CNN INSIDE POLITICS
President Bush Spends Independence Day in Philadelphia, Stumping for His Faith-Based Initiative
Aired July 4, 2001 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.
President Bush, on the urban beat, this holiday. Why is he so eager to score points in Philly?
Supporters of missing intern Chandra Levy, on the march in her hometown, while some parade-goers wondered, where is Congressman Gary Condit?
Plus, political labels: should we use them liberally, or conservatively?
And: after 225 years of independence, is the U.S. really more interdependent?
FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us, and happy 4th of July. I'm Frank Sesno, sitting in for Judy today.
We have a lot ahead for you this hour, as we said from labels to the White House, and that's where we begin, at the White House.
At a time when the Bush team is trying to improve its PR and poll numbers, this holiday gave the president a chance to show his camera- ready, voter-friendly side. The backdrop: Philadelphia, a city of obvious historical significance, and of political significance for Mr. Bush. Our White House correspondent Major Garrett is in Philly.
MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Frank.
As you mentioned the White House is trying to recalibrate if ever so slightly President Bush's public image. There's no widespread panic at the White House about poll numbers that have dipped a little bit, brought him closer to that 50 percent approval rating.
But the White House does concede that in their earlier emphasis of making President Bush look very presidential, very disciplined, always on time -- perhaps they went a little bit overboard. They want to make him look a little bit more human, less podium-bound, more accessible. And that was in part what was behind his trip to Philadelphia today, and lots of very good pictures of showing the president anything but podium-bound.
He took a trip to Greater Exodus Baptist Church and there he plunged into part of the choir there, hugging, kissing, exchanging handshakes.
And from there, he went to an urban block party. Not exactly the typical setting on the president on the 4th of July. He even jumped into the huddle and played some touch football with some of the kids gathered for that urban block party. You'll be glad to know that the president completed his very first pass in that game, handed it off a couple of other times, and appeared to have a good time all around.
But this trip was not only about a slight recalibration of the image of the presidency, also about policy. One the president cares about very much. His faith-based initiative, which the House of Representatives will debate and he hopes pass, when it returns from this 4th of July recess next week.
And in the speech of the Independence Hall, the president said some of the very freedoms, religious freedoms in particular, part of the Declaration of Independence adopted and signed here in Philadelphia can be found in his expression of support for a faith- based initiative, and religious liberty and the things that people of faith can do positively in America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America's founding documents give us religious liberty and principle. These Americans show us religious liberty in action. Religious liberty is more than the right to believe in God's love. It is the right to be an instrument of God's love.
Such work is beyond the reach of government and beyond the role of government, and those who hold positions of power should not be wary or hostile towards faith-based charities or other community groups which perform in important and good works. We should welcome their conviction and contribution in all its diversity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GARRETT: Overall, the White House very happy with this trip. Very happy with the outreach that the president showed.
And Frank, the faith-based initiative is very important to the president, Congress will debate it as I said, next week. The president hopes it passes, and hopes that this trip to Philadelphia will be in part of that success -- Frank.
SESNO: Major, in the believe everything that you read category, I saw something in one of the papers recently that said, that the White House or some feel that the president has been seen or has been too conservative and that's one of the reasons that his poll numbers have slipped somewhat. More conservative than the American people want him.
Now I have to imagine how the White House is greeting a prescription like that.
GARRETT: Well the question that the White House has always had to deal with, is what to do with the very, very contested election. Was there a mandate? And if there wasn't, do you act as if there was not a mandate or do you push on your campaign promises? Do you do what you said what you said that you would do, try to move Congress into your direction, and let the chips fall where they may?
And the White House has done a little bit of each. Got it's way on the tax cut, moved very far on the education reform proposal. Although, many conservatives believe that's nowhere near conservative enough.
And on the environment and energy, the president has been in the eyes of many Americans far too conservative. They are moving back from that, trying to emphasize conservation of overexpanding supplies in this country.
So it's a balance that the White House is always trying to strike. They don't really believe that this conservative issue was what was driving the poll numbers. They believe that the press has got on a downward spiral against this White House, ever since the James Jeffords defection, ever since the Senate to control from Republican to Democrat, they believe that the media has basically said that this White House has lost control of its agenda.
The White House is trying bit by bit to rebuild its momentum. That's a little bit of what happened here today in Philadelphia -- Frank.
