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Capital Gang

Bob Shrum Discusses Al Gore at the Democratic National Convention

Aired August 19, 2000 - 7:00 p.m. ET




I'm Mark Shields, with Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne, and in New York, Margaret Carlson.

Our guests is campaign adviser to Al Gore, Bob Shrum, just back from Los Angeles.

Great to have you here, Bob.

BOB SHRUM, GORE CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Great to be here. Great week, end of a great week.

SHIELDS: Thanks. Hey, you just flew in from Los Angeles and your arms look tired.

OK, Al Gore, winding up the Democratic National Convention, separated his presidential candidacy from Bill Clinton.


ALBERT A. GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not asking you to vote for me on the basis of the economy we have. Tonight I ask you for your support on the basis of the better, fairer, more prosperous America we can build together.

I stand here tonight as my own man.


SHIELDS: He offered a broad policy agenda.


GORE: I will invest far more in our schools.

Let's give middle class families help in paying for college.

I'll fight for tax cuts that go to the right people.

I'll fight for a new tax-free way to help you save and build a bigger nest egg for your retirement.

... a new prescription drug benefit under Medicare for all our seniors.

We will pass the employment non-discrimination act.

I'll fight to add another 50,000 new police.


SHIELDS: Earlier, Senator Joseph Lieberman had needled Republicans.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We may be near Hollywood tonight, but not since Tom Hanks won an actor has there been that much acting in Philadelphia.


SHIELDS: The first post-convention poll by "Newsweek" magazine shows Al Gore moving 6 points in front of George W. Bush.

Kate O'Beirne, has the Democratic convention miraculously transformed the political landscape?

KATE O'BEIRNE, "NATIONAL REVIEW": I don't think so, Mark. I'm going to wait a few days to see what voters think of what happened in L.A. I think the Los Angeles message made it harder for Gore to appeal to middle-of-the road voters. He had to, and he spent all week in Los Angeles appealing to the liberal wing of the party. But by attempting to appease Maxine Waters, you turn off conservative Democrats and independents that he needs.

Joe Lieberman I think had an attractive political profile, but he's walked away now from school choice and personal savings accounts and even his criticisms of affirmative action.

And in his speech, Al Gore jettisoned the centrist image of Bill Clinton, which had been politically successful, in favor of class warfare. Thus we heard endlessly about Al Gore fighting for the people while the other party represents the powerful. This during a week when Democrats spent in the bosom of their Hollywood friends, which symbolizes the rich, the influential, the powerful, which is one definition if not of political courage, certainly of political nerve. That's the message from L.A., and I can't see how it helps..

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, after such a political wreck that Kate O'Beirne just described, how the devil did Al Gore move ahead in the polls?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": Yes, I don't know what convention I was at, but I wasn't at that one.

I mean, people hunger for specifics, and Al Gore gave them some specifics. And I don't think the Republicans are going to be successful calling populism class warfare. You know, he didn't mention George Bush, and he wasn't fighting George Bush. He's going to fight against Exxon and make it so you don't have to hold four days for your HMO to give you an answer on what's covered. I don't think that's class warfare.

In any event, Al Gore had another task which he accomplished, which was he had to show he was likable and he wasn't a robot. And I don't know if Bob Shrum put Gore in a motel somewhere and deprogrammed him, no food, no water, you have to speak at a normal cadence, but he gave the best speech I've ever heard him give. And actually, I think -- I know that Gore was said to write his own speech, but I saw and heard a few of those Bob Shrum magical touches.

SHIELDS: I will say this about class war before we go to Bob Shrum. That is, after seeing the soft money oceans at both Philadelphia and Los Angeles, the class war is over and the rich won.

Bob Shrum, tell us about the week.

SHRUM: Well, for ordinary people, for people who are sitting out there -- and I know, you know, when I heard this car wreck description by Kate, by the way, it was really quite extraordinary. I think she's very unhappy. I suppose if we had done even worse at the convention we'd be, like, 18 points ahead.

Look, the fact of the matter is that Margaret is right. What people liked was the specificity. They like the fact that he talked about what he was going to do. They liked the fact -- you may call it class warfare, I think it's just standing up for people, for the middle class and for working families -- that he said, I'll take on HMOs, I'll take on the pharmaceutical industry to get a drug benefit for people.

