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Capital Gang

Republican Party Presenting a Unified Face for Its Convention

Aired July 30, 2000 - 6:30 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from the Republican national convention at Philadelphia, this is a special edition of the CAPITAL GANG.

MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to this special edition of the full CAPITAL GANG from the site of the Republican national convention in Philadelphia. I'm Mark Shields with the full CAPITAL GANG: Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne, and Margaret Carlson.

Senator John McCain of Arizona arrived in Philadelphia with three busloads of reporters and supporters, reviving the Straight Talk Express. He addressed what's called a shadow convention this noon with a familiar call for campaign finance reform.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Both parties conspire to stay in office to selling the country to the highest bidder.


SHIELDS: Senator McCain irritated some people at the alternative convention with his partisan Republican remarks.


MCCAIN: Among the two major parties, Republicans still offer the best chance for the changes that I feel are so necessary for democracy.



MCCAIN: I am obliged not by party loyalty but by sincere conviction to urge all Americans to support my party's nominee, Governor George Bush of Texas.



MCCAIN: It's quite clear that he's the candidate who offers change and that the vice president is the candidate of the status quo.



MCCAIN: My friends, I am a conservative.

HECKLERS: Black Mesa, save Black Mesa, save Black Mesa!


SHIELDS: Did Governor George W. Bush chief campaign strategist think that Senator McCain was trying to upstage the presidential nominee?


KARL ROVE, CHIEF STRATEGIST, BUSH CAMPAIGN: I think two things: One is he's giving the press a cheap ride to Philadelphia, and second of all and more importantly, he's here to help elect George W. Bush the next president of the United States.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, is John McCain now safely in the Bush camp?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": "Safely" is not a word I would associate with John McCain being anywhere. The -- this is the most exciting thing that might happen at the shadow convention, which is for John McCain to actually be booed. He hasn't had that negative of a reaction since he was shot down in Vietnam, because he's like the angel -- he's still the angel of independents and some Republicans. And when -- but he will go campaigning before Cheney does with Bush. They're going out together early August, and he'll be back in the camp.

He will never be -- quote -- a good Republican, but he will be a loyal Republican for the rest of this campaign.

SHIELDS: Bob, his loyalty?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Yes, and that's bad news for so many of the people, the liberals who just love John McCain, because they wanted to have him grousing and grimacing about how much they didn't like George Bush, and it's such bad news.

I thought it was -- the worst people were the Black Mesas. You know the Black Mesas? They're little environmental nuts from Arizona who were out there shaking their fist at him because he said he was a conservative.

What in the world John McCain was doing at that nut-bag convention I don't know.


But Arianna Huffington asked him to go and I guess he did. SHIELDS: Well, for one thing he was doing was he was saying that campaign finance is an equal opportunity abuser, that both parties are corrupted by the process.

KATE O'BEIRNE, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": Right, but he's also saying the Republicans are the party of reform and Al Gore is the party of the status quo.

SHIELDS: Did Mitch McConnell hear that, do you know?

O'BEIRNE: Well, as he pledged during the primaries, had he gotten the nomination, he intended to beat Al Gore like a drum, and when Al Gore tried to take on the McCain before mantle, John McCain was the first one to say, don't go there, Al.

I think today he found out that, baby, it's cold out there hanging out with these cranky leftists and he's going to have a very warm welcome here Tuesday evening. And I think everybody expects him to give a very classy endorsement speech for George W. Bush.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, from one cranky leftist to another...


AL HUNT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Can I yield the balance of my time? I want to hear Bob Novak do that again. I was -- that was just so good, Bob.

NOVAK: You're welcome.

HUNT: Mark, you know, actually, it's not just the liberals. If Karl Rove had his way, that McCain bus would just head due east about 60 miles until it went into the Atlantic Ocean.

The truth of the matter is the Bush people would just assume John McCain go away. If it's -- if it's a one-sided election, if they win -- if they're ahead by 10, 12 points in October, John McCain won't make any difference. But if this gets to be a close election, the enthusiasm of the support from John McCain, who more than George Bush or Al Gore is the most popular politician in American today, will matter a lot.

SHIELDS: What really amazes me is the Republican regulars continue this sort of feverish revisionism that John McCain's appeal was solely based upon his personal heroics in battle. They don't want -- they don't want -- ignore his message, and they always ignore the fact that John Glenn was a far greater American hero than John McCain. John McCain's message really had...