SESNO: All right. Major Garrett looking casual in front of the flags in Philadelphia. Thank you very much. Enjoy the day.
A pop quiz for you. Which state besides Texas has George W. Bush visited most as becoming president? The answer: Pennsylvania, five times in all, counting today. And it's not hard to see why.
With 21 electoral votes in the next election, Pennsylvania is the fifth largest prize in the country. No president can be unaware of that. Mr. Bush lost the state narrowly in 2000, with Florida teetering on the edge, going to be very competitive.
California, New York, solidly Democratic, Pennsylvania may just be a must-win state for Bush in 2004. So, it's never too far out in the future to begin planning for that. With that in mind we dispatched CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein of the "Los Angeles Times" to suburban Philadelphia. Here's his field report.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Pennsylvania has become a very frustrating state for Republicans at the presidential level. The GOP is very competitive here in every other contest: they hold the governorship, both U.S. senators, the majority in both state houses, and 11 of the state's 21 Congressional districts. But in presidential elections, the state has drifted away from the GOP.
(voice-over): From 1972 through 1988, the Republicans won here four of five times, though usually with margins smaller than their national average. Now the Democrats have won three straight with Al Gore securing a surprisingly solid 200,000-vote victory here last year, even after Bush and the Republican National Committee spent nearly $13 million in the state on ads.
The big shift in the state from the '70s and '80s until today is the movement of the Philadelphia suburbs: Montgomery and Bucks Counties. And here, in Delaware County. These counties really crystallize the realignment of comfortable suburbs all across the Northeast toward the Democrats around issues like guns, abortion and the environment.
In the presidential elections from 1968 through 1988, the GOP swept each of these counties all six times, averaging at least 57 percent of the vote in all three. But in 1992, Bill Clinton broke through to win all three of them narrowly. Four years later, Clinton won them all again, more than doubling his margin in each.
Then in 2000, Gore completed the hat trick in all three. In fact, Montgomery and Bucks were two of the only counties in the country that Gore carried by a wider margin than Clinton did in 1996. These well-off, fiscally moderate, socially tolerant suburban voters were the precise target for Bush's compassionate conservatism, but those results make clear he hasn't closed the sale here yet.
(on camera): This has always been, and still is, a state with a lot of class consciousness, but with Democrats gaining ground in the Philadelphia suburbs and Republicans making inroads in the working class Southwest part of the state, the dividing lines in Pennsylvania, as in many states now, are as much cultural as economic.
(voice-over): Bush dominated among Pennsylvanians who attend church most often. Gore had a big lead in more secular households. Bush ran up a 17-point victory among white men, but Gore maintained a solid 11-point advantage among white women.
It's hard to imagine that Bush is going to run better with white men here in four years, or that he will reduce the Democratic advantage much among African-Americans.
(on camera): That means to capture Pennsylvania, there's no shortcut for Bush, but to break down the cultural resistance among white women in communities like this.
Another thing that makes Pennsylvania so fascinating, and so precariously perched, is that it's a battleground where almost all of the most powerful interests in American politics are all on the field. (voice-over): With its strong hunting culture, Pennsylvania has one of the highest percentage of gun owners in the nation, and the National Rifle Association provides a huge organizing boost for Republicans here.
The AFL-CIO has revitalized itself in the state and is turning out union members at a rate where they comprise nearly one-third of the overall electorate.
(on camera): There's a strong antiabortion movement that strengthens Republicans in selected pockets of the state, and effective pro-choice and environmental groups that help Democrats, especially in the suburbs.
Pennsylvania really has become a microcosm of the contending interests that now power American politics. And that's one reason why the state is now a virtual dead heat in presidential elections, like America itself.
This is Ron Brownstein in Delaware County for INSIDE POLITICS.
SESNO: We promise we'll be back to Pennsylvania as well.
Many politicians see the 4th of July as a great opportunity to march with, and mingle with their constituents. Most are out, but Congressman Gary Condit bowed out of two parades in his home district today citing the media furor over the Chandra Levy case.
CNN's Rusty Dornin has more from Modesto, California -- Rusty.
RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Frank, that's right. This hometown parade in Modesto, California is usually a regular event for Congressman Condit. He never misses it or hasn't missed it in the years. But he did call parade organizers about a half hour before it started, or his office did, and said that he wanted to stay with his family today and that he felt it would be a distraction because attention would be focused on him and it would take away from the festivities.
