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Bush Administration Sets Scene for Iraq War; Bush Previews State of Union Address; Interview With Steve Sabol

Aired January 25, 2003 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak, and Kate O'Beirne.

Our guest is former congressman Vin Weber, Republican from Minnesota.

Good to have you here.


SHIELDS: Thanks, Vin.

The Bush administration set the scene for war with Iraq.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We just discovered undeclared chemical warheads in Iraq. It's incredibly troubling and disturbing for a man as evidence of a man not disarming.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Today we know from multiple sources that Saddam has ordered that any scientist who cooperates during interviews will be killed...

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The burden is on Iraq. Iraq must comply, or it will be made to comply with military force.


SHIELDS: But France joined Germany in opposing military action.


GERHARD SCHROEDER, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): Anything has to be tried to implement the resolution by peaceful means. That is the joint German-French position, and we will not move away from this position.

PRES. JACQUES CHIRAC, FRANCE (through translator): France- Germany have the same point of view on this crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIPS) SHIELDS: Does nonsupport from Europe undermine U.S. policy?


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe.

There are a very large number of countries who have said, regardless of whether there is a second resolution in the United Nations, that they are anxious and willing and ready to join a coalition of the willing.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: It's critical that we do whatever we're going to do with the help of an international coalition.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, will the U.S. go to war without a U.N. resolution and with only a handful of allies?

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Mark, did I miss the chorus of protest against France's unilateralism this week when they decided to just go it -- their own way? Colin Powell was one of those who believed that the United States could have a U.N. resolution and a U.N. support for disarming Saddam Hussein. That is obviously not possible. France has announced that nothing would justify military action.

France admits he has weapons of mass destruction. It's not like they dispute that. They just want to contain him through inspections. So that's why Colin Powell is now where Dick Cheney was last August, inspections won't work, we cannot disarm Saddam Hussein through inspections.

The slow learners at the U.N., despite the 1441 resolution last November, have no interest in taking this threat any more seriously than they have for 10 years. We will not go it alone. A host of other countries will be with us, a coalition of the willing, including most of NATO, except for Germany and France.

SHIELDS: A coalition of the willing, that's a -- it's sort of a new construction, Vin.

WEBER: Well, coalition, in my view, is almost the wrong word. Coalition implies people with all sorts of different objectives who manage to cobble themselves together. The coalition of the willing, if you want to use what I think is a little bit of a contradiction of terms, means people who really have a common goal and a common vision and a common objective in mind. And France and Germany apparently don't have that.

The fact is, this administration believes, and I agree with them, that the president laid out a sufficient justification for removing this regime from power before the inspections ever started. We know the history of this regime in developing, procuring, and using weapons of mass destruction, we know they hate America, and that constitutes a sufficient enough threat to justify removing the regime.

The inspections were going to do one of two things, either they were going to help build support for this broad coalition everybody's talking about, or they were going to sap political support from the United States to do what it must do.

It looks to me today as if it's been more the latter. But I still expect we're going to move ahead with a coalition of the willing, if you want to call it that, but really it's just like-minded interests.

SHIELDS: I thought you were talking about North Korea there for a minute when you were talking about the country.

Go ahead, Bob Novak.

ROBERT NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Kate, let me tell you that Colin Powell has not joined Dick Cheney's opinion on this question of inspections being worthless and internationalism being worthless. Colin Powell has been playing the diplomatic bureaucratic game his whole life. He knows if he wants to be a player, he has to salute the commander in chief.

I don't think he's changed one opinion. I think he also feels there should be a solid front against Saddam Hussein to make sure that he -- to put some pressure on him. That's why I think he was so upset when France joined Germany in opposing this.

But let's be honest. The -- this has been a changing target of the reason for attack, making a largely unprovoked military attack on Iraq. It -- the real reason is they -- a political decision in the White House, I mean, by an international political decision, that can lead to change the regime.

And the idea that you couldn't get away with that, and you had to come up with something on weapons of mass destruction, they still have not put out evidence that they have any weapons of mass destruction. And when they have a few chemical warheads, and you go to war on that, that is really remarkable.


O'BEIRNE: Mark...

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: I think we're going to go to war, unless, you know, there's a -- some wondrous event, Saddam has a coronary or somebody topples him, but can't count on that. I think we do it probably early to mid-March.

We're not going to need a second U.N. resolution. The only place I disagree with my friend Kate is, that I think for all the shots that the Cheney people have taken at Colin Powell, that was the genius of U.N. Res. 1441. You don't have to go back a second time.

I think Powell did a brilliant job, and I think he realizes the importance of as broad-based international support as possible. It's not for the war itself, but for what happens afterwards. What is our policy?

This president has done a miserable job of telling us what we expect after Saddam. Are we going in there to occupy Iraq for decades? Are we going in there to create a Jeffersonian democracy? Are we going to go in there just to get rid of the weapons of mass destruction, then let them fend for themselves?

Or are we going to divide it up into three parts, the way it probably should have been 80 years ago, let the Turks and Iranians worry about that?

George Bush has told us nothing. That's a critical series of questions.

SHIELDS: Let me just make one point, and that is that when the president said this week, This is a rerun of a bad movie, and I'm not interested in seeing it, that just smacked of personal pique. This is just a lot more important than whether the president himself is upset. We're talking about sending people into battle. We're talking about American lives, we're talking about Iraqi lives, we're talking about spending an untoward amount of money.

