CNN CAPITAL GANG
Powell Makes Case Against Iraq; Bush Submits Budget to Congress; Will Space Program Be Continued?
Aired February 8, 2003 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG.
I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak, and Margaret Carlson.
Our guest is secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson. Thanks for coming in, Tommy.
TOMMY THOMPSON, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: It's my pleasure, Mark, thank you very much.
SHIELDS: Good to have you here.
Secretary of State Colin Powell went to the United Nations Security Council to make the case against Saddam Hussein.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The facts and Iraq's behavior show that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction. Iraq never had any intention of complying with this council's mandate.
How much longer are we willing to put up with Iraq's noncompliance before we as a council, we as the United Nations say, Enough, enough?
MOHAMMED ALDOURI, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS (through translator): The pronouncements in Mr. Powell's statement on weapons of mass destruction are utterly unrelated to the truth. No new information was provided, mere sound recordings that cannot be ascertained as genuine.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
SHIELDS: After Secretary Powell's presentation, President Bush challenged the U.N. to act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now the Security Council will show whether its words have any meaning. Having made its demands, the Security Council must not back down when those demands are defied and mocked by a dictator. The game is over. All the world can rise to this moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Al Hunt, did Colin Powell make the case that Saddam Hussein's game is over?
AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: Yes, Mark. We self-styled patient multilateral hawks said the administration ought to get congressional approval, they ought to go to the U.N., they ought to give inspectors more time, and they ought to show the evidence. They have now done all. And Colin Powell's testimony this week and presentation left no doubt that Iraq is in serious material breach of the United Nations resolution.
Only a couple questions, Mark. I think there is sufficient support, without doubt, to go into Iraq without a second U.N. resolution. It would be better for the post-Saddam phase if we do have a U.N. resolution, a second one, and can persuade the French, the Russians, and the Chinese to abstain.
And Saddam may have some last feinting game to play and pretending like he's cooperating. But the only real question now is whether his survival is a matter of weeks or months.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, two questions. Did he -- did Colin Powell make the case of material breach? Two, did he make the case for war?
ROBERT NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: I don't think he made either case. And as a matter of fact, I think if anybody else had been making that presentation, they would have said, Hey, what's there? Colin Powell is a very compelling figure, and...
HUNT: Good word, Bob.
NOVAK: Thank you.
NOVAK: Very masterful. I think if anybody else had said that, it wouldn't be taken seriously. I don't think his evidence on the connection with al Qaeda was at all convincing, which is what you really need to convince the American people. And I thought that the thing that's really needed to convince the international community, nuclear development, he didn't come close to.
But having said all that, there -- the chances for war are about 99 percent right now. They're going to go in anyway without -- with or without a second resolution.
SHIELDS: Tommy Thompson, who's right, Bob Novak or Al Hunt? Did Colin Powell make the case?
THOMPSON: Colin Powell made a tremendous case. I was so proud of him, as everybody in the administration was. And you just listen to the man, you had to come back with the idea that this individual really made the case for all Americans. And I can't tell you but except one thing, and that is, is, that Colin Powell really, I think, presented the case so well that most Americans throughout the world would have to say that this is the time for us to act.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: You know, Colin Powell brought together, you know, he was the man and the moment. He -- we did it his way. America went from reluctant multilateralist semihawks on Iraq over to the other side, which is that troop -- Colin Powell's testimony, we see that war is justified.
It remains to be seen whether it becomes a truly international enterprise with a second Security Council vote. But the fact that the administration is asking for it tells me that they have it, or they know that there will not be a veto.
And whether it's wise and whether diplomacy is going to take over in a way that makes this a good humanitarian effort at democratizing a very, you know, bad and evil place in the world and bringing along that region, which is the -- Paul Wolfowitz and, you know, Cheney and Rumsfeld view.
NOVAK: Margaret, this is really flimsy stuff to go to war on, these, these, these conversations by somebody, I don't know what, what, what, We got to get this truck out of there -- I don't know what the truck was. Is -- it hasn't had anything to do with nuclear weapons. Secretary Powell said that he was -- there were conflicting evidence, whether these tubes could be used for a nuclear development. But they were bad to have them whether you had the tubes or not.
Those are, those are, are criticisms. But to go to war on that basis?
CARLSON: You know, what if -- let me just...
HUNT: Let me just pick up on what Bob said for a second, though, because Bob, I think you have a case on al Qaeda. I think the secretary hyped a bit, and I think -- I don't know why the administration does this. I think the connection is somewhat tenuous. Al Qaeda has ties with him, they have ties with the Syrians, with a whole lot of other countries.
