The Web      Powered by
powered by Yahoo!


Return to Transcripts main page


The Women Behind the Candidates; Gov. Romney Proposes 'Foolproof' Death Penalty for Mass.

Aired May 8, 2004 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson. Our guest is the deputy -- House deputy majority whip, Eric Cantor, the Republican of Virginia.

It's good to have you back here.


SHIELDS: Thank you.

Secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld took responsibility before the Senate and the House Armed Services Committee for the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. He also warned of more damaging evidence to come.


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: These events occurred on my watch. As secretary of defense, I am accountable for them, and I take full responsibility.

There are many more photographs, and indeed, some videos. Congress and the American people and the rest of the world need to know this.


SHIELDS: Earlier in the week, there were calls for President Bush to fire his secretary of defense or for Donald Rumsfeld simply to step down.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Mr. Rumsfeld has been engaged in a cover-up from the start on this issue and continues to be so.

I think that Mr. Rumsfeld should resign.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: If the president doesn't fire the secretary, if he doesn't resign, I think it's the responsibility of this Congress to file articles of impeachment and force him to leave office.


SHIELDS: President Bush gave solid support to Donald Rumsfeld.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Secretary Rumsfeld as a really good secretary of defense. Secretary Rumsfeld has served our nation well. Secretary Rumsfeld has been the secretary during two wars. And he is -- he's an important part of my cabinet, and he'll stay in my cabinet.


SHIELDS: Al, did Donald Rumsfeld go far enough in taking responsibility. And in fact, can he survive?

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: Mark, I think this thing may get so bad that Rumsfeld cannot stay. Bush publicly praised him after privately leaking word that he was furious at Rumsfeld. If John McCain were president, no one questions he would have accepted personal responsibility, and high-level heads would roll. That's anathema to this administration. And Rumsfeld set the tone. The Geneva accords will be adhered to when it's convenient for us. When the looting and crime spree took place after the toppling of Saddam, Rummy said, Oh, boys will be boys. And the Pentagon was in charge of post-Saddam Iraq, which is turning out to be one of the great debacles in American foreign policy.

He had ample warning of this. Last year, Jerry Bremer and Colin Powell raised questions about prisoners of war over there, about -- about those captives. The International Red Cross and Amnesty International said there was systemic torture going on in those prisons. On January 16, Rummy was told there are -- there's a -- there's terrible things going -- and there's pictures. Took him 110 days before he looked at the pictures. And on March 16, the American general, Taguba, issued his report to the Pentagon, and Rummy still hadn't read it two months later.

Finally, John McCain asked him the key -- what seems to me to be a basic question: Who was in control there? And Rumsfeld ducked it.

This is a thoroughly disgraced secretary of defense.


SHIELDS: Sounds like somebody who can't survive, Kate.

O'BEIRNE: There are an awful lot of people making America's enemies' case for them. For Nancy Pelosi to accuse the military of a cover-up, which is exactly what our enemies would like to think is the case, or that this is more widespread or it goes up the chain of command, is completely irresponsible. There is no evidence of that.

Don Rumsfeld was accountable, in the sense that it was on his watch. He's also accountable for two of the most remarkable military victories in history. He's also accountable for the most humane assault on -- on a country in history, where he put his own troops at risk to spare civilian lives.

And you know what else he's accountable for? He's accountable for seeing that justice is done. There's a reason why General Myers does not dip into criminal -- ongoing criminal investigations, pluck evidence out and head to microphones to condemn young soldiers. There's something called "command influence," improper command influence.

You want a propaganda disaster? How about all of these sadists, these creeps who did this -- how about them all getting off the hook because everyone's going to have a lawyer screaming about command influence. You think Senator Teddy Kennedy is going to take responsibility if that winds up being the case?

SHIELDS: Senator Teddy Kennedy -- go ahead, Margaret. But I mean, the enemies of the United States, it just strikes me, don't need anything -- and I don't think Nancy Pelosi's either comforting or doing anything for them. The point is, the enemies of the United States have all the recruitment propaganda they need in those pictures, and they...

O'BEIRNE: Why are...


SHIELDS: Al Qaeda's membership chairman is the happiest man in the world.

O'BEIRNE: So why are members of Congress exaggerating it?

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: But you don't have to interfere with criminal investigations to run a prison properly, when the International Red Cross and the Pentagon itself, because it had started its own investigation, knew there were terrible problems at that prison. Rumsfeld was a brilliant secretary of war, but a very poor secretary of defense since the occupation. Anyone who said how it should be done was considered unpatriotic, and so we were unprepared for all of the dysfunctional things that happened there. Still, the troops don't have proper armor and proper vehicles.

