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CNN CAPITAL GANG
Taguba Testifies Before Congress; Video Shows American Beheaded; Approval of Iraq War Down to 41 Percent
Aired May 15, 2004 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with the full gang -- Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.
The Army general who investigated abuse of Iraqi prisoners testified before a Senate committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: In simple words, your own soldiers' language, how did this happen?
GEN. ANTONIO TAGUBA, U.S. ARMY: Failure in leadership, sir, from the brigade commander on down, lack of discipline, no training whatsoever and no supervision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: The scandal generated strong reactions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: On March 19, 2004, President Bush asked who would prefer that Saddam's torture chambers still be open. Shamefully, we know learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management, U.S. management.
SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R-OK), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment. Many of them probably have American blood on their hands, and here we're so concerned about the treatment of those individuals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Meanwhile, an Arab video showed American Nicholas Berg being decapitated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: We're dealing with an enemy that has absolutely no boundaries, is despicable in every way... (END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: A new CNN/"Time" poll showed approval of the war down to just 41 percent from 59 percent support in December.
Bob Novak, has Iraqi prisoner abuse become a partisan political issue?
BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Absolutely. This -- we're in the campaign, and there is no restraint on the Bush-bashing. I think it is -- to use the word "despicable" -- despicable that Teddy Kennedy uses what I am told is a line from one of those late-night comedy shows that I don't watch to say that the torture rooms of the -- of Saddam Hussein have become American torture rooms. That is just terrible for a United States senator to say. When the -- when Mr. Berg was decapitated and you saw major papers in the country rating -- having the latest development the congressional testimony on the abuse as a bigger story than this, you know that there is an effort by people who are just so passionate to get rid of George W. Bush that they go to any ends.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt, is that what it is?
AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: Absolutely not. As Lindsey Graham said, we know that they are despicable. That's not news. And we also know that we're not. So therefore, when we do something that's despicable, that is news. And this story just gets worse. The Red Cross reported this week that this was not isolated, not just this prison, there were other prisons, that 70 to 90 percent of the people who were -- who were detained were arrested by mistake.
This has been a great recruiting drive, I'm afraid, for al Qaeda. And "The New Yorker's" incomparable Sy Hersh is going to report tomorrow that the genesis for this treatment and sexual abuse, if necessary, was a decision by Don Rumsfeld in August of 2003 to do whatever it takes to get more intelligence there out of -- out of the people, out of the prisoners in Iraq.
Mark, there's two things we know for a certainty. No. 1, that these actions don't represent the vast, vast, vast majority of American soldiers over there. And No. 2, it was not an isolated act of seven or seventeen, West Virginia or Pennsylvania reservists.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.
KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Look, initially, when the photographs became public, there was a bipartisan pile-on because on a bipartisan level, Congress's self-importance had been punctured. Even though it had been publicly announced in January that an investigation was under way, and even though General Kimmitt announced the specific behavior that charges were going to be brought related to in mid- March, Congress wasn't officially phoned, I guess. So there was a bipartisan pile-on.
Since then, there is, I think, now a partisan divide. Most Republicans appreciate, which is what the public's view is, it was a terrible thing that really embarrassed us as a country. It's done us great damage. It was isolated. We only know about it because the Army was so aggressive in pursuing it. And there is no evidence that it goes up the chain of command.
Now, for the first time, Iraq strikes me as Vietnam, when I hear what liberal Democrats are saying about this. They apparently are not just going to oppose the war with Iraq, they're going to do, as they did with Vietnam, slip into blaming America. Teddy Kennedy's a disgrace. We've reopened torture chambers under U.S. management? I mean, that sounds like an Al Jazeera editorial. And despite their -- everybody serving so honorably, they're going to imply that widespread number of people in uniform are somehow possibly guilty of the same sort of thing. They're going to wind up smearing the troops. By overplaying it like that, they're going to lose the public.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: My -- I agree with Bob that Senator Ted Kennedy should not be stealing material from Jon Stewart, and it was a -- it was a kind of flip remark. But Kate, no one thinks that the Army was aggressively pursuing this. Donald Rumsfeld himself said that until he saw the pictures, he wasn't that alarmed. And it took him time to get the pictures. Nobody'd read the report. It was sitting around. And it -- and the reason it wasn't partisan for some days was that both sides of the aisle were shocked by what they learned, and it took a few days to go back to the talking points. And for somebody like Inhofe to be outraged over the outrage -- now, I'm outraged over his outrage over the outrage.
NOVAK: And I'm outraged over your outrage!
