention, spoke very briefly, and really almost in an insulting fashion. In a way, it was like an unprepared speech without any consideration. No one really knows what's going on with him.

GARVEY: Russ Verney has said that Perot's whole objective was to provide Americans with an alternative choice, you know, to the mainstream Republican and Democrat candidates, and that beyond that, that he really doesn't have an opinion over who controls or doesn't control the Reform Party. And behind closed doors, I think it's pretty clear that the people most closely allied with Perot are also the people that are the most ferociously anti-Buchanan at this point.

SHAW: Speaking of debates, along with getting control of the Reform Party, if he indeed does, are the debates as crucial for Buchanan as getting control of the party?

GARVEY: I mean, if he's going to make any kind of a showing at all, they've admitted they need to be in the debates, which they're fighting to be participants right now. It's interesting to me that he always talks about a three-way debate and seems to not believe that the Green Party candidate Ralph Nader should be involved. His argument is, he's a candidate that's receiving federal money, and therefore there should be sort of a precedent or an inclusion of him automatically in the debates, and that's part of the lawsuit that they've filed and they're going to go forward with. But Bay talked today about they do not have as much money as these other candidates; they are going to rely largely on free press, on radio, and the debates. Without the debates, I'm not sure that his percentage numbers are going to come up high enough to even get the Reform Party, if that's who he's representing, matching funds in the next go-around. SHAW: Tom, do you have a thought?

EDSALL: Well, I think the debates are make or break for Buchanan. And if he does not get into the debates, he may not get the 5 percent that the party needs to forget to survive as a recipient of federal money in 2004. If that happens, the party really is on its back and is close to dead.

SHAW: Thomas Edsall of "The Washington Post" and Megan Garvey of "The Los Angeles Times," thanks very, very much.

GARVEY: Thank you.

SHAW: You're welcome.

And there is much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

Still to come:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIEBERMAN: Give him my regards.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will.

LIEBERMAN: Is that how you came to us?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

LIEBERMAN: I'm glad we're still remembering those great attorney general days. But you just got here, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: Maria Hinojosa on how the number-two pick is playing with party liberals. Plus, Bill Schneider on targeting a new constituency -- a look at the Gore/Lieberman ticket and its appeal to religious voters. And later, will the Democratic vice presidential hopeful help Hillary Rodham Clinton with New York voters? All that and more ahead on INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: We'll have more of the day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories.

The National Transportation Safety Board will examine the wreckage from two planes that collided over suburban New Jersey. The crash this morning in Burlington killed at least 10 people. Wreckage from one of the planes crashed onto a house. Residents in the area watched as wreckage fell from the sky.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looked up and saw a burning ball of flames with the wings sticking out of it, and floated right to the ground on top of their house.

QUESTION: You said it took no more than 10 seconds?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably five seconds. Like I said, it -- they must have crashed, and the debris allowed it just to float to the ground, and the we saw the black smoke.

QUESTION: So when you looked up, the fuselage was burning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was already burning, yes, and it was cut in half with just debris floating all around the sky.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: No one on the ground was hurt. They say eight of the victims were civilian employees of the U.S. Navy. The two others were a flight instructor and a student.

A strong earthquake strikes Mexico, shaking up residents from Playa Azul to Mexico City. U.S. geologists say the quake measured a 6.4 magnitude. But so far, injuries and damages appear to be minimal.

Millions of American motorists are receiving a new set of tires, courtesy of Firestone. The company announced today a voluntary recall of its ATX, ATX II and Wilderness brand tires. The maker faces dozens of lawsuits from victims who say their tires shredded on the road, causing crashes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tire was coming apart, and I lost control and that's the last thing I remember. Next thing I remember, somebody was looking over me, putting me in a helicopter. I was asking where my family was.

QUESTION: Sir, since you have become aware of the situation with these tires. Can you kind of tell us what your reaction was when you heard that this had been a problem to other families, in other accidents?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can they leave them on the cars? How could they not put a recall out on them? And let my family get hurt, or me get hurt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: A federal safety investigation is under way to determine if tire failure caused 46 fatal accidents across the country.

Former President Gerald Ford was released from a Philadelphia hospital earlier today. The 87-year-old Ford entered the hospital last week, after attending the Republican National Convention. He was treated and released, but returned the next day. Doctors then said Ford had suffered from at least one minor stroke, perhaps two. He was also treated for an abscess on his tongue. Fifteen Americans received the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award. The presidential honor is bestowed on individuals who make meritorious contributions to the security and national interests of the United States. Other recipients include AIDS Dr. Matilda Krim (ph), NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and former Senator George McGovern.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns, an attack on Joseph Lieberman and the condemnation that followed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Since Al Gore asked Joe Lieberman to be his running mate two days ago, the Connecticut senator has widely been described as a political centrist. That raises the question: How is Lieberman's selection playing with the Democratic Party's more liberal base?

