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Republican National Convention: GOP Mirroring '92 Democratic Convention

Aired August 1, 2000 - 1:30 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush, don't want to forget about him, is on his way here. While on his way to a rally today, he said attacks against him and his running mate by President Clinton are signs of Democratic desperation.

Mr. Clinton, in an interview with a Florida television station says: If Bush is elected, the Republicans will attempt to end abortions and weaken air-pollution laws.

Two veteran political observers have joined me on the set here at the Comcast First Union Center. I just have a feeling we will be talking about that.

Bill Press, who is on my far right, but is always on the left.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST "CROSSFIRE": That's strange.

ALLEN: I know. Robert Novak on the right here, the co-host of "CROSSFIRE," thank you for being with us.

Let's talk, first, about Mr. Clinton getting involved in this, and now George Bush, the former president, saying he might have a thing or two to say about Clinton if he doesn't stop.

Bill Press, first, can this be good for Al Gore, the Clinton speaking out?

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST "CROSSFIRE": Well. I think Al Gore would probably prefer that Bill Clinton leave the campaigning up to him, but you know, he's -- Bill Clinton is an irresistible politician. I mean, he wants to be part of the fray.

But overall, I love this because I think this convention has been much, much too nice for my liking. I don't know, maybe Bob's, you know, sooner or later this niceness is going to wear off and they are going to go after each other. And the fact that it has started now, I think, we are back to politics. They have to tell us what they stand for, but they also have to sort of knock, you know, the other guy. And we knew it was going to happen sooner or later, and guess what, we are two days into the convention and here we are.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": It's ridiculous, Natalie, because it isn't the Republicans who are starting this yelling, it's Bill Clinton.

I am sure that the Gore people are upset about this for a couple of reasons. One reason is that they would like to have Bill Clinton kind of step aside, get out of the way, let Al Gore create his own identity, which he needs to do.

But secondly, they are just trying to figure out how to respond to this tremendous attack of niceness by the Republicans, you know, the kissy -- I call it the kissy face convention, which is really out of character.

And so what do you do, do you come back and try to be even nicer in Los Angeles? or do you to the class warfare bit? I think it is an interesting political decision. It's going to make Los Angeles very interesting.

But this is a very successful convention for the Republicans so far to show that they -- that this is a -- I don't think, Bill, as much as you like to be mean, I don't think the country is in the mood for meanness right now.

PRESS: Me, mean? No.

ALLEN: Is this really a transformation of the Republican Party?

NOVAK: Of course not. I mean, give me a break, these are the same Republicans who were in San Diego four years ago, 1900 of these people wanted George W. Bush, they didn't want John McCain, out of some 2000 -- out of some 2100, and the -- read the platform because they agreed to it, went through a very long process, just about as conservative, slightly more moderate, but just about as conservative a platform as they've had for the last two decades.

But what is different is what was different about the Democratic Convention in 1992, it is the image. The Democrats in '92 were just as left-wing as they were before, but they had a nice image. Now the Republicans are doing the same thing on the right.

PRESS: This is a replay of 1992, it's a replay of the Bill Clinton convention in New York, and it is all about impressions, it's about imagery. I've been listening very carefully to the Republican spokesmen on our air all day long and all day yesterday and the words you here are open, you hear positive, you hear inclusive, which, if you took them literally, is a way of saying that those other Republicans were closed and they were negative and they were exclusive.

Well, they're not attacking Ronald Reagan and George Bush the father and Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich, what it is is -- Bob Livingston said this yesterday to Frank Sesno, that they found a better way of packaging, which is more attractive.

ALLEN: So is the bottom line, it is going to be harder for the American voter to get beyond the marketing, beyond the imagery to find out which party should be their party? NOVAK: Let be tell you what I think is going on, and I've even more veteran than Press, by about a half a century, anyway. What it is is that there are two political parties and two realities, one is big government, one is less government, and there is -- and people who really care about those things have made their decision. In the middle, these are the voter who decide elections who don't have opinions, believe it or not, and they are going to be influenced on who they like, who's a nicer person, and who they want to be their president. They feel very personal about who they want in the White House.

PRESS: A new package with a brand-new ribbon on it and you open it up, you've got the same old platform, the same old policy.

NOVAK: I agree with that.

PRESS: And there you go.

NOVAK: I agree with him, thank goodness.

ALLEN: He's proud of that. All right, Robert Novak, Bill Press, thank you. We'll see more of you throughout this week.

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