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Inside Politics

Gore Labors Away in Holiday Appeal to Working Families; Bush Works to Use Debate Proposal Against Gore

Aired September 4, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: United we stand, divided we fall! So on this Labor Day, let's bring together the people of this country!


FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore labors away in his marathon holiday appeal to working families.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My opponent said he would debate me any place, anytime, anywhere. All of a sudden the words about anytime, anywhere, don't mean anything.


SESNO: George W. Bush works hard to use his debate proposal as a weapon against Gore.



JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Labor Day at the lake: time for the Morgans to take one last summer sail and take sides in the race for president.


SESNO: John King on the decisions ahead for some voters in Michigan.

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

SESNO: And thanks for joining us. Good Labor Day to you.

I'm Frank Sesno, sitting in today for Bernie and Judy.

We begin with the different ways Al Gore and George W. Bush are spending this Labor Day and unofficially kicking off their fall campaigns. For Gore, the emphasis has been on hard work, as he stumped in five cities in roughly 24 hours. For Bush, the pace has been a bit slower, but the rhetoric tougher, as he slammed Gore for refusing to accept his proposal for presidential debates.

First, the Gore camp's marathon and CNN's Jonathan Karl.


GORE: Thank you!

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Campaigning without sleep, but not without energy, Vice President Gore charged through Pittsburgh's Labor Day Parade trying to look like the front- runner.

GORE: All right, where do we pick up our stakes?

KARL: The 27-hour Labor Day campaign-a-thon started early Sunday in Philadelphia with some of South Philly's legendary cheese steaks -- then a visit with construction workers working their way through the Labor Day holiday.

GORE: It makes a big difference whether or not you have got a president in the White House who cares about you, works for you, and fights for you.

KARL: Before leaving Philadelphia, Gore shot down Bush's proposal to bypass the Commission on Presidential Debates.

GORE: And it's not fair to the American People to try to sharply reduce the number of people who can see the debates.

KARL: By the time Gore hit stop number two, Flint, Michigan, it was almost midnight, prompting the vice president to briefly break into song.

GORE: And they said that we wouldn't have a crowd close to midnight. What's that old song?

(singing): Close to midnight...

As soon as we got here, we were bowled over by the crowd out at the airport.

KARL: At 1:00 a.m. Gore stopped in on workers doing the overnight shift at a GM plant in Flint. And then back aboard Air Force Two, Gore roused sleepy reporters to explain his manic Labor Day schedule.

GORE: It seemed a logical time to turn up the heat, and shift into high gear, and get the fall campaign off to a great start.

KARL: By 4:00 a.m. Gore was in Tampa, Florida, dropping in on Pop's & Son's 24-hour cafe and joining the overnight shift at West Tampa's Firehouse #9 for breakfast. GORE: These folks work in 24-hour shifts. They didn't come in just for us. They were here when we got here, because they're always here. And they're always here for you.

KARL: A few hundred people turned out for the 5:00 a.m. firehouse rally. It was Gore's second trip to Florida in a week, continuing a major push for the state governed by his opponent's brother.

(on camera): Gore aides are eagerly contrasting the vice president's non-stop campaigning to what they call Bush's lackluster schedule. In a thinly-veiled reference to that, Gore said in an interview: "A capacity for hard work is one of the job requirements of the presidency."

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Pittsburgh.


SESNO: And so to George W. Bush and how the debate over debates has worked its way into his campaign day and into his overall strategy. Here is our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is Labor Day and George Bush has his work cut out for him. So he hit the streets of Naperville, Illinois for a parade and Al Gore for refusing Bush's debate schedule.

BUSH: So all of a sudden the words about anytime, anywhere don't mean anything.

CROWLEY: Bush says he'll do three debates: one with NBC, one with CNN, a final one in St. Louis, as proposed by the Presidential Debate Commission. Gore, who accepted every debate forum offered, now says he won't do the network debates unless Bush agrees to all three proposed by the Commission. Armed with videotape of Gore proposing and accepting debates on NBC and CNN, the Bush camp thinks it's on to something.

BUSH: It is time to elect people who will say what they mean and mean what they say when they tell the American people something. It is time to get rid of all those words like "no controlling legal authority." We need plain-spoken Americans in the White House.

CROWLEY: "No controlling legal authority" was the legalism Gore used when defending campaign fund-raising calls from his office. Bush's reference to it is part of an ongoing effort to shine a harsh light on Gore's credibility, a way to turn voters back to the months before the conventions, when Bush was consistently seen by voters as more honest and trustworthy than Al Gore.

BUSH: When we tell you something, we mean it. When we say we are going to do something, we are going to do what we say. That is what America hungers for. CROWLEY: On a parallel path, Bush will focus on the well-worn themes of his campaign, sometimes with a new twist. Explaining his tax cut, Bush produced four dollar-bills as a way to illustrate his contention that his tax-cut plan only uses one-fourth of the expected surplus.

BUSH: I want the working families to put that money in your pocket.

CROWLEY: One of the most Republican areas of Illinois, Naperville provided a largely friendly launch for Bush's six-state, 107-electoral-vote swing. In a reflection of the urgency that fall brings, the Bush camp took a look at polls in Pennsylvania and quickly tacked on a second trip there Friday.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Chicago.


