November 27, 2000
Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and David Brooks of the Weekly Standard examine the state of the presidential election.
LEHRER: And now some closing words of analysis from Shields and Brooks;
syndicated columnist Mark Shields, Weekly Standard contributing
editor David Brooks. David, so how close are we now tonight to knowing
who is going to be the next president of the United States?
DAVID BROOKS: How many more shopping days until inauguration day?
JIM LEHRER: Right.
DAVID BROOKS: I think 45. I'm hoping to lose ten pounds before I have to select my gown. It depends who you ask. If you go to the Gore campaign, it's patience personified. It's Yoda up there on the hill waiting forever. If you go to the Bush campaign, they've already started. George Bush is now acting like a president-elect doing what president-elects do, which is having lunch a lot with people who think they're smart enough to be secretary of treasury and having them suck up to him. He has been doing that and I suspect he'll be doing that to give the sense that we're in a landing pattern, this is almost over.
JIM LEHRER: Is it working for him? Is this a smart thing for him to be doing?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think it's a smart thing in part because of who he's going to name. One of the great unreported facts is that Bush named a chief of staff yesterday and it sort of got lost in the shuffle.
JIM LEHRER: Andrew Card.
DAVID BROOKS: Andrew Card, a moderate Republican, from Massachusetts -- a guy who is known as one of the moderates in the former, Bush-father administration, and if he goes on and names people like that, it will give conservatives a lot of sighing and moaning and groaning but it might cause some Democrats to say, hey, we could work with these people and there might be some frittering away on the Gore side.
JIM LEHRER: Frittering away on the Gore side?
|Democrats are rescued|
MARK SHIELDS: Not yet, Jim. And I think a couple of factors contribute to that. First, Don Evans, to support David's point, the chairman of the Bush campaign, said there is God-loving people all over this nation that are getting impatient. Now I assume that there are God-loving people, they do great focus groups, the Bush people. There may be God-loving people who also are supporting Al Gore and probably agnostics supporting Bush. But I do think if you look at it, every time the air starts to go out of the Democratic side and they start to back off, they are rescued -- Al Gore and Joe Lieberman are rescued by the Republican congressional leaders. I mean, Dick Armey says he's not going to go to the inaugural. Tom DeLay dispatches his minions and they are his minions according to The Wall Street Journal today - reported fully, down there -- all expenses paid to Florida to foment the very strife we saw on the 19th floor of the Miami-Dade County building last week that led - was followed by calling off the count in Miami-Dade County. All of a sudden, Democrats start to say, there they go, they're going to take it to Congress; they're threatening the legislature and somebody might be willing to say to Al Gore, maybe you ought to consider backing off. But then they say, Al, we're with you 110 percent because of the... It's exactly, it's impeachment redux. They're doing exactly what they did in impeachment.
JIM LEHRER: So when Gephardt and Daschle, as they did today, got on the phone and did their conference call, that was real?
MARK SHIELDS: That was real. Yeah. I mean Julia Carson from Indianapolis has already gone public.
JIM LEHRER: A member of the House.
MARK SHIELDS: That's right. A member of the House - and said they ought to think about capitulating or conceding. I disagree with David on what George W. Bush did last night. Remember Joe Paterno - Joe Paterno, the great Penn State football coach, used to say to his players, when you get to the end zone, when you score a touchdown, act like you've been there before. Don't do the chest thumping.
JIM LEHRER: Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys used to say that.
MARK SHIELDS: Ok, in other words, don't do the tap dance. Don't taunt; don't thank the Almighty and all the rest of it. You know, you've been there before. You might get there again. I thought there was a little bit of self-congratulations in that tap dance that Governor Bush did last night.
DAVID BROOKS: Well, we now know two things about the Bush administration, if there is one. One, the Bushes are always twice as confident as they should be about any outcome. Second, is that given the choice of five strategies, they choose them all. They try everything. There were five strategies in that speech last night. Some of them were quite conciliatory.
|Unifying the Democrats|
MARK SHIELDS: That's right; I agree.
DAVID BROOKS: Some were a slap in the face to the Democrats, which did have the effect of unifying the Democrats.
JIM LEHRER: But the idea -- forget the effect on the Democrats. The effect on the American public that here he's saying I'm the president-elect, and I call on Vice President Gore to reconsider the challenge and he did it in a very kind of conciliatory way. Does that have an effect, do you think, on the public saying, okay, come on. Let's move over?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, if Gore looks like the guy in the Monty Python skit, I'm not dead yet, then it begins to be a problem, but I really don't think public opinion matters here. The people who matter are rank-and-file Democrats. Bush has to win them over so they'll abandon Gore. Gore has to keep them fighting. There is no neat way for Gore to get to the White House now. It would take a court overturning the results. You would have bedlam here; you have the Florida legislature bedlam there and the Supreme Court meeting here. It's going to be a maelstrom. And Gore might as well ignore public opinion. He has to pay attention to his rank-and-file if they'll stick with him up the hill.
