FTN Transcript - 4/29/01

face the nation logo, 2009
BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on Face the Nation, White House chief of staff Andy Card, Democratic Leader in the House Dick Gephardt and Senator John Breaux on President Bush's first 100 days.

Today marks the 100th day of the Bush administration. How's the president doing? How big a tax cut will pass the Congress, and what's the next big priority?

All questions for the White House chief of staff, Andrew Card, the head of the Democrats in the House, Dick Gephardt, and the man who may broker the tax cut in the Senate, John Breaux of Louisiana.

I'll have a final word on Bob Kerrey and Vietnam, but first White House chief of staff Card on Face the Nation.

Good morning again. The White House chief of staff Andrew Card joins us here in the studio. With us from New Orleans, the House Democratic leader, Dick Gephardt.

First, to Mr. Card, let me ask you first about this late news from China because the Chinese news agency says that they are going to allow U.S. experts to inspect the American spy plane. The second part of it is they say the United States is considering making payments to China of some sort. What's that about?

ANDREW CARD, White House Chief of Staff: Well, first of all, we're pleased. This is a constructive development that they will allow our experts in, and we expect them to get there as soon as their documentation is ready, their visas are ready.

There's no expectation that the United States is going to pay any compensation to China. We will pay contractors to help package the plane so we can get it back, but there's no expectation of any compensation to China.

And we'll allow the diplomacy to work. We look forward to getting the plane back. The good news is, this is a constructive development.

SCHIEFFER: Well, have you had any indications they're going to let you bring the plane back?

CARD: Well, this is the first step of the process of getting it back, and I'll allow the diplomats do their work. They've done a great job so far.

SCHIEFFER: But when you say you're going to make payments, you say that is only for the moving costs, as it were.

CARD: Not payments. This is just - we'll work with contractors to - you know, a crane to lift the plane and help put it on a cargo carrier or something.

SCHIEFFER: Would there be any consideration of say payments to the dead pilot's family, any kind of reparation of that sort?

CARD: There have been no talks about that at all.

SCHIEFFER: None at all.

All right, it's the first 100 days. Here's a great big softball coming right down to the middle of the plate. If you had to pick one thing, what do you think is the most significant thing that's happened thus far in the Bush administration?

CARD: The president has changed the way Washington talks about its job.

Civility is back in Washington and Democrats and Republicans can have a disagreement withoubeing disagreeable, and that means that we can get work done for the American people.

The president put a package before Congress that will provide for a fiscally responsible budget, and we know that there will be meaningful tax relief that'll come to the American people because of the budget the president put before Congress.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let's talk a little bit about that.

The president said he wanted a $1.6 trillion tax cut, he said that was just right.

People in Washington said no way, that's not going to happen, the Congress is not going to go along with the tax cut that big. And in fact, now the president is saying, well, we are going to have to compromise. What's your number now?

CARD: Well, first of all, the House has said $1.6 trillion. The Senate said about $1.2 trillion plus a kicker to help stimulate the economy right away. I think that the parameters are set, and now the president can begin to negotiate with the leaders of the House and the Senate to come up with a number that will guarantee tax relief.

You know, this all started with the Democrats saying zero dollars of tax receive, then $500 billion, then $750 billion, then $1 trillion. A lot of things have happened over the last several months.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just try to pin you down. What do you think would be a reasonable number to expect, now? What should people expect, where do you think this is going to end up?

CARD: Well, look at two numbers. One is the tax relief number, and the other is the spending number. And the president's budget reflected responsible spending and meaningful tax relief.

And we'll work with the House and the Senate to make sure we have a number that comes out of the system that will not have the government spending more than it should and providing the kinds of tax relief that the American people need so that our economy will be stimulated. But most importantly, that the federal government will recognize that it can meet its fiscal responsibilities well with discipline.

SCHIEFFER: Well, since you have not mentioned any numbers, let me mention one. Do you think that the president could go along with anything, say, below $1.4 trillion?

CARD: Well, again, this will come down to negotiations between the House and the Senate.

