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Capital Gang

Gore Adviser Bob Shrum Discusses the Elian Gonzalez Case, the OPEC Meetings and the Campaign for Senate in New York

Aired April 1, 2000 - 7:00 p.m. ET




I'm Mark Shields, with Roberts Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson. Gender equity comes to CNN.

Our guest is senior G -- Gore campaign adviser...


SHIELDS: Great to have you back here, Bob.

SHRUM: Nice to be back, Mark

SHIELDS: The GOP's nemesis, the worst nightmare the GOP could have.

The Justice Department broke two deadlines for the return of Elian Gonzalez to Cuba, as Fidel Castro proposed sending the boy's father to Florida to fetch his son.


JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We believe that the law is clear and that Elian should be reunited with his father.

MAYOR JOE CAROLLO. MIAMI: The person to blame in all this is Fidel Castro.

We think she is wrong. This is not just a simple custody case.


SHIELDS: Al Gore broke ranks with his own administration by proposing permanent resident status for the 6-year-old, which will remove his fate from the attorney general's hands.

The vice president said, quote, "The real fault in this case lies with the oppressive regime of Fidel Castro. Elian should not have been forced to choose between freedom and his own father," end quote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: It's purely political, and in order to appease the voters in Miami, the Cuban-American voters.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: I disagree with the vice president. I think that reunification with the father is paramount.

GOV. GEORGE BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We ought to convince the rest of the administration about his position. We'll see what kind of influence he has within the administration.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, did the vice president blunder here politically?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, in looking at George W. Bush, the problem is you can't out-pander George Bush in Florida. And what Gore said that was right is that Elian Gonzalez's father lives in an oppressive regime. But the other tragedy is that he lost his mother and he washed up on the shores of a swing state in an election year. And politics is at play, and the votes of Cuban-Americans are at play. And it's better to appeal to a passionate minority than it is to the moderate that don't care so much. And that's what everyone is doing at this moment.

But it should be off limits to politics, especially as the rule of law is fraying there and some are threatening violence. And, you know, let's deport the relatives for threatening violence. That would be a good thing to do.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, the vice president -- you've been an occasional -- frequent critic of the vice president. Are you saying here is a profile in courage?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": I don't believe that every time somebody does the right thing -- and he's doing the right thing -- you should say, well that's just politics. I think it is good politics for him because it helps him in Florida. It shows he's not Clinton's stooge, and it's the right thing to do, I think, morally. So -- but I think -- I give him the benefit of the doubt. I think he believed in it.

But this creates a real problem for some Democratic politicians, some which of you've seen there, including Bill Richardson the secretary of Energy, who had agreed to come on the show. He was promoted to come on our show tonight. But when he heard they were going to talk about Elian Gonzalez, he backed out because he's trying to be Gore's vice president and at the same time he's trying to be in Clinton Cabinet. So he didn't know which to do, and so he was a profile in cowardice. The good part is, we got Shrum, which is even better.

SHIELDS: Well, I think Shrum ought to be vice president.

Bob, tell us, I mean, we know this was a profile in courage. SHRUM: Well, this is really the first time on this show I think ever that I've partly agreed with Bob Novak.

Look, the vice president took this position a long time ago. Back when this child first came to U.S., he said it belongs in a custody court. It doesn't belong in federal courts, it ought to be resolved in a custody court. It reached the point where the only way to do that was to get permanent resident status.

And, frankly, a lot of the people who got mad at the vice president -- and I think this may be a political wash, politically damaging to some extent or politically helpful -- I don't -- that didn't go into the calculus. But a lot of these people have complained that he didn't consult them. Well the truth is he didn't consult anybody politically about this. He's had the position for months, and this was the only way to carry out the position.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

CARLSON: He had no political advice from any of you?

SHRUM: No, he called us and told us what he was going do.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: I think on this one Al Gore was moved by the plight of this little boy, whose mother lost her life to bring her to Florida, and figured the heck with the polls, the heck with Florida, I'm going to do the right thing -- April Fool's.

I think what he did...

SHRUM: Kaye, I was so stunned...

O'BEIRNE: You forgot it was April 1st, Bob.

SHRUM: ... at that outbreak of fairness.

No, you're going to do the April Fool's part now.

