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Special Event

Countdown To Election 2000: 7 Days To Go

Aired October 31, 2000 - 8:00 p.m. ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: One week before election day, George W. Bush and Al Gore target voters in the Pacific Northwest, and stake their claims to the Golden State, and its mother lode of Electoral votes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICE PRES. AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: God bless you, seven more days, let's win this election.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do want your vote and your help, as we are coming down the stretch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Tonight, the latest insight on where the race stands from our team of analysts and reporters on the trail.

Also, I'll speak with Minnesota's outspoken governor, Jesse Ventura, on the influence and potential impact of third party candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV JESSE VENTURA (I), MINNESOTA: It's called more candidates than just two.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And Comedy Central's Jon Stewart drops by with his offbeat analysis of the sometimes comical side of the campaign season all straight ahead on CNN, your election headquarters.

ANNOUNCER: COUNTDOWN TO ELECTION 2000: 7 DAYS TO GO. From Washington, here is CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Good evening. Tonight, and every night this week, we continue our election day countdown with our guests and live reports from the campaign trail.

But first, a brief look at the hour's top stories. We start overseas tonight, with an update on the crash of a Singapore Airlines 747, bound for Los Angeles; 179 people were on board flight 006 this morning, when it crashed on takeoff in Taiwan. At least 66 people were killed. Dozens of survivors were taken to hospitals, and Taiwan government officials say 30 people are still missing. The passenger list included 47 U.S. citizens, and 55 Taiwanese.

An airline spokesman described the accident as an "aborted takeoff," and he said the pilot reported hitting an object during the takeoff run. The accident happened as a typhoon approached Taiwan, drenching the airport with wind and rain. Late tonight, the National Transportation Safety Board announced it is sending a team of investigators to the crash scene.

New protests in the Middle East today over yesterday's Israeli helicopter attacks against Palestinian targets. One Palestinian was killed in clashes in the West Bank. And four died in heavy fighting at a border crossing in Gaza.

CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman was among those hit in the crossfire, but his wounds are not life-threatening.

The death toll in more than a month of fighting has reached 166.

The Pentagon today added Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to the list of countries where U.S. forces are on the highest state of alert for a possible terrorist attack. U.S. troops in Yemen, Qatar, and Bahrain are also under the same so-called "Threat Condition Delta" status. The alerts are based on what a Pentagon spokesman calls "credible threat information involving unspecified targets."

And comedian Steve Allen is dead at the age of 78. His son says he suffered heart failure last night. Allen was the creator and original host of television's "Tonight Show," and a prolific author and songwriter. Steve Allen was also active in politics. He once described himself as an advocate of "radical middle of the roadism."

And we now turn to election 2000, and the seven day strategies for Al Gore and George W. Bush. Both men are out west, as the pace of this campaign picks up with multiple stops designed to reach the most potential voters.

Al Gore's day began with a red-eye flight from Wisconsin to Oregon. From Portland, Gore traveled south to Los Angeles.

George Bush was already in California. He held a rally in San Jose. Then he headed to Portland, before traveling tonight to Washington state.

Since the candidates passed through Portland on the same day, our Jonathan Karl and Candy Crowley are now able to meet up, and they join us now together from Portland, Oregon.

Candy, how unusual is this for both candidates to be in the same place at the same time?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as the days get closer and the battlegrounds get tighter, it's not all that unusual. I think we will see them again in the same states. They've been kind of crisscrossing each other. It is unusual to have them meet up on the same day. But we will see more of that because the battleground sort of dwindled down and they both want the same states.

BLITZER: And Candy, George W. Bush, only a few minutes ago, was repeating his mantra, namely that Al Gore is not the one who should be the next president. Listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: When I first got going in this campaign, people said: George W., you better not talk about Social Security. They will use it against you. They're going to try to scare seniors. This is Halloween time, as you know, and it's appropriate that my opponent be trying to scare seniors. That's the only way he knows how to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That so-called scare tactic worked apparently in '96, at least according to the Republican theory. The Bush campaign, I take it Candy, is not all that concerned this time.

