ad info

 
CNN.comTranscripts
 
Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback  

 

  Search
 
 

 

TOP STORIES

Bush signs order opening 'faith-based' charity office for business

Rescues continue 4 days after devastating India earthquake

DaimlerChrysler employees join rapidly swelling ranks of laid-off U.S. workers

Disney's GO.com is a goner

(MORE)

MARKETS
4:30pm ET, 4/16
144.70
8257.60
3.71
1394.72
10.90
879.91
 


WORLD

U.S.

POLITICS

LAW

TECHNOLOGY

ENTERTAINMENT

 
TRAVEL

ARTS & STYLE



(MORE HEADLINES)
 
CNN Websites
Networks image


Larry King Live

How Have Presidential Elections Changed Over the Years?

Aired October 26, 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, just 12 days between you and the ballot box in one of the tightest White House races ever. We'll get insights on this up-for-grabs election from journalists who are no strangers to neck-and-neck races, and they've got more than 200 years of experience between them.

In New York, the executive producer of "60 Minutes," Don Hewitt. He produced and directed the 1960 presidential debate, which changed the face of U.S. politics. In Charlottesville, Virginia, veteran Sander Vanocur. He was a panelist at the Kennedy-Nixon face-off and what a part he's played in American journalistic history. In Washington, senior political analyst for Politics.com and the former political director for ABC News, Hal Bruno, who has covered every American election since 1960 and a player himself in two of the debates. And from McCarthyism to impeachment, he's reported on politics for CBS and CNN and now public broadcasting -- he made Nixon's enemies list along the way -- Daniel Schorr of National Public Radio. And they're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Walter Cronkite was due to be one of our panelists tonight, but Walter has had surgery recently on his hip and lower leg, and is still having some discomfort. We wish him well, hope to see him back with us soon. We'll start with Don Hewitt in New York.

Does it ever get old hat, these things? I mean, another election? Do you ever say to yourself, like a sports writer of the World Series, here we go again?

DON HEWITT, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "60 MINUTES": Well, it's so different, Larry. I mean, I started in 1948. That's 52 years ago. It was Dewey and Harry Truman, and there was a third party with Henry Wallace. And it's not the same game. It's so different. We'll talk about it as we go along. But it was -- it's not -- doesn't even resemble what it was then.

KING: And by the way, if we count up, including the years on your host -- and I'm the youngest one on the show tonight -- there's 371 years on the planet here among the five of us.

Sander Vanocur, does it ever get "old hat"?

SANDER VANOCUR, JOURNALIST: No, it doesn't get old hat because it always changes. But what Don's saying is absolutely right: Compared to 1960, today seems to me a different world. 1960 seems to me as ancient as the pharaohs.

KING: Hal Bruno, is it night and day?

HAL BRUNO, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, POLITICS.COM: It's very, very different, and journalism is always exciting. It's journalism that counts with me. Politics is simply what I cover, and politics has changed. Journalism has changed. But committing the act of journalism, that's always exciting. I never get tired of that.

KING: And Daniel Schorr, here we have -- is it just new faces, same story, or is it different?

DANIEL SCHORR, SENIOR NEWS ANALYST, NPR: No, I think it's very different. I think what has changed a great deal is that politics has become a form of entertainment and instead of trying to find out what people think and what their policies are, they want to know how they're going to act, in the first place, during the debates, in the second place, on all the talk shows that they may participate in. And they're being judged by movie reviewers and not by political experts.

KING: So we're not the better off for it, Don Hewitt, if that's true?

HEWITT: Oh, no. We're in terrible shape.

In 1948, television was radio's little brother. We couldn't go anywhere. We were -- the cameras were unwieldy, everything was on a cable, there was nothing wireless. And all of a sudden, a political convention came along, we said, oh my god, we can cover that. It's like a sporting event: We know what time it's going to start, we know where it's going to happen, we know where the goal posts are, the rostrum. It was easy.

And it was a convention to pick a candidate. There were delegates there who would decide who was going to be the nominee.

Today, I -- I frankly believe we should never cover another one of them. I think they're infomercials. I think we ought to charge them. I don't think that Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw, or Bernie Shaw, should be the ringmasters in their circus. And I think if they want to run a circus, then the Republicans should get Charlton Heston to be their anchorman and the Democrats should get...

SCHORR: They will.

HEWITT: ... Jane Fonda, if I can mention her name on this network...

KING: You can.

HEWITT: ... and we just sit back and let it happen. There's no news there.

KING: Sander, do you think, Sander, we are not better-served now with all the channels and all the news coverage and all news channels and 500 outlets? We're not better served now? VANOCUR: Oh, no, no. What you've got now is an electronic tapeworm. When I started out, when all of us started out, there were two news cycles, morning and evening. Now, you've got 24 hours a day and the tapeworm always must be fed.

KING: So aren't we better-served?

VANOCUR: No, I don't think we're better-served because there's no consensus, and now running political campaigns are political consultants. I want to bring back the political types like Cliff White (ph), John Bailey (ph) and all the Plauses (ph). I want to go back to the smoke-filled rooms except OSHA won't let us have a crack at it.

