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The Spin Room: Political Ads Get Ugly

Aired October 30, 2000 - 10:00 p.m. ET


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Good evening, welcome to October surprise. We are not the October surprise, we are the spin doctors. I'm Bill Press.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: And I am Tucker Carlson, and this is THE SPIN ROOM, where everyone begins to spin. It is a spinfest. Tonight we are talking about just how mean, lowdown, horrible, vulgar, ugly the political ads are getting.

PRESS: Ugly.

CARLSON: Ugly in this presidential race. And you can join our live on-line CNN chat at Send e-mail to, or call toll-free 1-800-310-4-CNN.

PRESS: No pompous pundits here, just Tucker and me, all of you, spinning away. Well, it is getting nasty. The question then is: Can it get too nasty? Well, it certainly got nasty today between the White House, and "Esquire" magazine, in fact the Democratic Party's skeleton came out of closet, the White House closet. I talked to "Esquire" magazine. Joie is down in Atlanta. She has all the gory details for us to start off.

Good evening, Joie.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Bill. Hey, Tucker.

You know it is scary, it is not even Halloween yet. For all those of you who have not been counting, there are only eight shopping days left to big election, and while Governor Bush and Vice President Gore are still out there shopping for their votes, our lead story tonight, is the guy who isn't a candidate, but somehow seems to haunt this presidential race.

From the not content to leave well enough alone files, we get Bill Clinton's take on impeachment in a big interview with "Esquire" magazine. Here is what the president says. "Unlike the Republicans, I have apologized to the American people for what I did wrong, and most Americans think that I paid a pretty high price. They never apologized to the country for impeachment. They never apologized for all the things they have done. But folks I think know they haven't necessarily put their abuse of power behind them," all the president's words here. And that is not even the end of the story. Here comes the spin. Did the president really think his reflections wouldn't show up in the race at hand now? Well, according to Mr. Clinton himself, as well as some president's men, "Esquire" was supposed to sit on the interview until after election. He says, it seems, some folks just can't keep a secret.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was promised faithfully that that interview would be done at least after the election, and I believed it. And, the only thing I can say is that I doubt if you read the whole interview, or you wouldn't have asked the question in that way, and I would just urge the American people, if they are hearing all this talk, to read exactly what was said.



JOE LOCKHART, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Let me just say for the record, that there was an iron-clad agreement between "Esquire" magazine and the White House, me at the time, that this article wouldn't come out until after the election. They sent us a letter saying it would be in December.


CHEN: OK, got all that? Ready for counterspin here? This is from "Esquire" editor-in-chief David Granger. "As for the timing of the interview's release, there was no embargo requested by White House, and the magazine otherwise had no formal agreement," he says, "with the White House, regarding release of the article or the interview.

"I would second what the president said this afternoon and encourage everyone to read exactly what was said."

So if you want to read exactly what was said you have two choices, you can either wait until the December issue of "Esquire" goes on sale right around the middle of November or you can find all 11 pages of the interview on "Esquire"'s Web site, you get the full unabridged interview on-line. You don't have to pay anything for it, which we could only explain as the magazine's effort to put itself out of business for some reason.

The address is pretty obvious esquire -- get it -- why wait? So what we come out with here, Tucker and Bill, is, I mean we have looked around, we have asked our folks to look through the wires, and we haven't seen any evidence of it yet.

But Bill, maybe you heard an audible from the Gore camp, something about: Wasn't this guy supposed to be on our side of it?

PRESS: Joie, thank you. I think we heard an audible sigh from the Gore campaign saying, Tucker, this guy was supposed to stick to the script, to talk about why it is important talk about why it is important to elect Al Gore, and not George Bush, and not to be talking about impeachment again or himself.

I got to tell you, the timing could not be worse for Al Gore.

TUCKER: Bill, a little theoretical question for you, why does the scorpion sting? Because it is in his nature. And it is in Bill Clinton's nature to give interviews like this.

And I guess the problem with controversy between the White House and "Esquire," apart from fact it is fundamentally ridiculous, is that it draws attention away from the story itself, which is an amazing read, and I hope everyone gets it off the Web site for free, and just...

TUCKER: Before you go there, I have a question for you, OK, because you are in a magazine, I don't write for a magazine. If you were "Esquire" magazine, number one, and you had this article, where the president says "I apologize and implies that Tom DeLay and Dick Armey ought to apologize. Would you hold it until the end of November?

CARLSON: Let me ask -- let me answer your rhetorical question and hit you with one. If you were the president of the United States, and you had in a magazine interview with "Esquire," said these things, which are clearly inflammatory and clearly newsworthy, would you expect "Esquire" to hold them?

PRESS: No way.

CARLSON: No way.

PRESS: I would not believe.

CARLSON: On some level, it is a cry for help. The guy wants to be, wants to be heard. And let's just take a quick look at one of the things he said in this interview. one of many. I urge to you get it for free.

Quote, "The thing that bothered me about presidential politics, is that too much of it had become image positioning, and how you are in the media, what happens in the 30 seconds on the evening news four times a week."

Now the thing I have to say I admire about Bill Clinton is the brass it takes. This is the guy who focus grouped his own family vacation with his wife and daughter, called Dick Morris before taking it, and now he is complaining about image taking too large a role in the presidency?

