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Hagel Discusses Bush's Policies; Michael Novak Discusses Catholicism, Capitalism; Tom Fiedler Addresses Florida Governor's Race

Aired July 28, 2001 - 19:00   ET



MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Margaret Carlson. Our guest is Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. It's great to have you back, Chuck.


SHIELDS: Thank you.

As President Bush finished his second European trip, former President Jimmy Carter joined the Democratic chorus of criticism, especially in his handling of foreign affairs. In an interview, the Columbus, Georgia "Ledger-Enquirer," President Carter said, quote: "I have been disappointed in almost everything he has done. I thought he would be a moderate leader, but he has been very strictly conforming to some of the more conservative members of his administration," end quote.

In Genoa, President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin reached tentative agreement.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): What was unexpected both for me and, I think, for President Bush as well was the understanding that was reached today between us on the issue that the offensive arms and issue of defensive arms will be discussed as a set.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As the president said -- that we're going to have open and honest dialogue about defensive systems, as well as reduction of offensive systems. The two go hand-in-hand in order to set up a new strategic framework for peace.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SHIELDS: Visiting U.S. peacekeeping troops in Kosovo, President Bush unveiled another surprise by breaking a campaign promise.


BUSH: American allied forces came into Bosnia and Kosovo; we came in together, and we will leave together.


SHIELDS: Al, based on President Bush's perform abroad, was Jimmy Carter's criticism justified?

AL HUNT, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, Mark, I think clearly Bush has governed more from the right. But I don't -- you can just witness the angst of all the party moderates. But I don't think any shortcomings of this second European trip had anything to do with ideology. It was more one of presence.

Administration officials say it was a great success. They talk about the meeting with his soul mate, Mr. Putin, and that the French president privately told Bush how wonderful he was.

But the image elsewhere was quite different. The British press were full of leaks that Tony Blair had lectured President Bush about some of his isolationist problems -- imagine that of Churchill lecturing Roosevelt or Thatcher lecturing Reagan. And mainly it was just sort of considered a ho-hum affair. Here the president was in Europe, and the first couple days it was on A7 and A10 of the stately "New York Times."

I don't think the trip was on most American's radar screen.

SHIELDS: Bob, was it on your radar screen?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": It certainly was. It was also on Jimmy Carter's, apparently.

President Carter, who had been a very poor president, was -- had been, up until now, a good ex-president. But this -- he broke a very useful convention that ex-presidents kind of stick together. I think it was ridiculous for a president who lost the presidency on his -- partly on his miserable handling of foreign policy was -- had terrific challenge in the primaries from Teddy Kennedy. And he attacks Bush on foreign policy.

Now, the other thing I learned -- I just learned it now, a minute ago: You can never satisfy Al Hunt because everybody had been saying, oh, we're getting in trouble with the Russians, liberals were wringing their hands -- how terrible. He obviously makes a beginning of a deal with President Putin, but it's never good enough for people who don't want him to succeed.

I thought it was a fine trip. The only bad part about it was Kosovo, where he said we're going to be there as long as the Europeans are, and that's not what he said in the campaign. SHIELDS: Chuck Hagel, during the campaign he drew the line against John McCain, among others, on Kosovo. He wanted the United States out of Kosovo and basically said, look out folks, we're coming out -- and changed the tune completely this week.

HAGEL: Well, I'm not sure he changed the tune completely. He said that he would support our allies; we went in together, went out together before he was in Kosovo this time. He also said earlier this year that we have obligations and responsibilities to our NATO allies. In fact, the Balkans is (sic) within, certainly, the scope of the interest of this country, of our allies and of our European friends and certainly NATO.

So I don't if I would go as far as to say that somehow he has readjusted and recalibrated. The fact is, too, every president who comes into office and inherits foreign policy problems, like this president has -- every president does -- is faced with the reality of fewer and fewer options than when you're on a campaign trail.

So I think he's doing the right thing. I think he's handling himself right. On the part of the European trip, there were few expectations in that trip. And I think that was appropriate. The events that occurred between President Putin and Bush were a bit unexpected, but not on forecast, when you look within the administration's work on this issue; the quiet, day-to-day work that Powell and Rice and Rumsfeld and others were putting together.

