CNN CAPITAL GANG
Is Bush Planning to Invade Iraq?; Gore Blames Consultants for Campaign Loss; U.S. Investigates Afghan Civilian Deaths
Aired July 6, 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.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG, and a happy Fourth of July weekend. I'm Mark Shields with the full GANG, Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne, and in New York, Margaret Carlson.
Officials of the U.N. and Iraq met in Vienna this week to discuss weapons inspectors required by U.N. resolutions but failed to reach agreement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I'm afraid Iraqi representatives have continued to raise issues that seem only intended to prevent or delay the process of meeting those obligations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: A month earlier at the West Point graduation, President Bush indicated that the time for inspections was over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: The "New York Times" reported on the front page Friday that planning documents call for U.S. land, air, and sea forces to attack Iraq from three directions to remove Saddam Hussein from power.
Kate O'Beirne, is a U.S. attack on Iraq a certainty even without any prior congressional authorization?
KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Mark, I think based on the case President Bush has made about what a threat Saddam Hussein presents, given that he is developing weapons of mass destruction, there's no doubt he'll use them, he has in the past used chemical weapons, nuclear weapons might be in his future. And I -- and the speech he made at West Point, that we dare not wait, time's not on our side, and the need to take preemptive action against such a threat, I think a U.S. attack on Iraq is a near-certain certainty.
I don't think he legally needs congressional approval, but I think it's wise to consult Congress and get such approval. Senator Joe Lieberman will be a valuable ally in that effort in the Senate. And I think very significantly, Dick Gephardt, who opposed the Gulf War, is very much in favor of backing the president with respect to toppling Saddam Hussein. And he represents the most liberal of all Democrats, House Democrats.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt, as you look at it, I mean, it -- Democrat Dick Gephardt has basically given preclearance, like the Democrats don't want to go near this issue politically. And does the president need to go to Congress or the nation?
AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: He, well, he ought to. I think Kate is right about Stamhooks (ph), who's saying you can make a compelling case he ought to be overthrown. I don't think that George Bush has made that case yet. I think he has to do it. More importantly, you have to talk about what it means.
If we overthrow Saddam Hussein, that may be the easy part. We have to stay there for years and years and years. It's going to cost billions and billions. It's going to be called something that is called nation building. We ought to tell the American people what the tariff is, and if we want others to help us, they have to be involved in the takeoff as well as the landing.
Dick Gephardt, I think, does a dreadful disservice to America by just giving a free pass. I hope Joe Biden will have full-scale hearings this fall. There ought to be a congressional authorization before this is done.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, in 1991, before the war began there, the Congress probably had its finest moment in half a century when they debated the war resolution. Prior to that, the vote had been 44 to 40 in favor of going in. Once the Congress debated it and voted in favor of it, all of a sudden public support was behind President Bush, in favor of that invasion.
And is there an analogy to this time? Because I saw the same numbers in the "Wall Street Journal" poll when say, when people asked if there's 200,000 American troops involved, it's 44-40 in favor of it.
ROBERT NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: You know, when we asked Speaker Hastert several weeks ago whether he thought there should be a debate, and he said, he said, he just indicated no, he said they would consult Congress, but no debate. I think that is, that is a mistake.
I agree with Al that the case has not been made, but I don't think the case can be made. That is the difference that we have. Obviously there's -- they've given up trying to prove that there was a connection with 9/11, there's no connection on that. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Iraq is not a very major supporter of state terrorism. There's many other countries that you would attack first.
The only thing they say is, they got weapons of mass destruction. Well, there's lots of countries with weapons of mass destruction. Do the neighbors in the Middle East of Iraq think they're in danger of being attacked? Whatever happened to deterrence? They say you can't deter Saddam Hussein. I think we've been deterring him for about 12 years.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, who's right here?
MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Well, I may be a little bit closer to Bob here in that I think there's a case to be made that hasn't quite been made, in part because the case has two sides. The costs haven't been explained thoroughly. The memo that was leaked strikes me as one that will stop people like Dick Gephardt from wanting to race to approve it, because God is in the details.
You see, it's going to take 200,000 ground troops. We don't have -- the opposition is not organized. They met with Paul Wolfowitz this week. The Kurds aren't with us because we abandoned them once before.
You know, in a perfect world, yes, let's take out Saddam Hussein. But George Bush has gotten to a read-my-lips point whereas if he doesn't do it, he's -- people are going to question him. Without, I think, a thorough discussion with the Congress, presidents for some reason don't like to ask Congress, and yet they're so much better off if they share the responsibility.
SHIELDS: Kate, wouldn't the president be better off, really, with a full-scale and full-fledged debate in the nation and the Congress (UNINTELLIGIBLE) vote and support of a policy of...
O'BEIRNE: Yes, I think, I think...
SHIELDS: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
O'BEIRNE: ... politically that's so, and I do think it's a way to make the case even more obvious to the American public. Polls already tell us that the public believes Saddam Hussein must be toppled.
Look, the public was hesitant in 1991. They were told that the Saddam Hussein's fearsome Republican Guards would mean tens of thousands of U.S. casualties. They still, even with those predictions being widespread, wrong but widespread, they still backed President Bush, the first President Bush, when he made his case, and this President Bush will do the same.