And I think the secretary acknowledged that the nuclear case was circumstantial. But Bob, the other case was just overwhelming. I mean, intercepts about, about evacuating everything, about, about forbidden ammunitions, about nerve gas, the pictures. There is no question that they're in material breach.
And it seems to me there's also no question that this is, this is a regime that, that containment has not worked for 10 years, and if it did, because they continue to build up. And the one thing, the one connection to al Qaeda that makes, that makes it somewhat relevant is that a hemmed-in, contained Saddam Hussein who's allowed to continue to build up these weapons of mass destruction may well want to barter more with terrorists. CARLSON: You know, I think it does show that there's a chemical and biological substantial weapon capability, and it shows one other thing, which is that a rational leader who could be contained and deterred does not exist in Baghdad. Saddam Hussein has proven by not taking advantage of these inspections in any way to show good faith that he is a madman, that he is irrational, and that he cannot be contained.
NOVAK: How can you call him a madman when he's had -- if he's had these weapons, he's had them for 10 years and hasn't used them.
CARLSON: But he (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
NOVAK: Is that a madman?
CARLSON: ... he had the opportunity to cooperate, at least on paper and in some way, and didn't take it.
THOMPSON: He's used them on his own people, Bob. He put the Scud missiles into Israel in the former war, and he will use anything at his disposal whatsoever. And it's time for us to act.
SHIELDS: Let me just say that the administration did the right thing. I saw the Gallup poll asked, Who do you believe on Iraq, Colin Powell, secretary of state, or George W. Bush, the president? By 63 to 24 percent, the American people believe Colin Powell, which is unprecedented that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) president has been second (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to a secretary of state.
And he did, he was, he was the right, the right advocate for the case. I don't think he made the case on nuke, I don't think he made the case on al Qaeda. I do think he showed him to be in material breach (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at least to my satisfaction.
But at the same time, the idea of going to war...
NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a war, though?
SHIELDS: No, that's right...
SHIELDS: ... going to war, which -- with horrific, horrific consequences, I mean, that unforeseen and inevitably horrific consequences for civilians, for everybody else, to do that on our own, you know, without a full international community backing and sanction, I think, is a mistake of historic proportions.
HUNT: ... has international support...
CARLSON: ... we will get international backing...
HUNT: ... I think we clearly have international support now, the French and Germans notwithstanding. And Mark, I agree with you, there are potentially horrific consequences of going to war. There also are horrific consequences...
NOVAK: You think...
HUNT: ... of letting this guy (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
NOVAK: ... you think the Chinese...
NOVAK: ... and the Russians, without -- with no finding, they're going to get a -- there's no finding of nuclear development. You think they're going to vote for a second resolution?
HUNT: I think they may abstain, Bob.
NOVAK: They won't vote for it, though.
NOVAK: You call that international support?
CARLSON: ... Colin Powell made a case that war is justified. It still remains whether it's wise in light of any other things that we can be doing.
SHIELDS: Thank you. Well, I guess I feel -- everyone's feeling better. Albania signed on. There's the real difference.
Tommy Thompson and THE GANG will be back with a big-deficit Bush budget.
SHIELDS: Welcome back.
President Bush's budget, submitted to Congress, projects a $304 billion deficit this year and a $307 billion deficit next year. Democrats blame the red ink on President Bush's tax cuts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), BUDGET COMMITTEE: I think this budget is breathtaking in its lack of fiscal responsibility. This president's plan is plunging us deep into deficit, deep into debt.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: This budget represents a dramatic departure from past practice and past budgeting, perhaps the single biggest swing representing red ink that we've seen in our lifetimes.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
SHIELDS: The Bush administration predicted a return to surpluses fueled by more tax cuts. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
MITCH DANIELS, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: If we take those steps, and the president has proposed yet again aggressive steps to grow the economy, that's our best chance of another unexpected surplus coming back.
The idea that there is some connection between deficits and interest rates is an article of faith for some people. But I say faith because there is no evidence, zero.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, who wins a debate over budget deficits?
NOVAK: President Bush does, because there's no interest in this issue. There wasn't any interest when the Republicans were talking about budget deficits for about -- deficits for about 50 years. Can you imagine Molly and Sam along round the dinner table saying, Boy, we just got to do something about this budget deficit?
The only people who care are the kind of people sitting at this table and at editorial writers and, of course, Democratic politicians, who are, at the same time they cry about deficit, budget deficit, they say, We got to have more spending.
SHIELDS: Tommy Thompson, Republicans always held the moral high ground that they were fiscally responsible, Democrats were spendthrifts. That's been totally reversed here.
THOMPSON: No, it has not, Mark. The truth of the matter is, is, the president said early on in the campaign he's going to balance the budget unless he's hit by a recession, whether or not the -- there's going to be a war, and of course he got by hit by war and a recession. And he's trying to do both.
