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Democratics Still Concerned With Nader Factor; Police Union President Still Upset With Boston Mayor; Republican Critics Claim Too Few Conservative Voices At Republican Convention

Aired July 24, 2004 - 19:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from the Democratic national convention in Boston, a special edition of THE CAPITAL GANG.
MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG, live from the floor of the Fleet Center. I'm Mark Shields, with the full CAPITAL GANG: Robert Novak, Margaret Carlson, Kate O'Beirne and Al Hunt.

As Democrats prepare to convene here, the party's national chairman expressed concern about the independent candidacy of Ralph Nader.


TERRY MCAULIFFE, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CHAIRMAN: I just hope that Ralph Nader understands that he does not want his legacy, which is a great legacy in this nation, to be part of his legacy is that he helped reelect and give this country eight years of George Bush.


SHIELDS: Senator John Edwards, the prospective vice presidential nominee, set forth the mission for him and for the convention.


SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One is to make sure the country knows more about me as their vice presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, second that they know more about John Kerry in the way I view him, and third, some pretty clear ideas about our vision for the country.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, what does John Kerry need to accomplish at this Boston convention?

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: First, Mark, it'd be helpful if the convention teaches John Edwards that John Kerry is never second and that the most important thing is not his opinion of John Kerry.


O'BEIRNE: I think John Kerry can help himself at this convention. A "New York Times" poll tells us 30 percent of the public has no opinion about him at all. He, in large measure, got nominated because he wasn't Dean. His base, the Democratic Party's unified behind him because he's not Bush. What he has to answer this week, it seems to me, is who is he?

SHIELDS: Who is he, Al?

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: Well, no, I think...

SHIELDS: And is that his task?

HUNT: I think Kate's absolutely right. I think the mission for the party and for the ticket is to offer a coherent and a positive portrait. I think the danger, Mark, is that this would turn into an orgy of Bush-bashing. They don't need it. They don't need to energize these troops. They are already quite energized. And I think it has to fill in some question marks about John Kerry, about his values. And if they do that, they'll have a good convention.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, somebody said this race is about George Bush. People who are voting for George Bush are voting for George Bush. A lot of people who are voting for John Kerry are voting against George Bush. Is it really necessary for him to come up with an affirmative, positive reason to support him?

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Yes, I think so because he hasn't won the election yet. You know, the interesting thing about this convention -- Mark, you and I have seen Democratic conventions where everybody was at each others' throats as recently as 1980. But this election, they're under each others' arms, they want to beat Bush so bad. But still, there is a gap between what they know they have -- position they have to take and what they want to take. They want to be very, very liberal. They want to, as -- as George -- as Al says, just knock the dickens out of Bush, and that they're just going to have to have a lot of self-control.

SHIELDS: Self-control and Democrats? Are those mutually exclusive, Margaret?


MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: I think chaos is a little more like it. But Democrats haven't fallen in love with John Kerry, but they've fallen in line. And that's a very, very good thing for Democrats, who have been chaotic in the past. You know, this year, more than any I remember, the election is so serious that voters don't have to want to have a beer with the guy they're going to vote for, and that's a good thing for John Kerry because he's -- you know, he has to show he's not an understudy for "I Robot," but he's not going to be able to establish intimacy. He may be able to establish confidence, and that's what he needs to do.

O'BEIRNE: Well, one thing...


O'BEIRNE: One thing he's going to have to do is -- he's been in public office. Unlike Bill Clinton, he's been voting on federal issues. He has a record in the Senate. It is a very liberal record. He's going to have to, I think, try to shed the liberal record of Senator Kennedy -- Senator Kerry, and Senator Kennedy, this week and emerge as a more electable candidate Kerry.

SHIELDS: Well, but as Bob mentioned, previous conventions, he is in better shape right now than any challenger, really, since Ronald Reagan in 1980, to an incumbent president. He's either tied or slightly ahead of the sitting president in the polls. We haven't had that in almost a quarter century. And -- but the Democrats' problem on national security and commander-in-chief still -- I mean, the Republicans have continued to enjoy a big advantage over Democrats on that issue, Bob. What can he do here on that?

NOVAK: I don't think there's much you can do on it. You know, there's a lot of talk about the -- the so-called bounce that a winner gets. The biggest bounce of all time was Bill Clinton in Madison Square Garden in 1992. He got a 14-point bounce. It was at a 16- point -- it was 14 points, I believe, and -- but he was down at a very low level when he started. Kerry's at such a high level, there's not going to be a huge bounce.

I want to add one other thing. We had -- we had Terry McAuliffe trying to be nice. I think it's hard for Terry to be nice to anybody, but he was trying to be nice to Ralph Nader, saying, you know, We want your support. We want you to be for Kerry. We don't want you to elect George Bush. That's really a change in strategy because they have just been pounding Nader and just saying, you're a -- you're a scumbag. And I don't think that's going to work. But they wouldn't give him a credential to come to the convention. Don't you think that's silly?