And what you saw Sunday was a consequence of that.

SHIELDS: How were your expectations, Margaret?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Oh, low. Ari Fleischer and others want them to be low, so I try to comply.

The statement in Kosovo shows that a man can grow in the presidency, because he had it wrong during the campaign, and the statement then seemed to say that he didn't know that our European allies were there in greater numbers than we were. So he straightened that out now, I think, all for the good.

Bush was one to criticize Clinton for romancing Boris Yeltsin. This thing with Putin is like a high school crush, and it eliminates what he might be doing with others. Tony Blair didn't understand what he was doing, and Bush even admitted, well, I guess it's hard to commit yourself to a vague notion. He said that while he was in Europe to -- acknowledging what Blair had said.

What Putin did, I thought, that was very interesting, was to say that he found Bush's, quote, "mental reasoning to be very deep and very profound." And I think that will keep those two together for a lifetime.

SHIELDS: For a lifetime?

R. NOVAK: One thing I want to say is, criticism of President Bush for being a unilateralist or an isolationist -- but I think that an American president should get credit when he is -- they look at something like this germ warfare treaty and says it's not in the American interest. Not the concept of it, but the details of it.

And so I -- you know, I just think that there is nothing this president can do to satisfy the left-wing press or the Democrats. I think there's a hostility.


HUNT: Can I just -- let me jump in here, because, you know, he talks about the left-wing press. "The Economist" magazine, which we know is not left-wing because Bob Novak used to write for it...

R. NOVAK: That was 40 years ago.


HUNT: ... know that was not left-wing says, "Has George Bush Ever Met a Treaty That He Liked?" It's not the left, Bob. You wrote for that magazine.

R. NOVAK: That was 40 years ago. It is a left, European bias. And it doesn't mean that every reporter in Washington has to has a left, European bias. It isn't necessary, Al.

HUNT: "The Economist," a left-wing bias!

SHIELDS: Thank you so much, Bob, and I appreciate your moral exemplar role.

Chuck Hagel and THE GANG will be back with the president and the pope.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. At Castle Gondolfo, Italy President Bush met with Pope John Paul II, who read a statement opposing embryonic stem-cell research.


POPE JOHN PAUL II: A free and righteous society, which America aspires to be, must reject practices that devalue and violate human life at any stage from conception until natural death.



BUSH: Of course I'll take that point of view into consideration, as I make up my mind on a very difficult issue confronting the United States of America. It's the need to balance value and respect for life with the promise of science and the hope of saving life.


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, did his visit with the pope influence the president's decision on stem cell research?

R. NOVAK: I think it just made it more difficult, because whatever he does now, because he's waited so long on an issue -- a decision he should have made in the first place, a long time ago. It looks like he's either knuckling under to the pope or he's offending the pope. The -- some of his staff now are saying after the fact they expected the pope to say that, but that's not what...

SHIELDS: That's not their expectation.

R. NOVAK: That was not their expectation. That's not what they told reporters at Castle Gondolfo. Before the fact they were saying that they didn't think the pope would say anything.

So I think it is one of those decisions which is a moral decision and -- where you either decide that morality and the ethics is important or it's not. And it should have been made well before he went to see the pope.

SHIELDS: Margaret?

CARLSON: Well, the White House staff should have learned a few things before they went to the Vatican, which is, first of all, it's "his holiness," not "sir." And the pope, when you look into his eyes, tends to tell you what he thinks. That's what infallible people do.

So it couldn't have been -- I mean, anybody thinking about it would have known that the pope would have said what he thought on stem cell, and we all know what he thinks.

Now, Bush, if he goes for not having stem-cell research, it's to get the Catholic vote and to get the very religious vote in his base. That makes the decision look political, because that's what Karl Rove, his political adviser, has more or less announced to us. If he does the other, I think he'll be going along with the majority of people in his party and certainly in the country, and that includes Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator Bill Frist. So he has a way to do this ethically, even within his own party.

SHIELDS: Chuck Hagel, the delay certainly has lead to -- it's being seen through a political prism. Either way he's feeling pressure -- the president is feeling pressure on this decision from both sides, and is going to come down on one side or the other. It's going to offend some pretty influential folks.

