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House Passes President Bush's Medicare Bill; President Bush Vows To Stay Tough On Middle East; Massachusets Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Gay Civil Marriage

Aired November 23, 2003 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with the full gang -- Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.

After an all-night session, the House early today passed President Bush's Medicare bill, providing prescription drug benefits to seniors. The bill appeared to have lost by two votes, by voting was held open for three hours to turn around two defecting Republicans.


REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), SPEAKER: We introduce free market principles and give consumers more power to chose their health care.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Republicans offered up a Trojan horse, a deceptive gift intended to win their 40-year war against Medicare.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: The bottom line is that the bill would add a universal drug entitlement to a largely unreformed Medicare program, and warns for a fiscal disaster.


SHIELDS: A day earlier, the Senate, in effort to close debate on the Bush-backed energy bill fell two votes short, despite support from the leaders of both parties, as six Republican senators opposed the president.


SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: We are either going to pass this energy bill now, or the individual provisions that many senators favor are not going to become law.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: This is very important to the people of my state and many other farm states.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R) ARIZONA: And you can't claim to be a fiscal conservative and support the propagate spending and corporate welfare in this bill.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, is the Medicare win in the House a major political triumph for President George W. Bush?

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Mark, the White House is completely convinced that that's the case, which is why they spared no effort to win this House vote. For two and a half hours, in the wee hours of this morning, it looked like they'd lost it, and the president himself was gotten out of bed around 5:00 in the morning.


O'BEIRNE: call conservative lawmakers who were not going to be voting for this bill, and he convinced the last few holdouts to vote in the affirmative. So they are clearly convinced it's a political winner.

The White House argues, we promised in the 2000 campaign that the president was going to deliver on this promise, they are determined to do so. In fairness to the White House, they would rather have had a more conservative bill. They actually in January talked about a more conservative bill -- Republicans of all people in Congress, some Republicans objected to that.

So they wound up with this $400 billion over 10 year bill that really does not have the kind of conservative reforms conservative lawmakers who were balking were looking at, but the president's argument is, I am signing a prescription drug bill. This is a bad one, wait until you see how worse it will get, and I will sign that if you don't pass this one.

SHIELDS: Bob, Novak, I mean is this -- is it a major political triumph for the president?

ROBERT NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Well, they think it's going to inoculate them on this issue that the people -- and of course, it isn't going to stop the Democrats from saying it's a sell-out to the pharmaceuticals and the health insurance companies.

By the way, Kate, the first two guys that the president called, I'm told, turned him down, so he got his third and fourth calls...

O'BEIRNE: He kept dialing.

NOVAK: Kept dialing. This is a disgraceful performance by the White House, this -- and you are exactly correct, telling the conservatives it is going to get worse, and I'll sign it. And what exactly -- what did the Republicans stand for if they are going to pass a huge entitlement like this? And I think it's a little bit of a briar patch, that Democrats saying this is a terrible, terrible bill. Teddy Kennedy says he is going to filibuster it on Monday. But I think they are very happy in the Senate, will invoke cloture and pass it on Monday.

SHIELDS: Let me just say, I mean, after Bob and Kate have gone after it so harshly, I thought it was a single political achievement. I mean, George Bush delivered on a promise he made in 2000, 2002. He put together, the Republicans did, the AARP, and I thought a bold and interesting political coalition. And, you know, it showed the Republican conservative majority, slim as it could be, governs. Am I wrong now, Al?

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: No, it will be a great political triumph for President Bush. Bob's right, it will be passed by the Senate. It will clearly help him in 2004, taking an issue away from Democrats. And then, there will be a backlash, because this bill, appropriately passed during Thanksgiving week, is a real turkey.

Thomas Scully, the head of Medicare, said it will benefit every senior citizen. That's flatly wrong. There will be millions who are on Medicaid now, who have benefits cut. There will be millions of senior retirees whose corporations will cut their benefits. They'll lose. There's an expectations gap. It's only going to cover about one-quarter of drug cost. Private -- some private health insurers will get more leverage. And they're great, unless you get sick.

