SEPTEMBER 27, 1996
The NewsHour's regular political analysts, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot, examine why Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole has trouble connecting to American voters, why either he or President Clinton are trusted by the electorate, the mixed legacy of the 104th Congress and the expanded ethics investigation of House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
JIM LEHRER: Now, the presidential campaign and other things political as seen by Shields and Gigot, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot. Mark, how does the Ohio picture fit with the one youre seeing elsewhere?
A RealAudio version of of this NewsHour segment is available.
Sept. 25, 1996:
Elizabeth Farnsworth talks to advisors to Bob Dole and Bill Clinton about the growing drug use amongst teenagers.
Sept. 24, 1996:
President Clinton takes a campaign swing through New Jersey, addressing a rally in Monmouth County.
Sept. 24, 1996:
Bob Dole returns to stress his economic plan in a speech today at the Detroit Economic Club.
Sept. 24, 1996:
Newsmaker: Ross Perot discusses his law suit against the Presidential Debate Commission, supply-side economics, and drug abuse.
Sept. 20, 1996:
Two Congressional watchers analyse the election races.
Sept. 17, 1996:
Reform Party vice presidential candidate Pat Choate and Co-chair of the bipartisan Debate Commission, Paul Kirk, discuss the decision to exclude Ross Perot from the Presidential debates.
Browse past Shields and Gigot debates.
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: I thought, I thought Margaret captured Ohio, the ambivalence of the voters there. Bill Clinton has up to now captured the middle of this electorate. Hes captured the Middle West where he leads middle age voters, independent voters, voters in the middle income, but there is not in what continues to make Democrats uneasy, even with a large lead, and a comfortable lead, is that there is not an intensity. The reservations expressed in Margarets piece by voters who are voting for Clinton are still there, and theyre gnawing at Democratic confidence.
JIM LEHRER: Paul.
PAUL GIGOT, Wall Street Journal: Marks right. This is not a President like an FDR or a Ronald Reagan or even an Eisenhower who running for a second term was really loved by a lot of people. There was an emotional attachment with--with Clinton theres a sort of a tolerance, but the other thing that this--that this piece showed was what the Dole campaign is finding all along, which is Bob Dole also doesnt make an emotional connection with people. Its almost as if, I mean, the people who know Bob Dole in the Senate know that hes a witty man, a charming man, and well liked by his peers. I think he won a secret ballot against the President, for example, even among Democrat maybe, in the Senate. He doesnt somehow connect on television, and its almost as if hes pre-TV candidate, a lot like Walter Mondale, who had some of the same disconnect in public. The other thing that the piece brought up was, I think, was a subtle, but very powerful issue, thats an undercurrent in this campaign working against Bob Doles age. There are a lot of people who have reservations about his age. Theres nothing Bob Dole can do about that, short of, you know, running a marathon or something, and even that wouldnt do it, because a lot of people who are his age say I dont know that I could do the job, and it works against him.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. Do you think thats a big deal, the age thing?
MARK SHIELDS: I think the age is a problem, and, and its one of those things, Jim. There are certain charges in politics you cant deal with. I mean, if somebody says, you know, candidate X, hes on the take, now how do you prove youre not on the take, you know, youre not stashing a couple of $20 bills? All right. Hes a lightweight, you know, gee, what do you do, go out and write a book? You know, I mean, and so--and age--
PAUL GIGOT: Get somebody else to write a book.
MARK SHIELDS: --is one of those--age is one of those things. Now, voters do like Bill Clinton. They like him; they think hes friendly; they think hes warm; they think hes optimistic. And they think he understands whats going on in their lives, and I think thats where the age becomes a problem for Bob Dole.
JIM LEHRER: Were you struck, Paul, as I was--and it doesnt matter whether these folks were pro-Clinton or pro-Dole or wherever they were--they didnt trust either one of them, really. I mean the word "trust" is something thats just kind of gone now from national politics.
PAUL GIGOT: Well
JIM LEHRER: Im going to cut your taxes, whatever Im going to do.
PAUL GIGOT: If you look at the people who in 1992 who cited trust as a big issue, George Bush won those voters. I suspect Bob Dole will win those voters this time. But it doesnt seem as if that is enough or those are enough people who vote on that issue. So its--
JIM LEHRER: Its on the list but it isnt--it isnt up there.
PAUL GIGOT: And the cynicism about politicians, part--and I think this is really hurting Bob Doles tax cut--because--in particular because I think there are two betrayals--George Bushs, one Republican President, and Bill Clintons in 1992, a Democratic President, the previous two presidents who promised tax cuts--
JIM LEHRER: Or no new taxes.
PAUL GIGOT: Or no new taxes. And then broke those pledges, I think thats working against Bob Doles pledge this time.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: I think its deeper than that, Jim. In 1972, when Richard Nixon won reelection, the eighth most important issue to the voters was honesty. George McGovern cleaned Richard Nixons clock on honesty. I mean, people, when they reelected a President, say, they get to know him, and they, they know his strengths and his weaknesses. I think its deeper than Clinton, deeper than Bush. I think its 25 years of divided government where the Democrats ran the Congress, Republicans ran the executive, and each party didnt simply attack the other party; they attacked that branch of government the other party controlled. So the Democrats would just hold hearings and bring up $10,000 toilet seats from the Defense Department and the silliness of Sam Pierce, and the thatuousness of Jim Wad at Interior, and the Republicans responded in kind led by Newt Gingrich as the fire brand leader of the minority and went after the House bank and House gym, the House post office, and the only thing people heard at home is my God, theyre all ethical eunuchs and moral lepers, and--
JIM LEHRER: And everybodys paying the price.
