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Capital Gang

Scott Reed Discusses the GOP Convention

Aired August 5, 2000 - 7:00 p.m. ET




I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Margaret Carlson.

Our guests is Scott Reed, the manager of Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign and a respected campaign consultant -- I like that, respected.

Thanks for coming in, Scott.

SCOTT REED, DOLE '96 CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Thank you very much, Mark.

SHIELDS: Governor George W. Bush's acceptance speech emphasized the overriding theme of the Republican convention.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are now the party of ideas and innovation, the party of idealism and inclusion.


SHIELDS: He also pushed conservative proposals.


BUSH: For younger workers, we will give you the option, your choice, to put part of your payroll taxes into sound, responsible investments.

No one in America should have to pay more than a third of their income to the federal government.

I will lead our nation toward a culture that values life, the life of the elderly and sick, the life of the young and the life of the unborn.


SHIELDS: And he ridiculed Vice President Gore's response.


BUSH: Every one of the proposals I've talked about tonight he's called a risky scheme over and over again. It is the sum of his message.


SHIELDS: A night earlier, vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney delivered the convention's first clearly partisan attack on Bill Clinton and Al Gore.


RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They came in together, now let us see them off together.


SHIELDS: The bipartisan Battleground poll gave Bush-Cheney a 5- point bump from the convention, increasing the lead in that poll to 17 points. The poll's margin in a four-way contest is 19 points.

Al Hunt, did the Bush-Cheney ticket get everything it could out of the convention?

AL HUNT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Mark, it was near perfection. Karl Rove told me Thursday night they achieved 97 percent of what they wanted to achieve, and we'll never figure out what the other 3 percent is.

But moderates and independents loved the hoers d'oeuvres of compassion and kindness, and the political right, my friend Bob Novak, think the real meat was trickled down Republicanism, tax cuts.

Mark, they're not 19 points ahead, but they clearly enjoy a comfortable double-digit lead right now. I think they, they being the Republicans, created two problems, however, that will surface in the weeks ahead.

No. 1, all the talk about leaving no child behind and tearing down the toll booth, you know, that blocks the poor, is at variance with Governor Bush's stewardship in Texas and Dick Cheney's voting record.

And secondly, they can convince the American people of a lot of things about Bill Clinton, but not that the Clinton years were marked by eight years of coasting and do-nothing policies.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, good convention? Any problems?

NOVAK: This is my tenth Republican convention. It was the first one where everything they planned came off right. There was no discord. It was -- I thought it was a masterful acceptance speech in that -- I agree with Al. It had a lot of this fuzzy, nice rhetoric to appeal to the independent voter, but it had all the substance. That called for a 30 percent limit on taxes, something that...

SHIELDS: Thirty-three.

NOVAK: Thirty-three percent. It's something that not...

HUNT: We can get him down.

NOVAK: It's something that not even Ronald Reagan ever did put a limit on.

Now as far as -- if you really think, Al, that the answer to this -- we're going to talk about the Democrats later -- is to attack Texas, I think that is the silliest thing I can think of.

I would say that the most interesting think about the convention is that he was able to bring in the conservative base program while sounding moderate.

SHIELDS: Scott Reed, he had an advantage, quite frankly, over your own '96 experience in that the base of the party, the core Republican support, were totally secure going in, so he could reach out. Is that true?

REED: There's a great hunger in the conservative wing of the party this year to win, to win above everything else. The real value of this convention was Bush gave a great speech. And in the speech, he showed confidence, he showed wisdom, he showed humility, things that the last couple nominees have all had parts of, but this nominee pulled it all together.

SHIELDS: Where was the wisdom? I got to -- just out of curiosity.

REED: The wisdom was in the policy ideas, willing to take on tax cuts and Social Security, an issue that Bill Clinton's done nothing about for the eight last years.


REED: It's going to ring loud.

SHIELDS: OK, Margaret Carlson.

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": I would like to differ, Mark, with Bob and Scott, but I'm having my own personal post-convention bounce, and...

SHIELDS: Which is?

CARLSON: Which is that I thought George W. Bush gave a good speech. And he had one job. And why Karl Rove may say he accomplished 97 percent of what he needed to do, was to show that he had grown in his candidacy and to look presidential. And he delivered the speech very well.

