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Inside Politics

Bush and Gore Enter Attack Mode; Anti-Defamation League Warns Lieberman About Religious References

Aired August 29, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET

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

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: In Gore versus Bush, they're exchanging fire from their planes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... specifics are concerned, it's kind of put up or shut time.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It doesn't sound very presidential to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SHAW: We'll have the latest on the presidential candidates taking on one another and their favorite issues.

Plus:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Give thanks to God and declare his name and make his acts known to the people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: In response to Joe Lieberman's many religious references, a group that fights anti-Semitism tells him enough already.

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Judy Woodruff and Bernard Shaw.

SHAW: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off today.

At their campaign events, both Al Gore and George W. Bush often try to claim the high road. But put them on their campaign planes, and they're more likely to let their antagonism hang out.

Today, an airborne Bush responded to an aerial attack by Gore.

As our Candy Crowley reports, it's part of Bush's effort to get back on course.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With a couple of Texas teachers on board, George Bush flew to Portland, Maine, returning to the classroom and the core curriculum of his campaign: education reform.

BUSH: We must have a different set of reforms. And the contrast is stark. It just is. It's the difference between a campaign that wants to hold people accountability and a campaign that has got the illusion of accountability.

CROWLEY: After a tough week last week, Bush is trying to steady his political sea legs, even as Al Gore continues to try to shake him up.

GORE: The time for generalities without specifics, I think is just about over. And so it's kind of, you know, where specifics are concerned, it's kind of put up or shut up time.

CROWLEY: Gore's game is to show Bush as a candidate without portfolio. Bush's game is not to play Gore's game.

BUSH: Well, first of all, I felt like his comments underline the point I make that if we want to get something done in Washington, we have to change the tone of the discourse. And it just doesn't sound very presidential to me.

CROWLEY: Also in play, the Gore's campaign has officially accepted the three debates as outlined by the Presidential Commission on Debates. In fact, the Gore campaign has accepted every offer that has come in. Bush has said he'll debate three times, but hasn't agreed to specifics. Still, he bristles at suggestions he is trying to avoid prime time.

GORE: And of course, I want people to watch the debates. Why else debate?

CROWLEY: Bush's game is to keep his debate options opens. Gore's game is to make Bush look like he does not want to debate at all. All that said, Bush spent most of his day, as he put it, conducting his campaign the way he feels he needs to: which Tuesday, included the education event and a by-they-way introduction of a Maine couple making just under $40,000 a year. Bush says they will be taken off the federal tax rolls under his plan, but continue to pay under Al Gore's.

BUSH: Ours is a real tax-relief package for people who pay the bills in America. It is a package that hears the voices of people like Brian (ph) and his family.

CROWLEY (on camera): From here, Bush flies to New Hampshire, site of his biggest primary defeat, but his most significant political lesson: Define yourself before your opponent does it for you. It's a maxim which may come in handy in the coming months.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Portland, Maine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: Health care issues also are part of Al Gore's campaign game plan. Today, the vice president took his pitch for improved medical coverage to New Mexico.

As CNN's Pat Neal reports, that proved to be a convenient place for Gore to criticize Bush's record.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At a New Mexico campaign event touting his plan to provide health coverage to poor children, Al Gore took a veiled swipe at neighboring Texas for failing to promote the federal Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

GORE: They erect roadblocks and barriers. Millions of children who are eligible today don't get what they are eligible to receive.

NEAL: Gore highlighted his $100 billion plan to expand CHIP coverage to children higher up the income scale, and to cover their parents as well. Gore says that it's time Texas Governor George W. Bush came up with a counterproposal.

GORE: I hope that my opponent will also present to you specifics of how he would address the problem of children who do not have health care coverage today.

NEAL: Polls show Americans trust Gore more to handle health care than Bush. Gore is highlighting his plan in a four-day swing through the West in states where Bush is competitive.

GORE: That is a hardy endorsement of my proposal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.

GORE: OK.

NEAL: New Mexico may only have five electoral votes, but it went to Clinton-Gore in the last two elections. They won because of overwhelming support of Hispanics, who make up 40 percent of the state's population.

GORE: Gracias y bien venidos.

NEAL: At a rally at the University of New Mexico, Gore moved between Spanish and English and scoffed at Bush's claims that the past eight years were squandered.

GORE: Instead of high unemployment, we have got the lowest Hispanic unemployment ever measured.

