<i>FTN</I> Transcript - Oct. 29

face the nation logo, 2009

Bob Schieffer, CBS
News Chief Washington Correspondent:
Today on Face The Nation, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman on Campaign 2000. With less than two weeks to go, the presidential campaign is getting personal and nasty, and it's still very close. We'll hear first today from Joe Lieberman, then we'll talk with chief Bush strategist Karl Rove. In today's polling segment, we'll bring in Republican pollster Linda DiVall and independent pollster John Zogby. Gloria Borger will be here. And I'll have a final word on the subject that's gone unremarked in the budget negotiations: estimates of government waste. But, first, Joe Lieberman on Face The Nation.

Announcer: Face The Nation, with Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer. And now, from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.

Schieffer: And we begin this morning from Dearborn, Michigan, where Senator Joe Lieberman is on the campaign trail. Senator Lieberman, thank you for joining us.

Sen. Joe Lieberman: Thank you, Bob, good to be with you.

Schieffer: I know you've been drawing some big crowds, but I must ask you this, because every poll we see suggests that there's very little enthusiasm for either ticket this year. Why do you suppose that is?

Lieberman: It's a good question, because I must say that - you know, and I know you've got to filter - I've got to filter all this, but as I go around both in the rallies that we hold but also in the smaller gatherings, even doing what I often do and I love to do, which is just to go into a diner or luncheonette, that there's a high level of recognition, of enthusiasm, of interest in the campaign. So, you know, I got a feeling there's going to be a big turnout after all is said and done. And I hope there is, because this is a very close election. We're talking about who's going to be president of the United States.

It's a big job, I think a big, important job, that can affect the life of every American citizen, a lot of people elsewhere in the world. So I think folks have to really ask themselves, you know, who are the two candidates, or the four candidates, which ones have the record, the experience, the plans that are better for the country.

And, of course, I believe that Al Gore is ready to be a really great president. And I don't know that George Bush is, based on his record and his experience and his plans for the country, which I think will take us back into deficit and higher interest rates, lower stock market, higher unemployment.

So those are important issues and that's why people ought to turn out.

Schieffer: Do you think that Governor Bush is not ready to be president? Is that what you just said?

Lieberman: Well, with all respect - and remembering it is president of the United States, the most powerful, important government position in the world. When I look at Governor Bush's ecord, his experience, his plans for America's future and the world's future, I don't think he's ready to be the kind of president that the American people need.

And I do think on the other hand, Al Gore is. I mean, when I talk about his experience - and I'm talking about stacking up the last five years as governor of Texas against Al Gore's record in the House, in the Senate, domestic international policy, eight years - is I think arguably, and most people would agree, the best vice president in our history. And then look at the plans that each has for the future of our country - and honestly, Al and I are going to keep the prosperity going, keep the government in surplus.

The American Academy of Actuaries said this week that Governor Bush's plan will take us back to debt and never - deficit, and never pay off the long-term debt, and that's not good.

Schieffer: Senator, let me go back to something that's sort of left over from something you said earlier, and I want to get your comments on it, because I think you really surprised a lot of people during this campaign when you said you respected Louis Farrakhan and that you would like to meet with him.

Now this is someone who has called your religion a garbage religion, who said just a couple of weeks on national television, that there was kind of a slave-master relationship between Jews and African Americans. Why in the world did you say that?

Lieberman: Yes. Well, I appreciate your giving me the chance to talk about that, Bob, because I know it surprised people and I understand why.

Look, Louis Farrakhan has said some awful things. They have been bigoted, they've been uninformed, not just toward - and they have been divisive, not just towards Jews but towards a host of other people. And, you know, I just feel that this is a person who has some talents, and he has caused much too much division and hurt.
Here's what happened. Earlier in the campaign, two or three people that I respect came to me, I thought as representatives of Minister Farrakhan, and said, "He would like to meet with you and he would like to see if you can do something constructive together."

And I said, look, all those things he said, why should I do it? And they said to me, "You know, he's at a different stage of his life, he has prostate cancer, he is thinking differently about his legacy, he wants to be more constructive." And that was in my mind when a reporter asked if I would meet with him. And I said - that's why I said I'm open to it.

