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Did Bush Succeed on European Tour?; Who Wins in the Education Debate?; Charles Norwood Discusses Patients Bill of Rights

Aired June 16, 2001 - 19:00   ET


MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields with the full CAPITAL GANG. That's Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne, Margaret Carlson and in Charlotte, North Carolina, Al Hunt.

George W. Bush made his first visit to Europe as president this week, encountering demonstrators and unhappy allies from Spain to Sweden. At a NATO summit, he pushed his missile defense plan.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not asking our allies to sign on to a specific system. We're asking our allies to think differently and asking Russia to think differently about the post-Cold War era. The ABM Treaty is a product of the Cold War era.


SHIELDS: But France's president, Jacques Chirac, asserted, quote, "the need to preserve strategic balances of which the ABM Treaty is a pillar," end quote.

President Bush also stuck to his opposition to the Kyoto global warming treaty.


BUSH: We don't agree on the Kyoto treaty, but we do agree that climate change is a serious issue and we must work together.



GORAN PERSSON, SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER: We agreed to disagree about substance according to the Kyoto protocol. The European Union will stick to the Kyoto protocol and go for a ratification process. U.S. has chosen another policy.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, was the president's trip a success or a failure? MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, like the debates, the bar was placed so low that Bush couldn't help but clear it. And, indeed, he cleared it. The demonstrators -- the long-haired demonstrators mooning America helped him. Everyone was polite.

But like Kyoto, taking ABM off the table is not a good idea. I mean, to say it's a relic, and like he knows something the rest of the powers don't know -- that we don't need an arms control agreement out there -- why we do -- which allows, by the way, for some development of a missile defense.

The ABM was modified in 1974. It could be modified again. But to take it away and to say that as a result of the end of the Cold War, we don't need an arms control agreement, I think the allies rightly think that's a bad idea.

And if there was a field poll, I think we would see -- he's lucky there's no field poll, because I think we would see that the allies are not all that impressed.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, were you impressed?

ROBERT NOVAK, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Well, I don't know if that was a yes or a no from Margaret, I didn't quite get the answer.

CARLSON: It was a B.

NOVAK: I was impressed. I thought he did quite well. I thought his speech on Friday in Poland was eloquent, emotional. I would've loved to have seen him just tell the Europeans, who are so obnoxious -- they have low growth rates and they all kinds of trouble, and we won the Cold War. But even Reagan didn't tell them where to go, and I guess a president has to show some prudence in dealing with our so- called allies.

But I thought he was quite good. And contrary to some of the statements at this table a week ago, he didn't turn tail on global warming, he stuck to his position. The ABM Treaty is a non-sequitur, it should've been done away with a long time ago. So I give him a very strong A from that, and I think most Americans like him standing up to the supercilious Europeans.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, the supercilious Europeans -- this is an intriguing difference -- when Bill Clinton was criticized, it was always Bill Clinton's fault. Now, it's these supercilious Europeans when George Bush gets criticized, from our conservative brethren. Do you have a take on this?

AL HUNT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": I just hope Bob Novak will moonlight at my kids' school, because if they can get all A's they can get into any college, I suppose. Bob, you're an easy grader.

Look, I thought Bush -- look, he memorized his briefing papers, Mark. He didn't mispronounce too many names. But other than that, I don't think there was anything particularly impressive about what Bush did over in Europe. I also don't think the Europeans are very impressive. They are quite divided too, whether it's on NATO expansion, or some currency and trade issues, or rapid deployment force. So I think the whole Atlantic alliance is frayed.

I just have a hard time agreeing with Bob totally on the ABM Treaty, though. The Cold War has been over for 10 years, and for the last 10 years it has enabled the U.S. and Russia to reduce those stockpiles of nuclear weapons without fear from the other fellow. I think that's an accomplishment. Whether it should be audited or not is another matter.

But, Mark, when you look at that whole alliance, the idea of a Roosevelt or an Eisenhower is not present on either side of the Atlantic.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, what grade do you give, an A?

KATE O'BEIRNE, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Look, there's no way George Bush is going to get an A in public relations. Our own liberal elites in the media love echoing the liberal elite opinion in Europe, which is anti-American, fundamentally, and has very little to do with George Bush himself.

Bill Clinton was able to superficially charm them, you know? He wore European suits. He loved meetings as much as European bureaucrats do -- they'll sit there all day talking about things -- and he dates like a Frenchman. They sort of like Bill Clinton, but they still don't like America.

