|SHIELDS AND GIGOT|
December 13, 2000
Mark Shields and Paul Gigot discuss the prospect of a Bush presidency.
JIM LEHRER: Shields and Gigot are here now for a look at what confronts Al Gore and George W. Bush tonight, as they address the nation. And let's take them one at a time. Al Gore first, Mark, what must he say and do?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, first, he has to remember, Jim, that it's the last bite of the apple he has in this campaign. And probably more people will see and remember what he says tonight than any event of the entire campaign because of the drama and the history surrounding it. He should also remember that Nixon gave the worst concession speech in 1962 when he said you won't have Nixon to kick around, this is my last press conference and went on it win the White House twice, so he shouldn't feel too much pressure. But what he has to do most of all, Jim, is reassure his own people that the fight, he is speaking to and for his own constituency, especially African Americans who feel that they have been treated shabbily in this election -- so many of the mistakes that were made, the undercounts and to forth. But then he has to move it to a ceremony of victory, of acceptance, of largeness of spirit, of acknowledging that Governor Bush is the president elect, and that he will have the support, not simply of the millions of people who voted for Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman as the Vice President would ask but for the Vice President himself.
JIM LEHRER: What would you add to that?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, I don't think this can be a garden variety concession speech because we haven't had a garden variety recount here. He has taken the country through an awful lot in the last five weeks by challenging the way he has. I don't think there is any question that there has been damage done, some damage to Bush, he's got no honeymoon to speak of; almost half a transition if you can call it that, and maybe some damage to his legitimacy. Certainly -
JIM LEHRER: To Bush's legitimacy.
PAUL GIGOT: Some of the Vice President's supporters are saying that publicly, and I think the Vice President could go do a lot to undo some of the damage that had been done by being magnanimous, as Mark says, but by saying he lost and fair and square -- no sort of needling references to 5-4 majorities or counting every vote.
JIM LEHRER: What about the 300,000 popular votes, should he mention that?
PAUL GIGOT: I think he can take pride in that. There's no question about it. He got a little more than half of all the votes. He can mention that, but to -- making references that somehow this wasn't a square deal will make him look small and damage the presidency.
JIM LEHRER: How does he deal with the closeness of this without saying, hey, I got more votes but I'm still not going to be president? How can he say that?
MARK SHIELDS: He can do it elliptically by saying to the millions and millions of Americans who supported Joe Lieberman and me, I say thank you. You know, that the cause that we share will not die. But the other side has won. I could not disagree more strenuously with Paul that Al Gore has to apologize for putting George Bush or the nation through anything. We do not know who won Florida. The decision has been made; the Supreme Court has ruled; and George Bush will be the president, but I mean to say that Al Gore put the country through something when he stood at 267 electoral votes with the popular lead, I don't - I really see no need at all for him to apologize for anything. I mean, what he did was totally legal and let us remember now and let us never forget that the first people who went to court were Jim Baker and they went to federal court four days after the election and long before the Gore people did. So I don't think you can say that responsibility for the past five weeks rests on Al Gore.
JIM LEHRER: Paul.
PAUL GIGOT: I don't think I ever used the word "apologize" and I wouldn't expect him to say I apologize but I do expect him to say, look, to begin to repair some of the damage to the institutions and to the presidency of Bush. I mean, the courts haven't emerged out of this in terrific shape. They've been dragged into the electoral process, and I think by basically saying this is legitimate. Bush won it fair and square despite all of this - he could go a long way to help.
JIM LEHRER: But there is nothing wrong with him saying also what I did the last five weeks is legitimate as well? You are suggesting he needs to say that was some kind of mistake on his part?
PAUL GIGOT: No, no, I don't expect him to say that. I mean, I don't think that --
JIM LEHRER: Right.
PAUL GIGOT: I don't think that he is going to say. I would like him to tell his -- some of his supporters that this is not -
JIM LEHRER: Back off.
PAUL GIGOT: Look -- Jesse Jackson compared this to the Dred Scott case or the fugitive slave law is upheld. He ought to tell his supporters Bush won fair and square he is going to be a legitimate president.
JIM LEHRER: All right. What does George W. Bush have to do?
PAUL GIGOT: He has to show largeness of spirit as well. No question about it. Sometimes it's harder to be a winner because you have the burden of resentment but he has got to show that he can reach out. Everyone in the Bush campaign suggests that he is going to do it. I think Bush should speak out on behalf of African Americans and say I know the importance of counting every votes. Some of these machines may have been screwed up. We should maybe spend some money on it. He should make a gesture like that.
MARK SHIELDS: I'm not an apologist for Jesse Jackson. I did hear the statement he made. He was comparing what he said erroneous and faulty Supreme Court decisions and I don't think anybody would argue that the day of the Dred Scott decision was not a terrible blight on American history.
PAUL GIGOT: Of course it was.
MARK SHIELDS: That is right. But he was comparing that: Al Gore never
attacked the courts. The criticisms of the courts was solely from the
Bush caverns but Bush has a lot easier assignment tonight.
JIM LEHRER: About things he was going to do.
MARK SHIELDS: Things he was going to do. I think that was premature; I don't think that would be wise tonight. I think it is thematic about the nation, about his presidency, what he hopes for and what he sees in the future.
JIM LEHRER: What about that, a lot of discussion already about nobody, whether it had been Al Gore or more, neither one has the right to speak about a mandate that they have received to do anything. How does George W. Bush handle that tonight, or should he just ignore it and talk about the struggle and how we are and talk more in general terms?
PAUL GIGOT: Winning I think is its own mandate in many respects. There is plenty of time to talk about program and appointments and cabinet appointments. Leave that for next tonight. -- Week. Tonight Mark is right. You talk about bringing people together. You talk about the strengths of country, the strengths of the Constitution and his ambitions for the country, progress and unification -- big themes, Reagannesque themes not programmatic stuff.
JIM LEHRER: Speaking of big things, Is there a dramatic gesture available to each one of these men tonight that we -- nobody has thought about that they could do that would say, settle things down a little bit? Coming to Washington is one - for Bush.
MARK SHIELDS: I think -- no, I mean if Al Gore were to say if that was his intention I will never seek public office again or something of the sort, that is not casting the next two years or four years in the presidential setting or whatever, asking the Democrats to give the benefit of the doubt to President Bush and asking for their cooperation, I'll meet with the leaders of my party in Congress and ask them to cooperate, so that we are not into sniping back and forth.
PAUL GIGOT: I've been wracking my brain trying to think of something that either side could do that was bigger than what you expect. I don't know if I expect anything like that. I don't have any great ideas for them. I think coming to Washington -- you expect Bush to do that but meeting with Gore is important. I think that there would be something symbolically significant to a Bush presidency just to meet with Gore and shake hands with him.
JIM LEHRER: That is apparently in the works. As they say in journalism time will tell which one -- what each one of them does. Thank you.