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Larry King Live

Election 2000: Green Party Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader Discusses Campaign

Aired October 30, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, eight days out and the White House race is still too close to call. Could a third party candidate determine the winner? We'll talk with the Green Party's standard- bearer, Ralph Nader.

And then joining us at a political roundtable, Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, the GOP governor of New York, George Pataki, the Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, author of "Is our Children Learning: The Case Against George W. Bush," and long-time Republican strategist Ed Rollins, veteran of the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations. Plus, a battleground debate with Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan and the wolverine state's GOP governor, John Engler, in Lansing. It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We begin with the man of the hour, Ralph Nader. We might tell that both Governor Bush and Vice President Gore were invited to appear tonight and declined.

Ralph, Mark Fabiani, a top adviser to George Bush, said this: A vote for you, Ralph Nader, is a vote for George Bush -- he is a top adviser to Al Gore -- and a Bush presidency would undermine everything Ralph Nader and his supporters believe in, including abortion rights, and environmental protections. How do you respond?

RALPH NADER, GREEN PARTY PRES. CANDIDATE: First of all, it has already happened. Our citizen groups are being closed out of Washington from two parties that are more interested in raising money from business interests than doing what the Democratic party did years ago, which is, be instrumental in passing consumer, environmental and other legislation.

KING: How about abortion rights?

NADER: Second -- let me finish, please. Second, Larry, the Democrats have become very good at electing bad Republicans and surrendered the Congress in three straight elections to the extreme wing of the party. That is why the abortion issue has taken such prominence. It wouldn't be on the screen if the Democrats controlled the Senate. And, the two worst justices, Scalia and Thomas, were allowed through the Senate by Al Gore and all the Democrats who confirmed Scalia 98-nothing, and 11 Democratic senators who gave Thomas the win 52-48 in a Democratically controlled Senate. That is the problem. KING: So you are asking people to vote Nader and the Democrat on the ballot?

NADER: I'm asking for people to vote for a moral and ethical political reform movement. One where if they think there is a lesser two of evils, they don't go that way. Because once you don't vote your ideals, once you don't vote for a new fresh political movement that is rooted in the sensibilities of the people, rather than the extravaganzas of corporate cash contributions, that has serious undermining effects. It erodes the moral basis of our democracy. That is what we are really -- we are coming through November, with the third largest party in America, millions of voters, and we are going to build a progressive political movement. And if the Democratic party wants to respond, fine. If it doesn't, it is going to shrink down. We are not going on our knees any more.

KING: Are you dismayed that many Republicans, right wing Republicans, radio talk show hosts, are urging liberals go out and vote for Nader? because they know a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush? does that dismay you at all, to hear yourself being supported by people who don't agree with you on anything?

NADER: We'll take every vote we can get. We are looking at --

KING: Well that is practical, that is not idealist.

NADER: Any vote that is that is convinced that we are the way for reform in this country, the Green Party...

KING: Even if the vote is just to block?

NADER: Look, they don't distinguish motivations. I would not like people to vote for us tactically. The Democrats can urge the voters to vote for Buchanan, and undermine Bush. That is nothing we can do anything about. We want to try to look at the 51 percent of the eligible voters who sat it out and didn't vote in 1996, and the young voters, the youth voters and if we bring more and more of these people into the political system, I think the whole democracy benefits as a result. Let's not just look at it as taking votes away from Gore.

Bill Safire's column today in "The New York Times" indicated that our support comes from a lot of people. We get one Republican vote for every two Democratic votes, some polls have told us, like the Evans-McDonald (ph) poll in Oregon and Washington state. And we are getting independent voters, non-voters, young voters, the voters who voted for Perot and Bradley and McCain, and Ventura, for various reasons. But they wanted one thing, they wanted a cleanup drive in Washington to break the grip of the permanent corporate government that makes good people in the Congress not fulfill their own potential.

KING: So, Ralph you will not feel any, say poorly, if, on election night, you get enough votes in, say, Washington and Minnesota and Michigan to cost the presidency of the Democratic candidate?

NADER: That is not our priority, our priority wouldn't even be in this race.

KING: I didn't ask about priorities. I asked how you would feel.

NADER: No, I would feel very good about getting more votes.

KING: So, you would feel good about helping elect a Republican who you don't agree with at all?

NADER: No, only Al Gore can beat Al Gore. Dave Letterman is right, Larry, when he said that people say Nader takes away votes from Gore and he said: Heck, only Gore takes away votes from Gore. And you imagine, he is in a neck-and-neck race with bumbling Republican governor in Texas with a horrific record? And he still is in a neck- and-neck race? What does that say about the Democratic party? What does that say about their historic significance as a party of the working families? that now they have become a party of how much tens of millions of dollars they can raise from the same business interests that are bankrolling the Republicans? It is not just me. Senator Russ Feingold said the same thing about this corrupt system, and so has Senator John McCain.

KING: Those who say that is not the Ralph Nader I know. The Ralph Nader I know stays outside the system, goes around it, parading, talking about what's wrong inside. And once he becomes a candidate, he is a politician, too. His voice is no longer the voice of the consumer. It is the voice of a party, the Green Party. It is just another party. It is just another politician.

