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White House E-Mails at Center of New Investigation; Congress Looks at Cost of Hillary's New York Travels; Can GOP Reconnect With Catholics?Aired March 23, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: The White House computers and controversy -- a new criminal investigation is launched into administration e-mails. Will this create campaign problems for Al Gore?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Delta shuttle it is not. Republicans, including her likely opponent New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, call it "Air Hillary," and a rip-off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAW: Jeanne Meserve on a congressional probe focusing on Mrs. Clinton's campaign travels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are grateful, oh, merciful God, that you are with us wherever we are and whatever we do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAW: The flap over replacing the House chaplain -- will the House Speaker's new choice help the Republican Party make amends with Catholics?
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Judy Woodruff and Bernard Shaw.
SHAW: Thanks for joining us. Judy is on assignment.
We begin with some of the biggest controversies to engulf the Clinton administration coming back to haunt today in the form of a new investigation.
As our justice correspondent Pierre Thomas reports, the criminal probe now underway centers on e-mails and allegations of a cover-up. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
PIERRE THOMAS, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into why thousands of White House e-mails were not produced even though they had been subpoenaed by federal investigators. Although the contents aren't known, the e-mail potentially relates to a number of scandals, including alleged campaign finance abuses and the Monica Lewinsky affair. Some e-mails may involve Vice President Gore's office.
The investigation centers on whether White House officials intentionally slowed efforts to recover the missing e-mail, and whether Clinton administration officials threatened computer contractors to keep them from divulging the existence of the electronic correspondence. Some of the contractors repeated those allegations at a heated congressional hearing Thursday.
BETTY LAMBUTH, MGR., NORTHROP GRUMMAN: They basically threatened us that my staff would be fired.
ROBERT HAAS, SYSTEMS ADMINISTRATOR, NORTHROP GRUMMAN: There would be a jail cell with my name on it.
THOMAS: But other members of the contractor team had different recollections.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do not remember hearing the word "jail" and I never felt threatened.
THOMAS: White House officials deny making any threats.
LAURA CALLAHAN, WHITE HOUSE PROJECT DIRECTOR: I did not threaten them with any sense of jail.
THOMAS: Clinton officials learned almost two years ago, in June, 1998, that some e-mail messages were not properly stored in the White House mainframe, a computer glitch that even White House critics call innocent. Contractors fixed the problem, but the e-mails were never retrieved from the back-up tapes, and congressional and Justice Department investigators were only recently told of the problem.
Congressional Republicans see a conspiracy.
REP. DAN BURTON (R-IN), GOVERNMENT REFORM CMMTE.: It looks like they chose to cover it up.
THOMAS: Again, it's unclear what information is actually on the e-mails, but Justice investigators are troubled they were never told about the existence of the problem -- Bernie.
SHAW: Pierre, why is the Justice Department so concerned?
THOMAS: Well, the main thing is that they had an ongoing campaign finance investigation, you know, two years ago. These e- mails were subpoenaed and they want to know simply why weren't they produced and what are these allegations of a cover-up.
SHAW: Thank you, Pierre Thomas.
Now, for more on the e-mail investigation on the Hill, let's bring in CNN congressional correspondent Bob Franken.
Bob, given the White House claim that these were "human mistakes," why is this issue being pursued so vigorously?
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a real history here, Bernie. The White House lawyers, the president's lawyers have been accused by their adversaries, their legal adversaries of using every obstructionist tactic at their disposal throughout these various investigations, everything from privileged claims to dragging their feet on subpoena responses, that type of thing. So the people who in fact have almost made a career out of investigating them say they see a pattern and they want to make sure that this is just not another example of the White House putting up needless obstacles.
SHAW: What do you have on the revelation that some of the e-mail is linked to the vice president's office? How does that factor into this?
FRANKEN: Well, the disclosure of that came in a late-night letter on Friday from the White House counsel Beth Nolan, who was scheduled to testify, by the way, and she will not testify now probably until next week. But in her prepared testimony, which was passed out by the committee, she says that, in fact, there were several e-mail accounts where the material has not been found before 1997. That would include the critical period in 1996 when all the campaign finance allegations were made.
SHAW: Well, you alluded to next week and I was going to ask you, how long will these hearings go on?
FRANKEN: Well, I suspect that the Republicans are going to see to it that they stretch it out as long as possible. But of course, the bigger problem right now for the White House and the vice president is the criminal investigation which is going on and charges that there may have been some sort of illegal withholding of this material.
SHAW: OK, thank you, Bob Franken on the Hill.
