SHIELDS & GIGOT
DECEMBER 20, 1996
This week our pundits are joined by Susan Dentzer, chief economics correspondent for U.S. News and World Report to discuss Clinton's new cabinet appointments*, controversial White House guests, and Speaker Newt Gingrich's handling of ethics charges.
(*The new cabinet appointments: Transportation Secretary Federico Pena will replace Hazel O'Leary as Energy Secretary; Rodney Slater - head of the Federal Highway Administration - will become Transportation Secretary; Andrew Cuomo, son of fomer N.Y. governor Mario Cuomo, is to become the Housing Secretary; and White House aide, Alexis Herman, will replace Rober Reich as Labor Secretary.)
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available.
December 20, 1996
President Clinton announces the last of his domestic cabinet appointments. Read a transcript or listen to a RealAudio version of the President's press conference.
December 5, 1996
President Clinton announces his choice of Madeleine Albright to be the next Secretary of State.
December 5, 1996
Jim Lehrer leads a discussion about President Clinton's choices for his national security team.
December 4, 1996
A panel of historians looks at Presidential second terms.
Browse past segments with Shields & Gigot.
JIM LEHRER: Now some analysis of todayís developments and other recent matters by Shields & Gigot, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot, joined tonight by Susan Dentzer, chief economics correspondent for U.S. News & World Report. Susan, first, on the appointments, the economic team is now in place. Characterize it for us.
SUSAN DENTZER, U.S. News & World Report: The essential characteristic is moderation. This is not a bunch of ideologues. It is really the triumph of the centrist Democratic approach in the appointments now in place. In fact, Iíd go further to say that it shores up the position of Treasury Sec. Robert Rubin, who was, of course, the person in the first term who was arguing that the primary impetus of the administration on the economic side should be on deficit reduction. And, indeed, as one key member of the economic team told me recently, the agenda for this economic team in the second term is going to be right out of an Economics 101 textbook.
Itís going to be continuing to push for deficit reduction and toward a balanced budget agreement, balancing the budget in the year 2002, to continue to let the Federal Reserve do what it has to do in terms of ensuring price stability in the economy and future continued economic expansion, and also to push ahead on the trade front to continue to expand markets for U.S. goods and services abroad, expanding the North American Free Trade Agreement and also bringing China successfully into the world trading relationship in the WTO. These are pretty straightforward, moderate kinds of, as I say, economic mainstream solutions and goals to push for, and thatís exactly what this team is all about.
JIM LEHRER: And no question that Rubin is in charge, right?
SUSAN DENTZER: Rubin has always been, or at least for the last several years, has been the primary economic spokesperson for the administration, and a leading sort of intellectual force buttressed by his deputy, deputy secretary, Larry Summers, and that will continue to be the case. Again, the primary issue on the agenda, right off the bat, is going to be forging a balanced budget deal, and Rubin and Summers and so forth, along with Frank Reins, the head of the Office of Management & Budget, will be primary forces in negotiating that.
JIM LEHRER: And speaking of negotiating, Leon Panetta is leaving. He was also a prime negotiator with the Republican leadership, particularly Sen. Domenici and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, John Kasich, and his counterpart in the House. How does this new team shape up as potential negotiators?
SUSAN DENTZER: Well, weíll see. Itís certainly true that Leon Panetta, in effect, kind of seized a certain amount of the economy policy making process in the last couple of years.
JIM LEHRER: He had been chairman of the House Budget Committee when he was in the House, right?
SUSAN DENTZER: Indeed, he had a lot of obviously working knowledge of the Congress and because the budget became the primary focus of much of what was going on the last couple of years he really did hold the reins. This next team, weíll see. Frank Reins doesnít necessarily have the connections or the contacts on the Hill. It is not at all clear--
JIM LEHRER: Heís head of OMB.
SUSAN DENTZER: Heís head of OM. Itís not at all clear that anybody knows how they want to approach at this point some of the diciest issues like, for example, reform of the Medicare program. It seems already clear to me that the two sides are talking past each other on that one alone.
JIM LEHRER: You know, Alexis Herman in for Robert Reisch at Labor, thatís considered a large change, is not? Thatís not more of the same.
SUSAN DENTZER: Itís more of the same in the sense that, as Reisch said today, he envisioned his role and served his role as not necessarily the secretary of organized labor but the secretary of the American worker and the American work force broadly described. And, in fact, that is the role that Alexis Herman is expected to play. If labor--if organized labor had a peak in this administration, it probably was in the first term with the success of raising the minimum wage. Itís not clear that much of that organized labor wants will be a primary thrust of the agenda for the second term, and Alexis Herman will probably have as her primary goal seeing through some initiatives that Reisch was unable to successfully see through the Congress, most particularly revamping federal training programs, creating one-stop shopping centers for American workers, who are dislocated from their jobs, to go get assistance and so on.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. Mark, how do you see Herman in for Reisch?
