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CNN Late Edition

Gore Campaign Tries to Overcome Questions About '96 Fund Raising; Christian Coalition Founder Pat Robertson Talks Presidential Politics

Aired June 25, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET


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


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the truth is -- is my friend, in this. The full -- the truth, the full truth and nothing but the truth, and then you can judge it for yourselves.


BLITZER: Vice President Al Gore's campaign fund-raising activity is being questioned again. We'll hear from the former head of the Justice Department's campaign task force, Charles LaBella, and we'll get reaction from the former Gore chief of staff, Ron Klain.

Then, two senators discuss the politics of the Gore fund-raising investigation and America's soaring gas prices: Republican Pete Domenici and Democrat Carl Levin.

And Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson talks about the death penalty, abortion and presidential politics.

Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable, Steve Roberts, Susan Page and Chris Black, and Bruce Morton has the last word on the Bush and Gore retirement plans -- what every American voter needs to know.

It's noon in Washington; 9 a.m. in Los Angeles; 6 p.m. in Paris and 7 p.m. in Jerusalem. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this 90-minute LATE EDITION. We'll get to our guests shortly, but first our top story.

The Clinton-Gore administration is trying to head off yet another independent investigation, this time focusing on Vice President Al Gore's fund-raising activities.

CNN White House correspondent Major Garrett joins us live from the White House with the latest -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the issue of whether the vice president gave false or misleading testimony in his April 18th interview here at the White House was Justice Department investigator Robert Conrad again dominated the Sunday talk shows. And the senator who first brought to attention of the American public, that Robert Conrad had in fact advised Attorney General Janet Reno that a special prosecutor could be or should be appointed.

Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter had this to say this morning on ABC's "This Week": "I don't think the attorney general is going to appoint a special counsel, and if she doesn't do so soon, it will too late. I think this question ought to be clarified by someone who is independent."

Senator Specter made it clear that he's going to pursue this matter from his perch on the Judiciary Committee, but Gore supporters say, far from an episode or evidence of illegal fund-raising, this is more a case of dirty politics.


SEN. ROBERT TORRICELLI (D), NEW JERSEY: Once again, here in the middle of a presidential campaign, important information was leaked against the vice president, probably from people who are from outside of the chain of command in Justice, which was not fair to the vice president and not right in our electoral system.


GARRETT: The vice president has made it clear he's going to try to remain nonchalant and above the fray here.

The first step in that process -- over the weekend -- releasing the 123-page transcript of his interview with Mr. Conrad. Gore advisers are going to continue to say: The vice president did nothing wrong; this does not justify any further legal action -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Major Garrett, thanks at the White House.

This isn't the first time the Justice Department's campaign finance task force has recommended an outside investigation of the 96 Clinton-Gore campaign, the former head of that panel Charles LaBella also urged an independent probe.

He joins us now live from San Diego, Mr. LaBella welcome to LATE EDITION.


BLITZER: Is there any new information that one of your successors, Robert Conrad has now come up with that would justify the same conclusion that you had that there should be a special counsel named to investigate.

LABELLA: I think it's a different analysis, I mean it's a completely different situation. He was focusing on an interview that was conducted in April and whether or not the responses were candid. And, you know, it's a potential crime to give false and misleading statements during the context of a criminal investigation. But, what he's looking at is the statements that were made in the context of that interview and weather or not they were false and misleading, so that's something completely different than we were looking at. You know, it's just -- it's completely different.

BLITZER: So, let's get it straight, why weren't you looking, for example, at Vice President Gore's involvement at that Buddhist temple in April of '96. Presumably the first time he was directly questioned about that was when Mr. Conrad questioned him this past April.

LABELLA: I think that's right, the interview that I conducted with the vice president in November of 1997, I participated in that interview, we didn't conduct it by myself but, that was about the phone calls from the White House, whether or not the vice president was aware that there was a soft-money/hard-money component to those phone calls.

If of course he knew that there was hard-money/soft-money component, they were contributions and therefore possibly violating the Pendleton Act, and that was the issue of the day then. At that time, we always understood and the attorney general always understood that we have access to the vice president later, should we have additional questionings, but the Hsi Lai temple event was not the centerpiece of what we're investigating at that point in time.

BLITZER: Well, do you believe that in the course of the question and answer session, the sworn testimony that Vice President Gore gave this past April to Mr. Conrad, he did lie and that there's enough evidence of some sort of perjury there that would justify a special counsel?

LABELLA: Well, I mean, that's for the prosecutors to determine not for me because they intimately know the evidence. All I can tell you is that what Conrad, I believe what Conrad is saying is that there is sufficient question that a full investigation needs to be conducted, I think that's what he's saying, not that an indictment should be returned or charges should be filed, or in fact the vice president did commit or did make misattempts, material misstatements.

I think what he's saying is there's sufficient question that someone independent needs to look at it, and it needs to be someone independent because the Department of Justice -- the American people will not accept the Department of Justice looking at it because they're too involved with the White House.

BLITZER: As you know, Janet Reno has rejected this recommendation a few times in the past including your recommendation, the FBI Director Louis Freeh's recommendation, another top Justice Department official Robert Litt's recommendation.

This is what Janet Reno had to say on Friday in assessing the current recommendation from Mr. Conrad. Listen to this.


JANET RENO, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: You can go through each piece of the LaBella-Freeh memo, and I think see what our concerns were and why I made the decisions I made. It is clear that based on the information that we had at the time, that judgments were correct.


BLITZER: Do you have any reason, you know Janet Reno, you worked with her, do you have any reason to believe she'll change her mind this time, the fourth time as opposed to the other times?

LABELLA: No. When we talked about vice president's candidness with respect to the earlier interviews, her assessments was it wasn't material and there was no motive to lie, so therefore, there was no need for a special counsel or an independent counsel then now a special counsel.

I don't see her analysis changing. I think she is going to focus on materiality. She is going to focus on motive, and I believe she will make the same conclusion -- she will reach the same conclusion she reached before.

BLITZER: Well, the argument that she has made, and that the vice president's supporters, Clinton's supporters in general have made, even if there was a misstatement, even if there was some statement that wasn't perhaps factually accurate, it was certainly not material, and does not justify this kind of full scale independent investigation.

LABELLA: And that's the issue. And that's the issue she will be wrestling with. Of course, the people who don't want an investigation are you know, latching on to that, and the people who do want an investigation say well we don't know. You are putting the cart before the horse. How do you know what you have until you investigate. That's always been my argument; that's always been everyone's argument. We can see at the end of the day this may not be a case that warrants criminal sanctions.

