Pundit Central

Bill Daley to the Rescue

Issue 1 is Al Gore’s replacement of his campaign chairman. Issue 2 is the security lapses at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The punditocracy loves Gore’s new campaign chair, Bill Daley. Even conservatives like John McLaughlin ( The McLaughlin Group) and Bob Novak (CNN’s Capital Gang) laud the (now former) commerce secretary. One dissenter is William Bennett (ABC’s This Week), who says Gore’s shuffle betrays an ongoing identity crisis. Pundits emphasize that Daley has little of the baggage that former campaign chair Tony Coelho had, such as finance scandals and a big ego. (Mark Shields [CG], however, notes that Daley has ruffled the feathers of organized labor, a legacy that may further erode Gore’s standing with the Democratic base.) Paul Gigot (PBS’s NewsHour With Jim Lehrer) and Al Hunt (CG) argue that Coelho’s strength–corralling interest groups–suited the primaries, and that Daley’s strength–formulating a coherent message–suits the general election. Mara Liasson ( Fox News Sunday) and Gloria Borger ( Washington Week in Review) also note that Daley can act as a public spokesperson, whereas Coelho had to remain hidden to dodge questions about his past. (Sure enough, Daley appears on all five Sunday morning shows–TW, FNS, CBS’s Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, and CNN’s Late Edition.) Most pundits think the emergence of the plain, uncontroversial Daley will shift the campaign’s focus back to Gore. This shift will mark either Gore’s salvation–George Stephanopoulos (TW), Juan Williams (FNS), Eleanor Clift (TMG)–or his damnation–Steve Roberts (LE), Jim Warren (TMG).

If Daley is the toast of the talking heads’ ball, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson is the outcast. The temporary disappearance of nuclear missile data from the Los Alamos labs has pundits fuming at the Energy Department’s repeated carelessness with classified material. Most think that espionage can’t be ruled out, although a few–such as Eleanor Clift and Tucker Carlson (LE)–think the disappearance probably resulted from bungling, not spying. Bob Drogin (WWIR) says the disappearance strengthens suspected spy Wen Ho Lee’s claim that he was singled out unfairly for prosecution. Margaret Carlson (CG) jokes that Richardson probably wishes he were back at the Unitd Nations, jetting around the world, rather than navigating the bureaucratic minefields of a Cabinet agency. Everyone agrees that Richardson’s chance to be Gore’s running mate is now nil.

Last Word

I actually interviewed Al Gore yesterday. I assume your [interview] is coming up soon, Bob, isn’t it?
–Al Hunt ribbing Bob Novak, after a Novak tirade against Gore (CG)