And finally, one of the worst problems with drugs and health care is cost -- is rising costs. There is no cost control. Two ways to do it, one through competition, importation from Canada, or more generic drugs. They gutted -- the Congress gutted those provisions. The other was to have Medicare, as the biggest purchasing agent, negotiate lower prices for seniors, and the conferees sold out to the drug industry and said, no, you can't do that, you can't help seniors that way.

O'BEIRNE: There is a third way for competition, which this bill doesn't have either, which is to make Medicare compete with private (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NOVAK: What they did is they made a pilot program in six areas, which is just baloney.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: It was good for insurance companies, it was good for drug companies. It's good for wealthy people who can save money because it gives tax breaks two times for putting away money for medical expenses, and so of course Bush won on this one. And he does get to say, I delivered on prescription drugs. And this pilot program is the beginning of heeding Newt Gingrich's wish that the financing of Medicare will eventually wither on the vine. They don't want Medicare. And when Medicare has competition, so-called competition, it will mean that seniors will be cherry- picked; the good ones will get private insurance, and the rest will be in Medicare. It's a terrible...

O'BEIRNE: That doesn't happen with the kind of competitive plans members of Congress have for themselves.

The problem the White House had was, once they had to make this a universal benefit, and some Republicans on Capitol Hill are responsible for that, it was going to be too big a bill that doesn't satisfy enough people.


NOVAK: Just a minute...


HUNT:, I'm going to go ahead. You talk about the premium support and private insurers. Jon Kyl of Arizona, as conservative as they get, said if you do that, don't do it in my state. I don't want it in my state. I am going to tell you, they sound in the Heritage Foundation, but politicians don't want to have HMOs covering their seniors.

NOVAK: I just want to say that as bad as this bill is, the worse bill is the energy bill. That -- you talk about turkeys. That is a tremendous pork-filled bill. John McCain is exactly right, and the idea that Bill Frist says, we won't give you the pork if you don't pass this bill, and then the leader of the Democrats, Tom Daschle, says, I don't like the bill, but it's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) pork for my state. It's Senate at its worst, and they are going to try again on Monday. I wouldn't bet against it getting through.

CARLSON: It wasn't Senator Daschle's best moment, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but the Hooters and polluters bill is not going to pass, because of some brave Republicans, led by John McCain.

HUNT: And John Sununu. I hope you're right, Margaret, but I fear about this.

O'BEIRNE: We agree on this. This turkey should be killed before next birthday.

NOVAK: I hope so.

SHIELDS: I don't know. You know? Am I the only person who's going to defend the Bush administration's putting another $400 billion -- this time it's going to raise the deficit another $400 billion...


NOVAK: ...pork all you like.

SHIELDS: Hey, listen, I like apple sauce too, Bob, that's why I'm crazy about you.

THE GANG of five will be back with the president in merry old England.

ANNOUNCER: Here is your CAPITAL GANG trivia question of the week: Of the 40 million Medicare beneficiaries, how many do not have any prescription drug benefits?

Is it, A, 10 million, B, 15 million, or C, 20 million. We'll have the answer right after the break.


ANNOUNCER: Before the break, we asked, of the 40 million Medicare beneficiaries, how many do not have any prescription drug benefits? The answer is A, 10 million.

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

On a state visit to Britain, President Bush pledged a new get- tough policy in the Middle East including the use of force.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must shake decades of failed policy in the Middle East. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) often led us to overlook the faults of local elites. In some cases, the measured use of force is all that protects us from a chaotic world ruled by force.


SHIELDS: British protesters demonstrated against the president and pulled down a Bush effigy, but "The Guardian" opinion poll showed 62 percent of Britons consider America as a force for good, and only 15 percent the U.S. a force for evil.

Coinciding with the president's visit, suicide bombers in Istanbul attacked the British consulate and a British-owned bank, killing 30, including British consul general, and injured 450.

Al Hunt, what did the president accomplish in Great Britain?

HUNT: Well, he gave a very good speech on the global responsibilities of the world power, although I would think that some of the Wilsonian tones would probably bother Bob. I think he demonstrated -- or should have demonstrated to his more irrational critics that he's not just some kind of crazy cowboy.

The poll was so-so news. Forty-three percent of Brits, our closest ally, say that they would welcome George Bush coming to their country. I'm not sure that that's a great, ringing vote of confidence.

