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How Is President Bush Handling the Standoff With Beijing?

Aired April 5, 2001 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, how is Bush handling the standoff with Beijing? Can Clinton come back from the pardon controversy? Is mad cow disease finally over on Wall Street?

We're going to dig into these and many other headline questions with Sam Donaldson, ABC News "This Week," the whole cast is here.

Cokie Roberts is co-anchor on that program. She is also ABC's chief congressional analyst.

And with them, "This Week" commentator and panelist, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning columnist George Will.

And in New York, ABC news analyst and top former adviser to Bill Clinton, George Stephanopoulos.

And they're all next, on LARRY KING LIVE!

The whole gang's here, and it's a great pleasure to have them. The -- everybody that's involved with "This Week" on Sunday mornings on ABC is with us. Mr. Donaldson, Miss Roberts, Mr. Will, and Mr. Stephanopoulos.

You also have your own Web site, right?

SAM DONALDSON, ABC NEWS: That's right, and you can call me Sam.

KING: I can call you Sam. OK, but, that's -- formal.


KING: OK, we'll start with Cokie. China news keeps breaking as we go on here, but, apparently, it's still status quo. What's your read?

COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS: Well, I think as long as the 24 American crew people are there, it's going to be a very tense situation. Obviously, the administration's trying to take a softer line, trying to get Americans in to see the crew people, but I really do think that that's the key -- getting them out of there. Until that happens, it's going to be very tense.

KING: George Will, is this an incident? A blip? A what? GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST/ABC COMMENTATOR: A blip. It is an accident, probably, and the only interesting question lurking within this is whether the Chinese military was somehow off the reservation, raising questions about command and control from Beijing.

But the real test, Larry, is to see that the president can take an episode like this -- I won't inflate it to a crisis -- and not treat it as a test of his fiber or national manliness. The fact is, it's a very small episode in the relations between very large countries.

KING: So in the history of things, this is going to be a blip.

WILL: It is. And we have to distinguish it. It's one thing for them to keep the plane, and root around in its interior, looking at all that stuff. It's another thing to keep the people. They were performing important national business, lawfully, and ought to be let go.

KING: George Will, you are the one of this group that was in the White House in action like this. How do you think they're doing?

WILL: Stephanopoulos.

KING: And how do you look at this?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Well, I actually think Bush has handled it just about right, so far, Larry. He hasn't inflated this way out of control, he hasn't created a national crisis out of this so far. But the proof will be, I guess, in the pudding. And I guess I agree with George, that this is just a blip, assuming that the crew comes home sometime in next, you know, 24, 48, 72 hours.

The Chinese can say they had some sort of investigation into the accident, and then we sent the crew home, and it probably won't lead any kind of a permanent rupture in the relationship. But if you take a step back from this accident, Bush has taken a far more aggressive stance towards China than the Clinton administration did. I applaud him for his tough stand on human rights, but when you add that with his insistence on a missile defense, and this upcoming sale of military equipment to Taiwan, we are in an overall tense, right now, relationship with China.

And I think that even if this incident goes away in the next few days or weeks, there are going to be a lot of people in Congress who are going to be saying, maybe we should think -- rethink the trade relationship with China. Maybe we should rethink whether we should support the Chinese application for the Olympics in 2008.

KING: Sam, we're set a record there, we've gone 3 1/2 minutes without you.

DONALDSON: That's all right, I'm...

(CROSSTALK) DONALDSON: No one is the poorer for it, but you know, there are too many important things between our two countries to let this -- and I agree with George Will and George Stephanopoulos and Cokie -- become something that strains the relationship to a breaking point, or even ratchets it up to are very tense situation.

China wants in the World Trade Organization, it needs trade with us. We, the United States, want trade with China. Our business people, you go to them and say, "Should we cut all this off?"

To a person, they'd say, "Not for a dollar."

ROBERTS: Well, and that's where George Bush has a big advantage, because those people tend to be in the Republican party. And he is having, an easier time of this than, I think, a Democratic president would have.

Even though Republicans, who feel very strongly anti-China -- and there is a split in the party, a very serious split on this issue -- are holding their fire for the most part.

Jesse Helms said earlier this week that he had strong opinions, but that he would keep them to himself, because he didn't want to exacerbate the situation. I think if Bill Clinton were president, he wouldn't be keeping them to himself.

KING: David Gergen, on this program last night, was wondering why -- it seems the printed press is giving this equal space with everything else going on in Congress, and the vote. That it's not a big, big deal yet.

You agree with the way they're treating it?

WILL: I do. I do. I think that -- again, the big questions about China are, to add to the list that Sam just gave you: Should they get the Olympics? Good question, and this idea of the behavior of a host country.

Within the package of arms being considered to Taiwan, there is, as yet as I understand it, no decision made about the Aegis cruiser with the antimissile capability. Those of us who would like to see a very generous provision of arms to Taiwan think this timing is just splendid.

KING: You like the fact that this occurred now?

WILL: Yes.

KING: This helps Taiwan, and you like that.

WILL: Helps Taiwan, absolutely.

KING: What do you think Mr. Clinton would be doing, George Stephanopoulos?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Pretty much, publicly, I think almost exactly what President Bush has done so far. My guess is that in the Clinton White House we probably would have jumped out a little bit more quickly, maybe come out with a statement earlier on Sunday, rather than waiting a day in the way that President Bush.

