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CNN Late Edition
Madeleine Albright Discusses the Middle East Peace Process; John McCain Talks About the Future of Campaign Finance ReformAired January 7, 2001 - 12:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5:00 p.m. in London, and 7:00 p.m. in Cairo. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this two-hour LATE EDITION.
We'll get to our exclusive interview with the U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright shortly, but first a quick check of the hour's top stories.
We begin here in the United States, where a new controversy is emerging over one of President-elect George W. Bush's Cabinet selections.
Joining us now live is the CNN White House correspondent Major Garrett, he's in Austin, Texas.
Major, tell us what's going on.
MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well here are facts as we know them, Wolf. Questions have been raised about Linda Chavez, who is President-elect Bush's nominee to head the Labor Department.
The Bush campaign, through a spokesman Carter Eskew in Washington, confirms to CNN that from 1991 to 1992, Miss Chavez, Mrs. Chavez, let a Guatemalan woman stay at her home in Maryland. This woman was an illegal alien, although Mrs. Chavez, the Bush team says, did not know that at the time and did not inquire. The Bush team says Mrs. Chavez welcomed this woman into her home because she was, quote, "in dire circumstances," had no language skills, had no job skills, was down on her luck and definitely in need of some help.
The Bush team says that this woman at no time was an employee of Mrs. Chavez, who was working at home at the time. She paid her no income taxes, paid her no wages. There are no legal issues, the Bush team says, as far as paying any taxes for this woman, because she was never an employee, just a resident in their home whom they were trying to help out.
Nevertheless, based on the facts as he heard them today, the Senate minority -- majority leader, rather, Tom Daschle said, these facts do present some questions that will clearly be raised at Mrs. Chavez' confirmation hearing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, of course we'd want to ensure that those facts are accurate, but if that were to be the case, I think it would present very serious problems. This is the labor secretary. The labor secretary ought to set the example, ought to be able to enforce all of the laws. If she hasn't been able to do that in the past, one would have serious questions about whether she would be able to do it in her capacity as secretary of labor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GARRETT: Now the Bush team emphasizes over and over again, that since the Guatemalan woman, this illegal immigrant, was not paid by Mrs. Chavez, there is no violation of any law. Current federal law says that if a domestic employee who earns more than $1,100 a year, you must file taxes; you must pay Social Security payroll taxes and other state taxes. That's not an issue here.
Secondarily, the Bush team also says that bringing this woman in was a part of a pattern of humanitarian outreach, they say, on Mrs. Chavez's part, that she opened her home in the late 1970's to two Vietnamese immigrants and still pays for tuition for a couple young girls from Puerto Rico up in the New York public school system, pays for private school tuition for one of them, through a New York Times tuition program.
They say this is all part and parcel of her help for those in need, Wolf, and not something that they believe that should raise serious questions at her confirmation hearing -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Major, do we know whether or not this issue came up during the vetting process of Linda Chavez, whether Bush vetters asked her or whether she disclosed this information that's now coming out today?
GARRETT: This all has the feel of something that they did not know, and did not learn in the vetting process.
Carter Eskew, who is a Bush transition spokesman, has been working this case all morning. He's trying to shepherd at least the press along as it deals with the Linda Chavez confirmation process. He's been working it all morning, and my conversations with him had left me with the impression that this is a new revelation, something that they had not picked up in the vetting process. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Major Garrett, thank you very much for that update.
Let's now turn to the situation in the Middle East. Palestinian and Israeli security chiefs are in Cairo right now for a meeting with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet. They're discussing ways to end 14 weeks of violence in the region, and this comes as President Clinton has been desperately trying to conclude an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
Joining us now to discuss President Clinton's role in this last- minute effort is the U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Madam Secretary, thank you so much for joining us on LATE EDITION, your -- probably your last time on LATE EDITION while you're Secretary of State.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, SECRETARY OF STATE: Probably.
BLITZER: I think it's fair to say that. Let's talk about this effort that President Clinton has been trying to achieve. Do you have any, first of all, any readout yet on what's happening in Cairo with George Tenet's meeting with the Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs?
ALBRIGHT: Well, let me just say that on the last time that Chairman Arafat was here, and in our subsequent conversations with the Israelis and the Palestinians, the issue of violence and trying to cut it down has been one of the major aspects, because it's very hard to have the peace process and the talks go on in a really definite way if the violence continues.
And so, we have been doing everything we can in terms of trying to get the violence cut down, and I gather that the last couple of days have been a little bit better.
BLITZER: And George Tenet, the CIA director who may presumably stay on, at least for the time being, as the CIA director in a Bush administration -- a lot of people are confused. Why is he playing this role in brokering these security arrangements between the Israelis and the Palestinians?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I don't think it's really appropriate for me to comment on his role, because he is someone that has been very important generally to our administration, a brilliant CIA director, and, I think, one who has really made that agency work very, very well. I think it's very important for us to be able to use whomever we can in a way to try to lessen the violence, and so that's what's happening.
BLITZER: A lot of people are now suggesting, including the Israelis, publicly that it's almost certainly unlikely that President Clinton, in these final two weeks, is going to be able to achieve this final Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Is that your sense as well?
ALBRIGHT: Well, let me just say this, is I think there's a misunderstanding in many ways about what President Clinton is trying to do and why he is trying to do it. What has been very evident to me throughout the entire process, in which I have been deeply involved, is that President Clinton has a unique capability.
And the people in the region, the leaders in the region, come to him and say do something. And in endless phone calls that I have with European leaders and Arab leaders, they all see President Clinton as playing a truly crucial role, a unique role, because of his ability to listen and conceptualize. BLITZER: You know the criticism has been that President Clinton is primarily interested in his legacy, and that's why he has been so actively involved these last several months.
ALBRIGHT: I could end my career as Secretary of State with a barnyard expletive, but I will not do that. What is true is that he is called upon to fulfill this role. He is working very hard.
What he has done in the last two or three weeks is on the basis of his really very careful listening to both sides over the last years. He has used his judgment and presented some ideas that have come to be known as parameters about what he thinks it takes to solve the issue.
He's going to be giving a speech tonight in New York in which he's going to lay this out a little bit more, because I think that he has played a role that he has been called upon to play, not one into which he has inserted himself.
BLITZER: And, yet, there is criticism, as you well know, of the president for perhaps causing more damage than results. In fact, an editorial in today's Washington Post -- let me read an excerpt for you, and we'll put it up on our screen.
"The peace accord that could be struck has been tarnished by Mr. Barak's ineptness of politics, Mr. Clinton's overeagerness to conclude a deal, and, most of all, by Mr. Arafat's weakness and refusal to compromise."
ALBRIGHT: Well, I disagree completely. First of all, Prime Minister Barak has been bold and courageous in putting forward ideas for dealing with the peace process. He was elected on a peace mandate, and he has worked it very hard.
President Clinton has been called upon -- I can't express it any more clearly than that -- by the parties and also by a variety of outside leaders.
And I am sorry that Chairman Arafat, with whom we have talked so, so much -- I hope he doesn't lose this opportunity.
So I think that he also, Chairman Arafat, has some difficult decisions to make. Prime Minister Barak has some difficult decisions to make. These are existential to these two peoples, and what we've been trying to do is to help them along, not insert ourselves.
And, so, I think nothing would have happened if it hadn't been for President Clinton and our team.
BLITZER: And, yet, Larry Eagleburger, one of your predecessors, was on CNN this past week on Tuesday and had some strong words of advice for President Clinton.
Listen to what Larry Eagleburger had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I think it is time the president cooled it and left if for the next administration. I didn't say that a month ago, but I think it's reached the point now he really ought to stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALBRIGHT: You know, I started my term as U.N. ambassador with a strong disagreement from Larry Eagleburger about what we were doing in Bosnia. And I hate to end my time, tenure as Secretary of State, by having a disagreement with Larry Eagleburger, because we have had fabulous relationships in between.
But, I think he is wrong. And I think it is very important for the president to do what he can do while he has the ability to do it. And we are going to keep working on trying to develop some way to get them to agree on some basic principles, because I think it is useful to the next administration.
And frankly, in my conversations with my successor, I think they have found that it would be wonderful if we could take this off the table. We're not going to, obviously, be able to take it off the table completely, but I think if there are things we can do in the remaining two weeks with this very special president, I think we ought to try.
BLITZER: You know, the two issues that seem to be the most difficult right now involve sovereignty over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, what the Arabs call the Haram al-Sharif, the noble sanctuary; and the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel proper, some four million Palestinian refugees and their descendants. They at least want to have the right to return to Israel from the homes they left in '48 and '49.
The Israeli Prime Minister earlier today, Ehud Barak, was very forceful on these issues.
Listen to what he said earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EHUD BARAK, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: Let me say it, loud and clear, we will not agree to the right of return into Israel, and I do not intend...
BARAK: ... and I do not intend to sign any document that passes sovereignty over the Temple Mount to the Palestinians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Can there be an agreement if he holds firm on these two points: no return for the Palestinians to Israel, and no Palestinian sovereignty over those holy sites in East Jerusalem? ALBRIGHT: Well, the way that the parameters have been presented to them, they are a balance in terms of neither side can get 100 percent of what it wants. Obviously, a lot of this is how -- the definition of it.
But I think that one of the points that's been made is that basically, if the Palestinians were to have their own state, which is theoretically what would emerge from a comprehensive agreement, then why would they need to go to Israel?
And every country that accepts refugees, whether it is the United States, or France, or Israel, people should have a right to have their own admissions policies.
