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Capital Gang

How Did the New President Perform in His First Week in Office?

Aired January 27, 2001 - 7:00 p.m. ET



MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to a one-hour CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields with the full CAPITAL GANG: Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, in routine Senate testimony, dropped a bombshell.


ALAN GREENSPAN, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: We have had a very dramatic slowing down, and indeed we are probably very close to zero at this particular moment.


SHIELDS: Because of huge budget surplus forecasts, Greenspan advocated tax cuts now.


GREENSPAN: Starting that process sooner rather than later likely would help smooth the transition to longer-term fiscal balance. And should current economic weakness spread beyond what now appears likely, having a tax cut in place may, in fact, do noticeable good.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What Alan Greenspan was saying to the nation is that in order to make sure our economy grows we have to have good monetary and sound fiscal policy, a component of which is wise spending as well as tax relief.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Alan Greenspan has been a great fiscal watchdog. I think he's going to regret what he said today.


SHIELDS: Earlier in the week, Senator Zell Miller of Georgia broke Democratic ranks to support the Bush tax cut by joining Republican Senator Phil Gramm in introducing it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. ZELL MILLER (D), GEORGIA: Who are we to play eenie-meenie- miney-moe with our taxpayers? All of them combined have made this overpayment, and all of them combined should get a break from this oppressive tax structure.


SHIELDS: Al, is resistance to the Bush tax cut now crumbling in the political world?

AL HUNT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Mark, as you know, I think Alan Greenspan is one of the great public servants of all times. Unlike others, I have not savaged him in recent weeks. But I think January 25th may live as a day of fiscal infamy, because the message the politicians took from Greenspan's testimony was quite simple. It was (SPEAKING IN FRENCH).

Now, Bob, I know you're a Classisicist, not a Romanticist. Let the good times roll. We've had a structure of fiscal discipline in recent years. You can credit Clinton, you can credit the Republican Congress, you can say it was deadlocked, but it's existed. And I think very few politicians will pay any attention to the nuances of what Greenspan said. He said we shouldn't let any tax cut get in the way of the surplus or debt targets. He didn't endorse the $1.6 trillion cut. He also said it's not going to be a, you know, a stimulus.

They're going to -- the message for the GOP is going to be it's 1981 redux. Let that K Street crowd get in there and start their bidding. Democrats are spending investment programs, everybody wants pork, defense. I think this is going to be a sorry day.

SHIELDS: A sorry day.

Bob Novak, when Al Hunt spoke about those who had savaged Alan Greenspan in the past, he cast a sidewise glance at you.

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": I've been critical of him. I don't think I was ever as critical about him as you were. You made him out to be a fool.


NOVAK: You know, I would say this. It was absolutely delicious when Chairman Greenspan's erstwhile friends on the left, like you, like Chuck Schumer, like the other Democrats, they're just so distressed that this erstwhile conservative Republican returned to their roots. They felt the way a lot of conservatives felt eight years ago when he was supporting the Clinton tax increase.

What he was saying is that the tax -- that the burden -- that the tax surplus is so big that it creates a burden for the government in dealing with it unless you give it back to the people. The dirty little secret -- and we know what it is, don't we, Kate -- is that the liberals want to take that surplus and...


NOVAK: ... spend it. And it's this tax -- this debt reduction is nonsense. They want to spend it. And suddenly Alan Greenspan is back with the good guys, wanting to give it back to the taxpayers.

SHIELDS: Go ahead -- Margaret, let me just say Senator Fritz Hollings, the ranking member of the Budget Committee said to Alan Greenspan you're going to start a stampede. And I think a stampede...


SHIELDS: It was a green light. It was a green light for both spending, as Al described, and for the tax cuts.

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": Imagine how terrible it would be to spend this surplus on more teachers or more police officers or fixing the voting machines. I mean wouldn't that be just a dreadful, terrible thing?

Now the sound of the champagne corks popping on your side, Bob, was because people didn't listen. There were some notes of caution in there. Alan Greenspan has a great record. People -- the parties at interest should be inclined to follow him anywhere because he led us into this prosperity. But he did say a few things that were cautious. Let's see the surplus. Let's kind of have it in our hands before we spend it on a tax cut. Did you hear that, Bob?

NOVAK: He didn't say that.

CARLSON: Yes, he did.

NOVAK: He didn't say that.

CARLSON: He said it's "conditional on actual surpluses," and that's a quote. And...

NOVAK: Well there are surpluses now.

O'BEIRNE: The kind of spending spree Congress has been on is also conditional on a surplus actually showing up, but they haven't much cared in committing us to new spending.

Despite what Senator Schumer says, I think Alan Greenspan remains a great fiscal watchdog. The problem is Senator Schumer and his Democratic colleagues haven't been, nor have most members of the Republican Congress. And Alan Greenspan has always said that he preferred tax cuts to undisciplined spending. And we've seen nothing but undisciplined spending. These surpluses amount to $5 trillion over the next 10 years. You can pay for plenty of police officers and teachers.

