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Capital Gang

Gore Campaign Gets Boost from Lieberman Pick; Clinton Revisits Personal Conduct That Led to His Impeachment

Aired August 12, 2000 - 7:00 p.m. ET


MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, from the site of the Democratic National Convention, with the full CAPITAL GANG: Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.

Vice President Al Gore introduced Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut as his running mate on the Democratic national ticket.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For all his public life, Joe Lieberman has stood for working families. He believes, as I do, that the Earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof. Joe Lieberman has stood up to the Big Oil companies and cracked down in price gouging at the gas pumps.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Dear lord, maker of all miracles, I thank you for bringing me to this extraordinary moment in my life. And Al Gore, I thank you for making this miracle possible for me and breaking this barrier for the rest of America forever.

If you have to change horses in midstream, doesn't it make sense to get on the one that's going in the right direction?



SHIELDS: The CNN/"Time" poll taken after Senator Lieberman was added to the ticket shows little change in Governor George W. Bush's 14-point lead in a four-way contest, and 13 points in just Bush versus Gore.

Bob Novak, how much has Joe Lieberman help Al Gore?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": It's obvious, Mark, he really helps him with the Democratic Party. The early rivals here for the convention come up to me and say how much they are energized -- they were a little bit down in the dumps -- by Joe Lieberman on the ticket. It reminds me a little bit of Jack Kemp being added to the ticket and energizing the Republicans in 1996 in San Diego with Bob Dole. I don't know if this is going last much longer. The American people don't know Joe Lieberman. How well he is really going to play remains to be seen, particularly when it comes out he is not some kind of maverick with his own ideas. He is going to be in lockstep with Al Gore on everything, and he really does -- he may talk the moderate talk, but he's always walked the liberal walk.


AL HUNT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": The first thing I want to say is that no one was more out front on Joe Lieberman pick than Margaret Carlson. Margaret Carlson told everybody about this a week ago. She was there. Used to be the Democrats, you stayed clear, it was Sydney back during the Roosevelt age. Now for the Democrats, it's clear with Margaret. Maggie, you were there first.

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I'll be taking calls.

HUNT: This choice is a tremendously popular one, as Bob said, and I think it's an important one, and I think very helpful. This is a much closer race than that poll demonstrates or suggests, Mark.

Two reasons I think the choice is so good. One is I think it just absolutely renders moot the Republican argument, let's restore dignity and honor to the White House. I mean, Gore and Lieberman do that just as well as Bush and Cheney do it. The second thing, one of the things some of those Democrats have told me, Bob, and I suspect you, too, is they expected Gore to make a politically calculated, pedestrian decision, and it looks like it was not, it looks like it was a good decision. I think we have two good running mates in Al Gore politically, and Joe Lieberman trumps Dick Cheney.

SHIELDS: But, Margaret, with all due credit to you for your prescience, for your advocacy...


CARLSON: Bob's going to start weeping again.

SHIELDS: Most important of all, Joe Lieberman has energized Al Gore. People do not vote for a vice president.

CARLSON: Well, they don't. But, you know, I was in Nashville in 105 degrees, by the way, and to Gore's fashion consultants, I want to say Lieberman had on an undershirt, and his shirt did not get soaked. You know what, Al Gore said he had stood up to the oil companies; what he didn't say was he stood up to the president, and I didn't, and that was a very important part of why he was chosen.

It doesn't, in the end, perhaps cause someone to vote for Al Gore, but what it does in this intermittent period here, is it does get people taking a second look. And that's a very important thing, because people tend to turn the TV off when Al Gore comes on. And Joe Lieberman actually has this really quite wonderful countenance. I mean, he's exuberant and he beams light. He's just a great guy to have in the room.

KATE O'BEIRNE, "NATIONAL REVIEW": He's genial and good-natured, and he's completely himself, in contrast to the top of the ticket.

