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Larry King Live

What Will Gore and Bush Do in Tomorrow's Debate?

Aired October 10, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight on LARRY KING LIVE, convicted murderer Kenneth Kimes holds a TV reporter hostage. How could this happen in a maximum security prison?

And then, will Al Gore and George Bush top last week's performance tomorrow night? We'll talk strategy with both camps, plus pre-debate analysis with Senator Fred Thompson, "The Washington Post's" Bob Woodward, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, and presidential historian Michael Beschloss. All next, on LARRY KING LIVE.

We begin first with a story out of upstate New York. Our guests are at our studios in New York City, they are Henry Schleiff, the chairman and CEO of Court TV -- and we should tell you that Court TV is 50 percent owned by Time Warner, the parent company of CNN -- and Mel Sachs, who is the attorney for the convicted Kenneth Kimes.

Henry, what happened today, you had a reporter there doing what?

HENRY SCHLEIFF, CHAIRMAN & CEO, COURT TV: Well, one of our freelance reporters and producers, Maria Zone, was participating as part of an interview she was doing for one of our exclusive shows, "Crime Stories," which plays regularly at 10:00. As part of this interview -- we don't know factually exactly when it happened, but at approximately 2:20 -- we don't know how far into the interview, she was grabbed by Kenneth Kimes as apparently there was a break in the interview process.

She was grabbed, and with a pen that was either his or hers, pointed to her throat and subsequently to her eye and other life- threatening positions, held hostage for the next four hours until approximately 6:41 p.m., a prison negotiation team that was on site managed, fortunately, to get her released and safely so.

KING: How did this happen, Henry? I mean, this is a maximum security prison?

SCHLEIFF: It is a security prison, I don't know if it's maximum, I believe it is maximum security. It's the Clinton facility and I believe that is so. The actual -- whether the logistics in how he got this pen, how he grabbed her, we do know that there was a guard present, there was a camera crew, a small camera crew present, and the normal precautions were being taken. As I understand it, he was not shackled, he was not handcuffed. And as he was apparently going to the mens room, she was going to get a drink of water, they crossed momentarily, giving him an opportunity to grab her around the neck and threaten her with the pen.

KING: Did -- do you have the tape of the beginning of the interview?

SCHLEIFF: I don't know exactly what we have at this point, I have not spoken to Maria. She is still on site. Our major concern at this point, as you might expect, was not about the tape, but her personal safety.

KING: Now, Kenneth Kimes is a convicted murderer, the body was never found, this was the -- he and his mother both convicted of killing an aged socialite woman. You were doing what with him, by the way? What was the purpose of why Maria was there?

SCHLEIFF: It was a follow-up interview. She had had one non- camera, non-crew interview with him earlier. We were doing a follow- up to the actual trial and conviction as part of a "Crime Stories." It's a documentary series, as you may know, that we play regularly at 10:00 that looks, in this case, at the follow-up, and we wanted to have his views and what was going on in his mind.

KING: How -- when was she released, how many hours later?

SCHLEIFF: It was about 4 hours and 20 minutes. She was taken hostage at 2:20 and she was released at 6:41 p.m.

KING: Before we talk with Mel Sachs, who is Kenneth Kimes' attorney, here is a brief shot of when I interviewed Kenneth Kimes at Rikers Island before he was sent to that prison. Watch.


KING (on camera): Why would you do this?

KENNETH KIMES, CONVICTED MURDERER: Well, Larry, I don't think that's a fair interjection. It's...


KIMES: I did not do this. I did not commit this crime. I was arrested at the Hilton, there were no eyewitnesses, there was no physical evidence, I have no motive to commit this -- another incident.

KING: I know. I'm trying to figure out what was your motive, what was the motive the prosecution believed.

KIMES: I think that would be...

KING: They believed...


KIMES: They said that we wanted to rob the house. They said we wanted to steal the mansion. For the love of...


KING: OK, Mel Sachs, what do you make of what happened with your client today?

MEL SACHS, KIMESES' ATTORNEY: I'm saddened, Larry, that this happened. There wasn't any indication the Kenneth Kimes would in any way do anything like this. Fortunately, Maria Zone is well and she is safe. That of course, is the priority, but there wasn't anything to show that he would act in this way. In fact, his conduct, Larry, has always been one of a gentleman, courteous, soft-spoken, decent. You spent time with him and I probably spent more time with him than any one else during the course of the case.

KING: Was he -- during the four hours did he ask for anything, did he try to contact you, was he asking for something in return for her release? What? No? Do you know, Henry?

SCHLEIFF: Yes. We -- on a secondhand report we do understand that his principal demand -- we don't know what others -- were that his mother not be extradited to the state of California, where she faces another death -- potential death penalty as part of a murder court conviction crime.

KING: Mel, would that be to your understanding, too?

SACHS: Yes, that's my understanding. However...

KING: You haven't spoken to Kenneth?

SACHS: I haven't spoken to Kenneth. I have made yeoman efforts to reach him. I have spoken to them up there and I told them that I would do anything to facilitate a civil resolution of this, and fortunately, there has been. Right now, he is appealing this case, and he has been adamant about his innocence. And he is facing trial in California, where he is facing a death penalty sentence there.

