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Which Party Caused Finance Reform Failure?; Has Olympic Committee Awarded China for Human Rights Abuses?; Mfume Grades the White House

Aired July 14, 2001 - 19:00   ET


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 Democratic political consultant Bob Shrum.

It's good to have you back, Bob, from a big win in Great Britain. Congratulations.


SHIELDS: Good to have you here.

On the day for the House to consider campaign finance reform, neither the Shays-Meehan bill, the House version of the Senate-passed reform bill nor the Republican-backed alternative Ney bill came to a vote. All Democratic House members but one, plus 19 House Republicans killed a Republican procedure for considering the bill.


REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: All through this, what they've done constantly is try to construct a process which will cause the defeat of the bill rather than a fair process that would give both sides a fair chance to see if they could pass their bill.



REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: I think it's pretty clear that Mr. Gephardt doesn't want the issue. He'd like to use the -- he doesn't want the result, he would rather have issue for a campaign issue. That's sad. It's, I think, wrong-minded.


SHIELDS: The leading reformer of campaign finance reform did not give up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I just hope we'll be able to sit down and cool down over the weekend, sit down and work out something that's agreeable so we get a vote on Ney and a vote on Shays-Meehan.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, will Senator John McCain prevail?

KATE O'BEIRNE, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Mark, Senator McCain won't prevail in the House until he has 218 votes in the House -- a majority of House members supporting the plan he wants to see. Even the day the vote was scheduled it was unclear whether or not there were 218 votes for the House version of his plan.

It was clear that there weren't 218 votes for the individual changes that the bill sponsors wanted to make, which will not technical; they were substantive. One of them, in fact, made the soft money loophole larger, that Shays-Meehan allows, because it's not a direct -- a complete ban on soft money. They knew they could only pass those 14 amendments in a package.

So the paragons of openness, and those who rail against secret deals all the time didn't want to defend those amendments one by one. Demanded a big package when they couldn't get their way. They would rather bring the bill down and blame the Republicans than either lose or have to fairly debate what they're trying to reform.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, is that your take on it?

AL HUNT, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": No. Kate's right -- Kate is right in her first -- her opening statement about no one was certain who had votes. I agree on that. Afterwards it's something which describes as not anything I recognize.

It's quite clear who wanted to defeat this bill and who didn't. You don't have to get into all the arcane stuff about procedures; I've covered rules in the House for 30 years. We know what Ney and Hastert, and some Democrats like Martin Frost were trying to do: They were trying to sandbag this thing.

As to whether John McCain -- if the vote had taken place, I don't know what would have happened. I think it would have narrowly passed, but I'm not sure. I do -- I will say this, Mark: There is no way it will not come up again. To paraphrase Joe Louis, you know, Hastert and Ney and Tom DeLay can run, but they can't hide. You can't keep it off the floor.

What I don't know, however, is whether time is on the side of John McCain or on the side of Tom DeLay.

SHIELDS: Which is it Bob Novak?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Well, I don't really know whose time it's on -- I know that Bismarck was right, though, that people shouldn't have to watch laws being made because it's like watching sausage being made -- it's an ugly process. I realized that the fix was in early in the day on Thursday when some Democrats who don't like the bill told me that the rule was terrible; that they had to defeat the rule. That's -- Al, you know that -- that's the phony game that they play. That -- they didn't want to have a final vote because they didn't have enough votes to pass it. If they had enough votes to pass it, they would have gone through. So that's what the simple part of it is.

Now, Senator McCain was on "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS" with Mark and I, and he was talking about people cooling off. Well he's the one who talked about scoundrels on the other side killing the bill. He told us he was just kidding. But I'll tell you something: The Republicans who were called scoundrels didn't think he was kidding.

SHRUM: That analysis, Bob, is a lot of undercooked sausage. The fact of the matter is...


SHRUM: ... the fact of the matter is that what happened here -- and Tom Davis, the chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee let the cat out of the bag, he wasn't on the talking points: He said this is a really good result. We don't want campaign finance reform. And the whole thing...


SHRUM: But why not let people vote?

You know in 1981, the Democrats tried this on the Reagan tax cut. They tried to divide this into a whole series of amendments. Bob was very, very indignant. When the rule was voted down, Tip O'Neill didn't pull the Reagan tax cut off the floor and say, you can't vote on it; he let people vote on it.

What Denny Hastert did here was pure bush-league tactics. It's the kind of thing that's going to get the Republican Party in trouble. And you guys are going to keep attacking John McCain, and you're for sure going to lose the House because he's the only reason you have it by a narrow margin right now.