NADER: Larry, you just look at our Web site, and you will see positions that are distinct from the Republican Democrat. We take strong positions, moral positions, against the diversion of tax dollars into corporate welfare giveaways and subsidies, taking down a bloated military budget driven by the weapons corporations, rather than by defense considerations. We are for a repeal of Taft- Hartley to give tens of millions workers in low paid jobs to get higher wages. We are for withdrawing from WTO and NAFTA and renegotiating global trade agreements as if to pull standards up, not pull standards down. We want to protect workers in this country from competition from brutalized child labor.

KING: That is the platform of your party.

NADER: Yes, and how about this? You are talking about another politician. We are unilaterally disarming when it comes to refusing to take corporate soft money, crooked corporate interest money and political action committee money. We are only taking contributions from individual contributors because we want to practice what you preach, and that way we have to preach what we practice. That is a very moral decision, Larry.

KING: We are going to spend a few more moments with Ralph Nader and then our panel will assemble. And then the governor and the senator will go at it. More with Ralph Nader, who tomorrow night will appear at a town meeting with Jesse Ventura. We'll ask about that. Don't go away. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Ralph Nader is our guest to begin things. He will appear at a town meeting tomorrow night with Governor Jesse Ventura of Minnesota.

Do you think people are going to read things into that?

NADER: I think they are going to read three things that Jesse is supporting. One is, more public financing of campaigns, giving third party candidates a chance to get on the debates, and same day voter registration, which turned out a lot of votes for him on election day, to let him win a three-cornered race.

KING: There are Bush supporters, Ralph, using quotes of you in ads against Gore. Does that offend you?

NADER: Yes, because the Democrats don't use quotes from me in ads against Bush, which are actually more critical than against Gore in the area they chose, such as the environment.

KING: So therefore, is there any feeling that, in a sense, you are being used?

NADER: Well, tell me, Larry, can anybody get into politics before being -- without being used? You know, when the civil society in Washington, all these groups that we had programs on you, when you were a radio talk show host, they used to be able to get something done in Washington. But the civil society is being closed down. Money just inundates, floods everything, most of it corporate money. I mean, when you get a magazine like "Business Week" asking: "Too Much Corporate Power?" And the answer yes, yes, yes, in page after page, and then saying in their editorial, quote, "Corporations should get out of politics," and 72 percent of the American people polled in this magazine say that corporations have too much power over all aspects of your life.

Who are the extremists? The corporations that are contaminating, and buying and renting our politicians, and undermining our democracy are the extremists, not the Green Party.

KING: Can you tell me what you are looking for next Tuesday? Like, for example, what kind of vote are you expecting?

NADER: All I can say millions of votes. We are going to get millions of votes. I think we are going to get more than the polls are showing, because they don't poll non-voters and young voters. And we are going to come out of November like a power justice train. And we are going to be a watchdog over those two parties, telling them: If they don't start shaping up, like some members who are good within those parties, they are going to shrink down, lose more votes in future elections.

KING: A poll today show that I think overwhelmingly those voters, when asked who they would be for it if weren't you, were for Gore over Bush. Do you think, practically, this will help elect a Democratic House? And a lot of people will go to vote for you and then vote for the Democratic -- the Democrat running for Congress?

NADER: Excellent point, Larry. There are only 10 percent of the House seats challenged by a Green Party candidates. That leaves 90 percent for a spill -- spill over vote, and Gephardt knows that, and he is not all that displeased because he is going to either win or lose the House for the Democrats in critical seats, about 23 House seats. So if they think I'm taking a lot of votes from Gore, compared to Bush, then they also have to concede the consequence, which is that these voters, looking and seeing no Green candidates, will vote for the Democrats. And that is a nice consolation prize.

KING: So you are saying that Dick Gephardt is not upset with your candidacy?

NADER: I don't think he is, in terms of the House of Representatives.

KING: Are you supporting any one out of your party by name? are you supporting Hillary Clinton? are you supporting the candidate for the Senate in Virginia? anybody like that?

NADER: No, I'm not.

KING: Any reason? I mean, you must have some favorites in other races.

NADER: I'm focused so much on going around the country, getting the biggest paid political rallies, filling Madison Square Garden, Boston Gardens, trying to get the vote out, trying to get visibility to the Green Party, and in future years, enlarging it, with thousands of candidates coming into local, state and national office.

This is not going to go away, Larry, like a lot of third parties. A lot of seasoned citizen activists are going in. It is going to build a major political progressive force in America.

KING: Let me get in one quick call, Los Angeles, for Ralph Nader, hello.

CALLER: Yes, I want to know how Mr. Nader feels about the Republican groups who are financing his campaign and his ads.

KING: Are there people, Republicans, financing you, Ralph?

NADER: No, of course not. She may be referring to those ads you just referred to.

KING: Yeah. They are not your ads?

NADER: No, they are not. And...

KING: And you do discourage them?

