JANUARY 12, 1996
A one-two NewsHour combination with syndicated columnist Mark Shields and "Wall Street Journal" columnist Paul Gigot and the regional commentators. They discuss two major continuing stories: the stalled budget negotiations and the developments concerning First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: (Nashville) Tipper and I have worked with the President and the First Lady very closely for three years plus the campaign. These individuals are courageous, principled, decisive, knowledgeable, and they care deeply about what happens to the future of this country. I want to challenge the candidates on the other side to disavow the efforts at character assassination aimed at the First Lady. They should have nothing to do with this campaign!
REP. NEWT GINGRICH, Speaker of the House: (Walnut Creek, California) We spent hours this afternoon trying to figure out what's going on here. How can you explain it when the President of the United States in one press conference is factually wrong eight times about Medicaid? One of my friends said to me finally, you know, it is not his fault; maybe the President is factually challenged. (laughter)
JIM LEHRER: We'll take these stories one at a time, getting the Washington view, and then the one from out in the country. First, the budget and to Shields and Gigot, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, "Wall Street Journal" columnist Paul Gigot. Mark, the President kept saying that he and the Republicans are close to an agreement on the budget. How do you read what he means when he says that?
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Well, the President, I think, wants to project optimism. I think the President at the same time sees a responsibility to reassure the financial markets, and I think he's also trying, Jim, to isolate the House Republicans and the Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, as the obstructionist and extremist to any--to the reaching of a deal. He's gone so far as to say I'm checking with Bob Dole for a reality check, so it's almost a form of triangulation on the President's part to sort of--and attempt, I think, politically to isolate the House Republicans.
JIM LEHRER: So Newt Gingrich, when he hears the President say that yesterday and he repeated it again today, Mr. Gingrich did, that this is not the case at all--in fact, he, as we just heard, is essentially accusing the President of misleading the American public and telling stories, lies.
PAUL GIGOT, Wall Street Journal: Well, he hears the President saying what, what--trying to reassure the markets, trying to project optimism, trying to take credit for being for a balanced budget, which he understands is popular, but then in the negotiations, he also sees, I think, that Bill Clinton has taken, in a sense, my colleague's, esteemed colleague's advice. There was a couple of months ago, Margaret Warner said, what would you--asked us, what would you advise the President, and Mark said, stick to the congressional Democrats, your fates are entwined. I think that's what's been happening here.
JIM LEHRER: What the President's been doing.
PAUL GIGOT: What the President's been doing. He wants to be for a balanced budget, but when you look at the specific policy actions, he wants to be--to do it in a way that doesn't endorse or doesn't give his signature to the policy reforms that the Republicans feel are so important.
JIM LEHRER: And that, of course, is where the other part of the President's message is when he says the budget, we can balance the budget in seven years, no big deal there; however, let's put off the discussions, these big policy debates over Medicare, Medicaid, restructuring Medicaid, Medicare, the environment, and education. What's he talking about?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, the President is drawing profound philosophical differences. He's making the case, laying the predicate to take this to the nation. This is what government's about, that the hidden agenda of the other side, says the President, is to dismantle, to de-legitimize government's involvement in these areas.
JIM LEHRER: It isn't really just to balance the budget?
MARK SHIELDS: It isn't, no, and I think, Paul, let me agree with Paul on a point at the risk of losing part of his constituency, the gender is a consensus now on balancing the budget. The mainstream Republicans, from Bob Taft of Ohio in 1950 to Bob Dole from Kansas in 1990, have argued that we had to balance the budget in this country. For 40 years, they have been ignored largely by conservative Republicans like Ronald Reagan, by liberal Democrats like Lyndon Johnson, who's incidentally the last President to balance a budget, but basically Democrats. Let's use the federal government's spending to create jobs, to build dams, to build schools, to build hospitals, to put people to work. Let's be quite frank about it. Main Street Republicanism has triumphed and prevailed. The argument now, in my judgment, is over that branch, the newer branch of the, the Republicanism, easy street Republicans, who say, okay, we can balance the budget and we can also cut taxes at the same time. And I think that's where--that's the fault line right now.
PAUL GIGOT: Easy street, Main Street, you know, dead end street--
MARK SHIELDS: Wall Street.