NOVAK: I don't know -- I don't know who you're talking to, Mark, but the Republicans I'm talking to, particularly since they found out that McCain wasn't going to be on the ticket, have nothing but nice to say about him. They just -- they just love the Dickens out of him because they want him to be a good fellow, particularly they know he wasn't going to be vice president. O'BEIRNE: May I point out that the most popular politician in all of American is a self-described conservative. I think he called himself a conservative three times during the shadow convention. It's one of the reasons he was booed. And the big piece of his appeal was the anti-Clinton, the masculine appeal of masculine virtues, of self- sacrifice, the cause bigger than yourself. That is all very positive about the John McCain appeal.

CARLSON: I love masculine virtues myself. And could you cry again so we can see yours?


Could I make you cry?


You said Karl Rove wants that bus to drive right into the Atlantic Ocean.


He doesn't. He wants McCain out. Not that McCain is a good...

NOVAK: He wants him in the congressional districts.

CARLSON: ... soldier...

NOVAK: Exactly.

CARLSON: ... come along. Get on the bus.

HUNT: As long as you're a good boy. As long as you're a good boy.

CARLSON: And he's going to be. He's going to be good.

HUNT: Don't talk about campaign finance reform. Don't talk about the issues that Mark alluded to, which was the real approval.

NOVAK: Mark...

HUNT: I'm Al!

NOVAK: Al...

HUNT: Good to know you...


O'BEIRNE: You liberals are undistinguishable.

NOVAK: ... you're uncharacteristically obtuse. They don't are what he talks about unless -- as long as he says George Bush is my candidate for president. He can talk about campaign finance reform, anything. But the thing there is, there's a kind of an ironic situation that when he makes speeches like this he's less attractive to the Al Hunts and their ilk.

HUNT: I find him very attractive, but what you have to understand is that that McCain constituency is a very independent- minded constituency, Bob.

CARLSON: Mark...

SHIELDS: We just set a new NCAA record. Bob Novak used the word ilk three minutes and 13 seconds into...


CARLSON: I just want to mark the moment. Bob, you're right.

NOVAK: Thank you.


SHIELDS: Wow! Thank you, Margaret. And the full CAPITAL GANG will be back with a two-Cheney policy. Isn't that clever?


SHIELDS: Welcome back, Dick Cheney, under attack as George W. Bush Republican running mate did the full circuit of Sunday television talk shows to answer attacks against him, including the latest charge that he had contributed to higher gasoline prices.


DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENT CANDIDATE: The reason prices have been so volatile is because this administration's had no energy policy. We're strictly at the mercy, if you will, of the international marketplace.

That somehow -- the idea that somehow I had the ability to control OPEC prices, if what was true, Wolf, I wouldn't be back in politics. I'd still be in the oil business.


SHIELDS: Also appearing on television today was his wife, Lynne: the former head of the National Endowment for the Humanities and later a co-host of CNN's "CROSSFIRE SUNDAY."


LYNNE CHENEY, WIFE OF DICK CHENEY: I certainly don't have any impression that anyone wants to muzzle me. I don't think that my normal style of behavior will require any change.

Besides, you know, I'm almost 59 years old. It would be pretty hard to change.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, after the first week, are the Cheneys looking like a big plus or a small minus for the ticket?

O'BEIRNE: Let me first say, if a co-host of "CROSSFIRE" had to be on a national ticket and it couldn't be Bob, who would be my first choice, I think Lynne Cheney is a big plus. She's so accomplished, she's so independent. She complements, I think, Dick Cheney beautifully.

Of course, this morning on all the shows he was asked all those questions about his voting record in the 1980s, and look at how he responded. He wasn't the least bit defensive. He calmly and soberly explained, either explained the vote or explained how he might vote a little differently today. More importantly, compared to Al Gore, he wasn't in denial.

Remember when Bill Bradley used to talk about votes in the '80s of Al Gore's, and he would just flatly say, well, that's not so, I never voted that way. Of course, you voted that way, Al.

So given the seven years we've had of Ferris Bueller in the White House, you see the Spencer Tracy sort of character...


SHIELDS: Spencer Tracy?

O'BEIRNE: Sort of. I'm reaching back.


I'd thought you'd appreciate it, Mark.

CARLSON: No, you're reaching up.

O'BEIRNE: I'd thought you'd appreciate an old reference.


O'BEIRNE: He's just steady and reliable, and it's not going to be easy to character him -- caricature him the way Al Gore...

SHIELDS: Spencer Tracy?