O'BEIRNE: There was a -- "The New York Times" reminded us on Thursday morning -- in fact, their headline was "Boy's Case could Sway Bush-Gore Contest." And by day's end, Al Gore was elaborating -- he hadn't said very much about this raging controversy over the past four months. Some people in the Clinton administration are calling it craven, some think it shows that he doesn't have any firmly held political beliefs.

He does run the risk that it contributes to the case that Bill Bradley was trying to make during his -- during the primary, that he will do or say anything. And that's the risk Gore runs.

SHRUM: Well, that's the -- that's the whole game you guys are trying to play because you don't want to talk about health care, you don't want to talk about education, where Bush has a completely phony plan, as we're going to find out over the next few days. But the fact of the matter is -- and you won't answer this -- Al Gore took this position months and months ago. One of the reporters who called me when this came out the other day said, I've heard him say it hundreds of times. The only way to carry out that position was to grant permanent resident status.

NOVAK: That wasn't the news, though.

SHRUM: Yes, was to grant permanent resident status so the father could come. Now Castro, by the way, says the father can only come if he's surrounded by a Pretorian guard of 30 people...

NOVAK: Secret police, secret police.

SHRUM: It's ridiculous.

SHIELDS: Let's get into a discussion of Pretorian guards. I mean, Al Gore wants to give resident status to the grandmothers, the father, the stepmother, the -- the half brother.

SHRUM: That's...

SHIELDS: ... two shortstops, two relief pitchers. I mean, he's going to get...


SHRUM: That's Senator Bob Graham's bill. And there's a reason for that.

SHIELDS: He doesn't have to endorse that.

SHRUM: The reason for that is so that the man can come here and can make a decision, a free decision on free soil, without fearing for his family that's going to be left behind.

SHIELDS: Let's get one thing straight. I mean, if this weren't Florida and it weren't 25 electoral votes, if it were North Dakota, this is quite bluntly presidential politics we're talking about. And it plays right into George Bush's hands -- and he will say anything.

CARLSON: And if the child were Haitian, the child would be gone.

SHRUM: By the way, one unfairness -- and I think there is unfairness toward the Haitians -- one unfairness does not justify another.

NOVAK: Let me say this...

SHIELDS: Good point.

NOVAK: ... the thing that I've always been stunned about since this case comes up is that there are so many people, people I respect like Tom Daschle and Mark Shields, who cannot see any difference in sending this kid to a totalitarian state of Cuba and keeping him in Florida. That's my only consideration. I believe that if his mother risked her life -- not risked her life, gave her life -- to send this boy to Florida, he should say there.

CARLSON: There is a way...

SHRUM: Well, he should at least have a court hearing.

CARLSON: There is a way to honor the mother's willingness to lose her wife and the child's bond, the human bond with the father and let it play through the courts, and do it that way. It has not...

O'BEIRNE: But it has to be a custody hearing. The federal judge in Atlanta is not looking at the best interests of the child -- he's not -- he's saying, yes, the INS has jurisdiction.

NOVAK: Wait a minute. Let me make my point.

CARLSON: The judge's...

SHIELDS: Let Margaret make her point.

CARLSON: That judge's decision was quite well-reasoned, even though it was not in a custody court. And the custody courts happen to be...

O'BEIRNE: There was no evidence. There was no custody evidence.

CARLSON: ... under the control of Cuban-Americans in Florida.

NOVAK: Let me make my point where I might differ from the vice president. I don't really care about custody courts. I don't care who makes the decision. The only thing I'm interested in is that the kid stays here and is not sent back to that think factory and totalitarian state.

SHIELDS: Two quick points in rebuttal to you. First of all, Steve Largent, Republican conservative member of Congress from Oklahoma has been consistent on this. As has "The Washington Times"...

NOVAK: He's wrong.

SHIELDS: ... "Washington Times" editorial page, which is, if you're pro-family and you believe in a father and a mother and a child.

O'BEIRNE: That's true.

SHRUM: That's wrong.

NOVAK: No, that's ridiculous.

SHRUM: That is completely wrong.

SHIELDS: ... that does take precedence over any relationship.

NOVAK: Absolutely ridiculous. You doubt even know what... SHIELDS: You're always pro-family -- You're always pro-family when it's convenient. And the other thing was what these folks came from Cuba to the United States was for the rule of law. And that's what we're trying to follow here is the rule of law. And that's...