NOVAK: It wasn't close in 1981 on that bill. The fact of the matter is that every Democrat was saying exactly what Al Hunt, as a good reporter was saying: They didn't know who was going to win. That's why they wouldn't let it come to a vote. That's why Gephardt -- Gephardt like that, could have had up and down vote.

SHRUM: But close doesn't count here.

SHIELDS: I had this advantage, because I was up there, Bob, and...

HUNT: You mean you actually reported?

SHIELDS: ... I wasn't issuing thunder bolts from some Olympian perch at CNN. I was there, and I talked to the people who were voting on it, and I'll tell you this: First of all, Dick Gephardt deserves the lion's share of credit for pushing this thing as hard as anybody. There has never been a leader, in my time in Washington, with the possible exception of George Mitchell, who has pushed as hard for campaign finance reform against the big givers, the most powerful force in this party, against organized labor.

Listen, they didn't want to hear it. They didn't want to hear it, Bob. They've got a very comfortable arrangement, just like you and your friends have, a comfortable arrangement. They're powerful and influential.

NOVAK: That's demagoguery.

SHIELDS: I'm telling you he went the limit and they had -- they didn't know if they had the votes because, quite frankly it had been a free vote in the past, and for this time, the first time, it was not a free vote.

O'BEIRNE: Mark, you're right, the Republican leadership doesn't want the bill. They shouldn't want the bill; it's a major assault on free speech. They have their own version of reform that may have had a majority. But if there was majority for Shays-Meehan, they would have passed it. They don't have votes.

SHRUM: Let them vote. Let them vote.


SHRUM: Let them vote under a fair rule.


HUNT: The speaker and Chris Shays at one point cut a deal...

SHIELDS: That's right.

HUNT: And Republicans basically pulled back on that, Kate, because they didn't know...

O'BEIRNE: No, Dick Gephardt turned it down.

HUNT: No, I'm sorry.

NOVAK: Can you...

HUNT: Let me finish; that's not what happened. You are factually incorrect. They had a vote, and Dick Gephardt said, I want two hours and Hastert said no, no, we can't do that...


HUNT: I'll tell you why. I will tell you why they pulled it back: because they didn't know if they had the votes. That is exactly why.

Mark that is right?

SHIELDS: That's absolutely right.

NOVAK: Just in interests of...

SHIELDS: Interests of accuracy?

NOVAK: ... in the interests of fairness, not accuracy, I think you ought to tell on this program what you said on "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS" about what a Republican congressman who was for the bill told you.

SHIELDS: A Republican congressman to me said, I think Gephardt is a phony.

NOVAK: And this is a...

SHIELDS: This was a Republican reformer. And I said to him -- I said, if that's the case, then why is Jerry McEntee of the State, County and Municipal Employees angry with him -- the president? Why is the National Education Association, who ought to be ashamed of themselves, who endorsed the Ney bill, the total hoax and sham and fraud that it was.

SHIELDS: THE GANG will be back with George W. Bush taking a nibble out of Big Apple.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

George W. Bush paid the first visit of his presidency to heavily Democratic New York City to be witnessed while new citizens took the oath of citizenship at Ellis Island.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Immigration is not a problem to be solved. It is a sign of a confident and successful nation.

For those seeking entry, the process is often a prolonged ordeal full of complexities and burdens. I'm committed to changing this with INS reforms that treat every immigrant with respect and fairness.


SHIELDS: President Bush's policy initiative of the week touched politically sensitive Medicare.


BUSH: Today, I announce the first step toward helping American seniors get the prescription drugs they need and deserve, a new national drug discount program for seniors that will begin early next year. Every senior on Medicare can receive a new drug discount card. Present the card at a participating pharmacy, and you receive a substantial discount. It is as simple as that, and it's convenient.


SHIELDS: CNN and "USA Today"/Gallup Poll this week showed the president's job approval climbing to 57 percent, up from 52 percent two weeks earlier.

Al Hunt, has George W. Bush pulled out of his summer slump?

HUNT: Mark, I don't anything has fundamentally changed. His basic problem is the question of whether he can fill the office. Moreover, if you look at the substance, this week was about health care.

Now, whether you agree or disagree with George Bush, he is comfortable talking about tax cuts, about energy, about education. He is about as comfortable talking about health care as my friend Bob Novak is talking about poor people. This is not an issue that George W. Bush knows anything about, or is very conversant in, and his idea that Blockbuster card or whatever it is that you get for drug -- for seniors for drug prescription, is not a bad idea, it's just a small idea. And he is fighting this on Democratic turf.

