News Chief Washington Correspondent: Today on Face The Nation, guns and gas. The economy is booming, but suddenly people are mad because the price of gasoline is soaring. Truckers and consumers alike are feeling it where it hurts: in the pocketbook. How long will this last? Will it be an issue in the coming campaign? We'll talk to the administration point man, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.
Then we'll turn to what's become an even nastier fight: the argument over guns and the gun lobby's extraordinary attacks on the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Charlton Heston, National Rifle Association: Mr. Clinton, when what you say is wrong, that's a mistake. When you know it's wrong, that's a lie. Remember.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Schieffer: Today in a rare joint appearance, we'll hear from the chairman of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees: Henry Hyde and Orrin Hatch, the men who control the fate of gun legislation. Then I'll have a final thought on the difference between illegal and wrong.
But first, the price of gas on Face The Nation.
Announcer: Face The Nation, with Chief Washington correspondent, Bob Schieffer. And now from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.
Schieffer: Good morning, again. With us, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. Well, Mr. Richardson, let's get to the bottom line: How long is this going to last? And are gas prices going to go up before they start to come down?
Bill Richardson, U.S. Energy Secretary: If OPEC increases production - they're going to be meeting next week in Vienna, and we expect them, that they will increase production. Then I expect, if that increase is sizable and in a timely fashion, that in late spring and early summer, you will see a gradual decrease in gasoline and diesel prices.
It looks good for OPEC to increase production. That is key, because they had instituted production cuts. We need stable oil prices. There's too much volatility. And the quiet diplomacy we've been undertaking, I think has made the world recognize that for producer and consumer countries, we don't want this volatility: $10 a barrel, too low; $30, too high.
Schieffer: Well, now I know you've talked to the Saudis this week. Did they give you any indication that they're willing to increase production?
Richardson: Well, my talks with the Saudis were encouraging. I saw them in California this weekend. Along with Mexico and Venezuela they have said that there should be increases in production.
Hopefully, now, then, we will get the other OPEC members - there's 10 of them, we don't talk to all of them - that it will necessitate at their meeting an increase in production. The issue then becomes we need a sizable increase and we need to move that oil into the world market right away.
Schieffer: What if there's no increase? What f they say, no, we're not going to do that? Or what if it's not as much as you think it ought to be? Then what do you do?
Richardson: Well, I think the president has a number of options.
But right now our energy diplomacy is working. I'm going to be going out to see some of the members of OPEC that don't have as much capacity as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. I'm going to Algeria, Nigeria. I'm going to see a total of five ministers in Africa and in Europe to try to encourage them to move towards a consensus to increase production.
Schieffer: There's some very harsh criticism of the administration this morning by Rudy Giuliani, who, as most folks know, is running for the Senate up in New York, and he told Fox News -and let me just quote a couple of things he said. He says the responsibility for these prices going up as they have lays completely at the feet of President Clinton. He says that he should have done something long ago to forestall this, he should have pushed those OPEC people months ago and he waited till now.
He also says - he quotes you as saying, Bill Richardson - he says who I think said that the president was napping with regard to what was being done by OPEC in holding back the 8 percent production. Did you say that?
Richardson: No, I never said that. But this is - this is the mayor that when I was U.N. Ambassador wanted to get the U.N. out of New York, this is mayor that used to blame me for all the diplomatic parking problems at the U.N., so I don't take his criticisms very seriously.
In fact, the president has been extremely vigorous in dealing with this problem. Highest - the percentage of home heating oil initiatives. Yesterday, initiated two major, major policy statements.
One, setting up a home heating oil reserve in the Northeast to avoid potential home heating oil shortages that might happen in the future.
And then what was missed a lot is, a key component of our energy policy has to be to boost our domestic production. The president said he would be supportive of tax credits for the oil and gas people when they do more exploration, when they try to get more access to public lands, trying to find ways to help marginal well producers, and tax credits, too, for more fuel-efficient cars, more fuel-efficient buildings, alternative sources of energy. This was a comprehensive package.
Schieffer: Well, Let me ask you the Democratic senator in New York, Mr. Schumer, says that you should release oil from the strategic oil reserve if there's not more oil put into the system by the OPEC countries. Are you considering that?
Richardson: Well, the president has not ruled that option out at all. Either draw down to the strategic petroleum reserve or a swap. But our energy diplomacy is working. Now, if the results are negative after the OPEC meeting, the president's main objective is to protect the American consumer and the American people. He is no happy about these home heating oil prices, these gasoline prices.