SESNO: And we're joined now by the Bush campaign's chief strategist, Karl Rove...

Good to see you, Karl.


SESNO: Great -- and senior Gore adviser, Bob Shrum.

Gentlemen, thanks both for coming in on this Labor Day.

Let us start then with the debate over debates.

Karl, I know you have been asked this question before, but I'm going to start by asking it again: Why not use the Presidential Debate Commission -- the Commission on Presidential Debates -- as the starting point -- agree to do those as have been laid out, and then use these other debate platforms as add-ons?

ROVE: Well, look, we accepted three debates. We thought we were making it easy. We took debates that Al Gore not only accepted, but debates that he had made a big practice on television on March on Larry King's show of asking Larry King to sponsor a debate, and then saying: I'll accept. I'll accept.

And then in July, when he went on "Meet the Press," he went out of his way to hot dog it on the national television about how he had accepted Tim Russert's debate and Bush hadn't. So we accepted -- we thought -- the two debates that he was most on record as having accepted and agreeing to. But apparently, a promise from Clinton-Gore team doesn't mean anything.

Apparently, saying that: I'll debate any time, anywhere -- and making a particular case of accepting these two debates -- doesn't mean anything to Al Gore. He accepted these debates. We joined him in accepting. Now he's backing out. What has he got to fear from Larry King. And what does he got to fear from Tim Russert? Does he not think that they're fair questioners?


SESNO: You want to respond?

BOB SHRUM, GORE SENIOR ADVISER: I don't think there is anybody who he has anything to fear from debating George Bush. Beyond that, when those offers were made by the vice president, he said: Let's give up the political ads and debate twice a week. George Bush said: Absolutely no.

We can clearly have other debates in this campaign. But we ought to begin with the standard Governor Bush set about a week-and-a-half ago, when he said we should have debates with the biggest possible audience. He told Candy Crowley that. Now, we have three debates that are right now scheduled and that will be universally broadcast on every network. They'll reach 40 million people, 90 million people, depending on whether the pattern is '96 or '92.

Compared with the -- for example "LARRY KING LIVE" -- and I love "LARRY KING LIVE" -- but he reaches 900,000 people. And the most he ever reached was, on one occasion, he reached 11 million. These debates don't belong to George Bush. They don't belong to Al Gore. They belong to the American people. And it's time for George Bush to stand up, defend his policies, defend his record and do it in front of the largest possible number of Americans.

SESNO: Karl Rove, let me -- Karl Rove, let me whittle the question down and just ask you simply: Why not grab on to the three debates that offer the maximum possible audience?

ROVE: These do. Every network can carry them. People can tune into them on the Internet and on National Public Radio. I love the disingenuousness of Bob Shrum. Let me repeat what Bob Shrum said in July -- quote -- "We'll show up and debate anywhere George Bush will show up and debate."

That's what Mr. Shrum said in July.

SHRUM: Yeah, we will...


ROVE: He was echoing the words of Vice President Gore. And apparently, a promise from neither of these men means anything. They said: We'll show up and debate. Every network can carry these. We would hope that every network would carry "LARRY KING."


SESNO: Hang on a second.


SHRUM: You quoted me and I'm going to respond. I'm going to respond. SESNO: You will.

ROVE: ... they can somehow avoid living up to this explicit promise that they made.

Bob, if you didn't believe it, if you weren't making an explicit promise, then why the heck did you say it in July, when you said: We'll show up anywhere and anytime George Bush will show up and debate? We're taking up these two offers that you previously accepted.

SESNO: All right, let's...

SHRUM: Karl, you asked a question and you don't want me to give the answer. You just want to filibuster. It's the game you guys play.

ROVE: I'm happy to have you answer why you aren't going to live up to your promise.

SHRUM: Look, the offer was -- the offer was: Give up advertising, We'll debate, anytime, any place. The happy was...


SHRUM: Karl, let me finish. The offer assumed that you would do the presidential debates.

ROVE: It assumed not that at all.


SHRUM: Karl, shut up! It's either naive or calculated deception...


SESNO: Gentlemen, if we're going to have this...

SHRUM: I'm going to finish. I'm going to finish.

SESNO: All right, I...

SHRUM: It's either naive or calculated deception on the part of the Bush campaign to think that what's going to happen here is that the other networks are going to broadcast "Meet the Press" or "LARRY KING LIVE." The other networks are already saying they're not going to do it. What you want to do is shrink the size of the debate, you want to shrink the length of the debate.

ROVE: Absolutely not.

SHRUM: It is beyond me. Doesn't George Bush have something to say for 90 minutes without looking at his watch and wondering whether the debate -- when the debate is going to end? ROVE: Frank, the words "calculated deception" were used and that's exactly what Al Gore and Bob Shrum have engaged in. They made a promise to the American people that they would debate on CNN and they would debate on "Meet the Press," and now they're saying they aren't going to do it.

SESNO: Bob Shrum, let me ask you very quickly...

ROVE: They say, we'll debate any time, any where, and now they are backing off.

SESNO: Let me -- Bob Shrum, let me ask you a very specific question about these debates as being proposed by the Bush camp, and that is that all the debates could be open to all networks. Why is that not a sufficient assurance that there will be large, large audiences?