My feeling is that - look, I've always been a bridge-builder. I have always felt that if you want to build bridges, you have to go to the other side of the bridge and that you don't make peace with your friends. And also, as a matter of my own faith, I believe that everybody, at any point in their lives, right up to the end, has the capacity to change.

So my feeling has been that if I meet with Minister Farrakhan, the worst is that he won'change. The best is that we'll begin a constructive dialogue in which he may help strengthen families and strengthen America.

Schieffer: Just very quickly, do you intend to meet with him before the election or after the election?

Lieberman: I don't intend to meet with him before the election because it has become such a cause celebre that I don't think it wouldn't be the right context to do it in a way that can be serious. I'm open to it after the election, and it ought to be private, quiet, and hopefully will lead to some change.

Schieffer: Gloria?

Gloria Borger, U.S. News & World Report: Senator, let's talk about this election a little bit. It has taken a very nasty turn. Your campaign is paying for some recorded telephone calls to voters, one of which is from a Texas resident who essentially accuses Governor Bush of being responsible for the death of her husband in a nursing home. As I said, these are paid for by your campaign. Do you approve of these calls?

Lieberman: Well, this is a close campaign - a close election and important. And I think there is a lot of stuff going on on both sides. I thought that Daisy ad this week was outrageous and irresponsible...


Borger: But Karl Rove has had that taken off the air.

Lieberman: Well, I'm glad it has been pulled. I mean, I would call on the Bush campaign to ask the Republican Council to stop paying money to put Ralph Nader on the air, which certainly is a way of vindicating or validating what we have been...


Borger: So what about the phone calls, though, Senator?

Lieberman: I haven't heard them in full. I've heard about them. They seem to me to be factual, both in terms of the role that Governor Bush played in watering down protections for nursing home residents in Texas, and the fact that this is a statement of opinion by this woman.

I do think that Governor Bush's record in Texas is the best indicator that the American people have about what kind of president he would be, and it's a terrible record.

Schieffer: May I just interrupt here for a second, Senator, because these ads imply that Governor Bush is somehow responsible for the deaths of people in nursing homes. You're not saying that that's is true, are you?

Lieberman: No, I won't say that's true in that exact sense, but I can see how that woman might feel that. I don't know the details of the case. But let me say this, when you make a choice in government, it has consequences.

Look, I've said previously that Texas has the most polluted air - industrially polluted air in America. The fact is, the American Lung Association will tell you that dirty air leads to premature deaths, that is to say that people will die earlier than otherwise.

Now, am I saying that George Bush killed people? Of course not. But I'm saying there are consequences when you don't clean up the air, wheyou don't protect nursing home patients, when you don't give health care coverage to kids, which is the Texas record in all those regards.

Borger: Senator, we know that Al Gore doesn't want to go out campaigning with Bill Clinton. Would you go out and share a podium with Bill Clinton right now in these final days of the campaign?

Lieberman: Yes, I would. I don't believe that...

Borger: Will you?

Lieberman: I think the maximum interest here - Al Gore and I are together part of the time and we're not together most of the time. And the reason for that is that there are so many battleground states, this election is so close that we're all going to separate places. I'm glad the president is going out. He's got a lot to feel good about in terms of what he's done to help America get where it is economically.

But the important point is, that Bill Clinton's not on the ballot, Al Gore and I are, and each of us have to convince the American people in our own right that we're better for their future than George Bush and Dick Cheney.

Schieffer: A quick question here about Ralph Nader. You said the Bush campaign ought to stop putting him in their ads. What do you think Ralph Nader ought to do here? Doesn't he have a right to be out there campaigning?

Lieberman: Well, sure he has a right, Bob. I mean, Ralph has said that he wants to make this Green Party, this third party, a national party. But in the meantime, he may end up electing George Bush, who would pull back so many of the things that Ralph has fought for over his lifetime.

And I ask those who are thinking about voting for Ralph Nader to decide how they feel - how George Bush feels about protecting the environment, protecting consumers, protecting a woman's right to choose, because all of those may well be in jeopardy if George Bush is elected president, and I don't believe most Nader thinkers, if not Nader voters, want that to happen.