It would only have been a failure -- and it, of course, wasn't -- had the president been ambivalent about his commitment to missile defense and his commitment to keeping America from this economically ruinous Kyoto treaty, and he wasn't ambivalent on either point.

NOVAK: Not a bit, not a bit.

O'BEIRNE: In which case, on the policy front, it's a big success.

And I don't understand how the way to be friendly with the Russians and assure a peaceful relationship with the Russians is to maintain the Cold War policy of us having the mutual determination to annihilate millions of each other's citizens, as opposed to a missile defense system.

SHIELDS: The Kyoto treaty is a little bit of a red herring, isn't it? I mean, the Europeans talk about it as if it's the holy grail -- none of them has ratified it. And Bush runs against it like it's a formidable defense, and it really isn't.

But, I mean, the reality when you look at it: we produce 25 percent of the carbon waste in the world...

NOVAK: We've got 25 percent of the wealth.

SHIELDS: We have 5 percent of the population.

NOVAK: 25 percent of the wealth.


SHIELDS: But the point, Bob, is not, if you're wealthy, you can pollute more...

NOVAK: But you have to pollute more!

SHIELDS: You can make -- you can make -- you can make the ice caps melt faster. You could make the water rise quicker.

Go ahead, Margaret.

CARLSON: Actually, the more economically advanced you are, the better able you are to control your pollution, because we can afford the technology and the research and development.

NOVAK: That's the Kyoto theory.

CARLSON: And, you know, Kyoto is a surrogate for, are you serious about global warming? Nobody said Kyoto was perfect. But if you're going to take Kyoto away, put your own proposal there for something that most people don't think is the product of demented scientists. They think it's real.

NOVAK: Well, as we said last week, the scientists are disagreeing...

CARLSON: No one said that. You said that.

NOVAK: I said it's ambivalent. But, you know, I really think -- when Al says, "These are not Eisenhower or Roosevelt," what about Reagan? There's no president that got more abuse from the Europeans and their satellites in the Washington media than Ronald Reagan -- the cowboy, the idiot. I mean, George W. Bush gets a free pass. And now, we say: "Gee, you know, Reagan was pretty good. He won the Cold War." So I am really kind of sick and tired...

HUNT: Who won the Cold War?

NOVAK: Ronald Reagan won the Cold War.


SHIELDS: Al, did you want to take up on that? Al Hunt?

HUNT: Pardon me?


SHIELDS: Are you still in shock?

HUNT: I am so stunned at Bob. Listen, first of all, I never called Ronald Reagan an idiot to begin with. And secondly, Bob, all I can tell you is that you're the only scientist I know that doesn't take global warming seriously.


SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt. Thank you, Dr. Hunt.

The gang of five will be back with a Senate landslide for the education bill, and later Al versus Bill.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. The Senate passed a $416 billion, 700- page national education reform plan by a 91-8 vote.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D-MA), EDUCATION COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: This wasn't a Republican education program or a Democratic education program, it's an education program that'll make a real difference for children all over this country.



SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: There are some problems with the legislation. The funding levels got out of control.


SHIELDS: On a key vote, the Senate rejected, 58-41, a proposed $50 million pilot program to provide private school aid to parents.


KENNEDY: Let's take scare resources, invest them where they should be invested, and that is tried and tested programs that'll enhance the children's academic achievement in the public schools, in the public schools of this country.



SEN. JUDD GREGG (R-NH), EDUCATION COMMITTEE: Tried and tested programs -- that's a fairly unique way to describe a program that has left literally hundreds of thousands of children behind. That's why parents in inner-city schools want to have the opportunity to have some options.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, who is winning the great education debate: Democrats, Republicans, White House, Congress?

O'BEIRNE: Mark, they're both winners. They both got what they wanted. The White House wanted the kind of headlines they're now enjoying -- triumph for George Bush, big bipartisan win. They were only going for the headlines and didn't much care about the policy, and the Democrats won the policy, they kept their eye on the policy ball.

This bill could have nationalized private schools, and the White House would have approved it, because they thought they so desperately needed a bipartisan education bill. And that means, of course, that Teddy Kennedy's assertions, one of them only, is correct: it's not a Republican bill. However, he's wrong, it is a Democrat bill, and he's wrong because it's really not going to make any difference in the lives of America's schoolchildren.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, looking at it from North Carolina, what's your take on the education bill?