PRESS: This all look -- absolutely, it is a lot of chutzpah to make that statement. It follows, though, in the image making that Michael Deaver perfected with the presidency with Ronald Reagan. George Bush had the same kind of opportunity shots. Bill Clinton has made it an art. But...

CARLSON: It is a dark art, Bill, it is a very dark art.

PRESS: The big question is: Will it have any impact on this campaign, on this election? I don't think so. I think most people, I mean they know what Bill Clinton did, they know what the Republicans did, they have moved on, they know who is running, it is Bush and it is Gore. I think -- I don't think this is going to cause anybody who might have voted for Al Gore to change their mind.

But I want to give you a little bit of this, you and I by the way did not wait, we read it today on-line, which by the way I encourage all you have guys to do,, all 11 pages.

But here is another little taste of what Bill Clinton had to say, and, by the way, I agreed with most of what he said the article, I just don't like timing of it.

Bill Clinton says also to "Esquire" magazine, quote, "Most people know that what they did," -- the Republicans -- "was not about morality or truth or the law, it was about politics and power and did not having anything to do with them or their welfare, it had to do with the Republicans and their welfare."

Tucker, right on. I'm not saying -- I'm not saying Tom DeLay is going to apologize, but I am saying, right on. It was all about power and politics.

CARLSON: It was, but for Clinton, it is all about -- and this comes very clear in the interview -- it is all about his personal journey. He has a line there, I think it is my favorite in the whole thing, where he says "You are not permitted to show your feelings."

This is the way Bill Clinton views the whole series of events of two years ago. It was part of his -- the unfolding of his personal journey. This man is a deep, profound Solipsys. I'm not a shrink, I'm making the diagnosis anyway, and it comes through very clear in this interview.

PRESS: But when you see this interview -- and by the way, remember, that the president has given an interview to "New Yorker" magazine already, the exit interviews. This is now, we are going to have a string of exit interviews, OK. Can we stand all of these exit interviews? Exit interview to "New Yorker" magazine, an exit interview to "The Advocate magazine, now we have the exit interview to "Esquire" magazine.

Now maybe we understand why Al Gore was reluctant to just let Bill Clinton go out any sooner to campaign anywhere he wanted. You know, there might have been reason to say: Hey, wait a minute, let's make sure he is going where we want him, and that he is on message.

CARLSON: This is just the beginning, Bill, and that is the beauty of it. My prediction, at some point very soon, Bill Clinton will be sitting right here. He is going to dominate cable television for years.

PRESS: Joie Chen, what does it take, in the newsroom, do you think this is going to start now dominating the news of this campaign, Joie?

CHEN: I don't know if it going to do that, but you know I got a look at something right off that question, I mean, Tucker said it himself, he said: Would the White House, could the president be this naive to think that "Esquire" wouldn't run an interview like that? promises and made promises broken or not?

I mean, after all, if you are the president, could there be a better time? He is not going to get this much attention after we get a new president elected is he?

PRESS: No, but you know, I have to take Joe Lockhart for his word, because, you know Tucker and I were on "TALKBACK" earlier today, talking about the fact that the president gave this interview, he didn't know that it might come out ahead of time. And Joe Lockhart, when he walked in this afternoon to do "CROSSFIRE," he said that it was absolutely wrong, they had an agreement, he had it in writing from the head of "Esquire," I don't think he should have believed them. But he said he had it in writing.

CARLSON: And now it is "Esquire"'s fault. Looks, I mean, you know, you are going to trust a magazine editor? I work at a magazine.

CHEN: Do you interview -- do interviewees do that? do they cut these deals to say OK, look, you can run this interview two months from now?

CARLSON: Oh, sure they do. Of course, you know, when they do interviews with celebrities, and I think Bill Clinton falls into that category now, they make all sorts of stipulations: We won't talk about this unattractive part of your private life et cetera, et cetera. But sometimes, they break it. When you have president of the United States saying something like this, it is just -- it has got to be hard to resist.

PRESS: Oh, shocking, even people in the media sometimes break their word. Now speaking of breaks, we are going to take one right now. We told you about us getting nasty. When we come back, we ate going to show some of the nasty ads in this campaign.

CARLSON: We have them here.

PRESS: More "SPIN ROOM" coming up.


PRESS: All right, attention all you granny-dumping yuppies, and welcome back to THE SPIN ROOM. Did you know that George W. Bush wants your parents to die of neglect in a nursing home?

CARLSON: But wait. The Chinese may nuke the United States all first, using an atomic bomb personally, personally, sold to them by none other than Al Gore. How do we know this? We've been listening to the ads. We hope you have been, too.

PRESS: And, of course, you have to believe the ads, right?

CARLSON: Of course. They wouldn't be on the air if they weren't true.

PRESS: And, by the way, you have to believe the e-mail. This is show where viewers get in by phone, by e-mail and in the chat room. Here's an e-mail from Wendell in Hawaii.

"Tucker, I'm concerned," Wendell says," "about why the media is not pursuing Governor Bush on his honesty and integrity issue. This is a fundamental theme of his campaign, and yet there is no interest in questioning him about it."

CARLSON: I don't know what to say. I mean, these are campaigns that are being trailed by literally hundreds of reporters. Every statement that either of these guys makes is instantly cross checked and analyzed and just pored over really with talmudic...

PRESS: I think Wendell's point, which I would agree with, is that there's much talmudic research done on the Gore statements than the Bush statements.

