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Special Event

Spin Room: Vice Presidential Candidates Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman Fire Their Best Shots

Aired October 6, 2000 - 0:00 a.m. ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Having the federal government match savings for the 75 million Americans who make $100,000 or less up to $2,000 a year.

DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bernie, you have to be a CPA to understand what he just said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Vice presidential candidates Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman fire their best shots and the spin begins. Live from Washington, THE SPIN ROOM with hosts Bill Press and Tucker Carlson.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: And good evening. Welcome to CNN'S SPIN ROOM. I'm Bill Press. For the next hour, Tucker Carlson and I are going to be running through highlights of tonight's vice presidential debate.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: We'll hear what some of the best spinners in politics say they thought of the showdown. But we really want to hear what you think. Call us at 1-800-310-4266 and be certain to log onto cnn.com.

PRESS: Yes, indeed, this is CNN'S own SPIN ROOM. We are the spin doctors, Dr. Bill Press and Dr. Tucker Carlson, with you and with our guests tonight.

Tucker, I don't know about you, but I have to say, I have to start off by saying I enjoyed tonight's debate so much more than I enjoyed Tuesday night's debate. I mean I really did. This was...

CARLSON: See, I hate to admit, I hate to admit that, Bill.

PRESS: But you do?

CARLSON: I do admit it. The whole time I thought, you know, I am just perched on the verge of nausea here because I like meanness. I like when people engage and say unfair personal things about each other. Neither of these guys did, but they were kind of charming, I have to say. PRESS: At the same time, I had the feeling that I was attending a college seminar rather than a debate. I mean these guys were sitting around the table -- I like that format better. I like sitting around the table better than standing up at the podiums. Who in this world, right, stands at a podium for 90 minutes? How real is that supposed to be?

So sitting around the table was all right, but at some points, particularly with Dick Cheney, you know, when he was giving his answers and he was just sort of, you know, was kind of mumbling along, I really thought I was back in the college seminar days.

CARLSON: Really? Or in the board room? I mean that was sort of the wonderful thing about the set. I mean Cheney was so perfectly at home you felt like either you were at some sort of, you know, think tank event or something like the Kennedys where he's kind of leaning across the table.

PRESS: I know.

CARLSON: Or he was sitting there directing a board of directors meeting. It was kind of nice.

PRESS: Well, we do know that he's at home, Dick Cheney is, in the board room. On the other hand, I was blown away by Joe Lieberman's -- I'm not trying to get into who won and who lost now, I'm not trying to show any bias, I've got to tell you -- although I have it, lots of it, but I was blown away by Joe Lieberman's communications skills. I really hadn't seen him -- I've known him a long time -- I haven't seen him in that format. I don't think any of us had. He looked into the camera. I thought he talked directly to the questions. I thought he was very, came across very effectively.

CARLSON: Well, there were a lot of things -- well, first, let me just say people watching please, call in 1-800-310-4266, tell us what you thought and of course sign into the cnn.com Web site.

The question I had watching it was who has Joe Lieberman been talking to? You got the sense that really he was taking his directions from on high. Let's take a look at what Joe Lieberman said here.

PRESS: How high?

CARLSON: Very high. The highest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIEBERMAN: Gentlemen, I apologize.

SHAW: We forgive you.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you.

SHAW: You're human like we are. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: We forgive you. Now who forgives, Bill? Just to remind you, I know it's not Sunday, only one person forgives and yet throughout this entire debate, Joe Lieberman made references to god, and not only references to god, he implied repeatedly that god's on Joe's team. God supports Joe's environmental policy, god's on Joe's team when it comes to gay rights. Where's the ACLU in this?

I mean if an evangelical Christian said this, he'd be hauled away in chains, wouldn't he?

PRESS: Let me just tell you something, Tucker. God is on Joe Lieberman's side. All right? Now we've got that established.

CARLSON: Oh, this is so outrageous.

PRESS: No, I have to tell you, as one who was critical of Joe Lieberman when Joe Lieberman was using the god word too many times, it is, you know, when Al Gore nominated him that first little talk when they were together I think it was, what -- Maureen Dowd counted it up, 13 times in nine minutes or something like that?

CARLSON: It was a ton of gods, yeah.

PRESS: A ton of gods. I thought tonight he was rather restrained on it. He talked about god when he talked about the fact that, he talked about the environment, which I think is legitimate. I do think god created the planet. And he talked about god, I think, when he talked about civil rights and we were all sort of created equal, back to the Declaration of Independence.

CARLSON: But god's on Joe's team...

PRESS: I didn't think...

CARLSON: That's the difference.

PRESS: I know it...

CARLSON: It's one thing to invoke god. It's another to say actually god agrees with my policy positions, I've spoken to him about it.

PRESS: I don't...

CARLSON: And that's what he said.

PRESS: I don't think he overdid it. But I want to show you where I thought Joe Lieberman showed maybe his best form and that was right off the bat. Let's take a look at this, please.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIEBERMAN: My 85-year-old mom gave me some good advice about the debate earlier today. She said sweetheart, as she is prone to call me, remember be positive and know that I will love you no matter what your opponent says about you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Now, unfortunately his opponent didn't say any mean things about him. You and I both agree, I think, that this...

CARLSON: Or about his mom.

PRESS: Or about his mom. He could have attacked his mom.

