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Inside Politics

George W. Bush's Campaign Moves to Frame Al Gore as a Big Spender; Native Americans Increasing Their Political Participation

Aired September 27, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush prepares to launch a new economic attack on Al Gore, calculated to give the GOP nominee more momentum.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNTIED STATES: You don't have to worry for one minute.


GORE: You don't to worry for one minute.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore finds a friend in Iowa to help drive home his pitch to older voters.



PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To preserve their centuries-old cultures, American Indians are applying some modern-day politics.


SHAW: Pat Neal on an election-year dance in the Southwest.

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

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. The nation's prosperity may be considered one of Al Gore's greatest political assets, but George W. Bush is hoping to turn it into a liability for Gore.

As our Candy Crowley explains, Bush is set to portray the vice president as an economic threat by revisiting one of the GOP's favorite labels for Democrats: big spender.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His campaign convinced they have regained some momentum, the Republican nominee wrapped up a California education tour and prepared to head for the Midwest to reframe the politics of a strong economy.

A top aide says George Bush, in a Thursday speech in Wisconsin, will argue that Al Gore's proposed polices amount to a massive government buildup that threatens prosperity. Said one top staffer, Gore is talking about thousands of new regulations, new government employees and trillions in spending.

The source called it a government buildup, the likes of which the country has not seen since LBJ's Great Society. Many Republicans outside the Bush camp believe Gore is highly vulnerable on the big- spending issue and have urged the Republican nominee to pursue this line of attack. Same theme, different verse during a follow-on in Michigan Friday.

Aides say Bush will deliver a speech on oil policy. As winter nears and oil prices rise, the issue is catapulted into the public dialogue and both presidential campaigns.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But one of the questions that people don't focus on is: How do we refine additional product when our refineries are at 100 percent capacity? We need more refineries and we need less regulation out of Washington that prevents refineries from being built.

CROWLEY: In his speech, Bush is expected to push for more domestic exploration and a more efficient way to process permits for construction of U.S. refineries, pipelines and generating plants. He will argue that rising energy prices and increased dependence on foreign oil happened because the Clinton-Gore administration has no energy policy, and that under the Gore agenda, the situation will grow worse and threaten the economy.

Gore attacks Big Oil interests, said an aide. The governor is worried about big foreign oil interests that put us at the mercy of OPEC. Bush's attempt to frame Gore as a big-spending threat to prosperity comes amidst several polls showing the Republican nominee is up in the polls.

BUSH: I've got to work hard. The election is six days -- the election is six weeks away. And I've got a lot of work to do.

CROWLEY: Though cautioning that the race continues to be close, one strategist said: "We have regained the momentum. The afterglow of the Democratic Convention is gone."

Candy Crowley, CNN, Los Angeles.


SHAW: Coincidence or not, while Bush hits on the economy tomorrow, Vice President Gore plans to give a speech on that topic, as well. But today, Gore stuck to his message about Medicare.

Our Jonathan Karl traveled with Gore to Iowa. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the face of a Republican assault on his Medicare plan, Vice President Gore is aggressively working to hold his core constituency: senior citizens. In Altoona, Iowa, he presented Winifred Skinner, talking about the crushing cost of prescription drugs.

SKINNER: And what I do to put food on the table is, I pick up cans. I walk an hour-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours, sometimes three hours, seven days a week.

GORE: How much do you earn a week with seven days of picking up cans?

SKINNER: Not going to tell the government, are you?


KARL: Gore promised to help seniors like Ms. Skinner with his prescription drug plan. He also defended his plan against a Republican ad that has been relentlessly hammering it for about two weeks.

GORE: Now, our opponents have a different plan. And they have -- they've been running this TV ad. I saw it this morning on TV here in Des Moines. It says: Al Gore would force seniors into big- government HMO.

You know what they -- you know what they're talking about there? You know what that refers to? That's the way they describe Medicare. There's no big-government HMO. That's their -- that's the way they describe Medicare. Medicare is not an HMO.

KARL: The ad in question also hits the Gore proposal for how much it would cost seniors.


NARRATOR: Al Gore will charge seniors a new $600-a-year government access fee; George Bush opposes Gore's $600 fee.


KARL: When fully phased in by the year 2010, Gore's plan would cost seniors $50 a month, or $600 a year. But Gore tried to make it clear coverage would be voluntary.

GORE: Under my prescription drug plan, if you decide that you want to participate -- if you don't want to participate, you know, there are some seniors who have prescription drug coverage in the private sector and they're happy with it, and they should be able to keep it.

