CNN CAPITAL GANG
Congress Authorizes Use of Force in Iraq; Bush Calls on Longshoremen to Reopen West Coast Ports; Interview With Ted Sorensen
Aired October 12, 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.
AL HUNT, HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG.
I'm Al Hunt, with Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne, and Margaret Carlson.
Our guest is Republican Congressman Peter King of New York.
Peter, it's always good to have you here.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Great to be here.
HUNT: Thanks for coming.
Congress authorized President Bush to use force against Saddam Hussein, more than two to one by the House, better than three to one by the Senate. President Bush described the message to Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It must disarm and comply with all existing U.N. resolutions or it will be forced to comply.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: House Democrats opposed the resolution 126 to 82, Senate Democrats supported it 29 to 21. But the two most senior Democratic senators were opposed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We cannot go it alone in attacking Iraq and expect Saddam to keep his weapons of mass destruction at bay against us or our ally, Israel.
SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Congress might as well just close the doors, put a sign over the door, and say, Going fishing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: The party's House and Senate leaders voted yes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: We stand here today not as arguing Republicans and Democrats but as Americans using the sacred rite of free speech and thought and freedom to determine our collective course.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: For me, the deciding factor is my belief that a united Congress will help the president unite the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Margaret, why did so many Democrats reject their leaders?
MARGARET CARLSON, TIME MAGAZINE: In the House, as Pete was saying beforehand, the districts are so exquisitely drawn that the members aren't much in jeopardy from voting the way the base in their district would want. In the Senate, the 21 nos are senators, I think, that have looked in the mirror and have not seen a president looking back.
So they are never going to run for president, and they voted, they voted no.
And the ones that did were voting for a resolution that was different than the, than, than where we started in this debate. It has brakes in it and speed bumps. And, you know, the president said he'd never go to Congress, that he'd never go to U.N., he's doing both now.
HUNT: Kate, the old mirror test, huh?
KATE O'BEIRNE, NATIONAL REVIEW: I do think that's true. The -- one of these people, we're already speculating about those Democrats in the Senate who might be looking to run for president, all gave the president approval on this, even though they had expressed all sorts of incoherent reservations beforehand.
And I think Margaret's right. The House Democratic caucus is very liberal, very liberal. These Democrats in the Senate have to run statewide. In fact, those running for reelection at the moment are busy running back home as conservatives, even though that's not how they vote here in the Senate.
So I wasn't surprised to see more Democratic support in the Senate than there was in the House.
HUNT: Peter, was this one of those votes where members thought that this is, this is seminal, a seminal moment with lots of implications thereafter or not?
KING: Yes, I think, no matter what side of it you're on, you realize this was an historic vote. We are talking about people in, you know, issue of life and death, so it has to be, you know, one of the most important votes you'll ever cast.
But as far as the issue of the Democrats in the House, I was surprised that more Democrats didn't vote with the president. I think I would sort of follow up on what Margaret and Kate said, is that Democrats in the House are much more liberal and much further to the left than the national Democratic Party tries to be.
Despite Bill Clinton's best efforts, Dick Gephardt's best efforts, the House Democrats are to the left of the national mainstream. I think that came out in this vote.
ROBERT NOVAK, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: I think there's another factor. Well, in support for what everybody has said, but there -- the House members, Democratic House members, were getting phone calls 100 to 1, more than 100 to 1 against the resolution. One member who voted for it because he thought it was a good idea, his was 500 to 1.
But what does that mean? That means that the Democratic base are really very, very much to the left. And another factor is, you have the African-American, the Congressional Black Caucus, voted almost all of them voted against it. And they're a very important part of the House right now.
So a lot of -- some Democrats have told me who are against the resolution, they didn't think they could get 45 votes. They got over 100 votes. I think the Democratic Party just wants to get away from this issue as fast as they can, because it's very divisive for Democrats. It's a spunner (ph).
HUNT: Well, will they get away from it, Kate?
O'BEIRNE: I don't think they would, Al, and I think they have the worst of both worlds. Their own base is upset, because it's an antiwar base, and that those Democrats trying to improve their party's image on national security issues, which has been a problem for them at the national level for years, I think voted for the resolution.
They're not the ones on TV, though, making the Democrats' case, or in the media making the Democrats' case on the war. You tend to hear the liberal antiwar Democrats representing the broader party on TV.
So I don't know that the Democrats who did support George Bush are going to, are really going to benefit the party very much.
HUNT: Well, Margaret, you think this will be something that's going to keep resonating for the next three weeks?
CARLSON: Well, you know, I heard something this week. Two weeks ago, Powell said regime change will be accomplished if we have a disarmament of Saddam Hussein. An echo of that was in Bush's speech this week. Instead of backing off of that and correcting Powell, I see Bush moving towards the Powell view. You...
NOVAK: I, I say, I agree with you. I think Powell -- I said several weeks ago, Powell was in the driver's seat, and I think Kate disagreed with me. I think he's still in the driver's seat. I think it would be a huge...