KING: Hal, do you -- anyone can jump in. Just let me get a few questions going, and then just wait until somebody finishes and jump in. Hal Bruno, do you share this view that while we may seem better- served, the public was better-off then than now?

BRUNO: Well, we get a greater volume now, but I'm not so sure the quality is all that good. You know, everything changed in 1960 with the advent of television. The other big change was 1972 when the process changed. We took the power away from the political parties, and you created this primary/caucus system, which is supposed to be a better democratic example, and it's turned out awful.

It's nominated people who are not qualified. The voters don't really participate in the primaries, and I think Sandy's got a point: not necessarily a smoke-filled room, but bring back party leadership.

The other things is, even though you have a greater volume of coverage today, a lot of it's pretty bad stuff. Newt Minow once called TV the vast wasteland. But let me tell you, out there on the Internet there's a vast garbage dump, and some of the stuff is pretty awful.

I mean, at Politics.com we try our best to be responsible and have some kind of a sense of discipline, but so much of it is just stream of conscious bunk that's being floated.

SCHORR: The only way you can judge whether it's working is to judge by the results. Never have we seen fewer voters getting ready to vote, never have we seen voters less sure of what they believe in or whom they believe in. They go back and forth depending on what small trivial error may have been made by one or by the other.

What we've got now is election by plebiscite. The plebiscite is conducted by television and mainly by looking at trivia.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: We're going to take a break -- hold it, guys. We'll take a break and come back with more. We'll compare Kennedy-Nixon in 1960. Don Hewitt produced and directed it. Sander Vanocur was one of the panelists. Hal Bruno was covering it backstage. Dan Schorr was in Germany and heard it on the radio. We'll compare that then to now, 40 years later. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, KENNEDY-NIXON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE PREPARATIONS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: David, would you hit the one-minute button please?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And your camera.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 30 second? And the cut please? And Howard will hit the gavel if somebody ignores...

RICHARD NIXON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What does the cut -- the cut mean? That's it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out gracefully.

NIXON: Five seconds?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Uh...

NIXON: Right? No, what I mean is you want to quit quickly or how...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Well, we figure when you see 30 seconds, you...

NIXON: Then try to...

(CROSSTALK)

All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... and then the cut is that's it, and then Howard will give you a few seconds over the cut and then bang-bang.

NIXON: Yes, I understand. Sure, sure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, KENNEDY-NIXON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE PREPARATIONS)

HEWITT: Will you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) camera 2 please, Roger? Whoever's by the monitor, would you step forward? Norman, now can I see camera 1 please? Try the close-up.

Now -- Bill, what do you want me to do? This?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, KENNEDY-NIXON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE PREPARATIONS) HEWITT: Now, will somebody -- Phil, will you get a whole bunch of chairs in the bottom level over there in the control room, not up on the top level, down below? So all I want to do is listen to this program and I don't want to hear...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A very young Don Hewitt prepping for the 1960 debate. All right, if it was so much better then, Don, wasn't it also true personality won then? Kennedy looked better; that counted.

HEWITT: But that was only part of it. I think every debate is judged -- remember when we went to school as kids and we used to get a mark for deportment.

KING: Yes.

HEWITT: I don't think there's anything to do with substance; I think it's all deportment. I think we make our decision based on who looks to us to be the guy we want to sit in the Oval Office.

We were all in Chicago a couple of weeks ago at the anniversary of that debate, and Sandy said something hilarious. He said we -- they talked about Quemoy and Matsu.

KING: That's right.

HEWITT: And most Americans, according to Vanocur, they thought that was a Japanese dance team. They don't -- nobody listens to the substance. Now, let me...

KING: So...

HEWITT: You know what the worst thing that happened that night? That was the night that television and politics realized they had so much to offer each other and we get engaged. And the marriage that followed was a disaster because they married us for love, we married them for many. And today, because of what happened there that night and they saw how much they needed each other, you -- the No. 1 qualification to hold office in the greatest democracy on Earth is an ability to raise money. And it all came to that night when television and politics got engaged.

KING: But Sander Vanocur, didn't you say that night was better than now?

VANOCUR: No, it was just different. It never happened before. I've looked at those tapes, I've read the transcripts. Kennedy and Nixon had a debate over substance. And if I may say, what's gone downhill because of television is the tone of political rhetoric.

Let me just read you something from Kennedy September 9th, Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles. I think the record of the two parties and its promise for future could be told pretty well from its record of the past. Mr. Nixon and I, and the Republican and Democratic parties are not suddenly frozen in ice or collected in amber signs the two conventions. We're like two rivers which flow back through history, and you can judge the force, the power and the direction of the rivers by studying where they rose and where they ran throughout their long course.

Are you going to hear rhetoric like that anymore? No, 9-second soundbites.

KING: Good point.

Hal Bruno, is rhetoric gone? Has -- can you remember anything memorable so far in this campaign that you would quote?