CARLSON: Though he should have.

PRESS: But the debate was too nice. But, you know, it reminded me of when Joe Lieberman started back in Philadelphia and he told this thing about behind every successful man is a successful or pushy mother-in-law or something like that. He made it funny. I thought tonight was a good, human touch and, you know, what's not to like about Joe Lieberman? He's a likable guy.

CARLSON: Well, it was a little too human for me. This was the point at which I thought where is the air sickness bag? I looked for it, couldn't find it. This was so treakly (ph), so sugary sweet, so over the top. I do think that Lieberman has an appealing, sort of ingenuousness, a nice sense of humor. But he can carry it way too far. And when you start dragging random relatives -- his mom, his deceased father -- it really is too much.

PRESS: It's OK to love your mom, Tucker, and it's OK if your mom loves you, too.

CARLSON: Not in public, Bill. No mom loving.

PRESS: And don't forget, we're going to have our guests tonight. We also want to hear from you. This is a first. You can call me, you can call Tucker Carlson, 1-800-310-4266. 1-800-310-4266 is the telephone number. And of course we want you also to join us in our chat room, cnn.com.

CARLSON: Well, speaking of dragging your family members into politics, by the hair, kicking and screaming, I thought that Dick Cheney had the opportunity tonight to do that and tellingly, he didn't. Take a look at this.

PRESS: Yes?

CARLSON: Well, let me tell you about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: ... sexual orientation. Should a male who loves a male and a female who loves a female have all, all the constitutional rights enjoyed by every American citizen?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: This is obviously the invitation for Dick Cheney to say well, you know, Bernie, I know a little something about having a gay member of the family. And he didn't do it. That would have been a cheap way to deflect the question and really a cheap way to play upon the sympathies of the audience. Contrast that with what Gore did the other night, talking about his one lunged uncle, you know, who gave a body part in defense of the country. This is a tick that Gore has and Lieberman, very admirably, doesn't do it, and even more admirably, I think, Cheney resisted in this instance.

PRESS: Well, I think tonight might be summed up on both sides as an evening of missed opportunities and I think this was a huge missed opportunity on Dick Cheney's part. The chance for him to say, you know what, I do know this issue, I -- because I do have a daughter who's a lesbian and I...

CARLSON: Bill, Bill...

PRESS: ... and stand up for my daughter and say you're darned right. My daughter deserves the same rights, the same legal rights, the same societal recognition as everybody else in this country does. And by the -- he did not...

CARLSON: That would been...

PRESS: But also, I would tell you, neither...

CARLSON: ... the lowest point ever in a vice presidential or presidential debate.

PRESS: The lowest point. He would have scored big time, to use his word.

CARLSON: Well, Oprah would have liked it.

PRESS: And let me tell you something else, he didn't go there, but neither did Joe Lieberman. I was disappointed in both of them. Both of them said we're struggling with this issue. What's to struggle about?

CARLSON: But neither one said I'm going to use my family and really sort of embarrass and humiliate and degrade a member of my family who's not running for office in order to make a political point. Neither one did that and hooray for them.

PRESS: We've got some -- as if you and I aren't spinning, I just want to remind everybody, we do have some real spinners coming up from the spin room and here in the studio with us and, of course, the telephone number, don't forget, 1-800-310-4266. 1-800-310-4266. We want to hear from you. We want to see you in the chat room, cnn.com.

CARLSON: When we come back, the best spinners in the business join us live from the spin room in Danville, Kentucky. Call us and share your impression of the debate. That's 1-800-310-4266 and log onto cnn.com, join the discussion and take part in THE SPIN ROOM votes. Cast your vote at cnn.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PRESS: Welcome back to CNN'S SPIN ROOM. I'm spin doctor Bill Press here with spin doctor Tucker Carlson of the "Weekly Standard." We're about to get to the real spinners down in Danville, but meanwhile don't forget call us at 1-800-310-4266 and you can throw your own question to tonight's guests, who are Kiki McLean from the Gore-Lieberman campaign, again, down at Danville, and Ari Fleischer from the Bush-Cheney campaign. They're joining us from tonight's debate site in Danville, Kentucky, Center College.

Tucker?

CARLSON: Kiki, I thought one of the saddest moments of tonight's debate -- now, let me say, I thought Joe Lieberman looked on the verge of tears a lot of the time -- was when Lieberman attempted to defend his relationship with Hollywood. Now, here is a man who spent many years sort of scolding Hollywood at the side of Bill Bennett, and I think on valid grounds, all of a sudden winds up out in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago sucking up to what he called the creative community.

Now, hasn't on some deep level Joe Lieberman sold his soul in order to join this ticket?

KIKI MCLEAN, LIEBERMAN PRESS SECRETARY: Oh, Tucker, you should save that disappointment probably for your friends on the Republican ticket because last time I checked, when the FTC told us that the entertainment industry was marketing adult rated materials to our kids in this country, it was Al Gore and Joe Lieberman who stepped up to the plate.

The last time I checked, I didn't see George Bush or Dick Cheney anywhere on base on this.

CARLSON: But who's raising more money from Hollywood?

MCLEAN: He said it in New York, he said it in Hollywood, he testified in front of the Senate, he released another statement again last week when a second round of hearings was released by John McCain. Joe Lieberman and Al Gore said it's wrong. You can't do this to our kids. We're going to stand up and fight for our families. And if you don't...

