DIRT has no professional or personal connection with the group, Voices in the Wilderness, mentioned in the USA TODAY article. The truth is for your information: they have exposed the truth about the embargo of Iraq. It's still about the oil, stupid! It's not about democracy. It's not about saving the people of Iraq from a mad Saddam. Don't you wonder why the oil cartels want to cut back on production of oil when there is so DAMN MUCH OIL? It's all about money and oil.
Transcript for September 24, 2000
MR. RUSSERT: You say it’s about supply, not price. And yet, the vice president and president seem to contradict that. They keep emphasizing price. Let me show you what the vice president said on Thursday, what you said on Friday, what the president said on Saturday: (Videotape, Thursday): VICE PRES. GORE: In the face of rising prices for gasoline and home heating oil, I support oil releases from our national Strategic Petroleum Reserve. (End videotape) (Videotape, Friday): SEC’Y RICHARDSON: And the reason that we are doing this is not for price, but to deal with disruption. (End videotape) (Videotape, Saturday): PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Families shouldn’t have to drain their wallets to drive their cars or heat their homes. (End videotape) MR. RUSSERT: Gore/Clinton keep saying it’s about price. SEC’Y RICHARDSON: All of this is consistent. We’re concerned about tightness in the market. This is an international problem, Tim, where the world needs more oil. It’s not just the United States—the European Community, Japan, developing countries. There’s dramatic increase in demand, just in our country, because one of the downsides of a booming economy is that we’re requiring 14 percent more energy. But home heating oil stocks, extremely low. We’re worried about a winter where there may be shortages. We’re worried about a winter where a lot of moderate-income people, poor people, couldn’t pay for home heating oil. MR. RUSSERT: But, Mr. Secretary, how many barrels of oil does the United States use per day? SEC’Y RICHARDSON: What is happening now, Tim, is the world is producing 73 million barrels per day and consuming 75 million, so there’s a shortage. MR. RUSSERT: But the United States uses 20 million barrels a day. SEC’Y RICHARDSON: Yes. MR. RUSSERT: You’re releasing 30 million barrels total. That would last 36 hour hours. SEC’Y RICHARDSON: Our objective, Tim—we’re doing a swap. It’s not a sale. We will get the oil replenished back into the reserve, so the oil comes back, and at the same time, what we are doing is after 30 days, after 30 million barrels, we’ll reassess and see where we are. MR. RUSSERT: I understand that, but if we’re using 20 million barrels a day and you’re only releasing 30 million, after 36 hours, you’re done. SEC’Y RICHARDSON: No, but the objective, Tim, is to produce, through refining capacity, from three million to five million barrels more of distillate, of home heating oil. MR. RUSSERT: But the refineries say they’re working at full capacity and this will make no difference. SEC’Y RICHARDSON: No, they’re at 96 percent. We think the refineries can do this. We are going to put sweet crude into the market. Refiners think that sweet crude is easier to do for distillate and home heating oil. I’m meeting with the refiners next week. We think that this step is an obligation to American consumers to make sure, because of the alarmingly low level of home heating oil that is out there, that is stocked for this winter, that we had to act now. This has nothing to do with a political campaign; this has to do with the fact that we want to make sure the Americans are protected. MR. RUSSERT: Will consumers still pay about 30 percent more in home heating this winter? SEC’Y RICHARDSON: We think because—the problem has been the high price of crude and that has caused increases in gasoline, that’s home heating oil, natural gas. When you have more crude in the market, more oil on the market, we expect prices slightly to go down. MR. RUSSERT: The secretary of Treasury said two cents a gallon at most. And this is why it’s being seen as a political ploy. You’re only using 30 million barrels, which is a day and a half’s worth. It not going to drop the price all that much, unless you can guarantee this morning to consumers that their home heating is not going to go up 30 percent. SEC’Y RICHARDSON: Well, let me just say that before we even took this step—and we were very careful to do this not during market hours; we did it late Friday—that the anticipation of this brought the price of crude about $3 to $4 already. We expect prices of home heating oil, of gasoline, of crude to moderate. That was one objective, to go down a bit. But the main objective, Tim, was to insure that we had adequate stocks for this winter, for the American people in the East Coast, around the country, especially in New England, where you have one-half of stocks of home heating oil as of a year ago. MR. RUSSERT: But the federal government predicted two weeks ago that the home heating cost of Americans, particularly in the Northeast, would go up 30 percent. You’re not altering that prediction? SEC’Y RICHARDSON: My view is that because of the president’s decision on the swap, not a sale—and the American people should understand that we will get—this is a good deal. We get the oil back. We replenish the reserve, oil companies pay a premium when they get the oil out at today’s prices and then in the futures market, although this is a straight trade—this is not speculation—they make a little money, but they pay a premium of putting more oil into the reserves. So our energy security is maintained. We have 571 million barrels there. MR. RUSSERT: But will the average consumer pay 30 percent more this year or not? SEC’Y RICHARDSON: Well, our objective is to make sure that they get through the winter and that those prices go down. MR. RUSSERT: This has been controversial within the administration. The secretary of Treasury wrote a memo and he said this: “Chairman Greenspan,” talking about Alan Greenspan, head of the Federal Reserve, “and I believe that using the Strategic Petroleum Reserve at this time, as proposed by the Department of Energy, would be a major and substantial policy mistake.” And there are legitimate views against this, as you might add. Let me put another one on the screen and share it with you. This says that, “Now the debate over the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is also a question that has been talked about. There are legal issues there, and as long as it’s small, as it is, and O.P.E.C. has such big reserves, all they’d have to do is cut back a little bit on the supply”—that’s O.P.E.C.