This partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume panel discussion, May 30, 2001, was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.
BRIT HUME, HOST: Down in Florida, there's a woman who used to wrestle alligators. She then became the U.S. attorney general, a controversial one at that. And now Janet Reno is thinking about a run for governor, which would presumably pit her, should she get the nomination, against Jeb Bush. What about that candidacy?
Let's take a look at a poll that gives us some sense of where Floridians see the race now. Jeb Bush under 50 percent. That's always classically thought not to be a good for an incumbent. Janet Reno, 43 percent in a Miami Herald poll, despite the raging controversy in Florida about, among other things, the -- the Elian Gonzalez case. That poll might give her encouragement, one would think.
BILL SAMMON, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: I think it...
SAMMON: Oh, I'm sorry.
HUME: Go ahead, Bill.
SAMMON: I think it gives Republicans encouragement.
SAMMON: Because Jeb Bush is in -- has been in some trouble in Florida. He's -- the Democrats are gunning for him. They have not forgiven him and won't forgive him for what they perceive as having stole Florida for his brother. I mean, there's just so much bad blood that they were going to gun for him in this election.
Now I think Jeb Bush has now been given a great gift if indeed -- and when I say they're happy that she's doing well in the polls -- because I don't think anyone expected her to do well in the polls, but now if she actually becomes a realistic candidate, this election won't be so much about whether Jeb Bush stole Florida for his brother, but it will become much more about Janet Reno.
She has much more baggage than Jeb does. Eight years as the head of the Justice Department under the Clinton White House. I think every scandal -- the Elian Gonzalez -- every controversy she's been involved in will come out and will be fodder for this campaign.
HUME: So you think she would be the issue.
MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Well...
SAMMON: I do.
KONDRACKE: First, before got the nomination, she would have to fight her -- she has to fight her way through seven other wannabes, you know, the state House of Representatives minority leader, the state senator -- black state senator who wants it. The attorney general wants it.
KONDRACKE: Right. You know, all of the -- and, you know, you don't know how nasty a Democratic primary could be and what they could bring up and -- and all the Clinton stuff and Elian Gonzalez and -- and so on. She could be pretty...
HUME: Well, that's...
KONDRACKE: ... pretty badly...
HUME: The Democratic primary would be a place where...
KONDRACKE: ... beat up.
HUME: ... her baggage would be -- would likely be advertised, would it not?
JEFF BIRNBAUM, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: Yeah. And it could bring her down, no matter what. When you have that many people, she won't stand out head and shoulders above all the others, even though she probably stands head and shoulders above the others. She's a very tall woman.
She -- but we -- what we forget is before Janet Reno was the U.S. attorney general, she was the state's attorney in Miami and -- Miami County -- Dade County for a very long time and was very well liked down there, though occasionally controversial. She's extremely well known in Florida. She is a native Miamian. There are not many of those, truth be told.
And it -- and I'm not sure whether I agree with Bill that it would be to Bush's advantage because, if she does get the nomination, it could well be a replay of the 2000 election, and there might be some comeuppance against Bush, and Reno could benefit by the anger that's still latent there among Democrats...
SAMMON: Well, there -- there will be...
BIRNBAUM: ... and Independents.
SAMMON: There will be some comeuppance against Bush. I just think it will be greater against Reno. And let me throw one other thing into the mix. Her health. That is going to be a legitimate campaign issue. We saw how Dick Cheney's health was an issue.
HUME: She has...
SAMMON: She has Parkinson's disease, and I don't think -- obviously, no one wishes that on anyone, but it will be a fair-game political issue to ask whether she is up physically for the job.
KONDRACKE: Well, I think she -- you know, I know a lot about Parkinson's disease, and she probably is up physically for the job because she's -- she's had it, I believe, about four years, and it's still...
KONDRACKE: Yeah, she's got -- she's got...
HUME: But not even all the time.
KONDRACKE: Right, right.
HUME: Not all the time.
KONDRACKE: Right. And she -- you know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) will -- will control the symptoms. I mean, it -- it undoubtedly will be raised. You know, I think it's going to be hammers and tongs. The one factor is she's not a great campaigner. She's not a great speaker, you know. She tends to have a very flat delivery, and in a debate, she might not be as good as Jeb Bush.
HUME: All right. Mort, last word. Jeff, thank you. Bill, thank you. Mort, thank you, too.
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