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RAY SUAREZ: Good evening. I'm Ray Suarez. On the NewsHour tonight, from the campaign trail in North Carolina, Governor George W. Bush talks with Jim Lehrer about American political culture, Social Security, and his qualifications for President. We will devote the entire program to that interview, as we did recently with Vice President Gore. Governor Bush follows our summary of the news this Thursday.
RAY SUAREZ: Texas Governor George W. Bush called again today for restoring civility in Washington. He said Americans were tired of the angry partisan tone. He said it blocked efforts to deal with major problems, and he said changing the atmosphere would be a key test of his leadership. His comments came during an extensive interview with the NewsHour in North Carolina. We'll have it in its entirety right after this News Summary. On the Elian Gonzalez story, in Atlanta, a federal appeals court denied a request to let the Miami relatives visit the boy. He's staying with his father on Maryland's eastern shore. The court also refused to appoint an outside guardian. It did accept the federal government's offer to give the family regular reports on Elian's well-being. In Washington, Attorney General Reno said she hopes the two sides of the family can reconcile. She spoke at her weekly news conference.
JANET RENO: I hope that we can all come to the point where the family can ultimately sit down, work out their differences, if possible, and make it possible for people to keep in touch with the little boy in constructive, positive ways through appropriate contact, through appropriate communication.
RAY SUAREZ: Reno declined to say if the Justice Department would take steps to bring the family members together. Government ministers from Zimbabwe met with British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook today in London. They discussed the rising violence aimed at white farmers and government opponents in the former British colony once known as Rhodesia. But there was no agreement. We have this report from Robert Moore of Independent Television News.
ROBERT MOORE: The Zimbabwean delegation arriving at the foreign office included some of President Mugabe's closest and most powerful ministers, but any hope of a diplomatic breakthrough to end the violence and the farm invasion seems remote, especially when they denied even the existence of a problem.
ROBERT MOORE: Are you in a position now to make sure that there is an end to the illegal farm occupation? Is that on the agenda?
SPOKESMAN: There is nothing like illegal farm occupation.
ROBERT MOORE: And there were no hints of progress in over seven hours of talks, the foreign secretary making it clear that a precondition of further British funding of land reforms is a complete end to the violence, which Mr. Cook says the government of President Mugabe has done so much to provoke.
ROBIN COOK, Foreign Secretary, Great Britain: What we want to see come out of the talks is a commitment to a fair land reform program, without the illegal occupations and the violence we've seen, and fair elections, free from intimidation of the last few days. We're willing to help, but we're not going to appease. Any help we provide for land reform can only begin once there is an end to the occupations and a start in elections.
ROBERT MOORE: The London talks were in t to exert diplomatic pressure on Zimbabwe to end the recent farm invasions, and the brutal assaults that have so destabilized the country. The foreign office says it understands and needs to support land reform in a country where a small number of largely white farmers owns 70% of the most fertile land. But such reform, it says, must take place within the rule of law, and the parliamentary elections must go ahead.
RAY SUAREZ: The British said there are no plans for further talks after today's session. New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani confirmed today he has prostate cancer. He said it's at an early stage, and is a treatable form of the disease. But he hasn't decided on radiation, surgery, or some other treatment method. He also said he's not sure how it might affect his U.S. Senate campaign against First Lady Hillary Clinton.
MAYOR RUDOLPH GIULIANI, New York City: I don't think it's fair to answer questions about the senate race right now. I think that my focus right now has to be on how to figure out the best form of treatment, and then after I decide that, and get a while to absorb this to figure out, you know, should I do it? Would I be able to do it the right way? I hope that's the case. It may not. It may be. I think it would be unfair to give an answer right now.
JIM LEHRER: Mrs. Clinton said the mayor has her "prayers and best wishes" for a full and speedy recovery. The National Park Service today banned the recreational use of snowmobiles at nearly all its sites. The agency said the vehicles have had a "significant adverse environmental effect." Environmental groups had charged the Park Service failed to monitor snowmobiles, and today, agency officials acknowledged as much. The ban applies to most national parks, monuments, and recreational areas. Officials are still deciding whether to include Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks. On Wall Street today, technology stocks moved ahead, but the blue chips lost ground. The NASDAQ Index rose 143 points, to close at 3,774, a gain of nearly 4%. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 57, to close at 10,888. Investors mostly shrugged off two first-quarter economic reports that raised inflation concerns. The Labor Department said a broad gauge of wages had its sharpest increase in a decade. And the Commerce Department said the Gross Domestic Product grew at an annual rate of 5.4%. And that was led by the biggest rise in consumer spending since 1983. That's it for the news summary tonight. Now it's on to a newsmaker interview with Governor Bush.
RAY SUAREZ: Jim Lehrer's extended interview with Governor Bush is a companion piece to his interview of equal length with Vice President Gore six weeks ago. It was conducted this afternoon in Greensboro, north Carolina, during a break in the Governor's campaign schedule.
JIM LEHRER: Governor, welcome.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Thanks, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: Last night you said as President you would end the arms race of anger in Washington. Describe what you mean by the angry arms race.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, language of recrimination and finger pointing and trying to tear somebody down. Americans, they think of Washington today, they think of the endless bickering that takes place and wonder aloud, at least to me, why Social Security hasn't been modernized or Medicare hasn't been reformed. I, you know, I had two questions to ask myself before I ran: One, was could my family endure the run for the presidency? Is our love strong enough between Laura and me and the girls? And the answer to that is yes. And it's even gotten stronger, by the way, since the campaign has begun. But the other question is: Can an administration change a tone? I mean, can we come together as a country and solve some basic problems -- but, by bringing people to Washington who are committed to the country first and foremost, they recognize there's a type of partisanship in campaigns, but not when it comes to policy - and I've reached the conclusion that, yes, that can happen. And it's going to be a test to my leadership to determine whether or not I'll be able to do so.