But this -- there's not much you can do here. You don't want to inflame the situation while the crew is there. You want to find a way that can allow both sides to walk off the ledge and get the crew home. And I agree with George, we may get the crew home, but we're never going to get the plane home.

But, there was also a difference in the Clinton White House, depending on the time. In the Clinton campaign in 1992, President Clinton took -- I mean, Governor Clinton took a very hard line against human rights violations in China. He flipped within a year of taking office, coming out and saying, listen, we have to be much more for most-favored nation status in a way that we weren't in the past.

So I think that as time went on, President Clinton came to become far more serious with the notion that we had to have an engaged relationship with China. So much so, that when Governor Bush was running for president, he kind of attacked the whole Clinton administration -- the idea of a strategic partnership was too soft.

ROBERTS: Talked about it as a competitor, not partner.


DONALDSON: Very interesting situation, the first 24 hours. It shows the divisions within our government, as there are divisions within any administration. Remember, three destroyers -- U.S. destroyers -- started toward Hainan Island, and then someone said, and ultimately, it has to be the president: "No, we don't want to threaten. We don't want to say, 'let our guys go or we're going to go to war.'" And those destroyers were removed.

ROBERTS: Well, what's also been so interesting is the carefulness about language, which is a good thing. But the idea of not -- they don't say that these people are being held captive. They have don't say they're hostages. They don't say -- they just say that they're being held. But they are very careful with language.

KING: We've got lots of other areas to cover, including why Sunday morning has become what it's become in this country. We'll get the thoughts of everybody and touch a lot of issues. The cast of "This Week" is with us. Don't go away.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I regret that a Chinese pilot is missing, and I regret one of their airplanes is lost. And our prayers go out to the pilot, his family. Our prayers are also with our own servicemen and women, and they need to come home. My message to the Chinese is we should not let this incident destabilize relations. Our relationship with China is very important. And -- but they need to realize that it's time for our people to be home.



KING: We're back. George Will, why is Sunday morning suddenly become impact morning in America?

WILL: I really don't know. Sunday morning has been changed by CNN, by Fox, by MSNBC, by saturation journalism, in the sense that people who are very interested in the news have seen it all before they get to us on Sunday morning.

KING: Correct.

WILL: They don't turn to us to learn something. They turn to get something else, and it's not clear what. So in that sense, in the 20 years almost come this November, that I have been doing this single program -- and before that a lot of appearances with Larry Spivak on "Meet The Press" -- the nature of audience has changed. It is a much more informed, I guess you would say intellectually upscale audience, which I find liberating, because it means there are certain things we can assume on the part of people who come to our broadcast that they are bringing to us.

KING: George Stephanopoulos, are these -- are the viewers of Sunday morning television -- not demeaning -- are they junkies? Political junkies?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, PANELIST, "THE WEEK": I think that is probably right, although you do get some people on Sunday morning who -- this is their ritual for the week. I guess I differ a little bit with George, I think there are a lot of people who watch these cable shows all week, but there are others who kind of turn it off for the week and then they tune in Sunday morning to get their dose of politics.

But there is a second audience, Larry, for Sunday morning, and it is the whole political media filter in Washington, and in New York, and I know a little bit of this from my old life. I mean, we used to really plan out Sunday mornings in the campaigns in the White House, to kind of set our message for a week, and kind of give it a kickoff on whatever news we wanted to make for the week.

KING: Was President Clinton then kidding me when he said he never watched Sunday morning at all?

STEPHANOPOULOS: No, you know, he wasn't kidding, you know, he never did.

KING: He didn't?

STEPHANOPOULOS: No. He was a late night TV watcher, Larry, not an early morning TV watcher.

KING: We figured that out, didn't we! Sam, what do you think its place is? I mean, there are five shows on now, right? DONALDSON: Well you know, Roone Arledge and our old mentor David Brinkley sort of re-invented Sunday morning programs. There have been fine shows -- you mentioned one of them, "Meet The Press," before then. Now everybody is on sort of the same page, from the standpoint...

KING: There are five major shows.

DONALDSON: Five major shows. They're all good. They all use videotapes, they all use quotes to challenge a guest with.

KING: All have good guests.

DONALDSON: But you know, I think ours was -- the record will correct me if I'm wrong -- the first network program to have a roundtable, in which journalists gave strong opinions, now...

KING: Is he right?

WILL: He is. In fact...

KING: "Meet The Press" didn't do that in the old days?

WILL: They didn't. In fact, there was -- and you will remember this -- there was in town here a Saturday evening show called "Grunski & Company" (ph) and...

KING: You were a regular.

WILL: And Roone Arledge's idea to have "Grunski & Company" (ph) and to make it something different to justify the hour. They tacked on guests at the beginning.

DONALDSON: Now, here is what strong opinions do. I don't think, certainly in my case -- maybe you, or Cokie, Or George Stephanopoulos, ever changed the vote, because I said: "I think this..."


DONALDSON: ... but people want their views reinforced. And they want a little bit more information, so they can use when they go down to the Rotary Club and say, this is why I think that, and then they also want to throw a shoe at the set, "he is all wet." It's a lot of fun.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) guests right up to the last minute?

ROBERTS: Oh, sure.

KING: You change guests on Saturday?

