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CNN Late Edition

Speculation Abounds as Bush Narrows Choices for Running Mate

Aired July 23, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 11:00 a.m. in Austin, Texas, 7:00 p.m. in Jerusalem and 1:00 p.m. Monday in Okinawa, Japan. 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, the hour's top stories.

We begin with the U.S. presidential race. The Republican candidate, George W. Bush, is spending the weekend at his Texas ranch making up his mind on who he'll choose to be his vice presidential running mate. A decision could be announced as early as tomorrow.

For the latest, we turn now to CNN's Jonathan Karl, he's covering the Bush campaign from Austin, Texas -- Jonathan.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as vice presidential speculation dominated the Sunday talk shows, two names on George W. Bush's short list, according to several Republican sources, are former Missouri Senator John Danforth and former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. Both are politically conservative Republican elder statesman. Both have extensive Washington experience.

But the two also come as somewhat of a surprise, because both had adamantly said they were not interested in taking the job.

Now on Friday, Cheney traveled to Wyoming to change his voter registration from Texas to the state that he represented in Congress in the 1980s. The move eliminates a constitutional obstacle that would make it difficult for two individuals from the same state, in this case Texas, to run on the same ticket.

This morning, senior Bush aide Karen Hughes confirmed that Cheney's change of registration is a sign that he is in the running.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEET THE PRESS")

KAREN HUGHES, BUSH COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR: That is a serious step, and I think it indicates that Secretary Cheney is willing to be seriously considered.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Hughes also confirmed that Bush met on Tuesday in Chicago with former Senator Danforth and his wife. Also present at that meeting was Dick Cheney, not in his role as a potential candidate himself but in his role as the head of Bush's selection process.

This morning, Danforth said that he could be convinced to take the job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY")

JOHN DANFORTH, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: These have been the six best years of my life, and I am very, very reluctant to get back in public life. If it were a matter of duty, that's a different question. But I think that there are other people out there who are very, very good and who would be very, very good vice presidents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Danforth went on to say that he took Cheney's change of registration as a sign that it is Cheney whole will ultimately be Bush's choice.

And there's another option, Wolf, that Bush aides will not rule out, and that is a choice that catches all of us by surprise. Whatever that choice is, we're expecting a decision perhaps by Tuesday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jonathan Karl in Austin, thanks for joining us.

And joining us now again from Austin to discuss all of this is one of George W. Bush's top advisers, he's the chief strategist for the Bush campaign, Karl Rove.

Mr. Rove, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

KARL ROVE, BUSH CHIEF STRATEGIST: Good morning, Mr. Blitzer.

BLITZER: When are you going to make -- when is the governor going to make up his mind and when is he going to announce the decision?

ROVE: Well, I talked to him last night after he returned from Senator Paul Coverdell's funeral in Atlanta, and he said he was close to a decision, that he was going to think about it and decision was likely to come today or tomorrow and he'd let people know shortly after that.

BLITZER: Obviously when you say he'll let people know, he would let the person who he is going to choose, he would let him know right away?

ROVE: I suspect so, yes.

BLITZER: And once that is out there, then he's not going to wait much longer to make the official announcement. As you know, it's going to be leaked if it already hasn't in the case of Dick Cheney, right? ROVE: Well, he will make a public announcement shortly thereafter if only to soothe the anxiety of people like you and Jonathan Karl who are on a high gain about this.

BLITZER: Well, it's not only us. It's everyone. This is obviously going to be the most important decision of his presidential campaign so far, so he's devoted an enormous amount of energy to his running mate.

ROVE: He has. He's taking this as a very serious process, he's talked to a lot of people, asked for advice and counsel. He's concerned and interested about finding somebody whom the American people would see as being able to be president if, God forbid, something called for that. He's looked for somebody whom he feels could bring added value to his administration in pursuing his agenda of reforming education and strengthening Social Security and rebuilding our defenses and taking the next step in welfare reform by encouraging armies of compassion to confront suffering.

So, he's got an agenda that he wants his prospective running mate to be able to advance. And finally, he's looking for somebody who he thinks he can rely upon as a trusted adviser and colleague.

BLITZER: You heard Jonathan Karl say that Dick Cheney, who's been heading the search committee, in effect, for the vice president running mate, went to Wyoming, his home state, to change his voter registration from Texas to Wyoming only in the past few days. Why did he do that?

ROVE: Well, you know, you heard Karen Hughes say earlier that this removes a potential obstacle to his being seriously considered. He grew up in Wyoming, represented Wyoming in Congress for 12 years, he has a place in Jackson Hole, and I guess Friday was the deadline to move his voting residence there in order to participate in the local primaries there in a couple of weeks.

BLITZER: You're also hearing a lot of people, a lot of sources -- unnamed sources -- telling reporters that, in effect, almost is a done deal, that Dick Cheney has this position locked up. Is that true?

ROVE: Well, look, only one person knows the answer to that, and it's not me. The person is Governor Bush. He's making this decision. He has not yet made the decision. He will make it here in the next day or so, and then share it with the American people. I know at this point there are lots of people who claim to have a lot of inside knowledge. But this is a process that the governor is taking very seriously, and it's only he who knows who the names are on the list that he's considering.

I will say this: I have a very strong sense from him that he's very comfortable with the names that he has on the list. I don't know whether there are two or three or four or five names, but however big that list is, whatever number of names are on it, he's very comfortable that he's got good men and women on the list who will be able to serve America in this very important role. BLITZER: If Dick Cheney doesn't get the nod, it would be sort of embarrassing to him, having gone to Wyoming to change his voter registration, having informed the board of the company that he heads, Halliburton in Texas, an energy company, that this is a possibility. It would be pretty embarrassing, wouldn't it?

ROVE: Well, again, this is all speculation and Governor Bush is going to make a decision soon enough, and why don't we just wait and see.

BLITZER: All right. What about some of the down sides that some people are suggesting that Dick Cheney might bring. One in particular that's been reviewed extensively is health. He did have a series of heart attacks way back in the '80s. He did go on, though, from there to serve as defense secretary during the Gulf War. Have you looked into his health situation?

ROVE: Well, Wolf, you said it best. These were way back there. This issue was examined before he was confirmed as secretary of defense in 1989. And as you know, he served as secretary of defense during the Gulf War. I can't imagine a more stressful situation than being a secretary of defense in a shooting war. And yet this is not an issue. He's a person of great energy and ability. If he were to be selected, I know he's a high altitude skier. He's an active outdoorsman, a hunter, and a fisherman. And I don't see if he were to be chosen, that this would be any kind of a problem.

BLITZER: I want to play a sound byte that Bob Shrum, one of Al Gore's advisers, made earlier today on NBC's "Meet the Press," in which he blasted Governor Bush for the way he's conducted this search.

Listen to what Bob Shrum had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB SHRUM, GORE SENIOR ADVISER: Governor Bush decided to conduct a very public kind of audition for these candidates. It's almost become a spectacle. I think at this point he looks a little indecisive, and the fact of the matter is, that I don't think he should do it this way. But that was his choice. But picking a vice president is not a fraternity rush.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you say about the way he slammed the governor?

