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Larry King Live
Rick Lazio Talks About His Debate with Hillary Clinton; Dick Cheney Discusses the Status of the Bush CampaignAired October 9, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, on LARRY KING LIVE, Republican vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney joins us from the campaign trail.
Plus, Congressman Rick Lazio explaining his strategy for beating Hillary Clinton after yesterday's debate.
And who won that New York Senate face-off? We'll ask some of the best minds in politics: Pulitzer Prize-winner David Halberstam, ABC legal analyst and author Jeffrey Toobin, commentator Tucker Carlson of "The Weekly Standard," and Republican Ed Rollins.
They're all ahead on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. We've got a great show for you tonight, and we begin with Congressman Rick Lazio. He's on the trail in Buffalo, New York, tonight. He marched in the Columbus Day parade yesterday.
It's your day today, right, Rick?
REP. RICK LAZIO (R-NY), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: Lorenzo, I'm so happy today, lot of Italian-American pride today.
KING: Today I am Lorenzo, and you're up in Buffalo, New York.
How different for you was the second debate from the first?
LAZIO: Well, I think it had a different tempo. I think we slowed it up a little bit.
The first debate was very important for me in terms of being able to establish that I had the ability to lead, that we could stand up against somebody who had been first lady.
The second debate, I think, was about establishing that I have had a record of being effective for New York, talking about delivering for New York, the issues that I have been involved in. And the range of issues, everything from being on the first balanced budget -- committee that wrote the first balanced budget to lowering taxes to writing environmental legislation, helping the disabled go back to work and writing landmark legislation, overhauling our housing laws.
KING: If you had to do it over again, would you still cross over to her podium as you did in the first one? LAZIO: Well, I chained myself to podium this time, Larry. But it was...
KING: But was that...
LAZIO: It was an important moment, though, I think in terms of getting the agreement on the ban on soft money. I don't think if but for that fact we would have ever had an agreement, because obviously the Clinton camp didn't really want to come to this agreement. So I was glad it led to that agreement.
But I also thought it was important in round two to talk about the issues and the differences between the candidates and the philosophical differences. There are philosophical differences, there are differences in temperament and style and, of course, in record, you know, my legislative record, having a record that I think is relevant for this job.
KING: How difficult is it -- and no one would know it better than you -- to run against someone who is the first lady of the United States? No one has ever been in your position?
LAZIO: It is historically unique. You're running against the White House and all the power and all the influence of that, that represents, and in particular this White House, which we know is deeply engaged in politics at a whole range of different levels.
And I think you just have to stand up and say, you know what? I trust the people. You stay out there, you talk about the issues, talk about my record, talk about the ability to work in a bipartisan way.
I think one thing that's a real strength for me in this race is that people look at me and they say, here's a real New Yorker. Here is somebody who has had a record of fighting and delivering for New York. Here's somebody who's crossed party lines, who's worked in a bipartisan way, who's actually written and passed major legislation and who's made sure that New York gets properly protected in a whole range different issues from children's health to transportation formulas and housing issues.
So I'm really proud of that, and I'm really proud of the fact that I think people look at me and say, this is a guy that I think others can work well with. And in a legislative body, it's so important to have the skills to build good relationships and to have that kind of trust, where people, Republicans and Democrats, say, you know, I can work with this person. I want to work with this person.
KING: By the way, the first lady, Hillary Clinton, was invited to appear tonight and declined.
She has accused you -- and apparently "The New York Times," I think, backed her up -- of breaking the no-soft money pledge. She says that you accepted $1.8 million of television ads from the RNC and were forced to return it only when it became public.
LAZIO: Well, that's not true. As a matter of fact, what happened was we had ban on a soft money. The contributions that I had was hard money, which is sort of clean, hard, legitimate money that's protected under McCain-Feingold, which is exactly what our agreement was. They agreed with it. But you know what? They objected, and the very next day, I said, I'm not going to give them an excuse to break the agreement, so we'll gladly refund the money, and that's the end of the story.
So I think what's important here is that we stay on message. There's only one candidate here who has twice voted for campaign finance reform, only one candidate that pushed for the agreement to ban soft money. I would have preferred to have had a comprehensive agreement. I would have referred to have the public in the room when we were negotiating it. I would have preferred to have had a written agreement. They don't want to have any of those things. Now I think I know why.
KING: How tough -- I remember in the days when Giuliani was going to be the candidate, and you would appear on this show, and many encouraging you to make the run, and -- how tough an opponent is she?
LAZIO: Well, again, you know, this is historically unique, Larry. You have -- you're running against the White House. They are well financed.
KING: But her as an opponent.
LAZIO: Well, I mean -- this is -- this is a tough candidate who is, you know, well focused on -- on the political side of things. And, of course, we are getting outspent in this race. So they have raised probably over $10 million in soft money, which they have already spent. In attack ads against me, they have shown a complete willingness to go on the attack right away.
And, you know, you have all kinds of other issues, which are just silly issues. For example, the very first day I got into the race, you know, they had little private people with cameras -- you know, the sort of campaign operatives with cameras trying to harass. And they do that with my wife right now. And we have tried to ignore that and stay focused on...
KING: What do you mean? Harassing your wife, how?