JIM LEHRER: Have you given any thought to specifically what you're going to do to change the tone and get rid of this thing?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Let me just give you an example of what I did in Texas. And the only thing I know to do is go by my gut instincts when I get sworn in. But in Texas, one of the first things I did was I went and called upon Democrats. I called upon Bullock, the great lieutenant governor; he was a little gun shy at first. But I put my cards on the table, and I said I want to get something done for America - yesterday - and I'll do the same with Democrats - yesterday Bob Kerrey - somebody in the press goes, well, he's leaving office. He may be leaving office, but he -
JIM LEHRER: The Democratic Senator from Nebraska.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Nebraska -but he cares about - deeply - about Social Security reform and Medicare reform. There will be other Senators - Democrat Senators - who also care about those issues, but I asked Bob, I said, is it possible for a Republican President to call upon your colleagues to sit in a room and say, let's get this - let's get something done in a positive way - he said he thought so. And I was encouraged by his assessment of the ability of a President who is willing to spend the capital. And I think that's what's necessary, Jim, in Washington. Beside reaching out - look - the other day somebody else said your dad said the same thing in his Inaugural Address - and he did - and it turned out to be a pretty partisan era - not nearly as partisan as this last one. But it's the President who sets the tone. And it's the President who reaches out. But it's the President who also must share credit, as well, if something positively is done. But the President is also going to spend the capital - sorry to be blowing on too long -
JIM LEHRER: It's all right.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: -- but the need to say this is an important issue - I'm going to spend my capital that I earned in the course of the campaign and I promise no political recrimination - that's what's needed for Social Security and Medicare.
JIM LEHRER: But what caused this thing to happen? Why did it get to be the way it is in Washington now? Have you looked at it?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: It's hard for me to tell. I think it's just politics, and I think that over the - it's not going to happen instantly. This administration isn't the only administration that's been involved with partisan - you know - bitter partisan rhetoric. It's been the most bitter period, it seems like to me in recent memory. I suspect a lot of it has to do with the fact that just slowly but surely the standard has declined and no one has stood up and said I'm going to change it. And it requires more than just the President. The President sets the tone, but it's going to have to require commitment by members of both parties in Washington.
JIM LEHRER: What about your party, has your party contributed to this as much as the Democrats?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I don't know about as much, because I think that the President sets the tone; the President's the leader. But, yes, it has.
JIM LEHRER: Do you think President Clinton is really responsible for this?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: No, I think both sides are responsible, and I said so in my speech last night. You said - I don't want to assign degrees of guilt, but, yes, the Republicans have responded in kind, yes, the Republicans have sometimes - you know - fallen into the trap of tearing each other - tearing somebody else down.
JIM LEHRER: The reports that I read - I wasn't there last night - but the reports that I read were that they - that part of your speech - when you talked about the Republicans - was not warmly received. Did you read it that way?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: You know, I was asked that again today. I didn't see it -
JIM LEHRER: Didn't see it that way?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: But that's okay; it doesn't trouble me in the least.
JIM LEHRER: Why not?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Because my job is to lead, and I'm the leader of the party, as far as I'm concerned, and I want to make it clear to people in the Republican Party --- there were Congressmen there - there were Senators there - there were - you know - contributors there - there were hanger-oners there; I wanted to make it clear to them what my intentions are, and I didn't ask at the door when people came in - you know - here's what I'm going to say, do you think I should say it or not say it? I felt like it was important to say.
JIM LEHRER: Specifically, Tom DeLay, the House Minority Whip, a friend - Majority Whip from Texas, a friend of yours, a supporter of yours - most of the Democrats and others even say that this is the most partisan Republican in the Congress of the United States. Is he - would you go to him and say, "Cool it, Tom? ". Is that the kind of thing you might do?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: It depends on the situation, but yes, Tom is partisan; he's a loyal Republican; he battles for what he thinks is right, and I think Tom, himself, would sometimes say, gosh, he may have gotten a little carried away in his rhetoric. But I like Tom. I can work with Tom, and if the situation got so bitter or it was heading to being bitter, I'd call in members and say, let's tone down the rhetoric because America is more important. I mean, these issues are more important. I keep talking about Social Security reform, Jim. It's so important that we get it done right, and there's a movement that's taking place in both parties to understand the need to trust younger workers to manage some of their payroll money in the private sector so it could take advantage of the compounding rate of interest. I think we need to capture that moment. I thought the President - and I'm going to try to be as respectful as I can to the President during the course of this campaign because he's the last chapter of the 20th century, and we're heading to the new chapter in the 21st century - but I thought he made a mistake in not seizing the moment on Medicare reform when you had Johnny Breaux of Louisiana and Congressman Thomas of California and others like Kerrey and other members of the Senate Democrats saying give us a chance to modernize Medicare. And the commission laid out a bipartisan plan that would have included prescription drugs and providing a myriad of options from which seniors could choose, and the President didn't go forward with a bipartisan option, and I thought he made a mistake on that.
