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Capital Gang

Sen. Chuck Hagel Discusses Rudy Giuliani's Political Troubles, Bush's Meeting with McCain and Trade with China

Aired May 13, 2000 - 7:00 p.m. ET



AL HUNT, GUEST HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG. I'm Al Hunt, with Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne, and Margaret Carlson.

Our guest is Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

It's great to have you back, Chuck.


HUNT: Thanks for being here.

Rudy Giuliani announced he will seek a formal separation from his wife.


MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK CITY: I'm hopeful that we will be able to formalize that in an agreement that protects our children, gives them all the security and all the protection they deserve, and protects Donna.

We should try to work out a separation agreement.

A separation agreement is not a divorce.


HUNT: That followed an earlier disclosure about his personal life regarding a lady friend.


GIULIANI: She's a good friend, a very good friend.


HUNT: But all this was dwarfed by his wife's reaction.


DONNA HANOVER: For several years, it was difficult to participate in Rudy's public life because of his relationship with one staff member. Beginning last May, I made a major effort to bring us back together, and Rudy and I re-established some of our personal intimacy through the fall. At that point, he chose another path.


HUNT: Does this rule out a run against Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Senate?


GIULIANI: I haven't made up my mind whether I have the energy and the capacity and the -- to run. I may, I may not.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: Out of respect for the mayor and his family, I have nothing to say about that.


HUNT: Margaret, is the mayor's candidacy doomed?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": Hillary was very wise there not to say anything.

In watching Donna Hanover's impromptu but very good press conference at the gates of Gracie Mansion, in which she's going to turn Gracie Mansion into the war of the roses, I would say it may well be doomed. She's not going to go quietly. And if she's going to be continuing to say things like this, he might as well have come out and said I'm giving -- like the duke of Windsor, I'm giving up my throne for the woman I love.

The voters knew that there was a de facto separation of the two of them. We all knew, the tabloids knew, everyone knew. But apparently, and I attribute this perhaps to the pressure of his illness, he forgot to tell his wife that he was going to make it public. And by not wiring this -- and he's a control freak. It's amazing that he didn't -- he set off this huge public tumult that's making Joe Bruno and other powerful New York politicians say, Rudy, you're going to have to step aside.

HUNT: Doomed Kate?

KATE O'BEIRNE, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, based on everybody I've spoken to in New York, if he were to now say he's staying in this race, that would be the surprise announcement. People expect him to bow out. Just yesterday he said that he doesn't really care about politics right now. And how could he? He's battling both a serious illness and a wronged wife, and he has two young children caught up in this huge mess. And he's -- they're the ones he owes his first responsibility to. I mean, how distasteful to see him traveling all over the state about all the great things he's going to do on behalf of New York's children when he's got these poor children caught in this huge mess -- both their father's illness and the separation. I think his only motivation for this race, frankly, has been to beat Hillary Clinton. I think that's becoming more and more difficult for him to do. He was always handicapped by third party candidates in this race against him. And frankly it's disappointing and embarrassing, the spectacle he's now caught up in. So I think it makes it even harder for him. And his rationale was to beat Hillary, and I don't think he's going to be able to.

HUNT: I think Kate's absolutely right, Bob.

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Well, the Republicans -- I was in New York with you earlier this week, as well. And every Republican I talked to is just furious with him, that he didn't have better self-discipline, that he didn't -- that at the last minute this comes up in this away. But the funny part of it is, No. 1, he may run yet. He very well...

O'BEIRNE: He might.

NOVAK: Nobody will say definitively he absolutely won't run. The other thing is he may be strongest candidate against her. And the reason they are so furious with him is at this late date, after having made a Faustian bargain, where they gave up on the abortion issue, they gave up on the Conservative alliance to have Rudy Giuliani, they got this little time frame to get somebody else in there. And the thing that they all want to prevent is this launching pad for President Hillary Clinton.

HUNT: Chuck, have you ever seen a politician have a couple weeks like poor Rudy Giuliani has?