One discordant note, Mark. I think no better -- we have had no better ally than Tony Blair, and I frankly think it would be good for the president of the United States to give him something. He should give him something on these awful steel tariffs, he should do something about those nine U.K. detainees in Guantanamo, that's become a big issue in Britain, and I find it unfortunate that the president isn't being more gracious to this very, very important ally.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Let's give him back Massachusetts.


HUNT: I've got some other candidates.

O'BEIRNE: Look, it was a terrific visit, it was an excellent speech, really well delivered, I thought. It's clear the vast majority of British citizens see the U.S. as a force for good in the world, versus those left-wingers tearing down a Bush effigy as though, what, they'd rather Saddam Hussein remained in control, torturing the people of Iraq?

The speech was terrific. Just when we have every single Democratic candidate pledging to go to Europe to apologize for us defending ourselves in the robust way that George Bush is determined to, George Bush goes to Europe and says, multilateral organizations that only pass resolutions with no resolve and no determination to do anything about it are going to be irrelevant, and he also brought up Europe's past weaknesses and mistakes, pointing out the war on terrorism needs some Churchills, not the Chamberlains. We have too many of them now in Europe.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: You know, he did give a very good speech. He made the British laugh. They like to laugh -- with the reference to David Blaine.

I agree with Kate. The demonstrations were touted so highly before he got there, it didn't have the effect we thought it would, and it was over the top to topple the statue, making the comparison between Bush and Saddam Hussein. And Bush stated the palace, which is nearly the first, I think, so he might have gotten to see what Queen Elizabeth keeps in that little purse that never goes away. Is it a button? Is it the nuclear -- I don't know.

SHIELDS: Just let me -- before I go to you, Bob, I thought the president gave a good speech, although I was concerned that he because of the opposition and the protest, he never strayed more than a mile from Buckingham Palace. I mean, it was almost like he was under a house arrest, a royal house arrest.


SHIELDS: Didn't go to Parliament, didn't go to Parliament, and again, the crew from Abraham Lincoln has been busy putting up those backgrounds. You see, United Kingdom, United Kingdom, United Kingdom was in the background of his speech. I couldn't figure that out.

NOVAK: Yes, I'll tell you, I think it showed the president good, that Europeans could be proud of him and that demonstrators were a bunch of nuts, but I didn't like the speech much.

HUNT: I didn't think you would.

NOVAK: I just think the whole idea of us talking about the elites, what elites are we talking about, our friends in Saudi Arabia, or the king of Jordan? I mean, the idea of the United States deciding that all over the world, including the Middle East, we're going to run who's in power I think led to the situation we have in Iraq today, where we're stuck there for a very long time, so I am just not too keen on this national greatness, Al. I know you love it, because I know you want to, as close to Woodrow Wilson George W. Bush is, the more you like him.

CARLSON: Well, you know, we are in Iraq now...


HUNT: ... I can take Wilson.


CARLSON: Well, you know, we're in Iraq now, and there's no way, there's no going back, so you have to...

NOVAK: I know that. I've said that.


SHIELDS: I want to point out one thing, just a point of clarification, a poll, a British poll reported in "The Wall Street Journal" that this visit probably helped George Bush a lot more than it helped Tony Blair. Blair in the United States is 63 percent favorable to 9 percent unfavorable. Bush in Great Britain is 23 percent favorable to 54 percent unfavorable.

O'BEIRNE: But opinion on the part of the British public, though, is changing. Support for the war is actually increasing. And the fact that while the president was in Britain, the attacks in Istanbul on the British consulate that killed all those people, is there any doubt that the bombs going off that often in Istanbul and Baghdad, those same people would much prefer those bombs to go off in Boston or Chicago, but thanks to this administration, it's not happening here.

SHIELDS: I don't know if that's the case. I mean, they were Turkish, apparently, from the evidence already collected, Turkish people. Fifty four-23 negative is not good.

NOVAK: Well, the poll, "The Guardian" poll is a little bit different on that, but the interesting thing is that some of the guys on the Hill say that if the president had not gone to England, they would have passed that terrible Medicare bill more easily because he could have made the phone calls, apparently not in the middle of the night, to turn around the weak-kneed conservative congressmen.

