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Capital Gang

Lieberman Takes the Heat; Bush, McCain Meet in Arizona; Are the Democrats Getting Tough on Hollywood?

Aired August 13, 2000 - 7:00 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: From the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, this is a special edition of THE CAPITAL GANG.

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

Senator Joseph Lieberman did the complete tour of five Sunday talk shows. And he faced questions about policy disagreements with his running mate, Vice President Al Gore.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can't imagine a case of really profound, fundamental differences. But even if there is, I know really not just for politics but for the constitution, the vice president has to support the president.


SHIELDS: But the Democratic vice presidential candidate drew a line between the Gore-Lieberman 2000 ticket and the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign's fundraising.


LIEBERMAN: There's nothing approaching those coffees going on in the Gore campaign. And I can promise you there won't be in a Gore- Lieberman administration.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, how was Joe Lieberman handling his baptism of fire on the convention eve?

AL HUNT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Mark, the most auspicious debut of any would-be vice president since Thomas Jefferson I would say. Let me tell you something, he's starting to get some drilling now on some of the controversies and some of the contradictions.

He's Mr. Reformer. But he takes lots of money from insurance and drug industries and the like. This is a natural part of the cycle. I missed the Sunday TV shows. But the Democrats were thrilled by how he did. And I talked to some detached journalists who said Joe Lieberman did better under those circumstances than any of the other three people who are on these national tickets.

So it's a very, very good start. He's confident. He's comfortable. He's charming. He is a grounded person, and I think that shows.

Now they're going to be -- can't remain this good forever. And there are going to be problems down the road. But what a great start.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, I have to say I thought the Tuesday thing in Nashville was a disaster. Joe Lieberman was like a hyperkinetic kid. He needed Ritalin. He kept pointing to people in the crowd as Al Gore was talking instead of listening to his presidential nominee.

But I thought on the Sunday talk shows, that is his format. He is comfortable. He's assured. He's responsive. And he's easy.

KATE O'BEIRNE, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Yeah, I agree with you about Tuesday. He behaved the way Dan Quayle was widely criticized for behaving...

SHIELDS: Exactly.

O'BEIRNE: ... back in New Orleans. Look, Gore handlers are going to really relax when Joe Lieberman is on TV. He is a political pro. He's very sure-footed.

There will be no mistakes with Joe Lieberman. And there weren't any today.

On the other hand, he's not a particularly forceful personality. He's just not particularly aggressive. And so he wasn't.

He didn't have that easy a task. He was hammered or asked, sometimes hammered, sometimes asked again and again, "How do you explain all these differences with Al Gore?"

Some questioners were gentle. They didn't say, "Well, wait a minute. Those positions you held were the same ones that Al Gore trashed Bill Bradley for holding." And he's plausibly arguing, Joe Lieberman, that Al Gore was courageous to pick someone who disagrees with him like Joe Lieberman.

But when Republicans or Bill Bradley hold the same positions, they aren't fit for office. It's not a very easy case to make. But he was quiet and got through this morning all right.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, George Bush came out three times at the convention in Philadelphia. His wife, he, and the platform about Head Start after Dick Cheney voted against it. Apparently, the Gore- Lieberman gulf isn't that serious. MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": Well, it's on things like school vouchers and Social Security in which we are all in the college dorm trying to figure out what to do about these things. I mean, school vouchers is an experiment.

Some people think we should try it. Some people don't. Most people are in the mushy middle saying, "Listen, we should give kids who are in these bad public schools some kind of chance while we work this out." And other people say, "No, if you do it, the public schools will fall apart." Who knows?

No, it's true, Bob. It's true. We are looking to see what to do about public schools.

So some of these differences I think are still in this stage where they're all right to have. But Dick Cheney had the better answer which is, "Wait, here's the guy at the top of the ticket. I'm going to work it out." Because that's what happens. That's political pragmatism that when Lieberman comes down to earth and starts playing the pragmatist game as opposed to the I'm-a-great-man game, that's where we'll be.

SHIELDS: Pragmatism, Bob Novak, you've seen a number of tickets put together.

