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CNN Late Edition

Police and Protesters Clash in Washington; Elian Gonzalez Case Hinges on Federal Judge's Upcoming Decision

Aired April 16, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington and Miami, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6:00 p.m. in Rome, and 8:00 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this 90 minutes LATE EDITION.

We'll get to our guests in just a moment, but first, let's check the hour's top stories.

We begin here in Washington where demonstrators are blocking streets to protest this week's meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. More than 700 protesters have already been arrested so far this weekend.

CNN's Kate Snow joins us now from downtown Washington with the latest.

Kate, what's going on?

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, take a look behind me. You can see police at a barricade here and behind them, a sort of chain of people, protesters that have been out here all morning. We're about a block away from the entrance of the IMF and the World Bank, and police have cordoned off about a three-quarter of a mile -- square-mile area right in the center of downtown Washington. And, again, the protesters have circled around that area trying to form this human chain.

Now they have been out all morning this morning. Take a look at some of the pictures we have gotten in. You can see them interacting with police. In some cases things not going the way police would like.

These protesters are out on the street. They don't have a permit to be out here, and Washington, D.C. police have said that they've been trying to keep from arresting or from having to interact with the protesters, trying to keep things peaceful. But in some cases when things have gotten out of hand, they have used their clubs.

We don't know which agencies are being -- have been using those police batons. There are a lot of different agencies, Wolf, at work here: the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan police as well as federal agents are out here, FBI agents, the U.S. Secret Service has some police here. So it's a little confusing to know who has been involved in all these interactions.

Where we are, the Washington, D.C., police say things are going remarkably well. Chief Ramsey spoke to reporters a short time ago.


CHARLES RAMSEY, CHIEF OF POLICE, WASHINGTON, D.C.: Allowing the protesters to protest, to voice their opinions, I think is very important. But I also think it's very important that World Bank and IMF be able to hold their meetings, and that's what we're all about in the Metropolitan police department and other agencies that are helping with this.


Now, the Washington, D.C., police -- back live now in Washington -- they have spent about $1 million dollars preparing for this day. They talked with Seattle police about what happened at the WTO meetings last fall, and they have gotten themselves fully prepared.

You'll see there, they have helmets on, chin guards, they are prepared with canisters of pepper spray which they have been told to deploy if necessary.

And just within the last 15 minutes or so, Wolf, we've seen a sort of change. These police behind me put on their helmets, and they say they're prepared to go in and move on in the protesters. We may be seeing some more activity just in the moments to come.


BLITZER: OK, Kate Snow reporting from Washington. And stay with CNN throughout the day for complete coverage of the events unfolding here in Washington.

Meanwhile, millions of nervous investors in the United States and around the world are bracing for the Monday morning opening of the U.S. stock markets, following the huge drop on Friday. Joining us now to discuss the aftershocks: Mary Farrell. She's the senior investment strategist for PaineWebber. She joins us from our New York studio.

Ms. Farrell, thank you so much for joining us on LATE EDITION.

The Dow Jones closed down 617 points on Friday, the NASDAQ was down 355 points.

First of all, what happened that caused this drop?

MARY FARRELL, SENIOR INVESTMENT STRATEGIST, PAINEWEBBER: We have been experiencing some very significant weakness over the course of the week, particularly in the NASDAQ technology stocks. The real trigger Friday morning was an unexpectedly negative inflation report suggesting that inflation, which had been at bay through most of this recovery, actually had started to heat up.

BLITZER: And millions of people are wondering: What do they do tomorrow when the stock market opens up at 9:30 a.m. Eastern?

FARRELL: I think it's important to put this in perspective and not panic. You know, the major correction was in NASDAQ and that was up 85 percent last year, had barreled through the first few months of this rear with another 20 percent-plus gain. So, I think what has happened is these particularly Internet stocks had a long way to correct, that's probably not over. But I think at some point soon, and I don't know if it's Monday morning or will take awhile longer, rationality should come back and the companies that do have earnings, that will continue to do well, should have some recovery.

BLITZER: So you're not advising your clients to cash in at this point and to sell off some of their weaker stocks?

FARRELL: Well, I think we're going to see the weaker stocks selling off more. And I would think that investors need to make a very important distinction here. One very negative aspect of this bull market, more recently the last year or two, has been these intercom companies, that have no earnings, no visibility of earnings, these IPO's that have quintupled their first day of trading. When you buy a stock, you're buying a future stream of earnings and dividends and if there are none, you're really not buying much. So the history of early new technologies, most of the early new players fall by the wayside and I think that's what we're seeing here. So I'd expect continued weakness in that Internet sector of the market.

BLITZER: So the high-tech stocks, the new economy stocks if you will, they've suffered but the old blue chips, the old stocks, the old economy stocks have suffered as well. Is this going to be across the board continuing like this or do you think there's going to be a differentiation between the new economy versus the old economy stocks?

FARRELL: I think we will continue to see that differentiation, although some of the older economy stocks did get some better price performance more recently, they had gotten so undervalued, we're not going back to the old industrial days. We are an information economy, 80 percent of our employment is in the information or service sector, 70 percent of our GDP. So I think what we will start seeing is the differentiation emerging, that companies that got too under valued in the correction will come back provided they've got the visibility of earnings and I think ultimately those older companies are going to have to have something going for them, that is a good earnings stream down the road to be part of the market advance.

BLITZER: All right Mary Farrell of PaineWebber, thank you so much for joining us this Sunday on LATE EDITION.

And now we turn to the bitter custody battle of over 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez. His Miami relatives continue to defy a federal order to hand him over to his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.

CNN's Gary Tuchman joins us now from Miami's Little Havana, outside the Gonzalez family home, with the latest developments. Gary, what's happening on this Sunday?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he was found in the Atlantic Ocean on Thanksgiving day but now four and a half months later on Palm Sunday he remains where he's been since then. Elian Gonzalez is still inside the house of his great uncle Lazaro. But will Elian be here on Easter? That's an open question. Just a short time ago, demonstrators participated in a Palm Sunday Mass, Cuban- American style. And that they also prayed for the downfall of Fidel Castro and for Elian to stay in the United States.

Worshipers held signs and also held palm fronds with Cuban and U.S. flags attached. They'll all anxiously await a federal appeals court ruling about whether Elian Gonzalez should be sent back to his father immediately. That ruling could come at any time. Very unlikely it would come today on a Sunday, especially because today is Palm Sunday, many people, especially people here, feel that would be very insensitive if a ruling came down today but it's very probable the ruling could come as early as tomorrow.