Now, in another Capitol Hill hearing room today, the focus was on Hillary Rodham Clinton. At issue: her Senate campaign flights across New York and who is paying for them.
That story from CNN's Jeanne Meserve.
MESERVE (voice-over): The Delta shuttle it is not. A U.S. military jet carries Hillary Rodham Clinton when she flies, whether she is traveling as first lady or New York Senate candidate. Republicans, including her likely opponent, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, call it "Air Hillary," and a rip-off.
MAYOR RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK CITY: You, the taxpayers, are paying for Hillary Rodham Clinton's trips around New York.
MESERVE: A congressional hearing into the issue Thursday had plenty of snap, crackle and pop.
REP. STENY HOYER (D), MARYLAND: We will talk something about budgets, but this is a political hearing, make no mistake about it. This is hearing to make political points. This is an extension of the Giuliani campaign.
REP. JIM KOLBE (R), ARIZONA: Now, frankly, I resent that implication. I want to make it clear there has been no discussion by me or anybody on my staff with Mr. Giuliani or anybody on his campaign nor with anybody in the Republican National Committee.
MESERVE: According to documentation released by the subcommittee, Hillary Clinton took a total of 26 trips to New York during a seven-month period last year -- some official, some political, some a mix. The United States Air Force estimates that it costs $3,705 an hour to operate a C-20, the plane she usually flies. Using that figure, committee Republicans calculate the cost of Mrs. Clinton's trips at $182,471.
Following federal election law, White House airlift operations billed the Hillary Clinton campaign, the cost of first-class tickets for the first lady and her political staff a total of almost $37,000. Most of that has been paid. But according to the subcommittee, taxpayers are nonetheless left with a tab of nearly $146,000.
But Hillary Clinton's campaign, and the White House, say they have followed the letter of the election laws, and followed the recommendations of the Secret Service first laid out for Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush.
HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Our Secret Service strongly recommends that the first lady travel on military aircraft, and we're going to follow the recommendation of the Secret Service, and I think it's outrageous that the Republicans would politicize the first lady's security.
MESERVE: Vice President Al Gore's campaign has faced similar questions about travel costs since he uses Air Force Two for his political trips.
MESERVE: But the Clinton campaign points out that there is a Republican able to use the power and perks of office to campaign -- his name: New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani -- Bernie.
SHAW: Jeanne Meserve, thanks very much.
Joining us now from New York, Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson and Rudy Giuliani's campaign manager Bruce Teitelbaum. Mr. Teitelbaum, the Clinton campaign says that it is following election laws to the letter. What do you say?
BRUCE TEITELBAUM, GIULIANI CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, that's hard to believe. Mrs. Clinton has taken 30, 40, 50 trips to New York and around the country, campaign fund raising, house hunting, political trips, and she's only reimbursed the taxpayers for $34,000. By comparison, the mayor in the same period of time took 14 trips and we paid $150,000. It's really hard to believe that Mrs. Clinton has only incurred $34,000 in air travel expenses. And it's really troubling that it's taken a congressional hearing to get these facts out.
For months we have asked the Clinton campaign to release these documents, to release the facts on their air travel. They have refused to do so. And it's really hard to believe that only $34,000 has been spent so far in six months of trips, trips all over the state, all over the country, fund-raising trips and house-hunting trips. It's troubling; it should be of concern to the American people, because if Mrs. Clinton wants to compete and wants to run, she should pay the American taxpayers back for the cost of her air travel.
SHAW: Are you implying that she's cheating?
TEITELBAUM: What I'm saying is it's very, very hard to believe, it's almost incredible to imagine that Mrs. Clinton has take so many trips to New York and across the country and that she's only incurred $34,000 in air travel expenses. It seems remarkable and I think we can clear this all up if the Clinton campaign would merely release all the documentation, how many trips she's taken, who has traveled with her, and the cost of these trips, we can clear this right up, but so far they've refused to do that.
SHAW: Howard Wolfson, should all documentation be released?
WOLFSON: Well, you know, the committee held their hearing today. We're seeing government by investigation, and what they determined is that we are following the letter of the law. You know, not many people in New York are paying much attention to air travel. They're really focused on the mayor's terrible and tragic mishandling of the shooting of Patrick Dorismond.
And I think that this hearing today was really an attempt to refocus that attention away from this tragic incident, from the mayor's release of Mr. Dorismond's record, from his lashing out, from his dividing New Yorkers against one another, from his incredible statement the other day when asked if he had a obligation or responsibility to meet with the African-American community, when he said "no, I don't."
