April 28 , 2000
JIM LEHRER: Paul, first on the Microsoft case, are their potential political ramifications to that?
PAUL GIGOT: There are, but I don't think it's going to be a big issue, an overriding issue in the presidential campaign. I think you could say that safely because neither candidate really looks like he wants to make it that. Al Gore has been Running away from this all the time saying even though he's a technology guru and so on, that's Janet Reno's purview. That's not mine. And George Bush, when you asked him in your interview yesterday about it, he didn't exactly leap on the question, I don't think. He clearly doesn't want to jump into it either. The one thing I think the political implication could be is that you have a over time any administration, just because it's in office a lot, builds up resentments. This is one of those things that there are a lot of Microsoft employees and a lot of shareholders that are not going to like this. In if the remedy goes ahead and it's broken up. Those accumulated resentments can work against an incumbent, which Al Gore is the de facto incumbent.
JIM LEHRER: What do you think, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: I don't think it has any universal political application. In order for an issue to be an issue in a campaign, it either has to have a large institutional imperative behind it, citizens raising it, or a candidate. Paul is absolutely right. Both candidates are treating it like the third rail. I mean, they're very gingerly in their approach to it. I just don't think the Microsoft stockholders are probably going to go door to door in many states.
PAUL GIGOT: No they're not but there are six million of them.
JIM LEHRER: Speaking of Gore and Bush, the vice president turned up his criticisms of the governor pretty hard this week. What do you think of that?
MARK SHIELDS: The vice president is obviously trying to switch the topic. Conversation from his position on the Elian case because he's been hurt by it. There's no doubt about it. He's been hurt in the sense, Jim, that the one thing about Democrats and Republican have agreed upon is that Al Gore was the guy who pandered on this issue. He's trying to switch the topic. He's doing it in a way....
JIM LEHRER: He pandered, explain what you mean.
MARK SHIELDS: Pandered in the sense that he was appealing to the Cuban-American community by trying to establish daylight between himself and the administration of which as a part and even his rather lame post-game interview in which he said he would have handled it differently although he didn't want to criticize the operation itself. So I think that is the first factor. The second factor is that Al Gore is a political counter puncher. His campaign against Bill Bradley was lethargic, going nowhere, had no direction and really no soul until Bradley stated his positions, at which point Gore was energized and came after him. And it he was a far different candidate I think all of us would acknowledge. And I think that's what Gore's people are hoping that they can regenerate some energy and some focus in the campaign which I think has been sadly lacking since the 7th of March when he sewed up the nomination.
JIM LEHRER: What do you think of Gore?
PAUL GIGOT: I agree. It's fascinating to watch Gore. His own people say he's better on the attack. I mean usually you say our guy is a man of vision. He's a man of depth. They say our guy is best when he's in there firing away. He did it against Bradley. We may have a big strategic moment in this campaign where Gore decides he's going to go on the assault on George W. Bush. He did. Casino economics, risky tax scheme, irresponsible, politics of illusion. Dangerous, Bush-Quayle economics. I mean he's really taken the gloves off. We'll see if it works for him. He's definitely changing his whole approach right now.
JIM LEHRER: Meanwhile George Bush, his big event of the week was Wednesday night here in Washington, big fund-raiser, record set $21.3 million. His big speech was about bipartisanship, non-partisanship, comity, put back the goodness into politics and government.
MARK SHIELDS: Jim, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
JIM LEHRER: And it is.
MARK SHIELDS: And it is, then the architects of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign ought to feel awfully good.
JIM LEHRER: Bill Clinton's shall.
MARK SHIELDS: Yes. George w. Bush... If Al Gore had taken George Bush Sr.'s 1988 campaign against Michael Dukakis, then George W. Bush is what? He's the outsider. He's the triangulator. He's distancing himself from his own majority party in congress. Bill Clinton called them brain dead. He calls this excessive bipartisanship and all the rest of it. He's going to be different. He's going to bring civility. I think that he has cast himself as Clinton did as an outsider at a time when people were tired of what was going on in Washington. They're tired again even as his own party rushed to hold hearings, which have been postponed and Tom DeLay, the House Whip, you asked him about Tom DeLay, charged that Janet Reno and the INS folks did this without a warrant which of course he was wrong on and this sort of rush to judgment. George Bush is distancing himself in a way, I think, that is quite effective politically from both parties in Washington.