KARL: Although Gore made a brief stop to target young voters by appearing on MTV, Tuesday, he faces a significant generation gap, trailing among all age groups except seniors.

According to the CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup tracking poll, Gore trails by 9 points among voters under age 65. But among senior citizens, the vice president has a 16-point lead.

On Thursday, Gore plans to switch gears from Medicare to the economy with what aides are calling "a major economic address" outlining his differences with George W. Bush.

(on camera): But the campaign is most intently focused on the upcoming debates. This weekend, Gore and his top aides will travel to Florida for three days of debate prep, including practice debates with former Clinton aide Paul Begala standing in as George W. Bush.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Des Moines, Iowa.


WOODRUFF: Forty-one days before "E" Day, our daily snapshot of the presidential race looks familiar. It is still neck and neck in the CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup survey of likely voters, with Bush 2 points ahead of Gore -- the same as yesterday.

Our Bill Schneider joins us now from Los Angeles with a look at some of the recent national polls.

Bill, how does our tracking poll compare with the other polls?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Judy, just about every poll is showing gains for Bush. "The Los Angeles Times" did a national poll Saturday, Sunday and Monday and found Bush 6 points ahead among likely voters. And as you just reported, our own CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup tracking poll shows a closer race, with Bush 2 points ahead. Now, both polls are within the margin of error, so the race is still too close to call right now.

WOODRUFF: Bill, momentum seems to keep shifting in this race. Is that what's going on here?

SCHNEIDER: Well, what we know is that the "big mo'" in this race is really not momentum; it's motivation. A week ago, when Gore was in the lead, 64 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Republicans said they were paying a lot of attention to this campaign. The two parties were closely matched in interest.

Now, that has changed in the past week. Now, only 57 percent of Democrats say they're paying a lot of attention, but the Republican figure has gone up, to 74 percent. Republicans are getting more motivated, possibly by the prospect that Gore could win. Democrats seem to be turned off. That could be complacency, or maybe the fact that Gore had a bad week.

WOODRUFF: And, Bill, what about the gender factor, is this election turning into a battle of the sexes?

SCHNEIDER: It's interesting, Judy. There is still a big gender gap, but it's not working for Gore right now. A big gender gap doesn't necessarily pay off for the Democrat. Bush has a huge 20- point lead among men. Gore still leads among women, but his lead is smaller than it was. A week ago, Gore had a 24-point lead among women, now it's 14 points, as you see on the screen: 52 to 38.

Now, which women are abandoning Gore? Well, "The L.A. Times" poll says it's married women. They show Bush more than 10 points ahead of Gore among married women. It could be the education issue is paying off for Bush among those mothers -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, out in Los Angeles. We'll see you soon. Thanks -- Bernie.

SHAW: Al Gore is not ceding the education issue to Bush. In fact, he has a new television ad on the subject.

Our Brooks Jackson checked out the spot to see if it spells out Gore's proposals accurately.


BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's one of Al Gore's best applause lines.

GORE: Making most college tuition tax-deductible so that families can afford to send all students who want to go to college to college.

JACKSON: And now it's showing up in Gore's latest TV ad.


NARRATOR: Al Gore will fight for families, tax cuts for middle- class families including a $10,000-a-year tax deduction for college tuition.


JACKSON: Well, hold on. Al Gore really isn't telling the whole story about his tuition deduction. He makes it sound a lot better than it is. The fact is parents already get a tax break on college tuition. Gore would just increase it -- modestly. And Gore fails to mention that millions of families and students would be ineligible.

Gore would expand the existing 20 percent tuition tax credit to 28 percent. The maximum benefit would go from $2,000 under present law to 2,800.

And millions won't see a dime of benefit, including most students who are working their way through college, like these United Parcel Service part-time package sorters. The reason is they don't make enough money to pay any federal income taxes, so Gore's expanded deduction does them no good.

In fact, about 30 million low-income households would get no benefit. Gore excludes affluent families, too. No couple making over $120,000 a year would get any benefit under Gore's plan. An estimated 5 million upper-income families would be ineligible.

And only tuition and fees are covered. There's no deduction or credit for room and board, books, supplies, or travel, which together can easily be half the total cost of college.

And Gore stretches things yet another way. Listen again, closely.

GORE: Making most college tuition tax-deductible so that...

JACKSON: OK, Gore would allow taxpayers the choice of a deduction or a credit, that's new. But so what? For people in that 28 percent tax bracket, a $10,000 deduction is worth the same as a $2,800 credit. And almost none in higher brackets would qualify.

