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CNN CAPITAL GANG
Bremer Meets With Bush; Republican Senators Stage Talk-a-Thon; Shakeups at Kerry's Campaign Headquarters
Aired November 15, 2003 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AL HUNT, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Al Hunt with Robert Novak, Margaret Carlson, and E.J. Dionne of "The Washington Post."
Our guest is a former governor of Virginia and former Republican National Chairman James Gilmore. Jim, it's good to have you back.
JAMES GILMORE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Al.
HUNT: Thank you for being here. The chief of the Iraqi coalition authority, L. Paul Bremer, was summoned from Baghdad to Washington to meet with President Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL BREMER, U.S. CIVILIAN ADMINISTRATOR IN IRAQ: Good morning. I'll be taking them a message from the president that he remains steadfast in his determination to defeat terrorism in Iraq. And steadfast in his determination to give the Iraqis authority over their country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: In Iraq, this week's casualties, including 18 Italians, mostly Capriani (ph) paramilitary police.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And sent -- of course sent our sympathies and prayers to the Italian people there, but Berlusconi said no, I can run this out.
The Iraqi citizens need to hear that. They need to know that we won't leave the country prematurely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: A CBS poll shows that Americans believe by almost three to one that the United States has not completed its mission in Iraq. By 2 to 1, they do not think the Bush administration had developed a clear plan for Iraq.
Bob, do you see a new Bush plan for Iraq?
ROBERT NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: No, I don't. There may be one, but I don't see it, that the Ambassador Bremer came back. He had three -- at least three meetings with the president. One privately. I have been told he gave a very grim picture of what's going on there. There's a disagreement inside the administration, sort of a role reversal the Pentagon wants to pull out troops now. And the State Department wants to keep the level of U.S. forces there.
But I know there's a lot of political worry because of the casualty list that keeps showing up on the front pages of papers around the country. I think the economic issue is petering out for the Democrats. And this is what worries the Republicans. Beyond the loss of life, it's not good political news, but I don't see the -- a firm plan on how to bring this to an end, because I don't think it's going to be possible to bring it to an end quickly.
HUNT: Margaret, picking up on Paul Bremer, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) had a piece this week, quoting a CIA secret report that said more and more Iraqis think the United States is going to cut and run, and therefore are now willing to back the guerrillas, and that Bremer feared that this was right.
MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Right, well, Bremer's actually endorsed the report. We may not have to worry about Democrats or Democratic presidential candidates saying that we should cut and run, but Republicans saying we could cut and run because it's not going well at all.
And this report says that the Iraqi citizens now believe that the insurgents have the upper hand. And so, they're supporting this because they don't think that the United States is going to prevail.
Two big mistakes we're making: disbanding the Army so that you have 100,000 unemployed hostile and armed Iraqis around. And the other is that the government is being run by exiles, for the most part, that don't have legitimacy. How the United States can speed this up the way the administration wants to do with the wrong people in power and without enough Iraqis trained to take over security I think is impossible. It's just an impossible situation at the moment.
HUNT: Jim, you have more than one Republican who does not want to cut and run is John McCain of Arizona, who thinks we ought to send more U.S. forces, but he worries that the Iraqi (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He says training and accelerating the training of more Iraqi troops is a sign -- sends a signal of desperation, not certitude.
GILMORE: No, I don't think so. I think that the president is sending, at this point, a pretty clear message. And that is that the war on terror and the interests, the national interests of the United States, are not going to be achieved unless we have some stability and reform in the Middle East. And Iraq was the central part of that reform.
So what he's doing is he's making it very clear at this point that he wants to get legitimate on a legitimate authority into place a new government that the Iraqi people will have confidence in. And then of course, the American people -- the American Army can be there to support that group if they choose to invite them to stay, which I suspect they would in this kind of security situation.
HUNT: E.J. you pick on any of this, but let me just ask you, going back to the fundamental question Joe Biden asked nine months ago, is the policy basically a transition to something a little bit less than Saddam? Or is it a transformation of the entire country?
E.J. DIONNE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think you have, as Bob said, a real split in the administration. You have people who really want to do a large Democratic transformation. And there are other people, I suspect Donald Rumsfeld is one of them, who'd be satisfied with getting rid of Saddam, making some small changes and getting out.