However, until you do a full investigation, the system -- the process needs to be had, and no one is going to know until you do the investigation.

BLITZER: And you are saying, once again, that you don't believe the career prosecutors, the career investigators of the Justice Department, have enough independence to go forward, to continue their investigation, that you need to bring in a special outside counsel?

LABELLA: Well, I think -- I think they have the expertise to do it. The career prosecutors, not the career bureaucrats. And you have to separate those two. What you have ...

BLITZER: Why do you have to separate the two?

LABELLA: Bureaucrats are not prosecutors. Conrad is a prosecutor. Louis Freeh was a prosecutor. I was a career prosecutor. People who go into grand juries, present cases, people who try cases to juries. Those are career prosecutors. People who are in Washington, that oversee policy, they are bureaucrats and they have a completely different function.

But back to the original question, I think, yes, a career prosecutor could adequately do this, but the fact is that since the attorney general is tied to the White House. She is a presidential appointee. People will always be suspicious of the answer you come up with, even if it is the right answer. That's the problem

So it's not that people can't do it -- career prosecutors can't do it. But the people demand, and they want someone independent to look at this so they can have faith in the result, and they can say this matter is now finally put to rest. I think that is what they want.

BLITZER: You know, some of Gore's supporters, some Democrats, some of the president's supporters are already suggesting that politics, of course, is behind all of this -- this latest recommendation from Mr. Conrad. And they are citing the fact he apparently gave $250 in North Carolina to Senator Jesse Helms' campaign a few years ago.

Based on your information, about Mr. Conrad do you think that he was politically motivated in making this recommendation to the attorney general?

LABELLA: No, I don't think any career prosecutor is politically motivated in making a recommendation that he or she makes. But that is what they do best. I mean that is the spin. These are the spin doctors coming out. And, they did it, they've done it to me, they've done it to everybody. They try to kill the messenger. They've done it to Louis Freeh. They did it to me. And that is just the name of the game. That's the name of the politics.

But I think the interesting thing here is that, and you said it at the top of the show, this information comes from the Department of Justice. It didn't come from the Senate. I mean maybe the spokesperson, the person who gave the information, was from the Senate.

But, the information, was only given, I am sure, having been in Washington, to key people in the Justice Department. When Conrad did his report or memo whatever it was, only key people saw it because this is the type of bombshell that they would want to keep closely wrapped.

Somebody obviously in the Department of Justice at a high level for some reason, decided that he or she didn't think this was being fairly handled because the information had to come from the Department of Justice and no where else.

BLITZER: And as you know, the White House and the Gore campaign is using the fact that Senator Arlen Specter, a Republican, a critic of this administration, he was the one who released the information, that that justifies their concern that this all politics in the midst of a presidential campaign.

LABELLA: But the fact is, the undeniable fact is that the information came from a high level source within the Department of Justice. It had to. No one else was privy to that information.

BLITZER: Assuming that Janet Reno does not go ahead and call for a special counsel to pursue this investigation, give us your advice. What do you think should happen at this late point, given the fact that there is an election in November?

LABELLA: I mean, this is a very difficult environment in which to conduct an investigation. You know she's got a very difficult choice. It was lot easier, from my perspective two and a half, three years ago, because you were not in a presidential election. You could have conducted an independent inquiry into these very isolated matters, very quickly, ethically responsibly and be done with it. Laid to it rest. Now it's very difficult. And I think she has a very difficult decision.

On the one hand, she has yet another career prosecutor telling her that we can't do this. We need somebody independent. Justice demands it. And then, on top of that, you've got the presidential elections. It is very difficult.

I think that -- you know, I have always said this. I think the only thing that positive that can come from all this is that we get some real campaign financing reform so that we don't have to spend the next four years talking about this. I mean it is mindboggling to me that the department of justice has been -- has been focused on this for four years.

For the last four years it almost has consumed everything the department has done. And if you if you track the man-hours, the people-hours that have been spent on just the independent counsel questions involving the president and the vice president, it is astronomical. And I think some of the independent counsel bills would pale in comparison. And it's a shame. We need to avoid this in future.

BLITZER: All right. Mr. LaBella thank so you much for joining us, Charles LaBella in San Diego. Thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION.

And coming up, the Gore campaign's response to the task force recommendation. Gore adviser Ron Klain joins us next with the vice president's strategy.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Now for some perspective from the Gore campaign, we are joined by the vice president's former chief of staff and Gore campaign adviser Ron Klain.

Mr. Klain, welcome to LATE EDITION.


BLITZER: You heard Charles LaBella make the case once again, as Mr. Conrad did, in this memo that he submitted to Janet Reno, that only a special counsel or independent prosecutor really has independence to look into this matter and come up with a fair conclusion. What's wrong with that?

KLAIN: Well, I don't think there is anything wrong with it per se. I think the important thing to know is this: a number of people in the justice department have looked at it. All of them, including Mr. LaBella I should add, have concluded that there is no reason to believe the vice president broke any laws here.

In fact, Mr. Conrad's report apparently, according to leaked reports, suggests that there is not even probable cause that the vice president broke any laws here. The only issue is whether or not that exoneration of Al Gore should come from someone inside Justice Department or someone outside the Justice Department.

BLITZER: Well, from what I'm hearing from Mr. LaBella and Louis Freeh's memo, the FBI Director Robert Litt, and now from Mr. Conrad, that they don't know if any crime was committed but there is enough suspicion there to justify at least looking into it on an independent basis.

KLAIN: I don't think so, Wolf. I think again we haven't seen Mr. Conrad's report. All we have is the unfortunate decision by someone inside the justice department to leak that report and to play politics with law enforcement, which I think is deplorable. I would have really preferred to hear Mr. LaBella criticize that move, because I think anyone who cares about law enforcement can't be happy about the idea that someone chose to play politics with an investigation.

But none of these things conclude that the vice president broke the law. As for an independent investigation, I listened to Mr. LaBella today. He sounded pretty independent to me. Mr. LaBella, is quoted as saying at the end of his conclusion, that no prosecutor would bring a case on these facts and on this evidence. I think once again the important thing for the American people, who are making a political decision, about their next president to know, is that everyone who has looked at this has concluded that the vice president didn't break any laws.

BLITZER: Well, wouldn't the vice president have been better off four years ago when this issue first came up, if there had been what LaBella recommended, what Louis Freeh recommended, an independent, outside, independent counsel, and, if as you say the vice president broke no laws, it would have been long gone. It would have been history a long time ago.