He also called a parade in Atwater, California, which is about 50 miles south of here and gave the same excuse. Now of course there's a lot of parade goers here that don't really notice the politicians but there were a few that came out of curiosity to see if he would show up.
Now there is no overwhelming sentiment about the Congressman in his district right now. And there are still people sitting on both sides of the fence.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that what it does is it puts blame on him, because I mean, if he's not guilty of anything he needs to be out here. He needs to be in the public. He needs to know that the people support him. You know, he has been representing this area for a long, long time and he needs to be out here with the people. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe that he's good for our district. He's always been there for the people that I know that he has represented in the past. And I'm waiting to see what happens, what comes of the whole thing, you know and I haven't made a judgment one way or the other against him.
DORNIN: Now farming is still a huge industry here, and many people here are conservative but they are fiercely loyal. And that is why there has still been a lot of support for Congressman Condit, although you are hearing more people say they would like to hear him say something verbally. They would like to hear him answer a few questions and there are others who feel that all of these new allegations regarding other women is just taking away from the attention that should be focused on the search for Chandra Levy -- Frank.
SESNO: And Rusty, I understand there were some supporters present, Chandra Levy supporters. Who were they, and what was that all about today? DORNIN: Well they described themselves as friends of the Levy family. And there were about 9 or 10 people and they were all carrying the posters that had her picture on it and described her as missing and a reward. And they marched in the parade before. About a half hour before the parade they went down the entire route on each side of the street. It was a silent vigil. They didn't speak to anyone. They just wanted everyone to remember that he attention even on the holiday should still be focused on this young missing intern.
SESNO: Rusty Dornin in Modesto, thanks.
Back here in Washington, CNN has learned that local detectives and the FBI are interested in knowing if there are, quote, "other women" who may have had romantic relationships with Congressman Condit. This, a day after a flight attendant went public with allegations that she had an affair with Condit, and then that he asked her to lie about it.
Condit has denied urging anyone to mislead authorities. And he has denied being anything more than a "good friend" of Chandra Levy. A law enforcement source knowledgeable about the investigation says detectives are not actively searching for women who may have been romantically involved with Condit. But, if any women come forward, the source says, quoting here, "We want to hear how they feel he treated them to see if we get any feeling about whether Chandra Levy would have harmed herself."
Police have said Condit is not a suspect in the case.
Margaret Carlson and Rich Lowry will join me next with their thoughts on Congressman Gary Condit. Also: What's in a label? The PR pros and cons of being tagged a liberal or a conservative.
But first: A visit to George Washington's Mount Vernon, and a look at attempts to clone the trees, forests, planted by the first president. Also: The traditional fireworks on the 4th, and one Congressman's personal stake in making sure it all goes off without a hitch.
And later: Bruce Morton's thoughts on the radical notion of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is INSIDE POLITICS.
SESNO: On this 4th of July, Congressman Gary Condit may have hoped to limit the swirl of publicity surrounding him by avoiding the public appearances in his California home district. We just heard, for example, that he did not did go to today's 4th of July parade trying to preserve a little zone of privacy around himself and leave the parade itself less disturbed.
Nonetheless, he remains a target of the news media and their coverage of the Chandra Levy investigation. Let's talk now about that with Margaret Carlson of "TIME" magazine, Rich Lowry of "The National Journal."
Good 4th of July to you. Where is your red, white, and Blue?
MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I've got the blue part, I and going to do the red and white when I leave here.
SESNO: Oh, I see, it's sort of in stages, sequencing, right?
All right, to Gary Condit now and this troubling story, both of how to investigate it presumably from the police and the how detective point of view, how to cover it from the media point of view, and how to handle it from a political point of view.
Rich Lowry, where is Gary Condit now?
RICH LOWRY, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, I think it is a completely legitimate story because there is a missing woman and it's legitimate to cover the investigation. And the fact is that the investigation is going to go to very uncomfortable places. And we learned today, it's in the newspapers today, that the FBI's talking to six other women who were allegedly involved with Gary Condit to see whether there is any pattern to his behavior with those women that might have been violent or suspicious in any way.
