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Republican National Convention: Mayor Riordan Discusses Plans for Democrats in L.A.; Delaware Plan Falls in Rules Committee

Aired July 31, 2000 - 11:40 a.m. ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: The skyline on this overcast day of the beautiful, the historic city of Philadelphia. The home, this week, of the Republican National Convention. As we train our cameras down on the streets of this city, near city hall, you see a large number of people gathered there. These people are protesting. They're calling themselves the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign. They are gathered there without a city permit.

At this point, CNN is told police have arrested at least eight of them. They are organizing themselves, we're told, to begin a march all the way from that building, from city hall, out here to the Comcast First Union Center, several miles outside the heart of Philadelphia. You can see them, it looks like they're pushing and shoving a little bit with some police. We're going to keep a close eye on exactly what they're doing -- Bernie.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to down to the floor of this convention hall, Candy Crowley has the mayor of Los Angeles with her -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I sure do, you know, we sort of fought through the crush here of the California delegation to get to Mayor Riordan. We're in the funny position where the Democratic mayor is hosting a Republican convention and the Republican mayor is hosting a Democratic convention. So who's going to have the best convention?

MAYOR RICHARD RIORDAN (R), LOS ANGELES: Well, obviously, Los Angeles is, because I want to show the world that Republicans can do things better than Democrats.

CROWLEY: Tell me about the protests, and, you know, they're expecting a lot in Los Angeles. You had some trouble with police, you know, using too much force. How are going to handle that problem in Los Angeles?

RIORDAN: Well, we are well-prepared, and by the way, don't believe what you read in the press about our police. Our police are very disciplined, they respect the rights of people. And there's been a lot misinformation put out. We are ready for it. We are going to treat the legitimate demonstrators with respect, give them a right to get their message out. But we aren't going tolerate lawlessness.

CROWLEY: And where is that line?

RIORDAN: That line is anybody who tries to destroy private property, to injure other human beings, is not going to be tolerated.

CROWLEY: Is there additional pressure because you're from a different party than the host convention?

RIORDAN: I don't know, you know, maybe a little bit. But I never think of those things. I think it's a great challenge. We have a Noelia Rodriguez, who is the president of the host committee for Los Angeles, is doing a fabulous job. And if I have to take any credit, it's for picking Noelia.

CROWLEY: What is your police force, you law enforcement officials telling you about what to expect in terms of the protest. What do you expect?

RIORDAN: We expect the vast, vast majority of the demonstrators to get their messages across peacefully. We think that we can keep order with the few that are going to try to cause trouble. So I'm very, very optimistic that we're going to have a successful convention.

CROWLEY: Did you learn any lessons from watching what happened in Seattle?

RIORDAN: Boy, we sure as heck did. I mean, I mean, these are so-called peaceful demonstrators who all, coincidentally, had tire irons, were smashing windows, counters and things. These are not the kind of people that should be welcome in Philadelphia or Los Angeles. Our cities love each other. The citizens of L.A. love Los Angeles. We will not tolerate people who want to do a lot of damage to our city.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you to stand by one second, because Bernie Shaw has a question, he's going to relay it to me.


SHAW: Candy, I'm very, very curious, the mayor is here in Philadelphia. Is Philadelphia doing something that he wishes Los Angeles had done in terms of convention preps?

CROWLEY: OK, Bernie wants to know, you're here in Philadelphia, you've seen what they've done here, is Los -- is Philadelphia doing anything in terms of convention preparation that you wish you were doing in Los Angeles or that you were able to do in Los Angeles?

RIORDAN: Well, I've only been on the streets here about an hour, an hour and a half. I got here late last night. But I've seen some things I liked. The police are wearing light-colored shirts. The police commissioner is going around on a bicycle. I may do that during the convention. There are a bunch of volunteers on roller blades who add a real flavor to the city. What I've seen so far, I'm very impressed with Philadelphia, and I think I'll learn a lot that will make our convention even better. CROWLEY: So you're talking about a more moderate face to law enforcement?

RIORDAN: I think that's a very smart move. And it's a message that our people will bring back to L.A.

CROWLEY: And you think that you might, yourself, go out on the streets as a calming influence?

RIORDAN: I'll be out on the streets regularly. I am committed to ride my bike to work at least one day during the convention. And I'll find out whether it makes sense for me to go around in my bicycle and greet people during the convention. I suspect that my security won't allow me to do it.

CROWLEY: What is your basic order to your law enforcement agencies. What is your primary message to them when you're telling when you're telling them how you want them to handle this?