NADER: There is nothing I can do about it. If they ever tried to splice my words, which they, fortunately for themselves, didn't do, I would really go after them, But we don't want soft money ads. That is part of our public funding of public campaigns, which would get us so many other reforms, like universal health care. We don't want soft money ads, but both parties are using soft money ads. We have denied ourselves the use or collection of any soft money...

KING: Thanks, Ralph.

NADER: ... in order to set an example.

KING: Ralph Nader, always good seeing you.

NADER: Thank you, Larry.

KING: The candidate of the Green Party.

Coming up Senator John Kerry, Governor George Pataki, Paul Begala, and Ed Rollins. And then, later, the governor of Michigan, and the United States senator from Michigan, one of the senators, Carl Levin.

We will be right back. Don't go away.


KING: Let's now meet our panel: Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, is with us in Washington; in New York, is Governor George Pataki, the governor of New York; in Washington, is Paul Begala, the Democratic strategist and former counsel to the president, he is author of "Is Our Children Learning? The Case Against George W. Bush," and the co-host of "EQUAL TIME"; And in New York is Ed Rollins, the veteran GOP strategist, who served in the administrations of Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan.

Now, Senator Kerry, first things first, what do you make of what Ralph Nader had to say?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Larry, I have enormous respect for Ralph Nader. I cut my teeth on his public interest groups when I was first into politics and back from Vietnam. And I, frankly, agree with many of the things that he is fighting for, and much of what he is saying. But I have to say this: Ralph Nader is perhaps, for the first time in his life, being somewhat disingenuous, or perhaps he is so vested in what he is doing that he avoids the reality.

There is a difference between Al Gore and George Bush. And his votes will take away from Al Gore. The difference is so clear on the environment, on women's rights, on civil rights, on foreign policy, and perhaps most importantly, I think, most people know that on campaign finance reform.

I heard Ralph say something about moral choices in this business. I am the only United States senator who has been elected three times to the Senate without ever taking special interest money. I don't take PAC money. I don't take soft money. I didn't -- my last campaign I did without independent expenditures. And I will sit here, and say to Ralph Nader, and all of his supporters, I even support a bill that goes way beyond what John McCain and Russ Feingold support, but if Al Gore is not president of the United States, campaign finance reform will be dead for the foreseeable future. The only way we will save to it is to have him.

KING: Governor Pataki, are you happy to see Nader running, frankly?

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI (R), NEW YORK: Well, let me just say, I don't think with Al Gore, we're going to see campaign finance reform. We haven't even seen someone who is willing to abide by the current campaign finance laws. I agreed with one thing that Ralph Nader said, and that is that there has been a breakdown of civility and partisan gridlock in Washington that has to end.

The question is: Is Al Gore, who has been a part of it, going to end it? or is George W. Bush, who has been able to successfully govern in a bipartisan way in a large, important and diverse state, going to end that partisan divide and bring the people together in a way that will solve problems, like finally protecting Social Security, and adding prescription drugs to Medicare for our seniors?

And I think it's very clear that of the two you have one who's been able to govern as an executive successfully in a bipartisan way, and one who's been a part of this bitter partisan battle in Washington.

KING: Politically, governor, are you glad that Ralph Nader is running?

PATAKI: I'm glad that George W. Bush is ahead in every single poll. And I think it's more a tribute to two factors: One is his ability to unite the American people and inspire them with his positive vision, and two the failure of Al Gore after eight years in national office to be able to get people behind him.

KING: All right. Paul Begala, do you think the Republicans are happy?

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST, "EQUAL TIME": Well sure they are. We just saw Governor Pataki practically grinning from ear to ear because they know -- and there's a practical reality here. And I join with Senator Kerry, what he said, that there's a lot to admire in Ralph Nader. I admire him terrifically and the contributions he's made to our country. But if you vote for him, what you are voting for, be very clear, the reality will be that Jerry Farewell will be helping to pick the Supreme Court, that corporate polluters will be helping to run the Environmental Protection Agency, that the National Rifle Association will be writing our gun laws, that corporate lobbyists will be writing our campaign finance laws.

Everything that Ralph and his many followers believe in will be put to the torch by a Bush victory, and so be very clear about the moral choice, as Ralph said, that you progressive voters are making.

KING: Ed Rollins, are you...

PATAKI: Larry...

KING: Ed first. Ed, are you happy as a Republican that Nader is running this year?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I could care one way or the other. I've been on the opposite side of Ralph Nader all my whole life. I think the reality is George Bush is going to win this race because more voters are going to vote for him.

Al Gore is the vice president of the United States. If he can't hold his own political base and loses to a fringe candidate, he's going to lose and lose big.

KING: So it's not a question of being happy or not happy?

ROLLINS: Makes no difference to me. Bush has to win this race himself. He has to -- campaigns matter, candidates matter. He didn't go ahead in the polls after the three debates because Ralph Nader affected it, he went ahead in the polls because the American public got to see him face-to-face, and liked him much better than they did, trusted him much better than they did Al Gore, and that's why he's now leading in the polls and leading in the electoral vote.

