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Reagan's Funeral Discussed; Afghan Elections Delayed Due to Security Concerns; Some Positive Diplomacy Comes Out Of G-8 Summit

Aired June 12, 2004 - 19:30   ET


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.

In a week of nationwide mourning, more than 100,000 people visited the U.S. Capitol, where leaders of both parties agreed that President Reagan had restored the spirit of America.


SEN. TED STEVENS (R-AX), PRES. PRO TEM By the time President Reagan left office, he had reversed the trend of ever-increasing government control over our lives, restored our defense capabilities, guided us through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and set in motion policies which ultimately led to the collapse of the "evil empire."

SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: He came to power at a time of self-fulfilling pessimism. a pervasive belief that public policy could barely move molehills, let alone mountains. The true achievement of the "Reagan revolution" was the renewal of America's faith in itself.


SHIELDS: The house majority leader took a more partisan view of the Reagan legacy.


REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: He laid the foundation of building this Congress, the foundation to grant -- a foundation that allowed us to transition from the liberal dominance to -- the liberal Democrat dominance of Washington, D.C., to now the permanent majority of the Republican Party. That was Ronald Reagan.


SHIELDS: Senator majority leader Bill Frist discussed renaming the Pentagon as the Reagan building, and other Republicans pressed to replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill with Ronald Reagan.

Al Hunt, what is the political fall-out of this week we've just gone through? AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: Well, Mark, these past five days have been a poignant, powerful, moving reaffirmation of Ronald Reagan's legacy. And I think first you have to pay tremendous homage or credit to Nancy Reagan, who I think was -- was not only responsible for so much of the very tasteful and very eloquent tributes took place, but was the love of his life and stuck with him during these very -- incredibly 10 difficult years.

On the other item -- I thought that naming National Airport after Ronald Reagan was a good idea and appropriate, and the largest federal building in Washington is named after him. There are freeways and schools and other monuments all around America named after him. But Bill Frist's idea to name the Pentagon after Ronald Reagan is silly and gratuitous. So are changing the bills. It's unnecessary.

As to the short-term -- as to the short-term political effect, I think it'll have no impact at all on this fall -- in the fall presidential election. These are different issues, and these are different men and candidates than 20 years ago.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, I've had Republicans tell me this week that Ronald Reagan, as a principled conservative who stood by his positions, even thought it was unpopular, would remind people of the strengths of George W. Bush and that the campaign turned this week.

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Well, if the election were Tuesday -- and as far as I know, it is not Tuesday...


NOVAK: ... it might have some effect -- might have some effect. But a lot of things are going to happen between now and November. I doubt that.

The thing that interested me the most was the attempt of the liberals to kidnap Ronald Reagan this week, how -- I never realize how accommodating he was, how compromising he was, how unideological he was. He was the most ideological president we've ever had. And you can't get away from the fact that he was a tax-cutter and he was a cold warrior. That's why I loved him. And you can't -- you can't really say that, Boy, oh, boy, he was just gentle Ron.

But that's OK. The amazing thing is that somebody who was trashed as much or more than George W. Bush is now the -- the liberals are trying to kidnap him I think is very interesting.

SHIELDS: I think there's some revisionism here, Margaret, because I -- Ronald Reagan carried 44 states in 1980, 49 states in 1984, and yet the bitterness and resentment that we see in the country now was not present then, after Ronald Reagan's victories.

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Well, President Bush promised, you know, an end to partisanship and bring a new tone to Washington, which is decidedly not the case. Bob, you're right that the election's not on Tuesday, but you're wrong in that George W. Bush is the one who's trying to capture Ronald Reagan. He's not the son of Bush 41, he wants to be the heir of Ronald Reagan and tried to capture that in his remarks his week. But he isn't. He doesn't have Reagan's vision. He doesn't have his way with words. And one of the things that Reagan brought to us was a purely televisionary age of politics. He knew how to do it, and it's been thus ever since.

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: George Bush does have Ronald Reagan's moral clarity about good and evil, which is what -- the terms he started talking in immediately after 9/11, which is exactly what Ronald Reagan did during the cold war. Margaret Thatcher nailed it when she called Ronald Reagan the great liberator. Lech Walesa echoed it by saying we owe him our liberty. That is how people in Eastern Europe, the old Soviet Union, feel about Ronald Reagan.