MARK SHIELDS: And I think thats whats happened to the business.
JIM LEHRER: Speaking of the Congress, 104th Congress, its about to go, the Republicans claimed credit today. They said we won and the Democrats said, no, no, no, we won. Who won, Paul?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, I think if you look at the policy, um, its been--in terms of policy its been a successful Congress. There is an awful lot of things that were done that I think fell in the category of historic, with the welfare bill, for example, the agricultural reform, telecommunications. For the first time in 25 years a Congress actually cut spending. They dont like to do that in this city. Republicans said they would. So a policy success--much less of a success though politically because in fact, Bill Clinton is the one who is now getting an awful lot of the credit, politically, for some of the things that Republicans passed, not Bob Dole. And--
JIM LEHRER: Because he signed them.
PAUL GIGOT: Thats right. And even the Republican Congress, itself, isnt getting as much credit as it probably deserves for passing a lot of these things because they gave the impression--I mean, they shouldn't have tried to shoot the moon. And when they didnt get all the hearts, you know, they didnt get all the credit for it, and they didnt get credit for the things they did collect. And thats a real problem now as they go to face the electorate because Bill Clinton is saying, I stopped em even though hes gone 60 percent of the way in coopting their message and adopting their agenda.
JIM LEHRER: Mark.
MARK SHIELDS: A little different view.
JIM LEHRER: A little different view. Okay.
MARK SHIELDS: This Congress, this Republican Congress appropriated more money for Health & Human Services than the Democrats that preceded them. They added $6.5 billion to education in the last couple of weeks. Most Congresses, Jim, are judged on the last few days. All right. Most presidencies are judged on the first hundred days. This Congress said they wanted to be judged in the first hundred days. The last few days theyve been spending passing Ted Kennedys minimum wage, Ted Kennedy and Nancy Kassebaum, hardly are revolutionaries, health portability bill, 48 hours that a new mom and a newborn are going to spend in the hospital mandated by the federal government. I mean, legal services are still there. The National Endowment for the Arts, public broadcasting, all the things that are on their hit list are still somehow functioning and breathing and seem to be reasonably well. Pauls right. The welfare law, welfare reform is a major change, make no mistake about it--the end of a federal guarantee for poor people in this country. Thats gone. As well, the commitment of both parties to a balanced budget. But getting out of town, running for reelection, these guys are running like, like the middle-of-the-road, kind-of-left-wing Republicans right now.
PAUL GIGOT: Well, Mark is right. The Republicans as they get out of town are giving away everything but the floor passes. Thats absolutely right, and maybe some want to give up those. But thats for a very particular reason and its called shutdown and the legacy of shutdown.
JIM LEHRER: That really hurt em, didnt it?
PAUL GIGOT: It did back then. What the President is doing is waving that little reminder saying, shut down, fellahs, so how about this, and how about this?
JIM LEHRER: --that Tuesday bill.
PAUL GIGOT: Thats right.
JIM LEHRER: They still have a deadline. Theyve got to pass an appropriations bill by Tuesday, or the government shuts down again, which theyre never going to allow to happen, but--
PAUL GIGOT: My guess is that at 23 hours and 59 minutes before the shutdown and President Clinton will wring the last concession out of them, and thats why theyre spending the $6 billion because Bill Clinton is demanding it, and they dont want to get blamed.
JIM LEHRER: How about the, the expansion of the Gingrich ethics thing, is that a big deal?
MARK SHIELDS: Its serious, Jim. Rather than release the preliminary report, all right, which Republicans didnt want to come out because it was, it was damaging to the Speaker, preliminary report already done on the investigation of the special counsel--they said, okay, lets unanimously vote to expand it, well get it beyond the election. This isnt the Federal Election Commission. This isnt slaps on the wrist; this isnt a $25,000 fine. These are allegations of violations of the federal tax law. This is the Internal Revenue Service. Now we understand why conservatives wanted to abolish the IRS, I mean, but this is serious.
PAUL GIGOT: It was a Gingrich cover-up.
MARK SHIELDS: This is serious. This is serious stuff.
JIM LEHRER: Serious stuff?
PAUL GIGOT: Bob Doles good friend, Newt Gingrich, hes covering for him with that IRS proposal, yeah. I think it is serious. I think that the one advantage, the one silver lining here is it does kick the ball past the election and removes it as an issue. The problem with all of these special counsels is when theyre going after you, theyre only going after you, and theyre uncovering linen everywhere, theyre opening up cupboards, and they go after everything, and with a widening scope, you know, everything is fair game, and if Newt Gingrich did anything at all thats a problem, its probably going to be exposed.
JIM LEHRER: All right. But not before the election.
PAUL GIGOT: No, I dont think so, not at all.
MARK SHIELDS: Newt Gingrich is finding out hes got his own Newt Gingrich now. David Bonior has been tenacious, as absolutely ferocious in pursuing him as he was in pursuing--
JIM LEHRER: Hes the House Minority Whip.
MARK SHIELDS: --as he was in pursing Jim Wright.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah.
PAUL GIGOT: As you sow, so shall ye reap.
JIM LEHRER: Yes. And Ill not wonder--good-bye.