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Orrin Hatch Discusses bin Laden Tape; Hillary Rodham Clinton Talks About Senate Experiences; George Mitchell on Middle East

Aired December 15, 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 Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and a favorite guest of CAPITAL GANG.

Great to have you back, Orrin.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Nice to be with all of you again.

SHIELDS: Thank you.

The captured videotape showed Osama bin Laden rejoicing over the bloodshed of September 11. U.S. officials reported the terrorist leader was surrounded in Afghanistan.

Not exactly, said the U.S. commander.


GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: "Surrounded" probably is not a terribly good word. But the view of the opposition leaders on the ground is that this al Qaeda force is contained in that area that I described. Does that mean that this cordon is not porous and that no one can escape? No, it certainly does not mean that.


SHIELDS: Does President Bush want bin Laden captured?


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't care, dead or alive, either way.

I don't know whether we're going to get him tomorrow, or a month from now, or a year from now.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, would the capture of Osama bin Laden be the defining event in the war against terrorism? MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME MAGAZINE": Well, much will remain to be done, but it would be a defining event-plus. It would be -- and before Christmas, it's possible.

It's the breeding and training ground of Osama bin Laden. It's the very face of terror, especially after that repellent tape this week. Only, you know, the most militant Muslim clerics could not believe that Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9/11. They must believe that Elvis is still alive.

And if not surrounded, certainly they are right on top of him, because of the fierce fighting and defense which these troops are not known. They're protecting something very valuable -- it must be Osama.

And while Bush said "dead of alive," it was interesting this week that Secretary Rumsfeld said "alive." He'd like to interrogate him.

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": No, he didn't say...

CARLSON: He didn't say "alive"?

NOVAK: He said "alive" about the al Qaeda fighters.

CARLSON: Well, I'd like him alive in order to put some bamboo sticks under his fingers and...

NOVAK: Margaret...

CARLSON: ... and torment him day by day for the rest of his life.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: You know, we (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the United States likes to personalize its enemies -- Hitler and Mussolini, Saddam Hussein. Maybe if, Orrin, if we had personalized Ho Chi Minh we would have won the Vietnam War -- who knows?

But the danger of personalizing Osama bin Laden is that if you capture him or kill him, that does not end the war against terrorism. You've got terrible problems of terrorist cells in Germany, in Somalia and a lot of places. This is going to be a long struggle, as they keep saying, and I believe them.

The other point is that if you don't get him -- if he slips out, which is entirely possible, then somehow or another you say it's been a failure. Of course it hasn't been a failure. They have destroyed Afghanistan for the foreseeable future as a haven for terrorism.

But I think that this tape is part of this whole hype of saying that this is the face of terrorism, and it's lot more than Osama bin Laden.

SHIELDS: Orrin Hatch, the tape to you, a devastating document? HATCH: Well, I saw it quite early. And I have to say that it is devastating. But I knew it was Osama bin Laden almost from day one. I mean, I've been watching this character and studying him on the Intelligence Committees for many, many years. I was, I think, the first one to warn the Clinton administration that, my gosh, you'd better get on top of Osama bin Laden or he's going to kill Americans. Well, they didn't; and, of course, this has happened.

And it would have been easier...

SHIELDS: Did you warn the Bush administration too?

HATCH: Well, they had plenty of warning. There's no question, towards the end of the Clinton administration they knew that this man was the cause of a lot of the difficulties. They just never did, really, anything about it.

Now, Bob's right, he's the face of terrorism right now, but al Qaeda is all offer the world. There are cells in this country as well, as you know. And I have to say that the more vicious part of that group is the Islamic Jihad, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. They are the most vicious in the world, and they're in quite a number of places.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, two things about that tape that just struck me. One is that when there is a rough patch ahead and if Afghanistan turns into chaos, I think it's the kind of thing that would really fortify and restrengthen American public opinion if the thing does go south on us at any point in trying to bring some order and peace there.

And secondly, it just hit me that it's got to be embarrassing for the Saudis to seem, you know, sort of the hometown support system for this fellow.

AL HUNT, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": I think, on Osama, Bob, I think we're going to get him. I think we'll get him soon. I think it will be a great triumph when we do get him. And you're right, it won't be the end of the war. And I think -- we say "dead or alive," I think both the U.S. and Osama agree it's better dead than red, white and blue. He doesn't want to be a prisoner.

