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Exclusive Four-Word Interview With Bush Sr.!

Plus: One Of You Doesn't Like Al Gore Much

Dan Bernard, Staff Writer, The Pittsburgh Channel
August 5, 2000, 4:17 p.m. EDT

PHILADELPHIA -- He's at the convention! E-mail your questions to dan@thepittsburghchannel.comI am proud to report that on Tuesday, in service of you, the readers, I was able to muscle my way past a few dozen tourists and rubberneckers at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, reassure the Secret Service that I was a legitimate media guy, and wriggle close enough to former President Bush to ask him a question.

The full transcript of my exclusive interview follows:

Me: President Bush, is Bill Clinton qualified to criticize your son?
President Bush: Sure! (Trace of sarcasm?) (Turns, smiles amiably, looks at me.) Sure, he is. (Kinder, gentler than first "sure")
Press officer lady: OK, that's it. Thank you very much. (Bush and Barbara Bush move away and start greeting greet autograph seekers)
Former President George Bush, Secret Service man and nose of unidentified TV reporter

Once again, I had succeeded in getting an interview subject to reveal his innermost thoughts. In this case, you can see that President Bush was thinking, "sure." Who knows what I might have gotten the old guy to reveal had not his press officer lady tossed me to the side like a limp rag.

As for where I was coming from with my question, as you may have guessed: Since reports began airing in the morning about the war of words between Clinton and Bush, I had been wondering how a reporter might coax the former president to speak frankly about what he thought about the current one. (Bush Sr. had told a TV interviewer that he would tell the country his opinion of Clinton if Clinton continued talking smack.)

Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment (I had to toss out my question quickly in the midst of a media pack), I forgot one of the golden rules of interviewing: Don't ask a yes-or-no question, because the subject can answer yes or no and move on to someone else's question. Anyway, que sera, sera.

This was just after I walked right into the middle of a confrontation between protesters and police and was able to snap some awesome photos. Check 'em out.

But enough about me. Your e-mail questions have been piling up.

Slumlord Al?


BUSH'S FINALE IN PHILLY
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Alan W. Prothe wrote:
"My question for the reporters is, who has enough guts to go after Gore for being a slum lord?
"Yeah, no kidding. I think the guy's a real hypocrite, acting like a friend to the disadvantaged all the while taking advantage of the disadvantaged ... This is real news!!!!!
"Is the news profession so determined to make money it doesn't even care to pretend it's trying to play fair? You guys have to go after Gore on this stuff ... It's big news!
"Think hypocrite (is) too strong a word? You want more examples?
  • "Opening a dam up in Vermont during water rationing so he could do an environmental photo shoot.
  • "Bashing Cheney for his record on abortion and guns while he himself used to vote pro-life and was a member of the NRA. (just like the Rev. Jesse Jackson and most Democrats ... they stood up for life on their home soil before trading their birthright in order to play in national politics).
  • "Need I mention talking tough on campaign finance laws all the while breaking the current ones?
"This guy's incredulous... Acting self-righteous about things like tobacco! Absolutely unbelievable.
"We all should be ashamed."

OK, Alan, that's a boatload of allegations. I'm not going to defend Al Gore.

(Although your barrage does make me wonder: Do you dislike Gore because you discovered these factoids ... or did you find these factoids because you dislike Gore?)

I will say this: Even if reporters' only interest were making money (and if it were, believe me, buddy, we wouldn't be working as reporters), that would not explain why we would ignore a juicy story like "AL GORE IS A SLUMLORD." That kind of story could make us some money, don't you think?

I recall that a newspaper explored that slumlord allegation, and it turned out to be a business arrangement far removed from Gore. But I presume you'll believe what you want to believe on that point.

On campaign finance, however: No question about it, even Al Gore has to admit he's an "imperfect messenger" for campaign-finance reform proposals. After all, he excused himself for making fund-raising calls from his White House office by saying there was "no controlling legal authority." (Not that there was no law against it, just that there was no "controlling legal authority." Don't know what that is, maybe something like a transit authority.) The same guy who claims he didn't know that that gathering at the Buddhist temple was a fund-raiser -- even when newspaper profiles invariably show him to be obsessed with the details of his personal schedule.

Alan, you may enjoy this Gore-whupping from conservative Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman: Click here

More questions ASAP.

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For more campaign coverage from The Pittsburgh Channel, click here

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