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Burden of Proof

Democratic National Convention: Sen. Hutchison and Lt. Gov. Kennedy Townsend on the DNC Platform

Aired August 17, 2000 - 12:30 p.m. ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. GOV. KATHLEEN KENNEDY TOWNSEND (D), MARYLAND: The chance to serve is the truest wealth. That is the American dream.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I've tried to see America through the eyes of families who had the deck stacked against them but fought back. As Connecticut's attorney general, I worked to be the people's lawyer.

VICE PRES. AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that you deserve to know exactly what the candidates are proposing to do so you can make an informed judgment. I'm going to tell you.

MAYOR TOM MENINO (D), BOSTON: All those in favor of adopting the national platform signify by saying, aye.

DELEGATES: Aye!

MENINO: All those opposed, say, nay.

The ayes have it. The 2000 platform is adopted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER COSSACK, CO-HOST: Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman storm Los Angeles for the Democratic National Convention. Today on BURDEN OF PROOF, the DNC platform irons out the party wrinkles and wades through the waters of the most hotly contested legal battles of our time.

ANNOUNCER: This is BURDEN OF PROOF, live from the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, with Roger Cossack and Greta Van Susteren.

COSSACK: Hello and welcome to this special campaign 2000 edition of BURDEN OF PROOF.

When Vice President Al Gore selected Joseph Lieberman as his running mate, it was clear he was trying to distance himself from the painful legal legacy of the Clinton administration. Ironically, tonight's coming-out party for Gore at the Democratic National Convention falls on the two-year anniversary of President Clinton's testimony before a federal grand jury. GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CO-HOST: But Gore has a chance to turn the page into a new chapter in the Oval Office with new ideas for progress and new plans for the future. The Democratic positions on social and legal issues are carved out in the DNC platform.

COSSACK: And joining us today from Fort Worth, Texas, Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, the first woman to represent her state in the United States Senate.

VAN SUSTEREN: And joining us here in Los Angeles, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who's the lieutenant governor of the state of Maryland and the first woman to hold that post as well.

Governor, let me first turn to you. One of the issues in the Gore platform is mandatory photo identification licenses. What is the best argument for that? How would you try to convince even Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison we need that?

TOWNSEND: We want to make sure that we know who's using the guns, whether they be misused, and how we can help law enforcement do their job better and be able to go against those, arrest those who are committing crimes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Hutchison, what about the mandatory ID licenses. Do we need them or not?

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: I don't think so. I do not think we need to go to licensing for people to own guns, either for hunting or for their own self-protection. The Second Amendment is a very important one and I think we should keep it. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't do some other things that would curb gun crime in our country. First and foremost is prosecuting people without any kind of mercy if they commit a crime with a gun. There should be higher penalties, and those need to be prosecuted.

VAN SUSTEREN: But you know what the problem with that, Senator Hutchison, is it's a little late at that point. If we're talking about prosecuting, chances are someone's dead. So how do you respond to that?

HUTCHISON: Well, first -- I mean, you have to set standards so that there is a deterrent. And I think prosecuting and knowing that if you commit a crime with a gun it's going to be a much harsher penalty than if you don't use a gun, I think becomes a deterrent.

COSSACK: Senator Hutchison, this is Roger Cossack. One of the problems -- I mean, I hear what you say, that people should be able to have handguns and protections and hunting rifles, but what about automatic weapons? What about these AK-40 -- AK-7s and guns that the only possible purpose to have them is for killing people? What possible reason could you have for saying, yes, people should be allowed to have those kinds of weapons?

HUTCHISON: Well, we have a ban on automatic weapons, as we should.

VAN SUSTEREN: Go ahead, Governor.

TOWNSEND: One of the, I think, the big differences between the Democrats and the Republicans on the gun issue is that we understand we should prevent crime, not just punish crime. When you lose a father or if you lose a child, I'm glad that somebody's going to prosecute that killer. But wouldn't it be better not to have somebody that lost in the first place? And so it's also important to prevent crime, to make it difficult for it to occur, and that requires -- and we have, for instance, on the roads, we don't just punish bad drivers, we license them. We make sure that the people who are using the cars know how to use them, we know how -- we make sure that the police have the access to their records. Why can't we do the same thing for guns?