Now we haven't seen Elian yet today but it is a routine, every time he comes out for the first time and plays on his swing set, the demonstrators who are here each and every day wave and say hello and clap. Elian is truly a hero to many of these people here, many of them compare him to the baby Moses. If Elian ends up leaving it would be a terrible blow to many of the people of this neighborhood which is the epicenter of the Cuban-American exile population. But it's something that certainly could happen.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Gary Tuchman in Miami, thanks. On Friday, Elian's great uncle Lazaro Gonzalez wrote an open letter requesting that the government wait until after Easter Sunday, that's one week from today, before attempting to reunite the father and the son.

Joining us now to discuss the ongoing legal issues in this custody dispute is Spencer Eig, he's the attorney for the Gonzalez family in Miami. Mr. Eig, welcome back to LATE EDITION.


BLITZER: You know that the federal government, the Justice Department had an order, 2:00 p.m. last Thursday, for (OFF-MIKE) Elian Gonzalez to be brought to the Opa-locka air base, airport outside of Miami. The government says, the federal government says, you're now in violation of that order.

Do you believe you are unlawfully, that your client is now unlawfully in custody, holding onto Elian Gonzalez, and if not, why?

EIG: Absolutely not, Wolf. Our client is in complete compliance with the law. Lazaro Gonzalez is taken the responsibility given to him a long time ago to take care of Elian. But Lazaro Gonzalez is not an illegal alien and he's not under the jurisdiction of the INS, he can't be ordered any more than you or I can to do INS' work.

Lazaro has promised Elian that he will not do anything to harm him. And it is to me quite immoral that INS is insisting that Lazaro Gonzalez be their deportation officer and carry out their dirty work. He has said that he will stand by, allow INS officials to do their work if they must, he will cry, his heart will break, but he will obey the law. But he is under no legal requirement to actively deliver this boy into the hands of Fidel Castro through any means.

In fact, in the law for example, if the police wanted to arrest somebody who had committed a crime, they wouldn't send that person's relatives letters threatening them and demanding that they turn in the relative. It's ridiculous. They could come and they could get the boy or we could do this in another more sensible way. But to call Lazaro Gonzalez a law-breaker, the only crime that Lazaro Gonzalez has ever committed is loving and protecting a 6-year-old boy.

BLITZER: Do you believe that the government, the Justice Department could get a court order, ordering you to bring the boy to a different location, given the passions, given the sensitivities of what would occur presumably if federal marshals, if INS officials were forced to go into the home there in Miami and forcibly bring the boy out of there?

EIG: No, I don't believe that they could get such an order. They don't have any control or power over Lazaro Gonzalez. He's a legal resident of this country like you or I and INS has jurisdiction only over illegal aliens.

Wolf, I think, however, that would be a bad idea. In any event, this is not a case that's appropriate for proceeding solely by threats and ultimatums, I think INS should step back. Wolf, this is a great country. We won World War II, we won the Cold War, we stood up against the dictators as a free peoples, we have nothing to prove. Our government does not need to prove they can crush a small, loving family and a 6-year-old boy.

Instead, I would suggest that we take, that the government, that INS take up Mr. Gonzalez's suggestion that this week is Holy Week for the Gonzalez family, it's Passover for me and my family. I have plans to be outside of Miami celebrating the holiday in Minnesota with relatives. This is not a time for law enforcement action but since it's such a religious time and one of the great principles of our country is that we're one nation, indivisible under God, that this is a great time for everybody to step back, to take a breathing spell, and for everybody to think about how to proceed.

The one thing that we should do this week is talk about how Juan Miguel Gonzalez can come to Florida safely and spend the holiday with his son.

BLITZER: We're hearing from a "Miami Herald" reporter who was in the room when Elian Gonzalez spoke with his father last night for about 20 minutes, that at the end of that conversation, the little boy was blowing kisses into the telephone, obviously a sign of affection for his father. Yet at the same time, some of your colleagues are suggesting that Juan Miguel Gonzalez was not a fit father, that he was abusive of his son. What is the true story? Because we've heard all sorts of allegations coming from the relatives in Florida.

EIG: The true story should come out in a court hearing, not on television interviews. The Gonzalez family always wants to remain a family, but I'll tell you, Wolf, there was a controversy last week about the video that Elian made, today about these statements. The reason why these things have happened is because these things, Elian making this statement, these other pieces of evidence, should come out in a hearing before an asylum officer or family court judge in private. That would be ideal.

But because INS has not allowed Elian a hearing, well, Elian is just not willing to be condemned to a future in Cuba in silence. His voice must be heard and the evidence must be heard.

BLITZER: You heard your counterpart, Gregory Craig, the lawyer for Juan Miguel Gonzalez suggesting that releasing that videotape that all of us have now seen repeatedly of Elian Gonzalez was abusive. Listen to what Greg Craig said earlier this week. Listen to this:


GREGORY CRAIG, ATTORNEY FOR JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ: On the morning shows, on national television, in the streets of Miami and now most recently in a videotape taken of Elian in his own bedroom, not only have these relatives broken the law, they have emotionally damaged and exploited this most wonderful little boy.


BLITZER: You've been widely criticized for releasing that videotape, supposedly for exploiting the boy as Gregory Craig says. Was that a mistake to release that very, very emotionally charged videotape?

EIG: Wolf, like I said, it would have been better if Elian had been a chance to make his statements in court before an asylum officer or family court judge. But because INS has denied him the opportunity to do so, he was not willing to be condemned to a future in Cuba in silence. It's important that Elian's voice be heard and he had no other alternatives.

BLITZER: And so you're saying that that was a wise move, even though the public relations side of it was damaging?

EIG: Well, I don't know if the public relations side was right or wrong. This took place under the atmosphere of the constant threats that INS has been leveling against this loving family. Calling them law breakers is outrageous. This family has sacrificed their lives, practically, in order that Elian be well-taken care of in this country. They are carrying out the voice of the person who is even better able to speak for Elian than his father, and that is his mother, who raised him, gave birth to him and died so that he could find freedom in this country. They are speaking for him, and for her, rather, and that is an extremely powerful voice that must be heard.

BLITZER: Mr. Eig, can you just clarify one point for us: if it comes down to civil disobedience, if it comes down to rejecting what the government, what the courts are going to call on the uncle, the great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez, to do, is he prepared to do that or do you believe he will comply with the law as stated?

EIG: He will comply with the law, and he has consistently and with complete success urged this group of Cuban-American demonstrators to obey the law and they all have.