HUNT: I keep coming back, though. I think Mark is wrong. I don't think the problem is what it's going to take to do it. I mean, I still think that, I think you have to plan for 200,000 troops, I think you have to plan for the kind of full-scale invasion you're talking about. My guess is it's probably going to be easier than that. But I think the big issue is what afterwards? This is a country you can't just walk away the way we did in Afghanistan in 1991. That's a disaster. We have to be prepared to stay if we, if we're going to topple him. And that, that costs money. And I would say the model of Afghanistan, which is far easier, is not very encouraging.
NOVAK: Well, I really think it's a deeper problem than that, Al. It's not a problem of what happens afterwards, it's a problem of what is the role of the United States? Is there a causis belli? Is there a cause for war? I mean, there was obviously a cause in 1991 because they had invaded our -- Kuwait. The argument was, what was the best way to get them out of Kuwait?
It's obviously there was a cause in Afghanistan because the terrorists who attacked the United States were stationed in Afghanistan.
But what, what is the cause here, except that we don't, we don't like the country? We certainly cannot prove, there's no proof whatsoever that they have, that they have nuclear weapons, that they have a means of delivering weapons of mass destruction. And what do we do about all the other countries that have these weapons?
They are, they are, they're, I mean, is -- I think -- what worries me is, what is the role of the only superpower...
HUNT: But we do know they have weapons of mass destruction.
NOVAK: ... in the world.
HUNT: We do know...
NOVAK: We don't.
HUNT: ... they're trying to develop more. The U.N. commission has made that abundantly clear. And we also know that this guy's willing to use them. He's used them before on both the Iranians and on the -- and on, and on, on his own people.
NOVAK: That's, that's dubious, too. We can't get into that...
O'BEIRNE: Bob, there clearly, there'd clearly be a cause that would even satisfy you, if he were to launch some sort of attack with mass -- with weapons of mass destruction. But what the president says is, we dare not wait until he does so.
NOVAK: Well, I just, I just wonder if we're getting into a position right now which says we're going to destroy him, we're going to remove him from power, and, and you're almost trying to provoke him to move. There's no, there is no reason why he would risk annihilation by some kind of a movement.
CARLSON: But, but let me just say this one thing, that if you, if you don't kill the king, if you just wound him, then we can be sure he will use whatever he already has.
NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They'll kill him.
SHIELDS: Well, I just -- I have to say I find myself a lot closer to Mr. Novak here on the, on the, on the very simple concept, A, I don't think the case has been made, I'm not sure the case can be made on the basis of weapons of mass destruction. And certainly, if that's the case for going in there and invading, if he's got these weapons of mass destruction, he's going to use them, then we're basically provoking...
NOVAK: That's what I'm saying.
SHIELDS: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
NOVAK: That's what I was trying to say.
SHIELDS: And that in itself is rather unsettling. That's one more reason we need that full debate. I just wish that George W. Bush had the same kind of confidence in his own position and would listen at Colin Powell, who urged in 1991 to get the congressional support. Dick Cheney opposed it in 1991 when he was secretary of defense.
HUNT: ... incumbent upon the Senate Democrats, again.
SHIELDS: I agree.
HUNT: They (UNINTELLIGIBLE), they ought to do that. As I say, I think Dick Gephardt did a terrible disservice to his party and to his country over the long run. But I think, and I think -- Biden's -- some people close to Biden tell me he's going to do it.
NOVAK: What bothers me is the people I've talked to on both sides of the aisle who are very critical of what's happening are afraid to say anything. That's a bad situation.
SHIELDS: It's a bad situation, and it's a time for leadership. And that's what we have right here, because the GANG of five will be back with Al Gore, a leader on the comeback trail.
SHIELDS: Welcome back.
Al Gore, meeting with 60 contributors in fund raisers in Memphis last weekend assailed the Bush administration on corporate corruption.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: They've gone out to find the hungriest fox they can find and put them in charge of that chicken coop.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SHIELDS: Behind closed doors with his supporters, the former vice president criticized George W. Bush's performance as a war president. Quote, "President Bush has allowed his political team to use this war as a political wedge issue to score political points and to divide this nation," end quote.
He added, quote, "They haven't gotten Osama bin Laden. They've refused to allow enough international troops to enter Afghanistan to make sure this country doesn't slide back under the control of these warlords," end quote.
Gore also revisited the 2000 presidential campaign, surprisingly. Quote, "If I had it to do all over again, I'd just let it rip. To hell with the pollsters and consultants and all the rest," end quote.
Bob Novak, was this the kind of good start for the 2004 Gore presidential campaign his supporters were looking for?
NOVAK: Not exactly. You know, it's very odd that he has what he calls a retreat. I don't know if that word "retreat" any word for Al Gore.
SHIELDS: It's a religious retreat.
NOVAK: Yes, and he has, he has these 60 fat cats, and he gives his speech behind closed doors, just a little taste to the press. I mean, why wouldn't he have this out in the open?
And secondly, although I think he is sensing the desire of Democrats to start hitting on Bush as we approach the midterm election, he spoiled that attack by this nonsense about the 2000 campaign, that it wasn't his fault, it was those damn high-priced consultants that he talked to, and that he made the mistake of listening to, and I won't listen to them again.