ROVE: Well, I say, like most things the Gore campaign has to say, it's amusing. Governor Bush has been very private about this. It's been the news media, as you know, that had to ferret out details about this. It's a far cry from two other episodes we've seen. One episode in 1992 when then-Governor Bill Clinton paraded a lot of people to Little Rock, Arkansas, including Bob Shrum's current client, Al Gore, in a very public manner and made this a drama lasting weeks and week and weeks.

It's also different than what we've seen Al Gore do this time around. I read with some interest about Bob Graham of Florida being sent to Nashville, Tennessee to speak at a Tennessee-Jackson fundraising dinner for the Democratic Party, this was his test, this was his sort of opening night test as a prospective vice presidential running mate. And Al Gore's been doing this with Dick Durbin and with John Kerry, and there's been endless speculation about it.

I mean, what did Bob Shrum expect, that people are not reading the newspapers and watching to television see Al Gore agonize over this? One interesting thing is Al Gore is focused on responding to Governor Bush. All of the conversation from the Gore campaign has not been about what is it that Al Gore needs in a vice president or wants to see in a vice president. It's been what is Bush going to do and how can we react to it? So I'm amused by Bob Shrum and what he says. He gets paid a lot of dollars to be a good spinner for the Gore campaign, and he's doing just the best he can with what he's been given to work up.

BLITZER: Let's try to tie up one loose end from this past week. There was talk widely reported that John McCain told Governor Ridge of Pennsylvania that if asked, reluctantly he would serve as the vice presidential running mate. Was that ever seriously being considered by Governor Bush to invite John McCain to be his running mate?

ROVE: Well, I can't answer the specifics, but I do know Governor Bush was told very bluntly and very forcefully by Senator McCain in Pittsburgh, that he did not want to be considered, and you heard his -- you've heard his comments where he said the two jobs (A) inquiring the president's health and going to funerals of foreign dictators and he didn't relish either job as vice president.

So, Governor Bush I suspect, will take him at his word. I do know they have had conversations since then. Senator McCain has been generous in his offers of support to the governor, you're going to see a lot of Senator McCain this fall working hard for the election of the Republican ticket and for Governor Bush as our next president and we're grateful for that.

BLITZER: And finally, because we're running out of time, Colin Powell, is it completely out of the question that he could be the surprise-surprise candidate as the vice presidential running mate?

ROVE: Well, again, I don't know. Governor Bush knows who's on the list, and Governor Bush is going to make that decision. I do know he has, Governor Bush has the utmost respect for General Powell, and if not vice president, would hope that he would offer himself up to serve us again in the Bush administration. He's a wonderful person, a true hero, a patriot and a great American.

BLITZER: All right, Karl Rove, chief strategist for the Bush campaign in Austin, Texas, thanks for joining us. We'll be in Philadelphia next week at the Republican convention. You'll be there, I'm sure we'll be catching up with you there as well.

Thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION.

ROVE: Thanks, Wolf. See you in Philadelphia. BLITZER: Thank you.

And coming up next, the Gore response. The vice president hammered away at Governor Bush on the Republican candidate's home turf last week. What's Gore's next line of attack? We'll talk with Gore deputy campaign manager Mark Fabiani, when LATE EDITION continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I now know what Bill Bradley meant when he said how can we trust this man as president when we can't trust him as a candidate and begin to get a feel for why he uttered those words.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate and Governor George W. Bush defending his state record at his Texas ranch on Friday.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining us now to get the Gore perspective is the deputy campaign manager for communications, Mark Fabiani. He joins us from Nashville.

Mr. Fabiani, welcome to LATE EDITION.

MARK FABIANI, GORE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: What do you think about the prospect of a Bush-Cheney ticket facing Al Gore in November?

FABIANI: It's hard to know what to make of all this speculation, you know?

Governor Bush has been running around the country holding public auditions for the vice presidential spot. It's hard to know whether they're (OFF-MIKE) one way or another back into deficits. What we do know is Governor Bush's campaign is languishing. He doesn't want to talk about his budget mess in Texas. He doesn't want to talk about his tax cut, which would drive the country back into deficits.

He doesn't want to talk about Social Security plan which would require us to bankrupt the Social Security trust fund and borrow $3 trillion. All he wants to talk about is his ruminations about who he's going to pick for vice president. Whoever he picks, it's going to be somebody who stands with Bush, and anyone who's standing with Bush is going to lose in the fall.

BLITZER: But in fairness to Governor Bush, he really hasn't been talking at all about his ruminations about his vice presidential running mate, and he has delivered extensive speeches on all of those issues, Social Security, tax cuts, that you just raised. It's the press, really, that's been speculating about his vice presidential candidate.

The question -- let me repeat the first question. Dick Cheney, as the no. 2 on the Republican ticket, what message does that send to the Gore campaign?

FABIANI: Again, it's not our part to speculate about who might be picked or talk about that person. There'll be plenty of time for doing that. The Gore campaign is focused on its message which is use this incredible surplus that's the result of the last eight years to pay off the debt, to protect Social Security.

And with all due respect, Wolf, you know, the last time Governor Bush talks about his tax cut, it was months ago. The last time he answered any questions about his Social Security plan was several months ago. He hasn't talked about the two cornerstones of his campaign for months now. And he owes it to the American people to tell them why he was going to bankrupt the federal government just like he's just about bankrupted the Texas state government in the last year alone.

BLITZER: You know, on that issue you raise about bankrupting the Texas state government, there was a reaction to that accusation, that charge that vice president Al Gore made this week from the comptroller of Texas. I want you to listen to the response that was made in response to the charge from the Gore campaign.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAROLE KEETON RYLANDER (R), TEXAS STATE COMPTROLLER: There is no budget deficit in the state of Texas. In fact, there is a surplus. And the vice president has said repeatedly that there is a budget deficit in Texas. That is not only misleading, it is incorrect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: They're basically saying that the vice president is lying when it comes to the record of Governor Bush, as far as budget surpluses in Texas is concerned.

FABIANI: Well, the comptroller you heard from, you might be interested to know, her son is the spokesperson for the Bush campaign. She is hardly a disinterested observer. Last year she cooked the books, literally -- and there's proof of this up and down the line -- so that Bush could get his tax cut passed. They were $800 million short last year. This comptroller, who, believe me, is no Alan Greenspan, this is a political hack who is the comptroller in Texas, she cooked the books last year. And sure enough, this year they're $800 million short.

They went from a $6 billion surplus last year to now having only about $250 million left. In their rainy day fund, they have enough money to run the state for just one day, and things are going to get worse there before they get better. And Bush was very honest about it. When this first came up, he said, as you know, I hope I don't have to be around here next year to deal with it. That's the first, and so far the only, honest thing that the people in Texas government have said about this budget mess.

BLITZER: Well, obviously, the vice president and you, as the vice president's spokesman, are going on the offensive against Governor Bush. This kind of attack kind of policy, the strategy to go into Texas, some would call it slash and burn politics. Is this what we can expect in the coming weeks?

FABIANI: This isn't slash and burn politics, Wolf. You know, Al Gore has set forth his vision for the future and is that pay off the national debt, protect Social Security and Medicare, and make wise investments in education, health care, and the environment.

What we're doing is comparing the positive Gore agenda for the future with what Governor Bush has actually done in Texas.

