Skip to main content /TRANSCRIPTS



Interviews With John Edwards, Margaret Hamburg, Robert Oakley

Aired November 10, 2001 - 19:00   ET


MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG. I am Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Kate O'Beirne. Our guest is Democratic Senator John Edwards of North Carolina. It's good to have you here again, John.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Glad to be here, Mark.

SHIELDS: Thank you.

In his first address to the United Nations, President Bush censured unnamed nations that have not joined the war against terrorism.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some governments, while pledging to uphold the principles of the U.N., have cast their lot with the terrorists. For every regime that sponsors terror, there is a price to be paid, and it will be paid. We must unite in opposing all terrorists, not just some of them.


SHIELDS: Earlier in the week, the president called for American citizens to help out in the war effort.


BUSH: This is a war that must be fought not only overseas, but also here at home. We'll ask state and local health officials to create a new, modern civil defense service.


SHIELDS: Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance claimed victory in entering the strategic city of Mazar-e Sharif, but the Taliban called it a strategic withdrawal instead. Al, is the war against terrorism gaining in both Afghanistan and here at home?

AL HUNT, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, there's good news in Afghanistan, Mark. I think the taking Mazar-e Sharif is a tremendous shot in the arm. Strategically, it may ultimately mean the Taliban can't control the northern part of that country, and more importantly, perhaps for now, it's a much-needed psychological boost. I think it's in stark contrast to how the war is going at home. President Bush gave a speech in Atlanta this week in which he was trying to demonstrate there is a coherence to the policy. I think there is, in fact, has been far more confusion and chaos than any coherence. First, there is no sense that Tom Ridge is really taking control, airport security in places like O'Hare Airport run by these sleazy private firms continues to be vulnerable, and the FBI testified before the Senate subcommittee this week and said not only do they not know who is perpetrating the anthrax, they don't even know where the labs are. "The New York Times" did a piece that suggested they botched the investigation.

Mark, before the president gave that speech in Atlanta, I was really critical of CBS and NBC for not running it. After I heard the speech, I thought that was a defensible decision.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": I thought that the president in asking for a home guard was talking about something that really was very vague to me. I don't know what all these defense forces are supposed to do. Are they supposed to look around and see if somebody is acting suspiciously? I think this is for professionals, not for amateurs. I know, in answer to like Mark is always saying, asking, you know, what should the American people do? And I think the president was trying to answer it, but I am not sure that's appropriate.

Al, I am not as certain as you are that things are going well with the war. We had on CNN, we had a former Soviet officer on, and he said correctly Soviets won 99 percent of the battles. They always occupied the towns, and it didn't mean anything. This to me looks like Taliban just walking out of a town and the Northern Alliance walking in.

I still don't understand exactly what the game plan is for winning this war. Maybe they have one, I sure hope they have one, but I also know that when you don't have reporters being able to cover these events, you rely on the propaganda of both sides, which is usually a texture of lies.

SHIELDS: Senator John Edwards, who's right here, Bob Novak or Al Hunt?

EDWARDS: Well, I think actually, Mark, with respect to the war, we've had a good week. But I think the American people should expect this to be an up-and-down proposition. It's a very complicated situation -- a difficult enemy on a difficult terrain. We're trying to hold together a complex and difficult coalition. We have an unstable Pakistan, and we're heavily dependent on accurate and effective real-time intelligence.

So I think we have to expect that this war is going to have some up and downs. If I could comment on Al's comment on what's happening here at the home front, my belief is we have talked enough about these things, we need to act. I think the American people expect us to act on the issue of airport security, on the issue of economic stimulus. If we don't act on these things, there are serious long-term consequences. People's lives are at stake, and the American economy is at stake.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

KATE O'BEIRNE, "NATIONAL REVIEW": I agree about the progress of the war. Of course, it's going to take enormous resources, enormous resolve and patience -- patience being the toughest piece. And they clearly have made bombing the front lines of the Taliban clearly made a difference, and it has permitted the Northern Alliance to move. And our coalition partners, the most important coalition partners are in the closest proximity to Afghanistan, and it seems to me that the Pakistani leadership is sort of bucked up, and we now have troops in Uzbekistan, we can move in Air Force assets into Tajikistan, which is going to make things easier.