Let me say in passing, it is true that Joe Lieberman does have a reputation, that frequently people say, he's the conscience of the Senate, certainly the conscience of the Democratic caucus. Let me just stay that the moderate Democratic Party to get Thomas Moore status by immediately criticizing the immoral behavior of a president or pointing out his blatant lies and doing nothing about it is a pretty sad commentary, although it's a great couple of days after this announcement. I think Joe Lieberman is sort of a reminder of Clinton in a way that John Kerry wouldn't have been and John Edwards wouldn't have been, and sort of a reminder of Al Gore's own failings. And, of course, Al Gore's central problem is not Bill Clinton. He's going to be gone. It's going to be over. It's Al Gore's own -- Buddhist temple and the 96 fund-raising and "no controlling legal authority," Joe Lieberman doesn't help with that.

SHIELDS: Let me just say two quick things. First of all, he gave Gore the best week he had since March, no doubt about it. He preempted the news, and put the Republicans on the defensive. Republicans are not sure how to handle this. They're running against a Democratic ticket with a Jew on it. They're a little tentative. But the third thing is, the press has been in Joe Lieberman's pocket. I mean, let's be honest. I mean, let's just point one thing out. All of us commented, myself among them, on Dick Cheney's student deferments. I mean, I have seen one story written on Joe Lieberman's student deferments and his lack of military service. I mean, I don't know how long that honeymoon is going to last.

NOVAK: I would also add that Joe Lieberman on the impeachment question, after he made his speech, he never, ever said another word about President Clinton, and he voted in lockstep with the other Democrats on procedural questions -- against calling witnesses for a real trial -- and that's the way he usually is. He usually -- just a minute, just a minute. He's usually is down the line. He talks a good game, and he's usually down the line.

Now let me say one other thing, and that is, they're celebrating the first person of Jewish faith on the ticket, what a great thing that is, but Bill Daley, the chairman of the Gore campaign, on the "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS" show earlier today, said you don't know how this is going to work out with the American people. That's still a huge question, Mark.

HUNT: Let me pick up on your pointed, Mark, though, because I think it's very important about how off-stride the Republicans and the right have been. The first rejoinder was that, hey, Joe Lieberman is like George W. Bush, look at that, he votes a lot more like Bush than Gore, a great conflict, and then that didn't quite work, so the next thing was, you know, he really is a liberal, he's really is a lefty if you watch him. Now if that's the case doesn't that mean that W. is a left. I don't think that's what they mean. They really are off stride, Mark.

O'BEIRNE: Joe Lieberman has achieved a unique political personality, because he parts his ways from Democrats on things like school choice and affirmative action. NOVAK: Did. Did.

O'BEIRNE: Did, used to. Social Security, used to. He sort of seems like an open and moderate conservative. But boy, his voting record is strong liberal, and his biggest problem I think is going to be Hollywood. He has a reputation, I think, for being so culturally conservative because how he trashes Hollywood. He actually says it is wrong to profit from messages that poison our culture. The Democratic Party, from Hollywood donations, profits from those messages.

SHIELDS: Just one quick point to amplify. The Republican in the Senate were against calling witnesses, Bob, I mean, let's be very blunt.

NOVAK: But he voted for it.

CARLSON: And at the time he did it, it was a very large thing to do. And Hollywood is a plus. Ninety-five percent of the people, even people in Hollywood, want to be saying what Joe Lieberman is saying.

NOVAK: And on two big social issues, guns and abortion, he is as liberal as Al Gore, no question.

SHIELDS: And he would say that, too.

Last word, Bob Novak, full GANG of five will be back with Bill Clinton's mea culpa. And later, Pat Buchanan's call to arms.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Speaking to thousands of Protestant ministers meeting in Chicago, President Clinton revisited the personal conduct that had led to his impeachment.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel much more at peace than I used to, and I think that as awful what I went through was, and humiliating as it was, more than -- to others than to me, I'm now in the second year of a process of trying to totally rebuild my life from a terrible mistake I made.


SHIELDS: Does Vice President gore share responsibility for the president's behavior?