But there are huge numbers of Palestinians. They need to be able to go to back to a Palestinian homeland, and there are various ways that these parameters accommodate these aspects.
BLITZER: So let me just get this clear. The U.S. position is Palestinians should be allowed to go to a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza and perhaps any part of Jerusalem that it might obtain, but not necessarily to Israel.
ALBRIGHT: There are ideas that we have presented that would make it possible for the Palestinians to be able to go back to their homeland. And I think it is obviously a complex issue, but one of the issues is generally how do Palestinians live within an Israeli state, and how Israeli Arabs integrate and work. And these are the issues, the very, very difficult issues, that we are dealing with.
BLITZER: Is Barak backing away from an earlier indication that he would accept Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount, the Haram al- Sharif?
ALBRIGHT: I think that a lot of it: The Israelis have come in with certain clarifications or reservations to the parameters; the Palestinians have. And what we are doing now is trying to reconcile those different interpretations of our parameters.
But the president has also made very clear that this is a package, that in many ways once it gets unbalanced, it doesn't work. And it's his best judgment really of how things can be worked out. And we just have to keep working it as long as we can.
BLITZER: There is a new poll in Israel that just came out, a Gallup poll, which says that among likely voters in Israel, the choice for Israeli prime minister -- the elections are a month from now -- Ariel Sharon, the Likud leader, 50 percent, Ehud Barak 22 percent. Looks like he is in deep trouble right now.
ALBRIGHT: I tell you, one, we don't interfere in Israeli politics, and two, I wouldn't dream of predicting.
BLITZER: I want to move on to a lot of other subjects coming up, but there is a story today coming out from Rome that, the Italian media reporting, that the threat -- the reason the U.S. closed down the U.S. Embassy in Rome on Friday, at least for a few days, was that there was a report that Osama bin Laden, the international terrorist, was plotting a plan to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Rome. Is that true?
ALBRIGHT: I'm not going to comment on the specific aspects of that, but we were and are concerned about the threats not only to our embassy but various of our installations in Italy. We're working with the Italian government very carefully and closely and really making judgments about what to do. I was supposed to take a call from Foreign Minister Dini, but I came here, and I'm going to talk to him later this afternoon.
BLITZER: So, presumably, you'll get some more information about the nature of this threat, how realistic it was.
BLITZER: All right. Madeleine Albright, stand by.
We're going to take a quick break.
A lot more to talk about. During her four years as America's top diplomat, she visited more countries than any other U.S. secretary of State in history, including those who served a lot longer. We'll ask her about some of her traveler's tales when LATE EDITION continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALBRIGHT: To America's friends and allies abroad, I say that the future depends on our keeping our commitments to each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Madeleine Albright, back in 1996, when she was nominated to become the first woman to serve as the U.S. Secretary of State.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with Secretary Albright.
Probably the, I'm guessing, the highlight of your tenure as Secretary of State, and perhaps even earlier as the U.N. ambassador, was your outspoken position on the Balkans and Bosnia and Kosovo. You remember that Time magazine cover from 1999, May 17 -- we'll show it on the screen -- "Albright at War." Others called it "Madeleine's War."
It was a great achievement, I take it, from your perspective. But was it too late because of the killings that preceded the end of that fighting?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I wish we could have been involved earlier, and, from the time that I was ambassador at the U.N., I believed that we needed to have intervention earlier. And the reason that I believed all that is that, you know, what I have learned, and I hope our my successor will learn also, is that we are part of a continuum of foreign policy.
And the first President Bush, in fact, was the one who reunified Germany and talked about a Europe, whole and free. They clearly had a different view about the falling apart of Yugoslavia, but, for us, we felt that the absence of the Balkans in a Europe, whole and free, was a missing piece of the puzzle.
And the venom and the refugees and the horrible things that were happening and spewing out of the Balkans was something that was potentially destabilizing to Europe, would have an effect on our relationship with Russia and the Middle East, and, therefore, it was essential to do something.
So I wish we could have done something sooner. But, Wolf, I am so glad we did what we did in the end. It made a huge difference.
BLITZER: Well, you know, speaking about your successor and what you could've done earlier, you did have a run-in with Colin Powell in 1993. You were the U.N. ambassador. He was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In his autobiography, he writes this, referring to the situation in the Balkans: "Madeleine Albright, our ambassador to the UN, asked me in frustration, `What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about if we can't use it?' I thought I would have an aneurysm. American GIs were not toy soldiers to be moved around on some sort of global gameboard."
ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, it would never occur to me that our soldiers were toy soldiers to be moved around on a gameboard, and I have had the highest respect for our military.
What was a little bit ironic about that -- and Colin and I are very good friends, and we had a conversation about this later -- which was that at the time his book came out was exactly when the military force applied in Bosnia was working.
And so I made a comment, saying that that's the problem with books. They take too long to edit, and that it turned out that I was right about the limited application of limited force in the Balkans. It has worked.
BLITZER: But, you know, he has these Powell Doctrine rules, when you engage U.S. troops. You're stepping back now; he's about to step in. What advice do you have for him on the use of military power around the world in the face of whether it's for humanitarian or national security purposes? What advice do you give him?
ALBRIGHT: I'm sure that a lot of people think it takes gall for a mere mortal female to argue with a general, but I truly do believe that, in this day and age, the role of the United States makes a difference, our engagement makes a difference, not just in terms of where we use our military but generally how we apply our influence. And I think that the situations that will be presented to Secretary Powell will be the kind that will make him and everybody understand what we've learned in the last eight years, which is that you have to have a choice between doing everything, the way it happened in the Gulf War, or doing nothing.
ALBRIGHT: And what has happened is a combination of a lot of work that I have done and others have done, is to develop the peacekeeping end part of the United Nations, where peacekeepers can be sent in, not normally with American ground troops, but with American support, or the limited application of limited force by NATO, and we need to use what we have.
And that's all I've been arguing for is that, in order to have a really strong diplomacy, it needs to be backed by force, and at various times, the use of force has to be backed by diplomacy. This is a symbiotic relationship, and I don't think -- I've had lots of conversations since with General Powell, and I think he is going to be examining all the issues. Life is very different than eight years ago.
BLITZER: You know, when you were the UN ambassador, probably the most famous sound bite that you uttered was the one we're about to play. I want to you listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALBRIGHT: I was struck by the joy of these pilots in committing cold-blooded murder, and their use of common vulgarity to describe what they needed to shoot down unarmed civilians. Frankly, this is not cojones; this is cowardice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You were referring to the shootdown of an American civilian plane on its way to Cuba, or in Cuban -- allegedly in Cuban airspace -- the U.S. says it was not in Cuban airspace -- and the pilot, the other people on that plane were killed.
ALBRIGHT: Yes, and what had happened was that the night that this all happened we were in the security council, and I had a transcript of the conversation that these pilots were having. And it was stunning, because there was glee and the use of the only Spanish word I know, over and over again.
And I was struck by the fact that they thought they were being so macho about everything, and I felt that it was a cowardly act, and it was a most, most unfortunate act because we had all been trying to sort out how we could develop a different relationship with Cuba. One of the great regrets that I have is that I have not been secretary at a period when things will change in Cuba because they have to.
BLITZER: Probably the other, that may have been a an important sound bite, but the other low sound bite that you had was this one. I want to play it for you and give you a chance to reflect on that as well. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALBRIGHT: I believe that the allegations are completely untrue.
WILLIAM DALEY, SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: I'll second that, definitely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Bill Daley and you and Donna Shalala emerging from the Cabinet meeting with the president in which he denied any sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. You look back on that moment, it was a sad moment for you.
ALBRIGHT: Well, it was, and the whole aspect of this was very unpleasant, but I do think that President Clinton is going to go down in history as a most remarkable president.
And yesterday, you know, we had a party at the White House where people went over all the things that President Clinton has done in his term in domestic policy and in foreign policy. He has changed the way that the U.S. is viewed internationally and our involvement globally in dealing with a whole host of different issues. I am very, very proud to be his Secretary of State.
BLITZER: All right, what's next for Madeleine Albright. A lot of talk now, buzz, you're going to be writing a book; some suggesting that it's inappropriate for you to be negotiating a book deal while you're still Secretary of State. What's next on your agenda?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I am going to write a book, and I'm looking forward to it.
You know, my life has reflected the 20th century in many ways, and what I've done as Secretary of State is try to prepare the State Department and the world for 21st century foreign policy, so I'm going to write a reflective book.
I also have lived in Washington for 30 years. I know a lot of people; I know a lot of things that have happened. And I'm looking forward to writing it, but I'm obviously not going to do anything about it until I'm out.
And it's going to be a lot of work, and I'm looking forward to it. And I do think that in many ways, people who have held these jobs temporarily as I have, as we all have, have an obligation to history to write about what happened.
BLITZER: And the fact that you were the first woman Secretary of State, now we're going to get a female national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, student of your father, your late father. Is there anything special about having a woman in these kinds of major national security positions?
ALBRIGHT: Well, the answer to that is yes and no, frankly. I mean when I go out in the world representing the U.S., it doesn't matter what gender I am, or in Colin Powell's case, what color he is, because we represent the United States, and that's what's all- important.
But, for me, I have -- I think it has made a difference to be a woman. First of all, we've raised a whole host of different issues. We've made women's issues central to foreign policy. So, not because just because we're feminists, but because, when societies are able to use women economically and politically, societies that have more than half their population female, it makes for more stable societies.
