CNN CAPITAL GANG
Terrorist Bombings in Saudi Arabia Kill 34; Senate Narrowly Passes Tax Cut; Raines Has No Intention of Resigning
Aired May 17, 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 the full CAPITAL GANG, Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne, and Margaret Carlson.
Terrorist bombings in Saudi Arabia, which killed 34, including seven Americans, were followed by the U.S. government's revelation that the Saudi government had failed to heed warnings from President Bush's deputy national security adviser.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This attack does serve as a reminder to the Saudi authorities and to the Saudi government of the importance of taking on terrorism within their own country.
SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We should have been dealing with the Saudis a long time ago. They have been uneven and unpredictable ally.
SAUD AL-FAISAL, SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER: It is no consolation, but these things happen everywhere. And it is truly a battle of long standing that we are waging against terrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
SHIELDS: Al Hunt, is the U.S. about to crack down on the Saudis?
AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: I think until we become less reliant on foreign oil, don't look for any major crackdown on Saudi Arabia, Mark.
And it may well be the Saudis could have prevented this attack, as the U.S. has said. I don't know. But I think the overarching and more important point is that terrorism is not on the run. Terrorism is not on the wane. We saw it in Saudi Arabia this week, Casablanca, the West Bank. The world, in fact, may be even more dangerous.
We can argue whether Bob Graham is right or not that the Iraqi was a distraction in the war against al Qaeda and terrorism. But I think it's undeniable that getting rid of Saddam Hussein, for which there were many good reasons to get rid of Saddam Hussein, but one of them was not because it was going to curb terrorism. He was not a major player in terrorism.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak.
ROBERT NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: I don't think President Bush ever claimed that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was going to end terrorism. I don't believe he ever said that terrorists were on the run.
There has been a -- I would call it a conspiracy against the royal government of Saudi Arabia to just destabilize it that begins in Israel. The Israelis were in here with propaganda earlier this year, and there are people in the government who want to crack down on Saudi Arabia.
I think taking on the reconstruction of Iraq, which is a big, big piece to bite off, is enough without trying to improve, to reform Saudi Arabia.
And by the way, the -- you saw in the mosque in Saudi Arabia, they were denouncing this terrorism. I think that the Saudis are getting a bum rap on this.
SHIELDS: The -- just to -- my own recollection, Bob, is the administration made the point that al Qaeda was very much involved in Iraq, and that terrorism had a friendly host government here, and relationship, and that along with weapons of mass destruction were the principal points we were going to war.
MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Certainly Iraq was -- I mean, many things were thrown on the wall...
CARLSON: ... for going to war in Iraq.
CARLSON: And one of them was the war on terrorism, it was part of the war on terrorism. The Saudis did not heed the warnings, except to up the protection for the royal family. Other than that, very little was done to protect American targets.
And we know from their recent behavior, the Saudis are not going to do much to help. They hold telethons for the suicide bombers who are martyrs.
In Iraq now, now that Paul Bremer is there, you see a crackdown on the aftermath, which is, you know, deans of the Baghdad University being shot in the street. Finally, a kind of martial law is coming into being, and you can hope that that results in a better situation in Iraq now that the war is over.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, just on the subject of Iraq, General Eric Shinseki, who took a lot of criticism for saying we'd need up to 200,000 troops to bring peace and pacification and occupation of Iraq, I think the last (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 171,000 we'll have there the end of next week. But go ahead.
KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: He was thinking it was even going to be much, much larger, and even much -- many more troops even than the 200,000.
Look, the president apparently told us, this is going to be a -- against terrorism, the war against terrorism is going to be a very long battle. I think it's perfectly clear that in cooperation with some of our allies, some of our more cooperative allies, we clearly has disrupted much of what they're doing. Many of them are on the run. They probably have far fewer financial resources available to them.
Iraq was one of the swamps that had to be drained, but there are other swamps out there. And the facts speak for themselves about Saudi Arabia. This week we heard much talk from them about the fact that the Saudis and ourselves are in the same boat when it comes to international terrorism.
Well, not quite, because the Saudis fund it and export it in the form of the most virulent, hateful Islam, the Wahhabi strain, and we are the ones who suffer from it. These terrorists this week did not target the Saudi royal family, they targeted a complex where Westerners lived, specifically Americans.
It's clear the Saudis have not done enough. On this one, Bob Graham -- he's not right on much, but on this one Bob Graham's right.
NOVAK: Well, I would say that the -- we have to get this clear, I mean, that the royal family is as much a target of the terrorists, of the al Qaeda, as the United States is. They want to -- they...
O'BEIRNE: Then why haven't they been targeted?
