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Capital Gang

Mark Russell Reviews 2000 and Previews the Year to Come

Aired December 23, 2000 - 7:00 p.m. ET



MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Merry Christmas, and welcome to a one-hour edition of CAPITAL GANG.

I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Kate O'Beirne.

America's favorite humorist, Mark Russell, will join us in the second half hour for our annual review of the old year and our forecast for the new year.

The Federal Reserve decided not to cut interest rates and the stock market plunged. The incoming administration sounded distress signals, and the current administration did not like what it heard.


RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's not just something that we're seeing, but a lot of evidence that in fact, the economy has slowed down some.



GENE SPERLING, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: To talk down your own economy just because you think it might help your political positioning or put a little more blame on your predecessor or try to give you a little more credit is really a very short-term strategy. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.


SHIELDS: To deal with a worsening economy. President-Elect Bush selected industrialist Paul O'Neill as secretary of the treasury.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our economy is showing warning signs of a possible slowdown, and so, it's incredibly important for me to find somebody who had vast experience, who is a steady hand, who when he speaks, speaks with authority, and conviction, and knowledge.


SHIELDS: When O'Neill spoke, he stressed his own friendship with Chairman Alan Greenspan.


PAUL O'NEILL, TREASURY SECRETARY NOMINEE: I've made it my business at his request to come by on a fairly regular basis and tell him what I thought he was doing wrong, and what I thought he was doing right. I also understand my place in this, and that place is to let Alan Greenspan make monetary policy.


SHIELDS: Al, what is George Bush's game plan for the U.S. economy?

AL HUNT, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Mark, the economy is going south more quickly than most experts thought, and the Bush people are going try to use this as an excuse to peddle the dangerously big tax cut. More important, however, is cooperation with the Federal Reserve and that's why Paul O'Neill is such a splendid choice.

He's too conservative for my tastes, but he's a man of capacity. he's a man who understands governance and if Bush had picked one of those Wall Street types, there would have been the inevitable unfavorable comparison to Bob Rubin.

Paul O'Neill -- I'm not quite he talks to Chairman Greenspan about, but clearly they have a close relationship. But mark, I think one thing that made us all feel very comfortable this week was when George Bush said that he has confidence in Alan Greenspan. That must have made the Fed chairman feel very good because there are people all over America who were saying, I wonder if Dubya thinks old Greenspan can cut it?

SHIELDS: Were you one of those who questioned whether Dubya felt old Greenspan could cut it?

ROBERT NOVAK, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": I tell you something, the chairman has no clothes because that was a huge mistake. The market knows, everybody I know in finance knows that he should have cut interest rates. Why he didn't cut interest rates? One of his friends said that Alan is a devout coward and that was the reason why.


SHIELDS: One of his friends said that.

NOVAK: One of his friends said that.


NOVAK: Now we have -- because we do need interest rate cuts and we need tax cuts. Now, we get in Paul O'Neill who is a very interesting fellow. He was a bureaucrat, started in the Kennedy administration, worked his way up the line by knowing the inside of the federal budget. He fought the conservatives throughout the Nixon administration on any kinds of issues, considered a liberal in those days.

I've checked his public statements for his whole career. Almost every public statement he made is for a tax increase, tax increase on gasoline, tax increase on energy through carbon, and so he comes in now, and he says that he goes to see Alan Greenspan and gives him advice, but then he says he never talks -- he never -- he defers to him on monetary policy. So, what does he give him advice on? The furniture at the fed?

KATE O'BEIRNE, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, what conservative are hoping, Bob, is that he defers to Governor Bush on tax policy. Presumably, he supports the Bush-Cheney tax cut package or he wouldn't be the treasury secretary, even though he doesn't have a history, certainly, as a tax cutter or a supply-sider.

He is a tax reformer, though. He's criticized the lengthy, overly complicated tax code and that's a helpful sign. So, because he's not a traditional, wouldn't have been the choice of conservative economists. They seem pleased enough with his selection, though.

He was an outspoken business opponent of Hillary health care, which won him some points from that crowd, but you know what I'm not going to miss a bit, Mark, the underlings at the White House -- most recently Gene Sperling -- attacking George Bush and Dick Cheney for saying what Al Hunt and everybody else is recognizes, this economy is softening.

SHIELDS: Well, I'm just kind of befuddled, I have to admit. I come to...

NOVAK: As usual.