So I think what we see in Washington is the congressional Republicans really aiding and abetting the Giuliani campaign in an attempt to shift focus away from what's really going on in New York and what New Yorkers really care about.
TEITELBAUM: You know, Bernie, it's amazing that Howard just totally refused to answer your question. I guess he's afraid. He doesn't want to come clean and tell the American taxpayers what's going on.
But I'd like to finish, though, I'd like to finish.
WOLFSON: It would be helpful if Howard Wolfson would come clean, if the Clinton campaign would come clean, and they would tell the American people exactly how many trips they have taken, how much money they've spent and, and how much money they owe the American taxpayer. If he'd answer that question, as opposed to trying to deflect the attention away, which is typical Clintonesque-style campaigning, I think we'd all be better off.
SHAW: OK, I want Mr. Wolfson to respond to that before I move to another subject.
WOLFSON: Sure. As the committee found today, we are following the letter of the law. As your report established, we're following the letter of the law in the same way that previous occupants of the White House have followed it, Republicans and Democrats alike, and what I think is outrageous is that you have Rudy Giuliani here in New York. You have Republicans on the Hill who are stooping so low as to play politics with the first lady's security.
You know, we have a bipartisan tradition in this country, that the occupants of the White House deserve the very best security. Hillary travels on military aircraft on a strong recommendation of the Secret Service, and we are not going to compromise our security for Mr. Teitelbaum, for Mr. Giuliani or anyone else. I don't begrudge the mayor his security, and I am really quite shocked that the mayor continues to make politics over the first lady's.
SHAW: Now in the remaining time that we have, I wanted to ask you a question and try to get a dispassionate response from each of you. Do you think that the charges and the countercharges between the mayor and the first lady first over the Dorismond shooting is dividing New Yorkers, Mr. Teitelbaum?
TEITELBAUM: Bernie, I would like to answer that by pointing to the "Wall Street Journal." Yesterday the "Journal" did an editorial which accused Mrs. Clinton and her supporter, Al Sharpton, of doing exactly that. The "Wall Street Journal" pointed out that what Mrs. Clinton is doing, along with Al Sharpton, is trying to divide New York because Mrs. Clinton, regrettably for her campaign...
SHAW: But I want to know you what you think. I want to know what you think.
TEITELBAUM: I think the "Wall Street Journal" is correct. I think the "Wall Street Journal" is right on target. I think Mrs. Clinton is shamelessly trying to exploit the death of Mr. Dorismond for political purposes. I think that she is running around the city of New York, not the entire state, but the city of New York with her counterparts in the Democratic Party, Al Sharpton and others, and trying to divide the city for political -- personal, political benefit. The "Journal" pointed that out. I think that's exactly what she's trying to do. It's shameful and she should stop doing that.
WOLFSON: Bernie, if I could...
SHAW: OK, now, Howard Wolfson, would you please respond?
WOLFSON: Sure. A more objective source than the editorial page of the "Wall Street Journal" is today's front page of the "New York Times," which says that even Republicans are questioning the mayor's terrible and tragic mishandling of this case. You know, both the mayor and Hillary Clinton said last week that no one should rush to judgment in this case. That's still Hillary's position. The mayor, unfortunately, spent the entire weekend rushing to judgment, in releasing Mr. Dorismond's files and saying that he would not reach out and meet with the African-American community.
So if the mayor won't reach out and meet with the African American community as mayor, how is he going to represent the whole Senate -- the whole state and the Senate if...
TEITELBAUM: Bernie, two weeks ago, Mrs. Clinton was...
SHAW: Gentlemen, regrettably, we have run out of time.
TEITELBAUM: .... exploiting the death of Mr. Diallo by calling the police officers a murderer's den.
WOLFSON: The difference is that Hillary apologized for that.
SHAW: All right, gentlemen, gentlemen, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Bruce Teitelbaum, Howard Wolfson, I'm sorry, we've run out of time. Thanks for joining us.
And still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: the presidential hopefuls -- George W. Bush gets back to the business of campaigning, as the vice president makes fund raising the order of the day. The latest from the campaign trail is just ahead.
SHAW: Republican hopeful George W. Bush traded the governor's mansion for the campaign trail today, after nearly a week at home in Austin. Bush will travel to Arkansas tonight, but his first campaign stop was in Florida, where he took aim at Vice President Al Gore.
Jonathan Karl reports.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People in this country need to ask, who's the reformer in the race?
