The Web     
Powered by
powered by Yahoo!
Return to Transcripts main page


Weapons Report on Iraq Evokes Negative U.S. Reaction; Government Raises Alert Status; Senators Refuse Confirmation Vote on Estrada

Aired February 15, 2003 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

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

The weapons inspectors' report on Iraq to the United Nations Security Council evoked a negative U.S. reaction.


HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: How much, if any, is left of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and related proscribed items and programs? So far, UNMOVIC has not found any such weapons.

MOHAMED ELBARADEI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY: We have today found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities in Iraq.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I am glad that access has been relatively good. But that is all process. These are all process issues. These are all tricks that are being played on us.


SHIELDS: Secretary Powell's request for authorization to use force to get rid of Saddam Hussein and Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was opposed by a majority of Security Council members.


DOMINIQUE DE VILLEPIN, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): The use of force is not justified at this time. There is an alternative to war, disarming Iraq via inspections.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, in the face of so much international opposition, will President Bush take military action?

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: Yes, Mark, but the timetable may be delayed awhile. There are not only 150,000 American troops right now surrounding Iraq, but as Tom Ricks (ph) reported in the "The Washington Post," special forces are already inside Iraq. So in that sense, the war has already begun.

I think the full-scale invasion was planned for early March. It may be set back, but just a short while.

What the Hans Blix report did for opponents was, it really did give them probably more time, for several reasons. Without a second U.N. resolution, the Tony Blair government in London may well be toppled. I mean, he is in real trouble. And secondly, the aftermath is going to be much harder if you do it under -- in this current environment.

So I think the Bush administration will go for a second U.N. resolution, but if the French play games, if it does -- they won't accept a time-certain, quick deadline, then I think they will pull it. And I think the only way to avoid war is for Saddam to come clean. He ought to. History suggests he won't.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, is Al right, even if -- without Tony Blair, if Tony Blair, for political reasons, or he's no longer in power, can't go, will the U.S. go it alone?

ROBERT NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: I'm afraid it's 100 percent sure that they will go. I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) have been making that number higher each week.


NOVAK: I think it's 100 percent sure. I think it's a huge mistake. I think going into war against a country where you don't have the proof of the weapons of mass destruction, whether or not aggressing anybody, this is preemption. And the preemption is a very dangerous, very dangerous doctrine indeed.

The problem is, of course, not that we won't win the war. It's the question of, number one, of casualties, and secondly, the aftermath of the war. But I think it's a very uncomfortable situation. Everybody I've talked to is apprehensive about it, even the people who have been advocating this policy.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Well, I disagree. The White House will explain this isn't a matter of preemption. If anything, you have to look back rather than ahead to realize what their case is, which is, that following the end of the Gulf War, he pledged 12, 13 years ago to get rid of these weapons, and of course he hasn't. And even the countries, like France and Germany, that disagree with taking military action against him don't deny that he's got these weapons.

Fittingly enough, this is deja vu. He played these games with the U.N. all during the '90s, and people like France and Germany are willing to let him continue playing these games.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, are you sure that we're going to war, and that George W. Bush will go to war even if he can't get backing from the Security Council? MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: He's put the United States in a position, I think, of having to go. There are too many troops there. You can't keep them there indefinitely. Weather is operating so that it's going to be too hot by May. So the March date, while it can be delayed some, it can't be delayed forever.

And, you know, the other countries on the Security Council have a point, not when they say more inspectors, but when they say more time, as a result of the Hans Blix report, which split the baby and gave more credence to those who want inspections to go on longer.

You know, the -- and the idea of Powell this week making a tie to al Qaeda again, which seems to me to be the weakest part of the Bush administration's argument for going to war, when the Osama bin Laden tape came out. That was...

SHIELDS: I, I agree...

CARLSON: ... the only person, I think, who thought that that tape established any relationship between Osama and Saddam Hussein.

SHIELDS: I agree, but I think the, I think the administration knows that Americans are far more concerned about al Qaeda and terrorists than they are about Iraq.

CARLSON: Totally.

SHIELDS: Therefore, the justification (UNINTELLIGIBLE) against a war against Iraq becomes al -- that somehow Iraq is in bed with al Qaeda...

CARLSON: And it also reminded everybody...

SHIELDS: ... which there is no proof of.

CARLSON: ... that Osama, Osama bin Laden is still out there, and there doesn't seem to be as much...

O'BEIRNE: Well, except...

CARLSON: ... for going after him.

