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CNN Late Edition

Barbara Bush Defends Her Son and His Presidential Bid; Pat Robertson Endorses George W. Bush; Inspections of MD-80s Yielding Troubling Results

Aired February 13, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington; 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles; 5:00 p.m. in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and 8:00 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this 90-minute LATE EDITION. We'll get to our guests shortly, but first a check of the hour's top stories.

"Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz died last night at his home in California. He had been battling cancer. Schulz's death coincides with the appearance in today's Sunday comics of the final "Peanuts" strip in which Schulz formally ended the cartoon. "Peanuts" first appeared in 1950 when Schulz was only in his twenties. Over the next 50 years, he penned nearly 18,000 strips. Charles Schulz was 77.

Reform Party chairman Jack Gargan, an ally of Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, was ousted yesterday at the party's national meeting in Nashville. Pat Choate, Ross Perot's 1996 vice presidential running mate, was then chosen interim chairman. Gargan was voted out after he refused to call the meeting to order which precipitated a raucous shouting match among the delegates. On Friday, Ventura himself dropped out of the Reform Party.

Overseas, NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo shot and killed an Albanian sniper and wounded two others in the town of Mitrovica. The snipers came under fire after two French peacekeepers were shot and wounded today in separate incidents. The bridge that divides the town was blocked off with barbed wire after Serbs say Albanians crossed the bridge and threw grenades as a house, wounding seven people.

It's being called an environmental disaster in Central Europe, perhaps the worst since Chernobyl, a cyanide spill has moved into Yugoslavia along the Tisa River. It began two weeks ago, when a dam overflowed at a gold mine in Romania. Local officials say the spill has destroyed nearly all life in the water.

Airline mechanics are inspecting hundreds of MD-80 series jetliners. The Federal Aviation Administration ordered every MD-80 operating in the United States to be inspected before midday Monday. They're focusing on a piece in the tail called the jackscrew, which is suspected in the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 on January 31. Since last Thursday, some 21 planes have been found to have irregularities in the jackscrew or other parts of the tail section. Joining us now to talk about all of this, including the inspections of the MD-80, is the person who ordered the inspections, Federal Aviation Administrator Jane Garvey in her first television interview since the Alaska Airlines crash.

Jane Garvey, welcome to LATE EDITION, thank you so much for joining us.

JANE GARVEY, FAA ADMINISTRATOR: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, what is the latest numbers that you have? There are about 1,100 MD-80 series planes -- related aircraft; most have already been inspected, but how many -- we say 21 -- have been discovered with this potential problem in the stabilizer?

GARVEY: Well, first of all, let me say that we have verified 15, although I know that the press is reporting 21, and that's -- that probably will prove to be the case.

And it's important to mention that what we're seeing is anything from something that's very minor, which is -- which might just be normal wear and tear, to something that is more significant. And it's clearly the very small number, but still important, of the ones that have been found with some significant problems that we're focusing on. And I will tell that you the NTSB and the FAA inspectors are working really around the clock to look at that information and to make some assessments.

BLITZER: And all these inspections will be completed by mid-day Monday?

GARVEY: Well, that's right. In fact the airlines tell us that they will have them done this evening. But we're giving them until mid-day tomorrow to get the information to us. And our inspectors are working with them, so we're very confident the work will be done.

BLITZER: The FAA ordered an inspection of the stabilizers because of corrosion sometime ago, over a 18-month period. If there was some suspicion before the Alaska Airlines crash that there might be a problem, why did it take so long for -- why was the initial inspection order over a 18-month period?

GARVEY: Well, first of all, that air worthiness directive, which was issued and given a 18-month period, focused on a different part of the horizontal stabilizer, not the jackscrew. And in this case, I believe that the board has indicated that corrosion has not -- is not an issue. So that's sort of separate.

What we're focusing on right now, as you've indicated, is the jackscrew and that's the inspection that's taking place. So, a different part of the stabilizer.

BLITZER: And it's fair to say that this inspection was directly the result of suspicions stemming from the Alaska Airlines crash.

GARVEY: That's correct. The NTSB brought up the stabilizer. Our folks looked at it with them and came to the conclusion that the immediate inspection was warranted and was the prudent and right thing to do.

BLITZER: In the military -- in the U.S. Air Force, Navy -- I used to cover the Pentagon -- when there was a suspected problem, they would immediately order a complete stand down of all aircraft to spend a day or two checking to make sure that the problem didn't exist in other planes.

Why not just do a complete stand down instead of doing it over a few days? People are going to be getting on MD-80s today and they're wondering: was this MD-80, the one they're getting on, already inspected?

GARVEY: Well, I think it's important to say that, first of all, we're working very closely with the NTSB on that issue. And that if it were necessary, and the NTSB is very good about communicating some of that to us, we would take those actions.

In this case, what we were seeing again in some cases were just the normal wear and tear. So we're finding the airlines acting very aggressively. They'll have that work done, I think, for the most part, this evening.

So we think this is the right thing to do. We want to be aggressive. And I think we are being aggressive. And I think for the most part, these planes will be finished this evening.

BLITZER: All right. You know, "U.S. News and World Report" in an article out in a new issue coming out today, writes this about the specific problems -- specific part that's suspected of causing this problem. Let me read to you what it says.

"Some aviation experts say that oversight of foreign suppliers of aircraft parts is inadequate. The FAA is not anywhere near equipped to deal with this kind of global production," says Matt Bates, a spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The reference being to the part which apparently is made in China at a plant in Shanghai.

Does the FAA have enough authority, enough control to make sure that these parts manufactured overseas for McDonnell Douglas-Boeing are fully inspected and appropriate?

GARVEY: Well, I think that's an issue that's being debated more and more, particularly as more and more people travel internationally. In the late '40s, there was a Chicago convention which just celebrated its 50th anniversary recently. And at that Chicago convention, the international -- our international colleagues in the United States laid out some very clear ground rules, what we were responsible for, and what internationally they were responsible for.

And in this case, we don't mandate -- and you're absolutely right, we do not mandate those kinds of inspections and so forth.

However, our international organization has some very high standards. But I think as we move forward, I think that's going to be an issue that the NTSB will look at and we may make some changes.

I will say in the area of safety assessments, in 1992, Congress was very good at giving us the tools to do some assessments of foreign countries in aviation, and that's been very successful. IKO (ph), the international organization, has stepped up in the last year with a lot of help from the United States to set up their own safety assessments and the whole area of co-chairing, which is getting to be more and more an issue.