JIM LEHRER: You would have - if you would have been President, you would have accepted that?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I would have accepted the premise and the format. By the way, it has now been fine tuned. Senator Frist and Senator Kerrey, Senator Breaux, and other members have fine tuned it, so now the eligibility age doesn't need to be raised to make sure the Medicare money balances, but, yes, I would have accepted the premise, and I would have called members in and said, this is a great start.
JIM LEHRER: Is this - how important is Social Security to you? You've been talking about it a lot. Where does it rate on your list of priorities when you become President?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I think it's got to be one of the top.
JIM LEHRER: Why? Why is it so important?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, because now's the time - because I think it's going to go bankrupt. I think in 2035, I think, now - the number - that there's going to be more recipients than payers and it's going to - it's an unfounded liability that overhangs our government. And I know that unless we devise a system that takes advantage of the compounding rate of interest in the private sector, we're not going to be able to have a Social Security system for younger workers. And the actual dynamics of this - the political dynamics of the issue have changed pretty dramatically. You remember the days when if you just mentioned Social Security -
JIM LEHRER: Third rail - they call it -
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Now, younger workers - our younger citizens - fully understand - I think the polls - it's more likely to see some of you go to Mars than to receive a check from the Social Security system. We have an opportunity with the budget surpluses to dedicate a lot of that money to reforming Social Security. But the sticking point is going to be whether or not we trust individuals to manage their personal savings accounts. I'm fully prepared to say to Congress we'll work together to devise a plan but inherent in that plan has got to be the opportunity for younger workers so that the benefits, so the money set aside will begin to exceed the benefits they would have received under a normal system.
JIM LEHRER: But, as you know, the other side, Democrats, Vice President Gore included, would come and say, wait a minute, inherent in any plan to reassure young workers is that the government guarantees it in the final analysis.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, that may be right. That may be a part of a future plan. But what Vice President Gore and other Democrats won't accept is the investment in the private sector by individuals. Here's the difference of philosophies here: We want - or at least what I want - is people owning assets - people owning assets, people having an asset base, which means when they retire, there is a comfort zone. It's not just an income stream; it's a pile of assets. And I would like to see all workers have that asset base available to them as a result of reforming the Social Security system.
JIM LEHRER: You think you can get this done?
JIM LEHRER: Knowing what the Democrats believe and knowing what the politics are, that you think as President you can get this done?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I hope so. You may replay this tape about four years from now and say, hey, wait a minute, but I think - I know it can't get done unless you get a President who stands up and says, this is a fundamental priority, and I want to spend the political capital necessary to get it done. One of the interesting things about a campaign is that a candidate who is clear in the vision and consistent in statement earns political capital from the voters, and that's why in my tax relief plan people say, well, now the primary is over, change it; I'm not going to change it. It's the right thing to do.
JIM LEHRER: Let's go back to last night for a moment. There was a fund raiser for the Republican Party; you raised $21.3 million, set a record, no fund-raising dinner political history has ever raised that kind of money. You must feel good about that.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. I'm happy for Mel Sembler, Ambassador Sembler and the others who worked so hard on it. This is money for the party building; this is money for voter turnout, and yeah, it was a good night.
JIM LEHRER: I looked at the list. There were 24 individuals and companies that gave $1/4 million or more each. What are they going to get for that $1/4 million?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: They're going to get good government. And I know there's this kind of sentiment now - I heard it during the primaries - sentiment that all of a sudden if you - if somebody contributes to a person's campaign, there's this great sense of being beholden. I feel beholden to nobody. And either you're crooked or you're not crooked, I guess is the way to put it, to put it bluntly. Either you're somebody who can be bought, or you're somebody who's running on principle, and my job is to convince the American people that I'm a man running on principle.
JIM LEHRER: But there's another word - and it's called "access."
JIM LEHRER: Somebody who gave you $1/4 million, they call on the phone, would you be more - wouldn't you be more likely to take that call than from somebody who maybe opposed you in a general election, or didn't give you a dime?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Could be - you know - I don't know - it depends on the issue, I think, in all fairness. If somebody came and got on the phone and told my chief of staff I want to come and talk to Bush about - you know - relaxing the standards on pollution controls, I'd say, forget it, we don't need to have a meeting. It's like - you know - Jimmy Hoffaand I had a visit yesterday.
JIM LEHRER: He's President of the Teamsters.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: President of the Teamsters. And I said, one of the things I told Jimmy, I said, I want your endorsement, but even if you don't, I'm going to work with you, and so there's - it's a two-way street. I'm not a person, Jim, that seeks revenge in politics; that's why I've been successful as the governor of Texas. I didn't seek retribution from people who didn't support me.
JIM LEHRER: Governor, do you understand why somebody would look at a list and say, people that don't have a $1/4 million - for an average American a $1/4 million is a lot of money -
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Absolutely.