And the speech, aside from the 30 percent tax cut, hit general themes and showed that actually he is a good man. There were some lines in there that when he wasn't making these, you know, little snide remarks about Clinton -- and he does it beautifully, because he couches it in a very likable message -- but it was almost a rebuke to the Christian right, because one of the things that he said was we should not judge our neighbors, which the Christian right always did.

And to show that he's a different kind of person, he said, I believe in grace because I have seen it, in peace I have felt it, in forgiveness because I have needed it, which I take as a rebuke to those judgmental Christian fundamentalists. And he's bringing a bigger, more expansive...

NOVAK: Margaret, only...

CARLSON: ... view.

NOVAK: Only a liberal could think that speech was a rebuke to the Christian right. He gave them just about everything...

CARLSON: There was life of the unborn, one phrase.

NOVAK: But that's all you need. And he went into details on it, as well.

See, this is a first acceptance speech by a Republican I have seen that there wasn't immense criticism, starting back with Nixon in '60 and through Dole in '96.

SHIELDS: OK, let me ask you a point. There's an old rule of politics. When the economy is bad, the economy is the only issue. When the economy is good, you better run on something else. Now this is the first time -- I'm just curious -- there's ever been a successful insurgent candidacy before who said, the country, yes, it's prosperous, unmatched prosperity. The country, the world is at peace. We need -- time for change.

Now isn't this sort of a novel concept to run on the other party's eight-years record of peace and prosperity -- out. That's what it amounts to.

NOVAK: No, no, no, no. He didn't say that they had an eight- year record of peace and prosperity, he said things were good because -- you see, the thing is, people who aren't like you, Mark, and think that government is the end all, think the American people are responsible for that, not Bill Clinton.

HUNT: See, Mark, you -- you know, Bob Novak's been warning us for seven years now that '93 tax act was going to come back to haunt us, and someday it probably will.

Bob, you know, you love the tough rhetoric, don't mess with Texas. You like that kind of stuff. But let me tell you something. You judge somebody, the only thing we have to judge someone on what they're going to is what they have done in the past.

NOVAK: That's propaganda, though. HUNT: That's not propaganda. It's true of anybody. It's true of Al Gore, it's true of Pat Buchanan, it's true of everyone.

NOVAK: What state has the most...

HUNT: Can I just finish, Bob? Could I please finish? And if you look at that this is a guy who tried to deny health care coverage for people for working -- children of working people making between $25,000 and $33,000 a year, that is not compassionate conservatism.

Some of his ideas are interesting, but there's no public policy framework behind them. And that's a problem.

CARLSON: Mark, Al is right. Listen, he was the -- what he's done in Texas is not particularly moderate, but that speech he was reaching out to moderates. And I don't see how can you read it any other way.

NOVAK: With a conservative message.

REED: That's what he needed to do at the convention. It's that undecided 8 or 10 percent that's out there that you have to talk to at the convention.

SHIELDS: Last word Scott Reed. Scott Reed and THE GANG will be back with Colin Powell, John McCain and Republican inclusion -- Bob Novak.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

The Republican convention emphasized inclusion, spotlighting African-Americans, Hispanic Americans and an openly gay Republican congressman. But the GOP's leading African-American had some criticism for his own party.


COLIN POWELL, FORMER JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Some in our party miss no opportunity to roundly and loudly condemn affirmative action that helped a few thousand black kids get an education. But you hardly hear a whimper when it's affirmative action for lobbyists who load our tax code with preferences for special interests.


SHIELDS: The runner-up for the presidential nomination gave an unequivocal Bush endorsement.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I support him, I am grateful to him, and I am proud of him.

I know that by supporting George W. Bush, I serve my country well.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, did the GOP come over as a party of inclusion?


SHIELDS: You like that question?

CARLSON: Right on General Powell. That was excellent. His remarks were wonderful. Now, Bob will say the podium was conservative. It was a conservative convention, everybody on the podium.

NOVAK: Podium?

CARLSON: Podium, stage, stage, speakers.

NOVAK: Was conservative?

CARLSON: The convention, the only thing in short supply on the podium was a white man, unless you were gay. And someone said it resembled a Utah Jazz home game, where all the audience was white and most of the performers were black.