We are establishing guidelines. The secretary announced those in December, we're going to be issuing those very shortly. So more and more there is an emphasis on the foreign carriers and the vast number of Americans who travel.

BLITZER: Now, the people who are watching this program around the world, MD-80s are flown by nine U.S. carriers around the world. The order that you mandated for this inspection, the stabilizer, only involves planes that actually land or take off in the United States.

GARVEY: You're absolutely right. There are 1,100 of those planes, there are 2,000 in total.

BLITZER: So, there are 900 MD-80s that are flying outside of the United States.

GARVEY: That's correct. But we expect -- even though we don't mandate it, we absolutely expect the foreign carriers to implement this AD. and we're going to be monitoring that, we expect that to take place and we're going to know mid-week, it will be a little bit longer than Monday, but we will certainly know mid-week the status of those inspections. And we absolutely expect those inspections to take place.

BLITZER: If you're a passenger today, about to get on a MD-80 in the United States or around the world, should you ask the pilot before you get on that plane if that part -- that suspected part had been checked?

GARVEY: Well, I have to tell you it's probably -- it would be a human tendency to ask the pilot that, and I think that would be very natural. I do want to stress, though, and I think it's important to put it in context, the MD-80's been around since the '80s, has a very strong safety record. And again, I think the airlines are moving very aggressively and cooperating with us to make sure that these inspections are done and will be done this evening with the reporting by mid-day tomorrow.

BLITZER: How concerned should the flying public be right now about these MD-80s?

GARVEY: I think -- again it's always good to put it in context. I think it's a strong safety record. It's been around for awhile. But I also know that any time there's a terrible accident, statistics, sort of, lose their meaning and that's why we are working so aggressively. I think if someone asks the pilot, that's probably the right thing to do. My guess is that the answer is, it has been inspected.

BLITZER: Of the 21 planes -- we only have a few seconds left -- that seem to have reported some problem, whether minor or significant, with the stabilizer, since the inspections were ordered, a disproportionately large number involves Alaska Airlines, which is a relatively small carrier. Is there any suspicion -- any potential area why Alaska Airlines might be reporting more problems than other major carriers?

GARVEY: Well, I want to again stress that even with Alaska Airlines, it, sort of, runs the gamut from just normal wear and tear to something more significant. But I think, obviously, in light of the accident, we're taking a very, very careful look with the NTSB at the maintenance records, at the procedures that they have in place. So we are focused on that and I know the NTSB is very much focused on it as well.

BLITZER: And the fact that it flies into Alaska, out of Alaska all the time with the snow and cold weather, could that theoretically be a potential problem?

GARVEY: I think theoretically you look at everything, you have to look at everything when you have an accident like this, and that's what we're doing.

BLITZER: OK, Jane Garvey, the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION.

GARVEY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you so much.

And just ahead, we'll turn to presidential politics. She was the first lady; could the title first mother be in her future? We'll talk with Barbara Bush about Governor George W. Bush's run for the White House, and ask what she thinks of her son's opponent, John McCain. LATE EDITION -- we'll be right back.



BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Our children, particularly, have gotten into the fray, and they haven't sat back and complained about America. They've gotten out to do something to make it better for all Americans. And I'm very proud of that.


BLITZER: Former first lady Barbara Bush, earlier this week, making a campaign appearance on behalf of her son, Governor George W. Bush, here in the Washington, D.C. area.

The campaign week began with Governor Bush and his chief rival for the Republican nomination, Arizona Senator John McCain, trading a slew of negative political ads in advance of next Saturday's critical South Carolina primary. Friday, Senator McCain announced his campaign would no longer run negative ads, and challenged the Bush campaign to do the same.

The Bush campaign has so far rejected that proposal. I sat down with Mrs. Bush this week.


BLITZER: Mrs. Bush, thank you so much for joining us on LATE EDITION, we're always thrilled when we have the chance to talk to you.

B. BUSH: Well, thank you.

BLITZER: We catch you in the middle of this campaign, and you're obviously campaigning for your son. Why do you think Governor Bush would be a better president than Senator McCain?

B. BUSH: Well, I think there are a lot of reasons, Wolf. Number one, I think he's been in the private sector, which is very important. He not only built a business, but he also built a ballpark and managed the team.

And then he was governor. And I think -- and I think most Republicans think -- that government on the local level is better than government on the national level. Eighteen years in Congress is fine, and I think John McCain's a courageous, wonderful citizen. But having said that, why, you know, 35 -- 37 Republican governors have endorsed George W., and 175 Republican congressman have endorsed him. I think that's really unprecedented; 171,000 Americans have sent George W. money, averaging $340. I think he's clearly someone that the Congress can work with and the American people feel comfortable with.

BLITZER: You've noticed, obviously, in the last few days, the campaign getting nasty between Governor Bush...

B. BUSH: No, I should quickly tell you that I turned off after New Hampshire all news -- did not read papers except for the crossword puzzle.

BLITZER: Well, they're both doing in effect what they promised they wouldn't do. They're engaging in South Carolina -- with a lot at stake, obviously, in South Carolina -- in negative advertising.

Listen for example to what Senator McCain is now running, the kind of ad he's running in South Carolina.

B. BUSH: I don't want you to give him publicity.

BLITZER: Well, I'm going to...

B. BUSH: I'm here talking about George W.

BLITZER: Oh, but just listen to this.

B. BUSH: All right. BLITZER: He says this: "I guess it was bound to happen. Governor Bush's campaign is getting desperate with a negative ad about me. His ad twists the truth like Clinton. We're all pretty tired of that. As president, I'll be conservative and always tell you the truth, no matter what."

B. BUSH: I think that's pretty ugly.

BLITZER: He's comparing your son...

B. BUSH: I got it. I saw it, but I think that's very ugly, and I think that does sound desperate. And I'm sorry. I like John and I'm sorry he's doing that. I like him less after I've heard that than I liked him before.

BLITZER: This was the first time you heard that?

B. BUSH: Yes. I don't like that.

BLITZER: Yes. His argument -- McCain's argument...

B. BUSH: Well, let's not talk about McCain's argument. I'm here talking about George W. and who's done a great job.

You know, George got through all of his programs that he promised -- the biggest tax cut in Texas history, over $3 billion, he got his education program through, he got welfare reform, he got tort reform. He did a lot of things and he did it with a Democrat-controlled congress. I think that shows great leadership and great strength, and it shows that he gets along with people. And I think that's very important.

BLITZER: Would you hope that all of these negative ads just go away right now...

B. BUSH: Yes, I would hope that.

BLITZER: ... and move on to more positive...

