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How Can Bush Mend His Popularity Slump?; Does the White House Represent Big Oil Interests?; Kean Discusses New Jersey Primary Upset

Aired June 30, 2001 - 19:00   ET



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

Five months into George W. Bush's presidency his national job approval was shown as 53 percent by CBS/"New York Times," 59 percent by FOX Opinion Dynamics, 55 percent by Gallup/CNN/"USA Today," and most recently 50 percent by NBC/"Wall Street Journal," it's lowest rating for a president in five years.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The fact of the matter is that the president's numbers have been solid and stable. And the president, having emerged from a very close -- one of the closest elections ever in the history of the United States -- his presidency has been very well received by the American people.


SHIELDS: President Bush meanwhile threatened to veto a patients' bill of rights heading towards passage in the Senate if it is not amended.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can't accept that kind of legislation. I look forward to signing a bill such as the one that we discussed here; a good piece of legislation that will make sense for the -- for the American workers.


SHIELDS: Bob, is the president facing a dilemma on the health care bill as he is also facing a popularity crisis?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO-SUN TIMES": Mark, this is one of these fabricated frenzies set up by the chattering class in Washington, where they take a lot of poll numbers, wring their hands and say, oh my goodness, the sky is falling and the president is going down. The -- his poll -- the average of his approval ratings for the last month, 54 percent of all the different polls, is exactly where it was in the first few months. That doesn't really mean anything. It was about -- it was just a little higher than that for Ronald Reagan in his first year. The job approval rating for Bill Clinton at the same time was 39 percent -- much lower.

But that has no relevancy. What this is, is this is just people who want the president to fail, even if they don't realize it, because he is against the liberal culture of Washington. And they're working themselves into a lather over these poll numbers.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, are you in a lather?

AL HUNT, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": I'm in a lather, Mark, It's really fun, too, as a matter of fact.

I'll tell you, I think that the context of some of these numbers are what's much more important than the numbers themselves. This is a guy who has just passed a popular tax cut. a popular education bill is about to go through the Congress. Got back from a trip from Europe in which he got lots of good press.

And in that context, for him to be dropping in the polls, I think if I were at the White House, I would be somewhat alarmed -- maybe not in a lather.

I think there are several reasons for it, Mark. I think, first of all, that divide that was there last November hasn't ended. Mostly -- usually a new president wins some support with people from the other party. This president has not; very popular with Republicans, not with Democrats. Secondly, I think there is a notion that this is an administration of, by, and for the wealthy interests. That's only, I think, reinforced when you're go in the tank to the HMOs on this bill. Thirdly, I'm feeling, maybe this guy doesn't quite know what he's doing. They're not sure of that, but they worry about that.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, who's right here, Hunt or Novak?

KATE O'BEIRNE, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Mark, as a middle child, let me explain both, to an extent. I agree with Bob; I think any frenzy and upset and above-the-fold coverage owing to a small, little drop in the polls is insignificant.

But I also think Al's right; the White House doesn't seem to be alarmed. The same people who thought they were ahead by eight points to Florida during the fall think that there's nothing to worry about.

It seems to me that there -- that this might be evidence of a missed opportunity. People do rally to a new president. He's likable individually; he just had his big tax cut passed. Now's the time, it seems to me, to sort of drive up numbers some -- there's been no big stumble. He seems not to have been able to do that.

I wonder -- two things -- I wonder whether or not he's not enough in evidence, frankly. They seem to parcel out, to ration the president -- his appearances and what he says about things. Many of us became awfully sick of Bill Clinton there all the time, but it worked for him. So I think he sometimes is not present enough. And I wonder whether or not some people are wondering, is he filling the space, and whether or not there's some doubts about his ability to do so.

SHIELDS: Let me, Margaret, just endorse Kate's observation. I think the doubt that's plaguing the president right now is whether he commands the confidence and the attention of the American people. And I think that's -- that comes down to filling the stage, a sense of largeness of ability and purpose.

But tell us what you think.

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, let's all degree with Kate here in that...

NOVAK: Not all.

CARLSON: They banked -- well we don't count you for now. You and your ilk in the chattering classes we're going to just ignore for a moment while I, you know join forces over here.

Which is that Bush has banked for too long on being the non- Clinton. He got a lot out of it, but now that phase has passed and we could do with a little bit more of him now that he's stayed in the background.