NOVAK: ... they -- they want -- they -- that's their, that's their tactics. That -- but that -- they -- that is -- the overthrow of that government is part of it. And I just am appalled at the idea that so many of American conservatives are playing into the Israeli line that getting rid of the royal family is going to be helpful on terrorism.
O'BEIRNE: No, no, no...
NOVAK: One thing I would say, that we had a little sound bite from the foreign minister saying this happens everywhere. They had a tremendous terrorist attack in Algeria, we had attacks...
HUNT: No Americans.
NOVAK: ... no Americans. We had an attack in the -- on the West Bank again. This is a -- it does happen everywhere...
NOVAK: ... but this is part of a concerted plan to undermine...
O'BEIRNE: Bob, very...
NOVAK: ... the royal family...
O'BEIRNE: ... Bob, very quickly...
NOVAK: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Arabia.
O'BEIRNE: ... as long as the Saudis spend tens of millions of dollars exporting the virulent form of Islam that preaches killing the infidels, they pose an enormous threat to Americans.
HUNT: I love this conservative battle, so let me just -- but let me just change the subject for a minute to Iraq. I think this week was really interesting what happened.
Jerry Bremer, who has taken over, basically said what Don Rumsfeld's been telling you for the last couple of weeks, folks don't believe it any more, it's not going to be a quick transition, we're not going to turn it over to them, that before we have elections, we have to build institutions, the -- of a democracy, free press, rule of law, you know, secular education.
I think he's absolutely right, but it's going to be long, and it's going to be expensive.
SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt. The GANG of five will be back with whether President Bush has scored a big win on taxes.
SHIELDS: Welcome back.
A partisan Senate vote narrowly passed a tax reduction, including much of what President Bush had requested. Vice President Dick Cheney broke the 50-50 tie to adopt a partial exclusion from the taxation of dividends.
Because of Republican defections, Democrats were needed to pass the bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JON KYL (R), POLICY CHAIRMAN: This is an almost equally divided Senate, and that's why it was especially important to have the cooperation of some of our key friends on the Democratic side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska was one of the three Democrats voting for the bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: I don't mean to in any way demean the presidency, but it's not about pressure from the White House or anything like that. It's about the contents of the plan... (END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, is this a big personal political victory for George W. Bush?
NOVAK: Well, you would think it was a miracle, the way some of the reporting was, how this was at death's door, as I said on this program, as Al said, there was never any question but that he was going to get a tax cut bill, and the final version containing much of what he asked for. You don't get everything.
But nevertheless, it was still a very skillful performance. The interesting thing is, you take the -- you match the places he visited to where the Democratic votes were, Evan Bayh in Indiana, Nelson in Nebraska, even George Voinovich, the Republican in Ohio where he went, and it was very well done.
The -- there will be a big tax cut that does reduce taxation on dividends. House and Senate bills are quite a bit different, but I think they're both very good bills from the standpoint of what the president wanted.
SHIELDS: Very good bills, Margaret Carlson.
CARLSON: It's so full of gimmicks that you don't know where to begin. And Senator Voinovich coming around by saying, you know, literally, it's a $350 billion bill, when he knows that it breaks his pledge, which is because of all the sunsetting and all of that...
SHIELDS: All the expiration dates, yes.
CARLSON: Yes, yes. And now...
CARLSON: Yes, and I appreciate it. But -- why, thank you, Mark.
SHIELDS: Thank you, Margaret. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
CARLSON: And, you know, they're racing to get this done, and the real fun begins when they try to reconcile the House and Senate, and Republicans will be going at each other. And they're going to leave town probably without dealing with unemployment.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.
O'BEIRNE: If I remember correctly, I predicted the president would get much of what he wanted, and Bob said, I agree with Kate on that. I remember it being a rare moment of agreement, Bob, so it stuck with me.
SHIELDS: I think this is touching.
(CROSSTALK) O'BEIRNE: I think, I think the president...
SHIELDS: It's a sort of a sensitivity session.
CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is half of it (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
O'BEIRNE: I think the president is...
HUNT: Are we going to go back to Saudi Arabia?
O'BEIRNE: I think the president is, to his enormous credit, fought for his tax cut, and he's fighting and winning. I think the House is going to, in order to satisfy some of the moderate or liberal Republicans in the Senate, they've added some tax increases. I think the House will take those out. It's not filled with gimmicks, Margaret.
It accelerates the rate reductions, if they're a good idea a few years from now, they're even a better idea now. Every child in America under age 18 get a $500 child tax credit, family of two kids, $1,000. It lowers the marriage penalty.