And when the question is asked in "The Wall Street Journal"-NBC poll, Do you think President Bush should or should not have to show evidence to allies that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, and to the American people, by a three to -- three -- better than three-to- one margin, almost four-to-one margin, comes back, Yes.

And -- but let's be frank, there is no smoking gun.

O'BEIRNE: But, but he made such...

WEBER: But 85 percent of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people believe he has weapons of mass destruction.

O'BEIRNE: Exactly, exactly.


O'BEIRNE: Eighty-five percent of the public believes he has them. So they sort of want him to show it for the benefit of somebody else. He made such a convincing case last fall that he got the 15-zip vote in the Security Council, whereby they said, Last chance, Saddam Hussein, or serious consequences. We now know some of them didn't mean it, but that's how convincing his case was, and he got 77 senators to agree with him.

What do you mean about not having made a convincing case?


NOVAK: Let me, let me say what...

WEBER: ... and when he's ready to go in, he'll make the case again...

O'BEIRNE: Right.

WEBER: ... and I'll bet he'll get just as much support from the American public as he had before.

NOVAK: Let, let me say what is going on, what -- Don Rumsfeld is just wonderful, because he really says the truth. That's old Europe. I thought Old Europe was a restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue. But he says France and Germany are, are, are old Europe. Is Great Britain new Europe? I'm (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- but that, but that's the contempt he has for them. And when he says that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- that there are a host of allies anxious for this war, that's just not true.

Colin Powell was in Davos today trying to convince the Turks that we (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to cooperate on this. This is really a tough sell on the rest of the world. And the consequences of it -- I still can't believe that somebody as prudent and as thoughtful as Vin Weber doesn't worry about the consequences of this attack.

WEBER: I'm very worried about the consequences of this attack, but not nearly as much as I am worried about the consequences...


WEBER: ... of Saddam Hussein developing fully weapons of mass destruction and finding a way of getting...


WEBER: ... international terrorism, that would -- Well, the proof, the proof will end up being an attack on American cities.


WEBER: Is that what we're waiting for?

HUNT: I -- well, come on, now, you know there's a reason to take out Saddam Hussein...


HUNT: ... but they don't export terrorism. And that -- one can argue...


HUNT: ... one can argue against it...


WEBER: ... absolutely have.

HUNT: ... one can argue against it for that reason, as a matter of fact.

But let me say, I think Don Rumsfeld was impolitic. It wasn't a very smart thing to say. But, you know, there is some merit to that. I mean, really, if you look at the NATO expansion...


HUNT: ... the Poles and the Czechs are going to be there. I mean, there is a...


HUNT: ... there is...

SHIELDS: ... OK, Al, let's just talk about the Czechs. OK? There's a 250-unit, member unit, in -- of Czechoslovakian troops in Kuwait. The Czech defense minister went down there this week. He said, You all signed on for a war in Iraq? Twenty-seven of them put up their hands and said no. Seven of them flew home with the defense minister.

That isn't really a commitment. The president, in that -- you say that people are with him. When they asked, Does the president lay out what the risks are to the American people? three out of five Americans say, No, he hasn't.

This country is emotionally...

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you know, I know, I know how...


NOVAK: ... aggravated Colin Powell, and they all are, about the French and the Germans. But looking at a broad...


NOVAK: But the, but the, but the -- look...


NOVAK: ... look at the, at the broader part of history. It's a little thrilling that the French and the Germans are locking arms in a pacifistic proposal...


NOVAK: ... against war.


O'BEIRNE: ... the French are probably willing...


WEBER: ... easier, and the French are pursuing commercial interests...

O'BEIRNE: Right, exactly.

WEBER: ... just like the Germans are.


WEBER: ... accusing us of waging war for oil when all they care about...

O'BEIRNE: Exactly, the French...

WEBER: ... maintaining their oil.

O'BEIRNE: ... are saying...

NOVAK: Business instead of war.

O'BEIRNE: The Frenchies are saying appeasement for oil, is what the French are saying.


SHIELDS: And there's no dollar signs involved with Russia or with Turkey...

O'BEIRNE: No, with Russia too.

SHIELDS: ... or the United States.


SHIELDS: Oh, OK, thanks.

Vin Weber and THE GANG will be back to preview President Bush's second State of the Union.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Three days in advance, President Bush previewed his second State of the Union address.


BUSH: We must work to strengthen our economy, improve access to affordable, high-quality health care for all our seniors, encourage compassion at home and abroad, and defend our nation against the threats of a new era. The war on terror is an ongoing priority for our nation.



SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: We are certain that the president will speak to issues relative to terrorism and security, North Korea and Iraq. But our issues and our focus should not just be on Baghdad but on the issues that moms and dads across America are truly concerned about every single day.


SHIELDS: Polls show that job approval of President Bush has slipped down into the 50s. Current polls, CBS-"New York Times" 59 percent, Gallup 58 percent, and NBC-"Wall Street Journal" 54 percent.

Al Hunt, what does President Bush have to do in his State of the Union Tuesday night besides show up? No.

HUNT: Well, after he shows up, he'll get a blip, because presidents always do from State of the Union address, and he'll get even more of a boost once there is a war in Iraq.

But I think his real challenge that begins Tuesday night but goes for the next couple months is going to be -- actually next year and a half, is domestic and economic, because the more important numbers in those surveys -- his popularity ratings are still pretty impressive.