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trying to seize the Reform mantle, George W. Bush is ratcheting up his attacks on Vice President Gore's credibility. BUSH: I am going to continue to talk loud and clear about the fact that this man is an obstacle to reform.
KARL: It's a new line for Bush, calling his opponent an "obstacle to reform."
Bush continues to say Gore can't be trusted.
BUSH: I know people on the vice president's team don't like me to remind people that this guy will say anything to get elected, but I am going.
KARL: Speaking to high school students in Orlando, Bush said Gore was an obstacle to reforming Social Security.
BUSH: You better have a candidate and a president who understands this is a problem. And this stands in stark contrast to vice president Gore, who says it's not a problem, who says, If it ain't broke, we don't need to fix it. I happen to think it is broke, and I think this country needs to elect someone who's willing to spend the capital to fix it.
KARL: Bush was quoting Gore's opposition to allowing young workers to privately invest part of their social security taxes, a measure Bush favors. This is Bush's first time out on the campaign trail in week. And after a half day tomorrow, he will again return to Texas.
Bush's aides say the relatively light schedule will continue for a while, as Bush spends at least half his time off the campaign trail, huddled with advisers back home in Texas.
(on camera): With this campaign swing, Bush is also working to jump start his fund-raising machine. In less than 24 hours, the campaign expects to bring in $1 million in contributions, all in $1000 contributions, helping Bush replenish his war chest after a bruising and costly primary battle.
Jonathan Karl, CNN, Orlando.
SHAW: Vice President Gore fired back on the issue of Social Security while campaigning today in Cincinnati.
Though, as Patty Davis reports, Gore's agenda for the week is primarily focused on party fund raising.
PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vice President Al Gore was on the road again, continuing his quest for campaign cash, first in Cincinnati, and then in the Detroit area. The vice president is expected to raise more than a million dollars on Thursday for the Democratic Party, much of it unregulated soft money, the kind he says he wants to ban. Gore did manage to fit in one campaign stop in Cincinnati, where he continued to slug it out with Texas Governor George W. Bush, this time time on Social Security.
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The economic plan that he's put forward would spend the entire budget surplus for the next 10 years on a risky tax scheme and then a trillion dollars over and above the surplus, which would have to come right out of Social Security.
DAVIS: Gore toured this crumbling Montessori school. Using it as a backdrop, Gore touted a congressional plan, rebuild schools, and fired another round at Bush for not supporting the plan.
GORE: And derided this sort of approach as what he called, "bricks and mortar, bricks and mortar." Well, in my book bricks and mortar are better than smoke and mirrors.
DAVIS: But out on the campaign trail, fund raising ruled the day.
(on camera): The vice president focused on the task at hand: keeping the campaign cash pouring in. Gore expected to raise more than $2 million this week alone for the Democratic Party.
Patty Davis, CNN, Cincinnati.
SHAW: And there is much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.
Still to come, the latest in the controversy over the next House chaplain. Have prayers for a resolution been answered?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK E. ROBINSON (R), MASS. SENATE CANDIDATE: I can only tell you that in the immortal words of John Paul Jones, "I have not yet begun to fight."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAW: A challenger for Senator Edward Kennedy, but is this fight over before it's begun?
And, later, the Republican dream team? Bob Novak with the latest buzz in the GOP "Veep"stakes.
SHAW: We will have more of the days political news coming up but now, let's look at some other top stories. Tears fell as Pope John Paul II addressed an emotional gathering at Israel's Holocaust Memorial. He says his church is deeply saddened by centuries of persecution Jews have endured at the hands of Christians. However, many were disappointed. The pope did not apologize for the church's silence during the Holocaust.
Members of Miami's Cuban-American community are threatening protest if the U.S. government makes any sudden move to send Elian Gonzalez back to Cuba. Attorney General Janet Reno says she prefers that Elian be returned to his father in an "orderly, fair and prompt manner," possibly even before appeals in the case are exhausted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: This is obviously a matter of great concern. As the judge pointed out, this family is very well intentioned. They care a great deal. Elian's father cares a very great deal. This is a wonderful little boy, from all that I have heard. And it is just important that everybody work it out the right way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAW: Elian's Miami relatives say they will take their case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.
The U.S. Army says it has withdrawn several hundred Patriot missiles in the Middle East and South Korea after learning they had defects. All of the missiles in question have been replaced. The Patriot is used to defend against missile attacks. However, the flaws could have rendered it incapable of doing that. A new version of the Patriot is under development in an attempt to improve the missile system.
