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CNN Late Edition

President Begins Trip to South Asia; NRA and Clinton Administration Blast Each Other; Pat Buchanan Campaigning for Reform Party Nomination

Aired March 19, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: This is LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.


WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NRA: People are dying and this administration won't do anything about it.



JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Just when you think they can't surprise you with a level of vileness, they do. It's hard to be surprised or disgusted by anything the NRA does.


BLITZER: A week of heated exchanges between the gun lobby and the White House. We'll hear from both sides: NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart.


PAT BUCHANAN (REF), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Beltway parties are chemically dependent on soft money.


BLITZER: The presidential election may be set between the Republicans and the Democrats. But what about the Reform Party? We'll talk with a man who wants to be that party's presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan.

And President Clinton's legal woes are back in the news: Independent Counsel Ken Starr may no longer be on the case but the investigations continue. We'll be joined by former White House special counsel Lanny Davis and former Bush Attorney General Dick Thornburgh.

Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable: Steve Roberts, Chris Black and Tucker Carlson. And two families, two nations, and the fate of a little boy: Bruce Morton has the "Last Word" on Elian Gonzalez.


BLITZER: It's noon in Washington; 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles; 5:00 p.m. in London and 10:30 p.m. in New Delhi, India. Wherever you're watching from the around the world, thanks for joining us for this 90- minute LATE EDITION.

We'll get to our interview with the National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre and White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart shortly, but first, the hour's top stories.

President Clinton has begun a week-long trip to South Asia.

CNN's senior White House correspondent John King is travelling with the president, and he joins us now live from New Delhi -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, fresh reports of shelling and gunfire in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir today underscoring the tension and the challenge as the president opens a six-day visit to South Asia. Mr. Clinton arrived here in New Delhi, the Indian capital, just a short time ago. It is the first visit by a U.S. president here in 22 years: President Carter the last president to visit India.

Mr. Clinton hoping to elevate a relationship that has been strained for decades because of India's leanings toward the Soviet Union in the Cold War years. Mr. Clinton hoping to promote economic cooperation. India has a thriving high-tech sector. Also, to promote some cooperation in the health care area.

But overshadowing every discussion will be U.S. dissatisfaction with India's decision two years ago now to conduct a nuclear test and highlight its nuclear weapons program. In his discussions with Indian officials, we're told, the president will urge restraint not only in the development of the nuclear program, but also in the long-running dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

Mr. Clinton will spend most of his time here in India. There's a one-day trip to Bangladesh to focus on anti-poverty programs and a several-hour stop on the way home in Pakistan where Mr. Clinton will meet with the military leader, General Pervez Musharraf, who took power just five months ago in a military coup. U.S. officials saying the president on that stop will deliver a nationally televised address to the Pakistani people urging them to push for restoration of democracy and making very clear to the military government, we're told, that only when democracy is restored can the U.S.-Pakistan relationship be restored.

And again on that stop, he will urge Pakistan to stop being provocative, in the words of U.S. officials, in the Kashmir region.

This a trip the president has wanted to take throughout his seven years in office. He almost came two years ago. That was delayed by the nuclear testing first by India, then by Pakistan, Mr. Clinton enjoying dinner tonight. The hard work begins tomorrow morning -- Wolf.

BLITZER: OK, John King reporting live from New Delhi. CNN, of course, will cover the president's trip throughout the week.

In other news, riot police fought with protesters in the streets of Taiwan's capitol Taipei. The demonstrators oppose the defeat of Taiwan's nationalist party in yesterday's elections. The nationalists held power for 50 years. Newly elected president Chen Shui-bian is calling for calm.

Elsewhere around the world, at least 200 people are feared dead in a mass suicide by a cult in Central Africa. Charred bodies were discovered in a burned out church in a remote of Uganda. The church members believing the end of the world was at hand, apparently locked themselves into the building on Friday and then set fire to it.

The group called itself the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God.

Here in the United States, the debate continues over the volatile issue of gun control. On Friday, the White House announced that the largest U.S. gun manufacturer, Smith & Wesson, has agreed to implement significant changes in the way it makes and markets handguns. But the National Rifle Association and other gun groups are criticizing the deal.

Joining us now to talk about that, as well as other gun control efforts, is the NRA's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre.

Mr. LaPierre, thank you so much for joining us.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

LAPIERRE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Last week, exactly one week ago, you said this, and let me read exactly what you said. You said "I've come to believe he, (referring to the president of the United States, Bill Clinton,) I've come to believe he needs a certain level of violence in this country. He's willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his political agenda. And the vice president too." Caused a firestorm of protest this week.

Do you stand by those remarks?

LAPIERRE: Strong words and let me tell you why I said them. I said them to center the debate in the United States on the fact that this administration over the last seven years has decreased prosecutions of the bad guys, the felons with guns, the drug dealers with guns, the gangs with guns, by 50 percent since the Bush administration. Now, they brag about a 16 percent increase now. That's all in the Project Exile cities of Birmingham, Alabama, Richmond, Virginia, Rochester, New York where the NRA is backing a tough zero tolerance program.

BLITZER: But the question is, did you go too far in boldly accusing the president of the United States of accepting a certain level of killing to further his political agenda?

LAPIERRE: Wolf, I said some strong words and the media ...

BLITZER: Did you go too far?

LAPIERRE: ...they've had a good time with it. And the spin doctors in the Clinton administration have been all over this. But I'll tell you, it's time somebody talked tough about this lack of prosecution. Last Thursday night, while the media was jumping on me on the language, there was a sheriff's deputy in Fulton County, Georgia, Kinchen who is out, and he runs into Rap Brown.

Rap Brown, a violent convicted felon, kills him. Now, this guy, Rap Brown, '95, had been picked up and -- on an illegal gun charge. The local authorities -- and we were down there over the weekend, called the Clinton administration, said will you prosecute this guy and they said no.

They left Rap Brown on the street and the sheriff's deputy died the other night. So I'll tell you this: I mean, I thought I should have said some strong words seven years ago when the administration started this policy of decreasing prosecutions on the people doing the killings.

BLITZER: But you know in the uproar that followed your strong words, a lot of Republicans and supporters of the National Rifle Association think you went too far, including the Republican presidential candidate, George W. Bush.

Listen precisely to what Mr. Bush had to say referring to your remarks.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think whether that comment or the comment that somehow violence, you know, the president condones violence and death, I don't, you know, there's ways to debate the issue without casting aspersions on the president like this. I think they may have gone too far on that statement.


LAPIERRE: And that's fine. I don't run the Gore campaign; I don't run the Bush campaign. I'm CEO of a National Rifle Association but we are going to center the debate in this presidential campaign on the complete collapse of prosecutions of the felons with guns, drug dealers with guns and gangs with guns. They're the ones doing the killing. The one city where we have a zero tolerance program, Richmond, Virginia, we've cut murder with guns by 50 percent in that city. Can you imagine if we could do it nationwide, how many lives we would save?

