Pundit Central

Lazio’s Coming Out Party

Issue 1 is Rudolph Giuliani’s withdrawal from the Senate race. Issue 2 is George W. Bush’s Social Security reform plan. Issue 3 is this week’s House vote on the China trade bill.

Most pundits think that Giuliani’s presumed replacement as GOP nominee for the New York Senate, Rep. Rick Lazio, represents a formidable challenge to Hillary Clinton. Nearly all pundits–from conservatives Bob Novak (CNN’s Capital Gang) and Kate O’Beirne (CG) to liberals James Warren ( The McLaughlin Group) and George Stephanopoulos (ABC’s This Week)–think that Lazio is just as moderate as Rudy, but without the political baggage. Many pundits–such as Mort Zuckerman (TMG) and Brit Hume ( Fox News Sunday)–point out that Clinton can’t seem to get above 45 percent in polls no matter who she’s running against. Al Hunt (CG) and Tony Snow (FNS) argue that Hillary can’t attack Lazio without increasing her negatives and Lazio’s name recognition. Ceci Connolly notes that Lazio won his congressional seat by unseating a decadelong Democratic incumbent. Arguments against Lazio: He has a late start fund-raising (Zuckerman); Al Gore will win the state by 20 points, carrying Hillary along with him (Stephanopoulos); Hillary always had a lock on liberal New York, and now the GOP will lose Lazio’s House seat (TMG’s John McLaughlin and CG’s Mark Shields).

In a candid and soul-searching interview, Giuliani tells NBC’s Meet the Press   that he changed his mind about 50 times before deciding to drop out. At one point in the interview, Giuliani refers to a New York Daily News cover which reads, “Rudy: I’m Not Superman.” “I like that headline,” Giuliani says. “For me, that’s a revelation.” Meanwhile, that charming and tactful debutant Rick Lazio appears on all five Sunday-morning shows–MTP, TW, FNS, CBS’s Face the Nation, and CNN’s Late Edition. He praises George W. Bush but refuses to endorse his tax cut. He endorses Social Security privatization but notes that many Democrats also support it. He touts his moderate record on gun control, the environment, and abortion. He endorses popular Contract With America ideas like welfare reform and balanced budgets, but refuses to embrace former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He avoids attacking Hillary, but tells MTP, “This race is no more about Newt Gingrich than it is about Bill Clinton” (read: It’s about Hillary).

TW presents a poll showing 64 percent of Americans in favor of investing Social Security revenues in the stock market. Several pundits praise Bush’s proposed Social Security privatization, but many warn that the devil will be in the details. Al Hunt (CG) asks how Bush’s program will pay benefits when the stock market slumps, as it did from 1966 to 1981. Eleanor Clift (TMG), James Warren (TMG), and Mort Zuckerman (TMG) warn that the proposal will backfire for Bush once the public realizes the risks involved. Cokie Roberts (TW) says that Gore’s plan–replenishing Social Security with non-Social Security revenues–is just as suspect. George Stephanopoulos (TW) argues that Social Security doesn’t need reform; it will be solvent for at least half a century.

Most pundits think that the China trade bill will pass the House of Representatives, but just barely. Cokie Roberts (TW) says it will pass because there are enough safe seats to allow congressmen to cast unpopular votes. George Stephanopoulos (TW) says it’s because President Clinton has convinced congressional Democrats that America will still be able to criticize China’s human-rights abuses. Steve Roberts (LE) argues that congressional Democrats and unions don’t care a fig for human rights; their opposition is pure protectionism. Susan Page (LE) finds it ironic that one of Clinton’s legacies–promoting international trade–was an issue he hedged on during his ‘92 campaign.

Miscellany: In a love-and-kisses interview on TW, Colin Powell says that he probably won’t speak at the GOP convention and may not even attend.

Pundit, and Proud of It

“As a new [N.Y. Senate] race begins, let’s acknowledge the obvious: We don’t know squat about what’s going to happen. Which is why my job is so much fun.”

–Tony Snow (FNS)

Last Word

“This [being mayor] is more than just a job, it’s a whole complete–I don’t want to say ‘love affair,’ but yes, I love this city, and I love the people of this city, and the love they showed me [after my diagnosis] was tremendous. … If you want to ask me, What good has come of this? I’ve finally figured out that politics is not my life. My life is about things that are closer to you and deeper than that. And then, maybe then, if I engage in politics later or do law again, or do other things, I’ll do it even better.”

–Rudolph Giuliani (MTP)

Photograph of Rick Lazio on the Slate Table of Contents by Mike Segar/Reuters.