So it's a legitimate story. But we shouldn't be too high-minded about it. It's also a tabloid story. It's potentially a murder mystery, that involves elicit sex and that just has a bargain basement interest for everyone including journalists.
SESNO: And let's point out, potentially, also let's point out that what we are hearing from our sources is not quite where "The Washington Times" was with six women, but that they are interested in talking with the women that we are told they're not searching for women, but they're interested in, you know, if women have had some experiences to whether there are any leads presumably, Margaret, that have any implications or relevance to Chandra Levy. CARLSON: Well I think that the official word is "pattern of behavior" to see what happened in the past. He's exacerbated his problem. Yes, it has some elements of stories that are very interesting to us. But two people disappeared, the intern and the Congressman.
We haven't heard one word from the Congressman -- not a word. And even his constituents in a district where he wins routinely by 65 to 70 percent now are saying, they'd like to hear something from him.
SESNO: You say we haven't heard one word, but he's put out a number of written statements. What he hasn't done is dance in front of the camera.
CARLSON: No, not in his voice. All of the statements he has put out have been his spokespeople, either the lawyer or Michael Lynch, his chief of staff. He's only said one thing in his own voice in any of these statements and that was, she was a good friend and a great person.
SESNO: Problem with that?
LOWRY: No, actually I disagree with Margaret a little bit and I think Margaret's reporting and opinions on this have been excellent -- superb -- but I don't think he has an obligation to go on cable TV or to talk to reporters. He can run away from cameras as long as he wants as far as I am concerned. But he does have an obligation to be totally forthcoming with the police. And apparently he has not, and that is what I think is truly appalling.
SESNO: But as a public servant with a public profile, does he have no obligation, I mean -- this is Margaret's point of view, it seems. Does he have some obligation to address the public when these questions seem to swirl and persist?
LOWRY: I don't think necessarily. It's a political call. It's a PR call, whether that's the best way to handle this or not. But I think we can all agree that he should be forthcoming with the police, and so far his conduct has just not been sterling at all.
CARLSON: Yeah, I would add this other thing, which is we all know how people should behave in circumstances like this. If you -- if you aren't forthcoming with the police and with his family, you know -- I mean, he's betrayed a friendship, if he had one, in that he should have been at the family's side and helping, saying everything he knew. And anybody who got five phone calls in the space of two days -- and that's just the ones we know about -- would be able to provide some information that would be both useful to the police, we assume, and a comfort to the family.
SESNO: Margaret, don't you assume, though, that any legal advice that he's getting, whether he's anywhere near this or not, is there's an active investigation under way into Chandra Levy's whereabouts, don't say anything public? Isn't that the typical legal advice that someone gets. CARLSON: That's the typical legal advice from a criminal lawyer who's saying don't say anything that can be used against you. But it's not the typical advice from legal counsel when it's not a criminal affair.
LOWRY: Yeah. Well, at the risk of sounding a little moralistic here, I think there is a pattern of behavior to philanderers, and they are extremely selfish and they are in some sense living a lie and betraying their family. And so it comes very easy to them to lie themselves or to urge other people to lie, as we saw in the Clinton case, and we appear to be seeing here as well with this -- with the revelation earlier this week that he may have urged the flight attendant to sign a false affidavit.
SESNO: Rich, you said earlier, do you think this is a legitimate, or the media going overboard?
LOWRY: I don't know if they're going overboard. We're going to hear an awful lot about it just because it's inherently so interesting. Mysteries are fascinating to people. That's why we read mystery novels, that's why we watch mystery shows on TV. So any excuse for cable TV and print journalists to cover a mystery, they will.
SESNO: Margaret Carlson?
CARLSON: Well, and here's the thing: The stakes went up beyond being a philanderer when the intern went missing. That's when the story changed.
SESNO: Margaret Carlson, "TIME" magazine. Rich Lowry of "The National Review."
LOWRY: Yeah, "National Journal" would have been very upset about that.
SESNO: I know, I know.
You might have been -- you might have been upset, too. I subscribe to all of them. Thanks very much. Happy 4th.
CARLSON: Thanks, Frank.
SESNO: Oh, well. A fascinating experiment at the home of George Washington when INSIDE POLITICS returns on this theme of the 4th of July. The trees that he planted and the modern efforts to preserve their legacy for future generations. Don't go away.