So it's not -- it's on his watch. And by the way, he complained during his testimony about not being able to get at this, it was so un-Rumsfeldian or un-Rum-stud (ph), as...

O'BEIRNE: Because there's a criminal...

CARLSON: ... as Bush calls him.

O'BEIRNE: There's a criminal prosecution going on!

CARLSON: But you can run a prison without interfering...

O'BEIRNE: We'll see! CARLSON: ... with a criminal investigation.

O'BEIRNE: We'll see.

CARLSON: Those -- those kids were not trained in any way, and as the woman, Harman, said, we made up the rules as we went along.


CANTOR: You know, all this talk -- it is so unbelievable to me. I mean, Secretary Rumsfeld came to the Hill. He endured hours and hours of testimony. He was very straightforward, and I think he dispelled any notion of a cover-up. And for Nancy Pelosi to suggest that there was a cover-up is downright irresponsible. And what is even more irresponsible is you heard calls by the Democrats, and they said that this was an unwinnable war. What type of message does that send to our troops in the field?

This is just an irresponsible move and a political grab on the part of the minority party because, frankly, there is nothing else, nowhere else for them to go. It is a shame when they take somebody like Secretary Rumsfeld, who has been what I think one of the greatest public servants in recent history, and do this to this man.

SHIELDS: Eric, I just have to clarify one thing you said. The person who said it was an unwinnable war, unless our policy changed, unless we mobilized all forces, was Jack Murtha. Jack Murtha is a congressman who is a -- who quit college to go in the Marines during the Korean war. At the age of 33, he volunteered and returned as a combat officer, as a Marine combat officer, in Vietnam, where he got two Purple Hearts. Every single week, Jack Murtha goes out to Walter Reed to visit with those who've been wounded -- 4,340. He goes to Bethesda. I've gone with him.

So he's talking -- he's talking -- he's not talking about -- this is -- there's no stronger supporter of American military in the United States than Jack Murtha!

O'BEIRNE: You can be...


O'BEIRNE: You can be -- you can be a fan of Jack Murtha and still think he's wrong. Look...

SHIELDS: I'm not -- don't say -- don't say he's not giving comfort and aid or something...


SHIELDS: There's nobody...

CANTOR: ... Murtha, I was...

SHIELDS: There is nobody...

CANTOR: ... Nancy Pelosi, who said...

SHIELDS: You said "unwinnable war," and that was Jack Murtha!

CANTOR: Nancy Pelosi also echoed those remarks, so...

SHIELDS: She said it...


O'BEIRNE: Mark...

SHIELDS: She said that with Jack Murtha. And it is an unwinnable war!

CARLSON: You know -- but you know, this goes back to the...

O'BEIRNE: On March 20...

CARLSON: ... problem I was saying...

SHIELDS: Let Kate...

CARLSON: ... is that every time someone criticizes the conduct of the occupation, they're considered unpatriotic...

O'BEIRNE: Not true!

CARLSON: ... and not supportive of the troops.

O'BEIRNE: Not true!

CARLSON: Yes, well, Eric just did it!


CARLSON: Eric just did it!

O'BEIRNE: Certainly, it's not the time, with troops in the field. It's a good thing our guys in Guadalcanal did not have these kind of people back home!

SHIELDS: What do you mean, "these kind of people"? Wait!

O'BEIRNE: The kind of people who want to exaggerate this for propaganda purposes. Maybe this goes up the chain of command. Maybe it's far more widespread. Maybe there was a big cover-up, in the absence of any evidence whatsoever! That's exactly what our American men and women...


CARLSON: Wait! Rumsfeld himself said it was more than...


SHIELDS: One at a time! One at a time! HUNT: I have read the summary of the Taguba report...

O'BEIRNE: So have I!

HUNT: ... and I will rest just on that. And one of the points it makes, which shows why Rumsfeld has been such a disgraceful secretary since we toppled Saddam, is that our whole assumptions are wrong. It said basically, what we were -- what they had in there were not terrorists. We didn't have a bunch of al Qaeda terror -- we had a bunch of common criminals, and that's what -- that's a mindset we didn't understand. We didn't have enough people there, and that was because of the Pentagon!

O'BEIRNE: On March 20...

HUNT: That's -- that's what the Taguba report...

O'BEIRNE: On March 20...

HUNT: ... says!

O'BEIRNE: ... General Kimmitt publicly announced, We are bringing criminal charges based on abuse of prisoners, indecent acts and mistreatment. Where was Congress? Does the buck ever stop with Congress?

HUNT: Why didn't we have more people there?

O'BEIRNE: This is -- this is...

HUNT: Why did...

O'BEIRNE: ... on John Warner's watch!

HUNT: Is the Taguba report...

O'BEIRNE: And Carl Levin's watch...