NOVAK: We can go on forever!
CARLSON: I'll top you one! No, but this is the same guy who wanted to hang Jane Fonda and George McGovern for protesting the Vietnam war. So he's not -- but there are other senators, like McCain and Hagel and Lugar and Lindsey Graham, who think this is a scandal and are not demoralizing our troops by doing so.
SHIELDS: I think it's hard to make...
O'BEIRNE: ... demoralizing!
SHIELDS: I think it's hard to make it a partisan thing when -- when the person who rebuked Senator Inhofe the most strenuously was John McCain. I mean, John McCain stepped in and said what differentiates us from our enemies is the way we treat our enemies. And John McCain...
O'BEIRNE: We all agree!
SHIELDS: And John McCain went right through, Why do we need the Geneva convention? Because we -- that's the guarantee the way we're treated, as well. I mean, John McCain knows whereof he speaks. And Lindsey Graham put it very succinctly -- both Republicans and both Republicans in good standing, the last time I checked. He said, If we -- if we want to be the good guys, we have to act like the good guys.
O'BEIRNE: We all agree. The way you earn POW status, OK, is by abiding by the rules of war. We -- war would be even more uncivil if we didn't have a Geneva convention that demands you wear a uniform from an identifiable force and you don't make war on civilians. That's how you earn POW status!
CARLSON: But we invaded Iraq!
NOVAK: There's no question, Mark, that this is being used for political purposes. Everything is political right now. And the thing that amazes me -- it really startles me -- is how few Democrats really -- really were expressing enormous rage over the decapitation of Berg, which is just uncivilized behavior on -- on a -- they're even blaming the administration. Somehow, they caused it. And the kind of -- you mentioned Lindsey Graham. When you had Lindsey Graham's comments, that was very rare for -- for -- for a congressman to get up and say that this was barbarous behavior.
HUNT: Just to correct the record, I'm not sure there were any Democrats who blame the administration for Mr. Berg. Mr. Berg's family blamed the administration, which I, frankly, don't -- you know, I think it was the -- it was the emotions of the moment.
But look, this thing -- I mean, I'm sorry, Kate. I'm sorry. These weren't just a bunch of simple kids that did this. And you -- you create a false choice. Either we have to say we have a bunch of thugs over there, which we don't -- most are not -- or there's no was responsible for them. General Miller had no...
O'BEIRNE: Let me explain what I...
HUNT: Wait. Let me finish! General Miller had no role? General Miller went from Guantanamo over there. Right after he got there, this torture began.
O'BEIRNE: Let me explain...
HUNT: Let's have a real inquiry to find out...
O'BEIRNE: Let me explain...
HUNT: ... what happened.
O'BEIRNE: ... one thing. When Dianne Feinstein says we, as a country, cannot slip into barbarity, my question is, who's "we," Diane? This is not America. And the more these pictures, which members of Congress have now seen, show the aberrant behavior of these individuals -- personal, private sexual aberrant behavior that General Miller did not order -- the more it's going to become clear... HUNT: You don't know that.
O'BEIRNE: ... that they are bad apples!
CARLSON: I don't think we know that yet.
SHIELDS: Last word, Kate O'Beirne.
THE GANG of five will be back with Donald Rumsfeld in Iraq, fighting to keep his job as secretary of defense.
SHIELDS: Welcome back.
Secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld made a surprise trip to Iraq to meet with and speak to the troops.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We wanted to have a chance to look you folks in the eye and tell you how proud we are and what a wonderful job you folks are doing.
I've stopped reading the newspapers.
It's a fact. I'm a survivor!
One day, you're going to look back and you're going to be proud of your service, and you're going to say it was worth it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: In Washington, Secretary Rumsfeld's critics were aiming at a higher target.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: It's too simplistic to say that all we have to do to solve this is for Secretary Rumsfeld to resign. As Harry Truman said, the buck stops here. And certainly, the buck stops with the commander-in-chief.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: CNN/"Time" poll asked whether Secretary Rumsfeld should resign, received the answer "No" by nearly two-to-one. Margaret Carlson, is Don Rumsfeld's job now safe?
CARLSON: Safer than it was last week. We don't know about next week. He was training for this moment all his life. Henry Kissinger said -- no slouch in the bureaucratic infighting department himself -- said that Rumsfeld was a champ. And by going and bolstering the troops, he looked like the old Rumsfeld, as opposed to the Rumsfeld of last week before the hearings.