And what the polls showed, I think, is that the public has a better grasp of Bush than the press. The press gave Bush fairly high marks on that trip to Europe. The coverage was, you know, fairly positive. And this -- "The New York Times" poll was taken just at the end of that. And Bush worried people who watched him abroad whenever he didn't have a script, and he did things like look into Putin's soul and see a great guy.

I mean people know -- if you'll just let me finish -- that they can look into their own soul of their own family, rarely, and they speak the same language, and most families haven't been in the KGB or butchered Chechnyans. So they didn't like that, and it really hurt him.

The chattering classes, in fact, give Bush better marks than the public.

NOVAK: Well, I think they're just ridiculous. It's not -- I think it's the public. I think it's, for a first-term president elected in a close race he's doing fine. Ronald Reagan won on a landslide, and he had people against him because he, too, was trying to change the liberal culture in Washington.

You see, the thing is, Margaret, you may be fooling yourself, but you're not fooling me. And you're fooling yourself because you just can't stand somebody who is for low taxes, for small government, for deregulation, and doesn't think oil companies are evil incarnate.

HUNT: And against Karl Marx.

SHIELDS: Let me just say Jack Kennedy won a close race -- about as close as -- it was at 81 percent at this point in his presidency.

But I'd just point out Chris Dodd said to the Democrats, hold your water, don't start celebrating because in 1995 Bill Clinton was at 37 percent. He said, presidents have a way of changing the subject, changing the conversation. He said he wouldn't get ready for...

HUNT: No, I think that's absolutely right. But I also think Chuck Hagel made a very good point about a month ago; he said, this president has to get more engaged in the substance of some of these issues. And he has not done that on the -- most of the people you talk to, Republicans as well as Democrats on the Hill, on his HMO bill, they don't think George Bush really understands it.


NOVAK: That is not true.

HUNT: That is true.

NOVAK: That's -- just a minute. That's the kind of character assassination you hear...


NOVAK: Please, please -- that's the kind of character assassination that you hear: that he doesn't understand it. Because I've talked to the senators who are dealing with him, they think he is fully engaged on that question. I mean, you just don't like what he stands for.

O'BEIRNE: I don't think the public much knows the details of the patients' bill of rights. I wonder why the president is not getting more credit for a very solid six months he's had. He delivered on a promise that people said he wouldn't be able to -- the tax cut. There have been no big stumbles. He has, to the extent the public really wanted to see this, I think sort of changed the tone; it's more civil in Washington.

They don't seem to be giving him enough credit for that, and I think the White House has to figure out how to get it for him.

SHIELDS: Good point Kate O'Beirne.

The GANG of five will be back with big money and the GOP.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. The Republican Congressional dinner in Washington, featuring President Bush and Vice President Cheney, raised $20 million for the GOP with dinner tickets costing $2,500 a piece.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: I would bet you that a lot of the folks that are going to be there are energy executives, the energy special interests and industry, big oil, that frankly will use this opportunity to thank the Republicans for stopping temporary price cap legislation.



FLEISCHER: The president will continue to help elect people who believe in the same agenda that he believes in. Therefore, the president engage in all activities that he deems appropriate to help support such candidates.


SHIELDS: Presidential aid Karl Rove's meeting with Intel executives before he disposed of his holding of that company's stork continued under scrutiny. The General Accounting Office asked who attended meetings of Vice President Cheney's task force. GAO's general counsel wrote the vice president's office, quote: "Comptroller General David M. Walker has advised me that he is prepared to issue a demand letter if we do not receive timely access to the information outlined in our June 1 letter," end quote.


SPENCER ABRAHAM, U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY: The president of the United States, the vice president when they are deciding policy, I think, should have the ability to talk to people about it without having every conversation a matter of public record.


SHIELDS: Kate, is all this becoming a serious ethics problem for the Bush administration?

O'BEIRNE: I don't think there's a serious ethics problem in either case, but I don't understand why the White House is -- it's not completely clear to me why the White House is permitting both of these non-issues, it seems to me, to fester the way they are. Henry Waxman, of course, is trying to embarrass Republicans by looking into what Karl Rove did, claiming this is the kind of thing Republicans were all over in the '90s.

I thought Dan Burton did a very good job of beating back Henry Waxman when he pointed out all the Clinton appointees who actually paid civil penalties for getting on the wrong side of these laws, Sandy Berger and Richard Holbrooke and Anthony Lake. Waxman completely ignored it, and so did Dan Burton.