NEAL: No recent polls have been taken in New Mexico, but the race is believed to be tight. Beyond George Bush, Gore also has to worry about Ralph Nader. (on camera): New Mexico may only has five electoral votes, but it holds symbolic importance, offering Gore a chance to beat Bush in his own backyard.

Pat Neal, CNN, Albuquerque.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: Gore's running mate, Senator Joe Lieberman today is rejecting a friendly suggestion that he lessen his religious emphasis out on the trail. The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks anti- Semitism, has warned Lieberman that political appeals along religious lines are -- quote -- "contrary to the American ideal."

Lieberman's spokeswoman says the senator -- quote -- "respectfully disagrees," noting that Lieberman's Jewish faith is an important part of who he is.

Our Bruce Morton has more now on religion as a campaign issue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LIEBERMAN: God bless you for coming out.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joe Lieberman talks about God a lot as he campaigns.

This past Sunday in Detroit:

LIEBERMAN: That I feel as strongly as anything else that there must be a place for faith in America's public life.

MORTON: He mentions religion at virtually every stop.

Nashville, his first appearance with Al Gore:

LIEBERMAN: I ask you to allow me to let the spirit move me as it does, to remember the words from Chronicles, which are to give thanks to God, to give thanks to God and declare his name and make his acts known to the people.

MORTON: George W. Bush has talked about religion, too. During the primaries, he appeared at Christian fundamentalist Bob Jones University, which at the time banned interracial dating, and at this debate last December, when asked who his favorite political philosopher.

BUSH: Christ, because he changed my heart.

MORTON: But after those events caused comment, Bush muted his religious references. And now, it's Lieberman's turn. The Jewish Anti-Defamation league, which monitors anti-Semitism, and which sent a letter to eight candidates before the start of the primary season, has now written Lieberman asking him to avoid undue emphasis on religion.

ABRAHAM H. FOXMAN, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: Religion belongs in the church, it belongs in the synagogue. Religion belongs in the home, and it belongs in the heart. It doesn't belong on a political campaign, and certainly not in politics or in government.

MORTON: Barry Lynn, of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State says the candidates should stress issues, not their faiths.

BARRY LYNN, AMERICANS FOR THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: I don't think we're hearing much about secular solutions. We're certainly hearing a great deal of religious rhetoric from all the candidates this year. And I think it's time for them to stop.

MORTON: Richard Lessner of the conservative group American Renewal says Lieberman talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk.

RICHARD LESSNER, AMERICAN RENEWAL: And since we are dealing with theological issues, the devil is in the details, I suppose. And that is: Will he, for example, support the restoration of voluntary prayer to the public schools? Is that an appropriate place for religion in our public life?

MORTON: The fact that Lieberman is the first Jew on a national ticket does make him and his religion interesting, but it's hard to imagine voters, come November, judging candidates on their faith, instead of, say, where they stand on schools and prescription-drug costs.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: And we're joined now by Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation league.

Let's listen for a moment to Al Gore's response to your concerns about Joe Lieberman's emphasis on religion. Today, Gore said he supports what Lieberman has been doing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE; I also know that he and I feel strongly about the separation of church and state, which is an important principle to guarantee that people of all faith traditions -- and those who are non-believers -- have equal access to the public arena.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: Mr. Foxman, does that in any way satisfy you?

FOXMAN: No. Well, we have a certain concern with Vice President Gore, when he talked in the past about that he will make his decisions in the White House, if and when he gets there, based on the concept: What would Jesus do?

That does not belong in politics. It certainly does not belong in government. It belong elsewhere. And there is something happening in this campaign: and that is, all of a sudden religion has become endemic to the political process. And that's not where it should be.

Issues should be debated and discussed, and not how much faith a candidate has, what degree of religiosity possesses him.

SHAW: Well, very candidly, what is your gravest fear about what Senator Lieberman is doing?

FOXMAN: Well, it's not only Senator Lieberman, it's what we heard earlier, as you indicated: Governor Bush and now Vice President Gore. This country was founded not on freedom of press, not on freedom of religion, not on freedom of press or speech, it was founded on freedom of religion. The success of our country's freedom, and tolerance and pluralism is based on the fact that we keep religion out of politics and out of government. What troubles me about these statements is that it's getting confused.

If in fact this country's morality should be determined by religion, what about social issues? Should we decide issues of abortion or prayer based on of what Jesus would say or what god commands? And at the same time, it alienates so many millions of American for whom religion is not as significant. And what about those who don't cherish or respect the Judeo-Christian tradition. What about the Muslims? What about the Buddhists? What about the Hindus? What about their feeling of alienation when we talk in those terms?