HUNT: Very good, Margaret, very good.

CARLSON: It was so inclusive. Republicans were so determined to prove that soccer moms should come home that they wanted to have blind mountain climbers and American Samoan wrestlers and rappers and Chaka Khan.

HUNT: Don't forget Rock.

CARLSON: Yes, so it was, yes, it was like the Barney party. I love you, you love me. Can you sing that, Scott?

SHIELDS: Bob, is that your kind of Republican Party?

NOVAK: I would say Margaret got the line exactly right. I've heard of all the liberal reporters, I've heard it from the Democrats. Oh, they have a lot of black people on the podium but they didn't have them in the audience.

This is -- I've been going to a lot of Republican conventions, I have never seen so many black delegates. I worked the floor, Margaret. I met a lot of blacks who are working -- who are running for Congress, who are running for state legislature, who are running for local office. Is it as many as the Democrats? Of course not. But it is a start.

And the thing that drives the liberals mad and that drives the liberal journalists mad is this is a start toward getting the African- Americans in the Republican Party. And if they have any success at it at all, the Democrats will never win another election. SHIELDS: Jack Kemp's dream come true, Scott?

REED: This is what Kemp's been talking about for 10 or 15 years, and I'm sure he was very happy seeing that crowd.

Look, the real story of inclusion this week was John McCain. Thursday morning, Don Evans, Bush's campaign chairman, called Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager, and begged him to get McCain up there because they've seen in their polling throughout the week that the undecided voters are McCain supporters. They're "McCainiacs." And McCain is going to be a very important part of this process as it goes forward.

SHIELDS: Let it be understood, John McCain had left because they told him to leave.

REED: He had left and they begged him to come back. That's why they're going to campaign with him next week.


REED: Polling works.

SHIELDS: OK, Al Hunt, what about the convention?

HUNT: Well, first of all, I agree with Scott on the McCain factor. It was a marvelous public relations pageant. Bob, I'm sorry, that is not -- I mean, 4 percent of the delegates were black. It was rhetorical. we haven't seen any meat yet.

But two things struck me, Mark. One, Jim Kolbe, who is that openly gay congressman, talked about trade, of which he is really one of the foremost experts in Congress, yet members of the Texas delegation threatened to walk out, and someone held up a truly offensive sign while he was speaking that said, it's not too late to change. There's still some bigotry that's going on, Bob.

And secondly, remember what we went through with impeachment? Henry Hyde, the great hero of those days to the GOP, wasn't even invited to address the convention. The word impeachment was not mentioned. It would have been foolish to emphasize it, but it wasn't mentioned once in four days.

SHIELDS: OK, I have to say John McCain, the candidate I was indifferent to all year long, obviously has gotten off the Straight Talk Express. When he says, I support him, I am grateful to him, I am proud of him, I thought that was just a little bit of a reach. But I will also say this, Bob. For your own information, the percentage of black delegates at the 1992 convention that renominated President Bush was higher than was the in Philadelphia.

NOVAK: If I can respond to that, the fact is you have people running for office, blacks, African-Americans, running for office now. I know you hate that, but what you hate more is the idea...

SHIELDS: Bob, could we not get personal? NOVAK: Oh, we're not going to get personal on this show? That's going to be something very, very interesting.

HUNT: Does Mark (OFF-MIKE) too?

NOVAK: I'm sure we're setting a new precedent.

SHIELDS: What do I hate?

NOVAK: The idea of John -- I knew that when John McCain acted like a Republican and became a loyal party guy, said, yes, we have to elect this man, all his Democratic and liberal reporters who have been sniffing around him a whole year...

SHIELDS: Sniffing?

NOVAK: ... would say -- if I can finish my sentence -- would say, oh, John, you've broken our little hearts. You're just not the guy we thought you were.

SHIELDS: Go ahead, Scott.

REED: If we're going to watch inclusion...

CARLSON: We're all weeping.

REED: If we're going to watch inclusion, let's watch the Democratic convention in a week. At our convention, we had pro-choice and pro-life candidates speaking throughout the evening. Not a single pro-life candidate will speak at the Democratic convention. The pro- abortionists are winning the argument in the Democratic convention, and there won't be any allowed to speak that.

HUNT: Did anybody mention pro-choice in your convention?