SHRUM: Frank, I think, first of all, we have three debates that are -- that all the networks have agreed to broadcast. Those are the three Presidential Commission debates. Secondly, Frank, I think you know very well that CBS and ABC are not going to broadcast "Meet the Press," and they're probably not going to broadcast "LARRY KING LIVE" in primetime. This is an effort to shrink the debates down to the smallest possible audience. George Bush -- the fact a Republican strategist was quoted today in "The Washington Post" as saying he doesn't want two-minute answers because he may not have two minutes of material to say on specific topics, that's why he wants town meetings or talk shows instead of real debates.

SESNO: To both of you, there is plenty of public posturing as we are seeing right here on this issue...

ROVE: Frank, let me make one...

SESNO: Is the appropriate place...

ROVE: May I make one point?

SESNO: If I can just ask the question here, though. Is the appropriate place for you two or your two camps to deal with this, to come up with a compromise behind closed doors someplace in negotiating this out? And when is that going to happen, if so, Karl Rove first?

ROVE: Well, Bob -- Frank, as I said, we accepted these debates because we thought we were making it easy. These were debates that Al Gore on national television crowed that he'd accepted and challenged the governor to join him in accepting these debates. We just simply did what he asked us to do and joined him in accepting responsibilities, and now it turns out that he is afraid of having the kind of free-flowing exchange that are available in these forums. I don't know why, but that's exactly what it is.

SESNO: What about sitting down behind closed doors, not with microphones and cameras, with all due respect to what we do for a living here, and working this out? SHRUM: Well, I think that's exactly what ought to happen and that, in fact, has been asked for by the Presidential Commission, Bill Daley is going to show up and talk...

SESNO: You're willing to do it, Bob Shrum?

SHRUM: I hope that the Bush campaign will do that. And I got to say again, when Al Gore said he would do those debates, he said let's do two debates a week and pull the 30-second ads, and Karl Rove and the Bush campaign refused to do that.


ROVE: Well, he wanted 68 presidential debates. He wanted 68 presidential debates. We're offering him three and he won't take us up on those three.

SESNO: Karl Rove, how about that private meeting behind closed doors to work this out?


ROVE: Look, I'm sure there are going to be discussions, but the fact of the matter is, the key here is that the vice president said something -- his credibility is on the line, he went on national television and hot dogged it saying, I've accepted these debates, why doesn't Governor Bush join me in accepting them? OK, we called his bluff, we accepted the debates. And both he and Bob Shrum went on national television and said -- quote -- "We will debate anywhere, anytime George Bush wants to show up."

SESNO: All right...

ROVE: We simply did what they said, and they ain't showing up. There is a question the American people have about the credibility of Al Gore.

SESNO: Plenty of more -- plenty more discussions and debate about the debates to come for sure.

Let us pause for just a moment, though. I want you both to take a look at a piece of videotape from the campaign trail today. On it, you can see and hear Governor Bush using an expletive to describe a "New York Times" reporter during what the Bush campaign is calling a "whispered aside" to Dick Cheney. Here's the tape.


BUSH: There's Adam Clymer, a major league (EXPLETIVE DELETED) from "The New York Times."



SESNO: All right, now, "The New York Times" said today it rejects the Bush campaign's charge that several articles written by their reporter Adam Clymer were unfair. And in light of this flap, the Gore campaign says the vice president made a point today of thanking the journalists who cover him. Here's that.


GORE: I want to thank the working press corps who are working on Labor Day.


SESNO: All right, Karl Rove, Bob Shrum -- first to you, Karl Rove, what's going on here?

ROVE: Nothing much. Look, if expletives were a problem, on August 12 in "The Washington Post" Al Gore used an expletive. On August 11, he talked about a guy that he would beat the expletive out of. On August 13, in the "Boston Globe" he talked about writing an expletive on a CIA report describing the corruption in Russia and particularly the corruption of his buddy Chernomyrdin. Expletives -- who cares. This is a private remark made from one candidate to his running mate, and nothing big is made out of this.

SESNO: Not demonstrating too thin a skin?

ROVE: No, especially since if that were the case, Al Gore in the last month has had three instances where he's been talking about expletives in interviews with "The Washington Post" and the "Boston Globe."

SESNO: Bob Shrum.

SHRUM: Well, Karl knows how deceptive that is, because in fact -- for example, the CIA document he's referring to was Gore's assessment of a report from the CIA. It wasn't a comment directed toward an individual. What's clearly happening here is the Gore -- the Bush campaign is feeling the pressure. George Bush is feeling the pressure. They know they can't win even on their own tax cut, let alone explain it. They can't defend themselves on a patients' bill of rights. They are opposed to a prescription drug benefit for all seniors under Medicare. So they're mad at the press and they want to have a false debate about debates when they could have debates in front of 90 million people just by saying yes.

ROVE: You can have a debate next week, Bob, just show up.


SESNO: All right, Bob Shrum and Karl Rove, thanks very much.

SHRUM: We can have a debate in front of 90 million people, Karl. Just show up and don't have the governor break his word when he says he wants the maximum audience.