—”and they would wipe out any impact from releasing oil from that reserve.” That’s a legitimate view, isn’t it? SEC’Y RICHARDSON: But the fact, sir, that O.P.E.C... MR. RUSSERT: That’s a legitimate view. SEC’Y RICHARDSON: No. No, because O.P.E.. MR. RUSSERT: That’s not? SEC’Y RICHARDSON: No, because O.P.E.C... MR. RUSSERT: That’s Al Gore. SEC’Y RICHARDSON: But O.P.E.C.—no, let me just say that... MR. RUSSERT: Excuse me, but that is Al Gore that—Al Gore in February... SEC’Y RICHARDSON: O.P.E.C. has reacted in an understanding way of this move. Now... MR. RUSSERT: Why would Al Gore say that in February? SEC’Y RICHARDSON: Look, in February, I was against using the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Conditions have changed. Conditions have changed of low home... MR. RUSSERT: Maybe a presidential election? SEC’Y RICHARDSON: No, no. Home heating oil stocks are substantially lower. There is danger this winter that unless we acted that we would have some potential disruption. MR. RUSSERT: But you’re only releasing enough to deal for America’s needs for 36 hours. How can you say that’s going to save the day? SEC’Y RICHARDSON: No, Tim, it’s not for 36 hours. What we are doing... MR. RUSSERT: We use 20 million barrels a day. You’re releasing 30 million barrels. SEC’Y RICHARDSON: No, what—no, no, no. What we’re doing, Tim, is simply trying to replenish our home heating oil stocks. We’re concerned about the tightness in the market. We’re concerned, too, about the international community. And what we are seeing is very positive reaction from the international community on a bipartisan basis from oil analysts, and O.P.E.C. countries are understanding what we’re doing. What everybody wants, Tim, is moderation in oil prices. The problem is increased demand and an exceedingly high price of crude. If we moderate those prices, if we improve the level of crude oil stocks in the world, in our country, and home heating oil stocks in the country, the effect is a positive one. The first one for us, to protect our consumers from a possible dire winter. MR. RUSSERT: Are we willing to release more than 30 million barrels? SEC’Y RICHARDSON: That’s up to the president. I think after 30 days, an assessment will be made, and it’s up to him. MR. RUSSERT: Your critics have said that this is just typical of the Clinton/Gore administration, do “nothing” for eight years and then suddenly, as the election nears, try to do a political ploy. And they point to a comment that you made, and let me put it on the screen, about the energy crisis, “We were caught napping. It’s obvious the federal government was not prepared for the recent jump in oil prices. We got complacent.” SEC’Y RICHARDSON: That statement is out of context. I made that statement in a home heating oil summit in Boston a year ago about transportation problems of home heating oil. We have been preparing for this. This is why the president has had the home heating oil reserve for New England. This is why he released the LIE HEAP funds in record numbers. We’ve had before the Congress tax credits for energy efficiency, domestic oil and gas production, we’ve had tax credits for new technologies to develop new engines, and the Congress has not passed many of the president’s energy and tax initiatives that are needed to have a supply-and-demand policy to deal with energy. MR. RUSSERT: So because of this action, the release of the 30 million barrels, the people of New England particularly are going to have a nice, warm, inexpensive winter? SEC’Y RICHARDSON: What the American people—what we want to do, Tim—it’s our obligation. People in the East Coast, around the country—home heating oil is used mainly in New England, but also around the country. We want to see a moderation in prices. We want to see enough crude oil stocks so that they can be used around the country. But home heating oil, the very low level, one-half of what existed a year ago, we want to be sure that for this winter, for this region of the country and for all the country, that we are prepared. MR. RUSSERT: You’ve been on this program many times talking about potential espionage at the nuclear labs. Wen Ho Lee was charged with 59 counts, was in confinement with shackles for some nine months. A federal judge said that the treatment of him embarrassed the nation. He pleaded guilty to just one felony count. What’s your sense of Wen Ho Lee? SEC’Y RICHARDSON: My view is that this is an individual that mishandled 400,000 pages of very sensitive, classified information. He pleaded to a serious felony. I support the decision of the Justice Department that leads us to hopefully recover what happened to those tapes. But throughout this whole process, I had been concerned about his civil rights. I said so in writing about the solitary confinement. I was concerned that it was clear that this individual’s civil rights should be protected, but I fully support the decision of the Justice Department that proceeded with our main objective: What happened to those tapes? Where are they? And in the days ahead, that has got to unfold, because that’s part of the deal that he inform us what he did with that enormously sensitive classified information. MR. RUSSERT: Do you think the treatment of him embarrassed the nation, as the judge said? SEC’Y RICHARDSON: No, I disagree with that. Confinement, shackles, I wouldn’t have done that. But there’s no question that I think the deal is good, because it would enable us to get what happened with that very, very sensitive, classified information. He misplaced it. He absconded with it. He was terminated at Los Alamos because of mishandling of classified information. For 70 days... MR. RUSSERT: Was he a spy? SEC’Y RICHARDSON: That is something that the legal process will determine. He was terminated out of Los Alamos for mishandling classified information. MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe there has been espionage at the nuclear labs? SEC’Y RICHARDSON: That has been determined. Yes, by—that some countries have obtained data about our warheads. Yeah, that’s conclusive. MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe our labs are now safe? SEC’Y RICHARDSON: I believe that we have made dramatic security improvements. We still need to do better. We had this problem with the hard drives. That is about to be concluded. But we’ve put a lot of new security procedures in place. It is critical that security be upgraded at all our labs. But, Tim, what I’m worried, too, is that we preserve the science, national security work at the labs. There’s been a little bit of morale problems there because of the excessive securities. We have to alter the balance now to ensure that productive science, national security work goes on at the labs. MR. RUSSERT: Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson, as always, we thank you for your time. SEC’Y RICHARDSON: Thank you. Thank you. MR. RUSSERT: Coming next: The Democratic senator of Delaware vs. the Republican governor of Pennsylvania, Joe Biden and Tom Ridge. Can Bush close the gap in key battleground states? Then: our political Roundtable with television pioneer Phil Donahue, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, New York Times columnist William Safire, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak. They are all coming up on MEET THE PRESS. (Announcements) MR. RUSSERT: And we’re back. Senator Biden, Governor Ridge, welcome both. Governor Ridge, the release of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is going to save the day in Pennsylvania? GOV. TOM RIDGE, (R-PA): Well, actually, what will save the day—George Bush called for it and President Clinton’s going to release the money for the Low Income Energy Assistance Program. I think— I was glad I wasn’t Secretary Richardson. He’s been a friend of mine since 1983, trying to defend the indefensible. It is about politics. While incumbents do take advantage of it, this is for a supply disruption. Thirty million barrels over 30 days when you use 20 million barrels a day, I don’t think it’s going to affect that supply very much at all, or price. MR. RUSSERT: Senator Biden, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve was for dire national emergencies. Do we have one, or is this just politics? SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN, (D-DE): Let me tell my friend from Pennsylvania—I’m from Scranton. I want to tell you something. If, in fact, we have a horrible winter and it’s cold, all you guys are going to be eating your words. Because what this is about is making sure they stockpile some home heating oil and/or are willing to buy it now at a price they can afford, the refineries, in order to be able to make it available. Now, I don’t hear the governor saying he’s not for releasing it. No, it’s a little bit like saying, “You lent me your car to get my wife to the hospital in an emergency. You may have done it for a political reason, but she still had to go to the hospital.” This needed to be done. GOV. RIDGE: Well, let me... MR. RUSSERT: Are you for releasing it, Governor? GOV. RIDGE: Well, listen, I would be for releasing it if we had the capacity necessarily to use it, but the bottom line is we don’t have the capacity to take it from crude. And it is not such an emergency that cannot be overcome with a long-term energy policy which this administration doesn’t have. It can be dealt with in a short-term way with that low-income energy assistance. You and I both, I think, argued for that for years and years. SEN. BIDEN: Yeah. Yes. GOV. RIDGE: And whether it’s in Eerie, Pennsylvania, or Scranton, Pennsylvania. And the one thing that I’m worried about is there’s a lot of people on my side of the aisle that say that Clinton-Gore don’t have an energy policy. I think Al Gore does. If you’ve read “Earth in the Balance,” you said—took a look at Bob Woodward’s book, he likes BTU taxes. He’d like to tax energy. And I think in the long run, that is his energy policy, and that’s kind of been lost in this debate. SEN. BIDEN: Look... GOV. RIDGE: If he had his druthers, he’d like to tax it even higher. The tax would go even higher. SEN. BIDEN: One of the things lost in this debate is typical of Bush vs. Gore. There’s a potential serious problem. If, in fact, we use up all the stockpile that’s there for home heating oil now by January because you have a horrible December, the question is not refining capacity. Is there enough crude oil available in order to be able to get more home heating oil? This administration is saying we’re going to hedge against that. The Republican administration typically would say we’re not going to hedge against that. It’s kind of a difference of philosophy, how to approach these things. Secondly, the Republicans in the House, your old buddies over in the House and Senate, they have not provided for the money the president asked for, R&D, the money he provided for tax credits for automobiles, to increase energy efficiency. They have not provided for that. So, look, the bottom line of this thing is this is a smart thing to do, to hedge against a disaster in New England and in the Northeast, if, in fact, we have a horrible winter. If we don’t have a horrible winter, you’ll all be able to say, “Jeez, we didn’t have to release the reserve.” But if we have a horrible winter, you’ll all be saying, “Thank you, Mr. President.” GOV. RIDGE: Senator, last year was a pretty bad winter, and in February, your candidate, Vice President Gore, said, “We don’t want to touch it. It’s there for strategic security purposes, unless there’s a major supply disruption.” He now says there’s a change in circumstances. And I think the change in circumstances this week were the changing trend lines of the polls. I mean, I think this was very much a political decision. I don’t think you should get into this reserve unless it’s absolutely in a national crisis. You can overcome the short-term problem with low-income energy assistance. You and I both have used that and advocated that for a long time. SEN. BIDEN: You can’t overcome it if there’s no oil. GOV. RIDGE: But to go into the strategic reserve for 30 