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Dale Bumpers Discusses the Clinton Pardons, the First Bush Press Conference and the Future of the Democratic PartyAired February 24, 2001 - 7:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Kate O'Beirne. Our guest is former Democratic Senator Dale Bumpers of Arkansas and former governor too. It's great to have you back, Dale.
DALE BUMPERS (D), FRM. ARKANSAS SENATOR: Thank you for inviting me, Mark.
SHIELDS: Good to have you here.
Bill Clinton's defense in last Sunday's "New York Times" of his pardon fugitive financier Marc Rich did not convince prominent Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: To me, there is no excuse for pardoning a fugitive from justice. You can't let somebody opt out of the system by running away, and then opt into the system by being pardoned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY CARTER, FRM. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think there's any doubt that some of the factors in his pardon was attributable to his large gifts. So, I think that was in my opinion disgraceful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: The president's brother-in-law, Hugh Rodham, said he would return the $400,000 that he had received for advocating pardons for a convicted drug dealer and a major swindler.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I was heartbroken and shocked by it and, you know, immediately said you know, this is a terrible misjudgment and the money had to be returned. (END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Reporters pressed Senator Clinton about her knowledge of her husband's pardons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: With respect to any of these decisions, you'll have to talk with people who were involved in making them. And that leaves me out. I don't know enough to answer your questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Al Hunt, what are these continuing revelations telling us about the legacy of Bill Clinton?
AL HUNT, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Mark, they leave a stain that is bigger than anything during impeachment which, despite the effort of Clinton-haters, really was all about awful personal behavior. This is about presidential behavior, and deep constitutionally-given presidential behavior.
Look, I don't think that the U.S. attorney in New York or the congressional inquiry, certainly not the loopy Danny Burton, are going to ever prove a quid pro quo here. That's not the way the rot and money in politics works. It's not that explicit.
But I think the damage is severe. I think it's lasting. It's on Bill Clinton's legacy. It's on Hillary Clinton, and it may well be on the Democratic Party. I talked the last three days to two former Cabinet members in the Clinton administration, two former top White House aides in his administration and three lawmakers who were very, very supportive of Bill Clinton. They all used almost identical terms, disgusted, depressed, dispirited.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, Democrats are dispirited but there's also a sense of simmering rage that I hear.
ROBERT NOVAK, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Yes, it is, and let me just say this, that I am just amused, of all the Democrats who defended his reprehensible behavior when he was president gathered on the lawn when he was impeached by the House of Representatives and when he was president and he had some clout, they stuck with him no matter what he did.
When he's out, they act like cheap politicians and say man, this guy can't hurt me now. I might as well swim for myself. I was just amazed how grave Chuck Schumer is now that he's become the most influential Democratic senator from the state of New York.
I would say, by the way, that this is a very serious blow to Senator Clinton's hopes of following her husband into the White House quickly.
SHIELDS: Dale Bumpers, nobody was a more forceful and effective defender of Bill Clinton during that impeachment process, and what kind -- what does this do for the legacy because it really has left Democrats in a state of despair, in spite Brother Novak's...
BUMPERS: I regret the Marc Rich pardon. I don't regret it nearly as much as Bill Clinton does, I'm sure. I mean, it is a blow. There isn't any question about that. But I can tell you that it's a story that's not going to last as long as some people around this table think it's going to, and the reason is there's no quid pro quo. You're not going to find any venal conduct on anybody's behalf.
And so it's going to slowly go away. As a matter of fact, it may go away faster than you think. And as far as the Democratic Party is concerned, I expect the Democratic Party, when George Bush presents his program on the floor of the United States Congress, both houses, you're going to find that the Democrats are going to be alive and well.
They're going it take that on. They may not win, but I know that Gephardt and Daschle both feel very strongly about it and as far as Bill Clinton is concerned, I don't think this is going it have any effect of their effectiveness in challenging George W. Bush.
SHIELDS: Your reaction to Jimmy Carter's statement?
BUMPERS: Well, you know, Bill Clinton is my friend. We disagree on things, but he is my friend and I don't enjoy talking about all of this. I agree essentially that he made a most regrettable mistakes. And as I say, he would probably agree with you if you asked him about it.
But if something -- let me tell you something, if you look back and think about George Bush pardoning the Iran-Contra defendants which the trial was going on. He didn't check with the Justice Department. And Arlen Hammer (ph) never admitted his guilt and then there was Weinberger, set to go to trial in two weeks and the U.S. attorney found out about it by hearing it on the news.
You can go back and go through all the presidential pardons and commutations and what have you, and you'll find that there's a lot of conduct that was really unbecoming. This, as I said, maybe this comes into a different category. But I'm just simply saying it's not going to rub off on Democrats. It may rub off on Bill Clinton.