LAZIO: Oh, they just, you know, they try to -- to tape, to have people and tape us, everything we do, and try and film everything that we do. So, you know, I'm almost reluctant to mention it, because I just have come to accept that that is the way they do business. We don't do that. You know, we...
KING: Are you saying -- are you saying, Rick, that they are playing dirty politics?
LAZIO: I'm just saying they play a different brand of politics than I'm willing to play. I think we are taking the high road. That is the way I have had my public career. I think it is a public career that people look at and say: This a man who has shown integrity in his public service. I do this because I think this is the most important thing that I can do for my children. You know, there is a reason why I live -- I leave my two little girls, Molly and Kelsey, every week, and go down to Washington and serve the people in Congress. And that's because I really believe in this job. I also think it has been an outstanding opportunity.
And I think about today, particularly Columbus Day, all those Italian-Americans who came over, and worked so hard, and sacrificed so much, and dealt with such bigotry and bias, and overcame it -- and all those people that gave me the opportunity to serve, to go from Ellis Island -- my family -- to go from Ellis Island to my dad having a small auto-parts business, to me going to the halls of Congress.
You know, they say only in America. But it's because of a lot of sacrifice of a lot of people that came before me.
KING: Some more minutes with Congressman Rick Lazio, candidate for the United States Senate in New York -- and then our panel -- and then Dick Cheney.
First these words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: Last month, Mr. Lazio said that this was an issue of trust and character. He was right. And if New Yorkers can't trust him to keep his word for 10 days, how can they trust him for six years on issues like Social Security, Medicare, prescription drugs and education?
LAZIO: Mrs. Clinton, please, no lectures from Motel 1600 on campaign finance reform. I mean, the fact is, I took a legitimate contribution of clean hard money. My opponent objected. So, because I have such a commitment to campaign finance reform and to this agreement that I fought so hard for, I refunded the money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARCIA KRAMER, WCBS-TV: ... frankly, Mrs. Clinton, they wanted to know why, after all the revelations and pain of the last few years, and because you are such a role model, why you stayed with your husband?
CLINTON: Well, you know, Marcia, I've answered that question and I've addressed it in various forums. I've made my choices. I'm here with my daughter, of whom I'm very proud. We have a family that means a lot to us. And I'm going to continue to stand up and speak out for what I believe, what I think is important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAZIO: Well, I think this was Mrs. Clinton's choice, and I respect whatever choice that she makes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Rick, was that question out of place in the debate?
LAZIO: Well, I just don't think it's important to the race. I think that the people of New York want to hear about the issues, the philosophical difference between the candidates, and who's going to have the ability to be effective and protect New York. And I'm not sure that that question is relevant to those things.
KING: John McCain was here last week. He's very angry, Rick. He says the Republicans in the Senate are holding up a bill that passed out of his committee unanimously -- the Democrats are all in favor of it -- to get tough on the tire companies, to force them to report more on accidents and keep up a better safety record. Do you call on the Republicans in the Senate to let this out for a vote?
LAZIO: Well, there's a few bills that are out there. I think that it's important for there to be some sense of liability and accountability. If there are lives that have been endangered and people knew about it and were willing to go forward and make money despite the fact that there were lives jeopardized, I think that that is criminal, and I think it's important that we make a statement like that.
And that's sort of an example of the different ways in which -- I believe there are times when you have to separate yourself from the party to do the right thing. I've done that on campaign financial reform, public funding for the arts, on the environment many, many times, on family planning and abortion.
I think there are just times when you've got to stand up and on conscience, because you're representing the people that you do, stand up and say, you know, party labels aside, we've got to do the right thing.
KING: What do we do, congressman, if war breaks out in the Middle East?
LAZIO: Boy, I tell you, we must be very prepared right now. As I understand it, the Israeli cabinet is meeting as we speak. I think America made a big mistake in not exercising its veto power over the Security Council resolution condemning Israel. I think it was an equivocation of our consistent support for the security of Israel.
It was not Israel who incited this violence. It was really the Palestinians. And I called upon four days ago or five days ago, called for the president to speak out and say, you know, Yasser Arafat must do -- must speak out, must make the statement and must put an end to this violence.
You have to remember Arafat is the one who's got these training camps for Palestinian children teaching them how to kill Israeli children. I mean, this is not what we want to tolerate.
We need to make a very strong statement. It seems to me, if you don't stand for something, you'll put up with anything. And I think that's very much a part of the difference even between the candidates in this case.
I was very adamant about the fact, as soon as I heard about the fact that America had not exercised its veto, I went out there, didn't need a poll, just based on principle: This was the wrong thing to do. We need to stand by Israel. Israel needs to know that we will be in Israel's corner.
I personally believe that the survival of the Jewish people depends on the survival of the Jewish state, Israel. And we need to stand foursquare behind Israel.
KING: Mrs. Clinton keeps linking you to Gingrich, so this question is fair. Let's say you're elected to the Senate, a key vote comes up, and Trent Lott calls you and says, Rick, we need you on this. Do you automatically go with him?
LAZIO: No, no, no, no. Of course, that's not what I've done in the House. You know, Mrs. Clinton keeps bringing up Newt Gingrich's name. He's been out of office for a couple of years. If she wants to run against Newt Gingrich, she should move down to Georgia.