million barrels of oil, which, in fact, you can’t even refine, I think is politics as usual, and I think America sees that. SEN. BIDEN: They’re not going to refine this now. That’s another misnomer here. It is 98 percent of capacity. This oil, 30 million barrels, isn’t going to have to be refined. They’re going to be willing to buy it now at the price that’s there now so that they, in fact, don’t have to bet on the futures. What they’re doing now, the futures market has oil going down in January. These guys are waiting till January to buy the stockpile they need to keep it going. MR. RUSSERT: Why did Gore say it was a bad idea in February? SEN. BIDEN: Because in February... MR. RUSSERT: And why is the secretary of Treasury and the chairman of the Federal Reserve saying it’s a bad idea now? SEN. BIDEN: Because the policy argument is the one that Governor Ridge is making. This should not be used unless we’re at war, unless there’s a major national emergency, a major disruption. I think it’s a big deal to make sure that people in the Northeast don’t run the risk of going through a winter without oil regardless of the price, with a shortage, unavailability of enough home heating fuel oil. MR. RUSSERT: And this will do that? SEN. BIDEN: This will do that. MR. RUSSERT: Thirty million... SEN. BIDEN: Just in the region, not for the nation. Just in that region. GOV. RIDGE: When you’re talking about shortages, we’ve had the same energy conditions in the past. We are, obviously, addicted to fossil fuels. We know there’s a finite supply, and America keeps consuming more and more of it. But there—has no energy policy, if Al Gore would have one. That’s just tax, tax, tax, so it didn’t use it. But the bottom line is you can get through whatever perceived or real crisis, I think, we have during this winter with the existing supplies, and you do not have to invade the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. MR. RUSSERT: Governor Ridge, you mentioned polls. The last time you were on, George Bush was riding high, ahead in Pennsylvania, ahead across the country. GOV. RIDGE: Yeah. MR. RUSSERT: That has changed. Let me put on the latest polls here. This is in Delaware, Joe Biden’s home state: Al Gore, 49 percent; George Bush, 40 percent. And in Pennsylvania, the latest poll we have Al Gore, 43 percent; George Bush, 38 percent. What happened to Governor Bush? He was ahead, and now he is behind. GOV. RIDGE: Well, I think what has happened is that after the Democratic convention, Vice President Gore very appropriately consolidated his base. I think we let him go a little bit too long unattended to and we had a couple of rocky weeks in September. There’s no question about it. But I think what’s very encouraging for me and in Pennsylvania is the trend line that’s going up, 43 percent-38 percent in a Democratic state with 500,000 more registered Democrats and a very positive Pennsylvania message. I mean, one of the most important things we need to do in Pennsylvania is personalize Governor Bush’s message. And I think telling our working families that if you make 50,000 bucks a year, you’re not rich and powerful; you get a tax cut under Governor Bush, but you don’t get a tax cut under Al Gore. The education issue—we see some of this education recession in Pennsylvania. Governors, Republicans and Democrats, are trying to deal with it because Clinton-Gore have not. So I think once we personalize this message, I think we’re going to do very well. MR. RUSSERT: Senator Biden, Governor Bush yesterday took off the gloves a little bit and tried to raise the whole issue of Al Gore’s credibility. Let’s watch that and give you a chance to respond: (Videotape): GOV. BUSH: My opponent has unfortunately spent the week misleading Americans. He started by making up numbers for his mother-in-law’s prescription drug costs. He then talked about a lullaby he says his parents sang to him as a baby. Only problem is the lullaby wasn’t written until he was 27 years old. Then he changed his tune on Hollywood—one week scolding them for their bad influence; the next week passing his wallet and then letting them influence it. (End videotape) MR. RUSSERT: Fair criticism? SEN. BIDEN: Hey, look, this is the guy who said he wasn’t going to be personal. You just heard him. But I understand why he’s doing this. I mean this as sincerely as I can say it: Every once in a while, you run a presidential election where the environment favors one party or another. In 1980, if you asked a Democrat: Who is going to beef up defense, the Republican or Democrat? The Democrat would say the Republican. You ask people today: Who’s going to take care of prescription drugs? Who’s going to take care of Medicare? Who’s going to take care of those things? They’re going to say the Democrat, even the Republicans. This guy has got a problem. I don’t think Bush is doing things so badly, but he can’t argue—in the state of Pennsylvania, state of Delaware—do you want to send back those teachers and the 100,000-teacher program? Do you not want the money? I’ll take you up to Scranton and Erie and all around, you know better than I do. You need school construction. What’s Bush talking about in those things? Do you want to make sure that you can care of your mother’s prescription drugs, whether it’s your mother or mine or somebody else’s? This guy has got a problem. When I say this guy, the governor of Texas has got a problem. So I think you’re going to see more and more of this. You’re going to hear him talk less and less about Medicare, less and less about tax cuts, less and less about education and more and more about this. I don’t blame him. MR. RUSSERT: Governor Ridge, Senator Biden’s point is the economy is roaring, and the issues, according to the polls, seem to be on the side of the Democrats. Do you agree? GOV. RIDGE: Well, no. First of all, I have a couple of observations to make on that. I’d like to go back to Bill Bradley’s line during the campaign: If we can’t trust you to tell the truth as a candidate, how can we trust you to tell us the truth as president? I think that’s what—Governor Bush is alluding to it... SEN. BIDEN: It’ll work as well as it did for Bradley. GOV. RIDGE: ...and I think Bill Bradley alluded to it. And I think, secondly, you’re right, I do know