SHIELDS AND GIGOT
SEPTEMBER 6, 1996
Our political pundits, Mark Shields and Paul Gigot discuss the political fallout from Presidential aide Dick Morris's resignation, the bombing of Iraq and Bob Dole's dismal week on the campaign trail.
August 29, 1996
A panel of senior political reporters discuss the Morris scandal.
August 29, 1996
Jim Lehrer sits down with Mark Shields and Paul Gigot for a two-pronged discussion; first, the Morris sex scandal, and then, President Clinton's acceptance speech.
Browse the NewsHour's regular Political Wrap-up of the week's events.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mark, a week after the Dick Morris story broke, what are the lingering political--is there any lingering political fallout?
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: I think there is. First of all, let me, let me just lay out following what was an excellent discussion among our historians, first of all, this was not a county chairman of either party. This was not a Democrat or a Republican. When I hear politics is about to get another black eye it kind of bothers me, because politics is important in this country. This was not a conservative activist or a liberal activist. This was truly a gun for hire, a man whoís as comfortable working for Governor Bill Weld, a Massachusetts conservative, as he was working for Howard Metzenbaum, the Ohio liberal, as he was working for Bill Clinton or Jesse Helms, and if that really--most people in politics make a decision early on, whether theyíre activists or whether they end up being consultants, that they work for one side or the other, and they usually work for a group within that side, for liberal Democrats, or conservative or Republicans, or what. So I think--I think it does hurt politics. I mean, Dick--
MS. FARNSWORTH: That aspect of it especially?
MR. SHIELDS: Especially, and I think as well, Elizabeth, that, that Blaze Pascal, the French philosopher and mathematician, said it all three centuries ago. The only shame is to have no shame. This is a man without shame. And he has found a, a marketplace that is welcoming him. I mean, the ďNew Yorker,Ē one of the great magazines in the country, is about to bring him to an advertisersí breakfast next week. I donít know what heís going to do, talk to the Berkenstock people, I guess.
PAUL GIGOT, Wall Street Journal: Itís always nice to see Mark quote a French philosopher, Mark. (laughing)
MR. SHIELDS: I was just offering the olive branch.
MR. GIGOT:I think the major fallout is that this will increase the cynicism about American politics. I think a lot of Americans hate politics. And one of the reasons they hate politics is because it doesnít seem to be about anything real. It seems to have the sincerity of professional wrestling. And itís all for show. Itís all for publicity. Itís all a game. And Morris represented that better than anybody I know because for him it was a game. There was no party he represented. There was no cause he represented. And give, give one conviction politician, uh, on the other side of the philosophical divide from me, but give him some credit. Jesse Jackson, he said before all this broke out that Dick Morris was in some sense amoral, and he was in his politics. And I think a large part of the reason for cynicism is that the politicians, themselves, donít just blame Morris but blame the people who hire Dick Morris. MR. SHIELDS: Absolutely.
MR. GIGOT: And this is where I disagree a little bit with Mark. I mean, one of the reasons Roger Ailes, who was a consultant for an awful lot of politicians, got out of politics is it was because he said the people who I was going to work for kept asking me what they should think. Well, they should know what they think. Iíll help them sell it, but they should know what they think.
MR. SHIELDS: Anybody who does--who does political advice, the first thing is why do you want to be governor or president or senator, and they canít answer that. One point, one point of correction in this, and that is Dick Morris gave Bill Clinton consistently bad advice. Heís giving credit now or taking credit, and ďTime MagazineĒ gave him the opportunity to claim all the credit in the world for Bill Clintonís restoration. The fact of the matter is that the advice he gave to Bill Clinton was to cut a budget deal with the--with the House and Senate Republicans. Bill Clinton didnít and couldnít because, in fact, the issue was joined by congressional Democrats that the Medicare cuts were going to be financed by the tax cuts. And once Bill Clinton found himself unable to do it, he developed steel in his spine, he got Newt Gingrich as an enemy, totally violative of everything that Dick Morris had told him to do. So, I mean, the irony is hereís a guy claiming credit. He did do V-chips. He did do school uniforms, and, you know, but that, that isnít how Bill Clintonís restored to political health, Paulís own polls show it was voters over the age of 65 who switched.