(on camera): But a $10,000 deduction sounds so much better than a $2,800 credit, unless you check the facts.

Brooks Jackson, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, joining the ranks of the politically active: a look at politics among Native Americans in the West.


SHAW: New Mexico is one of more than a dozen tossup states in this year's presidential election. In that state, Native Americans are increasing their political participation and their campaign contributions.

Our Pat Neal traveled to two New Mexico reservations to find out what the tribes there hope to gain.


NEAL (voice-over): To preserve their centuries-old cultures, American Indians are applying some modern-day politics.

STUWART PAISANO, GOVERNOR, SANDIA TRIBE: To protect our rights and make sure that our community is cared for, we've seen a need to enter into the political world.

NEAL: With profits from its gambling casino near Albuquerque, the Sandia tribe says it's donating up to $150,000 to political campaigns this year, more than ever before.

PAISANO: Now, basically they're standing in line and knocking on the doors and wanting to come meet our council.

NEAL: This small tribe of 500 members wants attention from lawmakers on gaming issues, and more money for better housing and health care. They're mostly going for Democrats this year, contributing money to Al Gore, House Democratic candidate Dick Gephardt, Senate candidate Hillary Clinton, and a New Mexico congressional candidate.

Since the Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that tribes could offer gambling on their reservations, donations to political campaigns and candidates have vastly increased, from just over $100,000 in 1992 to more than $1 million so far this year.

RON ALLEN, VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL CONGRESS OF AMERICAN INDIANS: We are organizing PACs, you know, PACs that we've never used before.

NEAL: Both presidential candidates have courted the Native American vote and their money. Democrats have hit the jackpot more than Republicans, but Senator John McCain of Arizona, a former GOP contender and considered a hero of Indian rights, has been the biggest individual recipient.

On the state level, in California, tribes have spent a whopping $107 million to lobby for state gaming initiatives.

SEN. SLADE GORTON (R), WASHINGTON: There's so much more to do, because there's so many more threats that we face.

NEAL: Native Americans have also used their money to try to oust candidates. This year's No. 1 target is GOP Senator Slade Gorton of Washington, who has questioned the sovereign immunity of the tribes.

He also opposed Indians' treaty rights to salmon and trout fishing in his home state. One Native American nonprofit group has spent more than $100,000 running ads against him.


NARRATOR: As senator, Slade Gorton bargained away our state's natural beauty to polluters.


NEAL: Gorton says Indians overstep their control.

GORTON: Increasingly, they attempt to interfere in the lives of other people who are not Indians who live on property that these non- Indians own, and I think that's unfair.

NEAL: But Indians say they must band together, precisely because of lawmakers like Gorton.

(on camera): Native Americans only make up about 1 percent of the U.S. population, and their donations are small compared to other constituency groups.

MALCOLM BOWEKATY, GOVERNOR, ZUNI TRIBE: If we don't have this, the Zuni might not exist if there is a 100-year flood.

NEAL: Malcolm Bowekaty governs the Zuni tribe: 10,000 members who live on 400,000 acres near the New Mexico-Arizona border.

The Zuni have no gambling facilities. Unemployment here averages about 50 percent. About a third of the Zuni try to make a living designing jewelry to sell to tourists. Even with little money, the Zuni are politically active, albeit on a small scale, usually donating $2,000 to a few select candidates.

BOWEKATY: When you make a financial contribution, there is a different dynamic at work, and we're trying to capitalize on that. So the $2,000 will hopefully generate 120 percent interest.

NEAL: They've seen it work. The Zuni need this old dam renovated to protect their village. The cost: $20 million.

BOWEKATY: The $15 million have been secured precisely because of the congressmen that have been actively wooed.

NEAL: But there's no guarantee, as the Sandia tribe has found out. Beyond its casino lie two mountain ranges. At sunset, they shine the color of Sandia, meaning watermelon. But the tribe says U.S. government surveyors have taken away the second peak, which the tribe was promised when it settled here in the 1700s. The Sandias have a deal with the U.S. government, but need congressional approval.

PAISANO: We've seen no movement on this particular issue, hence why we've also entered into the political world with hiring lobbyists both on the national level and in the local area as well.

NEAL: Nationally, Indians say they must be politically active to protect their people, their rights and their rituals. And this year, they may triple their donations to do it.

Pat Neal, CNN, Albuquerque.


WOODRUFF: Much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

SHAW: Still to come: a recurring issue for George W. Bush as Texas prepares for another execution. Plus...


FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As Hillary Clinton stumped before college students, her campaign celebrated a milestone.