So, I think on the war front things look as good as can be expected. On the home front, I don't disagree with Al, and it's so much easier for two reasons. Americans feel more directly threatened, of course, with things going on at home, whether they don't feel safe flying or they're afraid of bioterrorism in the mail. And it's so much easier to second-guess what's going on at home, you know? What should airports look like? What should the FBI, what kind of progress can we reasonably expect them to have made on these anthrax letters?

On the other hand, there's been a pause. We haven't had a new anthrax letter in some time. And I think the public is going to remain in this critical mood, this wary mood, which the president tried to address this week.

HUNT: I think Bob Novak made a more important point that I did in that first point, and that is that I thought it was a good week, but I think you're talking longer range. I think you may be right. But I especially want to associate with your remarks about the secrecy that's going on, the fact that they -- this is the most managed news, managed war I've ever seen. General Schwarzkopf used to have a briefing every day. They finally trotted General Franks out this week. There's no information, and there is a history already of them lying.

SHIELDS: Well, let me just say, I think that may account for the American attitude. The American attitude, they can make up their own mind on what's going on at home, because the evidence is there -- I mean, whether it's at the airport or whether it's the anthrax, or the post office, how the treatment's going and what kind of progress is being made. The only information we have is controlled information.

Now, I just have to say about the president's speech. I mean, I thought it was a pep talk, it was fine, but he tiptoes up to it and then he says, "be a mentor, let's all be back" -- I mean, if this is a war that's really a war that's going to be a long war, John, I think it is, it's going to be a difficult war, you've got to say, we have got to make some sacrifices in this war together. It isn't just a matter of whether I'm going to be nice to some kids.

O'BEIRNE: You don't want to see it trivialized.


NOVAK: Well, let me say one other thing. The president in his United Nations speech has said we have to be against all terrorists, all terrorists, and that raises just a lot of questions to me. Does that mean that we start bombing Iraq? Does it mean that we start bombing all the enemies of Israel, the Hezbollah, which is a registered political party?

HUNT: And a terrorist group.

NOVAK: Very possibly. You know, once, as I said before, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Today, the president of Pakistan said that the Indians are terrorists, because what they do in Kashmir. You can make a case on that. So does that -- do the Indians come under the president's edict that we got to be against all terrorists?

EDWARDS: But Bob, we need to stay focused on the immediate task at hand. I mean, this needs to be a step-by-step proposition. We need to win what we're doing now, we need to take out al Qaeda, take out the Taliban and take out Osama bin Laden.

NOVAK: What's the second step, though?

EDWARDS: Well, I think we'll make that decision once we finish the fight that we're in right now. But we have so stay focused on that and win that battle.

SHIELDS: Thank you, John Edwards. John Edwards and the GANG will be back with George W. Bush threatening a veto.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. In a heated meeting with the bipartisan leadership of congressional appropriations committees, President Bush threatened a veto of increased spending that its sponsors justify in the name of fighting terrorism.


BUSH: I told the appropriators in Congress that we believe we've got ample money to make it through the holiday season and the beginning of next year.



REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D), MINORITY LEADER: Instead of spending money on a misguided stimulus package that the Republicans produced in the House aimed at America's wealthiest individuals and corporations, we think Congress should provide a fraction of that money to our public agencies so they can fight the war on the second front.



SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: It has continued to grow and it is growing on the spending side, and much of that spending will do nothing to stimulate growth and job security.


SHIELDS: Kate, should the president's veto this time be taken seriously? That threat?

O'BEIRNE: I think so, based on how the president has operated since January. They have been very reluctant to issue veto messages. They wouldn't months ago on campaign finance reform, they wouldn't on airline security, even though it appears he might not get the kind of bills he wants. They wouldn't on economic stimulus. On spending, he's saying, yes, I will.

And he has to. He's already approved with Congress, they have agreed to spend -- to increase spending next year by 14 percent, and that's not enough for the appropriators. There are three parties on Capitol Hill. There are Democrats, there are Republicans and there are appropriators, and appropriators of both parties want 20 billion more.

As Mitch Daniels, the president's budget director said, since the September 11 attacks, Congress' response has been mostly the appropriators, "don't just stand there, spend something." And if the president loses this battle, he who had been trying to hold spending before September 11 to 4 percent. If he loses this showdown with the appropriators, he will lose control for the next three and a half years.

SHIELDS: John, your institution that you represent so ably is under attack from Kate. Is that a fair indictment?

EDWARDS: Well, I think that we need to act, Mark. And what happened in the House was unfortunate. You know, that very party line vote in the House, and a package that clearly wasn't stimulus.