SHIELDS: Bob, you do know poor people. They work for you, but let's...


SHIELDS: Is this a small idea?

NOVAK: Yes, it's a small idea.

SHIELDS: You don't even really like it, do you?

NOVAK: It's all right. People -- people want -- we have the best health service in the world, and people don't want to pay for it. They want to go out to the bar and drink instead, and have a good old time. So this something -- this is a political move.

The thing is, it's not big price controls wrecking the pharmaceutical industry, it's not heavy government spending, so the left-wingers and the socialists, including those on this panel, love it.

Now I say this: a couple of weeks ago, I said that watching these polls, and saying, gee, he went from 56 percent to 52 percent or he went to 54 percent, is nonsense, and you know, he is about where he ought to be. And he wasn't in great trouble two weeks ago, he is not in terribly good shape now.

SHIELDS: Kate, do you agree with Robert Novak?

O'BEIRNE: Yes, although I think it's probably welcome news, saying polls show that he is getting high marks on education and tax cuts. He is even getting high marks on health care issues. I suspect that he might be getting a certain benefit when the attention is focused in Washington, with a story out of Washington of a politician behaving badly. I think there is an echo about Bill Clinton and I think it helps George Bush, this nice guy in the White House who seems to be behaving himself, so there could be an Condit bounce in these numbers.

And I think that Medicare is probably a very smart idea. It's a modest idea, but it goes right to what really does bother elderly Americans, which is not the lack of prescription drug coverage -- they by and large have it -- it is the cost of prescription drugs.

SHIELDS: And we just heard Condit carom here.

SHRUM: With all due respect to my friend Kate, it's absurd. I'm sure she also read the other part of that poll, which said by 67 to 26 people believe big business has too much influence in the Bush administration. That is actually -- I don't love this pharmaceutical benefit that they have given, and it illustrates that point, because the pharmaceutical companies are free to raise prices, basically to absorb most of what benefits the seniors would otherwise get.

The president during the election called it immediate helping hand; what it is is immediate sleight of hand, because he passed a tax cut that has basically broken the federal budget, there is not enough money to pay for a decent prescription drug benefit -- and Bob, you know, we are going to have a campaign, we are going to have a campaign, and I think we are going to win it, and I don't know how you are going to deal with it where we say that we should stop having these top-bracket tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and instead should have a prescription drug benefit for seniors on Medicare.

NOVAK: Bob, you just won for the socialists in Britain and you want bring socialism to this country, and I don't think...


SHRUM: ... the British are doing rather better than...

NOVAK: I don't think you are going to succeed.

SHRUM: Tony Blair is doing rather than George Bush. And let me tell you the other thing that has gone on with this administration: They have lost control of the agenda. You look at an issue like stem cell research, Nancy Reagan today said we ought to have stem cell research, because it's key to curing Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. George Bush ought to listen to Nancy Reagan, not Karl Rove.

O'BEIRNE: There are a bunch of fights ahead for sure, which is why it is important that George Bush has the initiative on things like Medicare, but the most recent poll gives him far higher grades in trying to get along with Congress than it gives the new Democratic leadership in trying to get along with George Bush.

NOVAK: That was a great speech he made on immigrants, maybe everybody here can agree that was great speech on immigrants, no? O'BEIRNE: It was a good speech.

NOVAK: Yeah.

O'BEIRNE: He did well at St. Patrick's Cathedral, too.

SHIELDS: Bob, speak for yourself.


SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG, China wins the Olympics.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. In Moscow, the International Olympic Committee made a decision.


JUAN ANTONIO SAMARANCH, IOC PRESIDENT: The games of the 29 Olympiad in 2008 are awarded to the city of Beijing.


SHIELDS: That set off jubilant celebrations in China, but did the Olympic committee overlook Chinese human rights abuses?


HARRY WU, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I feel deeply regret that the IOC make the decision to give to Chinese, that Beijing have the rights, and that will prop up the corrupted regime.



ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president believes that the Olympics are a sporting event and not a political event. But having said that, this now is an opportunity for China to showcase itself as a modern nation.


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, is China being rewarded for bad conduct?

NOVAK: No, I think China is one of the great nations of the world. It is time they had the Olympics. I think some of the opposition to China is the same old neocolonial attitudes in Europe that had all the concessions in Shanghai for years.