KATE O'BEIRNE, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": These pardons are in a whole different category. The category they fit neatly into, though, is how the Clinton's behaved during eight years in the presidential. They were like "The Sopranos" in the presidency. Hugh Rodham just the latest example of that.
He abused his office for eight years to serve his own interest and Hillary's and to help their family, like a criminal family syndicate. Hillary Clinton is now, I agree with Bob's assessment, in the short term she's really hurt politically. Over the longer term, we don't know.
But it's very unbecoming when she plays the victim thing again. You know, she was done by the boys at the White House. Poor Hillary didn't know what was going on. Hugh Rodham, at the bitter end of the Clinton administration, he goes to apparently Bruce Lindsey in exchange for $400,000 as a fixer to get a favor from his brother. Hugh Rodham, that is not a misjudgment on the part of Hugh Rodham. He had eight years to figure out the MO (ph) of the Clintons.
NOVAK: And that was venality raising its head very clearly. He was hanging around the White House at the end.
O'BEIRNE: He knew how the White House operated.
SHIELDS: Dale, I tell you, the Democrats I talked to, they may be less even-tempered as you are, but they think it hurts them a lot.
HUNT: Well, let me just say this, though I bow to no one in my revulsion to those pardons. I think they are totally indefensible and I share everything you guys said.
But don't say this is exactly what has gone on for eight years. There was no one in this administration that I know of, high level, who went to the slammer for acts they did while they were there. I mean, the idea that somehow that there was a whole bunch of criminality that went on for eight years and this just proves, that is utter, complete nonsense.
NOVAK: Let me respond to that that it was going on for eight years. Nobody went to the slammer because they had the fix in at the Justice Department...
HUNT: As opposed to the Reagan -- as opposed to the Reagan Justice Department,
NOVAK: Can I...
HUNT: Let me ask, as opposed to the Reagan -- think the Reagan Justice Department was more honest?
NOVAK: I'd like to finish my sentence.
HUNT: Can you answer that, though?
NOVAK: I'd like to finish my sentence. Because they wouldn't go to the independent council. They had the fix in. They wouldn't have -- they wouldn't permit independent councils on the Gore and Clinton campaign finance scandals and we had a Justice Department who was totally corrupt. Now, to answer your question, since you so rudely interrupted me, Al, and the question is no, nothing like that in the Reagan Justice Department.
HUNT: I can see why you ducked it, Bob.
NOVAK: I didn't duck it. I answered it.
SHIELDS: Let me just say, Bill Clinton for eight years made a lot of tough decisions. Republicans took the easy votes every single time on tax cuts, on deficit reduction and everything else. He was a brilliant steward. Your personal net worth increased three times over, for goodness sakes. But no, let's be very blunt about this.
HUNT: There were a lot of independent councils appointed by Janet Reno. Too many.
SHIELDS: Too many.
NOVAK: That was a cover. That was a cover.
NOVAK: Can I get a word in without being interrupted?
HUNT: You got more than anybody...
SHIELDS: A word in? You want to check the word count, junior?
O'BEIRNE: I can understand how former President Clinton now feels blindsided by all the Democratic criticism. Where was former President Carter when Bill Clinton pardoned Puerto Rican terrorists who had never asked for a pardon, who were unrepentant. The victim's families had never been contacted. Had there been an outcry then, we might have avoided these now. But they've always permitted Bill Clinton to operate in this fashion.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, you're wrong, but you get the last word. Dale Bumpers and the gang will be back with George W. Bush emerging from Bill Clinton's shadow.
SHIELDS: Welcome back. George W. Bush, at his first solo conference as president, news conference, was asked whether he thought pardons had been for sale in the Clinton White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as this White House is concerned, it's time to go forward. I've got too much to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: The president pushed his tax cut of $1.6 trillion and not a penny more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I am going to resist the Christmas tree effect of tax policy. I don't want people putting ornaments on my plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SHIELDS: And he pressed for cutting President Clinton's last spending proposals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: This is a town where if you don't increase the budget by an expected number, it's considered a cut. We're going to slow the rate of growth of the budget down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Kate, can you grade President Bush on his first formal press conference including grammar?
O'BEIRNE: Well, I would give him an A for surprise, which tells us something about how this White House operates. They've been discussing, White House aides for a couple of days, doing this, and yet they completely surprised the media when they scheduled a press conference his with...
SHIELDS: One hour notice.
O'BEIRNE: ... an hour notice. I also think, stylistically, of course, he appeared at the Ari Fleischer podium less grand than we're used to seeing. And I think that fits with stylistically what they're trying to do in the Bush White House, a little more informal, a little more routine.
