CNN CAPITAL GANG
Bush Tries to Make Case for Regime Change in Iraq; Senate Rejects Priscilla Owen; Cuomo Bows Out of Primary
Aired September 7, 2002 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Margaret Carlson.
Our guest is Republican Congressman Roy Blunt of Missouri, the chief deputy majority whip. Thanks for coming in, Roy.
REP. ROY BLUNT (R-MO), CHIEF DEPUTY MAJORITY WHIP: Great to be here.
SHIELDS: Thank you.
More influential Republicans told President Bush he must make a case for military action in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. HENRY HYDE (R), ILLINOIS: Do we want to know how close Saddam Hussein is to developing a nuclear bomb and the means to deliver it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: The president sent Congress a message promising to seek its support, and he invited members to the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the things I made very clear to the members here is that doing nothing about that serious threat is not an option for the United States. I also made it very clear that we look forward to a open dialogue with Congress and the American people about the threat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Later, Vice President Cheney briefed congressional leaders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: It wasn't conclusive, but it was helpful. The president needs to make his case not only to us but to the American people and to the international community, and that effort has now begun.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: President Bush also telephoned non-supportive French, Russian, and Chinese leaders and met today with his most important ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Al Hunt, is the president actually seeking advice? Or is he simply promoting military action?
AL HUNT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Mark, I think the president has clearly decided on military action in Iraq. The question is, how do you get there? And let's be frank, there is -- there is politics involved in this. "The New York Times" had a big story today about the president (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from Karl Rove, his political adviser.
And I think this rush for a quick congressional resolution, I think there's a case for regime replacement in Iraq, and, in fact, a compelling case. But after the Gulf of Tonkin, I think we should have learned that some -- that hasty action is folly, and I think that's political.
My guess is that Roy and Tom DeLay will deliver the House Republicans, basically for whatever the White House wants, but the action will be in the Senate. And I think it's going to be much dicier there. Don Rumsfeld came up and spoke to a private group. About two-thirds of the senators showed up for that. And there was a lot of skepticism. Even hawks like Don Nickles were saying, you got to give me more ammunition on this about what Iraq is doing.
And I think it's (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you know, way it's going to come down to, I suspect, both in the congressional resolution and the international community, is whether you go back to the U.N. for another resolution. You know, Dick Holbrooke and Jim Baker, two of the leading lights of the previous two administrations, have both said the road to Baghdad has to lead through the U.N. Dick Cheney's rejected it.
But interestingly, "Washington Post" piece this morning, Donald Rumsfeld submitted a 2,300-word piece to the Sunday "Post," basically saying we ought to have a preemptive strike and ignore diplomacy. He yanked that piece Friday afternoon.
SHIELDS: Yanked the piece that was supposed to be in Sunday?
SHIELDS: Roy Blunt, your own take.
BLUNT: Well, I think, you know, we -- what we heard in the country when we were home in August was that they want a little more information here. My view was that really only the president has -- is in a situation to put everything together. He knew whether action was imminent or not, whether it need to be happen (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- whether it needed to happen immediately.
But if it didn't have to happen immediately, we needed to make the case to the country, to the Congress, to our allies. I think they're doing that. September's a better month to do that than August.
(UNINTELLIGIBLE) some of the people who were saying we've got to have the debate, we need to have a vote, we need to have this on the House and Senate floor are now saying, well, it's -- now it's too quick to do this, even though this has been a topic of discussion for months.
We need to get this resolved. I think we'll get it resolved before we take whatever kind of break we take prior to the election.
SHIELDS: But Roy, Roy put his finger on something important here, Bob Novak, and that is that over August, the support for the president and the support for military action really grew, grew very soft in the country, and nervousness grew. And just two weeks ago, the president and, and Don Rumsfeld and Ari Fleischer were saying, what's this frenzy about Iraq?
Now we've got a full-court press on Iraq.
ROBERT NOVAK, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: It's because the -- suddenly they realized, I think the administration has handled this very badly, Roy. I think they thought they were going to go to war, bomb the hell out of these people, with no international support, without convincing the American people.
Now they know they have to do that. But they -- but it -- they haven't done it, they haven't done it well. The, the prop -- the, the performance by Senator, by Secretary Rumsfeld, who's an old friend of mine, was just horrible at the, at, at the, at the Senate. I've talked to several of the Republican senators. They were appalled. He treated them like reporters. He was, he was dismissive of them.
On the other hand, the very select briefing by Dick Cheney and George Tenet to the four big leaders went off very well. I don't think that Tom Daschle was convinced, but he, you know, he -- he was -- he was impressed by some of the things he heard, which he did not -- he did not release.
