June 16, 2000
Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot discuss changes in Al Gore's campaign staff, the overall presidential race and the debate over the death penalty.
JIM LEHRER: And now, before we go, some end-of-the-week political analysis by Shields and Gigot, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot. Mark, there's a lot of wisdom that applies to politics in what Phil Jackson just said, is it not?
MARK SHIELDS: There certainly is, Jim. It was a great piece. But beyond that, nobody is saying that Phil Jackson has to leave the Lakers. They're three games to one lead right now, one game away from the world championship. Only time that coaching changes are made are when things aren't going good with the ball club. That's what we saw this week with the Democrats.
PAUL GIGOT: I give Mark a little Nietzsche from time to time to instruct him
JIM LEHRER: Essentially what he said - that the game is not as much fun as all the stuff -- that if you were to make the parallel, the election isn't as much fun as the campaign?
PAUL GIGOT: I don't know a single candidate who actually would say that.
JIM LEHRER: Speaking of campaigns, the big news this week was Daley in for Coelho in the Gore campaign. Do you read anything more -- just for the record - anything more into that, other than the fact that Tony Coelho was sick and he had to take a break?
MARK SHIELDS: Yes, I do, and Tony Coelho was sick, is sick; Tony's an epileptic, has been for a long time, he's had three seizures this year; he's been hospitalized for an inflamed colon. But there's something else, Jim. I mean, the Los Angeles Times poll today shows Al Gore ten points behind George Bush. He's been consistently behind since the close of the primaries. And what's most unsettling to Democrats who follow this closely is this -- that Al Gore, this is his fourth national campaign -- he ran for President in '88, and ran for Vice President in '92 and '96, he's running for president in 2000.
And they're a little concerned that during that four times out, he's never developed sort of that trusted cadre of close advisors -- I mean, now the story that comes out that he and Coelho didn't know each other that well; they weren't that close. He doesn't know Bill Daley that well - even though Bill Daley's a remarkably talented guy. So there's a sense of, gee, I mean, what's he been doing in these four run-throughs, these four national campaigns if, in fact, he didn't develop a trusted team?
JIM LEHRER: In fact, did Coelho do good service for Gore?
PAUL GIGOT: In some sense he did. I think he pared back on expenses early on in this session before the primaries back in the autumn, when he was bleeding money, Bradley was coming on -- pared back the expenses, helped make the move to Nashville, helped consolidate support within the Democratic ranks. And that's what Coelho is an expert at. I mean, he's a legislative tactician, a creature of Congress, a creature of Democratic partisans. He did those things well. What he didn't do is give the vice president a kind of broader conceptual identity, a strategic cohesion, a focus. These are the themes, these are the things we're going to stick with. Instead it was -- as we've seen -- two weeks this, two weeks that, another month of this, a month of that.
JIM LEHRER: So, Mark, you know Bill Daley.
MARK SHIELDS: I do.
JIM LEHRER: And you know -- you just laid out -- what you believe, at least, is Al Gore's problem. Is Bill Daley the man to fix it?
MARK SHIELDS: Bill Daley is for a very simple reason, Jim. Bill Daley is it; there will not be anybody after Bill Daley. Al Gore cannot go to a fourth campaign manager without really imploding at some point and losing the trust and confidence of other Democratic candidates. I mean, Bill Daley, not that he would, but he could lay down a list of nonnegotiable demands tonight and, which Al Gore would have to agree to.
JIM LEHRER: What are his strengths? What does he bring to this job?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, Bill Daley first of all is trusted and liked by the press. He's a guy who is straight, he's direct, he's honest, he's -- most of all he's a grown-up. There's an old line about sports doesn't build character, it reveals character. I was thinking that as I was watching Phil Jackson. But there's nothing more reveals character, in my experience, than a losing political campaign -- how people conduct themselves when they know their candidate is going down. We've seen --
JIM LEHRER: It's easy to win, isn't it?
MARK SHIELDS: It really is. I mean, but in 1992 when George Bush was losing, Dan Quayle was more loyal to George Bush than George Bush was to his own campaign - Mary Matalin, Terry Clark -- I remember watching those people and having admiration for them because they knew they were going to lose. Bill Daley in 1984 made his bones nationally, politically in the Mondale campaign. And he was a grownup. I mean, he was loyal, he was tough, formidable, he was able and he's that kind of a guy. He took over. He took an awful hit in the teeth from Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton was going to name him transportation secretary, the night before he pulled the rug out and put Federico Pena in. And then came back and NAFTA was dead in the water, nobody wanted to go near it. Bill Daley took it over in 1993 and had to persuade people in the White House, and brought it through. So he's considered an effective, able guy.
JIM LEHRER: What do you want to add about Bill Daley?