NOVAK: ... there's a huge change...
NOVAK: ... Powell, Kate, and her buddies, and particular their neo-con buddies, they just wanted to, maybe even Peter, just wanted to bomb the hell out of Baghdad. Don't worry about the U.N., don't worry about Congress, don't worry about the Democrats. Just show where we stand, us and Israel, against the world, and...
O'BEIRNE: ... Bob, I always said he should go to Congress. And if he, if he hadn't shown his intent to act, to act alone if need be, he would never be getting the reception he's getting at the U.N.
HUNT: Peter, I have no doubt -- I -- on this one, I guess, I'm, I'm, I'm closer to what, what Kate's views (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with the policies. I have no doubt that this administration, that regime replacement is the policy. There was a story this week, they're already talking about a Douglas MacArthur in a post-Saddam Iraq.
Is the politics going to continue to be good for George Bush in that situation? I don't think getting rid of Saddam is going to be as hard as governing Iraq thereafter. But obviously...
HUNT: Now, are we going to spend, are we going to spend huge amounts of money and be willing to stay there for 20 years with a Douglas MacArthur-type...
KING: Well, we may have to, and it may turn out to be not that popular. I think the president feels that it has to be done.
But getting back to what we said before as far as the president is concerned, Democrats who have to run statewide or nationwide, they realize that right now, President Bush is very popular, and the American people trust him. Democrats running in small House seats with a strong Democratic base don't feel that. I think, and I think you're out of touch, yes.
NOVAK: Let me make one point. I'm sorry that Mark isn't here tonight, because he's been talking about what a wonderful debate we had in 1991, and he wanted another wonderful debate. This was not a wonderful debate at all. It was, it was a, it was a lot of boilerplate.
And I think Senator Byrd kind of spoiled the debate in the Senate, ranting and raving about the Constitution and gone fishing and making really stupid speeches. And, and, and, and another thing that, that I think really spoiled the, the, the debate was that the -- so many of the Republicans just came off with this, I'm for the president whatever he does.
I thought the most intelligent speech given was by Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska...
HUNT: I couldn't agree more.
NOVAK: ... who was, who was not a favorite with the -- at the White House, but he said that this debate should have taken place after the election, and I think that's true.
HUNT: He also warned...
HUNT: ... about the -- he also warned about the implications. He voted for the resolution...
HUNT: ... and pointed out that, let's, with, that we haven't asked some of the questions that, that Peter allude to a moment ago, about what happens afterwards.
KING: My concern is that Democrats who voted for the resolution are paving their way, though, to pull the rug out from under President Bush if we have some rough time at the beginning of this war. The number of guys I spoke to said, Well, I voted for it, so that'll give me credibility to attack him if I have to later on.
O'BEIRNE: And the most consequential...
KING: That's a bad sign.
O'BEIRNE: ... issue facing the country should be voted on before elections, not after elections.
NOVAK: It wasn't in '90.
KING: Well, remember that?
HUNT: It wasn't. But Kate, I agree with that, but they also should be fully ventilated, and I don't think this...
HUNT: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I don't think this issue either by the White House or by Congress...
O'BEIRNE: Every question has been asked and answered.
HUNT: ... has -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- there certainly haven't been...
CARLSON: No. No. Democrats... HUNT: ... just the mere question...
CARLSON: ... have been in a rush (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
HUNT: ... of, are we going to have a Douglas MacArthur regime in Baghdad is one that has not...
CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the troops...
HUNT: ... been addressed...
CARLSON: ... has not been answered or discussed.
HUNT: And that is the last word...
HUNT: ... Margaret Carlson. Peter King and THE GANG will be back with changing the subject for the elections.
HUNT: Welcome back.
Seven hours after Congress passed the Iraq war resolution, Democrats sought to change the subject for the midterm elections.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DASCHLE: I would urge the president to cancel his political trip today, cancel the trip, show the American people you're more concerned about their jobs than you are about Republican ones. Show the American people that you have an economic plan.
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESIDENTS SECRETARY: Anything in there about Senator Daschle's urging anybody else to do the same thing, or was it just one party that his proposal was for only party to deny itself under the law this opportunity to participate in free speech in the elections?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: The CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll shows party preference for Congress in a virtual dead heat, 48 percent Democrat, 47 percent Republican.
It also indicates Americans believes -- believe they're in a recession, but narrowly, they think they're better off now than two years ago.
Bob, can the Democrats focus on the economy in time for the November 5 election?
NOVAK: I don't think so. They've been trying for, for months to get this message through, through Enron, for the 401(K)s being depleted, I love that issue. And they really haven't, I, people don't think they're, they're in such bad shape. And just like Mr. Mechanical Man, Tom Daschle was up till 2:00 getting this resolution through, he gets up at 9:00 and he says, Stop campaigning, to the president, you know.
