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CNN Today

Election 2000: Bush Still Silent on Running Mate

Aired July 24, 2000 - 2:01 p.m. ET

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

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Texas Governor George W. Bush is expected to return to Austin today after a weekend spent in the country to decide on a running mate. If Bush has made his choice, he isn't saying. So the rumor mill continues to spin, and it's spinning out of control with the same batch of names today, primarily that of Dick Cheney. That aside, some of Bush's people are saying there still might be a surprise.

And for the very latest, let's check in with CNN's Jonathan Karl. He's at the governor's mansion in Austin.

A lot of words there. Go ahead, Jonathan.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of words and a lot of speculation. And you're right, the rumor mill really is spinning.

You know, we've known for a few days now that former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney is at the top of Bush's short list as he makes this decision. But the Bush staff, as you pointed out, has always said there may well be a surprise. And that has fueled the speculation.

The latest speculation, there was a report on CBS Radio News that General Colin Powell was now under serious consideration, that there were negotiations en route, under way between the Bush camp and between General Powell, trying to convince him to take the spot.

Well, we've just learned that General Powell's office has issued a statement shooting down this report by CBS Radio News and Dan Rather. The statement reads, quote: "There is absolutely no substance to Mr. Rather's reports. General Powell's position remains unchanged." And of course, General Powell's longstanding position has been that he has no interest in accepting the vice presidency.

So with all this speculation going on, we're still left with the name -- and again, we must remind you, there could be a surprise here -- but the name that we keep hearing more and more is former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. Cheney, as we reported earlier, had told business associates that there is a strong possibility that he may be tapped as the vice presidential nominee. And again, "maybe" is the key phrase here.

Back to you.

PHILLIPS: All right, Jonathan Karl, thank you.

And you can follow the VP selection along with CNN at our Web site: CNN.com/election2000 has all the latest news, polls, and profiles of the possible VP candidates. Look over their resumes and give your opinions on our message boards. And don't forget, the most extensive convention coverage you'll find anywhere kicks off this Thursday on CNN, with a special edition of "INSIDE POLITICS," live from Philadelphia at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

Vice President Gore has won the backing of one of the nation's most influential environmental groups. This morning, at a riverfront park in Michigan, Gore welcomed the endorsement of the Sierra Club. Accepting the honor, Gore made mention of his book about conservation to poke a little fun at the Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm told that in these days leading up to the Republican National Convention, copies of "Earth in the Balance" are selling quite well in Philadelphia. And I know that the polluters and the special interests are coming after me, and I wear their attacks as a badge of honor. I'm with you. I'm with those who want to save our environment and protect our earth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: The Sierra Club has 600,000 members nationwide. Its endorsement could help the vice president neutralize the Green Party's Ralph Nader, who has chipped into some of the Democrat's support among environmentalists.

Joining us now to talk more about the race is CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield. Jeff is in New York today.

Hello, Jeff.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: How are you doing?

PHILLIPS: Good.

Hey, let's move away from this speculation for a moment here, and let's concentrate on Bush and where he's coming from for a moment.

GREENFIELD: Well, wonderful advice, because this reminds me of the old organized crime rule: that those who know don't say and those who say don't know. But in terms of trying to figure out what a fellow like Bush is up to, it's worth noting that historically, governors who get presidential nominations almost always reach to Washington to balance the ticket in terms of experience.

Americans like outsiders. They profess to hate Washington. But if you're nominated as an outsider, the historical record says you're going to Washington for a running mate. The only exception was Governor Dewey of New York in 1948, who chose California Governor Earl Warren. It's the only all-governor ticket we've had this century, and they couldn't even carry Warren's state of California. So that the idea of balancing experience and background is very, very traditional. And whoever Bush picks, you would have to bet on someone like that just because of what history teaches us.

PHILLIPS: Now governors usually don't pick other governors, right?

GREENFIELD: That's what I -- that's right. They -- it's only happened once. And so, even Tom Ridge, who figured in the speculation a month ago, was someone who served in the House of Representatives for, I think it was, 10 years before he went back and became governor of Pennsylvania.

You want -- and particularly in Bush's case -- you want someone who erases whatever questions people have about is he a little flighty, is he a little light on substance, is he, to use the cliche, the frat boy. And someone like a Dick Cheney, someone like a John Danforth, Lord knows someone like a Colin Powell, answers that question. The current cliche of the moment is gravitas. It's the only Latin you'll hear this year in the election: you know, seriousness of purpose.

PHILLIPS: Jeff, we keep hearing about VP speculation. Do you think this is dragging on too long?