You know, Rumsfeld rolled over everyone in conducting this war in Iraq. Down to the last tank, he knew where it was going to be, the mean, lean military. And the idea that he's not responsible for the breakdown in the aftermath of the war in Iraq, which is exemplified by what's gone on in the prisons, is a little hard to believe. And I think, in the end, while Republicans are trying to say it's just these few bad apples, that we'll find out that, at best, the Geneva conventions were an ambiguous set of rules to be followed at the prison in Iraq.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, you've reported on this story. You reported on Don Rumsfeld's problems within the Pentagon, with the uniformed military service. Is he safe? Should he be safe?
NOVAK: I don't think he is because he is so detested by the military. Now, he was -- I don't think that was the old Rumsfeld, that was the Rumsfeld who was nice, he was friendly, he was smiling with the troops.
SHIELDS: Congenial (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
NOVAK: Congenial. He was a guy who, for the first -- for the last three years has -- it's more than three years -- has been nasty to everybody. He wouldn't appear at hearings, wouldn't return phone calls. If he'd used a little of that soft soap before, maybe he would have more friends -- friends right now. So I'd say it's still up in the air. If you want me to bet, because George W. Bush puts such a premium on loyalty, he'll probably stay.
SHIELDS: Stay, Kate, or go?
O'BEIRNE: What're you going to do with a secretary of defense who can only win wars? There would be thousands of Iraqis wouldn't have been in those prisons that are being criticized, they would have been graves had Don Rumsfeld not orchestrated, been largely responsible for the most humane wars we've ever had in history.
Look, there are hundreds of generals, Army and Marine generals. Some senior officers who think they should be running the Army, because they ran the Army under Bill Cohen, don't like Don Rumsfeld. But the generals who are running the Army do. He has the strong support of the commander-in-chief. He has the enthusiastic support of his troops. He does not have the support of liberal Democrats and editorialists who opposed the war, and he can survive perfectly well without them. And he has the support of the American public.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt, one -- one comment that -- that didn't appear on our tape is, This is generally a lot more fun here than it is back home, which I think was probably dubious to the troops that he's talking to, but he was speaking so deferentially there...
SHIELDS: But this trip was not about cheering up the troops, it was about cheering up Don Rumsfeld, wasn't it? It was his -- him associating with the popular and respected American troops in Baghdad and in Iraq and trying to get a little of that magic, like Democrats do with John McCain.
HUNT: Oh, sure, it was that. But it was a good show. I'm sorry he's quit reading newspapers because I think he could have learned something from some of Bob Novak's columns. I really mean that. You know, I think that -- that would have been very instructive. However, he now has linked himself to Grant, because he said he's reading a book, and he's the new Ulysses S. I hope it was the section on Vicksburg and not Shiloh. But Don Rumsfeld I think -- I think his fate still is -- I think it still is in the balance.
This is a guy -- Kate, by the way, one of the reasons generals don't like him, three years ago, Don Rumsfeld wanted to cut two divisions from the U.S. Army. Think of the pickle we'd be in today if he'd been successful.
And I also think, Mark, that this is a guy -- the main reason I think he'll stay is not so much the loyalty as they don't have a good replacement for him.
SHIELDS: Well, that's -- yes.
HUNT: And the final thing, going to Bob's point -- he must be miserable right now, though, because he has to be nice. And you know something? Rummy doesn't like being nice.
O'BEIRNE: I find him -- I actually find him extremely nice.
NOVAK: To you.
O'BEIRNE: Can you imagine...
O'BEIRNE: Can you imagine -- well, as I said, the troops love him. Can you imagine the reception Teddy Kennedy would have gotten in Baghdad from the troops? They know! They know who their friends are. They know who's supporting them, and they know who's undercutting them.
NOVAK: Let me just suggest one small development. The neocons, the neoconservatives, are turning against him. Neocons are the kind of people that if you're not a winner, they will give it to you right in the -- in the shield (ph). And they -- they -- all over town, they are saying, Oh, he's going to have to go.
SHIELDS: But didn't we see Wolfowitz really take it on the chin this week up on Capitol Hill as the surrogate for Rumsfeld?
CARLSON: Oh, yes. And he was shown no respect. And you know, Kate, I find Rumsfeld kind of charming personally, but the knives were drawn...
NOVAK: He's married, Margaret.
CARLSON: ... for him...
CARLSON: He's a little -- he's a little old for me.
CARLSON: The knives were drawn for him, and then Bush comes out and says -- tell the -- anybody who talks to the clackers (ph), which is what he calls us, is going to have to answer to me. So all the leaking about Rumsfeld not being popular and not doing a good job and being on the ropes ended, for the time being.