SESNO: On this 4th of July, he may have cut down a cherry tree but he planted lots of other things. George Washington's roles as army general, American president, well-known, but he was also a diligent planter. He oversaw five separate farms on his Mount Vernon estate.
CNN's Patty Davis reports most of the trees Washington planted are now gone, but work is under way to preserve and restore Mount Vernon's forests.
PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An all-American 4th of July at George Washington's home, Mount Vernon: re-enactments, patriotic music honoring Washington's legacy. But part of that legacy is disappearing.
DEAN NORTON, DIRECTOR, MT. VERNON HORTICULTURE: What's disappearing right now are woods.
DAVIS: Only 13 of George Washington's original trees still stand at Mount Vernon, including holly, white ash, mulberry, and this tulip poplar.
An effort is under way to clone the 13 trees, led by David and Jared Milarch, who own a nursery in Michigan.
JARED MILARCH, CHAMPION TREE PROJECT: When this bud is taken from the parent, it is exactly -- it has all the DNA that parent tree has. It's then put into parent root stock. When it heals and begins to grow, this is still the same genetic makeup as the parent tree.
DAVIS: When one of the 13 original trees dies, its clone will be put directly in its place.
DAVID MILARCH, CHAMPION TREE PROJECT: Is this the right thing to do?
J. MILARCH: We need to preserve this link to the past. And the only living things that have witnessed some of the events that happened in George Washington's life are actually these trees.
DAVIS: He was a gentleman farmer, known for his symmetrical gardening.
(on camera): President Washington retired to Mount Vernon after he left office. He told his friends, if they wanted to visit him, it would have to be under his own vine and fig trees, meaning the peace and tranquility of his grounds.
(voice-over): To fill out 200 acres of forest, Mount Vernon and the National Tree Trust will also plant clones of a thousand champion trees: the largest and oldest of their breeds from around the country, the same types Washington grew here.
NORTON: My effort at Mount Vernon is that if George Washington returned tomorrow, he could walk these gardens, he could walk those garden paths and not feel as if he had ever left. DAVIS: More than 200 years after his death, visitors walk Washington's garden paths and now, will continue to share his living legacy for generations to come.
Patty Davis, CNN, Mount Vernon, Virginia.
SESNO: Something to remember him by. Well, every Friday our Bill Schneider awards "The Political Play of the Week." You're familiar with that. Well, we want your nominations for the weekly play.
E-mail your ideas to email@example.com and tune in on Fridays to see if you picked "The Play of the Week." Great minds think alike and all that.
Up next, something to chew on as you gather around the grill this evening: Just how many hot dogs can you eat in 12 minutes? A new record in a 4th of July tradition, when we come back.
SESNO: And a lot more of the day's political news coming up, but now off to Bill Hemmer, a look at some of the other top stories making news around the country and the world on this 4th of July.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Frank. Happy 4th to you. Many thanks to you.
All right. Federal safety officials taking a closer look now at one of the country's most popular sports utility vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigating whether a defect may cause some models of the Jeep Grand Cherokee to jump into reverse when the gearshift is in the park position. The agency says it's received dozens of complaints involving Grand Cherokees built from the years 1995 through 1999.
Here is how one Jeep owner describes it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACQUEE KAHN, JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE OWNER: I suddenly saw my Grand Jeep Cherokee heading towards me at quite a speed. So of course I started screaming. I was in absolute shock, what just happened. And before I had a chance to do anything, I -- luckily because I'd left the driver's door open, it smashed into the gas pump and brought the car to a halt, almost pulling the door off in the process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HEMMER: The incidents have reportedly resulted in at least 32 crashes, 14 injuries, but no fatalities thus far. Daimler-Chrysler, which builds the Grand Cherokee, says it is now cooperating with that investigation.
This afternoon, a rather dramatic rescue on the mighty Mississippi. Authorities plucked two people from a motorboat at the edge of a 100-foot waterfall. It happened again, you saw it life here on CNN today just outside Minneapolis. A man and a woman both pulled to a rescue craft. Reports indicate they are both safe at this time.
No, it's not a sopranos rerun, but actor Robert Iler, age 16, under arrest in New York City. Just like Tony Soprano's kid, who he plays on HBO program, Iler's in trouble. He was allegedly caught with marijuana after allegedly taking part in a robbery with three other kids in Manhattan.
