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Larry King Live

Does Jesse Ventura 'Stand Alone'?

Aired September 20, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: an American original. And he says he's going to the mat against political pawns and media jackals. Jesse Ventura, governor of Minnesota, joins us in L.A. And then, less than sevens weeks until Election Day 2000, an expert panel will help us map the campaign landscape.

In New York: CBS' Bob Schieffer, anchor of "Face the Nation." And with him in New York: Democrat Mario Cuomo, the former governor of the great state. In Washington: former Senate majority leader and one-time Reagan chief-of-staff, Howard Baker. And in Boston: David Gergen, adviser to four presidents, editor-at-large at "U.S. News & World Report" and author of the new book, "Eyewitness to Power." They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We are going to spend the opening moments of the show with the Minnesota independent party's governor of that state, Governor Jesse Ventura. And then Jesse is going to remain and be part of the panel as well. So that's going to be a lot of fun. Jesse's new book is: "Do I Stand Alone?" -- there you see its cover -- "Going to the Mat Against Political Pawns and Media Jackals."

Do you stand alone? You think so?


KING: Who are political pawns?

VENTURA: Political pawns to me are the two parties, because I find, Larry, that most elected officials, especially at the state level, come in with an attitude they want to do a good job, they want to represent their constituents, and do all the right things. And then they're -- get there, they get involved in the two-party system that we have today and they become political pawns.

Because -- in fact, we had a first-time elected representative in Minnesota who quit after one two-year term. And her quote to the news media was, "I got tired of checking my conscience in at the door."

KING: Now, you came in on a third party, a party that began on this program, the Reform Party, Ross Perot's party.

VENTURA: Right. Right.

KING: You left that party to form the Minnesota Independence Party. Is that party now a pawn?

VENTURA: Well, no. Actually, we were here before the Reform Party. I was a member of the Independence Party. It was formed in Minnesota -- the Minnesota Independence Party -- in 1989. Then, in 1996, we joined the Reform Party movement and affiliated...

KING: You were elected on the Reform Party ticket.

VENTURA: Exactly. And then last winter, I quit the Reform Party. And then about a month later, our party disaffiliated again from the Reform Party and went back to what we were prior: the Independence Party.

KING: In essence, why did you quit?

VENTURA: I quit because I saw what was happening. I saw a party that was dysfunctional. I saw a party that allowed no growth. In -- I thought Mr. Perot did a marvelous job in '92. I mean, he got 19 percent of the vote. Then, in '96, we had former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm all set to be our next presidential nominee.

And in the 11th hour, the Perot people cut his knees out from underneath him, and Mr. Perot ran again. Well, then, I kept seeing things happening. And in '98, the leadership of the party offered me no help whatsoever in Minnesota. In fact, I think they didn't like it that I won, because I took a lot of publicity away from, you know, the Texas connection down there.

And then they also, you know, as I watched it, they left the door open for a hostile takeover, the way the party was formed. And then Mr. Buchanan came in and did just that.

KING: Someone you do not like.

VENTURA: Well, I don't dislike him personally.

KING: I don't want to put words in your mouth.

VENTURA: But I don't like him politically, because I believe, Larry, for a third party to be successful, you have got to be centrist. You've got to be in the middle, not farther right than the Republicans, as the case of Mr. Buchanan, or farther left than the Democrats, which is the case of Mr. Nader.

If you're going to be successful as a third party, my belief is you have got to be centrist. And what I am...

KING: But isn't centrist what the Democrats and Republicans, in your opinion, have become?

VENTURA: No, not at all. They try to be. They're still left and right. What they do is they become centrist for an election, because they know it's those independents in the middle that determine who wins.

KING: So you're saying there are no true centrists? VENTURA: Yes, there are true centrists, but they're left with no choice. Democrats and Republicans are not centrists, because, Larry, I'm fiscally conservative, but I'm socially liberal.

KING: That means -- who do you endorse this year?

VENTURA: No one.

KING: You're not going to endorse.


KING: You'll be the only major governor in America not endorsing somebody.

VENTURA: I don't think Governor King of Maine is endorsing, has he? He's another independent governor. You know what's interesting, Larry? Voter turnout. Minnesota battles Maine every year for the highest percentage of voter turnout. And it's ironic that we are the two states that have independent governors that are not Democrats or Republicans, in a high-voter turnout state.

That shows you that, when dominated by Democrats and Republicans -- alienates voters, voting goes down.

KING: Do you ever see yourself running for that office?

VENTURA: For president? No. I don't want that job. I don't think I would want the responsibility of it. I enjoy being a governor. But to shift and have to deal with foreign policy and to have to make decisions of sending young men and women off to war and things of that nature, I don't think I'm -- I don't think I'd want that job.

KING: Now, also in the title of the book, who are the media jackals?

VENTURA: Not you. I wrote kindly about you.

KING: I know you did. You were very nice.

VENTURA: No, the media jackals are -- what I'm saying there -- really, the book -- I take shots at politics. I take shots at the media. But ultimately, the book is taking a shot at us, the American public, because we are getting what we are asking for. We are not holding politicians accountable. We are not holding the media accountable.

The media, to me, has turned into a -- entertainment. And, you know, we all know entertainment is there. We have got sitcoms we can watch and be entertained. We have got drama if we want to be entertained. We have got sports if we want to be entertained.