He has told me very emphatically, and I think the steps that we announced yesterday, plus our energy diplomacy which has been working. Forty days ago, OPEC gave no indication of having production increases. In fact, they were talking about production cuts. I think if you make your case strongly, firmly, but with respect to many of these OPEC countries that are our friends. These are our friends. We have military, economic and political relationships with them.
Schieffer: Well, let's talk about a couple of other options that could be on the table. What about opening up the offshore of the United States to more drilling? Is that an option?
Richardson: No. I think off the coast of Florida and California, drilling in ANWAR these are ecologically and environmentally sensitive areas. We don't need to do that. There's enough domestic production that would be available in the United States, and I think the measures the president announced yesterday that makes it easier to produce about 300,000 barrels per day in the domestic arena by the tax credits on future exploration, on access to public lands, helping marginal well producers. We don't need to take these steps at ANWAR and Alaska and in offshore of California and Florida.
Schieffer: Let me just sum up what I think I heard you say today. You now seem pretty confident that, in fact, OPEC will increase production, and that by late spring, are you saying, you think the prices will start to come down?
Richardson: I'm confident that OPEC will increase production. The issue then becomes is how much of that increase will make a difference, and our hope is that it will be a sizable increase and how quickly that oil gets into the market. In other words, the increase besides being sizable, has to be timely. If that happens, Bob, and we're not there yet. This is why I'm still working this night and day talking to energy ministers three times a day. You know, the president's engaged too. He's made a couple of calls. That I am confident that the increase will happen. The issue between now and March 25 is how much and how soon and that's what we're working on intensively right now.
Schieffer: Well, good luck on your trip. Thank you Mr. Secretary.
Richardson: Thank you.
Schieffer: Â…for coming by. When we come back, we'll talk about this fight over gun control, in a minute.
Schieffer: With us now from Chicago, the chairmen of the House Judiciary Committee Henry Hyde. Here in our studio, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Orrin Hatch.
Gentlemen, I want to set the stage for this by going back to something that was said earlier in the week by the head of the N.R.A., Mr. Wayne LaPierre. Mr. LaPierre said at one point that the president was able to - was willing to sustain a certain level of killing because, he sai, that was to further his political agenda. I asked him about that on Wednesday, and he made clear he meant those words literally.
Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Wayne LaPierre, National Rifle Association: We begged the president to give us a zero tolerance policy on violations of the federal gun laws and he won't do it.
Schieffer: But Mr. LaPierre, I mean, President Clinton may be many things, but do you really believe that when you say he is willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his political agenda? I mean do you mean that literally?
LaPierre: Bob, I don't know why that's happening but the policy is getting people killed.
Schieffer: I want to make sure I understand this. You stand by those words exactly as you spoke them?
LaPierre: I absolutely stand by those words. When you don't prosecute under a national instant check and you've got felons committing new felonies standing right in front of you. And you let them go back to the streets where they can buy guns illegally and continue their crime sprees, you're getting people killed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Schieffer: So, Chairman Hyde, I'd like to ask you what is your reaction to that?
Cong. Henry Hyde (R-IL): Well, I think it's a statement that I wouldn't make and I don't adopt it. I don't think it's terribly helpful to trying to reach a consensus on a very difficult issue. But people say things in the heat of combat, and then find it difficult to back away. Donna Brazile, the manager of Al Gore's presidential campaign, said Colin Powell and J.C. Watts lack love and compassion. I wouldn't hang that around Al Gore's neck, but things are said by people that are meant to be helpful but aren't. And that is not helpful.
Schieffer: Well, I mean saying someone lacks love and compassion is a little bit away from saying someone would accept a certain level of killing. I say that because the White House said this morning, spokesman Joe Lockhart said there has been an appalling silence by Republicans in repudiating those statements by the N.R.A.
Do you think - you said they're not helpful - but do you think they ought to apologize for what they said?
Hyde: Well, I think it's an extreme statement. I would leave it up to the person who said it. It's a free country. People can say what they want to say. I don't support that language. I don't think it's helpful. I would never make that statement. I wish it hadn't been said. Now short of a personal condemnation, which I will never make, that's my opinion of that statement.
Schieffer: OK. Let's talk a little bit about the legislation that is bottled up in the conference committee that neither the House nor Senate is able to act on at this point. This is legislation that calls for background checks at gun shows. It has some other things in there about safety locks and so forth.
Is there sme way, Mr. Chairman, that you can get that committee to act on that legislation and get it out to where the House and Senate can vote on it?