And I think it was a very, very powerful presentation. And I think it obviously -- we had a great convention, and I think it's sort of everything we hoped for.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, you've been to 52 -- no, 20 conventions...


SHIELDS: There were several Elks conventions in there. But tell us...

NOVAK: Twenty-two national conventions.

SHIELDS: Twenty-two national conventions.

SHRUM: Any NRA conventions?

NOVAK: No. I think it was -- I agree with almost everything that Kate said, but I do believe it was a pedestrian speech, a disappointingly pedestrian speech. There was no touches of a vision. It was just one issue after another. It was like a State of the Union address. And these were all government programs. The government is going to help you, which is the issue in this campaign. If that's what the American people want, fine.

As far as presentation, I was on the floor, Bob, during that convention, and it was very -- you could tell the delegates were disappointed. They were cheering, of course, but they want to win. But it was a blah speech.

Now I watched the speech on television rerun the next morning. It came over much better on television. It was much more effective. But it...

SHIELDS: Do you think more people saw it on television than saw it in the hall?

NOVAK: You better believe it, but I think the Democratic Party has a very tough time of selling this program of corporation bashing to the public. Is there a bump out of -- a bounce out of the convention? I would be amazed if there isn't. Let's see how much it is when all the polls come out over the weekend.

O'BEIRNE: He did avoid...

SHIELDS: OK, let me get -- oh, I'm sorry.

O'BEIRNE: In his delivery, I was going to say, he did avoid -- Margaret's right -- he did avoid talking to us as though we're all slow third graders. Now it was at the expense of talking over some applause lines.

I just think what he's ignoring is, in this warfare, us-against- them kind of stuff, I don't see the evidence that middle class voters think some big forces are aligned against them. They have benefited from this economy. And he did too little on the economy because he wants to pretend he never served with Bill Clinton.

Over half of all voters own stocks, either directly or indirectly. I don't think the time favors this popular sort of campaign against big interests.

SHRUM: But, Kate, that's a -- Kate, Kate, Kate, Kate, Kate, people who own stocks don't think their HMO should be able to tell them they can't have a mammogram. They don't think that the pharmaceutical companies should be able to deprive their parents of a prescription drug benefit.

Al Gore is the person who reduced the size of the federal government to the smallest level it's been since 1960. This isn't about big government. It's about whether government is going to stand up for working families and middle class families.

SHIELDS: Let me just say, Al Gore helped himself, there's no doubt about it. I talked to Peter Hart, who did "The Wall Street -- NBC News/"Wall Street Journal," he and Bob Keeter (ph). Al Gore's favorable for the first time is at 50. And that's -- it's right with George Bush's, I mean, that -- that had been a problem. His personal favorable rating had been low, and there's no question he did help himself. And that is significant. And according to "The New York Times," Joe Lieberman -- you take this -- offered the opinion that Gore's acceptance speech was the finest convention speech he had ever heard.

NOVAK: Do you believe that? Do you believe that?

SHIELDS: Now that's a pretty...

NOVAK: I mean, he is so much in the bag. Where -- the great integrity is absolutely gone. I mean, that is just ridiculous.

But I do say this, that the idea that government is going to solve all our problems.

SHRUM: That's not what he said. That's not what he said, Bob.

NOVAK: If I could finish my sentence.

SHIELDS: Bad idea.

NOVAK: That was it. There was no new Democrat, and I -- what I'd like to know...

SHRUM: What about welfare reform?

NOVAK: What I'd like to know...

SHRUM: ... the fact that Al Gore talked about welfare reform, the work he's done on welfare reform...

NOVAK: Well that was -- that's last -- yesterday's story.

SHRUM: ... about crime -- you're against 50,000 new cops on the street, right?

NOVAK: Yes, I am. But what I'd like, what I'd really like to know, Bob, is what in the world are -- he said we're going to make the hard decisions instead of the easy decisions. What hard decisions?

SHRUM: I'll give you...


SHRUM: ... some hard decisions, standing up to the HMOs in the insurance industry and telling them...

