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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP


HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN


JOINED BY: MICHAEL BARONE, ELEANOR CLIFT,


SEBASTIAN MALLABY, AND CLARENCE PAGE


TAPED: FRIDAY, JANUARY 28, 2000


BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JANUARY 29-30, 2000


.STX


 


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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.


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ANNOUNCER: GE is proud to support the McLaughlin Group. From plastics to power generation, GE: We bring good things to life.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Clinton Legacy State of the Union.


PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotaped segments of the State of the Union address.) Last year the vice president launched a new effort to make communities more liberal -- livable. (Laughter) Liberal? (Chuckles.) No, no. (Applause, cheers, laughter, groans.) Wait a minute. I got a punch line now. That's this year's agenda. Last year was livable, right? (Laughter.)


Tonight I ask you to support new funding for the following things, to make American communities more liberal -- livable. (Laughter, groans, applause.) One -- (applause, laughter) -- I've done pretty well with this speech, but I can't say that, right? (Applause, cheers.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, please, sir, don't apologize. Don't explain. "Liberal" is the correct word. You have it right. In fact, "megaliberal" would be even a better description. Try $328 billion worth of liberalism. That's the price tag of your Clinton legacy State of Union proposal.


PRESIDENT CLINTON: (From videotaped segments.) Let's double our investment.


Tonight I ask you for another $1 billion --


My budget dedicates nearly $400 billion of our budget surplus --


My budget includes a $110 million initiative -- and a billion dollars to increase --


The budget I give you invests $150 million more --


I ask you to support my recommendation of an unprecedented $3 billion --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There you have it: a massive Clinton liberal wealth-transfer program built on the premise that big government is mankind's salvation, and Al Gore's, too, many believe.


Question: Let's assume that President Clinton, in his State of the Union, is serving as, at least in part, a surrogate for Al Gore. Will Clinton's $338 billion in massive giveaways play to the Democratic bases -- the unions, the blacks, the gays, the environmentalists -- but at the expense of winning the more important centrist New Democrats, making Clinton's huge spending program more of a political minus than a plus for Al Gore? I ask you, Michael Barone.


MR. BARONE: Well, John, that was almost -- that question was almost as long as Bill Clinton's speech. I mean, it's like 1988, when he nominated Michael Dukakis. Billy Bulger, the South Boston politician, said, "I was a young man when he started."


But the answer to your question, I think, is substantially yes. I mean, Bill Clinton in 1996 was saying, "The era of big government is over." Now you had the most memorable line from his State of the Union tonight on that set-up, where you saw him slipping his tongue and talking about becoming more liberal.


Bill Clinton, since the '96 campaign or convention, has been Al Gore's campaign manager in chief. That seems to be -- his primary interest was to get Al Gore elected. He's doing it in a way that no other American president has ever done it for his vice president. And when you go out in Iowa, as I did, and watch Al Gore on the stump, you listen to him talk, on one hand he's saying Bill Bradley's health care program is too expensive for now, but on the other hand, he's saying it is one -- my program, Al Gore's program, is one step towards national health insurance. The Democratic Party is moving to the left, and Al Gore is in the driver's seat, and Bill Clinton's the chauffeur.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you see that as politically counterproductive; this sharp left turn is going to be a minus for Gore.


MR. BARONE: I think it has that potential, yeah.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?


MS. CLIFT: I'm going to break it to you now, John. When the budget gets released in early February, the bulk of the initiatives that the president proposed, the here and now initiatives, will be paid for in the budget, using conservative numbers, with money left over to reduce the debt.



Secondly, you're going to see the Republicans scrambling to give the president some of what he wants: minimum wage, Patients Bill of Rights, maybe prescription drugs, the New Markets Initiative. Politics rewards accomplishment, and the Republicans would rather give Clinton some victories here than lose seats in November. This is positive for Democrats, for Al Gore and for a progressive agenda.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sebastian Mallaby.


MR. MALLABY: Well, I think that's exactly right. The --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which is right? Is Michael right, or Eleanor?