JIM LEHRER: -- and say, my goodness, why did they give that money if they don't expect to get something in return?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I completely understand it, particularly in this environment, I do, and I -
JIM LEHRER: Are you going to do anything about that to make people understand this more, better?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: First, be honest, be a person that's just straightforward and honest, and I support campaign funding reform. I mean, I think there's some really interesting ideas that we ought to do. First of all, we ought to ban - I think that if a stockholder or a union member has no say over how the money is spent, that that money ought to be banned from the process, so, for example, corporate soft money ought to go. Labor union soft money ought to go, so long as there's what I call paycheck protection, so long as union members can opt out of other expenditures in the political process that a union may be making, and I think those are reasonable - very reasonable reforms. I would support that. I had - so next fall - therefore, why did you go to a fund raiser -
JIM LEHRER: Why did you take the money from the corporations?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I understand the inconsistency there, because I'm not going to unilaterally disarm. At least I am not the person saying I am now for campaign funding reform - that's going to be a cornerstone of my campaign - and then go out and - you know - keep my hand out and keep raising money -
JIM LEHRER: You're suggesting that maybe Vice President Gore is doing?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I am absolutely suggesting that.
JIM LEHRER: Also one more question about last night. The National Rifle Association, one of the executives of the NRA was one of the co-chairs. What should the NRA and members out in the country expect from you in exchange for that visible sponsoring of the Republican Party?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Common sense policy; common sense policy about guns. Like many Americans, I'm deeply concerned about this random violence we see on TV. I am troubled by the kids walking into a zoo with a gun and expressing their anger by shooting somebody. And life has been so devalued in some neighborhoods that it's just - it's okay to act out your aggressions with a weapon. And that's why - and I don't know what their position is on this and background checks - at gun shows - but I supported background checks at gun shows. And the reason why the federal government ought to be involved is it's the federal government that issues licenses to gun dealers and therefore has the access to the computer to determine whether or not a citizen is eligible or not eligible to purchase a weapon. You know, the trigger lock debate is an interesting debate. I would sign a bill that mandated trigger locks with the sale of guns, but I don't want people in America to think that it's some great panacea, because you've got to put the trigger locks on the guns, I mean, in order for them to be effective, so gun safety is a good issue. But I also want to enforce the laws, and I think there needs to be vigorous prosecution of gun laws on the books, and real quick -
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: -- let me - in Texas, we've got what we call Texas exile. It's the use of criminal justice money to hire prosecutors and to beef up prosecution. In one year's time we've had nearly 200 arrests of illegal carrying and sale of guns. I believe over the course of time it's going to make Texas a safer place and enforce the gun laws that we have on the books.
JIM LEHRER: But should an average American who's not affiliated with the NRA - would you understand why they might think that because the NRA is so active - particularly last night - in this very dramatic, open way - that you might be partial to their views on guns?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: No, not in this case.
JIM LEHRER: You wouldn't check with them; you wouldn't check their position?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I don't think they expect me to. I may - I'm not a member of the NRA - and, by the way, have never been a member of the NRA - not to be needling my opponent, Mr. Gore, but he was a member of the NRA at some point in time, and I have never been a member of the NRA. I'm a pretty independent thinker about gun safety and enforcing gun laws.
JIM LEHRER: Five days later, do you still feel the Justice Department did the wrong thing in reuniting Elian Gonzalez with his father?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Because the picture on the newspaper, it just seems so un-American to me, the picture of the guy storming the house with a scared little boy there. I talked to my little brother, Jeb - I haven't told this to many people - but he's the governor of - I shouldn't call him my little brother - my brother, Jeb - the great governor of Texas -
JIM LEHRER: Florida.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah. The day of the Florida - the night before this event took place - and he said I think this is going to be mediated - there's mediation discussions going on - evidently a friend of Attorney General Reno's was a part of the mediation process. Jeb felt very good about it; he had talked to the President -and the next morning I called him. I said, what the heck went on? He said, right before that happened - I was positive something positive was going to happen, I wish this could have been mediated. I don't know the facts. It's hard for me to second guess, but I am disturbed by the picture I saw in the newspaper.
JIM LEHRER: Are you disturbed about the tactics, or are you disturbed about the fact of the reuniting?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I don't mind the reuniting. I wish it had been done in a family court of law, just like the - just like the INS said - the day the boy arrived or the day the case became evident - the INS said, this needs to be resolved in a family court of law in the state of Florida. I wish they had followed through. For some reason they changed their opinion shortly after the December 1999 statement. You know, I understand the boy's being with his dad. Heck, I'm a dad. You know, we preach family values as Republicans; this is family values. But I wish it had been done in a place where there wasn't a lot of suspicion about what took place. You know, if I had to guess today, I'd guess the boy's going back to Cuba, but it's a hard prediction to make.
JIM LEHRER: Janet Reno and the President have made it very clear that Janet Reno made the decision on this. In a Bush administration would the attorney general - whoever it might be - make that kind of decision?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: No, I'd make the decision on a situation that had risen to this level in the national conscience, and I'd, of course, rely upon the attorney general's opinion, I would rely upon the advice of those who are fully involved in the case, but this seems like a decision that would have risen to the Oval Office to me.
JIM LEHRER: Did - your view of this, is it colored in any way by the fact that it involves Cuba, rather than another country say like France or Britain or Haiti or Argentina or Peru or whatever?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: That's a really interesting question. Yes - in this way - the boy is seeking political asylum and that's - that's different. Cuba is so close to our coast, and there's a history of people seeking asylum. I had an interesting story from the equivalent of a county judge - we call them county judges in Texas - I don't know what they call them in Florida - but in the Orlando area. And he's one of those boys that his parents shipped over here - remember the orphan program - well, they weren't orphans but they were orphaned to America - and his parents put him on an airplane when he was six or seven years old and said, see you later, son, we love you, we hope to join you. But they got him out of this - this country where there's no freedom, and he came here. And I had a long talk with him about the situation. He said, you've got to understand, he said, that this boy can't go back to Cuba - at least in his mind - he can't go back to Cuba, because he's not going to realize the wonderful freedoms I've realized; I've come from - orphaned child, so to speak, to now political leader in the state of Florida, I want this boy to have the same freedom. I think the proximity to the country and Cuba's - Fidel Castro's stranglehold on the freedom of Cuba makes - probably clouds my vision a little bit, to be frank with you.