KING: So how do you...

VENTURA: But when it comes to news and reporting what's important, they're not doing that. They're out -- they need to be honest and tell the public that: Yes, we are out for ratings. Yes, we are out for money.

KING: But we are in an entertainment mode. I mean, talk shows have become entertaining.


KING: Politics -- political shows -- Sunday morning is entertaining. I'm sure, Bob Schieffer will admit to that. You can't just sit there and be dry.

VENTURA: Yes, true, because you're after the ratings points.

KING: What do you do with that dilemma?

VENTURA: Well, what you do as a public -- let me give you an example, if I can, Larry, of what we face today. I went and testified in front of Congress at the president's -- asked me to in support of opening trade with China. When I went there to testify -- in Minneapolis, we have four major TV stations. Only one sent a TV crew.

And this was an issue that would affect literally every Minnesotan in some shape or form. Yet, a month and a half later, I go out and do a cameo appearance on "The Young and the Restless," and every station sent full crews out there. There was so much media for this that we had to bring them in, in three shifts. And this would literally affect not one Minnesotan, other than as an entertainment value for those who happen to watch that particular soap opera.

KING: Do you intend to reseek the office?

VENTURA: I'm leaning that way, and I'll tell you why.

KING: You have got two to make it. Well, a year and a half to make it.

VENTURA: Yeah, a year and a half before, two more sessions to go. You know what was interesting, my father, before he passed away, told -- warned me and told me, he said, "In this life, you'll find that years speed up as you get older."

KING: Oh, boy.

VENTURA: And I -- and four years was a lifetime. Back when I joined the Navy and enlisted, four years, my goodness, you looked at that, how long this is going to take. And it did. But now, it seems four years flies by. And to accomplish establish you want to accomplish, I don't think in -- with the big bureaucracy, you can get it all done in four. So if I feel the need that I want to accomplish more, I'll run again.

KING: The governor has agreed to stay with us and join our panel. Very few governors would do that, but that's his kind of game: wrestling plus two. And his new book, "Do I Stand Alone?" is now on sale. It's already number 16 in America. We will reintroduce that panel, bring the governor in with it, and talk politics.

Don't go away.


KING: We are back with Governor Jesse Ventura, the governor of Minnesota. His new book is, "Do I Stand Alone?"

In New York is Bob Schieffer, the anchor of "Face the Nation" -- Mario Cuomo, the former Democratic governor of New York. In Washington is Howard Baker, the former Senate majority leader and the former Reagan chief-of-staff. And in Boston is David Gergen, White House adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, editor- at-large, "U.S. News & World Report."

Governor Cuomo, we'll start with you. What do you think generally of what Governor Ventura thinks about the political system in this country?

MARIO CUOMO (D), FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: I think Governor Ventura is much closer to the truth than most of the parties. I mean, what Governor Ventura is saying, as I interpret him, is: Look, you know, some of you guys have gotten hide-bound in your directions, and you're following labels, and following general directions, instead of deciding issues one at a time.

The basic independence movement, as I see it, is one that takes situations an issue at a time. And instead of saying -- look, in a basketball game, if you constantly go to your left on that court, even when they gather a defense against you, that's stupid. So you shouldn't be constantly left or constantly right. You should be looking at it an issue at a time.

His position on the death penalty, which I think is a position I share, is probably regarded as a liberal position. His position on other subjects would be a conservative position. That's the way it has to be done. That's the way you govern. You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose. And governing in prose means you do it an issue at a time. I think he's right.

KING: Senator Baker, what do you make of what Governor Ventura thinks and what Mario Cuomo just said?

HOWARD BAKER (R), FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I think both the governor and my friend, Mario Cuomo, are right in that politics ought to be the determination of issues one at a time. But I happen to be a great devotee of and admirer of the two-party system in this country. You know, it doesn't exist any place else that I know of in the whole world.

And that is two broad-based national parties. And either party is capable at any time of finding its center of gravity, which may be more to the right or to left than the other. But it has the effect of bringing people together and producing a synthesis view. And, you know, that's part of the governing process in this country.

Every person can't be exactly right on every issue. And there has to be a mechanism of some sort in politics in this country -- or any place else -- for synthesizing a point of view that is translated into useful public policy. And I think that's what the two-party system does in this country. Now, sometimes...


KING: I'm sorry, go ahead, Howard.


BAKER: No, all I was going to say was sometimes I get disenchanted with my own party and with the other party. But the fact of the matter is, over the years, the two-party system, since it had its origins in the early days of the republic, has really served us very well indeed.

KING: Now -- of course, we will bring Governor Ventura back in -- there's lot to talk -- we're going to talk about a lot of issues and things.

But, Bob Schieffer, what do you make of the -- of the independence movement of Governor Ventura in this whole picture?

BOB SCHIEFFER, ANCHOR, CBS "FACE THE NATION": Well, I don't know. I'm kind of like Howard Baker in that I sort of like the two- party system. I think it's served this country well. But I think what Governor Ventura has done, he has an ability to speak to people in language that they can understand.

And I think that both these parties and both of the candidates running for president this time around could learn a few things from Governor Ventura in the sense of he's able to sense what it is that matters to people and tell them in their language what he thinks ought to be done about it. And I think -- I think that's the contribution that he's made.