SESNO: Gentlemen, we're going to let you have the rest of this discussion, if you choose to have it, behind closed doors. ROVE: See you later, Bob.

SHRUM: See you.

SESNO: Karl Rove, Bob Shrum, thanks very much. Close race, and 64 days to go in this presidential campaign.

Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: much more on those debates. A look at the pros and cons for George W. Bush, plus insight from analyst Kathleen Hall Jamieson.


SESNO: In the political scuffle over the presidential debates, George W. Bush has now agreed to a limited schedule of three events, as you've heard, and as Candy Crowley reported, only one debate would be sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Which raises the question: What is George W. Bush trying to accomplish, politically?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The candidates need no introduction.


SESNO (voice-over): Since the famous Kennedy-Nixon face-off of 1960, every presidential debate has been widely carried by the major networks, and despite some innovations, all have followed a more or less traditional debate format of question, answer, rebuttal.

With his two talk show proposal, George W. Bush is trying to break the mold. Why? For one, aides say the loose, less-formal set up more closely fits the times and the format worked well for Bush in the primaries.


BUSH: You didn't pull this ad.


BUSH: This that ended up in a man's windshield yesterday.

MCCAIN: Yes, I did.

BUSH: That questions my -- this is an attack piece.

MCCAIN: That is not by my campaign.

BUSH: Well, it says "paid for by John McCain."

(END VIDEO CLIP) SESNO: That exchange was watched by nearly half of South Carolina's GOP primary voters, Bush won the state. Al Gore's best primary debate: a more traditional forum in New Hampshire.

GORE: The way you've been talking, I just don't see how you can vote for Ronald Reagan's budget cuts and then try to campaign like Robert Kennedy.

SESNO: Gore won New Hampshire and never looked back.

But to say that Bush does best in talk shows and Gore behind the podium is an overstatement. In 1994, Bush was behind a podium and neatly deflected Governor Ann Richards' charge that he lacked public- sector experience.

BUSH: I proudly proclaim I've never held office. I have been in the business world all my adult life. I have met a payroll. I know what it means to risk capital.

SESNO: And Gore's best debating moment may have been on a talk show: The 1993 NAFTA debate with Ross Perot helped cement the vice president's reputation as a quick-thinking, tough debater.


GORE: How would you change it? How would you change it?

ROSS PEROT, FORMER PRESIDENT CANDIDATE: Very simply. I would go back and study, first, look at this, it doesn't work.

GORE: Well, what specific changes would you make in it?


SESNO: Beyond format, there's the issue of exposure. Gore's campaign believing he is the superior debater wants three full 90- minute debates. They like the structure and the fact that all would be carried on the major cable and broadcast networks.

The potential audience is huge: 97 million people tuned in to watch the last of the Clinton-Bush-Perot debates, back in 1992. And while Bush says everyone will be free to air his proposed "LARRY KING" and "Meet the Press" debates, in practice, rival networks may not do so, and that could dramatically cut the number of viewers.


SESNO: And joining us now for more on this subject, from a slightly different perspective, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, dean of the Annenberg School of Communication and author of the book "Everything You Think You Know About Politics and Why You're Wrong."

All right, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, tell us why we're wrong, all the punditocracy, that says that George W. Bush is somehow off on a track when he says, let's debate but a little bit differently? KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON, DEAN, ANNENBERG SCHOOL FOR COMMUNICATION: There's nothing wrong with a proposal that says there ought to be alternative debate formats. Here's what most people are wrong about on debates. Most people undervalue the learning potential that debates have for the American electorate. And right now, because we've come out of the conventions with high levels of learning about both Bush and Gore, and attention is high, this would be a very good time for a first debate, indeed perhaps a second, before we're distracted by the Olympics.

I hope, in keeping with the questions that you were just framing for your previous guests, that the consultants and the candidates find a way to work this out so that there is both a large national audience -- that means exposure on all networks -- but also a debate that happens sooner than October.

SESNO: Now, in terms of what we get about the candidates from the debates, is the public more -- better served from the formatted debates, as I mentioned, question, response, rebuttal, or these free- flowing things, where you see some interaction but perhaps a little bit of gimmickry as well?

JAMIESON: The public is well-served by having many debates with different formats, because one format will feature one strength of one candidate, another format will feature another strength. The different formats also have different strengths in providing information for the public. The kind of stand-up contrast that is the classic presidential debates commission debate has the advantage of giving you time to engage in exposition of issues. So you're more likely to get more content out uninterrupted.

But the free flow gives you a chance to stop and engage in dialogue, assuming neither candidate filibusters.

I'd like to see an environment in which we have debates that have both of those formats, and also a debate with a town meeting style. That's been very helpful in assessing the ways in which candidates deal with audiences.

One of the things we need to remember, by the way, about debates is they do in fact forecast governance. The positions candidates take in these debates matter.

SESNO: If you were grading or judging the debate over the debates, what would you conclude at this point?

JAMIESON: One of the reasons that this is so disspiriting is that we thought we'd finally conventionalized the debates so that we wouldn't have a debate over debates. The grades should be F right now.