And that's, that, that, that just isn't going to work. I think this election is very close in the Senate. Maybe not so close on keeping control of the House, but very close on who's going to keep control of the Senate. And it means that Democrats have failed to nationalize the election with three and a half weeks to go.
HUNT: The one man who -- here on this panel who actually deals with voters, Mr. King, is Bob Novak right?
KING: He's partly right, which is...
HUNT: That's pretty good for him.
KING: Yes, I was going to -- yes, I didn't want to go too far with that. Yes, we are coming into the final three weeks of the campaign. I think it's going to be fought out district by district. There is not an overriding national issue.
Perhaps the economy could have been one for the Democrats if they had some plan of their own. But all they do is criticize the Bush tax cuts, but none of them says that they want to revoke those tax cuts.
So really, they are just being critics, and they have not caught on, I don't believe, with the American people. So I think it's going to be district by district, going to be decided by one or two seats in both houses.
HUNT: Margaret, hand-to-hand combat.
CARLSON: Right. Democrats are stymied because they have no plan, and even when Al Gore gave his speech, it was very critical of the president but stopped short of saying, Let's repeal the tax cut. So where you going to go?
I was in North Carolina, and I didn't hear one question about Iraq the whole time I was there. The only foreign policy coming up was Elizabeth Dole in her stump speech says, Let's pray for the troops in Afghanistan. That was it.
Everybody talked about jobs, the textile mills, the economy, Social Security, and prescription drugs. So if Democrats had a program, it's not that the conversation is not there.
HUNT: Kate, I talked to a Democrat yesterday who -- they did a bunch of focus groups in Iowa, and to their great astonishment, what all people wanted to talk about was not, was not Iraq, was not the economy, was not health care, was this terrible sniper incident here outside of Washington.
I don't have any idea how that cuts, nor does he, but isn't it a reminder that how events can, can (UNINTELLIGIBLE)- O'BEIRNE: How (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a national story like that, the sniper in Washington, unrelated to the major issues facing us, major important issues like war and the economy, can knock those other issues, sure, off the front pages, or, or cause people to engage in this compelling national story.
I think the problems with the Democrats is on the two leading issues facing the country, war with Iraq, war on terrorism, and the economy, there's no leading Democrat who's saying anything about them. And the liberal Democrats, of course, want to let Saddam Hussein keep his weapons of mass destruction and want to raise taxes.
HUNT: The liberal Democrats and Bob Novak want to let him keep his...
O'BEIRNE: It seems to me that the economy could be an issue, because people are concerned about it, but they don't seem to be assigning partisan blame for it. And the weak stock market, the bad stock market, could also be an issue. But again, polls don't tell us...
O'BEIRNE: ... that they're blaming Republicans.
HUNT: ... you see it all upside for the Republicans now?
O'BEIRNE: No, I see, I see, I think a concern for the Republicans are polls that show although George Bush is very popular, above 65 percent, there are polls showing the public thinks the country's on the wrong track.
NOVAK: ... Peter (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
O'BEIRNE: And I'm not sure how they reconcile that (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
NOVAK: Peter has got the right point, though, that the Democrats have simply got -- don't have a plan, and they, they say, and that's what well Daschle said in this little thing we, we ran, come out with your plan, Mr. President. But he doesn't have one.
Now, Al and I interviewed for "NOVAK, HUNT, AND SHIELDS" this week the two candidates in South Dakota, Republican Thune and the Democrat Tim Johnson. And I tried to get Tim Johnson to say something negative about the president's tax cut. He would not say a thing. He would -- say, let's not -- I said, Do you think you ought to roll it back like Teddy Kennedy? No, no, no, no, no.
So the tax issue is just not a good issue for Democrats, and I'm am -- I'm just amazed that Republicans, maybe they just, they are not too smart, they never have been, in my, my recollection...
HUNT: Well, Peter King excepted, of course. NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- why -- I -- I don't understand why they don't go, they don't talk about lower taxes, lower taxes, lower taxes. People hate taxes.
CARLSON: Don't push their luck (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
HUNT: Now, everybody, every, everybody in Bob's club...
CARLSON: ... don't push their luck.
HUNT: ... talks about that. But I would say, I think it's true, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the way you describe (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But I'll tell you something else, the Republicans are running away from privatization of Social Security, John Thune and others...
CARLSON: Oh, boy.
HUNT: ... boy, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
O'BEIRNE: That's another mistake.
CARLSON: Yes. Oh, no, no, no.
NOVAK: That's -- I agree with that, it's a mistake.
CARLSON: That was poison for Dole in North Carolina. Now she's down to 2 percent, and she won't use the word "privatizing" anywhere. The -- it's interesting...
O'BEIRNE: Well, she shouldn't.
CARLSON: ... this sniping...
CARLSON: ... this sniping issue is now I -- making a difference in the Maryland race for governor in that Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who was not having a brilliant run, is now running gun ads, because Ehrlich, her opponent, is so pro-gun. I think that could make a difference in that race. And it shows you that things can happen in the last three weeks, an election can just turn like that.