You know, Wolf, our founding fathers wrote in the right to peaceable assembly and the right to petition the government of grievances into our Constitution. And they didn't do to waste their time. It's perfectly fair, it's perfectly American, it's perfectly proper that INS step back and listen to the voices of these thousands and thousands of demonstrators who are after all mostly witnesses of life in Cuba and know more about it than the rest of us, should step back and listen to them and say: We need to give Elian a hearing.

There was a very good editorial by Tom Fielder in "The Miami Herald" this morning, and he said: History will look back and they will see, if Elian is sent back to Cuba, in what happened to him there. And that's how they will judge everybody's performance in this case. Since that is the ultimate issue, that should be looked into in a fair and open hearing.

And now everybody is here to participate in it. Juan Miguel can participate, the Cuban government can participate, Greg Craig and the family and the INS, and we can determine what, if any, would be Elian's future in Cuba. I think now is the time for that.

BLITZER: Spencer Eig, it was good of you to share some of your Sunday with us here on LATE EDITION. Thank you so much for joining us.

EIG: My pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: And up next, as the legal arguments continue, Elian Gonzalez and his father are still apart in separate cities. What does Juan Miguel Gonzalez plan to do next? We'll speak to the chief Cuban diplomat in the United States: Fernando Remirez.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.



JANET RENO, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have the authority to take action. But responsible authority means not only being able to take action, but knowing when and how to take that action.


BLITZER: Attorney General Janet Reno, trying to balance her duty to carry out the law while not adding to the trauma of young Elian Gonzalez. Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Now we get the view from the Cuban government's side.

Joining me here in Washington is Fernando Remirez, chief of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington. Juan Miguel Gonzalez and his family are staying in the home of Mr. Remirez outside Washington. Mr. Remirez, welcome to Late Edition. Thank you so much for joining us.


BLITZER: You heard Spencer Eig say just get these two families, the two sides of the family, together, away from the diplomats, away from the lawyers, away from everybody else and they might be able to work it out. They want Juan Miguel Gonzalez obviously to come to Florida. Is that in your opinion realistic, that he would actually go down to Florida to try to work this out family to family?

REMIREZ: Of course not, particularly at this point. I cannot speak on behalf of Juan Miguel but he said very clearly that he will not go to Miami for obvious reasons. This week he accepted to meet with his relatives here in Washington. He accepted almost all the conditions, of course, after he will receive the child, after he will receive Elian. But that was not possible not because of him, because in the end the relatives from Miami didn't accept that agreement, that deal. In other words, I think that Juan Miguel is very sad now because he has been here in this country for almost nine days, he only have seen his son by television. And nevertheless, he is trying to do his best in a way to be reunified with his son as soon as possible.

BLITZER: So how do you think this should be resolved as soon as possible? What does the Cuban government, that you represent, what does the Cuban government want the U.S. government, the Clinton administration, to do at this point?

REMIREZ: Just according to the law, the international law, the Cuban law and first place, the U.S. law as the president, Ms. Reno, Mrs. Meissner, all of them have said. Just to accomplish according to U.S. law in a way that this child will be together with his father and not only his father, also with his real family because the true story of this is that the real family of this boy is in Cuba. Because we are talking about the father, that is the most important thing, his brother, his stepmother, the four grandparents who are in Cuba, his uncle. All these people are in Cuba, and that is the real family of Elian.

BLITZER: You know the charge made by Cuban-Americans in Florida and elsewhere, that you, the Cuban government, are really controlling Juan Miguel Gonzalez and his family. He is not free to really say and do what he really wants to do.

REMIREZ: Well, you have to ask that question to Juan Miguel. He has been in many different places, places by himself, with his wife and his baby son, many different meetings. And every time he say the same answer. But you have to ask him. But even now I think that he is attending an activity by his own will together with Rev. Joan Campbell. He has been in many different meetings, not only the meeting with Ms. Reno, also with other members of the Congress, with many different personalities and he has been acting by himself.

BLITZER: With hindsight, was it a mistake for Juan Miguel Gonzalez to wait four months before coming here to the United States during which period, emotions could get more heated up? Should he have come right away to try to reunite with his son?

REMIREZ: Well, it's something that I think he had to explain by himself, what he told us is during the first weeks he believed in his relatives from Miami who told him that he will return the boy as soon as possible. After that, it started all this legal procedures and even at some point, even he received advice from this government that was not the opportune moment to come here.

But finally, we received and he also received the opinion that it was the right moment and you see what happened. Now after that, it is the decision of the U.S. government, it is the decision of the U.S. Justice Department also from the federal court.

Nevertheless, he has been here in this country for nine days, he has not been able to receive his child. What if anything is the main criticism you have of the U.S. government's handling of this very, very sensitive case?

REMIREZ: I don't want to go into this, because I think that the U.S. government has very clear position, maybe not at the very beginning that we would prefer, but after January 5, there was a very clear procedure that this child must be reunified with his father. Of course, that is also our position. But I think that the most important thing is to act quickly, as soon as possible and to stop the suffering of the child, the suffering of this family, the exploitation of this little boy and even the child abuse of Elian.

BLITZER: As the chief Cuban diplomat in the United States, one of your missions is to improve relations between the United States and Cuba.

Put on that diplomatic hat for a second, tell us, do you think this Elian Gonzalez case in the end will have an impact in strengthening, improving the relationship between the United States government and the Cuban government or it won't have any effect?

REMIREZ: Well, I really don't know. But we hope that will be that way because the truth is that we prefer to have a normal relations with the United States, is that our goal, that is our mission here in Washington, like we had with the rest of the world because the truth is that we have diplomatic relations with 168 countries, last year we had trade with 4,000 companies from 135 countries. And that isn't saying that we expect that will happen in the future with the United States, with the American people, with American companies, because also one of the products that we have is that we're not asking for help, we are not asking for aid, just for the opportunity to make business.

BLITZER: Finally, because we're running out of time, one of the great concerns of Cuban-Americans and others in the United States who are supporting that position, is that if Juan Miguel Gonzalez brings Elian Gonzalez back to Cuba, that he, the boy, will suffer there, he will be used as a propaganda toy, if you will, ploy, by Fidel Castro, become a puppet, if you will, for propaganda purposes. What do you say about that? Can you offer any assurances that's this little boy, who has already been through so much won't be exploited politically by Fidel Castro if he goes back to Cuba?