We're spending time talking about whether we should debate, when we should debate, how we should debate instead of talking about the substantive issues that ought to be debated. I hope we put this debate about debates behind us as quickly as possible and get some agreement between these two campaigns. They owe the American people that. And if there's going to be a debate on NBC or a debate on CNN, I hope the other networks will do the statesmen-like thing and agree to carry even though it might not be the best thing commercially for them.

And I hope PBS will announce that if the candidates will accept, they will carry as well on those -- the CNN and the NBC-proposed debates, because that would ensure that those who don't have cable would be able to get broadcast access.

SESNO: Is there some special credibility or stature to the Commission on Presidential Debates, the format they've got and the standing they've got since they've been doing this now for over a decade?

JAMIESON: The presidential debates commission emerged because there was the naive belief where the League of Women voters couldn't commit the candidates to debate and to a format and a time, the parties would be able to. As we've demonstrated amply, the parties are not able to do that through the debates commission. Debates commission is headed by former chairs of each party.

The other problem with the presidential debates commission is that in effect it sells out every time it offers debates, because it lets the candidates make up whatever rules they can jointly agree to. And so they tend to agree to rules that minimize accountability: no follow-up for the questioner, for example, in '96 as well as no cross- questioning of the candidates.

I'd be much happier to get into a situation in which frankly the networks would set the rules and say to the candidates, we expect that you're going to debate on these terms because that's best for the American people. Put good journalists up there who are ready to follow up and don't ban the follow-up. And then let the format move in different ways in different environments.

I don't think the Presidential Debates Commission ought to have a monopoly on debates. I don't think they've contributed very importantly to the process, except to ensure because they're an independent group all of the networks are comfortable covering them or the networks are less comfortable covering each other's debates.

SESNO: Kathleen Hall Jamieson, thank you very much. Insightful as always. Appreciate your time on this Labor Day.

JAMIESON: You're welcome.

SESNO: Good to see you.

And there's still much more head on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Who is winning over the former supporters of John McCain? John King on the new choices in Michigan. Plus, which Americans are better off now? Brooks Jackson takes a closer look at the booming economy and its political impact. And later...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Full of things to eat, full of people. And the people, along with enjoying all the stuff here, have been thinking some about who the next president ought to be.


SESNO: Bruce Morton on politics at the fair.


SESNO: We'll have more of the day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories this hour. Bridgestone/Firestone is forced to recall another 62,000 tires, this time in Venezuela. That country's consumer protection agency says the tires are missing a layer and are weak. Most were installed on Ford vehicles. The agency is recommending criminal charges be filed against both the tire and the auto manufacturers.

A U.S. congressional hearing is scheduled for Wednesday. The tires are linked to at least 88 deaths.

Angry over rising fuel costs, French truck drivers are taking their protests to the streets. Thousands of trucks, tractors and taxis blocked the roads to oil refineries and fuel depots throughout France today. Unions say the protest could last several weeks.

The international community may not be ready for Yugoslav Security Forces in Kosovo, but Yugoslav soldiers are already preparing to go back.

CNN's Alessio Vinci has details.


ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In pouring rain, a newly formed special unit of the Yugoslav army trains for what military officials call its next mission: the return to Kosovo. Using live ammunition, hundred of troops and special police forces exercise roughly 60 miles east of Kosovo, the southern province the Yugoslav army was forced to leave in June last year after 78 days of NATO bombing.

In front of military attaches from 12 countries, including NATO members Italy and Greece, the Yugoslav army chief of staff told his soldiers that NATO and the United Nations failed to restore peace in the province. Therefore, he said, it was time for the Yugoslav army to return.

GEN. NEBOJSA PAVKOVIC, YUGOSLAV ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF (through translator): We expect the United Nations Security Council to realize the incapability of KFOR, and that it will take the honorable decision that parts of the Yugoslav army and police forces be allowed back in Kosovo.

VINCI: Pavkovic said these army units would operate in a joint mission with the already existing military presence in Kosovo, saying soldiers would help clear minefields, secure borders, and create the conditions for normal life in the province.

PAVKOVIC (through translator): We simply want to go back where we belong and fulfill our constitutional obligations. We would like all of those who fled Kosovo to return and those who came uninvited to leave.

VINCI: But NATO says it is premature to discuss any return of any number of Yugoslav security forces to Kosovo.

(on camera): According to a recent opinion poll conducted by the army, 9 soldiers out of 10 are ready to defend the country at any cost. Still, the possibility that these soldiers will return to Kosovo as long as NATO remains there is highly unlikely.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, with the Yugoslav Third Army in southern Serbia.


SESNO: And When INSIDE POLITICS returns, Michigan revisited: Are former McCainiacs now leaning towards Bush or Gore?


SESNO: Dick Cheney at a Polish festival in Chicago. Both vice presidential candidates ventured out on their own this Labor Day after morning appearances with their respective campaign partners. Joe Lieberman spoke at an AFL-CIO event in Michigan, in keeping with the Democrats' focus on workers today.

Michigan is one of the big battleground states in the fall presidential campaign, as it was in the primary season, at least for Republicans. So our John King went back to Michigan this holiday weekend to revisit a group of swing voters, some of them who hoped that John McCain would be the GOP nominee.


