Mark Shields Looks to Tuesday's Primaries
SCOTT SIMON, host:
We're joined now by syndicated columnist and the most glamorous presence on the NewsHour, Mark Shields who's tracking the campaigns this weekend from Columbus, Ohio.
Mark, thanks for being with us.
Mr. MARK SHIELDS (Political Commentator): Great to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: First, David Greene's piece. What do you think of the complaint of the Clinton team? Has Senator Obama received what amounts to preferential coverage?
Mr. SHIELDS: I think some of the coverage has been exceptionally positive, but I think, first of all, we have to remind ourselves that during the fall, Senator Obama's campaign was regularly roasted for having flat lined. He came in with a great flourish, with great attention and enthusiastic response, and then he flat lined in the polls and it was what ever happened to Obama as the Clinton golden machine moved inevitably to the coronation in Denver next summer.
And two things are at work here, I think. First the press has a formula covering presidential politics. If you win, you're a genius. If you lose, you're a fool. And this was very complicated when Hamilton Jordan, one of the most brilliant campaigns in 1976 taking a one-term governor out of office, Jimmy Carter, to the White House, and then four years later lost. So we were really perplexed whether he was a genius or not. So I think that's part of it.
Part of it on the Clinton campaign is understandable. It's the - it's a basketball coach berating the referee for a call, you know, hoping to get the next call. In other words, to put the referee, in this case, the press, on notice that you're being watched and you're being scrutinized.
SIMON: I want to ask you about the contending ads that have been going back and forth and we got a couple of clips. There's the Senator Clinton's ad which makes much of what they maintain is her comparatively greater experience in public office.
(Soundbite of Clinton Campaign Ad)
Unidentified Man: It's 3:00 A.M. and your children as safe and asleep. But there's a phone in the White House, and it's ringing. Something's happening in the world, your vote will decide who answers that call, whether it's someone who already knows the world's leaders, knows the military, someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world…
SIMON: And hold on Mark, because here's the Obama campaign in response.
(Soundbite of Obama Campaign Ad)
Unidentified Man: When that call gets answered, shouldn't the president be the one, the only one, who had judgment and courage to oppose the Iraq war from the start, who understood the real threat to America was al-Qaida in Afghanistan, not Iraq, who led the effort to secure loose nuclear weapons around the globe. In a dangerous world, it's judgment that matters.
SIMON: Mark, what's your feeling for how effective these ads or ads like them are?
SHIELDS: Well, it's not the first time. I mean when you've been around this as long as I have having covered Woodrow Wilson's reelection campaign, you do recall…
SIMON: The ads used to - pony express riders used to shout the ads back and forth, yeah.
SHIELDS: You do recall Scott, that Walter Mondale used a similar red phone commercial against Gary Hart when Mondale was emphasizing his experience when the red phone rings, who will be the one answering it? This steady Norwegian vice president or this young seller whose name and age we weren't sure of, but seemed quite appealing and attractive. Jimmy Carter, when he was president, when Ted Kennedy was - raised the same - very same message, in large part obviously reminding voters of Chapaquitic and Kennedy's 12-hour lapse in answering a call and making a call. So you know, there is a pattern of using it. It's a certainly legitimate - on Senator Clinton's part, it's consistent with her argument and Obama - by the way, every point on the question of experience has been that judgment is the proxy for experience.
And that was emphasized when Jay Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee endorsed him this week and he said that Obama was - that he was - the undisputable fact was that Obama was right about Iraq when many of us, including Rockefeller were wrong.
SIMON: And did he…
SHIELDS: And so I think that's the rebuttal they've chosen and apparently it's - at least it's working so far.
SIMON: In the 15 seconds we have left, economy or foreign policy going to be the trump card as we get into Ohio and Texas?
SHIELDS: The economy.
SIMON: Oh, okay.
SIMON: We can take it in less than the 15 seconds. Mark, as…
SHIELDS: At NAFTA, NAFTA, NAFTA here in Ohio.
SIMON: Okay. Opposition to NAFTA, NAFTA, NAFTA?
SHIELDS: Opposition to NAF - yeah. Nobody is trumpeting his original sponsorship of NAFTA.
SIMON: Okay. Thanks very much, always a pleasure.
SHIELDS: Good to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: Mark Shields speaking with us from Columbus, Ohio.
And you're listening to WEEKEND EDITION. This is NPR News.
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