B. BUSH: Yes, yes.

BLITZER: But it looks like it's not going to happen.

B. BUSH: Well, but that's politics. I mean, you and I have been around -- look at the Bush-Dole campaign. They were terrible ads and they made me sick. George Bush and Bob Dole ended up by being great personal friends. There was never a more loyal leader than Bob Dole was when George was president. That's what happens in politics.

I mean, are you telling me that we think Gore and Bradley's ads are good? They weren't good before I started turning off the TV. That's politics.

And some people think it helps and some don't. I just don't think it helps. BLITZER: So you shrug it off. Let's move on and talk a little bit about what happened in New Hampshire. Why did McCain beat George W. Bush?

B. BUSH: Well, I think for a lot of reasons. I think he beat him because George is running in every state. I mean, Delaware is a good example. John prided himself on never going there. Well, George prides himself -- if he does pride himself -- on being someone who's running for everybody in the United States, every state.

I think John himself said that, the night he won -- which was a great victory for him -- that he was having his 125th town hall meeting. Well, George couldn't do that. He was governor of a big state plus campaigning in every state: Iowa, all the states. So I think that made a difference.

And then New Hampshire people, sort of, pride themselves on rocking the boat. I mean, I've -- we have certainly lived through New Hampshire campaigns for years.

BLITZER: You've gone through that before. You know, some of your sons critics say he was out-campaigned by John McCain.

B. BUSH: He was. He was there all the time and George was in other states. That is -- if that's out-campaigning, he was out- campaigned.

BLITZER: Does George W. Bush have the fire in his belly...

B. BUSH: Absolutely. But he's running from 50 states, and you can't be in one state all the time. And I think that's going to make him a better president. He's not representing one state; he's representing all of them.

BLITZER: You know, there were some critics -- Mary McGrory, you know, "The Washington Post" columnist...

B. BUSH: Oh, I wonder who Mary McGrory is.

BLITZER: I don't know if you saw...

B. BUSH: She's always loved us.

BLITZER: She wrote two days after the New Hampshire primary -- let me read to you what she wrote because I'd be interested in your reaction.

She said: "The last week of the campaign, George W. had been sending out distress signals comparable to a boy's letter from camp. The..."

B. BUSH: Baloney, I know what -- I did read that, and that's baloney, she didn't. We were sitting in Washington at the Alfalfa Club dinner and -- going that night -- and we said, you know, all our family is going to be up there. Wouldn't it be fun to go up and sort of surprise them? And we raced up to New Hampshire. And we read the terrible things that they said, and we were sorry we went if that's what people thought.

But the truth was, people in New Hampshire were thrilled to see George the father, and I think they liked seeing me. And that's just -- that's just one newspaper person's thoughts.

We should have not been so spontaneous. But in the Bush family, we are a very close family, and the sort of -- grandchildren and children and George up there, and we loved people in New Hampshire -- we still love people in New Hampshire -- we wanted to be there.

BLITZER: And what about South Carolina? What are your plans to...

B. BUSH: I've been there. Came home last night. You know, I went to school there, so I feel very at home in South Carolina.

BLITZER: How critical is South Carolina for Governor Bush's campaign?

B. BUSH: Well, I think every state's critical, and I think South Carolina would be a very healthy bump for us if he can win that.

But those are the only two states John campaigned in.

But I think George will do well there.

BLITZER: In South Carolina.

B. BUSH: Yes.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk a little bit about what you raised earlier. You were talking about all the governors, the congressmen, the senators who've endorsed Governor Bush.

Senator McCain says, Well, Governor Bush is the establishment candidate.

B. BUSH: That really makes me laugh. Who's been in Washington 18 years? And who's been out in the country working and then being governor?

I think the action today, Wolf, is in the states, in the governors. They're making the difference. George knows what the people want.

And I think for us -- "us" meaning George's campaign -- to let the McCain campaign -- where he's been there 18 years -- put the establishment on George is absolutely ridiculous. And I don't blame him for trying, but I think that's ridiculous.

BLITZER: So when...

B. BUSH: Who had the big party this week with all the lobbyists? John McCain. I mean, that's OK, but don't let him make us the establishment because he's the establishment.

BLITZER: When he says -- McCain -- that he's the real reformer and Governor Bush is the establishment, do you say...

B. BUSH: That's baloney. In the words of a very famous American: That's baloney.

BLITZER: How would you feel, Mrs. Bush, to be a woman -- perhaps -- I have to go back in my history and see -- the only women in American history to both have had -- been married to a president and to have a son who's a president of the United States?

B. BUSH: I think I'd be awe-struck, but not -- it has nothing to do with me, it just has to do with the fact that that would be a very exciting thing.

But George W. has proved himself as a great governor of the second-largest state in the country, who's sounding more like a Texan than I am these days. But 69 percent of Texans voted him back into office. He's an obvious choice if he hadn't done all these other good things.

So I'd feel great. But not -- I'd feel great as a mother, not as a wife. I'd feel great as a mother.

BLITZER: It would be doubling blessing. You know, you have another son who's a governor as well.

B. BUSH: Has a great -- as the governor of Florida, and he's a wonderful, wonderful man.

BLITZER: So you really have a lot...

B. BUSH: I have three other sterling children.

BLITZER: We can't neglect them.

B. BUSH: No, and we can't, and they're wonderful children, and they're supportive and loving of their brothers and their mother and father and each other. I mean, that's, I think, the great blessing in our family.

BLITZER: Please give our best regards to your entire family, especially to President Bush.

B. BUSH: Ah, so nice, thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Tell him we look forward to having him on LATE EDITION one of these days as well.

B. BUSH: Good, he'll do it.

BLITZER: Thank you so much.

B. BUSH: Maybe.


BLITZER: Thank you. B. BUSH: Thank you. I enjoyed it a lot.

BLITZER: I did, too.


BLITZER: And still to come, Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson, but first the McCain campaign. What's the Arizona senator's game plan for winning next Saturday's South Carolina primary and beyond? We'll ask the national co-chairman of the John McCain campaign, Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson when LATE EDITION continues.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The most important thing to me at the end of this campaign is that my kids, my children, will be proud of me. So we're going to run nothing but positive ads from now on.


BLITZER: Arizona senator and Republican presidential candidate John McCain in New York Friday making the surprise announcement that he's pulling his negative ads for the remainder of the campaign. He challenged Governor George W. Bush to do the same.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

With us now to talk about the McCain shift in strategy McCain's campaign national co-chairman: Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson. He joins us from Nashville.