KING: He got life here in New York, right? He got life in New York state?

SACHS: Yes, he did. In a case which was totally circumstantial, Larry, where there wasn't any evidence which in any way indicated that this woman is, in fact, deceased. There wasn't any blood, hair, fibers, forensic evidence, admissions, confessions. This is an unusual case where he was convicted on very little, and he looks forward to the prospect of a successful appeal.

KING: Won't this affect that appeal though, a human being -- judges are human beings, they're going to know what he did today?

SACHS: It's regretful that this happened. Fortunately, there was a safe outcome. I don't believe that it's going to have any effect on the appeal itself. It certainly will have an effect upon him and his status as a prisoner. KING: Henry, are you going to protest security, are you going to not send reporters into prisons again, are you going to take any action over this?

SCHLEIFF: No. I mean, if anything, I think the correctional facility and the SWAT team that was involved in this is to be commended. I mean, if anything, it's a very rare instance. Our reporters, our anchors are very aware of the physical risk, you know, that's entailed by these kind of interviews, it's something that we live with daily. Fortunately, it's obviously, you know, an anomaly when you have something like this. But if anything, we are just, you know, delighted with the fact that it was resolved in this way.

KING: She's OK.

As we learn more, we'll call on both of you again, Henry Schleiff, the chairman and CEO of Court TV; Mel Sachs, the attorney for Kenneth Kimes. The incident happily ended with no one injured.

When we come back, politics 2000. Don't go away.


KING (on camera): Why didn't you testify?

KIMES: Why didn't I testify? Because I thought my mom was going to have a shot at testifying on her own.

KING: But when she didn't, why didn't you?

KIMES: Well, why didn't I? I figured at the beginning we wanted to get Court TV to come in. I figured, if this judge isn't going to let Court TV come in, is only going to allow a one-sided print media to get only what the D.A. feeds them, I might as well be careful and stand guard knowing what kind of unfairness is going to take place.

KING: Even though the jury would have been able to see you?

KIMES: Never, it was too late.



KING: We're back. Let's meet our panel guests for the full hour -- are: Senator Fred Thompson, Republican of Tennessee -- who, by the way, campaigned with Governor Bush today in Tennessee, the home state of the vice president; Bob Woodward, the assistant managing editor of the "Washington Post." He has got a book coming in November -- he'll be back on that -- called "Meteor," about the Federal Reserve. He's a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Michael Beschloss is the presidential historian, ABC news analyst, and editor of a book just released: "The American Heritage History of the Presidents." And in New Haven, Connecticut: the distinguished former Senate majority leader, George Mitchell. Before we assemble the panel, let's go to Greensboro, North Carolina. Standing by is Karl Rove. He's the chief political strategist for the Bush campaign. The campaign -- debate takes place tomorrow.

What is the procedure tonight and tomorrow, Karl?

KARL ROVE, BUSH CAMPAIGN CHIEF POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Well, the governor had -- is having dinner right now. And he will get a good night's sleep, and then do a little bit of Q&A tomorrow morning, and I think go for a big run, and get -- take a short nap and then go to the debate.

KING: Strategically, what does he have to do tomorrow night?

ROVE: Well, he has to build on the success that we enjoyed last week, where the governor had a chance to lay out his vision and talk about his big -- the big agenda that he has for America: reforming education, Social Security and Medicare, cutting taxes, and rebuilding military defense.

And it is a chance for him, hopefully, to have a few more questions tossed his way about his most important issue, education, and -- but it's -- each one of these is a cumulative -- cumulative effect of going to each one of these and stepping up your performance from last time. Last time was his first national televised presidential debate. Al Gore had had a vice presidential debate in '92 and '96, and then the high-profile debate on your program, Mr. King, with Ross Perot.

So he has had a little bit more experience than the governor has had at this. But it was good -- good first effort.

KING: You were satisfied with it as a first effort?

ROVE: Sure, you bet. I notice the Gore campaign has been saying for the last several days that Governor Bush was babbling and couldn't string together two coherent sentences. I think that may be a reaction to the fact they have been dropping in the polls since the first debate, and Bush has been rising. But they are setting a low standard for him.

He will do very, very well on -- tomorrow night.

KING: What do you -- and it's also a debate in the format exactly like the vice presidential one, right?

ROVE: Yes, it is.


KING: In fact, I think it's same table.

ROVE: It is the exact same table. And if they just -- they brought it from Danville, Kentucky here. And it will look exactly like the studio that was set up in Danville. KING: What do you -- a couple of other things, Karl. What do you make of these swinging, erratic polls?

ROVE: Well, I don't believe that the Gallup Poll that we have -- that Governor Bush has moved 19 points in 10 days. But I do think the fact that all these polls are moving in the same direction, and that the governor leads in all of these national polls, and having improved his position by about 5 or 6 points, is probably accurate.

The race is going to be very close right to the end, though. This is going to be the closest election since 1960. And it's going to be decided in the last precinct in the last hour of the last day in the last state. It's going to be very close and very exciting.