NOVAK: Oh, come on.

SHRUM: ... you're going to give the people back -- the power back to patients and doctors.

SHIELDS: I'll tell you, the biggest hand he got all night...


SHIELDS: ... was his standing up to tobacco companies. That was it, Bob. That was the biggest and most enthusiastic one.

NOVAK: Big hard decision.

SHIELDS: Bob Shrum and THE GANG...

SHRUM: If it's an easy decision, the Republicans ought to do it too, Bob.

SHIELDS: Bob Shrum and THE GANG will return with politics post- convention.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

The presidential candidates hit the campaign trail to critique and to rerun the presidential conventions.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As much as he tried to separate himself from the squandered opportunities of his own administration, the vice president's speech reminded us of the fundamental choice in this election: Will we prolong four more years of Clinton-Gore or will we give America a fresh start?

GORE: The people of the United States of America have had enough. We want these changes, and we're going to the ballot box to get these changes.


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, where is this campaign headed?

NOVAK: Everybody on both sides -- I think even Bob will agree with me -- felt that this was going to be a close election, particularly in the month of September. And what;'s going to happen inevitably, because of the way Democrats run campaigns -- and I don't think Vice President Gore can restrain himself -- there is going to be very sharp attacks on George W. Bush, on his capability, on his issues, that he's a tool of the interests.

And I would guess that George W. Bush will lash back...

SHIELDS: Will be forced to respond.

NOVAK: Well not be forced, he will eagerly respond. And you're going to have a lot of nasty campaigning that the people won't like. And I can't wait for the debates, because I think they're going to be very interesting.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, that compelling narrative you just heard, how do you see it?

CARLSON: I just love Bob. Suddenly he's all prissy and saying, oh, you can't attack George Bush's record and what he wants to do or what he doesn't want to do.

And the thing about the campaign is that the rest of it -- Gore wants to get specific about the differences, and Bush wants to blur the differences. And, you know, Gore's going to be pointing out, where's the party that wants to leave a child behind? I don't know about that party. All we know about George Bush is he's a good guy, he doesn't want to leave any child behind and he wants tax cuts. But other than that, George Bush doesn't want to tell us much about what he's going to do.

And the media reps are going to try to say, you can't point that out because if you do we're going to call you a partisan meanie.

Gore partly put that aside in his speech by saying, well, you know, maybe I'm not the most likable guy, but I am the most competent guy. He's no Barney. And maybe he'll dare to be dull and then find his way and not seem so inauthentic and robotic as he did in his speech. And that's what the rest of the campaign is going to be about, specifics versus this gauzy aura of charm and "just trust me" of the Bush campaign.

SHIELDS: OK, Kate, gauzy has worked in the past.

O'BEIRNE: Well, except George Bush has laid out plans on education, a bold reform of Social Security. One big difference is going to be do we spend the surplus, which is approaching $4 trillion over the next 10 years, in Washington or give it back to taxpayers. There are real differences.

But I agree with Bob. Al Gore's going to have to go negative. Look at what he did to Bill Bradley during the primaries. Bill Bradley made mention of it when he appeared in Los Angeles. I was in the primaries for five months and I have the scars to prove it at the hands of Al Gore, so at some point he simply has to do that.

And I look forward to the debates, too. But the fact that the Bush campaign has committed to three of them makes me think that they think the more people see of Al Gore the more it benefits them. And Al Gore's certainly already lost the pre-debate speculation expectations game. People are going to expect him to really wow them.

SHIELDS: Let me just -- just one little factual correction, and that is he is not agreed to three debates. I mean, every presidential candidate, including incumbent presidents, since Richard Nixon, has debated and has debated under the auspices of the debate commission. He has refused to do that.

NOVAK: He has proposed three debates.

SHIELDS: I know he's proposed three debates by various news organizations...

NOVAK: Well...

CARLSON: Well...

SHIELDS: Go ahead, Bob.

SHRUM: I think what he wants is the fewest number of debates seen by the fewest number of people. He ought to do the presidential commission debates.

And since you two guys are so eager to see these debates and he's close to you, you ought to call him and recommend that he do them.

