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Larry King Live
Has Al Gore Finally Found His Election-Year Groove?Aired August 25, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, has Al Gore finally found his election-year groove? With partisan views on the presidential race, Bush-campaign adviser Ari Fleischer, and Gore deputy campaign manager, Mark Fabiani.
Then, rhetoric in New York Senate race heats up. Lazio says Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign is in fantasy-land. We will hear from Clinton campaign communications director Howard Wolfson and Lazio campaign manager Bill Dal Col. Plus, a roundtable with Pulitzer Prize winning journalists Jimmy Breslin, columnist for "Newsday," Carl Bernstein, also a Pulitzer Prize winner, now executive editor for Voter.com, and comedian and best-selling author, Al Franken.
It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Good evening. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Larry King has the night off.
Let's begin in Austin, Texas. Ari Fleischer is joining us from there. Mark Fabiani is joining us from Nashville.
But Ari Fleischer, these poll numbers that we have seen since the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles -- Al Gore getting a big bounce in the aftermath of that convention -- are those numbers that we are seeing in the CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll -- the other major national polls -- consistent with the poll numbers you are having internally within the Bush campaign?
ARI FLEISCHER, BUSH CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Well, Wolf, I think what you are seeing is everything that we had anticipated. We said that, because Governor Bush went into his convention with about 90 percent of the Republican base sewed up -- the high watermark was Ronald Reagan getting 94 percent in 1984 -- we didn't have much room to bounce on the Republican side. We picked up support from independents, who typically are the ones who bounce back and forth.
The vice president entered his convention with support of -- in the 70s on Democrats. He had more room to bounce, as we predicted and thought he might. And indeed,that is what's happened. He has brought his Democrats home. It will be interesting to see how long they stay home. But I think we're going to be in for close race. We thought it would close by Labor Day.
BLITZER: But what are your...
FLEISCHER: And we are going to be in for a good race.
BLITZER: What are your numbers showing internally?
FLEISCHER: Well, Wolf, I hope you are not asking me on television to tell you what our private tracking numbers are. You know I won't do that. But I'll -- we are seeing the vice president got a bounce. And we're also seeing now that -- the first evidence is coming that the bounce is starting to subside. There has been a year- and-a-half-long trend of Governor Bush winning in the polls. Two good speeches at conventions, one by Governor Bush, one by Al Gore, are not going to change a year-and-a-half-long trend.
We still don't see any fundamental changes in this race, Wolf -- none at all.
BLITZER: Mark Fabiani, your numbers showing that the bounce is beginning to subside?
MARK FABIANI, GORE DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Not at all. The bounce has been a very solid bounce. It hasn't subsided at all, because this is a fundamental change in the race. And it's started with the vice president's selection of Joe Lieberman. People looked as that as a bold choice. They looked at it as a real leadership move by Al Gore. And then he gave a great speech at the convention. He stepped out of President Clintons' shadow. He's now at center stage. And people like what they see of Al Gore right now. And that is showing up in the polls.
BLITZER: When do you think, Mark, there will be the first debate? I know there have been some discussions under way already between the two campaigns. But realistically, when will the American people see Al Gore debate George W. Bush?
FABIANI: Well, Al Gore has accepted more than 45 debate offers. George Bush has accepted none. We are eager to debate. We think the debates should begin with the Commission on Presidential Debates' schedule, They have three debates that would be nationally televised all across the networks; 80 million people watch them in prime time. We should start with those debates, as George Bush's father did, as Al -- as Bob Dole did.
And then we can move on to other debates, and have as many as Governor Bush wants. Al Gore is eager to debate. We want a discussion on the issues. And we are eager to get started with the Commission on Presidential Debates.
BLITZER: I know you have agreed, Ari Fleischer, to five debates -- three presidential debates, two vice presidential debates -- but when will they begin and under what format will they take place?
FLEISCHER: Well, we have received more than 42 invitations to debate from a host of groups. And we have said that there will be five debates. That is a record-breaking number, Wolf. That is one more than President Clinton and Vice President Gore did in 1996. That is going to be quite a number of debates. We are talking to all the people who invited us. And we will make the decision real soon on which of those five we think we are going to participate in.
I heard Mark say that doesn't want to begin until the Commission debates. We hope that doesn't mean they're ruling out any debates any earlier than Commission debate. We are getting close. But, you know, this is a quadrennial exercise. It's the non-debate about debates. We go through it every four years.
BLITZER: You want all debates to begin, Mark Fabiani, with this -- just the Presidential Commission debates? Or are you ready to go on a Sunday morning talk or LARRY KING LIVE, or some other show, to start the process, which presumably is what the Bush campaign is hinting at?
FABIANI: Well, we have all options open. As I have said, we have accepted those 42-debate invitations already. And Governor Bush hasn't accepted any of them. But fundamentally, there has to be Presidential Commission Debates. They're a part of the American political process. Every one has done them. And there has to be an agreement by Governor Bush that he will participate in those debates.
And then once he agrees to that, we will talk about all kinds of other debates: on morning shows, evening shows, on this very show -- the LARRY KING show -- but you've got to have the Presidential Commission debates, because...
FLEISCHER: So Mark, are you flat ruling out any debates then, any debates prior to the Commission's? So the ones you accept, you will renege on prior to the Commission?
FABIANI: I'm not ruling anything in or out...
FABIANI: ... except to say that we ought to have the Commission of Presidential Debates agreed to before we start talking about other debates.
FLEISCHER: But you said those have to come first. You said those have to come first. Were you wrong?
FABIANI: No, not first.
FABIANI: They have to be agreed to. They have to be agreed to by both sides. And then we will talk about the other debates, whether they come before or after.