Two things about the tape, Marl. No. 1, I thought it was revealing when he said that the damage was much worse than he anticipated. And what I thought was interesting was I think that also reflects he probably totally underestimated the U.S. response.

And history was on his side. I mean, look what we did in 1983 after the Marines were killed. Look what we did after Pan Am 103 went down. Look what we did after the USS Cole. And I think probably his mission was -- his evil mission was too successful for his own good.

And I think the -- I don't think it matters much for American public opinion, because I think it's there, and I think it's going to be there no matter what. But I don't believe this stuff doesn't affect the Islamic public opinion. I think it does. This is so devastating. And those people in the Islamic world who were parroting this contradictory canard that, A, infidels got what they asked for; B, no proof that bin Laden did it -- maybe Israelis did it.

I mean, this is chilling proof.

NOVAK: I don't know, you still have in quotes reporters from CNN -- from all the news organizations of people on the street around the Arab world saying, we don't believe that -- I mean, this is Hollywood, these people can doctor everything. So people who didn't believe -- I doubt there were many converts.

I think the greatest neutralizing factor in the Arab world has been the military success in Afghanistan. That's what is really more impressive to them than the document.

I don't see anything wrong with running it. Some of the intelligence people on the Hill think that it was a bad idea. I doesn't see anything wrong with it, but I don't think it's a great propaganda tool either.

SHIELDS: One of the most interesting parts to me -- and sobering, was that apparently, if we believe the tape, and I do, those men knew they were on a suicide mission. But even if we caught them beforehand, they didn't know what it was. I mean, you know, really this was an amazing operation in the sense that the people carrying it out had no knowledge, just partial information.

CARLSON: Osama calls it a martyrdom operation in the tape, in which the cells did not know what was going on with each other. So there's more enthusiasm for martyrdom than there is the actual indulging in it when you know it's going to happen.

HATCH: But it also shows how sophisticated these terrorists are. It shows how sophisticated their organizations are. And for us to take things for granted that this has ended, or because we're winning in Afghanistan this is over, is just crazy.

On the other hand, I can tell you, as somebody who's been on the Judiciary Committee for many years, that I've never seen law enforcement so motivated -- both federal and state law enforcement -- as they are in this country right now. The FBI is, I think, doing a terrific job, and so are the other agencies of government.

I'm pretty pleased with them, and I want to compliment them for the hard work they're doing. And Ashcroft -- you know, he's taken a lot of criticism because he's had to stand up for military tribunals, he's had to detain people who have been material witnesses or committed crimes or violated our immigration laws. And he's taken a lot of flak from the left. But I'll tell you, he's got a lot of guts. He's been right, and he deserves a lot of credit.

CARLSON: But only one person under arrest.


HATCH: He's taken worse from the right than he has from the left in some ways. It's really bothered me.

SHIELDS: Orrin Hatch, last word. No more plugs.

Orrin Hatch and the GANG will return with an arms control treaty abandoned. And later, a Republican leader calls it quits.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

President Bush announced formal withdrawal from the 1972 U.S.- Soviet ABM Arms Control Treaty.


BUSH: I have concluded the ABM Treaty hinders our government's ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorists or rogue state missile attacks.


SHIELDS: Chinese and Russian leaders protested, but the president of Russia added this:


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): I can say with full confidence that the decision taken by the president of the United States presents no threat to the security of the Russian Federation.



COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The key point here is that an arms race has not been set off by the United States indicating its intention to withdraw from the ABM Treaty.


SHIELDS: Democratic leaders criticized the withdrawal on both its merits and on procedural grounds.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: It troubles me that most of us had to read about this announcement, this decision, in the newspapers and hear it on television prior to the time we were told officially that this decision had been made.



ANDREW CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The president, on the day that he announced that we were withdrawing from that treaty, had breakfast with the Senate majority leader. And he told the majority leader that we were, in fact, moving forward.


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, what happened to the president's bipartisanship here?

NOVAK: Well, I think our friend in the Senate, Majority Leader Tom Daschle was a little less astute than usual -- or acute than usual.