NOVAK: You don't...

SHIELDS: ... That is not the mayor of Miami saying we're not going to keep law and order.

O'BEIRNE: But this administration -- but this administration...

SHRUM: Mark, we pass special bills all the time to make exceptions.

NOVAK: Absolutely.

SHRUM: This woman died so her son could come here. Let it go to a custody court. Let a custody court decide what's in the best interests of the child.

NOVAK: And I've got to say one thing. That old woman Janet Reno who didn't give one minute's thought to that, she was -- the minute he landed there, she said send him back to Cuba. That is disgusting.

SHIELDS: Janet Reno doesn't need my defense from an old man like you.

Bob Shrum and THE GANG will be back with gas-pump politics.

And later, Rudy versus Rudy.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

OPEC voted to increase oil production, and Energy Secretary Bill Richardson claimed victory after his own tour of oil-producing nations.


BILL RICHARDSON, ENERGY SECRETARY: I believe we are now fixing the problem, moving on to getting stable prices for the American consumer, lower gasoline prices for the American motorist.


SHIELDS: Congressional reaction on both sides of the skeptical aisle was skeptical.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Let's wait a few weeks. Let's see how much oil is really produced. Let's see what the price of oil is. REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY WHIP: We must reverse, the anti- oil, anti-coal, anti-hydro, anti-nuclear Clinton-Gore energy policy, which is put the United States in the humiliating position of having to go groveling to the OPEC.


SHIELDS: Is President Clinton at fault for inaction?


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've done a lot more than Congress has. And you know, I think it is ironic that they would say that, since for years now, I have been pleading with them to give us some more tools to promote the development of alternative fuels.


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, won't you concede the president has a point here?

NOVAK: He was mightily amused, wasn't he? The president got a laugh out of it.

The president has a point, that the Congress and a pretty good many Democrats don't want to give him all this legislation, to do away with the internal combustion engine, to go into wind power and all these silly things. The problem is, Tom Delay had it right, this administration hasn't done any of the real things that should be done about producing new oil and not worrying so much about sick polar bears and walruses and going into the Alaskan reserve and getting some oil out of that.

SHIELDS: Tom Delay has got it right, Kate?

O'BEIRNE: I think there is a political opportunity for Republicans here. Gore has all of these wacky environmental ideas that would be devastating for the economy, but frankly, with a good economy, it's sort of hard to get people concerned about them, but now higher gas prices, there's an opportunity to remind people that Al Gore has called the internal combustion engine a mortal throat. He wants us all on trains and bicycles. In fact, high gas prices is a central tenet of his environmental policies. So I think this is an opportunity for the Republicans to now make that case about Al Gore.

SHIELDS: Is it Al Gore's fault that Houston's got the dirtiest air in America -- Margaret?

O'BEIRNE: It's Al Gore's fault we're not exploring like we should in other places where there's oil.

CARLSON: Let Gore be in favor of the environment and let's let Republicans be known as the party of the SUV.

The only time congressional Republicans talk about energy policy is when the price of gas goes up. The minute the oil shock was over, all attempts at alternative fuels or conservation just went out the window, it was over. And, you know, Jay Leno said the other night, here we are, a country that spends $4 for a latte and complains bitterly when it costs $1.75 to put a gallon of gas in the tank.


SHRUM: Al Gore...

CARLSON: I will buy you one.

SHRUM: Al Gore was right. He was 10 years ahead of his time. He said we had to come up with revolutionary new cars that were going to get more fuel economy. And this week, he met with the leaders of the big three. Within the next two to three years they're going to be putting in showrooms cars that get massive numbers of miles to the gallon. We're headed for fuel cell cars and cars that get 80 miles to the gallon. Gore was right. Kate's wrong.

SHIELDS: Last three presidents, though, including this one, have not had the courage that Jimmy Carter had. They've let...


NOVAK: Jimmy Carter?

SHIELDS: On energy, their take on conservation. And to be real about it, and let's be honest about it, the SUVs are treated as trucks. That exempts them from the gas standards, and that's why...


SHRUM: Fuel-efficient SUVs is part of this Gore program.

NOVAK: What about my proposal?

SHIELDS: What's your proposal, Bob?