This is about New York, and New Yorkers know that I have been an independent voice, been able to separate from the party on a whole range of different issues. That doesn't mean that I always separate from the party. There are some things that I agree with them on. I agreed with them on a balanced budget. I agreed with them on tax relief for families. I agree with them on ending the marriage penalty. I agree with them on a strong national security. There's a whole range different issues that I agree with my colleagues on.
But there are some moments when you have to just say we're going to put New York first.
I think for a lot of people they look at my record and they say, you know, this is kind of an anomaly for a Republican to be for an assault weapons ban or to support the Brady Bill but to be for a balanced budget or to be for lower taxes, and to be an advocate for cancer patients or the homeless or the disabled. But I think that that reflects New York.
And the fact that I have been successful, have been effective just reflects the fact that I've been able to be bipartisan, build good relationships, and get the job done. I think that's very important for New York.
I think the best compassion is a plan that works.
KING: According to the polls, congressman, Gore is -- should win New York state. You will therefore, assuming that's true, need a lot of ticket splitting.
LAZIO: Right, right.
KING: Can you get enough to win it?
LAZIO: Yes, no doubt. Just tonight, as a matter of fact, we were up in Buffalo and we had a dinner of several hundred people. I would say three-quarters of the people that were there were self- described Democrats, and there for me. And that's exactly what you want to see. You want to see people who are willing to put their party label aside and vote for a New Yorker who's got a record, who's got an established record of delivering for New York.
You know, Larry, New Yorkers send $15 billion a year more to Washington than we get back. I think New Yorkers want to have somebody that will stand up and say, you know what, we're going to get our fair share with this fellow. He's going to stand up for us.
KING: Thanks, congressman. We'll be seeing you a few more times before this over.
LAZIO: Good, Larry. Good talking to you.
KING: Always the same. And happy Columbus Day.
LAZIO: Thank you very much, Lorenzo.
KING: Thank you, Ricko. Congressman Rick Lazio, Republican candidate for the United States Senate in New York.
Terrific panel joins us and later Dick Cheney. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAZIO: And I believe in a woman's right to choose, and my record clearly reflects that. But I do support a ban on partial-birth abortions.
My opponent opposes a ban on partial-birth abortions.
H. CLINTON: Well, my opponent is just wrong. I have said many, many times that I can support a ban on late-term abortions, including partial-birth abortion, so long as the health and life of the mother is protected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back.
And we now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, David Halberstam, the famed journalist, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of "Playing for Keeps," a terrific book; Jeffrey Toobin -- he's got a great new book out called "The Vast Conspiracy -- Jeffrey is a contributor to "The New Yorker" and ABC news legal analyst; Tucker Carlson, staff writer for "The Weekly Standard," a regular on CNN as well; and our old friend Ed Rollins, the famed Republican strategist. Halberstam, Toobin, Rollins are in New York. Carlson is with me in Washington.
Mr. Halberstam, is Senator Lazio -- is Congressman Lazio up against it?
DAVID HALBERSTAM, AUTHOR: Up against what?
LEWIS: I mean, is -- in other words, up against the wall, so to speak? He's seven points behind in the polls, he's -- is he in tough there?
HALBERSTAM: Well, I think it's probably hard to reverse it. He's had his chance out there. He did relatively well. He wasn't polarizing in the way that Giuliani was. But I suspect New York, and particularly the addition of Lieberman to the ticket, is probably now, it is probably pretty well frozen against him.
TUCKER CARLSON, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I think that is probably right. It is interesting, though. People should watch this election closely, because you are not going to see many more like it. Mrs. Clinton, during the debate, did something she did a number of times in the past, which is she attacked him as a Republican. She was harshly partisan. It was really this old-fashioned, kind of Khrushchev-era feeling you got listening to it.
KING: ... the state is much more registered Democrat.
CARLSON: That's right. It is. But I do think that things are changing. I mean, that doesn't work in most other states now. I mean, it doesn't work politically. And it sort of regarded as uncool. You know, it's like macrame. It's just something that's not around anymore.
KING: Ed Rollins, what do you think of Lazio's chances?
ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I thought he had a good debate yesterday. I don't think it was a win or lose. I think it was one that basically gave the opportunities for both sides to present their case. I think the whole dynamics of the political arena this cycle with four weeks to go is changing. Bush now has momentum. He has now closed the gap, if not ahead in a lot of places.
This state, obviously, is a tough state for any Republican. But I would not, in any way shape or form, rule it out. And there's certainly the old rule of uncontrollables in politics. Controllables are how you run your campaign. And Lazio needs to run his a little bit better. But the uncontrollables are what happens in the Middle East, what are the reactions, and how do people do things that obviously create headlines.
KING: Tucker, he will need a lot of ticket-splitting. Can he get enough? I'm sorry, I mean Jeffrey. I have Tucker here, so it is embellishes me.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, AUTHOR, "A VAST CONSPIRACY": No, I mean, I don't think he can get enough. I mean, I think one of the things that is so surprising about this election is that, at one level, it is so extraordinary: a first lady running. But it has turned into a very ordinary election.