FLEISCHER: So you really have not accepted 42 debates. So, Wolf, I think what you are hearing here is, this is -- like I said, this is the quadrennial debate about debates. But they have accepted 42. We're going to have a record-breaking five. Now, 42 is, I think -- I know he likes taxes Al Gore -- but I think that would be taxing people's patience a little too much.
FABIANI: Well, we never thought... (CROSSTALK)
FLEISCHER: ... a record-breaking debates.
FABIANI: We never thought Governor Bush would accept any of those. And in fact, he hasn't. So, so far, there have been no debates, and we remain eager...
FLEISCHER: Well, I hope you won't back out of any of the 42 that you have accepted.
BLITZER: You know, Ari Fleischer, the conventional wisdom out there says that Al Gore is a terrific debater and George W. Bush may not be a traffic debater.
FLEISCHER: He is, Wolf. Al...
BLITZER: Though he did -- he held his own during those primary debates.
FLEISCHER: Al Gore is fantastic debater. I sure hope we will be lucky if we can even stand on a stage with him. He's fantastic.
BLITZER: He's trying to raise expectations for you guys, Mark Fabiani. Are you going to play?
FABIANI: Well, you know, this isn't the Iowa Caucuses, where you raise and lower expectations on your vote total. These are presidential debates. People expect excellence in them. You know, if George Bush were president and he was going to a summit with Vladimir Putin in Russia, would he try to lower expectations for the summit, saying: Jeez, I hope I don't get out-negotiated by Putin?
FLEISCHER: Mark, if these debates are so -- if these debates are so -- as you put it -- why are they having 42 debates? Why did Al Gore turn down debates in 1996 when he ran? He was challenged to two. He only did one. Were you trying to hide in 1996? You know, Wolf, that was I was saying. This is a silly quadrennial exercise. Both parties engage in it.
And they are going to be a record-breaking number of debates. The only people paying attention to this are the campaigns and a few voters.
BLITZER: Well, if 80 million people will be watching, that will be more than watched "Survivor." But we'll have to take a break, and discuss this. We are going to continue our discussion with Ari Fleischer and Mark Fabian in just a moment -- a lot more to talk about, including the race involving Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rick Lazio.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll tell you what I will not do. I will not support a giant tax cut for the wealthy at the expense of every one else that wreck ours economy in the process. That is wrong. And I will not allow that to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the only thing I know to do (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is to tell people what I believe, share my vision, campaign hard. And I trust the judgment of the people. I do. And I don't have to keep reinventing myself at every turn in this campaign. I'm going to be the same person people. And if people like it, great. And if they don't, that is what happens in the Democratic process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.
Mark Fabiani, in that clip we heard from Al Gore, earlier, he sounded a little horse. How is his voice holding up?
FABIANI: I just talked to him a few minutes ago. He was campaigning round-the-clock right out of the convention. He took a red-eye out of L.A. and went on a riverboat tour down the Mississippi. His voice is pretty horse, but he has really found his voice in the last couple weeks with the selection of Joe Lieberman, with his speech at the convention. People are liking what are they seeing. They are looking at him in a whole new light. And they are impressed with Al Gore.
BLITZER: Ari Fleischer, the decision by George W. Bush to pull that ad attacking -- that attack ad -- a very negative ad -- attacking Al Gore -- was it a decision made personally by George W. Bush? And he overruled some of his advisers, I take it.
FLEISCHER: Well, he didn't like the ad, Wolf. He thought it was out of context. And I think credibility is always an important issue. After all, if people don't have credibility, how do we know that they are going to get prescription drugs to seniors or save Social Security? It's an important issue. But that ad was out of context. The governor saw it, didn't like it. He recommended that it be pulled.
And we are pleased the RNC agreed. And they made the decision. and we are pleased. It was the right decision.
BLITZER: Mark Fabiani, was it not right decision to pull that ad?
FABIANI: You know, we are not going to tell the other campaign how to run their campaign. But the fact is, that ad was taped. It was shipped to stations. It was focus-grouped by the Bush campaign. They were on the verge of running the most negative, most misleading ad in memory. And I think they are lucky they pulled it, because it would have backfired,
And I think it shows some real disarray and disagreement within the Bush campaign that ad went to the brink of being aired at 300 stations around the country -- using six-year-old misleading videotape, as if it was taped yesterday.
BLITZER: I know we only have a minute left, Ari Fleischer, but very quickly, why did George W. Bush concede this week that he hasn't really been effective in explaining his $1.3 trillion tax-cut proposal?
FLEISCHER: Wolf, what he said is that he is going to go out there, and he has to do a job selling his tax-cut plan. We anticipate all kinds of distortions of the tax-cut plan. For example, our plan is going to reduce the marriage penalty. Vice President Gore's supported President Clinton's veto of the marriage penalty relief. You know, that is an important override vote coming up this fall. And we are going to hope that that vote could be overridden.
There's no reason people should pay higher taxes just because they get married. Governor Bush is fighting for married couples. Al Gore is on the wrong side on that issue, imposing marriage penalties on people. We are going to make that case.
FLEISCHER: And as you saw, everywhere we travel, he has been joined by families who are middle-income families, who are going to be the beneficiaries of our tax cut. If you like the IRS, though, you are going to love Al Gore's tax cut. It's a very complicated one. Governor Bush's is simple. And everybody gets tax relief.
BLITZER: And Mark Fabiani, you are going to have a chance to respond -- but unfortunately, not right now, because we are all out of time. But I'm sure you will be back on LARRY KING LIVE. You'll have a lot of other opportunities.
FABIANI: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Mark Fabiani and Ari Fleischer: two different perspectives from two different campaigns. Thanks for joining us.
Up next, we'll take a look at the New York Senate race. We'll have spokesmen for both campaigns, Mrs. Clinton and Rick Lazio, when we come back.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.