So, I think on the merits, Karl Rove, is perfectly fine, but he ought to be responsive to Waxman to just get this out of the way, and in the case of the task force, clearly what the Dems are trying to do is prove that somehow Dick Cheney and George Bush were just doing the bidding of the big oil companies.

My suspicion is the list of meetings, the people they had meetings with, that energy task force, includes a lot of liberal environmental groups and energy reps. It's probably not damning, but I think on this one, the White House lawyers don't want to set a bad precedent by responding to GAO. They don't think GAO has the authority. They think it damages the office of the presidency, and they're letting that legitimate concern, probably, get in the way of just putting this to rest.

SHIELDS: Bad politics, Al?

HUNT: Yes, I agree with Kate on both these issues. I'm not sure if Rove or the Cheney task force are trying hide anything or not. But if they're not, they ought to just be forthcoming.

I think the parallel between Dick Cheney's task force and Hillary Clinton eight years ago, as you pointed out a week or so ago, is almost exact and you ought to do it. That's a test for them.

There's a test for Democrats, however and the House Democrats now in the next couple weeks are going to have it decide whether they really want to, if you'll pardon the expression -- bite the bullet and really go along with tough finance reform or are they going to go along with a sham alternative proposal?

There's a lot of them who would prefer to cop out on this. The supporters of real finance campaign got a tremendous boost this week from the Supreme Court, to the great dismay and surprise of conservatives, made it quite clear you can limit -- the party cannot be used as a money laundering operation.

NOVAK: What was the vote on that?

HUNT: Five to four.

NOVAK: That's what I thought it was.

HUNT: That was the vote on Florida, too, wasn't?


NOVAK: I just wonder who is supposed to go to fund-raising dinners for the Republicans? I think conservative businessmen, just like liberal businessman, go to conservative...

O'BEIRNE: Trial lawyers won't be there.

NOVAK: No, trial lawyers go to the Democrats. Now, I think that Republicans -- one of the Republican maladies, it's always been a problem with Republicans, is secrecy. They'd like to do everything under cover, and I think they're being absolutely silly on the Cheney thing. They should have put it out, and we wouldn't even be talking about it.

And gee, they sat down with executives from the oil companies, what a huge shock and surprise. They ought to get that out of the way.

SHIELDS: Bob, let me commend you for saying oil companies. I mean, Dick Gephardt said energy companies. Nobody gets upset about energy companies.


CARLSON: Big oil.

SHIELDS: Don't say they've got a big energy bill this week, they've got a big oil bill.

O'BEIRNE: Big oil companies.

CARLSON: To paraphrase Bob's favorite president, the business of the Bush administration is the oil business, and let's just come right out and say it, and no one is going to be surprised about who was on the energy task force, and so, let us -- let us know the names. The fund-raiser this week was like a last gasp, a dying gasp before, perhaps, you know, the new rules come into effect and $20 million...

NOVAK: It won't affect that.

CARLSON: It won't.

SHIELDS: It's soft money.

HUNT: It'll affect soft money, ban soft money.

NOVAK: They'll will get the same kind of big supporters.

SHIELDS: I don't think Republicans will break the law.


HUNT: Yes, I agree with Mark.

CARLSON: But the Republicans kind of get away with more than Democrats on this, more than Hillary got away with because they have this very authoritative way. Dick Cheney has a father knows best demeanor in which he said, when the GAO said we'd like that list, it's a private matter. Hillary Clinton didn't get away with that.

NOVAK: Hillary didn't get away with it?

CARLSON: No, it went to Judge Lambert, who, you know, said you have to reveal it.

O'BEIRNE: The situation is really not parallel. There's no evidence or charge that oil companies, environmental groups or anybody else worked on any task force. They weren't in working groups, unlike Hillary, who had all these outsiders on working groups. The most any of those groups did from the right and left was come in and sort of share their opinions with the working group which was all administration people. SHIELDS: Let me just end with a conclusion, that is that is in both cases it was a task force writing legislation on important national subjects.

NOVAK: They weren't writing legislation.

SHIELDS: They certainly were.

NOVAK: They were giving advice. They were giving advice.


SHIELDS: That's what the -- it was the mandate of the energy policy -- of the energy task force.

O'BEIRNE: No outside working groups.

SHIELDS: But that's -- it was to come up with, and I think it's a public discourse...

NOVAK: They didn't write the legislation, they just gave advice.

HUNT: Mark, it is a distinction without a difference.