Senator, welcome back to LATE EDITION. Always good to have you on our program.


BLITZER: Let's -- I just want to give you a chance to respond to what Barbara Bush had to say, saying that John McCain -- he's the establishment and that the real reformer is her son, Governor George W. Bush.

THOMPSON: My only response to Barbara Bush is that I think she is a great lady and a great American and a proud mother, and I congratulate her on the fine job that she has done raising those children.

If you want to talk about the establishment issue, I guess it speaks for itself. When you see what's going on in South Carolina, the streets of Washington are practically vacated this week; they're all down there on John McCain's back and pouring everything that they can in there against him.

John has been willing -- he's got a consistent conservative voting record over the years and with the Republican Party with the great percentage of the time over the years. But every once in a while he has an independent streak and he'll assert himself when he thinks it's to the benefit of his country. And some people don't like that and they feel threatened.

They were shocked at what happened in New Hampshire. They're being very surprised at what's happening in these other primary-state poll numbers around the country, and they're throwing everything but the kitchen sink in against him in South Carolina now.

BLITZER: You know, the thing that upset Governor Bush the most was the advertisement in which John McCain compared Bush to Bill Clinton. That's what apparently has really angered Governor Bush. Was that appropriate for John McCain to do that?

THOMPSON: I don't think John should have done that, and I don't think John thinks he should have done that. He was responding to some things that had gone on in New Hampshire and some other things that were going on in South Carolina. They've got these phone banks set up and they're calling people up talking about John -- and extremely negative phone calls, and there's no accountability there.

I talked to two people at meetings yesterday in South Carolina who had received these so-called push-poll calls saying everything that they could think of negative about John McCain. So it's been back and forth.

But I just don't think John could take that any more. He got into this campaign because he wants to inspire young people to become more involved and be a part of something greater than themselves and their own self-interest. And when a mother gets up at a town hall meeting and says that somebody on Bush's behalf called their son and accused John McCain of being a liar and worse, and he came to her almost in tears, that was enough for John. Anything that he was doing that might contribute to that, he was going to stop doing.

And I don't know whether it's smart politically or not, but that's a decision he made because that's way he is.

BLITZER: And that's why he decided to pull all of those negative ads. Although you know the Bush campaign is not accepting the offer. In fact earlier today on "Meet The Press," Governor Bush was asked whether he would go ahead and accept that offer to unilaterally -- or both of them disarm, stop the negative campaigning. He rejected the offer. Listen carefully to what Governor Bush had to say.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's about as low as it can get in a Republican primary. I suspect if I called you Clinton, you'd be mad, too. And I don't appreciate it. And guess what? The voters of South Carolina don't appreciate it.


BLITZER: What he's saying basically is that it's too late, the damage has already been done, he's not going to accept the offer. THOMPSON: Well, what happens a lot of times -- George Bush is a good man, and he's got a good record. When we're through with all this, McCain and Bush are going to be together and we're all going to be together again.

What's happened sometimes is these so-called "campaign experts" who make all this money come in there and convince you as to what you need to do, and most are extremely aggressive, and if you're not careful, they can kind of take over your campaign more than you should let them.

So I'm hoping in these next few days things will settle down again and we can talk about issues. These fellows are not too far apart on the issues. And sometimes they say, you know, you fight even more aggressively when there's so little to fight over.

But I'm hoping we can get back to the basic issues and people start asking themselves: What's the best for the country? Who do they want in the Oval Office when these chickens come home to roost that are going to be coming, internationally, all over the country because of the foreign policy of this current administration has had? Among Republicans, who best can beat Al Gore?

We're seeing the polls now where John beats Al Gore substantially. And those are the kinds of questions that Republicans ought to be asking themselves in the next few days, not on who's running what kind of ads.

BLITZER: And if you were to look at the South Carolina race right now and you were just there, how does it look for Senator McCain? Is he going to win in South Carolina?

THOMPSON: It's very, very close, and it's going to be very, very tough. Governor Bush has got everything going for himself there. He's got the old line leadership there in South Carolina for him. Of course, Lindsey Graham and Mark Sanford are for John.

But the leadership in Washington is for Governor Bush. They have a tremendous money advantage. They're pouring it in on television, radio and mail. So this has been known as Bush country for a long, long time. So if John even comes close, it's going to be a tremendous victory for him. But he's got a chance to win. It depends on what -- how much the independents turn out.

And we need to get away from the notion in the Republican Party that we don't want anybody voting for our guy except Republicans. You know, with a three-candidate race that we're going to have this next time, that's a sure recipe to lose. Republicans can't win in a race like that where a Democrat only has to get 43, 44 percent in a three- way race to win.

Republicans have got to have independents, and that's the strength of John McCain.

And people who really are kind of tired about the way things are going in Washington, really do want a change, and want to get behind a guy who's been there in Washington, fighting for those kinds of things -- some people are mad at him because of it -- but has the courage of his convictions, the same kind of courage he's shown in his political career that he showed to his North Vietnamese captors many years ago. And that's why people are lining up behind a guy like that. And it's what it's going to take to win.

We're going to have a tough race in November, we need to keep that in mind, too.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Thompson stay with us. We have to take a quick break right now, but we'll have you back in a few minutes to take phone calls from around the world.

When we return though, religious conservative voters could determine the outcome of Saturday's South Carolina Republican primary. Which candidate will they support? We'll ask Christian Coalition president and Bush supporter, Pat Robertson.

LATE EDITION continues right after this.



G.W. BUSH: We shouldn't be using taxpayers' money on the abortion issue. We ought to have a president who encourages abstinence programs to spread their hope around society. We need a president who understands the promise in love.


BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush addressing a gathering of evangelicals in Columbia, South Carolina yesterday. Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Religious conservatives could make or break Bush's chances in Saturday's South Carolina presidential primary. Joining us now from Virginia Beach, Virginia to talk about that voting bloc's role and what it means for the candidates is Pat Robertson. He's the founder and president of the Christian Coalition. He himself sought the presidency in 1988 and is supporting George W. Bush for the Republican nomination.

Pat Robertson welcome to LATE EDITION. Always good to have you on our program.

PAT ROBERTSON, CHRISTIAN COALITION: Thanks, Wolf. It's a pleasure. Thank you.

BLITZER: You've now formally endorsed George W. Bush, making it clear you want him to be the next president of the United States. Why do you think that he would be better than John McCain?

