THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: MICHAEL BARONE, TONY BLANKLEY,
ELEANOR CLIFT, AND LAWRENCE O'DONNELL
TAPED: FRIDAY, AUGUST 4, 2000
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF AUGUST 5-6, 2000
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here at Comcast-First Union Center in Philadelphia, the drama of the GOP Convention unfolded this week. The party's challenge was to create unity from its diverse wings so that Republicans on the far right would end up in a mutual embrace with their moderate and liberal brethren. Was that done? You be the judge, with a cast of platform players ranging from General Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, to the Rock and Rick Schroeder, and from a range of ethnic and religious types -- blacks, Latinos, Asians, whites, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Greek Orthodox.
As for the convention planners, they got just what they wanted, a controversy-free zone, the big tent, and with it, they hope, a mighty engine of unity that will carry Bush and Cheney past Al Gore straight into the White House.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Bush came, we saw. Did he conquer?
(Begin videotape excerpts from Gov. Bush's acceptance speech.)
GOV. GEORGE BUSH (R-TX) (Republican presidential nominee):
- They've had their chance; they have not led. We will. (Cheers, applause.)
- Today our high taxes fund a surplus. Some say that growing federal surplus means Washington has more money to spend. But they've got it backwards. The surplus is not the government's money; the surplus is the people's money. (Cheers, applause.)
- So we will reduce tax rates for everyone in every bracket. (Cheers, applause.)
- So we will lower the bottom rate from 15 percent to 10 percent, and double the child credit. (Cheers, applause.)
- For younger workers, we will give you the option, your choice, to put part of your payroll taxes into sound, responsible investments. (Cheers, applause.)
- My administration will deploy missile defenses to guard against attack and blackmail. (Cheers, applause.)
- Every one of the proposals I've talked about tonight, he's called a "risky scheme" over and over again. (Cheers, applause.)
- If he'd have been there when Edison was testing the light bulb, it would have been a "risky anti-candle scheme." (Laughter, cheers, applause.)
- He now leads -- he now leads the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but the only thing he has to offer is fear itself. (Cheers, applause.)
- After all of the shouting and all of the scandal, after all the bitterness and broken faith, we can begin again. (Cheers, applause.)
(End videotape excerpts.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Did Bush's speech do what it was supposed to do? And first of all, was it presidential? Michael Barone?
MR. BARONE: Well, my answer is it was presidential, John. He set out four basic issues, as he did when he was running for governor of Texas in '94, that he can elaborate on again and again -- education, Social Security, defense, and tax cuts. He made plausible arguments that the Clinton-Gore administration has not delivered on those. He put out attractive original positions.
The other thing that he's done that's presidential is to really try and frame the issue of character, of quality. Personal authenticity. This was the most personal convention that I ever can remember, including the two Clinton conventions. This was all about George W. Bush. And it's now up to Al Gore, who has not been strong in the personal authenticity department, working on Version 8.0, to see if he can come up with something that's going to satisfy that, which he may be able to do. Let's wait two weeks and see.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor Clift, did the president hopeful seem purposeful? And did he seem mature, and did he eliminate the smirk?
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) That's a lot to expect for one speech. It was an elegant and eloquently crafted speech, and I think that he captured the essence of his promise on the national stage.
But there are fault lines here. One, the substance that Michael Barone talks about so glowingly is basically cotton candy. He hasn't defended it yet; he still has to defend it. Secondly, he expects the country to have collective amnesia about the recent history of the Republican Party, and to just take all this on face value. And third, if you say you're going to be above attacking your opponent and then you take all these sly digs -- the voters are not stupid. (Laughter.) They know what's going on here.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he earned a second look from the undecideds, Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, but let me tell you. This was a stunning speech. I spent all week talking with the delegates, morning, noon and night, and until he gave the speech, they were here in Philadelphia to support him because he was a standard bearer who could beat Clinton-Gore. But after the speech, I think, for the first time, they were ready to vote for him because they believed in him. He imprinted himself, his personality and his vision through that speech, which I was -- I was stunned by listening to.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Were you stunned by the themes of the speech, or was the theme short on specifics? For example, he talked about privatizing Social Security. He talked about deploying a missile defense. He talked about cutting taxes. Pretty -- pretty specific, no?