SHIELDS: Final word from strong-kneed conservative Bob Novak. Next on CAPITAL GANG, what is the political fallout from the gay marriage decision in Massachusetts?



REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It's a statement by one of the most respected courts historically in the country that people's sexual orientation should not be a basis for treating them as less than full citizens.

GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), MASSACHUSETTS: Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman, and that the exact equivalent to marriage is also reserved for a man and a woman.


SHIELDS: Chief Justice Margaret Marshall of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court wrote in a four to three decision, quote, "We declare that barring an individual from the protections, benefits and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts Constitution," end quote.

Bob Novak, beyond the Bay State, what would be the political fallout in 2004 from this decision?

NOVAK: It's a lot of trouble for the Democrats, and that's why the serious Democratic presidential candidates all ran away from this and said, oh, we're not for gay marriage. Teddy Kennedy may be, but he's not running for president, and we are. This is going to be also in the news, because there is going to be a fight in Massachusetts for a constitutional amendment, which will come on the ballot I guess, when, in 2006?


NOVAK: And there will be a fight in the United States, in the Congress, for a federal amendment to the federal Constitution. So this is going to be a -- and this is something where the public is all -- is overwhelmingly on one side. They don't want gay marriage. Barney Frank thinks it's going to turn around. I don't think it is going to turn around.

SHIELDS: Margaret, interesting, in every survey, it shows it's a generational divide, to a considerable degree. Younger voters are far more accepting of them, whereas older voters, especially Republicans, 80-20 against them on Republicans.

CARLSON: Well, you know, older people think this is a terrible assault on marriage, as if heterosexuals have been holding it up all that well all these years. Republicans do have the edge on the issue right now, but people don't want to discriminate against gays anymore, and Mitt Romney said it will not be the exact equivalent of marriage, accent on the exact, that will be passed in Massachusetts. But something like it and some of those protections will be passed, and you know, this next generation, Mark, we won't be having this argument.

SHIELDS: Is it, Al, comparable to the politically to where interracial marriage being prohibited was a generation ago?

HUNT: It may end up being that way, but Bob's right. I think politically, there is no question, this is a real problem for Democrats. It will -- the hit squads will be like John McCain in South Carolina in 2000, despite the fact that Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter and said three years ago the feds ought to keep their hands out of this. I think the politics are very bad.

The merits, I think, are quite different. We can't say, we can't criticize gays for promiscuity and then say that they are being denied the one institution that most values monogamy. When people say, talk about the sanctity of marriage, Margaret is absolutely right. Over 43 percent of heterosexual marriages end up in divorce, there are millions of childless kids (sic) every year. That's what's threatening marriage.

And finally, Massachusetts argued that marriage is about procreation. If that's the case, Mark, then we ought to outlaw birth control, and we ought to say every childless couple who goes in there, either by choice or necessity, you know, shouldn't be able to get married.

O'BEIRNE: Let me point out, Al Hunt is not running for president.


O'BEIRNE: Well, he couldn't get elected, obviously. There's not a single leading Democratic candidate who is willing to say what Al is saying, although as much as they might like to, they are reading the tea leaves here. This Massachusetts decision is a complete outrage. Even this incredibly liberal court, I might point out, only made the decision by four to three. That's how outrageous it is. They did not strike down a state law. They are now ordering the state legislature, ordering them to make marriage, not civil unions, specifically marriage available to gays. Democrats are going to come to I think regret that they're all meeting in Boston this summer.

NOVAK: And the interesting thing -- I'm sorry -- the interesting thing is that they have to do this. I mean, there is just no way out.

CARLSON: They've got 180 days, but when Mitt said "exact," I think it will be an inexact equivalent.

O'BEIRNE: Well, that's not what the court has said.

SHIELDS: Let me ask one question, David Brooks, "The Times" columnist, made a point, he said, he thought that this would be of great political advantage to the Republicans in the short run, in 2004, but he compared it to Prop 174, in California, where Pete Wilson had used it in 1994 to win reelection, but it ended up alienating Latinos. Do you think there is any prospect of that?