And as Bob has indicated, the people across America are going to look at the economy next year when the election comes around and whether or not we won the war on terror. And if that's the case, George Bush is going to win reelection.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
CARLSON: Well, you know, the budget might be fine except for it leaves out one little thing, the war. Or two, perhaps, if we have trouble in North Korea.
You know, this kitchen table people sit around is something that Bush is always comparing the budget to, where it just, you know, increases a little bit every year. But people sitting around the kitchen table make room for mortgages, and sending the kids to college, and a rainy day.
This budget makes none of that. And what happens with deficits is that he kicks everything down the road so that government is strangled for years to come. NOVAK: Good.
CARLSON: That's what deficits do. Right, you want tax cuts to just shrink government.
CARLSON: Most people -- some people, like me and my family, we rely on government. We think it's a good thing. All you care about is air traffic control.
NOVAK: That's right.
SHIELDS: Al, Al Hunt, one thing that the president's proposal will do is cut $64 billion from state revenue over the next 10 years. I mean, you know, that puts the states even further in the hole.
HUNT: And they, and they, and they, what they of course will do then is have to enact...
HUNT: ... largely regressive tax increases.
Look, Bob is right that if the debate is over deficits, it's a -- it's not a winner, there's no of that.
HUNT: If, however, deficits become a symptom, which they are, of an inept and inequitable economic policy of this administration, caviar for the rich, crumbs for the working poor, and then when you point out that undeniable fact, you're accused of class warfare.
I think the American public is wise enough to appreciate and understand that. And Mark, that's exactly what we have.
Now, there's a very (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you can have a, you know, bipartisan compromise. You could go and you could take the portions -- the portion of the tax bill that the -- that this administration most advertises, increase the child care credit, the, you know -- accelerate the middle bracket on tax cuts, and then have a payroll tax holiday and give about $50 billion to the states so you wouldn't have to have these regressive tax increases, increase the deficit in the short term, but long term fiscal discipline, not drive up rates, I'll bet you Bob wouldn't take that compromise.
NOVAK: You know, you know, you know, Al, I'm glad you played the Karl Marx card, because I was waiting for it. But if we could just get away from politics and demagoguery for just a minute and talk about the issues, look, a budget deficit is not a cause of economic hard times, it's a symptom of a decline in the economy. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), as Mitch Daniels said, that once you get the economy going again, you're going to be in surplus.
The problem with, with the, with the, with the budget is that the government spends too much. And I am glad that the president at least has put some restraint on the spending.
CARLSON: You know -- wait...
HUNT: ... can I just ask one question about? When do we get in surplus under this budget?
CARLSON: Hey, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
HUNT: For the next decade, we're in deficit.
NOVAK: Well, we did, we didn't, we did...
HUNT: For the next decade.
NOVAK: ... we didn't have it when we went in, in, in surplus on the Clinton (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
HUNT: But we don't...
HUNT: ... we just stay in deficit.
CARLSON: Secretary John Snow went to the Greenbriar today, as you probably know, to speak to Republicans in the House and Senate. And they don't even want these tax cuts.
SHIELDS: Well, I was going to ask you that, Margaret. I mean, they look dead on arrival. I mean...
CARLSON: Oh, dead.
SHIELDS: ... there's Bob, Bob's favorite tax...
NOVAK: Want to bet?
SHIELDS: ... cut...
NOVAK: Want to bet?
SHIELDS: ... this high-end tax cut...
NOVAK: Want to bet?
SHIELDS: I'll be happy, I'll be happy to talk to you, Bob, the enthusiasm that I have yet to encounter up on Capitol Hill, when they're denying paternity...
CARLSON: Yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
SHIELDS: ... denying paternity, they're saying Paul O'Neill's responsible...
NOVAK: But wait a, but wait a, but wait a...
SHIELDS: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
NOVAK: ... minute, just a minute...
NOVAK: ... we got to have some...
NOVAK: ... accuracy here...
NOVAK: ... we were just...
HUNT: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
NOVAK: ... we were just talking...
NOVAK: ... we're just talking about one part of it, the pension plan, he was not talking about the big item, which is the repeal of tax on dividends.
CARLSON: The dividend tax cut, they don't want either.
THOMPSON: Yes, but overall, the vast majority of those tax cuts, the Republicans want to accelerate them just the same way the president does. He wants to get this out there, get the economy moving, and that's what these tax cuts will do, and that's why the Republicans will eventually vote for them. I...
SHIELDS: You never cut, you never cut these budget deficit when you were in Wisconsin, Tommy. You didn't have budget deficits.
THOMPSON: We didn't have budget deficits because we can't at the state level.
