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Election 2000, Four Days to Go: MADD Founder Candace Lightner Discusses 1976 Bush DUI Arrest

Aired November 3, 2000 - 2:07 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Here's what Gov. Bush had to say last night when confronted with his past.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obviously there's a report out tonight that 24 years ago I was apprehended in Kennebunkport, Maine for a DUI. That's an accurate story. I'm not proud of that. I oftentimes said that, years ago, I made some mistakes, I occasionally drank too much, and I did on that night. I was pulled over, I admitted to the policeman that I had been drinking, I paid a fine, and I regret that it happened, but it did. I've learned my lesson. As I mentioned, I, as many of you know, that I quit drinking alcohol in 1986, and it was the right decision for me to make then. But I made the decision that, as a dad, I didn't want my girls doing the kinds of things I did. And I told them not to drink and drive. It was a decision I made. I've been very up front with the people of the state of Texas that I, you know, that I had been drinking in the past, that I had made mistakes, and the story broke.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Let's talk more about Bush's DUI arrest with Candace Lightner. Candace is the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. She changed many an attitude in this country, and law, we might say, about driving under the influence. And politically, we want to say, Candace is an independent voter, she says, and does not support Gore or Bush.

Thank you for joining us, Ms. Lightner.

CANDACE LIGHTNER, FOUNDER, MOTHERS AGAINST DRUNK DRIVING: Thank you.

ALLEN: What is your opinion about how George Bush has handled this situation with the DUI arrest? He said he's been up front with people in Texas about his drinking, but he wasn't forthcoming about this arrest. What do you think about how he's handled this situation.

LIGHTNER: Well, in the first place, I want to comment that I think the fact that he accepted responsibility 24 years ago for his actions, admitted to guilt and didn't try and cop a plea does say something about him. Unfortunately, as someone who's running for the highest public office in the land and who knows what kind of media frenzy surrounds any type of flaw in a candidate, he probably should have come forward with this information once he made the announcement he was going to run.

ALLEN: Does it affect you, then, negatively that someone running for president has a DUI arrest in their record?

LIGHTNER: Not at all. It was 24 years ago, he's since quit drinking, he no longer drinks and drives, obviously, he stated he's learned from his mistake, he has talked many times about the fact that he had problems in the past with alcohol. It would not affect me at all.

ALLEN: If he had come out and talked about his DUI arrest earlier, could it not have perhaps served as a lesson for people, or used it in some positive way? Would you have liked to see that happen?

LIGHTNER: Yes, I think that could have been very helpful. But I have to tell you as a parent and a grandparent, I can sympathize and empathize with his reasons for not wanting to share that information. But I think he could have done so in a very positive way that could have made a difference in terms of people who do drink and drive.

ALLEN: And if he were elected president next Tuesday and were faced with having to appear at events about drinking and driving, how would you want him to handle that situation?

LIGHTNER: Well, I have to tell you, when I was at MADD, we used many reform drinking drivers or recovering alcoholics to go out and speak to people on behalf of the issue. So I don't see that it would make any difference. I understand he's been very tough on the issue in Texas and I think he could serve as an example, frankly, of why people shouldn't do it.

Candace Lightner, founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, thank you for talking with us today.

LIGHTNER: Thank you.

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