But I think George Bush has himself to thank for Alan Greenspan's support. He stuck with that tax cut during the campaign when it was being trashed, and he's been emphatic about it in meetings with lukewarm Republicans. I think Alan Greenspan only dared to displease official Washington because the president himself had shown that he was committed to this tax cut.

SHIELDS: Let me just ask one question, I mean quite frankly, we are committed, both parties are, to increased defense spending. We are committed, the president has made his initial sally into much increased spending over Bill Clinton in education. Now, I mean, aren't we starting down a spending spree?

HUNT: Mark...

O'BEIRNE: Five trillion over ten years?

HUNT: Wait, wait, wait, let me go to Kate's $5 trillion figure. So first of all, over half of it is Social Security and Medicare.

O'BEIRNE: Two and a half trillion.

HUNT: Now $2.5 trillion is a phony figure. You know what that assumes? That assumes these so-called "tax extenders" aren't going to be extended. Of course they will. That assumes that spending won't increase according to population, which of course it will. That assumes that defense is only going to go up a teeny bit rather than $1 trillion, which Donald Rumsfeld wants, which of course he'll get his way. Totally phony surplus.

NOVAK: Well, Chairman Greenspan, your friend, your great friend...

HUNT: He is my friend.

SHIELDS: Your new best friend.

NOVAK: ... does not -- he's not my best friend, but he is quite...

HUNT: One of the greatest public servants of all times.

NOVAK: ... but he is quite correct in saying these are not phony figures, that we are in the point where we're going to have a zero -- we're not only having zero growth, we're about to have a zero national debt. And that creates a tremendous problem, which he tried to explain and which I've been saying for a long time.

Now I want to say something here...

HUNT: He was quoting you?

NOVAK: Maybe.

I want to say something fro Zell Miller. Zell Miller comes, 68 years old -- all the good guys are 68 years old it seems like, Don Rumsfeld and -- I'm 69 years old. But anyway...

HUNT: You used to be a good guy.

NOVAK: Yes. Zell Miller from Georgia comes in, the most popular politician in Georgia, wins in a big election, and he is appalled in his brief time as an appointive senator last year to see the runaway spending that's going on. And he says, you've got a problem. You've got a high tax rate and you've got a high surplus. We've got to give it back to the people. That's not Republican, that's not Democrat, that's common sense. So I think Zell Miller ought to be the man of the year so far.

SHIELDS: Margaret, it ill behooves those who criticize John McCain for being the Democrats' favorite senator, liberals' favorite senator. Now id Zell Miller going to be the poster boy for the conservatives?

CARLSON: Yes, right, John Breaux move over. Here's -- you know, these...

NOVAK: I was going to say that about John Breaux, I guarantee you.

CARLSON: These madcap governors, you know, he might have told the Democratic caucus first, but he came out and did it. But he might learn a little collegiality. But the most important thing I learned here today was that I missed the entire year of age 68 when Bob was a good guy.

SHIELDS: Last word, Margaret Carlson. THE GANG of five will be back with the John Ashcroft confirmation fight.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. Senate Judiciary Committee action on the confirmation of John Ashcroft to be attorney general was delayed for one week, as Democratic members submitted over 400 written questions for him to answer. Is a filibuster planned on the Senate floor?


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I don't rule it out, I don't rule it in. It's the best way to resolve this, I think. But we have to make a judgment at the very end.


SHIELDS: Criticism of former Senator Ashcroft turned to accusations of homophobia by a onetime job seeker with then-Missouri Governor Ashcroft and the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg.


PAUL OFFNER: Without any introduction or foreplay, he said to me, "My first question, Mr. Offner, do you have the same sexual preference as most men?

JAMES HORMEL, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO LUXEMBOURG: I can only conclude that Mr. Ashcroft chose to vote against me solely because I am a gay man.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SHIELDS: Bob Novak, is the Ashcroft nomination in jeopardy now?

NOVAK: You know, I don't think it's a sure thing. I've seen these mean-spirited left-wing crusades against people develop and build as it did with Bob Bork. They delay the committee vote a week, then Ted Kennedy talks about a filibuster, you wait and you wait and you try to build up support. So I think he'll be confirmed but you don't know.

But the sad part about it is they dredge up all this slander from the past, some Democratic hack who works for Georgetown University. A fund contributor to the Democratic Party who was on Hillary Clinton's health task force says he was asked his sexual preference in a job interview 17 years ago. The other two people there say it didn't happen, but it's a big news story. And so the person -- a person whose character was never maligned in his previous long public life is attacked, the media piles in, and the Democrats -- the Republicans are too supine to really support him vigorously.

