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Interviews With Vernon Jordan, Jeff Whelan

Aired October 27, 2001 - 19:00   ET


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

Traces of anthrax continued to be found throughout the Washington area, forcing the United States Supreme Court to close for the first time in 66 years.


TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR: It is clear that the terrorists responsible for these attacks intended to use this anthrax as a weapon. We still don't know who is responsible, but we are marshaling every federal, state and local resource to find them and bring them to justice.



ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It could have been produced by a Ph.D. microbiologist, that it could be derived at a small, well-equipped microbiology lab, and it does nor rule out foreign sources. That would indicate that this is not necessarily state-sponsored; it does not rule out state-sponsored.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, does this anthrax scare mean that the terrorists are now winning?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, Bob likes to do his nervous Nelly thing, because people take precautions. But in fact, I think taking precautions means we are winning, because fewer people will die. It was completely unnecessary to call the House wimps for shutting down when it turns out Denny Hastert was probably right, because two postal workers quickly died as a result of the anthrax that was in Tom Daschle's letter. It turned out to be very, very dangerous. When they were at the White House breakfast that Wednesday, they found out it was that dangerous, and before Denny Hastert got the word from the Senate that they would be wimps, he did the smart thing and shut down.

You know, it didn't take rocket science to realize -- a scientist -- to realize that a letter that had started in Trenton where there was an in infection and got to the Senate where there were 30 exposures might have caused some trouble passing through the Brentwood facility, but nobody seemed to care that much about those postal workers. The dogs in the Congress were tested before the postal workers were checked.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, last week on this very broadcast you said closing the U.S. House, it was a big mistake. Was that a big mistake?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Yes, it still was a big mistake. There are no traces of -- of anything in the U.S. House of Representatives. They could have had a session just like the Senate did.

But that was last week's debate. The question you asked Margaret, which, will all due respect, she didn't answer was are the terrorists -- does this mean the terrorists are winning because of the anthrax scare? And what it does mean is that everybody is distracted from the war against terrorism against Osama bin Laden.

The thing that people don't understand is who is the source of this. Is it a foreign source? My information indicates it probably is, but nobody is sure, and the people who ought to know say they don't know. So in addition to being unprepared for the anthrax, we sure -- the government sure doesn't know who was the source of the contamination.

SHIELDS: But Al Hunt, all this stopping and stopping the clarifications and declarifications from the government, from the administration do undermine some sense of confidence in the nation, understandably?

AL HUNT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Mark, there is no question of that. I think it's remarkable that after 20 days how non-sure footed the government still is about this domestic threat. I sympathize with them, because this is, you know, virgin territory with these kind of horrors, but there really has been a lack of consistency, a lack of (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

What Tom Ridge has to do is hire somebody who really knows about this sort of stuff, a Margaret Hamburg or a terror tool bioterrorist experts or medical experts who has credibility to be one of his top deputies.

But Bob Novak is right about one thing. Where this comes from is terribly important. And I must say most of the people I've spoken to said there was a very high probability that somehow -- first of all, it was related to September 11, and second of all there was a foreign source involved in some sort. When Bob Woodward, the famous Bob Woodward of "The Washington Post" writes a story over the weekend saying that the FBI and the CIA now think it is much more likely it was a domestic hate group, that really made me sit back and take notice.

I don't know which is right, but I'll tell you, the ramifications, whether it's foreign source or a domestic hate group, are really huge. It's a different story.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

KATE O'BEIRNE, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Yeah, the ramifications are enormous if it were confirmed that it was a foreign group and it's connected to September 11, we would have to have a very strong disproportionate response to a bioterrorist attack in our own cities. And life would become immediately even more complicated than it now is, given what our obligations are in the task ahead overseas.

We've learned how incredibly disruptive -- what -- maybe a table spoon of anthrax is among three or half dozen letters? We have 10,000 people tested, 40 mail centers closed for testing. I'm not encouraged. I know it's a huge challenge they have ahead of them. I'm not encouraged that it took 17 years for the Unabomber to be caught who was using the U.S. mails to terrorize.

I can't -- it's sort of ironic that the public faith in government skyrockets at a time like this, which has to sort of be a rally-around effect, because on a daily basis they witness the very real limitations that government faces in trying to deal with something like this.

