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CNN Late Edition

John McCain Discusses the Upcoming Presidential Debate

Aired October 1, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET


FRANK SESNO, GUEST HOST: Hello, everybody. It is noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 7:00 p.m. in Jerusalem, and midnight in Beijing. Wherever you are watching from, around the world, thanks for joining us for this 90-minute LATE EDITION. I'm Frank Sesno sitting in this week for Wolf.

We will get to our interview with Senator John McCain of Arizona in just a moment or two, but, first, let's check in with CNN reporters around the globe covering the hour's top stories.


SESNO: And turning now to the U.S. presidential campaign, it is close and closer, as we head toward the presidential debates on Tuesday. The very latest CNN/"USA Today" tracking poll shows Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush, as you can see here, each with 45 percent.

Green Party candidate Ralph Nader holds steady at 4 percent. The Reform Party's Pat Buchanan has 1 percent. Now, that's the national number, of course, which is why those key swing states, which will determine the electoral vote, are so very important.

Now, the two top presidential candidates themselves are spending the weekend preparing for Tuesday's debate in Boston. It'll be the first of three scheduled face-offs between Al Gore and George W. Bush, and with the race as close as it is, it could be a critical encounter.

Speaking of critical states, CNN's Jonathan Karl is in Sarasota, Florida, monitoring the Gore campaign, where it's located right now.

Jonathan, hello.


You know, you mentioned the crucial -- how these debates -- how important they are. One senior Gore adviser who I just spoke to, who is down here preparing the vice president, said, and I quote, "There is a good chance the election could be decided definitively by Tuesday night's debate."

There are a couple of reasons for these extremely high stakes. The first is the sheer size of the audience. This Gore adviser predicted the audience could reach as high as 75 million viewers. That would be three times the audience that tuned in for Gore's convention speech.

There's another reason, and that is, as you mentioned, the closeness of the race. Every major national poll now shows this race to be a statistical tie, and the campaigns have been fighting over a narrow band of undecided voters. Now, many strategists believe those undecided voters have been waiting for the debates to make up their minds. And with such high stakes, it is not surprising the debates were a major topic of this morning's talk shows.


WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: We are going to see an Al Gore that has been someone who is going to be clear in his statements about his positions, try to in an unfiltered way, because this is the only opportunity, quite frankly, in the entire campaign for 90 minutes, that these both candidates get a chance to lay out their programs to people unfiltered.


KARL: Like the Gore team, the Bush team has gone into campaign lockdown mode. Governor Bush has gone to his remote ranch near Crawford, Texas, to prepare for the debates.

Meanwhile, his team is also trying very hard to win the expectations game, calling vice president Gore one of the greatest debaters in modern political history. It was a theme that was picked up by Bush supporters on the shows this morning.


GOV. TOM RIDGE (R), PENNSYLVANIA: If America was going to elect the president of the debate society, we'd go with Al Gore, who will ultimately have probably the best lines that Hollywood can write for him.


KARL: As far as Gore, he has added a twist to the usual debate prep process, bringing along a dozen people that he has met along the campaign trail. "Real people," the Gore team calls them. They will not actually be sitting in on the practice sessions, but Gore will be meeting with them periodically over the next two days, and, of course, calling in the photographers and getting a few good photo opportunities out of it.

Frank, back to you.

SESNO: John Karl, thanks very much. Enjoy the palm trees, if you have a moment to do so.

Well, in last hour, I spoke with Arizona Senator and former Republican presidential candidate John McCain. He talked about the current race for the White House and more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SESNO: Senator McCain, thanks very much for joining us today. Appreciate your time.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thank you, Frank.

SESNO: Let's start, then, with the debates and Tuesday night. And, in your view, exactly what is at stake?

MCCAIN: Well, I think a lot is at stake. I agree with all the experts and pundits. This is a very close race, and a great deal is at stake, particularly the first debate. I wish that all of the networks, including NBC and FOX would run this debate. I think it is very healthy for the American people to have this -- have the maximum exposure.

SESNO: You ran against George W. Bush in those famous primaries. You debated him.

In your view, what is his most important task and challenge now?

MCCAIN: Well, I saw him, during the series of debates we had, improve significantly in his performance. I believe that he can, and has in debates that I was with him, come across as a person who is a very agreeable, a very pleasant, a very likable individual, and, at the same time, has an in-depth knowledge of issues.


SESNO: Well, on that point, some of the Republicans I have talked to, Senator, have said that's where he has to really shine. He can be likable, but that is a given in some ways. But he's got to show he's got the heft. Is that the main challenge, in your view?

MCCAIN: Yes, and I think he can and will do that. But you never know the dynamics of these debates. We all know some of the famous gaffes that have been performed. We know about Ronald Reagan's "there you go again." We know these things.

One of the things that is going to make this debate, particularly the first one, so interesting is the unpredictability. Is Al Gore going to come across as stiff and wooden, or is he going to come across as a person that Americans can trust?

I find out of these debates, at least the ones I was in, most people don't remember exactly what you said, but they get an overall impression of your performance. And mine was very uneven. And, yet, I could tell when I hadn't done very well and when I had done well just by people's judgment of the overall performance, and I think that is what is really going to come down to, because I don't think either the vice president or Governor Bush is going to make a serious mistake, not the way we prepare for these things now.

SESNO: So, again, what do you think the overall impression that you speak of must be from your candidate?

MCCAIN: Knowledge of the issues but also a person that Americans are comfortable with as president of the United States. If it weren't for that aspect of it, I think we would get the person with the highest IQ out of academia to be president of the United States. I think the American people want to be comfortable with a candidate, as to their -- not just their in-depth knowledge of the issues, but the way that they approach the issues, as well, because the issues change.

SESNO: When you debated him back in January in Iowa, one of many flash points was the governor's tax plan, $1.3 trillion over 10 years. Let me take you back to that debate. We'll take a look at a clip, and then I want to ask you a question or two about it.



MCCAIN: Governor Bush's plan has not one penny for Social Security, not one penny for Medicare, and not one penny for paying down the national debt. And when you run ads saying you are going to take care of Social Security, my friend, that's all hat and no cattle.



MCCAIN: No, they're always cutest when they are true.


SESNO: Always cutest when they're true. Still true? Should the governor stay away from his $1.3 trillion tax plan? It seems to be a centerpiece of his campaign.

MCCAIN: Well, obviously, I disagreed and disagree with that issue, as far as the size of the tax cuts are concerned. I'm pleased that Republicans passed a marriage -- repealed the marriage penalty and estate taxes, et cetera. But I also think that Governor Bush's position on this issue is improved because of the continuing increase in the size of the surplus. Every time we turn around, because of this incredible prosperity, there is more money available. Although, Congress...