CLINTON: He doesn't get enough credit for what we did together that is good, and surely no fair-minded person would blame him for any mistake that I made.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Al Gore's got differences with the president, he ought to say them loud and clear what they are. He ought to let us know where he differed from the president, on policy matters, as well as everything else.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, has the president adequately distanced himself from Al Gore, or should he say more to the convention Monday night?

HUNT: Well, Mark, he should probably follow your advice and say something like they want to make this election about my past sins, Lieberman and Gore want to make it about your future, but I don't think he'll do that. I don't think he's big enough to do that. But it's not a big issue anymore, I think it's basically gone. I think W. showed the fact that they realize that by bringing up himself, after earlier saying he wasn't going to.

And what the Republicans' dilemma is that yes, they can, Gore and Lieberman, can have Clintonism without the personal Clinton. The problem is, the American people like that dog food.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: I disagree only to this extent. Clinton fatigue does exist. It goes much beyond Monica, although Bill Clinton should be pretending it was only about his disordered predatory sexual behavior. It was much more than that. Al Gore knows Clinton fatigue exists; that's why he put Joe Lieberman on the ticket. I sure hope he does this on Monday night. I really hope he apologizes on Monday night. Whatever he does, he just shows himself to be so self-absorbed, so self-pitted, it's always all about him. But I agree will Al on this, he's irrelevant, it's over, he's out of here.

SHIELDS: It did strike me in that clip of George W. Bush that he was asking Bill Clinton to do something which his father refused to do in 1988, was to say where he differed on policy with Ronald Reagan. Time and again, Vice President Bush said, that's not what I do, I'm a loyal fellow -- Bob.

NOVAK: I think that they were very worried, the Democratic Party, about the way George W. Bush at the convention and Dick Cheney had joined Clinton and Gore at the hip, and there was a disconnection, and they had to do something. Now he didn't want to go before the convention, that would be horrible, so he does it with these ministers, and he puts on that somber face and that absolutely phony demeanor on how concerned he was, and he talks about it as if it was one mistake. He was a serial offender. And what I would say is that the less Al Gore sees of Bill Clinton in this campaign, the better off he's going to be.

SHIELD: Margaret, a serial offender, or just plain old oatmeal.

CARLSON: I will spare you the mimicking of Clinton. I'll leave that to Bob. But I will this, that when he says, when he's found peace, that's not the issue; the issue is the country finding peace. And Al Gore getting rid of that part of the problem, and it's very hard to do, and it was a very self-absorbed apology. It's was a yuppie apology -- if I did anything wrong, I'm sorry, never quite admitting that he did anything wrong. He's not going to do it at the convention. Everyone tells me, this is it, he's done it, and he's off at the Riviera Country Club right at this very minute playing golf, and he's at peace.

HUNT: They're raising every amount of money that moves in this town is being raised by both the Clintons. Bill Clinton is going raise to $10 million out here for his library, Hillary Clinton, $4 million for her campaign. That's more than Gore's go to raise in L.A., and I think that's a disservice.

NOVAK: You know, after he had this whatever this thing was. They called it an apology in the press. I don't know what it was. It wasn't an apology. He's just trying to help Al Gore out. He canceled four interviews he had scheduled. He doesn't want to talk about this anymore, because he's disingenuous on the whole question.

O'BEIRNE: He's denying most of what he's done.

CARLSON: Mark, on the plane, we saw the clip of George Bush on the plane. He said something very interesting. He said if Al Gore were to do the things that George Bush laid out, he, too, could restore honor and dignity to the White House. I thought that was quite remarkable.

SHIELDS: The question is, is Al Gore pretty much, in any way, distancing, inoculated, insulated vaccinated from Bill Clinton, what Clinton did?

NOVAK: I don't think it has any effect on him.

CARLSON: I think, you know, people will actually come to see that the Constitution gets rid of Bill Clinton, not their vote in this election.

NOVAK: You've got to find one reason why this economy and a high approval rating, an unjustifiable high approval rating in this administration, Al Gore is in such trouble, and that's got to be one of the big reasons.

