SHIELDS & GIGOT
APRIL 10, 1997
The NewsHour's political analysts, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot, discuss the Federal Court ruling striking down the Presidential line-item veto, Newt Gingrich's image, and campaign finance reform.
JIM LEHRER: Now our Friday night political analysis by Shields & Gigot, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot. First the line-item veto legal problems, is that going to have any effect, do you think?
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
April 9, 1996:
Kwame Holman reports on the history of the line item veto.
March 28, 1997:
Mark Shields and Kate O'Beirne discuss Al Gore's and Newt Gingrich's trips to China.
March 21, 1997:
Shields & Gigot discuss the uncertain future of Speaker Newt Gingrich.
March 24 -26, 1997:
A three part series by Hedrick Smith on campaign financing.
March 13, 1997
Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Brent Scrowcroft debate whether the U.S. should ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Browse the Shields and Gigot Index Page.
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Here in town?
JIM LEHRER: Yes. Politically.
MARK SHIELDS: Itís a great story because itís the classic example of any political movement, whether liberal or conservative. When they lose, leave their philosophical roots to seize political advantage--Republicans owned the White House for a quarter of a century, and they were so damned tired of those Democrats on Capitol Hill coming down with these big budgets, the President would accept or reject, letís give the President a line-item veto.
So they finally get it through, and damn it, they got a Democrat in the White House. And the Republicans are in the Congress. So what do they do? They delay it until after the 1996 election. And theyíre finally bailed out. Theyíre bailed out by a Reagan appointee judge who reminds them that the Constitution mandates that the Congress cannot surrender the power itís given to raise and spend money, and so this--the irony, Jim, itís the bookend, quite frankly, of the Republicansí revenge on Franklin Roosevelt, the 22nd Amendment, when they, you know, damn it, they couldnít beat the son of a gun in life.
Four times youíve won the presidency; weíre going to limit all future Presidents to two terms. And since then--no, but since that point whoís been elected to two terms and could have won a third term? Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, you know, nobody else.
JIM LEHRER: Paul, I donít even remember what the question was. (laughter among group) What do you think the impact of this line-item veto legal problem is going to be?
PAUL GIGOT, Wall Street Journal: Let me remind Mark that the Republicans at least passed it, and then they gave authority, did something amazing in American history, which is that representing their congressional branch.
JIM LEHRER: Gave them power?
PAUL GIGOT: I think the impact is, this makes it tougher to get a budget agreement at the margin because it takes away a budget tool, a tool of accountability that the President had.
JIM LEHRER: We should point out that the President had yet to exercise it because he was challenged immediately by five, six members of Congress, including Sen. Robert Byrd. Theyíre the ones that brought these laws.
PAUL GIGOT: Who hates it--
JIM LEHRER: Right.
PAUL GIGOT: --because he is the main appropriator up there, and this is less a partisan issue than it really is about prerogatives, power, of the spenders in Congress. The people who really hate this are the appropriations committee people because they love to stick that pork in the bill, and this would give the President, would give him a chance to line it up and then sit down and say, "Senator, I need your vote; but you need that courthouse donít you?" And then you have a little trade-off, but when you take that out, I think what happens, it removes one tool--
JIM LEHRER: Itís taken out because the President can sit there and just mark out the courthouse without having to mark out all the other courthouses, take your courthouse.
PAUL GIGOT: Thatís right. It gives the President more power, but I think--and thereby I think Democrat or Republican in the White House, it gives the President more accountability, gives the budget more accountability, and I think weíre more likely to be fiscally responsible.
MARK SHIELDS: I want to be sure I understand this now. Why then, if the Republicans are so committed to this great, noble idea--
PAUL GIGOT: They passed it, Mark.