MR. MALLABY: No, Eleanor is right because, first of all, this isn't a massive, irresponsible giveaway. I reckoned that this over 10 years costs about half as much, only, as George Bush's proposed tax cut. Secondly, it's not a thing which is aimed only at, as you say, the base, the minorities and so forth. Most of the bigger thing in this thing is fixing Medicare. That's a middle class program. There's also stuff to fix the marriage penalty. So it's not aimed at the base and it's not irresponsible; no way.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So in terms of the question put, you see it as a political plus for Gore.


MR. MALLABY: I do.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you?


MR. PAGE: I do because of the way the Republican response came off, John. What were they talking about? Health care and education. What are the Republican candidates talking about? Tax cuts and abortion. There's a disconnect here because the members of Congress, Republicans in Congress realize that Clinton is talking about things that most Americans want, and they're going to -- (cross talk).


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, your response is no surprise to me, Clarence Page, but Mallaby's response is.


MR. PAGE: Why is that, John, because I'm -- (cross talk)? (Laughter.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say to Mallaby?


MR. BARONE: Well, I say that, you know, the answer -- to Clarence and to Sebastian I would say that some of our assumptions about which issues benefit which party may be in doubt. The recent battleground, bipartisan battleground poll conducted by Republican Ed Goeas and Democrat Celinda Lake comparing Bush and Gore on issues, on strengthening Social Security, it was 40-40; on improving education, it was 42 Gore, 40 Bush. The fact is that the Clinton proposals, and what the House Republicans have done, as well, on Social Security, doesn't solve the problem --


MS. CLIFT: Yeah. They're --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Eleanor.



MR. BARONE: -- since Bill Clinton, at Al Gore's behest, rejected -- (cross-talk).


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does anyone see here vintage Clinton, going out fighting and wreaking revenge on the Republicans who tried to impeach him? Do you see any of that in this 89-minute speech? (Cross talk.) Did you detect any? Was it partisan to the core?


MR. MALLABY: Talk big, act small: Microprograms, that's what Clinton always does -- talk grand. But if you look at the policies, if you look at the money in those policies, it's not a lot of money. (Cross talk.) He is talking about --


MR. BARONE: (Inaudible) -- money this time.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't see it as a partisan speech?


MR. MALLABY: Well, of course, it's slightly partisan. But I think he is cleverly partisan because he is going down the center --


(Cross talk.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, we don't deny that.


MS. CLIFT: We are in a new political era, where there is going to be money to spend. (Laughter.) In the 2000 elections --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There goes your surplus!


MS. CLIFT: -- the 2000 election is not going to be fought on traditional Republican turf of taxes and abortion and welfare and crime. It's going to be fought on Democratic terms of health, education and the environment.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --


MS. CLIFT: And these are issues that benefit Democrats.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- when the primaries are over, will the Democrats try to move to the center but be frustrated by 24-hour news stations and the Internet, which has memorialized every word the candidates utter so that Clinton's State of the Union will come back to haunt them with this sharp left turn, hurting rather than helping? Yes or no, Michael Barone?


MR. BARONE: I think they will try to move to the center, but they have got Al Gore saying, "I want to move us towards national health insurance."


MS. CLIFT: Al Gore has not uttered "national health." He says --


MR. BARONE: He did. He did.


MS. CLIFT: -- excuse me --


MR. BARONE: I was there in the room in Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.


MS. CLIFT: Universal health coverage is the path we are on, Michael, and he is going to get us there gradually.


Second, the speech that Clinton gave was vintage Clintonism, which is centrist politics.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think so?


MS. CLIFT: It'is where the country is.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh?


MS. CLIFT: Definitely.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it was centrist politics? Or do you think this is going to come back and haunt him because it's too much of a left turn?


MR. MALLABY: The biggest left turn we have had is gays in the military from Al Gore. Apart from that, I didn't see a particularly big left turn.


I think the Internet is irrelevant because you would already have had, if it had been before the Internet, if it had been on the record, it would have been using the --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what I am talking about is Lexis-Nexis. It's all there. This is all going to come back. It's a different era with regards to political rhetoric. It's memorialized.


MR. PAGE (?): John? John, John, please.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's permanent, if you come back.


Yes?


MR. PAGE: Calm down, John. Really! (Laughter.) These are popular programs, John. You know Clinton. These are all poll-tested.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They are popular.