JIM LEHRER: You agree with that?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, I agree with it to a point. Here's the argument they make. Al Gore won the popular vote. Al Gore led -
JIM LEHRER: That's not supposed to matter.
MARK SHIELDS: No -- but 125 years we've never had a president who didn't win the popular vote who won the presidency. They think Al Gore won Florida. And, you know, some of them will even quote the great Ferdinand Marcos line who said to one of his defeated opponents, you may have won the vote but I won the count. There's a sense there that they feel especially with the Miami-Dade with the 10,000, Margaret Warner's interview with Marc Racicot, the very able governor of Montana, but 10,000 votes that really never have been looked at. That's their case.
JIM LEHRER: Never been looked at by hand.
MARK SHIELDS: Never been looked at by a human being. Never been looked at by a human being.
JIM LEHRER: But by machine.
MARK SHIELDS: That's right. Okay - which obviously was the subject of most of the recounts in both Palm Beach and Broward. So what Al Gore has to do, he has to make a case to the public and, you know, starting tonight, simply saying, look, this is not -- I'm not a sore loser. Do I want to be president? You better believe I want to be president. So does George W. Bush and I'll do everything I can legally to get there. I'm not going to do anything illegally; I was ready to concede on election night. I was on the way to concede. I can take defeat. It isn't that. Let me tell you why -- I think he has to make the case because he basically has from now until Friday because the Bush votes appealed the case to the Supreme Court, last night's declaration by the secretary of state was not final. It was not the ultimate resolution because we still have the Supreme Court argument on Friday. So I think Gore has to make a case tonight that I'm not a sore loser, that this truly -- there's an end game, that there's a date certain by which this thing is over, that it's not going to be lapsing into Washington's birthday or, you know, into Easter as to whether George Bush is going to be opposed by some renegade judge in Citrus County.
|Keep the balls in the air|
JIM LEHRER: In retrospect, David, forget the legal part here but the decision by the Bush folks to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, may that turn out to be something that is going to bite them?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, because it only affects the certification, not the contest phase that we're in. I think their strategy now is to keep all the balls in the air and just who knows what's going to happen? It also has a psychological effect on the courts in Florida, on everybody in Florida knowing that the big court up there is looking over their shoulder and possibly going to pounce if they overreach the way the Florida Supreme Court did.
JIM LEHRER: Isn't there a spectacle aspect to this now where you have a musical comedy or an operetta where you have a guy coming out saying I'm the president of the world and then the other guy saying, oh, no, you're not; I'm the president of the world? I mean is it something that can go on for a few more days without people saying, oh, come on. Come on?
DAVID BROOKS: I thought that call today with Gephardt and Daschle and Lieberman and Gore was like something out of the politburo, the delegate from East Germany swears eternal fealty to the delegate from the Soviet Union. There is real unity there but they are going to play-acting to such an extent that it is draining. To be honest, I haven't noticed a great deal of impatience in the American people. People are looking for parking spots at the mall, not paying attention to this.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree? It's all kind of in the chattering class?
MARK SHIELDS: I think I agree with David. I thought the, I mean the idea that Tom Daschle picked up Dick Gephardt this morning and said, hey, what do you say, let's go to Tallahassee. Have you ever been to Tallahassee? We'll go down there . We'll call Joe and Al while we're there.
DAVID BROOKS: Let's sit around the phone.
MARK SHIELDS: I thought, you know, two able politicians at the top of their respective parties in the Congress, it was kind of a bizarre setting. But, Jim, we're talking about an electorate that has twice in their lifetime for most of them lived through impeachment of elected presidents: Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. I mean, your musical comedy thing is not too strained - I mean -- this isn't overtime. I mean, this isn't an extra quarter. This isn't even, this isn't approaching the Super Bowl. I mean, on both sides you have parties saying this is really tense. This is tension city or some other lousy metaphor. It isn't. People are interested. I think people's interest will start to wane, and I think Gore has to make a strong case as to why he's doing this and he's just not a sore loser. But I don't get a sense that people in the streets, that it's breaking up families.
DAVID BROOKS: The legal circus atmosphere does it. This unholy marriage between lawyers and journalists has been going on from Nancy Kerrigan - it goes to O.J. Simpson - it goes to Elian Gonzalez. It's one long comic opera; the same characters, different circumstances, all from the same courthouses now, we're repeating ourselves -
MARK SHIELDS: More attacks on Alan Dershowitz.
DAVID BROOKS: How did you know I was going there? And the problem is what Jim Baker I thought pretty effectively said -- this ought to be settled by voters and not the courts. People could get fed up with the courts. And Gore also has to explain why the further away we get from Election Day, the better - the more accurate the vote count is. That also leads to a shambolic situation.
MARK SHIELDS: That is Jim Baker who took it from the federal court, appealed to the Supreme Court, of course. Let's point that out.
JIM LEHRER: Gentlemen, thank you very much for pointing out all the things that you pointed out.
MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.
DAVID BROOKS: Thank you.