PAUL GIGOT: I mean, it's, it's--there's no question that there is a fundamental debate here not just over taxes, because the Republicans who came, but also reforming the entitlement programs. I mean, the Republicans think, look, we're going to give the President--they're being asked by Bill Clinton to give him credit for balancing the budget without having to change the government. You cut a little bit on the edges, you round off the program, but you're asking us to ratify essentially that the programs that are already here, spend a little less on them, then we'll have a vote in November. If we're out, nothing has changed. We came here not just to balance the budget but to change Washington, to shake it up to make the government work better.
JIM LEHRER: And that is really what, what is on the table now, right? That's the reason that they broke up this week, and they, and they say, hey, we can't bridge this gap, because that is the gap. You just described the gap, did you not?
PAUL GIGOT: Sure. I mean, the President decided--he vetoed welfare reform this week, for example. He says we can't devolve power to the states. That's the essence of what the Republicans want to do on welfare reform so you can have 50 state experiments. If you can't agree on that policy reform, then you're just not going to agree on a budget.
JIM LEHRER: But what--what is this about taking it to the voters in November? What's wrong with that from the Republican point of view, Paul?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, the Republicans would like to get something for having had this big election victory last year. I mean, this would be one of the first Congresses in my lifetime for which nothing happened.
JIM LEHRER: Not even a balanced budget agreement doesn't count?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, a balanced budget agreement that gives Bill Clinton and the Democrats rhetorical credit for balancing the budget without anything happening, with Henry Waxman's Medicare policies in place, is not something that Republicans can go back to their constituents and say, boy, we changed Washington. They wouldn't have.
JIM LEHRER: You just brought a smile to Shields' face.
MARK SHIELDS: No. I think, I think there has been a resistance, a strong resistance on the part of most Republicans--Paul would agree--to take this to November, because there was a fear that the Democrats would come in and they had the popular side of the argument on their side. We're fighting for those who are less fortunate. The other side want to throw widows and orphans into snow banks. But there's a real philosophical difference here on something like welfare. I mean, does a six-year-old kid in Mississippi or Massachusetts or Minnesota, is that kid an American citizen and there by definition of being an American citizen guaranteed, guaranteed a certain level of housing, of food, of shelter, of medical care, and that's it, or should it be just turned over to the states and not be a federal guarantee? And I think that's a real significant difference.
JIM LEHRER: And the Republicans take the position that they got a mandate to change all of that in '94?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, the President's already agreed he wasn't going to fight the federal guarantee until he changed his mind about three weeks ago when he got a bolt of lightning from his left wing and decided that maybe--
MARK SHIELDS: Pat Moynihan.
PAUL GIGOT: Pat Moynihan, Marian Wright Edelman, and that letter she wrote, the Children's Defense Fund and Hillary Clinton mentor wrote, so I think partly there's also politics going on here with the President and his base. He thinks it's dangerous, and he may be right about that, to separate himself now from his liberal wing, from his congressional constituency, because I think he thinks if he separates too far, they're going to turn on him and he's a weaker candidate in November.
JIM LEHRER: How effective is he, Mark, do you believe, partisanship aside, in making his case for, hey, we're that close to a balanced budget agreement, we could in 15 minutes--what he said in his news conference yesterday--15 minutes we could get in and do it--that's no longer the issue, he says. It's all these other things.
MARK SHIELDS: I think, I think there's--I don't know how effective he is, Jim. I mean, I think that the President understands one thing. Paul's right. He has to have the credential of being for a balanced budget. He has a balanced budget now that has been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, which is what the Republicans have insisted on, says, yes, it does balance in seven years. He wants to get off that debate. Okay. As long as we're debating about a balanced budget, the Republicans win. I mean, Republicans stand longer and stronger. If we're going to talk about who's for Medicare, who really thinks that old folks in this country are entitled, that one category in all the world where the United States leads in health coverage, all right, and life expectancy is for Americans over the age of 65, now you think it's an accident that 99.9 percent of Americans over the age of 65 have guaranteed health care? That's the only place where we lead the rest of the world, and so this--this--Democrats making that case, that's where they want the case to be, is on those issues, rather than on balanced budgets.
