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Text: NBC's 'Meet the Press'
Sunday, October 1, 2000 Following is the transcript of NBC's "Meet the Press," hosted by Tim Russert. Guests: Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, Gov. Paul Cellucci (R-Mass.), Gore campaign advisor Paul Begala and Rep. Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.).
RUSSERT: Bush versus Gore: too close to call with just 36 days to go. On Tuesday, they square off in Boston in their first and critically important presidential debate. What can we expect?
With us, the host governor of Massachusetts, Bush supporter Paul Cellucci; and the author of this new book, "Is Our Children Learning; The Case Against George W. Bush," Gore supporter Paul Begala.
Then we are joined by two men excluded from this debate: Ralph Nader of the Green Party and Pat Buchanan of the Reform Party. Nader and Buchanan square off.
But first, the most-watched Senate campaign in the country: Rick Lazio versus Hillary Clinton.
And here with us is the Republican candidate to be United States Senator from New York.
Rick Lazio, welcome.
LAZIO: Hi, Tim, good to be on again.
RUSSERT: A whole series of polls have been taken over the last week. Let me show you Newsday, your hometown paper from Long Island--put it on the screen--Hillary Clinton, 52; Rick Lazio, 42. And the gender breakdown, very instructive: men, 46-46; women, 59 for Hillary Clinton, 33 for Rick Lazio--a 26-point bulge for Hillary Clinton.
Many observers believe that women moved towards Hillary Clinton after the debate in Buffalo. Let me show you a clip of that debate and talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAZIO: The best thing is sign it.
HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PARTY CANDIDATE FOR SENATOR FOR THE STATE OF NEW YORK: Well, I would be happy to when you give me the signed letters...
LAZIO: Well, right here, right here.
CLINTON: When you give me...
LAZIO: Right here, sign it right now.
CLINTON: Well, we'll shake--we'll shake on this, Rick.
LAZIO: No, no, I want your signature, because I think everybody wants to see you signing something that you said you were for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUSSERT: Critics have said that you violated Mrs. Clintons space, that you got in her face. Do you regret doing that?
LAZIO: I don't at all. I think it's what led to the agreement on the soft money ban. I would have preferred to have had a written agreement, I would have preferred, Tim, to have had monitors, to have some enforcement mechanisms.
I think it was pretty clear that Mrs. Clinton was very reluctant to move toward this ban, that's why I wanted her to sign that day. I wanted to bring the public in, I wanted to have transparency.
And I think if it wasn't for that day and if it wasn't for the will of New Yorkers to force us toward a ban on soft money, we would never had it.
So I feel good about that. I think it's good for the people of New York. I think they have made a statement to America that we don't need a law to do the right thing.
RUSSERT: You don't think you were menacing or impolite.
LAZIO: I don't think so at all. I think, when you're in the Senate, you've got to be able to demonstrate that you can stand up for New York. And New York sends $15 billion a year more to Washington than we get back. Somebody, it seems to me, has got to stand up for New York taxpayers and for New York voters and say, "You know what, we're going to put New York first."
RUSSERT: Also during that debate, I asked Mrs. Clinton about her use of the term "vast right-wing conspiracy." She answered in a very emotional way. I then asked you for a response, and this is what you said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAZIO: And I think that, frankly, what's so troubling here, with respect to what my opponent just said, is somehow that it only matters what you say when you get caught. And character and trust is about well more than that. And blaming others every time you have responsibility, unfortunately that's become a pattern I think for my opponent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUSSERT: Observers said that you piled on, you should have said, "Tim, Mrs. Clinton has answered the question, let's move on to issues." Why did you choose to make that statement?
LAZIO: I think, first of all, this is a debate, Tim. You've got to understand that people are watching, they want to know what's in your heart, what you think and who you are. And I think it is important that you demonstrate character by doing the right thing when nobody is watching, not just when the eye of the camera is on you. That's the measure of whether or not, I think, people believe that you are a person worthy of trust and character.
RUSSERT: Are you running against Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton or both?
LAZIO: No, I think that we are running against--there's two people in this race: Rick Lazio and Hillary Clinton. Bill Clinton isn't in this race, Newt Gingrich isn't in this race. Hillary Clinton is in this race and Rick Lazio is in this race, and my record's in this race, what I have done for New York, the things that I've been able to accomplish and deliver for New York, my ability to protect New York on transportation formulas, on the children's health formula, to make sure that we pass legislation, my legislation, to help disabled Americans go back to work and keep their health care benefits.
As somebody that was on the committee that wrote the first balanced budget in a generation, as somebody who's found the kind of balance that I think New Yorkers appreciate, and more importantly, has been able to get the job done. To move past just rhetoric and talk and promises and actually be able to accomplish things by bringing people together, finding common ground, and working in a bipartisan way.
I've been in Congress for eight years now, Tim. I'm not aware of a single thing that Mrs. Clinton has ever done in a bipartisan way. I don't know how you can be an effective senator if you're not willing to be open-minded to work well with others, and to be bipartisan at times.
RUSSERT: You mentioned Newt Gingrich. You were part of his leadership team. An Mrs. Clinton has said repeatedly you voted with Newt Gingrich on issues like Medicare, on issues like education, to the contrary interest of New York state.
Do you believe that Newt Gingrich was a good speaker?
LAZIO: I think he was an important historical figure. I think if it wasn't for the fact that Republicans were able to come into power in 1984, we would never have had a balanced budget. I remember being on the budget committee in 1992 when we were in the minority. Every attempt at trying to restrain spending was defeated along party lines.
