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Will Congress Give Bush Broad Authority to Wage War?; Torricelli Back Out of Senate Race; Gore Critiques Bush's Economic Policies

Aired October 5, 2002 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

I'm Mark Shields with the full GANG, Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne, and Margaret Carlson.

President Bush approved a more limited version of this congressional resolution authorizing military action against Saddam Hussein, with prominent Democrats at his side in the White House Rose Garden.


REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: I have worked to draft a resolution that reflects the views of a large bipartisan segment of Congress.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I am grateful for the opportunity to stand with my colleagues from both parties and both houses, and with you, Mr. President, in offering this resolution to authorize you to take military action...


SHIELDS: That generated some fierce reaction from Democratic critics of the president's Iraq policy.


REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), MICHIGAN: I am completely at a loss to explain to you why the minority leader of the House, the Democratic leader, would join with President Bush in this kind of activity.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: The resolution, SJ-Research 46, which will be before this Senate, is not only a product of haste, it is also a product of presidential hubris.


SHIELDS: The Senate majority leader more politely disagreed with House minority leader Gephardt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: First, we're -- the wording of the resolution today is clearly better than it was when it started. It's moved in the direction we wanted it to. Can we clarify it, can we improve on it some more? I think so. I think even Dick would say that we could.


SHIELDS: Kate, will Congress end up with broad bipartisan support for the war resolution that the president supports?

KATE O'BEIRNE, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, let me first fill in John Conyers where Dick Gephardt's coming from. He told us this week, he pointed out it's the first responsibility of government to protect American lives, and the lethal combination of weapons of mass destruction and terrorists willing to use them poses a unique threat.

Having John Conyers and Robert Byrd represent Democrats on national security issues is a nightmare for their party. The president's resolution will pass, but the Democrats, with broad Democratic support, but it puts them in a very tight spot.

The public's with the president. They're trying to fight the Democrats, the perception that the public has that they're weak on defense by two to one, the public trusts Republicans more on national security. But their core constituency, liberals and their base, are opposed to the resolution.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, the polls show that the -- Kate's right, the president, majority of Americans are for the -- with the president in supporting national security. However, all the intensity and passion seems to be on the side of those who are against this war.

ROBERT NOVAK, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: That's right, and as -- until some blood is shed, it's going to be one-sided in favor of going to war. And it isn't, it, even though Gephardt antagonized people, I've had Democrats tell me they will fight to their last breath to prevent Dick Gephardt from ever being a force in the Democratic Party again, Tom Daschle, when Al and I interviewed him (UNINTELLIGIBLE) program was on earlier, we just showed a clip from it, Tom Daschle was not antagonistic.

He -- I predict he's going to end up voting for it. And they have won that battle because, instead of going the way of the neoconservatives and the far right-wingers who wanted to just go right ahead and go to war, by following Colin Powell's line, they have sucked in the Democrats, and I think this is a political triumph for the president, whether it's a good idea for the country remains to be seen.

SHIELDS: Good idea for the country, Margaret?

MARGARET CARLSON, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, he did suck in some Democrats, and Gephardt did improve the language, and he did add a certifying that diplomatic means have been exhausted, to the Congress. And now I imagine Daschle will vote for it, and it, and the resolution in Congress, in Senate will get about 70 votes.

Carl Levin's proposal is a non-starter. The Biden-Lugar may get some additional language into the resolution like the Gephardt language.

Because if Bush got everything he wanted, he would not even have the fig leaf of the U.N. inspections, which he does need, even if he doesn't want to be slowed down by them. It does keep the United States from making a preemptive strike if the U.N. resolution is violated.

SHIELDS: Al, the first vote was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the International Relations Committee of the House, and two Republicans voted against the president, only two, Jim Leach of Iowa and Ron Paul of Texas. And only nine Democrats. I mean, do you think that's pretty indicative...

AL HUNT, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think that ratio will continue throughout. I think it'll pass by about three to one in both houses. I think it is a huge victory for George Bush. It gives him a virtual blank check when it comes to Iraq.

They narrowed it to Iraq, but I think beyond that, Bush got everything he wanted.

As one who thinks that we eventually have to take Saddam out, however, I think the president has done a poor job of communicating why. I think Congress has abdicated its responsibilities as to really explore the ramifications.

Is it now American policy to preventably attack any nation we deem a threat? And if we can do it, can India, Pakistan, China do it too?

What effect will this have on the war against al Qaeda? And are we prepared to stay in Iraq for 20, 30 years, the biggest nation- building since Korea afterwards? Those are very tough and legitimate questions. And I think that's my complaint with Dick Gephardt. I couldn't get ahold of him, he was at a funeral in Hawaii at the end of the week...

SHIELDS: Patsy Mink.

HUNT: ... but I talked to his staff members, who assured me this was not about politics, take him at his word, but he got a bad bargain. He could have bargained much better than he did.

