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CNN Today

Fleischer: Bush Keeping a Civil Tone

Aired August 1, 2000 - 2:31 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: Strong words from George W. Bush, new attacks from the Democrats, and talk of an anti-gay protest on the floor of the convention tonight, maybe this isn't going to be such a predictable week of politics.

Joining us to talk about all of this, Ari Fleischer. He is the communications director of the Bush campaign.

How are you doing?

ARI FLEISCHER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, BUSH CAMPAIGN: Good, Natalie, thank you for having me.

ALLEN: Sure, what's happening to this "let's all be nice week" with news that we're hearing today. Are you concerned about this?

FLEISCHER: Well, I think that we are still keeping this convention in the tenor and the tone in which we've always intended to. Governor Bush wants to change the tone in Washington because he thinks that's the best way, the only way, to bring people together so we can save Medicare and improve Social Security and reduce taxes on the American people.

So he is looking for a different kind of convention, a different kind of tone. Sure, every once in a while there going to be some reminisces about the other party. But we're running things very differently from the way Al Gore and the Democrats did.

ALLEN: Certainly walking out during an openly gay member of Congress' speech tonight would not be the tone that he would want.

FLEISCHER: Well, Governor Bush thinks that Congressman Kolbe is a very good man, he is a strong leader on international trade, on free trade, issues on which the governor absolutely agrees with Congressman Kolbe. And we don't expect any of that kind of thing tonight. We want to welcome Congressman Kolbe and give him a good reception here.

ALLEN: How much control does the Bush camp over tendencies like that, for people to strike out?

FLEISCHER: Oh, there are a couple of thousand people wandering around a floor down there. So you know you don't have total control over a convention, people have free will. But we're expecting a very good reception for all our guests tonight. ALLEN: Also, today we've got Clinton still going on the attack and we had the elder Bush responding before the candidate Bush did. Is he going to do some of the punching?

FLEISCHER: I'll tell you, that was really remarkable, to see a sitting president of the United States so eager to get into partisan politics against the successor. You know there's a tradition in our country where the sitting president leaves office graciously. And we hope that President Clinton will do that as well.

There is a sense where presidents have all become statesman after they leave office and that sense of grace is something we really should expect to come to see in the White House. Hopefully President Clinton will put this moment behind him and won't return to the partisanship that he displayed earlier.

ALLEN: And, as I mentioned, former President Bush responded before George W. responded. Is the elder Bush going to be doing some of the punching for his son here?

FLEISCHER: Well, no, I don't expect that to be the case again. We don't want to run that kind of campaign, and we really hope that President Clinton will himself agree to set a little tone. It is important that we have leaders in Washington who will lift us up and not let us down and honor those American traditions where former presidents do not engage with their followers, their successors in office. That's a long standing American tradition. We'd hoped that -- and we'd hate to see it if President Clinton broke it.

ALLEN: Finally, Mr. Bush speaks Thursday night, last night, we heard Colin Powell almost lecturing about what his beliefs of inclusivity are. What does George Bush have to do to really say to people: I am going to include you, what does he have to say to the minorities that don't think this has been a party for them?

FLEISCHER: Well he has to be himself. He has to run on his record and he's going to do just that. You know, in the state of Texas, he has a marvelous record of bringing people together. He got 49 percent of the Hispanic vote as a Republican when he ran for reelection in 1998. He got 28 percent of the African-American vote, that was a doubling of the vote he got when he first ran 1994.

So what he has to do is bring good government into bear. And that is the best way to show the American people and people who have traditionally not been Republicans that he is an inclusive leader, that when he talks about education and leaving no child behind, he does so because it's good for all Americans.

ALLEN: Ari Fleischer, thank you for being with us.

FLEISCHER: Thank you.

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