SESNO: Are you saying...

MCCAIN: ... at a greater rate of speed is spending it.

SESNO: But are you saying that you would back $1.3 trillion in tax cuts now?

MCCAIN: No, no. I have never agreed with that.

SESNO: All right. So, what does the governor do with that tax position in the debate Tuesday night? How forcefully should he push it?

MCCAIN: Well, I think he defends it just as he has defended it in the past. I just happen to disagree with some of the aspects of it, particularly where the tax cut went. But I think he can, as he has in the past, defend his position. I don't have to agree with him on every issue. If I did, I didn't ever run against him.

SESNO: Do you think in this debate character integrity, Al Gore's connection to Bill Clinton, impeachment, that kind of thing, will or should figure prominently?

MCCAIN: No. But I do believe that Al Gore's involvement in the debasement of the institutions of government -- and I don't say that lightly -- in fund-raising, and his equivocation about not hearing a briefing because he had too much ice tea and saying there is no controlling legal authority, those things are Al Gore's behavior. It was disgraceful reprehensible the way they debased the institutions of government to fund the '96 campaign.

To auction off, or to sell seats on official trade missions, to do many of the things that they did, in my view, is a record of debasement of the institutions of government, in their search for money, and the American people should judge Al Gore on that, not what Bill Clinton did.

SESNO: Senator McCain your name stood and stands for something in campaign finance reform that's attached to one of the pieces of legislation -- proposed pieces of legislation -- that would address at this. The last several days, Al Gore has said that he would voluntarily forswear soft money if George W. Bush would do the same. We asked Governor Bush about that, when he was on "LARRY KING LIVE," this past week.

Let me just show you a clip of that tape and to our viewers.


BUSH: I don't trust them, to be frank with you. He said, I'll offer to get rid of soft money. In the meantime, the president's out there raising soft money. These are folks that don't have a lot of credibility on this issue.


SESNO: So speaking of "credibility on the issue" is this issue going to work for Al Gore or for George Bush?

MCCAIN: I'm not sure who it works for. As you know, Russ Feingold and I advocated every candidate for federal office -- Senate, House president -- to forswear the use of soft money and prevail upon the so-called outside sources, and independent campaigns to not be involved. That's what Rick Lazio and Mrs. Clinton did and we thought it was a good example for the entire country.

I didn't agree with Governor Bush's decision but I also agree with Governor Bush. But I also agree with Governor Bush, there is a great credibility problem out there because, as I just articulated, the vice president's abuses of the offices of the president -- of the vice presidency and the government in the 1996 Gore/Clinton re- election campaign. And that is a record that he should be ashamed of.

SESNO: Well, senator when the vice president pitches an issue like this, many believe that he is going directly for some of those swing voters who supported you, who stood for campaign finance reform and still want to see it.

Is George W. Bush with whom you disagree on this topic, effectively playing into his hands? Handing him those voters on this issue then?

MCCAIN: I don't know, because, the one thing about independent voters it is very difficult to know how independents will swing. But I would have liked to have seen Governor Bush sit down and negotiate an effort to eliminate the so-called soft money from the presidential campaign. He made the decision not to, and it certainly is well-known that I have been trying to get rid of soft money for a long, long time.

SESNO: And we have to take a soft break. We'll do it right here. When we return, more of our interview with Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, LATE EDITION continues, right after this.


SESNO: And welcome back to LATE EDITION. More now with Arizona Senator John McCain.

All right, let's turn to Hollywood now. This past week you held more hearings, you looked at the industry and the whole issue of how and whether Hollywood is pitching to young kids, material that's inappropriate and yesterday "The Los Angeles Times" reported a story a internal memo, and I'm going to quote from it here about movie disturbing behavior, R-rated, very violent. In promoting disturbing behavior reads this memo, our goal was to find elusive teen target audience and make sure everyone between the ages of 12 and 18 was exposed to the film. That from MGM publicist.

Senator, what does that suggest to you and what should be done about it?

MCCAIN: It suggests to me, as the FTC clearly outlined in their report that was requested by the president of the United States after the Columbine tragedy. Remember this has nothing to do with the election season, it has everything to do with the post-Columbine request on the part of the president for a report from the Federal Trade Commission. It suggests to me, that Hollywood was engaged in marketing, not content, but marketing to children material that they themselves deemed unsuitable for the viewing by children, some as young as 9 and 10 years of age.

I'm pleased that four of the studios have renounced that practice. Four of the other studios under the leadership of the Motion Picture Association of America have equivocated with language that we haven't seen in some months, that leaves loopholes wide open. I hope the other four studios will follow the lead of Fox, Dream Works, Warner Brothers and I'm leaving somebody out here, but of the four studios that have -- and Disney who have decided to renounce all marketing of that kind of material to children under 17.

SESNO: Well senator, if they do not, the team of Gore and Lieberman suggest that maybe there's something to do. The Republicans senator on your committee Kay Bailey Hutchison suggests there may be legislation, is that what the ultimate outcome could be?

MCCAIN: I doubt it. Because I think you get then into censorship, and you -- I was interested that certain senators and the vice president said if they don't clean up their act in six months we will act. The question is then, what will you do? The option, as outlined by chairman of the Federal Trade Commission before the Congress is that the Federal Trade Commission could go after the industry for unfair and deceptive, fraudulent and deceptive marketing practices such as what they went after the tobacco industry about.

So, I'm very leery of threatening action, when very frankly I don't know the specifics of what that action would be. I'm confident that the American people will prevail upon Hollywood who are dependent on their good will for their profit margins, will prevail over the remaining four studios so that they will renounce this practice at all. And I want to point out again, it is all about marketing, not about content.

SESNO: All right, senator before we say goodbye to you today, let's come back to this debate Tuesday night, if you had to predict, if you had your crystal ball functioning properly in front of you there and you looked at some of these issues we've discussed and some of the atmospherics that have spun around this campaign, where do you think the main flash point or a critical flash point could be Tuesday night?

MCCAIN: I don't know, but I believe that Governor Bush has several advantages. One of them is on issue of education, another is on private retirement accounts for Social Security, and military readiness and foreign policy, so I think that if it gets down to the issues, I think Governor Bush may -- and I know this is contrary to some, I think he could have an advantage. But the great thing about these debates and the reason why we're going to watch it is because they are unpredictable.

SESNO: All right, Senator John McCain, thanks very much for your time, appreciate it on this Sunday, and we'll see you soon.