CARLSON: How much money have they turned down?

MCLEAN: And if you don't change...

CARLSON: Have they turned down any money?

MCLEAN: And if you don't change it...

CARLSON: I mean if they feel so strongly about it, why don't they turn down the donations from these smut merchants?

MCLEAN: Tucker, have a civilized debate like Mr. Cheney engaged in tonight.

CARLSON: No, thanks, Kiki.

MCLEAN: And they also said if you don't change things, we're going to take action on you. The fact of the matter is it shows a great deal more courage and conviction to stand up to those who have been with you before and in a particular instance say you're wrong, it's inappropriate, we don't agree and we're going to push back on this.

PRESS: OK, Ari Fleischer, good evening. Thanks for joining us.

ARI FLEISCHER, BUSH SENIOR ADVISER: Good evening.

PRESS: Ari, I know it's your job that even if Dick Cheney had fallen off his chair tonight or fallen asleep, it's your job to say that Dick Cheney won the debate. But I want to ask you to try, Ari, to move beyond the spin and I want to ask you about that question on RU486. When Bernard Shaw asked Secretary Cheney about whether or not George Bush would sign this legislation to block distribution of that abortion pill and Cheney said he wasn't familiar with the legislation.

Ari, did he do his homework for this debate or what? What planet has he been on?

FLEISCHER: Well, Bill, what he is saying is that legislation, when it gets presented to a President Bush and a Vice President Gore, will be carefully reviewed. That's going to be in the next Congress and we'll see exactly what that legislation contains. But we think that the decision by the FDA to approve RU486 was wrong. We need to make abortion more rare, not more common, and that's what Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney believe in.

But let me jump back to what Kiki said for a second...

PRESS: Well, no, no. No, I wasn't -- you can, but I want to follow up...

FLEISCHER: She said that they've stepped up to the plate in Hollywood...

PRESS: Ari, woah, woah, woah, woah, woah, woah.

FLEISCHER: What we know is they passed the plate and Hollywood filled it up.

PRESS: Woah.

MCLEAN: But Ari...

PRESS: You can -- wait, wait. Hey guys, I'm going to jump in here because I want to follow up with Ari. Look...

FLEISCHER: Go ahead.

PRESS: The Republicans in Congress have introduced this legislation. It's already introduced. It's out there and I think the public has a right to know before November the 7th whether a President Bush would sign that legislation. Bush ducked the question the other night, didn't answer it. Cheney professed ignorance tonight. When are you guys going to step up to the plate on this issue?

FLEISCHER: We think that FDA decision was wrong and depending on what the legislation says, we very well may be supportive of signing it. But the president does not have the unilateral authority to reverse a decision made by the FDA. Presidents can't go pulling drugs off the market.

But the decision was wrong and if the legislation is consistent with what Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney believe, they will, indeed, be supportive.

CARLSON: Well, let's throw it wide open here. Let's hear from Tim from Texas. Tim, hit us with your rhythm stick. Tell us what you think. What's your question?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Well, first of all, I'd like to say that I thought it was a fantastic debate. I really admired both of the potential or both of the candidates for their high level manner in the debate.

But actually, my comment is about the fact that -- I don't know if you all will recall this but I vaguely recall a year or so ago George Bush, George W. Bush's father, being asked why he lost, he felt he lost the election when his approval rating was so high after Desert Storm and all. And basically his comment was that he failed to realize that the American people still think that the president has everything to do with domestic policy and in truth his job was geared much more towards foreign policy.

PRESS: Is there a question here, Bill?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Well, my comment about that is if that is, if that is truly the case, if the president's job as the chief executive, the chief law enforcement officer is directed more towards foreign policy than domestic policy with most of those decisions being left to Congress, of course with some influence by the White House, my question would be with Cheney and Lieberman in that office, who would I feel more comfortable with, who could I sleep better...

FLEISCHER: Let me try to...

CARLSON: I think it's a sleeping question here and it really does get to the question, I mean tell us, Ari, has Governor Bush overcome this sort of free floating feeling that he's really not ready to be sitting there hovering over the button and how's he done it if he has?

FLEISCHER: Well, I think what you saw tonight, frankly, is validation of Governor Bush's good judgment in picking Secretary Cheney.

CARLSON: But that wasn't Governor Bush out there. That was Secretary Cheney. FLEISCHER: And that -- well, that's a validation of the Governor's judgment. In one of the first major important decisions he had to make, the American people got to see a man of stature like Secretary Cheney, who is going to serve our nation very well. And I think that obviously the Governor in the debate with Vice President Gore fared very ably. I think there's no question. You know, and former Governor Ann Richards...

PRESS: All right, we, Ari...

FLEISCHER: ... underestimated Governor Bush just like that question does and I think he put that question to rest.

MCLEAN: You know, it's interesting because I think that there are a lot of issues that are important and foreign policy as well as domestic policy occupied the mind, attention and agenda of a president and a vice president. Clearly, Senator Lieberman, with his work on the Armed Services Committee and Secretary Cheney have history and experience in both area.

PRESS: OK...

MCLEAN: I think what is an important thing to look at is the fact that because of fiscal discipline, it is the Gore-Lieberman agenda that will allow us to invest more in military readiness, frankly, than the Bush-Cheney ticket.