SHIELDS: I come to you, hoping Bob, in the spirit of the season -- best I can understand it, the last eight years, the prosperity the country has experienced, Bill Clinton deserves no credit for. But for the potential adversity that lies ahead in the Bush administration, Bill Clinton -- it's the Clinton recession. Now, I mean is there any fairness? Is there any justice? Is there a centilla of decency left in you, Bob?

NOVAK: There's no decency left in me, but you happen to be right. This is not a Clinton recession, and I think they would be ill advised to say so, but as a politician can't resist doing this. This is a Greenspan recession. They have overtightened the economy, six interest rate increases are just too much and why he did not at least -- it's too late to affect anything immediately, but at least he could have given a signal -- Chairman Greenspan could have given a signal to the markets that would have been a lot better.

Let me say another thing about -- just one word about Paul O'Neill. I believe the big problem with Paul O'Neill is that not that he's been a tax increaser all his life. I agree with you, Kate. He's going follow with the president and wants his tax cuts. I don't think there's any evidence that he understands the global economy. He was a CIO of a company in the old industry, and we're in a situation right now where the whole global economy is in shaky shape. I'd like to have somebody a little more expert than that.

HUNT: Well, first of all, the CEO of a major international company and he's not from the loony right, but I suspect he does understand the international economy, Bob. But let me say a word about what I'm sure was you unintended cheap shot against Chairman Greenspan when you called -- you quoted someone as calling him a devout coward. Someone who said it anonymously, of course. They never go on the record for stuff like that.

This is a guy who, whether you agree or you disagree with all of his policies, who for seven years accommodated an expansion when a lot of traditional conservatives said you shouldn't do it. This is a guy who recognize the change was there before a lot of people who you turn to for advice did recognize this. We've had the greatest expansion in the history of this nation over the last eight years, and for you to say that Greenspan is a devout coward -- Bob, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

NOVAK: I'm not ashamed, because he should have eased Tuesday. He's going to ease in six weeks, why didn't he do it then? Is it possible that because he had breakfast with George W. Bush on Monday morning -- as you know, his relationship with the Bush family has not been very good -- that he didn't feel he could do a favor for Bush on the next day. I can't think of any other reason for it.


HUNT: Is it possible, Bob, you just are caught up in the passions of the moment, Bob? Have patience.

SHIELDS: And I would say this, that Alan Greenspan, as little as I know him, I don't pretend to be an intimate of his but he is not someone who visit the sins, alleged or real, of the father upon the son.

NOVAK: Are you sure of that?

SHIELDS: I am absolutely positive, and you should be too, Bob. The gang will be back to look at the emerging Bush Cabinet. Are conservatives getting stiffed? Let's hope not.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. After coming under fire from the right for failing to include conservatives in his Cabinet, President-Elect Bush nominated as attorney general conservative Senator John Ashcroft, who was defeated for re-election in November from Missouri.


JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: The pursuit of liberty and equal justice for every citizen requires that we foster integrity in the nation's highest law enforcement office.


SHIELDS: Before the Ashcroft nomination was announced, Vice President-Elect Dick Cheney defended more liberal appointments, particularly New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman to be environmental protection administrator.


CHENEY: The governors like Christie Todd Whitman and Pataki and many others didn't ask to say, well, what's your stand on abortion or what's your stand on gun control. They just pitched in and helped when we needed and I think what we want and what President-Elect Bush had made very clear we want is a broadly representative Cabinet that is inclusive, that takes in a broad sweep of the Republican Party.


SHIELDS: Bob, does this Cabinet bring in a broad sweep, that is all segments of the Republican Party?

NOVAK: Well, it was bringing in all segments except the conservative base until they named John Ashcroft. I mean, he is the first and so far the only well-known conservative to be in the Cabinet. These were the people who nominated George W. Bush. These were the people who really elected him.

Now, I don't think that you can have all conservatives in the Cabinet, but, my goodness, you've got to have some, and if Mark Racicot hadn't been eased out of the attorney general position, they would really be -- there would really be a rebellion going on out there because for one reason or another Governor Bush vetoed his next door neighbor, Governor Frank Keating of Oklahoma from that spot.

We still have the question of secretary of defense, and apparently President-Elect Bush has not hit it off very well, I am told, with Senator -- former Senator Dan Coats of Indiana, who was supposed to be there for the Pentagon's post. So, I think you need another conservative, and you will have to appease the right a little bit.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, two quick question. One is, why the vehement opposition to Mark Racicot, who I thought emerged not only as a conservative, but as a very forceful effective spokesman for George Bush in the post-election period?

