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Capital Gang

Gore Hammers Bush's Proposed Investment of Some Social Security Taxes; Handgun Control Inc. Runs Commercial Exposing and Attacking Bush

Aired May 6, 2000 - 7:00 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Kate O'Beirne. Our guest is Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala.

It's good to have you come in, Donna.


SHIELDS: Thank you for being here.

Vice President Al Gore hammered on Texas Governor George W. Bush's proposed private investment of some Social Security taxes.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I call upon him to tell us, what is in the secret plan?

I think it's a bad idea. I think it's bad for American families and bad for the economy.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obviously, he doesn't think individuals should be allowed to manage their -- some of their money in the private sector. I believe they should be.


SHIELDS: Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey, with views much quite similar to Bush's, cautioned the vice president.


SEN. BOB KERREY (D), NEBRASKA: I just urge him to keep an open mind, and don't, you know, don't get so hardened in a position that you lose the opportunity to see that this -- a proposal like this can be consistent with Democratic values.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, has George W. Bush blundered into giving Al Gore a big issue here?

KATE O'BEIRNE, "NATIONAL REVIEW": No, he hasn't, Mark. If someone had told him Social Security issue would be a more Republican issue in year 2000 when I worked at secretary's department in the '80s, under the Social Security issue, I would have referred them to department's mental health experts, because it has so traditionally been a problem issue for Republicans. And now you see George Bush, like, dancing on the third rail of American politics by proposing a partial privatization, the ability of Social Security recipients to devote part of their taxes to private accounts. I think the politics of this has changed dramatically, driven in no small part by 80 million people investing in the market, even at very modest income levels, and being more familiar with it.

It is a powerful, popular idea according to the polls. And when he talks in broad terms about leaving all current benefits the same, so Al Gore can't be scaring retirees which of course he is anxious and desperate to do, and letting people opt either to remain in current system as it is, younger workers, or take this incredible opportunity that they are more familiar with now, because they are investing. I just think Al Gore is on wrong side of this.


AL HUNT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, I think details are important, but I think Governor Bush does deserve credit for raising an important idea. I don't think it's really courageous; I think that's hyperbole. I mean, as Kate says, he doesn't propose to reduce anyone's benefits or reduce anyone's taxes here, and I think when you get to details whether he is going to have individual invest it or the government invest it, that is going to be critically important to keep a defined benefits plan. I don't know the answer to that yet.

The other problem you have, which Bob Kerrey will explain to him if he wants to hear it, is that it may well be a good idea, but there are huge transitional costs. This will cost as much as, excuse me, a trillion dollars over the next 10 years, and it provides a great opportunity, though, for Governor Bush to be really responsible and cut back on that ill-conceived tax cut plan.

SHIELDS: Donna Shalala, Social Security is the single most popular program ever devised by federal government,


SHIELDS: Tell us, I mean. What about...

SHALALA: And there is consensus about it, and that's why I'm so surprised that anyone would even suggest that Americans want their Social Security system changed. It's an interesting idea, it is an interesting academic proposal to think about individual investment accounts. They're risky. They're expensive to administer, far more expensive than the current Social Security system. There is nothing wrong with encouraging people to save, and in fact, we have used the tax system over years to encourage people to save. But to take a portion of Social Security, to start to weaken that system, to take the security out of Social Security, I want to see details. This is nothing more than an idea right now.

SHIELDS: Bob, do you weren't to see details?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": the details are less important than the idea of changing something. You know, Al, the one- trillion dollar transitional cost, that's highly debatable, and that's the scare tactics that we're going to get all the way along the line. I think the interesting thing is that we have Senator McCain, the favorite Republican of the Democrats around here.

HUNT: Did he lose the nomination?

NOVAK: I think he did.

Senator Pat Moynihan, who was the greatest Democratic vote-getter in New York, and in -- of this time, and Senator Bob Kerrey, one of your favorite Democrats, and they had...