And I think what you saw this week is how hard it is to do this transition. Robert Hill, the Australian defense minister, the Australians are great friends of Bush, said we really underestimated how difficult it was going to be to build this democracy. The governing council didn't -- wasn't producing a constitution. It was having trouble. So the administration says well, we'll try plan B. Plan B is to have these town meetings that'll pick a bunch of people to form another government and put elections off.
We are soon going to run into criticism saying well we're going to have a government in Iraq that's not selected by elections. It's never good for the United States to be on the other side of the argument, when people are demanding elections.
NOVAK: Well, you know, I don't find any Republicans saying we should cut and run, but I do know that Don Rumsfeld is telling people privately we're going to be out by the end of night of 2005. It's a long way off, after the...
HUNT: Is there a split, Bob, between Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz on this?
NOVAK: There might be, but he says -- he's told people that. I know -- they've told me. And I don't see how you can predict that. We're still in the Balkans, you know, and we'll probably be in the Balkans forever.
CARLSON: But there's no doubt that they want to speed this up, because less and less.
NOVAK: Nobody's saying that...
CARLSON: But this Iraqi governing council, which is split by in fighting and nepotism, and they're stalling to try to get concessions from the United States, we turned this over to Ahmad Chalabi, who's not a legitimate leader within the country. We've gone to war for democracy and leave before there's democracy.
HUNT: Give us the...
DIONNE: It's not at all clear that that's what's going to happen. This can be something that can be a different type of program. More people are going to be elected. More people will be added to this. And you're going to see a more consensus group, I believe.
But the key thing, at this point, is to hurry and get legitimacy into a provisional government.
HUNT: All right, Jim, that's the last word. Jim Gilmore and the gang will be back with sleepless in the Senate.
HUNT: Welcome back. Republican senators staged a nearly 40 hour talk-a-thon, to support confirmation of six of President Bush's appellate court nominees whose confirmation is blocked by Democratic senators.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSAY GRAHAM (R-SC), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: There has been a concerted effort by the Democratic leadership to block judicial nominees in any unprecedented way. Not only is it unprecedented, it is very dangerous.
The reason I think it's so dangerous, because it effectively changes the constitutional standard.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: It's so unfortunate that while we are debating a loss of these four promotions, we are not debating what the American people care most about. We're not debating the fact that three million people have lost their jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: The intensity of the rhetoric went beyond usual Senate limits.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ZELL MILLER (D), GEORGIA: You're standing in the doorway. And they've got a sign. Conservative African-American women need not apply. Gal, you will be lynched.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D-MA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: To continue to resist any Neanderthal that is nominated by this president of the United States or any court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Margaret, what did this exercise by the Republicans accomplish?
CARLSON: You know, it showed that senators can behave in a way that's unacceptable in any other walk of life by taking and just conducting a stunt for days, showing that, you know, people in power have other ways to make their point than by resorting to acting out, renting beds, you know, making a spectacle of themselves.
And what most people came away with, what I think is a surprising statistic is that it's 168 to 4. 168 judges confirmed, four not confirmed.
NOVAK: Well, it isn't four. You know, I just -- I'm just so disappointed in you, Margaret, when you take that Democratic propaganda and spit it back. In the first place, there are six that have not been approved.
DIONNE: 168's right, though.
NOVAK: But the -- that isn't the point. They're not appellate court judges, and you know that, E.J. I think it is just terrible to take this propaganda. And these six, there's none of them that should not be confirmed.
This got this new standard, if you don't like their ideology, you don't confirm them, is wrong. And the idea of Teddy Kennedy calling them Neanderthals is an outrage.
Now what did it accomplish? I think it showed the -- that acuity and the nastiness of the Democratic campaign on judges. Are they going to get confirmed by this Senate? No, because they have taken to a new level, recording 60 votes, and you need some more Republican senators to change it.
DIONNE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the acuity? You know, Bob, I'm sure you took exactly this position when 60 Clinton judges got blocked. They didn't even get to the floor for a vote. And you look at this list. And Republicans have said, you know, and Al Hunt wrote this in a column. You know, they're not going to confirm Catholic. There are 23 Catholic Bush judges who've been confirmed. They're not going to confirm pro-lifers. Most of the Bush judges are pro-lifers.
Janice Rogers Brown called the New Deal "the triumph of socialist revolution." If somebody said...
NOVAK: Well, then we shouldn't put you on the court either.
HUNT: I don't think there's any danger about -- but E.J. makes a point, though. The idea this is unprecedented, I mean they did block, they being Republicans, blocked over five dozen Clinton judges, didn't even give them a floor vote.