Now, the president was very careful not to negotiate with himself. He was invited on the very first day of his presidency to negotiate with himself and pick a number other than that which he said was the right number for America.

Now that the House has spoken and the Senate has spoken, the president will begin to have a dialogue, and that dialogue will take on real meaning this next coming week.

It's important that we have a tax relief and a fiscal budget ready to present to the American people before Memorial Day. And we hope that can happen, because we want to see the economic stimulus aspect of this package presened very, very quickly.

SCHIEFFER: Well, I would point out that the Senate Democratic leader, Mr. Daschle, has already said $1.4, he wouldn't even go for $1.4 trillion. So it sounds like you are going to have to settle for something considerably less than that.

CARD: Well, he didn't even vote for the $1.2 that came out of the Senate. So we'll be working with bipartisan interests, House and Senate, take them up with a package that's right for America.

SCHIEFFER: But you're not going to give me any numbers today?

CARD: I'm not going to give you a number today, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: Let's talk about the environment.

Every poll suggests that people put the environment ahead of economic growth. Yet most of these polls suggest that they believe the president puts it just the other way.

Isn't that a political problem for you here?

CARD: Well, the president is, first of all, he is a strong environmentalist, he's a conservationist. He wants to meet the responsibilities ...

SCHIEFFER: But people don't seem to think that according to these polls.

CARD: Well, they will come to recognize it.

First of all, he does not want emotion to drive the debate over the environment. He wants sound science to drive the debate with a respect for economics. He wants to make sure that we understand the policy before we just present it, and that's why he called for meaningful reviews where we can reflect on the science.

He also said that he wants to make sure that we understand the economic consequences of our actions if we present a plan and put it forward in the environment. New technology is the key to many of the successes in improving our environment, and the president is going to push hard to make sure the new technologies can come into the marketplace to make a difference for the environment.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you quickly about drilling in the Arctic wildlife refuge.

When the EPA Chief, Christie Whitman, was here last week, she suggested that would not be amongst the White House recommendations even though the president had said during the campaign that he thought we ought to drill there. Can you clear that up for us?

Exactly where is the president on this?

CARD: Well, I think the president is going to be looking at ANWR as a place where we can drill for natural gas.

The size of ANWR is huge. It's about the size of South Carolina. And the area that they're talking about exploring for gas is about the size of half of Dulles Airport. So it's a very small footprint on this plain, and we would not do anything to jeopardize the environment if we were to drill there. And I think it should be part of the options the president considers.

He'll have an energy package presented to him during the course of the next several weeks. The vice president has put together a task force. And that report will come to the president in the middlof May, and the president will be making decisions.

SCHIEFFER: So he's not backing off on that?

CARD: He is not backing off.

SCHIEFFER: Andy Card, thank you very much...

CARD: My pleasure.

SCHIEFFER: ... for being very candid with us this morning.

Let's go now to Congressman Gephardt, the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives.

I'll give you a softball, too, Mr. Gephardt. What do you think of the first 100 days?

RICHARD GEPHARDT, House Minority Leader: Well, I don't think it's been that good. I think by even President Bush's own standards, the themes that he used in the campaign and after, he hasn't measured up. He said he wanted to be a compassionate conservative. He said he wanted prosperity with a purpose. He said he wanted to leave no child behind. I think the theme that he has really acted out over these 100 days is to leave no special interest behind in almost everything that's been done.

SCHIEFFER: Well, now, you heard Mr. Card say that the most important thing is civility is back. Would you agree with that? Because I'm hearing some very harsh Democratic attack ads.

GEPHARDT: Well, we're talking about the substance. The civility is back, and that's good. But there is a lot more than civility that's needed to get to the bipartisan consensual solutions that the president said he wanted and I think the country needs.

We don't talk, we don't negotiate, we don't really collaborate and work together on these policies. It's really been more of the same, my way or the highway, in the Congress every day on every issue. Democrats are not included with Republicans in the work on the issues, whether it's the tax cut or the budget or these environmental rules that we're talking about.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just - I want to ask you a little more about that tax cut, but right here I have a thing that the Democratic National Committee put out, and it's called "The First 100 Days." And it says - I mean, this is the first charge it makes.