O'BEIRNE: ... George Tenet, George Tenet said this week that there is very firm, credible intelligence, about which there's no question, that he's harboring al Qaeda members, and of course what the president worries, is so concerned about is the combination of Saddam Hussein with his murderous intent towards us, weapons of mass destruction, and he is clearly harboring al Qaeda terrorists.

NOVAK: Oh, well, Kate, Kate...

CARLSON: Yes, they have him harboring a guy...

NOVAK: ... but it...

CARLSON: ... who had his leg amputated... NOVAK: Kate...

CARLSON: ... and that's about it.

NOVAK: ... I heard Mr. Tenet's testimony, and all he said was that there are al Qaeda members in Iraq. There are al Qaeda members in Detroit. There's al Qaeda members in Buffalo. And, you know, I don't think, I don't think that is the link that you need.

The interesting thing, I find, is that the war hawks inside the administration and close to the administration, I hear that they say we should have moved quicker, we should have moved without all this folderol of going to the United Nations. That's Colin Powell's fault. We would have got this thing. We wouldn't have built up this anti -- we wouldn't have had the antiwar sentiment if we had really moved fast.

CARLSON: But you couldn't have moved faster.

HUNT: And principal among those war hawks who have that view, which I think you very accurately described, is Dick Cheney.

Kate, I, I'm, I think you have to take Saddam out. I think it's a mistake to keep stressing this al Qaeda tie. I think it's more a perspective problem...

O'BEIRNE: I don't think they...

HUNT: ... than it is a (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I think they stress it...

O'BEIRNE: ... I don't think they stress it...

HUNT: ... too much.

O'BEIRNE: ... but I think it is a reality.

HUNT: But I'll tell you...


HUNT: ... the other thing that really does worry me. I went to a Dick Lugar-Joe Biden hearing this week...

SHIELDS: I was going to ask you about that.

HUNT: ... on what happens after, the day after. I don't think it's going to be a particularly bloody conflict, in talking to military experts. I think it will be rather quick and quite successful. But I'll tell you something, I think it's quite clear that they have not though through very carefully at all as to what happens afterwards. That is the most dangerous, the most perilous...


CARLSON: So... SHIELDS: ... let me just make one point. I'll tell you, Al, it may not be bloody, you know, the First World War was supposed to be over in 42 days, according to the Germans as they invaded France. They were sure of it. I'm not -- it's in the interest of Saddam to extend it, to make it more bloody.

And if you have pictures on Al Jazeera or on television of Palestinians being killed by Israeli tanks, and Iraqis being killed by American bombers, I'll tell you, you've already done the enrollment, recruitment drive for al Qaeda for the next generation.

NOVAK: Let, let, let me say one thing...

O'BEIRNE: Didn't happen post-Afghanistan, where they were welcomed in Kabul like liberators, which could well be the case in Baghdad.

CARLSON: No, I think people will be happy to get rid of Saddam Hussein.


CARLSON: But winning the peace is going to be very hard without European allies, because America will be occupying a Muslim country.

NOVAK: Let me just say (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

HUNT: Cost, among things, will be about $400 or $500 billion over the next five or 10 years.

NOVAK: Let me just, let me just say something about what happened this week. I think that they were -- that the reason that Secretary Powell's usual equanimity was disturbed was, I think they were really surprised at the opposition in the Security Council. I thought they had -- I thought they -- the U.S. thought they had it locked up a lot better than that.

CARLSON: Applause in the...

HUNT: Not just in France, but Chile...

CARLSON: ... applause in the U.N....

HUNT: ... and, you know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

CARLSON: ... is very disturbing.

HUNT: It'll postpone action.

SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt.

THE GANG of five will be back with the rush to buy duct tape.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. The federal government heightened its terrorist alert based partly on intercepted communications.


GEORGE TENET, DIRECTOR, CIA: The intelligence is not idle chatter on the part of terrorists or their associates. It is the most specific we have seen.

ROBERT MUELLER, DIRECTOR, FBI: Our greatest threat is from al Qaeda cells in the United States that we have not yet been able to identify.


SHIELDS: The Department of Homeland Security called on American citizens to take responsibility. They were told to buy duct tape and heavy plastic sheeting to prepare a home shelter, provoking political criticism.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: This is not an adequate response to the seriousness and the extraordinary difficulties that our country is confronting as we consider what repercussions could come from these attacks.

TOM RIDGE, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We do not want individuals or families to start sealing their doors or their windows. It is very appropriately listed in the list of supplies for an emergency supply kit.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Raising the threat level also informs that the general public to be more alert to their surroundings and prepare for possible emergencies in the event of an attack. Americans should go about their lives.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, has the government properly alerted Americans, or just scared them silly?