BRUNO: No, absolutely not. It's been a campaign in which neither candidate has been able to inspire anybody. That's the reason why we don't know who's going to win and who's going to lose. It's the first time we've had a close election since 1976. And I think there are two reasons for it: One is the economic conditions are very good, so that usually means a low turnout. But equally important is the fact you've got two candidates who really are not very inspiring to the mass of the people.

SCHORR: I've been thinking about what Don Hewitt said and I will venture to disagree with him, which I didn't dare to do when I was at CBS. I don't think that -- I don't think that it's gone downhill from 1960. Indeed, 1960 and the debate was one of those rare occasions when the -- when the candidates could speak to each other without having to pay the networks to do it. And one of the rare things that's left today that is not paid television is debate television.

This year, I'm told, a billion dollars will be spent on television commercials. And it is true that because they've got to raise those billion dollars they sell their souls to do it. And so the bottom of all of this and why politics has gone where it has gone and why people talk but feebly about the idea of having campaign reform is they've got to raise money for television. If we had more debates and fewer television commercials, we'd be better off.

KING: But Daniel...

(CROSSTALK)

HEWITT: But they're not debates.

KING: One at a time. One at a time.

HEWITT: They've never been a debate. They've never been a debate. They're joint news conferences.

Teddy White and I had once proposed that they appear in front of a joint session of Congress, that hypothetically Bush and Cheney would debate Gore and Lieberman with an Oxford debating moderator for one hour, a real debate, and then the second hour would be like parliament and question time, and let the Democrats in Congress have at the Republicans and Republicans in Congress, because when you have...

KING: Great idea. HEWITT: You know what happens when you have newsmen? Here's the problem. I know all these guys, we all know them. They sit there and they say to themselves, "What can I ask that's going to make me look smart but not make me look partisan?" Well, nobody who's not partisan should be in a debate. Debates are about partisan, they're not about impartial newsmen.

KING: Let me get a break and come back. We'll pick right up where we left off, and we'll have all our guys jump in. We'll be including your phone calls as well.

Tomorrow night, the Cheneys, Dick and Lynne Cheney. He's the candidate for vice president on the Republican ticket, will be with us. And then a panel of Bob Woodward, Ann Compton and Hugh Downs. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, KENNEDY-NIXON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next question to Senator Kennedy from Mr. Vanocur.

VANOCUR: Senator, you've been promising the voters that if you are elected president, you'll try and push through Congress bills on medical aid to the aged, comprehensive minimal hourly wage bill, federal aid to education. Now in the August post-convention session of the Congress, when you at least held up the possibility you could one day be president, and when you had overwhelming majorities, especially in the Senate, you could not get action on these bills. Now, how do you feel that you'll be able to get them in January if you weren't able to get them in August?

SEN. JOHN F. KENNEDY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I may take the bills -- we did pass in the Senate a bill to provide $1.25 minimum wage. It failed because the House did not pass it and the House failed by 11 votes. And I might say that two-thirds of the Republicans in the House voted against $1.25 minimum wage and a majority of the Democrats sustained it. Nearly two-thirds of them voted for the $1.25.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CNN COVERAGE OF REAGAN-CARTER PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE)

SCHORR: All right. That was the reply of President Carter on the issue of terrorism, and following that Barbara Walters put the same question to Governor Reagan

We're having to -- a little difficulty getting the tape cued up to the right place. Four years from now, we'll do this better. If there is...

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Do you remember that, Dan?

SCHORR: I shall never forget that, Larry. I shall never forget that. That was a bold act on the part of Ted Turner who said that neither the League of Women's Voters nor anybody tells CNN what's news and whom we cover. And so when they decided there was going to be this debate between Carter and Reagan, and that was all. Here was John Anderson, who was a third-party candidate, independent candidate, who was a very interesting candidate, and orders were given, we put him in. How did we put him in? We hired Constitution Hall. I sat on the stage of Constitution Hall with John Anderson.

First, the debate was in Cleveland, or the rest of the debate, let me say, was in Cleveland. And then there would be answers from the two of them. We would then cut away and then ask the same question of John Anderson. Mind you, of course, in doing that, we were falling constantly more and more behind the tape, and after a while we found we didn't know where we could get to the tape. It was not one of the greatest technical feats ever performed, but it was a very interesting and bold adventure.

KING: Now, let's get into some meat. Sander Vanocur, why is this race so tight?

VANOCUR: I think...

KING: Can you hear me, Sander? Oh, I'm sorry.

VANOCUR: ... it's tight.

KING: You were composing your thoughts.

VANOCUR: I'm trying to think before I speak. Is that still allowed on television?

KING: Dead air, Hewitt! Dead air!

VANOCUR: I think it's tight because the country is rather evenly balanced now. I don't think that the populous is very happy with either of the candidates, and I don't think the coverage has been so excellent that it's allowed the people to really have any judgments.

