CNN CAPITAL GANG
Are New Terrorism Warnings Real?; Should Airline Pilots Be Armed?; Interview With Senator Sam Brownback
Aired May 25, 2002 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AL HUNT, CO-HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG. I'm Al Hunt with the full gang -- Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne, Margaret Carlson and, in San Francisco, Mark Shields.
The week began with Democrats emphasizing that they were not suggesting President Bush had previous knowledge of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: I never, ever, ever thought that anybody, including the president, did anything up to September 11 other than their best.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: But Democrats, joined by some Republicans, called for an outside investigative commission.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, I think the time has come for us to do what they did after the invasion of Pearl Harbor -- do what they did with the assassination of President Kennedy -- and come to an agreement on how we might formulate a commission.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Since it deals with such sensitive information, my judgment is best for the ongoing war against terror that the investigation be done in the Intelligence Committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: New terrorist warnings were issued by U.S. officials.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The asymmetrical advantage of a terrorist is that he can attack at any time at any place using any conceivable technique, and it is physically impossible to defend at every time in every place against every conceivable technique. There was no way to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Mark, are these threats real? Or are they just playing politics?
MARK SHIELDS, CO-HOST: Well, Al, I'll say this, for an administration committed -- some would say addicted -- to secrecy to suddenly publish an issue the state of stories -- reports about warnings and all the rest of it does raise political suspicions. I don't know if they're real, but they certainly are apocalyptic, Al.
And when the secretary of defense says that, inevitably, terrorist-sponsoring countries will have nukes, that the director of the FBI says that it's inevitable that terrorist attacks -- nuclear attacks will take place in the United States, Al, I mean, it -- what it does is it raises a question. And what's missing is any sense of follow-up. What are we supposed to do?
I mean, these are warnings -- where's the action statement? And there's a sense of resignation. If it's all inevitable, is the best efforts are really going to be worth it?
HUNT: Is timing just coincidence, Bob?
ROBERT NOVAK, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: No, it's not a coincidence. I don't take quite as mournful view as Mark does. I think what it was is they've just been pounded for not telling the American people or not telling everybody about the warnings of September 11, and now they get information from the people they have under custody -- the al Qaeda -- that, gee, they might be planning something. There's increased communications traffic. So they want to cover their butts. They want to say, "Gee, we told you so."
The question I don't think is whether they're real. I think the information is real -- is it prudent to make these alerts and tell the American people to watch out? I don't know how you're supposed to watch out. Am I, you know, when I go on the show, am I supposed to be careful that Margaret doesn't have a concealed weapon or something?
MARGARET CARLSON, TIME MAGAZINE: I would definitely use it.
NOVAK: I mean, does it mean you're not supposed to go to New York? Mayor Bloomberg says, "Come for the weekend. Please come for the weekend."
So I would say that -- we had -- Al, we have a weakness -- earlier today we had an interview with Senator McCain. And he said that he couldn't see quite the point of the alerts. And they kind of arouse people and disturb them without accomplishing anything. And I tend to agree.
HUNT: Margaret's weapon is her eloquence, of course.
Margaret, one thing that baffles me -- Dick Cheney and the others going out there saying that, you know, something terrible may be happening. Yet, they have this code system they came up with -- blue, green, yellow is in the middle and then orange and red is when it's really bad. We've been on the yellow code...
HUNT: ... for the last three weeks. If these alerts are -- all of a sudden there's something new or different, shouldn't we at least get to orange or fuchsia?
CARLSON: I mean, yellow now looks very mellow, because we're always on yellow. And the warnings are a diminishing -- have a diminishing result because we can't stay on alert all the time.
And it seems that at any one moment you can take any pile of these -- the intelligence information we're getting and put it as an alert. So there's just no rhyme or reason to it.
On the other hand, I don't take it as a cynical response to the Democrats to put out these alerts. I don't think -- I wouldn't wrap the Republicans in that cynical robe anymore than I would the Democrats for having questioned some of what happened before September 11.
And, you know, the Democrats were on the defensive -- rightly so, because some of the Democrats did go too far and allow the president to say, "Listen, you're accusing me of knowing and not doing anything." And I think, in particular, Hillary Clinton holding up "Bush Knew" -- the headline of a newspaper that when she was in the White House she rightly loathed and despised...
HUNT: Hey, I'm going get to you with that...
CARLSON: ... but allowed them to do that.
HUNT: ... in a minute, but first tell me how you feel about the terrorists. I mean, are you...