I think they could, they could say a lot more than they could to a big group.
But the idea of a preemptive strike is unprecedented in American history. I don't, and a -- it -- in -- a lot of Americans have, have pause about it.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
MARGARET CARLSON, TIME MAGAZINE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), it's such a big thing, administration Bush announced it very casual -- not casually, but in a speech, and it almost went unremarked at the time. And now he's following up on it, which is to say, the United States is going to preemptively strike Saddam Hussein.
What's happened is, not only has he not convinced the American people, Bush got out in front before he even convinced key national security advisers from his father's administration, people within his own administration, people on the Hill.
Bush keeps saying he knows something no one else knows. And that will make all Republicans and everyone else see what he sees as a need to go after Saddam Hussein at this moment. But after that meeting, Trent Lott came out and said, after Dick Cheney apparently was willing to show some of that, that it was interesting and troubling, but that he didn't think that there was any rush for a vote in the Congress, and there was no hasty, there was no panicking on Trent Lott's part.
And you'd think he would really want to go there. And what the big mistake Bush has made, he seems like he wants to get Saddam Hussein more than he wants to get Osama bin Laden.
SHIELDS: Well, let me just, let me ask a question here, because I frankly don't know the answer. I think you can make a lot stronger case that, that Saddam Hussein has been building weapons of mass destruction than you can tie him to September 11.
NOVAK: Well, I think, I think...
CARLSON: ... he's given up on that.
HUNT: ... if you could tie him to September 11, according to the congressional resolution that you all passed last September, you could bomb him tomorrow.
SHIELDS: ... there's no evidence.
CARLSON: ... they've given up on that, they can't do it.
HUNT: But you can't (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
NOVAK: Margaret's right, they've given up on that. I think the idea of regime change, we don't like that regime, there's a lot of bad regimes in the world, that is the -- I think now the whole thing gets down to weapons of mass destruction. Do they have them? And then what do you say was OK with sending, sending the inspectors, and then the line from the Pentagon, from the civilians at the Pentagon is, the inspectors don't do any good.
BLUNT: Well, I think it's clear they have weapons of mass destruction. Now, whether they're nuclear capability or not, I don't know, but I don't think...
NOVAK: It's dubious.
BLUNT: ... there's no... NOVAK: I mean, they don't have nuclear weapons now.
BLUNT: There's really no, no doubt that they have biological and chemical weapons, or that Saddam Hussein would use them. He's used them before, he'd use them again. Clearly we are their enemy.
At the same time, I'm not sure that the president won't be able to make that tie to terrorism. I think -- I don't want to presuppose -- I don't know anything, I'm not suggesting I know that he can. But he's going to make a speech this week to the United Nations...
BLUNT: ... he's going to make a, he's going to make a...
HUNT: ... the president's speech is very important, but I think this is a time that cries out for really good congressional hearings on both sides. And I think certain questions ought to be answered by people in the administration.
How imminent is the threat? Roy, I agree, there's a threat. How -- why is it different than six months ago when we said we had him in a box?
Secondly, what are the ramifications that Bob raised of going it alone? I mean, could that destabilize Jordan and Pakistan?
And thirdly, what's post-Saddam Iraq going to look like? Are we going, as Dick Cheney said, in to build a cradle of democracy? And how long will we stay...
BLUNT: ... going it alone is actually not as big a challenge for us as staying alone.
SHIELDS: Staying alone?
BLUNT: And that's why I think we need to be sure...
BLUNT: ... that at least the Congress is supportive and hopefully our allies are. Tony Blair's visit, his comments the last week, are a big move...
NOVAK: Let me just add...
BLUNT: ... and I think they'll be followed...
NOVAK: Let me just add...
BLUNT: ... they'll be followed by the... NOVAK: Let me just add, Mark, I've been dealing with reporting at the Pentagon, and the uniformed military with their 10 divisions think they are really stretched...
NOVAK: ... they are really overcommitted.
SHIELDS: The point that Jim Webb, former Navy secretary, made this week.
The other interesting thing is that George Tenet only testifies when he's with a policy maker. They won't let George Tenet go up alone. I don't understand that.
Margaret, what's the final word?
CARLSON: The fourth point I was going to make was that in 1991, when the United States was in Saddam Hussein's backyard, some of these very same people decided to pull away when he had the same weapons that you say he has now, the chemical and biological.
SHIELDS: Last word, Margaret Carlson.
Roy Blunt and THE GANG will be back with another Bush judge turned down.
SHIELDS: Welcome back.
