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CNN Late Edition

Senators Hatch and Leahy Talk Presidential Politics; Campaign 2000 Hits Airwaves; Can Religion and Politics Mix?

Aired September 3, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington; 9 a.m. in San Francisco; 6 p.m. in Paris, and 8 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this 90- minute LATE EDITION. We'll get to our guests shortly, including Senators Leahy and Hatch, but first the hour's top stories.


BLITZER: Joining us now to talk about the negative turn in the presidential campaign, as well as some key issues facing Congress this fall, are two leading members of the U.S. Senate.

In Salt Lake City, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. Senator Hatch is chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He was also a presidential candidate before dropping out of the race earlier this year.

And here in Washington, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. He's the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

Senators, always good to have both of you on LATE EDITION. Thank you so much for joining us.

Let me begin with you, Senator Hatch.

First, this minimum wage looks like it's going to go through the House. I assume it will go through the Senate as well. What about prescription drug benefits for seniors? Is it likely there will be a compromise on this important issue before Congress goes into recess again?

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, I think it's going to be very difficult, because you know, Al Gore's program, and really I guess President Clinton's as well, started out $163 billion and is now $253 billion. The congressional budget Office lists it as over $337 billion, headed to $500 billion. It's almost tripled just in the short time they've been talking about it. And there's no way that this country can afford that kind of a "one size fits all" government-run HMO, which is what Al Gore seems to want.

In other words, Al seems to be -- what you see with Al Gore is not what you get. What you hear from Al Gore is certainly not what's going to happen. This is all just political rhetoric. We do have to do something; we are working on it.

George Bush has a prescription drug program and it is a bipartisan one. It's called the Breaux-Frist prescription drug program. And if the Democrats, especially the White House -- there are Democrats who will work us with us, but if the White House would work with us, we probably could pass a pretty effective prescription drug benefit package. But if they don't and they want to make and play politics with this, it's going to be very difficult to get it done.

BLITZER: Well, what about that, Senator Leahy?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think that Orrin probably should have learned to use the facts a little more accurately, especially during his own run for the presidency during the past year.

But the fact of the matter is, the Wall Street Journal looked at these and looked at them very objectively. And said that for one thing, the Bush plan, to the extent that it even exists, that there's no money in his budget at all for it. He's already spent all that on a huge tax cut in his proposals. There's no money for it, whereas the money for the Al Gore package is there. It is paid for, it is within the surplus. It is not a case of saying some kind of a managed care thing, we're using the Medicare formula, which has worked very well.

What George Bush has said, however, is, well, if we do have a plan, maybe the competition among the drug companies would keep the prices down. That's like saying the competition among the Texas oil companies are going to keep down the price of gasoline at the pump.

BLITZER: Senator Hatch, the Gore -- excuse me, the Bush campaign says it will release the specific details of a prescription drug benefit plan later this week out in Austin, presumably.

But there's a Newsweek poll that's out in the new issue of Newsweek which asks this question: Who would do a better job helping seniors pay for prescription drugs?

Look at this, Al Gore, 58 percent; George W. Bush, 26 percent.

The question is this: Why does George W. Bush seem to be having such a tough time convincing Americans he's more interested in getting prescription drug benefits for the elderly than Al Gore is?

HATCH: Because what I said before, what you see with Al Gore is not what you get. There's a lot of rhetoric that never turns into reality, and his program has jumped from $163 billion to almost half trillion dollars as we sit here.

And Pat is absolutely wrong. There is not the money there. We have all kinds of problems with Medicare that have to be resolved, like skilled nursing facilities to long-term care to emergency care to home health care -- all of which I worked on and all of which I've been a major player in. And I have to tell you, just 10 years ago the Democrats tried to push through a prescription drug benefit plan. We pushed it through with the help of a lot of people. I happened to vote against it. It caused such a furor among the seniors when they realized what it would cost, that they rebelled so loudly that we had to come back and repeal it almost immediately.

So what George Bush has been promising -- and I don't think the media covered this very well -- he has said from the beginning, that he is for a similar plan to the Breaux-Frist plan, a bipartisan plan, Breaux a Democrat, Dr. Frist a Republican, that literally would help solve these problems by living within our means, doing it for the most needy.

You know, Al Gore, what he wants the do is cover Bill Gates.


HATCH: No, he wants to cover Bill Gates, he wants to cover Donald Trump. That's just bull. We shouldn't be doing that.

BLITZER: Let's let Senator Leahy respond.

LEAHY: Orrin you're having a hard time saying that with a straight face because...


HATCH: Oh, no, I'm not. I know a lot about this area. You know I do.


LEAHY: ... that Governor Bush said about his program. The Wall Street Journal, an objective forum, says his can't be paid for.

HATCH: You're talking about the House program, that's the House bill.

LEAHY: Wait a -- but it says that Al Gore's the way pay for it.

Now the Wall Street Journal is not an arm of either the Republican or Democratic Party, at least on the news pages, and this is what they have said, that Al Gore's program is paid for, George Bush's is not.

The idea that you might have -- somehow we'll save all this money by competition among the drug companies, like I said, it's like saying that we'll have lower gasoline prices because of competition among Texas oil companies.

BLITZER: You know, Senator Hatch, the bigger problem may be for the Bush campaign, and at least what some of the more recent polls since the Democratic convention are suggesting, is that Americans are focusing in on this campaign right now. They're hearing the Democrats, they're hearing Al Gore and Joe Lieberman hammer away on this notion that George W. Bush is going to give away a huge tax cut for the tiniest percentage of the most affluent Americans and that the rest of the country is not going to get those kinds of benefits, endangering the robust economy that has developed in recent years.

You've heard that argument. A loyal Republican like you, what do you say to that argument?

HATCH: Well, again, what you hear is not what's true. In other words, they're saying a lot of things that just aren't true.

For instance, Pat Leahy has gotten mixed up. The House drug benefit program with the Breaux-Frisk drug benefit program, which President Bush -- which Governor Bush, you know, is for.

With regard to taxes, think about it. We have projected $4.6 trillion in surplus over the next 10 years. Governor Bush is going to set aside $2.3 trillion of that as a lockbox Social Security-Medicare program. He wants to give back $1.3 billion in tax cuts and, yes, 95 percent of all taxes are paid by the upper 50 percent. Naturally they will benefit from it, but they're not going to put that money into socks or mattresses, they're going to create businesses, opportunities, jobs, and keep this economy going, that's what tax rate reductions do. And that's what the Democrats and certainly Al Gore never seem to understand.

BLITZER: All right, let's let Senator Leahy -- that's a very powerful argument.