KLAIN: Well who knows? Some of these independent counsels go on for a very long time. Some have gone 8 years, 10 years. That is why Congress chose, on a bipartisan basis, to get rid of that law this summer, Wolf. It was loaded with abuses.

Look, the issue here is whether or not Al Gore did anything wrong. People have concluded that he hasn't. The lawyers debate about whether or not that conclusion needs to come from inside the Justice Department, outside the Justice Department. I don't think that is really that interesting. I think what is interesting, though, what does trouble me, is the timing of this information. The vice president, this week, launched a new social security plan. According to "Newsweek" --

BLITZER: Are you suggesting as far as the timing is concerned that Mr. Conrad is playing politics?

KLAIN: No, I'm not suggesting that. But someone inside the Justice Department, and I assume it's not Mr. Conrad, someone chose to leak this information to one of the vice president's political opponents, and Senator Specter chose to release that information, this week, just as the vice president's Social Security plan, according to a new "Newsweek" poll is preferred by two-thirds of the voters. He's pulled into a tie with Governor Bush. And now an event that happened four years ago is the subject of new inquiries four months before the election. I think that is very suspect.

BLITZER: Well, let's talk a little bit about what the vice president said in his sworn testimony in April with Mr. Conrad. Among the things he was referring to the Buddhist temple event that occurred in April of '96, he said this: "The very fact that the members of a finance-related event were present at the event was the only connection that I had to the possibility that it was finance-related. But I did not know it was a fund raiser, and I do not know to this day. I do not know that it was a fund raiser at all."

KLAIN: Well, I think that's absolutely right. In fact, this event has been probably the most looked-at political event in American political history.

BLITZER: But how could he not have known it was a fund raiser? Maria Hsia, who was one of his major fund raisers, organized that event. She was there.

KLAIN: And Maria Hsia has testified, by the way Wolf, that no money exchanged hands at the event, that she did fund-raising after the event, but not at the event. John Huang testified to the same thing. The people who were at the event have all testified to the same thing.

BLITZER: The major finance people of the DNC were at the event as well.

KLAIN: They certainly were as was a Republican, as were people who were not involved in politics at all. There was a whole array of people there. What the vice president said about this has been clear, accurate and consistent and by the way, people don't need to take my word for that, Stuart Taylor, a very critical journalist of the Clinton-Gore administration, has written article where he called the Buddhist temple a phony scandal and where he concluded that in fact the vice president's comments on story have been clear, accurate and consistent.

The facts are in, Wolf, this event has been investigated and investigated and investigated. Al Gore has told the truth about it, Al Gore was involved in nothing illegal, and I think the real question -- the real question is for the Bush campaign, were they involved in this leak. Did they work with Senator Specter to coordinate -- look, we've come clean, we released ... BLITZER: Well, how could the Bush campaign have been involved in the leak if it came from the Justice Department.

KLAIN: It came from the Justice Department of Senator Specter. We don't know who Senator Specter consulted with on the timing of the leak, we don't know who Senator Specter consulted with on the release of the leak. We have come clean. The vice president on Friday released a 150 pages of his testimony, of all the documents, and we still get to hear from the Bush campaign whether or not they were involved in the effort to move the story out and play the oldest story of politics.

BLITZER: That's a serious allegation you're leveling at the Bush campaign that they may have been involved in using the Justice Department to smear the vice president.

KLAIN: It's a serious question I think they need to answer, Wolf. It's been a couple days now, I'd like to see them come forward and say that when Senator Specter got this information, they didn't work with him on the release of it, they didn't coordinate the timing of the release of it. I hope they didn't. They've promised a different kind of politics. I think this is a test. Let's see what -- I hope their answer is no, I don't know, but I think it's a fair question to ask the Bush campaign.

BLITZER: All right, Ron Klain, we have to leave it there, unfortunately, but thanks for joining on LATE EDITION.

KLAIN: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: And coming up next, what political impact will the Gore fund raising investigation have on the presidential campaign?

We'll hear from two veteran senators, Republican Pete Domenici of New Mexico and Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan. LATE EDITION continues right after this.



GORE: I have admitted that I made mistakes, in fund raising. But I want the American people to know that I have always told the truth about this matter.



GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My attitude about this if America is tired of scandals and investigations, let's elect somebody different other than the Clinton/Gore -- people from the Clinton/Gore administration.


BLITZER: Vice President Al Gore and Governor George W. Bush, speaking on the campaign trail Friday. Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

With us now to discuss the political implications of a possible independent investigation are two leading members of the U.S. Senate.

In New York, Michigan Democrat and Gore supporter, Carl Levin, and here in Washington New Mexico Republican and Bush supporter, Pete Domenici. Senators, good to have both of you back on LATE EDITION.

We have a lot of stuff to go through today, but let's begin a little bit with this Gore political trouble that he is now facing.

Senator Domenici how much trouble is Gore in as result of this latest recommendation from Robert Conrad, this career prosecutor, that there should be a special counsel?

SEN. PETE DOMENICI (R), NEW MEXICO: I think it is very serious because I think it keeps alive an issue that Vice President Gore doesn't want around. And that is the issue that has just festered with this administration, and the vice president becomes more and more part of it. And that is whether or not they were involved in significant illegal campaign contributions, activities, both for themselves and for the Democratic Party.

Now they'll argue it's too close to the election, but someone was suggesting it many, many months ago, if not a few years ago. And of course, it was resisted then. So the truth of the matter is, it's -- they brought it upon themselves in terms of it being late.

I wonder if looking back on it, if there is nothing to it, they wouldn't have been better off to agree to it a long time ago. It is very suspicious and cries out for a special prosecutor, of that there can be no doubt.

BLITZER: Senator Levin, what do you say about that. The Gore people probably would have been better off, if there would have been an independent counsel four years ago to look into this, as opposed to this late date as he is running for president.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: That decision was made by Reno, not by the Gore people. She is extremely independent. She's proven it, over and over again by her appointment of independent counsel and special counsel. She's not the least bit reluctant when she decides, when she decides, that there is a reason to do so. But, she has decided, and as far as I'm concerned, even LaBella, in a question which was asked him just a few months ago, very directly, was asked whether or not he believes, in any way, that Reno's decision was aimed at protecting anybody in the White House.