Any more e-mail you've got there?

CARLSON: We do. We have one from F. Smith, and he says, "It's fine to go negative as long as you critique a man's record. But when you get personal, the voters do not like it." To which I would say, they may not like it but they believe it. And that's why we continue to have negative ads. It's not an accident. People do this stuff because it works.

PRESS: And speaking of ads, there have been a couple of them that really have gotten people upset because they seem to have gone over -- perhaps over the line. We'll be taking a look at them and discussing them.

CARLSON: But is there really a line in politics?

PRESS: I think there is, but I think we're far from it yet.

CARLSON: Well, if there were a line, let me say that this ad might have crossed. This is purely theoretical, because I don't think there is.

Take a look at this. It's a remake of the famous 1964 Daisy ad.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: One, two, three...

ANNOUNCER: Now, under eight years of Clinton-Gore, our security has been sold to communist Red China in exchange for campaign contributions. Red China was given access and sold vital technology that will now give China the ability to threaten our homes with long- range nuclear warheads.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: ... four, five, six...

ANNOUNCER: Can we really afford to take that chance?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: ... seven, eight, nine...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.


CARLSON: Now, Bill...

PRESS: A little, just a little...

CARLSON: Just a wee bit over the top. But that ad...

PRESS: Just a little over the edge.

CARLSON: That ad worked in 1964 for Lyndon Johnson, though I think it only ran once. And I think it works now. I love ads like that, so theatrical.

PRESS: No, but you touched on it. It ran once in 1964. You know how it's run now today? I don't think they've bought any time at all.

CARLSON: That's right.

PRESS: Maybe they bought one spot. All the rest of it is people like us who've been running this ad. And these people, that's what they intended. They've played us for suckers, and we went right along. They never intended to buy any time, they just wanted us to be talking -- to show the ad, which by the way, factually, is 100 percent false.

CARLSON: Well, I think the technical term for that, Bill, the one political consultants use, is free media.

And actually, I thought it was sort of nice because it gave you the sense that this election does have consequences. And that's not a sense I think people following at home have very much.

PRESS: But what do we know? Let's talk to couple of people who do.

CARLSON: Shall we?

PRESS: Our first guest this evening -- first of all, joining us from New York, a legend in the advertising world, Mr. Jerry Della Femina.

Jerry, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Good to have you there.


PRESS: And also in our Washington studios, Alicia Mundy, who's the Washington bureau chief for "Ad Week" magazine -- actually, for "Media Week," I believe now, Alicia, correct?

ALICIA MUNDY, "MEDIA WEEK": "Media Week," and I'm pleased to be here.

PRESS: Good to have you here, too.

Alicia, let me start by asking you. We just saw this Daisy ad. No. 1, do you think it's effective? And how should Al Gore have responded to it?

MUNDY: Well, I think it could be very effective. Let's face it, it's good theater. It's very gripping. It's inaccurate, but who cares? It's very well done.

CARLSON: That's the spirit.

MUNDY: But on the other hand, if I were the Gore people, I would have absolutely gone bananas on something like that, because let's face it, part of why Clinton got elected in 1992 was his complaints over George Bush being wimpy on China. I would have come back within 24 hours with an ad showing Tiananmen Square and a voice-over saying, after Tiananmen Square, you know, the former President Bush and the same people who are now running with his son wimped out, did this, did that because they wanted to keep trade open and keep making money. Don't let your national security be owned by America's big businesses, or something like that. They had a right to stand on.

And the Gore people have consistently, when it's come to running some ads that could really define themselves and could really define the other side, they just wimp out. It's like they're trying to get brownie points after the election for being good guys. And, hey, after the election no one's going to cares.

CARLSON: I think you have a career in media consulting ahead of you.

Let me ask you this, Jerry. There's this sort of ongoing argument among political consultants -- actually, it's not much of an argument. Political consultants seem to feel like there's no ad that's so negative that it will redound against the person who airs it. Do you think, after years in the ad business, that there's anything so mean that it hurts the guy who puts it on the air?

DELLA FEMINA: I don't think so. People say they don't like negative ads.

I'm really confused. Why isn't the voice that's doing the countdown counting in Chinese. I mean, I don't understand.

CARLSON: That is a great question.

MUNDY: Good point. CARLSON: Fantastic.

DELLA FEMINA: That's an English voice counting down.

CARLSON: It's much less convincing, I agree with you. But barking in a heavy foreign accent, that would be fantastic.

DELLA FEMINA: Yes, they missed the boat there. I think that apparently the ad was OK when it was for a Democrat, when it was for Lyndon Johnson. It's not OK now that it's being done for a Republican.

I just don't think it can be mean enough in this race. I mean, I don't think there's -- these people can say almost anything about each other. And you know what? We'll all believe it.

MUNDY: And they should.


CARLSON: And they should. I like your attitude, I have to say.

MUNDY: Listen, I don't believe in the phrase "attack ads" because I think it's negative and it's not fair. It is fair game to look at your opponent and say, what has he done, what does he represent, and what is he made of? That's not an attack ad. If you question their credibility or character, that's not an attack ad. That's information, and we need it.

PRESS: Right, Alicia and Jerry, hold on just a second. We have a comment from the chat room here, Tucker, about the Daisy ad. This is Larry Cunningham, who's -- with this message: "Enough with the Daisy ad. It wasn't even authorized for a run by the Bush campaign."