SHIELDS: And we know that Don Rumsfeld never read those leaks from the White House about him...
CARLSON: Those papers, anyway.
SHIELDS: ... because he doesn't read the papers.
CARLSON: But Bush doesn't read, either, but somebody told him.
SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG: John Kerry gaining ground.
SHIELDS: Welcome back. The CNN/"Time" poll shows Senator John Kerry now 5 percentage points ahead of President George W. Bush. Both candidates on the trail raised issues other than Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have a plan to provide health care that will get 97 percent of all Americans covered by the -- within three years of passing the bill.
People want schools that work. George Bush has not funded -- he's broken his own promise of No Child Left Behind.
It's not conservative to be driving up these deficits as far as the eye can see and saddling our children with debt.
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There'll be a clear choice. There'll be a choice, for example, between keeping the tax relief that is working or taxing the American people.
My opponent will find out that anger's not an agenda for the future of the country.
He's promised over $1.9 trillion of new spending thus far, and we got six months to go!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, considering the current direction of the polls, is President Bush losing this debate? O'BEIRNE: Mark, these polls are not reflecting a domestic debate on education or health care or taxes. Polls over the past couple weeks have actually shown either George Bush a little ahead or sort of tied. The polls are reflecting, I think it's pretty clear, the public's sour mood with news from Iraq, amplified or deepened by the photographs from -- of detainee abuse. It's affecting everything because these same polls show, despite the very good economic news -- what, over 600,000 jobs in the past two months -- the public's mood on the economy has soured. They think the economy's worse than they thought it was a month ago.
So I think they reflect a sour mood on the part of the public, and it reminds us how the war in Iraq is fundamental to George Bush's presidency and reelection.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, should George Bush be worried?
NOVAK: Yes, he should be very worried. But this has always been a very even race. At least, that's what the strategists from both sides tell me. I talked to people last week on both sides. They say they think it's about a 47-47 race. Sometimes one goes up, the other goes down. Kerry would win the election today, but the election is not today.
I think Kerry's problem is that the things he's talking about, domestic affairs, those -- those sound bites are reflective of what he's been saying. It's very, very dull stuff. It's the kind of stuff like -- hacks like Lloyd Doggett of Texas say on the House floor, just a lot of liberal claptrap, not original. And so if things get better in -- in Iraq, Kerry's in trouble. If they don't get better, Bush is in big trouble.
SHIELDS: It's funny, Al, I've always found Lloyd Doggett's statements on the House floor interesting and informative. I guess it's just where you're sitting, you know?
HUNT: This is really a great headline, Bob Novak against liberal claptrap.
HUNT: Look, the race is even, despite the CNN poll. I agree with that. The race is dead even. That's the good news for Bush. That's the bad news for Bush. A challenger should not -- or excuse me, an incumbent should not be even in May of a presidential year.
Bush's problem is that most people think this country is moving in the wrong direction. It's certainly, Iraq-centered, but it goes beyond that. And I think, Mark, there's two other indicators that I find very interesting. And I, like Bob, have talked to politicians on both sides the last week. I find a couple Republicans now saying, You know something? We may have an Electoral College advantage. That's just demonstrably untrue. Neither side has an Electoral College advantage. You can just look at last -- the 2000 election. Take Ohio out, assume it's even, which everyone agrees it is even, and then it's a dead even race with comparable advantages on both sides.
But the second thing is, three months ago, if you asked Republicans and Democrats, Whose shoes would you rather be in? Virtually every Republican and a number of Democrats said Bush's. If you ask that same question today, almost every Democrat and a growing -- a small but growing number of Republicans would say Kerry. That's interesting.
SHIELDS: Bill McInturff, the Republican pollster, said, Nothing Kerry is doing is affecting our numbers. It's events in the world and how people view the situation in Iraq, much like Kate did. But Kerry is -- has Kerry just had a brilliant strategy here by being low-key and non-controversial...
CARLSON: McInturff is right. I mean, the less Kerry says about Iraq, really, the better for him, in that Bush is in the unenviable position, to paraphrase the Colin Powell rule, the Pottery Barn rule, which is he broke it, and now it has to be -- we own it and it has to be fixed. But there's no clear solution to how to fix it, but we can't leave because if the United States leaves Iraq, we're far worse off than before we ever went in.
So Kerry should say very little, but when he gets the endorsement of the International Brotherhood of Police, we're so taken with Iraq at the moment, it's so depressing, as Kate says, it just...
O'BEIRNE: Given -- given all this bad news...