Two years later we were able to pass a balanced budget. People said it couldn't be done. Some people said it shouldn't be done. The president himself said we shouldn't balance it in that short a period of time. But we stayed focused and got it done.
We got welfare reform enacted after being vetoed twice. We were able to enact tax relief. I think these things put us on the right pathway to achieve the prosperity that we have right now. We are spending 50 percent more money on education now than we would have under the president's budgets back in 1994 because we are in a period of prosperity, because we have had surpluses. Because we have reduced welfare rolls and because those of us in Congress trusted governors and local officials to do the right things and to give them the flexibility to bring down welfare rolls, reduce dependency, lower taxes, which helped stimulate some of their investment, keep more of those dollars in their home states. We need to do more of that in New York, especially in the upstate economy to create more of those jobs that people are asking for.
RUSSERT: Do you believe Newt Gingrich was sometimes too extreme?
LAZIO: There are times when I, obviously, had a break with my entire leadership on issues of the environment and on issues involving education at times, on issues involving abortion, my support for public funding for the arts. There's a whole range of different issues in which I have demonstrated independence because I thought that was in the best interest of my district, the people I represent and also my conscience.
RUSSERT: But votes that Mr. Gingrich ordered the Republicans to cast in terms of limiting the growth of Medicare or against the Department of Education, do you regret those votes?
LAZIO: No, I would say--very important and I'm glad you raised this, because the vote that Mrs. Clinton criticizes as a cut, if that's a cut, then what her president advocated was a cut and what she advocated was a cut. Slowing the rate of growth was not a cut.
And more importantly, if you look back at the numbers, the plan that I supported for Medicare spending would have spent more this year than we're currently spending. So if you look at the word games it's perfectly fair for me to be able to say ...
RUSSERT: No regrets on those votes?
LAZIO: ... it's in fact ...
RUSSERT: No regrets on those votes?
LAZIO: Absolutely. That's what got us to a balanced budget and helped us generate the kind of surplus that we have right now.
RUSSERT: On Friday you said some interesting things about the importance of this race. And let me put it on the screen for our viewers and read it.
"Some say this is a race that may determine the direction that America goes, that may determine the moral compass of our country. I think this is the most important race of my generation. This is a race that will determine whether or not character still counts in public service, whether or not integrity matters, whether the rule of law applies to all or just some privileged people."
The most important race of your generation?
LAZIO: Yeah, I think so. I think it's a pivotal race for a number of reasons. I think it's pivotal for New York. New York is always--up until this last Senate election that elected Chuck Schumer--always had a Republican and a Democrat. Always had somebody in one party, always had somebody who had with one foot in a party that had the influence to protect New York and get the job done.
I think it's incredibly important that we have that balance, that we have someone who can cross party lines when necessary, who can build bipartisan coalitions, who can be effective for New York and has the kind of legislative experience to be a good senator, to be an effective senator on day one. I think that's important.
I also think it's important because for many people, and I agree with this, it's a bellwether on character and on trust and on integrity, whether or not you can trust when someone says something that they will actually do it. I've tried to live this campaign this way; I've tried to live my life this way. Am I perfect? No. I wish I could say I was. But the fact is, when I said that we were going to not raise or spend any soft money, I did that.
Even though I got into this race very late, it would have been very seductive for me to say--because we got into this race so late, it would have been a huge advantage for me to go out and raise money in $500,000 chunks. But instead, I lived to the guidelines of campaign finance reform, the law that I voted for twice. We decided to neither raise nor spend soft money, and I think showing that kind of leadership helped get us to where we are right now. I hope this agreement holds.
RUSSERT: Your campaign has sent out a bumper sticker: "Eight years is enough." Why this emphasis on eight years of Bill Clinton-Hillary Clinton? Why this emphasis on character of Mrs. Clinton when, in fact, she was simply the first lady?
LAZIO: I think it's more than that. You can either be the first lady or you can be a candidate. Mrs. Clinton is now the candidate. She needs to be held accountable for her votes and her positions.
Her efforts on health care, that her own party ran away from, that when Senator Moynihan heard about it, he said, "My God," in terms of what it would do to New York, it would have been a terrible tragedy for New York health care, for our nation's health care, to put one-seventh of our national economy under government control, to implement our system of rationing, to destroy our teaching hospitals.
And on education in Arkansas, when she had the opportunity to lead in Arkansas, spending went up, taxes went up; educational performance, dead bottom.
And on these other issues, she's had an opportunity to speak out to help New York at pivotal times, to help our veterans with a veterans formula that shifts money away from New York down south. She's been silent.
When President Clinton exercised his single veto--his single-line-item veto, it was to punish New York, to hurt Medicaid, and to undermine our ability to provide quality care for the poor.
See, the question is: Where was Mrs. Clinton at these difficult times when somebody needed to stand up and say New York needs to come first?
RUSSERT: But when you say that she embarrassed our nation, isn't that a bit much? Isn't that piling on?
LAZIO: Well, no, I think that in fact there are times when there was an opportunity to stand up and to do the right thing. I think the idea of some of these files being discovered well after they said they were lost, I think some of the issues that she has been involved in, in the travel office, I mean, these have not brought creditability upon the White House. And I believe that we can do better.