HUNT: Well, I think the bill's better than Kate views it. I also think that short-term, George Bush gets more credit. It was his initiative, and I think the GOP has always had a weakness on education, at least in recent years. I think this helps in that sense.

Over the longer term, the Democrats, though, may win this battle about more funding, because every time they come and say they want more funding, which I think people now want, the White House is going to say: "We can't afford it." Why can't we afford? The tax cut.

Let me just say one word about the vouchers, however. I think the Democrats make a huge mistake. This was a very modest voucher proposal. It only went to low-income students. It did not take money from existing programs. I understand why it went down, it's been defeated everywhere it's been voted on, the politics aren't particular good. But I think the Democrats really deserve condemnation for that, as does the White House, which didn't lift a finger to help that proposal.

SHIELDS: Bob, doesn't Al Hunt make a good point about vouchers, quite frankly, that the White House was lukewarm and the Democrats just sort of were in ideological lockstep?

NOVAK: And the reason he didn't state, one of the reasons it went down was the pressure from the teachers' unions, who are very politically powerful.

SHIELDS: With George Bush?

NOVAK: They're politically powerful with the members of the Senate, including about 10 Republican senators who voted against it, and they think they're going to appease the National Education Association by voting against school choice. They won't. They'll still go after them. But that's the stupidity of appeasement.

I thought this was a very unimpressive bill. It's probably marginally better than the House version. I don't know what they're going to end up with in the conference committee. But I would say a good of rule of thumb is that any bill, any education bill that Teddy Kennedy likes is bad news for Republicans and for conservatives and for the country.

SHIELDS: OK. There you go.

CARLSON: Are you two married?

You're right, Teddy Kennedy won this one.


CARLSON: Follow the money, $15 billion more. It's a money bill. And it's a testing bill. That's one of its major problems, I think, which is that any child that's being tested to death is not learning, and there's too much teaching to these tests already.

The idea that we need three years to figure out which schools aren't working -- give me three weeks and I'll have the whole list and tell you what to do.

NOVAK: It's a bureaucratic device, though.

CARLSON: Yes. You know, you don't have to pay me any consulting fee.

O'BEIRNE: Because the consequences are never going to happen. Texas and Florida are both busy watering down their state-based tests, which is what happens. Schools are not permitted to fail. And that's why they're postponing three years, even though some schools have been on a failing list for 10 years at the Department of Education.

CARLSON: And, Mark, there's this hidden boon in there, because the money goes to tutoring partly at the end of this three-year period, so these Sylvan Learning Centers are going to be skimming money out of this bill, taking these kids in the failing schools.

NOVAK: But Al is right, there's going to be a huge fight over the appropriations on this bill, because, you know, Teddy Kennedy and all of the Democrats think that the more money you put it, the better the schools are going to be, against all of the experience we've ever had, and there's going to be a huge fight, and people like Al Hunt are going to say: "Oh, we didn't help the schools because we're going to give some of the tax payments back to people who paid it."

SHIELDS: Al, I will say this, that $181 billion is earmarked, outside of the regular appropriation process, for federal contribution to special education over the next 10 years. I mean that -- and had Republicans who have been calling for this, conservatives saying we had to have federal funding, they backed off it because of the price tag. That's a big price tag.

HUNT: No, it is a big price tag. And I would just to Bob Novak that the best school systems in the country, by and large, suburban Chicago, suburban Washington, those school systems are school systems that spend more money, Robert. You can't get around it.

And, Kate, I agree about some states watering down their tests. That's why I think we ought to seriously consider a national standardized test, but the right wing goes crazy over that.

SHIELDS: OK. That wraps it up. We will be right back. Next on CAPITAL GANG, Bill Clinton and Al Gore, a marriage gone sour.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. In "Vanity Fair" magazine, Marjorie Williams describes an unhappy partnership between Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Her article, "Scenes From A Marriage," states, quote: "The split between Clinton and Gore presents itself as everything from a personal spat to an ideological divide, from a battle between pollsters and consultants with a huge stake in the question of why Gore lost to a shell-shocked lack of consensus over who will now have the standing to lead the party," end quote.

Al Hunt, whatever happened to the strongest relationship ever between a president and a vice president?

HUNT: You mean Eisenhower and Nixon or was it Johnson and Humphrey?

Look, some of this is endemic, particularly if the vice president loses the presidential race. But this one, I think, has achieved new levels of bitterness. Clinton, basically, complains that if Gore had run a half-decent campaign he would have been elected. Gore says if Clinton hadn't engaged in those terrible personal indiscretions that he, Gore, would have won.