MR. PAGE: These are programs that the public wants.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They are popular.


MR. PAGE: These are about -- (inaudible) -- the deficit.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They are popular with you and the people that you represent.


MR. PAGE: I could show you polls, John.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the people that you --


MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.) I can tell you I --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- you write your opinion column for.


MR. PAGE: -- don't -- (inaudible) -- anybody, John. (Laughter.) I write my opinion column for the general public, John -- (laughter) -- just like you put your program out here. But these are still popular programs -- (inaudible) -- Democrats.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What I am saying is he is sacrificing -- he was a New Democrat.


MS. CLIFT: He still is.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You heard Michael -- (inaudible) -- in an earlier State of the Union.


MR. BARONE: Well, the fact is that -- (cross talk) --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible) -- New Democrat --


MR. BARONE: -- even though Eleanor wishes the word -- even though Eleanor wishes the words away, the fact is that he did say, "I am proposing this incremental program as one step toward national health insurance."


MS. CLIFT: Well, not national --


MS. CLIFT: Coe) College, Cedar Rapids.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.


MR. BARONE: That's what he said at Coe College --


MS. CLIFT: Well, not nationalized.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When we (come back) -- excuse me --


MR. BARONE: -- January 22nd in Cedar Rapids.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- excuse me -- McCain straddles abortion in New Hampshire: Will it hurt him?


(Announcements.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: McCain's Abortion Straddle.


(Begin videotape.)


REPORTER: Are you worried that this abortion issue is becoming a monster?


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ, Republican presidential candidate): No, no. You know, these things happen.


(End videotape.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Governor Bush wasn't the only candidate in the cross hairs. John McCain stepped on the abortion land mine Wednesday morning. A reporter on McCain's bus -- called the Straight Talk Express -- asked McCain this explosive question:



"Senator, if your 15-year-old daughter became pregnant and believed that she was not ready to bear a child, would you block her from getting an abortion?"


SEN. MCCAIN: (From audiotape.) Obviously, I would encourage her to bring the -- to know that that baby would be brought up in a warm and loving family. But the final decision would be made by Meghan, with our advice and counsel.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For McCain, this was a retreat from his long-standing pro-life stance, and it became an immediate public relations nightmare for him. Within an hour, he was on the phone, mounting a damage control effort with reporters and news operations. And Wednesday night, his opposition struck.


ALAN KEYES (Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) I got to admit, I think that that displayed a profound lack of understanding of the basic issue of principle involved in abortion. After all, if your daughter came to you and said she was contemplating killing her grandmother for the inheritance, you wouldn't say, "Let's have a family conference." You'd look at her and say, "Just say no, because that is morally wrong."


(Begin videotape.)


SEN. MCCAIN: I am proud of that pro-life record, and I will continue to maintain it. I will not draw my children into this discussion.


I've seen enough killing in my life. I know how precious human life is, and I don't need a lecture from you.


MR. KEYES: I didn't lecture you, Senator McCain.


SEN. MCCAIN: The next time tragedy --


MR. KEYES: I simply pointed out that your answer showed no understanding of the issue of moral principle involved in abortion. And that inadequacy is not a lecture; it's simply an observation of fact.


(End videotape.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Has John McCain's abortion straddle hurt him, do you think, Sebastian Mallaby?


MR. MALLABY: Well, I was on McCain's bus for a day this week, and what amazes me is he doesn't do more of these gaffes, because he's talking the whole day. The day I was with him, it was 7:30 in the morning until midnight, literally, nonstop -- talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, either to town halls or to us journalists on the bus. And the fact that he only does this now and again is quite surprising.


Now on this question, I think it won't hurt him, because I think most people are willing to go with this sort of -- in middle ground between choice and life, and --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, speaking about gaffes, I'm sure you read Howard Kurtz's distinguished column where he enumerated a lot of the gaffes that hadn't made it -- made their way into the press. Are you like other press people who are covering up for McCain's gaffes?


MR. MALLABY: You've caught me! (Laughter.) That's terrible --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no? Do you know that of which I speak?


