AUGUST 29, 1996
Does Dick Morris' resignation reflect poorly on the character of the President? Is character still his greatest obstacle for victory? Three senior Democrats discuss.
A RealAudio version of of this NewsHour segment is available.
"Character Above All," a MacNeil/Lehrer production about Presidential character.
Complete NewsHour coverage of the '96 elections.
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ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Those views come from Michigan Congressman David Bonior, the House Minority Whip, Colorado Governor Roy Romer, and Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell. Thank you all for being with us. Governor Romer, is the character problem the biggest obstacle that, that Bill Clinton has to overcome in these coming months?
GOV. ROY ROMER, Colorado: No, no. The biggest obstacle is: Can you deliver what we need to solve some problems in our own family and business life? I think in Colorado, you know, people are going to look at this incident and say, you know, Governor, you don't know what some of your employees do in off hours, but they're going to hold me accountable and hold the President accountable, can you deliver, can you solve the problem of my education, children's education, can you help me get that job that I really wanted, can you get me the skills to keep that job, can you keep crime off the street, but particularly can you keep this economy going well? I think it's going to be very interesting tonight when the President delivers his message. I think he has a program and Colorado is going to say we're interested in performance, not somebody's employee.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think about that, Mayor? I mean, the polls do show that, that Bill Clinton is vulnerable in this character issue, and now we have this, this next blow to, to his character, his reputation, if any of it proves to be true, of course. Is that the main obstacle in your view?
MAYOR BILL CAMPBELL, Atlanta: Actually this is preposterous. This is not a blow to the President's character whatsoever. The President was on a slow moving train from, uh, the East here to Chicago. He hasn't been in any trouble whatsoever. In fact, during the last four years, his character has been stellar. I think he's led a stellar life. People want to know what can you do to make my life better? These character issues and attacks are really for the pundits and for the politicians, but not for the simple people of this country who really want a better life and he has delivered that. People are working, and when people work they can provide for their families. They can education their children. And that's the central ingredient, that's why he was elected four years ago. Remember, it's the economy, stupid; it's still the economy, and he's delivered for the people of this country.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Rep. Bonior, you're from a very interesting congressional district that voted, what, 63 percent for Kennedy and--
REP. DAVID BONIOR, Michigan: It was the last time.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: the last time, and then it's gone for--went for Bush in ‘88 and in ‘92.
REP. BONIOR: Went for every Republican since then, with the exception of Humphrey.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What does Bill Clinton have to do to win your district?
REP. BONIOR: Well, Bill Clinton is doing very well in my district because he is homing in and focusing in on the issues that people talk about around the kitchen table. The education issue is a very important piece of what people are concerned about in my area, and his tax proposals have moved us in the direction of addressing those concerns.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So you're talking about the sort of family friendly--
REP. BONIOR: The bread and butter issues. I'm talking about pension protection. I'm talking about health care. I'm talking about education, those things in which people have to face every day, and the President has addressed those and addressed them in real and significant ways.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And in these months, in these weeks ahead, what does he have to do specifically to really reach out to those people that voted for, for Bush, although their parents might have voted for JFK?
REP. BONIOR: Well, I think we're going to hear him tonight talk about a couple of things. He's going to talk about job expansion, which I'm excited about because as the mayor can tell you and the governor can tell you, we need to rebuild our cities and our states, our roads, our bridges, our sewer systems, all that has to happen, and this will help the welfare piece by making sure that we have that safety net, but he's going to talk about taxes as well, and he's going to--I think he's going to suggest tonight that we have a capital gains tax break for middle income people. And I think that's going to be received well, along with the tax provisions that are going to help people in terms of education for their kids. So we're going to hear some things tonight. We heard some things the other night from Mrs. Clinton with respect to making sure that care givers in our society have an opportunity to provide the care that's needed for their children and grandparents.
GOV. ROMER: You know, there's one other thing about Colorado. Clinton, I think, can win Colorado if he'd simply remind the people that he will be there to stop what Gingrich is going to try to do, and that if he's not there, what Gingrich passed last time will become law. That scares Colorado. Colorado is a moderate state. They saw what Gingrich's program tried to do. They just want somebody to stop that. That's about half the battle in Colorado. It's to stop what would happen if you don't have a Democratic President.
REP. BONIOR: Can I jump in right here--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Sure.
REP. BONIOR: --because I think Roy is absolutely right. In my district, the President is ahead now of Bob Dole and Ross Perot, and the reason he's ahead, he lost my district, by the way, by about 6 points to Bush last time, is because he took on this Gingrich extremist, I believe, Congress. When he said to the Congress and to Gingrich and Dole that he was not going to send a budget that would cut Medicare in order to give tax breaks to the wealthiest individuals and corporations in this country, people understood that he meant business and he was on their side. So it's actions like that that have made a big difference.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Mayor Campbell, Georgia was one of the states, one of the few southern states, that Bill Clinton won in 1992. What's going to happen this year, and what does he need to win it again?
MAYOR CAMPBELL: It's going to be a tough battle, there's no doubt about it. Certainly the President's crusade against tobacco and not having children addicted to smoking at an early age. That's going to hurt him in the South, there's no doubt about it, but when people understand the fundamental issues of this campaign about jobs, about education, about helping cities, about helping farmers, I think it's going to play very well all across the country. He won Georgia by a small margin. He's got a good shot to win it again. Vice President Gore came and addressed the Georgia delegation and said that this administration is in a battle for the votes everywhere across the South and all across the country, so we believe that with a strong effort that we're going to be successful again.
GOV. ROMER: There's the issue of character. That's the real issue of character. This President has more courage to take on that issue because you know the votes you lose in this country, the electoral votes in the South, I think people are going to say, well, I'm going to judge Clinton on what kind of courage he's shown. Bosnia--tobacco--hey, I think that has a whole lot to do with character than, you know, what some employee has done.
MAYOR CAMPBELL: And remember that the President only lost North Carolina, the prime tobacco state, by only 6,000 votes last time. In essence, because of this crusade, he has given up North Carolina, but it's something for the heart and soul of the people of this country to say, with 3,000 young people under 13 being addicted to smoking every year, with 1,000 having their lives shortened by smoking. My father lost his life to heart disease as a result of smoking. It's an important issue. And the character issue for the President I think is how he has fought these battles each and every day.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Just very briefly, Mayor, what about big cities? He, Bill Clinton, won a large margin of victory in the big cities, I think, in 25 areas with more than, I can't remember how many people, his margin of victory really made up for losses in other places. Does he have to do something about big city issues in order to win them again?
MAYOR CAMPBELL: Well, he's done an awful lot. The issue of the homeless, the issue of AIDS, the issue of crime, of community--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you think it's enough to do that again?
MAYOR CAMPBELL: Well, my goodness, we went 12 years before that with no urban policy whatsoever, so the fact that he has concentrated a lot of effort and attention on cities, that's meant an awful lot for us. We've been able to rebuild the inner cities of this country because of the Clinton-Gore team.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Well, thank you all very much for being with us.
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