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Capital Gang

George Allen Discusses the Bush Administration and Al Gore's Future

Aired December 16, 2000 - 7:00 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: Now, from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to a one-hour edition of CAPITAL GANG.

I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Margaret Carlson.

Our guest is Republican Senator-Elect George Allen of Virginia.

Congratulations, and welcome back, George.

SENATOR-ELECT GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: Good to be with you all.

SHIELDS: Thank you. After 36 days of recounts and litigation, President-Elect George W. Bush delivered his acceptance speech.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our nation must rise above a house divided. Together, guided by a spirit of common sense, common courtesy and common goals, we can unite and inspire the American citizens.



REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D), MINORITY LEADER: President-Elect Bush says he will bring a new spirit to Washington. There are still some Republicans in Washington who have not heard this message.


SHIELDS: But the Republican Speaker of the House indicated he was not ready to start off the session with Mr. Bush's across-the- board tax cut.


REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: You start out with a few good, simple things to get done. Trust, build that bipartisanship feeling, if you can. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: In Texas today, General Colin Powell was introduced as secretary of state.


GEN. COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: I'm especially pleased that he chose to hold this ceremony in a school in Crawford, Texas. I was frankly glad it wasn't at the ranch. Nothing wrong with ranches, but I don't yet do ranch wear well. And I'm from the South Bronx, and I don't care what you say, those cows look dangerous.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, is President-Elect Bush off to a good start?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": You know, after looking at that picture, if only Colin Powell were the president-elect. On day three of the Bush administration, I'd say he's doing just fine. Colin Powell was the worst-kept secret among his appointees and it's good he did it and it's a wonderful thing and you know, Colin Powell will come down to the mere mortal level as secretary of state, but I think he'll be good.

You know, rather than it be a bitter, terrible time here in Washington I think there's going to be Florida fatigue, that people are going to want to have a few sugar plums dancing in their heads and give the guy a break.

So, I don't think going to be all that bitterness, but there's no Bob Bullock here. Even, Dennis Hastert -- you know, we don't have a one-party old boy system. So, there's no lieutenant governor work with and even Dennis Hastert has got his own agenda and that tax cut's going to come in pieces, if at all. So he's going to have to learn what bipartisan means here.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, your sugar plumb has danced in a lot of heads, Bob, and none more than H&R Block when it comes to tax cuts. I mean, Denny Hastert's words had to be bitter for your ears this week.

ROBERT NOVAK, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": That's a lot of baloney and you know it.

SHIELDS: Thank you, Bob.

NOVAK: What the Speaker Hastert has to suddenly discover and all the Republican leaders do is they've been in the majority, running the machinery of Congress for six years without caring about the White House because it was a Democrat in the White House. They've got a Republican in the White House, and they don't have the show right now. You can't have the Speaker of House saying well, we're going just discard this piece of the president-elect's agenda.

Now, of course, there's a possibility what he said is going to have to be delayed, but the speaker shouldn't be going public like that and jettisoning a good part of the president-elect's program. Now I'll tell you what the real problem is, however.

SHIELDS: What is it, Bob?

NOVAK: The real problem is that the establishment -- the liberal media establishment and the liberal governing establishment is trying to drive a wedge between the Republican leadership, Tom DeLay, particularly, trying to demonize him and the president and that would be absolutely stupid on Bush's part if he falls for that bait. I don't think he will because Tom DeLay wants to pass the Bush program and Dick Gephardt wants to defeat it.

SHIELDS: George Allen, you're the only person at the table who's going to have a vote in three weeks. So, what's your sense of the movement since the victory was declared?

ALLEN: Well, I think Governor Bush as President-Elect Bush, his initial speech in the Texas House was great. It was a perfect backdrop. Understanding that he has had that experience of working with Democrats as well as Republicans. I think the appointment of General Powell is a tremendous appointment. The speech that General Powell gave, I think, gives people assurance that George W. Bush as president is going to put in people who are credible, who will help us in foreign policy.

When General Powell as secretary of state is speaking for this country, the people he'll be negotiating with and talking with are going to United States this man has a following. He's not just some career ambassador. This is a person with a great deal of credibility, and I think that President Bush should keep his promises to the people of America, stick with the promises he made.