I, of course, would give him an A on substance. He's right about government spending. He's with the public. There's reassuring majority who believes the government does spend too much and do too much. And you know, the budget deal in 1997, signed with Bill Clinton, they have spent Congress, Republicans in charge, have spent $2.2 trillion more than the caps they agreed to just four years ago. So as I said, he gets an A for substance for talking about too much government spending.
SHIELDS: I never though of you as an easy grader, Kate, but it turns out that you gave him a pass on his grammar. But let's just get one thing straight, they called the press conference because they had a free news day. That was the Hugh Rodham story dominated the paper, they were taking some criticism for not having a press conference...
O'BEIRNE: They planned if for a couple of days.
SHIELDS: ... so they called it with one hour's notice. So not bad, that they knew whatever he did, however bad he was, it wasn't going to make any news, and it didn't -- Al.
HUNT: Well, I think that's right. I'd give him, I guess, I'd give him an A, I agree with Kate, on the timing. The timing was superb. They did it very well.
This guy has had a remarkably uncritical press for the last five weeks. I'm not sure that's going to continue. I'd give him about a B-minus on the performance. It wasn't bad. He doesn't exactly fill up a podium. But, you know, he did all right.
When it gets to substance, that's where Kate and I start to part a little bit. Maybe a C-minus. There's some things I like in that budget. I like the fact the NIH budget is going up 12 percent, Bob. I think we all can agree that's a good idea.
But I think on budget priorities, Kate, that's where he's going to lose the public. The idea of this lemon tax that's going to give a lot of money to the very wealthy and you're not going to, you know, do anything for the poor, I think that's going to -- I think the public's going to revolt.
SHIELDS: Dale Bumpers, you've taken the measure of six different presidents. How George W. Bush rate in his opener?
BUMPERS: Well, I didn't watch his press conference. I read it in the paper this morning. I don't know how to evaluate it. I thought it was reasonably well done and I couldn't -- Kate O'Beirne says she agreed with the substance on it. I couldn't disagree more.
I believe this country is in the best shape it's ever been in the history of it. We have -- we've got -- we're getting ready to give a Lexus to every rich family in America with a tax cut.
NOVAK: How about a Corvette?
BUMPERS: And at the same time, we pay our school teachers the lowest percentage of our national income of any nation on Earth. We have 45 million people with no health insurance, the only nation on Earth with no universal health care. Medicaid, Medicare, Head Start, all those problems grossly unfunded and you can't get teachers in this country for what we're paying and they're scared to death they're going to put money into government, they call it. And they want their children educated.
O'BEIRNE: How did all this happen after eight years of Bill Clinton? All this neglect of all these means?
BUMPERS: I'll tell you why, because they fell to this mantra about local control of the schools. Everybody's scared to death the federal government's going to put some money into the schools and the truth of the matter is we ought to be paying every school teacher in this country $50,000 minimum.
NOVAK: You know, it's very interesting that the Democrats always say they're going to give a Lexus. They never say a Cadillac or a Lincoln or Corvette because...
BUMPERS: It's a foreign car.
NOVAK: But what it is, we're having a discussion now of the programs, whether you like the program or not. Not whether you like his performance at the press conference...
SHIELDS: What did you think?
NOVAK: I would say that he has trouble with syntax as President Eisenhower did, as President Ford did, as his father did. But he has trouble with grammar than any president I've ever seen. He makes little grammatical mistakes that educated people, people with a Master's degree from Harvard usually don't make and it's kind of discordant.
I don't think ordinary people really are bothered by it. Probably journalists, who make a living writing, are more bothered it than most people. I would say this, I mean, the idea that he timed it so it wouldn't get on the news, it was on every front page that I saw in the country.
But I would say this, that they should have a lot of press coverage and I think he'll get better if they say gee, we can't do this because we'll get criticized, then he would be making mistakes.
SHIELDS: Let me just say this, I thought he did exactly as you said he did, but he had a great advantage going in, and that was because of the story, because of the context, he wasn't compared to Bill Clinton, who had total mastery of detail, who was totally articulate, who never made a grammatical misstep or whatever else.
I mean, Bill Clinton could explain anything. He wasn't measured to that. He was compared because he looks magnanimous because he we're not going to pile on because the investigations, because Danny Burton is doing it up on Capitol Hill. That's the story, Bob Novak.
NOVAK: And he didn't lie, also. It's nice to have a person who doesn't lie.
SHIELDS: Bob, we don't know if he lied. We don't know what he's reading off the five-by-eight cards. I don't know who wrote them.