MR. O'DONNELL: Nothing stunning, John. (Laughter.) Nothing stunning at all.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it was bold, especially the privatizing of Social Security.
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, you know, I actually --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he get points for that from you?
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, he gets points for bravery. It might be the thing -- the reason he loses. It's one of those things where he's taking an incredibly brave position on this. He hasn't -- they haven't really thought it out. The whole campaign hasn't really thought it out -- the details of the policy. But they went directly to the senior voters, the current recipients of Social Security. He made a very clear promise that he would not touch any of their benefits.
MR. BARONE: Current benefits.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, where is the boldness?
MR. O'DONNELL: He will not -- he will not be able to reform Social Security without touching their benefits, and if they realize that --
MR. BARONE: No, I don't think that -- I don't think that's true.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, it's going to be a two-tiered reform leaving the program as it is for the older people and changing it for the younger people.
MR. O'DONNELL: Impossible. Impossible. You're talking. Cannot be done.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. O'DONNELL: If that could be done, it would have been a long time ago.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Barone. Excuse me. Barone?
MR. BARONE: Well, the fact is, I -- you know, we've heard a certain denigration of some of these policies. The fact is that personal investment accounts for Social Security is an innovative thing whose time has come. We've had Senator Pat Moynihan, for whom all of us have great respect, has come out with this -- a version of the Democratic --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, especially O'Donnell, since he worked for him.
MR. BARONE: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was his chief of staff.
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. O'DONNELL: These proposals have huge differences.
MR. BARONE: This is an intellectually serious attempt to try and do for the public sector what the private sector did for moving for a defined contribution plan --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was the central theme of this speech? Can you give it to me?
MS. CLIFT: Well, I want to say, first of all, Michael Barone is on script. Notice he didn't use the word "privatization," and neither did George W. Bush in that speech. I mean, he's trying to --
MR. BARONE: Well, it's not privatization in that sense. It's a whole system -- no --
MS. CLIFT: It is privatization, but that doesn't poll well.
What is the central focus of this speech? He's trying to nail down the right wing, and he managed to get in the pledge on abortion. And secondly, he --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the theme of the speech -- the theme of the speech --
MS. CLIFT: The theme of the speech? (Cross talk.) That -- prosperity with a purpose. That's what they call it.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, I don't think so.
MR. BLANKLEY: I think the theme of the speech was this is a new Republican Party. And it was epitomized with a memory of the past, when he said, "Bring down this wall" -- talking about the two Americas, the division between the poor people, who are suffering in prisons and bad schools, and for the first time the Republican Party has decided on -- with Bush to deal with that, just the way Reagan brought down the wall internationally.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's very high --
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's very uplifting, but that's not the theme.
MR. O'DONNELL: The theme of the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is he running against?
MR. O'DONNELL: He's running against Bill Clinton.
MS. CLIFT: Bill Clinton.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's running against Clinton.
MR. O'DONNELL: The theme of the speech is "Bill Clinton is a bad guy, and Al Gore's been too nice to him."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The theme of the speech is OOB -- O-O-B -- I keep telling you this -- "opposite of Bill." He's the opposite of Bill. And he's getting --
MR. O'DONNELL: But he's not the opposite of Bill.
MS. CLIFT: Right. (Chuckles.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- he's getting Gore by association --
MR. BARONE: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- as Cheney pointed out in his speech, which we'll see in a minute.
MR. BARONE: No third term.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No third term.
MR. BARONE: I mean, that's the basic theme.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, he --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "I'm giving you somebody entirely new."