a little bit more about Pennsylvania. SEN. BIDEN: A whole lot more. A whole lot more. GOV. RIDGE: And we’d be happy to have some construction money and teachers, but that’s—again, Senator, I think there’s a huge philosophical difference in contrast in this national debate, and I think it’s one of the most important we’ve ever had. Governor Bush believes there’s an education recession. We’ve had prosperity, but, you know, we’ve got a lot of kids trapped in failing public schools. And the notion that Washington, under a President Gore, would tell 501 school districts and thousands of schools and parents and teachers what they need in those individual schools to improve them, I think, is just way out of line and out of place in the 21st century. MR. RUSSERT: But, Governor, Washington gave money to states to be used for health care for poor children. GOV. RIDGE: Correct. MR. RUSSERT: Pennsylvania used every nickel of that money. GOV. RIDGE: Correct. MR. RUSSERT: Texas turned back $400 million, even though they have several million children who need better health care. Why? GOV. RIDGE: Well, I don’t know the circumstances in Texas. I don’t know the kind of programs they have. I believe that under Governor Bush, they have far more people enrolled—far more kids enrolled in their children’s health insurance program than they did under his Democratic predecessor. And one of the big challenges that we’ve had—and we are a state that’s had a children’s health insurance program actually leading the country, so our problem was a little bit smaller. We’ve had to actually spend millions and millions of dollars trying to get kids into the program. We know there are still some out there that we want to insure and we can’t, and I think that’s one of the challenges that Pennsylvania has, Texas has and everybody else has. MR. RUSSERT: Why wouldn’t Texas take advantage of it the way Pennsylvania did? GOV. RIDGE: Well, I don’t know the... SEN. BIDEN: (Unintelligible) governor. Thank God he’s not on the ticket. GOV. RIDGE: I don’t know the circumstances of that—of Texas, so I really can’t address it, but I do think there are some problems... MR. RUSSERT: Fund-raising became an issue again this week. This is what the head of Common Cause, Scott Harshbarger, had to say. Now, he’s a Democrat, the former attorney general of Massachusetts: What is particularly shocking is what—appears no lessons were learned from scandals of ’96, that the current occupants of the White House are using it as a personal trophy and not the people’s house. What amazes me is there’s no sense of limits or shame. Now, to use it in furtherance of one of the occupants’ personal political goals in the state of New York is a new low. Senator Biden, have the Clintons gone too far in the use of the White House to raise money? SEN. BIDEN: You’re talking to the wrong guy. I don’t even take PAC money, I mean, so I think we should change the whole system. I don’t know enough about it to know. I find it not very appealing and—but the fact of the matter is, it’s one of those things that we are talking about, all the money that’s being spent in these campaigns and the money you have to raise to spend. It leads to at least, if not impropriety, it leaves a sort of a bad, sour taste in my mouth. MR. RUSSERT: Governor Ridge. GOV. RIDGE: Why should we be surprised? It’s been going on for eight years now and the fact it would going on until the very end of the administration comes as no surprise. And the fact—again, I say this: As incumbent officeholders, there’s certain advantages that we all have, and everybody in the political world knows that, but I say selling overnight stays at the Lincoln Bedroom, invading the strategic petroleum reserve and some other things are taking politics a little bit too far. And I think this administration has done... SEN. BIDEN: I don’t think there’s any comparison between the two things that’s mentioned, for the record, as they say. MR. RUSSERT: Biden, last call. Who wins the White House? Who wins the Senate? SEN. BIDEN: I think—oh, I’m confident Gore will win the White House and I don’t mean that as a personal smack on the Texas governor. I really mean it. I think the environment’s there. I’m willing to bet him that we win—Gore wins the White House. I think if we wake up in the morning and I’m chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, I won’t be surprised. I don’t expect it. We make gains. We’re somewhere between 49 and 51. It’s one of those cases where the issues this time around happen to favor us, and the people know where we stand on it. MR. RUSSERT: How important are the debates to George W. Bush? GOV. RIDGE: I think they’re important to both candidates, but I think George is going to do very well. I think he got the forums that he likes. I think he really wanted to get from behind the podium and mix it up a little bit with the vice president and have that town meeting forum. So I think Americans are going to see the George Bush that I know, they’re going to see his passion, his compassion, his humor, and he’s going to do very well. MR. RUSSERT: Tom Ridge, Joseph Biden. SEN. BIDEN: He needs an epiphany. MR. RUSSERT: Amen. Brother Biden, Brother Ridge. Bush and Gore prepare for next week’s debates. Nader and Buchanan, the third-party candidates, are left out. Our political Roundtable is next: Phil Donahue, Bill Safire, Bob Novak and Doris Kearns Goodwin—they are all coming up right here on MEET THE PRESS. (Announcements) MR. RUSSERT: Television pioneer Phil Donahue. Plus, Bob Novak, Bill Safire, Doris Kearns Goodwin, after this station break. (Announcements) MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. The presidential debates are scheduled—first one—a week from Tuesday, October 3rd. Al Gore will be there. George W. Bush will be there. Phil Donahue, Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan not invited. You’re a Nader supporter. What say you? MR. PHIL DONAHUE: Well, I think it’s important to review what won’t be heard on these debates. All the candidates, from the major parties, stood by rubber stamped—for example, the oil mergers; stood by while refining capacity was reduced, the price of oil went up as much as 40 percent. The oil companies get the profits. We have major party candidates