And LaBella said absolutely not. And he was very firm on this. That her decision was a reasonable decision, in her judgment -- in his judgment, I mean. And he had no question that it was based on politics. So this is a Reno decision not a Gore decision. And I credit her with tremendous independence and she is not going to be pushed around by the media, by the Bush people, by Arlen Specter, by me. She is not going to be pushed in any direction, and she should be -- shouldn't be. BLITZER: Senator Domenici, you're shaking your head.

DOMENICI: Well, first, I didn't get to say, congratulations. I hope I get to meet the grandchild soon.

LEVIN: Well, she's all of a week old. She's looking at us today. She's a week old.

DOMENICI: Great, let me just say this. You can put this off as independent Janet Reno, but the truth of the matter is, she is an appointee of the president of the United States. There are two people internal to her investigative staff that have recommended an independent counsel on the basis of what we know today, and to say she wouldn't do it, begs the question.

Why isn't she doing it? You think it is because she is independent. I think it is because she is independent and obviously she is beholden to the president of the United States. There can't be any doubt about that.

LEVIN: Well, why don't we listen to LaBella? This is what he said on "Meet the Press" in April. He said, I don't believe that the attorney general in any way, shape, or form was protecting anybody, or anybody else at the Justice Department was politically protecting anybody. That is LaBella. If you want to rely on LaBella, rely on his conclusions.

BLITZER: But senator, he was just on this program and he agreed with Mr. Conrad, one of his successors. He agreed with Louis Freeh. He agreed with Robert Litt, other career prosecutors at the Justice Department, that the only way to get to the bottom of this is for special counsel, some independent prosecutor, to look into it.

LEVIN: That is his recommendation to the attorney general. She has to make the decision. She has never been reluctant to pick independent counsel. She's picked a host of them where she thought the law was, requiring it or was appropriate. But listen to LaBella again. You didn't ask him the key question, Wolf, which is whether he believes the motivation in her decision in any way is political. And he said just a couple months ago and I'm sure will repeat it if you ask, there is no evidence in his mind, there is no belief that she is trying to politically protect anybody in reaching her independent conclusion.

DOMENICI: Well, if she isn't, why don't we go ahead and do it, if she's not protecting anyone. Let the American people hear it all and get the answers on it all. That is the issue.

LEVIN: It is not we. It is not me and it's not Arlen Specter and it's not you. It is the attorney general who has the responsibility under law and she calls them as she sees them.

BLITZER: Senator Levin, do you believe that Arlen Specter is part of some sort of George W. Bush campaign plot as was insinuated by Ron Klain of the Gore campaign here just a few minutes ago, that perhaps there's some sort of dirty politics under way right now? LEVIN: I don't like the leak in the middle of campaign, but in terms of whether Arlen Specter in any way consulted or was motivated by politics, you'd have to ask Arlen.

DOMENICI: Well listen here, he's been, he's been denied information regularly. He's dug this information up by pure stick to- itiveness and fortitude on his part a fact-finding technique and skill that he honed when he was a prosecutor in Philadelphia. He's to be praised for what he's done.

LEVIN: He's very skillful, but I don't like the leak in the middle of the presidential campaign. Let her decide without pressure from any side, from me or from Arlen or from you. Let her decide without pressure, without leaks.

BLITZER: All right senators. We have to take a quick break. Just ahead we'll switch gears, (OFF-MIKE) politics, what can be done about America's rising gas prices and will politicians pay a price also, the latest from Los Alamos.

We'll ask Senators Levin and Domenici, when LATE EDITION continues.



GORE: I think it's time to put our feet on the brakes of what may well be big oil's price-gouging.



BUSH: Now that he is running for politics, running for president, and there's higher fuel prices, he seems to be changing his tune.


BLITZER: The issue of soaring gas prices is making its way into the presidential campaign. Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We are talking with Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin and New Mexico Republican Senator Pete Domenici.

Senator Levin, let's take a look at a map showing some prices of gasoline - a gallon of gasoline - in various parts of the United States. Look at this. In Chicago, a year ago, $1.23 a gallon, now it is $2.12. In Detroit, in your state, $1.13 last year, $2 now. Albuquerque, New Mexico, $1.09, now $1.54. We can go down. What is the cause? Why is the price of a gallon of gas, spiraling as it is right now? Who is to blame for this?

LEVIN: Well, I can only speak for the Midwest. There is absolutely no economic justification for these prices in the Midwest. And in my home state of Michigan, there - we can't find any reason except greed and gouging as far as I'm concerned. Because if you look at the explanations for it, none of them wash. Why the Midwest would get this, the new kind of cleaner gasoline, explains maybe 8 cents gallon where it is used. But it is not required in Michigan. We don't have that requirement in Michigan, and yet we got gas that is over $2 a gallon.

So I can't see any economic justification and I'm very glad that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating, and by the way, the day after that investigation was announced, and I was one of many who requested that investigation, the wholesale price of gasoline dropped. It hasn't yet been seen by the consumer but least it dropped. There has been a release of oil from the strategic petroleum reserve. There should be more, but there is no economic explanation for it in the Midwest.

BLITZER: What about that Senator Domenici?

DOMENICI: Let me suggest that the chickens are coming home to roost with this administration. 7 1/2 years of no energy policy. What's happened? No economic reasons for increases. The cost of crude oil 18 months ago from the world that supplies us, was $10 a barrel. It is in excess of 30 today. Because we have grown more dependent and they have decided that they've got a golden goose to wit America and others, and we are going to pay the price.

Retail marketing costs are about 15 percent. Federal excise taxes about 17. And then what's our policy? Our policy is to produce less oil and grow more dependent, do nothing with reference to any alternative of any significance, and now the election comes and we have had the good times roll. Inflation down, oil prices down, and now the market's responding to these exorbitant foreign prices which we can no longer control. And, as to be expected, we've got to find a guinea pig. We've got to say it is the oil companies.

BLITZER: You don't believe it is the oil companies?

DOMENICI: Well, you know they may find some irregularities, but after they found them the American people are going to wake up and say, "that hasn't solved anything."

BLITZER: Let's go to that issue that the accusation Senator Levin that the Clinton-Gore administration really has been sleeping on the job, in fact, the Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush this past week made that specific allegation. I'd like you to listen to what Governor Bush had to say as far as the price of gasoline is concerned right now.


BUSH: The Clinton- Gore administration has been there for seven years we're more dependent now than ever before on energy from foreign sources. And, I -- I'm amazed of the trying to shift the blame away from the people who are holding the office and I reject that kind of politics and so will the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: So what do you say about that Senator Levin?