It's always great to come to New York, because one thing we can do is do some reporting and cover the race -- the Senate race -- between Mrs. Clinton and Rick Lazio, the congressman from Long Island. Joining us now: Howard Wolfson -- he is the Clinton campaign communications director here in New York state; and Bill Dal Col -- he's the Lazio campaign manager.
BILL DAL COL, LAZIO CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Nice to be here, Wolf.
BLITZER: Formerly worked for Steve Forbes, but has made the transition I see...
DAL COL: Yes, I have.
BLITZER: ... to Congressman Rick Lazio.
DAL COL: Absolutely.
BLITZER: Not a difficult transition.
DAL COL: Oh no, coming home -- grew up in Long Island -- New- York born.
BLITZER: New York state -- all of us -- New York state -- Buffalo -New York, New York.
All right, let's talk a little bit about these polls. We spoke about the polls nationwide. Mrs. Clinton seems to be having trouble getting above that 50 percent threshold. She is still in the high 40s, mid 40s. What's going on?
HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think this is going to be a very close race. Right now, the latest Quinnipiac poll had us up three. I think it's going to go right down to the wire. I think that it is going to be nip-and-tuck to the very end. I think we'll get over 50 on election day. But I'm not sure that you are going to see either candidate over 50 before the end of November.
BLITZER: You agree with that?
DAL COL: No, I think going to be a tight race. But what's interesting is, Mrs. Clinton has been in the race for a year -- been in New York -- 100 percent name I.D. She can't break that ceiling. Rick has been in the race three months -- dead heat with her already. We have been outspent probably by $20 million to date -- if not more. So I think we are going to start to surge come October.
And I think November 7th should be extremely interesting, in that I think our margin of victory will be a lot bigger than people think.
BLITZER: You have spent $20 million more than Congressman Rick Lazio?
WOLFSON: That's the same kind of figure that the folks who put your budget proposal must have come up with, the $800 billion proposal that they came out with that is actually $1.2 trillion. No, we are not outspending them by $20 million.
BLITZER: But you have obviously spent a lot more. You have been in the race a lot longer
WOLFSON: Well, of course. We have been in the race longer. I expect that between now and election day, the Lazio campaign will outspend us. They have all kinds of folks that are coming in from the outside. Right now, there are 14 so-called independent organizations that are allied with Congressman Lazio. And Congressman Lazio he won't stop, won't tell -- to get out of New York and stop spending their money.
And I expect that those groups are going to be spending millions of dollars between now and November on negative ads against Hillary. We've seen it already.
BLITZER: When Mayor Giuliani dropped out of the race, he had raised several million for his race.
DAL COL: Sure.
BLITZER: Has he given you guys some of that money?
DAL COL: Well, he can't do that, Wolf, under election law. He can give it to the State Committee. He can give it to the RNC. But he has been extremely helpful. He has lent us his name -- come to events -- that type of thing. But more importantly, let's look at where the money is coming from. Rick Lazio is raising hard dollars, dollars from real New-Yorkers, people around the country who report what they send in.
You've got the Clinton campaign with millions of dollars of soft money, much of it raised in funny-money, Hollywood money just a week ago.
BLITZER: Soft -- that is the soft money, that is the unregulated, unlimited sums. What do you say about that?
WOLFSON: Well, all money that goes into federal races is disclosed. Bill knows that. The fact is that Congressman Lazio has had his own soft-money committee for several years. He has spent about half-a-million dollars on it. He just gave -- dolled out to all the county chairs $80,000 in little gifts in the last couple of weeks. Congressman Lazio was known as a very efficient soft-money raiser in Washington.
And we are up against one of the best fund-raisers in the business in Rick Lazio.
BLITZER: You know, Rick Lazio said today of Mrs. Clinton, he said that the Clinton campaign is built entirely now on fear- mongering, on negative attacks, and ripping our state apart.
DAL COL: What you have to got to look at is, all these outside groups that have come in to help Mrs. Clinton, all the soft-money committees that have been out there, they have run 10 negative ads already against Rick Lazio: distorting his record, dragging it in the mud. Remember, a Clinton campaign has a history: The first victim is always the truth. And this campaign has proven it to date. BLITZER: Bill, give us a specific example.
DAL COL: Oh, take a look at any ones of the issue she has brought up. Rick Lazio is against a patients' bill of rights. He supports one.
BLITZER: All right, let's talk about -- talk about that patients' bill of rights.
WOLFSON: Well, let's actually talk about patients' bill of rights, because you probably know that in Rhode Island, the national Republican Party has run ads on behalf of a Republican senator saying that he broke with his party and voted for a real patients' bill of rights -- not the bill that Congressman Lazio voted for, but the bill that Hillary Clinton supports.
DAL COL: Let's talk about that. Rick Lazio not only voted for a patients' bill of rights. Rick Lazio has a voting record of delivering health care, tax cuts, education reform, to the voters in New York. Mrs. Clinton has no record but one, a failed 1994 health care plan, that wanted to nationalize one-seventh of our economy. And if you want to talk about a health-care disaster, take a look at what was in that plan.
BLITZER: Yes, you may respond.
WOLFSON: Rick Lazio doesn't believe that people ought to have the right to sue their HMO. He said that. He said that it would be bad for America, bad for New York.
DAL COL: That's not true, not true, Wolf, at all. If you look in the plan, what it says is you will go through arbitration.
BLITZER: This is the Republican plan that passed?
DAL COL: This is correct -- that Rick voted for. When you go through the process, at the end of that process, then you can sue. But more importantly, look at Mrs. Clinton's 1994 health care plan: same provision. So it was good enough in 1994, her plan, but now, because she's running for Senate in a state that she's visiting, now it's not good enough.
BLITZER: You say that the Lazio tax cut proposal, which is $776 billion, they say, over 10 years, which is a lot less than the George W. Bush $1.3 trillion tax cut proposal. He is coming in sort of midway the between Gore's $500 billion and 1.3 trillion on the part of Bush.