COSSACK: Well, what about the fact that there's a constitutional right to have a weapon under Second Amendment and there's no constitutional right to have to be able to drive a car?

TOWNSEND: There's a constitutional right to be able to travel across state lines, there's a constitutional right to be able to associate with people and to go where you want to go. The Second Amendment, as you know, has to do with whether or not you want to have a militia. This does not have to do with -- when you have gun...

COSSACK: Well, we may disagree with what the courts have said, but it's been interpreted more than that. I mean, it's been interpreted to have weapons.

VAN SUSTEREN: But, Roger, I mean, when you talk about constitutional rights, I mean, you and I have had this debate before. You know, constitutional rights aren't necessarily absolute. Take the First Amendment: You cannot falsely yell "fire" in a crowded theater, and I think that's, you know, part of the issue.

But let me turn the corner to the issue of civil rights. In the Democratic platform, Vice President Gore is in favor of racial preferences in connection with affirmative action. Why is that part of the platform? Why is that so important now in this day and age?

TOWNSEND: It's important because we've had a long history of discrimination in our country and we don't have opportunity for all. When we make sure we're going to have African-Americans in our police forces or in our fire departments or in our systems of higher education, we're saying that everybody will be able to participate. If we don't have those special preferences, large parts of our country won't be able to enjoy the blessings of prosperity.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Hutchison, what's wrong with affirmative action? Why does the Republican platform not include that as part of its platform.

HUTCHISON: Well, I think that there was a time when there was discrimination based on race, and we needed to address that. And I think in the early stages it was very good that we made the effort to make sure that every person was brought into the system. But as in everything, I think it has evolved now and we need to look at the reality. And I think we need to do everything we can to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to come into the system.

But, now, how can you have a preference for, say, a black or Hispanic young person who has grown up in a family of doctors, who is a middle-class person that has had the same opportunities, versus a poor, white person who has not had those opportunities and has had a discriminatory background? And I think we need to adjust and say that we do need to have open arms and make a special effort for people who haven't had the same opportunity, to give them that same entry-level opportunity.

COSSACK: But Senator Hutchison, wouldn't you say that, really, affirmative action has not been designed and really not implemented to worry and concern themselves about, you know, people of color, Mexican-American or black who come from wealthy families? I mean, this is -- these plans are set up to help people who don't come from wealthy families and don't have opportunity to break in and become inclusive.

HUTCHISON: Well, and I think that it has been the purpose and I think we need to do that. But now you're finding that a quota that is just based on race isn't really appropriate because you're looking at the child who comes out of high school who hasn't had the opportunities versus someone who has had the opportunities. So I think we need to target our efforts to all people who have not had the same opportunities and make sure that we bring them into the system.

TOWNSEND: Well, obviously we want to have opportunity for all Americans. But there is clearly still a racism in our country. If you look at the redlining issues, if you look at who gets access to capital, if you look at where people are often encouraged to live, how you get jobs -- it's often through word of mouth -- there is discrimination. And we can say as the Democratic Party, we're going to recognize it and we're going to try to correct it, or you can do as the Republicans, which is to close your eyes.

Even Colin Powell -- you know, Colin Powell spoke at the Republican convention and was eloquent in the defense of affirmative action. This is an example, again, of how what was said at the convention, in the days afterwards, are being changed by the Republicans.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, let...

HUTCHISON: I don't think Republicans are turning a blind eye. I think we are reaching out and we are trying to make sure that we address the issue of racism. That is absolutely the platform that I would support and that Governor Bush supports. We do want to address racism.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me interrupt you here one second. Sorry, Senator, but we need to take a break.

Up next, a closer look at the DNC platform and how it could influence the Supreme Court and the direction of the Justice Department. Stay with us.

(BEGIN LEGAL BRIEF)

F. Lee Bailey is facing contempt charges for refusing to repay $2 million in legal fees, which came from an account the government intended to seize from his client. A federal judge in Orlando, Florida is scheduled to hear arguments in the case today.

(END LEGAL BRIEF)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOMMY LEE JONES, ACTOR: We need a person with your heart, Al, because the office of the president represents every child on Earth. And, so, with affection, with admiration, with faith in the future he will lead, I nominate my friend, Al Gore, as the next president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Last night, in Los Angeles, old friends, close family and political allies took over the podium at the Staples Center in support of Vice President Al Gore. Gore will formally accept Democratic nomination this evening, and will carry the torch of the party's political positions outlined in the DNC platform.