LEVIN: He just engaged in that form of politics, you saw a perfect example of it. Now the Clinton administration has recommended significant increase in research and development on renewables, on alternatives, on other things beside oil that we could use to drive our automobiles and to heat our homes, that has been reduced by the Republicans by over $1 billion in the last seven years, the request for alternatives, reduced by over $1 billion in the Congress.

Secondly, there's been a proposal for tax incentives to use alternatives to oil and gas, a multi-billion dollar tax incentive which has been proposed by the Clinton administration, it has sat at the Congress for two years.

Third, just in the last few weeks, not only has the Republican House cut request for energy alternatives to oil and gas, but they've cut the request for what's called the partnership for new generation of vehicles, which will produce vehicles that use fuel cells, that will use hybrids, that use electric, that cut comes from the Republican House of Representatives within the last two weeks when we're facing these skyrocketing oil prices.

BLITZER: What about that?

DOMENICI: None of the things he mentioned would have changed the situation that we have today, one iota. Would not have changed our dependence to any significant degree and on the other hand let me read iff a few since 1983, 60 percent of federal land is now off limits to drilling, it used to be available for drilling, and (OFF-MIKE) is off limits, the offshore drilling for offshore natural gas, off limits. Forty-three million acres of land is off limits to road building which means you can't do any drilling.

BLITZER: All right, ...

DOMENICI: And we can just keep going on.

BLITZER: Obviously senators we're not going to resolve this issue of gasoline prices on this program.

But let me let me change the subject very briefly we don't have a whole lot of time and let me ask Senator Domenici first, are you confident right now that the security problems at the Los Alamos nuclear labs have been worked out and that the U.S. nuclear secrets are secure?

DOMENICI: No, I'm not. I want to say just as I would have said on the last question, there are going to be brown outs and who is the administration going to blame? Obviously there's been a lack of management in the nuclear weapons programs and non-proliferation.

A year ago, a presidential group headed by Senator Rudman recommended a whole new structure, it has been resisted by the administration, but thank God as of now, we're going to put it in place. I'm not sure that my friend from Michigan supports it, but the Congress does.

BLITZER: Let me ask him, Senator Levin, we only have a few seconds.

LEVIN: Very much support it. The labs at Los Alamos have been very lax, they're run by the University of California, they need accountability, we need to give power to the secretary of energy to actually bring accountability and responsibility to those labs and I'm all in favor of increased accountability.

BLITZER: OK, Senator Levin.

DOMENICI: That's not the issue. It's not the secretary, it's a new person in charge of the entire operation.

LEVIN: We have that new person and I'm glad we do.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Domenici, Senator Levin, thanks to both of you for joining us on LATE EDITION. And up next, he split with Governor George W. Bush over the death penalty. Will he break ranks with the GOP presidential candidate over abortion. We'll talk with Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson when LATE EDITION continues.


BLITZER: Welcome back. Joining us now to talk Republican presidential politics: the founder of the Christian Coalition, the Reverend Pat Robertson. Good to have you as always, on LATE EDITION, Mr. Robertson. Thanks for joining us.


BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about the death penalty of course has become such a controversial issue here in United States over these past several months. You are now suggesting, and I want to make sure we get your position accurate, that there should be a moratorium on capital punishment in the United States. Is that correct?

ROBERTSON: That is true, Wolf. I have been advocate of the death penalty but to what we found, is that there is some of the accused who are waiting the death sentence may have had wrong dined of defense, may have had improper trials, and more particularly, they can be exonerated with DNA evidence, so just seemed like to me the intelligent thing to at least give us a small window, to give testing and bring latest scientific evidence to bear on their cases.

BLITZER: On this issue, though, you disagree with the Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, who only this week allowed yet another very controversial death sentence to go forward in Texas when Gary Graham was executed.

ROBERTSON: Well, in Gary's case, he was defended by somebody who I think was just out of law school, on the testimony of one witness. Now, granted Gary Graham had committed 8 or 10 armed robberies in the preceding week but said he didn't kill the man that they convicted him of. It seemed like he needed some help but George wrote me, that Anne Richards had already given him a 30 day stay, and that there was no other appeals procedure that was available, to him under Texas law. So, I wasn't at odds with him. I think his hands are tied under existing Texas law.

BLITZER: If you had been in charge would you have not have execute Gary Graham.

ROBERTSON: I'm not sure Wolf which have had the authority to make that decision. For from what I gather they have a -- clemency board the clemency board from all I can see is totally dysfunctional just isn't working properly, but, I think the George Bush has got his mind on national political issues and just doesn't want to have one more problem, confronting him like saying we need a new law in Texas to change the clemency board.

BLITZER: This is an issue that is dogging him wherever he seems going.


BLITZER: Is over past few weeks, Wednesday in defending his decision on Gary Graham, he made this statement. I like you to listen to what he had to say on Wednesday.

ROBERTSON: All right.


BUSH: I analyze each case when it comes across my desk Todd. Look at innocence and guilty of each person, and whether or not the person has had full access to the courts. And so far as I'm concerned, there has not been one innocent person executed since I have been the governor.


BLITZER: 135 people have been executed since he has been the governor including this past week. How can he be so certain that all of those individuals had the proper attorneys, had the correct eyewitness testimony that everyone who has been executed was justifiably executed?

ROBERTSON: What he is saying is I have complete confidence that Texas courts, and in the defense counsel. I'm not exactly sure that is the case, because usually, those accused of these crimes, are African-Americans, they are lower socioeconomic classes, they don't have the O.J. Simpson million dollar defense team working for them.

And consequently, it is much more difficult, for them to be acquitted. And so you can't say that with certainty, and I believe somewhere along the way compassionate conservatism has to come through. Because the governor of Virginia, for example, said he agonizes over every particular death sentence. I mean it's a matter of grave concern, to him. And I believe that my dear friend George, and I'm not about to be fighting George W. Bush. I want him to be president, so, I'm certainly not going to start a squabble over this issue.

But, I think it would serve him well if he shed few tears, because, these are people's lives, and I do not believe from what I have been reading that they are always availing themselves of best counsel available.

BLITZER: I want to make sure also that when you come to this conclusion that it is time for a freeze or moratorium, on the death penalty, here in the United States, do you so after many years as obviously, as a Christian someone committed to the Bible knowing that in the Bible the death penalty is, of course, justified.

