March 3, 2000
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: They've led our party in the wrong direction. We've lost the last two presidential elections. We've lost the last two congressional elections. The message of intolerance and exclusion rather than inclusion is directly in contradiction to the message that I've been trying to send around America. And that is, come to our proud conservative banner, we will reform the government, we'll give it back to you. But ours is a message of inclusion, and I'm positive that Christian conservatives all over America will flock to that banner. They will desert, I hope, the intolerant and wrong-headedness of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, up until the South Carolina primary, there's no record that I can find of your criticizing either Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell or the religious right. In fact, you appeared on "The 700 Club" back in 1995, you've been consistently supportive of most of their agenda. Isn't your denunciation three days ago, more politically motivated, and does it speak in a more political connotation than the support that you've given these groups for so many years?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Well, first of all, I share their values and their goals of the rank and file of the so- called Christian right. As I have said, I am a proud conservative with a strong conservative record in the tradition of Ronald Reagan and Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. I am proud of that record. I am proud that I have been one that has supported many of the issues that have to do with family values. Where I have differed in the past and continue to differ with Mr. Falwell and Mr. Robertson is on issues such as the issue of President Clinton. I voted to impeach President Clinton, I don't believe he's a murderer. Mr. Falwell believes that he's a murderer. Mr. Robertson has espoused some cockamamie theories about the Free Masons. I believe that they have lead some very good and wonderful people in a message of intolerance. We share the same values, but their practice of politics is exclusionary and not inclusionary.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, the next question for Governor Bush. You have apologized this week to Cardinal O'Connor of New York for not taking on the anti- Catholicism at Bob Jones University when you were there. And yet there is, as you know, a long standing anti-Catholic strain among southern fundamentalists and evangelists, evangelicals, I'm sorry. My question is, were you unaware of this history when you made the decision to go to Bob Jones?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: You know when I went to Bob Jones, I followed a long tradition of both Republican and Democrat candidates that went to lay out their vision. Ronald Reagan went to Bob Jones, my dad went to Bob Jones, Bob Dole, the Democratic governor from South Carolina the week before. I talked about bringing people together so America can achieve its greatness. I talked about lifting the spirit and the soul of this country. I regret I did not speak out against that school's anti- Catholic bias. I missed an opportunity. I make no excuses. I make no excuses. What I regret is somebody ascribing to me, opinions and views that are not my views. Calling me an anti-Catholic bigot is not right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But you don't regret having gone there?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: What I regret is the politics of smearing somebody's reputation, that's what I regret. And I don't appreciate it one bit. And the good news is Catholics from all around the country are coming my defense and I'm grateful for that.
QUESTIONER: Senator McCain on a related and more specific matter, I guess, you had about a week or so ago, repeatedly denied that your campaign was the source of these calls from the so-called Catholic Voter Alert, and then said, well you thought you were being asked about calls that were about anti-Catholic bigotry, and that's not what those calls said. But is there any reason why your campaign didn't say this is the McCain campaign calling instead of a nonexistent group, was that straight talk?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I think it was straight talk, because we wanted to tell people exactly what Governor Bush had done. It did not accuse him of being an anti-Catholic bigot, it did not say anything except that he was there and waited three weeks before he repudiated it. But the fact is that that was a factual and fair statement and one that I stand by -- unlike many of the phone calls that are being made as we speak and the negative ads that are being broadcast all over television.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: If you don't think those phone calls labeled me an anti-Catholic bigot then you weren't paying attention to what your campaign was putting out, I guess, because the clear message was I was an anti-Catholic bigot, that's why people all over the country were wondering about my heart for awhile. The good news is that America rejects that kind of politics. The good news is we put that behind us in 1960 with John Fitzgerald Kennedy. And Catholic leaders all across the country are coming to my defense.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Governor Bush, now the Supreme Court recently again upheld limits on campaign contributions, and yet you have suggested that any such limits violate free speech. Do you think there should be no contribution limits at all, that people who are wealthy should be able to give as much as they want to you or any other candidate?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, it'd be a little hard for me to argue against that simply because in my state, that's the way it is. People can give; individuals can give to a candidate the amount they want to give, so long as there's disclosure. I believe the best reform policy is to say individuals can give, and we ought to have instant disclosure on the Internet. We ought to let everybody know who's giving to whom. And we ought to do it on a real time basis, so that nobody has anything to hide.
QUESTIONER: Ambassador Keyes, to borrow a phrase from my friend Jeff Greenfield here, there's an elephant in this room that we haven't talked about, but it's the limited success of your campaign in attracting votes. And I'd like to ask you about that, what does that mean, what has gone wrong? Is the Republican electorate-- it is Republicans you're appealing to-- are they rejecting your message, or are they rejecting the messenger?
ALAN KEYES: A great many of them have no idea that I'm running because of the media blackout on this campaign. I always find it interesting, you guys play the game, put the mask over the eyes of the people, and then ask why they don't see me. And I refuse to dignify that little tactic with any more of response than that other people in the country know what you are like and what your colleagues are doing.
QUESTIONER: Senator McCain, whenever you're asked why so many congressional Republicans, your colleagues, people you've worked with have supported Governor Bush, the answer is that you say is because you're trying to break the iron triangle -- the aura of soft money. More than 40 House Republicans who support Governor Bush voted for the most sweeping campaign finance reform bills in years, if they're not standing with you, if they're going with Governor Bush, how come?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Well, I think many of them respect and admire him more than me. But the major reason and the majority reason why most of them obviously in my view are very concerned about my candidacy, including being frightened, is because I'm taking on the establishment and the iron triangle and everybody knows that. And campaign finance reform is a key element of that. And Governor Bush just said that he wants unlimited contributions from individuals. Maybe that explains why there have been the sleep-overs in Austin at the governor's mansion by the Pioneers. Maybe that's why it's being set up, the apparatus, right now of the so-called Pioneers and other apparatus to raise unlimited amounts of money to funnel into this political campaign coming up in the same way that Clinton and Gore did. That's a matter of published reports.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Governor Bush, you have a 30- second comment.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Thank you. You talk about people staying with me at the governor's mansion. These are my friends, John.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Good.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: These are my relatives. You talk a lot about the iron triangle and you're ringing it like a dinner bell with all those fund raisers with lobbyists in Washington, DC. (Laughter)
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: If I'm ringing it like a dinner bell, you've got both feet in the trough, because you've raised five times the amount of money in Washington than I have.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We are now at the point where we would like all three of you to give your closing statements. Ambassador Keyes goes first.
ALAN KEYES: One question that came up tonight is worth answering: Why am I here? (Laughter) You know what, the reason that I'm honestly here is because with the majority of people in the Republican Party, I'm the sentimental favorite. I'm the one you all listen to, you know I'm saying what's in your heart, you know that I speak the truth, the true bedrock conservatism, and do it better than anybody who has appeared in these debates. How come it doesn't inspire you to get out there in the voting booth and stand with the same integrity for what you believe that I stand with here in this arena? Unless, you the voters of the Republican Party start to be willing to show that kind of integrity, our cause will be lost. These gentlemen won't win in the fall, because they don't have the courage of our convictions, and they will not effectively communicate that to the heart of the American people, and that's what we desperately need.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I am very proud of this campaign. I'm very proud of the fact that we have tried to build America up and tear no one down. I ask for your support and your vote next Tuesday and I thank you for having me on this program.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I want to usher in a responsibility era in America that calls upon the best of our country. It begins by a President who understands that the responsibility is to bring honor and dignity to the office, and that's exactly what I will do.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Governor Bush, Senator McCain, Ambassador Keyes, thank you all.