KATE O'BEIRNE, NATIONAL REVIEW: I'm not sure what Bob Novak and others would have the administration do. I mean, the fact is we face a mortal threat from these radical Muslims who are waging this jihad against Americans. Don Rumsfeld, secretary of defense, is saying nothing this week that he has not been consistently saying since last fall.
HUNT: That's true.
O'BEIRNE: That there could be a nuclear capability -- and he's been saying since last fall next time there could be tens of thousands.
O'BEIRNE: Now, the state and local officials are furious if the federal government knows anything as vague as Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty might bear watching and they do not pass it along -- so I think, in part, the federal government's responding to that sensitivity. And as long as Tom Daschle accuses the administration of hoarding information... HUNT: Do...
O'BEIRNE: ... I think the administration is going to want to put out generalized warnings to remind us we are in a war on terror.
NOVAK: Just very briefly, what they should do? They should tell the law enforcement officials. They should give them the warnings and not make the general public...
HUNT: Let me turn to the question -- let me turn to this debate over a national commission to investigate what happened before 9-11.
Kate, you and I agree that Bush didn't know anything beforehand. Obviously, he didn't. You think the Clinton administration is more at fault for their policy. I think the Bush administration accorded too small a priority. But we both agree something terrible happened. Why not have a commission with a Brzezinski, a Schulz -- people who can really be detached and come up with something important?
O'BEIRNE: Let me just first explore our common ground, Al.
O'BEIRNE: When George Bush -- President Bush, within days of September 11, went over to the CIA, clearly indicating to the CIA, we're all on the team and we're all looking forward, many of us -- you and me, I suspect, were both saying, "There was a colossal intelligence failure here." And I'm not quite ready to uncritically embrace the CIA or the FBI until I know what happened. I think we all have that -- want to know what happened, not to point fingers, so it doesn't happen again -- this colossal government failure.
I think the administration has invited calls for independent commissions because they seem less curious than the rest of us about what may have gone wrong. And I don't know why they should be defensive. If there were problems with the FBI, the CIA, the way they operate, the way they share information -- look, but they've got a lot company -- the INS, the Social Security Administration...
O'BEIRNE: ... federal labs with anthrax.
O'BEIRNE: If there are problems, they inherited them.
HUNT: Mark Shields?
O'BEIRNE: So they shouldn't be as defensive, it seems to me, as they are.
HUNT: Mark Shields, how do you read this? SHIELDS: Well, Al, I think the only argument against the commission is that somehow to assume that everything worked perfectly up until September 11. And that this just was inevitable -- it was going to happen. Everybody did his or her job completely well.
I think that it's impossible to look at what happened on September 11 and say that there wasn't failure at some level of this administration -- of the previous administration. You know, I don't know.
But in the days, weeks and months leading up to -- and years -- leading up to September 11, something went wrong.
SHIELDS: And to avoid it again, we have to find out. And I think a commission is probably the best vehicle.
HUNT: Pretty compelling case, isn't it, Bob?
NOVAK: No, it isn't. Now, let's be frank. What happened a week ago -- they were saying, "What did the president know and when did he know it?" That didn't work, as you said it wouldn't work -- it was over the edge. So now the Democrats have gone back to this citizens' commission.
Now, the fact of the matter was they did a very bad job on Pearl Harbor. It was a whitewash of the Roosevelt administration and a scapegoating of the military officers.
And they did a horrible job on the Warren Commission. People have been cleaning up to that for years. Citizens' commissions don't have a good track record. I'd rather trust the intelligence committees.
CARLSON: ... then the administration is definitely...
HUNT: Bush says we only can trust Congress with leaks.
CARLSON: Well, the administration doesn't want to trust these committees because you have 39 members and then you have the staff. And you're not going to be able to keep secrets there. You would -- and it's also partisan. They don't like that. They're not cooperating with those committees.
A commission would be non-partisan. It would be people above reproach -- the usual suspects.
NOVAK: Just like the Warren Commission.
CARLSON: And by the way, it would probably cast as much blame on Clinton...
CARLSON: ... and very little on Bush because he was in charge of the FBI and CIA for a longer period of time when something could have been done.
HUNT: I agree. And I also want to say, Bob, that the Pearl Harbor Commission not only did a commendable job...
NOVAK: Oh, come on.
HUNT: ... but they did not prevent the Roosevelt administration from fighting the war as valiantly as they did.
The gang of five will be back with Congress fighting over money.
HUNT: Welcome back.