HUNT: So is Pat Moynihan.

NOVAK: And so is Pat Moynihan.

And they have come together to have this commission for a study on Social Security and Medicare. And when they announced it, Pat Moynihan said that if you have everybody with an investment account, young people starting with investment account in the stock market, my goodness, Pat said, they may all turn out to be Republicans. And that is what scares the death out of Al Gore and the Democrats, that everybody is going to be a capitalist in this country, and the Labor bosses won't have the control.

O'BEIRNE: The program actually isn't popular among younger workers, nor should it be. It gives them a 2 percent return on their retirement, when the market has performed at a 7 percent rate over 30 years. So it's a gyp for workers, it's gyp for minorities, who don't live as long.

SHALALA: It's not a substitute for a good pension plan, or for savings. It was never designed that way.


SHALALA: It was not designed that way. And most important thing -- and the president has a proposal out there -- is to encourage people to expand their savings. Now you don't do that by weakening the existing Social Security plan. That's the only point I'm making.

NOVAK: It doesn't weaken it, because it provides, a greater income. It's the only way to stop it from going bankrupt.

SHALALA: No, it's not, though, that's the point -- you don't extend life of the Social Security trust fund through any of these individual account proposals. None of them do that. HUNT: Donna is absolutely right about that. But over the long run, Kate is correct, that clearly, it will be a better return. But over the long run, we're all dead. And over the short run, it may well may create -- the problem, the fear least, is something the economist "moral hazard." Someone for instance -- there were a whole bunch of people invested in Microstrategy, which today is worth 1/10 what it was two months ago, the government is not going to let those people fail, and...

NOVAK: That isn't the way it works.

HUNT: That would be way it works. We don't know the details yet, Bob.

NOVAK: Everybody is talking about a limited degree of options. You can't go day trading on it.

SHIELDS: OK, but Al raises a very interesting point, which is, are we going to privatize profit and socialize loss, and that is a concern, Bob. And that's the last word.

Donna Shalala and our gang will be back with more of Al Gore on the attack.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Handgun Control Incorporated ran a TV commercial exposing and attacking George W. Bush.



KAYNE ROBINSON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE NRA: If we win, we'll have a president where we work out of their office.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Tell Governor Bush the White House is our house.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: And it shouldn't belong to the NRA.


SHIELDS: That generated reactions from the presidential candidates and the NRA.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor Bush has convinced the NRA that he wants to take the gun lobbyists out of the lobby and put them right into the Oval Office. Maybe he would pick Charlton Heston as the next surgeon general.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll be setting up shop in White House. It'll be my office. I'll make decisions as to what goes on in the White House.

ROBINSON: My feeble attempt was to say, if we elect any of these Republicans, that we're currently running at that point, we are going to have a seat at the table.


SHIELDS: In addition to Social Security and gun control, Al Gore was on the offensive this week on a broad front.


GORE: Under the Bush approach to health care, millions of Americans would be stuck in the waiting room.

His tax plan is far bigger than anything Newt Gingrich even dreamed of proposing.

He seems to believe that there is no national responsibility to help fight crime.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, does this strategy, this current strategy, make sense for Vice President Gore?

HUNT: Mark, there is a party line out of Austin that Al Gore is an unparalleled, vicious attack dog politician and George Bush really tries to stay above the fray. And I have written in great detail about some of the unfair assaults that Al Gore has made, but I'll tell you this Karl Rove-orchestrated mantra is utter nonsense. I haven't seen anything that Gore is done that's been more vicious, or as vicious, as when George W. Bush went after John McCain for being opposed to breast cancer -- a false charge -- even after he found out that McCain's sister had breast cancer.

Nevertheless, if you look what Gore has done, he's been entirely too indiscriminate. Some of those charges have clearly gone over the line. George W. Bush is not an isolationist, as the vice president suggested last week. And this blurs realities, Mark, and I think really lessens the effectiveness of some very fair contrast or charges, on the tax cut, and the gun lobby and the like.