PAUL GIGOT: There might be one other thing you can do to help. I agree with much of what Mark said. But I think he might be able to bridge the gap within the campaign between some of the new Democratic policy advisors and the consultants who are carving up the political tactics and wanting to attack Bush. And those ideas and then that strategy never has meshed very well. People in campaign have been at odds, and I think he might be able to bridge that gap and say, all right, this is what we're going to do, and let's do it, and I don't want to hear any carping, let's get on with it.
|Bush in the lead|
JIM LEHRER: Mark mentioned in the LA Times poll and the other polls are showing bush doing really well, riding all the time. Why? Beyond Gore and his problems, why does George W. Bush doing right now that is so correct and paying off for him?
PAUL GIGOT: The one thing I think he has, he's run a superior campaign. There are people who think that campaigns don't matter. But in two senses, one, he has a more cohesive team than Gore has had. He's got that cadre. When they were challenged by McCain, they turned around on a dime, there was no back biting. You didn't hear anybody saying, "It his fault we got beat in New Hampshire." They came away with an alternative and moved ahead. He's had the same strategic vision all along. If you look at a George W. Bush speech now and a George W. Bush speech last September, their pretty darn similar. He's filled in the gaps on certain policies here and there, but the design of the campaign, the themes, are almost identical.
JIM LEHRER: Mark, what do you think?
MARK SHIELDS: Two things I add to that. First of all, American politics is about optimism. Americans are the most optimistic people on the planet. If you think about just American political history, the last half century Franklin Roosevelt, I mean, the embodiment of optimism, Jack Kennedy over Richard Nixon in 1961, saying, "We're going to do it, we can do it, we're " Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter in 1980, Bill Clinton over George Bush and Bob Dole. There's no question George W. Bush is the more optimistic, the more upbeat of the two candidates, and I think that is -- the other thing he's done and Paul is right about sort of the issues thing. He's recognized or his campaign has recognized very adroitly that we are in a print period of this campaign. There's no television coverage really. There's nothing television happening. And the print period is people looking in the Times, the Post, the Journal, others are reporting on substantive speeches, and it's made for substantive speeches, and it's worked for Bush.
JIM LEHRER: Now, on the optimism thing, though, Paul, Al Gore has come back this week with progress and prosperity. Somebody said, "Hey, be optimistic."
PAUL GIGOT: There's a bit of the cheerleader in there. Some of the polling is showing that the public's mood is not as cheerful as it's been, that wrong track right track number which is so decisive in a campaign, the mood of the country, is the country moving in the right directly? It has moved a little bit more on the wrong track and that obviously hurts the Vice President. So you could see him getting out there and saying things are better than you thought! And he's announcing the surplus numbers which are going to be the budget surplus numbers three weeks in advance this week is really what he did.
The other thing is he's not getting credit for the economic good times, and no Democrat since 1960 has won the White House unless they had a significant 14 or 15-point advantage over the other Republican candidate on: Who would be the better steward of the economy? The Vice President now is about two to five points behind George W. Bush on that measure. He can't afford to let that stay.
MARK SHIELDS: I thought two things that worked for him. One was he borrowed a page right out of Ronald Reagan's 1984 playbook, which is "Morning in America" - contrasting where they were in 1992, where the country was, deplorable economic shape when the Clinton-Gore folks came in, where they are today, reminding people of that. You're better off than you were. Appearing with Bob Rubin, who is the one person that even my conservative friends acknowledge was one of the architects They give Alan Greenspan -- can say that.
But the other thing, Jim, that shouldn't be overlooked - is I remember -- maybe Paul is too young, but I remember on the day of New Hampshire primary in 1980 when Ronald Reagan beat George Bush and lost Iowa on his way to the nomination the first time - on that day Ronald Reagan shook up his campaign and fired the top three people in his campaign and fired the top three people in his campaign -- and went on and put Bill Casey - not a particularly established campaign manager, later CIA head, in as his chief. So people do not vote for a campaign manager. In spite of -- former campaign managers like myself like to think they didn't vote for James Carville in 1993 - they voted for Bill Clinton - they didn't vote for Lee Atwater in 1988, they voted for George Bush. And so the final analysis - Bill Daley can do a great job, but it's going to be the Al Gore or George Bush when they pick.
|Capital punishment in the campaign|
JIM LEHRER: Is capital punishment going to become an issue as a result of these new reports on the states -- what do you think?
PAUL GIGOT: I don't think so, Jim. There's a lot of press pressure on both candidates to change their minds on this. I don't think there's anything in it for George W. Bush to change his mind at this stage, and let me defend Al Gore on this. A lot of liberal columnists out there have been saying on everything else they are criticizing the Vice President -- he's too flexible, he's too pliable, he changes too often, Elian Gonzalez He can't make up his mind. And then yet they're beating up because he won't change his mind on capital punishment.
JIM LEHRER: I interviewed the Vice President last night and he didn't change his position at all; he hung in there on that.
PAUL GIGOT: And since the two men, the two candidates, really don't disagree on this, I don't think this is going to be a big issue.
JIM LEHRER: In a word?
MARK SHIELDS: Only if there's a big bad mistake in Texas.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Thank you all very much.