PRESS: All right, we have another comment for both of you. This is from Oklahoma and here is Bill from Oklahoma. Hi, Bill. What's your comment?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Hello, Bill. Hello, Tucker.

PRESS: Hi.

CARLSON: Hi, Bill.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: I have one comment and one question.

PRESS: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: My comment is this, is that I think Tucker and George and Dick should be extremely disappointed in their performances because they didn't stand up for their positions on abortion. They didn't stand up for their position against what their party, against RU486. They didn't stand up for their positions against gays in the military. I think they've shown cowardice. They haven't taken their positions.

The Democrats are in the lead and they're going to win this election, boys, and that's...

CARLSON: Well, that's actually a great question.

PRESS: All right, Ari, you're not conservative enough. FLEISCHER: I guess what the premise of that question is, but I heard them stick up for their positions, Secretary Cheney, loud and clear. He made the case on how we need to come together on abortion, to ban partial birth abortion, something that Al Gore will veto, something that Governor Bush will sign into law.

And on the question of gay initiatives in the states, you know, it's very important to be principled and the Secretary was espousing the position of respect for states' rights on referenda. And Governor Bush does not approve of some of those referenda, but he does respect the rights of states to decide those matters for their own and we can't pick and choose and jump into certain state issues when we want to and not get involved when we don't want to. That's the principled consistent stand.

PRESS: OK.

FLEISCHER: The Governor supports the Defense of Marriage Act, which bans gay marriage across the country. He's proud to support that.

PRESS: OK.

FLEISCHER: But he'll respect states' rights.

PRESS: All right, we're going to have to take a break, fellow spinners. We ask you to stay there in Danville and all the rest of you. When we come back, we're going to take more calls from you for Kiki and Ari, reacting to tonight's spin machine. The telephone number again, 1-800-310-4266 and join our chat at cnn.com to take part in this exclusive SPIN ROOM audience votes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Bill Press and I are here in CNN'S spin room with a very different take on tonight's V.P. debates. We're not the only ones with opinions. So let's call, go to the phones. It's 1-800-310- 4266. You can also log onto cnn.com. But before you do that, we still have Kiki Mclean from the Gore campaign and Ari Fleischer of the George Bush for president effort, still in Danville, Kentucky.

Kiki, the last caller raised an interesting question and it leads to my question to you, which is this. Governor Bush has said that he will apply no litmus test to people he might appoint to the Supreme Court. But Vice President Gore, on the other hand, has taken the position that he will apply a litmus test of sorts, that he won't appoint people who don't agree with Roe v. Wade. Doesn't that put him in the extremist column on the subject of abortion?

MCLEAN: No. I think it puts your question in the spin column, Tucker. I think, in fact, what you've heard Al Gore...

CARLSON: Well, hasn't Gore said that?

MCLEAN: I think what you've heard Al Gore say is that, in fact, he does not believe in litmus tests. It is an important thing when you're looking at a judicial bench and you review and examine someone's career and record that you understand their (AUDIO GAP) and their primary responsibility is to uphold the constitution.

I think what you heard him say the other night...

CARLSON: But he's also said -- but hold on. He's also said that he will...

MCLEAN: Wait, Tucker...

CARLSON: ... appoint people who agree with Roe v. Wade.

MCLEAN: Tucker, you've got to let me finish. I think you also heard him say that it's, when you study someone's career and history you probably have a pretty good idea of where they're going.

PRESS: All right, we're going to take another call here from one of our viewers. This is John calling from Illinois with a comment for Ari and Kiki. Hi, John. Good evening. Welcome to THE SPIN ROOM.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Hi. Thanks for taking my call.

PRESS: Glad you're here.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Here, I've got a general comment right off the front, that I am a doctor in training and on principle I cannot vote for a candidate or it's going to be very difficult for me to vote for a candidate who will be putting more money into HMOs and managed care organizations. Basically, all doctors these days now are being, have a call to arms to take back our profession from the HMOs. Most people don't understand how HMOs affect surgeries, ICU rounds. They think in general terms. But there are...

PRESS: All right, so John, who, what are you saying? Who's got -- who are you attacking here? Who's got the bad plan?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: So, OK. The worst plan, in my opinion, is definitely the Cheney, the Bush-Cheney plan on that respect, because they want to pour more money into HMO organizations on their health care plan.

PRESS: All right, Ari, a quick response?

FLEISCHER: Good. I'm glad you brought that up. What the Governor and Secretary Cheney have proposed is choice and that is allowing people in the health care market to pick the plan that best suits their needs. For many people that's going to be what's called a PPO. For others it's going to be a doctor network, which as you know are being formed by doctors around the country so they can have alternative means of delivering health care.

We think that seniors are very able to choose the health care plan that works best for them. For some people that may be an HMO. For some people it may be traditional like Blue Cross/Blue Shield fee for service medicine. But what's important is to let seniors pick.

MCLEAN: You know, the interesting thing here...

CARLSON: Well, we're going to have to leave it.

MCLEAN: Well, the...

CARLSON: I'm sorry, Kiki. We're going to have to leave it there. Thank you so much for hanging around the room after the debate. And stay with us. More feedback from you and more debate highlights coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to the CNN SPIN ROOM, I'm here with Bill Press, batting around the debate, taking your phone calls at 1-800- 310-4266 and reading what you write on cnn.com.