KING: If that is true -- and I will be asking our panel this -- I will also ask it of Bill Daley, who is the campaign manager for Al Gore, when he joins us for a little bit later -- could we have, Karl, a popular-vote winner different from an electoral-vote winner?

ROVE: Well, I saw that the other day that somebody forecast that that might be a possibility. I think it is very, very remote. I think that we are likely to see a -- the popular-vote winner reflected in the electoral college as well.

KING: But when you are saying it's this close, it is also electorally close, right?

ROVE: Yes, though I think that what will end up happening is that Governor Bush will win with somewhere around 300 to 310 electoral college votes, you know, 30 to 40 more than the 270 needed to win. So there will be a big gap in the electoral college.

KING: But you expect we will all be up late on November 7?

ROVE: Yes, we will. It will be an exciting night for all the political addicts in America. And it will be a fun thing to watch for them, and a grueling thing for all the politicos on either -- in either camp, I'm sure.

KING: We look forward to seeing you. I know the governor has said that he'll back on this show before they wind things up on the 7th. We look forward seeing you, Karl. Thanks.

ROVE: Great, thank you, sir.

KING: Karl Rove, the chief political strategist for the Bush campaign. The debate tomorrow night will be moderated by Jim Lehrer. We will not be with you tomorrow night. But we'll be back with you Thursday night, with Katie Couric, by the way, who might have thoughts of her own about that debate. Bill Daley will join us later.

Our panel is next. Don't go away.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My opponent is of Washington, for Washington, and by Washington. He thinks all knowledge and all wisdom exists in Washington, D.C. Ours is a campaign that trusts the American people. We trust you with your money. We trust you with your children. We trust you when it comes to making health care decisions.



KING: Our panel is represented. They have been introduced. We'll reintroduce them again in a little while. Senator Fred Thompson campaigned with Bush today in Gore's state.

Does he have a chance in your state?

SEN. FRED THOMPSON (R), TENNESSEE: Yes. Yes. He's leading there now.

KING: Why?

THOMPSON: Bush is. Well, I don't know. It's -- I would be worried if I was Gore. This is a state that -- all the statewide officials and I are Republicans -- but the state did vote for Clinton twice. It voted for Jimmy Carter. So it certainly is a state that could go either way. And here he is right now losing by a small margin in his home state.

He hasn't had much of a presence there in a long time. The demographics have changed somewhat over the last several years. And, frankly, I think if it were not his home state, he would be behind by a large margin just based on philosophy.

KING: And, Senator Mitchell, is the reverse apparently true in Florida? Is that much closer than previously we thought it would be?

GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: It is very much closer. I think that is going to go right down to the wire. If Gore does win Florida, I think that will indicate a rather large victory for him. He can afford to lose it and still win the election.

KING: But if he wins Florida, you think that would mean a win for him. What if he loses Tennessee?

MITCHELL: Well, obviously, it would be very embarrassing. I don't think he is going lose Tennessee. But if he does, it would be very embarrassing. But I don't think that will decide the election. I believe, Larry, as I said here several times in our earlier discussions, that Bush will hold the Republican base. Gore will hold the Democratic base.

And the election will be decided in the six or seven large Midwestern industrial states, stretching from New Jersey, through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Missouri. I think that is where it is going to be decided.

KING: Tomorrow night is the next debate, Bob. Only -- I say only --46 million, half of what watched in '92, watched the first debate -- half. Do you expect more than 46 million tomorrow night, or less?


BOB WOODWARD, "WASHINGTON POST": It is like the polls. It's only a guess. You can't tell. But I think there is still some real serious questions to ask both of the candidates. Certainly, coming out of the last debate, one of the questions lingering with Gore is this habit of exaggeration. And I think people want an answer to that.

And I think, in fairness to Gore, he should be asked that directly and say, you know: Where does this come from? Why do you have this habit? Do you realize that it looks like you made a mistake? And do you have some self-awareness about that?

So in the case of Bush, there are very good questions that can be asked of him.

KING: Michael, the debate has a different format. It will be informal. Yet, though, it's still two minutes, two minutes, one - minute response. So they're sitting instead of standing, but the rules are the same.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: The rules are the same. And also just together at a table, it's a little bit harder for it to be as icy and hostile and chilly as it was last week. I don't think I've seen greater hostility between two presidential nominees in a debate in all the last 40 years. That's something that's a lot harder to do at a table like this.

KING: Why do you think it had a poor viewership? Everyone saying it was going to go through -- it was going to be the Super Bowl of debates.

BESCHLOSS: So you would think, because we're not in a time of great overwhelming crisis. If this were a time, god forbid, where we were fighting a war or had an economic depression, where every American said this is an election that will directly affect everything that has to do with my daily life and that of my family, people would tune in. The result of all this is low viewership for these debates and probably a pretty low turnout next month.

KING: Do you agree, Senator Thompson?

THOMPSON: Yes, I agree. I think it's part of an overall trend, unfortunately. I think we're seeing increasing cynicism and skepticism about all things Washington. You can see that in trend, the declining voter turnout...

KING: Why would that be if you have a happy country?

THOMPSON: Well, that's what makes it that much more troublesome, and it's especially acute among young people, who didn't live through Watergate, didn't live through Vietnam or any of those -- the Great Depression -- any of those things you would think would cause one to be cynical. But it's -- it's there.

