MARCH 6, 1996
The NewsHour examines the last 24 hours of the Republican Presidential race. Syndicated columnist Mark Shields, "Wall Street Journal" columnist Paul Gigot, are joined by William Kristol, editor and publisher of the "Weekly Standard," a conservative magazine
JIM LEHRER: Paul, picking up on some of the things that we just heard in the discussion a few minutes ago, this question about whether or not Forbes and Buchanan staying in the race helps Dole in the long run, yes or no?
PAUL GIGOT, Wall Street Journal: I guess it depends on how long the long run is, Jim. I mean, if they continue to hit him from the flanks all the way to San Diego, I think that there's a problem, no question about it, particularly if it moves Dole in the wrong direction on some issues. I think that if, for example, the Forbes candidacy would help Bob Dole to forge a genuine economic message, one aimed at the concerns that Pat Buchanan raised about middle class incomes, and going at an issue that President Clinton is weak on potentially, the economy, I think that would be useful. Otherwise, you know, it could be a demolition derby.
JIM LEHRER: Demolition derby, that's of course what Vin Weber was saying, Bill Kristol, that if Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes continue to beat up daily on Bob Dole, that it's his position is that could not be helpful. How do you feel about that?
WILLIAM KRISTOL, The Weekly Standard: I'm sure it does very much damage if Bob Dole wins Tuesday after Tuesday for the next six weeks, they can beat up on him all they want, I know the voters are going to pay much attention. And if they got out, I don't know that it would help Bob Dole that much. It seems to me Bob Dole has to make himself a better candidate. He has to do a better job of articulating what he would do as President, while the familiar complaints that Republicans make about Bob Dole, that his fate is in his own hand, and I actually don't think it makes much difference what others now say about him. I think his performance now is key.
JIM LEHRER: As a matter of pure politics, if he continues to beat these guys at the polls Tuesday after Tuesday, Mark, that helps him too.
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Tuesday night at the fights and another victory for Bob Dole, another notch on the gun. It worked for Michael Dukakis in 1988. As he was beating Jesse Jackson every Tuesday, state after state, decisive margins, led 'em into the Atlanta convention in 1988 with a 16-point lead over Vice President Bush. Jim, this race, I would say that the case could be made very strongly that Bob Dole will be well served by both Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes staying in the race for a very simple reason. From the beginning of 1995, all the way through the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses, this race was about to determine who would become the non-Dole candidate, the non-Dole out of that whole pack. Finally, it emerged. It was Pat Buchanan, who finished second in Iowa, then first in New Hampshire. Once Buchanan emerged, then the contest became who was going to be the anti-Buchanan candidate. Bob Dole was sharper, better, more focused, and more disciplined after New Hampshire than he had been at any point in the entire 16 months before that.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree, Paul, that what helped Dole do what he did last night when they had as much to do with people saying, hey, it's Buchanan we got to get, more than positive things about Dole?
MR. GIGOT: I think there was a big element of stop Buchanan in there. One of the striking things about the exit poll yesterday was that Dole won among self-professed conservatives rather handily. I think there are a lot of Republicans who define themselves as conservative who didn't want their conservatism to be defined by Pat Buchanan. And a lot of the party moved to coalesce and say we've got to stop him, and the institutions, even including a lot on the religious right, decided that they needed to make a pragmatic choice, not just a send a message choice, and that helped Bob Dole an awful lot.
JIM LEHRER: Bill Kristol, why was Buchanan not able to build on his, his--on what happened in Iowa, and then most particularly in New Hampshire?
MR. KRISTOL: Well, it turned out that he really can't get more than 30 percent of the vote in the Republican primaries across the country. He's got a tap of support at 30 percent, and it turned out that Bob Dole was able to rally the other 70 percent of the voters increasingly to him. But at the end of the day, one has to say that Bob Dole was lucky in who he ended up with as his two final opponents, and I say this meaning no disrespect to Steve Forbes or Pat Buchanan, but they are two journalists. I say that meaning no disrespect to journalists here in this--this could be very dangerous here, but--
JIM LEHRER: Let's move right along.
MR. KRISTOL: You know, I mean, just in a simple-minded way. Neither--
MR. SHIELDS: You're editor and publisher. (laughter)
MR. KRISTOL: I'm leaving. Neither--neither has ever been elected to anything. Neither at the end of the day, I think, was really a credible nominee for the Republican Party. And if you had told Bob Dole a year ago, your two finalists are not going to be Pete Gramm--Phil Gramm or Pete Wilson, or even Lamar Alexander and Dick Lugar, but two people who had never won an election. I think he would say, I'll take those odds, and that's really what happened, I think.
