<i>FTN</i> Transcript - Sept. 17

face the nation logo, 2009

Bob Schieffer, CBS
News Chief Washington Correspondent:
Today on Face The Nation, Senator Trent Lott, Lynne Cheney and Bill Daley on Campaign 2000.

Less than two months before the election and George W. Bush is changing strategy. He says he's going to stress issues rather than character. Will what Congress is trying to do this fall hurt or help him? And what are the prospects for the big tax cuts he wants? We'll ask Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.

We'll talk about violence and the entertainment industry with Lynne Cheney, wife of vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney.

And, finally, we'll talk about campaign strategies with Gore campaign chairman Bill Daley.

Gloria Borger will be here, and I'll have a final word on getting back to basics.

But, first, Campaign 2000 on Face The Nation. And joining us, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. Senator Lott, welcome. We haven't chatted with you in a while.

Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.): Glad to be back. Thanks, Bob.

Schieffer: I have to put it to you bluntly. This - what's happening on the Bush campaign does not appear very good. There's another poll out this morning that says - it's a Newsweek poll that says that George Bush is now trailing Al Gore, 54 percent to 41 percent. That's the first time I know that Al Gore has been over 50 percent, and that's a big lead. What happened here?

Lott: Well, I don't put much stock in polls right now, certainly not a Newsweek poll. If you're going to pay any attention to polls, it's the Battleground Poll, which does have a Republican and Democratic pollster. They're tracking all the time. I think theirs is more reliable. But I think Governor George W. Bush has got to get out there and really get on message. I think he will. This campaign is about leadership. He has those qualities. It is about honesty and dignity in the office and the fact that he wouldn't sell the - the White House in any form. And I think it's also about the issues. I wouldn't shy away from that at all. I'd go right at it.

The choice is, really, very simple. We've got a big surplus now. But beyond the surplus, on all other issues, what do you want to do with it? Do you want more Washington government spending programs, or do you want more local control, individual decisions and tax relief for working, middle-class Americans? That's the choice. It's pretty stark, pretty clear, and the American people can choose.

Schieffer: Gloria.

Gloria Borger, U.S. News & World Report: This week you Republicans came out with a plan for the surplus, and you are now saying that you want to spend 90 percent of the surplus to pay down the national debt.

Lott: Right.

Borger: Governor Bush has said that he wants a 10-year, $1.3 trillion tax cut. Aren't you running away from Bush's plan?

Lott: Absolutely not. I support Bush's plan

Borger: Explain how.

Lott: And when he gets in the office of the president, we'll talk about how that will work over 10 years. But remember, this - they're...

Borger: Why - well, why aren't you proposing that now?

Lott: ...they're not in - they're not incompatible - they're not incompatible at all. We're saying take 90 percent of the surplus, which could be somewhere well in excess of $250 billion - take 90 percent of that and pay down the debt, leaving about 10 percent or so, maybe even more, which can be used for some of the tax relief programs we're still working on: small business tax relief, the pension and IRA programs.

Borger: But just for one year.

Lott: Just for one year, but that's the point. We're dealing with...

Borger: Well, the Democrats say that's a gimmick.

Lott: Oh, look, the president says that he had a 90 percent paying down of the budget - the debt in his bill. Now he did it by raising taxes. But if in principle he advocates that idea, then we can agree. We need to find fair middle ground.

But to pay down the debt - I mean, when you get right down to it, other than genuine tax relief, tax rate recu - rate across-the-board cuts, which would help the country, the economy, my children - the thing I could do the most to - to help my family and my grandson is to continue to pay down the debt. Now remember this, and I want to emphasize this, too: the Republicans, in control of Congress, have paid down the debt already $350 billion, and we have balanced the budget, and we, last year, protected every cent of Social Security. We're going to continue to do that. We'll use all of Social Security and Medicare for those purposes.

Schieffer: Are you - what I don't understand - now, you say it's not a gimmick. OK...

Lott: No.

Schieffer: ...fair enough. But I'm talking about adding and subtracting. Is there enough money to do what you want to do and still enact this enormous tax cut? I mean, Democrats say that's not possible.