HUNT: Is the Taguba report wrong?

O'BEIRNE: ... Don Rumsfeld's!

HUNT: Is the Taguba report wrong, we didn't have enough guards?


SHIELDS: Let's give Eric...

O'BEIRNE: Excuse me! Excuse me! You didn't need more guards! A 12-year-old -- you don't need to be trained in the Geneva convention to know what was being done in those pictures should not be done. A 12-year-old knows that!

SHIELDS: OK. Eric, quickly. CANTOR: Absolutely. And to equate the acts of a few soldiers or prison guards to this administration, to the president of the United States, is almost analogous to equating the acts of the terrorists to the entire Muslim population in the world. It's preposterous.

CARLSON: If the photos hadn't come out, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

SHIELDS: Last word. Eric Cantor and THE GANG will be back with President Bush's appeal to the Arab world.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

In a rare appearance on Arab television, President Bush tried to quell the uproar in the Muslim world over American abuse of Iraqi detainees.


BUSH: People in Iraq must understand that I view those practices as abhorrent. They must also understand that what took place in that prison does not represent America that I know.


SHIELDS: The president apologized during a White House visit with King Abdullah of Jordan.


BUSH: I told him I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families. I told him I was equally sorry that the -- that people have been seeing those pictures didn't understand the true nature and heart of America.


SHIELDS: Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry spoke out about the abuse.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... that also undermines America's own efforts in the region. It has the potential of putting our troops, the rest of them, in further jeopardy. It can increase acts of terror against America and Americans.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, how will the Bush apology play both in the Arab world and beyond?

O'BEIRNE: Well, Mark, we shouldn't expect the state-sponsored Arab media, whose countries have been feeding vicious anti-American propaganda, those -- to their populations for years, to be satisfied. And sure enough, the reviews show the Arab media's not satisfied with what the president has to say.

Look, our friends around the world know that this is an aberration, this does not represent the American military. They appreciate the president's words. Our enemies also know it's an aberration, but this time, soldiers, unfortunately, have handed them this kind of propaganda. I venture to say the Arab media cares not a whit, of course, about the routine torture of prisoners in their own countries. There's not a prisoner in the -- being held in any one of those countries that we're trying to appease now who wouldn't switch places with a detainee in the custody of the American military, would be my bet.

SHIELDS: Eric Cantor, this week, as an example of what happened, the State Department had to withhold its annual human rights review of all the countries of the world. They had to postpone its release because of this. Now, that -- there's just a sense of embarrassment that -- the United States, we do hold ourselves to a far higher standard than the general thugs that Kate is talking about.

CANTOR: I don't think there's any question, and I don't think there is among our allies around the world and the others that believe that we are the beacon of freedom and the protector of individual rights. So I believe that the apology that went out from President Bush will fall on receptive ears for those who want it to be. And for those who are anti-American and -- and -- or who want to continue to believe that these prison abuses symbolize our occupation of Iraq -- if they want to call it that -- then that's what it'll be.

But I believe, ultimately, it will be the Iraqi people -- the Iraqi people who know about our mission in Iraq because they're going to school now. They're getting married now. They're -- they have the rights to freedom of expression now that they never, ever have had under the prior regime, under Saddam Hussein.

SHIELDS: Just quickly, from your position in the House Republican leadership, have they given you any kind of a heads-up on what the next abuses are that -- that Secretary Rumsfeld referred to coming out?

CANTOR: Mark, I don't know any more than what I've read and heard.


CANTOR: I expect more to come.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson?

CARLSON: Well, you know, it's a fine thing that Bush went on Arab television and apologized, but as our mothers told us -- on this Mother's Day weekend -- actions speak louder than words. He's going to have to do something more. The report was sitting since March 12 of what was going on, and nothing happened. And if the photos hadn't come out, nothing would be happening right now. That's the feeling you get.

Bush said he knew nothing about it. I believe him because he's been sublimely disconnected from so much of this, as if someone else is in charge of this occupation. And the occupation has been a disaster, and it just keeps getting worse. Iraq is not better off.



CANTOR: Oh, my goodness!

CARLSON: It is not...

O'BEIRNE: Than with Saddam Hussein?

CANTOR: How can you say that?

CARLSON: You know -- listen, you know what I thought? Was Iraq the way it was because of Saddam, or was Saddam the way he was because of Iraq? Iraq is proving to be ungovernable. Our window...

O'BEIRNE: So we had...

CARLSON: ... to fix it...

O'BEIRNE: So we had to kill tens of thousands...

CARLSON: Our window to fix it has -- has closed. How we're going to get out, unless we completely internationalize this, is -- I don't know, and no one in the administration knows, either.


CARLSON: And that's what's frightening.