GILMORE: Judges actually are important now. It makes a difference who goes on the bench. But the fact is, it's inside baseball. And a goal of this operation here was to get it down into the discussion with the public, to get it on THE CAPITAL GANG, to get it on to some of the other shows so that the American people will understand that opportunities to put judges on the bench in buys and consent under the constitution by the Senate is not being exercised. And I think they achieved that. They accomplished that.
HUNT: Robert Novak, you said earlier that these judges would not be confirmed. Let me ask you two questions. First, do you think that President Bush may make recess appointments, very controversial, of these particular judges? And could Senator Bill Frist, the GOP leader, try to change the rules so you can't filibuster?
NOVAK: Number one, whether he does recess appointments now, I don't know if he should. There's a lot of people, I think in the administration who don't them to. I think that's a dangerous precedent. All of these precedents are dangerous because the Democrats have gone to such lethal effects.
The second question, changing the rules takes 51 votes. They don't have 51 votes. That's a fact. I don't think they're going to get 51 votes because there's a lot of weak kneed Republicans on that, who said oh, my goodness, we can't change the rules.
DIONNE: You know, there's a way out of this. Politicizing these fights is not just a sudden thing. This isn't the first time it's happened. We know that there's a battle for control of the judiciary. It ought to be possible for the Senate -- precedent to set on it and say look, there are two options here. We can have balanced slates of smart judges, people like Michael McConnell on the conservative side, who got on. Cat Sundstein, on the liberal side. We can have smart balanced slates of judges. Or we could agree on some moderates, because we're going to keep having this fight over and over again, as long as we have this battle over control of subjects.
DIONNE: I don't agree with that. I don't agree with that at all, E.J. The fact is that conservatives ought to have just as much right to get on the bench as liberals. And that's a fact.
GILMORE: That's what I'm saying.
DIONNE: That is exactly my point that we should -- we shouldn't stack it with liberal judges.
NOVAK: You know...
DIONNE: We shouldn't stack it with conservatives.
CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or have the moderate sway.
DIONNE: Balanced, yes.
NOVAK: You know very well -- this -- I mean, why can't we just say what this is about? This is to keep off -- conservatives off the Supreme Court. And this is a preparation -- this is like the Spanish Civil War getting ready for World War II. And that -- it's to keep them off so that they can have this liberal majority on abortion, on the Supreme Court.
DIONNE: But this is also -- go ahead.
CARLSON: The president won a very closely contested election, to say the least. And he was going to change the tone in Washington. He hasn't told Senator Bill Frist this. And certainly this display this week just tells people out there that... GILMORE: No, I think that the Republicans are learning a lot here. We've let people go like Justice Ginsberg, Justice Breyer, we just -- even John Paul...
GILMORE: Even John Paul Stinks, let him go. And the reason was because...
HUNT: He was a Republican appointed (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
GILMORE: Exactly, exactly, exactly because we played personality baseball. The truth is the Democrats understand that this is philosophical. We need to return to the day when judges were put on because of their learnedness in the law.
HUNT: Can I just follow up with one question. The 63 Clinton judges that were never taken to the floor were bottled up in committee, was that philosophical or was that personality?
GILMORE: I think that that was philosophic. And I do think that there are...
GILMORE: I think that there has to be a change here coming pretty soon. But one thing you can't do is say moderates and liberals get to go on the bench and conservatives don't...
HUNT: Jim Gilmore for the second time in a row got the last word.
Next on CAPITAL GANG, John Kerry's busy week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, HOST, TONIGHT SHOW: Senator John Kerry, there we are!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts brought his Democratic presidential campaign to Jay Leno studios in Los Angeles, driving a Harley Davidson and dressed as a biker.
Earlier in the week, he dumped Jim Jordan as his campaign manager and replaced him with Senator Ted Kennedy's chief of staff, Mary Beth Cahill. And yesterday, Senator Kerry joined former Vermont Governor Howard Dean in rejecting federal matching funds and spending limits.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wish that Howard Dean had kept his promise to take federal matching money, but he did not. HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It caused the president the last two election cycles have chosen to reject it. He has been able to raise enormous amounts of money from the largest corporate titans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Governor Dean was endorsed by two big unions, the SEIU, Service Employees International Union, and AFSCME, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERALD MCENTEE, AFSCME PRESIDENT: This man of Vermont has the best challenge to beat Bush.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: E.J., is John Kerry still alive for the presidential nomination?