SHIELDS: Let me just say, first of all, Bob, traces of -- have been found in three separate House offices -- member House offices in the Longworth building.

NOVAK: I'm sorry, there is no sense in disagreeing with something I didn't say. I said in the Capitol, and no traces have been found in the Capitol, and that's what I was critical of them, for closing down -- because the House of Representatives is in the Capitol, it's not in the Longworth building.

SHIELDS: He was critical for closing down the House of Representatives...

NOVAK: That's what I mean...


SHIELDS: But traces have been discovered. I think that's...

NOVAK: Not in the Capitol!

SHIELDS: I think that's important that members have been exposed. Secondly, when 200 White House staffers not having been tested get Cipro prescribed for them when everyone else is told that Cipro is not to be taken unless they've tested positive, that's the kind of mixed message that just undermines confidence in the leadership.

HUNT: And the postal workers don't get anything, and we paid a huge price for that.

SHIELDS: Absolutely. CARLSON: But now they're getting Cipro without being tested, and they'll never know until they get it, which can be a six-month period. I think the postal workers have not been treated well during -- and they're on the front lines of it now.

The only honest person I saw up there -- because I think Tom Ridge and Tommy Thompson still -- they never err on the side of too much caution. They're always underestimating the threat from anthrax -- the postmaster general said, "I can't guarantee that the mail is safe." And that's true.

NOVAK: But Tom Ridge -- Tom Ridge said that this is very high -- he didn't -- he...


NOVAK: I know, that's what I'm saying, that what he is saying. So, it has really changed.

I really believe this is more of the intelligence failure, though. I really believe that the government doesn't know where this comes from, and that's a little shocking that this is now the crime of the century and they've not been able to solve it.

HUNT: Well, the reason that's so important -- I think Kate touched on it a moment ago -- is that if it's foreign sources, then there are going to be pathogens that may -- that they may use that we have never even heard of, and it's going to require a totally different response.

I mean, it's terrible no matter what, but let's pray that it is a domestic hate group...

NOVAK: They don't know.

HUNT: Because that's -- I agree with you.

CARLSON: Andrea Mitchell at NBC reported that the substance that makes it aerosol-like is in Iraq -- has -- was found during the last inspection of the Iraqi arsenal, so.

HUNT: I think the rogue Russian scientists are what scares a lot of people the most, because there are thousands of them and they've been unemployed for 10 years.

CARLSON: They want money. Yeah, you can bribe them.

SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt. The GANG of five will be back to the war on Afghanistan, week four.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. The aerial attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan is completing its third week with optimistic statements from the Pentagon, but few details.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're slowly but surely dismantling Taliban defenses, Taliban military installations, the Taliban command and control structure -- all aimed at bringing the al Qaeda criminals to justice.



DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Our goal is not to demystify things for the other side. This is a very complicated set of problems. The goal is to confuse, it is to make more difficult, it is to add cost, it is too frighten and it is to defeat the Taliban and the al Qaeda.


SHIELDS: One hard piece of war news was the capture and execution of opposition commander Abdul Haq, who had just infiltrated across the border from Pakistan. Bob Novak, is the war really going as well as the president and the Pentagon tell us it is?

NOVAK: I hope it is, but I have some doubts. I don't know if Secretary Rumsfeld has confused and frightened the Taliban, but he tends to confuse and frighten me, because I don't know what's going on and I'm afraid that not that much progress is being made or is being made in a way that I can understand.

The one thing I do know a little bit about is the Abdul Haq situation. I had a long talk with him -- two talks with him in Pakistan before he went in, and the plan was to try to get some commanders from the Taliban to defect, to try to win this war in an easy way. He had no cooperation from the CIA. He had no cooperation from the Pentagon. They really weren't interested in that. They tried to delay the bombing somewhat so that he could organize the forces.

But I think this was a catastrophe. I think Abdul Haq had, because of his role in fighting the Soviets for so long, had a role to play, and certainly the United States was not helpful to him.

SHIELDS: Overly optimistic, the projections?