Well, here's a very important question.

CARLSON: Isn't that the beauty of it, though.

PRESS: I want to ask Jerry. Jerry, I'm a skeptic here. I believe the Bush campaign knew everything about this ad, and they knew it was coming up and they knew what the game was, just like they knew the Republicans for Clean Air ad that they ran against George -- John McCain in the primary. Do you believe this ad went on the air without the campaign knowing anything about it?

DELLA FEMINA: I doubt it very much. Frankly, these ads -- you know, somebody has to know what's going on, and they've got to talk about. I mean, you know, it's Willie Horton. Certainly they knew that was a pretty tough ad and they knew what they were doing.

No, I think that they know about it. It's sort of -- they keep it quiet. Someone says, we're going to run this. Someone says, don't tell me about it, just run it.

CARLSON: I loved the -- we have a phone call now and I wonder how people who aren't involved in politics full time feel about this. It's Theresa (ph) in Ohio.

Tell us what you think of negative advertising. You like it?

CALLER: Well, first of all, I want to say I think that we need to get off the Clinton wagon. He's not running for president. Let's get past that and talk about who is. And no, I don't think that ad is an attack ad. I think just it's pretty typical, you know, in that campaign. And one thing that I would like to say also, I don't know why the Gore campaign hasn't gone after Bush just like the lady said a whole lot more. There are so many, so many things that they could go after. I mean, we had one organization...

PRESS: Theresa, we got your point. I want thank you very much for your call.

CARLSON: I think the Gore people need to hear that.

PRESS: Yes, and they've got eight days left.

Alicia and Jerry, while you're still there, there's one other ad that a lot of people have been talking about. We'd like just to show you quickly and get your quick comments to. This ad was run by the NAACP obviously taking a poke at George W. Bush over his failure to support hate crimes legislation. But here's how it came out. Do you think this was over the line? Let's look at the ad first.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Rene Mullins (ph), James Burns' daughter. On June seventh, 1998, in Texas my father was killed. He was beaten, chained and then dragged three miles to his death, all because he was black. So, when Governor George W. Bush refused to support hate crimes legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again. Call George W. Bush and tell him to support hate crimes legislation. We won't be dragged away from our future.


CARLSON: Now, I mean that...

MUNDY: That is a terrific ad. That's a real throat grabber. That's an incredible ad.

CARLSON: It's interesting, though, certain Democrats, we had Bob Kerry was on "CROSSFIRE" the other night and he said that he thought it was racially divisive and that it ought to be pulled in by the NAACP and as Democrat he was embarrassed of it. Do you think that, I mean, does this hurt at all the Democratic Party?

MUNDY: It's not going to hurt them at all. I mean, I'm speaking as an ad person looking at the ad. The ad was beautifully done. On the other hand, there's such an issue over whether hate crime legislation is necessary, whether it works, that you can't help but look at the ad and also say it's divisive and in a sense it's unfair to George Bush.

PRESS: Jerry Della Femina, does that ad offend you? shock you? would you run it? Quickly.

FEMINA: I wouldn't run it. It offends me. It shocks me. And it's wrong, but this is a war between these people and they really, quite frankly, don't care what they say about each other. It's sad that an ad like that was even thought of because it is wrong. But the fact is that they do this --.

PRESS: Jerry, thank you, sorry to interrupt. We do have to go. A lot going on here tonight. Jerry Della Femina and Alicia Mundy, thank you very, very much for joining us. We're going to take a break. Yes, they were great. When we come back, the presidential race is not the only race around. There is also this little race up in New York. We're going to be talking about that and we're also going to be checking in with our old buddy Robert George, who, believe it or not, this is a "New York Post" guy, his assignment tonight Tucker is in a bar.

CARLSON: Robert George is an old newspaper man and heartened like any good newspaper man he's hoisting a glass. We'll be back to see Robert George in the bar in a minute.

PRESS: And welcome to THE SPIN ROOM with Bill Press and Tucker Carlson where you get to sound off on the hot issues of the day and in case you think nastiness is man thing, uh-uh, mean campaign tactics are not just for macho presidential candidates, Tucker.

TUCKER: For instance, over the weekend the New York Senate race was full of allegations about just who was taking money from terrorists. Not your average political action committee.

Once again, Joie Chen has details in Atlanta.

CHEN: Tucker why can't a woman be more like a man?

CARLSON: I totally agree.

CHEN: We have apologies here to Mrs. Lerner (ph) and Mr. Lowe (ph), but there is plenty of evidence it is a darn good thing we're not. By the way, in that New York race, Hillary Rodham Clinton wants an apology from her opponent Rick Lazio because of the reports that New York Republicans are calling up voters and saying that Clinton's campaign accepts money from an Arab organization that -- and this is supposedly according to the script -- openly brags about its support for a Mideast terrorism group. Now, not the careful wording here. The same kind of terrorism that killed our sailors on the USS Cole.

In reality, Mrs. Clinton's campaign did give back $50,000 from a fund-raiser which was sponsored by a group that supports the radical Palestinian organization, Hamas. Got all that straight? Well, there's no real matter in that because Lazio refused to apologize. And besides, and you can note more careful wording here, he says he doesn't need any instructions or lessons from the Arkansas political machine.