who are marinated in oil contributions. It’s not reasonable to expect them to be—have been aggressive, and they certainly weren’t. They stood there. The prices went up, refining capacity was contracted, no jawboning, no Justice Department investigation. Ralph Nader would be the only person on that stage to speak to the futility of the mergers, which have fattened—which have raised stock prices and also made it difficult for working families, as they like to say, to pay for their home heating oil. MR. RUSSERT: You write in the Los Angeles Times today that the other issues that Nader could address are drug decriminalization, more civil rights for gays, including unions of gay couples. MR. DONAHUE: Civil unions. MR. RUSSERT: Are those the kind of issues that you think Americans would respond to? MR. DONAHUE: I believe there are millions of Americans out there who are recoiling at the fact that states—some states are executing retarded teen-agers and in the wake of Governor Ryan of Illinois, a Republican, calling a moratorium on executions, we hear nothing from the major-party candidates about this major, very important issue. We have two million people in jail; most of them for non-violent offenses. The issue of the hysterical drug war, where we knock down doors and yell, “Police, freeze!” endangering the lives of some very dedicated police officers, not to mention innocent bystanders; shredding the Fourth Amendment, protections of privacy; undermining the governments of Colombia and other nations; spending billions of dollars on a drug war that buys helicopters and things that go “Boom.” Ralph Nader thinks the drug problem is a health problem, not a criminal problem, and millions of Americans agree with him. And that position will not be heard on the debates, because of Ralph Nader and others have been excluded by the major parties. MR. RUSSERT: There are 246 people running for president. If you include Nader and Buchanan, how do you exclude the 244 other minor-party candidates? MR. DONAHUE: Well, first of all, I think you lose most of them with the criteria that would insist that you be on the ballot in enough states to get the 270 electoral votes needed to be elected. Maybe you make 1 percent the floor. MR. RUSSERT: In the polls? MR. DONAHUE: Yes. And that would exclude just about everybody, except Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader. MR. RUSSERT: Bob Novak? MR. ROBERT NOVAK: You know, if you—somebody else who isn’t going to be on that platform, Phil, is Dr. Heyhorn of the Natural Law Party, and so we won’t hear about transcendental meditation, or... MR. RUSSERT: Or Harry Browne of the Libertarian Party. MR. NOVAK: Harry Browne of the Libertarian Party, who liked to really dismantle the federal government, which I don’t think is that bad an idea. And you won’t hear him. So... MR. DONAHUE: Are you likening Ralph Nader to those people? MR. NOVAK: Yeah. I’m saying that the criterion is not things that you won’t hear. The criterion is whether they have a chance to be president. Harry Browne, of course, is on all 50 state ballots. And the question—and I think it’s an arbitrary decision. I don’t think the question is to make it an interesting debate for minority viewpoints. It’s who has a chance to be elected. And I think if you have people who don’t have a chance to be elected president, it creates clutter and confusion for the voter. MR. RUSSERT: Safire, you’ve been through a lot of debates. MR. WILLIAM SAFIRE: The difference between a four-person debate and a two-person debate is the difference between a debate and a beauty contest. MR. DONAHUE: Which is the beauty contest? MR. SAFIRE: There is a dynamic, a dramatic dynamic, that happens in a two-person debate, and each man has to be on his toes. These are contestants as if in a ring. When you introduce a third party, as happened in the primaries, suddenly the two major debaters have a breather between the combat. And things get diffused and people filibuster, and it’s not a decision-making debate. When people watch a debate between two men who could be president, they know that they have two gladiators in a ring, and that’s what counts. MR. RUSSERT: Now, Jesse Ventura, the governor of Minnesota, will say that he could not have been governor of Minnesota—he was doing poorly in the polls—until he got in the debate. And then when people saw him, he was taken as a serious candidate and he went on to win. MR. SAFIRE: Fine. That’s what Ross Perot said back in ’92 when he was able to buy his way onto the debate forum. But the next time out, you saw his ratings plunge because he wasn’t in the debate. MS. DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: But, you know... MR. SAFIRE: The debate makes the difference for the third-party candidate. MS. GOODWIN: Well, it’s interesting, though, historically Ronald Reagan was generous in 1980 when he was combating Carter. He wanted Anderson, the third-party candidate, to be in that debate. Anderson had about 10 percent of the polls in the spring. Carter didn’t want Anderson in there, ‘cause Carter knew Anderson would take away from his votes, Democrat, liberal votes. So at first, Carter refused to debate altogether. And then they had all these cartoons of this high chair—you know, they had Anderson and Reagan and high chair, a petulant president not willing to debate. And then finally, by the time the two of them debated, Anderson had lost in the polls. He didn’t do the actual debate. But then everything was on that showdown debate, which Carter didn’t do well at. MR. NOVAK: Just to refine that historically, there was an Anderson-Reagan debate that Carter... MS. GOODWIN: That’s what I’m saying. And Reagan did very well in that debate. MR. NOVAK: OK. It hurt Carter in the end, yeah. MS. GOODWIN: Of course, it hurt. That was where the baby chair was. That’s what I mean. And then Perot, obviously, they both wanted Perot in because they were afraid, Carter, at that point—I mean, Clinton, at that point, was afraid and Bush was afraid to not have his supporters like either one of them, but Perot won that first debate, and his votes went up after a while. But then the other problems that he had, which you suggested, came back after a while. I think generosity’s not a bad thing. It doesn’t have