I believe people should expect more from their public servants, not less. I think there's a lot of Americans out there who are physicians, successful businessmen and women, presidents of universities who look at these things and say, "I would love to be in public office but I don't want to run for public office and the day after I'm elected I'm thought of as a crook or a bum, somebody who does not have a sense of integrity."
Our children need to look at people in public service and say, "I don't agree with everything that they do, but I agree that they struggle to do the right thing, I think they're good and decent people." And I try to be that person.
RUSSERT: You don't think Mrs. Clinton's a role model for a lot of people?
LAZIO: I don't know, I don't know about that. I think it's more important for me to be a role model for people. And I am not able to do what I would like to do every single time. I'm not perfect, but I try to struggle to do the right thing, I struggle to try and maintain a sense of integrity and a sense of character, and I think I've run this campaign that way, and I think I've been that kind of public servant.
RUSSERT: This is today's New York Times: "A crucial point in campaign; Lazio retools upstate strategy."
A lot of people in Upstate New York, particularly in the Buffalo area, are concerned when you campaigned up there saying, "Well, things are getting better up here." The Buffalo News jumped on your comments. This is what they said in an editorial: "The most intriguing news from the campaign trail recently is the fact that upstate's economical woes are over; at least that's the view from whatever political planet Rick Lazio's now orbiting. Lazio doesn't think upstate needs targeted economical help."
Was it a mistake for you to suggest that the economic woes of Upstate New York are all well and taken care of?
LAZIO: I've never said that and that's a mischaracterization by the Buffalo News.
I think every time, including in the debate when this issue came up, when I've said I think the upstate economy has turned the corner--and if you look at the numbers in the upstate economy, in the Erie County area, over the last 18 months they have created 16,000 new jobs.
Does that mean our work is finished? I think I've said every time--when I say we have turned the corner, there is a lot more work to do, we need to lower taxes to create jobs, we need to try and foster a high-tech economy, we need to protect the agricultural sector.
There are important partnerships that we need to develop. We need to focus on tourism.
And I think that we need to have a senator who's able to work well with local people to get the job done, to create those kind of jobs. I've been that kind of member of Congress; I think I can be that kind of senator.
But I think it's important that--and the Upstate New Yorkers would be the first to say that we have turned the corner on the failed policies of the Cuomo administration--no insult for you.
RUSSERT: I'm listening.
LAZIO: Those were years of high taxes, of factories being closed, of jobs being exported out of state. People upstate know that they're still digging out from under those years. The fact that we are on the right path means that--I think we need to redouble our efforts. If the federal government can leverage what the state's doing to make sure that we lower taxes, create technology incubators, access broadband technology, protect our agricultural sector, revitalize downtown areas, bring down energy costs, we will have a plan, a comprehensive plan, working with our local people to get the job done.
That's exactly what I want to do.
RUSSERT: The Food and Drug Administration has said that the RU-486 abortion pill will now be available to American women.
Is that a good idea?
LAZIO: Well, I think as long as safety has been acknowledged, and it seems like the FDA has now signed off that the American people would be safe with the introduction of RU-486, then I'm fine with that.
RUSSERT: Should Medicaid funding be provided to provide the pill to poor people?
LAZIO: Well, I've never been a supporter of federal funding on abortion except for purposes of rape or incest. I generally support--and I believe I am pro-choice--support a woman's right to choose. I think this is probably an issue depending on how 486 is used whether or not it should be reimbursed.
RUSSERT: Well, should poor people have access to it through Medicaid?
LAZIO: I wouldn't--no, I would not say that for abortion purposes that RU-486 ought to be picked up as a Medicaid expense from the government. If the state wants to do it, if the private sector wants to pick up the cost, is people want to make sure that they generate dollars to help low-income women pay for that, that's fine. I just don't think taxpayers should do it.
RUSSERT: As a United States senator, what would you say this morning to Mr. Milosevic in Yugoslavia?
LAZIO: Get out. Get out now. Stop causing more division. You have caused tragedies for your people, for the world. And I think it's incredibly important that he steps aside. I think America needs to make sure that we do everything we possibly can to assure that the true election results are honored. Obvious that they're try to do an end run on the people's will here.
RUSSERT: Joe Lieberman, the Democratic candidate for vice president, has said that he'd be willing to meet with Louis Farrakhan, the minister of the Nation of Islam. Would you, in an attempt to heal the rift between black and white, sit down with Minister Farrakhan?
LAZIO: I would be happy to sit down with any--almost anybody in the African-American community and the Hispanic community in white--I don't care what background you're from, as long as you have in your heart a will to heal and to bring people together. I don't think that Louis Farrakhan has that in his heart.
And I think that if Dick Cheney was to have said that, he would have been on the front cover of every newspaper, and they would have been accusing him of being a bigot for meeting with somebody who has issued these hateful bigoted comments particularly against Jews, and I don't think I have a word to say to Louis Farrakhan.
RUSSERT: Big issue in New York that's arising, boy scouts. The Supreme Court said that boy scouts cannot be forced to admit gay troupers or scout leaders, and the schools in New York are now saying, well, then you can't use our facilities. Should school districts, should the state government, should the federal government deny facilities to the boy scouts until they admit gays?
LAZIO: I don't think so. I think the boy scouts--I mean, the supreme court has ruled on this. This is a--these are private dollars, this is not government dollars. If it was government dollars--if it were government dollars, rather--they ought to have been held to this higher standard, I think, in terms of not having any sense of choice in discrimination against any person. But these are private dollars. And I think people should have the ability to make those decisions, and I don't think they should be excluded from the schools.