So I urge them, as I urge all Americans, to think about the issues, think about the economy, think about who's going to continue to grow the economy and not take us back to the old days of debt and higher interest rates, higher unemployment, where we were eight years ago when the Democrats came into power.

Schieffer: I'm awfully sorry, but on that note, we have to stop. Thank you so much Senator Lieberman.

Lieberman: Thank you both. Have a good day.

Borger: Thank you.

Schieffer: And watching all of this was Governor Bush's chief campaign strategist Karl Rove who's down in Austin today. I noticed that when we started talking about some of those ads, that you were shaking your head.

Karl Rove, Bush Campaign Strategist: That's right, I sure was. I just sat here in astonishment that Joe Lieberman, a man who has a reputation for character in the United States Senate, would sit there and say that he really wasn't paying attention to the details ad really had not acquainted himself with the facts behind a telephone script that alleges that Governor Bush is guilty of manslaughter. That just is unbelievable that that campaign would allow those kinds of tactics to go forward and its principals would sort of shake it off so lightly.

The fact is, Governor Bush in each one of the three legislative sessions since he became governor, has signed legislation to stiffen regulations in nursing homes, in fact, in 1997, worked closely with the long-term care advocates in the AARP to pass landmark legislation that provided for tougher regulations, stiffer fines and easier procedures to revoke the license of operators.

Al Gore and Joe Lieberman should not be held responsible for the deaths of 2,500 people due to negligence and mistreatment in nursing homes regulated by federal law, no more than Governor Bush should be held responsible in this instance.

In fact, the lawyer in the case was quoted yesterday as saying he didn't believe Governor Bush was responsible for the death of this man, nor did he really feel that Ms. Cherry felt that way. It's just - it's sick, really.

Schieffer: Let me just bring up one thing, though. That's not too far from what you did during the primary campaign, or supporters of George Bush did, when they accused John McCain of being against breast cancer research, is it?

Rove: Well, not to dig up ancient history, but if you remember it was a web site run by the McCain campaign that ridiculed these breast cancer projects and called them garden variety pork that should be struck from the budget.

There's a big difference between that and alleging that somebody is guilty of manslaughter, as this telephone script does.

And I might say, an anonymous script. It does not - the script does not say I'm calling on behalf of the Michigan Democratic Party or the Florida Democratic Party or Al Gore and Joe Lieberman. It is an anonymous phone call placed into people's recording and answering machines.

Borger: Karl, but Governor Bush is also getting quite personal during this last days of the campaign. He keeps talking about responsibility. He keeps implying, in many ways, that a Gore-Lieberman administration would somehow have less integrity than his administration. Isn't he doing that?

Rove: No, Gloria, I disagree with you. He has been talking since the first day of this campaign about how his desire is to help usher in a responsibility era where we have greater accountability in our schools and in our government and in our social structure, and he's simply carrying that forward. I don't think this is an allegation about Gore and Lieberman; it's a statement of what Governor Bush has as his goal.

Borger: Do you believe that, in the end, people will cast their votes in this election based on Governor Bush's character?

Rove: No, I think they will do it on the basis of two things: Governor Bush's proven strong ladership in reaching across party lines to enact a positive agenda for the state that he loves, and a positive agenda for the country that he has laid out in this campaign to reform education, reform Social Security, strengthen Medicare, rebuild our military, and cut taxes for every taxpayer.

I think people will be drawn by a combination of both the strong leadership that he has evidenced here in Texas and being able to get - being able to change the tone here in Texas and his desire to change the tone in Washington, as well, and his positive agenda which he has laid out in this campaign.

Schieffer: Mr. Rove, Senator Lieberman again reiterated what he has been saying and when Al Gore has been saying, in so many words, and that was that George Bush simply isn't ready to be president. How do you respond to that?