He weighs a mere 131 pounds, but he's the new hot dog eating champion. Takeru Kobayashi of Japan ate 50 dogs in 12 minutes today, setting a record and winning the annual Coney Island contest. His prize, what else? A year's supply Nathan's hot dogs. Congratulations there.
Coming up at the top of the hour, 6:00 Eastern time on the "FIRST EVENING NEWS," will the wigs go? A move is on in Britain to change the look of some courts there. "FIRST EVENING NEWS," 6:00 Eastern, 3:00 on the West Coast. Hope to see you then, but for now back to Washington and more with Frank Sesno -- Frank.
SESNO: Is my math right, Bill? Is that six hot dogs a minute?
HEMMER: That's a lot of hot dogs. Yeah, you're probably right. Six times eight is 48, so that would put you right in that area, yeah.
SESNO: Feel sorry the kid. It's going to be a long night.
HEMMER: Mm-hmm. Indigestion for you and me.
HEMMER: See you in a bit, Frank.
SESNO: The words conservative and liberal are thrown around a lot here in Washington. Are they overused or misused? We'll explore those questions when INSIDE POLITICS returns.
And we'll talk to a Congressman who knows an awful lot about fireworks -- not the political kind, the real kind.
Later, staying in tune with American independence in the global era 2001.
SESNO: Some pictures for you here on INSIDE POLITICS on this 4th of July, and a little recount -- a hot dog recount in this case. A moment ago we told you about the kid who set the record, eating 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes, said it might be six a minute. We recounted. It's a little more than 4 hot dogs a minute, for 12 minutes, equals 50. We've get a lot of viewer e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Many of them quite flattering, some quite critical. A recent e-mail sparked some debate about political labels and how we use them. A viewer complained about a guest introduction on this program last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: One of the starkest changes at top is the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where Joe Biden has taken over for conservative Republican Jesse Helms. Senator Biden of Delaware joins us now from Capitol Hill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESNO: Kalyn Karlberg of Lewiston, Idaho asked why we did not call Senator Biden a liberal, but we called Senator Helms a conservative. Fair question. Ms. Karlberg went on to suggest we simply should have identified Biden as a Democrat and Helms as a Republican. But would that have fully explained the wide disparity in their views?
As we were reminded, when Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords left the GOP, sometimes Republican and Democratic moderates agree more with one another than with members of their own party. Were we imbalanced by using one label and not the other? And we're joined now by John Fund of "The Wall Street Journal."
John, a conservative editorial page?
JOHN FUND, "WALL STREET JOURNAL: Some would call us that. We have sometimes called ourselves radical, as radical as the founding fathers, because we want to get into the root of all problems.
SESNO: And Michael Kinsley of Slate.com.
MICHAEL KINSLEY, EDITOR, SLATE.COM: How are you, Frank?
SESNO: Orientation liberal?
KINSLEY: We are certainly not liberal in anything like the way "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page is conservative. I am liberal. I am a liberal, personally. Slate it all over the lot.
SESNO: All right. With that established, gentlemen, from this discussion, a liberal Democrat, conservative Republican -- do the labels matter? Should they be attached? Is it a fair point that our e-mailer raises -- John?
FUND: I think yes, because most people should be allowed to label themselves. Now, I realize that doesn't always convey enough information to people. That's why we should keep the labeling to a minimum, liberal on one hand, conservative on the other. What I don't like to see are things like "arch-conservative," "ultra conservative," "far left" attached to people because it may not fully be in accord with their views. In other words, it's very subjective to really qualify something and describe something beyond a basic label.
SESNO: Michael Kinsley?
KINSLEY: Well, in the specific case the viewer complained about, I would say that the symmetry is not really there. Jesse Helms is an ideological conservative, in the way that Joe Biden is not an ideological liberal.
SESNO: You say Joe Biden is not an ideological liberal?
KINSLEY: No. In fact, I think it's one of the impressive things about conservatism today, is that conservatives know what they believe and believe it strongly, and the leaders of the Republican Party -- many of them, at least -- are committed conservatives, whereas the Democratic Party and liberalism are a much more fuzzy connection and concept.
FUND: But, Michael, the only objective data we have are the interest group ratings that people have. And you take a group that's very liberal, the Americans for Democratic Action, and you look at Joe Biden's ADA rating and you look at Jesse Helms' American Conservative Union rating, they're both very high. They're both over 90 percent in most year.