KING: So if he wins by 1 percent in Michigan and 1 percent in Wisconsin and 1 percent in Washington, and Nader gets 4 percent in each of those states, you won't be happy?

ROLLINS: That's life. I'll be happy that he won. That's the key thing.

KING: OK, winning is everything.

ROLLINS: Winning -- well, you don't get to govern unless you win. And the reality is there are a whole lot of Republicans that voted for Bill Clinton. If -- Republicans have a tendency to blame Perot for losing in 1992.

KING: Right.

ROLLINS: The truth of the matter is that if the 4 million Republicans who voted for Bill Clinton would have stuck and voted for George Bush, George Bush would have been president. If you lose your own political base, it's your fault, not someone else's fault.

KING: Well said.

We'll be back with more, and our governor senator will be joining us, as well. They'll have a special portion to themselves and then back to the panel.

We'll be back with the panel right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Make no mistake about it, on November the 7th, a week from tomorrow, prosperity itself will be on the ballot. And the choice will be in your hands. Your one vote may well make the difference. Your one vote is more powerful on Tuesday, a week from tomorrow, than the voice of any powerful interests, more decisive than any campaign that can be waged.



KING: There's no major poll, John Kerry that has a spread of more than 3 percent, but in the four major polls Bush is ahead in all cases. Are you worried?

KERRY: Listen -- look, this is not about polls. The polls move one way one day, one day, another day. Frankly, Larry, I wish all the television stations and newspapers would take their polls home and leave them there until the American people vote next week.

This is a really critical choice, and I want to go back to this Nader issue and the question of making a difference. I mean, I'm sorry that Ed Rollins doesn't think it matters. I'm in the process. I vote, and it does matter.

I can remember in 1968, when everybody said tweedly-dum, tweedly- dee, Nixon, Humphrey -- doesn't matter. And you had about one vote per precinct that made a difference in who was president.

Then we had the "Southern Strategy," we had the invasion of Cambodia, we had a peace process hidden from Americans for five years. Almost half the names on the wall in Washington, D.C., are there after we elected the candidate of peace who didn't have a plan.

So I say to Americans, it makes all the difference in the world. We fight these things every day in the United States Senate. We have bills come over from the Republican House and from the Republican Senate that seek to diminish the Clean Water Act, take away women's rights, change the capacity of people in organized labor to fight. And those things matter. And I'm saying to people plaintively, they should recognize the difference.

Ralph Nader, I admire. Again, again I say it. But if he takes votes away, he can elect George Bush in the same way, frankly, that Ross Perot had an impact in the election of '92.

KING: All right. Governor, are you surprised that despite the prosperity your candidate is ahead?

PATAKI: Not at all, Larry. I'm not surprised at all. First, he's been a very successful governor, as all of us who've worked as his colleagues as governors have understood...

KING: I don't mean to interrupt, but the public regards this administration, 62 percent of the public, successful. PATAKI: Well, the second point I was going to bring to bear is that in the debates the American people for the first time got to see Al Gore and George Bush up close and personal. In those debates, they saw three different Al Gores. They didn't know which one was going to show up for the next debate.

They saw one George Bush, someone they could trust, someone who is sincere about his efforts to unite the American people and lead them together.

And I agree with John Kerry. That one vote is very important, and this is a crucial election, but I think it's just appalling that Al Gore is trying to win that election by dividing the American people, frightening the American people, not looking to have positive solutions to the problems that face us but rather to frighten the American people on issues like Social Security. It worked in '92...

KERRY: But that's just not -- that's just not true.

PATAKI: ... it worked in '96, I don't think it's going to work in the year 2000.

KERRY: But, Larry...

KING: Let me get a break, guys, and we'll pick right up with this. We're going to have a full-fledged debate, and Paul Begala and Ed Rollins will join in as well.

We're going to take a break, and when we come back we'll spend some moments with the governor of Michigan and United States senator from Michigan, as well, to discuss that key state. It could be the difference between winning and losing. And then we'll get back with our panel.

We'll be right back.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I'm going to tell you something. I tell you, there's going to be -- there's going to be lot of shocked people on November the 7th, starting with my opponent.



KING: Take a break from the panel now to focus in on maybe the key race in the United States: Michigan.

Joining us from Lansing, Michigan, is Governor John Engler, Republican of Michigan, who heads the Bush campaign there. And in Washington, Senator Carl Levin, four-term United States senator from Michigan, both very, very popularly elected officials in this key state.

What's the latest, Governor Engler? Who's ahead?

GOV. JOHN ENGLER (R), MICHIGAN: George Bush got a slight lead in Michigan, for all of the reasons that George Pataki has been talking about tonight. Coming across as much the stronger leader. One extra benefit in Michigan, Al Gore scares our autoworkers and we've got Lee Iacocca on the air saying: Wait a minute. If you are an autoworker, if you care about cars and trucks, be worried about Al Gore, this guy is a risk.

And so I think the Bush leadership, the consistency, the integrity of George Bush is a wonderful contrast. And I believe that there is a little daylight opening up, it is still close in Michigan, it is going to be close all the way, hard-fought, but I think Gore is going to lose Michigan and that costs him the presidency.

