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CNN Late Edition

Bush Plans to Push Education; Ashcroft Nomination Remains Controversial; Can Bush Unite the Country With a Split Congress?

Aired January 21, 2001 - 12:00 p.m. ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles; 5:00 p.m. in London, and 6:00 p.m. in Rome. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this two- hour LATE EDITION.

We'll get to our interview with White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card in just a moment, but first, the hour's stop story.


BLITZER: Earlier today, I spoke with the new White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card.


Andrew Card, thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION, your first time as the White House chief of staff, congratulations.

ANDREW CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Very exciting time, Wolf, thank you.

BLITZER: You've been on this program before. But we're excited to have you today.

This is going to be an exciting week for the president. He's going to get involved right away with education. Substantively, what is he going to propose this week?

CARD: Well, he's going to be, first of all, talking about education, the need to bring meaningful reform, wants to be in a bipartisan way. He doesn't see this as a partisan issue.

But we want to see accountability in our school systems. We want to be able to measure the progress that comes through our school systems, and we want to talk about the role of teachers and students, and parents and community and faith-based organizations.

But we have a new secretary of education, Roderick Paige, who will bring great leadership to education. Seven percent of the money that comes into the education system comes from the federal government. The vast majority of money comes from the state and local governments, we know that. But we do want to make sure that that 7 percent resource commitment from the federal government carries with it some responsibility to measure progress, to hold schools accountable for teaching young children. We don't want any child to be left behind in education, and that's what we'll be doing.

BLITZER: So will the president submit formal legislation this week, come out with a detailed legislative plan?

CARD: He will have an education package that he will present to Congress, and he'll hope Congress will act on it quickly, yes.

BLITZER: Will it include vouchers? As you know, this is probably the most controversial part of his education agenda.

CARD: Well, rather than talking about vouchers, we're talking about a commitment to a child, to make sure that a child is well- educated. And we'd like to see the commitment to that child reflected through the kind of the government resources that are given, but the real thing, to hold the school accountable for educating that child. And if the school is not doing its job, then we have to look for other options and other alternatives.

Vouchers won't be the top priority of this administration, but they may be a tool that is used to help educate a child who is not getting an education in the school.

BLITZER: As you know, when there were the referenda in Michigan and California this past election in favor -- or against school vouchers, they were rejected decisively in both of those states.

CARD: Well, our priority is the child. We want to leave no child behind, and that's why we're talking about holding schools accountable so that we can measure the progress that comes through the schools.

CARD: This is not about a voucher program that's looking to take resources from one entity and give it to another entity. It's talking about giving a child the best education.

So vouchers are not the top priority. But they may be a tool that is used to help educate a child where they're not getting a good education in the school system that they've been attending.

BLITZER: Since education is the number one priority of the president, specifically then tell us, the voucher aspect of this legislative proposal, how will it work if it's not necessarily the top priority?

CARD: You want to focus on vouchers and I want to focus on the child. I want to focus on children being educated and knowing what's happening with that child in the school system. We're talking about measuring the progress of education for the child and holding the schools accountable for what happens.

BLITZER: In his inaugural address on Saturday, the president did outline his, in broad terms, his agenda over the next four years. I want you to listen to this excerpt from the speech and we'll talk about it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Together we will reclaim America's schools before ignorance and apathy claim more young lives.

We will reform Social Security and Medicare, sparing our children from struggles we have the power to prevent.

And we will reduce taxes to recover the momentum of our economy and reward the effort and enterprise of working Americans.


BLITZER: He got a big round of applause when he said he's going to reduce taxes. When is he going to come in with this tax reduction proposal?

CARD: Well, I look for us to be able to put the budget together. As you know, we have to submit a budget in mid-February and we'll be doing that.

When we put that budget package together, we will include our provisions for a broad, across-the-board tax cut, $1.3 trillion. We think it's very important. It's something that Governor Bush as a candidate talked about, and as the candidate he pledged to do it, and as President he will do it. And he'll put it forward and he'll ask Congress to consider it.

BLITZER: And you still think it's a total of $1.3 trillion, because a lot of economists say it's now really going to cost $1.6 trillion.

CARD: Well, we're going to -- we're working. We know it's a $1.3 trillion across-the-board tax cut, and we'll work within the budget constraints that we have. And we'll be looking forward to stimulating our economy, providing a little more momentum to our economy that needs a little positive momentum right now, and we think it's very, very important that tax cut be approved.

BLITZER: The new Treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, testified during his confirmation hearings on the tax cut. But listen to what he said because there may be a nuance of difference here between himself and the president. Listen to this.


PAUL O'NEILL, SECRETARY OF TREASURY: I would expect capital gains rate tax reductions to have a useful effect in the context of decisions that are made in companies like mine, but it would be over time.


BLITZER: You speak of a $1.3 or $1.6 trillion across-the-board tax cut, cutting the rates, income tax rates, but there is no reference to capital gains tax cuts. He is suggesting perhaps there will be.

CARD: Well, I think you're going to find a broad tax package, a tax reform package that will cut taxes.

You know, we want to stimulate this economy and it can be done in two ways: monetary policy, some of the policies that comes out of the Fed help to stimulate the economy; but we also think consumers should have a chance to feel a little more stimulus as a result of tax cuts in the economy.

CARD: If you take a look at credit card debt, for example, I understand that there are about 60 million people who have $10,000 of credit card debt. If we can give them some tax cuts so that they can pay off some of that debt, we'll actually stimulate the economy. And that'll be good for the people at the lowest end of the economic scale.

BLITZER: And you want the tax cut to be retroactive, beginning January 1 of this year?

CARD: Well, we'll be looking at that, yes. In fact, Secretary O'Neill, when he appeared before the Finance Committee, said that he'd be talking -- he might consider having that tax cut be retroactive to January 1.

BLITZER: So, on the capital gains provision, will there be a capital gains tax cut?

CARD: I think you're going to find a comprehensive tax cut plan. And so, pay attention to the details, because they will be very important.

BLITZER: OK. We'll be paying close attention to those details.

In the midst of this first week of the new presidency, John McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, says he is going to push ahead with his campaign finance reform legislative agenda. Tell us how that fits in to President Bush's agenda.

CARD: Well, our top priority is education reform, and we'll be working hard for education reform.

We'll also be talking about community- and faith-based opportunities and the responsibilities that we have in our communities and many of the solutions that can be found by working with faith- based institutions in our communities. We'll be talking about tax cuts. We'll be talking about military readiness.

But we know Senator McCain has a priority, this campaign finance reform bill, which he has said he will be introducing. We want campaign finance reform, too, and we'll be working with him to find meaningful campaign finance reform that is fair and across the board. It has to have paycheck protection in it in order to win the president's approval, and we'll see what happens. But we'll be working with Senator McCain to help bring those reforms to reality.

BLITZER: And the president will be meeting with Senator McCain this week?

CARD: Senator McCain and the president will be meeting -- I think it's on Wednesday. And, yes, they'll have a good, candid conversation about the priorities that they each have.

BLITZER: But is Senator McCain irritating the president by pushing this right now, just as the president wants to push education?

CARD: Well, I don't think either one is surprised by the other's priority. Our priority is education; his priority has been campaign finance reform.

And we'll be able to, hopefully, meet the objectives of both of these outstanding leaders, but it's not going to be -- education will be the top priority of this president.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk about the first lady, Laura Bush. She made some news this week when she was asked about the whole issue of abortion rights for women. On Friday on the "Today" show, she was asked, should Roe v. Wade, for example, be overturned? Mrs. Bush said, "No, I don't think it should be overturned."

The next day, President Bush, then still President-elect Bush, was asked, "Do you think Roe v. Wade should be overturned?" And he said, "I've always said that Roe v. Wade was a judicial reach."

Is there some daylight between the president and the first lady?

CARD: Well, they're different people. They love each other as much as I see any people love each other, just wonderful, wonderful.

But the president has said that, if it came to an opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade, he would like to consider that. But that's not the primary push. He is pro-life. He does not want to see more abortions in this country.

But you're trying to slide us into a division that's really not there. The president and the first lady both want to protect life.

BLITZER: It wouldn't be the first time, though, as you well know, having served in the elder Bush's administration, that there was some daylight between the president and the first lady on this specific issue.

CARD: Well, they have interesting dialogue and great discussions about a lot of issues, and I enjoy being with them.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk a little bit about international policy. There was a reference in the president's inaugural address to this issue. I want you to listen to what President Bush said.


BUSH: We will defend our allies and our interests. We will show purpose without arrogance. We will meet aggression and bad faith with resolve and strength. And to all nations, we will speak for the values that gave our nation birth.


BLITZER: As you know, this program is seen around the world. People all over the world are watching LATE EDITION right now.

Is President Bush going to have an early summit with the NATO allies?

Well, I think you'll find that his first visits in the international arena will be with our neighbors in North America.

CARD: We're very, very close to Canada. We have a wonderful relationship with Canada. We're very close to Mexico. We do a lot of trade with both Canada and Mexico under NAFTA. So I think the first priority will probably be North America.