HUNT: Peter, nothing's going to happen in New York, though, is it? I mean, New York is kind of...
KING: Yes, I think Governor Pataki is going to win, most of the incumbent congressmen...
HUNT: Peter King...
KING: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
HUNT: ... it's only whether he gets 65 or 70 or 75.
KING: I'm, I'm, I'm out there looking for 51 percent.
But (UNINTELLIGIBLE), there's one, there is one lasting impact from September 11. I think you see the people less interested in partisanship this year. So it's not enough just to blame the economy on Republicans, Republicans to blame the Democrats for being antiwar. I think that people are looking through that, and they're being a little more sophisticated, and they just don't want the old shrill, you know, left-right, Republican-Democratic arguments.
NOVAK: One of the, one of the interesting things is that on both sides of the fence, incumbents are not doing as well as you might think. And people are saying, you know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) reelect (UNINTELLIGIBLE) so-and-so, the Iraq, be reelected. And there are very low numbers on both Republicans and Democrats...
HUNT: Poor Bob, I got to tell you, I disagree with that. I think there are probably three or four House incumbents who really are in any danger of losing, and I'm not sure there's more than a couple of them...
NOVAK: I'm talking about the Senate races.
O'BEIRNE: Of course (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
HUNT: Well, the Senate race (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
O'BEIRNE: ... and, of course, in an off year, people can't, the Republicans can't benefit from coattails and George Bush. But I tell you, a striking number of Democrats are running with George Bush.
NOVAK: That's right.
O'BEIRNE: President Bush shows up in campaign after campaign ad of Democratic candidates...
NOVAK: How many are, how many are running...
O'BEIRNE: ... find themselves...
NOVAK: ... how many are running with Gore? How many are running...
NOVAK: ... with Al Gore?
HUNT: Not very many. But I'll tell you...
O'BEIRNE: They never ran with Bill Clinton. HUNT: ... I'm still, I still think if the Democrats are to have a good night on November 5, it's going to be because when they get in that voting booth, people are like the idea of a check and a balance, and they don't want to turn the government...
NOVAK: Oh, that's a, that's a, that's what they talk about...
HUNT: ... all over to one side.
NOVAK: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
HUNT: And I think, no, I think...
HUNT: ... the marginal voters, I think we're going to see that that makes a difference...
HUNT: ... but we'll find out in three weeks.
NOVAK: ... Max, we need some checks and balances.
KING: Right, that's what we need.
HUNT: Just like we need a...
CARLSON: And another, and another beer.
HUNT: ... and we need a CAPITAL GANG's tax cut, everybody on the street's talking about that.
Next on CAPITAL GANG, George W. on the waterfront.
HUNT: Welcome back.
President Bush invoked the Taft-Hartley Labor Act for the first time, calling back longshoremen to reopen 29 West Coast ports closed by a labor dispute.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The crisis in our western ports is hurting the economy. It is hurting the security of our country, and the federal government must act.
RICH TRUMKA, SECRETARY-TREASURER, AFL-CIO: No president has ever been on this side of management this overtly. We agreed to go back to work. The management said no. He issues a Taft-Hartley injunction...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: But management says it offered labor a 90-day extension of negotiations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES O'CONNOR, ATTORNEY FOR PMA: The unions' response was, No, we won't give you 90 days, we will give you seven days if you remove your principal proposal technology from the table.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: That's a lie, that's a lie.
O'CONNOR: That's a very easy proposal to say no to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Kate, what happened to President Bush's courtship with blue-collar labor?
O'BEIRNE: I think the White House looked at that West Coast port strike and figured it was potentially damaging to blue-collar consumers and the economy, and I think they thought politically they had to do something.
I think that was probably right. When they imposed steel tariffs, mistakenly, it was an attempt to benefit union workers who worry about international competition in their own jobs.
The strike out on the West Coast has nothing to do with workers' benefits or wages, it's all about union power.
HUNT: Peter, is it going to hurt the Republican effort to woo labor?
KING: No, first of all, I think the president did the right thing. I think this is the type of incident that would call for Taft- Hartley, it's $300 billion worth of goods coming through those ports.
No, I -- actually this morning in New York, I spoke at a building trades conference, and this is not a big issue. I know that John Sweeney is trying to make it one. I don't think it's going to resonate with rank and file labor across the country, because, you know, their jobs are being imperiled by this too.
So I think you have some labor leaders who may say they're against it, but it also helps their members. So I don't see this being a defining issue. I think President Bush is still making inroads with the Teamsters, carpenters, operating engineers, painters' unions. He's doing very well with the hardhats, the Reagan Democrats.
HUNT: Bob, I agree with Peter, I think it was the right move, because I like government intervention. Do you agree?
NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), well, I like it against the longshoremen. This is a dysfunctional union. These are, these are, these are...
