MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one, Bush turnaround.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX): (From videotape.) My goal is to be the president. We're about to find out here, in 41 days -- (laughter) -- whether there's any truth to this.

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) Forty days from now, prosperity itself will be on the ballot.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As the candidates enter the home stretch of the presidential race and stand at the threshold of the first of three key debates, Governor Bush has leveled the playing field. The Gore poll-bounce from the Democratic Convention six weeks ago has been whittled down by Bush. Bush leads Gore by six points, 48 to 42 percent, says the L.A. Times. Three other polls also say Bush is ahead by a tiny margin.

Question: What's hurting Gore, Michael Barone?

MR. BARONE: Well, John, Gore and his strategists had hoped that this would be like 1988, that they'd start off with a small lead from their convention, use issues that would build up and so that W. Bush would now be where Michael Dukakis was at this point in '88. That didn't happen, because when Bush gets his issue positions out on things like education, Social Security, even prescription drugs, as he has during the last week or 10 days and wasn't for the week or 10 days before that, when he gets those out, they turn out to be attractive positions, and they help him, you know, win some support from voters that he had prior, up to the Republican Convention, lost to some extent after the Democratic Convention, and now he's got some of it back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from the rest of this distinguished crew, but first of all, let's break this down demographically, the polling of the week. All men: Bush, 56 percent; Gore, 34 percent; a point spread favoring Bush of 22. All women: Gore, 49 percent; Bush, 42 percent; point spread seven favoring Gore. White men: Bush, 63 percent; Gore; 26 percent; point spread 37 favoring Bush -- massive. White women: Bush; 48 percent; Gore, 43 percent; point spread five favoring Bush. Married men: Bush, 60 percent; Gore, 31 percent; point spread 29 favoring Bush. Married women: Bush, 51 percent; Gore, 40 percent; point spread 11 favoring Bush. Single women; note this, Eleanor: Gore, 63 percent; Bush, 27 percent, a point spread of 36 favoring Bush -- excuse me, Gore. Now, does that give you any comfort, that last figure?

MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all, if Oprah can put a book on the bestseller list, she can do the same with a candidate, and the reason that Bush has been doing better is he's been doing all this soft television. And the target group are married women with children. They are the swing voters of this season. And after the Democratic Convention, they liked the selection of Joe Lieberman, this are women who rely less on government, look less to government, and are more concerned about values. And so they gave Gore a second look and they liked what they saw, but they also like what they're seeing of Bush on all of these shows. The swing voters are going back and forth. These polls are -- are really not definitive, John. There's no one candidate that has a clear lead.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, Michael and Lawrence, do you have anything you want to say about the demographic differential, Bush-Gore, in that polling?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I think the numbers that move the most are the independents and the unmarried women -- and women, to a lesser extent. The men, both minority and white, have been staying much more constant. So those are the variables that are changing.

But I think you have to look, to explain what's going on -- this is a country that's evenly divided between the two parties. You've got two candidates, neither of whom is driving an issue that's really grabbing the country. So it's an even a campaign, and depending on a slight breeze one day or the other, one's going to be up a few more points or down a few more points. And it's going to play out that way and depending on the debates, and that may switch it, right to the end.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think it's the male vote that's killing Gore -- the male vote?

MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As one person -- one Democrat, probably a friend of yours, anonymously put it -- a Democratic strategist -- there's not much for a white, male, Anglo-Saxon Protestant in the Democratic Party right now.

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, John, knowing that you were going to talk about the LA Times poll, I happened to bring it with me. You left out a couple of very interesting numbers, okay? "Which candidate has the best experience?" Gore, 62 percent; Bush, 25 (percent); a 37-point gap, the biggest gap in all of the polling.

"The better grasp of issues," a 16-point gap in favor of Gore.

And "understands average Americans' problems," ®AS¯a 14-point gap in favor of Gore.


MR. BARONE: Well, John --

MR. O'DONNELL: Remember, what's left here in the game are the undecided swing voters. They're going to base their vote on those things, not on any particular issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the Reagan race with the former governor of Georgia, Reagan was not hurt by his alleged inexperience, as opposed to Jimmy Carter.

MR. BLANKLEY: But wait --

MR. O'DONNELL: John, you know Ronald Reagan -- (laughter, cross talk) -- and George W. Bush is no Ronald Reagan.