So the only objective numbers we have, as opposed to subjective judgments, are that both -- one is a liberal and one is a conservative.
KINSLEY: Well, I don't really think that any objective numbers can capture these terms, and maybe would you agree...
FUND: You don't accept the Americans for Democratic Action as being liberal?
KINSLEY: No, no. They -- here is my point, John, and maybe you agree with it: There may be on any given issue a liberal position and a conservative position. But conservatives much more than liberals today have a sort of general ideological framework that they bring to their issue.
SESNO: Are you saying that liberals don't have an ideological framework? Are you saying that Joe Biden doesn't have an ideological framework that he brings to the issues?
FUND: I think he would be insulted at that.
KINSLEY: I -- I don't mean to insult him, but I guess I don't mind if I do. I would say, if you were to sit down with Joe Biden, who is one of the smartest and most dedicated senators, certainly in Democratic senators, and a fine person, and asked him about his larger beliefs and how they applied to specific pieces of legislation and you did the same with Jesse Helms, who I have very little time for personally, I think you would be more impressed with Jesse Helms than Joe Biden, in terms of had they thought this all through.
SESNO: John Fund, let me ask you this question: Earlier today we were talking to staff at INSIDE POLITICS here about this segment and this discussion. And someone observed that in some fashion, conservatives, many of them embrace that title and they celebrate their conservatism, and yet, there's some suggestion that it's somehow pejorative when the label is used in the media. Fair point?
FUND: I think it used to be true 10 or 15 years ago during the Cold War. Now you have George W. Bush talking about compassionate conservatism and it is true that liberals shy away from that label, they like to call themselves progressives.
By the way, I would like to spend time with both Jesse Helms and Joe Biden. I think they're very interesting people, and most people who've chatted with them find them both having very subtle and compelling views. You may disagree with that.
SESNO: Michael, you wrote a column, "Liberalism A La Mode." Is there anything to liberalism right now? Is there an agenda? Is there a driving force?
KINSLEY: My point in that column was that there are characteristics of liberal legislation, such as the patients' bill of rights, which is my example, which are characteristic of today, and what they add up to is basically a way to hide the fact that it's liberal. And of course this applies not just to Democrats but to Republicans.
I think if you had to summarize the liberal/conservative question today, it would be that the country and most politicians, prefer the label of conservative. Conservatives are happy to call themselves that. People who aren't conservative are happy to call themselves that. And very few people overtly call themselves liberal.
On the other hand, in terms of reality, you have the patients' bill of rights which everyone is for, including George W. Bush, which is a major, even in the Republican version, piece of federal government interference with a large sector of the economy.
SESNO: John Fund, take a whack at it.
FUND: Well, I think the vast majority of your viewers are not really ideological. They practice what I call "performance-based politics." What works. A large number of American people have gotten so tired and cynical about American politics, they want to cut down on the serious business of living.
And that is unfortunate, because if they don't participate, we are not really going to accomplish things.
SESNO: All right, gentlemen, thank you very much. John Fund, radical, just like our founding fathers as you say, and Michael Kinsley, devout liberal, appreciate you're talking with us today.
KINSLEY: Thanks, Frank.
SESNO: Speaking of liberals, Republican Senator John McCain has often been labeled maverick. So he'll weigh in on politics and this 4th of July on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS. That's at 8 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.
Baseball, politics, and fireworks -- they go hand in hand on Independence Day. Up next, one member of Congress will combine all three this Fourth of July as part of the family business.
SESNO: What has been billed as the largest fireworks display west of the Mississippi will fill the skies tonight over Omaha, Nebraska. The company in charge of the pyrotechnics is Fireworks By Grucci, whose former president is Felix Grucci, now the Congressman from New York's 1st District.
Congressman Grucci joins us now from Omaha, where he will produce tonight's fireworks show. You really combine talents here, you know, fireworks in Washington and fireworks in Omaha.
REP. FELIX GRUCCI (R), NEW YORK: People tell people I am in an explosive kind of business
SESNO: Exactly how long have you been in the literal kind of fireworks, and how long has this company been the family business?
GRUCCI: Well, it's been in our family a little over 25 years, and I guess you could say, all my life. Mom and dad had a family-run business and our lifestyle was one that grew up in the family business, kind of like when a shop keeper lives above the store and the children played downstairs, well, we played at the fireworks factory.