NOVAK: It may not have been about politics, but this, this may, this was made essential for Democrats to go along with this when three left-wing Democrats went to Baghdad, probably the most antagonistic left-winger in the House of Representatives, Jim McDermott, who's a psychiatrist, that, that psychiatrist really shouldn't go to Congress from a state, it's the state of Washington...

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) work on you. NOVAK: ... and, and a week ago tomorrow, he was on, on the air from Baghdad calling the president of the United States a liar. And I'll tell you, the Republicans, the Democrats, even people like Paul Wellstone, they don't want to be with the Baghdad crowd, they don't want a Hanoi Jane repetition.


SHIELDS: ... let me just say, let me say a word, really, in defense of Jim McDermott, David Bonior and, and, and...

O'BEIRNE: Well, that won't be easy.

SHIELDS: ... no, and, and, and, and Mike Thompson.

NOVAK: Nobody else is saying it.

SHIELDS: OK, I'll be happy to. I mean, you know, Winston Churchill said, "Jaw, jaw, jaw is better than war, war, war." This is not Hanoi, this is not -- there's no war. We're trying to prevent a war. Was it an impolitic thing for him to say? Yes, it was. Was it, was it unpatriotic? No.

And, I mean, everywhere they went, every meeting they went to, among them they have 10 years of active military service themselves, more than the entire Republican House leadership, every place they went they said, Look, this is serious, you've got to have inspections.

I mean, I think that's...


NOVAK: ... the rhetoric, the rhetoric...

CARLSON: ... Mark, Mark, Mark...

NOVAK: ... by McDermott was over the line.

CARLSON: ... Mark...


O'BEIRNE: ... to stand in Baghdad and accuse the American president of lying to the American people and trusting Saddam Hussein's words was disgraceful. Utterly disgraceful.

SHIELDS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- We just -- we've concluded on this show that the president has done a miserable job of communicating to the American people about this.


CARLSON: ... Mark, Mark...

NOVAK: ... you didn't say it Saddam's lap.

SHIELDS: Yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Saddam's lap. Go ahead.

CARLSON: Mark, I'm afraid that what Bonior and McDermott did, however, was to quell debate instead of opening it up.


O'BEIRNE: Dick Gephardt has been saying the same thing for weeks on end. He didn't want anything more out of this resolution. And every question that Al Hunt asked has been asked of Colin Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Don Rumsfeld on Capitol Hill. All have been answered.

There are some unknowns, but these questions have all been asked and answered.

HUNT: Dick Gephardt says he wishes...


HUNT: ... he would have gotten more, by the way.


SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt. The GANG of five will be back with the Torch extinguishing his flame.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Senate -- Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli of New Jersey, his reelection campaign in free fall, asked that his name be taken off the November ballot.


SEN. ROBERT TORRICELLI (D), NEW JERSEY: I am a human being. And while I have not done the things that I have been accused of doing, I most certainly have made mistakes.

When did we become such an unforgiving people?

My voice is not so important that it cannot be substituted. If I cannot be heard, then someone else must be heard.

I will not be responsible for the loss of the Democratic majority in the United States Senate.


SHIELDS: Former Senator Frank Lautenberg was chosen to replace him.


DOUG FORRESTER (R), NEW JERSEY SENATE CANDIDATE: Plenty of opportunity for Mr. Torricelli for step aside before the 51-day deadline, didn't happen. Now, just because he's losing, he wants to step aside.

FRANK LAUTENBERG, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: He's really saying to them, Listen, I don't even want you to have an opponent. Just give it to me.


SHIELDS: New Jersey Supreme Court ruled seven to zero to permit the ballot substitution, and Republicans appealed to the federal courts.

Bob Novak, do the Republicans just want their candidate, Doug Forrester, to run for the Senate unopposed?

NOVAK: No, they wanted him to run against Torricelli, that was the, that's where the, that's what they wanted.

But I think that the whole hypocrisy and the cynicism of the Democrats, and this is amazing. The one thing in that lachrymose performance by the Torch -- I used to like him because he was a tough guy, instead of a weeper -- the one, the one endearing thing was, he said he didn't want the Democrats to lose control of the Senate. That's what this is, this is all, all about.

Now, I'll say this, that after a seven-to-nothing decision, running to the federal courts, it may not succeed and it may not be good politics. And they ought to take a shot at Lautenberg. Forrester doesn't look that bad, and Lautenberg is a mean guy, nobody likes him. He couldn't, he showed in his press conference that at the age of 78, that's even older than I am, that he's lost a few steps.

But this is a, a big political power play by the Democrats, and it really opens up a lot of interesting vistas for the future.

SHIELDS: Al, is this a, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is, is just a power play?

