August 7 , 2000
JIM LEHRER: Now, some thoughts from Shields and Gigot: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields, "Wall Street Journal" columnist Paul Gigot. Paul, how do you see the politics of the Lieberman choice?
PAUL GIGOT: I think it's the smartest move Al Gore's made since he started running for President, Jim. (No audio -network difficulty) -- he could serve as President -- he is experienced. He's a very nice man, a good man; smart, a breadth of knowledge, no question about that. Gore needed to do something to shake up this race. He needed to get people to think that they didn't really know him completely, and picking somebody like Lieberman, who was the first to... Democrat to rebuke Bill Clinton, maybe that kind of thing. It's a sort of symbolic declaration of independence, or he's trying to make it that, from Bill Clinton, and it might get voters to say, "look, maybe we didn't know the Vice President like we thought him, and maybe it's not as Dick Cheney said, you know, joined at the hip like Siamese twins-- we'll never see one without thinking of the other." So I think it is a good move.
JIM LEHRER: A good move?
MARK SHIELDS: The defense rests. It was a very good move.
JIM LEHRER: Paul, next week.
MARK SHIELDS: Hey, wait a minute. No. It was a fascinating move. It really was. I mean, it was uncharacteristic of Al Gore, who has been categorized as...
JIM LEHRER: It says a lot about Al Gore?
MARK SHIELDS: It sure does. He's terminally cautious and circumspect and a base toucher and caressing the erogenous zones of the body politic. He didn't do that this time. I mean, there's a lot of special, important constituencies in the Democratic Party who are not thrilled with Joe Lieberman-- organized labor.
JIM LEHRER: Why? What's he done?
MARK SHIELDS: Obviously he's a supporter of free trade. The teachers unions are not pleased, quite displeased with his flirtation, if not embrace of school vouchers, of private school. You know, the peace Democrats are not pleased with his support for defense missile system. The civil liberties Democrats, some of them, are not pleased with his endorsement of a moment of silence-- sort of the halfway house between school prayer and no school prayer. So Joe Lieberman has walked where he's chosen to walk in the United States Senate and his public life, and it certainly wasn't like... He got this position just as was said in Gwen's interview and in Kwame's setup piece, he got this position because of who he is, but primarily because of Bill Clinton.
JIM LEHRER: He had... Al Gore has to separate himself from Bill Clinton?
MARK SHIELDS: Al Gore, Paul calls it declaration of independence. I think that's as accurate as anything, Jim. What came out of Philadelphia was-- and Paul might disagree with me here-- the Republicans want to run this campaign on values, and the Republicans on the question of moral values, which is an important issue to Americans, they give a big edge, an overwhelming edge to the Republicans. They'd love this issue to be about which party stands for traditional values, for honesty and so forth, and to make Al Gore in Bill Clinton's shadow. So he had to choose somebody who made that break, and in, in case, Joe Lieberman does it.
JIM LEHRER: Is it going to work?
PAUL GIGOT: I don't know. I mean, Vice Presidents don't determine tickets. We found that with Jack Kemp in 1996. A lot of people said he was a good choice, as well. He didn't put Bob Dole over the finish line. Al Gore has some ethics problems that are not just related to Bill Clinton. They extend to the Buddhist Temple and no controlling legal authority and all of that. But I think this will help.
I think Mark has got his finger on the right point about values, that if you look at where Al Gore is not doing nearly as well as he should be if he's going to win this election, it's in the culturally conservative precincts of the country: Geographically, the South; demographically, older Americans over 65, married voters, especially married men and women with children-- there are big majorities now of support for Bush. Gore has to cut into that, and this, with Lieberman and his reputation... Joe Lieberman worked with Bill Bennett. I mean, he has real ties...
JIM LEHRER: He's gone after Hollywood, which is a big supporter of Clinton-Gore.
PAUL GIGOT: I'd like to ask David Geffen and Steven Spielberg, and those guys in Hollywood what they think about this -- probably not thrilled with it.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. What about his being an orthodox Jew? Is that going to help or hurt or even matter at all?
PAUL GIGOT: It's interesting, Jim. I think the adjective "orthodox" may be as important as being Jewish, because it suggests a cultural conservatism that may have a greater resonance and appeal that overwhelms or is stronger than a latent bigotry might be in terms of voting against somebody just because he's Jewish. At least that's my hopeful, optimistic point of view. I don't think it will matter that much really.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree, no matter?