We have made clear that trafficking in human beings, women, is a criminal act.
ALBRIGHT: So there have been policy aspects, but some of it is personal, and relationships that I have been able to develop.
And something that I have -- didn't quite know that I had in me, but kind of a combination of being tough and telling it like it is, and, yet, kind of a normal nurturing humanity aspect to me, so I think it has been good. I think there may be some advantages to being a woman.
And what was fun, when Conde Rice, who is a personal friend, was named, one of my daughters called up and said, you know what, Mom, nobody has said there is now a woman national security advisor, because you made the difference.
And nice comments from one's daughters are always welcome.
BLITZER: All right. I can appreciate that. Thank you so you much, Madeleine Albright. You were very kind to us these past three years that I have been moderating this program, to join us on several occasions. And I'm sure you will be back even in your capacity as a private citizen.
ALBRIGHT: It has always been a pleasure, Wolf. Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary.
And coming up, Republican Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain is resuming his crusade for campaign finance reform. We will ask him about his plan for getting that legislation approved by the new Congress, and signed into law by his former rival, President-elect Bush.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: I'm not saying it won't be done early, and I know he's serious about, you know, moving aggressively early on, but I would hope he would that he would at least give our new president a chance to get in office, get some of his nominations confirmed, Have some input on the agenda and the schedule. Can't we at least do that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Republican Senate leader Trent Lott on LATE EDITION three weeks ago, hoping to delay Senator John McCain and his campaign finance reform agenda, but Senator McCain apparently is not listening. He plans to introduce his bill within days of George W. Bush's inauguration.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Joining us now from Phoenix, Arizona, is Senator John McCain. Senator, always good to have you on our program.
Well, what do you say? Trent Lott was on this program: he asked you in effect, hold off, don't go forward with this. Yet now this past week, you and Russ Feingold, your Democratic co-sponsor, said you're going forward within days.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, we hope to convince Senator Lott and the president that the reality is, as we all know, in Washington in the first few weeks of a new administration, there is no legislation being taken up, because you take this nomination hearing, confirmation hearings and other things going on, and the president is assembling his or her team and deciding on a legislative agenda.
We think it would it be perfect time to have a bipartisan piece of legislation on an issue that a pollster like John Zogby and others say is a very important issue to the American people. I am convinced of that from my own campaign experiences. And, that way, start off with a bipartisan addressing to an evil that has corrupted American politics.
BLITZER: And what do you say, though, to those who are saying that this is a direct challenge to George W. Bush, and that he's made it clear, he doesn't support what's in your legislation right now, he's got some other ideas, that this is in effect a poke in the eye to the incoming president?
MCCAIN: There's no indication of that whatsoever. I talked to President Bush on the phone just a few weeks ago, and I said that we needed to sit down and talk about it. He said that we did.
He proposed the -- had a campaign finance reform proposal during the South Carolina primary. I know that he is committed to reform.
Look, even the Republicans, and I say even because you know of some opposition in the past, significant opposition, the Republicans now know that we have to take up the issue. The question is not whether but when. I think it can best be accomplished early.
And by the way, how can we really reform any other institutions of government, whether it be education, whether it be the tax code or the military, unless we eliminate or reduce the influence of the special interests? We can't. The gateway to all these other reforms, and I want to work with the president, and am committed to working with the president on, can't happen unless we eliminate these abuses of the campaign system.
And by the way, the $500,000 a ticket fund-raisers are already being planned as we speak. So the sooner that we act, I think, the better off we're going to be, and I hope to convince the president and Trent Lott of that.
BLITZER: Your colleague, your Republican colleague from Oklahoma, Don Nickles, was on ABC earlier today. I want you to listen to what he said about what you're trying to do right now. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DON NICKLES (R), OKLAHOMA: I think you'll hear Senator Lott and Senator McCain come out before too long and say, we've agreed upon a schedule to bring this up, to consider it -- consider amendments and dispose of it, fairly early this year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That sounds like you and Lott are virtually on the same page almost.
MCCAIN: Well, I hope so. I truly hope so, and I really believe that this issue is something which is -- none of us -- which all of us want to address in one way or another. Senator Hagel has a proposal that's different from mine; there's others ideas out there.
What we've been seeking and been denied, very frankly, been denied by the Republican leadership in the past, is the ability to take up legislation, amend it and either pass it or not pass it. That's all we're asking.
And I don't expect, quote, "McCain-Feingold," to emerge exactly as we proposed it, but that's what the legislative process is supposed to be all about.
BLITZER: What George W. Bush says is that he has some problems with your legislation because of the way it deals or doesn't deal with the labor unions, which are traditionally close to the Democrats. Listen to what George w. Bush said earlier in the week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: I told him and people who were paying attention then that I support a campaign funding reform so long as business and labor are treated equally. I'll worry about the ifs once I get sworn in, but I will tell you that I think it's very important for us to make sure the bill is fair and balanced.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Why does he believe, Senator McCain, that your bill, apparently, leaves an open door for the labor unions?
MCCAIN: Well, I haven't had a chance to discuss it with him, so I can't state specifically.
But look, the opponents of campaign finance reform have always raised this issue of the so-called "paycheck protection," the union dues. And my counterpoint to that is, that's fine, but shouldn't stockholders also give their permission, before their money, their invested money, is used for political purposes, perhaps to support candidates that they don't agree with or support?
There's got to be balance, and there is plenty of objective observers.
The other major point here, however, is that it's a straw man to the degree that it is the soft money, the unregulated, unreported donations in huge amounts of money, that would be stopped by our legislation. And that would affect labor unions, trial lawyers, corporations, all kinds of other interest groups and big money that is now coming in to Washington.
Wolf, all of us know who work in Washington that the big money special interests are sitting in the front row with megaphones, and the average American is sitting in the back whispering. And that's why we're gridlocked, that's why we don't have an HMO patients' bill of rights, that's why we don't have a prescription drugs deal, that's why the tax code has gone from 40,000 pages to 44,000 pages while the Republicans have been in the majority.
We all know what's going on, and most of my colleagues, I believe, believe we need to fix it, whether we all happen to agree on the prescription or not, but we need to fix it.
BLITZER: You did have a new convert, if you will, this week: Thad Cochran, the conservative Republican senator from Mississippi, Trent Lott's home state, emerged with you and Russ Feingold to say that he's ready to come on board. All 50 Democratic senators apparently support you.
You need, really, 60 to break a filibuster, and we've heard you and Feingold suggest you do have those 60 -- in other words, beyond you, 9 other Republicans, Thad Cochran, presumably, being one of them.
Do you have those 60 votes necessary to break a potential filibuster? And if you do, would you be nice enough on our program to tell us who they are?
MCCAIN: You know, I can't, because several Republican senators have committed to me privately, but the fact is, we are over 60 votes now, for cloture, now, that is, to cut off debate. Now, each of these Republican senators and each of these 50 Democrats may not agree on specifics. That's why we have amendments and votes on amendments, so that we can come out with a final package that will gain a majority vote.
But I'm confident of the 60. BLITZER: What about 67? That would be the number needed to override a potential presidential veto.
MCCAIN: I am very hopeful and confident that we can sit down with President Bush, Vice President Cheney, who knows the business very well as well, and work out an agreement on this. I think it would be a terrible thing if we passed a meaningful campaign finance reform package, and the first thing that the president had to do was to veto it.
I'll do everything in my power to avoid that.
And, by the way, I also am working with the president to approve his nominees, and am committed to working with him on these issues of education and tax cuts and many others, although we may not agree on the specifics.
BLITZER: All right, Senator McCain, we'll get to all of those other issues in just a moment.
But we have to take a quick break. When we return, in addition, we'll also be taking your phone calls for Senator John McCain.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: You are looking at a live picture of the U.S. Capitol, where the 107th Congress was sworn in this past week and a new power- sharing agreement for the 50-50 Senate was just announced.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We're continuing our conversation with Arizona Republican Senator John McCain. Senator McCain, we have a lot of other questions on the confirmation process, but let's take a quick caller from Yucca Valley, California. Please go ahead with your question.
QUESTION: Good morning, Wolf and Senator McCain.
Senator McCain, I have a lot of respect for you and what you believe, sir. I don't see how you can say that President-elect Bush is for campaign finance reform when he never campaigned for comprehensive broad-based reform, which I support and I know you do as well, when he simply mentioned one aspect of paycheck protection, which you and I both know doesn't even go near the reform that we need.
MCCAIN: Well, thank you.
Before the South Carolina primary, President Bush put forth a proposal which banned corporate and labor union contributions. He did not include individual contributions. But perhaps more importantly, when I talked to President-elect Bush on the phone, I said that I thought we needed to sit down and talk about it. He was very agreeable to that proposition. And I look forward to having that conversation and dialogue.
I really believe that we can work together on this issue, and I know that President-elect Bush and everyone else who has been exposed to this system knows that we can't have -- it is now legal in America for a Chinese Army-owned corporation with a subsidiary in the United States of America to give unlimited amounts of money to an American political campaign. That is not right.
And we all know the system needs to be fixed. And, could I just mention one other thing? Senator Cochran's support of this legislation is very important. He is a very highly respected senator, he is a very thoughtful one, and I think he brings a lot of experience and respect to the debate, and I'm glad he has come aboard.