WOLFSON: That's what he'd like New Yorkers to think. We actually costed it out and found it closer to be 1.2 trillion. The fact is that Congressman Lazio does what he always has done. He does the Lazio shuffle -- he pays lip service, trying to distance himself a little bit rhetorically from George Bush, but the fact is that Congressman Lazio has been in Congress for eight years. He's voted eight times for Republican budgets in Washington. He's voted eight times against Democratic budgets in Washington. We know that when he goes to Washington, if he goes to Washington, and we have President Bush in the White House, he's going to vote with President Bush. Who's he kidding?
DAL COL: Wolf, let's take look at it. Rick Lazio came out with his own tax plan why? Rick Lazio is from New York, grew up in New York, pays New York income taxes, pays New York property taxes. His two girls...
WOLFSON: Where are they? Where are the income taxes?
DAL COL: They'll be released. Unlike the Clintons, when Congressman Lazio makes a promise, he keeps it. He said they'll be out by the end of the month; they will be. Federal income taxes.
BLITZER: Let's get to this issue. This is a big issue in New York State. It's been a political hot potato. He files income taxes every year.
DAL COL: Absolutely.
BLITZER: And he submits the forms to the IRS. Somebody asked me, can I see your 1999, 1998, 1977 income tax returns, I go to desk, I look in my files, and I make a copy. What's so complicated about releasing IRS files?
DAL COL: Nothing complicated at all. As a matter of fact, let's take a look at Congressman Lazio. One, everything he's ever done is fully disclosed, as is required by the Congress. Second, we said we will release our income tax returns by the end of the month. They will be out. Our income tax returns will have no surprises in them, unlike the Clintons income tax returns.
WOLFSON: Why couldn't you release them before?
DAL COL: We are -- we said we'll release them by end of the month.
WOLFSON: Why does it take three months to put them together?
DAL COL: I'm going to listen to the dictates of a Democrat Clinton campaign? I don't think so. We'll have them out by end of the month as promised, because what Rick Lazio does, he delivers on what he promises.
Now let's get back to the tax cut. What did he do? He was born and raised in New York. He knows what it costs to live in New York. We look at what will effect the working middle class and the low middle class and give them real dollars. We allow the deductibility of that payroll tax, that tax on Social Security, so there's not a tax on tax, real money back for real working families in New York State. Mrs. Clinton doesn't have a plan.
BLITZER: Does she have a tax cut plan?
WOLFSON: Of course she has a tax cut plan. You know, people know that... DAL COL: Let's see it. Where is it?
WOLFSON: People know that Hillary Clinton has been running a positive issue-oriented campaign for a year. We've put forward a tax cut plan, and it's a targeted tax cut plan, it will allow families to deduct the costs of a college education to pay for long-term care, child care.
BLITZER: What's the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) value?
WOLFSON: It's about 500 million -- 500 billion.
BLITZER: That's the same basically as Al Gore's plan.
WOLFSON: Basically, yes.
BLITZER: And it's the same general features -- the targeted middle-class tax cuts, up to $100,000.
WOLFSON: Preserves Medicare and Social Security, which his plan does not do.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue this discussion. We have a lot more to talk about. We'll take some phone calls as well for Howard Wolfson and Bill Dal Col.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Bill Dal Col, you work for Rick Lazio. A lot of speculation that the addition of Joe Lieberman to the ticket is going to really help energize the Jewish vote in New York State, which is a significant vote, could hurt Rick Lazio in November.
DAL COL: I'm hopeful that it would energize the Jewish vote. I think it was a bold move on the vice president's part to pick Joe Lieberman, great senator, will be a great candidate, should be a good, tough campaign.
I think the Jewish community in New York is very articulate, very bright on the issues, they're involved in the issues day to day. With that increase turnout, they'll look at Rick Lazio and see he is the candidate that's going to make sure that Jerusalem is the unified capital of Israel, that there will not be declaration of a Palestinian state. I think they understand that he looks at the issues that are important to them, such as schools, where parents wouldn't be forced to send children to failing schools or crumbling schools, that they'll have a choice to send them to a school that they believe they'd be best served by.
So I think Jewish voters -- will the turnout be up because of Joe Lieberman? I think, contrary to popular wisdom, it will help Rick Lazio.
BLITZER: You agree with that? WOLFSON: Of course not. You know, I think that there are many issues that Jewish voters care about. Israel is certainly one of them, and they know that Hillary is a strong supporter of a safe and secure Israel. There are other issue as well, like gun control, where Hillary supports licensing and registration of handguns, Congressman Lazio doesn't. The issues of choice. Hillary will not vote to confirm any Supreme Court justice that would overturn Roe. Congressman Lazio is not willing to say that and has record of voting to restrict rights.
BLITZER: But he does have a record supporting a women's right to have an abortion.
WOLFSON: He has a spotty record, which is why NARAL and Planned Parenthood have endorsed Hillary Clinton. He has a consistent record of voting to restrict abortion rights for poor women, for women in the military serving overseas, and again, he will not say that he would vote against a justice that would overturn Roe.
BLITZER: Is that a big issue in New York State, abortion rights?
DAL COL: I think it's an important issue, it's one of many, but Rick's pro-choice. The voters understand that. They see it. He will defend a woman's right to choose. He's taken a lot of heat in the Republican Part for it. He's stood up to it. What he said in terms of judges is, as a former prosecutor, as a practicing lawyer, Rick understands you can't have a litmus test on judges. He'll look at their records, and he'll make the best decision that he feels will affect the American people.
On a woman's right to choose, he's been clear. He'll defend it. He's taken the heat. He believes Roe v. Wade should remain as is.
WOLFSON: Why has NARAL and Planned Parenthood endorsed Hillary then?