CARLSON: I don't think the subject came up except...

REED: Oh, it was mentioned a lot.


REED: Was it?

CARLSON: No, I think the only time it was mentioned, other than that one phrase in the speech...

NOVAK: It was mentioned at the platform the whole week.

REED: It dominated the platform.

CARLSON: In the platform.

NOVAK: All week.

CARLSON: What did we hear about the platform? Not much.

NOVAK: They talked about that last week.

CARLSON: But in one of the invocations, the priest said...

SHIELDS: And the cardinal of Philadelphia, as well, Cardinal Bob Laughlin (ph).

The last word, Margaret.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, Al Gore strikes back.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

After the Republicans adjourned, Vice President Al Gore opened fire.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you ask me, the Republican National Convention was kind of like a masquerade ball for special interests with a purpose. And behind the mask, we found the same politics of personal attack.


SHIELDS: Gore campaign sources indicated three main vice presidential prospects, all U.S. senators: John Kerry of Massachusetts, John Edwards of North Carolina, and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

Bob Novak, keeping it impersonal, what does Al Gore have to do at the Democratic convention?

NOVAK: Mark, what he obviously has to do is get these independent voters Scott was talking about and that Governor Bush made an appeal for.

What I understand is there's a big debate going on in Nashville whether to really come out hard and tough against the Republicans, and the hard-liners are winning from what I know. We'll soon know.

As far as the vice president, I don't think either of these three -- any of these three can be a really big positive force -- vice presidential candidates seldom are. But I think there's one who is very dangerous if they put him on, and that's Senator John Edwards of North Carolina. Nobody has ever had less experience in going on a national ticket. And two years ago, as one party leader told me, he was doing personal injury cases in North Carolina. Now he's going to be a heartbeat away from the presidency?

SHIELDS: Is being a lawyer illegal?

REED: We'd love to run against him.

SHIELDS: Scott, tell us seriously, putting on your strategist's hat, what does Al Gore have to do, beyond securing the enthusiastic support of his own core?

REED: Gore's problem is he goes into this convention only getting about 70 percent of his base support. It's a problem that he has to face. And his issue is. am I an old Democrat like most of these delegates and union members and teachers, or am I going to be a new kind of Democrat like Bill Clinton and Joe Lieberman?

He's going to go with a liberal. He's going to go with Kerry because Kerry's very appealing...

SHIELDS: John Kerry of Massachusetts.

REED: John Kerry of Massachusetts because he'll help with the woman vote. Al Gore's getting clobbered by Bush with women, and Kerry, who has a very good success record putting Weld away a couple years ago...

SHIELDS: Joe Weld, that's right.

REED: ... on the issue of women -- he beat him by 22 points with women. That's why they're looking at Kerry.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, if Scott had thrown the Republican strategy memo over the transom it wouldn't be clearer what the Republicans are running on. And that's not attacking Gore's record, but character. So the master stroke would be to pick Senator Joe Lieberman, because there's no one with a more deserved reputation for good character and integrity and lack of calculation than Joe Lieberman.

I mean, he's a new Democrat for whom it's not a hustle. He actually believes in looking for new solutions to old problems, and he has a kind of humanity about him and a low-key sense of humor that could actually bring out some of the those things in Al Gore. We could -- he could rediscover some of those parts of himself. It would just be a master stroke.

NOVAK: So what's the problem?

CARLSON: One of the problems is, you know, if you hadn't noticed, he's Jewish. But I think that Americans like to knock over those kinds of barriers, and any vote that would be lost to that is a vote the Democrats don't have anyway.


HUNT: Mark, those three senators have all been notified to be on standby on Sunday for a call, and I think I agree with Scott. John Kerry is the safest pick. I still think there may be a surprise, but hey, the smartest political mind in America thinks that Al Gore ought to do something exciting. That is Bill Clinton, who is pushing, believe it or not, his old nemesis Bob Kerrey. But Bill Clinton has not been called once by Al Gore about this, and Bob Kerrey's off in a wilderness area hiking somewhere. So that's not going to happen. In Los Angeles, I think they'll try to straddle what Bob aptly describes the debate that's going on, and I think the real motif will be to recycle Ronald Reagan's old question, and they'll ask it, are you better off than you were eight years ago during the Bush administration?