CARLSON: Well, people were more scared than they have been since 9/11, except for Bob here, nothing scares Bob. And if you looked at the lines at Home Depot, you would say the terrorists have won, because people were certainly altering their lives to follow Tom Ridge's advice, which he said was the result of focus groups.

Now, I live by duct tape since my car is completely held together on the sun roof, and I can tell you it doesn't even keep out the rain, so I don't think it's going to keep out chemical or biological agents. It was a distraction, because what we need is the government protecting us. If we ever needed government, Bob, for more than beach erosion and air traffic control, your two favorite government functions...

NOVAK: Official government functions.

CARLSON: ... this is -- this is a government function, which is to protect us from terrorists. We cannot go ourselves and try to, you know, construct our shelters.

I think it was a distraction, and they should put the money into homeland security, which they have not done. The one thing Democrats have done good this week is to point out that the money for fire, firemen and policemen and not being appropriated.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, when there's a run on duct tape, is that a metaphor for the terrorists having won?

O'BEIRNE: I don't think so. You know, they're in such a spot, when you think of it, the homeland security types. Hard to say what they should do. Tom Daschle's in such an enviable position. He'll be either accusing them of keeping Americans in the dark, or alarming Americans unnecessarily. And the Democrats are clearly laying the groundwork for the next attack. They want to be prepared to say, We told you you weren't doing enough.

They could add another $10 billion to first responders in the event of an attack, and the Democrats will say, It should have been 15, should have been 25, should have been 30.

It's really a terribly unfair, I think, attempt, with the administration grappling with this unprecedented challenge.

CARLSON: It should be more, however, than a 10 percent increase, wouldn't you say?

O'BEIRNE: Who knows?

SHIELDS: Well, when the firefighters...

O'BEIRNE: Who knows even how vulnerable we are?

SHIELDS: ... the firefighters come to Washington to say -- the very firefighters that we lionized, immortalized, the president hugged on September 15, and that somehow they come and they have not gotten any of the equipment they were promised.

But go ahead, Bob Novak.

NOVAK: I think the duct tape thing was a bad move. It was silly. Tom Ridge says, Now, don't use the duct tape. You can buy it and store it up, but don't get that wrong.

It -- I would say this, that people in Washington are terrified, they're just terrified. They're nervous. People are not going to events. But nobody's more terrified than our members of Congress and their spouses. That's the reason that they didn't stay here for next week to do the work they were supposed to do. They wanted -- they were terrified and wanted to get out of town.

And I really believe that the president, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) trying to put this in perspective, says, Go about your lives, it's hard to go about your lives when you're getting all these frightening signals from the administration.

I just had to say a word about the Democrats. The Democrats are trying to set this up that if there is a terrorist of -- attack, it's going to be Bush's fault for not asking for enough (UNINTELLIGIBLE) enough money. That's straight politics.

CARLSON: Some money.

SHIELDS: Now -- how about some -- Al Hunt, you know, the line about politicians coming to Washington is, they never go back to Pocatella. And Bob Novak was right, they've all gone back to Pocatella this week. I mean, they're out of here.

Is that a reflection?

HUNT: Well, Bob is also right that people are terrified. There's been an increase in the level of terror like I have never seen before. And frankly, we don't know what the hell to do. There's such a mixed message from this administration, and they got to get their act together now. First of all, Tom Ridge ought to be out front more often. He ought to be a more coherent message.

Secondly, it would be nice to think that this administration accorded as high a priority to antiterrorism they do to the war on Iraq or tax cuts.

And thirdly, on specifics, Margaret is absolutely right. We need more money for our ports, we need more money for our borders. First responders, they said $3.5 million more in the budget. Well, over two-thirds of that is just, is duplication, it's double accounting. I mean, and, and, and I think we have to supply that.

And you got to give states and localities more money. They are on the front lines. Springfield, Massachusetts, this week said they're going to lay of 76 cops and 57 firemen. I don't feel that safe (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Springfield.

NOVAK: Well, that's a...

HUNT: Now, to take care of (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you may have to sacrifice some on those tax cuts.

NOVAK: Well, you always, you always want more money for everything, except, I think, usually defense, you're usually not so high on. But...

O'BEIRNE: I thought the complaint was that George Bush was focusing too much on the war on terror and not enough on the economy. Now it's the reverse?

CARLSON: No. Too much on the war on Iraq and not enough on the war on terror.