KING: And Mr. Gergen, your thoughts on Governor Ventura and the independent concept overall?

DAVID GERGEN, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": Larry, I think that the independence movement that Ross Perot launched a few years ago has been a blessing to our political system. You know, Ross Perot came along, he came on your -- as a guest many times on this program.

And he challenged the parties in such a way as he said: Look, there are a lot out here who think these parties, as valuable as the two-party system is to the country -- and Howard Baker is absolutely right about that -- but that parties have grown away from the people. People are increasingly disenchanted and disengaged from politics.

There is a sense that the parties are too beholden to the special interests. And along comes Ross Perot -- and now Governor Ventura -- and say: Gentlemen, there's another way to do this. And we're going to raise the banners of reform out here. And I think it forces the parties to open up and then to accommodate and to absorb a lot of what he stands for. And I think it changes their politics. I think it's very healthy.

KING: By the way, David's new book is, "Eyewitness to Power," a terrific read about his days in the White House, being an eyewitness to it.

David, does that mean that the independent party has no growth factor, it just depends on the personality of whoever heads it at the time?

GERGEN: It depends on two things. Yes, it very much depends on the individual heading it up. And I think Ross Perot of course has his -- he hit that 19 percent mark in 1992. I think that was the highest number any third-party candidate has ever gotten. And it's never been the same since.

So there -- I don't think Pat Buchanan is in the same league as Ross Perot in terms of his weight -- or Ralph Nader, in terms of the weight -- on this -- in this campaign. But at the same time, it also depends, Larry, upon whether the parties themselves are responsive. And to a degree, I think that Bill Clinton in a way, and George W. Bush now with the Republican Party, I think tried to move their parties in places they hadn't been before, in part as a response to the discontent that is there in the electorate.

KING: Governor.

VENTURA: Well, first of all, let me address a couple of those. When they talk about the two-party system, that's only one more than Russia. You know, we get one more choice than Russia. So, to me -- and this...

KING: You're right, Schieffer, he has a way of putting things.

VENTURA: And when you -- no -- when you look back -- let's go back 150 years ago. At that time, Abraham Lincoln was the member of a third-party movement that was called the Republican Party. Imagine: We had three choices 150 years ago. Today we have only two.

And so I find that very interesting. The other thing is, when they -- when you talk about Ross Perot and the movement of these two parties, their movement was to cut him out of the debates in '96, and that killed the third-party movement.

KING: And by the way...

VENTURA: So, the movement that happened was the Democrats and Republicans coming together to destroy the third-party movement.

KING: By the way, you competed in the debates in Minnesota.

VENTURA: Yes, I did.

KING: You did -- not have won without... VENTURA: I -- and if I -- and if they had used the criteria that they're using in this year's presidential...

KING: Sixteen percent in the polls.

VENTURA: Fifteen percent. I would have not been allowed to debate, because, Larry, at the primary, I was holding 10 percent. In seven weeks, I went up to 37 percent and won the election. They don't want another Jesse Ventura on the horizon.

KING: And we will get to that and issues with our complete panel right after this.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've got a plan that says we are going to provide prescription drugs for seniors. My philosophy is no one should go without. People who cannot help themselves need to be helped by our government. And if there's somebody having to make the choice between food and medicine -- some elderly soul -- we are going to help that person not have to make that Draconian...

OPRAH WINFREY, HOST: Well, Al Gore says the same thing, so...

BUSH: Well, that's fine.


BUSH: Except he can't get it done. I mean, they've been up there for eight years trying to get something done.




AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think a president has to do three things: first and most importantly, has to communicate to the country a clear vision of what we are all about and where we are going; secondly, has to communicate clear goals and put priorities on them and convince people to buy into them; and third, communicate and maintain a set of values upon which decisions ought to be based in our country.


KING: Let's get into some current things.

Governor Cuomo, should Nader and Buchanan be allowed into the debates?

CUOMO: Oh, I was asked that this morning and I said, "Yes, why not?" Why not proliferate the views? I -- they -- they -- it would be a better debate with the four of them in, I think. And if you're complaining that, well, there's not enough time for people to pay attention to four views, then give them more time. And the people who want to watch will and the people who aren't smart enough to watch won't. But yes...

KING: Howard?

CUOMO: I'd like to hear both of them in.

KING: Howard? Should they be?

BAKER: Well, I don't think it matters really. I -- I think that -- yes, my -- my personal view is you ought to let them in if they have a decent base of support, and I think both do.

It's -- let me say a word about -- another word about the two- party system.

Larry, you know, there is nothing in the Constitution about the two-party system. It's purely an invention of the American genius for self-government. And it is true, as the governor said a minute ago, that we -- Abraham Lincoln led a new party movement, and Andrew Jackson led one, and the Bull Moose Party with Teddy Roosevelt.

So these things aren't permanent, and you'll see changes in the two-party structure. But the country has decided over almost 200 years that they like the idea of two broad-based parties: not a conservative party or a liberal party, not a communist party or a capitalist party, but two broad-based parties.

KING: Bob Schieffer, do you think they should be allowed into the debates?