SHIELDS: Bob, honest to gosh, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for that energy bill. Next on CAPITAL GANG, Microsoft stays whole.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. A federal appeals court unanimously overturned district Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's ruling to break up the Microsoft Corporation. The decision cited Jackson for flagrant ethical violations and for giving the impression of bias against Microsoft.

But the court did rule that the computer giant had used abusive, monopolistic practices.


BILL GATES, CEO, MICROSOFT CORPORATION: The ruling lifts the cloud of break-up over the company. We're really pleased that this ruling reverses the lower court ruling, and sets a much higher standard for these issues than the lower court applied.



JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm pleased to say that the court unanimously found that Microsoft engaged in unlawful conduct to maintain its dominant position in the computer operating systems. This is a significant victory.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, how can Attorney General Ashcroft call the decision a significant victory when the government has failed to break up Microsoft?

CARLSON: Well, he can say that in that it's only on the remedy that this is going back to court. There was no hearing held on the remedy, and now there will be a hearing on the remedy. Judge Penfield Jackson made a mistake.

But Ashcroft is weak against Bill Gates, is grabbing victory from the jaws of defeat. He's been scrubbed up, he's in a suit, he's got on a red power tie, his hair is combed; it's the opposite of the guy in the deposition video rocking back and forth and in effect doing a Clintonian performance.

This is, if you read the opinion, which I have, is the most sweeping anti-trust decision of the modern era. On every count, the court, except for one, the court found Microsoft guilty of abuse of practices in upholding their monopoly -- every one.

And it's only sending it back on the matter of remedy and because Judge Penfield Jackson talked to the likes of us in a very indiscreet way. But it's only remedy.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Well, except "only remedy" is no small thing. If indeed, it goes back now...

SHIELDS: Remedy being the break up?

O'BEIRNE: Yes. What do we do about the fact that the court has now decided that there were these abuses of other antitrust laws. If they are relatively minor slaps on the wrist it's a recognition on the court's part that consumers, which should always be the focus of whether or not there's a abuse of monopoly power, have consumers been hurt.

That is always a problem that Clinton Justice Department could never show that because their theory was Microsoft hurt its competitors. Well, we, I don't think, want the government to be jumping in and using their enormous powers under antitrust regulation because a very smart innovative company is hurting their competitors. It's puts the government in charge and they could never snow damage to consumers.

The whole field is so innovative and moves so quickly that what they were accused of six years ago is factually not sustainable now.

SHIELDS: Mr. Novak.

NOVAK: Well, the fact they are not breaking up Microsoft is just a huge factor. But the interesting thing is went the Clinton Administration went after Microsoft that's when the Nasdaq started going downhill...


NOVAK: And tremendous -- well, it's not just Bob, it's millions and millions of shareholders, and the whole economy and the working people of the country have been hurt by it. And I think that when you have John Ashcroft claiming victory because they found somehow that the, as Kate says, the damage to their competitors is an antitrust violation I think that just shows that elections don't change everything and the gang that's at the Justice Department is still making the decisions.


HUNT: Mark, I'm not a middle child unlike my friend Kate O'Beirne, but I am about to sound like one. I think this decision was a total vindication of former antitrust chief Joel Klein bringing the case. Because as Margaret said he won on almost every case, so a total vindication for Joel Klein.

But when you get into negotiations Microsoft is so tough, they tromp all over people and I think they will emerge victorious in this.

CARLSON: Mark, there's just one more point, which is that at the heart of an antitrust is you don't know the harm to consumers all the time because you don't know what better mouse trap Netscape or Apple or anyone else would have had because they used their monopoly power to crush them.

SHIELDS: Last word, Margaret Carlson. We'll be back with a "CAPITAL GANG Classic." Looking at a swamp in Bill Clinton's approval ratings during his first year in the White House.


SHIELDS: Now for "CAPITAL GANG Classic." Eight years ago President Clinton was down in the polls after his first four months in office and hired Republican David Gergen to help.

This is what your CAPITAL GANG said on May 29, 1993. Our guest was Democratic consultant Bob Shrum.


HUNT: The CNN/"TIME" poll shows the president's popularity at a new low, 36 percent approval, 50 percent disapproval. Bob, to reverse this trend is the president turning right, warming your heart, starting with Gergen's appointment?

NOVAK: Well, absolutely not. This has nothing to do with ideology. This is strictly a PR gesture. And that's what's sad about it. They have put in a person, Dave Gergen, a wonderful journalist, a wonderful commentator, but somebody who has no leverage whatever in Congress with the Republicans or with the Democrats.

