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What Will Happen to Bush's Tax Cut? How Can California Cope With its Energy Troubles

Aired January 28, 2001 - 12:00 p.m. ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington and Tampa, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6:00 p.m. in Paris, and 10:30 p.m. in Bhuj, India. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this two-hour LATE EDITION.

We'll get to our guests shortly, but first let's check in with CNN reporters covering the hour's top stories.


BLITZER: Earlier today, I spoke with President Bush's chief economic adviser, Larry Lindsey, and I asked him about the president's plans for tax cuts, the economy, and more.

Larry Lindsey, thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION.

You got some big help from Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve. Look at some of these headlines that appeared in newspapers. The New York Times, "Policy Change: Greenspan Backs a Broad Tax Cut;" The Washington Post, "Greenspan Supports A Tax Cut;" USA Today, "Bush Tax Plan Could Grow."

Let's talk about that last. Could the $1.6 trillion estimated tax cut grow now that Alan Greenspan says that tax cuts are a good idea?

LAWRENCE LINDSEY, CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, the president wants to see the tax plan that he ran on enacted. The question is whether or not you can put money into people's pockets sooner. As you know, the president ran on a plan that would be phased in gradually.

But given the state of the economy, can't we cut withholding taxes so that it gives a boost to the economy right now when we need it.

BLITZER: And specifically, tell us what that means. What do you want?

LINDSEY: Well, I'm not going to scoop the president on specifically what we want, but I think what the economy could use is to have tax rates come down, perhaps starting this year, so that people see a bigger paycheck this year. And that will allow them to pay off debts or keep their monthly finances going.

BLITZER: So you want an across-the-board rate reduction and tax cuts retroactive to January 1 of this year?

LINDSEY: I'm not going to give the specifics. That's up for the president to do. But the question is, is there some way that we can't put more money into people's paychecks.

Let me give you an example. For a family of four making $40,000, the president's tax cut is worth $1,600 a year, $32 a week. That is a big infusion to that family's income, and I think will help that family meet its needs.

BLITZER: All right. Now, as you know, the original, in the campaign, value of the tax cut was $1.3 trillion. Now it's estimated $1.6 trillion, although some people are suggesting it's really, given interests rates, closer to $2 trillion.

LINDSEY: No, I don't think that's accurate. Again, the numbers that we ran on, the same numbers -- they are 2001 to 2010, it will be a little over $1.3 trillion. Now, the other numbers you are mentioning, there are other tax provisions that some in Congress will want to add on. That is not what the president ran on, and I don't think they should be counted as part of the number.

BLITZER: And before we get carried away with what Alan Greenspan said, I just want to point out he did not endorse any specific Bush tax plan. In fact, when he was asked specifically about it, listen to what Alan Greenspan said.


ALAN GREENSPAN, CHAIRMAN OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE: I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment because these are fundamentally political decisions. And I mean, as a citizen, I have my own views, but I don't think they're appropriate to be voiced in the context where we're talking about the economics...


BLITZER: So, you don't have a problem with that. He didn't endorse your plan. He just said, yes, tax cuts in general are probably a good idea right now.

LINDSEY: That's correct.

He as often stated that the best thing to do with the money is rate-reductions. And as you know, that is the core of what President Bush is suggesting.

BLITZER: Not everyone agrees, though, with Alan Greenspan, and of course with the Bush team. Senator Ernest Hollings of South Carolina, for example, was very forceful in warning that what Greenspan was doing could open up a whole Pandora's box.

Listen to what Senator Hollings said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ERNEST HOLLINGS (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: You're going to start a stampede here this morning. I can tell you right now, we all are going to get with the marriage penalty, and we all are going to get with the estate-tax cut, but now you've gotten into marginal and everything else.

Where, Mr. Chairman, do you find a surplus? I find a deficit.


BLITZER: He's suggesting that that surplus that goes out for a long time may seem overly optimistic, it may not be around.

LINDSEY: Oh, I don't think that's the case. The numbers that the previous administration ran, the numbers that the Congressional Budget Office ran, the numbers that we used during the campaign are actually quite conservative. We are below, for example, the Blue Chip estimate in what the economy's going to grow over the long term.

So I respectfully disagree with the senator's conclusion on that.

BLITZER: The House Democratic leader, Dick Gephardt, also was complaining about these rosy scenarios, about budget surpluses, and he's also worried about what was obviously a big issue during the campaign, who is going to benefit most from these reductions in tax- cuts.

Listen to what Dick Gephardt said on ABC earlier today.


REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D), MISSOURI: These projections of the surplus are just projections. We ought to be skeptical. We ought to be conservative. We ought to move a little more slowly. And again, we've got to pay attention to the people that really need the cut.

Everybody ought to get a tax cut, but the bulk needs to go to the people that really need it the most.


BLITZER: So what do you say to that argument that this tax cut that you're proposing, whether it's $1.3, $1.6, $2 trillion dollars, the richest in America will benefit the most?

LINDSEY: Well, in fact, as the Congressional Budget Office has scored it, the share of taxes paid by high-income individuals will rise under this proposal. The share paid by the middle class will fall sharply.

This is a tax cut that is primarily focused on middle-income working families.

BLITZER: Do you envisage, as part of this tax reform, cuts in capital gains?

LINDSEY: Again, what the president ran on, no. The focus, again, is on rate-reductions, establishing a 10 percent bracket at the bottom, down from the current 15, doubling the current child credit, from $500 to $1,000. Again, a $40,000-a-year family of four will get a $1,600 tax cut. That's $32 bucks a week. That is a very large increase in their take-home pay. That's where the focus of this tax cut should be.

We also bring down the rate of tax on unincorporated businesses. Right now, large corporations have a lower tax rate than partnerships, proprietorships, small business corporations. That doesn't make any sense. Those companies create the jobs, and they're now in a credit squeeze, in part because they face such high tax-rates.

BLITZER: The treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, when he testified before Congress, seemed to suggest that he was in favor of a cut in capital gains.

Listen to what Secretary O'Neill said.


PAUL O'NEILL, SECRETARY OF THE 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: Isn't there a difference between you and Secretary O'Neill on this issue of capital-gains tax cuts?

LINDSEY: Not at all, Paul (sic). They're dry economic papers, but I must have written half a dozen papers in my life saying that lower capital-gains rates were a good idea.

But again, we have scarce resources. What President Bush did during the campaign was say, "Go out and find the most egregious problems with the tax code and do something about them."

Those include the marriage penalty, the death tax -- we now have a situation where a single mom with two kids making $25,000 a year is in the 50 percent marginal tax rate. That is awful. It needs to be changed.

Small businesses face very, very -- record high tax rates, and their cash flow is being affected.

Those are the things where the emphasis has to be.

BLITZER: When you say 50 percent marginal tax-rate, the highest tax-rate is 39 percent for the wealthiest Americans...

LINDSEY: Sure. But what happens, there's a benefit phase-out of the Earned Income Credit, plus regular taxes, plus state taxes, plus Social Security taxes. And if I had two kids and was making $25,000 a year, I would find that I'd only keep half of any raise I got, say, from going to 25 to 30. That's bad social policy, it's awful economic policy, and we've got to do something about it.

BLITZER: Bill Thomas, the chairman of House Ways and Means Committee, the new chairman, says in order to stimulate the economy quickly this year, perhaps push aside some of the other tax reductions like in estate taxes, the marriage penalty, get the marginal rates passed right away, and leave everything else down the road so that it would have the biggest impact on the economy right now. Is that a good idea?

LINDSEY: Well, I'll leave the tactics of getting it through to the chairman, but I do think it's important that we have money in people's paychecks as soon as possible. And getting withholding changes is the key to that.

BLITZER: And so it sounds like you're open to that kind of tactical decision.


BLITZER: What about -- I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about the energy crisis in California, which of course you're monitoring very, very closely. You've given the state some time now, with some help from the federal government, but you're putting some strict demands on them, and it's not an open-ended commitment.

LINDSEY: It can't be an open-ended commitment. We can't generate electricity with decrees from Washington. The cost of putting California power in now is less power this summer, it is closing down aluminum smelters in Oregon, it's closing down agriculture in Arizona.

Governor Davis came to us and said he needed two weeks to get necessary legislation through. That was a bit longer than is probably the right amount of time. But if he needs it, we'll give it to him. But we really cannot, prudently, in the national interest, go beyond two weeks, because the effects on the rest of the country, particularly the states that border California, are quite bad.

BLITZER: Well, what happens if there's, within two weeks, after two weeks, they still have a serious problem in California? Are you going to just let them deal with it on their own?

LINDSEY: Well, the other states are having to do that right now. Again, factories are shutting down, agriculture is shutting down.

We are now in the situation behind Grand Coulee Dam where there will not be enough water to run the turbines in March when we're going to need even more electricity than we need now. We're having trouble about whether there will be enough water to put it into the rivers so the salmon can swim upstream.

There are ecological concerns, there are economic concerns, all of which are being confronted now. I talked to Governor Hull the other day. There was a 300 percent increase in...

BLITZER: Governor Hull of Arizona.

LINDSEY: Of Arizona -- in a water district, electric district in the state of Arizona. Pacific Northwest just got a 60 percent rate hike. So the effects are already being felt in the rest of the West.