To me, the key issue in this case -- the key fact has always been 1998. Two years ago, Chuck Schumer didn't just beat Al D'Amato. He killed Al D'Amato by 10 points. Here you have a presidential year, higher turnout, largely -- a higher minority turnout. That is just -- those are Democratic votes in a Democratic state.
And Hillary Clinton has run a very cautious campaign appealing to those Democrats. And I think that is a winning -- if somewhat dull -- strategy.
KING: Let's move on to the bigger picture, as Ed Rollins said. The polls keep changing. What do you make of this, David: a swing of -- first, Bush is 19 points ahead. Then Gore is 12 points ahead. Today, Bush is seven points ahead. What do you make of this?
HALBERSTAM: Well, I don't know. I mean, you and I have had this conversation. I don't know anybody who has ever been ahead. I like that. And I'm not sure Bush is ahead 7 percent now. I think that neither of these men has done particularly well. They are both unknowns. It is a rare thing. I mean, a vice president isn't really known.
And when he begins, he is running, first and foremost, against the president, in a way that Truman was running against Roosevelt at first, and George Bush -- H.W. Bush -- was running against Reagan. Gore, to some degree, has been running against Clinton. And neither of these men has come alive.
I -- Gore has had a bit of a likability problem. And Bush has a bit of a gravitas problem. I think it is not necessarily a good thing for both of them, when people watch the vice-presidential debates and think that the ticket ought to be flipped, but particularly a problem, I think, for Bush, because the problem is gravitas, whereas with Gore, it was more about likability.
KING: We will take a break and come back with more on presidential politics -- later: Dick Cheney.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAZIO: I'm known as somebody who brings people together. I'm known as somebody whose word you can trust, that you can work with. I believe that I have -- I have demonstrated an integrity in terms of my public service.
CLINTON: I can't even imagine ever voting with Newt Gingrich to shut our government down. I can't even imagine being on the side of those who time and time again vote against our most fundamental beliefs, voting for the first two welfare reform bills that the president had to veto that would have been devastating to New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back to me.
We're back on LARRY KING LIVE, discussing presidential politics. And we'll ask Tucker what we asked David.
What do you make of these poll swings?
CARLSON: Oh, they're totally bipolar. I mean, you have some polls...
CARLSON: Oh, it's unbelievable. I mean, within three days moving 20 points, if you believe them. And...
KING: So that means there's somebody out there going, Bush -- no, Gore -- no, Bush -- no, Gore.
CARLSON: A lot of people, if they're not paying attention. I mean, at a certain point, this says that people really are being swayed by things like Oprah appearances and sighing on stage and other, you know, previously irrelevant criteria. People are actually making judgments on these things, it seems to me. It's scary.
KING: Ed, you've been in this business a long time. You ever seen swings like this?
ROLLINS: No, I haven't. And obviously you'd be driven nuts if you were making all your judgments based on that. Momentum is important, though, in a campaign. And for three or four weeks coming out of the convention Gore had the momentum. Clearly, since the debates Bush now has the momentum.
And I think two things happened last week. One is that Bush was more able than people thought he was going to be. He was smarter, and certainly, basically, was more personable.
Gore, who obviously is a smart guy, was, to quote Maureen Dowd in "The New York Times," was insufferable, and I think very immature, and I think came off as not the kind of person you think as a president.
You combine that with the vice presidential debate two days later, and Dick Cheney who's been totally underestimated in this campaign, put in a stellar performance. And I think a lot of people said, listen, as a team, this is a very solid team. Dick Cheney, if that's the kind of person George Bush is going to put around him, I'm going to take a second look at this ticket. I think that's helped with the momentum, and certainly has helped with some of these independents. KING: And, therefore, Jeffrey Toobin, if Ed Rollins is right, does that mean any error occurring Wednesday could swing it back again?
TOOBIN: It could. And I think we have to be really skeptical of these polls. I mean, with all due respect to CNN, they had a poll showing Gore ahead 10 points on Friday, Bush ahead by eight points today. I just think that's simply wrong. That's -- 20 percent of the American electorate did not change its mind over the weekend, so I just think some of the polls have to be wrong.
KING: So what do you make of it? Are they asking the wrong people, asking the wrong -- what?
TOOBIN: I think one of the interesting phenomenons that's been going on in this polling season is that the number of people who are willing to answer pollsters has gone way down. There's a very interesting article in my magazine, in "The New Yorker," this year -- this week, talking about how, you know, it used to be in the '80s that 65 percent of the people who answered the phone would give their answers. Now it's down to 35 percent.
I mean, I think the samples are skewed, and, you know, it would be nice to think that people were make up their minds more on issues than these really silly and wrong polls.
KING: We'll be back with more on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Dick Cheney is still to come.
Don't go away.
KING: David Halberstam, we're in the final run here, about four weeks to go, and the campaign appears to be getting tougher and dirtier. Do you expect it to get worse?
HALBERSTAM: I think it's a tough campaign. I think you have two men who are not particularly well known and are defining themselves. And one who has more experience is not really -- has not been terribly comfortable as a campaigner. The other, who is more comfortable with himself, hasn't really got control of the issue.
I think it's -- and the issues are really very sharply divided. Gore, seems to me, has been trying to grind down Bush, and maybe that's working. It's hard to tell.
