POLITICAL WRAP - LINE OF SUCCESSION
APRIL 11, 1996
JIM LEHRER: Now some analysis of these appointments by Shields & Gigot, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, "Wall Street Journal" columnist Paul Gigot. Paul, the choice of Mickey Kantor to replace Ron Brown, is that going to mean a big change at the Commerce Department?
PAUL GIGOT, Wall Street Journal: I really don't think so. I think, in fact, it was probably a choice the President made because it wouldn't be a big change. Ron Brown and Mickey Kantor were allies intellectually and politically inside the administration in advocating the point of view that one of the main planks, maybe "the" main plank of American foreign policy, ought to be promoting American commercial interests abroad, business, trade, commercial sales. And they were strong advocates for that position and in a way, Ron Brown was the one who tried to make the sales and promote the sales, and Mickey Kantor, as the President said, did have the paddle and gave a whack to some of these, umm, to other countries in trying to negotiate trade deals. And he's just moving all over to a different side of the street.
JIM LEHRER: An Kantor believes in all of that just as much as Ron Brown did?
PAUL GIGOT: Absolutely. I don't think there's much difference between them. There may have been--there have been some differences on occasional issues, but on the broad policy, I think that they were on that side of the administration, in contrast sometimes, for example, to the State Department and to the Defense Department, which really do think an awful lot more about our security interests.
JIM LEHRER: When it comes to talk about computers or whatever, whether or not they have a defense thing or whatever, rather than the business end of it.
PAUL GIGOT: And also are just not merely, for example, with Japan, our trade relations, on the one hand, but what do we--we need Japan as an ally to deal with say China.
JIM LEHRER: Got you. Got you. Mark, what do you think of this appointment, surprise you at all?
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Not really, Jim. I think in a presidential year, the campaign is on. The candidates are chosen. If you're going to choose somebody for your cabinet, you'd better choose somebody who's confirmable by the Senate. Mickey Kantor is. He's already been confirmed by the Senate to be--in 1993. In addition, you want somebody where there's no surprises. There's no surprises with Mickey Kantor. He and Bill Clinton have been friends for a long time. In 1987, when Bill Clinton came in a whisker of running for the Presidency, the night the decision was made at the Governor's Mansion in Little Rock, Mickey Kantor was one of the five people in the room, so they go back a long way.
JIM LEHRER: And there had been some talk, Mark, that Mickey Kantor might step aside from his trade job and run the campaign in some--or at least help the reelection campaign in '96. Does that mean--was that ever really a likely prospect, or does this end it, if it was?
MARK SHIELDS: There has always been press speculation about it, but every time it came up, Mickey did everything in his power to shoot it down. He had been there. I think he understood and understands that having been there and having done what he's done the past four years, he probably wasn't. That wasn't best for him, and he wasn't best for that job.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah.
MARK SHIELDS: It's a different job now, I think. Mickey will be part of the college of cardinals that every candidate that has, that sort of informal group of close, trusted, intimate advisers whom you seek, you bounce ideas off of if you're a candidate, whether you're Bob Dole or Bill Clinton or running for governor of Wyoming.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. What about, Mark, the other two appointments, Charlene Barshefsky to take Kantor's place and Frank Raines to take Alice Rivlin's place?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, Charlene Barshefsky, Jim, is the envy of every political figure in Washington. She was the subject of a profile in the "New Yorker" Magazine that anybody in Washington would kill for.
JIM LEHRER: I remember that.
MARK SHIELDS: I'm telling you, I mean, she's really--she's super woman, I mean, in addition to sounding like a very lovely human being, enormously, enormously competent. So I think she was almost the inevitable choice. There was no question. Frank Raines was a, was a bit of a surprise. I mean, he comes from Fannie Mae, the Federal National Mortgage Association, where he's been right-hand man to Jim Johnson out there, and he comes with strong democratic credentials and a strong reputation professionally.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. What about Barshefsky and Raines, Paul?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, she does have a reputation for being a tough-nosed negotiator, no question about it, and competent, accomplished, and travels all the time as the job requires, so I think that it was a natural promotion, as Mark suggested. The Raines appointment is interesting because it is a surprise. I mean, Fannie Mae is not, you know, the centerpiece of Washington political debate. And he's moving out of a job which is in many respects worried more about commercial concern.
JIM LEHRER: You ought to explain what Fannie Mae does. Explain what Fannie Mae does.
PAUL GIGOT: I thought you were going to do that. Mortgage insurer is what it is. It's a mortgage insurer. It's the federal government.
JIM LEHRER: But they also have a special program for low cost housing. They do a lot of things. And Frank Raines has been involved in all of those.
PAUL GIGOT: And you get paid pretty well for managing Fannie Mae.
JIM LEHRER: It's private. It's federally chartered but it's a private--it's privately-owned. In fact, you can go buy stock on it--stock in it on the New York Stock Exchange.
PAUL GIGOT: That's right. If all the government ran as well as Fannie Mae, we'd be a lot better off.
JIM LEHRER: Right. I think Mark wanted to say something.
MARK SHIELDS: Their pay scale is quite separate from the federal government's. They get paid like short stops or rock stars is what they do. This is a big cut for Frank Raines.
JIM LEHRER: Right. I got you. Go ahead, Paul.
PAUL GIGOT: What's interesting about it is he's moving from a job which is a predominantly commercial focus to one that is really in the cockpit of politics. There's no more political document in the United States than the budget. It's "the" most important political document, and here--
JIM LEHRER: Particularly right now.
PAUL GIGOT: Particularly right now. And the President's budget was certainly political. You know, he didn't expect that ever to pass. So this is really moving up, and it's, it's right into a very difficult job, and he's going to have to prove that he can play in that political--those political currents.
JIM LEHRER: It's a very different world. All right guys don't go away. I want to move on now to other matters, including the Whitewater trial in Little Rock, and Margaret Warner has an update on that first.
To continue with Shields and Gigot discussing Whitewater, click here.