CARLSON: ... gives you this sour -- it doesn't make news.
O'BEIRNE: Given all this bad news for George Bush, though, John Kerry should be doing much better. One reason he doesn't talk about Iraq is he has nothing fundamentally different to say than George Bush, and he can't go near -- or dare not or shouldn't -- the detainee abuse pictures. If Lieutenant Kerry had been serving in the prison, it would never have been reported because, as you know, famously, he accused himself and everybody else in Vietnam of committing atrocities. He never reported to anybody! So he's got to be careful with the atrocity story from Iraq.
CARLSON: He has a much better chance of getting...
SHIELDS: He's been very careful...
CARLSON: ... France and Germany back in our corner, and he has a much better chance...
HUNT: And Kate -- and Kate...
CARLSON: ... of getting the U.N.
HUNT: ... let me just remind you, challengers never are doing better in May. Ronald Reagan was behind in May. Bill Clinton was behind in May. This is -- this is -- this news is about the incumbent, and it's bad news.
O'BEIRNE: George Bush is not Jimmy Carter!
SHIELDS: Last word, Kate O'Beirne. Al Hunt, I have to say -- point out one quick thing, and that is that incumbents do not win narrow races. They either win big or they lose big. Exception, Woodrow Wilson, 1916, Bob. We both covered it.
NOVAK: And I voted against him.
SHIELDS: I know you did. Only on the second ballot.
There's still much more ahead on the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG. Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Civil Rights leader Vernon Jordan reflecting on the Brown vs. Board of Education decision 50 years ago. We'll go "Beyond the Beltway" to London, where Prime Minister Tony Blair is feeling the heat from Iraq. And our "Outrages of the Week." That's all after these messages.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields with a full gang, Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.
Today is the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the historic Supreme Court ruling that racial segregation in the public schools is unconstitutional.
To discuss that landmark decision our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., who is one of America's top civil rights leaders, was head of the United Negro College Fund and, later, head of the National Urban League. He is currently a senior managing director of the Lazard Freres Investment Company.
Earlier this week, Al Hunt sat with Vernon Jordan.
HUNT: You were a freshman in college when Brown v. Board was handed down. What was the feeling back then?
VERNON JORDAN, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: I was the only black in my class at DePaul University in Greencastle, Indiana and I was at DePaul University from Atlanta, where I'd gone to an old dilapidated, segregated, overcrowded, double-session high school where in 1951 I used a plane geometry book that had been used by a white student in 1935. I was also reminded of the disproportionate per pupil expenditure for black kids and white kids.
HUNT: Who were some of the leading figures in pushing the Brown case?
JORDAN: I think you have to start with Charles Hamilton Houston, a Harvard Law graduate, who came to Howard University Law School and revived the law school, made it an accredited institution and then committed himself to finding a way to legally challenge segregation and Charlie Houston set the stage and the strategy for Brown v. Board of Education and did not live to see the promised land of Brown. He died in 1950.
HUNT: You were intimately involved in the civil rights struggle in the following decade. You walked Charlene Hunter in to integrate the University of Georgia, involved in voter registration. How important was the Brown decision in those subsequent struggles?
JORDAN: Well, Brown was the Magna Carta. Brown was the opening of the floodgates. Brown set context and contours for everything that happened subsequent thereto.
Just think about something when you think about Brown. Here was Thurgood Marshall and a small band of NAACP legal defense lawyers arguing to overturn Plessy v. Ferguson.
On the other hand, arguing to keep Plessy v. Ferguson was John W. Davis, a premier lawyer with blue chip clients, a Democratic nominee in 1954, arguing to keep.
JORDAN: In 1924 to keep Plessy v. Ferguson.
HUNT: What do you say to the argument that Brown may have proven a social success but it's been an educational failure that today African Americans still are getting an inferior education?
JORDAN: Well I think -- I think it's fair to say that if we measure Brown and the narrow sphere of school desegregation that Brown has not lived up to its promise but Brown was about more than that. Brown set the stage for the Voting Rights Act of '65, the Civil Rights Act of '64. Brown also emancipated black people and white people. It made it possible for us to get ready to do what the civil rights movement had done.
HUNT: With the courts and politicians today do you worry about a re-segregation taking place?
JORDAN: Well, it's clearly taking place as it relates to elementary and secondary education but if you look at where black people were in America in 1954 when Brown was handed down and the progress that has been made throughout.