The House passed a $29 billion emergency appropriations bill, mainly to fund the war. The speaker of the House had to plead with the Republican majority to prevent the bill from being narrowly defeated on a procedural vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: You can vote no against this. But we don't know -- you ought to know that you're voting against our military. You're voting against the people in New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Democrats objected to the debt ceiling increase in the bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEPHARDT: Now is not the time to give the federal government carte blanche to run up the debt. Our economic future is at stake where people's retirement security is on the line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: The House passed a bill just before dawn yesterday, after two days of bitter debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY WHIP: This campaign of jockeying for domestic political advantages while delaying swift action on our need to send these resources is beneath contempt.
REP. JOHN TIERNEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The majority wrapped this bad act in the flag together with the bipartisan emergency security funding, and brought it here hoping Americans would be distracted by their waving of the flag.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Bob, harsh words.
HUNT: What's the real issue?
NOVAK: This is a wonderful example of politics as (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with the war on terrorism. The Republicans are scared to death of the debt limit bill, because we're going into deficit spending. They're afraid that the Republicans would vote no on the debt limit and the Democrats are being mischievous. So they wrapped the debt limit into this emergency appropriations bill.
The Democrats find that out and they get ballistic. They have this sort of a mini-filibuster. It's very hard to do under House rules, because the Democrats wanted to talk about the debt limit in connection with a raid on the Social Security fund, on a long-range credit card, on taxes for the rich, and they didn't want that wrapped into the war against terrorism, which is non-partisan. So the one thing the Republicans in the House are is very disciplined. And they, after two days of nastiness, they passed the bill.
HUNT: Geez, Mark Shields, I remember when Republicans used to love to have debates over debt ceilings. What's happened?
SHIELDS: Well, I'll tell you, Al, if hypocrisy were a felony, the House Republican majority would be doing hard time at Leavenworth. For generations, Democrats have been lectured about fiscal responsibility by these Republicans, who always voted against any increase in the debt ceiling.
If I'm not mistaken, Al, during the last administration, the debt deficit went down every year and we even started to pay off the national debt. That, of course, has been reversed under the new Republican leadership.
O'BEIRNE: Well, Al...
HUNT: Is it as bad as Mark suggests?
O'BEIRNE: This is an emergency spending bill for homeland defense and the military. So it was not too hard to wrap this one in the American flag. National security does demand some spending increases. But conservatives in the House are becoming increasingly restive that none of this justifiable spending on homeland defense and the military is being offset. In fact, non-defense spending is also growing.
And I think as the appropriations season goes on that's going to be a growing problem for the administration.
HUNT: Margaret, don't you suspect when you look in this there's not only some great patriot homeland defense...
HUNT: ... stuff, but there's a little bit of pork?
CARLSON: There's a lot of pork. I mean, there's a lot of pork that's now wrapped in, you know...
O'BEIRNE: It's true.
CARLSON: ... supporting our military people abroad. I mean, there are a few ships in there for Senator Lott. And, you know, of course, Bob Byrd has, you know, is paving over West Virginia with various subsidies. And Ted Stevens has stuff in Alaska. And there's the textile thing. There's a lot in there.
But Bob is right. The Republicans are disciplined, and they neatly sidestepped to direct vote on the debt ceiling limit. And the legacy of Clinton, really, is a balanced budget liberalism. The Democrats look more fiscally disciplined now than the Republicans.
NOVAK: If you listened to that debate in the House, and I did for hours, because, you know, I find it interesting.
CARLSON: You don't have to do in life.
NOVAK: That's right.
HUNT: Bob, if I didn't love you so much, I'd say get a life.
NOVAK: Yeah. But what the Democrats -- they all talk about the same thing. They have the same talking points that they're given. They talk about -- very little about the war, very little about the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They talked about Social Security and a tax cut for the rich. Those are their talking points for the '02 campaign, and that's why the debate was so nasty, because they wanted to use a separate debate on the debt limit.
I mean, I can't believe that Mark is really serious about this fiscal integrity business. What they want to do is bash the Republicans, scare the seniors. There was an e-mail that was -- that was intercepted where they admitted the Democrats are going to scare the seniors, and talk against tax cuts for the rich, so-called.
HUNT: Mark, were you just funning us? Were you not serious?
SHIELDS: Al, I'm quite serious. If Bob wants to examine the roster of Republicans who had never lost their virginity before by voting for any increase in the debt ceiling and did so this past week, then I'll be happy to buy him a steak dinner.
HUNT: A steak...