SCHIEFFER: Maybe one of the debates, Larry, but I must tell you, I -- I -- either George Bush or Al Gore is going to be elected president. Ralph Nader is not going to be elected president. Pat Buchanan is not going to be elected president.

So maybe -- maybe have them in one debate, but I would like to see Gore and Bush go one-on-one, because those are the people that are going to be elected. Now I know Governor Ventura is going to say: Yes, before I got into the debates I wasn't even scratching in the polls, and that's how I got elected.

But I mean, let's stop and think about it. I mean, right now, I probably am scoring about the same in the polls as Pat Buchanan is. I mean, he's sort of an asterisk right now. So you have to kind of ask, "Well, does he really deserve to be there?"

And Nader is getting three or four points. I -- the short answer: I wouldn't mind seeing both of them in one of the debates, but I don't think they ought to be in all of them.

KING: David?

GERGEN: No, I don't think they ought to be in the debates. I think the country has 4 1/2 hours now to look at these two men and make a tough decision, because this is the closest election we've had in 20 years. It's also the most important election we've had in at least 20 years, and the country really needs some time now to let these two men talk.

Larry, why don't you have a debate here the night before between -- between Nader and Buchanan, and let them duke it out? That may help to set the agenda for the next night.

KING: I -- I think you may very well see that.

VENTURA: Well, I think then the results you're going to get in this is the continuing trend throughout America of lower voter turnout. I mean, look at what's happening nationally. The voter turnout keeps plunging and plunging and plunging. Why? Because you're only allowing two opinions in there.

KING: Don't you owe it to your -- to the populists to endorse somebody?


KING: You're going to vote, aren't you?


KING: You're not going to vote in the -- for either of the main candidates?

VENTURA: I don't know. Voting is a private thing, Larry. When I walk in there, I'll vote. I always vote...

KING: Are you going to go around and stump for candidates?

VENTURA: Am I going to...

KING: Around the country?

VENTURA: Around the country? No. I'm stumping for my candidates in the Independence Party in Minnesota.

KING: We'll be back with more of our panel. Lots to talk about: The Hillary/Lazio race and others. Don't go away.


KING: Let's touch some other bases. We'll start with Bob Schieffer.

Did I hear you saying that the latest polls have Hillary Clinton ahead in New York?

SCHIEFFER: CBS News/"New York Times" poll, which was out today, shows that she has widened her lead over Rick Lazio. She's up to about a nine-point lead now, and is building up a tremendous lead among women voters. The poll suggests that people thought that Rick Lazio got a little too rough with her and was kind of rude. And so this is the biggest lead that she's had thus far.

Very good day for the Clintons, you know, with the independent prosecutor putting out his report saying he's not going bring any charges against her and the president, and then later in the day this poll.

KING: David Gergen, what do you make of that?

GERGEN: Well, I -- I -- Bob Schieffer is right on both points. You know, when you turn Hillary into a victim you're only going help her, that she's always been strong, Maureen Dowd pointed that out in her column the other day. And the other thing is I think, Larry, all along that -- that Lazio is running a campaign, his only message is "I'm not Mrs. Clinton, I'm not Hillary."

That's not enough to win, especially in a state where the -- where the tide is running so heavily Democratic toward Gore.

Al Gore, now, has a lead in New York of at least 20 points by some polls, 25 points, and that's -- Lazio is going to be swamped by that unless he's got his own independent message that it's not about Mrs. Clinton, but about what he would be like in the Senate.

KING: Mario?

CUOMO: Yes. Hillary is going to win, Gore is going win. I -- I think there's -- there's another point here. People are spending millions and millions of dollars on commercials in New York state and they don't appear to make any difference at all. What made the difference here was not all the attack ads and not all the so-called "issue ads." It was Lazio's performance in the debates. And that could very well happen in the presidential campaign, which gets us back to the question as to whether you should have the other two in.

David makes the point that we need the time to measure Bush and Gore. We also need to hear the issues, and Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan will charge the issues with new dimensions that will give you another measure of Bush and Gore.

It -- we need to do more on the issues. The commercials aren't doing it. We have commercial fatigue. We're ignoring the commercials, or you wouldn't have seen this reaction in the New York polls after a single debate.

KING: Howard, Jesse brought it up. Why don't Americans vote?

BAKER: Well, you know, Larry in a way -- well, I don't know is the answer and it is deplorable, actually. But in a way not voting is an expression of preference, too. It may be an expression of the approval of the status quo or it may be that they are just disaffected and don't vote. I don't believe that.

But I -- I think that what we've got to do to try to get the populists back involved is have candidates that are truly capable of making a difference and expressing that difference in a way that people can understand. We talked about the debates a minute ago. You know, in my view, every day in the campaign is a debate in the sense that there's an obligation, really on the part of the candidates to express their exact, precise views on a whole variety of issues, and I think when you do that you generate public attention and increase the voter turnout.

KING: And you think, Jesse, people don't vote because of the two-party system, continues?

VENTURA: Absolutely. Let me give a fact and an example, Larry. The twoest -- higher -- highest percentage voter turnouts in this country year in and year out is a battle between Minnesota and Maine.

Now, if you look, Minnesota and Maine are the only two states that have independent governors -- Governor Angus King in Maine, Governor Jesse Ventura in Minnesota. That shows you right there. When independent movement happens, three parties, three choices, larger voter turnout. Keep it to the two parties, voter turnout falls.