LEAHY: It's an interesting argument. We do know the number of recessions we had during 12 years of the Reagan and Bush ...

HATCH: Oh, come on Pat.

LEAHY: ... administrations. We do also know, though, during the Clinton-Gore administration we've had 22 million new jobs, four million new small businesses start up, it's been a pretty good record.

We also know that they inherited a Medicare system that would have gone bankrupt a year ago in 1999, and they took the very, very tough steps, the very real steps of shoring it up so that it stays secure to 2025.

BLITZER: But, you know, Senator Leahy...

LEAHY: That is why I believe that Gore figures, which are very well thought out and have been looked at by independent group, like the Wall Street Journal, I believe that he can do the prescription drugs in his -- and I think that's what the American public knows and that's why he is so far ahead in the polls on that issue.

BLITZER: Senator Hatch, do you believe the -- as some of your fellow Republicans are arguing, that the Democrats, President Clinton, Al Gore, are more interested in having issues in which Democrats can run in November, and perhaps even seeing a government shut down in October, than they are in working out a fair compromise with the Republican majority in the House and Senate? HATCH: I said to you what you're hearing is not what you're going to get from them. What you see with Al Gore is not what's going to happen.

He's had eight years, he and President Clinton, to solve the prescription drug problem, to solve the Medicare problem. If you hadn't had a Republican Congress, we'd be blowing money out the door and we wouldn't have a balanced budget.

The fact of the matter is, is that we're making headway because you have the first Republican Congress in 48 years that literally has forced a balanced budget on these people.

But you have to live within your means. You can't just promise to throw a half trillion dollars at one program when you've got problems with home health care, you've got problems with skilled nursing facilities, where complex medical patients, mainly senior citizens are taken care of, you've got problems with long-term care, you've got problems with just basic delivery of health care, and these people act like the money just grows on trees.

Now remember what I said, $2 billion is locked up -- $1.3 trillion for tax cuts, another $1 trillion for these programs. That's what Bush is...


LEAHY: ... go by -- I can't let Senator Hatch's -- even though he's a good friend of mine, I can't these misstatements go through.

HATCH: Oh, come on.

LEAHY: The fact is, it was the Democrats who balanced the budget. Not one single Republican voted for the balanced budget. In fact, Al Gore had to break the tie in the Senate to get it through.

HATCH: That was the tax -- that was the tax increase.

LEAHY: Not one single Republican did. They all went on the floor, said this is going to bankrupt the country, it's going to cause jobs. Instead, it brought about 22 million new jobs, eight million new businesses.

BLITZER: Senator Hatch, Senator Leahy...

HATCH: Oh, come on.

HATCH: ... we're going to take a quick break, but just for the record, '93, the budget that President Clinton forced on the Democrats, passed without any Republican support.

HATCH: It's $200 billion.

BLITZER: That was without -- that did not have a balanced budget component. That was only in '95 that the balanced budget came forward. LEAHY: No, no...


HATCH: Not only did it not have a balanced budget ...

LEAHY: This is where Wall Street reacted and said, "My gosh, these people actually are serious, we have a president that will sign a bill that makes some tough cuts, that brings it about," and because of that, we're able to have the balanced budget.

BLITZER: Senators, stand by for a second.


BLITZER: Senator Hatch, stand by for one second.


BLITZER: I know you're itching to get back into this, and you will have the chance. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back, including your phone calls for Senators Hatch and Leahy. Stay with us.


BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture of the Washington Monument. The popular tourist attraction has been renovated, of course, and it's again drawing huge crowds even in a Washington drizzle.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking about some of the key issues facing Congress and the presidential candidates with the Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

Senator Hatch, let's switch gears. You're the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. As you know, the Supreme Court is an important issue in this presidential campaign. Four of the justices are getting up there in age. Let's take a look. John Paul Stevens is 80; William Rehnquist is 75; Sandra Day O'Connor is 70; Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 67. Both justices O'Connor and Ginsburg have had some serious health problems. How important of an issue should this be in the presidential campaign, the shape of a new Supreme Court, given the fact that the president of the United States, next year presumably will have that opportunity to name new judges?

HATCH: Well, four of them have had serious health difficulties, so it's likely that the next president is going to have at least three Supreme Court justices.

Personally, I don't want 16 years of straight years of Clinton- Gore judges because you do have a tendency to have much more liberal justices.

I think that it's going to be a -- I think it's the most critical issue in the campaign, because if people want to keep the death penalty alive, they're going to have to get Bush, because if Gore gets there, it's going to be overturned 6-3.

If you want to have quotas in our society, preferring one group over another in contradistinction to the, you know, the equal protection clause of the Constitution, then you're going to have to vote for Gore.

And you know, if you want to have the continuation of a recognition that the states have some rights under these federalist principles that the Rehnquist court established, then you need to vote for Bush.

In other words -- just look at the Boy Scout decision. That would go the other way 6-3.


BLITZER: Senator Leahy. How important of an issue is the Supreme Court in this election?

LEAHY: I think it's a very important issue but probably not for the reason that's Orrin said.

For one thing, Orrin, when you talk about the death penalty, of course both Al Gore and Joe Lieberman strongly support the death penalty, so I don't suspect that they're going to be out there trying to overturn that.

But the one thing that Senator Hatch has left out, and members of his party tend to, is that George Bush has made it very clear in some of his speeches that the Supreme Court could overturn Roe versus Wade, the right of a woman to choose. That is an issue that would come up here. He has said to his two favorite judges are Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas, those are two he admirers the most on the Supreme Court. Both of them would vote, of course, to overturn Roe versus Wade.

And so that the -- and maybe people want that. Maybe they want to go back to making abortion illegal in the United States, but that is the issue.

BLITZER: Is that -- is that the way you see it also, that the abortion issue should be at the highest levels of concerns, either from either perspective, as far as the future Supreme Court is concerned?

HATCH: Well, to be honest with you, that's going to be an important issue except for one thing, there are six justices currently on the court that have voted to sustain Roe versus Wade, so it's very unlikely that will be overturned.

And Governor Bush has a reputation, even The New York Times has recognized it as putting moderate judges on the Texas bench and especially the supreme court there, which just sustained abortion six to three. So that's -- to me that's an issue that really isn't in play.

But the death penalty will be, because you can imagine these -- the death penalty will be regardless of -- Gore has indicated he will have litmus tests in these areas. The question of quotas is going to be, the question of federalism, whether states have any rights at all under the law -- they'll all go the other way.

I have to say, there will be a whole raft of 5-4 decisions in business, in crime, in antitrust, that will all go the other way 6-3, this country could be upset, turned upside-down.