I think the test is not complicated. I think we ought to do -- we ought to do something strong, it ought to be short-term, it ought not have long-term detrimental consequences for the economy. It needs to be fiscally disciplined. We need to get money in the hands of people who will actually spend it.

And I think the framework is actually pretty simple. We ought to have -- and that test, by the way, should apply to both tax cuts and spending both. But the framework I think is fairly simple. We need tax cuts that are short-term that have real stimulative effect. For example, allowing businesses to write off capital expenditures, maybe 30, 40 percent, if necessary, as long as they do it in the short term. It creates demands, it creates jobs, very positive thing. Putting money in the hands of people who have lost their jobs by way of health care and unemployment. That money will go directly into the economy. We also have an ongoing issue with the states. We have to do something for the states to make sure they don't come behind us and undo what it is we're doing. And last but not least, we have to make people feel secure.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, 50 percent of the tax cuts, though, proposed by the administration don't kick in until after 2002, when we're assured that the recession will be over.

HUNT: Well, I agree with John Edwards' formulation. I think, however, the senator from North Carolina is being undercut by some of his Democratic colleagues who are trying to put pork barrel spending in this and some long-term stuff.

Look, I think President Bush's views on this are basically undistinguishable from my friend Bob Novak, who has said on this program that war on terrorism or no war on terrorism, we shouldn't be spending money on the unemployed and jobless because they are just going to spend it on beer and cigarettes. Instead, we should be giving big, permanent tax cuts to the very rich, because they are the productive elements of society.

Now, I happen to think that this is Darwinian social policy, that's class warfare and bad economics, but I admire Bob's candor. I wish President Bush would be just as candid. The president gets a lot more passion about tax cuts for his rich country club friends than he does about any aid to the people who have been thrown out of work these past couple months or about public investments in public health, and FBI and customs and other places we needed for homeland security.

NOVAK: Did somebody mention class warfare? My goodness. John, I can't tell you how disappointed I am that you've picked up the Al Hunt line on class warfare. You know, and partisanship? John, there's an 11 to 10 party line in the Finance Committee for a pork- filled bill. You know, they signed on the dotted line 686 billion in spending after the September 11 attack. Now, their staff people tell me it's up to 720, 730 billion, if you add all the pork and all the spending that Bob Byrd wants to put on.

Of course, these are partisan debates, but what disappoints me -- I mean, sincerely disappoints me -- is that you talk about partisanship when the House committee votes a good private enterprise bill, but when the Senate committee votes a pork barrel bill on the partisan line, it's not partisanship.


SHIELDS: Bob is really concerned.


O'BEIRNE: We hate Bob to be disappointed.

EDWARDS: Let me just say, Bob, I think this is very serious business. I mean, and what we do really matters. This is critically important for the Congress for the president to be with us and for us to do something about this economy. And I think I said -- I intended to say that whatever -- we're talking about tax cuts or we're talking about spending, whatever we do, the same test ought to apply, and that test ought to be: It needs to be short-term and not do long-term damage, and make people feel secure.

O'BEIRNE: The spending, look, the spending is going to be permanent and only the small piece of tax cuts that the Senate Democrats back is going to be temporary. Spending always is permanent. The president has to recognize...


O'BEIRNE: The Democrats think it's a patriotic act if they run Congress. The Democrats aren't that interested in a strong economy in November 2002, if it's going to help Dick Gephardt become speaker. So, the president really ought to be willing, just as we should be spending at the mall, he ought to be spending some of his political capital to get the kind of recovery package we need.


HUNT: Did I mischaracterize your views on either spending or tax cuts?

NOVAK: No, but I mean...


NOVAK: But if you could listen to yourself and read the text, you sound like Karl Marx when you talk about the rich class getting too many benefits.

SHIELDS: Ninety percent of the administration's stimulus plan consist of tax cuts, 90 percent. Any time there is a tax cut, Bob, you're for it...

NOVAK: You're right.

SHIELDS: ... if it helps the well-off, that's it.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, the off-year elections. What do they mean?


SHIELDS: Welcome back. In Tuesday's off-year elections, Democrats took back Republican-held governorships in New Jersey and Virginia for the first time in eight years.


JIM MCGREEVEY (D), NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR-ELECT: I made it clear that we were fighting to take back our government so that we could make it work for the people that government's supposed to work for.



MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA GOVERNOR-ELECT: We put Virginia first when we get our fiscal house in order. So, we must recognize that we face challenging budget times ahead.


SHIELDS: The mayor of New York stayed Republican, thanks to a lifelong liberal Democrat who changed parties this year.


MIKE BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK MAYOR-ELECT: Tonight is not about Republicans or Democrats. It's about New Yorkers.


SHIELDS: Losers complained about the way they lost, publicly in New York City.


MARK GREEN (D), FORMER NY MAYORAL CANDIDATE: When a campaign adviser last month told me that no candidate in America had ever won an election being outspent by $45 million, I'd thought we'd beat the odds.


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, what is the message in these scattered election results?

NOVAK: A lot of scattered message. It shows that rich guys who have never held public office by spending lots and lots of money, except in places like California, except in California, you can win elections. It shows that Democrats now have learned to always say they are against tax increases. They always say they are against tax increases! The only pieces for tax increases are journalists that don't have to run for office.

And it all -- but the more serious thing is that I think there are real problems in the Republican Party from these isolated cases. The party was divided culturally and ideologically, didn't get any help from the president, didn't get a lot of help from the Republican National Committee, and it was not a good launching pad for the Republicans for 2002.

SHIELDS: John Edwards.

EDWARDS: Well, I think the lesson is the one that we've seen before, Mark, which is that what people care about are issues that effect their day-to-day lives. They're not looking for leaders who are ideological, they're not looking for leaders that are overly political. They're looking for leaders who have answers to issues that effect their everyday lives. The economy, for example, traffic gridlock in Northern Virginia was a big issue in the gubernatorial race in Virginia, exactly.

So I think that's what people care about, which is if we can quit seeing things through the eyes of people who live inside the Beltway in Washington, D.C. and through the eyes of regular people around the country, those are the things they care about, and that should be a lesson to all of us.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, a referendum on George W. Bush. Should he have stayed on the sidelines?

O'BEIRNE: Well, in Virginia, President Bush was a factor. The winning Democratic candidate continually described himself as a pro- Bush fiscal conservative who wound up running pro-NRA and anti-tax. So, he sort of swamped the old Republican message.

And Republicans in Richmond brought much of this on themselves. The current governor had promised to cut the car tax, and his own Republicans in Richmond balked over it. Same thing with Republicans in Trenton. They had been the party of anti-tax party, they came in after, of course, Florio had that unpopular tax cut years ago. They've squandered that. You had the Democrat candidate now running against Trenton Republicans as the reform candidate, legitimately and credibly accusing Trenton Republicans of fiscal mismanagement and overspending.

The message here for Republicans on Capitol Hill heading into 2002 I think is you need a real message on the economy, you need to deliver on promises you've made about either smaller government or fiscal restraint or cutting taxes. Because if you don't, the voters are going to four or eight years later get their revenge and vote for a Democrat who has adopted the message.

SHIELDS: It's great to have a plan on the economy, but it's awful tough to answer the question, are you're better off than you were a year ago? When you're talking economically, the people are out of work, Al, the economy is down in the dumper.

HUNT: Yeah, but, Mark, you know, the picture painted of these off-year elections is so predictable. If you lose, it's an insignificant snapshot; if you win, it's the Mona Lisa. I mean, and really it is far less than meets the eye here. I do think that the message to the Republicans on tax cuts and union bashing is that people see through that; that phony stuff won't sell as well as it did before.

And Michael Bloomberg, I think he was impressive than that, Bob. There have been rich guys in New York, Lou Laerman (ph) and Ron Louder (ph) who ran and did not win. Bloomberg got half of the Hispanic vote and a quarter of the black vote. I think he deserves credit for that.


HUNT: I think the central message was picking up on something that Kate said, is I think that a divided party is a party that doesn't do well, and the Republicans were divided in New Jersey and they were divided in Virginia. The Democrats were divided in New York City. And frankly, Mark, if you look at it that way, that's good news for George Bush, because unless he blows it by giving the store away to all his rich buddies, the Republican Party will not be divided in 2004.

SHIELDS: I just have a word about New York City, and that is I have always argued that endorsements mean very little to voters. I've never heard any voter -- absent the endorsement of candidate X by candidate Y's wife, you know, I think that (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But basically, people don't say, gee, my state senator endorsed him, and that's why I'm voting for him.

I think Rudy Giuliani's endorsement made a profound difference...

O'BEIRNE: No doubt about it.