SHIELDS: Let my dissent vigorously. Paul Offner is a career health person. He had an absolutely marvelous reputation, worked with Pat Moynihan on Capitol Hill and made a signal contribution in the District of Columbia.

But go ahead, Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: No, he's an academic. He's not a Clintonite. He's not a rabid partisan on the left. He just isn't. He's an expert and he's an academic.

Here's what -- here's the situation we find ourselves in. You can only defeat a nominee on the basis of nannies or taxes or something. You're not supposed to defeat them on the basis of what they believe or what they've done or their record. And you say that, you know, he's being slandered. Well, you know, Stewart Taylor (ph), for whom I have a lot of respect, he's a legal writer, I would say he's on the conservative side -- no, truly he is. He analyzed the Ronnie White cases in which Ashcroft came out and said that Ronnie White had a, quote, "criminal bent."

And in the eight cases in which he dissented and asked just for a new trial, not to let the person go, Stewart concluded that he exuded moderation and care in asking for a new trial...

SHIELDS: Judge White did.

CARLSON: Well-reasoned -- Judge White. Arlen Specter, after he met Ronnie White and Ronnie White testified, not in this, you know, alarming, electrified manner but very sedately, then he apologized to him for what the Senate had done at Ashcroft's insistence.

O'BEIRNE: Well Teddy Kennedy hasn't apologized to Bob Bork. This isn't about apologies. It's trying to -- it's trying to discredit John Ashcroft, raise a whole lot of money for left-wing greens and by proxy discredit George Bush. And they're hoping to stall at least another week, hoping something will come forward -- because at the moment it appears John Ashcroft is going to be approved.

Paul Offner is not going to do the trick. There were two eyewitnesses who say that it never happened. Secondly, he is a politician from back in Wisconsin. He did run for office as a Democrat, so he hasn't always been an academic. And when he ran for office as a Democrat, he had the same groups, NARAL, Human Rights Campaign and all the labor unions, who are now opposed to Ashcroft contributing to his campaign. So he has been a political activist.

NOVAK: He's a contributor to campaigns.

SHIELDS: Are we suggesting, I just want to be sure that Kate and Bob, just so I understand, are we suggesting he fabricated this?

NOVAK: I'm saying...

O'BEIRNE: People should...

NOVAK: I'm saying he's not a public health servant, he's a Democratic operative.

HUNT: Mark, let me just rush in for a minute...

O'BEIRNE: I don't -- there should be some skepticism...

SHIELDS: Wait just a second. "The Washington Post" were the first ones to report this story. They talked to five people who said at that time contemporaneously Mr. Offner told them that story, that Ashcroft asked him about his sexual preference. The Ashcroft staffers, it took them 24 hours before they suddenly remembered, no, he didn't.

I want to tell you something. I was hiring people during that time for 10 years, and I interviewed a lot of people. And the idea of asking someone their sexual preference is so offensive, Mark.

But Margaret is right. This guy is going to be confirmed. He's probably going to get an 11-7 vote out of the Senate committee in judiciary...

NOVAK: In favor of him.

HUNT: In favor of him. But I'll tell you, this administration is going to pay a price for his duplicitousness these past couple weeks.

NOVAK: I'm going to say this. This country and this city and the Democratic Party have come to a low point when they bring this guy Hormel back from Luxembourg to attack the candidate for attorney general -- still a U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, and that is an outrage.

SHIELDS: Now but just let me get one thing straight. He said he did not oppose him on the basis he was a gay man. I mean -- but yet his statements suggests that he felt that as a gay -- as a practicing activist gay that it was inappropriate for him to represent the United States.

NOVAK: You know...

CARLSON: Mark -- Mark -- Mark...

SHIELDS: Now which is it?

NOVAK: Do you know why the Catholic League opposed the confirmation of Ambassador Hormel, along with many other conservatives? Ashcroft wasn't even in the middle of it. Do you know why the Catholic League opposed him? Because he's gay?


NOVAK: Why? Do you know why?

SHIELDS: I'd like to know why.

NOVAK: Because he's anti-Catholic. Because...

CARLSON: Oh, no. He...

NOVAK: Just a minute. Because he was at a commentary in San Francisco and he was laughing at the satire of Catholic nuns by this group.

HUNT: He testified under oath he was not.

CARLSON: And he did not.

HUNT: He testified...

NOVAK: I listened to it. I listened to the tape.

HUNT: I saw it. If you saw it, they were not related, Bob. That was an absolute cannard (ph).

CARLSON: It was, and it was proved so at the time. And there was a...

SHIELDS: You're not the exclusive spokesman for the Catholic faith.

CARLSON: Ashcroft was quoted at the time as saying that sex should be a consideration in who we send for ambassador. And he pretended he knew him very well. Hormel said he'd never met him. And he said he was opposed to him on the totality of his record and because he was promoting a gay lifestyle. Now he's saying, no, he doesn't...

NOVAK: Have you looked into the Hormel record.