Because what has happened in Texas predicts possibly what Governor Bush would do if he were president. He's already proposed a huge tax cut for the wealthy as president which is just what he did in Texas. He's already proposed a privatize part of Social Security, which his own economic adviser last Monday, Martin Feldstein, admitted, finally for the first time, would result in bankruptcy to the Social Security trust fund and the need to borrow $3 trillion.

These are serious questions, and voters want them answered. And Bush has been silent about them. And he continues to be silent. And fortunately, come the fall, he will be forced to answer the questions and when people hear the answers, the Bush campaign is going to go down, down, down, which is where it's been going the last few weeks.

BLITZER: Bush is doing well, though, in a lot of states, including states that many thought that Gore would easily win. There's a new poll that just came out this past week in California, for example. Look at these numbers: Bush, 36 percent, Al Gore, 38 percent, within the sampling margin of error, Nader at 5 percent, Buchanan at 1 percent. You're from California. Obviously, if Gore is in trouble, if it's close in California, that does not bode well for Vice President Gore's campaign.

FABIANI: The national polls for the last two week, as you know, Wolf, have showed this race closing to a dead heat. The most recent poll out two days ago showed the vice president ahead of Governor Bush.

A year ago, you know, Bush was ahead of Gore by 25 points. I wouldn't be too happy if I were the Bush campaign looking at this trend line. His trend is down; our trend is up. When people focus on the election as they're just starting to do now, they will focus on the mess in Texas, focus on how Bush would bankrupt the federal government again. And when that happens, we feel very good about the chances of Vice President Gore.

BLITZER: When is the vice president going to select his running mate? FABIANI: Well, unlike Governor Bush, the vice president has taken this process extraordinarily seriously -- has held it very, very close to his vest, working with former Secretary of State Warren Christopher in Los Angeles. None of us on staff know when the choice is going to be made. We don't know who it's going to be. We're preparing for the choice whenever it's made, but that's up to the vice president, and he's taking it very seriously.

You're not going to see this, sort of, public speculation and public rumination that you've seen so much of from Governor Bush.

BLITZER: We've seen a lot of public speculation about the vice presidential candidates -- potential candidates. Let's go through some of them; we don't have a whole lot of time. But Senator Graham from Florida -- he seems to be high on that list.

Is he No. 1 right now?

FABIANI: Wolf, you're talking to somebody who doesn't know the answers to those questions. If you want to talk to Al Gore or Warren Christopher, you'll talk to two people, the only two people who could answer that question. And they're not talking right now, and I don't think they're going to be talking until we're ready to make an announcement sometime in the next couple of weeks.

BLITZER: How much fear is there in the Gore campaign about what Ralph Nader can do in states like California, Michigan, his pro-labor union message, taking base Democrats away from Al Gore?

How much fear is there of Ralph Nader?

FABIANI: It's not fear. We are committed to sticking to the message, and if we stick to the message, I think you'll see that voters who are now attracted to Nader in the end will come back to Al Gore because he's fought way ahead of his time for things potential Nader voters care about.

Al Gore was a leader on the environment before it was fashionable to be a leader on the environment, same thing with nuclear disarmament, same thing with the high-tech revolution. So voters who may be attracted to Nader in the end will come back to Al Gore because Gore stands for many of the same principles that Mr. Nader does.

BLITZER: OK. Mark Fabiani, we are all out of time. Thanks for joining us from Nashville...

FABIANI: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: ... from the Gore campaign. I'm sure you'll be back. And we'll, of course, just as we're going to be in Philadelphia for the Republican convention; we'll be in Los Angeles next week for the Republican convention. We'll be in Los Angeles later in August for the Democratic convention.

And just ahead: This week, Capitol Hill experienced tax cut fever. But the president promises a swift veto. We'll talk with senators Don Nickles and Dick Durbin about tax cuts, Campaign 2000 and much more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION

Joining us now to talk about tax cuts and much more, two members of the U.S. Senate. In Springfield, Illinois, Democratic senator Dick Durbin, who's been mentioned as a possible running mate for Al Gore. And here in Washington, the number two Senate Republican, Majority Whip Don Nickles, supporter of Governor George W. Bush.

Senators, good to have both of you back on LATE EDITION.

And I'll start with you, Senator Nickles. All this talk of Dick Cheney, someone you know quite well, would you be happy if he were the governor's running mate?

SEN. DON NICKLES (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, he'd be an outstanding addition. Actually I think Governor Bush has a wealth of great people to select from and Dick Cheney, I've had the pleasure of working with when he was, you know, one of the Republican leaders in the House, he was well- respected by both Democrats and Republicans, and of course did an outstanding job as secretary of defense. Certainly, he's well- known, well-respected, other people that have been mentioned are also well respected. I think Governor Bush is going to come up with a great running mate and we're looking forward to it.

BLITZER: Has anybody told you that it's definitely Cheney?

NICKLES: No, but, you know, there's a lot of -- it's kind of interesting how the rumor mills circulate and change both for Democrats and Republicans in this stage prior to the conventions. But I think Governor Bush is going to have a great running mate.

BLITZER: Senator Durbin, what do you think about Dick Cheney, a Bush-Cheney ticket, how would that do in the Fall?

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Well, I'll tell you, Dick Cheney is well liked and well respected. I agree with my colleague Don Nickles. Democrats and Republicans think that he's done a great job as a congressman and as a member of the Cabinet and working with President Reagan and President Bush. I can't tell you how it will come out in the fall. Frankly, I don't know whether this rumor and speculation about Cheney is designed to really float a name or whether it's designed to kill the speculation that John McCain might be the running mate for Governor Bush. I can't tell from the outside and I'm not sure anyone can.

BLITZER: Well, on that point, Senator Nickles, a lot of House Republicans feel that John McCain would help them the most in making sure the Republicans kept the majority in the House of Representatives, you saw the stories this week about McCain saying to Governor Ridge of Pennsylvania, yeah, if he called me, I would accept. NICKLES: Well, John McCain's an outstanding individual, his name's been mentioned, Chuck Hagel, Fred Thompson, Bill Frisk, Frank Keating, Governor Ridge, I mean, they're all outstanding individuals. On the Democrat side, maybe they're floating Dick Durbin's name to take Gephardt off the page. Who knows? There's outstanding individuals, I think we're going to have a very competitive race and it should be kind of interesting political year.

BLITZER: Senator Durbin, I was just out in Illinois this past weekend myself and there is speculation that you could help Vice President Gore carry Illinois, which is a key battle ground state if they made that phone call to you and asked you to be the running mate, would you serve?

DURBIN: I've said, Wolf, I've told all the people in the Gore camp I'm flattered to be considered. I love the job that I have representing the state of Illinois, and the about news is in the last couple weeks, Al Gore's numbers in Illinois has been rising substantially and they indicate to me that the message is finally coming through about what this campaign is coming down to. I think the choices that the voters will have in November really are on Al Gore's side at this point.

BLITZER: What's the answer, yes or no. Would you serve if you were asked?