JIM LEHRER: Effective politically?
PAUL GIGOT: I think so. Also he's counterpunching himself against Al Gore. He knows that Al Gore is going to try to make him look like Dukakis with a drawl. I mean, Texas is going to poison....
MARK SHIELDS: He -- (Laughing)
JIM LEHRER: Just ignore him.
PAUL GIGOT: Poison water in Texas, everybody carries a gun, all that stuff. He's inoculating himself by saying, look, I'm going to run on a positive vision. I've got these issues I'm pushing. I want to bring an era of comity so that when Gore goes after him, Gore is the one who looks more shrill, and then when Bush comes back at him, he can say, look, I had no choice. It's a form of political jujitsu.
JIM LEHRER: Starting with you Paul, do you think there is resonance in this kind of thing that George W. Bush is right when he says the public is turned off and cynical and they want somebody to return civility., and that is, in fact, a saleable, electable point?
PAUL GIGOT: It is not the only reason that people don't like Washington. There's an element which don't like the Bill Clinton's morals and behavior and that's a partisan element but there's a swing-voter element which he is also trying to appeal to with the partisan argument saying that both sides have been at it. For a lot of those voters, we live in some ways in a post partisan country. The memberships in both parties are down. There's a lot of people who don't identify with either party the way they did in the '40s and the 50s and the 30s and the 20s. He is appealing to those swing voters, so I think there is some political salience there.
JIM LEHRER: Do you feel that people want this?
MARK SHIELDS: Every time, Jim, that any leader, whether it's Dick Gephardt, whoever it is, talks about doing things in a bipartisan way, and a coalition in the national interest, it's amazing the response that the public numbers go up. I think there is. He did something rather deft politically when he went to North Carolina and that was he praised Jim Hunt, Jim Hunt, the long-time four-term governor of the state who Lamar Alexander among others and virtually every Republican governor I know who has been involved in the education issue has been praised as the leader along with the leader, probably along with Dick Riley and William Winter n Mississippi as the leaders in education reform. He really gets....
JIM LEHRER: He's a Democrat.
MARK SHIELDS: And he's a Democrat. And he gets down there and praises him before a partisan crowd or, you know, seemingly a partisan crowd. That's the kind of thing that does have a resonance because that's just more than rhetoric. That's saying, this is a specific individual, the other party whom I admire.
PAUL GIGOT: It was impossible for Bob Dole to do that in 1996 because he had been part of the discussion. That's why I think a lot of Republicans wanted a nominee this time who was outside of Washington, who you could make that argument not just to swing voters but also he's not part of the problem here. He's -- Ronald Reagan out of California had that same kind of outsider appeal.
JIM LEHRER: But what are the Republicans in Congress going to think about this? Are the Tom DeLays of this world really going to cool it?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, I mean, if George Bush wins the White House, yeah. I mean, he's going to set the direction of the Republican Party. He's going to be the leader of the Republican Party. He already is the leader of the Republican Party as the nominee.
JIM LEHRER: The reverse of that: Are the Democrats really going to help George W. Bush look good? Are they going to go for bipartisanship?
MARK SHIELDS: Not between now and November. I mean, I think as a campaign strategy and if he is elected on it, then it certainly argues well. But just Paul I think kind of answered it in his answer jumped over the most difficult area because this week the leaders of the Republican Party in Congress accused the president and the attorney general of being child abusers and thugs. Now, that is not George W. Bush's Republican Party or at least the Republican Party he's talking about. So that's going to put him in a little difficult territory because he's going to get more questions like you asked him: What about Tom DeLay? What about this charge? Do you associate with it? Do you endorse it? Is he part of the Bush team when he says these things?
JIM LEHRER: He's going to have to talk about it.
MARK SHIELDS: He's going to have to talk about it.
JIM LEHRER: In specific terms. Thank you both very much.