The Senate Judiciary Committee's Democratic majority rejected another of President Bush's judicial selections. Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, nominated for the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was defeated in a party line committee vote 10 to nine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Justice Owen is being opposed by an axis of profits. This axis of profits combines the money of trial lawyers and the abortion industry to fund the Washington special interest groups.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The White House has to understand that they cannot pack the courts with only conservative nominees and expect this committee to be a rubber stamp.
BUSH: Handful of senators acting out of pure politics did not let this good woman's name go forward. Treating a fine woman this way is bad for the country. It's bad for our bench. And I don't appreciate it one bit, and neither do the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
SHIELDS: Bob, why was Justice Owen rejected? NOVAK: Chuck Schumer, God bless him, told the truth. He says there's a conservative litmus test. If you're a conservative, we will reject you. He -- he said that when Jim Jeffords crossed the aisle they were going to do that, and Senator Schumer is true to his word.
To -- at the beginning of an administration, I don't care what figures you play around with, Mark, this is unprecedented. It's never been before that you say we will not confirm conservative judges, and Chuck Schumer said exactly that that they're going to do, that there will be someday bitter retribution.
SHIELDS: Well, Margaret, just so I understand, there have been 75 Bush nominees, 73 of them confirmed by the Senate, two of them rejected. Is that right? And that was (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
CARLSON: ... at a galloping rate over what Clinton got. In fact, Clinton's two nominees to this court were rejected without a hearing. This same seat. So how can you say that this is...
NOVAK: You're asking me?
SHIELDS: It was a rhetorical question.
CARLSON: It was simply rhetorical.
SHIELDS: Be careful, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
CARLSON: And -- Right. I've let my guard down. I want a regime change.
And Alberto Gonzales said of her...
SHIELDS: The White House counsel.
CARLSON: ... let me see if I can read it, the White House counsel, that one of her decisions in minors getting abortion was an "unconscionable act of judicial activism."
SHIELDS: He didn't say that as White House counsel, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
CARLSON: No, but he said it -- he was saying it...
CARLSON: ... honestly...
CARLSON: ... but that was his belief. She is an arch- conservative. And it's not an axis of profits that moved against her, it was an axis of big business that elected her in the first place. SHIELDS: Roy Blunt, I mean, what about the Senate?
BLUNT: What about the Senate? What can you do about the Senate? I mean, it's just -- the idea that the Senate doesn't get this done is no great shock to us. We've sent lots of legislation over there that's not getting done.
But I don't -- if you look at the case, the case on the Texas abortion law, this is a parental notification case. This is not a huge leap forward in any kind of legislative way by a court. The court just says, OK, that law can go into effect. You can't give a child an aspirin at school in Texas without telling their parents. You can't get your ears pierced without notifying your parents.
But this is not a wild sort of thing for her to do. Highest rating by the ABA, only person ever rejected had that rating.
I'll tell you what I think really happened here. She was overwhelmingly popular in Texas. I don't know a lot about the Senate, but I think this will have some impact on the Texas Senate race.
SHIELDS: It's interesting, though, that the White House, of course, rejected ABA ratings as a, as a test...
SHIELDS: ... which is interesting. I mean, but she did, she did have the highest ABA rating. But you couldn't use it, because the White House said they weren't going to pay attention to them.
BLUNT: And at the time, I think all these people that voted against her said the ABA rating was the, was the gold standard.
CARLSON: Oh, but, but...
BLUNT: Now suddenly it's the standard that doesn't matter.
CARLSON: ... but congressman, can I just interrupt you? Ten of Clinton's nominees who were termed well qualified by the ABA were rejected.
NOVAK: That was all at the end of his administration. I -- this is at the beginning...
NOVAK: ... of the administration.
SHIELDS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), let Al -- let's let Al.
HUNT: Actually, it was in the beginning too, there were over 50 Clinton nominees that never got a hearing. Alan Snyder, a Rehnquist law clerk, 16 months Orrin Hatch sat on that nomination and refused to even give him a hearing. Look, the nominating process is about politics. Bob draws this bizarre standard in which he says basically it's fine, indeed desirable for conservatives to use and emphasize ideology when it comes to picking nominees, or defeating nominees, but it's not OK for the other side to do it.
I'm sorry. It's a very political process. This was a right-wing judge, and it was perfectly fine...
NOVAK: You mentioned, you mentioned my name...
HUNT: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
NOVAK: ... and the matter of fact is, all of Clinton's liberal judges got through there. We know how what this all is about. This is about the Supreme Court...
HUNT: What do you mean, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
NOVAK: Just a minute. Just I didn't interrupt you. And this is going to be a nasty, bloody fight on the Supreme Court. This is the most outrageous thing to say if a person's a conservative, they can't be confirmed.
HUNT: One question, did Alan Snyder get through, Bob?