CROWLEY: No, I think they are concerned, Wolf. They have a new ad out that aims at that, which we'll talk about later. But, you know, absolutely, they know that more than one Republican has been taken down on the Social Security issue. But they also think that Bush's approach, which is to reform it, to allow younger workers to take a part of their Social Security payments and invest it on their own, has resonance in an economy that has been quite good among young people who have learned to trust the stock market over time.

So they think it is a winning issue, but they are worried, again, about the phone calls that are going out about Social Security from the Gore campaign and the things that the vice president is saying on the campaign trail. So they know it's an issue, it is why Bush keeps it out there.

BLITZER: All right, let's listen to what the vice president had to say on the campaign trail earlier today. I want to get your reaction to this, Jonathan Karl. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: What he is actually proposing, let's be plain about it, is a massive redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the wealthiest few. It is, in fact, a form of class warfare on behalf of billionaires.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The Gore campaign believes that kind of rhetoric, which we have heard before, is working; right?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely, you know, you talked about the scare tactics to seniors, especially on the issues like Social Security, and also the situation with nursing homes in Texas. Al Gore has had one demographic group that has consistently been for him throughout this campaign, as the polls have gone up and down, the one group that has always been pro-Al Gore has been senior citizens, those 65 and over, and especially 70 and over.

So, in response to this question of whether or not Gore is using square tactics, this charge, the Gore campaign is pretty honest that it is square tactics, but they say that what's scary here are Bush's proposals. And that's why they're doing this, not only in their television advertising, with Gore on the stump, but also with these phone calls now going out in the last week, in an effort to get seniors to the polls to vote for Gore.

BLITZER: There's a new Bush-Cheney ad that is beginning to run. I want to play a snippet from that ad right now. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BUSH CAMPAIGN AD)

ANNOUNCER: When Al Gore said his mother-in-law's prescription cost more than his dogs, his own aides said the story was made up.

GORE: There has never been a time in this campaign when I have said something that I know to be untrue. There has never been a time when I've said something untrue.

ANNOUNCER: Really?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I take it that kind of ad is going resonate, at least according to the Bush campaign, Candy?

CROWLEY: Well, one of the things that that ad was edited, and in the middle, what you hear is what we've been talking about, which is that Al Gore is not telling the truth about Social Security.

This is a two-fer, it gets the exaggeration and truth thing out there, as well as response to the Social Security issue.

I imagine that over the course of time, and we don't have much left, you will see these kinds of ads from both campaigns, yes.

BLITZER: How is the Gore campaign, very briefly, Jonathan Karl, going to respond to that?

KARL: Well, the Gore campaign came out, as soon as they heard about that ad, and called in very harsh terms, Mark Fabiani, the deputy campaign manager for the Gore campaign, called George W. Bush both a liar and a hypocrite for running that ad. A liar because Bush had just talked yesterday about the need to change the tone in Washington and about the need to bring a positive message. And now he comes out with a negative ad. And a hypocrite because this contradicts his message about changing the tone.

But the Gore campaign, even as they make that case, is coming out tomorrow with an ad that they were going to come out with today, an ad very, very critical of George W. Bush, questioning whether or not he has the experience and judgment to be president.

BLITZER: All right, John Karl and Candy Crowley on the campaign trail. Once again, we will see you tomorrow. Thanks for joining us.

And joining us now is our senior political analyst Bill Schneider. Let's take a look at the new numbers for today, our CNN- "USA Today"-Gallup tracking poll. Bill, basically the same as yesterday, 47 percent for George W. Bush, 44 percent for Al Gore, 3 percent for Nader, 1 percent for Buchanan. We look at the so-called poll of polls, similar numbers in the other polls as well, 3 point spread ABC, 2 point spread by the "Washington Post," and a five point spread by Reuters-Zogby-MSNBC.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. ANALYST: Yesterday, the polls average a Bush lead of two points. Today the Bush lead averages three points. It is not exactly a surge and the race is still very close. But there's no good news here for Al Gore.

BLITZER: What about the Electoral College? No change I take it overnight.

SCHNEIDER: Well, here's where the race stands, 270 Electoral votes needed. Bush is carrying 25 states, those are the ones in red on the map, with a total of 214 Electoral votes. Gore is holding 11 states and the District of Columbia, they're in blue, with total of 171 Electoral votes. Neither guy has a majority. The yellow states are the toss-ups, 14 states with 153 Electoral votes. What is interesting is, Bill Clinton carried every one of those toss-up states in 1996. Those were Clinton states, but they are not, so far, Gore states.