I think the country hasn't made up its mind yet. I don't think it's entirely happy with the choice out there. That's my sense.
KING: Tucker, you buy that? Is that possible both, that both of them are just not catching on, in a sense? This is a negative vote?
CARLSON: Well, I mean, or it could be that both of them are sort of appealing and people aren't frightened by either one. And you know, I disagree with the idea that negative campaigning is necessarily bad. I mean, I think Bush, you know, if he's got any traction at all, if the polls are to be believed at all, and that he is moving, it's because he's been attacking Gore's credibility. He should have done this six months ago, you know, hit them when they're down. If somebody is down in the polls, tell voters why he's down in the polls.
I think Bush should have been nasty long before this.
KING: And conversely, what does Gore do? Be nasty to Bush?
CARLSON: Yes. I mean, you know, he tried to be -- this has been sort of the Gore debate strategy for 20 years. You know, you try to goad your opponent -- he did on your show with Ross Perot -- goad your opponent into snarling on the air.
KING: And it worked.
CARLSON: It did work and it didn't work the other day with Bush.
Bush, whatever his problems as a debater, you know, wasn't going to be forced into snarling.
KING: Now, Ed, we know you're not -- you can't be objective, but you've always tried on this program. So if you were the Gore adviser, what would you tell him to do Wednesday night?
ROLLINS: Well, I think, first of all, Gore -- the format is different. The format is similar to your show in which they're side by side. So the key thing is to be warm, to basically not be a smart ass, to basically give good answers, and not, you know, and give due respect to George W.'s positions, and where you differ with them, obviously make the difference.
The bottom line in this race, though, is it is going to get negative, it's going to be close. Gore is going to attack Bush's record as governor, and clearly, Gore has now given the opening to attack on the credibility issue. And even though he may exaggerate just a little bit here and there, the American public were hoping that Al Gore was going to be different than what they had, who was a man that I think is a liar, in the White House for the last eight years.
They liked Clinton's policy but they didn't like the man. If, all of a sudden, they begin to think that Al Gore lacks credibility, even on little issues, then I think that's going to have a big effect.
TOOBIN: I think Ed just gave an excellent summary of why Gore is probably going to win the election, because, you know, this is the same kind of attacks that have been run against the Democrats and against Clinton for so long. I mean, basically, one of the main planks of George Bush's campaign has been, you know, restoring honor and dignity to the White House, which is a code word for Monica Lewinsky, which is a proven loser for Republican candidates.
I think it failed in '98 and it's going to fail in 2000.
KING: David, do you agree? HALBERSTAM: I think the issues are much -- I mean, I think the Clinton thing is done with. In fact, even -- it's almost done with the -- the Clinton fatigue is almost done with in the New York Senate race, and not that she's been a particularly graceful candidate, but it's done.
But I think the issues are about the economy, about culture, ethnicity, about the Supreme Court, all these different things, and I don't think, whatever the fatigue is with Clinton, I guess I mostly agree with Jeff. I think there are other issues that are pre-eminent and people are really thinking about them, and it is about the economy and the Supreme Court and French pill 486.
ROLLINS: What you have to remember, Larry, is that you're down to a very small segment of the electorate. You're down to 7 or 8 percent that aren't partisan -- they're not Republicans, they're not Democrats, they're not liberal, they're not conservative, they are independent. And they usually are the least interested voters and they don't make up their mind until very late, and they usually vote against somebody as opposed to voting for somebody.
I don't disagree with Jeff in the sense that Clinton is a lost cause. But if the American public doesn't think that Al Gore is different than Bill Clinton on the integrity issue, he's going to lose some of that independent vote.
KING: Tucker, if George Bush -- if George W. Bush couldn't ask the question, are you better off now than you were four years ago, because that would be a question he would not ask, why isn't Gore way ahead?
CARLSON: Well, I mean -- well, let me just say that I think the conventional understanding of the Monica thing never works for Republicans, the view that Jeff just expressed, isn't entirely right. Consider this: When, by all accounts, successfully distanced himself from Clinton at the convention, he did the "I'm my own man" thing, his numbers went up.
KING: And appointed -- and picked Lieberman, who criticized...
CARLSON: That's right. That's right -- who furthered the point, who underscored it.
So if Clinton is not a negative factor for Gore, then why did pulling away from him help? I don't know, it seems like Clinton was hurting Gore until Gore pulled away.
KING: So explain -- it's a dilemma. But Clinton is popular as a performing president.
CARLSON: Oh, that's because he's fantastic. I mean, would you rather -- you know, would you rather be in a rope line with Gore or Clinton? Of course.
KING: Are you saying Clinton would win this election? CARLSON: Yes. I mean, I think there's a perverse streak in the American people. I don't know if it's humor or exactly what. Yes, they might re-elected him again. It would be kind of tragic, but it might happen.
TOOBIN: You know, I think, Larry...
KING: I'm sorry. Ed?
Who wanted to comment there on...
TOOBIN: It was me. It was me, and I was just saying, you know, Clinton fatigue I think is the Loch Ness Monster of American politics. It's much discussed but seldom seen.