MR. BARONE: But he has -- (off mike) -- Governor Bush --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, wait a second --

MS. CLIFT: Well, it was also a completely different climate then. In 1980 there was double-digit inflation, there were gas lines, there were hostages held in Iran. The voters were looking for a --

MR. BARONE: John --

MR. BLANKLEY: Wait, wait, wait. Wait a second. The polling --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. I want to finish my point.


MS. CLIFT: The voters were looking for a reason not to vote for Jimmy Carter.

The voters are happy with the way things are going. The "right track" numbers are just out of sight.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from Anthony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Going back to the question about looking at these internals in the polls, Gore is sort of like the opposite of a bumblebee. You know, a bumblebee -- no one can explain how he flies, but he does. Gore's internals look fabulous. He ought to be soaring, with all these numbers, and yet he can't. And it suggests something about, I think, the personality.

MR. BARONE: John, let me --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, you think maybe that business about the dog and the pharmaceutical --

MR. BARONE: The dog and the mother-in-law --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- for the mother-in-law may have affected -- the --

MR. BARONE: And the "I invented the Strategic Petroleum Reserve" --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the mendacity --

MR. BARONE: He said he was there when the Strategic Petroleum Reserve was created. Well, it was created in 1975, when he was living in Nashville, before he was in Congress --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it's the mendacity and the duplicity --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, Michael --

MR. BARONE: -- and the same year that they wrote the union label song.

The fact is, look at --

MS. CLIFT: You know better than that --

MR. BARONE: No, let me talk for a minute, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: You know better than that -- five words. (Chuckles.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.

MR. BARONE: The fact is, look at these polls and -- in a number of polls, we've seen issues like education and Social Security. These are issues which historically have favored Democratic candidates.

There are polls, which are out now, which show basically George W. Bush about even with that. And what -- one of the not very often told stories of this campaign is, he's got innovative positions on these issues -- more accountability for education than the Gore plan --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Social Security.

MR. BARONE: -- Social Security, individual investment accounts, which Gore has been against. And when people hear about this and learn about this, they turn out to be more ®PG¯popular positions than I think they would have been 10 years ago and than conventional wisdom assumes. And so when Bush gets the word out, he -- (off mike).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. We've got to get out.

MS. CLIFT: I would argue that once the voters learn more about these policies through the debates, and there is tough questioning, that they will not be so favorable.

MR. BARONE: We'll see.

MS. CLIFT: Bush does ®AS¯great in the big thematics. He cannot defend those programs.

MR. BARONE: You'll see.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Does Bush have real momentum, or is this a temporary glow? Michael Barone.

MR. BARONE: Well, the fact is we can't really know, John. I think that he's had a little momentum the last 10 days. Whether it will continue -- it doesn't continue like a mechanical machine.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, his energy speech was very strong on Friday, and that didn't hurt any, either.


MS. CLIFT: His income tax refund would return more to the wealthy people in this country than he would spend on education, health care and national defense combined. And when asked about those numbers, he said, "I don't do math well in my head." Can you imagine any candidate, any other candidate getting away with that response?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it just wants to bring --

MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible) -- get away with it.

MS. CLIFT: Not George W.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It makes strong men sob aloud to hear that kind of a report.


MR. BLANKLEY: I think right now there's no momentum. I think Bush had some, and now, going into the debate, over this weekend, I think it's even, with no momentum for either candidate.


What do you think?

MR. O'DONNELL: I think there's been actually no movement in the polls in the last couple of weeks. All you've seen has been within the margin of error of every poll. Every poll actually has them in a tie, if you factor in the margin of error.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, minuscule momentum -- but it's there -- on the part of Bush.

When we come back: Last week there were rats, this week there's a mole. Is this an election or a zoo?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Political Potpourri.

Item: The GDP, gross domestic product growth percentage figure for the second quarter is in, and it is mighty: 5.6 percent. The robust economic health of the country poses a challenge to candidate Bush. Why should Americans vote for change when conditions are so good? Here's how Bush is handling it.

GOV. GEORGE BUSH (R-TX) (Republican candidate for president): (From videotape.) The vice president was seated right behind Bill Clinton at the State of the Union when the president declared: "The era of big government is over." Apparently, the message never took. The vice president's spending plan proposes three times more new spending than Bill Clinton did in 1992.

Question: Why is Bush decoupling Gore from Clinton and drawing somewhat close to Clinton's economic planning and achievement himself?

Tony Blankley?