MR. MALLABY: I don't think I am covering up. When I was there on that day, he said one slightly embarrassing thing, which is that he hated Wall Street, and I wrote that in my column.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh! (Laughter.)


MR. MALLABY: So -- (laughs) -- I did not let him off --


(Cross talk.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Were you in New Hampshire when this story broke?


MR. BARONE: I wasn't in New Hampshire, I was in Iowa as this story was breaking. And McCain, of course, was campaigning.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In Iowa? Iowa's a past event.


MR. BARONE: Well, no, this was -- that's right, I was here in Washington.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you do; you cover the primaries after they occur?


MR. BARONE: No. I am going to -- I have been in New Hampshire. (Laughter.) I've been there. I was not there during the time of the debate -- during the time of this gaffe. But I think that John McCain's target vote is not necessarily people who have very strong feelings against abortion, and so the loss for him is minimal. What it does illustrate, John, is that he is less sure-footed on domestic issues than he is on foreign policy issues and defense, where he shows a great command of facts and evidence and strong argumentation.


MS. CLIFT: Michael --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Were you there?


MS. CLIFT: No. But Michael Kinsley, the great editor, once said a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth. John McCain answered in a real-life way. Dan Quayle answered the same hypothetical question put to him in the same way. And frankly, I put it really offensive that Alan Keyes would be lecturing John McCain, who has a lot more real-life experience watching -- killing in a war and agonizing over this decision and having to vote on it than Keyes, who just goes around making speeches.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think you ought to thank Keyes because it gave the opportunity to John McCain, with just the right measure of indignation and anger, but with a perfect control of his temper, to respond with such finality to Keyes. So Keyes did him a favor.


MS. CLIFT: So he's a good foil; I'll give him that.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He demonstrated conviction with that flash of anger, but no temper.


MR. PAGE: One thing you've got to remember about McCain is his appeal is that he says things that other Republicans don't say. You've got a big appeal to Independent voters, who are going to be crucial in New Hampshire. They're the biggest bloc now, bigger than Republicans or Democrats. And this was a reasonable answer.


MS. CLIFT: Right.


MR. PAGE: Whereas Alan Keyes', to follow it to its logical conclusion, is an unreasonable answer. What's Keyes going to do with daughter if she still wants to go out and have an abortion? Is he going to lock her in the closet or what? I mean, the fact is, McCain gave a reasonable answer.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, why don't you put those questions to Alan? If you put that question to Alan, he'll answer that question for you.


MR. PAGE: I haven't had a chance yet, but he'd probably respond the way he responded to McCain, by just talking and talking -- (cross talk).


MR. BARONE: (Inaudible) -- in the mosh pit to ask him that question. (Laughter.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Alan's position on abortion is absolute. Even in the care of rape or incest, he will not let that child be aborted. That is his thinking.


MR. PAGE: What's he going to do? Is he going to put his daughter in --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to ask him a follow-up question? You get him to do it.


MR. PAGE: No, this is the --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.


MR. PAGE: -- key of the choice issue right here, forcing women to do things with their bodies that they don't want to do. And that's what drives them underground.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what Alan focuses on is --


MR. PAGE: I know what Alan focuses on.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- is the rights of the fetus.


MR. PAGE: Alan's going to lose, John. He's going to lose, John.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He focuses on the rights of the fetus.


MR. PAGE: He's speaking for fanatics, John.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Bush threads his way.


GOV. GEORGE BUSH: (Candidate for Republican presidential nomination): (From videotape.) And tonight also marks the beginning of the end of the Clinton era. (Cheers, applause.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Texas Governor George Bush is marking that beginning as he campaigns in New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary on Tuesday. Bush is riding a head start out of Iowa where he picked up the biggest win ever for a Republican -- 41 percent. Closest rival, Steve Forbes, placed 11 points behind.


But New Hampshire is a tougher score for Bush, with Arizona Senator John McCain an unyielding opponent. Only one candidate has ever lost New Hampshire and become president -- W.J. Clinton -- and Clinton never had to face a bitter internal fight like the one now raging over abortion in the Grand Old Party. Only one-third of conservatives are backing Bush in New Hampshire, so the Texas governor this week stated his position on abortion in carefully chosen, broad words and refused to be entangled in finer distinctions.