O'BEIRNE: Yes, he was very able during...

SHIELDS: Just answer that, if you would, and whatever you want to say. But I'm just curious -- this could be an all-out -- full court press against him.

O'BEIRNE: Well, an awful lot of his critics object to much of what he did as governor of Montana. That's a conservative state, Mark. SHIELDS: But he was a conservative governor.

O'BEIRNE: No, he has a record of opposing school choice, vetoing paycheck protection, a terrific opportunity he would have in Montana on the side of the working guy as opposed to the lazy unions. No, he has had a surprisingly liberal record given that he's in a conservative state like Montana. So, it would not have been popular with conservatives and John Ashcroft is a popular choice for conservatives.

Christie Todd Whitman -- Governor Whitman at EPA is a huge missed opportunity. There are good pro-business, pro-growth -- as a environmental agenda. It would be terrific, with the Republican Congress, to finally have the opportunity to press that. My expectation is not that Governor Whitman is in that camp. I suspect an awful lot of Carol Brown and staff would be perfectly happy remaining at the EPA under Governor Whitman, but I think it's the governor -- President-Elect Bush's clear intent to have the Cabinet meeting under a big tent and he wants all kinds of Republicans around the table.

SHIELDS: Al, it just strikes me that John Ashcroft got that position in large part by the graciousness with which he conceded defeat to the late Governor Mel Carnahan and his widow, Jean.

HUNT: I'll come back to that in a minute, Mark. I think for the most part that Prime Minister Cheney has put together a solid Cabinet. I think these are pretty good appointments and I think the fact that Bob's upset is a testament to that. I think John Ashcroft gets too much credit for that so-called graciousness. He lost by 51,000 votes. I mean, I'm sorry, nobody in the history of American politics ever had anything overturned. It was a frivolous legal case to pretend that you could bring that.

I also think it's going to cause problems because he's anathema to many African-Americans. The black turnout in Missouri was double what it was four years ago for only one reason. It had nothing to do with Al Gore or George W. Bush. They came out to defeat John Ashcroft, who had, I think, very unfairly come out against a very qualified black judge, Ronnie White.

I think he would have been much better off -- he being George W., appointing Frank Keating, who is just as conservative, but has a great deal more charm and is sometimes mean-spirited as John Ashcroft. I am told, however, by some people at least that one of the reasons Keating didn't get is that he -- the knife was put in his back by none other than Jim Baker, the consiglieri (ph) of Florida, because Keating had the audacity to leave Baker's Treasury Department and go work for Justice.

O'BEIRNE: That's a bad rap on John Ashcroft, it really is and presumably he'll have an easy time in the Senate getting confirmed because his colleagues know better than that. They know that's a bad rap. They've worked with John Ashcroft, and know what a decent guy he is. SHIELDS: But I will say this, the fight over Ronnie White's nomination was as bitter as any since Bork. I mean, it was really a bitter, bitter fight in the Senate for a judge coming up, and Kit Bond, who had sponsored him originally, his colleague, was pushed off him by John Ashcroft running for re-election.


NOVAK: If I could just say something, first place I'm not terribly upset by this Cabinet. I'm not surprised by it. I didn't expect a very conservative Cabinet, but I'm just reporting to you what the conservative base is saying.

Secondly, Al, I know -- the thing that interests me about you is that it's not that you're not satisfied with very few conservatives in the Cabinet, you don't want any conservatives. Now, John Ashcroft...

SHIELDS: He said Frank Keating.

NOVAK: Now, John Ashcroft is a movement conservative more than -- I like Governor Keating, too, but more than Governor Keating is, and I think what's very interesting, Al, that when we on "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS," when we interview the great Pat Moynihan and his swan song on leaving the Senate, he had nothing but praise for John Ashcroft as a fine gentleman, and a very good choice for attorney general. It's not bad to have at least one movement conservative in the Cabinet.

O'BEIRNE: There's another good conservative heading up the RNC. I think Governor Jim Gilmore of Virginia was a great choice for the RNC.


HUNT: Kate, he won't be heading the RNC. That's a figurehead. You know that. The RNC will be run by Karl Rove in the White House.

O'BEIRNE: Let's see whether or not he can -- he'll be more hands-on than you suspect because he's that kind of governor, and he delivered this fall, unlike so many other Republican governors, he picked up a Senate seat, picked House seat and comfortable delivered his state to George Bush.