DAL COL: Largely, probably because they're arms of the Democratic Party in the left wing. I mean, that's pretty easy to see.
WOLFSON: No, that's not true in this state.
BLITZER: Has Mrs. Clinton overcome the carpetbagger issue in New York State?
WOLFSON: I think for some people, they may still have questions, but I think the majority of New Yorkers know that Hillary has been a long-term fighter for the things that they care about, for the issues of children and families. She has been campaigning for the last year. She's been to all 62 counties again and again, really talking about the issues in a positive way.
BLITZER: You know, there are about two million more registered Democrats in New York State than Republicans. You have a really, normally, you would think of a huge uphill struggle to win statewide, but there are Republicans, like Governor Pataki, who do win statewide. DAL COL: Correct. What it is, is you've got to motivate the voters in New York, you've got to show them that you care about them and that you understand them. Rick's a lifelong resident of New York, pays his taxes in New York, has represented New York for eight years in the Congress. Mr. Clinton's is here fro a drop-by. She's here to visit, hopefully get a Senate seat out of it and see where it goes from here.
BLITZER: A drop-by if she losses, she's gone?
WOLFSON: Well, that's the kind of negative campaigning that Mr. Lazio has engaged in since day one. You know, Mr. Lazio had a little bit of a meltdown on the trail today. He threw some words around, he seemed to get kind of angry. The fact that is, that when Congressman Lazio entered the race -- I don't known if you were then -- his announcement speech was filled with negativity.
DAL COL: There was no negatives in it, Howard. , all you've got to look at Howard...
WOLFSON: Here is the -- "Lazio Joins Fray with Shot at Hill." That's the announcement.
DAL COL: Right. That's not a negative speech.
WOLFSON: Here is "Candidate Opens Race with Attack on Mrs. Clinton." That's not -- "The New York Times" is wrong? "The Daily News" is wrong.
DAL COL: Wait, wait, that's an editorial, and it's not an attack.
WOLFSON: No, that's the news. That's the news.
DAL COL: Let's look at the vicious attack ads that their opponents are -- that their supporters are putting up with soft money, from who knows what sources, at round-the-clock speed, probably in tens of millions of dollars before this thing is over, just attacking Rick, or distorting his record. It's straightforward. Here's what we say about Hillary Clinton. If you want somebody that has never lived in New York, never paid any income taxes in New York, never sent a kid to public schools in New York, has never passed a bill, has never done anything for New York, go ahead, vote for Hillary Clinton. If you want somebody that has a vision for future, has two children in New York public schools, has passed tax cuts for New York, has paid income taxes in New York...
WOLFSON: But won't release...
DAL COL: ... vote for Rick Lazio.
BLITZER: You've got 30 seconds to respond.
WOLFSON: If you want someone who's been a consistent strong fighter for the needs of children and families, and who will go to Senate and keep fighting for them, vote for Hillary Clinton. If you want someone in Washington is proud to be a member of Newt Gingrich's leadership team, but here in New York, tells a very different story, vote for Rick Lazio.
BLITZER: All right, we have got a tough campaign. This is going to be the second most-closely watched race in the country. For some, it will be the most closely watched race in the country.
DAL COL: It will be the first.
BLITZER: But we will be watching. Thanks to both of you for joining us.
DAL COL: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Up next, we will be joined by Jimmy Breslin, Carl Bernstein, and Al Franken. We have got a lot more fun coming up on LARRY KING LIVE.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The facts are stark and the facts are real. The current administration inherited a military ready for the dangers and challenges facing our nation. The next president will inherit a military in decline. Our military is still without peer. It is still without equal in the world. But it is not without serious problems that must be addressed immediately.
GORE: It is that year-after-year commitment to a strong American defense that makes me so concerned when others try to run down America's military for political advantage in an election year. That is not only wrong in fact, it is the wrong message to send our allies and adversaries across the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.
We have a great panel that is going to begin right now.
Jimmy Breslin, he's the columnist for "Newsday," Pulitzer Prize winner, he is joining us.
Thank you for joining us.
Carl Bernstein, executive vice president and executive editor of Voter.com, also a Pulitzer Prize winner -- everybody remembers from what he won his Pulitzer Prize.
CARL BERNSTEIN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, VOTER.COM: Al won one too.
BLITZER: And Al Franken, not a Pulitzer Prize winner. He's a comedian.
AL FRANKEN, COMEDIAN: Not yet.
BLITZER: Of course, the author: "Why Not Me?" -- hasn't won a Pulitzer Prize yet, right?
FRANKEN: No, but I chose Joe Lieberman as my running mate. I'm prescient.
BLITZER: You knew that in advance.
FRANKEN: By the way, I was watching the exchange -- it wasn't an exchange -- but the two speeches.
BLITZER: They were talking about military preparedness.
FRANKEN: Yeah, I -- I'm not a military expert, as you might know. But I went to Kosovo. And I went to the Balkans with Secretary Cohen last year. And I thought the morale was incredibly high. And, I know that when Bush talked about -- in his acceptance speech -- about two divisions not being ready -- is that what he said?
FRANKEN: And they are. So I don't...
BLITZER: But you are not a military expert.
FRANKEN: Not yet.
BERNSTEIN: It's a little like the missile gap back in the Kennedy race in 1960. And the origins of this, actually, are John McCain's campaign. McCain said -- I think with some reason on his side and some history on his side -- that since the end of the Cold War, there has been some inattention to people in the military, particularly in their pay, etcetera. It is not a partisan issue in terms of what happened.
It goes through about 12 years of Republican and Democratic presidents. And what George W. Bush has done is to seize it as a partisan issue. And I don't think the record justifies that.
BLITZER: Jimmy Breslin, is this a big issue in New York, the whole question of U.S. military, is it prepared to fight the next war? Because that was a big issue on the campaign trail this week?