NOVAK: I don't give a damn if he got through.
HUNT: Well, you said they all got through.
NOVAK: ... but this is at the beginning of an administration.
HUNT: But didn't you say they all got through?
NOVAK: At the end of an administration's a different matter.
HUNT: Over 50 never got a hearing, Robert.
SHIELDS: Last word.
Next on CAPITAL GANG...
HUNT: Thank you, Mark.
SHIELDS: ... Andrew Cuomo says, no mas.
SHIELDS: Welcome back.
Erstwhile front runner Andrew Cuomo, facing sure defeat in next Tuesday's Democratic primary, bowed out of the contest for the right to oppose Republican Governor George Pataki. The 44-year-old former U.S. housing secretary endorsed State Comptroller Carl McCall after Senator Hillary Clinton had snubbed Cuomo at the state fair and then marched with McCall in a New York City parade.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW CUOMO (D), FORMER NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I also learned you can sometimes have too many good ideas, so when you try to communicate too many ideas, sometimes you wind up communicating nothing.
My advisers said to catch up, this is how you do it. They believed that we could run negative ads, and we could actually make up the difference. That is something I don't want to do and I will not do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, wait a minute. This was all supposed to happen next Tuesday. You guys did it all week (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, did Andrew Cuomo steal Carl McCall's thunder for the general election by withdrawing before the primary?
CARLSON: Well, it always helps to beat somebody, but Carl McCall did. And in fact, by dropping out, which I don't find the best thing for Cuomo to have done, he saved McCall about $1 million in ads over this next period of time.
So there's $1 million in the bank that McCall wouldn't have.
But the Cuomo race teaches me two things. One is, you know, Cuomo is a smart guy, and he can give a good speech.
NOVAK: Smart alec, or...
CARLSON: But likable trumps smart lots of times in these big races, and, you know, he just wasn't likable. He said the thing about Pataki. I don't think he ever got over that.
And the other thing is, is that the Clintons will stab you in the back. The Clintons got his support during impeachment. If one Cabinet secretary had gone off during the Monica thing, Clinton would have been in a lot of trouble. Andrew Cuomo stuck by him. Hillary's running for president. They wanted the black, and the Clintons just undermined him.
They should have at least, the very least, remained neutral.
SHIELDS: Roy Blunt, your take.
BLUNT: Well, I think an election night victory would have been worth more than $1 million in a race like this.
(CROSSTALK) BLUNT: And, you know, the -- been saying for a long time, well, everybody relies so much on polls, the only poll that counts is the one taken election day. I guess not, I guess the one taken 10 days before the election is the one that now counts, at least in the Cuomo campaign.
And I think McCall was denied a victory that would have been helpful to him.
SHIELDS: I think Roy makes a good point, Al.
HUNT: Yes, I think Carl McCall has a very uphill task against Governor Pataki, who is a prohibitive favorite.
Look, timing, timing is critical in politics. Very few people can run for the first time statewide, big state like New York anyway, and, I mean, Ronald Reagan did it, Bill Bradley did it, but very few other people have ever done it.
Andrew Cuomo could have run as Carl McCall's lieutenant governor, as Charlie Rangel tried to put together a year ago. And win or lose, his future would have been bright. His future today is not very bright. He better set his sights a lot lower, find a congressional seat or something, if he ever wants to get back in politics, because he didn't acquit himself well in the campaign, and he didn't acquit himself well in getting out.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, I think, quite frankly, if I were advising Andrew Cuomo long term, I would have said, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it out this week, don't go negative, lose, be gracious, and then campaign all fall for Carl McCall. People will say, geez, you know, loyal guy, steadfast guy.
Instead he does this. And boy, if that didn't have the echoes of Richard Nixon about it -- they told me to attack, they told me -- my advisers, my adviser, I hired him, I paid, told me to do the negative, but I'm above that.
NOVAK: It's worse than that, because he said he probably could have won if he took their advice. He said that on the Charlie Rose show. And, you know, he -- and he didn't in that interview or any of the things say a good word about Carl McCall. He's really, he's really a childish guy for the, for the age of, of age of 44.
Now, the one, the one thing that I would say is, however, having said all this, I think George Pataki's got a race on his hands.
SHIELDS: You do?
NOVAK: He's -- yes, because I think he's lost a lot of the conservative base...
SHIELDS: To the right, yes.
NOVAK: ... and he better pray that Tom Delassano (ph), the self- financed... SHIELDS: Yes.
NOVAK: ... what is he, a billionaire or a...
SHIELDS: Yes, billionaire.