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Jim, I think if there was one institution that helped to shape the political climate for Jim--for Bill Clintonís re-election in 1996, it had to be organized labor. They put on the agenda issues that Republicans in the House had felt obliged to respond to, Medicare cuts.
JIM LEHRER: Medicare particularly.
MARK SHIELDS: Medicare cuts. Minimum wage increases, Kassebaum-Kennedy, health portability, and may have indirectly, and not intentionally, saved the Republican Congress because that Congress produced a very moderate, productive session in the last three months. All they asked, they supported former Pennsylvania Senator Harris Wofford for Labor Secretary, thought they had a green light on it, or had signals--strong signals that there was nobody pushing Alexis Herman, that she, herself, was not going to seek that office, and then felt sandbagged. And they opposed her, felt that she was not sympathetic to their cause, understood their issues. Drives a Jaguar, which was sort of symbolic of her indifference to American automobile workers, and they objected to her, were willing to settle for somebody else, and President Clinton basically said, hey, sorry, fellows.
JIM LEHRER: Stuck with Alexis Herman, who was a White House aid--
MARK SHIELDS: Thatís right.
JIM LEHRER: --and some of them worked with him for a long time. Paul, in general terms, take the economic team, put the other domestic people with it. What kind of cabinet as the President got for his second term?
PAUL GIGOT, Wall Street Journal: I would draw a distinction between the cabinet, itself, and the White House staff. I think the cabinet is similar to the first term not in all of the people but in the thrust. Itís sort of a rainbow coalition. Thereís a mixture of coalition politics being played. Alexis Herman is a good example. Federico Pena, for example, merely shifted from--
JIM LEHRER: Well, I read a story today that Pena was all set to go. He would have been secretary of transportation. And last night, around midnight, they said, oh, my goodness, we need another Hispanic, and so they asked him to stay and gave him this job as secretary of energy. Is that--does that jibe with what youíve heard?
PAUL GIGOT: That jibes exactly with my reporting. I mean, he was being sort of eased out of this first--out of his current job because he was deemed to be, as the Rocky Mountain News put it, one of the least accomplished of the Clinton first-term cabinet members. So I think thatís an appointment that clearly would--diversity was the prominent reason. Itís sort of a centrist cabinet. Weíll see how it governs. I think the White House staff changes are the more interesting, though, Jim, because George Stephanopolous is gone. Harold Ickes is going. Leon Panetta is going. These are three of the most prominent liberals in this administration. Instead, youíve got Erskine Bowles, youíve got Rahm Imanuel.
JIM LEHRER: Whoís a moderate businessman.
PAUL GIGOT: Businessman from South Carolina.
JIM LEHRER: North Carolina.
PAUL GIGOT: From the--
JIM LEHRER: It matters in Carolina.
PAUL GIGOT: Iím sorry, pardon me. Iíll never set foot in--
MARK SHIELDS: You have to get that straight, Paul.
PAUL GIGOT: Columbia--never again. The appointment the President made today of Bruce Reed as his domestic policy adviser, heíd been a deputy before, but very influential, is, I think, significant if he has a lot of influence because he is a legitimate new Democrat. He was with the Al Gore campaign in 1988, as a matter of fact, when Al Gore ran toward the right in the Democratic primaries. Then he joined the Presidentís campaign in Ď92, and leading new Democratic intellectuals, one of the leading people behind the welfare reform bill and some of the education proposals, so he could be a very significant player in the second term, and I think he signals a real move to the center in the White House staff.
JIM LEHRER: Well, David Broder in the Washington Post on Sunday, Mark, went even further, said this new team is the most conservative Democratic--most conservative Democratic team of recent history, of a President.
MARK SHIELDS: Jim, it always--
JIM LEHRER: I didnít say that right, but you know what I mean.
MARK SHIELDS: You did. You did him justice.
JIM LEHRER: Thank you.
MARK SHIELDS: It always intrigued me that the Republicans couldnít make up their mind during the campaign of 1996 whether Bill Clinton stole their ideologically conservative clothes while theyíre in swimming, or was a closet liberal who was going to emerge once elected. Well, obviously, the latter didnít turn out to be the case. I mean, this is what liberals always questioned about Bill Clinton, that he wasnít a liberal, that he wasnít one of them, and I think Paulís right. Heís put together a--and David Broderís right, heís put together a conservative team. I mean, there is no doubt about it. I mean, there is no strong--
PAUL GIGOT: Letís not get carried away.
MARK SHIELDS: No strong ideological definition to it.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. All right. Letís move to the other big issue today, the only thing that the President was asked about in those two or three questions, and that has to do with this Justice Department investigation, Mark, of the Democratic National Committee fund-raising folks, the Chinese arms dealer, who was invited to the White House. Is this a big deal.