BLITZER: But you heard Alan Greenspan point out that so much of the U.S. economy is California-oriented, about one-sixth of U.S. economy. Aren't you worried that, if, in two weeks, if it hasn't been resolved and the federal government -- the Bush administration -- says no more bail out, no more support of the California energy situation, that could do enormous damage to the entire U.S. economy?

LINDSEY: Well, I think, again, shutting down aluminum, shutting down agriculture is also. This is a trade-off we face.

Let me also put this into a little perspective.

Right now, these additional orders are adding about two-thirds of 1 percent to the California electric supply. The fundamental problem in California is that no new power plants have been built, no new transmission lines have been built, no new natural gas pipelines have been built. We have not had an energy policy for most of the 1990s.

BLITZER: But they're not going to be built in the next two weeks.

LINDSEY: They are not going to be built. That's where the problem lies. Again, if I could wave my hands and have power go to California, I would. But because of decisions made in the recent past, we simply do not have the means to get all that power to California.

And right now, the power is going to California at a terrific cost to the rest of the country.

BLITZER: And so, just to nail it down, two weeks, that's it, no more extensions?

LINDSEY: Two weeks, that's it. That's all that we could prudently do in the national interest.

BLITZER: Larry Lindsey, good of you to join us at the end of this week one of the Bush White House here. You having fun over there?

LINDSEY: Feels like a month, sir.

BLITZER: Thanks for joining us.

LINDSEY: Thank you.

BLITZER: And just ahead, the Bush agenda. The president chose education as his first major legislative proposal. How is his plan being received by Congress? We'll hear from two members of the U.S. Senate: Republican Fred Thompson of Tennessee and Democrat Evan Bayh of Indiana.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.



PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I hope people are now beginning to realize that what I said, the executive branch is willing to work with the legislative branch and do what's right for the country, is just not hollow words.


BLITZER: President Bush speaking earlier in the week to members of Congress. Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining us now to talk about the president's legislative proposals are two members of the U.S. Senate: Senator Evan Bayh, he's a Democrat from Indiana; and Senator Fred Thompson, he's a Republican from Tennessee.

Senators, welcome back to LATE EDITION, good to have you on our program.

And I want to begin with you Senator Bayh. You just heard Larry Lindsey, the chief economic adviser to the president, make the case for a big tax cut sooner rather than later. Got a big boost from Alan Greenspan. Are you ready to join your fellow Democratic senator from Georgia, Zell Miller, and endorse this kind of large tax cut?

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: I'm not willing to join with Zell right now, Wolf, but I am willing to endorse a tax cut. We're going to have one. The only question is the size of it and the composition of it.

And many of us centrist Democrats believe in cutting taxes when we can. We want to make sure that the surplus is actually there, that we don't go back to the days of deficit spending, an increase in the national debt. I suspect Chairman Greenspan would agree with that as well.

And we like to make sure that working families get a good share of this tax cut.

So it's going to happen, but the parameters of it are something we need to negotiate about.

BLITZER: Senator Thompson, you think the White House is getting carried away in this exuberance, if you will, to go forward with a tax cut.

SEN. FRED THOMPSON (R), TENNESSEE: Rationale exuberance. BLITZER: Some people say it's irrational exuberance. Do you think that all this talk of this $1.3 or $1.6 trillion tax cut is going to get off the ground?

THOMPSON: Yes, I do. I don't think that they're getting carried away at all with those numbers. Mr. Greenspan said the other day that the tax cut that is being proposed was middle of the road or moderate, I forget the words he used exactly.

Historically speaking if you look at the fact that it's going to be about 5 percent of the tax intake that the government will have over that period of time, you look at the President Kennedy tax cuts, President Reagan tax cuts, historically these numbers concerning with regard to these projections, are not that large.

BLITZER: Do you think, Senator Bayh, that when it comes to the estate tax, the repeal of the entire estate tax, the marriage penalty as it's called, those two elements of this tax cut are definitely going go forward? Do you support both of those?

BAYH: I support some element of both of them, yes, Wolf. We made a proposal last year in the Congress that would have eliminated 99.2 percent of all the American people from the estate tax, everybody up to about $8 million for small businesses, farms, that kind of thing. And with regard to the marriage penalty, that's an inequity that should be dealt with.

But some of the proposals in the past have gone way beyond dealing with people who pay the marriage penalty, and in fact given huge bonuses to people who don't.

So it's a question of, again, we're going to have a tax cut, but it needs to be fiscally responsible within the context of a balanced budget, and it needs to be fair, and I think we'll make progress on both of the issues you mentioned.

BLITZER: And what happens, Senator Thompson, if all the projections of this huge budget surplus simply don't materialize? The economy takes a downturn, income -- the taxes coming into the federal treasury are not what they were supposed to be, and all the rosy scenarios just don't pan out? It's happened before.

THOMPSON: Well, you make adjustments when the time comes.

BLITZER: It's hard to reverse, though, a tax cut though. It's hard to increase taxes.

THOMPSON: Doesn't seem to me. I mean, we've seen several increases over the last couple of decades, and all various administrations. So, I don't think it's that difficult.

You have to operate on the basis of projections. We all realize projections are not going to be exactly as projected, historically they're not. But in the recent history, unlike a little bit further back, the estimates have been a little low in terms of what the surpluses will be. I agree with Evan, these particular items are important items. But I think the most important item is across-the-board relief rate reduction. That's going to be probably the most in terms of dollars and cents, and I think the most important. Because not only do I think it's fair, I don't think the government ought to take more than a third of anybody's income, quite frankly.

But that is what will have a beneficial effect on the economy. That's what will spur the investment which will spur the growth that we will need certainly if we have this economic downturn that we seem to be in right now.

BLITZER: Now before either of you deal with tax cuts in any formal way in the Senate, both of your are going to have to deal with the nomination of Senator John Ashcroft, former senator from Missouri, to be the next attorney general.

BLITZER: Senator Bayh, you wrote in The Washington Post, in an editorial op-ed piece, on January 19 you wrote: "President-elect Bush is entitled to all of the powers and prerogatives of his office, but the circumstances of the election are relevant here. He received no mandate from the American people to pursue the ideological agenda an Ashcroft Justice Department would bring."

I take it that means you're going to vote against his confirmation.

BAYH: That's correct, Wolf. My own belief is that if President Bush wants to be the uniter not divider, and the centrist that he campaigned as -- which I think he generally wants to -- Mr. Ashcroft will serve as a constant irritant and a polarizing figure that will make it more difficult to make progress on some of the other issues we're talking about here.

So the president could have had a true conservative in this position, a John Danforth, a Marc Racicot from Montana, for example, without some of the baggage Mr. Ashcroft brings along.

And so I'll oppose, but if he's ultimately confirmed, we'll work with him.

BLITZER: You disagree with that assessment. You're going to support Senator Ashcroft.

THOMPSON: Yes, absolutely. We only have one president at a time. And absent unusual circumstances, he's entitled to his attorney general, as we unanimously got behind Attorney General Janet Reno at the time.

But John Ashcroft is being made a polarizing figure in the Judiciary Committee, in my opinion. Here is a fellow who comes from a moderate state. The state of Missouri usually goes the way that the winner in the presidential races go. He's won statewide three times in this state. I'm sure that Ashcroft as being presented before the Judiciary Committee comes as big surprise to the majority of the people in the state of Missouri. They had their hearings, they were not able to disqualify him due to the hearings. Now they've gone back and looked at his testimony during his hearings and asked him 300 or 400 additional written questions. Now they're going through that, pouring through that, to see if they can find any inconsistencies.

But it is not working. He will win. And I think he'll be a great attorney general.

BLITZER: Senator Bayh, how many Democrats -- there are 50 Democrats, 50 Republicans in the Senate -- how many Democrats do you think will vote against Ashcroft?

BAYH: Wolf, I don't know the final number, but it will be a substantial majority of our caucus, I'm convinced of that.

BLITZER: But in the end, he will be confirmed.

BAYH: Well, you never know around here until the votes are counted. But I think if you ask the question today, it looks more likely than not.

BLITZER: One of the most controversial parts of all this was the testimony of James Hormel, the former U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, who is homosexual. He's an openly gay man. And he says that when Ashcroft voted against his confirmation and spoke out against it, it was the result of his being a gay person. Listen to what Hormel had to say this past week.


JAMES HORMEL, AMBASSADOR TO LUXEMBOURG: I call upon the public and the members of the Senate to hold Mr. Ashcroft accountable. His fitness to serve as attorney general should be based upon the totality of his record and not upon the distorted image which he has conjured up, under oath, to deflect the very fact of that record.


BLITZER: Is what Hormel says troubling to you, Senator Thompson?

THOMPSON: What Senator Ashcroft said is also important. And he said he did not vote against him for those reasons, but because of the totality of the circumstances.


BLITZER: In the answer to the written question, he said, because Luxembourg, the country that he was being nominated to serve as ambassador, is predominantly a Roman Catholic country, the assumption being that the Roman Catholics in Luxembourg would not welcome a homosexual.

THOMPSON: That was one of those circumstances.

We, as senators, have occasion to vote on many, many, many things. I hope that the people on the Judiciary Committee, who are questioning his motivations on each and every vote he took, are not some day called upon to have their motivations questioned with regard to why they're voting against John Ashcroft.

BLITZER: You're not questioning John Ashcroft's veracity or truthfulness on this, are you?

BAYH: I actually found his answer to the Hormel question to be somewhat troubling, Wolf. I think, you know, Fred mentions he voted against him for the totality of the record, but he hasn't been able to mention any other part of that record, other than Mr. Hormel's lifestyle, to justify his vote.