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": I don't -- in the first place, there's no differences between Cheney and Bush. That's the most ridiculous thing in the world, taking an old vote that he had and saying there's differences.

There were differences up until Monday between Lieberman and Gore. Now there aren't any more because Lieberman has capitulated.

I didn't think it was a very good performance by him. I thought it was, well, there's not that much difference, and if there was difference, we can't have it anymore.

By the way, Senator Lieberman is wrong. There is nothing in the constitution, nothing in the constitution of the United States or in constitutional practice, that says the vice president has to support the president. Many times they haven't.

I didn't think it was a very good day for the Democrats. I think Al Gore got lost in the shuffle. And I thought it was kind of a boring performance. And I did watch most of it and read all the transcripts.

SHIELDS: Well, Bob's done his homework, Al. Tell me this...

HUNT: Isn't that interesting, though, Mark, that there's no contradiction between Cheney and Bush when they had differences, but there's a huge contradiction between Lieberman and Gore...


HUNT: ... Of course, the problem is Bob just told us the other day that Joe Lieberman really was a liberal just like Al Gore. I'm baffled. But I'm sure this will become clearer as the week goes on.


NOVAK: ... You mentioned it, and now let me explain myself...

HUNT: I just quoted you.

NOVAK: ... I would say that there were differences between them on these certain issues. It didn't affect their voting records. But on these issues, and he has completely said that because of the constitution he has to give up all his beliefs.

And there are differences on school education. It's not just guys sitting around in the dorm. Those are real issues. And they really mean something to people in the inner city.


HUNT: I don't think Dick Cheney has changed his views -- both Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman have changed their views.


SHIELDS: Dick Cheney has changed his views. Let's be honest about it. I mean, Dick Cheney hasn't voted for 12 years. But I don't think Margaret suggested it wasn't a real issue, Bob. It is a real issue. But I think the country is conflicted on it.


NOVAK: Of course they are...


O'BEIRNE: I'll tell you what the most dangerous contradiction is. The most dangerous contradiction is between what Gore was screaming about with respect to Bill Bradley and his positions that made him unfit for office and uncaring and mean spirited, and his approach when Joe Lieberman has the same position. That's been within the past eight months. That's a big contradiction. And a lot of these positions Joe Lieberman has held within the past 24 months, not back to 1983 like Dick Cheney.

NOVAK: I'll tell you what I thought was bothersome. He was asked on a couple of these about, "Were you asked by the Gore campaign to write this unpublished op-ed page on how he had seen the light on Social Security?"

SHIELDS: Against privatization.

NOVAK: Against privatization. And he just kind of flubbed that over. He didn't answer it. That is not the holy Joe Lieberman that we all know about, Margaret.

When somebody says, "Gee, if you're going to get on this ticket, you'd better get right on this issue and put it in the paper." HUNT: But you know, Mark, the DLC, the so-called new Democrats are of course ecstatic with this. He's one of them.

Bob and I today interviewed David Bonior, one of the real liberal lions in the Democratic Party. He says publicly and privately he's excited. He's energized by this. I mean, it's worked, Bob, as far as the Democratic Party is concerned.

NOVAK: I would say that I heard privately from some of the old people in the party that this piety is getting to them a little bit. And some of the -- a very, very senior Jewish businessman who has been active in the party for 30 or 40 years, he says he really worries about it from the standpoint of being a Jew. There's too much of this.

HUNT: I kind of agree with you.

SHIELDS: The pietistic, the pietistic is a little too much you're saying?

NOVAK: I'm just telling what Democrats are saying.

SHIELDS: You know a lot of sources, Bob, who are not particularly pietistic, would you say?

CARLSON: Bob, what do you think of Jesus Day, declaring Jesus Day in Texas? Is that too pious for you?

NOVAK: I thought this was a problem, the Democrats, that they were against the Christian conservatives. They were saying, "Don't wear God on your sleeve." And they say, "Gee, it may not be a bad idea. Maybe it works in this country. It's a God-fearing country."

SHIELDS: Last word, Bob Novak, the full gang of five, that's the five of the full gang.

We'll be back with Democrats bashing their friends from Hollywood.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

With the entertainment industry a major source of party financing, does the selection of Joseph Lieberman for vice president mean a tougher Democratic attitude toward Hollywood?