You know what, Mark? They're both right. I mean, the fact of the matter, without Monica Lewinsky, Al Gore even running a bad campaign would have won. And I would say that it wasn't Bill Clinton or Monica Lewinsky who showed up at that debates, where Al Gore was incapable of separating Clinton's personal problems with the popularity of the Clinton-Gore policy.

I think most -- many Democrats today would -- their fondest wish is that both of them would just kind of go away for a while.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, looking at this, Al Gore repealed one of the great axioms of American politics: peace and prosperity gets the party in power re-elected. Is he to blame?

NOVAK: Sure he was to blame. He ran a terrible campaign, and Clinton didn't help. Al's exactly right on that. But Al didn't quite answer your question. Whatever happened to this wonderful...


NOVAK: And I would say that the press were conned on this. The news media took it at great value. And there was very little reporting even during the campaign that they were at each other's throats. They really didn't -- they kept it pretty quiet. They didn't pick it up until after the election.

But I would say that every Democrat I talked to says: "Boy, Bill Clinton is gone, and we hope Al Gore is gone. And we think we can beat George W. Bush, but we need somebody new."

SHIELDS: Margaret, I had to turn in favor of Bill Clinton when I found out that Al Gore, one of the first things he did when they were going to get on the bus together, was to...

CARLSON: Take away the Milky Ways!

SHIELDS: ... take away Clinton's Milky Ways. He wanted to give him health food.


O'BEIRNE: The Milky Ways wound up later looking pretty harmless, I might add.

CARLSON: You must not have read "TIME" magazine, because we have some of this -- but Marjorie Williams wrote a brilliant piece, and that she had those little details, and the -- you know, it was always a marriage of convenience. They stayed together for the sake of the children, and they were just unhappier than we knew.

While he was taking away his Milky Ways, you know, Al Gore is on the treadmill, but he gains weight and Bill Clinton, you know, was slim. The guy just couldn't catch a break.

And in that kind of pairing, Clinton is so maddening, because here's the guy who never got into a scrape. And here's the guy, Clinton, who did nothing but get into scrapes, get out of them. And the fact is that polls showed that, you know, if Clinton had run with Monica sticking to him, he may have won -- he might have won the race that Gore couldn't lose -- couldn't win without Monica.

SHIELDS: I like that one. But, Kate, if Bill Clinton had driven a convertible with the top down through a car wash, Al Gore would have gotten wet. That's what I concluded from reading that piece.

But your take on it.

O'BEIRNE: Well, I agree with Bob. They were never so chummy. It was always phony. And I think keeping up that phony appearance took its toll on Al Gore. He was angry, he was frustrated, he was annoyed. And to compensate for it, he used to go overboard on praising Bill Clinton. He never figured out how to run like Clinton without the sex -- how to beat Clinton without the sex.

He wound up being -- looking Clinton-like, in that he was a phony, a trimmer, unauthentic, you know. And I think part of it was this phony relationship they had, and part of it was the flip-flopping around.

SHIELDS: They weren't nearly as close as George Bush and Dan Quayle, is that what you're telling me?

O'BEIRNE: I think it was -- that's a healthy relationship.

(CROSSTALK) SHIELDS: OK. All right. We'll be back with the CAPITAL GANG classic, Bill Clinton's first visit to Europe as president.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. And now for our CAPITAL GANG classic.

Seven years ago, on his first visit to Europe as president, Bill Clinton ended up in Moscow for a summit with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, after rejecting full NATO membership for former Soviet satellites.

This is what the CAPITAL GANG said on January 15, 1994. Bob Novak was in Moscow covering that summit. Our quest was Republican Senator Bill Cohen of Maine, who less than three years later became and would become Bill Clinton's secretary of Defense.


SEN. BILL COHEN (R), MAINE: Well, I think we missed a unique opportunity here. Number one, the partnership for peace agreement really doesn't spell out the kind of criteria that should be spelled out. If they meet those criteria over the next three or four or five years, they will, in fact, become members of NATO. I think you have to make that case up front.

SHIELDS: I think that Bill Cohen's points are both valid and provocative. I would say that I come out of this with an uncertainty as to what our real policy is.

CARLSON: It's a perfect Bill Clinton solution. It's -- the partnership for peace allows him to take a small step, not alienate the Russians, not alienate the new republics.