I think it's pretty clear why he voted against Mr. Hormel. It was his lifestyle, and I think John should be -- stand up and say so, if that's how he feels.

BLITZER: I just want to wrap up this point. What homosexuals and homosexual-supporters and a lot of Americans are saying is: Just because a country, Luxembourg in this case, may not want homosexuals, should that convince the American government not to send a homosexual? In other words, if, let's say, some country doesn't want an African- American to go there, should that have an impact on what the president of the United States does?

THOMPSON: I think that's a very legitimate point, but far, far removed from anything that should be determinative on a nomination such as this.

BLITZER: And the other point that they make is that Luxembourg, actually, is a very liberal country in terms of gay rights, even though a large number of the people there are Roman Catholics.

All right, we're going to continue this discussion. We have a lot more to talk about. We have to take a quick break.

When we come back, we'll ask Senators Fred Thompson and Evan Bayh what they're going to be doing in these coming weeks. They'll also be taking your phone calls.

LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking about President Bush's agenda with Indiana Democratic Senator Evan Bayh and Tennessee Republican Senator Fred Thompson.

Senator Thompson, it looks like on the issue of school vouchers, using federal money to help parents pay for private school education or parochial school education for children who are in repeatedly bad public schools, it looks like President Bush is beginning to waiver on that, and maybe in order to achieve a broader education legislative program, maybe push that aside.

THOMPSON: No, I don't think so. I think what he said is that there are no deal-breakers, as far as anything that's been talked about. And I hope that both sides will approach it from that standpoint.

Clearly, there's a lot of agreement in terms of consolidating programs. Evan and Joe Lieberman have a bill that's very similar I think to the president's approach -- additional testing, additional money into the system. Although goodness knows we know that money alone is not going to solve the problem.

The component that you mentioned has to do with parental choice and accountability. And I think many of us feel very strongly that once you do all the testing, and once you see that a school is failing year after year, after year, then what do you do?

And many of us, and I think the president feels that the answer is, you give the child an opportunity to get out of a failing system into another either private for public school. And I think he maintains that position.

BLITZER: And you think that's a bad idea, though, do you?


BLITZER: ... the school vouchers?

BAYH: No, Wolf, I think that would do too much to hurt the children who would remain in the school by taking the money out, reducing the critical mass of funds necessary to help the kids who will still be there, which will be the vast majority of American kids.

We are not doing nearly enough to help those who would leave. It's only a fraction of the amount of money necessary to attend most private schools.

But I see one other thing, following up on what Fred said, I do want to commend the president. With the exception of vouchers, he staked out the broad middle ground in education reform, more investment with accountability for results, more flexibility to the states, but again, insisting that kids learn more.

So, I think he's given us a great place to start from, vouchers being the exception.

BLITZER: All right, let's take a caller. We have a caller from New York City.

Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Good afternoon, gentlemen. Good afternoon, Senators.

Question for Senator Thompson: Is it your sense that there are Senators on your side of the aisle who will be prepared to sign on to an idea, with regards to the tax cut, involving a trigger mechanism, where tax cuts would not take place unless one had realized surpluses and actual debt reduction? And does that stand as a contrast to those perhaps further to the right in your party who want tax cuts now -- devil take the hind-most -- and those on the left, of course, who don't want any?

THOMPSON: That's a very good question. I know it's something that Chairman Greenspan brought up the other day. There hasn't been any discussion that I'm aware of among the Republicans on that issue. I think it's something that we'll certainly have to take a look at.

Just off the top of my head, though, it seems to me that part of the benefit of a tax cut is knowing that it's going to come, and that knowledge would have a good benefit on the economy. People would know it was going to be there. They could plan their investment and so forth.

Also, how would you exactly trigger it? I mean, at what phase would which cut trigger, based on what else was going on in the economy? I think it would be a lot more complicated than we think. But I'm not philosophically opposed to the idea.

BLITZER: We could create a new government agency in charge of triggers.


BLITZER: Let's take another caller from my home town of Buffalo, New York.

Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Hello, Senator Bayh. You mentioned you wanted to give tax relief just to the working people. We 70-hour-a-week people doing the work, if we happen to do better, why not just go across the board rather than government choosing winners and losers?

BAYH: Well, I appreciate your question and perhaps I didn't speak clearly enough. I think we can have a tax package that does what President Bush outlined in the campaign, which ensures that every taxpayer receives some tax benefit, and I would be for that.

So I'm not just for the working class people. What I tried to say was that I don't think that the tax cut should be disproportionately skewed towards those at the very top. I think we need to have it help everybody. That's philosophically. As a practical matter, it's those who are in the working class, the middle class, that struggle most to pay their bills. And I think a tax cut would do the most to help them.

So, a tax cut for everyone who works and pays taxes, yes. But not when it is disproportionately skewed towards those who are just at the top of the income heap.

BLITZER: But, Senator, the argument is, and I guess it's a fair argument: The people who pay the most in taxes are the wealthiest Americans. Shouldn't they, if there is going to be an across-the- board benefit, get the most benefit? BAYH: They will get some benefit, Wolf. And if we move forward with estate tax reform, which I think we will, they will obviously, by definition, get the lion's share of that benefit.

So I have nothing against rich people. Frankly, I wish we had more of them. But I do think, while they are also getting some benefit, every taxpayer should get some benefit, we shouldn't have it disproportionately skewed away from the middle class people, the working class people, who frankly, need the help the most in paying their daily bills.

BLITZER: All right.

THOMPSON: Well, in the Bush plan, of course, the bottom rate would go from 15 percent to 10 percent. So in terms of proportion, they would benefit the most. In terms of real dollars, of course, it would be different. But lowering the rate from 39.6 to 33 would still leave the top rate quite a bit higher than when President Clinton took office.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to take another quick break.

We have a lot more to talk about. When we return, more of your phone calls for Senators Evan Bayh and Fred Thompson. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana and Republican Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee.

Senator Bayh, this week President Bush is going to make a big initiative, the whole so-called faith-based proposals, to give federal money to churches, other religious institutions, to help them deal with some of the social issues affecting the country, like welfare, or education.

Some people are saying, though, that they feel uncomfortable about mixing state and church, in effect, and that it's not necessarily such a good idea.

BAYH: I think it can be done and done successfully in ways that help the rest of society, and I think the president will find broad common ground, bipartisan support for his initiative, if he does it right.

Many of us would object to taking government money, taxpayers' money, to foster the teaching of a particular religion. That would clearly be wrong.

But to use faith-based organizations in a secular way to meet some of the challenges facing society that you outline, Wolf, I think would help society. And I think we'll find some common ground on that one. BLITZER: You understand, though, Senator Thompson, why some people say they're getting a little bit nervous about this mixing-of- the-government-and-church issue, though?

THOMPSON: Sure, I do. But there are well-thought-out court decisions that I think pretty well show where the line is.

As Evan says, you can't have, you know, the teaching of a particular religion or teaching religion as such. That would go over the line of the establishment clause and so forth.

But research has shown that in several areas -- juvenile crime, young-people, addiction, and so forth -- that faith-based institutions and people, they work, they help, in solving these intractable problems that we have.

So I think what the president is saying is that, when the government in effect, contracts out some of these secular services to independent entities, that we don't discriminate against faith-based institutions, and I think that's sound policy.

BLITZER: Senator, Trent Lott, the Senate majority leader, was on Fox News Sunday earlier today, speaking about the gifts that Senator Clinton took from the White House when she was, of course, first lady and raising some questions about that. There has been some controversy.

Listen to what Senator Lott said earlier today. I'd be interested in both of your reaction to this issue.


SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: I think maybe in the Senate we're going to have to take a look at our own rules, gift rules, to say after you're elected but before you're sworn in, the rules apply, so that there won't be this rush to evade the rules, quite frankly.


BLITZER: As you know, the Clintons took about $190,000 worth of gifts during those final days as they left the White House. Should Senator Clinton do anything about this? Isn't there an appearance problem here?

BAYH: Well, I think these gifts, Wolf, had more to do with the fact that it was the president and first lady leaving office, rather than the fact that Hillary Clinton had just been elected to the Senate.

And yes, we should all be open to looking at the rules in the Senate, but I think it's important to keep this in perspective. President Bush accepted about $150,000 worth of gifts before he and Mrs. Bush left office, and President Reagan accepted a $2 million home from his friends in California.

So if you look at it in that context, this was not something that was out of the ordinary, compared to other, even Republican first families.

BLITZER: What about that?

THOMPSON: Well, the difference, of course, is that Senator Clinton is still in office, and these other former presidents were out of office, not in a position to do anything for anyone.

But look, you've got a tough situation here and tough for us. You're talking about a colleague, personal matters with regard to a colleague, and we're not going to get into that.

I do think that Senator Lott is correct, though. We probably ought to take a look at the situation where we've been elected but we haven't been sworn in yet, because the same reasons that we have gift bans for after we're sworn in really do apply to after we're elected. So I think that's probably something we ought to look at.

BLITZER: We only have a few seconds left.

How did the Bush administration do during week one?

BAYH: I think he's gotten off to a good start. The Ashcroft nomination, in my opinion, was unfortunately divisive, but other than that, Wolf, I think he's doing well.

BLITZER: Senator Thompson?

THOMPSON: Doing well, because he's doing what he said he would do.

