SHIELDS & GIGOT
AUGUST 22, 1997
The NewsHour's regular friday political pundits take on the Teamsters election problems, Paul Jones' suit against President Clinton and Johnnie Chung's statements about donations to the DNC.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Now, our regular political analysis by Shields & Gigot. Thatís syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot. Welcome back, Mark.
A RealAudio version of of this segment is available.
August 22, 1997:
Barbara Zack Quindel discusses her decision to void Ron Carey's 1996 election to president of the Teamsters.
August 19, 1997
Paul Solman discusses the UPS/Teamsters agreement.
May 27, 1997:
The Supreme Court decides that the Paula Jones' suit against President Clinton may proceed while he is still President.
Browse the Online NewsHour's Campaigns Under Scrutiny coverage of the campaign finance investigation.
Browse the Online NewsHour's Congressional coverage.
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Thank you very much, Elizabeth.
The Teamsters Troubles
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What are the political implications of what we just heard from Barbara Quindel and the victory of the Teamsters in the strike this week?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, potentially very serious for Ron Carey, the president of the Teamsters. He had been the first Teamsters president to run as a real reformer. And to read the results he eked out or didnít eke out a very close victory over Jimmy Hoffa, Jr., a name not associated with labor reform in the past in American workersí movement. And now he runs--is forced to run for election or to--for another election. This time you wonít run as a reformer. His credentials have been somewhat tarnished, but he will run as a guy who delivered, who took on the biggest guy in the block, UPS, 80 percent of the market. They were Goliath. He was David. The Teamsters have always in the past always had sort of this image of a guy in a pinkie ring, size 52 jacket with a tatoo. They had a different face put on their movement this time. The face was that of the UPS driver, and anybody who is a UPS delivery person knows they like Ďem. And they brought UPS to their knees, a billion dollar profit company last year. They won, so itís--it reinvigorated the American labor movement, did a whole bunch of things, but right now, I mean, Ron Carey in this moment of great victory, his maximum moment of peril--thereís a grand jury continuing to investigate it and continuing here.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How do you see it?
PAUL GIGOT, Wall Street Journal: Well, I think it changes everything, what happened today. I mean, Mark made the contrast between the Teamsters saying itís part-time workers, itís about social justice, itís about corporate greed. Well, maybe it was about Ron Careyís motivations to save his job as union president because now we have a court-appointed official in the Justice Department, the Clinton Justice Department, saying that this is--he was elected in a fraudulent fashion. But now by winning that strike he can go back to the Teamsters and say, see, I delivered for you, and he might have lost that election. And the real question if I were UPS, Iíd say to myself I think we settled too soon. I mean, it would have been a very different public dynamic, I think. Youíve got a lot of the union bosses saying--union leaders saying, look, really for once the American public was siding with the unions. It would have been very different I think if people had understood this background, so UPS might very well settle too soon.
MARK SHIELDS: I think Paulís point is legitimate point. I donít think itís a persuasive point. I think the dye was cast in this one. Thereís no--there was no question that the American labor movement in the form of the Teamsters prevailed in public opinion. They were by a two to one margin--people came down to the workersí side. I mean, this was a sea change from 1981 when Ronald Reagan fired 11,500 striking professional air traffic controllers. This was a big time--the Teamsters are not a sympathetic institution or organization. And UPS is not known as sort of Daddy Warbucks, meanspirited employer, but there was no question that it did strike a responsive chord that argument about part-time America is not working; that it did strike what people have been known about downsizing, had downsizing in their family, and anxiety, and they point out that 83 percent of the people hired in the last four years have been hired on part-time--that really made them a lot more sympathetic in peopleís minds. And I think UPS knew that they were in big trouble. And they could have hung on for a few more days, but public opinion wasnít going to shift in their direction.
Labor Secretary Herman on the job?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How does this affect the President and Alexis Herman? She got pretty good marks for this, and will that continue, even though there is now a whole new story about the Teamsters today?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, Iím not so sure it will. I mean, Alexis Herman did her job as treasury--I mean as labor secretary. She showed up for work. She told Ďem settle. She looked Ďem in the eye. I donít think she had that big a role to play, frankly, in whether or not they settled. The big decision was the Presidentís not to get into the strike. That was the big decision, and then the other big decision was UPS, the company deciding not to hire replacement workers. Once they did that the economic dynamics were such that they probably had to settle. The big winner, though, Iíd say is Al Gore, Vice President Al Gore, because any time between now and the year 2000 when this administration can do a favor for the unions, the unions that Al Gore really wants in the primary fight for the presidency in the year 2000, that does Al Gore a very big favor. And Bill Clinton, this administration did do a favor because the Teamsters, you have to understand, are kind of unique within the AFL-CIO. They used to be sort of a rogue union in a political sense. They endorsed Ronald Reagan twice, I believe.