MCCAIN: Thank you.


SESNO: And when we return, with the presidential election just over a month away, what exactly is on the line, what's on voters minds. We'll talk with two guests from the U.S. Heartland. Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, he's backing Gore. And Oklahoma Republican Governor Keating in Bush's corner.

LATE EDITION will be right back.


Joining us now with their perspective on the U.S. presidential race, two guests in Springfield, Illinois, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Republican Governor Frank Keating.

Gentlemen welcome to both of you to LATE EDITION. Good to see you.



SESNO: We heard earlier ...

KEATING: And hello, Dick.

DURBIN: Hello.

SESNO: We heard earlier in John Karl's report from where Gore is preparing down in Florida, that a Gore aide says that it is possible that this election could be decided definitively in Tuesday night's debate. Our tracking poll shows it 45-45.

Senator Durbin, first to you, agreed? Decided definitively?

DURBIN: I think it is an important element in the debate. For most Americans it will be the first time they have seen the two men on the stage together. It is interesting to listen to the spinners, and the people who are coming up with all these interpretations.

Now I hear from the Bush side that Al Gore is the greatest debater in history of western civilization. And the suggestion that if Governor Bush does not misspell the name of his home state, he wins debate. And I think you will hear similar things from other side. But the American people are going to be final judge in this.

SESNO: Governor?

KEATING: I think this is very important. And I think that a lot of people -- 75 million potentially -- will watch the debate. It is important that Governor Bush do well. It's obviously important that Al Gore do well. I think you will see a gregarious decent honorable, likable George Bush. And I think you will see the "Ice Man," the individual with all the personality of a razor blade in Al Gore. And I think George will do well.

SESNO: Senator?

DURBIN: Well, thank you, governor. I have been through few of these debates, and of course, each side tries to raise the level of expectation in terms of their opponent. I have to tell you this, when the debates were first talked about, it was a question of George Bush surviving the debate. But I think the polling indicates that in this close a race, George Bush has to do a lot more than just survive and have a nice smile. He is going to have to explain some of the things he has been talking about for the last year.

For instance this whole question of a trillion dollar tax cut which my colleague, Republican Senator John McCain and I both believe is a bad idea.

SESNO: Governor Keating I want to ask you a question before we go to some of the issues and what this debate may sound like. We have viewers from around the world, watching this program, right now. And I've heard from several of them, some people and very smart people in this country as well, noting with some dismay how little discussion there is of America's place in the role in international policy in a contest this important.

What do you have to say about that?

KEATING: I think -- I think it is a true statement. I think a lot of people have been focused on the kiss; a lot of people have been focused on Olympics. And I think the reason there is going to be a lot of interest and a lot of viewership at this first debate, is because people do want a discussion.

Of course, we happen to think on the right, that the left has not answered the questions of how to fix Social Security and Medicare, provide for prescription drugs. And yes, we do think that one out of four surplus dollars ought to go back in the way of a tax cut. But I think that America's role in the world, what do we do with the military in a post-Cold War environment, all these are questions that the vice president and Governor Bush will address and need to address for the sake of the success of their campaigns.

SESNO: OK. I'm going to give Senator Durbin equal time on that in just a moment. But let's look at some of the issues and how they may stack up. We have a little pre-debate, a little warm-up we put together for you here. First on energy and oil and the strategic petroleum reserve. Here is what the two of them sound like.


BUSH: The strategic reserve is meant for a foreign war or a major disruption in supply, not for national elections.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The plan the other side has proposed would not only endanger our environment, it would not even begin to meet our short-term energy needs, much less our long term needs.


SESNO: Senator Durbin, in debate is your candidate Al Gore vulnerable to the charge he is playing politics with oil?

DURBIN: I don't think so. Look what happened when the announcement was made about the release of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a five dollar decline in the cost of crude oil by barrel.

That is a significant decrease, and it's going to help families and businesses across America. We have the support of the G-7 industrialized nations. They believe, as we do, that raising energy prices at this point risks inflation, higher interest rates, and could kill our economic growth.

On the other side we hear from Governor Bush that his answer is to drill in one of the most environmentally sensitive areas in America, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Virtually everything he has come up with: relaxing standards for refineries, and doing this drilling in environmental areas and offshore. All of these are music to ears of oil companies, but they don't address the basic need of responsible, energy exploration, and keeping prices under control for the consumers across America.

SESNO: Governor, your state used to be one of the powerhouses behind the oil industry, still is.

KEATING: Well, I respectfully dissent what Dick said. First, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the Gore proposal was 5 million barrels. That's six hours worth of use.

The Bush -- excuse me, the Clinton proposal was 30 million barrels. That's about two days of use. We consume about 16 million barrels a day. The reason the price went down is because the Saudis are now talking about increasing production.

Secondly, our state, Oklahoma, is the pin cushion state. We've drilled 500,000 barrels -- or 500,000 wells since 1907, and, yet, our rivers, streams, and lakes are virtually pristine. For Mr. Gore to say we're not going to go offshore, we're not going to go to public lands, we're not going to go to the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, when the Democrat governor of Alaska, an environmentalist, suggests we do precisely that, is to make us more beholden to the Saudis and to the Kuwaitis, and, yes, inexplicably, to Saddam Hussein.

Today, only 30 percent -- or, excuse me, about 10 years ago, we were consuming about 30 percent from overseas. Now, it's 60 percent. It's all as a result of this administration having no energy policy, and I think it's something that needs to be discussed.

SESNO: All right.

Let's move to taxes now, because that, too, could be a flash point, and engage a debate something like this in a couple of days. Let's look at the two candidates side by side.

First, to George W. Bush. He is proposing $1.3 trillion tax cuts over 10 years, supporting cutting income taxes at all levels, all rates, promising no increase in personal or corporate tax rates. Over to Al Gore, he is talking about half that -- less than half that -- 500 billion, supporting targeted tax issues, tax cuts, raising taxes on some corporate transactions and tobacco.

Governor Keating, does it stand to reason that your candidate is vulnerable to what will surely come his way, that most of his tax cuts fall to those who, yes, pay most of the taxes, but they happen to be rich? KEATING: Remember what the Gore proposal is, Frank. The Gore proposal is a typical left-wing tax program. If you do what government tells you to do, you get a tax cut. It's all tax credits, and it's tax exemptions.

What the Bush proposal is, with the $4.6 trillion anticipated surplus, is to take one out of four of those dollars and give it back to Americans across the board. For example, people who make $36,000 a year, a family of four would pay no income tax. That, certainly, is a major middle class tax cut, something that the Gore administration -- Clinton administration promised but never delivered. So, the Bush view is, lower taxes for everybody and keep the economy generating and growing.