We expect to have meetings with our allies. There will be a meeting coming up in Canada with a number of the heads of state, and we'll be attending that.

So, yes, we'll be paying attention to what's happening in NATO; we'll be paying attention to what's happening with the entire European Union, the Far East.

The one thing about President Bush, he does his homework, he does it well. He's got a great foreign policy team, Condi Rice leading that team at the White House. And he'll be prepared to be on the world stage to meet the challenges for America.

BLITZER: Is there any sort of penciled-in date yet for a trip to Europe, a trip outside of the United States?

CARD: We're working on a trip outside of the United States that could come in mid-February in this continent.

BLITZER: To Canada?

CARD: No, we didn't say that.

BLITZER: Mexico?

CARD: Might be Mexico.

BLITZER: Well, you basically said it.

All right, let's talk a little bit about Bill Clinton. As you know, in the final days of his administration, he was issuing all sorts of executive orders. Yesterday you put a moratorium on some of those that he imposed over the past few hours, literally, of his administration.

"Newsweek" magazine, in its new poll, was asked -- it's just out today: Should President Bush undo President Clinton's recent executive orders? Look at these numbers. "That would be a good idea," 24 percent; but 65 percent said it would be a bad idea to undo those executives orders. I think most Americans were referring to the environmental regulations that he unilaterally imposed.

CARD: I was going to say that poll was probably taken before some of the rules and executive orders were put out, because we had some coming right out at the last minute.

What we did was ask for a chance to step back and take a look at what was in the pipeline, so we put an across-the-board request that any regulations that had not been finally printed in the federal register be held up so that we could review them all and see where they stand.

We'll also take a hard look at all of the executive orders that President Clinton signed, and the president -- the new president will have a chance to exercise his leadership authority to see which executive orders he might want to change. And he'll be issuing some new executive orders as well.

BLITZER: Immediately, right away?

CARD: I think you'll find several over the course of the first week, week and a half.

BLITZER: Give us an example.

CARD: We'll talk about federalism. We signed an executive order on ethics yesterday. We signed an executive order that actually wasn't executive order, but there was a direction to me to start the process of reviewing regulations.

But we're going to take a look at all of them. We're going to meet the responsibility of being president, and we're going to do that reflecting the philosophy that the president brought to office.

BLITZER: Thursday night in his farewell address to the nation from the Oval Office, President Clinton spoke out, at one point seemed to take a little bit of a jab at President Bush. Listen to what President Clinton said.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: The expansion of trade hasn't fully closed the gap between those of us who live on the cutting edge of the global economy and the billions around the world who live on the knife's edge of survival. This global gap requires more than compassion; it requires action. Global poverty is a powder keg that could be ignited by our indifference.


BLITZER: This global gap requires more than compassion. Obviously, the word compassion has symbolism. President Bush speaks about being a compassionate conservative. Did you see that as a little bit of a jab? CARD: Well, you know, that was the day that the president closed a chapter on his life, and we have a new chapter that's opened up, and it's the George Bush chapter. And so I'm not going to reflect on what happened yesterday.

We're going to talk about what's going to happen today and tomorrow. And President Bush is going to fight to open markets around the world so that U.S. products can be sold around the world, and that will help other people in other countries find the experiences of capitalism and freedom, and that's what we'll be focusing on.

BLITZER: He's not -- he obviously did not leave quietly.

I want to ask you briefly about this John Ashcroft nomination for attorney general. The Washington Post in a editorial today wrote this: "Had George W. Bush sought senators' advice before designating John Ashcroft as his choice for attorney general, the answer, in our view, would have been easy. Former Senator Ashcroft is the wrong man for that job."

Are you surprised at how much commotion, how much controversy this nomination has generated?

CARD: No, I don't think we're surprised. John Ashcroft has a philosophy. It's pretty similar to the president's philosophy, and John Ashcroft knows that there's one president and it's George W. Bush. And when he's the attorney general -- and I'm confident that he will be the attorney general -- he will reflect the philosophies that President Bush talked about during the course of the campaign.

CARD: John Ashcroft is a wonderful, wonderful man. He is also an outstanding lawyer. And he knows the difference between making law and enforcing law. He'll be the chief law enforcement officer of the United States as attorney general. And he will enforce the law well. And I'm sure he's going to have the confidence of the Senate as he does it. He'll be confirmed.

BLITZER: You know President Bush well. What is the one thing that you know about him that, let's say the American people, the world out there, doesn't necessarily know that you want to share and tell us about him?

CARD: Well, first of all, he's very decisive. He's extremely hard working. He does his homework. He reads his briefing papers and challenges those who brief him all the time. He's a really outstanding leader. And he's a great decision maker. And you will find that he will make decisions and implement them well. And he also knows enough not to be lost in the weeds of government. He will rise above the bureaucracies to make things happen. And I think that's a great tribute to him.

BLITZER: Andrew Card, a former deputy White House chief of staff, a former secretary of transportation, now the White House chief of staff, once again, congratulations. Thanks for joining us.

CARD: Thank you, Wolf, my pleasure. BLITZER: And just ahead, President Bush's most controversial Cabinet nominee undergoes a tough confirmation hearing. Does that signal a rocky start for the Bush administration? We'll talk with two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois.

LATE EDITION will be right back.



JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL-NOMINEE: I well understand that the role of attorney general is to enforce the law as it is, not as I would have it.


BLITZER: President Bush's attorney general nominee, John Ashcroft, speaking at his Senate confirmation hearing this past week.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining us now to discuss the Ashcroft confirmation battle are two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Here in Washington, Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter; and in our Chicago bureau, Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin.

Senators, thanks for joining us.

And I want to begin with you, Senator Durbin. Will you vote to confirm John Ashcroft as the next attorney general?

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I'll be announcing my vote when the committee meets, and I think that may be as soon as this coming Wednesday.

BLITZER: Can you give us hint of which way you're leaning at this point knowing what you know, having heard his testimony, hearing his opponents' testimony?

DURBIN: Well, I have some very serious concerns about John Ashcroft's philosophy and what it will mean as attorney general.

Senator Arlen Specter and I joined in apologizing to Judge Ronnie White, a man who was on the Missouri Supreme Court, the first African- American ever appointed, who was denied the opportunity to serve on the federal district court because of the actions of Senator Ashcroft and the vote of the United States Senate.

It's been a very troubling chapter in this whole investigation of the background of John Ashcroft. I've told him that personally. I've asked him questions at the hearing. I still feel that he distorted a good judge's record.

BLITZER: Well, let's listen, Senator Specter, to what Judge Ronnie White of the Missouri Supreme Court, said in his testimony before your committee this week. This is, among other things, what he said:


JUDGE RONNIE WHITE: I believe that Senator John Ashcroft seriously distorted my record. But I believe that the question for the Senate is whether these misrepresentations are consistent with fair play and justice that you all would require of the U.S. attorney general.


BLITZER: Now, when Senator Durbin says you apologized for that, what does he mean? What exactly were you signaling?

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I did not apologize, Wolf. I said that I thought that the Senate owed Judge White an apology because of the lack of focus on his nomination when those issues came up at the very last minute. And our procedures ought to be changed, and I'm going to propose that, if someone raises an objection that the nominee ought to have notice of that and a chance to be heard before there is a vote.

When Judge White made the comments you just played, I questioned him as to whether he opposed Ashcroft's nomination, and he said that he did not, that that was really a question for the Senate.

And I then made the comment that I thought that Senator Ashcroft may have made some intemperate comments, but if you eliminate people who make intemperate comments, you wouldn't have anybody in the Senate. You might not even have many people in the Cabinet.

BLITZER: So at this point, you're solidly among the 50 Republicans who will vote in favor of Ashcroft?

SPECTER: Yes, I am, with a slight reservation that I'm going to look at what Senator Ashcroft responds in writing to a long list of very tough questions to supplement the questioning he has had before the committee.

BLITZER: Senator Durbin, Senator Ted Kennedy signaled this week that despite what the Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle, said and others, that he's possibly open to the notion of a filibuster against Ashcroft, which, as you know, would require 60 votes to break that filibuster. Listen to what Senator Kennedy said this week.


SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I want to make it very clear that I would restate those, and I won't take that chance at this time, but I will on the floor of the United States Senate, to take as much time as necessary. And it may take some time to debate those particular issues. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Would you be open, Senator Durbin, to a filibuster to try to defeat Senator Ashcroft?

DURBIN: Well, I've spoken as late as yesterday to Senator Kennedy, and I don't believe he's made a final decision as to whether he will try to filibuster this nomination.

But I do agree with him in this respect: I think when this nomination comes to the floor, there will be many senators on both sides of the aisle, some who will strongly support Senator Ashcroft and some who oppose him, who want a chance to explain their position.

I think it is important to remember here that President Bush chose, as the highest-ranking law enforcement official in his administration, a person with a very controversial background. At a time when he's telling us that he wants to unite America and not divide it, I can tell you there are many groups who feel that the choice of John Ashcroft would just divide America.