Of course everybody knew this was coming. It's not, oh, what a surprise -- the president withdrew from the treaty. It was leaked to the papers -- had been leaked to the papers he was going to do that before it was officially announced. As Andy Card said, the president told Tom Daschle over breakfast.

But the point is that if you doesn't agree with the Democrats and with some of the members of this panel, you're not being bipartisan. Bipartisanship is "buy my partisanship." It's a one-way...


NOVAK: Yes. It';s a one-way street.

Now this is something that is a -- there are -- many of these liberal Democrats have never seen a weapon system they ever liked, starting with the hydrogen bomb and going forward. And this is a system that could save the country from a country like Iran, which was developing a bomb. Of course there are going to be -- it's going to be a long process, expensive, difficult. There's going to be test failures, as there always are.

But the thing that is interesting to me, is the great diplomatic job that the administration has done to get Putin to say it is not a security risk. That was all carefully orchestrated for him to say that.


HUNT: See, I thought it was a liberal Democrat that dropped the atomic bomb, Mark.

NOVAK: He wasn't that liberal.


SHIELDS: I've heard you attack him as a liberal.

HUNT: Yes, it's nice to hear. Bob has grown on Harry Truman. That's terrific. I'm glad you're a fan now.

A couple things. I don't -- you know, the president might be right; the architecture that we had before may be antiquated. But I'm not quite sure Colin Powell is right when he says that it's not going to lead to any kind of nuclear proliferation. I mean, the Russians -- he's right about the Russians, but the Chinese clearly say that they're going to increase the number of offensive weapons. Then the Indians too, then the Pakistanis too.

There is a question of how cost-effective it is. It's going to cost a lot of money, as Bob said. He may have to give up some of his tax cuts because of that. There was a -- you know, one of the tests failed in the Pacific just this week.

And finally: Is that the threat? I mean, I don't think a missile defense is going to help us stop a single 767 from going into a building; it's not going to stop a single anthrax from being put in the mail; or it's not going to stop the threat of a chemical weapon at the Winter Olympics. That may be the threat.

HATCH: Yes, it's serious stuff. And frankly, we do have the capacity, and the Russians know it -- the Soviets knew it -- to interdict incoming ballistic missiles.

You know, there's a Latin phrase called "rebus extentibus (ph)" which basically says "until circumstances change." And that ought to be written at the bottom of every one of these Cold War contracts, because when that was entered into, it was entered into with the Soviet Union. It was entered into under a theory of mutually assured destruction. And now we're dealing with a lot more than that.

And we ought to be protective of ourselves. People in this country don't realize that we have not one way of stopping an incoming ballistic missile, and we know that there are countries that are developing intercontinental ballistic missiles. It just makes sense for us to protect our country and to protect ourselves and our allies and our friends, which happen to be the people governed by Putin right now, as well as others.

We can do an awful lot of good in this world by being safe. And we've learned from terrorism, there are many forms, but one of them is the threat of intercontinental ballistic destruction.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, watching this do you get the feeling that if conservatives -- it could be demonstrated conclusively that the system didn't work, they'd still be for it. And if liberals were convinced that it did work, they would still be against it. I mean, it's almost become a theological argument.

HATCH: That's just about the attitude.

CARLSON: There is some of that. But, you know, if it did work, great.

HATCH: It will work.

CARLSON: It may work eventually, maybe. But to -- you know, Russia can swamp anything the missile defense fund -- I mean, the missile defense shield can do. So of course Putin says, well, it's no threat, because it might not be. Because he can come up with more things to defeat it. And surely China is going to start building more nuclear weapons as much as it can. And then you're going to have more nuclear materials floating around at a time when you don't want rogue states to be able to get ahold of it because the threat is from rogue states and terrorism. And this does absolutely nothing to cope with what we know about -- since 9/11.

SHIELDS: Last word Margaret Carlson. I would just say Bob Novak is against every government program unless it's a weapon system.

Next on CAPITAL GANG: a long goodbye from Dick Armey.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

After 17 years in the House and seven years as majority leader, Republican Congressman Dick Armey of Texas announced he will not seek reelection next year.


SEN. DICK ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: I have come to love this place. This is the most marvelous democratic institution in the history of the world. You see, my friends, it is true what we say about this wonderful House chamber: Here the people govern.