HUNT: Mark, I believe in America's exceptionalism. I believe in America's virtue. And Eric may be right, those who -- who know that, it will fall on receptive ears. Unfortunately, there aren't very many ears in the world, Eric, who think that anymore. This is a country around the world, we're reviled now. That is really tragic, I think.

CANTOR: This is a country that...


HUNT: And we are the greatest beacon, but we're not viewed by most of the world that way. It's not just the Arab world, it's throughout the world, unfortunately. And as far as Iraq is concerned, other than toppling Saddam, every hope that you had a year ago -- there would be a free and democratic Iraq, that it would be an ally of the United States, it would be a friend of Israel -- those have been dashed. It's not going to happen.

CARLSON: It is better that Saddam Hussein is gone, but America has not helped itself in the world by the way we've behaved since he's been gone.

SHIELDS: Last word, Margaret Carlson.

Next on CAPITAL GANG: Both candidates for the White House hit the road.

Sorry. We went over.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

This week, Senator John Kerry unveiled his most sweeping education initiative yet, saying he would provide more than $20 billion over the next decade to improve education.


KERRY: All over our nation, I am meeting teachers who are burdened, teachers reaching into their own pockets, paying money out of their own salaries in order to put materials in front of their kids at school. That's unacceptable when you're giving tax cuts to the wealthiest people in America. Period.

BUSH: He laid out all these promises, and he says he's going to do it by taxing the rich, but there's a huge funding gap. Either he's going to break his promises on spending, which I doubt, or he's going to raise your taxes, which I believe. And raising your taxes right now would be an economic disaster for America.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, how will domestic issues like education and the economy stack up when voters go to the polls in November, when the nation is in the middle of a war?

CARLSON: You know, even Kerry this week unveiling the education plan did it long enough to get the teachers' union mad at him, which is a -- which is a good thing, and then moved back to foreign policy, which you -- you would have thought that Bush would be strong on and he'd want to cede much of that territory. But you can't help but talk about it this week, and I'm afraid most weeks for as long as it's going as badly as it is. And in fact, looking at what's happened this week and what's happened up until now, you have to say Senator Kerry, despite how many SUVs his family owns or drives, could run this occupation better than the Bush administration.

SHIELDS: Eric, what -- war going to dominate? I mean, we're talking war and peace being central and centerpiece of this campaign?

CANTOR: Well, I certainly think there are signs that the Kerry camp hopes that it will and hopes that they can make it their issue because...

SHIELDS: Is it? CANTOR: Well, because -- well, you look at what's going on in the economy and the tremendous news that has come out over the last couple of months, with 600,000-plus jobs being created, they've got to look somewhere. And I think it's very evident that what has gone on this week in Washington over the prison abuse scandals is being politicized by the Democrats. There was even an e-mail that was going around this week by one of the Kerry finance folks which had been telling supporters to pour it on. And in that same message, they had a request for funds.

Of course, this is all about politics. Of course, they want -- they want an opening because the economy's gone. As you say, they've upset -- the Kerry campaign has upset the teachers' unions. It's amazing that you have a nominee, a presumed nominee that his own party can't even seem to get behind him. He had a recent scandal or a request why he didn't have enough minorities on staff. There is just something awry and something wrong, I think, with the Kerry camp, so they're trying desperately -- desperately -- to make something their issue.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, is this -- is Eric Cantor right when he says this is all political, this Iraqi prison...

HUNT: No. Things are heading south for George W. Bush quickly. Only one third of Americans think this country is headed in the right direction. No president has ever been reelected with those kind of numbers. And Eric, what people -- what you find in polls such as ours this week is they feel that not just about Iraq. Whatever your numbers, and your numbers are absolutely accurate about the economy, the job insecurity and health care insecurity is greater than ever. And that's why the Karl Rove-orchestrated message for George W. Bush is, I may not be a day at the beach, but this other guy is a scum.

And I'll tell you, I think the greatest thing that George W. Bush has going for him right now is Ralph Nader. If this war really gets bad, it may be that Ralph Nader, instead of getting only 2 or 3 percent, is going to get 5 or 6 percent, and most of that's from John Kerry. So I -- but that's about the only thing he's got going for him.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Aside from the economy, because it's no longer favoring John Kerry's assault on the president, the president has had a terrible five weeks -- a terrible five weeks, terrible news. And what has happened to John Kerry during these five weeks? He has sunk consistently in the polls. He's lower now than he was back in March. Now, what does he get high scores on? Is he the kind of candidate who tells you anything you want to hear? That he scores very well on. And sure enough, he voted for the war, then with the Dean challenge, I'm the anti-war candidate. Now he's sort of back as a hawk again.