MARK SHIELDS: I have no idea, Jim. I think we all hope it doesn't matter, but I remember in 1964, when Barry Goldwater was nominated, Harry Golden, the great southern Jewish writer said, "I always knew the first Jewish..."
JIM LEHRER: Charlotte, North Carolina?
MARK SHIELDS: Right, Charlotte, North Carolina, North Carolina Israelite, and he said, "I always knew the first Jewish President would be an Episcopalian." Barry Goldwater's grandfather had been Jewish, and he was an Episcopalian. I think what you have here, to run for national office in the United States, you have to belong to a church. The problem is, with Americans who believe in church membership, they're not too serious or too high on somebody taking his or her religion very seriously. I cite two examples.
JIM LEHRER: And spreading it around.
MARK SHIELDS: Well, or even just taking it too seriously. Jimmy Carter -- Jimmy Carter prayed five times a day in the Oval Office. When that got out, he was widely roasted, and some of the elites of the country and some of the secular parts of the country... George Romney, a devout Mormon, fasted and prayed before deciding to run for President. They immediately said, "this guy, can we really trust him in the White House?" I think that's the angle on Joe Lieberman, is the orthodox. He's not an Episcopalian Jew. He is a real, practicing Jew, at a time when most American Jews are not observant Jews.
PAUL GIGOT: But there's circumspection about him. He's not overt. He doesn't run it up the flagpole.
MARK SHIELDS: He is a man who takes his job quite seriously and does not take himself seriously.
JIM LEHRER: Great sense of humor.
MARK SHIELDS: He's got a wonderful sense of humor, and I heard the nicest story about him today from a staff member in the office next to his on Capitol Hill -- Senator Mary Landry's office -- said Joe Lieberman is the only Senator who sought out to know what that staff member, lowly staff member's name was -- always called him by name. And that's sort of Joe Lieberman.
JIM LEHRER: Question first to you, Paul, then to Mark. I said it in the News Summary, everybody said it all day: Joe Lieberman is a moderate. What does that mean?
PAUL GIGOT: "Moderate" is a journalistic shorthand because we... It really isn't very helpful in most cases. If you're a Republican, you get described as moderate usually if you're pro-choice. You can be for zero taxes on everybody, but if you're pro- choice, you're a republican moderate. For Democrats, it's somebody that breaks with the orthodoxy, I think, on some fundamental issue, and with Lieberman, it tends to be important, number one, the culture, also, for example, on education vouchers, on private Social Security accounts, that sort of thing. And I think that's why he gets that label.
MARK SHIELDS: I did a study of this years ago with the "New York Times." Paul's right. The "New York Times" - a Republican moderate is a Republican who's pro-choice. Could be for eight-cent-an-hour minimum wage, could be for millionaires paying no taxes or anything, but if you're pro-choice, you are. But Paul, I'd add to what Paul said. The opposite of a liberal is a conservative, okay? Liberals are seen maybe as a little too unrealistic, impractical, maybe visionary, and not in touch with what's going on, maybe even elite. Conservatives are seen as sort of narrow-minded, maybe mean, not particularly open to new ideas. A moderate, what's the opposite of a moderate, an immoderate? You want to be known as a moderate. Being known as a moderate is a political plus.
JIM LEHRER: Even in Philadelphia, they were saying that Dick Cheney was a moderate man even though he was very, very conservative.
MARK SHIELDS: That's right.
JIM LEHRER: This is a good word. Both of you agree on that.
PAUL GIGOT: Yeah. It is a good word, although they tend to sometimes be people who don't set the agenda; they adjust to other people who set the agenda. I always admire conviction politicians on the right or the left, because ultimately they're the people who drive the debate, and moderates tend to come in on the inside and maybe capitalize on it or close the deal in Congress, but...
JIM LEHRER: That's what Joe Lieberman has always done.
PAUL GIGOT: That's exactly what he's done, and they are important, and especially in Congress, but the people who really change American politics tend to be those who move on the right or on the left and push the edges.
MARK SHIELDS: Joe Lieberman, in addition to being a moderate, has also been a maverick, which means he's been independent, not similarly sort of figuring where the middle is between the two. I would say this, a moderate is a cherished label in a general election. To be a conservative is a great advantage in a Republican primary; to be a liberal is or has been historically a great advantage in a Democratic primary; but in a general election, especially a close one like this is shaping up to be, a moderate is good.
JIM LEHRER: Gentlemen, this has been very educational. Thank you both very much.