WOODRUFF: Frank Buckley on the first lady's gains among a crucial group of New York voters.

And later...


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 1964, Lyndon Johnson versus Barry Goldwater, no debates; 1968: Hubert Humphrey versus Richard Nixon, no debates; 1972: Richard Nixon versus George McGovern, no debates. Why?


SHAW: Our Bruce Morton on the gap in the history of campaign debates.


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

Greek authorities arrest the captain and four crewmembers in a ferry crash that claimed at least 63 passengers' lives. The ship, carrying more than 500 passengers, ran into a reef Tuesday night in the Aegean Sea. Greek prosecutors say they will charge the crew with murder. At least 472 people were rescued after the ferry hit the well-known and well-marked hazard.

WOODRUFF: Back in the U.S., Hollywood pledges to do its part to keep violent movie advertisements away from children. But top film executives told senators at a Commerce Committee hearing today that parents have to do their part. Committee members are threatening legislative action if movie-makers do not restrict their marketing.

A Federal Trade Commission report claimed that the film industry often targets the underage audience with promotions for R-rated films.

SHAW: The nation's top military officer says modernizing the armed forces will take money -- and lots of it. Joint Chiefs Chairman Henry Shelton says the next president and Congress will have to increase spending by tens of billion of dollars to keep troops ready for battle. The current budget is $300 billion.

WOODRUFF: President Clinton is prodding Republican lawmakers as Election Day edges closer. He wants them to strengthen federal hate crime laws.

CNN's White House correspondent, Kelly Wallace, explains.


KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Clinton said the only thing standing in the way of expanding federal hate crimes laws is the Republican congressional leadership.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Republican majority does not want a bill that explicitly provides hate crimes protections for gay Americans. And I think they think it will split their base -- or something.

WALLACE: Mr. Clinton took that message to a Democratic gay and lesbian fund raiser in Texas, the home state of Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush. Bush is against a measure currently stalled in the Congress that would expand federal laws to cover crimes based on gender, disability, and sexual orientation, such as the 1998 murder of Wyoming gay college student, Matthew Shepard. An aide to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott accused the president of playing politics with the issue, adding -- quote -- "We think it is not good public policy to tell some victims that their crimes, the crimes they've experienced, are less important than the crimes visited on others."

Hoping to put pressure on Bush and Republican senatorial candidates in tight races, a national gay and lesbian group just launched a modest radio and television ad campaign.


NARRATOR: The American public overwhelmingly supports it. But George W. Bush and the Republican leadership actively oppose hate crimes legislation.


WALLACE: Meantime, conservative groups are bombarding Capitol Hill, hoping to kill the measure. Political analysts say, while not a silver bullet, the issue could give Democrats more ammunition at the polls.

STU ROTHENBERG, POLITICAL ANALYST: It could raise questions, at least, about compassionate conservatism, about the Republican Party, about how really centrist they are, how open they are to minorities, whether it -- whether they be gays or minorities.

WALLACE (on camera): The president's advisers say their strategy is to keep hammering away at the Republicans. If the measure goes nowhere, they still believe they have an issue to use between now and November to argue the GOP is not as tolerant as it claims to be.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, Houston, Texas.


SHAW: Two underdog wins and a triple crown today for American athletes at the Olympic Games in Sydney. First, in baseball, team U.S. won a gold for beating Cuba 4-0. American wrestler Rulon Gardner won a gold medal by beating a Russian wrestler who hadn't lost a match in 13 years. And Venus Williams became only the second player to win Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Olympics in the same year. Steffi Graf did it in 1998.


When INSIDE POLITICS returns, Tucker Carlson and Margaret Carlson on moles and other campaign matters.


WOODRUFF: About an hour-and-a-half from now, another death row inmate is scheduled to be executed in Texas on Governor George W. Bush's watch. The inmate in question, Ricky McGinn, holds the distinction of being the only convict ever granted a 30-day reprieve by Bush.

CNN's Tony Clark has more on this case and the death penalty issue that has been controversial for Bush.


TONY CLARK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): During the 5 1/2 years George Bush has been governor, more than 140 Texas inmates have been put to death, and there are another 446 inmates awaiting execution on Death Row.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's very important, before we put anybody to death, that we fully analyze all the evidence.

CLARK: In the case of Ricky McGinn, Bush was confident he was guilty of murdering his 12-year-old stepdaughter Stephanie Flanary. But under Texas law, McGinn also had to be guilty of the other felony of which he was convicted -- rape -- in order to get the death penalty.