GOV. BUSH: (From videotape.) I believe it's important for our party to maintain our pro-life position. I believe it's important for the next president to recognize good people can disagree on this issue.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That answer did not satisfy his right-to-life opponent.


(Begin video clip.)


MR. GARY BAUER (presidential candidate): And I've asked the governor in four straight debates whether he will agree to appoint pro-life judges if he gets the nomination, and four times in a row, Governor, you won't answer the question.


GOV. BUSH: Well, let's make it five.


MR. BAUER: Okay. I'm glad that you're honest about it.


GOV. BUSH: I will appoint judges who strictly interpret the Constitution and who will not use the bench to legislate.


(End video clip.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Bush straddling on abortion, or does he make himself quite clear what his opinion is when he says that he will appoint judges that will strictly interpret the Constitution? Clarence Page.


MR. PAGE: Everybody --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a code word, right?


MR. PAGE: Everybody is going to appoint judges who interpret the Constitution strictly.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, no, no, no, no, no. Those are code words. I mean, pro-life people understand exactly what they mean, and so do pro-choice people.


MR. PAGE: No, no, he's not --


MR. BARONE: Well, he named -- he had a point.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is he saying?


MR. BARONE: He said in another debate, he said, "I would appoint somebody like Judge Antonin Scalia," who was not appointed by his father, President Bush, but by President Reagan, who is -- thinks that Roe v. Wade -- thinks like most law professors do --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me spell out --


MR. BARONE: -- that Roe v. Wade is bad constitutional law.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Correct! It's not -- the right-to-lifers understand that to mean --


MR. PAGE: Yes.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that he does not believe that the Constitution in any sense authorizes abortion.


MR. PAGE: Right.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's built upon Griswold and privacy and a concatenation of weak cases built on weak cases.


MR. PAGE: Well, the right-to-lifers, John, know if they want a crusading anti-abortionist, they should not vote for George W., but they are not deciding this election. Even those who are polled in -- who oppose abortion want a winner this time. They want a Republican winner, and that's why W. --


MS. CLIFT: No --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --


MR. MALLABY: They all dance around this issue. I mean, even Gary Bauer, who was asking that question there, said he opposes abortion on demand like it's some drive-through and as if abortion which you had to line up and wait for would be fine with him. I mean, they'll all trying to soften their position a bit.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush says -- Bush says that he would not deny a Supreme Court justice placement on the Bush bench if that justice favored abortion. He said he would not deny him. He would not use a litmus test, correct?


MR. PAGE: Well --


(Cross talk.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Nor would he deny somebody running on a ticket with him as vice president like Christine Todd Whitman.


MR. BARONE: When he says he wants strict constitutionalists on the court and when he holds up Antonin Scalia as the evidence, I think that is a litmus test and everything.


MS. CLIFT: Right. He is --


MR. BARONE: And he is much more determined to do this than previous Republican presidents.


MS. CLIFT: He is sending signals, and people who don't favor abortion rights think he is going to appoint judges that oppose abortion rights. And frankly, he has said that he thinks Roe v. Wade is a bad decision. He would like to see the --


MR. BARONE: Yeah. Like most law professors --


MS. CLIFT: -- excuse me -- he would like to see abortion regulation returned to the states.


And he was asked if he thought the Texas legislature would ban abortion in the first three months, and he said, "Yes, we have the votes" ---


MR. BARONE: Yeah.


MS. CLIFT: -- which tells you something about what the end-game is here.


MR. BARONE: (Inaudible) -- because it doesn't --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But also he's -- you have got to understand -- he is coming at it from all directions. He says he also wants a big tent and he wants pro-choice Republicans inside the tent.


MS. CLIFT: But he is not to be trusted. (Laughs.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And in addition to that, he supports the ban on abortions that -- he calls for a constitutional amendment, as the Republican Party does, on abortion.


MR. BARONE: Yeah.


MR. PAGE: However --


MR. BARONE: Well, he says he is going to support the platform, even though his position is slightly different from the platform; that's obviously an illogicality. And it's odd to me that he would predict that the Texas Legislature should outlaw abortion, when they only narrow passed the parental notification law in the nineteen --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this good politics for him?