The fact is I don't think Clinton is unpopular, and to the extent Gore has distanced himself, he's really just established his own identity, which is all George Bush did in 1998. He didn't -- he didn't, you know, make Ronald Reagan out to be a bad person. He just established his own identity. I think that's what Gore did successfully at the convention, but that was not in any respect I think dissing...
ROLLINS: George Bush ran and he got the third term of Ronald Reagan, and I think that he argued very strenuously that he was going to continue the policies. And when he didn't continue the policies was when he lost.
I think this election is really going to come down to one of the closest elections in history.
ROLLINS: It shouldn't be close with the economy. It should be a wipeout. And I think the fact that there is a Clinton fatigue among the American electorate and a polarization has basically made this race close.
KING: Also, these polls don't break it down state by state. They are sort of a national poll, and that may have no effect electorally.
Back with some more moments with our panel and then vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me say something. You know, I understand...
GORE: Jim, could I...
LEHRER: Our three and a half minutes, but we'll finish this.
GORE: Can I make one other point?
BUSH: Wait a minute.
GORE: They get $20,000 a year income. That makes them ineligible.
BUSH: Look, this is a man. He's got great numbers. He talks about numbers. I'm beginning to think not only did he invent the Internet, but he invented the calculator.
It's fuzzy math!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're going to wind things up with a panel and then talk with Dick Cheney. But let's take a call. Fresh Meadows, New York, hello.
CALLER: If Jesse Ventura were running as well, would the race be so close?
KING: What if Jesse Ventura were in this race, Tucker?
CARLSON: I think he'd be great for both of the real candidates, I mean, because, you know, you mock -- everyone says, oh, well, if only the vice presidential candidates were running, these guys are so mediocre. Well, if you had a real, you know, someone who's really a loose cannon, really kind of nutcake like Ventura in the race...
KING: But not stupid.
CARLSON: Not stupid at all, but also not someone you want to give, you know, power over nuclear weapons to, I think it would sort of put everything in perspective, and you'd say, well, gee, actually, both these other guys are pretty qualified.
KING: David, why do you think only 46 million -- I say only; it's half of what watched the debate in '92 -- watched the presidential debate?
HALBERSTAM: Can't really tell, don't know. I mean, I think maybe people pull away more and more from politics than from when I was young. Their interest and energy goes into other things, into the economy and into sports and other things that seem perhaps to attract them more, and politics seems distant. Maybe it's a factor that the country is so affluent.
When I was young in my grandparents' day, political decisions made immediate impact upon the lives of ordinary people. I think economic factors now perhaps seem to have more immediate impact. TOOBIN: Also NBC broadcast the ballgame, and Fox had the very important premiere of "Dark Angel." So...
KING: Yes, and NBC...
TOOBIN: You know, there was more competition.
KING: NBC on Wednesday night has the opener of the National League Championship Series between the Mets and the Cardinals, and I would imagine that some people in New York might watch that game.
ROLLINS: Yes, but the bottom...
KING: And St. Louis.
ROLLINS: The bottom line, Larry, it doesn't matter whether 100 million people watch it or not, it's the after effect. Forty-six million people who are interested enough to watch for 90 minutes, 26 million people two nights later. But a lot of journalists watch it. And they talk about. And it's what people read about, and people make judgments based on that. And that's part of the shifting that's going back and forth.
So it's like a big poll. It's bigger than the 300 or 500 samples. And my sense today is that a lot of Americans felt that both the debates were pretty good debates, and I wouldn't expect as many to watch the next one. The last one, if it's very, very close, probably more will.
KING: Tucker, these are four good men, are they not...
CARLSON: That's true.
KING: ... that we have at the top of this area here?
CARLSON: Of course they are.
KING: And the public has a choice to make. And what's it going to be like the next four weeks? You'll be on again, bill what do you expect to see?
CARLSON: I'd expect to see Bush go with themes. I mean, I think he makes a mistake getting in a detail fight with Gore. You don't get in a spitting match with a guy who chews tobacco, you don't want to get in a detail fight with someone who, you know, loves policy in a kind of way that Gore does.
So I think he needs to sort of, you know, do the Reagan things. It works. He's good at it. I think he'll do it.
KING: OK, one more quick call. Chicago -- hello.
CALLER: Hello. Which voter bloc, which is traditionally undecided until the very last week, do you think will be crucial in determining this election?
KING: Excellent question.
Ed Rollins, you're the closest to things like that...
ROLLINS: Well, the key...
KING: ... which bloc?
ROLLINS: I mean, the key thing is women voters who have sort of been bouncing back and forth. And if independent women shift 3 or 4 percentage points back to Bush, he's going to win this race.
KING: Jeffrey Toobin, what do we see in the next four weeks?
TOOBIN: I think you'll see not as much negative campaigning as we might expect. You know, the legacy of impeachment is that the public doesn't want these angry, Gingrich-style politicians. And I think going negative, especially in the intimacy of these debates, carries a lot of risks. And I don't think either Bush or Gore will do it.
KING: And David Halberstam, I guess, is the dean of this panel. In age, you are the dean of this panel. Both of us have been around a long time. What do you expect to see in the next four weeks?
HALBERSTAM: Well, I think the big swing factor still is a middle class and upper middle class of white women. And I think the abortion issue and the French pill are still out there, and I think that's probably as much as anything else a battleground.