HUNT: Let me pick up on the commander-in-chief because I -- I do think that matters, and I do think he can do a little bit to help himself -- he being John Kerry here -- because in the end, that handful of swing voters, it's going to be -- if they do go for Kerry, it's going to be changing in midstream. There's a war on terrorism. And he's got to make people confident. That's why he got the nomination in the first place, Mark, because he had more commander-in- chief...


CARLSON: It's hard to...

O'BEIRNE: He's got the Democratic Party to overcome, though. The modern Democratic Party is, A, built on domestic policy, and the Republicans have a long-standing advantage on national security.

CARLSON: You know, Kerry can't say, I'm going to get us out to Iraq. He can only say, Bush got us into this mess, and I will lead us out of it in some reasonable way. So there's -- he doesn't have a clear-cut message. It's very hard to do. But he's going to have to find a way to do it.

HUNT: And I think also...

CARLSON: And to catch Osama bin Laden.

HUNT: Let me make Bob happy for a second. There is a sub-plot here, the John Edwards-Hillary Clinton rivalry in case this ticket doesn't win, Bob.


SHIELDS: OK. I just -- I just point out that the most encouraging evidence for John Kerry and the Democrats is in "The Wall Street Journal"/NBC News poll, that President Bush's advantage over the -- over Kerry on handling of Iraq went from a 27 percent advantage in January down to an 8 percent advantage in July. So to some degree, the problems the Republicans have had in Iraq have helped -- have redounded to the benefit of John Kerry and filled in that blank for him.

That's -- THE GANG of five will be back with the presidential candidates still deadlocked and both wooing the African-American vote.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. In the week before the convention, both presidential candidates addressed the National Urban League.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't tell us in the strongest democracy on earth that a million disenfranchised African-Americans in an election is -- and the most tainted election in American history is the best that we can do. We cannot and we will not accept a repeat of 2000.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to ask African-American voters to consider some questions. Does the Democrat Party take African-American voters for granted?

I know plenty of politicians assume they have your vote, but do they earn it? And do they deserve it?


SHIELDS: A CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll shows a 1-point lead for Senator John Kerry over President George Bush. Bob Novak, is this really a dead heat for the president, or should the challenger be given the edge?

NOVAK: Mark, the Democrats have had all kinds of little things, that if the undecided vote is high and that this happens and that happens and everything is in Kerry's advantage -- in fact, this is as close to an absolute dead heat as I've ever seen. It hasn't moved in weeks. There was no bounce from the Kerry -- from the Edwards selection. And that's why George W. Bush -- he's not going to get very many African-American votes, but any votes he gets might be a margin of error, a margin of victory in Michigan or Florida or almost anyplace. So this is a very close election. I don't think that if you take the swing states and the undecided vote -- I don't think you got more than 3 percent of the American voters are going to decide this election.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, your sense. Is John Kerry in better shape or worse shape than George Bush, at this point?

HUNT: Oh, he's in slightly better shape, but the race is dead even. Bob is absolutely right. A 1-point advantage or 2-point advantage means nothing. That's the margin of error. This is as close as it could possibly get. I think what's more disturbing for the president, however, Bob, is if you look at the internals, the fundamentals of some that survey data, it'll show you that a plurality or a majority of Americans believe that George Bush is not doing a good job, the country's moving in the wrong direction, that the war in Iraq was not worth the cost, and the real economy is not helping them. That's a lot of hurdles for Bush to overcome. He can do it, but it's a lot of hurdles.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, do you -- does Al Hunt have a case that the Democrats should be a little bit more upbeat?

O'BEIRNE: Mark, I think the -- obviously, in the heads-to-heads there, they're tied. They jockey back and forth within two points of one another. A couple of things strike me, though. George Bush is 47 or 48, give or take, support. Those people are sticking with George Bush through everything. What -- he's had such a lousy three or four months, and yet they're still with him. And I think that's a real strength he has. And also, they might be head to head, but on the overarching issues, the same CNN/"USA Today" poll found George Bush beats John Kerry as a strong leader by 17 points. He beats him on fighting terrorism by 18 points. As a man with convictions, by over 20 points. If those things matter, and I think they do, to voters in a post-9/11 world, I think those issues and characteristics benefit George Bush.

SHIELDS: Well, Margaret, this would change history, then, because usually, incumbent presidents either win big, oftentimes in landslides, or lose in landslides.

CARLSON: Right. I think when the enormity of the fact that we're not safer, that Iraq is a mess and not improving, we don't have enough troops, now apparently, we don't have enough money, there's not that much good news out of Iraq -- when all of this hits home, I think some of those people who seem solidly for Bush will desert him. And the idea that he might get more of the black vote this time, when he's completely ignored the African-American community throughout his presidency -- I think the first time he said the word "urban" was when he went to address the Urban League. He doesn't care about the cities. He doesn't care about unemployment. He doesn't care about unemployment insurance. There's nothing -- he's cut programs. The tax cuts have not benefited...