CARLSON: But you would think that if they're wrapping themselves in the flag about anything, they would wrap the tax cut in the flag, and during wartime, cancel it.
O'BEIRNE: We need a growing economy, Margaret, to fund this war on terror, and that means we need lower taxes so the economy grows.
CARLSON: How about, we need taxes to fund the war on terror?
NOVAK: The central issue of American politics is whether people are going to keep their own money or give it to the government. And that's what divides the parties, is what divides us on this panel, it divides me and my San Francisco friend.
CARLSON: I want to give my money to government (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
HUNT: Spoken like a man who has a lot of money to keep, Bob Novak.
Next on CAPITAL GANG, no to pistol-packing pilots.
HUNT: Welcome back. The Bush administration delivered its verdict on whether to arm airline pilots to defend against hijackers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MAGAW, TRANSPORTATION UNDER SECT.: I made a decision, and stick by that decision, because it's taken me long enough to make it, that I will not permit firearms in the cockpit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: But that decision may be overturned by Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DON YOUNG (R-AK), TRANSPORTATION CHAIRMAN: This is not going to be a Wild West show. Someone is not going to come on and go yahoo and be shooting his pistol off. In fact, he's going to use it to deter someone from invading the cockpit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Margaret, why does the Bush administration oppose airline pilots having guns?
CARLSON: I'm glad that there is a bill that's being introduced so we can have full discussion of this instead of just having Magaw and the Bush administration decide this, because they think it's, you know, a shoot-out at 30,000 feet is not a good idea and that pilots having guns makes it more dangerous.
Pilots are usually ex-military. They get massive amounts of training. They can actually learn how to use firearms as part -- as part of their training. And I think anything you can have on an airplane that makes you safer is a good idea. I mean, I think the passengers are now unarmed and fairly dangerous, in that anything that goes wrong, I think the passengers are cued up to do something about it.
But these are guns that they would have that could not shoot a hole in the fuselage. Those doors, even though they're barred, do open. The little footnote to the discussion, though, is that the flight attendants said that they didn't want the pilots having guns if they didn't have stun guns, and I'm wondering...
NOVAK: They changed their position on that.
CARLSON: ... what they're afraid of -- what were they afraid of?
O'BEIRNE: I think Margaret broadly reflects public opinion, and the Bush administration's announcement this week puts them on the wrong side of it. In fact, polls show that women actually support arming pilots at a higher rate than men, because they see it as a safety issue; they don't see it as a gun issue. This is a wonderful political opportunity for Democrats to make women feel safer, and appeal to men. They look so anti-gun in other contexts. Federal marshals -- the administration allows arms are going to be on flights. They allow for the fact that there are going...
O'BEIRNE: ... to be some people...
CARLSON: ... One percent...
O'BEIRNE: ... on some flights armed.
CARLSON: ... One percent of flights.
O'BEIRNE: Right. But they can't cover all of them. I think this could pass in the House, and I think the Democrats could get to the right of George Bush on the safety issue.
HUNT: Mark Shields, I'm all for more marshals, for more safety, but I'll tell you something, as a nervous flyer, I don't want to have a shoot out in cockpit corral. How do you feel?
SHIELDS: Hey, Al, you don't, basically, want to fly unless John McCain or John Glenn or the younger incarnation of them is at the handle. So...
HUNT: Even that's tough.
SHIELDS: Al, for the first and only time in the history of this show, I want to associate myself and identify with the remarks of Kate and Margaret, who, as I -- I think they both make enormous sense on this. I think anything that makes it more safe for flyers, that makes it more secure and makes it more discouraging for potential harm- doers, I endorse it.
HUNT: You want to make it four to one, Bob?
NOVAK: Well, it's four to one.
NOVAK: You know, there's 33,000 airline flights a day. If we have two marshals on each flight and with time off, you've got an air marshal force as big as the U.S. Marine Corps. This is -- they're not going to have it.
NOVAK: Now, the question -- the mystery is why would the administration be against all of us, why would they side with the gun control nuts and Al Hunt? Why is the administration opposing this? I'll tell you why. Because the airlines are against it, and the airlines have more influence with this administration than the airline pilots. The airlines are against it because of the liability.
O'BEIRNE: Well, they have had some concerns about liability. But if that can be fixed, I think you'll see some airlines foot it. Maybe we ought to leave it up to the airlines and let the traveling public decide do they want to fly with an armed pilot or do they want to fly like Al Hunt, unprotected.
HUNT: OK. I want to tell you...
HUNT: I want to tell my friend, Mark Shields, that I flew with John McCain this week and I was still scared stiff.