HAGEL: Well, we have a pretty boring political system out in Nebraska.

HUNT: True.

CARLSON: And you want to keep it that way.

HAGEL: We don't have high theater and drama in Nebraska, and we do want to keep it that way. But I think if he decides to go forward, and we'll know that, I suspect, in a matter of days, that he might be able to turn this around on the basis of having the courage to step forward and acknowledge what everybody knew, to your point.

I don't know. This is a funny business. And I don't pretend to understand New York politics, but I wouldn't ride him out into the sunset yet. But he'll have to make a decision, and I think he'll that quickly.

O'BEIRNE: But wouldn't it be a relief to have somebody say, I'm going to take care of my health and my family because politics doesn't mean everything to me. Wouldn't that be a relief?

HUNT: But, Margaret, let me ask you this. Where are -- remember the moral cops, the pundits and the preachers? I haven't heard the moral cops worry about the children of New York City or worrying about the fact that if this were a police lieutenant, for instance, he would be out of a job if he had, you know, an alleged relationship with a subordinate. We don't hear any of that, do we?

CARLSON: Well, we had our Kate worried about the children of New York.

O'BEIRNE: Dr. Laura over here worried about the children, Al.

CARLSON: Right, so let's give her her due.

HUNT: Maybe we can get Bob to join her.

CARLSON: Bob Bennett, I think, was asked this other day. And he said...

HUNT: Bob or Bill Bennett?

CARLSON: Bill Bennett, excuse me. I got the two confused, they hate it -- that yes, he is concerned, but there was no intern in the office involved. There is one problem, and that is that Donna Hanover more or less named the staffer that Rudy Giuliani was involved with for a while, who now has a fairly lucrative job at the Bureau of Tourism in New York, for which she has little qualification. That does get over into an area where people like Bill Bennett are disturbed. And that could, you know, be a continuing problem.

NOVAK: Let me deal a mild conspiracy theory, if I could.

HUNT: Sure.

NOVAK: Democratic friends of mine in New York have been telling me, without really knowing why, for over a year that as this -- that something bad was going to happen to Rudy, that he really had a checkered life and there was going to be something bad happen. The one thing I do know is that people who go up against the Clintons, things -- bad things happen to them...


NOVAK: ... And -- it usually does. This may be all of his own doing, it may not.

HUNT: It was a 1997 "Vanity Fair" magazine piece about it, Bob. That predates Hillary Clinton running for the Senate.

CARLSON: Her going into the race. And, you know, Hubert Nathan (ph) has been around a while.

HUNT: Chuck, I think right now that the political right, of which you are not a part of, but the Hillary Clinton -- Bob let on a few moments ago -- the fact of a Hillary Clinton in the Senate drives them into hysterics. I think the pressure is going to be enormous, and there's only one person who could run against her right now and have a chance, and that's Governor Pataki. I would guess the pressure's going to be huge on Pataki in the next couple of weeks. HAGEL: Well, I -- I think it will be. Peggy Noonan had a piece in the Friday "Wall Street Journal," which I'm sure you all read, about that...

HUNT: Every day.

HAGEL: ... And the alternative is critical. And it's also timely, that alternative. And if the Republicans have any hope to salvage this, if Rudy does decide to get out, then they're going to have to bring somebody off the bench. And it probably, at least profile-wise, and in a large figure like a governor, it probably is...

NOVAK: But the Governor says he doesn't want to run. And besides that, I think he -- his apparent strength in the polls is right now all name identification.

HUNT: Well, I think you may be right about that, but, Bob and Kate: Senator Clinton -- you might have to get used to it.

Chuck Hagel and THE GANG will be back with the McCain-Bush summit.


HUNT: Welcome back.

Two months after George W. Bush clinched the presidential nomination against John McCain, the two Republicans got together.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have said from the very beginning that I will support the nominee of the party.

We are not in agreement on every issue.

QUESTION: Senator, why do you have difficulty using the word endorsement when you talk about your support of Governor Bush? Does that have to do with...