HAGEL: Well, as we know, all tough issues have political consequences. That's a given in this business.

But I think this president is, in fact, struggling with this. I have spoken plainly, directly to him. He is working it through in his own mind, as he said, ethically, morally in every way to try to frame up the perspectives of the consequences of this decision. As a matter of fact, I understand he said that short of getting America into World War III, the decision he makes here will probably be the most profound decision he makes in his first term. And I don't disagree with that. SHIELDS: Al, the folks at the White House are saying the president is devoting more time to this than any decision that they've ever been around him before.

HUNT: Mark, but he's -- Bob's right, he's got himself in one heck of a mess here. Because if you listen to what he said, he clearly is a man looking for some kind of a middle ground, a compromise. The sort of thing that Bill Frist -- I mean, basically if you think that it's murder, you don't look for a compromise. You say, you know, that's what the pope honestly believes.

The problem is, this is a guy who says, I say what I mean and I mean what I say. Well, that hasn't been the case in Kosovo, that hasn't been the case on carbon dioxide. If he does a flip-flop on this, I think that's going it cause him problems, Mark.

R. NOVAK: But this is much more important than Kosovo or carbon dioxide, don't you think?


HUNT: I think it's a very important issue; I sure do.

CARLSON: But, you know, there are so many things during the campaign that he hadn't really studied. And he says now that he has, he's put a lot of time in on it. That gives him room to change his mind, because he's learned.

R. NOVAK: How do you study a moral issue? I don't understand that.

HUNT: Well, that's what I'm saying: He's looking for a compromise.

CARLSON: Well, if he does believe...

SHIELDS: People do study moral issues. That's right; they do. You know, they really do, and that's how they come to a moral decision, Bob, really. I'll talk to you about it later.

Next on CAPITAL GANG: the politics of Social Security.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

President Clinton's bipartisan commission on Social Security issued its interim report, predicting that in 15 years the system will start to run out of money. The report suggested a remedy: private personal accounts.


DANIEL PATRICK MOYNIHAN, COMMISSION CO-CHAIRMAN: We're concerned about the people who are left out; the people who are left out. Who work all their lives and end up with nothing. They've earned, indeed, something to live with -- live off, but nothing to leave.


SHIELDS: Former Senator Moynihan's old Democratic colleagues opened fire on the report.


REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: I think their report is irresponsible. I think they're showing we've got a stacked decked on this commission.



SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: Your Social Security benefits will be cut under the president's commission's report by 41 percent. Nearly one-half.



ROBERT JOHNSON, COMMISSION MEMBER: As a member of the Democratic Party and as a Democratic appointee to this committee, I would urge my fellow Democrats to lower the rhetoric, stop the kill-the-messenger strategy and focus on trying to address a very serious problem.


SHIELDS: Margaret, is this Bush initiative dead on arrival?

CARLSON: It would be more alive if the commission hadn't been stacked with people who already are known to be greatly in favor of privatization, including a few people in the investment business who stand to make huge amounts of money, if, in fact, it goes that way.

I have great admiration for Senator Moynihan, but I think he made a mistake there. This is a Social Security program; it's an insurance program. And at this very moment, if people were retiring and they had part of their funds invested in the market, well what would they do? I mean, if you buy low and sell high like Bob, well maybe you'll be well-off. But you wouldn't be.

It's Social Security. And calling it a crisis is a way of getting into privatization in a very hasty way and bringing about, perhaps -- because there's not enough money, if you're taking that 2 percent out, of bringing about the very crisis they say this is going to solve.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, what about that?

R. NOVAK: Of course, if you have the money invested -- if this program had started five, 10 years ago, they'd be way ahead of the game. They'd have much more money for their retirement than they have under the present system.

This plan doesn't affect any people who are now under Social Security. This is just for young people. And, of course, this is the worst demagoguery I have ever seen by the Democrats. When Tom Daschle says this will cut Social Security benefits 41 percent, I hate to say it: That's a lie. That's an absolute lie to say that it will cut benefits 41 percent.

It is not -- he says the report says that; it's not in the report. Dick Gephardt is saying there's no crisis; Dick Gephardt was for the Moynihan plan, which is very old, Margaret. Pat Moynihan has been saying that for many, many years.