We'll be back with a CAPITAL GANG classic, Jim Jeffords crossing the aisle.
HUNT: Welcome back.
One year ago this week, Senator James Jeffords left the Republican Party and gave the Democrats control of the Senate. On May 26, 2001, your CAPITAL GANG discussed what the shift would mean.
Our guest was former vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Procedurally, however, it will be quite different. And procedure sometimes matters, as we saw when the Republicans controlled the Congress the last six years. There were a record number of judgeships that just were sat on -- weren't acted on. There were bills that weren't scheduled to the floor. Daschle, who is the Democrat leader, now has that kind of power, if he chooses to exercise it.
NOVAK: I would say right now that the worst thing that the president could do now is change his agenda and appease them. It's still the same senators that you had before. But I think it's going to be -- Al is exactly right -- procedurally, with the committee chairmanships and the control of the schedule, it's going to be tough.
CARLSON: The moderates -- not the liberals -- the moderates will get a little more attention than they have gotten, and Bush will move a little bit to the center. He's been feeding the base and starving the middle since he got elected.
JACK KEMP, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He, obviously, has to work with Daschle. He's got to work with the Republicans and Democrats. But he has a good agenda. In fact, if anything, we have to speed up the tax cut to get more growth...
SHIELDS: Al Hunt, let me just ask you, will George W. Bush be able to do to Tom Daschle what Bill Clinton did so effectively to Newt Gingrich? That is, to become the foil against whom he runs for reelection.
HUNT: I doubt that, because Daschle is a much more skilled inside politician than Newt Gingrich ever was.
NOVAK: He does not come over like Newt Gingrich. He comes over as sweet, reasonable in his bipartisanship. There's nothing bipartisan about Tom Daschle. He wants surrender.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Kate, did we underestimate the importance of the Jeffords switch?
O'BEIRNE: No, I think you got it about right. Tom Daschle, as majority leader, has been able to clog the arteries of the Senate, which a majority leader can do. I think at last count there are some 50 bills that have come over from the House that aren't moving. And that means, of course, he's blocking judges, which is harmful. And he's been effective in doing that.
But you can't point to, it doesn't seem to me, to any Democratic legislative victories. The -- from my point of view -- bad farm bill and bad campaign finance reform bill would have passed under Majority Leader Trent Lott.
CARLSON: It was psychologically important for the Democrats to get control, because they were shut out of everything until the Jeffords switch. And they did get the committees. And Tom Daschle has not been turned into a Newt Gingrich, despite an ad campaign that has tried to turn Tom Daschle into the devil.
HUNT: You would agree, wouldn't you, Bob?
NOVAK: I think it battered Tom Daschle more than you thought he was. He's not Newt Gingrich, but I think he's been hurt. I think we probably underestimated the impact on Washington and the legislation a little bit. But the jury is still out on what's going to happen to these judgeship nominations. That's the most important thing, and it's uncertain whether they're really all going to go down the drain.
HUNT: Mark, we have about five seconds -- a quick observation.
SHIELDS: Al, that may have been the first time that Robert Novak publicly called Tom Daschle a skilled, fierce partisan, but it certainly wasn't the last.
HUNT: I wanted to just tell you this -- the South Dakota poll, the largest TV station this week, Tom Daschle, 66 percent favorable, right where he was a year ago, despite $1 million being spent by right-wing groups against him out there. It's not working. You can't demonize him, because he's not a demon.
We'll be back with the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG. Our "Newsmaker of the Week," Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, talks about his anti-human cloning bill.
"Beyond the Beltway" looks at the presidential election in Colombia with CNN correspondent Harris Whitbeck. And our "Outrages of the Week," all after the news following these messages.
HUNT: Welcome back to the second half of The CAPITAL GANG. I'm Al Hunt with the full gang, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne, Margaret Carlson, and in San Francisco, Mark Shields.
Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, the principal sponsor of the anti-human cloning bill. Sam Brownback, age 45; residence, Topeka, Kansas; religion, Methodist; undergraduate from Kansas State University, law degree from the University of Kansas; Kansas secretary of agriculture from 1986 to 1993; elected to the U.S. House of Representatives 1994; and elected to the Senate in 1996.
I sat down with Senator Brownback in his Capitol Hill office earlier this week.
HUNT: Senator, what's the central issue in this cloning fight?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: I think the central issue is the legal status of a young human. It's whether you would look at the clone, the embryo, whatever you want to call it -- is this a person, or is it a piece of property. It's one or the other.