HUNT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). NOVAK: ... these job, I mean, they're against technology, they're Luddite, these jobs are clerical jobs where they get over $100,000 a year. It's a gravy train. But the thing is, I think this whole campaign...
HUNT: Pocket change for you, Bob.
NOVAK: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- I think, I think this, get, this campaign by the White House for labor is just not working. I mean, the carpenters and the teamsters are supporting all the Democratic candidates for reelection in the Senate. These people are just wedded, they're joined at the hip to organized labor. And last week the Teamsters endorsed Bill McBride in Florida against Jeb Bush, very disappointing to the president.
O'BEIRNE: Well, I...
KING: Well, I still think the Reagan Democrats can be put back together, and they can be brought into the Republican fold if they don't listen to Bob Novak.
NOVAK: Not union, nonunion, union...
KING: Union, union (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
CARLSON: OK, but, but, but, but, but, but Bush-Cheney administration...
HUNT: Let's let Margaret -- Yes, this side is tied to the hip, the Bush is tied...
CARLSON: ... cannot...
HUNT: ... to the hip to management.
CARLSON: Yes, but the business, yes.
HUNT: One of the negotiators in this was Eugene Scalia, the Labor Department, used to represent the dock owners out there, the shippers.
CARLSON: The Bush-Cheney administration can't even get right on Enron and other things like that. I mean, it's just too pro...
CARLSON: ... business to go after corporate crime, to get rid of Harvey Pitt, to appoint the right person to check out these accounting practices...
NOVAK: How about the longshoremen?
CARLSON: ... they are all tied to business, so they're not going to get labor in the end anyway.
But Bush really saw Christmas and his fourth quarter numbers sitting at sea, and he had to do something, because Kate is right about this. it was going to ripple through the economy and...
NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
CARLSON: ... ruin his fourth quarter.
NOVAK: ... it was the right thing to do.
O'BEIRNE: Politically, yes, I do.
HUNT: You believe in government intervention if it's against bad guys, right?
CARLSON: Oh, yes.
KING: Let me just correct both Bob and Margaret...
O'BEIRNE: I want (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
KING: ... I can tell you that there are international labor leaders meet with President Bush's people at the White House on a regular basis, carpenters, operating engineers, Teamsters, painters...
KING: ... down the line -- No, no, actually...
KING: ... there's a number of them are endorsing Republican governors and Republican members of Congress. And don't write them off, Bob-...
CARLSON: And right into the White House...
KING: ... you're making a big mistake.
CARLSON: ... you'll go.
KING: No, no, working, I'm talking working on different...
O'BEIRNE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) get the rank and file.
KING: ... issues...
HUNT: Peter, Peter King, that's the last word on this...
KING: That's what we (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
HUNT: ... segment, but we'll be back in just a moment with our CAPITAL Classic, which you're all waiting for, giving up in Somalia.
HUNT: Welcome back.
Nine years ago this week, the United States gave up its search for the warlord Mohammed Aidid in Somalia, after he released captured American pilot Michael Durant.
Your CAPITAL GANG discussed these events on October 16, 1993. Our guest was Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, October 16, 1993)
Margaret, what's our purpose now in Somalia?
CARLSON: Withdrawal with dignity. I think we could have done it in June. We could have declared victory, cut, and tiptoed out. Now the whole world is watching while we find a way to get out.
NOVAK: There is no mission in Somalia. The only thing that's going on is a vestige of the multinational claptrap that we have from people in this administration.
MARK SHIELDS, CAPITAL GANG: Al, I think that the president gave away the store. I mean, you know, the Aidid meeting and press conference was an affront, was an affront to the 18 Americans who died.
MCCAIN: I totally agree with Mark. It's a very rare occasion, but I totally agree with him. And Margaret, you sounded almost Nixonian when you said withdrawal with dignity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Kate, did President Clinton's performance in Somalia send the wrong message?
O'BEIRNE: Well, the mission had been abandoned, so there was little recourse but to withdraw the troops. But that withdrawal was cited along with our weak response to terrorist attacks, you know, on our embassies and Kobhar Towers and the U.S.S. "Cole" by Osama bin Laden as evidence that the United States was weak and irresolute.
So that message was heard.
KING: Yes, I think it was a total failure. This was mission creep, it was nation-building without the country being told what was going on. They gave too much power to (UNINTELLIGIBLE), they didn't give the military what they needed, and it was just (UNINTELLIGIBLE) military, a political and diplomatic disaster. HUNT: Bob?
NOVAK: The big mistake was that first President Bush shouldn't have gone there in the first place. The first President Bush wanted to interfere in all these places all the time anyway. So I really believe that the United States is a lot better off when it doesn't try to control all these miserable third world countries.
KING: Important distinction, what President Bush was providing food, President Clinton wanted to change the government.
