July 9, 1999
Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot discuss First Lady Hillary Clinton's bid for the U.S. Senate seat from New York.
JIM LEHRER: And now some Friday night political analysis by Shields and Gigot, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot. Paul, Hillary Clinton got serious this week about being a Senate candidate from New York. How did she do?
PAUL GIGOT: As a raw political talent, she's got some possibilities, Jim. She's obviously -- knows what she's doing, she's out and did some very smart thing for New York; she wrapped herself around Patrick - Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the outgoing Senator from New York, esteemed Democrat, savvy pol, and he kind of anointed her as his successor. There's some irony here. And this is one of the things she has to do. We're watching - I think it's fascinating - watching how she's remaking herself and her image from the liberal conscience she's been in some ways of the Clinton administration and with Pat Moynihan doing it, it's interesting, because he was the most vigorous Democratic appointment-- opponent rather of her health care plan and the administration's welfare reform bill. Yet she knows she needs him and she knows she needs his Democratic support. So, she's off to a good start, but I think she's got some headway to go when it comes to remaking her image that has been built up in Washington.
JIM LEHRER: Good start, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: I'd say exceptionally good start, Jim. I mean, we a couple of weeks ago we were waxing euphoric about George W. Bush's performance in New Hampshire and Iowa and legitimately so. But I think this is somebody who's never been a candidate before, never had her name on a ballot, comes out with 250 reporters, including the New York press, who basically eat four subjects for breakfast, and handled herself very well. I mean, all the charges about her being thin skinned and everything else were not there. I think in addition to that, I mean, the very fact that we're calling it a listening tour is a testimony to the fact that she's prevailed. She's defined what it is; she's out there with the pad and pencil, and every time you see her she's in a listening mode. So, I'd have to give her good marks out of the gate.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Now she's out of the gate. As a candidate between now and the time people actually vote, which is still so far - it's 16 months away -- what are the downsides, what are the problems she has as a candidate?
|The challenges facing Hillary Clinton.|
MARK SHIELDS: She has I think two basic problems. One is she has to first establish why she's running. I think she started off very well.
JIM LEHRER: Other than just I want to be a U.S. Senator.
MARK SHIELDS: I want to be a U.S. Senator. In other words, the old aphorism in politics, about the juveniles run for high office to be something, the grown-ups run for high office to do something. She'll lay out the case of her commitment on education on children, on women's issues, and health care. The problem she is - it's still with her -- is that of residency.
JIM LEHRER: Carpet bagger.
MARK SHIELDS: The carpet bagger issue. Robert Kennedy was elected to the Senate in 1964 from New York. But Robert Kennedy was not identified with any other state. He had been Attorney General of the United States, he lived here in Washington, and he moved his whole family to New York. She doesn't have that option. She's still got a husband in the White House -
JIM LEHRER: Otherwise occupied.
MARK SHIELDS: -- otherwise occupied.
JIM LEHRER: Right.
MARK SHIELDS: And so she -- I think that remains a problem and she's got to have a case as to why New York, I mean, because she was the First Lady of Arkansas, and she did throw out the opening day baseball at Wrigley Field when the Cubs were her favorite team. So I think she's got to make a case that, you know, New York is where I want to live, and I come to New York like so many people have.
JIM LEHRER: What do you see as her major problem?
PAUL GIGOT: I think it's the last eight years. I think it's the fact that she's trying to extend or will be perceived as trying to extend what's been going on the last eight years. She has a track record with the health care plan that was not popular, that went down, that was opposed by a lot of Democrats. She's got to walk away from that and explain why that was not a real benefit. The difference I'd say with Mark and Bobby Kennedy is when Bobby Kennedy was running in 1964, the Democrats had a real sense of unfulfilled possibility. John Kennedy cut down too early. And that helped L.B.J. There aren't a lot of Democrats who right now are saying do we really need another eight years of the Clintons. I don't think if Bill Clinton ran again he would necessarily easily win a third term, if at all.
JIM LEHRER: And you think that she will be seen as trying to extend the Clinton deal, the Clinton administration or the Clinton line?
PAUL GIGOT: Yes, I think so. A lot of people sense that we've had enough - I mean, the houseguest that won't leave, you know, and they're trying to extend and they're not giving a justification for it.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Let's turn the coin over. What are her strengths going into this, Paul?
|Hillary Clinton's strengths.|
PAUL GIGOT: Got political talent, riles up the Democratic base, a lot of support of the Democratic base. She's an icon for a lot of people. She's a celebrity. And in American politics now, the celebrification of our politics, that's a real asset.
JIM LEHRER: Yes. What would you put on the list, the positive list?
MARK SHIELDS: In a presidential ticket that will be headed by either Bill Bradley or Al Gore, neither one of whom electrifies the activist in the base of the Democratic Party, she does. She energizes the base of the party, especially the women voters. Frank Luntz, Rudy Giuliani's pollster, said that it's a polarizing race, Giuliani against Hillary. And the fact is even though the spread with the margin of error between the two of them, among men over the age of 60, Giuliani leads by 30 points. Among woman under the age of 40, Hillary Clinton leads by 17 points. So, I mean, you can see the energy that she has among a very important constituency and a problem, as Paul laid out, that she has. I think that, and I think part of her electricity is a problem for the Democrats, because it is going to be a race that if the presidential race is not that interesting or not that engaging, it's going to get an awful lot of attention, especially if she runs after Rudy Giuliani. And I think Rudy Giuliani is a prosecutor, and prosecutors prosecute. And you can be sure he'll be bringing up billing records and White House firings of the Travel Office, and so forth, and it may very well lead to making her a sympathetic candidate in New York, but to fatigue among voters of that whole saga and that whole episode.