MARK SHIELDS: George Bush...
PAUL GIGOT: They--they would endorse Republicans. Ron Carey has brought them firmly in the 90's, back into the Democratic camp. And under John Sweeney, the new AFL-CIO had firmly in there--they were one of the biggest players on behalf of the Democratic Congress in 1996. The President returned that favor in the strike.
MARK SHIELDS: I donít know if he returned the favor. I think itís pretty tough to make a case that this was in the national security--the strike. I mean, it wasnít like people were suffering from disease or malnutrition or anything of the sort. And it always amazes me, my good friends on the right, my conservative Libertarian friends want the government to come in and do this. I think Alexis Herman, whom I have not had the highest of praise in the past, deserves some credit. She did what a cabinet officer is supposed to do here. She took the heat. She said this was on her beat and her responsibility. She played a role. She brought them back in. She made it more difficult for each side not to negotiate. And apparently the information she gave to the President was right because I know a number of people when the President said that, was it Sunday, Monday, there was going to be a settlement, now heís saying, where is he getting his information, heís been on Block Island or something, and obviously the information she was getting was right. Paul is absolutely right; the Teamsters have been the Republican union. I mean, they were Jimmy Hoffa, Frank Fitzsimmons--and--
PAUL GIGOT: Jackie Presser.
MARK SHIELDS: Jackie Presser, a distinguished American labor leader --
Paula Jones: "Thereís no more postponements on this one."
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I need to get onto another story now. Paul, what about--the judge has now set May 27th as the date to hear the Paul Jones case against the President. The President is enjoying very high approval ratings right now. It seems that the scandals have not affected those approval ratings. What effect will this have, if any, do you think?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, what we know is Paula Jones is going to get her day in court. I mean, thatís I think the big news. The White House strategy has been for delay, put this off until after the President leaves office. It looks like that wonít happen. Youíre going to get the day in court. I think this increases the pressure on both sides, the President especially, to now get serious about the facts and probably settle before it goes to trial.
MARK SHIELDS: I think that this was the one thatís always been the problem for Bill Clinton. The land deals in Arkansas have never engaged the public or S&L thing in 1986 or whatever. I donít think itís ever--but this one does. I mean, this one is one that itís the boss and the employee. Itís the disproportionate allegations involved, disproportionate power, and a person in a lot more vulnerable position. And man, woman, sex, I think--I think this is, and I think Paulís right. I think it does put pressure on both sides to settle, but thereís no question, thereís no more ducking and thereís no more postponements on this one.
"I see the White House is like a subway. You have to put in coins to open the gate."
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And finally, another big story this week was the interview by NBCís Tom Brokaw with Johnnie Chung, a key figure in a key figure in campaign fund-raising investigation. This is the man who told the LA Times last month, "I see the White House is like a subway. You have to put in coins to open the gate." Why, Mark, do you think he came forward now? Is this somebody--the Senate hearings--
MARK SHIELDS: I would love to have him, and Iím sure Fred Thompson would, and I think John Glenn would, I mean, have--it would certainly engage and force all the networks to cover it if Johnnie Chung with quotes like that on the front page of the LA Times were under oath making these statements, instead of Tom Brokaw, the LA Times, both of whom deserve--both of which deserve credit for getting him on the record but neither of whom has the power to prosecute for perjury, if there is any perjury. But I think Johnnie Chung, I think John Huang, I think anybody who was a guest at the White House for a tea, a coffee, an overnight, should be responsive, and I think the President--itís incumbent upon the President and the Vice President of this administration to urge in the strongest terms possible for them to come forward and testify in these matters. And I donít--I havenít heard that. Iím still waiting for that sense of urgency from the administration to say yes, come on, bring this up to Fred Thompson and to the hearings on Capitol Hill, where you can make these statements under oath.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Paul, what struck you about the revelations in Johnnie Chungís interview?
PAUL GIGOT: First of all, the Justice Department or the Senate ought to get NBC News because theyíre the only ones who can get these people on the record, so give Ďem credit for doing that. What struck me, though, is that you have firsthand, first person testimony who said what this was now--Johnnie Chung was saying this was not an attempt by the Chinese or the Taiwanese to influence us. This was essentially an American shakedown. This was the American government officials saying weíll have a meeting with your a petrochemical executive, but would you write a check on the side for 25 grand, the cabinet memberís charity, Hazel OíLearyís charity, former Energy Secretary. Now, she denies there was any such request, but thatís what Johnnie Chung now says on the record is exactly what happened. That looks to be a crime. Thatís very serious stuff.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. I think weíll come back to this next week or right after that. Thank you very much.