RIORDAN: First of all, to respect the rights of demonstrators. The vast majority of them who are peaceful, who have a legitimate message to get across. But secondly, that safety is the most important thing for the success of a city and not to tolerate lawlessness, to get in there, to arrest people quickly who want to hurt our city.

CROWLEY: And in terms of just numbers, how many protesters would you expect? do you have any way to calculate that? and what kind of...

RIORDAN: I have no idea. I've heard numbers from 10 to 50,000. It's going to be very, very interesting.

CROWLEY: And what about in terms of law enforcement? what have got at your -- who do you have out there?

RIORDAN: We are very well prepared with the LAPD. Everybody has given up their vacations. They're going to do overtime. The courts are not going to call on officers to testify during the week of the convention. We also have the Secret Service, the state police, the county sheriffs. We're going to very well prepared.

CROWLEY: OK, Mayor Riordan, Los Angeles, have a good, safe convention, thanks very much for joining us.

RIORDAN: Thank you very much.

CROWLEY: All right, back to you, Bernie.

SHAW: Thanks very much, Candy Crowley on the floor.

Well, it's clear any city hosting a national party convention plans and plans and tries to anticipate everything.

WOODRUFF: And with the mayor on the bicycle, what could go wrong? I mean, it sounds like he's going to be out there among the people. And, you know, it's not going to be another Chicago 1968. JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: I am going to have a real wait and see because the Los Angeles is the city that these protesters have targeted far more than Philadelphia. We also know it is the one thing that cannot be scripted by the managers of the convention. You can tell the delegates where to sit, you can tell the politicians what to talk about, this is always the wild-card.

The only other thing I want to mention is the police commissioner of Philadelphia, John Timoney, is really one of the more remarkable law-enforcement figures in the country. He was the number-two man in New York when the crime rate was going down, he is a street cop, a hero cop, he is extremely tough on crime and on police corruption and brutality. He is a well-read man with a great sense of humor and he's really almost a character out of a novel. And he's in charge of keeping this city calm.

WOODRUFF: I just want to quickly reflect what it is this group that we've shown massing outside Philadelphia City Hall, what it is that they are marching for, what they say in a release that we have received, they say both political parties, Republicans and Democrats in their words have "abandoned the poor people of this nation." And, they go on to say, "so we must take our country in a new direction, one that's based in the human rights to food, to clothing, to housing, a living wage, to health care and to education." Again, they are calling themselves in the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign.

SHAW: And we're beginning to see lines of policemen here in the streets, we hadn't seen them before, and we were told upwards of a half hour ago that these demonstrators do not have a city permit.

WOODRUFF: I know for a fact that there are those who are among the organizers of this group who say that they have tried for months and months to get a meeting either with Governor Bush or with the Democratic presumed nominee, Al Gore, and have not been able to get a meeting with either one. These are some of the folks who are pushing for the so-called living wage, and that's one of the reasons they are taking to the streets, because they don't think that they are being heard.

SHAW: Jeff, you alluded to organizations and people wanting to put the best face forward at political conventions. In many ways, conventions, as we know, are about organization. The candidate wants to make sure everything goes off as planned so that he looks good to the people watching on television, predictability is important.

Still, there was one piece of drama and unpredictability about this Republican convention here in Philadelphia, it involved a plan to change the order of the Republican primaries, a plan that was to be voted on today.

The so-called Delaware Plan would allow the smallest states to vote first in the primaries in February. They would be followed in March and then in April by bigger and bigger states with the nation's biggest states, such as California and New York, Texas, voting in May. The idea was to keep a candidate from clinching the nomination too soon and allow all of the voters to have a voice in the process.

It had the support of many states and convention leaders, including Delaware, of course. There was a chance it would pass, notice I said, "was." On Saturday, the Bush campaign jumped into the fray voicing its opposition to the Delaware Plan. Aides said, it would give the Democrats an advantage by letting them pick their nominee early. Bush staffers even said it could endanger George Bush's efforts to win re-election, if he wins the presidency on November 7th.

That was all it took. The Delaware Plan died in the Rules Committee Saturday, which is why we are not standing by, Jeff and Judy, to report on what happened.

Joining us now, Basil Battaglia, he's the chairman of the Delaware State Republican Party.


SHAW: It's good to have you.

BATTAGLIA: Thank you.

SHAW: This whole concern about front loading, about a small fraction of voters choosing a nominee?

BATTAGLIA: You see, that's very unfortunate, because I think if that continues, and obviously it is going to continue, we're heading for a national primary, and I think that's wrong. And I think most of the American people, if we have a national primary, won't be able to participate, and it's going to limit those people who have a great deal of money to be able to participate those candidates across the country.