It says, "The dominant theme of Bush's first 100 days is the extraordinary access and influence that special interests have had with this administration."

Isn't there just a little bit of hypocrisy there? I mean, when we think about the White House coffees, when we think about the Buddhist fund-raisers, we think about all these things that came about during the Clinton administration, to make that the first charge, that the special interests are getting access, seems to me a little strong.

GEPHARDT: Well, Bob, there's a difference in my mind between talking to people and doing things that really help the special interests.

There's almost been a daily drumbeat of changes in rules and regulations that really are obviously for special interests, whether it's allowing more arsenic in the water; changing mining regulations that had been agreed to; changing work safety rles that had been worked on in probably the last two administrations, including George Bush's father's administration; drilling in the Arctic, which had really been a resolved issue; the tax cut, which largely goes to the wealthiest Americans and not to folks in the middle class.

These are all actions that we think give in to special interests that probably supported President Bush in his campaign. We don't think that's the way government ought to be run. We think it ought to be run with the people's public interests in mind in everything that we do.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let's get back to the tax cut, because you heard Mr. Card say, I mean, the administration has given up on a $1.6 trillion tax cut, which is what they talked about in the beginning. Obviously, they've signaled they want to compromise on that.

What do you think would be a good number to settle at?

GEPHARDT: Well, the number that we had in our alternative tax cut we think is the most sensible number. It's about $900 billion, including the interest, so it's a net cut of about $750 billion.

Now the reason for that is that we need a tax cut. It needs to be focused on folks in the middle class, and we think that size tax cut allows to you do that. But it also allows you to do the other things in the budget that we think, and the American people think, need to be done.

SCHIEFFER: But may I just...

GEPHARDT: Medicare prescription drugs, saving Medicare and Social Security and having a sensible education program.

SCHIEFFER: May I just interrupt you there, because you know, as I know, that the president will never agree to a tax cut that low. So is there something between $1.4 trillion and $900 billion that you think would be a reasonable place to settle?

GEPHARDT: Well, Bob, $1.2 is better than $1.6.

One of my concerns, though, here is that we are not talking about adding the interest cost to this, so, even if you're at $1.2, you're really up about $1.6 or $1.7 by the time you add in the interest costs. That's why we have felt so strongly that something about $900 billion gross is the amount we ought to be talking about.

We will continue to negotiate with the Republicans, with the president, to get this to be the right size, so again we can do the other things in the budget, Medicare prescription - every time I go home to St. Louis, people say to me, "Where's the prescription drug program? Y'all talked about it. You're not doing it."

If you go to a tax cut total that comes to $1.6 or $1.7 trillion, you cannot do the Medicare prescription plan that people want.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about - there's on the front page of the "Washington Times" this morning a big story that says Congressman Tom DeLay, the Republican whip, has put together a broad coalition of groups from the left, the American Civil Liberties Union, to groups on the right who are going to fight against campaign financreform when it comes to the House.

What's your attitude going to be toward that? Are you still strongly for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill?

GEPHARDT: I am strongly for McCain-Feingold. I'm for campaign finance reform. We passed McCain-Feingold in the House twice in the last three years with a bipartisan coalition, about 200 Democrats, about 50 Republicans, and I'm going to do everything I can to pass that bill or something very much like it in the next weeks.

Now I've asked the speaker in writing, and will be sending that over to him, to schedule this bill. We need to get it scheduled in order to be able to take it up in a timely manner and get it done.

SCHIEFFER: One other thing, the controversy that's going on now about Senator John Kerry and Vietnam - Senator Bob Kerrey, I beg your pardon. Do you have any comment on that?

GEPHARDT: Well, I think Bob Kerrey is a hero. He served his country and came back in an injured form, and I have nothing but plaudits for what he has done for his country both in Vietnam and in public service thereafter.