NOVAK: We've got, what is it? How many...

SHIELDS: What do you want to drip?

NOVAK: Nineteen million acres of land, which is set aside for sick walruses and polar bears -- why don't we drill it for oil?

SHRUM: You have never seen national park you don't want to cut the trees down or drill for oil.

SHIELDS: Think about Teddy Roosevelt, would you please?

Next on...


SHIELDS: Would you go to your room?

Next on CAPITAL GANG, Rudy Giuliani backs down, at least a little.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's defensive of New York City's police in latest shooting of an unarmed black man hurt him in Senate polls against Hillary Rodham Clinton. Pollster John Zogby showed Mrs. Clinton three points ahead, compared to a six-point Giuliani lead just two months earlier. The Marist poll, a few days later, showed the mayor dropping, but still three points ahead.


MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK CITY: So be it. I believe that I'm handling it correctly. I don't use polls to guide my activity as mayor.


SHIELDS: But this week, he softened his tone, offering sympathy to the dead man's family and saying of police department -- quote -- "No institution is perfect." -- end quote.

Kate O'Beirne, is the mayor turning out to be the first lady's biggest secret weapon and ally in this campaign.

O'BEIRNE: The way friends of mine in New York have put it, is Hillary Clinton can't win this race, which is remarkable in a state that is overwhelmingly Democratic, that really Giuliani could lose it, and it seems this week like he might be contributing to that. But what's really striking is he made an incredibly unsympathetic response to this latest accidental shooting, and it took that for Hillary Clinton to tick up a couple of points. It just underscores, she is a very unpopular personality, even among Democrats and people she should traditionally be able to rely on, and her candidacy is so implausible that even, there is not love lost about Giuliani, but even Rudy Giuliani has consistently polled ahead of her.

SHIELDS: Does that make sense to you, Bob?

SHRUM: No, if you look at the internals of the Zogby polls, the issues on which New Yorkers care the most -- health care, education, Medicare, Social Security -- Mrs. Clinton has leads of 2-1 to 3-1. I think those internals point to continuing movement in polls. Now I think Giuliani is really helping this thing, because he is giving people the sense that his solution, if he disagrees with someone in the Senate, is going to go up and punch them in the mouth. People expect the man to behave at a kind of human level.

What I was most struck by this week were all the police leaders and police organization union leaders who were criticizing Giuliani, and saying he's actually now making our job tougher. It's making its harder to go out into the community. Why couldn't he just say he was sorry this happened? The guy who fired the shot said he was sorry it happened. SHIELDS: Give Bob Shrum credit for making sense, right?

NOVAK: I think it's very hard for the mayor to say he's sorry, I think it's probably hard for you to say you're sorry, Bob. I've never heard you.

SHRUM: We could go through three or four.

SHIELDS: Let's not get into touchy-feely, Bob. That's not like you.

NOVAK: I would say that this is going to be decided by the issues on health care or education, it's going to be decided on personality, with who they like.

I would noticed that this great supporter of a greater conviviality in politics, the president, called Rudy Giuliani "the candidate of a right-wing smear campaign" today in talking to labor union. But as a matter of fact, there's nothing right wing about Rudy Giuliani. The problem is...

SHRUM: The letters are very right wing. You know that's what he was referring to, the direct mail.

NOVAK: The problem that's going on is that these hard-line positions he's taking on crime and so on, the kind of people they appeal to may be voting on the Conservative ticket in this election. And I think that is Mayor Giuliani's biggest problem.

SHIELDS: Bill Buckley this week urged the conservatives to put another candidate in because of Rudy Giuliani's own position on late- term...

NOVAK: I think that's a problem.

SHIELDS: ... and partial-birth abortion.

NOVAK: I think that's a problem for the mayor.

CARLSON: Right, and he's going to have trouble getting the conservatives. You know, the one thing Rudy does not need to do is reinforce his law-and-order credentials. Those are solid. He needed to show that he has the temperament to be a senator. He did nothing of the sort. And it was so easy to do. Your first response is to say to the mother, hey, I'm sorry. That...

NOVAK: He probably did say it.

CARLSON: And you're right. He finally said it...


CARLSON: ... but the first chapter was written the week of the death, and during that whole time he dug himself in deeper and deeper.