BLITZER: Senator McCain, I know you are going to be trying to help George W. Bush with his confirmation process of his Cabinet selections. As far as John Ashcroft is concerned, the man slated to head the Justice Department, new attorney general, Jesse Jackson was on TV earlier today, on ABC. He made it clear he is going to fight this nominee as hard as he possibly can. Listen to what Jesse Jackson had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: This is choosing collegiality over civil rights and social justice. On matters of voter suppression, can we turn to him? I think not. On matters of affirmative action, can we turn to him? I think not. Can women fighting for rights to self-determination turn to him? I think not. Can environmentalists turn to him? I think not. And in that position, which sets the moral tone, we deserve a broader, more credible person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator McCain, you know John Ashcroft. Is he the best person out there to be the next attorney general?
MCCAIN: Well, I don't know if he is the best person, because there is a variety of highly qualified people out there, as is John Ashcroft.
But I think the point here is that the president of the United States, the president-elect, has placed his confidence in John Ashcroft. Those of us that know him in Senate respect him. I haven't always agreed with John Ashcroft on every issue, but I have respect for him. And more importantly, I believe that John Ashcroft as attorney general will enforce the law.
BLITZER: What about Linda Chavez to become the Labor secretary? You heard earlier today this new report that she may have had living in her home earlier in the '90s an illegal alien, and she gave her some spending money from time to time.
Is this -- if it's true, and Tom Daschle said earlier today, that if it is true it could cause serious problems for her confirmation. Do you think it will?
MCCAIN: Well, having experienced these things in the past, I think we are going to find out the details of this relationship. And I think that it is important that we withhold judgment until we find out everything about it. We have not heard Ms. Chavez's side of the story yet, and I'm sure the facts will come out in the process of the hearings.
I think we've got a little bit over some of that in the first rounds of the Clinton nominees. But I think it depends on the details of the relationship more than anything else.
BLITZER: Well, irrespective of that -- forget about that -- forget about this the woman the illegal alien that may or may not have been living with her, but on the other issues, the questions that have been raised, are you comfortable with Linda Chavez being the next Labor secretary, given her opposition to an increase in minimum wage, some statements in articles she has written opposing affirmative action? Are you satisfied that she can work with the unions, the labor unions, even though AFL-CIO says, John Sweeney, that they are going fight her.
MCCAIN: I suspect that John Sweeney would not be too favorably disposed to any nominee of the Bush administration, given their very strong opposition to his candidacy, which is their right and I respect that.
MCCAIN: I think Ms. Chavez is very well experienced. I think she is knowledgeable on those issues. She has a background, going back to being involved in the teachers' unions.
So I respect -- and this is very important -- I have said many times, including on this program, when President Clinton presented his nominees, that I may not have agreed or made those choices myself, but I think it's important that we honor the results of the election.
And one of those, that unless a candidate is unacceptable, that they are generally given the benefit of the doubt. And Ms. Chavez has a well-documented record of service. No, I don't share some of her opinions, but I think that she is certainly qualified for the job.
BLITZER: OK, Senator McCain, stand by. We're going to take another quick break. We have some more questions to ask you. We're also standing by for some more phone calls from our viewers.
More with Senator John McCain when LATE EDITION returns.
BLITZER: We are continuing our interview with Senator John McCain.
Senator, we have a caller from North Palm Beach, Florida. Let's hear what this call has to ask.
MCCAIN: A well-known place. BLITZER: Yes, that's right.
Go ahead with your question, please.
QUESTION: Senator McCain, does it seem like, bringing up this campaign finance reform so quickly to cut legs out from under George Bush, that you are a sore loser is the whole thing.
MCCAIN: Well, thank you. The fact is that I don't believe that it would, quote, "cut the legs out from under" President Bush. In fact, I think it would not interfere, because later on after legislative agenda is set, probably after three or four weeks, then I think it would be interfering, No. 1.
And No. 2 is we've got to stop this thing before it gets started again. As I said, the $500,000-a-ticket fundraisers are already being planned. The money's already being earmarked, and these so-called soft money, unregulated monies. The undependent campaigns are being set up, and the sooner we act on this I think the better off that we will be.
And, again, I have dedicated myself to the proposition of working with President Bush on this issue, as well as other Republicans and Democrats. You can't get a result on an issue like this unless it is fully bipartisan.
BLITZER: Senator McCain, President Clinton is leaving office in less than two weeks. Earlier today, Orrin Hatch, your colleague from Utah, was on "Fox News Sunday," and he said this. I want you to listen to what he said in the face of a lot of speculation that Robert Ray, the independent counsel, might, in the end, indict President Clinton on perjury charges in connection with the Monica Lewinsky investigation. Listen to what Orrin Hatch had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I would pardon him, and I'll tell you why. I think it's time to put this to bed. It's time to let President Clinton fade into whatever he is going to fade into, and I just don't see keeping it alive any longer. And I don't think there's a jury in America that is going to convict President Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Similar to what President Bush, not President-elect Bush but President Bush, himself said a couple weeks ago -- end this, get it over with -- Orrin Hatch saying that President Bush, when he takes office, should pardon Bill Clinton.
MCCAIN: First of all, I don't know what he would be pardoning him for, unless the independent counsel brings some charges against him.
BLITZER: I guess he could pardon him for anything, sort of crimes that he has not yet even been charged with committing. Couldn't he do that in advance of any indictment that might come forward?
MCCAIN: Yes, but mightn't that assume that he was either charged with or guilty of some crime? I'm not sure, if I were President Clinton, I would want to be pardoned for something that I believed that I didn't do.
I think that decision should be made by President Bush given the facts at the time, particularly, given what the independent counsel does in his deliberations. All we know is speculation and rumor, so I couldn't advocate that role. I'm not sure I would oppose such a thing, but I think it would be premature for me to advocate something that really hasn't happened yet.
BLITZER: All right, that's fair enough.
What about his wife, Mrs. Clinton? What's it going to be like working in the U.S. Senate with, if you will, a superstar like Mrs. Clinton? You know her quite well. Is she going to be an effective senator?
MCCAIN: Oh, I'm sure she will be. She's a very articulate and intelligent person. She's shown that over the years. She knows the issues. I would imagine she would get into health care issues, since she is, obviously, well-known on those issues.
I fully anticipate that, after a few weeks or so, that a lot of publicity will die down, and the Senate will get about its work, and she will be a contributing member to the Senate.
She'll never be the same as everybody else, let's face it. And there will always be rumors about her ambitions or non-ambitions for the presidency. But I think that, after a while, we'll start working, and a lot of this kind of stuff disappears. But I fully expect her to be a very effective member of Senate.
BLITZER: I spoke with Norm Orenstein earlier this week. He spoke about three superstars -- Norm Orenstein being the political analyst, the congressional analyst here in Washington, well-known to our viewers, well-known to you. He suggested earlier in the week on my program that there were three superstars in the Senate: Mrs. Clinton, Joe Lieberman, and you.
MCCAIN: Well, I appreciate the kind remarks. I don't think I'll win Miss Congeniality again this year.
BLITZER: I don't think you're ever going to win that, necessarily.
What about -- a lot of our viewers are probably wondering about your health, the melanoma on the side of your face. Tell us how everything is coming along on that front.
MCCAIN: It's just fine. There's no -- everything has been tested and it's all negative. But I again would like to seize the moment to recommend to anyone who has a spot on their face or anywhere else on their body to see a dermatologist and see your doctor soon if you see that, particularly if there's a change in color.
And all of us who go through experiences like this become zealots to some respect -- in some respects, and I obviously have on this one, because I don't want anyone, not only not go what I went through, which is a painful operation, but more importantly, a lot of good people have suffered a lot more than I have from skin diseases.
BLITZER: All right.
MCCAIN: Skin cancer.
BLITZER: As I said to Rudy Giuliani the other day, and I'll say to you, all of us of course are hoping and praying that the operation, that everything was very successful and you will never again have to worry about that skin cancer that obviously caused such a big concern. It scared all of us over these past several many months. Thank you so much for joining us once again on LATE EDITION.
MCCAIN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And we have to take a quick break.
For our international viewers, "WORLD NEWS" is next.
For our North American audience, stay tuned for the second hour of LATE EDITION. We'll check the hour's top stories. Then we'll speak with three of the Senate's 13 women senators about equal opportunity in a 50-50 Senate.
We'll also look at what kind of town Washington will be in a second Bush White House with Sally Quinn of "The Washington Post."
Stay tuned for all that and much more in the next hour of LATE EDITION.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: It's important for women to serve in the highest positions of elective office in the country.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: You need to have good ideas; you need to be able to build coalitions.
SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: I view it as an opportunity to get things done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A woman's place is on the Senate floor. We'll get fresh perspectives from three members of the 107th Congress: Senators Olympia Snowe, Debbie Stabenow, and Barbara Boxer. And it's inauguration time in Washington. A new party needs a new list of what's hot and what's not. We'll get the low-down from The Washington Post's Sally Quinn.
Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable: Steve Roberts, Susan Page, and David Brooks.
And Bruce Morton has the "Last Word" on Bill Clinton: What's in store for the soon-to-be ex-president?
We'll get to Senators Olympia Snowe, Debbie Stabenow, and Barbara Boxer in just a moment. But first, Miles O'Brien is standing by at the CNN center in Atlanta for the hour's top stories. Miles?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Wolf.
Bush transition officials say Labor Secretary-nominee Linda Chavez allowed an illegal immigrant to stay in her home for about a year. Officials say it was an effort to, quote, "reach out to people in need," end of quote. The incident occurred about ten years ago.
Senate Majority Leader Daschle says these facts present serious problems. Tough questions are expected at her confirmation hearings.