The problem is that's forgotten, Al, that it's "the policy, stupid," it's not the PR. HUNT: I'll tell you one other thing that bothers me about this. Gergen actually is an old friend of Clinton's. They partied together at those renaissance weekends for years.

I think Bill Clinton only wants to have people around him who are these old friends who he knows are out to say no to him, who aren't apt to invoke that kind of discipline that is necessary there.

NOVAK: I would say that if I were Democrat, a liberal Democrat, like Bob Shrum, I would be mortified that they couldn't find somebody in your church to put in there.

HUNT: As I said on this show last week that this was the most inept White House operation that I've seen in 24 years. I got a call from a friend on that staff who said have you looked at Fillmore and Coolidge.

ROBERT SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: The fact of the matter is that there are some real communications challenges here. I think for example the president shouldn't be giving 14 speeches a week. He should be giving like two speeches a week. They should be well thought out, they should be well prepared, and there should be some rhetorical afterlife to what he says.

We all knew what Reagan was about or Kennedy was about. Now we need to know in the country what Clinton's about.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, have we ever used to learned to use Bob Shrum's phrase what Bill Clinton was all about?

HUNT: Yes, we did, Mark, didn't we.

I had forgotten about the closeness between Gergen and Novak too. I think actually Clinton did learn something from what Shrum was saying. And I think, whatever you thought of him personally by the end, I think there was a clear sense of what Clinton's policy personae was all about.

NOVAK: I think it faded more and more. I think he was the man who was for the balanced budget and for welfare reform. I think he faded from any kind of image, but I do believe that this was a little example of how ridiculous it is to look at polls in the first year, and say they mean something.

O'BEIRNE: Not completely ridiculous. Clearly his numbers are far lower than George Bush's were. In the case of Bill Clinton the public had a clear case, it seems to me, of buyers remorse within months of him taking office. He never personally paid the price for that. But House Democrats sure did because I think that vote in '94, tossing out the Democrats, was a dissatisfaction with Clinton.

SHIELDS: Every off-year election is a referendum on the president. And that's what got Democrats in trouble in 94. And that's what has some Republicans on the hill nervous right now. O'BEIRNE: Well, Bush is taking Shrum's advice. He's only giving two speeches a week if that.

SHIELDS: We'll be back in our second half hour with our news maker of the week, historian David McCullough discussing his new best seller, "John Adams."

"Beyond the Beltway " looks at New Jersey's surprising Republican primary outcome with former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean and our "Outrages of the Week." That's 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, Kate O'Beirne, and Margaret Carlson.

Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is historian David McCullough, author of the number one bestseller "John Adams." David McCullough, age 60, residence: West Tisbury, Massachusetts, graduated from Yale with honors in English literature, author of "The Great Bridge," "The Path Between the Seas," "Mornings on Horseback" and "Truman," winner of Pulitzer Prize for his biography "Truman."

Earlier this week, Al Hunt interviewed David McCullough from St. Louis, Missouri.


HUNT: You have captivated the country with this marvelous biography of John Adams. Was the presence of all these remarkable men in the last third of the 18th century -- Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin and Adams -- was that a providential blessing for America, or was it that times made these men extraordinary?

DAVID MCCULLOUGH, AUTHOR, "JOHN ADAMS": Well, I think it was something like a miracle, but one has to see the miracle as being the ability of those people to rise to the occasion. They weren't gods, they were human beings with their own faults and failings and vulnerabilities. They managed to rise and perform as the principles in one of the great dramas in history.

HUNT: A huge uphill struggle to declare independence, to fight a war, to win a war and then establish a new nation must have been the equivalent of Vegas odds makers -- it would have been something like 20 or 50 to one against success, wouldn't it? Tremendous odds.

MCCULLOUGH: Oh, maybe more than that, Al. I think that -- and had they taken a poll in the country, if the founders who were at Philadelphia had let their decision be determined by polls, they would have scrapped the whole thing, because only about a third of the country were for it, a third was adamantly against it, and the rest of them, the timid third as Adams called them, were in the old human way, waiting to go see how it would come out, which side won. And to take on the British empire, which had just landed 32,000 troops on the -- on Staten Island, which was more troops than the entire population of Philadelphia, the largest city in the colonies, was just unimaginable.

HUNT: You brilliantly captured the rich persona of John Adams, including his sometimes cranky and cantankerous side, but isn't a value that really comes to mind when you write about Adams that's most prominent one of character?