We want to explain, those of us on both sides of this nomination, why we think this is an important issue to be discussed in the United States Senate.

BLITZER: Senator Specter, you've said this past week, in fact, that if the Democrats really are serious, and they really want to oppose Senator Ashcroft for attorney general, they should go ahead and filibuster.

SPECTER: Well, that's exactly right.

SPECTER: If John Ashcroft is as bad as they say he is, then they ought to use whatever means they can to defeat his nomination. I think there has been a lot of political rhetoric, frankly, on both sides, and it's not unusual in the United States Senate. But some Democrats have already come out in favor of John Ashcroft.

This has been a very bitter hearing with really some strong denunciations of John Ashcroft. And I think it's been the most tough fought hearing, even than Bork or Clarence Thomas. And if they really are that serious about how bad he is, let them put up.

BLITZER: Well, what about that, Senator Durbin? What about that notion that if you and Senator Boxer or Senator Kennedy, others, are as opposed to John Ashcroft becoming attorney general as perhaps you are, go ahead and go ahead with the filibuster threat?

DURBIN: Well, I'm not going to make that decision on this program. And I think many of us who are concerned about this nomination definitely want a chance to discuss it with our colleagues.

I think that even the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee would concede that as tough and fair -- or pardon me, as tough and complete as this hearing was, it was also fair. I don't believe there was a single witness that John Ashcroft, President Bush or the Republicans wanted to call that they didn't get a chance to call. The same thing on the Democratic side. In the course of three or four days, we brought out the testimony for and against John Ashcroft in a balanced approach to let the American people decide. The question now on the floor of the Senate is how far this will go. Will it be enough for each senator to explain their position before they vote? Or will there be some effort to delay this nomination? And as Senator Specter suggested, this would raise the ante. It would require some 60 votes instead of 51.

BLITZER: You know, Senator Specter, you've been under a little criticism in your own home state of Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette writing in an editorial this past Tuesday saying this. "Disappointingly, Senator Specter has said he would support the nomination, quote, "unless something extraordinary emerges at Mr. Ashcroft's confirmation hearings", that is the wrong standard."

SPECTER: Well, it is not unusual for me to be subject to criticism in my home state of Pennsylvania or anyplace else. I got a lot of criticism when I opposed Judge Bork. I got a lot of criticism when I supported Justice Thomas. That is what -- that is what goes with the territory. And frankly, after a number of years, Wolf, I'm kind of used to it.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Specter, Senator Durbin, we have to take a quick break.

When we return, we'll be taking your phone calls for our two senators. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois.

Let's take a caller from Wausau, Wisconsin. Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Hi, and good afternoon. I'm just curious if George Bush had selected a pro-choice Democrat such as Ted Kennedy, if we'd be hearing all the same arguments.

BLITZER: That probably is an extreme possibility, but I'll ask Senator Specter.

Let's put it this way: If Gore would have been elected and he had asked Ted Kennedy, let's say, to be his attorney general, would you have supported that kind of nomination?

SPECTER: I would have. I do not believe that there ought to be a decision made along litmus-test lines. I think that you have to examine the totality of the individual. And bear in mind that John Ashcroft gave very positive assurances that he would not try to overturn a woman's right to choose in Roe v. Wade. He answered my question he would not use a litmus test on deciding to the extent he was involved on who ought to be a Supreme Court nominee. So that I think that's one factor to be considered on the totality of factors.

BLITZER: Senator Durbin, let's move on and talk about the Gale Norton nomination for Interior secretary. That's caused a bit of a stir as well. Are you inclined at this point to vote in favor of her confirmation?

DURBIN: Well, I have similar concerns with both nominations. In both cases you have individuals who have a lifetime record on a certain position on issues. In terms of John Ashcroft, not just another conservative, but one who is, I guess, more conservative than even most Republicans.

Gail Norton's position with Jim Watt of course is going to raise all sorts of red flags across environmental communities across America.

Here you have with John Ashcroft, a zero percent rating from the environmental groups and the active opposition of Gale Norton by these same environmental groups.

Now they come to us before the hearings and say, "Don't be worried about it. We're new people, we have a different attitude, we have a different job. We're going to take a different position." This is known as a confirmation conversion, and we have to decide as senators whether it's credible.

BLITZER: I take it you're going to confirm -- you're going to vote to confirm Gale Norton, Senator Specter?

SPECTER: Well, again, unless I see something that really concerns me, I had a long conversation with her. She has interesting roots. She was born in Wichita, Kansas, which makes me partial to her. She wasn't born in the same hospital in Wichita that I was, but we're fellow Wichitans. She has a great many pro-environmentalists ideas. Some of her ideas are along the line of what President Bush wants.

But Jim Watt is not up for confirmation, Wolf, I think that ought to be known.

BLITZER: All right, let's take another caller from Boca Raton, Florida, please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: For Senator Specter: I wonder, what information did you gather at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that makes you feel this is the right man for the job? There was so much negative information that came out about him.

SPECTER: Well, the information that makes me think he's acceptable is his record, having experience as attorney general of Missouri, his two terms in the governorship. Most importantly, I've known him for six years in the Senate. He served on the Judiciary Committee with me a couple of seats down the road. And I've had a chance to talk with him at some length.

You might be interested to know that I was very much opposed to John Ashcroft on a nominee for the federal court coming out of Philadelphia, Judge Frederica Messiah-Jackson. And I thought she should have been confirmed. And John Ashcroft opposed her saying that she was not tough enough on sentencing.

But at the end of that process, I said that John Ashcroft had articulated his own views. He didn't have any improper motive, and although I disagreed with him, I accepted his judgment.

But I think he's promised to respect a woman's right to choose. I asked him in detailed questions on freedom of religion to be sure that he would respect the rights of Jews and Muslims and other minorities or people who choose not to believe.

So that on the totality of circumstances, as I say, unless something comes up in written answers, I think he's OK.

BLITZER: Senator Durbin, the Bush administration this week will have a major initiative on their top priority, which is education. Andy Card, the new chief of staff at the White House, on this program just a little while ago said that the whole issues of vouchers will be addressed by this new initiative, vouchers meaning that some federal money would be used to help families send children from bad public schools to good parochial or private schools or home schooling.

If vouchers are included, is that going to cause the kind of uproar that some Democrats are suggesting it would?

DURBIN: That's a very controversial proposal, if that's what President Bush is going to do.

And, Wolf, you made an excellent point in your interview of Andrew Card, and that is the fact that, in both California and Maine, when there was a public referendum on the issue of vouchers, they were soundly defeated.

I believe that the American people believe that we owe our first obligation in education to the over 90 percent of students in America who attend public schools. I support private education. I think we should find ways to try to help private schools. But our first obligation is to public schools.

And if President Bush makes vouchers a big part of his proposal, I think it will be controversial.

BLITZER: All right.

Senator Specter, we only have a few seconds. California and Michigan had those referenda, but you don't support vouchers, do you?

SPECTER: I do not, and I think it's highly significant that, when the secretary of education came up before confirmation, was asked about vouchers, he said that wasn't a priority for him. And I think that there's some pretty heavy signal on it that there's not going to be a heavy press for vouchers.

BLITZER: All right. Let's leave it at that.

Senator Specter, Senator Durbin, always good for both of you to join us on LATE EDITION. Thank you very much. SPECTER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And just ahead, with President George W. Bush's administration now underway, what should we expect during the first 100 days?

We'll talk with two men who have spent time in the trenches of Washington politics, the former Republican vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp, and former Clinton White House chief of staff Leon Panetta.

LATE EDITION will be right back.



BUSH: We affirm a new commitment to live out our nation's promise through civility, courage, compassion, and character.


BLITZER: President George W. Bush giving his inaugural address yesterday.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Mr. Bush has said that uniting the country is his top priority, but with a Senate and House split right down the middle, pushing through his agenda may be easier said than done. So how should he approach his first 100 days in office?

Joining us now to talk about that are two guests. Here in Washington, the former Republican vice presidential nominee and co- director -- current co-director of Empower America, Jack Kemp. He's also a former member of the House of Representatives, and he served as housing secretary during the first Bush administration.

And in Monterey, California, the former Clinton White House chief of staff, Leon Panetta, himself a former member of Congress and, of course, the budget director.

Good to have both of you on LATE EDITION. Thank you very much.



BLITZER: Let me start off with you, Mr. Kemp, about the first 100 days. What's the most important...

KEMP: Mr. Kemp's my father. I'm Jack.

BLITZER: OK, I'll call you Jack.

KEMP: You met him once. BLITZER: I know. What is the most important thing -- the most important piece of advice you would have for President Bush right now, what he needs to remember during these next 100 days?

KEMP: Well, he obviously gave a speech -- and I think the New York Times had it right, unity was the theme. You can get unity without unanimity. He had very strong views. In fact, I think one of the biggest lines in his speech was his call for lower taxes on the American people and the American economy.