BLITZER: But I take it on this Halloween night, not all the news for Al Gore is necessarily negative.

SCHNEIDER: Well, let's take a look. On July 31st of this year, the Dow industrial index closed at 10586. Today, October 31st, the stock market close at 10971, higher. Now. for the past hundred years, when the Dow has gone up between the end of July and the end of October, the incumbent party has almost always stayed in power. And that would be the Democrats this time. It has worked in 22 out of last 25 elections.

The irony is, a lot of people think one reason the Dow has been going up is that a lot of investors think Bush is going to win the election. So they may be outsmarting themselves. And you know what, not for the first time.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider sitting, overlooking the Old Executive Office Building, next door to the White House, for our alert viewers out there, who are anxious to know about that pretty sight. Bill Schneider, we will see you tomorrow. Thanks for joining us.

Next here: a third party candidate who had forced political experts to reassess the conventional wisdom, Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura. Why he says America needs a third party movement. And his thoughts on election 2000, including his favorite candidate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

The scenario is familiar: A third party candidate told he would never win, and whose supporters were warned their votes would be wasted. Ralph Nader is the latest to hear those warnings. But Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura proved a third party outsider can be elected.

Earlier, I asked the governor about this election, the candidates, and the role of a third party.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Governor Ventura, thanks again for joining us on our special COUNTDOWN TO ELECTION 2000. Always good to have you on our program.

And I have to ask you, a week before the election, who are you going to vote for?

GOV. JESSE VENTURA (I), MINNESOTA: Well, first of all, Wolf, that's my business. I, like every other citizen, am afforded that luxury of being able to walk in that voting booth and vote for anybody that I want to, and I don't have to tell you or anyone else who I vote for. I really don't know yet. I'm probably leaning towards John Hagelin.

BLITZER: Really, tell us why.

VENTURA: Well, because I had a chance to hear him debate. We held debates here in Minnesota, and unfortunately Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan chose not to show up, neither did Gov. Bush and Vice President Gore. So I kind of limited it down to the three candidates who decided to show up to debate, and John Hagelin I was very impressed with him. He is a very bright man.

BLITZER: Tell us what you don't like about Al Gore or George W. Bush.

VENTURA: It's not a question of what I don't like about Al Gore personally, or Governor Bush personally. It is what I don't like about the Democrats and the Republicans, and the two-party system that we have entrenched in this country that won't allow for any third party to rise up. They do everything they can to hold us back. These phony debates that they held, where they held a 15 percent, you had to be polling that in which to participate. And so, for me, it's very much a vote for the third party movement and against the Democrats and Republicans combined. It is nothing personal against the vice president or Governor Bush.

BLITZER: And even if you vote for John Hagelin, you know he has no chance of winning this election. What about the argument that you're wasting your vote?

VENTURA: Well, Wolf, you know, they used that on me for my entire election in Minnesota. All I heard for months and months was, I was going to get Democrat, Hubert H. "Skip" Humphrey elected. I didn't have a chance to win, and therefore it was a wasted vote.

In fact, one of my opponents, Norm Coleman, the mayor of St. Paul, he used that line at the end of every debate. He turned to people and said: Remember, if you vote for Jesse, you're wasting your vote. Well, guess what, about 780,000 wasted Minnesota votes put me here in the capitol.

BLITZER: You know your lieutenant governor, Mae Schunk, who you ran with, who is the lieutenant governor of Minnesota, she disagrees with you. I want you to listen to what she said this past weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAE SCHUNK, MINNESOTA LT. GOVERNOR: Who's the man that will take care of the environment or see to it that we do it?

CROWD: Gore!

SCHUNK: Do we want leadership in the White House?

CROWD: Yes!

SCHUNK: Who will put it there for us?

CROWD: Al Gore!

SCHUNK: You bet, Al Gore, Al Gore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: She's endorsing Al Gore.