CNN's Maria Hinojosa has been exploring that issue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The choice of Joe Lieberman for vice presidential candidate has been hailed by some as a bold move.

GORE: I wanted someone who would fight right alongside me for the people, not for the powerful.

HINOJOSA: A move that would showcase the Democrats as being forward thinking, progressive and true to their diverse base.

LIEBERMAN: The question before us today, as we begin the drive for the White House is this: Are we going to elect the old guard?

CROWD: No!

LIEBERMAN: That created the problems, or a new guard?

HINOJOSA: But what exactly is the new guard? Progressives on the left say that it is distinctly not Joe Lieberman.

AMY GOLDMAN, PACIFICA RADIO: He's pro-school voucher. He is pro-military. He is pro-death penalty. He is beholden to his campaign contributors in the state of Connecticut, which are major military industries, as well as insurance companies.

HINOJOSA: From Pacific Radio, Goodman hosts a nationally broadcast radio show that comes distinctly from the left. Today, she told her audience about the campaign contributions that Joe Lieberman received from the right-wing Cuban-American Foundation.

GOLDMAN: I think what's happening with Joe Lieberman and Al Gore is it confirms, especially for the people who are in the streets, the protesters, their view, that Al Gore is trying to out-Republican the Republicans.

HINOJOSA (on camera): Some liberals and progressives had hoped Al Gore would take the Democratic Party back to his traditional progressive roots with his pick for vice president, but Gore, too, appears to be courting the political center with his choice of Lieberman.

(voice-over): Green Party Candidate Ralph Nader hopes committed liberals will research Lieberman's record.

RALPH NADER, GREEN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He has taken money from the insurance companies and represented their interests in Washington. He has taken money from the nuclear power interests and represented their interests in Washington.

HINOJOSA: But in the basement of New York's largest municipal workers union, the phone banks are going strong for Lieberman.

ELLIOT SIEDEN, UNION ACTIVIST: Americans have a choice and working families have a clear choice -- they can either continue to move forward, to develop solid programs for working families, if it's increasing the minimum wage, if it's tax cuts for those who need it most. If it's investing in infrastructure of America. Or we can go back to those days of tax cuts for the wealthy, deficits and recession.

HINOJOSA: A pragmatic choice for union activists to support Lieberman for vice president, even though they don't support everything he stands for.

Maria Hinojosa, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: An alliance today of sorts between the NAACP and the Bush campaign, as both condemned what many are calling anti-Semitic remarks about Joseph Lieberman. In a radio interview on Monday, Lee Alcorn, who is president of the Dallas branch of the NAACP, said among other things -- and I am quoting now -- "I think we need to be very suspicious of any kind of partnerships between the Jews at that kind of level because we know that their interest primarily has to do with, you know, money and these kinds of things" -- end quote. The national president of the civil rights group, Kweisi Mfume said he finds those comments -- quote -- "to be repulsive, anti-Semitic, anti-NAACP and anti-American. Mr. Alcorn does not speak for the NAACP, its board, its staff or its membership," again, end quote. Mfume added that he probably would suspend Alcorn's NAACP membership and his position with the Dallas branch.

Today, Alcorn apologizes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEE ALCORN, PRESIDENT, NAACP DALLAS BRANCH: I am sorry if my misspoken words offended members of the Jewish community, the Jewish faith or others. These comments that were attributed to me were fueled by the frustration with the -- with politics as they relate to African-Americans. However, this does not excuse insensitive remarks toward Jewish people or their faith. I am not anti-Jewish or anti- Semitic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: In a statement, the Bush campaign called Alcorn's remarks anti-Semitic and said the governor and Dick Cheney condemn those remarks in the strongest terms.

SHAW: Now a much broader look at religion in the campaign with our Bill Schneider.

Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman have been talking a good deal about their faith in the last few days. Is there a particular constituency they're targeting?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Well, yes, Americans of faith, and in fact, all faiths. The single biggest trend in American politics over the past 20 years has been the split between religious and secular voters. Religious Americans of all faiths, including religious Jews, have been trending Republican, while the unchurched have trended Democratic. Right now, Republicans have the edge among regular churchgoers, while the less religious tilt to the Democrats. We've come to expect Republicans to use religious language, as George W. Bush did in his speech last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I believe in grace, because I've seen it, in peace, because I felt it, in forgiveness, because I've needed it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: By contrast, Democrats have seemed less comfortable talking about faith and religion in recent years. In fact, the Religious Right was organized because they saw liberals as trying to drive religion out of public life. According to Gallup, 61 percent of Americans describe religion as "very important" in their lives.

