August 3, 2000
DICK CHENEY: When I look at the administration now in Washington, I am dismayed by the opportunities squandered, saddened by what might have been but never was. These have been years of prosperity in our land but little purpose in the White House. [Applause] Bill Clinton vowed not long ago to hold on to power until the last hour of the last day. That is his right. But, my friends, that last hour is coming. [Applause] That last day is near. The wheel has turned and it is time. It is time for them to go. [Applause]
PEOPLE CHANTING: Time to go! Time to go!
DICK CHENEY: George W. Bush will repair what has been damaged. He's a man without pretense, without cynicism, a man of principle, a man of honor. On the first hour of the first day, he will restore decency and integrity to the Oval Office. [Applause] In Washington today, politics has become war by other means, an endless onslaught of accusation, a constant setting of groups, one against another. This is what Bill Bradley was up against and others before him. The Gore campaign, Senator Bradley said, is a thousand promises, a thousand attacks. We are all a little weary of the Clinton-Gore routine. [Applause] Does anyone-- Republican or Democrat-- seriously believe that under Mr. Gore the next four years would be any different from the last eight?
DICK CHENEY: If the goal is to unite our country, to make a fresh start in Washington, to change the tone of our politics, can anyone with conviction say that the man for that job is Al Gore?
DICK CHENEY: They came in together. Now let us see them off together. [Applause] Ladies and gentlemen, the wheel has turned and it is time... It is time for them to go. [Applause]
JIM LEHRER: Some analysis and commentary now from our convention regulars,
Mark Shields and Paul Gigot; presidential historians Doris Kearns Goodwin
and Michael Beschloss; author-journalist Haynes Johnson, and Kay James
of the Heritage Foundation.
HAYNES JOHNSON: Absolutely. He set the stage for this campaign and it's going to be a very tough one. It is now very clear how it's going to be run. There are two great themes in American political campaigns: It's time for a change and don't change horses in the middle of a stream. And that's what they're going to run on now. They're going to run on the excesses and the personal misbehavior of the Clinton years in saying that America can do better and the Clinton people will respond and say eight more years of the greatest prosperity in the history of humankind and so forth. This clearly set the stage.
JIM LEHRER: You agree that it set the stage in an important speech, Michael?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: I do. I think just as convention oratory, I think Cheney gave an absolutely terrific speech. I think it was the equal of Humphrey in 1964 gave that speech in Atlantic City running with Lyndon Johnson that all these things Americans agree on but not Senator Goldwater and also Walter Mondale in 1976 when he denounced Gerald Ford for giving the Nixon pardon. I think this is something that's going to resonate, and also just as rhetoric, the surgical indictment that Cheney made of Bill Clinton's failings and the failings of the Clinton-Gore administration, tying those two guys together and I think the other thing that was very well done was the use of this line "it's time for them to go." One of the things that I'm sure sticks in the craw of President George Bush is almost ringing in his ears the memory of that 1992 campaign. There used to be Clinton appearances and the crowd would be there and Al Gore would say, what time is it? And the people would chant, it's time for them to go. We're probably going to hear that all this fall -- this time used against Al Gore.
JIM LEHRER: Kay James, would you agree we'll hear this all fall and this was the beginning last night?
KAY JAMES: You sure will. What's fascinating to me is it's time for them to go was a slogan which resonated among Democrats in 1992 and they thought it was a perfect campaign theme and yet today I've been hearing, oh, how mean spirited, how awful, how terrible. Where is the tone of this campaign going? How negative. Well, I think you're going to hear that theme over and over again. I can understand why it might not resonate so well this year as it did in 1992.
JIM LEHRER: Do you see it as a turn that is negative, Kay?
KAY JAMES: I don't think so at all. You know, as campaign speeches go, I think the speech that Dick Cheney gave last night was reasonably mild. You know, I saw a bumper sticker today when I was over in the convention center that said, a bigot is a conservative who is winning an argument. So I think, you know, a campaign speech that's really resonating and making, you know, that's when it becomes mean spirited when you didn't give it and it's not to your constituents. I think he did a masterful job. It was not at all mean spirited. It was typical campaign rhetoric.
JIM LEHRER: Doris, how does it look to you nearly 24 hours later?
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: Well, you know, I think on second or third or fourth thought 24 hours later, I think it's a questionable strategy that they've embarked upon. I understand where it comes from. I think as Michael was saying there's such a visceral anger toward Bill Clinton and the Republican Party and in the Bush family and from the memory of that campaign of 1992. And for the Republicans, there's just no doubt that the idea of "it's time to get rid of that crowd" will mobilize them. They can't wait to have them go. On the other hand, I'm not sure how widespread that feeling is in the country at large. I mean Clinton is still pretty popular as a president. I mean there's still a lot of Democrats that are mad at his personal qualities, but every time the Republicans have tried to go after him personally, they haven't won. In '92 they didn't win. In '96 they didn't win. In '98 they didn't win.
The one time the Republicans won interestingly was '94. And that was a campaign of ideas. So I'm not so sure that they can sustain a program that is simply we want to change the occupant of this office -- unless they can add to that what are we going to do differently in policy terms. And the trick for them there is people are pretty satisfied with the last eight years -- even when you hear Cheney say, "do you want these same eight years?" Yes, even Republicans would have to admit that Clinton has been a good President for them. The stock market has gone it. The economy is doing well. People are happy with the state of the country as a whole. They've caught themselves in an interesting bind. I'm not so sure it's a slam dunk as I thought it was last night. I still think the speech was a good speech. He gave it well and was grandfatherly and not mean. But to the extent it lays out the strategy I think it's going to be a trickier one than they may think at this moment.