So Governor Bush did something he had never done for a convict before: He granted McGinn a 30-day reprieve to see if sophisticated DNA tests support the rape conviction.

BUSH: I expect, for the courts and all relevant parties, to act expeditiously to review the evidence, to finally determine his innocence or guilt as to the charge of rape in the case of Ricky McGinn.

CLARK: The DNA test showed a near perfect match between McGinn and semen and hair found on the young girl's body. McGinn claimed he was framed.

RICKY MCGINN, CONVICTED MURDERER: But somebody else put that stuff there, not me.

CLARK: Though Bush's reprieve gave McGinn nearly four months more to live, it hasn't changed his feeling toward the governor.

MCGINN: Well, Mr. Bush knows I don't like him. I appreciate what he did for me. He gave me the chance that I asked for, and I appreciate that.

I still don't think he needs to be president of the United States, because he thinks it's funny to kill people and it's not. He thinks it's a game. It's not.

CLARK: At this point, the only thing that could stop McGinn's execution is executive clemency, and that is not likely.


And the only way for their to be executive clemency or, in other words, a pardon, would be for McGinn to ask for a pardon and the pardon paroles board to recommend it to Governor Bush. None of that has happened.

At this hour, Ricky McGinn is having his last meal -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Tony, as far as you know, is this the last execution scheduled in the state of Texas between now and Election Day, November 7?

CLARK: No; in fact, there is a lull of sorts, because there have been executions almost every week or every other week.

Now, there are currently two scheduled to take place between now and Election Day in addition to McGinn's tonight.

WOODRUFF: All right; Tony Clark, thank you very much -- Bernie.

SHAW: We're joined now by Margaret Carlson of "Time" magazine and Tucker Carlson of "The Weekly Standard."

First question: the state of the presidential race -- what is it? Margaret?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: It's close; and you know, getting closer, I take it, from some of the polls.

Bush, you know, had all the things we talked about -- you know: Oprah, Regis wear. He went out shopping for Regis wear.

Hey, Tucker, you might consider...


M. CARLSON: No. And somehow this helped him a lot.

And then this education recession seems to -- they focus-grouped that one to death and that was a very good thing to go with and the governor has been doing that. I think it might be a subliminal phrase actually; you don't want to say -- the economy is too good to say "economic recession," but you got that "e," you've got the word "recession."

Maybe it's suggestive of, hey, things aren't as good as you think they are.

SHAW: And the Bush people found the phrase played very well before focus groups.

M. CARLSON: Very well.

T. CARLSON: Sure, well, the "rats" thing didn't work, so -- no, I mean, look at some point, you know -- this is Bush engaging Gore. This is Bush saying, not only should you vote for me, but you ought to vote against my opponent; and this is the case, I think, that every challenger has to make at a certain point -- every challenger realizes at a certain point in the campaign that the race is not about him, it's about the incumbent.

You need to convince voters why they shouldn't vote for the other guy and Bush has, I think, finally begun to do that; and it's working.

I mean, the past two weeks, it's hard to say that Bush has raised an issue that he's successfully beaten Gore over the head with. Basically Bush is continuing to make the character argument against Gore and I think there is evidence that it's working. People don't like to admit it's working, they say, that never works. But what else has worked?

M. CARLSON: Well, it does work; and, actually, I've been with Cheney on the campaign trail, and that's almost all he does, which is make the case against Gore. And, in fact, Tucker is right. It has to be done.

SHAW: Well, what are the elements of the character argument?

T. CARLSON: Well, the basic argument that the Bush campaign is making is, you can't trust this guy.

And last week they flogged these two, essentially tiny stories; one about his mother-in-law's famous, you know, medicine versus his dog's medicine, and then this union lullaby that he claimed was, later, a joke.

They were almost laughable, taken apart, but the Bush campaign argued, pretty seriously, to reporters, anyway, this stuff really matters because it's part of a larger pattern of dishonesty -- and, basically, Gore is a creep; and can you imagine a president Gore?

This is basically what Bush has been saying; and I think it's an effective argument, fundamentally.

M. CARLSON: Yes, no one thing ever works, but if you accumulate enough of it, it begins to resonate; and we have Bush's, you know -- I don't want to say dumb, but Bush is not up to the job, that's one pile of stuff for him over here, so every gaff he makes is louder than it should be.

And over here we have Gore. You can't trust him. He exaggerates, you know, he goes to Buddhist temples and he can't remember -- and that's what's accumulating against him.

And so people have to judge, well, which is worse?

SHAW: Do you find it fascinating that Clinton, parenthesis, character, no longer comes up in this campaign?