JIM LEHRER: And how do the Republicans fight that?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, I think the Republicans will have to, on Medicare, they're going to say, yeah, we have this program that Mark is extolling and the President extolling, is careening towards bankruptcy, and if the--all the President wants to do is go with the same old, same old, it's not going to be there for Mark's kids and for mine, and that's why we have to change it, and that's why the President stands for the status quo. He doesn't want to change the Washington establishment. And that would be the argument the Republicans take to the voters in November.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Let's see how this is playing out in the country and to Elizabeth. Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Now, the perspective of our regional commentators on the budget standoff. Clarence Page of the "Chicago Tribune," Lee Cullum of the "Dallas Morning News," William Wong of the "Oakland Tribune," Patrick McGuigan of the "Daily Oklahoman," and Mike Barnicle of the "Boston Globe." Cynthia Tucker of the "Atlanta Constitution" is off tonight. Thank you all for being with us. Lee Cullum, let's start with you. What do you think about this, this last twist on the budget, the President saying he's so optimistic that a deal can be made, and Newt Gingrich saying that there's--I think he said that the odds for success are no more than one in five?
LEE CULLUM, Dallas Morning News: (Dallas) Well, Elizabeth, the Speaker may turn out to be right, but I certainly hope not. It appears to me, and I hear other people down here saying the same thing, that an agreement really is possible. I don't think they're that far apart on Medicare, for example. Now, I do think that the President is going to have to approach the Republican position on increasing premiums. Now, Medicaid is a philosophical difference. I certainly agree with that. I happen to think that the President is right on this; that Medicaid should remain a federal, a federal guarantee, and for those who are poor. I think the states should be allowed to run the program and be as creative as they want to be. On taxes, there certainly is a philosophical difference. It seems to me that both sides are going to have to give, and I hear others saying the same thing. We should have taxes that encourage savings and encourage investment and let the others wait, but I believe an agreement is possible. Whether we'll get it or not is another matter.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Pat McGuigan, how does it look to you?
PATRICK McGUIGAN, Daily Oklahoman: (Oklahoma City) I think it's very important for the Republicans to stick to their guns in terms of a tax cut for their constituency and the middle class people of America, the productive people of America, the people that produce jobs, create other jobs that are their investments. If they don't do that, they're making a political error, and frankly, I think they've already moved far enough, perhaps too far politically, to protect that base. The shift is something around $400 billion that they've already made in terms of their expectations when you combine their lower desire for tax cuts and the spending projections. In contrast, the President has shifted about $40 billion, and everybody is acting like this is some--something to celebrate. I think they are relatively close, but I would probably lean more towards Gingrich's point of view because I don't think the Republicans can go any further, and I'm afraid Clinton won't go any further in their direction.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Clarence, do you think the President is right when he says the issue is no longer balancing the budget, that it's now ideology?
CLARENCE PAGE, Chicago Tribune: Oh, absolutely. It's not balancing the budget. First of all, the President and Mr. Gingrich agree that the budget should be balanced in seven years. The question is over how. They both agree that we should have a tax cut. The question is: How much: They agree we should reduce spending in Medicare, Medicaid, and welfare. The question again is: How much? They agree on a reduction on the earned income tax credit. The question is: How much? They are not that far apart. What both sides are doing right now is waiting to see how the public in opinion polls and how Wall Street is going to respond, Elizabeth. What we've got is an ironic situation where Bill Clinton, Democratic President, it's in his interest to have a stable and prosperous Wall Street that is booming along right now. Newt Gingrich is trying to spook the markets by saying that we've got a one in five chance of a deal. We're going to have a deal. Mark my words. By the end of this year, we're going to have a deal. Wall Street is going to be happy. The question is: How are low income taxpayers going to feel? How are those who are losing earned income tax credit going to feel? How is that base constituency of the Democratic Party going to feel? That's where these moderate blue-dog Democrats who have a budget plan that's very close to the Republicans, that's why you're not going to see them both, in my view, from Bill Clinton right now. The Democrats see that their interests are with their constituency, just like Newt Gingrich fairly sees his interests are with his constituency and the argument is definitely philosophical.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mike Barnicle, how does it look to you?
MIKE BARNICLE, Boston Globe: (Boston) Well, I think that much of this--much of the intricacies of the budget talk and the negotiations, that many people are too busy to pay attention to it, and it goes beyond them. But I think a lot of people know that the gas company doesn't have the sense of humor that Dick Gephardt has about money and that Newt Gingrich isn't going to take care of their 84-year-old mother if something happens to those social programs, and they also look around and they see that they have a ten-year-old son, and in seven years--he's in Little League now--in seven years, God willing, he'll be in college. And seven years seems like a long time to balance a budget and you have to do it by the month here at home, or you can't use your ATM card. So I think they look at Washington, they look at the Congress, they even look at the President, and they say if you can't add and you can't subtract, and you can't do it in seven years, then get out of the way.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Bill Wong, do you think that's true? Do you hear that in Oakland?