So, now we've cleared all that up. Here's Jeanne Moos with one more word from New York Senate race. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She started with three names...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary Rodham Clinton.

MOOS: ... And ended up with three syllables.

CROWD: Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!

MOOS: Whether you love her...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love you, Hillary.

MOOS: ... Or hate her...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The hell with Hillary.

MOOS: Chances are you call her by her first name as the managing editor of "The New York Post" puts it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's almost like the Madonna of politics.


CROWD: Madonna!


MOOS: Mrs. Clinton, we're doing a piece on your, kind of, one name phenomenon. You know, Cher, Madonna, Hillary.


MOOS: But instead of shaking her hips, Hillary shakes hands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary, how are you doing?

MOOS: Hillaryism is no accident. It's written on her signs, intoned in her commercials.


ANNOUNCER: Hillary, put her to work for all of us.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The establishment of familiarity, is what it's all about.

Tish Darbin writes for "The New York Observer," one of many newspapers and magazines unable to resist the lure of a single name or even a single syllable, though they disagree on one L or two.

How about Hill, do you like the word Hill? CLINTON: Well, you know, my brothers have called me that from time to time.

MOOS: Sounds like would like to give them Hill.

Hillary was sharing snacks with reporters on her recent 53rd birthday.

CROWD (singing): Happy birthday, dear Hillary.

MOOS: She says her mom used to joke that she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, who climbed Mt. Everest. By chance, the two Hillarys met five years ago in Nepal.

Notice, by the way, how we don't have the guts to say Hillary to her face.

Mrs. Clinton did you know that Hillary means cheerful?

CLINTON: And even hilarious.

MOOS: She's right. According to "15,000 Great Baby Names," Hillary comes from the Latin Hilarius, which brings us to a "New York Post" headline that ran back when the first lady was giving the president the freeze after his affair with Monica.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the headline we came up with that day was Chillary.

MOOS: Hillary' opponent, Rick Lazio, is one of the few who doesn't call her Hillary.

REP. RICK LAZIO (R), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: Mrs. Clinton, you well know by now...

MOOS: Reporters speculate that by using Hillary, the campaign is trying to disassociate Mrs. Clinton from her husband, but a spokesperson says this is how it started.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When we first got in the race, we were running against the mayor of New York and what do people call him?

CROWD: Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get your Hillary popsicle. She's a true Yankee fan.

MOOS: Even when you're being pilloried it's better to be Hillaryed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look, it's a song for Hillary.


MOOS: Can you sing this song?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Hillary,, Hillary.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


CHEN: I think I like Madonna songs better. Now for another woman candidate with a three-syllable name, that's Carnahan, as in Jean Carnahan. She is the widow of the late Missouri governor and the Democratic Senate candidate Mel Carnahan, who is the same Mel Carnahan who, even though he has died, is holding on to a substantial lead in the polls against the incumbent Republican senator, John Ashcroft.

Now today, Jean Carnahan said that if her late husband should win the election and if Missouri's acting governor appoints her to the Senate, she says she's willing to serve the term.


JEAN CARNAHAN, WIDOW OF GOV. MEL CARNAHAN: It was a very personal decision that I made. And I just so much believed in the dreams and the hopes that my husband had. I didn't want them to die, and I want to be a part of helping them stay alive. And there are a lot of Missourians who feel the same way.

SEN. JOHN ASHCROFT (R), MISSOURI: I'm not campaigning against anybody. Right now, I'm campaigning for the United States Senate. And I'm campaigning for some ideas that are important to the future. And so I don't want to be -- quibble about that, but I'm not campaigning against anyone.


CHEN: Gentlemen, this is certainly a tough one to spin. After all, Mrs. Carnahan has suffered a terrible loss, both of her husband and of her son. But let's look at the political reality of this and let's look at it if you're John Ashcroft. I mean, after all, Tucker, he's right. He doesn't have anybody to run against. It's kind of sad.

CARLSON: Well that was sort of the sad thing. I mean, here poor John Ashcroft hasn't done anything, and he looked liked he'd been caught doing something horrible. I mean, it is embarrassing to run against a man who's died.

PRESS: No, the look on John Ashcroft's face was the look of a man, Joie, who knows that he could lose to a dead man. Can you think of anything more humiliating in politics? It has happened before. You know, Tucker, there's a great, great politician by the name of Phil Burton, died a few years ago, his first race, when he ran for Congress in San Francisco, lost to a dead man.

CARLSON: Well he's still in Congress, the dead guy.


CHEN: Then in Chicago, in Chicago where I'm from, you know, people get elected to a job...

CARLSON: Oh, I think it's pretty common.

PRESS: Well, it will be interesting.

CHEN: People do a lot of voting in Chicago who aren't alive either.

But talk about this, I mean, talk about the women in the race, and, you know, women who succeed men who have lost. I mean, after all, we look at Cokie Roberts' mother, Lindy Boggs, Mary Bono, there are women on both sides of the aisle there.

PRESS: There are indeed. They were appointed, they came in. I think there's a legal question as if -- if Mel Carnahan were to win this race, there's still a legal question as to whether the governor could legitimately, legally appoint the widow. I don't know, but it makes for an interesting situation.

CARLSON: There's a deeper seemliness question, but we can get to that later.

PRESS: Very interesting question.

OK, Joie, thanks very much.