I would say this: just looking at it practically, if they had not gotten it, you would have had a situation of a very angry people and angry government. I think this guarantees a much -- much easier attitude toward Taiwan. I think they are going to behave much better, so I think they deserve to have the Olympics, and I think that practically and pragmatically it is a wise step.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: They're in fact rewarded for their repression because the IOC, the Olympic International Committee, wanted to make some sort of a political statement. They had an opportunity to showcase changes in China while the bid was pending. And instead, there has been an escalation in abuse, 1,700 political prisoners executed in the past three months...

NOVAK: Not political prisoners.

O'BEIRNE: Prisoners. They forced down -- they forced down a U.S. plane, held our crew hostage, we've got Americans in jail in China. And this is while the bid was pending! I think the basic rule ought to be, there ought to be no host country whose own citizens are not permitted to leave the host country, so no it is a disgrace, and purely political.


HUNT: I am much closer to Kate. I wish the vote would have gone the other way. I think the key thing now is to bring -- to keep pressure on China on human rights.

Bob, if you ask the Falun Gong, if you ask Catholic priests, if you ask anyone in Tibet, if you ask those American scholars, they will not tell you things have gotten any better. In fact, when it comes to human rights, they've gotten worse in China. I think what's critical is the media has to keep the spotlight on and the American government ought to keep the spotlight on.

There is a precedent for being awarded the Olympics and having a country do better on human rights -- Seoul, 1988. There is also a precedent that goes the other way, Berlin 1936. We ought to go more for the former.

SHRUM: Well, first of all, of course Bob thinks 1,700 death penalties is an asset, not a liability, and probably a recommending factor.


SHRUM: I know, I know, Bob, you do. Secondly, I think it is very unfair to call people like Harry Wu who have suffered under this regime neocolonialists.

That said, I don't believe that you would have had any effect, any good effect on human rights in China by denying China the games if it was otherwise the right choice. I think that it's now up to the Chinese to prove that they earned these games.

The truth is that we have never applied a human rights test on the games. Maybe people think we should begin to. Moscow in 1980 we boycotted not because they suddenly got bad on human rights, they have been bad on human rights all along... NOVAK: It was Afghanistan.

SHRUM: ... but because they invaded Afghanistan. Now, the one thing I do agree with you on is that I think it's very unlikely you are going to see China moving against Taiwan in any way in the next eight years.

NOVAK: Al, did you know that the Chinese government allowed for the first time in 50 years -- an announcement this week -- allowing Christian missionaries in, did you know that?


SHIELDS: I just want to associate myself with Kate O'Beirne on this, I think she is absolutely right. But I think that overlooked is that Olympics going to China opens up corporate opportunities that hadn't been there in the past. We could have the official Beijing Olympic cattle prod. We can the official Beijing attack dogs.


SHIELDS: ... and 1,751 people executed is not the way to look at it. It's nearly 8,000 lungs, hearts and kidneys that have been harvested on the bloody black market, and if that is what they get for getting it, then, boy oh boy, the Olympics are something.

NOVAK: There is no -- there is no future in China bashing, it's unintelligent and you should -- I expected more of you than that.

SHIELDS: Bob, and Bob, you tell China that, would you, please? You tell China to stop deserving criticism and censure for what they do to their own people. They brutalize people around them, and you know it, and I do too, and if it weren't driven by profit and market, you would have a different position.

NOVAK: It's getting a lot better there, believe me.

SHIELDS: I have been hearing that song from you, Johnny-one- note...


SHRUM: Bob, if they are going to free the Christian church, why don't they let the pope, instead of the head of the Communist Party, appoint the bishops there?

NOVAK: A deal can be made on that in five minutes.


SHIELDS: We'll be back with the CAPITAL GANG classic: Bill Clinton's first presidential visit to the Big Apple.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. And now for our CAPITAL GANG classic. Bill Clinton made his first visit as president of New York City, about two months earlier than George W. Bush did. Like President Bush, President Clinton was involved in a budget debate and was being criticized by members of his own party.

This is what your CAPITAL GANG said on May 15, 1993.


NOVAK: The president goes on the road because he is dropping in popularity, and then at the end of the week, he says "it has been a great week," when in fact what the week was, a passage of the stuff that got him in trouble: the high taxes and phony trust fund, and also new leaks about still another new payroll tax.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark, how do you rate the visit?

SHIELDS: Good week for Bill Clinton, very good.

Bill Clinton did move his policy through the Ways and Means Committee, he got it through, he got it through attacks, he resisted the cheap shots by the Republicans on that committee to try and limit the Social Security increase, to try and limit the BTU tax.