HUNT: I would quickly say that John Ashcroft across the board, I think, Kate -- I know we disagree on this -- has been mean-spirited. He's a guy who led fights against special education funds. It went well beyond Ronnie White, and I think Frank Keating, who I would have disagreed with strongly, would have brought charm.


NOVAK: He's less mean-spirited than some journalists.

HUNT: Nobody on this program, right, Bob?

SHIELDS: Certainly, not. And I will say this in conclusion, and that is that the conservatives gripped and groaned all week they didn't have a conservative in the Cabinet. If they get John Ashcroft, they get the position that is the heart and the soul of an administration.

NOVAK: Right.

SHIELDS: Because everything is in the Justice Department from antitrust to Civil Rights to environment. It's all there.


NOVAK: It's the second most important post. You know what the most important is?


SHIELDS: The most important post, Bob, is the one probably...


NOVAK: Treasury.

SHIELDS: Treasury.

HUNT: These are the same people who said the Clinton administration politicized the Justice Department, we're going to depoliticize it with John Ashcroft? Sure we are.

SHIELDS: Good point, Al. That's it. Next on CAPITAL GANG, Bill Clinton's last stand.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. With time running out, President Clinton considered a trip to North Korea, issued new air quality regulations, and signed his last budget bill.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These measures will preserve our environment and protect thousands of children from the agony of asthma and other respiratory diseases.



CLINTON: In a few moments, it will be my honor to sign the very last budget bill I will sign as president, and in so many ways, it could truly be said we saved the best for last.



CLINTON: This clearly is the biggest and best education budget in our nation's history, and it will make a difference in the lives of millions of young people.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, is there anything wrong with this farewell by the president you've come to love and cover?

O'BEIRNE: Two things, Mark. It's awfully late. I've been waiting for it, seems like for longer than eight years, and I have a sinking feeling it's not a farewell, that he's not going anywhere. He should be grateful for that budget bill, generous Republicans, I guess in the holiday spirit, gave him $27 billion more than he even asked for...


SHIELDS: With a b.. ` O'BEIRNE: Yes, so he should be very grateful there, but look, lame ducks should not be flying off for foreign policy photo ops especially to dangerous spots like North Korea. He just can't leave the stage.


HUNT: Mark, this president is leaving office with the highest job approval rating of any president since World War II. I mean, I'm sorry. That's just absolutely the way the American people view him right now. I don't think he's going to go to North Korea. If the Bush want to stop him, it's within their power. If Colin Powell says no, he won't go. If Colin Powell doesn't say no, then I think he has every right to go. I think we have to give him tremendous credit today for, you know, or rather yesterday he pardoned Dan Rostenkowski and Archie Shaffer, who deserved to be pardoned. And no, I don't think he wants to go easily because he's a man of incredible vitality and energy. And I think we're going miss him. Mark.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, I'll make a prediction right now: You're going miss him.

NOVAK: I'm going to miss him like a sharp stick in the eye. I can't tell you how glad I am to see him going because he's an embarrassment, and you may forget some of the things he's done, because I didn't thing he was capable of doing some of the things he admitted doing, so I'm very upset with him and he should -- he's the lamest of lame ducks.

Usually, the president during the transition -- the outgoing president takes a very low profile, but the only thing I'm worried about, the only thing of importance is this North Korea trip. If George Bush persists as he is now in saying it's OK if he goes, it's not in my watch, he's making a mistake because this will have long- lasting, profoundly deleterious consequences with our allies in Japan and South Korea.

SHIELDS: Let me just ask one question of you and Kate, and that is: Why does Bill Clinton have the highest job rating? I mean, are people dumb? Are they uncaring? Are they indifferent? I mean, the higher job rating than Ronald Reagan in his eight year or Dwight Eisenhower in his eighth year.

O'BEIRNE: People have separated the policy agenda with welfare reform and dropping crime rates and the good strong economy from his -- he doesn't have high personal rating, but the public understand he has been too small for the office, that he has demeaned the office. They understand that.

SHIELDS: His personal rating has climbed considerably, though.

NOVAK: If you look at some of the people that we have elected and re-elected to office in this country, and I won't name names, the people are often wrong, and that's why you have to have weak government to make up for the mistakes of the people.

HUNT: There was something wrong with Coolidge and some others, Bob, but let me tell you this, Mark. I think actually Bill Clinton deserves credit for acting very presidential the last five or six weeks. He really didn't get involved in the Florida fracas at all and he showed a lot more grace towards George W. Bush than Mr. Bush's father showed toward him eight years ago.

SHIELDS: The gang will be back with the outrage of the week.