RUSSERT: Al Gore beating George Bush by some 25 points in New York.
RUSSERT: You're down 10 points. How do you convince one out of four Gore voters to also vote for Lazio?
LAZIO: Well, I don't believe, first of all, that we're down by ten points. The poll that you cited, I think, is fundamentally flawed. I think most experts would agree with that.
If you--I was talking to George Pataki this past week, and he said, you know, the Sunday before election day, someone came up to him and said, you know, did you see the new poll? You're down by 14 points. He said, well, I only won by four points, so I guess they were only off by 18 points.
I was down 20 points three weeks out of election day the first time I ran successfully for Congress back in 1992. So, I think what's important here is you stay focused, you deliver a message that's important for the people of New York of lowering taxes, having a system of accountability in education, making sure we make the right investments, working well with other people at state level, making sure we have quality health services, protecting disabled people, making sure that we create more opportunities for affordable housing, for our seniors, for our younger people.
That's what New Yorkers want to hear. I don't think they give a darn about poll numbers.
RUSSERT: To be continued. Congressman Lazio, thank you for joining us.
LAZIO: Thanks, Tim.
RUSSERT: And our viewers should know that Mrs. Clinton was invited to join us this morning and any other Sunday between now and the election to offer her views.
Coming next, the big debate is Tuesday. Joining us, Bush supporter and adviser, the Republican Massachusetts governor, Paul Cellucci; and Gore supporter and debate adviser, Democratic strategist, Paul Begala.
Then, two men frozen out of the debate: Ralph Nader of the Green Party; Pat Buchanan of the Reform Party. They are all coming up right here on MEET THE PRESS.
RUSSERT: And we are back. Paul Begala, Paul Cellucci, welcome both.
Governor Cellucci, let me start with you. What does George Bush have to do Tuesday night?
CELLUCCI: Well, I'll tell you this, Governor Bush is ready. He's prepared. He's anxious to tell the American people about his real plans for real people. That he trusts families to spend their own money. He trusts parents to make educational choices for their parents. He trusts the workers to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes for their future and he trusts seniors to choose their own health plans.
Al Gore, I think, we'll find out, would rather trust Washington bureaucrats.
RUSSERT: Paul Begala, what does Al Gore have to do Tuesday night?
BEGALA: Well, first off, I'm sure Governor Bush is watching so I'm not going to give you any Gore strategy, but I think Gore wants to make this about issues, about ideas. And I think he's got the better issue train going into the election.
Whether it's his prescription drug plan, where Bush has one that's favored by the pharmaceutical companies. Gore has one that's part of the Medicare program.
Whether it's patients' rights, where Gore supports one that's strong and enforceable. Bush opposes that.
Minimum wage, where the vice president supports raising the minimum wage across the country. Governor Bush actually would let states opt out of it. And his own state of Texas has a minimum wage of about $3.35 an hour.
Or guns, where in Texas as governor, the governor signed a bill that would let people in Texas carry guns in church. Now, that's something to think about on a Sunday morning, isn't it?
RUSSERT: Governor Cellucci, there are a lot of concern amongst the American people, particularly undecided voters, whether or not George W. Bush has the capacity to be president.
How does he address that specific issue on Tuesday?
CELLUCCI: Well, I think that's, you know, certainly with Paul Begala I think, he's turned that into almost a silly issue. Governor Bush has the capacity to lead this country. He's demonstrated that by leading the second largest state in this country where he's cut taxes to improve the economy, where he's ended social promotion, has seen dramatic increases in the test scores, particularly from minority students in Texas, where he's reformed healthcare, where he's reformed the tort system. He has demonstrated on a daily basis his capacity to lead. And I think the American people will find that out Tuesday night when they tune in.
RUSSERT: Paul Begala, the rap against Vice President Gore is that he has a tendency to exaggerate. Sometimes even misstate the truth.
How does he deal with that character issue on Tuesday night?
BEGALA: Well, I think that else's just going to stick to his message; stick to the facts. You know, the interesting thing I saw in this campaign was at the convention, when Al Gore stood up there with no filter, no people like me or even you, Tim, interpreting it, and he spoke to the nation for about a half an hour. And he talked about his ideas and he talked about his values. And he went from about 15 points behind to dead even or ahead.
I think in the debate if Gore just tells us where he stands on issues and if Bush does, too, I mean, if we have an honest debate about issues, I think that Bush is going to have to have a lot more explaining to do. You know, he's had a few problems with the facts of his own.
RUSSERT: Governor Cellucci, how important are these debates and are they more theater than substance?
CELLUCCI: I think given the closeness of the election around the country, these debates are very important. And obviously Vice President Gore is experienced. He's kind of a tough, relentless debater. I know that Paul has been playing Governor Bush in the practice debates with Vice President Gore. And I tell you, Paul, you look like you've been pounded. I think you were a couple of inches taller the last time I saw you. But Governor Bush is ready; he's prepared. He wants to speak to the American people without that filter, tell them about his plans. And tell them that he trusts them. And that Al Gore would rather trust people in Washington rather than people across America.
RUSSERT: Paul Begala, let me see your best George W. Bush.
BEGALA: Well, I haven't tried to mimic him or to imitate him. But you know, I've been watching a lot of tapes of his. And of course, in writing a book, I've read through his record. He is not a man to be underestimated. He likes to return to his basic themes. We saw Governor Cellucci repeat them earlier in the broadcast. And I think he will come back with great consistency.