MR. GIGOT: One other little item here is that Dick Morris in a way came--we now know represented the very behavior he was urging his presidential candidate to argue against, you know, the decline of personal responsibility, which was President Clinton has made such a central theme, maybe Morris was on to something because he represented himself.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Okay, Paul, letís move on. Letís move on.
MR. SHIELDS: Just one point, and that is James Carville was mentioned in the previous discussion. James Carville, full disclosure, is an old friend of mine, Iíve known him for 20 years. After James Carville ran Bill Clintonís campaign in 1992 and Ď91, he was offered seven figures to do NAFTA, and support and strategize the ratification of a NAFTA agreement before the Congress. He turned it down. He has never represented anybody before any legislative body, any candidate heís ever worked on. Heís never lobbied. I mean, those are the things that arenít known about people who do manage campaigns. Iím not saying heís a faster saint, he isnít. But I think those are the things that should be known that Paulís absolutely right, this contributes to the cynicism, and itís--Dick Morris, I believe, is the exception, rather than the rule.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Okay. Iraq dominated, not Dick Morris actually dominated the news this week. Paul, what do you think the effect of President Clintonís actions vis-a-vis Saddam Hussein will be on the campaigns?
MR. GIGOT: Well, if Saddam is not on the payroll but the Clinton campaign might as well put him there. I mean, heís really helped the President an awful lot this week, giving him a chance two months out to look presidential, to, to use force, and to make it impossible for Bob Dole to get any other message out, No. 1, but also have to say, well, I back my President, since thatís the tradition of American politics.
MS. FARNSWORTH: After being--at first, he was a bit critical, though, on Monday?
MR. GIGOT: Well, thatís right. Before the--before the missiles were launched. I think thatís--poor Bob Dole, you know, wanted foreign policy to come up as an issue, but it comes up in the form of a tyrant from central casting, Saddam Hussein, who you can lob--the President can lob a few missiles at, and look like Norman Schwarzkopf. Thatís a short-term--I think longer-term, and by longer, I mean maybe beyond the election, Iraq represents I think one like Bosnia or like Korea, like the whole issue of terrorism, a foreign policy problem that the President is kind of kicking down the road. Letís have a short-term fix here, letís get it past November 5th, and weíll fix it in a second term, so these things could come back to be political problems for Bill Clintonís second term or a Bob Dole first term because these are short-term fixes. I mean, you can argue, as Jim Hoagland does this week in the ďWashington Post,Ē that this is, in fact, a big victory for Saddam, that he emerges stronger from this, not as the President said, strategically worse off.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Because he is--has his people in Northern Iraq.
MR. GIGOT: He consolidates a part of the country he didnít have control over, and he has a firmer control over Iraq than he did before.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Mark.
MR. SHIELDS: The place where I disagree with Paul and I agree with a good part of the analysis especially the first part, itís been a terrible week for Bob Dole. He canít get traction. I mean, itís just kind of really, your heart kind of goes out to him, and even the elements turned against him, Mother Nature. Hereís Bill Clinton calling, putting North Carolina on, on federal relief because of the hurricane and Bob Dole canít even get out and campaign. I think the winner, ironically, may not be--may not be Saddam Hussein, you know, as much as Iran. And I think it extends--Marvin Zonus made a very, I thought, compelling piece in the ďNew York TimesĒ this week that Iran could be the big victor, that Iran could expand its interest and its power and influence all the way across that whole crescent, and in any event, itís tough for Dole, and Americans donít have to be introduced to Saddam Hussein. They already know him, and they loathe him, so anybody who stands up to him is in good--is in solid political ground.
MS. FARNSWORTH: And what about the Dole campaign has some other problems besides weather and that this week--the two chief media strategists left yesterday.