Next on -- I'm sorry, go ahead.
BUMPERS: Let me make one point, you're talking about Bill Clinton's legacy. I would just ask all of you, where do you think these surpluses came from?
NOVAK: From the American people and from the Republican Congress.
SHIELDS: And they didn't work as hard with...
SHIELDS: When Ronald Reagan was president and when George Bush was president, the American people didn't work that hard. (CROSSTALK)
NOVAK: The Reagan tax cuts...
HUNT: Mark, they came from Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich and if you believe that, I've got a watermelon for Danny Burton.
BUMPERS: ... said in 1993 -- 1992 when he ran for president, he was going to produce a $5 trillion dollar surplus, everybody with their mind...
NOVAK: That's why he couldn't say that.
SHIELDS: He did, and thank you very much Dale Bumpers. Next on CAPITAL GANG, Russian espionage in Washington.
SHIELDS: Welcome back. FBI counterintelligence agent Robert Philip Hanssen was charged with 15 years of giving secrets to Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOUIS FREEH, FBI DIRECTOR: The complaint alleges that Hanssen, using his training and experience to protect himself from discovery by the FBI, never met face-to-face with his Russian handlers, never revealed to them his true identity or even where he worked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I have confidence in Director Freeh. I think he does a good job. I am pleased that they caught the spy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, did President Bush let off Louis Freeh just a little too easily?
NOVAK: I don't think so. I think unlike the Ames case, where the CIA did a very bad job. Ames was a sloppy guy. This guy Hanssen appears to be very careful, was hard to find them and they go did a good job of it.
The thing that occurs to me about it is this just normal? We let bilateral relations between the United States and Russia, all the people, some of at this table, wanted to give away half the treasury to Russia, maybe they think twice about it when in fact, the spirit of the KGB still lives in Moscow.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt, do you agree with Bob Novak? HUNT: I don't know who it was who wanted to give away half the treasury to Russia.
NOVAK: I think it was you.
HUNT: I didn't want to give away any of it, as a matter of fact. I opposed aid to Russian. But Bob lets Louis Freeh off far, far too easily here.
You know, in fact, if you look at this. After Ames, the CIA cracked down on a lot of their internal procedures. Polygraphs pose a problem. I'm not sure that's the way to go. But this guy was able to look up his own file for 15 years and find out if they were -- if any anybody was tracing anything. I mean, there's access controls there that was incredibly sloppy and I think Louis Freeh has a lot to answer for on Capitol Hill.
SHIELDS: Dale Bumpers, your own take.
BUMPERS: I don't agree with Al. Normally we agree on everything, but I think this city is Blame City. It is -- everybody has to find somebody as a scapegoat no matter what happens.
The truth of the matter is, once this case is exposed and tried and everybody talks it out to death, within four or five years there will another one. There was Aldrich Ames. There was Pollard. There's this guy Hanssen.
There's somebody over there that can always beat the system. There always somebody over there greedy enough to take Russian money or somebody else's money. And this is -- you can blame Louis Freeh and you can start giving lie-detector tests but these things will continue happen. Which just points out one thing, the best-kept secrets are not really secrets at all.
O'BEIRNE: Well, there's a huge temptation to do the could-have, should-haves but I agree. The totalitarian Soviet Union had moles, and that's where you're guilty until proven innocent and you're arrested and questions are asked later and they still had moles.
So, it comes with the territory. I do think we're reminded that aggressive counterintelligence is still needed, post-Cold War, but as Robert Gates said, he was told by Richard Helms when he took over the CIA, which is pathetic, but this is how these people have to live in their world, never go home at night without wondering where your mole is.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, I just add one thing: Dale Bumpers is absolutely right. It is Blame City, but from everything from declining Sunday School attendance to growing cavity rates, Bill Clinton got blamed for eight years by many of the people at this table.
We'll be back with a CAPITAL GANG classic on the 10th anniversary of the ground war against Iraq. And it was not Al Hunt.
SHIELDS: Welcome back. Ten years ago yesterday, coalition forces launched their ground war against Iraq. THE CAPITAL GANG was on the air one hour before the troops moved after the attack order had been given.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE CAPITAL GANG," FEBRUARY 23, 1991)
PAT BUCHANAN, HOST: Whose war is it now, Mark? Mr. Bush's war or Saddam Hussein's?
SHIELDS: George Bush could have achieved a great political triumph at home by basically accepting a version of the Soviet plan, a modified version, to meet his points of disagreement, but it didn't involve the deposing of Saddam Hussein, which is the unstated objective.