BLITZER: And you think it's going to go uphill or downhill from now on?

THOMPSON: Well, you know, you can't have it this way forever, and everybody knows that. Circumstances will take over. We'll get closer to elections and things of that nature.

But as long as he continues to reach out, as long as he continues to carry out policies that he said he would during the campaign, I think he's going to have the respect of the American people. And I think that it's going to serve him well in terms of getting through some legislation that, perhaps, a short time ago we all thought couldn't be done with the close divisions we have on the Hill.

BLITZER: Any last minute piece of advice you have for President Bush?

BAYH: I think the president's biggest risk, Wolf, is from the far, far right of his own party. If he can resist their siren song and stick to the center, work with moderates in both parties, I think he'll get education, a reasonable tax cut, and other things. So if he can just not get pulled out of that center, I think he'll do fine.

BLITZER: I'm sure, Senator Thompson, you're not at the far, far right of that Republican Party. You're in the center.


THOMPSON: If the Democrats would resist the far left, we'd be OK, so...

BLITZER: The two of you are in sort of the center of both of your parties, so I'm sure it'll work out for the two of you.

Thanks so much for joining us, Senator Thompson, Senator Bayh.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

BAYH: Thank you.

BLITZER: And when we return, it's now a Bush White House, but former President Clinton is still under fire for his 11th-hour pardons, and there are also allegations some of his staffers may have carried out some mean-spirited pranks.

We'll get some insight on both of these stories from two political insiders: former Clinton White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart and GOP strategist Scott Reed.

LATE EDITION will be right back.



PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: There might have been a prank or two. Maybe somebody put a cartoon on the wall, but that's OK. It's time now to move forward.



MARK LINDSAY, WHITE HOUSE ADMINISTRATIVE AIDE TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: I have not heard one person who has been able to come forward and speak and say it on the record that they actually observed these things.


BLITZER: President Bush and former Clinton administration aide Mark Lindsay commenting on reports that some Clinton and Gore staffers may have engaged in acts of vandalism as pranks before leaving the White House.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining us now to talk about President Clinton's exit and President Bush's arrival are two guests: Scott Reed is a Republican strategist, who also managed former Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole's campaign; and Joe Lockhart is a former Clinton White House press secretary.

Gentlemen, thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION. Good to have both of you back on our program.

Let me begin with you, Joe. The whole issue -- we'll get to the pranks, the gifts in a second.

But let's talk, first of all, about the pardon, that the pardon of Marc Rich, the fugitive billionaire in Switzerland, gone for 17 years, never served any time, the president's decision based on strong recommendations from the former White House counsel, Jack Quinn, who is also Marc Rich's attorney. There is a widespread appearance that this doesn't smell good.

JOSEPH LOCKHART, FORMER CLINTON PRESS SECRETARY: Well, there's a widespread debate that isn't based on the facts, and I think once the facts are known, you'll have a situation where you'll have reasonable people on one side who think it was proper, reasonable people on the other. This wasn't just about Jack Quinn endorsing it. The prime minister of Israel thought this was good idea, as well as many others.

But there's been a campaign of innuendo here, which is very typical of Washington. And I think Jack Quinn's been out talking about the facts, setting straight that this had nothing do with campaign contributions, this had nothing -- that the Justice Department was informed on this.

And I think pardons are a particularly difficult issue for people to assess, because it's the president's authority. And the president looks at this, where he thinks, somehow, the Justice Department and the justice system has not adequately served a particular person.

So I think these -- the vast majority of the pardons were non- controversial. This one certainly was controversial. But I'm certain that the president made it on the basic -- the facts that were presented to him by the team of people who were presenting it for Mr. Rich. And we really should get away from this sort of innuendo campaign that a lot of people in this town have been running for the last week.

BLITZER: The argument also, Scott Reed, is that the Constitution grants the president complete authority to issue pardons. He doesn't have to give any explanations if he doesn't want to.

SCOTT REED, FORMER DOLE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: That's right, and the president should be able to do this. And a number of the ones he did are fine, including his brother being pardoned, who had a penalty, paid a penalty, and did his thing.

But the problem with this is, this guy was a fugitive. He was on the FBI top wanted, top 10 international list. And the way they went about this is, they went around the Justice Department, right to Clinton. And I almost have to question, in the closing 72 hours of this administration, was there anybody around Bill Clinton saying, "Wait, this isn't a very good idea"? Because the perception -- and, unfortunately, that's the way it looked, with his wife giving all this money to the Democrats and giving the coffee table.

BLITZER: Denise Rich, the ex-wife. REED: The ex-wife giving the coffee table and the chairs to the Clinton's as they left the White House, the millions of dollars in contributions. The whole thing stinks, and unfortunately, a lot of good folks like Joe, that did a lot of good for this president, it really hurts them on the way out the door.

BLITZER: You weren't there in the final months of this White House, so you can't be blamed. But had you been there, would you have told the president, if he would have asked you, if you would have been involved in this decision-making process, "Well, maybe you should rethink this"?

LOCKHART: Yes, I think what I certainly would have told him was anything like this is bound to be controversial.

But what are the facts? You know, I haven't sat and read through all these briefs. The bottom line is neither have most of the reporters covering this, and that's a problem. So you have this situation where anyone can throw out a charge, saying, "oh, it's about this, it's about that."

It's clear here that this wasn't a, you know, 11th-hour decision, that the president thought about it. He got a system whereby Mr. Rich would be subject to civil penalties.

I mean, this whole thing turns around whether this was a criminal or a civil case. The president, I was persuaded by the arguments that many made, that he should face civil penalties. And he got agreement up front that he wouldn't waive those, based on a statute of limitations, as a way to come back, face the music, but do it in a way that limited his criminal liability.

So, I think people ought to make a judgment here based on the facts. The facts are pretty straightforward here. I think, as I said earlier, reasonable people can come down on either side on this one on the facts and still be reasonable.

LOCKHART: But it's not about, well, what a lot of Republicans in this town this week have gone on. You know, I kind of wondered, and I worried a little bit about a lot of people who have spent the last eight years criticizing the president, going after -- what they do. Well, I found out they were going to just continue doing it. So I feel better about them. They've still got something to do, but it's not the facts.

BLITZER: He may no longer be in the White House, but he's still the subject of a lot of criticism. We only have a few seconds before we have to take a break.

There was nothing illegal in what Jack Quinn did, a former White House counsel going to represent Marc Rich in a criminal issue. But some people say that the appearance is not a proper appearance. Do you think this new Republican White House should tighten up the regulations a little bit to try to avoid this kind of appearance down the road?

REED: Well, it's not the White House's role. It's really the Congress' role, and I know that...

BLITZER: But the White House can issue executive orders and say nobody should lobby a president if you work for the president.

REED: I don't think the White House needs to. I don't think they need to look backwards. The thing this White House is doing so well this week is they are looking forward.

I do believe, this week you'll see some members of the Senate, like Senator Arlen Specter, who takes his role very seriously as head of the Judiciary Committee, to take a good look at this and really question. Because remember, Marc Rich fled the country. Why? Because he was trading with the enemy or worse.

LOCKHART: But you know what? That is one of the fact's here that has to be looked at. And the criminal cases that went forward, those parts of the indictment were dropped. So we should get to the facts.

BLITZER: We're going to continue to get to the facts in just a minute, but we have to take yet another break. Stand by.

For our international viewers, "World News" is next.

For our North American audience, stay tuned for the second hour of LATE EDITION. We'll take your phone calls for Joe Lockhart and Scott Reed. Then we'll preview Super Bowl XXXV with CNNSI's Bob Lorenz and Trev Alberts.

Plus, our LATE EDITION roundtable and Bruce Morton's last word. It's all ahead in the next hour of LATE EDITION.


BLITZER: This is the second hour of LATE EDITION.


PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We're settling in, and it's a huge honor to live in the people's house. And I understand the honor, and I'm going to uphold the honor.


BLITZER: How's President Bush doing? GOP strategist Scott Reed and former Clinton White House press secretary Joe Lockhart grade the president's first week in office.

And it's Super Bowl Sunday. CNNSI's Bob Lorenz and football analyst Trev Alberts take your phone calls on the big game.

Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable: Steve Roberts, Susan Page, and David Brooks. And Bruce Morton has the last word on what he calls America's last legal prejudice.

Welcome back. We'll get to your phone calls for Joe Lockhart and Scott Reed in just a moment, but first let's go to Donna Kelly at the CNN Center in Atlanta for the hour's top stories.


BLITZER: Now back to our conversation with the Republican strategist and former Dole campaign manager Scott Reed and former Clinton White House press secretary Joe Lockhart.

Joe, there was an editorial in the "Chicago Tribune" -- you're not going to like this, I'm just guessing -- referring to the gifts...

LOCKHART: You know me well, Wolf.

BLITZER: ... referring to the gifts that the Clinton's took at the end of the -- $190,000 dollars worth of gifts. Let me read to you the excerpt: "It's not just the amount of booty that induces disgust; it's also the timing. As a senator, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton couldn't have enjoyed such largess, but she and her husband apparently accepted these gifts before she took office."

This, in an editorial entitled, "Animal House at the White House."

LOCKHART: Well, you know, it's been great sport over the last eight years to go after the first family, to go after the White House, and much of it has been done without facts. So let me fill the Chicago Tribune in on some facts.

