Transcript: Vice President Gore
on CNN's 'Late Edition'
March 9, 1999
Web posted at: 5:06 p.m. EST (2206
CNN'S WOLF BLITZER: Mr. Vice President, thanks for
joining us on Late Edition.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Glad to do it.
BLITZER: You're going to be going to Iowa and New Hampshire in
the coming days. Less than a year from now, we probably will know who the
Democratic nominee is, who the Republican nominee is for the president.
Why do you want to be president?
GORE: Well, Wolf, I haven't formally announced my candidacy yet,
but when I do, I will lay out a vision of what I want to see in this
country in the 21st century. And the campaign won't be about me, it'll be
about the American people, and I hope they'll choose that vision of a
nation with strong families and livable communities, in harmony with all
of our diversity and fully prepared to lead the world.
BLITZER: You've created an exploratory committee, though. When
do you make the formal announcement? It's not going to be...
GORE: Later this year.
BLITZER: It's not going to be a surprise.
GORE: Well, perhaps not. But it won't come until later this
GORE: Haven't picked a date.
BLITZER: Are you looking at some precedents, some previous
examples? When Vice President Bush, for example, made his announcement?
GORE: No, I won't base it on previous campaigns, I'll just look
at see what seems like the right time.
BLITZER: Some people have suggested that you will try to emerge
from Bill Clinton's shadow during the course of the coming year. Others
say you don't want to emerge from his shadow. The question to you is, do
you want to emerge from the president's shadow?
GORE: Well, I don't feel like I'm in his shadow. I think the job
of vice president is very different and very distinct from the job of
president. And for the last 6 years-plus, I've concentrated on doing the
best job I can as vice president to help he be the best president he can
be. And I've really enjoyed that. It's been a great privilege and honor,
but as a presidential candidate -- when I become one -- I will be in a
very different relationship to the American people. And at that time, I'll
be speaking about my vision for what I want to see in this country in the
And I'm looking forward to that. I'm very excited about the chance.
BLITZER: And the Al GORE vision will not be necessarily
completely the same as the Bill Clinton?
GORE: Well, no, because the challenges we face in the future are
different from the ones we face in the past. I have been very much
involved in shaping our current economic policies, and I feel as if I know
a great deal about how to keep our prosperity going.
We have a governing coalition willing to support the ideas that work
for the American people. I have also participated in shaping our
environmental and education and crime fighting policies and other
initiatives, but the challenges are going to be brand new.
You know, the 21st century is not only the beginning of a new
millennium, it's the beginning of an entirely new era in human history and
we have to take new approaches.
BLITZER: I want to get to some of the substance of domestic and
international issues in a minute, but let's just wrap up a little bit of
the politics right now.
Why should Democrats, looking at the Democratic nomination process,
support you instead of Bill Bradley, a friend of yours, a former colleague
in the Senate? What do you have to bring to this that he doesn't
necessarily bring to this process?
GORE: Well, I will be offering -- I'll be offering my vision
when my campaign begins. And it will be comprehensive and sweeping. And I
hope that it will be compelling enough to draw people toward it. I feel
that it will be.
But it will emerge from my dialogue with the American people. I've
traveled to every part of this country during the last six years. During
my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in
creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole
range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's
economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our
During a quarter century of public service, including most of it long
before I came into my current job, I have worked to try to improve the
quality of life in our country and in our world. And what I've seen during
that experience is an emerging future that's very exciting, about which
I'm very optimistic, and toward which I want to lead.
BLITZER: On this political front, the polls currently see
Governor George Bush of Texas and even Elizabeth Dole ahead of you in a
hypothetical race nearly two years away from today. Why do you think
that's the situation?
GORE: Well, what will decide the outcome of the presidential
contest in the year 2000 will not be public opinion polls but the power of
ideas, the quality of leadership, the compelling vision that I will offer
for the American people and how they respond to it. It won't be decided by
public opinion polls.
BLITZER: Although there is one poll that recently came out that
did show 45 percent of the voters, 45 percent of the American people, say
they've already ruled out voting for you.