Now he's gambling that the character differential between himself and Clinton, because the status quo is rather pleasing to the American people, will win him the election. Is he going to be successful on that?
MS. CLIFT: You know --
MR. BARONE: Well, we don't know if he's going to be successful. We do know, if it's just matching your current favorable/unfavorables in the polls -- (inaudible) -- Clinton by about 30 points.
MS. CLIFT: If the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is the gamble of George Bush in this election, if that's the gamble of the -- what's the gamble of Gore if that's the gamble of George Bush?
MS. CLIFT: Well, the gamble is, the Republicans have run on character the last two elections, and they didn't win. In the end, issues matter, and it's because George W. Bush doesn't have the issues -- (inaudible) -- he's running this way.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, but --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The gamble of Gore is -- the gamble of Gore is that if we change at all, it's going to hurt the country. That's the two gambles.
MR. BARONE: Risky schemes.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, there's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. United States vice president (sic) Dick Cheney.
RICHARD CHENEY (Republican candidate for vice president): (From videotape.) When I look at the administration now in Washington, I am dismayed by the opportunities squandered, saddened by what might have been but never was.
Bill Clinton vowed not long ago to hold on to power until the last hour of the last day. That is his right. But, my friends, that last hour is coming. (Cheers, applause.) That last day is near. The wheel has turned, and it is time -- it is time for them to go. (Cheers, applause, chanting.)
We're all a little weary of the Clinton-Gore routine. (Cheers, applause.) And now, as the man from Hope goes home to, uh, New York -- (whoops, laughter, applause) -- Mr. Gore will try to separate himself from his leader's shadow. But somehow we will never see one without thinking of the other. (Cheers, applause.) They came in together. Now let us see them off together. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The delegates loved Cheney's speech, but did it play as well in the living room, Tony Blankley?
MR. BLANKLEY: I have my doubts about whether it did. I -- you know, I think it was a great speech to dedicated Republicans, but I think it gave an opening for the Democrats to make the charge the Republicans are still in attack mode, which overwhelmingly they weren't in the convention. But that one speech -- which, for about half of the country, is the introduction to Mr. Cheney --
MS. CLIFT: Dick Cheney --
MR. BLANKLEY: -- is one that I think he may -- they may come -- (inaudible) --
MS. CLIFT: He didn't -- he didn't --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what are the focus groups saying? Can we get a little science in here?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
MR. O'DONNELL: The focus group -- NBC News had a focus group that was negative on Cheney whenever he went negative on Clinton-Gore. It was a very clear thing. They liked him okay when he was in the policy territory.
MS. CLIFT: Frank Luntz ran the focus groups every night --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is he?
MS. CLIFT: He's a Republican pollster. And the Republicans loved the speech. The Democrats hated it. And the people in the middle, the independents, sided with the Democrats.
Dick Cheney didn't change any minds with that speech. And if you're after swing voters, you're not going to get them again by going after that character issue so slyly and so relentlessly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you -- yeah. Do you -- in that connection, the slyness of it, Eleanor, which is your favorite word of the day, I guess --
MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: Well -- true.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- do you think that the subtext, unstated but visible, is the I word, impeachment. Did he bring that back, do you think?
MR. BLANKLEY: No.
MR. BARONE: Well, I think what he's done is he does -- I think he did this artfully, but he gives Gore a certain opportunity. He said at one point that no serious person could believe that a Gore administration would be different from a Clinton administration. I think it's possible for a serious person to believe that.
MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.)
MR. BARONE: I think that Cheney was wrong about that. And I think that you -- the opening for Al Gore is try to show us once again what he really cares about, what's inside him. I would expect to see a very good movie about Al Gore, telling us some of these things, at the next convention.
But if he steps left there -- the character issue --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did --
MR. BARONE: -- Eleanor seems to think that Bill Clinton is approved of as a human being by American voters.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: I didn't --
MR. BARONE: He is not. There is an unfavorable thing --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, Mr. Barone. Mr. Barone, I get --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. Excuse me. Go ahead. Very quickly.