The Clintons, over eight years in the White House, took about $290,000 dollars worth of gifts. These are small and large. These are things from their friends.

Former President Bush, over four years took roughly half that, so about the same amount if you look at it over a four-year and eight- year period.

Former President Reagan, you know, broke all the records, well beyond. Former President Reagan allowed some of his friends to buy him a house. Nobody begrudged President Reagan that. I don't begrudge him that.

I'd never begrudged former President Bush those, but I know the sport here. These are -- it is popular and easy for people without the facts to go after them.

But let me throw a couple more facts in. The first lady wrote a book called "It Takes a Village." Millions of dollars in profits all went to charity. The White House celebrated its 200th anniversary this year and needed to be renovated and worked on. The first lady raised $25 million.

There's a lot of good things they've done. And on the gifts, this is the same story as former President Bush, but I guess it's more fun for those who have made a living out of this to go after them.

BLITZER: Well, those sound like pretty good facts, don't they? REED: They are good facts, but if you put it in a bigger context, it's just so unseemly the way that these folks went out the door.

And Joe's a good man, and he does a good job of defending them, but if you put it all together, from the final speech to the deal, and the independent prosecutor to the whole process with the furniture, to the whole going-away speech at Andrews Air Force Base, and the speech in New York, and then you put this on top of it, with the pardons -- it's just the whole thing stinks.

REED: And in any other -- in an isolated way, it's probably not that big of a deal, but when you put it all together, it causes a lot of people to shake their head and, one, say it's good that Bill Clinton is gone.

Clearly, there needs to be some look at the rules and the laws that, if you're elected to the U.S. Senate on one day in November, and you fulfill your seat and are sworn in in early January, what you do in that in-between period should not be illegal, and it should not be wrong, and it should not be unseemly. And that's what we have.

LOCKHART: Well, again, the facts -- people in this town have short memories. They have forgotten that former President Bush gave a speech on his way out of town, which was well-received, and spoke when he went down to Texas, which was well-received, particularly by his people.

You know, there are a lot of people who had hard feelings with this election. It's not clear to a lot of us that this election was -- the proper result came out.

So to begrudge the president the ability to say goodbye to his friends and supporters, to me, seems a new high in pettiness.

But, you know, putting that aside, if you look at the facts on these gifts, there aren't a whole bunch of people who came up the day before this deadline came and said, "Oh, we want to give you something." These were things that were given over the course of the last four years, which they have to make a decision. There are a lot of gifts that go back. Many more went back. But the ones that are over a certain amount, they either have to give them back or declare them. And they declared at the end, they made a decision for things that had been kept, whether they were going to keep them or not.

And I think, you know, the idea that they sat around in the White House on their last few days and said, "How can we get every last dollar out of here?" it's just absurd. The facts don't back it up, and I do understand that the culture in this town rewards that.

But let me make one other point, which is: There's been a lot of lip-service to changing the culture in this town and changing -- making it more bipartisan. Well, I think, you know, the Republicans, who've made it their business to go after Bill Clinton and the first lady this week, have done a disservice to that and are going to make it harder for their president, who says that this is what he's all about, to get that done.

BLITZER: Well, what about that, the suggestion -- the story -- which takes us to the issue of the alleged vandalism, the pranks that occurred at the White House, that the argument is made by some of President Clinton's supporters that, yes, President Bush and Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, Andy Card, the White House chief of staff, took the high road, publicly.

But privately, they were spreading all these allegations, trying to further smear the reputation of the former president.

REED: Well, the fact is, this week there was a real split in this new White House for the first time, where you had Dick Cheney, the vice president, and Karl Rove, the chief strategist, telling the White House, "Let's not promote this idea. Keep it quiet. Let it take care of itself. We're having a great week. We're having the best week of all of our political lives. We have Alan Greenspan up testifying to the Congress on how there ought to be the Bush tax cut, basically."

And there was a split there, and it was a mistake for the White House to be banging this on the front page of the papers. They should have forgotten about it, because the beauty to this new administration is they're looking forward, and they've got an agenda. And that's why they've gotten off to a good start. So I'd forget about all this stuff.

BLITZER: You know, on this point, Joe, let me just play for you the soundbite from Andy Card, the White House chief of staff. He was on "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS", and he was comparing the transition, which he was in charge of eight years ago when he was a -- when he was, then, the transportation secretary in the Bush administration, and the current transition.

Listen to this.


ANDREW CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I was in charge of the transition out of government for President Bush, and we made sure that President Clinton was able to take the baton and run fast with it when he took office. And we think we left the White House a better place than when we arrived.


LOCKHART: Well, I think there is two levels of this. One is, there were a lot of people in 1993, when the Clintons came in, who felt they could have had more cooperation. But you know what? That's the past.

What I can tell you for certain is that the president and John Podesta, his former chief of staff, made certain that this transition was done with unprecedented cooperation. And that was from lots of time between the chiefs of staff to, one day, I went to the White House, and the person who clipped the newspapers for President Clinton was showing the person who's going to clip the newspapers for President Bush how to do it, where the machines are. I mean, that kind of stuff is important.

LOCKHART: I think, you know, Scott is right, though, that they made a big mistake with this so-called vandalism, because, first off, they haven't provided any facts. There were lots of pranks that were played between the former President Bush and the Clinton administration. I'm certain there were pranks this time.

But this got much beyond it. You had the spokesman standing up there saying that "I'm cataloguing all these, we're checking them out. There's vandalism here, but I'm not going to tell you what they are." I mean, that's just bad form.

But secondly, when the people who went through -- in the walk- through from the Clinton administration, you know, Mark Lindsay, who you showed earlier -- there's no evidence of it. And they've now clearly backed off it.

But I agree with Scott. The story of this week was not how much they got out of education or how much they got out of tax cuts, it was White House vandalism. That's what filled up the chat pages, and that was a big mistake for them.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from Charleston, South Carolina. Go ahead, please, with your question.

QUESTION: OK, my question is about the pranks and vandalism that you've just been speaking about. And it is: Do you think that this has just been from the Bush campaign to further damage Clinton's reputation and make Bush look better? This is for Joe Lockhart.

BLITZER: Before you get to Joe, let's let Scott Reed address this issue, as well. The accusation, I guess, and the caller reflects it, is that the current administration, the new administration, looking so strong, so impressive in part because of these unpleasant details involving the former administration, perhaps a very sophisticated public relations strategy.

REED: I think it's a sophisticated public relations strategy, but it failed. I mean, clearly they shouldn't have done this, and the caller touches on a point here. There's always some funny things that happen when an administration passes off the baton. The president always leaves a note for his successor. The press secretary leaves a flack jacket in the office for his successor. That's all good fun and games.

But, clearly, this went a little too far. But it was a mistake to bang this as hard as they did, because it overshadowed what was one of the most fabulous weeks of this administration, off to a start on their agenda, and they should just drop it.

LOCKHART: You know, I think this may seem, now that we know the facts, or we know more of them, that there wasn't vandalism, there were some pranks that went on, it may seem like it's not important. But I think there is an important issue here, which is there is lip service being paid now to changing the culture in this town and trying to become bipartisan. And I think there are some people -- I think the chief of staff, Andy Card, has been very effective this week at pressing that point home publicly.

But there is still a sense among Republicans in this town -- and you saw some of it coming from the White House, some of it coming from the Hill -- that hasn't quite bought into that. And you can't have it both ways. If you're going to be a hard-edge partisan, that's fine, you can get things done that way. But you can't have it both ways.

And this was, I think, an example of trying to have it both ways, and I agree with Scott. It backfired.

BLITZER: All right. Joe Lockhart, Scott Reed, thanks to both of you for joining us. I hope you go home and enjoy the Super Bowl. We're going to be talking about the Super Bowl coming up. Thanks for joining us once again.

Just ahead: It is Super Bowl Sunday. Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants fans prepare for the big battle. We'll get some professional perspective from CNNSI reporter Bob Lorenz and CNNSI football analyst Trev Alberts.

LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: You're looking at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, where Super Bowl XXXV begins about five hours from now. The New York Giants and the Baltimore Ravens will be vying for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Who would have thought that when the Super Bowl began 35 years ago it would turn into the sports and entertainment spectacle that it's turned out to be?

Joining us now from Tampa to talk about the game and the National Football League is CNNSI anchor Bob Lorenz and CNNSI football analyst and former NFL player Trev Alberts.

Guys, thanks for joining us. And I just want to point out, as an old-time AFC -- or AFL fan in the '60s from Buffalo, New York, I've watched all 34 previous Super Bowls, and I got to tell you, most of them have been duds. Do you expect this one to be a really good, strong game?

Let's begin with you, Bob.

BOB LORENZ, CNNSI ANCHOR: Well, you know what's really weird, Wolf, is I think I've got Trev to come to the dark side now.

TREV ALBERTS, CNNSI FOOTBALL ANALYST: No. LORENZ: Yes, the last two weeks you have been saying, "You know what? It's going to be the worst game ever. Ravens 6 to 3, maybe a field goal decides it." Suddenly you're telling me maybe the Giants will win?

ALBERTS: Well, I like the Giants. Coming down here, I thought the Ravens were going to win because it was going to be a defensive battle, kind of a boring game. But I'm still not sold on the fact that, because we have two good defenses, all of a sudden it guarantees a good game. We have very mediocre, at best, offenses.

And so, yes, Wolf, the final score will be 10 to 3 and everybody will say, oh, what a great game. But we won't see the greatest action on the field, I'm afraid.