SESNO: Senator Durbin, let me give you about 20 seconds on this.

DURBIN: Frank, I asked the Republicans senators if they wanted to stand behind the Bush tax proposal and gave them a chance to vote for it in the United States Senate. Not a single Republican would vote for it. That is why John McCain and most of those who have taken a look at it reject it, because, frankly, 43 percent of the tax cuts go to people making over $300,000 a year.

We've got to give tax breaks and help to the families in Oklahoma and Illinois, who want to be able to deduct college education expenses, things that are important for the future of nation, things families really care about.

SESNO: All right. A taste of things to come, both ahead and Tuesday night. But we're going to take a very quick break here. When we come back, your phone calls for Senator Dick Durbin, Governor Frank Keating.

LATE EDITION continues right after this.


SESNO: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Just a few days before the critical presidential debate, we're talking about the campaign with Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin -- he's a Gore supporter, of course -- and Oklahoma Republican governor and Bush supporter, Frank Keating.

Our first call from London, England. Thanks for calling us, go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: I would like to get the senator's comments on Vice President Gore's promise to sign into law campaign finance reform as soon as he gets into office, given President Clinton's failure to follow through on his promise to sign a middle-class tax cut into law when he got into office.

SESNO: Senator?

DURBIN: Well, I think if you look at the tax proposals that have come out of the Clinton-Gore administration targeted to help working families pay for college education expenses, long-term care for their aging parents as well as daycare, we've offered these but they've been rejected by the Republican Congress.

But what you have on campaign finance reform is a commitment from Al Gore to support John McCain and Russ Feingold, calling for real campaign finance reform. Unfortunately on the Republican side, President Bush will not make that pledge. I shouldn't say "president;" Governor Bush will not make that pledge.

SESNO: Next question, San Antonio, Texas, go ahead with your question, thanks.

QUESTION: Yes, good morning. Governor, throughout the campaign, the Republicans and Governor Bush have played the card of inclusion. Yet the Senate of the United States has been sitting on all the judicial appointments involving African Americans and Latinos made by President Clinton. How do you respond to that, particularly when some of those judicial appointments are from Texas?

SESNO: Governor, go ahead.

KEATING: Well, in the middle period of the Bush administration, I was nominated to the 10th Circuit, and my friends on the left grab a hold of my nomination and sat on that for two years, so this is not unusual in a political season.

The reality is, Governor Bush has appointed a great number of minorities -- African Americans, Hispanic Americans -- to public offices in Texas. He received, as you know since you're a Texas, a tremendous vote of support from African Americans and Hispanic Americans, especially now with the increase in test scores, the education reform that he's initiated.

So I think it's not unusual to try to keep back the other party's judicial nominees. It happened to me. And to the extent that we can keep back ultra-left nominees that would finish the Boy Scouts as an organization, that would stop school prayer, that would basically permit abortion on demand to the moment of birth -- I think that's prudent public policy, that's not inappropriate at all.

SESNO: Very quickly, we've got little time remaining now, another -- and our last caller, Greenville, South Carolina, if I can ask you to be brief with your question, I'd appreciate that.

QUESTION: Oh, absolutely. Gentlemen, I was wondering, the surveys that I've seen have shown that a majority of people are in fact pro-choice. Do you believe that the potential retirement of Supreme Court justices will be a major factor in this election? And why has that not been emphasized by either candidates thus far?

SESNO: Governor, go ahead, you start.

KEATING: Well, I think that it has been emphasized and it should be emphasized, because the litmus test in this race for Mr. Gore are that his candidates for judicial positions, including Supreme Court positions, must be in favor of Balkanization, quotas, that would have to be divided on the basis of race, color, sex and nationality, and secondly, they must be pro-abortion, not just pro-choice, but pro- abortion, like this Nebraska case, the two Clinton-Gore appointees to the Supreme Court that say in effect, abortion on demand to the moment of birth.

That's not where Americans are. Most Americans are pro-life in the sense that there ought to be some reasonable restrictions on abortion. That's not where the ultra-left is, and that's not what will happen if Al Gore is president.

SESNO: Senator, I gave you 20 seconds before; I'll give you 10 seconds this time.

DURBIN: The future of the Supreme Court is hanging in the balance. It's a 5-4 majority, and we've heard from Governor Bush that his favorite justices are Anton Scalia and Clarence Thomas. So we can guess where he's headed. If he appoints Supreme Court justices, it's the end of Roe v. Wade. We'll see the end of a lot of privacy that families enjoy across America, and environmental protection.

I think we understand this is one of the critical issues that really transcends any presidency.

SESNO: And finally, gentlemen, before we go, very, very quickly, on this probe that is underway about this tape that was leaked from the Bush campaign with some debate preps, bound for the Gore campaign -- is this a mountain or a molehill? Senator?

DURBIN: I talked to Tom Downey. He's my friend, a former congressman and a close friend of Al Gore's, and he told me literally within hours of receiving this tape he called the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

We've taken it very seriously, we've turned it over for investigation. I don't know the source of it, but I think we've handled it in the right way.

SESNO: Politics, Governor?

KEATING: It's a hill; it's not a mountain, it's not a molehill.

I think that both candidates are well-prepared for the debate; may the better man win. And I think the FBI is properly investigation this matter and they'll take whatever action's appropriate.

SESNO: Governor Frank Keating, Senator Dick Durbin, thanks to you both, and thanks for urging all to watch that debate Tuesday night, as we mentioned. Appreciate your time today.

KEATING: Sure enough, bye, bye.

DURBIN: Thank you very much.

SESNO: And just ahead -- well, he took over the press podium during the darkest days of the Clinton administration. Now after two years, White House spokesman Joe Lockhart is moving on. We'll talk with him about his experiences as well as his future when LATE EDITION returns.



JOE LOCKHART, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: We're continuing to make the point, which is the main and basic point here that we don't believe that there's anything that's transpired that approaches the standard of impeachable offense.


SESNO: Joe Lockhart giving his very first briefing as White House spokesman two years ago.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. And joining me now is Joe Lockhart.

Good to have you on.

LOCKHART: Glad to -- glad to be here and glad to have lost that sort of "dear in the headlights" look.

SESNO: Famous last words: Nothing rises to the level of impeachability.

LOCKHART: I think it was right that day; still right today. But there you go.

SESNO: Well do you? Do you think that was all a waste of time?