So people are kind of tuned out and turned off, plus what Michael says -- I think peace and prosperity, Washington doesn't affect me, to heck with them, I'm not going to pay attention to them.

KING: Bob.

WOODWARD: But I think people who watched the Cheney-Lieberman debate liked it. It got great reviews. There was a good feeling about it. It was conducted on a much higher, more serious plain. And no doubt, the presidential candidates, Gore and Bush, are going to take their cues from that. And I think the acrimony that Michael talks about will dissipate not just because of the table, but because that's going to be the strategy.

KING: Senator Mitchell, are you expecting a good debate tomorrow night?

MITCHELL: I am. I think they'll both do better than they did the last time, and I thought they both did pretty well that time. I would like to say on this question of voter turnout there's one other factor that wasn't mentioned: That's the difficulty or ease of voting.

My home state of Maine traditionally has one of the highest percentages of participation in an election, because we have one of the best laws that makes it easy for people to register and vote. In far too many states, there are obstacles thrown up in the way of people. They make it very tough for people to vote, and so they don't get the turnout they should.

I'm not saying that's saying the exclusive or even the dominant factor, but I believe it is a factor. If we had laws which made it much easier for people to get to register and vote, I think we could improve turnout nationally, as we have done in Maine.

KING: Back with more of our panel. We'll be including your phone calls. We'll hear from the Democratic campaign manager as well. Don't go away.


DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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 specially worrisome when you think about how important credibility is in a president.



AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will never make a negative personal attack against the governor. He has made a habit of aiming them at me, but I will not reciprocate.


KING: By the way, before we break into any other thing, we have a bit of news tonight. Senator Fred Thompson's red truck -- remember the red truck? He campaigned in the red truck. It's coming back, right?

THOMPSON: It ain't never gone anywhere, Larry.

KING: But you've announced tonight it's going to come back for Bush, right?

THOMPSON: We're going take a few days a week before the election, and have a little tour, have a little fun.

KING: You were on that truck, right?

WOODWARD: I was. Are you still going to drive it yourself?

THOMPSON: Oh, yes.

KING: You're going to drive it. Will the governor be on the truck?

WOODWARD: Do you still have a valid driver's license in Tennessee?

THOMPSON: Oh, yes.

KING: The governor will be on the truck?

THOMPSON: Well, we don't know about that.


Don't pin him down.

KING: One of the big things everyone is talking about in the first debate was the sighs. We're going to show you an example of the Gore sighs and why this was an apparent negative. Watch.


BUSH: And the vice president doesn't believe in exploration, for example, in Alaska.


There's a lot of shut-in gas that we need...



BUSH: I've had a record of appointing judges in the state of Texas. (GORE SIGHING)

That's what a governor gets to do.



BUSH: The man's practicing fuzzy math again. There's differences.




BUSH: He says he's for voluntary testing. You can't have voluntary testing. You must have mandatory testing. You must say that if you receive money, you must show us whether or not children are learning to read and write, and add and subtract.


That's the difference.

You may claim...


KING: Why is that bad? Sighs are normal. If I'm aggravated, I sigh.

BESCHLOSS: Yes, and I think he probably felt that to do that would undercut what Bush was saying, especially because his image was going to be on the screen alongside Bush's. I think what he didn't realize would be that the rap against him would be that this showed that he was condescending and rude.

KING: Do you agree?


KING: Was it rude?

WOODWARD: The kind of impatience that I want to answer every question -- it's the person in third grade who raises their hand all the time. And...

KING: You don't like...

WOODWARD: And -- and -- well, and you kind of wonder why is it necessary. And you can understand Gore's enthusiasm for his race. He wants the job very badly. But to go back to third grade, there was that little character trait we all got graded on about self-control, and you need to get the cork in the bottle when you're on camera like that.

KING: Senator Mitchell, was it a mistake?

MITCHELL: Well, it'd be better if he hadn't done it, but I think it's a molehill that's been made into a mountain here. First off, he clearly didn't do it deliberately, because he didn't know the camera was on him during Bush's answers. Secondly, I don't think he'll do it again. It's a minor thing. But I think to give it this prominence is really to manufacturer something that doesn't exist.

Better to have a guy who sighs and knows what he's talking about.

KING: We're the media. We have to look for something. Have you sighed in the Senate?

THOMPSON: Never, Larry.

KING: Never sighed in the Senate. Sighed in film.

Why -- do you regard that as a bad thing? Do you think it has an effect on voters?

THOMPSON: Yes, I do. I think that one of the things voters ask themselves when they look at these guys is who do I want in my living room for the next four years every morning or eight years every morning, and if a guy is just irritating, I think that weighs into it.

KING: Well, what if he's irritating but smart and competent? You have a president now who the public doesn't like in certain things and loves him in other areas.

THOMPSON: Well, that's why the polls are close. The amazing thing to me about it is here's a guy who, as smart as he is, continues to do things, you know, making up stories and things of that nature, and the sighing and the debate techniques and so forth, continues to do things that he knows are things that are detrimental to himself, and yet he doesn't seem to be able to help it.