And the threat, it seems to me, to Democrats is this. Their liberals, their left-wing types in their base are going to get him to overreact to this scandal. You already have Senator Kennedy and Senator Byrd saying that these sick, bad soldiers are more representative of America than the 200,000 who honorably serve!


O'BEIRNE: And that is an overreach! At the hearing yesterday.

HUNT: Ted Kennedy never, never, never said that.

O'BEIRNE: We no longer are represented by the Statue of Liberty?

HUNT: And I would just -- I would remind...

O'BEIRNE: From Senator Byrd?

HUNT: I would remind my dear friend, Kate O'Beirne, that John Kerry in May is running better against an incumbent than Ronald Reagan was...

O'BEIRNE: He's been sinking like a rock!

HUNT: ... in 1980 or than Bill Clinton was -- Bill Clinton was in third place at this same stage.

SHIELDS: Last word, go ahead, Eric.

CANTOR: The public doesn't even know -- you yourself, Al, said that John Kerry is an opportunistic waffler. The public knows about this president. They know what he believes in and that he is a decent and compassionate man.

SHIELDS: Last word Eric Cantor, seconding the nomination of George W. Bush. Thank you for being with us.

There's much more still ahead in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG on this Mother's Day weekend, we'll talk about the secret political weapons of the Bush and the Kerry campaigns, Laura and Teresa. And then we'll go "Beyond the Beltway" to Massachusetts, where a debate on a so-called "fool-proof" death penalty system is brewing. And our "Outrages of the Week." That's all after these urgently important messages.


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to return to CAP GANG in a moment, but first I've got an update of the hour's top stories.

Former American hostage Thomas Hamill is back home in Macon, Mississippi. But he says his thoughts are with the Americans still in harm's way in Iraq. Hamill is expected to speak tonight at a vigil outside a Macon courthouse. He quietly celebrated his homecoming with family and friends today.

President Bush says getting a Palestinian state set up by 2005 may be very difficult. In an interview with an Egyptian newspaper, Mr. Bush said the idea is not as realistic as it was two years ago. But he added he still plans to push hard to get a Palestinian state in place as quickly as possible. Two Iraqis were killed in clashes in Basra today. Fighting erupted between supporters of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and coalition troops. A British military spokesman says some demonstrators in a crowd began shooting at coalition soldiers. Three British and at least five Iraqis were wounded.

In the early days of the Iraq war, the Army planned on sending Indiana Congressman Stephen Buyer to oversee MPs at Abu Ghraib Prison. Buyer is also a military lawyer. But he says the plan was nixed by civilian officials at the Pentagon. The Army said the congressman was told the Army would not use him because there were other people with experience for the job. Now the congressman denies that. The Army said that there were also concerns about security for Buyer and others around him.

Those are the headlines this hour, now back to CAP GANG.

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

This week, Teresa Kerry criticized the vice president's patriotism during an interview with Telemundo, NBC's Spanish-speaking network, saying: "To have a couple of people who escaped four, five, six times and deferred and deferred and deferred, calling him anything or doubting his heroism is in and of itself unpatriotic, unpatriotic, I refer to the vice president."

Last night Mrs. Kerry responded to suggestions that she might check her outspokenness on the campaign trail,


TERESA HEINZ KERRY, JOHN KERRY'S WIFE: I can only be me. And I also know that's not what the American people. They don't want phonies, they don't want pretend, they want real people. I'm a real person. You know, I may not be what everybody would like to see.


SHIELDS: Meanwhile first lady Laura Bush joined her husband on his bus tour this week. Yesterday she introduced him at a rally in Iowa.


LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: These are especially challenging times for our country, times that require a disciplined and determined and strong leader. And I'm so proud that my husband is that kind of leader.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, what does Teresa Kerry bring to John Kerry's campaign beyond...

CARLSON: The dowry. SHIELDS: The dowry, OK.

CARLSON: Listen, we have two pictures of first ladies in this country: the stay-at-home mom type and the out-in-the-workplace...

SHIELDS: Assertive.

CARLSON: ... assertive, Hillary Clinton...

SHIELDS: Independent pushy dame.


CARLSON: ... type. Yes, the pushy dame, like me.


CARLSON: So -- who is also a mom. But you know, we don't like to mix the two. And in this campaign we're going to have the two different types. Teresa Heinz, however, unlike Hillary Clinton, whom she's often compared to, is a powerful woman in her own right. Hillary Clinton's power actually was derivative of her husband's, and then she became senator I think largely due to the fact that -- of Monica.

Teresa Heinz took the Heinz Foundation and moved it away from the symphony and the museums and the ballet and moved it into the environment and education and really changed the face of Pittsburgh with her environmental and building program there. I mean, she is a formidable person and not everybody's cup of tea, as she admitted, but it will be very interesting.