NOVAK: Yes, but that's so bad...
THOMPSON: But we -- but that...
NOVAK: ... it just makes me angry. Every state has a requirement for a balanced budget.
THOMPSON: But see, there's a big difference, you know...
THOMPSON: ... the states do not have to conduct a war, the states do not have to make sure that everything else is being done, which the federal government does. And therefore, it's a completely different thing. It's just not the same situation.
HUNT: Tommy, can I explain Economics 101 for Bob? Because he left "The Wall Street Journal," you know, 40 years ago, and you've forgotten.
NOVAK: I know more than you've forgotten.
HUNT: Basically, can I...
NOVAK: I would say I know more...
HUNT: ... Bob, no...
NOVAK: ... than you've forgotten.
CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- Yes, yes.
HUNT: ... you used to, but you've forgotten it, Bob. And I'll tell you something. I'm for a bigger deficit, short term, bigger deficit, but long-term structural deficits raise interest rates...
HUNT: ... Bob.
SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt.
NOVAK: They do not. There's -- there's -- wait a minute, wait a minute, there's no evidence in that. That is Rubinomics, which is ridiculous.
THOMPSON: Boy, we should have Bob Rubin...
CARLSON: Yes. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
THOMPSON: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
CARLSON: ... bring back Bob Rubin. SHIELDS: Rubin or Novak...
SHIELDS: ... who do you want running...
CARLSON: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
SHIELDS: ... the economy?
SHIELDS: Rubin, Rubin, Rubin.
CARLSON: We want Rubin!
SHIELDS: I've been thinking.
Next on CAPITAL GANG, NASA after the space shuttle disaster.
SHIELDS: Welcome back.
During a week of memorials for the seven astronauts of the space shuttle Columbia, the Bush administration left no doubt about continuing the space program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN O'KEEFE, ADMINISTRATOR, NASA: Do not lose heart. The families of the astronauts, the American public, the president have all expressed deep confidence.
America's space program will go on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: In Congress, space supporters in both parties call for higher funding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: There has been an ignoring and a starving of NASA for funds by the administration, and this isn't a partisan comment, it goes back to the previous administration.
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: I think we need to not be set to a shoestring budget. We need to make sure that we are funding all of the capabilities.
(END VIDEO CLIPS) SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, is this a rational decision or an emotional response, to spend more money in space?
CARLSON: You know, Bush did a fine job of leading the emotional response this week to the, to the "Columbia," the Columbia (UNINTELLIGIBLE) shuttle disaster. You know, I'm not sure there can be enough money to send people hurtling through space on a space shuttle that seems to have outlived its usefulness, even, you know, supporters of NASA will, will say that there are better ways to learn about space.
And what you learn about from the space shuttle is by sending humans into space, is how to send other humans into space, not to learn that much more about, you know, conquering the heavens.
So given, you know, the cutbacks that are, that are going on, the increase and the privatizing may not be enough to ever make the space shuttle as good as it needs to be.
SHIELDS: Tommy Thompson, what's your take?
THOMPSON: The president is dedicated, and I certainly concur with him, that this is something that we have to continue. Everybody that's been involved in the space program, and my own agency has been involved through the NIH, making sure the research projects, we had a research project on this recent one and we lost a lot because of that.
We need to continue the space exploration in order to continue the science experience, experiments and experience that we've had.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, is this a wise expenditure of public money?
NOVAK: Absolutely. This is one government program that I like. I don't think we've spent enough money on it in the past. There's so many government programs that are wasteful, but this is, this has romance to it, it has, it has adventure. And it's not -- Margaret, I'm sure you can understand, it isn't like sending a robot into space.
And I believe that, that the, that the, that the mission to Mars is something to look forward to, maybe after most of us -- not you, Margaret, but the rest of us -- are gone. And I think this is a great program, so happy that the, that they're not flinching because of this tragedy.
CARLSON: Such a down-to-earth guy wanting to conquer the heavens. It's, like, inspiring.
SHIELDS: He's a pioneer.
HUNT: The issue is not whether to go into space or not. Of course we're going to space, you know, we, we, we ought to. But in Margaret's magazine, Greg Easterbrook, I thought, had a very good piece this week that said we ought to do it, but we shouldn't do it the way we're doing it. And, and, and until we decide what the mission and what the priorities and what the goals are, seems to me the funding argument is sort of irrelevant.
Neither Clinton nor Bush viewed the space program as anything but really a trophy. And I think we ought to have that debate, and then we can decide how much money we ought to spend.
CARLSON: We also can't keep confusing space exploration with the space shuttle. I mean, there are -- they're -- the space program can go on without (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
NOVAK: The space shuttle...