NOVAK: No, no, I don't think so.

O'BEIRNE: California, California passed a state law, a referendum against gay marriage. Hawaii, liberal Hawaii did. Now, it is not the same, Mark.

NOVAK: And I want to add one other thing, Al, that for many millions of Americans, this is a strong religious issue. I don't think -- I don't think the question -- the parallels, the inexact parallels that have been raised, such as dealing with Latinos in California, that was not a religious issue. This is a religious issue, that marriage is a religious sacrament to many people, and this is messing around with something that is a matter of God and not a matter of man.

HUNT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) entitled to those religious views, and I don't think if anybody tried to order a church to recognize this, that would be outrageous. There are a lot of secular marriages in America, Bob, and that's what we're talking about. This has nothing to do with religion whatsoever.

SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt. Coming up in the second half of CAPITAL GANG, we remember President John F. Kennedy on the 40th anniversary of his assassination. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the battle against insurgents in Iraq with CNN's own Walt Rodgers in Baghdad, and our "Outrages of the Week." That's all after the latest news headlines.



ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with the full CAPITAL GANG -- Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Bob Novak and I recently visited Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place of our 35th president, and reflected on those four days in November 1963.


NOVAK: I had just started a column with Roland Evans, a syndicated column in May of 1963. I was 32 years old. And we were writing a six day in week political column.

SHIELDS: I'd been in the United States Marine Corps, I'd been honorably discharged from the Marine Corps, and then was a civilian.

I was in Los Angeles, California. At that point, I was getting ready to come to Washington to follow in part the inspiring example of John Kennedy, which he had not given to me personally but to which he had summoned the nation.

NOVAK: Rollie and I were having lunch at the Sheraton Carlton with the director of the Goldwater for President campaign and Senator Goldwater's press secretary to talk about that campaign. We finished the lunch, and we all got -- all four of us got in the same cab, and as we got in the cab, we heard the news on the radio that the president had been shot. SHIELDS: What I remember most of all was the shock, the immediate shock that gripped -- I was at a drug store in Los Angeles, on Wilshire (ph) Boulevard, and the clerk, who was an African- American, turned and almost ashen-faced said, "the president has been shot." And immediately there was a hush among the entire group.

NOVAK: People could not relate to it. It was something that crossed any party lines or ideological lines, whether you liked Kennedy or you didn't like him. People were just in the state of shock.

SHIELDS: I certainly remember Walter Cronkite, you know, taking off his glasses and really expressing what so many, most, virtually every American felt at the time, a sense of personal loss.


WALTER CRONKITE, CBS NEWS: President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2:00 Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.


NOVAK: Everybody was amazed how quickly the assassin was found and incarcerated. Nobody suspected there was anybody else. And then the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald on television -- I was -- I was watching television in my home on Capitol Hill when I saw it, and it was absolutely like something out of a very bad movie.

We went over to the Capitol Rotunda to see the bodies. Waited for a long time. I didn't have any particular access by the press. And thousands and thousands of people came into town to -- without any place to stay, just not to gawk or to site-see, as a celebrity thing, but just to show their grief.

SHIELDS: I guess the other recollection I have of that weekend is Mrs. Kennedy. She was 34 years old. She was a widow with two children. And yet, with dignity, with remarkable, remarkable forbearance, she consoled the nation. She gave us the example on how we should mourn, and how we should carry on. And whatever she did for the rest of her life, that weekend entitled her to it.

NOVAK: The procession through the streets of Washington of the casket going through, your heart was in your mouth, it was such an awful in the proper sense of the word sight, but the image I shall always remember, was the heads of state walking through the streets of Washington.

SHIELDS: One of the most poignant moments even was the riderless horse, which is the tradition of the leader, the fallen leader with the boots in the saddle, the stirrups, backwards, signifying that the leader has been lost, going up Pennsylvania Avenue.

NOVAK: I can remember it as if it were today. Charles de Gaulle, about six foot four, and about two feet away from him was Haile Selassey, the emperor of Ethiopia, might have been all of five foot. And I couldn't believe that these people were walking through the streets.