You know he is not a man to be underestimated. My fellow Texans underestimated him in 1994 in the Democratic Party and he beat Ann Richards, one of the great governors in my state's history. He beat John McCain, Orrin Hatch Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer, very good debaters in the Republican primary.
He had 10 presidential debates and I'm telling you, this is not "Survivor" where we just say, well, if Bush gets through it, it's okay. The judgment should not be who did better than we expected because Bush will always do better than you expect. It's really, watch this debate. Who is right on the issues and who should be our president?
RUSSERT: Governor Cellucci, how important are one-liners, zingers to make a memorable comment that gets played over and over again to the many people who don't watch a debate?
CELLUCCI: Well, I think those are things that people might remember, but I do think that it's on the substance of what the candidates are talking about. And I think what will come through pretty loud and clear on Tuesday evening is that Governor Bush has a vision for this country. Take energy, for example, here we are in the Northeast, our oil supplies are a third of what they were last year when we almost ran out of oil.
Clinton and Gore do not have a national energy policy. Governor Bush will have one to keep our economy strong and to make sure people can afford to heat their homes and to make sure we have the oil to heat their homes. I think it's the issues that the American people will be paying attention to.
RUSSERT: Paul Begala, I gave the governor the first word. You've got the last word.
BEGALA: Well, again, I hope when people watch this, they do focus on issues. I think Governor Cellucci is right about that. But I think people are going to find that Gore's approach on issues is better.
Look, because of the Clinton/Gore economy, we have a record surplus. Governor Bush wants to take that surplus and give it to the very richest Americans. He's got a tax cut for the top 1 percent. That is extraordinarily generous, but it makes it impossible for us to put Medicare in a lockbox. It makes it impossible for us to pay down the national debt.
And I think as we look at, whether it's the surplus, Social Security, Medicare, or education, I think people are going to see that Gore's approach is better, and as the vice president says, it's really about the people versus the powerful. And if we focus on issues and not theater criticism, where Bush will do quite well. He is a very gracious guy; he's got a lot of charm. But if we look at issues, I think Gore will win.
RUSSERT: That has to be the last word. Author/Democratic strategist Paul Begala, Republican governor of Massachusetts, Paul Cellucci, thank you very much for joining us.
CELLUCCI: Thank you.
BEGALA: Thanks, Tim.
RUSSERT: Coming next, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan. They will not be part of the debate on Tuesday, but they will be here this morning. They are next, right here on MEET THE PRESS.
RUSSERT: Mr. Nader, Mr. Buchanan, welcome both. Let me put on our screen the latest MSNBC-Reuters poll for you to look at. Al Gore, 44.6; George W. Bush, 42.5; Ralph Nader, 3.4; Pat Buchanan, .8; Harry Brown, Libertarian, .7.
Mr. Nader, 3.4, not making much of an impact.
NADER: Well, they fluctuate, you know. In recent days I've been seven percent, six percent, 17 percent in Alaska. They don't cover non-likely voters, Tim. We're going to draw from a lot of young voters for the first time. Lots of voters who haven't voted are going to cycle back into the system, and also they don't indicate the increasing number of people who don't answer the phone call when the pollsters come.
The other day in Texas, also someone said, are you for a Democrat or a Republican, the caller for the polling group. And the person said, "neither," and they just closed up on him.
So, you know, we're going to do very well, we're going to get millions of votes in November to build for the future a strong party, there will be a watchdog on these two parties or grow even more.
RUSSERT: Pat Buchanan, .8; Harry Brown, Libertarian's .7. How can you make a claim to be included in the presidential debate when you can't even get one percent of the vote?
BUCHANAN: I should be included in the presidential debate because I'm the representative of a recognized party, one of three, Republicans, Democrats and Reform and the other two parties are engaged in a conspiracy basically to deny me access to the debate that's going to decide the election and the presidency of the United States and the American people are being denied, Tim, the right to see and hear a candidate they're paying for. That's the injustice.
Why are we at one percent? Frankly, I've been campaigning more at the Washington Hospital Center in the last six weeks than I have out on the road, but we are back. We have our $12 million and we're going to make an impact on this election. We're going to create a new third party that's a permanent force in American politics.
RUSSERT: Watching both of you campaign and the things you've been saying, it's quite striking to me the way you're trying to contrast yourself with the other candidates. Mr. Nader, you particularly with Al Gore. You were in East Liverpool, Ohio where Al Gore had talked about a waste incinerator project some years ago and the people are quite upset with him. This is what you had to say about the vice president.
"It illustrates once again what a certified public coward Al Gore is. How he speaks with fork tongue and an elongated Pinocchio nose on one issue after another."
That's pretty harsh.
NADER: Not when you consider all his betrayals and broken promises to his supporters. He said he was going to take on the auto industry, he gave the auto industry eight years of free ride on fuel efficiency standards which have actually gone down, they're at the lowest level of 1980. One reason for this oil price increase. He's been weak on pesticides given biotech industry a free ride. Supported GAP and NAFTA which are anti-environmental and in a whole host of ways, just can't do it right. He can't mean what he says. He's constantly wavering back and forth. Look at the cartoons. They illustrate that kind of character. You can't trust him. He's going around the country saying, he's going to take on big oil, big HMO's, big drug companies, big corporate polluters. He's had eight years to convince us that we can't believe him on that because he's surrendered to these entries. Even when he was put in charge of the environmental portfolio by President Clinton.