MCCAIN: I endorse Governor Bush.

QUESTION: ... the nature of the...

QUESTION: Could you say that again?

MCCAIN: I endorse Governor Bush. I endorse Governor Bush. I endorse Governor Bush. I endorse Governor Bush. I endorse Governor Bush.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: By the way, I enthusiastically accept.


HUNT: Bob, what did this meeting accomplish, if anything? NOVAK: It accomplished a lot. It got rid of John McCain out of his hair. There was a lot of talk that the senator at one point wanted to have this as a preliminary meeting and then to have another meeting in which he would endorse or maybe another one. They got it. His more sober advisers told him he should endorse him this time, even though I don't think he did it with much grace.

It kind of illuminated what I would call the "pseudo campaign" two months after he had been badly beaten for the nomination, and I think that people like you, Al, who have this enormous obsession with McCain will have to turn to other things, because he's just another senator now. He's not a pseudo candidate anymore.

HUNT: Chuck, do we have to give up our obsession with John McCain, do we?

HAGEL: Al, I signed the contract. I won't do it. I'm in for the McCain deal. But I think it was a very important meeting for all the obvious reasons. But as always in this business, symbolism's important. John McCain is a rather unique fellow and leader, and he did that in a rather unique way. But the point is, these guys are adults. Both understand that they have immense responsibility to lead this party. They understand they are connected. And they are connected to the Republican Party. They're adults. They'll make this work. They don't have to love each other, drive across the country together, take vacations together, but they're going to make it work. And too much is riding on it: McCain's political future, Bush's Republican Party, keeping the Congress in the Republicans' hands.

So I think this was a good step, first step. They'll continue to work it out, and I think he gets closer and better and better.

HUNT: Kate, I think Chuck makes a good point. These two aren't very fond of each other, but it is in both of their interests to make it look like they're at least being nice for a while.

O'BEIRNE: Yes, Senator McCain seems to enjoy needling Governor Bush, and I think did himself some good with the GOP rank-and-file by finally endorsing him formally, which Bill Bradley hasn't yet done Al Gore, I might add. Because, frankly, there aren't two leaders of the Republican Party, Senator Lott and his Republicans are kind of discomforted by the kind of tone of Senator McCain's campaign and are wondering how much of a Republican is he willing to be. And so I think it reassures those GOP rank-and-file.

They'll be further reassured if Senator McCain, who said he'd like to be secretary of reform, would help the governor carry the argument on private savings accounts with Social Security, a fabulous reform issue that the senator endorses, of course. And we'll see whether or not in the fall, when Al Gore starts quoting back things John McCain said during the primary season, will John McCain discredit those things and come to the governor's defense? Those are still sort of open questions because we're not quite sure what kind of relationship this is going to be over the longer term.

HUNT: Margaret, Bob talked about the lack of grace, I think he said, of John McCain. How about George W. Bush, when they asked him about Pat Robertson, who had just said that McCain was unfit to be a running mate, refused to take issue?

CARLSON: Yes, he virtually called him unbalanced on one of the talk shows...

HAGEL: Robertson called him, yes, "Meet the Press."

CARLSON: Robertson did. And Bush completely missed opportunity to say anything at all about that and smooth that over. I mean, Bob called it, said it lacked grace, and you said it was a unique performance. To me, it was entirely forced. If they just do a snapshot, the Bush people will have what they need. But if you run the tape of that, it looks like the Elian tape without the finger- wagging: I endorse, I endorse, I endorse.

NOVAK: But that was McCain's style, though.

CARLSON: Well, right. But I -- I mean...

NOVAK: He didn't have to do that.

CARLSON: ... he did not -- well, he didn't have to do it, but remember, Bush didn't give him anything. He -- in the meeting, he said, you ran a tough campaign and you made me a better candidate. Well, thanks, George W. And, you know, they went through the pre- cooked items, which is, you know, I don't want to be vice president. And then McCain gave a rundown of his choices, which were Tom Ridge and Senator Fred Thompson and, drumroll please, Senator Chuck Hagel. And, you know, the aides were taking bets on from 20 minutes to an hour for the meeting, and it lasted over an hour, and they were surprised by this.