MARK SHIELDS: No. Did they say itís not going to take effect until 1997 when Bob Dole will be in the White House--
PAUL GIGOT: They were rolling the dice.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. Stay on the budget for a moment. Speaker Gingrich this week said, okay, we want to eliminate estate taxes and capital gains taxes, and we had Sec. Rubin on the--Treasury Sec. Rubin on this program last night, who essentially said, no way, Jose. So what does that do for budget negotiations?
PAUL GIGOT: I donít think it does much for budget negotiations because nobody thought--nobody that I know of in the Republican Party thought that you were going to eliminate either of those taxes this year. But the Speaker was playing back to the Republican base that he was losing support from, and he was basically saying to them, Iím on your side, and singing the religion that people who like lower taxes like.
JIM LEHRER: He was speaking to his own folks more than he was speaking to the White House.
PAUL GIGOT: Well, but he was also making the case to the public, saying, we shouldnít have these taxes.
JIM LEHRER: Right.
PAUL GIGOT: He was going back to the role of the intellectual ideological leader for the Republican Party, which he had--which got him to the top in the first place, instead of getting lost in which comes first, the chicken or the egg, the tax cut or the spending cut, which had got him into trouble as a tactical leader. And I think itís smart for him to do that. I still think and everybody thinks that I talked to thereís going to be some compromise on the tax cut side this year, and it wonít be eliminated.
JIM LEHRER: What do you think, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: Not a chance in the world, Jim. I mean, Newt Gingrich is trying to stop the hemorrhaging. You canít blame him. I mean, heís at 14 percent approval in the New York Times/CBS poll, 29 percent approval among Republicans. I mean, the guy--so what do you want to do in that situation? You want to change the conversation. You want to go to China, make a tough statement on China, you want to come back here, and make some more tough statements on taxes, capital gains, attack the National Endowment for the Arts, and Paulís absolutely right. Itís raw meat for the true believers.
Thereís the old Newt; thatís our good guy again. But itís not going to happen. Trent Lott pulled the rug out, said it wasnít going to happen. Now Bob Rubin obviously said it wasnít going to happen, the Secretary of the Treasury. So itís not going to happen, and itís really not even relevant to the discussion. Heís trying to stop his own hemorrhaging, shore up the support within his own caucus.
JIM LEHRER: Is that going to happen?
MARK SHIELDS: Stop the hemorrhaging?
JIM LEHRER: Right.
MARK SHIELDS: I think he has stopped the hemorrhaging. I think thereís a certain attitude. Paul talks to more Republicans than I do, but the Republicans Iíve talked to have sort of a trust but verify attitude toward Newt. I mean, they want to believe him, they want to believe heís back and the same old Newt, but they want to see some action too.
JIM LEHRER: Trust but verify?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, the ultimate assessment of Newt Gingrichís performance will be how the budget agreement is settled, I think, and I think on that heís going to be whatever he does, heís going to be locked in arms with Trent Lott in the Senate, with his deputy leaders, Dick Armey, Tom Delay, and the rest of them. Anything he does will be with them, but the test of his leadership will be what kind of deal they get. Is there a good deal for Republicans? Can he get the majority of his caucus behind him, or canít he? I think thatíll be the test.
JIM LEHRER: All right, moving right along, there were developments this week. We wonít go into all the details--about--both in the House and Senate--these investigations that are coming of campaign finance problems. The Senate is going one way; the House is going another. Draw the differences.
MARK SHIELDS: The differences are that Dan Burton, the House chairman, and a straight party line vote after a marathon partisan session between the Republicans and the Democrats--
JIM LEHRER: Must have gotten nasty.
MARK SHIELDS: It got very nasty.
JIM LEHRER: Four hours and--
MARK SHIELDS: It did; it really did, and itís great viewing on C-Span for those who havenít seen it. It really is. Retained as chairman--something thatís never been done in action before--itís been done once in theory with Jack Brookfield, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee from Texas who lost in 1994--and that is that all subpoenas are unilaterally handled by the chairman; all information is either disclosed or controlled by the chairman, but beyond that he is limited solely to the Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee, the 106 subpoenas of his committee only gone to investigate that. He was told by the parliamentarian that he was not limited; he insisted that he was limited; they couldnít extend the investigation. House parliamentarian overturned his position.
