July 25 , 2000
Mark Shields and Paul Gigot discuss the Bush/Cheney ticket.
JIM LEHRER: Now some analysis of the Cheney selection by Shields and Gigot, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, "Wall Street Journal" columnist Paul Gigot. First, your overview of the reaction to the Cheney selection?
PAUL GIGOT, Wall Street Journal: I think it's an excellent pick, Jim. I think he satisfies at number one criterion, which is he is prepared to be President should something happen to George W. Bush. And this guy is somebody who has arguably the most experience in Washington and as an executive of any Republican in the last 30 years. He's been a CEO of a major company. He's been a defense secretary. He's been a leader in Congress. He was a White House chief of staff in his 30's. He knows politics. He knows how to be an executive. He's extremely loyal. He's extremely loyal. He's extremely competent. If you're talking about George W. Bush's judgment, him picking someone who could replace him, he's exercised good judgment.
JIM LEHRER: Mark?
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Jim, there's a rhetorically obligatory line that every presidential nominee says. I'm going to choose somebody who if anything should happen, the euphemism, should step in as President. Dick Cheney would be on anybody's short list of certainly the ten or five Republicans in the United States who could take over as President and was on that line before for the reasons that Paul cited and others. He's a grown-up. I mean, it's so refreshing. He is a true grown-up. And I think that's important. And the second factor is that Bob Teeter, the Republican pollster, has what he calls the 48-hour rule of vice presidential nominees. The first 48 hours someone's out there, the press and political consensus forms that this is a good choice or it's a choice that is open to criticism or question. There's no question that this is seen as a good choice. And Dick Cheney has passed the 48-hour rule. Just before Paul gets too euphoric, I point out that the best vice presidential nominees of our lifetime, consensus have been on losing tickets, Lloyd Bensen in 1988, Michael Dukakis over Dan Quayle and certainly Ed Muskie in 1968 over Spiro Agnew. They were both excellent, superb choices, and both ended up giving concession speeches on election night.
|What does the VP selection say about Bush?|
JIM LEHRER: Okay. Moving right along, the... it was said on our program last night, it's been said elsewhere, that the selection of the vice presidential candidate says as much about the man doing the choosing as it does the person chosen. What does this say about George W. Bush that is important that we should know?
PAUL GIGOT: I think it suggests he's not afraid to be surrounded by strong deputies. He doesn't feel that -- he wants somebody like Cheney with his wealth of experience being able to talk to him. There's a certain modesty about that, healthy, particularly given George Bush's lack of foreign policy experience. You know, that's somebody you can count on. It tells me that Bush is confident of winning, that he thinks he can win on his terms, because he didn't make the overtly political choice, political defined as political calculation for the election. I mean, Cheney doesn't give him a state. McCain was the guy, John McCain, who if you look at the change in the polls and districts and states did the best for Bush on the ticket. But he didn't go for McCain. He didn't make a choice like Ridge or Pataki, the governors of Pennsylvania and New York, who you could say, well, this is an abortion play or Elizabeth Dole who was a gender gap possibility, do something to get more women voting for Republicans. This is somebody who really, his advantages as a candidate are after the election more than before the election.
|Cheney as political capital|
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree there's not a lot of political capital here with Cheney?
MARK SHIELDS: There isn't. There's no political capital. I talked to a number of Republican members of the House, all of whom were pleased with Cheney, none of whom was excited. They don't see Dick Cheney as being a help or a boost in their effort, which many of them consider uphill at this point, to keep control and a majority of the House, which they think John McCain -- even though they had misgivings about him -- would have provided.
JIM LEHRER: They don't believe and you don't believe that anybody's going to go and vote for George W. Bush because Cheney's on the ticket with him?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think that it's reassuring. It's a solidifying. What it says about George Bush, the big question everybody asks about in the political business about a presidential candidate, is he big enough? Is he heavy enough? Does he have the size? Does he fill the chair? Those are the questions that people ask about George Bush. This is a question that when he chose Dick Cheney said that he had a certain self-confidence, a certain level of self-confidence and a perceived need. He had to fill in the gaps -- those gaps in foreign policy and Washington experience and so forth, which Dick Cheney does. And he picked somebody serious. He didn't... this is not your father's vice presidential choice in George Bush's case.
JIM LEHRER: Well, but I mean, that's one of the raps on this, though, is that, hey, wait a minute, all he did is pick a guy from his dad's cabinet. His dad clearly wanted this man, Dick Cheney, and is that going to hurt George W. Bush?
PAUL GIGOT: I would worry if it had been Dick Darman, somebody from, the former budget director, somebody from the economic side. Remember, Cheney represented, he was defense secretary. He worked for the side of the shop that actually the American people liked when they didn't vote him a second term in 1992. He was a successful foreign policy president more or less. Cheney was from that part of the administration. So, I don't think it's a big liability. How you deal with your father's legacy is a delicate issue for George W. Bush. There's no question he has to walk a fine line. I don't think you want to see Jim Baker and a lot of other people popping up here in addition to this, but somebody like Cheney alone I don't think is going to hurt.