And yet, you know, all the administration, they want to talk about Wayne's rhetoric, and Joe will be on here talking about Wayne's rhetoric. But what he won't talk about is the NRA wants this administration to implement a zero tolerance policy. Every time they catch a drug dealer with a gun, a gang member with a gun, and a violent felon with a gun. They have the big stick. They can put them in jail without bail and they serve 85 percent of their sentence in a federal prison cell.

BLITZER: You also said that the president has blood on his hands because of the murder of Ricky Byrdsong, who is the basketball coach at Northwestern University outside of Chicago. And you also said you wanted him to look into the eyes of his widow and explain why that killer was not picked up and arrested by federal authorities. There is a letter now that the widow has written to President Clinton saying she supports the president's position on these issues.

She says this: I certainly do not in any way think my husband's blood is on your hands and I applaud your efforts, referring to the president, in the arena dealing with the associated issues. Sherry Byrdsong.

LAPIERRE: And that doesn't surprise me, but the facts are the facts. Ben Smith walked into a gun store and committed right under the federal government's nose, sign this form. A brand new federal felony, it's a federal felony, ten years in prison, up to ten years. They flagged him; they turned him down; they did nothing to him but let him walk out the door. Now they will try to say different but the truth is, it's a co-system between Illinois and between the feds. The feds were notified immediately also.

They should have prosecuted this guy. He wouldn't have done the killing.

Of the 179,000 felons and stalkers, the flags under the instant check -- which I support. The NRA was talking instant check long before Bill Clinton was in office -- they let them all walk out the door.

How do they feel about 179,000 stalkers and felons walking the streets tonight that they haven't prosecuted any of them?

This is about making people safe. My strong language was about making people safe. I know -- you know, and the president, let me tell you what he said about NRA -- just one final thing.

Listen to this: In other advanced countries, they have a lower death rate. Why is that? Because they don't have an NRA in their country.

The whole national media, when he says that about the NRA, they just kind of nod, and then when I use some strong language to try to get them on prosecutions, they all act outraged. There's a double standard here. BLITZER: All right, Wayne LaPierre, we're going to ask you to stand by. We're going to try to bring another point of view into this discussion right now.

Joining us now from New Delhi where he's traveling with President Clinton is the president's press secretary Joe Lockhart.

Mr. Lockhart, welcome back to LATE EDITION. You've been listening to what Wayne LaPierre has been saying. Why doesn't the federal government prosecute cases to the extent that it should, the zero tolerance that Mr. LaPierre has been talking about?

JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, Wolf, let me tell you, I've just listened to five minutes of the most utter nonsense I think I've ever heard. So let me talk about our record because it's a record to be proud of.

Violent gun crime in this country, since President Clinton took office, is down 35 percent -- 35 percent. That is a record of achievement. We've got more to do and we're going to keep working at it. But it's gone down because we've tripled the amount of resources that go from the federal government to the state and local authorities.

We've upped the prosecution rate 16 percent on the federal level, 22 percent nationally. We've gone into cities like Richmond. This was -- the Project Exile was the idea of a Clinton-appointed U.S. attorney.

The statistics that Mr. LaPierre are using just aren't right. I understand why he uses them. I understand if I was trying to make the case that he's making that I'd need to use some statistics, twist them around, make them up.

The debate ended I think on Friday when Smith & Wesson came out and said: As the largest manufacturer of handguns, we can work with the federal government, we can make our streets safer, we can make our children safer.

So I think the debate with the NRA is over. They've sort of -- they're on the fringe, they represent an extreme group.

The debate now should be with Congress. We have a conference report that has sat for nine months, sensible, modest gun control issues. We need to get Congress to move, we need to get them to meet, we need to get them to get the job done.

BLITZER: But on this issue of enforcing existing laws, it's not only the National Rifle Association, the General Accounting Office last month came out with its own report saying that in the background checks it discovered that 3,353 buyers managed to illegally obtain firearms, only 110 criminal investigations were opened, and only 442 of those more than 3,000 criminally illegally obtained firearms, only 442 buyers had those firearms confiscated. The suggestion being, of course, that since only 16 percent had anything to do with this, the federal government was derelict in enforcing existing laws. LOCKHART: Well, Wolf, that's just not the case. The states around the country are primarily responsible for enforcing the law, bringing the criminals to justice. The federal government comes in in some cases. We've come in a lot of cases, the enforcement rate is up, we're continuing to work at it. The president has a new proposal to spend $280 million, get a thousand new gun prosecutors out around the country where these places, where these cases are prosecuted, 500 new ATF agents to go and force these case, but let's remember something, there is a level of breath-taking hypocrisy here from the NRA.

They spent tens of millions of dollars to fight against, and they kept the Brady Bill from being passed year after year after year. It was when President Clinton came in that we finally found the will to do it, and now they're somehow complaining that they don't like the way it's being enforced. I think they need to come clean with the American public. Tell them where they really are, about how they want to weaken gun laws, about how they're working around the country.

Illinois, Florida, Utah to weaken guns, make felonies now with gun crimes down to misdemeanors. That's an explanation, I think, they owe the American people.

BLITZER: What do you say in response to Mr. LaPierre's charge that H. Rap Brown who's now accused of this sitting a police officer in Atlanta this past week, that he should have been prosecuted when he sought to illegally obtain a weapon a few years ago and the federal government was derelict, and once again the suggestion being that the blood of this police officer who was killed is on the hands of the Clinton administration.

LOCKHART: It's just more, it's more of his rhetoric. The facts in this case are that the local authorities didn't have a case, the gentleman who he allegedly shot came forward and said he couldn't identify him. The two of them stood together at a news conference and said there was no case. Both the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator stood together at a news conference.

You know, the federal government made the same decision that the state made that there was no case to be made. And that's, you know, these are decisions that are made by prosecutors, career prosecutors around the country.

You know, I think Wolf, really the important thing though is as we get passed what's going on with the NRA, because I do think they're out on the extreme. What's important is we get to Congress. Nine months have gone by. They have modest gun control legislation before them. Smith & Wesson, a handgun maker, a handgun maker, could go ahead and take these steps that our Congress, led by the Republican Party can't. It is an absurd situation, the public is looking for answers. And we ought to get that conference committee together, meet, pass some legislation.

BLITZER: All right. Joe Lockhart, stand by. Wayne LaPierre stand by. We're going to bring both of you back into this conversation, but right now we have to take a break. When we come back Joe Lockhart and Wayne LaPierre on gun control. Stay with us.



WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The effort to reduce gun violence to protect our children, to keep guns out of the hands out of the hands of criminals and children is not about politics. IT is about saving lives.



BLITZER: President Clinton making a case for gun control.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking about gun control with White House press secretary Joe Lockhart -- he's in New Delhi, India -- and National Rifle Association vice president Wayne LaPierre --he's here in Washington.

Mr. LaPierre, you heard Joe Lockhart make serious accusations against the National Rifle Association, saying that you're way off base, you've gone off the charts in terms of the charges you're making against the president.

LAPIERRE: Well, he'd like to talk about NRA rhetoric. But let just correct what he said about Rap Brown, because we were in Atlanta all weekend.