KING: Tomorrow night, we're going to do a whole program on the women's vote, by the way, and on a subsequent show you will see Mr. Nader and Mr. Buchanan on this program. And when we come back, we'll touch other topics and take your phone calls. Don't go away.


KING: David Gergen, I think most polls say health is the number- one issue on most Americans' minds. Who is ahead on that issue, Gore versus Bush?

GERGEN: Well, right now, Al Gore has been ahead. He has been -- he's maintained that lead for a long time as Democrats have traditionally. And I think his prescription drug plan, while it raises all sorts of questions about government interference, government intervention in the private sector, so far, he's been able to explain it in a way that I think it's more popular than Governor Bush's, who, you know, sounds a little complicated for most people.

So I think that is one of the reasons a debate is so important -- to go back to what Mario Cuomo said a moment ago -- is to let -- is let each one of these men sort it out for us what their stand on the positions is, so that people can understand it. I -- and I think that's what a skillful moderator can do. Jim Lehrer can open up these questions. He can bring to the table issues that Ralph Nader is raising, or that Pat Buchanan is raising. But to have those two men soak up, you know, half the air time of the 4 1/2 hours we've now got to make this crucial decision, it just seems to be inappropriate.

KING: Where do Minnesotans stand on -- so far, in the polls on Bush-Gore?

VENTURA: Right now, the vice president is ahead. Early on, it was even-up between the governor and the vice president, but now the vice president has taken a fairly decent lead. KING: Is health the big issue there, too?

VENTURA: Yes, I'm sure that it is. But you know what I find interesting? I went and spoke at four colleges with young people. And I invigorated -- young people came out and voted for me tremendously. And I asked them why they're not going to vote. And young people said: Because the only thing we are hearing about are prescription drugs and Social Security.

How does that affect a 20-year-old? And so I told them you can be effective. Come out, and you can lead the third-party movement, all you young people.

KING: Howard...

VENTURA: They can be -- they can lead the charge, because no one is addressing any issues that deal with young people.

KING: Senator Baker, what turned things around for Governor Bush? He was ahead, then suddenly behind. I'm just talking based on the polls.

BAKER: I don't know.

KING: What do you think it was?

BAKER: Yeah, I really don't know. I think -- well, I do think I know. An I'll make you a guess, Larry. And I said on this program in response to, I guess, a statement that Mario Cuomo made about the race, I said: You know, Al Gore's biggest problem is that he's -- that Bill Clinton's shadow is attached to him, and that he can't disentangle himself from it.

Well, I think I was wrong. I think after the Democratic Convention that people decided that Al Gore is not Bill Clinton. And I think he went up in the polls. Now, I think we are at a place now where issues are going to matter. And I think it's a good thing. I think it's the first time, first race in a long time where I think issues are going to be dominant.

And the only thing, I believe, that could turn it around -- absent some big explosion -- would be for George Bush, George W. Bush to express his views on a range of issues in a way that the people understand and are appealing -- that they find appealing. And he could do that. You know, the polls aren't in such -- so much difference that it can't be done. The race is not over.

But Bush has to do that if he's going to win. And I think he can.

KING: All right.

Why, Mario, has he been unable -- and I'm basing this just on what the pundits say -- to sell the idea of lower taxes, which would seem very appealing? CUOMO: I think Governor Bush's position comes across to most Americans now in this confusing, cascading of issues on commercials, as twofold. Number one, on the economy, I'm telling you, give back most of the tax money to the rich people. They will invest it intelligently and that will be good for all you struggling middle- class and poor people. And that's a joke. And they know it's a joke.

It lost in 1996. Reagan tried it and left us with $3.5 trillion in debt. It just doesn't work. It's not plausible. The other point of view, the Social Security issue, has him saying: Hey, look, privatize, take part of it, invest on your own. That will be terrific. You'll make a lot of money in the stock market.

Al Gore comes back with: Hey, look, I'm against Big Tobacco, big oil, and big HMOs. What Bush is saying is: Depend upon the big corporations, your own private investments, and you'll be all right. What the people are saying is: If we could depend upon the big corporations, we wouldn't have these problems, because the big corporations have been there for years.

And we can't afford prescription drugs. And we don't have health insurance. And the oil prices are too hard -- high -- and tobacco is killing us.

KING: Bob...

CUOMO: Gore is right. So Bush has lost it on the rationale. He was right in the beginning to avoid the issues. He's on the issues now. He's finished.

KING: Finished you say?

CUOMO: Finished.

KING: Bob Schieffer -- Bob Schieffer, rather -- Bob Schieffer, down to basics. If we are down to basics, is the tough thing he's up against a healthy nation economically?

SCHIEFFER: Look, the nation is at peace. And we are in a period of unparalleled prosperity. Peace and prosperity has always been a wonderful platform to run on. And I think where Governor Bush's campaign kind of got off track was, somewhere down the line, you have to give people a reason that they can understand that you're running, a reason that they think they will be better off if they vote for you.

And I'm not sure Governor Bush has done that. And I think that, while I think he's a very decent man, I would not be surprised if the people advising him have not come to the same conclusion, because this week, you've seen the governor suddenly shift away from kind of personality politics into issues, picking out some issues and saying: Here's why you ought to vote for me.