LIEBERMAN: Not that this is a backing down, but I think there are certain things that a vice president doesn't do that a senator can do. If the entertainment industry doesn't begin to voluntarily draw some lines themselves and stop some of the worst promotion of violence, sex, and incivility, then there will be another group Bill Bennett and me if you will who I'm afraid will look for legal restrictions. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: But other prominent Democrats stick up for Hollywood.


GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D-CA): Ninety-five percent of the entertainment industry does a solid job, inspires us, entertains us. And by and large, I'm proud of what they do.


SHIELDS: But the party threatens sanctions against Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez unless she canceled the fundraiser at Hugh Hefner's Playboy mansion. She bowed to the pressure and moved the event.


REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D-CA): This in no way reflects anything other than appreciation to the Hefner's and to Playboy Enterprises.



JOE ANDREW, NATIONAL CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: This is another sign that our party stands secure and firmly behind our values.



REP. DAVID BONIOR (D-MI), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: I think there were some bad decisions made by a lot of people on this. And I'm glad it's gone.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, are the Democrats really breaking with Hollywood?

O'BEIRNE: No, Mark, they're not breaking with Hollywood despite Joe Lieberman. So here they've tapped Joe Lieberman to be on the ticket, Joe Lieberman who has said that it is wrong to profit by messages that poison our culture.

And here the Democrats are in Los Angeles, in the belly of the beast, being wined and dined by all their Hollywood friends. There's been no separation, Mark.

SHIELDS: No separation at all, Bob Novak?

NOVAK: Well, it's a wonderful thing that they just did. They said, "We're going to take your money. But we're going to attack you." It's kind of an expansion of what President Clinton has been doing for eight years.

And then you have poor Loretta Sanchez who is made the scapegoat for all of this. She's a co-chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Of course, she's a Hispanic American. And now they say, "You're a terrible woman and we're going to put all this pressure on you." I think the whole thing was just shredded, was just filled with hypocrisy.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, let me quote Jim Nicholson, the Republican national chairman, who said, "They may not like talking about it, but they sure do like that Playboy money." Is that a fair criticism?

HUNT: Well, yeah, of course it is. And that is true. But I think what the Democrats know now is that the liberal part of the Hollywood community has no place else to go.

But what's interesting is the Republicans also are in those waters too. Rupert Murdoch, no one is bigger in Hollywood than Rupert Murdoch. I don't know. I'm waiting for some Republicans to start criticizing Rupert. How about Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis?

I haven't heard much about violence and Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger or Rupert Murdoch. Maybe Bob will (INAUDIBLE).

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, you're close to this scene. You are a towering figure on Sunset Boulevard.

CARLSON: I was a bunny. Yeah, I was a bunny.


CARLSON: Maureen Doud (ph) said the smartest thing this morning in her column when she said, "Poor Loretta Sanchez wants to go do something staid in a lecherous place whereas the Democrats have done lecherous things in the White House in..."

HUNT: The Democrats, or Clinton?

CARLSON: ... "or President Clinton did a lecherous thing in a staid place." And they pounce on her in a Sister Soldier (ph) moment that is just ridiculous.

And the decibel level was so high for something so small. I mean, the winner is not the Democratic Party. It's Playboy Enterprises, which hasn't had this much publicity in a long time.

SHIELDS: I mean, don't we really risk though, I mean, starting down a slippery slope when you say, "We can't have something at the Playboy mansion"?

HUNT: Of course you do.

SHIELDS: And then you have to give them back the money that Hugh Hefner has given and Christie Hefner (ph). I mean... (CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... called Jimmy Carter in 1976, really gave an interview with "Playboy" magazine that kind of -- it was his definition of himself.

NOVAK: Am I correct or not that there was a big party at the Playboy mansion last night that an awful lot of our colleagues in the press went to? Is that true?

SHIELDS: I have heard that.


NOVAK: I wasn't there.

HUNT: I had dinner with you last night, Bob Novak.


O'BEIRNE: I wouldn't worry too much about a slippery slope. The Democrats have given back money, Larry Flynt's money.