The fact is, yes, the Atlanta local authorities could not make the shooting case against Rap Brown, but he was caught in possession of a firearm as a violent convicted felon. The local authorities called the Clinton administration and said: We've got this guy, you know he's a problem, we've got him with a gun, we want you to bring the case. And the Clinton administration -- like they do in cases all over the country with drug dealers with guns, gangs with guns, violent felons with guns -- "it's our policy not to be aggressive about enforcing this, no."

BLITZER: And just on that point, Joe Lockhart, I want your response to that. But H. Rap Brown is suspected in the shooting of this police officer over past few days in Atlanta. He has not been charged or anything formally like that.

But what do you say to that suggestion that the government, again, the federal government, is derelict, is not up to the job?

LOCKHART: Wolf, I think our record stands quite in contrast to the NRA's rhetoric. Let me repeat again: 35 percent reduction in gun crime in this country. That's a fact. The streets are safer.

Under President Clinton -- if you are convicted of a gun crime, you're going to spend two years longer in jail than under President Bush. We have a good record. We've had a heck of a time getting through the commonsense gun safety legislation, getting through putting 100,000 cops on the street. But it's all part of a comprehensive effort, and we are working with communities. It was the U.S. attorney in Richmond who came up with Project Exile. We are working with communities in Boston, Denver, around the country, to crack down and really try to make even stronger gains on this reduction in crime.

BLITZER: It seems, Mr. LaPierre, that the big issue standing in the way of gun control legislation that's been in the works but still hasn't been passed by Congress is whether or not there should be a one-day waiting period for guns purchases at gun shows as opposed to three days, which is what the Clinton administration wants.

You say one day is enough. But they argue that three days sometimes is necessary. Why not wait for 72 hours instead of just simply 24?

LAPIERRE: Well, I mean, one, these shows take place over a day or two. But let me say, the NRA is supporting the bill in Congress that provides mandatory safety locks with the sale of every gun, instant checks at gun shows with up to a 24-hour delay, and violent juveniles forever prohibited from owning a gun.

Now the White House is talking about, oh, this is about 24 or 72. There's a letter out there right now signed by Mr. Gephardt and Mr. Bonior, saying that they will accept nothing less than the Lautenberg Bill. That's the one that would shut down all gun shows. It would define a gun show so broad it could be living room of your house and basically put a phone book volume of red tape on the honest people.

So they're playing politics here. I mean, they're letting the president say one thing, when you go up there on the Hill, I don't think they have any intention of letting even if the Republicans wanted to do it, a bill coming out the other end.

BLITZER: All right, lets let Joe Lockhart respond to that. Mr. Lockhart?

LOCKHART: Well, Wolf, here's the problem: the president wants a system that works. Twenty-four hours, 72 hours, it has to work. And when Smith & Wesson has says 72 hours should be part of their code of conduct, that ought to tell you something.

But what's really happening here is we're not talking 24 hours or 72 hours because the Republican leadership hasn't let the conference committee meet in nine months. And I'm not talking about pass a bill one way or the other. They won't let them meet. For nine months members of Congress have been wanting to come together and reach an agreement here and they're not allowed to meet.

And in fact, what makes it even worse, after all of this tough talk on enforcement, Senator McConnell, the head of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee sent a letter out recently saying the 280 million for enforcement, that was just more gun control law and send us more money so we can defeat it. So there's a lot of double talking going on here. But I think given what's happened in the last few weeks, given the country's focus on this, Congress is going to come back; they're going to meet; they're going to pass legislation that works.

LAPIERRE: More meaningful than anything up on Capitol Hill, though, I want to get right back to it, is the fact we need a zero tolerance policy out of this administration, or the next administration.

BLITZER: But that's on the enforcement issue. On the question of the three days, can the NRA live with a three-day waiting period, background check at these gun shows.

LAPIERRE: We're supporting the 24-hour one. It's supposed to be an instant check. Congress gave the administration $250 million seven years ago. Any consumer corporation in America could have gotten it right. But listen to Bill Clinton's own U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia.

BLITZER: Before we get on to that, this issue of Smith & Wesson, the largest ...

LAPIERRE: Well, let me make a point here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

LOCKHART: Let me make a point here. Of the 179,000 instant stops on instant check last year, if we had only had 24 hours, 34,000 fugitives and felons wouldn't have been caught. That should end this debate. Thirty-four thousand would have gotten through under the system that Mr. LaPierre is now saying we should have.

LAPIERRE: And they wouldn't prosecute any of them. They have no prosecutions against any of them. So if they're such really bad people that are threatening all of us American citizens, how come they haven't prosecuted any of them, they're letting them walk the streets tonight?

LOCKHART: Crime is down in this country, crime is down in this country because prosecutions are up, no amount of Mr. LaPierre's rhetoric can change that. We've worked with Congress, we fought with Congress to try to get more, we're going to get more, and what Mr. LaPierre says can't change that.

LAPIERRE: And Joe, when police all over the country, when they catch a violent felon with a gun, a drug dealer with a gun and they call you guys at the White House and they say, will you take the case, your Department of Justice tells them, we're not interested. You leave those people out on the streets until they shoot or kill somebody when you've got the existing federal gun laws right now to take them off the street, hold them without bail and send them to the federal pen for five years.

BLITZER: Joe Lockhart, go ahead. LOCKHART: Well, that's what Mr. LaPierre says. But that's what Mr. LaPierre says, but let me tell you what every major police organization of this country says. They support the president, they supported the Brady Bill fought by the NRA. They support the assault weapons ban fought by the NRA. They support the Crime Bill fought by the NRA. They support the' elimination of cop killer bullets fought by the NRA.

LAPIERRE: We actually wrote the bill on cop killer bullets, Joe, it because law.

LOCKHART: The president is fighting crime, and Mr. LaPierre's rhetoric will have to stand on its own.

LAPIERRE: And talk to the street cops, they want you to prosecute.

BLITZER: All right, unfortunately, we are out of time. Joe Lockhart, thanks so much for joining us from New Delhi. Wayne LaPierre, thank you for joining us here in Washington. This debate, obviously, is not going away.

But up next, we'll shift to U.S. presidential politics while the Democrats and the Republicans have settled on their nominees, the Reform party is yet to decide on a candidate. We'll talk with the man who's hoping to win that nomination, presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.

LATE EDITION continues right after this.



PAT BUCHANAN (REF), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The party of Ronald Reagan that I loved and served honorably in the White House is, in my judgment, dead. And its successor on Capitol Hill has become little more than the bellhop stand of the business roundtable.


BLITZER: Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan speaking at Harvard University this past week.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining us now to talk about his campaign and the Reform Party's future is Pat Buchanan.

Thanks so much for joining us. Welcome back to LATE EDITION.


BLITZER: You just heard this debate between the White House and the NRA over guns. I take it you probably have a position on who's right: the White House, the president or Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association.