SHIELDS: And the reason it didn't make a difference for the governor of Virginia is that Rudy Giuliani was talking about a job that he had defined, that he owned, that he had redefined and recast as of September 11, and he said, "this is the kind of guy." And since September 11 and the bad economy under George Bush, New York looked at Michael Bloomberg's business credentials and they looked pretty damn impressive.

HUNT: Can I say quickly, my guess is what Rudy wanted was Mike Bloomberg to come within 1,000 votes and lose.

NOVAK: I'll tell you one thing, what should give the Republicans pause, though, and that was the hatred that the Republican regular showed toward Bret Schundler in New Jersey. It wasn't just a little factional dispute as they headed into the Virginia race, they really detested everything he stood for, and I find a lot of that in the Republican Party today. They have had a lot of success since 1994, and they think they can get away with this indefinitely; they may not be able to.

SHIELDS: But what Bob Novak is saying, John Edwards, is that apparently Democrats are nicer people than Republicans?


NOVAK: I don't think I said that! I'll check the transcript, but I don't think I said that.


SHIELDS: John Edwards, thank you very, very much for being with us. The GANG will be back with the second half of CAPITAL GANG. Public health expert Margaret Hamburg is our "Newsmaker of the Week." "Beyond the Beltway" looks at Pakistan with former ambassador from the United States to that country, Robert Oakley, and our "Outrages of the Week," all after the latest news following these messages.


SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of your CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak, and Kate O'Beirne. Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is public health expert Margaret Hamburg.

Margaret A. Hamburg: Age, 46; residence, Washington, D.C.; graduate of Harvard College -- that's Harvard Medical School. Youngest New York City health commissioner, serving for six years; assistant Health and Human Servicers secretary in the Clinton administration; currently vice president for biological programs at the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

Earlier this week, Al Hunt interviewed Dr. Hamburg.


HUNT: Dr. Hamburg, President Bush told Americans this week their government could protect them from any bioterrorist threat. Can we feel secure?

MARGARET HAMBURG, NUCLEAR THREAT INITIATIVE: I think we are much more aware about the reality of this threat, but we have a great deal that we need to do to be better prepared as a nation.

HUNT: Four people have died, and yet this week the FBI told Congress that they can't answer some basic questions, such as how many labs have access, and who has access to anthrax. Isn't that terrifying?

HAMBURG: Well, I think -- the biological threat requires us to think differently about the problem. It isn't like other kinds of terrorist attacks that we've dealt with before. We're talking about diseases that occur in nature. The first responders aren't policemen and firemen, they're public health officials and medical care providers.

HUNT: From what you know of the strain and purity of the anthrax sent to Senator Tom Daschle's office about three and a half weeks ago, do you think it's most likely that it came from a foreign source or a domestic source?

HAMBURG: I don't think you can tell. I think the critical thing is that we do know that someone has gotten access to a very powerful weapon, and it needs to be a very serious wake up call to us all.

HUNT: You were a major participant last summer in the dark winter simulation exercises, which concluded that a smallpox epidemic would be catastrophic for America. Are we prepared yet for that possibility?

HAMBURG: Smallpox would be of enormous concern in terms of a biological threat. It's a contagious disease, person-to-person. It's a devastating disease in terms of its physical manifestations and its lethality; about 30 percent of the people that get it we presume will die, and there is no treatment for disease.

We do have an effective vaccine. And if that vaccine is given to people after exposure, within a window of a couple days, it can prevent you from going on to develop disease.

HUNT: Average citizens are confused, because on the one hand the government says that, absent a directed threat, that you shouldn't be vaccinated, because there are risks to any vaccinations. Yet, before Congress this week, Anthony Fauci of the NIH said that he would ignore those risks and have his kids vaccinated.

HAMBURG: We need to make sure that we have vaccine available, should we need it, and that it can be delivered in the event of an attack. There are adverse effects of smallpox vaccine that are not insignificant. If we routinely immunize the American population, we would have several hundred deaths, and we would have considerable other adverse consequences, including brain damage.

HUNT: How easy would it be for terrorists, do you think, to get the smallpox virus from one of those out-of-work Russian scientists and weaponize it?

HAMBURG: The former Soviet Union had a huge biological weapons program. It's now defunct, but many of those scientists with critical expertise are unemployed or underemployed. And we need to make sure that their materials are secured and that their expertise does not get drawn off to either nations or groups that might use it to do harm.