KING (voice-over): Labor Day at the lake, time for the Morgans to take one last summer sail, consider the school year just ahead and take sides in the race for president.

SUSAN MORGAN: This one's going to be close, and so I want to participate and help the candidate that I believe in and support.

Susan Morgan volunteered for Nixon and Ford back in the '70s, cast votes for Perot and Clinton in the '90s, a big McCain booster just a few months back but ready to volunteer for Al Gore as campaign 2000 enters its critical stretch. She was swayed by Gore's views on education and the environment and by a glimpse at the Gore family during the Democratic convention.

SUSAN MORGAN: I think you can tell a lot about the women in his family and the women that are around him about how he's going to think about women's issues and support them.

KING: Kent Morgan was big on McCain, too, but all but certain to vote Gore come November.

KENT MORGAN: I think to mess around with the economy right now would be wrong. I think we're on the right track.

KING: Western Michigan is a recreational paradise and for the most part reliably Republican territory. But as Labor Day passes and summer gives way to fall, a legacy of the winter months still shapes the race here.

(on camera): John McCain stunned George W. Bush by winning the Republican primary here, and a major reason the Texas governor's big summer lead has disappeared and the race is now a dead heat is because McCain's Michigan supporters by a nearly 2-1 margin are breaking Gore's way.

(voice-over): Michelle Spencer is another face behind Gore's comeback, intrigued early by McCain but back in the Democratic fold now.

MICHELLE SPENCER: I really feel he's the representative for more of working-class America, which really just matters a lot to me.

KING: Gore's convention made a big difference. Just 76 percent of Michigan Democrats backed the vice president in a statewide survey just before his convention. Eighty-nine percent of Democrats support Gore now, attorney Bob Connelly among them.

BOB CONNELLY: Do I think there would have been better people maybe to be the Democratic nominee? Yes, I do. But he's the best we've got, and I think he'll do a good job.

KING: Health care matters most to pediatrician Tom Melgar (ph), and he gives both parties credit for crafting plans to give drug coverage to the elderly. But he's all but certain to give Gore his vote.

TOM MELGAR: I think from the Democratic side this comes from their heart that this is what they want to get done when they're in office. And I feel on the Republican side this comes from a campaign strategy. It just feels that way.

KING: But backing Bush feels right to attorney Jim Marquardt.

JIM MARQUARDT: I think he's moderate in very good ways, moderate in a way similar that drove me -- prompted to vote for Clinton in '92, someone who is moving to the center for all the right reasons, someone who is not an extremist.

KING: Michelle Marquardt settled on a new house with just one visit, but she's having a hard time settling on a candidate.

MICHELLE MARQUARDT: One seems too far right, the other seems too far left. I'm not convinced that either are dignified or particularly honest.

KING: If Governor Bush wants her vote, a strong debate season is a must.

MICHELLE MARQUARDT: I'm decidedly undecided at this point, I guess. If I had to vote today, I'd probably vote -- I'd probably go with the IQ and vote for Gore.

KING: Tammy Heckman is one of the working-class moms Gore targets with nearly every speech. But she's down on the local public schools, a big believer in charter schools and private school vouchers.

TAMMY HECKMAN: Education is very important, and I just don't think the Democratic Party gets it.

KING: She's leaning Bush but wants to see if he can hold his own in the debates. As she waits, a chance on Labor Day weekend to sit by the pool, talk politics and ponder what might have been.

TAMMY HECKMAN: McCain and Gore, I think McCain would have beat him.

KING: John King, CNN, Portage, Michigan.


SESNO: That pool looks mighty inviting.

We're joined now by Beth Fouhy, executive producer of CNN's political unit, and Alexis Simendinger of "The National Journal."

Good to see you both on this Labor Day. We'll get you out to go to the pool in just a moment here.

Let's pick on a theme that John King was striking there, which really is this, that as we are wont to say, Labor Day is a point in the season where people really start paying attention. They've got the conventions tucked away, they're thinking ahead to the debate. Are we likely to be seeing a lot more volatility in this electorate this season or just more solidifying of opinions? What's the sense?

ALEXIS SIMENDINGER, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": Probably a little of both, I would guess. I think that kids go back to school and I think they're parents start thinking that they're going to have a test, too. In early November, they're going to have to make up their minds. And for some of those soft, undecided folks, this is the time where they really buckle down and start to pay attention to the issues.

So there is some volatility. Those who are somewhat confirmed maybe are looking a little bit for information. And you just heard in your set-up piece that there are a lot of voters out there who think that the debates could be decisive for them. So they're looking for the next stage of the campaign.

BETH FOUHY, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, CNN POLITICAL UNIT: Yes, I think that is right. But we have also seen over time -- and we've -- this is the race we have expected to get: a very close race, with an incumbent vice president running to win the White House back for the administration that has provided this incredible sense of growth and opportunity over the past many years -- plus a Republican very, very attractive -- to his party, especially -- who has united the party -- completely united the party after that very strong challenge he got in March. He put that away.

So we've had a really even race on paper for quite some time now. So we're really getting to the point where this is the race prognosticators expected to have. So I think what you are seeing is a pretty united base behind Gore, a very united base behind Bush, and now the opportunity to go to those swing voters that are you describing -- who are actually probably a fairly small number, but in big states.