BUCHANAN: Well, I think some of the rhetoric about the -- against the president was over the top, and I don't think it ought to be used. At the same time, I don't believe the president and Mr. Gore ought to exploit these tragedies every time they do to run around and demonize folks who members of the NRA who are good American citizens. So I think they ought to cool the rhetoric a little bit.

And one idea I think that ought to be looked at is really what's known as a gun court, Wolf, and a rocket docket where anyone in any state who commits a crime -- whether it's a burglary or something else -- and has a gun with him is taken separately into a gun court and prosecuted for the gun crime.

We can all agree on one thing.

BLITZER: At the federal level.

BUCHANAN: No, at the state level, too, because that's where most of the action is going to be, quite frankly, and also at the federal level. But the truth is, Wayne LaPierre is very right about the Brady Law. The Feds aren't enforcing it as they should.

But if get a gun court and a rocket docket, you can take -- where we can all agree is, anybody that uses a gun in the commission of a crime, let's give them a separate sentence, and any felon who tries to buy a gun ought to go right to jail.

If we get that done, I think we can agree on about 90 percent of the problem being solved.

BLITZER: Well, on the specific issue that seems to be the major sticking point right now, the one day versus the three-day background check at gun shows -- where do you stand?

BUCHANAN: I come out on the idea that we ought to have a computerized system where every felon in America...

BLITZER: But if you can't do it.

BUCHANAN: You can -- what is the matter with the federal -- I mean, the IRS does a good...

BLITZER: Sometimes it takes three days, though.

BUCHANAN: Look, the IRS has a fine computer system that works to run all of us down and sends us those little letters that are written by the computer...

BLITZER: It takes them a long time to come up with all of this -- that information.

BUCHANAN: Well, they ought to get that done. They ought to do it.

BLITZER: But do you want to take a position: one day versus three days?

BUCHANAN: I'll take a position that it ought to be done day by the computer.

BLITZER: OK, let's move on and talk about a subject that's obviously very close to your heart: your desire to be president of the United States.

Do you realistically, Pat Buchanan, sitting here as not even the Reform Party candidate yet, someone who wants to be the Reform Party candidate, believe you could beat Al Gore and George W. Bush and be the next president of the United States.

BUCHANAN: Well, you know, Jesse Ventura was at 10 percent in October of 1998, and he got in three debates or four debates, and he won the governorship of Minnesota.

By the time the debates come around this fall, I'll be well above that, I believe. If we get into those three debates, I don't think either of these other candidates has really closed the sale with the American people, not as the incumbent president.

BUCHANAN: I think this is wide open. I think the American people have never been more willing to walk away from the two parties and take a look at a third party. If you see John McCain went from what, three percent to about 56 percent beating everybody, in a matter of a couple months. I think it can be done. Is at long shot? Sure.

BLITZER: And so you're not just doing this to make a statement. You're doing this because you're convinced you have a chance of being the next president.

BUCHANAN: Well look, if I felt I were going to come down to eight or 10 percent in the final analysis I wouldn't have done. I believe we can win this and Wolf, the way we're going to win it is get off a lot of this talk who said what about the president in the NRA. Talk about the trade war being conducted against the United States of America by the OPEC cartel. We bail out Mexico, with what, $50 billion. They conspire with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to drive up oil prices by 70 billion against the United States?

I would tell them, the Mexican government and these other governments, no foreign aid, no IMF loans, no World Bank loans, if you're part of this OPEC conspiracy. I would tell the Kuwaitis, look, we saved you, you wouldn't exist without us, now start pumping oil or the American fleet is leaving.

BLITZER: You know, the Treasury department of the Clinton administration says that $50 billion bailout, which was a guaranteed loan to Mexico, was repaid with interest and U.S. taxpayers wound up making money on the deal.

BUCHANAN: You know, I'd call up Ernesto Zedillo and say, Ernesto, you're my buddy. We bailed you out, we gave you NAFTA, which is about free trade. This isn't free trade. This is a conspiracy to rob the American people. Now you sell us now ten times as many cars as we sell you. We're putting a 50 percent tariff on every car that comes north from Mexico until you start pumping oil to the max.

BLITZER: What happens in the course of the coming months, you determine based on the public opinion polls, assuming you get the Reform Party nomination, that you're going to take a lot of votes away from George W. Bush, it's going to be a close contest between Bush and Gore and in effect what you, Pat Buchanan are going to do, is guarantee Al Gore will be the next president.

BUCHANAN: You know, Wolf, before I went -- made this decision to go, I thought it over, I thought of the Supreme Court, I thought of Mr. Bush versus Mr. Gore, I was, I'm one of those, quite frankly, doesn't believe Mr. Bush will beat Mr. Gore in a two-man race. I thought of the Republican establishment calling on everybody's loyalty again, for policies, foreign policies, trade policies in which I disbelieve. And I decided it's time the American people had a new party.

Quite frankly, in a new party, talk -- the key issues, look what's going on in Kosovo and Bosnia.

BLITZER: Before we get to that, in 92 you had a similar opportunity when you decided to vote George Bush, support George Bush, senior.

BUCHANAN: In '92 I gave my word when I went into New Hampshire, they said, Pat if we vote for you, will you support Bush if you lose? I said yes, vote for me, we'll send him a message even if I do lose. I said I would do it in '96.

BUCHANAN: If you recall in this year, Wolf, I think a lot of folks asked me, will you support the nominee if you lose? And I never said definitely I will.

BLITZER: Listen to what you said though in '96 at the convention, because it does show how you shifted.

BUCHANAN: Convention in '96. I didn't speak at the convention in '96.

BLITZER: This was Buchanan at the 1996 Republican National Convention.

BUCHANAN: All right, let's take a look at it.


BUCHANAN: You know, America does not necessarily need a third party. What we need is a fighting second party, a party that means it when it says, says what it means and means what it says.


BUCHANAN: That was about 45 miles north of the convention. BLITZER: That was just before the Republican National Convention. All right, the point is, in '96 you said America does not necessarily need a third party.

BUCHANAN: Exactly.

BLITZER: Why does it need a third party now when four years ago it did not?

BUCHANAN: Because let me point up the consistency here. The third party is essential to create a real two-party system instead of the present fraud that we have right now where both parties are globalist, interventionist, free trade, new world order.

What we need is one party that believes that but the other is populist, conservative, traditionalist, America first, keeps us out of wars that are none of our business, gets American troops out of Kosovo and Bosnia within one year and gets all American ground forces home to the United States of America before the end of the first term of the next president. And that's what I'm committed to do. This global intervention has done us no good. It has made us enemies. And by the end of the first term of the next president it will be 15 years after the Berlin Wall fell. American ground forces ought to be home in the United States where they belong.

BLITZER: And very briefly, on this issue of globalism, you basically don't see any significant difference between Al Gore and George Bush?

BUCHANAN: Well, except that George Bush is more enthusiastic about permanent MFN than Al Gore is. At least Gore tells the labor fellas, look, if you don't get it, I'll give you a side deal. I'll get you a better deal if we lose it. So Gore is better than Mr. Bush on that issue.

BLITZER: All right. Pat Buchanan, saying Gore is better than George Bush.