The more important numbers is that the plurality of Americans don't think the country is headed in the right direction, they think it's off on the wrong track, and that they don't -- and they have serious doubts about the Bush economic plan, whether it's going to be effective.

We asked -- we had one of those aforementioned polls. We asked the question, Are you for all these things? It's pretty easy to say, I'm for them, because people want stimulus now. By overwhelming margins, they wanted to have some of the Bush plan. They want the marriage penalty ended, they want to have child credit increased, they also want more federal aid to states.

Ask them about ending taxation on dividends, the centerpiece of the Bush plan, and they say no, they're not for that, because they don't think it's going to work, and they know it's a giveaway to the rich. That's what Bush has to start to address.

SHIELDS: Vin Weber, one of the real problems is, and it keeps recurring in both interviews and in surveys, is the American people are concerned about jobs. They really are, and they don't see this plan producing jobs.

WEBER: Well, I think that that's probably correct. The president's concerned about jobs too. He believes this plan will produce economic growth over a long-term period of time. It's not meant to have a short-term hype.

The real question is going to be, does it actually work? Is the state of the economy actually stronger by the time we go into the next election? And that will then wipe out all those short-term arguments we have about whether or not this is a good plan.

I think that the Democrats have a difficult time here. On the one hand, they're going to -- they're trying -- they've tried to say occasionally the president can't deal with all these other things, we got to focus on the war, we got to focus on terrorism. And then we just saw my friend Dick Durbin arguing that the president's got to focus on this domestic agenda as well.

They're not sure what they believe. But the fact is, this president's going to have a pretty aggressive domestic agenda. It's going to include the economic plan, probably tort reform, prescription drug plan for seniors, perhaps Medicare reform. At least another attempt to educate a little further on Social Security reform, even if we don't actually propose legislation.

Pretty aggressive domestic agenda for a president, especially as we get ready to go into war.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, one point that was made to me was, when the president addressed the nation a year ago, the whole concern was terrorism. He was speaking to a united nation. But this year, I mean, it's a country that is uncertain, uncertain about the economy, uncertain about jobs, uncertain about Iraq. and North Korea and terrorism.

NOVAK: Except that most of the polls that I see, people are very optimistic about their own proposals, their own...

SHIELDS: Prospects.

NOVAK: ... prospects, their own financial situation. So I -- but of course, you know, this country is not monolithic. It shouldn't be. And we have grave differences of opinion, and the president -- And we don't have participatory democracy where you take a plebiscite, do you want to eliminate taxation on dividends? We -- that's why he have a representative democracy, which I could explain to you sometime if you'd just like to know how it works.


O'BEIRNE: Not now, tell him not now, Al, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


O'BEIRNE: Mark, last couple of the polls showed the same thing that Al pointed out now. Before the election, polls were showing that the public thought the country was going in the wrong direction, yet George Bush's popularity was in the 60s. It seems to me they resolved that in favor of wanting the president to have some help here in Washington to get stuff done.

As a conservative, I welcome the president's current poll standing. He could float along in the 60s by proposing nothing controversial, not arguing with the Democrats about anything. And instead he's decided to advance some controversial provisions, to have some partisan fights, that -- they will be, of course, partisan with the Democrats, and that inevitably, of course, chips away at his approval rating, but it means he's determined to get some stuff done.

WEBER: And by historic standards, his poll numbers are still...

O'BEIRNE: Very high.

WEBER: ... very strong for a president...

O'BEIRNE: And his fundamentals...

WEBER: ... going into his...

O'BEIRNE: ... his fundamentals are...

WEBER: ... third year in office.

O'BEIRNE: ... very high. The public likes him...


O'BEIRNE: ... and trusts him.


O'BEIRNE: Exactly.

SHIELDS: And (UNINTELLIGIBLE), perhaps explain why since Harry Truman was president of the United States, the -- under all the presidents, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) economy has produced an average of 135,000 jobs every single month. And under George Bush, it's lost 73,000...

WEBER: But we're still, we're still...

SHIELDS: No, but 73,000 jobs...

WEBER: ... we're still recovering -- we're still recovering from the recession that began, of course, as you know, Mark, in the Clinton administration.


NOVAK: Can I say something about the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), about that?

HUNT: Some of it was Jimmy Carter's fault too.

SHIELDS: That's right, yes.


NOVAK: Yes, well, it was Roosevelt's fault, really.


WEBER: ... Pearl Harbor caused the whole thing.

NOVAK: But I want to say, something I'm looking for in the State of the Union, maybe Vin is too, and maybe Kate is, and maybe Mark is. I'd like to see the -- what the president's going to say about partial birth abortion. I have been assured by White House aides that he is going to come for its repeal. He has done nothing about it, although it was on his campaign in 2000, he's done nothing about it in the first two years.

And he's still for it, I'd rather -- he spoke to the March Against Abortion last week...


SHIELDS: By phone, by phone (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NOVAK: ... by phone. But, but, but that doesn't really mean anything. What really means something, if he will put that in the State of the Union, and I hope he does, and I'll be sorely disappointed if he doesn't.


HUNT: Yes, I assure you he will, and I assure you it will be a sentence or two max.


O'BEIRNE: His most loyal supporters are looking for that kind of a -- His most loyal supporters are looking for him to talk about it.


SHIELDS: I mean, he got overwhelming majorities in the last Congress with Bill Clinton, and Bill Clinton vetoed it, I mean...