NOVAK: I'll do it tonight.

SHRUM: When you talk about a Social Security proposal for Bush, he won't tell us how he's going to make up the $1 trillion...

NOVAK: Yes, he has.

SHRUM: ... that he's taking out of the Social Security trust fund -- he will not. And he will not...

NOVAK: He's done it already.

SHRUM: ... explain how he's going to do it over the next 10 years and sustain the benefits. And "The Wall Street Journal" says that every proposal Gore has made fits within a balanced budget that pays off the debt and that Bush takes us back into deficits. And that's "The Wall Street Journal," Bob. You're familiar with them. But what was really...

NOVAK: The liberals...

SHRUM: Let me say one last thing. What was really interesting about the clips that we came into this section with was that George Bush was talking about the past and Al Gore was talking about the future. And I have a lot of confidence in a campaign -- and that's why I think the president -- the vice president, excuse me, did so well the other night, because he knew that speech, he understood that speech, he was intimately involved, he wrote that speech and he delivered it with great conviction. It was about the future, not the past.

SHIELDS: Last word, Bob Shrum.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, Bill Clinton's swan song -- or was it?


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Bill Clinton delivered his last address to a Democratic convention as president.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, Harry Truman's old saying has never been more true. If you want to live like a Republican, you better vote for the Democrats.


SHIELDS: The next day, a ceremonial handoff ton Al Gore.


CLINTON: I imagine there were some people out there in the country who didn't like it, because when they met a couple weeks before, they didn't follow that old Joe Friday maxim. I just gave you the facts last night.


SHIELDS: Meanwhile, word was leaked -- pardon me -- that independent counsel Robert Ray had convened a new grand jury to investigate President Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky case.

Deputy White House press secretary Jake Siewart said, quote, "The timing of this absolutely reeks, but given the past record of that office, it's not surprising," end quote.

However, a Democratic appointed federal judge announced yesterday that he, himself, had inadvertently leaked the information.

Margaret Carlson in New York, is President Clinton a problem, a burden for Al Gore?

CARLSON: Not as big a problem as the divorce settlement going on over the last couple of weeks between the Gore and Clinton people would lead you to believe.

And when -- if you watch the film at the convention, it was an astonishing list of achievements of the Clinton-Gore administration. And nobody wants to leave that aside. And, you know, sooner or later people are going to understand that the Constitution is going to take care of Bill Clinton -- he's not running -- that the blue dress is gone, and that what's left are the eight years. And Gore -- that's the strongest card Al Gore has to play. And along with the populist card, I expect to see him playing it and having Clinton, you know, campaign in the cities.

He's got a sunny way of campaigning tat, you know, we may never see again. And he should be used, and he should be out brining around the base the way he brought around the base in that convention hall. It was quite astonishing.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, how about it? Is Bill Clinton the secret weapon for Bob Shrum and Al Gore?

NOVAK: No, he's a big problem. See, in the first place, I never thought that the Bush people leaked the grand jury information, and they didn't. And I never believed that this grand jury investigation would hurt Al Gore, and I'm sure it won't. But the problem is, it was set up by -- it was stated very clearly by Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, Bob's friend and my friend, who told the president very bluntly to shut up, to get off the stage, it's not his campaign and he can only hurt it. And although Margaret loved that speech Monday -- she didn't love it as much as Bill Clinton loved it -- there are a lot of people in this country who can't stand Bill Clinton...

SHIELDS: That's true.

NOVAK: ... who might vote for Al Gore. And he should just get out of there. And I'm sure if you put a sodium pentothal test to Bob Shrum, he would agree with me.

SHRUM: No, I wouldn't.

SHIELDS: Bob Shrum.

SHRUM: I thought the president was very helpful on Monday night. I thought he made a very persuasive case about the Republican -- this whole notion that the Republicans put out that we've been coasting for the last seven or eight years is generally thought by the public to be absurd, and I thought the president made a very powerful case.

I think the president will campaign all through the fall, and I think he'll be very helpful to Democrats and to Al Gore and Joe Lieberman.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Let me first note, now that a federal judge has said he inadvertently leaked news of the grand jury, do note that the Democrats' smear squad was immediately out in full force in Los Angeles -- talk about wanting to change the tone -- accusing the Republicans and the Bush campaign and the independent counsel's office with no evidence at all.