JIMMY BRESLIN, COLUMNIST, "NEWSDAY": Is it going to be a big issue here? Did they believe anyone what they are saying? I think they both have a very...
BLITZER: Anybody in New York paying attention that issue?
BRESLIN: No, I don't -- the issue that I wish somebody would pay attention to -- nobody is going to -- and that is you see Hillary Clinton warm, lovable woman. And then she stops to say: Oh, yes, don't forget I'm for the death penalty. She makes sure you know that. Lazio is for it. Both people running for president are for the death penalty. And Bush is going to get in a hell of a lot of trouble with it, because somebody is down there that has got a case that is lousy. And the guy is dead.
The state killed him. And they know it. And it's coming out. Not one person is against the death -- is against capital punishment when, in the state of Illinois, they found, what, 120 were absolutely wrong.
BLITZER That's why the Republican governor there decided to put a moratorium...
BRESLIN: And Republican governor said: Thank God I stopped this before we did the worst thing of all, killed an innocent man. They killed, you know...
BLITZER: But that is not going to be an issue though, if everybody in...
BRESLIN: No, everybody -- that is why I feel like I'm out in the left field.
BLITZER: It's a big issue for you. What about...
BRESLIN: Very big. I think life and death -- when the state takes a life, I should think it is very -- it is a larger issue. They don't want to talk...
BLITZER: He makes a good case, Al.
BRESLIN: Oh, it's a good case.
FRANKEN: I think that Texas...
BLITZER: You don't support the death penalty?
FRANKEN: No, I don't. I personally don't.
BLITZER: I just guessed that. I didn't know that.
FRANKEN: Well, I have a reason for it. You want to hear it?
BLITZER: Go ahead.
FRANKEN: OK, well, because you are going to execute the wrong guy every once in a while. I wrote in my book, "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot" -- I don't know if you remember that.
BLITZER: Remember that book.
FRANKEN: There was this case in Georgia where two Vietnamese men were arrested -- and one for robbery and one for murder -- and there was a mixup. And the one that arrested for robbery was brought into court and almost convicted for murder, including an eyewitness, until the guy who was accused of murder said: I'm the robber. I'm the murderer. He is the robber. He is the guy that was -- so this happens all the time.
BRESLIN: I think it's a lowering of the standards of decency and civility by a whole country when you have a death penalty. Who are you to play God and kill somebody? The guy killed somebody, your argument -- and absolutely right -- throw the key away. But don't you do it on my behalf. I don't want blood on my hands.
BLITZER: Carl Bernstein, hold your thought, because we have to take a quick break -- a lot more to talk about on LARRY KING LIVE.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Carl Bernstein, you are writing a bio on Mrs. Clinton in between everything else. Why is she not able to break through -- with all the publicity, with all the money with the name recognition, running against somebody who is not all that well-known -- a Congressman from Long Island, Rick Lazio -- why does she -- she can't get through that 50 percent barrier?
BERNSTEIN: Well, both Clintons, partly because of the vitriol that they have attracted from their enemies, are polarizing figures in one sense -- that they are really disliked by a large number of people. And they have become a kind of punching bag in a debate that is not just about them. They are cultural icons. They represent to people all kinds of baggage that they bring to the electoral process that I think have very little to do with the Clintons themselves.
BLITZER: So it doesn't really make any difference, Jimmy Breslin -- you have been around New York a long time -- if it is Rick Lazio running against Mrs. Clinton or Rudy Giuliani, there is going to be a solid block of people of who just hate her no matter what.
BRESLIN: But she has been here a year and hasn't moved an inch, which would show that she is a certified public bore. She is a boring woman. But I cannot believe that, at the end -- at the end of October, November -- that these women who are so steadfastly against her now are not going come around.
BLITZER: So you think she will win.
BRESLIN: In my mind, how can a woman not vote for her?
BRESLIN: A woman as a United States senator, how you can not vote for her? I don't believe they won't.
BLITZER: So the women vote will be decisive in New York state?
BRESLIN: I don't want to see it. I do not want to see this woman any place. I think she is bad. She comes from a bad guy. But, she wins. (CROSSTALK)
BERNSTEIN: She was born by Bill.
FRANKEN: One thing I think is really interesting is that when she jumped into this race -- was basically in the beginning of '99 -- and at that time her approval rating was...
FRANKEN: Like in the high 70s or something. And it is an odd thing that I think -- and this right in wake of the impeachment and the acquittal -- I think New Yorkers and Americans like a victim. And I think when she refused to just be a victim and to run and fight for the things that she believes in, that is when she got in trouble. And I don't totally get it. I don't know if you can maybe explain it.
BERNSTEIN: Well, I think there is one other factor. And that is that she is a woman. I think that a lot of the adjectives that are applied to Hillary Clinton would never be applied to a male politician who did the same things. They are connotative words, you know, like, steely -- a guy that did the same thing, you wouldn't call him steely. You would call him thoughtful, perhaps.
BRESLIN: The sense of entitlement is outrageous.
BLITZER: The fact that she deserves this.
BRESLIN: She comes in: I deserve this.
BRESLIN; Why doesn't she go to some place and learn not to lecture with that sing-song voice and I might be a little more kindly. She is going to win because she is a woman, period.
BLITZER: And that's it.
FRANKEN: I think she is going to win because she is actually a devoted...
BRESLIN: What does the stand for? Tell me, what does she stand for? FRANKEN: She has worked for children for 30 years.
BRESLIN: Really, with the welfare bill that they so proudly threw out: aid to dependent children. We got soup kitchens loaded with people because of that. And she is taking a bow it for -- not here.
BLITZER: She did support the welfare reform, which was pretty controversial.
BLITZER: A lot of liberal Democrats in New York state didn't like it.