We're going to take a break. And when we come back, let's check in the latest on the campaign trail to see how nasty George Bush and Al Gore are getting at each other.

CARLSON: And we'll be back with our tavern correspondent, Robert George, straight from a bar in New York when SPIN ROOM continues.


PRESS: And welcome back to THE SPIN ROOM, with Bill Press and Tucker Carlson, where you get to get your say about the events of the day and these nasty campaigns. Are they nasty? Can they get too nasty? That's the question, Tucker.

CARLSON: Well, Bill, the answer is, it is, in fact. And the CNN research department dug deep into the CNN archives here in Washington and discovered that it's, in fact, Emily Post's birthday today. She's be...

PRESS: There you go.

CARLSON: ... 128 years old. She, of course...

PRESS: There you go.

CARLSON: ... wrote the famous "Blue Book" on etiquette. And I think she would be as appalled as "The New York Times" editorial writers are apparently by negative ads. My feeling is, who cares? I'm with our professional media people. They work, I like them.

PRESS: My feeling is candidates are not supposed to please Emily Post.

CARLSON: That's the spirit.

PRESS: And speaking of "The Post" -- how's that for a segue.

CARLSON: Very good.

PRESS: All right, let's go to the "Post" man at the bar, Robert George. How do you like that?

ROBERT GEORGE, "NEW YORK POST": Very good, that was excellent, Bill. Actually, yesterday was my birthday, so -- but of course I was born on the anniversary of the stock market crash...

PRESS: Well, we're glad your mother...

GEORGE: ... so I know how...

PRESS: We're glad your mother didn't name you Emily.

GEORGE: What was that?

PRESS: We're glad your mother didn't name you Emily.

GEORGE: Yes, well I ended up at "The Post"...

CARLSON: No, I think it's a very attractive name.

GEORGE: I ended up at "The Post" anyway, though. That's good enough.

CARLSON: Well where are you now? Tell us. I mean, exactly what bar are you in, the Blarney Stone?

GEORGE: I'm at lovely bar here in SoHo called Demauchalet (ph), which is oui, French, Francais indeed, and it's a beautiful French restaurant, and it's even got Internet access, as well. So, you know...

PRESS: Sounds...

GEORGE: ... it's modern and traditional.

PRESS: Sounds expensive to me. Robert, we've got a question for you from the chat room.

GEORGE: The things I have to do for CNN, I tell you.

PRESS: I know. We have a question for you from the chat room about the Daisy ad. Here is Mike Knowles, who wants to know, "The Daisy ad was denounced by Bush. Why hasn't Gore denounced the NAACP ad?"

Robert, take it. You're take on that.

GEORGE: Well, you know, that's an excellent -- that's an excellent question. I mean, it seems like the NAACP wants to do kind of what they would perceive as Willie Horton in reverse, kind of put an ad out there that's completely unfair, tell -- you know, basically saying that George Bush somehow had some connection to do with the death of James Byrd, which is pretty horrifying.

CARLSON: Well, listen, Robert, we have Greg from Texas on the line. He's called in. I think he has a comment on this point.

Greg, are you there?

GREG: Yes, how are you doing today?


PRESS: Hi, Greg.

GREG: My point is this: The -- you know, the murder that was committed on James Byrd in Texas, those three white guys who were found guilty, of course, two out of the three of them are going to be put to death, and the third, I believe, is going to have a life imprisonment. Now to me, I don't understand how much more of a, you know, sentence you can get than these three guys are going to get, so that's beyond, you know, not enacting or enacting a discriminatory -- or an act such as that, but it's just enforcing the laws already currently on the books, which is just basically murder. So these three men...

PRESS: Well, that...

GREG: ... I think, are going to get the worst.

GEORGE: I think...

CARLSON: You make an interesting point, Greg, and that's exactly what Governor Bush said. He said essentially, they're toast already. Do you think that was a good way to respond to the question, Robert?

GEORGE: Oh, I think it's -- I mean, I think it's perfect. I mean, you can't really get beyond punishing somebody except for going with the death penalty unless they're going to be, like, counseled by Al Gore before they're put to death. And that might be more -- that might are more harsh.

PRESS: Yes, Robert, that's of course the argument against the hate crimes legislation, not to get into it now, not to debate it now. That's not our job. The other argument is there are some crimes so heinous, there are crimes against the community, somebody's killed just simply because he's gay, not because he's done anything wrong, and, therefore, that should be classified as a hate crime.

But let's get back to...

GEORGE: But, Bill, I'll tell you...

PRESS: But no, no, no, no, no, no. Let's -- no, no, no, no, no.

GEORGE: If I can make a quick point...

CARLSON: Bill wants to bring that up and then drop it.

PRESS: We want to go back to the campaign. I just want to point out there are two sides to that, that's all.

But let's get back to the campaign and how this has gotten nasty, because there are some phone calls out there, Tucker, in Michigan, that are coming from the Gore campaign. You've got one sample of the latest.

CARLSON: There certainly are. And this, Robert, is actually one the roughest there is.

Let's take a look at this. Let's hear it.

Well let me read it to you instead.


CARLSON: I'll do my dramatic voice-over.

It says -- this is the daughter of a man who died in a nursing home. And she says, he could be alive today if it weren't for the neglect he experienced. George W. Bush ran for governor and promised to improve the quality of life for nursing-room residents. But Governor Bush broke that promise when he signed legislation that weakened nursing-home standards." Governor Bush killed the guy.