KING: Thank you all very much, David Halberstam, Jeffrey Toobin Tucker Carlson and Ed Rollins.
We'll take a break and come back and talk with the Republican candidate for vice president of the United States, the former secretary of defense, Dick Cheney.
Don't go away.
KING: We now welcome Dick Cheney to LARRY KING LIVE, the Republican vice-presidential candidate. He was on this show the day it was announced that he was the nominee.
I would gather, Dick, that you hadn't debated in a long time. What was that like?
RICHARD B. CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That is true, Larry. I guess the last real debate I had been involved in, in an electoral sense, was probably running for Congress from Wyoming.
Well, it was very a comfortable set. It was a lot like doing your show. It -- Joe Lieberman and I, I think, both enjoyed it. I know Bernie Shaw, I think, did a great job as the moderator. So it was -- it was a very enjoyable experience for both of us. Time flew. It went very fast. KING: All right, the thing most pressing: the Middle East. You are a veteran of these sort of things. What do we do if conflict breaks out -- in a large scale?
CHENEY: Sure, it really is worrisome, because it is clear that the situation has gotten very tense there. There had been a real sense of progress after the Gulf War that the situation was teed up so that we could make major progress. The -- a lot of Arab states had fought alongside the U.S. The Israeli main enemy Iraq had been defeated. You had strong leadership in Israel, as we do today with Mr. Barak.
But -- and there has been progress: progress clearly with Jordan, progress in terms of interim agreements with the Palestinians. But now it appears that it is at risk. And I'm not sure what the answer is, Larry. And I'm not confident, at this point, how it is going to sort out. I assume there is a lot of behind-the-scenes activity underway. President Mubarak oftentimes is very helpful at a time like this. The Saudis, lots of times, will weigh and can be very influential as well, too.
I hope they can end the violence and return to the negotiating table.
KING: Do you agree that we play a big role -- we, the United States?
CHENEY: We do play big role. We cannot dictate a settlement. It is very important to understand that the only settlement that will survive has to be one that the parties of the dispute can agree to. But we clearly are in a position, given our relationships on both sides of the dispute -- our historic ties to Israel, as well as our great relationships with many of the Arab states involved -- that we do have a special role to play, as we have for years, for example, in the Sinai, where we still have U.S. troops deployed now for well over 20 years.
CHENEY: There is a major role for the U.S. here. And we are about the only ones who can perform it.
KING: Military preparedness has come up in this campaign. In the debate, Joe Lieberman criticized that it -- that should be off the boards for awhile, because it deals with national security. Is it -- is it -- do you think we are militarily unprepared? And is it fair game?
CHENEY: I think -- I think we have to talk about it during the course of a national campaign, Larry. I can't think of a more appropriate time for us to discuss the state of the U.S. military. And I must say, there is a big disagreement between my view of what kind of shape our military is in today and the view we are getting from Al Gore and Joe Lieberman.
I just had the experience today, for example -- I just spoke, before I came here, in Bend, Oregon. I had a man stand up in audience when I got through and say that his son is a pilot in United States Air Force. A third of the planes in their squadron are grounded for lack of maintenance, lack of spare parts. The pilots are getting four or five hours flying time a month, instead of the 25 or so that are really optimum.
I met a woman on a rope line in Yakima, Washington this morning. Her son, Naval Academy graduate, a Marine captain, getting ready to get out of the service, because of his dissatisfaction with the level of support they are receiving -- the Joint Chiefs of Staff, before Congress just two weeks ago, testifying they have been robbing Peter to pay Paul, in terms of trying to support and sustain the force in the field.
There is a problem. It is serious. This is an all-volunteer force. We have an obligation to provide the troops with everything they need to do the job we ask them to do for us. And I don't think this administration has been doing that. I think they have overcommitted the force and not provided sufficient resources.
KING: And you think the examples you heard today are widespread?
CHENEY: I run into it every place I go. And I can -- I can look at the data generated by the Defense Department itself: some 40 percent of our Army helicopters not combat ready, the fact that money is now being drained out of the procurement budget to support a lot of the deployments overseas, the fact that the force has gotten as small as it has.
Clearly, some reductions were justified with end of the Cold War. But we have gone way beyond that now.
KING: And why, Dick, is it fair game, since one could say: People could look at this and profit from it?
CHENEY: Well, the -- I think the fact of the matter is that the national election is a time you hold people accountable for their performance in office, and as well as talk about what your priorities are for the future. Al Gore has been vice president for eight years. He wants to run on the basis of his service in the Clinton administration as vice president.
And the post that is being contested here, in terms of the contest between Al Gore and Governor Bush is, as president, is to be the commander in chief of our armed forces. It's maybe the single most important responsibility that a president undertakes, is to serve as commander in chief, to make life-and-death decisions about when we commit forces and when we don't -- and has a very special obligation under those circumstances, I think, to make certain that the American people understand the state of the force and that he provides the leadership and the resources they need to do the job for us.
If he -- if there's a problem and he refuses to recognize it or misrepresents it, that's a very significant difficulty.
KING: Senator Lieberman is making a sweep through Texas to hit the Bush record. What do you make of that?
