Archive: Mark Fabiani Has Answers

Al Gore’s Deputy Campaign Manager for Communications, Mark Fabiani has the answers to your questions. His reputation as a “Master of Disaster” comes from his work in the Clinton White House where he served as spokesman on ethics during the Whitewater inquiry and other high profile controversies. Veteran CBS News White House Correspondent Bill Plante brings a top political expert into the Smoke-Filled Room each week to answer your questions.

Plante: Our first viewer, Paul C. writes, “What plans does Mr. Gore have to reduce the size of big government and put tax money saved back into the pockets of all working Americans. I would like to see less of my money go to government.”

Fabiani: The Vice President pioneered the “Reinventing Government” movement in 1992, and as a result has saved billions and billions of dollars and has cut many thousands of jobs from the federal payroll. He is proposing, as a result of the tremendous savings that have been achieved and the tremendous economic prosperity that has occurred over the last eight years, to use the surplus that has been created for targeted tax cuts, tax cuts that reach working families, to help them put their children through school, to help them pay for medical expenses.

The Vice President is very much opposed to Governor Bush’s huge tax cut proposal that would benefit mostly wealthy Americans and that would prevent us from paying off the national debt. The Vice President believes that paying off the debt ought to be one of the top priorities for the next administration. He’s committed to paying off that debt. Gov. Bush’s tax cut is so huge and so skewed towards wealthy Americans that it would prevent us from paying off the debt.

Plante: ”How will the selection of Sen. Joe Lieberman as a running mate play out in the Afro-American community that already thinks that both political parties do not represent their true concerns.” asks Matt.

Fabiani: Sen. Lieberman’s appointment by the Vice President has been greeted across the country as a bold, imaginative choice, and that’s been true from the reaction of the African-American community as well. Sen. Lieberman has a long record of working together with leaders of the African-American community. That’s why his appointment by the Vice President has been greeted so favorably around the country, including by African-Americans.

Plante: ”Under President Clinton, our military has suffered, low morale, depleted resources, low pay,” notes Fred G. He adds, “I have two sons in the military and my question is: What would Al Gore do differently?”

Fabiani: The Vice President is committed to improving pay in the military. He has initiatives that he’s already undertaken to make that happe. He has also made plans for his administration, should he be fortunate enough to win in November, to continue to improve both military readiness and military pay.

As you know, both President Clinton and Vice President Gore have committed enormous resources to make sure the military has the weapons and technology it needs to succeed. I think you saw the results of that in the war in Yugoslavia where the American military performed with great skill and great power. I think you will see the same commitment from the Gore administration in the future.

Plante: “Isn't Joe Lieberman's reputation for unquestionable ethics and conviction at stake when on day one of being the VP candidate, he already backtracked on his positions regarding Social Security privatization and private school vouchers in the education arena?” asks Jack Letzner.

Fabiani: Sen. Lieberman hasn’t backtracked at all. He supports, as your viewer notes, an experimental school voucher program. The Vice President opposes any sort of voucher program. They just differ on that issue. And these differences, we think, are differences that show both men are strong leaders, both men have the courage and the conviction to be able to work together, even though they don’t agree on all these issues.

On social security they both agree. They both believe that you can safeguard the social security system all the way to the year 2055 by investing some of the results of this tremendous economic prosperity we’ve seen under the Clinton-Gore administration. You can safeguard social security without doing what Gov. Bush is proposing to do, and that is privatize the system, thereby resulting in a huge trillion dollar cost to taxpayers. Sen. Lieberman and Vice President Gore agree wholeheartedly on that point. That’s going to be the distinction that matters to voters in November – the Democratic ticket versus the Republican ticket.

Plante: William Lorber writes, “I think it is strange no one has yet pointed how they think a Jewish vice president might affect our nation's relationship with such nations as Saudi Arabia. Some Middle Eastern Nations will not allow Coca Cola, or Ford in their countries because there are Jewish folks on those companies' board of directors. How in the world would they trust the U.S. with a Jew just a heartbeat from the presidency? As an American, I think Mr. Lieberman is a fine VP choice. However, I am concerned how our friends in southwest Asia might view his election. Besides Saudi Arabia, how about Syria? What about Jordan? How does Mr. Arafat see this issue?

Where there's smoke, is there fire? Sound off on the Campaign 2000 bulletin board!

Fabiani: Sen. Lieberman has said very clearly, from the moment he was named, that he will perform his duties as Vice President as an American. The rest of the world we see that he’s going to do whatever is necessary to uphold his responsibilities as Vice President, and as an American. We believe that people will appropriately view his religious faith as a personal matter, and not something that is going to affect the performance of his responsibilities and an American Vice President.

Plante: ”Joe Lieberman is a long-time, vocal opponent of "affirmative action," says Aaron Gigliotti. He wants to know “How will he square this position with Vice-President Gore?”

Fabiani: Again, there are some issues on which the two of them differ. Affirmative action does not happen to be one of them. But we don’t seek to minimize the differences between these two men on a few issues. Instead those differences are a symbol to people that Sen. Lieberman and Vice President Gore are strong men, are men of conviction, who have the guts to work together even though on some issues they disagree. There aren’t many issues and on the basic issues the real disagreement is not between Sen. Lieberman and Vice President Gore, it’s between the Democrats and Republicans. When voters understand those differences they’re going to be voting for Al Gore in the fall.

Plante: Albert Smith would like to know if Mr. Gore would support a repeal or reduction of the inheritance tax? How about the marriage penalty tax?

Fabiani: The Vice President supports a reform of both taxes. What he does not support is the package being promoted by the Republicans and Gov. Bush. Those packages with respect to both the inheritance tax and the marriage penalty being promoted by Gov. Bush and his allies are heavily, heavily weighted toward helping wealthier Americans. They do very little to help working families.

The Vice President’s proposals, in both areas, is targeted at working families, so that people who really need help are the ones that get it. That#146;s the difference between these two campaigns. Vice President Gore is committed to fighting for working families, he’s committed to standing up for the rights of people against big interest groups such as the big drug and oil companies. The Bush-Cheney campaign is committed to taking us back to the policies of the past; is committed to letting special interest groups get what they want; is committed to tax cuts that benefit wealthier people more than working families. That’s the choice people will have in the fall – whether to go forward with Gore and Lieberman or whether to go back to the policies of the past with Bush and Cheney.

Plante: ”Our final viewer, Kevin Bertrand writes “Are President Clinton's scandals a problem for V.P. Gore or not? All the spinning on the news makes it sound as V.P. Gore is running from Clinton. This seems to contradict V.P. Gore's statement about President Clinton being ‘one of the best Presidents we have ever had.’"

Fabiani: Vice President Gore has made clear time and again his disapproval of President Clinton’s conduct in the impeachment matter. He’s said it over and over again. But, the Vice President believes strongly that people, at this point, aren’t interested in talking about the past anymore. There’s been plenty of talk about it, some would say more than enough talk about it. People want to talk about the future – about where the country is going. And that is what the Vice President will do from now until the end of the campaign. I think the Republicans and Gov. Bush will be making a big mistake if they underestimate the intelligence of the American people and continue to talk about an incident that is now several years old and that most people would rather just put behind them.

About Bill Plante
Bill Plante is a three-time Emmy Award winner who joined the CBS News Washington Bureau in 1976. He has been covering national elections since 1968. In 1984, he was part of a CBS News team that captured an Emmy for coverage of Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign. Plante is one of the most knowledgeable and respected political correspondents in Washington. (He'll do just about anything, including bungee jumping, to get a good story.)