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CNN Inside Politics Sunday - Transcript

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November 7, 2004 Sunday

HEADLINE: Bush Prepares to Push Second Term Agenda Through Congress; Defining Moral Values

GUESTS: Barney Frank, Randy Tate, Peter Beinart, Jonah Goldberg



WALLACE: Let's look first at President Bush's agenda for his second term. Here are a couple of things he says he wants to do. Number one, change Social Security. Number two, overhaul the intelligence community, reform the tax code, reduce the deficit.

Congressman Frank, let me begin with you. I've seen it that the Democrats have a choice, between accommodation and defiance. Which choice will Democrats pursue?

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: That's an irrelevant question. In the first place, we don't know what the president's going to propose. The president is right, he is in control of the government. The Republicans-the most conservative element of the Republican Party. Actually, this is the most conservative government we will have had in all branches since Calvin Coolidge, and the country is going to get a test, whether it really approves of this.

But our response will be policy by policy. It's not a kind of abstract thing, you defy, you accommodate. It depends. On Social Security...

WALLACE: So you're willing to work with him on issues that the Democrats...

FRANK: No, I just-I just don't accept that framework. It's a question of-there's a president, he's going to propose things. If he proposes doing away with Social Security as it now exists and replacing it with a substantially privatized operation, the Democrats will oppose him. If he appoints justices who are likely to overturn Roe versus Wade, the Democrats will vote no, maybe with or without Senator Specter. He can't seem to make up his mind. But it's an issue by issue question. It's not a case of-he has the ability to make the proposals, and in a democracy the rational thing to do is to respond proposal by proposal.

WALLACE: Let me bring Randy Tate in, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), though, because many social conservatives believe President Bush's reelection is due to the power of social conservatives in this election, and they're expecting results from President Bush. Is that fair? And what are social conservatives expecting?

TATE: Look, I think we ought to start with this premise. I mean, those who went to go vote this election, it's been clear that moral values was at the top of their list. And of those who said moral values are at the top of their list, 80 percent of them supported George W. Bush.

On the issues, obviously, values played a role. In a state like Ohio, a battleground stated, one out of every four voters was a self- identified evangelical voter. So those issues are important.

But moral values run the gamut. It's a tax system where families can keep more of their own money to spend on themselves, it may be defending the unborn or the elderly or the sick. It may be issues like...

WALLACE: But let me ask you this, James Dobson was on ABC this morning, from the group Focus on the Family. He said that-I think this president won more broadly, the Republican Party has two years or four to institute some of these policies that social conservatives are pushing or, quote, "they'll pay a price."

TATE: Well, I think whenever you run as a candidate and talk about moral values and these issues, and George Bush was in touch on those issues. Clearly the Democrats had difficulties with their candidate and connecting on those particular issues. If he doesn't-if he doesn't move forward on an agenda that puts forward judges that are not activist judges that are trying to legislate from the bench, that are going to not try to implement certain policies, if he puts forward policies that try to reform the tax system so families can keep more of their own money, he supports a culture of life, I think he'll do well.

I mean, George Bush is a man-the reason people supported George Bush is because he does what he says. So what George Bush campaigned on, he'll do as president in government.

FRANK: Well, I don't subscribe to his doing what he said. He described the war in Iraq that was motivated very differently than the one he waged. But on other issues, on the tax code, this president has consistently tried to reduce taxes on capital. His economic theory is that the way for the economy to go forward is to reduce the taxes on capital dividends, capital gains, et cetera, which inevitably puts more of the burden on individuals.

The Democrats will fight that.

On abortion, and this is a central issue-frankly, I think the president was not forthcoming during that. When at the debate, the question of abortion came up, he ducked it. He sent a signal by talking about Dred Scott. He's probably going to have the chance to appoint justices who will overturn the fundamental abortion decision, Roe versus Wade. I believe if he does that, he will see a great reaction against it.

That's a legitimate issue for the country to debate. And I do think, yes, the president is going to have a chance to overturn Roe versus Wade, and if that's what he plans to do, which I think it is, there will be a big debate about it.

WALLACE: Picking up on that, Senator Arlen Specter, as Ed Henry was just talking about, Republican, wants to be chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Are social conservatives going to do everything they can to prevent him from becoming chair, based on his comments, picking up on Congressman Frank, about appointing judges who would push for overturning Roe versus Wade?

TATE: Well, social conservatives were up in arms about that statement. I mean, it was-coming out of an election...

WALLACE: Will you absolutely fight it?