CNN has learned an armed man was arrested in a parking lot at the Pentagon last night. Pentagon officials say Anthony Premo (ph) was driving a car loaded with handguns, rifles, and bomb-making material. One source tells CNN, Premo produced identification to support his claim that he was an Immigration official. That claim turned out to be false.
The former Black Panther accused of killing a Georgia police officer and wounding another has had his first day in court. Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin was arraigned on murder and aggravated assault charges this afternoon. His attorneys tell an Alabama judge, Al-Amin is being treated unfairly because he is locked up for 23 hours a day. Al-Amin's lawyers say he plans to fight extradition to Georgia.
US Airways passengers still hope a possible airline strike can be averted this weekend. The government has the authority to stop a strike or lockout for 60 days if a contract agreement is not reached between the airliner and its flight attendants by Saturday.
When INSIDE POLITICS returns, the House gets a new chaplain as Republicans try to put a political embarrassment behind them.
SHAW: After months of partisan bickering and religious fallout, the House of Representatives has a new chaplain.
CNN's Chris Black has details on who was appointed today and the controversy that preceded him.
CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Speaker Dennis Hastert is appointing the first Catholic chaplain in House history. The move is aimed at cooling a controversy raging since Hastert passed over another priest in favor of a Protestant minister.
REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: In all my years in this Congress, I have never seen a more cynical and more destructive political campaign than such a campaign should be waged in connection with the selection of the House chaplain brings shame on this House.
BLACK: Father Daniel Coglin, a Chicago priest, replaces Reverend James Ford who is retiring.
UNIDENTIFIED CHAPLAIN: We know that your spirit gives us forgiveness for the ways of our past.
BLACK: Reverend Charles Parker Wright, a Presbyterian minister, took himself out of contention in a letter to speak at Hastert on Wednesday, saying: "I regrettably request you consider withdrawing my appointment to become chaplain of the House at this time."
A firestorm erupted last November when Hastert chose Wright over Father Timothy O'brien, a Roman Catholic priest recommended for the chaplain position by an 18-member bipartisan panel of House members. In a speech to the House, Hastert warned the controversy was damaging.
HASTERT: That I believe the political maneuvering on this issue may have catastrophic, unintended consequences like children playing with matches.
BLACK: Hastert vehemently denied any anti-Catholic bias by choosing Wright, someone he felt would be more compatible with House members. But the decision became a touchy political issue, compounded by an appearance made by Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush at Bob Jones University, whose founder denounces Catholics as members of a cult.
BLACK: Hastert defended original choice for a full 20 minutes on the House floor. But with the selection of a priest from his home state, the Speaker is hoping to put to rest a controversy that created very bad feelings in the House, and had the potential to hurt the Republican party with Catholics in the presidential race -- Bernie.
SHAW: Chris, speaking of bad feelings, what does this decision do in the Speaker's relationship with the Democrats' leader, Dick Gephardt of Missouri?
BLACK: Well, Dick Gephardt was strongly in favor of Father O'brien as well, though, he sort of went along with the choice when he was outvoted by the Speaker. It really was the Speaker's call.
Speaker Hastert has a better relationship with Dick Gephardt than the relationship that Dick Gephardt had with Newt Gingrich, which was totally nonexistent, but it's not a lot better. There is a lot at stake. Let's face it, the Democrats want to take over the House, they have a good chance of doing that. And Dick Gephardt really wants to be speaker next year.
SHAW: OK. Thank you, Chris Black on the Hill.
Now, we're going to be joined now by two House members appointed by the Speaker to that bipartisan committee to select a chaplain. Democrat Anna Eshoo of California and Republican Steve Largent of Oklahoma will be with us on the Hill there.
Congresswoman Eshoo, we just heard in Chris Black's piece the Speaker of the House refer to political maneuvering. Has there been political maneuvering on this issue?
REP. ANNA ESHOO (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think that that's one of the things that the Speaker -- and I have respect for him, I think he's a decent man -- what I take exception to. I thought it was very important to raise questions about a process that was really cast overboard, where a unilateral decision was made by the Speaker and Mr. Armey in rejecting who the consensus candidate was.
I felt very strongly that the burden rested with them to explain to us how they rejected Father O'brien and why, and then rejected the second consensus candidate that the committee had sent forward and went to number three. I also, obviously, am a Catholic, there were things that were said and directed toward Father O'brien during his interview that other religious individuals were not subjected to.
SHAW: What kinds of things?
ESHOO: Well, his collar, wearing the collar was called into question. There were many that we interviewed that came in with a collar. Certainly Reverend Ford, whose resignation we accepted with regret today, has worn his collar on the floor of the House and throughout the halls of the Congress for 21 years.