So I just think it is very distressing when even people like Gephardt, who are on the right side of this issue just a couple of years ago, now, in the frenzy of partisanship, are attacking even their own Democrats on the...

SHIELDS: Speaking of the frenzy of partisanship and attacks, Chuck, let me turn to you. I talked to Tom Davis this week, the chairman of the Republican Campaign Committee in the House. And he's a little less than enthusiastic about this because he thinks, politically -- brother Novak brings up the political angle -- that it's of concern to people who are either about to receive Social Security, who are receiving Social Security, and there's an anxiety level there.

HAGEL: Well, any time you speak of Social Security there is an anxiety level that always projects itself. First, this administration must, in fact, insulate, isolate those now on Social Security and will be soon -- coming on...

SHIELDS: With a bond or what?

HAGEL: Well, however way they can do it, they can do it.

But let's get to the real issue here. The real issue is the sustainability of Social Security. How are we going to be able to pay for Social Security? And any projections you look at -- any actuaries that you study shows that without either raising taxes or cutting benefits, or a combination of the two, you can't sustain it under the current program.

Now, I don't see anything wrong with taking this issue on and dealing with it and saying, is there a better way to do this? I think that's leadership; I think that's courage. And to have this crazy demagoguery that's floating around and flapping back and forth out there, I think is a great disservice to the people of this country.

SHIELDS: Leadership, Al?

HUNT: Well, yes, and I think Chuck's actually right. But, you know, this White House hasn't said anything about raising taxes or cutting benefits. They say it's going to be a free lunch.

And Bob, if we're going to use terms like "lying," let me tell you: One's a lie, take your pick; either the economic projections in their tax cut bill or the economic projections in their Social Security, because they're totally different projections.

But Mark, politically, I think the one thing that's prevented the Democratic Party in the last three elections from becoming the majority party is that they haven't done very well with elderly people -- haven't been able to scare seniors, if you will, as Bob would put it, in recent elections. If you have a sluggish market and the White House decides to really push that, they're going to scare seniors.

R. NOVAK: Let me just say that I also talked to Tom Davis, who is the chairman of the House Republican Campaign Committee, and what he told me, Mark, was that the president has to get in his bully pulpit on this issue and sell it to the country. He thinks it can be a very good issue if the president gets out and sells it, which he hasn't done so far.

HUNT: Cutting benefits or raising taxes. One or the other, right Bob?

R. NOVAK: No, it is...

HUNT: We don't do that.

R. NOVAK: Just a minute. You asked me a question and you interrupt me.

It is a matter of letting people, ordinary people who are under the yoke of the Democratic Party and the labor unions have their own...




SHIELDS: Listen, time out on you! I've had enough of you to last me a lifetime, Novak!

We'll be back with a "CAPITAL GANG Classic." The Olympics bombing in Atlanta five years ago this week.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

And now for our "CAPITAL GANG Classic." Five years ago this week the Olympic Games in Atlanta were disrupted by the Centennial Park bombing. This is what your CAPITAL GANG said on July 27, 1996. Our guest was then-Republican Senator William Cohen of Maine. Al Hunt was in Atlanta for the Olympics.


HUNT: The security really, I think, has been quite good. But if you want to have ordinary people participating in these festivities, and that's what Centennial Park was, or is, then I think you just -- there are certain risks that are just unavoidable. That's -- we live in a dangerous world.

SEN. WILLIAM COHEN (R), MAINE: It's something we're going to have to adjust to. It's not only the past being prologue, the present is prologue, and the wave of the future is going to be more and more terrorism. And we're going to have to alter our way of life in order to combat it.

CARLSON: We don't have that much security yet, and we can go, I think, much higher without really inconveniencing people like Bob -- people like Bob, who's already frowning because all he cares about is getting to his next speaking engagement with no interference whatsoever.

R. NOVAK: If Bill Cohen is right, that it's going to alter our way of life, then the terrorists have won. And you know, I don't know where it ends. Do you have the Centennial -- do you have the security precautions at every baseball game? Every family picnic?

I just worry about the idea that we're going to go into this police state where individual freedoms are limited.