Now, any issue or legislation that goes before a legislative body, I've seen this as governor, there's going some nicks and there's going to be some efforts but I don't think that you start negotiating before you've even introduced the legislation.

I think Margaret's got it right is that I think there's a feeling that the country has gone through a lot of tormenting. They were patient. The Florida recount took, it seemed, a long, long time and it did. But I think now people want to see Republicans and Democrats trying to find common ground but neither side abandoning principle.

SHIELDS: Bob may be the only person who's free of Florida fatigue -- Al.

AL HUNT, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, I'm just -- look, I'm just so glad Bob was able to enlighten us that the real problem is the liberal media. That's something I hadn't heard before, so it's nice to know that that is the issue.

I slightly disagree with George and just looking back for a moment in the sense that I thought the speech -- the Bush speech Wednesday night was OK, but I think it was only OK. It was really -- it was a dressed-up stump speech, if you will. It wasn't particularly presidential. It did not as one great former president once said, it did not provide the lift of a driving dream or anything like that.

Exactly. On the other hand, I think the Powell appointment is going to be incredibly well-received by Democrats and Republicans. He's the darling of the press establishment, so I think that'll certainly help and I think Margaret has a very, very good point that people are in a really a more generous mood now. So, I think there will be a honeymoon. I think he'll soar in the polls, but this stuff about there's no Bob Bullock or anything. Let me tell you something, I mean, the Texas Democrats and Texas Republicans are only differentiated by and large by which interest they represent. It's a little bit different here in Washington.

SHIELDS: Well, I think there is a considerable truth to that. I mean, you know, in Texas, it's a state where Republicans are real Republicans and so, too, are Democrats at least in Austin to a great degree with the exception of a small band of sort of national Democrats. But I think if you look at this, Bob Novak, you've got to conclude that there is a sense of good feeling toward George W. Bush. I was surprised, first of all, he got no criticism for appointing a pro-choice, pro-affirmative action, pro-gun control as his first major nominee and the right has been pretty muted on this with the exception of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

NOVAK: They haven't criticized Colin Powell. He's secretary of state. he isn't attorney general. He isn't HHS secretary. If he names a pro-choicer to one of those, he'd be in trouble. But I'm telling you this, George, you may not realize it in Washington, but anything that George W. Bush does that is conservative he's going to get whacked for and anything they do that they think is betraying his principles --they think is betraying his principles, they're going to pat him for. This is a mean and bloody environment and don't be deluded but all this nicey-nice talk.

ALLEN: No, but you just stick to your promises. That's the main thing is Governor Bush ran on ideas and the people elected him. Granted, it was a very close election, but I think it's absolutely essential that President Bush pick two or three key elements and get those through early on while there is this honeymoon period. And I think that the people of America are not going to want to see people for partisan reasons opposing it.


CARLSON: Bob, if you dislike nicey-nice talk how did you like George Bush during this campaign?

NOVAK: It was a good campaign.

CARLSON: This is what he does.

NOVAK: He campaigned as a conservative. I beg to differ.


HUNT: Bob's a pragmatist, Margaret.

CARLSON: He cannot come here and divide rather than unite.

NOVAK: I just say he's to stick to his principles. You just want him to abandon his principles.

CARLSON: I want to see you in ranch wear, Bob.

HUNT: Let me confirm what Bob has said about us, and this is so disingenuous to talk now about we need a tax cut because the economy is going south. I'm sorry. If there's something that has to be done about the economy, it's not that tax cut, which is back loaded, which is geared toward the rich...


NOVAK: You always need a tax cut.

HUNT: Well, Bob, I was going to say this is a prodigious moment, you think a tax cut...


NOVAK: Any time is a good time.

HUNT: You criticized Cicero back in 63 B.C. because he wasn't for a tax cut.

NOVAK: He brought down the Roman Empire.

HUNT: Exactly. It would solve bubonic plague, right Bob?

SHIELDS: I would just sum it up by pointing out as Fred Yang did, the Democratic pollster, there was nothing in that issue battery to object to and the order was right. This is Governor Bush's education, Social Security, prescription drugs, and tax cuts. It was like a Democratic mantra. Last word, Bob. George Allen and the gang will be back with Al Gore's gracious concession.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. Al Gore delivered what was widely called the most important speech of his life.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just moments ago, I spoke with George W. Bush and congratulated him on becoming the 43rd president of the United States.