SHIELDS: Is he in danger, Bob, of -- Vice President Gore -- of instead of single-shotting, of just kind of too many...

NOVAK: It's every day there is a new attack on the front page of the paper. They don't run it much on network news anymore, but you can see it on CNN, on "INSIDE POLITICS," and that is all, it looks like -- and I think that's the case -- that's only way he knows how to campaign. The problem with that is that he is not very likable. You've compared this, Mark, to the way George Bush Sr. campaigned against Dukakis. But George Bush Sr. was not that unlikable a person. Gore is an unlikable person. When he is always on the attack, I think it's difficult. And I, as far as gun control, goes, except for single-shot congressional districts, I can't believe you can win a national campaign, attacking gun owners. I think you probably have a net loss on it.

SHIELDS: Just a point of personal privilege, George Bush Sr. is a very likable man. He used third-party devices and independent committees to make a number of attacks, which Al Gore has not done.

Kate O'Beirne, what about Al Gore's strategy?

O'BEIRNE: Al Gore has a problem -- the public knows him, and they don't much like him. So it's a little late to convince the public that he is a really nice guy. So if he can't charm, he's going to scare. So every time Governor Bush puts forth a proposal on housing, or health care, or Social Security or taxes, Al Gore immediately labels it risky, radical, right wing. And Al is right, over time, what happens is -- well, there are two problems. It begins to lose its sting; he says it about everything. And of course he completely damages his already shredded credibility, because he has to go over the top and very often misrepresent, or it turns out he once supported the exact same kind of proposal 10 years ago, and these flip-flops, a problem Bill Bradley pointed out.

The second problem is -- and this is what the people in Austin are learning through research -- the labels "risky," "radical," "right wing," "scary" contradict the Bush brand name. People have a hard time thinking that President Bush's son, this seemingly nice guy from Texas. is any one of those things. So I think he's going to have hard time, both on substance, and given Governor Bush's persona, making these charges stink.

SHIELDS: All right, Shalala, tell me they're wrong.

SHALALA: Well, I think they are wrong. First of all, I think Al Gore is more likable than is characterized. But this clip about the NRA saying they're going to operate out of the office, the Oval Office in particular, the campaign is going to be over who is going to operate out of the Oval Office. Are you going to have an independent president? Look, if it's the NRA for George Bush operating out of that office, what about the HMOs that don't want to any accountability? What about the Philip Morris and the tobacco companies? Who else is going to be operating is out of the Oval Office. I don't think the attack is inappropriate.

O'BEIRNE: Given the kind of things that were going on in Clinton's Oval Office, the NRA would be an improvement.


SHALALA: We're talking about Al Gore. We're talking about Al Gore.

O'BEIRNE: Look at the lobbies Al Gore raises money, NARAL -- they're very close to Al Gore. They're busy trying to kick The Vatican out of U.N. I mean, when you start attributing to candidates different lobby activities, Al Gore better be pretty careful.

SHIELDS: Let me just say, I disagree heatedly on the NRA. I think that George Bush blew a great opportunity here to establish this "bona fidees" as a strong, independent voice. His answer was not a resourceful answer. Americans don't want a president, whoever that president is, being in pocket of any lobby. They want a president who can stand up, whether it's to the Teamsters, or the teachers or the insurance companies, and no, he didn't, he did not. At no point did he show any anger. He should have said, look, let's be sure one thing, this guy is not get anywhere near the White House.

NOVAK: Could I put background on to this, please.

SHIELDS: You can, Bob.

NOVAK: The guy...