JIM LEHRER: Mark, you said on this program, you also wrote a syndicated column which said that essentially Buchanan blew it. He had the attention up in New Hampshire and he went into his black hat and gun over the head routine, and he, he may have rallied his base, but he scared everybody else off. Do you still believe that?
MR. SHIELDS: I do, Jim. I think that--I really think that if the results in Arizona had been different, it changes the entire dynamic of the race. I mean, this is a race, once it left Iowa and New Hampshire, which were retail states, which if I were Republican I'd be deeply concerned with Bob Dole. Bob Dole went into both states and lost 30 points, on sustained, on sustained exposure in an adversarial setting, where the race was just there. He did very well in wholesale states, where he just did tarmac shots at the airport and was running on name recognition and local support and sort of a generalized message. I think if Pat Buchanan had shown some--other than that self-congratulatory self-indulgence of going out to Arizona, wearing the black hat, and just kind of rubbing everybody's nose in his victory, I think it may very well--it was a very close outcome in Arizona in 1996.
MR. GIGOT: Let me add, I also--Mark is making the point that Pat Buchanan was a flawed messenger, and I think he's right, but he also had a flawed message for Republican primaries. I think that his protectionism in South Carolina proved to backfire on him. Bob Dole went around not to the plants that were closing but to the BMW plants that were opening and adding jobs, took the issue head on, as Lamar Alexander tried to do, and proved again that protectionism is the fool's gold of American politics. It always looks great because you play the economic nationalism card, but when people get right up to their jobs and their livelihoods, especially for a President running for a national office and the national interest, it always fails.
JIM LEHRER: Bill Kristol, before you became an editor and a publisher, you were a Republican insider. Explain the Jack Kemp thing today. He does it on the day after Bob Dole has, looks like he's an inevitable winner. What happened? What's going on?
MR. KRISTOL: Well, I am as mystified as everyone else. I mean, I think he was offended that Bob Dole didn't take his--Jack Kemp's tax commission report more seriously, and, indeed, that Bob Dole became a pretty strong critic of Steve Forbes's flat tax, which Jack Kemp, which is a similar kind of flat tax that Jack Kemp has endorsed. It is amazing, though, if he had said a year ago that--if you had said Steve Forbes was going to endorse Jack Kemp's Presidential bid, we all would have said, well, that makes sense. And for Jack Kemp to go and endorse Steve Forbes's bid and then to do it the day after Forbes loses eight primaries to Bob Dole is a little odd, it's a little bit like, you know, signing up with Napoleon the day after Waterloo, or something--funny timing.
JIM LEHRER: Do you have an explanation, sir?
MR. GIGOT: I--some of what Bill says I think is right. Jack Kemp was on the fence on this for weeks. The Forbes campaign was trying to get him, the Dole campaign.
JIM LEHRER: We ought to point out that Steve Forbes and Jack Kemp go back a long way.
MR. GIGOT: A long way.
JIM LEHRER: They're close friends. They're also political friends and ideological friends on issues, right, for a long time?
MR. GIGOT: Oh, absolutely. Steve Forbes, in fact, is I think involved in financing Empower America, which is Jack Kemp's think tank here in Washington.
JIM LEHRER: And said if Kemp had run, he would not have run.
MR. GIGOT: He would not have run, that's correct.
JIM LEHRER: I wanted to make sure that everybody understood that.
MR. GIGOT: He was trying to fill the Kemp vacuum within the party, his performance here. He made Hamlet look impulsive the way he sat on the fence on all this stuff. But I think Bill is right. He was, he was offended. He was offended when Bob Dole goes up in New York and has got a 30-point lead over everybody and goes up and starts saying, there's going to be a revolution in Buffalo if the flat tax, the Forbes flat tax, passes, and he was offended for weeks that the Dole campaign was really trashing not just the messenger of Steve Forbes but the message, a Republican growth message, and if Bob Dole had taken that message to heart, I think what happened today would not have happened.
JIM LEHRER: Do you have an analysis, sir?
MR. SHIELDS: I do. I thought Gary Bauer made a good point on the previous segment with Margaret, and that is that endorsements in American politics let a lot more attention than they deserve. It is--we don't deliver groceries in the United States anymore. We barely deliver milk and mail, nobody delivers votes. I--the first--
MR. GIGOT: South Carolina.