GORE: Let there be no doubt while I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I accept it. I accept the finality of this outcome which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College. And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.



GORE: I do have one regret, that I didn't get a chance to stay and fight for the American people over the next four years, especially for those who need burdens lifted and barriers removed, especially for those who feel their have voices have not been heard.


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, did the vice president improve his future political prospects with this speech?

NOVAK: I really don't think so. I think the Democrats have been telling me he ran a terrible campaign and they never want to do it again and one session speech is going change their mind. But it was the same old Al Gore to me on that concession speech. His aides made clear he never said that George W. Bush was never elected. He talked about him becoming president, rather than being elected president. He talked -- had to criticize the Supreme Court. And also he started the same divisive populism about the people who couldn't work for themselves, instead of unifying people, separating people. So, I thought it was the same old Al Gore and all the talking heads on television just gushing about this great speech made me a little ill.

SHIELDS: Did the speech make you ill, George Allen?

ALLEN: Maybe this is from my sports background. I think that the winners can be humble in victory and I think that George Bush was, and I saw emotion in George Bush in that House Chamber. That's where he had started, and this was a more sterile circumstance for Vice President Gore, but that's a very tough speech to give and keep your spirit up and try to be magnanimous in defeat, and I thought he did a very good job in defeat.

Now, I'm glad he's not president of the United States and I think the ones you're talking about the campaign he ran. I'll tell you who lost the campaign for him, these radical environmental extremists who voted for Nader rather than for him. But for those folks voting wrong way, they're the ones who lost the election for Al Gore and George Bush had all the Republicans unified.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, give us your assessment of the speech.

CARLSON: I thought it was such a fine speech. I thought it hit the perfect notes and I thought the last line of it was absolutely brilliant, turning back on himself that now cliche line, it's time for me to go. It showed a mordent, knowing sense of humor that all his friends said he had and that we didn't see during the campaign, but we got a glimpse of it that night. The Democrats who are now saying, oh, if he'd won his state of Tennessee or if he'd won by more votes we wouldn't have had this mess in Florida, they won't give the guy the break he deserves. He won the popular vote. Nobody thought he was going to do that at one. He started out 20 points behind. He had Bill Bradley. He had Ralph Nader, and he may well have won the electoral vote. So this is blame the victim. Democrats hate their losers, even their good ones. I don't think his second act is going to be a second chance, but maybe it will.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, looking at Al Gore, do you have a sense if he'd given a speech -- a performance like that in any of the three debates, the outcome might have been different?

HUNT: Or any other time between the convention, which was his last good speech, and the one the other night. But I had do agree. It was gracious. It was generous. It was humorous. He struck exactly the right note, and he's to be praised for that.

I think what he did by that, Mark, he kept alive his political prospects. I agree with Bob. There are a number of Democrats who say we don't want to revisit. We don't want this guy back again, but people don't control that. There are no smoke filled rooms anymore. He's a guy who if he decided he wants to run again will be a formidable contender.

I do have one question, though, if I may break the forum and ask Bob one question. For weeks, Robert, you've been telling us that one of the penalties we pay for Al Gore exercising what was absolutely his entitled rights to contest this election, that we, among other things, the stock market has gone south. It's cost people money. The two days since Al Gore left, and George Bush with the stock market has gone down 359 points. What do those people know that you don't? Or what do you know that they don't know?

NOVAK: First, the market was discounted for the victory. It went up. You probably don't follow it every day, Al but it went up the two days before the concession and since you brought it up I was going to try to be a little restrained but I won't now. I think it's a disgrace and that's why I can't forgive Al Gore for putting the country through this. I think it did hurt the stock market. I think it exacerbated racial relations. It added to the evil -- to the uncivil quality of politics when all he had to do after they had the mechanical recount required by law was to concede because I still believe that George W. Bush won the state of Florida if you don't have a creative interpretation of chads and I think that putting the country through that not only hurt the stock market, I think it hurt the fabric of the country. So I don't, Al, I don't share your delight in the speech.

HUNT: In other words, he should have forfeited the rights he had, Mark and the stock market went down -- but we never had a race like this and he had absolutely had every right to do it and he did it. And also, Mark, the stock market went down 359 points. At more than it went up the previous two days, but I guess Bob doesn't want to address that.