So clearly, education, dealing with an economy that is softening radically, in my opinion, it's going to be a lot harder landing, I think, than Alan Greenspan originally proposed. But dealing with the economy and education and Social Security reform and remembering that you can unify the country if we don't leave anybody out.

I think that theme came across. And it's a good one. But he still has to govern from the center-right and not seek compromise too far to the left.

BLITZER: Leon Panetta, you were there for Bill Clinton during those first 100 days of his administration in 1993. You were the budget director at that time. What advice do you have for the new president?

PANETTA: It's very simple, Wolf: focus, focus, focus. Decide what your agenda's going to be. Don't let the Senate set your agenda. Don't let the press set your agenda. You decide what you want to accomplish and keep an eye on it.

I think for this president the most important thing he could probably do is to show that he can, in fact, try to bring both parties together in some kind of consensus. And probably the best place to start is education. If he can do something on education reform, then that would send a major signal to the country that he really does want to work on a bipartisan basis.

BLITZER: He does want to start this week with education. He's going to. But if that issue of vouchers is included, that could be a fairly divisive issue.

KEMP: It is divisive, but I think the way he is going to frame it, it's not a voucher bill, as Andy Card pointed out this morning. It is going to focus attention on every child rather than the voucher.

And you don't need to take money from public schools to make sure that Title 1 ESEA money -- that's for impoverished cities and impoverished schools -- that money -- if a school is not performing up to the standard, then some of that money can go and give that family in an urban area of America a better educational choice. And educational choice is very, very acceptable and popular, particularly in urban America.

BLITZER: Do you think, Mr. Panetta, that the Democrats in the Senate and the House of Representatives are going to give the new president some sort of honeymoon during these first 100 days, as has often been traditional?

PANETTA: You know, Wolf, everybody talks about a honeymoon. But very frankly, it's very hard to assume that somehow you're going to be able to dance into the Congress and have everybody just give you a pass, particularly with a president who comes out of a very, very tough and disputed election. He knows that he's got a -- he's got a very close margin to work with here. He himself said yesterday that expectations are low, in terms of his ability to accomplish anything.

So I think he's got to enter with that attitude. He's not going to get a lot of cooperation just because it's the first 100 days. He is going to have to sit down, roll up his sleeves, and be willing to compromise.

PANETTA: That's the only way you get things done in the Congress, is if you're willing to compromise and come up with consensus.

BLITZER: But you know, Jack Kemp, the Democrats may not necessarily give him a honeymoon, but we know one Republican who certainly is not going to give him a honeymoon, namely, Republican Senator John McCain, who is this week saying he's going to come up with his campaign finance reform initiative.

In fact, he was on "Meet The Press" earlier today. Listen to what McCain said on "Meet The Press".


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, we just have to go to the floor and ask unanimous consent to move to it, and then, the first legislative vehicle that comes up, we're going to have to add as an amendment.

And I don't want to do that. That's not the right way.

TIM RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: So you'll tie up the Senate?

MCCAIN: That ties -- that effectively does that. I don't want to. I'm not interested in doing that...

RUSSERT: But you will if you have to?

MCCAIN: And I want to emphasize again: This is not McCain versus Bush.


BLITZER: But he's saying, the Republican senator, if necessary, he's going to tie up the Senate in order to get that campaign finance reform legislation through.

KEMP: Yes, yes. I think they're going to meet, John McCain and George Bush are going to meet. Dick Cheney will be there, I'm sure.

Cheney's going to be a tremendous bridge to the Congress, in my opinion.

MacArthur had a great dictum. He said, "In order to establish authority, precipitate action immediately."

And I think, if President Bush, given that speech yesterday, and the agreement among the American people that we need to take action on the economy, and on education, I don't think John McCain's going to want to hold up something that would benefit this economy as it -- we are being strangled by regulations, high interest-rates, and taxes. And I think George Bush has a great opportunity to convince John McCain, "Hey, John, campaign finance reform is not as important as keeping this economy growing and making it expand and keeping our revenues coming in."

BLITZER: Well, Leon Panetta, what about that specific point? Can John McCain and George W. Bush work out some sort of mutually acceptable arrangement, whereby the whole campaign finance reform legislation will be pushed way down the road?

PANETTA: Well, you know, as I said, the toughest thing you have to deal with is when others try to set your priorities, whether it's the Senate, or whether it's the press.

Bill Clinton had to deal with gay rights right up front, not because he wanted to, but because the Senate was moving forward with legislation in that area.

So if you're simply responding to that, it'll throw you off, in terms of your main objective.

Can they come to some kind of agreement to try to postpone it? Of course they could. But the likelihood is that John McCain now has painted himself into a corner. If he doesn't move on this legislation, he's going to look weak in terms of his position.

BLITZER: All right. Leon Panetta and Jack Kemp, stand by. We have to take a quick break.

When we return, your phone calls for Jack Kemp and Leon Panetta.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation about the new Bush administration with the former Republican vice presidential nominee, Jack Kemp, and the former Clinton White House chief of staff, Leon Panetta.

We have a caller from Stuttgart, Germany. Please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Hi, I'd like to know if George W. Bush is going to be able to stick to his conservative plan, although he was not really elected by the American people but by electoral vote and some court?

BLITZER: Let's ask that to Jack Kemp. The whole issue of a mandate, does a he have a mandate?

KEMP: Look, this is not the first disputed election in American history. The Kennedy-Nixon campaign -- excuse me, my ear plug is falling out.

BLITZER: That's all right.

KEMP: The Nixon-Kennedy campaign, John F. Kennedy won with a minority vote, and clearly there was a mandate. The mandate is to govern, to lead and to make this country and this world more peaceful, safer. And I think he will stick to his conservative principles, albeit compassionately and with the desire to bring unity and healing to our land, not only between the races but also between ethnic groups and the two parties, although they're being rapidly polarized.

BLITZER: Leon Panetta is a former Clinton White House chief of staff.

I'm wondering what you thought of this last-minute deal that he worked out with the Independent Counsel Robert Ray to -- obviously, in effect, to prevent his being indicted on any criminal charges.

PANETTA: Well, President Clinton is a paradox in terms of two presidencies: one that was very successful and, yet, one that obviously had the shadow. In these last two days, we saw the paradox play out. He talked about all of his achievements one day, said goodbye to the nation, and then the next day, cut a deal with the special prosecutor.

But it was probably the best thing for him to do. It was in his interest, I think it was in the special prosecutor's interest, and certainly in the country's interest and George W. Bush's interest to get this issue behind him.

BLITZER: Jack Kemp, was it in George W. Bush's interest -- most people think it was -- to get this over with so that the Clinton shadow would not continue as sort of a ghost over this White House?

KEMP: Oh, I think definitely it was. I think he even mentioned that. So clearly the country -- it's in the country's interest, and we wish the president well -- President Clinton, that is.

But I'm glad it's over and I'm sure he is, and I believe in my heart that George W. Bush is, as well.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to have Ken Starr on this program shortly. We'll talk to him about that, as well.

We have another caller, from Taylor, Michigan, I believe it is. Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Yes, I'd like to direct my question to Mr. Kemp. I was wondering if he didn't think it would be a good idea for the very first thing for Mr. Bush to address would be a tax cut to relieve some of the burden dumped on us by the last administration and to spur the economy. KEMP: Well, it wouldn't be Jack Kemp if I didn't say yes enthusiastically to your question.

I would like to see him repeal the surtax that President Clinton put on our economy and actually repeal the other tax rates that were increased in the previous Bush administration and work towards tax simplification.

I think the tax code is a disgrace; it's harming. It doesn't hurt the rich, it hurts the poor who some day hope to be rich, and I think it would be a great idea to do it very quickly.

BLITZER: But Jack Kemp and Leon Panetta, Joe Lieberman was on ABC's "This Week" earlier today, and he was asked about that tax cut. Listen to what Lieberman had to say.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I doubt that President Bush can pass his big tax cut as it is without some bipartisan support. And more to the point, I hope he doesn't, because I think it would be bad for our economy.


BLITZER: You've been in a lot of tax cut battles, Leon Panetta. Can this incoming administration, given the narrowly divided Congress, get tax cuts passed without significant Democratic support?

PANETTA: I don't believe so. You cannot -- you can't slam dunk a tax cut package the size that they're talking about.

It's not to say that tax cuts are not to be considered. But the reality is, the way this process works, they've got to do a budget first. The budget has to show that they can in fact pay for these tax cuts. And then, you know, we're talking about two months to pass a budget. It's going to be a while before they get there.

But in order to get there, they're going to have to bring Democrats on board. You cannot pass a partisan tax cut. It's going to have to be a bipartisan tax cut.

BLITZER: Jack Kemp will be happy to know he has the last word on tax cuts.

KEMP: There's two myths embedded in the comments by my friend Leon Panetta and my equally good friend Joe Lieberman.

No. 1, name a tax cut that has ever harmed the economy. How can cutting the tax rates on labor and capital hurt the economy, A? And B, look, the size of it is not all that great. We have a $10 trillion GDP, over 10 years, that's over $100 trillion. And George Bush, in a static analysis of his tax cut, wants to cut marginal rates across the board. But $1 trillion out of a $100 trillion-plus, is not all that big. Besides you'll get a great feedback, so go to it, George.