MR. SHIELDS: The first--the first election, the first election I voted in was the 1960 Presidential election, and Jack Kemp today reminded me of Gov. Bob Minor of New Jersey, who was being importuned by John Kennedy, who was fearful that he would not get accepted on the first ballot, and Minor resisted all of the importunings of Kennedy, and then he sent word after all the cajolery that he would be with Kennedy on the second ballot. Kennedy said he's with me more and more, I need him less and less and that's exactly--(laughter)--you know, what I think in this one--Sen. Lugar and Gov. Alexander, but, you know, Jack Kemp did one favor for Steve Forbes, and that is all the news was good news for Bob Dole, and Steve Forbes was dying, he was suffocating in nothing but Dole good news, so it gave him a lead on today's story--in the second day.
JIM LEHRER: In fact, when the announcement was made earlier in the day that Forbes was going to have an important announcement, a news conference, everybody assumed--
MR. SHIELDS: That's right.
JIM LEHRER: --that he was going to withdraw.
MR. SHIELDS: Yeah.
JIM LEHRER: And I mean, that's where, that's where the state of mind was. Now, what, what does it do politically for Forbes, do you think, the Kemp endorsement?
MR. KRISTOL: Not much. I think Steve Forbes will probably withdraw a week from now after he loses New York Thursday and then loses the Super Tuesday states next Tuesday, so I think the Kemp-Forbes alliance might just be a week long in this, in this campaign.
JIM LEHRER: What about the point that the--the overall point that Vin Weber made a few moments ago, Paul, which is that, look, the point comes when the Republican Party must rally around its nominee? He says the point arrived last night. Do you agree?
MR. GIGOT: Well, it was certainly as decisive a win as I can recall in a primary. I mean, it was eight no, and it was a flush across-the-board and decisive in every single state. Unless one of these two men can come back and in, invoke one of the largest cases of buyer's remorse that I've ever seen in the next couple of weeks, then I think the case becomes very, very weak for staying.
MR. SHIELDS: I want to see the magic and the power of Pat Buchanan. Pat Buchanan's candidacy has led my good friend, Paul, to discover previously unnoticed virtues in Bob Dole. It's really--I mean, Dole belongs on Mount Rushmore--
MR. GIGOT: When did I say that?
MR. SHIELDS: --because he's the guy--he was not Buchanan.
MR. KRISTOL: Mark's, Mark's found all these virtues in Pat Buchanan. That's charming. I think endorsements don't matter. Endorsements don't matter much, but I think the Shields' endorsement of Buchanan can still make a different in those Super Tuesday states.
MR. SHIELDS: I'll tell you what, what Pat Buchanan did for the Republicans in 1996 was what Paul Tsongas did for the Democrats in 1992, when he talked about balanced budget, and that is he gave them a chance to talk to a constituency that they hadn't been able to talk to, and Republicans, since Ronald Reagan, have not been able to talk to blue-collar workers, and that's what--he gave them that opening. I'm not saying he delivered it, but he was the only one. The very fact that the "New York Times" is devoting several thousand trees and fifty-five thousand words to this subject of downsizing, layoffs, or the declining American future, has nothing to do with, you can call it protectionism, if you want. It's a question that the free market has left an awful lot of people out, and a lot of people are hurting in this country.
JIM LEHRER: One of many people we have not discussed thus far was Lamar Alexander. Bill Kristol, what happened? Why didn't he catch on?
MR. KRISTOL: Well, he never quite got over the hump as the alternative to Dole. I think, in fact, if 5,000 votes had gone differently in New Hampshire, if he had won second in New Hampshire and Dole had been third, he would really have had a chance then to say, Dole's unbelievably weak, we can't nominate Buchanan, I'm the alternative to Buchanan. He ran third in New Hampshire. Having run third in Iowa, he just was never able to beat Dole anywhere, and then the speeded up process, by the time it was a week later, he had already won fourth in other states, and he was pretty much finished.
MR. GIGOT: We're talking about two thousand, four thousand votes in some of these states. It was a very close run thing, and Lamar Alexander came closer than a lot of people ever thought he would, but I also think he suffered a little bit from the Republican reaction to Bill Clinton, because they saw in Lamar Alexander, many Republicans did, an authenticity problem, running as the outsider, when he'd been such an insider for so long, another southern governor who's very good on his feet, who we really don't know who he is, and I think that hurt him when he was trying to dislodge Bob Dole as the anti-Buchanan candidate.
MR. KRISTOL: Also, Republicans like coats and ties, not those plaid shirts.
JIM LEHRER: That's the Democratic--
MR. KRISTOL: That's the Democrats, yes.
JIM LEHRER: The red shirts. Okay, well, gentlemen, thank you very much, all three.