Pundit Central

Al and George Drop in To Chat

Issue 1 is vice presidential speculation. Also, both Al Gore and George W. Bush give interviews.

On NBC’s Meet the Press, Tim Russert grills Al Gore for an hour in the VP’s skylit observatory. On several issues, Gore admits to changing his position. When Russert reads Gore a moderately anti-gun-control statement he made 14 years ago, Gore admits to having grown more anti-gun since 1986, when gun violence was not as widespread. Later, Russert reads a recent quote in which Gore implies that executing a few innocents may be an inevitability under the death penalty. When Russert asks Gore how he reconciles this possibility with his support for capital punishment, Gore elaborates: Although we should always strive for perfect justice, he says, human error is inevitable. Nevertheless, we should not let such an “exceedingly rare” event–the execution of an innocent–abort the entire system. On other issues, the vice president is less forthcoming. When asked how he can deride George W. Bush’s stock-market-based Social Security plan as risky while praising Wall Street as an engine of growth, Gore simply states that Wall Street is too risky for Social Security funds. And when Russert refers to an admission by a former White House spinmeister that the Buddhist temple event was in fact a fund-raiser, Gore still sticks to his legalistic denial: The attendees may have given money later on, he says, but no money was raised at the event. Therefore it was not a fund-raiser.

On ABC’s This Week, Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts interview George W. Bush in the Texas governor’s mansion. Donaldson and Roberts waste most of the interview with tactical questions, to which Bush gives the expected responses, and inquiries about his vice-presidential search, which go nowhere. When Bush reiterates his belief that no innocents have been executed under his watch, Roberts scoffs at his presumption. When Donaldson airs a clip of Mexican President-elect Vicente Fox arguing for a completely open border with the United States in 10 years, Bush politely says that Fox is not being realistic. Although this was only Bush’s second appearance on the program, Roberts and Donaldson end the interview after 45 minutes to chat with George Stephanopoulos.

Pundits split on whether Bush will choose a pro-choice or a pro-life running mate. Susan Estrich ( Fox News Sunday) believes that Bush will alienate independent voters if he picks a pro-lifer, but Susan Page (CNN’s Late Edition) says that Bush is most concerned about a rebellion against a pro-choicer at the GOP convention. Tucker Carlson (LE) suggests that by merely floating pro-choice possibilities, Bush can mollify the independents. On the Democratic front, pundits note that Democratic insiders have been whispering about Rep. Richard Gephardt. Juan Williams (FNS) and Cokie Roberts (TW) argue that such speculation reveals the Democrats’ concern with Ralph Nader and the wavering labor vote. Steve Roberts (LE) says that the speculation merely indicates the thinness of the Democratic bench.

Last Word

Let me just say this about the anti-Semitism [charges against Hillary Clinton]. In that period, in the ‘70s and the ‘80s, I dealt with a lot of [Southern candidates], and I was the “New York Jew” to many of them. One governor of a Southern state, not Bill Clinton, came to my house and said, “I just gave a speech at NY Jew”–New York University. I think there was a sense of Jews being very Other, [a sense] which New Yorkers wouldn’t have. But then, you know, Hillary’s not a New Yorker, is she?–Dick Morris (FNS)