MCCULLOUGH: Yes, it is. It's courage, but it's also moral courage and his capacity not to give up, which was Washington's great quality. He would not give up.

Adams never failed to answer the call of his country to serve, never once, and traveled farther in the service of the country and at greater risk than anybody of his time.

HUNT: Abigail Adams, as you've written, one of the great love stories, also wasn't she one of the first feminists, about 75 years before feminism was actually born in this country?

MCCULLOUGH: Yes, as long as you understand that it's a feminist 18th century version, because she still believed that the woman's place was in the home, that raising the children, being a wife, and the men was supposed to be the one that went forth and did these grand things, but she certainly was a profound patriot in every sense of the word, and she believed in freedom for women, and she certainly believed that women ought to be able to be in business, ought to be able to own property, ought to have legal standing.

And she battled for it. She was a very outspoken women and opinionated and outspoken, and a strong person and a profound patriot, I think that's essential to understand her nature.

HUNT: Some critics suggest that Adams, though, was really at heart an elitist who didn't trust the common man, though he said he was one. He never understood, these critics say, as Madison and Jefferson did, that the American revolution really ushered in a genuine notion of popular sovereignty and ended the concept of permanent social classes in America. Is that a fair critique or not?

MCCULLOUGH: Well, I think it's partly true. You have to understand that Adams -- Adams who was of the ordinary men, he was a farmer's son. He lived in the village. He knew hard work. He knew a life without advantage or prestige or wealth.

Adams said, you've got to watch out for the common man, I know, I'm one of them. And if he has too much power -- in other words, if the majority has too much power, that the majority can be as dictatorial, as overbearing as can a single individual.

HUNT: In today's political context, do you think John Adams would be more comfortable as a Republican, a Democrat, liberal, conservative? MCCULLOUGH: He wouldn't be either. He would be an independent, which is what he was then. He was at most -- at best a nominal Federalist.

He thought political parties would be the poison of the country. He thought people who became ardent members of political parties would begin thinking more about the fortunes and the future of the political party than the fortunes and the future of the nation.


SHIELDS: Al, as we approach the Fourth of July how do you explain this sudden, really remarkable public interest in John Adams?

HUNT: He had the good fortune to have David McCullough as his biographer. I am a McCullough sycophant, as you could tell from that interview.


HUNT: Next Wednesday will be the 175th anniversary of John Adams' death. He died on July Fourth, same day as Thomas Jefferson; 225th anniversary of the Declaration.

And I think a point that David McCullough made -- you know, comes to in the book, is you read, and sometimes people think that the American Revolution and the forming of the nation was preordained. Boy, it wasn't. It was tough. It was uphill. The do-wars (ph) didn't have a great deal of popular support to put that all together, to form a new country under -- a new republic was just an extraordinary feat. Men of just incredible courage and vision.

SHIELDS: The numbers are absolutely amazing. The British landed 32,000 troops at Staten Island, which was greater than the population of Philadelphia.

NOVAK: It's just amazing.

Let me just say something, though. I really don't think that -- I think Mr. McCullough was talking about Republicans and Democrats when he said he was neither, because he certain -- Adams was certainly a profound conservative. He was a conservative in many ways in his religion. And the dividing issue of that time was what you thought of the French Revolution. And Jefferson thought it was wonderful, and he suspected it. Also Adams -- the poor mark on his life was he signed the Alien and Sedition Act, which was really an anti-freedom proposal.

But it's a wonderful book, and I'm an Adams fan now.

SHIELDS: An Adams fan, Margaret?

CARLSON: That was a blot. And he did hate the media, which you probably are in favor of, actually, because we're -- the chattering classes are so awful.

But when you read about him, and you realize what was at stake then and now: We're fighting over a patients' bill of rights which is basically, you know, whether we take people out of voicemail and give them the rights to get health care when they're already insured. It's nothing compared to what people used to do.

SHIELDS: Big issues.

O'BEIRNE: This attention to the founders is so welcome. My colleague Rick Brookhiser wrote a well-received book about George Washington, even though you think, you know -- because people do want to know more. And he has his own book on Adams. And, of course, McCullough's is a fabulous one.

People who want to honor, now, John Adams, and many do -- let's put a memorial on the Mall -- may I just remind them, the best way to honor our founders is to respect that masterpiece they wrote, the Constitution, and stick with the original intent.

