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Larry King Live
Al Gore Versus George Bush: Which Candidate Has the Best Plan America?Aired August 28, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, politics and pundistry -- politics -- politics -- I'm nervous!
Democrat Mario Cuomo, the former governor of New York, joins us -- in Los Angeles, Republican Jack Kemp, the co-director of Empower America -- in Washington, Bob Woodward, Pulitzer Prize winner and assistant managing editor of the "Washington Post" -- and our man David Gergen, editor-at-large for "U.S. News & World Report," White House adviser to four presidents.
They are all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We've got a great panel talking politics for the hour. You take one night off you forget how to work. I want to thank Wolf Blitzer for sitting in on Friday -- and also our friend David Gergen up in Boston. He's got a new book coming out next week: "Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, from Nixon to Clinton." And he worked for them all.
Speaking of that, let's start right with you, David.
There is a new book out -- "The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon," by Anthony Summers -- claiming, among other things, that Nixon abused his wife also took a mind-altering drug called Dilantin, given to him by Jack Dreyfus. Do you have any knowledge of this?
DAVID GERGEN, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": I have no knowledge, no direct knowledge of it at all, Larry. I was surprised. I had been reading the book -- surprised when I came across that. But I was even more surprised by the "New York Times" story yesterday by Adam Clymer, a first-rate reporter, who seemed to verify story about the drugs, the mind-altering drugs.
And he went back to a lot of the sources that Mr. Summers had, and I think produced a report that is pretty convincing.
KING: Does it surprise you, as you knew the man?
GERGEN: It does. But what surprised me more -- and I don't believe -- is that he beat his wife. I just don't believe that. Now, Jack Dreyfus I don't know. I think some of your other guests do know him. but it is not at all surprising that -- there was a quality about Nixon that his mood could change dramatically. He had this dual personality: a very bright side and a very dark side. And he could go from one to the other very quickly.
And this -- and I never thought he was drinking. He was portrayed in that movie as sort of being a man who was a lush. That was not true. He had one drink, it would go to his head. But it -- the pills that he took perhaps for depression or for being worried, if they could have altered his mood, that would explain a lot that has been unexplainable in many years that many people have known him.
KING: Now, all guests are familiar with him. So let's get the thoughts of everyone.
Mario Cuomo, I think your law firm represents Jack Dreyfus, right?
MARIO CUOMO, FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: No, the law firm doesn't. I have been helping Jack for a few years, now.
KING: About this drug right, Dilantin?
CUOMO: Yes. Well, I know all about Dilantin, which is phenytoin, which is an anti-convulsant, which has been in use for perhaps four decades, which is not what I would call mind-altering. It is used to correct electric imbalance in the human system -- and therefore is an anti-convulsant against epileptics.
Jack Dreyfus, being a genius -- which he has been for a long time -- used it for his own depression some 40 years ago. And it has worked beautifully. And he has been all over the world. He has just recently been honored in Ghana for distribution of the drug -- called Dilantin now. It is made by Pfizer, but the patent has run out on it. So it is available to everybody.
KING: And Mario...
CUOMO: And Jack has been trying to make it available all over the world. It serves many purposes other than fighting epilepsy and depression.
KING: Does it surprise that you the president may have used it?
CUOMO: I did not read the book. And I don't know about the president -- reading the book -- but from what FDA says about drug, it cannot hurt anybody.
KING: I see.
CUOMO: And therefore, is available. And when you say mind- altering, that suggests that it puts you into some kind of bizarre state. It is not that at all.
KING: Jack Kemp, what do you make of it?
JACK KEMP, CO-DIRECTOR, EMPOWER AMERICA: I want to make sure that everybody knows that when he mentioned Jack distributed the drug, that it was Jack Dreyfus, not Jack Kemp.
KEMP: I know Jack Dreyfus as well.
KING: It's the Dreyfus fund, by the way.
KEMP: He's a wonderful man. I know nothing about the drug. I'm surprised. I'm surprised. The book is coming from...
KING: British author.
KEMP: ... an extreme left attitude towards Nixon. But I think Dave Gergen probably put it in best perspective, that it might explain. But I don't have any understanding of that.
KING: I mean, he certainly was a complicated character.
KEMP: Very complicated, absolutely.
KING: I have interviewed him many times.
KEMP: He did great things. And he did some very poor things and some bad things, so...
KING: He was Shakespearean in that regard, don't you think? I mean...
KEMP: Yes, it's hard to explain. I have always thought some of the economic things he did -- he put on wage and price controls, he devalued the dollar, he raised taxes, he put on tariffs.
KING: Which you didn't like.
KEMP: Which I didn't like, you know. And I thought he did -- opening the initiative to China very, very important. And now there is a lot of people who want to turn that around. I think that would be a big mistake.
KING: Bob Woodward, you have written about him as much as anyone, and won a Pulitzer writing about him. What do you make of this book?
BOB WOODWARD, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, I have read some of it. You know, maybe it is credible that he was given these drugs. The idea that a president of the United States would be self-medicating and not realize the dangers of this, it is all possible. But it goes to the Nixon character, which, of course, is best revealed on his endless tape recordings. And we have a batch that seems to come out each season.
