|BEHIND THE SCENES|
August 16, 1996
MARGARET WARNER: Joining us are the Republican mayor of San Diego, Susan Golding, and Democratic Congressman Richard Durbin. He's running for an open U.S. Senate seat from Illinois. Welcome, both of you. Mayor, let me get your comment first on the piece we just saw. Is there anything inappropriate, do you think, or even troubling to you about the heavy corporate and lobbying presence at this convention, and all conventions, I should say?
MAYOR SUSAN GOLDING, San Diego: Well, first of all, under the law, in order to contribute to a host committee, which is by law non-partisan, you have to do business or have some connection with the city that you contribute to. So it's viewed as a Chamber of Commerce contribution. And, by law, it cannot be used for political--for direct political purposes, so there are already restrictions on a corporate presence.
If the corporations are not going to be allowed to contribute to a host committee, for example, I'm not talking about corporate contributions through some other method, soft money or something like that, then conventions have to find some other source of financing. Everything has to be disclosed. Whatever occurred in 1972, for example, in San Diego, it was before I lived here, that was before the laws were written as they are now. The disclosure for a host committee is like a disclosure for anything else.
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman, I think probably most of these same companies will be at your convention in Chicago in another week. Do you find it troubling at all?
REP. RICHARD DURBIN, (D) Illinois: (St. Louis) Well, I do, but conventions are very expensive, and our host committee in Chicago has really attracted a lot of corporate sponsorship, and I attended one of the dinners where they raised some of the money. Most of the people in the room were avowedly Republican, but they did it because they think it's good for our city and state, and they want to be part of this effort.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, this may be the last thing the two of you agree on as we head into this discussion, but let's turn to this particular convention. How did this, Mayor Golding, convention, do you think, position your party now for the campaign that lies ahead?
MAYOR SUSAN GOLDING: Well, it was Bob Dole that positioned the party, or Bob Dole that positioned his campaign. He made his statements in his acceptance speech where he wanted to take America. He, one, unified the party, and two, excited everyone who was here that there was really a team. And his choice of Jack Kemp was a strong person unto himself with a strong base of support himself, sent a very clear message about what he was all about.
MARGARET WARNER: Which is?
MAYOR SUSAN GOLDING: Well, that this is the party of Lincoln. He said it several times. He said it this morning, and his message was the Republican Party is going back to its roots. It's an open party, and he made very direct appeals to everyone, no matter what their race or ethnic background, no matter what their income level, that what he wanted to do was return more control and more choice to the person over their money, as opposed to giving the government the ability to decide.
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman, do you think that Mr. Dole repositioned himself or his party this way?
REP. RICHARD DURBIN: Well, I think Bob Dole's economic plan is a Hail Mary pass for his campaign. The bottom line is he's very far behind in most states, and so he came up with a supply side plan which he used to ridicule as part of his campaign strategy in the closing weeks. I think most voters are skeptical. They're worried that this promise of a tax cut is actually going to blow a big hole in the deficit, and they wonder how we can pay for this without dramatically cutting Medicare and Medicaid and a lot of programs that families really value in this country.
MARGARET WARNER: And what about the other point Mayor Golding made, essentially that Bob Dole was able to project an image of himself and his party as more moderate than perhaps we have seen up till now as a more inclusive party, the party of Lincoln?
REP. RICHARD DURBIN: Carefully, in the news coverage. I didn't get a chance to watch all of their convention, but I didn't hear very many, if any, references to Newt Gingrich's Contract with America. That was supposed to be the rallying cry for the Republicans for the last year and a half on Capitol Hill. It wasn't very popular, and so I think in San Diego, many of the Republican leaders were trying to run away from the image of stalemate and gridlock and government shutdowns. They wanted to really moderate their image by introducing speakers like Gen. Colin Powell, who basically stood up and disagreed with the Republican Party platform.
MAYOR SUSAN GOLDING: I don't agree with that at all. I think Colin Powell said very clearly why he was a Republican and what was important to him as a Republican. It is Bob Dole who is running for President, not a county central committee, not a state committee. It is Bob Dole. Bill Clinton is the same on the Democratic side is running, not a Democratic central committee some place in America. And that's who people are voting for. When I vote for a candidate, I vote for what that candidate believes in, not a party platform.
It's not that the platform is not important. It's simply that it doesn't--the candidate is the person that we vote for. And I don't agree at all that the Contract with America was something non-essential. That was Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey who proposed it. Much of it was passed, and some of it was voted for by Democrats as well, but the last I checked, Gingrich was not running for President; it was Bob Dole.
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman, you're locked in a tight race in the Senate race. Do you think that the face this convention presented, however, strengthens your opponent, i.e., strengthens the party going into the fall?
REP. RICHARD DURBIN: I don't think there's any doubt about it, that the Republicans went to San Diego trying to moderate their image. They understand that the women across America are very unhappy with their policies on education, the way they have gone have some basic questions, like the woman's right to choose, and they tried to moderate that with their spokesman and with the image that they presented and the stories that they told during the course of their convention, but Americans aren't suffering from political amnesia.
They remember where this Republican Party has been over the last year and a half. They know what they stand for. They saw the platform fight, and I think over the next few weeks that the real face of the Republican Party, we know what they stood for with the Contract with America, that face is going to come through loud and clear on the part of this election campaign.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask you both before we close to comment briefly on one other aspect, which is going into this campaign, what all the polls said was that Bob Dole's problems were that most people when asked about it, the one where they thought it was old, and by that, when pushed, they said, out of touch with everyday Americans. Do you think, Mayor, that last night in the speech, he helped neutralize that or turn that around?
MAYOR SUSAN GOLDING: I think he did, and I think he saw something in Bob Dole, the person, who actually probably expressed more humility and modesty than I've ever seen a presidential candidate express, and really feel it. You know, I have to respond, Margaret. You know, the Democratic Party, when I grew up, was the party of segregationists.
That doesn't mean that it is today. And whatever, whatever a party was at one point or another, we're still looking at the candidate. And Bob Dole made it clear last night that he is the leader of his party, that this is an inclusive party. I'm a pro-choice Republican. We heard a lot of pro-choice Republicans talk. It was Bob Dole who chose those speakers.
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman, you want to comment on Bob Dole's image coming out of this?
REP. RICHARD DURBIN: Well, frankly--
MARGARET WARNER: What do you think--he essentially humanized himself a little bit and looks less like a legislator and more in touch.
REP. RICHARD DURBIN: Well, I think that's true, and I'll give Bob Dole credit for it. I think the speech that he gave last night pointed to that. I think hitting the age issue head on was a smart decision on his part. His age in calendar years shouldn't be an issue in this campaign. The real question is whether he represents new thinking and new ideas. And when he suggests that we need to return to the Reagan years of supply side economics or Cold War mentality when it comes to military spending, I think people start to question whether he really does represent new ideas.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, thank you both very much. Have to leave it there. Thanks.