LEAHY: It's hard to say that the Republicans don't have litmus tests. I mean, it is a Republican Congress.

HATCH: We never have.

LEAHY: The Republican Congress has had really the most shameful record in the last five or six years in confirming judges. I've said this on the Senate floor, I've said it in the Judiciary Committee sitting next to Senator Hatch.

While I don't ascribe any motives of either sexism or racism to Senator Hatch, and I've stated that publicly, the fact of the matter is, they made it much, much longer for women and minorities to go through the Senate, if they go through at all, and we still have people being held up now, we can't get them through.


HATCH: Can I say a few words there?

BLITZER: Very quickly.

HATCH: First of all, Reagan had 382 judges. We're now 373 with four more ready to pass in this next month and maybe more after that, so we'll have about the same number as Reagan.

Secondly, President Clinton has said that he has appointed the most diverse group of judges in the country's history. It's pretty hard for him to claim that and then claim that we're trying to prevent him from having diversity when we've actually confirmed those judges.

So that's just -- Pat, I don't know what you've eaten this morning, but you're off on a lot of things this morning.

LEAHY: Actually President Clinton has said that you have stalled his judges, he's said this numerous times publicly.


HATCH: Again, what they say and what's true is not are not the same.

LEAHY: And the fact is -- the fact is when the Democrats were in control of the Senate with President Bush, we confirmed a lot more judges in the last year of his term than the Republicans are willing to do for President Clinton.

HATCH: In 1992 ...

LEAHY: In 1992 we confirmed 66.

HATCH: In 1992, there were 11.4 percent vacancies in the federal judiciary, today there are 6.9 percent.

LEAHY: We confirmed 66, the Republicans...


LEAHY: ... 35.

HATCH: Now, tell me that was when Bush -- that's when you controlled it and Bush was there.

LEAHY: We confirmed 66, you confirmed 35.

HATCH: Almost 12 percent vacancies versus 6.9 today.

BLITZER: All right.

HATCH: In 1994, there were 7.4 when Joe Biden was chairman and Bush was last...


LEAHY: The number's a bogus one and you know it.

HATCH: ... today, 6.9.

BLITZER: Senator Hatch.

HATCH: Don't give me that, Pat.


HATCH: What have you been eating this morning!

BLITZER: Senator Hatch and Senator Leahy, they both had healthy breakfast this morning. We want to thank both of them for joining us on LATE EDITION. Thank you so much.

LEAHY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, we get out of time too quickly in these kinds of debates.

Is the Republican National Committee's latest attack ad the first sell, though, to TV advertising air war between George W. Bush and Al Gore? We'll ask Bush senior adviser Ari Fleischer and Gore senior adviser Bob Shrum.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.



GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: There's been more name calling going on, trying to diminish a candidate by calling names. There is no place for that in American politics as far I'm concerned.



AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have never made a personal negative attack against Governor Bush.


BLITZER: Presidential nominees George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore, vowing to steer clear of negative campaigns.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Despite those promises, the race for the White House is taking a harsher tone. Joining us now to discuss this change in Austin, Texas: Bush senior adviser, Ari Fleischer. Gore senior adviser, Bob Shrum, will join us in just a few minutes.

Mr. Fleischer, I want to play for you -- you've seen it, obviously, but for those of us in the audience who have not seen it -- the latest Republican National Committee ad which the Democrats say goes above and beyond fair play. Listen to this ad.


ANNOUNCER: Well, there's Al Gore, reinventing himself on television again. Like I'm not going to notice. Who's he going to be today? The Al Gore who raises campaign money at a Buddhist temple? Or the one who now promises campaign finance reform? Really. Al Gore, claiming credit for things he didn't even do.

GORE: I took the initiative and in creating the Internet.

ANNOUNCER: Yes, and I invented the remote control, too. Another round of this and I'll sell my television.


BLITZER: Now as you know, a lot of people are saying it was unfair. For example, The New York Times, in an editorial only today said this ad undercut the one advantage the governor has enjoyed thus far: voters perception of him as a likable, confidant and straight- talking leader. What do you say to that kind of criticism, which of course is suggesting to some that the ad may be counterproductive?

ARI FLEISCHER, BUSH CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Well, you know, Wolf, The Washington Post, for example, said the ad is fair game. And keep in mind, the Democrats this summer ran up to $30 million of ads, including almost all of it attack ads against Governor Bush. They distorted his record in Texas. Take for example the Democratic tax during the middle of our convention, a virtually unprecedented thing for one party do the other in the middle of the other's convention.

They allege that Houston was the most smoggy city in America and they blamed it on Governor Bush. They didn't blame it on the Democrat mayor of Houston. L.A. has surpassed Houston. They didn't blame it on the Democratic governor of California.

But the point is, all they do is distort Governor Bush's record with up to $30 million worth of advertisements. So of course, we will have advertisements that also reflect things that Al Gore has said.

BLITZER: So are the gloves off? Is this going to become a much more nasty campaign?

FLEISCHER: Well, you know, Wolf, every cycle the press starts to say "the gloves are off, the gloves are off." I think the American people are the best judges of whether an ad goes too far. And I think most people view that as a tongue-in-cheek ad that uses good humor to reflect upon what Al Gore says, because he is making an awful lot of promises and commitments now. And it's important to know whether he means them, or whether those are just Al Gore saying whatever works at any given moment but he really will abandon it as soon as the election is over.

BLITZER: What the Gore-Lieberman campaign, the Democrats, are saying is, this act by the Republicans who put this ad forward approved, signed off by Governor Bush, is an act of desperation. And they point to this latest Newsweek poll which has these numbers: choice for president Al Gore 49 percent; George W. Bush, 39 percent; Nader at three; Buchanan at one.

That's why these negative ads are now coming forward because supposedly you're behind in this campaign.

FLEISCHER: Well, that Newsweek poll interestingly shows Governor Bush is running dead even with Al Gore among independents. So if we're dead even with Al Gore among independents, the only way they could get those results is if they have rather an odd number of Democrats participating in that survey. We think that survey is off the mark.

Let me go back to what Joe Lieberman is saying about the ads, because I wish...

BLITZER: Well, let me just talk about the -- hold on one second.

Mr. Fleischer, hold on one second. Let me just take a look at Newsweek polls to give you some sort of snapshot. If you take a look back, a month of various Newsweek polls, they've been coming out every week, you see that just after the Republican convention, George W. Bush was at 48 percent and Al Gore was at 38 percent, almost a mirror difference, precise difference of what's going on right now. So were they wrong then as well? FLEISCHER: Well, at that time also the CNN Gallup poll, Wolf, let me remind you, showed that Governor Bush was up by about 17 or 18. So the Newsweek poll has always been a big laggard. It's not likely voters; it's always registered voters. They are typically about eight to ten points behind all the other media polls. That's as ongoing pattern.