I think there is a new grouping of tapes that are going to come out this fall. And on it, you see this man that lots of people who knew him and worked very closely with him do not recognize. In other words, it's the criminal Nixon, the one regularly ordering illegal and abusive activity by the government and his aides.
KING: All right, and can you see him having a friend like Jack Dreyfus -- brilliant multi, multimillionaire, creator of the Dreyfus Fund -- telling you this works -- can you see him taking it? You can see a lot of people taking it based on just the word of that -- of Jack Dreyfus.
WOODWARD: Sure, because the central part of Nixon, as we now know, was the willingness to take the law and say: Oh, that doesn't apply to me -- and to think that he always knew better. And he had this view that because he was president, he was above the law. Of course, that is what caused all of this problems that brought him down.
Let me get a break and we shall...
CUOMO: Well, Bob.
KING: Mario, quickly.
CUOMO: Yes, Larry, there is a suggestion here that this drug was somehow dangerous, that Nixon...
KING: No, but it has to be prescribed. It wasn't prescribed
CUOMO: Well, no, no, it doesn't have to be prescribed. It has...
KING: You can buy it?
CUOMO: A doctor may prescribe it without any further permission from the FDA, because the FDA has declared to it be a harmless drug for anybody. This notion that it was somehow dangerous -- which Bob just enunciated -- is -- unless the book establishes some evidence for that - I'm not aware of it. And I...
KING: All right, let me...
CUOMO: ... conclusion.
KING: Let me get a break. And we will talk about things more current: Mr. Bush, and Mr. Gore, and Mr. Cheney and Mr. Lieberman.
We'll let them go at it. We'll take your calls later.
Don't go away.
KING: Let's start with Jack Kemp this go around -- and get everybody in on the discussion.
Everybody has it even. Are you surprised at that?
KEMP: I'm not. I thought it was going to be neck-and-neck all the way to the election. So...
KING: What happens to Bush's big lead, though?
KEMP: Well, he got a bump out of Philadelphia. Al Gore had a good bump out of Los Angeles, right here. It was close. Al Gore did what he had to do: He built his base, strengthened his base. Certainly, George W. Bush had a terrific convention. And it is going to be very close.
KING: Down to the wire.
KEMP: Down to the debates, in my opinion.
KING: David Gergen, what's your read on this race overview?
GERGEN: Well, I agree with Jack Kemp up to a point. The -- George W. Bush certainly had the best Republican Convention any of us can remember in a long time. He came flying out of there.
I think this thing turned with the Lieberman choice. That began -- that reopened the door for Al Gore, and he came charging back through that convention speech. What has surprised me is not the bounce that Gore has gotten out of his convention, but the fact that he has been able to maintain the momentum now for more than a week.
The -- this past week, Larry, the Bush people had planned to devote to education. They wanted to get back to one of their main themes. They were completely off-message all week because Gore had them on the defensive: first over the military issue and then over taxes, and now they've moved onto health care. So I think that -- I think that the Bush forces are struggling. I think this is the most important challenge the governor has faced since he lost South Carolina (sic). But we saw him bounce back from South Carolina. Now, we'll see if he can here.
I'm pretty confident he'll come back, but it's going to be a tough go.
KING: He won South Carolina.
GERGEN: He came bouncing back after New Hampshire. I'm sorry.
KING: Oh, after New Hampshire.
GERGEN: Yes, South Carolina. South Carolina was the big -- South Carolina was his comeback, and I think he now needs a comeback, perhaps not of similar magnitude. But he's for the first time on the national stage. He's not playing just in the Republican ranks. I think this is a tougher go.
But he's got a first-rate campaign organization. He's a good candidate. He's been -- you know, for a rookie out there, he's run a remarkably good race, but he's -- he's got his work cut out for him now.
KING: Bob, do you agree with Jack? It's now the debates. WOODWARD: It probably is. Of course, you never can tell with all this campaign money that's been floating around. I still wonder when we're going to see the campaign fund-raising scandals of 2000, not 1996.
I agree with David Gergen about Lieberman. There's something about Lieberman, the way he handles himself, he's kind of tapped into that optimistic strain in the country. He is somebody -- literally, Joe Lieberman can get up and talk about his religion, and make you think he's talking about you, not himself.
There is something, the way he talks about being an Orthodox Jew and says everyone is worshiping the same God, well, of course that is theologically probably not correct, but you feel good about it.
KING: Mario, what's your read on the -- you give a lot of strength to this Lieberman thing?
CUOMO: I think Lieberman made a difference, yes. I think he introduced a positive note that got Gore moving in the right direction. But I think the big change has been that we went from ether and a kind of vacuous general attitudinal campaign to specifics. We are now down to the Gore strength: issues, agenda, health care, education.
Let's talk about education, specifically. Let's talk about Social Security and Medicare. You're now on Gore's strong ground. And that's the big difference.
He had a great convention, Bush, but it had nothing to do with the issues. Now he's on the issues. This is where Al Gore is strong: because the agenda is more popular, his agenda, because his ability will show through -- and his ability is superior -- and because achievement, his record, Clinton-Gore economy, compared to the Texas situation. Those are the criteria we wanted, and that's where the campaign now is. And I hope it stays there.