DIONNE: Well, it depends on what the meaning of alive is. And as long as he stays off that motorcycle.
I mean, of course, he's alive. They got a transfusion of his own family money by getting out of the campaign spending system. And he's going to have to spend a lot of money to beat Howard Dean in New Hampshire now, if he can do that.
This race more and more reminds me of 1836, where Bob Novak and I first met each other. It's a race in which the Whigs knew they were going to have trouble winning, so they put up four different candidates to win in four different regions.
And right now, all of the non Dean candidates are kind of holding each other up like a straggling army. You know, Gephardt's got to beat Dean in Iowa. Kerry and perhaps Clark have to beat or at least weaken him in New Hampshire. Then you go south and Clark or Edwards or Lieberman have to do something. They've got -- Dean is all by himself. And these guys have to re-open the race. And it's worth remembering that in 1836 that Whig strategy did not work.
HUNT: Which one worries you the most, Jim Gilmore? Any?
GILMORE: Well, I think John Kerry is a dead man walking. I think this was a very bad week for him. And I think it's reflective of his managerial ability. If he can't control his campaign, how can he control the United States?
I think Howard Dean probably can't get elected in this country, at least as things stand right now. I think he's underestimated. I think you have to watch the tone and mood of the election next year and where the country feels like it wants to go. But if the country keeps its head about it, I don't think somebody as radical as Howard Dean can win the election. HUNT: Margaret, let me mildly dispute Jim Gilmore's contention if you can't run your campaign, you can't run the country. Ronald Reagan, after the New Hampshire primary, replaced his whole campaign and it didn't matter. Isn't the -- and may well be Jim Jordan should have been replaced, but isn't really the more serious problem for John Kerry is himself, as opposed to his campaign?
CARLSON: Well, Jim Jordan was the scapegoat, not the problem. And the Kerry campaign is like Noah's ark. It has two of everything. So that...
NOVAK: And more.
CARLSON: Well, no, it still has two of just about everything and that he doesn't know which poll to follow, which speech to give, which person to believe. And so, there's lots of indecision and vacillation, including the night before his announcement in South Carolina.
Kerry also said this week something that played into his weakness, which is he said after two more people left with Jim Jordan voluntarily, he said I barely knew their names.
Now is that cold and aloof? I think so.
HUNT: Robert, I have read your 1836 clips. And I want to tell you, I agree with E.J., they really are terribly memorable.
You have written, I believe this accurate, that Howard Dean looks almost unstoppable right now. Can John Kerry stop him? And if not, who can?
NOVAK: Well, I think we're going to be talking Iowa later. I think Dick Gephardt has to stop him in Iowa, or he's off to the races, whether Kerry can beat him in New Hampshire I think is very dubious.
I think John Kerry, who I've always thought was a very impressive guy. Didn't agree with him on much, but I thought he made a hell of a campaign when he beat Bill Weld for the Senate. But I think he just looks terrible. And I think everything this week was awful. Riding in on the motorcycle was, I thought dumb. And I thought that when you fire your campaign manager, I don't think it looks good.
But what I love, E.J., you're a great advocate of campaign finance reform. These guys getting out from the spending limits and the subsidy, which I hate. And they all blame each other. And Kerry says if Dean hadn't done it, I wouldn't have done it. Dean said it's all Bush's fault. And the whole idea is this subsidizing of campaigns by the public's a bad idea.
CARLSON: The thing is Kerry had just gotten done rebuking Dean for doing it. And then a week later, does it himself.
DIONNE: Do you what's striking me is how similar the Dean campaign to the Goldwater campaign in the sense that Dean ends up speaking up for all these liberals who feel excluded, left out. The government's in the hands of the other party. Just like conservatives did when Barry Goldwater ran for president.
And he's created this vast organization, just the way Goldwater did. The good news for Democrats is the Goldwater movement changed the country. The bad news for Democrats is that Barry Goldwater got clobbered in 1964.
NOVAK: I think there's one big difference, though. I think that Dean, if he is nominated, will pivot to the right, to the center immediately. And I don't Goldwater...
DIONNE: And in fact, in some ways, he is a closet centrist. It's the weirdest thing to see a...
NOVAK: I don't think he's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) anything.
HUNT: I don't think he's got much positive. He's not -- he didn't govern as a liberal. He's not really a liberal. I mean...
NOVAK: He's not anything.
HUNT: Well, that may be.