SHIELDS: Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas lined up support to succeed Armey. DeLay's chief deputy whip, Roy Blunt of Missouri, is running to succeed DeLay. But Congressman Ray LaHood of Illinois indicated he might run for either leadership post.

Said Ray LaHood, quote: "It's a bad idea to run as a team, and it's not good for our party. We don't need the same old, same old. Tom relishes the idea of being called the hammer. I'd rather be called the velvet glove," end quote.

Democratic Caucus Chairman Martin Frost of Texas said, quote: "I don't think any Democrat will be disappointed if DeLay is the next majority leader. DeLay is the closest thing to Gingrich that Republicans have," end quote.

Al Hunt, is Martin Frost's obvious glee justified?

HUNT: Not initially. Tom DeLay is one tough hombre. He is maybe the most partisan congressional leader in my lifetime. But he gets -- he's very effective. He gets a lot of things done. He intimidates the moderates -- not hard to do, but he does it very well. And he's probably put together this nexus of his office and K Street lobbyists and campaign cash as well as anyone we've ever seen. And no matter what the Democrats say, it works.

The reason they're gleeful over the longer term is for two reasons though, Mark. No. 1, he's not a very pleasant public persona. There's sort of a meanness about Tom DeLay. And secondly, he may be -- his very asset, that nexus, he may be one of the most ethically challenged members of Congress when it comes to money in politics. And as he increases that level of scrutiny, I don't think the press is going to keep giving him a free ride.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: mark, the people -- liberal Democrats in Congress and the media have been looking for another Gingrich ever since he quit. And I knew Tom -- Newt Gingrich very well, and Tom DeLay is no Newt Gingrich. He doesn't make those mistakes. He may come over to Al Hunt as very unpleasant, but he doesn't come over to the American people that way.

I think that since Gingrich quit, the House Republican leadership under Hastert, Armey and DeLay has really done a fabulous job. They -- President Bush ought to say a little prayer every night thanking God for the House Republican leadership. They're indomitable. They get his legislation passed.

And Ray LaHood, who is former aide to Bob Michael, he goes back to the day when the Republicans were a pitiful minority doing what Tip O'Neill wanted them to do. That is not the voice of the Republican Party in the House today.

SHIELDS: Let's say, in defense of Ray LaHood, every time there's a key vote in the House, he...


SHIELDS: He presides because he's trusted by people on both sides, which is not a bad credential.

Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: There will be no dark horse coming to challenge Tom DeLay. Republicans shoot their dark horses. And I think Rob Portman came out briefly the moderate, and that faded very, very quickly.

Dick Armey is a -- you know, a rumpled economics professor who has a more pleasant demeanor than Tom DeLay. Al is right, it is a harsher, more K Street, hammer-like demeanor that now will go on the Republican Party. But Dick Armey's mandate to cut taxes, it's complete. Taxes have been cut as much as is humanly, or inhumanly, possible, so he can go.

Some people have suggested that he chose this timing because his three weeks before the filing deadline because his son, who's the Denton County judge, can easily take his seat.

SHIELDS: Orrin Hatch, I know you're in the House of Lords and this is the House of Commons we're talking about, but tell us about the U.S. House of Representatives and this power struggle.

HATCH: We know our place in the House of Lords, I'll tell you. But let me say this, Tom DeLay has had to be tough because it's been a very closely divided House of Representatives. And you can't just be tough, you've got to be effective to accomplish what he's been able to do.

With regard to Dick Armey, I really feel badly that Dick Armey and Phil Gramm are leaving the Congress. These are the two economists in Congress. Without them, I don't think we're going to do nearly as well. They're both great people. Armey, of course, has a terrific sense of humor. And so does Phil. I mean, they're two economists -- you don't see economists with senses of humor like they have. And both of them are very, very bright. Both of them stand for principle. We're just going to miss them, that's all there is too it.

But I think DeLay can do the job. And the next question will be: Who it going to be his deputy?


SHIELDS: If we could get collected one-liners of Phil Gramm put together as a bound volume, I'd really like to have that for just -- I think it would be...


SHIELDS: No, he said Phil Gramm had a sense of humor.


HUNT: ... in the '93 tax increase he said would destroy the economy.