An admiral investigating the USS Cole attack recommends no punishment for the ship's captain, Commander Kirk Lippold; that's according to Pentagon sources and CNN military affairs correspondent, Jamie McIntyre. The ship failed to implement about 30 security procedures. Admiral Robert Natter found the commander's actions acceptable, adding that even if all the standard measures were taken, they would have made no difference. Suicide bombers in a small boat killed 17 sailors on the Cole and wounded 39 others last October in Yemen.
Israeli and Palestinian officials are planning to meet in seclusion with CIA Director George Tenet somewhere in Egypt today. The talks aim at a last minute peace deal before President Clinton leaves office. Three months of violence have left 300 Palestinians and about 40 Israelis dead.
Police in Texas are evaluating dozens of tips after a televised report about the escape of seven criminals in that state. The story appeared on "America's Most Wanted." Meanwhile, a reward in that case has now been doubled to $200,000. Prison officials deny reports the inmates broke out during an unsupervised lunch.
Now back to Wolf Blitzer and LATE EDITION.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Miles.
History was made in the U.S. Senate this past week. There are now a record 13 women senators, including, of course, the first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is now the junior senator from New York.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We're joined now by three of those senators: here in Washington, Maine Republican Olympia Snowe; in Detroit, Michigan freshman Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow; and in San Francisco, California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer.
Senators, good to have all three of you on our program.
And, Senator Boxer, I want to begin with you on this latest development in the confirmation process, Linda Chavez supposedly having had some -- an illegal alien live with her in the early '90s. We're getting this now from the Bush transition, from the Bush campaign. Tom Daschle saying, if true, this could pose a problem for the labor secretary, especially since what happened early on with Kimba Wood and Zoe Baird in the Clinton administration.
Is this a problem?
BOXER: Clearly, it is a problem. I don't know all the facts, and of course I will reserve final judgment on it, but, when you had a situation in the Clinton administration, it turned out it was the ruination of those nominees, and it just sounds -- it doesn't sound good to me: somebody who lived with you, did some chores around your house. She really didn't get paid; she just got some living money. I just -- it doesn't sound good for a labor secretary, I'll tell you that right now.
BLITZER: Well, Senator Snowe, you're a Republican, and I take it you support this nominee. But we heard from Major Garrett, our White House correspondent in Austin, saying -- suggesting that this didn't come up during the vetting process, that this apparently was not known to Bush officials when they questioned her.
BLITZER: That potentially could be a problem if she didn't disclose this, wouldn't it?
SNOWE: Well, yes, again, it does depend on the circumstances, and I think obviously, it would be important to hear from the Bush transition team exactly what transpired, what information they had, and what's her, you know, explanation for this issue.
I understand she did pay the Social Security and the wages involved. But what was, you know, did she know it was an illegal alien? And I mean, so there are a number of questions there. I think it would be very difficult to speculate on until we have all of the facts.
BLITZER: That she paid wages -- Social Security for the wages: We were told earlier on that this was just sort of walking around money that she gave this illegal alien, that it was not necessarily a formal salary that she was given; as a result she wasn't withholding any kind of Social Security.
SNOWE: Well, I was told that she was paid, you know, wages. So again, I think what it's going to be important to know here is exactly what transpired and what the facts are, and I think it's very -- I think it's very difficult to do that under these circumstances, because we're not, you know, getting the full picture and obviously that will have to be something that is explored.
BLITZER: Senator Stabenow, you're a former member of Congress, you were in the House of Representatives. This seems to be a problem potentially affecting women much more than men, since women were the ones -- are the ones usually who are charged with raising children, looking for some outside help. Is this entire questioning of Linda Chavez unfair to her as it was some, say to Kimba Wood, Zoe Baird, early on in the Clinton administration because she is a woman.
STABENOW: I think these are very legitimate questions, and that's why we have a confirmation process. That's why the Senate is involved. There is a lot of conflicting information. I think it's very legitimate to ask the questions; we want to listen to the answers.
But I think there are a broader set of issues as well, regarding not only her positions on issues that relate to working men and women, but other members that are being proposed as well for the Cabinet. This is the process, and this is the way we as representatives of the American people have the responsibility and opportunity to ask questions that the American people want to hear answers to.
BLITZER: Senator Boxer, have you made your mind up yet on whether to vote to confirm John Ashcroft, your former colleague, as the next attorney general of the United States?
BOXER: No, I have not, and I will say this. There's a lot of talk about how it's the Senate and there's senatorial courtesy, and I think senatorial courtesy is fine.
But the Senate is not a country club. It represents the people of the country. And so there's a point at which you have to step back, no matter how much you like a person personally, you need to ask the tough questions, which is what we will be doing. You need to look at the record, both when he was attorney general of his state, what his positions are. We know that in terms of President-elect Bush saying he wanted to govern from the center, this not someone even close to the center.
So, I think we need to see what Senator Ashcroft's impact would be on the people, on the women. He is a 100 percent against the right to choose. He wants to criminalize abortions. Will he enforce the laws, and that's what we have to look at.
BLITZER: Senator Snowe, you know John Ashcroft quite well.
SNOWE: Yes, I do.
BLITZER: You're in the center, but he was well regarded as the right wing of your party. How do answer those concerns raised by Senator Boxer?
SNOWE: Well, first of all, you know, we're not talking about independent operators. I think that anybody who's selected to a president's Cabinet obviously is going to be upholding the objective goals and policies of the president.
In this case, Senator Ashcroft is one of the, I think, highly respected members of the Senate. He certainly is a man of integrity; he has the educational experience, the qualifications, the background. I mean, he served as the attorney general for the state of Missouri for eight years. He was governor for eight years, and of course in the United States Senate. I don't think anybody would question either his credentials, his integrity or his commitment to uphold the law of the land.
Irrespective of any differences we might have on the issues, we're not selecting Cabinet positions and appointees on the basis of their positions essentially. It's not a litmus test; it's a question of whether or not these individuals are capable, qualified, and have the ability to perform the duties at serving at the pleasure of the president of the United States.
BLITZER: On that very point, Senator Stabenow, Senator Don Nickles of Oklahoma, the number two Republican in the Senate, said earlier -- pointed out earlier today, when Janet Reno was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, 98 to nothing; She supports a woman's right to have an abortion; she opposed the death penalty; yet all the Republicans in the end voted for her because she thought that that -- they thought that that's what President Clinton wanted.
Even though you have some ideological differences with this current attorney general nominee, isn't it the fairer thing to do is give the president-elect the benefit of the doubt and let him have the person he wants?
STABENOW: Well, certainly that's a major consideration. We understand that this president has the responsibility and the opportunity to choose his Cabinet.
But, when we're talking about the attorney general for the country, I think there is an important responsibility again that we have -- that's why the Constitution requires that we be involved and that there be confirmation hearings and opportunities to raise questions -- to make sure that this nominee and all others can fully fulfill their responsibilities.
STABENOW: I have had an opportunity to have a brief conversation with Senator Ashcroft, and appreciate the fact that he is willing to answer questions. But I think there are serious questions about his willingness to actually fulfill and to enforce many of the laws of the land, whether it's civil rights, human rights, his position regarding drug treatment, and other issues that have come up that relate to his ability to fulfill his responsibility as attorney general.
I think there are very important issues that have been raised. We need to have a very thoughtful, thorough confirmation process. He needs to have the opportunity to answer those questions. But there are very important questions that have been raised.
BLITZER: Senator Boxer, a lot of people, including many Democrats, are praising President-elect Bush for the diverse Cabinet he has put together. We just want to show on our screen some of that diversity.
Take a look at this: Colin Powell, an African-American; Gale Norton, obviously a woman; Norman Mineta, the Transportation secretary, not only a Democrat, but an Asian-American; Spencer Abraham of Michigan, an Arab-American.
Let's look at some others: Linda Chavez, Hispanic; Rod Paige, Education secretary; Ann Veneman, another woman; Mel Martinez, another Hispanic. You have to give George W. Bush credit for doing what Bill Clinton said he wanted to do, creating a Cabinet that looks like America.
BOXER: I really support that, and I think a Cabinet that looks like America is very important. We also need a Cabinet that thinks like America. And you know when you think about John Ashcroft, who brought down a judge, a judge that was selected by this president, President Clinton -- someone who was qualified as Olympia Snow said: he was a family man; he had served in courts before -- and we saw him take the leadership in bringing that person down.
And I have to say, he exercised his rights as a senator. So all I want to say today is, I don't know how I will wind up, but like Senator Stabenow has pointed out, this is our job. We are not a rubber stamp. The people of California didn't send me to the Senate to look at them and say, "Well, this person was a senator, I will step back."
I don't know where I will come out. But I think Senator Ashcroft was very activist in his opposition to certain judges. We know about Judge White; Judge Margaret Morrow (ph), he stalled her for two long years.
So I think these issues do become very important. And I think it also says a lot about Governor -- excuse me, President-elect Bush, that he did pick someone that brings such controversy with him.
BLITZER: I'm going to let you have the last word on this, and then we're going to move on, Senator Snowe. You've got two Democrats, one Republican.
SNOWE: Well, absolutely. Yes, I would like to respond, because Senator Ashcroft has voted for 26 of the 28 African-American judges, when we have voted on them in the United States Senate, and I think that is important. He has nominated African-Americans as governor to some of the highest courts in the state of Missouri, including women.