MR. SHIELDS: Chief media strategists do not leave winning campaigns. I mean, thatís, you know, everything in politics is a poll, and when people start leaving the campaign and the people brought in, itís usually a sign things are wrong, weíre looking for the silver bullet, weíre looking for something, itís a personnel will change the chairs, Doleís had--heís had bad economic news, the President, I mean, lowest unemployment in seven years, deficit now according to CBO is going to be the lowest since 1974, as a percent of GDP, lower than Japan and Germany, so I mean, you know, at every front, Bob Dole is hit with either good news for the country and bad news for himself, and itís touch to get traction.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Why do you think the two media strategists quit yesterday?
MR. GIGOT: Well, it was a fight over a couple of things, partly personality, partly power struggle within the campaign, partly, I think, a question of how you handle the issue of taxes, how strongly to go on it. The question it raises for me, other than the fact that 60 days out from an election itís not good to have this sign of disorganization.
MS. FARNSWORTH: But he said itís like fighting for the chairs in the Titanic.
MR. GIGOT: Itís not a well, lean, mean fighting machine at this point which when youíre 15 points behind, you probably should be. But the thing that I--that sort of alarmed me a little bit, if youíre--if youíre thinking from a Republican point of view, is this is 15 points behind. Mike Murphy, one of the strategists, has done a campaign like this. Three of them in fact. He did the Christine Todd Whitman race against Democratic incumbent in New Jersey--the Mike Harris race for the premiere of Ontario, 1995, and the John Engler race in Michigan, and he did it using the tax issue. He had a theory of how you come back. You run a come-from-behind campaign. Thereís nobody else in the Dole campaign right now whoís run a campaign like that. So it makes you wonder what is their strategy for winning this campaign, and we havenít--weíve seen a little bit, hedge a little bit on the tax issue. Bob Dole, himself, said in Chicago the balanced budget is priority number one, not the tax issue, and when your main problem on taxes is people donít believe it, you canít afford to hedge, youíve got to go full speed ahead, and if Murphy was driving that, then you have to wonder if theyíre going to succeed.
MR. SHIELDS: The only problem is that every survey shows that the tax issue has lost saliency and lost traction as well. And the ďUSA TodayĒ poll showed support for it fell from 51 percent to 31 percent in just two weeks since the end of the Republican convention. I mean, itís like nothing Dole is doing is working right now. Iím not saying a day is a lifetime in politics, a week is forever, and anything could happen, but right now, itís been a bleak for him. Itís a tough time to, to get excited and optimistic about the Dole candidacy.
MR. GIGOT: But a large part of the problem with the tax issue is people donít believe it because theyíre skeptical of politicians, rightly so. And itís taken some hits from the Democratic convention. But people always say, we donít believe politicians are going to deliver it. Once they begin to think a politician might, theyíve vote on it. Theyíve done it time and again, and thatís why you have to stick with it right through November 5th.
MR. SHIELDS: The only other problem is for Bob Dole, is the good news for Bill Clinton is that Americans are for the first time more optimistic than they have been in a number of years. They think the country, the think the countryís headed in the right direction, so they feel things are good. I mean, the anger has been drained from them to a considerable degree. This is not 1990. Itís not 1992. Itís not 1994. This is an electorate much changed from those elections.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Do you think that the Dole campaign may get a little more, a little meaner? One of the people brought is Alex Castellanos, who did a controversial ad for Jesse Helms when he was running against Harvey Gant, an ad that some people thought was quite mean.
MR. SHIELDS: Well, I think if, in fact, thereís a sense that the economic issues are not working and the tax issue isnít working, then I think, you know, thereís a strong temptation to run on the culture issues and the social issues, and especially with the Morris stuff brewing, uh, and the allegations contained, and the latest revelations in the Morris story, and thatís an inviting target, and saying, gee, what we have to do is we have to land the knock-out punch. And thatís the place where you see it, rather than earning two or three points--
MS. FARNSWORTH: Just one second for a response.
MR. GIGOT: It didnít have anything to do with that. Cipol and Murphy were not political virgins here. Character is going to be an issue, no matter who the consultant is, Bill Clintonís character, that is.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Okay. Thank you both.