CARLSON: ... space shuttle.
NOVAK: ... is not, it's a great achievement, though, it is a fabulous achievement.
CARLSON: Yes, but enough, enough, already.
SHIELDS: What's the most valuable civilian benefit from space travel, beyond the adventure or the...
NOVAK: Well, isn't that an, isn't that so? You have...
NOVAK: ... have pride, patriotism...
THOMPSON: ... the science, the science, the scientific experiments. You know, we -- the scientific experiments that we've had at NIH and NASA have been extremely well done. And they've given us a lot of information that's going to help us find cures for a lot of diseases.
SHIELDS: OK, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- OK.
CARLSON: And our, and our cars now talk to us, I think, as a result of the space program.
HUNT: I mean, John Glenn, I think, can persuasively tell you of the advantages of, of, of everyone who's gone into space. But Bob, I hate to tell you this, but there's an awful lot of stuff in the future that robots can do.
NOVAK: Well, you, well, you, well you...
CARLSON: Including (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
NOVAK: ... I, I, I, I...
CARLSON: ... Bob, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
NOVAK: ... in all due respect, Al... (CROSSTALK)
NOVAK: ... you'd be the kind of guy...
NOVAK: ... who'd prefer a robot...
NOVAK: ... over an astronaut any day.
CARLSON: Yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), yes. CAPITAL GANG...
NOVAK: I'm not surprised.
CARLSON: ... by robots, yes.
SHIELDS: Last, last word, Bob, please.
We'll be back with a CAPITAL GANG classic, the debate over bombing Iraq five years ago.
SHIELDS: Welcome back.
Five years ago, the U.S. prepared to bomb Iraq amid complaints by the Russian government that the Clinton administration had not exhausted diplomatic measures to force disarmament by Saddam Hussein.
Your CAPITAL GANG discussed this on February 14, 1998.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, February 14, 1998)
SHIELDS: Al Hunt, is it dangerous to go it alone in an attack on Iraq?
HUNT: Sure, Mark, but it's more dangerous to appease a madman bully. If we let Saddam Hussein thumb his nose at the world, get away with violating, you know, a U.N. agreement, and escalate these weapons of mass destruction, all we're doing is postponing what ultimately will be a much worse conflict.
NOVAK: We are isolated. We are alone on this. This will be the, the, the first war we go into virtually alone since the Spanish- American War, with no allies at all. I think it's something we'd be very sober about, since nobody, including the people in the government, Al, think what either force out Saddam Hussein or force, force in the inspectors.
CARLSON: Last time, it looked easy. And, and -- but we didn't get him out. And this time the intelligence reports and, and, and the weapons we're going to use are not going to be effective unless we have ground forces, and it's hard to get a -- enthusiasm for that.
SHIELDS: You're talking about 200,000 troops for, for ground invasion, and an occupation before some democratic opposition is, is found.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, wasn't the case for war just as valid, just as compelling in 1998 as it is today?
NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), absolutely. Margaret's calling Saddam a madman today, five years ago Al was calling him a madman. Madman who hasn't used all those weapons if he has them. I thought, I thought that argument could, we could have used that tonight in the main section, you know that?
SHIELDS: Al Hunt.
HUNT: Well, we're not isolated now, Bob, the way you thought we were back then. And we did postpone the day of reckoning.
CARLSON: Right, that's all we did was postpone it. And we're not alone the way we were in the Spanish-American War, and we will probably get even a second resolution without a veto.
HUNT: Bob covered the Spanish-American War, so he knows that.
CARLSON: Yes, he, he was in it.
SHIELDS: Tommy, you weren't there that night, but it must be a treat for you to see it again.
THOMPSON: I absolutely do, every one of you look better tonight than you did back then...
HUNT: ... thank God.
CARLSON: That hurts.
HUNT: Can we have the polygraph, please?
NOVAK: But, you know, I just want to say one thing. Tom, Tommy said that this guy gassed his own people. That was in the Iraq-Iran war. The, the gassing of those people was an (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the CIA case officer, who has just written a piece in "The New York Times," says that, that that was, Tommy, that that was done in, that was incidental damage and incidental gassing of, of people as a part of the war (UNINTELLIGIBLE) both sides used chemical weapons, didn't gas his own people...
CARLSON: But that's been completely discounted since then, that... THOMPSON: Bob, that's been discounted...
THOMPSON: ... there is no question. You should see the, the, the threats that come in from that individual, and the people in Iraq will be much better off once we take care of (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
HUNT: And how about the gassing of the Kurds, Bob?
SHIELDS: Tommy Thompson...
CARLSON: ... yes, Bob apparently is (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
SHIELDS: Tank you very, very much for being with us.