KEMP: First of all, let me agree with both Bob and Dave about Joe Lieberman. I think that was a great choice, albeit...
KING: He's a good friend of yours?
KEMP: He's a good friend of mine and Bill Bennett's. I think he would be more comfortable standing next to Bill and me than he is Al Gore, but nonetheless...
What bothered me about the Democratic Convention -- and I say this as I can't be totally nonpartisan -- but the bashing of big oil, the bashing of the big pharmaceuticals, big tobacco, big this, big that, big HMO. But look, he didn't bash big government, and he is -- he's going to apply the Clinton health care package to the whole country. We're going to federalize health insurance in this country thanks to Al Gore. We're going to federalize education.
Now, do the American people want that? I know Governor Cuomo does.
KING: Is it possible they want it?
KEMP: But I don't think the American people want to nationalize health care.
KING: Why is health his strong suit?
KEMP: It isn't his strong suit.
KING: You don't think so.
KEMP: It isn't. Wait until senior citizens find out how much they have to pay for those prescription drugs. It is unbelievable.
KING: But Gore -- but Bush doesn't have a plan yet, right?
KEMP: As you -- talk about the issues -- when they talk about the issues, as Governor Cuomo was alluding to, it's going to point out to the people that if you earn $28,000 a year and you earn another dollar or two, or 10 or 15, you're close to a 40, 50 percent tax bracket. Wait until people find out. So I think Bush is going to be all right.
The election, the campaign does start after Labor Day, and that's going to be when it counts.
KING: You want to respond, Mario, and then we'll move to Mr. Woodward and Mr. Gergen and other areas.
CUOMO: I -- you talking to me?
KING: Do you want to...
CUOMO: If Jack said what I thought he said, it was that you ought to trust the pharmaceutical companies to set the price on prescription drugs and not let Al Gore get you those prescription drugs...
KEMP: Price controls.
CUOMO: ... more cheaply through government.
KEMP: It's Called price controls, Mario.
CUOMO: No. It's called -- you know what Al Gore is doing, let's not -- let's not confuse this. He's talking about big oil, big tobacco...
CUOMO: ... pharmaceutical companies the same way Teddy Roosevelt talked about not rich against poor, but there are certain large entities that charge more than they should. That is what Teddy Roosevelt made a point of. That's what Gore is making a point of.
KEMP: Price controls create shortages.
CUOMO: And if Jack is saying -- if Jack is saying, rely on the free enterprise system...
CUOMO: ... to give you all your prescription drugs, well, then, what do you think the American people will say to that? Do you think they'll trust the pharmaceutical companies to give them prescription drugs at an affordable price? I doubt it.
KING: I've got to get a break. We'll have Jack respond, and we'll get Bob and David into this on the question of issues. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe it is time to say to every senior in this country, "We have come to the point when we can improve Medicare by giving a prescription drug benefit to every single senior in this country...
... so that the prescription medicines can be afforded and purchased.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe the bipartisan commission, plan called Breaux-Frist is the blueprint for success. It says that seniors at their choice should be able to pick -- pick and choose amongst a variety of plans, all of which will include prescription drugs.
The problem with the current Medicare system today is it's locked in the past. There's not a prescription drug benefit. It says -- it's an old system and it needs to be reformed, and I've laid out the framework...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: David Gergen, is it now issues? Is health going to be a big issue? And if that's the case, is Gore on the righter track?
GERGEN: I think health is going to be a major issue along with education and along with taxes in this campaign. Larry, Gore is -- the Gore arguments can be met and conquered by the kind of arguments Jack Kemp was making, but it's going to take some very skillful arguing on the part of George W. Bush, and he's going to have to have a team of surrogates to make those arguments.
You may remember that Bill Clinton, his health care plan was very, very popular in the beginning until people took a hard look at some of the internals, and they said, well, this is a good idea in theory, but if you look at the real internals, it's not going to work, it is -- it's going to mean too much government.
It makes a lot sense to help provide subsidies to people that can buy these expensive drugs. It makes no sense to harness one of the most successful industries in this country, the pharmaceutical industry, and have government dictate to them prices.
KING: Bob -- Jack, do you want to say something (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
KEMP: I think David made a very important point, and that is that there's a lot of senior citizens who already have private plans that provide prescription drugs. What Gore's plan does is take them out of the choice of the private sector and lump them in with everyone else.
We should -- I believe George Bush will -- subsidize the poor but don't take people out and put them into one big HMO in which the government will control all prices, because that will cause shortages, and I think even Governor Cuomo would understand that.
KING: Bob, would you agree -- hold it, Mario. Bob, would you agree that if Americans were polled tomorrow and the question were, "Should every person be entitled to an equal right to the same drug, same pharmaceutical drug, no matter how much money they have?" Americans would say yes?
WOODWARD: Yes, for senior citizens. I think that's certainly going to be an issue and it will get into the details.
I don't mean to intentionally light Jack Kemp's fuse on this, but to return to the issue of taxes...
KEMP: Be careful, Bob.