HUNT: I have, I (OFF-MIKE)

CARLSON: Yes, I have.

NOVAK: Just a minute, can I finish my sentence? Have you looked into the Hormel record and the stuff he put into that filthy gay museum?

HUNT: He didn't put that in. He funded the museum like people fund all kinds of museums.


HUNT: That misrepresentation is so flagrant, and George Schulz...

NOVAK: Well, I...

HUNT: ... the former Republican secretary of state, endorsed this man, as did 16 members of the Judiciary Committee before...

CARLSON: (OFF-MIKE) Chicago Law School.

HUNT: ... Helms and Ashcroft began their hate campaign.

NOVAK: Let me...

SHIELDS: Last word -- last word, Al Hunt.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, George W. Bush versus abortion.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

As anti-abortion demonstrators marched down Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue, President Bush on his first full day in office said, quote, "It is my conviction that taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for abortions or advocate or actively promote abortion here or abroad," end quote.

He then restored the limitation on those funds that was lifted by President Clinton eight years ago. Yesterday, the president was asked whether federal money should continue to be spent on research using fetal tissue from abortions. He said no.


BUSH: I believe we can find stem cells from fetuses that died a natural dearth. But I do not support research from aborted fetuses.


SHIELDS: Margaret, is it now clear that George W. Bush is an anti-abortion president?

CARLSON: I don't think it's clear. He went back to where Reagan and Bush were, which is...

SHIELDS: His father.

CARLSON: ... a kind of a middle ground where they throw a sop to the activists anti-abortion people on these, you know, issues around the edge like federal funds abroad for family planning agencies. You know, Bob kept saying during this -- the campaign, I would say, you know, he sounds an awful lot like Clinton. You know, he sounds like he's moderate. But, you know, maybe Novak knew his man. Maybe his conservative, very conservative, and maybe he's going to come out later as clearly anti-abortion and give more to the pro-life forces. But so far, I don't think he's done that. And recently we had Laura Bush going on one of the morning talk shows saying that she was pro- choice.

SHIELDS: It just struck me that this got a lot bigger coverage, his suspension of aid abroad, than Bill Clinton's did eight years ago of the 12-year record.

O'BEIRNE: And, Mark, a different kind of coverage. Eight years ago the media broadly supported Bill Clinton in one of his first acts as president, kept a campaign promise by lifting the restriction on funds. The way they played it with George W. Bush is, performed a very controversial fact, when in fact he's with the vast majority of the public in not wanting to fund abortion and abortion advocacy. And they of course also said he was catering to his right wing, when in fact the majority of the public agrees with him. And no mention of Bill Clinton catering to his left wing when he lifted this long- standing policy.

SHIELDS: Al -- Al Hunt.

HUNT: Mark, I think abortion and other social issues are the Baltimore Ravens of American politics. They are lethal on defense, but they are losers on offense. If you try to expand gun -- if you try to sustain gun control, you're going to lose. You're going to energize the gun lobby. But if you try to cut back on the Brady bill, you're also going to lose. And I think the same is true with abortion. I disagree with Kate's analysis of the family planning move, but I don't think it's going to resonate much with people.

The stem cell research, however, really is terribly unfortunate. The scientists at NIH with tell you this offers all kinds of promise for dealing with Alzheimer's and dealing with Parkinson's and other diseases. And that's the kind of, you know, plain, plain pandering to your base that I think is terribly unfortunate and will come back to hurt us.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Margaret, as fond as I am of you -- and I'm fond of you.

O'BEIRNE: Oh, thank you, Bob.

NOVAK: I've never seen you more wrong about anything, because I think he is more anti-abortion than Ronald Reagan. I think there's no question these are important moves he took on both of them. The foreign abortion money spending and the research question are extremely important.

He was -- his staff has said there is a disagreement between him and his wife. Husband and wife don't always agree on Roe v. Wade. And Al and I earlier today talked to Andy Card, who is chief of staff, and said it looks like it's impossible to get a bill through on...

HUNT: Partial-birth abortion.

NOVAK: ... partial-birth abortion because of the Supreme Court. And he said they would try to find language to get it through. So this is about as anti-abortion president as we've ever had, and you can't -- you can't wipe that away.

SHIELDS: Last word, Robert Novak.

We'll return to look at how the CAPITAL GANG assessed Bill Clinton's own first week in office eight years ago.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. In his first week as president eight years ago, Bill Clinton called for an end to the ban on homosexuals in the United States military. On January 30, 1993, this was the reaction of your CAPITAL GANG and our guest then, the late Republican Senator John Chafee of Rhode Island, himself a Marine combat veteran of two wars and former secretary of the Navy.


SHIELDS: It was incredibly inept. The fact that on an issue this controversial they were tone deaf, they didn't realize the political firestorm it was going to elicit and evoke, but secondly, Al, that they didn't have out in front Chuck Robb, a Marine combat veteran of Vietnam, who happens to agree with the president's policy, Bob Kerrey, Congressional Medal of Honor winner, or John Kerry.