Look, it seems to me that the Gore campaign sort of misdiagnoses Clinton fatigue. The public likes Clinton's record, although Gore specifically said, I'm not running on it, and his centrist image, and instead Gore is running left. And they don't blame Al Gore for Monica Lewinsky.

The problem isn't that -- but they do think Al Gore is more liberal than Bill Clinton. That's something he ought to be trying to address.

SHRUM: You guys are hopeless. You just want to say left, left, left and never talk about an issue. The fact is...

NOVAK: Those are the issues.

SHRUM: ... on prescription drugs, we're in the center. You guys are way off on the right.

O'BEIRNE: There will...

SHRUM: On a patients' bill of rights, we're in the center, you're way off on the right.

O'BEIRNE: You'll see who's in the center.

SHRUM: You're out there working for the special interests. That's what's going on.

O'BEIRNE: There is a Republican prescription drug plan, and let them debate the two of them in the fall. Well, debate the two of them.

SHRUM: Oh, yes, and Al Gore talked about it. It's a great prescription drug benefit.

O'BEIRNE: The problem...

SHRUM: You have to beg your HMO and your insurance company for coverage.

O'BEIRNE: The problem is that Al Gore is too much like Al Gore, not that he's too much like Bill Clinton.

SHRUM: Oh, no, I think that's a great strength. And I think that's why he did so well at this event.

SHIELDS: Margaret, if you're the in a tough race running for Congress, would you want Bill Clinton in?

CARLSON: If I were in a tough race and I were in the city, where the base is, I would -- f course I would...

SHIELDS: You'd be in a classy suburb, Margaret.

NOVAK: There's no tough race where the base is.

SHIELDS: That's right.

NOVAK: Come on.

CARLSON: I mean, Clinton can put on populist garb very easily and he -- centrism in a union suit. The guy is good, and he has a stunning eight years behind him that he can hand off to Gore.

NOVAK: And he won't shut up.

CARLSON: No sensible person thinks that they get Clinton and Monica if they vote for Gore.

SHIELDS: OK, thank you, Margaret.

Bob Shrum, thank you for being with us.

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


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

I liked Laura Bush's speech at the Philadelphia convention and I like Tipper Gore every time I see her. But after watching so much overly rehearsed and choreographed public hand-holding by various political couples, I absolutely cheered Al Gore's enthusiastic PG-13 kiss of his wife at the Los Angeles convention. The outrage: my cynical brothers and sisters in the press so quick to criticize a married couple displaying public affection.

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: The outrageous director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Doris Meissner, outdid herself this week. She entered 114 agents who staged the storm trooper pre-dawn raid in Miami April 22nd to grab Elian Gonzalez. She especially commended the agents who broke in the door. That might be expected from Doris Meissner, but the silence from nearly all politicians, particularly Republicans, is deafening. The federal government deprived Elian of life in a free country so that his other died in vain to get him here, and nobody cares.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Much has changed in the world since the Berlin Wall fell, but sadly much remains same, like the outrageous conduct of the Russian government in its mishandling of its submarine disaster. Rather than rapidly seeking the help of British and American naval experts, the Putin regime put state secrecy and national pride above the human cost. Russians' disgust with their government may be the only redeeming result of this tragedy. Citizen outrage may prod the Kremlin to change the way things have been done for far too long.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: At Haliburton, Dick Cheney laid off 10,000 workers and cut out medical benefits for early retirees. But as an early retiree himself, he will walk away a gazillionaire with $13 million in stock options. Cheney's success was due largely to wrangling sweet deals from Uncle Sam. As vice president, he would be positioned to wrangle more sweet deals for his old employer, which would make his stock options even more valuable. The Republican Senate is always forcing Clinton appointees to give up their options in order to get confirmed. Shouldn't Cheney have to do the same thing?

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for "THE CAPITAL GANG."

Next on CNN, "SPORTS TONIGHT" reports on Tiger Woods, trying for his third major victory of the year.



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