SHIELDS: Arlington and John Kennedy are as one, I think, in the mind of all of us who lived through it, and to a considerable degree because of the flame, which was obviously Mrs. Kennedy's idea and vision for the nation.

NOVAK: I think the assassination of John F. Kennedy had a profound effect on America. I don't think America was ever the same.

SHIELDS: You have to remember, we weren't used to assassinations. This was before the attempt on President Ford and the attempt on President Reagan, the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the assassination of Martin Luther King. This was long before that.

NOVAK: JFK was not having a good 30 years. Most presidents don't. I think he probably would have rallied (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and likely been reelected, but suddenly he was martyred, he was suddenly a heroic figure, perhaps blown out of proportion because of his death than what he was in life.

I can tell you for those who were here, and I was there as a 32- year-old columnist, that's something I'll never forget. And it's emblazoned in my memory.

SHIELDS: We were an innocent people and some people have said, November 22, 1963, did mark the end of American innocence.

There was a belief that if we believed in ourselves, we could believe in our future. And John Kennedy, whatever his shortcomings, made us believe in ourselves and through him we believed in the future, and that's an enormous gift for any people.



SHIELDS: Welcome back. More than seven years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Colorado referendum against homosexual rights legislation was unconstitutional. Your CAPITAL GANG discussed this on May 25, 1996. Our guest was Jack Kemp, who was soon to be named the Republican nominee for vice president that year.


CARLSON: What the court was doing was saying that discrimination is wrong. It's not granting new rights, it's saying that you can't discriminate against a group of people. And in a very, I think, very sensitive opinion...

SHIELDS: Margaret called it a sensitive decision. Do you agree with that?

NOVAK: It was a disgraceful decision. The disgrace, Jack, is that all these Republican presidents could only get three people who understand what the Constitution says, that there is no invisible writing in the Constitution. HUNT: It was a very good decision. On the other issue of gay marriages, Mark's right, most middle-age, straight men, I'm very uneasy about that subject. That's a hang-up that we have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that Justice Kennedy was wrong in suggesting that the people of Colorado had an animosity towards gay people. What they were basically saying, they shouldn't get special rights.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, did the court seven years ago point to where it may go now on the same gay marriage question?

CARLSON: Well, Mark, as you said, it was generational, and Bob points out it's also a religious issue. Well, no one is a stricter Catholic than my mother, and there was a real estate agent in her bridge club, who my mother went out of her way to invite his, quote, "friend," to the potluck suppers. And we've come a long way since then, but gradually I think it will be an accepted part of life.


NOVAK: I was struck how much Al has changed in seven years. He seemed to have more hair then. But he also...

CARLSON: He was straight then.

NOVAK: He also was really worried about gays, it's made him uncomfortable. He's grown so much in seven years that apparently now he's not uncomfortable about gay marriage anymore.

HUNT: Bob, let me tell you something. I think a lot of us have a hard time overcoming our prejudices, and some of us work hard at it, Bob, and we succeed. And I am convinced someday you will, too.


O'BEIRNE: Jack Kemp was right on this one. What the Supreme Court did was strike down what a majority of Colorado voters had done, which was not to vote to persecute gays. What they had voted to do was say, being gay, based on who you have sex with, should not be a protected class. And what did the Supreme Court say? Traditional sexual morality is bigotry. That's what the Supreme Court decided.

SHIELDS: Do you think it's an indication of where we're going now?

O'BEIRNE: Well, the fact that they're not anchored by the Constitution, that they're going to make it up as they go along in order to force a lead opinion down our throats, yes, it was an indication of where they are willing to bring the rest of us.

SHIELDS: Last word, Kate O'Beirne. Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at insurgent attacks in Iraq, with CNN's Walt Rodgers. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. The Iraqi Oil Ministry and two hotels used by western journalists were attacked Friday by rockets mounted on donkey pull carts.


BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, COALITION DEPUTY CHIEF OF OPS: What they're trying to do is break our will, they are trying to capture the headlines. But these attacks, with the exception of a seriously injured civilian, have had frankly no tactical value, and they are militarily insignificant.


SHIELDS: Two hundred and ninety seven U.S. troops have been killed by hostile fire in Iraq, more than half since President Bush's May 1 speech declaring an end to hostilities.

