SHIELDS & GIGOT
JULY 26, 1996
The NewsHour's regular political analysts Mark Shields and Paul Gigot discuss the new airline safety measures announced by President Clinton, the politics of welfare reform, and Richard Lamm's problematic campaign for the Reform Party's presidential nomination.
Listen to this interview with RealAudio. [14.4] [28.8]
July 25, 1996:
A panel of experts discuss how the treat of terrorism can be reduced at America's airports.
July 24, 1996:
A panel debate on how the President should respond to
Congress' move to pass welfare reform.
Browse past week's Political Wraps by Shields & Gigot
JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, our regular political analysis by Shields and Gigot, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot. Paul, first, on the TWA crash, it has triggered a move toward the federal government taking over airline security, dealing with the families of victims, and many, many other things. Is there any question that the public and the politics are there for that to be done?
PAUL GIGOT, Wall Street Journal: Well, I think any time youre dealing with questions of public order and public safety, there is a presumption still in the body politic that there is a role for government. Now whether or not its something that the state government can do better than the federal government remains to be seen. But certainly theres a role for the federal government, in particular, in fighting terrorism. And then in terms of determining certain standards of safety, there is, and if the federal government can do it in a way that the private sector cannot or the local governments cant, then there is. But, you know, one thing, the private inspection of people going through these metal detectors has stopped highjackings, for example. Youll see people going on with M-16 rifles. Now were in a more sophisticated era of bombs and so on, so we have to ratchet up the security perhaps more.
JIM LEHRER: What do you think, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Americans are philosophically conservative, and operationally liberal. If you ask Americans in the abstract about the federal government, pain in the neck, too much red tape, get em off my back, out of my pocket, out of my hair; however, when told that just outside of Pocatello, Idaho, a single can of tuna fish has been discovered with a trace of botulism in it, the universal American reaction is Where in the hell was the federal government? I want a report on my office Monday morning! And, what we want is the federal government working on our side 24 hours a day cheap. And Americans look to the federal government for security, whether against the Unabomber, an Oklahoma City bombing, imported raspberries, uh, or--I mean, this is any ideological, philosophical question. Its a pragmatic question and the federal government should be involved, will be involved, and the Americans want security, and theyre willing to surrender some of their autonomy and their independence. To guarantee that security, we dont see other Americans going through the tragedy, I mean, incalculable horror and tragedy that these fellow citizens of ours and citizens of the globe have gone through as a result of TWA 800.
JIM LEHRER: But in this new environment we, weve had several discussions on this on this program. We had one last night, in fact. This is a very expensive proposition.
MARK SHIELDS: Yes.
JIM LEHRER: Sophisticated equipment to screen bags for plastic explosives and all of that. Do you believe that the body politic is say--is ready to say, do it, whatever it is, do it?
MARK SHIELDS: Yes, I think.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree?
PAUL GIGOT: Even Libertarians believe that the government has got to run the lighthouses so the ships dont run into each other. So if you, if youre in a situation where youre going to get on an airplane, and youre worried about blowing up, well, youll be happy to have the FBI there. I dont know anybody in politics today whos saying lets do away with the FBI or lets not try to--
JIM LEHRER: Its in that category.
PAUL GIGOT: Yeah.
JIM LEHRER: Its gone into that category, right, yeah. Okay. Welfare reform. Is the President going to sign it? Whats the Presidents dilemma? Hes vetoed two others. Is he going to have to sign this one?
MARK SHIELDS: The President vetoed two welfare bills and hes 23 points ahead, so hes really--you know, hes got his back up against the wall politically. Its really a tough political position. The, the two people that want this signed most are Newt Gingrich and Dick Morris, President Clintons pollster, for a very simple reason. It robs the Republican opponent, Bob Dole, of a central issue against Bill Clinton. He ran on anti-welfare as we know. If he signs a welfare reform bill, that takes that off the table. Newt Gingrich wants it. Newt Gingrich in 1994 asked his advisers, how do I become Speaker, how do we win a majority? He was advised then and among other advice that the Clinton health plan had to die and your fingerprints couldnt be on it. In the spring of 1996, when asked, how do I keep this Republican majority, Newt Gingrich was advised, youve got to get into law welfare reform and health portability. And I think what weve seen this week is the division in the Republican Party. They have dropped Bob Dole like a bad habit. They see Bob Dole pulling them down. Bob Dole leaves these issues to run on against Bill Clinton, and theyre saying, hey, weve got to have something, we cant go in November, we, the Republicans in Congress cant go to the people in November and ask for their votes as a do nothing Congress, we have to say--
JIM LEHRER: And we have to have these two--
MARK SHIELDS: Three times we forced this guy to the wall, he finally passed it, its going to be a hell of a Rose Garden ceremony. Its going to be President Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Trent Lott, without Mrs. Clinton and without the Democratic leadership of the Congress there when the bill is signed, if it is signed.
JIM LEHRER: Do you see it the same way?
PAUL GIGOT: Hes wrong about Newt Gingrich. Newt Gingrich has not dropped Bob Dole; his membership has. (laughter) I mean, Newt Gingrich actually lost this fight, this debate. Newt Gingrich wanted not to separate the welfare and Medicaid bills because he wanted to not give Bill Clinton another chance to sign it. But his rank and file said, we want to pass this welfare bill, we dont--welfare--if we pass welfare and put it on Bill Clintons desk, we put him in a box canyon of his own creation. I mean, Bill Clinton for four years has been saying welfare reform, welfare reform, welfare reform. I mean, hes running ads now as if somebody else was President the last four years, saying, Im for welfare reform. But hes done very little to get it. Hes vetoed it twice. They want to say, look, lets force em to put up or shut up. If he vetoes it, Bob Dole still has an issue. And if, in fact, he signs it, we can say, the Democrats didnt do this when they had the majority, we did it, and it never would have happened, just as health care, moderate health care reform never would have happened unless you put a Republican in control of the Congress.