TATE: Well, whether I do or not doesn't really matter. Social conservative organizations...

FRANK: He's being punished.


TATE: Thank you very much, Barney.

But it doesn't matter. What matters is that social conservatives were concerned about that, and groups all over this town and people across America said, that was at odds with what the president just campaigned on. So it will be interesting to see if at the end of the day when (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

FRANK: I think that's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) president's problem. You know, sometimes being in power is not the best way to get votes. He now has the responsibility. There's a very conservative agenda there. My own guess is that the public liked the music but isn't going to be as happy when they read the words. But we'll see that. The president will propose it and we'll see what happens.

TATE: Well, look at the end of the day, this is a president who got more votes than any person ever received running for president, and more than any-percentage higher than any Democrat since LBJ. The public has spoken. It's time for him to move forward with his agenda. It's popular. You know...

FRANK: I don't think overturning Roe versus Wade or privatizing Social Security will prove to be so popular, but we'll see.

TATE: And supporting partial birth abortion, as John Kerry, but...


FRANK: No, no, no, you're way beyond partial birth abortion. You guys try to duck out on that. The key issue is Roe versus Wade, and the president I believe has that on his agenda and wouldn't say. Privatizing Social Security I think is a problem. Not many-the minimum wage...


WALLACE: I want to pick up on future of the Democrats. Picking up on what Randy Tate said, looking at the exit polls in Ohio, in particular, when people were asked the most important issue to them, 23 percent of Ohio voters said moral values. Of those 23 percent, 85 percent voting for President Bush, 14 percent voting for Senator Kerry. Democrats missed something here when it comes to faith and values, talking about God? Or not?

FRANK: In the first place, Ohio overall was fairly close. Twenty-three percent is a big chunk, but 77 percent is a bigger chunk.

Part of it was I think the Republicans were very clever, as Randy just illustrated. They talk about partial birth abortion, but that's really a minor piece of it. The big issue is going to be when George Bush tries to overturn Roe versus Wade.

I think that there's a much more conservative agenda there than the public's really realized. And I believe when they in effect make the minimum wage go, when people begin to lose their overtime payments, when they propose privatizing Social Security substantially, it's not going to be popular. If it is, I'm wrong and we'll be in the minority. But you know, I'm not in politics to win, I am in politics to affect public policy. And I want to have a good debate about these public policies, and the public will decide.

WALLACE: But you have said, you have thought that the mass weddings in San Francisco probably contributed to some perceptions around the country about gay marriage, and probably hurt Democrats.

FRANK: Yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and I thought those were a mistake. On the other hand, let me point to Massachusetts. We have had same-sex marriage in Massachusetts for six months now. And on Election Day-this is not about judges now-and by the way, the most activist judges on the Supreme Court, if you look at the numbers, congressional actions they have overturned, Scalia and Thomas. They have an odd description of activism. When they throw out law after law, it's apparently not activism.

But in Massachusetts, the voters ratified the same-sex marriage decision by reelecting every legislator who had voted to leave it alone, and defeating a couple who had voted to overturn it.

WALLACE: Last word from Randy Tate.

TATE: Look, the Democrats are out-on certain moral issues, on some of these issues of the day, have real difficulty. I mean, case in point, Bill Clinton recommended to John Kerry that he should support these local ballot measures in 11 states. In fact, 13 states over the course of last year had it on the ballot and won. The Democrats are having difficulty with church-going Americans, individuals that attend regular religious services. George Bush carried them by an almost 3-1 margin. Those are challenges for the Democrats going forward. There has-perceived hostility to the people in faith...

FRANK: That's nonsense. That's nonsense. Nobody is hostile to people of faith. That's...

(CROSSTALK) TATE: When Al Gore says, when Al Gore says that it's-that George Bush's faith is similar to the impulses of fundamentalist-fundamentalism we see in Saudi Arabia, that's outrageous.

WALLACE: Got to leave it there. Got to leave it there...

FRANK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Al Gore, but there's no-people are hostile to faith-I don't think saying that a woman has a right to make a choice about abortion and not wanting to overturn Roe versus Wade makes you hostile to faith. But we're going to see...


WALLACE: Gentlemen, we're going to leave it there. Plenty to debate on faith, values and lots of other things. Congressman Barney Frank, former congressman, former director of the Christian Coalition, Randy Tate, thanks for being with us.

A few minutes ago we talked about President Bush's ambitious agenda for his second term. But in today's "Story Behind the Story," CNN's senior political analyst Bill Schneider reports the president could be dealt a curve by something called the second term curse.


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