BRESLIN: No, they didn't like it in Brooklyn where they have to go to a soup kitchen.
BERNSTEIN: One of the things that we keep running up against seems to me -- on this broadcast and in both campaigns, the presidential and the Senate campaigns -- the degree to which people are occupying and enunciating positions that have to do with polls, rather than their core beliefs. Our political processes has increasingly become about not offending voters.
And I think we saw that in the presentations by the two people from the Clinton and Lazio campaigns. We are seeing it by the candidates. The whole idea that, you know, to say something negative substantively about a candidate is now a bad thing. I mean...
BLITZER: What is so bad about...
BLITZER: ... making it a campaign
BRESLIN: If it is the truth about somebody's record, it's politics.
BRESLIN: This has gotten to be insane. We have elections now -- and this one in particular, the presidential election -- which is about nice. Whoever is...
FRANKEN: Bush has made that an issue saying, that...
BRESLIN: He is not going to...
FRANKEN: ... they are going to restore dignity to politics, which is why is they had the Rock.
BRESLIN: I wish the television reporters would start to get nasty with these candidates. There is not one reporter in American television or newspapers that they seem to dislike or fear -- outside of Gumbel -- nobody seems to like him as a person. Beyond that, beyond that, everyone, they can't wait to go on a show. They like Russert. He never hurts anybody. Of course you are going to like him. BLITZER: He asks tough questions.
BRESLIN: Oh, come on, abuse these people. Let's see
FRANKEN: King is very prepared when he has...
BERNSTEIN: People ask the candidates tough questions, they do.
BRESLIN: I don't see it. There is not one...
FRANKEN: Margaret Warner is very nasty.
BLITZER: We are going to take a break. But when we come back, I'm going to ask Jimmy Breslin to give us one question he would ask Mrs. Clinton if he had a chance to ask her that one question.
FRANKEN: Oh, good.
BLITZER: We'll be back with LARRY KING LIVE.
BLITZER: Jimmy Breslin, you were complaining that we don't ask tough questions of the major candidates including Mrs. Clinton. All right, you have a chance, what question would you ask Mrs. Clinton that none of us have been trying to ask her?
BRESLIN: You spent your life with your hand over your heart when you mentioned the Children's Defense Fund -- children. We must take care of our children. You then just walked away from it and supported a new welfare reform bill, which has thrown a lot of people into soup kitchens. Are you going to be able to ignore that the same as you ignored your husband's trouble downstairs in the hallway?
BLITZER: OK, good question.
FRANKEN: That is why they don't allow you on to do that. Anyway...
BERNSTEIN: You can do it on Bryant Gumbel.
BLITZER: Let's take a caller. We have a caller from Ellijay, Georgia. Go ahead, please, with your question.
CALLER: Yes, Wolf, I would like to ask Al Franken: Al, more people watch "Survivor" than are watching politics. What can we do, Al, to motivate and fire up the American people to get more involved in politics?
BERNSTEIN: Go to an island. FRANKEN: Well, we haven't seen the ratings for this show yet.
FRANKEN: We don't see that until tomorrow.
BLITZER: I can assure you, they won't be 51 million.
FRANKEN: Well, that was a phenomenon. And I think that if you have the debates that you were talking about in the first segment of your show -- which are the actual prime-time debates that the non- partisan or bipartisan commission recommended -- that you will have as many people watching.
BLITZER: You think?
FRANKEN: Yeah. Sure.
BLITZER: All right, let's take another caller from San Antonio. Go ahead with your question, please.
President Clinton executed a retarded man during his '92 campaign. Why does the media have a double standard when it comes to George W. Bush and the death penalty?
BERNSTEIN: I think it is not double standard. It is the kind of thing where the media gets blamed. How do you know about the fact? You know it from media. It was widely publicized by the media. And Clinton widely criticized for it in the media.
BLITZER: But he showed he was tough, that he was a tough guy by going forward with that execution.
BRESLIN: The night of execution of Ricky Ray Rector, who had had a lobotomy, Clinton and his wife were in the governor's mansion in Little Rock preparing for another one of their sex shows to try and fend off another woman came out of the woodwork on them. And Clinton wouldn't take a call from the lawyer who was out in the street begging to have somebody do something for this guy.
When we he was going to go to get killed, he -- they gave him a piece of pie for dinner. And he said: I'll leave this here. I will get it when I come back. That is what you executed, while he worried about some Gennifer Flowers or something, with Hillary nodding: That is a good answer to give CBS. That is what...
BLITZER: He doesn't like Bill or Hillary Clinton.
BRESLIN: Not -- what for the...
BLITZER: To tell you.
BRESLIN: For the execution? Ricky Ray Rector?
BLITZER: For a lot of other stuff, too.
BRESLIN: They had no doctor present, you know. They had to just cut his arm open like he's a chicken.
BLITZER: Is Al Gore in the groove right now -- has got the big momentum with him?
FRANKEN: I hope so. He got -- it is funny to watch these -- the Bush people trying to -- this is -- we expected this bounce. And we know that by Labor Day this bounce will fade. And we are already seeing in our internal polls that it is fading. I think that this has been a terrible week for W. He can't explain his huge $1.3 trillion -- I can explain it -- $1.3 trillion tax cut, half of which goes to people in the top 1 percent.
BLITZER: All right, we will talk about that. We've got to take a quick break.
Jimmy, hold your thought for one second.
BRESLIN: It's a brilliant thought.
BLITZER: We'll be right back with LARRY KING LIVE.
BLITZER: You know, Jimmy Breslin you were predicting that Mrs. Clinton would win this race in New York State. What about in the presidential contest, Al Gore versus George W. Bush?