ROBERTSON: Wolf, the I think the 20th chapter of Leviticus, has a whole chapter about execution for every offense known to man. I mean, it's a litany of executable crimes, and I have never felt any biblical compunctions against the death penalty.

I am in favor of the death penalty. And I think society is frankly rid of the Mansons and Gaceys some of these chain murderers that we have. But I have also seen cases -- I had a case in the maximum security prison in Rayford, Florida. And I went in there pro- death penalty, two men were waiting the chair. The chair was just down the hall from where I was standing, and I took their hands through the bars. They were in adjoining cells, and I said God I just ask for a miracle.

I didn't even didn't know what to pray for. I said just ask you for a miracle. I don't understand. It's in your hands and within one or two days from that moment, both of those men were released into the prison population, and they had a either a stay or reversal of their death sentence. And so I said if God would alleviate their plight who am I to be always clamoring to execute people.

So it sort of began to change my own perspective.

BLITZER: All right. Mr. Robertson, we have to take a quick break.

ROBERTSON: All right.

BLITZER: We'll continue our discussion with Pat Robertson, take your phone calls. Also, talk about the abortion issue in this presidential campaign in just a moment.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

We are continuing our discussion with Christian Coalition president Pat Robertson. Mr. Robertson, you caused some waves over the past few weeks in suggesting you could live as a Republican with governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania who supports abortion rights as Governor Bush's potential vice presidential running mate. I want you to listen to what Senator Jesse Helms a friends of yours, had to say on CNN's "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS," only a week ago listen to this.


SEN. JESSE HELMS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I like Pat Robertson. He has been a friend for a long time but he is not speaking for me on that. I just am -- pro-life strongly enough, that I want somebody who is at least willing to listen. And I don't think he would be.


BLITZER: Are you still ready to say that you could live with Governor Ridge as vice presidential running mate.

ROBERTSON: What I basically was saying on "Meet the Press", Wolf, is that the base of the party, and Jesse Helms is a very fine champion of that base, would not stand for Ridge. I said I personally could live with him, I'm a pretty tolerant individual I don't think the people I represent would. And I have said, on another occasion that if George Bush appoints, selects a pro-choice running mate it may well cost him the presidency.

So I believe the base would not be happy with it at all. And, so I'm not opposed to my friend Jesse or George Bush or on that, I think the party is going down a pro-life path and I'm for that 100 percent. Ridge is a capable governor. And I have said that. I didn't want to denigrate one of my fellow Republicans, that was about as far as it went.

BLITZER: You know, speak about tolerance you say you are a tolerant individual, four years ago, there was an effort to get what was called a tolerance plank included in the Republican platform.

I want to read to you, what that proposal said of course it went down to defeat. But, I want to ask you if you think it is time for considering including it this time around it said this:

"We also recognize that members of our party have deeply held, and sometimes differing views, on issues of personal conscience, like abortion and capital punishment. We view this diversity of views as a source of strength, not a sign of weakness and we welcome into our ranks all Americans who may hold differing positions on these and other issues."

Do you think it is time for that plank to be included?

ROBERTSON: Again, I wouldn't be opposed to that at all. I mean, we need a big tent. But I think the party itself under leadership of Governor Thompson, who is the -- head of platform committee is going to stick with pro-life platform and is going to be a pro-life party. But, there is no reason in the world we couldn't tolerate different views with -- within the Republican Party, the Democrats have for years! They -- when I was growing up, Democrats had a grab bag of diverse views, that put together a governing coalition I think the Republicans need to do the same thing. As long as they are not giving up their prized moral point of view. And I wouldn't I wouldn't approve of that certainly we need to be inclusive that is the message, of a majority.

BLITZER: And you are still convinced that if Governor Bush were to pick, a running mate that supports abortion rights, that would be in effect kiss of death for him he would not win the election?

ROBERTSON: Wolf, it is so hard to predict what the American people are going to do, and given Al Gore's current problems, who is to say? But, the way it was a few months ago during the primary season, there was no question about it. And, I think John McCain has driven more strong conservatives and Christian evangelicals into bush's camp than anybody else could possibly have done. And so I do believe, that maybe things are not quite as dicey as they were before, but there was a deep suspicion six months ago. And I think if he unsettles the base, and isn't about to do that, I have absolute confidence he isn't going to do anything like that. But if he did, it could be damaging to him.

BLITZER: All right, Reverend Robertson we have to take a quick break. For international viewers "World News" is next; for North American audience there is still another 30 minutes of LATE EDITION.

We will continue our conversation with Pat Robertson and he will take your phone calls. Then 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 Pat Robertson in just a moment but first here's Gene Randall with a check of top stories -- Gene.


BLITZER: Thanks, Gene.

Now back to our conversation with Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson. We have a phone call Reverend Robertson from Southfield, Michigan. Let's go ahead and take that call right now, please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Hello.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

CALLER: I'm asking Mr. Robertson why you're against abortion but it's OK to kill somebody with legal injections?

ROBERTSON: I think that's a great question, what I've been saying repeatedly on recent interviews is that I believe that life should be seamless, that's the position of the Catholic Church and I think it's a good one. There are many of the so-called liberal groups who have been opposed to the death penalty, but are very much in favor of abortion on demand, and I think the life of the unborn should be held precious and if we're going to consider life as a seamless hold it begins at conception and it ends at a normal death.

And, I want to respect the life of the elderly and the life of the unborn, so, if -- judicial executions have been sort of part of our life for so many years but abortion hasn't, but nevertheless I think we ought to respect life at all ends, that's one of the reasons I'm asking for a moratorium to make sure there's at least justice in this area.

BLITZER: On another issue, Reverend Robertson close to your heart prayer in public schools, the U.S. Supreme Court this week dealt another setback to that issue. Justice John Paul Stevens writing for the court on Monday, saying this: Nothing in the Constitution prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during or after the school day. But the religious liberty protected by the Constitution is abridged when the state affirmatively sponsors the particular religious practice of prayer.

Is that something that makes sense to you?

ROBERTSON: No, it doesn't Wolf, it's been absolutely a nightmare. The so-called lemon decision, you know, Justice Scalia said it's a ghoul of the will to drive a stake through its heart. They have been so up and down they let a chaplain pray before the United States Congress because that's a time honored custom, but they don't let it happen in schools.

There is no division in the United States Constitution on these matters. The whole thing is a patchwork quilt that is just logically inconsistent, and, you know, the Chief Justice -- Rehnquist, writing a dissent on this, said this decision bristled with hostility toward religion. It's just unbelievable.