CARLSON: You know, Bob, you're so right. They gave him a satellite phone and almost nothing else, and he was stranded on the Khyber Pass, and nobody got there to help me. And he was the best hope of getting the Pashtun aspect to the political -- you know, whatever we're going to set up in a post-Taliban Afghanistan. Waiting for that to happen I think is a mistake, now that we're getting closer to Ramadan and winter. And if -- I don't think we're going to stop for Ramadan, but it's going to become much harder once it's freezing there.

So, the Bush administration has put about as much faith in special ops as Clinton put in the air war. There are going to have to be troops on the ground. He's right, yes, they have gotten rid of some of the military installations and the air fields, but the dug-in forces are more dug in than ever, and we're going to have to send in the ground troops.

SHIELDS: This reminded me this week of the Bay of Pigs, when we told that once we landed in Cuba, out of the mountains they would come streaming because they want to get rid of Castro, and thousands would pick up arms and it would be a joyous march into Havana. And the Taliban has proved tougher, the defectors have amounted to few, and I think optimism took a big body blow this week, Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Well, there's no evidence though that the Pentagon was counting on the Northern Alliance to be more fearsome and prepared than they wound up being. I mean, some others were, and of course they themselves were telling us that it was only a matter of time. But there is no evidence that that -- that they were, that was a miscalculation on the part of the Pentagon.

This week, the chairman of the joint chiefs said that we are facing the most daunting military challenge we faced since World War II. Another Pentagon spokesman said the key asset in this is not technology, not our military might, the key asset is patience. And that's going to be a tall order, because there is a feeling -- the Pentagon recognizes that there's an understandable frustration. They attribute it to the fact that the rest of us don't fully understand the strategy, don't fully understand the phases, but it doesn't seem to the extent that I think we would be a lot safer and our coalition partners would in the short term be encouraged with a real show of American might and force, and -- underscoring our determination, and that hasn't happened yet.


HUNT: Well, you know, the cliche at the beginning was that there would be good times and bad times, good days and bad days. There's no question this has been a couple bad days. There was some collateral damage, we bombed a Red Cross building by accident. That happens in war, but you know, we suffer when that happens. I think the Haq assassination, when you put it together particularly with the killing of Massoud back on September the 9th, these are the sorts of figures that have had to play a role in any coalition that could be put together post-Taliban. Maybe the 70-year-old king who is fragile and petrified would be a good figurehead, but he's not going to be able to lead that.

But there were several other indicators, some more ominous, Kate. There was a "Financial Times" report this week that the U.N. and the U.S. have basically agreed to kind of curb the bombing for now because we have to worry about putting this post-Taliban coalition together. I think that's putting the cart before the horse. I think you're in it now and I don't think you have that luxury. I think you have to finish...


HUNT: ... I know we don't. One final point, Don Rumsfeld this week in the "USA Today" editorial said, "I'm not sure we will get Osama bin Laden." Well, I'll tell you, no matter how you define success, we can argue about that, but one -- the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) getting Osama bin Laden.

NOVAK: The thing that worries me is not the question that we had a bad week. I just -- I went many times to Vietnam and I saw how bad the U.S. operation was there, and I just see some of the same stubbornness, the contempt for indigenous forces, the stubbornness of the CIA, the entire "get out of the way, we are going to win this war" attitude, and that's what bothers me. Obviously different than Vietnam, but some of the same characteristics.

SHIELDS: Margaret.

CARLSON: And we thought there were going to be defections, but in fact there seem to be troops from Pakistan going over the border.

NOVAK: Oh, because of the bombing.

CARLSON: Yes, into Afghanistan.

SHIELDS: And it just hits me that our commando colleagues in the press corps who are brandishing their Word Processors basically laid down the predicate that if we went in there, we would be in Baghdad by Thanksgiving.


SHIELDS: No, no, I'm talking about columnists here in Washington who are basically saying, "let's go get him," and I don't know what happened...


CARLSON: But I do wonder if we should wait for that coalition government to get in there before we finish this off.


O'BEIRNE: A big military win is the most important thing now.

NOVAK: There is the level of secrecy from the Pentagon. All governments in all wars do not want to have any news go out, and particularly when progress is not being made. So, and they say, "well, be patriotic..."

O'BEIRNE: And they also -- they also don't want operational details reported that could jeopardize...

NOVAK: That's the excuse! That's the excuse.