WILLIAM WONG, Oakland Tribune: (San Francisco) I think we hear--certainly we hear some of that, but I think what the latest round of rhetoric is, is some pretty clever politics on the part of the President. He looks to be the optimist. Gingrich for some reason has turned pessimistic. And even today in our own backyard in a Republican fund-raiser for Congress Dill Baker, Gingrich repeats the note of pessimism. So in terms of tone, Clinton certainly is playing better, I think. And from my perspective, I think that it's right--I would agree with my fellow commentators, who say this goes beyond balancing the budget. It's a matter of philosophy at this point, and I think that the President is right to hold firm on things like a federal guarantee for Medicaid. And he's trying his best to make sure that Medicare remains a viable program. I've talked to some elderly people who are very concerned about proposed changes and whether or not they will get good treatment under HMO alternatives. So I think it's playing better for, for the President politically out our ways.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Lee Cullum, does this issue seem stuck, or do you have the feeling that these new twists have added something new to the debate? From Texas, how does it seem?
MS. CULLUM: I hope it's not stuck, Elizabeth. I would like to take a little bit of an issue with Paul Gigot. He said that the Republicans fear that nothing will have changed, they will have gone through this revolution for nothing. I don't think that's the case. Regardless of the outcome of this budget, health care is changing dramatically. The managed care revolution is occurring. It's occurring because of this debate. It's occurring because of the debate in Washington, which is amounting to action, so I don't think the Republicans have to feel that concerned. I hope it's not stuck. I don't think the country's stuck. I think the country is moving in the direction that the Republicans desire. What is needed now is a reasonable adaptation of the Republican revolution to real life.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. We'll be back in a few minutes to talk about the First Lady. Jim.
JIM LEHRER: Yes. The other major running story of the week was Hillary Clinton, and now back to Mark Shields and Paul Gigot. Mark, has this story about the First Lady gotten more serious, or has it gotten more political? What's happening?
MARK SHIELDS: Both. I mean, the fact is that the story has had legs to it because of the unfolding drama. First of all, it wouldn't be a story absent a suicide. All right. There's nothing else that makes it a story. I mean, people compare it to Watergate. It's not Watergate. There's no breaking and entering. There's no suspension of the Bill of Rights. There's no crimes being committed or alleged, but what there is, Jim, is ineptitude raised to a new level in how to handle, how to respond to questions and inquiries. And I think the President yesterday raised a legitimate point when he said how much of this is ideologically driven. And the very same folks who stood mute when, when Nancy Reagan fired the chief of staff, Don Regan at the White House, have all of a sudden, have charged her with intruding in personnel policies, as though she's the first First Lady to do that. The same people who, who have stood mute when Ronald Reagan's interior decorator stayed with his gay lover in the Lincoln bedroom, I didn't hear Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell or the "Wall Street Journal" editorial page talking about what a terrible moral offense this was. So I mean, there is an ideological level to it, but the Clintons have brought so much of it on themselves by their failure to heed the advice of Paul's predecessor here, David Gergen, when he went there as counselor, to say, bring all the documents, bring 'em to the "Washington Post," lay 'em out there, and let everybody see it, and they didn't do it, and I think they're paying dearly for it.
JIM LEHRER: How much ideological, how much real, Paul?
PAUL GIGOT: I think it's more than ineptitude. I think at this stage it may have started with the fear of embarrassment, taking some responsibility for firing the Travel Office, for example. It may have started with--
JIM LEHRER: What is the charge--what is wrong with what Hillary Clinton did, if, in fact, she did--if she did say to somebody, get those people out of here, this is a terrible thing, what's wrong with that?
PAUL GIGOT: If she had just fired the people and said, you know--
JIM LEHRER: She didn't fire him. In other words, she said to somebody--
PAUL GIGOT: Said to somebody--
JIM LEHRER: --you ought to get out of here.