They had instead non-veterans Barney Frank and Gerry Studds. And so Bill Clinton I don't think to this moment has made the argument on this issue. He's got to get on the economy, he's got to get on health care. That's where his mandate lies.

HUNT: Bob, Mark talks about a firestorm, but, you know, we had a poll this week. And Peter Hart and Bob Teeter, our pollsters, say it doesn't register on the radar screen. These are organized calls. The voters could care less about this issue.

NOVAK: I don't think they're organized calls. I think the people who are interested in politics are calling in -- and interested in public affairs -- they're calling in the talk shows, which have a resonance all themselves.

You know, it may be inept. I think it is inept. And I also saw a lot of the old slick Willie from the campaign when he was saying, oh, I didn't bring this up. The other guys brought it up. I think it is the wrong thing to do, and that bothers me more than ineptitude. And the fact that he is following the advice of people who do not have the best interest of the U.S. armed forces at stake.

SEN. JOHN CHAFEE (R), RHODE ISLAND: The gay population is a substantial factor in our total population. Whether it's 8 percent or 10 percent, who knows? But the question is whether we're going to have -- we've always felt that our armed services should be representative of our nation at large.

NOVAK: The point of the matter is you have homosexuals who -- and homosexual activists who I think are undermining all the things the armed forces stand for.

CHAFEE: I just don't believe it.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, you didn't seem to think this issue amounted to much then. Were you right?

HUNT: Mark, you were right in that it was a policy distraction from the Clintons' real issues of health care and the economy. But Bob was wrong about the politics and the policy back then. And I think the proof of that is if it was so bad, George W. Bush would be wanting to undo it right now. He's not going to touch it. That's a good point, though, isn't it?

NOVAK: Well, no, it's a bad point because what we were talking about eight years ago was a straight gays in the military policy. It wasn't don't ask-don't tell. Because of general Colin Powell, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs, they cut it back down and made it a workable policy. I think the whole matter, though, politically was a very bad thing for President Clinton and contributed to the Republican takeover in 1994, which still persists four elections later.

SHIELDS: Margaret.

CARLSON: Well, the last part of what Bob said is right. It was Clinton doing. It was the non-veteran, the non-military guy going after a sacred cow. He shouldn't have done that.

O'BEIRNE: After running as a moderate Southern new Democrat, it identified him as sympathetic with the cultural left and unsympathetic with the military. And that was very costly.

SHIELDS: Why isn't George Bush changing it?

NOVAK: Because it's not the policy.

O'BEIRNE: It's not the policy...

NOVAK: It's don't ask-don't tell.

O'BEIRNE: It's not the policy...

SHIELDS: The conservatives said it doesn't work and it's wrong.

HUNT: Mark, I didn't... NOVAK: It's a different policy, Mark.

HUNT: Mark, I didn't see a single '94 campaign in which that was an issue, not a single '94 campaign.

NOVAK: But the policy...

HUNT: There was health care and there was the economy were the big issues.

NOVAK: How can I...

CARLSON: Tolerance for gays has increased so much during these eight years.

HUNT: Right -- not with Bob, Margaret, not with Bob.

O'BEIRNE: Open homosexuals are still not permitted to serve in the military, and that is what Bill Clinton had been advocating.

NOVAK: Yes, the policy changed.

SHIELDS: Last word, Kate O'Beirne. We'll be back -- thank goodness -- We'll be back with the second half of the program to talk about President Bush's education week, gifts to and from and pardons from Bill Clinton, and our own "Outrages of the Week." That's the key, all after a check of the top news.


SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.

George W. Bush designated his first week in office as education week, and congressional Democrats came to the White House to talk with him about his program. The president proposes vouchers for students from failed schools.


BUSH: After a period of time, giving the schools a time to adjust and districts time to try different things, if they're failing, that parents ought to be given different options. If children are trapped in schools that will not teach and will not change, there has to be a different consequence.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: My own position is I don't think we ought to abandon schools by taking money away from public schools in order to save them. But I can't emphasize enough the other areas where the president was reaching out and, I think, in education and policy, and where there's very broad agreement.


SHIELDS: Kate, will the president give up vouchers in order to pass a Bush-Kennedy education bill?

O'BEIRNE: It is such a top priority of the president's to have this federal education reform. It promises to be a signature issue, certainly in the first year. I would not be surprised to see a modification of the voucher piece of it, which is a very minor piece that in all likelihood won't even come into being under this plan.

Schools that, after all the help the going to be given, in three years if they're still failing they'd be subject to being so designated and maybe a voucher would kick in. But experience tells us from other states that there will be a lot of grade inflation. Very few states will fail. Very few children will enjoy vouchers.