THOMPSON: My pleasure, thank you.
SHIELDS: Coming up in the second half of CAPITAL GANG, our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Republican Chris Smith of New Jersey. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at France dissenting on Iraq with Christopher Caldwell of "Weekly Standard." And our "Outrage of the Week." That's all after the latest news following these urgent messages.
SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second of CAPITAL GANG.
I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak, and Margaret Carlson.
Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Congressman Christopher Smith, Republican of New Jersey.
Christopher Smith, age 49, residence Hamilton, New Jersey, religion, Roman Catholic. Bachelor's degree Trenton State College, executive director, New York -- New Jersey Right to Life, 1976 through 1978.
Elected to the United States Congress 1980 at the age of 27, defeating 26-year Democratic incumbent Congressman Frank Thompson. Chairman of the House Records Committee, vice chairman of the International Relations Committee.
Al Hunt sat down with Congressman Smith earlier this week.
HUNT: Congressman, your entire political career, you've been a leader in the antiabortion fight. President Bush only mentioned fleetingly in a sentence in the State of the Union. Is antiabortion a priority for this White House?
REP. CHRISTOPHER SMITH (R), NEW JERSEY: There's no doubt. And this administration has been very faithful, and it has done the deeds. And I don't think, you know, in every speech one has to be raising every issue, although he did, he didn't leave it out. And -- but I've been very grateful that George W. Bush has a heartfelt commitment to the unborn. He recognizes that abortion is violence against children.
HUNT: Will Roe v. Wade be overturned?
SMITH: I believe it will. I think it's a matter of when and not if.
HUNT: This past Wednesday was Ronald Reagan's 92nd birthday. Sadly, something he didn't know, as he's suffering from Alzheimer's. You're co-chair of the Alzheimer's Congressional Caucus. Is the government doing enough to combat Alzheimer's?
SMITH: It is, and it's trying to do more. Both Congress and the president -- and this is bipartisan -- we are trying to increase the number of grants that are made to very, very promising researchers in the area of Alzheimer's, and we have seen an increase from $400 million or so for the NIH up to $600 million currently. And we're trying to get that up to $800 million to fund these promising research projects.
Currently, about one out of every four promising research projects get money, so that means there's 75 percent still going underfunded.
HUNT: The president's budget this week proposes only a 1.8 percent increase in NIH. Much of that will go to bioterrorism. Under the president's budget, wouldn't some of this promising research for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and other diseases be set aside?
SMITH: I don't think it'll be set aside at all. And thankfully, Bill Young and all the others who are on the Appropriations Committee, Ralph Regular (ph), the chairman of the Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee, all are very much in favor of more money for Alzheimer's.
HUNT: So you're going to reject the president's (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
SMITH: Well, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), we're going to use that as a building block and add to it. He has asked for very significant increases in NIH and CDC funding in this and previous budgets. We just need to keep making sure that the trend line for more money to research continues.
HUNT: You're from New Jersey, of course, and your state legislature seems to be on the verge of passing a bill that would permit what they call therapeutic cloning. Is that OK with you? SMITH: Absolutely not. Frankly, if we move -- and again, the president's very much in favor of a total ban on human cloning. I think we cross a line when we think we can play God and create life. And if we can create life and then just destroy it at will...
HUNT: Congressman, the president and Colin Powell have eloquently stated that Saddam Hussein commits atrocities against his own people. No one has been out -- more outspoken on the issue of human rights around the world than Chris Smith. My question is, are the Iraqis' human rights violations uniquely horrific, or is it just as bad in places like China and North Korea and Sudan?
SMITH: Al, that's a very incisive question, because human rights abuses are proliferating in many parts of the world, equal to -- probably not exceeding, but equal to that of Saddam Hussein. In the People's Republic of China, torture, forced abortion, religious persecution is absolutely commonplace. Same way with Fidel Castro's Cuba, particularly for the -- in the Gulag of what is some 400 political prisoners.
Many countries in Africa have very, very poor human rights records, and torture, again, is commonplace. And North Korea, as you said, has a despicable human rights record.
I think the human rights component of the president's message on Iraq is to show the, the, the comprehensiveness of his oppression.
HUNT: War now seems almost inevitable, in your view, then...
HUNT: ... it would be a moral or just war.
SMITH: I think we've gotten to the point where the evidence is overwhelming that he has weapons of mass destruction, he has not -- he is in breach of the peace that was signed to end the first Persian Gulf War.
He will use those weapons. He's a Nazi-like character, and we've got to recognize that. He will use weapons of mass destruction.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt, Chris Smith is one of the few people who does embrace a totally consistent life ethic. He's against capital punishment as well as against abortion, he's for minimum wage law, he's -- really.