O'BEIRNE: It's... SHRUM: Nobody...

CARLSON: And the 99 percent of the police who do their job right, they don't benefit from his defense of...

O'BEIRNE: It's been lost in the shuffle, but Rudy Giuliani actually does have a record of having worked in a bipartisan -- he's working in an overwhelmingly Democratic city with Democratic lawmakers, and he actually every year passes budgets. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, her ego and high-handed tactics prevented her from even working with a Democratic Congress to get health care...

SHRUM: I think, Kate -- Kate -- Kate...

O'BEIRNE: ... She has no track record of working with anybody.

SHRUM: High-handed tactics could be the name of Rudy Giuliani's memoirs.

O'BEIRNE: Well it's her track record on health care, Bob.

SHRUM: Hey, look, Bob, if this is a personality contest, your guy is going to lose. If it's an issue contest on health care, education, Social Security, and the environment, Hillary Clinton's going to win.

NOVAK: That's where you're wrong about Hillary Clinton because you suck up to the first lady, but as a matter of fact, people...

SHRUM: Oh, come on, Bob.

NOVAK: Just a minute, just a minute -- around the country there are people who are really -- who are really appalled by this woman. And that's why these $50 and $10 contributions have been pouring into the Giuliani campaign.

SHRUM: Yes, they're part of the vast right-wing conspiracy.

SHIELDS: If this is a personality contest, let me tell you, Dale Carnegie is the winner of this one. My god, neither one of them is Miss Congeniality.

Thanks for being with us, Bob Shrum...

CARLSON: Or Mister.

SHIELDS: THE GANG will be back with the "Outrage of the Week."

ANNOUNCER: Our viewer "Outrage of the Week is from Greg Holmes from Louisville, Kentucky. He writes:

"Despite the silly wrangling over the best choice for House chaplain, the real outrage is that we even have congressional chaplains, each paid a six-figure salary by the taxpayers, when hundreds of ministers, priests and rabbis would be happy to take turns doing the job without pay on a rotating weekly or monthly basis." If you have an "Outrage" for next week, our e-mail address is Or call the toll-free number at 1-888-847-8660. We'll choose one "Outrage" to air at this same time next week on THE CAPITAL GANG.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

And now for the "Outrage of the Week."

The chicken fraud is that -- the chicken hawk is that fraud whose testosterone gland began pumping at the age of 26. That was when the chicken hawk's legal exposure to the military draft ended. United States Senator Chuck Robb of Virginia is the exact opposite. As a Marine lieutenant in combat in Vietnam, Chuck Robb held in his own arms two young American fighting men as they died. Yet for opposing the flag-burning amendment, Chuck Robb was attacked by his Republican opponent, George Allen, who missed military service himself. As "The Roanoke Times" put it so well, quote, "One American who's never had to defend his country's flag under fire waving it to attack another who has is revolting," end quote -- Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Many of my "Outrages" focused on Clinton-appointed judges in District of Columbia. I'm not the only one concerned. A five- judge panel is about to investigate chief D.C. Judge Norma Holloway Johnson. Why has she habitually assigned cases involving friends of President Clinton to Clinton judges? As recently detailed in "The Wall Street Journal" by University of Illinois law professor Ronald Rotunda, politics threatened the rule of law in the D.C. courts -- and that's an outrage.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.


Republicans took the bizarre position this week that if the census bothers you, just ignore it, even though the long form is the shortest in 60 years and Congress approved it. The census is about statistics, not liberalism. It's mandated by the Constitution to gather information essential to everything from drawing congressional districts to calculating the consumer price index. Not since Newt Gingrich shut down Washington, miffed because he got a bad seat on Air Force One, has there been such a childish, irresponsible attack on government by those supposedly responsible for it.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: When Al Gore unveiled his campaign finance reform this week, he praised the dedicated "Granny D.," the 90-year-old woman who walked across the country in display of her support for reform. Granny D. now reports that last August she tried to get into a Gore fund raiser to talk reform but was told she'd have to pay $500 dollars for the privilege. Buddhist nuns had to ante up, so there's little surprise that the Gore campaign says, even when Granny D. walks, money talks. SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for CAPITAL GANG.

Next on CNN, "SPORTS TONIGHT" reports on April's agony, that's college basketball's Final Four.



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