NOVAK: ... close to a billionaire, I guess -- does not get on the ballot by winning the Independence Party nomination, because he will take votes away from Pataki. And McCall is a kind of engaging guy. I don't think it's impossible that that could be an upset.
SHIELDS: That, now, that is interesting. The -- my, my other, my other question is this, in looking, in looking at that race. Did it have echoes of Mario Cuomo, 1992, being on the runway ready to fly to Concord, everybody lined up in his support to run for president?
I mean, they -- that last moment, there was a certain loss of nerve, wasn't there?
HUNT: I think there was a bowing to reality, but I, but I agree with you, I think he was going to lose big-time. He wouldn't have won that no matter what. He was 22 points behind in one poll.
NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) so nasty to say, I could have won...
NOVAK: ... if I was nasty.
HUNT: Right, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I think...
HUNT: ... untrue, Mark...
HUNT: ... and I think he would have been much better off getting out last June or going, as you said...
BLUNT: Sometimes in politics...
HUNT: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
BLUNT: ... you have to take your medicine.
CARLSON: Right. I mean, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
BLUNT: And he walked away without taking his medicine.
CARLSON: Yes, it's better to see something through in general, everybody knows that. But I think we're seeing a little Kennedy, Kennedy fatigue in that, in -- in Maryland, Kennedy Townsend might lose, Mark Shriver could lose in Maryland. It's just not a good year...
NOVAK: We (UNINTELLIGIBLE), only pray (ph).
SHIELDS: And both of them could very well win. And you heard it right here.
CARLSON: Mark, Mark Shriver, I think, may win, but I think Kennedy Townsend is in trouble.
SHIELDS: Well, we'll find out, won't we?
CARLSON: Yes, we'll find out.
SHIELDS: OK. We'll be back with our CAPITAL GANG Classic, the 9/11 terrorist attacks just one year ago.
SHIELDS: Welcome back.
On September 15, 2001, THE CAPITAL GANG talked about the terrorist attacks just four days earlier, including the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, September 15, 2001)
CARLSON: I think we are going to be able to get him. What we're not going to be able to do is to get the whole network. This is, this is going to be very difficult.
SHIELDS: Hey, how did George W. Bush handle his first really big crisis of his presidency?
KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Mark, I think he began the week fine, but I -- and I think he ended the week in a really strong position, performing even better.
HUNT: A year from now, if we have, we have done away with Osama bin Laden, we have terrorism on the run, he's kept together a very important international coalition, doesn't matter how he did this week. And on the other hand, if terrorism has us on the run a year from now, it also doesn't matter how he did this week.
NOVAK: The American people really do gather around a president. And I think, I think the if that Al mentioned, if Osama bin Laden is, is in custody or killed...
SHIELDS: And terrorism is killed.
NOVAK: ... is killed...
NOVAK: ... then that's, then he's a great hero.
NOVAK: But this is an enormously high hurdle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, has it turned out that the hunt for Osama bin Laden was not quite as important as we thought it was a year ago?
NOVAK: It's pretty hard to predict a year ahead of time, even if for people as far-seeing as we are.
SHIELDS: Yes, clairvoyant.
NOVAK: As a matter of fact, if you read the transcript of that whole show, which I did, it was an hour-long show, fascinating reading, we barely mentioned Iraq. A year later, we're not talking about Osama bin Laden, we're talking about Iraq, and that is where the war on terrorism, so-called, is now going.
SHIELDS: Roy, your own take?
BLUNT: I think the president has done well. I think the country has done well. We had the special session in New York this week. It was extraordinary to be there, for the Congress there for the first time since 1790, and to have a sense of just how the country has pulled together, and I think the president is an important part of that.
CARLSON: Bush neither got Osama or the whole network. He got a part of it, and he changed the subject. Now we're talking about Iraq.
HUNT: Mark, I am stunned that we have not gotten Osama bin Laden by now. I felt we would. I still think it's important. Bob is right, however, and Don Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, was more prescient than we, because David Martin, CBS reported this week that five hours after 9-11, Don Rumsfeld talked about, we got to use to get Saddam.
SHIELDS: Told his aides. Don Rumsfeld told his aides, get Saddam Hussein, tie him into this. A great story by David Martin, but it was Robin Williams who said, "how tough can it be to find a 6-foot- 5 inch Arab terrorist with dialysis -- on dialysis?" I mean, you know, that's the question.
Thanks for being with us, Roy Blunt. We'll be back with the second half of CAPITAL GANG. Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Public Television's Jim Lehrer. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at New Hampshire Senate Republican primary with political reporter Kevin Landrigan of the "Nashua Telegraph." And our "Outrages of the Week." That's all after the latest news following these urgent messages.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Margaret Carlson.
Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Jim Lehrer, executive editor and anchor of PBS' "News Hour."
James Charles Lehrer. Age: 68. Residence: Washington, D.C. Religion: Protestant. Graduate of Victoria College and the University of Missouri. Teamed with Robert MacNeil in 1975 to begin nightly PBS news program. Moderated nine presidential candidates debates. Author of "No Certain Rest," his 13th novel and his 15th book. Earlier this week, our Margaret Carlson sat down with Jim Lehrer.
CARLSON: Jim, President Bush said he's reading Eliot Cohen's book about generals and civilians and commanding armies. And I'm going to send him your book about what war is really like.
JIM LEHRER, PBS "NEWS HOUR": Well, I think everybody should always remember that wars are fought by real people, eyeball to eyeball, and that they bleed and they scream and they die, and as long as everybody who's making the decisions remembers that, then we're going to be always OK.
CARLSON: President Lincoln had a cacophony of advisers telling him different things about the Civil War, as President Bush does now about Iraq. Any advice from being a student of the Civil War?
LEHRER: Of course, the Civil War, we've only had one civil war, so there were no parallels leading up to that for Lincoln, and this is the first time it's been contemplated that we do a pre-emptive type war, and I think what the president is now doing is -- he now is opening it up to a national debate.
CARLSON: The president said yesterday, and let me see if I have the quote then -- "One thing is for certain, I'm not going to change my view about the need to remove Hussein," and then he goes on to say that, "yes, we're consulting, but I've made up my mind." So this great national debate we're embarking on seems to be going into a closed mind on Bush's part.
LEHRER: I think he would probably say, wait a minute. I said I -- I'm in favor of doing something about Hussein. The debate is about what to do and how to do it, and I think there's an awful lot of -- there are all kinds of extremes. It's everything from saying, send a half-million troops to doing something of a negotiated way.
CARLSON: As a newsman, how do you keep the debate from being the war of the Cabinet secretaries, Rumsfeld versus Powell, or the advisers, Scowcroft versus Wolfowitz, keeping it even-handed on your program?
LEHRER: Well, you know, I think that part of it is interesting. But that's not what -- it isn't about Wolfowitz versus Powell. It's about what Wolfowitz believes versus what Powell believes, and that's what we should always be reporting. And sometimes we can get caught up in this personality thing, and I just think in this case, this we cannot allow that to happen.
CARLSON: We're about to embark on the numbing of America, if we're not careful, in that the 7-24 coverage of 9-11 is upon us. What are you doing at PBS on 9-11?
LEHRER: On 9-11 itself, what we're going to do is I'm going to come on the air on our program and say, "good evening. There were three ceremonies today, and here are -- here are excerpts from all three of them." And then an hour later, I'm going to say, "thank you and good night."
CARLSON: Good for you.
LEHRER: No discussion. We've done that. There's a thing called the remote control. Nobody's going to be forced to watch this.
CARLSON: In your book, you say that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is hollowed ground. Any ideas on how the World Trade Center site will remain hollowed ground?
LEHRER: It will always be hollowed ground, Margaret, because doesn't matter what they build there, doesn't matter what they do with it, it will always shimmy and shake a little bit with what happened.
CARLSON: As a budding author and envious of your output, let me ask you a personal question...
CARLSON: ... before we leave. Do you sleep?
LEHRER: Oh, yes, indeed.
CARLSON: It's 14 books, isn't it? Or 16? Or have you stopped counting?
LEHRER: It's -- this is actually my 15th, this was actually my 15th book. But you know, Margaret, it's an integral part of my life. I do a little bit of it every day. Writing is like everything else; it all involves keeping one's bottom on the chair.
CARLSON: How do you mix the two, the newsman and the novelist?
LEHRER: It's just -- I'm all one person. I'm fortunate. There are two things I wanted to do with my life professionally -- one was to write fiction; one was to be a journalist, and I'm doing both of them. And I'm the luckiest person I know.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, what could President Bush learn from Jim Lehrer's new Civil War novel?
CARLSON: War is hell, especially if you have ground troops, as changing regimes in Baghdad will require. I am going to start getting up at 6:00 a.m. so that I can write novels. It's a really good book. I stayed up practically to 6:00 a.m. reading the book. I highly recommend it.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak.
NOVAK: You know, you mentioned Eliot Cohen. He -- his book says that war is too important for the generals, and this is the whole neo- con line that you should leave this -- the fighting, all these decisions to the civilians, because the generals are too cautious. You know, Lincoln really screwed up terribly when he was making decisions -- not until he -- Grant came in and he said, OK, you do what you want, did they win the Civil War. That is the correct historical facts.