In addition, we were talking about Judge White -- and again, I think there is a concern here that we are just looking at one case and sort of characterizing his entire record -- the fact is on Judge White, you know, he killed three deputy sheriffs and the sheriff's wife while she was conducting a prayer meeting in her own house. I mean, we are not talking about somebody who didn't commit murder. He did commit murder. There was no question about his guilt.
BLITZER: Did you vote against that confirmation? SNOWE: Yes, I did, on the basis of that -- and I didn't even know he was African-American -- on the basis of the facts that I heard in that particular instance, as I did against a woman judge who only required probation for a man who raped a 5-year old.
BLITZER: All right, Senators, all of us, stand by. We are going to take another quick break. When we return, we'll ask the senators about their most famous new colleague. Is she stealing the spotlight? LATE EDITION will be right back. You know who we're thinking about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: It was a wonderful day. I was very honored and excited to become the junior senator from New York, and I'm looking forward to representing the people of New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, after being sworn in to the Senate on Wednesday.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We're continuing our conversation with three of Senator Clinton's colleagues.
Before we get back to that, Senator Snowe, you did misspeak a little bit when you said Ronnie White...
SNOWE: Oh, I'm sorry, yes. Absolutely not.
BLITZER: ... killed these people. Tell us what exactly you meant to say.
SNOWE: Yes. No, absolutely: Ron White was the judge that was appointed, and, obviously, it was the overturning the conviction of the individual who was responsible for killing those deputy sheriffs, plus the sheriff's wife.
BLITZER: Senator Boxer, this new power-sharing agreement that has been worked out between the leaders in the Senate -- 50 Democrats, 50 Republicans -- a lot of Republicans are not very happy with it. Senator Pete Domenici, for example, of New Mexico was on my program earlier this week. Listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PETE DOMENICI (R), NEW MEXICO: I want one member, just one extra member. If you're going to make me chairman, make me chairman of something. Twenty days from now, we want to vote again with our man in the chair, and we want to vote on different resolutions.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: He also said it's an invitation to gridlock, to absolute gridlock.
You're pretty happy with this arrangement. There will be an equal number of Democrats and Republicans on the committees, even though the Republicans will be in charge of the chairmanships.
BOXER: I am happy with it. I think it makes a lot of sense, because, after all, the American people left us with 50 senators from one party, 50 from another, and this really reflects that split.
And I want to compliment the majority of Republicans who went along, and also my friend, Olympia Snowe, who I am so fond of and I respect her so much. She really tried to work behind the scenes for fairness for both Republicans and Democrats.
And, you know, I think it's going to make us reach over to that other side, because you have to come up with just one vote on the other side. And I can't tell you, on the Budget Committee that I serve on with Olympia, we sometimes had just absolutely no crossing over. So now we'll have that chance to make a difference by just one from the other party crossing over. I think it's going to be good.
BLITZER: Senator Snowe, let me bring you in and get your take on this 50-50 power-sharing. Is it, as Senator Domenici fears, an invitation to gridlock, to absolute gridlock?
SNOWE: No, not necessarily. I think that both leaders worked out, I think, an agreement that they think will ultimately benefit the entire institution in getting along, advancing the legislative agenda, helping a new administration begin the process of governing this country. And, in the final analysis in the Senate, you essentially need bipartisan support to move any piece of legislation, whether it's in committee or on the floor of the Senate or in the entire Congress.
BLITZER: Senator Stabenow, you're a freshman now in the U.S. Senate from Michigan. You beat Spencer Abraham, who was the incumbent. He's now been nominated to become the next Energy secretary, even though he voted in favor of abolishing the Energy department. Tell us how you're going to vote on his confirmation.
STABENOW: Well, I think it is always good, Wolf, to have another voice from Michigan in the federal government, in the Cabinet. I think that that's a positive thing. And, overall, we have certainly disagreements as it relates to things like drilling in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge and other issues that relate to oil policy, but I think that he will work hard on behalf of Michigan.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from Butler, New Jersey.
Please go ahead with your question.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, Wolf. How are you?
BLITZER: I'm happy to hear from you. Go ahead. QUESTION: OK, my question is for Senator Boxer. I'm a, you know -- I've been a member of the Republican Party for a while in New Jersey, and I definitely support President Bush and his nominee of John Ashcroft.
What I'd like to know is -- the question is, it's very hard to get someone like John Ashcroft in because he is the exact antithesis of what Janet Reno is: a very loose interpretation of the law, whichever the way the wind blows. Ms. Reno has basically, you know, shunned the opportunity to investigate the Clintons at every opportunity.
BLITZER: All right, what's the question?
QUESTION: I want to know why it's so difficult sometimes with the Republican administration that the opportunity to get the Republicans nominated and passed through the Senate is a lot more difficult, it seems, than the Democrats.
BLITZER: That's a fair question to Barbara Boxer. What's the answer?
BOXER: Well, the answer is that's just not a fact in evidence, and the other answer is that Janet Reno, if you really probed her philosophy, was quite mainstream.
And the fact is that George Bush will get the vast majority, perhaps even all of his Cabinet through.
But I think that these Cabinet positions are reflective, really, of President-Elect Bush, a man who came in and said, "I'm a uniter, not a divider," and then he picks at least three, I would say, Cabinet positions that are so critical, and picks people who are way, way outside the mainstream, and I hope you're not asking me to just sit back and say that I haven't got the right to ask hard and tough questions, because in fact, as Debbie Stabenow has stated, that is my job, and not to do it would be irresponsible on my part.
BLITZER: Do you have any concern, Senator Snowe, that Hillary Rodham Clinton is going to steal the spotlight?
SNOWE: No, absolutely not.
I think, you know, it's to her credit that she ran for the United States Senate, creating a historic circumstance, and who's willing to serve. And I think she'll do a very good job. And I think she'll fit well into the United States Senate, and I'm looking forward to working with her.
Unfortunately, we're all out of time. We have to leave it right there.
Senator Snowe, Senator Stabenow, Senator Boxer, Senators, all of you, thank you for joining us on LATE EDITION. SNOWE: Thank you.
BOXER: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you.
And just ahead, a look at Washington's changing guard: Will President-Elect Bush bring some Texas flavor to Washington, and turn his new residence into a Lone Star White House?
We'll talk with "Washington Post" writer and social scene observer Sally Quinn when LATE EDITION returns.
BLITZER: Just 13 days from now, President-elect George W. Bush will stand in front of the U.S. Capitol and take the oath of office as the 43rd president of the United States.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Joining us now to talk about possible changes here in Washington as this new administration takes over is a veteran observer of Washington's social scene, author and Washington Post writer Sally Quinn.
Good to have you with us, Sally.
You know, a lot of times this time of the year there's out-lists and in-lists with a new administration. "The Washington Post," "The Wall Street Journal," "New York Post," they've been looking at who's going to be out, who's going to be in.
Let's take a look at who they think is going to be out. Let's put it up on the screen.
Out: coffee fund-raisers. In: prayer breakfasts.
Out: health care. In: education.
Out: the Tennessee Waltz. In: the Texas Two-Step.
Out: pants suits. In: plaid -- I guess Laura Bush wears plaid.
Out: Barbara Streisand. In: Bo Derek, who I saw at the Republican Convention in Los Angeles.
SALLY QUINN, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, I know my newspaper does one every year, and I think they're really fun to read and they're amusing. And I think if you stick to things like pant suits and plaid and whatever, it's OK. But I always think it's a huge mistake to decide what people are going to be out and what people are going to be in. I've learned, after 30 years, over 30 years of covering Washington, and even before that, working in Washington and seeing the change of power, that it is huge mistake to ever count anybody out in Washington, because nobody's ever really out until they are in the ground with a stake in their hearts.
BLITZER: Right. At one point, the Bushes were out and look at them now.
QUINN: That's right. And all these people who thought, well, that's it for the Bushes, you know, see you around, and moved over to the Clintons, are now suddenly having to sort of scramble around and sort of try to dig up people in their Rolodex, try to find numbers that they had thrown out.
BLITZER: I mean, who would have thought only a few weeks ago that Donald Rumsfeld would be in?
QUINN: Yes, I can't tell you how many people I've heard, Democrats too, recently say, Don Rumsfeld's one of my oldest and dearest. Why, we knew each other -- we've known each other for years and years. So I think there's a lot of scrambling going on right now.
But, I think it's just -- not only is it stupid to count somebody out, but it's also mean. And I think that people who really survive in Washington are those people who stick with their friends through thick and thin and ups and downs. It always pays off.
BLITZER: Because, in Washington, you're never out until you're dead.
QUINN: Gone, you're down in the ground.
BLITZER: And then you're out. Although, I have to tell you, a few years ago, I was a victim of that Washington Post In and Out list, but they had some fun with me.
QUINN: Were you in or out?
BLITZER: I was out, and I'll tell you why.
BLITZER: The in person was...
QUINN: Wolf, I'm so sorry.
BLITZER: I know, it was shocking to me when I woke up January 1 and I read that. Out -- I was out, Wolf Blitzer. But in was Tiger Woods. Tiger, Wolf, so.
QUINN: I get it.
BLITZER: They said they were having some fun. QUINN: Well, I probably could live with that.
BLITZER: I'm always willing to be out if it's in comparison to Tiger Woods.
What's going to be the major change now from the Clinton administration, eight years of Bill Clinton -- and I covered seven years of that when he was in the White House -- and this incoming Bush team?