HUNT: There was something 30 years called the credibility gap, and if they keep this up for much longer they're going to get the same problem. SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt. Next on CAPITAL GANG, action on Capitol Hill, but is bipartisanship fading?


SHIELDS: Welcome back. The House passed the Republican tax stimulus bill by just two votes, and sent it to an uncertain future in the Democratic Senate.


REP. WILLIAM THOMAS (R-CA), WAYS AND MEANS CHAIRMAN: You find about 40 cents of every dollar goes to individuals, low income and moderate income, to assist them in continuing the consumer demand portion of our economy's engine. And about 60 cents of every dollar goes to the machine that creates jobs. Often times, it's called business or corporation.



SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: I think that Secretary O'Neill was right when he called it "show business." It's not as much stimulus as it is just going back to the same approaches that our Republican colleagues have used for a long time.


SHIELDS: President Bush signed an anti-terrorism bill after the Senate approved it with only one dissenting vote, that of Democrat Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.


BUSH: The bill before me takes account of the new realities and dangers posed by modern terrorists.



SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: How much fun do you think it is voting against a bill called the USA Patriotic Act? These provisions are outrageous, they are an old FBI wish list and there's no reason for them to be in the bill.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, is Congress relevant to this war against terrorism?

O'BEIRNE: Mark, they are. The president has the authority to beef up airport security by executive action, but in the area of law enforcement, one of our fronts, and beefing up the economy, we need congressional action. But I see a real -- the economy of course has got to be stronger to support the war we are now engaged in. We can either grow the economy and increase revenues, or we can raise taxes to pay for this war. Those are our choices.

But I see real parallel with the international front. It's like there's a coalition now that the president wants on Capitol Hill that's going to interfere with what has to be done to help the economy. Diplomacy with Tom Daschle is apparently more important than the kind of pro-growth policies we need. And then, a real irony, when the president was only at 50, low 50 approval ratings in the spring he got a very big tax cut, much of what he wanted. Now that he's in the low 90s, it's doubtful he's going to get anything much of what he wants in a bipartisan stimulus package that's going to have a lot of spending and do very little for the economy.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, our good friend Bill Thomas, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, a man as honorary as he is smart and works awfully hard, I think really overreached on this one, especially with the repeal of the alternative minimum tax to corporations and $25 billion payoffs to corporations.

HUNT: Mark, I think that bill could be aptly titled "the campaign contributors' war profiteering act of 2001," because that really is what it is. And the Senate Republican proposal may even be worse, if that's possible.

On the other issue, the anti-terrorism vote, I admire Russ Feingold. You know, I really do, I think he was a man of principle on this. I also think, however, that we are all going to have to think about this quite differently. I think there really is a war, a race, if you will, in technology between the terrorists and between government, and I think you've already seen in the drug wars, it means the government probably is going to have some more authority even that we have ever dreamed of before.

And Walter Dellinger, who used to be the solicitor general of the U.S., has a good formula. He said: "We have to be willing to give up liberties that affect all of us, but be very careful about giving up any liberties that affect only a few."

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: That's a liberal's view. Wasn't he President Clinton's solicitor general?


NOVAK: I tell you this, I agree with Russ Feingold that these were taken off a shelf. They had these things ready in two seconds, these proposals on the anti-terrorism bill. I think a lot of them don't have much to do with this war against terrorism.

They worry me. Government always wants to interfere in our lives -- and I'm not talking about a few of us, I'm talking about all of us -- and it always worries me. That's the way this country got started. Now, the tax bill is not a very good bill from my standpoint or from a liberal standpoint. It's a good bill from a lobbyists' standpoint, it's a lobbyist's bill, and that's the price the president paid by not getting involved in it.

And so, I see it going into the Senate -- as bad as it is in the House, it may get worse in the Senate when Tom Daschle is quoting Paul O'Neill. Secretary of Treasury O'Neill I don't think is going to talk about show business much in the future. He shouldn't really.

SHIELDS: Well, but the reports were the president got a big kick out of it, and laughed, and thought this fellow...


HUNT: And Bob, you agreed with what he said, basically, don't you?

NOVAK: No, I don't believe it's show business. I don't believe it's show business. I don't think it's anything like that. I don't think he understands what happened. What happened was that his corporate pals got a windfall out of it.