Democrats are beginning to learn that it's a mistake to concede those voters. Lieberman himself has also taken some positions that appeal to religious conservatives. Even though he supports abortion and gay rights, he also supported school vouchers, and he wants the U.S. to fight religious persecution all over the world. And of course, he's a leader in the crusade against violence and obscenity in the media.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIEBERMAN: We will work, Al and Tipper, Hadassah and I, to help renew the moral center of this nation so that families can be stronger, children safer and parents empowered to pass on to their children their faith and their moral values.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: Just as Republicans showed us last week in Philadelphia that they want to mend bridges with minority voters, Democrats clearly believe that Lieberman's religious faith might be one important way to bring religious voters back to their party.

SHAW: But if most religious voters have become Republicans over the last several years, won't it take more than Joe Lieberman to bring them back?

SCHNEIDER: Well, this is a step. What the Democrats are aiming to do, Bernie, is neutralize the religion split that we've been seeing growing in American politics. Step one: Convince voters that the Democratic Party is not hostile to religious values. That's Lieberman. Step two: Look to Republicans to play down issues like abortion and gay rights. That's Bush. Step three: Hope that these issues will become less important to voters over time, particularly as reasonable compromises are worked out. That's the voters.

Look at how different the role of religion is this year than it was back in 1960 when the Democrats nominated Kennedy. In 1960, the Democrats went out of their way to argue that religion was a private matter and Kennedy's faith had no bearing on his public life. Now Lieberman is advertising himself as a person of faith and he is declaring how central his religion is to politics.

SHAW: Thank you, Bill Schneider.

And just ahead, a closer look at Joseph Lieberman and his possible role in that New York Senate race, and his relationship with the president.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In the New York Senate race, a new Quinnipiac University poll shows Hillary Rodham Clinton with 46 percent to 43 percent for Republican Congressman Rick Lazio. Last month, the same poll showed the two tied with 45 percent each. Newly named vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman is expected to campaign with Mrs. Clinton in New York.

And as Frank Buckley explains, the first lady may need the help, at least when it comes to Jewish voters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chuck Schumer became a New York senator in 1998 -- his win helped by an estimated 75 percent of the Jewish vote -- a contrast of first lady Hillary Clinton's level of support in the Jewish community, which is lagging. A poll released today showing that she pulls 52 percent of the Jewish vote, compared to Republican Rick Lazio's 36 percent.

SEN JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are some people who might actually call Al's selection of me an act of chutzpah. BUCKLEY: The act of choosing an Orthodox Jew for the national ticket, Joe Lieberman, could, some say, help the first lady to get elected to the U.S. Senate. Mrs. Clinton says she'd like Lieberman to campaign with her in the months ahead.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, I hope so. I've spoken with him and wished him well and told him how pleased I was about the choice. And if it's possible, given all the ground he has to cover, I would love to have him in New York.

BUCKLEY: Clinton aides say it's impossible to know exactly how many Jewish voters energized by a Lieberman candidacy will in turn vote for Mrs. Clinton. But in a close race, he could generate voter turnout that traditionally skews toward Democratic candidates.

LEE MIRINGOFF, DIRECTOR, MARIST POLL: I think what we're talking about is certainly an opportunity for Hillary to do better with a group that she's been struggling with and a group that she needs in fact to do better with. Cheney gave Lazio nothing. Lieberman may in fact have been some benefit to Hillary Clinton.

BUCKLEY: Lieberman has attempted to help Mrs. Clinton in New York in the past, last year guiding her through a meeting with members of the Orthodox Union.

LIEBERMAN: It was a good meeting, good discussion.

BUCKLEY: Mrs. Clinton had angered many Jewish voters when she embraced the wife of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat after she accused Israelis of gassing Palestinians. Before that, Mrs. Clinton said she was in favor of a Palestinian state. And just recently, a Bill Clinton aide from the 1970's accused Mrs. Clinton of making an anti-Semitic remark, something she strongly denied.

Lieberman, some believe, could help to assuage Jewish voters who have concerns about Mrs. Clinton.

RACHEL DANADIO, CITY EDITOR, THE FORWARD: There is a significant swing-voter population. We're talking probably about 100,000, 150,000 Jewish voters. And they're the ones who might have reservations about Hillary Clinton, but that, you know, still don't know enough about Lazio to want to vote for him. And those are the ones who might see Lieberman on the ticket and say: You know, OK, I'm going to vote a straight ticket.