SHIELDS: Original intent; Kate, I knew you'd be there with that one.

O'BEIRNE: Thank you.

SHIELDS: Yes, and 3/5 -- let's count slaves as 3/5, too, that was an original intent.

But let's point out that Abigail Adams was Abigail Smith from Weymouth, Massachusetts. I'm lucky enough to share her hometown.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at an upheaval in New Jersey Republican politics after an upset victory in the primary election for governor.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. "Beyond the Beltway": in Tuesday's New Jersey Republican primary for Governor, Jersey City's conservative Mayor Bret Schundler easily defeated the party establishment's choice, moderate former Congressman Bob Franks.


MAYOR BRET SCHUNDLER (R), JERSEY CITY: My citizens don't feel there's anything immoderate about caring enough for them to cut their property taxes and give them improved educational options also. There's nothing immoderate about reforming tenure so that children have a great teacher in a classroom, and if someone's clearly ineffective you replace them.


SHIELDS: Joining us now from Newark is Thomas Kean, President of Drew University and former two-term Governor of New Jersey.

Thanks for coming in, Tom.


SHIELDS: Thank you.

You and Bob Franks have signed on as co-chairmen of Bret Schundler's campaign, but isn't it essential for Mayor Schundler to moderate some of his conservative positions, including advocacy of concealed weapons for the general election?

KEAN: I hope he doesn't moderate many of his views because, you know, we were all -- you were all just talking about John Adams and the founding fathers and celebrating them because they said what they believed and the public accepted that. I don't think he ought to moderate his views.

What talking about basically is -- and what he talked about through the primary, was education and helping people in cities and lowering taxes. These aren't -- these are views that I would like to see him continue.

SHIELDS: And -- but on the matter of concealed weapons themselves, he's advocated legalization of that. I mean -- and you've said you think it's unhelpful.

KEAN: What he said actually on concealed weapons, and he explained that to me when I asked him personally was -- he said look, there's a woman in Jersey City. She has a small business. She has to walk a couple of blocks, which are pretty difficult, at 5:00 in the afternoon once a week. She has applied to get a permit to carry a weapon, to carry that money. In New Jersey, it's so tough, she wouldn't be able to get one.

He said, in those cases -- not in every case -- in those cases, I think people like that woman ought to be able to get a weapon to protect herself. And I've always been an advocate of gun control, but I'm not opposed to that position.

SHIELDS: OK, Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Governor, you were a supporter of Bob Franks in the primary election, as were most of the prominent Republicans in the state. I believe that Mayor Schundler only had one out of 21 Republican county chairmen, and yet he won easily. Can you really explain what happened there? Was it a -- was it personality? Was it issues? Was it organization? What did it?

KEAN: As always, I believe it was a combination of all those things. It was -- it was certainly personality. This is -- this is a new star in the Republican Party. He has charisma, and I think we'll learn just how much over the coming months. Beyond that, it was issues. I mean, this is a mayor, a Republican mayor in a Democratic town where there are 100 different languages spoken in the schools.

And this is somebody who talked about cities and ways to help people who were poor and ways to improve through conservative means, really, but to improve the lives of people in the state who need it most -- to improve schools. He hit issues that resounded with the people of the state of New Jersey, and that's how to get elected. I think those issues will also be good in the general election.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: You're working very hard on this unity thing. You had the lunch the next day, and Bob Franks showed up. But he seemed kind of crushed to me. He's had two defeats recently. Even if you are to pull everyone together, there's a big Democratic advantage in this state. And I think Gore won by 16 points there.

KEAN: Well, this has always been a swing state. Yes, Gore won by 16 points. I won with 70 percent of the vote when I ran not too many years ago. We've had Republican governors, Democratic governors; and the state swings back and forth.

CARLSON: But you're a very moderate Republican.

KEAN: But the question is, can you get to the independents? The same time I was carrying the state, so was Ronald Reagan. I mean, this state goes for the individual, the man or woman that -- they can convince the voters that it's best in their interest.

And most of the state is independents, and they swing back and forth between Republicans and Democrats. And I think Schundler has got the kind of vision, and he's the kind of person, really, who the state could turn to.

SHIELDS: Bob Torricelli and Frank Laufenberg, these two individuals -- go ahead Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Governor Kean, you're certainly right. I mean, the Democrats do have an advantage in registration throughout Jersey. But boy, do they have an advantage in Jersey City, where 6 percent of the voters are Republican and where Bret Schundler has been reelected overwhelmingly.