I think probably there are probably better places to have a parental choice fight like over public scholarships for desperate parents in Washington, D.C. trying to rescue their children from D.C. failed schools is a better place to have a school choice fight, it seems to me, than such a minor or piece of this overall about bill.

SHIELDS: Margaret, on this issue of vouchers though, African- American parents in cities turn out to be strong supporters. Now, that's a conflict for the Democrats in the sense that teachers unions have been among the staunchest Democratic supporters or supporters of Democratic candidates and so have African-American voters.

CARLSON: It's interesting that one of the voucher plans that would have just helped poor children in Michigan failed this year. It's hard to fashion one that doesn't at the moment it's saving some children from bad schools, doesn't stave the public school system that's kind of the bedrock of America, you know. It's the guarantee of being born in America is that you will have an education.

So, how do you do it? It's the dilemma. How do you do it without ruining the public schools and those children left behind. George Bush was brilliant to put this plan forward, which tamps down the whole debate over vouchers. He's changed the name. It's called parental choice, and puts the emphasis elsewhere because it makes it seem like a uniter not a divider. Here are things we can agree on and let's do carrots along with sticks.

SHIELDS: But Al Hunt, in looking at this, there are echoes of Lyndon Johnson. Lyndon Johnson was going to cut off schools that failed to reach desegregation. George W. Bush is using the federal club the same way, and a lot of conservatives, real ardent conservatives, are very upset by an expanded role of the federal government in education. HUNT: Well, yes, I'm not. I also happen to think vouchers are a good idea and I think the criticism I would have of his voucher proposal is, Kate, that it is actually inadequate. But the politics are bad for vouchers. We have to just, you know, face that.

Margaret pointed out they lost in Michigan. They lose every time in the ballot. And I'll tell you who's dead set against vouchers are suburban voters. So, that's why moderate Republicans are so anti- voucher. The proposal itself, vouchers, as Kate pointed out, is a very small part of it.

The rest of its really interesting and really promising. I mean, this guy is talking about accountability in exchange -- you know more accountability and then you give the state more flexibility. He's talking about testing. He's talking about pouring in a lot more resources in. He hasn't said how much yet. You're going to have to spend a lot of money, other issues have to be addressed, but I think he deserves a great deal of credit for this.

SHIELDS: But Bob Novak, the Republican platform last time out and Ronald Reagan told us we were going to abolish the Department of Education. Now, we're going to have the education president. Tell me about it.

NOVAK: I'll tell you about it. First place, Kate and Al are quite correct. Vouchers are a good idea. This is not a voucher bill, not even close to a voucher bill. I still keep looking every day through the Constitution on my dresser and to find out where the federal responsibility for education is. I can't find it.

SHIELDS: You have a dresser?

NOVAK: Yes. A lot of Republican don't agree with me that this is nothing for a Republican to be doing. Now, the House majority whip, Tom DeLay, has put out the orders don't criticize the president's bill because he is the Republican president and he wants it, therefore he's going to get a Republican majority.

HUNT: Why are you criticizing it then?

NOVAK: I'm not a member of Congress, in case you've forgotten. And so I would say this, that any bill that is so praised by Al Hunt and Ted Kennedy can't be all that good. But it's going to pass and if you have a belief that the federal government is going to save schools in America, you have greater faith than I do.

SHIELDS: In closing, I just remind you that in that Michigan voucher fight that Margaret spoke of, John McCain had the courage to stand up for it and George Bush didn't, he was mute, and John Engler oppose it. That's just for your information, Bob. One of your heroes.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, Bill Clinton's gifts and pardons.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SHIELDS: Welcome back. Bill and Hillary Clinton left the White House with over $190,000 in farewell gifts. They included china from Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson. More china from Steven Speilberg and Kate Capshaw; a golf driver from Jack Nicholson, the actor; boxing gloves from Sylvester Stallone, the non-actor; and two coffee tables and two chairs worth over $7,000 from song-writer Denise Rich.

Mrs. Rich has contributed millions to the Democratic Party, and wrote President Clinton requesting a pardon for her ex-husband, Marc Rich, a billionaire financier who fled to Switzerland 17 years ago to escape 50 criminal counts and later repudiated his American citizenship. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was the federal prosecutor in the Rich case, and Rich was represented in his quest for a pardon by former Clinton White House counsel Jack Quinn.


MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: Marc Rich's family and others associated with him made very large contributions to the president, Mrs. Clinton and the Democratic party. There is no apparent reason for the pardon. And if it isn't unique, it's highly unusual and questionable to ever grant a pardon to a fugitive. Just think what it does to law enforcement.



JACK QUINN, MARC RICH'S ATTORNEY: The fact that a U.S. attorney like Mr. Giuliani accuses somebody does not mean that they are guilty, and I think in this massive filing that we made to the president, we demonstrated that the case that Mr. Giuliani brought was wholly without merit and in fact, it was irresponsible


SHIELDS: Meanwhile, Senator John McCain renewed his own crusade for campaign finance reform. After the Arizona senator met at the White House with the president, he reached agreement with Majority Leader Trent Lott for Senate debate in March. There was no limit on what amendments could be offered then.


SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: We're going to open the door and say, OK, here's this issue, let's go. Everybody will -- it's a jump ball. Let the play begin.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, does Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich show the need for campaign finance reform or is it just a peculiarity of Clinton and the Clinton era?

CARLSON: Is this an or question?


SHIELDS: It's an either or or it could be a multiple choice.

CARLSON: Can we do the peculiarity of the Clintons, first? That will take the hole rest of the show up. Clearly, there is a little bit of a quid pro quo in all that the Clintons do. In all the contributions, they always seem to be somehow grubbing for money, and once you look what Denise Rich gave to the Clintons and then Clinton giving the pardon, you put aside whether or not a case could be made for Marc Rich because there's a quid pro quo or so it seems.

Then you have that he was a fugitive. So, it erases the case that could be made. Even if he had, even if it should have been civil and Rudy Giuliani was overzealous and it shouldn't have been criminal all this, well, come back and make that case with your lawyers. No fugitive is eligible for a pardon.

SHIELDS: I just have to say on a personal note, anybody who renounces his U.S. citizenship, I'm sorry. Good-bye, good night. Jack Quinn, thanks. Al Hunt.

HUNT: Well, no, I couldn't agree more. This guy is a Benedict Arnold. He's a fugitive. If there is a case, which I don't know if there is, come back and try it. If Jack Quinn had such a great case, come back and try it and we'll see.

Look, this is a classic case of influence peddling. I've known Jack Quinn since the Udall campaign. I like him. I hope he made a lot of big bucks off this thing because I'll you something, he's a political untouchable now. No Democrat is ever going to want to have Jack Quinn around if they're running for president anymore after this terrible thing.

But I'll you what's even worse. Bill Clinton is in a fury and he's blaming Jack Quinn for this. Now I want to tell you, Jack Quinn didn't pardon Marc Rich, Bill Clinton did. This man and personal responsibility are total, complete strangers and there was only one reason it was done. Rudy Giuliani and Margaret are right, it was because of soft money, big bucks, and it becomes, I think, a case study of why you need campaign finance reform.

O'BEIRNE: Some of us who aren't slow learners have known this about the Clintons for eight years. You cannot legislate for the Clintons. You just can't. We have laws against perjury and they're pretty established and it didn't make any difference with Bill Clinton. Bill and Hillary Clinton feel entitled. We owe them because they're such superior human beings, and they shouldn't have to play by the rules because they're such superior human beings. So, I welcome everybody else to finally waking up to what these two are like.


SHIELDS: Go ahead.

NOVAK: I want to say a word, if I could?

SHIELDS: I want you to say a word. I was going to ask you a question, honey.

NOVAK: Go ahead.

SHIELDS: OK, sweets. In 1988, Bob, Ronald Reagan had a house in Bel Air, a multi-million-dollar house in a very pricey, given to him by nine millionaires who bought it for him. And you know, what I think the Clintons did was money grubbing. I mean, Mrs. Clinton registering as a brides at a suite, I mean, you know, to get gifts was just beyond the pale. But, I mean, why is it that -- I think, I remember writing a column critical at the time, but why is it, Bob, that so many of the press, especially on your side of the political aisle, are quick to condemn the Clintons but the Gipper getting a $2.5 million.


NOVAK: Can I answer that?

SHIELDS: I want you to, Bob. I know you will.

NOVAK: I was waiting how long you were going to bring that up and it was longer than I thought. As a matter of fact, it was bought for him because he didn't have the money at the time. He had been the president. It was paid off in full. Paid off to the last dime, which you may not have known.

SHIELDS: After he was out of office.

NOVAK: It was paid -- of course, that's when he had the money. It was paid off in full. But we're not talking about Ronald Reagan, who -- just a minute -- can I...

SHIELDS: I want you to.

NOVAK: We're not talking about Ronald Reagan, Mark, who didn't pardon any fugitives. We're not talking about somebody who was impeached by the Congress. Let me say what I was going say to Al, I agree with you on the merits of the case, but I think you're wrong about Jack Quinn. I think we'll see him on the plane with the high roller Democrats with the next presidential debates just like I saw him for the Gore debates. I think he will be right there.

You may think that Bill Clinton is furious with Quinn. I think he likes to live on the edge. I mean, your sources may say the president is mad but I think he likes to stick his nose at propriety -- just a minute -- at propriety and decency and all the rest of it and I think this is just the capstone and a touching capstone to an embarrassing presidency for all of us.

SHIELDS: Did you answer the question now, dear?

NOVAK: I did very much.