Senator Hutchison, first to you, what is the impact of this election on the Supreme Court? would a Bush presidency make a difference over a Gore presidency?

HUTCHISON: I think there will be one of the clear choices in this election. There will be two to three Supreme Court appointments and it will change the make-up of the court greatly.

VAN SUSTEREN: What difference does that make? I mean, can you really predict how people are going to vote on particular issues that we don't even know what exists at the moment?

HUTCHISON: Of course, you try to predict by seeing what their judicial philosophy is, by what kind of writings they have had, if they have lower court experience that helps a lot because you can see the temperament of the person. And when you are making a lifetime appointment to our court's highest bench, it is so important that we be very careful and very clear that the person have the right temperament and the right judicial philosophy, and that is to understand that they are, to themselves, they are basically unaccountable, they don't have to go before the people, and so you have to be very careful to get the right people.

COSSACK: Senator Hutchison, what type of person, in terms of a judge, would the Republican Party be most likely to put on the bench if there were vacancies? would it be more on the conservative side, like Scalia and Thomas, or more on the other side?

HUTCHISON: Well, I think that a President Bush would be looking for people with experience, people who are tested in the judiciary, I don't think that, in the past, that the surprises have worked out well, at least for the appointing person.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me ask, governor, what difference does it make if Gore is elected president for the Supreme Court?

KENNEDY TOWNSEND: It makes a lot difference. First of all, on choice, there have been a number of decisions are coming down 5-4, we got to make sure that we can protect a woman's right to choose. We also have to make sure that we can protect people's rights for disability benefits and help, because if you have a Supreme Court that limits the laws, it means that people's rights aren't protected.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think, though, that there would be such a profound difference between the courts? I mean, is that really an issue when Americans go out to vote in November?

KENNEDY TOWNSEND: It's an absolute issue. Women understand that the Supreme Court is absolutely important to them, to their ability to control their bodies to decisions between themselves and their doctors. Women want to be able to make sure that they've got that choice protected.

COSSACK: Senator Hutchison, it's been thought that if Governor Bush became president, he would have the opportunity to replace a number of justices, and that Roe versus Wade could be overturned. Is that something that the Republican Party would like to see happen?

HUTCHISON: Well, Governor Bush, of course, has said that he is not going to give a litmus test on that issue. You have to look at the full range of issues that the Supreme Court is going to address, and I think the most important issue is that the person that is sitting on the Supreme Court knows that they are not making laws, that it is Congress' responsibility, with the president, to make the laws of our land because they are accountable to the people. They will face an election.

VAN SUSTEREN: And my argument always in opposition to that, senator, is that oftentimes the conservatives on the court are creating or inventing exceptions to the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, and by virtue of doing that, they are just as creative in lawmaking as the liberals on the bench. But let me turn...

HUTCHISON: Greta, I think it goes both way.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's my point...

HUTCHISON: I think everybody ought to be strict constructionists.

VAN SUSTEREN: They both shoot at each other from the same direction, and make the same sort of legal slur on each other.

But let me turn the corner to the Justice Department. It is, it is how you criticize judges, you say they are activists, both sides do it.

Governor, what about the attorney general, does it make a difference in terms of the attorney general whether Republican or Democratic president?

KENNEDY TOWNSEND: It actually does. It makes a difference as to what kind of anti-crime efforts we enforce and help. For instance, under Janet Reno, we have put 100,000 community police officers on the street, they have to be trained on how they work with people so that you reduce crime.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think that the Republicans, though, would do something different?

KENNEDY TOWNSEND: Absolutely. George Bush said he would repeal that program, doesn't want to have the federal government involved in community police officers.

I think that's wrong. I think we've had an extraordinary reduction of crime over the last eight years, lowest crime in a generation, and it had to do with the leadership from the top. If you don't have that kind of leadership, you are not going to have the same effects.

COSSACK: Senator Hutchison, should the federal government be involved in community leadership, in community policing?