M. CARLSON: That was -- I never thought that was going to work.

I mean, they're two different people. The Constitution takes care of Clinton, he's gone. The worst part about Clinton: Monica, couldn't attach to Gore. He didn't deliver the, you know -- she didn't deliver the pizza to Gore late at night. It was never going to work.

So it was an easy thing for Gore to take care of; and then once he did, of course, the likability, charm, character gap closed temporarily and now Bush has to widen it again.

T. CARLSON: But, I mean, just, you know -- in fairness to Gore, it's not like he was in Borneo when the Monica thing was happening. I mean, he was actually here, supporting the president, and I don't think it was a crackpot theory, that it could have worked -- you could tie that to Gore, but they didn't.

SHAW: Debategate, the question of a mole in the Bush campaign. Where is this going?

T. CARLSON: Well, it's hard to know. I mean, I think the question is: why hasn't the Gore campaign fired this guy, Michael Downey, supposedly a low-leveled staffer who said that -- told a friend -- that he knew of a mole in the Bush campaign, and apparently was dishonest or not fully forthcoming on this affidavit he gave to "ABC News."

The Gore campaign is making two arguments simultaneously: (a) he was a flunky, so it doesn't really matter -- he didn't know what he was talking about, he doesn't know anything about politics; and (b) we're not going to fire him.

Well, if he's a flunky, why not fire him and just end the argument? I think it's an interesting question.

M. CARLSON: Yes, but if he's just like so many of the flunkies who, kind of, exaggerate their importance, there is no reason to fire him. He might have just been puffing himself up.

If you started firing people on campaigns for exaggerating their role in the campaign or what they know, there would be nobody working in campaigns.

SHAW: One other thing. You mentioned Dick Cheney.

Cheney, Lieberman -- are they hitting their strides out on the campaign trail?

T. CARLSON: Well, I mean, I think that, you know -- Lieberman, I think Lieberman may be wearing off a bit. You know, Gore picked a very charming, capable vice president. That's great. But, ultimately, it's not clear how many votes it's going to bring him.

I think we've seen in the last week-and-a-half, he's wearing off.

M. CARLSON: Well, on the campaign trail, I mean, Lieberman is magic and Cheney is ... Cheney. A little bit dull, little bit quiet, doesn't seem to be happy out there.

SHAW: He's not a happy camper on the trail, you don't think?

M. CARLSON: He's not. He's not a happy warrior.

SHAW: OK, Margaret Carlson, Tucker Carlson, thanks very much.

Well, just ahead, "Novak's Notebook," with Bob Novak, of course. Plus, the Empire State showdown: which candidate now has the edge among women?


WOODRUFF: A new poll suggests the presidential race may be tightening in Illinois. Al Gore is five points ahead of George W. Bush in the Mason-Dixon survey. Several other Illinois polls this month had Gore with a double-digit lead.

And in Michigan, Gore leads Bush by four points in a new CBS/"New York Times" survey, another sign that the state remains a presidential battleground.

SHAW: Al Gore said today he will accept Senator John McCain's challenge to ban soft money ads from the presidential campaign if George W. Bush does, too. McCain and Senator Russ Feingold have urged both Gore and Bush to agree to a soft money ban similar to the one reached by New York Senate candidates Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio.

Aides say Gore called McCain and Feingold from Iowa to give him his answer. No response yet from the Bush campaign. But a Republican official is telling CNN there have been discussions on the subject between Bush's campaign manager and McCain's political director.

McCain is scheduled to campaign with Bush at the end of October.

The ban on soft money ads takes effect in that New York Senate race today. At the same time, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has crossed a new threshold in her race against Republican Congressman Rick Lazio.

As Frank Buckley reports, the women's vote could be the key in this competitive race.


BUCKLEY (voice-over): As Hillary Clinton stumped before college students, her campaign celebrated a milestone, hitting the 50 percent mark for the first time in her Senate run against Republican Rick Lazio.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: It's a campaign on issues that voters are responding to, and I feel very good about what we're doing and will be doing for the next 40 days.

BUCKLEY: Contributing to the Clinton cause: a rise in support among women.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And when women vote, women win!

BUCKLEY: At a recent Westchester Women for Hillary breakfast, women said she would carry their torch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that she supports all the issues that I support. BUCKLEY: Suburban women like these could be crucial to who wins the New York Senate race and polls suggest Mrs. Clinton is gaining ground. Mrs. Clinton was losing among this group just a few months ago. Now, Mrs. Clinton is up among the same group of suburban women voters, 54 to 38 percent.