WOODWARD: It is in fact true that Bush appeared to be shaky on the issue of his tax cuts. He throws around these numbers: 3 trillion here, 1.9 trillion here. People in this country, I think, probably have enough of a memory that, now, wait a minute, these are projections for surpluses, in some cases, 10 years from now. If you were to go back 10 years, in August of 1990, there was some feeling that the economy was going to be OK, then Saddam Hussein invaded Iraq. There were problems with oil prices. We had a recession.
The economic future is the giant unknown in this country, and to sit around and say, oh, we've got a trillion here or a trillion there, probably isn't going down very well with people.
KING: I want to get Mario's thoughts on this, but you invade Iraq. You mean invaded...
WOODWARD: Kuwait. I'm sorry.
KING: All right, governor, health or -- Bob took us into taxes, which I want to get to, and to military, but on health, is that a key Gore issue?
CUOMO: It's absolutely a key Gore issue...
KING: And is it, unless it's sophisticatedly explained by the other side to counter, is it the kind of issue that could win him the election?
CUOMO: Well, Al Gore has put forward a plan, which apparently is understandable. I think David's remark was very significant. He said, well, it can be rebutted but not by George Bush. He will need some clever surrogates to explain in detail his very complicated plan.
Incidentally, there is no plan by George Bush yet.
And as to taxes, let's remember -- I thought when Bob said, you know, people have a good memory. I thought he was going to go back to the Reagan administration. Remember President Reagan saying, I'm going to give you these huge tax cuts and the budget will be balanced in three years? He was off by $3 1/2 trillion, a tremendous new debt. That was President Reagan. Have we forgotten already? I don't think so.
KEMP: That is incredible that the governor, who brags about cutting tax rates in New York, now is attacking Ronald Reagan for...
CUOMO: No, no, no.
KEMP: Wait a minute. Let me make my point.
CUOMO: I balanced the budget when I cut my taxes, Jack.
KEMP: Governor, may I just make one point...
KING: Yes, go ahead.
KEMP: ... in rebuttal to your statement that Reagan gave us a terrible economy? I assume you're saying that.
The top tax rate in 1980-'81 was 70 percent. Is Governor Cuomo going to tell us that he would have kept the top tax rate at 70?
From 1981 to 1988, the top tax rate came down from 70 to 28, and the amount of revenue coming in from so-called "rich people" went up from 17 percent of our revenue base to 28.5 percent of our revenue base.
If you really want to tax the rich get the rates down to where they are more willing to invest in America's new economy than they are to put it offshore or put it into shelters. So demagoguery, unbelievable, for Al Gore to say that we're going -- we're not going give a tax cut to those who don't need it and take it from those who do need it. Every one should have lower tax rates in peacetime.
And I think it would be good for the economy as the only way to save Medicare and Social Security is to have a bigger pie with more revenue.
KING: We'll talk about the military. We'll take calls from the public as well, and everyone can jump in as long as they don't override each other, starting from the get-go. Don't go away.
KING: OK. Is the military ready or not, Bob Woodward?
WOODWARD: Yes, it is. Even Dick Cheney, who's offered some criticisms, has said we have the best force now. At the same time, there are a lot of people who know the military very well, including people who were in it, who say that they need more money, it's not as ready as it should be given the amount of money that the federal government has and that country has.
KING: So who's right in the argument on military is down?
WOODWARD: It's good but it could be better, and there's going to be that political argument. But the fact that Cheney himself conceded that we have the best force means that, you know, it's going to be very difficult for politicians on the other side to run around and say, wait a minute, we immediately have to do something very significant with the defense budget."
KING: David, how important is this to public when it's not worried about war?
GERGEN: I don't think it's anywhere near as significant to the public as the health care, education or tax issues. But I do -- I think that Dick Cheney's point was in his view the military is the best in the world but it's going in the wrong direction. And part of that, Larry, is the fact that we're so overstretched.
We have forces now scattered all over the world. They're in over 100 countries standing watch tonight. And a lot of the services, they can't make the quotas now in recruiting people, and just as importantly, say, the Air Force, there are a lot of Air Force pilots who are bailing out. They're only staying in a short period of time because their hours that are demanded of them now are so beyond what is normal in the service that that's what really has to be addressed.
If I could just have, while I've got the floor, one second. Governor Cuomo I think made an interpretation which I did not intend, I'd like to correct, about Governor Bush. And that is I think it will take skillful argument by him to rebut some of these arguments, but I think there are a lot of people in politics who have continually underestimated this fellow. Several of them got in the ring with him, they're on the sidelines now, they didn't make it against him.
We've seen him once before in this campaign when he went out and gave a briefing about missiles and about changing the nation's defense policies in which -- I think a lot of reporters came out of that session with him saying, wow, this guy can -- when he's on, he can really be on.
So I think he's capable of taking on some of these arguments.
KING: Military, Mario? Who's right?
CUOMO: Well, first of all, on tax cuts you'll notice that Jack Kemp never refuted the statement I made, and that is that Reagan left us $3 1/2 trillion short when he said he would balance the budget after three years, and that's what you have to look out for with Governor Bush. And Governor Bush said specifically two divisions were not prepared to fight, and he was wrong. And that's another credibility -- excuse me -- that's another credibility issue.