JIM LEHRER: So what does President Clinton do? How does he walk this line?
PAUL GIGOT: I dont know what he does. I mean, Marks right. Dick Morris does want this to be signed, but theres a lot of people in the--in the White House and especially within his own party, Pat Moynihan and others who say this is a moral issue, and no Democrat can dare give up authority like this. But when you--
JIM LEHRER: Authority meaning the--
PAUL GIGOT: The federal government.
JIM LEHRER: The federal entitlement that--and give it--and give it to the states, et cetera.
PAUL GIGOT: Thats right.
JIM LEHRER: Which is the guts of this.
PAUL GIGOT: Which is the guts of this. I think its a very tough decision. I think the politically safer position for him, it seems to me, is to sign it, because in the end, the liberals have nowhere else to go.
MARK SHIELDS: I think he ought to veto it. I think its very simple, very--Jim, this is not welfare reform. Lets be very blunt about it. Its a budget balancing bill, is what it is. It cuts $28 billion out of food stamps. That has nothing to do with welfare reform. But when Americans are serious about any kind of reform, we get serious occasionally, like we did with the military in this country in the late 1970's and early 1980's, when the military was in absolutely deplorable condition. And what do we do? We doubled the amount of money we spent. We went into intensive, exhaustive, expensive training. We recruited, we did round-the-clock efforts, and we brought them up to a level where they hadnt been before, and the same thing is true--were not talking about welfare reform here. Were talking about putting kids--1.1 million kids, according to Pat Moynihans best judgment--the ranking expert in welfare in the entire Congress, the entire city--into poverty in this. Now I dont think Bill Clinton can sign it. I really dont think Bill Clinton can sign it, and I think hes in a position politically to make the case of why it isnt being signed.
JIM LEHRER: And make it stick.
MARK SHIELDS: And make it stick.
JIM LEHRER: With--
PAUL GIGOT: Youre left defending a status quo if you dont sign this bill that has done worst for children than anything I can possibly imagine happening at the state level. I mean, you think--look at the current system. I mean, is that something you can possibly defend? Do we have children jumping for joy because the welfare system did so much to get them out of poverty? This is about taking power out of Washington, which has not been able to demonstrate, despite Pat Moynihans administrations, that it can do much for children and giving state governments and other people a chance to experiment and to show whether or not they can do it, and thats the essence of the debate.
JIM LEHRER: I want to move--yes--
MARK SHIELDS: I mean, state governments--I dont know if you know anything about state governments, Ive been around state governments, and when you talk about the asphalt folks coming in, the racetrack people coming in, the alcohol and liquor people coming in, and the gaming people coming in, they all come in with their big pots. The only place and only chance you have to make the case for poor people in this country, once it ceases to be a federal entitlement, when it ceases to be a federal guarantee, we will never get it back. I can promise you that, because youll never be able to put together the coalition again, and, and state capitals, Im sorry, poor people arent heard. Perhaps the most prominent Republican in the country, Bob Dole, says there are no poor peoples PACs, and there arent. And their only chance is to make the case here with public attention under public--under the public spotlight.
PAUL GIGOT: Washington is the font of all good judgment--
MARK SHIELDS: No.
PAUL GIGOT: --and all compassion, as opposed to Madison, and Ann Arbor, and the--
MARK SHIELDS: Six times as much, and its Tommy Thompson under training, as they did eight years ago.
PAUL GIGOT: Why not give Tommy Thompson a chance to see if he can do it?
MARK SHIELDS: Why the cutting, Paul?
PAUL GIGOT: I mean, Tommy Thompsons clan would spend more--
MARK SHIELDS: Thats what I mean.
PAUL GIGOT: And he can do it. And if his state legislators are willing to do it. Why not give him the opportunity? Washington has demonstrated through 60 years and its particularly the last 25 years that the children that it professes to serve end up worse off. Give the other people a chance. Its a leap into the unknown, I agree, in some respects. But it cant be any possible than the leap were making every single day on childrens behalf with the current system.
JIM LEHRER: Quickly. Lamm vs. Perot, the list--Dick Lamm wants the list for the 1.3 million people in the Reform Party to go after. Hes having trouble getting it. Whats going on?
MARK SHIELDS: The most important thing when you start in any political campaign is lists. You have a list of contributors, list of donors, list of county chairmen, a list of party members. You know, thats it. Thats--we have to begin all your efforts, Jim, a list of press people that you send press releases to. When you dont have the list, when one guys got the list and nobody else has access to him, I mean, that is not--thats not a level playing field, and thats what Ross Perot has put together.
PAUL GIGOT: Hes treating it like its almost the LL Bean Catalogue. You know, its a commercial property, Im sorry, we cant let you have it, or well charge you for it, or well make it more difficult. But what I think youre seeing with Lamm is the frustration that he feels hes been used a little bit, invited in to give some credibility in the process, so its not just vanity, and when he gets in, whoops--
JIM LEHRER: Boom. We have to leave it there. Thank you all.