HUNT: Final question: Could you give us a estimate as to what you think America needs to spend in the next several years?

HAMBURG: Well, I think it's going to be real money. I think that's an investment worth making. Clearly it's not off the scale compared to other investments we routinely make for national security and defending the health and well-being of our nation.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, did Margaret Hamburg indicate to you that we should worry more about smallpox bioterrorism than we should about anthrax?

HUNT: Well Mark, I think she -- I think that's what most public health experts think. Smallpox is really terrifying; not only a 30 percent fatality rate. Anthrax is not contagious, smallpox is. There's an incubation period; by the time you get the symptoms, it's frequently too late.

And Mark, what's required here -- this is really analogous to some of the defense preparations we've had to make for so many years. You build up your defenses not because something's happened, but in the -- to prepare for the eventuality, because after it's happened, it's sometimes too late. And that's the same with public health. We're going to have to spend lots of money because this threat, if it should occur, it would be too late to spend it then.

SHIELDS: The threat was pretty grim, Bob.

NOVAK: She really makes you feel good doesn't she, Margaret? I'll tell you this, you know, I'm trying to get in my mind -- we've had four deaths from anthrax, and if we vaccinate for smallpox we're going to have several hundred deaths and brain damage. So -- and of course...

O'BEIRNE: Four-hundred thousand.

NOVAK: Yes, several hundred thousand...

O'BEIRNE: Yes, if you inoculate the whole population.

NOVAK: One thing I do find, though, they're all public health officials. And that's what she is, a professional public health official. The one thing they will always say like they will talk at in schools, is we've got to spend more money. The guy who used to be the public health officer for District of Columbia now has a public health association. He wants to spend billions more.

So I'm -- one thing they can do is spend money. Whether they're going to make it safer or not, I'm not sure.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: I think some former Clinton administration officials ought to be a little self-conscious when many of them tell us, you know, the scary things we face and how important it is to be prepared, and there's no evidence that they did anything during eight years that they were running the United States public health system or HHS, to prepare.

Were any of them talking to these scientists, or possibly posed a threat with respect to smallpox? I haven't seen any evidence that that was the case.

HUNT: They were. They were. Margaret Hamburg was, and actually Bill Clinton sought some funds from Congress which Congress didn't give to him.

SHIELDS: It strikes me that when you're talking about smallpox, I mean, the way she did -- I mean, it's a contagious disease with a lethality rate, as she called it, that is devastating, and devastating physical implications. I'm sorry, Bob, I don't think your argument against spending is going to carry much weight. I think the American people would be willing to spend.

And the other thing is the biggest concern is that unemployed Soviet -- rogue Soviet scientist with the know-how, how to...

NOVAK: That's the worry.

SHIELDS: That is really...

HUNT: The Russians did terrible things, as Bob Novak told us for years, and those rogue scientists are out there.

SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt. Next on CAPITAL GANG: "Beyond the Beltway" looks at Pakistan with career diplomat Robert Oakley.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

"Beyond the Beltway" looks at Pakistan. Islamic fundamentalists called a nationwide strike yesterday in Pakistan to protest the government's pro-American policies. Transit routes were blocked and tires burned, with three demonstrators reported shot to death.


PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN: Pakistan is a moderate Islamic country. The opposition to the decision that we have taken in Pakistan is by a very small minority.


SHIELDS: Joining us now is Robert Oakley who, during a 34 year career as a foreign service officer, directed the State Department's office of terrorism and was ambassador to Zaire, to Somalia and to Pakistan.

Thanks for being with us, Bob.


SHIELDS: Bob Oakley, is President Musharraf being overly optimistic in measuring the strength of the anti-Western, anti-U.S. opposition in his own country?

OAKLEY: I don't think so. You could always get a good crowd if you want to pay them in Pakistan. And in this case, they have a little Islamic zeal to get them going. But they've never been able to really have that much of a significant 'effect.

The army is greatly admired in Pakistan. The civilian politicians are seen as bad governance and corruption. The army is seen as good governance and honesty. In this particular fight, they're fighting for civilization. Pakistan doesn't want to go back to the Middle Ages; so I think he's going to be able to survive, provided we help him.

SHIELDS: What is -- let me just add -- what is the one thing that most of us in this country do not know about Pakistan and Afghanistan that, in your judgment, and your expertise, we should know?