So they were offensive comments. They raised the hackles of those that really are sensitive about this. So to say that, as a Catholic, that my raising questions about these things is somehow political, partisan and has torn the House asunder, I have to tell you I resent that. I did not do it to be hurtful to anyone. I did it because I thought it was important to do.
SHAW: Steve Largent...
ESHOO: Not because I'm a Democrat but because I thought it was important to do. SHAW: Well, Steve Largent, you were there, what's your take on this?
REP. STEVE LARGENT (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, Bernie, I want to tell you that the two people that have been really savaged in this whole process have been Charles Wright, who removed his name as the selected chaplain, and Denny Hastert. And two, really fine men who have incredible integrity and character. And those are the people that I really feel for.
But I think the message today is one of hope and reconciliation and healing. And that's the message that Denny sounded on the floor, and is one that I hope that we can move towards. I think the one lesson we learn here -- the old joke is -- God so loved the world that he never appointed a committee. And that perhaps future speakers in future years that select the chaplain will see that the committee process that we went through was not as good as the one that previous Congresses have used where the Speaker just selects a chaplain.
SHAW: But what about the specific points just made in this interview by your colleague standing next to you?
LARGENT: Well, you know, I think that we have a lot different recollections of what went on. And I just know that -- in fact, Anna was the one who stood up at the end when we had our committee picture taken, saying that this has been the best process and the best committee assignment that she's ever had in the history of Congress. And I agree with her. I still agree with it.
I think it was a wonderful experience for all of us, and I think now the time is to move on and move ahead and put hard feelings behind. And I think that Denny's done an excellent job of finding a new chaplain. And he just made a speech in front of our conference. He's a wonderful guy and I think he will be well received by members of all parties -- of both parties -- and all denominations.
SHAW: Congresswoman, how hard are the feelings right now?
ESHOO: Well, I think what happened was highly unfortunate. The Catholic sensitivities were spoken to. Certainly, people across the country raised their eyebrows and said, what's going on there? All over the mess that occurred once our process -- and I agree with my colleague, I was very proud of the work not only that I did but that we did. But it fell apart when it went to them and many questions were never answered.
But we're human beings, we endure things and we also look ahead because we have a forward-looking country. In the last analysis, today, we have for the first time, in the history of the House of Representatives, in the history of our nation, we have a Catholic chaplain. And so I think that this moment cannot and should not be lost by all the people of our country, because it's something to be celebrated because history has been made.
SHAW: OK. But clearly, given the political considerations, what kind of political fallout do you foresee? Approximately one-third of the 30 most competitive House races are in very heavily Catholic districts. What will be the fallout for Republicans?
ESHOO: Well, I think that's very difficult to tell. It's up to the people of this country to weigh out. What does the Bob Jones University issue mean? What did this debate that erupted here mean? What did it mean when Father O'brien was asked certain questions? Was it anti-Catholic bias, were they mistakes? How were they handled? That's up to people to decide.
ESHOO: And I think that it's very unfortunate and I think that in retrospect, we didn't need four months of this turmoil and havoc. I think what the committee had done, the Speaker and the majority leader should have accepted and we would have never had to go through this.
SHAW: Congressman Largent, you have the floor.
LARGENT: Yes, I would just say, Bernie, I don't think that there will be political fallout. I have three roommates who are Democrats, who are all Catholic, who saw through this from day one. They knew Denny, they knew me, they knew the process was one of integrity. And I just don't believe that there'll be political fallout. Because the truth is there was not any anti-Catholic bias in the process.
And you know, it's just unfortunate the way the thing came down. But I think, again, what we want to emphasize is that now with Republican majority in the House of Representatives, we've chosen the first Catholic chaplain in the history of the House. And I think it's something that we should all be very proud of.
SHAW: One quick question -- we're running out of time, we only have a matter of seconds, but -- was either of you told Father Daniel Coughlin of Chicago would be today's selection?
ESHOO: No one was informed of this.
SHAW: You were not?
ESHOO: This was a complete surprise.
ESHOO: And I think that it's the conclusion of this chapter, which unfortunately turned out to be a mess.
SHAW: Well, I'm sorry we're out of time, but we thank you very much for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS.
LARGENT: Thank you.
SHAW: Quite welcome. And up next, the troubled candidacy of the man who hopes to unseat a Kennedy. A look at the turbulent week of Republican Jack E. Robinson.