That's why it's passed, because it has these popular provisions that members don't dare vote against.
SHIELDS: I think, though, Margaret's talking the gimmicks as the family child deduction and the marriage penalty expire in two years under the House bill.
O'BEIRNE: Let me predict, Bob -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) let me make another prediction, Mark, it won't expire in two years.
CARLSON: It won't expire, but that's how they got to $350...
SHIELDS: That's the...
CARLSON: ... billion.
HUNT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), that's, this -- this is the most gimmick-ridden and con -- biggest con job we've ever -- it's a dis -- they're both blatantly dishonest pieces of legislation. If we want to say we want a, you know, a trillion dollar tax cut, say it. They don't. They say we have a 350 or 425, when in fact it's going to cost a trillion.
They really are dishonest bills. But Bush did get a great victory. On the individuals, no one's surprised by Ben Nelson. Ben Nelson was on the block all along. But Voinovich, Margaret's absolutely right, just proved that all of this great rhetoric, all this principle, he doesn't mean it. He can be whipped. They went to Ohio, and he caved, absolutely.
And the biggest shock to me was Evan Bayh, who I think of as a person of real capacity. He says he did it for Indiana because they're getting that revenue back. You know what? For every dollar of the rev that they get back from this bill, they're going to lose two because of what they lose from...
HUNT: ... piggybacking off the tax bill.
NOVAK: ... I'm (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that Evan Bayh makes you unhappy. They had been targeting Evan Bayh for weeks. They -- a lot of people who know what's going on on the strategy tell me they were going to get Evan Bayh's vote. And I said, Gee, I don't think you can. They said, Watch it. They're going, they're going to get it.
See, the thing is...
HUNT: They did.
NOVAK: ... the thing is, Al, I don't know if I can ever explain it to you, but these numbers are just a lot of baloney on how much revenue it loses. They have no idea. It's just a lot of junk. And because this -- these deficits they're talking about, compared to the size of a $4 trillion economy, is chicken feed. You know what chicken feed is?
HUNT: Yes, you know what?
NOVAK: This is chicken feed.
NOVAK: It means nothing.
HUNT: My view on those deficits was formed by people like Steve Friedman, the White House economic adviser, and people like John Snow...
CARLSON: John Snow, the Treasury secretary, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
HUNT: ... from the Concord Coalition, who warned us what would happen. And then Bill Clinton did something about it, and we got the surpluses...
NOVAK: Oh, please!
HUNT: ... and Bob, people got so rich they didn't know what to do with all the money.
NOVAK: Gag me, gag me with a spoon, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
SHIELDS: I will say, I will say this, if you're dealing with a moderate Republican on taxes, you're better off dealing with a woman like Olympia Snowe than...
SHIELDS: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) George Voinovich. And John McCain...
SHIELDS: ... John McCain proves...
SHIELDS: ... once again that five and a half years in a prison camp in Hanoi, bet you withstand White House pressure or any kind of pressure. I wish some of my...
NOVAK: I could, I could say, I could say...
SHIELDS: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
NOVAK: ... something bad right now.
SHIELDS: You know, you laugh when you're talking with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Margaret talking about unemployment...
O'BEIRNE: Mark, Mark...
SHIELDS: ... and you didn't mean that, did you, Bob?
O'BEIRNE: ... Mark, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
NOVAK: I mean, it's just ridiculous...
CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), yes...
NOVAK: ... that unemployment is going to be solved by unemployment compensation...
CARLSON: Well, it's certainly not going to be...
NOVAK: ... just makes people less apt to find a job.
CARLSON: ... solved by giving Bill Gates a million dollar...
CARLSON: ... tax cut.
HUNT: Oh, boy...
CARLSON: It's not going to be solved by giving Bill Gates a million dollar tax cut.
SHIELDS: You're right, Margaret. And Marie Antoinette Novak has spoken the last word.
Next on CAPITAL GANG, should somebody take the fall in "The New York Times" scandal?
SHIELDS: Welcome back.
In a stormy two-hour session with the newsroom staff, "New York Times" executive editor Howell Raines called himself, quote, "guilty of a failure of vigilance," end quote, in supervising the repeated fraudulent behavior, misconduct of reporter Jayson Blair.
As to whether Blair received preferential treatment as a young African-American, Howell Raines said, quote, "You have a right to ask if I, as a white man from Alabama, gave him one chance too many. When I look into my heart for the truth of that, the answer is yes," end quote.
Last Sunday's "New York Times" called the scandal a low point in the newspaper's long history. But (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Raines earlier professed inability to prevent such behavior.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL RAINES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": This system is not set up to find -- to catch someone who sets out to lie and to use every means at his or her disposal to put false information into the paper.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Raines said he had no intention of resigning, and publisher Arthur Sulzburger supported him.