SHAW: Might Jews suffer a backlash in this country because of what Senator Lieberman has said about faith?

FOXMAN: No I don't think so. I think there is a concern, there has been a concern in the Jewish community when Senator Lieberman was nominated in the fact that there is anti-Semitism out there, and will the anti-Semites use this as a rallying point? I don't think this impacts on anti-Semitism at all. First of all, anti-Semitics don't need a rational reason. I think this impacts on America. What is the nature of our society? And the nature of our society has been established for the last 200 years as one where religion doesn't belong in campaign or in government.

SHAW: One other question -- in your judgment, is Senator Lieberman trying to use his religion for political purposes?

FOXMAN: Well I don't know. I know him, I've known him for years. I know that he's sincere, devout, observant Jew. I know he's sincere about his beliefs.

But I also know that for the last 20 years, he has been the same individual and he hasn't flaunted it; he hasn't worn it on his sleeve. And so why this all of a sudden become an issue, I think that may part of what both parties, Republicans and Democrats, feel is a need out there to address the American voting public in term of God, faith and religion. And it's not only Joe Lieberman. The fact is, for 20 years, he didn't wear it on his sleeve.

All right. Abraham Foxman, the National director of the Anti- Defamation League, thank you very much.

SHAW: Now for a different view of Senator Lieberman's emphasis on religion, we're joined now by Richard Lessner of American Renewal.

Mr. Lessner, in your judgment, what's going on here?

RICHARD LESSNER, AMERICAN RENEWAL: Well, it's clear to me that the Democratic Party as part of its campaign strategy has made a decision to play the so-called God card. It remains true that the American people are deeply religious people. In 1952, justice of the Supreme Court William O'Douglas noted that Americans are religious people whose institutions presupposed the existence of a supreme being.

I think that the Democratic Party in recent decades has moved too far to the secularist left, has moved too far embracing a very secular view of our country. You know, religious faith was important from the very outset of out county. It's there in our founding documents. We appealed to the creator as the author of our liberties. We call upon God through declarations, and of prayer, and fasting and Thanksgiving from our president's throughout our history.

If you walk around Washington, the city is a virtual sermon in stone. Inscribed on almost every public building are quotations from the Bible and invocations of God.

So the idea that, as expressed by Mr. Foxman, that religion is somehow to be divorced from our society and from our public life and to be pushed into a ghetto of privacy, is an idea that is wholly alien to our history. and I think the Democratic Party is making an attempt to come back into the mainstream.

Of course our dispute with Senator Lieberman is not that he gives a good speech, and that he talks about these matters and speak of the importance of putting religion and faith back into a central role in our public life, but that when it comes to particulars and specific, that as policies, he grows very reticent, and is pretty much a reliable religious secularist on most of those issues.

SHAW: So you believe that faith should be a driving factor in setting American policy?

LESSNER: Well, I don't know that in setting American policy. I don't finish you can invoke God in support of a...

SHAW: Well some policies?

LESSNER: ... a prescription drug benefit. But there is...

SHAW: But there are some policy you believe that to be the case?

LESSNER: Well, for example, Senator Lieberman talked about having a place for faith in our public life. Yet, his running mate, Al Gore, voiced support for the decision this past June from the United States Supreme Court which struck down student-led prayers before high school game. Now that seems to most Americans a reasonable exercise of religion in our public life.

SHAW: Mr. Lessner, let me quickly cover two points. I want to be very clear. You believe that, categorically, that Vice President Gore and Senator Lieberman are using their religions for political purposes?

LESSNER: Sure, Democratic operatives let it be know some time ago that they would not let the Republican Party once again walk away with the values issues, and that they would talk about value's issues and that they would, once again, begin invoking God in a very prevalent way in their campaign speeches.

SHAW: One other point.

LESSNER: We've seen that from the outset with Senator Lieberman from the very day he was announced as Al Gore's running mate.

SHAW: One last point -- until now, until this controversy, do you believe that there has been a double standard on this issue?

LESSNER: Clearly so. One only has to recall the outcry from some of the liberal groups when in that primary debate, Governor Bush invoked Jesus Christ as the most important philosophical figure in his life. And except for the ADL, and I give Abe Foxman and his organization credit for consistency, but except for the ADL, none of the other radical separation of church and state groups have as much as uttered a peak in protest over this. I have to believe that if Governor Bush had given a speech like this in a church, an explicitly political speech in that setting, that the other organizations that espouse radical secularism would be fully cry right now.