JIM LEHRER: Does it make sense to still isolate Cuba?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah, it does so far, and here's why, Jim: Trading with Cuba - you know - hard capital into Cuba is really providing money to the Fidel Castro administration because in order to - in order to invest in the country you invest with a government-sponsored entity, and I'm told that you invest in hard dollars and workers get paid in pesos, that there isn't that direct interface between entrepreneur and entrepreneur, like there is in China, for example. And I'm asked about all the time about my, you know, apparent inconsistency. They say you're for China being admitted into the WTO and you're for trade with China, but somehow you don't feel the same way for Cuba. And the difference is - is the trade - it's the interface between the entrepreneurial folks in both countries, as opposed to money going into prop up this dictator.
JIM LEHRER: What do you say to folks who say, hey, wait a minute, we've been - we've had the embargo on now against Cuba for all these years, Fidel Castro has now out served nine U.S. Presidents? What do we have to show for this isolation?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Be patient, I guess. I believe that one of the things we have to show is that he's no longer as active in our hemisphere as he once was, that his influence of spreading his brand of government and his so-called "revolution" around our hemisphere has been - is much less onerous today, and that's important because a peaceful democratic, market-oriented hemisphere is in our nation's national interest, and the hemisphere is a little unsettling - unsettling incidents taking place, unsettlingfacts in our hemisphere. One, of course, is Colombia, and an active Fidel Castro could easily aggravate that situation.
JIM LEHRER: Just to get to the point, if you are elected President, would you - do you have anything special that you might do toward Cuba, or would you just continue the status quo?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: As of right now, I'd continue the status quo.
JIM LEHRER: What do you say to those who say, hey, that's a national policy that you just spoke of and yet - is this policy and this view being driven by what's happening in Little Havana? Now, some people, understandably, have very strong feelings about Castro and Cuba, but the rest of the country, every poll that's been taken shows people have kind of tuned that one out now.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah. Well, I think it's interesting that the Elian Gonzalez issue - and how do we free Cuba - and -
JIM LEHRER: You don't think they're intertwined?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I think they may be intertwined in the psyche of the American public now, but I think once the Elian Gonzalez issue is resolved, we'll go back to focusing on what is in our nation's interest, and a free Cuba is in our nation's interest, and it's not in our nation's interest to provide capital to prop up this current administration.
JIM LEHRER: The Microsoft case, tomorrow, reportedly, the federal government is going to recommend that Microsoft be divided up into at least two companies, is that a good idea?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: It's going to be up to the judge. I'm going to take - I don't want to get involved in second guessing judicial decisions on the Microsoft case. I - I'm not a lawyer and I really, frankly, haven't looked at all the facts. I hope, though, that whatever settlement is done it won't ruin this company because this company has been a very interesting innovator, and so I hope the judge would keep in mind that this company is an important part of the technological revolution taking place in America.
JIM LEHRER: Would this action have even begun in a Bush administration?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: It's hard for me to say. It's hard for me to say. I don't know all the facts - the legal facts on the table. I'll enforce antitrust laws.
JIM LEHRER: You do believe in antitrust laws?
JIM LEHRER: There's no question on that.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I do. And - again this is new ground being broken, of course. But the old antitrust was: is it a constraint to trade to the point where people can control price - that was the question. You know, Rockefeller antitrust law - the whole reason why Roosevelt insisted upon the antitrust laws in the first place was Standard Oil was driving out competition to run the price up - to make it harder for people to purchase product, and that's the old standard. It's still going to be a part of the standard in the future, but we'll see how this judge rules.
JIM LEHRER: Conventional wisdom, as I'm sure you're aware, Governor, is that if you are elected President and the Microsoft is still pending in some way - either on appeal or whatever - that you'll stop it.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I think those are - that's needless speculation, and I've - it's like the guy said - I've got friends on both sides of the issue, and you know, Jim Barksdale is a close friend of mine and a supporter, he's a really good fellah, who is - who is part of the reason why the case came up in the first place - testified against Microsoft, so I think that's speculation that people should -
JIM LEHRER: Is your flexibility compromised at all by the role of Ralph Reed, an adviser to you - it also turned out had been hired by Microsoft to lobby you?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: No. I said - we're beginning to scrimp - I typed this speech myself - I'm beginning to save money in my campaign and I want you to know I typed this speech - Ralph Reed was right - Microsoft '98 is great - I - I didn't have any idea Ralph Reed was representing Microsoft, nor would it have mattered to me.
JIM LEHRER: It doesn't matter to you -
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Not at all.
JIM LEHRER: -- that a guy who was adviser to you was also advising a company with -
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: No, it doesn't matter to me that he represents Microsoft. It doesn't have any weight on my opinion -
JIM LEHRER: I get it. I see.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: -- in relation to the marketplace as to who he represents.
JIM LEHRER: But he doesn't advise you on matters that -
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Technologically?
JIM LEHRER: Technological matters or anything involving Microsoft, that could remotely involve Microsoft?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: No. No, he doesn't. I didn't even know he had the account -seriously.