GILMORE: What he has done is he has made a clear opposition as an opposition candidate. And that's where his strength has come from. He has clearly defined his race.
Whereas, I think some of the other people are very -- John Kerry is the most boring candidate I've ever seen in my whole life. Dean is not...
NOVAK: More boring than Gore, do you think?
DIONNE: It's very different on different dates.
HUNT: I'm going to...
GILMORE: But I think the president is the soup of the month. Smart money's still on the president with next year, as things stand right now.
HUNT: I'm going to take the final word for myself here and disagree with Bob Novak. Campaign finance reform has served the presidential elections very well. As Paul Laxalt (ph), Ronald Reagan's chairman said, we were much better off having had public financing in 1980 and 1984.
Jim Gilmore, it's been terrific to have you with us. Please come back.
GILMORE: Thank you, Al. Thank you, sir. Great fun.
HUNT: Coming up on the second half of CAPITAL GANG, our sidebar as the ouster of Alabama chief justice Roy Moore. Beyond the Beltway looks at Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in Iowa tonight with Ron Brownstein of "The L.A. Times." And our outrage of the week, all after the latest news headlines.
HUNT: Welcome to back to the second half of CAPITAL GANG. I'm Al Hunt with Robert Novak, Margaret Carlson, and E.J. Dionne of "The Washington Post."
In Montgomery, Alabama, the state court of the judiciary ousted state supreme court chief justice Roy Moore for refusing to remove a 10 commandments monument from the state judicial building.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM THOMPSON, ALABAMA SUPREME COURT (voice-over): All of the members of this court, after serious consideration, have the evidence and testimony presented at this trial, defined by clear and convincing evidence that Roy S. Moore, while in his role of chief justice of the supreme court of Alabama, did willfully and publicly defy a federal court order.
ROY MOORE, FMR. ALABAMA CHIEF JUSTICE: Absolutely no regrets. We've done what we were sworn to do. When I took office, I said I would uphold the moral foundation of our law. That I have done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Bob Novak, has Roy Moore made himself a hero to the Christian Right?
NOVAK: I think what he has done is he has split the conservative movement very badly. You find a lot of people who are on the Christian right, who think he's a hero because there's no question that the court was wrong in their decision.
But there's many other conservatives who feel you cannot just disobey the orders of a court. That is chaos.
I was at a dinner at the Alabama Policy Institute in Birmingham a couple weeks ago. And I found very little support for Roy Moore's position. When you find the attorney general of Alabama, who was up for a federal -- one of the very good nominees who was being held by the Democrats, when you find him opposing Chief Justice Moore, and being attacked by the -- some of the Christian conservatives, I think you find that this has really been a very divisive thing for the conservative movement.
HUNT: Margaret Carlson?
CARLSON: Oh, Bob. Yes, I mean there was a time in the south when judges would have ruled in favor of Judge Moore. You know, states rights were all. Now Judge Moore became a celebrity and enhanced by martyrdom. And there are many people who, you know, now rally to his cause, but there's certainly other ways to uphold your faith. And this is the kind of issue that we're fighting against in places like Iraq. You don't want to have official religion. You don't want to have religion pushed by officials. You'd think it would be an argument that was over.
DIONNE: I think what you're seeing also, and among some of the conservatives about this, talking about is a sense that this guy used this in a political way to win an election. And it just isn't a great idea for anybody to use religious symbols this way. He said an acknowledgement of God will go with me to the higher court when he ran in 2000.
I think even people who may agree with Judge Moore don't like politicizing an issue that way. And we'd be better off trying to live by the First -- the 10 commandments, instead of trying to turn them into a graven image for politics.
NOVAK: Well, I see nothing wrong with having a monument to the 10 commandments in a judicial building. I don't think that's establishing a state religion. We have a prayer. Margaret, if you ever go up to the Hill, and the House and the Senate, every day. Henry Gonzalez hated it. He walked out during the prayer, but most people think it was OK.
And we have prayers, which is a part of American life. So I don't think it's a matter of conservatives saying gee, the court was right to have this strange interpretation of establishment clause.
But what the conservatives don't like is defying law and order, saying I am the law, I'm Chief Justice Moore. And this was a bad decision. And I won't enforce it. I think even if it's a terrible decision, you'd have to enforce it.
HUNT: It was a unanimous decision by a rather conservative unit down there. And as you say, the very conservative attorney general supported it, too. Does this guy, Roy Moore, have any political future? What does he do?