SHIELDS: And now for the outrage of the week. President-Elect Bush's choice to head the Republican National Committee, Jim Gilmore, won the governorship of Virginia by promising to end and to eliminate the state's unpopular car tax. But he did not say how he would pay for it.

Now Mr. Gilmore wants to use national tobacco settlement funds intended to recoup health costs, help farmers, and fund anti-tobacco programs, to foot the $1 billion cost of repealing his car tax. It may seem smart politics in tobacco growing, anti-tax Virginia, but it's a terrible idea that defies the intent of the settlement and insults millions whose own health has been destroyed by smoking -- Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Joe Andrew is a tough young Hoosier who performed well as Democratic National Chairman, and he wanted another term. Al Gore agreed, and so did most DNC members. But not the Clintons. Bill and Hillary wanted Washington fixer Terry McAuliffe to head the party. McAuliffe originated Clinton fund-raising scams, was deep in the teamsters election scandal, and guaranteed money for the Clinton house in Chappaqua. The Clintons wanted him, and DNC members meekly acquiesced.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: President Clinton has switched license tags on his limo to adopt the local trendy District of Columbia license plate slogan, "Taxation without representation." Clinton is pandering in his final weeks to locals complaining about the city's federal status, which prevents the congressional representation that only states are provided. On average, state residents receive about $5,000 per capita from the federal government while D.C. residents receive 10 times as much. Local license tags should have a note to federal taxpayers: You paid for this car.


HUNT: Never knew Bob was such a Joe Andrew fan.

Well, Mark, what I want to ask is why are Republicans so afraid of looking at and possibly counting all those uncounted Florida ballots? This week Governor Jeb Bush assailed "The Orlando Sentinel" and other news organizations which were starting to analyze 180,000 votes cast but not counted in the presidential race. Many major news organizations are part of this effort for a very simple reason: the people's right to know. That's what a free and aggressive press is all about. Whatever outcome emerges, and who knows what it'll be, we have no reason to fear the truth.

SHIELDS: We'll be back to continue this one-hour edition of CAPITAL GANG with America's favorite humorist, Mark Russell, who joins us to look back on 2000 and forward to 2001 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 and Robert Novak and Kate O'Beirne.

Our guest, back for his annual visit, is America's national and natural treasure, humorist Mark Russell, who will be at the Ford's Theater here Washington from the 16th to the 21st of January. Get your tickets now.

MARK RUSSELL, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: Thank you very much, and happy holidays to all of you.

I'm here to install a little harmony in the spirit of healing. You're snipping at each other, snippy, snippy -- healing in the common ground in the holiday. Can you say Christmas? You can say that anymore.

SHIELDS: Yes, you can.

NOVAK: Yes, we can say that.

RUSSELL: Yes, that's what television is. You can say orgasm on television, you can't say Christmas. Now what is this?

SHIELDS: We now announce our coveted awards for the year 2000.

First, the most valuable player of the year -- Bob Novak.

NOVAK: A surprise winner, James A. Baker III came out of oblivion to bring order out of disorder to the Republicans when they were stymied by the monolithic Democratic recount effort in Florida. Jimmy Baker put them in shape to put them there. Everybody had forgotten about him. And you know what I love about it the most?

SHIELDS: What is that you love the most, Bob?

NOVAK: Is his liberal idolaters in the media were just so unhappy that their friend Baker hadn't proved a liberal in this case.

SHIELDS: Mark Russell?

RUSSELL: I was happy to see both Baker and Warren Christopher coming out of the assisted living facilities to settle the mess in Florida.

Now what I've got for most valuable performer -- and I put the emphasis on performer -- and its Pat Buchanan, who recently celebrated Hanukkah in Palm Beach, Florida. Pat got a bigger percentage of the Jewish vote in Palm Beach than Ehud Barak got in Jerusalem.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne?

O'BEIRNE: He went to his Palm Beach base.

I have two candidates. Secretary of State -- Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, I think she performed beautifully, showed she had more testosterone than the typical male Republican. But Ted Olson before the Supreme Court twice as Bush's lawyer beat the party of trial lawyers. And I took special pleasure in that.


HUNT: Oh, god, I just -- I don't know what to do.

O'BEIRNE: No muddles.

HUNT: Between Ted Olson and -- let me tell you, I am not an idolater of Jimmy Baker. I've never even called him Jimmy. Look, I don't think you can give anyone in politics. It was a lousy year. I don't think you can give it -- the movies were terrible this year, no one in business or labor. It's kind of like the Oscars, some years you just don't give it. If you do, though, in the spirit of Florida it was a tie: Tiger Woods and Mark Russell.