But I am intrigued about the air-brushing that's going on about the '80s, the tone of so much coverage was, Ronald Reagan was so genial, so good-natured, so pragmatic, in contrast with someone we could mention, that during the '80s, we were one big happy family! Except as somebody who was in the Reagan administration, it wasn't one big happy family! Extremely partisan committee chairman like John Dingel and the late Ted Weiss (ph) routinely, in my world, would be raking Reagan appointees over the coals, using their oversight authority to torment Reagan appointees. He was routinely referred to as a cowboy. He was too unilateral. He was turning all our allies off. He was dangerous. He was simple-minded.

A lot of Bush supporters could take a lot of solace if they spent this week looking back at the kind of treatment Ronald Reagan got at the hands of the liberals and the European elites during the '80s!

SHIELDS: I'd just point out that, first of all, I was glad there was congressional oversight when you had people like Jim Watt and Anne Gorsuch, the Bonnie and Clyde of the environment, as Ronald Reagan...

O'BEIRNE: It was very...

SHIELDS: ... appointees...

O'BEIRNE: ... partisan, though, Mark.

SHIELDS: ... Ronald Reagan appointees. So let's just be very frank about that. And Ronald Reagan did -- I know, Bob, you don't want to say he was accommodating. He put a smiling face on conservatism. Prior to Ronald Reagan, the faces of conservatism were -- were Bob Taft, the dour Bob Taft, and Calvin Coolidge. And Ronald Reagan, whatever he did, he brought an optimism to conservatism...

NOVAK: Mark...

SHIELDS: ... which it had not had.

NOVAK: Mark, but I -- I don't know where you were...

SHIELDS: I was here.

NOVAK: ... but people were abusing him, making fun of him, as they make fun of George W. Bush, that he -- that he didn't know anything, that he -- that he just -- he was an actor who recited things. There was very nasty stuff going -- going on there! And I'll tell you something else. I hear this love affair between Tip O'Neill, who was a lying old fool most of the time...

SHIELDS: I beg your pardon!


NOVAK: ... in my opinion...

SHIELDS: ... limited to your opinion.

NOVAK: It's my opinion!

HUNT: And Ronald Reagan -- and Ronald Reagan...

NOVAK: That's what we do on this show...


HUNT: Ronald Reagan didn't think that.

NOVAK: He may have, and he may not have. There's a lot of lies in the book that Tip O'Neill wrote. But I'll tell you this. The nasty things that Tip O'Neill would say up on the Hill about Reagan, and he was his big buddy, would go on there...

HUNT: Let me just tell you, Bob, what you apparently don't remember or didn't know at the time was that Reagan and O'Neill surely went at each other. They went at each other ferociously. Both went at one another. And there was a lot of politics and a lot of partisanship. Of course there was. But it was Reagan who said, After 6:00 o'clock, we can sit down and have a drink together. He did it with Tip O'Neill. He did it with Dan Rostenkowski. He did it with a number of Democrats. It didn't mean he wasn't a conservative president. He was. But he also was a man who practiced civility and comity, and that has been sorely missed in American politics in recent years.


SHIELDS: Go ahead, Margaret.

CARLSON: Just let me point out that Reagan used the language of good and evil, but he was a much more pragmatic person in that he didn't invade the Soviet Union, he reached out to Mikhail Gorbachev and worked with him...


O'BEIRNE: ... extremely controversial things. By supporting those anti-communist insurgents, the Pershing missiles in Europe, Afghanistan...

NOVAK: Flight controllers. O'BEIRNE: ... exactly -- flight -- he did extremely -- defense build-up -- extremely controversial things in the name of being indispensable to the fall of the Soviet Union.

SHIELDS: Big difference between the two. We did know that our adversary then had weapons of mass destruction, and that -- that was resolved peaceably without any war. Our adversary this time did not have weapons of mass destruction. And let me just say about Tip O'Neill -- let me just say about Tip O'Neill -- Ronald Reagan -- first of all, I want to just totally...

NOVAK: We already have!

SHIELDS: ... no, from your remarks, gratuitous and libelous. But I would say this...

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because he lied about me in this book!

SHIELDS: Oh! Oh! Oh!

NOVAK: He did! Indeed.

SHIELDS: I will say -- I will say this, that Tip O'Neill, when he was retiring and they were having this dinner to raise money for Boston College, his alma mater, the one person who said that, I will do anything you want for that dinner and show up and -- and host it and be the emcee or the chairman, was Ronald Reagan. That's the kind of thing that...