MR. BARONE: I think it's as good a politics as you can get; among a lot of Democrats --


MS. CLIFT: It's bad politics --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. We have got to move fast.


MR. BARONE: -- who think that this will cost him the coastal states. But I think that in trying to state this in inclusive terms --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have got to get out. Issue three: Bradley takes off the gloves.


BILL BRADLEY (New Jersey Democrat and candidate for president): (From videotape.) I have a little more humility. (Laughter.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The first political test of the year is over, and Bill Bradley scored low; 28 points behind Al Gore, who won the Iowa caucuses. Bradley's next test is New Hampshire on Tuesday. A win is vital to Bradley's political survival, and his hunger for a win was evident in the debate last Wednesday.


(Begin videotape segment.)


MR. BRADLEY: (In progress) -- question to you is: Why should we believe you, that you will tell the truth as president if you don't tell the truth as a candidate?


VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE (Democratic presidential primary contestant): (From videotape.) Hmm. That's not a negative attack? You introduced Willie Horton into this campaign.


(End of videotape segment.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was an unusually contentious debate with Bradley repeatedly attacking Gore for distorting Bradley's record.


(Begin videotape segment.)


MR. BRADLEY: In politics, as I said, people make misleading statements, and most of them do it because they don't know better. You know better; you know what you are saying is not true.


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: We can have a disagreement on the substance of the issues without you making negative personal attacks.


MR. BRADLEY: Well, but --


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: If you are going to talk about a higher standard, you need to live by it.


(End of videotape segment.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: After the debate, Bradley took his accusations further.


MR. BRADLEY: (From videotape.) And I think that Al will have to go a long way to demonstrate that what he said tonight is true, which is that he has not lied in this campaign.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Bradley says Gore is a liar. Is he a liar? I ask you, Michael.


MR. BARONE: Yeah, I think he's mischaracterized his health plan. And the worst thing he's done is to invite the inference that Bradley is a racist because he would get rid of the rather patchy Medicaid program and substitute this other plan.


MS. CLIFT: Yeah, if he's mischaracterized his program, why doesn't he defend the substance of his program? You don't get medals for whining in politics. And --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you don't think he's a liar?


MS. CLIFT: This is politics. And frankly, Democrats who remember how Michael Dukakis rolled over and played dead would rather have a candidate who goes for the jugular than one who stands on the stage bleeding.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.


MR. MALLABY: On this one, I side with Michael. I think he completely mischaracterized Bradley's plan. And he's attacking him from the left and the right, and it is dishonest.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.


MR. PAGE: I want to know if anybody understands Bradley's plan. (Laughter.) You know, the fact is that the negative campaigning going on here is all on the substance and it's all in the debate, whereas on the Republican side, you've got Forbes's attack ads. I mean, that's really nasty over there.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We -- all right --


MR. PAGE: But this was an angrier week than what we've seen in the past between Bradley and Gore.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, indeed it was. Indeed it was. And I agree that there's considerable duplicity and deceit in the campaign of Mr. Gore.


However, let's move on. I want to know -- we got to get out very fast -- we all agree that Gore's going to win in New Hampshire, up to a margin of about 10 points, on the outside.


What is the story in the other race? Give me win, place, and show on the Republican side. Is it -- we're talking here about McCain, we're talking about Bush, and we're talking about Forbes and others. What's the sequence?


MR. BARONE: Based on extrapolating the techniques from the January 27th exit polls, Bush, McCain, Forbes.


MS. CLIFT: Bush has a chance of overtaking McCain, but I'll say McCain by just a handful of points.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it's McCain --


MS. CLIFT: McCain, Bush, Forbes.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Bush, Forbes.


MR. MALLABY: I wish I could predict Alan Keyes in the top three, but I'm afraid I agree.


MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.)


MR. MALLABY: Bush -- no, McCain, Bush, Forbes.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: McCain, Bush, Forbes. McCain wins.


MR. PAGE: Three out of four. McCain, Bush, Forbes.


How about you, John?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Michael is right; it's going to be Bush, McCain, Forbes.


We'll be right back with predictions.