KING: Senator Levin, what's your read? I know you are some miles away from your home state, but what do you hear back home?

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Well, I have been home most of the time, and I think that the vice president will win for a number of reasons. One is that his, as you talk to people who still have not made up their minds, what they are telling you is that they don't yet see a reason to change the economic course that we are on.

And some of the things which have been proposed by Governor Bush are a little bit disturbing to them, including the privatization partially of Social Security, and his tax cut, which is not only so large that it will use up most of our surplus, but also mainly benefits upper income people.

And as far as those autoworkers are concerned, which Governor Engler mentioned, autoworkers remember back what the days were like when President Bush was in office, when we lost over 40,000 autoworkers' jobs. We have picked up 160,000 additional autoworkers' jobs because of this national economy -- the national economy has been healthy. And those 160,000 jobs have come during the Clinton-Gore years.

So we lost during the Bush years 40,000 jobs, gained 160,000 during the Clinton-Gore years. People remember that.

KING: So you think Gore will win, also close, as the governor is saying.

LEVIN: I do. I think it is going to be a very close race, but I think he is going to win for the reasons that I have given, plus his experience, and plus the feeling that: Why change course? Why change the economic course without a very good reason to do so? And there is some really disturbing features to the Bush plans.

KING: Governor Engler, politically, what's the impact of Nader in your state?

ENGLER: Not very much. I think he hasn't run a very effective campaign in the state, and frankly doesn't have a lot of a message here, so. I have said all along that it is really Bush versus Gore, and I think that is a great matchup for us.

You know, and the economic news is probably cutting a little bit in George Bush's favor right now, because Chrysler has got layoffs this week, steel industry is starting to suffer, the suppliers' order books are getting a little light. And, you see some of the policies that Gore is an advocate for, and people start to get real nervous.

We just announced, in the last six months, two new General Motors assembly plants in the Lansing area. If Al Gore's EPA policies had been in effect, we might not have been able to permit either one of those plants in Michigan.

However, Mr. Gore has been happy to negotiate a treaty which Senator Levin opposes, and I oppose it, and Governor Pataki opposes it, Joe Lieberman even used to oppose it, that would allow for clean air requirements to be imposed on the U.S., but not our competitors like Mexico and Korea.

KING: You think that Bush will cut into a huge usually Democratic labor vote?

ENGLER: Well, I took about half the labor vote in '98, it is an independent ticket-splitting vote. Younger workers that are coming in to the industry think they can invest their own money. They get a little offended when Al Gore says they are rich, and they don't get any tax relief.

I think there are some things that work for us there. In the '90s. one of the changes that happened is in '94, we got the Republican Congress, and that is why Senator Abraham, running this year in a tight race, is going to win reelection, because some of these changes, and I don't think they quite give Bill Clinton and Al Gore that credit, plus they worry that Al Gore is no Bill Clinton. When it comes to economic policy, Gore is kind of a zealot.

KING: Because Bill Clinton won your state rather easily; right?

ENGLER: '92 was competitive, and '96 was a walk over.

KING: Senator Levin, what's going to do it for you, assuming whatever Nader vote gets, would have been a vote that your man would have gotten. Do you need a huge turnout?

LEVIN: Turnout will be very helpful, but also what's going to do it for us I think is a number of things. Number one, again, the reasons that I spoke about before, the feeling that there is not a good enough reason to change the economic course that we are on, that is number one. Number two is the memory of the double-digit unemployment that we had in the Bush years, and the fact that we have a record number of new jobs in the Clinton-Gore years. Third is the fact that the vice president has, indeed, been visionary when it comes to having an automobile industry in the United States, which is competitive.

And that means new kinds of engines, that means hybrid cars, that means that we are going to have fuel cell cars. And the partnership for new generation of vehicles, which the vice president led with the big three, is aimed at preserving an auto industry in the United States.

And autoworkers also remember that Dick Cheney, who is Governor Bush's vice presidential candidate, voted against the loan guarantees for Chrysler. If he had his way, there would not be a Chrysler Corporation now.

ENGLER: We won't have auto industry in Michigan...

KING: Governor Engler, do you expect a big turnout?

ENGLER: I hope so. I want it to be just as big as it possibly can be. You know we are in the Halloween season, the scare tactics have started. We've got half of Hollywood calling in to Michigan, trying to scare older voters, younger voters, women voters, minority voters. But I think that, this weekend, Joe Lieberman went over the top. And I think this is going to hurt the Gore campaign. I predicted last week the very personal attack by Mr. Lieberman, and even by Mrs. Gore, on George Bush directly. It is the old Reagan attack from 1980 that they brought back, and it is the biggest Halloween stare tactic of all to somehow suggest that the two terms as governor of Texas doesn't qualify one to be president.

And it failed in '80, and I think it is going to be a bomb in 2000. I don't think it is going to help. I think it is probably going to rebound the other way.

KING: Senator Lieberman will be here tomorrow night, and I will ask him about it.