What do you think, Bill?

PRESS: Well, Tucker I -- we're so excited about this, we're having a great time, we're spinning the debate; but I have to ask you, honestly, vice presidential debates -- do you think this is going to be any more important than any of the other vice presidential debates have been?

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: I dare to you name one. I guess that sort of sums it up right there.

PRESS: Well, Benson was pretty good.

CARLSON: Well, sure, but there are always issues...

PRESS: But, Quayle won.

CARLSON: That may be right, but they are -- history, in any case, reduces them to a single moment; and the Quayle debate -- you saw that moment replayed on television all day today, that "you are no Jack Kennedy" moment.

And one wonders, you know, when you watch these debates, what will that moment be?

PRESS: It just seems to me, because this race is so close, and these two are two good guys -- I mean, both Cheney and Lieberman -- that this debate might have a little bit more bounce, but maybe that's wishful thinking. But I want to, you know -- I said earlier, I thought there were a lot of missed opportunities. I want to show you another one where I thought that Lieberman was too nice and didn't go in for the kill when Dick Cheney...

CARLSON: Monday morning quarterbacking.

PRESS: Saddam Hussein -- remember this bite? Let's look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SHAW: If Iraq's President Saddam Hussein were found to be developing weapons of mass destruction, Governor Bush has said he would, quote, "take him out."

Would you agree with such a deadly policy?

CHENEY: We might have no other choice.

LIEBERMAN: The war did not end with a total victory, and Saddam Hussein remained there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Now there was a chance to point out that Dick Cheney was secretary of defense, Colin Powell was head of the joint chiefs, George Bush was in the White House when they had Saddam Hussein cornered, and they walked away; they let him go and Lieberman didn't go there! Why not?

CARLSON: Because he was so in awe of George W. Bush's phraseology, "take him out."

I mean, look, there is no use in being president if you can't use phrases like, "take him out." I mean, it's so appealing and I think even Lieberman respects it.

PRESS: But they're going around blaming Bill Clinton for Saddam Hussein, and the reason Saddam Hussein is still there is because George Bush was a wimp and so was Dick Cheney. And they should -- Joe Lieberman should have said it.

CARLSON: Right; and so, I guess, Bush has been president for the past seven years? This is the history part that I get a little fuzzy on.

PRESS: They had their chance.

CARLSON: They had their chance, but what has been happening all this time?

I mean, I do think it would have been, sort of a strange digression, another history lesson, and it would have been a little bit hard to take. But speaking of history lessons...

PRESS: Yes, we've had a lot tonight.

CARLSON: But there's one we didn't hear, which I thought was actually very interesting. Joe Lieberman said, in response to a very gentle tap from Cheney, he made the case that he isn't a different man -- listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIEBERMAN: And I have not changed a single position since Al Gore nominated me to be his vice president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: It's just -- it's poignant, Bill, watching a good man lie.

Of course he has. He's changed position on affirmative action, he's changed his position on school vouchers -- and he's done so dramatically -- on Hollywood. And nobody's held him to account, why is that? Do they feel sorry for him?

PRESS: I can't tell you how wrong you are.

First of all, Joe Lieberman said tonight, remember -- I loved the analogy, because he put it, sort of, to Dick Cheney and he said, you know what it's like Dick, when you're drilling for oil, sometimes you go deep, deep and you come up with a dry hole.

And he said that's what he did on affirmative action.

CARLSON: That was clever, actually.

PRESS: Yes, it was. He said he had some questions on affirmative action; he came around to "amend, don't end," which was Bill Clinton's position.

He had some questions on Social Security, thought we ought to privatize it; then he realized that George Bush's plan takes benefits away from existing seniors; so he said, let's do Social Security plus.

On vouchers, I thought he was honest tonight. He said, I disagree with Al Gore but, you know, in the beginning I would have said, you can disagree, but I'm in charge, and that's the way it is.

CARLSON: We'll hear how it is in Texas. We have a call from Texas.

Tell us, how is George W. Bush as governor?

PRESS: There's an open question -- hi.

RICHARD: Hello?

TUCKER: Hello.

RICHARD: Hello, gentlemen, how do you doing. My name is Richard, I'm in Austin, Texas.

PRESS: Hey Richard, you're in THE SPIN ROOM, what's up.

RICHARD: Well, you know, I think I agree with you, Bill, what you said at the beginning of the show.

I think that it was a wonderful debate. I think that there was a winner and a loser. I think that the winner, because it was such a great debate, was the American people, the voters.

But, in some strange way, I think George Bush was a loser because, by contrast, to his own V.P. selection, who looked like he could walk straight into the White House and do a great job, Joseph Lieberman looked like he could walk into the White House do a great job; and I think Al Gore proved the other day that he, too, could walk into the White House and do a great job. But, by contrast, I don't think that George Bush looked that good.

And -- maybe your comments; what do you think of that?

PRESS: You sure you live in Austin, Texas?

RICHARD: Yes, I do.

Well, like I said; by contrast, all three of these guys looked like they could do OK, but George Bush still doesn't look like he's up to the task.

PRESS: I do think that Dick Cheney showed himself more knowledgeable, particularly in foreign policy questions tonight, than George Bush did Tuesday night.

Would you agree?