The polls say the race is close. Well, maybe it is close, but maybe the day after election we'll wake up and say, my god, this is a liberty digest -- "Literacy Digest" of 1936 or '48, when Gallup stopped polling before the election, two weeks before the election, because it was supposed to be such a certainty of a Dewey victory.

I don't know why it's so close. The polls...

KING: Hal, you analyze -- Hal, you analyze these things all the time. Why is it neck and neck? If it is neck and neck.

BRUNO: I think it is neck and neck, and it's even, when you look at it state by state -- don't forget the name of the game is 270 electoral votes that you've got to win. And the lineup of the states, it is very, very close.

So I think the reasons are, as I said before, first of all, you a healthy economy, you have good times, there's prosperity, so people are not worried, they're not upset, they're not angry like they were in '92. And that's when you had a very high turnout in '92 because of the economic conditions.

The other thing is, as I said before, is neither of these candidates have really inspired people. There's no crossover voting in this election, I don't think.

SCHORR: There is something new this time, which I have never noticed before quite in this way. Usually by October, middle of October, certainly by the end of October, people had made up their minds and you know -- you knew whom they were going to vote for. The seesaw effect that we're seeing now where one is two points ahead but next week the other is two points behind, all the rest of it, that I have never seen, and I think it indicates that opinions are held in a very shallow way. They've very subject to change, and it's subject to change on very, very minimal, trivial things.

KING: Don Hewitt, could, in view of that, could we have an electoral winner different from the popular winner?

HEWITT: Sure, of course, you can.

KING: I mean, logically it could happen.

HEWITT: Sure, sure, of course. First of all, I'm not sure I believe the polls. I'm not sure that people ever tell pollsters the truth. As somebody just said -- who said it? Sandy or Hal or somebody -- that for all we know, one guy may be, you know, miles ahead and the polls just can't measure it.

I keep thinking that if the Republicans had nominated John McCain, they would probably be miles ahead right now.

KING: We'll pick -- we'll pick that up in a minute. We'll be right back, get into a free-for-all, include your phone calls. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN QUAYLE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I pointed out what he said about the Persian Gulf War. But let me repeat it for you. Here's what he said, senator. You know full well what he said.

SEN. AL GORE (D-TN), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You want me to answer your question?

QUAYLE: I'm making a statement, then you can answer it.

BRUNO: All right. Can we give Admiral Stockdale a chance to come in please? And...

QUAYLE: Now, here's what he said. I mean, this is Persian Gulf War, the most important event in his political lifetime, and here's what Bill Clinton says: If it's a close vote, I'd vote with the majority, but I agreed with the minority.

BRUNO: Let's give Admiral Stockdale a chance to come in.

QUAYLE: That qualifies you for being the president of the United States? I hope America is listening very closely to this debate tonight...

RET. ADM. JOHN STOCKDALE (REF), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I think America is seeing right now the reason this nation is in gridlock.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Some other pop-shot questions and then we'll get at to it more. Hal Bruno, what do you make of the current, if you can call it that, romance with Ralph Nader?

BRUNO: Well, Ralph Nader is causing a lot of trouble for Al Gore. I was talking to the different states today, to party leaders, both parties, and in Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maine, these are all places where Ralph Nader is running maybe 4, 5 percent, something like that, and that's all coming out of Al Gore's hide. And you have a very, very close election. So something like a Ralph Nader can make a difference in swinging some of those states.

KING: Now, Sander, that vote could hold or these people might at the last minute say, well, I am voting for Bush by voting for Nader and vote for Gore, right? We don't know.

VANOCUR: Yes, that could happen right up to the last minute if people would be allowed to make up their minds with all of us gas-bags telling them what to do. I think that's what really we have to watch for.

BRUNO: Larry, I think the biggest indecision on the part of people is whether or not they're going to vote. First of all, they've got to make up their mind to vote, and once they make that up, then they'll decide who they're going to vote for.

KING: Nobody's been around longer than all of you, and I say that complimentary. Don, why don't people vote? Why don't we have 80 percent turnouts?

HEWITT: Because there's no real enthusiasm for either guy. There's no Ronald Reagan, there's no Dwight Eisenhower, there's no Franklin Roosevelt. And there's no -- no real enthusiasm. I mean, I think most people feel, OK, if it's Bush, that's not the worst thing that ever happened to us, if it's Gore, that's not the worst thing that ever happened to us.

I don't think anybody can generate or -- just no enthusiasm out there for either one.

But here's the one -- I don't understand one thing. I don't understand why Gore does not want Clinton campaigning for him. If I had a guy in my corner that had that kind of an approval rating, I'd want him. And I think he's guessed wrong in trying to keep Clinton out of this race.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: One at time.

VANOCUR: Can I answer that question?

KING: Yes.

VANOCUR: The reason they haven't is you don't have politicians running campaigns, you've got bloody consultants. That's what's happened.

BRUNO: You know, Don -- Larry, I talked to a bunch of Democratic Party leaders today in different states, and to a man they said, get Clinton into the big cities: get him to Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, the places where he could turn out the vote, And Sandy is absolutely right.