BRESLIN: I'm so enthralled with the projected surplus, how they go in to spend it. The "Times" editorial said it's the difference between the parties, is how each will spend the projected surplus, which on a winter day may not be there. And they remind me whether -- we learned here in New York, Champ Segal is on Broadway on phone calling Las Vegas to make a $10,000 bet on a fight, and the man in Las Vegas, obviously, is refusing him because he's a welcher, and Segal said, "What's the difference? You're not going to pay me, and I'm not going to pay you. So take the bet and have a...
BLITZER: Al Franken, did you see the kiss, the famous kiss? I want you to look at our monitor, because we've got some video. Look at this in Los Angeles.
FRANKEN: I think everyone's seen it.
BLITZER: Al Gore and Tipper Gore.
BERNSTEIN: That's "Love Story," right? Isn't that "Love Story?"
BLITZER: All the commotion about the kiss. The man loves his wife -- what's so bad about that?
FRANKEN: I think it was spontaneous moment. Some people are very cynical, and they thought this was, we are going to prove that we have sex, we are going to kiss for eight seconds.
BRESLIN: We're going prove that we're not Clinton.
BLITZER: Is that what that was all about?
FRANKEN: No, no, no, that's the cynic's view.
BRESLIN: Well, I'm a cynic then, and I'm right.
FRANKEN: Well, all right.
BLITZER: Well, when he said, "I will never let you down," what was he talking about?
FRANKEN: No, I think that that was a big moment he a big moment for them both, and he asked, was he sending a message, and his answer, I like very much, which I was sending...
BERNSTEIN: Which was, to Tipper.
FRANKEN: Yes, I was giving up Tipper a message.
BERNSTEIN: I stepped on your line.
FRANKEN: That's OK, Carl.
BERNSTEIN: This is the first time I've ever been on a show and been a straight man.
BLITZER: Is this is first time in your political career you've been a discussing a kiss in a political contest -- context?
BERNSTEIN: Probably not, but that's OK. What do you want to ask me?
BLITZER: "Deep Throat" -- Who is "Deep Throat?"
BERNSTEIN: I think there is something interesting going on here in the dynamic of this, and that is, that a lot of the serious questions that candidates need to answer are outside the kind of "politests" of the regular debate, that all of us as journalists engage in. You know, we kind of let the candidates set the terms of debate. We never go outside. And Breslin has asked some really interesting questions here. You know, the pope -- as I said in my last book, "Biography of the Pope," -- no, no, but the pope... (CROSSTALK)
FRANKEN: Great book, by the way.
BERNSTEIN: But the pope, for instance, has spoken out against capital punishment. It is a basic moral question that ought to be debated. The Catholic Church in America is against the death penalty, though I doubt the Catholic voters might share the view of the bishops .
BRESLIN: We had a cop in the family got killed and two people got executed over it, and the widow of the cop was struck down by night of exclusion. It doesn't do anybody any good we found.
BLITZER: Did you see that controversy now in New York around Giuliani, the milk ad, the prostate? You saw that?
BRESLIN: I saw that.
BLITZER: You have that video -- picture of that, PETA put it out , saying that -- it's caused an uproar here.
BRESLIN: I wasn't in love with that. The guy's sick.
BLITZER: "Got prostate cancer? Drinking milk contributes to prostate cancer." Rudy Giuliani is very upset about this. They used his is likeness without his permission.
FRANKEN: Well, he's a public figure, and I guess they can do that. But what was weird about is I saw that today on CNN.
BERNSTEIN: The PETA people put it out.
FRANKEN: Yes, I saw the thing, and I went -- immediately got glass of milk. Because remember, I really like milk, and that's what it reminded me of.
BLITZER: And we don't think it has anything to do with prostate cancer, right?
FRANKEN: Oh, gosh, I hope not.
BLITZER: Carl Bernstein, Rudy Giuliani seems to be getting over this problem. He's moving on with his life, right?
BERNSTEIN: I think that Giuliani has been changed by his experience, that he is a different man. One of the interesting things about the Senate race..0
BRESLIN: He got caught with a girl; the prostate cancer didn't change him.
BERNSTEIN: Well, no, I think that's true, that he started one of the things that Hillary Clinton did...
FRANKEN: He's in love. BERNSTEIN: ... is if she provoked him into a meltdown, she would have beat him. I think that was what was going on.
BLITZER: Did you always think that he would be in this race or he would drop out?
BRESLIN: I thought he would drop out, I did.
BLITZER: On the basis of what?
BRESLIN: On basis of it was getting tough.
BLITZER: Did you think he would drop out, too?
FRANKEN: I really didn't know. I think that it's easy to say now that she would have beaten Rudy now. The post-"I'm getting separated from my wife, but I didn't tell her that I'm going to say so" Rudy is pretty easy to beat.
BRESLIN: No, no, no, before that.
BERNSTEIN: I think, though, she had provoked him to a point where he started to self-destruct in the couple weeks leading up to that. She's had more trouble with Lazio. You know, both these elections, the presidential election and the Senate election, are about very different candidates with very different sets of values, and very different choices and very different records. I mean, there is a very little in George W. Bush's record and his stands and Al Gore stands at record that are comparable, and the same with Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio.
BLITZER: And you say there's no difference?
BRESLIN: Can't see any difference.
BERNSTEIN: Jimmy, that's just not the case.
BRESLIN: I can't see any.
BLITZER: Jimmy Breslin.
BRESLIN: I see great boredom coming out of both sides -- boring.
BERNSTEIN: That's a different question.
BRESLIN: Well, that's a major question. That's a felony to me.
BLITZER: Jimmy Breslin, we've got to leave it right there. Al Franken, Carl Bernstein, two Pulitzer prize winners.
BERNSTEIN: Soon to be a Pulitzer Prize winner.
FRANKEN: I won some Emmys. I won a Grammy, a Grammy.
BLITZER: LARRY KING will be back Monday night. Thanks for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in a little biter in New York. 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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