PAUL GIGOT: --we want to clean this up, we don't think the office is working very well. Nobody would have cared. But when she said, but when it turned out that they were firing these people in order to give the contract to one of their cronies, one of their friends, when it turned out that then they denied responsibility, that they seemed to want to cover it up, they brought in the FBI to intimidate the people, they took one of the people who was running the Travel Office, who spent two years of his life, 1/2 million bucks, defending himself against justice charges, that's like firing a chief of staff, and then when you don't take responsibility but you claim that you are pure of heart, that you came to Washington to fight greed, when you wanted to clean up Washington, people see hypocrisy, and that's what I think has come back to bite her so hard in this case.
MARK SHIELDS: Five weeks of hearings and hypocrisy. I mean, you know, if hypocrisy were a disqualification for holding high office in the United States, we wouldn't have a quorum in the Senate next week. I mean, let's be quite frank about that. I don't argue with the fact that not unlike Michener's congregationalists, he's head of the congregationalists in Hawaii, they came to do good, did very, very well, I mean, I think Mrs. Clinton would prefer to be known as national chairman--national chair of the Children's Defense Fund rather than as the, the counsel for James McDougal and, and Madison Guaranty. I mean, I think there's no question about that, and I think that is part of it, but, Jim, it can't be overlooked that part of this, a good part of it's ideological. Most First Ladies have an issue, they have an issue that's a safe issue--literacy, mental health, children, nutrition. Who the hell is against nutrition or literacy or mental health? Nobody. Mrs. Clinton took an issue that was a tough, divisive issue that had strong feelings and strong interest and powerful groups on both sides of it, national health and national health insurance, and she made a lot of enemies. She did not handle it expertly. She made serious mistakes. I think her selection of personnel was open to question at every turn but, I mean, the fact of the matter is I think she's taken an awful lot of hits to this very moment because she was out front on a very controversial issue.
PAUL GIGOT: This is the President's defense, he said yesterday, and he did it instinctively, and it came right to him. Eleanor Roosevelt took some hits too. This is sort of the First Lady, a secular saint; she has a cause, and this is--and so a lot of mean people who disagree with her are going after her. But Hillary Clinton has never said that she is merely Eleanor Roosevelt. She's always been tied to this President as not just Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady with a cause, but also Harry Hopkins, the political adviser, the confidante, the political operative, somebody who appoints people. I mean, she was responsible for naming the attorney general in this administration. She has been responsible for taking on the biggest policy--Mark is right--the biggest policy development in this administration, cutting deals. She was the hard-boiled corporate attorney in Little Rock. You play by those rules; you play that game; you've got to suffer the scrutiny.
MARK SHIELDS: What is the charge? What is it? I mean, that she was--that she was a pushy dame, that she did things that other First Ladies hadn't done, that she was making decisions, that she--what is the charge? I mean, what is this cover-up all about?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, it's a question of did she tell the truth--I mean, about what happened in the Whitewater affair, what happened in Travelgate, there's an issue of credibility. There's also an issue of whether or not she allowed these items to be investigated, whether or not her colleagues at the Rose Law Firm who came to Washington were somehow trying to obstruct justice. That's what it's come down to. That's what Ken Starr is looking into. That's the real serious problem, I think, that they still have as a legal matter.
MARK SHIELDS: You're talking about--it alludes me--it alludes me.
JIM LEHRER: Do you think the President's going to get hurt by this? I mean--
MARK SHIELDS: I think there's no question it hurts the President. I mean, first of all, as long as the charge is out there that you're not being totally forthcoming and they haven't been and you're not being totally candid, then it weakens your defense on the budget. Okay.
JIM LEHRER: And everything else.
MARK SHIELDS: Your opponents can then say--plus, it preoccupies you.
JIM LEHRER: You said here the other night you think it really seriously hurts the President, right?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, I think--I think the two of them are intimately connected politically. There's no separating one from another, so that to the extent that the First Lady has credibility problems, they were down to the President's difficulty as well.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. Let's go back to Elizabeth and back out into the country. Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay, now we'll talk to our regional commentators again. Clarence, is this all smoke and no fire?