SHIELDS: Hey, that's not a bad -- not a bad -- I'll say the most valuable performer was -- and emphasis on performer -- was the House Republican employees, who, with their room, board, air fare and tuition paid by the Bush campaign flew down to Miami to spontaneously organize a revolt in the public building which led to the stopping of the counting in Miami-Dade and which preserved George Bush's precarious, and I question whether it's authentic, lead.

HUNT: Roger Stone in the trailer.

SHIELDS: Roger Stone in the trailer and Bob Novak covering it like Dixie covers dust? Dew covers Dixie -- I don't know. Next, the worst performance of 2000 -- Mark Russell.

RUSSELL: Well, I have two: Rick Lazio, who of course lost in New York state to Hillary Clinton. He gave the residents of upstate New York, including my hometown of Buffalo, the impression that he just was not up on their issues. And the irony of it is that Lazio became carpetbagger of the year.

And the other one, of course, is the media for election night, obviously giving Florida to Gore, and then a half hour later they wipe the egg off their faces and give it to Bush. Then they sent out for more eggs.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne?

O'BEIRNE: The worst performance from a veteran politician this year has got to be Al Gore -- Al Gore the candidate, Al Gore debater, Al Gore the kisser. It was just a terrible performance. In peace and prosperity, with this great economy and a quiet policy environment he couldn't even carry his home state of Tennessee.


HUNT: Worst performance, Mark?

SHIELDS: Worst performance.

HUNT: I think it was the diversity director of Bob Jones U.

SHIELDS: I was going to say, my worst performance of the year was George W. Bush at Bob Jones University, I just pray that John McCain was right when he said the Republicans are the party of Abraham Lincoln, not Bob Jones.

RUSSELL: Let's be fair now. When Bob Jones did away with the ban on interracial dating, all the Confederate flags were lowered to half-staff.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak?

NOVAK: The worst performance of the year -- it may sound like a lifetime achievement award -- is Janet Reno, because how can you say one year is worse than the other? But I think this year was just a little worse than any in which she just refused to do anything about the scandals by Al Gore and Bill Clinton, she completely politicized the Justice Department. It's going to take a lot of cleaning out, but her eight years have to hit a new gold standard for lousy attorney generals.

SHIELDS: And now -- that was a big surprise, wasn't it really? And now for the biggest surprise of the year -- Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Biggest surprise to an awful lot of their critics is that the not -- supposedly not Housebroken Republicans in the House had the most decisive win on election night. The Senate candidates, you know, delivered a dismal performance, there was a too-close presidential race, and look at the House Republicans -- only lost one seat, which must...


O'BEIRNE: ... which must annoy -- the conservative leadership, which must annoy their critics to no end.


HUNT: Mark, I was just shocked to learn that Bobby Knight abused his players. I always thought a coach...

SHIELDS: Indiana University coach.

HUNT: The Indiana University -- I always thought of Coach Knight as the Mother Teresa of Hoosierland. I was stunned.

SHIELDS: The biggest surprise truly had to be that an underdog campaign based solely on candor, character and a reform platform captured the imagination of the country and left John McCain as the most popular elected public figure in the United States. I know it surprised Bob Novak -- Bob.

NOVAK: I'm amazed that nobody has use this before: Al Gore losing the state of Tennessee. There's not one person here who would have said even a week before the election that he would lose it.

RUSSELL: Well, he carried the District of Columbia, his boyhood home. What do you want? The biggest surprise if you look back now...


RUSSELL: ... I ask you to look back one year ago, right at this time, that dreaded Y2K glitch. And it turned out to be the Florida election. And the Florida election turned out to be the biggest political story in years that we could discuss in front of the children. And I think that we ought to in the future think about electing a president the way they elect a pope in room, set fire to the ballots and see what color the smoke is.

SHIELDS: I like it, and we have going to quickly now: rookie of the year -- Al.

HUNT: I would say it was Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, who was considered for the vice presidency. When he didn't get it -- the vice presidential nomination. When he didn't get it, he didn't pout. He enthusiastically supported the ticket and set him up for the future.

SHIELDS: May not be the most popular person in the Senate locker room, but the rookie of the year has to be "if you can make it there you can make it anywhere," New York's new senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

NOVAK: You took it right out of my mouths. She is by far the rookie of the year -- unattractive, unappealing, obnoxious, a carpetbagger, and she wins in a landslide. RUSSELL: Healing -- just two minutes ago I was talking about the healing.