O'BEIRNE: I'm not surprised. Ronald...

SHIELDS: ... missing from Washington. That's the kind of...

O'BEIRNE: He was a great man!

SHIELDS: OK. Thank you, Kate O'Beirne. The GANG of five will be back with George W. Bush at the G-8 summit.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. The United Nations Security Council voted 15 to nothing in support of U.S. plans to pass authority to an interim government in Iraq.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The vote today in the United Nations Security Council was a great victory for the Iraqi people.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Now it will be the Iraqi government themselves who will have the whole spectrum of the sovereignty rights which will be enjoyed by them, with a major influence now to be exercised by the entire world community.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SHIELDS: President Bush went to the G-8 summit at Sea Island, Georgia, where he received congratulations after he promised he was not trying to make the world look like America.


BUSH: I fully understand that a free society in the Middle East is going to reflect the culture and traditions of the people in that country, not America.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, was this week a turning point for President Bush's Iraqi policy?

CARLSON: It's an interim turning point, in that he reached out to "old Europe," and the unilateralist said -- asked for a resolution, and he got it. What he didn't get was any troops on the ground, any promise of NATO troops. He got -- the notion that Iraq still remains costly in every regard, as Jacques Chirac put it, and no promise that troops are even going to help train the Iraqi troops.

On the other hand, it was good that now there's some U.N. blessing for going ahead with an interim government, and it does look like it will make things better. Even without the other troops, turning it over to the Iraqis has got to make it somewhat better.

SHIELDS: Kate, U.N. blessing good thing?

O'BEIRNE: Yes, I think it's a helpful -- helpful step in the president's multi-part plan -- which he does have, despite being accused all the time of not having a plan. I think we saw with the unfortunate recent now murder of the deputy foreign minister how threatened those forces in Iraq who don't want to see a free and democratic Iraq are by the fact that there's now an Iraqi face on the government, so they're increasingly targeting the Iraqi face. We don't need NATO troops. We don't need more foreign troops. We're trying not to have a foreign face on Iraqi security. And as that intercepted letter from months ago from Zarqawi said, When this has an Iraqi face, when we are fighting the sons of the land, it's going to be a disaster for us. So that's the plan, is to increasingly turn over security -- governance already is turned over -- increasingly turn over security to the Iraqi army and police.

SHIELDS: Everything's coming up roses, Bob Novak?

NOVAK: Not coming up roses, but you know, there's some people -- I mean, there's a political campaign on, and President Bush can do no right, according to some people. This was a big -- big plus for him. He hadn't gotten a 15-to-nothing vote, you would have heard about it, if the French and the Germans and the Russians had voted against us. So that was a plus. The people at the G-8 greeted him warmly. It isn't over, but how many -- you know, obviously, when no U.S. troops are killed in a day, you don't -- there's not a bulletin, "No U.S. troops killed today," but -- but that has cut down. Sadr, the militant cleric, says he's going to support the government. So things are looking a little better.

The way -- the way -- I just have a feeling that -- that maybe the expectations of turning Iraq into Iowa are diminished, and that's -- that's a plus for Bush, as well.

SHIELDS: Al, it is a sort of a commentary, though, when you say 14 months after the war ended that when an American troop doesn't get killed in a day, that's good news.

HUNT: Yes, but there haven't been many good weeks in a long, long time, and this was a good week. Indisputably, it was a good week. What matters now is, can you build on it? Istanbul conference, NATO, in a couple weeks, get a little bit more, hopefully. If they do that, that'll be another good week.

But there's still two fundamental questions. One is, can this artificially created country that was kept together by brute force for most of 80 years -- can it really flourish and grow as a country, the Kurds, the Shi'ites and the Sunnis? There was some disquieting news about...

SHIELDS: And the Kurds.

HUNT: ... about that this week. And secondly, will the violence subside now, we've bottomed out, or is it going to escalate? I think George Bush in September would love to announce a drawn-down of American troops sometime after the election. Can't do that if there's pervasive violence.

And Bob, I have tried not to do a lot of analogies to Vietnam because I think there are a lot of differences, but if I...

NOVAK: I admire you for that, Al.

HUNT: There are a couple things. I mean, there is the -- the -- you know, Iraqis taking over does remind somewhat of the Vietnamization, which we waited for for years and years and years. And the second thing is, remember the great Tet offensive of 1968, which was a military disaster for the North Vietnamese but politically hurt us so much. Did Tet take place in Iraq in April, or is it going to take place in July or August? That's a critical question.