CARLSON: It was a half-hearted effort, so we had to pull out with dignity, and that White House is right about that Senator John McCain. He's really a loose cannon, having me to kick around.
HUNT: I want to say, I agree, it sent the wrong message, Kate, as did Ronald Reagan after Marine barracks in Lebanon...
HUNT: ... after Pan Am was, you know, the plane was, was, was shot out of the, out of the skies in 1989, 1988, rather.
Peter King, I want to thank you for being with us.
KING: Thank you.
HUNT: If I were a betting person, I'd take that 51 you say you're going to get, and I'd 20 points, and I know I could win for you.
KING: Thank you.
HUNT: Thanks a lot.
Coming up in the second of THE CAPITAL GANG, former Kennedy adviser Ted Sorensen is our "Newsmaker of the Week" recalling the Cuban missile crisis, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at Jeb Bush's struggle for political survival, and our "Outrages of the Week," all after the latest news following these messages.
(COMMERCIAL AND NEWS BREAK)
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
HUNT: Welcome back to the second of CAPITAL GANG.
I'm Al Hunt with Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne, and Margaret Carlson.
Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Ted Sorensen, who for the past 36 years has practiced international law at one of New York's most prestigious firms.
Theodore C. Sorensen, age 74, residence New York City. Undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Nebraska, assistant to Senator John F. Kennedy, special counsel to President Kennedy and member of the National Security Council executive committee, author of seven books, including the international best- seller "Kennedy" in 1965.
Earlier this week, I interviewed Ted Sorensen from Boston, where he is currently a fellow at Harvard's John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics.
President Bush this week cited President Kennedy in October 1962 as a parallel for his policy on Iraq. Senator Ted Kennedy said instead the lesson was that preventative military action is unwise.
Who's right, historically?
THEODORE SORENSEN, FORMER KENNEDY ADVISER: President Bush's quotation was accurate. The trouble is, he took it out of context. It was not a statement made by President Kennedy in anticipation of a preemptive strike. On the contrary, he was using it to justify a blockade of Cuba, a naval quarantine, as we called it. He didn't want the preemptive strike with all the innocent civilians who would be killed. Preemptive strike made no sense then, makes no sense now.
HUNT: The Kennedy administration did an extraordinary job in enlisting allies during those critical 13 days between detecting the missiles and taking the quarantine action.
HUNT: But there was no question, am I not right, that the United States was going to act no matter who was with us.
SORENSEN: Well, I think the United States had to act. The Soviet Union had swiftly and secretly changed the status quo by putting these intermediate nuclear missiles, in the intermediate range nuclear missiles in Cuba. We haven't seen evidence like that this time around. President Kennedy's focus was not on regime change, his focus was on getting those weapons of mass destruction out of there.
HUNT: As you know, Adlai Stevenson at the U.N. presented incontrovertible evidence of a missile buildup in Cuba.
If we have more evidence of, of, of bad things going Iraq, should it be released, as it was in 1962?
SORENSEN: There are always arguments by the intelligence community against releasing evidence for fear that it will compromise intelligence sources and methods. I think the need to show the world, and, I might say, the American people, that the evidence is there outweighs those concerns. HUNT: Today, many military men are the most skeptical of an Iraqi war. In his book "The Supreme Command," Eliot Cohen argues against overreliance on flag officers for military strategy, noting that during the Cuban missile crisis, it was the generals that favored a preemptive strike.
Is that an accurate description and a fair conclusion?
SORENSEN: Yes, that is an accurate description and a fair conclusion. The Joint Chiefs of Staff thought that the blockade of Cuba was too passive. Kennedy wisely rejected their recommendation. We now know that if we had followed their recommendation, Soviet commanders on the island were equipped with tactical nuclear weapons which would have been used against any U.S. attacking force.
And once they used nuclear weapons against the United States, of course the United States would use nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union...
HUNT: Wouldn't it have been better if we'd taken out Castro then or earlier, during the Bay of Pigs?
SORENSEN: There are a good many who said that at that time, Go in there and take Cuba away from Castro. But Kennedy said, Castro is menace and a meanie, but he's not a biggest threat here. And he had the right focus, and I hope President Bush will have the same focus this time, getting rid of any weapons of mass destruction that are targeted on the United States.
Regime change is secondary.
HUNT: You'll be in Havana this weekend, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis. What do you hope will emerge?
SORENSEN: Those of us who participated in the United States, Russia, or Cuba in those terrible days, every time we get together, some new insights emerge, usually facts about how close we came to the destruction of the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Bob, was Ted Sorensen correct in politely rejecting President Bush's link with his current policy with the Cuban missile crisis?
NOVAK: Absolutely. There's one big difference that neither you nor he mentioned, and that was that the Kennedy was in secret negotiations with the Soviets this whole time. We're not in secret negotiations with, with Saddam Hussein. We gave away, the U.S. gave away the missiles in Turkey, didn't disclose it to the United States public for many years to come.