MR. PAGE: I personally think it's transparently political, Elizabeth, and this is why I have serious disagreements with my own editorial board at my paper, as well as the "New York Times" and "Washington Post," papers that have sharply criticized Mrs. Clinton this week. I think we editorialists, when we fall into that, are falling into what is a transparently political game right now. Look, we just heard my good friend, Paul Gigot, admit that Mrs. Clinton is not accused of anything illegal. We just heard Alfonse D'Amato on TV last night admit she's not accused of anything illegal. What are they trying to find out? Well, it's hypocrisy. Did she tell that truth? Look, Sen. Alfonse D'Amato does not want to sit in front of a Senate Committee--everybody knows that--and have every allegation ever made against him investigated, and if Democrats were still running Congress, we wouldn't be sitting in these hearings right now, looking at so-called "Hillarygate." Look, the Republicans see a chance to play the stereotypes of Hillary Clinton that they've been playing to from the beginning of the Clintons' campaign back in '92 and '91 even, and they see a chance to get some advantage here, and they're doing it. I see no reason for us editorial writers to play into that. My colleagues agree with me, that's fine, but I think our readers out there see what's happening, and I think right now, when I talk about the heat going on up on Hillary Clinton, it's going up in editorial board rooms, but not with most Americans.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Patrick McGuigan, something tells me you're going to disagree with this.
MR. McGUIGAN: Well, at least somewhat. Let me take issue in this sense. I think that on Travelgate it is now inarguable that the White House has a significant problem. I mean, you've got seven human beings here. It's always kind of interesting to remember that the people with whom this started who were canned really for no reason, other than as was pointed out by Paul, you know, political cronyism, seeking some advantage for friends back home in Arkansas, on the part of the Clintons.
MR. PAGE: And sloppy bookkeeping.
MR. McGUIGAN: That is not what the Clintons said they were coming to Washington to do. You know, it kind of reminds me of some of the stories from early in the Clinton--back in the Reagan years when some of the young people went to Washington thinking that it was really kind of cesspool; before too long they decided it was more like a hot tub. These people went to Washington telling mainstream Americans they were going to change the way it operated when they got there, and it looked an awful lot like politics as usual. That's before you even get to Whitewater, where as Bill Safire as pointed out, I think there's a great chance that the President's interests and the First Lady's interests may begin to diverge. Before we even get to that, the Travelgate, I think, is a meaningful little contra tone. I'm not sure it rises to the level of going beyond where we already are in this discussion.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: William Wong, is this something that people are paying attention to in Oakland, is this important there?
MR. WONG: I think it's--it doesn't approach the level of O.J. Simpson, but I think there are people who are interested in the issue because of who Hillary Clinton is, and but I would--I'm on board with Clarence on this one. I think it is quite political, and I'll even go beyond by saying that Hillary Clinton, because of the kind of First Ladyship, if you will, that she's trying to create, a dual merging of the traditional with the career woman, and a very strong presence, has been a target of Republicans for a long time, and here she has left herself open, no doubt, for some criticism. Our editorial board asked her to come clean. I would, I would concur with that, but I would also point out that there's a lot of politics involved, and the Republicans want to take some advantage of this, and I think that's really at the heart of this dispute.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Bill, William Safire in the "New York Times" this week called Mrs. Clinton a congenital liar. Is that something that got any play out there?
MR. WONG: Yes, it did. Our newspaper reran the Safire column with some front page things to it. But I might say this; that, if Hillary were the first liar in public life, that would be a news story. I think a lot of politicians get where they get because they are not fully candid with the public.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mike Barnicle, what do you think about this? Is there more fire here than smoke?
MR. BARNICLE: Oh, I don't think there's either fire or smoke. I think there's just Hillary Clinton. That's what the issue is now. It has very little to do with whatever happened down at some savings & loan or the people in the Travel Office. The issue now is her. I think you find more people tonight who could name the mayor of Tuzla than could tell you what the whole thing is about, whether any crime has been committed. The interesting thing about it, at least around here, is that it has created a real gender split--guys, as opposed to men--guys, you know, cops, fire fighters, people making in-between I'd say forty and seventy-five thousand dollars a year despise her. Women tend to support her I think for a couple of reasons. They think she's being picked on because she's a strong professional woman with, as Mark pointed out, you know, legitimate, substantive controversial issues that she's championing. That's one segment of women that are for her because of that, and I think a lot of women are for her saying cut her some slack; she's been married to a cheating philanderer for 25 years, let her do what she wants to do. But the problem is that if the two of them are linked up together in character again comes the issue with both of them as a couple, rather than him as a candidate, and I think they might be looking to call Allied Van Lines to get right back there to Hope, Arkansas, because that's a loser for them.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Lee Cullum, do you agree with that? Do you think the issue is not what Mrs. Clinton did, but Mrs. Clinton, that she's a symbol of something that some people just can't stand?