HUNT: The other thing, I mean, I think the Bush camp now thinks -- and Bob reflected what they are telling him a few minutes ago -- that this is all going to go away now. John -- they're rid of the John McCain problem. I'll tell you why it won't: because it's not John McCain. Right now, in a three-way contest, John McCain gets 24 percent, 23 percent of the vote. That is virtually -- there is a McCain constituency out there, which, by the way, I don't think he can necessarily deliver. And those constituents, they want reform, Bob, they want debt reduction rather than tax cuts...


NOVAK: Let me say something. That is all a lot of phony baloney from the liberal media. What they like about John McCain is they liked him as something different than what they have seen.

O'BEIRNE: From Bill Clinton.

NOVAK: Different than Clinton, different than Bush, different than Gore...

O'BEIRNE: A patriot, a war hero. NOVAK: ... but that's not on the issues -- and a patriot, exactly. But what they have -- what McCain has to do, I think he likes to play to this constituency. But what he has to do as a good Republican, Chuck, is he has to come to an agreement on campaign reform, and he's got to amend with the terrible things he said about tax cuts, because that's not Republicanism.

CARLSON: And Bush should have amended the terrible things he said about McCain and the breast cancer -- in the breast cancer ads, which was he said, this is totally false, but I'm doing it anyway.

NOVAK: That's not -- it's worse.

CARLSON: And, you know, the polls are not the liberal media. The polls are the polls.

HUNT: Chuck, final word: Can this all be papered over?

HAGEL: It will be put together, McCain is going to work very hard for Bush in the fall and Republicans. It will come together. This is not unique. My goodness, we've had a lot of primary differences over the years in this business, and we've come back together. Democrats have, Republicans, this will, too.

HUNT: All right, that's the final word, Chuck Hagel.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, trading with China.


HUNT: Welcome back.

With the vote on China trade a week away, President Clinton and Republican leaders were singing the same tune.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If the Congress votes against it, they'll be kicking themselves in the rear 10 years from now because America will be paying the price.

REP. DICK ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: If we do not participate in this way, the China market will still be there, but it'll be French and German and Italian and Japanese sales and jobs in those countries.


HUNT: But organized labor is pressing hard against the agreement.


ANNOUNCER: Jae Jing Xhu (ph) endured years of torture for challenging a brutal system of slave labor and sweatshops, through which Chinese workers are exploited and Americans lose jobs. But instead of pressuring China to stop these practices, Congress is set to scrap its annual review of China's record and reward Beijing with a permanent trade deal.

HUNT: Kate, on this one can labor deliver?

O'BEIRNE: Well, Al, I think it's still favored. There's enough Republican support -- it will be up to the Democrats, but labor is divided. The public sector unions don't care about trade, and frankly a lot of Democrats resent the fact that the unions are letting Al Gore off the hook, because he supports this deal, and leaning on House members. So with the divided Democrats and divided labor, I think it has to be favored. But the administration has not helped one bit. They have been so indifferent to religious persecution that it makes it harder and harder for people concerned about that, religious persecution and the Chinese behavior, to support this deal. So I wouldn't be surprised to find some sort of a parallel agreement on human rights and religious persecution to make up for the administration's huge lack of addition moving along with this bill.

HUNT: Chuck, you're a big supporter of this.


HUNT: Has the administration does its work?

HAGEL: Well, like all these -- on issues, these kinds of issues, they get in late, and they get in in a tepid kind of way. I think this is going to work. I think we will be able to see it pass in the House. We're going to have to give up some conditions. As you know, there's a compromise on a condition or two, mostly focused on human rights, being written now by Sandy Levin and my colleague and friend from Nebraska, Doug Bereuter. And I think that will probably be condition enough to get enough votes to go with it and we'll pass it in the Senate.