Now I personally don't see much of a difference between Larry Flynt and Hugh Hefner. Yet the Democrats have taken tens of thousands of dollars from Hugh Hefner.

Poor Loretta Sanchez did not get the memo saying, "I know we've taken tens of thousands of dollars. Our best feminists have taken money from Hugh Hefner..."

NOVAK: But don't go to the mansion.

O'BEIRNE: ... "Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, but forget cottontails. This year, we're Cotton Mather (ph), and don't go near the place."

SHIELDS: Very good. Bob, did you have dinner with Bob Guccione (ph) last night?

NOVAK: No, I was with Big Al. But Al, there is no question the Republicans would like some of that money too.

HUNT: They're getting it.

NOVAK: But they're not getting the percentage of the money that the Democrats are. And the reason they're getting it is these are left wingers in the Hollywood community.

And they can get beat up by Joe Lieberman. They can get beat up by Al Gore. They can get beat up by Joe Andrew, tough Joe Andrew. And as long as these -- this is a left-wing party, they're happy.

CARLSON: The Rock. All I have to say is The Rock keynoting Wednesday night, the white skinhead hateful wrestling guy. That's the symbol... (CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Last word, Margaret Carlson.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, George W. Bush back on the campaign trail.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Texas Governor George W. Bush campaigned up and down the west coast with his first wild rival, Senator John McCain. Winding up in his home state, Senator McCain invoked the memory of another Arizonan, Barry Goldwater.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): His spirit of independence, of conservatism, of an inclusive party, of a nation that has not begun to realize its greatness is here with us today in the person of the next president of the United States of America, George W. Bush.


SHIELDS: But the week's most memorable event was Governor Bush talking to reporters about President Clinton.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's no question the president embarrassed the nation. Everybody knows that. Americans want to be assured that the next administration will bring honor and dignity to the White House.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, how has Governor George Bush done since he left the Philadelphia convention?

CARLSON: Well, not all that badly. I mean, the Bush-McCain buddy movie you don't look too closely I guess is OK. But they certainly disagree more than Gore and Lieberman on issues.

So it hasn't been that bad. But I mean, it's been pretty good. But it hasn't been as good as Dick Cheney's week, which we learn he gets $20 million, which he started negotiating before the rest of us even knew he was going to be vice president, with Halliburton.

And while 10,000 people were laid off there and early retirees don't get medical benefits, Dick Cheney doesn't just get medical benefits, he gets a $20 million bonus.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, John McCain, I mean, really went to the rhetorical heights on Barry Goldwater.

NOVAK: Barry and George W. Bush. SHIELDS: Yeah, that was an interesting pair.

NOVAK: What I love is that John McCain is breaking the hearts of the liberal journalists who just loved him so much when he's putting his arms around George W. Bush as a Republican. So that's a lot of fun.

I would think that Governor Bush could talk a little bit less about Bill Clinton. And I don't think anybody would mind it. But I think he's doing OK.

And the only people who really mind somebody doing good for a company and making a lot of money are millionaire liberal journalists because I know the rest of America are out there saying, "Gee, I wish I was making that kind of money."

CARLSON: Yeah, I got my 20 million. I don't know why I resent Dick Cheney getting his.

HUNT: Am I allowed to ask a question?

SHIELDS: Please.

HUNT: Bob, don't Marxists and their ilk disagree with that kind of settlement, though? I thought so.

Anyway, I don't really -- I haven't followed Dick Cheney's settlement. But I'm glad he's going to have a comfortable retirement.

I think George W. has been a lost ride since the Lieberman pick. I think it's clear that they did not think that Gore would pick Lieberman. They haven't quite known how to react to it.

I don't think it matters a whole lot in the long run. They have plenty of time to get back in stride. But I think you've seen that in the last couple of days.

SHIELDS: I hate to say I think John McCain has helped George Bush, no question. Here in California, they get great crowds. I think Bush was better with him. I don't think there's any doubt about that.

And I for one as a liberal journalists who was crazy about John McCain am still crazy about John McCain in spite of his...


CARLSON: It's a bad marriage.

O'BEIRNE: It is a press nightmare though to see their night traveling especially the west coast, getting along so well with George Bush and helping him out.