HUNT: We've talked as much about Monica Lewinsky in October as Republicans did about Elian Gonzalez in Miami.

SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt. Next on CAPITAL GANG: the Reform Party dividing itself against itself.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

In Long Beach, California, the Reform Party split into two conventions, each nominating its own candidate for president, Pat Buchanan and John Hagelin, who also is presidential candidate of the Natural Law Party.


JOHN HAGELIN (REF), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The FEC has begun an investigation today of Pat Buchanan's corruption of the Democratic process by submitting a hidden list of half a million ineligible voters. At the end of that investigation, which will be soon, it will be clear that he is disqualified from that race and I am the remaining presidential nominee.

PAT BUCHANAN (RED), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We told the national press corps fellows when they wrote us off nine months ago, you don't know this peasant army. We march out of Long Beach and we take America back.


SHIELDS: What about $12.5 million in federal funds that are supposed to go the Reform nominee?


BAY BUCHANAN, EXEC. CHAIRWOMAN, BUCHANAN CAMPAIGN: The Federal Election Commission will recognize Pat as the nominee. We will have that money next week.



RUSS VERNEY, FMR. REFORM PARTY CHAIRMAN: You can be talking about Pat Buchanan getting out the wrong end of an old-age home before they see the money.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, can Pat Buchanan still influence the 2000 presidential race?

O'BEIRNE: Even should he get the $12.5 million, it seems to me the Buchanan brigade might as well march west out of Long Beach for all the effect they're going to have this November. The social conservatives in the Republican Party are Pat Buchanan's natural base. They are not going anywhere near Pat Buchanan this time around. George W. Bush is conservative enough for them. The choice of running mate at the convention came off smoothly, and they know how high the stakes are. And then his protectionist corporate bashing agenda has been picked up by Ralph Nader. So I don't see where Pat goes with these votes.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, Pat Buchanan, original moderator of THE CAPITAL GANG.

NOVAK: A friend of mine.

SHIELDS: A friend of yours. And Ari Fleischer, George Bush's spokesman said, "The sun has set on Pat Buchanan's candidacy, and will never rise again."

NOVAK: Well, he may be right, because just to get the 5 percent which will keep the Reform Party in business for 2004, it's too bad he had to put together a coalition of the corporate bashers, the protectionist, the Perotites, on the one hand, and some dissident social conservatives, and he just didn't do it. I really thought he was a more skilled politician. It was a total failure. He should have had Russ Verney with him. Verney wanted to be with him, but they couldn't put it together.

SHIELDS: Margaret, one of the other problems Pat faces is the closer the election, then the stronger the argument against wasting your vote. So if Bush-Gore is a close race, then voting for a third becomes a luxury.

CARLSON: From Ross Perot at 19, isn't Pat already at five or four, something like that, so you know. But he's taken a chaotic and contentious party and split it into two chaotic and contentious parties. You know, in an active political mitosis, maybe there are going to be four before he's done with it.

HUNT: Mitosis?

CARLSON: Mitosis, yes, it's division without sex, the kind you like, Bob.

But no...

SHIELDS: This is a family show.

CARLSON: I'm sorry. Are you blushing under there? But he's ransacked this party in order to get his mitts on the $12 million, and it's kind of sad. When Russ Verney said go out the wrong door on the old-age home, I thought, what a way for Pat to end it all.

O'BEIRNE: He could have stayed here and made that much. That's what he wanted.

CARLSON: If he had a good agent, not ours, by the way.

HUNT: Mark, this has been a great week for George McGovern. He got the Medal of Freedom at the White House, and he no longer has run the most disorganized convention in the history of Long Beach. I mean, that really was a zoo over there. Pat Buchanan, however, in a close race, could get 3 or 4 percent of the vote, and could make a difference. But I what's going to -- and he also is entitled to that $12.5 million. But what's going to happen and what the Republicans are carrying on, is the politically charged FEC, which will be able to delay this and give him the money sometime around Halloween. They -- both sides of that even commission their disgrace, and they will try to play politics with it.