BUCHANAN: On that issue.

BLITZER: On that issue. Stand by. We have to take a quick break.

Up next: your phone calls for the Reform Party presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan and LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.

Last week on this program, Mr. Buchanan, Jack Kemp, the Republican vice presidential nominee of four years ago, was on, and he said he's happy you're no longer in the Republican Party. And listen to his explanation why.


JACK KEMP (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Pat Buchanan's reform message is, in my opinion, xenophobic, protectionist, isolationist and illiberal, in the classical use of that word.

So let him run and have George Bush run as the reform candidate.


BLITZER: How does it feel to have -- how does it feel to have your former close friend, someone like Jack Kemp -- you've worked with him over the years -- come out and say good riddance to Pat Buchanan from the Republican Party?

BUCHANAN: Well, Jack is right. I don't belong in the present Republican Party that the establishment runs here in Washington, D.C. I don't believe in the globalism Jack believes in.

He mentioned the classical liberals. They are a 19th century group that I think is profoundly wrong.

Our founding fathers -- Wolf, you know, Washington and Hamilton and Clay and Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, who said I thank God I'm not a free trader, these men believed in economic patriotism in trade policies that guaranteed the economic independence of the United States.

Jack's a globalist. Jack's a new -- I mean, Jack's a Davos Republican.

BLITZER: But now you're in a party with Lenora Fulani, leftist, Fred Newman, people who had such controversial left-wing backgrounds, how does it...

BUCHANAN: Fred Newman, whoever he is, said: If Buchanan's elected -- I support him, but if he's elected I'm heading for the Canadian border.

Look, this -- Lenora Fulani supports me because I support real reform. I'm for term limits for members of Congress, eliminating congressional pensions.

And, Wolf, I am for a national initiative and referendum. That's law 'd' democracy. The American people, give them the right to repeal laws and to write laws, each election. To me, that is real -- I mean, that's small 'd' democracy. That's real reform.

BLITZER: You know, four years ago, the former Colorado governor, Dick Lamm, decided he wanted to run for the Reform Party...

BUCHANAN: I know he did.

BLITZER: ... presidential nomination. And then out of the blue Ross Perot came back and said: You know what, I'm going to run.

And he, of course, got the nomination.

Are you convinced Ross Perot will not do that to you this time?

BUCHANAN: Look, I'm not convinced Ross Perot's not going to get in this race. But Wolf, you should never confuse me with Dick Lamm, who's a nice fellow. I mean, I know what we're doing. We've been at this for six months. I went up to Delaware, we got all the delegates there yesterday. Virginia next Saturday, Alaska this week.

Little by little, we are making this a Buchanan populous, conservative, traditionalist party so that by this summer when we go to that convention they're going to be as unified as the Rockettes.

Pat Buchanan -- I mean, we're going to have a great little fighting party and a third party to offer the American people. And you will be astonished how strong we'll be.

BLITZER: Are you in touch with Ross Perot?

BUCHANAN: No, I'm not.

BLITZER: Do you talk to him at all?

BUCHANAN: No, his folks have, you know, given me various signals. We see the smoke signals coming off the top of the mountain, but I have not talked to him personally.

BLITZER: No smoke signals, saying, run, Pat, run.

BUCHANAN: I think initially the smoke signal said that, Pat, we welcome you into the race if you want to run for the nomination. I think there was bad blood between he and Ventura, Mr. Ventura left the party, Mr. Trump departed the party, Mr. Gargen, who was anti-Perot, is out of the party. Pat Choate, his vice presidential candidate, is now the chairman of the party. This party is coming together. It's going to take time, there's going to be a few more bloodbaths, but it's going to be done.

BLITZER: And finally, your strong positions against abortion rights for women, a lot of Reform Party members don't share that position.

BUCHANAN: Yes, but they know me and they know I'm pro-life and I'm not going to change.

BLITZER: And that's that?

BUCHANAN: That's that.

BLITZER: OK, Pat Buchanan, wants to be the Reform Party presidential candidate. Thanks for joining us.

BUCHANAN: You're not going to give me any callers here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, we're all out of time.

BUCHANAN: Let's get Steve Roberts group to applaud again, all right.

BLITZER: Next time. Pat, Pat Buchanan, thanks for joining us. When we return, Ken Starr maybe out of the picture, but the Clinton White House is still under the scrutiny of his successor. We'll talk about whether there's more trouble ahead for the president, the vice president and the first lady with former Clinton White House special counsel Lanny Davis and former Bush attorney general Dick Thornburgh.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.


BLITZER: Still ahead, Lanny Davis and Dick Thornburgh discuss the latest in the independent counsel's continuing investigation of President Clinton. LATE EDITION will be right back. In the meantime, enjoy some of the cherry blossoms in the nation's capital.



RAY: We shall do our best to be thorough and fair and to continue the work of this investigation in a prompt, responsible and cost effective matter.


BLITZER: Independent counsel Robert Ray, speaking last October after taking over the investigation of President Clinton from Ken Starr.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining us now to talk about the investigation and what could be ahead, are two veteran attorneys who've been following the probe: Lanny Davis is a former special counsel for the Clinton White House and Dick Thornburgh served as attorney general during the Bush administration.

Gentlemen, always good to have you back on LATE EDITION. Mr. Thornburgh, let's start off with you. This past week, Robert Ray, the new independent counsel, released his report on the misuse of the FBI files at the White House, saying there is no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing, exonerating senior White House officials, saying this was just a mishap. That's basically what the White House said from the beginning. So the White House was vindicated on the issue of the FBI files.

RICHARD THORNBURGH, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I think we could all be reassured by the finding that the first lady and senior White House officials were not involved in this horrendous delivering up of 900 confidential FBI files. It leaves a lot of management questions unanswered which we'll have to look at in the report when it finally is forthcoming.

But there's a new phenomenon that's implicit in this finding. And that is the defense of incompetence. It raised itself again this week in the admitted failure to serve up to the Congress and to the Department of Justice thousands of e-mails that had been requested, some of which related to this very investigation, some of which related to campaign financing. And I expect it will be forthcoming when a final determination is made about the release of unauthorized relieves personnel files by the Department of Defense.

BLITZER: Well, Lanny Davis, you were involved in the White House in all those -- many of those issues. This issue of incompetence and now these e-mail that's have all of a sudden surfaced and Dan Burton, chairman of one of the House subcommittees investigating, saying he wants to subpoena Beth Nolan who was one of your colleagues at the White House to get to the bought bottom of this issue. And when they subpoenaed these e-mails, they were not available. All of a sudden they are available.

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER CLINTON SPECIAL COUNSEL: Well, if incompetence were a crime, I don't think we would have enough jail cells in mid-level areas of the government as well as members of Congress, I might say. There are staff members who do things that are silly as the FBI files were by the individuals involved. I agree with Dick on that. But let's at least be humbled by all the people who went out in front of the facts, made all these speculative accusations about the FBI files being about political vendettas in the White House -- all turned out to be false. I would love to hear some of those talking heads and partisan Republicans take those words back and have them for dinner, maybe tonight.