Kate O'Beirne, is there a lack of executive leadership accountability here?
O'BEIRNE: Mark, in fact, the "New York Times" system had caught Jayson Blair. Some of his supervisors early spotted the fact that he was inaccurate, shouldn't be trusted to be reporting in writing, and they passed him on and promoted him anyway. So Howell Raines is wrong there.
"New York Times" has shown a complete double standard, both with respect to "The New York Times" versus other newspapers, Howell Raines had the unmitigated gall to lecture "The Boston Globe" in 1998 over the Mike Barnicle situation, and here he has a far worse one on his hands, and with respect to other institutions.
What they're saying about Jayson Blair is, one bad apple, nobody else is responsible, let's move on. "New York Times" would never accept that explanation from corporate America or the Catholic Church or the White House or any other institution in America.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, 38 on "The Times" own story, they did a remarkable story last Sunday, they said 38 of the 73 stories that Jayson Blair had done contained factual errors or examples of plagiarism and misconduct.
CARLSON: If this were a police drama, there would have been about five times when you would have said, He's -- catch the guy, he's guilty, don't let him do it again. But it was ignored.
And I think that maybe Howell Raines' vulnerability going forward is that the star system, where certain reporters are protected and rewarded and pushed ahead and others are not, makes him vulnerable to people in the newsroom.
I don't know about any of you, but I keep getting calls from people saying, Oh, you know what else? Because Howell Raines has been a very controversial editor there.
The other thing is, when the Fairfax County attorney comes and holds a press conference and says that this story about the sniper is absolutely false, that "The New York Times" doesn't have to at least account for what happened, because you don't have an attorney, you know, the county attorney coming out and doing that, usually.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, a question. You've been around 40 years you celebrated this week as a syndicated columnist. And part of it -- the question I have is, it's "The New York Times," I mean, it's the paper of record, it's the paper everybody reads, and it did such a marvelous job after September 11. But is this a case of a -- we in the press, of us in the press being too self-absorbed, too self-referential?
NOVAK: Absolutely, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and it was not only that "The Times" is soft on itself. I mean, think of how they treated the accounting industry for this -- for fraudulent behavior. But it's the rest of the newspapers, people who pay my bills. They very soft on the editorial comment on "The Times," you know, Well, they could have done better, but we hope -- we're glad they did a mea culpa.
I think it's a very, very sorry moment, and I agree with everything that Kate and Margaret said. But I also think that the whole question of affirmative action, diverse (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the demand for diversity in the newsroom, is at the heart of this problem.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt.
HUNT: ... it absolutely is not at the heart of this problem. It is a factor, but it's a relatively minor factor. I think "The New York Times" ought to be held much more accountable and has been. What's at the heart of this problem is what Margaret alluded to earlier, the star system, where we reward particularly young reporters for something called buzz and edge. We don't make them pay their dues. They don't cover cops, they don't cover state legislatures.
And people like that who do pay their dues don't get ahead as much as these young stars do. That's at the heart of this problem.
Unfortunately, Jayson Blair's not unique. It's happened to other newspapers, it's happened to other celebrated young reporters. Stephen Glass, "The New Republic," was a fraud, Ruth Shalla (ph), who wrote for "The New Republic" and "The New York Times" magazine was a fraud. David Brock, the then-conservative, made up stuff about Anita Hill and Bill Clinton.
It's a values question, Mark. SHIELDS: OK, and is it widespread, or is this really just an isolated instance?
CARLSON: I don't think it's so widespread. I wish that -- in his first interview, Howell Raines did not blame affirmative action when he was talking to NPR, and then the larger one, he said it was his conviction from his heart.
CARLSON: PBS, sorry, yes.
NOVAK: He said, he said that, Al, he said, he said...
CARLSON: And he did say it...
NOVAK: ... he said it, How can I...
CARLSON: ... but that's unfortunate...
NOVAK: ... how can I as a...
CARLSON: ... he was looking...
NOVAK: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
CARLSON: ... he was looking for a reason that was more acceptable.
NOVAK: What he said is, How can I as a self-hating Southerner ever, ever be tough on an African-American? That's a terrible thing to say.
CARLSON: And, you know, and now it hurts all minorities...
HUNT: And, and it wasn't matter of fact, and...
CARLSON: ... and it's too bad.
HUNT: ... I acknowledge that. I'm just saying there's a much larger issue involved here in the star system. There are a lot of white reporters who have been caught in these kind of webs too, and that's -- there -- this is a systemic problem.