CARLSON: He thinks he can ride into higher office, and that this kind of celebrity on the basis of this issue is going to...
HUNT: Higher (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as being governor or senator or?
NOVAK: I don't -- go ahead.
DIONNE: I mean, I think that's in his head. But if Bob is right and there is this kind of split, and if a court -- I mean courts rule courageously, but they also kind of listen to the environment around them. If this court can rule unanimously, I think that gives you a sense that the climate down in Alabama is not one that says this guy is right.
I mean, we forget that Southern Baptists, the Baptists come from the tradition of Roger Williams. And a lot of Baptists are very wary of government interference with religion. And so I think there was -- I think there was some support the very court that made this decision.
NOVAK: But I think if you took a vote on should the 10 commandments be permitted in the state judicial building, I think you'd get an overwhelming yes vote. Whether you like it or not, it would be a yes vote. The question is should Chief Justice Moore be named governor or senator. I don't think he can make it, because he defied the court decision.
CARLSON: But he'll go forward...
HUNT: This schism that you described a moment ago has any impact beyond Alabama? Or is it just...
NOVAK: I don't -- I think it's a unique case, yes.
CARLSON: He'll go forward saying he stood up for the 10 commandments. The 10 commandments weren't under attack. And people will forget the fact that he was defying the court.
NOVAK: I don't think he can win a Republican primary. I may be wrong. We'll find out soon.
HUNT: Well, Robert D. Novak gets the last word. Coming up, THE CAPITAL GANG classic, Bill Clinton on late night TV 11 years ago.
HUNT: Welcome back. John Kerry's appearance on television as a biker was reminiscent of Bill Clinton going on "THE ARSENIO HALL SHOW" dressed as Blues brother and playing a saxophone.
Your CAPITAL GANG discussed this on June 6, 1992. And our guest was Democratic senator Tom Harkin of Iowa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NOVAK: For Bill Clinton to go on "THE ARSENIO HALL SHOW"...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hall show, yes.
NOVAK: ...dressed as a Blues brother, and then talking about smoking pot. And then, I talked to some of those people and said wasn't he terrific? I can't understand what's going on in their heads.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought Bill Clinton did very well in "THE ARSENIO HALL SHOW."
TOM HARKIN, FMR. SENATOR IOWA: I did, too. Of course, Bob Novak wouldn't think so. He's still watching reruns of "THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's attempting to sell his personality. Well, Ross Perot's got the personality market wrapped up. He can't compete with Perot on the personality thing. He should focus on substance.
MARK SHIELDS, CO-HOST: There is a factor in this race that I think Bob has overlooked. And that is the generational factor. And Bill Clinton is in fact the only one of these three candidates who is of the Baby Boomer generation.
NOVAK: Would you put Bill Clinton in -- for people who had never seen him, in dark glasses and a saxophone, playing? Is that presidential?
SHIELDS: I wouldn't have done it, except a very wise political mind with whom I live pointed out to me that that was a way of showing that it was a put on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Margaret, how would you compare Bill Clinton impersonate a Blues brother to John Kerry as a pretend Hell's Angel?
CARLSON: Well, this desire to be cool may work in -- it works better for Kerry, I think, than shooting pheasant with the primaries. He went pheasant shooting with that gun to show what a good guy he is.
But there are higher stakes now, it seems, than when Bill Clinton was doing the shades and the saxophone. You know, National Security, we've had a terrorist event.
And I think the candidates have to be careful not to be too undignified and try to be super cool.
DIONNE: I mean, timing is everything. Clinton didn't go on "THE ARSENIO HALL SHOW" until after he'd won the nomination. Perot was getting all the attention. He was desperate to get extension.
DIONNE: It was -- yes, exactly. So it wasn't a bad move to kind of get back in the mix.
CARLSON: So is Kerry.
DIONNE: I don't think this is the moment for Kerry to do a stunt like that.
HUNT: Bob Novak, have you finished those old Ed Sullivan tapes?
NOVAK: Well, no, I like "THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW." And I don't even remember Clinton going on that show at all, at least in my recollection. But I thought that was -- I still think 11 years later, it was stupid. I don't think it got anything out of it. I don't think John Kerry and a biker on a motorcycle, I think it's undignified and stupid.
HUNT: A vote for dignity from Robert D. Novak. Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" gets a preview of Hillary Clinton at tonight's Iowa/Jefferson/Jackson dinner with Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times."