ALLEN: Well, hold it Al. Are you saying that George W. Bush's election is the cause of that?

HUNT: I don't know what the market knows, but apparently the market doesn't have Bob Novak's wisdom.


ALLEN: It things other than that. It's earnings...


HUNT: I don't think Al Gore caused it to go down in the first place, George. That's my point. You're right, it's earnings. It's fundamental. You're right and Bob's wrong.

SHIELDS: Let me say just say in closing that you're absolutely wrong. That the Tilden-Hayes race went all the way to march, of course, and you should remember that, Bob.

NOVAK: It didn't go to court. It didn't go to court.


SHIELDS: You should know that. It went to court to the point -- we had a 15-member commission that was stacked politically, and you know it. It was a Republican Supreme Court.

NOVAK: Didn't sue in a court of law. The first time that's ever been done.


HUNT: Mark, you're right. Supreme Court members won that.

SHIELDS: That's right, Supreme Court, Bob -- you can go to your room. Bob, I'm sorry. I was there you weren't. Next on CAPITAL GANG, the Supreme Court elects a president. You were out giving a speech somewhere.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. The five-to-four majority on the U.S. Supreme Court which ended the presidential election deadlock contended it would rather not intervene but added this, quote: "When contending parties invoke the process of the courts, however, it becomes our unsought responsibility to resolve the federal and constitutional issues the judicial system has been forced to confront," end quote.

Justice Steven Breyer dissented, saying quote: "We do risk a self-inflicted wound that may harm not just the court, but the nation," end quote.

Was this a political judgment?


SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: This court could go down in history -- will go down in history as the most interventioness court ever in deciding a political matter -- the most interventioness in this regard since the Dred Scott decision. (END VIDEO CLIP)


JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I plead with you that whatever you do, don't try to apply the rules of the political world to this institution. They do not apply.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, has the Supreme Court done itself great harm?

HUNT: Well, not if you believe Clarence Thomas that politics wasn't at work, here. I don't think most people accept that, however. I think this was case where the five-member majority wanted a result. They wanted to give it to Bush and they were able to work out a way to do that, a reasoning to do that.

You know, The idea that this was -- that this was forced upon them. They were the ones that got in there and stopped the recount. This wasn't forced upon them at all. This is a majority that's very passionate about states rights when it comes to gun control, when it comes to abused woman, when it comes to capital punishment, but not when it comes to a president of their choice.

Mark, if the roles were reversed, if hypothetically Gore had been ahead in Florida, can you imagine for a moment them overturning a Florida Supreme Court that was going to stop a recount? There's no way it would've happened and the final point I make is this equal protection. If they believe that, that a 1 percent recount or count in a state of votes that were cast before are not cast -- if that's a violation of equal protection, the entire election on November 7th was a violation of equal protection because we have different standards all over the country. If you insist on uniform standards for recounts, you ought to have uniform standards for voting.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, doesn't Al Hunt make good sense?

NOVAK: No, he doesn't because I really believe that if the same -- if it had been reversed and you had had an interventionist Florida Supreme Court, results-oriented court just going out of control, I think it would have been reversed even if given by the conservative majority, even if it had given the election to a Democrat, which would never -- and they would have been joined by the two Democrats on the courts, who really are partisan, Breyer and Ginsburg, the Clinton appointees.

Now, there were two arguments for overturning the Florida Supreme Court. There was the equal protection law, which was the weaker of the two which got five of the justices, and the constitutional argument that they had no business getting into this on the constitutional grounds of the election -- of the method of picking electors, which the swing voters, Kennedy and O'Connor didn't want to get into because they like to kind of be into in the middle and play it there the middle. So, but I will tell you this, that I think it is sickening in this town that nobody is worried about the activist politicians on the Florida Supreme Court overturning their own circuit courts, but everybody is worried about the people on the Supreme Court trying to uphold the Constitution.

SHIELDS: Well, George Allen, I mean basically, we have a greater respect, historically, for the Supreme Court, haven't we -- maybe it's been misplaced, than we do for state Supreme Courts.