Hyde: I have been struggling since last June to try and get a compromise together on gun control legislation. I think there's some very reasonable things we can do that ought not to upset Second Amendment folks, and I count myself as one of them. But having safety locks on the guns, having a ban on assault weapons being handled by young people, by juveniles, there are many things we can do - a ban on the large ammo clips, more than 10 cartridges, instant check at gun shows for every gun that's sold.
We've had these on the table, but I can't get people to sit down and negotiate with me. I got a letter from the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee saying he won't negotiate with me until Mr. - Senator Hatch calls a meeting, a full meeting of the conference committee. Well, you can ask Senator Hatch about that, but the point is it is silly to call a meeting just to fulminate and posture. That drives us apart.
Let's talk. Let's reach an agreement. Then the meeting can ratify that agreement. But they want the issue rather than the solution. And that's
Schieffer: But, as I understand it, a lot of this haggling is going on. You've offered a compromise, a shorter period for a background check rather than the 72 hours that some of the DemocratsÂ…
Hyde: No, that's wrong. Bob, I'm for the 72 hours on the five percent of the applicants, or people who want to buy a gun that don't pass in the first day. I'm for the 72 hours.
Schieffer: I stand corrected, but you would let it go at 24 hours unless there's some obvious thing that crops up, is that not correct?
Hyde: That's the present law now, right.
Schieffer: But, that's what the haggle is over here. And I think a lot of people wonder, how - why can they not get together on something like that?
Hyde: Well, that's a very - that's the heart and soul of the dispute. We have two extreme positions, both offered by Democrats. One is the Lautenberg position which passed with Al Gore's vote by one vote, which destroys gun shows. Now he may want to do that, but they're a feature of our society, and the votes are not there to eliminate gun shows.
Schieffer: And, just as an explanation, that version calls for this longer period for background checks and the gun show owners don't want that, that's what that's about.
Hyde: Well, I do not detect a problem with that. The problem with Lautenberg is it literally overwhelms promoters of gun shows with red tape, criminal responsibility and it just makes it impossible to pass.
Hyde: On the other end of the spectrum, we have John Dingell who offered an amendment which passed in the House which reduces the instant check time to one day.
Hyde: t eliminates - even - it's weaker than present law. I want to meet in the middle somewhere if I can get somebody to talk to me.
Schieffer: All right. We'll leave it right there. Thank you very much, Chairman Hyde. And now I want to talk to Chairman Hatch. Mr. Hyde said he'd love for you to call a meeting of this conference committee.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, (R-UT): Well, I understand what he's saying. He's saying we're not going to call a meeting just to polarize, have a bunch of screaming and shouting. See, what really people are missing is the original Juvenile Justice Bill was about 99 percent not about guns. It was about changing the culture in our society. Having prevention monies, helping these kids to avoid juvenile criminal conduct.
Schieffer: Yes, but Senator HatchÂ…
Hatch: It was about building more detention facilities. It was about doing a whole raft of things, setting an anti-trust exemption that would literally allow the entertainment industry to start getting rid of some of the violence and some of the things that are going on.
Schieffer: But, when that bill left the Senate, Senator HatchÂ…
Hatch: It's stillÂ…
Schieffer: If you recall, it did have the background checks in there. It did have the business about gun locks.
Hatch: Before we came to the Senate with that bill, we had trigger locks in the bill, we had a ban on assault weapons to children, we had juvenile Brady in there and we were even working on the instant check systems, which, by the way, I get a kick out of this president. He always takes credit for the Brady Bill.
The Brady Bill, was the seven day delay, but it ultimately was reduced to five. What we did, is we Republicans added an instant check system so we could immediately find out who was deserving of purchasing a weapon or not and that's what really been the problem.
Now, let me just make a point, the president said in - himself said in a speech, that they have caught 500,000 people illegally trying to buy weapons. Since the so-called instant check system came into existence, which we put into existence. Five hundred thousand, guess how many prosecutions? Zero. They've recommended 200 prosecutions. That's like 1/25th of one percent. Now these are the people who are calling for more gun control, who are making the Democratic Party the party of gun control.
Schieffer: But isn't it a fact, though, Senator, that so many of those gun issues, those are things that are being handled by state authorities.
Hatch: That's right.
Schieffer: Isn't it also a fact that the Alcohol and Firearms division doesn't have the personnel needed to track down so many of those violations?
Hatch: That's not true, that is not true.
Schieffer: Well, that's the argument that's made.
Hatch: Since 1992, we've increased the budget of the Justice Department by 54 percent. They havthe personnel to bring these gun prosecutions. I have to say that prosecutions have dropped and violent firearms prosecutions from 7,500 in the Bush administration down to in 1998, down to around 3,500 - about 50 percent. This administration's asking for more gun control and they're not willing to enforce the 20,000 laws, rules and regulations already on the books.