SHIELDS: Not everybody's cup of tea, Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Well, let me just say, if you look at their biographies, it's actually Laura Bush who's more of the working girl who had a career and not Teresa Heinz, who was raised by a wealthy doctor, married two wealthy men, although she's extremely talented. It was Laura Bush who worked as a schoolteacher to support herself until she was 30 and met George Bush.

I think Teresa Heinz Kerry is a very likeable woman. I think she's sort of a refreshing personality. I think the public is going to like her. We do want our first ladies to be real to an extent. I don't know that we want them real enough to be attacking the vice president of the United States. She ought to steer away from that. But other than that I think she has a winning personality and is a plus.

SHIELDS: Al, you've covered a lot of politics, has there ever been a case where a first lady has made a difference in a campaign?

HUNT: Oh, not really, they thought Hillary Clinton. I don't think she really did. But they can help. I think that Laura Bush is an unqualified asset for George...

SHIELDS: I do too.

HUNT: I don't think there's anybody -- I can't imagine anybody in this country...

SHIELDS: I don't know anybody who dislikes Laura Bush.

HUNT: Who has any negative views about Laura Bush. And she has not given us any reason to have any now. She's just -- she's a tremendous plus for him.

SHIELDS: Her judgment's in question, but...


HUNT: But a year ago, a year ago, the conventional wisdom, probably at this table and certainly in Washington was that Teresa Heinz Kerry was a ticking time bomb. And she was going to hurt John Heinz (sic). It has not happened...

SHIELDS: John Kerry.

HUNT: John Kerry. It has not happened. She has been instead a considerable asset. She has brought passion, she has brought charm, and she has brought authenticity. And I think she's an asset too.

SHIELDS: Now -- OK. But Americans are quite ambivalent though about their first ladies. I mean, it seems we always like -- if we vote for somebody we like that first lady -- that first lady model. I mean, certainly, I mean, Pat Nixon, you think of somebody who was loyal and, you know, went through the hammers of hell. You could see the pain and anguish on her face. I mean, that -- I was just trying to think of first ladies who have left a memorable embed (ph) -- Betty Ford probably has done more to fight drugs and alcohol in this country than all the programs the federal government has come up with.

HUNT: Eleanor Roosevelt certainly left a mark on...


SHIELDS: Eleanor Roosevelt left a profound mark.

CARLSON: Rosalynn Carter did mental health. But when you get into two-for-the-price-of-one we know that people don't like that. And remember Hillary Clinton stepped back during the campaign and there was one for the price of one.

HUNT: And that's what people -- that's what some Democrats, that Teresa Kerry would do, and she has not in this campaign. She really has not.

O'BEIRNE: But again, attacking Dick Cheney is probably not a good idea. I don't think the public wants to see that either. I think we have a pretty low threshold. We like our first ladies...

SHIELDS: Defending her husband, defending her husband.

O'BEIRNE: By attacking the vice president is not smart.

SHIELDS: Defending her husband is considered fair game. And I think that's it.

Coming up on "THE CAPITAL GANG Classic, " a veteran's confession of a Vietnam massacre three years ago.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. Three years ago, former Nebraska Senator and onetime presidential candidate Bob Kerrey confessed in 1969 he had led a Navy Seal squad in a night raid that accidentally killed Vietnamese women and children. THE CAPITAL GANG discussed his confession on April 28, 2001.


HUNT: I have tremendous regard for Bob Kerrey, and I suspect that my analysis is affected by that. I think it's a reminder of the horrors of war.

ROBERT NOVAK, THE CAPITAL GANG: Bob Kerrey, I think, is an honest man. What I do think is that if we start resurrecting all the events of Vietnam and all the little incidents that occurred there, and going into investigations of them, I think -- I don't think it would be a catharsis, I think it would be tragedy.

O'BEIRNE: The indiscriminate or casual or thoughtless killing of women and children was not a routine occurrence in Vietnam. The United States military behaved honorably there, which is one reason why incidents like this should be gotten to the bottom of.

CARLSON: I don't think what Bob wants to happen is going to happen because this is like a wound that can be opened -- reopened so easily. The Vietnam War just doesn't go away.

SHIELDS: I am a great admirer of Bob Kerrey's, I really am. But -- and what we're seeing is a man painfully wrestling publicly with his conscience. He's conflicted. He defends, and rightfully so, the courage and the bravery of his colleagues. He defends his service, his own service.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, was Bob Novak right? Are investigations into combat incidents like these in wartime more of a tragedy than a catharsis?

