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Special Event

Bush: 'People of South Carolina Can Solve' Issue of Confederate Flag Over State Capitol

Aired February 17, 2000 - 10:35 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you back to Spartanburg, South Carolina where Texas Governor George W. Bush is now taking questions.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... myself with his hand-picked candidate, Vice President Gore, yes I will draw some sharp contrasts.

Ciargy (ph).

QUESTION: Governor, you mentioned that Ronald Reagan drew Independents, Democrats in his primary (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BUSH: Yes.

QUESTION: Why hasn't your tax cut proposal resonated with Independents and Democrats?

BUSH: Well, let's just see if it doesn't resonate here on election day. And it certainly did in -- and it's just more than just tax cuts, it's a leadership style; it's the ability to set high sights, and we'll see how it goes here. We'll see how it goes here.

QUESTION: Governor, do you think the press has given Senator McCain too much of a free rid?

BUSH: Well, let's have a vote.

(LAUGHTER)

All you who think Senator McCain has had a free ride, raise your hand. I guess not.

(LAUGHTER)

No, listen, I understand the press. I understand what it means to be the front-runner. After all, we have accessibility -- is it two or three now? -- accessibility two? Well, it's -- I'm sure it'll even out over time if there's been -- if there needs to be an evening out. He's raised a vigorous campaign, and so have I. So we'll see what happens here Saturday and see what the finish is. Deborah (ph).

QUESTION: Governor, what is the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

BUSH: I don't know the letter. I haven't seen the letter.

QUESTION: Would you want people voting for you because they think you're more sympathetic with the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

BUSH: No, people need to be voting for me because of the position I've taken, which is the following -- and Brian (ph) knows it well: The people of South Carolina can make up their own mind as to what to do with the flag. Secondly, we have made up our mind in the state of Texas. We'll be flying the Lone Star flag over the capitol of my state. That's what people ought to be making their mind up on this issue. It is a position that I've had from the minute I have stepped in this state. It is the position I'll have the minute I exit this state, and it is the right position to make. That's how people ought to be making up their mind.

Yes, John.

QUESTION: Do you now wish, Governor, that when you went to Bob Jones University, that you had spoken out against their policy on interracial dating the way Alan Keyes suggested you should have the other day?

BUSH: Well, you know, I went with a message that our conservative philosophy is a compassionate philosophy and I laid out what my vision is for America and gave people a chance to follow it. Secondly, I was asked about this afterwards. I wasn't very aware of the interracial dating policy, frankly, the minute I walked into the university. I was asked at a press conference, maybe by Terry (ph), I think it was afterwards. And I spoke as explicitly as I could on the subject, that I don't accept that; I don't accept that. And, you know, would I have done things differently? I don't have any idea. But I gave the right speech for the circumstances; it's a speech that says, follow me. There will be a more compassionate day ahead.

QUESTION: Governor.

BUSH: Yes.

QUESTION: Back to the flag issue for one second. Two days ago, or three days ago, a black minister in a small venue got up and asked you some pointed questions about the flag.

BUSH: He did.

QUESTION: He was shouted down.

BUSH: He wasn't shouted down.

QUESTION: Well, he wasn't shouted down, but there was...

BUSH: I quieted the crowd so that the man could speak. QUESTION: I understand. But there was almost palpable tension in the room. My question is, do you foresee the day, if it isn't resolved here, when you would have to provide leadership on this issue? And if so, what would you do?

BUSH: No, I don't see the day. I think the people of South Carolina can solve the issue, and should solve the issue. You should have -- their governor made a suggestion, the leadership in the legislature's making suggestions. Something is going to get done. And when the man stood up, and I said, you have every right to ask the question, and he asked the question. And I didn't see -- I don't know how tense it was. People did express themselves, but I was able to quiet them down and he was able to ask his question. And -- no, this is an issue that needs to be resolved by South Carolina, and it's going to be resolved by South Carolina, I'm convinced.

Poncho (ph). That's Frank.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: As I have said, Frank, don't judge my heart based upon a position as to who ought to be flying what flag over what capitol. Do not judge my heart based upon an issue that this state ought to solve. And anybody who tries to do so is way off base. I've got a record in my state of Texas, and I stand on my record. And the people of my state -- I've held out my record of accomplishment, and the people of my state responded. I got nearly 50 percent of the Hispanic vote and 27 percent of the African. People in my state know where my heart is.

QUESTION: Where is your heart?

BUSH: Let me finish, please. Would you please -- I'm not through. I've already answered your question, sir, and I can't be more explicit to you, that the people of this state must come together and solve the issue. I told you in my state, if you came into my state, said, what flag should you fly on the capitol? I've answered your question. You've heard my answer. But, Frank, people need to know where stand. I can't be more clear about the policy of Bob Jones.

Somebody said the other day, well, Bob -- you know, will going to Bob Jones affect your chances to get elected? Well, it didn't affect Ronald Reagan's chances. It didn't affect George H.W. Bush's chance, certainly didn't stop the Democrat governor of South Carolina from going there to have an event. And so people can read in what they want to, but don't you judge my heart based upon giving a speech at a university. I'm not -- of course, you're not misjudging my heart. People shouldn't.

Listen, thank you all very much. I look forward to seeing you at the next stop; next stop.

KAGAN: We've been listening, once again, to Texas Governor George W. Bush, campaigning this morning in Florence, South Carolina, the governor answering some tough questions on his position on South Carolina flying the Confederate flag over the state capitol. The governor's position has been and remains to be that he does not have a position, that this should be settled by the people of South Carolina. In fact, it's a matter that can only be settled by the state legislature there.

And he said he is not outspoken -- he did not speak out, also asked about the interracial -- sorry -- did not speak out against the dating policy against interracial dating at Bop Jones University when he spoke there earlier on the campaign trail. Making no apologies for that, he says don't judge his heart by the speech that he made there, judge him on his record in his own home state of Texas.

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