JIM LEHRER: How do you see Giuliani as a potential opponent of hers?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, I'm not so sure he's going to be the opponent, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: Explain. He's got to get the Republican nomination. Rick Lazio, the Republican congressman, may also be running.
PAUL GIGOT: That's right. But it's more interesting than that because you think that Hillary Clinton, who is disliked by so many Republicans, would unite the Republican Party. But in New York, it's the Hatfields and McCoys out there. And there are a lot of people who don't like Rudy Giuliani, most prominently, the governor, George Pataki, the former Senator Al D'Amato.
JIM LEHRER: Both of whom are also Republican.
PAUL GIGOT: Who are also Republican, who are very eager to have Rick Lazio, a Long Island Republican Congressman, run in the primary. Now, in New York it's a late primary. That means it's September of the year 2000, own a couple of months before the election. And that means the Republicans will be firing at each other, instead of united, going after Hillary Clinton. And that is a dream scenario for her, because it means that she's going to get a lot of help between now and -- from the Republicans killing each other -- between now and the election.
JIM LEHRER: Now, Mark, you said Giuliani was a prosecutor. One of the things also that you hear about him all the time is that he's mean. As a candidate, he's mean. Is that fair?
MARK SHIELDS: I think it's fair to say that there are striking parallels between the two candidates in the sense that they're both thin skinned. They both insist upon and attract great loyalty. They both are more than skeptical -- downright unfriendly toward the press -- and openly suspicious toward the press. And Rudy Giuliani has a mean streak in him. I think even his admirers, who I had one liberal Democrat say to me he didn't know whom he would vote for in New York, a New York voter. I said why? He said, well, Rudy Giuliani saved civilization in New York City, in my hometown. He says, I can't ignore that. But the down side of that is Rudy has been the tough cop. And that could be a problem.
JIM LEHRER: I was fascinated, Paul, by -- speaking of the top cop -- a former - Bratton, who was a former police commissioner -- said this week that Giuliani was an awful man but a great mayor.
PAUL GIGOT: And he has been a great mayor. He's done an awful lot for that city. But that doesn't necessarily translate statewide if they don't know you very well and your transmitting your image through television. Rick Lazio is a kind of a smiling fellow and true in politics. All other things being equal, the smiling candidate usually wins.
JIM LEHRER: Well, there's one thing we know for sure, this is going to be a very unique situation. Everybody is going to have plenty of time to talk about it between now and the time it's over. Another quick subject, while Mrs. Clinton has been on her exploratory tour, the president has been on a poverty tour of the United States. Does that just kind of to make work to have something for him to do while she was otherwise occupied, or what?
|The president's poverty tour.|
MARK SHIELDS: Well, I prefer to think it's the good Bill Clinton. I mean, we've listened to the line about a rising tide lifts all boats and in a period of unprecedented prosperity, we find places in people in America untouched by that prosperity, and Appalachia remains one of them; the first president to visit Appalachia Hazard County, Kentucky since Lyndon Johnson; the Delta of Mississippi, where Robert Kennedy visited in 1967, and his solution -
JIM LEHRER: And went to the Sioux Reservation.
MARK SHIELDS: The Sioux Reservation -- first president since FDR -- in 63 years. What's interesting to me is what he's prescribing is not a great society solution, but is prescribing Republican conservative remedies, whether it's tax incentives, enterprise zones, I mean, it's bring in business - it's going to be your advantage. It's pitching a different message, but still with the objective of helping people who haven't been helped.
JIM LEHRER: What do you think?
PAUL GIGOT: Some might call it compassionate conservatism. There's no question about it. I mean, for six years, Bill Clinton was the tribune of the forgotten middle class. And the Democrats were almost afraid, a lot of the new Democrats were almost afraid to speak up on be half of the poor, because they could be accused of the old redistributionist politics. I think it's interesting because this proposal - because it suggests that even within the Democratic Party there's no longer a great deal of confidence in the old Great Society, big government solutions, that they know the voters don't buy it, even the recipients don't really buy it. So they're willing to try something new. And I thought it was an interesting political expedition by the president, and give him credit for trying it.
JIM LEHRER: Finally, just quickly, the Senate holds that where a Senator can secretly stop a nomination without anybody knowing why or who's doing it, now he's done it -- somebody's done it on Richard Holbrooke. How can the greatest deliberative body and the greatest democracy get away with that sort of thing?
MARK SHIELDS: Jim, this is something that's outlived its usefulness, it's discredited, it's abused. Some could even compare it to the Independent Counsel Statute. I mean -- it's just something whose time has passed. This time, at least the three Senators have gone public with it. Mitch McConnell -
JIM LEHRER: Three of the four.
MARK SHIELDS: Three of the four. George Voinovich of Ohio.
JIM LEHRER: They didn't at first.
MARK SHIELDS: Grassley did and Voinovich, but then McConnell's come out, and Trent Lott, the majority leader, stayed in the closet on it, I mean, even though he's the fourth one.
JIM LEHRER: Quickly. Is this thing going to end ever?
PAUL GIGOT: I think so. This is about political leverage, Jim. They want something for it; they want - in one case nominees to go through -- in another case, a whistle blower to be treated better -
JIM LEHRER: But it has nothing to do with Richard Holbrooke.
MARK SHIELDS: NO
PAUL GIGOT: Well, certainly that nomination does, but they're using the powers of the Senate, which advise and consent power to use against the administration, to use every bit of power they can.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Thank you both.