SHIELDS: Margaret.

CARLSON: Oh, it's so true. Bob, you speak truth! I mean, too bad the show didn't close out of town that he's talking about, because, you know, while the rest of us are thinking about sacrifice, how to help the people that were killed and injured and their families left with nothing and September 11 and health insurance and all these things, the House has time to dream up these schemes to reward their contributors.

It's just appalling. I mean, you look at the list -- and Bill Thomas calls, you know, IBM getting $1.4 billion because they're a job-creating machine? When these people dusted off what they have wanted for a long time -- and just as the FBI took some things off the shelf they've been wanting and put it in the terrorism bill, lobbyists took their things off the shelf and put them -- and dressed them up in stimulus...

O'BEIRNE: You ought to see the Democrat bill! Democrats are uncomfortable with the notion that businesses creates jobs and hire people. It's the business recession. You should see the Democrats' stimulus package! It's filled with pork...

NOVAK: It's horrible.


O'BEIRNE: ... and spending and what not.

SHIELDS: Kate, I just want to point out, Enron Energy company, Texas, $1.8 million in contributions to Republicans last year. OK? Committees, soft money -- $254 million back. I mean, that's a pretty good return on investment.

That's the last word. We will be back with the second half of CAPITAL GANG. Vernon Jordan is our "Newsmaker of the Week." "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the New Jersey election for governor, and our "Outrages of the Week," that's all after the latest news, following these messages.


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 Vernon Jordan, author of a new memoir: "Vernon Can Read!"

Vernon E. Jordan Jr.: Age, 66; residence, Washington, D.C.; religion, African Methodist Episcopal. Graduate of DePauw University and Howard Law School. Served 10 years as president of the National Urban League; chairman of the Clinton presidential transition team; currently manager/director of Lazard Freres & Company, investment bankers in New York City.

Al Hunt sat down with Vernon Jordan earlier this week.


HUNT: Vernon Jordan, there's a great war on terrorism going on right now. What lessons does the civil rights movement and black Americans offer for the current context?

VERNON JORDAN, AUTHOR, "VERNON CAN READ!": Well, one is familiarity. We, black people, certainly black people in the South, know firsthand about terrorism. The historic lynchings, the four little girls in the Birmingham church Marden (ph), Medgar (ph), Vernon (ph), Daemer (ph), Goodman (ph), Cheney (ph), Schwarner (ph). But it was homegrown terrorism by fellow Americans.

The lesson, I think, for the country based on the civil rights movement is that we never stopped believing, and we never stopped feeling that despite the terrorism, that we would one day be victorious.

HUNT: It's clear that your parents played a very important role in your life, though they were quite different. You described your dad as a man of his times, and your mother as a woman ahead of her time. Explain the influence they had on you.

JORDAN: Well, my father was a very interesting man; hard- working, God-fearing, loyal to his country, fought in World War II, who would've been very content had I graduated high school, gotten a job in the post office, little white house with green shutters, a white picket fence. But my mother said, that's not good enough; there's more that you can do, and should do, and must do; you got to lead. And I took leadership from her.

HUNT: You were in the middle of the great civil rights movement in this country. You helped Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes integrate the University of Georgia. You were the NAACP, the voter education project, college fund, urban league. You paint an inspiring, almost a romantic picture of those times. But there also was vicious racism that was prevalent then. It was a pretty scary time too, wasn't it?

JORDAN: When I took Charlayne and Hamilton Holmes through the University of Georgia, we had no protection. There were no troopers, there were no federal marshals. It was just us. We didn't think about it, because we had a mission; and that mission was to integrate, pursuant to court order, the University of Georgia.

HUNT: Yet almost 20 years later you were shot by white racists. Almost died, spent 98 days, I think, in the hospital.

JORDAN: Well, it hurt. But during that recuperation period I was not thinking about what had happened, I was thinking about what could happen once I was convalesced and out.

HUNT: You said you wrote the book for your daughter Vickee, and for your grandchildren. Is it your sense that younger African- Americans really don't fully understand or appreciate the history of what you went through?

JORDAN: Well, it's not just young African-Americans, it's young people in America, period. Hopefully this book will be instructive about a very important, actually triumphant, period in America.