REMIREZ: No, absolutely no. That is the answer to that question. We stayed very clear on what our leaders say, I see that (OFF-MIKE) said just last week that the only thing that will happen to Elian when he will return to Cuba, that he will be reunified with his family, as soon as possible he will try to have a normal life like any other child in Cuba.

BLITZER: We only have a second, but you realize the certainly the quality of the life, the wealth that he could have here would be a lot greater than back in Cuba.

REMIREZ: That's true, but also let me tell you, Elian had a very good life in Cuba according to the Cuban standards as Juan Miguel say many times, for a group of reasons that will be long to compare, he had a very good life. Some of the business about his life in Cuba showed that and he had a very happy life, all his family in Cuba before this.

BLITZER: All right, Fernando Remirez, the chief Cuban diplomat here in Washington, thank you so much for joining us on this Sunday as well. Thank you.

REMIREZ: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you and just ahead, we'll get the Clinton Administration's view of the Elian Gonzalez case with White House chief of staff John Podesta. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.



WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To me, this case is about the rule of law. I've done everything I could to stay out of it. I avoid politicizing it, but I do believe that it is our responsibility to uphold the law and we're doing our best to do that.


BLITZER: President Clinton keeping a safe distance from the emotionally charged custody dispute over Elian Gonzalez. Welcome back to LATE EDITION. For the White House perspective on the boy's case and more, we're now joined by White House chief of staff John Podesta.

Mr. Podesta, welcome back to LATE EDITION.


BLITZER: How much longer is the Clinton administration going to allow this drama to be played out.

PODESTA: Well, you know the matter's before the 11th Circuit now, Wolf, and the Justice Department has said that they won't take enforcement action while this motion is pending. We expect to prevail on that. We've asked for an order from the court to ask the Miami relatives to turn the custody back over to the boy's father. We're hopeful that the 11th circuit will rule quickly. We expect that and then we're prepared to take action in conjunction with the law of the land and the rule of law in this country.

BLITZER: And if the 11th circuit rules in your favor, in the administration's favor, and it goes to the Supreme Court assuming they let that ruling stand, the question is do you continue to try to negotiate with the family to find a compromise, or do you immediately just tell them, the federal marshals, the INS officials are going in to take this boy out of the house?

PODESTA: Well, we hope we don't have to get to that point. We want to see a peaceful reunification between Elian and his father, and we hope the Miami relatives will cooperate in that. But a lawful order has been issued to the relatives, relinquishing their custody of Elian, and we think that once the court has had an opportunity to rule on this, that the time has run and that that ought to be effectuated.

BLITZER: You heard Spencer Eig, the lawyer for the family, say he doesn't believe they're in violation of that order. Do you believe they are unlawfully holding on to that boy?

PODESTA: Well, they have no legal authority to hold on to him. He ought to be reunited with his father and that's what we hope we can accomplish.

You know, last week they said that if we could just sit and talk to Juan Miguel, the boy's father, face to face, as a family, in a neutral setting, then we will go ahead and effectuate the return of the boy to the father. The attorney general, the Justice Department, with the help of Senator Torricelli, arranged for that, they agreed to that, and then at the last minute they backed off and said, no, we're don't want to proceed in that fashion.

BLITZER: That would have brought the family and Elian to a Washington...

PODESTA: To Washington.

BLITZER: ... to a neutral setting.

PODESTA: To a neutral setting where they could have talked. They could have given the father their views about what they thought the best interests of Elian were. But ultimately I think it was the attorney general's judgment, it was the district court's judgment, the family court's judgment in Miami, and is certainly the administration, the president's judgment, that the boy -- that the father speaks for the boy and the boy's best reunited with the father.

BLITZER: Earlier today, John McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona, questioned the way Janet Reno has been handling this case. Listen to what he said, because I would be anxious to get your reaction on how Janet Reno has handled this entire affair. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's not the first issue she's mishandled, whether it be Waco or the failure to appoint an independent counsel for the campaign finance abuses by Clinton and Gore in '96. For her to set a deadline and then allow it to pass obviously is going to cause her problems in the future.

BLITZER: Do you have confidence in Janet Reno?

PODESTA: Absolutely. I think she has handled this in a measured way, in a way that is -- what she has attempted to do is handle this case so that there's a peaceful resolution of the matter, but that the rule of law prevails. And I think that injecting politics into this is, there's been too much of that. And I think that Senator McCain's comments are unfortunate in trying to link those cases.

I think what we want to try to do is do this in a peaceful manner. And there's one way to do, which is have the Miami relatives follow the rule of law and cooperate in effectuating a return of the boy with his father.

BLITZER: If that doesn't happen, though, would President Clinton personally have to sign off on any use of force or sending troops -- not troops but federal marshals in to bring that boy out of the house?

PODESTA: The attorney general has kept the president informed, and I think she will keep the president informed. The president has confidence in the attorney general.

But what we want to see is not the use of force but the peaceful resolution of this matter, and that's in the hands of the Miami relatives. And we hope that they will cooperate in that. But ultimately the rule of law must prevail and the administration is prepared to enforce that.

BLITZER: And finally, as far as U.S.-Cuban relations are concerned, let me ask you the same question I asked Ambassador Remirez: Do you think in the end this whole affair will have the bottom-line result of improving U.S.-Cuban relations?

PODESTA: I think in the end this whole affair is about a little boy who's lost his mother, who ought to be reunited with his father, and it should be kept out of politics and it shouldn't be about Cuban- U.S. relations. There's been too much of that, and I think that's what's caused the problems in this case rather than any solution.

We have differences and very big problems with the Cuban government, but that's not what this case is about. This case is about who speaks for that little boy and we think it ought to be the father.

BLITZER: All right, John Podesta.

Stand by, we have a lot more to talk about, but we have to take a quick commercial break. When we come back, we'll talk about the stock markets, the economy, guns, and a lot more with John Podesta.

LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture of the United States capitol here in Washington. Congress is not in session this week, they're enjoying a Spring break to celebrate Passover and Easter.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our discussion with the White House chief of staff John Podesta.

Let's talk about the stock markets for a second. The inflation report that came out suggesting inflation might be a little bit more intense, causing this big drop on Friday. President Clinton, of course, has been blessed with a strong economy for seven years. Is this the beginning of a new chapter where inflation might go up, that would mean interest rates would go, that would mean growth would go down and recession, perhaps.

Shouldn't the American people watching this program and people around the world be nervous about the state of the U.S. economy right now?