VENTURA: Yes, she called me up the day that she did that and asked how I felt about it. And I have no problem with that. Mae Schunk is an individual. Yes, she's my lieutenant governor. But I don't put any type of pressure on anyone that works for me that it is my way or the highway. You know, they have the right to endorse whoever they want to endorse, and stand behind the candidate of their choice. And I respect Mae's decision, the lieutenant governor's decision. But that doesn't mean we have to go together on it.

BLITZER: It's free country. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Do you believe that Ralph Nader, and I understand later this evening, you're going to be at an event with Ralph Nader, do you believe he would make a good president?

VENTURA: I think Mr. Nader is incredibly intelligent. I think that certainly he's been an advocate for people for many, many, many years. He is, as I said, an extremely bright man. I think that he could be the president.

My only problem is Mr. Nader and I differ on a lot of issues. I find him farther left than the vice president. And I personally, I'm a centrist, I need a candidate that is in the center, and I believe in which to win, you have got to be in center because that's where most Americans are. They are physically conservative, like myself, and socially liberal.

BLITZER: It's a tight race in Minnesota between Gore and Bush. A lot of Democrats are worried, though, that those who Minnesotans who vote for Ralph Nader, in effect, are voting for George Bush.

VENTURA: That's not true at all. Ralph Nader's name isn't spelled the same as George Bush's name. How could you make a mistake like that?

BLITZER: Well, the argument they make is that those are votes that presumably would be inclined to go for Al Gore.

VENTURA: Inclined, I agree with Mr. Nader on this, you earn everyone's vote.

BLITZER: You know, an issue close to your heart: special interests. The vice president has been going out of his way saying, if you want to support special interests, vote for the Republican candidate. I want you to hear what he said earlier today, when he was out on the campaign trail. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: Governor Bush often says, you should support him because he would get along with people in Washington.

The real question is: Who does he want to get along with? The special interests who want to pry open more loopholes in the tax code, the HMOs, the insurance industry, the oil companies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is vice president right?

VENTURA: Is he right? Yeah, I think he's right, but I think he should include the Democratic Party, along with Governor Bush's Republican Party.

Let's face facts, until you have meaningful campaign reform, Wolf, both of these parties sell out to their corporate interests and the corporations who play this game win no matter who wins because if you look at who contributes the soft money to the Democratic Party, it's the same people that contribute the soft money to the Republican Party. They can talk the talk, but will they truly walk the walk? We'll have to find out.

BLITZER: Very interesting. Very quickly, who's going to win Minnesota, Bush or Gore?

VENTURA: Well, I would be surprised -- you can never judge Minnesota because -- here's an interesting thing, Wolf. You've got Democrat Mark Dayton supposedly leading incumbent Senator Rod Grams quite comfortably, and yet they're saying that Governor Bush may be next-in-neck or even with Vice President Gore.

I'm trying to figure that out. Why would they -- would vote for liberal Mark Dayton and not for conservative Rod Grams and yet they'd reverse themselves for president. So there's no way to really tell in Minnesota, but I'd be hard pressed to say the vice president would lose Minnesota. I'd be surprised if he did.

BLITZER: On that note, governor, it's always good to have you on CNN. Thank you so much for joining us on our COUNTDOWN TO ELECTION 2000.

VENTURA: Thank you, Wolf. Always my pleasure.

BLITZER: And from an independent thinker to a man who spares no one, including me. Up next, Comedy Central's Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show," shares his thoughts on Election 2000.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Stepping back from the usual campaign analysis, we turn now to a man unafraid to defy the prevailing political winds. In part, because his success depends not on making people agree with him, but on making people laugh.

Earlier, "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart wasted no time telling me his thoughts on this election.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Jon Stewart, welcome back to CNN and our COUNTDOWN TO ELECTION 2000. Always good to have you on our program. But let me ask you this serious question. Why are serious journalists like me talking to comedians, in effect, like you during this political season a week before the election?

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": A lot of it's fear, Wolf. People know that we swing a lot of clout in the late night market. Our audience here constitutes a good 0.0002 percent of the population and that could be the swing in this election.

BLITZER: This is a very close election.

STEWART: Especially in Michigan. We're huge in Michigan.