HUNT: Welcome back. Tonight at the Jefferson Jackson Day Democratic dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York will deliver the keynote speech and introduce six presidential hopefuls who are competing in Iowa, including Senator John Kerry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: I'm five points away from Howard Dean in Iowa. That's nothing. Five points. He's come down, I've gone up. And I intend to continue to go up. This is a close race out here.
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HUNT: Joining us now from the site of the Jefferson Jackson Day dinner is the esteemed Ron Brownstein, national political reporter for "The Los Angeles Times." Thanks for being with us, Ron.
RON BROWNSTEIN, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Hey, Al, hi.
HUNT: Ron, do those Hawkeye State Democrats really wish Senator Clinton was there tonight as a presidential candidate, instead of an introducer of the others?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, Al, I think the short answer is no. I mean, look, she's popular here with Democrats, as she with Democrats anywhere. But what makes Iowa and New Hampshire unique is that the candidates, the 2004 candidates, have been out long enough to establish real connections with voters. And the people who are screaming their lungs out behind me already in the hall have really focused on this group in 2004, not Hillary in 2008 or 2012, a telling sign as you can't even find a Hillary 2004 button inside the hall.
HUNT: Robert Novak?
NOVAK: Ron, do you get the sense that John Kerry is just whistling past the graveyard? Or is he accurate in saying that he is on the way up in Iowa. I'm not talking about New Hampshire, and Governor Dean is on the way down?
BROWNSTEIN: Yes, I think that's a little overoptimistic. I think that people may have overstated the degree to which Kerry fell out of the race, Bob. But I think most people here feel there is a top tier of Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean. And they are in a ferocious contest.
In fact, you know, Dean this summer seemed to be pulling ahead of Gephardt. Gephardt has come back this fall, emphasizing the quotes from Dean in the '90s in which he seemed to support the Republican Congress on slowing the growth of Medicare. That's hurt Dean. Dean is firing back.
I want to hold something up, if I can. This hit Iowa households yesterday and today, Bob. It's a piece, an attack mail piece from Dean, playing the trump card, really, going after Gephardt for his support on the war.
So you can see this is really heating up between the two of them. Kerry's out there lurking, but I think everybody here feels he's one step behind those other two.
CARLSON: If the establishment Democrats who would like to stop Dean, are they going to somehow coalesce here around Gephardt to win Iowa, and thereby slow Dean going into New Hampshire?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think, look, Gephardt has a lot of institutional support here, Margaret. But what we've seen in the last week really is the opposite. I mean, the ultimate pragmatist in the labor movement, Gerry McEntee, the head of AFSCME, joined the service employees in a national union, which is a much more liberal union in backing Dean. And that gives Dean a big boost here in Iowa.
The SEIU is more important in New Hampshire, but AFSCME is a very potent political force here in Iowa. Today when they had a Dean rally, first of all, they had over 700 people in a high school gymnasium, still two months away from the caucus. And he had the presidents of the local unions, the SEIU and AFSCME and the painters all there on stage with them. It's a very different stage of the campaign for him, starting as an insurgent, and now beginning to attract some establishment support of his own.
CARLSON: Doesn't the UAW, however, get him many, many people...
CARLSON: ...on the ground?
BROWNSTEIN: Yes, absolutely. The UAW is a big help for Gephardt here. He has more union support overall than Dean, no question in Iowa. But Dean has more than you would have expected six or eight months ago when he began as sort of a classic live off the earth, live off the ground kind of insurgent.
DIONNE: Ron, this is a classic test of two very different sort of the old and the new, if you will. And how much does Dean's sort of brilliant Internet campaign translate in what you see on the ground, how does that compare with Gephardt?
I've talked to Dean people who think that even if they run behind in the polls, by the time they get to the caucuses, they will be able to organize a lot more people. Is that true?
BROWNSTEIN: I think that's an excellent question, E.J. One, we're going to have to see how it plays out. Certainly Dean has shown that he can raise money off the Internet. The question is whether it can really turn out bodies, especially in a caucus state.
There's a real demographic divide here in this race in Iowa. Dick Gephardt is doing very well with blue collar, high school educated folks, seniors, the kind of people who are respond to his arguments on trade on Medicare. Dean here is still very much of an upscale candidate, much better with college educated voters, upper income voters, the kind of people who would be more likely to surf the Internet.
