Bush gets tough with Gore

McCain tells Bush to get back on message, while trial lawyers set their sights on Gore.

Published March 23, 2000 9:29AM (EST)

In an interview with the Washington Post, George W. Bush said that Al Gore has "a major credibility problem" on campaign finance reform and other issues and addressed a possible rapprochement with John McCain with the statement: "There'll be an appropriate time for John and I to talk."

The Post also notes that the presidential campaign has shifted into high gear much earlier than usual, possibly, according to Democratic consultant James Carville, because of the widespread belief that Bob Dole lost the 1996 presidential election by losing momentum between the primaries and the conventions. That, Carville said, has "got everyone believing that you can't let the other side get a leg up. We've got too much testosterone going on here."

In an interview with USA Today, McCain advises Bush to "go back to the message that he was transmitting at the beginning of the campaign. That was a unifying and inclusive message."

More baggage from Monica Lewinsky

Monica Lewinsky made her return to the headlines Wednesday when she unveiled her line of purses in New York.

Is Giuliani sinking his own ship?

Rudy Giuliani's accusation that Hillary Rodham Clinton was guilty of "projection" for her remarks about his response to the Patrick Dorismond shooting in New York is only the most recent example of his obsession with psychobabble as a smear tactic.

The New York Times writes that Giuliani's attacks on Dorismond over the weekend are "causing bewilderment among members of his own party." The Times quotes ex-Republican National Committee Chairman Rich Bond as saying, "I don't think she can beat him, but he can beat himself." A New York Republican county chairman said, "I think he's coming really close to crossing a line he ought not to cross."

Giuliani may face competition before he officially squares off against Clinton. MSNBC reports that New York's powerful Conservative Party chairman, Michael Long, is mulling another candidate for the Republican nomination. No word on who it is, but according to Long, "People will recognize the name."

Did the White House cut a sweetheart deal with Smith & Wesson?

Not everyone believes the recent deal between the White House and Smith & Wesson broke any significant new ground, noting that the changes the gun manufacturer agreed to were already in practice or planned. Elisa Barnes, a New York attorney who won a negligence suit against gun manufacturers, said, "This was a terrible settlement." Continued Barnes: "It does absolutely nothing. It requires Smith & Wesson to either do what they have already done for years or what they are already required to do by law."

The Washington Post explains how Andrew Cuomo, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the man credited with negotiating the deal, and a group of city and county representatives are trying to force other gun manufacturing companies to comply with the same package of gun safety regulations and restrictions that Smith & Wesson agreed to last week. But they may meet legal problems. The Post notes that "a senior Treasury Department official later acknowledged that implementing such a policy could be complicated by a thicket of laws," among other obstacles.

Meanwhile, USA Today reports that two major gun manufacturers, Glock and Browning, have turned down a deal similar to the one the White House struck with Smith & Wesson.

House nixes tougher oil legislation

The New York Times reports that House Republicans first considered a strong measure that would have required the president to cut foreign and military aid to countries that fix oil prices, but then gutted the bill because "lawmakers from oil states who are satisfied with the high prices had exercised their clout." On the same issue, the Wasington Post reports that the bill was gutted "after intense lobbying by aerospace and defense contractors in California and Texas."

Trial lawyers gunning for Bush

The New York Times writes that trial lawyers, who gained large shares of recent tobacco settlements, are donating big sums of money to the Democratic Party with the explicit goal of gaining a Democratic majority in Congress and defeating Bush. They fear the tort reform measures Bush has launched in Texas and supports on a national level. According to a Common Cause report, in 1999 trial lawyers donated $2.7 million in soft money to the Democratic Party, giving only $2,800 to the Republican Party.

Reformer by day ...

The New York Times notes that while Gore raised $700,000 at a single fund-raising event Wednesday, "he refrained entirely from mentioning his newfound 'priority' of eliminating the large, unregulated contributions known as soft money."

Talking heads

(All EST and all guests tentative)

  • C-Span's "Washington Journal":

    7 a.m. -- John Bresnahan, Roll Call.

    7:40 a.m. -- Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C.

    8:20 a.m. -- Larry Klayman, Judicial Watch.

    8:50 a.m. -- Lanny Davis, former White House counsel.

    9:20 a.m. -- Rep. John Kasich, R-Ohio.

  • CNN's "Inside Politics":

    5 p.m. -- Robert Novak, Chicago Sun-Times.

  • CNN's "Crossfire":

    7:30 p.m. -- Gene Lyons, co-author of "The Hunting of the President," and Barbara Olson, author of "Hell to Pay," on Hillary Clinton.

  • CNN's "Larry King Live":

    9 p.m. -- Sen. John McCain and Cindy McCain.

    Poll positions

    Presidential race:

  • Bush 45 to Gore 42 (Zogby/Reuters/WHDH-TV March 8-10).
  • Bush 49 to Gore 43 (Gallup/CNN/USA Today March 10-12).

  • Bush 47 to Gore 44 (Newsweek poll conducted by the Princeton Survey Research Associates March 9-10).

  • Gore 46 to Bush 45 (ABC News/Washington Post March 9-11).

  • Gore 46 to Bush 43 (CNN/Time poll conducted by Yankelovich Partners March 8-9).

    Preferences for vice president among Democrats (Zogby March 15-17):

  • Bill Bradley, 23 percent
  • George Mitchell, 13 percent
  • Barbara Boxer, 8 percent
  • Tom Daschle, 6 percent
  • Bob Graham, 6 percent
  • John Breaux, 5 percent
  • Evan Bayh, 4 percent
  • Other, 8 percent
  • Not sure, 27 percent

    Preferences for vice president among Republicans (Zogby March 15-17):

  • Elizabeth Dole, 29 percent
  • John McCain, 27 percent
  • Fred Thompson, 6 percent
  • Christine Todd Whitman, 5 percent
  • George Pataki, 5 percent
  • Connie Mack, 4 percent
  • Tom Ridge, 3 percent
  • John Engler, 3 percent
  • Other, 7 percent
  • Not sure, 12 percent

    On the trail

    Bush: Orlando and West Palm Beach, Fla.

    Gore: Cincinnati and Detroit.

    Sound off

    E-mail me with your comments, suggestions and tips at max@salon.com.

  • By Compiled by Max Garrone

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