O'BEIRNE: Bob's right, it's not -- certainly it's not a catharsis. It's painful, but it has to happen. Here we are in 2004 still unbelievably arguing about whether or not atrocities were widespread in Vietnam. Thirty years of history tell us, no they weren't, but some defenders of John Kerry, who want to defend his April '71 testimony, still insist that his accusations of widespread atrocities up and down the chain of command are true. That's not the case. And in order to make the case that that's not the case and defend the honorable service of so many Vietnam vets, we do have to look into all these allegations.


HUNT: I think the only problem with that is that the Karl Rove- orchestrated effort to smear John Kerry's valiant service in Vietnam. On Bob Kerrey the story vanished, as it should have. He is now being talked about by some even as a potential running mate. The Kerry- Kerrey ticket if you will. And the only thing that bothers me about Bob Kerrey is I wish he -- as a member of the 9/11 Commission, I wish he wouldn't have left that meeting with the president prematurely.

SHIELDS: ... minutes early, that's right. Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: I predicted that Vietnam would never go away. And during this election we're seeing it has not gone away. I disagree with Kate in that I think we have two Senators who were in Vietnam and saw atrocities occur in Vietnam. And there were many Vietnam vets who came back and said the killing of women and children and indiscriminate acts, atrocities occurring. So to question...

SHIELDS: Can I tell you...

CARLSON: ... that Senator Kerry said and question his heroism I think is unjustified on what we do know about what happened in Vietnam.

SHIELDS: OK. I would simply say about the Bob Kerrey thing, that that should not be compared with what's going on -- what happened in combat is not going to be compared with what's going on in a jail, you know, without combat, without guns being fired of any sort, that is going right now in Baghdad, in Abu Ghraib.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at a so-called foolproof death penalty system in Massachusetts with David Guarino of "The Boston Herald."


SHIELDS: Welcome back. This week Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney unveiled his plan to reinstate the death penalty applicable to a "narrowly defined list of capital-eligible murders"; including cop- killers and political terrorists.


GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), MASSACHUSETTS: It's going to send a shockwave in a community that deserves to be shocked. They're the ultimate crime, they deserve the ultimate penalty.


SHIELDS: Governor's Commission 29-page report proposes a foolproof system which uses scientific evidence like DNA to corroborate guilt, an independent review committee acting as a forensic safety net to prevent wrongful convictions. But joining us now from our Boston bureau is David Guarino who is the chief political reporter of "The Boston Herald."

Thanks for being with us, Dave.

DAVID GUARINO, "BOSTON HERALD": Great to be here, thanks.

SHIELDS: Dave, why would the governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with the lowest murder rate of any urban state spend money to bring back the death penalty? Is there a political motive here anywhere?

GUARINO: Well, this is Massachusetts, everything is political. So I think there is. You know, I think there is two tiers here. It's political because he ran on the death penalty. He was a death penalty candidate, running for office a couple of years ago. So he's got to get that notch on the belt. The other one is national ambitions, Mitt Romney clearly has them.

SHIELDS: OK. Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: David, the governor has dusted off a 1913 law that prohibits out-of-state gay couples from coming into Massachusetts and getting married. And the Senate Democrats are going to launch an effort to repeal that. How is that going to play out?

GUARINO: Well, it's an interesting -- the debate has really gone down to that level. Obviously the gay marriages going to happen here in a week and it's going forward. The debate now is whether out-of- state couples will have to come forward.

Mitt Romney backed off that a little bit this week and said, out- of-state couples, when they come in they don't have to present a driver's license, they don't have to present a mortgage or anything, but what they do have to sign is an affidavit saying that there's nothing in their home state which prohibits them from getting married here, which will be essentially lying for folks who come in here from out of state.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Dave, newly married gay couples in Massachusetts can honeymoon at the Democratic convention in July.


O'BEIRNE: What -- is the city -- is Boston ready for that? Are the public sector unions all going to be on the job when the Democrats come to town?

GUARINO: I think so, I think so. I mean, this happens in every city that has a Democratic convention. The unions are smart enough to use it as a wedge against, in this case, the mayor. And they're trying to get more money out of the deal. I think in the end, though, they will, because let's face it, when the circus leaves town they're face to face with the mayor who's going to be pretty angry with them if they trip up the convention. So I think this all going to blow away long before you guys come to town. SHIELDS: Ah, darn it.



HUNT: David, we're taking advantage of your wide ranging expertise, but the Democrats in Massachusetts have talked about enacting legislation so that if John Kerry were elected president, instead of the governor appointing a senator, that there would have to be a special election, which would favor the Democrats. What's the outlook?

GUARINO: Well, it looks pretty good right now for the Democrats. They control both houses in the legislature. And the bill hasn't been filed yet, but these things can be pushed through very quickly. The governor obviously would appoint a Republican. And that person would then have a couple of years to build up a war chest and build up a record and may actually be able to hold onto the seat.