I mean, the Democrats have complained for years that the right is always accusing President Clinton of murder, but here they are sort of flipping it around. Clearly, there is an audience for this stuff.

GEORGE: Well, you know, in any election, you are going to have sort of appealing to the lowest common denominator, And I mean, I think George W. Bush said, in his convention speech, the Democrats, the party who once had a standard barrier that said "The only thing we have fear is fear itself" is now the party that says: The only thing we have to offer is fear itself.

And I think there is a certain amount of legitimacy towards that. Though admittedly, I mean, admittedly, you are going to get a little bit of this at some level, in any campaign.

PRESS: Quick question before we go to a break: What is the difference between that ad, which is coming from the Gore campaign, which I don't approve of, and the ads that the George Bush people ran during the primary against John McCain in Michigan staying he was anti-Catholic. They are the same kind of phone calls; weren't they?

GEORGE: You are talking about the John McCain ads that they ran against George W. Bush?

PRESS: The phone calls that Bush ran against McCain, I believe it was in Michigan in the primary, same thing. GEORGE: No, no, no, no, no, Bill, you got it the other way around. John McCain ran ads against George W. Bush basically suggesting that he was anti-Catholic because he went to Bob Jones University.

PRESS: OK, got your point.

CARLSON: Robert, we are going to be back in a minute. But before we do, Robert, I want you to turn around and say hello to the two ladies behind you. We know that when we leave you, you will have plenty of things to do there in the bar.

Hello, hello, hello.

PRESS: All right, there is Robert George. And we will be back with more SPIN ROOM right on CNN, Bill Press and Tucker Carlson. And we have got more nastiness, more examples of it coming up.

CARLSON: Tons more.


CARLSON: Welcome back to SPIN ROOM. I'm Tucker Carlson here with Bill Press in Washington, and we are taking your phone calls and e-mails and reading your chats. We have everything. We have seasoned media consultants. We have a guy in a bar, Robert George, who I just heard in my ear has ordered a glass of merlot. And we are about to go to Joie Chen.

PRESS: And we have fun spinning, and we have Joie Chen in Atlanta.

There have been charges and counter-charges going back on the campaign trail today. Some it might be approaching a little bit of nastiness.

Joie, how are these guys behaving out there? Let us know.

CHEN: I don't get to order anything around here in the CNN newsroom. But here is where I get to ask the great rhetorical question: What is a nice presidential candidate like you doing in a place like this? I think Robert can try that line in his bar.

George W. Bush, today, campaigned in New Mexico and California, states which are supposed to be veyr safely lined up in the Gore column, but maybe they are not. And Al Gore, on the other hand, was in Michigan and Wisconsin, which you know are states with Republican governors, John Engler, Tommy Thompson, are supposed to have signed, sealed and delivered for Bush. But maybe they can't.

So about that first question: What is a nice guy like you doing in a place like this? What else, you are getting your digs at the other guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VICE PRES. AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can have a smaller, smarter government, that balances the budget every year, pays down, and then pays off our debt, and gives tax cuts to the middle class.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My opponent has proposed 285 new or expanded government programs. He calls for spending increases three times larger than Bill Clinton proposed and twice the amount proposed by Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis combined.


CHEN: And want to know about that economy stupid? Well, want to know how tough it is find worker these days? Get this, resorts in Vermont and in upstate New York are turning to Europe, Australia, and even to South Africa of all places, to fill the demand for ski bums. I didn't know there were ski bums in South Africa. But, in any case, it's true, there are not enough guys with three days growth on their chins to hang out with Susie Chapstick this winter season.

I don't know, Bill, I heard you guys ski. I can't imagine Tucker with three days growth.

PRESS: It has been a long time since I have been a ski bum. But I got to tell you, I did not fine those comments from Gore or Bush to be very nasty at all. Maybe Joe Lieberman got...

CARLSON: I heard the word Walter Mondale in there, that's pretty mean.

PRESS: But maybe Joe Lieberman got a little closer yesterday, I still think it wasn't very nasty. But he using an issue that Gore and Lieberman are using more and more recently, which is: Is George W. Bush experienced enough to be president? Here is Joe Lieberman.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me tell you, honestly, George Bush is not ready to be president of the United States. Maybe some time, but not -- he sure isn't ready to be the kind of president that the people of America need now.


TUCKER: Now, I have to tell you, I didn't find that nasty. I mean he didn't say he is a moron. He just said: He doesn't have enough experience to be president of the United States, five years as governor of Texas, one could make the argument he doesn't have enough experience. Nasty to you?

CARLSON: No, no, sort of weird coming from Lieberman. When he said, I will tell you honestly. I mean, honesty, that's his whole schtick, and I think he risks squandering his Liebermanness, you know, the sort of patina of honesty and integrity and strait-forwardness that he has. It is not good to send him on the attack. PRESS: I want to go to the bar before Robert has too many more glasses of merlot. But first we have a phone call. This is Chris in Texas on the line.

Hey, Chris, welcome to THE SPIN ROOM.