HUNT: It seems to me whether you like it or not, that the dialogue has changed a great deal, and now deficit reduction counts a lot more than tax cuts.

NOVAK: Al, I don't know who you are talking to, but the Democratic politicians I am talking to around country on the phone are horrified that the president has gotten back the Scarlet letter -- "T" for taxes -- on the foreheads of the Democrats. You know, the interesting thing was, the president put out this absolutely phony deficit reduction trust fund, which I'm sure you agree is phony...

HUNT: I don't.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak doesn't seem to grasp is what happened in this country between 1989 and 1992, and that is that Americans remembered their future preference, they remembered that their kids were coming, that they weren't going to continue to saddle them with this quadrupling of the debt, Al, and that they said that Americans are willing to sacrifice if they really think it's going to do it. I don't think it is a gimmick.


SHIELDS: Bob, do you still maintain that President Clinton's deficit reduction was phony after all?

NOVAK: Sure. That deficit trust fund was an absolute phony, the BTU act tax failed. As I said, it was a disaster for the Democrats. As I remember, they lost the House of Representatives in 1974, haven't won it back yet, and the reason we have a budget surplus is the economy. It has nothing to do -- it's in spite of that tax increase.

SHIELDS: The economy was bad 12 years in a row. SHRUM: No, actually, Bob, I remember that you predicted a recession as a result of that tax bill, and you were wrong. Long term, Clinton was doing very well at that point, because he was paying the price to pass that tax bill, which created prosperity, helped him win in 1996. Long term, I think Bush is doing very poorly right now, because he has passed a tax bill that takes us back to deficits and endangers Medicare.

O'BEIRNE: Bob Dole helped him win in '96, we should credit him some too, and we would still have -- there would be no surplus if there hadn't been a Republican Congress, where early in the Republican takeover, they did care about fiscal restraint.

SHIELDS: Fiscal restraint.

HUNT: Mark, do you remember what the budget deficit was in 1993? Do you remember what the unemployment rate was? Do you remember what the stock market was? I mean, I rest the case. That's all you have to do. You can do anything else you want, but basically that is the most successful piece of legislation maybe in the last 25 years.

NOVAK: Whatever happened to that deficit reduction trust fund, tell me.

HUNT: The deficit went from $200 billion deficit to $180 billion surplus! That is what we call a turnaround of 380 billion, which is even by your reckoning is big money.

NOVAK: Oh, you didn't answer my question.

SHIELDS: Listen -- yet in a larger sense, he did.


SHIELDS: Thanks for being with us, Bob Shrum.

SHRUM: Glad to be here -- and Bob, I think we're heading for a second Bush one-term presidency.

SHIELDS: We'll be back with the second half-hour with our "Newsmaker of the Week," NAACP President Kweisi Mfume. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the California political fallout of Chandra Levy's disappearance, 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 the CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Kate O'Beirne.

Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Kweisi Mfume, president and CEO of the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Kweisi Mfume, age 52. Residence: Baltimore, Maryland. Religion: Baptist. Masters degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins University. Eight years on the Baltimore city council, 10 years as a Democratic member of Congress before resigning to head the NAACP.

Earlier this week, Kweisi Mfume talked to Al Hunt from New Orleans, where the NAACP held its annual convention.


HUNT: Your chairman, Julian Bond, blasted the Bush administration for appointing quasi-racists to the cabinet and only paying lip service to uniting the country. The Republican J.C. Watts replied this is among the most diverse administrations ever, and it's Bond who is dividing and distorting. Who is right?

KWEISI MFUME, PRESIDENT, NAACP: Well, I don't think either are perfectly right. Each gentleman is expressing an opinion.

In the case of Julian Bond, obviously he's entitled to his opinion, whether we agree with it or not, his belief is that this administration has a long, long way to go to really sort of live up to the tenets and to the pronouncements of the campaign.

With J.C. Watts, who I've known and respected and remember when he came into the Congress, has an opinion. And you know, his opinion is his.

HUNT: You've said the NAACP and President Bush is a relationship waiting to develop. But many Republicans complain that the NAACP vehemently attacked candidate Bush last year, including an ad suggesting he was insensitive to the brutal murder of a black man in Texas. And as one conservative columnist wrote this week, quote: "The only thing Bush can do to satisfy the NAACP is to resign." Is that right?

MFUME: Well, first of all, the ads you were referring to were not NAACP ads, they were done by the National Voter Fund, that's the first thing.