Lott: Well, as a matter of fact, for next year we're only talking about tax relief, unfortunately, of probably around $14 billion or $15 billion for the small business men and women and the IRAs. The president vetoed tax cuts for middle Americans that would have eliminated the marriage penalty tax and phase out the death tax. That's not going to happen this year because the president vetoed. When the president - when President Bush comes into office, we will develop a 10-year tax-relief plan from that point forward. So you're talking about just next year, which is what we're trying to settle on now in the Congress working with the president.

Schieffer: So - so what you're saying is that the first year of the governor's tax plan really didn't amount to much anyway?

Lott: No. No. We have - we'll have plenty of opportunity to begin next year. And thn his tax plan, which is a 10-year tax plan - the first year always starts at a number probably around $14 billion or $15 billion and works up.

Schieffer: Gloria.

Borger: I - I want to talk about Mr. Wen Ho Lee and what occurred this week. Att - Attorney General Janet Reno declined to apologize to this Los Alamos scientist for the way he had been treated. He had been held without bail and in solitary confinement for months. It came down to one charge. Do you think that this administration owes Wen Ho Lee an apology?

Lott: Well, first of all, I think there's a tragedy here in that we know that our nuclear weapons secrets are not safe, and as a result, the American people are not safe. As to exactly what Wen Ho Lee did, it's not clear. We still have a lot...

Borger: Well...

Lott: ...of serious questions here. But there - there's a real dichotomy here, the way he was treated and the way John Deutch has been treated. Wen Ho Lee was put in house arrest, then he was put in jail, and now he has a plea bargain. But when you look at what happened, downloading of classified nuclear secrets, John - John Deutch, at the Department of Defense - and the CIA apparently did the same thing - what is the difference? Now one is a buddy of the White House, and - and the other one is an Asian American. It's unsettling.

But I do think this: before we jump to apologize or to condemn totally, I think we still need to find out what happened. How did this happen?

Schieffer: You - you s...

Lott: Who's responsible, and what are we going to do about it?

Schieffer: You said at one point that this was maybe the biggest security breach of - of our lifetime.

Lott: Yeah. Yeah.

Schieffer: I’d like to ask you first, do you still believe that? And do you...

Lott: Yeah.

Schieffer: ...have any regrets? Because the White House is now saying a lot of this resulted just because of congressional pressure.

Lott: Are our nuclear weapons labs important? Is it serious the way that things that are done there are handled? Do we need to have some security there? You know, we - basically, it's run by a university. Do we need to take a look at how that is done? I think this is a very large security br - breach, but it's also a pattern. You know, we've had secrets and technology going to China by - by American companies without real prosecution. You know, there seems to have been, you know, campaign money from China. Nothing really was done about that. And now our nuclear weapons labs...

Schieffer: So...

Lott: ...the most s - s - you know, sensitive in the - in this country.

Schieffer: ...you don't back off anything you said...

Lott: No, not at all.

Schieffer: ...and you don't have any regrets about that?

Lott: No, I don't.

Borger: Speaking of campain money, there were also reports this week that the Clinton-Gore administration took very large campaign contributions from trial lawyers in conjunction with the presidential veto of - of tort reform. Do you have any real proof to—to prove that there's a quid pro quo there, as lots of Republicans are saying?

Lott: Oh, I haven't looked at all the details, but it surely does smell. I'm not particularly surprised that trial lawyers were, you know, giving money. As a matter of fact, we've got legislation right now that we could have already completed that would help the patients of America, the Patients Bill of Rights, except for the insistence of the trial lawyers that this be a - a right to sue rather than a bill of rights for patients. So there's - there's no question it's a quid pro qu - quid pro quo. Look, even Joe Lieberman, when the president vetoed tort reform, said, you know, 'This i - this is wrong. This is a reasonable bill. We ought to do it.' But the power of the trial lawyers on the White House is very strong.

Schieffer: Senator Lott, thank you very much for coming.

Lott: OK. Thank you.

Schieffer: Thank you very much. We're going to turn now to Lynne Cheney, who is, of course, the wife of the vice presidential candidate for the Republicans, Dick Cheney. She joins us this morning from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Mrs. Cheney, thank you very much for coming.

Lynne Cheney, wife of Dick Cheney: Good morning.