SCHORR: Larry, if you go back to your questions as to why people aren't passionate about the candidates this year, I think it is largely because they don't have either a war or a depression to worry about. When you have a great crisis in this country, they decide that who is president matters.

I think to many Americans they think this country is coasting along pretty well and will whoever is elected. That I think tends to diminish passion with...

KING: But you have enormous differences between these candidates on issues. You have things that could affect the Supreme Court. Those are major things.

SCHORR: That's right, but it's quite true. And that's being trotted out now by the Gore people trying to tell those who are interested in voting for Nader that if you vote for Nader, you may get the Supreme Court which will knock down Roe versus Wade. That is a heavy argument that's...

KING: Does -- does...

SCHORR: But on the whole -- I'm sorry. But on the whole, when you listen to these people, since they're busy answering polls and deciding to say what you want to hear about, you don't really know where they stand. Can anybody today other than a few experts tell you the difference between Gore and Bush on the subject, say, of Social Security or Medicare or pharmaceuticals or...

KING: Boy, if they don't know, then they haven't been paying attention, because there are differences. Anyway... HEWITT: No, there are not. No, there are not. Nobody can figure them out. Nobody knows what they're saying.

KING: All right. We'll get a break and we'll come back with more. We'll include your phone calls. We've got a distinguished group. We'll reintroduce them for those who may have joined us late, right after these words. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BUSH-FERRARO VICE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE)

GEORGE BUSH, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've got problems, with every other taxpayer, I've got problems with the IRS, but so do a lot of people out there. I think I've paid too much, nothing ethical. I'd like to get some money back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congresswomen Ferraro, your rebuttal please.

REP. GERALDINE FERRARO (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me just say that I'd be happy to give the vice president the name of my accountant, but I warn you, he's expensive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: A lot of years, a lot of expertise with us tonight. All of them brilliant successes in New York. Don Hewitt, the executive producer, the only executive producer in the history of one of the most successful television shows ever, CBS's "60 Minutes." Charlottesville, Virginia, gives us Sander Vanocur. His career includes work for NBC and ABC, "The New York Times," "The Washington Post." He's an author and a lecturer, and he hosts "Movies and Time" on the History Channel. A brilliant show on that channel, by the way. In Washington, Hal Bruno, senior political analysts for Politics.com, and the former director of all political coverage for ABC News. And the veteran Daniel Schorr, senior news analyst for National Public Radio, formerly with CBS News, CNN as well as print journalism.

Let's go to some calls, gentlemen. Arlington, Texas. Hello

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: A lot of networks have political shows with very biased hosts whose programs resemble a "Jerry Springer" type of program. My question to the panel is what effect do these shows have on current and future voters and do you condone this type of political analysis on TV today?

SCHORR: I don't condone it. I think it is really terrible that we merge politics with "Jerry Springer," we merge politics with "David Letterman," that people form their opinions now from jokes and the kind of ribbing that they get on these things. I think it is not very serious. I think it makes politics not very serious.

KING: Don, do you agree that a lot of shows have biased hosts?

HEWITT: I don't -- they try to play it down the middle. I don't think any one of the talk shows.

KING: Sunday morning talk shows don't.

HEWITT: Sunday morning talk shows play it down the middle.

KING: Sunday cable shows might be biased. Maybe.

Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Hello. Oh, I've got to hit the button. Fort Leonard Wood, hello.

CALLER: Yes, hello. I'd like to respectfully disagree with your panel when they say there is too much on TV about the candidates. My question is, do these gentlemen think that the American public is not smart enough to filter through everything and make a conscious decision on their own? I mean, I watch everything to make a decision.

KING: Hal Bruno, you want to take that?

BRUNO: Well, I think that caller is probably the exception. I don't think we said that there's too much on television at all. What we questioned is the quality of some of what is going on as political reporting today. There is some very good political reporting, there's no doubt about it. And I do agree with the caller that I think the American public is very capable of coming to some pretty wise decisions.

SCHORR: Can I just recall one anecdote from a debate to explain why I think that it's dangerous to conduct campaigns through television? There was famous time in the debate between Mondale and Reagan when Reagan was asked, do you think you're young enough to handle a big crisis should one arise? And he then said, well, he said, I will not use my opponent's youth and inexperience against him. Everybody laughed.

Mondale later said he lost the election at that moment. If your election hinges on wisecracks, because that's what television is about, a lot of it, not this show of course, then you really get -- I understand the lady calling in saying she watches everything. I applaud that. But it's one thing to listen to a person explain his position and another responding to wisecracks, Jay Leno or David Letterman, and that doesn't take you that much further I think.

HEWITT: How about makeup? How about makeup? That happened. How about Nixon's makeup?

(CROSSTALK)

KING: What about makeup? But Don, isn't the point moot? I mean, Daniel makes a good point, but it's moot. Television is here to stay. That's what it's going to be?

HEWITT: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: One at a time.