KING: You're a historian. Do we have anything to compare to this?

BESCHLOSS: Well, on the sighs, Richard Nixon had no idea that he looked the way he did on the first debate with John Kennedy, and that ended up being crucial, because what people were looking at was, is this someone, as we have been led to believe, who is so superior to Kennedy in stature that we should vote for him?

KING: So, that matters.

BESCHLOSS: It did matter.

KING: Aesthetics matter?

BESCHLOSS: They matter, and in Kennedy's case he was able to reassure people and say you may not have heard of me probably before the last couple of months, but I'm fully the equal of Vice President Nixon.

KING: We'll be right back. We'll be including your calls. Lots to talk about. Don't go away.


KING: Let's reintroduce our panel. They are Senator Fred Thompson, Republican of Tennessee; Pulitzer Prize-winning Bob Woodward. the assistant managing editor of "The Washington Post" -- got a book coming called "Meteor"; Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian, "American Heritage History of the Presidents" -- he's the editor of that book just released; and in New Haven, Connecticut, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell. And it's great to have them with us. In a little while, we'll be checking in with Bill Daley.

OK, we've taken on Mr. Gore pretty good. Now on the other side, there are some, Bob Woodward, attacking Mr. Cheney over remarks he's made about gay marriage. He said people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. And he said the issue of gay marriages should be decided by the states. Do you think some right-wingers of the right will stay home because of that?

WOODWARD: Well, that's what they say, but what he expressed was total tolerance. And...

KING: Intolerant people sometimes don't like tolerance.

WOODWARD: Well, that's right, but he expressed a view that I think probably lots of people hold.

Interestingly enough, it is not necessarily consistent with the view he had when he was secretary of defense and was very much opposed to gays in the military.

KING: But he has, of course, the problem with his daughter, right? I mean, not a problem -- what does do?

BESCHLOSS: Yes, and also, he didn't demagogue it by dragging his daughter in and making this a personal story, which I think people respected.

But the other thing is that these debates are terrific for reassurance. That's what they mainly do. They don't really sell you on a candidate, but they reassure you. In Cheney's case, he was trying to reassure people that he wasn't that extreme right-wing figure that they were hearing about last summer.

KING: But what did -- does it hurt him with the extreme right- wing? Are they going to go to Buchanan over that?

BESCHLOSS: I don't think there's much sign of that. Buchanan is at about 1 percent. You know, the Republicans have been locked out of the White House for eight years. There's nothing that unifies a party like defeat. I think these conservatives are very happy to stick with Bush and Cheney. KING: Senator Thompson, this is this close. Could a debate swing it? Who is undecided?

Everyone on this -- is everyone on this panel decided? Woodward probably is undecided.

WOODWARD: No, I decide when I go to the polls the morning of election day, and that...

KING: Really?

WOODWARD: All the information is in, and then you can make a judgment.

KING: So you can classify yourself as a true undecided?


BESCHLOSS: I do the same thing.

KING: You do you the same thing?

BESCHLOSS: I'm a registered independent. I'm completely apartisan. But the idea is that the campaign shows you all sorts of things about these characters, and you might learn something the last couple of weeks.

KING: Do I hear a laugh or a sigh from Senator Mitchell?

MITCHELL: You didn't hear it from me. You heard it from the cameraman.

KING: What do you make...

MITCHELL: He's laughing and sighing.

KING: We have the answer to the undecided, Senator Mitchell, that they're right here.

MITCHELL: Well, Fred and I aren't undecided, I'll tell you that.

KING: No. Well, how do you...

THOMPSON: I'm here in the studio with these guys. I'm going to work on it.

KING: All right, how do you, George, get the Woodward-Beschloss vote? What do you have to do or what does your candidate have to do in the next four weeks?

MITCHELL: Well, these two particular people, I think, he has to continue to demonstrate the command of the issues that he has. I think he should emphasize even more so the tremendous prosperity of the past eight years and make clear that's not assured and the best way to guarantee its continuance is through his election. And based on this discussion, I think has to stay away from the mannerisms that I happen to think are rather minor, but which seem to play large in some people's minds.

KING: And what, Senator Thompson, does George W. Bush have to do to get Woodward and Beschloss?

THOMPSON: Well, I think he has to keep doing basically what he is doing. The trend....

KING: They haven't been decided based on what both of them have done.

THOMPSON: Well, the trends -- the trends are going his way right now, it seems like, across the country. It seems that way in Tennessee, certainly, and across the country. So I would just advise him to do -- I'm not sure there's any magic bullet, and I think you could probably make a mistake searching for one.

KING: Find one...

THOMPSON: You've heard the litany of issues that have been discussed. Karl Rove laid them out very well a while ago. I would add one thing, I think it would be good. If he could emphasize a little bit more the necessity that -- the point that whether it's a health care plan or a tax plan, neither one of these guy's plans are going to be enacted as such.

KING: You think he should say that?

THOMPSON: Well, no, not necessarily, but that's the fact. So what that means is that we really need someone who can bring together both sides at the table. Someone...

KING: A compromise plan.

THOMPSON: ... who can work across the aisle, and he's done that in Texas. That's what we're going to need over these next four years more than anything else

KING: Does that impress you, if a man can bring people together?