SHIELDS: Kayne Robinson

NOVAK: This Kayne Robinson, he happens to be Republican state chairman of Iowa, a formidable figure in politics in the Republican Party. He is the heir apparent to Charlton Heston, who is the head of NRA, will serve one more term. This little clip that Handgun Control used was at an NRA meeting several months ago, and he was saying in that, that any of the Republicans -- I think he said McCain, or Forbes or Bush -- who were in the race at that time, they would have they would have, he said -- I think that was terrible thing to say -- but he said he would be in their office. It wasn't -- this was coming out like suddenly there was an announcement that they're going to be in Bush's office,

HUNT: Let me tell you, there are issues here with this, not just whether you're for or anti-guns -- there are issues. And the compassionate conservatives tell us that they are for devolution. Namely the government closest to the people is the government who should decide, right? Except when it comes to guns. Because when Governor Bush was in Texas, he didn't want to let municipalities sue guns. There is big issue now, should -- cities are suing guns. Governor Bush won't say whether he would block cities from doing that.

NOVAK: They shouldn't sue.

HUNT: I thought the government closest to people knew best.

NOVAK: They shouldn't sue gun makers.

HUNT: Oh, I see, unless it affects special interests.

SHIELDS: Donna, go ahead. You wanted to say something.

SHALALA: Well, I -- this NRA clip is very clear. They believe that they own George Bush. That's what it was about. And no American who sees that clip is going to see anything else in that, Bob.

SHIELDS: He was -- they was bragging about his clout with the future president of the United States, and I'll tell you that, I don't know a president in my lifetime who would have tolerated that.

NOVAK: Can I ask you a question?


NOVAK: What did you think? You're an old political consultant. What did you think of Vice President Gore saying that he -- suggesting that Bush would name Charlton Heston as surgeon general.

NOVAK: I thought that was silly. I though, if anything, it made it a less serious charge. I think he had a serious rebuttal there, and his -- he was tone deaf on that -- tone deaf, Bob, you know the experience.

Next on CAPITAL GANG: Is Tom DeLay a racketeer? Bob will tell us.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. The congressional Democratic campaign chairman accused House Republican Whip Tom DeLay of extorting money, and filed suit against him under RICO, the federal anti-racketeering statute.


REP. PATRICK KENNEDY (D), RHODE ISLAND: It is specifically directed at certain types of illegal conduct, such as the extortion, and money laundering which constitutes the thrust of our case against Mr. DeLay and his organizations.


SHIELDS: DeLay issues this statement -- qoute -- "I am saddened and disappointed that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have impugned the dignity of the House of Representatives today by resorting to ugly, unfounded, politically motivated charges for their own political gains" -- end quote.

Bob Novak, is this pay time back -- payback time for Tom DeLay -- or pay time back?

NOVAK: It's payback time for sure. They hate DeLay, and this is a silly lawsuit. And of course the Republicans immediately announced yesterday and today they're going to file lawsuits against Democrats. The Rico statute is a bad statute anyway, but certainly it was never meant to be used against politicians.

But I'll tell you something else, Paul Kanjorski, Democrat of Pennsylvania, a very loyal, mainstream Democrat, very upset by this suit. He says it was never brought to the House Democratic Conference, that the leadership and Pat Kennedy -- Patrick Kennedy have just gone over the hill on this one.

SHIELDS: Over the hill, Al? HUNT: Well, certainly in using the Rico statute, yes. Bob's absolutely right. This is for criminal conduct, and what we're talking about here is just corruption. But -- because what Tom DeLay has done is unprecedented. This is a federal officeholder -- not an interest group but a federal officeholder -- who is setting up these secret, unregulated slush funds. Are they used for -- is it a personal slush fund? I don't know. "Roll Call" magazine -- or newspaper, rather, has told us that he spent $149,000 on a skybox. Is it a political slush fund? I don't know. Somebody gave a million dollars to it. What was the quid pro quo? We don't even know who the person was, much less what quid pro quo was.

Tom DeLay has said that he is all for disclose. He is the -- a leader in the appropriately named Doolittle-DeLay bill, which would supposedly make everything disclosed. And this is an -- he's running way from that issue now. I don't blame him.