LOCKHART: You know, listen, Congress gets to decide what Congress wants to do. But I think the country spoke to this pretty loudly and clearly. And they understand that there were some politics at play there. And, you know I think they are disappointed we wasted so much time on it.

SESNO: Maybe so, but as I said before, you joined really during the darkest days. But for you, what was the darkest moment of all of that?

LOCKHART: Well, I'll tell you. This may surprise you a little bit. I got through the impeachment saga a little bit easier than other things, like Kosovo. Impeachment was about politics. And ...

SESNO: Well, you tried to make it all about politics. That's what you did day after day from the podium, whether it was Ken Starr or anybody else, Joe Lockhart's line was, it is political.

LOCKHART: Right, and I will never forget, when -- I think it was Erskine Bowles talked to Newt Gingrich in a private conversation and said why are you doing this. And Gingrich said, because we can. That to me, confirmed it was about politics. I found it much harder, and more wrenching to go through something like Kosovo, where there were so many people committed to this, the president personally committed to it. And the skepticism was just deafening from the very first day, the very first hour. And that was very difficult, and you know there were times when I think everybody went weak. Everybody went weak, except for the president, who seemed to be, as solid as he was during any time during 8 years.

SESNO: Wasn't that partly because of impeachment, partly because of Lewinsky, partly because of the eroded stature of the office?

LOCKHART: I think it is maybe some of that. I think some of it is also the natural skepticism of the Washington press has turned into overdone cynicism. If you remember the sequencing of events for the week leading up to the bombing campaign. There were stories every night about why don't you do something, why don't you do something. And then the first day the bombing started, the message was why did you do that?

So, there is a certain no win quality to it. And we know that. That is not anything new. But it's gotten worse lately. And I think skepticism has been replaced with cynicism. It's hard. And I do understand the contribution that we have made it to. Those who do what I do.

But you know, I think, that was -- I found that harder going through those 67 days than going through the impeachment.

SESNO: Do you think the tag line to this important presidency that you have seen, so closely will be something to this effect, weakened by scandal, distracted by politics, opportunities missed?

LOCKHART: No, I actually think as we get down the road, and we look at and start to fully appreciate all the things that have changed, which the president had a lot to do with. The country, the people had a lot to do with, I think people will talk about the remarkable change-over and how the government particularly on fiscal policy and the economics changed. But you look at our social fabric, crime, welfare, those things. We are all heading in the right direction.

We are much more optimistic than we used to be. And I think people will look at this and just say, it was a remarkable job and a remarkable presidency and it's too bad the other stuff happened. But I think it's going to reverse in time. I think now we focus more on the bad things and on the personal. And over time that is going to gradually change. It will be a footnote, rather than the first sentence.

SESNO: In a footnote, what's Clinton going to do when leaves?

LOCKHART: He is going to continue to try to make a difference, I think. He's going to go out obviously, and work on his library. I think he will spend some time looking for what the appropriate role of a young, vital ex-president is and he always succeeds so he'll do that. SESNO: And to try to burnish his image perhaps in the process.

All right, we're going to take a quick break.

When we come back, your phone calls for the former White House spokesman.

LATE EDITION continues right after this.


SESNO: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Continuing our conversation with Joe Lockhart.

Feel a little better today than you did...

LOCKHART: A lot better today.

SESNO: A little (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you said, during the break, you get halfway through a sentence now, and...

LOCKHART: That and a weekend off is an amazing combination.

SESNO: Let's go to a phone call for Joe Lockhart. This one from Switzerland -- hello.

CALLER: Hello.

SESNO: Go ahead.

CALLER: Can you hear me?

SESNO: Yes, we hear you just fine. Go ahead with your question.

Well, I think we lost the question, so I will pick up where he left off.

The debate -- I wanted to -- let's turn to something you are not involved with now, so you will give us, presumably, completely detached, impartial analysis.

LOCKHART: It may be a little early for that.

SESNO: Expectations?

LOCKHART: Well, I think the Gore people have done a pretty good job of reminding people that, you know, George W. Bush has been in debates before. I think they were -- I think the Bush people were trying to create this thing that if he came in there and stood there and just managed to get out still breathing, he would be fine, and that's not the case. So, I don't know that expectations are really going to be that important here.

SESNO: Is it about likability? LOCKHART: I think that's part of it. I think they both face the same kind of challenge, but from opposite ends. It's coming off in a positive way. I think Gore has to come off and not make how smart he is a liability. He is very, very intelligent, understands these issues, and he has, at times, come off as someone who, you know, seems like he knows everything. And I think...

SESNO: Condescending.

LOCKHART: Yes. I think from the other end of spectrum, I think George W. Bush has got to prove he has what it takes to lead the country. I don't know that he has done that in this campaign, that he has the grasp on the issues. People don't elect presidents because they've got good staffs, and I think they want to know. So I think they both have to come in and, not only demonstrate -- make their arguments and demonstrate they know things, it is going to be about how they do it, and who does it more effectively.

SESNO: Switzerland went away from us. Presumably, Atlanta will not. Hello, go ahead with your question, please.

CALLER: Yes, good afternoon, Mr. Lockhart. Congratulations on your upcoming new career.

LOCKHART: Thank you.

CALLER: The position that you've held has been as White House spokesperson, or presidential spokesperson. It is an appointed position. However, don't you believe that, instead of an us-against- them mentality, it should be, rather, a informative position, where you include all Americans, and when we disagree with the White House position we should still be counted? Thank you very much.

LOCKHART: Well, I think I think it is. I think the -- one of the great advances, although it's changed the nature of the briefing, has been that a place like C-Span will put the briefing on everyday, and people can tune in as they can. I mean, CNN will come in and out of it, depending on what's going on.

SESNO: Briefing wasn't on camera before...

LOCKHART: Yes. I mean, it was Mike McCurry who brought them in full-time. It's changed it, but I think, ultimately, for the positive. I think, as with anything in Washington, what gets noticed and what gets reported on are the great conflicts.

But I think 90 to 95 percent of what we do is not about conflict. It is about managing the government. You know, I believe the president has done it very well, but that doesn't always get into the paper or, you know, into the reporting cycle that you see. So I don't really believe there is an us-against-them, although sometimes I could see why people would have that perception.

SESNO: Stevenson Ranch, California, with a question for Joe Lockhart, go ahead. CALLER: Good afternoon, Mr. Lockhart. As I recall, President Clinton was called to explain his trial of drugs and the draft issues in the 1960s.

Why hasn't the media investigated Governor Bush for the gap in time between 1970 and 1985, at least to find out what happened? Thank you.