SHIELDS: There really is a demarcation point here between public gathering places like Centennial Park and square and grand parks in major American cities as opposed to air travel.


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, were we premature in predicting drastically tightened security measures?

R. NOVAK: Absolutely; it was a typical journalists' panic. There was one terrible event, we said we're going to have a police state.

The thing that was depressing to go me five years ago and still is to me, I was the only person here who didn't welcome the police state, to seem to want all the security. Just the kind of people who like Pennsylvania Avenue closed. That's what worries me about the elite journalists, that they just like to have the police looking over their shoulder.

SHIELDS: Margaret, you were the hostess for the welcome wagon of the police state.

CARLSON: Yes, right. Just like Bob five years ago.

You'd have those metal detectors at airports removed because he just wants to fly through there like O.J. Simpson.

R. NOVAK: I didn't say that.

CARLSON: And Pennsylvania Avenue -- it impedes no one to have it closed. In fact, it's a park now... R. NOVAK: It impedes me.

CARLSON: ... it's very beautiful.

SHIELDS: Chuck Hagel, your reaction to the security...

HAGEL: Well, first I'm impressed that Al Hunt has the same outfit on that he had five years ago.


HAGEL: It's important to note those things, and I congratulate you.

HUNT: Chuck, thank you.

CARLSON: There's no clothing allowance here.

HAGEL: These are tough times. I admire your discipline.


HAGEL: Chemical, biological warfare are, I think, yet unappreciated potential factors here in things that we are going to have to look to in the not-too-distant future. When we look at what's going on in some of these countries that we don't know enough about and how easy that warfare is to conduct, we should pay more attention to it.

Overreaction, sure, we have to be careful of that. But that threat is very real.


HUNT: I thank Bob Novak for undercutting his own premise by bringing up Pennsylvania Avenue. They told us that once Clinton went off -- went out of office, that we would go and we would do away with that. They haven't, Bob; six months and they...

R. NOVAK: It's disappointing.

HUNT: They're going to build a tunnel now.

R. NOVAK: And that's horrible.

SHIELDS: All right. Chuck Hagel, thank you very much for being with us. We'll be back with the second half hour of CAPITAL GANG. The "Newsmaker of the Week": Theologian Michael Novak talking about the pope. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the governor's race in Florida with Tom Fiedler of "The Miami Herald." And our "Outrages of the Week."

That's all after a check of the hour's top news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of CAPITAL GANG, I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Margaret Carlson. Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is theologian Michael Novak.

Michael Novak. Age: 67. Residence: Washington, D.C. Religion: Roman Catholic. Theology degree from Gregorian University in Rome, masters degree from Harvard. Author of 25 books, including "The Open Church," which is being reissued this fall. Director of social and political studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

Earlier today, Al Hunt sat down with Michael Novak.


HUNT: Michael, President Bush met this week with Pope John Paul II, who is 81 years old, frail. Is his holiness still a dominant figure within the church and in larger society?

MICHAEL NOVAK, THEOLOGIAN: Sure he is. He probably set in motion one of the biggest things since he went to Poland in 1978 and what he did in Ukraine just last month. I think the repercussions of that will be heard for a very long time.

HUNT: Is it pretty much a foregone conclusion that the pope's successor, theologically and politically, will follow in his conservative footsteps?

M. NOVAK: Not necessarily, but I'd be very surprised if there isn't enormous continuity as there always is. There aren't shocking changes back and forth.

HUNT: Let me ask how you square your fervent support for the democratic capitalism -- you've just written a great book about that -- with the pope's oft-expressed concerns about the ethics of capitalism?

M. NOVAK: Well, you have to have to make capitalism work both a democratic polity, based on the rule of law and protecting rights and you have to have a very strong moral code. In Russia, for instance, the lack of the rule of law, the roughness, the extortion, the murder make capitalist acts between consenting adults practically impossible. It's very difficult. You've really got to have the moral system.

HUNT: Let's talk about the American church and politics for a moment. President Bush is making a special effort to win Catholic support. Do these efforts, including his appearance with the holy father, do you think they affect rank-and-file Catholic voters?

