April 9, 1999
MARGARET WARNER: For our regular Friday night political analysis, we turn to Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot and Boston Globe columnist Tom Oliphant. Our NewsHour regular Mark Shields is away tonight. So, Paul, what did you make of what Zhu Rongji had to say in this interview?
|Reaction to Zhu Rongji's U.S. visit.|
PAUL GIGOT: A couple of reactions, Margaret. One, I thought of Tip O'Neill's axiom "all politics is local," because when Zhu was talking about Kosovo, he was really talking about Taiwan; he was trying to - he wants to oppose our action in Kosovo because he doesn't want a precedent of the United States or NATO being able to act in the internal affairs of another country, because that means we might defend Taiwan. The other reaction was that he was - that I had was he was more candid than the White House about the failure of this trade agreement this week because the White House attributed the fact that he didn't sign a deal to some technical trade issues that were still outstanding, and Zhu cut right to the heart of the matter and said no, we had a deal, it was the political climate in this country, and President Clinton just decided that he couldn't sell the deal right now.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree, it was kind of revealing?
TOM OLIPHANT: Very much so and hard not to be impressed by his political sophistication, particularly in his very deft realization that Americans often feel better after they've vented their feelings about some of the terrible things that China does. It was noticed, I think, when President Jiang Zemin was here the last time that merely by unburdening yourself of your feelings, you start to feel better, and they very cleverly capitalized on our inability to come up with an alternative to the status quo. A final point on the World Trade Organization, he's not only right about the facts, I think he's also right about the inevitable submission of this because it's going to be approved and he is going to spend the next week traveling the country selling the advantages of China opening up to American businessmen.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think, though Paul that anything he said tonight, and we assume he is saying the same things wherever he goes to members of congress, will it change the anti-China political climate that does exist?
PAUL GIGOT: No, I think the debate on China in this country is less between the parties right now than it is within each party. And there is a big chunk of each party, business-oriented but also strategic-oriented that says we have to be engaged with China in some shape or form. I think that is going to remain the policy. The big problem for President Clinton's China policy now is less, I think, what happens in China day to day. It's the credibility of this administration in dealing with China. It's the overlay of the campaign finance problems, it's the overlay of the nuclear secrets, the missile secrets questions, which makes a lot of Republicans doubt this administration will stand up to China. It makes -- it hurts the credibility of the policy because it makes it seem politically self-interested more than really based in strategy or U.S. interest.
|Congress returns to face Kosovo.|
MARGARET WARNER: Speaking of political climate, what do you think the political climate will be on Kosovo next week when Congress returns?
TOM OLIPHANT: Very different than it was when Congress departed almost two weeks ago. The President's position is far stronger than it was at the beginning of this, even if the support is still tentative. My assumption about next week particularly, as this meeting of the NATO foreign ministers breaks up on Monday, which I presume to be a well scripted love fest -
MARGARET WARNER: This is the one they are having in Brussels?
TOM OLIPHANT: That's correct. What I think is going to happen is that there is going to be some effort to revisit the idea of a congressional resolution that most Republicans can vote for, instead of a situation where two-thirds of the Republicans in each branch -
MARGARET WARNER: Saying what?
TOM OLIPHANT: Well, the basic framework would build around the four NATO aims, you know, return of refugees, troops and police out.
MARGARET WARNER: International force.
TOM OLIPHANT: International force and then some kind of self-government for Kosovo -- maybe adding some else, Jesse Helms, for example, has been very interested in language about going all the way to getting -- trying to get rid of Milosevic. The administration might have to consider something about ground troops. It doesn't want to, but I think it's very much in the Republican interest as well to not have the public record simply contain their no votes from last month.
|The Republican leadership's strategy.|
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think the Republican leadership is behind something like that?
PAUL GIGOT: I think they are moving towards that though they're going to wait and see and try to get a sense of the members when they come back. Most of the Republican leadership, they don't think this was - they opposed this -- they didn't think it's been handled very well. It was ill-conceived but an interesting transformation is taking place, which is that is that a lot of sentiment is swinging behind John McCain's criticism, which is a little different. It wasn't "you shouldn't have done it." It was make sure now that you're doing it make sure you do it well.
MARGARET WARNER: And you win.
PAUL GIGOT: And you win. This is not a bad critique because it means that the Republicans are supporting the troops, but in a way, it's the revenge - I call it the revenge of the Republican -- the Vietnam Hawks, because McCain was of course in Vietnam, Chuck Hagel, and some of the others. Veterans, their critique of the Vietnam War wasn't that we shouldn't have been there. It was that we didn't try to win. And they see Bill Clinton now acting a lot like Lyndon Baines Johnson with his gradualism, his incrementalism, his putting a stop to some of the military - things in the military -- slowing down what the military commanders want to do, not using ground forces, calling Apache helicopters -- an army weapon -- air power. And they say look, face up to the fact that we're going -- to win requires ground troops. It probably is going to mean casualties. So let's do it.
MARGARET WARNER: And McCain, in fact, sent this letter to the President today and a lot of the members who've gone with him on the trip to Brussels saying you ought to prepare the public for casualties, for a long engagement and you should call on NATO to start planning for a ground invasion.
TOM OLIPHANT: Indeed. You know, to broaden the political impact of all this, Margaret though, it's important to recognize that in addition to McCain's leadership on this letter, it is signed by the likes of Carl Levin, Joe Lieberman, and Jack Reid of Rhode Island, Ellen Tauscher of California.
MARGARET WARNER: All Democrats.
TOM OLIPHANT: Not only Democrats but not known for their conservatism either with the exception of Lieberman. And I think it shows that this kind of sentiment, again it's not unlike what Paul was saying about China. The problem tends to be within each party rather than between the parties. There are deep splits in the Republican Party over this and the big question next week is whether or not the split can be resolved.
|"Where have all the peaceniks gone?"|
|MARGARET WARNER: So whatever happened to the left, the anti-war left.
I heard that Rush Limbaugh was singing a tune on the radio yesterday,
"Where have all the peaceniks gone?" Where have they gone?
TOM OLIPHANT: This is the problem with dealing with caricature. Vietnam, it's not antiwar Democrats, it's anti-Vietnam War Democrats to be historically precise. Liberals were very much involved in the in the beginnings of the Cold War as some of their leftist, truly leftist friends like to remind them of. But without the Cold War, I think I've been seeing this movement toward internationalism with the military arm for ten years. Democrats split over the Persian Gulf war. Several people quite progressive supported it and you've had this sentiment building for a decade. So I think it's less of a surprise.
PAUL GIGOT: But 47 Democrats voted against the Gulf War in the Senate.
MARGARET WARNER: And yet all but three then voted for this.
PAUL GIGOT: Yes. I think it's rooted in the fact that this is -- can be argued as a mainly humanitarian effort. Frankly for liberals, if U.S. interests aren't involved, they feel better about it sometimes, because you end up with the fact that it's a moral cause. It's not something crass like commerce or oil or something like that. I feel good about it. You know, and I think that's part of the impulse here. I followed the Senate debate on this and Paul Wellstone said explicitly, the liberal from Minnesota, this is humanitarian. I can support it.
TOM OLIPHANT: On the other hand, anti-communism was also a moral cause as much as it was a political and ideological one which is why I think the point, while interesting is more with the result of caricature than of proper history.
MARGARET WARNER: And we have to leave it there. Thank you both very much.