HUNT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) about Torch, he was, as Bob Novak so aptly wrote this week, someone who considered himself a Riviera playboy, and he thought that politics was about padding your own pocket. Good riddance that Torricelli's gone.

O'BEIRNE: But when did you become so unforgiving, Al?

HUNT: I don't know exactly.

SHIELDS: He's part of the American people.

HUNT: I think whenever possible, voters ought to have a choice. I think that Supreme Court decision was a very good decision in New Jersey. I think the Republicans, Bob is right, do have an issue running against, they should punish the Democratic Party for Torricelli, running against a 78-year-old retired senator, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) best they can do. But they're blowing it by this hypocritical challenge and weeping before the federal courts. That's just, I think, outrageous.

I would say one more thing, though. For the hypocrisy, it's interesting, 1990, Minnesota, let me all remind you of what happened. Guy named John Grunsip (ph) was the independent...

SHIELDS: 1980?

HUNT: 1990.


HUNT: Independent Republican candidate for governor.


HUNT: Christian right, family values guy. Two weeks before he ended up, he happened to have sex with a bunch of teenage girls.

SHIELDS: In a hot tub.

HUNT: He was going down the polls like this. The independent Republican Party dropped him. He got off, they put Arnie Carlson on, they won the election. No one's talking about what an outrage that was.


HUNT: No one -- what -- no, yes, it was, it was nine days before the election rather than a month, that's the major difference.

NOVAK: Because the, because the event, all this happened with Torricelli years ago, and no, and they didn't even care about it.


NOVAK: Tom Daschle told us he still doesn't care about it.

HUNT: As it did with Grunsip, it happened years earlier.


O'BEIRNE: Look, here the Democrats go again. They are going to court looking to overturn election law to get the result that they want. It's completely outrageous. The state court in Jersey, it's completely outrageous what they're doing. They are famously a court that makes up law as they go along. This one violates both the letter and the spirit of the law.

None of it should have happened. Having said that, I do think it's a mistake for the Forrester campaign to be appealing to federal court, both because I don't think the Supreme Court's going to get in the business of striking down every time a state court makes law, because they do it all the time, they'd be completely preoccupied. And I also think it's a mistake politically. It's playing into the rap on Forrester, which is that he's anxious and desperate to only run against Torricelli. First of all, voters will have -- would have had a choice. Torricelli's name could have stayed on the ballot. He could not say he wasn't willing and able to serve.

And the people of New Jersey would have been free to prove the polls wrong and vote for Torricelli, so they actually would have had a choice had he remained on the ballot. He ought to be running against Torricelli-ism, this kind of fancy footwork that perverts the law. He ought to be running against Senator Lautenberg. And he ought to be running against Senator X, because there's an excellent chance Lautenberg won't serve six years, and there'll be somebody else serving.

SHIELDS: Maybe you ought to be running for something too.


CARLSON: Doug Forrester gave that up by weeping to the court himself.

Just a word about Torch, that, that exit speech was one of the worst ever given, and it shows why a man needs a wife at certain times, which is a red pen and X-out half of that speech.


NOVAK: Or a good aide.

CARLSON: ... well, a wife is, a wife is usually better, and you should know that, Bob, having a good one.


O'BEIRNE: I wouldn't say that to another woman.

CARLSON: ... the -- the -- the court, by the way, is all appointed by Christie Whitman...

SHIELDS: Six out of seven, right.


NOVAK: ... liberal, yes.

CARLSON: ... and...


SHIELDS: ... in the Bush cabinet...


CARLSON: Yes, right. And the, the statute is for a fair and orderly election, and it had 51 days. And the court said 36 days in this high-tech time when you can reprint ballots is just fine. And Doug Forrester has no plan to run on anything but an anti-Torricelli, and that's his problem.

SHIELDS: It just strikes me a seven-zero decision, and I can remember when Republicans used to believe in states' rights and not always be running...

O'BEIRNE: No, no. I believe in legislature...

SHIELDS: ... running to court, running to be...

O'BEIRNE: ... I believe -- I believe in legislature...

SHIELDS: ... running to court, running to...

O'BEIRNE: ... making the law and courts...

SHIELDS: ... court to -- you know, to...

O'BEIRNE: ... but courts not making the...

SHIELDS: ... get these...

O'BEIRNE: ... law is what I believe in.

SHIELDS: I don't know what's happened...


SHIELDS: ... and this isn't the Soviet Union...

O'BEIRNE: ... I'm pointing out that...

SHIELDS: ... we want competition...

O'BEIRNE: ... I'm being consistent here.

SHIELDS: We do, we want competition...

O'BEIRNE: I'm being consistent, judges should not make law.


SHIELDS: ... That's...

HUNT: ... unanimous decision (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SHIELDS: Unanimous decision for competition, that's a full, free election.