MR. BLANKLEY: What Gore has been trying to do has been to be both the candidate who takes credit for the status quo and the candidate of change.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's Gore.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's Gore. Now, what Bush is trying to do is trying to deny him both positions. If he's going to be the force for change, calling for all these new big spending programs, then he can't be the candidate for the status quo with prosperity. And so Gore is trying to, therefore, identity his policies closer with Clinton's, and Gore's as dangerous, risky schemes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the same speech, he also praised Joe Lieberman because of Joe Lieberman's role in the Democratic Leadership Council. And the Democratic Leadership Council is kind of a --

MR. O'DONNELL: Which George W. Bush seems to want to join now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. Definitely.

MR. O'DONNELL: Look, John, this whole thing shows you what a desperate --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But what does that tell you, that rump DLC position of Lieberman, and Bush's praise of it?

MR. O'DONNELL: It shows you what a tortured job it is to run as the Republican nominee against this incumbent administration in these economic times. He really would like to be basically a member of the moderate Democratic wing of the party in the Congress. That's what he's trying to say, "I'll be like them," which there's no reason to allow him to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, how is Bush implicitly characterizing Gore in relation to Gore's Democratic principles?

MR. BARONE: Well, he's saying basically that he's an Old Democrat, rather than a New Democrat.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Old Democrat.

MR. BARONE: You know, Gore really faced this choice going into the Democratic convention, because some of the things he was for were New Democratic things, some of them were Old Democratic things. He went "people versus the powerful," the old Democratic stuff. It helped him sew up his base among Democrats, John, but no Democratic candidate has won on that platform for president for 40 years --


MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all --

MR. BARONE: -- in 40 years.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now I want to -- no, I want to point out something to you. The old Democrat is a tax-tax-spend-spend stereotypical type, right? And that's the way Bush is characterizing "big-government Al."

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, it's old-time -- it's an old-time Republican formula to run against the big-government liberal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Right.

MS. CLIFT: But it's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he's doing that by --

MS. CLIFT: It's ridiculous because --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's doing that by splitting Gore off from Clinton.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't that really quite strategically -- what? Not --


MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: No, no, because --

MR. O'DONNELL: Impossible~! "Impossible" is the word.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's a little contrived, but it's also very sharply put and very clear.

MS. CLIFT: No, no. If, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In other words, he's finally getting down to the bright line.

MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: No, what he -- he's spent most of the campaign trying to tie Gore because of the character issue. That didn't work. Now he's trying to separate them because he doesn't want Gore to get credit for the wonderful economic times.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he can do both. He can do both, and they're not contradictory.

MS. CLIFT: He cannot do both. (Chuckles.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What Bush is saying is, "Look, I'm a lot like Bill Clinton in my economic beliefs, but I'm a little bit more conservative than he is. But on the -- in honesty and truthfulness, and in integrity, I'm altogether different from him, and from Al Gore."

MS. CLIFT: That's not going to work. (Chuckles.

MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, I'd hate to have to write that speech, John!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Item: RU-486, the controversial abortifacient pill, will be available to American women in one month. Al Gore favors the arrival of this pill. Bush does not.

Now the question is, what's behind the Clinton-Gore FDA timing of the release of RU-486? I ask you, Lawrence O'Donnell.

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, I hope what's behind it is good science. I hope that what's behind it is the FDA took its time to get this right before allowing it to be introduced into the market.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but five weeks before the election?

MR. O'DONNELL: It is -- it does very much look like one of those --

MR. BARONE: This administration --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does it do? What's the impact?

MR. O'DONNELL: It's a very powerful help for the Gore campaign --


MR. O'DONNELL: -- because George W. Bush will now be forced by his base to campaign against a pill.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Now how damaging is the elevation, the "highering" of the profile, the raising of the profile, of the abortion issue -- how damaging to Bush?

MR. BARONE: I think it's not very, John, because in the states where the abortion issue is very solidly on the pro-choice -- on abortion-rights side, like New York and California, they're heavily for Gore right now anyhow. And if you look at the battleground states, places like Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, the abortion issue is much more closely balanced in terms of public opinion. That's why neither candidate's been talking about it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. BARONE: They've both been silent on this issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. BARONE: And while it would be impossible to believe that the Clinton administration would time anything for political reasons --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- now bear in mind that the pill goes on sale one week before the election, so the press gets two stories out of this: the arrival of the approval and the arrival of the pill with the doctors and the availability of it. They'll get two stories, okay? And surely your friends on the liberal press will play this up --

MR. O'DONNELL: They will.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- on the assumption it's going to help Gore.