BLITZER: Not a surprising answer from Jack Kemp.

Jack Kemp and Leon Panetta, to both of you, thank you so much for joining me.

I'm just guessing Jack Kemp is going to be in Tampa next week for the Super Bowl.

KEMP: It's a religious holiday in my family.

BLITZER: I know it is. I want to thank both of you for joining us. We have to take another break.

For our international viewers, World News is next. For our North American audience, stay tuned for the second hour of LATE EDITION. We'll get a check on the hour's top stories with Gene Randall.

Then the former independent counsel, Ken Starr, gives us his thoughts on the last minute deal reached between his office, the office he once headed, and President Clinton.

All that and much more ahead in the second hour of LATE EDITION.


BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition.

We'll get to our interview with the former Independent Counsel Ken Starr in just a moment. But first, let's go to Gene Randall for a check on the hour's top stories.


BLITZER: And the investigation that nearly toppled Bill Clinton's presidency finally came to an end Friday with the announcement that he would not face indictment as a result of the Monica Lewinsky matter.

Joining us now is the man who used to lead that investigation before stepping down in October of 1999, the former independent counsel Ken Starr.

Judge Starr, welcome back to LATE EDITION. Thank you for joining us.


BLITZER: Do you think this was a good deal, the deal that Robert Ray and Bill Clinton struck?

STARR: Yes, very much so. I think it was a very reasonable and sensible solution. It achieved a very important policy goal for the justice system, and that is that the president did acknowledge his responsibility and a shortcoming as a witness in the system. And I think that's a very important message for all of us since we do live under a system of law and we must do our very best to be law-abiding, even when the circumstances are embarrassing or difficult.

BLITZER: But didn't he acknowledge that responsibility earlier in that deposition and the subsequent statement that he made to the American people after you questioned him?

STARR: Well, not to the extent of actually acknowledging that some of the answers given were false. So the statement that the president has issued and the steps that he has taken with Arkansas bar authorities really do move us into, I think, what we've all been hoping for, and that is the president's acknowledgement of responsibility as a witness in the system.

BLITZER: He did say, in that statement that he issued on Friday as part of the package, the arrangement that was worked out -- let me read it to you, briefly, an except: "I tried to walk a fine line between acting lawfully and testifying falsely. But I now recognize that I did not fully accomplish this goal and that certain of my responses to questions about Ms. Lewinsky were false."

STARR: And that's the significant admission, I think. And not that we should be glorying in that; we shouldn't. It was sad, a very sad chapter for all of us, for the country. Obviously it would have been far better, less expensive, less divisive, if this acknowledgement would have come much earlier, say, in January of 1998. But better late than never.

And that's what I think helps bring, properly and reasonably, closure with the Independent Counsel Bob Ray really exercising his discretion. He has discretion as to whether to seek charges or not and to say this is right, under all the circumstances, it's the right result. And I agree with that.

BLITZER: At the same time, the president's private attorney, David Kendall, insisted the president did not acknowledge that he obstructed justice or commit perjury. In fact, at the White House, he made this statement.

BLITZER: Listen to the fine line, the distinction, that David Kendall is now drawing. Listen to this.


DAVID KENDALL, ATTORNEY FOR FORMER PRESIDENT CLINTON: He did not lie. We have not admitted he lied, and he does not do so today.


BLITZER: What is that distinction, the fact that he says he did make a false statement, but David Kendall insisting that the word "lie" should not be included, because the president did not lie?

STARR: Well, David's a very good lawyer, and lawyers will draw distinctions.

But I think most of us recognize, and certainly courts recognize, that saying that an answer was false, however you want to characterize it, in terms of day-to-day discourse and conversation, the key from the perspective of, I think, bringing this matter to closure, is that the president has now said, as a witness he knowingly violated discovery orders -- that's also in the president's statement -- and that, as you've indicated, some of his answers were false. And he recognizes that now.

BLITZER: Given the history that you have with the president and his attorneys, do you think it would have been possible for you to have worked out this kind of an arrangement with the president?

STARR: I would have hoped that such an arrangement could have occurred. But recall that, during those very stormy days, those long seven months in 1998, the president and the president's very able lawyers were just adamant that the president was being truthful.

And then finally, the acknowledgement came, but not that there was any violation of the discovery order, in that statement of August 17, 1998, that the chief judge of the district court, Chief Judge Susan Webber Wright, had entered.

So it's taken a while, and I think it is a good thing that, as we bring one era to an end and the opening of a new presidency, that this has now been closed. It's a very healthy thing.

BLITZER: Robert Ray was on "Meet The Press" earlier today. I want you to listen to what he said in explaining his interpretation of this deal. Listen to this.


ROBERT RAY, OFFICE OF INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: But I think it was important, this resolution, in the best interests of the country, so that the new president would be afforded an opportunity with some space, perhaps not as much space as one might have liked, for a fresh start. And I thought, if that could be accomplished during the Clinton administration, I thought it important to make a real effort to do that.


BLITZER: A lot of people had been signaling Robert Ray, in not so subtle words: "End this. Get this over with. They don't want George W. Bush to be bothered with all of this." Even the new president's father said, you know, "This is history, let's move on," Senator Orrin Hatch, and others.

Does that kind of political pressure, in effect, have an impact on an independent counsel like Robert Ray?

STARR: Well, it's appropriate for a federal prosecutor, in exercising discretion, to consider a whole range of issues, including what is in the public interest, what's good for the country. And it's good to listen.

Now you don't want decisions made ultimately on the basis of, quote, "politics." You want it to be a professional judgment. But it can be a professional judgment, as I think it was here, that was informed by a sense of what is right.

Moreover, one of the ways that Bob, I think, has served the country very, very well, and he indicated in the opening statement that he promised that he would bring this matter to a conclusion as promptly as he could.

And I think he's done that. Some said, "Oh, close up shop," you know, months ago, and "Why is a new grand jury looking at this?"

He lived up to his responsibility. He took criticism for living up to that responsibility. But I think that put us in the position so that now all of this can be put behind us, and we should feel good about it, and close the book on this very unhappy chapter in the country's history.

BLITZER: How do you feel about President Clinton's decision Saturday morning to pardon Susan McDougal of the Whitewater case, whom you prosecuted?

STARR: Well, this is unusual as a matter of history, I gather, for so many pardons to issue, including some that I'm sure will be viewed as controversial. But I don't question the authority and prerogative of the president. That's why we elect the president. And he maintains that authority until the final moments of office.

STARR: And so he exercised the discretion that's given to him under the Constitution. He saw fit not to pardon several figures that are fairly prominent in the Whitewater investigation, Judge Webster Hubbell and former Governor Jim Guy Tucker, and there's been no explanation. There's no requirement that the president explain it.

But what we do know is that he saw fit to use this power that the Constitution gives him very generously.

BLITZER: So she refused to testify before a federal grand jury under order from you for a long time, and she was pardoned. But as you point out, Webster Hubbell, former Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker were not pardoned. Why do you think the president pardoned Susan McDougal?

STARR: Well, I can't say, but I do want to clarify one thing. She was under order from a district court, from Chief Judge Wright to answer the questions truthfully before the grand jury, and she was unwilling to do that.

But she did sit in prison in civil contempt. She held the keys to her own freedom as soon as she testified truthfully, respond to the grand jury's questions, then she would have been released.

But I can't answer for the president.

BLITZER: Now that this whole seven-year investigation, what we've come to call the Whitewater investigation, and related aspects is over with, what do you think history will say about your role in this investigation? STARR: Well, that it was a very, again, unfortunate era. It would have been a happy thing, indeed, if I had arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas, now years ago and had found nothing wrong. Nothing could have made me happier.

And if we could have brought it to conclusion earlier, I would be sitting in Malibu, California, as dean of the Pepperdine Law School and a part-time law partner, but that was not to be.

Unfortunately there were issues that had to be explored. There were trials that had to be had. So it's one of those very unfortunate things that happened to the country, and may we now use this as an example as try to do better.

The other thing I would say very briefly is, it did bring home the fact that the prerogatives of the attorney general of the United States needed to be restored. And that the independent counsel mechanism, while a noble experiment, was not the best way of carrying on these high-level and sensitive investigations. So that's one of the good things that's come out of it that now all sides agreed, as frankly we had been urging back in the Reagan administration when I was in the Justice Department.

It's been the position historically of the Justice Department that the independent counsel statute, not independent investigations appointed by the attorney general in the exercises of the attorney general's prerogative, the independent counsel statute is a flawed mechanism for reasons having to do with our separation of powers. I'm glad the chapter is closing on that as well.

BLITZER: Well, as someone who has been to Pepperdine, I know that's a major disappointment. But hopefully they're inviting you back from time to time to give a lecture or two.

STARR: I'm still on the board of visitors. So, thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Judge Starr, for joining us.