ALLEN: Well, maybe. I also have a great deal of respect for Supreme Courts. I have a great deal of respect for the Supreme Court justices on the Virginia Supreme Court. And so, I think you have judges -- there were close decisions in Florida, close decision on the Supreme Court of the United States. A recount was had, the Florida Supreme Court extended the amount that they could have those hand recounts in Florida.

And again, rather than getting all too upset with some of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions, look at Miami-Dade County. Democrats said no, we can't get these ballots counted before this time. There's just too many of them and they didn't do it. If I were a Democrat I'd be livid by such dilatory approaches and then for Palm Beach County, they didn't want to work on Thanksgiving to go through those ballots whereas other counties, Broward and Volusia and others, got the job done.

So it's not something that I think is a high moment for the way to win an election. You like the people and clearly the votes making those decisions, but ultimately those decisions are being made by the courts and the highest court in the land does have a great deal of credibility.

SHIELDS: Justice Carlson.

CARLSON: Now, the Florida legislature, though, did provide for hand counts. So, there it is, right in the law.

NOVAK: Not in the presidential election.


ALLEN: I wasn't saying I minded the hand count.

CARLSON: In any election -- but you know, I have a lot -- Justice Carlson has a lot of respect for the courts, but not when a court issues an unsigned opinion, you know, without discernible logic, without reason, without precedent. It didn't base its decision on anything we know.

In fact, when the Supreme Court first got the case, they didn't even bring up equal protection when by the way you could have done something about it. There would have been time to take what the state legislature had said, which is look at the intent of the voter, and give it a standard. The most stringent standard possible could have been given to that so that there would be a hand recount and we would know what actually won.

ALLEN: You're talking about the 9-0 decision right?


CARLSON: Yes -- I'm talking about...

ALLEN: Well, that was an unanimous decision.

CARLSON: But they did not give the equal protection argument at a time when it could have been fixed.

NOVAK: They had seven justices on the...


CARLSON: Then they stayed the count, so that it was a self- fulfilling prophecy. No time, because the clock was run out.

SHIELDS: Time is what we've run out, but last word, Margaret Carlson. George Allen and the gang will be back with a preview of what is ahead on Capitol Hill.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. What will be the first piece of major legislation passed by the new Congress -- Al Hunt?

HUNT: I think it'll probably, Mark, be some sort of educational bill with accountability standard as Governor Bush has requested, a little bit of money of the sort the Democrats want and we'll avoid the voucher issue.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: I know he wants to be an education president and I know he's sensitive on taxes. His dad lost because of it. But the smartest thing he could do would be the working man's president and go for minimum wage bill.

SHIELDS: George Allen.

ALLEN: Well, I think he'd like to get the education bill passed. That'll take a longer time. I think the best bills that we can pass are elimination of the marriage penalty tax and death taxes. They've passed before. We have a president now who will sign them.

NOVAK: I wish George were correct, but I'm afraid that the first bill to be signed and passed -- passed and signed will be an area where there is no federal responsibility whatsoever, and that's education but everybody likes it and Governor Bush campaigned on it.

SHIELDS: Pointing out then, the Republican Congress, the spending on education went up $6.5 billion this year to $44 billion. No kind of responsibility.

NOVAK: Nothing in the Constitution.

SHIELDS: But I'll tell you what, I'm going to surprise you. I'm going to disappoint some and please others. The first bill he will sign will be a form of McCain-Feingold. That's the prediction.

HUNT: Oh, I hope you're right.


SHIELDS: That's the prediction. Al, I am right.

We will be back to continue this one-hour edition of THE CAPITAL GANG: the aftermath of the Florida recount, John McCain back on the move in Washington and "Outrages of the Week," all after a check of the hour's top news.


SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG.

I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Margaret Carlson.

We re-welcome our guest, Republican Senator-elect George Allen of Virginia.

Good to have you here, George.

ALLEN: Good to be with you.

SHIELDS: Thank you.

the Supreme Court decision not to end claims that Al Gore actually won in Florida.


JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: The win by discount rather than to count leaves the winner illegitimate. The right-wing Supreme Court subsidized this illegitimacy in one of its low moments.


SHIELDS: Florida Governor Jeb Bush named a bipartisan commission to modernize voting procedures.


GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: It also means reaffirming our commitment to making sure that every citizen has faith and confidence in our electoral procedures, even when the margin of victory in a race is very choice.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, will Florida and America really change the way we vote? CARLSON: Well, we've certainly seen it now under a magnifying glass, literally and figuratively. And, yes, we need to get those punch card ballots out of the poorest precincts in the country and give them optical scanners where, in fact, their votes will be counted.

But one of the -- I mean, Jeb Bush needs to do some repair down there. And, you know, he's going to name a commission and tie a blue ribbon around it. But what we know needs to be done is the legislature needs to fix the hand count part of its electoral code and make it so that there is a standard and not intent of the voter because the courts said, no, that's not good enough. We need a standard, make it like Texas with the dimpled chads or not, but just make it so that if this situation comes again before they get the punch card ballots out of there we'll know how to count them.

SHIELDS: George Allen, did you have similar problems in Virginia?

ALLEN: Not of which we're aware, but I think that where we do have some counties, including the county in which I reside, that has these punch card ballots.

SHIELDS: Albermarle?

ALLEN: No, I now live in Chesterfield County.

SHIELDS: Oh, since you made it big.

ALLEN: Yes, Albermarle now has the more technologically advanced.

SHIELDS: I was going to say.

ALLEN: But let me -- I don't think we should turn this into a class warfare or a race issue. I think we need better methods of determining accuracy in who people vote for. It's not just for those in poorer counties, it's for any county. We want every vote to count equally.

And I think that the folks in Florida, the people in Virginia, I think the people all across the nation that have this punch card system are going to examine it and find a more accurate measurement and method of determining votes and also have a paper trail, so to speak, so you have a backup to verify if some of the technology does not work.

So I don't think that Reverend Jackson needs to be trying to inflame racial problems. This is not a class-warfare issue. We just need to get more technologically advanced in our methods of determining votes.


HUNT: Well, I agree with George Allen, but I do think it's going to be a much tougher fight than one would suppose here. Because I think it's going to reveal the two faces of conservatism: one is the genuine conservative populist, typified by the Jeffrey Bell, the inheritors of Reaganism. These are people who, I think, believe in hope, and they want to enlargen the franchise. If it brings some minorities to vote the other way, so be it. They're quite genuine about that. And this is personified by the Jack Kemps.

The other conservatism is a narrow, sometimes hate-based conservatism that wants to really discourage people from voting. And they don't want big turnouts, because they think that brings out the riff raff if you will. They will do everything they can to sandbag the sort of reform that needs to be made, because this genuinely an equal protection issue, Mark.

SHIELDS: Which -- Bob, do you fall in either of those schools?

NOVAK: No, I don't. And, see, I worry about turning out people who shouldn't vote, who shouldn't be permitted to vote, like felons. I don't think they should vote. And they were voting like crazy down in Florida.

Now the interesting thing is California, thank the Lord, was not close, because that makes Florida look like an orderly place with illegal aliens voting, of voting fraud rampant. We've got a lot -- see, the problem is that members of Congress like George are going to get up and make these speeches about getting good machinery in. It's more than good machinery. There's fraud all over this country. There are people who shouldn't be voting that are brought in to vote, there's -- every time the Republicans try to do something about ballot protection they say they're trying to suppress the black vote.

So it's a total hypocrisy to think you're going to get a computer in there and it's going to save fraud. We just all have to pray for landslides so that the warts in the American democracy are not shown.

SHIELDS: Let's get one thing straight. California wasn't close. The Republicans spent $13 million, Gore spent not a nickel and they lost by 13 percentage points. That's the first thing. I know you said thank goodness it wasn't close. It wasn't close.

But I think what's most important to remember is that Cal Tech and MIT this week announced jointly with funding from Carnegie they were going to develop the best, most scientifically advanced way of counting of votes imaginable. Now this is...

NOVAK: But that doesn't have anything to do with fraud.

SHIELDS: No, but it has something to do with the future because exactly what we're talking about is to make it universally applicable. And that has to be the answer, because if we could put an ATM on every corner and out a man on the moon, there's no reason we can't put human beings in ballot boxes and have them counted. That's...

NOVAK: But you didn't respond to me. You didn't...

SHIELDS: Because yours is a silly argument, Bob. It's a frivolous... HUNT: Bob, that was Bob Thornin's (ph) argument four years ago.