And we grew up learning it, loving it and really appreciating the beauty it brings to so many thousands of people.
SESNO: You played at the fireworks factory. I assume you were told not to play with matches at the fireworks factory.
GRUCCI: That is correct. There was an area out by the office where we were allowed to play in. Obviously, we as small children were not allowed into the factory area, where we could get hurt or (UNINTELLIGIBLE) others.
But it was just growing up around the environment and being with mom and dad, and having those very found memories as a small boy.
SESNO: Fireworks much more restricted now than as a small boy. I mean, you can buy them in some states, you can't buy them at all when they go off. The big shows like the one you are going to be producing tonight have to be professionally done. GRUCCI: That's correct. And there are much more stricter regulations and in some instances, that is good for the general public. Consumer Product Safety Commission monitors the consumer fireworks which are able to be purchased in a lot of states, and people can enjoy the beauty of the 4th of July in their own backyard under adult supervision.
But the type of work that we do are the War Class Fireworks Program. The Omaha World Herald fireworks show in Nebraska. Macy's Fourth of July on the Hudson. In New York on Long Island, Jones Beach Star Spangled Blast. These are the types of programs that garner hundreds of thousands of people that come to them, and they are done professionally under very strict guidelines and under a watchful eye of a trained pyrotechnician.
SESNO: How much does it cost to put on a really world class fireworks show, one that goes on in a serious way for 15 or 20 minutes and has those spectacular finales?
GRUCCI: The programs that we produce are world-class and state- of-the-art. They are combinations of electronically fired computerization. Many hours of choreography and design and those types of programs can run between 3,000 to 5,000 dollars a minute for every minute of production or fireworks that you see in the sky.
so for something around a ten-minute program, it could be as little as 30,000 and as much as $50,000.
SESNO: What is your favorite pyrotechnic? What is your favorite firework? What does it do and what does look like?
GRUCCI: My favorite firework is a device in a firework projectile that my late brother Jim Grucci made. It was called -- we call it now, the Grucci Golden Flitter Split Comet. And it's a show that when it erupts in the sky and opens up, it puts out hundreds of little golden meteors that fill the night sky in a latticework of like a golden milky way, and literally 30 to 40 of these comets come out of one projectile. And then we do one on top of another on top of another, so you go from one to two to four to eight to 16 of these shells happening at any one moment and it just is an exhilarating Moment just prior to the grand finally.
SESNO: Now, you call it a shell. How big is it?
GRUCCI: It's six inches in diameter and stands about 12 inches high. And weighs somewhere around ten pounds, ten to 15 pounds. That is our signature shell, just prior to the grand finally in all of our world-class programs.
SESNO: Take us to your personal history a little bit and your recollections of yourself and your father and where you started. This is a family business with some deep roots.
GRUCCI: Yes it is. One of the fondest moments that I can recall is a memory that I still have with me today. It was the very first time that my dad allowed me to light a firework device. And years ago when I was a small boy growing up, the types of firework shows differed in it's production style. There were more of the ground effects, spinning ,wheels American flags, the portraits and pictures of either buildings or memorable events and they were called ground devices.
And I was allowed to light what was known as the "Niagara Falls" which was a string of pyrotechnic devices hung upside down that spanned about 100 feet across the field. And when you lit it, it laid down this silvery white cascade of fire which kind of replicated the Niagara Falls effect.
And so, when I lit that and I watched the fuse burn and then it traveled across and made all of the cracking and popping sounds, and the waterfalling effects starting to come down, you could hear the gasp across the audience, and finally the oohs and the aahs. It was an exhilarating moment for a young boy of about ten years old. And that memory stayed with me and it really kind of energized me into delivering those oohs and aahs. Today I call it scripting the oohs and the ahhs into the program.
SESNO: All right, well, Felix Grucci, thank you very much for your memories and the pyrotechnics, both the political kind and the literal kind that will go up tonight in the skies over Omaha. Great to have you with us, happy 4th.
GRUCCI: Thank you, you too.
SESNO: America before the fireworks and before the celebrations. When we return, some perspective on the vents of 1776 and thoughts on how this nation and its people have changed.
SESNO: ... not so today.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. Today it is a matter of pride.
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