DURBIN: Well, let's just say I won't go into the speculation. I have said to the Gore campaign I'll be working hard to get him elected and I like the job that I have as U.S. senator.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on and talk about some of the issues before the U.S. Senate at this point. Tax cuts, which is going to be a big issue in the presidential campaign and Senate campaigns, Congressional elections in the Fall. You support major tax cuts right now. A lot of Democrats including President Clinton say it's not a good idea, still too uncertain what's going to happen with the economy down the road. Let's talk first of all what's called the marriage penalty tax, which would lower the tax for married couples as opposed to individual whose are not married.

People say it's just, the president is promising he's going to veto this, he says it's too expensive, the country simply can't afford it right now.

NICKLES: Well Wolf, I'm disappointed. I really thought the president would come around and say hey, this is a moderate, modest proposal. The bill that we're going to send to the president's only $90 billion. We have total surpluses, non-Social Security, 2.1 trillion over the next ten years and with Social Security, $4.5 trillion. We're only talking about $90 billion, it's five years. Another Congress hopefully would extend that. But the bill that he has before him is only $90 billion.

BLITZER: All right, well let's ask Senator Durbin.

NICKLES: But unfortunately, President Clinton's tax proposal had a $9 billion tax increase this year, but I hope he'll change his mind and provide married couples, anybody that makes $52,000; married couple, would get $1,125 talk cut on the rates, another $200 on standard deduction, that's about $1,350 they would get $52,000 wage couples. They need the tax relief, I hope that the president will sign it.

BLITZER: Senator Durbin, that sounds reasonable. What's wrong with that? You voted against it?

DURBIN: Well, Don Nickles arithmetic is all wrong on this program as it has been on the Senate floor. Let me just tell you, we hope there will be a surplus, we believe on the Democratic side the highest priority is to pay down the national debt, strengthen Social Security and Medicare, there's not a penny proposed by the Republicans to put back into the Medicare program.

DURBIN: We think we should target our tax cuts, not to the wealthiest people in this country as the Republicans have done, but to working families who are struggling to pay for day care, middle income families who need the deductons for college education expenses, long- term care for their parents, and especially a prescription drug benefit under medicare. None of those things are on the radar screen for the Republicans. Only tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of America.

BLITZER: On this point, Senator Nickles, President Clinton in the past few weeks has said he will go ahead and sign your marriage penalty tax cut, but what he wants in exchange is prescription drug benefits as he envisioned the plan for medicare recipients. In fact, listen to what the president said on June 26 in offering you some sort of compromise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Congress will pass a plan that gives real voluntary medicare prescription drug coverage available and affordable to all seniors, consistent with the principles of my plan, costing roughly $250 billion over 10 years, then I will sign a marriage penalty relief law which also costs roughly $250 billion over ten years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He says that marriage penalty cost $250 billion. You said it only costs $80 billion.

NICKLES: Well, it costs $90 billion over five years, and the bill that we passed only lasts nine years, so it's $90 billion over 10 years. And so he ought to sign it, and you shouldn't be trying to say, oh, well, if you'll attach it to a brand new expensive entitlement program. Interestingly, he says his prescription drug proposal is 250. Guess what? CBO just doubled it. They said, oh, no, it's more like 450.

BLITZER: So that compromise is not acceptable? NICKLES: No, you shouldn't say, hey married couples, we're going to tie whether or not we eliminate this unfair penalty on married couples, making married couples pay 28 percent when they should be paying 15 percent. We're going the tie this to expansion of entitlement program that could explode in costs? I don't think that's fiscally responsible.

BLITZER: Senator Durbin, I'm going to give you a chance to respond, but we have to take a quick commercial break. When we come back, your response to this proposed compromise, plus your phone calls for our two senators.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture of the United States Capitol, where last week a surplus of tax cut legislation passed, and now heads for a near-certain veto by President Clinton.

Welcome back.

We're continuing our conversation with Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois, and here in Washington, Republican Don Nickles of Oklahoma.

Senator Durbin, let me give you a chance to respond to what Senator Nickles said about this proposal -- this proposed compromise that President Clinton floated, the idea being, marriage penalty tax cut that the Republicans want be would be accepted if the Republicans accepted his proposal for a prescription drug benefits for Medicare recipients.

Is this going anywhere -- this compromise?

DURBIN: I think the Democrats believe we can eliminate the marriage penalty, do it in a responsible way for a fraction of the cost suggested by Republicans. They continue to want to give tax breaks to the wealthiest among us.

I listened to Senator Nickles, and he suggested that a prescription drug benefit under Medicare was "an entitlement." Now that's a lethal label on his side of the table.

But I can tell you that, for most families in America, the idea of guaranteed universal coverage for prescription drugs under Medicare is not a radical idea. Listen to what the Republicans suggested instead. They want to give an estate tax break of $23,000 a year to people making over $300,000 in income.

So they don't consider that to be a waste of money. But they consider a prescription drug benefit to be highly suspect. I think the American people disagree.

NICKLES: (OFF-MIKE) that happens to be factually incorrect.

I mean, we have in our budget $40 billion for a prescription drug proposal. Now the president is saying, oh, well, we might give you tax relief if you will sign on to my prescription drug proposal, which duplicates coverage that's already provided. Three-fourths of senior citizens have private coverage, and he says, oh, we want to duplicate it -- replace it with a government-provided plan, which he thinks is better -- in many cases, is not as good.

And so we're not just going to sign on to a new entitlement program, but we should -- we should pass and give married couples tax relief to the tune of $1,400 by eliminating this tax on marriages -- marriage penalty.

BLITZER: Let's take a caller. From Talladega, Alabama, please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: This question is for either senator. I just wanted to know why, in Mr. Clinton's budget, we can afford the prescription drugs and tax relief when we can't just afford tax relief for married couples?

BLITZER: Senator Durbin, what do you say about that?

DURBIN: Because when you add up the total tax packages that the Republicans passed last year and this year, it literally consumes the entire surplus, and the winners turn out to be the wealthiest people.

What the Democrats believe is we can have a prescription drug benefit, if we will target the tax cuts to families that really need them, 98 percent of the people who are ignored by the Republican tax cut package.

We think that tax cuts for day care, tax cuts for prescription drugs, as well as tax cuts for the basics in life, are things that the American people need, like college education expenses. That's what middle-income families really are concerned about.

BLITZER: All right.

Senator Nickles?

NICKLES: Well, Wolf, I think we can do both.

I think we can do something on prescription drugs and we can provide tax cuts. It's interesting what now Senator Durbin and the Democrats -- they all spin this, together.

They say, oh, well, the tax bill last year plus the tax cuts last year. The president vetoed the tax cut last year. The tax cut last year was $748 billion over 10 years.

Guess what? We're going to have a surplus over the next 10 years, $4.5 trillion, $2.2 of that non-Social Security. About a third of the non-Social Security surplus, we were saying, Let's let taxpayers pay it, because the surplus is a surplus of taxes. So -- and now we're passing -- the only tax cut he has on his desk is marriage penalty elimination for low-income, middle-income people, and he ought to sign the bill. BLITZER: Let's take another caller. From London, England, please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Hello.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

CALLER: My question is for everybody.

Why doesn't anybody do anything with Western Union and Trans Data (ph) -- they are thieves. They've taken my money, and they wanted to kill me.

BLITZER: I think we had a bad caller there.