And the thing that shocks me is that two Catholics, Kennedy and O'Connor, came over on the side of the majority, against prayer. And this was a student-initiated prayer. You know, our general counsel Jay Sekulow, from the American Center, argued that case along with the attorney general of Texas, but we also won the famous Morgans (ph) case. That was Jay's case that we had a 7-2 decision on -- Morgans (ph) vs. Westside School District, where the right of students to pray voluntarily was affirmed rather convincingly.

So the Supreme Court is just all over the lot on this. And basically they have distorted the First Amendment's clear intention. And I'm very disturbed with the course that they have set themselves on.

BLITZER: All right, Reverend Robertson, unfortunately we are all out of time ...

ROBERTSON: OK. BLITZER: But as always, it is good to have you on LATE EDITION.

ROBERTSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks for joining us.

ROBERTSON: My pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And just ahead: How much trouble is Al Gore really in?


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 sitting in this week for Tucker Carlson, CNN congressional correspondent Chris Black.

All right, Steve, "The New York Times" in an editorial today writing about Al Gore's problems and the investigation that is being recommended, says this: "It would be best for the department to share any contradictory information with the public and let the voters decide." Is that good advice?

STEVE ROBERTS, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": Well, that is good advice, I think. You know, in the end, we haven't learned anything new about Al Gore in these investigations. But the real problem he is facing is two-fold. One is that it adds to this sense of why don't those people just go away. You know, and George Bush has been playing on it saying, you know, what you need is a new administration in Washington.

It's also a distraction for Vice President Gore. He's tried so hard in the last two weeks to talk about the economy, talk about the successes, and as we saw in the primaries, you know, when you get knocked off your stride it can be problem. Remember it happened with Bill Bradley when he got sick. So, I think that in the end, it is something the voters should decide, because I don't think legally, anybody has made a case that this guy is subject to criminal charges.

BLITZER: Chris, you have spent a lot of time covering the Gore campaign.

How much trouble do they think they are really in, as a result of this latest call for an independent counsel?

CHRIS BLACK, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think they think they are in a lot of trouble because of this, Wolf. I think it is an irritant. It's a nuisance. I think they all say thank God it is June. Because something like this can be like a low-grade fever that just sort of lingers and basically feeds the perception that some voters have that Gore is just another politician. So they would rather it not happen. But that said, Steve is right. No new information has come out. Even Senator Specter, who I asked on Thursday afternoon when this story first broke, is there any new evidence that would warrant criminal charges being brought against the vice president - he said no. He said this is more of the same, and a lot of the prosecutors are making the argument that this is about process.

BLITZER: And you heard Ron Klain, the former Gore chief of staff, active adviser to the vice president, on this program, come out swinging, making all sorts of insinuations that George W. Bush and his campaign are behind all of the leaks and the revelations and the politics behind all of this.

BLACK: I don't know. That strikes me as a pretty weak response to an allegation, to question who orchestrated a leak about it. You know the Gore people do make the point that this is not a time when people are paying very much attention to politics. The trouble is they were saying that in April when things went a little awry, and in May, and now in June. Pretty soon it is going to matter.

It's going to matter when you get to the convention. Paul Gigot in "The Wall Street Journal" made a good point in his column last Friday, which was, since 1952, with just one exception, the candidate who is ahead on Labor Day in the national polls, wins the election. So what we are really seeing is the stakes getting raised higher and higher for Gore to get back on stride and to have a really good convention so that he is in a more competitive position.

BLITZER: You know, Steve, the other problem that Gore is facing and maybe a more serious problem - this is Ralph Nader, who has got the Green Party presidential nomination, and presumably is going to take some votes away from Gore, not from George W. Bush. Although, earlier today when he was on "Meet the Press," Ralph Nader suggested something different. Listen to what he said on "Meet the Press."


RALPH NADER, GREEN PARTY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When there is a four-way match up in that polls, you analyze it. Bush and Gore come closer together. Because I'm taking votes from non-voters that are come back into the process, some from Republicans, and more from the Democrats.


BLITZER: Well, actually there is a new "Newsweek" poll that just came out today. It shows George W. Bush with 42 percent, Al Gore with 40 percent, Ralph Nader with 3 percent, Pat Buchanan with 2 percent.

ROBERTS: I think Ralph Nader is the flavor of the month of June, but not necessarily of October or November. Third parties need discontent in the country to flourish. They need a core of grievance to build around. But when people start getting serious about choosing someone who's going to be president, and not just flirting with a third or a fourth party in terms of Nader or Buchanan, I just don't see what Nader really stands for in a clear, coherent way that is going to draw a lot of votes. Now, on the margins, he could be a problem, one or two points in California. I don't see him as major figure though.

BLACK: That said though, Steve, there was a real.... Think about John McCain's candidacy in the appeal that he had, and I was just interviewing swing voters in Pennsylvania the last few days and heard people talk about how wonderful John McCain was. There is a sort of latent constituency out there that is looking for someone different. For somebody to sort of - who's not a conventional politician, who's not a Democrat, not a Republican, something different.

And it almost doesn't matter what Ralph Nader stands for, but the fact he is the flavor of the month, if he still standing in November, and people are still not happy with the two major choices, there could be a lot of votes just as Perot pulled a lot of votes.

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": I don't think Nader matters in the end, but he matters at the moment. And he creates a particular problem for Gore, which is a problem he's got with labor. You know, you saw Nader with the teamsters this week, and James Hoffa suggesting that they were toying with the idea of not endorsing Gore -- endorsing Nader. This comes right after Gore has named Bill Daley as his campaign chairman, a guy who has got some problems with labor because of the role he has played as commerce secretary in some free trade votes. So I think it creates kind of a problem Gore has to deal with now at a time when he's got some other problems to deal with, too.

ROBERTS: Although it's hard to imagine, James Hoffa or Steve Yokish (ph) the head of the UAW, the other dissident union, in the end deciding they're better off being for Ralph Nader. I think this is a way of trying to exert leverage and influence over Gore and extract some promises. But in the end, any labor leader is going to figure he's better off with Al Gore in the White House than with George Bush and doesn't want to be blamed for defeating him.

BLITZER: That's what the Gore campaign is counting on. But let's see if that happens. We have to take a quick break. More of our roundtable in just a moment.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our roundtable, Chris, this past week Mrs. Clinton, was -- I guess got good news that there's not going to be any charges leveled against her for the travel office firing over at the White House. Robert Ray the independent counsel was explaining his decision earlier today on "MEET THE PRESS."

