BACKING THE WINNER
AUGUST 12, 1996
Three unsuccessful Republican Primary competitors join Margaret Warner to discuss the Republican platform, VP candidate Jack Kemp and to offer some gentle advice to fellow nomination loser Pat Buchanan.
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available.
Feb. 14, 1996: NewsHour Coverage of the New Hampshire Primary.
Jan. 30, 1996: NewsHour coverage of the candidates and issues at the Iowa Caucus, the opening date of the Republican Primary season.
Nov. 9, 1995:NewsHour interview with then Republican Presidential hopeful, Lamar Alexander.
Complete NewsHour coverage of the 1996 Primary and Election campaigns.
MARGARET WARNER: And now views from three other men who also sought the Republican presidential nomination earlier this year but dropped out before Pat Buchanan. They are Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, and Lamar Alexander, Education Secretary in the Bush administration and a former governor of Tennessee. Welcome, gentlemen. Governor, Pat Buchanan says that every day, just right before our very eyes, this is becoming Buchanan's party. Is it?
GOV. LAMAR ALEXANDER, Former Education Secretary in Bush Administration: Well, of course, it's not. In fact, every day right before our very eyes, it's becoming not Buchanan's party. I mean, that's ridiculous. This is the party of the small businessmen that are tired of paying for Clinton's taxes and the working mother who'd like to have more choices of schools. With Bob Dole and Jack Kemp, we've got an optimistic, progressive, conservative, hopeful Republican Party whose tone is much different than Pat Buchanan's harsh tone.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree with that, Sen. Gramm?
SEN. PHIL GRAMM, (R) Texas: I agree with that. I think the Republican Party is the party of the people who do the work and pay the taxes and pull the wagon, and I think what Pat Buchanan has never understood is that under the American political system when you lose, you sit down. And we lost, we have sat down, and we came and offered our help. Pat is still making demands. When you lose, you don't make demands. You offer help. You join the team. Pat Buchanan is not the quarterback of this team.
MARGARET WARNER: But Sen. Lugar, by continuing to fight, he did get a platform, did he not, that largely reflected his views and those of his supporters?
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR, (R) Indiana: Well, some of those views are in the platform but so are some of ours. As a matter of fact, and a lot of Bob Dole's and Jack Kemp's. I think the thing people have to be impressed with is the spontaneous outburst of enthusiasm and optimism in this convention because Bob Dole has done two things that were very good--a 15 percent tax cut and the nomination of Jack Kemp who clearly confirms that, is an advocate. That is what folks down here are up for and that's why we're going to win. As long as we stay on that message, 15 percent tax cut, growth and opportunity, we're winners. Now when you get off into some other areas, we all have ideas on foreign policy and the environment, social issues, the whole gamut. But those are not the issues that the American people wanted us to concentrate on, and that's what we're going to do.
SEN. GRAMM: Let me just say this too. Part of Pat Buchanan's program was building a wall around America and go hiding under a rock somewhere. Our platform totally and absolutely rejected that.
MARGARET WARNER: So then, Governor, are you--
GOV. ALEXANDER: Not just our platform, but almost all of us.
MARGARET WARNER: You all seem to be agreeing with President Bush tonight, former President Bush tonight, with Bob Dole, that this platform doesn't matter at all. If so, then what did the social conservatives and the Buchananites win?
GOV. ALEXANDER: Well, Bob Dole would consider himself on the issue of most issues that are important to social conservatives as a social conservative. Look, we all participated, and we came to a conclusion. Now what we've got is a remarkably good beginning, it looks like. Pat Buchanan didn't win. He just stayed in longer than everybody else.
MARGARET WARNER: But then what does it say about your party that, nonetheless, this guy who lost gets to define the at least written agenda?
GOV. ALEXANDER: Nobody let him do that.
SEN. LUGAR: He did not define the party. Now that's--the Buchanan people are making all these claims, but they're obviously wrong. The platform of the Republican Party is one in which we talk about our role as American leaders in the world, and it still is said about how we're going to have trade that enhances jobs for Americans. We're not going to have walls around the country. We're not isolationists, protectionists, mean-spirited people. It's an outgoing party. Now there are some elements in that, in that platform obviously that Buchanan agrees with. Great. Join the party, come on in here along with the rest of us and say we all fought a good fight, but we're a united party, and we'd like to have him right here.