NOVAK: Sure they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein. But there's another thing. And it's -- I hear it from people in the White House, people in the administration, people on Capitol Hill. They want to kill the Vietnam Syndrome and you don't kill the Vietnam Syndrome by making a deal with Saddam Hussein. You do it by crushing him.
HUNT: I hate to say this in front of Bob, but the Soviets really got the ball going here and they got Saddam Hussein to give up a lot of his silly conditions, like a Palestinian peace conference over there.
NOVAK: There's no question that Saddam Hussein for six months has wanted to make a deal where he gets out of Kuwait. At one time, he wanted to get out of Kuwait with two islands, still keeping that.
SHIELDS: At no point in the U.N. resolutions, any one of them, is there mention of Saddam Hussein leaving office. It has been George Bush's unstated gunfight at the O.K. Corral that this guy is going to go.
HUNT: It seems to me if Saddam Hussein had wanted a way out, Bob, he could've done any -- if January 14th, he had retreated and kept those two islands and that's it, there's no way in the world that coalition would have stood up. That would have been our nightmare scenario.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, THE GANG really thought this was a war to get rid of Saddam Hussein, didn't we?
NOVAK: There's no question, and I believe that President Bush thought, the reason they didn't go to Baghdad, they thought based on their CIA reports, which were faulty, not for the first time or last time, that Saddam would fall after the military victory.
And I think the more -- as I look back at it, I think I was right in the first place, that was answer unnecessary war except for the standpoint of proving after Vietnam we could still fight wars. SHIELDS: An unnecessary war, Dale Bumpers?
BUMPERS: I didn't think it was an necessary war at the time and I have been ambivalent about my vote on that. I voted against that war and I've been ambivalent about it ever since.
But I don't often agree, as you know, with my friend Bob Novak. But I agree with him on one thing. When they called that war to a halt, Colin Powell is often given credit for saying this, call the dogs off, but I think the intelligence community was saying Saddam cannot survive after this ride of a defeat.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt, your own take on it?
HUNT: Oh, I still think it was unfortunately a necessary war. Let's not forget, they were in Kuwait. I think they threatened, you know, Saudi Arabia and I think we had no choice. But I agree with Dale and Bob, that they absolutely -- there was a colossal failure of intelligence and therefore of policy.
NOVAK: But you said on this program 10 years ago, Al, you thought that they would get out, that he was -- that Saddam didn't want to lose the war. He was willing to get out at that time if we wanted to have the war.
HUNT: No, I don't think I exactly said that, Bob. I said what Saddam could have done was Saddam had a way to get out before if he had taken the deal that was offered by the Russians and others.
SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt. Thanks for being with us. Dale Bumpers, I thank you for being with us. THE GANG will be back on the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG with Democratic Chairman Terry McAuliffe as our news maker of the week, a look at the current situation in Iraq with former arms inspector Scott Ridder and our outrages of the week. All after a check of the hour's top news.
SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Kate O'Beirne.
Al Hunt went to Democratic National headquarters, not to make a contribution, but there to talk to the party's new chairman, Terry McAuliffe.
HUNT: Chairman McAuliffe, you're taking over a Democratic Party that for the first time in 50 years doesn't control any branch of government. Isn't the party really at the nadir of its power in Washington right now?
TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: We are sitting in a perfect position today. We won the presidency in 2000. As you know, we picked up 10 of the 14 governorships. We knocked off five Republican senators. We picked up two House seats. HUNT: You won the popular vote in 2000?
MCAULIFFE: Well, I'll make the argument, and you'll see soon, that we also won the electoral vote. Many of the newspapers will be out soon that will show that Al Gore actually got the most votes.
HUNT: The leader of your party for eight years, of course, was Bill Clinton, but because of the controversies over the way he exited, including the pardon, people like Bill Daley, a former Cabinet member, have sharply criticized him. Former president Jimmy Carter said he disgraced the office. Is Bill Clinton now a pariah in his own party?
MCAULIFFE: Well, I agree with George Bush. It's time to move on. The stories are frustrating. They're disappointing, but they will move on over time. It's going little -- to take a little bit of time, Al, for us to move on past this, but we will get back to fighting for the things that are most important to America's working families.
HUNT: Would you like to see Bill Clinton go underground politically for the next four to six months?
MCAULIFFE: I would like the president to take some rest. Bill Clinton will be part of the Democratic Party forever. He had eight great years, he and Vice President Al Gore, 22 million new jobs. We had a great economy and as much as President Bush likes to talk down the economy, both here in the United States and in Mexico, on his recent trip, we had a great eight years and we should never forget that as Democrats.
HUNT: You are a fund-raiser extraordinairre. There's nobody any better, yet they're some Democrats who worry with this tremendous emphasis on fund-raising, the party loses its soul. How do you answer that?