Now, the Democrats I've talked to about that laugh at him for that. So it's a -- I thought it was a -- not a very good start.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson in New York, one of George Bush's advisers said after the campaign that actually President Bush, then Governor Bush, had a tougher assignment in dealing with Vice President Gore than Gore had had in those debates, because Vice President -- Governor Bush had to debate three different candidates. There were three different Al Gores on three different times.
Now, that seemed to be the problem more than consultants, didn't it?
CARLSON: Absolutely. And Mark, you know, right before that second debate, and speaking of consultants, Rick Berke in the "New York Times" reported that the consultants showed Al Gore the parody on "Saturday Night Live" of himself, and as a result, he was like a figure out of Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in that second debate.
But Gore never knew who he was. Was he the alpha male in the earth tones? Was he the, you know, aggressive hard hitter? And if a guy can't run his own campaign and his own consultants and is blaming them a year and a half later, that's not very presidential.
And even though I don't think he had the best advice in the world, and he had way too much of it, be a man, don't blame them. Take the blame yourself.
And, by the way, if he had good advice right now, he wouldn't revisit 2000 even for a second.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, Jack Kennedy in 1961 after the Bay of Pigs said, "Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan," taking full responsibility, went to 83 percent in the polls favorable. Americans admire leaders who take responsibility. Didn't Gore look like he was passing the buck here?
O'BEIRNE: Absolutely. It -- and obviously in 2000, the voters who knew Al Gore best, Tennessee voters, rejected him. So I don't think he can take too much solace in once people get to know him, they're going to love the real Al Gore, because Tennesseans certainly didn't.
I think what he pointed up this week was the weaknesses he'll have in making the case other Democrats are now trying to make. The new Al Gore has a lot of answering to do for the old Al Gore. Where was the old Al Gore when Sudan offered the United States Osama bin Laden on a silver platter? Where was the old Al Gore when al Qaeda was killing Americans and the U.S. did nothing? Was the old Al Gore aware of favors the Clinton administration was doing for Enron?
These are all issues that the new Al Gore is going to have a lot of trouble dealing with, I think.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt?
HUNT: Mark, I've written a number of times over the last year and a half that Al Gore did, did -- before he considers running again, has to explain that jury (ph) performance in the 2000, why he was able, how he was able to snatch defeat during the greatest economy of our lifetime.
After hearing his explanation, I wish he'd go underground for a while now, I -- it was just terrible. It was not, it was, it was, it was also not accurate, it wasn't the consultants that were responsible for that dreary debate performance, it wasn't the consultants that were unable to distinguish between Clintonomics, which was loved by most Americans, and Clinton's character, which was despised by most Americans.
It was Al Gore that was unable to distinguish between the two, and so therefore just went into his own shell position on that.
I still think, Mark, the Democrats are better if Al Gore runs, because either he's going to be a better candidate, and he's showed no signs of that last weekend, or he's going to be defeated by somebody else, and they will then become the giant killer.
SHIELDS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the giant killer, but... NOVAK: Of course, but, but nobody is, nobody is going to say that he won't be nominated. I mean, that's entirely possible. I think we'll...
HUNT: Not if he continues like that.
NOVAK: No. I think it's very interesting, though, is that whereas the other candidates, John Kerry, John Edwards, who are really relatively new on the national political, can say, can say, Look at me, look at the kind of person I am, I'm -- I have this quality and I have that quality.
Al Gore can't do that. Al Gore has to attack, and that's why he came over much more harshly and stridently against President Bush than any of the other candidates.
And I think that is a long-term serious problem for him, even though the mood of the Democratic Party is, they're all ready to attack Bush. They're tired of bipartisanship.
SHIELDS: Well, I'll say this, I mean, Bush certainly did give him an opening on his, on the whole corporate corruption issue. I mean, it -- George Bush talking about corporate ethics is a little bit like Bill Clinton talking about teenage abstinence, I mean, it just isn't -- he's not a very compelling figure.
NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), yes.
SHIELDS: Al Gore, it's going to be, it's going to be tough for him not to run, let's be very frank about it. You know, of the 80 people that have been nominated for president by the two major parties in the, in the past 120 years, he, Al Gore, got more votes than anybody except Ronald Reagan, and...
SHIELDS: ... it's got to be, it's got to be an enormous source of frustration, and to him, every day.
O'BEIRNE: Mark, actually the public does see George Bush as credible on wanting to crack down on corporations.
NOVAK: Yes, no, they do, they really do.
O'BEIRNE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this week, you know, given the, given the...
HUNT: Not in the CNN-"USA Today" Gallup poll...
O'BEIRNE: ... enormous onslaught...
HUNT: ... which I'll be happy to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to anybody.
O'BEIRNE: ... onslaught by the -- but again, these are the kinds of charges that I think for Al Gore's going to have a particularly hard time making. I think the public's much more open to the proposition that during the Clinton years, when anything went, the corporate guys were behaving much as we were seeing the highest levels of government here in Washington behaving.
That's a tough charge to make against George Bush...
HUNT: ... Kate...
O'BEIRNE: ... and the public, and the public's not buying it.
HUNT: ... Kate, any Democrat would love to take that debate anywhere in America. I mean, this is a, this is an administration by, for and (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
O'BEIRNE: Oh, I...
HUNT: ... the special, corporate special interests.