O'BEIRNE: Including 70 House Democrats and Dick Gephardt...

SHIELDS: ... it's not...

O'BEIRNE: ... this is clearly...


O'BEIRNE: ... the issue he ought to be talking about.

NOVAK: ... they ought to pass the (expletive deleted) thing.

O'BEIRNE: Right.

SHIELDS: And I think Tom Daschle, too, if I'm not mistaken.

NOVAK: That's right.



SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG, Al Sharpton, presidential candidate.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. Six Democratic presidential candidates celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion at a pro-choice rally. The sixth candidate formally announcing this week was New York civil rights activist the Reverend Al Sharpton.


REV. AL SHARPTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is no candidate that is talking, potential or real, that can speak to the disaffected, young people, minorities, women, gays and lesbians, with more credibility and more of a track record of advocacy than I have.

But my candidacy won't be black only. Clearly, I think blacks have been mistreated. But there are a lot of other people that's been mistreated.

The Democratic Party cannot win unless it expands its base, unless it goes and gets those that have been disaffected.

I do believe the party has moved far to the right. I do believe that the party has a bunch of elephants running around in donkey clothes.


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, Al Sharpton has never won a primary or a general election. He can't be taken seriously as a presidential candidate, can he?

NOVAK: He's not going to be the Democratic presidential nominee, that's a prediction. He's not going to be the next...


NOVAK: ... he's not going to be president of the United States. But that isn't the question. The question is whether he is going to cause a lot of trouble to the Democratic Party, and that's why the people in the Democratic establishment and their friends in the media are so mean to him, because they are scared to death that the Democratic Party relies so much on the African-American vote, and that he is going to -- he doesn't have it now, but he's going to build up this African-American vote in the Southern states and be a speaker at the convention.

And it's the last thing in the world they want. And besides that, they may (UNINTELLIGIBLE) John Edwards, Senator John Edwards, chances of being nominated, because he needs the Southern primaries.

SHIELDS: Is that why you're so nice to him?

NOVAK: I'm nice to everybody.


NOVAK: I think I'm nice to everybody.


HUNT: I just can't wait, in the months ahead, to see Brother Al and Brother Bob marching down the aisle together changing for gay and lesbian rights. Bob Novak for reparations!

SHIELDS: The disaffected.

HUNT: Bob, Brother Bob and Brother Al talking about universal health care coverage. It's going to just be a wonderful sight to see.


HUNT: Look, he is -- Bob is right, in the sense that he is the Democrats' nightmare and the Republicans' dream. And my guess is that he's going to be a very amusing and entertaining figure in this. But he's a guy with all kinds of baggage. He was a tax avoider, he was a perjurer, he labeled false -- he tossed false charges against someone.

And I think he'll probably be Alan Keyes with a few more votes.

SHIELDS: I have to say, personal note, I covered that NARAL event on Tuesday night...


SHIELDS: ... and -- Well, and he walked into a room that was overwhelmingly liberal, probably half Jewish, with a lot of antipathy and a lot of enmity toward him. And he absolutely neutralized that crowd and turned them around.

Now, you know, the guy's capacity as a platform performer should not be underestimated.

O'BEIRNE: Sure, sure. Well, first of all, of course, in that room were the abortion extremists, and they're left-wing, and so his gender appeals to them. He's been preaching since he was 4 years old. He makes Al Gore look like he started late in life.

So he's gifted in that respect. He hasn't always been amusing innocently, though. He's caused enormous racial strife in New York, which is his specialty...

SHIELDS: And that's why...

O'BEIRNE: ... in the cheap street theater...

SHIELDS: ... it was not a welcoming group...

O'BEIRNE: ... he does...

SHIELDS: ... on Tuesday night.

O'BEIRNE: ... leading the anti-Semitic riots some years ago in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and whatnot. But the Democrats are going to condescend to him, are going to patronize him. They're not going to hold him to the same standard they were to hold a white candidate to, and he's going to get away with this kind of poisonous racial demagoguery.

SHIELDS: Will he be treated that profoundly differently from the way Gary Bauer and Alan Keyes were, in the sense that they were on every platform, included in every debate?

WEBER: I think that he'll be treated about the same. I mean, he represents a constituency that is just as important to the Democratic Party as religious conservatives are to the Republican Party. He's not going to win. You can make an argument that Gary Bauer or Pat Robertson would have had a greater chance of winning the Republican nomination than Sharpton would of winning the Democrat nomination.

But he's going to have an impact on the party, for two reasons. One which we've already talked about, he's entertaining and exciting, and the rest of these Democrats are pretty dull, as near as I can tell. But also because I think that the reappraisal by -- the Democrats have done since the last election is causing them to move to the left.

And his message is going to resonate, and the fact they're not going to nominate him doesn't mean that they aren't going to move the party to the left. And that's a problem for Edwards and a lot...


WEBER: ... of other Democrat nominees.

NOVAK: ... you're wrong that they're going to condescend to him. The establishment wants to destroy him. Last night on "CROSSFIRE," my left-wing partner, Paul Begala, who usually treats all Democrats very nicely, was just vicious to him. He was just pounding on him, going into his record. And, you know, this...


NOVAK: ... this -- if I could just add...


NOVAK: ... and this business of putting former senator Carol Mosley-Braun, a discredited and defeated person, in the -- up as a -- as somebody to drain off African-American support...