NOVAK: Let me be in the unique position, Al, of defending President Clinton on this, because I don't think he had much choice. I disagree with Bill Cohen that he could have gone into here and had some kind of great opportunity to immediately bring NATO to the Russian borders.

COHEN: I think we're asking for NATO membership opponents -- membership in NATO at this point, but rather setting forth certain criteria over a period of time, under what circumstances these other nations may be allowed to integrate into NATO.

HUNT: Bob, let me go back to you. It seemed like when he saw the snows in Moscow, Bill Clinton thought it was the New Hampshire primary.

NOVAK: He really did. And he put on a terrific town meeting here in Russia. The one thing that the president can do very well is campaign. A lot of the men-and-women-on-the-street interviews said: "Well, how come Boris is in his dacha and his friend Bill Clinton is out on the street shaking hands with us"?

(END VIDEOTAPE) SHIELDS: Bob Novak, were you too soft on President Clinton or was, perhaps, Bill Cohen too harsh?

NOVAK: No. After careful review, I think that was perfectly correct, and Senator Cohen was wrong. They really had this -- they acted like President Clinton did this very -- very skillfully of starting very slow on the NATO integration of the Eastern European satellites. But -- and I think Cohen was wrong that they had missed an opportunity -- and he got the secretary of Defense job.


SHIELDS: Al, we'll look at the last two finalists, Bill Cohen and Bob Novak for secretary of Defense.

NOVAK: But I will say just how much things do change in three years. When now the present -- the present president on his first trip to Europe is talking about everybody going into NATO.

SHIELDS: That's right. Al?

HUNT: Well, Mark, I just can't help but think of Bill Clinton and if he watched that program and had selected Bob for Defense secretary, and Bill Cohen had been a part of the CAPITAL GANG, what a difference it would have made for the country and for us.


SHIELDS: That's right! Margaret Carlson, other than your big hair, what do you want to revisit about that particular...


CARLSON: Yes, or Bob's small hair.


CARLSON: And getting smaller.

George Bush's campaign aspects of his trip are actually pretty good. You know, he's doing this on the shoulder. There's a lot of eye contact. He does that part too. He should consider a town meeting.

SHIELDS: Town meeting. Thank you very much.

We'll be back in our second half-hour with our "Newsmaker of the Week," Republican Congressman Charlie Norwood of Georgia, on health care.

"Beyond the Beltway" looks at next Tuesday's special Virginia congressional election with political analyst Larry Sabato.

And our "Outrages of the Week," all after a check of the hour's top news.


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

This week's news maker is a Republican co-sponsor of the patient's bill of rights opposed by President Bush. Congressman Charlie Norwood of Georgia. Charlie Norwood: Age 59. Residence: Valdosta, Georgia. Religion: Methodist. Practicing dentist, 1969 to 1993. Vietnam War Army veteran, elected to Congress: 1994.

Al Hunt sat down with Congressman Norwood earlier this week.


HUNT: Congressman, you're a Republican dentist from Valdosta, Georgia with a near perfect conservative voting record. How can you support an HMO bill that the Bush White House says is a trial lawyer's bonanza, would hurt patients?

REP. CHARLES NORWOOD (R), GEORGIA: Well partly because I wrote the bill and I know it's not a trial lawyer's bonanza that will hurt patients. What we are trying to do is correct injustices that the Congress placed on the health care professions in 1974. It will be very good for the quality of health care in this country.

HUNT: Senator Bill Frist, like you, a Republican, like you, a doctor, says that your approach would mean more suits against employers and even expanded suits against doctors.

NORWOOD: Well, I respect Dr. Frist and like him a lot. He is wrong on this subject. We go to great lengths to protect employers. That's very important to me, as a conservative Republican. The only place that we opened that door just a little bit is if an employer directly participates in a decision meaningfully that kills a patient.

We are saying, you should be liable. Who out there disagrees that if you make a decision purposefully that kills a child you should be liable in America?

HUNT: In your home state of Georgia, the business roundtable is taking out this ad right now that says the bill that you support could cost 35,000 Georgians their health insurance because of increased premiums.

NORWOOD: And, you know, they're spending $100 million, the insurance industry, to make sure we don't pass our bill. They are doing the same thing they've been doing to this bill for six years. Leave it to the insurance industry to run the health care in America and manage the cost, and they don't like people like me butting into their business because they're into that 3/4 of a trillion dollars we spend every year on health care.