MR. O'DONNELL: It will help Gore.

MS. CLIFT: Do I get to speak at all on this?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, go ahead. Go ahead.

MS. CLIFT: First of all, there is now a clear issue here. The candidates are not silent on this; they both put out statements. And George W. Bush has said --

MR. BARONE: No, but they mostly haven't been talking about abortion.

MS. CLIFT: -- George W. Bush has said, if elected, that he would undertake a review of this. So that this --

MR. O'DONNELL: He would do nothing, really, though. He said he would make no attempt to take it off the market.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I'm sorry. He said he would undertake a review. And that is a message, and I think if -- anybody who wants to stop a pill that can get -- that can act as an abortion pill in the early stages of pregnancy is just too radical on this issue. And it undermines his position that he's a moderate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The campaign for Gore and Bush differ by $10 million, favoring Gore.

On the side of the independents, they have spent about $3.5 million versus a half a million for Bush, clearly favoring Gore.

However, in the Democratic National Committee and in the Republican National Committee, the differential is $53 million, favoring the Republicans.

With all of that in view, I want to know, when you put those financials together, what do you think about the relative financial strength of Bush vis-a-vis Gore going into this election sprint?

MR. BARONE: Well, I think it's approximately even. I mean the fact is that they both have enough money to get serious messages out. They're both attempting to do so with some seriousness, I think, and that gives people a chance to make up their mind on the basis of information presented.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who has the "big mo" going into next week's debate, Michael? Quickly.

MR. BARONE: If anybody does, Bush, but I don't think it's very big.

MS. CLIFT: Bush goes in with the lowest expectations of any candidate maybe since Dan Quayle.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he's bound to win? (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: He can't lose. It's going to be at least a draw. (Chuckles.)


MR. BLANKLEY: I think Gore is the expected winner of the debate, I would think.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. O'DONNELL: Gore has a little bit of momentum, and he will win the debate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think about the financial strength of each of the candidates, in the light of those figures that I quoted earlier?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, I think it's not good for Bush, because I think Bush needs a lot more money because his candidacy needs more of an advertising base than Gore's does.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The RNC has $53 million more than the DNC at this point. Doesn't that make you feel less concerned about Bush's impoverishment?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, Bush has a tougher candidacy. He's running against -- (inaudible) -- incumbency.

MR. BARONE: Well, and the press -- (off mike).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: The Spy Who Loved Gore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (with hidden face and distorted voice): (From videotape.) He said, "We have a mole close to Bush in the Bush campaign."

(Music: Henry Mancini's theme from "The Pink Panther.")

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Espionage on the campaign trail.

September 13, two weeks ago, an unmarked package arrives at Gore headquarters in Nashville. Addressee: Gore debate strategist and mock debate Bush stand-in, Tom Downey, a former congressman. Inside, a 90-minute video tape of George Bush practicing the first presidential debate, next Tuesday, October 3rd, in Boston. Also inside: an issues briefing book for the debate prepared for Bush.

Downey, realizing he was holding a political bombshell, turned the material over to the FBI. For the past two weeks, the bureau has been hunting for an operative who could have illegally sent these materials -- so sensitive that they could tilt the debate in Gore's favor and possibly skew the presidential election itself.

This week a Gore staff member, Michael Doyne, revealed that a Gore mole does indeed work in the Bush campaign. He disclosed this to a friend while they were touring Gore campaign headquarters.

Doyne and the soon-to-be ABC News informant stopped by Doyne's cubicle while Doyne's computer was on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (with hidden face and distorted voice): (From videotape.) He said, "We have a mole close to Bush in the Bush campaign." And I -- I didn't know what to say, and I thought it was an interesting comment. And as I looked at the screen where he had apparently had this e-mail from the mole, he clicked off on it, so I didn't really get to -- even to see it, except for the briefest of moments.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Doyne says now that he was just making an idle boast. The Bush campaign has told the FBI that their staffers would be happy to take lie detector tests. So far, the Gore campaign has not so agreed to a polygraphing.

Question: Is it, in your felt intuition, Lawrence O'Donnell -- I know you know a lot about dirty tricks --

MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That the Gore team actually planted a mole in the Bush campaign and that the mole sent the secret 90-minute Bush videotape, the secret debate tape, and the secret big issues book to the Gore team?