O'BEIRNE: ... Enron, we got nothing out of Enron compared to what Bill Clinton gave them.
HUNT: Harvey Pitt's a wholly owned subsidiary of...
SHIELDS: How about a, how about a gentler, kinder...
SHIELDS: ... if the Securities and Exchange Commission had been in charge at D-Day, the German troops would still be goose-stepping...
SHIELDS: ... down the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
SHIELDS: ... this SEC.
NOVAK: ... if I could get one word in. You're not going to win that election on Harvey Pitt, they're not going to win it on corporate. They -- I think that, that, that, the, the, the, the point, the weakness, if there is a weakness, is, is, is the economy and the war. But all this stuff that gets you so excited about Harvey Pitt is nothing -- doesn't have any resonance with the American people. SHIELDS: Thanks so much, Bob, that'll save us some.
NOVAK: You're welcome.
SHIELDS: And probably saves a lot of Americans for being concerned about the fact by two to one, people, in that CNN-"USA Today" Gallup poll, said the Congress of the United States, Republicans in the Congress, by a two to one margin, care more about large corporate interests than they do about...
NOVAK: But that's a, that's a different thing...
SHIELDS: ... two to one, they think...
O'BEIRNE: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) too much.
SHIELDS: ... they think (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the Bush White House...
NOVAK: Doesn't mean corrupt, corrupt...
SHIELDS: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) corporate (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
NOVAK: ... that doesn't mean corrupt.
SHIELDS: ... corporate (UNINTELLIGIBLE) interest.
NOVAK: You know, all people in corporations are not corrupt.
SHIELDS: I didn't say that, I didn't say that.
NOVAK: As you...
SHIELDS: ... when you make a choice, when you make a choice between absolving these corporate chieftains...
NOVAK: I don't absolve them, I...
SHIELDS: Bob, I'm sorry, you -- I've got the last word.
Next on CAPITAL GANG, J.C. Watts calls it quits.
SHIELDS: Welcome back.
Congressman J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, chairman of the House Republican Conference and his party's only African-American member in Congress, announced he will not seek a fifth term this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. J.C. WATTS (R), OK: I believe that my work in the House of Representatives at this time in my life is completed. It is time to return home, to go on with other things in my life, and assuming one of the most honored titles in all of America, citizen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, why did J.C. Watts really quit, and is his quitting a problem for the Republican Party?
CARLSON: Well, really quit? You know, I'm sure he does want to spend more time with his family. But I think all politicians should just take that out of their reasons for anything they do, because it's a cliche now.
Two words, Tom DeLay. He wasn't going to let J.C. rise in the leadership any further than he is, and those two were at odds. He didn't get the Crusader weapons system, which was a huge employer in Oklahoma. And that was a big defeat for him.
For the Republicans, it's a great loss, because now as they go out to get African-American votes, they have to explain why the entire GOP congressional -- the Congress is all white.
O'BRIEN: Kate O'Beirne, 271 Republicans on Capitol Hill, no African-Americans and only four nonwhites. I mean, at a time the nation's growing more diverse, the Republican Party's becoming more homogenous.
O'BEIRNE: Leadership positions are determined by a vote of the conference, and J.C. Watts wouldn't have enough votes, given how junior he is, to go beyond number four, which was an enormous achievement for somebody who'd only served two terms.
There was virtually a news blackout when J.C. Watts became the number four in the House leadership, the highest a black member had ever risen. Something House Democrats had never done for a black Democrat, to help him get into such a top position, which shows the limitations of identity politics when the Republicans play them.
They got little credit for him being in that top spot, and when he leaves, of course the inference is that he was somehow driven out, which of course is certainly not the case.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak...
NOVAK: I have to, I have to correct Kate. Bill Gray was the...
SHIELDS: Democrat, the House Democrat.
NOVAK: ... was the Democrat, the House whip. And the other thing...
SHIELDS: Yes. That -- well...
NOVAK: Go ahead, go ahead. SHIELDS: Well, just to correct (UNINTELLIGIBLE), that he did have a high visibility. I mean, 1996 he was a major speaker at the San Diego convention, '97...
NOVAK: He had...
SHIELDS: ... he (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the rebuttal...
NOVAK: ... but Kate is right, he had...
SHIELDS: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
NOVAK: ... he had a very fast rise. The point of the matter is, he represents a overwhelmingly white district, and there is no Republican that can win in a black district. The problem is that the blacks will not vote for Republicans. That's a problem for Republicans. In my opinion, it's a problem for Democrats, it's a problem for blacks.
So that, that is an American problem that is, that is, that everybody is culpable in.
But I think a lot of people can't understand anybody who doesn't want to spend all of his life up on Capitol Hill playing those games. J.C. Watts was unhappy with this long before Crusader, Margaret, I guarantee you. He wanted to do something else, and to me, that's a sign of mental health, not mental illness.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt. Oh, boy, huh?
HUNT: Come on, now, what J.C. Watts, he wanted to be out in the leadership, or he wanted to be the chairman of the new Homeland Security committee. That's what he wanted. And what the Republicans said, and I think it had nothing to do with his race, but, hey, he's a good spokesman, but he's not a particularly effective legislator. There are people who are better, just as they passed over Phil Crane to be the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, and that's what happened.