But in contrast, Jim, the Senate under Fred Thompson this week struck a bipartisan chord, and with Democrats and Republicans in agreement extended the investigation to--to Democratic organizations, Republican organizations, party organizations, and both campaigns.
JIM LEHRER: So would you agree that weíre going to have two very different kinds of investigations?
PAUL GIGOT: Potentially we will. I mean, Dan Burton was able to do with his troops in the House, including very moderate members who wanted the scope expanded a little, Chris Shays of Connecticut, Connie Morella, keep--kept them on board, got their votes. Trent Lott wasnít able to do that in the Senate, so Dan Burton is going to get the investigation he wants. I mean, the conventional wisdom in Washington right now is that the Senate is going to be where all the action is.
Well, Iím not so sure. I mean, Dan Burton has subpoena power; he can issue the subpoenas he wants. Heís not going to be hemmed in on that as bipartisan agreement, as the Senate will be, and then heís got no deadline. The Senate has a deadline at the end of the year. So I mean obviously heís going to have to conduct a good investigation that seems credible but itís going to be a little different, and weíll see where it goes.
JIM LEHRER: And meanwhile, the Democrats are going to try to go like this; that Burtonís investigation doesnít mean anything because itís so partisan and the one that matters is in the Senate, is that right, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: I think so, and I think--I donít think thereís any question that Fred Thomson brings to it greater public and political credibility than Dan Burton does. I think thereís a presumption against Burton in that respect, and the presumption is now itís going to be professional wrestling in the House, and sort of serious Senate hearing on the other side of the capitol.
JIM LEHRER: Paul, the President today for the second time this week made a strong pitch in his speech to the American Newspaper Editors today, earlier in the week it was something else, it was a ceremony--and they had a big picture of the chemical weapons treaty. And whatís the problem there? Whatís the Republican problem with ratifying that treaty?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, the problem is that a lot of Republicans increasingly think itís a bad treaty, and a lot of Republicans in particular think that this is a test for Trent Lott because Trent Lott is the majority leader. If he decides to oppose this, itíll probably go down, and a lot of people on the right--and essentially itís no longer an issue really of just arms control. Itís become an issue of--of almost Trent Lottís loyalty to conservative principles; thatís--
JIM LEHRER: And where does Jesse Helms fit into that?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, Jesse Helms is one of those people who opposes it.
JIM LEHRER: Heís the leading opponent, is he not?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, heís the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
JIM LEHRER: Right.
PAUL GIGOT: And he is the leader. Heís declared; heís against it. And he wants to get the Speaker--or Majority Leader Lott behind it, but there was a meeting this week on Thursday of about 40 people, grassroots Republican conservatives, who couldnít care less about--you know--arms control necessarily, but they want to know where Trent Lottís going to be on this, and theyíre putting an enormous amount of pressure on him, and I think that this--this is going to be one of the first big tests of Trent Lottís leadership.
JIM LEHRER: How do you read it, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: Overwhelming majority of the Senate is in favor of the treaty. The President is for it. President Bush is for it. President Reagan is for it. It came out of their administration. Jim Baker--Colin Powell--pretty impressive bipartisan array, and I think opposing it is going to be off--I mean, Senator Helms is on record--just one minor point--the Senate Foreign Relations Committee--only the House--Affairs--I really--I seriously think that itís a treaty that will--that the President will secure its passage by the Senate, and I think--
JIM LEHRER: Because Trent Lott canít--with the final analysis will decide to go.
MARK SHIELDS: I think so.
JIM LEHRER: All right.
PAUL GIGOT: Three former defense secretaries oppose this, so that gives them some ammunition against George Bush.
JIM LEHRER: Thank you all very much.