PODESTA: Well, you know, we don't comment on the fluctuations in the stock market but I would say that the fundamentals in the U.S. economy are quite strong. If you look at all the private sector prediction, we're looking at more strong growth, more productivity growth, low unemployment, low inflation. We had a bump up as a result of the price of petroleum, we've worked hard to get more production from OPEC and the price of petroleum has begun to come down.

But I think the fundamentals are quite strong and with regard to your comment that the president has been blessed, I think the president has worked pretty hard to get the fundamentals right, to get the $290 billion deficit down to a balanced budget and now surpluses, we're continuing to make, we think, the right kind of investments and continuing to open markets around the world which will keep the economy moving strongly.

BLITZER: But you know, you've heard the criticism that one reason why the stock market has had this turn around is because of the Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft, and that this is something that should not have been done and that's causing this enormous loss of wealth and value of stocks. Listen, for example, to what Congressman J.C. Watts of Oklahoma had to say specifically about the suit against Microsoft.

Oh, well let me read it to you because we don't have the audio of that. "The dive in the NASDAQ market is a direct result of the Clinton-Gore administration meddling with the private sector.

PODESTA: Wolf, if Mr. Watts thinks that enforcing the antitrust laws, which have been done on a bipartisan basis, of course the Sherman antitrust law was named after a famous Republican senator, that's a kind of a interesting point of view. I think what the Justice Department has done in the Microsoft case is to try to enforce the law, the judge, the district court judge agreed with them in that case, but I don't think that has very much to do with the stock market.

I think that investors will make their own judgments about where to invest their money, but as I said earlier, I think what we need to do is to keep on the path of fiscal discipline, keep investing in things like education, science and technology, meet the challenges of Medicare and Social Security, and keep the fundamentals strong. So I think if Mr. Watts has a problem with that, it's indicated more in the public policy arena and we ought to keep our comments to the public policy arena rather than commenting on specific antitrust cases.

BLITZER: All right, now shifting gears, talking about the gun issue, which is a huge issue especially this first anniversary of the Columbine school shootings in Colorado. You seemed so close yet there's no deal yet with the House or the Senate on new gun control measures, specifically the three-day waiting period that the Clinton administration, many Democrats want to purchase a gun at a gun show.

Henry Hyde, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee was on "Meet the Press" earlier today, and he raised a question or two about whether or not you, the Clinton administration, really wants a deal. Listen to what he said.


REP. HENRY HYDE (R-IL), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I have a fear, and I hope I'm dead wrong, that some people want the issue, they don't want a bill. You get to the 10-yard line and you look up and there are no goal posts, they moved them on you.


PODESTA: Well, he is dead wrong. I think that we have been hard at work to try to get a good bill to close the gun show loophole and the problem as Mr. Hyde knows, and I think that we've tried to be cooperative, the president met with Mr. Hyde, but the problem as Mr. Hyde knows, is that Senator Hatch, Republican chairman of the conference, refuses to call the conference committee together so that people can have a common sense discussion about common sense gun safety legislation.

I think if we could get to the table, we have some particular problems with the new proposal that Mr. Hyde has put on the table, but I think that the difference between Mr. Hyde, Mr. Conyers and the Clinton administration is really actually quite narrow and we could resolve those differences. But for nine months, nearly nine months now, Senator Hatch has refused to call the conference together, to begin to debate those issues and do what Congressmen and Senators are supposed to do, which is to work in the public interest, see if we can resolve our disputes and move forward.

BLITZER: Very quickly because we only have a few seconds left. During the House impeachment process, the president's lawyer at that time, Charles Ruff, said the president does not want nor will he accept any pardon after he leaves office.

Is that statement still operable as far as Bill Clinton is concerned?

PODESTA: Absolutely, the president spoke to it this week. Chuck Ruff said it, the vice president said it, the president said it.

BLITZER: He didn't say specifically he would not accept a pardons.

PODESTA: Look, pardons are off the table. The only thing that's still on the table is Mr. Ray's investigation which he is hiring new prosecutors for. It's going on and on and on. And I question whether the American people can comprehend or understand why that is.

BLITZER: And very quickly, is the president going to Moscow in early June for a summit with the new president, Vladimir Putin?

PODESTA: The president talked to President Putin yesterday. They talked about the fact that the Duma had ratified START II. They looked forward to moving forward on discussions on START III and the ABM treaty. They talked about Chechnya. They talked about the Russian economy. We're very much looking forward to trying to have a meeting between President Putin and President Clinton before the Okinawa Summit in July, the G-8 Summit. And we'll have more to say about that probably fairly soon.

BLITZER: OK. We'll be anxious to hear it.

PODESTA: Thanks.

BLITZER: John Podesta, thank you so much for joining us.


BLITZER: And up next: the Republican response on the Elian Gonzalez case, gun control, the economy and a lot more. We'll speak with House Majority Leader Dick Armey, when LATE EDITION continues.


BLITZER: Just ahead, we'll discuss Campaign 2000: Al Gore versus George W. Bush, and a lot more. House Majority Leader Dick Armey joins us and he'll take your phone calls.

We'll be right back.



REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: From Social Security to prescription drugs, from fairness to education, this has been and will continue to be a Congress of real accomplishment.


BLITZER: House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Capitol Hill Thursday touting the success of the Republican-controlled Congress.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining us now to discuss Congress' plans in the coming months is the House majority leader, Dick Armey. He's in Dallas, Texas.

Mr. Majority Leader, always good to have you on LATE EDITION. Thanks for joining us.

And I want to get to what's happening in Congress, but very quickly, tell us if you have confidence in the way the Clinton administration has handled the whole Elian Gonzalez case.

REP. RICHARD ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, no, I'm a little upset about that. You know, there are so many opinions on it. You certainly spent a great deal of this show on it. But no matter what your opinion -- mine is that it would be best for both Elian and his father to be able to remain in the United States and to really be free. But whatever your opinion, you've got to understand, this has not been handled properly. This could have been in a family court and settled and resolved to everybody's satisfaction months ago. And it's just a shame that it's been so badly handled by Janet Reno and the Justice Department.

BLITZER: What if the father insists on going back to Cuba with his little boy?

ARMEY: You know, again, I think a family court would have no agenda whatsoever except the well-being of that beautiful child, and that's what so many of us really wanted. Nobody in here making a decision that controls the life of this baby that has some agenda other than the child's own well-being.

BLITZER: Are you concerned that this will result in an improvement in U.S.-Cuban relations after the Elian Gonzalez case is resolved?

ARMEY: I think the way for us to improve our relations with Cuba is for Cuba to improve its relations with its own people, for Cuba to embrace the notions of freedom, independence, stop trying to ship a communist revolution around in our hemisphere.