HUTCHISON: I think that's exactly what's wrong with this Justice Department and this attorney general. They are trying to be mayors and governors, and they don't understand the role of the federal Justice Department.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you make of the fact that crime has gone down? is that just luck of Democratic administration over the last eight years or is -- why do we have a reduction in crime?

HUTCHISON: Crime has gone down because the states have cracked down on crime.

COSSACK: I think that that is certainly one reason, is that sentencing guidelines have gone up, there's been an increase in drug arrests. I mean, you have to see what's gone down, when you talk about crime going down.

VAN SUSTEREN: You have also got to, of course, factor in the economy, too.

COSSACK: And the economy, there is a lot of reasons why crime has gone down.

HUTCHISON: What we need in this country is an attorney general who will make sure we have the integrity of our borders, who will put the resources that we need on our borders. That is the federal role and the federal responsibility.

COSSACK: All right, let me just interrupt for a second and let's take a break. Up next, does the DNC platform allow legal insights into the Democratic Party positions? and will there ever be a woman in the presidency? Stay with us.

(BEGIN Q&A)

Q: How many protesters have been arrested since demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention began Saturday?

A: 192.

(END Q&A)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSSACK: Vice President Al Gore takes center stage this evening as he accepts his party's nomination for president. The state of Florida put Gore over the top, casting its 186 delegate votes for the Democratic nominee.

Governor, I want to talk to you about another issue that seems to get a lot of publicity during this campaign, the issue of privacy, and the right to privacy, we use the Internet, people have the ability to find out more and more about this. Is this an issue that is part of the Democratic platform? and what will we see happen under a Democratic administration?

KENNEDY TOWNSEND: Well, obviously, the issue of privacy is very, very important, particularly with the knowledge that can be gained through the Internet. People don't want their medical records known to anybody who is interested. They want to know what's going on with their marriage. The Democrats have traditionally been protectors of privacy, and they will continue to do it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, campaign finance has been an issue in this race, at least for the last year. What is the Democratic position? I mean, you've got the tension between the First Amendment, people's right to essentially contribute to the parties, but you have also got the fact that both parties are up to their eyeballs in collecting money and, of course, they have to to run, but there is something a little bit unseemly about it, as well as the problem that maybe some buy influence. What's a good solution to that problem?

KENNEDY TOWNSEND: I think, you know, Democrats have been giving solutions to problems, and they've been stopped by Republican Congress. I think we've got -- I would like to have much more free television so that what we say gets on TV, we don't have to pay so much for that. I think the Internet will actually help because you will be able the get your message out, and it won't be as expensive.

But the fact of the matter is, people, American people are disgusted with the amount of money that goes into the campaigns, and they don't trust that the politicians are always looking at the good because they are getting campaign contributions.

One of the things that I think is important, as a politician you want to spend your time listening to people, going out, hearing what they have to say, listening to what the issues are. If you are having to raise money, you don't have as much time to do that.

COSSACK: Senator Hutchison, I would like your response on campaign finance reform, as well as your thoughts on what the Republicans will do about the issue of privacy.

HUTCHISON: Well, first of all, I think that we, probably both parties, are very firm on Internet privacy. I don't even like having people's addresses, and that is showing up on the Internet now. And it's very easily accessible. I don't think that's right. Health records become a real problem. And I think all of us are going to work together in a bipartisan way to assure that people have privacy in their lives that cannot be violated by Internet access.

On the issue of campaign finance reform, I have signed on to Chuck Hagel's bill, that's a bipartisan bill on campaign finance reform. I think we need to do it. But, just as you have said, we've got to make sure that we don't curb people's right to free speech, and we don't curb the right, we keep a level playing field to the extent that we can between challengers and incumbents.

Right now, incumbents have terrific advantages, and we need to allow people to challenge incumbents. So we've got to make changes, for sure, but we have also got to protect the First Amendment. But, first and foremost, we must have openness in the system. I think...

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, I am sorry, once again I've got to cut you off.

HUTCHISON: OK.

VAN SUSTEREN: But that's all the time we have for today. And thanks to our guests and thank you for watching.

Today on TALKBACK LIVE: the make-or-break speech of a lifetime for Vice President Al Gore. The guests include comedian Al Franken. That's at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, noon Pacific.

COSSACK: And join us tomorrow, for another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF. We're going to see you then.

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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