OAKLEY: Well, it's very ethnic, tribal; you have to know it well. We've got to be patient in trying to put together these internal coalitions in Afghanistan. Neglect of 10 years by the United States, the U.S. military, the CIA, have really hurt us -- our ability to understand Pakistan, hurt Pakistan's ability to help us. Pakistani officers are -- or used to be trained in U.S. military schools. For 10 years we haven't done that. We've sort of given the back of our hand. But now we need to work with them again, and we can do that as we have in the past. But we have to be careful. It's going to take a while, and we shouldn't be impatient.

What's happened in Mazar-e Sharif is very good. We've got to now work our way around Kabul, maybe over to Herat on the southwest, and maybe down to the south. But that's going to take time, because we don't have the assets that we used to. We've been working with the Northern Alliance, but not with the tribes and the ethnic groups in the south.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Bob, in his speech at the U.N. today, President Musharraf dwelled at great length on the problems with India and Kashmir, calling the Indians terrorists; and if you're going to be against terrorists, he said, in Afghanistan, you've got to be against them in Kashmir.

Was that just for home consumption, or do you think Pakistan really, in return for helping the United States on the Afghanistan question and al Qaeda, do you think that they expect something from the U.S. now on Kashmir, and can the U.S. give them anything on Kashmir?

OAKLEY: Well, as you know, the Kashmir dispute goes back to 1949. And I think that if we can downplay the Kashmir thing for a while, at the end of this fight against al Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalism, extremism, I think there will be opportunities to solving (sic) the Kashmir problem. But it's going to require an effort by Pakistan and by India. It requires a lot of quiet negotiation, rather than publicly screaming at each other.

India at the moment sometimes seems to be putting the pressure on Pakistan, almost obliging them to fight a two-front war, which is not in anybody's interests. So we know it needs to be quiet in the way -- when it deals with the Kashmir problem.

But some of the groups in Afghanistan that are terrorist are also operating in Kashmir. Therefore, in time we'll have to get rid of them.

NOVAK: Why would Musharraf make such a point of it at the U.N. today, then?

OAKLEY: Because it's such an emotional issue in Pakistan. That's the thing that should cost him support, much more than the mullahs in the streets is the feeling that somehow it's -- the Indians are gaining the upper hand. That would really hurt him very badly, and we might lose Musharraf, we might lose Pakistan, and I would hate to see Pakistan in the hands of a bunch mullahs with nuclear weapons.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne. O'BEIRNE: I was going to ask a question about India. In the short-term, as long as we're engaged in Afghanistan, Pakistan's help is important to us. But in the longer term, is our relationship with India actually more important to the U.S., given our concerns about China, and the shared values and trade relationship we have with India?

OAKLEY: We don't need to sacrifice any of that, and India doesn't need to sacrifice its basic relationship with us. They're worried about that because they see Pakistan again coming back into favor. But it's for a specific reason. It's also trying to make up for 10 years of neglect.

We can have a good relationship with Pakistan and India. India, obviously, in terms of trade is much more important. India is not going to join an alliance against China, no matter what some people may think, because they're over there, and we're way, way over here. But we can work with India, just as we have been doing. We can also work with Pakistan.


HUNT: Bob, you mentioned earlier that the Pakistani army is very respected in that country. There are reports, however, that there is a large fundamentalist element in that Pakistani army, and that there are a number of anti-American types in the Pakistani intelligence. Are those major problems for us down the road, and what can we do about it?

OAKLEY: What we can do about it is to hurry and make up for this neglect that I've talked about, put Pakistani officers back in U.S. military schools, begin to show them the respect that they deserve. They have a superb Air Force. I remember when I was there as the ambassador, our chief of the air force came over and said, you know, the Pakistani air force is second only to Israel. In terms of the ones we work with, I'm not sure it's even second; they may be on a par with Israel.

You recognize what Pakistan can do, work with them. The anti- American sentiment comes from 10 years of having cut them off. They paid for the F-16s, we didn't deliver them. A lot of the things we've done have hurt them badly.

Nevertheless, they're willing to work with us, and I think we can begin to turn the trend -- the tables back if we work at it hard.

HUNT: How about intelligence? Is there a problem with ISI?

OAKLEY: Well, the head of ISI was relieved by General Musharraf, but he's not trying to mount a coup. The discipline within the Pakistani is still very, very good. They're proud of the army; they're proud of the army as a defender of the nation.