ROBERTSON: Well, Wolf, on the fundamental values I'm concerned about he is right square on the line, one after the other. He is solid in his beliefs. And what he's done as governor in Texas has been superb. He shows he can bring together coalitions to govern. He reached out to the Democrats. He's a man of harmony and he's a good executive. I think that, as far as somebody who mirrors the things that I would like to see in a president, he comes very high on the mark.

BLITZER: But does that mean John McCain does not share your conservative values?

ROBERTSON: Wolf, I really believe that this thing is specious. All this business about government reform and an insurgency candidate. He's been in office for 17 -- 18 years. He's a committee chairman. The man has gotten millions of dollars from the very industries he regulates under the Commerce Commission. As a matter of fact he took an airplane ride on Bud Paxton's airplane when they were asking for favors from the FEC (sic).

BLITZER: The telecommunications...

ROBERTSON: He says I'm Mr. Clean. I'm going to do all these wonderful things. McCain-Feingold, in my opinion, is unconstitutional. It will severely limit the right of citizens' organizations, for example the Sierra Club or the Christian Coalition, Concerned Women for America, even the National Organization of Women -- it restricts them. It puts no restrictions on labor unions and yet is going to mean that the Republican Party can't raise adequate funds to answer charges that are being made against it. It's an unconstitutional enactment that he's put his entire campaign on.

BLITZER: So would you say that's the main reason you don't like his positions? The campaign finance reform he advocates, as opposed to other issues, like opposition to abortion and other issues that have been close to the center of the Christian Coalition's agenda?

ROBERTSON: Wolf, I just don't think that this man is being ingenuous. I think we're looking at something that is essentially fraudulent. I know he comes through as Mr. Clean and Mr. Reformer. But the truth is, you go all the way back to the Keating Five, he took $110,000 from the infamous savings and loan swindler Charles Keating. We've got problems in his past of things like that. And then to come on and say, Look, I'm the knight in shining armor. I'm going to change government.

We know good and well that one man's not going to change government. It's a huge bureaucracy up there. And I think this campaign is based on a false premise.

And people have fallen for it in New Hampshire because he focused his campaign there. He toured that state, I don't know, they said 120-some town hall meetings to the exclusion of other states. He skipped Iowa; skipped Delaware. And now he's -- but he brought in independents and Democrats to vote for him and it's still a very small electorate maybe 30,000 or 40,000 extra votes won that New Hampshire primary.

BLITZER: Yet the polls show that he is right now in a position, potentially, to capture the Republican nomination. If he were to get the Republican nomination and it worry a race against -- between John McCain versus Al Gore or Bill Bradley, let's say with Pat Buchanan as a third-party candidate, what would you, as the president of the Christian Coalition, what would you do? Would you support John McCain?

ROBERTSON: Wolf, he said that he would put Warren Rudman in as his attorney general. Warren Rudman is the man who gave us David Souter on the Supreme Court. He put him on the supreme court of New Hampshire and then urged his accession to the Supreme Court of the United States.

I do believe that if he became the nominee of the Republican Party, John McCain, that the Christian Coalition, which is a voluntary organization, would not put out 75 million voter guides, would not urge its membership to vote for anybody in the general election, and I think there'll be a defection of the Christian conservatives in major waves. I'm talking about a large portion of the Republican base would walk away. And I say that with -- advisedly. You know, we're not under the obligation to put out any literature for anybody. And I just think I can't buy that candidacy.

So it's one of those things that I think they'd sit this one out.

BLITZER: So you're saying that under no circumstances could you envision Pat Robertson personally going out campaigning, supporting John McCain if he were the Republican nominee?

ROBERTSON: Well, I don't think he's going to win, very frankly. I had a conference call with some of the leadership in South Carolina, and I explained in detail what McCain-Feingold was all about. Once they understood what that campaign finance bill would do, they universally said, We will oppose McCain. We don't like what he says. You see, up to that point they hadn't understood it. When you explain to them what exactly that legislation would do, then they say, We don't like this guy.

I don't think he's going to win South Carolina. As Fred Thompson said, it's going to be very close, but Bush is ahead by three or four percentage points right now. But he's coming through very strong this week, and I think there's going to be a tremendous amount of momentum in favor of Bush in South Carolina. I don't see McCain winning that state.

BLITZER: OK, Pat Robertson, stand by, we have to take a break.

Just ahead, McCain campaign national co-chairman Senator Fred Thompson, he'll join us again. He and Pat Robertson will be taking your phone calls from around the world when LATE EDITION continues. Stay with us.



MCCAIN: At the end of this campaign it's very, very, very, very important that I win, because I think I can do a lot for the country. (END VIDEO CLIP)


G.W. BUSH: I believe if the country has a leader that can elevate our spirit and raise our sights, that this country can achieve anything we set our hearts and minds to do.


BLITZER: Republican presidential candidates George W. Bush and John McCain on the campaign trail in South Carolina, site of the next presidential primary in one week from yesterday.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We're talking about the Republican presidential race with Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, he's the national co-chairman of the McCain campaign; and Pat Robertson, founder and president of the Christian Coalition, who today formally threw his support behind George W. Bush.

Let's take a caller first from Santa Monica, California. Please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Yes, hello. Senator Thompson, my question is for you, sir. How could a hard-core conservative like yourself support such a wishy-washy conservative like Senator McCain?

THOMPSON: He's not a wishy-washy conservative. If you look at his voting record over his entire career, whether you look at the conservative's rating or the liberal's ratings, John McCain is a conservative by any measure. He's been right there on all the conservative core issues his entire career.

They're misrepresenting the effect of campaign finance reform. What John McCain recognizes is that it takes money in politics, but he thinks there should be some reasonable limit on it. We're getting away now from the $1,520 contributor and we're now concentrating on the $100,000, $200,000, $300,000 contributor.

We didn't have that issue before Bill Clinton. We didn't have soft money to amount to anything before Bill Clinton. He showed us how it could be used. Now, so many of the leadership in the Republicans and the head of some of these organizations want to be able to do what Clinton did; raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in soft money and convince themselves that we can't win on ideas anymore like Reagan did, that we've got to have more money than everybody else in order to win.

We won with President Bush, we won with President Reagan, all before the advent of all this soft money. So that's not a liberal position; that's a conservative position.

The guy who was toughest on the influence of money in politics years ago who led the fight was Barry Goldwater. BLITZER: All right, Pat Robertson, what do you say about that?

ROBERTSON: Well, what I think is McCain-Feingold is not so much limiting the money of the Chinese -- I know Senator Thompson did a masterful job to try to bring the Clinton administration to heel and he failed. But the law is already on the books making foreign donations illegal and that it was most important thing.