O'BEIRNE: Does it bother you that five of these judges either donated money directly to Torricelli or have spouses who did? Does that bother you at all?

NOVAK: Lautenberg too, Lautenberg too.


NOVAK: No, the thing, the thing is...

HUNT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), let me ask, let me ask you, does it bother you that two of them contributed to Republican candidates, including to Torricelli's opponent last time, and the chief justices...

O'BEIRNE: Well...

HUNT: ... was appointed by Christie Whitman, is that the...


O'BEIRNE: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE), if the one bothers you, does the other bother you?

O'BEIRNE: I'm telling you what bothers me. It bothers me when they...

HUNT: There's an inconsistency there.

O'BEIRNE: ... it bothers me when they make law from the bench...

HUNT: No, no, but you're bringing up the contribution...


O'BEIRNE: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they're not...

HUNT: ... the Democrat, how about the contributions to Republicans?

O'BEIRNE: Well, this is a direct benefit...

NOVAK: You know, the, this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- this whole thing...

O'BEIRNE: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) contributions.


HUNT: It was unanimous.

SHIELDS: It only bothers you when you contributed to Democrats.

O'BEIRNE: Judges should recuse themselves (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SHIELDS: Oh, OK, all right, all right, recuse, got judges.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, Al Gore's return.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

A week after Al Gore attacked how George W. Bush was fighting terrorism, he delivered a major critique of the president's economic policies.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: President Bush and his political team labored mightily to create the impression that our economic problems are primarily due to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The president needs to accept responsibility for the fact that his own fiscal policies are indeed the largest factor responsible for the $5 trillion evaporation of our surplus.

The president and the Congress should undertake a complete reassessment of our current economic blueprint, because what we're doing today is simply not working.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, did Al Gore sound the message that Democrats want to hear?

CARLSON: Democrats don't want to hear Al Gore in particular, so it -- the messenger obscures the message. What Gore has done, let's be positive here, is, he's jumped-started some opposition discussion so that there can be some debate against President Bush on some of these things.

The message is not a particularly useful one, because it's covered in Gore-speak. He called him a cowboy in the foreign part, Bush a cowboy, and completely diminished the success of the war on terrorism. He gave Bush little credit for that.

And in his economic speech, he didn't say that tax cuts should be repealed, he just said they, these ones down the road weren't a good idea.

So it was a lot of attitude, few specifics, and the thing that got all the publicity was that his ring doesn't fit any more. And why isn't he wearing it? And if that's the publicity you get for your speech, I don't think you're really getting your message across.


O'BEIRNE: Let's not be positive here. He said nothing, he got very little coverage because he didn't have the strength of liberal convictions on taxes. At least Teddy Kennedy got out there and said, We ought to repeal George Bush's tax cuts.

He spoke for 30 minutes, and never really diagnosed what's wrong with the economy, and never specifically said what ought to be done about it, which is why the speech received so little attention.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak?

NOVAK: Yes, exactly, it was just a process speech, it was the, it was the, it was the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Democratic Party that's worse. He was a good Democrat like Marcus (ph). You know, let's discuss it with them, they can't, they don't discuss any big ideas, they have these little issues. And what he said was, Let's all sit down at the table and get a new plan.

Well, that's not very exciting. At the end of the speech, he was asked a question, Would you roll back the tax cuts? And he didn't answer it, he just plain didn't answer it.


HUNT: I have to agree. I thought, I thought his critique, actually, was pretty good. I mean, not a hard critique, everything that should be up is down, everything that should be down is up. I mean, you know, stock market, you know, employment are all doing terribly...


HUNT: ... and so, you know, no, but it's very, very easy to get. But the problem was, as Bob said, to give Bob his due, and as Kate said beforehand, but there was no, he didn't give any answers. And there are answers to give. I mean, you know, not just, We ought to get a new economic time, though, boy, it would be nice to have a Bob Rubin-type person back in Washington.

But there ought to be a massive infusion of aid to states right now. These states are really fiscally strapped. They need money, a lot of people are getting hurt. There probably ought to be some kind of a tax cut, payroll taxes, and we can pay for it, Bob, by going after those tax cuts...

NOVAK: You know...

HUNT: ... scheduled three years from now on the wealthy. None of that was...

NOVAK: In all candor...

HUNT: ... in the Gore speech.

NOVAK: ... Al, you'd make a better Democratic presidential candidate than Gore would.


SHIELDS: ... my name was used by you, so I'd like to respond...

NOVAK: Go ahead.

SHIELDS: ... and that say, just point out that he did, he did make (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the analysis was tough enough, I mean, under the Bushes we had 8 million people sent into poverty, under Mr. Bush, and we had, we had 14 million people lift, lifted up above the poverty line under Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

We had the median family income...

NOVAK: Do we have to get (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SHIELDS: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I mean, there is a critique...


SHIELDS: ... to be made, median family income...