As to whether or not we're having trouble bringing in Reserve forces, of course we are. We're also having trouble recruiting police, and we're having trouble recruiting schoolteachers, because the Clinton-Gore economy is so good and has been so good that people have better options than serving in the Army or the Marines or the Navy or being a cop or being a teacher.
And how do you get around that? You have to market. You have to give them more money. You have to treat them better. And you have to attract these people to the service.
They've already given the Clinton-Gore administration the largest raise in many, many years and they want to give more. They're on the right track.
Bush was wrong when he said two divisions were not ready to fight.
KING: I want to give Jack Kemp proper time to respond. We'll take a break, come back. We'll include your phone calls as well. We'll begin with Jack's response to what the governor just said. Don't go away.
KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.
Let's reintroduce our panel. We'll go to phone calls, and Jack Kemp will respond in just a moment. They are, in New York, Mario Cuomo, the former Democratic governor of the state of New York; here in Los Angeles, Jack Kemp, co-director of Empower America, 1996 Republican vice presidential candidate, and former star quarterback; Bob Woodward, assistant managing editor of "The Washington Post," best-selling author, Pulitzer Prize winner. Bob has a new book coming soon. What's the title?
WOODWARD: We haven't decided yet.
KING: But it's about?
WOODWARD: It's about the economic boom, and why we have it.
KING: Kemp will be the first one on line to buy this book.
KEMP: I will.
KING: And, David Gergen, editor at large, "U.S. News & World Report," he worked in the Clinton, Reagan, Ford and Nixon White Houses. His new book is published officially next week, "Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton."
Before we go to call, Jack Kemp wanted to respond.
KEMP: Well, a couple points -- and by the way, Bob, good luck on your new book.
WOODWARD: Thank you.
KEMP: And that boom started with Ronald Wilson Reagan in 1981, so I had to get that point across.
The Governor Cuomo is right about one thing, there has been a repair of some of the problems that were attendant in the military maybe a couple years ago, and thanks to the prodding of the Republican Congress and the response of the Clinton administration and to Bill Cohen, who is a friend of mine -- so is Dick Cheney -- both Cheney and Cohen are right when they say that we have a strong national defense, compared to who? Russia, yes, China, yes.
In this world, we are the strongest military might in the history of the world, that is true. On the other hand, morale is low, pay is low, we're cannibalizing other forces to make up for those two divisions, that Bush -- so Bush is not entirely wrong at all nor is Bill Cohen. So I think you've got to keep this in perspective. We can do better. I think Dave put it right, we can do better, we should do better, and we're overcomitted around the world. I hope the debate switches from just the military readiness to what we want the military to do. Do we want to bomb Baghdad and bomb Iraq once a week? I don't think so.
KING: Lancaster, Pennsylvania, hello.
Lancaster, California -- I'm sorry -- hello.
CALLER: My topic is a little off the subject that you have covered, though, I'm curious...
KING: It's all right, we are all over.
CALLER: ... do any tax dollars go toward the cost of the Democratic and Republican National Convention?
KING: Are there any taxes involved? Maybe there is...
KEMP: I don't -- I think it's -- I think both -- and Governor Cuomo will certainly talk about this, but I think both conventions were entirely financed privately other than for the security for Lieberman, Gore, Cheney, and George Bush.
KING: Isn't that true, Governor?
CUOMO: I think so. I'm not sure, but I think so.
KING: Yes, I think so.
WOODWARD: I think they were totally special interest-funded conventions, yes.
KING: Spokane, Washington -- we know where Bob's book is going -- Spokane, Washington, hello.
CALLER: For Mr. David Gergen, please.
CALLER: Yes, Mr. Gergen, I would like to ask you, after the Republican Convention a couple three weeks ago, I heard you on "Nightline" on ABC state to Mr. Koppel that you thought that the race was over, and that you thought that Mr. Gore would have a hard time winning. I just wonder what changed your mind? Thank you.
KING: Thank you.
GERGEN: Well, I continue to believe that there are a lot of built-in advantages for Mr. Bush here. What has surprised me is how -- not just how effective the Gore campaign has been, I think the choice of Joe Lieberman was really superb, but what is -- what's surprised me is the degree to which the Gore campaign has been able to throw the Bush campaign on the defensive.
The Bush organization was just first rate in Pennsylvania, I think that they ran a -- one heck of a convention, one of the best, as I say, I have ever seen. But they have been on the defensive for the last couple of weeks and they can't seem to get their footing back, and I think they simply have to do that soon in order to regain their natural advantage.
I think there is in the country a slight desire for a change, and Al Gore has been talking about that, he wants to represent change, he does not want to make this an election about Bill Clinton, he wants to make it about the future. You know, so -- and I think that in that kind of a environment, George W. Bush has an advantage. He is the change. So -- but I -- he is going to have to win it hard -- you know, in a hard fight now.
KING: Are we going to have more than three debates do you think, Bob?
WOODWARD: No idea. I hope so. There should be five, or maybe even more, because that's...
KING: Why not more spirited debate?
WOODWARD: Well, but...
KING: In all venues?