When Charles Hamilton Houston argued Gaines v. Canada in 1938 before the Supreme Court, Justice James McReynolds, when Charlie Houston got up to make his argument sitting on the Supreme Court, turned in his chair, turned his back to Houston, there was no outrage. There was no criticism because segregation and racial attitudes were embedded in the psyche of America.
HUNT: The most important Supreme Court decision of your lifetime?
SHIELDS: Al Hunt, Vernon Jordan seemed to take a more positive attitude toward our progress over the past 50 years than do contemporary black leaders. Is that just a matter of perspective?
HUNT: Well, I think there's no consensus with the black leaders but Vernon puts it in context. He was at DePaul because he couldn't go to the University of Georgia. He couldn't go to Georgia Tech because they didn't have any blacks at all.
And I think when you view it in the broader sense of what Brown v. Board did was it opened up, it began the process of dealing with the most important issue of our times, race, and I think it was the most important, constructive decision in our lifetime.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak.
NOVAK: After the decision I was a first lieutenant in the Army at Fort Evans, Massachusetts and I had lunch with some more senior officers, big shots, you know, majors and captains at the officer's mess and they told me -- not a (unintelligible) this was the worst thing that's ever happened to America. Just think how far America has gone in those 50 years because this was a very radical decision at the time.
CARLSON: Far but not far enough. I think the stump speech of Senator John Edwards during his presidential campaign, the two Americas, is the state that we're in right now.
O'BEIRNE: (Unintelligible) argument, of course, is that the court should have said in 1896 that Plessy was unconstitutional and they should have said in 1954 that Plessy was unconstitutional, not base it on shaky social science. And look at liberals now, keeping kids in segregated failing public schools because they won't give them a school choice. They've come a really long way.
HUNT: Three cheers for Earl Warren who orchestrated that unanimous decision.
SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt.
Coming on THE CAPITAL GANG, classic Donald Rumsfeld, nominated for secretary of defense again. That's four years ago.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SHIELDS: Welcome back.
Fifteen days after Al Gore's concession to George W. Bush in 2000, the president-elect made his eighth cabinet nomination, Donald Rumsfeld to be secretary of defense.
Your CAPITAL GANG discussed Rumsfeld's nomination on December 30, 2000. Our guest was former Democratic Congressman Vic Fazio of California.
O'BEIRNE: I think Don Rumsfeld was a homerun. He left government service 25 years ago but most recently his contribution has been a brilliant report on the threat of long-range missiles from antagonistic countries that directly contradicted the Clinton-ized Joint Chiefs of Staff.
CARLSON: He can go toe-to-toe with Dick Cheney who's held the job and Secretary of State to be Colin Powell and you needed somebody with a lot of experience to be able to run the Defense Department in the -- in the company of those men.
NOVAK: I really am excited about -- about Rumsfeld coming back after 23 years, making a lot of money. He's probably a better rounded person now that he's a millionaire. And I would say the thing I remember Rumsfeld for he was really a tough guy in the Ford administration.
REP. VIC FAZIO (D), CALIFORNIA: What may be missing at Defense, though, is the guy that could go against the grain. He's always going to be seen as the shirt wearer in the group but he's the guy that can say, hey, that's the weapon system we should cancel.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, a well-rounded guy is that what Don Rumsfeld has been as secretary of defense?
NOVAK: Not exactly. I think we all went a little bit overboard on him. He's been -- he's been a disappointing secretary of defense to me but Vic Fazio was wrong on one thing. He did cancel the Crusader missile.
SHIELDS: Al, you weren't with us that night. Did we go just a little bit beyond the edge on our endorsements?
HUNT: You guys were so bad. I'm really kind of stunned. God, thank God I wasn't there, Mark, because I would have joined the chorus I'm afraid. I think Kate probably and that (unintelligible) who is still living but my guess is that Robert's enthusiasm has been tempered quite a bit.
O'BEIRNE: Look, the conventional wisdom in Washington that met his nomination was sort of ho-hum, sort of conventional, sort of a retread from previous administrations. What they miss is that Don Rumsfeld's a radical and boy of boy did he go against the grain.
NOVAK: That wasn't -- they didn't say he was a retread and conventional. That was on the show.
CARLSON: Bob, he was biased -- he was biased toward billionaires. He's a millionaire. He came back to...
O'BEIRNE: He's an insider. He knows Washington, ho hum.
CARLSON: And that I said he would go toe-to-toe with Powell was such an understatement.
NOVAK: Boy oh boy.
CARLSON: Overwhelming force rolling over him.
NOVAK: What about toe-to-toe with Cheney?
CARLSON: Well, no, they formed an alliance...