NOVAK: That isn't a critique, that's (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SHIELDS: ... is down, is down, is down, in fact, it's always...


SHIELDS: ... it's the, I'm sorry, it's the economic cycle, Bob, which it was, of course, under George Bush, because he followed...


SHIELDS: ... Ronald Reagan.


SHIELDS: That's right. But I would point, I'd point out this, you talk about big ideas, I mean, George Bush has one big idea, go to Baghdad, let's go to Baghdad, let's go to Baghdad.

We'll be back with our CAPITAL Classic, how we reacted eight years ago when Saddam Hussein massed troops on the Kuwaiti border.

What big ideas does he have?


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Eight years ago this week, Saddam Hussein massed 60,000 of his best troops near the Kuwaiti border, and President Clinton issued a warning and sent 4,000 U.S. troops to Kuwait. THE CAPITAL GANG discussed the situation on October 8, 1994, a month before the midterm elections.

Included on THE GANG that week was Juan Williams, then of "The Washington Post." Our guest was Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, then the Senate Republican whip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, October 8, 1994)

HUNT: Bob, are we in danger of a new Gulf war?

NOVAK: I don't believe he intends to invade Kuwait and get the -- his armies crushed again and probably poowah (ph). This time, he -- I don't think he could survive. The strange thing about it is that Tariq Aziz was at the United Nations this week telling people, If you'll only take off the sanctions, and they desperately want the sanctions taken off, if you'll only take off the sanctions, we'll recognize Kuwait.

CARLSON: It's an odd way to try to get the sanctions off...


CARLSON: ... to throw a tantrum on the border. But unlike President Bush and April Glaspie, Clinton has come out, no hemming, no hawing, don't do it, it would be a grave mistake, and we're sending troops there, and I don't think anything will happen.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), REPUBLICAN WHIP: Well, I think it's appropriate that the president make it very clear, we can't tolerate that, and we won't tolerate that. I think it's a bluff. It's kind of a threat, which doesn't work with the United States, I hope.

JUAN WILLIAMS, THE CAPITAL GANG: I wonder if Saddam Hussein ever heard of the November 8 elections. I mean, he's giving President Clinton a tremendous opportunity here. Clinton would be delighted to make a show of strength. He would delighted -- be delighted to absolutely lock the Republicans up on the foreign policy issue and say, We must stand behind our president, this is the tradition of George Bush...


SHIELDS: Al, was this just one more Saddam Hussein head-fake?

HUNT: Yes, but of course he's also done it too, and the problem was that those sanctions, you know, have been loosened over the years, which is why he's such a lethal threat today.


NOVAK: Well, like my dear friend Juan Williams said that this was going to be a political coup for Clinton, you know, this was the 1994 election, which was one of the great Democratic catastrophes in the history of the Republic.

SHIELDS: Yes, you don't have to hit me, Bob.

NOVAK: And...

SHIELDS: I know you want to, but that's all right, Bob.

NOVAK: And so it, it really...


NOVAK: ... it really didn't, it really didn't...


NOVAK: ... affect the... SHIELDS: Kate, you weren't there, so you can say anything you want.

O'BEIRNE: Well, about sanctions, it's just a reminder of how Saddam Hussein has been willing to put up with sanctions, they cost him $160 billion in lost revenue, in order to have weapons that Bob doesn't even think he has.

SHIELDS: Margaret?

CARLSON: Clinton's coups -- can I hit him back for you? -- never translated into anything good for him, because he just kept making mistakes afterwards. But he actually -- it worked here.

SHIELDS: You were right, Bob, he didn't want to invade Kuwait.

Coming up in the second half of CAPITAL GANG is our "Newsmaker of the Week," Governor Howard Dean of Vermont, seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the tight U.S. Senate race in Minnesota. And our "Outrages of the Week." That's all after the latest news following these important 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, Kate O'Beirne, and Margaret Carlson.

Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Vermont Governor Howard Dean, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president.

Howard Dean, age 53, residence Burlington, Vermont, religion Congregationalist. Undergraduate degree from Yale, medical degree from Albert Einstein School of Medicine. Began his medical practice career in Vermont in 1978, elected to the state legislature in 1982, elected lieutenant governor in 1986. Became governor in 1991 upon the death of Republican Governor Richard Snelly (ph), elected to the governorship three times in his own right.

Earlier this week, Al Hunt sat down with Howard Dean.


HUNT: Governor, there's a sizable peace bloc among Democratic constituency, those that argue we've contained Saddam Hussein and we shouldn't send American men and women into harm's way.

Yet your position, as I understand it, is that you are a patient multilateral hawk, if you will, really indistinguishable from John Kerry. Is that fair?