NOVAK: I have to say as a reporter, though, a guy who doesn't want to go on the trip and live on the expense account...
NOVAK: ... that was really the strangest...
SHIELDS: I'll tell you one thing...
(CROSSTALK) HUNT: And Bob, I'll also say as a former editor...
CARLSON: You can't believe (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
HUNT: ... some guy who had that many errors, and someone doesn't say, Wait a minute, wait a minute...
CARLSON: Someone did.
CARLSON: The metro editor did, but wasn't heeded.
SHIELDS: ... institutionally, that nobody was talking to the expense people. Usually the editor has to approve your expenses. Here's a guy who's writing down San Antonio bylines, and he doesn't even put in for a cup of coffee. There's something wrong.
Coming up in the second half of CAPITAL GANG, Robert Novak and Al Hunt discuss the life and times of the late Senator Russell Long of Louisiana. Beyond the Beltway looks at disappearing Democratic legislators in Texas. And our Outrage of the Week. That's all after the latest news headlines.
(COMMERCIAL AND NEWS BREAK)
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 the late Senator Russell Long of Louisiana.
Russell B. Long, age 84, residence Washington, D.C., religion Methodist. Son of governor and senator Huey Long, the Kingfish of Louisiana politics.
Elected to the Senate from Louisiana in 1948 at age 29, he served for 38 years. He was the Senate Democratic whip 1965 to 1969, Senate Finance Committee Chairman 1965 to 1981.
Russell Long died a week ago in Washington, D.C. Al Hunt and Robert Novak, who both covered Senator Long and the Senate Finance Committee, this week recalled his life.
HUNT: Bob, you know, some young reporters in this town have never heard of Russell Long, but he really was something in his day, wasn't he? NOVAK: He was one of the great figures of the old Senate, Al. He was a master of manipulation, manipulating the Senate, manipulating the Internal Revenue Code. And he was a believer in winner-take-all politics. He wanted everybody to win. He wanted to give tax cuts for the paupers, tax cuts for the plutocrats. Didn't worry about budget deficits.
HUNT: You know, his daddy died when he was only 16, the Kingfish died, and his real mentor was his uncle Earl. When he was governor, Russell was his executive assistant. He used to tell these wonderful Uncle Earl stories, where Uncle Earl one time in a campaign had promised something he couldn't deliver on when he got to Baton Rouge. And these people came to collect on the promise.
And Russell Long said to his uncle, What am I going to tell them? And Earl said, Tell 'em I lied.
NOVAK: Russell Long had a love of the folksy metaphor. One of my favorites was, he was fighting with Jimmy Carter over whether to cut the capital gains tax. Jimmy didn't -- President Carter didn't want to. Chairman Long of the Senate Finance Committee wanted to.
And he said, It's going to bring in more revenue. He says, I tried to tell these smart tax guys in the Treasury, it's like shooting ducks in Louisiana. If you aim at them and you miss, you got to aim ahead at them. That's the way you estimate revenue.
HUNT: He was a brilliant legislator. The first open markup in the Senate Finance Committee was 1975. And one day I was covering it, and he was just passionately fighting for this provision for a bail- out for Chrysler and Lockheed. And I knew Russell Long didn't care about it.
He said, Somehow, I don't think these companies appreciate what we do. Why, this man Gaylord Nelson's sitting over there did the same thing for American Motors couple years ago, same thing, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and I'm not sure that they appreciate it.
Came to the roll. Gaylord very sheepishly voted aye, it carried by one vote.
Several weeks later, Russell Long traded that provision for an oil provision.
NOVAK: He was a great trader. You know, I -- one of the first tax stories I ever covered for "The Wall Street Journal" in 1959 was an insurance tax bill in the Finance Committee. Markups were behind closed doors in those days. You had to go talk to the senators afterwards. And Senator Long was very helpful to me as a green tax reporter, explaining -- he knew the -- he knew what was inside there, he knew (UNINTELLIGIBLE) provisions.
He had all these tax benefits for insurance companies, and he got beat on every one of them. And after about a week of this, I said, Senator, I said, don't you get tired of getting beat on these things? Don't you feel bad? He said, Bob, he says, you don't understand. Every amendment put in, I get a big campaign contribution.
Campaign tax reform -- campaign finance reform was not in his lexicon.
HUNT: You know, it was a different time and a different press corps. Russell Long developed a huge drinking problem in the '60s. He was actually on the Senate floor drunk a number of times. Still fascinating to watch, even if you couldn't understand him. And he got defeated for whip by Ted Kennedy in 1969.
That December, he married Sam Irvin's secretary, and Carolyn straightened out Russell Long's life, and he became a power again. The power of a woman.