People are funny. They think elections are about them. They don't think they're about the candidates. And they want to know why it's best for them if they vote for a certain person. And so I think that the Bush campaign maybe has come late to that realization. But I believe they're kind of on that track now. They are going to absolutely have to do it, because Gore seems to have gotten some momentum in the last couple of weeks.

KING: Governor, he does deal in plain talk, George Bush, doesn't he? Something you advocate.

VENTURA: Yes, they do do that. But I think the real problem came at their convention, the Republican Convention. They attacked President Clinton so hard there. And if you think back to, you know, the whole Monica thing, all through that entire ordeal, the president's approval rating didn't drop a point. The American public wasn't that overly concerned about that.

And they drummed it all back up again, threw it all back in a very popular president's face. And I think the reaction started shortly thereafter, because I believe strongly, you know, our Constitution doesn't allow a president to serve more than two terms. I think if President Clinton wasn't bound by that, he could win again.

KING: By the way, would you have endorsed him?


KING: Because you speak very favorably of him.

VENTURA: Well, no, I won't endorse either a Democrat or Republican, because I feel...

KING: Period.

VENTURA: Period. Because I feel I would be then going against my third-party movement beliefs.

KING: Are Nader and Buchanan on the ticket in Minnesota?

VENTURA: I'm not sure, because the other Reform candidate is battling him there. No, neither are, at least with our party. We are not putting a presidential candidate forward on our party.

KING: When we come, we will reintroduce the panel and go to your phone calls. Don't go away.


KING: Tomorrow night, women talking about women in politics: everyday women and elected officials, as well.

Our guests are: Governor Jesse Ventura, the governor of Minnesota -- his new book is, "Do I Stand Alone?: Going to the Mat against Political Pawns and Media Jackals" -- Bob Schieffer, the able host and anchor of CBS' "Face the Nation"; Mario Cuomo, the former Democratic governor of New York; Howard Baker, the former Senate majority leader and Reagan chief of staff; and David Gergen, White House adviser to presidents, editor at large, "U.S. News & World Report," and author of "Eyewitness to Power."

Let's go to some phone calls. Santa Barbara, California, hello.

CALLER: Larry, would you have the panel discuss the impact of the unlimited quantity of polling results being announced and told all of us voters -- so why should we bother to vote?

KING: Ah, the effect of polling. Start with Governor Cuomo.

CUOMO: Yes, I would -- I would love to see it banned.


I really would. But that's unrealistic.

I think polling can be very useful in the hands of professionals. It is, of course...

KING: But the question is, can it affect a campaign to make it a...

CUOMO: Yes, of course, it can.

KING: ... self-fulfilling prophecy? "He's ahead, I don't have to go out."

CUOMO: Of course, it can, and it does. As soon as you announce the poll result, you change the thing you polled, because when I see the poll result and you say a is now the favorite, I don't like favorites. I like underdogs. So I switch over to the underdog. Or I like front-runners, so I switch from the guy who's losing.

As soon as you announce it, it changes the thing that it describes.

KING: David?

GERGEN: Well, we have so many polls this time around, Larry, that I think they've lost their impact, because a lot of them disagree, you know, in the presidential race. But I don't think that gets to the heart of why people disengage.

You know, I have the honor of being here to teach at the Kennedy School, and I'll tell you something about these students. What will change this, what will get these students engaged, what will get young people engaged is for somebody to relight the flames of idealism in politics. That's what John Kennedy did. That's what Ronald Reagan did. He lifted people's spirits. That's what John McCain did in his campaign.

It wasn't all about prescription drugs with John McCain. Yes, that's an important issue. But he sort of told people we can do something better through politics, and I think if these candidates can tap into that, they can get people back out to the polls.

That's what happened in the primaries.

KING: David, didn't Jesse do that, frankly? Even though he's sitting here in Minnesota.

GERGEN: Yes, I think he did. I think he told people this could be different. I think in the beginning of the Ventura campaign, if I may say this about the governor, there was a question of whether it was sort of an entertainment. And what he has become over time, I think he's now shown he's a serious -- he's a serious political figure, and I think he's transformed himself in the minds of a lot of people, even though he's still as punchy, and you know, has a lot -- a lot to say that's not quite the same way other people say it.

CUOMO: I don't think you meant punchy.


VENTURA: More important than that, Larry, what disturbs me is on election day, when they start forecasting the winner before the polls are even closed.

KING: Exit polls.

VENTURA: I think that should be outlawed. I don't think they should ever be allowed to say, well, we've predicted so and so is the winner, because when you've got all these time zones to go through, certainly somebody on the West Coast, if they're already being told it's over, they're not going to go vote then.

KING: Bob Schieffer, are we still doing that or not doing that? Are we waiting until California and Washington close?

SCHIEFFER: Well, we do never -- we do not report results in any poll until after the polls have closed in that state. But I don't know how you keep that a secret. I don't know how you keep it a secret when the polls are already closed in New York. The people would find out about that...

KING: So therefore, though...

SCHIEFFER: ... in an underground kind of way.

KING: ... if you're going to vote in -- but it might happen. It defeated a prominent senator years ago, when Carter lost to Reagan. People in Washington stopped going to the polls.