ROBERTS: Sure. The news changes, and so that you try to stay on top of the news always, but I also think that Sunday mornings are a sort of a town meeting for the country, and that it is a way for people to come together and think about politics in a more cohesive and coherent fashion than they do sort when it's coming at them all day long, all week long.

KING: A lot of people watch two or three of them, right? They are not all on against each other.

WILL: Yeah, they're gluttons for punishment.


KING: And they're always looking to make news, right, Sam? You are always looking to what's going to be in the paper on Monday morning.

DONALDSON: I think our first test is do we have a good television program, meaning a Sunday morning public affairs show. And the second test is, hey, do we get picked up by our print brothers? Do we make news? Do people talk and say, on "This Week", I saw the secretary of the Treasury say, yes, he will sell his stock after all. Which he did -- Paul O'Neill on our show.

KING: Let's go into some more issues. Is the Florida ballot issue over, George Will?

WILL: Yeah, it was over in the middle of December. But I did notice that...

KING: But if they followed the Republican thing -- which was, only count one aspect, Gore would have won. It's the only one he would have won.

WILL: But there are floating standards out there, and hanging standards, and all the rest right now. The fact is...

ROBERTS: And regular ones.

WILL: ... if however, the conclusion that they've evidently come to, which is that under reasonable set of standards, Bush won. If the had come to a conclusion that by a reasonable set of standards, Gore won, this would have been shouted from the mountain tops, in the front page of all the papers.

DONALDSON: Excuse me, the "Miami Herald" and "USA Today" did that, but the consortium of about 17 or 19 of these organizations are still counting. We haven't heard the end of this.

KING: Are you saying that if they come up with Gore, that is going to be a splash, big story, and they played it down as a Bush win?

WILL: Yes.

KING: George Stephanopoulos, you disagree?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I do, I do, a little bit. Mostly because depending on the standard you use, you would have gotten several different counts, but I do think this was a blow to the Democrats. Listen, a lot of Democrats had the suspicion -- I think I had a suspicion that when the Supreme Court stopped the counting in December, they were denying Gore a count, a recount, that would give him a victory.

I think if you look at the -- at the weight of the evidence that "The Miami Herald" reported, it clearly shows that Bush, under most reasonable standards, would have won, and...

DONALDSON: Now, George Stephanopoulos, may I just interrupt and ask you a question, which is: do you then now believe that the Holocaust survivors in West Palm Beach, who voted apparently for Pat Buchanan, really meant to?

STEPHANOPOULOS: No, no, that is a separate issue.


STEPHANOPOULOS: ... I believe that more people in the state of Florida went to polls, intending to vote for Al Gore than went to the polls intending to vote for George Bush...

DONALDSON: OK, I agree with that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... that is separate from saying, listen, the Florida Supreme Court ordered a count, the United States Supreme Court stopped it, that denied Gore victory. I don't think you can say that anymore.

KING: We will ask about pardons when we come back with the crew of "This Week" -- every Sunday morning on ABC. They are all here tonight, don't go away.


DONALDSON: London Telegraph says this morning that Saddam Hussein has two operational atomic bombs. What does our intelligence say about that?

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven't seen anything at this stage that would support that contention, but I haven't seen the newspaper reports either. We do know that he has in the past worked to try to develop weapons of mass destruction. We knew he was working on nuclear weapons at the time of the Gulf War. He had clearly not gotten there yet, but it was a technology he was seeking, and I don't have any reason to believe at this point that he has achieved -- achieved that objective, but I don't know.



KING: We're back. Cokie Roberts, is the pardon story gone? Where is it?

ROBERTS: Well, it's gone...

KING: Well, they got a criminal investigation in New York. ROBERTS: That's right. It is gone for the time being, partly because President Bush made it pretty clear that he was not very interested in having Republicans in Congress pursue this, and take the headlines away from his tax cut and look like meanies on Capitol Hill, and all of those things.

But there is a criminal investigation going on, and there will be stories dribbling out.

KING: Are you shocked at this story, George?

WILL: No, of course not. Once you go into the assumption that the Clintons are mercenary and shameless, then nothing shocks you anymore.

KING: Try to be direct when you talk.


WILL: Look. It is an interesting understanding of what the American people are ready to be judgmental about. We are famously liberal and ferociously non-judgmental people right now, and therefore, it seems that you could say, well, committed crimes, and perhaps should have been indicted, as Judge Posner said, but he committed an aesthetic offense, that is, he looked tacky at the end, and in the current age, that is the fundamental sin.

KING: And George Stephanopoulos, as someone who knows him well and worked with him, are you shocked?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I was, because I think that -- I always imagined that he would just be smarter than that at the end. You know, he was doing so well in the days before the inaugural, before the pardons came out. I think a lot of people were saying, you know, Al Gore would have won the election had he used Bill Clinton more.

His job approval and personal approval ratings were quite high, but I guess I think he just lost his mooring in those last few days, as he confronted the fact that he would be leaving office, and he was -- couple that with the idea that he was cutting this final deal with Robert Ray, the independent counsel, which he didn't want to do, and give up his law license for five years, even though I think it was the wise thing for him to do that.

He was very susceptible, I think, to these arguments of people like Jack Quinn, who were coming in and saying, listen, Marc Rich was the victim of a reckless prosecutor, you ought to give him a break.