NOVAK: He was denied the election, there's no question. They were bringing in aliens to vote in that congressional district. There's proof of it.

SHIELDS: Bob, the Republican administration -- what? -- the Republican administration in California did not find any...

HUNT: Full-moon, peripheral sort of stuff.

CARLSON: Yes, and absentee ballots apparently have the largest amount of fraud in them, and Republicans love that.

And, in fact, in Florida, the rolls were overpurged by a private firm hired by Governor Jeb Bush, which is one of the reasons why...

SHIELDS: Katherine Harris.

CARLSON: ... blacks came to the polls and couldn't vote and they were entitled to vote.

NOVAK: I didn't hear you talk about the felons voting. I've never heard them talk about that. How do you feel about that?

CARLSON: They should be purged from the roles as well. Yes, that's the law (OFF-MIKE)

NOVAK: That's part of the Democratic (OFF-MIKE)

SHIELDS: Bob, is that the way you feel about Michael Milken?

ALLEN: Now who devised...

NOVAK: He didn't vote.

ALLEN: Which party was the butterfly...

HUNT: Should Mike Milken be allowed to vote, Bob?


NOVAK: He should be pardoned by President Clinton.

SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG, the return of John McCain.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Senator John McCain is pushing campaign finance reform as the first order of business in the new Congress.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think we could take it up immediately before the Bush legislative agenda is prepared. And we could dispense with it in two or three weeks, and we could set it in a bipartisan fashion and we could clean that up. And I intend to work very hard for President Bush's agenda. I hope he will work on this with me.

SEN. DON NICKLES (R-OK), MAJORITY WHIP: It is not the right time to do it. I don't think it's the right start that President Bush would like to have.

I can't think of a better way to destroy a honeymoon than to throw out something as partisan and divisive as campaign finance.

I think President Bush would veto McCain-Feingold.


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, is this an inevitable collision we're looking at between George W. Bush and John McCain?

NOVAK: Well Senator McCain seems to want the it. I mean, the way to handle this is not to say I'm going push this through, the implication I'm not going to support his issues if he doesn't support me. What he should do is sit down with the president-elect, and they can make a compromise. They can get some and get some union protection in there. And it doesn't have to be the first thing, but John McCain wants to push forward.

You know, the people still wonder why John McCain as a war hero never said a thing about the disenfranchisement of overseas service personnel during the Florida vote, never said a word about that. And I don't think he's been very friendly in the wake of this election. But if he decides he wants to have a fight with a newly elected Republican president and he's a popular figure, I think that's unfortunate.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, a collision?

CARLSON: John McCain may be a more popular figure than the president-elect. And, in fact, he sucked it up big time and went out and campaigned for the guy who beat him very ugly in South Carolina. So I think there may be more of a dialogue there than we think because of that.

You know, the Senate is not John McCain's home court, campaigning is. He was so popular. He's a celebrity now. I don't think they really want to offend him, but in the Senate he's a bit of a maverick. He says he's got 60 votes to stop a filibuster, and I suspect he may.

NOVAK: Does he have 67 to stop a veto?

CARLSON: Well he may not, he may not.

SHIELDS: I just can't believe that George W. Bush would veto this as his first act. And I just point out that what is -- John McCain is trying to save the Republican Party from itself. Since Ronald Reagan was in the White House, the Republicans have developed a narcotic addiction to soft money. Ronald Reagan won two landslides without any soft money. Since then, the Republicans have averaged 42 percent in presidential elections, even though they spent $115 million more this year than they did two years ago or four years ago. It's up to $40 million in soft money.

This is an addiction. It's out of control. And John McCain's trying to save the party and save the political process from itself -- George Allen.

ALLEN: I'm not one of the 60 that you might be counting there. I think what we need in the federal election laws are reforms, but we need disclosure. And I don't like limits. I think if you're going to do something with corporations, you ought to do it with unions as well.

And actually, what you're seeing -- and I don't care to be partisan about this, but just being factual -- the Democrats as far as soft money this last election, boy did they pour it in in my election and a lot of other elections across the nation, whether it's these League of Conservation voters and these anti-gun folks and all the rest running these negative ads.

What we need is more disclosure. And I think that the limits that are put on the laws right now are archaic. They're from the 1970s. I guarantee you advertising on TV costs way more than it did in the 1970s.