MCAULIFFE: Well, I'm spending all my time here building this party up from the grassroots level. But I'm going to continue to raise money, but I'm going to raise issues and questions about George Bush and his vision of America versus our vision.
HUNT: George Bush is going to address a joint session next week. He's going to really dominate the stage then, isn't he?
MCAULIFFE: Well, he's going to try to, and this is his first major address. But we're right on the issues. The Democratic Party is going to be out all over the country. We have 62 events scheduled in 40 states throughout the United States.
We're going to start ramping it up on Tuesday morning. It's going to go all day. His vision of America and his vision for the future of America is different from the Democratic Party's, and this is the time, the defining moment for the Democratic Party for us to put a marker in the sand.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SHIELDS: Al Hunt, we know that Terry McAuliffe is an incurable optimist but do you think privately, from after your interview, he thinks the Democratic Party is in big trouble?
HUNT: He is congenital. I mean, he is such an optimist and the party's going to have a record fund-raising quarter this time, which of course is his forte. And yet, I think, implicit in what he says is there is a huge Clinton shadow hanging over this party.
When I asked him if he would like to see Clinton go over, he said he'd like to see the president take a rest. That's euphemism for disappear, and understand, this is the closest confidant that Bill Clinton probably has in American politics today.
What he doesn't say, but what some other Democrats are telling me in the last couple days, Mark, is there are, at least there preliminary indications that some of the public is leaving the Democratic Party now because of Clinton. This is what Newt Gingrich did five years ago to Republicans and if that continues that's a real, real disaster.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, your take on Terry McAuliffe as chairman?
NOVAK: I think it was a huge mistake. It was imposed on the party by the Clintons, former president and the senator, before all this dirty linen came in and a lot of people have doubts about it. Terry McAuliffe has problems of his own that may appear or may not appear in government investigations of him, and I think he is somebody who has never been involved in party building, and I think he has the idea that if you are nasty and tough and you talk about, gee, they didn't really win the election, and we're going to interfere with the president's speech to Congress. We're going to have rallies over that you win back the party from the Clinton sleaze and I doubt that it works.
SHIELDS: Did I miss something, but Al Gore did get 540,000 more votes than George Bush.
NOVAK: Well, I'm not sure what that has to do...
SHIELDS: Well, you said, that he was raising the question...
O'BEIRNE: That's not how you become president, so why he is mentioning it again?
NOVAK: He said he won Florida, and I think that is not a very good issue.
O'BEIRNE: But he's explained, Terry McAuliffe, what he's going to do at the DNC he says is use the anger and resentment that came out of the 2000 election on the part of Democrats, mostly their base voters, he's going to keep fueling those grievances.
So, what he's going to do and, he's been doing already, is engage in the worst kind of racial demagoguing, this poisonous stuff, in order to keep black voters in a high state of agitation. It's poisonous in politics. It's baseless. But then when it came time to pick the head of the DNC, black voters, loyal black Democrats got the back of the bus treatment.
They're not running the DNC. They bring in the rich white boy, who'll demagogue on their behalf, but as I said, there's no payoff where they actually have the levers of power, despite their extreme loyalty, and, of course, what they have to do, the Democrats, is dig out of the hole Bill Clinton put them in.
You know, they've lost over 40 House seats. They've lost the Senate. They lost a lot of governorships and I never understood why the party had this extreme loyalty to Bill Clinton because they certainly did not fare well during...
HUNT: I'm going to ask a question to Mark. I mean, I think my friends Bob and Kate pretend like Jim Nicholson was Alistar Cook (ph), talking only about great, lofty issues.
He was just as mean. He was just as nasty, and I think it's an insult to African-Americans to say some that kind of a leader has to tell them they're agitated. They know what they think, and I think Terry McAuliffe is doing just what every party chair does.
SHIELDS: I'd like to have a chance to talk, Bob. I'm on the show. And I think it's true, whatever you say about Terry McAuliffe, he's not a rich white boy. Terry McAuliffe comes from a very working class background in Syracuse, New York.
NOVAK: He's a multi-millionaire.
SHIELDS: He has made some money, Bob, but he's not an rich white boy.
NOVAK: In some very questionable deals.
SHIELDS: Oh, questionable deals.
NOVAK: Highly questionable that are under government investigation right now.
HUNT: He confuses Rich Trumka and Terry McAuliffe. He doesn't know the difference. We'll explain it to him after the show.
NOVAK: I'm taking about the Labor Department investigation of his fleecing labor union funds. Do you know about that?
HUNT: Yes, I am. Three-and-a-half years ago I was told there's nothing. That's Republican Party Propaganda.
