August 16, 2000
Ray Suarez speaks with Warren Christopher about Al Gore's search for a running mate. Mark Shields and Paul Gigot follow with analysis.
SUAREZ: With me now is the man Al Gore chose to be the head of his vice
presidential search team, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
WARREN CHRISTOPHER: Thank you, Ray.
RAY SUAREZ: Maybe you could take us inside the process in the last days before Joe Lieberman was chosen. What were some of the things that helped clinch it for the Connecticut Senator?
WARREN CHRISTOPHER: Ray, I think the three things that stood out in Al Gore's mind toward the end were first that Joe Lieberman was ready to be President on a moment's notice if that should take place. Second, Al Gore respected and admired the values and the record of Joe Lieberman. And finally, I think he felt good about the personal chemistry. They had known each other, and he felt they could work together in a constructive and positive way. So when it came down to the wire I think those were the three considerations that Al Gore had in mind.
RAY SUAREZ: I'm sure, like so many other people, you were reading in the papers about the short list - and who was in and who was out. At the end, seriously, how many people were on the short list? When you got down to the final field, was it four, was it six?
WARREN CHRISTOPHER: It was five.
RAY SUAREZ: Five. Rather than talk about who, let's talk about the process that was used to finally winnow it down.
WARREN CHRISTOPHER: It was a long process. The Vice President set up a very determined process, one that he adhered to all the way through. It involved initially my interviewing 70 different people to get their views and get a sense of whether they would be interested in their own qualifications. Then we prepared extensive memoranda on 25 of that 70. Those were all, of course, forwarded to Al Gore. He read them carefully. At that point he reduced the list to five. And they were vetted very thoroughly -- medical records, financial records, their tax records -- and everything they had ever written. For example, with Joe Lieberman, we read 600 of his opinions when he was attorney general of Connecticut. I actually, myself, looked at the videotapes of his first run for the United States Senate when he was debating with Lowell Weicker. Joe Lieberman I think is quite underestimated as a debater and as a speaker.
RAY SUAREZ: When the final decisions were being made, were there a lot of people involved in the process? Did it ever come down to just you and the Vice President?
WARREN CHRISTOPHER: I had a number of private conversations with the Vice President. Bill Daley was involved in all the intimate conversations, and of course Mrs. Gore who was a regular advisor to the Vice President.
RAY SUAREZ: You've been praised for just how leak-proof this process was. How did you handle that?
WARREN CHRISTOPHER: Well, it takes a little luck to be leak-proof, Ray, but first I didn't talk to the press. And I asked the people not to talk to the press. Probably the most risky time was when the Vice President interviewed each of the five himself. We found ways to get them into his residence. He interviewed one in New York and four at his residence. Fortunately those did not leak.
RAY SUAREZ: Warren Christopher, good to talk to you.
WARREN CHRISTOPHER: Thank you very much.
RAY SUAREZ: Back to you, Jim.
LEHRER: Warren Christopher. For those of us who have been covering public
affairs in Washington for years know Warren Christopher, first of all,
as the man who helped negotiate the end of the Iranian hostage crisis.
He was the number two man in the State Department at the time and then
of course was President Clinton's first Secretary of State and then he
was succeeded by Madeleine Albright.
Mark, he was talking to Ray about the short list for Vice President that Al Gore had, and of course Joe Lieberman ended up being the pick. But we have seen some of the others who were on that list in action here, Evan Bayh, you know the young Senator from Indiana. Senator Edwards from...
MARK SHIELDS: John Edwards.
JIM LEHRER: John Edwards from North Carolina. How do they look? How do the also-rans look?
MARK SHIELDS: A little wan, a little melancholy. It's tough, Jim to be publicly passed over. I mean, it really is. It's not the same as being Miss Runner Up. If anything happens to Miss America, you will take over her place. There is a certain public aspect of it. And the thing about the vice presidency, there is only one vote cast. And Al Gore cast it. And he chose Joe Lieberman, and the others are known that they were considered - not rejected -- but it can't be easy.
JIM LEHRER: But of course that's the whole thing about politics, Paul, that people have to always remember that yes your victories are very public. When they get you and you get a big deal, it's very public, but when you lose, when you are rejected, it is the ultimate public event as well.
PAUL GIGOT: Well, that's right. But that's why a lot of them think after they've won and gone through that incredible public process and prevail, they say - to those of us in the press and elsewhere - well, when you run and have to get 500,000 votes or survive that process, then you get to make these calls too. And there's a certain justice in that because there are a lot of us who don't sit in the arena, and they have. I think the process is tougher of losing has been tougher on some of the older candidates who may not get a chance again, like John Kerry, the senator from Massachusetts. John Edwards, Evan Bayh, they're in their 40s, the early part of their career. This in a way has elevated them in the public mind.
JIM LEHRER: They didn't get hurt.
PAUL GIGOT: I think John Edwards, in particular, has had his reputation enhanced by this.
JIM LEHRER: Okay.
MARK SHIELDS: I'd just say one other thing, Jim, and that is for most of us in life, our life, our victories are quiet victories and so are our defeats. And boy, it's one thing -- especially when you run for President, everybody you ever sat next to in study hall, double dated with, baby sat, mowed their lawn, knows whether you win or lose. And obviously most people who run for President lose, and it is publicly painful. And usually the people that have attained a real status in their profession, they have been governor or senator or something, and they're remembered what, as a loser.