In Iowa, in that kind of contest, in the end, I think there's a slight advantage to the blue collar candidate. That's the kind of state this is. But in the long run, that profile could serve Dean very well in a democratic primary.
HUNT: Ron, let's stay on Iowa for a minute, though, because as you know, a caucus is quite different than a primary. You come out in a snowy January night for three or four hours in a school, a church, or YMCA building, it takes real commitment.
And it -- I would argue both ways that these Dean people who are terrific on the Internet and everything else, that they don't have the discipline to do that. And who others who say really we are understating the Dean support because he's bringing a whole influx of new voters. Which -- based on what you see out there, which makes more sense?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, my sense, Al, is that both Gephardt and Dean have very strong organizations and very strong support here. And it's going to be a real dogfight to the finish with Kerry lurking, you know, kind of a step behind and Edwards a couple steps behind that.
Look, not -- Dean isn't relying only on the Internet. I mean, he has visited every county in the state. He has a substantial number of people here. He's spending a lot of money on television. As you know, last weekend, he pulled out of the public financing system, which means that he and now John Kerry also are going to bombard the state with money. There are a lot of different ways in which they're attacking this. And I think we're going to see a pretty tough Iowa contest until the end especially, between Gephardt and Dean.
NOVAK: We've only got less than a minute to go, Ron. If Hillary delighted the media and surprised everybody by announcing for president tonight, you don't believe that that would really shake up everything in Iowa, as it would all over the country?
BROWNSTEIN: If there was an earthquake and the -- you know, the U.S. fell off west of the Rockies, it would shake up the race, too. But I think that, no, I think -- of course it would shake up the race. She's enormously popular, but it's not going to happen. I mean, they're more likely to, you know, Bob, turn to you frankly I mean at this point. I mean Hillary has said that she is not going to run in 2004, given the sense of voters that she's, you know, her biggest vulnerability may be the sense that she's too political. To reverse a promise like that, I think, would be catastrophic, fatal and self- defeating. So I think...
NOVAK: You would never reverse...
BROWNSTEIN: ...there's really no change we're going to see her.
HUNT: All right. Hey, Ron Brownstein, I was totally with you until that last comment about turning to Bob Novak. Seriously, thank you.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes, there you go.
HUNT: Say thank you for being with us. You were terrific. The gang will be back with the outrages of the week.
HUNT: And now for the outrages of the week. The American Association of Retired Persons, the largest lobbyist for the elderly, is in the verge of selling out many seniors on the Medicare bill. The legislation, as it now stands, would deny four million retirees, coverage they currently get, would give sweeping new powers to HMOs over the traditional one for Medicare, and would gut a measure approved by both houses to facilitate importation of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada.
The AARP Washington lobbyists apparently care more about their own influence than what they can do for struggling seniors.
NOVAK: Bill Lockyer, California's attorney general, was the leading Democrat for governor in 2006 prior to the recall. After the recall vote, Lockyer revealed he voted against recall, but voted for Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. Was he trying to keep out Democrat Cruz Bustamante and keep a race open for himself in 2006?
To prove his partisan mettle, Lockyer (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sexual groping accusations against Schwarzenegger, disclosing private talks with the governor-elect, and suggesting an 800 line for alleged Arnold victims. The liberal "Sacramento Bee" asks, what does the attorney general put in his coffee?
CARLSON: What's in yours, Bob? Tom DeLay has a new charity called Celebrations for Children. Only children will neither be celebrating nor getting much charity. Donations will be spent on entertaining fat cats at the convention. Luxury suites and Madison Square Garden, yachting and golfing. A perpetual open bar for an open wallet.
This means GE can give a half million dollars, write off part as a charitable deduction, while making their case for tax and other breaks to GOP to pooh-bahs. If anything's left, it goes to abused children. Using children this way is child abuse.
HUNT: E.J.? DIONNE: Republicans once made fun of the pile of paper that was Hillary Clinton's health care plan. On Friday, Republicans emerged with a 1700 page energy bill that will drop with a thud. It's less an energy policy than a collection of tax breaks for big oil and gas interests, who are generous campaign contributors. It includes tax credits for a company that produces fuel, by compressing turkey carcasses.
Turkey is the right word for this one. If it passes, the big energy interests will have a very happy thanksgiving.
HUNT: Turkey carcasses, I like that, E.J. This is Al Hunt saying good-night for THE CAPITAL GANG.
Thanks for joining us.
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Thon; Shakeups at Kerry's Campaign Headquarters>