NOVAK: Gave him a lot more years. You know, in that interim period between his marriages when he was drinking too much, he didn't have any blinds in his apartment where he lived alone. And you'd wake him up early in the morning, he'd go out and get "The Washington Post." And if he saw something that he didn't like, no matter how early it was in the morning, he'd call up the person and give them hell.
I got a couple of those phone calls. And then he'd forget about it, of course, the next day.
HUNT: When the Republicans took control of the Senate in 1980, Howard Baker called Bob Dole and said, Bob, you're the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. And Dole said, That's great, but who's going to tell Russell?
The first markup that February, when the clerk called chairmen, Russell instinctively answered aye.
NOVAK: You know, I knew Russell Long, and he was a great news source. Knew him well. And I'll tell you something, the present chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Chuck Grassley, is no Russell Long.
HUNT: No, that's for sure. You know, you and I, for different reasons, would disagree with some of his tax handiwork, but he was a prodigious legislator. He was the father of public financing for presidential elections, the father of the earned income tax credit for the working poor, and a remarkable man.
If anyone wants to have fun, they ought to listen to those Michael Beschloss-Lyndon Johnson tapes and hear Lyndon Johnson and Russell Long in conversation, two of the great pros of all times.
NOVAK: Yes, they were elected in the same year, 1946 -- 1948, I'm sorry. And just died last week.
SHIELDS: Al, I just want to emphasize one thing Al said. Russell Long and his wife, Carolyn, were a love story, and it really was a wonderful love story. But even with his encyclopedic knowledge and mastery, Margaret, could there be in today's Senate a Russell Long, as colorful and prodigious as he was?
CARLSON: There are a couple reasons why there isn't. Huge staffs, which mean that senators don't really have to do all their own work. And TV. C-Span doesn't allow senators to be hustled on and off the floor in their bare feet and not totally with it, because it would be televised now, so...
O'BEIRNE: And most politicians today...
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.
O'BEIRNE: ... certainly have blinds on their windows. It was a more innocent time, I guess, Mark. I always admired Russell Long on the issue of welfare. He preferred helping low-income Americans who were working rather than subsidizing people who didn't work. And had there been more Republicans, even, who agreed with Russell Long, I think we wouldn't have had the ruinous federal welfare policy we had for so many years.
SHIELDS: See, there was something to like in Russell Long in -- for everybody, there really was.
Coming up on THE CAPITAL GANG, the -- our Classic looks at an earlier terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia.
SHIELDS: Welcome back.
Nearly seven years ago, terrorists bombed the Khobar Towers apartment complex in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 Americans. CAPITAL GANG discussed it on June 29, 1996. Our guest was then-House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, June 29, 1996)
O'BEIRNE: The military leadership said we did everything possible to protect lives. That is patently not true. Our troops were far too vulnerable. I just want to see some military leaders saying, We could and should have done more, instead of pretending that they'd done everything possible.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, Kate makes a good point. The Saudis opposed...
SHIELDS: ... fortification...
NOVAK: ... said that.
SHIELDS: ... and -- but isn't it...
SHIELDS: ... isn't it virtually impossible, though, in this world, to stop a well-organized, well-planned...
NOVAK: You can't.
SHIELDS: ... terrorist attack?
NOVAK: It's like saying we're going to war -- were, when we're engaged around the world, we have to be. It's like (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and saying we're not going to have any casualties. It's like saying we're going to war and we're not going to take any deaths.
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We've got to be engaged. We ought to reassess our involvement in the Middle East, and in Saudi Arabia. It's a very, very difficult situation. But we can't pull out of the world because it's dangerous.
HUNT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the Sunni fundamentalists aimed as much as the House of Saud as the foreign infidels, and we got to hope that the Saudis get some backbone.
SHIELDS: Kate, was THE GANG, other than Brother Hunt, perhaps a little too easy on the Saudi regime?
O'BEIRNE: Well, it seems to me Bob was the only one on THE GANG willing to let the Saudis off the hook. But unfortunately, he was joined by Bill Clinton. You'll remember, Louis Freeh complained bitterly that the FBI agents he sent over to investigate did not win the cooperation of the Saudis on the Khobar Towers investigation.
SHIELDS: Bob, what do you say in your (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
NOVAK: Seven years ago, they hadn't had the signal from Israel and their friends in the United States that it was time to attack Saudi Arabia, so everybody was a little bit softer and maybe a little more reasonable.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt.
HUNT: Saudis never got backbone, or haven't for seven years. But I'd also remind, we never found out who blew up those Marines in 1983 under Ronald Reagan's watch either.