CALLER: Thank you. I was just wanted to make a comment about how the Democrats, including you Bill Press, have said, that the reason our economy is so good is because of the Clinton-Gore administration, you know, what they have done. The Clinton-Gore administration has done absolutely nothing to do with our good economy. Our good economy is because of three people, and that's the policies of President Reagan, President Bush put into affect, and our Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

PRESS: Who was, of course, reappointed by Bill Clinton. Thanks very much for the call, Chris, who has done nothing.

Robert, back to the bar, Joe Lieberman talking about George Bush's inexperience, below the belt? fair point?

GEORGE: I think it's -- I think it would have made more sense if they tried to do this a few weeks ago. Right now it seems a little bit desperate.

I do want to say that Jessica, who you saw on the phone before, her mother called her because she saw her on CNN and called her. And Jessica is an undecided voter. So this is all very informative for her.

But the big problem with Joe Lieberman is, Joe Lieberman was not brought in to be a traditional vice presidential candidate, attack dog. And it doesn't -- he doesn't do it that well. It's like sort of being like Jackie Mason trying to be an attack comic or something.

CARLSON: Which he is incidentally. We have got to go on a sec, Robert, but before we do, I just want to ask you, if you can just answer this in one word, wafting around the bar, there must be, along with the smoke and the fumes from your merlot, there must be a sense of who is going to win. What is the consensus in your French-named bar down there on Soho? Who do people think is going to win?

GEORGE: It's tough for me. What does everybody think, is it going to be Bush or Gore?

CROWD: Bush, Bush.

GEORGE: Bush, Bush. From the people who are up at bar, it seems to be, but that could just mean that Republicans like to come to the bar.

CARLSON: Must be a nice bar.

PRESS: You know what it is, it's because that's a bar for the 1 percenters.

CARLSON: It is the one-percent bar.

PRESS: That's it, Robert.

GEORGE: Next time we have to talk about the fact that Lazio is surging here. That's...

CARLSON: Find a Democratic bar, We will be back, No more bars, but more heads. We will back with THE SPIN ROOM in just a minute.


PRESS: You are back in THE SPIN ROOM with Bill Press and Tucker Carlson, listening to your spin, and you are listening to a little bit of our about what is happening in this presidential campaign. Is it getting nasty enough for you yet?

CARLSON: I hope so. You know, at the beginning of the show, we talked to, we recommended to people watching THE SPIN ROOM to go and get the "Esquire" piece, and I have been thinking about this, and as a magazine writer, it is important to me that people not judge magazine writers by this piece.

And I just wanted to read one of the questions in the story and offer it up as the example of the lamest journalism of the week. Here is the question to Bill Clinton, quote, "In a way, is it fair to say you took the presidency back from the two parties and gave it to the people?"

I just want to let people know reading this piece this is not the sort of question reporters normally ask the president.

PRESS: This is not the kind of question that Tucker Carlson asked George W. Bush when you did your famous interview. But I want to read something from the lower third of the screen right now, Tucker. We don't always get to see these.

Here is the question: "Is Tucker old enough to get into a bar?"

You don't have answer that.

CARLSON: I frequently get carded. That's why -- the trick is, if this is coming from someone under 18, go to the same bar, let them get to know you.

PRESS: It's been a long time since I have been carded. I just want to acknowledge that.

Let's go back to these candidates for a while because I really feel that they have yet to really mix it you up. There is a sample now back to back, of how this is as close as they can get to getting nasty. Here is Al Gore and then George W. Bush.


GORE: I know where the rats in the barn are, believe me. And the special interests know that I know. And they know that I have got a burning passion in my heart to do the right thing for you and to fight for the future of your families.

BUSH: My opponent cannot bring America together because he practices the politics of division. He talks of ripping the lungs out of political opponents. He scares the elderly for political gain. His campaign attacks are designed to spread falsehood and cynicism.


PRESS: Tucker, I just have to say, George Bush is reading from the TelePrompTer, since he did subliminibal, they won't let him give a speech without reading every word from TelePrompTer. And Al Gore is talking about rats in the barn, as if anybody knows what that is about. No wonder some people are saying: Can't we have another choice?

CARLSON: Of course they know. I don't think Gore know. I love when he does it. I am from Possum Hollow, and I was growing up with an out house message, it's unbelievable.

And I have to say, when George Bush talks about the politics of personal destruction, I would rather witness them, than hear someone whine about them. I think we spent the entire hour defending mean campaigning, and there's a reason for that. it is good for America.

PRESS: We spent the entire hour defending it, but we haven't seen, in my judgment, enough of it yet. And I think that inexperience is that Achilles' Heal of George W. Bush, and Al Gore has yet to really you know attack it, and he has only got eight days left. I am not sure he is going...

CARLSON: That's right. I think clearly Gore's I mean, the ultimate Gore talking point is: America is richer than it was eight years ago. It is a simple theme. It is technically true. I'm not sure it's true that he is responsible for it. He probably isn't. But he can still make that case and he hasn't. I think Gore has run a very, very lame campaign.

PRESS: Even if he is not responsible for it, he ought to be taking credit for it.

CARLSON: Of course he should.

PRESS: We are out of time, That's all the spin from us tonight. Please join us tomorrow night and every night this week at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific for more SPIN ROOM.

CARLSON: And behalf of Joie Chen in Atlanta and Bill Press, with me here in Washington, for whom I feel qualified to speak, I'm Tucker Carlson. Thanks for Joining us.

PRESS: Good night everybody.



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