MR. O'DONNELL: No, I don't think that happened. And when you say, you know, "the Gore campaign planted a mole," if we use that kind of language what we mean is the top tier group of the Gore campaign, and they wouldn't be involved in anything like that. Is there someone in the Bush campaign who's probably secretly favoring Gore? Yeah. Is there someone in Gore's campaign who probably secretly would like to help Bush here and there? Probably. This stuff -- and has there ever been a campaign, has there ever been a candidate, Gore, who doesn't need to know what Bush is going to do in the debate?

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now you've got -- well, Eleanor, I want to point this in a direction. Now you've got the FBI in the act. What's the FBI going to do? Is it going to go away? Is it a crime?

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If it's a crime, what's the crime? Is it election tampering? Is it mail fraud? Is it theft? Well, for it to be a federal crime of theft, you've got to get over the $5,000 floor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I mean, I can't take this terribly seriously, John. I mean, I think the penalty, if this person is discovered, is a slap on the wrist.

But let's be a little logical here. If this is a plant by the Gore campaign, why would he or she then send the package to somebody anonymously and have the recipient turn it over to the FBI?

(Cross talk.)

MR. BLANKLEY: That's just the cover story.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, come on.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from you! What do you mean, it's the cover story?

MR. BLANKLEY: I was sort of half-joking.

MS. CLIFT: Right! Total joking. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: No, but Lawrence is basically --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can I lead you, or do you want to make a point?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I want to make a point. Lawrence is basically right. At lower levels, in probably every presidential campaign, you know, there are people of ambiguous loyalties.

I don't think this is going to amount to much. Certainly at the top of the ticket on either side they're going to be -- have deniability, all that they need. I think it's a silly issue -- (cross talk) -- and the networks there are making a mistake even to cover this.


MR. BARONE: John, I would disagree with all that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you disagree with that?

MR. BARONE: Well, I think that what I hear from Eleanor and Tony sounds a lot like what we heard from most people in the press during the Watergate -- during the 1972 election. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the entry?

MR. BARONE: That turned out to be more serious. It's not at all clear that this will turn out to be serious, but there is prima facie evidence of illegal -- of poaching on the other side's campaign's property. That's pretty improper. I cannot believe that the top people, people like Tad Devine or Bill Daley, in the Gore campaign had anything to do with this -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you say --

MS. CLIFT: Michael --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Do you think that --

MR. BARONE: But there -- could there be someone of middling level of responsibility involved in this? I think it's possible.

MS. CLIFT: Michael, were you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think this is going to go away, Michael?

MR. BARONE: I think it's probably going to go away during most of this campaign, as Watergate went away in 1971.

MS. CLIFT: I want to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, do you think it started -- don't forget, the FBI is here and on the spot. They've got to do something. They've got to say something.

MR. BARONE: The FBI is out there in a go-slow mode on this investigation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know they're in a go-slow mode.

MR. BARONE: Now, would this administration ever influence law enforcement? It would be impossible to believe that with this --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. Were you fellows this exercised when George Will coached Ronald Reagan in 1980 with a debate book that Bill Casey, I believe, stole?

MR. BARONE: Well, actually, I was.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I'm glad to hear that, sir.

(Chuckles.) You're all upset over this little -- all upset --

MR. BARONE: I was upset about Watergate in 1972

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, Congressman Arbusto --

MS. CLIFT: This is not Watergate!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Congressman Arbusto had hearings on that, but they never found the mole, but they brought forth a lot of witnesses.

MS. CLIFT: Jim Baker said it was Bill Casey, I believe. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible) -- Bill Casey was dead at the time. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, the modus operandi of the Gore-Clinton administration is quite clear, when you consider the --

MS. CLIFT: Oh, John. John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When you consider the Linda Tripp revelations out of the Defense Department, when you consider Livingston going --

MS. CLIFT: John, you can't whip this up!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just -- may I finish? -- Livingston going over, 950 files made available by the FBI?

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) (Sings and mimes playing a violin.) (Laughs.)

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Joe Palladino (sp) doing his work out there. We know what the modus operandi is.

MR. BARONE: There's a pattern of lawlessness in the Clinton administration.

MR. O'DONNELL: It's far more likely --

MR. BARONE: Yeah --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A pattern of lawlessness -- well put, Michael.

MR. BARONE: Yes. (Off mike) -- the law.


MS. CLIFT: It's a pattern of overreaction on the part of people desperate to rev up the Bush campaign is what the pattern is! (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You also have to explain Michael Doyne. What is he talking about? He said there was a mole planted. He, himself was in it; he's 28 years old, he's a junior officer in the campaign --

MR. BARONE: He may just be a boaster, but there could be something to it.