SHIELDS: Good question, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
CARLSON: It's not THE GANG that's soft, it's American policy that's soft because of all the oil. However, we are disengaging now. We're going to pull our troops out and close that base, and maybe that will make it a little bit better.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt said that we won't get a tougher policy until we get some sort of gasoline conservation, so that means we'll never have a tougher policy, Al. HUNT: I'm afraid you're right, Mark.
SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG, who won the Texas Democratic walkout?
SHIELDS: Welcome back.
The Democratic minority in the Texas legislature crossed the state line into Oklahoma long enough to run out the clock on this year's session. That killed a Republican effort to reverse last year's congressional reapportionment, an attempt masterminded from Washington by House majority leader Tom DeLay, an alumnus of the Texas legislature.
Another 400 bills died along with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
JIM DUNNAM (D), TEXAS HOUSE CAUCUS CHAIRMAN: No, this was not about Republicans and Democrats. This was about, you know, whether or not, you know, the people of Texas should decide who they elect to Congress and not Tom DeLay.
DAN BRANCH (R), TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: They left the state. They deserted the state of Texas. So I think the issue now is to get back to business, you know. Let's see what bills we can save...
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
SHIELDS: Joining us now from Austin, Texas, is Pete Slover, the state house reporter for "The Dallas Morning News," who first tracked down the missing legislators all the way to Ardmore, Oklahoma.
Thanks for coming in, Pete.
PETE SLOVER, "THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS": Thank you.
SHIELDS: Pete, is this a clearcut political victory for the Democrats, who had been dispirited and demoralized up until this in a Republican-dominated state?
SLOVER: Well, I think in the short term, it obviously is. It's -- they dropped the A-bomb in terms of political maneuvering. It's a one-time deal, though, and in the long haul, they may have to pay a dear price. The Republicans are already moving out of their corner and pounding pretty hard on these representatives in their home districts, with radio ads and phone banks. And they may have to pay a long-term price.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak.
NOVAK: Pete, of course a lot of people are saying that this was some kind of a coup d'etat by Tom DeLay, that gerrymander, when in fact all the statewide elected officials in Texas are Republicans, the two U.S. senators are Republicans, the governor's a Republican, the Republicans carried it in the presidential elections.
Are, is, isn't the House districts unfairly balanced in favor of the Democrats?
SLOVER: Well, I think what people find objectionable is that this effort is out of the normal sequence of redistricting, and I don't know that it would be considered objectionable if it came up on the normal 10-year cycle.
Beyond that, a lot of the Democrats who serve in Texas are in districts that voted Republican. They're Democrats who beat Republicans in Republican districts, mostly long-standing conservative Democrats who've carried well.
And so the Republicans just haven't been able to beat them, and that's been the situation here.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
CARLSON: Pete, is Tom DeLay going to pay a price, or anyone, for involving federal agencies, claiming that the plane had crashed or was missing that took the lawmakers to Oklahoma?
SLOVER: You know, I don't think that that particular maneuver goes back to DeLay directly. Right now, it seems to stop with this one officer who made that call. And so far, at least on the state level, he's not facing any real heat for that.
If you listen carefully to what he said, he said, We have a missing plane. It might have a legislator on it. Didn't say it crashed, and I think that their position is that the agency they were calling might have jumped to the conclusion that they were talking about a crashed plane.
I don't know if that's ingenuous, disingenuous, but I think that's what we're going to see. And that ultimately this guy is going to keep on hunting down fugitives, which is his day job.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.
O'BEIRNE: Pete, Republicans point out that last November, 57 percent of Texans voted for Republicans for Congress. So yet the Democrats argue that this redistricting plan is some sort of a huge power grab on the part of Republicans. Democrats argue that.
You know, are the Democrats courting a public backlash? You know, sitting in Washington, watching Texas, it looks like the Democrats are just sore losers and don't much like being in the minority.
SLOVER: Well, I've heard them called chickens and babies and any number of things, including, in some phone bank calls to my house, because I live in one of these districts where one of these reps lives.
And I think that there is a great distaste for this sort of action, and that there's a very real likelihood that the Republicans will be able to turn it against the Democrats come election time.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt.
HUNT: Pete, let me go back to this incredible use of the federal Homeland Security Agency, not to catch terrorists, not to look for al Qaeda people, but to look for Democrats on the lam. I mean, Tom DeLay may say he has no involvement, it has -- it looks like his fingerprints, at least. And how can it just go away? I mean, that's an extraordinary abuse of a federal agency.
And they say they got conned.