SHIELDS: Phil Gramm said it was a one-way ticket to...


SHIELDS: Dick Armey said it was going to kill jobs -- it would be a job killer. But that aside...


HATCH: ... if you look at it.


SHIELDS: Let me get -- before Dick Armey goes out with this great eulogy -- he did. He showed an ability, as Al pointed out earlier, to reach over the aisle with Ron Dellums, Democrat from California, the base closing. It was against the Pentagon, against the wishes of Congress. It was a bold act. At the same time, he lost his mooring, he lost his chances and he lost his future. First majority leader in history not to be promoted to speaker. Why? Because he lied to his colleagues in the coup against Newt Gingrich in the summer of 1997. Unlike Armey, Tom DeLay and Bill Paxon manfully owed up to the fact they were part of that group. NOVAK: Let me say a word about Armey. When he came into Washington, he really didn't like Congress. That's why this little speech on how much I love the Congress -- he lived in the men's room, and he was very contemptuous...


SHIELDS: All right, all right. The greyhound station?


NOVAK: But he really did grow as an effective majority leader. The low point was that failed coup. There's no question about it, that's why he never got to be speaker. But I think he became a very effective majority leader, particularly the last couple of years.

But what amuses me, and what delights me is the people saying we're going to -- some people on the other side of this table saying we're going to miss Dick Armey now that we have Tom DeLay, after they have spent the last six years pounding Dick Armey.

HUNT: Who said we're going to miss...

NOVAK: That was the implication.

SHIELDS: Bob, you know, you spend half your time on this show telling us what liberal Democrats think.


NOVAK: That's my specialty.


CARLSON: And paraphrasing what we've just said.


HUNT: Economic professors, they miss that greatest expansion we've ever had in America's history from '93 to 2001.

CARLSON: But they do have a great sense of humor.

SHIELDS: That's right.

CARLSON: For which we can be very grateful.

SHIELDS: Thanks for being with us, Orrin Hatch.

We'll be back with the second half of the CAPITAL GANG. Senator Hillary Clinton of New York is our "Newsmaker of the Week." "Beyond the Beltway" looks at Israel with former Senator George Mitchell of Maine. 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 and Margaret Carlson. Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton of New York.

Hillary Clinton. Age: 54. Residence: Chappaqua, New York. Religion: Methodist. Graduate of Wellesley College and Yale law school. Board chairman of the Children's Defense Fund, 1986 through 1989. Headed President Clinton's task force on national health care. Author of best-selling book "It Takes a Village."

Senator Clinton appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" last Sunday, and is the subject of the cover story in tomorrow's, Sunday's, "New York Times" magazine. Al Hunt sat down with her on Capitol Hill earlier this week.


HUNT: Senator, your first experience in a legislative body, you started at the top. How is the Senate different from your expectations?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Well, I didn't know what to expect. It's turned out to be an extraordinarily positive experience for me. I have felt very welcomed by my colleagues. I feel like I've been able to get a lot done this year.

HUNT: Your proudest moment?

CLINTON: Well, you know, Al, I think it's hard to call it the proudest moment, but the fight that we've had to wage on behalf of New York's needs since September 11 has, you know, focused every cell in my body. That honor was just, you know, extraordinary, to be able to stand on the floor of the Senate and speak on behalf of the people who had demonstrated what America stands for so well.

HUNT: In New York City, the federal government has committed $20 billion. Is that sufficient, or will the city have to come to the federal government for more money?

CLINTON: I don't believe that is anywhere near sufficient. It was a great vote of confidence for New York, when the president and the Congress stood behind that $20 billion. We've had to fight very hard to get about $12.5 billion in terms of what the administration has provided and what we voted for in the Senate.

Our needs are so much greater, and particularly when it comes to rebuilding New York. We have not only the World Trade Center site to think of, we have all the underground damage that destroyed subway lines, the path train coming from New Jersey. We're going to have a lot of expensive rebuilding. But I'm confident we're going to get the support we need.

HUNT: September the 11th affected everyone. You and Mayor Giuliani afterward overcame a long-standing animus and worked very closely together. Was that a spirit-of-the-moment change, or do you think you and Rudy Giuliani really have an enduringly different relationship now?