It's easy to second-guess and to look back and to throw charges. I accept completely his version of what happened. I think we ought to move on and - I think this all just shows that, you know, we're still having problems with this event that happened many years ago. We're still discussing it, and that's natural and normal and necessary.

But I do not think we ought to stain the reputation of people who gave their lives, if you will, to make this a great country. And I have nothing but plaudits for Bob Kerrey.

SCHIEFFER: Dick Gephardt, thank you so much for being with us.

When we come back, we're going to talk to a key member of the Senate Finance Committee, Democrat John Breaux, who may be the broker on whatever emerges as the compromise tax cut, in a minute.


SCHIEFFER: With us now, Senator John Breaux, Democrat of Louisiana, member of the Finance Committee and one who may well be able to broker a compromise on what the tax cut is going to be.

I've been very unsuccessful this morning in getting either side to really give us a number on where they think this might wind up. Where do you think it is going to be, Senator Breaux?

SEN. JOHN BREAUX, D-LA: Bob, I think there is a compromise out there among moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans working together in a bipartisan fashion.

Democrats started off with Al Gore saying a $500 billion tax cut was about right, but the president talked about $1.3. Then he went up to $1.6 trillion. The Senate has passed about a $1.1 trillion dollar tax cut over the next 10 years.

We suggested $1.25 trillion over 10 years plus a stimulus package which would help the economy go. I think there are a number of moderates on both parties who think that is a fair and a good compromise.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask youfrom a practical standpoint, do you think the votes are there for that?

BREAUX: I think the votes are not there for the $1.6 trillion or even for a $1.4. But the president should be, I think declare a victory at about a $1.3 trillion package. That's over a $1 trillion tax cut for all Americans, one of the largest in the history of this country. Everybody could be winners, but more importantly, the American public would be winners with that.

SCHIEFFER: One thing that I think people are concerned about is the whole business of prescription drugs. Now, I talked to Senator Rockefeller, a Democrat on the Finance Committee, last week. I talked to Senator Grassley, the Republican Chairman. Both of them told me that although almost everyone who ran for office last year campaigned in some way on getting prescription drugs to senior citizens. They both said they think the hope is fading fast that that's going to happen.

Do you think it is possible to get a prescription drug provision written into a $1.2 trillion tax cut?

BREAUX: Bob, not only is it possible, I think it's likely to happen in this Congress.


BREAUX: It's not just providing prescription drugs. It's also doing it in the context of modernizing Medicare, and we have a 1965 model. You need to reform it, to modernize it, to bring it into the 21st century, and part of the modernization is prescription drugs. But if you have a tax cut that is up at $1.6 trillion, you really don't have enough money for prescription drugs. At $1.2 or $1.3 trillion, you would.

SCHIEFFER: You do think you could do it?

BREAUX: You absolutely could, but it's also part of modernizing the system as well.

And so people want to us do all these things. They want a large tax cut, and we have to balance it out. And that means we have on sit down and work together and quit worrying about who wins and who loses and work together on this.

SCHIEFFER: Well, that brings up an interesting point, because you heard Mr. Card say he thinks the most important thing that has been going on is the president's returned civility to Washington. You heard Mr. Gephardt say that.

But I must say, I see some of these attack ads from your party, and it makes me wonder if there hasn't been a change in strategy, if perhaps Democrats have decided the strategy ought to be attack rather than compromise. Is that...

BREAUX: It's hard for both sides to change old habits, and that's the way Washington has worked in the past where everybody wants to make the other side the loser. And I think we ought to reject that. We ought to change the culture of Washington, and we have to work together to do that. This is not the Super Bowl where you have to have one team that wins and one team that always loses. There's nothing wrong with both sides winning, and that's what we're trying to do by working with centrists in both paties.

SCHIEFFER: Well, I know you talk to the president. You're one of the Democrats who does talk to the president. I believe you talked to him this week. What do you think at this point? How would you rate the Bush administration at this point?