LOCKHART: Well, I mean, this is kind of a difficult issue, because I think what was done in 1992 was overdone, at the expense of other issues. And I think if somehow we break out of the cycle that everything you did wrong as a 20-something or 30-something doesn't disqualify you for the presidency, if you've done anything wrong or you've got stuff that is hard to explain, that's a positive, because we ought to elect a person who is best able to lead the country.

I think in this campaign the president hasn't focused on those issues as much, but I don't know that they've spent their time wisely in ignoring that with other things. I think, you know, I said to someone the other day that the first debate moderator should be that old guy Marlin Perkins (ph) cause this is like animal kingdom. All you hear about is rats, dogs and moles.

SESNO: You've taken some shots -- you taken some shots at the press and the way the media operate. To what extent do those of you who stand at those podiums around town share in some responsibility.

LOCKHART: I think we certainly share in some of the responsibility. It's, you know, one of the things in politics is the winners are still the winners, and the smart people know what the rules are and you know how to get ahead and it is a downward and somewhat vicious cycle when the people who do what I do who are speaking or the political operatives, take know how to manipulate the press, know how to do things in order to feed negative headlines about their opposition, and you've got a press who's, you know, obsessed with those things. I think both sides would be well served to take a look at their particular role. But, you know, it's not going to happen any time soon.

SESNO: I'm going to depart with tradition here, Joe, as we say goodbye to you and we're actually going to give you some gifts on behalf of LATE EDITION. We feel all appropriate and they all fit in with the ethical constraints that you would have lived under and that we still live under.

LOCKHART: Why do I not see this as selfless act on (OFF-MIKE).

SESNO: It is selfless -- it is a selfless act. First we want to give you the stack of newspapers that you will no longer have to work through every day, but we want you to take them home.

LOCKHART: I appreciate that because I have not worked through these today yet.

SESNO: Secondly, we want to give you a tape of your very last briefing if you don't already have one. LOCKHART: I don't and this is very nice.

SESNO: Finally, you know, you've been in journalism and behind the podium, we want to give you your very own CNN cap. You can do that, and lastly, no comment on either the people you've worked with in the White House or in the press corp, your very own snake to take home with you.

LOCKHART: There you go, I think in each -- there's a bit little of truth in all of these things here, so I appreciate it.

SESNO: Joe Lockhart good luck in what lies ahead. Thank you, appreciate your time.

And for our international viewers, we'll say farewell to you right now. World news is next, for our North American audience, stay tuned for another half hour who knows what gifts lie ahead on LATE EDITION. We'll check the hours top stories then go round the table with Roberts, Page and Carlson.

Plus, Bruce Morton's Last Word. All head when LATE EDITION continues.


SESNO: And welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We'll get to our roundtable in just a few minutes, but first let's go to Gene Randall for a check of the hour's top stories.


SESNO: And time now for our roundtable.

Joining me, Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today"; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News & World Report"; and Tucker Carlson, political writer for "The Weekly Standard."

Some interesting dynamics as we go into this debate, among them the tracking poll and whether Bush has the heft and Gore the likability. But take a look at this number in our tracking poll, this critical question of favorability ratings for the two candidates. It's dead even: 59-59 favorable, 36-36 unfavorable. I don't know what it means about what the voters are thinking, but it's close.

SUSAN PAGE, CNN COMMENTATOR: Looks like a close race. Actually I think those numbers are very good news for Al Gore, because George W. Bush, for months, has had much better favorable/unfavorable ratings than Al Gore has had. This is an achievement for him to be even-up.

You know, Al Gore's got another advantage, which is that people tend to favor him on issues. So if he's even-up on favorable/unfavorable and ahead on issues, that gives him a real boost going into the final weeks of this campaign.

STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: You know, the number in another poll, a Newsweek poll, that really jumped out at me though -- I mean, these numbers are so close, but a number that is so different, people were asked, "Are you satisfied with the state of the economy?" -- 81 percent. "Are you satisfied with the moral values of the country?" -- 31 percent.

And I think in many ways that is the fulcrum of the campaign. If people focus on the budget surplus and the good economic times, it's so favorable for Gore. But Bush was able to get enough people to focus on what he calls the "moral deficit" to make this even. Otherwise this wouldn't even be close, given the economy.

TUCKER CARLSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: But in fact, really, it's Gore who's been sounding like the preacher recently and I think sort of running toward this issue rather than running away from it, which is I think very clever. I mean, his enormously bellicose statements about Hollywood sort of short-circuited I think, at least for a week, Bush's kind of positioning on this issue. I mean, it's very hard to sound like Bill Bennett when your opponent, the Democrat, is sounding more like Bill Bennett than Bill Bennett sounds.

PAGE: Well, you know, you also -- I was out with Bush all this past week, and you really saw him not talking about moral issues; you saw him talking about trying to make a case for a policy change at a time of prosperity -- the education recession, there are problems with education, the energy crisis.

He was really trying to build the case that Al Gore is not a good steward of the economy, would change the policies that Bill Clinton has followed so successfully.

It was interesting his speech Thursday, a big economic speech, amounted to praise for Bill Clinton in an effort to criticize Al Gore for moving away from some of the fiscal conservatism.

SESNO: And, Steve, back to the issue of voters dissatisfied -- we actually have that made up as a graphic, if we want to put it up now, you can let people ponder it a little bit -- 31 percent say they're satisfied with the moral direction and values of the country; 68 percent say they're dissatisfied. The source of that: Washington Post, Kaiser Foundation and Harvard University.

But, Steve, if that really were the case, one would be left wondering why the whole question of integrity and character that George W. Bush raised so forcefully at the convention is not conveying better when it comes to the campaign itself and Al Gore.

ROBERTS: One of the reasons turns out to be Joe Lieberman. One of the things that -- you know, we're so used to the cliche that "vice president's don't matter," and they haven't really mattered very much, but this might be an exception.

Because I was in New Jersey this week talking to voters, talking to Governor Whitman, and she said that the reason that New Jersey has gone from a toss-up to a strong Democratic state at least in part was Joe Lieberman. SESNO: And in talking to voters, it was interesting. A number of people said to me, you know there are a lot of people in New Jersey with ethnic roots and backgrounds and that sort, and that Lieberman is a symbol. Saying he has opened the door for a lot of the rest of us. And if you look at the morality poll, if you ask about the vice president's, if the question is phrased differently, Democrats go up about nine points, so I think, Lieberman is making a difference.