SHAW: Richard Lessner of American Renewal, thanks very much for joining us.

Still ahead here on INSIDE POLITICS, dueling ads on the issue of prescription drugs.

Brooks Jackson sorts out the facts and the rhetoric.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: In nine key states, the political parties are battling over the issue of prescription drugs on television, but the competing claims in the DNC and RNC ads might leave some voters scratching their heads.

Our Brooks Jackson now takes a closer look at the ads to see who is telling the truth.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The rising cost of prescription drugs has touched off a political ad war. But who's telling the truth? The Republican National Committee started it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, RNC AD) BUSH: Every senior will have access to prescription drug benefits.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JACKSON: And the Democratic National Committee quickly responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DNC AD)

NARRATOR: George Bush's approach leaves millions of seniors with no prescription drug coverage -- none.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JACKSON: So which is it? Access for everyone or millions left uncovered? Well, listen closely.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, RNC AD)

BUSH: Every senior will have access.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JACKSON: "Access," he said. He did not say every senior would have coverage, a big difference.

Bush hasn't yet issued specifics, but he says he supports the approach proposed by senators John Breaux, Democrat, and Bill Frist, Republican. Under their bill, seniors would shop around, choosing either traditional government Medicare or government-approved private plans. The government would pay 100 percent of the premium cost for the poor and nearly poor, but only about 25 percent of the premium cost for couples earning above roughly $15,000 a year, and the subsidy would be taxable. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the Breaux-Frist bill would leave 15 percent of the elderly and disabled still without coverage for prescription drugs, about 6 million persons.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that a somewhat similar plan would leave 12 percent uncovered. That's more than 4 1/2 million.

Either way, the DNC ad...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DNC AD)

NARRATOR: ... millions of seniors with no prescription drug coverage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JACKSON: ... appears to be accurate.

The dueling ads are running in nine battleground states, paid for mostly with soft money. Republicans say they're spending 6-8 million; Democrats, more than $5 million. Democrats say they're delighted. Medicare is their turf.

GORE: I do invite you to compare and contrast the plans that we put forth.

JACKSON: The administration's plan, which is Gore's proposal, would cover virtually everybody, but it would be very expensive: $338 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That's far more than the $192 billion estimate for the Breaux-Frist bill.

But the Republican ad attacks Gore's proposal on other grounds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, RNC AD)

NARRATOR: He's pushing a big government plan that lets Washington bureaucrats interfere with what your doctors prescribe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JACKSON: Well, Gore's plan would be run by the government and would allow cost-containment measures, including formularies: lists of preferred drugs. But the bipartisan plan Bush favors would allow private insurance companies -- corporate bureaucrats, if you will -- to use cost-containment measures and formularies, too. So the Republican attack...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, RNC AD)

NARRATOR: ... plan that lets Washington bureaucrats interfere...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JACKSON: ... is not the whole story.

Meanwhile, an attack by soundbite.

ARI FLEISCHER, BUSH CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Under the Gore plan, a typical senior who spends only $700 a year on prescription drugs, the value of his benefit is only going to be 13 cents a day.

JACKSON: That 13-cent figure started showing up in Republican press releases over the weekend. Their calculation assumes Medicare recipients spend only $673 a year on prescriptions, a figure they got from the Kaiser Family Foundation. But that number is from 1996.

PATRICIA NEUMAN, KAISER FAMILY FOUNDATION: Our studies show that average spending in the year 2000 will be $1,263, about.

JACKSON (on camera): And going up fast?

NEUMAN: And going up fast.

JACKSON (voice-over): So that 13-cent figure? It's just bogus.

(on camera): Whatever the ads say, whatever the talking points, the Gore plan is simply more generous and expensive than anything Republicans have proposed so far.

Brooks Jackson, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: There's much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

Still to come...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Hillary Clinton, you just can't trust her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: With Rick Lazio, the more you know, the more you wonder.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: The latest volleys in that New York Senate race between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rick Lazio.

Plus...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: If you give me the chance, I will be a law enforcement president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: Is the vice president tough on crime? Pierre Thomas on Al Gore's record.

And later, looking at the Democratic ticket and global policy through the record of Joe Lieberman.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: We will have more of this day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories.