GORE: Well, you know, in -- a few decades ago, IBM predicted
that the total market worldwide for computers would be a few dozen. Those
predictions turned out to be wrong. Other predictions of the future have
been famously wrong because they didn't take into account what the reality
And polls are simply predictions of the future, in this case of an
election that's two years away. And you know the old saying that six
months is a lifetime in politics. That means there are four lifetimes
between now and then.
And once again, polls will not determine the outcome in any way, shape
or form. Ideas will. The compelling vision offered by -- when I become a
candidate later this year and when that dialogue with the American people
begins, their decision will be based not on polls.
BLITZER: You know, several of your potential Republican
challengers, including former Vice President Dan Quayle, have slammed you
for saying on that day that the president was impeached that Bill Clinton
will go down as one of America's greatest presidents. Do you still feel
that way, knowing today what you knew then?
GORE: Well, look at what this administration has done. We went
from the largest budget deficit in history to the largest budget surplus
in history. We went from a period of high unemployment and high inflation
to high employment and historically low unemployment and virtually zero
The last economic report came out with six percent growth and virtually
zero inflation; 18 million new jobs; improved reading test scores for our
children; a six-year drop in the crime rate, continuing to decline; a
cleaner environment; a new feeling on the part of all of our people that
we do have the capacity to make our democracy work for our future and to
solve our problems.
We are steadily gaining in our ability to reclaim control of America's
destiny. That's what we're intended to do as Americans. Now this has all
happened in the last six years. And incidentally, it happened when we
changed course. I had the privilege of breaking the tie vote, and there
were zero Republican votes for the new plan that's produced -- even though
in the country, Republicans, Independents, Democrats, they all supported
the changes that we've brought about.
BLITZER: So even though the president was impeached, and by his
own admission did engage in reckless conduct with an intern here at the
White House, you still stand by that basic statement, he will go down as
one of America's greatest presidents?
GORE: The Bible says by your fruits, ye shall know them. And the
fruits of this administration's success are known by the American people
to be good for our country. The policies have been tremendously
Now we need to continue our prosperity and use the prosperity to move
our country forward and upward, and to make our country not only better
off, but better.
BLITZER: Is there any specific strategy you plan on engaging in
during the campaign to deal with this issue -- the impeachment issue, the
scandal issue, the impact, potential spillover effect on you from the
GORE: Well, Wolf, what the president did was terribly wrong. It
was indefensible. He's apologized for it. And you know what the American
people want? They want us to move on. They want us to focus on the future
and talk about them and work on their problems and build their future, not
wallow in the past.
BLITZER: That sounds like a strategy that you will have to work
on. Trent Lott, the Senate majority leader, Dennis Hastert, the speaker of
the House, are refusing at this point to say they trust the president and
to engage in the kind of kind of bipartisan cooperation necessary to move
on on issues like education, Social Security, Medicare. Is there any
window of opportunity now to get some of these programs off the ground? Or
is there going to be deadlock, gridlock right now for the foreseeable
GORE: Well, the American people are in charge of our self-
government, not the Republican leaders of the Congress. They have an
argument among themselves, and the American people have been puzzled as to
why they won't focus on the people's business. I hope and expect that
eventually they will, because there is a rising demand from the American
people that politicians in both political parties work together and stop
fighting ideological battles that are sometimes beside the point. Where
the nation's business is concerned, they want us to make progress, keep
the prosperity going and solve the problems.
BLITZER: But there are some philosophical differences. On the
education issue, the Republicans want local communities to be in control.
They accuse the Democrats and you of wanting the federal government in
Washington to dictate ...
GORE: No, no.
BLITZER: ... to local school districts the kind of education
policy they should be using.
GORE: No, no. We want ...
BLITZER: And there's a deadlock today in the Senate on this
GORE: We want accountability, and we want to measure the results
so that we are moving in the right direction. And let's take that
amendment that is pending today. We know how to improve our schools. The
single most important thing we can do is to have fewer students in each
classroom, more well-trained teachers, so that each teacher will have more
time to spend individually with each student.
You can think back in your own upbringing, I can, and remember the
teachers who made a difference. And always, it was the one who had more
time to spend with you, who connected and who understood that you learned
in a slightly different way from any other child. Because every child is
How do we create that kind of extra time for teachers to do what they
do best and give them the training? Well, the answer is about hiring more
teachers and giving them the best training in the world.
