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Archive: Joseph Andrew

Veteran CBS News White House Correspondent Bill Plante brings a top political expert into the Smoke-Filled Room each week to answer your questions. This week Democratic National Committee Chairman Joe Andrew has the answers to your questions.

His expertise in polling, focus groups and mass media was instrumental in 1996 and 1998 when he brokered a series of Indiana successes, including the election of U.S. Senator Evan Bayh, Governor Frank O’Bannon, Lieutenant Governor Joe Kernan and Attorney General Jeff Modisett. The Democrats also retook control of the Indiana House of Representatives.

Plante: Our first viewer asks "What effect will the resignation of Tony Coelho have on Al Gore's campaign?"

Andrew: We at the DNC and those working in Nashville are sorry to lose such a fine man as Tony Coehlo as the campaign chair of Gore 2000. He jumpstarted Gore's campaign during the primaries and proved to be a great organizer and motivator for the campaign. Bill Daley, however, brings over 20 years of campaign and political experience to the job, and I feel confident the transition will be smooth. Bill Daley is a man of great integrity and we are very excited to have him on board.

Plante: Rob Urfer writes "When Bill Clinton moved into the White House, he said that his administration would be the most ethical in recent history. What does Al Gore say about ethics and why should I believe him?"

Andrew: The real story of the last seven years has been the constant investigations launched by Republicans in Congress to try to raise the specter of corruption where it didn't actually exist. From Whitewater to Vince Foster to the FBI files, we've seen congressional Republicans spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on partisan investigations that ultimately fizzle out without any evidence of wrongdoing. For a good example of how Republicans have tried to turn innocent actions into scandal, I recommend you read the article "Tempest in a Teapot" in the May 2000 issue of American Lawyer.

Plante: The Democratic Party has ceased to discuss many issues of concern to the middle-class and poor. For all the Democratic Party's rhetoric about education and Medicare, the reality is that education is mediocre and health coverage is abysmal. Why is the Democratic Party bragging about accomplishments in helping the middle class with issues as education, medical insurance, Medicare and welfare reform when best evidence indicates that the situation in those areas is either basically unchanged or worse? Isn't the best the Democratic Party can say is that, on a good day, they aren't as short-sighted and destructive as the Republicans? Joel S. would like to know.

Andrew: I would ardently disagree that the Clinton-Gore administration has not helped the working poor and middle class. This administration hahelped move 3.8 million people from welfare to work since January 1993 by approving welfare reform waivers for 43 states and enacting the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. We have required welfare recipients to work in exchange for time-limited assistance; strengthened child support enforcement; increased federal funding for childcare; and guaranteed health care coverage. The Clinton-Gore administration raised the minimum wage for 10 million workers and ensured Medicaid coverage for 30,000 disabled children.

Clinton-Gore also made great strides in educational programs during the past eight years. This Democratic administration made post-secondary education and job training more affordable for millions of adult Americans and expanded early childhood education opportunities for young children. Republicans, however, oppose federal assistance for public education, national reading and math exams, educational infrastructure improvements, and bilingual education. To contrast, George W. Bush said "higher education isn't my priority." Even with Republican opposition, the Clinton-Gore administration has taken giants steps towards education and welfare reform. Al Gore will continue and improve upon these initiatives.

Plante: With the completion of the census, many congressional districts may be redistricted. Since this potential redistricting will be completed by whichever party is in control of the State Legislatures, is the Democratic National Committee keeping an eye on any particular state Congressional races? If so, which ones? CJR is curious.

Andrew: Although not every state legislature is in charge of its state's redistricting (some states have independent agencies or commissions), the fact that some state legislatures along with governors determine the boundaries of congressional districts makes it vital that Democrats work hard to win and retain more legislative bodies in the states. To that end, the Democratic Legislative Coordinating Committee continues to work to elect Democrats to state legislatures. We simply can't let Republicans gerrymander districts to their advantage. Winning and retaining state legislatures is the only way to ensure that the process is fair.