BLITZER: The serious thing is, though, there are a lot of people paying attention to David Letterman and Jay Leno and you and others during this political season, and it's obviously a format that is gaining some sort of traction. Politicians, serious politicians, for example appearing on your show.

STEWART: But hasn't that -- It's always been the case that there's sort of a -- efforts to lighten the air or to humanize the candidate. But I think in the way that the market place is so split up now, that just the niche of these late night shows kind of becomes a story in itself and feeds upon itself. I mean there's -- how many 24-hour networks are there, five?

BLITZER: There's too many.

STEWART: You guys have got to fill it with something. Lewinsky can can't hold on anymore. She's tired.

BLITZER: You know, Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential candidate was on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," your Indecision 2000 a few weeks ago, I want to run...

STEWART: That was a bit of a trick.

BLITZER: Let's play a little excerpt from that interview you had with Joe Lieberman. Listen to this.

STEWART: I'd be delighted.

BLITZER: Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW")

STEWART: What does the vice president do?

(LAUGHTER)

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well...

STEWART: What's his job?

LIEBERMAN: Well, it's an important question. First thing the vice presidential candidate does not do "The Letterman Show."

STEWART: Oh, I see. That's the other guy. I see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How did you get Joe Lieberman to come on your show?

STEWART: It's kind of an embarrassing story. I told him it was a brisk and that I was his cousin. And he just -- he showed up with lox and some bagels and we just sat down and talked.

BLITZER: And you had a good time with him.

STEWART: We had a real good time with him. I mean, the nice thing about Joe Lieberman was he wasn't as scripted. You know -- you know when you're interviewing somebody you could tell when they're home or not. And oftentimes the people that you talk to are so on message that they're not home. But, especially on a show like this, which is a little bit, probably, more unpredictable, it was nice to see that there was some lights on behind the eyes.

BLITZER: Some warmth, there, between you and Joe Lieberman. I could see you were bonding. you know, I'm a regular viewer of "The Daily Show."

STEWART: I know. Embarrassingly so, Wolf and the letters and e- mails are enough. You know what I'm saying?

BLITZER: I'll try to help myself.

STEWART: I have work to do.

BLITZER: What are you going to do without Bill Clinton, once he leaves office?

STEWART: We've really weaned ourselves off Clinton, you know. As you know, watching the show, we barely pick up on him anymore. Every now and again we'll cover one of his, you know, jaunts to Pakistani Club Med or whatever he's doing now in his last three months. But as a lame duck, we have to pull our sales off of it. So we're not -- we haven't done much Clinton material at all recently.

BLITZER: And that's it. So you'll have new president. Any prediction who's going to win?

STEWART: I'm going to go with Mr. T. Is he running?

BLITZER: Mr. T? Not running.

STEWART: Then I'm going to go with Gore.

BLITZER: All right.

STEWART: Who are you voting for, Wolf?

BLITZER: You know, I can't tell you because it's a very, very -- I'm a serious journalist. I've to be very bipartisan, if you will.

STEWART: Then what about the Gore tattoo on your cheek, and I ain't talking about your face.

BLITZER: All right, John Stewart. Always a pleasure.

STEWART: Do I have to leave now?

BLITZER: You have to leave. It's over with. Go do your show. We'll be watching tonight.

STEWART: I heart Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, bye.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Jon Stewart. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: CNN's special coverage of Election 2000 continues next with Jeff Greenfield's "UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM."

And tonight at 10:00 Eastern, "THE SPIN ROOM."

Here with a preview are Bill Press and Tucker Carlson. What's going on, guys?

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST, "THE SPIN ROOM": All right, thanks a lot, Wolf. Indeed, it's Halloween in "THE SPIN ROOM." So tonight Tucker and I are going to be haunted by ghosts like Ralph Nader and undecided voters.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "THE SPIN ROOM": Join us online at cnn.com or e-mail spin@cnn.com or call 1-800-310-4CNN.

PRESS: That's 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific, "THE SPIN ROOM." Pretty scary, huh?

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'll be watching. Tomorrow night on this COUNTDOWN TO ELECTION 2000, I'll have the latest from the campaign trail and the NRA's Charlton Heston. That's all for now. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Up next on CNN: Jeff Greenfield's "UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM," which begins right now.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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