More troubles for Bridgestone/Firestone. The tire manufacturer faces possible sanctions in Venezuela where the Ford Motor Company has been replacing Firestone tires on its vehicles since May. Ford says some tires are mislabeled and missing a Nylon safety layer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are confident this is a manufacturing defect in Venezuela with the tire as more than half of the tires we have analyzed show they were not built to Firestone's own engineering drawings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: Ford says tires from a Venezuelan Firestone plant are 500 times more likely to fail than those being recalled here in the United States.

Investigators from Boulder, Colorado, have wrapped up their questioning of John and Patsy Ramsey. The interviews took place over a two-day span in Atlanta, where the couple now lives. The Ramseys continue to deny any involvement in the 1996 killing of their daughter, JonBenet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN RAMSEY, FATHER OF JONBENET RAMSEY: We will never clear our names, I mean, after what's been done to us, and that's not our purpose. You know, we hope desperately that the killer will be found. But we didn't come here to prove our innocence. That's -- but to the degree that we can get the police focused on looking at someone else besides us, then we will have accomplished something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: The Ramseys' lawyer says it is time for police to clear the couple of suspicion.

President Clinton is back at the White House, but not for long. Mr. Clinton arrived home today from a visit to Africa. Tomorrow, he is scheduled to visit Colombia to discuss an anti-drug plan with that country's leaders.

Before leaving Africa today, Mr. Clinton met in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The two men discussed ways to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree to a final peace deal.

Celebrations opened the Millennium World Peace Summit at the United Nations today. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on the religious and spiritual leaders there to work for peace and justice. A small number of Tibetan supporters protested a decision not to invite the Dalai Lama to the event.

A federal judge delayed the release of former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Wen Ho Lee until at least Friday. Lee's family left the Albuquerque courtroom after today's delay. Government attorneys have until noon Friday to appeal Lee's release. The judge reversed his decision denying Lee bail after learning an FBI agent gave inaccurate testimony.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK HOLSCHER, LEE'S ATTORNEY: We are pleased that Dr. Lee will be released on Friday. We must note, however, that if Judge Parker had been provided a complete record in December, we believe that Dr. Lee would have not have spent the last eight months in solitary confinement and shackled. We look forward to him rejoining his family this Friday and we thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: Lee is charged with downloading nuclear information onto non-secure computers.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns: investigating the Clintons. The saga continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: Today is the deadline for President Clinton's lawyers to respond to a disbarment filed by a professional conduct committee in Arkansas.

For the latest on the motion against President Clinton and the response by his lawyers, David Ensor joins us now from the White House -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bernie, the president's lawyer met the deadline -- just. They filed a little over half-an- hour ago a brief with the Disciplinary Committee of the Arkansas Supreme Court, in which they argue against the disbarment of President Clinton.

At issue, of course, were Mr. Clinton's statements in the Paula Jones case: when he was asked whether he was ever alone with Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office, and said he didn't recall ever being; and when he was asked whether he had ever had an extramarital affair with her, and said that no, he had not.

Mr. Clinton later acknowledged the sexual relationship of his relationship with Mrs. Lewinsky. And the Paula Jones' lawyer cited him for contempt of court. Subsequently, the Disciplinary Committee of the Arkansas Supreme Court decided that it would make a suit to have him disbarred from practicing law in the state of Arkansas. That is the issue now.

And now we have the president's lawyers responding. These are the two arguments that they make. First of all they say that "a sanction of disbarment would be excessively harsh, inpermissibly punitive, and unprecedented in the circumstances of this case." The second argument is that in cases like this that don't involve the practice of law or a felony conviction, the sanction of disbarment -- quote -- "has historically been regarded as disproportionately severe and has not been imposed."

So again, the layers are not arguing that -- nor is the president --that he did not do wrong. What they are arguing is that the punishment of disbarment would be excessively severe -- Bernie.

SHAW: David Ensor, with the latest from the White House.

A renewed focus on this Clinton-era scandal could have an impact on Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate bid. And in the meantime, her opponent Rick Lazio is trying to raise questions about her creditability.

In New York, Frank Buckley has an update on Clinton versus Lazio.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. RICK LAZIO (R-NY), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: Rick Lazio -- good to meet you.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rick Lazio was introducing himself to voters at a breakfast stop in Brooklyn as his campaign rolled out a new commercial designed to get voters to focus on his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, LAZIO CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR: Compare: Congressman Rick Lazio is running a positive campaign about his accomplishments for New York. Hillary Clinton is running a negative campaign, because she's done nothing for New York.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCKLEY: But it's Lazio who got the headline for getting personal. For the tagline in the spot:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, LAZIO CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR: Hillary Clinton: You just can't trust her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCKLEY: Lazio says he's only defending himself from Mrs. Clinton's attacks.