JIM LEHRER: Had he ever mentioned Microsoft to you in any whatsoever?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Never had.
JIM LEHRER: And you're clean about this? He's still advising you, though, on other things, right?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I guess. I haven't talked to Ralph in quite a while. He may be talking to members of my staff, but -
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: When I say it doesn't matter, what doesn't matter is that - you know - he could walk in my office and say, oh, by the way, you need to be generous to Microsoft, and I'd say if I don't agree, I'll say, see you.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. Vice President Gore, as you know, continually says - questions whether or not you have the experience to be President of the United States. What do you think?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I think that's the old Washington game of trying to tear somebody down. I've been through this before. In 1994, against Governor Richards - then a popular sitting governor in Texas - all I heard was, well, he can't possibly do the job, you know, he's never held office and my answer to - then was given me a chance, give me a chance to lead, and the people of Texas did and as a result, I think I got pretty good marks as a leader. My answer is the same thing to America: If you're happy with the status quo, if you want four more years of Clinton-Gore, I'm not the right person. But if you want somebody who has had - you know - life experiences that may not be - conforms to the Washington mindset - give me a chance. I've been the governor of the second biggest state in the union and I've been a successful governor. But I've also been the CEO in the private sector of some entities, and I would - I hold that experience - that's valuable experience to become the President. I concede I haven't spent my entire life in Washington, nor have I ever been elected to federal office, but, to me, that's a plus, as we head into the 21st century.
JIM LEHRER: What would you say to some wag who would say, hey, wait a minute, Governor, your father was a Congressman, he was an ambassador of China, an ambassador of the United Nations, head of the Republican Party, head of the CIA, Vice President of the United States, before he became President, what's the difference between him and Vice President Gore in terms of resume?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Between him and Vice President Gore?
JIM LEHRER: Yeah, in terms of resume?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, his was even more extensive than Vice President Gore's, and Dad was a powerful candidate because of his resume, but I'm a strong candidate for different reasons. I'm a strong candidate because I come from the baby boomer generation recognizing that we've got to usher in an era of responsible behavior, which starts with behaving responsibly in the office. I come from a genera-a different generation from my Dad, and I think my experiences have enriched me as a person and prepared me for the leadership role, but that's what the race is all about. Americans are going to be watching my conversation with you and they're going to be listening to determine whether or not my views conform with theirs, but probably most Americans are going to ask - does the man have any judgment - know what he's doing - as a leader - has he ever led before and what are the results, if he has?
JIM LEHRER: What's the toughest decision you've ever had to make as governor of Texas?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I've had a couple of tough ones - one overhauling the tax code when there wasn't a crying need to do so. In my state I laid out a plan that said I'm going to modernize the taxes, cut taxes, and yet the polls and the people weren't screaming for some kind of tax relief, and, as a result, we ended up with the largest property tax cut in the state's history but weren't able to overhaul the tax code.
JIM LEHRER: You didn't get everything you wanted?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I did not, but at least I was bold enough to try and the interesting lesson there for me on that, Jim, was that people appreciated the fact that their leader - the governor in this case - was willing to take a risk, was willing to fight for something in this case I believed in - and - I think the Carla Faye Tucker weighed most heavily on my mind.
JIM LEHRER: Tell us the story as to why. Tell us who she was and why it was difficult for you.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, Carla Faye Tucker was a convicted murderess who was on Death Row and she - you know - converted her life to Christ.
JIM LEHRER: While she was on Death Row?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: While she was on Death Row. And the reason I knew that was because she was on "Larry King Live" and other TV shows telling her story, and she was a compelling witness to the Lord, I thought, and unfortunately I saw her, and I say unfortunately because like many other Americans I fell in love with her story. And I was most impressed by her, and yet my job as the governor of Texas is to uphold the law of the land. My job isn't to judge somebody's heart. I believe that's up to the Almighty god to make that decision. And so when confronted with the facts - the two questions that a governor - at least I ask - is guilt or innocence and was Carla Faye - either had full access to the courts of law in the state of Texas and Washington, D.C., in the federal courts - when I answered those affirmatively, I signed the - the execution went forward.
JIM LEHRER: What would you say to somebody who just heard you say that and said, okay, Governor, I hear you, but as President of the United States you're going to be called upon to make decisions about sending hundreds, thousands, conceivably, of young Americans to a battlefield somewhere, or to do what Janet Reno - the kind of decision Janet Reno just had to make, even bigger ones than that - what - on what should the American people base their judgment as to what your judgment might be in those kinds of matters, those larger issues, that involve even larger numbers of people?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I understand that, and that's really the fundamental question of the race for the presidency. But first, neither candidate has ever made that decision before. Neither candidate has sat in the Oval Office and made the very difficult decision of putting lives in harm's way. I guess to answer your question - the first question - what kind of person am I - where do I get my fundamental - where do I derive my fundamental strength - secondly, am I willing to listen and who would I be listening to, who are the people that would come and provide counsel or would I listen at all, and, if so, and if I did listen, when I made a decision, would it be based upon principle, or would it be based upon polls - my answer to people would be that I'm a - I'm a person of faith and family and I hold - but I hold America dearly in my heart. I love what America stands for. Secondly, I am going to be surrounded by the best that any President has ever brought to Washington, D.C.. People ask who - well, you know, my foreign policy adviser, the person - who when America gets to know her is going to realize that she is really one of the smartest, capable people in America - Dr. Kandi Riser. Larry Lindsay has been an economic adviser of mine. I just announced my vice presidential search headed by Dick Cheney, who is about as solid a citizen as America has ever produced. A leader is somebody who must listen and so I think the quality of the administration and the quality of my presidency will be determined by the people I bring to Washington.