Does it hurt Republicans a little bit? Yes, it does, because as Margaret said earlier, this takes away one of the few faces of diversity they have. And there's a district that was an absolutely safe district, but now the Democrats have a slight chance of winning it.
So it's a, so it's a hit.
O'BEIRNE: Well, the Republicans have a black secretary of state, thanks to President Bush, and a -- for the first time ever a black national security adviser to the president. Again, they get very little credit for that.
SHIELDS: Colin Powell's the most admired man in America...
NOVAK: And they have -- she said they get little...
O'BEIRNE: No, but when you talk about -- when you talk about...
NOVAK: ... credit for it, she's right.
O'BEIRNE: ... they are the most senior people have been administration, black Americans, ever, you know, they're not in those other agencies that Bill Clinton was willing to give people...
HUNT: So what are you supposed to...
O'BEIRNE: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
HUNT: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE), what are you supposed to say?
O'BEIRNE: Well, recognize, recognize...
O'BEIRNE: ... that they are there, that J.C. Watts was not the be-all and end-all of blacks involved...
HUNT: I recognize...
O'BEIRNE: ... with the Republican Party.
HUNT: ... Kate, that Colin Powell and Condi Rice are there.
HUNT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is that credit?
NOVAK: Al, I have, I have to -- you're being a little disingenuous. Phil Crane had seniority on Ways and Means. He was the most senior Republican member of the House in his last year of chairmanship.
J.C. Watts is a very junior guy.
HUNT: No, no, you missed -- what I was saying was...
NOVAK: And that's an entirely different question.
HUNT: ... they didn't pass him over because of race, they passed him over...
NOVAK: They didn't pass him over...
HUNT: ... to head that Homeland...
NOVAK: ... he didn't have the seniority.
HUNT: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you're right, but he wanted to head that Homeland Security Committee that's going to be created, and...
NOVAK: There's no reason why he should.
HUNT: ... and he was not going to get it because he's not a very good legislator.
SHIELDS: I just have to be concerned for the Republicans, because here's half of their leadership leaving the Congress. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the majority of leaders leaving, J.C. Watts is leaving...
NOVAK: Oh, you're (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
SHIELDS: ... I don't know, Bob...
HUNT: Are you worried?
SHIELDS: ... I'm deeply concerned.
SHIELDS: We'll be back with a CAPITAL GANG classic, President Bill Clinton opening the debate on prescription drugs three weeks ago.
NOVAK: Three years ago.
SHIELDS: Years, three years ago this very week. Yes, it's three years ago. That's right. You're right, Bob, thanks.
SHIELDS: Welcome back.
Last week, before adjourning for the Fourth of July, the House of Representatives passed a Republican bill for prescription drug benefits. Three years ago, President Bill Clinton proposed his plan as a way to spend the budget surplus.
This development was discussed by your CAPITAL GANG on July 3, 1999. Our guest then was Pat Buchanan, our original moderator, then making his third bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, July 3, 1999)
O'BEIRNE: They wanted an issue, the Democrats. Dick Gephardt wants to win back all the voters they lost last November. They want to demagogue about prescription drugs. So he created this $800 billion program to graft on top of a bankrupt system in the hope that the Republicans can't endorse it.
HUNT: There are 15 million who don't have any coverage at all, and more than a few of those, every month, have to choose between food and drugs. That's just unconscionable. Happens to be true.
PAT BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is irresponsible and demagogic. This is an enormous thing. It's based on budget projections we all know could be nonsense. Bill Clinton isn't going to be in the wheelhouse when this thing hits the iceberg.
NOVAK: The thing, the thing I don't understand, Mark, is that when they have a little problem with a, a, a, a minority of the senior citizens who need some help on drugs, why don't they try to fix that problem instead of having these universal systems where it affects everybody...
O'BEIRNE: That's right.
SHIELDS: You're talking about a nonstarter. Talk about means testing...
HUNT: It ought to be done.
SHIELDS: It ought to be done, but there is no political will or support for it, and you know that, Bob Novak, better than anybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Al, is there still no political will for means testing on prescription drugs or other entitlements?
HUNT: There's not, and I would be for some kind of means testing. But it's really a very, very small drop in the bucket here.
Really what's happened since Medicare was enacted is drugs have become terribly important to seniors. There are the majority of seniors aren't getting the kind of drug coverage they need. It will be costly, but America needs it.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson in New York.
CARLSON: Well, it's going to remain an issue for the Democrats because the Republicans' prescription bill really doesn't help the problem very much at all, and the deductibles and the costs are so high that -- and it only helps the insurance companies. It's got to be done within Medicare, and, you know, I think means testing is fine. But it's hard to -- it's a hard sell.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak.
NOVAK: This debate has not moved an inch in three years, and the problem is that all this whining by senior citizens because they want to go out to Wendy's and they want to go out to the dog track, and if they saved their money and bought some drugs, most of them can afford it.
HUNT: Are you suggesting that Wendy's gets (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the dog track?
O'BEIRNE: Two thirds of the elderly, of course, do have prescription drug coverage. And the typical senior citizen spends $800 a year. A small minority have trouble paying for drugs, and now if they have to choose between buying drugs and food, it'd be a lot cheaper to provide food for them, and then we won't run the risk of introducing price controls on pharmaceuticals and cripple the miracle industry that is the American drug industry.