But what I'm concerned about is the fact McCain-Feingold wants to limit citizens' involvement. It's unconstitutional -- many of the restrictions on organizations like the Christian Coalition. Grassroots organization should have freedom to speak and to support candidates of their choice, and this bill would severely limit them and give enormous power to the Federal Election Commission. And I've seen what they can do, and I'm not exactly a fan of the FEC.

THOMPSON: All of...


BLITZER: Go ahead, Senator, because I know you support McCain- Feingold. Maybe you can explain right now why you disagree with Pat Robertson's interpretation, if in fact you do disagree with his interpretation, how that would limit free speech.

THOMPSON: Well, the whole political process has changed since Clinton. He showed us how to use big money, and now big money has become the rule of the day.

What McCain-Feingold would do would say, if these so-called independent groups really in fact are lining up and coordinating with a candidate, they have to abide by the same campaign rules that everybody else does.

It doesn't cut down on anybody's free speech at all. It simply takes us back to the process we had that went from Watergate to Clinton. You never heard any talk about all this big money, you never heard any talk about scandals or anything like that during that period of time. All it does is try to make up for some of the practices that Clinton showed us how to do.

We don't need to behave the way he did in the last campaign in order to be victorious.

BLITZER: Right. Let's take another caller from Green Bay, Wisconsin. And Pat Robertson, I'll let you respond to that as well. But first of all, the caller from Green Bay.

CALLER: Hello.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

CALLER: My question is: The Christian Coalition supports Bush, but Bush supports the death penalty. True Christians believe in the sanctity of life, not the death penalty.

BLITZER: Pat Robertson.

CALLER: First, I've got to clarify, the Christian Coalition, as an organization, is not supporting Bush, because we -- in this would be non-partisan and would give out non-partisan voter information.

ROBERTSON: But in terms of the death penalty as such, I think the death penalty is biblical in orientation. The fact that if somebody takes human life -- I have been in discussions with Bianca Jagger and others on this particular issue, and I think that the question if we're going to support life, let's make it a seamless life from the conception of a child all the way through. And if people are opposed to the death penalty on the one hand and many liberals are, but yet they say they're for a woman's right to choose to abort babies, there's something totally inconsistent about that.

But I do believe that justice has over the years -- that murderers and madman like Charles Manson and others should have the extreme penalty given to them by society.

BLITZER: All right, let's take an international caller from Haifa, Israel. Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Hi. My question to Senator Thompson is that -- what would a Republican president do for the middle class that a Democrat president wouldn't do? And I'm a registered Republican. Thank you.

THOMPSON: Well, I think that it's a mistake to divide our country up into segments and classes. I think that we don't want anybody to stay in the same class if they're in a lower economic class or middle class, we want everybody to have the opportunity to move up.

What Republicans would do would give tax cuts, what Republicans would do would pay off the national debt, what Republicans would do would try to do something that Clinton and Gore have not taken the first step toward doing and that is Social Security and Medicare reform, things that are going bankrupt. All these things are important not only to the middle class and all Americans of today, but for our children.

BLITZER: OK, gentlemen, we have to take another quick break.

For our international viewers, "WORLD NEWS" is next. For our North American audience, there's still another 30 minutes of LATE EDITION, including more of your phone calls for Senator Fred Thompson and Pat Robertson. Plus the news headlines with Gene Randall, our LATE EDITION roundtable and Bruce Morton's last word. LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll have more of your phone calls on the presidential race for Pat Robertson and Senator Fred Thompson in just a moment. But first, here's Gene Randall with the hour's top stories -- Gene.

(NEWSBREAK) BLITZER: Thanks, Gene. Now more with -- about presidential politics with Senator Fred Thompson and Pat Robertson.

Let's take another caller, this time from Nashville, Tennessee. Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Yes, I'm asking Mr. Robertson -- I'm real concerned about what the Republican Party is going to do if John McCain does get the nomination. You seem to have backed yourself into a big corner by the virulent attacks you're making on McCain and what you said a moment ago concerning the fact that you are not going to be able to support him if he does get the nomination. What's the Republican establishment going to do if he does get it?

ROBERTSON: I was talking to one of the key Southern senators at a dinner last night and he said, in his opinion, if McCain wins the nomination, it will destroy the Republican Party. And just frankly underscore that sentiment.

I think that this man is regarded as a maverick. He doesn't work well with colleagues. And there's a deep concern about what seems to be a specious issue in relation to campaign finance. And so we're looking at a situation that could be devastating to the Republican Party.

You know, I'm a free citizen. I'm not under the obligation to support anybody for anything. And I'm not going to go raise great sums of money to get somebody elected when I don't feel good about him. And I think others are the same way. We're all free Americans.

But this is going to be devastating. I don't think he's going to win. I think South Carolina is going to be the end of this insurgency campaign. And I think it's going to begin to -- the helium's going to come out of the balloon after next Saturday. But nevertheless, this can be a nightmare for the Republican Party, and people need to understand it. That's why I think a number of Democrats are...

THOMPSON: It would be -- can I comment on that? It would be a nightmare for some members of the establishment and some leaders.

If I were the caller, I wouldn't be too concerned about Christians and conservatives. They think for themselves anymore. I guess I'm kind of old fashioned about things like that. To me, you know, Christianity has to do with saving souls and uplifting people, and not raising large amounts of soft money to run attack campaigns on folks.

You know, I think you're beginning to understand why John ran some of those tough ads in South Carolina. I'm looking at the virulent -- virulent attack that you're seeing on the talk shows this weekend from the Bush talking points. People in New Hampshire were duped, apparently there's people in South Carolina are in danger of being duped. It would destroy the party. The polls are showing that John McCain would beat Al Gore by a far greater margin than George Bush, and some showing that Gore would beat Bush. I mean it's absolutely absurd, I think. So from the caller standpoint, I wouldn't be worried about all of our folks going in one direction on this. Leaders all came out against McCain in New Hampshire. Leaders are all coming out against McCain in Michigan where he's now 10 points ahead. Leaders are all against him in California where he's got the margin narrowing. And most of the leaders are against him in South Carolina. Don't be worried about that.

BLITZER: Pat Robertson, before you go, I want to -- if you want to respond, go ahead.

ROBERTSON: I would like to respond to that. You know, the organization I head has not raised a lot of PAC money and Fred knows that. We deal with $10 and $15 contributions, and are on the margin to try to get information out so that the voters can understand the issues that are confronting them in various important elections. And as he knows, we played a key race -- I mean a role in seeing a Republican majority in 1994. We worked our heads off so that he can be a committee chairman.