GREENFIELD: The short answer to that is, oh, my God, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

But I think there's a reason. And that is that those of us of a certain age or older, which you are blessedly not part of, remember that the political calendar used to be such that at this point in the process we weren't sure who the presidential candidates were going to be. But for the last generation, because of the primary system, we've known very early.

This time we've known who the nominees are since March 7th of this year -- that's 4 1/2 months ago -- a time when in the 1960s and even '70s the campaign had barely begun for the nomination. And what you've got is a whole lot of otherwise intelligent, hard-working people with nothing to talk about really except the vice presidential running mate.

And shocking as it is to think about it, you know, in the old days, the candidates themselves really didn't think about their running mate until the day before the convention ended, and they knew they were the nominee. So this is a very -- this is the product of a sharply different political calendar.

PHILLIPS: Yes, conventions have definitely changed since the '70s with the primary/caucus system.

GREENFIELD: Yes.

PHILLIPS: Now, Jeff, you and I were talking about this theory about Bush not being able to handle Washington or understand Washington, therefore, that's why he's reaching inside the capital. But you disagree with this theory.

GREENFIELD: Well, no, I think, it's not so much that -- I think it's in part right. But what I'm saying is you go back into the past -- and for instance Ronald Reagan, when he was nominated, he had spoken out for years about national and international affairs. But he was the former governor of California. Who did he pick? He picked George Bush, this governor's father, whose experience was as a congressman, as head of the Central Intelligence Agency, and as ambassador to the United Nations, a different kind of experience.

Bill Clinton, nobody doubted his seriousness of intellect. But he was the governor of a small state. Who did he pick? He picked Al Gore, the United States senator, a man who'd been in the Congress before that, in the House, whose experience was in issues like arms control and national environmental policy.

I think the idea of Dick Cheney, former chief of staff under Gerry Ford and former defense secretary, does play to the notion that Bush may be -- may be seen by some as not fully developed as a serious thinker. So I don't disagree, but I think it goes to the heart of what governors who get the nomination almost always do.

PHILLIPS: Sure, and maybe going toward a Cheney type shows a connection, like you were saying early on, to international and national issues.

GREENFIELD: Yes. It just -- it just is a pattern. It was true of the senators. When people were thinking about John McCain, part of the attraction of a McCain is, of course, he appealed to a different group than Governor Bush did: you know, independents and even Democrats. But also, John McCain has served in the House and Senate. Defense issues have been a major part of John McCain's agenda, which is not true of Bush.

Think about what Bush did, for instance, a month or so ago when he gave a foreign policy address. Who was on the stage with him? It was the...

PHILLIPS: Colin Powell.

GREENFIELD: ... Republican Party international all-stars: Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, George Shultz, Condoleeza Rice, his top adviser. And it's a way of saying: Look, I may not be tested in this field, but I'm surrounding myself with serious people. And if it is someone like a Dick Cheney, that fits that model perfectly.

PHILLIPS: Sure, really made a statement. OK, let's move to Gore for a minute, Jeff. All this attention on Bush and his pick: Does this put the pressure on Gore now to make a decision?

GREENFIELD: No, I don't think so. I certainly don't agree with the argument that if he picks a Dick Cheney it forces Gore in one direction or another. The doubts about Al Gore do not -- are not the same doubts people might have about George Bush. Nobody doubts Al Gore's seriousness. Indeed, some people think he's too serious. The questions about Al Gore have to do with independence from Bill Clinton, probity, whether or not he's a straight shooter.

And so the idea that he would have to pick someone like former Senator George Mitchell to balance a Dick Cheney I don't think works. I think Al Gore still has time to look at what George Bush does, watch what the Republican convention does, and figure out where he needs to go to pick a running mate.

He has less -- he has fewer options than Bush, just because, for instance, there -- he, if the past is any guide, would probably like to choose a governor since he is a Washingtonian. The problem is there are very few Democratic governors left: now certainly almost none from a big state. Excuse me. So his -- his task is a little bit harder in terms of the bench that he has to choose from.

PHILLIPS: What would be your pick for Gore?

GREENFIELD: You know, in another life, Kyra, I was a political operative but I became a virgin about 25 years ago. I have no intention of descending to that.

You know, people have jokingly suggested he should pick Bill Clinton, which I thought was constitutionally impossible. Turns out there's a wrinkle in the 22nd Amendment that probably would let Gore do it. I have a hunch that's not going happen. Actually, if he was 35-years-old and he wanted a guy to represent every conceivable ethnic group, he should take Tiger Woods.

PHILLIPS: Very good point.

GREENFIELD: I mean, he's African-American, he's Asian, he's Caucasian, and he's a pretty popular guy.

PHILLIPS: Yes, well-spoken.

Jeff Greenfield, as usual, strong insight. Such a pleasure. Thank you very much.

GREENFIELD: You bet.

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