We have a future, I think where America and Cuba will be better friends. But I don't think that is very much encouraged by the behavior of the Cuban government.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about the economy right now, what Congress, the Clinton administration should be doing about it, if anything.

First of all, is there any need at this point -- you heard John Podesta say the fundamentals of the U.S. economy are very strong. Do you agree with that? And if you do, is there any need for huge tax cuts or anything along those lines at this point, given what we witnessed over these last few days in the stock markets?

ARMEY: Well, I think John is right, the fundamentals of our economy are strong. But there are three very high profile demonstrations against the fundamentals of the economy. The first of course is what you see on the streets of Seattle today: the idea that we would shut down world trade in the face of this economic growth, expansion and search for markets and job opportunities for America -- is very nerve-racking; the idea that the Clinton Justice Department would have an all-out attack on -- what is perceived to be an attack on all of technological innovation through their attack on Microsoft is, again, unnerving in the markets.

And then of course the other thing is: We have a failed energy policy that even Mr. Podesta says helps to drive the inflation. But the inflation expectation is being driven by a fear that we will lose that cutting edge of productivity that comes from the high-tech sector of our economy because of the misguided attack on Microsoft by the Justice Department.

BLITZER: Well, you heard Mr. Podesta say that what the Justice Department was doing was enforcing the Sherman antitrust law and that the court ruled in favor of that suit against Microsoft.

ARMEY: A judge who has a record of being overturned in these matters ruled, we have the appeals process, the Justice Department's antitrust division does not have a shining record of accomplishment. A few years ago it was the IBM case. Before that it was a cereal case in the '70s, they really have in fact done a very bad job and it's because they miss the point.

The point is to protect the consumer from predatory business practices. They always get into this business trying to protect one business interest against another, and picking winners and losers among business enterprise in this high-tech economy will be done by the market much better than it can be done by the government and the government can never keep up with the pace of this.

Already just the pace of innovation creation, consolidation in high-tech has made this Microsoft case obsolete, and they should walk away from it and just give the high-tech community a signal this government is not going to come down and oppress your ability to innovate.

BLITZER: You're an economist by training, a former economics professor. If the inflation rate is going up, and presumably that might spark the Federal Reserve to increase interest rates, would that be a time to push through tax cuts in Congress, which is what the Republican majority obviously is anxious to do?

ARMEY: Well, the first thing we're trying to do is tax cuts is eliminate the blatant unfairness. The marriage penalty, for example, is so grotesquely unfair, it's time to eliminate that. We did the same thing with earnings limitations, we'll do the same thing with death taxes. So in a sense we're cleaning up the tax code from just fundamental inequities built into the code, that's something to do.

If, in fact, we want to avoid inflation, then what we should do is nurture and encourage the innovation sector of the economy and that really takes us back again, make sure the government does not impose new taxes on the Internet. We cannot regulate the Internet or tax the Internet without risking increased inflation, decreased productivity and a general malaise in the economy.

BLITZER: All right, Mr. Majority Leader, we have to take a quick commercial break. For our international viewers, world news is next. For our North American audience, we'll have another 30 minutes of LATE EDITION. We'll check the hour's top stories and take your phone calls for House majority leader Dick Armey. 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 get to your phone calls for House Majority Leader Dick Armey in just a moment, but first let's go to Gene Randall for the hour's top stories -- Gene.

GENE RANDALL, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf. Thousands of shouting demonstrators have so far failed in their goal to block today's meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank here in Washington. Police have at times used pepper spray against protesters in the streets. Still, authorities say demonstrations have so far for the most part been peaceful. About 40 people have been arrested today. The protesters oppose a global system they charge functions at the expense of the world's poor.

In Miami, Florida, Palm Sunday mass was celebrated today outside the home where Elian Gonzalez remains with relatives this weekend. All sides in the custody dispute over the six-year old Cuban boy are still awaiting an appeals court ruling which could determine his future. Meanwhile, "The Miami Herald" reports the boy and his father spoke by phone. Juan Miguel Gonzalez is still at the home of a Cuban diplomat outside Washington waiting to be reunited with his son.

The FAA reportedly will recommend redesigning the rudder controls for the Boeing 737 jetliners. The Washington Post quotes government and aviation sources who say tests showed the system could fail in several ways. Boeing says it is cooperating with the FAA. The 737 is the most widely used jet in commercial service.

That's a brief look at the news. Now, back to LATE EDITON. Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks, Gene. We now continue our conversation, with House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who joins us from Dallas. Mr. Majority Leader, we have a caller from Fairfax, Virginia. Please go ahead with your question for Dick Armey.

CALLER: Yes, Mr. Armey, I would like to ask you this question: President Clinton has put on the table sensible gun control legislation. What is the stumbling block behind your party not pushing this legislation through and why are you not pushing Senator Hatch to call the conference committee back to figure out a compromise on this legislation and what is the holdup? Why is Senator Hatch ...

BLITZER: We got the point. Mr. Armey?

ARMEY: Well, I understand the caller's frustration. We're frustrated too. That's why we in fact enacted or passed Project Exile, which worked so well in Virginia, in the caller's own commonwealth. And we want to see that opportunity for everybody. Something that really puts stiff penalties on people who commit crimes with guns. We're frustrated over that. We're frustrated that the dean of the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives, John Dingell takes a compromise that has the capability of bridging this gap, passes it as an amendment on the floor of the House of Representatives and 15 minutes later leads the revolt to defeat it.

I think when you watch Dingell do that, then you see why Henry Hyde and I fear that people want a political issue, rather than to resolve the legislation. And I appreciate that. But they're speculating about what Senator Hatch is doing and it is on the record what John Dingell did. He killed our chance to have this job done months ago, and nobody yet has gotten a satisfactory explanation for that.

BLITZER: It seems the big stumbling block is this three-day waiting period to purchase a handgun at a gun show. Is there some movement that's possible on this front between the 24 hours that many Republicans say they're ready to work with, as opposed to 72 hours that the most of the Democrats want?

ARMEY: I think you can always work towards a solution, but you should always remember something: you have to have a solution that gets you 218 votes in the House and breaks a filibuster by Senator Schumer from New York in the Senate, so that's 60 votes in the Senate. And then of course you have the president's willingness to sign. This is a delicate work, made even more complicated by people that want it for a political issue. And the fact of the matter is, it's almost impossible to escape the conclusion that the Democrats want to do this for politics rather than continue our work on the safety of the children.