HEWITT: Listen. Here's what's really wrong with television. It cost Franklin Roosevelt $2.8 million to get elected president of the United States. In today's money, that's $26 million. In the television world somebody said they're going to spend a billion dollars this year. I -- it's incredible. Everything that's gone wrong with politics you can lay at the doorstep of television.

BRUNO: But also it's unrealistic to think that television would not play the role that it plays. Look, it's here to stay. I'm sure there was a time when people bemoaned the fact that radio had come into being and that FDR could go on radio and enchant the entire country, which other people could not do. Television is -- it's a fact of life. That's where political campaigns are conducted.

HEWITT: Hal, it's not the free appearances. It's the money that's spent on television commercials. Schumer and D'Amato spent more money on television commercials in New York than it cost Franklin Roosevelt to get elected president, and to try to stop it and tell us that's a violation of the First Amendment is ridiculous. That's not what the First Amendment is all about.

SCHORR: Don, you are right but this thing can be fixed. The Communications Act says that television and radio should operate in the public interest, convenience and necessity. And all we need is a law to do it the way it's done in most of Europe. You cannot buy time on television for political purposes, and television will give you time during the last three weeks of the campaign.

HEWITT: I agree with you. But why isn't it happening? Because Congress doesn't want it to happen. That's why it doesn't happen.

(CROSSTALK)

VANOCUR: I'll tell you, why it's happened is because, thanks to Watergate, we went for reform. Reform has not worked. Let us take away all barriers on how much can be spent. Just announce how much you're giving 90 days before the election. Reform has not worked. As one Tammany leader once said -- no, it was Chicago, pal -- Paddy Bauler (ph). Chicago ain't ready for reform. Well, the country's not ready for reform. So let's get rid of it.

KING: Back with more phone calls and our outstanding panel. Tomorrow night the Cheneys will be here. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "KENNEDY-NIXON DEBATE PREPARATIONS")

NIXON: I think that we both just -- if he's agreeable. I think that we both just stand here. You say, "We now have questions, gentlemen," and then we move over here, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

NIXON: Fine. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Incidentally, I think what Howard will actually say is "The first question now to Senator Kennedy." You may not want to get up until he's finished. Then once you get up to comment on, then you're up for the rest of the...

NIXON: Good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNO: Admiral Stockdale, it's your turn to respond next, and then Senator Gore will have his chance to respond.

STOCKDALE: OK, I thought this was just an open session, this five-minute thing, and I didn't have anything to add to his, but I will...

GORE: Well, I'll jump in if...

(LAUGHTER)

QUAYLE: I thought anyone could jump in whenever they wanted to.

BRUNO: OK, whatever pleases you gentlemen is fine with me. You're the candidates.

QUAYLE: But I want Admiral Stockdale's time.

BRUNO: This is not the Senate where you can trade off time. Go ahead, Senator Gore.

GORE: I'll let you all figure out the rules, I've got some points that I want to make here, and I still haven't gotten an answer to my question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Sound familiar?

BRUNO: Yes.

KING: Pikeville, Kentucky, hello.

CALLER: Yes. I'm just wondering how a vote for Nader could hurt Al Gore without hurting George Bush. You know, seems to me like they both lose votes, but the polls, they have been jumping around as if...

KING: Well, I think it's because most people, they figure, inclined to Nader would be more inclined to be liberal and therefore would probably go for Gore over Bush, right, gentlemen?

VANOCUR: That's right.

KING: So a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush in that sense.

Sacramento, California, hello.

CALLER: Yes. My question relates to the daily and the very numerous polls that are taken, and my question is, what benefit is it to the American voter to hear the daily polls from all the various polling organizations -- I mean, if they vary every day...

SCHORR: None whatsoever.

KING: They're supposed to be important for the candidates, right?

SCHORR: Right.

KING: But they're not necessarily -- in fact, they're done for the candidates, aren't they, supposedly?

SCHORR: No, no, it depends.

KING: Well, why do we even know the -- why do we have to know a poll?

SCHORR: Well, we have to know what we believe. Don't we?

BRUNO: Well, the poll has become the tail that wags the dog. A poll can be very useful. It's a good reporting tool. And the problem with polls is that they're over used and that they're much abused and they're used in the wrong ways. The caller is perfectly right -- why the public has to hear a daily tracking poll is beyond me. I don't understand it.

VANOCUR: But, Hal, the reason is because of the electronic tapeworm. When in doubt, use a poll. And going back to what Dan said 30 minutes ago, we do have this idea that a plebiscite has been already carried out. In '60, the turnout was 66 percent. It's now in the middle 40s. My instinct is, by the time you go to the polls, between the ads and the polls, the American people think they have already participated in the plebiscite process. So why go to the polls?

KING: Don Hewitt, what do you make of polls?

HEWITT: Awful. Awful. And come on, we are all guilty. CNN runs a poll, CBS runs a polls, ABC runs a poll...

SCHORR: I don't.

HEWITT: No -- "New York Times," "Washington Post." We've all fallen for this baloney.