LAZIO: You all know what the story is. She's stuck in the '40s in the polls. They can't win by being positive. The only way that they can win is by trying to tear me down. And by tearing me down, they tear New York down at the same time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning.

LAZIO: Good luck to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. I'll need your help.

BUCKLEY: The first lady has been on the offensive, in her TV commercials.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR: ... against investing in 100,000 new teachers and against guaranteed prescription-drug coverage under Medicare. With Rick Lazio, the more you know, the more you wonder.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCKLEY: State Democrats dogged Lazio for weeks with a character they call Tax Man.

TAX MAN: Release your tax returns!

BUCKLEY: Which he finally did on Monday.

LAZIO: And now that you have it, pretty uneventful, isn't it?

BUCKLEY: And on the stump, Mrs. Clinton has been critical of Lazio's tax-cut plan, saying it would squander the surplus, calling the congressman Bush-light.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: My opponent should stop misleading New Yorkers about his tax plan. He should give us the real numbers, because if you can't trust what he says about his numbers, how can we trust our future to him?

BUCKLEY: The full-court press even includes a video tracker from state Democrats, who follows the candidate, even as Lazio aides attempt to block his shot.

LAZIO: If you want to criticize my record, that's fair game. If you lie about my record, we're not going to stand for that.

BUCKLEY: The Clinton offensive has Lazio playing defense -- his new TV spot designed to turn the tables, to drive Mrs. Clinton's negatives up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But in doing so, he runs the risk of driving his own negatives up. And that's problematic for him, because there still are a lot of voters who don't know much about him. And now their first introduction to him will be this advertisement.

BUCKLEY (on camera): But the focus of the race could turn back toward Mrs. Clinton soon, with a new release of findings from Independent Counsel Robert Ray on the Whitewater investigation. That's expected to happen as early mid-September, a time when voters are traditionally tuning into political races, just as the final phase of the New York Senate race is getting under way.

Frank Buckley, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: In that New York Senate race, crime is not as big of an issue as it might have been; in part, because Rudy I'm-Tough-On-Crime Giuliani bowed out of the contest.

Now, nationwide, the crime rate is down. And voters are not as concerned about the matter as they once were. But that has not stopped both presidential candidates from drawing up crime-fighting plans.

Yesterday, CNN Justice correspondent Pierre Thomas looked at George W. Bush's proposals. Today, he focuses on Al Gore's plan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PIERRE THOMAS, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vice President Al Gore surrounded by law enforcement: imagery to help define a major theme of his campaign's domestic policy.

GORE: If you give me the chance, I will be a law enforcement president.

THOMAS: The new-Democratic tough-on-crime philosophy has been a staple of the Clinton-Gore administration, something Gore continues to readily embrace.

GORE: We are putting 100,000 new community police officers on the streets. We funded new prison cells and expanded the death penalty. We stood up to the gun lobby to pass the Brady Bill and ban assault weapons.

THOMAS: Prior to 1992, Democrats were generally seen as soft on crime. And the issue was largely seeded to Republicans.

NORM ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: It would be hard to deny that Bill Clinton has had an amazing amount of success at neutralizing the crime issue in a political fashion. It would be impossible to imagine Gore moving away from what has been an extraordinarily successful, political and policy approach to the issue of crime.

THOMAS: Gore the presidential candidate is offering his own spate of anti-crime initiative, aimed at allowing him to amplify a record which he argues has contributed to a seven-year drop in crime.

Among the proposals of the Gore plan: calling for 50,000 additional community police officer, a constitutional amendment protecting the right of crime victims. Gore also supports a nationally mandating, but state-urn system for photo-licensing of new handgun purchases.

The National Rifle Association says Gore is a threat to gunowners everywhere.

CHARLTON HESTON, NRA PRESIDENT: I want to the say those fighting word for anyone from the sound of my voice to hear and to heed, and especially for you, Mr. Gore -- from my cold dead hands.

(APPLAUSE)

THOMAS: But the NRA and Gore have not always been at odd. In fact, the NRA once gave Gore high marks. In 1978, Gore voted against requiring serial numbers on handguns made in the U.S. And in 1985, he voted against a waiting period for handgun purchases.

A 1984 NRA campaign fact sheet said, "Gore has been there each and every time sportsmen and gun owners have needed a friend."