BLITZER: Why is it -- I don't know if you have historic perspective. Why is it that usually these games are pretty -- turn out to be sort of boring by the time you get to the third and certainly the fourth quarter, Bob?

ALBERTS: Well, we sit here...

LORENZ: Yes, I think it's intangibles. I mean, you look at certain games and I think there's always -- in the case of this game -- and I think it's going be about 17 to 13 Giants, somewhere around there. A little more offensive than most people think, because, in the biggest game on earth, somebody's going to make a mistake, maybe two. Somebody's going to be a hero, maybe an unlikely hero, and that always happens. And that makes a difference of maybe two, three touchdowns in the game.

ALBERTS: I think a lot of it, too, is how these teams handle it. I mean there's so much hype. There's two weeks of sitting around here, and both these teams, Wolf, have handled this completely differently.

I mean, the Baltimore Ravens have come down here, very cocky, walking around, hats turned backwards, very confident, feeling like there's no problem, they'll win the game with their defense. The Giants, very different, very businesslike, have handled things much differently.

So at end of the game, at the end of Super Bowl XXXV, whoever wins, I think the other one's going to look back and say, maybe we didn't do this right, I don't know.

LORENZ: Yes, but you yourself said that maybe that's good for the Ravens, maybe that's good that Brian Billick, their head coach, kind of put that swagger in them at the start of the week.

ALBERTS: That's been their moniker all year long. I mean, that's how they've been. You know, I mean, this is a team without any offense continues to win games with that great defense and special teams. And they've done it in the past, so why change now?

LORENZ: You know, we can sit here and pontificate all day, Wolf, but you know what? You never know what's going to happen. It could be one play that changes the tide.

BLITZER: Well, you know, there is, though, controversy hovering over this game, and you referred to it earlier. Brian Billick, he talked about it earlier this week. We have a soundbite from him referring to the double murder charges that were dropped against the Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis. Listen to what Brian Billick had to say.


BRIAN BILLICK, HEAD COACH, BALTIMORE RAVENS: As much as some of you want to, we are not going to retry this. It's inappropriate, and you're not qualified.

And those that which to embellish it, not to crystallize it, not to shed new information, but to simply glorify -- not glorify, but to sensationalize it for your own purposes, quite personally -- and this is a personal observation -- it's reprehensible on my part. I don't like it, I think it's unprofessional.


BLITZER: Trev, how much of an issue is this controversy going to play once those guys get on the field?

ALBERTS: I think it plays absolutely no issue at all. I think Brian Billick is a lot smarter of a person than a lot of us have given him credit for.

I think so much of football, as a player, is finding something to play for, finding a chip on the shoulder. And that's what this Baltimore Raven team's been all about. You saw Shannon Sharpe, during the week, come out and defend his teammate, too.

I think this is probably the closest this team's ever been. They've had to stand up for each other. Chemistry, you know, it's an unwritten rule, very important in football. This team's as motivated as any team I've ever seen right now.

BLITZER: What about that, Bob? Are we making too much of it -- when I say we, I mean the news media -- this whole issue involving Ray Lewis?

LORENZ: You know what, honestly, I don't think they did. I think the Baltimore Ravens actually perpetuated the situation with Billick on Monday kind of spanking the media. Well, what happens when you do that? Guess what, the media just kind of gloms (ph) onto that.

On Tuesday, Ray Lewis had media day, kind of does his thing, and then Shannon Sharpe on Wednesday. They're the ones that kept going. They're going to be asked questions about it.

On the flip side, Kerry Collins and his past problems, they dealt with it with the media on Monday, and that was it. Pretty much a closed book at that point, but the Ravens kept it going, going and going. And as long as you do that, you're going to keep having to field questions about it, and that's what happened with the Ravens.

But again, maybe that was the mastermind Brian Billick getting it going so they could have that chip on their shoulder, us against the world.

BLITZER: This past week, we also saw Ray Carruth. He was convicted.

Trev, you played in the NFL, you know the players in the NFL. There is this impression out there, a lot of these guys are just rich guys playing football but behaving very, very badly when they're off the field. How much truth is there to that perception that's obviously out there, at least among some people?

ALBERTS: I think, Wolf, there is some truth to that. You know, Paul Tagliabue addressed the issues and the media, and he talked about the fact that that -- you know, the NFL is just a reflection upon society and the stats really point to that, if society had these stats the NFL had in terms of crime, we'd be a much better society.

But I think the reality is that, as an NFL football player, you have a civic responsibility to hold yourself to a much higher standard. I mean, these guys are looked at -- you're sitting down here, you should see the craziness going on for two weeks. These people and these football players and athletes are held to a higher standard. So I think that's kind of been something that he's relied on in the fact, in terms of Commissioner Tagliabue, and I think it's unfair. These guys need to be held higher.

BLITZER: Is that a fair thought, Bob?

LORENZ: I'm sorry, Wolf, I didn't get that.

BLITZER: The point that Trev just made that NFL players should be held to a higher standard than average people because they are seen as sort of role models, especially for a lot of young people.

ALBERTS: I think that actually is an opinion that needs to be kind of individualized. I agree with Trev, I think that's true. Some people, certainly players to a certain extent, don't feel that they're role models. But I do believe that that's the case. They're in the public eye, they're looked up to. Why shouldn't they set a standard for others to follow? It's not that hard, quite honestly, for these guys to stay out of trouble. The problem is finding ways to avoid that trouble.

ALBERTS: Bob, you mentioned it earlier. I think Kerry Collins, you know, has the perfect example of how you can handle the medium. I mean, Kerry Collins went through an incredible day. Here is a guy that got his team to the NFC championship game, and basically, his career was over. He was accused of racism. I mean, he had problems -- a drinking problem. Came down here, faced the media, admitted his problems, and handled it professionally the right way.

I think if Ray Lewis and some of the Ravens would have handled it that way, it wouldn't have been so much of an issue. And I think that's the other reason why I think this Super Bowl isn't so great, Bob, is because this Super Bowl never would have been known as the Ravens versus Giants. It's all about Ray Lewis and what happened a year ago. And I think that's unfortunate, because there's two good football teams in this game.

BLITZER: All right. It looks like people are beginning to have a good time in Tampa.

Guys, stand by. We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about, including the XFL.

Also, your phone calls about the NFL and the Super Bowl for Bob Lorenz and Trev Alberts.

LATE EDITION will be right back.



UNKNOWN: The Ravens are going to win this game. I know it in my heart.



UNKNOWN: The Giants have got a lock on this. That's what I think.



UNKNOWN: We're going to win the Super Bowl. We're going to come back with the trophy.


BLITZER: NFL fans weighing in on Super Bowl XXXV, which kicks off in Tampa a little while from now.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking about the Super Bowl with CNNSI's Bob Lorenz and CNN football analyst, Trev Alberts.

Guys, we have a caller from Georgia with a question.

Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Thank you, Wolf.

Trev, which quarterback, Dilfer or Collins, in your opinion, will have the biggest impact on the game and make the big difference?

ALBERTS: Well, I think the important thing is that Trent Dilfer should not have a big impact on the game, I mean in a good way. That's what they've been doing all season long is he hasn't tried to make the big plays. They don't rely on him, so I think that's the key.

Kerry Collins, I think, is the most important guy of the two. I mean, here's a guy, I think, that has to be able to challenge that Raven secondary and throw the ball down the field. He's much more important to the offense of the New York Giants than Trent Dilfer is for the Baltimore Ravens.

BLITZER: All right, we have another caller from Illinois.

Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Hi. With the conviction of Ray Carruth, does the league see a see a connection between the erosion of the moral fiber in the league? Was there a connection, or was this an aberration?

BLITZER: What about that, Bob?

LORENZ: Well, I think that Paul Tagliabue, when he addressed that, he said, "You know what? The way we do things, we're actually better off. We should be a model for society," when he addressed it in his state of the league address on Friday.

If you put the 2,000 players in the NFL, and you say maybe just 4 percent of them are guys who have had past problems, that we're doing things the right way. They have counseling, they have substance abuse programs, that they're trying to put things in place. And Tagliabue said he's looked at everything that they can do to help the players. But unfortunately, you're going to have a couple of guys who go astray of the law.

ALBERTS: You know want to say this too, Wolf. As a former player, I do want to say, being in the NFL, it's not like they just play lip service to it. I mean, a couple of times, especially as rookies, they send people in. I know Ray Lewis addressed the rookies of this year's class. We had people constantly coming in. They come in weekly, helping us with everything.

So it's not like the league isn't trying to help these athletes and trying to let them know -- you have got to understand that there are ultimate, you know, very big restraints on these guys and all kinds of things from the outside that can affect these young men.

LORENZ: Yes, and people in and around the NFL said when Ray Lewis addressed those rookies prior to the season, that was like the biggest wake-up call that those guys could ever have, because they were coming fresh off the story of his double murder charges a year ago.

BLITZER: And if you think that some NFL players are behaving badly, on or off the field, just wait for the XFL to get off the ground.

There's a little promotional video clip we got together. Look at what the XFL -- some people say it stands for Extreme Football League. Look what they are promoting right now, guys.


NARRATOR: A league where players must train harder and push themselves to the extreme. Passing drill. Blocking drill. Obstacle course. Oh, we didn't (ph) mention no fair catches. The XFL.


BLITZER: Trev, is the XFL, is this really football, or is this totally entertainment? What is this all about?