MR. BARONE: If you have -- you know, you have people basically -- do they want a third term? They wanted Bill Clinton to fill out his second term. My sense is this is a 22nd Amendment electorate; they wanted him to finish the second term.
MS. CLIFT: Okay, if --
MR. BARONE: They don't want a third one.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to know --
MS. CLIFT: If we're playing --
MR. BARONE: And Al Gore needs to establish that he would be something different from a Bill Clinton.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. I want to ask you this: Do you think, looking at Cheney, the American voter feels -- especially those who had doubt about the maturity level or the gravitas of George Bush -- that they see a steady hand at the helm when they see Cheney --
MS. CLIFT: Sure --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- they see maturity --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- they see professionalism?
MS. CLIFT: But it also underscores the immaturity of the person at the head of the ticket.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's --
MS. CLIFT: And secondly, the country approves of Bill Clinton's presidency. I did not -- and running --
MR. BARONE: They approve of the job performance. They disapprove of him as a human being.
MS. CLIFT: And for Republicans to run solely on character and values has been a failing strategy the last two elections.
MR. BARONE: Well, they've put out all this -- (inaudible) -- put out issues.
MS. CLIFT: And the Democrats are going to --
MR. BLANKLEY: But Eleanor, the whole point of this convention is that --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. I get to finish, too. Excuse me.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: The Democrats are going to contrast -- in their convention, you're going to see a lot more substance, which is the contrast they need to draw with the empty calories of the Republican convention. (Cross talk.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I hope Al puts out his white papers, and everyone will really go to sleep!
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, what kind of substance are we going to see there?
MR. O'DONNELL: They've never shown any substance before. If you look at the '92 Clinton --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Assign a letter grade. Allot a one-letter grade to Cheney -- to Cheney. Give me a letter grade.
MR. BARONE: Letter grade on Cheney? B.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you give Cheney?
MS. CLIFT: C.
MR. BLANKLEY: B minus.
MR. O'DONNELL: A B.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A!
MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Convention bounce. An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll of 511 respondents, conducted immediately after Bush's Thursday night speech, shows Bush with a convention bounce of five points and an 11-point margin over Gore. Does that make you want to pull the sheets over your head and cry, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: No. No, it doesn't. The average convention bounce is 10. This is certainly within the margin where Al Gore can get it back. This is still a very competitive election, John. I wouldn't start counting your state dinner invitations just yet.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) Exit. Grade Bush's acceptance speech, A to F. Bush.
MR. BARONE: A. A.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A.
MS. CLIFT: He gets an A.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A.
MR. BLANKLEY: A-plus.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A-plus?
MR. BLANKLEY: Amazing speech. Amazing speech.
MR. O'DONNELL: I don't get it. I thought it was a B-minus.
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah. I don't see where the great prose was in this speech. And the performance was, yes, he did avoid the smirk, but I don't see how he did much better than that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There was a great economy of phrasing and language. There wasn't one excessive word.
MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, John, it was like he was running for a position on Mount Rushmore. All that stuff about his character.
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That closing about which side of the mountain you're located on.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, it was a -- (inaudible).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On this side, we see the coming of the new day.
MR. BLANKLEY (?): Tom Lee. Tom Lee is --
MS. CLIFT: Oh, that was over the top. That was over the top.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is "A," bordering on an A-plus.
When we come back: The New York Times calls the GOP Convention a minstrel show because of the number of African American Republicans on the stage at the convention. Is that an okay characterization, or is it neo-racism?
MS. CLIFT: I don't think they were all Republicans on the stage.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're coming back.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: E pluribus unum.