Let me draw a comparison to what we did in fighting crime. We said we
need more community police officers. And so we finally convinced the
Congress to pass a law that hired 100,000 new community police officers,
greatly expanded the size of the force around the country, and then
deployed them on the sidewalks, not in squad cars, where they could
develop one-on-one relationships.
What's happened as a result? The crime rate has dropped in every
category for six years in a row.
We know how to solve this problem in the same way we know how to bring
about improvement in our schools. Let's hire 100,000 new teachers, give
them the training they need, and reduce the class size in the early
grades. That's the amendment that's pending. Senator Murray and Senator
Kennedy are pushing it forward. The Republican leaders are trying to block
The Republicans out in the country are the same as the Democrats and
Independents out in the country. They want to see these improvements. They
don't want a fight on false ideological boundaries where the real issue is
how do we solve the problem.
BLITZER: Let's move on to a key international issue on your
agenda today, namely the situation with China. China's been accused of
human rights abuses. It's been accused of engaging in unfair trade
practices, a record trade deficit with the United States. It has made
bellicose statements against Taiwan in recent days, threatening Taiwan.
And now there are allegations that the Clinton administration under your
watch, that the administration was negligent in dealing with an allegation
of espionage of nuclear secrets at the Los Alamos nuclear facility,
Do you continue to engage in your policy, as you call it, "constructive
engagement" with China, in the midst of all of these allegations?
GORE: Well, first of all on the law enforcement matter that you
raise, please keep in mind, that happened during the previous
administration. That happened back in the 1980s. And as soon as the
investigation identified targets of that investigation, then the law
enforcement community handled that very aggressively, and it resulted in a
presidential directive that completely changed the security procedures in
the weapons labs. And as far as the law enforcement aspects of that are
concerned, you have to go to the appropriate agencies.
BLITZER: But you heard Senator Lott and Senator Shelby say over
the weekend that this administration was negligent...
BLITZER: ... was lax in dealing with the threat that some people
thought really existed at that time because of the overall need to engage
GORE: Again, this happened in the previous administration, and
the law enforcement agencies have pressed it and pursued it aggressively
with our full support. And in the course of this, what developed was a
brand new presidential directive that fixed problems that we had inherited
and changed and vastly improved the security procedures in the national
BLITZER: As you look to these allegations, do you continue this
engagement policy with China, or do you pause and reassess where the
United States should be going with China?
GORE: Well, China is the most populous country in the world. Its
economy is growing, and its role in the world is going to continue to grow
whether we want that or not. And so, obviously, having a relationship with
them within which we can try to affect their behavior and improve human
rights, eliminate unfair trade practices, and bring about the kinds of
changes that will lead to further democratization in China, these things
are in our interest. We do that without compromising our principles in any
way; indeed, by enhancing our ability to speak out on behalf of human
rights and more freedom in China.
We have seen now 10,000 local democratic elections in China. We've seen
a slow progress towards elections at the next highest level, the county
level, it would be seen in our system. And we have also seen some movement
toward more reporting and more press activity inside China.
That kind of thing can build upon itself and bring greater reforms. But
we're very concerned about some of the practices of China, and we've made
that clear to them. We will continue to make it clear to them.
BLITZER: I know you have to go, but a quick question on your
becoming soon a grandfather.
Is this going to change your life?
GORE: Tipper and I are so excited. It's hard to find the words
for the thrilling feeling it gives you to think that you're going to be a
grandparent for the first time. We're expecting our first grandchild this
summer, and we can hardly wait.
BLITZER: Are looking to some other grandfathers for
GORE: Well, that's not a bad -- everybody tells me that it's
even better than having children, and I'm looking forward to finding out
BLITZER: You get the benefits without the pain.
GORE: Well, I must say, I remember seeing my parents and
Tipper's parents fawn over their grandchildren in a way that I never
experienced when I was their age, and I think everybody gets a kick out of
that. I'm looking forward to experiencing it from the standpoint of the
grandparent, and that'll be later this year in the summer.
BLITZER: Well, good luck to the grandparents and the parents.
GORE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you, Mr. Vice President, for joining us on Late
GORE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.