QUINN: Well, for one thing, I think that there's not going to be a huge amount of change in Washington. And the change-over, the lack of change started, I think, with the Nixon administration. When Watergate started, the social life kind of dried up, and the Washington community was kind of on its own. And then when Carter came in, he was not terribly social. So the community kind of said, gosh, I guess we have to do it ourselves. Until then, the White House had always kind of set the social tone, so I think the social tone really is set by whoever's here.
One of the interesting things, you'd think that the Democrats would be more social than the Republicans. But I think in almost every administration -- Republican administration you see more people get out and about and more people get around. When the Clinton people came in, there were an awful lot of young people. I mean the sort of blue-jean crowd, and so a lot of them just didn't get out on the town.
With the Reagan -- I mean, sorry, with the Bush people now, most of these people have lived here and worked here. They know so many people, they already have a ready made group of friends. So I think you'll see a lot more administration people out on the town than have you in the last eight years.
BLITZER: Colin Powell had some fun with the difference in styles when he went out to the ranch in Texas. I love this sound bite from Colin Powell. He's originally, of course, from the Bronx, but listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE DESIGNEE: I'm especially pleased that he chose to hold this ceremony in a school in Crawford, Texas. I was, frankly, glad it wasn't at the ranch.
Nothing wrong with ranches, but I don't yet do ranch wear very well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He also said those cows looked pretty threatening to him.
QUINN: Well, I thought, actually, the most wonderful moment was when Trent Lott showed up in this incredible hat with a pheasant feather sticking out of it, and even Dick Cheney was making fun of him. He said something like, if he had showed up in a bar in Austin, he never would have come out alive wearing that hat.
BLITZER: That was amazing.
You mentioned that the kids in the first year or so of the Clinton White House. I covered that White House, and, remember, at some point, they had to bring David Gergen -- even though he's a Republican -- they had to bring David Gergen in for some adult supervision, if you will. You're not going to have that problem this time around.
QUINN: Well, you remember Gergen came in and one of his first acts was to have the Clintons start having small dinners for Washington members of the establishment and the community. And they had a series of those dinners, and they were pretty successful. I mean, although, people who went said they didn't think that the Clintons actually enjoyed them that much. They sort of felt like it was like taking medicine. But it was a good idea of Gergen's, and I think it worked to at least make people feel a little more comfortable.
BLITZER: I was invited to one of those dinners when they had a screening of the movie "Wolf" with Jack Nicholson. And I think...
QUINN: You get a lot of mileage out of this name, don't you?
BLITZER: That name has not hurt my career, Sally Quinn. I guess one final question, Clinton was always late for everything. Right?
QUINN: Yes, right.
BLITZER: This new team, though, is going to be pretty prompt.
QUINN: Not late. On time, absolutely.
BLITZER: It's going to be fashionable to be on time now.
BLITZER: Sally Quinn of "The Washington Post," thanks so much for joining us.
QUINN: thank you.
BLITZER: Up next, Senate Republicans and Democrats have a deal to share power, but will it really work? That and much more when we go around the table with Roberts, Page, and Brooks.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable.
Joining me: Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today"; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News & World Report"; and David Brooks, senior editor for "The Weekly Standard."
This whole uproar -- at least, I don't know if it's an uproar, this commotion today over Linda Chavez and perhaps having an illegal alien work in her home, is this, on the face of it, something very, very serious?
STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Hard to tell. It depends.
BLITZER: I mean, her nomination was in trouble to begin with.
ROBERTS: Well, I don't think it was in trouble. I think there were some Democrats who were unhappy with her, and particularly the labor unions, but I didn't think it was in trouble. I don't think any of these nominations are in trouble, in terms of ultimate passage, yet, but of course we're in a very hothouse environment. The history of Kimba Wood and Zoe Baird is out there. And of course we're talking about the Labor Department, you know, where labor rules are supposed to be enforced.
So, I think that she could have -- she's got a lot of explaining to do, and there are a lot of people who are against her already, because of her hardline views on labor issues.
BLITZER: What's your take on this, David?
DAVID BROOKS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think they're not in trouble.
But one notices, over the last few days, ratcheting up the temperature, on the Democratic side, on her, Ashcroft, and Gale Norton. One senses that people who are saying, "Oh yes, these people are fine," are suddenly taking a look at the Democratic interest groups, and saying, "Hey, wait a second, we've got a few questions here."
BLITZER: You know, Orrin Hatch referred to that earlier today on "Fox News Sunday."
Listen, Susan, to what Orrin Hatch had to say earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HATCH: One of the most divisive things they could do is to Bork John Ashcroft, and I might add Linda Chavez or Gale Norton. They're good people, and I'll tell you, the president deserves to have the people that he's nominated as long as they're quality people, and all three of them are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN PAGE, CNN COMMENTATOR: Boy, "Bork" as a verb; you know, his grammar teacher is going to be talking to him.
(LAUGHTER) But you know, I think there's -- it's a political town, it's a political process, and the Senate does have a role.
I think you should especially look for people to speak out who intend to run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2004. I think you saw that this morning on some other Sunday shows, where John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joe Biden of Delaware were both speaking out against John Ashcroft; interesting because he's a member of that Senate club.
ROBERTS: You know, one of the things that you've got to remember too is that this serves the interests of the Democratic special interest groups, whether they're concerned with environment or abortion rights or many other things. You can raise a lot of money on this. There are a lot of fund-raising letters going out right now: John Ashcroft is a devil, send money. There are -- you're revving up the troops.
And in particular with the Ashcroft nomination, this is really not about whether John Ashcroft gets confirmed. This is about sending a signal to George Bush: If and when you get a chance to nominate a Supreme Court justice, the interest groups are going to be watching. It's a show of power, because you can influence a nominee most effectively before it's made. And they're trying to send a signal saying, "Hey, you've got to deal with us when you nominate a Supreme Court justice."
BROOKS: It's almost even deeper than that, you know. John Ashcroft is an evangelical Christian. There are 40 million conservative Christians or so in this country. John Ashcroft's views are utterly conventional for that group of people.
And what we're getting is almost a movement to say those people are second-class citizens, they can vote, they can pay taxes, but they can't serve in high administration jobs.
His views are no different than a large group of Americans, and it'll -- it's weird if we say, "Well, those people, you know, we don't want them in our government."
BLITZER: And that nomination of John Ashcroft is probably the single most welcome development for those conservative Republicans.
BROOKS: Yes, it's the one they really lobbied for. There was a behind-the-scenes effort, now made public, to get rid of Marc Racicot, who was the other possible nominee for that job. That's the one that really made conservatives quite happy, because he's "one of us."
He's not a very strident guy, if you know John Ashcroft. He's almost aloof. He's a man of high integrity, but a man of distance. He's not Ed Meese. He's not the second coming of George Wallace, the way he's being portrayed.
BLITZER: And even, Susan, a lot of Democrats praise John Ashcroft as a decent man, a moral man, and they look at the way he handled the recount issue in Missouri after he was defeated by the widow of Mel Carnahan.
PAGE: Well, in effect I don't think this conversation should leave the impression that John Ashcroft's nomination is in fact in any trouble, because I don't think anyone thinks he in fact is going to be defeated. He's going to be confirmed unless something comes out that we don't know about.
PAGE: Now, Linda Chavez is a different case. She's not a member of the Senate Club. She doesn't have the history that John Ashcroft does with the people who will be voting on her nomination. And there's -- if John Ashcroft is going to become attorney general, there is no one Democrats would like to knock off more, and especially organized labor, than the Chavez nomination.
BLITZER: Let me ask David this question. You heard Major Garrett, our White House correspondent, earlier today suggest that the Bush vetting team may have been blindsided by this development, didn't know about it.
Knowing the Bush team as you do -- Dick Cheney is in charge of the transition -- if that, in fact, is true, that they didn't know about this illegal alien, that's something that George W. Bush doesn't like to be surprised by.
BROOKS: Somebody's going to wake up with a horse's head in her bed. Yes, no, it's something. I's almost be surprised if somehow they didn't know, because, you know, this is so parallel to Zoe Baird eight years ago. You have to think these are exactly the sorts of questions they ask.
ROBERTS: Except we all know that this always happens, you know. People sit in these rooms and they want the jobs, and someone looks them in the eye and says, is there anything you have ever done that could embarrass the president-elect, and they say no. And then these things come out.
A good friend of mine was the man who asked Senator Tom Eagleton in 1972, when he was being picked for vice presidential nomination, and he looked him in the eye and said, Senator, is there anything that's ever happened that would embarrass, you know, George McGovern.
And they said, well, no, it's fine. And, then, it turns out that he'd gotten electric shock treatments for mental illness. Now, I don't think that should have disqualified him, but it became a huge story and, in fact, did knock him off the ticket. So, people lie about these things. They cover them up all the time.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about John McCain and his bold initiative this past week. He was on this program earlier, Susan, and he says, despite what Trent Lott recommended to him, despite the comments coming out of Austin, he and Russ Feingold are going to push that campaign finance reform legislation right away.
PAGE: Can't be any surprise; he's been saying this for months that he's going to bring it up. He's gotten additional support: Thad Cochran, this week -- kind of an embarrassment to Trent Lott to have his fellow Mississippi senator step forward on behalf of this.
So, it's no surprise, but that doesn't mean it's any less of a dilemma for George Bush. He has not wanted to embrace the McCain legislation. If McCain actually manages to push this forward successfully, what is George Bush going to do? Is he going to make this an early fight, or is he going to fold?
BLITZER: Is he going to veto, or is he going to accept it?