NOVAK: What do you mean? HUNT: It is Republican Party propaganda.
NOVAK: You call the Labor Department tomorrow or Monday, and -- just a minute.
SHIELDS: Do you mind if I speak while you're interrupting?
HUNT: Bob, does Mark get to speak?
NOVAK: If I can just finish this sentence, and you will find that that investigation is still going own.
HUNT: I won't find it's propaganda, Bob.
SHIELDS: Time out, Bob. Time out. All right, now, the key here is there is anger. He's not fabricating anger, and he was not the choice just to Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. He was the choice of Dick Gephardt. He was the choice of Tom Daschle. He was the choice of a consensus of the Democratic Party.
NOVAK: He was not the voice of consensus.
SHIELDS: He certainly was.
NOVAK: The state chairmen were against him until they learned the Clintons were imposing him. And I know that.
SHIELDS: Bob, I'm sorry, your reporting, once again, is flawed. Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at Iraq with former arms inspector Scott Ritter.
SHIELDS: Welcome back. At Camp David yesterday, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair signaled a softening of sanctions against Iraq with a warning to Saddam Hussein.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: A change in the sanction regime that is not working should not be any kind of signal whatsoever to him that he should cross any line and test our will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Former arms inspector Scott Ritter joins us now from Schenectady, New York.
Scott Ritter, do you think modified sanctions are the right way to go in Iraq?
SCOTT RITTER, FRM. U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Absolutely not. There's nothing in any Security Council resolution that talks about a modification of sanctions. They talk about continuing economic sanctions until which time Iraq has been deemed to have complied with its disarmament obligation.
Clearly, there's some debate about that. I contend Iraq is fundamentally disarmed. Others say it isn't, but the point is sanctions must be lifted completely once a finding of compliance has been done.
The other thing is sanctions are linked to the weapons issue, not to the issue of Saddam Hussein, and I think the United States needs to figure out what, in fact, its real policy is, get rid of Saddam or see that Iraq has been disarmed because there's a lot of confusion about what we're trying to achieve in Iraq and I think it's one of the reasons why the sanction regime is in fact crumbling.
SHIELDS: What do you think we should be trying to achieve in Iraq?
RITTER: I think it's imperative that we get weapons inspectors back in to ensure that Iraq does not reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction capability, and in exchange for that, we can offer a lifting of economic resolutions as is promised under Security Council resolution.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, that seems to makes sense, doesn't it?
O'BEIRNE: It does. The recognition, of course, that the Bush administration and Tony Blair now seem friendly to is recognizing what the facts are on the ground that there is no longer support for the sanctions against Iraq and it essentially has become meaningless.
I wonder, based on Scott's experience, would even inspections now, if the U.N. was so inclined to resume them, be meaningless given the opportunity that Saddam Hussein has had over the past, you know, years to hide what he's up too even more effectively than he was able to in the beginning?
SHIELDS: We'll get back to that. Bob Novak, your own take?
NOVAK: I think that Scott Ritter in his excellent book "End Game," published in 1999, said that it's time for engagement with Iraq. We either should have a military engagement where we send a quarter of a million troops to Baghdad. We're not going to do that.
Or the other is a diplomatic engagement, and now is the time to lift the sanctions and to have a diplomatic engagement with Saddam Hussein because -- but I tell you this, talking to people in this town, I don't find any policy by the Bush administration for an end game. I don't think they know where they're going on Iraq.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt.
HUNT: Mark, the first thing I want to say is the Pentagon last week told us what a great success the bombing raids were and we found out later that over half the missiles didn't hit their targets. The Pentagon lied to us and someone owes an explanation.
But I'd like to ask Scott Ritter, picking up on what he said, Tom Friedman, the very able "New York Times" columnist, said we ought to make a deal. We ought to totally lift sanctions if Saddam would agree to let inspectors back in, to ban the importation of major weapons and to continue to limit troop movements. Does Scott think that Saddam might buy that, and is that a possibly deal?
SHIELDS: Scott Ritter, your reaction?
RITTER: Well, look, Iraq has bought into that deal already. They accepted a series of Security Council resolutions that allowed weapons inspectors to monitor the totality of Iraq's industrial infrastructure. From 1994 until the United States ordered inspectors out in 1998, we were actively involved in monitoring every single one of Iraq's factories. There was no prohibited weapons manufacturing taking place. We knew this. This is a fact.
The other thing is we had in place a means of controlling Iraq's import and export, a Security Council resolution that Iraq and the rest of the world bought into.