M. NOVAK: Well, yes, I think there's a lot of symbolic politics in practically everything presidents do and not just this president, who they're seeing with, where they go -- creates a sort of aura, at least more or less in the unconscious. I don't think it sways people directly, but indirectly.

HUNT: What would be the political implications if President Bush were to compromise on the issue of embryonic stem cell research? M. NOVAK: Well, to go back on his word of where he said he stands could be extremely damaging, I think. I want to emphasize that this is not an issue having to do with faith or with scripture. This is an issue about textbook biology, what is it that an embryo is. It is a human individual, and it is only human. It can't be anything else, and of course that's its value to scientists.

HUNT: As you know, some bishops have made a pro-life position on abortion a litmus test for politicians. Some haven't, but some have. And so, you once complained about Catholic Democrats who loudly -- and I think I'm quoting here -- "compromise their Catholic faith regarding abortion." Can the same thing be said about Catholic politicians who favor the death penalty? Are they also compromising their faith?

M. NOVAK: The shift in Catholic teaching on the death penalty is a relatively recent one, and is conditionable on a number of factors, but yes, it's awkward for them to be.

For myself, for example, I have long approved of the death penalty, and I think there are serious traditional reasons why and why not to in certain circumstances, but the pope is arguing -- he's presenting a new sort of argument now, that given the conditions of the administrative state, certainly in most parts of the world, it's hard to hold responsible a single person for what happens. And in these circumstances, there's a kind of bureaucratic decision that is sometimes reached.

HUNT: You've been very supportive of President Bush's faith- based initiative. Should the work of Catholic charities be a model for any new faith-based programs?

M. NOVAK: I'm not sure how you mean that, Al. If you say Catholic charities, I'm not sure you mean the one organization Catholic charities or the wide variety of things that values Catholic communities, religious orders, lay people do.

If it's the latter, then certainly, the activities of Quakers, of Evangelicals, and mainline Protestants, and Catholics, or Jews for two centuries now have been quite remarkable in America, is the main substance of caring for one another, and rekindling those, re- energizing those I think is a terrific thing to do.

HUNT: Michael Novak, thank you very much.


SHIELDS: Al, Michael Novak is a card-carrying conservative, but with his emphasis upon economic justice and social compact and against the death penalty, does Pope John Paul II qualify as a conservative?

HUNT: You would ask the one Episcopalian on this issue, wouldn't you, Mark?

Look, on most issues, he certainly does, but as you noted -- I think on a host of issues, ranging from capital punishment to lower capital gains taxes to the needs of government to help the poor, fortunately the pope disagrees with one of its most distinguished parishioners, Bob Novak.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

R. NOVAK: Well, I think the pope is a conservative. You know, if you read the history of the papacy, it was a very anti-modernist trend in the papacy, so the papacy was to the right of capitalism. Capitalism was a dangerous, left-wing idea. And I think regrettably, the pope does still have some anti-capitalist ideas, unlike Michael Novak.

But you know, Michael Novak is a great theologian, I certainly am not, but I really was surprised to have him equate the opposition to the death penalty to opposition to abortion, because my spiritual advisers convinced me that opposition to abortion is rooted in scripture, while abortion to the death penalty is not -- opposition to the death penalty is not rooted in scripture.

SHIELDS: Margaret, you and I obviously have different spiritual advisers.

CARLSON: Yes, I have a spiritual adviser, and they all think they're infallible like the pope, I think. The -- you know, the pope believes in the dignity of human labor, and so I guess that makes him, you know, not the kind of capitalist that Bob would like -- and the minimum wage and all the things that Dorothy Day cared about.

Catholics pick and choose among many issues -- some people call it cafeteria Catholics -- and Bob is clearly one of them.

SHIELDS: I would just say this, the one point I disagree with Michael on was the continuity, because if there was discontinuity, it was John XXIII succeeding Pius XII. I mean, that was really, you know, from night to day for many of us.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the race for governor of Florida.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

"Beyond the Beltway": the 2002 election for governor of Florida is attracting early national attention with the president's brother, Republican Governor Jeb Bush seeking re-election and the former Attorney General Democrat Janet Reno expressing strong interest in replacing Mr. Bush.