CHENEY: Well, I think he's wasting his time, but certainly if he wants to do it, that's probably as good a place as any from our standpoint to have him.
The fact is, of course, the people of Texas re-elected Governor Bush overwhelmingly with 68 percent of the vote last time out, just two years ago. He has been one of the most successful governors that we've ever had in Texas. He received nearly half of the Hispanic vote, over a fourth of the African-American vote when he ran for re- election.
He's got a great track record in Texas in tort reform, in taxes, in education. He's done a superb job down there. The people of Texas recognize it, and I think they will probably not take kindly to Joe Lieberman coming down to mess with Texas, so to speak. But it's a free country, and if he wants to campaign through Texas, more power to him.
KING: We'll be back with some more questions for Dick Cheney. We expect to have him on quite a bit in the next month, as we head toward the wire.
We'll be right back.
KING: Dick Cheney, the other night, John McCain was here. He was very angry. He says the Republicans in the Senate are holding up a bill that passed through his committee unanimously that would make it tougher on the tire companies, force them to report, keep statistics better. He was alarmed that over 100 Americans have died on the roads due to defective tires. Should you call on your fellow Republicans to let this out of the Senate and into a vote?
CHENEY: Well, I don't know who put the hold on the bill, Larry. I've got a lot of respect for John McCain. We're good friends. We served together in the House many years ago. And I'm sure he's got legitimate concerns, but that strikes me as an internal Senate matter that they'll work out. I would hope, certainly, that it will get resolved. I don't see any reason to believe it won't.
KING: Do you generally support the fact that the government should be involved if defective tires are being produced?
CHENEY: Absolutely, I think -- I think there's no question but what there is a legitimate government role there, that it is appropriate certainly for the Congress to be looking at it, holding hearings, trying to find out what happened. And there is an obligation there to try to protect people against defective products.
KING: Also, some statements are being made about the vice president with regard to statements he's made in the debates and other kinds of things. Are you, in a sense, to be blunt, calling him a liar? CHENEY: Well, I've been very careful in my choices of words, Larry. I think the question of credibility is extraordinarily important in a president. It's the coin of the realm. When a president looks the American people in eye and asks them to undertake a difficult task or accept difficult decisions, they have to know he's telling them the truth.
But I've always in the course of this debate tried to avoid words like the one you used, specifically because it is emotion laden. I try to be precise and accurate in what I'm saying. And what I've said is that I do think there's an unfortunate problem here in the sense that the vice president seems to have a tendency to want to embellish the facts, to make up facts to try to make a point. And that's especially worrisome when you think about how important credibility is from a president.
KING: So credibility is an issue, certainly.
CHENEY: I think it is. I think it's legitimate to ask -- ask questions about that, especially if somebody has a track record, where in -- on so many different occasions over the years he has, in fact, embellished his resume or embellished the facts in ways that aren't warranted.
KING: One of the news magazines is calling Madeleine Albright a winner today over the results in Yugoslavia. Do you share that view?
CHENEY: I'm certainly pleased, like I think everybody is, with what's happening in Yugoslavia, and she's been heavily involved there. I expect she does deserve some of the credit for the successes there and the departure of Mr. Milosevic.
KING: All right, how goes the next four weeks, Dick? Are you going to key certain states? Give me a little strategy here.
CHENEY: We are. We're focusing very much on the swing states. I was in Oregon and Washington today, I'm in Nevada tonight, New Mexico tomorrow, on to Missouri and Illinois later this week. We'll be focused on the battleground states. I think it's going to be a very close election that will be determined in the end by what happens in those handful of states. And that's where Governor Bush and I will spend the bulk of our time over the next four weeks.
Do you think we'll be up very late the night of November 7th?
CHENEY: Well, I hope we know early on that evening that it's been a great Bush-Cheney victory. But I won't count on it. I've been involved in other races that went all night, so we're prepared if that's what it takes.
KING: And, frankly, should we have another vice presidential debate, do you think?
CHENEY: Well, we originally...
KING: It was exhilarating to hear issues discussed well. CHENEY: Sure, it was. No, we really enjoyed it. And I know my brief conversation with Joe Lieberman on the stage afterwards, I think we both felt very good about it. And that's certainly the response I've gotten around the country as I travel and talk to people.
We originally suggested two debates. In the end, when the campaigns got together with the commission and negotiated it, we ended up going with the original commission schedule. And so, you know, if there were opportunity for another, that's fine. But I -- I think the focus now will be on the two remaining presidential debates, and that's probably as it should be.
KING: And your health is OK?
CHENEY: It's great. I'm thriving out here on the campaign trail, eating good food, working hard...
KING: That's the way to do it.
CHENEY: ... getting up early in the morning, going to bed late at night. So it's been -- it's really been fascinating, Larry. It's been an amazing process to go through these last few months. It's an immersion, really, in America. You see the enormous sweep and diversity of the country. It's a great privilege.
KING: Thanks, Dick, always good seeing you.
CHENEY: OK, Larry.
KING: Dick Cheney.
Tomorrow night, George Mitchell, Jack Kemp, Bob Woodward and Michael Beschloss.
I'm Larry King in Washington. We're out of time. Good night.
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