BUCKLEY (on camera): Still, there are some who believe Mrs. Clinton may not get Lieberman voters to vote for her. Jewish voters could pass on the Senate race or vote for Lazio. Lazio, for one, saying Hillary Clinton is many things, but she's no Joe Lieberman.

Frank Buckley, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: Political observers have touted the selection of Senator Lieberman as Al Gore's way of breaking with President Clinton. But as Kelly Wallace reports, the senator's now-famous criticism of the president apparently has not harmed their friendship.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Current and former aides describe the relationship between Bill Clinton and Joe Lieberman as close and warm, a bond forged 30 years ago, when Clinton, a 24-year-old Yale Law School student, volunteered for Lieberman's campaign for the Connecticut State Senate. The two young politicos also worked on Joe Duffey's 1970 run for the United States Senate.

JOE DUFFEY, FORMER U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: The two of them had a great deal in common. They had been to public schools. They had come from families of more modest economic backgrounds. They had taken the time to read.

WALLACE: Over the years, their bond remained strong, although it was tested after Lieberman's public rebuke of the president's behavior.

LIEBERMAN: It is immoral.

WALLACE: Lieberman told CNN's Larry King that was perhaps his hardest day in the Senate.

LIEBERMAN: I'll tell you, sometimes I think a friend has to say to a friend: I just didn't like what you did, or it is not going to get better.

WALLACE: The president was out of the country when Lieberman spoke out.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Basically, I agree with what he said. I've already said that I made a bad mistake. It was indefensible, and I'm sorry about it.

WALLACE: The president's aides say the senator's words had no impact on their relationship. Senator Lieberman's former staffers agree and point to this state dinner for the president of Hungary nine months later. Mr. Clinton invited not just Lieberman, but his mother- in-law, a Holocaust survivor and a Hungarian refugee.

MICHAEL LEWAN, FORMER LIEBERMAN CHIEF OF STAFF: I think it was a clear signal to Senator and Mrs. Lieberman that whatever had happened in the months previous, all had been forgiven and, indeed, maybe even appreciated.

WALLACE: The two men shared a common goal as they shaped their political futures. Both became active, and leaders of the Democratic Leadership Council, the moderate wing of the Democratic Party.

AL FROM, DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP COUNCIL: They have certainly been partners over the years in trying to modernize the Democratic Party and trying to bring the Democratic Party back to its traditional values with new, innovative ideas.

WALLACE (on camera): Even though the political thinking is that Al Gore chose the senator, in part, to distance himself from the president's personal conduct, Democrats saying Mr. Clinton couldn't be happier with the selection of his friend, a man the president once told an aide has a philosophy closer to his own than almost any other public official.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: Up next, has Al Gore found a candidate both Margaret Carlson and Tucker Carlson can agree on: their reactions on the Democratic ticket when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Joining us now, Margaret Carlson of "TIME" magazine, Tucker Carlson of "The Weekly Standard."

All right, Tucker, this ticket is not even -- what is it? -- 28 hours old. Is this helping Al Gore or is it simply not hurting him?

TUCKER CARLSON, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, I mean, it's helping him. I mean, to the extent -- you know, to the extent a vice president ever helps the person who nominates him, yes, definitely. I mean, if the question is "Does it really matter in the end?" I don't know. But if ever matters, it matters now.

I mean, you know, there's all this argument whether the -- you know, the overnight right after -- the overnight poll right after the selection was accurate or not. Well, it was big enough to reflect something, a general trend.

Sure. I mean, it's recognized by everyone, I think, as a good choice.

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": For lots of people, this is their introduction to the ticket. So to that extent, it's been a great couple of days, and now they have the convention. So it's an arc into the convention.

WOODRUFF: Universal acclaim. Is there no downside to Joseph Lieberman?

T. CARLSON: Well, if they overplay it. And I think there's -- you know, you're getting the sense that they might. I mean, there's this -- you know, everyone likes Lieberman. I think he was the obvious choice really from the field that the Gore people said they were considering. But this idea that somehow he was a super- courageous choice because you're going to meet lots of opposition from, you know, anti-Semitic Republicans, I don't know. I mean, that's just -- that's a bit much to swallow.