Now, I'd say this, if you want to negotiate with Saddam, we wouldn't have a war, he wouldn't have had the -- if you wanted to give him Kuwait, you wouldn't (UNINTELLIGIBLE) had the last Gulf War. HUNT: Kate.
O'BEIRNE: If President Bush takes preemptive action, it will be after 10 years of negotiating sanctions and inspections with Saddam Hussein. And if he ever has photographs of Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons, as President Kennedy did with respect to Cuba, it'll be too late, because by then he'd be dominating the Middle East and blackmailing the world.
CARLSON: But, you know, Kennedy had the goods, and he showed them. It's the one thing that Bush has not done.
O'BEIRNE: Thank God we don't have those photos.
HUNT: Yes, I wish they would reveal more than they've revealed. And Bob, I point out that they'd already agreed to take out those missiles in Turkey...
HUNT: ... well before, well before October 16. That's very, very well document.
HUNT: Next on CAPITAL GANG, Beyond the Beltway looks at Jeb Bush's struggle for a second term as governor of Florida. Political reporter Mark Silva of "The Orlando Sentinel" joins us.
HUNT: Welcome back.
What Republican Jeb Bush hoped would be an easy reelection against former U.S. attorney general Janet Reno became a tough race when lawyer Bill McBride defeated Reno for the Democratic nomination.
The latest nonpartisan poll by Insider Advantage shows a 5-point Bush advantage. At their most recent debate, the candidates debated Florida's economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: What we've done over the last four years is to advance towards the new economy. In fact, Florida now has the fifth-highest increase in high-wage, high-tech jobs in the country. And we lead the nation in, in, in job creation overall.
BILL MCBRIDE (D), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: It's almost as if the governor's on another planet. Well, I asked the people out there who feel like this economy is robust, vote with the governor. For those people who are having trouble and worried about their futures, come to -- come and help me with this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Joining us now from Tallahassee is Mark Silva, political editor for "The Orlando Sentinel." Mark, thanks for coming in.
MARK SILVA, "THE ORLANDO SENTINEL": Thank you.
HUNT: Mark, who has the momentum in this campaign, and why?
SILVA: Well, Bill McBride has had the momentum coming into the general election. He came from nowhere to defeat the Democrat whom everyone thought was unbeatable, Janet Reno. And he came out of the primary with a slim margin. His momentum has been slowed a little bit by the fact that it takes us a week to count votes in Florida, and also the first debate didn't go as well as he had hoped it would.
NOVAK: Mark, it has been reported widely that McBride's campaign was underwritten, and the creation of the teachers' union, who defeated him against Miss Reno. Is that a case? And if it's so, is that a, is that any kind of a handicap in the state of Florida?
SILVA: I don't think so. Unions don't do too well in this state. However, teachers are a little different breed. McBride allied early with the teachers' union. Back in January, he sought and won their endorsement. He developed a full-bore education plan and campaigned on it and has tried to make the campaign pretty much a referendum on education.
The union put a million and a half of their own money into his TV ads during the summertime. The Democratic Party has picked up the freight now. And he does have the alliance. And it is teachers, though, it's not the AFL-CIO that we're talking about here.
CARLSON: Mark, George Bush has spent so much time in the state he could practically register to vote there, and Terry McAuliffe has poured in huge sums. It looks like a grudge match to those of us who aren't there. How's that affecting the race?
SILVA: Well, I think the races are independent of one another. I don't think the presidential race is being replayed here. The one thing that we do have in common is, is, we're starting to see Florida as a 50-50 state. The president will be back in Florida again this Thursday to raise some more money for his brother. It'll be the sixth trip to Florida this year, the 11th since the presidential election.
And the fact is, the president is helping his brother raise a lot of money here, and the Republicans will outspend the Democrats at least two to one on television in the final weeks.
But the races are really independent entities.
HUNT: Kate? O'BEIRNE: Mark, Governor Bush is above 50 in favorability ratings. Polls appear to show that he's tied with McBride among women voters, which is pretty good for a Republican. And large numbers of voters still don't know who McBride is.
As this race gets closer, as election day gets closer, is this race really less close than we -- some people in Washington think it is?
SILVA: No, I think it's pretty close. The McBride campaign believes it's within the margin of error, 3 percent. The race is close because of the dynamics of the state. At the same time, this race is about leadership, it's about integrity, it's about credibility and trust.
And both of these men have that. They're both -- as voters get to know McBride, they like him. He's got a strong personal image. The governor is favored and well liked.
So I think it is because of the -- by virtue of these two men's character and image, a close race. In television, however, the governor will overwhelm him and in the end turn out Hispanic voters for the Republicans, black voters for the Democrats. These will be the determining factors.
HUNT: Mark, let me just pick up on the money. I talked to one Republican who said actually that Bush has made a series of faux pas and arrogant, insensitive remarks he didn't know were going to be picked up, including some suggestions he was going to be duplicitous about state education funding.