BROOKS: Well, that is the crucial question. You know, there's all this talk about bipartisanship. The hatred in this town is not between Democrats and Republicans. It's between McCainiacs and Bushies, and whether they can get together and compromise on something will be the crucial question and the crucial dilemma.
I really don't think Bush wants to veto it. And there are, you know, 8 million different permutations of this bill, and I suspect they'll find one of them.
ROBERTS: I hear that the McCain forces are willing to compromise in order to bring over a number of other wavering Republicans. So that if you get 60, 65, 70 votes, then George Bush is able to say, well, I've changed the legislation. There is a lot of flexibility there. These rules are not written in stone.
BLITZER: But what does this say, Steve, about John McCain, that there is a new president coming to town, and he is willing to, in effect, throw up this challenge right away?
ROBERTS: It says that John McCain got a taste of the national spotlight in the last campaign and does not want to give it up, and is going to use every possible -- I believe he believes honestly in this legislation. It's not a cynical ploy on his part, but there is -- he wouldn't be on the show, our show, this morning if he weren't pushing this legislation.
PAGE: You know what it says to George Bush? It says welcome to Washington.
BLITZER: A rude awakening, if you will.
Stand by. We have a lot more to talk about. We'll take a quick break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARI FLEISCHER, BUSH TRANSITION SPOKESMAN: This administration, in its final days, has been a busy beaver.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Busy beaver President Clinton has been working hard in his final days. Will his efforts survive past January 20? The roundtable will weigh in when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our roundtable.
You heard, Susan, Ari Fleischer, the new press secretary for George W. Bush, say Bill Clinton is going to be a busy beaver these last two weeks, less than two weeks. He's got a lot going on. He's got a lot to do, so little time. This is typical Bill Clinton finishing up the way he started.
PAGE: Oh yes, very frenetic activity. And the fact that Al Gore lost the presidency means that there are a lot of things that Clinton might not feel as compelled to do quite so much if Gore were going to be his successor rather than Bush.
He is doing everything he can to put in place Democratic policies that will be difficult for George Bush to undo, including changing the license plates on the presidential limousine so they have a taxation without representation slogan on them that I'm quite sure George Bush wants to see gone.
BLITZER: He'll get rid of that very quickly.
BROOKS: Live free or die.
BLITZER: And are you surprised, though, David, at how the Bush team, including President-elect George W. Bush, is, in effect, encouraging Bill Clinton to try to do more on the Middle East, even in these final few days?
BROOKS: Yes, well, the Middle East is the one area where they seem happy to let the Bush team and CIA director take some of the...
BLITZER: The Clinton team?
BROOKS: Yes, the Clinton team really take the high road. The one the Bush team is going to be upset about and, I think, most tempted to overrule will be the land grab. You know, that phrase, "busy beaver," is no accident. There a lot of trees that were, in effect, nationalized by George W. Bush. If there's one issue Bush and the westerners really care about, it is those western lands.
BLITZER: And he could reverse that with another executive order the day after he becomes president.
ROBERTS: Up to a point. There is some question about that. I think he will require some hearings. You can't just reverse it quickly. But I do think that Clinton -- what we are seeing here is a guy who just -- as we've always known about Bill Clinton -- he said, you know, other people might do the job better, but no one will have more fun at being president. And he's going to be president down through that last minute of the last hour, and he's going to be doing things. And that is quintessential Clinton.
PAGE: Now one question is, will he pardon the various people who have faced legal processes because of Whitewater. You know he wants to. He's felt that prosecution was illegitimate; he thought the investigation never should have taken place. Will he step forward and do that? He still has a couple of weeks to do it.
BROOKS: You know, it's also emblematic of something else, this last-minute activity. Bill Clinton is the leader of the Democratic Party. Al Gore lost, as you point out. He's been, to some extent, discredited. Bill Clinton's got a wife in the Senate. He's got a house in Washington. He is only, you know -- he's still a young man. He can raise an enormous amount of money. His best friend, Terry McAuliffe, is the head of the Democratic Party. You are looking at the guy who is going to be the head of the Democratic Party. He is not going away.
BLITZER: All right. Well, speaking about Al Gore, David, listen to this. This must have been so painful yesterday for Al Gore to make this declaration in the Senate. Listen to Al Gore only yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: George W. Bush of the state of Texas has received, for president of the United States, 271 votes. Al Gore of the state of Tennessee has received 266 votes. May God bless our new president and our new vice president, and may God bless the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROOKS: See the little bits of spittle coming out of his mouth? The guy was, should have been me. But, you know, that scene was so emblematic and the whole Capitol Hill menagerie we had this week with the swearing in of Hillary, Bill Clinton sitting up there in the galleries sort of vibrating because the cameras were down on her and not up on him. And then the transfer of power with Al Gore, the Black Caucus. Suddenly, it all came together on Capitol Hill. The whole series of unforgettable scenes.
BLITZER: But, you know, on that, I thought that Al Gore handled himself very well as president of the Senate yesterday in dealing with that protest, symbolic protest, from the Congressional Black Caucus. I have a little excerpt that I want to run from that.
Steve, take a look and listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALCEE HASTINGS (D), FLORIDA: Mr. President, and I take great pride in calling you that, I must object because of the overwhelming evidence of official misconduct.
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: The objection is in writing, and I don't care that it is not signed by a member of the Senate.
REP. JESSE JACKSON JR. (D), ILLINOIS: It is a sad day in America, Mr. President, when we can't find a senator to sign the objections.
GORE: The gentlemen will suspend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: At one point, he looked at Jesse Jackson Jr., the congressman from Illinois, and said, hey, you know. This was a difficult thing for Al Gore to have to do.
ROBERTS: It was, and he handled himself with grace and good humor yesterday. A lot of people saying, gee, if he had been that appealing during the campaign, those numbers might have been reversed.
But the walkout of the Black Caucus was important. Not only does it show that there's a very important Democratic interest group which is not reconciled to the George Bush presidency, it also points up something that I think has got to be very high on everybody's legislative agenda, and that is reform of the voting system.
BARNES: If it was illegal, as the Supreme Court said, to count the votes in Florida in a unequal way, then it clearly has to be illegal to cast votes in an unequal way. And when you live in a black district, you're votes are five times more likely to be discounted because of poor voting machines. I think that's an issue George Bush should jump on right away.
PAGE: I thought there were some warning signs here for both parties, frankly, with the scene with the Electoral College. For George W. Bush, there has to be a message that you have not done enough, or you haven't succeeded in reaching out to a significant minority in the American population.
And for Democrats, too, black Democrats who now form an increasingly powerful part of the Democratic coalition, are not reconciled to power-sharing with Republicans and doing what you can to have a successful Bush administration. There's going to be a tight rope for both leaders to walk.
BLITZER: All right, Susan Page, David Brooks, Steve Roberts, unfortunately, we're all out of time, but we'll have more time next week. Thanks again for joining us.
And just ahead, Bruce Morton's "Last Word."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's hard not to feel that the most interesting political figure around is the one who's stepping down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What can Bill Clinton do for an encore to his presidency? Stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's last word on Bill Clinton and life after the presidency.
MORTON (voice-over): Inauguration Day is coming. People are writing speeches, planning parties, analyzing the new Congress, the new Cabinet, wondering what kind of legislation will pass, and yet, somehow, it's hard not to feel that the most interest living figure around is the one who's stepping down, leaving: William Jefferson Clinton, arguably the most complex and interesting president since Richard Nixon.
What will he do? What will be done to him?
Almost certainly, he will, once out of office, be indicted. That's likely because Kenneth Starr's successor as independent counsel, Robert Ray, has called Monica Lewinsky to appear before his grand jury. The guessing is he wouldn't bother unless he were planning to indict. Last time, it looked like a Roman circus. This time, who knows?
Mr. Clinton may also be disbarred in his home state of Arkansas, though that won't change his life any. He can make a lot of money without ever practicing law. Richard Nixon did through books and speeches.
Mr. Clinton has said he'll write a book. He can make speeches for many thousands of dollars a pop. He can serve on corporate boards. He could host a talk show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: This is LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORTON: Well, one of those, or course. But he could also host the kind of talk show that makes really big money.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW")
AUDIENCE: Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORTON: Jerry Springer was in politics before he turned to show business, after all.
As for the book, well, his wife got an $8 million advance, but she's a U.S. senator. He'll be just an ex-pres. Still, maybe he'll write more frankly about sex and the marriage than she. We'll have to see.
He can work on his presidential library, but it may not fascinate him. He leaves office relatively young, still probably the man who always wanted to be president, but always wanted to be Elvis, too.
It's hard to imagine him finding much contentment in the Senate Spouses' Club -- lunch, bridge, and all that.
But, hey, here we go. How about the Senate itself? How about the Senate itself? Arkansas Republican Tim Hutchinson is up for re- election in 2002. That's less than two years away. And there's never been a husband-and-wife team in the Senate. And would Arkansas give him one more chance? Don't bet against it.
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Thanks, Bruce.
Up next, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Time now for a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines.
"TIME" magazine reveals "Drugs of the Future: Amazing new medicines will be based on DNA; find out how they will change your life," on the cover.
"Newsweek" looks into "Beating Big Brother: How Computer Rebels Kept the Government From Spying on You," on the cover.
And on the cover of "U.S. News & World Report," "High Tech Overload: The Message to Manufacturers -- Simplicity Sells."
And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, January 7th. Be sure to join us next Sunday, and every Sunday, at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
I'll also be back tomorrow night, 8 p.m. Eastern, for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." We'll take a look at the Clinton legacy.
For now, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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