Listen to what he said.


ROBERT RAY, INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: There was substantial evidence that the first lady played a role in the firing of the travel office employees. My judgment, the judgment of the office was that no charges would be brought because if a case had been submitted to a jury no jury would convict on the evidence that we had to present.


BLITZER: Same reasoning why he didn't go forward with some indictment involving the use of the Justice Department files, the personal files over at the White House. Mrs. Clinton must be relieved.

BLACK: I would think, yes Wolf, I think it's probably really good news for her. That said, she's been going through a really bad patch in her campaign, she seems to be sort of stuck right now, and it will -- I'm fascinated to see because I can't predict what's going to happen in the next few months but it's really interesting to see her negative so stubbornly high in that state and so many voters who don't know anything about Rick Lazio willing to vote for him over her.

BLITZER: You sense that same -- the same impression that she's stuck at 45 percent or whatever.

PAGE: And it maybe that 55 percent of New Yorkers have decided they're not going to vote for her, I think that's the fear of the Hillary Clinton campaign that it's just not possible to get above 45 percent, in a two-way race you need to get up to 50. Of course, Rick Lazio had some new problems this week too, with some questions raised about some stock option purchases he made. You know, it would be nice to have an election that dealt with issues that involve voters as opposed to Mrs. Clinton's role in scandals or Rick Lazio's role in stock purchases.

ROBERTS: I have not been indicted, it's not a particularly good campaign slogan but -- and it does relate to exactly what talking about Al Gore. There is a core of voters nationally and in state of New York. Will Gore, Clinton anybody associated with them go away, and that's part of the reason why she is stuck.

BLITZER: What about this other issue that we heard Pat Robertson talk about it. Pat Robertson saying a moratorium on the death penalty, it's pretty surprising to hear that kind of talk from him in contrast to what Governor Bush is saying.

ROBERTS: It's a very interesting issue because there's been a significant change and Robertson has reflected it. We're not really talking anymore about the morality of the death penalty. That's the old issue. The new issue is, how fair has the process been for individual convicts and you saw people like George Ryan, the governor of Illinois, a conservative Republican who's presided over these executions saying 99.5 percent certainty is not good enough, I want to make absolutely sure that I haven't executed an innocent individual in Illinois, he created a moratorium.

George Bush's problem, he's rather cavalierly saying, I'm certain that 135 cases every one was decided right, but Pat Robertson raised the question, maybe there wasn't. In the Graham case this week, five of the 17 members of the board of parole voted to commute his sentence, so there's a lot of underlying doubt around the country and in Texas, is it completely fair. BLITZER: Very quickly, do you think this is going to hurt Governor Bush.

BLACK: Has the potential to hurt him a great deal because it could exacerbate the gender gap for one thing. One of the things I was picking up from women I was interviewing, is that the death penalty in a sort of odd way feeds into this concern women have, particularly suburban women, of the lack of civility, the callousness of the culture. It's an interesting sort of way affects that as well, and the fact that Bush has been so certain and seemingly cavalier and in a famous interview with Tucker Carlson, actually joking about a woman who was on death row, I don't think helps long run.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. Chris Black, always good to have you filling in for Tucker Carlson, Susan Page, Steve Roberts, thanks for joining us.

And just ahead, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines, plus Bruce Morton's "Last Word."


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The two plans in fact reflect the two men and the different philosophies of their two parties.


BLITZER: The Bush and Gore retirement plans: why you should be paying attention.


BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's "Last Word." The presumed Republican and Democratic presidential nominees have both offered up plans for Social Security, and tax cuts. Bruce says American voters have some key differences to sort out.


MORTON (voice-over): If you have not paid much attention to George W. Bush and Al Gore's proposals on Social Security and tax cuts, you probably think they are pretty much alike. Gore copying Bush perhaps and so what? That is wrong. The two plans, in fact, reflect the two men and the different philosophies of their two parties.

Start with Social Security. Bush's plan would fundamentally restructure the system. Bush says you can take some of the money you pay toward your Social Security payroll tax and put it in the stock market instead in a personal retirement account.

The government would get the rest of the tax of course, in order to fund the Social Security benefits. But since the Social Security program would be getting less money, because of the money going to those personal accounts, benefits at some point would presumably have to be cut. But if you have done well in the stock market, in your personal retirement account, you'll be better off overall and you won't care.

Typically conservative. Gives the individual a choice. Keeps government out, except maybe for a few rules, so you don't blow your money on somebody's bogus stock prospectus.

Gores plan is totally different. You pay the full Social Security tax. And those benefits stay where they are. But Gore then proposes a separate retirement plan which offers incentives for lower- income Americans to save.

If, for example, a couple earning under $30,000 puts a thousand dollars in a retirement account the government will chip in 3,000 in new money for a total of a $4,000 nest egg. Couples earning up to $60,000 can invest $2,000. The government ponies up $2,000. Up to $100,000 the government gives you $1,000, if you save $3,000. If you earn more than that, you are not eligible for the program.

So under Gore's Social Security stays as is with the government offering a separate new savings program to try to narrow the gap between rich and poor. Standard Democratic stuff using government to do what you see, as social good.

The same with tax cuts. Bush's are across the board. Even the highest income people get a cut, and they will get most money back. While low income people get the biggest percentage cut. His plan costs 1.3 trillion over 10 years. Gore's plan costs $500 billion and all his tax cuts are targeted: a tax deduction for college tuition, a tax credit for care givers looking after elderly parents, a tax credit for after-school programs and so on.

Again, Bush emphasizes choice; Gore, using tax cuts to accomplish what he thinks are desirable social ends. They're not alike. They are as different as Republicans and Democrats. And they are the kind of thing elections ought to be about.

I'm Bruce Morton.


BLITZER: Thanks, Bruce.

Now a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines. Time magazine has cracking the code, how two rival scientists mapped our DNA, changing medicine forever, on the cover.

Golf champion Tiger Woods is on the cover of "U.S. News & World Report" with mind power, how athletes, executives and artists learn to stay in the zone.

And on the cover of "Newsweek," fat for life? Six million kids are seriously overweight. What families can do.

That is your LATE EDITION for Sunday June 25th. Be sure to catch us next Sunday and every Sunday at noon eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

I'll also be back tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on "THE WORLD TODAY." Please stay tuned for "CNN DOT.COM," which is up next. "EARTH MATTERS" has moved to a new time at 4:30 p.m. eastern. For now, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.



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