But in 1988 when Joe Lieberman ran against Lowell Weicker, he, of course, ran a devastating attack ad at the end of his campaign. He doesn't like to talk about it now. But it compared Lowell Weicker on a personal basis to a grizzly bear who was either grouchy or snoring. That's what he said and put on the air about his opponent, Lowell Weicker. So Joe Lieberman is just engaging in the usual hypocrisy of candidates who do one thing themselves and of course would like to forget about it, and they go out and attack their opponent for doing just what they themselves have done.

BLITZER: This week your campaign will release details of a prescription drug benefit program for seniors.

What some of your critics are suggesting is that the governor, over these past many months, has released detailed plans on education reform, on tax cuts, on defense spending. Why is has he waited so long to release a plan on prescription drug benefits? Is it a sign that this is not an important issue you to him?

FLEISCHER: No, Wolf, actually the governor announced his prescription drug plan in a speech in California on May 15 and it got widespread coverage. He also talked about Social Security that day.

And what he will do Tuesday is build upon his plan, and we welcome the contrast with the vice president's approach. We think when voters compare the two, Al Gore offering what's tantamount to nationalized, one-size fits all, Hillary Clinton-style drug plan, where the United States government becomes the nation's pharmacist, compared to Governor Bush's approach, which is based on allowing seniors choices so they can receive the Medicare coverage they want with prescription drugs. We think that they are going to prefer the governor's plan, and we welcome that debate.

BLITZER: All right. Speaking about debates -- we only have a few second left -- where does it stand as far as the Bush campaign is concerned, a debate with the vice president?

FLEISCHER: We've accepted and we'll have five debates, which is a record-breaking number of debates. In 1996, the Dole-Kemp campaign challenged the Gore-Clinton campaign to six debates. Gore-Clinton refused. They only engaged in three: two presidential, one vice presidential. They even turned down one of the commissioned debates in 1996, Al Gore did.

So we're going to have a record-breaking five this year. And, Wolf, mark my words, Al Gore will shortly back out of a lot of the debates he's already says he accepted, mark my words.

BLITZER: Are you hinting that the governor is going to accept one of the debates that's not necessarily under the umbrella of the presidential commission?

FLEISCHER: Well, I think it is interesting to note that the vice president has said he accepts all these debates. He has listed them and named them, says he will be there, he accepts. And I predict to you they're going to change their conditions all of a sudden. Again, the vice president will say one thing and do another. It's why his credibility is important. Either he has accepted debates, or he hasn't. Just watch, I think he is going to start to back down and back out of that which he already agreed to.

BLITZER: All right. Bush Senior Adviser Ari Fleischer, thanks again for joining us on LATE EDITION. We'll find out shortly exactly what the Gore campaign's position on that debate is.

How is Vice President Gore planning on keeping his lead in the polls through the fall? We'll talk with Senior Adviser Bob Shrum when LATE EDITION continues.


BLITZER: Welcome back. Joining us now to discuss Gore's strategy is Gore's senior adviser, Bob Shrum.

Nice to have you back on our program, Mr. Shrum.

BOB SHRUM, GORE CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Nice to be here, working on Labor Day weekend.

BLITZER: Yes, we're all working. You know, that ad, the Republican ad, caused a lot of stir this week, but The Washington Post, in an editorial yesterday, as Ari Fleischer pointed out, made this point. Listen to this: Let's get real. There are some hard questions to be asked in the campaign and it's not wrong to raise them. Mr. Gore's record on campaign fund raising is a legitimate subject for discussion. So is Mr. Bush's record in Texas. What's key is that ads be factual and clearly reveal their sponsors.

The question is this: That ad suggests that Al Gore exaggerates, exaggerates in some of his own personal achievements. Isn't it fair? You've been in politics a long time, what's wrong with campaigns going a little nasty?

SHRUM: I think you and I, by the way, have discussed this whole question of the Internet, because it is true that when Al Gore was senator he introduced the legislation that allowed the commercialization of the Internet. That ought to be said.

But, look, I think what's happened to Bush campaign is, they want to run a campaign above the ground, not talk about the issues, talk about changing the tone, although they have changed tune about changing the tone, as Senator Lieberman said. And now that people in America want issues discussed, they don't know where to go.

I mean, George Bush, spends as much money on a tax giveaway to top one percent of Americans as Al Gore spends on a prescription drug benefit under Medicare for all seniors, where, by the way, seniors have the choice of participating or not. They get the drugs from a pharmacy, unlike the Bush plan, which is going to send people to HMOs and insurance companies.

BLITZER: Well, what's wrong with the Republicans, as The Washington Post says, going after Al Gore in terms of campaign fund raising, his appearance at the Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple in California?

SHRUM: They can make their choice about what they want to talk about in this election and voters can make their choice, too. Al Gore wants to talk about a prescription drug benefit, about a patients' bill of rights, about how we keep this prosperity going and make sure that it enriches all Americans and all our families, not just the few, about how we invest in education and health care and middle class tax cuts that are targeted. And that is what he is going to talk about.

And the Bush campaign, obviously, doesn't want to join those issues. It obviously wants to go off and launch personal attacks, and, ultimately, the political marketplace, the public, will make a decision about this.

BLITZER: Well, you know, in terms of going negative, as Mr. Fleischer pointed out, during the Republican convention, the Democrats went on the air with a strong attack ad against Dick Cheney, says they have spent -- the Democrats, your party -- spent $30 million attacking George W. Bush. So don't -- you can't cry foul now.

SHRUM: I think, as you know, that figure of $30 million attacking George Bush is factually incorrect. $25 million of all the DNC ads that were run before the conventions were nothing but positive, were about Al Gore's programs, were about a patients' bill of rights, prescription drug benefit, investment in education.

I think the Bush record in Texas, when Governor Bush suddenly wants to stand up and say, look, I would like to protect environment, I think it is perfectly fair to note that he appointed a chemical company lobbyist to enforce Texas' environmental laws. And now you have schools all over Houston where they have to check smog meters before they decide whether kids can go out and play for recess, so I think that is a fair discussion.

BLITZER: But you'll acknowledge that in certain test scores for Hispanics, for African-Americans, his record in Texas on education issues is pretty good.

SHRUM: I think there are two problems with his record on education issues. One is that it is mixed. For example, SAT scores have gone down in Texas over the last several years. And number two, Governor Bush doesn't really have a very solid education plan. For example, he doesn't rebuild crumbling schools, he doesn't get more teachers into classrooms, he doesn't get smaller class sizes.