(Announcements.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction: February 19 is South Carolina. Who will win on the Republican side, and by how many percentage points?


MR. BARONE: Bush by 17.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush by 17.


MS. CLIFT: Bush by a dozen.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush by a dozen.


MR. MALLABY: Bush by 15.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush by 15.


MR. PAGE: Oh, Bush by 15.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is Bush by 21. That means that -- will the race be over?


MR. BARONE: Yeah.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The race will be over.


Next week: New Hampshire primary fallout. Happy Groundhog Day! Bye-bye!


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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: United Killers of Benetton.


JEROME MALLETT (death row inmate): (From videotape.) I was born, so I'm going to die, you know. I know I'm going to die. Unfortunately, it'll be probably through execution, you know.


BOBBY LEE HARRIS (death row inmate): (From videotape.)Sometimes I wonder if it's going to hurt. I wonder what it's going to be like, really.


JOSEPH AMRINE (death row inmate): (From videotape.) Yeah. (Laughs.) Yeah, I'm afraid to die. I don't want to die. I'm scared, you know.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this any way to sell sweaters? Benetton hopes so. American inmates on death row are the subject of a new $20 million advertising campaign from the Italian clothing company known for past provocative promotions. Benetton has plastered the faces of inmates on billboards worldwide in an attempt, says the company, to give, quote, "a human face to the prisoners on death row," unquote.


Victims' rights groups are angry that although the 26 inmates are extensively interviewed in a 96-page magazine insert, they do not discuss their crimes, nor is there any mention of the victims of those crimes.


Question: What should Benetton's new ad campaign be called, do you think, Eleanor?


MS. CLIFT: Well, HBO's made a bundle of money humanizing the mafioso with "The Sopranos," and there is a fascination with people behind death row. But I don't think this advances the cause of capital punishment. I don't think it sells sweaters. There are some dramatic pictures. They should have probably some more context about who these people are.


MR. BARONE: Well, their objective --


MS. CLIFT: But the fact that you're talking about it on your show accomplishes the capitalist ends of this company.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that the Sopranos only kill the bad people?


MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.) Okay.


MR. BARONE: Well, the fact is, John -- I mean, this is -- I think this is an anti-capital punishment thing. And I must say, as a person who has not been in favor of capital punishment, I do take exception to the argument made by Benetton and many Europeans that the United States is a horrible, barbaric nation because we have these kind of punishments.


And your point is well taken. You're not showing the whole picture unless you show the crimes that these people have been convicted -- and you know --


(Cross talk.)


MR. PAGE: I think -- (inaudible) -- barbaric inasmuch as we have capital punishment. Why should anybody be afraid of putting a face on people who are on death row? It doesn't change their sentence at all, but it does draw some attention to a problem we've got, which is people on death row who shouldn't be there. In Illinois alone we've had about 18 -- (inaudible) -- past week.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You should listen --


MR. BARONE: (Inaudible) -- that really opponents of capital punishment should publicize those --


MR. PAGE: Yeah.


MR. BARONE: -- because it's a powerful argument against capital punishment. You don't want to convict the wrong person --


(Cross talk.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You should listen to your friend Alan Keyes on this subject.


MR. PAGE: Yeah?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Alan Keyes said if we didn't have capital punishment -- and I don't necessarily agree with this, but it's a good argument -- if we didn't have capital punishment, it would show a disregard for life.


MR. PAGE: So you're going to say all the countries --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask you this. Over in Europe, don't you --


MR. PAGE: -- that don't have it are disregarding life?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- think this ad is going to go over big?


MR. MALLABY: Well, the interesting thing is that this ad is being focused, as I understand it, on the U.S., where Benetton has only 200 out of 7,000 of its stores, and --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And won't it be regarded --


MR. MALLABY: -- what that tells you is that it's not even a commercial ad campaign; it's to get attention.


MS. CLIFT: Right.


MR. MALLABY: I mean, why they want to do that? Well, you have got some Italian billionaires who want to do something with their money, want to get attention. (Laughter.) It's like Steve Forbes; he is a billionaire who wants attention. I don't know why.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's going to be trendy in Europe -- (end of audio).


 


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