I disagree. I think now the Bush campaign does know how to respond to Lieberman. What they keep reminding everybody is we're talking about Al Gore. Like Karl Rove this morning on the shows was talking about changing Clinton-gore tone.

It's much bigger than Monica Lewinsky. It's the partisanship. It's the destroying your critics. They have some state Democratic legislators coming into town all this week.

And what are they going to do? They're going to hold daily briefings praising Governor Bush saying, "Look, this guy works across the aisles with Democrats. He'll be bipartisan."

And that is sort of the mood this year I think for independents. And that's tough because Gore's reputation is being such an attack dog.

SHIELDS: That's been the theme. But I don't think Governor Bush has been expressing it nearly as well as those third party testimonials have. I mean, I think Bob is right. I mean, he is unseemly, and it's just unseemly when he starts talking about bringing dignity back. If somebody else says that and says, "We want to bring dignity back to the White House when I say we're going to bring dignity back..."

NOVAK: Yeah, I...


NOVAK: John McCain can say it.

HUNT: John McCain can say it, but George W. has...

NOVAK: I don't think the best part of his -- I thought it was a very good acceptance speech. I think most of us thought it was.


NOVAK: But I didn't think the best part of it was the insinuations about Clinton. I thought the best part of it was the vision that he had for America and a conservative vision for America. And that's what he ought to be talking about.

HUNT: Lower taxes. Lower taxes.

O'BEIRNE: I think he largely is. In Michigan, he was talking, Hala (ph) was in Michigan and did a piece on him. He was talking largely taxes to these huge enthusiastic crowds. The media baits him with the Clinton questions.


CARLSON: But we came out of the convention with Republicans, "We are good guys. We are the nicer party. We have better families. And we believe in God." So now we have Lieberman who's actually matched him and kind of raised them one on them.

Now the mistake for Democrats would be to be fighting on that ground. Get off that ground. Democrats have issues. Republicans don't have the issues, according to pollsters. NOVAK: But that's what the Loretta Sanchez thing was all about.


CARLSON: But they need to switch because that's not the ground Democrats should be fighting on.

SHIELDS: I'm going back and getting my prescription refilled because I'm agreeing with Novak twice. That's exactly what the Sanchez thing was about. And you're right.

And that's the last word. And that's the last chance you have to stand (ph). The gang will be back to look ahead at the next four days.


SHIELDS: And now the gang will forecast the biggest risk facing the 43rd Democratic National Convention. I'll go first.

I think the biggest risk Democrats have is whether in fact they'll be able to neutralize the issues George W. Bush, the governor of Texas, has effectively taken for his own in many cases -- education, Social Security, healthcare -- and whether Democrats can reclaim them. Those are issues which Democrats have run on very well historically.

Next, let's turn to Al Hunt. What's the biggest risk?

HUNT: Mark, Bob will talk class warfare. But the Democrats can and should talk about -- draw sharp distinctions on some very big issues, healthcare among others. But they have to be very careful not to go over the line in turning it into personal or mean-spirited attacks.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: The biggest risk is Al Gore's acceptance speech. He has made a lot of bad speeches in his life. He made two sickeningly sentimental and exploitative speeches at the last two Democratic conventions.

He makes another speech like he did in New York -- and where was that place...

HUNT: In Chicago.

SHIELDS: Chicago.

NOVAK: ... and he's in big trouble.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Given their lineup of liberal speakers -- you know, Jesse Jackson and Ted Kennedy and Kate Michaelman (ph), they might as well have Sister Soldier up there -- that they don't look America 2000 given their theme that they look like Dukakis 1988 and come out of here looking liberal.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: I think the opposite, which is they cannot come out of here looking too pious. This week has been nothing but, "We're matching Republicans on piety." And so they have to switch, as you say, back to the issues they're good on...

O'BEIRNE: God help them.

CARLSON: ... and get away. Yeah, they have to religiously avoid religion.

SHIELDS: OK, thank you very much, Margaret.

This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. We'll be back nightly at the conclusion of every session, each and every session, from the floor of the convention.

For now, stay tuned to CNN for more from the Democratic National Convention.



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