HUNT: Well, your opponents, of course, say that reproductive cloning, cloning to create another human, of course, ought to be outlawed. But the therapeutic cloning, or as they call it, nuclear transplantation, is quite a different matter. You would disagree.
BROWNBACK: Well, I think it is, because the distinction between their bill and the bill that I've put forward along with Mary Landrieu is that they would say it's illegal to implant the young human or the clone or the embryo, whatever you want to call it. You can't implant it in a mother's womb, and if you do, there's a significant penalty. But I say that it's the creation of it that we should not do.
HUNT: Well, some of this debate is, by necessity, theological. Orrin Hatch, who opposes you on this one, says life can't begin without an egg and a sperm and a womb. You can't grow a person in a petrie dish. Now, you, I gather, believe that these cells constitute life.
BROWNBACK: Well, what if you did implant the young clone? What if you did put it in the womb? We have the technology today to create Dolly, the person, the same as Dolly the lamb was created. Now, is that a person, then? Is that life? I think it is.
HUNT: The majority of researchers and scientists, starting with the National Academy of Science, favor, again, what they call nuclear transplantation, because they say it has great potential in treating Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, brain injuries, juvenile diabetes and cancer.
BROWNBACK: The vast majority of the public is opposed to it. So you could say, well, the researchers are on one area, and the public is saying, "We really don't like the notion of cloning."
HUNT: I guess what I'm asking -- is the potential to treat these terrible, terrible diseases...
BROWNBACK: Which I want treated. I voted to double the funding for the National Institutes of Health. I am a strong proponent of research. I co-chair the Cancer Caucus in the United States Senate. I've had cancer myself. My dad has had cancer. These are terrible maladies that need to be cured.
But the same people that are saying that this holds great potential to cure in these areas said the same thing about embryonic stem cell research last summer, said the same thing about fetal tissue research 10 years ago. What's happened with fetal tissue research? We put a lot of money into it. We haven't had the results.
The results are coming in the adult stem cell area.
HUNT: Why not try both for a limited period of time and see what works?
BROWNBACK: Three main arguments -- number one, is it a person or a piece of property? And if you can't get past that one, OK, but let's say you think this is just a piece of property. All right. To move it on forward, you're going to have to harvest a number of women's eggs to do this. So you're going to have to cause and pay a number of women to super-ovulate to be able to get the eggs to do this. Another argument the environmentalists put forward is you are commodifying the human species by doing this. You're making women into factories. You're making people into livestock by doing that.
The final thing would be we're on the brink of a major biological revolution. We're into a human genome project with the things we're learning about stem cells, adult stem cells. This is a great science that we're breaking into. We should really be cautious as we break into this field.
HUNT: It's going to probably come to the Senate floor early next month. It's going to require 60 votes. Do you have the 60 votes now?
BROWNBACK: We don't, and they don't, either. Neither side has the 60 votes on this. So I don't know if we're going to be able to reach some sort of compromise in the process, or if it'll just die in the Senate.
The United States, though, does need to speak on this. It's an international issue. The United States leads the world, particularly the world on moral issues, and this has a significant moral component in it.
We lead the world in scientific issues. It has a scientific component in it. We do need to speak about it.
HUNT: Kate, since Senator Brownback does not have the 60 votes to break a filibuster, is he engaged in an exercise in futility?
O'BEIRNE: Rather than being engaged in an exercise in futility, this is the most crucial thing this Congress or any in my memory will be defining. Years from now, when senators are long retired, somebody's going to say, "When there was a vote, and Washington was trying to figure out are we going to harvest human beings to serve utilitarian ends, where were you, senator?"
I mean, this is not an appropriations bill. This is the real deal, Al, and it couldn't be more fundamentally important (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
CARLSON: There are those people who don't think a blastocyst and Parkinson's Disease in Michael J. Fox have a moral equivalency, and the blastocyst deserves that kind of protection. If our religion doesn't require that, then we would be in the thrall of people like the Christian right who do and deprived of this research. And I'm waiting for these people to be against in vitro fertilization, which is similar to what Senator Brownback is describing, and then take from millions of women the opportunity to have children, because it produces extra embryos.
HUNT: Robert Novak. NOVAK: This is a debate over whether science predominates all -- you can never limit science, even we don't know if the science will work. The American people are on Senator Brownback's side. The House is on his side. The House passed the bill overwhelmingly.
An interesting thing to me -- if I could just make a political thing -- the president came out in one of the big White House take- outs in April in support of the Brownback bill -- hasn't said a word since. What does that mean? Does that mean it's not important, or he doesn't have time?