CARLSON: I think Lieberman has, but I'm not sure it's true that Bush hasn't gotten any traction off the integrity rap. I mean, if you look at the past two weeks where Bush has gone from several points behind to a couple points up or dead-even. And you look at those weeks, there are no issues on which he won decisive victories during that time. And really the only message that seemed that he consistently put forward that seemed to work at all was the idea that Gore doesn't tell the truth. So I think it has worked.

PAGE: Although there is the Oprah effect. You know, you had Gore do Oprah and went up in the polls and then you had Bush do Oprah and he went up in the polls.

CARLSON: Let's not admit that, Susan.

SESNO: Oprah would have been sitting in today, but she was busy.

PAGE: So I wondered to what degree is it a matter of people feeling comfortable with the candidates. And that might be one of the things that's the real test in the debates is which candidate comes across as being kind of comfortably president or would you feel most comfortable in installing in that important office.

SESNO: Tucker, let me pitch this one to you directly. Bob Dole, you remember him? He ran for president.

CARLSON: Yeah I remember him.

SESNO: Speaking at Denison University back on Thursday said, quoting here, "There is a feeling that he," meaning Bush, "is not quite ready for prime time, that he doesn't fill the suit. I don't think that is true, but there is that feeling out there."

That is Bob Dole speaking. I have spoken to a bunch of Republicans. I'm sure you have. He is not alone in sharing it. How serious?

CARLSON: Well, undeniably there is that.

SESNO: Is that what Tuesday is all about?

CARLSON: I think the Gore campaign made a very smart decision maybe three or four months ago, when it decided to change the focus of its attacks from an ideological one. You remember, the first attacks were this guy is a clone of the House Republicans; he's a crazed right winger. To there's something not quite ready about this guy. He's a frat boy. I think fundamentally it's unfair attack. So what if he's got a speech impediment. It doesn't mean that he's unintelligent and it doesn't mean that he doesn't know the issues. Fine. But it turns out that that, you know, is an attack that worked because it played to people preconceptions.

UNKNOWN: That's right. And you know, among other things, George Bush is a guy who said, you know, a growing number of our imports are coming from abroad. I mean there is, it's not just a speech impediment. There is -- seems to be at times, a lack of really understanding of some of these issues.

I do think that is central to Tuesday, Frank, because as John McCain said in answer to you, it's an overall impression that counts. And I do think that the test for Bush is this question of threshold competence. It's really the problem Ronald Reagan faced in 1980. And it was similar. Here was a guy, a governor, not a lot of experience in Washington. People had a lot of doubts about his competence to be president. He came across with a certain sense of competence and confidence, and he met a threshold test. I think that is what Bush has to do.

PAGE: You know, he had a harder test than Ronald Reagan had though. Because in 1980, you may remember, there was just one debate. And Reagan was good enough in that debate, relaxed and authoritative. And it was really critical in him winning the election. George W. Bush is going to have three debates and 90 minutes each, different formats. I think it's going to be -- I think the American people will have a good sense of the answer to that question. Is it a fair criticism that he doesn't fill the suit, or an unfair one after watching him three times, 90 minutes long.

You can't really fake it that long. Al Gore can't fake being likable that long. I think you are going to get a sense of who have these people really are.

CARLSON: And I think the issue that we haven't talked about, that you are going to see Gore hit on I think most strongly, is taxes. He's going to try to make Bush sound like an extremist and someone who, not only, you know, isn't ready to be president, but also would make something of a reckless president. He is going to run in some ways to the right of Bush.

SESNO: Bush has a strong response to that, Tucker, too, because he says look at Gore's tax credits, tax breaks. They read like an alphabet soup of confusion. And it fundamentally it is the government telling you how to behave and if you behave in a certain way, then the government will be beneficent enough to hand you back some money.

CARLSON: But clearly that's right, but what's interesting, if you look at poll numbers on this, I think the most recent polls taken showed that more Americans believed that Al Gore would lower their taxes than George W. Bush. Now of course that is ludicrous. But the point is people believe it, which means the Gore message is getting through more clearly than Bush's.

ROBERTS: And the other problem that Gore has, when you talk about Bush having a test of competence. I think the test that Gore has to meet is, when people look at him, they say can I stand to listen to this guy for four years. It's sort of the insufferability test. I mean, Gore is never going to be all that likable, but people have to reach a point and say, yeah I can put up with it. And I'm not sure the outcome of that, because Gore if he goes on the attack, can be a pretty insufferable character.

SESNO: And I will be insufferable here and cut you off, take a break. We'll be back with politics of RU-486, abortion and the campaign, right after this.


SESNO: And welcome back to our roundtable.

This past week, the Food and Drug Administration giving approval to RU-486, the so-called abortion pill. How will it affect the campaign and the politics of the national election.

First, a couple pieces of sound, first from Al Gore then from George W. Bush, in the wake of that decision.


GORE: I support the FDA's approval, assuming it is safe for the woman who takes it, and that is what they decided today. I do not think that it ought to be kept away from women for some political reason. I support a woman's right to choose.

BUSH: Should I be elected, I will lead our nation toward a culture that values life, the life of the elderly and the sick, the life of the young, and the life of the unborn. I know good people disagree on this issue, but surely we can agree on ways to value life by promoting adoption and parental notification. And when Congress sends me a bill against partial-birth abortion, I will sign it into law.


SESNO: Tucker Carlson, first to you. That tape from George W. Bush was a taped remarks to the Christian Coalition. He did not even mention the abortion pill there. Is he backing away from it, or was it just an oversight? What do you think?

CARLSON: Well, clearly, he is sending a message as he has been since beginning of this campaign that he is not, you know, he's not going to tow the line on this subject. But it is, I think...

SESNO: What does that mean, though, that he is not going to tow the line on this subject? What does it mean about the Republican Party, abortion, and how it's playing?


CARLSON: It means he doesn't take it seriously as an issue, and he's made that very clear since the very beginning. I mean, you have here Al Gore has said that his Supreme Court nominees will be pro- choice. George W. Bush has said he is not going to inquire as to the abortion views of his Supreme Court nominees.

SESNO: Susan, polls show America split right down the middle, 50-50 on some degree of keeping abortion available and legal, and almost a similar number of people who are uncomfortable with this abortion pill.

PAGE: And, you know -- although I'd make two points. One is that the voters who are still -- if you want to look at this in a political sense, and we are just five weeks out from the election -- the voters who are undecided tend to be -- a lot of them are women, a lot of them are women in suburbs. And most -- many of those voters are pro-choice on abortion. Not that they support abortion. Many of them uncomfortable with the number of abortions in this country. But uncomfortable with the idea that government is going to tell them whether they can have an abortion or not.