BLITZER: Mr. Majority Leader, you heard John Podesta reaffirm what Chuck Ruff said during the impeachment process in the House of Representatives: the president neither wants nor will he accept any pardon after he leaves office.

Do you agree with some of your colleagues, including Henry Hyde, that the independent counsel should not go ahead and indict Mr. Clinton on the Monica Lewinsky matter after he leaves office? That the country has gone through this and enough is enough?

ARMEY: Well, of course that is within the power of the special counsel who is appointed by the attorney general under a law signed by this President. It is a legal matter that I try to stay away from. My own view is I've had enough over the whole business. I would like to see it over with. The president will come to terms with that someplace along the line in his life and that's fine with me. I'd just as soon be done with it and have it out of my life. I've been embarrassed by the whole episode. I'm sorry that I had to be involved as we did when we did our duty, but we did the right thing. We had a case brought before us of a president that lied to a grand jury, that obstructed justice, we had to deal with that, we did that. And as far as I'm concerned it's over.

BLITZER: OK. Dick Armey speaking candidly here on LATE EDITION.

Thank you so much for joining us once again on our program. Always good to have you on the show.

ARMEY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And just ahead, we'll discuss the media's responsibility in the Elian Gonzalez story and the nose dive in the financial markets when we go around the table with Roberts, Page and Carlson.

LATE EDITION will be right back.


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, let's talk a little bit about us, the media, and our responsibilities. This videotape that was released of Elian Gonzalez wagging his finger like that and saying, Papa, Papa, you can come here but I don't want to go back to Cuba. Obviously this was an emotional, sensitive issue. Should the family have released that videotape, A? And should we have aired it on television and web pages after it was released?

STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I do think it was exploitive and I think it was a close call. Once it's out, it's hard to say we're not going to run it. I can understand why CNN and others would run it.

But even though I think it was exploitive, in another sense I have a sympathy for wanting this boy, his personality, his emotions to be part of this discussion. Janet Reno and John Podesta and everybody else to say, this is the law, as if somehow everything is settled, everything is clear cut. I don't think it's fully clear cut. As I said last week, I don't think the emotions of this boy and the psychological implications have been fully vented.

I'm uncomfortable with the way it happened, but I'm glad his voice has been heard.

BLITZER: Tucker, you're a father of young kids. Were you comfortable when you first watched that videotape of Elian Gonzalez wagging his finger like that? TUCKER CARLSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: No, I was horrified. It's a very creepy videotape, and I think no matter where you stand on this, I think he should stay here.

But I think no matter where you stand, you look at this and you say, gee, this is really uncomfortable making.

I was down in Miami covering this when that came out, and it was remarkable the reaction to it down there. There was the sense that: There's nothing wrong with this, this is great, the boy needs his voice heard and this is a great way to do it.

But it really is, though, on some level a matter of aesthetics. There are much more remarkable things going on here. And the thing I'm struck by is this constant refrain from the White House, from the president himself about how we need to respect the rule of law in this case. I mean, it's like a joke. Of course it's not a joke. But no attention has been paid to what will happen to the boy if he goes back to Cuba.

I really think the debate needs to shift to that question, because it looks like that's what's going to happen. And what does it mean for him to go back?

SUSAN PAGE, CNN COMMENTATOR: I don't think that's the question. I think the question is: Who speaks for him? And he's got a surviving parent. And until -- while this debate was going on, there were not accusations that he was unfit. And it seems to me that most Americans agree with the White House that the father should speak or the child.

The father will have the option of staying in this country. Under U.S. law he can ask for political asylum and stay here.

And so the question -- you know, we're not making a decision whether this boy goes back to a repressive communist dictatorship.

We're making the decision as a government. Our government is making the decision who speaks for him, who decides.

BLITZER: Let's move on and talk about a little bit about the stock markets, a lot of people are going to be nervous tomorrow morning when the bell rings on Wall Street. But let's take a look at the drop already. Assuming that this is the bottom, I don't know if it is or it isn't.

ROBERTS: None of us know.

BLITZER: We have no idea, but the bottom line is that there's been a huge loss of wealth over these past few weeks. Inflation looks like it's creeping up a little bit, that could result in higher interest rates. Politically speaking, Al Gore's got to look at all of this as the campaign is beginning to get under way against George W. Bush, and wonder, am I in trouble?

ROBERTS: He's got to be nervous about it. I think Dow Jones is going to be more important than Bob Jones in the end in this campaign and I think that a lot of the Gore campaign is based on a larger sense of optimism, of well-being in this country. Consumer confidence is very high, pollsters ask questions, is the country headed in the right direction or wrong track? Right direction numbers higher than they've been in many years. And that is in many ways the floor under the Gore campaign. And if that sense of optimism starts to leak even if you don't have that much money in the stock market, I think it could be a problem for Gore, no doubt about it.

PAGE: Can I disagree which is that I should think a little wobbliness in the economy probably helps Al Gore because it may give people the idea that experience really matters. They want somebody with experience at the helm of an economy that may be slightly wobbly. Now if the economy tanks, that would be something different. And I also think it may place a higher cost on George W. Bush to defend his tax plan which is not really resonated with voters, makes the tax plan easier to attack as being risky financially. I don't think -- I think the politics of this may be a little different than what seems you initially might think.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that?

CARLSON: I think that may be a little bit too clever, no offense. I think a lot will depend on how the Bush campaign exploits this. And part of it is -- you know, this has all been overshadowed by the Elian story this week, which is sort of the new Princess Diana media frenzy. But as people's attention shifts to this, I think, the Bush campaign can make a case that gee, all of this was precipitated by the Justice Department's attack on Microsoft.

Now, in strict sort of logical terms, that may not be fair, and also keep in mind for some perspective the NASDAQ is about where it was at Thanksgiving, my favorite statistic is that on the very day that Alan Greenspan accused the market of having, what was it, too much enthusiasm,

BLITZER: Irrational exuberance.

CARLSON: Irrational exuberance, exactly, it is today the market is today 60 percent higher than it was on the day he said that. So it's not like the bottom dropped out. But still, I think the Bush campaign could potentially exploit people's fears and put the blame at the Clinton administration.

BLITZER: No evidence they will do that yet but we'll have to wait and see.

We have to take a break. More of our roundtable when we return. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our LATE EDITION roundtable. Steve, this past week George W. Bush did what he said he earlier was not going to do. He met with a group of gay Republicans, office holders, activists and after the meeting he came out and sounded pretty compassionate in terms of conservatism. Listen to what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm a better person for the meeting. I enjoyed it. I thought some of the life stories were very compelling. The really positive news for me is everybody up here wants me to be the president. And I welcome the support.