And, frankly, he invests very little money. He puts about one- tenth as much into helping to improve our schools as he does in a tax cut that goes to the top one percent of Americans.

BLITZER: So why was he so overwhelmingly reelected last time around, with support from non-traditional, Republican groups, like Hispanics, including African-Americans as well, other minorities?

SHRUM: Well, first of all, I think his Hispanic support is exaggerated, and there is a fair amount...

BLITZER: It's much better than most Republicans for Hispanics.


SHRUM: ... a fair amount of data on that. But, look, I'm not rerunning the 1998 election in Texas. He might want to do that. What we're running is the 2000 election for president of the United States.

SHRUM: And there's a fundamental question: Who's going to stand up and see that this prosperity benefits all our families, not the few, that we invest in prescription drugs, invest in education, invest in protecting our environment, and create targeted middle class tax cuts where average families actually do far better than they do under the Bush plan.

BLITZER: One point that I'm sure Governor Bush will be making, as Ari Fleischer just made on this program, is that as far as a prescription drug benefit plan for seniors is concerned, if you want to re-create Hillary Rodham Clinton's failed health care plan of 1993, support Al Gore's prescription drug benefit plan for seniors, because that will bring the Medicare program, the government right into your own backyard.

SHRUM: You know these guys are amazing and they obviously don't have a lot of respect for the intelligence of the American people because they think they can conduct this debate in buzzwords. What they're really doing is attacking the Medicare program, which is one of the most successful programs in the history of the country.

Al Gore's position is, let's provide a prescription drug benefit under Medicare. Seniors voluntarily can decide whether to participate or not. The doctor, not a bureaucrat will decide what drug will be prescribed and you'll get it at your local pharmacy.

George Bush, if to the extent he's endorsed a plan at all, has no money to finance it, wouldn't let you go to your local pharmacy, you'd have to go to an HMO or an insurance company, and leaves out middle class seniors.

BLITZER: Are you going to back away from your previous commitments to accept all debates with George W. Bush?

SHRUM: No, we're going to be happy to debate many, many times, but we're going to insist that George Bush do the debates that the commission has set up. First that he agree to them, he doesn't have do them first he has to agree to them.

Look, Wolf, the game they're playing -- and I don't understand it because frankly I think Governor Bush did pretty well in those debates in the Republican primary process. But the game they're playing is to have the fewest number of debates seen by the fewest number of people. We think the debates should be seen by the American people in the largest possible numbers -- 80, 90 million a 100 million people.

BLITZER: Just to clarify, no debates until Bush accepts the presidential commission format.

SHRUM: Bush is going to have accept those presidential commission debates or prime time debates on networks that can be seen by 90 to 100 million people.

BLITZER: Until then, you're not accept the debate.

SHRUM: We'll be happy to accept all debates. He just needs to accept the debates that most Americans are going to see.

BLITZER: Bob Shrum, always a pleasure to have you on LATE EDITION. Thank you.

SHRUM: Thanks, nice to be here.

BLITZER: Just ahead, Democratic vice presidential nominee Joseph Lieberman is not shy about discussing his religious values on the campaign trail. But is keeping the faith crossing a line? We'll get two perspectives on the issue from the Reverend Jerry Falwell and the Anti-Defamation League's director, Abe Foxman.

LATE EDITION will be right back.



SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I ask you to allow me to let the Spirit move me as it does to remember the words from Chronicles, which are to give thanks to God.


BLITZER: Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman offering a prayer during the announcement of his selection as Al Gore's running mate last month. Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining us now to talk about the role of religion in public life are two guests. In New York, Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. This past week his organization sent a letter to Senator Lieberman asking him to refrain from overt expressions of religious values and beliefs.

And joining us from Lynchburg, Virginia, the Reverend Jerry Falwell, a longtime political activist in the conservative movement. He is also chancellor of Liberty University.

Gentlemen, good to have you on our program. Thanks for joining us.

Mr. Foxman, you may have seen the editorial in the New York Daily News today saying this: The ADL has done a disservice to the nation by trying to post an off-limits sign on a legitimate arena of public discourse.

What's wrong with Senator Lieberman talking openly about his religious values and faith?

ABRAHAM FOXMAN, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: Well, there is nothing wrong with have him speaking about his faith. I think the American people are interested. It is a question of degree.

What we are seeing, Wolf, in this election campaign is a new element. That is, it almost seems like we are listening to preaching from the pulpit rather than hearing about issues from the campaign. All the candidates seem to be competing with each other as to how holier they are from others, and we feel that that is not what America is about. It doesn't belong there. There is a time and a place for religion. We are a religious country. We are a religious people. It belongs in the church, in the synagogue, in the mosque. It belongs in the home. It belongs in the heart. But not stumped on the campaign trail.

BLITZER: Reverend Falwell, what's wrong with that?

REV. JERRY FALWELL, CHANCELLOR, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: Well, really nothing wrong with that, Wolf. I have no problem with Joe Lieberman talking about his faith. He is committed to Orthodox Judaism. I do have a problem with him supporting partial birth abortion, special rights for gays and lesbians, when, in fact, Biblical Judaism opposes both.

But at the same time, this is America. He has the right to address his faith, and it is a matter of opinion. I would never write a letter to George Bush, Dick Cheney, Joe Lieberman, Al Gore, saying, "You're talking about too much religion." If I thought they were, I might register that come November 7. But I think to limit someone's expression of free speech on any subject, including religion, is a violation of the First Amendment.

BLITZER: Well, that raises this question, Mr. Foxman. Why did you feel it necessary to go public on this issue? You know Joe Lieberman. You've known him for many years. Why didn't you just call him up and quietly, privately say, you know, maybe there is a problem here?

FOXMAN: First, to say to Reverend Falwell, to express one's opinion even in disagreement, does not mean that we are limiting the other person's ability or right of expression in doing what he does.

Wolf, we have written similar letters. We wrote a letter several months ago to all the candidates. We wrote to Governor Bush when he said that his political philosopher was Jesus Christ. We wrote to Vice President Gore, publicly, when he...

FALWELL: You have written a few to me, Abe.

FOXMAN: Excuse me?

FALWELL: You have written a few to me through the years. I said you have written a few to me through the years.

FOXMAN: Yes, but you are not running for president or vice president of the United States.

FALWELL: I got you.

FOXMAN: We have disagreed. That is part of our tradition. But these people are running, not for chief rabbi, not for chief priest, not for chief pastor, they are running for the president and vice president of the United States. And there is a place where this kind of discussion belongs, and a place where it doesn't.