SESNO: And just as -- and as just people are paying attention, and just as -- as we heard in this piece -- are starting to say: You know, these debates are going to matter...


SESNO: ... we have this debate over debates, and -- as we heard here earlier this hour -- a rather high-volume, very public debate over debates.

How is it likely to play?

SIMENDINGER: Well, I think that -- Beth and I were talking to Bob Shrum as he was leaving -- with the steam coming out of his ears -- from here. And one of the things that he was saying is he did not expect that Governor Bush would be able to hold his position -- that he thought that there would be continued negotiations, as you suggested, behind closed doors, and that they come up with a compromise, and that nothing would happen until October, that there would no -- probably be no debates, including Vice President Gore in September.

So that leaves the electorate, if that happened, without that kind of information before the Olympics -- which is what the Presidential Debate Commission set up. It probably means that there will be some compromise. But at least they will have accepted the October 17th -- right before the November election date -- Presidential Commission Debate -- which is the 90-minute, all networks.

And my guess would be that it could be a situation in which Governor Bush should be careful what he wishes for, because if you don't have that practice, you haven't done it is a lot, you are letting the electorate make up their minds maybe at that last blast when the get a chance to see you, that may not put you in the best possible light. And everybody thinks that Gore is perhaps the slightly better debater.

FOUHY: But you know, that is the funny thing about this. I mean, for one you say: He has not had a lot of practice. He did get a lot of practice through the primaries -- Governor Bush. He started out on a little rocky footing. He got much better, much stronger. So he has actually had some experience debating now.

On the other hand, we have got Gore, who is, you know, said to be such a great debater. If you actually look at some of his debates, the qualities that a lot of people really don't like about Gore really come out in debates: his tendency to be rather pedantic, rather holier-than-thou, and let me explain this all to you.

He also tends to be an attack dog in debates. These are things that don't make Gore likable. They have had a great experience in the last couple of weeks -- since the convention -- of making the guy feel more likable, somebody that you could admire -- and the women in his life -- as the women in that piece said.

He has got a nice baring at the moment. Bringing him back to that attack-dog sense, that sort of pedantic sense that people always don't like, is really not his strongest suit. So Bush actually may be running away from a problem that doesn't exist -- or doesn't exist in the way that they expect it to exist.

SESNO: How is this playing for Bush right now? I mean, he is taking the lead on this right now. He is saying: I'll be there, you show up.

SIMENDINGER: Well, I would say that those people who are now tuning in -- as we just talked about -- the people they really care about -- those swing and independent voters -- they're the ones who like straight talk. And if they tuned in this afternoon and saw those two guys going at it against each other, they -- I think their inclination is to say: That's old politics. I don't like that.

SESNO: Beth Fouhy, tomorrow, prescription drugs from George W. Bush as he tries to get back to the issues.

FOUHY: Right. Right. Right. Well -- and this is going to be very interesting to see, because they have -- they lost a lot of ground two weeks ago, when it became clear that they didn't have a plan -- the way Gore has a plan -- to fix the prescription-drug issue. They are now going to present their plan. He is boxed in, to some degree, because as the Gore people love to talk about, he has got a tax cut that is so big, they really can't pay for a whole lot of other special programs.

But this is something that elderly voters in this country really want some attention paid to. So if he can craft a plan that both takes some bipartisan sentiment from the Breaux-Frist plan that had been up on the Hill for a while, and maybe craft on to it some of his own thoughts on it, it at least is going to be a starting point for a discussion, and may take things away a bit from this debate over debates.

SESNO: A debate on the issues and prescription drugs: Imagine that.

FOUHY: If such a thing is possible. SESNO: Beth Fouhy, Alexis Simendinger, thanks to you both. Thanks very much. Enjoy the day.

Just ahead: Wealth in America -- Brooks Jackson with the latest on the earnings gap and how it plays.


SESNO: Al Gore's Labor Day message focuses on working Americans, but the latest Gallup numbers show Gore with only a slight lead -- Americans who define themselves as working class: 46 percent to 44 percent for Bush. Americans who call themselves middle class or upper class are almost equally divided, with Bush leading by three points or less among both groups.

There is, however, a greater divide between the classes when it comes to wages.

Our Brooks Jackson has the story.


BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Everybody knows the new economy has made the rich a lot richer, but how much, and how about the rest? A new study provides some eye-popping information. In just two years, between 1995 and 1997, the top 1 percent of federal income tax payers gained nearly 31 percent in after-tax income.

The bottom 90 percent of taxpayers gained as well, but only 3.4 percent. Both figures are adjusted to remove effects of inflation. The gulf between the rich and the rest widened. The top 1 percent reported income averaging $518,000 in 1997. The bottom 90 percent averaged $23,815 -- both figures after federal income taxes.

One reason for the surge: big profits from the booming stock market.

ISAAC SHAPIRO, CENTER ON BUDGET AND POLICY PRIORITIES: Just from 1995 to 1997, capital gains income doubled and went up to $356 billion in 1997. And it's gone up since then, as well.

JACKSON: Another reason: salaries at the top rising faster than rank-and-file wages. The data come straight off federal income tax forms, released by the IRS and packaged into a new study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think-tank in Washington.