Let's talk a little bit about this estate tax because, Senator Durbin, in Illinois, especially farmers who do want to leave their farms to their children, a lot of times they can't do it because they have to sell the farm to pay for the tax -- tax estates that have already been paid for, the taxes have been paid for. The Republicans want to eliminate this -- what they call, the death tax.

Why don't you?

DURBIN: Well, frankly, I think we should have a change in the estate tax so that family farmers and small businesses never have to worry about leaving their former business to the next generation. Our Democratic bill protects them and increases estates that are exempt from paying the tax up to $8 million.

You know, Russ Feingold had an amendment on the floor that said, can we tax any estate over $100 million in value? The Republicans categorically said, No, we don't want to tax estates over $100 million. That just shows you how far they will go...

BLITZER: All right.

DURBIN: ... to protect people who really don't need the protection.

BLITZER: Senator Nickles, we only have a few seconds.

NICKLES: Well, one, the amendment that you talked about, the Feingold amendment increased taxes on estates over $100 million. And frankly it's wrong for the federal government, if you have a taxable estate -- he says, well, let's exempt the first $8 million.

NICKLES: If you have a taxable estate of 10 million, the federal government says they want 60 percent of it. That is wrong. It's absolutely wrong. So we say let's eliminate the tax on death and replace it with a tax on the sale of the property when it's sold. So if somebody receives the property, it's taxed when it's sold. That will be taxed at capital gains rate, not at 60 percent, not at 55 percent.

BLITZER: Senator Nickles, Senator Durbin, unfortunately we are all out of time. I want to thank both of you for joining us on LATE EDITION.

And new twists in the two most watched political races this year. Has Senator John McCain cracked the door open even slightly for a possible vice presidency slot alongside Governor Bush?

Plus the latest in the New York Senate race between Congressman Rick Lazio and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. We'll talk to Republican strategist Mike Murphy and top New York City Democrat Mark Green when LATE EDITION continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I told Governor Bush when we've discussed this issue, that there are far more qualified candidates that can serve the country better than I.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator John McCain on Thursday, downplaying reports that he could join the Republican ticket.

Joining us now to talk about presidential running mates, the New York Senate race and more, two veteran political operatives in Washington, former adviser for Senator McCain's presidential bid, Mike Murphy. He's currently senior strategist for the New York Congressman Rick Lazio, who's running for the U.S. Senate seat against Hillary Rodham Clinton.

And in our New York bureau, New York City public advocate and Hillary Rodham Clinton supporter, Mark Green.

Gentlemen, thank you for joining us on LATE EDITION.

You know John McCain, Mike Murphy very well. You worked on his campaign very closely with him. What was this business that he spoke with Governor Ridge and said yeah, maybe I would serve after all the times saying he was not really interested, would not accept the vice presidential position.

MIKE MURPHY, LAZIO CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Well, I think a couple of things have come together here. There's, you know, rampant media speculation about vice presidency naturals, so the slightest crumb of anything gets blown real up. I wasn't privy to the conversation, it was private, but people should take John McCain at his word. I don't think he's interested in the job, but he's a guy that his whole life's history has been service. If asked to serve as a country he loves, I think he would.

But I think what you just said in your sound byte is exactly how he feels. There are other people who, I think -- he thinks would be excellent and he's not pursuing the job and he's very happy doing what he's doing.

BLITZER: Mark Green, you know New York state politics, New York City politics very well, in the Republican primary earlier this year on March 7, George W. Bush won with 51 percent of the vote, John McCain had 43 percent of the vote. That would be a powerful ticket, though, in New York state and could carry New York some are suggesting, for the Bush campaign.

MARK GREEN, NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC ADVOCATE: I think John McCain should run as VP nominee, perhaps on the Democratic ticket, however Wolf, that is, his views on campaign finance reform and how big powerful lobbies buy their way into Washington, is so much more consistent with Al Gore's platform than George W. Bush's platform.

But if he should run with Governor Bush, whatever the speculation, I really think it could carry Wyoming. There's no chance it will carry New York. Al Gore's strong in New York, we have nearly 2 million more registered Democrats in New York. Hillary Clinton's running a very strong race for Senate in New York on the line below. So, I think most people and Mike would probably agree will ...

BLITZER: Well, let's ask him.

GREEN: ... will give New York to the Gore campaign, and I'll give Wyoming to the Bush campaign.

BLITZER: Is that -- you think that the Bush campaign, let's say it's a Bush-Cheney ticket, you think they could carry New York?

MURPHY: I think they're going to be ...

BLITZER: You've spent a lot of time there lately.

MURPHY: They're going to be remarkably competitive there. Actually the Clinton campaign's an anchor on the Democratic ticket, not a plus. But I'll agree with Mark.

BLITZER: The Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign?

MURPHY: Yes, exactly -- the Senate campaign. I'll agree with Mark that's no question that Al Gore is ahead in New York. I think the New York play, which I think the Bush campaign may still be considering is Governor Pataki, I think a Bush-Pataki ticket could upset, win New York and probably end the campaign. I mean, it would be an unacceptable lose for Al Gore to lose the state of New York.

BLITZER: A lot of people would be very surprised if Governor Pataki got that phone call. But, Mark Green, could a Bush-Pataki ticket carry New York state?

GREEN: Well, Governor Pataki obviously is more well-known than Cheney in New York, about as well-known as McCain in New York, and he's moderately popular but not since LBJ has a vice presidential candidate helped win a decisive state. And Al Gore is so far ahead in a state with so many more Democrats, in a state that then Governor and President Clinton carried twice, that I don't think the Bush people would pick Governor Pataki in order to win New York. They may have other reasons, but I think they have next to no hope of carrying the state, which is why Governor Bush and Vice President gore spend almost no time in this state because it's really not in play.

BLITZER: You know Mike Murphy, there was a headline in "The New York Post" about 10 days or so ago, a week or so ago in which there was this suggestion that Governor Bush is really happy that Hillary is running for the Senate seat in New York state, the headline being, my pal Hillary thinking is that going to help him in New York state.

MURPHY: Well, I don't think there's any question that her campaign is struggling. It's going to be a tough campaign, it is a Democratic state. Mark is right about that, but she is not doing well as a candidate, and I think Republicans everywhere are pretty happy about that.

BLITZER: Mark Green, I want to get -- move this whole discussion over to the Senate race in New York state, but I want you to stand by, Mike Murphy stand by, we have to take a quick break. Just ahead, the latest on the New York Senate race plus your phone calls for Mike Murphy and Mark Green.

LATE EDITION continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: I have never used an ethnic, racial, anti- semitic, bigoted, discriminatory, prejudiced accusation against anybody. I've never done it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: U.S. Senate candidate and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton denying allegations she made an ethnic slur in the 1970s.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Let's turn to the always intriguing New York Senate race with our guests, Lazio's senior strategist Mike Murphy. In New York, public advocate Mark Green who supports Mrs. Clinton.

What do you think, Mark Green, about that whole flurry of press speculation that because of a book that came out that Mrs. Clinton many years ago, some 20 years ago, made some anti-semitic comment against one of her husband's former political advisers?

GREEN: Much ado about, literally, nothing. By now, George W. Bush, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich have all said either they don't believe it or it's irrelevant. "The New York Times" and "Fortune" have said it's incredible given Hillary Clinton's Jewish associates, friends, values, and human rights record. Senator Moynihan, Senator Schumer has said she doesn't have an anti-semitic bone in her body.