O'BEIRNE: Bob, Bob...

NOVAK: ... is too transparent...

O'BEIRNE: ... Bob, I don't doubt that's...

NOVAK: ... a conspiracy.

O'BEIRNE: ... the treatment he's getting from Paul Begala, who's not running for office. The treatment he's going to get from Democrat candidates running for office is going to be totally patronizing. Not one of them dares to have a Reverend Al moment like Bill Clinton's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) moment. (CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... if I could just answer it...


NOVAK: ... she -- the question is, they use people like Begala to do it, and there's going to be a tremendous barrage on him. And this Carol Mosley-Braun, I hope you heard what I said...


NOVAK: ... because that is a great conspiracy.

SHIELDS: ... Paul Begala's not here to speak for himself. I've never characterized what you said in your absence, so I won't, I won't allow you to do it to him.



HUNT: ... what -- how many Republicans stood up to Pat Robertson? Who's...


HUNT: ... just a zany.

O'BEIRNE: No, that is certainly not the case.

SHIELDS: He was, he was (UNINTELLIGIBLE), for God's sake.

O'BEIRNE: Pat, Pat Robertson does nothing...


O'BEIRNE: ... the kind of poisonous race politics that Al Sharpton engages in...


O'BEIRNE: ... has, has no parallel on the other side. It simply doesn't. Maybe David Duke...


SHIELDS: I got three words to say to you...

HUNT: ... Bob Jones University and what they did to John McCain in South Carolina...

O'BEIRNE: Oh, stop.

HUNT: ... and this baby from (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'BEIRNE: Stop. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Crown Heights.

HUNT: ... the father of a black child, that was just as bad, huh? Bob Jones, South Carolina.

SHIELDS: Three words, South Carolina primary.


SHIELDS: That's it. We'll be back with a CAPITAL GANG CLASSIC, Bill Clinton's Monica crisis five years ago this week.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Five years ago this week, Bill Clinton was plunged into the most serious crisis of his presidency when independent counsel Ken Starr expanded his Whitewater investigation into the Monica Lewinsky affair.

On January 24, 1998, the full CAPITAL GANG evaluated President Clinton's chances for survival.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, January 24, 1998)

HUNT: I talk to a lot of people.

The best odds anyone gave for Clinton surviving his presidency was 50-50, and three said it's not a matter of whether but when he leaves.

NOVAK: I think that is premature.

I don't think you can impeach a president on the basis that he lied about having sex, but I don't believe that this president is about to resign...

O'BEIRNE: We're famous in Washington for announcing that it's never the underlining offense, it's always the cover-up. I disagree here. I think in this case the underlining sexual relationship is enough to cause the president to have to step aside.

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: I do not think that for sex alone that the Congress or even the rabid prosecutor, Ken Starr, want to prosecute the president. Sex plus, sex with obstruction of justice, maybe, but not just, you know, the -- however tawdry and however disgraceful, sex alone.

SHIELDS: Americans knew about this in 1992, knew about his infidelities...

O'BEIRNE: Did not.

SHIELDS: ... and his checkered, his checkered past. And they made it a bargain with him, they made a bargain with all this, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), which was, Look, we know (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the past, it wasn't perfect. But now you're not only the governor of Arkansas, you're the president of the United States.


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, why did the American people turn out to be more tolerant towards Bill Clinton than we were?

NOVAK: Well, I was very tolerant, and casting modesty to the winds, I was the only one who was perfectly right, that it wasn't -- he wasn't going to be driven out, and he wasn't going to resign, because it wasn't, it wasn't enough. And I'm not pro-Clinton, but that was not a basis for getting rid of a president.


WEBER: I think the House Republicans made a legal case that the president committed an impeachable offense. But they failed to make a broader case that removing him from office was in a bigger sense good for America, and that's why the American people decided to stick with him even though they didn't like what he'd done.

O'BEIRNE: Yes, but the public...

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: ... didn't tolerate the behavior. He paid a very heavy price. The majority of the public found him untrustworthy, immoral. I think their essential conservativism. They thought it was a radical notion to remove him from office, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and of course the Democrats got such -- in such lockstep with him that it became a partisan issue, and that the public wanted no part of.

HUNT: You know, someday I'm going to reveal those three sources that were very close to Clinton. What I actually said myself on that show was that I thought Monica Lewinsky would say that she had a sexual relationship with Bill Clinton, but that no one told her to commit perjury, which is, of course, what happened, and there was a protracted struggle.

Three reasons Clinton survived. Number one, I hate to say this, he denied it in the beginning. I think if he had admitted it in the beginning, it would have been awfully hard...

SHIELDS: Absolutely right...


HUNT: And I hate, I hate to say that, because the lying paid, in a sense.


HUNT: The second reason was an inept and partisan prosecutor who engaged in, I think, a terrible vendetta...

(CROSSTALK) HUNT: ... and the third was what Bob Novak said that day. You don't impeach a president for lying about sex, which is what the House Republicans tried to do and dress it up in legalese. But that's what it was all about. And the American people said no.

SHIELDS: You're absolutely right, lying bought him time, Al. You are right.

Thanks for being with us, Vin Weber.

Coming up in the second half of CAPITAL GANG, our Super Bowl week "Newsmaker," NFL filmmaker Steve Sabol. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at Tuesday's Israeli elections with CNN's Kelly Wallace. And our "Outrages of the Week." What more could you ask for? All after the latest news following these messages.


SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of CAPITAL GANG.

I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak, and Kate O'Beirne.

Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Steve Sabol, the president of NFL Films.

Steve Sabol, age 60, residence Moorestown, New Jersey, religion Jewish, All-Conference running back and an All-Academic All-American at Colorado College. He began as cinematographer at NFL Films, recipient of 26 Emmy Awards, little -- few more than the CAPITAL GANG, movie credits include "Semi-Tough" and "Black Sunday."

Al Hunt, who attended the Haverford School in Pennsylvania with Steve Sabol interviewed him earlier this week from outside Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, the scene of Super Bowl XXXVII tomorrow.


HUNT: Steve Sabol, we go back almost 50 years, that Haverford School 80-pound football team on the screen played the single wing, and neither of us were to be confused with Rich Gannon (ph) or Jerry Rice.

STEVE SABOL, PRESIDENT, NFL FILMS: People think that the phrase "Give me the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) ball originated with Keyshawn Johnson. And I was quarterback on the team, and I heard that phrase from your mouth almost every time we came back to huddle.

HUNT: Steve, there used to be NFL dynasties, Packers, Steelers, 49ers, Redskins, and Cowboys, even. Now, in the past 10 Super Bowls, there've been 15 teams, no dominant team. Is parity good or bad for the NFL and the fans?

SABOL: I think it's great for the fans. I think -- obviously you've done your homework, Al. I think what we're seeing is an era of half-teams. The Rams, great offense, couple years ago, not a good defense. The Ravens were a good defense, not a good offense. You won't see the Cowboys of the '90s, the 49ers of the '80s, like we did in the past.

HUNT: What's the story line that NFL Films is looking for in Super Bowl XXXVII?

SABOL: Well, I think the whole season, Al, has been the story. I expected Rod Serling just to pop up on our TV screen and say, Sit tight, what you've just seen is a figment of your imagination. It was a season of nightmarish misplays, of fantastic finishes, of unexpected reversals, 17 started out 3 and 0, and only one of them made the playoffs.

But in a way, it's great for the fans, because so many teams are involved. There was more scoring, more touchdowns...

HUNT: And that TV viewer tomorrow, what are the early clues they should look for?

SABOL: You talk about a Super Bowl, it's not big things that are done well, it's little things that are done poorly. A delay-a-game penalty, a muffed chance at an interception, a chance to pick up a fumble. The little things like that snowball under this -- the psychic pressure of a Super Bowl.

HUNT: Best offense in football, the Raiders, versus the best defense, the Buccaneers. The cliche has always been that defense wins championships. Do you agree?

SABOL: Not any more, because the rules, Al, have been changed to the point they favor the offense. They -- all the rules, from the extending the hands to the chuck rule, the game is designed to take advantage of the great skills of the offensive players. That's why the Raiders are favored in this game.

HUNT: Let's talk about the Raiders for a moment, the image. Al Davis and Hell's Angels, John Fassenden (ph) telling about the silver and black Raider nation, they're bad, even menacing. Is that the reality?

SABOL: No. That's one of the mistaken notions of this Super Bowl. Those are the Raiders of -- you know, John Matusek (ph) and the Mad Stork and Kenny Stabler reading the playbook by the light of the jukebox. These Raiders are nothing like that. These are businesslike, level-headed, very disciplined players. This isn't cruising with the twos (ph), this is making nice with Jerry Rice.

HUNT: Jon Gruden, the Buccaneers' favorite, many thought was an unconscionable price to get him. Today it looks like a bargain. Is this really -- this 39-year-old really the next NFL wunderkind? Is he a Vince Lombardi, or a Bill Walsh?

SABOL: Jon Gruden is an interesting study, Al, because his perception -- he's a young guy. But he's really a throwback. This is one of these old-fashioned, you know, (expletive deleted)-kicking, (expletive deleted)-kicking, fire-breathing, whip-cracking old- fashioned coaches, and you watch him at practice, he's like a lion tamer with these guys. I mean, one snap of the tongue, and all the cats come back on the top of their stools.

He's a very, very charismatic figure, and I think a face that we're going to be used to photographing at NFL Films probably for the next 20 years.

HUNT: I'm excited about this Super Bowl. It's great for the senior set. Jerry Rice, 40 years old, Tim Brown, 36, first time Super Bowl quarterbacks, 37-year-old Rich Gannon and Brad Johnson, a mere kid at 34. Why so many great geezers?

SABOL: Because they take care of themselves. They take -- you look at Bill Romanowski (ph), there he was on Media Day with a vitamin jar in one hand and ionized water in the other.

HUNT: Steve, we invited you back this year for a lot of reasons. Our ratings soar, you're a matinee idol, the best filmmaker. But also, your uncanny prescience. You'll recall only a year ago on the eve of...


HUNT: ... Super Bowl XXXVI, this exchange.


HUNT: In reality, do the Patriots have any shot?



HUNT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) went on to win, 20 to 17. Oakland-Tampa Bay, Steve Sabol's pick.

SABOL: Well, Al, that was a bad -- that was a dirty trick. I'm not a forecaster, I'm a filmmaker. But if you want a prediction, I'm going to go with defense wins championships, and I'm going to go with the Bucs.


SHIELDS: Boy, Al Hunt, do you agree with your old teammate that fans do like the NFL better without dominant teams like the Packers that we used to have?