SLOVER: Well, there's no telling whether DeLay was involved in the background. We haven't found a sign of it. It -- the planning for that call was done in a room adjacent to the speaker of the house's office here in Texas. Speaker claims no knowledge of it. Speaker's very close to Tom DeLay.
So I don't know whether it's going to go back to DeLay or not. But in terms of the officer involved, and whether the action is ultimately paid for, the inspector general for the Homeland Security agency is also looking at this. And that may be where some censure or sanction comes out.
I don't think it's going to bounce back to DeLay. I just haven't seen any (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- anything indicating that it will, except perhaps in a tangential political sense.
SHIELDS: Just one point, though, Pete, that is that Tom DeLay went on the record this week as saying the FBI, U.S. marshals, U.S. attorney, that this was within their purview. It seems like a very, it seems like a very strange, seems like a very, very strange use of it.
But let me ask you this. The person whose plane they were seeking was a cotton farmer, last conservative Democrat speaker of the House, Pete Laney, the man whom George W. Bush chose to introduce him to the American people in the Texas legislature after the election of 2000. I mean, is this sort of hardball politics of the worst sort?
SLOVER: Well, I think it's hardball on both side.s And whether it's of the worst sort, I don't know, it's certainly of the most entertaining sort.
There is certainly a good argument that these sorts of resources could have been used better elsewhere. But from the minute the speaker signed this kind of one-of-a-kind arrest warrant without any due process, no judge involved, it was just by virtue of the Constitution and this -- and the house rules, oyez, oyez, everything was in kind of a never-neverland. There were no -- there was no -- there's no playbook.
And so it's not surprising that some of these police officers out there running around might have stepped into it. I think that's what happened. NOVAK: Quickly, Pete, isn't it a fact that the legislature at any time can come back in a special session and -- or in the next session and properly redistrict the state?
SLOVER: Yes, that is a possibility. It would take some hoops to jump through. But it -- there's nothing about this process is dead. Nothing. I mean, there is always another day in Texas politics.
SHIELDS: OK, Pete Slover, thank you very much for being with us.
THE GANG will be back with the Outrages of the Week.
SHIELDS: Now for the Outrage of the Week.
In 1961, long after Major League Baseball had removed its indefensible color barrier, the Professional Golf Association, the PGA, continued its whites-only policy. That segregationist policy would have excluded from fair competition, among others, Vijay Singh, a native of Fiji, and the world's greatest golfer, Tiger Woods.
So when Vijay Singh said women professional golf champion Annika Sorenstam should not -- should be excluded from competing in a men- only tournament, it makes you wonder. It makes you want to teach them just a little bit of history.
NOVAK: African-American leaders in Florida are threatening to boycott the state's major industries to protest testing of high school students. This year in Florida, students will not graduate unless they can pass Governor Jeb Bush's comprehensive assessment test.
Bishop Victor Currie (ph) of the New Birth Baptist Church says kids who flunk the tests will be damaged psychologically. Adora Ubinaweisi (ph), the state's NAACP president, says there is more to education than just answering test questions.
This is where affirmative action has led the black leadership.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
CARLSON: Mark, "The Washington Post" has recently uncovered land grabs by none other than the Nature Conservancy. The Conservancy fronts for wealthy insiders who make large donations, then get a great deal on oceanfront property, where they build Gatsby-esque mansions and get a tax deduction to boot.
Untouched, unspoiled beachside property on Martha's Vineyard is now home to David Letterman and a number of Wall Street executives. The Conservancy says it's preserving land from denser development.
Actually, under the guise of saving the earth, the Nature Conservancy is selling it to those who are no friends of the earth.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.
O'BEIRNE: Schools in Washington, D.C., spend over $9,000 per child, about $3,000 more than the national average. Despite these huge costs, it's among the very worst systems in the country, with a 42 percent dropout rate. Only 6 percent of fourth- and eighth-graders test proficient in math.
D.C.'s Mayor Williams is unwilling to continue sacrificing the city's children to its teachers' unions and now supports a modest voucher program for poor children. Good for him.
The liberals attacking him defend the indefensible.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt.
HUNT: Mark, I happen to agree with Kate O'Beirne in that, and I also, in a rare agreement, Bob Novak and I both appreciate that the crown jewel of college athletics is the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball. That jewel is about to be heisted with a decision to expand the league to 12 teams.
There's only one reason they're doing this, money. Athletic department coffers may be winners. The losers will include the end of a great tradition, the demise of storied rivalries, academic standings, and students and fans.
SHIELDS: Al, I got to say, the introduction of Boston College is, if anything, going to help the academic standards of the ACC.
This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG.
Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS: 80 Days That Changed the World."
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