HUNT: Most of those two-thirds won't have enough to spend on drugs. SHIELDS: Yes, I will, I will say this, the debate's moved a long way from 1999. In 2000, George Bush pledged that he would do it, it'd be one of his top priorities, which it hasn't quite turned out to be. But it's now a consensus. Not a question of whether we'll have something, it's a question of what it'll be. And Republicans have moved up to $350 billion. I'd say that's progress, not enough.
We'll be back with the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG. Our Newsmaker of the Week is Bob Dole, talking about patriotism. Beyond the Beltway goes to Afghanistan to look at a bloody American mistake with CNN senior correspondent Nic Robertson. And our Outrage of the Week. That's all after the latest news following these urgently significant messages.
(COMMERCIAL AND NEWS BREAK)
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields with the full GANG, that's Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne, and in New York, Margaret Carlson.
Our Newsmaker of the Week is Bob Dole. Robert J. Dole, age 78, residence Russell, Kansas, religion Methodist. Two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster for World War II combat in Italy. Postwar undergraduate and grad law degrees at Washburn University, 35 years' service in the U.S. Congress, including 11 years as Senate Republican leader. Republican National Chairman, vice presidential nominee 1976, presidential nominee 1996.
Earlier this week, our own Al Hunt interviewed Bob Dole from Raleigh, North Carolina.
HUNT: Senator, our first Fourth of July since 9/11. What's the state of patriotism in America today?
BOB DOLE, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's much, much higher. I visited two VA hospitals this past week, and I can tell you there are little flags all over the place...
HUNT: Patriotism is about esteem and love of country. Yet many of Americans' institutions, the Catholic Church, the Red Cross, big business, politics, are viewed with increasing cynicism. Is there a certain contradiction here?
DOLE: I hear people talking about Wall Street, and I haven't had any comments on the Catholic Church. But I think you're right, there is a contradiction. But I happen to believe 9/11 was sort of a transforming event, and that people are now taking a look at, you know, these enduring values we talk about, decency, honesty, honor, duty, country.
And most of them believe this war on terrorism is going to be around for a while. And I think they sort of separate the problems that may be in the Catholic Church, may be on Wall Street, may be Enron, WorldCom, whatever, but they still -- you know, they say it's a great country...
HUNT: The World War II memorial, which you've been so active...
DOLE: Right, yes.
HUNT: ... in, it's long overdue, but critics say, Yes, but it shouldn't be in the Mall. Your feeling about the memorial and its placement?
DOLE: Yes, I didn't have anything to do with the site selection. That was, in fact, President Clinton dedicated the site in 1995. But we've raised $185 million. They started the construction. It will be on the Mall. It's going to symbolize peace, not war and conflict.
I've been visiting a lot of World War II veterans lately, and, you know, they don't need a memorial. But I think it's, it's, it's, it's sort of symbolic and it means that liberty and freedom sometimes call upon people to make sacrifices. And certainly that generation did.
HUNT: It used to be that military service was the requisite to run for president. Our last two presidents have not been military men. Have we reached the point where military service is irrelevant politically?
DOLE: I don't think it's irrelevant, but let's face it, we've been -- there've been no major conflicts -- probably never was a prerequisite, because I think I'm probably the last World War II candidate we'll ever have for president.
HUNT: One other military question. Is there a danger that after the Gulf War and Kosovo and Afghanistan, that Americans are lulled into believing in military engagement as virtually risk-free or casualty-free?
DOLE: I think to a certain extent that's true. I really believe that most Americans think the war on terror is for real and it's going to take awhile. And if something bad happens, they'll accept it.
HUNT: Senator, you had many friends who were political opposites. One was George McGovern. I recently read Stephen Ambrose's book "The Wild Blue." Lieutenant George McGovern in 1944- 1945 piloted 24 hazardous B-4 missions over Nazi Germany and Austria.
Like you, he was one of the genuine heroes of World War II. Yet some critics like Newt Gingrich have lambasted McGovern Democrats as symbolizing a lack of patriotism or anti-Americanism. Is patriotism too often, as Samuel Johnson famously said, the last refuge of scoundrels?
DOLE: Well, certainly that statement is way off base. You know, I've been doing a lot of work with former Senator McGovern. Even though we both lost the presidential races, we're now working on an international school lunch program to feed about 300 million kids around the world who never get one square meal a day.
Pilot McGovern, Captain McGovern, did most of his training in Kansas, at different places in Kansas in World War II, and he risked his life -- he was even called a coward, I think, during his race for the presidency, which is certainly -- if anybody knew his record at all would be a very grave insult.
Senator McGovern just sort of shrugs it off and -- but he's a very proud guy, and he's going a lot of good work, and I'm proud to call him my friend.
HUNT: You've given more to your country than most of us ever will, but despite the fact you say it's too hard, don't you owe history an autobiography?
DOLE: Well, I've thought about this in the past few years. Maybe writing a book, maybe, you know, my 80th birthday won't be too far away. And maybe the first 80 years, something like that.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt, did Bob Dole sound like he's actually closer to Democrat George McGovern than to Republican Newt Gingrich?