STARR: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And when we return, some different perspectives on this Clinton deal. What are the legal implications for the former president? We'll talk with two men who have been following the case from start to finish, former White House Special Counsel Lanny Davis and former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh.

LATE EDITION will be right back.



RAY: Fifteen months ago I promised the American people that I would complete this investigation promptly and responsibly. Today, I fulfill that promise.


BLITZER: Independent Counsel Robert Ray announcing the agreement between his office and the former president, Bill Clinton. And as a result of that deal, Mr. Clinton won't be indicted on any charges stemming from the Monica Lewinsky or Whitewater investigation.

Joining us now to help sort out what the deal means for both sides are two guests: Lanny Davis, he served as special counsel to former President Bill Clinton in the White House; and Dick Thornburgh, he served as attorney general under the new president's father, former President George Bush.

Good to have both of you on LATE EDITION.

I'll begin with you, Dick Thornburgh.

Is this a good deal? Do you agree with Ken Starr that this it was appropriate thing to do?

DICK THORNBURG, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: On balance, I think this is an appropriate conclusion of the legal issues surrounding the independent counsel's investigation. President Clinton finally acknowledged that he had lied under oath. He acknowledged...


BLITZER: He says that he falsely testified, and David Kendall insists he never acknowledged that he lied. I don't know what the distinction is.

THORNBURGH: Wolf, when you were in school you used to take something called a true-false test, and if you answered true, it was the truth; if you answered false, it was a lie. And I think this kind of Talmudic parsing of the statement, it really is not serving the interest, the interest of...


BLITZER: It's a difference without a distinction.

THORNBURGH: ... get this thing behind. But there are other...

BLITZER: I think on that point -- let me just bring in Lanny Davis for a minute. There really is no difference between falsely testifying and lying is there?

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL: Among the many reasons I love Dick Thornburgh is he'll use on your program, the word "Talmudic."


There is a big difference between a subjective, intentional lie and a false statement looking back in time that you recognize as false. The difference is as important as perjury and non-perjury. President Clinton, at the time of the civil deposition, did not believe that he was saying anything falsely. Looking back retroactively, he's now willing to acknowledge, and the one issue that I've always said, that when he said he wasn't alone with Monica Lewinsky, that that was false. But at the time he made the statement, I don't believe that he thought it was false. I think he believed he was parsing the word, what "alone" means, and of course, none of us like that but that is the truth.

BLITZER: Dick Thornburgh, Lanny Davis is being very Talmudic.

THORNBURGH: It look's like we're going to -- this will never end as long as they insist upon on denying the obvious.

But there's a larger question here that obviously concerned the Arkansas Supreme Court, and that is, the harm that's done to our system for the administration of justice by President Clinton's introducing and seeming to practice the notion that witnesses under oath can pick and choose when they give a truthful answer.

And I think that there are a lot of folks out there who think that this concept is going to have some long-term effects, and particularly from a president, who's supposed to be a role model, when it comes as in his capacity as chief law enforcement officer, in observing the letter as well as the spirit of the law.

BLITZER: Well on that point, Lanny Davis, the Washington Post did an editorial yesterday, wrote this and I want you to listen to what the Washington Post said: "Had Mr. Clinton showed more courage and less selfishness in 1998, he would have acknowledged what he admitted Friday and he and the country likely would have been spared the trauma of impeachment. His talents and accomplishments will once more be shadowed by his weaknesses."

DAVIS: Well, of course, I wrote a book in which I said something very similar, and I believe even President Clinton would agree with that.

But it goes both ways. Had the independent counsel offered this deal right away, that if you admit to having said something falsely in a civil deposition in a case about a sexual relationship that was thrown out of court on summary judgment, the American people would not have wanted an impeachment.

And indeed, Dick, the House of Representatives voted down the impeachment article based upon false testimony in the civil deposition.

We consider this a vindication because there was nothing about the grand jury in this deal, because we've always said he was truthful before the grand jury. That's what the impeachment was about.

BLITZER: Dick Thornburgh, you're shaking your head.

THORNBURGH: I don't think there's any question but what, if President Clinton had made the statement that he made on the last day he was in office three years ago, a lot of this would have been avoided, and his legacy might have been upgraded.

BLITZER: You know, the argument to that is that his enemies would have smelled blood and that would have been the opening to go after him even more.

THORNBURGH: Well, I think it's very instructive to look at what he did do when he acknowledged that there was some basis in truth to the allegations made regarding Ms. Lewinsky. He took a poll, and because the poll showed that this answer wouldn't go down well if truthful, he told his pollster, Dick Morris, "We'll have to fight it."

THORNBURGH: And he fought it for three years, to the detriment of himself and the country, when it could have been resolved in that cold day in January 1988 (sic).

BLITZER: The president did agree to a five-year suspension of his law license in Arkansas, not that anyone thinks he's actually going to practice law. But, as a lawyer, that's a major slap at the president.

He agreed to a $25,000 fine to pay court expenditures in Arkansas.

And he also agreed not to file to be reimbursed for legal costs in connection with the Monica Lewinsky affair. That's a significant concession on the president's part.

DAVIS: Significant, and let's just remember -- everybody watching -- what this was about. This was about somebody brought into a civil deposition who was president of the United States, asked about a relationship with a young woman that he didn't want his wife, his daughter, and the American people to know about.

This has always been about proportionality, Wolf. Everybody watching believed that President Clinton did something wrong, and so did I. The only question is, what's a proportional penalty? Impeachment never was. Some sanction was. Some censure was.

And that's why what Mr. Ray has done is so wise. He's found the proportional response.

THORNBURGH: There's an old saying, you've got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them. And I think that the special prosecutor in this case followed that maxim.

If that had been followed, for example, by the leadership in the Republican House, they would have seen the handwriting on the wall, that there were going to be no Democratic votes for impeachment, and the president was going to be acquitted, and they could have had a bipartisan censure in very strong terms instead of that acquittal, and I think the system would have been vindicated far more than in pursuing a fruitless effort to gain a conviction in the Senate.

DAVIS: Wolf, I couldn't agree with Dick more on this.

BLITZER: All right. I love it when Dick Thornburgh quotes Kenny Rogers, but we have to take a quick break.


THORNBURGH: You should hear me sing, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll be anxious to hear you sing that.

When we return, your phone calls for Lanny Davis and Dick Thornburgh.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with the former White House Special Counsel Lanny Davis, and the former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh.

Let's take a caller from Georgia. Go ahead, please, with your question.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you very much.

Attorney General Thornburgh, can a president pardon a person for any crime committed, murder or anything?

THORNBURGH: A president has absolute unrestricted power not subject to review in any court or in any legislature to pardon anyone he or she sees fit. That's the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, and there's no exceptions.

BLITZER: All right. Were you surprised by the pardon of Susan McDougal, but not the pardon of Webster Hubbell or Governor Jim Guy Tucker of Arkansas, the former governor?

DAVIS: Honestly, I was. In the case of Webster Hubbell, I think this is a man that there was a disproportional sanction for what he did. And I do believe that he should have been pardoned. I was very disappointed in that.

BLITZER: All right, let's take another -- you want to say something?

THORNBURGH: I am troubled a little bit by the pardon of Susan McDougal, not simply because she was a prospective witness against the president and that she had committed crimes for which she had been convicted, but she showed a contempt for the process that doesn't seem to me to make it healthy to reward her with a pardon. She would not testify. She would not respond to process issued duly out of a federal court. And I think that's something that has to be enforced rather than winked at.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take another caller, I believe from Chicago. Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Yes, I would like to know how the Democrats, and anybody else for that matter, can continue to say that Clinton didn't lie and furthermore say that a false statement is not a lie? And what are you teaching the children of this country?

BLITZER: All right, on that specific point, I want you to listen to what David Kendall specifically said on Friday in trying to explain what the president did agree to and didn't agree to do, because this will be open for interpretation for years to come. Listen to David Kendall.


KENDALL: He has, from the beginning, at least from the grand jury, conceded that he tried to conceal the relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. He tried to conceal that, and we have acknowledged that that was evasive and misleading. But it's not obstruction of justice. It's not intentional falsification.


BLITZER: Lanny Davis, "It's not intentional falsification." It sounds like intentional falsification, doesn't it?

DAVIS: I don't understand why the word "lie" is so important to people who hate Bill Clinton and don't want to let go of this. He has stated that, in his mind, he didn't think he was testifying falsely. And if we want to get into his mind and say, "Oh, yes, you did think you were" -- what is the point of that?

Also remember what the impeachment was about. It was about the grand jury testimony and perjury. There is nothing, nothing that Mr. Ray asked for and received on that issue and nothing on obstruction of justice. That's why we feel vindicated that the impeachment was a waste of time. And I agree with Dick Thornburgh, a censure should have been enough.

BLITZER: Henry Hyde, the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, issued this statement on Saturday saying that the agreement between Robert Ray and Bill Clinton, quote, "vindicates the House impeachment proceeding and reaffirms that our actions were in defense of the rule of law rather than merely a political initiative."