As it turns out, you know, the loudest voice against him was the head of the NAACP in Dallas. And in fact, evangelicals, as has been said, like the fact that he's Orthodox. So, that's a big phony, I think. M. CARLSON: I mean, there is always this problem of being, as the Christian right was, too judgmental, too self-righteous, too religious, and imposing it on other people. But Lieberman is very good at making jokes about his own self-righteousness. He said, you know, excuse me, John McCain and I have to go in the cloakroom and shine up our halos whenever he was going to do one of his rap music lyrics or something like that. So he has a healthy dose of skepticism about himself.

But it's courageous to the extent that no one's done it, and you know, who knows? Who knows how this will play? We don't know how much anti-Semitism there is in the country. And when pollsters go and talk to people, they're not going to say, "Oh, no, I'm not voting for the ticket now because there's a Jew on it." That's not going to be heard.

WOODRUFF: What about this argument that what Gore has done really was, in a way, looking back, trying to solve the Clinton ethics problem, rather than looking ahead and just assuming that he can deal with the other things?

T. CARLSON: That's part of it, but also, I mean, there is this kind of intangible quality. There are a couple of politicians like this -- Barbara Boxer in California is one -- who have this problem where voters -- there's something about them voters don't like. It's not always fair. People who around Barbara Boxer personally say, yes, she's actually a really nice problem. But Gore definitely has this problem.

And I think that Lieberman, to a large extent, answers that problem as well as the Clinton one. Everyone likes Joe Lieberman, everyone who's around him. And you know, he's an amusing, charming guy.

M. CARLSON: I predict Lieberman could actually help Al Gore rediscover those parts of himself that some of us know but we don't see now and we don't see on the campaign trail, because he is such a comfortable droll guy that Gore may become less cautious and talk -- although he may not talk a little faster. Actually, Senator Lieberman is a very slow talker.

WOODRUFF: What about that obscure Senate race in New York, Tucker? Does Lieberman on the ticket help Hillary Clinton?

T. CARLSON: Boy, I just don't see it. I mean, every -- you know, every development in national politics is, you know, somehow supposedly rebounds in New York.

(LAUGHTER)

I mean, is it -- I mean, is the idea that, you know, the Jewish vote in New York doesn't normally get out during elections and this is going to somehow motivate them? Or that Jewish voters in New York are going to say, gee, you know, the Democrats are running a Jewish vice presidential nominee: Wow! I'm going to vote Democratic. I mean, maybe that's going to be the dynamic. I have trouble believing it. M. CARLSON: Well, what we know is that she has to do better than the 57 percent that she's now getting and get closer to Chuck Schumer's 77 or 80 percent. So maybe some people on the fence who -- but as I understand the Jewish vote, they're ticket-splitters. So it may not necessarily help even those who are coming out to vote because Lieberman is on the ticket: splitting their vote and then voting...

T. CARLSON: Until -- until she reveals, of course, that she's related to Joe Lieberman, at which point...

M. CARLSON: Yes, right. That her grandparents...

T. CARLSON: ... major, major bump. Exactly. By marriage, but you know...

M. CARLSON: Maybe she'll marry Joe Lieberman.

T. CARLSON: Gee!

M. CARLSON: Yes, this would be quite a development before the election.

WOODRUFF: Anyplace else in the country where it could make a difference -- California? I mean, the early thinking was, well, on the coast it might help.

M. CARLSON: Perhaps New Jersey or Florida.

T. CARLSON: Well, it would be a first, though. It would be. I mean, I think it's a really, you know, interesting, good, solid choice. They're not soliciting my opinion, but if they had, I would have said, you know, gee, that's a good idea.

But it would be a first-ever, so far as I know, where a vice presidential nominee actually helped the presidential nominee.

M. CARLSON: Well, since everyone is occupying the same place, the Bush-Cheney ticket and the Gore-Lieberman ticket, maybe it's going to be something small like this will tilt people, because everybody is racing for the center.

WOODRUFF: All right. Thank you, both. Margaret Carlson, Tucker Carlson, we'll see you all in Los Angeles.

M. CARLSON: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Bernie.

SHAW: Well, that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you again tomorrow from the CNN Democratic convention site here in Los Angeles, when our Candy Crowley will have an interview with George W. Bush and John McCain. And of course, you can go online all the time at cnn.com/election2000.

WOODRUFF: And this programming note: the struggle for control of the Reform Party will be the topic tonight on "CROSSFIRE," 7:30 p.m. Eastern. The guests will be party founding chairman Russ Verney and Bay Buchanan, who is head of the Pat Buchanan presidential campaign.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

SHAW: Waiting for you to get out here on the ground tomorrow, Judy.

WOODRUFF: I'm heading their tomorrow morning.

SHAW: We'll be waiting. And I'm Bernard Shaw. "WORLDVIEW" is next.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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