June 9, 2000
Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot analyze the 2000 presidential campaign after viewing speeches from Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
LEHRER: Now back to Mark Shields and Paul Gigot.
MARK SHIELDS: George W. Bush, I think, had a good week. I think, Jim, with the message he sent, he capitalized on being an outsider, of changing Washington, he's the agent of change rather than of continuity, which has to be by definition Al Gore's message, and at the same time he distanced himself very nicely from the Republican disasters of recent years, the closing down of Congress and whatever. He identified, I thought, in the proposal as far as a commission to attack pork-barrel spending within the McCain movement within his own party. It showed a certain outside-of-Washington attitude, but an inside-of-Washington understanding.
JIM LEHRER: So it should be read, then, as a criticism of both Congress and the President.
MARK SHIELDS: I think so.
JIM LEHRER: What he just said.
MARK SHIELDS: He kind of distanced himself. It's a little form of triangulation, mastered by the incumbent President. The other thing he did which I thought was impressive was he sent the message-- they've sent the message several times-- about the positive convention, that it's not going to be a convention like his father's was in 1988, which was essentially to savage Michael Dukakis and to bring him down.
|The end of savage conventions?|
| JIM LEHRER: I read-- we talked about this before, but I
read it in cold print today or yesterday, that the second day of the convention
for both parties has always been this is when they savage the other guy,
the other party -
MARK SHIELDS: Yes.
JIM LEHRER: -- but they're not going to do that this time.
PAUL GIGOT: No, they're not. There was a big debate about it last time among the convention managers, about whether they should have done it last time, and their overnight polling went right down on Tuesday. They're trying with that convention to appeal to swing voters.
JIM LEHRER: What would you add to what Mark said about Bush and what he's been up to this week?
PAUL GIGOT: I think a lot of that is true. Interesting things in substance, which is fairly routine, let's face it -- Presidents are against pork barrel spending. They like biannual budgeting.
JIM LEHRER: They like their nominees acted on in 60 days.
PAUL GIGOT: Much more interesting politically is the message of tone, particularly the message, the subtle message of bipartisanship. He went out of his way in that speech to cite Mayor White of Cleveland as well as Republicans from outside of Washington, Democrats and Republicans. He's going to give a speech coming up here that talks about getting along with Democrats on a bipartisan basis. That's in the plans. They think that has a real appeal to swing voters who really haven't liked the rancor that goes on in Washington.
JIM LEHRER: Moving on to Vice President Gore, it seemed to me now-- correct me if I'm wrong here-- from just having been gone here a few weeks, both have calmed down considerably. Just watching al Gore just now, he seemed to be much calmer, as was George W. Bush. Am I wrong?
MARK SHIELDS: No, I think you're right. I think Vice President Gore has backed away from the attacks. He found out, I think his campaign did, that they were hurting the Vice President more than they were hurting George Bush, who was attacked. He's starting what some have called a peace and prosperity tour. He has not been a beneficiary up to now politically of the remarkable economy that the country has. The other thing he's done, which I think is a shrewd political move, and that is, he is now traveling with the single biggest asset he has, in my judgment, and that's Tipper Gore. I mean, she's a very exceptional public person. I think he's a better candidate when she's around.
JIM LEHRER: Gore?
PAUL GIGOT: He's a better candidate the last couple of weeks. He just didn't seem real when he was speaking at high decibels, yelling "risky!" every other word. And I think this has helped him, and I think identifying himself in that excerpt we showed, with something like Internet privacy.
JIM LEHRER: He spoke very calmly about it.
PAUL GIGOT: He did. He spoke calmly, and I think that goes across better-
JIM LEHRER: As did Bush, speak calmly about what he wanted to do in Washington.
PAUL GIGOT: But he's also identified himself with an issue about the times and the era we live in, an era of rapid change. He's saying, "Look, I know there are other things going on here. I understand that. And I can deal with it. I have some ideas to deal with that." Addressing a concern that's very real. Pollsters say it just jumps off the charts right now, privacy.
|The Microsoft decision|
JIM LEHRER: You bet. Before we go, the Microsoft breakup decision: That was big news this week. What are the possible political ramifications of that, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: None.
JIM LEHRER: None?
MARK SHIELDS: Both of those guys have gone mute on it. You can't get a word out of either candidate on the issue. It's interesting, Jim. Microsoft, if it was guilty, it's not an indictable offense in Washington or anyplace else to have terminal arrogance, but I think they lost this case in a strange way, in political terms, when they hired that battalion of Washington lobbyists and lawyers last year to try and cut the budget of the antitrust division of the Justice Department when they were being investigated. I think that did hurt them, and the fact that Thomas Penfield Jackson, the judge, was a Reagan appointee-- he ran for office as a Republican, he was pro-General Motors-- he doesn't come along as some left-wing troublemaker who's out to settle a score.
JIM LEHRER: But you took him a little to task in your column this morning, Paul.
PAUL GIGOT: Judge Jackson has a tough spot. He's got this case... I disagree with his analysis of the case. I think politically... I mean, I agree with Mark that neither candidate has been a profile at all in this. You think with an issue that is the leading-edge case for the new economy, which they both claim to support, they'd have something to say about it one way or the other, but for me the bigger picture here is the message of Silicon Valley and America's high-tech industry, which has kind of been immune from a lot of Washington regulation in the past. It wasn't Detroit; it wasn't Akron; it wasn't the steel industry or the textile makers. Now this signals they are.
JIM LEHRER: Everybody...
PAUL GIGOT: Everybody is in Washington. This is the first wave. Antitrust is going after Microsoft, but this is a new wave of taxation and regulation that's going to be descending upon Silicon Valley.
JIM LEHRER: Gentlemen, thank you both very much.