Schieffer: Always glad to see you. I want to ask you first about the campaign, the same question I asked Senator Lott. It appears, according to this latest poll from Newsweek, that Gore is building up an even wider lead. He now has about a 13 point advantage. This is the first time I can imagine he's over 50 percent - that I know of that he's over 50 percent. And, also - and maybe even more significant - there's a poll out today, conducted by The Detroit News, which shows him widening his lead in some of the battleground states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, for example. I would like to ask you, what do you think has happened here?

Cheney: Hey, we're the underdog, and we're quite ready to admit that. We're the underdog and fighting hard. But the polls you have picked do not agree with all the other polls. There is the battleground poll that Senator Lott was talking about that has us up a few points. I think that The New York Times is probably right, and I don't always agree with The New York Times, but they're calling it a dead heat. And I think that's where we are. Maybe with us acting as the underdog, I'd l - it's the place you want to be right now, actually.

Schieffer: Well, Senator Lott was talking about getting off message. Do you think that the campaign has sort of gotten off message or its message has been lost in recent weeks?

Cheney: Well, you know, what you said at the top of the hou didn't strike me as right. You said that there'd been this big switch, that we've moved from talking about character to talking about issues. It's both. This is a campaign about both character and issues, and that's exactly what the governor has been talking about this week. He talked about the problem with, you know, Al Gore's fund-raising difficulties. He's mentioned, though I've been mentioning it more, Al Gore's problems with hypocrisy and the entertainment industry and - and fooling the moms and dads of this country into thinking that he's on their side, or trying to anyway.

But, also, this - this weekend, this Sunday, the governor is releasing his blueprint for the middle class, which lays out the issues very clearly and makes it crystal clear that, as far as the issues are concerned, people should be on our side and will be when we set the explanations out there.

Schieffer: Well, Mrs. Cheney, if you had to sum it up in a sentence or two, what would you say the message of this campaign is?

Cheney: That they have had eight years to lead. They have had eight years to fix our schools. They've had eight years to fix Social Security. They've had eight years to fix Medicare. They've had eight years to clean up the culture a little bit, and they haven't done it. They haven't led, and George Bush will.

Borger: Ms. Cheney, let's talk about the hypocrisy that - that you have been talking about when it comes to Al Gore and the question of the entertainment industry. You've said that, yes, he spoke out against the ent - marketing sex and violence to children, the entertainment industry, but then he went and he held a fund-raiser this week at Radio City Music Hall with entertainment industry executives that netted over $6 million. But haven't the Republicans also accepted money from the entertainment industry?

Cheney: Sure. And - and let's be clear at the outset that it's not the entertainment industry in toto. There are many fine things that the entertainment industry produces: movies that I enjoy, music that I enjoy, and I'm sure that - that you do as well. The problem here is pattern and practice. For more than a decade, Al Gore has been trying to make the moms and dads of this country think he's on their side when it comes to Hollywood producing the stuff that really does poison our culture.

And this - this recent event, which is one more example of what he's been doing for well over a decade - he - he says during the day, 'Oh, yes, this practice of taking adult materials and targeting them to Campfire Girls and 10-year-olds, that's really pretty bad.' But then he goes and does a fund-raiser where he stands next to one of the worst offenders; moreover, the fund-raiser itself is X-rated. There were scatological jokes told at this fund-raiser about people who are concerned beside this issue. Fun was made, amusement was found in the fact that people are concerned about this issue

It was an unsuitable place, given the nature of it, to be if you're running for president of the United States or vice president, as Senator Lieberman was also there. It was an unsuitable place to be, but it made crystal clear the fact that Al Gore will say and do what's necessary, and that he is not on the side of the parents of this country.

Schieffer: OK. So what is necessary? When I heard you at the congressional hearings, I believe you said that the - the idea here is to shame these heads of entertainment companies into taking responsibility for their actions. But you didn't call for any legislative remedies.

Cheney: Well...

Schieffer: Mr. Gore and Mr. Lieberman are saying if they don't clean up their act, the government may have to act. Would you go along with them or is that out of the question?