CARLSON: I thought the key distinction, really, between both presidential candidates and both vice presidential candidates is, when you watched the first two, you really got the sense -- and this is particularly with Gore -- there was this, kind of, sweaty lust for the job. These guys really want it.

They spent two years on road giving five speeches a day, begging for money every night. They're into it; they're emotionally involved.

The vice presidential candidates, they just, sort of, showed up. They had nothing to lose; they don't care what happens, really, and that gives them a kind of emotional distance and a calm.

PRESS: We have a comment from our chat room we want to share with everybody now, let's -- we'll put it up on the screen and we can all read it together -- a comment-question: "Why is journalism so focused on how the candidates are behaving instead of dealing with campaign proposals?"

Yes, why are we such irresponsible journalists, I guess is how I would paraphrase that question. No -- I'm sorry, why are you such an irresponsible journalist?

CARLSON: You know, Bill, I'm glad you asked that question. My wife was asking that just earlier today.

No, I actually think it matters. And I think we learned in last, say, couple years that it matters how candidates behave and that their behavior tells us something about how they will governor. And I also think that candidates repeat the same -- essentially the same campaign proposals, every day, several times a day and at a certain point, it's the press' duty to get beyond those and to find out what the candidates mean, as well as what they're saying. PRESS: I don't think the -- at least, I interpreted the point as not referring to personal behavior, but to how they, kind of, present themselves. And I'd have to argue that that's part of the job. I mean, they've got to come across. They have to be able to articulate their points. They have to be likable and, to extent that we find them, you know, like, giggling the way Al was the other night or sighing or snorting the way George Bush was I, or..

CARLSON: I think sniffling is what...

PRESS: ... I think was snorting -- or looking down and not looking at the camera the way Dick Cheney did tonight.

I mean, those are all fine points, but I do think they're important but...

CARLSON: Yes, but it reaches a point, as when you start kissing Oprah, that I think you can say it's gone too far.

PRESS: Here's another -- Gore's mistake was not kissing Oprah.

Here's another caller from Utah. A Westerner; it's Brad. Hey, Brad, you're in the chat room -- SPIN ROOM, I'm sorry, with Tucker and Bill, hi.

BRAD: Good evening, gentlemen, how are you.

PRESS: Good, great.

BRAD: I'm calling in from you Park City, Utah, with an overall impression, first of all, that it was a fairly dignified exchange tonight. I thought that it was so good, as a matter of fact, that it's a bit of a shame to suggest that there needed to have been a winner or a loser. I think that one of the callers, earlier, mentioned that really, I think the American people just benefited from having such a dignified exchange.

And my question is -- perhaps one of you can clarify for me, because, Al Gore seems to be skirting the issue himself: How can the Gore campaign continue to justify the use of their candidate of these extreme exaggerations of the truth, starting out on the campaign trail with the Internet to the Love Canal and the other issues that have been -- he's sort of been busted on, to the other day's debate's use of the Texas fires and the schoolgirl who couldn't...

CARLSON: Well, I think the answer is, they can no longer justify it. It's reached critical mass and, I think, it's gotten to the point where the moment Al Gore says something -- and I've watched this in action -- the reporters scurry back to their computers and pull it up on Nexis to see if it's true. It's a problem.

PRESS: Look, I've just got to say, if that's the extent of your problems with Al Gore, man, you don't have a very serious problem.

He went out...

CARLSON: What, that he lies?

PRESS: No, no; that he went out in country 17 different times on emergency scenes, with Jamie Lee Witt of Thema. The one time in Texas he happened to be there with Jamie Lee Witt's deputy instead of himself -- I mean, big deal. Big deal.

CARLSON: No, it was Jerry Lee Lewis, I think. That was the confusion.

PRESS: All right, we're going to take a break; and coming up, we're going to be joined by two men with unique insight into how the campaigns might be retooling their campaigns after these first two debates, Bill Paxon Victor Kamber.

What changes might you see in the campaigns? We'll ask them. Stay with us and get on those phones -- 1-800-310-4266. And, of course, join us in the CNN chatroom cnn.com. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Joining us, now, in our SPIN ROOM, former Congressman Bill Paxon, who is now an adviser to George W. Bush; and democratic strategist, Vic Kamber.

If you've got questions for the guests, call 1-800-310-4266 or log on to cnn.com.

PRESS: Good evening, gentlemen, welcome to THE SPIN ROOM. I've got to tell you, if you anybody belongs in THE SPIN ROOM, the two of you do.

VICTOR KAMBER, GORE SUPPORTER: Him, not me, not me!

REP. BILL PAXON, BUSH ADVISER: It's so late, be gentle, Bill.

PRESS: You are lifetime members of the SPIN ROOM. We..

PAXON: Coming from you, it's an honor.

PRESS: I want to ask you, Bill Paxon, tonight, the latest CNN poll today, our tracking poll, showed 51 Bush -- sorry, Gore -- 40 for Bush. Eleven-point spread.

Now, I want to point out that two of those days were before the Tuesday debate -- Monday, Tuesday and then Wednesday, so that covering those three days.

Do you think anything that happened tonight or Tuesday night is going to change the momentum of this campaign, which seems to be going Al Gore's way?

PAXON: First of all, it's OK to cite that poll. There's other polls out that have Bush a ahead, actually, and there's a number that have them closer.