MS. CLIFT: He's a boaster like Ed Rollins was --


MS. CLIFT: -- when he talked about "walking around money," John. (Laughs.)

MR. BARONE: Well, that's possible.

MR. BLANKLEY: And there was walking around money.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A quick exit question. What is the exit question?

MR. BARONE: What is the exit question?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What should be the exit question?

MR. BARONE: What should be the exit question is whether or not this is going to amount to anything for voters. I think the answer is probably no.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will the mole feature in next week's debate?





MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will either one bring it up?

MR. O'DONNELL: No, no chance, John.

MS. CLIFT: No! (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's too close to call. (Laughter.)

We'll be right back.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Bye-bye.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Gore rocks the vote.

ANNOUNCER: (From video clip of Gore's appearance on MTV) He's a Harvard grad, a Vietnam vet, our vice president, and he's into PDA. He listened to rock, rode a motorcycle, and even smoked the herb.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On MTV this week, Al Gore was courting the youth vote. Audience questions were put to the presidential aspirant: Who will play at your inauguration? Answer: Lenny Kravitz.

But Gore also tackled some more serious issues, including the status of gays, on which Gore had a kind of "coming out." The vice president said that while he does not support gay marriage, he does support gay, quote, unquote, "civic unions" -- unions that guarantee the gay civic union couple the same legal rights as a heterosexual married couple. He was then asked whether this applied to a gay immigrant alien forming a civic union with a gay U.S. citizen.

(Begin videotape clip.)

MTV AUDIENCE MEMBER: Would you favor the INS relaxing its rules to include same-sex couples?

VICE PRESIDENT GORE: I think that the rights that are afforded an American who gets married to someone from another country should be afforded under a legally protected civic union in the same way.

(End videotape clip.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In other words, if a homosexual U.S. citizen enters a civic union with a homosexual non-U.S. citizen, the non-U.S. citizen automatically gains U.S. citizenship eligibility.

This policy contradicts U.S. law; namely, the Defense of Marriage Act, which President Clinton signed in 1996. Gore's staff said the vice president, notwithstanding his conviction, had no intention of fighting for change in the '96 law to make it conform to the Gore view.

Question: Will Gore's support for civic unions hurt him or help him in the battleground states -- Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin?

I ask you, Lawrence O'Donnell.

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, it can't help. But it won't hurt very much. He'll keep it low profile.

And also just if he does become president, as I expect him to, he will do absolutely nothing about this. What he's talking about in immigration requires a change in the law, which he would have to propose, which he will not do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about blue collar votes in working class neighborhoods? Do you think that's going to happen?

MR. O'DONNELL: He's not going to do a commercial saying, "I'm in favor of this." He would like this to be the only mention of it in the campaign.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. What about the refined legal point there --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I want to make, if I could -- he's not going to do a commercial, but Bush is targeting practicing Catholics for the last month of the campaign. He is going to be sending newsletters -- letters, not just to Catholics in general, but they've got a list of 2 million practicing Catholics, and I wouldn't be surprised to see this message sent, because that's a violation of church policy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Also, the RU-486, that position of Gore could help Gore with the Catholic vote.

Yes, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Whipping up the homophobic vote has not worked for Republicans.

MR. BLANKLEY: This is not homophobic.

MS. CLIFT: And second of all, civic unions --

MR. BLANKLEY: This is not a homophobic issue. It's a marriage issue.

MS. CLIFT: -- civic unions --

MR. BLANKLEY: It's a marriage issue, it's not a homophobic issue.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. We're not talking about marriage, we're talking about civic unions.

MR. BLANKLEY: But we're -- well, Gore was talking about marriage.

MS. CLIFT: He said civic unions, which are legal in the state of Vermont. Many corporations now recognize these unions and give people benefits. We are decades away from having this kind of marriage recognized, but I bet that's an eventuality.

MR. BARONE: Well, serious arguments have been made for gay marriage, by Andrew Sullivan and by Jonathan Rauch. But the fact is, voters are just not buying it. And where they enacted civic unions, under pressure from a dictatorial-minded state supreme court in Vermont, it's turned out to be a very unpopular position. Governor Howard Dean, who has been very popular for 10 years, is now getting closely repressed by Republican Ruth Dwyer, and this issue seems to be part of it. So I think Gore could get hurt on -- (end of audio).