Joining us now from Baghdad in Iraq, the scene of continuing attacks today, which took 18 lives, is CNN senior international correspondent Walter Rodgers. Thank you for coming in, Walt.


SHIELDS: Thank you. What is the sense in Baghdad of which side really has the upper hand in this war right now?

RODGERS: Without sounding too flip, there were times this past week when you honestly needed a scorecard to keep track of the numbers of fatalities, American and Iraqis, over the course of the past week, and the number of incidents in the course of a day.

Having said that, the momentum does tend to seesaw back and forth. The Americans, with their large military might here, their Bradley fighting vehicles, can take the initiative whenever they want. They're unchallenged. Nobody can really challenge the mightiest army in the world when it decides to go out on the streets in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq. The problem is when the U.S. military is not out on a mission, out seizing the imitative. Then it tends to stay for political reasons and security reasons behind concrete bunkers.

Well, it's behind those big concrete walls, then the American military, perhaps unconsciously, gives the appearance of being on the defensive. As for the insurgents, the Iraqi insurgents, like every enemy everywhere, they always have one vote on the battlefield. They are waging an urban guerrilla warfare -- urban guerrilla war here, and as the events of the past week have shown, they can pretty well pick and choose their targets whenever they like. They have yet to be reined in -- Mark.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Walt, do you really think that the use of tactical U.S. aircraft is going to be effective against an enemy, an urban guerrilla enemy?

RODGERS: Well, as usual, Bob, I respect your mind and I think it's an excellent question, and I don't see how it's going to work. I've never seen a conventional military force, and I keep asking the experts, a conventional military force, and the U.S. has got the best in the world, the campaign last spring demonstrated that, but when have they been able to defeat guerrillas. Look at the Soviets in Afghanistan, a huge army. They still couldn't do it. So I don't think that's going to happen.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Walt, I was talking to a Republican official who was just there who said that that a major concern is that the insurgents are going to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, because they are so scared by the increasing number of them that they can't be seen to be sympathizing with Americans.

RODGERS: Margaret, that's true, and here's the worst part about it. I think most Iraqis know that the Americans are here to help them, but they cannot bring themselves to help the Americans. The Americans need better intelligence. They need the cooperation of the Iraqis whom they're here to protect and actually to help rebuild their country -- look, nobody's claimed the $25 million for Saddam Hussein, nobody has turned him in. It is too much against their Arab tribal customs to even turn in bad Iraqis to help the foreign occupiers. That's the problem.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Walt, you note that the Iraqi people understand we're there to help. Are they also persuaded, as the president reiterated this week, that we're there for as long as it might take at whatever strength it might take, or is there any evidence that now that we're in Washington's political season, the Iraqi public is watching the president's critics and somehow doubting our commitment?

RODGERS: Well, I think they're doubting the American commitment not because of the president's critics, but because the president signaled that he is going to try to transfer power as quickly as possible. That was interpreted here as a kind of cut and run. And the interesting thing is, although Iraqis grumble the polls don't support the American occupation, the Iraqis privately self-conscious -- or subconsciously note that if the Americans go, this place will blow up in one of the worst civil wars you ever saw. So they may not like us here, but the facts of the case are, they know they need us to keep the lid on.


HUNT: Walt, you mentioned a moment ago that no one had turned in Saddam. I must say I am shocked that seven and a half months after he's disappeared that we have not captured Saddam or killed Saddam Hussein by now. What is the expectation there? That we'll find him soon, that it's a harder task than expected? Does it make any difference if we do find him? RODGERS: I think it is, Al, a much harder task than was expected. I think there was a momentum after his two sons, Uday and Qusay, were killed earlier in the year, they thought they'd get Saddam quickly. Here is a guy who's never going to live above ground again as long as the Americans are here.

The interesting irony of all this is that the Americans have not dealt well with the Sunni tribes out there and the tribes, the desert tribes are the ones who are giving this guy the protection.

Now, you know, how long is this going to last? I don't know, but the irony gets back to the fact, you could possibly have Saddam Hussein, albeit under ground, survive yet a second Bush presidency if the president were to lose.