And in Tennessee, in a Mason-Dixon poll, Bush is up three in Al Gore's home state; the people who know him best like George Bush.

PRESS: Cite whatever poll you want -- anything in these debates, you think, that's going to change the direction, the momentum of these campaigns?

PAXON: Well I absolutely think so.

I think that Dick Cheney, tonight, enunciated exactly where we want to be in terms of issues of character, of leadership on issues like cutting taxes for Americans, like improving our defense -- it's been denigrated during this administration -- and on energy.

And I think that was a seminal issue tonight, that it was actually Joe Lieberman who made the case for the Republican team by saying that Clinton and Gore have not done enough on energy. And I'm going to tell you, the issue that's going to close this campaign in the next three weeks is the economy of this country: stock market down, energy prices up, people are getting concerned about the economy and there's only one way to change eight years of policies that have left us to this point, and that's to have leadership on issues like energy, lower taxes and strengthening Social Security this administration has squandered eight years on.

PRESS: Great spin-- Tucker.

CARLSON: Not bad.

PRESS: See, I told you you belong in THE SPIN ROOM.

CARLSON: Tell me this, Vic, it seems to me that Joe Lieberman really wants to have it both ways, maybe more ways.

Two are obvious: on the one hand, he brags about being this maverick figure in the senate, bragging about how he worked with Republicans, everyone but Jessie Helms -- maybe even Jessie Helms. On the other hand, he's clearly shaped his long-held views to conform to Al Gore's views.

So how can he be a good company man, a team player, and a maverick at the same time?

KAMBER: Well, I'm not sure that I accept your premise the way you put it.

Joe Lieberman is Joe Lieberman. The fact is he -- "maverick" is a strange word, he's a centrist. He has been a centrist in that Congress, he's been known, I mean, by he both sides -- I mean, I'm a liberal Republican. I have problems with Joe Lieberman on some issues because he is too much a centrist. He is known to be bipartisan, to work with both sides of aisle.

CARLSON: You're a liberal Republican?

KAMBER: I'm a liberal Democrat, did I say Republican, my tongue...

CARLSON: You spun 360 degrees there.

KAMBER: Well, I'd really be a liberal Republican if they had such a thing. There is no such thing as a liberal Republican, so I'm a liberal Democrat.

The bottom line is that Joe Lieberman is a centrist, he's known to work with both sides of the aisle. He's known to work hard with both side. And his line tonight was absolutely correct. When they talked about -- when Dick Cheney was trying to suggest that the only one who could lead is George Bush because he is known to be able to work both sides of aisle, and Lieberman pointed out -- listen, we have eight years of proven track record. The legislation that has shaped this country, has moved forward, has been done bipartisan the last eight years thanks to Gore and Mr. Clinton.

PAXON: Only because he was a centrist. He was a centrist until Al Gore picked him as vice president.

Affirmative action, he switched positions; school choice, switched; abortion -- every issue down the line. He has moved away from his centrist positions way to left, and that's one of the important reasons why there is going to be a victory by Bush and Cheney, they are the true centrists in this campaign.

CARLSON: Let's go deep into the center of the country, here, for a call. We have a call for Mr.s Paxon and Kamber -- Todd from California.

CALLER: Good evening. My he question is for Mr. Press or Mr. Kamber, and it has to do with Senator Lieberman's continuous references to religion. His doing so has been out of the news, I think, a little bit, for past few weeks, but tonight was really the first time that he got to say his references to region to a mass audience. It sounds one way on the stump, but, saying God bless you all on television sounds a different way.

And I was wondering, at what point, if ever, do you think that this is going to turn off liberal audiences and, although it's not likely to, probably, switch them to the Bush side -- if at some point it will reduce liberal voter turnout?

PRESS: All right, we have two questions Todd -- Vic.

KAMBER: First of all, I didn't hear all the references everyone else heard tonight. I heard him talk about God twice, frankly, when he talked about the Alaska -- the beautiful scenery of Alaska that was God-made and when he talked about the, either racial profiling or the gay and lesbian issue. That's where God came in and, frankly...

PRESS: And he said, God bless you at the end.

KAMBER: OK, three times.

CARLSON: He was channeling God entire time.

KAMBER: You know, my view is: he is a religious man. I have no problems with it. I, again, believe that, you know, politics and religion should be separate, but I also believe you have to be what you are, and Joe Lieberman is showing what he is. He happens to believe his religion.

CARLSON: So he can't help but practice a pass?

KAMBER: What pass? I'm not saying -- we heard Republicans talk about it.

PRESS: I heard read a column slamming Joe Lieberman for too much God talk in the beginning of the campaign. I'm very sensitive on that issue. I thought, tonight, the three references he made, most Americans would not even notice and would accept, and probably appreciate.

KAMBER: I agree.

PRESS: But I want to go to Bill if I can, because, Bill, Kate O'Beirne and I had lunch the other day, and Kate O'Beirne told me about this in the "National Review;" this is August 14 in the a "National Review": this is Bill Buckley's magazine, this is not the nation magazine, that says that Dick Cheney was a good choice for July, because he got the conservatives excited, and if they get elected, he'll be a good choice in January because he's a good guy to have down the hall. But he ain't nothing between July and January -- November, because he does nothing to help George Bush get elected.

PAXON: Not true.