CLINTON: Well, we'll shake -- we'll shake on this, Rick.

LAZIO: No, no. I want your signature.


BUCKLEY: Lazio campaign aides say the shift in poll numbers coincides with the post-debate punditry that questioned whether Lazio was too aggressive with Mrs. Clinton. They claim they are not worried about the shift. Concerns in the Clinton campaign about the first lady's support among white women early on are beginning to wane.

In June, Mrs. Clinton was down among this key voter group by five points to Lazio. In the most recent poll, she's ahead by one. And in an even closer examination of likely white women voters, Mrs. Clinton is up by five.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why should we vote for you rather than for the women candidate who's your opponent?

BUCKLEY: Rick Lazio says his positions on the issues ultimately appeal to women voters.

LAZIO: I believe that we ought to have a legislator who legislates with their head, but also with their heart, and I think for most New York women, that's exactly the balance they're looking for.

BUCKLEY: But women who support Mrs. Clinton say the issues are why they do. Two-thirds of those who say they'll vote for Mrs. Clinton told Manhattanville College pollsters her stand on issues was the most important reason for voting for her. The most frequently mentioned dislike of Mrs. Clinton in the poll: what they perceive as dishonesty and untrustworthiness.

RICHARD BERMAN, MANHATTANVILLE COLLEGE: The real question will come down to, will people vote for her because of the issues, which they naturally lean toward -- education, health care, right to choose -- or will their emotions and their really gut, very strong intense feelings about her as a person and her character drive them to vote for Lazio or stay home?

BUCKLEY (on camera): How women in New York and specifically white women vote could determine the outcome of the New York Senate race. In every major statewide election here during the past decade, they've sided with the winner. Frank Buckley, CNN, New York.


WOODRUFF: And joining us now with his "Reporter's Notebook": Bob Novak of "The Chicago Sun-Times."

Bob, you've been following closely the Democrats' effort to win control of the Senate, and I understand there's been some more fallout from Joe Lieberman's decision to run for re-election for his Senate seat at the same time he's running for vice president.

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN "CROSSFIRE": Judy, for the first time, I really find -- for the first time since he was put on the ticket I find Democratic insiders and leaders very unhappy with him. They believe that he should get out of this Senate race, because there's no question, if he gets out, the attorney general of the state of Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, will be a cinch to be nominated and elected, a certainty.

If he doesn't get out, however, and he is elected vice president of the United States, the Republican governor of the state will name a Republican, maybe somebody like Chris Shays, who will be in for two years and perhaps beyond that.

I am told by these insiders that Joe Lieberman seems very stubborn, doesn't want to up that seat, wants to play it safe, and they are unhappy that he's not willing to take a bullet for the party to give up his seat even if perhaps he loses the vice presidency and the general election.

WOODRUFF: So watch this space.

NOVAK: But they are pessimistic about it.

WOODRUFF: All right, not close in Connecticut, but there are -- you're finding other Senate races around the country tightening up.

NOVAK: Tightening up. You know, the Democrats really think that they can win, capture this Senate. Honestly believe that. But on the other hand, there are some -- a couple of Republicans who had been giving up as losers, incumbent Senator Bill Roth in Delaware, and in a nonincumbent seat in Florida, Congressman Bill McCollum, they're way behind in the polls, they have just about caught up a little, behind a little but caught up.

On the other hand, in Washington, that is a real horse race now. Slade Gorton, a Republican incumbent, is in trouble against a millionaire entrepreneur Democratic woman, Maria Cantwell -- very close race there.

Two other races, Judy, that are not close but could get close. One is in Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum, freshman Republican senator, has been way ahead, but that has closed up, and Congressman Klink for the first time is getting some money in his campaign. This one in Florida -- in New Jersey, Jon Corzine, who spent a gazillion dollars to get the nomination, is not very popular, still way ahead in the polls. And the Republicans for the first time think if they put some money into the race, they could beat him.

WOODRUFF: All right. Well, back here in Washington, we understand you found out there's some bickering going on among the Republicans in the Senate over appropriations.

NOVAK: Bickering to put it mildly. The appropriations process is dead in the water in the Senate. And John McCain -- remember him -- and Phil Gramm, who -- they often go together on appropriations bills, they want to get the pork out the bill and the Clinton out of the bills and the Clinton extra spending out of the bills, but Mostly the pork that the Republicans have put in through the appropriations process.

They had a closed-door meeting yesterday where Senator Gramm got up and he said he would vote against any bill with this pork, and the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, got very nasty about that, and they had each other.

