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CNN Today

Gore Speech Emphasizes Fighting Crime by Fighting Drugs

Aired May 2, 2000 - 1:36 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore says the key to fighting crime is fighting drugs. The vice president is in Atlanta right now. This is a live picture of his speech that he's giving, a major policy proposal on drug testing and treatment of prisoners and parolees. He's also proposing federal funds be allocated to hire 50,000 police officers nationwide.

We have a tape of the top of his speech that gives you the essence of what his program is today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will push for a dramatic new increase in the number of community police on our streets and sidewalks, and I will fight to give police the tools and the training needed to keep our streets safe and our families secure. I'll toughen the laws against serious and violent crime to restore the sense of order that says to children as well as to criminals, don't even think about committing a crime here.

I'll reform a justice system that spills a half a million prisoners back onto our streets each year, many of them addicted to drugs, unrehabilitated, just waiting to commit another crime. Stopping the revolving door of recidivism is the key both to crime control and to prison overcrowding. When these criminals come back into prison right away, time and time again, that's leading to the bulging population in the prisons and the continuing serious crime problem we have in our country.

I will always put the rights of victims and families first again, and I will push for more crime prevention to stop the next generation of crime before it's too late.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATERS: Mr. Gore is taking aim at repeat offenders and drug abusers. He's also, though, targeting George W. Bush, whom voters give high marks for his perceived ability to fight crime.

Joining us now to talk more about that, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

How badly is Al Gore in need of bolstering his position on crime, Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he doesn't want to be another Michael Dukakis, who, of course, was put on the defensive on crime back in 1988 because of his positions on prison furloughs.

Well, the polls show that he is on the defensive on crime. That is the one issue where he lags the farthest behind Governor Bush. When we asked voters just this weekend, which candidate do you think would be better in handling crime? Bush is running 20 points ahead of Gore, as you see: 52 percent say Bush, 32 percent say Gore. And that is the one issue on which we find the biggest difference between the candidates. And that, clearly, was one factor in Bush -- in Gore's decision to deliver the speech today, trying to demonstrate that he's tougher on crime.

WATERS: That's a pretty big spread. Do you know why that is?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think the Democrats have always had a problem on the crime issue, although crime rates have gone down during the 1990s. A lot of people don't attribute it to anything in particular the federal government has done. Historically, Democrats would talk about the root causes of crime. They said, we want to deal with crime prevention, education, economic opportunity, whereas Republicans were much more forthright in talking about get-tough policies dealing with actual crimes and criminals.

Well, that's what Gore addressed. And in fact, he dealt with both. His policy today was basically, "stay out, stay clean." His view was, in order to prevent crime, we have to keep -- get people off drugs and keep them off drugs. He said, you won't get out of jail if you're still on drugs. You'll stay behind bars. And if you're a parolee and you're found to fail drug tests, you'll go back in jail. That's his way of saying Democrats are going to get tough.

WATERS: Besides the speeches, we recall in the Clinton campaign that he had the opportunity to return to Arkansas to preside over an execution there to bolster his position that he was tough on crime. Does Al Gore have anything that he can do besides the speeches to score on this issue?

SCHNEIDER: Well, of course, he has to defend the administration's record, which Bush has attacked. But the crime rates have gone down during this administration, more cops have gone on the street. Clinton, in 1992, was a governor, so he could, in fact, show that he supported the death penalty, which was the principal differentiation between Clinton and the preceding Democratic nominee, Michael Dukakis: Clinton's support for the death penalty.

Remember when Dukakis was asked about the death penalty, would he favor it if his wife were brutally raped and murdered and he gave a very, people thought, unemotional answer to that? Clinton used the death penalty to show that he wasn't Michael Dukakis.

In Gore's case, 100,000 more police on the streets favored by the Clinton administration, a drop in the crime rate, and his argument that George Bush would spend so much money on a tax cut that there'd be very little left over to fund more cops on the street.

WATERS: All right, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider in Washington today.

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