PRESS: Didn't he prove that tonight?

PAXON: And I know you were busy on your network, but a number of networks had focus groups tonight, and the focus groups all showed huge movement in terms of Dick Cheney; why?

Because he is strong, capable, he brings gravitas, just like our candidate for president does; people who have been in the private sector, who have handled tough issues and problems, who can look forward and are not going to be sitting there saying -- listen to this, Bill, it's important for you to listen -- aren't going to say after eight years, we didn't do anything on prescriptions. We didn't do anything on tax cuts. We didn't do anything on Social Security -- but trust us, we'll do it in the next administration.

Dick Cheney proved tonight, as George W. Bush has, that they is going to be a record of accomplishment and they're not going to have to apologize for eight years of inaction.

KAMBER: I have to say one thing here. And you're not going to like it and -- I don't want to spin tonight, because -- about one thing, no.

The missed opportunity that the Republicans have had -- we still do not have a message from the Republicans, either Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney, as to why they should be in office. The obvious reasons to campaign ethical questions, the whole issues that have been talked about by the press and others, have never been raised. We didn't, in two debates I've not even heard Bill Clinton's name mentioned once by these Republicans. So if there's no reason, no real message by these Republicans, to throw him out of office, you're not going to throw him out of office.

PAXON: You're raising it!

PRESS: We have another caller.

CARLSON: We sure do. Joanne in Wisconsin, tell it like it is, Joanne.

PRESS: Wisconsin.

CALLER: Hello there, thank you for taking my call, and I really appreciate having an opportunity to listen to the debates tonight.

I did want to follow up on something that Bill had to say before and, then some things I had heard earlier on CNN, today, too.

I would like to know why it's called a personal attack on Gore, or something trivial to the voter, as Bill said, when Gore exaggerates or lies. The reason I'm asking that is that I'm really concerned about the integrity of our leaders and I really want a leader who is honest and has integrity, even in this small things and the trivial things; and I think that's really important and I'd like you to tell me why that should be just a trivial thing.

CARLSON: That's a great question. Why is that not relevant?

KAMBER: I think it depends what issue is that somebody is talking about.

CARLSON: How about lying.

KAMBER: About what, though.

PRESS: No, she's talking about the Jamie Lee Witt thing, the Thema thing; the fact that he got it wrong, that that one visit, it was the deputy and not the director.

KAMBER: How about how about the lies by Republicans as to the policies that they endorse, what they support, where the monies are going to be -- those are lies, these impact the country not some...

PAXON: Thema, Sarasota, the strategic petroleum reserve, he founded, the union label song, you can go down a list that goes on forever.

KAMBER: People look at hose as jokes, Bill. If you can't...

PAXON: It's not a joke to talk about the strategic petroleum reserve...

PRESS: All right, guys, even in THE SPIN ROOM, there's a clock and it's run out. But we love the fact that you came in tonight, stayed up late for the CNN first SPIN ROOM,

PAXON: Only for you guys.

PRESS: All right; and we're going to come back. We'll take a break. Coming up, our exclusive SPIN ROOM audience vote -- still time to go to cnn.com to be counted, and the question: What do you look for in a candidate? We want to know, go to cnn.com. we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: Well, time flies, but here are the results from tonight's SPIN ROOM, online audience vote. Earlier we asked you to vote in the chatroom: What do you look for from a candidate in a debate?

Well, 43 percent of you said intelligence, 39 percent said policy proposals, 11 percent said communications skills, and 7 percent said likability. Nobody said a sense of humor, that's what I would have voted for.

Now we're going to, we have another comment here, Tucker, from the chat room, we'll put it up on the screen, we can read it for everybody, I believe. No -- there it is, yes: "Will anything really change if either of the two major candidates is elected?"

Dr. Carlson in THE SPIN ROOM, quick take?

CARLSON: Cynical, cynical. Let me just say one thing about the poll. This is example No. 1 about why and how people lie to pollsters; 7 percent say likability is most important? This is like the polls that show that everybody watches "Masterpiece Theater" on PBS every night when, in fact it's, you know, truck polls, remember -- children -- some vulgar thing like that.

Likability is so much more important than 7 percent, that's just not an accurate depiction.

PRESS: I agree. One thing I want I want to say -- accused me of being a suck-up, but I do want to say this. I thought that Bernie Shaw did an incredible job tonight. I liked the format, I thought Bernie was great and I thought he had some tough questions and he kept control of the debate.

And I do have to say I thought they both did a great job. I thought Dick Cheney showed that, you know, he does know issues. I thought Joe Lieberman communicated well and, I must say, I rather watch Joe Lieberman give a speech, I think, than Al Gore.

CARLSON: I'd rather watch Dick Cheney give a speech than Al Gore. Much rather.

It was like warm tea, it was deeply soothing. You didn't get the sense this guy was going to kill himself if he wasn't elected -- it was nice.

PRESS: But, overall, I got to tell you, when you add Lieberman's performance to Gore's performance, I do think they came across as a stronger team, I think they won two in a row this week.

CARLSON: Talk about spin!

PRESS: All right.

CARLSON: I'm Tucker Carlson. Thanks so much for joining us tonight in CNN's SPIN ROOM.

PRESS: And I'm Bill Press, good night from all of us at CNN; hey, thanks for watching THE SPIN ROOM. Good night everybody.

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