SCHIEFFER: But don't blame that on the pollsters. That happened because Jimmy Carter came out and conceded early in the evening.

KING: Yes, that's right.

SCHIEFFER: And once he conceded, well, then, the people in the West Coast said, a lot of them said, well, he's already conceded, so why should I go vote. So, that was not really the fault of the pollsters. KING: Howard, what do you...

SCHIEFFER: But we do not -- I want to repeat...

KING: You do not...

SCHIEFFER: ... we do not broadcast results until after the polls...

KING: And CNN does not.

SCHIEFFER: ... have closed in a state.

KING: Howard, what do you think of polling's effect?

BAKER: Oh, I think it has a profound effect, and I agree with Bob Schieffer that CBS doesn't do that and CNN doesn't do it until the polls close. But beginning at midday, usually, you'll have exit polls being reported, and that has a bearing on people, too.

But polls, in the final analysis, are a snapshot of what people think in any given moment, and I don't think they mean so much now. I think as you get closer to the election, they do generate a momentum perhaps, and I think they may have a decisive effect.

But as of this point, say the 1st of October, people start really focusing on what's going on, and polls begin to tell you a little bit about the drift. But before that, people have not focused on it. It's hard to identify those who are going to vote. And therefore, it's hard to put much reliance on early polls.

KING: Virginia Beach, Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Gentlemen, why can't we have a television channel, not unlike C-SPAN perhaps, where people could hear their politicians discuss ideas openly without benefit of being in the pocket of people who are actually paying for them to say certain things?

KING: You mean just a continuous show -- well, C-SPAN does that, doesn't it?

BAKER: C-SPAN does do that, and they do a very good job of it. Brian Lamb began that, still runs C-SPAN. And I think they do an extraordinary job, and I'm continuously surprised at the number of people who watch it, but they do watch it. And it's an important of the television arrangement.

KING: Jesse, should the networks give free air time to candidates?

VENTURA: I think that when you look at campaign finance reform, it's something that absolutely should be possibly looked at, because it's obscene today what they're spending to get elected.

KING: But you know that the newspapers and the media are not going attack it, because they get revenue from it. VENTURA: True.

KING: So it's a -- it's a...

VENTURA: Vicious circle. It's a vicious circle.

KING: Bob, I mean, CBS loves the income that Gore and Bush will bring them in October.

SCHIEFFER: Well, of course they do, and these are businesses. But I would also add that a lot of times when candidates are offered free time they don't take it. They don't seem to want it.

I mean, we've been trying to, you know, have debates and things of that nature. We haven't had anybody agree to do that yet.

So it's not just the networks that are the -- or the television stations here. It goes a little beyond that, Larry.

KING: We'll be right back with more of our outstanding panel. This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: Before I ask our panel about the women's vote, let's take a call from Los Angeles. Hello.

Los Angeles, are you there?

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Yes. Go ahead.

CALLER: My question for the panel is don't you think a third- or fourth-party candidate would have a real chance if we had campaign finance reform, and if so, how would you change the campaign finance system? I mean, how can they realistically go up against the Democratic or Republican Party?

KING: David, isn't that true?

GERGEN: Well, it's partly true, but Pat Buchanan just got $12 1/2 million here, and...

KING: Yes, but that's a pig in a poke, isn't it?

GERGEN: Well, it's $12 1/2 million more than he used to have.


VENTURA: I'd give them a hell of a run, give me 12 1/2 million.

KING: Yes, you would.

GERGEN: He'll be out there Sunday, Larry. He's going to be right back out on television. KING: York, Pennsylvania, hello.

CALLER: Yes. I want to talk about the issue of low voter turnout.

KING: Yes.

CALLER: Why don't we have it a national holiday, like a lot of the other countries in the world? A lot of people that work, working women have difficulty finding time to get to the polls.

KING: Howard, what's wrong with that?

BAKER: Not a thing wrong with that. I've advocated that for a long time. Not only should we have...

KING: Senate could pass it, couldn't they?

BAKER: Not only should we have a national holiday, but I think we ought to keep polls open for 24 hours for the same reason. So you eliminate the time zone differential and give everybody a maximum opportunity to vote.

KING: Mario?

CUOMO: For all the time I was in public service, the 12 years as governor, every year I suggested the same thing. I said, look, we have an elitist system here. You don't want everybody to vote. If you wanted everybody to vote, you would let everybody do absentee ballots. We'd have portable voting places and use a credit card like you can run up a $10,000 bill with. Take the state police, send the automobile to the old people, make it easy for them to vote. Let's do it for a whole week and not reveal the results until it's over.

You don't want everybody to vote because we're all incumbents who got here with the system as it is and we don't want to mess with it.

KING: Jesse?

SCHIEFFER: Boy, I endorse that 100 percent, Larry.

KING: Hold on.

SCHIEFFER: I have always thought that a 24-hour voting cycle -- and I'll tell you -- and because, you see, then, you worry about the impact of the polls. Then, nobody could broadcast these results for 24 hours so you'd know it all at once.

KING: Good point.

SCHIEFFER: But it would be different than today.

KING: Jesse, you agree.


KING: Hold it one second, Dave.