And as you know, Democrats in Washington, Democrats nationally really don't want that to happen. The Senate is very tight, as you know, and they're going to want to retain any seat they can if John Kerry gets the White House.

SHIELDS: Dave, a follow-up on Al Hunt's question about if John Kerry is elected, who does replace him, because it's more than a moot question, because we're talking about a Senate that could be tipped one way or the other by either a Republican or a Democrat at that point.

I was in Massachusetts earlier this week, and there was open speculation among some political people that Governor Romney himself would like to have that appointment, that he would be interested.


SHIELDS: That the governorship, with its headaches and its travails and all the other problems that the commonwealth has, you know, the Senate looks pretty darn appealing from -- as contrasted with Beacon Hill.

GUARINO: Sure, absolutely. It's a nice place to retire in many cases. But he ran for Senate before he lost to Ted Kennedy. Romney's people will tell you that he's an executive. He doesn't want that job now. It's easier to run for the White House from a governor's mansion than it is from the Senate, as you guys know.

I think that it's unlikely he will step down and have someone else appoint him or appoint himself. I think he'll run for re- election and then look at what either way will be an open Republican nomination in 2008.

SHIELDS: OK. Margaret.

CARLSON: Hey Dave, most senators don't think of this as a retirement home here. You might be hearing from some of them.


GUARINO: I'm sure.

CARLSON: Can you handicap the Democratic primary that would ensue should Senator Kerry become president? We know Congressman Ed Markey will run and...

SHIELDS: Marty Meehan.

CARLSON: ... Marty Meehan.

SHIELDS: Barney Frank.

GUARINO: Right, there are 10 members in the state delegation and I think they're all looking at it in one way or another. I think that Ed Markey is now the dean of the delegation. He's got a strong leg up. He recently started accepting PAC money for the first time in years. And he's building his war chest.

Marty Meehan has the largest war chest of anybody in the delegation and made a name for himself on campaign finance and some other issues. So I think that those are the two frontrunners at this point. Barney Frank is looking at it as well, but I think that it's probably Meehan and Markey on the Democratic side.

SHIELDS: OK. Who would win?

GUARINO: Who would win?

SHIELDS: Between those two.

GUARINO: I'm not putting money on this one yet.


GUARINO: I think that there are other folks who will probably jump in, so it's anybody's game, but bet on one of the congressman.

SHIELDS: OK. Dave Guarino, thank you, you've been terrific, thank you for being with us. THE GANG will be back with our "Outrages of the Week."


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

Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican, an authentic American Naval hero who spent five-and-a-half years being tortured in a North Vietnamese prison, is outraged, truly outraged by what Americans to Iraqi detainees in the famous Abu Ghraib - infamous Abu Ghraib Prison.

But Rush Limbaugh, conservative talk master and armchair commando disagrees. Limbaugh dismissively the sadism to a college fraternity hazing at Yale: "This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation."

John McCain embodies American values, too bad Rush Limbaugh doesn't begin to understand this nation's values.

Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, Catholics who don't deny communion to pro-choice Catholics, as Newark bishop did to Governor James McGreevey last week, risk being singled out in a half million dollar ad campaign. One ad shows Jesus on the cross in agony and asks: "Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, are you comfortable now?"

But the true purpose of this new inquisition was revealed by Deal Hudson, editor of "Crisis" magazine and a Catholic ally of Bush. Forget about the 70 pro-choice Catholic officials in Congress and Cardinal McCarrick, denying the sacrament will lose its sting if it isn't just directed in this election year at one person, candidate John Kerry.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: An Amnesty International report documents sexual exploitation, abuse and human rights violations by peace-keepers, no, not in Iraq, in Kosovo. Girls as young as 11 from Eastern European countries are being sold into sex slavery to service NATO and U.N. troops serving in Kosovo.

The watchdogs want the U.N, NATO and the countries involved held responsible for this sex slavery. Some troops and U.N. personnel have been sent home, but there have been no prosecutions by the foreign governments thought to be able to lend moral credibility to us.


HUNT: The acting head of the Food and Drug Administration, against the overwhelming advice of the blue ribbon panel of experts and his own staff, ruled the so-called "morning after" contraception pill can't be sold over-the-counter. This was, pure and simple, a pander to social conservatives.

The American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians called the decision: "A tragedy for American women and a dark stain on the reputation of an evidence-based agency like the FDA. The result will be not less promiscuity, but more unwanted pregnancies and more abortions."

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS" "Easy Prey: Inside the Child Sex Trade." At 9 p.m. Eastern "LARRY KING LIVE" replays an interview with screen legend Raquel Welch. And at 10 p.m., interrogation, how far is too far? An interview with a former Army prosecutor Mike Ritz (ph).

Thank you for joining us.


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