Rove: Look, Governor Bush has demonstrated through the stewardship of the second-largest state in the country that he is ready to be president, and through his conduct in this campaign. There is only one candidate for president who has executive experience and that's Governor Bush. He has not been a legislator like Senator Lieberman or Senator Gore. He's not been in Washington for all of his life like Senator Gore has been, or Vice President Gore has been. But he has demonstrated through his leadership and stewardship of the second-largest state in the country that he has the executive leadership, the vision, the ability to work across party lines, the principles that do not change, based on the latest focus group or poll, that people want to see in their next president.

Schieffer: Where do you focus the campaign from here on in? Again, the polls show, some of them today, show that Governor Bush may be opening up a little bit of a lead, but do you agree with that and where will you focus?

Rove: Well, it's a small lead. If you average all the - I think there were like eight polls on Friday - if you average them all together, they're about five percent. And we think the race is in that four to five to six percent range, but that's very close.

The interesting thing about this final week is that the map is broad. I mean, the governor is going to start off in New Mexico, spend a day and a half in California, go to Oregon and Washington, go to Minnesota, go to Iowa, and on Wednesday in Missouri.

What is interesting is, I've talked about, in that list of states, states that the Democrats have consistently won in the last two or three elections. We'll be campaigning this week in six states that have been carried by the Democrats in at least the last three and, in some instances, four and five presidential elections. And all the polls show them competitive and, in some instances - West Virginia and Oregon and Washington - they show Governor Bush in the lead.

Schieffer: All right, Karl Rove, thank you very much. When we come back, we'll hear from two pollsters who have the latest numers on this tight presidential race in just a minute.


Schieffer: Joining us now, Linda DiVall and John Zogby, two respected pollsters. But before we get to you, I want to say a word about last week's broadcast. During the polling segment, a lot of you wrote in and said I should have identified pollster Geoff Garin as a Democratic pollster. John Zogby, of course, is an independent. Well, a lot of you were right, I should have. In fact, I thought I had. And then when I went back and looked at the transcript, I realized I hadn't. In any case, we're evening it up this week, Linda DiVall is a Republican pollster.

Linda DiVall, GOP pollster: Glad to be identified as such.

Schieffer: And glad to be identified as such. John Zogby, of course, still an independent this week.

John Zogby, independent pollster: And still proud.

Schieffer: Well, Linda, where do you see this race right now?

DiVall: I think it's a remarkable race. I think if anything, the race is probably trending for George W. Bush, given the travel schedule of the candidates at the end of the campaign and given that some states that were soon to be in Gore's column three weeks ago, such as Illinois, Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, that is no longer the case.

If you look at the map of where Gore has been since the last debate and where he is going the past week, plus having to go to California - keep your eyes on California, keep your eyes on Illinois. The Bush campaign in California will have sent out over 30 million pieces of mail, will have been on television $5 million worth for the last 10 days of this campaign. It is an unprecedented effort with volunteers as well.

Schieffer: Mr. Zogby, an interesting thing in your latest assessment, you have Al Gore up in Florida, but you have George Bush ahead in Tennessee, Al Gore's home state. Can that be right?

Zogby: I think it is right. And basically these are two hotly contested states. And anything can happen between now and the election. Obviously, that point is not a prediction right now.

DiVall: Plus, Bob, Gore is on television in Nashville with a bio ad. I don't think in your home state you need to put a bio ad on at the close of the campaign.

Borger: Linda, are you finding in your polling that voters are undecided because they are distinctly unenthusiastic about both of these candidates?

DiVall: No, not necessarily. There are a number of undecided voters who typically are tuning in late and simply want to hear information to the close of the campaign, particularly, you know, working women, women with kids who have been busy throughout the campaign and are beginning to focus in.
You have some, frankly, who are really looking at Nader, particularly younger voters who want to see Nader do well. And there is some disdain for the major-party candidates. And I think Gore's effort to really knok Nader out of the box is backfiring with the voters.

Borger: Well, John Zogby, what do you think is going to happen with these Nader voters? The Gore people say they're going to, in the end, go into the booth and vote for Al Gore.

Zogby: I don't think so. When you look at the three groups backing that are backing Nader, 18-to-24 year olds, independents and those who identify themselves as very liberal or progressive, they are bedrock solid. And if anything, Nader may in fact even move up a little bit. I think he gets his five percent.