HUNT: It's a lot different world than it was years ago when there were white and colored restrooms and blacks couldn't vote, much less serve on corporate boards. Yet today there are some critics who say that much of the progress they would claim is only tokenism. Do you agree or disagree?

JORDAN: We have made extraordinary progress. And I measured it the other day when I spoke to the black alumni of the Harvard Business School at a meeting in New York. It was a room of 250 young, gifted black men and women. In 1972, when I took over the Urban League I said, let's get all of the blacks on Wall Street together. We could have held that meeting in a phone booth. And so that might not be enough for some people, and it could clearly be more. But it's a mistake not to recognize that as extraordinary.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, what significance is there, if any, the fact that Vernon Jordan is a famous and rich and successful lawyer and businessman, for America, in that?

HUNT: Well, Mark it is that the Vernon Jordan of 2001 could not exist if it hadn't have been for the Vernon Jordan of 1961.

Look, when people held Vernon Jordan was going to write a book, most contemporary people, at least in this town, would say, geez, Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton, that's what I want to read about. And however salacious that might have been, it's not even mentioned in the book, the struggles of the '60s and '70s, and the civil rights movement in this country, the triumphs and the agonies of that time was one of the most important stories in the history of America.

And I think that's what makes this book so interesting: He was in the middle of all of it. And Mark, I would say that even if he weren't a director of another company I write -- I work for.

SHIELDS: I'll tell you this, Bob Novak, that Vernon Jordan called the civil rights success a triumphant period in America.

NOVAK: It was; it was. Vernon Jordan is proof that color is not a bar in this country. It once was, but it isn't anymore. That he has -- in fact, it even could be an advantage in certain ways.

What is the disadvantage is a dysfunctional household that a lot of minority people come from. But he came from a good home. But his being black has not been one impediment in his rising to such power and fame and success, and that's the great American success story.

SHIELDS: Margaret.

CARLSON: Well, it's sometimes an advantage, a big advantage to some, and then a disadvantage to many, many more still in this country, which is too bad.

It's a fine book; I've read the first two chapters. But I actually hope for a volume II to find out about Vernon Jordan's later years.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Vernon Jordan credits his mother explicitly with his ambition, and believing in him and what not, which was clearly key growing up. But Mr. Maddox, who was so shocked Vernon could read and went to an integrated college, would really be shocked to see that he became a Mr. Fix-It for a president of the United States and is sort of worshipped by elites in this town.

But his mother had even more stunning achievement. She apparently, in 1980, after he was shot -- Jesse Jackson showed up at the hospital for a press conference and Vernon Jordan's mother said, there will be no more press conferences, Jesse go back to Chicago. That's probably the single example of somebody canceling a Jesse Jackson press conference. She must have been a remarkable woman.

HUNT: I quickly dissent from Bob Novak. Vernon Jordan paved -- you know, in 1960s, 1970, even for a Vernon Jordan there was discrimination.

NOVAK: Wait a minute, there's people disagreeing with me tonight on things I didn't even say.


HUNT: ... Jordan hadn't paid any price for being...

NOVAK: I didn't say that. I said...


NOVAK: Can I say what I said? If you'd listen, Al, it would be a help. I said being black is not an impediment in this country to success. It's the, it's dysfunctional heritage that may be an impediment, but color's not.

HUNT: It was an impediment.

NOVAK: No it wasn't. Not with him at all, for goodness' sakes.

HUNT: No, it was.

SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG: "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the election for governor of New Jersey with Jeff Whelan of the "Newark Star-Ledger."


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

"Beyond the Beltway" looks at the November 6 election for governor of New Jersey. In the last formal debated Thursday night, Republican Brent Schundler letter attacked Democrat Jim McGreevey as a high taxer.


JIM MCGREEVEY (D), NEW YORK GOV. CANDIDATE: I'm committed to ensuring that we not only attack the waste and mismanagement, but ensure a responsible government. I'm committed not to raising taxes.


SHIELDS: McGreevey, the mayor of Woodbridge, attacked former Jersey City Mayor Schundler as an enemy of gun control.