HUNT: You don't buy, then, the Congressional Budget Office analysis that your bill would add 4 percent to premium costs? NORWOOD: It could add 4 percent on some premium's but like most things it's more complex than that. That number started out at 23 percent just a few years ago. If you are a very bad actor, if you don't do anything with your insurance policy that we are saying are bottom line standards, then you would have some increase.

There are companies out there that do many of the things that we are saying are absolute bottom line standards in health care. Their cost is not going up whatever the percent is, with some degree. So it's not fair to say it's a 4 percent increase and in fact it's not right to say it.

HUNT: You've been in intense negotiations with the White House in recent weeks. With whom did you negotiate principally, and what was their major point of resistance?

NORWOOD: Well, I got off my own bill last February because I didn't think it was time to drop the bill. I wanted to give this new president time to negotiate. And I've talked with the president himself, a pretty good bit about this subject.

HUNT: Why won't he buy off on your bill?

NORWOOD: We could not solve the problem always it is, in liability. Now, this president has said there will be liability in any bill he signs. Now that's, as you know, great improvement over just two or three years ago. He has said, however, that he believes that these cases should be adjudicated in federal court.

We believe that it's very important that they be adjudicated in state court. I don't want to preempt state laws. Georgia's, Texas', anybody else's.

HUNT: Let me ask you for a prediction. Will a bill close to what you're proposing pass the Congress and will George Bush sign it?

NORWOOD: Yes, I believe -- and it will be a bipartisan bill. I can't pass my Republican bill without Democrats. Democrats cannot pass any form of the bill without Republicans. We have a bipartisan bill, it is known as the Ganske-Dingall-Norwood-Edwards-McCain bill. And we are going to pass it in both houses. And we hope the president will come because we need his signature and are going to work out the differences.

HUNT: And you think he will sign.

NORWOOD: I absolutely think he'll sign the bill because I know how badly he wants a patient protections bill.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, is Charlie Norwood just representing the doctor's point of view here, or is he really in the vanguard of a real Republican rebellion on this issue? HUNT: I don't think there's a real Republican rebellion yet, but I'll tell you, two of the allies Charlie Norwood has on this bill are Ted Kennedy and Bob Barr, the right wing congressman from Georgia. I mean that's really spanning the spectrum, Mark.

The White House and its allies say that supporters of the Norwood bill are in the tank to the trial lawyers, and the Norwood people say the White House is in the tank with the HMOs. I think in a manner like this, it's instructive to look for guidance to health care professionals, the doctor's and nurses. And I would just pose two questions, Mark. Number one: Other than Bill Frist, try to find very many doctors or nurses who think that the White House approach, or the current approach, is desirable.

And number two: I'm looking for volunteers who are going through -- who are going to face a major medical situation who are willing to let an HMO play any role in that decision.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Doctors and nurses don't typically know a lot about health economics, and that's a problem. Look, Republicans, it seems to me, in Congress, want this issue to go away. And they've, the House, already passed a Norwood-type bill last year. I think there are enough votes from McCain-Kennedy, that version in the Senate to pass.

I don't think Republicans any longer trust their ability to distinguish their version of a patients bill of rights from what Charlie Norwood is talking about. So there could be sort of a surrender in the works here, but Charlie Norwood's wrong. Employers will have every incentive to just drop coverage.

Why run the risk that you are going to be held responsible and he's in league with people who won't mind if that happens because if there are millions more uninsured, it increases the all for government-run health care and that's fine with Teddy Kennedy.

SHIELDS: Margaret.

CARLSON: Bush said he was going to veto a bill this week. He won't, he can't. It cannot be explained because -- a veto cannot be explained. And in Texas, when a similar bill came up, Bush vetoed it. It was a mistake. He got in a lot of trouble. He did not sign the next bill that came along but he let it become law, and then during the campaign, when patients bill of rights was so popular, he said, hey, look what I did in Texas.

So this is what he will do again. He will take credit for the patient bill of rights that is going to pass, and he's not going veto it.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: I wouldn't count out a veto, I think it's entirely possible. It's not the end of the world. It's the first year of his presidency and I don't think it's all that popular with that many people. Charlie Norwood, long ago, on this issue, gave up being a conservative Republican. He's got the doctor's line and unlike Al, I don't put any faith in doctors or nurses more than anybody else.

I think this is really -- I think the Kennedy -- the Kennedy- Norwood bill -- isn't that the name of it -- the Kennedy-Norwood...