There are some problems lower down with some people who are, indeed, sort of pro-Taliban. And they will slowly have to be sorted out. But basically the army is going to be solid. SHIELDS: Bob Oakley, given your profound knowledge of the region, the military news from Afghanistan has certainly been encouraging of late, but you read beneath the lines and this is a cast of characters that is right out of some bizarre musical. I mean, how -- do you think you can put a government together with these folks who are now loosely, an umbrella group against the Taliban?

OAKLEY: It's going take a long time. As I say, we've lost our contacts with the southern tribes and ethnic groups. The Pashtun make up 40 percent. We never had any with the Shia, who make up another 20 percent. Fortunately, the Iranians appear to be working with the Pakistanis now, and to some degree with us. In part, I think, thanks to some very good diplomatic work, very quietly by Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. special representative for Afghanistan. He's going to play an important role.

If the U.S., Russia, Iran, Pakistan can begin to work together, I think we can slowly produce some sort of coalition inside Afghanistan.

NOVAK: Bob, something I've written about in the past is this fact that we sold the F-16s to Pakistan. And I think they paid for them, as a matter of fact, and we didn't deliver them because we didn't like what they were doing on their nuclear development. Do you think it is time now to give them the planes that they bought, or would it look like we were giving them hush money or dirty money for supporting our position in Afghanistan?

OAKLEY: Well, one of the unexpected results of cutting off the F-16s was that Pakistan, left without a conventional defense, had to move to ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. So we got the reverse of what we wanted in terms of proliferation. I think that we ought to go back to the F-16s because it's a source of great pride to Pakistan. That's the quickest way to catch up.

They're not going to be a threat to India. India has so many more top-flight planes that that's not a problem. They also have their own missiles and warheads.

SHIELDS: Ambassador Robert Oakley, thank you so much for being with us.

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


SHIELDS: The attack of September 11 was an act of war. National security demands that the screening of airline passengers and their baggage be a federal law enforcement responsibility administered by personnel similar to trained federal employees, the kind who screen visitors to the U.S. House of Representatives.

But the Republican U.S. House refuses to provide ordinary Americans the same level of security it provides itself. House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who was ignorant of, or indifferent to daily reports of further breakdowns in airport security, announced that the existing system had already resulted in, quote, "unprecedented conditions of safety," end quote.

Tell me, what planet is Dick Armey now living on?

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Quite a week for Bill Clinton. It began with the former president bungling an attempt at Democratic unity, trying to save the New York City election for mayor. Next, he told admiring students at Georgetown that his country, under terrorist attack, is paying the price for African slavery. And yesterday, he resigned from the Supreme Court bar just before he was disbarred for lying in court. In effect: You can't fire me, I quit.

His lies caused his impeachment, and he's still a national embarrassment.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: This week a nonprofit higher education reform group founded by Senator Joe Lieberman and now-second lady Lynne Cheney, reminded us of an ongoing outrage. Students can graduate from 100 percent of our top-ranked 55 colleges without taking a single course in American history.

Now it's more important than ever that teaching our legacy of democracy and freedom not be in the hands -- the hostile hands of the "blame America first" crowd on college faculties who don't think its a legacy worth learning, or fighting for.

SHIELDS: Al hunt.

HUNT: Mark, to combat terrorism, America must be willing to give up some liberties, accept tougher law enforcement, and tolerate intrusive measures like a national ID card. But we don't have to suspend the Bill of Rights, which is what Attorney General Ashcroft is doing when, under the guise of fighting terrorists, the government eavesdrops on lawyers and their clients. If left up to Ashcroft, we'd be wire-tapping doctors in consultations with patients, or priests, rabbis and mullahs during confession with parishioners.

This is outrageous; it's also un-American.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, let me endorse, embrace and identify, associate with the gentleman's remarks from Washington, D.C. I think you're absolutely right, I agree with your outrage.

I know you do too, Bob.

NOVAK: I do, too.

O'BEIRNE: But we disagree with yours, mark.

SHIELDS: Kate, you do?

O'BEIRNE: I want to be as safe as the Europeans, with private screeners. SHIELDS: But not as safe as the Congress.

HUNT: O'Hare Airport...


SHIELDS: Yes, go to O'Hare, go...

NOVAK: Does everybody agree with me on Clinton?

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for the CAPITAL GANG. If you missed any part of this program -- and you shouldn't have -- you can catch the replay at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, or if you're a masochist.

Coming up next: CNN PRESENTS: Soldiers of God.




Back to the top