There seems to be now, Wolf, almost a competition in the political arena as to who is more faithful to God. And we feel that that disenfranchises, that alienates a lot of people.

And interestingly enough, both conventions, both parties, in these last several weeks, have made a thing about being inclusive. They have competed with each other on inclusiveness.

FALWELL: Abe, you know, the thing...

FOXMAN: Ironically -- can I finish, Reverend?


FOXMAN: And ironically, when you begin talking about one's faith, when you begin to be specific in terms of one's belief, then what you do is you're exclusive, you're alienating those who do not accept a Judeo-Christian faith or who do not accept religion at all.

FALWELL: Abe, the surprise I have about -- about ADL responding, namely you, in this, the ADL has a particular mission, as I've understood through the years and I respect that mission, and that is, to fight anti-Semitism with every fiber of your being. I'm for that.

But I would not have been surprised if the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, People for the American Way, all these other anti-religious, anti-God, anti-Christian organizations.

But ADL is none of those things, and you -- I was just -- I thought this was completely off the domain and the jurisdiction that ADL is all about.

FOXMAN: Reverend, I don't -- I don't take the liberty to say to you what your organization permits you or what it should do or what your mission is. I find it surprising that you want to set our mission.

Our mission is to fight for democracy; our mission is to make sure that there's religious freedom, religious liberty and tolerance. And our country has flourished to the fact that we now have three candidates all professing God. You have two born-again Christians, and you have an observant Orthodox Jew, Joe Lieberman, and that's because we have been able to protect the liberty of religion in this country without connecting it to government. And that's part of our mission. It's the fight for democracy, it's the fight for pluralism and for greater tolerance.

FALWELL: Hey, add Dick Cheney, he's a committed Evangelical Christian.

FOXMAN: OK, I add him as well. America should be proud of it.

BLITZER: Mr. Foxman, you know, you maybe on the losing end of this debate as far as public opinion is concerned. In this new Newsweek poll that is just out today, the question is asked: "Is it appropriate for a candidate for public office to discuss his own religion and religious beliefs during the campaign?" Appropriate 61 percent; inappropriate 33 percent. You with those who are saying it's inappropriate?

FOXMAN: It's a question of degree, and what the polls does not address, Wolf, is the level, the intensity degree of that involvement. When the bully pulpit becomes a pulpit, when it becomes a situation where just preaching and competition for God, I think the American people would reject that as well. So, it all depends on the question.

And then, you've just had a conversation with two political counselors and advisers, and they, too, disagree about polls and how significant and how meaningful they are. This is an issue of principle. This is an issue in terms of American history, and I don't think we can take a snapshot based on one or two questions.

BLITZER: Reverend Falwell, you mentioned the organization of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The Reverend Barry Lin (ph) heads that organization. He wrote a letter this past week to Senator Lieberman saying this. "Our's a democracy, not a theocracy. We are electing secular political leaders to run a government, not religious leaders to manager a house of worship."

You understand why atheists, agnostics, others might be saying what you're doing, what you're proposing is infringing on their rights as Americans?

FALWELL: Wolf, we who are people of faith in this country, and that's about 94 percent of the population, have long since had to bear the brunt of such anti-Christians. If we watch prime time television, even Dennis, the new NFL football commentator, using the f-word in prime time in a football game. You know, we don't blow the TV's up and we don't declare war in country because of it. We just ask our children to stop watching prime time television.

But we pay a penalty. This is America, though, and that -- you know, I really think that the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the First Amendment, freedom of religion, is so important, that if it makes me a little uncomfortable or anyone else uncomfortable, that the Constitution nowhere guarantees me the right not to be uncomfortable from time to time.

BLITZER: Reverend Falwell, Abe Foxman, stand by, we have to take a quick break for our international viewers. World News is next. Four our North American audience there's still another 30 minutes of LATE EDITION. We'll check the hour's top stories, then more of our conversation with Abe Foxman and Jerry Falwell.

Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable and Bruce Morton's last word. It's all ahead when LATE EDITION continues.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We will continue our conversation with Abe Foxman and Jerry Falwell in just a moment.

But, first, here is Gene Randall with the hour's top stories.


BLITZER: Now back to our discussion about the mix of religion and politics with Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League and the Reverend Jerry Falwell, chancellor of Liberty University.

Abe Foxman, you have probably seen these buttons, and I want to show our audience what I'm referring to. I just dropped it. This little button it shows, in Hebrew letters, Gore 2000. Is this appropriate, do you think -- you see a lot of them at Lieberman rallies -- for these kinds of buttons in Hebrew to be popping up all over the place now?

FOXMAN: Yes, I think that is part of the political schtick, and, there is a leeway about these kinds of things, and I think they are cute, and they're welcome. And I'm sure pretty soon we're going to see in the Republican campaign, buttons in Hebrew with Bush and Cheney. We have seen it in the past, and that is fine.

But, Wolf, if I may: Reverend Falwell, we don't disagree in terms of this country being -- America is a country where individuals are probably more religious than any other country in the world. And we probably agree that there is a moral crisis in this country. There are deep concerns about values.

And we have a situation, as you have talked about very frequently, where parents are killing children, children are killing parents. There is a loss of fulcrum in terms of a direction, what's right and what's wrong.

And I guess where we do part company is, I would rather have you, or my rabbi, lead the religious answers to these questions, and I don't want it to come from Governor Bush, and I don't want it to come from Senator Lieberman, as faithful and as devout and as good people they are. Theirs is a pulpit.

BLITZER: All right. Let's let Reverend Falwell respond.

FALWELL: Well, again, he is right. We do agree that there is a terrible moral crisis in the country today. And I think the way to respond to that is not just from the pastors, the rabbis, the priests calling the country back to some sensible level of moral decency, but I think we need government, not as an enemy but as an ally.

I'm not talking about a state church or any dogma that might be the dogma for country. But I am talking about the government taking a stand on issues of morality and decency.

For example, 80 percent of the American people want the right to pray in public and pray in their school rooms and so on, as long as it is voluntary prayer.

And we have become so hostile towards people of faith that the Supreme Court recently said that a prayer at a football game is outrageous. And so 300 high school football games Friday night and Saturday night across America unanimously joined in prayers as athletes stood up and led the people to pray to say in your face to the Supreme Court, and I applaud them.

BLITZER: Well, we are going to have to leave that whole issue, Reverend Falwell and Abe Foxman, for another LATE EDITION. Unfortunately, we are all out of time. Prayer in schools, voluntary prayer, a good subject, and I can guarantee both of you will discuss it in the not-too-distant future.

Jerry Falwell, Abe Foxman, thank you so much for joining us.