BLITZER: Well, it doesn't sound like they will be -- you're going to be having that for dinner any time soon. What is still hanging out there are separate reports that Robert Ray has to release at some point involving the firing of the White House travel office, a controversial issue going back to the first year of the Clinton administration. And also the whole Whitewater land deal which is still out there.

BLITZER: How does a independent counsel, you're a former attorney general, how does an independent counsel release these kinds of reports which potentially could have explosive ramifications for the vice president who is running for president, for the first lady running who's running for the Senate from New York, how do you balance the release of these reports with the politics, the sensitive politics?

DAVIS: Well, the answer is they don't release the reports, they render them to the courts and it's up to the courts as to whether or not it's in the public interest to have these reports made public. The report on the FBI files is not yet public. The independent counsel gave a statement which I expect he'll probably do, either a statement or an indictment will emanate from these other inquiries as well.

But the big one that's waiting out there, of course, is whether or not a criminal prosecution will be forthcoming against the president when he leaves office on the basis of the facts, the underlying facts in the whole Monica Lewinsky investigation.

BLITZER: And Robert Ray is certainly by no means ruling that out that the president might be indicted after he leaves office, in fact earlier today on ABC's "This Week," he sort of signaled that is still a very, very credible possibility.

Listen to this...


ROBERT RAY, INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: No person, including the president of the United States, is above the law. I intend by following through with this process to vindicate that principle.


BLITZER: Lanny Davis, how worried should the president be that after January 20, 2000, he might find himself indicted?

DAVIS: Well, I don't think he has much to worry about because I never believed that he committed perjury or any kind of crime resembling perjury. But I do think Mr. Ray has a problem, once again I agree with my friend Dick. He has a job to do under the law, but he's got to follow the law and that is issue a report, but the report according to the statute, can only describe the disposition of the cases. Senator Dole amended the law in 1994 to prevent an independent counsel from characterizing the evidence because that should be done in an indictment and in a court. So he's got both, on the one hand to inform the public responsibilities, on the other hand, he should not judge or characterize evidence, he simply should present it factually.

BLITZER: How worried should the president be?

THORNBURGH: Plenty worried. I think the essential elements of the offense of perjury and obstruction of justice were established in the contempt findings of federal district court Judge Susan Webber Wright, quoting from her findings, she said the president gave false, misleading and evasive answers that were designed to obstruct the judicial process. I couldn't think of a better capsule statement of what the offenses of perjury and obstruction of justice are.

BLITZER: Senator Charles Schumer though, reflected a commonly held view that given what the country has been through, the president has been through, enough is enough. Listen to what Senator Schumer said earlier today.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Commonsense of the view of the American people is the right view, which is, the president has been punished. He has a mark of Cain on his forehead he can never erase, and that we ought to move on and go on to other things.

(END VIDEO CLIP) THORNBURGH: There's a little bit of hypocrisy in that statement because one of the clarion calls emanating from Democrats in the Senate during the impeachment trial was: Leave this to the criminal justice process.

Now that the impeachment proceedings failed of securing conviction, they say, well, that's enough and we shouldn't go further.

DAVIS: Let me just be clear about the record here on the perjury and obstruction of justice count.

There were five Republican senators, three of them former attorneys general, one of them, Senator Specter, a DA in Philadelphia, Senator Fred Thompson is no partisan Democrat. They said they would have voted to convict to convict the president had they believed there was perjury or obstruction of justice. They voted to acquit. They shared my view, there was no perjury and no obstruction of justice, and that the House managers went too far.

BLITZER: All right. We have a lot more to talk about. This issue is not going away, for the president or for LATE EDITION.

But in the meantime, stand by for our international viewers, World News is next; for our North American audience, another 30 minutes of LATE EDITION.

We'll check the hour's top stories with Jeanne Meserve, then take your phone calls for Lanny Davis and Dick Thornburgh.

Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable and Bruce Morton's last word.

It's all ahead when LATE EDITION continues.



BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll take your phone calls for Lanny Davis and Dick Thornburgh in just a moment. But first, here's Jeanne Meserve with the hour's top stories. Jeanne.


BLITZER: Thanks, Jeanne. Now back to our conversation about the ongoing independent counsel's investigation of President Clinton.

Joining us, former Clinton White House special counsel Lanny Davis and former Bush attorney general Dick Thornburgh. Let's take a caller from Los Angeles, please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Good morning. As partisan members both of you, will you both please answer this question. Do you think millions of dollars spent on these investigations by the IC's office are worth what we're getting for them? Thank you.

BLITZER: Dick Thornburgh? THORNBURGH: That's an interesting question, because I think when a prosecution doesn't result from one of these investigations, people tend to characterize it as a failure. They forget that the counsel law was originally set up to carry out investigations and it's just as successful in exonerating someone as it is in prosecuting them. So I don't think you can characterize it simply by the costs involved.

BLITZER: Although the cost, Lanny Davis, so far all of these investigations of the Clinton administration, about $50 million.

DAVIS: Well, I have to say that in the '80s we Democrats were urging on some pretty expensive independent counsels too. I think the whole act was a disaster because it lacked accountability. If Attorney General Thornburgh had been in charge, he would have gotten more for less money and I would say the same for Attorney General Reno. I'm glad that the Independent Counsel Act has expired.


BLITZER: Let's take another caller from Brooklyn, New York, please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Yes, I would like to know how Mr. Davis is so adamant that the president didn't perjure himself when a judge determined he did perjure himself. That sounds pretty strong to me, if it's coming from a judge.

DAVIS: Well, the last time I heard practicing law, judges aren't always right and I know that there are some pretty good lawyers in the United States Senate who share with me the opinion that for there to be perjury, there has to be a material falsehood. And in this particular instance in that civil deposition, the judge herself ruled that this evidence pertaining to Monica Lewinsky and the president's relationship with Monica Lewinsky was not pertinent to the issue raised by Paula Jones.

And therefore, she actually threw the evidence out as inadmissible. I know there's debate as to why she did it, but it's a debatable subject. We had a civil deposition without a trial in a case that was thrown out of court. I would argue, as I think many U.S senators on the Republican side concluded, this is not perjury.

BLITZER: Did the president perjure himself in that civil deposition?

THORNBURGH: We will never know in the technical sense unless and until there's a prosecution that forthcoming. On the other hand, I think it's very persuasive that Judge Susan Webber Wright did find that he gave false, evasive, and misleading testimony designed to obstruct the administration of justice. That's not a substitute for a criminal conviction but it certainly sets out the elements and it's significant the president did not appeal that finding.

BLITZER: Now the president's lawyer, David Kendall this week is asking that the Arkansas state bar association defer until after the president leaves office this disbarment potentially of the president for his testimony in that Paula Jones lawsuit.

Do you think the president's going to fight it or just say hey, I'm never going to be practicing law anyhow, so go ahead and disbar me?