WOODWARD: I mean, we really are not -- shouldn't be made a focus group of two, because...

BESCHLOSS: Thank you, Bob,

KING: You both admitted you haven't decided.

WOODWARD: Yes, but, I mean, it's our job not to decide, and to look at everything and examine it. I'm interested -- I mean, I think one of the looming questions in all of this, and Fred got right to the point when he said a lot of this stuff is not going to be enacted or it's not going to be enacted in the way it is...

KING: It's the first time we've heard it mentioned. WOODWARD: ... proposed. And that is exactly, exactly the case. I mean, that you can be sure of. Remember, Mrs. Clinton's health care plan.

KING: Would both candidates be better off saying that tomorrow night?

BESCHLOSS: It might well...

KING: Listen, this is my plan, this is his plan, but it's going to be a different plan, and it might be in the middle.

BESCHLOSS: And people realize that whoever is going to be elected the next president is not going to be a very powerful person, especially compared to the presidents of the 20th century. He's probably going to come in with a narrow margin, probably with a divided Congress at a time when Americans don't want to send a lot of power to Washington, and which the Congress doesn't want to give the president too much dominance. So, that would be sort of a reality check.

KING: So, Senator Mitchell, honesty would be refreshing?

MITCHELL: Well, I don't take that as guaranteed. Look, things happen in a way that you can't predict. I think that people should elect the best person largely because they don't know for sure what the issues would be and better to have a competent person who you know can deal with issues, especially those that they haven't been able to discuss in the campaign because they haven't arisen. That's, frankly, why I think Gore will in the end win in a narrow race.

But I want to get back to the issues. Again, I think there's a lot of talk in the first debate about prescription drugs, about Medicare reform, about all these other things. None of that is going happen if the economy turns down. And the notion that for the next 10 years the economy is going to be just as it was the past eight, no matter what happens, is, of course, a fantasy.

KING: Does anyone have...

MITCHELL: It is going to depend upon events yet to occur and that's the key issue in the campaign.

WOODWARD: Now he said something very important there. He labeled the idea that we're going to have 10 years of surplus and good economic times a fantasy, and that -- I mean, if you examine any businessperson, any economist, they would agree with Senator Mitchell, that hard times are going to come. And really, the question to ask the candidates also is, suppose that happens, suppose the economy turns down, suppose we have a recession, what is your plan and what is your flexibility?

KING: Does anyone on panel think we can have a popular vote winner different from the electoral vote winner?

MITCHELL: I think it's unlikely, but it is more possible in this election than in any in recent years the way the thing is shaping up. It is conceivable that the popular vote could be extremely close, tipped one way and the electoral vote the other way. And that depends again on those seven or eight large Midwestern industrial states.

KING: Michael, you're nodding your head.

BESCHLOSS: It could happen, and it also sort of falls out in other odd ways. 1960, Nixon lost by 100,000 votes, but at the same time he won 26 states. You have have situations like this.

In 1968, there was the possibility that the election would be thrown into the House of Representatives because of George Wallace, who finally wound up with 13 percent of the vote. Nixon kept on saying, Hubert, agree with me that we'll just have -- instruct the House to go along with the popular vote winner because the Democrats controlled the House. Humphrey said, I believe in the Constitution.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more. Don't go away.



REP. RICK LAZIO (R-NY), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: 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.


KING: Is that race the most interesting, other than the presidential, Michael?

BESCHLOSS: Why do you exclude the presidential, Larry, as some people may feel it's the most interesting in general? It has all the elements. I would love to write about it 30 years from now as history.

KING: Bob.

WOODWARD: People are fascinated...

KING: Got nothing to compare it to.

WOODWARD: I mean, here -- here we have one of the candidates saying that his wife is being harassed on the campaign trail in a way that doesn't quite make sense. And we -- we still have not fully answered the question in that race exactly why Hillary Clinton decided to run. KING: This an "if," Fred. If she is he elected to the Senate, are things going to be a little weird there with Secret Service -- in the Senate?

THOMPSON: It depends on whether she goes on my committee or not.

KING: Would you like her on your committee?


THOMPSON: I would rather not talk about that, if you don't mind.


Senator Mitchell, how does that race look to you in New York?

MITCHELL: Well, I think she is going to win. But I think that Fred will verify this, that she is going to be in for a rude awakening when she actually gets into the Senate. It's really a tough place to get anything done. I was the majority leader for six years. I had a very hard time getting anything done. And when you are No. 100 on the totem pole, it's really tough.

She'll get a lot of attention. But to actually get anything done in the Senate is really pretty tough.

KING: Wait a minute.

MITCHELL: I think she is going to get elected, though.

KING: Senator Thompson, as a former first lady, she will not have clout beyond of that a normal freshman?

THOMPSON: Well, I think she will have a bit of more bully pulpit. But in terms of getting things done, I mean George is absolutely right. It's -- it's very difficult. You have to lay a lot of groundwork. You have to work hard over a long period of time to get much of anything accomplished -- for anybody. And it will be no different.

KING: Michael.