NOVAK: Let me say this, one good thing that comes out of this, and that is, this is a terrible blow for public financing of politics, which is the worst idea known to man, and the idea of giving those people $12.5 million of taxpayer money, it's a big ball. SHIELDS: Let's just get one thing -- Ronald Reagan, three times. We had three elections -- '76, '88 -- for the three cleanest presidential elections of our lifetime...


SHIELDS: I'd like to make a point, Bob, you've made two, and that is Pat's call for a Godly nation seems almost anticlimactic and superfluous, when you've got Gore and Lieberman beginning every event with a prayer, and George W. Bush saying Jesus Christ was his best political philosopher.

CARLSON: He just established "Jesus Day" in Texas. And I thought we already had "Jesus Day." I celebrate it on Christmas Day. What about you, Bob?

HUNT: I'd liked to return religion to the churches and get the fights that Bob loves out here in politics.

NOVAK: Somebody going to answer me on this terrible idea of giving public money to these people?

SHIELDS: They earned it, Bob. The voters made that decision.

HUNT: They earned it in the last election. Now, I mean, the point is, what are you going to do about it? You just want to have the big-money people running government. Oil, trial lawyers and labor unions, controlling, calling the shots, Bob, that's what you want.

NOVAK: Better than taking my money and giving it at random to anybody who can get 5 percent of the vote.

HUNT: They don't take your money, Bob, because you don't do the check-off.


NOVAK: It's still from the taxpayers.

HUNT: That's my money.


SHIELDS: Bob, that's it. You've talked four times in this segment.

We'll be back with "The Outrage of the Week."


SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week," Democrats can rightly brag about historic improvements in the U.S. economy over the past eight years. More than 21 and a half million new jobs created during the Clinton-Gore years, about three and a half million more than the twelve years of Reagan-Bush. The outrage is, that despite recent improvements, the poverty rate for U.S. children is today higher than it was in 1979, As Democrats imitate Republicans in their feverish wooing of six-figure soft money donors. It is past time for the party of FDR and LBJ to deal honestly with child poverty -- Al Hunt.

HUNT: Right on, brother Mark.

The political right criticized Great Britain for even considering extraditing former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to face trial for the systematic murders and other human rights violations under his rule, claiming it a was only the business of Chile, but now they're screaming because the highest Chilean court has decided that this thug should be held accountable in his own homeland. That's not changing of rules; that's simple justice.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: He was in many ways a great man.

Democrats used to tear each other's throats out over the party platform, but this year, there is not one minority report, not even on the most divisive Democratic issue, international trade. How is that possible? By saying next to nothing. Gone is the 1996 unequivocal endorsement of free trade. Added are labor demands for amending trade agreements. Incredibly, there's not a word about the Chinese trade treaty that President Clinton supports, labor opposes, and Al Gore has little to say about. What a profile in cowardice.

SHIELDS: Just about as much controversy as we had in Philadelphia -- Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: On Monday evening, President Clinton will share a long litany of his administration's achievements, including more gun control laws, but thus new restrictions have had no effect or are unenforced by the Clinton administration. A recent study by the American Medical Association puts the celebrated Brady bill in the "no effect on gun crimes" category. The AMA study's Latest evidence of Clinton's real legacy -- symbolism trumps substance.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, when I checked into the trendy Mandrian Hotel today, the bellman looked at my luggage like he wanted to replace it, not carry it. Then I went to the pool for lunch, but retreated when two bellmen questioned whether I was actually staying there. I must exceed the weight requirement. But there is justice. Last Thursday, nine bellhops were fired for not being hip and cool -- like me -- were awarded $120,000 each. Tomorrow, fat cat Democrats arrive at the Mandrian. At least it will be safe to go to the pool.

SHIELDS: OK, I have to say, General Pinochet and campaign finance reform -- Bob Novak doesn't have time to address the subject right now.

This is Mark Shields, saying good night for the CAPITAL GANG.

We'll be back with a special edition Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Next on CNN, "SPORTS TONIGHT" reports on Tiger Woods at the Buick Open.



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