CLINTON: Well, I hope it's the latter. You know, I have the greatest of respect for the mayor. His courage, his resilience, his demonstrable love of New York is just inspiring, and we saw that in action on September 11 and in the weeks since. And I hope that whatever he chooses to do next in his life will bring him a lot of happiness, and I imagine he'll be, you know, still involved on behalf of New York, which he truly is absolutely dedicated to doing everything he can to help.

HUNT: As you know, there's never any shortage of Hillary- bashers.

CLINTON: Oh, no.

HUNT: Yes.


HUNT: One, TV talk show host Bill O'Reilly is assailing you now for what he charges is indifference to the families of 9/11 victims. He says you have only attended three memorials services. Your response.

CLINTON: Well, you know, he assails me for something nearly every day and I -- I feel sorry for him. I have done everything I can, not only attending the memorial services that were held in New York and in Washington, going to the funerals of the people that I knew personally. I do not believe after a long lifetime in and around politics that people should thrust themselves into private grief just because they're politicians.

So I was privileged to go and speak at the funerals of the two people I knew, one of whom was the chaplain, who was a great man, as everyone now knows. I've also worked very hard to meet privately with a lot of the families and the victims. I'm working very hard to make sure that they get the help they need.

HUNT: Will there be a public role for Bill Clinton in the next year, and what might it be?

CLINTON: You know, Al, I think that he has a very busy agenda that includes a lot of public activities. Certainly the work he's done on earthquake relief in India, on HIV-AIDS in Africa, where he's assumed a position with respect to the AIDS Trust. I think that he will begin holding conferences and speaking out on a lot of the important issues facing our country and the world.

HUNT: Is he a good political adviser, too?

CLINTON: He's the best.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, is this a new, less combative, softer, gentler Hillary Clinton?

HUNT: A different venue, Mark, makes all the difference in the world. Contrition is good for the soul. I want to tell you, I thought Hillary had made a mistake in running for the Senate, I thought she would have problems if she got to the Senate. She's had a much better year than I think most people thought she would have. She stayed out of the limelight, she did her homework, she's worked across the aisle with a number of members who voted for her husband's impeachment, like Kay Bailey Hutchison and Bill Frist.

She's going to speak out more on issues now. She's not going to run in 2004, and love him or hate him, she's right, her husband is one of the great political advisers of all times.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Well, I'm so impressed by the rehabilitation and relocation, remodeling of Hillary Clinton, getting ready for her eventual presidential run. She's coming over as calm and nice. And no contrition, I didn't find any contrition, Al...

HUNT: My contrition.

NOVAK: ... but I will say this -- oh, your contrition?

HUNT: My contrition.

NOVAK: But I will say this, I remember her lying, her arrogance, her contempt for the system, her contempt for the Congress, and there's a lot of people in the country who will remember it for a long time to come.

SHIELDS: Margaret.

CARLSON: But she has grown in the job. Can't you allow for this, Bob?


CARLSON: Senator Clinton is better than first lady Clinton. She had a lot to cope with there. You know, sometimes things work out for the best. Rudy not running for the Senate and remaining as mayor had him in a spot that we can all be grateful he held.

SHIELDS: Good point. I'll just say in closing, I think Bob Novak would blame declining Christmas sales, George O'Leary's firing or leaving as Notre Dame football coach, as well as the bankruptcy of Enron on the Clintons.

NOVAK: I'll look into it.

SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the Israeli-Palestinian clash with former Senator George Mitchell.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SHIELDS: Welcome back. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the rising cycle of violence between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel declared Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to be, quote, "irrelevant," end quote. In a "TIME" magazine interview to be published Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said, quote: "Arafat has chosen the path of terrorism. He is the greatest obstacle to peace in the Middle East," end quote.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The world expects Chairman Arafat to lead, and so do I. And I will continue to work with our friends and allies to make it -- to talk to Mr. Arafat in very blunt terms.



SAEB ERAKAT, CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: Israel is dismantling the Palestinian Authority, and what's next? You know, the slimy tactics of Sharon, you know, not shaking hands with Arafat, discrediting Arafat, that Arafat is associated with terror.