RUSSERT: Pat Buchanan, this is what you had to say about George W. Bush in "Business Week" magazine.
"The Republican Party has never nominated a candidate who brings fewer cards to the table in terms of experience, knowledge and wisdom."
That's pretty hard.
BUCHANAN: Well, that is true. He doesn't have the tickets that his father did who was quite well prepared. But that's not why I oppose George Bush. Fundamentally Tim, he supported NAFTA which I opposed, he supports the WTO, which I oppose. He supported an unjust, unconstitutional war in the Balkans which I opposed. He supports Bill Clinton and Gore on their policy toward China which I consider appeasement. He's proposed spending something like $700 billion in new spending programs and entitlement programs.
Tim, that is not conservatism. There is no conservative party left in Washington, D.C. We've got two parties very close together funded by the same special interests, the same corporate powers. We need a power that will stand up for conservatism, for an America first foreign policy. It will defend our borders, it will defend life, it will speak up for a new Supreme Court that recognizes what it's role out to be. All of these areas the Republican party has abandoned ground to imitate Clinton and Gore because it believes that's the way to win. And I think that's putting pragmatism ahead of principle.
RUSSERT: Let me show you what your hero Ronald Reagan had to say some 25 years ago. "I think a third party usually succeeds in electing the people its set out to oppose."
Pat Buchanan, if you draw votes from George W. Bush and elect Al Gore, how are you going to feel Wednesday, November 8?
BUCHANAN: Ronald Reagan said, I left, didn't leave the Democratic Party, it left me. This Republican establishment has left me, Tim. I am not obligated to go out and speak and fight for a party that no longer represents the principles and ideas I fought for all my life.
RUSSERT: So Gore would be better than Bush?
BUCHANAN: I'm not saying Gore--look, I've fought Gore and Clinton on every issue, NAFTA, GAP, the WTO, China, you name it.
Farm policy, life (ph), everything. The Republican Party no longer fights on all these issues. That's why I'm out there, to create a new fighting conservative party in America.
RUSSERT: Ralph Nader, would George W. Bush be a better president than Al Gore?
NADER: A choice between the bad and the worse; the they both flunk.
RUSSERT: You don't care if you elect George W. Bush?
NADER: I'm trying to elect myself. You know, I think a vote for Gore is a vote for Bush.
I mean, we're trying to build a new political force here. Look at Gore. He's taken money from all these giant industries. Then he's going around the country saying he's going to fight them. Then he's got Joe Lieberman, who is the real Al Gore, whispering to the business community, don't believe Al Gore. It's just impassioned rhetoric. I say if he was really to be believable, he'd give all of this money back.
We're trying to do it right by not taking PAC money, not taking corporate cash money, not taking dirty soft money, just individual money. And that kind of response to our web site, votenader.com is convincing us that people want--no matter who they are, Perot voters, McCain voters, Bradley voters, they want dirty money out of campaigns. And we're moving toward full public funding of public elections.
RUSSERT: But in the real world, you take votes--you siphon votes away from Al Gore. Liberal votes in Washington state, Oregon, if you tilt those states to George W. Bush, you will have defeated Gore, enhanced your own political power, the power of the Green Party to have leverage on the liberal agenda for the next four years. But you will have also helped to elect George Bush.
NADER: Look at all the good things. In 40 states Bush or Gore are ahead of each other by wide margins. People can vote their conscience and not have a tactical vote.
Second, he's beating himself if that's true. And, third, imagine, millions of progressive Democrats being told by the DLC, Gore and Clinton, they have nowhere to go year after year, other than to stay home or vote for least of the worst. The Green Party is going to be a post-November watchdog that's going to shape up these parties or move to majority status.
BUCHANAN: Tim, the assumption of your question is wrong, I believe. The assumption of your question is all the votes belong to the two candidates of the establishment parties and the people they nominate. Those votes belong to the American people. And if I win those votes, they belong to me.
The idea that these two parties have some automatic lock on the White House, which is the assumption behind your question, is false. That's what we're fighting against. This ought to be opened up. What are those parties afraid of if they won't let Ralph and me in the debate argue our point of view? Millions of Americans, the majority, oppose NAFTA, a majority oppose this China policy. A majority of Americans didn't want that war in the Balkans. They want the troops home. They want the borders defended. They want a conservative Supreme Court, I believe. Even if they don't, we at least should be able to hear those arguments. You're not going to be able to hear them Tuesday night.
NADER: A majority of the people polled in poll after poll want a four-way debate, too.
RUSSERT: Let me ask you about an issue that arose this week, Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Nader. And that is RU-486, the so-called abortion pill which will now be available to American women. Pat Buchanan, as president of the United States, what would you do about the RU-486 pill?
BUCHANAN: RU-486 in my judgment is a human pesticide. It is anti-child. It is anti-woman. It is anti-family. It basically is a drug which only a nation would accept which has embraced, I believe, the culture of death that the pope and others have condoned. And, frankly, Tim, when you talk about the suicide of the West, which is a phrase that goes back a long way, I think a nation and a civilization that embraced this pill are really headed in that direction. I would use all the power of my office including FDA appointments to prevent this being put on the market.
RUSSERT: Mr. Nader?
NADER: It's up to the woman, not the government. This is a pill that's been shown to be safe in Europe for numerous years. And it's preferable to surgical procedure.