That all said, I really don't understand, how he could have, in the face of Bruce Lindsey and John Podesta as chief of staff and Beth Nolan as chief counsel, all saying this is crazy -- he persisted anyway. Sometimes the man just does mysterious things, as we learned.

KING: Can you come up with a good reason...

DONALDSON: Well, there was a famous expression in the '80s, "let Reagan be Reagan." Let Clinton be Clinton. I agree with George Will. This does not surprise anyone. But even though there's a criminal investigation, I do not think -- while people have suspicions that money may have been funneled to the library or someplace else...

KING: What do you think?

DONALDSON: Well, without the evidence, I'm not going to pass a judgment. But I don't think there is going to be the kind of evidence required. You would have to have a videotape of someone saying, here is the money, give me the pardon.

KING: Is he the only fugitive ever pardoned?

ROBERTS: As far as we know. As far as we know, he's the only fugitive ever pardoned.

KING: So it's hard to make any kind of case.

ROBERTS: Well, the Justice Department would certainly argue that you can't make a case! People that prosecuted him would make the argument that you can't make the case.

DONALDSON: I believe in the Second Amendment of the Constitution, and let's not change it: A president is not required to go through any procedure. It is not required that he tell us why he makes a pardon.

KING: What's the effect on Mrs. Clinton, senator from New York?

WILL: I think it's devastating.

KING: Really?

WILL: Well, because it came -- there was going to be an instant realization anyway that she is one senator, which is to say 1 percent of one-half of one of the three branches of government. This is not a colossal thing: a United States senator, even one from New York, unless you are the person she replaced, Pat Moynihan, or someone like that.

So there's going to be a natural diminution, once the dust settled from the campaign and you realized this was just a senator, but it did, it did -- coming just as that was setting in, I think it was a devastating blow, from which I would be surprised if she recovered as a national figure.

DONALDSON: I disagree.


KING: One at a time.

ROBERTS: There is a reason she has an $8 million book deal, which is that people think she is a star, and that she will sell books.

KING: So she's still a star, is what you are saying.

ROBERTS: Members of the Senate tell me that every time they go any place the first question they are asked is, tell us about Hillary. What's it like to serve with Hillary? They keep saying, why don't you ask her what it is like to serve with me? But...

STEPHANOPOULOS: I was going to say probably, probably short-term pain for her, and perhaps long-term gain, because if nothing else, this would, I think, end, despite Sam's trying to promote Mrs. Clinton's 2004 candidacy -- he's been doing it for months now -- but I think this ensured, I believe, that it would -- it will be not possible for her to run in 2004. And I think that that is good for the Democratic Party, and probably good for her if she ever actually does want to run for president, because a 2004 run would have been way too premature.

DONALDSON: Well, let me just correct in a sense what some people may have gathered from Mr. Stephanopoulos' statement. I'm not her campaign manager, I'm not promoting her candidacy, but I am predicting that the first moment -- and if it's in 2004 -- she senses weakness on the part of George W. Bush. for instance, in that year, she will seek her party's nomination.

And if she waits eight years, yes, she will wait eight years, but she did not become the senator from New York to serve the good people of New York all the rest of their life.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I agree with that, Sam.

KING: We'll be back with more of the crew from "This Week." Don't go away.


ROBERTS: You had a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus that some described as tense. Now you've appointed head of civil rights division, Ralph Boyd. There has been some criticism that he doesn't have civil rights experience. Will he be pushing hard for hate crimes legislation?

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, he will be a very aggressive and vigorous enforcer of the civil rights laws, to guarantee that no citizen is to have an abuse of his or her rights that is beyond the reach of the Justice Department. He is an outstanding prosecutor. He is an individual, a Harvard Law School graduate, was the editor of the -- the editor of the "Civil Rights Law Journal" at Harvard. He will enforce whatever hate crimes laws that require enforcement by the civil rights division.



KING: Cokie, how is President Bush doing overall?

ROBERTS: Well, he had been doing awfully well at the beginning, he was making friends and influencing people on Capitol Hill, and getting his legislation through, which I think he will continue to do.

But he has got problems that have nothing to do with him. You've got the plane down in China, and American soldiers being held. You have the stock market, which today looks better, but has been looking pretty scary. You have an energy crisis coming up. We know what that did to Jimmy Carter.

If people start to feel that, overall, things were better with the other guy, even though he might have been embarrassing, this could be a problem for George Bush. I looked just before I came here at the most recent numbers as, is this country going in the right direction, versus, is it off on the wrong track?

And 49 percent say it is going in the right direction. That is down from 62 percent at about this time last year. So he has to worry about that, make sure that the overall feeling is not a negative one, and that is tough, because it is out of his control, a lot of it.


WILL: I think so. Look, the country is crankier than it used to be. At this stage in John Kennedy's first term, first 100 days, his disapproval rating was 6, Bill Clinton's was 36, Bush's is 26. I think Mr. Bush has established that he has a kind of executive temperament, choose, choose, choose, and move on. And he understands how to economize presidential leadership by having three or four subjects, speak about them clearly and constantly, and don't talk about the fifth or the sixth until you get them done. So I think he's off to a fine start.

KING: Sam.

DONALDSON: I think so far, so good, but the honeymoon is over. The first two or three weeks in which he...

KING: We're not at 100 days yet.