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it's all -- he's always (UNINTELLIGIBLE) emphasizing the wrong thing, whatever he's doing, though. That's, that, that's the point. But I, I do think they've been inept in this thing, and, and who was it, who was it who made this announcement on duct tape? It wasn't, it wasn't the president, wasn't Tom Ridge, it was some guy in a briefing at the Homeland Security Department.

SHIELDS: I like Tom Ridge enormously. But when they reveal that they focused-grouped their response that they were talking about, they had focus groups of voters come in, and they try and find out what expression was best, what -- how best to phrase it. That wasn't the most reassuring...


SHIELDS: ... message.

CARLSON: ... that the president had asked us to sacrifice in some way, instead of to go shopping right after 9/11, see what people do when you tell them to do something? They go crazy...


HUNT: I like Tom Ridge a lot too...

CARLSON: ... duct tape.

HUNT: ... I just want him to be in charge. I want him to be more visible. I want to...

O'BEIRNE: Well, people...

HUNT: ... see more Tom Ridge.

O'BEIRNE: We should see more of him. People, people always say they want some concrete advice about what to do, and given the various methods of possible attack, I'm not so sure what the advice could look like.

CARLSON: But you'll suffocate with the duct tape and the plastic sheeting...


SHIELDS: Last word, last word, Margaret Carlson, and a good one it was.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, filibustering a judge.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. Democratic senators refused to permit a confirmation vote on Washington lawyer Miguel Estrada to be a judge on the U.S. appellate court for the District of Columbia until he reveals his judicial philosophy.


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Miguel Estrada has written extensively on his views of very complex issues in the law, things that would be of great interest to those who have to vote on somebody for a lifetime position in the courts. He has written extensively, but he has kept the writing secret.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Tell me what's wrong with Miguel Estrada. Tell me one glove that they've laid upon him. Tell me one proof that they have that he's not worthy of being on the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Other than the specious, spurious arguments, Well, we don't know about -- enough about him.


SHIELDS: The president and the Senate Democratic leader offered their opinions.


BUSH: A handful of Democrats in the Senate are playing politics with his nomination, and it's shameful politics.

DASCHLE: I personally don't believe he's qualified...


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, Senate's out of town, left town for the week. But will Miguel Estrada be confirmed?

NOVAK: I think that's uncertain right now. I think it depends, the determination of the Republicans, the White House, and the Republican majority leadership. Not leaving town under this tremendous pressure from the senators and their spouses, frightened of the terrorist attack, was not a good sign. It wasn't -- it isn't definitive.

The question is, will they keep the nomination up? Will they have cloture votes? Right now there are 54 votes in the Senate for his confirmation, enough to confirm, not the 60 votes needed to...

SHIELDS: End the debate.

NOVAK: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the debate with...

SHIELDS: To bring it to a...

NOVAK: ... with cloture.


NOVAK: And so if you put up a cloture vote, that's a bad sign. Will they go into round-the-clock sessions? That's the extreme possibility. There's other gradations of keeping their feet to the fire. I think the jury is out on that. But the stakes are very high. It sets a supermajority for controversial judges. And it says, once again, that the Democrats will not tolerate an African-American or a Latino who is a conservative.

SHIELDS: Is that the story, Margaret Carlson?

CARLSON: No, I don't think that's the case. You know, you don't have the right to remain silent at your confirmation hearing. And nothing that Estrada has done since law school is in the public record in any way. There's no way to know anything about what he thinks, and he won't, he won't say.

I mean, I think he would -- his life story is so good, he would make a great congressional candidate, and he can tell voters what he wants, and they can vote based on that. But there's no -- the Senate cannot advise and consent if they have no information.


HUNT: Well, I agree with Margaret. You know, he's a guy who wouldn't even express the view of any Supreme Court decision. I mean, at least he could say Dredd Scott was a bad, was a bad decision, it seems to me.

And Orrin Hatch, back six years ago, when Judge Garland (ph) was up for the, for the, for the same court, circuit court, said we ought to, you know, find out with great specificity what a nominee's views are.

But the worst canard of all is this anti-Hispanic charge. Let me just give you a specific. Judge Richard Payez (ph), nominated by Clinton in January of '96, Orrin Hatch sat on it for a year, nothing. Nominated in '97, went through two years, 105th Congress, had to, you know, again, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), it died. Nominated in '99, 14 months later they finally, they finally confirmed this guy when they didn't have the votes for a filibuster, they were several votes shy. A Mexican American.

Did anyone accuse the Republicans then of being anti-Hispanic...