THORNBURGH: Well, Henry Hyde is a very effective advocate for the process in the House, just as David Kendall and Lanny Davis are effective advocates for the president. But it strikes me that when the president admits he made a false statement, that means it's not a true statement. And in the vernacular, that's a lie.

DAVIS: Could I just jump in and -- I don't want to get into the distinctions between lying and false statement. Clearly, when the president pointed his finger at the American people, he wasn't telling the truth. I just don't choose to use the word lie.

But I do want to remind everybody, the House of Representatives heard an impeachment article presented by the managers that it was an impeachable offense to testify falsely in the Paula Jones deposition. They voted that down. THORNBURGH: Sounds like they made a mistake.

DAVIS: They voted that down.

THORNBURGH: If they'd taken that to the Senate, maybe they would have convicted.

DAVIS: Because it's not sufficient, because of a civil deposition where you're concealing a sexual relationship in a case that was thrown out because it was so frivolous, for that to be an impeachable offense.

THORNBURGH: That's a bad lesson to convey to the American public that you can decide, because you don't think that the matter in which you've been placed under oath is dignified enough to rise to the level of something important, that you can lie under oath. That's simply not the law, and it never should be the law. And it would be a dreadful lesson for a role model like the president of the United States to convey to the American public.

DAVIS: I agree with Dick. I keep agreeing with him, it's going to really hurt Dick's career here.

THORNBURGH: That's all right.

DAVIS: Lying under oath is a bad thing. Whether people understand that in that situation you try to conceal a sexual relationship and they don't morally condemn it as much as other kinds of lies is everybody's individual choice. It happens to be my choice.

BLITZER: If you had one piece of advice for the incoming administration, the new administration, the new president and his team, knowing what we've learned over these past seven years of this Whitewater-Lewinsky investigation, what is that piece of advice?

THORNBURGH: I'd have two pieces of advice. One is self-evident: always tell the truth. And, has Lanny has said from time to time in his book, tell it early and often.

Secondly, don't ever consider resurrecting the independent counsel statute. Let it rest in relative peace.

BLITZER: Sounds like two good pieces of advice, Lanny Davis.

DAVIS: I can't do any better than plugging my book. So thank you, again.

BLITZER: It is over though, right? After seven years, are you telling me that the two of you are not going to be on LATE EDITION anytime soon?

DAVIS: Well, I hope that we have to avoid being on for any scandals in the Bush administration because I want the Democratic Party to say enough to this scandal machine. But maybe there will be some other reason for you to invite us.

BLITZER: Well, there might be.

THORNBURGH: As much as we enjoy it, Wolf, I think we're all well rid of this controversy.

BLITZER: Next time there's a legal issue, both of you will be back, Dick Thornburgh, Lanny Davis.

Thanks for today, and thanks for all of these many years of helping us understand this tangled mess.

THORNBURGH: Put her there, pal.

DAVIS: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And just ahead, did President Bush strike the right note in his inaugural speech? We'll talk about that and much more when we go around the table with Roberts, Page, and Brooks.

LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: Time now for our roundtable. Joining me, Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today"; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News & World Report"; and David Brooks, senior editor for "The Weekly Standard."

Steve, the inaugural address, you listened to all 14 minutes of it, probably heard it more than once.


BLITZER: You've read it, you've studied it. What kind of grade do you give it?

STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: I think it was about a B-plus.

I think that it was modest in its ambitions. It was relatively short. It was only interrupted by applause 12 times, and that's partly because I think people were very cold. And only one show of real emotion, which was when he mentioned taxes.

But I think he did a good job in stressing what he stressed during the campaign, which were personal qualities, not political qualities: civility, courage, character. They're one of the main reasons he got elected.

The country was very happy with the policies of the Clinton administration. They were not happy with the morals of the Clinton administration, and I think it served him well in the campaign, and I think it was a good note to hit yesterday.

BLITZER: Was it a good speech, David?

DAVID BROOKS, CNN COMMENTATOR: I thought it was an excellent speech. It read beautifully. I thought he delivered it adequately.

But you know, I think it was an ambitious speech, a radical speech, even.

If you go back to the Republican inauguration addresses, the Republican theme is always wealth-creation, opportunity, and freedom. The Bush themes are compassion, being a good Samaritan, being a brother, a brother to your fellow-man. That is really a different focus to the Bush administration.

And these inauguration speeches are really good at predicting the corporate culture of an administration. And I think this really is going to be a different sort of Republican administration because of that.

BLITZER: Let's pick a clip from the speech and listen to it, Susan, and we'll get your take on what the president said. Listen to this.


BUSH: I will live and lead by these principles: to advance my convictions with civility, to pursue the public interest with courage, to speak for greater justice and compassion, to call for responsibility, and try to live it as well.


BLITZER: I actually thought it was a pretty well-delivered speech, one of the best he's ever delivered.

SUSAN PAGE, CNN COMMENTATOR: In that line, I think, possibly an indirect reference to President Clinton, that he's going to live the rhetoric of good character that he's discussing.

I thought it was a remarkably emotional personal occasion. I was up there in the press area right in front of the inaugural stand. I think all the rest of you were probably in warm, dry studios someplace.


PAGE: But to have the president-elect come out, to have his father be there, both of them cried, or teared up at different times, and his mother sitting there. And to see Al Gore sitting there, no role for him. Bill Clinton, virtually no role for him, except to sit there and watch power be transferred.

It's really one of the most incredible moments in our democracy.

And despite the disputed election and all the anger that we've seen, it was really a wonderful thing to see.

ROBERTS: You know, one of the things I also think about the speech was what he didn't include. And there was not a lot of the traditional conservative ant-government, anti-Washington rhetoric. And I think that that was noteworthy. This was not Ronald Reagan running against Washington.

You know, Bill Clinton, in that very building, several years ago, said the era of big government is over. He was right about that. Certainly true, now that Bush has won.

But in a sense, the era of anti-government is also over. And here you have a Republican president who did talk about a role for government in a very positive way. He was not running against Washington, and that is part of that centrist message.

BROOKS: Yes, that's what I mean. It really was sort of a radical re-shifting.

You know, we used to say the Democrats were the mommy party and the Republicans were the daddy party, you know, the stern ones who were issuing the punishments. Bush is sort of a mommy politician, a softer politician, as you say, not anti-government.

And the last few weeks, the confirmation hearings have really been an anomaly. A lot of Democrats are looking at this as sort of a James Watt-Ed Meese administration. It's not that at all. It's not going to be that. And I think this speech epitomized that.

BLITZER: You know, Susan, this week the new White House is going to unveil the education initiative, even as John McCain says he's going to unveil his campaign finance reform initiative. What's going to happen when these two initiatives perhaps collide?

PAGE: Well, John McCain said on another show this morning that he'd be willing to delay his debate until March, perhaps. And that would give a little running room to start talking about the education bill first.

You know, I mean, I think the real thing that's going to happen with President Bush's first initiative is the issue of vouchers. And Andy Card can say that vouchers is a misstatement or, you know, not like the use of that word, but not calling it a voucher doesn't make it not a voucher.

PAGE: Doesn't make it not bring up the kind of division, partisan division, that vouchers will raise. I think that will be the first, after the Ashcroft nomination -- it does look like Senator Ashcroft's going to be confirmed -- that will be the first big fight.

BLITZER: Well, on that point, a lot of Republicans like to use the word "scholarships" instead of vouchers.

ROBERTS: Yes, but, you know, the Democrats are really going to fight that, in part because of their constituencies.

You know, the Democrats are like the Republicans. They have core bases that they have to please, and the teachers union are absolutely essential to the Democratic Party, and of course vouchers or whatever you call them, scholarships, are not on their agenda.

But I think Bush has the upper hand over McCain in some ways. Interesting Newsweek poll out today asking people what should be the agenda of the new president. Education: 33 percent put that at the top, by far and away number one; campaign finance reform, way down at the bottom about six percent.

So at least in terms of public opinion, George Bush has the upper hand over McCain in terms of what people care about.

BROOKS: Yes, we know what's going to happen, though, with education. They're going to negotiate the vouchers part of it down to minuscule or nothing, but Bush is still going to get a victory on all sorts of accountability issues, on funding issues, on issues that really do begin to reshape education.

It seems to me the danger for Democrats is they're going to lose the Ashcroft fight. Bush is probably going to get some kind of education bill, he's going to get some kind of tax bill, so it's victory, victory, victory, with some moderate Democrats. And then the liberals are out carping, and it seems to me that's their problem. They're just defeat, defeat, defeat.

BLITZER: Were you surprised, Susan, that Laura Bush this week suggested she may have a different position on abortion rights than her husband?

PAGE: Didn't it remind you of Barbara Bush who made it clear that she had a different view on abortion rights than her husband? Yes, I thought it was very interesting. I thought it was interesting that that's her view. I thought it was interesting she felt free to express that view. I think it probably doesn't matter in terms of what course her husband's administration will take, but an interesting note.

ROBERTS: But given the Ashcroft fight, which I think the Bush administration badly underestimated the firestorm that Ashcroft would kick up, I think they thought, heck, he's a former senator, everybody will be nice to him.