DONALDSON: No, but remember the first week or so, we invited the Black Caucus down, he had a birthday lunch for Dick Gephardt, had the Kennedys in for movies, and everybody said, wow, this is different.

Now, people are saying, what are you doing? And you just saw a few moments ago, he read that statement about China, saying we regret this, we regret that. Did you notice a couple of times he looked down at his script? Well, what's wrong with that? I occasionally look at my script, but you remember Ronald Reagan -- he just, they can run, but they can't hide. And so, the commanding presence...

ROBERTS: Do that again.

DONALDSON: I could never -- I could never do the Gipper again. He needs to work on that.

KING: We'll get right back on this. I've got to get a break here now. We will be right back, we will reintroduce the panel -- as if I have to, and then more. Don't go away. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: They're as American as apple pie. The crew of "This Week," Sam Donaldson, co-anchor, Cokie Roberts, the co-anchor, George Will, the commentator and panelist, and George Stephanopoulos -- he's in New York -- the commentator and panelist. And George Stephanopoulos, I didn't get your assessment of the early days of President Bush.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I'm going to agree with both George and Sam for different reasons. I think -- I think George is right when he says basically, you know, Bush has done a good job of disciplining the White House, disciplining his agenda, and presented himself pretty well to the American people. And they probably appreciate that he hasn't really been in their face too much, for these first almost 100 days.

But I -- I also agree with Sam that the honeymoon is probably over. I think one of the most remarkable aspects of the first 100 days or so is how uncompromising President Bush has been in his agenda, very, very strict conservative agenda down the line: on environmental issues, labor issues, obviously starting with his tax cut.

And I think what you started to see on Capitol Hill, this week, is a little bit of cracking in the Republican coalition even as the Democrats have held firm. They said, listen, he wasn't really serious about reaching out to us on anything that mattered, beyond stylistic issues, so we're going to take the fight to him. And you saw President Bush lost some pretty significant votes on his budget this week on Capitol Hill. And his tax cut is in a bit of trouble.

KING: Is Senator McCain the strongest opposition? Is Senator McCain, a stronger opponent, George Will, than any Democrat, today, that Bush has?

WILL: Yes, a more determined...

KING: More popular?

WILL: With whom? I mean.

KING: I mean, he would rate higher, publicly, wouldn't he?

WILL: I don't know. You have to ask the public. Certainly not within the Republican Party.

KING: Well, you know the public. They're cranky.

WILL: I don't pretend to know the public.

DONALDSON: His problem is in his answers he doesn't rate that high with George Will.

ROBERTS: He certainly -- he certainly drives the Bush team crazier than any of the Democrats do. But I think in terms of getting Bush's agenda passed, that the Democrats are a bigger problem for him. I mean, McCain has been voting with the president.

KING: McCain has gotten more ink than any Democrat, right?

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's right, but McCain is going to be, Larry, McCain is going to be the swing vote on at least two important upcoming issues beyond campaign finance reform. The first one is this whole issue of the patients' bill of rights. President Bush wants a far narrower bill that makes it harder for people to sue their HMOs and has a narrower scope, doesn't cover as many people.

McCain has been on the other side of that, and McCain's people, I think Cokie's exactly right, I mean, there is just no love lost at all between these two camps and they talk an awful lot about how they want something like a Bob Kerrey moment, they call it. Which is, at final moment of the -- when the budget finally comes up for its most important vote, John McCain becomes the deciding factor, because you only have one vote margin.

ROBERTS: But of course the truth is in a 50-50 Senate there is going to be one senator who's the deciding factor on one issue, and another senator who's the decide factor on another issue. I mean everybody, every senator has a veto.

WILL: We have seen the week that the Republicans control the Senate if, but only if, Lincoln Chafee gets out of bed feeling like a Republican.


ROBERTS: But he's in a state where nobody else does.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But George, why should he? He comes from a state that Democrats won be 30 points. He has to vote against this budget.

WILL: Well, then, Senator Nelson from Nebraska ought to vote for the Republicans.

ROBERTS: And he might.


DONALDSON: Let me tell you something, two and a half months approximately, in this administration, but already at there are people at the White House whose job is to look toward 2004, and say, what about Lieberman, what about Gore? Who are we going to run against who? I'll bet you there are a couple guys down there saying, watch John McCain.

KING: You think he might bolt?

DONALDSON: Well, he says he's not going to. He says he's a good Republican. We have to take him at his word, but, that beguiling -- as John Kennedy said, "Hail To The Chief" is a catchy tune, and if in 2003 it looks good...

KING: Doesn't John McCain agree with about 90 percent of what you think, George? Wouldn't you say, he's a conservative Republican?

WILL: Sure.

KING: So, what's your rub with him?

WILL: It's the other 20 percent. One of which happens to be the First Amendment. I mean, two of the -- if you ask me, the five worst pieces of legislation in my 30 years in Washington, his name has been on two of them within recent years. The tobacco bill, and McCain- Feingold. So these are, I mean, I think McCain and I respect each other, I know where he stands and lord knows I have tried to make clear where I stand.

ROBERTS: Yes, we've noticed that.

WILL: I have never written eight consecutive (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on an issue before my life, but...

KING: Were you surprised it got a 59 to 40 vote?

WILL: Yes, and I'm very gratified that it was under 60.

KING: Veto proof.