You remember when they had a $600 billion budget level of spending that was passed this year.


NOVAK: Well, right now, it's up about 640 billion. And what McCain and Gramm want to do is get it down to 614. The appropriators will never let that happen, because it's a bipartisan thing, Judy. They like pork. They like spending.

WOODRUFF: Well, that's a shock.


Bob Novak, thanks a lot for that peek inside your notebook.

And when we return, the debate-free elections of years past.


WOODRUFF: The Bush campaign said that it has contacted FBI Director Louis Freeh about the Bush debate-preparation materials that were sent to the Al Gore campaign.

Bush spokeswoman, Karen Hughes, says campaign manager Joe Allbaugh complained yesterday to Freeh about alleged Justice Department leaks: this after unnamed law enforcement officials were quoted as saying that the debate tapes came from someone in the Bush campaign. Asked about Freeh's response, Hughes said -- quote -- "He listened." The FBI told CNN that it will not comment on Freeh's private conversations.

SHAW: Despite the earlier dispute over details, presidential debates between Al Gore and George W. Bush were pretty much a foregone conclusion. Voters have come to expect the candidates to face off in some televised forum before Election Day. But our Bruce Morton reminds us that this was not always the case.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you see 30 seconds...

RICHARD M. NIXON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Then try to bring it -- all right.


MORTON (voice-over): 1960: Presidential candidates debate on TV -- first time ever. Historic. Surely this would be a part of all future campaigns. Well, no: 1964: Lyndon Johnson versus Barry Goldwater, no debates; 1968: Hubert Humphrey versus Richard Nixon, no debates; 1972: Richard Nixon versus George McGovern, no debates. Why?

DAVID BRODER, "WASHINGTON POST": What led them not to debate was simple arrogance, power. Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon both thought that they were going to be -- win the race without debates. And so they managed to fend the debates off.

STEPHEN HESS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: What happened in '64 was that you now had an incumbent president. And an incumbent president simply decided that he shouldn't debate. Lyndon Johnson had nothing to gain from debates. He was well ahead.

MORTON: The big lead didn't keep him from running -- just once -- a famous TV ad: a little girl counting down to a nuclear blast, presumably set off by Goldwater.


NARRATOR: Three, two, one, zero.


MORTON: But debate, no. It was a landslide. Goldwater carried just six states; 1968, maybe nobody wanted debates.

HESS: You sure had a candidate that didn't want to debate. And he was Richard Nixon. He had decided that debates had probably done him in, in 1960. And he was going to make sure that this didn't happen again.

ROBERT DALLEK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: And Humphrey also was reluctant to debate because there might have been demonstrations against him. There might have been, because there was so much turmoil in the country in 1968. It was such a tumultuous year over Vietnam -- and then, of course, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.

MORTON: And debates that year might have had to include George Wallace, a gifted demagogue who preached racial segregation and getting Washington off your back. He got 14 percent of the vote in November; 1972, President Nixon was miles ahead of anti-war Democrat, George McGovern.

DALLEK: Nixon, remembering that Johnson had avoided a debate in 1964, simply didn't want to risk his standing and credibility by allowing a distinctly secondary candidate, so to speak, someone who was so far behind him in the polls, to debate him and maybe score points against him.

MORTON: Nixon won an even bigger landslide than Johnson's in '64. McGovern carried just one state. So debates were out until 1976 when Gerald Ford decided an incumbent president could -- and maybe should -- debate.

BRODER: President Ford, in '76, found himself running behind the challenger, Jimmy Carter, at convention time. And so he tried to apply some jujitsu, and in his acceptance speech, challenged Carter to debates, rather than waiting for the challenger, Mr. Carter, to bring the issue to him.

MORTON: It failed as a tactic -- Carter won the election -- but it set a precedent followed in every presidential election since.

BRODER: I think debates have now been institutionalized. It would be very difficult for a candidate -- even an incumbent president -- to brush them off.

MORTON (on camera): You can argue -- and people do -- over whether being good at TV debates has anything to do with being a good president. But the debates are part of being a presidential candidate, and will be in the foreseeable future.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


SHAW: And that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. But, of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's

We'll see you again tomorrow, when Al Gore will be campaigning here in the nation's capital. And George W. Bush, he'll be on the trail in Wisconsin and Michigan.

WOODRUFF: This programming note: The Wen Ho Lee case will be the topic tonight on "CROSSFIRE" at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. The guests will be Senators Richard Shelby of Alabama and Richard Bryan of Nevada.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

SHAW: I'm Bernard Shaw.

"WORLDVIEW" is next.



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