Secondly, though, at some point in time Republicans have to get over this election. The question becomes, how do you heal a nation, and you don't do it by living in the past and wallowing in the past and pointing fingers from the past. You do it by trying to bring people the together. So, they won the election, and quite frankly, that was a disputed election, but people have accepted that for the most part, and are waiting for them to do something.

HUNT: Have you met with President Bush, or spoken with him since January 20?

MFUME: No, I have not. In fact, I've got a letter going to Mr. Bush today requesting such a meeting on social justice issues, on criminal justice issues, on election reform, on health care issues, such as lead poisoning in our communities, and I'm hoping now that he's had six or seven months in office to sort of get through the meetings he wanted to get through, perhaps he will get to mine.

HUNT: You vowed not to sit by as this administration tries to stack the federal courts with, quote, "strange conservative thinking," end quote, jurists. Specifically, which Bush judicial nominees fit that description?

MFUME: Well, we are not prepared to say -- to give a name in that regard.

HUNT: Does anyone or two jump out at you right now.

MFUME: Well, there are, and we are going to be releasing in just a few days a list of all those that we think -- we have problems with. The NAACP believes that the president has an obligation not to appoint from the far right or from the far left, but from the middle, from the mainstream, and with a sense of balance.

HUNT: Do you worry that African-Americans close identification with one political party, the Democrats, reduces your political leverage?

MFUME: Well, it remains to be seen. History is instructive in this regard. You know, there was a time in this country, from the time of emancipation up until the New Deal in the middle of last century, when African-Americans voted nine to one Republican, it was the party of Lincoln. In fact, my grandmother thought it was heresy that any of us would even dare think about registering to vote as a Democrat.

And then, things started to change around the time of the New Deal, Democrats began to find ways to do that through programs and through efforts and through listening, but most of all through reaching out. The Republicans assumed that the vote would always be there, so it's interesting how things have changed now, where the Democratic Party, in many respects, has gotten very comfortable with the African-American vote, assume it's always going to be there, and are not reaching out.

While the Republican Party, failing to take a lesson from history and to reach out now, they run the risk of never taking advantage of the lesson of history, a lesson that they, regrettably, were the losers of.

HUNT: President Mfume, the NAACP adopted a number of resolutions this week, but what are the two or three major issues facing the country that affect African-Americans today?

MFUME: Well, two or three -- it's difficult, but let me give you some that resonate rather quickly: election reform, and the fact that if you're black or brown in this country, your vote is more likely to be discounted and counted than others. We believe that there are social justice issues that are very important, not just racial profiling and not just hate crimes, but all the assorted things that go with racism and bigotry.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, did you get the impression that the head of the NAACP wants to reach out to the Republican Party?

HUNT: Maybe selectively, but very selectively, Mark. First, let me just say something about Kweisi Mfume and this job: he took over the NAACP that really was reeling, and it is in far better shape today, so he certainly, you know, deserves tremendous credit for that.

Politically, I think that basically most blacks are with the Democratic Party, and that's where the leadership is going to be, but I also would say that President Bush, who talks all about unity and bringing people together, six months in office and hasn't even sat down once with either the head of the AFL or the head of the NAACP -- I mean, that really is stunning.

SHIELDS: Stunning, Bob Novak?

NOVAK: Doesn't stun me. I thought that Mr. Mfume was being disingenuous when he said that the commercials the NAACP -- implied didn't have anything to do with the commercials. They were their commercials. They have a different voters fund, so it's a technical difference, but it was the same thing. They were vicious commercials.

Mr. Mfume is a very smart guy, he was a very good operator as a congressman. He doesn't say things like Julian Bond that the Republican administration is comparing them to the Talebans in Afghanistan, but what he says, what I believe he's saying he would like the Republicans to embrace all his policies, all his left-wing policies and say, yes then we will support you. But what the Republicans need to get to do is get them, blacks, African-Americans who agree with them, and they're not there yet.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: I agree. I think the president would make a mistake to meet with this phony. He has the soothing rhetoric down, and then under his soothing rhetoric he played host last week to Julian Bond with his vicious, hate-filled speech, which was a repeat performance in February, so there were no surprises to what he was going to be saying, and they put the red carpet out again for Mary Frances Barry, who is still flogging that phony report her commission -- thoroughly discredited report her commission issued, and she, of course, to cheers from the crowd, talked about how she used to look forward to the day Strom Thurmond would be dying.