to be in every debate. It wouldn’t be a problem, however, if we had one debate where, if you had a certain kind of standard of legitimacy to potentially win enough votes, the guys are there. MR. NOVAK: Would you put Harry Brown in? MS. GOODWIN: I’d have to see what that standard was, if he met the standard, you know? But I agree, at some point, you need the gladiators, mano a mano, or “womano a womano.” MR. RUSSERT: Phil Donahue, many people who support Ralph Nader are self-described liberal, liberal Democrats. And there is concern within the Gore campaign that if you vote for Nader, you’re, in fact, voting for Bush. MR. DONAHUE: Right. MR. RUSSERT: You could elect George W. Bush. Would that bother you? MR. DONAHUE: These people are essentially saying, “Sit down already and don’t make trouble.” They are essentially telling people not to vote their conscience; they are suggesting that people who support Ralph Nader should once again stand outside the door of the two major parties’ locked power and behave themselves and allow less than 50 percent of the voters to determine who shall lead us for the next four years. We’ve done that. We don’t want to do it anymore. We see what is not being debated. We have The New York Times consistent with what we’ve heard from Bill Safire call it, clutter. The American people shouldn’t have their debates cluttered up. I mean, it’s like we’re a little bit made nervous by democracy. This is the land of the First Amendment. We’re looking for robust disagreement and debate. We’re not yet messianic enough to insist that you disagree with us. We are saying that our point ought to be heard. Ralph Nader is one of the most important private American voices of the 20th century. His body of work is wider, deeper, touches more of our lives than most of the people who have ever served in Congress throughout the entire history of our nation. And he has taken no PAC money. He’s taken no soft money. His contributions are limited according to federal law. He’s been a Boy Scout about this and he’s locked out for obeying the law. He’s locked out of the debate. More than 60 percent of the American people believe he should be part of it, and so do I. MR. RUSSERT: What the major candidates have done this week is appeared on other forms of the media other than news shows, if you will. Someone named Oprah, who, Mr. Donahue, you know well, has a forum that you started some 29 years ago, and let me show you both George W. Bush and Al Gore on “Oprah” and have a chance to talk about it: (Videotape, September 19, 2000): MS. OPRAH WINFREY: Tell us about a time when you needed forgiveness. GOV. BUSH: Right now. MS. WINFREY: Oh, gosh. OK. But for real, tell me a story. GOV. BUSH: Well, when my heart turns dark, when I am jealous or when I am spiteful. MS. WINFREY: I’m looking for specifics here. GOV. BUSH: I know you are, but I’m running for president. (End videotape) (Videotape, September 11, 2000): MS. WINFREY: Favorite thing to sleep in. VICE PRES. GORE: A bed. MS. WINFREY: OK. VICE PRES. GORE: You get the picture? (End videotape) (Videotape, September 19, 2000): Ms. WINFREY: What do you know for sure? GOV. BUSH: That there is a God. That’s what I know for sure and that’s what I believe with all my heart. (End videotape) (Videotape, September 11, 2000): MS. WINFREY: Favorite book of all time? VICE PRES. GORE: Well, in addition to the Bible, everybody has to say that... MS. WINFREY: OK. VICE PRES. GORE: ...would maybe “The Red and The Black.” (End videotape) MR. RUSSERT: Bill Safire, what do we learn from those kind of interviews? MR. SAFIRE: Well, run out and buy Stendhal. Kipling had it, I think, well said, “That you should be able to walk with kings nor lose the common touch.” A president or a president-to-be should be able to go on a program like that and banter and hold his own. And you can prepare for it. You know, you think to yourself, “You can ask me what my favorite novel is or who my favorite movie star is,” and you have that prepared in advance. But you occasionally get slugged with a left-field question, and you ought to be able to roll with the punch and handle it and be charming. That’s part of leadership. MR. RUSSERT: Bob Novak. MR. NOVAK: I think this is very important for the people who really don’t understand the differences between the candidates, aren’t interested, and there are very substantial differences. I don’t understand how people can be undecided in this race if they have any interest in public policy, but this is the kind of thing that influences them tremendously. And it was very important, I think, for Governor Bush because there had been kind of a creeping consensus among the talking heads in Washington that he was an idiot. He couldn’t pronounce subliminal and making fun of him. And to have him go on and not fall over himself, which I thought he performed well—not very significant, but—as far as policy goes, but quite significant, I think, as far as political tactics go. MR. RUSSERT: Doris Kearns Goodwin, John Kennedy and John Lindsay used to go on “Johnny Carson,” Nixon on “Laugh-In,” sock-it-to-me forums like “Oprah,” important and helpful to a candidate? MS. GOODWIN: Well, certainly, it’s understandable why the candidate wants to go there. They don’t have the mean press asking them the tough questions about substance in the same way, and also, the audience is there. They’re getting a lot of people to listen, and they can look relaxed and charming. The only place they get in trouble is if they, on those shows, lose their dignity. I mean, I think when President Clinton went on MTV, as we all remember, and talked about whether he wore boxers or briefs, we didn’t want to know that. And I think that’s—and when Carter talked to Playboy, an alternative kind of magazine so it seemed, about his lust in his heart, one of those seven deadly sins that I had to learn in catechism class, his polls went down 10 percent after that. So it’s a very fine line between being charming and friendly and spontaneous, and going over. And you want to respect your president more than you want to just like him as a congenial fellow. I don’t think they went over the line on “Oprah.” I think they did fine, but I think they could have. MR. RUSSERT: Donahue. MR. DONAHUE: Well, I certainly