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Bush has First True Test Tuesday Night, Experts Say

Aired February 26, 2001 - 4:31 p.m. ET

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

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now also from Washington from the Christian Science Monitor is Dante Chinni; he's going to talk about the pardon story itself and the Florida recount story we talked about earlier in the hour.

Dante, can you talk about these latest developments, and whether it means that there will be more of a gearing up on Capitol Hill for more or the pardon issue or will there be more of a issue to follow what Mr. Bush has said; it's time for us to move on as nation?

DANTE CHINNI, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: I don't know. You get the feeling things are Capitol Hill on spinning out of control of George W. Bush. I don't think President Bush wants these things to go forward, but they are likely to go forward.

Dan Burton is not the kind of guy to let these things like this go; he will push them as far as can push them; and we're in for probably a couple weeks of hearings, unless everybody invokes the 5th, then there won't be anything to talk about.

CHEN: Let's talk a little bit more about Mr. Clinton's effect on his own party; I mean, what is happening for the Democrats? Is the bigger part of their problem, that Mr. Clinton just stays in the limelight and makes the party look bad; or is he actually helping them, because they don't have another leader to step in the place for the Democrats?

CHINNI: I don't think you can say he's helping them now. Definitely, look, he getting a lot of coverage, but I don't think this is the kind of coverage the party wants right now. There's been a lot of talk this week about how this is a big week for George W. Bush, who releases his budget, and he has to draw these ideas he has had into a cohesive idea.

But also, this is a big week for Democrats. Is somebody else going to come up and become the spokesman for the party, someone who's good, not only oratorically, but who's good on points, and can make good points with people? That's what we will see over the next week now -- four or five days.

CHEN: Let's talk a little bit about the "Miami Herald" and this recount in Florida. What's the last word going to be on all this, now that we have seen the "Miami Herald"'s recount, and it says Al Gore couldn't have won this any way. CHINNI: It's true. Look, here is the thing. Bush will feel very good about this. The president can feel good about this -- in some way, this ratifies the election; he was the president. Still, there's going to be people -- so that doesn't change -- that are Gore supporters that will say not only did he win the popular vote but, hey, what about the voters in Palm Beach that registered their votes in the wrong way, and made a vote for Pat Buchanan and they shouldn't have?

We also still have the tally of the state to come; that's still down the road. But for a lot of people that are middle of the road, don't lean -- they don't dislike George Bush, but they don't know what to think of him yet -- it helps because it does kind of solidify his claim to the presidency.

CHEN: But even though it might solidify, doesn't it appear he has been effected by that questioning; or does it seem that the bigger problem for Mr. Bush in these first weeks of his presidency has really been the former president Clinton and the headlines?

CHINNI: That's true. I mean, I was saying before, Bush really benefits from the comparison to Clinton -- no doubt about it -- but his message is being drowned out right now. That's why tomorrow night is so critical to him, because bush gets to get up in front of the nation, and make his case for presidency and his budget and try to steal some of the limelight back. And like you said before, Dan Burton will be out there, maybe keeping this story alive maybe a little longer than the president would like him to.

CHEN: Dante Chinni, from the Christian Science Monitor, thanks a lot.

CHINNI: Thank you.

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