The White House has an opportunity to work with alternative voices in the black community who are constructive, and unlike these leaders who want to inflame racial tensions to keep themselves in power.

SHIELDS: The first thing you got to do is get elected, President Mfume got elected, and J.C. Watts I think stands alone right now among African-Americans who are Republicans in the Congress. I will say this: I don't think he's a phony, I disagree with you, but I think the Julian Bond thing was incendiary...

O'BEIRNE: But why doesn't he say so? Why won't he say so?


SHIELDS: OK, and I just simply say... HUNT: He refused to embrace it.

SHIELDS: He did. I simply say that the African-Americans view the federal government -- this is a federal government, that had two things that were very important: it ended segregation and abolished slavery, so it's tough to be against the federal government and be pro-African-American.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, California columnist Dan Walters joins us from Sacramento to talk about the political fate of Congressman Gary Condit.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. The case of missing intern Chandra Levy led to evidence of extramarital affairs involving Congressman Gary Condit, a moderate Democrat who had carried his Central Valley district in California by huge margins.


JIM DEMARTINI, STANISLAUS COUNTY GOP LEADER: His credibility is shot, he's been lying to the police and to his constituent for months.



SANDRA LUCAS, STANISLAUS COUNTY DEMOCRATIC LEADER: I don't feel he's weak. Is there a blimp in the road? Yes, but he will still win this election in November of 2002.


SHIELDS: Condit's lawyer told the news media in California and here in Washington to stop prying into the congressman's life.


ABBE LOWELL, CONDIT'S ATTORNEY: That may fill your papers and your Web sites and your TV shows, but it's not going find Chandra Levy and it is going to be counterproductive.


SHIELDS: Joining us now from Sacramento is Dan Walters of "The Sacramento Bee," whose authoritative political column appears in more than 50 California newspapers.

Thanks for coming in, Dan.


SHIELDS: Dan, is Gary Condit's political career at an end?

WALTERS: I think so, although the Democrats still hope that it isn't as your -- the little snippet you had earlier indicated -- the Democratic state executive board met in Sacramento yesterday, and that was kind of one of the main topics they were talking about, and the kind of official line is, well, once it's found out that he has nothing to do with Chandra Levy's disappearance, that the reaction against the news media will create sympathy for Gary Condit, and he will be re-elected.

Privately, Democrats mostly think he's cooked and they are just waiting to find out whether he's going to resign or simply not run for re-election next year.

SHIELDS: Now, is it at a practical level within California, because Democrats there do control the redistricting because they have control of the legislature and the governorship, is it the Democrats hoping against hope that Gary Condit can hold on until 2002, so that -- not resign so the Democrats can redraw the district more favorable for another Democrat?

WALTERS: Well, the district is -- it's suitable for a conservative Democrat like Gary Condit. Now, the main problem -- the main problem for the Democrats in that regard is they have to start doing this drawing here pretty soon, and they had hoped to take some of Gary Condit's Democrats away from him and to make some adjacent districts, which are all held by Republicans, make them a little more friendly to Democrats.

Now, they will probably have to shore up his district, whether he's running or not, and that's going make it more difficult for them to take seats away from the Republicans in reapportionment.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Dan, as you well know, every seat is important in this tightly held House of Representatives, so there's a lot of talk, a lot of real Americans worry about Chandra Levy, but politicians worry about that House seat, and what they're talking about is they would like -- they would like, Dan, Condit to announce that he's not running for re-election but to hold the seat. Do you hear that kind of talk out there?

WALTERS: Yes, I think that's what they're hoping. I think that's he wants to do as well. If he stays on until the end of next year, he could start collecting his congressional pension just a few months after that, where as if he quits now, he has no money. He's not a wealthy man at all, he has no outside income, and the buzz around the state capitol here is that he really wants to hold on through this term so he can start collection his pension shortly thereafter.

SHIELDS: Well, Robert Hanssen is getting his pension, so I guess Gary Condit gets his. Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Dan, Gary Condit has certainly come up under enormous pressure from the Levy family and from the media -- you mentioned the potential for a backlash against the media on the part of his constituents -- it seems to me though that his colleagues, his political colleagues, both old colleagues in the state and congressional, have been awfully quiet. Have you been surprised that given the feeling among his constituents, that his colleagues haven't been quicker to urge him to cooperate?

WALTERS: I've been a little bit surprised, but he, you know, he is kind of a swing vote in Congress right now, given his status of the Blue Dog Democrats, so I guess nobody really wants to alienate him -- that's the only way I can figure this out -- either Republicans or Democrats, because he still has that kind of swing vote on serious -- on key issues.