Plante: "Do you think the press has given Gore a free pass on the slumlord incident? And if so, do you think they would have been a lot harsher on Bush?" asks Scott Juliano.

Andrew: I don't think the Vice President has gotten a "free pass" at all. When he found out about the problem, Al Gore took care of it immediately. There have been at least 110 news reports about the incident.

In contrast, one issue I believe the press has missed on Bush's side is a report by The Center for Public Integrity, which disclosed new information that indicates George W. Bush may have sold 212,000 shares of Harken Energy stock based on insider knowledge he acquired as a member of the company's board of directors. The medito date has ignored this new information.

In general, I think public wants the media to spend less time on the clothes candidates wear and unsubstantiated rumors about their personal lives, and more on the things that matter, i.e. issues like education, health care, preserving Social Security and Medicare.

Plante: Much as been made about the issue of campaign finance reform. AEC would like to know "What are your thoughts on this?"

Where there's smoke, is there fire? Sound off on the Campaign 2000 bulletin board!

Andrew: As the National Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, I obviously support campaign finance reform and hope to see McCain-Feingold a reality very soon. Republicans want to block McCain-Feingold because they would lose all their soft-money backing. Democrats have pushed for this reform and want disclosure of all sources of soft money. Last week, when Congress passed legislation requiring all secret groups to disclose their donors, we took the first step towards campaign finance reform. George W. Bush and the Republican Party do not support requiring disclosure of these secret groups' finances. Maybe it's because Bush has been the overwhelming beneficiary of stealthy campaigns.

Plante: Jackie writes "It seems that Al Gore 're-invents' himself on an almost daily basis. Why do you think he is having such a hard time selling himself to the American public?"

Andrew: Vice President Gore is no different than any other vice president that runs for president. George Bush, Sr., though Republican, had the exact same problem when he ran from president in 1988. The United States has seen Gore as the vice president for eight years now, which is a different role from the president, especially a campaigning president. Personally, I don't think he's having any trouble showing the public he is the best candidate for the presidency in 2000.
Plante: As a result of the Elian affair a lot of attention has been focused on Cuba. In light of Gore's comments about the situation, do you think that, if elected, Gore will normalize relations with Cuba? FTM is interested.

Andrew: Al Gore supports extending our ties with the people of Cuba, but not with the Castro regime. Therefore, he would keep the embargo in place. His administration would be committed to bringing real democratic reforms, including freedom of the press and democratic elections, to the country.

Plante: "Who would you pick as vice presidential candidates for Gore and Bush?" asks Isabelle.

Andrew: It's Al Gore's decision to make, but I can assure you that whoever he picks will be fully qualified, if necessary, to be president from the day Al Gore takes office in January, 2001. We have a solid Democratic bench throughout the country, from Senators to Representatives, Governors, Cabinet members and other Democratic leaders. For Bush, he's got a higher bar to clear because a lot of people have serious questions about whether Bush himself is ready to be president, let alone who he chooses to be his running-mate.

Plante: "Do you think that the 'Clinton factor' helps or hurts Al Gore's campaign?" wonders Margie.

Andrew: Most people think Gore possesses a different style of leadership and different kind of experience. He has had the fortunate opportunity of eight years' worth of high-level involvement in national decisions and he has learned first-hand the duty of the presidency alongside Bill Clinton. He will now take the lead, and take the country in his own direction. That being said, Al Gore and all Democrats will benefit from the last eight years of a successful Democratic administration, the President's high approval ratings, the low unemployment rate and the fact that Americans are enjoying the longest economic expansion in history.

About Bill Plante
Bill Plante is a three-time Emmy Award winner who joined the CBS News Washington Bureau in 1976. He has been covering national elections since 1968. In 1984, he was part of a CBS News team that captured an Emmy for coverage of Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign. Plante is one of the most knowledgeable and respected political correspondents in Washington. (He'll do just about anything, including bungee jumping, to get a good story.)