JIM LEHRER: As you said, one of the little rules that people use sometimes to evaluate political candidates or leaders is, what does he know that he doesn't know, does he know what he doesn't know. How would you rate yourself in there?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I'd rate myself very strong on education, fiscal policy, domestic issues that I've lived with as governor, and I would rate myself as somebody who is going to have the best foreign policy team. But I'm a fast learner, and listen, I'm not going to play like I've been a person who's spent hours involved with foreign policy. I am who I am. But when given some - given a foreign policy task, I'd say I'll do well, like relations with Mexico, for example. I think if you were to check down in Mexico, whether with President Zedillo or anybody else who's paid attention to how I've conducted our relations between Texas and Mexico, they'd say the man did a fine job. Yesterday I met with the Russian foreign minister and when he left the meeting, he kindly said this is a man who - I'm going to paraphrase him and you need to check the facts - but - sophisticated thinker - we had a great discussion about foreign policy and about our relations with Russia. It may be not a topic you want to head to but I talked about the antiballistic missile treaty, something you have and I have discussed before.
JIM LEHRER: You bet.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: But it's really important in my judgment for us to have a cooperative spirit with Russia so that we both can develop antiballistic missile systems, but, if not, then we've got to explain to them why our country must, and I tried - I said to the foreign minister, please tell President-elect Putin if I become the President, I want us to redefine together the post Cold War era, you know, I think we need to think anew about the old way of pointing as many missiles as we can at each other and understand that the real threat is not the U.S. aiming at Russia or vice versa, but the real threat is an accidental launch or a launch by what's called a rogue leader or, you know, some independent country or some country That feels like they've got to grab headlines by threatening ourselves and our allies. And he listened politely, and he didn't actually agree with everything, but I made the case for the future administration.
JIM LEHRER: When you think about being President of the United States and being confronted with all the kinds of things that we've been talking about and it's usually things that we haven't been talking about that come up -
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: That's right.
JIM LEHRER: -- do you think about that with relish, with excitement, that you're sitting there and you're going to have some difficult decisions to make, or does that - oh, my goodness, what a tough job I'm signed on to - trying to sign on to -
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: No. No. I can't wait.
JIM LEHRER: Can't wait.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: It's just in my nature, I guess. I'm running for a reason. I - I've asked my family to make a huge sacrifice. I'm away from my home and I love being in my home, because I'm running for a reason. I want to - there are some things I want to do, there are some laws I want to change, some systems I want to improve, but there's also a culture I want to help change, because I want people in this country to realize the full promise of America. I take great comfort - I've been a leader before and I fully recognize - I'm not trying to play like being the governor of Texas - it's being like the presidency of the United States - it's just not the case - and I know that. But I understand what it means to assemble a good team and I take great comfort in knowing that I'm a persuasive person and will bring really good people to help make decisions. I watched my Dad and I watched Ronald Reagan make the right decisions in many cases because they had such good advisers and good people surrounding them. And I know the President can set a tone, and I will set a tone. But a President is - the presidency is more than just a person. The presidency is an administration, and I'm going to have a great administration. And so I take great comfort in - in knowing that.
JIM LEHRER: What's the - what do you see as the major difference between you and Al Gore in terms of being the President of the United States?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, first of all, we're all products of how we're raised, and I was raised in Midland, Texas, the country you've been out to, a pretty isolated part of the world but people are independent thinkers and when they think of government, they think of it in terms of patriotism and that's about it. There's kind of a healthy disrespect for faraway government, and there is no class distinctions in Midland; it's just pretty much who you are is who you are. And as well - to the extent I understand the man's biography, he was raised in Washington, D.C.. And I think inherent in that statement is a difference of philosophy where I'll trust people and I'll trust people to make decisions for their own lives, and there's some - you know - a vivid example is our difference of opinion on the Social Security -- or the retirement systems. I think people ought to be allowed to manage their own personal savings accounts and he doesn't, and I think that there's a fundamental difference of attitude.
JIM LEHRER: But going back to what I said about your father, your father was involved in the federal government for most of his adult life.
JIM LEHRER: And you got - you came away from watching your father with a kind of negative view of the federal government, right?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I was kind of skeptical about the process. Listen, I'm just as shocked as you are that I'm sitting here talking about the presidency - it's never been a part of my - my life ambition hasn't always been to be the President and here I sit, one of two potential Presidents. And I'm - I am - I want to be the President for the right reasons and - but, yeah, I got kind of burned out for a while on politics and Washington. That didn't - in the end - didn't deter me from wanting to change things, and my speech yesterday was a heartfelt speech, and I understand that people didn't clap. Actually, it made me feel better when they didn't.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Because I want people to know that I'm the kind of guy that stands up and not looking necessarily for accolades; I'm looking for results.
JIM LEHRER: Speaking of results, all the polls show that - all the polls I've seen - now maybe I've missed some - that when people are asked - the American people are asked essentially are you better off today than you were when the Clinton-Gore administration began seven years ago, the overwhelming majority say, yes. Now, you're asking them to put in a new Bush administration. How will life be better for them under a Bush administration?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: You know, let me say, just to respond to that poll first, I readily concede if this country wants four more years of Clinton-Gore, I've got a tough battle, there's no question about that. Here's the difference - or here's what they'll see under a Bush administration: One, a strong economy.