MS. CULLUM: That's possible, Elizabeth. I certainly don't want to line up with the guys in Mike Barnicle's newsroom, but I have to say I have questions about her. I have admired Hillary Clinton. I certainly like the role that she's tried to play. I was glad that she took on the health care challenge. I have to say that tragically I think that health care destroyed her effectiveness politically. I also have to add that I think that if, indeed, she did what Watkins said she did in the Travelgate matter, that was pretty brutal. To get the FBI after some of these people and get one of them indicted, it's pretty hard--that's a hard thing to do. That's hard ball. And I don't think she need be surprised when it comes back upon her. As far as Whitewater is concerned, she was certainly present at the creation of a messy situation. I don't know the full facts. I don't know that any of us do at this point. I have to say I think she's become a political liability to the President, and there's a tragedy there, because I think she wanted to do good things.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think was driving this? Do you think Republicans smell something at the end of the tunnel, Lee?
MS. CULLUM: Oh, I think that Republicans certainly see an opportunity to embarrass the President. It's an election year. I don't know that they necessarily care whether there's anything at the end of the tunnel, and there doesn't really have to be as long as we keep the issue alive through the election. And that's a fairly limited objective, and it's the only necessary objective for them.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Clarence, Lee thinks she's a liability. Do you?
MR. PAGE: What we do, impeach the First Lady? I mean, the fact is she's a plus and a minus. Both Clintons bring-they're both lightning rods. Their polling all along has been very polarized, like Mike Barnicle says. It's got the guys on one side, the feminists on the other, and all the rest of us scattered in-between, but the fact is to some degree that shows that they're doing something. Eleanor Roosevelt was not a shrinking violent. For her time she was a Hillary Clinton of her time. She was taking on a very non-traditional role for a woman then. Hillary Clinton right now is advocating some unpopular positions. It's unpopular to talk about a strong safety net in this country. But these are very real issues. And I think most Americans today see some real issues out there. It's because of those real issues that the phony issues are raining down on Hillary Clinton right now, and this will all be decided.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Well, thank you all for being with us. Jim.
JIM LEHRER: Now, back to Mark and Paul for some final words. Do you agree with what Clarence just said, Paul, that because there are some real things that really matter, then things that don't matter get a lot more attention because you can't beat her on the real ones, you beat her on the ones that don't matter.
PAUL GIGOT: Well--
JIM LEHRER: I don't mean you. I mean the big you. Okay.
PAUL GIGOT: You can--I think that the budget, something that matters, is also getting a lot of attention, but how our government operates and the credibility and the character and the political character, the behavior in public life of our officials in the White House, especially those that, that want to exercise power in a big way is very important, and that's vital, and that gets to issues of whether you tell the truth. And yeah, a lot of people lie. A lot of people in politics lie, but that doesn't mean it isn't important when the people who currently hold office lie.
JIM LEHRER: He's right about that, is he not? I mean, character does matter.
MARK SHIELDS: Character does matter. There's no question about it, Jim. I mean, character is destiny as the Greek poet said several centuries ago, and I guess I'm--what I'm missing is character matters if you see somebody's character fail and a policy results. I think that Patrick raised a very key point when he said that--and Lee backed him up--that is that the people in the Travel Office were treated shabbily. There's no question about it. I mean, the human beings who worked there were summarily dismissed. I mean, we discussed it on this show when it happened, and it was really--it was badly--
JIM LEHRER: You came on very hard--
MARK SHIELDS: I did, because, you know, this was a terrible way. It was a kangaroo court, but there is--there is a problem when you are sort of the noble reformer. Mike Barnicle covered a fellow named Billy Bulger, who was president of the Massachusetts State Senate for 20 plus years, now president of the University of Massachusetts. He once said that Mike's paper, the "Boston Globe," had a headline endorsing Elliott Richardson, which read with a tongue-in-cheek, "Vote for Elliott, he's better than you are." And I--that is a little bit, comes through with liberal reforms.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. Okay. I think that's a good place to leave this, don't you?
PAUL GIGOT: Fine. (everyone laughing)
JIM LEHRER: Okay.
MARK SHIELDS: As opposed to conservative revolutionaries who want to change the whole world by attacking a woman.
JIM LEHRER: Oh, my goodness. Good night, Paul. Good night, Mark.