CARLSON: Pillsbury Doughboy comes to mind.


CARLSON: No, I mean, but not Spencer Tracy. I would go there.


He -- you know, we've entered Pleasantville. Nothing he's done should upset us. That's the whole thing. And anybody who says anything about the record should just go away and be quiet because we're now in this era where we are, you know, we're confusing -- and the media is doing it as well -- legitimate critiques of record with illegitimate critiques of character. Why not look at the record and why not say, had you no vision about Nelson Mandela, had you no vision about the Head Start program?

It's fine -- and actually, he did back away a little bit, which struck me as a very wise thing to do today whereas before he said I'd only tweak a few votes. This morning, he said, if he'd had it to do over again, he would have rethought "cop killer" bullets, Nelson Mandela and Head Start.

SHIELDS: Did he back away, Bob?

NOVAK: No. There's a lot of changes. You know, I've even changed my mind about a few things over the years. I can't remember what they are.

SHIELDS: Can you give us one?

NOVAK: No, I can't think of it. But you know, I've been thinking about this quite a bit in talking to you, and I've tried to figure out why the Margaret Carlsons of the world are so upset by Dick Cheney and Lynne Cheney.

I think -- I think Margaret would like to muzzle Lynne Cheney.

CARLSON: I never (UNINTELLIGIBLE) by Lynne Cheney.

NOVAK: I think you'd like to muzzle her.


But the reason -- the reason...

CARLSON: I'd like to muzzle you. Don't confuse yourself with Lynne Cheney.

NOVAK: But I think what it is, is that you like to have conservatives -- quote/unquote -- who are demon -- demoniac people, like -- like Newt Gingrich. Newt Gringrich was a great deal more liberal than either of the Cheneys, but he came off as fierce. And it just drives you nuts that you have this -- this couple, who have really been principled conservatives and they aren't fierce.

I think Lynne Cheney is terrific, and she's fought a great fight against the political correctness that so many people on this panel are for.


HUNT: If Bob Novak ever does go on a national ticket, I sure hope no one muzzles him, because our cause, Mark, would do a lot better if the real Bob Novak would come out.

Margaret only had the tip of the iceberg. Dick Cheney said he would now vote for Head Start, childhood immunization, against -- for banning cop killer bullets. I think Dick Cheney is growing, Bob. I think he's understanding that there is a role of governance today, you can't have those sort of cheap right-wing votes that he had 20 years. And that's -- that's to be admired.

NOVAK: This is all baloney. It's all...

HUNT: Is it demoniac?

NOVAK: It's all -- it's all the chattering class looking at his -- at votes on minor bills taken years ago. And what is important was that he was a tax-cutting, defense-spending, budget-cutting conservative, and that's what you can't stand.

SHIELDS: Now, tax-cutting, that's right.

Now, the thing -- the thing about him is he's one of the eight members of the entire House to vote against the federal Clean Water Act. Now, that's a pretty big vote, Bob. That's not a minor vote, the federal Clean Water Act.

And I think what the Democrats are concerned about is that this whole week is devoted for a rush to the middle, the compassionate conservatism and all the rest of it. And they -- they can't give up the middle, and that's what they're trying to do, is stake it out, that Dick Cheney is not the middle and doesn't belong in the middle.

O'BEIRNE: He's -- he's conservative. The country's conservative. People are -- voters are not going to respond to this voting record the way the media's responding to it and the way Al Gore hopes they're going to respond to it.

HUNT: I agree with that. I agree...

CARLSON: I don't know...


HUNT: I think Kate is absolutely right. I don't think -- I don't think it cuts much politically, but I do think it is instructive that as much as Bob wants to sit here and talk about demons and the left and all of that, that the fact is when Bush comes to this convention, what they want to say is that what we're a centrist party, we're not an anti-government party. We may want to do things a little bit differently, we want to tweak things, but we're not going to run against government.

I'm sorry, Bob.

NOVAK: We had this morning on "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS," Governor Jim Gilmore of Virginia, a very good conservative. And I asked him a question: Do you really -- do you and Governor Bush really like the Education Department, which we will -- the party wanted to get rid of. And he says it's on probation when he gets in, he'll take a look.

Well, it's a terrible department. We all know that. It doesn't -- it should be repealed.

So just because they're giving little images doesn't mean that they're moving to the center.

HUNT: The secret plan...

SHIELDS: Margaret...

HUNT: It's a secret plan to do away with the Department of Education.