BESCHLOSS: And it may be like Robert Kennedy, the previous one who came from another state and ran in New York; 1965, he was the most freshman of senators, but he was an instant presidential candidate -- and much more clout outside the Senate than within.

KING: And, by the way, I have been -- I've been saying the wrong name of Bob Woodward's forthcoming book. I've been saying "Meteor." It is "Maestro." And it's about Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve. "Meteor" ain't a bad title don't laugh.

George, don't laugh at me.


KING: ... be called "Maestro."

WOODWARD: I heard -- and we -- I was evaluating it in my head when you gave the wrong title. But it's "Maestro."

MITCHELL: Larry, if -- if I could just say that Bob Woodward behaved like the ideal presidential debater. He didn't correct you when you made a mistake.


BESCHLOSS: I heard him sighing.


KING: All right, let's get a phone call in.

Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry.


CALLER: Would the panel comment on media spin and its effect on these roller-coaster presidential polls?

KING: Yes.

Bob? They're spinning every second.


WOODWARD: Well, they are. And you -- I think the best thing a voter can do is ignore the polls. I was talking to a plain ordinary voter today, and he said something that really hit me. He said being a voter is hard, because if you have listened to all this stuff and you try to sort it out, you hear all these numbers, all these proposals. And the candidate that wins may be the candidate who adopts a kind of voters' relief act, making it simple, telling it straight, being very direct, and not confusing people.

KING: In other words: "In last week of this campaign, I shall not say the word trillion."

BESCHLOSS: Yes, sounds like that will get a lot of votes.

KING: As we go to break, and come back with some more phone calls, we expect to connect with Bill Daley down in Long Boat Key in a moment or so -- hopefully -- here was Hillary Clinton today on the "Rosie O'Donnell Show."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now you are going to get your hands all slimy.

ROSIE O'DONNELL, HOST: Perfect. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, we are going to take out the seeds and strings. So take your scraper scoop.

O'DONNELL: Your scooper.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or you can use an ice cream scoop. But, you know -- anyway. I sometimes stick my hands in, pull these.

O'DONNELL: Use your hands.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, no, the important thing is, before you're done, though, Rosie...

O'DONNELL: Yes, that's good. That's nice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, there you go.



KING: Before we wind up things with our panel -- Karl Rove was with us earlier -- now we'll go down to Long Boat Key, Florida, where Bill Daley is standing by. He is the campaign chairman for the Al Gore campaign.

What does Vice President Gore have to do, Bill, tomorrow night?

BILL DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: I think he has to, once again, Larry, reiterate his positions, the things he feels strongly about, that he will do as president. Talk about his programs on keeping our economy strong, strengthening Social Security, making sure that retirement security is there for the American people. And so, I think he will do that, and he will do it once again in a clear and a forceful way.

KING: Were you were disappointed in debate one? What was your reaction?

DALEY: No, I think it was clear. All of the polls immediately after were that Al Gore won. Obviously, there are a lot of observations about things that, quite frankly, in our opinion, were not relevant to whether or not either one of these people clearly laid out their positions. Al Gore did. He reiterated it time and time again. But it's unfortunate that some people jump on mannerisms or other things and try to say that that should judge whether someone should be president or not.

But Al Gore was very clear about his desire and his specific plans to keep our economy strong, which as George Mitchell said, if we don't keep our economy strong, then all these other things we want to do as investments in the future can't be done.

KING: But isn't -- isn't credibility -- let's say there is exaggeration, isn't that a fair critique, Bill?

DALEY: Well, there's -- obviously, both of these candidates are critiqued day in and day out by you and your colleagues in the media on a whole host of things. The most important thing, though, is the validity of their ideas and the specificity in which they lay out their programs, Larry, not the minor things. It is the major things.

Al Gore, I think, clearly has stated that he may have made a minor mistake on whether or not he traveled with someone to Texas or not. But on the issues that are important to the American people, like the tax plan, he was very specific and very knowledgeable about his own plan and the shortcomings in Governor Bush's plans.

KING: What do you make of these poll swings?

DALEY: Well, I believe that this race has been close for weeks. There is no way that Al Gore was up 11 points five days ago, and then went down eight points. Today, it is a three-point spread in your poll. There is another national poll out showing Al Gore winning. The bottom line is, this has been a close race. It's going to stay a close race. I agree with Karl Rove when he said the American people are going to look at these three debates and then collectively make a decision. But it will go down to the wire, and I think it'll be a very exciting month that we've got ahead of us.

KING: Are you surprised, Bill, that Senator Thompson tells us that Bush is slightly ahead in Tennessee?

DALEY: Well, we've seen polls that show just the opposite. But there's no close -- no -- no question that it's close in much of the country. But Al Gore will win his home state of Tennessee, with all due respect to the senator.

KING: Will we be up late on the 7th?

DALEY: I would assume we'll be up late. You know, the West Coast, California, Washington, Oregon, and other states will be important parts to this race. So I think we will. Obviously, there will be some people who try to go to bed off of the exit polls, but that's a mistake, I think, in the modern day.

KING: And do you think the network should not project?

DALEY: Oh, I think they should not project. I think it's unfair to the people on the West Coast. I think it is the wrong thing to do, and I think that's something that they should all agree to do now.