GOV. HOWARD DEAN (D), VERMONT: I don't know what John Kerry's position is, because I've seen different positions at different times. But I can tell you what mine is. I believe that we may need to go into Iraq at some point. There's no question that Saddam is a threat, the question is, is he an immediate threat? The president has not made the case.

And so we have time to build a multilateral coalition. But I think we're much better off going in with our allies and the United Nations than we are going it alone.

HUNT: As a physician, what potential biological or chemical terrorist threat against our citizens most worries you?

DEAN: Chemical weapons are somewhat hard to transport, and not quite as effective, at least the ones that Saddam is likely to have. Biological weapons are more serious, and I think anthrax is the most likely. It's unlikely, I think, that the terrorists have smallpox.

HUNT: You support universal health care coverage. Why would you be any more successful than Clinton was, say, in '93?

DEAN: First of all, I'm a governor, and I've done a lot of it. We have essentially universal health care for everybody under 18 in Vermont. Secondly, I'm a doctor, and I understand the system. I also understand human beings. I believe that Americans are conservative with a small C. They don't want too much change too fast.

The system that I've proposed simply expands the three paying mechanisms that we already have, Medicaid for everybody under 23, Medicare with a prescription benefit, and then the expanding employer base system by supporting small businesses.

HUNT: You would finance this by repealing most of the 2001 tax cuts. Would you also repeal it for working class and middle income taxpayers?

DEAN: Sure, because no middle class and working class people that I know noticed they got a tax cut. The tax cut was the most irresponsible piece of fiscal policy we've seen in this country in a long time.

Not one Republican president in the last 34 years has balanced the budget. If you want a fiscally responsible president, you have to elect a Democrat.

Most people in this country would far prefer to have health care than the president's tax cut, to have decent education system than the president's tax cut.

HUNT: The House of Representatives last week voted to severely limited medical malpractice awards, putting the cap of $250,000 on punitive damages. Do you support that?

DEAN: No. As a doctor, I'd love to have all kinds of malpractice reform. That is not the federal government's business. This administration, for all its talk about states' prerogatives and local control, doesn't believe in it. They simply substituted conservative micromanagement for what used to be liberal micromanagement. It's like gun control. That is a state matter, not a federal matter.

HUNT: How about basic civil rights and things like protection for people who are disabled? Is that essentially a state matter?

DEAN: No, that is not. Civil rights and environmental legislation are federal matters...

HUNT: That's where you draw the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

DEAN: Well, and I'm sure there are other places that you can draw the line...

HUNT: You are opposed to federal gun control, opposed...

DEAN: I'm not opposed to all federal gun control. The Brady Bill is fine, we already have it. We can close the gun show loophole with Insta-Check, which is not anything that's terribly offensive.

But let's not have new gun control legislation at the federal level, because what you need in Vermont and what you need in Los Angeles or New York are two different things.

HUNT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) pro-capital punishment?

DEAN: Yes, but only in the case of the murder of children and police officers in the line of duty.

HUNT: Yours is a candidacy of ideas. There have been others that were candidacies of ideas, Bruce Babbitt, Paul Tsongas, John Anderson. They got a lot of early media attention, they became their -- they got a cult following among policy wonks, and they didn't win nominations.

Why would you be any different this time?

DEAN: Because mine is a candidacy of ideas and passion, and because I've been a governor for 11 years, longer than any other Democrat in the country. And all the other candidates in this race are going to talk about health insurance. I've done it. They're going to talk about civil rights. I've done it. They're going to talk about special education. I've done it.

That's the difference between a governor and somebody from inside the Beltway.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, beyond an obvious candor and directness, what does the governor of a tiny New England state bring to the table for the Democratic nomination?

HUNT: Well, Mark, refreshing candor is a pretty good start. He also is very knowledgeable and versed in many issues. My guess is he'll end up like a Bruce Babbitt, but he may force some of those other candidates to join these issues.


NOVAK: As Al implied, he is one of those little boutique candidates who, like Bruce Babbitt, fascinates all the liberals, journalists, they just love him. He is from the People's Republic of Vermont, the most left-wing state. They have a socialist congressman. He really is not the answer for the Democratic Party.

SHIELDS: Kate, your own reaction.

O'BEIRNE: Governor Dean's right, of course, about the dismal prospect for somebody in the Senate trying to make it to the White House. But when voters are concerned about national security, they're not too friendly to liberal governors with no foreign policy experience either.


CARLSON: Right, I agree with Kate, it's not the year for a governor from a small state, even the, you know, the Ben and Jerry state, as Novak calls it, during a time when we're preoccupied with terrorism and invading Iraq.


NOVAK: I think he forgot that Richard Nixon balanced the budget.

SHIELDS: He said 34 years.

HUNT: No, it was Lyndon Johnson, it wasn't Richard Nixon.

NOVAK: It was Richard Nixon had a balanced budget too, and I...


SHIELDS: ... 1969...