BREAUX: I think on some things they have helped change the culture, working with Ted Kennedy and Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh on education. We've made real bipartisan progress. We're both moving towards the center. We're going to get a good bill that changes the culture of how things are done.

On the budget and the tax thing, it is not quite where it should be yet. I think that what the president tried to do initially was just win with Republican votes, get a tie vote, bring in Vice President Cheney, break the tie and declare victory. That cannot work. I mean, we are talking about changing the way we do business in this city. And with a 50-50 tie in the Senate, it has to be changed otherwise nothing will get done.

SCHIEFFER: How is that 50-50 Senate? How different is it?

BREAUX: I love it. Being from Louisiana, I think when you have a 50-50 tie in a legislative body, that's a great opportunity. It's not a stalemate, it's an opportunity to get things done in a bipartisan fashion.

Bipartisanship is not just a theory in this Congress. It has to be a reality if we're going to make things work. I think the president is now understanding that quite well. His team is starting to negotiate. Tom Daschle, our leader, I think would like to see movement in that direction. I think we can get it done.

SCHIEFFER: On the environment, obviously there was some adverse reaction to some of the president's early decisions on the environment. And we see these polls - I asked Andy Card about it - where people put the environment ahead of economic development.

But the same polls show they believe the president is putting economic development ahead of the environment.

What would be your advice to him in that area? Do you think he's doing OK, or are there some corrections to be made here?

BREAUX: I think they've handled it fairly badly. I think they would admit that. When you talking about arsenic in water and carbon dioxide emissions, people want the government to be careful on how we handle these things.

And I think from the way it was announced, the rapidity in which it was pronounced, I think they made a mistake in doing that. These things are very sensitive and have to be handled very carefully. I think they scared a lot of American people, and that's certainly not good for anyone.

SCHIEFFER: Well, now, I know you favor drilling in the Arctic wildlife refuge. Do you think the Congress will approve that?

BREAUX: I do not, Bob, and I think that...


BREAUX: You know, I don't think so. They don't have enough Republican support for it. It's kind of become th holy grail of the environmental movement.

We in Louisiana have oil and gas production on all of the refuges, both federal and state. I think we'll learn a lot about how to handle it, and you can handle it if it's done carefully.

We have an energy crisis and we ought to look for natural gas and energy where we can find it and approach it very carefully. We can do it, and I think in Louisiana we've shown that it can be done in a proper fashion.

SCHIEFFER: But you don't think it's going to happen?

BREAUX: It's not going to happen because it's a lot of emotion here. People have never been to Alaska, have never seen the refuge, you know, make pronouncements about how they know everything about it. And it's not going to happen in this Congress.

SCHIEFFER: John Breaux, thank you very much.

We'll be back with a final record word in just a minute.


SCHIEFFER: Finally today, I went to Vietnam as a reporter in 1965. And the first thing I learned is that war is not as it was portrayed in those old World War II movies where death was always noble, usually neat and bloodless, and everything went according to plan. In Vietnam, I discovered death was never neat, injuries were often gruesome, and almost nothing went as planned, accidents happened.

I thought of all that when I watched the furor explode around Bob Kerrey, the Congressional Medal of Honor winner last week, who confessed to an awful and tragic mistake.

Before he won that medal and before his foot was blown away by a hand grenade, his small group of men was fired on in the dark. He says they fired back, only to discover they had killed innocent women and children. The confession came as another member of his unit said the innocents were shot on purpose.

For the record, I choose to believe Kerrey, because I have known him to be an honorable person.

But there is a larger point here that goes beyond this episode. It should remind us of the awful burden we place on young people when we send them into war, where they not only risk their lives, but find every value they hold is tested.

We are humane people, but John McCain, whose credentials are pretty good in this area, said the other day that we send our people into combat with conflicting expectations. We expect them to be good people, and we expect them to kill.

Only as a last resort, only when all else has failed, should we ever put our young people in such a position. War is no movie, and there is little good to be said about it.

That's it from us. We'll see you next week right here on Face the Nation.

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