VENTURA: Let me say something. Right now, it's the law they got to let you out of work. They got to let you out two hours of work. So if you time it right, if you get off at 4:00, you could leave at 2:00, it takes you 10 minutes to vote, you get an hour and 50 minutes with pay off of work. It isn't making any difference. That's not making any difference...

KING: Well, if you had 24 hours...

VENTURA: ... and I don't buy that turning it into a holiday is going to do anything to increase the turnout.

KING: How about 24 hours of voting, 24 hours of voting? How about weekend voting?

VENTURA: Maybe, maybe not. I don't know. I think that the two- party system is what's causing people not to vote.

KING: One gathers you think that.

SCHIEFFER: Could I just say one thing there, Larry? I've heard Gov. Ventura say that. I would just point out that when John McCain and George Bush were running against each other in these primaries, there were two candidates then and we had the largest voter turnout in every state where that was a contested primary. So I'm not sure it's always because you don't have a third party candidate there.

VENTURA: And the reason for that was because McCain was tapping into the identical same people that I tapped into. He was being different. The moment he left, the moment he endorsed George Bush, he just became another Republican and lost every one of those people.

SCHIEFFER: Well, precisely. But...

KING: Let me get a break and we'll have some final comments. Hold it guys. Everybody will get a comment in.

We'll discuss the women's vote tomorrow night with women. But we will be right back with guys after this.


KING: OK, someone wanted to jump in when I was going to the break. Was that...

BAKER: That was me, Larry.

KING: OK, go ahead, Howard.

BAKER: Well, I wanted to say another word about campaign finance reform. And I'm going to give you a suggestion that nobody paid any attention to when I was majority leader of the United States Senate and nobody is going to pay any attention to it now. But the ultimate answer to campaign finance reform, in my view, is to provide that nobody can contribute to a candidate unless they also can vote for that candidate. Now, that would get rid of PACs, it would get rid of soft money and all the issues that are attendant on our present system. But, as I say, nobody else that I know of agrees with that so I continue to say it and content myself that I believe that.

KING: All right, gentlemen, for close -- well said, too.

For closing thoughts from each, we'll start with Bob Schieffer. Is this going to get closer? How do you -- is this going to -- is the debates going to make a big difference? What's your overview?

SCHIEFFER: I think it's going to be a very close election. I think what happens between now and election day is going to decide this election. I don't think it's decided yet. And, yes, Larry I think the debates are going to be the turning point.

KING: Gov. Cuomo.

CUOMO: I think the debates are going to be important. I think issues are the most important thing, or should be the most important thing in politics. Gov. Ventura referred to Lincoln. It wasn't the Whig Party or the Republican Party, it was slavery, it was the issue. With John McCain, it was campaign financing. That's what gets people to the polls: good ideas, good issues, good positions. And a good delivery on good issues will win this in this debates. That will be Gore, incidentally.

KING: You're confident of that.

CUOMO: I am.

KING: Howard Baker, how do you see this thing playing out? And you're all going to be on again, so if you counted wrong, we taped this.

BAKER: Well, with one exception, I agree with everything that Mario Cuomo said. I think it's going to be a close election, I think the debates will be very important, and I think, in the final analysis, that Bush will win.

KING: And Mr. Gergen?

GERGEN: Larry, the debates are very likely to be the decisive moment in this campaign. Either man can still win. The answer to igniting voter interest in this campaign and getting people to the polls is not to put Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader into the debates. The answer is not to give 50 percent of the debating time to two men who command less than 5 percent of the support of the country. It is for one of these two gentlemen, Al Gore and George Bush, to not just appeal to our heads, but to our hearts, to give us some sense of idealism about what their presidency would represent. That has not yet happened. That's why neither man is over 50 percent. But one of them could still do it.

KING: Do you think, Jesse, we will ever see true reform in this country?

VENTURA: We may, we may.

KING: The thing that Gingrich and Clinton shook hands about in New Hampshire.

VENTURA: We may. But, Larry, what I'd like to say is I agree with the majority of those panelists, on the debates are important and they will determine the election. But my disagreement is we will have a low, 40-percent voter turnout because only two parties. If you look at Israel, they have over a 90 percent voter turnout. Why? Because they have four to five parties represented. There's your example. So we we'll stay with the two parties, we won't allow the others to debate, and we'll have a whopping 40-plus-percent voter turnout.

KING: Do you think we will ever see that goal of yours?

VENTURA: I hope so.

KING: Is it going to have to take someone driven by personality, like yourself or a Perot or someone who can win a national election, and therefore start the country thinking different?

VENTURA: Absolutely, absolutely.

KING: It's going to have to take that, right?

VENTURA: Yes it is, yes it is.

KING: Some guy on a white horse.

VENTURA: Someone who can't be controlled by these two parties and the shenanigans they do to keep any other movement out of there.

KING: Two of our panelists have books out: David Gergen's is "Eyewitness to Power," and Gov. Jesse Ventura's is "Do I Stand Alone? Going to the Mat Against Political Pawns and Media Jackals."

We hope you enjoyed our entire panel. Tomorrow night, women talking about women: Women in show business and other areas of life, and women in politics talk about the women's vote. More women vote than men, by the way, per capita.

Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KIND LIVE. See you tomorrow. Good night.



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