ROBERTS: You know, Marc Rich contributed to that. That whole business of the pardons and he helped that vote go the way it went.

KING: He helped that vote. George Stephanopoulos, you agree?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I do. I definitely agree with that. What I -- I guess where I, what I wonder about on McCain-Feingold, and I know George Will seems convinced that President Bush is going to stick to his campaign position and not sign the bill, and show what he would call respect for First Amendment, but I think a lot of people in White House are saying no -- there is no way, if this bill comes to our desk in the current form, that we're going to take the heat for a veto.

ROBERTS: I think that right.

DONALDSON: Yes, but George Will doesn't think it going to come to the desk.

KING: Well, the House won't put it in.

WILL: Well, first of all, regardless of what their ultimate intentions were, they'd be saying that right now, because if they say they'll veto it, everyone will pass it and get a free vote, and count on him vetoing it. But it's going to look very, very different three months from now, when the heat of this has gone by, and the president sits down and says, look, I set out clear principles -- he went out of his way to do that -- this bill does not meet those principles, and he knows, I'm sure he knows, that he can veto it with zero political cost. He will make "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" unhappy and that's just a bonus. STEPHANOPOULOS: Actually there's a great political benefit, though, if he signs it. I mean, he is the hard money king. He raised $100 million in these small, $1000 dollar contributions in his last presidential campaign. With that going up to $2000 can he just out raise any conceivable competitor in 2004.

ROBERTS: If that is right, the truth is, is that the way the bill came out of the Senate, it is helpful to Republicans.

WILL: I agree with you.

ROBERTS: And so -- yes, I know do you -- and the, I mean your objection is not a partisan one.

WILL: It's constitutional.

ROBERTS: But so, there is really, from Bush's perspective, no reason not to sign it.

KING: More with "This Week's" group right after this.


KING: The big story this week has certainly been the China thing, yet it's the least we've heard from Dick Cheney, Sam Donaldson, who is supposed to be the big person on things outside the United States.

DONALDSON: I think he still may be, but remember, he has been on Capitol Hill this week. As George Stephanopoulos pointed out, they've lost some votes. And they have won some votes, or at least one, on a tie. And so Dick Cheney, as all of us predicted, has set up a cot up there. As the vice president who breaks the ties, unless Lincoln Chafee, as you say, votes, and others -- Dick Cheney has to stay close to home. But I'll bet you he is still in the very inner circle about China business.

ROBERTS: He's physically on Capitol Hill this week, where they need him.

KING: The Cheney story is a big story, though, right? His health --the joke that George Bush is heartbeat away from the presidency. Do you...

ROBERTS: Which George Bush himself will make.

KING: George Will, what do you make of this vice president?

WILL: He's a good vice president. A vice president with presidential stature, which is a sign that the first decision of importance that candidate Bush, he made very well.

Look, the condescension to Republican presidents is somehow not up to it. Ronald Reagan was condescended to, Gerald Ford, Dwight Eisenhower syntax, this is just a common recurring theme in American life, and George Bush can live with it. (CROSSTALK)

KING: Go ahead, George Stephanopoulos.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think that's right. I mean, I think, though, that the combination of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Powell has actually shielded President Bush from what might have been more criticism this week in the standoff with China.

I mean, I have talked to an awful lot of Democrats this week who just say, "Imagine, what the press and the Republican criticism would have been like if this happened in April of 1993 when President Clinton was in office." There would have been all this talk about how the standoff was created, or at least fueled, by President Clinton's inexperience. President Bush has been, you know, protected from that because he's got such an experienced team around him.

DONALDSON: Cheney doesn't have all the power, of course, even on Capitol Hill. I know for a fact that he urged House Republicans in a closed meeting the other day, not to pass a resolution criticizing China for this, said it wouldn't be helpful. They went ahead and did it anyway.

ROBERTS: Well, all politics is local.


KING: He's also someone who's never going to be president. He says that he has no ambition. He's not going to run for that, also. Do you think he's a one-term vice president?

WILL: I would think not. I think, again, the president going into the next election will say, how many people -- have you ever met anyone who said I voted for president A because of vice presidential nominee? It just doesn't happen.


ROBERTS: No, and in fact, there's been a lot of data done on it. The only time there was ever any evidence that we can point to was Lyndon Johnson in 1960.

KING: Kennedy would have lost Texas without him on the...

What about the stock market, folks? What do you make of it?

ROBERTS: Sam, is our stock market...

KING: Who our "This Week" expert?

DONALDSON: Oh, I'm the expert. I'm regularly wiped out on the Nasdaq, you know.

KING: Oh, you're a Nasdaq man?

DONALDSON: Can not teach this old dog new tricks. My prediction is that Nasdaq's about 1600 or so -- you are going to see it much lower. And also, the Dow much lower. Now I don't know whether we are in technical recession or not, but with the companies cutting back the earning estimates, almost across the board, I think we're in for a much deeper, market.

KING: You worried?

WILL: Not a bit. Unemployment today is 3/10 of one percentage point, with -- of a 30-year low. Inflation is low. Productivity is high.

KING: So why are people selling stocks?

WILL: The stock market, Larry, is doing exactly what markets do. It is reallocating capital from less to more productive uses. There's a little turmoil. Big deal! Markets go down.

KING: It's a big deal to someone who's wiped out.