NOVAK: You know -- you know, as somebody who went to Vietnam many times, and I think I know a lot about it, it is so ridiculous, Al, it's so beneath you to draw any comparison between Iraq and Vietnam. They're -- they're -- they're such different situations that it...


O'BEIRNE: Aren't you a little embarrassed?

NOVAK: You should be embarrassed.

HUNT: Why don't you just address what I said, rather than what I didn't say? NOVAK: Because there's no -- there's no comparison to what -- to what's going on there. That's the reason.

SHIELDS: There's a profound comparison on the impact on American domestic policy...

NOVAK: Well, that's nonsense, too!

SHIELDS: ... and that's -- well...

NOVAK: Do you see -- do you see people rioting on the campuses?


NOVAK: Have you?

SHIELDS: You watch the next president who tries to make a unilateral move like this one.


HUNT: Can I just express hope that next week, Bob will address what I said substantively? He may.

NOVAK: I'll be happy to.

HUNT: Good.

SHIELDS: Al -- Al, I'm surprised you'd be that unrealistic.


SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG: Attorney General John Ashcroft under fire in the prisoner abuse scandal.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. "The Washington Post" reported a Justice Department memo advised the White House that torture of al Qaeda terrorists could be justified.


JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am refusing to disclose these memos because I believe it is essential to the operation of the executive branch that the president have the opportunity to get information from his attorney general that is confidential.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You are not citing a law, and you are not claiming executive privilege. And frankly, that is what contempt of Congress is all about.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: There's a reason why we sign these treaties: to protect my son in the military! That's why we have these treaties, so when Americans are captured, they are not tortured! That's the reason, in case anybody forgets it. That's the reason!

ASHCROFT: Well, as a person whose son is in the military now on active duty and has been the Gulf within the last several months, I'm aware of those considerations, and I care about your son.


SHIELDS: President Bush was asked about that memo.


BUSH: The authorization I issued, David, was that anything we did would conform to U.S. law and would be consistent with international treaty obligations. I can't remember if I've seen the memo or not.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, what is the legal justification for Attorney General Ashcroft denying this memo to Congress?

O'BEIRNE: First, Mark, all of our sons in the military are safer if we distinguish between legal combatants, who get the protections of the Geneva convention, and illegal combatants, who don't. Illegal combatants who make war on civilians do not, by design, get the -- get the protection of the Geneva convention. It makes everybody safer to have that be the case. The Geneva convention does apply in Afghanistan. It does not apply in Guantanamo. It does not apply to al Qaeda. You may have noticed they viciously make war on civilians. Although, even though it technically doesn't apply, they -- they enjoy its protections.

John Ashcroft is perfectly within his rights not to turn up and give up this legal memo. It hasn't been requested! Which Dick Durbin, of course, knows. There would have to be a formal request, which has not been made by Congress. Contempt is ridiculous, that he would be in contempt. He hasn't even gotten a request. There's been no subpoena. This is the kind of memo from the office of legal counsel, which Dick Durbin also knows, that is a classic document protected by executive privilege because it's confidential legal advice to the president.

SHIELDS: Attorney Carlson, could you address that?

CARLSON: Well, the one thing that gets lost in this torture thing is that those in prison in Iraq are about -- even by the administration's assessment, 70 to 90 percent of them committed no crime. It's different than those people in Guantanamo. They should be protected by the Geneva conventions, and apparently, they don't have to be, according to the Bush administration. And we found out this week that, according to "The Washington Post" today, that General Sanchez was approving the use of dogs and sleep deprivation and different tactics that aren't permitted.


CARLSON: And by the way, these tactics don't work to yield information.

O'BEIRNE: They're also not torture!

CARLSON: Well, I think they're described as -- at least, the, you know, unmuzzled dogs...

NOVAK: Well, let's...

CARLSON: ... as an illegal form of...

HUNT: Interrogation.

CARLSON: ... of prisoner treatment.

NOVAK: I don't think they were talking about the dogs in this memo they're talking about. But in this -- I have had a consistent record. I think all administrations, liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat, do not want to give Congress information. And I have been consistently for giving up this information. I don't think there's any -- any reason -- I think executive privilege is phony, and Ashcroft -- Attorney General Ashcroft said he wasn't invoking executive privilege. He's just saying he doesn't want to give it to them, and I don't think he has a right to do that.