Another high-profile Democratic possibility surfaced just this week, that's former Congressman Pete Peterson, who spent the last four years as United States ambassador to Vietnam.


PETE PETERSON, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO VIETNAM: I've been back in the United States for exactly one week, and I'm on a very steep learning curve of getting back into American and Florida politics, and if it looks like I can, in fact, provide the kind of leadership that I think Florida needs, then I'll enter race, but I haven't concluded to that point yet.


SHIELDS: Joining us now from Florida is one of Florida's most respected political reporters, Tom Fiedler, now the executive editor of the "Miami Herald." Congratulations, and thanks for coming in, Tom.

TOM FIEDLER, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "MIAMI HERALD": Thank you, glad to be here.

SHIELDS: Tom, does Pete Peterson look like a serious challenger against Jeb Bush?

FIEDLER: Well, I think he's certainly going to take a serious look at it. He seems to be the one that the Democratic Party establishment would like to see step forward and to catch on here. He has quiet backing from Senator Graham, from Senator Nelson, the two Florida Democratic senators, but I don't think that he's fully committed to this. When he said he's going to take a look at this, I think he's serious.

He is known in the panhandle, North Florida, but only 10 percent of the Democratic vote is going come out of there. The big piece of the equation is going to be Southeast Florida and whether he's going to be able to fit here and be comfortable here. I think it's a real question. I'd keep an eye on Congressman Jim Davis out of Tampa. He might be the sleeper that comes forward for the Democrats here.

SHIELDS: And your own sense, Tom -- you know, those of us outside of Florida frequently concentrate so much attention on the Cuban-American voted, but two things: half of the Latino vote in Florida now is non-Cuban, and the second generation of Cuban-Americans seem less militant than did their predecessors?

FIEDLER: Well, there is certainly, as the second generation -- we are now actually into the third generation of Cuban-Americans, and they are less I guess connected passionately to the cause of Cuba. Just for them, it's more a concept than something real. And to that extent, their focus is on, like most people would be, on the quality of education perhaps and other social issues, which means that they are susceptible to a Democratic argument.

People should remember that in 1996, the Cuban-American vote of people under the age of 50 actually went for Bill Clinton, and it was only those over the age of 55 that supported Bob Dole, so there's definitely a shift in that community.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

R. NOVAK: And then, of course, the Elian Gonzalez case and the re-defection of those voters, Tom, I think you can say lost Florida and the presidency for Al Gore, but let me just notice that I thought Pete Peterson was a little unsteady. At one point, he said that "I've been trying to go into the politics of the nation and Viet" -- and then he said Florida in the little sound bite that we had.

But let me ask you this: Janet Reno, very well known in South Florida, former district attorney in Dade County -- if she runs -- do you think she's going to run? And wouldn't she be tough to beat now that you don't have a runoff, you can -- the first person to get the most votes wins, without a 50 percent?

FIEDLER: Right. Well, the answer to your second question is that, yes, she would be tough to beat. She comes into the Democratic primary with 95 percent name recognition. Everybody else is under 40 percent, so she clearly dominates. And yeah, and all it would take, as you say, in a crowded field is a rather small plurality to get it.

The answer to your second question is really the more important one, will she run. You know, taking Janet Reno's temperature on any issue at any time is really difficult, as you all know having watched her in Washington for eight years. She is going around the state, looking a lot like a candidate, but I think if I was really analyzing her language in the last week or two, since Pete Peterson has come back, I think there is more caution to her than there was perhaps a month ago.

And the polling numbers that the Democrats are passing around don't really look particularly good for Janet Reno. She has far and away the biggest negatives of anybody in the field. In fact, she's the only Democrat candidate who's upside down, whose negatives are higher than her positives, so I think she may look at those. She is a political realist, and I -- I wouldn't be surprised to see her pull up, but not for a while.

SHIELDS: OK. Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: No, Tom makes it seem like being in Saigon for the last four years is the best and the worst thing that Pete Peterson has going for him, because Janet -- Janet Reno is associated with Elian -- and then, you know, I thought that she would be the one that would get and consolidate the vote of those who thought the election was stolen by George and Jeb Bush. Is that vote organized and does it go anywhere?