HUNT: Mark, not ideologically. Dole is the moderately conservative internationalist that he has been for years. But when it comes to character, a trait that that war hero values, I think he believes without question that George McGovern is far preferable to Newt Gingrich. So do I. I suspect everyone on this panel agrees with that.
SHIELDS: You can put me down for that. Bob, how about you?
NOVAK: I'll take a pass on that one. And...
SHIELDS: A pass? (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
NOVAK: Well, first time. The -- I would say this, that Bob Dole has never worn his great record of heroism in combat on his sleeve, and he said something (UNINTELLIGIBLE) interview that I think we should all remember, that it's irrelevant what somebody's combat record was when they run for president. And I hope the people sitting at this table remember that. I think it's good advice.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson?
CARLSON: You know, what a hapless presidential candidate, what a great statesman. It's good that he's doing this project with McGovern on the school lunches. But President Bush should use him. He could have headed up the commission that Bush doesn't want to look at 9/11. You know, people like Bob Dole and Sam Nunn and Howard Baker, they're -- they seem a generation ago. They're such good, solid bipartisan leaders.
I miss him.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.
O'BEIRNE: I think it's a shame that apparently Bob Dole's courageous record was irrelevant in 1996. I am disappointed to hear a thoroughly modern Bob Dole talk about the World War II memorial being a monument to peace. He seems to be buying into this effort to sanitize the effects or the triumph of American power. The World War II memorial ought to be to valor and self-sacrifice and American victory, not peace.
SHIELDS: I would, I would not disagree with you, Bob, that great patriots, those who face combat, don't make -- it's not a prerequisite for national leadership, certainly one of our greatest national leaders never served. But I would be very leery of those who wrap themselves in the flag while avoiding that chance to serve.
Next on CAPITAL GANG, Beyond the Beltway looks at a tragic accident in Afghanistan with CNN senior correspondent Nic Robertson.
SHIELDS: Welcome back.
As Afghanistan installed its new central government, as many as 50 Afghan civilians were accidentally killed by a U.S. gunship in Oruzgon (ph) Province.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
GEN. PETER PACE, VICE PRESIDENT, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: The control on the ground and the air crew in the airplane believed they were returning fire against antiaircraft (UNINTELLIGIBLE) weapons, which has happened repeatedly in that particular area.
ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, AFGHANISTAN FOREIGN MINISTER: If the events of the investigations are not made public, if strong measures are not taken in order to avoid that, to prevent these sorts of incidents from happening, from taking place, it will not be an ideal position for our new government, while such casualties occurs to its citizens.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
SHIELDS: Joining us now from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan is Nic Robertson, senior CNN correspondent. Thanks for coming in, Nic.
Nic, what are the long-range repercussions of the tragedy that occurred this week?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think we've already seen some of the short-range implications or short-range repercussions, if you will. The governor of Oruzgon Province saying that the United States should hand over whoever were the informers on this operation.
But perhaps some of the longer -- the hints about longer-range repercussions come from Hamid Karzai, the president, who has said that the United States coalition forces need to include the Afghanistan Defense Ministry in their planning for these types of operations. The implications that Afghan officials or Afghan Defense Ministry officials would be involved in the planning of tracking down al Qaeda and Taliban people inside Afghanistan.
One thinks back to Tora Bora, where coalition forces relied on Afghan forces, Osama bin Laden and others slipped through everyone's fingers there.
Perhaps some of the other implications are potential repercussions. I think perhaps the tripwire is beginning to be set here. If there are more civilian casualties, it's clear that Hamid Karzai's government, and it's a very fragile one, a very delicate one, is -- stands in the way of -- stands perhaps to be at least challenged by some of their political opponents who will be able to at least gather support and following, particularly in the south of Afghanistan, against the United States and against Hamid Karzai, because he's seen as being so close to the United States.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak.
NOVAK: Nic, did the U.S. reaction come over in Afghanistan, the reaction to this tragedy, come over as a little bit bureaucratic, a little bit insensitive, saying, We're going to take a careful look at it? Was that the reaction by the Afghans that you talked to?
ROBERTSON: I think the immediate reaction of the United States, the meeting that evening with -- between the commander of the forces here, General McNeill and Hamid Karzai, that happened very quickly. And certainly military officials here point to that as a very positive thing.
As far as Afghans can see, they can see this joint investigative team traveling to Oruzgon. It's working very slowly. But the issues that are being drawn out here in Afghanistan that people here on the radio services here, are the disparity between what the Afghan administration is saying, the number of casualties and deaths, putting it in the low 40s, perhaps as high as 50 deaths, and that -- the investigation team has been able to find so far, the coalition investigators so far say they haven't found that number of graves that match the number of dead.
So that's the issue, really, that people hear about here.
The governor of Oruzgon perhaps touched on the -- a very raw point. He said that if the United States coalition forces continue to create civilian casualties, it takes many Afghans back to the period of the Soviet occupation. Right now it's very safe to say the vast majority of Afghans are very much behind international involvement and see it as a positive thing.
But there's a potential here for that faith to be eroded.
SHIELDS: Nic, we only have three minutes, and I've got three questioners, so here they come. First, Kate O'Beirne -- first, Margaret Carlson in New York. CARLSON: Nic, quickly, it weakens Hamid Karzai when the United States has these incidents. What about Musharraf? He's come to be seen by his militants as a puppet of the United States, and each time the United States makes a mistake, isn't he more in jeopardy? He's taken to carrying a handgun, he's worried about his militants. What has this done in that situation?