Now, I -- I really believe that the trouble with the attorney general, he goes up to the Hill and he knows he's going to be asked about that story that appeared in "The Post," he doesn't have a good answer. He doesn't have a good reason for it. And so I...

HUNT: Why is that?

NOVAK: Well, I don't think he -- I don't -- I don't know. He was not prepared. Maybe he has -- maybe he has small-C contempt for Congress, not -- not the -- I don't think it was a good show, and I really -- I think -- beyond that, I think that was a bad memo. I think that -- that memo gives me, as a conservative and as somebody who is -- likes President Bush, it gives me a lot of distress to read that memo.


HUNT: And it should because John Ashcroft and others are trying to cover up some -- some embarrassing memos. Kate, these memos are coming out not because this administration is giving us anything, it's because "The Washington Post," "The Wall Street Journal"...

O'BEIRNE: There will not be a problem!

HUNT: ... and other places are finding out...

O'BEIRNE: There will not be a problem!

HUNT: ... about these memos. But let me go...

SHIELDS: And military lawyers. HUNT: Also -- also, I want -- I want -- these memos are really quite -- quite incriminating, if they were acted upon. Now, they claim they weren't...

O'BEIRNE: Huge difference!

HUNT: Just a second. Just a second. This week -- this week, Don Gregg, former CIA station chief, former national security adviser to George Herbert Walker Bush, former ambassador to Korea, no lefty, no softy, said that these memos clearly make a mockery of claims that there were just a few enlisted personnel who took a -- who engaged in these vile abuses...

SHIELDS: Last word...

HUNT: ... by themselves.

SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt. Coming up in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG, the "CAPITAL GANG Classic," Ronald Reagan's good-by to the nation 15 years ago. We go "Beyond the Beltway" to Kabul, Afghanistan, to hear from CNN's Ryan Chilcote. And coming up next, Robert Novak "On the Beat" at Ronald Reagan's funeral.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: THE CAPITAL GANG will continue in a moment, but here are the top stories.

U.S. officials confirm an American engineer is missing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. An al Qaeda related group is posting the missing man's driver's license and identification papers on its Web site to prove he was taken hostage.

Also today another American became the third Westerner killed in Riyadh this week.

Ronald Reagan is in his final resting place. Early this morning the former president was sealed inside a tomb on the grounds of his presidential library just outside Los Angeles. The memorial site opens to visitors on Monday along with the Reagan Library.

A political comeback could be in the works for former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry. He says he's running for the council seat in Ward 8, that's the same seat he won back in 1992, just months after serving time in jail on drug charges. Two years later he was re- elected mayor for a fourth term.

Those are the headlines at this hour, now back to more CAPITAL GANG.

SHIELDS: Welcome 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.

Bob Novak was on the beat Friday among nearly 4000 mourners attending Ronald Reagan's funeral at the Washington National Cathedral.


NOVAK (voice-over): I first questioned Ronald Reagan in 1965, the year before he ran for governor, the first of many interviews through the years. So I was honored to be among 2100 guests invited to Friday's funeral. I last attended such a funeral 31 years ago for Lyndon B. Johnson who was still controversial and much criticized when he died.

The more sharply criticized Richard Nixon chose not to have a state funeral. Dwight D. Eisenhower's funeral in early 1969 was overshadowed by the beginning of the Nixon presidency. The John F. Kennedy funeral followed national shock, grief and outrage.

The Reagan funeral was different. The death of a 93-year-old man suffering from Alzheimer's came as no surprise. Invited guests arrived early, old comrades in arms renewing friendships and celebrating triumphs: in the Cold War; in economic policy; in Republican victories.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Reagan was optimistic about the great promise of economic reform. And he acted to restore the rewards and spirit of enterprise. And Ronald Reagan believed in the power of truth in the conduct of world affairs. When he saw evil camped across the horizon he called that evil by its name.

NOVAK: Mikhail Gorbachev, the last ruler of the Soviet Union, was there to hear speaker after speaker hail President Reagan as the destroyer of the communist threat.

MARGARET THATCHER, FMR. BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The president resisted Soviet expansion and pressed down on Soviet weakness at every point until the day came when communism began to collapse beneath the combined weight of those pressures and its own failures.

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, 41ST PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He believed in tomorrow. So the "Great Communicator" became the great liberator.

NOVAK: In a city where secular services have become familiar in the funerals of the famous, this funeral was Christian and largely Episcopalian. It was presided over by former Senator John Danforth, an Episcopalian minister who has been nominated as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. So much for the separation of church and state.