SCHORR: Well, there is a good reason for it. It is because if you want to reduce this to the dimensions of a horse race, which is interesting for the media, you have to show who is ahead and who is behind, because that makes it a little bit more like a game, which is what television tends to do to almost everything. VANOCUR: But, Larry...

BRUNO: There's nothing wrong with doing polls. All I'm saying is that the way they're used is wrong.

VANOCUR: Larry?

KING: Yes.

VANOCUR: Michigan is supposed to be a toss-up.

KING: Right.

VANOCUR: Last Friday, in a brilliant piece that Johnny Apple did in "The New York Times," it's the very last paragraph. He goes to see Doug Fraser, who succeeded Walter Ruther as head of the UAW, and Fraser says to him that in the last labor negotiations it was agreed that the UAW people could get a day off on Election Day to vote. Now, that's good reporting. You don't need a poll to tell you what that means. That means labor is going to come out in force, and labor in Michigan means something. A poll is not going to tell you that.

KING: Good point.

Ocala, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Yes, my question to the panel, especially Sander Vanocur, is what would be the risk, the major risk in bringing in President Clinton into the front stage to campaign vigorously for Al Gore at this moment?

KING: Yes, why would Gore be afraid of that or not want it, do you think, Sander?

VANOCUR: He is listening to his consultants.

KING: And what is their reasoning. What would their reason -- they're not stupid -- what would their reasoning be?

VANOCUR: I don't know that they're not stupid.

BRUNO: I can answer that, Larry.

KING: Yes, Hal.

BRUNO: They -- you know, they fought like the devil going into the Democratic Convention to try and separate Gore from the Clinton moral issue problem that the Republicans were planning to pin on. The Republican plan was to link Gore to Clinton and to all of his personal troubles. And the...

KING: But they haven't done that.

BRUNO: No, they haven't done that. And the Gore campaign took Joe Lieberman on the ticket and that sort of killed the morality issue right there. They don't want to take a chance on having that come back to bite them again. But at the same time, as I said before, they better get Clinton into those big cities and get out the Democratic vote, because if they don't they're going to lose.

KING: All right, what do you think? Don, what do you think? Don and then Daniel.

HEWITT: I think that Bill Clinton could probably get re-elected tomorrow, and I don't know why Al Gore doesn't realize that.

KING: And, Daniel, what do you think?

SCHORR: Did you hear Governor Bush say the other day that if President Clinton gets into the race, that he, Bush will have something to say, practically threatening to bring out scandal? And there is a question as to how far they want to go. It is clear that what Gore would really like is a) to have the president campaigning for him, and b) not letting it be known that he asked him to.

KING: We'll be back with more and more phone calls on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE with Don Hewitt, Sander Vanocur, Hal Bruno and Daniel Schorr.

Tomorrow night, the Cheneys. On Saturday night, a little breather from all of this with Maureen O'Hara. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We are back.

Take a call from New York City, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry. I'd like to ask your distinguished panelists if they could comment on what appears to be the diminution of the importance of print journalism in this era of television and how that would have affected -- how it is effected.

KING: Excellent question. We'll start with Mr. Hewitt -- print journalism's impact reduced.

HEWITT: Yes, but I -- it's competing with this combination, as Dan said, this combination news and entertainment and it makes it very difficult for newspapers to compete with that.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: One at a time.

BRUNO: Larry, I came from print. I was on a big city newspaper for seven years. I was at "Newsweek" for 18 years, and I think that the role for print journalism has changed, but I think print journalism is still very important, because if you take the people who actually go out to vote, those are people who read newspapers and who read magazines. So the print media is getting to the voters.

KING: But, Sander... SCHORR: And the important papers still help to set the agenda for television. Every morning session the television producers and editors get together, they've read "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," "The L.A. Times" and a few other things and they say, what do we do about this story, what do we do about that story. Newspapers help to write the agenda.

HEWITT: Baloney. It's -- no, no, now it's just turned around. There's as much newspaper following television as television following newspapers. It's changed, Dan.

KING: And also, Sander, isn't it true that if you watch the candidates enough on television, what the op-ed page tells you is immaterial to you? If you like Gore, you like Gore and no columnist will change your mind whereas 30 years ago they might have.

VANOCUR: I don't know. I think the print journalism this year has been awfully good in the magazines and in the newspapers, but I don't understand how we can sit and tell people how people make up their minds. I think it's a mystical experience, unique in the history of mankind how the American people usually have a pretty good sense of where their best self interests lie. And I don't use that in a pejorative sense. I don't know how they make their judgments, but they make them pretty much in a very admirable way.

KING: Including the judgment not to vote?

VANOCUR: Even a judgment not to vote. Listen, the Soviet Union used to turn out 98 percent. So, you don't have to vote. Nobody is requiring you to. And that's your right.

BRUNO: Well, you know, the people who do vote, they have a pretty good idea who they are voting for and why, and the most important issue in any campaign is always the candidates themselves, and I think most people vote basing it on their perception of who is best able to do this job. Now, a lot of people will vote straight party lines. They're born Democrat, born Republican, but more and more people are independents and they vote on the basis of who do they think is the best person for the job.