NOVAK: But I think...

CARLSON: Are you better off, Bob?

SHIELDS: Let me just say what I think he has to do. He has to go to Bill Clinton and he has to say, Mr. President, I need you to go to that convention...

NOVAK: And leave.

SHIELDS: No -- and make two sentences, to stand up there and publicly apologize for what you did, publicly apologize, and then turn and say, they want this to be about my sins, rather than what we've accomplished as a nation together. And because it's only Bill Clinton who can somehow separate Al Gore from the charge that it's a Clinton- Gore -- I mean, Al Gore wasn't there with Monica.


NOVAK: We know that will never happen.

REED: He'll never do it.

CARLSON: But that's...

NOVAK: We know that will never happen, but what will happen...

SHIELDS: It should happen.

NOVAK: ... is they'll be doing is a lot of class warfare, and they're going to talk about the rich. And that stuff is just not going to go over on national television. They would be well advised not to do it.

REED: No question.

SHIELDS: Oh, OK, especially with your (OFF-MIKE).

CARLSON: Their (OFF-MIKE) is going to do that. But one of the mysteries of this campaign is how Monica could attach to Al Gore and not prosperity. It just confounds me.

SHIELDS: You need Bill Clinton's mea culpa and Tipper Gore's prominence.

Go ahead, Scott.

REED: I was just going to -- the mystery of the campaign is why Al Gore can't get going. He's been trying to get going since he won back in March. He's had a couple stutters, starts... NOVAK: Maybe he's a bad candidate.

REED; He's kind of like the Gumby candidate. He flips around this way, that way.

HUNT: Can I just say one thing? They're not going to pick John Edwards because of his lack of experience. But, you know, he was a personal injury lawyer getting millions of dollars for kids who were permanently disabled...

CARLSON: Crippled, yes.

HUNT: ... and I want to tell you, most Americans say, right on, John Edwards.

NOVAK: Yes, well you've got (UNINTELLIGIBLE) trial lawyers.

SHIELDS: Bob, that's it. Bob, Bob, quiet.

Scott Reed, thanks for being with us.

THE GANG will be back with the "Outrage of the Week."


SHIELDS: And now for the "Outrage of the Week."

Americans have a profound sense of fair play. Because Philadelphia was a Republican show, fair-minded voters were put off by Democrats buying negative TV ads all week. But the Republicans deserve censure for their blanket response to legitimate criticism about Dick Cheney's congressional voting record. They called it the "politics of personal destruction." It is nothing of the sort. Both Governor Bush and Laura Bush admitted in their convention speeches when they publicly endorsed and promised to support head start that Dick Cheney had opposed.

Robert Novak.

NOVAK: A much overrated program.

SHIELDS: Not ours.

NOVAK: The Republican platform is an excellent conservative document with one deplorable omission -- not one word about term limits. What happened? The last four years to caused this issue to be buried. Actually, Republican professionals politicians never liked term limits any more than their Democrat counterparts did. They pretended to be supporters because 70 percent of the people want term limits. But having kept control of Congress, Republicans felt they no longer need the issue. It's the people who need citizen legislators.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, the GOP keynoter Wednesday night was the Rock of World Wrestling Federation's awful show "Smackdown," the show that celebrates anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-black sentiments with language so coarse and vulgar I can't repeat it here. He loves violence and takes metal chairs, shovels, sledge hammers to his opponents. The Rock appeals to a growing group of white, working-class youths, and you would think Republican would rage against his rage theatrics, like AT&T, Coca-Cola and MCI, which have withdrawn their advertising. Instead, they legitimized him.



Mark, in one of the great ironies of the week, Colin Powell was cheered when he talked about the Republicans refusal to oppose affirmative action for fat-cat lobbyists who litter the tax code with special interest provisions. Well Philadelphia was an orgy for those fat-cat lobbyists and vested interests, with pandering parties and fund raisers on yachts and posh restaurants. The K Street crowd knows this compassionate conservative rhetoric is great for electoral politics, but when it comes time to hand out the goodies, they're going to get them.

SHIELDS: OK, this is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG.

Next on CNN "SPORTS TONIGHT," report from the Brickyard 400 from Indianapolis, Indiana.



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