HUNT: ... or for 50...


HUNT: ... wait a second, I'm not...

NOVAK: ... I mean, it's a long...

HUNT: I'm talking about Orrin Hatch... NOVAK: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

HUNT: ... for 50 months...

NOVAK: ... talk about filibuster.

HUNT: ... did we ever discuss the outrage on this show? Never.


HUNT: Never.

NOVAK: ... just one (UNINTELLIGIBLE) word. We're talking about a conservative Hispanic.

HUNT: Oh, I see...

NOVAK: That's what they won't tolerate.

HUNT: ... it's fine to be, it's fine to be against a liberal Hispanic.


CARLSON: ... liberal Hispanic.


HUNT: Wait, is it fine of it's a liberal Hispanic?


HUNT: What do you mean, ridiculous?

O'BEIRNE: What's, what's being demanded of Miguel Estrada has never been demanded of a previous nominee to the bench. There are seven former employees at the solicitor general's office currently sitting on the court of appeals, seven of them. Nobody ever asked for their internal working papers, which every living (UNINTELLIGIBLE) solicitor general argues against.

It is a wholly new standard. There are countless judges who answered judicial candidates, who answered the questions, like Miguel Estrada did, and nobody said that it meant they didn't know enough about him. It's a wholly new standard, this -- they're sending notice, the Democrats, to George Bush. They want a say in who's nominated, and they want a 60-vote standard.

HUNT: It wasn't a new standard...


HUNT: ... for Judge Garland back...

CARLSON: No, Senator Hatch...


O'BEIRNE: Wholly new standard.

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), just, just to make sure we know what we're talking about, there is not an accusation of the Democrats being anti-Hispanic, Al, they're being anti-conservative Hispanic.

HUNT: Not by you, but by others, there has been, for sure.


SHIELDS: Last word, last word Bob Novak.

We'll be back with THE CAPITAL GANG Classic, the death of North Korea's dictator.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Eight and a half years ago, North Korea's communist dictator, Kim Il Sung, died at age 82. It was announced as the U.S. and North Korea began talks on Pyongyang regime's nuclear program. Your CAPITAL GANG discussed the situation on July 9, 1994. Our guest then was former Democratic congressman Stephen Solarz of New York.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, July 9, 1994)

SHIELDS: Steve, does this change of leadership make more or less likely a showdown between the United States and North Korea over the question of nuclear weapons?

STEPHEN SOLARZ (D), FORMER NEW YORK CONGRESSMAN: The truth is, nobody really knows what Kim Jong Il stands for. We can anticipate the worst. But only time will tell whether it brings about any fundamental change in North Korean policy on this issue.

NOVAK: Well, I think in the long term, when you have a dirty old dictator like this die, there's always a good chance for something better coming out of it.

HUNT: I think the one thing that we can say, though, is it makes the most dangerous place on the planet probably even more dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His son was totally shielded from the outside world. We have no idea what he is like, although he's been implicated in assassinations of South Korean leaders. I expect that in the next few weeks, we're probably going to hear that he loves the Beach Boys and drinks Sam Adams beer or something. But in all likelihood, we can expect him to be very much like his father.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, did the old dictator's death actually make the world a less dangerous place? O'BEIRNE: Well, Mark, unfortunately, in this case the nut didn't fall far from the tree, which I don't mean as a figure of speech. And at the time, people said at best he's a flake, at worst a psychopath. Nine years later, that's still apparently the case. We can only hope he doesn't have his father's longevity.


HUNT: I think the Korean peninsula is still the most dangerous place on the face of the earth, and probably a little more dangerous than it was eight years ago, Mark.

SHIELDS: But it's not a crisis, right, Bob?

NOVAK: I don't think he's a nut, I don't think he's a psychopath. He's a dictator. But I will say this, the Clinton administration reacting to this situation got the framework deal and probably that's why they have two atom bombs now instead of 100 atom bombs. And I think this administration is now embarking on a negotiating path, which is the right thing.

CARLSON: Bob, you are the least optimistic person I know, and on the show -- on that show, it's historic, because you said you expected something...

O'BEIRNE: Things are looking up.

CARLSON: ... better to come.


NOVAK: Well, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), we didn't have 100 atom bombs.

HUNT: Ninety-eight fewer than we could have had.

CARLSON: And -- right.

SHIELDS: But seriously, given the situation today, what about China?