Gore supporters say his position on gun control evolved because of the nation's growing gun violence. CHRIS LEHANE, GORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Keep in mind, Al Gore was a congressman in rural Tennessee, represented a very rural district. He took a hard look at what was going on with gun violence in our society and recognized that we really needed common-sense gun reforms, and as a result, he became a cosponsor of the Brady Bill.

THOMAS (on camera): Gore supporters say he's now public enemy number one for the NRA. And on gun control and crime issues, that's very where he want to be.

Pierre Thomas, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: And up next, Joe Lieberman and international policy, and what his positions say about Al Gore.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: Al Gore may be focused on health care right now, but he's also giving voters clues about his international policy positions.

As David Ensor reports, the key indicator could be his choice of running mate, Joe Lieberman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR (voice-over): As a loyal vice president, Al Gore has kept his advice to President Clinton during international crises a secret. His choice of Joe Lieberman, a sometimes outspoken critic of the administration's global policy, speaks volumes, in the view of analysts, about how things could change if Gore is elected.

LESLIE GELB, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: They're harder headed guys generally. Both of them, you'll remember, were Democrats who supported the use of force, a full-fledged war against Iraq, and they were in a minority in their own party.

ENSOR: Both supported the Persian Gulf War waged by then- President Bush. And when the ethnic cleansing began in Bosnia, Senator Lieberman tried to goad President Clinton to use force against the Serbs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1994)

LIEBERMAN: We've got to get tough if we want this war to end. Our inaction over the last two years has accomplished nothing. It's been a failure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ENSOR: When the NATO air campaign began over Kosovo, and White House officials said U.S. ground forces were not under consideration, Lieberman argued for keeping the option on the table.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1999) QUESTION: Senator, how did the president respond to your suggestion that he at least begin organizing or preparing for the notion of ground troops?

LIEBERMAN: He did not respond.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ENSOR: During the Bosnia conflict, there were occasional leaks and hints that the vice president was frustrated that his boss hesitated for so long. Now he has chosen a running mate who said the same, publicly.

LESLIE GELB, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I would say that Vice President Gore and Senator Lieberman are very tough-minded about the use of force, but once they think it needs to be done, they would be more quick to use it than Bill Clinton. I think President Clinton was always filled with doubts about the use of force.

ENSOR: Though he is Jewish, Lieberman is probably no more pro- Israel than the already pro-Israel Clinton administration. He opposed any release of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, and he signed a letter to Israel's prime minister protesting plans to sell China a sophisticated early-warning aircraft.

(on camera): But Senator Lieberman is more of an interventionist hawk than Bill Clinton is, and that suggests Al Gore may be, too.

David Ensor, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: And just ahead on INSIDE POLITICS:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: The time for generalities without specifics I think is just about over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: You know, he has the right to say what he wants to say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: More on the back and forth between the candidates and the debate over religion on the campaign trail with Bill Press and Mary Matalin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: That's at 9:00-10:00 Eastern tomorrow. Governor Bush of Texas will be online, chatting with Candy Crowley and the rest of our CNN.com people. That's tomorrow morning. But right now, Bill Press, Mary Matalin and CNN's "CROSSFIRE."

So good to see you. So much to talk to you with you about.

BILL PRESS, "CROSSFIRE": Thank you, Bernie. Good to be here.

SHAW: Neck-and-neck race, bush and gore. Will it last? Mary.

MARY MATALIN, "CROSSFIRE": Well it's neck and neck on the national polls, and obviously, Gore got the bounce that he wanted and we expected that he was going to get out of his convention, but these elections are not won at the national level; they're won state by state, and Bush is still leading on that critical measurement. He's getting more, or leading in states, adding to more electoral votes today than Al Gore is. The challenge is still to Gore.

PRESS: Yes. I want to be consist, Bernie. You've heard me say on this show that I thought the polls were meaningless before Labor Day. I thought the ones two weeks ago were more that showed George Bush up by double digits were meaningless were meaningless. I think these are, too, and I think the Bush people were silly to be measuring the drapes for the Oval Office two weeks ago, and the Gore people would be silly if they started doing it now. I think the only thing it shows is it's going to be a very tough contest all the way to the end.

SHAW: Contest. Gore pushing the governor to be specific on issues. The governor indicating today, according to the latest report by Candy Crowley, I am not playing that game.