HUNT: Mark Shields.
SHIELDS: Al, you know, the fundamental question -- I have to say this. I've never been a big Sam Brownback fan, but I thought he was very thoughtful in his presentation and very serious.
This is a big one, Al. And Kate is right again. That's twice in one show, Kate. I mean, does the creation of human life -- is it in the creation of an embryo, a fertilized embryo? And I think that's what we're talking about, and it deserves -- it deserves a serious public debate. And I can commend both of you for advancing it.
HUNT: This is as tough as it gets. Not only did I interview Senator Brownback this week, but I went to a very spirited debate at our church on this issue. The problem is that both sides are totally convinced they have -- they occupy the high moral ground here.
Sam Brownback is so sincere and does think this is life, or at the minimum, a slippery slope that leads to taking a life. And the other side genuinely believes that there is a chance -- and I must admit I'm in that category, having a son who's quite injured with a brain injury -- a chance for great research for Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and the like.
You can compromise on a tax bill. You can compromise on a military appropriations bill. You can't compromise on something like this. That makes it tough.
Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond The Beltway" looks at the Colombian presidential election.
HUNT: Welcome back. "Beyond the Beltway" this week looks at Sunday's presidential election in Colombia. Suffering from a worsening 38-year-old guerrilla war. The heavy favorite is Alvaro Uribe, a former governor of one of the most violent-torn provinces. A conservative running as an independent, Uribe has promised a tougher military line against the guerrillas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALVARO URIBE, COLOMBIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every country affected with terrorism has to take a realistic line in order to defend the people, in order to preserve the freedom. This is my line. The guerrillas, they do not dialogue with weak governments. Finally, they dialogue and they reach agreements, peace agreements, with governments with enough strength in order to contain them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Joining us now via videophone from Bogota is Harris Whitbeck, CNN's Mexico City bureau chief. Good to have you with us again, Harris.
HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN MEXICO CITY BUREAU CHIEF: Thank you. Good to be with you again.
HUNT: Harris, does the election of Uribe mean the people of Colombia want a military solution?
WHITBECK: I think so. I think what the people have seen over the last four years is that the government has tried to make peace overtures. The government of outgoing President Pastrana actually handed over a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of land about the size of Switzerland to the FARC guerrillas, as a gesture, as a way of getting the peace process back on track. That has obviously failed. President Pastrana declared the end of the peace process in February, and now people really seem to be fed up with the ongoing and very, very horrific violence that this country has -- has seen.
Alvaro Uribe has been campaigning on a platform of security, of providing security, and of tough government policies against the FARC. As you heard him say, he believes that guerrillas will only negotiate with a strong government, and he certainly has said that he would make the government much stronger. He wants to intensify the war against the FARC. He wants to make the military and the police stronger, and he also wants to involve private citizens in this effort. He says that he wants to create a corps of one million Colombians who would be willing to share information with the authorities, again in this effort to win the war against both the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) guerrillas and also (UNINTELLIGIBLE) paramilitary units.
HUNT: Bob Novak.
NOVAK: Harris, has he -- has Signor Uribe in his campaign made clear whether he will take a military operation to clean out the FARC from the area that was given by the previous administration?
WHITBECK: Well, what he said, he -- I asked him about that when we interviewed him last weekend, and he wasn't very specific. All he would say was, again, that appeasement negotiations will only work if the government is strong. The implication is that the military war would have to be intensified.
I spent the last couple of days out on patrol with the Colombian military, just talking to the local commander, talking to the troops, they seem to feel that the war will be intensified, and they will be ordered to, as you try, to try to clean out the FARC from some of these areas.
But the concern is that after the demilitarized zone was declared invalid, was canceled, many of the guerrilla commanders have fled up toward the border with Venezuela, so there is a lot of military intelligence work that has to be done in order for this military campaign, if it starts, to be successful.
CARLSON: Harris, yes, Harris, one of the candidates was kidnapped in February -- Ingrid Betancourt, who was educated here, and I think there are 17 candidates from the past in jail, and there is a $50,000 bounty on Uribe, dead, not dead or alive, dead, and you can hire a contract killer for $10. He's rarely seen. Is he going to be assassinated? Is he ever going to be able to walk in public?
WHITBECK: Well, you know, there was an assassination attempt on Uribe just three or four weeks ago, and that made him change his style of campaigning. He no longer went out into the streets, no longer had, you know, public concentrations of supporters. He's ran his campaign by television.