MARGARET WARNER: So do you think this platform was really about pacifying Buchanan supporters and other forces like that, but really has no political importance?
SEN. GRAMM: No. I don't think the platform has anything to do with Pat Buchanan. I think it has to do with our party, the platform is not significantly different than the platform that Ronald Reagan ran on and won twice, that George Bush ran on and won. The platform is about family values. It's about economic growth. It's about limited government. It's about unlimited opportunity. I think basically that Pat has got to understand that he lost and it is now time for him to come and join us in helping to pull the wagon, but we have two people who are riding in the wagon, and he's not one of them. It just didn't work out for him.
GOV. ALEXANDER: And if you're an undecided voter, the platform's important, but I've listened to Dole and Kemp. I mean, Bob Dole is talking, for example, about opportunity scholarships, a sort of GI Bill for Kids. He picked that up in the primary, not from somebody who wouldn't support him, but because he and I were talking about that, and that's an important part of what he's saying right now. So the primary produced a lot of issues, and now it's his chance to carry the ball. This is choir practice here in San Diego, and we've got a conductor, and his name is Dole, and Pat needs to join the choir. We'd like to have him. We'd like to have him.
SEN. GRAMM: And we want him, we want him on our team, but we're not going to let him run things.
SEN. LUGAR: We have a lot of good candidates running for the Senate and for the House and for leadership positions all over the country. They deserve our unity and our support. Leaders in the party have got to realize it's more than any one of us, but that all of us play a role really in good government in this country.
MARGARET WARNER: So do you think that the Buchanan supporters, not just delegates, Buchanan supporters in the primary states, will stay energized and enthusiastic?
SEN. GRAMM: I think they will because we are presenting a vision that they believe in. And I think we have a candidate who can help change America. I think all of those voters know we're one election away from changing the course of American history, and that one election is beating Bill Clinton.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, one thing Buchanan did try to tap into and talk about was economic insecurity and the insecurity that white collar voters feel as white collar workers, as well as blue collar. Do you expect to hear Dole and Kemp also addressing that in the manner in which Buchanan did?
GOV. ALEXANDER: Not in the manner. I mean, we've all been addressing that for a long time. Pat didn't discover that. I started working on that when I was governor of Tennessee 16 years ago. I told Pat, look, Pat, if all you're going to do is stand in front of a closing plant, we're not going to have any jobs left. What we want to do is just the opposite of what Pat wants to do on that issue. We want to lower taxes, lower regulations, improve education, give poor kids a chance to choose good schools and grow this economy. That's the way we compete in the whole world. We don't want to build a wall around the country. That's not the Republican position. And that's where we differ with Pat.
SEN. LUGAR: Lamar's right. Pat preyed on discontent, and he played that to a fare thee well. But you've got to have somebody to get the jobs. The Republican governors like Lamar did that sort of thing. Phil Gramm has been trying to balance the budget for a long time, so we had lower interest rates. That makes the big difference. Now, we have now a tax plan here, 15 percent lower taxes, that'd make a big difference. Those are the way you should get people into jobs. That's where discontent is laid. We all have been talking about that. Pat did not discover it, and for him to claim that, it just simply is flat out wrong.
SEN. GRAMM: But more importantly, whether he discovered it or whether he didn't discover it, he didn't have a program that would deal with it, and we did. Our program is less government and more freedom. And it's saying to the world, give us an opportunity to balance the budget, bring down interest rates, cut taxes, provide incentives for people to work, save, and invest, and we'll out produce and under sell anybody on this plan. That's what Republicans believe.
MARGARET WARNER: So, Governor, do you think it was politically smart of the Dole campaign and the convention organizers to deny him a prime time speaking slot or any speaking slot?
GOV. ALEXANDER: The answer is, yes. Pat Buchanan has exactly the same speaking spot that I do, that Sen. Gramm does, that Sen. Lugar does, and every other one of us who ran, and what the Alexander delegates in New Hampshire are doing is they're meeting, all four of them. Pat I think got five or six. And they're endorsing Dole. I'd like to see the Buchanan delegates do exactly the same thing.
SEN. LUGAR: Right on.
MARGARET WARNER: Thank you, gentlemen, very much.