ROBERTSON: Certainly in Pakistan, where one can probably say some of the harder-line Islamic groups there are better grouped, better organized, better financed than Hamid Karzai's political opponents here, it very much plays into their hands to -- in the same way that the hardliners here can point to Karzai. In Pakistan, they can point very much to General Musharraf.
Not only, not only are they better organized, but there are -- the publications, they can disseminate their view much more rapidly to the public there.
Yes, President Musharraf is as damaged or as implicated or as -- is as threatened by this as Hamid Karzai.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.
O'BEIRNE: Nic, the new Afghanistan is called the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Its citizens are subject to Islamic law. What does that mean for the women of Afghanistan?
ROBERTSON: The administration under Hamid Karzai really seems to try and strike a secular versus Islamist balance, and we have seen in the last week the removal of the head of the television in Kabul for having -- for being essentially, we are told, too Islamic.
What it means for women here is that, particularly in the rural communities, probably very little change to that life under the Taliban.
However, the government here is more proactive in getting, in getting girls' education up and running. However, we see projects around here, the schools that get rebuilt and funded first tend to be the boys' schools. And so even though the government here, if you will, speaks a good game on women's issues, girls still lag behind, and that is a, that is a cultural issue here that's probably going to go on for some time to come.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt.
HUNT: Nic, we have less than 30 seconds. Let me just ask you quickly, is most of Afghanistan, as critics charge now, controlled by the warlords rather than by Karzai?
ROBERTSON: It's very safe to say, and perhaps it's better to call them lords of the peace now, Dostum in the north, Halili (ph) in the center, they are providing a peace in areas. Without this peace, the interim administration could not have the stability it needs to grow and put down roots.
So perhaps it's an acceptable and necessary thing at this time for most -- I think perhaps most observers here would say that.
SHIELDS: Nic Robertson, thank you so much for being with us.
THE GANG will be back with the Outrages of the Week.
SHIELDS: Now for the Outrage of the Week.
One of the true gifts of growing up in post-World War II New England as a Boston Red Sox fan was the chance to watch the greatest hitter in baseball history, Ted Williams, who died Friday at the age of 83.
The Splendid Splinter spent five of his most productive baseball years during World War II and Korea in a different uniform, that of a Marine combat pilot.
Teddy Baseball will be remembered as a diamond immortal. Captain Ted Williams can be remembered as well as an authentic American hero.
NOVAK: Attendance for the annual Fourth of July celebration on the Mall in Washington was way down. Please don't believe the official explanation that oppressive heat kept the people away. It's always hot here in July.
I think the nagging terrorist alerts discouraged attendance. But it may be less a case of fearing terrorists than dreading police harassment on the rise since September 11. Local law enforcement set up no less than 140 sobriety checks around Washington Thursday night.
What's that got to do with terrorism?
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
CARLSON: Mark, two drunk America West pilots were stopped just before taking off last week, not because the flight attendants noticed they were smashed, but because an alert security guard had.
Let's hope they're grounded for life. But let's also ground the FAA for not earlier revoking the license of pilot Thomas Coit, who'd already had two drinking-related arrests.
The FAA tolerates a 0.04 blood alcohol level. What's wrong with a zero-zero blood alcohol level? At high altitudes, 0.04 is tipsier than the friendly skies should allow. Better fasten your seat belts.
SHIELDS: Those drunk pilots really hurt the case for guns in the cockpit, Kate. But go ahead.
O'BEIRNE: Thanks to the State Department, a Saudi princess who had been studying in Florida got away with a slap on her royal wrist following charges that she pushed her maid down a flight of stairs. The victim returned to Indonesia for her mother's funeral, was denied a visa to return, and was unable to testify.
An investigation of the princess for involuntary servitude is likely to be dropped.
The State Department certainly is alert to a threat from overseas if the threat is to its corrupt, abusive friends in Saudi Arabia.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt.
HUNT: Mark, Democratic leader Tom Daschle, who has had the audacity to criticize Bush policies, now is attacked by one conservative group as being in the same league with American Taliban traitor John Walker Lindh.
House Ways and Means Committee chairman Bill Thomas also impugned the patriotism of Senator Daschle, an Air Force veteran. Other right- wing groups have attacked the South Dakota senator's wife.
Does anyone believe these vicious hits would continue if Karl Rove and the Bush White House wanted to call them off? So much for a new tone in Washington.
NOVAK: That's guilt by association, it really is, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
HUNT: What, John Walker Lindh?
NOVAK: No, when you say that Karl Rove...
HUNT: That's not (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
NOVAK: ... is responsible for what some nutbag says comparing him with John Walker Lindh. That's ridiculous.
HUNT: That nutbag is Tom Phillips, who's your publisher, I thought.
NOVAK: No, no.
SHIELDS: That isn't, that isn't -- do we have a comment on Newt Gingrich's character? No.
This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. If you missed any part of our show, don't despair, you can catch the replay, the entire replay, at 11:00 p.m. Eastern and again at 4:00 a.m. Eastern.
Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS: FAT CHANCE."
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for Campaign Loss; U.S. Investigates Afghan Civilian Deaths>