NOVAK: So you were wrong.
CARLSON: ...which has now overwhelmed Powell.
SHIELDS: One out of two, not bad. Kate, what's he done that's radical?
O'BEIRNE: The whole transformation agenda.
SHIELDS: It hasn't happened.
O'BEIRNE: It's happening. Look at what -- look at Afghanistan and go back and look at all the naysayers, couldn't do either. The British were bogged down (unintelligible).
HUNT: We beat a fifth rate and third rate power, that's true.
O'BEIRNE: Those were not the predictions, Al.
SHIELDS: Ten division Army and nine of them either go in Iraq or on their way to Iraq. That is not exactly the complement of a world power.
Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at an embattled Tony Blair. CNN's Robin Oakley joins us from London.
SHIELDS: Welcome back.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair under fire for his Iraq policy continues to fall in the polls. "The Times of London" survey shows a four percentage point lead by the conservatives over Prime Minister Blair's Labour Party.
"The Independent" newspaper's poll shows two-to-one British sentiment for pulling out of Iraq by June 30th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The events of the past few days have been immensely damaging. I also think it is right to say actually on behalf of all the troops there that the vast majority of those troops are doing a superb job in helping people in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Joining us now from our London bureau is Robin Oakley, CNN's European Political Editor. Thank you for being with us, Robin. Robin, is Tony Blair's political status as shaky as it looks from here in the states?
ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN EUROPEAN POLITICAL EDITOR: It certainly is. Five years ago if you went around Europe with Tony Blair, everybody wanted to, as it were, rub his clothing just to get a little bit of the gloss rubbing off on them. Two, three years ago he was invincible.
Now there's a loss of authority within in his own cabinet. There's a loss of trust with the British public over Iraq. There's a loss of control over events with ministers in a hopeless muddle over the last week over who knew what over the reports of abuse by the Red Cross, the International Committee of the Red Cross in Iraq. So, yes, he's in a mess. They're now talking about the LAB factor, life after Blair.
SHIELDS: Boy -- Bob Novak.
NOVAK: Well how soon will that be, Robin? There's been speculation that he is going to resign and that would mean a new Labour prime minister to pursue the next election. Do you expect him to say, OK, I've had a good run and I'm leaving?
OAKLEY: I don't think he's going to give up without a fight. He has said privately to friends that if he becomes a liability to his own Labour Party then he will step down but prime ministers tend to say that kind of thing only because they believe that it's not going to come about.
Tony Blair is a fighter. I mean he's a tremendous communicator. There's no politician in the world who can stand up as effectively in front of a bunch of the media for an hour at a time and take questions.
He's been in adversity before. I think he still has the ambition of fighting the next election even if he probably has it in his mind to pull out after a year or two of the next parliament, assuming he wins that election.
But he's saying that he's going to go on, that he's going to win the next election, that he's going to serve throughout the next term but then, of course, prime ministers always have to say that because the moment you put a term on your life in office then you're a lame duck prime minister.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
CARLSON: Robin -- Robin, our secretary of state has been able to put some distance between himself and the president but Tony Blair doesn't seem to have been able to do the same and his being a lapdog for Bush has caused him political problems there. Why doesn't he do that?
OAKLEY: I think that is probably Tony Blair's biggest problem at the moment because it's a problem for him with the British public and it's a problem for him with his own Labour Party.
They're all urging him to put more distance between himself and George Bush. Basically the British public thinks that Tony Blair is following a man who doesn't know where he's going in George Bush.
They don't like it that Tony Blair doesn't seem to get much of a dividend in return for his unswerving loyalty to George Bush over Iraq and his failure to criticize him on other issues.
They're particularly angry with Tony Blair for going along with George Bush in endorsing Ariel Sharon's single-handed unilateral plan for the Middle East peace process instead of sticking with the road map and criticizing the limitations on what Sharon was doing.
So, Tony Blair is under real pressure from his own party to detach more from George Bush. What is interesting is that a number of his senior ministers are beginning to be much more openly critical of U.S. policy and particularly over the question of abuse of detainees in Iraq.
We've had Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, coming out with very sharp criticisms, Peter Hain, the leader of the House of Commons, doing the same, so all that pressure is on Tony Blair.
But Tony Blair in an interview this week said, no, this is not the time to start messing around with your allies and he said he's going to continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with George Bush. If he does that, he's going to pay a heavy political price for it.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.
O'BEIRNE: Robin, meanwhile across the aisle, how are the conservatives dealing with the public dissatisfaction with the war with Iraq given their traditional views about foreign policy and friendship with America?