SHIELDS: Let me ask Margaret one question. I mean, how do you -- how do you connect and reconcile "leave no child behind" with abolishing Head Start?

CARLSON: Well, you know, and I was going to say to Kate...


I don't know. I mean, maybe the country is conservative by some definition.

O'BEIRNE: Maybe you should have to go...


CARLSON: But what part of the country doesn't want Head Start? What part of the country? Tell me who among the voters doesn't want that.

NOVAK: That's not the question. That isn't the correct question.

CARLSON: And who doesn't want the clean...

NOVAK: The right question is, does it work?

O'BEIRNE: It doesn't work, exactly.

CARLSON: Yes. Head Start does work. I think by every evaluation Head Start works. If they campaign on rolling back Head Start, Bush-Cheney lose.

HUNT: And I tell you something, Margaret, all the time that Bob has spent at Head Start centers he's found really is questionable.

Bob, you're going to share that experience with us (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

NOVAK: I know as much as you do, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...


SHIELDS: If Bob -- if Bob is right, then I think what we'll do is abolish Head Start and put all the money into cop killer bullets.

That's the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) last word. Next on CAPITAL GANG, the same old primary system.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

The so-called "Delaware plan," reorganizing and stretching out the president primaries for the 2004 election cycle, was approved Thursday by the Republican national convention after nearly four years of preparation.


BASIL BATTAGLIA, DELAWARE REPUBLICAN CHAIRMAN: We need to reform the system because it's going to help the Democrats and it's going to help the Republicans to go to a president primary, national primary.


SHIELDS: But on Friday, the plan was killed by a 66-33 vote of the Republican convention rules committee after George W. Bush's campaign ended its neutrality and turned against it.

One of the Bush lieutenants explained why.


CHARLIE BLACK, BUSH CAMPAIGN ADVISER: The biggest problem with it is that the Democrats will not go along. They will keep their current primary calendar, which means their nominee would emerge in March while the Republicans continue to fight until May or June. We end up giving them about a three-month advantage both to campaign and to raise money.


SHIELDS: Bob, we've heard Charlie Black. What was the real reason by Governor Bush's operatives and his campaign turned against it?

NOVAK: The real reason was this was an unworkable plan put in by a bunch of rich national committee members who have -- most of whom have never worked in campaigns. They got there by contributing money, and they had this Rube Goldberg invention, where you have to get Democratic legislatures in California and New York and elsewhere to change the rules, to stretch out their dates, to take the California primary and bring it back to June.

Can you imagine the Democratic legislature doing that?

And it's an absolutely unworkable plan. And the fact of the matter is the Bush people think that the present system, which nominated George W. Bush, isn't that bad.

And what if you do have a national primary? It means that Al Hunt and I and Mark Shields and Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson won't have a good time in New Hampshire. That'll be tough on us, won't it?


CARLSON: And that's a good reason.

HUNT: Actually, this was put together primarily by Bill Brock, who was a former party chairman, a former elected officials, active in the Republican Party for years, not by a bunch of fat cats.

It was a good plan. Any change is always difficult. Campaign consultants opposed it. A national primary would be a disaster. It would just go out to the highest bidder.

The only good thing to come out of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is actually the Delaware plan itself that probably would have killed the New Hampshire primary. So I want the New Hampshire primary for very parochial reasons to survive, and that's the only good thing to come out of this.

SHIELDS: Just so our viewers understand, it was put in the small states first and...

NOVAK: Non-Southern small states.

SHIELDS: ... and there would be a penalty against the big states if they didn't follow late in the process, thus giving an advantage seemingly, Kate, to the candidate who wasn't well-financed, who wasn't a national figure.

O'BEIRNE: Well, there is some sympathy, Bob. Some conservatives favor this sort of a plan. Many of them...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm one of them.

O'BEIRNE: Many of them argue that if the plan the party, the Republican Party is looking at in 2004 had been in place in 1964, Rockefeller would have been the nominee, because the race goes to the person who's best-funded or has a lot of media attention. And very often, it doesn't favor maybe a conservative challenger. So there was conservative sympathy.

With New Hampshire's falling out of favor, Al, a piece of the Delaware plan I think showed that New Hampshire's falling out of favor. This time there's going to be a penalty if New Hampshire has that first-in-the-nation primary. Maybe they're willing to pay it. But the establishment is not happy with New Hampshire.

SHIELDS: Unhappy with New Hampshire for two reasons, Margaret. One, 1996 -- the Bushes have had a tough (UNINTELLIGIBLE) there.