And I just believe that in what's coming up, I think that there's grave danger ahead for the Republican Party. And there wouldn't be so many pro-Al Gore supporters in South Carolina urging Democrats to vote for McCain if they thought he was the strongest candidate. They just don't think that and there's a great insurgency down in South Carolina getting Democrats to switch into the Republican primary.

BLITZER: All right...

ROBERTSON: Excuse me...

BLITZER: Yes, Pat Robertson, unfortunately we are all out of time. Senator Fred Thompson, both of you were very generous with your time taking phone calls from around the world, and we hope you'll both be back early and often on LATE EDITION. Thank you so much for joining us. ROBERTSON: Thank you.

THOMPSON: Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

BLITZER: And up next, we'll sort out the week in politics including Jesse Ventura's latest bombshell with our roundtable: Roberts, Page and Carlson when we come back. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable. Joining me: Susan Page, White House bureau chief for "USA Today"; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News & World Report;" and Tucker Carlson, political writer for "The Weekly Standard."

All right, Steve, this was an ugly week between Bush and McCain. There's one week left -- less than one week -- six days left before the South Carolina primary. Is it going to get uglier? STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: I think so. You know, McCain had a real dilemma, because he had the same dilemma that Bradley had. Bush goes after him, and if he doesn't respond he risks being a wimp. If he does respond, then there's, well, you're just another politics engaging in dirty politics.

And I don't think he's handled it particularly well. I do think that ad where he compared George Bush to Clinton was a mistake -- Fred Thompson said it was a mistake in your conversation -- because it wasn't believable. An attack, to be effective, has to have a credibility. That one was over the line. I see he's going to pull back from it now.

BLITZER: You know, McCain may have acknowledged it himself earlier today. He was on "Face The Nation." Tucker, listen to what John McCain had to say about all the negative advertising.


MCCAIN: Negative campaigning is not going to be what I'm going to be associated with because, win or lose, I want my kids to be proud of the campaign we ran and all of our other supporters.


BLITZER: Is that going to happen? Is the negative campaigning -- the unilateral disarmament on his part, going to happen? Or we going to see that come back?

TUCKER CARLSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: No. I mean, of course, on McCain's part it has to. I mean, he's running a campaign based on -- largely on the idea that he's honest. And so if he goes back on this pledge, he's over. The very foundation has collapsed.

I think the Bush people are going to continue to hammer McCain and for good reason. I mean, they realize that South Carolina really is important. I think this dawned about a week ago.

If Bush loses South Carolina, how does he explain it? He explains New Hampshire by saying, Look, it's a weird anomalous state in a Republican primary and I didn't try very hard there. Here, they have thrown everything into South Carolina, they've bashed McCain over the head every single day. If he loses, what sort explanation does he come up with? He doesn't have one and he's in real trouble, so they have to win.

BLITZER: And it's a very close race. In fact, the "Newsweek" poll that is just out this week, likely voters' choice for nominee for the South Carolina GOP primary has Bush at 43 percent, John McCain at 40 percent, but plus or minus five points, the margin of error, meaning it's a statistical dead heat right now.

SUSAN PAGE, CNN COMMENTATOR: You do get the feeling, though, that McCain has done for Bush what Bradley did for Gore, which is to wake up a campaign that was complacent. And I do think you get the sense this week that, as ugly as this week has been, you have seen Bush back on the attack -- although he's been on defensive on some issues -- adopting some of the campaign tactics that have worked so well for McCain like open meetings where you field a lot of questions. And I think if Bush wins here and gets his campaign back on track, you know, in a way he'll have John McCain to thank for making him a stronger candidate.

ROBERTS: Although I have to say there is a basic absurdity about one of the basic ideas that George Bush is talk about. Here he is saying John McCain, Mr. Chairman, 17 -- 18 years, Barbara Bush said the same thing. Here's a guy who's the grandson of a senator, son of a president, who's been endorsed by practically every governor, who has been endorsed by 35 Republican senators, who's raised $70 million from special interests, and he's trying to say that he's the outsider?

But it is one of the biggest lies I've heard in politics in quite awhile.

BLITZER: You know, Tucker, Pat Robertson was very strong in making it clear he is not going to support John McCain if he's the Republican nominee. In fact, he and his supporters, he said, basically sit this one out. They're not going to -- and he also says that this is going to destroy the Republican Party if John McCain is the nominee.

CARLSON: Well, a lot of people feel that way. I mean, every Republican establishment hack in the world is on cable this weekend barking about what an evil guy John McCain is. I think the fear is real. I mean, there's this feeling -- part of it is the Republican establishment booked -- backed Bush early -- sort of a tongue twister -- and, you know, they're desperate, of course, to sort of see good on their investment.

But the other thing is, they perceive a radicalness about McCain's campaign. I mean, famously his, you know, his staff chanting "burn it down," you know, when he was giving his speech in -- victory speech in New Hampshire.

And I think they're right to be worried. If McCain wins, it's not clear what he's going to do, but he's definitely going to shake things up.

BLITZER: And you know, even earlier this week, Trent Lott, the Senate majority leader, I guess he wanted to be neutral a little bit, but he made it clear he's not being neutral all that much any more. Listen to what he said on "CROSSFIRE" earlier this week.


U.S. SENATOR TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm not going to get in a position of characterizing a colleague and what he is saying or doing on a campaign trail. All I'm saying is that I think George Bush, with his experience as an executive and his character and integrity and leadership skills, is the best man for the job.


PAGE: So who do you think he's...

BLITZER: That was obviously not on "CROSSFIRE." That was a statement on Capitol Hill. But he's obviously supporting George W. Bush and he's making it clear he does not like John McCain.

PAGE: And you know, there are only four Republican senators who are backing John McCain. And there's a reason for that. He's not very popular with his colleagues. Now the Bush people say that's because he can't get along with people; he can't get things done. The McCain people say that's because he is a maverick who takes positions that upsets the Republican establishment. So you can see that two ways.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break. But we have much more to talk about on this political roundtable.

When we return: Jesse "the governor" Ventura bolts from his party. Plus in the Democratic race, Bill Bradley gets a political assist from the biggest star in professional sports. Can Michael Jordan help make Bradley a winner? We'll ask the roundtable, when LATE EDITION continues.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our LATE EDITION roundtable.

All right, Steve, Jesse Ventura, the governor of Minnesota, bolts from the Reform Party. Today he was on ABC's "This Week." Listen to what he said when he was asked if he was ready to endorse John McCain for the presidency.