HUNT: I think China right now -- I think (UNINTELLIGIBLE) right now is, let's let America stew in this for a while. We don't want to -- they certainly don't want a conflict in, in, in, in Korea, and I think their influence is probably less than we'd like it to be, and I think they really want to let the U.S. stew.

SHIELDS: Margaret?

CARLSON: Behaving better than Russia.


NOVAK: Well, I would think we're going to find out directly from North Korea what's going on.

SHIELDS: That's the reason to stay tuned for the second half of this show. Coming up in the second half of CAPITAL GANG, our "Newsmaker of the Week" is former CIA director Robert Gates. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at North Korea's nukes with CNN senior Asia correspondent Mike Chinoy, direct from North Korea. That, and our "Outrages of the Week," all after the latest news following these significant messages.



ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

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

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

Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is former CIA director Robert Gates, now president of Texas A&M University.

Robert M. Gates, age 59, residence College Station, Texas, bachelor's degree from William and Mary, master's from Indiana University, doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University.

Joined the CIA in 1966, served 27 years. Deputy national security adviser 1989 to 1991, CIA director 1991 to 1993, the first up-through-the-ranks employee to head that agency.

Kate O'Beirne interviewed Robert Gates earlier this week from College Station.


O'BEIRNE: Given that the CIA was created in response to Pearl Harbor to prevent another surprise attack, and 60 years later came 9/11, how should Americans rate the agency's success?

ROBERT M. GATES, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA: I think it's important to recognize how many attempts there were to attack the United States by al Qaeda and others in the 1990s that failed. The reality is, CIA was created to deal with a purely foreign threat and primarily one overseas, in terms of the Soviet Union in particular.

What we have -- what happened on September 11 is a new phenomenon, and that is where you had a threat from abroad, but launched from within the United States.

O'BEIRNE: But clearly there were some identified failures by the CIA, among others, before 9/11. Shouldn't people who make fatal mistakes lose their jobs?

GATES: Well, I think that assumes that you can eradicate all terrorism, and it seems to me that's on a par with the notion of eradicating all crime. It seems to me the best you can probably hope for is to reduce the threat to a degree where people can live their lives normally, frankly, the way that many European capitals do today.

O'BEIRNE: What do you think the odds are for another major terrorist attack?

GATES: Oh, I think the odds of another major attack are quite high.

O'BEIRNE: Should we be attacked again, what do you anticipate we'll be saying about what our intelligence agencies should have been doing to prevent this next one?

GATES: We have a huge and complicated and open system that is almost -- where it is almost impossible to protect everything. So I think they're trying to do the best they can. I think that there has been a significant improvement in our homeland security.

And perhaps the most important thing that the measures of the last 16 months have done is introduced an element of uncertainty and randomness in security with respect to a terrorist, in the sense that they don't know where they might get picked up.

O'BEIRNE: But it seems that the administration no sooner connects the dots and makes its case, like Colin Powell did against Saddam, than anonymous intelligence sources are in the newspapers disagreeing with the analysis. Why are there such differences about the proper standard of proof within the intelligence community?

GATES: You always are dealing with a different standard of proof in trying to make policy decisions than you are in a courtroom. And the fact is, what we tried to do was present the information to the policy makers in a way that would allow them to have some measure of confidence.

I can't think of a single instance in -- well, I can't think of more than one or two instances in my entire career where, when we confronted a threat or a crisis, where the president had absolute certain information on what had happened or what was about to happen.

O'BEIRNE: Last November, a CIA drone and Hellfire missile killed six al Qaeda members in Yemen. What did that tell us about the CIA's capabilities?

GATES: I think it illustrated that the agency has good sources and does have the ability to act when the information is clear. It -- the problem is, it's not comprehensive. They're not going to know everything all the time.

O'BEIRNE: You've explained that one reason the first Bush administration didn't go after Saddam in 1991 was the difficulty in finding him because he could slip out of Baghdad so easily. Aren't we confronted with the same problem now, if we move against Iraq?

GATES: There is that problem. After all, we had the same problem in Panama when we were trying to capture Noriega. We couldn't find him either. But you don't necessarily have to capture Saddam to bring about regime change. All you have to do is remove him from power, and you can go ahead and try and put in a successor regime at that point.

I think it is going to be perhaps somewhat more complicated and difficult than some of the people are saying. But I think it's a manageable task.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, is Robert Gates really suggesting that there is no accountability when it comes to the CIA?

O'BEIRNE: Mark, I was expressing my continuing frustration that clearly a colossal intelligence failure left us vulnerable on 9/11, however you divvy up the responsibility among the intelligence agencies.