Schieffer: Let me just get to one immediate thing.
Schieffer: Do you plan to call a meeting of this conference committee or not?
Hatch: We are working to see if we can get a compromise. As you know, Henry Hyde is absolutely right. The Lautenberg Amendment is designed to kill gun shows. Now, gun shows are the only place where decent, law abiding citizens can sell their weapons and really have an instant check. And we would like to make sure that they continue in some sort of freedom so that we have some checks - that we have some system where people who are law-abiding can sell their guns without going into the streets to do it.
Schieffer: Let me justÂ…
Hatch: If Lautenberg passed, they'd all be pushed into the streets and it would be worse than we have now. We'd have moreÂ…
Schieffer: Let me just ask you a little bit about this rhetoric of the National Rifle Association. Now here's an ad that the chairman, Charlton Heston, ran on television.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Charlton Heston, National Rifle Association: Bill Clinton says the N.R.A. stands in the way of sensible gun safety. But the truth is, Bill Clinton fought legislation that required safety locks on new firearms, required instant background checks on gun show buyers and banned gun possession for violent juveniles forever. That's right. He fought it.
But now he blames the N.R.A. Mr. Clinton, when what you say is wrong, that's a mistake. When you know it's wrong, that's a lie. Remember.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Schieffer: So what do you think about that?
Hatch: Well, I'd like to have - I think George Bush put it right when he said we should be able to have civil discussions on these emotional issues without getting nasty about it. And frankly, I'd like to see this whole thing come down. But I've got to tell youÂ…
Schieffer: Would you like to see the N.R.A. stop those ads?
Hatch: Well, what about the ads that are countering those? They're just as vicious and just as bad. I'd like to seeÂ…
Schieffer: There's nobody that talks about murder, people tolerating murder.
Hatch: Well, now, keep in mind, there's noÂ…
Schieffer: There's no ad out there like that, Senator.
Hatch: There's no justification for that, in my opinion, and I think we ought to get rhetoric down.
Now you, yourself, mentioned, Bob, that the states basically are the ones who really should determine this. And I'll tell you why, because thre's a real difference between, say, New York and Massachusetts than Utah and New Mexico and the intermountain state. And the states can take care of these problems, and most of them are. You see Governor Pataki is moving the way he thinks New York should move. In Utah, that wouldn't pass. And that's the way we should try and resolve these problems.
On the other hand we can resolve a lot of these problems - we had a lot resolved in the immediate Juvenile Justice Bill. That bill is a terrific bill - and I'll tell you of what I'm thinking of doing. I'm thinking of stripping the gun provisions off that bill, and then having one major battle on guns and let the chips fall where they may. But get the Juvenile Justice Bill, which will change the culture and the climate and help against juvenile crime - there's a lot more than guns. It's the whole culture, it's the whole attacks on juveniles, it's the whole breakdown in society, it's drugs and crime and neglect and child abuse and all the rest.
Schieffer: We have to end it there, but I detect some news there. If you strip that out and then just have one vote on gun legislationÂ…
Hatch: Well, not one voteÂ…
Schieffer: Well, a vote.
Hatch: Â…but have a battle on the gun thing - have a battle on the gun thing and the chips fall where they may.
Schieffer: All right, we'll end it there. Back with a final word in just a minute.
Schieffer: It may not have made your local newspaper, but there was a little hoo-haa in the New York Senate race first reported by The New York Times that deserves wider notice. It seems a group of Pakistani-Americans who wanted the President to visit Pakistan and seek a solution to its trouble with India held a fund-raiser for Senate candidate Hillary Clinton.
Well, Mrs. Clinton dropped by the fund-raiser collected $50,000 and told the group she hoped the president would visit Pakistan. And sure enough, not long after that the White House announced Pakistan would be added to the president's schedule, that he would go there after his current visit to India. The White House said Mrs. Clinton had nothing to do with the scheduled change and apparently there was nothing illegal about any of this.
But what I found interesting was deeper in the story. Mrs. Clinton's staff told the group she would not attend the fund-raiser unless they guaranteed $50,000 which her staff later confirmed is her minimum charge for attending such affairs. To me, that is the astonishing part and it's not just Mrs. Clinton, because it shows money has now become such an accepted part of gaining access to politicians that candidates now openly name their price for listening to a constituent group.
That may not be illegal, but to me it's worse. It's turning the whole process on its head, and that's wrong.
Well, that's our broadcast. See you next week.