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VOA-TV Interview With Stuart Rothenberg - 2002-12-19


VOA’s David Borgida talks with Stuart Rothenberg, Editor and Publisher of Rothenberg Political Report

MR. BORGIDA
Now joining us to discuss these developments, Stuart Rothenberg, Editor and Publisher of the Rothenberg Report, a look at U.S. politics. Well respected in the Capitol, Stuart, thanks for joining us.

MR. ROTHENBERG
My pleasure.

MR. BORGIDA
Two great stories for you. You're a busy guy these days. Let's tackle the first one. Al Gore sure looked like he was comfortable to me when I watched him in that news conference. It seems to me that he is very confident and comfortable that he has made the right decision.

MR. ROTHENBERG
Apparently so. And yet if you had polled most people a week or two ago, they would have said that Al Gore looked and sounded and walked and talked like a presidential candidate. He was on television shows. He was going around the country with a book signing tour. He was talking out about U.S. domestic and foreign policy, whether it was health care or U.S. policy in the Middle East. We were all saying this is the new Al Gore emerging as a candidate. Instead, he thought about it and he decided he didn't want to put himself and his family through it again.

MR. BORGIDA
Okay, that's the public version, but he even alluded to it and others have said that other Democrats were saying let's not fight that fight from the last time one more time; let's bring in some new faces. What stock do you put in that reasoning?

MR. ROTHENBERG
Well, that's particularly the case inside the Washington Beltway, inside Washington, D.C. Democrats in town here felt that Al Gore had the 2000 race to win, that he lost it, that he was a poor candidate, a poor campaigner, and that he would lose again. I think in the rest of the country there was some greater sympathy among Democrats to the former Vice President. But inside here, where the opinion-makers are, where the strategists are, they thought he was a loser. And he certainly understood that there was sentiment like that.

MR. BORGIDA
Stuart, our listeners and viewers have heard the name Al Gore for quite some time. He comes from a political family. He said at one point during his news conference, "I'll never say never," referring to his political future. How would you assess what he is doing and the road ahead? I believe he is just 54.

MR. ROTHENBERG
He is. I wouldn't close the political book on Al Gore. I know he has said that this is probably his last shot for running for president. He has decided not to take it. He is moving on with his life. But, David, I have to tell you, I've heard politicians say similar things. He is a young man. 2008 rolls around, he would be about 60 years old, certainly not too old to run for president. I think we have to see what Al Gore does, whether he is comfortable with the next few years, whether he is itching to get back, and who else is in the race. I would not rule him out for the future.

MR. BORGIDA
Let's talk about who is not in the race for the moment. And that is Senator Trent Lott, the Majority Leader of the Senate. He is in some political hot water in Washington, and in fact in the whole country, for the comments he made. We talked about it in our story preceding the interview. How do you see this shaping up?

MR. ROTHENBERG
I think initially this was just a throwaway comment. He was trying to be nice to a 100-year-old man and say something that was admiring of the gentleman. But this story has snowballed and developed dramatically. He has apologized a number of times and not satisfied critics. Part of the problem is not liberals and Democrats and people who you would expect to be critical of Trent Lott. Sure, they're critical of him. It's the conservatives and the Republicans. Republicans in particular who are concerned what this image, what these statements, do for the Republicans' edge, and whether this hurts the President of the United States. And there are a lot of Republicans in town here who think that Trent Lott is an albatross around George Bush's neck.

MR. BORGIDA
Let's mine this for just another moment or two. Because the Republican Party has been reaching out to African Americans, to Hispanics, to ethnic groups of all sorts in this country, and the image of I guess what Trent Lott talked about will be replaying in people's minds, don't you think, unless he were to resign?

MR. ROTHENBERG
Absolutely. This is the compassionate conservatism of George W. Bush. Trent Lott emphasizes just the conservatism, and in fact an intolerant conservatism. So, I think the Republicans are going to have to make a decision here. I don't see how Trent Lott can continue to lead the party in the Senate and at the same time be a spokesman for the Bush agenda. And I know the White House is concerned about this. I think that they think that they need to reach out to all Americans, and Trent Lott just can't do that. But the Republicans are in a difficult position. Do they throw over their leader in the Senate? And if so, who do they replace him with? And exactly how far out on this limb does the President and his advisors crawl? They're trying not to take a position while in the background you know that they're doing some stuff I think to try to suggest to Trent Lott that it's kind of over here. He ought to acknowledge it.

MR. BORGIDA
Quickly, in 30 seconds, is there a lesson to politicians about this -- never say things you don't really mean?

MR. ROTHENBERG
Yes, I think politicians ought to think about what they say and mean what they say rather than just shooting their mouth off. And this is a classic case of Trent Lott not even thinking what he was saying. A bad idea.

MR. BORGIDA
It is certainly having ramifications. Thank you so much, Stuart Rothenberg, of the Rothenberg Report, here in Washington. Thanks for your time, Stuart. We appreciate it.

MR. ROTHENBERG
Thanks.

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