At the moment, it's dead because it's been -- this poison has been injected into the political circulatory system by a handful of Clinton haters in Arkansas who, Wolf, never mentioned it in dozens of interviews over the years, but now in a Senate race suddenly invent it. What's sad is that Rick Lazio could have stayed mute, and let it play out. Instead, he tried to recycle this garbage by equating these haters with Hillary Clinton, and I really think he probably regrets it now.

BLITZER: Well, let me give you a chance, Mike Murphy, to respond. Did Rick Lazio -- did he try to promote this accusation?

MURPHY: Of course not. What happened was, it's a New York Senate campaign, which means it's highly entertaining and there's a new, explosive, crazy issue every week. And Mrs. Clinton's had a very bad week because of these allegations. What Rick said after days of questioning, and I think what he said before, the problem is who knows who to believe.

BLITZER: Do you believe Mrs. Clinton is anti-semitic?

MURPHY: No, I don't.

BLITZER: Do you believe she made that comment some 20 years ago?

MURPHY: I have no way to know. I will believe her denial, but I will say, and I think most New Yorkers will say, there's an unease about trustworthiness of Mrs. Clinton, because there's such a history of, kind of, spin taken to the ultimate with the Clintons, that she has a credibility problem. It goes back to just moving to New York to run for Senate. The whole campaign is kind of built on a house of cards of credibility, and that's the problem. That's why this thing has stuck around for a week. I don't think anybody knows, and I think nobody is running to trust her that well. That's why what should have been a 4 minute story turned into a five-day story.

BLITZER: What do you say about that, Mark Green?

GREEN: Wolf, Prime Minister Barak has said that Israel has never had two such good friends as Bill and Hillary Clinton. Elie Weisel, the great chronicler of the Holocaust, says Mrs. Clinton is a great friend of the Jewish community. End of issue. And it was Rick Lazio who equated her, despite all these testimonials on her behalf, with these people who obviously have invented something for political gain.

Now, Mike said she has a credibility problem, because she moved to New York to run. Well, it is true she moved to New York to run. I frankly am flattered. Here's a woman who grew up in Illinois, went to school in Massachusetts and Connecticut, obviously has lived in Washington with her husband the president. She is an international and a national figure.

This almost never happens in the modern era. She was drafted to run. New York Democrats were so excited that a woman of her intelligence, fame, and accomplishment would run, they asked her to run, she said yes. It's unprecedented. I admit that. Now let the voters decide. That's not a credibility problem. If anything it's flattering to us.

MURPHY: There's one other point I think Mark is missing, which as Mark well knows, she has had other troubles on just the pure issue of Israel in the campaign. The famous kiss with Mrs. Arafat, where she said she didn't really understand the translation after Mrs. Arafat made a bunch of very, very strong accusations about almost Israeli war crimes, about poison gas. Then the kiss, which she said was really a handshake and the dodging back and forth on that. There have been other stumbles, and that's been part of a problem she has had on the whole issue of Israel, which has compounded itself in this latest mess.

BLITZER: Mark Green and Mike Murphy, we have to take another break. But we have a lot more to talk about, including phone calls.

For our international viewers, "World News" is next.

For our North American audience, stay tuned for another 30 minutes of LATE EDITION.

We'll check the hour's top stories and take more phone calls for Mike Murphy and Mark Green.

Plus, our LATE EDITION roundtable and Bruce Morton's "Last Word." It's all ahead when LATE EDITION continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

We'll continue our conversation with Republican strategist Mike Murphy and New York Democrat Mark Green in just a moment.

But first, let's go to Gene Randall in Washington for a check of the hour's top stories -- Gene.

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Thanks, Gene.

We're continuing our conversation on politics and the New York Senate race with Mike Murphy, senior strategist for Congressman Rick Lazio, and New York City Public Advocate, Democrat Mark Green.

Let's take a caller from Queens in New York City. Please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: I've been a registered Democrat for 40 years. The Democratic Party, by nominating Hillary Clinton for Senate, is admitting that they do not have a capable candidate to run for Senate. In the next election, what are they going to do, import someone for governor. Why not Al Sharpton? He lives in New Jersey.

BLITZER: Well, what about that, Mark Green?

Are there no qualified Democrats who are actually from New York?

GREEN: There are two million more qualified Democrats as registrants than Republicans. It wasn't that there were no others; there were terrific people who could have run. Hillary Clinton was the most well known, accomplished, popular Democrat who could run and win a seat when we're trying to win the seat and the Senate.

Look, that person sounded like he was reading from a script. At the end of the day, it's not about Al Sharpton or even Mike Murphy. It's about the contrast on the issues that matter, and I think when voters see that Rick Lazio is weak on gun control, weak on choice, weak on our federal Department of Education that means something, weak on a patient bill of rights, weak on the separation of church and state -- if we were talking about Jewish voters before -- and Hillary Clinton is strong on all these issues that New York state cares about, she will pull away, not based on personality or charges or innuendo but policy and position and vision.

MURPHY: Well, I think where Queens goes, New York is going to go, and that was Iceberg Banty (ph) out there. You need to listen to your own voters a little more.

The fact is Rick Lazio is in the mainstream. This race is about what he's done for New York and what he can do for New York. Mrs. Clinton can't name a single thing she has done for New York and that's why her campaign is failing.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take another caller. From Altus, Oklahoma, please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Yes. My question is for both of the two gentlemen.

Governor Bush said his selection for running mate would generate excitement. Although Cheney, Danforth and Keating would be solid servants in a Bush administration, in your opinion, do they fit the definition of "exciting"?

BLITZER: Mark Green, is any of those exciting?

GREEN: No. I think Wolf Blitzer would be exciting, so my standard is very high.

(LAUGHTER)

Listen, these are competent not-well-known men. But vice presidents, as Mike will agree -- nominees almost never play a role, unless they can deliver a state like Lyndon Johnson -- seem to be, I hope this is not unfair, callow and not up to it, like Dan Quayle or "presidential" and -- qualities on day one like Al Gore, and in 1992 Bill Clinton didn't go geographical; he went presidential, and I hope both nominees try to do that this time.

BLITZER: Mike Murphy?

MURPHY: I think people are excited about change, and they're pretty exciting on that level. But Mark is right. This is about the presidential nominee, and I think people are getting very excited about Governor Bush, and it's going to be a good convention.

But these things are never about the vice president. In fact, the biggest vice presidential attention is right now, during the media feeding frenzy about all this because it's slow; it's July and there's nothing else to obsess on, so -- this huge coverage.

GREEN: I know, if I could interrupt...

BLITZER: We only have a few seconds.

GREEN: What would be exciting is if George W. Bush picked his father as VP and Al Gore picked Bill Clinton as his VP. That would be exciting.

BLITZER: On that note, we have to thank both Mike Murphy and Mark Green for joining us on LATE EDITION.

Thank you.

Coming up, Governor George Bush's choice for vice president: Who will it be, and what will it mean for Al Gore? We'll discuss that and much more when we go round the table with Roberts, Page and Carlson.

LATE EDITION continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable.

Joining me, Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today," Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News & World Report," and Tucker Carlson, political writer for "The Weekly Standard."