HUNT: I'm sticking with Steven Douglas Sabol on everything, including his prediction of the Buccaneers.

Mark, yes, I think he's absolutely right, because everybody thinks they have a shot. Unless you're the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- unless you're a Cincinnati Bengal fan, you think, Hey, my team could get to the Super Bowl. It's better for the fans. Not sure it's better for football, but better for the fans.

SHIELDS: Kate? O'BEIRNE: Al, Steve seems to be surprised you've done your homework. Was high school all football and high school Republicans, was that what you were doing instead of homework back then?

HUNT: We studied most of the time, Kate, but every now and then we took some time off.

O'BEIRNE: You know, that's not what Steve remembers.


NOVAK: You know, I looked at the team picture from Haverford...

O'BEIRNE: Haverford.


NOVAK: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I looked at it. He must have been a nasty little kid, you know, he really looks like a mean kid. Give me the ball, give me the ball.

But I will say that I think that the fans don't care whether you have a dominant team of non-dominant team, just nice thing about NFL, which they like, it's brutal. They real, really smash mouth and beat up people. And secondly, it's easy to bet on. And every -- there's going to be, what, seven -- how much money is going to be bet tomorrow? Millions, hundreds of millions of dollars are going to be bet.

So that's what makes it popular.

SHIELDS: At least part of it by you.

NOVAK: Not any more.

SHIELDS: Was Trip (ph) and Chip and Trey (ph), were they great players at the Haverford School?

HUNT: Yes, well, I'll tell you, they weren't great players, but they dressed beautifully. But I'll tell you something, the other thing that's made it popular, frankly, is -- and I'll put in a pitch for Steve -- is NFL Films. NFL Films...

SHIELDS: They are...

HUNT: ... has become just a national treasure.

SHIELDS: It is a quality, quality (UNINTELLIGIBLE), it really is. And he ought to be very proud of it, and I mean it.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, Beyond the Beltway looks at Tuesday's Israeli elections with CNN international correspondent Kelly Wallace.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. Israel's voters decide Tuesday between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his main challenger, Haifa Mayor Amram Mitzna.


ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The possibility that Israel will be attacked is low, and we have taken all the necessary steps in order to defend Israelis, all that with American coordination.

AMRAM MITZNA, LABOR PARTY CANDIDATE: I hope that we will have (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the other side to come to an agreement between the state of Israel and the future state of Palestine. And if not, we will unilaterally withdraw from places which we don't want to be there.


SHIELDS: Polls taken five days before the election show Prime Minister Sharon's coalition with a substantial lead.

Joining us now from Tel Aviv is CNN international correspondent Kelly Wallace.

Kelly, today we learned through your report that tanks and helicopters and troops of the Israelis had moved into Palestinian- controlled Gaza, and that 36 Palestinian civilians and six -- have been wounded, and six had been killed.

You put it very bluntly. What impact will this have on the election next Tuesday?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course, that's a big question mark. But security was always going to be the big issue, really, for Israeli voters. And many people believe as the violence continues, and the violence has flared up in recent days, the Palestinians firing rockets against Israel on Friday, and so Israelis are saying they're taking action.

They were in Gaza on Friday, and now what is really one of the deepest and most significant massive operations in Gaza City as we speak, the Israelis say this is purely defensive because Palestinians are not cracking down on terror.

Analysts believe that Israelis concerned about security will go with Prime Minister Sharon. He is the one who has been tougher. His challenger, Amram Mitzna, has been calling for immediate negotiations with the Palestinians. And Mark, that is very controversial right now. Many Israelis just don't feel like there is a trustworthy partner on the other side to negotiate with.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Kelly, it's now a question -- the latest news is eight dead and 45 wounded. In the United States, if something like this were to happen on the virtual eve of an election because the Palestinians are crack -- not cracking down, it's not an, it's not in a retaliation against a military action, we would be thinking that this was, maybe there was some kind of a little bit of a motive to whip up more sentiment for Prime Minister Sharon, even though he's well ahead.

Is there any suspicion by the Israelis of connecting his -- this military operation with political strategy?

WALLACE: Well, there's certainly some suspicion, Bob, coming from the Palestinians. Palestinian cabinet minister, Saeb Erekat, speaking out earlier, condemning this operation and saying that Prime Minister Sharon is trying to end his election campaign with more, quote, "Palestinian blood and destruction."

So clearly the Palestinians believe the Israelis are having this sort of major offensive going on in a way to build more support and momentum for Prime Minister Sharon. It's not clear, we haven't really been able to talk to everyday Israelis to find out what they think. But again, most polls, Bob, indicate that Israelis are likely to go with the status quo.

Many people are quite frankly disgusted with Prime Minister Sharon and with Amram Mitzna. Many people might sort of make a protest vote and go with this Shanui (ph) Party, which is calling for kind of an antireligious party.

But in the end, ultimately, people are likely to go with the status quo, because many people believe they have no other option, Bob.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Kelly, in the face of the Palestinian intifada, it seems that almost no one any longer in Israel is willing to defend the Oslo peace process. So it appears Sharon, of course, will win comfortably. But even if he wins, when he wins, is he going to be able to put together a coalition government?

WALLACE: That is the big, big question, Kate, right now, because, you know, even if the Likud Party wins -- and we should explain to the American audience what will happen here on Tuesday. People will go ahead and vote for a party, and the party with the most support, that person who's leading that party will become prime minister, and that person then will have to form a coalition government, to get 61 seats out of the 120-member Knesset.