BRET SCHUNDLER (R), NEW JERSEY GOV. CANDIDATE: I'm not changing any gun laws. I'm keeping the laws we have and enforcing them better, which is the way we got violent crime down in Jersey City.


SHIELDS: The most recent poll by the "New York Times" gives Democrat McGreevey an 11-point lead.

Joining us now is "Newark Star-Ledger" political reporter Jeff Whelan.

Thanks for coming in to be with us, Jeff.


SHIELDS: Jeff, is Bret Schundler just a little bit too conservative to win a statewide race for governor of New Jersey?

WHELAN: Well, not necessarily; I'm not convinced of that yet. But Jim McGreevey has been extremely effective so far in defining that -- the race in those terms. Almost immediately after the primary, as soon as Schundler won, McGreevey started in with a three-pronged attack on Schundler on the issue of abortion -- Schundler opposes abortion in all cases except of when the mother's life is in danger; and on guns, because during the primary Mr. Schundler had suggested that he would sign a bill that would allow concealed weapons -- the right to carry concealed weapons in New Jersey; and also on his education plan -- Mr. Schundler supports school choice.

Those three things McGreevey has use to say, here is a guy who does not share the same values as even New Jersey Republicans such as Tom Kean, Christie Whitman, who are the much more moderate establishment of the party.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Jeff, as you know, I was at the debate Thursday night. And I, frankly, thought that McGreevey won the debate on points because he kept putting out this mantra that you just mentioned, on gun control, school choice, abortion. But my goodness, he's an uninspiring little fellow. I saw him four years ago, and he wasn't -- he hasn't really improved much, while Schundler is a very interesting fellow.

But without insulting your state, Jeff, is it possible that McGreevey is just more New Jersey than Schundler is?

WHELAN: Well, I'm not so sure about that. I mean, I do see where you're going with -- because of those issues. They certainly -- those three issues certainly put Schundler, I think, on the outside of where most people are.

But you also hit on another interesting point, which is, you know, McGreevey, whether or not he's catching fire. I mean, here's a guy who did run in 1997, and who lost narrowly to Governor Whitman. But yet, despite still running and despite, you know, the significant amount of television presence he's had, he's still only at 45 percent. He is leading Schundler by 12 percent, but there's still 22 percent undecided. They might be looking for somebody else to support here. I mean, he hasn't locked this thing up yet.

SHIELDS: OK. Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: New Jersey is known, though, as a late-closing state, I think. And didn't Whitman come from way behind once before?

WHELAN: That's right.

CARLSON: Has Schundler not getting that much help from national Republicans hurt him, as opposed to McGreevey -- I think McGreevey got $3 million from the Democratic National Committee. Bush was promising to come and help Schundler. As far as I know, only Karl Rove came for some, you know, cold chicken dinner to support Schundler. Is that making a difference?

WHELAN: Well, I think you just hit on what remains one of the biggest wild cards of the race, which is the RNC support. The Democratic National Committee has is spent $3 million in generic ads, boosting Democrats in this state. But the RNC has been not -- has not yet poured money into television and radio ads. I think that they're probably looking at the poll numbers, and I wouldn't be surprised if they do come in with a blitz this week. And that could, if they drive home this tax message, you know, would be a significant boost for Schundler.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Jeff, your newspaper's latest poll found 32 percent of Jersey voters thinking Bret Schundler was too conservative, but 30 -- roughly the same amount, 32 thought that McGreevey was too liberal. In fact, both got 50 percent just about right on the issues.

So Bret Schundler apparently isn't too conservative for Jersey voters; but is he too conservative for the entrenched Republicans in Trenton? There have been complaints, of course, that they haven't been anxious to help Bret Schundler. Would they rather -- is there some evidence they'd rather lose than have a conservative reformer -- those Republicans -- come to Trenton?

WHELAN: Well, it's definitely one of the underlying plot lines of this whole election, has been the feud -- the very high-profile feud between the acting Governor Don DiFrancesco, who's a Republican, and Mr. Schundler. And it's become very open at points. Mr. DiFrancesco actually hired a Democrat at one point, which is pretty curious, in October, and a week later that Democrat in his administration wrote a scathing report on Schundler's tenure in Jersey City.

