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Special Event

Republican National Convention: Cindy, Megan McCain Discuss Campaign Experience

Aired July 31, 2000 - 1:34 p.m. ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne Cheney -- actually, Lynne Cheney is sitting on the other side of Dick Cheney. You can't see her right now, as the camera moves over. There she is. Lynne Cheney, in herself, in her own right, an outspoken conservative, outspoken well-known political activist.

Dick Cheney is now in this hall here at the Republican National Convention. Lynne Cheney, someone familiar, very familiar to our CNN audience, a former co-host of "CROSSFIRE SUNDAY."

Welcome back to our continuing coverage of this Republican National Convention.

Jeanne Meserve is standing by on the floor with a very special guest, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert.

Only in this country, Jeanne, can a former wrestling coach become the speaker of the House.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf says only in America can a former wrestling coach become a speaker of the House of Representatives.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: See, extraordinary things happen to ordinary people in this country. So it's really a great honor to be here.

MESERVE: Let me ask you a few questions about the tone of this convention. It's a softer, gentler Republican Party being presented here. Is this as a repudiation of Gingrich Republicanism?

HASTERT: Well, I don't think so. I think we have a great candidate, and we have a great vice presidential candidate. We've been able to achieve a lot in the last year-and-a-half, and the Congress has worked hard to do that, and it's a positive view for America. And if you saw the lineup of candidates that we had for the House, you can see we're putting a different face on this Republican Party.

It's the right thing to do, and we want to build on that majority that we have, and to be able to do more things.

So I think it's -- we need a little responsibility at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. And that's what we're about to do.

MESERVE: Very concerned, I'm sure, about the control of the House of Representatives, and whether the Republicans will retain it in this election. Does this ticket, Bush-Cheney, help you?

HASTERT: I think it's a positive ticket. I think it helps all people. You know, it's a balanced ticket. It brings responsibility of the state level, somebody who's run one of the largest states in the nation and been accountable in doing that. It also brings somebody on the ticket that has national experience.

I served with Dick Cheney. He was whip before I became a whip. So you know, I have great confidence. He's also been secretary of defense and been able to do the things in administration, very, very important.

So I think there's a great balance. I think it's a good ticket, and I think we can unite behind both the Congress and the White House in a great extraordinary victory in November.

MESERVE: Some people are looking at the choreography of this event and seeing that House members are really not playing a very big role. Why is that? And does it say something about whether or not you're liability for the national ticket?

HASTERT: Well, you'll see four other house members out there banging at a gavel, and Jennifer Dunn, and J.C. Watts, and Henry Bonilla...

MESERVE: But fewer than in past years.

HASTERT: Well, you know, there's 250 members of the Congress. There's another 50 members of the Senate. A lot of them running again. We have 30 governors. You know, there's a lot to spread around. We're very proud of this party and all the people that make it up. We want to see people see the vestiges of the whole party.

MESERVE: Let me ask you a tactical question here. As you come down to November, what's the best course for you to take in the House of Representatives? Is it to compromise on issues, or is it to stand firm?

HASTERT: Well, I think to stand firm on Republican issues, to get done on a Republican agenda. And I've said to Mr. -- to the president that we're willing to sit down and talk about things, that I will tell him straightforward whether we can get them passed or we can't get them passed. And you know, we've worked together in the past, and I hope we can get our agenda done.

It's important to get our budget done. It's important to get some of those top issues out there that are out in front of the limelight: prescription drugs -- we hope to be able to do that -- health care, something I've worked on for a long time. We hope we can get those things done. But we need the help of the White House, and we also need to stop the Democrats from trying to block us from getting anything done. That's the frustration. MESERVE: House Speaker Dennis Hastert, thanks so much for joining us here today.

HASTERT: Thank you.

MESERVE: And now back to Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jeanne. We're now joined here in our booth by the Republican senator from Maine, Olympia Snowe, who is here. Welcome to our continuing coverage.

You're one of those Republicans who supports a woman's right to have an abortion. This platform, though, makes no exceptions whatsoever. How uncomfortable are you with this decision?

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: Well, obviously, I'm very disappointed that we continue to embrace a platform position on the issue of choice that doesn't really reflect Governor Bush's position nor any position of Republicans, because it doesn't provide any exceptions for life and health of the mother, or in the case of rape and incest.

Even the issues that have been advanced in Congress with respect to the constitutional amendments have always made for these exceptions. So I am disappointed.

I was pleased that they did include the plenary committee action at the end of the platform committee report that indicated that there was strong support, interestingly enough, for an amendment that reflected diversity on this issue within the Republican Party. It was overturned on a reconsideration motion, but they did reflect the fact that this issue was considered and debated and voted upon.

BLITZER: And that was -- that sparked some anger, we heard earlier, from the Oklahoma delegation. Some delegates who are very, very anti-abortion rights were angry that that was included in the report, it was actually printed as part of the report, your minority position.

As you -- but you -- but you feel comfortable still as a Republican despite this very, very tough, hardline stance?

SNOWE: I do because I like the approach that Governor Bush is taking in this campaign, and the fact is he obviously has not only changed the tenor and the face of the Republican Party ultimately, but he's also changing the substance. And it's more than just, I think, a superficial glossing of what we've done in the past. I think it's trying to shed an image, but it's also trying to re-alter some of the policies and the positions that we have taken, and that he wants to take during the course of this campaign. And I think that's going to be critically important for Republicans.

We have to win the middle. That's where the majority of Americans are. That's where we as moderate republicans have always said our party should be, and has been. And I think we lost our way in this last decade. BLITZER: Senator Olympia Snowe. Certainly projecting that new compassionate conservatism of the Republican governor of Texas as well. Thank you so much for joining us.

SNOWE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to go back to the floor now. Jeanne Meserve has another special guest, the wife of the Republican senator from Arizona.

Go ahead and tell us all about it, Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Cindy McCain is here, along with daughter, Megan. Both of them just entered the floor. What brings you down here, right now?

CINDY MCCAIN, WIFE OF SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Well, I'm very excited to be here because the teenage Republican of the year for the United States is from Phoenix, Arizona, and my daughter knows him. So we've decided to come and support him and watch him today.

MESERVE: How are you feeling at this juncture? Just this weekend your husband released his delegates. He just had the name of George W. Bush put in nomination, but not the name of John McCain. How do you feel?

MCCAIN: We're very happy to be here. Part of the primary process produces winners and losers. And we're just happy to have been a part of the process, to encourage so many young people to get involved. And we're here supporting George Bush and his candidacy and we want him elected to the White House.

MESERVE: Megan, what about your reactions to your dad being out of the race, absolutely, at this point?

MEGAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF SEN. MCCAIN: Well, I'm very proud of him for coming as far as he did, and I'm not disappointed at all. I think he did a great job.

MESERVE: I think your daughter is the next politician in the family. What do you think?

C. MCCAIN: I think they're all budding politicians in my family.

MESERVE: Cindy McCain, thanks so much for joining us on the floor -- Wolf.

BLITZER: OK, Jeanne. We're going to take another break. When we come back, Robert Novak and Al Hunt of "THE CAPITAL GANG" will be joining us. A lot more going on from the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

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