FIEDLER: It's not organized in the sense that it would clearly go to one. And all the Democrats -- with the exception I guess of Pete Peterson, who was out of the country -- all of the Democrats in the field here were vocal and took prominent positions.

The House Democratic leader, Lois Frankel, was a presence on national television at that point, she was clearly identified with it. I think with Pete Peterson, though, being away in Vietnam, as you point out, Margaret, was -- it perhaps was positive there, but he has to come back and reintroduce himself to Florida and Florida voters. And in fact, I think he needs to introduce himself to the Florida Democratic voter in the South, and that may not be as natural a fit as it might look.

To be from Mariana, Florida, where he is, where you can hit Georgia with a rock is a long way from Broward county where the center of gravity for the Democratic Party is.


HUNT: Tom Fiedler, one person I'm told this week who privately is very much urging Pete Peterson to run and wants to try to help him is none other than former President Bill Clinton. In part, that may reflect his views of his attorney general, Janet Reno. Would Bill Clinton be a plus or a minus for Pete Peterson in Florida?

FIEDLER: Oh, I think he would be a significant plus for Pete Peterson. If he came down here and actively campaigned, it would certainly help in the most important way, which is to raise him a lot of money early on. I think that would him. Now also, if he came down in Democratic primary, that would surprise everyone. That I think would be seen as a repudiation, a direct rebuke of Janet Reno. That would be rather a major story. I'd relish covering that one.

SHIELDS: Just to establish the context properly, we should point out that Pete Peterson was a member of Congress and was for six and a half years POW, a pilot shot down, so...

FIEDLER: Very much a John McCain.

SHIELDS: A great personal story to tell. Tom Fiedler, thank you for being with us.

FIEDLER: Pleasure.

SHIELDS: THE GANG will be back with "The Outrage of the Week." Thanks, Tom.


SHIELDS: Now for "The Outrage of the Week." Question: who has been spiking Trent Lott's Ovaltine? First, in criticizing Democrat Gary Condit, Mr. Lott declares any adulterer in Congress must resign. Quote: "Infidelity is always unacceptable, but particularly when you have an elected official involved. If these allegations are true, obviously he should resign," end quote.

Hello, Newt! Now listen to Mr. Lott on the question of whether Mexican trucks and drivers on U.S. highways should be required to meet the same standard standards U.S. and Canadian drivers do.


SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: It bothers me that there's sort of an anti-Mexican, anti-Hispanic, anti-NAFTA attitude.


SHIELDS: Certainly, Trent Lott is not saying that 70 U.S. senators who voted for uniform safety standards are anti-Mexican or anti-Hispanic, or is he? Bob Novak.

R. NOVAK: Mark, it certainly was anti-NAFTA and anti-Mexican. America's city fathers have a new toy, law enforcement cameras to nab motorists who speed and run red lights. Why this invasion of privacy? Not for safety reasons. The object is money, lots of it. The District of Columbia's government, as reported by "The Washington Times," expects the cameras to yield $160 million by 2004. By August 1 of this year, 80,000 tickets a month will be issued, compared to 10,000 all of last year. House majority leader Dick Armey deserves credit for fighting this outrage, but he needs help.

CARLSON: How many tickets have you got, Bob?

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Bush wants to award the chairmanship of the Consumer Product Safety Commission to someone who hates regulating consumer products. Where others see the fact that products could burn and drown babies, nominee Mary Gall only sees defective parents. Fire- resistant pajamas? Why bother, says Gall, babies are not likely to be in, quote, "fire situations," unquote.

Republicans point out that Clinton renominated Gall, but he had to, to cut a deal to get a strong chairwoman in Ann Brown. It was bad enough having a defective commissioner. Let's not saddle the country with a detective chairman.


HUNT: Mark, we know Bob Novak and Dick Armey got caught by those cameras.

Like Joe Lewis' opponents, House Republican leaders can run, but they can't hide. This week, they pulled the patients' bill of rights legislation, because the White House hadn't mustered enough votes to gut the bill. The hope now is the big money HMOs working with the White House can pressure a dozen wavering Republicans who voted for a real patients' bill of rights last year.

Let's keep a careful roll call of these lawmakers. If they talk to doctors and patients, they will vote the same way this year.

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



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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