JIM LEHRER: A trickier one than they may think, Paul? What do you think?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, if Doris is right that George W. Bush does not put anything on the agenda tonight, does not talk about ideas or his agenda, then she will be right, they'll have... they'll only have half the argument, not what you're going to do but what went wrong in the last eight years. That's what Cheney's speech was about, I think. For me it laid two real strategic options down -- directions. One, it said the campaign is going to be about leadership and character. That's the need for change. They didn't say the prosperity is false. Therefore you can't believe it, therefore change. They didn't say there's a war. Now you must change or there's some domestic crisis. Times are so good but we still need a change precisely because they're good. That's about getting things done tied to leadership and character.
JIM LEHRER: Is the key to that, Paul, that they must tie, the Republicans must tie Al Gore to Bill Clinton or this strategy will not work?
PAUL GIGOT: That's the second point that they tried to do last night, which is that they linked Gore with Clinton. Cheney said explicitly, does anyone believe that the next four years will get anything better done than the last eight? And I think that's crucial because Al Gore is going to try in his campaign, in his convention two weeks from now to emerge in his own right and to... he's going to try to say to piggy-back on the prosperity of the last eight years but he's going to say here's some of the things I'll do differently. They ought to stop that and link the two together.
JIM LEHRER: Mark, how do you see it?
MARK SHIELDS: Jim, any vice president running to succeed the president under whom he's served has a difficult task whether it was George Bush in 1988, Hubert Humphrey, Dick Nixon in 1960, Al Gore in this year of 2000. He has to run on a very tricky path, which is things have never been better and I'm the only guy that will get us out of the mess we're in. That is acutely true for Al Gore this year. He has to have a declaration of independence. What Dick Cheney laid down last night is it will be tougher for him to make that declaration of independence, not of disloyalty but of independence. He's used the line we will never see one without thinking of the other. I thought that was an effective of a line as he used in the speech. I thought he was effective when he tied his own experiences, the presidents he served in sort of an anecdotal fashion and the qualities he had learned. It's a nice way of laying out his own resume and then grouping George W. Bush with them. I thought that was effective. I thought it was...in this room, in this convention hall, I think it was mixed outside the hall.
JIM LEHRER: What evidence do you have?
MARK SHIELDS: In talking to people today, the reaction is, among undecided voters, there was... They kind of pulled back on the negative part of Cheney's delivery whereas his ending, which I thought was quite poetic when he returned to the secretary of defense at Andrews Air Force Base, it wasn't running against Washington but he was talking about Washington in a very positive sense and a idealized sense. That really worked. The bashing or whatever you want to call it worked very much with the base and worked in this room and it worked with the base of the party. I don't think there's any question. They are firmly on board. The Republican loyalists are there. But I think beyond this room and in the country among undecided voters, I think the jury is still out on it. It was buffo here.
JIM LEHRER: Then to tonight, Haynes, George P. Bush told Gwen Ifill that this is truly his uncle's coming-out party tonight. No question about that, is there?
HAYNES JOHNSON: Oh, no. Not at all. Now he has the chance and he has the challenge to see what he's got to show us, convince 'em, as Doris said last night on our program, that he is a President. That's a very chemical thing. He has to offer something that he makes you feel comfortable and he has to feel that he has some place he wants to take you. It isn't just enough to say that the last eight years have been lousy, but I can make them better for you, follow me. That's what we're going to watch tonight.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree, Kay, that's his mission tonight?
KAY JAMES: Absolutely. You know, generally it's the Vice President that does the heavy lifting and if there is any negative that has to be made or contrasts that have to be drawn, it's usually the Vice President or that candidate that does it. I think tonight George W. Bush has to be eloquent, has to be inspiring, has to be visionary, has to lift the country. Now, in terms of distinctives and policy decisions and what exactly is he going to do -- he doesn't need to give an agenda speech and lay out program by program and to draw those distinctions, I think that's what debates are for. Convention speeches have quite a different purpose. I think the distinctions and the lines will be drawn through the debate process. But tonight he's got to lift the spirit of the American people.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree, Michael, this is a lifting spirits night for him?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Well, that would help. You know, the best parallels oddly enough, Jim, are a couple of Democratic nominees. 1976 Jimmy Carter in Madison Square Garden was still largely unknown. The first big look that Americans got of this guy, former governor of Georgia suddenly had come out of the blue to win the nomination was this speech in New York City which was very effective. Same thing with Bill Clinton in 1992. The last night of his convention, also in Madison Square Garden, he gave a speech that was very powerful. . From that night onward Bill Clinton was first in the presidential polls. He never again was running behind. That's the kind of opportunity that George W. Bush has tonight. The other thing is....
JIM LEHRER: Hold on one second. We're about to run out of time. Let me just quickly go to Doris. Just underline the importance of this tonight. We'll pick up that subject in our convention program later, Michael. Doris, quickly.
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: Well, I think what's a little harder for Mr. Bush tonight is that unlike Clinton in '92 who also had to introduce himself as a potential President, he had put out, Clinton had, thousands of policy positions, substantive 14-point, 17-point programs. The problem for Bush tonight is even though he should be above the fray, eloquent not too detailed tonight, we don't know those details yet. And I'll bet there will be criticism of where is he going to lead us after all.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Well, please none of you go away because we'll be talking later this evening.