LEVIN: If I could just give another reason as to why I really think that Gore is ultimately going to win in Michigan, and that is we have about 4 percent of the people now who say that they are going to vote for Ralph Nader. I don't think they are because they are so much closer to the vice president on the issues, the issues that John Kerry and others have mentioned.

When you look at the issues, everything from the environment, to women's rights, to who is going to be on the Supreme Court, you look at the kind of issues, campaign finance reform, and there is such a clear difference between the vice president and Governor Bush on those issues that I think that the Nader voters, who care about issues, also care about being relevant, and they are not going to be relevant, if they are going to vote for Nader when that is going to defeat Al Gore. And that is what a vote for Nader does.

KING: Thank you both very much, Governor John Engler and Senator Carl Levin...

ENGLER: Thank you, Larry.

KING: ... and Senator Carl Levin, thanks for being with us.

LEVIN: Thank you, Larry.

KING: And our panel of Kerry, Pataki, Begala, and Rollins, sounds like a law firm in Providence, returns after this.


KING: We are back with our panel of Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts; Governor George Pataki, Republican of New York; Democratic strategist and author Paul Begala; GOP strategist Ed Rollins.

All right, Paul Begala, you heard the Michigan contingent, what do you make of it?

BEGALA: Well, I thought Senator Levin made the better argument. There you saw the governor trying to scare people, particularly those autoworkers. Well, the facts are, we had eight years of a Clinton- Gore economic policy, and as Senator Levin pointed out, it has been the best in history.

We have had a Bush economic policy, too. And it gave us the worst recession since the Great Depression. We have turned that into the greatest economic success in history of the country, 22 million jobs created, the highest home ownership in history. I mean, this is simply not the time to go back to a theory that we know failed. That is big tax cuts for the very rich and economic recession for all the rest of us and that is exactly what Bush is promising.

KING: Ed, you are the strategist among us, I guess. How does Michigan look to you? Now, be reportorial for me.

ROLLINS: Michigan is a critical state for us and obviously, we are now a little bit ahead and I think we are going to win there. There are four states going to come down to deciding this race and they are Pennsylvania, they are Michigan, they are Florida, and they are Ohio. Whoever wins three out of those four, there is 97 electoral votes there, is going to be next president. I think that we are leading in Ohio. Pennsylvania is now, basically, got about even. We are ahead in Michigan. I think we are going to come back in Florida and win that. And we are now talking about competing in California. If we win in California, we are going to have an electoral lock across this country that would be massive.

The momentum is going our way and momentum, as Paul knows, Paul is a good strategist, when the momentum is going your way, when you are leading in polls, it always closes much better.

KING: Isn't it weird, Senator Kerry, that Gore could lose Tennessee and Bush could lose Florida?

KERRY: Well...

KING: And both could win even with those circumstances.

KERRY: The answer -- is it weird? Yes, this is a weird year. And I don't think there is any of us sitting here who wouldn't say that. But, what's -- you know, in the end, I think, as people focus in this last week -- first of all, a word about polls. The samples in many of these polls have been atrocious. And, I think most legitimate pollsters would agree with that. Secondly, the margin of error is such that you really can't say who is ahead or who is behind. This is a toss-up.

KING: But they are all saying it is even.

KERRY: But that's not what Ed Rollins just said. Ed Rollins, you know, it's always wonderful. When the polls are saying your candidate is two points ahead, you claim them and when they are not, you disavow them. The fact is this is a very close race and I will agree with Ed Rollins that those are critical states. But here is what's going to decide it in the end: the American people always, kind of, come to grips with a larger set of issues in the last week. It becomes very much more personal to them.

And I believe, that whatever reservations they may have about Al Gore, and we all acknowledge they obviously have some. They have nothing to do with the way it will affect their lives on policy. They know that he is better on Medicare. They know he has a better plan on Social Security and will protect it. They know he doesn't put it at risk as George Bush does without explaining how he makes up for the transitional costs. They know that he will protect them with respect to health care. And they know that he comes with great experience in a world that is increasingly dangerous in Middle East and elsewhere. These are the things that people will vote on, and I believe they will side with his experience, and his ability to govern.

KING: Governor Pataki, CNN's political analysis has 15 toss-up states totaling 158 electoral votes. If it is that close, and if the polls are that close, how can anyone confidently predict anything?

PATAKI: Well, I believe Governor Bush is going to win and I don't know a whole lot, Larry, about polls. I will leave that to Ed and Paul. But I do know a little bit about human nature. And I think what Governor Engler just said a little while ago is very important. We have seen over the weekend, the Gore campaign and Lieberman unleash vicious personal attacks on Governor Bush. Now, the only reason they are doing that is because they haven't been able to succeed on issues like education. They haven't been able to frighten the American people on issues like Social Security, so they have to try a different tactic.

So, that tells me that they believe that they are losing this race and I think they are right. I think Governor Bush's performance in the debates and his inspiring ability to bring the American people together has made him the favorite here and with good reason. And with all due respect to Governor Kerry talking about how Gore has a plan on Social Security, and Gore have has a plan on Medicare.