CARLSON: So we should let Tommy Franks do what he wants?
NOVAK: Not Tommy Franks.
HUNT: Bob is right, but I'd love to have Abe back today. Let me tell you something, about Jim Lehrer, he's not only is one of America's premier great journalists and novelists, he also, like some on this panel, married above himself. His wife, Kate, is about to have her next novel come out in a few months.
SHIELDS: Al, I couldn't argue with you there. I don't pretend objectivity about Jim Lehrer, but his point to Margaret that wars were fought by real people who bleed, who scream, who die and real tears are shed for them after their death I think is one for all of us to bear in mind right now.
Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the New Hampshire Senate Republican primary with Republican -- Republican? With political reporter Kevin Landrigan, a relentlessly objective, impartial Kevin Landrigan of "The Nashua Telegraph."
SHIELDS: Welcome back. Senator Bob Smith could be the only incumbent senator to be denied re-nomination this year when he faces Congressman John E. Sununu in next Tuesday's New Hampshire Republican primary election. Senator Smith suffers in part because of his brief departure from and denunciation of the Republican Party in 1999, when he ran for president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SUNUNU AD) NARRATOR: Bob Smith. Attacking Republicans again. First, he attacked Republicans on the Senate floor, calling our party platform "meaningless." Now, negative ads against John Sununu. Bob Smith has changed. He's gone Washington. Become a Washington insider.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SMITH AD)
NARRATOR: John Sununu voted to let judges raise taxes. Smith's prescription drug plan lowers costs and keeps bureaucrats from getting between you and your doctor. Sununu voted against seniors getting cheaper medicine from Canada. Smith worked with President Bush to pass a toxic waste clean-up bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: A research 2000 poll conducted for "The Concord Monitor" last month gave Congressman Sununu a one-point lead, but a University of New Hampshire poll for WMUR TV released just this week put Senator Smith some 22 points behind. The winner will face Democratic Governor Jeanne Shaheen in November.
Joining us now from Manchester is Kevin Landrigan, respected political reporter and columnist for "The Telegraph of Nashua."
I thank you very much for coming in, Kevin.
KEVIN LANDRIGAN, POLITICAL REPORTER: It's a pleasure to be here.
SHIELDS: Oh, it's good to have you. Kevin, will Tuesday truly turn out to be curtains politically for Bob Smith after 18 years in Washington?
LANDRIGAN: I can tell you, a lot of pundits have already hit the rocks in this state by underestimating Bob Smith, in primaries and in general elections. I think the race is somewhere between those two polls you showed, Mark. I think Sununu still has an edge, but Bob Smith was traveling the state today, claiming his own polls were showing him up by two. He's certainly facing the toughest primary of his life, and if it's a big turnout, he's in big trouble.
SHIELDS: As a president, Bob, in 1996, the last time he ran, you recall the networks...
SHIELDS: ... the networks declared Dick Sweatt (ph), the Democrat, the winner.
NOVAK: Including CNN.
SHIELDS: Yes, yes, that's right. Go ahead.
NOVAK: I guess -- I guess John Zogby, polling Sununu who's got about a 10-point lead. The question I wanted to ask Kevin is, there's been an undercurrent all year long that there was going to be -- that the Middle East issue was going to be raised, because Congressman Sununu is of Lebanese extraction. There's been -- Jewish money has been influential in a couple of Democratic primaries. Have you seen this as an issue, or has money come in because of this issue, as far as you can see?
LANDRIGAN: A lot of stories have speculated on that, Bob, and certainly Bob Smith has a lot of financial support from the Jewish community. He's got a very pro-Israel record throughout his term -- years in the Senate, and so I think some of the contributions have come in, but everything you speak of -- and we've had stories up here on the speculation you have, as well as "Washington Times" earlier this week had a story -- it's all under the radar and it's pretty -- I think it's too late now for any kind of real effect, particularly on the air, to try and sink John Sununu.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
CARLSON: Kevin, across the country, budget shortfalls and tough economic times have been taking the glow off of governors. How is Governor Jeanne Shaheen holding up in New Hampshire?
LANDRIGAN: Under the circumstances, Margaret, pretty well. You're right, in New Hampshire, we have -- we -- it looks as if we're going to balance our two-year budget pretty well, but revenues have really dropped precipitously, although New Hampshire's economy is doing a lot better than the rest of New England. Jeanne Shaheen's biggest problem this year has been the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. They've spent $1 million in advertising, attacking her record on education and taxes. As you know, Margaret, two issues that really cut up here.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt.