SHIELDS: Walt, the smart military man I know said that the average Iraqi right now is pleased that Saddam Hussein is gone and delighted with that development, but displeased that the United States and America is running Iraq. Is that a fair assessment?

RODGERS: I think it is. I think it's very accurate. I think overwhelmingly most Iraqis, even some of the Baathists, are glad Saddam Hussein is gone. Nobody particularly likes that guy. They are glad he's gone.

Having said that, no Arab country, and particularly the Iraqis, wants a foreign occupying power on its soil. The problem is, if the Americans leave, the place blows up in a civil war. It's a damned if you do damned if you don't situation, and it's not a very happy one for the Iraqis, who still don't have security, who still don't have political sovereignty, even though it's been promised at a faster rate. And it's not very happy for the Americans either.

SHIELDS: Well, Walt, thank you very much for being with us. As always, you're informative and helpful and insightful. And THE GANG will be back with "The Outrages of the Week."


SHIELDS: And now for "The Outrage of the Week."

In today's Washington, democracy and majority rule most definitely do not operate. You want proof? The Bush administration proposed rules to deny overtime pay to millions of American workers earning between $22,100 and $65,000 a year. By a majority vote, both the Republican-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House opposed the changes in overtime pay. Friday, Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who had led the fight to preserve overtime pay, threw in the towel and capitulated to the Bush administration.

So now, millions of American families will face Christmas without overtime pay.

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: In 1932, "New York Times" correspondent Walter Duranty received a Pulitzer Prize for coverage from Moscow. He since has been exposed a virtual agent of Joseph Stalin, who covered up Soviet genocide in the Ukraine. The newspaper this year assigned historian Mark Von Hagen to review the prize. He has concluded, quote, "For the sake of 'The New York Times' honor, they should take the prize away." End quote.

Yesterday, Pulitzer Prize judges decided not to remove Duranty's prize. "The Times," deciding to abandon honor, praised that decision.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, not since O.J. has cable sank lower. Covering Michael Jackson's arrest live for two hours. How irresistibly tawdry it was for them, a megastar, multiple fake marriages for purposes of procreation, grotesque plastic surgery, and allegations of a heinous crime.

We did learn there are special arrest protocols for pop stars. Your Gulfstream gets private parking privileges, so there's no embarrassing perp walk in to be booked.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

CARLSON: The frenzy had other victims -- well, Mark, just another comment or two. Other victims than the viewing public in this media frenzy. A cameraman had a heart attack and died, and a photographer was struck by a car in the Jackson convoy.

SHIELDS: Thank you for that two-part outrage.

CARLSON: Now, Kate.

O'BEIRNE: Mark, let me try and wait up my turn. Don't worry, Margaret.

The disclosure of staff memos written for Democratic senators confirmed that left-wing interest groups are calling the shots on blocking the president's judicial nominees, including manipulating a pending case, and that Miguel Estrada was singled out as especially dangerous because he's Hispanic.

Although leaked, the Democrats' outrageous tactics aren't much of a secret. A poll taken for Senate Democrats this week found that the obstruction of judges doesn't sit well with independent voters, who take a well-earned less favorable view of Democrats as a result.



SHIELDS: Poll done for Senate Republicans. Al Hunt.

HUNT: Boy, I am in trouble tonight, aren't I? I'm getting nervous right now, Mark.

Mark, the Republican Party, raking in big bucks from vested interests, has a huge financial advantage in next year's elections. But party chair Ed Gillespie has the chutzpah to criticize campaign finance reformer Fred Wertheimer (ph) for allegedly not sufficiently criticizing the fact that George Soros plans to spend millions to defeat George Bush.

The problem is, Gillespie distorted the quotes and omitted Wertheimer's (ph) multiple warnings to Soros, including a pledge to carefully watch his activities. Ed, people in glass houses shouldn't throw foul balls.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS: President Kennedy Has Been Shot." At 9:00 p.m., "LARRY KING LIVE," with Nelly Connally, the widow of John Connally, and at 10:00 p.m., does being a celebrity help or hurt Michael Jackson's case?

Thank you for joining us.



Bush Vows To Stay Tough On Middle East; Massachusets Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Gay Civil Marriage>

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