CARLSON: Yes, right.

SHIELDS: When George W. Bush was in -- in 1992 was challenged for renomination by Pat Buchanan in 19 -- in 2000 where in fact George W. Bush lost overwhelmingly to -- what's the guy's name?

CARLSON: Yes, for 20 bonus points. Yes.

SHIELDS: John McCain.

CARLSON: John McCain.

Yes, it's an...

NOVAK: Is that his name?

CARLSON: It's an anti-establishment, they'll take the guy who doesn't have all the money and the good message. And you can't get it out other than in places like New Hampshire. So of course, they didn't like it.

What I thought was significant was how swiftly Bush, the Bush people took control of these delegates, took control of this process when they've been working on it for four years. And he comes in, in one day, and says, no, we're not going to do it that way.

O'BEIRNE: This is his convention.

NOVAK: Well, if you read my -- if you read my column...

CARLSON: And I didn't...

NOVAK: Two weeks before, I said it's exactly going to happen because they thought it was a very bad plan.

SHIELDS: Could you give a (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Bob?

CARLSON: Yes, outloud.

NOVAK: I'd love to.

CARLSON: A dramatic reading of the column.

SHIELDS: I think -- I think Margaret's absolutely right, I think Kate's right, that there is no question that the Bush folks moved late. But they move -- once they move, they move with great velocity. There's no doubt about it.

NOVAK: Can I -- can I make -- they were against it a long time ago, believe me, and they were working against it.


NOVAK: Yes. But let me -- let me just say one historical thing, if I could. I wrote a book about the 1964 Republican...

SHIELDS: "The Agony of the GOP."


NOVAK: ... no way on Earth that Nelson Rockefeller could have nominated. He couldn't win primaries, he couldn't win caucuses, and it was a question of whether it was going to be Goldwater or somebody else. O'BEIRNE: I feel reassured. You know what? Actually, a big debate and fight on this on the floor would have been good. It would have felt like an old-fashioned convention.

HUNT: It would have.

O'BEIRNE: It would have been -- I think it would have been worthwhile.

HUNT: You're right.

SHIELDS: You're right, Kate. And it's the last word. And "The Gang," the full gang will be back with a fearless forecast about the Democrats veep.


SHIELDS: Al Gore revealed he will announce his vice president choice on August 8th. Who will be named as the Tennesseans running mate, Bob Novak?

NOVAK: The smart choice is Senator Bob Graham of Florida. I think he has a real chance for Florida's electoral votes, which could win the election. But they cannot take the risk, Al Gore will not take the risk of a Republican senator going in there, which there would be because he'd have to resign.

So I think he's going to take the best candidate, the best debater, the best-looking guy and the smartest guy, and it's John Kerry of Massachusetts.

SHIELDS: John Kerry of Massachusetts. Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: He may take Kerry. Graham would be a pragmatic choice. I don't think he will do it. The best choice would be Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. Gore would be reaching to the center given that Bush reached to his right. It would be a good move for him. Everyone likes him. He's a sensible...

SHIELDS: First Jewish, Democrat...

CARLSON: He would be the first Jewish vice presidential candidate on the Democratic side. He is a new Democrat. He is almost a Republican he's so moderate.

He is also the one who criticized Clinton first during impeachment, and he has impeccable credentials for integrity and dignity.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: I know this much. It will be a political choice. He won't be thinking governing. Bob Graham, I think, is a problem. A lot of the criticism from Al Gore about Dick Cheney was, oh, it's a retro and it's looking back. Bob Graham was considered to be a VP candidate in '88 and '92. Talk about looking back for a candidate. So I mean, they might have to have some -- make up for some of the Cheney criticisms. I think maybe -- it'll be somebody who's going to be comfortable in the slaughterhouse that Donna Brazile just explained they have, a really aggressive partisan, somebody who reminds Al Gore of himself. I think Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts would be a fit.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, who it will be?

HUNT: Mark, if you go stature, he'll -- he should go with George Mitchell, but I think there's increasing talk there of going generational, picking some young. And I continue to think a dark horse is Senator John Edwards of North Carolina.


HUNT: Although I think Margaret's choice is intriguing.

SHIELDS: Listen, where you heard it first: Bob Kerrey of Nebraska.

This is Mark Shields saying good night for the CAPITAL GANG. We'll be back from the convention floor after the adjournment each and every night Monday through Thursday.

Next on CNN, a wrapup of the day here in Philadelphia, including a look at the first large-scale protests. Thank you.



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