But tell me this. Is he really convinced that George Bush is totally committed on the issue of abortion?
HUNT: Well, he certainly is on late-term abortions, which they both oppose, which is, of course -- and the country opposes. I think there'll be problems if you get to overturning Roe v. Wade, which Chris Smith really wants to do, and George Bush knows it's very unpopular to the people, so I think he'll, he'll duck that. But a word about this very interesting congressman. I disagree with his views on abortion, and I violently disagree with his views on therapeutic cloning. Bob Novak disagrees with his views on opposition to the death penalty and on human rights in China. And Bob, he's probably more consistent than either one of us.
NOVAK: He is a man of high integrity, and he's, he is the foremost fighter against abortion in the Congress. The bill in New Jersey that may be passed this coming week actually permits human cloning. It's an outrageous piece of legislation which is going through without opposition, and, and that's one other thing that the president is very strong on is to try to get an anti-cloning bill through Congress.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a more decent congressman is hard to find. But he's wrong on Bush's position in that I think if there are eight votes someday to overturn Roe v. Wade in the Bush administration, Bush will be issuing a litmus test to judges that they will not vote to overturn Roe v. Wade before he'll nominate them.
SHIELDS: Last word, Margaret Carlson.
Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at France's attitude towards war against Iraq with Christopher Caldwell of "The Weekly Standard."
SHIELDS: Welcome back.
France has joined Germany in opposing the U.S. position on Iraq. Secretary of State Powell's presentation to the U.N. Security Council did not move French President Jacques Chirac.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACQUES CHIRAC, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): France considers that between the situation of inspections as it is now and war there are many steps to be taken in order to disarm Iraq, and that we haven't fully explored these possibilities yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: In Washington, the new French ambassador insisted that his country is an ally in the war against terrorism, even possibly going to war against Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE, FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: We don't rule out the military option. It is the last option. That is, we should, in our view, pursue the inspections, as long as the inspectors themselves consider that they can do a good job, a proper job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Joining us now is Christopher Caldwell, a senior editor at "The Weekly Standard," a man of surpassing journalistic credentials who accidentally happens to be Bob Novak's son-in-law, but we don't hold that against him. He makes frequent reporting trips to Europe.
And thank you for coming in again, Chris.
CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Thank you, Mark.
SHIELDS: It's good to have you here.
Chris, why has France decided to line up with Germany instead of the United States in the showdown with Iraq?
CALDWELL: I think it's got a lot to do with situations outside of the Iraq situation. France has long envisioned Europe as its means of becoming a superpower itself, and now Europe is beginning to blow up in its face a little. Even disregarding the sympathy of the Eastern countries for the United States, France is now in a much smaller -- has a much smaller voice in Europe, and it needs Germany as an ally.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak.
NOVAK: Well, that -- going just one step beyond that, Chris, Paul Johnson, the noted British author, in the "National Review" cover story this week, says that the French are really trying to undermine the United States. Do you, do you go that far?
CALDWELL: There is some evidence of that. For one thing, the French, the Germans, and the Belgians are blocking NATO supply of, of, of materiel, notably Patriot missiles, to, to Turkey. And Jeffrey (ph) Robbins -- or Robertson, the NATO secretary, has said that those will go through by Monday. But it's significant that the Dutch have taken their own stocks of Patriot missiles and shipped them country to country to Turkey.
So there may be a real -- there may be a real blowup there.
CARLSON: But in the end, Chris, isn't this like a cry for help and a cry for attention, and won't the French come around? I mean, certainly they're not going to veto.
CALDWELL: They, they say right now that if the vote were today, they would, they would veto, and there's no reason not to believe them. But yes, in the long run, the...
CARLSON: Like, after February 14.
CALDWELL: ... in, in the long run, they are our ally. I don't think there's any question about that. But, but for now, yes, they're, they're locked in a position of opposition.
HUNT: Christopher, how much of their calculations are commercial? How -- in the sense that they want a piece of action in the Middle East? They want a piece of the action in a post-Saddam Iraq. So how much of it is driven by that?
CALDWELL: Maybe, maybe a little bit more than ours. But I, I, I think that when, when Americans think about France and when the French think about America, we always tend to be looking for the hidden consideration.
I think for the most part, and if you look at a poll -- polling numbers on this, the French just believe that a war with Iraq is a bad idea. And politicians are responding to their voters. And that's most of it.
SHIELDS: You know, it's, it's rather intriguing, I mean, France lost one out of four of its men in World War I, and they've suffered just enormously at war, so you can understand that there's a certain antiwar feeling still, still present there. But I guess my question is, how much is there -- is the resistance to the United States' role tempered by countries that a fear of reprisals upon their own soil by terrorists if the United States does invade Iraq?