And so I think that a lot of people say, yes, we ought to have reforms and so forth, but let's have some reforms that are based on good constitutional principles, including the Bill of Rights.


HUNT: Well we have it, George, in the McCain-Feingold, supported by an awful lot of Republicans, you know, as a matter of fact. And what Don Nickles, of course, was saying is, is, you know, don't do it now because he knows with campaign finance reform if you don't do it in the beginning you're never going to do it. And what he really is saying is don't take away my special interest gravy train, because all these pols love this stuff.

This is a system that is corrosively corrupt. They've become addicted to it, as you said, Mark.

And I find Bob interesting. Bob all of a sudden invokes principles when it comes to someone advocating and continuing with tax cuts they've been for. John McCain has been fighting this for seven years. But suddenly the Bob Novaks say, get rid of your principles for convenience sake. It may get there the way of my capital gains tax cuts.


HUNT: I want to say something. No, I'm not finished. NOVAK: You mentioned my name, I get to respond.

HUNT: Well, no, of course you do.

John McCain has been up front about this from the beginning. It has nothing to do with whatever tension he may feel with George Bush. And if George Bush were to veto this bill, he has made a mockery of his pledge to restore honor and integrity to the presidency.

NOVAK: Al, I have said on this many times on this program -- you never listen to me -- that I am -- I do feel that soft money is a problem. I feel that the McCain-Feingold bill is unbalanced because it doesn't take care of labor. John McCain always says he's going to fix it. He never does fix it.

And all I'm saying is that instead of getting out and getting time on television and saying, we're going to push this through whether you like it or not, he should sit down -- not give up his principles, sit down with George Bush and do something about the union problem, which is a problem to balance this so that the Democrats -- it's a huge problem. It's not a problem for you, but it's a problem for real Americans.

SHIELDS: George Bush might want to check one thing, Bob Novak. And that is that John McCain had 77 House candidates request and seek his...

NOVAK: Well what does that have to do with...

SHIELDS: Republican candidates for the House.

NOVAK: That has nothing to do with what I'm talking about.

SHIELDS: What he's talking about, what he's chanting stands for something.

George Allen, thank you for being with us. Good luck in the U.S. Senate.

ALLEN: Thank you kindly. Good to be with you all.

SHIELDS: Good to have you here.

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


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

Last week, Robert Novak said this about a leading Florida Republican, House Speaker Tom Feeney: "He's one of the best guys to come along since Tom DeLay. Feeney is one of America's heroes," end quote,

By Thursday, Speaker Feeney was publicly apologizing. For what? For calling Al Gore's gracious concession, quote, "an evil speech," close quote, and calling the V.P., quote, "a loser." close quote.

If this is Mr. Novak's definition of a hero, then he is even more outrageous than Speaker Feeney.

Mr. Novak.

NOVAK: I still like Tom Feeney.

Andrew Cuomo, the outgoing secretary of Housing and Urban Development, is getting ready to run for governor of New York. So it's natural he would distribute a book about himself. But at government expense? "A Vision for Change" is a glossy, 150-page HUD document in living color that depicts Secretary Cuomo as the savior of HUD, with 19 pictures of him, four of them on page 147.

Congressman Robert Ney of Ohio says it might have cost the taxpayer -- get this -- $750,000. That's quite a campaign contribution.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Well he is the savior of HUD.

Unlike Newt Gingrich and his book deal, Hillary Clinton isn't getting her $8 million advance from Rupert Murdoch with his billions of dollars worth of legislation before the House, which unlike the Senate banned such deals. If Hillary were to utter her first spontaneous word and answer the burning question, is the Senate worth all you had to put up with, the book might be worth it.

Anyway, since the independent counsel impoverished her, let's let her trick some publisher into paying her legal bills: It takes a senator.


HUNT: Margaret, I wish she had people around her with better political judgment than that, I must tell you.

Mark, the 106th Congress is finally finished. This was truly a do-nothing Congress, failing to act on boosting the minimum wage for the poorest working Americans or extend the patients' bill of rights to the many victimized by HMOs and insurance companies or clean up the corrupt system of campaign financing.

But they did take care of the special interests that fueled these campaigns, and they brought home the often wasteful pork. The best that can be said about this dismal performance is "good riddance."

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




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