OAKLEY: It's quite difficult for the conservatives on the issue of Iraq. What is certainly a factor in British politics at the moment is that the conservatives for the first time in several years have a leader who is Tony Blair's match in the House of Commons. Michael Howard is very feisty, effective. Like Tony Blair, he's a lawyer. He's very sharp across the dispatch box in the House of Commons. He wasn't particularly popular himself as a minister back in the days of Margaret Thatcher's government but he's certainly going after Blair effectively in the House of Commons.
Iraq perhaps is not the easiest issue for him because, of course, the conservatives in opposition backed the war, the liberal Democrats under Charles Kennedy didn't but Michael Howard's party did back the war in Iraq and so there are limitations on how critical he can be.
But he's certainly been critical of the massive disarray and confusion between ministers in the last week about those reports of the abuse in Iraq and basically the conservatives are becoming steadily more critical of the government's conduct, really of the post conflict situation in Iraq and that's where the difficulty comes in again...
OAKLEY: ...for Tony Blair because he hasn't got control of events.
HUNT: Robin, we have less than 30 seconds left but just let me ask you very, very quickly, Gordon Brown, the other heavy in the Labour Party over there, any chance that he'll challenge Tony Blair in the next couple months?
OAKLEY: No. He won't challenge because he won't get the job if he challenges and if he causes a mess at the top of the Labour Party. He wants to sit there and wait for events to fall into his hands. If Tony Blair hands over, it will be to Gordon Brown but Gordon Brown can't be seen fighting for the job. He's being a lot more helpful to Tony Blair than he's been for a long time.
SHIELDS: Robin Oakley, thank you for being with us.
THE CAPITAL GANG will be back with our "Outrage of the Week."
SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week."
Listen to President Bush in Bill Sammon's book misunderestimated that Iraq will become a democracy "so long as we don't cower in the face of suiciders, cut and run early like what happened in '91."
I don't know which is greater, George W. Bush's unfairness to his own father or his ignorance of history. His father assembled a genuine coalition to evict Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, not to remove him from power in Baghdad.
That decision was endorsed by Generals Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf and Brent Scowcroft and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. There was no cut and run in '91 -- Bob Novak. NOVAK: All dressed in red, what other color would be appropriate, hundreds of thousands of Cubans yesterday marched down (unintelligible) boulevard past the U.S. diplomatic mission.
They shouted fascist Bush and carried signs with President Bush wearing a Hitler moustache and a Nazi uniform this from a country ruled by Fidel Castro, the world's last absolute communist dictator, a repressive government that jails protesters, ruling circles dealing in illegal narcotics. I don't suppose this bothers the Americans who want to unconditionally accept the Castro-led dictatorship.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
CARLSON: Mark, I know the president's a good family man, unlike his predecessor as he's fond of telling us, but is it good family values to miss your daughter's graduations?
As far as we know no one's complained at the prospect of being held up by metal detectors or presidential hoopla. What's more, Bush gave the address at Concordia College yesterday with no concern about inconveniencing those parents.
Perhaps the twins said don't embarrass us by coming but who's in charge here? It is your duty to embarrass your kids until they turn 25. Put a little pomp in pomp and circumstance.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.
O'BEIRNE: Now we know why the Kerry campaign has refused to release Teresa Heinz-Kerry's tax returns, although her assets have funded her husband's campaigns. A summary we finally have seen shows one of America's wealthiest women paid only 15 percent of her income in federal taxes. President Bush's taxes were 28 percent.
Over half of Teresa's $5 million a year income comes from tax free investments. That's fine with me but according to her husband the wealthiest Americans should be bearing more of the burden. John, tell that to Leona -- uh, I mean Teresa.
SHIELDS: She just won Bob Novak -- Al Hunt.
HUNT: Margaret, I'm fulfilling my parental duties. I just want you to know that.
George W. Bush has been eloquent on women's rights in Afghanistan and Iraq, thus it is with some dismay to read in the "Financial Times" Thursday that at the University of Basra, women, who a year ago were wearing jeans and tee shirts now must have their head -- now must have their heads covered due to the presence of armed Shiite militias.
Also four months ago the Women's Alliance for a Democratic Iraq wrote Paul Bremer about the "growing threat to women's rights" in that country. The response to Mr. Bremer and President Bush has been deafening.
SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG.
But, before we leave, we ought to take a look at our colleague Bob Novak's tandem parachute jump at 12,500 feet yesterday with the Golden Knights, the U.S. Army's parachute team.
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