GEN. COLIN POWELL (U.S. Army, Retired): (From videotape.) Governor Bush has reached out to all Texans -- white, black, Latino, Asian, Native American. He has been successful in bringing more and more minorities into the tent by responding to their deepest needs.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. And like the motto on America's currency, convention speakers of every kind show the diversity and inclusiveness Bush says is at the heart of his compassionate conservatism, his throbbing big tent.
Question: Diversity, inclusiveness, the big tent, culminating in what Bush hopes will be a powerhouse unity. Rate the strategy. Rate the execution. Eleanor Clift?
MS. CLIFT: Look. If they had only showcased white America, I'd be criticizing them; but I think they overdid it. The picture they presented on the stage was artificial in comparison to what the party is. But, you know, they've got to start somewhere. And if George W. Bush can really change the face of the party, fine. But I haven't found any example where he's given away a single thing on substance. This is the same Republican message packaged in a whole --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that New York Times quote about it being a minstrel show is racially offensive?
MR. BLANKLEY: I'll leave that to others. I wouldn't have used that word myself. But look, the point is that if candidates' words and ideas have an impact and have a consequence, his speech, his talking about reaching out to the poor and the minorities in this country, are going to have a policy consequence when he becomes president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me try to probe a little deeper, because it's quite clear that there's floundering going on here. (Laughter.) What is the biggest story out of this convention, in terms of process? Is it the big tent? Is it inclusiveness? Is it diversity? The answer is no. What is the big story?
MS. CLIFT: That the networks didn't cover it. (Laughter.)
MR. O'DONNELL: The big story is that the Republicans ran, for them, a perfect convention.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why?
MR. O'DONNELL: And when they get the show business right, they win.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?
MR. O'DONNELL: They did it because they -- first of all, because they didn't have our dear friend Pat Buchanan to deal with --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. O'DONNELL: -- all those delegates, virtually all of them, were Bush delegates on the floor --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're close -- you're close, but you're not there. We call it "party discipline." The party discipline here was perfect.
MR. BARONE (?): Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: First of all, they took care of the troublesome platform issues to permit the diversity to take place, like no welfare funds for illegal aliens. That went, and it went a week before the convention. Who ran the platform hearings?
MR. BARONE: Governor Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tommy Thompson. He did a brilliant job.
MR. BARONE: Well, one of the interesting things, John, about this and the immigration thing, they changed the position to reflect the position of many Republicans in Congress, which has been pro-immigration, which has been to maintain the current levels of immigration, to allow more people, refugees from Nicaragua, Haiti and so forth. Both Republicans and Democrats have supported those things in large numbers. And George W. Bush has shown an openness, particularly to Latino voters, Hispanic voters, whatever term you use. Is this a totally misleading picture of the Republican Party? Not really, if you look at Texas, if you look at Florida, if you look at the differing responses --
MS. CLIFT: How about looking at California? (Chuckles.)
MR. BARONE: This is a growing and emerging part of the electorate, and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. All right, but I don't want my point to be lost here. The point is that this is party discipline the likes of which I have never seen at a convention!
MS. CLIFT: Why -- why is that -- why -- why is that a --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you ever seen anything like it?
MS. CLIFT: Yes, in 1992, the Democrats did the same thing. They were out in the wilderness --
MR. BLANKLEY (?): No, they weren't.
MS. CLIFT: -- and the liberal -- when the liberals -- (inaudible).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But they had a lot more grumbling on the floor. Now, there was --
MS. CLIFT: The hunger -- excuse me, the hunger for victory makes everybody get the message.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me finish. Let me make a point here. There was grumbling on the floor, there was disgruntlement on the floor, but the delegates chose to silence themselves, and the reason they did so was for one reason. What is that?
MS. CLIFT: They want to win.
MR. : To win!
MR. : Because they want to win.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They want to win, don't they?
MR. BLANKLEY: But there's another point here. You make a good point when you say there was unity, but the unity leads to a larger strategic fact, which is it allows Bush to campaign on Democratic issues like Social Security and education. If you look at his speech, those are the issues he's emphasizing. So while the unity was important, it's only as a facilitator for a strategic point.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, my point is not unity. Unity is a result. The cause of this is that the discipline was there and it worked like a charm, and Nicholson --
MR. : Thompson.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and Tommy Thompson deserve a lot of credit.