So, the means is already in place. What the United States must do is use its leadership position to reach some sort of conclusion about the disarmament obligations. Clearly, I believe that Iraq no longer has weapons of mass destruction, and given the success of the inspection regime, no longer has the ability to produce these weapons. Get the inspectors back in, make sure they don't reconstitute, lift the economic sanctions and I think the problem is solved.
NOVAK: You know, I think the problem is, and I don't know if Scott agrees with me, is that this administration even more than the Clinton administration, and people who are advising it really want to get rid of Saddam.
That is the goal, and the idea that they're just interested in some kind of a deal such as Al mentions, I don't think interests these people at all. I have asked people, how do you get rid of Saddam Hussein and the answer they always give is by helping the armed opposition in Iraq.
SHIELDS: Richard Perle is one of the big advocates of that.
NOVAK: That's right. He said on CNN that Saddam Hussein could be gone in a year. I don't know anybody who is a specialist in the field...
HUNT: I'll bet you Scott Ritter, who has been there a lot, doesn't accept that.
SHIELDS: Scott Ritter, your own take on that, I mean, that whole question about domestic resistance. Is there this latent group ready, with a little bit of activation and support, ready to topple and remove Saddam Hussein?
RITTER: Absolutely not. Saddam Hussein is more solidly entrenched in Iraq today than he has been at any time since the Gulf War. The Iraqi National Congress has no hope, I should say, of succeeding in overthrowing him, and Congress isn't helping this with passing the Iraqi Liberation Act and continuing to insist that we spend money to support this organization that has no viable constituency in Iraq. It's only promoting, you know, disaster.
Look, the Clinton administration was heavily criticized by Republicans for timid implementation of a failed policy. The Bush administration's attempt for bold implementation of a failed policy is still going result in the same thing, failure. They need to change this Saddam-centric focus and start looking at real solutions, and the only solution is through diplomacy, one that trades getting weapons inspectors back in for the lifting of sanctions and the engendering of stability in that region.
HUNT: Let me ask Bob and Kate something, I think it probably is safe to say that Colin Powell and Dick Cheney have a lot invested in this. They go back to the previous war. Do you think Rumsfeld might be somebody who could lead the way for changing this policy?
NOVAK: Well, I don't agree about General Powell. I think General Powell's rules of always having an end game, of finding a way to get out kind of rule out this continued bombing. The people -- I don't know what Mr. Rumsfeld's position is, but I think there are people in the Pentagon who do want to continue to keep bombing and have talked President Bush into it at the present time.
SHIELDS: Let me just say, as one, I think that Colin Powell did the right thing in 1991. I don't think there was any way the United States could occupy Iraq. I think that was the question, a whole free election or whatever and that was not the objective.
But I'll never forget that bumper sticker in 1992 that Pat Buchanan supporters had in New Hampshire, and that was Saddam Hussein still has his job, do you have yours with 9 percent unemployment, and I think that still festers with a lot of real Bush partisans.
Scott Ritter, thank you for being with us. THE GANG will be back with the "Outrage of the Week." Thanks, Scott.
SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week." Well-documented by now are so many of the bottom-feeders who were granted presidential pardons during the last hours Bill Clinton spent in the White House, the big-time drug dealers, the international swindlers, the international fugitives, but what about the loyal friend, devoted supporter and good Arkansas neighbor of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Webb Hubble. It is truly an indefensible outrage that Marc Rich got a pardon from Bill Clinton and Webb Hubble did not -- Bob Novak.
NOVAK: I have always admired James Carville's loyalty, until now. Carville owes a lot to Zell Miller for the handsome fee he received from Miller's campaign for governor of Georgia, and for Miller recommending him to Bill Clinton. But when Senator Miller endorsed President Bush's tax cuts, Carville sent Miller an e-mail asking for return of his $1,000 contribution to Miller's Senate campaign. He got it back, and Miller's popularity ratings in Georgia are sky high. SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne
O'BEIRNE: Preliminary numbers from the recently completed 2000 census suggest that its accuracy may top 99 percent. The remarkable results refute Democratic predictions of a failed census made to justify their demand for statistical sampling to inflate the expected number of undercounted minorities. But with perhaps the most accurate census ever, Democrats will outrageously continue their search to find phantom voters. You can count on it.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt.
HUNT: Mark, two months ago a five-member Supreme Court majority decided that the equal protection clause required them to ignore the Florida courts, stop the legitimate recount in the presidential election, and therefore assure that George W. Bush was going to be the next president.
The same five member majority this week decided that states' rights was more important than equal protection for disabled Americans. In an dreadful decision, Chief Justice Rehnquist and his majority blithely ignored mountains of evidence of discrimination against people with disabilities. But then, this isn't as important as electing a Republican president.
SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. "CNN TONIGHT" is coming up next.
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