RUSSERT: Mr. Nader, your Green Party proposes cutting the defense budget in half. Specifically, what programs in the military would you cut to reduce spending by $150 billion.
NADER: This is over a few years, Tim. One, bring back the troops from western Europe and East Asia that who are defending prosperous allies who can defend themselves against nonexistent enemies. That's $70 billion right there.
Take out of the pipeline those gold-plated weapons systems that ex-admirals and generals have opposed, including some Pentagon analysts who have told me that they are not strategically needed. The F-22, the joint strike fighter, another bunch of Sea Wolf submarines, the Osprey fighter, which has killed 34 Marines.
So you streamline the procurement budget. You know, there are a lot of former Pentagon officials who are not working in the defense industry and who are with the Center for Defense Information and other groups who really know what needs to be done for a lean, effective military defense driven by defense considerations, not by the profit procurement demands of Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics and other corporations.
RUSSERT: Mr. Buchanan, would you cut the defense budget in half?
BUCHANAN: No, what I would do is partly what Ralph would do, quite frankly. What we have not had--I would not cut it in half. What we have not had is a bottom-up review of American foreign policy in the post-Cold War. Gore and Bush are caught in a Cold War prison.
I agree with Ralph. You ought to bring American troops home from Korea, from Okinawa, from Japan, from Europe. Bring them home to the United States. Use the savings to build up American armed forces, to enhance their morale and fighting capability so they can deal with a great threat to the West or our vital allies. The idea that 55 years after the Korean War Americans would be the first to die in a second Korean War is absurd. Only an adherence to doctrines that should have died in 1989, 1990, 1991.
Tim, I've been fighting this battle for 10 years for a new foreign policy for this country that puts our nation and its vital interests first and we don't go to war unless our honor, our integrity, our citizens or our interests are threatened.
RUSSERT: Should Mr. Milosevic, Yugoslavia, step aside? And if he doesn't, should the United States intervene?
BUCHANAN: The United States should not intervene in that militarily, if that's what you're talking about.
RUSSERT: Should he step aside?
BUCHANAN: He sure should. I think he's lost that election. I would like to see it happen. I would like to see the Europeans replace American troops in Kosovo and Bosnia.
RUSSERT: Should he step aside?
NADER: Yes, of course.
RUSSERT: Let me move to the issue of taxes and spending. Both Bush and Gore are saying that we're going to have a $4 trillion surplus, projected, but they're banking on it: Al Gore with spending, George W. Bush with tax cuts.
Should there be a trigger where there only becomes a tax cut or only have more spending if in fact the surpluses truly materialize?
NADER: First of all, the surpluses are very hypothetical. The economy could turn down.
And second, the surpluses involve a lot of Social Security surpluses, which must be secured.
And third, we've got priorities. Abolishing child poverty should be one. Rebuilding and repairing America--the public works, the drinking water systems, public transit systems, schools, clinics are crumbling.
And third, we really need to focus on a universal health insurance that's accessible with emphasis on prevention.
Those are communal needs of the American people. As a community they're overwhelmingly desired.
The Bush tax cut is basically to make the rich richer, including himself. After taking advantage of a Texas Ranger stadium-subsidy boondoggle that turned a $600,000 investment that he borrowed in the Texas Rangers into a $14 million profit, he knows about corporate welfare. He's a corporate welfare king.
BUCHANAN: Tim, given the bipartisan pig-out that is taking place up in that hog confinement on Capitol Hill where Republicans have been exceeding, in spending, Clinton's requests, this surplus, so-called surplus, is going to be gone, in my judgment, because Clinton raised taxes. Why? To balance the budget. Bush raised taxes. Why? To balance the budget.
The budget is balanced. Unless this is a scam, unless this is some kind of scam, that money ought to be given back entirely to the American people, the whole $2 trillion in the non-Social Security surplus.
At that point, if we want to do something new with it, Mr. Bush's $700 billion and Mr. Gore's $2 trillion in spending, go back to the American people and ask for it. Otherwise, it's a bait and switch.
RUSSERT: But if you pass tax cuts now and the surpluses do not materialize, it's very hard to rescind a tax cut. Why not put a trigger on it that only takes place if the surplus occurs?
BUCHANAN: Because the government ought to start telling the American people the truth, Tim. When you come to me and say, "Pat, we've got to raise some money to build an addition to the church," and that's built, and you say we're going to spend the rest of now to go to the Holy Land, you say, "Wait a minute, that's not what we bargained for."
If Clinton and Bush told the American people the truth--they ought to give the so-called surplus back to the American people. If they have to raise taxes, then, do it with the consent of the nation.
RUSSERT: Let me turn to an issue that came up during Al Gore's appearance on MTV involving gay rights and immigration--and I'll roll it for you now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Straight couples, one who is American and one who's not, can get married, and the foreigner can then apply for naturalization, for residency. That's not possible. Would you favor the INS relaxing its rules to include same-sex couples?
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE, DEMOCRATIC PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I favor legal protections for civic unions, and I think the rights that are afforded an American who gets married to someone from another country should be afforded under a legally protected civic union in the same way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUSSERT: Mr. Nader, are you in favor of civic unions for gay couples? And should a foreign spouse be given a green card to join his gay partner in the U.S.?
NADER: As I've said before on this program, my view on this is equal rights/equal responsibilities for gay and lesbian people. That would cover all issues.