But he's a realist. Bob Gates has given the different methods the terrorists can use and how vulnerable this open society is, and the real limitations of intelligence. To expect the prevention of attacks on the part of our intelligence services would be to expect perfection.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: I think Mr. Gates, as well as all the other alumni of the CIA, who I greatly admire, I'm a great admirer of the CIA, do not want a full investigation because it's going to be embarrassing, and they want, at a time of conflict, you know, without getting into an argument about Pearl Harbor, there's no question, everybody agrees that it was a coverup during the war because they didn't want to undermine the war effort.

And I think you have a little bit of that now.


HUNT: Well, you had a Pearl Harbor investigation, which is why we should have one now too. But I thought that -- I thought Director Gates was -- it's scary when he says the probability is quite high that we'll have another attack. The one thing I think he's wrong on is that Saddam Hussein can escape. I don't think Saddam lives off the land. It would be horrifying to have Saddam and Osama both out on the loose.

SHIELDS: Margaret.

CARLSON: I mean, those, those high poll ratings, I think, plummet if both Osama and Saddam Hussein are left at large after we go to war in Iraq. That would be terrible.

What's shocking is just how much Gates sort of throws up his hands and says, We can't do anything. I mean, the current CIA director wouldn't say that.

But this guy...

NOVAK: He didn't quite say that. CARLSON: He almost said that. No wonder we got the duct tape.

SHIELDS: Last, last word, Margaret Carlson.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at North Korea's nukes with CNN's senior Asia correspondent, Mike Chinoy, reporting live from North Korea.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

A U.S. senator asked the director of the CIA whether North Korea has nuclear weapons.


TENET: I think we've unclassified the fact that they probably have one or two plutonium-based devices today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the likelihood that they currently have a missile capable of hitting the West Coast of the United States?

TENET: Yes, they can do that.


SHIELDS: The United States called for an international approach to North Korea.


POWELL: What we said to the North Koreans is, We are willing to talk to you. But it can't just be the United States and the DPRK. We have to find a way to have other concerned nations involved.

ZHANG QIYUE, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESWOMAN (through translator): We support peaceful ways and diplomatic means to solve the regional and international problem. We oppose the use of force, pressure, and sanctions.


SHIELDS: Mike Chinoy, senior Asia correspondent of CNN, now joins us via videophone from Kumgang, North Korea, where he is covering the 61st birthday celebration of Kim Jong Il.

Mike, are clouds of war gathering tonight over the Korean peninsula?

MIKE CHINOY, CNN SENIOR ASIA CORRESPONDENT: It's very hard to say. The North Koreans, for all their rhetoric, have made very clear they want a negotiated solution. Indeed, the strongest impression you get here in North Korea is that it's North Korea that feels itself under threat from a larger and much more powerful United States that's included the regime in Pyongyang in the axis of evil, talked about preemptive strikes.

So the North Koreans say they want to negotiate, but they're very, very firm in saying that if they feel that they're threatened by the U.S., they are prepared to fight.

NOVAK: Mike, you've been there to North Korea before. Do you perceive any change now, any sign of higher readiness or danger?

CHINOY: Well, in terms of military readiness, I don't see anything, and the U.S. military command in South Korea, where I've been speaking to people over the past few days before I came here, say they don't see any change in the North's military posture at all, that the level of rhetoric has gone up, the activity at the nuclear plant has increased, but in terms of the North's conventional military posture, no change at all.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mike, there's been talk of reducing the number of American troops in South Korea or dispersing them to lower the level of American exposure. Do you think that's likely to happen? And would it change the dynamic?

CHINOY: Well, it's hard to say whether or not it's going to happen. There are two issues in relation to the U.S. troops. One is that if there were a conflict, the 37,000 U.S. troops on their own, even with the 700,000-strong South Korean armed forces, would be very hard pressed. The North Korean military is over a million strong and has a lot of firepower.

The other question is that in South Korea, the presence of American troops and their role has been very controversial, and there's a lot of anti-American sentiment and a lot of pressure to redefine the nature of the U.S.-South Korean military relationship. So that broader issue is certainly on the agenda in U.S.-South Korea relations.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Mike, is it clear what North Korea wants this time? Do they want to have nuclear weapons at all costs? Or do they want yet again to be bribed to give them up? Has that yet been answered?

CHINOY: That is really the $64,000 question, in a way. If you look at North Korea's official statements going back for some time, and repeated as recently as the last couple of days, they say that they want to sit down in direct negotiations with the United States, and in return for security guarantees from the United States, they say they will put U.S. security concerns to rest.