BLITZER: And just ahead, with the presidential campaign now kicking into high gear, can we expect a nasty battle over the next two months? We will go around the table with Roberts, Page, and Carlson. LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable. Joining me: Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today"; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News & World Report"; Tucker Carlson, political writer for "The Weekly Standard."

This negative ad, it seems that this has been a feature of politics for a long time. Why the outrage this time?

STEVE ROBERTS, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": Well, there is a lot of hypocrisy on both sides. And the Bush people are saying: We're going to be different, we're going to be above this.

But of course they are going to do negative ads, because you have to do negative ads. And everybody does negative ads. And as you quoted from The Washington Post, there is nothing really wrong with negative ads if they are truthful and if they point out differences.

So I think there is a lot of hypocrisy on the Bush side. A lot of hypocrisy on the Gore side.

All this whining about, you know, they're being unfair to us, when, first of all, we have known for six months they were going to try to paint him as the candidate from the Buddhist temple. There is no surprise there.

And Gore, I promise you, is going to do exactly the same thing. He's going to take Bush quotes, whether it's at Bob Jones University or other places where he has fumbled around, and run those clips in his ads. So I think both sides are being untruthful and even deceitful on this.

BLITZER: You know, Tucker, the assumption is that they do negative advertising because it works. But does it always work? Does it sometimes have a tendency to backfire?

TUCKER CARLSON, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": It doesn't always work. I mean, if you are perceived as pointlessly mean or unfair, or if the ad is obviously untrue, no, I mean, it doesn't work. But sure, negative advertising in politics, not in business, is pretty effective. I think they should have gone up with a spot a lot earlier than they did.

And I agree with Steve that it is, there is almost something post- modern about the debate over the content of the debate. You know, both sides whine. I think the Bush side has whined really quite a bit, all this business about changing the tone of Washington, blah, blah, blah. I like the tone of Washington. There is nothing wrong with the tone of Washington. And I hope Al Gore stands up and says so.

BLITZER: What do you think, Susan?

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": I think the interesting thing about this is the timing. This is not the time when we thought we would see the Buddhist temple ad. I thought we would see it much later, toward the end of the campaign. The reason I think we see it now is because the Bush people are extremely concerned that Al Gore has suddenly got things together, has hit a very comfortable stride from the period right before the Democratic convention at the point he chose Joe Lieberman, and that they have been unable to stop that momentum from continuing.

Now we see not only a head-to-head contest in national polls and even a Gore lead in this Newsweek poll, but we see a series of state polls in big states, catching up. So now Gore has a rather comfortable lead in Pennsylvania, for instance, one of those key battleground states.

ROBERTS: You know, it's always been true that the terrain of this campaign is going to favor the Democrats. You have a lot of optimism in the country, you have a lot of economic prosperity. The old question, "Are you better off than four or eight years ago?" a lot of Republicans are going to have to answer yes. That is there.

So the way that Bush has got to counteract that is to raise questions about Gore personally, about leadership and likability.

Now up until the convention, he was doing pretty well on those two. He started -- Gore has counteracted his problems on those two issues. That is why, I think, they are running these ads, because they are trying to raise doubts about those two questions, his likability and even more so, his leadership ability and his credibility.

BLITZER: You know, Tucker, the fact of the matter is that George W. Bush was in a similar perhaps situation after New Hampshire, when he lost that to John McCain, after Michigan when he lost that race. Then he bounced back. He rethought his structure a little bit, his strategy. And there is a lot of people saying he can do it again right now.

CARLSON: Yes, he bounced back with the help of some pretty rough, though conventional politics. I mean, he went up against John McCain with some pretty negative ads. There is nothing wrong with that. McCain whined about it a lot at the time, and I think a lot people in the press sort of bought into McCain's claim that it was unfair.

ROBERTS: Some of those ads went over the line?

CARLSON: Well, I don't know, what's the line? I mean, I don't know. I mean, they attacked John McCain, but this is politics.

BLITZER: On the breast cancer issue as we heard.

CARLSON: Well, that was a little creepy, I have to say, but people always do that sort of thing. I think there is a sense, when you look at Bush, that maybe he doesn't want it as much as Gore does. And I think, perhaps it will change this week because -- yes, he has to stop, he's got to stop this line.

BLITZER: John, George W. Bush not as hungry as Al Gore?

PAGE: Well, you look at the schedule over this week and I think that's the conclusion the Gore people would like you to draw, that George Bush has just a couple of events over the Labor Day weekend.

Al Gore is about to embark on this 24-hour work-a-thon. And what's I think notable about this trip that starts this evening is not just that it is 24 hours of nonstop campaigning, which is kind of a gimmick or a stunt, but look who he's talk to. He is talking to the people who end up working over a holiday weekend: nurses in a hospital, waitresses in an all-night diner, firefighters. These are -- this is a pool of remaining swing voters out there to be gotten. Al Gore is going straight at them this week. And I think it's a smart idea that is going to get him a lot of attention.

ROBERTS: I think there is some truth to Bob Shrum's analysis that the Bush people had a good act one, that they ran a campaign well, that they -- he came across as an amiable and appealing figure, and nondivisive, a uniter not a divider, all of those cliches. But they really counted on coasting. They really counted on keeping their lead. All of a sudden they find themselves in the second half, they're behind or at least even, and their game plan seems to be in a bit of disarray.

BLITZER: And that may be, very briefly, Tucker, one reason why, now Tuesday, the Bush campaign is going to finely release the specific details of a prescription drug benefit plan for seniors.

CARLSON: In an important speech, yes. And I think they can count -- they are of course expecting to be hit right in the face backed by the Gore people. I think they are ready for it. I think this could motivate Bush to start being more energetic. It could be a good thing.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about with our roundtable when LATE EDITION returns.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our roundtable.

Susan, very different styles we're seeing among the vice presidential running mates, Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman.

PAGE: You know, you may remember, or maybe not, that when Lieberman was chosen one of the things I said on this round table was that Lieberman's the kind of choice you make when you're behind, you want to shake things up, you want to get energy. Cheney's the kind of choice you make when you are ahead and you feel pretty comfortable about that, because he's not a candidate you choose for his campaigning ability but because you think he's going to be good once you're in office. And I think we're seeing some repercussions from that now. Cheney's clearly not as happy to be on the road campaigning as Joe Lieberman, and he's not engaging audiences the way Joe Lieberman is.

ROBERTS: I think that's a good point. I think he was a candidate for a front-runner as we were saying, not a candidate for someone who's got to come from behind.

There's another thing that Lieberman has done. I think he's helped Al Gore psychologically. You know, that it's no longer Clinton-Gore; it's Gore-Lieberman. And I think that has had a real beneficial effect on Gore's whole persona. There's a certain not only a dynamism but a sense of confidence.