SHAW: Senator Edward Kennedy is running for re-election to an eighth term in Massachusetts. For any candidate, challenging Kennedy would be a daunting task. But one Republican candidate in particular, the campaign is off to an especially rocky start.
JACK E. ROBINSON (R), MASS. SENATE CANDIDATE: I can only tell you that in the immortal words of John Paul Jones -- "I have not yet begun to fight."
SHAW (voice-over): Meet Jack E. Robinson, a political rookie with a major league ambition -- steal a seat from one of the heaviest hitters in the U.S. Senate, Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. Robinson's problem: he keeps getting beaned. His campaign started off pretty well for a man with no political experience. The state Republican Party was with him, saying his business success in telecommunications "brings something to the table that we need in the new century."
Then it crashed, figuratively and literally. First came allegations of drunken driving, weapons possession and sexual misconduct. Next, a charge of unwanted kissing, leading "The Boston Herald" to dub him "Jack The Tongue." Robinson has tried to defuse the stories by investigating himself.
ROBINSON: We all remember "The Starr Report" back during the impeachment hearings. Well, I have come up with "The Robinson Report." It is a self-detailed analysis of everything in my personal background that I could possibly think of.
SHAW: Massachussetts' Republican governor decided he'd had enough.
GOV. PAUL CELLUCCI (R), MASSACHUSETTS: I think that Mr. Robinson really needs to reassess his candidacy at this point. I think the sheer volume of the allegations and the disturbing nature of some of those allegations, I think makes it pretty impossible for him to get this campaign off the ground.
SHAW: But the hits keep coming. Just hours after announcing his candidacy, Robinson was doing a radio interview by cellular phone while driving his Cadillac on Boston's Jamaica Way when he got into a three-car wreck, apparently caused by another driver.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, WBUR RADIO BOSTON)
ROBINSON: What you have is a Republican governor abdicating the United States Senate campaign to Senator Kennedy, just because the governor doesn't think that there could be -- I just got into an accident. (END AUDIO CLIP)
SHAW: The other two cars waited for the police, Robinson drove on and pulled over only when a woman involved in the wreck chased him down. Robinson called her accusation that he was trying to flee "ridiculous."
Joining us now to talk more about Robinson's candidacy and Massachusetts politics, David Nyhan of "The Boston Globe." And, David, I have to ask you, a candidate issues an 11-page report on his own personal conduct and actions. What's the reaction there?
DAVID NYHAN, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": Bernie, I'm trying to keep a straight face while you did the intro.
SHAW: Well, I'm trying to keep a straight face now, too.
NYHAN: If this guys run like he drives, none of us are safe, fasten your seat belts is all I can say.
SHAW: What does this...
NYHAN: I don't think Teddy...
SHAW: No, go ahead, sir.
NYHAN: I don't think Ted Kennedy has much to worry about here, the real damage in this is not to poor Jack E. Robinson -- and everybody sort of feels sorry that he put himself forward and is the butt of so many jokes -- the political fallout in Massachusetts is landing at the feet of Governor Cellucci, who is -- whose administration has been rocked by a number of scandals and setbacks, resignations and mini-scandals, a $2 billion cost-over run in our big dig project, resignation of some of his key officials, insubordination by some others, people who claim the governor is afraid of me, and he can't fire me. That kind of thing.
Robinson is just seen here as a symptom of an administration that is in disarray.
SHAW: But he says he -- Robinson says that Cellucci double- crossed him, and now Robinson is starting to talk about the governor's personal problems.
NYHAN: Yes, the -- he made some allusion to the governor's record as a horse player of some note. Our governor built up a personal debt of about $700,000 which he never could quite adequately explain in his last campaign. Fortunately for the governor, he is winging his way to China at this time on a trade mission. I think if he could go to the planet Pluto he would head there, too. He does not want to be associated with this sort of a wreck of a Senate candidacy.
SHAW: Well, on that point, politically, are the Republicans in Massachusetts stuck with the Robinson candidacy?
NYHAN: I suppose somebody else could come forward. The whole thing is a bit of a "Gong Show" operation. They had a little-known young district attorney who they were talking about for a while.
The last two opponents for -- that Kennedy had six and 12 years ago were reputable men. One of them, Joe Malone, later was elected state treasurer on the basis of a reasonable and grown-up and respectable campaign against Teddy. Six years ago, Mit Romney (ph), business -- successful venture capitalist ran, gave Teddy a bit of a scare, and has since gone on to -- he's running the Olympic effort in Salt Lake City and is doing a very respectable job. So you have had a better quality of candidate in the past.