BLITZER: Some conservative Republicans are not so happy about his nice words about the gay Republicans.

ROBERTS: That's true but his key phrase was, everybody wants me to be president. The real question is whether the religious right is pragmatic enough and practical enough to understand that George Bush can only win the presidency with the votes of moderates, can only win by attracting some Democrats and only win by being a true compassionate centrist conservative. I think that's the real George Bush in all honesty. But I think one of the real questions is whether the religious right will let him be who I think by instinct he is. We saw that with his father. The religious right never believed his father was a true blue conservative. So I think he's got a real problem, but I think he's handled it well this week.

BLITZER: What do you think, Tucker?

CARLSON: I don't think he owes anything to the religious right at all. And Christian conservative leaders sort of threw their backing behind him a year ago or earlier than that, and really went to the mat for him against John McCain, without asking really anything in return. So I just don't see him as under the sway or the thumb of the religious right, whatever that is. I do think the question of how exactly he's a better man after meeting with gay Republicans for 45 minutes is an interesting one. What does that mean? What a weird thing to say.

BLITZER: He obviously learned something. Quietly, Susan, Pat Buchanan is out there seeming to strengthen his hold on the Reform party, that $12.5 million in matching funds. This has to be music to Al Gore's ears because presumably Pat Buchanan will draw Republican votes away from George W. Bush as opposed to Democratic votes.

PAGE: Although I interviewed Pat Buchanan this week and he took issue with that very idea. He said he thought Al Gore would help him get in those debates he wants to be in so much. On the theory it will hurt Bush more. But Buchanan notes his appeal this time around is economic nationalism, and that's a message that resonates with traditional Democrats, blue-collar workers who feel very hard pressed by the globalization of the economy, the very thing we see demonstrations on the streets of Washington, D.C. this morning about.

BLITZER: You think Pat Buchanan has the Reform Party nomination pretty much locked up? PAGE: Pat Buchanan said he has the nomination locked up unless Ross Perot decides to run, and that's still an open question.

BLITZER: Maybe we'll still see Ross Perot. Let's move on, talk about pardons. Gerald Ford, you remember Gerald Ford, he was President of the United States. You were around in Washington at that time. He pardoned Richard Nixon. Now earlier today Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were on Meet the Press. And they were asked about the pardon, the Clintons, the news of -- the word that Clinton could be pardoned by a Democratic president, Al Gore, if in fact that were to be the case. But I want you to listen to what Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford said earlier today. And let's talk about how realistic a pardon of Bill Clinton would be.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think to pursue it now with an indictment of an incumbent president after he leaves office would be a sad mistake for the special prosecutor or for our country.

GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I finally decide it made more sense for the country, for me to clear my desk of Mr. Nixon's problems and the way to do it was to issue a pardon once and for all.


BLITZER: Would it be wise for Al Gore to clear his desk of Bill Clinton and his scandals and all that by just giving him a pardon?

ROBERTS: No, it would be disastrous. And those two men describe exactly why. Between 1968 and 1992, Democrats won only one presidential election. When Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford in 1996, at least in part because of Ford's pardon. Otherwise Democrats were totally wiped out for a generation. And I think it would be nuts for Gore to consider it. I think he should wipe the decks clean by absolutely insisting he never would consider it. But I do think all the talk about an indictment, all the talk about a pardon is a shadow over this administration. Anything that reminds people, Bill Clinton's sins, not going to be good for Gore.

BLITZER: We have to leave it there. Steve Roberts, Tucker Carlson, Susan Page, our LATE EDITION roundtable, always good to have on our show.

And when we return, Bruce Morton's last word on terrorism in the United States.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When you attack government, it isn't government you kill, it's people: mothers and fathers, lovers, and in Oklahoma City, even little kids.


BLITZER: Five years after a government building was bombed, what lessons have we learned? Stay with us.


BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's last word on lessons learned in the war between domestic terrorism and the U.S. government.


MORTON (voice-over): Five years ago this coming Wednesday, terrorists bombed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City and killed 168 people. They've built a memorial, as you would expect. Timothy McVeigh is appealing his death sentence, asking for a new trial, as you would expect. Terry Nichols is appealing his life without parole sentence. Michael Fortier is appealing his 12-year involuntary manslaughter sentence for not telling law enforcement authorities what he knew about the plot.

Pennsylvania Avenue, in front of the White House, closed for security reasons after the bombing remains closed five years later.

What have we learned? first, Americans can be terrorists, too. They can hate government and want to kill people just like anybody else.

Second, that government sometimes is the bad guy. The government people on Ruby Ridge had orders to shoot to kill before anybody shot at them. And in Waco, no one walked up to the front door of the Branch Davidian building and announced that they had an arrest warrant for a David Koresh. Instead, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,and Firearms forces simply attacked. Four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians died. Government sometimes is the bad guy.

Third, we learned, or we can hope we learned, that when you attack government, it isn't government you kill, it's people: mothers and fathers, lovers, and, in Oklahoma City, even little kids. Most of us will remember the pictures and the grief.

Fourth, maybe we have learned some restraint. Some Americans still hate their government no doubt, but whatever groups like that are out there, nothing since Oklahoma City has happened that's like Oklahoma City. And nothing quite like Ruby Ridge or Waco has happened either. Maybe both sides have learned restraint.

Terrorism still exists, of course, but in the war between American terrorists and the American government, tempers may have eased some. We may be having some thoughts, hard to be sure. Of course, five years is not forever, but maybe tempers have cooled.

Eugene McCarthy, Minnesota senator, anti-Vietnam war presidential candidate in 1968, and a poet, used to say that if elected he'd tear down the iron fence around the White House and have poetry readings on the lawn. That might be extreme for a first step, but the new president who takes office in 2001 might want to reopen Pennsylvania Avenue. He'd get the tourist vote in 2004, for sure, and the cab driver vote. And it would be a gesture to show that maybe we are learning how to live together, if not in perfect harmony, at least without wanting to blow each other up.

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 announces: "Men Rule: The Pros and Cons of testosterone," on the cover.

"Newsweek" asks: "Is the Bull Market Really Over: Sobering up About the New Economy," on the cover.

And on the cover of "U.S. News & World Report": "Why Jesus Was Killed: Scholars Find New Clues About the Crucifixion."

That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, April 16. Be sure to catch us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

I'll be back tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on "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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