Cheney: Mr. Gore and Mr. Lieberman are not taken seriously by the entertainment industry, no matter what they say. And they know - they're smart people. Mr. Lieberman is a lawyer. They know that you cannot enact legislation or regulation to take care of this matter without running afoul of the First Amendment. They know that. This is wallpaper. This is a spin. This is blur, to make it think as th - to make people think that they're on the side of parents in this country.

In fact, what you can do is very limited, and I think the most powerful thing is to shame people. You do not go to Radio Music Hall and stand next to one of the very worst offenders when you're trying to shame people. You want to make these people so embarrassed that their friends don't want to have them over for dinner. We've been able to do this with some entertainers. Jerry Springer is not thought of as a useful and important houseguest. I think we should make other people who - who are - who are putting poison into the minds of our kids seem as off limits as we've made Jerry Springer seem.

Schieffer: All right. Lynne Cheney, glad to have you. Hope to have you again. Good luck down on the campaign trail.

Cheney: Thank you.

Schieffer: When we come back, we've got a slightly different point of view, I think, from Bill Daley. He's campaign manager for Al Gore, in just a minute.


Schieffer: And we're joined now by Bill Daley, campaign manager for Al Gore.

Well, you just heard Lynne Cheney. She said Jerry Springer is not an appropriate person to have over - over for dinner; talking about the entertainment industry. Are you planning to have him over anytime soon?

Bill Daley, Gore Campaign Chairman: No, I don't think we are, to be honest with you, Bob.

Schieffer: Let me ask you about this charge of hypocrisy, because when I go back and go through the clips, I find that back in 1987, after Mrs. Gore started this campaign to put content labels on records, it turns out that Al Gore apologized for his wife's campaign, acording to people out in Hollywood. This was written up in Variety at the time. She said that the congressional hearings into this, into which he had participated, turned out to be a mistake. Then last year The Los Angeles Times reports then, when Mr. Gore met privately with possible donors in Hollywood, he told them that this whole idea of the FTC study, which has caused such a stir about the entertainment industry, was not his idea at all, but the president's idea and he wasn't consulted about it. Now he's talking about taking strong action against the entertainment industry. What's going on?

Daley: I think if you read the report, you'll - you'll realize why not only Al Gore but lots of Americans are saying something has to be done. There's no question - but...

Schieffer: But I'm talking about what he said then and what he's saying now.

Daley: But he has been consistent, and so has Mrs. Gore, about the need for parents and for all of us to take an interest in what our children watch and hear and be involved in that. Obviously, Mrs. Cheney has also been involved as a concerned parent. Al Gore and Tipper Gore have four children. They're as concerned as - as every other family. And he has been consistent. And he is also, after this report, and the - if you read the report, the seriousness of it, he has done what very few politicians do. That is, take on people who support you. And he went to them with strong statements, and Thursday night at the - the gala fund-raiser, made a strong statement once again that they've got to clean up their act.

Schieffer: But...

Daley: And - and the real response has to come from parents in America.

Schieffer: But - but - I - I take your point. But with all due respect, it sounds like if you go back and look at the record here, he's saying one thing to them in private and saying another thing in public.

Daley: No. But most of what you said, Bob, has been reported not from Al Gore's mouth, but others saying - about what Al Gore may say or do. And so I - I'm - I'm...

Schieffer: Is this wrong?

Daley: I'm - I haven't read all the articles that you referred to, but I know one thing, because I've known Al Go for - Gore for a long time. He is as much concerned as any other parent in America about what's going on in our culture as far as m - movies and music and other forms of entertainment.

Borger: What - but Lynne Cheney says that it's ridiculous to propose any kind of legislative remedy or any kind of regulation because you know you're going to run into a constitutional problem, yet Al Gore is - is threatening regulation of the industry if they don't shape up in s - in six months. How can he do that?

Daley: Well, I think you can be creative possibly. What we're trying to do is encourage the industry to take steps soon; to do some self-regulation, again, based upon a very tugh report that was very clear as to the abuses and the steps that have been taken by the enter - entertainment industry that most mer - Americans would feel are wrong. And Mrs. Cheney is right in saying that it is a difficult situation because of the First Amendment. But that doesn't mean we should just throw up our hands, and walk away and say, 'Well, that's the way it goes. And we shouldn't even have the government talking about this.' As the leader, President Al Gore will take the steps as - with the bully pulpit of the White House to - making sure that people understand that this is a problem and a serious problem for the young people of America.