SHAW: One last question, and I'm going to quote to you some words from the governor: "Let's be realistic, does anyone here think there is a Republican we can find who can beat Senator Kennedy?" Doesn't the governor shoot himself in the foot by making a statement like that?
NYHAN: Yes, but you are talking about a governor who has no toes left, Bernie. I mean, he's had a bad two years, and in fact, he had to go hat in hand begging Kennedy to intercede for him with the Congress in Washington when the Department of Transportation threatened to shut down our $12 billion big dig project. Cellucci himself relies on Kennedy to take care of business in Washington. So the whole thing was just a -- it's a bit of a clown college in operation.
SHAW: Well, keep us posted on the college.
SHAW: David Nyhan of "The Boston Globe," thanks for being with us again.
NYHAN: OK, Bernie.
SHAW: OK, see you later.
When we return, Bob Novak is going to talk about that chaplain controversy on the Hill and vice presidential possibilities.
Plus, postcards from India -- a glimpse of the president's colorful travels.
SHAW: Now to a favorite part of the show.
We reported earlier in the show on the controversy over the appointment of a new House chaplain. Bob Novak of "The Chicago Sun- Times" joins us now with more on that story and other items in your "Reporter's Notebook."
ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Bernie, this thing has been going on for four months. And Speaker Hastert was told by Catholic Republicans that this was really hurting the party with the Catholics, the perception they were prejudice against putting in a Catholic chaplain. What they were told to do four months ago was not to pick Father Tim O'Brien, who -- let's face it he's a liberal -- but find a conservative or at least a nonliberal Catholic, and just name him; don't go through a committee.
It took them four months to pull the trigger out of this, because he didn't want to get out Parson Wright, the Protestant who had been picked. He didn't want to seem to hurt him. But the thing is Speaker Hastert is getting more confidence now, and the way he did this, he just did it on his own. I think it shows a new Hastert. You have -- he had a very good week. He got a nuclear waste bill through the House that had been bottled up under Speaker Gingrich for years, got the budget out in the House, when in the Senate, it's not even out of committee.
And I'll tell you something else, on trying to mend fences with the Catholics -- and Speaker Hastert is a Protestant. Next month, Speaker Hastert will go to the University of Notre Dame to make an appearance there. Republicans are worried about the Catholic vote, which will be crucial in the 2000 election, so they are taking a lot of steps in that direction.
SHAW: Interesting news tidbit there. Thanks very much on that.
Another matter, possible vice presidential Republican running mate.
NOVAK: Let me tell you this, and I can tell you this from very good sources, that of all the people who have been talked about --- some of them are very famous -- the one that George W. Bush is really attracted to -- doesn't mean he's going to name him -- is John Kasich.
NOVAK: He sees him as somebody who is younger than him but part of the same generation, very aggressive, sort of the new style of politician. He's from Ohio.
SHAW: Battleground state.
NOVAK: Battleground state.
Wouldn't be popular with the inside-the-Beltway establishment, but a lot of people would see a Bush-Kasich ticket a little bit like the Clinton/Gore ticket, two younger people, and not going back to some old, old bull.
SHAW: And before you leave, what's the very latest on that New York Senate race?
NOVAK: I've been talking to some Democratic politicians in New York, and they really feel that Rudy Giuliani hurt himself on the shooting, the latest police shooting there, by coming up with the police record of the man who was shot. But they really feel that Mrs. Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has gone far enough in attacking the police and attacking Giuliani. They would like her to lay off of that thing.
SHAW: These are Democrats?
NOVAK: These are Democrats. And what they say -- this is off the record, and privately -- that in New York and the whole state, it is much better to be pro-police than anti-police, and whatever benefits Mrs. Clinton has gotten in bashing the police and the mayors on this are dissipated now.
SHAW: Bob Novak, with the latest from your notebook. Thanks very much.
NOVAK: Thank you.
SHAW: And President Clinton's trip to India is not all policy and politics, as you'll find out. Mr. Clinton did some sightseeing this day, and he experienced something he rarely finds here in Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have a statement to make to the American press. It is nice to be around some friendly elephants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAW: When the president visited a rural village, he was treated to a traditional shower of flower petals by dancing women. The president says he enjoyed the dance, and he joked, it took him three hours to remove the petals from his hair.
Well, that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you again tomorrow, when Bill Schneider will have his political "Play of the Week." And of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com.
And this programming note: Senator John McCain and his wife, Cindy, will be the guests tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE." That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
I'm Bernard Shaw.
"WORLDVIEW" is next.
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