And I think that they're a little uneasy that the first big issue of the Bush administration is a fight over issues like abortion, which George Bush himself has never really cared very much about, never been high on his agenda as an issue.

And this is sort of good cop-bad cop. He gets Ashcroft to satisfy the right on the issue, and Laura Bush is there sending a signal saying, it's really not so bad. And I think that's good politics for the Bush administration.

BROOKS: If he's a bad cop, he's like Mr. Magoo or something. You know, he gave away at the hearing this week Roe v. Wade. He said he was not going to fight that. Bush, during the campaign, was operationally pro-choice, saying, I'm not going to try to outlaw abortion as long as the country thinks the way it does. So sometime off in the 24th century, maybe they'll change things.

So this is the theme of the morning. I really think that, you know, they are pro-life, Bush, not his wife, but they're not aggressively pro-life, and it's not as conservative as we expect.

ROBERTS: And never has been, David. He never has been.

BLITZER: Because, remember, they're uniters, not dividers.


We have to take a quick break. When we return let's talk a little bit more about the roundtable.

He's simply Citizen Clinton, but will he ever really leave public life? The roundtable weighs in when LATE EDITION continues.



CLINTON: I will never hold a position higher or covenant more sacred than that of president of the United States, but there is not a title I will wear more proudly than that of citizen.


BLITZER: Former president, now private citizen, Bill Clinton, giving his farewell speech to the nation Thursday night.

Welcome back to the roundtable.

All right. Susan, that was Thursday night, and we thought that was the farewell speech, but, no, it was not the farewell speech. In fact, he gave another farewell speech or two on Saturday even after the new president was sworn in. Listen to what he said at Andrews Air Force Base to his supporters.


CLINTON: So you see that sign there that says, "Please don't go?" I left the White House, but I'm still here. We're not any of us going anywhere.


BLITZER: And then he stayed for almost forever shaking hands with everyone at Andrews Air Force Base.

PAGE: You know, out at the Mall, when the Marine helicopter went up and the crowd thought Clinton was in it to go to Andrews -- although, in fact, he wasn't -- a big cheer went up, a bunch of jeers.

Well, you know, sorry. Clinton is not going anywhere. He clearly sees a role for himself as a big spokesman for the Democratic Party, spokesman on issues.

You know, Thursday night he spoke, Friday he cut this deal, Saturday he issued all these pardons.

Pardons -- we never talked about whether Roger Clinton was going to get pardoned. Who knew?

So it certainly went out with the way he came out, with a lot of activity and a lot of controversy.

BLITZER: But in fairness to the president, the ex-president now, he did promise to work until the last hour, the last day of his eight years in office, and he did.

BROOKS: I don't know if we want to start being fair to Bill Clinton now after eight years.


BLITZER: Oh, go ahead. He's gone.

BROOKS: You know, he's working; he's going to keep working. The trajectory of Bill Clinton's life is upwards. He started as young man from really nothing, went upwards. He's going to keep going upwards. That's the only direction he knows.

BLITZER: What else is there to do after you're president?

BROOKS: Mount Rushmore. There's Mount Rushmore.


He's going to campaign for his legacy. We saw that in the statement, this agreement with Robert Ray. He minutely microscoped how he wanted to be seen, and that was for history. There's going to so many other gestures for history, you know he wants to be on Mount Rushmore. Every historian is going to get some of the campaign. Every baby that's born will be instructed on the Clinton legacy.

BLITZER: Are you surprised, Steve, that the president went out of office as loudly as he did?

BROOKS: No, anybody who knows Bill Clinton knew that he will take every possible chance to stay in the limelight. Listen, he's only 54 years old; he's the youngest person to leave the presidency since Teddy Roosevelt who was 50 in 1909, and it's almost a whole century. We don't have a whole lot of experience with middle-aged ex- presidents, they usually retire. And this is a guy who so loves the job and loves the spotlight.

You know, there's an old joke about a TV colleague of ours, Sam Donaldson, that if there was TV, Sam would go door to door. You know, and I think Clinton is that way on politics. He'll go door to door if he can't be on television.

PAGE: You know, Steve Sully (ph) of C-SPAN came up with this remarkable, wonderful statistic, which is Bill Clinton is younger today than Ronald Reagan was when he was first elected governor of California. That tells you what kind of future is ahead.

BLITZER: In other words, what you're saying is we're going to be hearing a lot more from Bill Clinton before all of this is said and done. ROBERTS: You know, there's another point in the deal with Robert Ray. I think what we saw this weekend -- you know, we spent a whole year talking about Bill Clinton and impeachment here around this table, but you know what we got this weekend? What we got was censure. That's, in effect, what happened, which I think should have happened all along.

You know, I said this around this table many times, but because of the politics of that moment, it never happened. But the nation needed this. It needed a final, official judgment against him.

BLITZER: Has anybody, David, said anything bad about this deal? It seems everybody thinks Robert Ray did a terrific job.

BROOKS: Everybody politically is happy that it's done. Certainly the people in the Bush camp are happy. But some people could be unhappy with the wording of it, the way Clinton -- you know, earlier on the show, you had the crucial sentences where he, you know, he said, I was false, but I didn't lie. Then you had the David Kendall remarks.

This is like, if you've been watching Bill Clinton, the performance artist, this is the perfect epitome of what he's been about for eight years. The lying that's not a lie, the is that's not an is. It's almost like a work of art just to see him go out.

BLITZER: All right. Let's wrap up this roundtable with this little excerpt from Saturday Night Live last night, Bill Clinton sneaking back into the Oval Office. Look at this.


SPOOF OF FORMER PRESIDENT CLINTON: I was able to get in the Oval Office tonight because I know the guy at the door. And everyone else is out partying. I'll admit, I've had a few drinks myself. Now that I'm an ordinary citizen, I can do that. I don't have to think about what's responsible and right. I can finally kick back and have a good time. Who am I kidding? That's what I did while I was in here.


BLITZER: Very quickly, you got a final word?

ROBERTS: Yes, I think that we're going to see a lot more about Bill Clinton, and that guy who plays him on Saturday Night Live should not get a new job because there will be plenty more material.

BLITZER: Steve Roberts, David Brooks, Susan Page, thanks for joining us as always on our roundtable.

And up next, Bruce Morton's last word.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The new president has spoken about wanting to unite the country and inaugurations are a hopeful times, and it's natural to wish him and the country well. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: From a civil war to a contested election, the challenge of healing America's lingering divide.


BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for Bruce Morton's last word.


MORTON: Who were they? Gray uniforms, muzzle loaders, bivouacking on the Mall this inaugural week. Sometimes it seemed like Lee's last legion, the ghosts of Confederate troops past. The old South suddenly had defenders. The war had been about state's rights, not slavery. Slavery had been, as one of them put it, a bad fact.

Facts are true, good or bad. And the fact is, the state right the Civil War mostly seemed to be about was the right of rich people to own and work other people. The Confederacy's vice president said that "government's cornerstone rested upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man, that slavery is his natural and normal condition."

The past week also celebrated Martin Luther King, of course, and you have to wonder what he'd have made of all this "Stars and Bars" rhetoric.

Andrew Young, who marched with King before being a congressman and mayor of Atlanta, noted that King, before he died in 1968, had moved beyond race to economic issues, and that he would be campaigning today for all the poor, white and black. The white poor, Young said, haven't had a spokesman. He thought King would have become one had he lived.


BUSH: This is my solemn pledge. I will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity.


MORTON: The new president has spoken about wanting to unite the country, and inaugurations are hopeful times, and it's natural to wish him and the country well. But real unity would involve bringing the poor into the mainstream, giving every child in America an even start. And with the best will in the world, that's hard to do.

Economics is at least as important as race. Single-parent children face obstacles others don't. All kinds of factors are involved. We haven't solved this problem.

Old liberals -- Hubert Humphrey was probably the last one -- thought government programs could cure social ills. No one believes that any more. Though most, whatever political label they wear, think government can probably help. President Bush thinks faith-based organizations can join in. They can, though we will argue how they and the government should mix. Maybe we should borrow from Franklin Roosevelt and just keep trying plans until one of them works.

And maybe, in the process, we could avoid labels, "liberal," "tax and spend," "right-wing ideologue," and so on. Then the country would have a goal, and the new president would have a honeymoon that lasts longer than the champagne at all those inaugural parties.

I'm Bruce Morton.



BLITZER: Time now for a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines.

Time magazine plugs in: "Oh No, California's Power Failure: Can it Happen in Your State? How it May Hurt the Economy," on the cover.

Newsweek has "The Parent Trap: Is Juggling Your Kids' Sports, Music, and Homework Burning You Out?," on the cover.

And on the cover of U.S. News & World Report, "Tracing Your Genetic Roots: DNA Mapping is Unraveling the Mystery of Human Origins."

And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, January 21. Be sure to join us next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

I'll also be back tomorrow night at 8 p.m. Eastern for Wolf Blitzer Reports.

For now, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.



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