Dick Cheney, Steve?

STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, he answers a couple of problems. I think that if George Bush looks and says what am I missing, and what is my danger? It's that voters are going to go into the voting booth in the Fall and say, he ain't quite ready. He doesn't have enough experience particularly in foreign and military policy.

So if you look at the single biggest political hole that George Bush has, Dick Cheney helps fill it. On the other hand, he's not a very exciting guy, he's not a very experienced electoral politician, he's only run in Wyoming, not a particularly important state. He's had health problems, he's worked for big oil company, but he has the gravitas and you can sum it up in one word, stature is what they're looking for.

BLITZER: We'll forward all those letters from our friends in Wyoming. Once we get all those letters, you know Bill Bennett was on "Face the Nation" earlier today, Tucker, and he speculated about the Dick Cheney possibility.

Listen to what Bill Bennett, the Republican conservative thinker had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BENNETT, EMPOWER AMERICA: I think that would be a step in the past that would be progress. I mean, if you want to compare the Clinton foreign policy team to the Bush foreign policy team, I think big advantage Republicans. Confidence in a Cheney and a Powell, that's going to help George Bush a lot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: In other words, recreating the old Bush administration.

TUCKER CARLSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: I doubt Bush wants to do that. In fact, he becomes very uncomfortable if you ask him to compare himself to his father, et cetera.

But I think that Cheney helps in another way. House Republicans were pushing McCain because they thought he would be helpful on the coasts, California, New England. But that's not where Bush needs help. It's the center of the country where really the election's going to be decided, and it's not hard to imagine someone like Dick Cheney being popular with Midwestern voters. To the extent a vice president helps, I think Cheney helps there, and that's what matters.

SUSAN PAGE, CNN COMMENTATOR: You know the reality is vice presidents probably don't make very much difference, although we talk about them a lot around this time of year. I think Cheney creates a vulnerability for George Bush, and that is this whole idea that he's surrounding himself with the people who served in his father's administration. He's gone to great lengths this year to be his own person, not to be his father's son.

If he -- and if he expects to get credit for having some of the experience of his father's administration around him, I think that also makes him vulnerability to criticism about other parts of the Bush legacy, including the economic problems the country had. Since that President Bush was disconnected from the concerns of people. I think that it's a double-edged sword to surround yourself with your father's administration.

ROBERTS: And it's interesting cause Bill Bennett talked about Powell and Cheney, well they are not the same person. It's almost as if he's taken Cheney, he's taking the second prize because he would love to have Colin Powell, George Bush would crawl on his knees over ground glass to Powell's house in Virginia if he thought there was any possibility. Can't get Powell. Cheney has that aura of having been involved in the Persian Gulf War. I covered Dick Cheney for many years, he's a man of great solidity, he's a man who has very good relations with the press. He's a little like John McCain. He voted very conservatively, but he appeared to be a moderate, reasonable person because he was candid with the press and open. But he is not a particularly dynamic person.

PAGE: This is a do-no-harm kind of choice. It's just not going to create a real big problems for George W. Bush, was not going to give him a state, it's not going to create a lot of excitement around his ticket. It's a pretty safe choice.

BLITZER: Well Tucker, do you think this is a done deal? There's some speculation out there this is all a smoke screen, a head fake to try to divert our attention from some real surprise person out there. You've been covering this Bush team for awhile. What do you think?

CARLSON: That would be very deeply clever. But I just can't imagine it. It would probably actually cross the line from clever to duplicitous, and I don't think the Bush people want to do that. I think the previous names we've heard for, say the past month and a half, have all been smoke screens. Certainly Tom Ridge, I believe that was ludicrous from the very beginning and it was --

BLITZER: Because of his position on abortion.

CARLSON: That's correct, and it was designed to send a message to pro-choice Republicans that, hey, I'm not a scary guy who's going to take legalized abortion away.

But I think at this point it would be very embarrassing to Cheney among other things to all of a sudden pull his name out at the last minute.

ROBERTS: But they put the name of Cheney out there for a very particular reason and that was the McCain boomlet, when McCain, who knows quite what game he was playing, but the word comes out through Tom Ridge, maybe he'd consider it. Sixty members of the House as you pointed out say they're for McCain. That faced Bush with two bad choices.

Picking McCain which is the last thing in the world you want to do. I mean, if you look at the job description of vice president and say, the person least suited to that job in Washington is John McCain. On the other hand, if the boomlet got too much traction, then he would have been faced with having to turn it off and insult the McCain people. They did a very clever job of getting the McCain name off the front page the next day by floating Cheney.

ROBERTS: But in fairness to McCain, I don't think it was a game that McCain was playing or at least that he began. I mean, I think it really was House Republicans pushed by Tom Davis who said, gee, we need help particularly in California. There's this question, how much is the Bush campaign going to spend in California, and they pushed it. I think that's were it came from.

BLITZER: Susan, this John Danforth, the former Missouri senator, his name has surfaced as one of the finalist as well, although he also says I don't really want it. Is that likely to go anywhere you think?

PAGE: I don't think so. If you saw John Danforth this morning on one of the other shows, he made it pretty clear that you would have to hold a gun to his head to make him take this -- take this job, and I don't think that's the kind of tone you want to have. I think Danforth made it pretty clear this morning it's not going to be him. I do think that by process of elimination you're kind of left with Cheney. It's clear it's not Ridge, I don't think it's Danforth.

PAGE: Keatings has faded as the likely choice. I think it looks like it's Cheney. It looks like it's Cheney in the next 24, 48 hours. ROBERTS: You know, Danforth is like Cheney. He fills some of the same profile: An elder statesman of the party, a sober, serious person, not a particularly dynamic person, very well-liked and respected on both sides of the aisle.

BLITZER: A minister.

ROBERTS: An Episcopal priest. But Jack Danforth left the Senate after three terms to return to private life, because "I didn't want to be in Washington anymore, I didn't want to be a senator." I'm also told that his wife is very much against it. And he's been telling people the last couple days, you know, I left Washington, I left being a senator, why would I want to go back?

BLITZER: Tucker, this whole business of these names coming up as they are. We assume there could be an announcement as early as tomorrow, Monday, on the vice presidential running mate. Is that smart politics to make the announcement so early, relatively speaking, before the convention, leave, really, no suspense for the convention?

CARLSON: Well, I think more than anything if you're a presidential campaign you want to control the story, and the absolute last thing you want is the kind of speculation that forces to you do something you don't want to do. So clearly the Bush campaign came out and said that the decision was imminent as a way to kill the story, and it was effective. I think at this point, they have essentially told "The New York Times" and AP and "The Washington Post" that it's going to be Cheney, and so the suspense is already gone. I don't see why not just come out with it.

BLITZER: Just make the official announcement.

ROBERTS: There are two other problems with Cheney in the days ahead, if, in fact, it is Cheney. One is his health. He's had three heart attacks.

BLITZER: But that was way back in the '80s, and he served as defense secretary since then. I covered him at the Pentagon during the Gulf War, and I have to tell you, he was very robust -- showed no signs whatsoever of any ill health.