SHIELDS: He adds Dingall, McCain, Ganske, Norwood, and...

NOVAK: I think, follow the Kennedy rule, and if Kennedy is for it there's something wrong with it.

SHIELDS: I just have to say in closing, that Bob Novak has given us a whole new approach. We don't have to think through any issues anymore, just if Ted Kennedy is for it -- I Ted Kennedy is going to pledge of allegiance, Bob Novak is against it.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway:" a crucial special House election in Virginia.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at Tuesday's fourth Congressional district special House election in southeastern Virginia. The district's 18 year Democratic Congressman, Norman Sisisky, died in March, leading to a key election race in the closely contested U.S. House of Representatives.

The candidates are two state senators, Democrat Louise Lucas and Republican Randy Forbes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Randy Forbes wants to take money out of Medicare to give a tax break to wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Louise Lucas will preserve the Social Security trust fund.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On gas prices, taxes and retirement, Randy Forbes doesn't stand for working families.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three times Louise Lucas voted to keep the high tax on non-prescription drugs -- three times -- the same three times Randy Forbes voted to get rid of the tax. The same votes, the same bills, and each of these times Louise Lucas voted against our seniors.


SHIELDS: Joining us now from Charlottesville, Virginia is University of Virginia Professor Larry Sabato, called the Mark McGwire of political analysts by "The Washington Post" and author of a forthcoming book "Over Time," the election 2000 thriller. Thanks for coming in, Larry.

LARRY SABATO, AUTHOR: Thank you very much, Mark.

SHIELDS: Larry, is this Virginia race really an early referendum on president George W. Bush?

SABATO: To a certain agree I think it is. You don't want to exaggerate the importance of any single House election. But out of the half dozen or so special elections to the U.S. House that have already been held or will be held this year, this fourth district in Virginia is the most competitive district. Carried by President Clinton in 1992 by 700 votes, by President Bush last November by 500 votes.

SHIELDS: Wow! That is close. But yet Chuck Robb the Democratic senator who lost re-election in Virginia last fall also carried the district. Now, why would a Robb Democrat be appealing there?

SABATO: A Robb Democrat is appealing because Chuck Robb had a close identification with the military and there was a large African- American turn out last November in that district. And it helped Chuck Robb more than that did Al Gore. Incidentally if the Democrat pulls an upset on Tuesday, it will be simply because of a very large African-American turn out.

SHIELDS: OK, Bob Novak.

NOVAK: You say, pull an upset, so you think that Forbes, the Republican is the favorite?

SABATO: Yes, not by much. The private polls show it close. He's ahead by a few points and his people are very nervous because they detect, as I have, some real activity among African-American groups and individuals in the fourth.

NOVAK: As I understand it, the black population of that district is 38 percent, which is pretty high. And Louise Lucal, the state senator is an African-American, first time running in that district.

There was a flier that was mailed out which was -- had some racial connotations. It said that Forbes, a Republican, would leave all these black children behind. They would have a miserable life. And the Lucas campaign said oh, that wasn't us, that was the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the DCCC. We didn't have anything to do with that. Do you think the race card is being played in the district in order to get out a black vote?

SABATO: Yes. It's being played by both sides. The incident you described is absolutely accurate, and, of course, the Lucas campaign knew about it. However, a Republican supporter of Congressman -- maybe, to be -- Forbes at a public event talked about Louise Lucas not being "our" people, and we have to get "our" people out as opposed to her people.

And Forbes was right there. So I think it's been played subtly by both sides, unfortunately.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Larry, didn't that piece of mail say that the Bush policies would leave 6 million minority families behind? It hardly sounds like she was playing the race card with that.

NOVAK: Black people were colored there...

CARLSON: Right, she said minority families but it seems to me that that was just basically saying what lots of people have said, which is the Bush tax cut and other policies could leave black families behind. It hardly sounds to me like a race card. Is that how it is playing, and is it working against her?

SABATO: Well, Margaret, in Virginia the cards are subtle. This is part of the Virginia tradition. We're gentile here...

CARLSON: We are here too, Larry. This panel is just the...


SABATO: I know that. I'm well familiar with the panel and you're gentile as well. But it's not like Massachusetts -- it's not like Massachusetts. So for Virginia, this was a playing of the race card. And as I said, the other side has played it too. Look, Margaret, remember, the only real chance Louise Lucas has, and it's a substantial chance, is a large black vote.