SHIELDS: John Doolittle of California.

HUNT: It is.

SHIELDS: And Tom DeLay.

O'BEIRNE: They ought to pass the full disclosure, and then they'll start fully disclosing. It was no mistake that just last week, Chuck LaBella, who had been the special investigator Janet Reno called in to look at the '96 fund raising, testified in the Senate and reluctantly testified that, yes, it does appear the vice president misled DOJ investigators, and, yes, he did recommend an independent counsel. Then a week later, all of a sudden they're labeling Republicans with racketeering offenses.

This is to prevent Republicans from bringing up -- or to inhibit them from bringing up the campaign finance scandals about Al Gore. You know, they'll scream racketeering. Even the author of the Rico statute says it's a complete abuse of the statute.

SHIELDS: I think we can agree, though, two basic reforms that all of us would accept: one is full and total and timely disclosure, complete disclosures, of who have gives and how it's spent. And, two, the fact that nobody should be forced to give involuntarily. Is there too much money in politics, Donna?

SHALALA: Too much money in politics, and campaign finance reform is an absolute must. I think we're going to have an open rebellion by the business community, which has just had it now. And once they start rebelling, that may make a difference.

HUNT: I like the countersuits. Let's take these depositions. Let's start them right now. I want to hear Tom DeLay's.

SHIELDS: Donna Shalala, thanks or being with us.

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

ANNOUNCER: Our viewer "Outrage of the Week" is from David Wilson. He writes"

"School vouchers are an outrageous scheme to make taxpayers pay part of private school tuitions for parents who resent paying taxes for public schools they choose not to use. The vouchers will not amount to enough for poor families to send their children to good private schools as the proponents intend. So the scheme would only subsidize wealthier parents at the expense of the public schools the poorer families must continue to use."

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: And now for the "Outrage of the Week."

Do you remember the last debate in Congress over raising the minimum wage earned by the working poor of the country? Conservatives then shed copious crocodile tears, as they warned that a 50 cent an hour increase would put millions of young minority workers out of work. Well since the last minimum wage hike, we have seen the unemployment rate among Hispanic and African-Americans reach the lowest rates ever recorded and the nation's overall unemployment rate drop to a 30-year low. When will some honest conservative admit he was wrong?

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Former deputy White House Council Cheryl Mills, last seen defending the president in his impeachment trial, testified to House investigators about vanished White House e-mails. She knew nothing, remembered nothing, but dispensed Clintonian rhetoric.


CHERYL MILLS, FORMER DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Nothing you discovered here today will feed one person, give shelter to someone who is homeless, educate one child, provide health care for one family or justice to one African-American or Hispanic juvenile. You could do so much to transform our country, but you are instead choosing to use your great authority and resources only to address e-mails.


NOVAK: Outrageous demagoguery, liberal cliches that the Burton investigating committee has nothing do with.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: The death of Cardinal O'Connor provided the latest example of the media's inability to appreciate religion except in political terms. The cardinal was contradictory owing to his passionate love of those in need, despite his strong orthodox faith -- huh? As definitive evidence of his orthodoxy, the media cited the cardinal's position on abortion, homosexuality and woman's ordination, as though a handful of hot-button social issues sums up the faith of 60 million American Catholics. Cardinal O'Connor's calling was simple, to love God and his neighbors, but too complicated for the Fourth Estate.


HUNT: Mark, Patrick J. Buchanan, seeking the Reform Party nomination for president, said he would not name a running mate who was gay or name anyone to his Cabinet who supported gay rights because homosexuality is a, quote, "disorder," end quote. I don't knows where Mr. Buchanan got his medical degree, but that's certainly not the view of most experts. Moreover, whatever its other problems, the Reform Party has not stood for intolerance, and that's what this is.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG.

Next on CNN, "SPORTS TONIGHT" reports on the run for roses, sipping the juleps at Churchill Downs.



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