At the same time, there is a school of thought now that is convinced that North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, feels for his own survival he may have to have some kind of nuclear capability, given the very hostile posture that the North sees coming from the U.S. And it may only become clear if the U.S. and the North sit down and negotiate how much of what the North is willing to trade away. SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Mike, I ventured earlier on this program that China was enjoying watching America stew in its own problems in this area. Let me ask someone who really knows what they're talking about, namely you, what exactly is China's attitude, and why -- what are they doing, and why?

CHINOY: The Chinese are in a very tough position, because they don't want a nuclear-armed North Korea, and they don't want a conflict on the Korean peninsula.

But my own sense that is China's leverage with the North Koreans is in fact quite limited. My own experience talking for the North Koreans about China is that they really don't care to hear what Beijing wants to tell them, and that has to do with suggesting that North Korea engage in economic reform or any other area.

The North Koreans really want to go their own way. The Chinese do supply a lot of food and fuel to North Korea, but they're very reluctant to use that as leverage, because if North Korea collapses, it will be China that is going to face a huge influx of refugees.

And so on the one hand, the Chinese are very reluctant to pressure the North. On the other hand, their relationship with the U.S. is hugely important to them and has gotten better in the last year and a half since September 11. And they count particularly on economic ties with the U.S. for their own economic development program.

So they don't want to antagonize Washington either. So they're walking a bit of a tightrope.

SHIELDS: Mike Chinoy, we have less than 30 seconds. Is the anti-American feeling in South Korea generational? That is, is it younger South Koreans who are -- have more animus toward the United States?

CHINOY: There is a generation in South Korea that has grown up without any living memory of the role the U.S. played in defending South Korea during the Korean War. South Korea is a very modern, forward-looking nation, and many younger South Koreans feel they're not getting the kind of respect for their status, their improved, their higher status in the world from the U.S. They don't want to be treated as a kind of junior partner.

So what you hear a lot from South Koreans is, We want respect from the U.S., not an end to our alliance with the U.S.

SHIELDS: Mike Chinoy, thank you very much for being with us.

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


SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week." Thanks to budget expert Stan Cullender (ph) of "The National Journal," we now know that because of President Bush's passion for past and future tax cut for the already advantaged, and the federal budget deficits those tax cuts inevitably produced, that by 2006, the annual increase simply for interest payments on the national debt that the next generation will owe will be greater than the increases for national defense and homeland security.

Do you remember when "conservative" meant fiscally responsible?

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: The assault on the Confederate flag has now spread to denigrating traditional Southern heroes, demanding that statues of Confederate leaders be torn down. An antidote to this outrageous political correctness is a new Ted Turner Pictures movie, "Gods and Generals." Its heroes are Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and lesser men and women of the South.

Yes, slavery was their sin, but the film shows them as God- fearing, Bible-reading, defending home and families from foreign invasion.

Congratulations to Ted Turner for his political incorrectness.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, staffers for Congressman Michael Oxley, the soft- on-Enron chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, have warned the Investment Company Institute, which includes Charles Schwab and Vanguard Funds, that if they don't fire their Democratic lobbyist and hire a Republican, they just might face a congressional investigation.

Oxley echoes majority whip Tom DeLay, who threatens Fortune 500 companies that they won't get in his door if they don't give their highest-paying jobs to Republicans.

Oxley's got his way. The institute is looking for a Republican.

Is this Congress? Or the Mafia?

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: During Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu's reelection campaign, she ran radio ads in Spanish touting her ties to the Hispanic community and claiming she supported the candidacy of Miguel Estrada for the federal bench.

But she doesn't, implausibly claiming she was neutral then and is opposed to Estrada now. She blames the mistake on her Hispanic supporters who helped produce the ads. Must have been a language thing.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt...

O'BEIRNE: Landrieu won't have to worry about the deception until manana, unfortunately, in her case, a long six years away.

SHIELDS: Sorry. Al Hunt.

HUNT: Mark, conservative House leaders (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as pro- family, pro-educational opportunities, and pro-legal immigration. But this week they passed a punitive welfare bill that forces low-income mothers to work more hours each week away from their children, restricts child care benefits and continuing education and job training opportunities, denying them the chance to improve their skills.

For good measure, the bill also bars any benefits to legal immigrants.

These tough guys are all for personal responsibility as long as it is poor women and not corrupt corporate executives.

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

Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS: Al Qaeda, the New Threat."


Government Raises Alert Status; Senators Refuse Confirmation Vote on Estrada>

International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.