This is clearly in the best interests of this country. My goodness, the way you influence behavior of totalitarian nations is not just let them hang out there, you get inside and you allow them to have the benefit of what's going on through that trade. And that's the way you change behavior.

HUNT: Going to pass, Bob?

NOVAK: Yes, I don't think labor can deliver. But they're working very hard. We had, earlier today, a program on "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS" with Secretary of Commerce Daley, and he said that he -- he's from Illinois, of course -- he cannot get a single one of the 10 Democratic congressmen from Illinois to vote for the bill, and that's because of labor. So this is the last gasp of labor.

I think it's very Luddite and reactionary to be against this, but they can still deliver a lot of Democratic votes and make it close.

HUNT: Margaret?

CARLSON: You know, the reason there's a drama associated with this now is that Clinton dropped the ball, not just now but after NAFTA. He promised that those left behind, there would be environmental and labor agreements to protect people who, you know, are pinning their fears about the future of globalization and the technological revolution on things like trade status for China. And he hasn't done anything about them. He let that go.

And now, you know, looking for side agreements seems to be lost. There will be this human rights thing. But no wonder labor is upset by this, because Democrats have done nothing to help those people who don't win.

HUNT: I think this is going to pass. It's going to get more than 150 Republican votes, 75 to 80 Democratic votes. But, Kate, I hope you're right. They've got to keep the pressure on human rights in China after it foes pass.

Chuck Hagel, thanks for being with us.

HAGEL: Thank you.

HUNT: THE GANG will be back in a moment with the "Outrage of the Week."

ANNOUNCER: Our viewer "Outrage of the Week" is from Carolyn Mitchell. She writes:

"This week President Clinton defended his call for prescription drug benefits for Medicare recipients, claiming seniors shouldn't have to choose between medicine and food. Actually, as the president surely knows, people 65 and older constitute the wealthiest segment of the population. Helping seniors who live in poverty with drug bills makes sense, but adding billions to the Medicare tab to subsidize well-heeled elderly -- facing the hard choice between a cruise to Alaska and a European holiday -- is an outrage."

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.


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

On the eve of the Million Mom March against gun violence, Texas Governor George W. Bush offered voluntary trigger locks for Texas gun owners. This is the same governor who last year, when there was a measure before the Texas legislature to require safety locks, was silent; the same governor who signed the concealed weapons law to allow Texans to carry guns, in some cases, into churches or schools. Apparently, the NRA gave Mr. Bush the OK this time.

NOVAK: Not a good week for the United Nations in Africa. U.N. negotiators failed to head off renewed fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea. But the U.N., assisted by the U.S. State Department, outdoes itself in Sierra Leone. After the U.N. agreed to amnesty and a government role for terrorists, some 500 lightly armed peacekeeping troops were taken prisoner, their fate still unknown. The U.N. response: send in more lightly armed troops ferried by the U.S. Air Force. Aren't you glad we have a U.N.?

CARLSON: Al, after two police officers were killed in 1998 protecting Tom DeLay's office, Congress promised more funds for security. But instead, the Capitol police face a huge budget cut supported by -- guess who? -- Tom DeLay. He says, quote, "Those two men did their jobs and unfortunately they lost their lives doing it, but no one they were protecting was killed. I think it's unfortunate that some people say we have to have more police." Let's hope the widows of officers Chestnut and Gibson weren't listening and that DeLay develops a sense of irony.

O'BEIRNE: The Million Mom March and this week's Equal Pay Day are evidence that women could use an anti-propaganda group. The mom's march promotes phony, alarming statistics about children and gun violence, and feminists falsely insist women earn 76 cents on the male dollar. In fact, more children die in swimming pool accidents than from guns, and there is no wage gap when education and job experience are factored in. How about an honest public debate? We need a "Mothers Against Myths" truth squad.

HUNT: This is Al Hunt saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG.

Next on CNN, "SPORTS TONIGHT" reports on the Indiana Pacers bid for a second-round NBA sweep at Philadelphia.



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