But they said the money is going to be so big at the end -- you alluded to it earlier -- that money will clearly pull him through.
SILVA: Well, that's possible. They're waging an incredibly positive campaign at the moment. Since the Democratic primary, it's been an entirely positive television campaign. The governor believes he can win on those terms.
And when he starts airing 1,500, 2,000 massive points of television, he will overwhelm McBride on television. And unless McBride comes at him with an effective attack, the governor is likely to prevail in that kind of contest.
Now, we're waiting to see what McBride has, how tough he can get. He won't go personal, he'll keep it on the issues. But if he can make a compelling case, he has to provide a case for the governor not to be reelected.
NOVAK: In that connection, following up what, what you just mentioned, Mark, when we prepared the little introduction to our visit with you, the producers were looking for sound bites which were negative ads, and we couldn't find any negative ads since before the primary, we didn't find any negative ads about McBride. Has he run nothing negative since the primary? SILVA: Nothing. When he got in this race a year ago, he had one guiding principle. He was going to run as positive a campaign as he could. Win or lose, he wanted to come out of it with his pride intact. He made a vow to not attack Janet Reno and studiously avoided any kind of personal affront to her, either in person in the debates, in the debate, or on television.
And he's still in the position of not having won -- run one single negative ad.
And when he does go negative, which he must, it'll be on the issues, it'll be on education, it'll be on the governor's lack of leadership, which, you know, that's fair game.
CARLSON: Mark, what's Janet Reno doing in the race now? Is she working hard? Is it a unified Democratic Party?
SILVA: It is unified, and she is working. She's called and asked repeatedly what else she can do. She's been taking McBride around to some of the churches in south Florida where she had a strong following among black voters. And she's trying to rekindle some of the energy that she enjoyed in the black community.
She's gone with him from church to church, she's working for him. And the Democratic Party is very much alive this time, and that's a strong force for McBride.
HUNT: All right, Mark, we have 10 seconds left. Who's going to win it?
SILVA: I think the odds are in favor of the governor. The president will be here to help him, administration this is a tough row for anyone.
HUNT: OK. Mark Silva, thanks so much for being with us.
THE GANG will be back with the outrages of the week.
HUNT: Now for the outrage of the week.
There are a lot of reasons to criticize this administration's foreign policy, including Secretary of State Powell, the sycophantic press notwithstanding.
But it was contemptible when entertainer and liberal political activist Harry Belafonte likened Colin Powell to a plantation slave who wanted to please the master so he could come into the big house.
Colin Powell was a soldier who served his country very well, and has advocated equal rights for all Americans, even to inhospitable venues.
NOVAK: Nobel Prize laureates are a motley crowd, including Yasser Arafat, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Li Duc Tho (ph). This year's selection, Jimmy Carter, fits right in. The former president has shown a proclivity for left-wing dictatorships, interfering with U.S. policy in North Korea, snuggling up to Nicaragua's Sandinista thugs, providing cover for Cuba's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) brutal dictator, Fidel Castro.
Yesterday, the Nobel Committee declared the award was meant to chastise President Bush for his Iraq policy, which Mr. Carter strongly opposes. The Nobel Committee and Jimmy Carter, they deserve each other.
CARLSON: Al, did you ever notice that cranky guy "60 Minutes" keeps on the sidelines? He doesn't know what he's talking about except, say, the number of raisins in Raisin Bran?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDY ROONEY, CBS COMMENTATOR: What really bugs me about television's coverage is those damn women they have down on the sideline who don't know what the hell they're talking about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Did you notice he doesn't get to say in the intro, "I'm Andy Rooney"? Ticked him off. Now Lesley Stahl has to say, "All that, and Andy Rooney."
CBS sidelined him once for racial remarks. Now it's women in football. Self-righteous Rooney, often wrong. Ever notice?
O'BEIRNE: A review of the visa applications of 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers reveals that none should have been approved under the law then in effect. Key information was left off the two- page forms, some failed to list permanent addresses or specific destinations in the U.S. Most were unemployed. None could have rented a video with the information that got them visas.
The proposed new chief of visa policies, Mara Hardy (ph), is a veteran of the consular culture that so fatally failed. So what will change?
HUNT: Bob, I want to tell you, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) disagree with you, Jimmy Carter...
HUNT: ... Jimmy Carter deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. He is the greatest ex-president in our history. And on a number of those issues, you agreed with him. NOVAK: He was an embarrassment as a president, and he's an embarrassment as an ex-president. And ask your buddy Bill Clinton if he doesn't agree with me.
HUNT: Yes, well, that's the only thing you and Clinton agreed on.
This is Al Hunt saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG.
If you missed any part of our show, please don't despair. You can catch the replay at 11:00 p.m. Eastern or get up with Bob Novak at 4:00 a.m. Eastern.
Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS: Scheduled to Die."
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Longshoremen to Reopen West Coast Ports; Interview With Ted Sorensen>