CALDWELL: That's a bigger, that's a bigger problem in Iraq than it is in most countries. They have a large population of Arab immigrants who come from their old colonies. And in the last few months, there's evidence that, that some of these immigrants are quite radicalized. The, the, the cells that were -- the terrorist cells who were -- that were, were using -- manufacturing ricin in apartments in France and, and, and London, Bush mentioned -- mentioned them -- I'm sorry, Powell mentioned them in his U.N. address...
SHIELDS: U.N. speech.
CALDWELL: ... doesn't really put, put a lot of fear into the French public. That's certainly a consideration. I don't know if it's a determining one.
NOVAK: Along that line, you've made several reporting trips recently to France and Germany. In, in France, but also bringing in Germany, how, how much anti-American -- I'm not talking about pacifist antiwar, but just plain old anti-American sentiment do you find?
CALDWELL: Yes, I think that's a very good distinction, because you have, like, the march today in Paris was not a peace march, it was a, it was an anti-American and -- march. I think it's growing. I think it's more -- it -- I think, I think it's more important among elites than it is among the people at large. It's sort of a reverse of the situation to what you see in Washington.
But I think it's, it's significant. I don't know that it's growing.
CARLSON: Is it a good idea for a cabinet secretary of this administration to refer to France and Germany as "old Europe"?
CALDWELL: Well, there's a certain, there's a certain logic in it. But because they really are clinging to each other, and I, I, I detect a certain nostalgia for the old Europe of six nations, in which France and Germany were the, the motor.
But it may not be the most tactful. But it's more tactful than what he said when he put Germany in with Cuba and Libya as the two really...
NOVAK: You're talking about Secretary...
SHIELDS: Secretary Rumsfeld.
SHIELDS: Quickly, Al.
HUNT: ... how about -- we talked about the U.S., how about Britain? Has the, have, has the -- they've, they've been on different wavelengths in Iraq too. Has this exacerbated the old Franco-Anglo tensions?
CALDWELL: It has and it hasn't. It, it -- yes, France has never really understood German -- Britain's desire to be in the mid- Atlantic. At the same time, in the past week, President Chirac has managed to get an agreement with Tony Blair to go ahead with a European rapid reaction force, which would give them some military independence from us.
SHIELDS: Chris Caldwell, thank you very, very much for being with us.
Your GANG will be back with the "Outrages of the Week."
SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week."
In nationally televised services, the nation's leadership and citizens solemnly mourned the loss of the seven Columbia astronauts. But Wednesday, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, there were no network anchors, no powerful federal officials, no celebrities in the gathering. There were relatives, friends, and comrades to comfort the families and to honor the lives of four American heroes who perished in the crash of their Black Hawk helicopter in Afghanistan.
Their names, Chief Warrant Officer Mark O'Steen, Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Gibbons, Staff Sergeant Daniel L. Kisling, Jr., and Sergeant Gregory Michael Frampton.
They earned our gratitude. They deserve our attention.
NOVAK: In the Senate this week, majority leader Bill Frist asked Democratic leader Tom Daschle how many hours he needed to debate confirmation of Miguel Estrada for the prestigious District of Columbia appeals court. Daschle gave no answer, indicating a possible filibuster, only the second ever against a judicial nomination.
Estrada is a brilliant young conservative, and the left cannot tolerate conservative Hispanic Americans. Left-wing activist Ralph Neese (ph) gives it away by calling Estrada "the Hispanic Clarence Thomas." If that's not racism, I don't know what it is.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
CARLSON: Mark, law firm, law and accounting firms Ernst and Young, KPMG, and Sidley and Austin (ph), offered tax shelters that promised to make taxes disappear, poof! The magic cost millions, and clients had to sign agreements not to tell other lawyers or financial advisers.
Sprint's president, Ronald LeMay, paid as much as $10 million to bilk Uncle Sam out of taxes on $149 million.
Now the IRS says he owes $59 million as it declares such schemes a sham. Wealthy cheats are now suing those who taught them how to cheat, obliterating each other. For such small moments of justice, let us give thanks.
HUNT: Mark, conservative John Locke (ph) produces research that conforms to his ideology without showing us the data. Locke claimed thousands of Bush voters in Florida left voting lines 15 minutes before the polls closed after they saw TV projections of a Gore victory. Locke contends crime drops when there are more guns, prompting one police chief to facetiously suggest we ought to fire all the cops and give everybody machine guns.
Now we learn that Mary Roche (ph), who defends Locke passionately on the Internet, is fictitious. She's actually Locke himself.
It's a lot easier, Mark, if you make it up.
SHIELDS: You're right, Al.
This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG.
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