ALBERTS: Well, there's a fine line, Wolf, between sport and entertainment, and I'm not sure if this league hasn't crossed that line. I think the key is we have to sit around and just wait and find out, watch a football game, see if it's real.

I mean, everybody is assuming, because of the involvement with the WWF, that it's basically programmed wrestling out there. But the reality is, I think, in looking at the rosters of the XFL, they're some very good football players on these rosters. I mean, John Avery, who was a first-round draft pick of Miami Dolphins, will be a starting running back in this league.

So I think it is real football. But I think, at the same time, we have to just sit back and watch a few games to make sure that it is real football. And there's certainly -- there's a market for it. There's a lot of great players who aren't in the NFL.

LORENZ: I mean, they're trying to create a niche, certainly in the off-season of the NFL. And the other thing is, you know, these guys are trying -- you talk about real football -- trying to get it back to the old days. In the '50s, guys ran into each other, smash mouth, dirty, bloody. That's what they're going after, so they've enacted some rule changes and rules that are different from the NFL to sort of do that.

But again, you know, you have to wait to see what happens with it. I think at least for a year it's going to captivate some people.

BLITZER: We'll be watching it. We're going to leave now, guys, because we don't have any time left.

But I want to leave you with these latest poll numbers, in case you haven't seen it from our CNN-USA Today Gallop Poll. When the question was asked, "Who would you like to see win the Super Bowl?" the answer was Giants, 48 percent; Ravens, 32 percent.

When the question was asked, "Who do you think will win the Super Bowl?" Giants -- look at this -- 55 percent; Ravens, 26 percent. Very quickly, does that mean the Giants are a lock, Bob?

LORENZ: I think they are with everything they can do offensively. But, you know, the minute we say that, guess what's going to happen? The Ravens are going to smack them in the mouth and win it. ALBERTS: Forget about it, Wolf. The Giants will win this game, 10 to 3.

LORENZ: 17 to 13.

BLITZER: I'm going to be watching. This will be my 35th Super Bowl, what can I do?

Thanks for joining us. Bob Lorenz, Trev Alberts, thanks so much for joining us.

Up next, grading the president's first week in office. Is he winning Washington over? We'll go around the table with Roberts, Page, and Brooks.

LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

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

All right, Steve, grade week one for this Bush White House.

STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Pretty darn good. He showed, I think, more deftness, more confidence than people expected. I think his handling of Congress was a particularly good thing.

I've talked to some Democrats who really came back from the White House -- and this was not just for publication, this is sort of back- room chatter -- saying "The guy -- don't underestimate this guy. He's smooth, he's charming, he knows what he's talking about."

Obviously, it's only cosmetics. It's the first week. But I think it's a very good first week, and particularly because, not only has he talked the talk about bipartisanship, he really has reached out, shown flexibility on education. Good week.

BLITZER: So, David, that means the charm offensive, if you're charming, if you return phone calls to members of Congress and schmooze with them, that's a good strategy?

DAVID BROOKS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yes, it works. It's created this fantastic honeymoon. I was thinking John Derrick didn't have this good a honeymoon the week after he married Bo.


It's just been fantastic. And in part -- you know, Ari Fleischer made the point they earned it, which I think is sort of true. Karl Rove and those people looked at all past first weeks, they counted up how many members of Congress they had met with, what they had done, when people showed up to work, when they left, and they organized this to a T. They set the agenda with education, and they had all these fantastic meetings. Ninety members of Congress came in, 17 governors. It all worked.

BLITZER: And, Susan, you remember this, just as I do, that first week -- in contrast with the first week eight years ago of the Clinton White House, this seemed like almost a perfect performance.

SUSAN PAGE, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, the Clinton White -- the message of that first week at the Clinton White House, which we both covered, was chaos, kids, didn't know what they were doing, didn't have a plan, and were enmeshed in this issue not of their own making, gays in the military -- not the issue they intended to start out with.

The message this week with George W. Bush is: in control, disciplined, have a plan, know what they're doing.

Now, people have focused on the last part of the week, where you had all these members of Congress coming down, and that was important.

Don't forget what he did the first part of the week. He issued an order on abortion and the funding of international family planning agencies that counsel abortion -- which very much reassured and pleased his base -- took a day away from education publicity, but reassured his base. And it makes it easier for him to do some compromises on education that, frankly, conservatives in Congress aren't going to want.

BLITZER: Here's the other question. Why does everybody say he did such a great job this first week when there was this controversy over abortion in international groups, controversy continuing over John Ashcroft, the controversy of the fallout from the Linda Chavez nomination, other issues? Why is it seen as such a perfect week when there were some problems?

ROBERTS: Well, it wasn't perfect, although, as Susan points out, the abortion decision was totally expected. There was nothing unexpected about it. This is the policy his own father had followed. Bill Clinton had reversed it in his first week in office. Everybody knew he was going to make this decision, even though it was a gesture to the right wing.

I think it did raise some alarm that, when you get to other issues relating to the conservative wing of the party -- Evan Bayh said it on this show earlier. He said one of the biggest threats to George Bush is if he allows himself to be pulled too far to the right.

For instance, if he reverses the decision on the abortion pill, for instance, or if he, on fetal tissue research -- there are some potholes down there, some very significant potential problems for him on the abortion issue. That one I think he handled pretty well.

BLITZER: On the RU-486, so-called abortion pill, you think he's going to reverse the Food and Drug Administration?

BROOKS: It's really hard to reverse at this point. He hemmed and hawed during the campaign. I think this administration is operationally pro-choice. John Ashcroft said Roe v. Wade is settled law of the land. I think they're going to stick with it.

But something that Steve said about the right -- one of the things that came out today was the education issue, where the conservatives have had this sustained critique of the public school system, saying it's a public monopoly, we need more school choice.

In his education plan, George Bush didn't embrace that, he didn't reject it. His plan is totally separate from the conservative critique over the past 25 years. It's an accountability plan, but conservatives got in line. And I think that's symptomatic of how much they want him to succeed.

BLITZER: And in his radio address yesterday, Susan, the president signaled pretty strongly that he's open to a compromise on these school vouchers. He's not necessarily going to make that the sine qua non of his education plan.

PAGE: The White House wants an early victory in education. It's the easiest issue out there for them. It's the one in which there's the most bipartisan support, and they think if they get a victory on that, then that kind of lays the ground work for victories on harder issues that come down the road.

When it comes to abortion -- and clearly that's a really hot button issue for this White House -- I think they have a model in mind, and that is the Reagan White House. I think the Reagan White House was the model for this first week in office.

If you remember what President Reagan did, he opposed abortion rhetorically, but he did not put political capital at stake to do anything about it. And I think that's the model we're going to see. And if that's the model, then he will not try to reverse the FDA decision on RU-486.

ROBERTS: But there's also -- you know, you said, well, if you just schmooze with Democrats, you know, are they that easily seduced. But there was substance here.

I mean, education's a very good example because not only did he indicate that he is not going to go to the mat on the voucher issue, he's not going to let that stand in the way of a significant compromise, but you got to remember, as David points out, this is a guy who's party, six years ago, was talking about closing down the Department of Education. Here's a man talking about more money for education, more national standards from a party that always talks about local control.

So there's a substantive move, at least on that issue, towards the Senate. That's why so many Democrats, including Ted Kennedy, are for it because there are a lot of things that they agrees with in it.

BLITZER: But probably, and correct me if I'm wrong, David, the biggest news of the week, and biggest story of the week really was Alan Greenspan's, in effect, giving this boost to the Bush tax cut plan. You think they sent a dozen roses over from the White House?

BROOKS: I was thinking they're sitting in the Oval Office, they've had this great week, and then comes Alan Greenspan. And they're sitting back, how good can it get? You know, the holy man comes in and embraces our tax plan. And this really does make them think, not only can we get the tax plan we wanted but we can get it sooner and we can get it retroactive to right now. It's just got to make them feel just wonderful.

PAGE: You know, this Greenspan endorsement did not come out of the blue and drop in their lap. There had been a concerted effort to court Alan Greenspan and to get him to come aboard on the tax cut plan.

BLITZER: So they could schmooze with Alan Greenspan, too? They can seduce him?

PAGE: Alan Greenspan maybe the greatest example of the success of the charm defense.

And of course, Alan Greenspan, while we talk about the Fed as being non-political, it's non-political the way the Supreme Court is non-political. It is not unaware of the politics. We saw Alan Greenspan do something nice for Bill Clinton eight years ago on his economic plan, when he took over. You saw the same thing at work this week.

BLITZER: And it's interesting, Joe Lieberman was on "Meet the Press" earlier today. He made it clear he wasn't that thrilled with what Alan Greenspan had to say. A lot of Democrats upset about it. Listen to what Lieberman said earlier this morning.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I must say that I'm afraid, and I say this with all respect to Alan Greenspan, that the testimony last week may be one of the low points of a great career because of the way in which it will be interpreted.


BLITZER: The way interpreted meaning it will open the door to this big tax cut.

ROBERTS: Alan Greenspan's been around a long time, and he has to have known how his statement is going to be interpreted. Now, it was full -- if you read it, it was full of all these caveats, it was full of all these hesitancies and these reservations.

BLITZER If you read it, nobody can understand it.

ROBERTS: I'm sure you could have, Wolf.

But the headline overwhelmed everything.