GOVERNOR JESSE VENTURA (MN): You're seeing the success we had in Minnesota in getting the disenchanted voter, the third- party voter to join his band wagon, and Senator McCain's doing an outstanding job of it. And watch out, just as I shocked the world here in Minnesota, Senator McCain may shock the world nationally.


BLITZER: He likes Senator McCain.

ROBERTS: He does and this is exactly why -- it's not just Republican establishment that's nervous about John McCain, the Democratic establishment is very nervous this week because they had a game plan to run against George Bush. They were going to deride him as a light weight, not ready for prime time. They thought they had a very good way to run against him. McCain, as Ventura certainly points out, can win a lot of independents, can win a lot of Democrats, just as Ventura did, and they can't accuse McCain of being inexperienced.

And so, boy, I sense that this week a lot of nervousness, and that's a very good example of why they're nervous.

BLITZER: Tucker, give us some context. The decision that Jesse Ventura made to leave the Reform Party, does that open the door automatically to Pat Buchanan getting that nomination as a third-party candidate and the $12.5 million that comes with it?

CARLSON: Well, I think, you know, the Reform Party was too crazy even for Jesse Ventura. Let's pause and ponder that for a minute. I mean, the Reform Party, a fist fight broke out during their meeting...

BLITZER: Many fist fights.

CARLSON: ... it's unbelievable in national -- vindicating those of us who said for years this is the largest collection of wackos outside Star Trek conventions.

But no, I think clearly it does leave it -- there's a vacuum. This is a party that's always about personality, the strong man. You know, the radical Democratic Party that's actually more of a dictatorship. And it leaves a vacuum, and the only person I see poised to fill it is Pat Buchanan.

PAGE: You think it's bad news when there are police called to your political convention?

CARLSON: I think that's a sign, yes -- violence on the dais.

BLITZER: There is one other person that can fill that vacuum for the Reform Party nomination, his name is...

PAGE: Ross Perot.

BLITZER: That's right.

PAGE: And, you know, Ross Perot has never really gone away, although he's gone underground, I think it's entirely possible that he'll reemerge. I think he is really the figure behind the situation that made it impossible for Jesse Ventura to stay in the party. We could see him again.

BLITZER: All right, the Donald Trump is going to be making some announcement this week, too. So we'll be watching and waiting.

Let's talk a little bit on the Democratic side, Al Gore and Bill Bradley, really haven't been getting a lot of attention lately, although Bill Bradley did get an endorsement this week from one Michael Jordan. Listen to the ad that the Bradley campaign is now running.


MICHAEL JORDAN, FORMER PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER: It's time for us to believe in something that will give every American an opportunity to succeed and be viewed equally. That's why I'm supporting Bill Bradley for president. Shouldn't you?


ROBERTS: I'm so used to seeing Michael Jordan in the ads with those cartoon figures, I thought he was going to endorse Bugs Bunny for a minute there.

I think that this is not going to help Bill Bradley. One of the results of the McCain phenomenon has been to suck all the oxygen out of the air -- out of the room. Bradley can't get attention. McCain did what Bradley could have done and did not do: capture the imagination of independents, portray himself as a different kind of politician. I think this is just much too little, too late.

PAGE: Well, I think you see Bradley really going on the attack against Gore this week, and getting no attention for it. The only thing he got attention for was this ad. And I think this ad is helpful not harmful, but it doesn't really make a difference when it comes to Bradley trying to reenergize a campaign that's flagging.

BLITZER: Is that Bradley Gore race widening instead of narrowing.

CARLSON: Oh sure. I mean, this ad probably would have helped three months ago. I'm amazed by how the only real bumps Bradley ever gets have do with basketball, you know, that fund-raiser he did at Madison Square Garden, that's like a bad joke, the basketball campaign? I mean, I don't understand the rationale.

BLITZER: OK, Tucker Carlson, Susan Page, Steve Roberts, you'll be back next week on our roundtable. It'll be the day after the South Carolina primary. We'll have a lot to talk about.

But when we return, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines. Plus, Bruce Morton's last word on political ads.


LYNDON B. JOHNSON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are the stakes. To make a world in which all of God's children can live. We must either love each other or we must die.



BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for Bruce Morton's last word.

With nine months left in campaign 2000, negative ads already cover the air waves. But as Bruce Morton reminds us, negative ads in presidential campaigns are nothing new.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's started. George Bush and John McCain going negative.


ANNOUNCER: McCain solicits money from lobbyists with interest before his committee. MCCAIN: His ad twists the truth like Clinton. We're all pretty tired of that.


MORTON: OK, comparing a Republican to Bill Clinton is bad. But open the scrapbook. These new guys don't know how bad it can get. Lyndon Johnson against Barry Goldwater, 1964. Who might start a war?


ANNOUNCER: Three, two, one, zero.

JOHNSON: These are the stakes.


MORTON: That ad was so strong it only ran once, but everyone alive back then remembers it. Jesse Helms versus Harvey Gantt, North Carolina Senate race. Want to make race an issue? Watch.


ANNOUNCER: You needed that job and you were the best-qualified. But they had to give it to a minority because of a racial quota.


MORTON: Or how about making fun of the presidential candidate's running mate?


MORTON: In Michael Dukakis' Massachusetts, they gave leave time to a convict named Willie Horton, who became a household word. The scariest ad -- this one -- wasn't made by the Bush campaign, but by an independent pro-Bush group.


ANNOUNCER: While on furlough this man ran away to Maryland, twice raped a woman and tortured her husband.

Now, this man is running for president. President?


MORTON: One year perfectly harmless Republicans all morphed into Newt Gingrich then perfectly harmless Democrats all morphed into Bill Clinton.

Why negative ads? Consultants use them because they work, though overused, they can drive up your negatives as well as your opponents. There've been hints this year voters may be getting tired of negative ads. We'll find out when South Carolina votes this coming week.

I'm Bruce Morton.


BLITZER: Thanks. Bruce.

Time now for a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines. "TIME" magazine has Leo up close; the Titanic movie star Leonardo DiCaprio promoting his new movie, "The Beach," on the cover.

"Newsweek" hunts for hackers: On the cover, "Hijacking the Net and How to Protect Yourself."

And on the cover of "U.S. News & World Report": "The Rich Get Richer While Those at the Top Are Leaving Everybody Else Behind."

That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, February 13th. Be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

Among our guests next week: Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain. He'll join us the day after the critical South Carolina primary. And I'll be back tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for "THE WORLD TODAY."

For now thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.


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