Not everybody is included, only those who earn enough to pay federal income taxes. And the study doesn't account for payroll taxes, or government benefits like food stamps and welfare payments that aren't reflected on tax forms. Even so, looking over an entire decade, the surge in after tax gains at the top is remarkable, up more than 50 percent -- and most of that since 1993.

That's when President Clinton signed a budget bill boosting the top income tax rate from 31 percent to nearly 40 percent, a tax increase that fell almost entirely on the top 1 percent. Since then, the top 1 percent increased their average income by more than 41 percent, even after paying those new, higher rates. The bottom 90 percent: They gained 4.6 percent.

The study stops in 1997. Since then, the top 1 percent probably have gained even more.

SHAPIRO: The stock market continues to roar ahead. And we also continue to have big increases in CEO salaries. It appears, from what my eyes can see, that we are in store for more of the same.

JACKSON (on camera): So, now there's proof: The rich are getting a lot richer.

Brooks Jackson, CNN, Washington.


SESNO: SESNO: Up next, outside the Beltway: Bruce Morton on fun and politics at the Minnesota state fair.


SESNO: As John King discovered, Michigan voters are now turning their attention to the presidential race. In Minnesota, attendees of the Michigan state fair are also considering the merits of George W. Bush and Al Gore.

That's where we find Bruce Morton, in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, testing the waters of public opinion.


MORTON (voice-over): Come to the fair, the 137th Minnesota state fair. It's full of things to do, rides, exhibits, full of things to eat, full of people. And the people, along with enjoying all the stuff here, have been thinking some about who the next president ought to be.

Doug Gregory likes Bush's tax cut.

DOUG GREGORY: I feel like he supports the causes that I would like to have supported, and I feel his tax cuts are what I'm looking for.

MORTON: Ivan and Terry like Gore's experience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's been there and he knows how to get on the inside and work with people. He can work with people, and I don't think the other party does. They work for themselves, and that's it.

MORTON: Over at the butter area, inside temperature 38 degrees, they're sculpting heads of all the princesses from around the state. You get to take yours home, the sign says. What you do with it then is up to you.

Rachel Anthony, mom of a princess, likes Bush. RACHEL ANTHONY: I like that he likes school vouchers. That's something that's important to me.

MORTON: Roger Peterson likes Bush's stand against abortion.

ROGER PETERSON: That's very important to us. We've got a little miracle baby right here. We had a hard time conceiving, and the Lord gave us a little baby, so we're definitely pro-life all the way around.

MORTON: Over at the rooster-crowing contest -- that's harder to judge than a close election -- there are about a million birds here, and they crow a lot -- Colleen Joswiak (ph) takes the opposite view on abortion.

COLLEEN JOSWIAK: Pro-choice issues are big for me, so I couldn't see myself voting for someone who wasn't pro-choice. So Al Gore is -- gets my vote.

MORTON: And her husband's, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like our economy. I feel him and President Clinton have had a lot to do with that, and he's my man.

MORTON: Thomas Prokop knows where he stands.

THOMAS PROKOP: I'm a union man, so I go Democratic Party all the way.

MORTON: But others aren't so sure. David Schultz wants to vote for Ralph Nader, but...

DAVID SCHULTZ: I'm concerned about, if I vote for Nader, if that then in fact casts a vote against Gore, and, therefore, he wouldn't be able to beat Bush.

MORTON: Gloria Benson is sure -- third party all the way.

GLORIA BENSON: I'm just tired of politics as usual, and I can't vote for one or the other, Republicans or Democrats. I can't do it.

MORTON: Walking through the fair -- want a french fry? They have lots -- walking through the fair, we found that most people here have started to think about the election, though lots aren't sure yet how they'll vote.

Joy Gerard demonstrates a no-nonsense skill: how to spin wool into yarn. She wishes the candidates would be a little more no- nonsense, too.

JOY GERARD: I think they need to spend more time talking about critical issues and not so much time digging dirt on each other.

CLIFF ALBERTSON: These beef patties have been hit with a beam of accelerated electrons to destroy pathogens such as e.coli.

MORTON: Cliff Albertson is at the fair promoting what he says are safer hamburgers. But he's been thinking about the election, too.

CLIFF ALBERTSON: I'm kind of a negative voter. The first guy who goes negative harshly will probably not get my vote.

MORTON: The political parties have booths here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to keep the Republican Party in both the Senate and the House.

MORTON: But there are a lot of ups and downs still to come -- prizes, votes as well as dragons, to be won.

The fair is ending, football's started, voters are thinking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It might just be the way I'm feeling the day I vote. So right now, it's a 50/50 split for me.

MORTON: The fair is ending; the campaign is just heating up.

Bruce Morton, CNN, at the Minnesota state fair.


SESNO: And we'll see you at the fair -- of politics.

Enjoy what's left of your Labor Day weekend.

That is it for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

Tomorrow, Al Gore hunts for votes in the key state of Ohio, a critical swing state. Our Jonathan Karl will bring you those details.

And George W. Bush's campaign in Pennsylvania tomorrow, Candy Crowley will join us with the latest.

I'm Frank Sesno. "WORLDVIEW" is next.



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