WOODRUFF: Why couldn't they participate? I mean, why are you saying, if we had a national primary, most people couldn't participate?

BATTAGLIA: Because it is going to be in one day and probably will not be convenient for people. It won't be on the traditional days that they normally have it in their various states. Delaware we're permitted then to have it as they usually have it, either on a Saturday or a Tuesday. So you'll be changing voting habits in different states.

GREENFIELD: But Delaware was one of those states that kept moving its primary up to try to -- to try to take some of the play away from New Hampshire. In a way, your state, because you are small and don't have a lot of political clout, was trying to do precisely what the bigger states were trying to do to get their share of clout?

BATTAGLIA: But not really, because we only wanted to be seven days after New Hampshire, and they said we had to be eight days. So that didn't make sense. They were on a Tuesday and we were on a Saturday. So we didn't want go before them, we just wanted to move up.

SHAW: Did the ferocity of George Bush's attitude surprise you. You hadn't heard from these folks, and then suddenly they just pounce on you and say: boom, they squashed you.

BATTAGLIA: They really did, it was like a 10-ton gorilla coming down on us at one time.

SHAW: Why don't they get the point? Do they have a valid argument when they say we don't want the Democrats to be out there earlier then we are. And besides, if we win the White House, you come back four years from now, you've got caucuses and you know what party faithful can do in caucuses, why don't they listen to you?

BATTAGLIA: I don't know, we looked at this issue and no incumbent was ever defeated in a primary in this country. So we were surprised that he took that attitude,

GREENFIELD: Well, Gerald Ford lost a lot of primary states when Ronald Reagan challenged him in '76, I believe. I mean, he lost primary after primary, but I think the larger...

WOODRUFF: Go ahead.

GREENFIELD: ... the larger point is, no matter what reform anybody proposes, somebody can find something wrong with it. So I guess what they were saying to you was, don't rock the boat, we only can think about it every four years and we don't want to think about it then either.

BATTAGLIA: That's right, and that's the bottom line.

WOODRUFF: Is this the death of this? It goes nowhere from here?

BATTAGLIA: What we would like to do is ask the national chairman in January if he will appoint a committee so we can re-study it, and hopefully the Delaware Plan could be the model for that, and try to improve and try to work on it.

WOODRUFF: But it has been studied.

BATTAGLIA: It's been studied. We've been -- three and a half years, we've been through all the issues, all the concerns.

WOODRUFF: So you are saying more study?

BATTAGLIA: Well, I mean, we've got to do something to get it started again.

SHAW: Do you think the national chairman next year will be Jim Nicholson?

BATTAGLIA: Jim has indicated that he is going to retire so it will probably not be him, but we hope that someone who has a concer -- the concern that we have, we want to avoid a national primary at all costs. SHAW: Is Governor Bush making a mistake?

BATTAGLIA: I think his people are, I don't know whether the governor has focused on this, but his people, I think, are making a mistake because this gives us an opportunity now to change the system. And now we can't, for another four years. We're not like the Democrats, we can't re-visit this in two years. It is going to take us four years, and it's too late, we've got another primary on our hands.

GREENFIELD: Let's just take a look, though, at what happened this time. There was clearly front loading, but on March 7th -- by March 7th the Bush nomination had been made possible by the voters of, among other states, California, New York, Ohio, Missouri, all of the New England states, many of the Western states, Georgia. I mean, in an imperfect system, you could argue that the way it was done, even though it ended soon and deprived us of a string of things to talk about, certainly let the voters' voices be heard. John McCain was competitive in those states, it's just, Bush got more votes.

BATTAGLIA: I mean, places like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, you voted after it. I mean, you went to the polls and it didn't mean anything. I think you -- I think the American people have to have an opportunity to vote for a candidate of their choice, and I think it's too early, too quick.

SHAW: Basil Battaglia, chairman of the Delaware Republican Party, thanks very much.

BATTAGLIA: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it. Maybe we'll be talking to you about this in four years.

BATTAGLIA: I sure hope so.

SHAW: You seem to be suffering the loss with good humor?



WOODRUFF: All right. Thank you for being with us. And I guess we are going to relinquish this desk now for several hours -- Bernie.

SHAW: Wolf Blitzer is going to be here from noon, and we'll be back at 5:00 p.m. Eastern with "INSIDE POLITICS."

WOODRUFF: Much more coverage, the convention still underway for at least a few more hours and they take a short break, we will too, and then we'll all be back at "INSIDE POLITICS." We'll be back.



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