ROBERTS: True enough, but it will be mentioned. The other is over the last few years since he left the pentagon, he's been working for a large oil services company, Halliburton, based in Texas. Had to change his registration back to Wyoming this week. George Bush is already under fire from Democrats as being too friendly to big oil, a little too -- you know, you've heard the Al Gore line over the last few years, last few days, you know, I'm for the people, he's for the powerful. I think Cheney will give the Democrats a little bit more ammunition to say, see? The Republicans are the party of big business.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little bit about what all this means for the Democrats, but we have to take a quick break.

More of our roundtable when LATE EDITION continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our LATE EDITION roundtable.

Susan, if it is Cheney, if he is the number two on the Republican ticket, what does that mean for Al Gore and his decision?

PAGE: There were some choices that George W. Bush could make that would really affect Al Gore. If he chose Elizabeth Dole, it made Diane Feinstein, the senator from California much more likely. If he chose Tom Ridge, I think it made Bob Graham of Florida more likely. You could kind of trade off big states.

I think Cheney has relatively little impact on Gore's choice, except for one thing. One interesting thing Gore could do is choose John Kerry, the senator from Massachusetts. He's always -- we've known that he's been on the short list. That would give you two Democrats who had served in Vietnam, two Republicans of the same age group, neither of whom went to Vietnam. That might be an appealing thing for the Democratic side.

ROBERTS: The other thing that I've heard is that it might raise the possibility of former Senator George Mitchell of Maine, because he too, like Cheney, is kind of an elder statesman, left the Senate a few years ago, of course negotiated the Northern Ireland peace accords, so has that aura of an elder statesman that would balance out Cheney a little bit.

BLITZER: Do you think that this is going to have a big impact on Gore's decision if it is Cheney?

CARLSON: I don't think so. Interesting, though, if you look at this from a great distance, would you say gee, Bush picking Cheney because it helps deflect criticism he has no foreign policy experience which is criticism that could be valid, I guess. But it's interesting when you watch Gore, that the Gore campaign doesn't make that charge very often. That's not where they're hitting Bush. They're hitting him as a tool of big business, or as a profligate spender in Texas, or on grounds that I don't think are as valid. It's interesting.

ROBERTS: But those John McCain sound bytes from the primaries where he raised the question, is George Bush really ready, we're going to see them a lot in the fall. I mean, don't you think Al Gore will be putting everyone out ...

BLITZER: You're going to be seeing a lot of the Bill Bradley sound bytes about Al Gore as well. You can't trust him as a candidate.

John Danforth, the former Missouri senator, whose name is prominently being mentioned, he was on "Fox News Sunday" earlier today. He made a point that a lot of people are making. I want you to listen to what former Senator Danforth had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DANFORTH: I think in the history of our republic, there may be 8 people in the history of America who have ever voted for or against a presidential candidate because of the vice presidential nominee. It's just not done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And, in fact, a recent CNN/USA Today Gallup Poll asked this question: Has a running mate ever affected your vote? Get this. Yes, 13; No, 87 percent. Are we crazy that we're paying so much attention to this running mate issue?

PAGE: You have to go back 40 years to find a race in which the vice president probably helped determine the election, with Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy. That's a pretty long time in American politics. But on the other hand, it is the first big presidential style decision these candidates make, and for that reason I think it's deserving of some examination.

BLITZER: Well, let's speak to the elder statesmen of this panel who can remember those 40 years.

ROBERTS: I can.

BLITZER: Are we wasting time looking at this issue?

ROBERTS: No, we're not. I mean, look, news expands to fill a vacuum, and we're between the end of the primaries, the beginning of fall campaign, but we're still going to come here every Sunday and talk about this. We have to talk about something. But it tells you something about the thought process. We're all in this stage of trying to figure these two guys out. We're looking for little bellwethers, little grains of sand that will tell us, and so which way does he go? How does he go through the process? These are all things that help build a portrait of the presidential candidate.

CARLSON: And they're interesting. I mean, it's clear that Bush is making the decision based partly or greatly on potential running mates' loyalty to him. That's interesting. And it's clear that Gore will use more Machiavellian criteria to make his decision.

BLITZER: Tucker Carlson has the last word on our roundtable. Next week in Philadelphia. Thanks for joining us.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Roman Catholic John Kennedy knew he needed Protestant votes in the South and picked Lyndon Johnson of Texas. It worked. They won.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Presidential running-mates past and present: How much difference can they make?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

As Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore prepare to announce their running mates, Bruce takes a look back at presidential hopefuls and the search for the perfect number two.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORTON (voice-over): The first rule in picking running mates is, don't pick anybody who will hurt you. Sounds easy, but isn't, always. George McGovern picked Thomas Eagleton in 1972, then Eagleton acknowledged he'd had electric shock therapy, probably more shocking then than it would be now. McGovern first said, I'm for him, then pushed him off the ticket. McGovern almost certainly wouldn't have beaten Nixon anyway, but the Eagleton flap didn't help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. GERALDINE FERRARO (D), NEW YORK: Vice president has such a nice ring to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Democrat Walter Mondale hoped for excitement and momentum when he picked a woman running mate in 1984. But Geraldine Ferraro got bogged down in questions about her husband's business dealings, and any chance Mondale had of ever upsetting Ronald Reagan vanished.

Jimmy Carter in 1976 probably picked Mondale so as to have a Washington insider, since he was an "outsider," peanut farmer and ex- governor.

Gerald Ford, an unelected president, had to drop his vice president Nelson Rockefeller, chosen by Ford after Richard Nixon resigned and Ford became president. The party wanted somebody more conservative. Ford chose Bob Dole who was more conservative, but the ticket lost anyway.

Geographical balance? Sometimes. Dwight Eisenhower, war hero, general, president of Columbia University in New York, chose, on the advice of party bosses, Californian Richard Nixon, somebody who had Washington experience. Ike stayed neutral, though, when stories about a slush fund. Some critics said Nixon should get off the ticket. Instead he went on television, talked about his family's finances and its dog, Checkers. Viewers liked the speech, pro mail poured in, Nixon stayed on the ticket and of course they won.

Roman Catholic John Kennedy knew he needed Protestant voters in the south and picked Lyndon Johnson of Texas. It worked; they won.

Bill Clinton ignored a lot of the old theories, geography for one, picking Al Gore, like himself, from the mid-south, but Gore did have Washington experience which Clinton, a governor, lacked.

George W. Bush has laid down a couple good rules. First, someone qualified to be president. Hard to argue with that, though everybody always says it. And, second, somebody who likes me. Hard to imagine a vice president being any use if he and the president didn't get along.

It may not have mattered generations ago. Harry Truman reportedly didn't even know about the atomic bomb when Franklin Roosevelt died. But in this complex high-tech world, presidents probably need all the help they can get, including a VP who likes his boss and wants to work for him.

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thanks, Bruce.

Now let's take a look at what's on the cover of this week's major U.S. news magazines.

There's no "U.S. News & World Report" because they published a double issue last week.

On the cover of "Newsweek," a report on understanding autism: why more kids and families are facing the challenge of "mind blindness," on the cover.

And "TIME" magazine claims rice could save a million kids a year, but protesters believe genetically modified foods are bad for us and the planet, on the cover.

And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, July 23. Be sure to join us again next Sunday from Philadelphia and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. I'll also be back tomorrow night at 8 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. "CNNdotCOM" is next.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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