I loved her victory speech. I want to thank everyone who helped in my campaign, including my husband. I still love him. I'll miss him.

Are you ready for my rookie?


RUSSELL: My rookie of the year...


RUSSELL: The new president of Russia Vladimir Putin, former KGB agent, who was often seen whispering to Boris Yeltsin, give me your car keys, you're in no shape to drive.


O'BEIRNE: The academy this year is almost unanimous. Hillary Clinton's my rookie of the year. She, as a novice candidate, she moved all her all her baggers to New York and campaigned and campaigned and campaigned and pulled it off.

SHIELDS: That's right.

Mark Russell and THE GANG will be back with our fearless forecast for 2001 -- only two.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

And now THE GANG's predictions for 2001.

First, who will be the most important newsmaker of the year?

I'll go first. Interestingly, the most important news maker of this year will be the secretary of state, Colin Powell, who will be the center of some real controversy in this Bush administration.

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: The biggest newsmaker, for better or for worse -- I hope it's for better, will be the secretary of the Treasury, Paul O'Neill. He's got a steep learning curve, and it depends on who's teaching him.

SHIELDS: Mark Russell?

RUSSELL: I predict Laura Bush will shock the nation when she spearheads a radical health care plan, and dozens of pundits will scramble to say deja vu all over again.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne. O'BEIRNE: I have a "twofer," both the newsmaker and a gift for Al for Christmas.

I think Tom DeLay in going to be much in the news next year, which will please Al to no end, I'm sure. He's going to be critical to Governor Bush's success on the Hill legislatively, and I think you're going to be surprised to see bipartisan support rallied by the best majority whip in history, in memory, helping out Governor Bush with his agenda in the House.

SHIELDS: He'll either be critical to Governor Bush on Capitol Hill or critical of Governor Bush on Capitol Hill.

Al Hunt.

HUNT: Mark, I think the biggest newsmaker is obviously going to be George W. Bush, providing that "Big Time" gives him enough leash.

SHIELDS: Next -- "Big Time," "Big Time."

Next, what will be the crisis of the year? Bob Novak, my "Big Time."

NOVAK: I think it's going to be Russia. Your friend President Putin is a dangerous person. They're starting a totalitarian state. They're trying to encroach on Georgia and other former states of the Soviet Union, sending arms to Iran. And what's -- the Clinton administration just said, its not our problem. What will the Bush administration do?

RUSSELL: I agree with you, because in Russia, unfortunately, the comeback kid's going to be Karl Marx.

SHIELDS: I'll say this, Zell Miller won't let him do anything with Georgia.

But go ahead, Mark.

RUSSELL: All right, where are we here? Crisis of the year, let me tell you something. In about 10 months, you're going to see a population explosion, a critical mass. Nine months after last election day, a record number of babies named Chad will be born, and many of them will have dimples.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne?

O'BEIRNE: I think a crisis to look forward to, unfortunately, is energy prices. And a related problem could be Saddam Hussein, who's going to look up eight years later and see a Bush, a Cheney and a Powell back in power.

HUNT: Oh, Mark, no, I think this is going to be when Bob Novak and his fellow multimillionaires don't get as large a tax increase as they expect...

NOVAK: Tax cut. HUNT: I'm sorry, tax cut. When Bob and his fellow multimillionaires don't get as large a tax cut as they expect, look, Mark, for the needy rich to take to the streets -- or at least be chauffeured to the streets.

SHIELDS: Chauffeured to the streets.

I agree with Kate in large part. I think the first big crisis will be next year, will be the Middle East, I really do.

Next, what will be George W. Bush's approval rating one year from now, Mark Russell?

RUSSELL: How can we tell what his approval rating's going to be? It depends on how well Dick Cheney does. You see, Cheney will go to the summit conferences, Bush will go to the state funerals, and I am comforted by the fact that Dick Cheney, former secretary of defense, so we wouldn't have to worry about George W. Bush bombing Canada when he meant Cambodia.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne?

O'BEIRNE: I think there's every chance President Bush's approval rating could be 60 percent a year from now. I think the public's going to ...

SHIELDS: Sixty percent?

O'BEIRNE: ... like him. He's authentic, I think he'll be steady, they'll be very grateful for the tax cut he gives them, maybe 60.


HUNT: Fifty -- 50-50.

SHIELDS: It's a 50-50 year.