Schieffer: You had some very good news this week. Every poll shows your campaign seeming to increase its lead. And now Newsweek is out with one that shows a big lead has opened up. Do you really believe that?

Daley: I - I have not read the entire poll yet. I've heard of the numbers. I think that's a little ambitious, to be frank with you. It makes everyone feel good. But the fact of the matter is this is a tough race. Al Gore and Joe Lumberman are doing well because for now, close to a year and a half, Al Gore's been out there talking about issues. And he's been out there explaining his issues. He's had in-depth town hall meetings for the last year and a half, going to every state - just about every state in America to talk about issues. He hasn't just decided seven weeks out from the election to start to talk about issues. He's been talking about them. And the American people have responded to him. And now with Joe Lieberman joining him on the ticket, the American people see the future and they see a - a terrific opportunity to elect two decent men who can lead this nation.

Borger: Trent Lott just a few moments ago, in talking about the Clinton-Gore administration and trial lawyers and their contributions from trial lawyers, said that the whole issue smells and that there is a problem there. How do you - how do you respond to that?

Daley: Well, lookit, some people want to keep going back to '96 election and keep going back to allegations about '96. Let's look at the year 2000. This race is about what's going on today and about the future. It is - it - the whole system of campaign finance is - is in terrible shape for our nation. Al Gore has said that. Joe Lieberman has. They've said that the first bill they'll - they'll introduce is real campaign finance reform that the Republicans keep blocking every time they have the opportunity.

Borger: Do you know if the Justice Department is investigating this problem?

Daley: According to the reports that I've seen, they say the Justice Department is not.

Borger: So you think...

Daley: This looks like one of those seven weeks before an election, throw a story out - old news - and try to repackage it to new news.

Borger: So yo think Gore is not vulnerable on the campaign reform issue?

Daley: No, I don't - I don't think so at all. I think - and if you look at what's going on in this campaign, Al Gore's campaign for president, there has never been a hint or an allegation of any sort of difficulties in campaign finance. We've not raised $100 million like our opponent did.

Schieffer: What about this whole Wen Ho Lee case? Should the government apologize here?

Daley: Well, I think that's to be left to - to the Justice Department, and, obviously, the president has made his statements. The fact of the matter is there was great hysteria when that - when those revelations were made, and there were all sorts of congressional statements, there were all sorts of newspapers, to be frank with you, with outrageous allegations based upon - seemingly based upon no evidence. And it was a terrible situation, as I read the press, that this fellow went through, without yet any allegations.

We all have great concerns. I would take a different approach than Senator Lott did in saying that somehow we are not secure. The American people are very secure. Our secrets are protected, and our nation is strong. The American people have no reason to fear anything right now. We're in great shape both from an economic perspective and a national security perspective.

Schieffer: Bill Daley, thank you very much. Always good to have you.

Daley: Thank you.

Schieffer: We'll be back in a moment with a final word.


Schieffer: Finally today, every campaign hits a bump in the road, but over the last couple of weeks it's as if the Bush campaign has suddenly turned onto a road under construction: bumps, loose gravel, everything short of a washed-out bridge. Just six weeks ago the highway ahead looked so smooth to the Bush people, they could see all the way to victory in November. They had raised so much money, Bush had climbed to the top of the polls without really getting specific on what he intended to do as president.

But then he got himself tangled up in a silly debate over debates, talked into an open mike when he shouldn't have, and his team got caught making a stupid commercial about rats, all of it just as Al Gore announced a startling political tactic: he promised to work hard on some issues that the polls say people are really concerned about. The high cost of the prescription drugs, for one. Well, as Gore has suddenly pulled up in the polls, Republicans turned so gloomy this week some seemed ready to concede.

I don't buy that. There is still too much campaign left, and Bush has finally started talking about what he intends to do, if elected. But it's going to be very close, and it does remind us of two old truths about politics: When it starts to look easy, it usually gets hard. And sooner or later, you have to tell people why you're running.

Well, that's it from Face The Nation. We'll see you next week right here.