support the candidates going on “Oprah” and other programs. I was pleased when they came to mine. I wish Oprah would be as generous with her air time to Ralph Nader as she’s been to the major party candidates. But it certainly is true, while they’re running to “Oprah” and “Leno” and other programs, they’re avoiding real press conferences with real questions. MR. SAFIRE: Hear! Hear! You’re absolutely right. MR. DONAHUE: The idea of a—this presidential campaign, because it has only two candidates, is an effort to avoid third rails. We’re not getting the kinds of issues that I believe concern millions and millions of Americans. And if the issues aren’t raised in the debates, the great Broadway of our presidential season, they’re not legitimized in the minds of the voter. The voter is not moved to think about them. With Ralph Nader on the debates, they would be. MR. RUSSERT: Bill Safire, what about the infusion we have of religion and God into our politics? You heard George W. Bush said the one thing he knows certain, there is a God. You’ve heard Al Gore say: Well, you ask me what—my favorite book, I have to say the Bible; Joe Lieberman talking openly and passionately about his faith. Is this a change? Is it good? Is it bad? MR. SAFIRE: I think the criticism directed at Falwell and Pat Robertson, that I joined in, that you shouldn’t wear God on your sleeve when you’re campaigning and you shouldn’t mix faith with politics overly, I think Joe Lieberman erred. I think he went overboard. Now, it was a political calculation on Al Gore’s part that he wanted to surround himself with morality, and thereby, get over the Clinton fatigue problem. And Joe Lieberman went along with it. But I feel that’s excessive, and I like the Anti- Defamation League’s criticism. That would be consistent. MR. RUSSERT: And Bill Bennett, who worked with Joe Lieberman, joined the fray this week in The Wall Street Journal, and let me show you what Mr. Bennett had to write: Since Mr. Gore selected him, Mr. Lieberman has either backed away from or grown silent on a number of issues he once addressed— affirmative action, school choice, tort reform, the infamous ’96 White House fund-raisers, the immoral conduct of President Clinton. And now he has gone with muted voice and open hand to mansions in Beverly Hills. Joe Lieberman and I used to stand together to excoriate Hollywood filth. Now, he’s delivering a very different message to the lavish Hollywood fund-raisers. MR. NOVAK: Well, that is a point that hasn’t really been raised enough, Tim. I have suggested, in jest of course, that the real Joe Lieberman is a prisoner in a sanitarium in upstate New York, hidden away because this fellow has changed every position of—that he was different from the ranks of the Democratic Party. He is a conventional Democrat. And I thought Bennett’s piece was very interesting, particularly in saying that Lieberman stood by as one of these Hollywood types excoriated religion, so I think it’s a little bit of posturing. I just want to add one thing on press conferences, Phil. I think that Al Gore had his first press conference on oil—when he talked about oil, his first press conference in about two months. I think Bush has had a number of press conferences and open press interviews in the last couple months. MR. RUSSERT: Phil Donahue, the issue of Hollywood in politics. You were on the air for 29 years with a talk show, very controversial. You had Ralph Nader, but you had a lot of other subjects that bothered a lot of people. People wanted to yank you off the air. What do you think of Gore and Lieberman saying to Hollywood: If you don’t clean up your act, we might have to do something from a governmental perspective? MR. DONAHUE: Well, they probably said that to Helen Cane, too, in the ’20s, the oop-boop-ee-doop girl. I do think it’s a little different now with—what with the technology, software. I have grandchildren who aren’t even five yet, and they’re running around—they’ve got a mouse and they click and an awful lot of material that we don’t want them to see is available to them. Thankfully, they have enlightened parents who will create blocks that we hope will at least manage what they see. The issue of selling—another Ralph Nader issue: commercialization of children. The issue of selling or advertising this kind of computer-animated beheadings, things blowing up, gore, guts, knives, is certainly, in my opinion, against what I think the FTC should be in on that. And... MR. SAFIRE: You really learn something on MEET THE PRESS. Do you realize that? I never knew that the boop-boop-a-doop girl was Helen Cane. MS. GOODWIN: You knew that. You remember. MR. SAFIRE: Helen Cane. How do you like that? MS. GOODWIN: You know, one thing that I think we can say, though, about Mr. Bennett’s charge is that he was charged very similarly in 1996. Dole went out to California, gave a much softer speech— during the primaries he gave a very tough anti-Hollywood speech, and then he went out and said: I do like a lot of movies. I like “Forrest Gump.” I like “Babe.” I like “Apollo 13.” MR. RUSSERT: Who is this? MS. GOODWIN: Dole. And Bennett urged him to do that. And then Bennett was asked to explain: How come you’ve given him a different speech? He said: Well, it’s nuance. The attack is a little softer than the first time. So the very thing he’s accusing Lieberman of, he was accused of doing to Dole in ’96. MR. SAFIRE: It’s not the very thing. I mean, he’s accusing Lieberman of a total makeover. MS. GOODWIN: Right. Perhaps. MR. RUSSERT: To be continued. And by the way, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan will both be here next week in a debate. And before we go, we remember Carl T. Rowan, a journalist for more than 50 years. He appeared on MEET THE PRESS some 111 times during his career, beginning way back in 1966. He died Saturday at the age of 75. He and his family are in our thoughts and prayers. And we’ll be right back. (Announcements) MR. RUSSERT: Start your day tomorrow on “Today” with Katie and Matt. Then the “NBC Nightly News” with Tom Brokaw. That’s all for today. We’ll be back next week with a preview of the presidential debates, and our own debate with Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader. If it’s Sunday, it’s MEET THE PRESS.