But it's going to be an exciting month, because Al Gore is going to be out there laying out the case for his candidacy and the sort of exciting things he and Joe Lieberman want to do when they're the next president and vice president of the United States.

KING: Thanks, Bill, great seeing you as always.

DALEY: Good, Larry. Take care of yourself. KING: Bill Daley in Long Boat Key. He's the campaign chairman for Al Gore. We'll be back and wrap it up with our panel, and ask what they about Hillary and Rosie O'Donnell and what that had to do with the campaign. Don't go away.


GORE: We basically have a choice to make. We can have a very large tax cut that is geared mostly to the wealthiest in our society, or we can have middle-class tax cuts that are targeted and affordable, and we can invest in education and the top priority items for our future. But we can't do both. You can't make education a top priority if a tax cut for he the wealthiest is the first, second, third and fourth priority.



KING: We're going to get one more call and then some sum-up comments. But, Bob, what did you make of -- what does stuffing a pumpkin have to do with being a senator?

WOODWARD: Where you showed Mrs. Clinton doing this on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." It shows that it's hard to be a candidate also.

KING: You've got to do these things.

WOODWARD: You have to do it, and it's something Senator Thompson would never do.

WOODWARD: I perfected the pumpkin stuffing...


... many years before I ran for the Senate. I think it's just another case of one of her media buddies trying to help her out.

KING: Senator Mitchell...


THOMPSON: ... won't be enough.

KING: ... do you have staff a pumpkin to get attention? No.

MITCHELL: Now, Larry, you're letting your gender bias show. Candidates, male, in New Hampshire participate in ax throwing contests, you don't ask questions about that. One of the things -- one of the things that everybody runs for office in America knows is that you must learn the art of making a fool of yourself gracefully, and you might as well submit to it. That was mild compared to what Fred and I and others have been through. There's no criticism for that.

KING: Abe Lincoln made porridge, Michael. BESCHLOSS: He didn't do it on "Rosie O'Donnell" thankfully. But you know, Stevenson in '56 was not connecting, and he said to his aide, "What am I doing wrong?" The aide said: "When a little girl hands you a stuffed baby alligator, you say, 'This is just what I wanted.' You don't say what you did say, which was, 'For christ's sake, what's this?'"


THOMPSON: Someone said before we elect a president, we first all make them prove they're not worthy of it.


KING: Wellsville, New York, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.


CALLER: Does the panel think that the reported NRA support for Bush could negatively affect Gore?

KING: Gun control has not come up yet the debates, either debate.

WOODWARD: It hasn't, and it's important issue.

KING: I'm sure Jim Lehrer will bring it up tomorrow.

WOODWARD: Quite possibly. I mean, you know, it is a solid bloc that really cling -- they cling to their guns, and they will vote that way.

KING: Can it hurt your side, Senator Thompson?

THOMPSON: No, I don't think so. I think this is an election where turnout is going to be key, if you'll pardon the pun.

KING: And that'll win it.

THOMPSON: So any group that's activated, motivated strongly is going to be important.

KING: The NRA going to bring people out, Michael?

BESCHLOSS: Could very well, and in some surprising states, too.

KING: Yes, but America -- most American women are not crazy about he the gun control...

BESCHLOSS: And that's exactly -- and that's exactly why the strategy is that for Governor Bush, for instance, to downplay it in the debates, but let these people organize and turn out the vote.

KING: All right. We've got about a minute and a half. Senator Mitchell, what do you expect to see tomorrow night?

MITCHELL: I expect to see a good debate. I think both will be better than they were for the first time, because they've now had the benefit of seeing what they did and listening to criticism by people like us. I think they'll repeat the basic themes, because I think both want to make their case.

One of the points you talked about earlier, Larry, was getting to the undecided. I think the debates are at least as much about reinforcing and invigorating your own base. So I think they'll keep at that, as well.

KING: Senator Thompson, what do you expect tomorrow?

THOMPSON: Yes, I agree with that. I'm kind of in a minority on the format. I'm not sure this works to Bush's advantage. Gore is very strong and sometimes overpowerful, overpowering, and some people give him credit for that, and I think that's the reason why some people thought he won the debate. He dominated the debate in terms of time and all that.

I think in a more informal setting that lends itself to someone who wants to do that if the moderator doesn't control it.


It may turn -- it may turn some people off, but it might allow him to dominate it in some way.

WOODWARD: Well, it's going to be a debate obviously about issues, but the real issue probably in this debate is trust. Do people come away with a feeling, I trust that person to be president?

KING: Michael?

BESCHLOSS: Yes, and in context of most debates, reassure people who are leaning. And in Gore's case, reassure people who are leaning toward him but a little bit worried that perhaps this is not someone I'm entirely comfortable with. In Bush's case, reassure people who would like to vote for Bush, but are a little bit worried about perhaps lack of experience.

KING: Thank you all. CNN's complete coverage starts at 8:00 Eastern tomorrow night. We'll be off tomorrow night, and following the debate, Wolf Blitzer will have another town meeting with undecideds. We'll be back Thursday night with Katie Couric.

Thanks for joining us, stay tuned for NEWSSTAND, and good night.



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