JIM LEHRER: What do you think of that, Mark? Is that a negative?
MARK SHIELDS: I think there's a question is he looking back rather than looking forward. With Dick Cheney, if you looked at Dick Cheney today in Kwame's piece, here's a fellow who was 25 years ago the chief of staff at the White House. Now, we don't know --
JIM LEHRER: Now think about that 25 years ago.
MARK SHIELDS: It's off bounds to talk about where George Bush was.
PAUL GIGOT: In his 30's.
MARK SHIELDS: By contrast, we can't talk. It's off bounds to talk about where George Bush was 25 years ago. I mean, that is kind of a nebulous area. This is a guy who was grown up very, very early in the business. But, Jim, your original question is the key one, what does it tell about the man who makes the choice, does it say about his self-confidence, his judgment, his independence? I give you one quote by a presidential candidate who said, "There is a mysticism about men. You look into their eyes, and you can see their soul, and you have to be able to sense it. If this has been a bum choice, then you have to blame Nixon for a bad choice." That is what Richard Nixon said in 1968 when he chose Spiro Agnew. I mean, it really was. It forever wounded Richard Nixon's judgment. He had chosen Henry Cabot Lodge eight years earlier, which was widely praised and he lost. He chose Spiro Agnew and he won.
|The issue of Cheney's health|
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. What about the health thing, the fact he's had three mild heart attacks and a bypass surgery? Is that going to plague him in any serious way?
PAUL GIGOT: I think we have to have a discussion about that, but the doctors that have been quoted in the press have all said you can have a bypass and still lead a very active life. The fact, is if you've been running a major company for a half dozen years, is that more or less stressful than being vice president? I'd argue it's more stressful, Jim. I say that. I mean, the down sides to Cheney, are there are a couple, he' not exactly a great speaker. He makes Bill Bradley look scintillating as a campaign speaker. The other thing is he's not a natural partisan. He's not. That's one of the roles of the vice president traditionally -- is to go after and make the case against the opponent, against Al Gore, to say, "this is what's wrong with him." Dick Cheney is not by inclination, temperament, somebody that does that easily. Jack Kemp didn't do that in 1996 for Bob Dole and it didn't help Dole.
|How will the Democrats react to Cheney?|
JIM LEHRER: But Mark, the Democrats are going to run against Cheney as well as George W. Bush. What do you think their reaction is to Cheney on this ticket?
MARK SHIELDS: I mean, Democrats will tell you they respect Dick Cheney. I disagree with Paul. I think one Democrat said to me, he is the most fiercely partisan person I have ever known in the House. A total gentleman, always listened to the other side, totally civil, but he is a fierce partisan. I would say this, Jim, there's two roles for a vice president historically, traditionally. One, is as Paul said, sort of the attack dog, but the other is the cheerleader, the guy who kind of gives you a credential and makes your best case for you. I think in this case, given the fact that George Bush has come across to some people as a little smirky and a little smug, I think the fact that Dick Cheney today in his opening statement made a positive statement about Bush, a positive statement, was --
JIM LEHRER: Very important.
MARK SHIELDS: -- very important.
JIM LEHRER: But in going after him, what do they say, hey, this guy is another... You know, they attack his record, 100% anti-abortion, 100% this, 100% that in terms of all of the conservative measurements, et cetera?
MARK SHIELDS: One Republican said to me today, there goes California. I mean, this is a man who represented Wyoming. No Republican candidate has to go anywhere near Wyoming, quite frankly. It's solidly in the Republican camp. Dick Cheney was never challenged. And so Dick Cheney turns out to be one of the 21 members of the House of Representatives who voted against banning cop-killer bullets. Those are the armor-piercing bullets that go through policemen's vests. He was one of four to vote against outlawing plastic guns, which every police official in the country had requested. So, I mean, it's going to be that sort of thing.
PAUL GIGOT: They like guns in Wyoming.
JIM LEHRER: But you're going to hear a lot of that.
PAUL GIGOT: Well, sure, they're going to say he's off in the fever swamps, he's a lunatic right-winger. But Cheney's demeanor will make that hard to stick, because as Mark pointed out, he's very calm. When he was arguing for the Gulf War, he was very reassuring to a lot of people on TV because he seems calm. He's not a maniac...
JIM LEHRER: He came on this program many times during that.
PAUL GIGOT: And he just presents himself in a way. I think in some ways he's like George Mitchell for the Democrats.
JIM LEHRER: Well, we have got a lot of time to talk about this new ticket. And thank you both very much.