MATALIN: Well, Gore is not going to dictate the race to Governor Bush. Of course Gore has a plan for everything. And it's always the same plan. It's a big government plan. In the case of prescription drugs, it's a plan that's already been rejected by the Congress and by the American people, and it's ironic take he's been talking about it so much lately and did so little about it for the eight years that he had a chance to do something.

Bush doesn't need to follow him. He's got an approach to government that will drive quality up, keep costs down and make prescription drugs and health care accessible and affordable for everyone. Gore had a chance to do it, Clinton/Gore promised it, did not deliver. It's what the Bush campaign called a "squandered opportunity."

PRESS: Bernie, I'd have to say the fact that the Republican Congress Senate vetoed a prescription drug coverage for seniors as part of Medicare does not mean it's a bad idea. It means it's a good idea that didn't get passed, and now there's a presidential candidate -- a president who wants to make it happen.

I think the fact is -- and I find it rather shocking -- is that George Bush does not have a plan. He has said that. He said it yesterday, that he will release it next week. You know, Dick Cheney says we'll see it sometime in the near future. This is a problem that millions of American seniors face every day, and the stories that they have to choose between food and drug are not exaggerated. The Bush campaign is caught off guard on this.

Frankly, I think he'd be better off right now, George W. Bush. Instead of whatever he comes up with is going to be too little, too late. You know, I think he ought to just endorse the Gore plan, admit defeat on this issue and move on. Small chance that he would do it, but that'd be the best strategy.

MATALIN: The plan that was rejected by the American people, is not -- it's the same plan that Gore is putting forth again. What Bush is supporting, and what Gore did nothing over, was the bipartisan Breaux-Fisk. What Gore is saying is that was the past. If he rejected a bipartisan plan, that's the point of a Bush or would-be Bush presidency. He can unite his own party, and reach across the aisle and get a bipartisan solution, one that was available to this administration and rejected.

PRESS: I have to add, the fact that a Republican and a Democrat supported it, the fact that it had bipartisan support, doesn't mean it's a good idea. It is a matter of choice, if I may. And the choice is, are you going to go with the seniors or are you going to with the insurance companies and the drug companies? And that's the difference. And George Bush has said we are going to trust the insurance companies, and I think it's a flawed plan.

MATALIN: It wasn't just bipartisan support; it was the president's own bipartisan commission. It was John Breaux. It was Bob Kerrey. It was Joe Lieberman.

PRESS: A bad idea. A bad idea.

SHAW: All right, let's go to the pulpit.

SHAW: Senator Lieberman has been stressing his faith. A lot of people are exercised over this. Some say that's good; others say it's not. What say you?

PRESS: Is it too much? I says say, God yes.

SHAW: I mean, I really -- I believe that -- I have always said beware of the Religious Right. I would say today beware of the religious left for the same reasons. I mean, the Bible warns us against wearing religion on our sleeve. We are a nation where we separate the public arena from private faith, and I think that Joe Lieberman is really talking about God too much. He's going overboard too much. I want to, again, be consistent here, I've have always criticized the Religious Right, and I want to criticize Joie Lieberman as well. I think too much of that discourse in the public arena is not healthy for this country. We know Joe Lieberman is a Jew. We know he is an observant man. OK, enough already, now what are you going to do about Social Security? What are you going to do about Medicare? We ought to be talking about the issues.

MATALIN: Can I commend my esteemed colleague for not doing what the Democrats do best, which is have at their highest standard a double standard. Can you imagine if Dick Cheney and George Bush said a prayer when George Bush chose Dick Cheney? Nothing has been said about the posturing of Joe Lieberman, who is a wonderful person, and I disagree with my colleague here on that, there should be a moral underpinning to our policies.

PRESS: I agree with you on that.

MATALIN: But Senator Lieberman was never like this. He is a moral buffer against the Clinton immoralities. It's being used. It's politics being used.

SHAW: Very quickly, how many debates do you think there will be?

MATALIN: The governor said he'd do five debates. Just because they're they are not the five that Gore wants -- Gore would stand on a street corner with a tin can in his hand to talk.

There is going to be debates. There should be debates that will exemplify what each other's policies and principles are, not one where the journalists prevail.

PRESS: I'll just say quickly, the more debates, the merrier. But George Bush should not dictate debates to a format where he is comfortable with. Let the presidential commission decide, and the let the two of them accept it, and let the debate begin.

SHAW: OK, Bill Press, Mary Matalin. Wherever they debate, you can be assured that we will be there covering it. Thanks so much. Good to see you.

This's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Of course you can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com.

I'm Bernard Shaw.

"WORLDVIEW" is next.

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