MS. CLIFT: And they --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit. Has Bush established a new benchmark for minorities at GOP conventions?
MR. BARONE: I think he's pushed the discussion along, particularly in the Latino direction.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. We're late.
MS. CLIFT: You can't sit around and not include the people who live in America when you're putting on a convention or anything else.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So, the benchmark is there?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. The future of the country is more diverse, the party is now more diverse. It's not going to go back.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is really a prototype of -- (inaudible) -- future conventions for the GOP. Am I right or wrong?
MR. O'DONNELL: Yes it is. Yes it is, and Colin Powell established a new benchmark for convention speaking. It was the best speech ever at a convention.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is the new face of GOP conventions.
Issue three: "He said it," he said they said.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: He said, they said.
President Clinton lobbed a cheap shot across the bow of the Bush campaign this week and splattered not only W. but also George Senior, both of whom returned fire, but of a lower caliber.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) Near as I can tell, the message of the Bush campaign is -- just that. "I mean, how bad could I be? I've been governor of Texas. My daddy was president. I owned a baseball team." (Laughter.) "I -- I -- they like me down there. Everything's rocking along hunky-dory." (Soft laughter.) "Their fraternity had it for eight years. Give it to ours for eight years."
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX): (From videotape.) It's amazing to me that the president of the United States would -- would -- would -- would spend time trying to be a political pundit. He is so desperate to have his legacy intact by getting Al Gore elected, he'll say anything, just like Al Gore will.
FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH: (From videotape.) And if he continues that, then I'm going to tell the nation what I think about him as a human being and a person.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Was Clinton excessively derogatory in his mockery of G.W.? I ask you. Exit question.
MR. BARONE: Well, from Al Gore's point of view, he was. As long as Bill Clinton insists on being number one in the campaign, Al Gore is going to look like a number two, which is not to his advantage if he wants to be president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it hurts Gore.
MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.)
MR. BARONE: I think that -- yeah, it makes him -- diminishes his stature.
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of this?
MS. CLIFT: Well, Al Gore needs to fight his own fights.
But I think the president did manage to draw in Papa Bush. And it's so wonderful to hear that fractured Bush English. He's going to tell us what he thinks of Bill Clinton "as a human being and as a person." I wonder what the distinction is? (Chuckles.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think his observation with regard to Clinton and Gore holds true for Bush Senior, Bush Junior; that Bush Senior should let Bush Junior battle his own battles?
MS. CLIFT: Oh, absolutely. (Chuckles.)
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, look, this was, contrary to the word coming out of the Democratic quarters, an attempt on Clinton's part, successfully, to draw an unuseful reaction from the Bushes. He accomplished that. It was a mistake for the Bushes to have responded.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.
MR. O'DONNELL: The stupidest thing Bill Clinton has said this year.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. There you got it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll all correct here, so I don't have to add anything.
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Very fast. Michael?
MR. BARONE: Big bounce in poll for Republican HOUSE members.
MS. CLIFT: More negative information coming out on the Texas budget shortfall.
MR. BLANKLEY: Bush should get an unprecedented 98 percent of Republican votes in November.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. O'DONNELL: The Los Angeles police will not do the perfect job handling the protesters that the Philadelphia police did in this town this week.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They will not?
MR. O'DONNELL: They will not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they've got 25,000 in L.A. showing up and 3,000 here.
MR. O'DONNELL: It would be a bigger number -- (off mike).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict George W. Bush's winning margin of seven-plus points in November will seal victory in November for embattled Republican Senator Spencer Abraham of Michigan and John Ashcroft of Missouri.
Next week: run-up to the millennial Democratic presidential convention in Los Angeles.
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