Now, I'm from New York, today we had the Yankees victory parade. And in baseball, you get three strikes. Al Gore has had eight strikes. He has had eight years to fix Social Security, eight years to provide prescription drugs for our senior citizens. He didn't do it. Now, he says give me a ninth strike, a 10th strike, 11th strike, a 12th strike. Three strikes, you are out. It's Governor Bush's turn to govern and bring the American people together, forge bipartisan coalitions, fix Social Security and provide better Medicare for the American people and he is going to do that.

KING: We'll get a break and we will come back with Senator Kerry's comments and more of our panel. We'll include some phone calls as well.

Senator Lieberman will be with us tomorrow night. On Wednesday night, Rick Lazio and his wife Patricia will be aboard. Katie Couric will have some political thoughts as well on Thursday. Friday night, the cast of "Saturday Night Live" in advance of their big next Sunday night extravaganza. We'll be right back.


KING: Oddly enough, his name has not been mentioned tonight. He's the president of the United States, Bill Clinton. He is on the front cover of a forthcoming issue of "Esquire." It may not be out in time for the election. Very controversial interview with the president discussing many things about his presidency, and the much discussed front page picture.

Paul Begala, do you think this means anything in this campaign?

BEGALA: I think Gore is going to have to run his own campaign.

KING: I mean, do you think there will be an effect against Gore, for Gore, anything from it.

BEGALA: Well, I think there is a lot of people, that Republicans are trying to pretend that they didn't try to impeach the president. I think it was wrong. A vast majority of Americans, even most Republicans thought it was flat-out crazy. And, you know, Bush runs from his Congressional buddies like the devil runs from holy water. But, you know, if he gets in there he is not going to have reasonable Republicans like George Pataki or Governor Engler to deal with. He is going to be dealing with the same right wing lynch mob that tried to take over our country in 1998. I don't think it's bad to remind people of that.

KING: Ed Rollins why hasn't it come up in the campaign?

ROLLINS: Well, obviously, everybody wants to talk how good the economy is and everything else, and the president's approval rating. The president's unfavorable numbers are extremely high. He, obviously, is not an asset in this campaign, and the critical question that I think has to be asked is not is the country better than it was eight years ago? is the presidency better than it was eight years ago? And I think the answer is a resounding no. I think this president has damaged this presidency, and damaged the office of the presidency as much as anybody. He was the one who lied under the oath. He was the one who solicited an intern in his Oval Office, and was the one who basically violated his sworn duties. And I think the Republicans tried to make the case, didn't make it well, but he still is the one that was guilty of the sins.

BEGALA: Well, let me ask Ed Rollins, you said such moral high gudgeon (ph) about the "Dallas Morning News" story that ran last week that said one of Bush's own appointees in Texas contradicts Bush's sworn testimony in a civil lawsuit. This is not about girlfriends, this is about the functioning of state government. When you have people who are now saying that Bush may have said something that is untrue under oath. Are you going to be just as upset? Are we going to see some investigations of that, Ed?

ROLLINS: Sure, I think, absolutely, absolutely. I think the bottom line is everyone in the country, including Bill Clinton, has admitted that he lied under oath, and you know, the Bush thing is --

BEGALA: What about Bush then? Let's have equal. If it's sauce for...

ROLLINS: You've got Democrats everywhere. You can do whatever you want to do you. You guys are out there trying to tear his record apart and lying about his record so far.

BEGALA: I'm just telling you what the "Dallas Morning News" reported. The guy swore under oath that he never talked to anybody about an investigation that was going on in his state, an investigation which was being conducted of one of his supporters, and both the state agency head, who Bush appointed, and the lawyer for the company that was being investigated said...

KING: Well, I mean...

ROLLINS: If there was any credibility to it...

BEGALA: ... that's not true, Bush, in fact, did talk to them about it.

ROLLINS: If there was any credibility to it, Paul, you know you would have it in ads right now across this country.

BEGALA: It was in "The Dallas Morning News".

ROLLINS: You don't have it in ads, there's no credibility.

KING: All right, Governor Pataki...

BEGALA: I'm not running the campaign...

KING: Governor...

BEGALA: ... if I was running the campaign, Ed, you'd see it in ads.

KING: Governor Pataki, is Bill Clinton an issue?

PATAKI: Well, Larry, I think you just heard from Paul what really bothers me about the Democratic tactics in this campaign. It's not trying to unite and motivate the American people and solve problems, it's trying to denigrate a very decent person who has been an outstanding governor, governed successfully in a bipartisan way with a Democratic control of both houses his first year...

KING: But wait a minute. Governor, you can't have it both ways. If he did lie, that's a fact, right? I mean, you can't bring it up?

PATAKI: Well, let me say with respect to that, it's clear that President Clinton diminished the presidency in a way -- and demeaned the presidency in a way that has hurt everyone, not Republicans or Democrats but all of us. And one of his harshest critics when we were going through this was Senator Joe Lieberman at the time.