But yeah, it's been -- a little hypocritically, they've been very quiet about Gary Condit. Republicans who were eager to condemn President Clinton are certainly holding back on Gary Condit. The Democrats who were -- what was the name of that senator from Oregon -- they were all out over him a couple years ago.

SHIELDS: Packwood.

WALTERS: Packwood. They've been very quite. I think Barbara Boxer from California, for example, who was all over Packwood, has been very quiet about Gary Condit. So yeah, I think they're being dictated by the political circumstances, the fact that he's -- he's -- with the House as close as it is, he still holds a powerful vote.

SHIELDS: Go ahead, Al.

HUNT: Dan, Condit tried to go on the offensive this week by taking a lie detector test, which was administered by someone his lawyer set up. Has that had any impact out there, he says he passed it, does that cut, or is it just too much?

WALTERS: I don't think that in itself does anything. The worst thing Gary Condit's got going for him in his own district, if in fact he would try to run for reelection, are Chandra Levy's parents denouncing him.

They are respected people in that community, well known civic leaders and to have that happen in his district it would be very, very difficult. And I tell you, there may be more scandal to come. There were some hints of that this week involving the minister's daughter and what may be happening there.

We probably haven't heard the last of this, and by the way none of this is a great surprise to people who knew him in California, in the capital here when he was in state legislature. He had the reputation of being something of a player.

SHIELDS: A sexual player?

WALTERS: His nickname in those days was Gary Condom, as a matter of fact.

NOVAK: There was a magazine article in one of the Internet pieces which said that, but his reputation here, at least as far as I know, and apparently was straight and apparently in his district, a lot of man-on-the-street interviews of people saying that he really, it was a real shock to them that he was that way.

He really did live, as far as his own district went, pretty much of a double life, didn't he?

WALTERS: I think so. As I say he was well known up in the capital when he was here in the 1980s as being one of the swingers around the capital, so to speak, so none of this is surprising to people who have knows him since those days. He may be a surprise in his district and may be a surprise in Washington, but it's certainly not a surprise in Sacramento.

SHIELDS: I just want to agree with brother Novak, it was interesting, I was up in the House doing room this week and three different employees of the house doing room, a waiter, a waitress, and a hostess, all volunteered to me individually -- what a thoughtful and decent man Gary Condit was to them, to people that he didn't have to be in that sense, so it is...

HUNT: We at least know three people he didn't on, right?


SHIELDS: OK, Dan Walters, we thank you for being with us. The gang will be back with the "Outrage of the Week."

WALTERS: You're welcome.


SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week." On the question of whether China, which brutalizes its own people, terrorizes its neighbor, and makes the world less safe through nuclear transfers ought to be awarded the 2008 Olympics, the conservative anti-communist Bush Administration was hands off. It was incuriously neutral. After all, big corporate donors like doing business in China, where there are no labor unions, no worker problems.

But to prove how tough they are on godless commies, the Bush folks this week will get tough on Cuba, which has an economy slightly smaller than that of Kankakee, Illinois. Get a whiff of that acrid odor of hypocrisy -- Bob Novak.

NOVAK: One interest cut after another by Alan Greenspan's Federal Reserve is not curbing the monetary deflation, and is not reviving the economy. This is a time when Dr. Greenspan needs imaginative colleagues at the Central Bank. Instead, he lobbies for Fed governors who are yes men. This week President Bush ignored his own advisers and bowed to Greenspan's demand to fill a vacancy on the Fed board with Mark Olson, a former president of the American Bankers Association; an old Washington hand, but surely no heavyweight.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: A weekly mandatory fitness run at a military command in Miami was canceled when a female officer complained that her feelings were hurt because she ran too slowly. Apparently subscribing to a new empowerment slogan, I am woman, hear my whine. The officer was wounded by criticism from faster runners. In the latest example of the assault on the military culture, a Pentagon investigation on the extent of hurt feelings in the Miami command is underway.

Clearly, the military needs a few good women.


HUNT: Mark, Congressman Gary Condit's behavior is indefensible, but it was a bit much to hear him chastised by Newt Gingrich. This is the same Gingrich who gave his first wife divorce papers the day she got out of cancer surgery. As for his second marriage, during the time he was criticizing Bill Clinton over Monica Lewinsky, he was having an affair with a young House employee. As moral arbiter, Gingrich ranks about on par with Gary Condit or Madonna.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. "CNN TONIGHT" is next.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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