DAVIS: You don't have to be a friend of Bill Clinton's or a supporter of the president, as I am, to conclude that there is no rush for this to be decided. He's not about to rush out to open up a law practice in Little Rock. What's the rush? Why was there such pressure that the issue has to be decided now as opposed to next January. I think it was a political decision under a lot of pressure unfortunately.

BLITZER: Dick Thornburgh?

THORNBURGH: No rush whatsoever. There actually was a lot of foot dragging because this charge was first brought to the attention of the authorities in Arkansas over a year ago. So it will be disposed of in due course. The president will have an opportunity to defend himself against the disbarment proceeding.

BLITZER: Dick Thornburgh and Lanny Davis, who were such regular participants on LATE EDITION during the course of the impeachment process, always good to have you back. It's amazing. It's already over a year since the impeachment is over with and we're still talking about these issues. Thanks so much for joining us on LATE EDITION.

Up next: who's winning in the battle over gun control? And how will the issue play in the presidential election? We'll talk about that and more when we go 'round the table with Roberts, Black and Carlson.

LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable. Joining me, CNN correspondent, Chris Black, who's filling in for Susan Page; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News and World Report;" and Tucker Carlson, political writer for "The Weekly Standard."

All right, Steve, a lot of moderate Republicans, including George W. Bush campaign officials, seem to be rather nervous about this battle between Wayne LaPierre and the National Rifle Association and Bill Clinton and the White House, fearing it could take away votes in November. Should they be nervous?

STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yes, they should be nervous. Look, Wayne LaPierre and the NRA have a certain set of priorities here. They want to get their members stirred up, they want to raise money, they want to expand their membership. That's not the same as the political interest of George Bush. And I think they are nervous, and they should be.

This is -- everybody knows that the gender gap is going to be significant. The latest polls: can be as big as 18 points. This is an issue Democrats think will be a wedge issue with suburban working mothers. I think they're right.

And I think -- you saw this week at the White House, a number of Republican members of Congress wanted to be in the photograph with Bill Clinton who was doing a gun control photo op because they know where the political advantage is on this issue.

BLITZER: Including some who actually managed the impeachment case against the president in the Senate.

You watch these Republicans. Should they be nervous about this debate between the NRA and the White House?

TUCKER CARLSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: Probably. I mean, the argument the Democrats are making fundamentally is, when a crime is committed, when someone's murdered, when someone holds up a liquor store, it's the fault of the gun.

Now, you know, it's hard to defend that as a logical argument. But on the other hand, as Steve pointed out, it works politically.

Al Gore is getting the support of about 40 percent of American men right now. That means he needs to hold on to women. George W. Bush has shown a pretty good ability to get the votes of women in Texas. This is the key constituency that both are fighting over. And it's true that gun control appeals to female voters disproportionately.

BLITZER: Chris Black, you've been on the campaign trail covering Gore extensively over these past several weeks. Is this an issue that the Gore campaign is going to try to use against George W. Bush, the whole issue of gun control? Do they think it's a winning issue in November?

CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf, there's no question about that. I mean, they will remind people over and over and over again that it was George W. Bush that signed the concealed weapon law in Texas. They think it's an enormously positive issue for them.

And last week, the Smith and Wesson deal at the White House has fundamentally changed the nature of the debate they feel, because the opponents of gun control are always saying, well, it's the criminal's fault. Well, Smith and Wesson has signed on to the notion that, well, maybe it's because the guns are dangerous, which is something -- sort of fundamental point that the White House has been making and that Bill Clinton will continue to make.

Bill Clinton will be the secret weapon in this as the -- in the next few months, this issue will be playing out on Capitol Hill, and when the president's back in town, you can be sure that he will have his mug on CNN and his name on the front page of the papers, like, leading the charge.

BLITZER: You know, Steve, the NRA's running a new ad with Charlton Heston, who's the president of the National Rifle Association, making a strong accusation of the president and making an illusion to the most embarrassing moment of his administration, listen to this.


CHARLTON HESTON, PRESIDENT OF THE NRA: Does it bother you that when someone commits a crime with a gun, Mr. Clinton pops up on TV with another gun law, especially when his administration barely enforces the gun laws we have now?

Mr. Clinton, when what you say is wrong, that's a mistake. When you know it's wrong, that's a lie. Remember?


ROBERTS: Pretty tough. I do think that that's a vulnerability that Bill Clinton has, no doubt about it. And I do -- you know, you had you that big argument between Joe Lockhart and Wayne LaPierre about what exactly are the statistics in terms of law enforcement, you can argue that one both ways.

I do think -- although the NRA, I think, is very much on the wrong side of this issue politically, I do think they make one point that's fair, and that is, I think the Democrats on Capitol Hill have no interest at all in a compromise. I think they want this issue in the fall, they want to be able to point to a do-nothing Republican Congress, and I think they're going to keep moving the goal posts. They talk about a 72-hour waiting period. I think they believe in it, but they could have a compromise, a reasonable compromise if they want it. They don't want it. They want the issue.

BLITZER: So, Tucker Carlson, no matter what the NRA decides, even if they were to go ahead and say, OK, we'll go along with the three-day waiting period instead of the 24 hours, what he's saying is that Dick Gephardt and the Democratic leadership in the House is going to find some other excuse to delay this because they want an issue, gun control, to be the issue in November.

CARLSON: I think that's right. I mean, I think actually the people who support the NRA most aggressively are Democrats. I mean, the NRA is like the perfect foil. You can always point to the fabled powerful gun lobby. Not clear to me that the NRA is very powerful at all. If it were, we wouldn't be having this debate in the first place. But the NRA is sort of like, I don't know, Barney Frank or Speaker Foley were to the Republicans in the 80's, or Ted Kennedy, you could point them up and, you know, scare your people.

BLITZER: But the president in announcing that major deal with Smith and Wesson, the big gun manufacturer in the United States, on Friday he hailed this as an agreement that's going to set the trend down the road. Listen to what the president said at the White House.


CLINTON: This agreement is a major victory for America's families. It says that gun makers can and will share in the responsibility to keep their products out of the wrong hands. And it says that gun makers can and will make their guns much safer without infringing on anyone's rights.


BLITZER: What is this whole decision, this whole agreement between the federal government and Smith and Wesson say about Bill Clinton, the notion that he's a lame duck president?

BLACK: I think Bill Clinton seems to redefine what lame duck is all about.

I was struck by once the nominations were sewn up in the Democratic and Republican side this year, that literally the next day or two days later, Bill Clinton was once again on the front pages. He is showing that he has a remarkable staying power and that he is not going gently into that good night. He is going to sort of rage until the last possible moment, and I think have a big impact. He still has the biggest megaphone in town.

ROBERTS: And that's an important point, because no matter what else is true -- maybe he can't get the bill through Congress, but he can use the White House. He called the Republican leaders to the White House, he had the photo op with the members of Congress, he had the mother of the child who got shot in Michigan. He has an ability to set the -- any president does -- it almost drove the Democrats crazy when Ronald Reagan used the White House for the same reason -- but you're reminded that when it comes to the presidency, it's still the biggest power of the presidency is that megaphone.