But I think the point is that what Governor Bush is trying to do and what the American people want to see happen is let's put this behind us. Let's put the partisan blaming game behind us. Let's put pointing fingers at the president or at Congress behind us. Let's try to unify the American people and govern in a way that solves problems. Governor bush has done that very successfully in Texas, where he had a Democratic assembly and Democratic Senate in his first term, because he's had enormous support from Democrats because of his ability to govern...

KING: All right, I want to...

PATAKI: ... and lead in an effective, bipartisan way.

KING: I want to...

PATAKI: Let's look to the future and stop pointing, frightening people, scaring people, dividing people.

KING: Let me -- when we take a break, we'll come back, we'll ask Senator Kerry about Clinton's role, or non-role, in this campaign in our remaining moments.

Don't go away.


BUSH: My opponent cannot bring America together because his big- government ideas are out touch with our time and out of step with the American people. He sees a passive nation, where government sets the rules. His vision of reform is to build a better bureaucrat, not to empower people to make their own decisions. No matter what new name you give them, there is no way to rally the Congress or the nation around tired ideas.



KING: Before I ask Senator Kerry, I've had a caller waiting from Sacramento -- go ahead.

CALLER: Yes, doesn't Ralph Nader have as much right to run for president as Al Gore and George W. Bush? And if the Democrats are so upset with Mr. Nader, why don't they attempt to have a constructive meeting with him instead of reacting in a way that is similar to a child who wants to pick up his marbles and go home when things aren't going his way?

KING: All right, Senator Kerry, you can answer that and also why Clinton isn't being used -- John.

KERRY: Well, nobody's reacting childishly to this. This has enormous adult consequences, I mean, the consequence of the Supreme Court, the consequences of not having campaign finance reform, which incidentally Al Gore has pledged to make the first bill that he introduces. The consequences to women's rights, the consequences on civil rights, these are adult issues.

And no one is suggesting that Ralph Nader doesn't have a right to run for president. But like every adult and every responsible public person, he needs to think about and be responsible for the consequences of what he does and chooses to do. By his running, if he were to elect George Bush, that has very negative consequences to all of us who are fighting for some of the things that Ralph Nader believes in.

Moreover, Ralph Nader began this very late, folks. He didn't get into this four years ago. He didn't go out into primaries. He didn't organize nationally at the very beginning of this. This was a Quixotic, late kind of effort. And I believe personally that it would be a tragedy to diminish all of our efforts in the Congress because of that.

KING: All right...

KERRY: Let me come back to Clinton quickly. You know, the vice president is proud of what he and Bill Clinton have accomplished together. And this country, frankly, feels very, very good and has been greatly benefited by it. At the end of George Bush's presidency, there was a reason that he wasn't re-elected. There's a reason that Bill Clinton was put into office, and that reason has set us on the path to create 22 million new jobs...

KING: So why isn't he out there?

KERRY: ... pay down the debt -- well he is out there, Larry, but I think that Gore is very sensitive and appropriately. He is running for president, not Bill Clinton. He wants to define his own presidency. And you have to go to the American -- if all of a sudden Clinton were out there, I promise you the first headlines would be "Gore Turns to Clinton to Save Him." And you all would be talking about why he needs him.

He wants to define this himself, and I respect that and the America people ought to respect that.

KING: In a sense...

KERRY: But let me -- can I come back to one point?

KING: Quickly, we're running out of time. Go ahead.

KERRY: Well, Governor Pataki and I are great friends. In fact, our daughters are even better friends, so we can disagree civilly. But let me just say that the notion that there is a culpability in Al Gore for not having accomplished campaign finance reform or a patients' bill of rights, when the Republican-led House and the Republican-led Senate have blocked us every step of the way, every Democrat voted to finish the debate on campaign finance reform. It was the Republicans who decided not do. That's when...

KING: All right, we have less than a minute...

PATAKI: Larry, Larry...

KING: ... Governor Pataki...

PATAKI: ... can I respectfully respond to my friend Senator Kerry?

KING: Go ahead, quickly.

PATAKI: It's not simply a question of not solving the problem. In Social Security, eight years, the Clinton-Gore team never even proposed a solution, never even offered a piece of legislation that would have fixed Social Security. There was a bipartisan commission. They came up with...

KERRY: Which was created by the president.

PATAKI: ... recommendations to modernize Medicare. They ignored...

KERRY: It was created by the president.

PATAKI: ... the recommendations of that bipartisan commission. Governor Bush has had a Democratic legislature. He's worked in a bipartisan way, gotten it done. He's an effective executive. Al Gore can't say the same.

KING: All right -- guys.

KERRY: Yes, but, George, you can't tell me that the record in Texas with respect to children's health care...

KING: We're out of time.

KERRY: ... education is a good record.

KING: I'm sorry, folks, we're out of time. Thank you. And thanks, Paul and Ed for standing by through the last portion.

Senator John Kerry, Governor George Pataki, Paul Begala and Ed Rollins.

Coming up, "THE SPIN ROOM" with Bill Press and Tucker Carlson.

See you tomorrow night with Senator Lieberman. Thanks for joining us. Mario Cuomo, too, and John Kasich.

Good night.



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