SHIELDS: Now Margaret can speak. Yes, Margaret CARLSON: John Podesta was upset. We don't know about Clinton.

NOVAK: Yes, that's right.

CARLSON: He looked like a perv practically ready to put the jacket up over his head as he walked toward the car. Listen, Jack Quinn did what lawyers do. He represented a client. It was up to Clinton to grant or not grant a pardon. He had the facts. The -- and the Clintons together, they capped their career in the White House by walking out the door which -- with practically a pillow case stuffed with sterling, by registering for china and.

NOVAK: It was bridal registry.

O'BEIRNE: You literally had to count the silverware.

CARLSON: Like newlyweds.

HUNT: And what you do in pardon cases -- and there have been some awful pardons. I mean, Ronald Reagan did pardon George Steinbrenner, which was indefensible.

NOVAK: Oh, that's really terrible.

HUNT: Bob, I let you finish, you let me finish. That was absolutely unexcusable and that was influence peddling, too. But this one is clearly a lot worse. What you do with pardons, you vet them and that's what they did with Mike Milken. They had a lot -- they had the prosecutors weigh in. This one was done in the dark of night and that -- they knew ahead of time how bad it was and the reason Clinton is mad is because he got caught. that's why he's mad.

NOVAK: But wait a minute, just one thing, Al. You cannot take Clinton off the hook and say this.

HUNT: I don't.

NOVAK: That's what you're sounding like.


SHIELDS: Al did not take -- Bob, I want you to listen.

HUNT: I'm deeply offended. This guy is reprehensible.

CARLSON: We are all blaming Clinton.


NOVAK: You seemed to be a little harder on Jack Quinn than you were on Ronald Reagan.


HUNT: Because as I said, it wasn't Jack Quinn that pardoned him. It was Bill Clinton that pardoned him. He's the man that deserves the blame.

SHIELDS: I think -- I agree with Margaret that Jack Quinn was representing a client here. He did register. He expressed his interest in this last December. I think it was a terrible process. I think the ultimate responsibility does lie with Ronald Reagan, and I just...

NOVAK: Bill Clinton.

SHIELDS: With Bill Clinton, I'm sorry. I know it wasn't Ronald Reagan. That's right. Just want to see if you're listening, Bob. But the idea of having these gifts delivered to the White House to circumvent the Senate gift ban is really reprehensible.


SHIELDS: That's it. I'm sorry. You know, but Bob took so damned long. The gang will be back the "Outrage of the Week."


SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week." The Super Bowl, according to the football fanatic, is not a matter of war and peace. No, it's more important than that. Baloney. The Super Bowl is not sport, it's commercial hype. Real sport calls to mind basketball's Al MaGuire, who died too soon this week at 72. A championship coach, an authentic New Yorker and an unmatched commentator, Al McGuire made basketball and life fun. Enjoy the simple things he urged, a sunset, feeling a breeze on your face, seashells, and bare feet on wet grass. Al McGuire will be sorely missed -- Robert Novak.

NOVAK: Al Gore has a part-time job, but one drenched in irony. He will lecture at Columbia University's prestigious journalism school. Only Richard Nixon matched Al Gore in isolating himself from the news media, avoiding press conferences and interviews. It's like Saddam Hussein giving lectures on democracy. But if the former vice president reveals to students how and why he kept reporters at arm's length, it might actually be prove valuable for the aspiring journalists.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson

CARLSON: Like me. Linda Tripp filed a suit Thursday claiming damages against the Pentagon over quote, "shameful leaks" about her job hunt which were designed to quote, "humiliate and embarrass her." There's little to support the claim of Tripp, who refused to resign her job as all political appointees must. Now she's looking -- now that she's looking for a job, it's hardly, quote, "humiliating and embarrassing" as she claims. It takes a new level of chutzpah for the biggest leaker on the planet, who humiliated and embarrassed a friend so massively, to claim the same for herself.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: After eight years spent abusing the office of the presidency, on their way out the door, Clinton aides abused the office of the presidency, literally. Phone lines were cut, offices trashed, and computers vandalized. During Bill Clinton's final flight, the plane was stripped bare and not by sentimental staffers seeking mementos. Air Force One souvenirs were quickly posted for auction online. Why not make a final buck off the White House? Outrageous, but not surprising.


HUNT: Mark, you're so right. Our lives are better because of Al MaGuire.

SHIELDS: Thank you.

HUNT: But I think -- I want to talk about the Clinton pardons which I think are a metaphor for his tenure: some good, even gutsy decisions offset by atrocious actions. He was right to pardon overly- penalized drug offenders and victims of prosecutorial abuse like former Reagan aide Jim Lake, and Whitewater's Susan McDougal. But he also included four New York Hasidic Jews who bilked the government and poor people; former Congressman Mel Reynolds, who had sex with an underage girl; and former CIA Director John Deutch, who was in the midst of a plea bargain over his violation of classified materials.

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



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