SESNO: But why does RU-486 not factor in then?


PAGE: So, politically, I think one reason that George W. Bush is not taking on this issue more fervently is because that is the electorate that he is now looking at.

ROBERTS: That's absolutely right. I mean, it drives me a little nuts when Al Gore is there and says, I support a woman's right to choose, and he doesn't say the word "abortion," because he knows if you say "abortion," then it's not quite as resounding a popular thing to say.

But, having said that, I do think the majority of the swing voters, tend to favor this basic notion that it should be a woman's decision for herself, not the government's decision. And they might not even be that fervently in favor, they might not want it for themselves, but they like the basic notion it should be their choice.

The reason why George Bush didn't mention it, is he knows that it's a political loser for him. He does not want this issue to be very visible during the campaign. I'm sure they're furious with the FDA for coming out with this ruling right now. And he's soft peddling it even to the Christian Coalition, while sending this message...


CARLSON: No, but, see, I'm not sure it would be a political loser. I mean, consider Al Gore's argument that somehow this drug is going to make abortion less common? I mean, this is an argument that is laughable, but this is the argument that Gore is making. When you, you know, distribute or make available a drug that causes abortions and you don't go to a clinic to get them, that somehow there are going to be fewer abortions. I mean, that's ridiculous.

SESNO: There's a long history of the use of this drug in Europe. We do have a pretty good sample, and the number of abortions has not gone up. And one of the things that will -- it will -- it does make a very early abortion much more easy, and might cut down on the more late term abortions, which are the ones that are most problematic for most people.

PAGE: So, you know, whatever happens in the next five weeks, this pill has the possibility of really transforming the abortion debate politically over the next decade.

SESNO: How is that?

PAGE: Because 90 percent of abortions now take place in clinics, which are easy to target, easy to demonstrate at. This, presumably, will move a lot of those abortions into the privacy of doctors' offices and homes, which makes the issue less visible, more private, harder to protest. Maybe it shifts the debate just the way George Bush is shifting it, to the question of when do abortions take place. And maybe it forces abortion opponents to look at abortions that cannot take place in the first seven weeks of pregnancy with RU-486, but in the last trimester of pregnancy.

ROBERTS: And the fact that George Bush did not go to the Christian Coalition was significant. He wants to keep that base happy, but he doesn't want to be identified with the Christian Coalition...


CARLSON: It's a little bit reminiscent of Ronald Reagan, who never appeared. He would always speak by telephone to all anti- abortion...

SESNO: There were out there on the Mall, for example, once a year.

ROBERTS: He wanted to keep his support -- his base happy, but he didn't want to raise the issue of...

CARLSON: Well, I don't know. He wrote a book on "Why I'm Pro- Life." I mean, so to say, I mean, whatever his personal views might have been and how conflicted they might have been, or his political calculations, the guy was staunchly against abortion from the very beginning.

ROBERTS: But one of the things to remember is -- I talked to Christine Whitman this week, and she said, in New Jersey and states like that, that voters, the swing voters, do not want someone who believes in a litmus test. She says Bush has not broken through on this issue. Now, she has her own views...

CARLSON: She certainly does.

ROBERTS: She's pro-abortion, but she said Bush is not broken through and he does not want this to be the issue that people vote on in Ohio and Pennsylvania, states like that.

SESNO: Steve Roberts, Susan Page, Tucker Carlson, thanks.

Up next: Bruce Morton's "Last Word."


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Let's hope that whatever they say or do, lots of people watch and argue and then vote.


SESNO: Gore, Bush and the upcoming debate: How best to win over the voters.


SESNO: And time now for Bruce Morton's "Last Word." As Al Gore and George W. Bush prepare for Tuesday's presidential debate, Bruce shares somes thoughts on how both candidates can make the best impression on you, the voter.


MORTON (voice-over): The first one is Tuesday. The whole world will not be watching not even the whole country. NBC is offering its affiliates a choice between the debate and baseball, FOX is skipping all the debates to run entertainment programs. You can watch cable they say which is true if you have cable, but the broadcast networks get the biggest ratings by far, so the debates will be less of a national event than they might have been.

(on camera): Still, they'll matter voters who don't watch will hear snippets on news, hear talk at work the next day about who did well, or badly or so on. What are they looking for?

My feeling after some years of paying attention to politicians and voters, is that it's not so much stands on specific issues as it is general impressions. What kind of a guy is he, can I trust him, will he get us into trouble, and so on.

(voice-over): So for Governor Bush don't worry, if Vice President Gore talks more knowledgeably about this federal program or that than you do, he should he's been living with them for years. And anyway whatever the specifics of your education program or his, your Medicare fix or his, any actual proposal will have to go through Congress which is bound to change it.

Bush needs to sound at ease with the issues at home with foreign policy and so on.

BUSH: The lessons learned are that the United States must not retreat within our borders and we must promote the peace.

MORTON: But he doesn't need be as detailed as Gore, a policy walk for years often is, Bush should just be himself. Gore, for his part likes to attack.

GORE: You're sounding a little desperate because you're trying to build yourself by tearing everybody else down.

MORTON: But he should avoid coming across like a pit bull too much aggression will put people off. His task, probably is to show voters that he's a real person, behind all the ten point programs and dress in earth tones political remakes and exaggerations. His convention speech did that for some voters, but it may be time for a reminder.

And let's hope that whatever they say or do, lots of people watch and argue and then vote. In what's left of Yugoslavia, where voting can earn you a boot in the stomach or even a bullet, estimates put the turnout last weekend at more than 70 percent. In the United States in 1996, it was under 50 percent. Do you suppose we make it too easy?

I'm Bruce Morton.


SESNO: And thanks to Bruce. Just ahead, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines, when we come back.


SESNO: And now, as we always do, we take a look at what's on the cover of this week's major U.S. news magazines.

"Time" magazine has "The abortion pill, it's finally here but it's not as easy as it looks" -- on the cover.

"Newsweek" reveals "The rap on rap: Eminem, Dr. Dre and the stars of hip-hop face off over sex, greed and violence in today's hit music" -- on the cover.

And on the cover of "U.S. News & World Report": "How to fix your high school; parents can make a big difference."

Read on.

That's your LATE EDITION for this Sunday, October 1. Be sure to tune in again next weekend and every Sunday for the last word in Sunday talk.

Up next on bargaining for trouble; online action fraud and how to protect yourself from rip-off artists lurking on the web.

For Wolf Blitzer, I'm Frank Sesno in Washington.

For now, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.



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