RUSSERT: Mr. Buchanan.
BUCHANAN: I think civic unions are absurd. They've passed these up in Vermont where homosexual couples--or homosexual liaisons have been put on the same level as traditional marriage. And I'm delighted to say that five Republicans that voted for that were defeated and thrown out in the primary.
Tim, this country, if it accepts the idea that homosexual liaisons are the same as traditional marriage, which is a God-ordained building block of society, this country is on the road to hell in a handbasket.
RUSSERT: What about the Gore proposal of allowing green cards to be given to...
BUCHANAN: You mean special green cards to the homosexual lovers of people in the United States? That is absurd. Frankly, we ought to get control of our immigration, as most Americans want, and frankly, put our troops if necessary on the border to stop the one million illegals coming into this country. Why are they...
RUSSERT: You said you wanted a five-year moratorium on legal immigration.
BUCHANAN: That's 250,000 to 300,000 could come in. We'd still be the most generous country in the world, but it would give us time to assimilate and Americanize the 30 million who have come here in recent decades.
RUSSERT: Less immigration?
NADER: We need work permits for people who come into this country and do work as in farm areas the Americans don't want to do. Instead of criminalizing the process.
Second, a foreign policy that sides with workers and peasants for a change and democracy in Central America and Mexico instead of dictatorships and oligarchs will reduce enormously the pressure of people under economic pressure and political repression from coming across the border. Most people, Tim, don't want to leave their native land, and so we can relieve the pressures. And by way, there's another immigration issue--
RUSSERT: You would lift--you would lift immigration levels higher in order to get more workers here?
NADER: No. Who knows how many are coming over illegally now? That's not a figure we can compare. But there's another immigration issue which is the brain drain. Silicon Valley trying to get more skilled people, more scientists, physicists, computer specialists and others trying to get physicians from other countries in the third world that desperately need them. We've got to stop being a hog for the skilled people abroad. There's an African-American group that just started protesting Silicon Valley's HB(1) visa pressure on Congress saying there are African-Americans and there also many non-African-Americans who are trained or could be trained to meet these jobs in the computer industry.
RUSSERT: Let me turn to oil because it's a very big issue in this campaign. Governor Bush said yesterday, Mr. Nader, that we should drill part of the Alaskan national preserve, a small piece of it in order to become less dependent on foreign oil.
NADER: In order to feed gas-guzzling monster vehicles, in order to feed the waste of energy, the way to deal with energy was for Clinton-Gore to establish strong efficiency standards which they did not do, especially for the motor vehicle industry, which is now going down to 24.5 miles per gallon, the lowest since 1980 and also for lighting and heating. The energy you don't waste is the energy you don't have to drill in a beautiful preserve up there in Northern Alaska, which is just a temporary fix anyway for our inebriated energy gouging and pricing and system.
RUSSERT: Pat Buchanan, drill in Alaska?
BUCHANAN: I've got to disagree with my friend Ralph on that. I believe they ought to drill in the ANWAR. It's only a portion of it. There's five billion barrels of oil there. But more important, Tim, the United States instead of busting up Microsoft, an American asset, ought to have a national policy to break up the OPEC cartel. It is a price-rigging, criminal conspiracy designed to loot the West and the United States of scores of billions of dollars every single year.
NADER: They got to break up the big oil companies first of all.
BUCHANAN: Here's how you do it--but here's how you do it. Cut off all IMF foreign aid loans to any country that belongs OPEC. Tell any country that belongs to OPEC, U.S. security guarantees are going to be lifted unless you drill more oil. We have got to play hardball. These people in Washington--Clinton talks about the idea of free trade and inner-dependence. These people don't believe in that, they believe in driving you to the wall. If they get control of a commodity that you don't have, and the United States needs an America first policy of economic nationalism to deal with it.
RUSSERT: Mr. Nader, we have a minute left. You will not be there Tuesday night in Boston.
NADER: Yes, I will.
RUSSERT: On the stage. On the stage.
NADER: Maybe I'll crawl up on the stage there.
BUCHANAN: Are you going to invade their space, Ralph?
NADER: They're blocking, they're blocking the access to tens of millions of voters because they have monopoly and the networks let them have a monopoly because you didn't co-sponsor their own debates.
RUSSERT: You are here this morning. If you were there Tuesday night, what question would you ask Mr. Gore, what question would you ask Mr. Bush?
NADER: A key question, how do you promote democracy by taking excessive power from big business and giving it to people as voters, consumers, tax payers and workers. That means unions, that means challenging corporate welfare. That means consumer protection for the family budget and that means public funding of public campaigns. Shift of power is the key issue in this campaign to the people.
RUSSERT: Question for Gore or Bush?
BUCHANAN: I would ask Mr. Gore this, look, how do you propose to pay down the debt with the $2 trillion when you've already proposed stuff, spending that would eat it all up? I think I would ask Mr. Bush this, what do you think? Do you think Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and would you appoint Supreme Court justices. Who in your heart and mind would see to the overturning of Roe v. Wade?
RUSSERT: To be continued.
Pat Buchanan, Ralph Nader, we thank you for sharing your views with us this morning and we will be right back on MEET THE PRESS.
RUSSERT: Start your day tomorrow on "Today" with Katie and Matt. And beginning tomorrow, "The Today Show" will be expanded to three hours every morning. Then watch the "NBC Nightly News" with Tom Brokaw.
That's all for today. We'll be back next week at our regular time. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.