I think it will be somewhere between 49 and 51 -- Bob.

NOVAK: I think it will be 55 percent and going up. It could go a little higher. But I think he'll be a popular president.

SHIELDS: OK, and who will be the dominant Democrat of next year -- Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Bill Clinton, Bill Clinton, Bill Clinton. He's the leader, the governor in exile, he is not going anywhere.


HUNT: Oh, my friend Kate's wrong. Tom Daschle.

SHIELDS: Senator -- Senate Democratic leader.

HUNT: Senate Democratic leader, most important figure in the Congress, Tom Daschle.

HUNT: I think Tom Daschle's going to be the most important Democrat, too, because of the 50-50. I mean, the unique role. And he and Trent Lott will be paired off. And I there will be a real contest there.

NOVAK: You shouldn't have a parochial attitude about Capitol Hill. He'll be the most powerful -- he'll be the most powerful figure on Capitol Hill. The most important Democrat by far will be Clinton, but not Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton. She is going to be the new face of the Democratic Party, leading it -- well, we'll see where she leads it.

O'BEIRNE: Left, we know that.

SHIELDS: Yes, sir.

RUSSELL: Thanks a lot.

SHIELDS: Dr. Russell.

RUSSELL: Well for a different reason, I'm grateful to Bill Clinton, because now I know what to do with my old "free Danny Rostenkowski" t-shirts. But I got Clinton, too, because in a recent interview he said he might like to be a roving ambassador. So we know he's got that roving part down pretty good.

SHIELDS: Who will be the second most important or interesting Democrat? I mean, who most do you want to see for your art form and your creative juices?

RUSSELL: Well, I -- one of my predictions was that by right about now that 200 elderly Florida voters would suddenly remember that their original intent was to vote for Michael Dukakis.

HUNT: Mark, wouldn't you like to see Newt Gingrich come back through on the other side?

RUSSELL: He's still back. He's still in the show by the way. He -- I don't throw them out. I keep them longer than the country does.

HUNT: Oh, Mark, I miss him big time.

SHIELDS: On the 16 and the 21st at Ford's Theater, January. THE GANG and Mark Russell will be back with the "Outrage of the Year."


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

Communist Cuba, with an economy the size of metropolitan Paducah, Kentucky, and an army that makes nobody nervous, is a dangerous threat to the United States and must be quarantined. Communist China, which bullies its neighbors, sells nuclear technology to outlaw nations, profits from goods made from slave labor, burns churches and imprisons priests, is our newest best friend. Why? The abject hypocrisy of the American establishment, both economic and political. When money speaks, the truth is too often silenced -- Bob Novak.

NOVAK: The moment of truth for Al Gore came November 8th. The first statewide count gave George W. Bush a narrow lead, and the mechanical recount showed him still ahead. Now was the time for Vice President Gore to concede. Instead, he launched the Democratic Party's recount mechanism: lawsuits, interpretive recounts, disenfranchisement of overseas military voters. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, it didn't work. But it caused 36 days of chaos and helped deepen the divisions of America by questioning the legitimacy of the president-elect.

RUSSELL: My outrage is the way John McCain, a war hero, was treated by the Reverend Pat Robertson, whose senator father got him out of combat in Korea. Last February, Robertson said, quote, "If John McCain gets the nomination, Christians should not vote for anybody," unquote. So John McCain becomes the lion thrown to the Christians by the Reverend Robertson.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Attorney general Janet Reno's tenure began with the deadly assault in Waco and will thankfully soon end, but not before being marked by the outrage of this year: the potentially deadly raid on the Gonzalez home in Miami to seize a terrified child. To appease Fidel Castro at any cost, Reno denied Elian Gonzalez his day in court and elected to settle a custody dispute with scores of agents brandishing automatic weapons.


HUNT: Mark, it was the United States Supreme Court that said hand recounts are fine and punch cards do discriminate against voters. But the high court also said the Florida Supreme Court erred in not adopting a uniform standard for a recount, but it would have been illegal if they had adopted such a uniform standard. A recount was fine, the court said, except time had run out. Why? Because the majority of the United States Supreme Court stopped an orderly and appropriate recount of the closest presidential election in history in order to hand it to their preferred candidate, George W. Bush.

SHIELDS: Mark Russell, we have time for just one healing comment before we leave.

RUSSELL: Well, if we all get together and just hold hands and hope that a year from tonight CNN will still be here.

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

Next on CNN, THE WORLD TODAY with the latest on George W. Bush's Cabinet.



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