August 16, 2000
JIM LEHRER: And now to Shields and Gigot. Syndicated columnist Mark Shields, Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot. Mark of course, tonight is Joe Lieberman's night. How well does Lieberman been doing as a national candidate since he's been one the last week or so?
MARK SHIELDS: I think Joe Lieberman's had a very, very good introduction; the numbers in the Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll are even more positive than those than Dick Cheney had, and Dick Cheney was introduced quite favorably. Most important of all, he gave Al Gore a lift. Al Gore gave a s strong public impression that he felt good about what he had done -- that he had done something at least mildly courageous, he energized the Democrats; he energized Al Gore. And the other thing he did, which is even maybe better for the Democrats is he confused the Republicans. They began by saying he's a conservative, he's just like George W. Bush. Then they quickly backpedaled and said no, no, he's a liberal - to the point where they haven't quite settled on their line against Joe Lieberman.
JIM LEHRER: But, Paul, he's taking some heat since all of this happened - I mean he had the question about affirmative action, school vouchers. How has he handled that controversy - those controversies?
PAUL GIGOT: He's been a better candidate for Al Gore outside the Democratic Party than he has inside the Democratic Party. In some ways it's the opposite of Cheney's impact. Cheney did very well on reassuring the Republican base but was attacked by the Democrats for his voting record. Lieberman was praised by the Republicans for his voting record, attacked by the Democrats because of his dissent on certain issues. I don't think that those critics have done either Joe Lieberman or Al Gore a favor, because they've given the impression that this vice presidential choice - chosen for his authenticity, chose because he's somebody who speaks his mind - must now be brought to heal somehow on some of these core issues, so Maxine Waters raises a stink and pay obeisance and kiss ring; the National Education Association, which is opposed to vouchers says, well, come on, you have to - reassure us that you really aren't all in favor of vouchers and Al Gore doesn't agree with you. So I think it hasn't been a particular good exercise for Al Gore.
JIM LEHRER: But has it been a good exercise for Joe Lieberman either, Mark? Okay, he said I'm for -- I'm against school vouchers after all, I'm really in favor of affirmative action after all, after he was selected to be Al Gore's running mate, is that a problem?
MARK SHIELDS: Not to be an apologist for Joe Lieberman, the great tension on affirmative action, Jim, has been between two of the Democrats' most loyal constituencies -- Jewish voters and African American voters. And for Jewish voters historically when they see anything that remotely suggests quotas, they're reminded of the days when they were deprived - even on merit - qualified -- from going to Ivy League colleges - from working with --
JIM LEHRER: From going to any law school.
MARK SHIELDS: From going to any law school. So that's deep. And African Americans see just the opposite, they see that their own people were turned down and overlooked and turned away. So I think what you'll see tonight, I think you'll get to see Joe Lieberman make a speech, he'll introduce himself first of all, he'll make the case for the Democrats, he'll make the case for Al Gore personally. But I think in the first part it will be a sense that he is a representative of the left out, the looked down upon, the kept out in the past, and that any time a wall is breached that a door is overcome or opened, that it's good for everybody. I think you can make a case that way. He's against quotas, he's clear on that, but he does support affirmative action.
JIM LEHRER: Well, you said this might hurt Al Gore, Paul, how would you answer the question about whether it's hurts Joe Lieberman, has he been hurt by having to meet with these folks and kind of take some, smooth the corners on what he believes?
PAUL GIGOT: I think a little bit, I don't think overwhelmingly. He stayed pretty firm on school vouchers, that's good. I think he's caved, frankly on the entitlement question, Social Security - I think on affirmative action he's bent - there's no question about it. So I don't think it's helped that the sense of him as an authentic politician. You've got to give some ground, but I think he's bent, he's had too publicly go in and kiss the ring of these interest groups.
JIM LEHRER: Do either of you see any signs yet that Joe Lieberman has been reformed in some way to fit, you know, they pick a running may and they give him a speech, they give him a position, and then he goes, is he still Joe Lieberman?
MARK SHIELDS: He's still Joe Lieberman and we'll see it tonight, Jim. I think he is the real deal. And I think we will see that. But you've got liberals saying - I mean, the Council for a Livable World said Joe Lieberman is a very strong critics of pentagon spending, liberal groups said he's no liberal. So you've got...he's going to define himself to some degree. I think you can't overlook the fact that he's already had an impact on Al Gore. Al Gore talked about for the first time about means testing of school vouchers and that that may be necessary, and that I think is supported surprisingly by African American voters in major American cities.
PAUL GIGOT: About two to one. That's what makes Maxine Waters' opposition to it and the Democratic political leadership's opposition to it so ironic.
JIM LEHRER: We'll continue this later. Thank you both.