Are you looking forward to comparing Bret Schundler's record as mayor in Jersey City with McGreevey's record as mayor of Woodbridge? And won't Mayor McGreevey have a hard time -- he wants to run against Republicans in Trenton -- Republicans in Trenton. He's not running against the Trenton Republican. He's running against somebody who shares certain frustrations. Isn't that outsider status going to be helpful to Schundler?

KEAN: This is very, very difficult for Mayor McGreevey. He's spent four years now preparing to campaign against Christie Whitman's record, against the record of the legislature in some ways. And all -- as the outsider.

In a sense, having served in the legislature, he's now one of the insiders. And he's -- and the real outsider is Bret Schundler. And he's going to campaign on a record where he held taxes way down in Jersey City while he promoted jobs and promoted growth, and where that city grew and where he got support of Republicans and Democrats and blacks and Latinos and, you know, put together the kind of coalition, frankly, you have to put together in order to win the state of New Jersey. So this is going to be -- I think McGreevey is going to have his hands full.


HUNT: Tom, I certainly agree with you that this guy is a very interesting guy with some interesting positions. I think his -- I disagree with you, I think his views are guns are just nutty. But I think his views on education and kids are really some interesting ideas. And I think that McGreevey is probably a little bit off balance now.

But, Tom, I know you'll disagree with this: that your state, more than any state in the country is a suburban state. And I just don't think this guy is a suburban profile. I think it's McGreevey, and give him five or seven points.

KEAN: Well, I think -- my suspicion is the initial polls are going to have McGreevey ahead because he's run before, he's better known in the state. But I don't think the polls are going to be the same when you get to September or October.

This is the guy, I believe is going to appeal not only to urban areas, but to suburban areas. This is a guy -- remember, this is a guy who came in from a career on Wall Street and won in one of the most Democratic strongholds in the entire country, not just the state of New Jersey. And any Republican who holds down the vote in Jersey City and in Hudson County is probably going to win the state of New Jersey.

SHIELDS: Tom Kean, I just have to say this: For somebody who's just come aboard as co-chair, you are an enormously effective advocate.

Thank you for being with us. The GANG will be back with "The Outrage of the Week."


SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week": a Bronx cheer, a raspberry and a loud boo to NBC for its outrageous decision not to offer live coverage of next year's Salt Lake City Olympics on its 23 West Coast stations. As a "Los Angeles Times" editorial pointed out, the cause of this corporate decision to delay the two hours' coverage was pure and simple greed on NBC's part: don't want to lose the big bucks from the urgent local afternoon newscasts. What's next, the World Series on tape delay -- Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Theoretically, Surgeon General David Satcher is supposed to be above politics. Very theoretically. It is now revealed that he withheld a report on children's sex education because he thought it might hurt his patron, President Bill Clinton, politically. His concern became clear with the report issued this week. He said children should be instructed in using condoms. He did not praise marriage, but boosted same-sex unions. His sources included what he called commercial sex workers, actually prostitutes. Do we really need a surgeon general for this bilge?

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Last week, FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh took a routine business trip to Florida and Puerto Rico which should have cost $1,000, but gauze $340,000. That's because Allbaugh commandeered FEMA's military jet, equipped like the president's Doomsday plane to withstand nuclear attack or in Allbaugh's case, floods or fire. Political appointees liked to be whisked around. A Clinton staffer once took a helicopter to play golf and John Sununu used government transport to see his dentist and pursue stamp collecting. Allbaugh blames staff, but there's another explanation: boys just love their toys. Even a good guy like Joe Allbaugh couldn't resist.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: According to news reports this week, John McCain is pressuring House Republicans for whom he campaigned last year to vote for his version of campaign finance reform or else. Senator McCain claims to value independent thinking, and lectures Republican leaders about the need to grow up rather than try to punish those who disagree with them. Now, his "you owe me, pay up" sounds an awful lot like the threats of those special interests he's made a career of railing against.


HUNT: Mark, seven years ago I got into bitter arguments with some conservatives over "Strange Justice," a riveting account of the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill controversy. The right wing attacked the book, chiefly using a diatribe by writer David Brock. Mr. Brock now says much of what he wrote was fabricated, and that Clarence Thomas actually supplied some derogatory dirt he used. I have no idea when Mr. Brock is telling the truth, but I do know the Jill Abramson-Jane Mayer book "Strange Justice" remains the best and most definitive account of that sorry episode.

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



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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