WOODWARD: That is where the rubber meets the road. That is where you really see the candidates answering the same questions. There has been some discussion of more of a free-form debate where they could really ask each other questions...
KING: Like here.
WOODWARD: ... and follow up and so forth, and that probably would be desirable.
KING: Like here, or other forums than two people standing on a stage with microphones and they can't follow -- one minute follow up and then we move to a different subject, and you can't question each other. It's really not a debate.
You participated, Jack Kemp, so you know. That wasn't a debate, was it?
KEMP: Yes. Well, I debated -- that wasn't a debate really, you are answering questions and firing back, and very Oxfordian in terms of its contextual framework.
KING: And now Mr. Kemp, you have one minute.
KEMP: I would have loved to have been in front of an audience where you could walk around and actually engage people and -- but that's the way it was, that's the rules of the game.
KING: But do you think we'll have all forums this time?
KEMP: I would hope so, and I agree with Bob Woodward, I'd hope that there would be several debates on different subjects, foreign policy, domestic policy, social policy, education.
KING: Kennedy-Nixon did that, Mario. One day they'd have a debate in areas of foreign policy, then one debate on domestic policy, then on military readiness. Do you think that's a good idea, subjectize the debates?
CUOMO: I think it's -- I think in the best of all worlds -- and this is not the best of all words -- you'd have what Jack wants, and that is full discussions with nuance and the ability to develop, because none of these subjects can be treated adequately in one minute for you, one minute for me. The debates are better than no debates, but they are not really adequate. Now, whether or not the Bush people will agree to more -- of course they won't. Why should they?
There are three elements here to the campaign it seems me, that are criteria for our judgment: one is, what are their positions? Two, what is their ability to deal with the job of president? Three, what are their achievements in the past? On all three of those things, the more you get into depth, the stronger Al Gore gets against George Bush. Now, Dick Gergen thought -- David Gergen -- I'm sorry -- thought he was going to win -- Bush -- but up until his convention it was all, look, I'm a charming guy, the other guy was tied to Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
CUOMO: OK? I know that this fatigues Republicans to hear, but it's the truth.
KEMP: That is just preposterous.
KING: I'll have David respond.
KEMP: OK, let David respond.
KING: All right, David, you want to respond?
GERGEN: Yes. I just -- I don't think there is necessarily the three criteria by which we ought to judge a candidate, I think we ought to be looking for a leader who has positions which we think are good for the country.
GERGEN: But leadership is part of this, and that involves temperament, it involves integrity.
CUOMO: I call it ability.
GERGEN: It involves having a link with people.
CUOMO: Ability, yes.
GERGEN: How -- yes -- well, it is a capacity to move the system. How well can this individual work with the Congress?
CUOMO: That's right.
GERGEN: How well can this person work with the allies? I think those are very, very important parts of leadership. And I don't think they...
KEMP: And one other thing, David.
GERGEN: Yes, please. KING: Go ahead, Jack.
KEMP: I was just going to say one other thing, David, I -- and I know you would agree, what kind of a team can you put together? Who is going to be on your foreign policy team?
GERGEN: Absolutely, absolutely.
KEMP: I mean, I think George W. Bush having Colin Powell as secretary of state is a very powerful signal to the world...
KING: By the way, do you think he should tell us that?
KEMP: ... that foreign policy is going to be different under Governor Bush's presidency than it would have been under Al Gore.
KING: Should he tell us that if it's Powell?
KEMP: I think it's pretty...
KING: Why shouldn't we know?
KEMP: I would like to know, I would like to see him stand up there and say who his secretary of Treasury is, Steve Forbes...
KING: Why don't they...
KEMP: ... and who his national security adviser is...
KEMP: ... Condoleezza Rice.
KING: Why don't they do that, David? Why can't we know that?
KEMP: Colin Powell.
GERGEN: Well, I -- you -- I think it would be a good thing to tell us basically what his cabinet is going to look like. You cannot...
KING: Both sides.
GERGEN: ... promise jobs under the federal code. Yes, but I think you ought to tell us basically what your team is going to look like. Let me come back to this point, Larry...
KING: Quickly, yes.
GERGEN: ... it is not just the question of who the smartest -- it's not the question of who the smartest man is, if brains were the criterion by which we would -- the presidents would be judged, Nixon, Carter, and Clinton would have been our best presidents.
KING: We'll take a break and come right back with more, and more phone calls. Don't go away.
KING: Columbia, South Carolina, hello.
CALLER: Hi. Every ticker tape used to show the national debt 24 hours a day, and it -- what I would like to know now, is it under control today and which candidate will best reduce it? Is anything being paid on the principal?
KING: We are, aren't we, Jack?
KING: Yes. We're reducing all the time, I thought.
KEMP: Look, you have to -- that's a great question, by the way, and you have to judge the debt of the country against the resources of the country and the size of the economic pie that Bob Woodward is going to talk about in his coming book -- booming economy. So the debt of the country, in 1981/2 when we're in a recession, was close to 54 percent of GDP. Today, it's probably 42 percent of GDP, and if we continue the growth of the economy without inflation over the next 10 years, and that is all, as Bob pointed out, properly -- earlier on -- is subject to policy, and taxes, and monetary, and trade -- the debt will be close to 20 percent of GDP by the year 2010. That is the way to pay down debt, pay it down relative to the size of our economic pie, but grow the pie.