SHIELDS: In the wee hours this morning, the United States, the only dissenting vote, vetoed the United Nations' resolution to establish international monitoring to protect Palestinians. Friday, Israeli warplanes attacked Gaza City for the third straight night.

Joining us now is former United States Senate majority leader George Mitchell of Maine. Mr. Mitchell headed a commission which this year recommended an immediate cease-fire by Israelis and Palestinians. Thank you for coming in, George Mitchell.


SHIELDS: George, does Israel declaring Yasser Arafat to be irrelevant advanced the peace process?

MITCHELL: If the effect is to encourage him, to induce and pressure him to take action, stronger action against terrorists and those acting in that manner within his authority, then it will advance the process. If, however, the effect is to cause or to contribute to his removal from office, then it's a very risky action, the results of which won't be known for some time.

SHIELDS: George Mitchell, aren't they imposing actually an impossible demand upon Arafat? They say to bring all these terrorists, arrest them, prosecute them -- fine, and at the same time Israeli planes are going in and absolutely decimating the Palestinian security forces and their police stations.

MITCHELL: It's obviously made it more difficult. Our committee recommended a 100 percent effort by the Palestinian Authority against terrorists. The language was actually recommended by Israeli government officials, who recognized that he does not have 100 percent control, but what's been lacking is the full effort. It's very clear that there has not been that maximum effort, because it's a very difficult thing for him to do. He's caught between two unpleasant choices, but in the end he's got to take all of the action possible within his authority to try to reign in these terrorist activities, or I think that the result will be very negative for him and for the process.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: George Mitchell, when the president comes out on television and says almost totally mimics the Israeli line, saying it's up to Arafat, they've got to do what they want, when the United States is the only member of the Security Council to vote against a resolution to try to protect the peace in that area, aren't we consciously, the United States that is, consciously putting the nation squarely in Israel's corner, saying this is not -- there's no even- handed pretensions at all?

MITCHELL: Well, of course the United States was the first government to recognize Israel way back in 1948, and in a sense we have been in their corner since. We have always been a close and strong ally and ensured their continued survival. That poses the question which I think you're really asking, can we be even-handed and fair in the process? Many in the Arab world think not.

I believe we can be. I believe that our unique position with both Israel and the surrounding Arab states and the Palestinians and of course our unique role as the sole superpower in the world gives us the opportunity to play a constructive role, and I believe we can do so and ultimately I believe will do so.

NOVAK: But surely, sir, you don't think the United States looks even-handed over the last 72 hours?

MITCHELL: Well, let's take the veto of the resolution. Our committee, which consisted of three Europeans and two Americans, considered the question of an international protection force quite thoroughly. In fact, it was the single most significant issue at the time in the six months that we were involved in this process. And we rejected the suggestion, because we concluded after studying the past several years that you couldn't have an effective force without the support of both sides. If you had one side disagreeing to it, the force itself would then become entangled in the process.

So I think if you look at it objectively and examine the events of the past year, the action by the United States in the Security Council was consistent with the action of our international commission.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Senator Mitchell, until now the United States has preferred the devil we know to the one we don't know with regards to Arafat, not knowing who would come behind him and with Hamas enjoying a good deal of popularity. What would happen, even though Arafat has not stopped the terrorism, if someone were to replace him? Who do you think that would be, how would that play out?

MITCHELL: It is, of course, unknowable. The first point that must be made is that if America stands for anything, it's for self- determination. The Palestinians have chosen Yasser Arafat as their leader, as they have every right to do, and it's not for us or anyone else to tell them who they can and cannot choose as their leader.

There are several things occurring within the Palestinian society now in addition to the conflict with Israel. There are some trends that are operating I think in a negative way, from our perspective. The leadership is moving from an older group of men to a much younger group, much less oriented to the West, from a group which is secular and nationalist, a group which is much more Islamist, and the support for Arafat and his organization is declining, and that of Hamas especially less so Islamic Jihad is growing.

The reason that the Israeli government itself has not made an all-out assault directly on Arafat is the division in their cabinet on what will happen if he goes, and the likelihood or at least certainly the possibility is that a leader would emerge who would be much more hostile to Israel, much less receptive to the West and absolutely uncommitted to the concept of a two-state solution.