KING: What do you make of all the undecideds, Dan Schorr?

SCHORR: Well, I'll tell you, the -- what the American people basically want -- I shouldn't be speaking for them, but what the hell -- what the American people basically want is somebody who is smart and somebody who is nice. The trouble is they have somebody who is smart and the other one is nice, and it's very hard to choose between them.

VANOCUR: Larry?

KING: Yes.

VANOCUR: Larry, I think parties still matter despite the destruction I think television has done to political parties, and I think a lot of people, at least on the Democratic side, follow the great adage of Pat Moynihan. He said, I was born a Democrat and baptized a Catholic. There are a lot of yellow dog Democrats still around -- and I don't know what you call them on the Republican side -- who will not vote. That's a core you build on and you go after the undecideds.

KING: Don.

HEWITT: You know, we blame television, I think the parties have done a lot of harm to themselves, too.

VANOCUR: Absolutely.

HEWITT: I think when they brought about the reform rules of 1972, where they turned it over to the primaries and the caucuses to pick their nominees was a terrible mistake.

KING: Don, what do you make of the undecideds?

HEWITT: I don't know. I can't figure it out. But getting back, a minute ago, about they don't want to be tarred with Clinton's so- called "immorality," that's -- that doesn't wash. I mean, there was Gennifer Flowers, there was Paula Jones, there was Monica Lewinsky, there was Kathleen Willy, and his approval rating never changed and he got elected president twice -- and it started out with Gennifer Flowers. I don't think there is a moral issue.

KING: We'll take a break and come back with our remaining moments, some final thoughts from each of our guests, maybe ask them for a prediction. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: One more quick caller, Elizabethtown, Kentucky, hello.

CALLER: Larry, I've got a question for you. One of your -- if I'm to believe your panel members, the Electoral College can elect the next president over and above the popular vote.

KING: Right.

CALLER: I live in a small town. What is going to possess me to get in my truck and drive 25 miles to cast my vote if the Electoral College can make a president?

KING: Because Kentucky could be the difference.

BRUNO: Yes, Kentucky has eight electoral votes and that counts.

KING: That's right. So you could have a deadlock and one guy wins by eight electoral votes and your vote would have counted.

Gentlemen, forecast. Don Hewitt, who is going to win?

HEWITT: I not only don't know, I never met anybody who does know.

KING: Well answered. It's like who is going to win tomorrow's game -- we don't know.

Sander Vanocur, do you know, or do you think you know?

VANOCUR: I don't know. I don't think I know. But I know one thing: on the Wednesday afterward, all the gas bags will be on telling us what happened when they couldn't tell you before -- two weeks before what was going to happen.

KING: Hal Bruno, do you know?

BRUNO: I do not know, Larry. And this is genuinely a close election. This is the closest we've seen since 1976. There is no way of knowing at this time who is going to win or lose.

KING: Could absentee ballots count here?

BRUNO: Very much so, and especially in those West Coast states, the state of Washington, 50 percent of their votes are absentee ballots.

KING: Daniel Schorr, do you have a forecast?

SCHORR: If I knew you were going to ask me this question, I would have taken a poll.

BRUNO: Well said.

KING: So what's your own guess, if you have a guess?

SCHORR: I don't have any guesses. I don't guess on live television.

KING: In -- the Jewish factor ever enter into it, Don Hewitt, with the candidacy on the Democratic ticket, do you think, plays any role in this campaign?

HEWITT: No. I think Joe Lieberman is the class of the whole year, so no, I think America has sort of taken to Joe Lieberman.

KING: Hal, do you see any evidence of either a pro-vote because of Lieberman or an anti-vote because he's Jewish?

BRUNO: No, I haven't seen either of those two things. It's interesting that we were talking about how bad the debates were, but you know, the real class act this year was the Cheney-Lieberman debate. And that was a very good format, incidentally, with the moderator and the two candidates all sitting at a table, civilized discussion, easy to control, and two guys who really were quite eloquent and had a great deal of appeal.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHORR: I think...

KING: Go ahead, Dan, we only have 30 seconds, quickly. SCHORR: In those 30 seconds, I think that there's a marginal benefit to the Democrats, judging from the fact that a lot of Christians like the idea that he's -- talks spirituality, a lot of blacks like the idea that they're breaking down barriers. Those two things I think have helped him.

VANOCUR: Larry?

KING: Yes.

VANOCUR: Remember what Larry Gelbart, the creator of "M*A*S*H," said when Lieberman was announced: if Lieberman gets elected vice president, he'll be one heartburn away from the presidency.

KING: Thank you all very much, Don Hewitt, Sander Vanocur, Hal Bruno and Daniel Schorr.

Stay tuned for CNN's "NEWSSTAND." See you tomorrow night with Dick Cheney and others. Thanks for joining us. I'm Larry King, good night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

 Search   


Back to the top  © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.