NOVAK: And wrecked the, wrecked the economy...


SHIELDS: Yes, he said, he said he was (UNINTELLIGIBLE), he said 34 years, he actually meant 33, because no Republican...

NOVAK: Thirty-three.




SHIELDS: Now, an interesting point. Next, next on CAPITAL GANG...


SHIELDS: ... "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the close Senate race in Minnesota, Minnesota, with Patricia Lopez of "The Minneapolis Star- Tribune."


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone, seeking a third term in Minnesota, is challenged by Republican Norm Coleman, the former mayor of St. Paul, in a race that could determine control of the U.S. Senate.

The latest poll, taken September 18 and 19 by the Zogby organization for MSNBC, showed a 6-point Coleman lead. A "Minneapolis Star-Tribune" poll a few days earlier had Wellstone ahead by 4 points.

Senator Wellstone kicked off the Senate debate on Iraq Friday.


SEN. PAUL WELLSTONE (D), MINNESOTA: A go-it-alone approach allowing a ground invasion of Iraq without the support of other countries could give Saddam exactly that chance.

A preemptive go-it-alone strategy towards Iraq is wrong. I oppose it.

NORM COLEMAN (R), MINNESOTA SENATE CANDIDATE: Senator Wellstone is simply wrong, simply wrong when he refuses to join in a bipartisan, broad bipartisan effort to stand with the president of the United States.


SHIELDS: Joining us from Minneapolis is Patricia Lopez, who covers politics for "The Minneapolis Star-Tribune." Thanks for coming in, Patricia.


SHIELDS: Patricia, could this race turn on Senator Wellstone's outspoken criticism of the Bush war policy?

LOPEZ: It could. It's been a very close race all along. A lot of political experts that I've talked to have said that this is the kind of race that could turn on any unexpected event, you know, a screw-up by either campaign, something that couldn't be accounted for, and this type of thing would seem to fall into that category.

So there's some element of risk, but I also think that for Wellstone, it's a chance to really energize his liberal base. I can't imagine much that would fire them up more.

SHIELDS: OK. Bob Novak. NOVAK: Patricia, the pollster John Zogby told me a couple weeks ago that of all the races he's doing in the country, the worst negatives of any Democratic candidate next to Torricelli, who is now history, was Paul Wellstone. If he is, has that many negatives for various reasons, why is it such a close race? Has Coleman put on an inadequate campaign?

LOPEZ: No. I think, I think they've both waged pretty, pretty good campaigns. They've both got very high name recognition. They're both seen as competent individuals. Wellstone is -- has always won, you know, close, but, you know, but he's seen, he's seen sort of as the conscience of the Senate, and there is an element in Minnesota that has always liked that about him.

They like the fact that he goes against the mainstream a lot of the time. A lot of the people that typically vote for him are not at all unhappy that he has opposed the president on a number of things. The question is whether Coleman can get the other part of Minnesota that is, you know, that is more conservative, that is more concerned with tax policy, that is more concerned with military policy, military readiness.

And right now, the state really appears to be divided almost exactly down the middle in that regard.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Patricia, Coleman put up an ad that could cause possibly some backlash in which he characterizes Wellstone almost as unpatriotic. It goes against him, it brings up every vote, and then in the, in the, in the, given the Iraq situation and Wellstone's opposition to the president, it looks like a very sharp attack on Wellstone that could backfire.

Do you think there is a backlash against that?

LOPEZ: You know, I don't know, because I think it is not seen as being quite as negative as some of the other ads that have been run in this race. He does come very close to questioning Wellstone's patriotism, and I think that has put some people off.

There are other people, though, that are asking themselves about Wellstone's long record against defense spending. You know, he has said that he always supports veterans, that he supports military pay increases, that he supports benefits for, you know, those on active duty.

But there is the question of actual support of defense systems. And for a long time he voted against those, and that was seen as fine in this state. But times have changed, and he may, he may wind up paying a penalty for that.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Patricia, Paul Wellstone ran in 1990 as an outsider and pledged to only serve two terms in the Senate. He now apparently has decided that he's indispensable in Washington. Given that he -- his profile of himself is as a principled politician, are voters likely to resent that broken promise? Does he seem to have gone native?

LOPEZ: There are some people who do resent it, and in fact, I have been somewhat surprised at the staying power of this particular -- of this particular thing. You know, this started in the summer. I would talk to people, and even people who had said they'd voted for Wellstone in both previous elections but said they would not this time, and it was hinging primarily on that broken pledge.

And I think that was surprising to some of us. We thought that it would sort of die down as the months went on. And for some people, it simply has not. There are those Wellstone supporters who are actually glad that he has broken the promise, that wanted him to run again.

But I think for those people in the middle, it's -- it cuts both ways. There are some that are glad that he's running, but there are others that are deeply disturbed, and they think that it calls, that it does call his integrity into question.