It's going to be difficult, because right now Amram Mitzna, heading up the Labor Party, says he will not form a coalition government with the Likud Party.

And then you have this Shanui Party, which could be the big surprise in this election campaign. It is currently neck and neck with the Labor Party, could even do better than Labor, which would be a huge embarrassment for Amram Mitzna. And the Shanui Party is saying it will only form a coalition with Likud if the religious parties are not part of it. So it's a very complex issue, and most Israelis believe, Kate, ultimately they'll be back at the polls again. They don't believe any government that is formed will really last very long in the end.


HUNT: Kelly, on the surface, Sharon should have a number of problems. The economy is not doing very well, he has been caught up in several personal corruption issues in recent weeks. Have those just basically been brushed aside because the security of -- the security fears are so great?

WALLACE: Basically. And, you know, Amram Mitzna, Al, really hasn't seemed to have been able to penetrate with that issue, going to the Israelis and saying, Look, are you better off now than you were two years ago? Every Israeli would say no. The economy, as you said, is dismal. People are very, very concerned about security. More than 80 suicide bombings over the past few years.

But number one, Amram Mitzna has not really been able to penetrate, number two, voters, many think he's inexperienced. And when you're talking about security, talking about ongoing problems with the Palestinians, talking about a possible war with Iraq, many people, again, are more comfortable, it seems, going with Prime Minister Sharon.

But ultimately, Al, they're not very happy, because in the end they don't believe things are going to get better. They're just hopeful that maybe, maybe down the road at some point they will, Al.

SHIELDS: Kelly, your -- you've described, and reporter that you are, a rather bleak portrait of the electorate. Is this really an election without hope, as it's been called?

WALLACE: It really is, Mark, because, you know, what's interesting is, many people -- 70 percent of Israelis really are kind of looking for almost sort of a left-wing position. Most people believe that the Israelis should withdraw from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, that they should dismantle most of the settlements.

But ultimately, most Israelis don't necessarily believe right now that there is a trustworthy partner on the other side. So a lot of people feel like they know ultimately what the final agreement with the Palestinians will be. They're just not hopeful the Palestinian leadership and even the Israeli leadership will carry it out right now.

So a lot of hopelessness, a lot of depression, and, you know, many people might stay away from the polls. But most people go to the polls here, unlike in the United States, but many people might form a protest vote and not vote for Likud or Labor, Mark.

SHIELDS: We have less than a minute. Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Kelly, is it -- is there no other issue than security? For example, General Mitzna is an old-fashioned socialist, while the Likud Party that headed -- is headed by Prime Minister Sharon is a -- rather conservative economically. Are those issues debated at all, or is it strictly a question of security?

WALLACE: It really is strictly security, Bob. I mean, the economy- both candidates have really talked about it a bit. Amram Mitzna has tried to get attention on that issue. Other parties have tried to bring attention to social issues, including issues affecting the more than 1 million Russian immigrants in this country.

But ultimately, when you talk to Israelis, it really does come down to the security issue, and ultimately, it seems, people, again, are more likely to go with the status quo, Bob. They don't think things are going to get better, but it seems they don't want to go with someone that they think might lead to kind of a worse situation than it currently is right now, Bob.

SHIELDS: Thank you for being with us, Kelly Wallace.

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


SHIELDS: Now for the Outrage of the Week.

Thanks to Ed Henry (ph) of "Roll Call," we know that Republican Congressman Elton Gallegly lashed out at a small group of constituents who'd come to his California district office simply to protest against Gallegly's support for U.S. military action against Iraq.

The Congress disparaged the law-abiding citizens this way, quote, "Anybody who can count to 10 without taking off their shoes would know better," end quote.

"The Ventura County Star," which had backed Gallegly editorially, charged that he had forgotten that he, quote, "he is paid to listen to his constituents, not just the ones he agrees with," end quote. Amen.

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Actor Ed Harris came to Washington this week for a proabortion dinner.


ED HARRIS, ACTOR: We've got this guy in the White House who thinks he is a man, you know, who projects himself as a man because he has a certain masculinity, and he's a good old boy, and he used to drink, and he knows how to shoot a gun and how to drive a pickup truck, et cetera, like that. That's not the definition of a man, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) it.


NOVAK: It is simply disgraceful for Democrats to associate with this Hollywood sleaze.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: The U.N.'s shredded credibility was further torn this week when its Commission on Human Rights elected a Libyan diplomat as its head. The fact that Libya is a dictatorship on the State Department's list of countries that sponsor terrorism with a record of brutal repression at home shows the commission is a sham more concerned with coddling its abusive members than protecting the desperate people who suffer at their hands.


HUNT: Mark, under pressure, the White House announced that SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt would be replaced. Now, it did so in the blur of election night to avoid attention.

Eighty-one days later, the same discredited Mr. Pitt still presides over the SEC. Not surprisingly, this week the commission gutted congressional reforms designed to crack down on conflicts of interest with auditors, accountants, and corporate lawyers.

The special interests prevailed over investors. Not a word from the White House.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. If you missed any part of this program, do not despair. You can catch the entire replay at 4:00 a.m. Eastern.

Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS: Showdown Iraq -- War Clouds."


State of Union Address; Interview With Steve Sabol>

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