DONALDSON: It's a big deal for me.


WILL: And there are people making money on the stocks like this. Last year 30 percent of Nasdaq stocks went up. Someone knew what they were doing.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Sorry, I'm just saying there are an awful lot of voters who are losing money. I mean, I think the market's dropped about 1000 points since inauguration day, and that is going to have a...

KING: George wishes to retort right away.


WILL: Look, Americans, we really are becoming the cry baby of the western world.

KING: We're cranky.

WILL: Last year, Nasdaq had worse...

ROBERTS: And some of us are more cranky than others.


DONALDSON: Well, the people out of work are more cranky than others, you know.


KING: I have to get a break, George, go. WILL: Nasdaq, last year, had the worst year in its 29-year history, and finished 16 points above where it had been two years ago. Let's keep some perspective on this. Everyone is saying America has lost $4 trillion worth of paper wealth. It had that $4 trillion for approximately one day, March 10, 2002, which was the apogee of Nasdaq.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Problem is, a lot of people spent it.

KING: 2000.

WILL: 2000, yeah.

KING: We'll be right back with more. Don't go away.


KING: It's a side bar story, but it's certainly a story. What do you make of Dan Rather speaking at a Democratic fund-raiser, Cokie?

ROBERTS: Well, I have a rule that I do not criticize fellow members of the trade, because I don't want them doing it to me, and I don't know all of the facts. And it looks to me like his daughter asked him to do a favor and he got blindsided.

KING: Sam?

DONALDSON: Well, I don't know the facts, either, but I'll say that if, in fact, Dan knew that it was fund-raiser, he probably shouldn't have done it.

KING: He said he didn't.

DONALDSON: Well, he said he didn't know it when he got in there.

KING: Well, let's say -- he said he knew it when he got there. Would you have left?

DONALDSON: I can't answer the question because it's self- serving. I can, you know, sit here and say, "Oh, I would have done," you know, this, that, or the other. I hope that in -- I hope that I would have done so. Yes.

KING: George Will?

WILL: Would I have left? Yes. I mean, actually, I'm asked often to talk to political fund-raising groups and never do it.

KING: Never do it.


ROBERTS: Well, no...


ROBERTS: ABC has very strict rules about this. None of us appears at fund-raisers, none of us speaks at fund-raisers...

KING: You're not allowed to.

ROBERTS: Exactly. I just think he got blindsided.

KING: So he didn't know.

George Stephanopoulos, you had a thought?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, yeah, I've learned about all of this through hard experience. I'm very aware of all these rules right now, but I guess I mostly agree with Cokie. From everything I've read about this, he shouldn't have done it, but he was put in a very, very awkward position. When he get down there, he's at this small fund- raiser. It's, in part, it seemed like, being hosted by his daughter, and he couldn't figure out a graceful way out of it.

KING: George Stephanopoulos, would you comment on some questions for individuals, here. When President Clinton was on this program, I asked him what he thought about you, your book. And he said something to effect, I'll paraphrase, that this is what George always wanted. George needs to be in the media. This is basically George doing what he really always wanted to do. So he's not surprised by anything.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, that is fine, actually. I'll take that.


STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know if I always wanted to do -- I always had an interest in it. But, no, that's not what I was thinking when I was working back for him in 1991 to 1996. But I'm not interested in sort of carrying on any media fights.

DONALDSON: Well, I'll tell you this. President Clinton wanted George to go out on our Sunday programs, and George, I recall, you were very effective, taking the president's case. You worked for him, and that's exactly what you would have done then.

ROBERT: And now he's very effect at making the case he makes on our Sunday show.

KING: Are you enjoying the Internet, Sam?

DONALDSON: Oh, yeah. The Internet is the future. Unfortunately, it's not here yet. I mean, at the moment, it's imploded.

KING: But you're having a lot of fun with it. I was on with you. You were having a lot of fun.

DONALDSON: Terrific fun. And it is going to be the future. The whole world will be wired. And I say, Larry, there are 6 1/2 billion people out there, and I'm going to get every one of you!

KING: Cokie, you like being Congressional correspondent?

ROBERTS: Well, of course. Congress...

KING: And Sundays? When do you have time for home?

ROBERTS: Well, I get home, I always do get home. But the children are grown. It makes it a lot easier.

KING: But you're working, like, six days a week, aren't you?

ROBERTS: Yeah, six or seven.

KING: Sundays, seven. Why don't you take "Good Morning America"?

ROBERTS: Oh, what a good idea.

KING: And then add it all.


DONALDSON: Have you checked with Diane and Charlie, I mean.

KING: Hideo Nomo, George?

WILL: Yes, yes, this is Asian week in Washington.

KING: Teams gave up on him.

WILL: Sure.

KING: He shut out our team. He no-hit our team.

WILL: Yeah. One of four guys, now, to -- no-hitters in both leagues. The only no-hitter in Camden Yards.

KING: Were you there?

WILL: No. No, I should have been, but wasn't.

KING: Are you saddened?

ROBERTS: I always think that the toward end of a no-hitter -- this is where my husband thinks I'm out of my mind -- if I were playing, I would let them have a no-hitter, they're right there. Don't you want to let them have that record?

KING: Well, the entire Orioles crowd rooted for him. You always want to see a no-hitter once it gets into the...