Violence is very much a part of daily life here. It's also effected the way people might vote, and officials, even the president, have expressed concerns that either rightist paramilitaries or leftist guerrillas might try to influence the vote by threatening communities making sure that they vote for a determined candidate.
So it's going to be very difficult to govern here. I was talking to Alvaro Uribe's security people, and I was asking them, you know, what was going to happen after Uribe reaches the presidency, if that's the case? And they say, well, if that's the case, obviously the presidential guard is much stronger than any private security firm, but still it's going to be very difficult, and Uribe has not made many friends among the leftist party. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) already tried to assassinate him, and you know, it's safe to...
HUNT: Harris, I'm going to...
WHITBECK: ... security people think that it might happen again.
HUNT: Harris, we only have 60 seconds left, and both Kate and Mark have a very quick question -- Kate.
O'BEIRNE: Harris, Uribe is counting on U.S. military aid in this military war. Should he be confident that's coming his way?
WHITBECK: I think so. The U.S. Congress is looking at trying to expand Plan Colombia, which is an $1.8 billion assistance plan, and judging from what I've heard from President Bush, I think that might be the case. They say they need more aid.
HUNT: OK. Mark Shields?
SHIELDS: Harris, does Uribe pose any threat to the outlaw paramilitaries? I mean, I know his basic attention has been on the leftist guerrillas, but what about them?
WHITBECK: Well, he says that they have to be fought, they have to be done away with as well, but there has been a lot of talk of alleged ties between Uribe and those paramilitaries. They obviously support his political ideals. He as president would be obligated, however, to do away with all regular armed forces here.
HUNT: Well, it's a heck of a story down there, and I want to thank you very much for being with us, Harris Whitbeck. The GANG will be back with our "Outrages of the Week."
HUNT: Now for the "Outrages of the Week."
In the war against terrorism, a new American ally has been Kazakhstan. This week, however, its brutal dictator, President Nazarbayev, presided over an arson attack and vandalizing of the few remaining independent media in the former Soviet republic. They had the audacity to report that the president and his cronies are siphoning state funds into Swiss bank accounts.
This guy is an anti-democratic thug. Even in the war against terrorism, we ought to remember the trouble such alliances have brought us in the past -- Bob.
NOVAK: "The New York Times" reports that American Jewish organizations have conducted boycotts against "The Times," "The Washington Post" and "The Los Angeles Times" and have criticized CNN and National Public Radio. It's not that these esteemed media organizations are pro-Palestinian -- rather, anybody in the news media who dares say one word critical of Israel comes under attack as anti- Semitic. I've experienced this for more than 30 years, and believe me, it does not help Israel one bit.
CARLSON: Al, on a lighter note, the president just visited German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who has been the victim of some very bad hair days lately, filing a lawsuit against the media for reporting he dies his hair. An affidavit from his hairdresser answer the question "does he or doesn't he" with a no, and Schroeder won an injunction against reporters. But he did not win the war. Immediately, a big German cosmetics company, promising a thicker mane for the folicularly (sic) challenged chancellor began lampooning him in their ads. Doesn't Germany's leader have something more on his mind than what's on top of it?
O'BEIRNE: Jimmy Carter isn't alone trying to cozy up to Fidel Castro, who also enjoys powerful friends in the ranks of America's pastime, no less. Major league baseball rules discriminate against defectors from Cuba who are the only foreign players not permitted to become free agents. According to "Inside" magazine, major league rules arbitrarily classify Cuban defectors as "legal residents," subject to restrictions of native-born players. El Duke (ph) has to establish residency in Costa Rica to avoid these Cuban-only restrictions. What a disgrace that this all-American sport is playing ball with Fidel.
HUNT: And in San Francisco, Mark Shields.
SHIELDS: Al, reeling from allegations that its own analysts have deceived investors by strongly recommending stocks which those same analysts were privately ridiculing as "junk," "dog," and "crap," Merrill Lynch, the giant brokerage, agreed to pay $100,000, primarily to New York state. But Merrill Lynch insisted the $100,000 million payment, quote, "represents neither evidence or admission of wrongdoing," end quote. That kind of doubletalk will do nothing to restore damaged and lost public confidence in American business.
HUNT: This is Al Hunt, saying good night for the CAPITAL GANG. And a happy Memorial Day to you all. If you missed any part of our show, you can catch the replay at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, or, if you want a real treat, at 4:00 a.m. Eastern.
Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS."
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com
Armed?; Interview With Senator Sam Brownback>