BLITZER: All right. We have to take a quick break. A lot more to talk about.

Up next: George W. Bush and John McCain -- can they work things out?

We'll ask the roundtable, when Late Edition continues.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our roundtable.

Tucker, the Republican candidate, George W. Bush, gave an interview to "The New York Times" this week in which he seemed to give the back of his hand to John McCain saying he's learned nothing from John McCain's campaign.

CARLSON: This was a failure of diplomacy on Bush's part. I mean, I think Bush looked -- he was asked repeatedly in this interview, you know, what have you learned, what about John McCain? And he finally said something along the lines of, you know, gee whiz, I won.

And you know, you could make a case for that point of view. I mean, strictly speaking, he's absolutely right. But there's no reason to antagonize McCain. I don't think McCain's going to go third party, but withholding his endorsement doesn't help Bush at all, and there's just no reason to make him mad. BLITZER: Chris, is it realistic, though, to consider the winner as someone who should be more gracious to the loser and go out of his way to say, yes, I did learn something?

BLACK: Sure. I asked Al Gore the exact same question the Tuesday before he really clinched the nomination, and the first words out of his mouth were: Bill Bradley taught me a lot, I owe Bill Bradley, what a great guy. It was really -- well, first of all, it was true, and it is easy.

I think it shows a weakness in Bush's candidacy, frankly, that he wasn't able to sort of recognize that this was a soft ball, this one he couldn't knock right out of the ballpark.

ROBERTS: I mean, it is easy to be a gracious winner, and Bush failed that test.

You know, if you closed your eyes this week and listened to Gore and Bush and said, which of these two guys is more likely to pick John McCain as his running mate, you have to say Al Gore. Al Gore, every day this week, has had something nice to say about John McCain, invoking him and Jesse Ventura. I think Gore has been much faster off the mark in terms of appealing to the McCain voters than Bush has.

CARLSON: Or more shameless, depending on...


ROBERTS: Well, yes, I mean...

BLACK: But he's also in a different place, remember, too. I mean, Gore had this locked up a couple of weeks before George W. Bush did, and there was just a lot less animosity on the Democratic side.

CARLSON: Yes, because the threat was less. I mean, you know, months ago, we knew that Bill Bradley was sort of this amusing -- actually not very amusing side show, but he didn't really threaten Gore.

But McCain did, and I can see why Bush would be rattled by that.

ROBERTS: There's a lot of bad blood -- there's a lot of bad blood on both sides and it hasn't dissipated. And McCain is talking about, you know, comes back to the Senate, going to have this -- use money to have a PAC, going to campaign for Republican candidates who are for reform, but hasn't endorsed Bush yet.

He could be a problem for Bush, and it was stupid of Bush not to reach out to him.

BLITZER: Speaking about bad blood, there's certainly some bad blood between Bush and Gore reflected already in the ads that they're beginning to unveil. We've got two samples here. First, an ad from George W. Bush touting his own education record, going after the vice president and Bill Clinton, followed by an immediate rapid-response ad from the Gore campaign. Listen to this exchange. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Is the status quo in America's schools good enough? Under Al Gore and Bill Clinton, national reading scores stagnated. America's high school students place almost dead last in international math tests. Gore and Clinton had eight years, but they've failed.



ANNOUNCER: George W. Bush, from South Carolina to New York, he used dirty politics to trash John McCain's record. Now he's running attack ads against Al Gore.

On the issue of education, America deserves a real debate, not more negative ads from George W. Bush.


BLITZER: All right, Steve, who got the upper hand in that exchange?

ROBERTS: Well, I think that there's no doubt that Bush is going to go after the administration record and they should. Fact is, if you're going to run on the record, if you're going to tout the economy, you've got to answer for some of the downside. But I think there again, there was John McCain in Al Gore's ad, you know.

BLITZER: Very quickly, Tucker, we only have a few seconds.

CARLSON: Well, I mean, that's a good point. I'm just not sure that the McCain voter, whoever he is -- I don't think anybody really knows -- is going to find a natural home with Al Gore, despite how many times he says reform.

BLITZER: All right, Tucker Carlson.

Chris Black, welcome to LATE EDITION, always good to have you on the show.

Steve Roberts. Susan Page will be back next week.

Just ahead, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines plus Bruce Morton's last word on a 6-year-old boy at the center of an international tug of war.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The exile community in Miami wants Elian here because it's a poke in the eye for Castro's Cuba and they value that.


BLITZER: Two nations wait for a decision on Elian Gonzalez. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's "Last Word."

Any day now, a federal judge in Miami could issue a ruling on whether 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez should remain in the United States with relatives or be returned to his father in Cuba.

Today, Bruce Morton shares his thoughts about the case.


MORTON (voice-over): It's a story about a little kid. For some, it's a story about Fidel Castro, a story about Cuban Americans who see Castro as the devil and view everything in terms of its effect on him. But it is really a story about a 6-year-old, Elian Gonzalez.

He came last November, you remember. His mother died. The boat broke apart, but six-year-old Elian landed in America, where people at once began to fight over him. His father, in Cuba, wants his son back. What father wouldn't? And Elian, at least in the beginning, must have wanted to go home, rather than stay with strangers -- relatives, sure, but strangers to him.

Then they gave him a lot of toys and stuff. Did that change his mind?

And anyway, should a 6-year-old decide his fate? Six-year-olds, meaning no particular harm, will put the cat in the microwave. They need parents to teach them about life.

Elian came in November. December, January, February, March -- he's been here roughly four months now. How much does he remember home and father?

In the 1960's, I spent six months covering the war in Vietnam. When I got home, the four-and-half-year-old remembered me; the one- and-a-half-year-old did not. So Elian probably remembers still.

Washington and Havana agree, international law calls for Elian to go home. But his relatives here can appeal, then time will pass; appeal to a higher court, and time will pass; appeal, probably all the way to the Supreme Court. And more time will pass, months and then years, and Elian's memories of the only parent he has left will fade.

The exile community in Miami wants Elian here because it's a poke in the eye for Castro's Cuba and they value that. Elian will grow up in freedom, the speeches go. But those are speeches, words, political points on some scoreboard. And it's about speeches and political points, sure it is.


BUSH: And I think it's a mistake for the INS to send the boy back to Cuba.



GORE: The matter should be resolved in the court that normally takes jurisdiction over such cases.


MORTON: But at its heart, it's about a little kid who can't go home.

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.

On the cover of "Newsweek": "Visions of Jesus Through the Eyes of Five Religions."

The world of computers is on two covers this week. "TIME" has "Do-It-Yourself.Com" with author Stephen King. "Who Needs Hollywood When You Can Make Your Own Movies, Books and Music?"

And on the cover of "U.S. News & World Report," " Adult Entertainment Is Making Millions on the Web, but Will Wall Street Buy in?"

That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, March 19. Be sure to catch us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

And I'll be back tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for "The World Today."

Next Sunday, LATE EDITION live from Moscow. I'll be there as part of CNN's special coverage of the Russian presidential election.

For now thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.



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