HUNT: George, we may be as close to an all-out conflict there as we've been in some time. What is the attitude of the other important Arab states, particularly the Saudis and the Egyptians? What pressure if any, what do you think they're saying to Arafat right now, what might they or might they not do?

MITCHELL: Well, of course, they're -- like Arafat, they're caught in a tremendous vice. They don't want the eruption of violence in the region, because they fear that it will spread to their own societies, impelling them to get into a war that they don't want to get into. And they have domestic political problems, as most countries do, dealing with a populace which is increasingly hostile to the United States because of what they perceive as a pro-Israeli bias and opposition to the Palestinians' demands, and their own desires for good relations with the United States for economic and security and broader geopolitical considerations.

I think that they very strongly want active American leadership to bring the two sides to the table, and I still believe that's possible. It's easy to become discouraged, to despair and say this can never end, but I can say to you from my experience in Northern Ireland and elsewhere: There's no such thing as a conflict that can't be ended. This does not have a military solution, and there must be a return to negotiations in the interest of both societies.

NOVAK: Bob Novak, just briefly, George. If the Israelis really want to get Arafat out of the picture and there's no alternative to Arafat, are they suggesting that the dislocation of the Palestinian forces is to the interest of the state of Israel?

MITCHELL: I think, Bob, there is, as I said earlier, different -- a division of opinion within the Israeli cabinet, reflecting of course the fact that it is a coalition government with parties which have competed strongly against each other and which have had different approaches and policies with respect to how to deal with the Palestinians. There's great uncertainty -- and remember, the Israelis have very effective and up-to-date intelligence on what's going on in Palestinian society -- and there's great uncertainty about what would occur.

My own feeling is that the risk of upheaval, broader conflict and continuing devastation of both economies is so great that they ought to make an effort to try do get back to negotiation as soon as possible and accept the recommendation that we have made for an immediate and unconditional cessation of violence.

SHIELDS: George Mitchell, thank you for your insights, thank you for your leadership. THE GANG will be back with the "Outrage of the Week."


SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week." You recall the right-wing radio and press corps that condemned Bill Clinton over Whitewater and Arkansas failed land deal of quite small potatoes? Suddenly, all those press tigers have lost their tongues and their outrage, after Enron, the Houston energy giant, with intimate ties to George Bush's political career and his inner circle turns into history's biggest bankruptcy, costing 21,000 people their jobs and many of them their pensions. Enron's top gun was an intimate of the president and the vice president, with total access to this White House. Surely Enron is a lot bigger story than Whitewater. Bob Novak.

NOVAK: It was an outrage when President Clinton invoked executive privilege to keep Congress from investigating his abuses. It's no less an outrage now with President Bush using the same constitutionally dubious device. The president cites the need for candor inside his administration. But that's not what's really at stake. He's blocking Congressman Dan Burton's probe of the FBI many years ago protecting mob informants as they committed crimes. This is the old protect-the-FBI ploy, and President Bush should take another look at it.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, after nine years of marriage, Crown Princess Masako finally gave birth to a baby girl, but not to an heir. In Japan, girls cannot ascend to the throne. The princess, a former diplomat, educated at Harvard and Oxford, could change all that. There's an ad, a brilliant ad for new a women's TV network featuring a nursery full of baby girls throwing up their pink booties and hats, and roaring. Princess Masako dragged the imperial family into the 21st century. Toss those pink booties. Your daughter should be in line to be the next leader of Japan. Hear her roar. SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Mark, John Ashcroft, preying a moderate during Senate confirmations, promised in January to meet with Planned Parenthood over the epidemic of violence against abortion and birth control clinics. These incidents include anthrax threats and bombings. Unlike the FBI, which is aggressively going after these criminals, Attorney General Ashcroft has reneged on this commitment. After 11 months, he's repeatedly refused a request for a meeting. This is not about abortion. It's about whether you believe in going after terrorists wherever they strike.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for your CAPITAL GANG. If you've missed any part of this program, I'll report you personally to Bob Novak. You can catch the entire replay at 11:00 p.m. Eastern. Also, tune in tomorrow night, at 8:30 p.m. Eastern for a special, a very special Sunday edition of CAPITAL GANG.

Coming up next on CNN, "LIVE FROM AFGHANISTAN." Thank you for joining us.




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