BLITZER: Well, he does look like he's thrilled to be on that campaign trail, Joe Lieberman, where as Dick Cheney, except when he's talking about defense-related issues, which he knows a lot about, doesn't seem to be that thrilled.

CARLSON: There's also -- interestingly, Lieberman (inaudible) never seen before, a nastiness and a partisanship that -- you know, there just wasn't there before. I mean, he called George W. Bush an intellectual lightweight the other day. He's been defending Clinton's record in a way that Gore would never dare. And so it turns out he actually is a pretty sort of tough partisan.

But I think it's right, Cheney has not been a great asset and this business about his stock options was ludicrous. And they let it go on for more than a week before Cheney did what he should have done the first moment, and said, look, I'll just give them up. They wasted so much time with that. PAGE: The thing about Lieberman, and this dates back to his very first campaign for the Senate, where he ran pretty aggressive negative campaign against Lowell Weicker, but he does it in such a genial way that it doesn't have the kind of harsh edge that negative attacks often can have, and I'm sure this is driving the Republicans crazy.

BLITZER: And one point on the stock options and the amount of money that Dick Cheney has made over these past few years, some Democrats, some people very close to the Gore-Lieberman campaign, say what they want to do is take a look at Dick Cheney's stock options and his income over the last few years and see how much he would benefit from a Bush-Cheney tax cut, as opposed to the $60,000 dollar single mom two kids.

ROBERTS: Look, that's all fair and one of the problems -- Tucker's absolutely right. There was no way Dick Cheney was going to survive, win that argument that he's going to keep all these stock options. And the story kept dribbling out and it played into a larger Gore theme which is, they're the party of the rich, we're the party of people. It's the oldest line in the book.

But one thing you got to remember to be fair about this line of argument, Gore himself has a lot of stock in the Occidental Petroleum Company, which he inherited from his father. There hasn't been a lot of attention on that. At the same time he's attacking Cheney for having stock in big companies with a lot of economic stakes in this country. At least he should admit what his own portfolio is.

PAGE: I think his mother's portfolio which we presume he would inherit, I don't think it's his stock right at the moment, although it clearly is in his family.

BLITZER: So if estate tax cut went through he may be much better off; is that what you're saying?

Tucker, let's talk a little bit about these debates, if there are debates. I assume everybody really assumes there will be some debates. They're still jockeying for position. What does Gore want and what does Bush want right now?

CARLSON: Well, I mean, Gore wants to make Bush look terrible and Bush doesn't want to look terrible. But Gore's making arguments -- it's hard to argue with these, he says, look, the presidential debate commission debates are the longest, they'd be 90 minutes. They'd be broadcast likely on every network broadcast and cable, the most people would see these debates. So how do you argue with that exactly?

The Bush people haven't really. They've offered objections like, well, one of them would be held near the Kennedy library. That's not much of an argument. Not many people are paying attention now. I think people are going to start to pay attention, however, this week and the Bush people need to appear eager to debate.

They have made two mistakes. One is by keeping this issue alive -- again, it's same mistake in some ways they made with Cheney by keeping stock story alive. It has two problems: One is, it makes Bush appear a little weak, a little fearful. That is not an image you want to project. Also its takes away from his ability to hit his issues because he keeps getting hit with questions.

BLITZER: All right, we unfortunately have to leave it right there.

Susan Page has got her bags packed. She is the strongest member of this roundtable. She's going to cover Al Gore for the next 24 hours without sleep. Is that correct?

PAGE: That is correct.

BLITZER: You had a good breakfast then.

PAGE: I'm ready.

ROBERTS: You got a tough job, give it to a woman.


BLITZER: Susan Page, Tucker Carlson and Steve Roberts thank you.

Just ahead, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines, plus Bruce Morton's last word.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Declaration of Independence starts with it: All men are created equal endowed by their creator -- God, of course.


BLITZER: Religion in American politics, is it really such a bad thing?


BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's last word. As Bruce reminds us, mixing politics and religion is an old tradition.


MORTON (voice-over): The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization, has written Joseph Lieberman, the first Jewish candidate for vice president, suggesting that he talk less in his campaign about religion.

LIEBERMAN: I feel as strongly as anything else that there must be a place for faith in America's public life.

MORTON: But isn't religion part of what America is all about? The Declaration of Independence starts with it: "All men are created equal, endowed by their creator" -- God, of course -- "with certain inalienable rights." God is in the pledge of allegiance to the flag.

CHILDREN: " nation under God..."

MORTON: And religion has long been a part of politics. We are used (ph), recently, to the religious right, which has a political agenda. Some of its issues, prayer in the public schools, say, relate directly to religion; others, spending on this weapons system or that, tax cuts don't. At least, so obviously. But the Christian right is an unquestioned political force.

The Roman Catholic bishops of the United States have taken positions over the years on political issues, nuclear disarmament, for instance. Man has, for the first time, the bishops noted, the ability to destroy God's created order, this planet. And they have spoken on social issues, like poverty.

Religion is not always on the conservative side. I remember then-Democratic Senator John Culver of Iowa debating aid to poor with Charles Grassley, the man who beat him, Culver quoting St. Matthew: "Feed the hungry." And clergymen, Martin Luther King was principal among them, but many clergymen led the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Much of its rhetoric was inspired by the Bible.

Many conservatives back in the 1960s opposed the civil rights laws King preached and argued for.

So religion and politics are old friends, have mingled in many campaigns. Its is clearly over the line for one faith to want to impose its beliefs on others, for a Roman Catholic candidate to say, for instance, my faith opposes contraception, so if elected, I'll work to ban contraceptions for everyone.

(on camera): But short of that, why shouldn't politicians invoke God? Why shouldn't church leaders be activists? It might even get more people interested enough to vote. And wouldn't that be a good idea?

I'm Bruce Morton.


BLITZER: Thanks, Bruce.

And now a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines.

"Time" magazine has an Olympics special with athlete Marion Jones on the cover. She wants five golds. Can she do it?

Marion Jones also graces the cover of "Newsweek's" Olympic preview: top athletes to watch, cool new sports, and the drug game.

And on the cover of "U.S. News & World Report," all new rankings of America's best colleges, making the most of the Web, and tips for getting in.

That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, September 3. Be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

And join us tomorrow at 8 p.m. Eastern on "THE WORLD TODAY."

Coming up next on "": you saw it in the latest "Mission Impossible" movie, new technology that connects your phone, your PC, your VCR, and even your washer and dryer, without any cords or wires.

For now, thanks very much for watching. Have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.



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