JOHN DANFORTH (R), FMR. SENATOR FROM MISSOURI: It is a religious service. We've gathered to celebrate the life of a great president in a church where believers profess their faith. So this is not only about a person but about faith.

NOVAK: President Reagan often quoted from the pilgrim leader John Winthrop's famous sermon aboard the Arbella en route from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the year 1630. And Ronald Reagan's express wish, his first Supreme Court nominee, Sandra Day O'Connor, read from that sermon.

SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world.


NOVAK: It struck some as ironic that this was read by Justice O'Connor who has lead a Supreme Court majority in drawing sharp line between church and state. But Ronald Reagan, so extolled the last week for his spirit of accommodation and compromise, conveys from the grave the admonition that the shining city on the hill bears responsibilities that are under divine oversight.

SHIELDS: Wow! Margaret, was there as much a conservative flavor to the funeral as Bob Novak, who was on the spot, suggests?

CARLSON: In this hour of our national mourning, only Bob would try to label the funeral as one way or another. People saw in this what they wanted to this past week and coming together to honor President Reagan.

Bush 41 saw him as the kindler, gentler Reagan, and Bush 43 talked about planting liberty abroad. And those were the two bookends.


O'BEIRNE: Mark, there was another reason this week to admire the military. I just have to say that we often think that all the king's horses and all the king's men are best at this sort of ceremony, but I think all the president's horse's and all the president's men sure looked like the world's best. The pageantry and precision, they were just terrific. And the hundred of people responsible for the events this week deserve enormous credit I think.

SHIELDS: Let me agree with you, Kate O'Beirne, the military did a great job, the federal government did a great job.


SHIELDS: I mean, at every stage. And this was...

O'BEIRNE: ... responsible for this.

SHIELDS: They did a marvelous job and they ought to be given credit for it.

HUNT: It was just positively elegant. And as Bob reported, Ronald Reagan didn't think it ironic or unusual that Sandra Day O'Connor read that tribute. Those were his wishes. I don't think that George Herbert Walker Bush is one of the most eloquent of men, but I thought that was a masterful eulogy that President Bush 41...

CARLSON: It was the most heartfelt of them.

HUNT: ... gave, it was personal and...


NOVAK: Margaret says that everybody thought it was -- had their own interpretation of it. A lot of the people were there when they left were old Reaganites and they thought it was a Reaganite funeral and so did I.

SHIELDS: As an old Reaganite yourself, Bob. Next on CAPITAL GANG, "THE CAPITAL GANG Classic," President Reagan bids the nation farewell 15 years ago.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. Fifteen years ago President Ronald Reagan left Washington on a triumphant note.


RONALD REAGAN, 40TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My friends, we did it. We weren't just marking time, we made a difference. We made the city stronger. We made the city freer. And we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad. Not bad at all. And so good-bye, God bless you and God bless the United States of American.


SHIELDS: Your CAPITAL GANG discussed the president's farewell address on January 14, 1989.


HUNT: Ronald Reagan gave a terrific farewell address. It was upbeat, optimistic, justifiably proud. And I thought it was a terrific ending.

PAT BUCHANAN, THE CAPITAL GANG: You can't disagree with that.

SHIELDS: I can't. Nothing nasty, vintage Reagan. Cassettes are available for $9.98. You had to be upset, Pat, and so did Novak, that he didn't mention Central America.

NOVAK: I was disappointed to tell you the truth. And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) farewell address, I liked the one he gave about the Iron Triangle, about the people who have been the establishment of the lobbyists and the Congress and the media that control this town. And I like the old Reagan a little better than the gentler, kinder Reagan.

BUCHANAN: I thought it was an excellent speech and I think that's just the way he ought to go out.


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, do you still think 15 years later that Ronald Reagan should have left town with guns blazing?

NOVAK: No, I was wrong. It was a very good speech, and sometimes I'm a little too hard on politicians, even the ones I like.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Well, keep that in mind on Saturday nights, would you, Bob?

NOVAK: I didn't say -- politicians, you're not a politician.

CARLSON: You can grow in the punditry.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: I think it was a good speech. He talked about the founders, more of them than his nine predecessors combined. And he went out talking about the fact that when government expands, liberty contracts.

SHIELDS: Don't let George Bush hear that one. Go ahead.