This past Tuesday, Virginia had a Democratic state-wide primary for attorney general and lieutenant governor. Two African-American candidates, one ran and one won statewide. The point is in the fourth district a majority of the vote that turned out was African-American and it was the largest turn out of any of Virginia's 11 Congressional districts.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Larry, as you said, both parties are prepared to brag that if their candidate wins, for the Democrats it means that Speaker (sic) Gephardt has an excellent chance to become speaker and for the Republicans it means that their majority is safe.

Would it be such a big deal if a Democrat held a Democratic seat? Would that be so much for the Dems to be bragging about? At least in 1994 when Republican pointed to some special elections that went their way, they had two Republican candidates take Democratic seats and it did wind up telling all of us something about what was going to happen that November. SABATO: Well, if you're asking it is it an exaggeration? Of course. It will be an exaggeration on either side, but if the Republicans lose this seat, it will be a psychological blow. They have had their eye on this seat for many years. And the district has actually become more Republican for some elections in the 1990'.

So, on the whole, it's a strong district potentially for Republicans. If the Democrats carry it, there's a good chance the Democrat will only be in there for a year. The Republican governor and Republican legislature will probably redesign that district.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt in Charlotte, North Carolina.

HUNT: Larry, I love your state. I'm a native of your hometown, Charlottesville, Virginia. But as I look at the math, it seems to me that in order to win she's got to get up to a quarter of the white vote. That doesn't happen very often in Virginia, does it?

SABATO: Well, Doug Wilder got 42 percent of the white vote in 1989 and close to 40 percent in 1985 when he was elected lieutenant governor -- the 1989 race was for governor. So it does happen.

SHIELDS: So, you think, Larry, you had to make a prediction, you'd say right now...

SABATO: I would predict probably Randy Forbes will win. But don't be shocked if there's a large black turn out and there's an upset.

SHIELDS: OK, thanks for being with us, Larry Sabato. The gang will be back with the "Outrage Of The Week."


SHIELDS: No for "The Outrage of the Week." Thanks to Human Rights Watch, the watchdog group we now know that in Washington, D.C. powerless domestic workers are being abused. In some cases virtually enslaved by powerful employers and working 14 hours a day at the poverty wage of $2.14 an hour.

Who are these powerful abusers? Diplomats from the World Bank and the Organization of American States. It is time for some undiplomatic words from the U.S. which largely foots the bill for these organizations in this country. Hey, pal, we abolished slavery in this U.S. Abuse of other human beings is unacceptable. And nobody, no matter how polished or how profound your pedigree or your manners, is above the law -- Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Last week's outrage by Mark Shields confused patriotism with the European community hounding its citizens who are escaping excessive taxation. The Bush Administration refuses to join a cartel forcing high tax rates worldwide. The outrage? The IRS now proposes a regulation subject to Treasury approval forcing U.S. banks to report interest they pay foreigners. To Europeans, the U.S. is as much a tax shelter as the Cayman Islands.

they want nobody to escape the global tax police and, Mark, that has nothing do with patriotism.

SHIELDS: Bob, you are wrong but Margaret's next.

CARLSON: And Mark is right. Mark, there are two persons missing in Washington. Chandra Levy, the intern who vanished may 1, and California Democratic congressman, Gary Condit. Last week, Condit's hometown paper, "The Friendly Modesto Bee" wrote, quote, "Five weeks of silence is enough. Levy's parents told me on the phone Friday that there were 20 calls on Chandra's cell phone to Condit in one month, and that a close relative said they'd had an affair."

That doesn't link Condit to her disappearance, but it does link him to evidence that he knows more about Chandra than he's admitting. At this point any information is crucial. These desperate parents are begging.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: The president's announcement that the Navy must stop crucial combat exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques is an outrage that sacrifices national security to political pandering. Senior Navy officials reportedly feel betrayed by the decision that they believe will cripple military readiness and cost lives.

President Clinton was also under political pressure from the likes of his wife and Reverend Al Sharpton, but unlike Bush he didn't sink the Navy. SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Mark, the Hague convention in international child abduction clearly states that children who were abducted by one parent must be returned to the country of residence. However, German courts have flagrantly brushed aside international law and arrogantly ignored the rights of non-German parents. Senator Jesse Helms to his credit has assailed the Germans for this outrage.

The new U.S. ambassador to Berlin, Dan Coats, a family values man, needs to make this a priority during his stint.

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



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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