ROBERTS: ... the opposition team doesn't want to.

KING: What is the thought? You know baseball as well as anyone. Does -- did Bordick want to hit in the ninth inning?

WILL: Oh, absolutely. There were only three runs down, you get a runner on...

KING: What if it were 11-0?

WILL: 11-0 might be another matter, but still, they would go up to try and hit. There is a sense of the integrity of competition that governs baseball.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with the gang from "This Week," don't go away!


KING: We are back. Do you guys get involved in ratings battles? I mean, do you look at this every week, do you worry about Tim Russert? Do you think about what are they doing at "Face The Nation?"

DONALDSON: Is the Pope Catholic? I mean, what are you saying? Do we get involved in ratings?

KING: No, I mean, sometimes you can be above it. I bet George doesn't care.

WILL: I don't understand those numbers, but look, of course I care. You write in order to be read, and you do television in order to be seen.

ROBERTS: But of course, that is exactly true, and you want -- you want to win, but on the other hand, you also do it to do a good show, and to feel good about it, and I think that that is something that we all do.

KING: I mean, but do you look who is on the other shows?

ROBERTS: Sure you do. And you want to make sure that the person that is on your show is at least as good, if not better.

KING: What's it like for you, when the same guy or woman, is on all five shows?

DONALDSON: We didn't know what do about that in the old days of yesteryear. Hey, you come on our show, it's exclusive, or you don't come on. Yes, sir! Today, it is -- we are going to do all five shows, we are going to do Tim and we're going to do Bob, and we're going to do Tony, we're going to do Wolf, and it happens to be the vice president, or it happens to be candidate for the presidency. Now what are going to do ? Say...

KING: You got to go.

DONALDSON: No! You say, OK. You don't like it because even the junkies on Sunday morning are not going to watch the same guy five times, but none of us has figured out what to do about it.

KING: George, when you are questioning on "This Week," are you a journalist or a opinionated commentator getting someone to reflect on your own feelings? WILL: I don't think that is either/or question. I think when I sit down to write a column, I write questions designed to seek information, then I give my opinions.

KING: So both things come true. George Stephanopoulos, you too?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah. I haven't done too much questioning yet, but -- and I think what we try to do on the roundtable is do this mix of both analysis and opinion, but you can't hide your opinions all the time.

KING: Now, Cokie, you write a column, too.


KING: Column has opinions.

ROBERTS: It does.

KING: So we know your opinions.

ROBERTS: That is on some things, you do. I tend to analyze more than opine, but I -- there are some things where you know my opinions very clearly.

KING: In that kind of setting, on a Sunday morning, when it is really going, isn't it hard not to come forward with your opinion?

ROBERTS: Well, I -- our writ, really, on Sunday morning is to come forward with opinion, but we have such strong opinions in our Georges that it is easier for me to take a middle course, which is really where I am, anyway.

DONALDSON: We give our opinions in the roundtable, and we say at the beginning of a roundtable, here is our strong opinion, take it for whatever you think it is worth.

But elsewhere, when we are questioning people, our questions don't necessarily mean we feel that way. But if someone comes on, our job is to challenge them, if they are a public official, to explain their actions and to defend their position, even if inside us, we agreed with them or not.

KING: I believe you wrote the most successful sports book ever written.

WILL: I think so.

KING: Is that right?

WILL: Yeah.

KING: You have no new book out, no new book coming?

WILL: No. I only write about politics to support my baseball habit. KING: Right, we're freaks.

WILL: That's right. So maybe I should get back to that.

DONALDSON: George always has -- I mean, your columns, you collect them and you put them under binder form and you put them out.

WILL: That's right.

KING: But you have no -- you are due for another sports book, a baseball book, you understand?

WILL: Talked me into it.

KING: Do it!

WILL: All right.

KING: We've got a president who is a nut baseball fan. He would rather have been commissioner.

WILL: He knows his stuff.

KING: Knows the game.

WILL: He had at the White House the other day at a dinner, he had Billy Bean, general manager of the As, he walked up to him said: "Why did you trade Ben Greve, was he too slow?" Ben Greve led the American League and grounded it into double plays.

DONALDSON: This president should like baseball. He invested $600,000 and sold a team for about $17.9 million. I mean, there is a businessman for you.

KING: George, how do like being on these shows?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Oh, I'm having a great time. It was great for me. The best part about it, coming out of my past life, was being able to give my own opinions on issues and being -- to develop my own independent voice. I had worked for a lot of politicians for a long time as a spokesperson for them, it is nice to be one for yourself.

KING: Are you going to do another book?

STEPHANOPOULOS: If I come up with a good subject. I'm not going to write about myself.

KING: You wrote a great book with your husband. Are you going to do another one?

ROBERTS: I think so. I think we have another one that is going to be in works soon, but we're not quite ready to talk about it.

KING: You are only one here who hasn't done one.

ROBERTS: He -- come one, he had a great bestseller! (CROSSTALK)

DONALDSON: Hold on, Mr. President on...


KING: That's right, I forgot.

DONALDSON: And I'm thinking of writing a sequel: "Hold On, Larry King"!

KING: Well, when did "Hold On, Mr. President" came out?

DONALDSON: It was in 86.


KING: We're out of time. Thanks, guys, thanks for joining us, you were terrific.

Merv Griffin tomorrow night. Good night.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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