HUNT: I think today what I thought 15 years ago. And I think Ronald Reagan is one of the most secure men that I've ever covered in politics. And I think that is key to his...

SHIELDS: Personally secure, I couldn't agree with you more and a testimony to how he left was George Herbert Walker Bush won Ronald Reagan's third term in 1988,

Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the war in Afghanistan as that country nears its first national election. CNN's Ryan Chilcote joins us from Kabul.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai visiting the United States for the G-8 conference, asked for more help but expressed general optimism.


HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: We need more security assistance forces in Afghanistan. We hope that the NATO deployment. which is being considered, will take place before elections in parts of the country where we do not have enough security forces.

Our troubles are decreasing and not increasing. The security incidents that you have in Afghanistan are not going to be a hurdle for our people's progress towards a better future.


SHIELDS: Afghan officials today announced that the country's first national elections cannot be held in September as scheduled. Joining us now from Afghanistan is CNN correspondent Ryan Chilcote. Until yesterday he was embedded with the U.S. Army's 2nd Battalion of the 27th Infantry near the Pakistani border in eastern Afghanistan. Ryan is now in the capital city of Kabul.

Thanks for coming in, Ryan. Ryan, what is your assessment of the state of security throughout Afghanistan today?

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not particularly good and not likely to get better. In the south and the east of the country, those are the traditional places where insurgents have been fighting about 20,000 U.S. servicemen and servicewomen, the situation remains very unstable. There is violence there almost daily.

And in some of the -- what have been traditional places, the north and the west of the country since the fall of Taliban, we're beginning to see some signs of instability, quite frankly. Just on Thursday of this week, 11 Chinese road builders were killed as they slept in a work camp. They were building a road in that area. They were ambushed by assailants with machine guns and grenades. Eleven Chinese this week.

Just last week five aid workers from the group Doctors Without Borders ambushed in the west of the country, three of those European. So the situation is not particularly good. And no one expects it to get better between now and the election.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Ryan, some of the Special Forces people who are at Ft. Bragg and just got back from Afghanistan or have been in Afghanistan have told me that they feel that too much attention is given to trying to get Osama bin Laden, who is almost surely in Pakistan, too many assets put on that end and not enough on fighting the drug dealers and the militants in Afghanistan. Have you heard that complaint from any of the troops you've talked to?

CHILCOTE: Absolutely, Bob. I was with Special Forces in March of this year. They have subsequently gone home, some of them to Ft. Bragg. But that is something you hear. What is being fought really here on the ground is a war against the Taliban primarily, an insurgency that does have some components of al Qaeda in it. But it is primarily against enemies of the government of Afghanistan and against the Taliban.

And very few people actually believe that some of these high value targets, as the military refers to them, or Osama bin Laden, are actually in Afghanistan. Many of them believe that of course those people are in over the border in Pakistan or elsewhere. And they feel that in terms of the fights here on the ground, the most productive thing would be to go after these insurgents, these homegrown, if you will, militants and leave the hunt for Osama bin Laden, perhaps take some resources from that today.

They don't really think that capturing or killing Osama bin Laden, perhaps most interestingly, would really change things here on the ground. They think that the insurgency would continue just the same. It might be a nice moral victory, they say, but it's not going to change the war here -- Bob.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Ryan, President Karzai has accepted the support of the Mujahedeen, other warlords, jihadists, in his quest to win the elections in September so that everyone gets to keep their weapons. Isn't that making it a more dangerous place and for a longer time?

CHILCOTE: Well, that's a good question. There is a fine balancing act, I think, that President Karzai, at least, feels that he has to maintain. On the on hand, there is a need to disarm these so- called warlords throughout the country, particularly in the north and the west. And there is also a need to assert federal authority there.

And I think that President Karzai, quite wisely, when he looks at his ability to assert the federal government's authority in those places, realizes that it is not perhaps quite as possible as he would have liked. The mechanism for the president to assert his authority in those places is the Afghan national army. It's being trained by the U.S. military and it's about 12,000 strong.

It is not strong enough at this point to fill in the security gap that would be left by disarming some of these warlords. They actually do perform a function of security, providing security in the area so they don't just, as one might think from the term, conduct war.

So it is, in terms of the long-term stability of the country, certainly not a particularly good sign. Afghanistan is not going to be a single nation state until these warlords are disarmed. But President Karzai thinks that for the time being, this is a compromises he has to make.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Ryan, unlike in Iraq, our allies supported our military action against Afghanistan to topple the Taliban and close down those terrorist camps. NATO of course pledged its support for our action in Afghanistan. Given the need for troops, as President Karzai said this week, to help provide security, the key problem there, what role are NATO forces playing in helping with those security problems?