MARK SHIELDS: Yes. Itís a big deal. The merchant of death from Beijing selling AK-47's in the United States, illegally, shows up on the arm of one of the Presidentís principal contributors. Yes, it is a big deal. And itís especially a big deal politically right now, thereís no question that the Justice Department is being aggressive in its pursuit of this. There was some criticism that a special prosecutor, independent counsel, had not been appointed. But the other thing is itís stepping on the story on Capitol Hill, which is that the Speaker of the House is in very, very serious trouble before the House Ethics Committee, but it is a serious story. We have two parties quite uncertain of themselves ideologically right now, uncertain, lacking in self-confidence, but each is sure that scandal works for it. And I think thatís the case.
JIM LEHRER: And the Justice Department is going heavy on this, are they not, Paul?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, I--
JIM LEHRER: On the Presidentís thing?
PAUL GIGOT: So far, they sent sort of an all-points subpoena to all kinds of people, and the Democratic Committee and the White House. The--this may be a case where the President regrets that Janet Reno did not appoint a special counsel because, if he had, she had say given another thing to Ken Starr, then you could blame it on the Republicans, blame it on partisanship, but this is the public integrity section of the Justice Department which really has a chance now to show that it can prosecute some people in an administration and we donít need a special counsel. So this is a test.
JIM LEHRER: And that, of course, has been the reason for having special counsels, because the argument is always, oh, no, no, you canít investigate yourself.
PAUL GIGOT: You couldnít trust him. Iíve been a skeptic of the story that I wondered how much--how big it would get, but every day thereís something else. I mean, you know, selling the Lincoln bedroom, meetings in the Lincoln bedroom for $100,000, overnights, I mean, for that amount of money you ought to at least get to talk to Lincoln, not just sleep there.
JIM LEHRER: That sounds like Shields. Mark, you mentioned Newt Gingrich and his problems. He fired his lawyer this week apparently about--has to do with whether or not some correct information was given to the Ethics Committee. You think this is going to mushroom, do you not?
MARK SHIELDS: I do, Jim, and from my reporting today, thereís no question. I think itís coming very soon. The speaker fired Jan Baran, who is one of the truly most respected lawyers in town, Republican side. Heís the guy thatís been the lead man in virtually all their big campaign law cases, respected across-the-board. You wonít find a Democratic lawyer to say anything other than good things about him before, during or after this case. And thereís not a question of whether misleading information--misleading information was erroneous, false information--
JIM LEHRER: Committee members said that.
MARK SHIELDS: Thatís right--was given. And the speaker signed it. The defender of the speaker-- John Linder of Georgiaís defense is, well, a lawyer should have stopped the speaker from signing it. Well, the speaker is not somebody who takes words lightly. Heís a man who deals seriously with ideas, seriously with words. Words mean a lot to him. This is not just a casual thing like an expense account, and I think itís very serious. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg.
JIM LEHRER: Paul, where do you put it on your serious scale?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, I think itís serious. I think that the speaker--thereís no question the speaker has not handled this well politically. I think he has hasnít taken it as seriously all along as he should have. I think he hasnít gotten the best legal advice. I disagree with Mark when he talks about Jan Baran, who is a very good lawyer on Federal Election Commission matters and campaign finance. Heís not a tax attorney. He would be the first to tell you that, and part of this comes down to a question of interpretation of tax law, and so on that issue, Iím not so sure heís gotten the best counsel. The question of misrepresentation is going to be something thatís going to be a real issue, and itíll get to--
JIM LEHRER: We ought to explain what this is all about, what--it had to do with whether or not GOPAC, which was his political--
PAUL GIGOT: Thatís right.
JIM LEHRER: --foundation, contributed money to fund a college course he was teaching, right, on television?
PAUL GIGOT: And whether or not the--
MARK SHIELDS: Tax exempt.
JIM LEHRER: Well, tax--right.
MARK SHIELDS: Thatís right.
PAUL GIGOT: In terms of the misrepresentation, itís whether or not the--thereís no question, the speaker did sign a letter which gave--underestimated GOPACís involvement in the tax exempting--
JIM LEHRER: Okay.
PAUL GIGOT: Thereís no question about that. We know that, and thatís going to come out. Gingrich would admit it. The question is what was the intent--I mean, was it some coverup to deceive, which I have a hard time believing. There seemed much other evidence of--and then the question--was it material, did it really matter? Was it illegal for GOPAC to do that?
MARK SHIELDS: It was material. This is not peripheral. First, his statement was in his application saying that there would be--there would be no--that this was simply a tax exempt educational exercise. I donít think this is it, and I think that the committee, thereís no doubt, the committee and the committee counsel agree with Jan Baran and not with the speaker in this. The speaker is quite isolated in his position.
JIM LEHRER: Well, as they say in journalism, weíll see what happens. Thank you both. And Susan, thank you.