So, yes, there is that pretty much of a divide there between those two wings of the party. That's one of the problems that's hurting Schundler with shoring up Republican support. He was still at 75 percent in the last poll of Republicans supporting him.


HUNT: Jeff, I just want to quickly come to the semi-defense, at least, of the Garden State in noting that they have elected a Bill Bradley and a Tom Kean, so they do sometimes prefer high-class people, if you will.

Let me ask you this, though: I find Bret Schundler a really interesting fellow. And one of the most interesting issues has been his views on school choice. I gathered from what you've written that that's turned into a liability for him in this campaign.

WHELAN: Yes, that's one of the interesting things in this campaign. I mean he -- basically, school choice is why he got into this race. You know, this is what he's told us. And education -- he's very sincere about education. He was the mayor of Jersey City, where they have poor public schools. And he was looking for some kind of way to, you know, solve that problem, and that's what he turned to.

McGreevey has effectively used that. Instead of saying, you know, OK, Schundler is for school choice and for private school, you know, vouchers -- and McGreevey has said that's going to be a drain on the public school system. And by defining that, a lot of people in the suburbs, where they have good schools are saying, wait a second, this guy is not going to be good for us. Why do we want to mess with success?

SHIELDS: OK, Jeff Whelan, thank you very much for being with us.

WHELAN: thank you.

SHIELDS: It was very helpful.

And the GANG will be back with "The Outrage of the Week."


SHIELDS: And now for "The Outrage of the Week."

About the American League champions from New York City, Bill Mead once wrote, quote: "Most all good Americans hate the Yankees. It is a value we cherish and pass along to our children, like decency and democracy and the importance of a good breakfast," end quote.

Now from the "New York Post"'s Deborah Orrin (ph) we learn the president himself rooted for the Seattle Mariners against the Yankees because they have a smaller payroll. But he turns out to be a Yankee- hater. Mr. Bush, while running on the treadmill was quoted, quote: "I'm for anyone but the Yankees," end quote.

Now how's that for real political candor?

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Go Diamondbacks.

The National Rifle Association decided not to endorse Republican Mark Earley for governor of Virginia, even though it said he is clearly a better candidate than Democrat Mark Warner. The NRA's scoring system gives Earley an A-minus and Warner a C. But back in 1993 as a state legislator, Earley voted for a bill limiting anybody's gun purchases to one a month. Who needs more than 12 guns a year? The NRA usually is smart enough to know who its friends are.

This time, it forgot.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Hey Mark, you don't know the half of it with Enron Corporation, which was in trouble way before September 11, and it's muscled its way to a $254 million package of the stimulus bill. This will do nothing to stimulate the economy, but it will save its chairman, Bush pal Kenneth Lay. The SEC is inquiring into Enrons's accounting practices, including a $1.2 billion transaction that infuriated shareholders. Its bonds have fallen below investment grade, and its stock is at a six-year low. Why the handout? Chairman Kenneth Lay gave $1.7 million -- excuse me, $1.8 million to Republicans.

Campaign finance reform, anybody? SHIELDS: You're right, Margaret, I didn't even know a third of it.

Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: This week the president was back to visiting elementary schools, where he urged schoolchildren to find pen pals in the Muslim world as part of a national e-mail exchange between students. A commander in chief, leading a nation at war, found sitting in little chairs talking about fighting fear with friendship risks trivializing the deadly serious task we face.

And why aren't students seeking pen pals being encouraged to write to the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines who will be risking their lives to defend us?


HUNT: Kate, I agree with you, though I'm with him on the Diamondbacks.

Mark, some Republicans are blasting Joe Biden for allegedly charging that America, quote, "looks like a high-tech bully in Afghanistan," end quote. That's not really what he said. Asked about the effects of a protracted bombing campaign on the Islamic world, he ventured that it might encourage, quote, "stereotypical criticism of us that we're this high-tech bully who thinks we can do whatever we want from the air, including indiscriminate bombing of innocents, which is not the truth," end quote.

That's not a criticism, it's a reality. It's the criticisms of Biden that are the cheap shots.

SHIELDS: Senator Jesse Helms defended him.

This is Mark Shields saying good night for the CAPITAL GANG. If you missed any part of this program, shame on you -- but you can catch the replay at 11:00 p.m. Eastern.




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