HUNT: Kevin, the conventional wisdom all along, at least in Washington, has been that Sununu would be a far stronger candidate against Jeanne Shaheen in November. Let's just assume for a minute that Sununu does narrowly win the race next Tuesday. Is that conventional wisdom necessarily true? Will the Smith people rally behind Sununu, or are they more likely to feel disenfranchised for November?
LANDRIGAN: I think most of the Smith people will unite behind Sununu, just as I believe Sununu's people will unite behind Smith. There is no question people very close to this campaign really have bitter feelings toward each other, and that's going to remain, but realistically, this has been -- and I'm sure you've noticed, Al -- a lot less negative a campaign than we expected, and a lot shorter in terms of its negativity that's really come up in the last three or four weeks. I think that's been deliberate by both candidates. They both kept their eye on the ball. Jeanne Shaheen is the best Democrat to run for the Senate in a quarter-century in this state, and if you went too negative against the other, there would be too much of a wounded nominee.
Sununu is going to get a huge bump if he wins this primary Tuesday night. He will be a giant-killer. The question then becomes, he'll be a fresh face and still a relatively new face to half of the state that he doesn't represent. You can bet Jeanne Shaheen is going to spend the 10 days after the primary, educating, in quotes, on John Sununu and his record.
SHIELDS: Kevin, we have just about a minute, but I was in New Hampshire. What really impressed me was that Bob Smith seems to have a tactical flanking on John Sununu. I mean, he's -- from prescription drugs from Canada, New Hampshire voters are getting it on the left, he's against drilling in ANWR -- sort of runs a green, enviro campaign, and then he comes back on this obscure vote in the House on judges that they vote against their raising taxes. The Sununu messages just seems to be, a senator you can respect and talks about the future. Is there something I'm missing in this Sununu theme beyond that?
LANDRIGAN: No, I think you've hit on it, Mark, and that's the real question. Tuesday will tell us whether Bob Smith is trying to do something only two people in the last 140 years in New Hampshire have done, and that's win renomination to a third six-year term. We generally, as you know, chew up politicians and spit them out. And the question is, has the fatigue factor set in with Bob Smith? I think the Sununu camp believes it has, and I think they've felt they didn't have much more to say other than what you just said, in order to give Republicans a reason to turn him out.
SHIELDS: Kevin Landrigan, thank you very much for being with us. THE GANG will be back with our "Outrages of the Week."
SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week."
Court records revealed that Jack Welch, the arrogant former CEO of General Electric, continues to live like an oil sheik, with jets, Manhattan apartments, satellite TV in his four homes, four country club memberships and tickets to the opera, the Yankees and Wimbledon, all paid for by GE itself. Corporate watchdog Nel Mino (ph) says, quote, "it is appalling to me that Jack Welch's flowers, as well as his magazines, are being paid for by the retired firemen and teachers who are the GE shareholders," end quote. With a salary of $16.7 million a year, what the hell does Jack Welch ever pay for?
NOVAK: On August 25, when former U.S. Army scientist Steven Hatfill attacked the Justice Department for harassing him in the anthrax murder cases, his praised his employer, Louisiana State University, for what he called "incredible sensitivity." LSU's sensitivity came to an end this week. It fired Hatfill because the federal government would not let him work on its contracts with LSU. No accusations, no charges, no comment by the Justice Department. Does that sound like Joseph K., the victim of government persecution in Kafka's "The Trial?"
SHIELDS: Good question. Margaret. CARLSON: It does, Bob.
A women's group privately asked Hootie Johnson, chairman of Augusta National and host of the Masters golf tournament to consider admitting women. You'd think they'd attacked him with a three wood. Women, he huffed, would never be admitted at the, quote, "point of a bayonet." He dropped three commercial sponsors rather than be pressured by them, and he'll go to pay-per-view if CBS balks at broadcasting. Which it should if it wants to keep women viewers. Hootie can be a bully guarding the treehouse from the girls, but CBS network shouldn't broadcast such a hateful spectacle.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt.
HUNT: Mark, along with Jack Welch, Albert Haxel (ph) Dunlap, the CEO of Sunbeam, used to be the model of a tough CEO -- eager to ax employees and increase shareholder value -- except he was a fraud. This week, Haxel (ph) paid a $500,000 fine to the SEC and was banned from ever again serving as an officer or a director of a public company. Earlier, he paid $15 million to settle a shareholder suit. As for Sunbeam shareholders, the stock has plummeted from $53 a share to nine cents. It's worthless, as is Haxel (ph).
SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. If you've missed any part of our show, get down off the bridge. you can catch the replay at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, and again at 4:00 a.m. Eastern. That's a lot to look forward to.
Coming up next, CNN PRESENTS "Beneath the Veil."
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Rejects Priscilla Owen; Cuomo Bows Out of Primary>