WOODWARD: But to answer the woman's question, and it is reflective of something that I think many people are expressing, the sense of OK, in the fat years, let's pay down that debt, let's really make a serious effort to do it, and there is, in fact, no real plan -- everyone -- all of the presidential candidates are talking about preserving certain things, like Social Security, and Medicare, but there is no real active candidate saying, oh, let's really pay down the debt in a serious way. Interestingly enough, the one who has been the most serious in talking about it is President Clinton.
KEMP: Why would you use this tax code and these high tax rates to pay down debt and get a low rate of interest, or low rate of return, on that investment? Why not use this surplus of $4 trillion over the next 10 years to reform Social Security, reform Medicare, reform taxation, and make this economy grow into the next decade at a rate of 4-5 percent rather than the 2 percent as predicted by the Clinton administration office of budget?
CUOMO: Well, what Jack failed to mention is that in addition to Social Security, Medicare, et cetera, there is the question of tax cuts. And George W. Bush is talking about taking out of the surplus $1.6 trillion with a $1.3 trillion tax cut. And once again -- once...
KEMP: That is just nonsense. CUOMO: Well, it's $1.3 trillion...
KEMP: That's nonsense.
CUOMO: ... plus $300 million -- $300 billion in interest rates.
KEMP: Governor Cuomo...
CUOMO: Now -- excuse me, Jack. On the question of debt, on the question of debt, Bob Woodward is absolutely correct that President Clinton wants to pay down the entire thing, and right behind him is Al Gore, who instead of giving huge tax cuts like the Reagan tax cuts that created debt, wants to give targeted smaller tax cuts and pay down the debt. The one who is not interested in paying down the debt, as you have heard from Jack Kemp, is George W. Bush.
KEMP: That is just pure unadulterated demagoguery, I can't believe...
KING: OK, Mr. Gergen.
CUOMO: You can speak now and describe the demagoguery, Jack.
KEMP: You know what it is? $1.6 trillion description -- I mean, that is a bald-faced...
KING: What is it?
CUOMO: No, no, it's 1.3 plus $300 billion in interest.
KEMP: It -- that assumes, Larry, that no one will do anything differently when they get a higher rate of return on their working and saving and investing, and Governor Cuomo should know this because he brags, and rightly so, that he cut the rates in New York for the rich. And guess what they did? They invested in New York, and they didn't move to Connecticut, or move to Pennsylvania.
What George Bush is suggesting, that if you take the top rate down from 41.9 down to 33 and cap it at 33, and cut low-income people tax rates down from 15 to 10 and give them a tax credit for education, you will have a higher rate of return on working, getting educated, investing in this new economy. And it's pure -- I don't like to use the word "demagoguery," but it is a false impression to tell the people...
KEMP: ... particularly that woman in South Carolina, that Bush is going to cut $1.6 trillion when he knows full well that people will respond by working and investing and expanding the economy.
CUOMO: Jack, isn't that what Ronald Reagan said?
KEMP: That is what revenues come from, Governor Cuomo. CUOMO: Jack, isn't that...
KEMP: Revenues come from people working and investing.
CUOMO: Jack, isn't that exactly what President Reagan said? Exactly.
KEMP: And guess what?
CUOMO: And wasn't he $3.5 trillion off?
KEMP: Twenty-one million new jobs, 31 million new businesses...
CUOMO: Excuse me, what about the debt, Jack?
KEMP: Inflation came down, economy grew, and we grew out of the debt.
CUOMO: What about the debt, Jack? What about the debt, Jack?
KEMP: We grew out of it, Governor.
CUOMO: We're still paying it.
KING: Let me get a break, I have to get a break.
We will be right back in this Kemp-Cuomo debate, which could lead to the national debates, as Gergen and Woodward take a backstep and come forward in the less emotional factor. A little analysis there for you. We'll be right back.
KING: Palm City, Florida, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
CALLER: Thank you very much for taking my call tonight.
CALLER: My question is for Mario Cuomo.
CALLER: I think everyone agrees that Joe Lieberman was a great selection, absolutely a great selection. However, I think Mario would have even been a better selection, and I was surprised that he wasn't on the short list. And I was wondering was he asked and did he decline? And had he been asked, would he have accepted? KING: Mario, did you hear the question?
CUOMO: I wasn't asked and...
KING: You seem stunned, Mario.
CUOMO: No, no. I was stunned that he would have considered me a possible candidate. I think my positions -- I'm very supportive of Al Gore, and I was very supportive of President Clinton -- but my positions are considerably different from both of them, and probably in a way that is not regarded as politically popular at the moment.
But thank you very much for the thought.
KING: Should both candidates be heard on racial profiling, Jack?
KING: You are against racial profiling.
KEMP: Absolutely. It is antithetical to everything this country is founded on. And I don't know how to answer -- I don't know what the response should be by the federal government. But I think mayors and governors and city councils have got to do everything they can. I believe in community policing, but racial and ethnic profiling has to be ended in this country immediately.