Schieffer: Where does he - where could he really hurt Gore, which I assume that's the candidate that will be hurt by Nader?

Zogby: Well, in states that should have automatically been in Gore's pockets, the state of Washington and Oregon, Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well. And then, finally, even a three percent by Nader in Florida could shift that one way or another.

Borger: Linda, right now, congressional Republicans are in a fight on Capitol Hill with Bill Clinton and congressional Democrats over spending priorities, tax cuts. We've seen this all before. Who is it going to help this time, who is it going to hurt?

DiVall: Well, it is a very silent fight right now. The focus is on the presidential campaign trail. And right now the Republicans, I think, are winning in that the style is so much different than it was two and four years ago. There's a tax package in that plan that many Democrats have to support if they want to be re-elected. So I think there is a slight advantage tilting Republican in that regard.

Schieffer: Let me ask, have you all ever seen a race quite like this one? I just can't remember a race quite like this.

Zogby: You know, probably when I was 12, in the Kennedy versus Nixon race that was close from the start and close right to the very end, but back then we didn't have all the polls telling us what we have today.

Schieffer: Linda?

DiVall: No, I haven't, and I was a lot younger then, but I still haven't seen a race that close, at all levels. The congressional outcome is still very close.

Senate races, we have a lot of competitive races in play. And just the fact that the calendar is shifting so dramatically from state to state - in terms of candidate schedules and polling results that John talked about - is really intriguing.

Borger: At the Congressional level, a lot of Democrats are saying right now that in order to win back the House of Representatives and there is now a six-vote margin there, that they need Al Gore to win at the top of the ticket, if they're going to do that. Do you agree that has to happen?

Zogby: Absolutely. Whoever wins the White House carries the House majority, I think. You don't need a big victory or a long coat to have long coat tails in this. There could be ten or 12 races that come down to just a few hundred or a few thousand votes

DiVall: There are no more than 30 House races that are in play. It is a very competitive situation at the top of the ticket, but Bush has closed the gap in some states that we thought we might lose the majority in: Oregon, Washington and California. So the competitive nature and the momentum shifting the last week of this campaign is definitely a clear advantage to the Republican team.

Schieffer: Very quickly, what about the Hillary-Lazio race.

Zogby: I've got Lazio up by two in this one. And you saw last week where undecided, we have an increase in undecided because they had abandoned Hillary, especially up state. They're starting to break towards Lazio. But once all is said and done, we're looking at a one-point race here, I think.

DiVall: Well, the World Series has concluded and voters in New York are now paying attention. And Rick Lazio is the focus of attention. And I think he has an excellent shot at pulling off an upset here. As well as New Jersey. Keep your eyes on that.

Schieffer: Thanks to both of you. Back with a final word in just a moment.


Schieffer: Finally today, to all the campaign talk over how much tax money will be set aside for this and that, I want to add another category. We need an estimate of how much the next administration and Congress intends to waste.

I say that because the General Accounting Office has just added up the bill for that big military show that Philadelphia Congressmen Curt Weldon and Robert Brady arranged for their visiting colleagues, who were staying at the old Philadelphia Navy base during the Republican national convention.

They convinced the Pentagon to set up an exhibit of tanks, airplanes, helicopters and other neat stuff. The Pentagon dispatched 266 people to oversee the exhibit, including public relations officers to handle the press; they had it the easiest. When we sent a television crew out to take pictures, they were told to go away because the exhibit was closed to the press and public.

So who saw this exhibit? Well, the General Accounting Office reports it was viewed by 35 members of Congress, eight members of the Russian parliament, and some firemen who were in the area. All of this for a cost of $609,000.

I don't fault the military, they do as they're told, nor do I blame the hometown congressmen for wanting to do something nice. But why should the rest of us pay for it?

In my group, when someone's child gets married, for example, six or eight couples give a nice party, then we all split up the cost. Maybe that's a solution here.

I know $600,000 is too much for a couple of Congressmen to pay out of their own pockets, but if they could just find a way to split the cost with all those civilian officials at the Pentagon who signed off on this thing, well, that would be a real sign of hospitality.

That's it for us. We'll see you next week on Face The Nation