And I think part of what he is saying, what Lieberman is saying, and I think it's a legitimate critique, is that it was kind of out of character, in a way. Here's a guy who's been arguing for so long for fiscal discipline, which might have worked for Bill Clinton, but it's a Republican idea. And here he's talking about how we might be in danger of paying off the national debt. Does anybody in Washington believe that that is a real possibility any time soon?

So I think one of the reasons what he's saying is that, from an economic point of view, that's not an argument that necessarily makes a lot of sense.

BROOKS: Yes, I'm not sure, there was a lot substance in that testimony. First of all, he said productivity is up. This is not a myth. American productivity is up; it transforms our fiscal situation.

Second, it actually is true that if you pay off the debt too quickly it costs a lot of money because you got to get people to redeem their bonds faster than they want to. So there's real substance.

And the third thing, and I think the most important thing, Greenspan saw what happened in the budget last fall when the Congress went on a spending spree in a bipartisan way. And it's always been his position that it's better to have tax cuts than to just fritter away on pork.

BLITZER: And if have that big surplus, they're going to spend it instead of saving it, further reducing the debt.

Stand by, we have to take another quick break. We have a lot more to talk about, including the Super Bowl. Super Bowl picks from our roundtable.

LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our LATE EDITION roundtable.

Susan, a big uproar this week, not involving the Bush administration, but the former Clinton administration, specifically, President Clinton's decision to pardon Marc Rich, the Swiss-living American fugitive billionaire, as he's come to be called.

Friday night, I interviewed Jack Quinn, who's Marc Rich's attorney, a former White House counsel for Bill Clinton. He said he's ready for an investigation, in fact, would welcome an investigation, because he thinks the facts are on his side.

Listen to what Jack Quinn said.


JACK QUINN, ATTORNEY FOR MARC RICH: ... completely and promptly. And I'll look forward to a thorough airing of this, because I think that when the facts come out, people will see that we did the right thing, the president did the right thing, we got the right result, and this indictment, when it was brought, was really and truly worthless.


PAGE: Well, Jack Quinn might as well welcome a congressional investigation, because he's going to get one whether he wants it or not.

There's a lot of distress about this Marc Rich pardon. And, you know, we talked about how controlled and orderly the Bush White House was in taking over. The Clinton White House seems to have left with the same feeling of sort of, you know, a cloud overhead, the hint of scandal that they came in with. And it's remarkable to me that, after eight years in power, after all that the Clintons have gone through in terms of investigations, that they would open themselves to this kind of thing by not pursuing the normal pardon process through the Justice Department with somebody who is guaranteed to be so controversial.

BLITZER: David, how do you explain that?

BROOKS: I really don't. It has to Denise Rich, and it has to be the whole...

BLITZER: Denise Rich being the ex-wife.

BROOKS: Being the ex-wife who really -- who, first of all, gave $1.3 million to the Democratic Party, but lobbied hard. Jack Quinn, a top Gore aide, lobbied hard.

It just stinks to high heaven. You know, here's a guy who hired Edward Bennett Williams, Marc Rich did, early in his defense of himself. Bennett Williams tried to cut a deal for him, but Rich fled the country. Bennett Williams said to him, "You just spit on the American flag," and that to me is the summary statement of Marc Rich's career.

And why you pardon a guy like this, it's almost beyond calculation.

ROBERTS: Well, it's, you know -- Quinn is trying to argue that somehow the original indictment was flawed and that justifies it. But the fact is, the guy was indicted and he did flee the country, as you point out.

And I think it's a classic case study for the evils of soft money, among other things, because clearly there was a connection here. The ability to give that kind of money -- you know, it's so hard to convince people how the practical effect of this kind of money in the system, to be able to say, "Here's someone who gave money, and here's what they got for it." This is a very good case study that doesn't happen very often, when you see how the system works.

BROOKS: We had the parallel case with Michael Milken, who was prosecuted by Giuliani the same way, using the same RICO statute, who's actually served his time, given the same amount to charity. He didn't get the pardon, Marc Rich got the pardon. PAGE: You know, there's an interesting point here. There's probably nothing that Congress can do about this pardon that constitutional -- the president's constitutional power to pardon is absolute.

But it could have an effect in helping John McCain in his campaign finance bill, because I think it does stoke the feeling that there is something corrupt about the system as it works now.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to make a left turn or a right turn, a complete turn right now. There's a big game. I don't know if you've heard about it, the Super Bowl.


BLITZER: It's going to be on in about four or five hours from now.


BLITZER: No, unfortunately not on CNN. It will be on CNN's The Airport Channel for those of you who will be flying around, you'll be able to be at your gate, watching the Super Bowl.


BLITZER: What do you think's going to happen there?

ROBERTS: Well, I...

BLITZER: You have to be up front and tell everybody you're from New Jersey, which is where the New Jersey Giants play.

ROBERTS: Yes, but that's why I hate them so much.

And I'm an old New York Yankees baseball fan, but the New York Giants were always the rival team. And I'm for the Baltimore Colts.

BLITZER: Ravens.

ROBERTS: I'm for the Baltimore Colts.


BLITZER: Oh, really?

ROBERTS: This is the new team, you know, but that's my old feelings about Baltimore. I'm glad for the fact that Baltimore now has a team...

BLITZER: So you say Baltimore is going to win?

ROBERTS: I think Baltimore is going to win. They deserve to win.

BROOKS: I'm not sure who's going to win, but I know the score is going to be 42-38, because all the football pundits are saying it's going to be like 2-0. I think football pundits are even more full of it than political pundits.


PAGE: I'm going to be watching. I'm going to be cheering for the Redskins. They should be in this. I'm going to cheer for them until they are.

BLITZER: I remember the 1991 Super Bowl, a terrible Super Bowl, the Bills and the Giants. I don't know if you remember, it was during the Gulf War. It was travesty of justice what happened in that first Buffalo Bills Super Bowl.

Enough. We don't want to talk about that.


ROBERTS: We're talking -- you know, you guys from Buffalo, you know, this is -- never going to get over.

BLITZER: All right. I want to thank our roundtable: David, Susan, Steve, we'll all be watching the Super Bowl.

Just ahead. Bruce Norton's last word.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN NEWS: The country is still arguing: You choose it. No, you're born with it.

And homosexuals often face perfectly legal discrimination.


BLITZER: Is America still looking the other way when it comes to discrimination against gays and lesbians?


BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's last word on a prejudice that doesn't seem to be diminishing.

MORTON: Is John Ashcroft, President Bush's choice to be attorney general, anti-homosexual?

Is Mr. Bush?

Paul Offner, a Democrat and health care expert who in 1985 applied to be head of Missouri's department of social services, told The Washington Post then-Governor Ashcroft asked him about his sexual orientation at the beginning of a job interview.

Ashcroft himself told the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing:


JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL DESIGNATE: I want to make very clear, sexual orientation has never been something that I've used in hiring.


MORTON: Democratic Senator Russ Feingold told Ashcroft, "You said in a 1998 appearance on CBS, 'I believe the Bible calls it a sin, and that's what defines a sin for me.'"

And in a 1996 debate, Ashcroft said: Many employers have honest moral, religious-based objections to hiring homosexuals.

Ashcroft opposed James Hormel, a gay Clinton nominee to be ambassador to Luxembourg, but told the committee, "On the totality of his record, I didn't think he would effectively represent the United States."

Hormel thinks his homosexuality was the issue.


JAMES HORMEL, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO LUXEMBOURG: I can only conclude that Mr. Ashcroft chose to vote against me solely because I am a gay man.


MORTON: In a way, it's America's last legal discrimination. It's illegal to deny somebody a job because of their sex, race, or religion. But in many states, job-discrimination against homosexuals is not illegal.

Conservatives always say they object to special rights for gays, but this isn't a special right. It's a general right which applies to just about everybody else.

President Bush said, during one of the presidential debates:


PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I will tell you, I'm the kind of person, I don't hire or fire somebody based upon their sexual orientation.


MORTON: Though he avoided taking a position on the anti- discrimination bill.

He met with a Republican homosexual group after securing his party's presidential nomination, which drew criticism from conservative one-time rival Gary Bauer.

But as governor, Bush opposed efforts to bring anti-gay violence under the state's hate-crime law.

Ronald Reagan, opposing an initiative to ban gay teachers in public schools back in the 1970s said, "Whatever else it is, homosexuality is not a contagious disease like measles."

But the country is still arguing: You choose it. No, you're born with it.

And homosexuals often face perfectly legal discrimination in jobs, in housing, which, if it were based on race or religion, they could fight in court.

I'm Bruce Morton.

BLITZER: Thanks, Bruce.

When we return, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines. Stay with us.


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

Newsweek gets laid off. How safe is your job? Surviving the slow down and who's hiring now -- on the cover.

Time magazine tells us how to get healthier even if you've had too much fun -- on the cover.

And on the cover of U.S. News and World Report, "Scary Weather: Scientists Issue a Startling Forecast of Global Climate Change."

And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, January 28.

This note: From now on, every Friday I'll be sending out an e- mail to let you know what we here at LATE EDITION are planning for the show. You can sign up to receive it at It's free. You'll like it. I promise.

Be sure to join us again next Sunday, every Sunday, here at CNN for the last word in Sunday talk.

I'll also be back tomorrow night at 8 p.m. Eastern with Wolf Blitzer Reports. We'll talk about President Bush's faith-based proposals with Pat Robertson.

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



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