KING: David Gergen. Can the -- they are arguing that the president can sign an executive order to that effect. Can he?
GERGEN: I believe he can, yes.
KING: Ending it.
GERGEN: And may I just say, Larry, one of interesting things about this -- yes, ending it -- one of the interesting things about this is that George W. Bush has really embraced Kempism in this campaign. The compassionate conservatism is really a revival of what Jack Kemp was all about.
I think when Jack's answer on the racial profiling suggested that. When Jack came out -- Jack and Bill Bennett -- came out and opposed what the Republican Party was doing in California about immigration, and they got -- they took a lot of heat for it. But it's exactly where George W. Bush is now. And it's what is helping him with his the Hispanic votes, among other things.
KING: Bob Woodward, should they both speak out against profiling?
WOODWARD: Yes, obviously. I hate to go back to something earlier, but I'm -- I have a lot of empathy for the woman from South Carolina who called and asked the question that everyone said was good. And then there was a lot of political rhetoric bouncing around -- necessarily. But I think there were a couple of things that could be said about the tax cut. It would come out of the projected surplus. Therefore, the taxpayers are going to get the money. Jack Kemp is arguing -- he is not saying: Oh, the government is going to have that money. He is saying the taxpayers are going to have that. And hopefully, they would do good things with it...
WOODWARD: ... to help. But in terms of the woman's question, the tax cut would come out of government revenue in the future as projected.
WOODWARD: And what does that mean: possibly more debt if we ever hit hard times.
KEMP: You know it is interesting...
GERGEN: Bob, can I just
(CROSSTALK) KEMP: I was just going to make a point. The idea that deficits and debt are somehow causing high interest rates -- the yield on a 10- year bond was the same in 1992, when the deficit was $200 billion, as it is today with the surplus. Interest rates are affected by monetary policy and tax policy. And regulations affect -- excuse the expression -- the supply side of the economy.
And if we want a bigger economy, and more people working, and more black and brown and Asian immigrant people going into businesses, we've got to unleash capital formation.
KING: But what led to this good economy?
KEMP: And that is only thing that can save Social Security and Medicare.
KING: What led to this good economy with this high
KEMP: It's a good economy. It can be done -- we can be a lot better. And we can use the economy to reform Social Security, Medicare, taxes, education, and make this country even better than it is.
KING: I've got to get one more break, unfortunately. We hope to have all four of gentlemen on frequently. We'll get some other comments right after this.
KING: We have two-and-a-half minutes, so obviously, the answers have to be brief. Mario, is this going to get dirty?
CUOMO: I hope not. It hasn't really gotten dirty yet. And I think now that we are on the issues -- and you heard Jack and you heard the rest of us -- you can talk about issues all day long and do it very vigorously. There is no need to get dirty here. And there is a lot of intelligent discussion we need. And dirt gets in the way.
KING: Jack Kemp?
KEMP: Yes, I -- thank you, Mario.
I'm writing a column on Labor Day. And I wanted to say that in 1848, Karl Marx said that the workers of world should unite and overthrow the capitalists, and take over the means of production. Isn't it interesting circa 2000, the workers -- at least of America -- own the means of production? They own 60 to 70 percent of the means of production. We need to advance their interests and get them into personalized Social Security, and retirement accounts, and lower capital gain taxes, and lower income taxes.
KING: You have run personally -- you've run on the national ticket. Do you expect this to get...
KING: No, no, no...
KEMP: I don't think it will get dirty. I don't think Al Gore, George W., Joe Lieberman, or Dick Cheney will allow to it get dirty. It will be tough, but not dirty.
KING: Bob Woodward.
WOODWARD: Well, I think Governor Bush deserves a lot of credit for not running that negative ad that his advisers had prepared that really was going to distort some things that Gore said. And I thought that was a happy index: where the guy at the top apparently is the one said: No, we are not going to go down this road.
And of course, the first channel of the road to a dirty campaign is a kind of massive distortion of somebody's comments or their record.
KING: David Gergen, though, do you fear that, though -- say somebody falls five points behind and gets kind of aggressive -- and then who started what?
GERGEN: Larry, the two national conventions were the most positive, least partisan, and cleanest conventions I can remember in a long, long time. I think they have set the campaign off to an excellent start. I do agree with you: one gets down by five or six points, we are going to see a real temptation to go dirty. But they have set the standards now. It's going to be hard to get too dirty. I'm really much more positive now about the outlook for the campaign.
KING: Do you -- David, do you worry about surrogates getting dirty?
GERGEN: Oh, I think there's going to be a lot stuff going on around the surrogate level?
KING: PACs getting dirty?
GERGEN: Oh, yes, there's no question that there are -- the PACs are going to throw advertising on the air.
GERGEN: Yes, in the advertising. I think that's going to get pretty mean here. In some states, it's going to get down to, you know, hand-to-hand combat. But the candidates themselves -- and I think particularly these two vice-presidential candidates are not the traditional attack dogs. I think they are going to follow the Jack Kemp model...
KING: We're out of time. Thanks to all of you very much.
We'll be back tomorrow night.
Stay tuned for CNN "NEWSSTAND": a look at Frank Sinatra.
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