HUNT: Patricia, some months ago Paul Wellstone seized on the corporate corruption issue. With a month to go before this election, has that now lost its saliency, or is it still a winning issue for him?

LOPEZ: No, I, I think, I think it's still a very powerful issue for him, and he's probably the best positioned member of the United States Senate to capitalize on it, because his -- of his long-standing reputation as someone who is against corporate interests, who is for, you know, the little person. He's always characterized himself as, you know, the little guy versus the big guy, and he's the little guy.

And that's who he identifies with, and I think he has succeeded in communicating that to people. And I think that's one of the things that's kept him slightly out in front, not a huge edge, not a statistically significant edge, but it has kept him out there.

And he's held a number of hearings down here with employees of local companies and has hit this point again and again, this -- that he stood for all these things and that he voted for a lot of the measures that might have prevented some of them. And I think some that is getting across to people.

SHIELDS: OK. Patricia Lopez, we thank you so much for being with us and for your help in understanding the Minnesota race.

THE GANG will be back with the "Outrages of the Week."


SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week." Congressional offices report that their calls, letters, and e- mails are running up to 100 to one and more against a U.S. military invasion of Iraq.

It makes you wonder whom editors of "The Wall Street Journal" talk to when they write, and I quote, "Based on the e-mail we receive, we'd say 95 percent of readers of this column support a war in Iraq, and of those who don't, perhaps half are either openly anti-Semitic or just plain nuts," end quote.


Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Bill Clinton this week talked to people who really love him at the British Labour Party conference in Blackpool. "It's fun to be in a place where our crowd's still in office," said the former president, who identified himself as part of the Labour Party's Arkansas constituency.

"Our crowd" is a den of anti-Americanism. Clinton making common cause with some of the world's last socialists, who consider their own prime minister, Tony Blair, a dangerous moderate and want to renationalize (UNINTELLIGIBLE) British industry. That's the way to go, Mr. President.

SHIELDS: Thank you God for Bill Clinton...


SHIELDS: ... right?


SHIELDS: Margaret.


CARLSON: That gets a, that gets a punch.

O'BEIRNE: Way to go, Bob.


O'BEIRNE: ... way to go, Bob.

CARLSON: Governor Jeb Bush told visitors from Pensacola he had some, quote, "juicy details" about the sexual orientation of two caretakers for a Florida child, the one missing for 15 months before Florida authorities noticed.

Jeb said one woman was -- and he used air quotes -- "the wife" and the other, quote, "the husband." He finished up, quote, "Bet you don't get that in Pensacola."

Bush might not have turned so mean if he could have gotten a recount to declare Janet Reno the winner over Bill McBride, who is giving him a tough, tough fight for reelection.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: The Democrats have interrupted their phony calls for high-minded, substantive debate on current issues to release a campaign season cartoon born of desperation. Over the hysterical screams of a woman, the animation depicts President Bush pushing elderly people in wheelchairs off a cliff.

Remember this DNC contribution to our political discourse the next time some Democrat whines about negative campaigning.


HUNT: I don't know what's worse, the Labour Party or the state of Vermont, Mark, I'm confused.

SHIELDS: Yes, I am too, that's right.

HUNT: Former President Clinton, assailed for directing assistants to New York to help his wife's Senate campaign a couple years ago, is a piker next to George W. Bush, who seems to have given the entire federal government to help his brother's struggling reelection in Florida.

Now, last week, Jeb Bush falsely charged his opponent, Bill McBride, would cost Florida billions in federal education moneys. Then he brandishes an equally phony letter from the U.S. Department of Education threatening the same.

This is a Bush-league fleecing of the taxpayers for political purposes.

SHIELDS: Bush-league?

NOVAK: Is this Jeb Bush (UNINTELLIGIBLE) get Jeb Bush? Is that the target?

O'BEIRNE: Exactly.

NOVAK: Is that the big target?

HUNT: What's worse, the Labour Party or the state of Vermont?

NOVAK: It's a tie.

HUNT: Is it?


SHIELDS: ... what about Bill Clinton? Did he get your blood boiling?


NOVAK: ... I tell you, it's an embarrassment to have, this is almost as much embarrassment to have him as a former president as it was to have him as a president.

HUNT: I thought he and Tony Blair were very close.



CARLSON: Poor Clinton.


NOVAK: I think he -- I think Tony likes any (UNINTELLIGIBLE) American president...


NOVAK: ... he's around.

SHIELDS: All right, that's it for Bob.


SHIELDS: Bob, be quiet.

This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG.

If you missed any part of our show, do not despair. You can catch the replay at 11:00 p.m. Eastern and again at 4:00 a.m. Eastern.

Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS: Showdown Iraq."


Torricelli Back Out of Senate Race; Gore Critiques Bush's Economic Policies>

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