CHILCOTE: Well, NATO is providing -- is basically heading up ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan, really, peacekeepers in this country. And there are several thousand of them, some 6000.

But Afghanistan would like to see more. What we've seen so far is, up until this year, the International Security Assistance Force really keeping its presence in the capital of the country and reluctant to move outside of the capital into some of the hinterlands. That's beginning to change.

But the president raised the very important issue here of expanding that security outside of the capital into some of these other parts of the country. It's really necessary, like we were talking about earlier, to counterbalance, for example, the power of the warlords in these areas.


HUNT: Ryan, two-and-a-half years ago, we were told that the dreaded Taliban was gone and we had routed them. In listening to you tonight, though, I detect that there is a Taliban comeback in Afghanistan?

SHIELDS: And Ryan, we have just -- less than a minute.

CHILCOTE: Sure. Well, I'm not sure the Taliban ever went away. The Taliban is definitely there today. They are fighting U.S. forces on an almost daily basis in the east and the south of the country.

The military might tell you, as they put it, to ground. They've been blending in. But they've still been here this whole while. And they're out there in a serious force both in the interior of the country, in places like Uruzgan and Zabul Province, U.S. military saying that the Marines over the last three weeks there have killed more than 80 Taliban.

And in the east of the country, some of them remaining in the eastern part, on the Afghan side of the border, some of them transiting that border in Pakistan. The U.S. military complaining that they're using Pakistan as a safe haven to then come back into Afghanistan and launch attacks against the U.S. military.

SHIELDS: Ryan Chilcote, thank you so very much for being with us. THE CAPITAL GANG will be back with our "Outrages of the Week."


SHIELDS: And now for the "Outrage of the Week." When Elizabeth Dole ran for president in 2000, America's great humorist, Mark Russell, explained why she did: "If you were married to the test pilot for Viagra, you would do anything you could to get out of the house."

So it was not surprising when former GOP Senator Alfonse D'Amato saw Bob Dole at Friday's funeral, he kidded him. And then according to "The New York Times" Kit Seelye, D'Amato confided that Levitra was even better than Viagra.

Hey Alfonse, this qualifies as TMI, too much information.

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: It's all over Saturday morning newspapers' front pages. Republican Senator John McCain has turned down John Kerry's request that he consider running for vice president on the Democratic ticket, though no firm offer has been made.

This is news? How many times has McCain ruled this out? He did to me two weeks ago. So is this story a scam for Kerry to seem willing to put a conservative Republican on the ticket without actually doing it? Can we hope this is the last time this phony issue is raised? SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, John Danforth, who gave the homily at President Reagan's funeral, is Sudan's last best hope of salvation. As our U.N. ambassador-to-be, Danforth can force the murderous Sudanese and its outlaw militia to finally let relief agencies in before impending rains make it impossible.

The militia has already slaughtered 30,000. Starvation could kill a million more in the next few weeks. It will be tempted to let Iraq dominate, but as an ordained minister and former envoy to Sudan, Danforth knows only U.S. leadership can save us from another Rwanda.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who darkly warns American bishops not to interfere with members of their flock in public life, is now trespassing on the bishops' turf.

The senator created a Catholic issue, ranking his fellow Catholic senators that found, surprise, John Kerry is the most faithful Catholic in the Senate. In a world class case of indefensible moral equivalency, doctrinal matters, like abortion, will weigh the same as votes on prudential matters like regulating thermometers, I'm not kidding.

Dick Durbin mocks his church's teaching with this desperate attempt to provide cover for John Kerry.


HUNT: Mark, two months ago, the Bush administration proudly announced that incidents of terrorism last year declined to the lowest level in more than three decades. This was hailed as proof that the president's war on terrorism is succeeding.

One problem, however, the figures were phony. And now a red- faced State Department is admitting that actually terrorism soared in 2003. No word yet from the White House on what this says about the Bush war on terrorism.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG.

Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS: Warsaw Rising." At 9 p.m. "LARRY KING LIVE," Nancy Reagan. And at 10 p.m. on "CNN SATURDAY NIGHT," more on the American missing in Saudi Arabia and the search to find him. CNN analyst Ken Robinson will join Fredricka Whitfield.

Thank you for joining us.


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