JIM LEHRER: Stronger than the one we have now?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, it can be - you know, the one we have now has got a little - slightly rocky looking future to it, only because the stock market's got a lot of jitters.
JIM LEHRER: Does that bother you, the stock market problems?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah, it does. I would hope - I mean, I'm not going hooray. I wish it wasn't as jittery. I wish it was stable because I'm not - I'm not so crass as to want to be the President at the expense of somebody's portfolio, but that does trouble me a little bit because I think - and I think - I think there's some uncertainty out there that's beginning to kind of creep into the processes of the investors and so many people now have their assets tied up in the market it could affect in a longer term the economy, and that's why I think it's so important to share some of the surplus with the people who pay the bills as an insurance policy for economic growth. I'm a fierce free trader, Jim, and I wouldn't have - I wouldn't have - I would have had a better strategy in dealing with the GATT discussions in Seattle in the current administration, nor would I blank, because I think it's important for us to free trade as a nation; I'm a tort reformer; I believe we can have a balanced civil justice system and that encourages capital growth and expansion of the entrepreneurial class. A difference would be I'll strengthen the military. I know they're going to play like they've been strengthening the military here - they being my opponents - my opponent and the administration - but this is a military that's got very little morale now. I would go forward with an antiballistic missile system and mean it.
JIM LEHRER: Do you think that President Clinton means it?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: No, I don't.
JIM LEHRER: Why don't you think -
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Because nothing coming to the floor every day. In all due respect to the President, he's been silent on the subject for an early period of time. Secondly, they amended the ABM, which made it even tougher to develop true intercept systems and I - I think if he were really interested, we'd be seeing the fruits of research and development coming out of the Pentagon, and I don't - I don't believe that. Now, maybe he'll prove me wrong, but I would hope he wouldn't sign - and I'll make a little news with you here - I would hope he wouldn't sign a treaty that would restrict our ability to fully develop an antiballistic missile system. I wouldn't - I would hope he wouldn't constrain me - the next President - or the next administration's ability to move forward by signing a half-hearted reform of the ABM.
JIM LEHRER: Back to the point about the way the average American feels about whether they're better off - and I guess I was thinking more in economic terms - they have more money in the bank - they have more money in the stock market - your kids can go to - whatever - what do you think about that?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: You see, I can't argue with you on more money in the pocket, but there's something else going on in America.
JIM LEHRER: Well, that's what I wanted to get at. What else is there beside the economic thing that you can make people feel better -
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Military - and peace - but there's a larger issue and the issue of values. People are concerned about an era really - and the way I like to summarize it is if it feels good, do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody. People in America are concerned about that. They're concerned about a culture that seems to have undermined family and respect, respect for each other, respect for life. They're concerned about - you know - these movies and things that come on the screens and - you know - I'm not a censor guy but I will tell parents, pay attention to what your children are watching.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: But pay attention - seriously - be a good parent. There's an America crying for a new era, a new culture. I call it the responsibility era. And so, you're right, there's money, but money isn't life, and most Americans know that money is part of life, but wholesome respect for a fellow citizen is as important.
JIM LEHRER: But how in the world as President of the United States are you going to change those kinds of things?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, that's - cultures take a while to change - no question about it, and government can play a role by passing laws. And back to your gun law issue, there needs to be a strong sense of accountability and that not only means law but enforcement. We don't want people walking around neighborhoods with guns; they shouldn't be having guns and acting out their aggressions by shooting guns. They've got to have in the back of their mind there is a consequence. The problem is what government cannot do, is get people to love one another. And that's been the fundamental frustration with government. And so one of the ways the President can make our society as hopeful as possible is to have a very strongly active, including some expenditure of federal money - mentoring programs, character education programs, encourage faith-based programs, become involved in drug and alcohol treatment programs. It's really to kind of gather up that fabric of society that makes America unique - the charitable, loving side of our country - and be muscular at the governmental level, and encouraging contributions, and the expenditure of money, so long as the tax dollars will be - will encourage faith-based programs to be involved in helping people in need. Now there's a constitutional question here. I'm confident some scholars will be scratching their head - how dare he spend money on faith-based initiatives and the answer is because we're helping people and we're not funding the church or the synagogue or the mosque, we're funding the program that comes out of the church and the synagogue and the mosque, and I think that's important to change the culture, and I think - it all starts with having a leader that people trust and the President undermined the ushering of the responsibility era, and I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about this, but he did; he did.
JIM LEHRER: And you can do something about that by just being President?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I can do something about that by when I complete the oath, take the oath to tell the truth, and to take the oath to uphold the honor and dignity of the office.
JIM LEHRER: Governor, thank you very much.
RAY SUAREZ: Again, that interview was a companion piece to a similar in- depth interview with Vice President Gore, which aired back in March.
RAY SUAREZ: Again, the major stories of this Thursday: George W. Bush called again for restoring civility in Washington. He said it would be a key test of his leadership if he's elected President. And a federal appeals court rejected a request to let the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez visit him. He's staying with his father in Maryland. We'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening with Shields and Gigot, among others. I'm Ray Suarez. Thanks and good night.
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
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Chicago: “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” 2000-04-27, NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 1, 2021,
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