NOVAK: Well, that -- that's...

CARLSON: ... African-Americans...

NOVAK: That's just straight Democratic propaganda because you're saying... (CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... children behind.

NOVAK: You're saying you want big government? That's the only thing that African-Americans want. There is a rising African-American middle class who wants tax cuts and wants the government off their backs. But I want to...

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has so expanded government. It's not that government hasn't gotten bigger, it's just hasn't gotten bigger to the benefit of African-Americans.

NOVAK: I want -- I want to correct Mark's history because I've heard all this stuff about incumbent presidents always winning big or losing big. It's just not so. Harry Truman was an incumbent. He barely won. Gerry Ford was an incumbent. He barely lost. Woodrow Wilson was an incumbent. He barely won. There's no pattern on that. You just cherry-picked a statistic there. You can't -- you can't take that as a basis for the election.

HUNT: No, I'm sorry, Mark is right and Bob is wrong. I know you covered the Wilson campaign in '16, so I'll defer to you on that. Gerry Ford and Harry Truman were unelected presidents. That's a...

NOVAK: They were incumbent presidents!

HUNT: That is a terribly important distinction, Bob.


HUNT: People had not previously cast that vote and either one...

NOVAK: They were -- they were incumbent presidents, and you're just picking those things -- I -- it kind of makes me sick to hear all that...


SHIELDS: I don't want you to be sick. I don't want you to be sick. We're on live television...

HUNT: Oh, cheer up, Bob.

SHIELDS: ... from the Fleet Center in Boston. The rug is beautiful. We don't want that damaged.

NOVAK: No, it really is. It really is ridiculous to hear that!


SHIELDS: Eisenhower won big. Carter lost big.

NOVAK: Well, I -- I...

SHIELDS: Reagan won big. NOVAK: I understand...

SHIELDS: Clinton won big.

NOVAK: ... but I gave you some...

SHIELDS: I don't know what more...

NOVAK: I gave you some close ones.

SHIELDS: I'm not -- goodness sakes, go back to Woodrow Wilson in 1916! Margaret?

CARLSON: What's to Kerry's advantage is it looks like it's not going to be about gays and guns, and it may be about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, about which we are still in the same fix we were in '01.


O'BEIRNE: CNN's poll also found that 46 percent of the public believes John Kerry's a liberal. That is not good news. Now, 67 percent think George Bush is a conservative, but it's OK to be a conservative running for president. There are twice as many conservatives as liberals.

NOVAK: Isn't it interesting -- isn't it interesting that...


NOVAK: Isn't it interesting that Democrats don't want to be called liberals, but Republicans...

HUNT: I do!

NOVAK: ... want to be called conservatives?


HUNT: Who does better on the economy and health care in that CNN poll?

O'BEIRNE: Well, the economy, of course, is improving. And health care...


HUNT: No, who does better in the poll?



O'BEIRNE: Only -- only 10 percent of the public...

SHIELDS: Kate, we have to give... O'BEIRNE: ... thinks health care...

SHIELDS: We have to give the good numbers for Kerry, too, not just the bad numbers.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, the politics of the 9/11 report.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. The independent commission on the 9/11 attacks issued its report with stern warnings from commissioners.


JAMES THOMPSON, 9/11 COMMISSION: If something bad happens while these recommendations are sitting there, the American people will quickly fix political responsibility for failure, and that responsibility may last for generations. And they will be entitled to do that.


SHIELDS: The reaction by the nation's leaders was mixed.


BUSH: I look forward to studying their recommendations and look forward to working with responsible parties within my administration to move forward on those recommendations.

KERRY: I will lead immediately by convening an emergency security summit that brings together leading Democratic and Republican members of Congress.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: We have a short period of time left, and I'm not sure that we can do all the hearings and all the, you know, testing of what these recommendations are.


SHIELDS: However, on the next day, Speaker Hastert announced House hearings will begin next month. Meanwhile, it was reported that former Clinton national security adviser Sandy Berger improperly removed classified material from the National Archives.


SAMUEL BERGER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I made an honest mistake. It is one that I deeply regret.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, what is the political fallout from the 9/11 commission and also from the Sandy Berger affair?

CARLSON: Listen, the Kerry campaign should take the Hastert and the -- President Bush's reaction to the report and Kerry's and just make it into a campaign ad. The thought that he's going to study the report and that hearings were going to be held sometime later is entirely wrong. It -- Bush's reaction was the same as it was to the August 6 briefing which says Osama bin Laden intends to attack within the United States. It is -- it's -- it is not equal to the peril that the United States is in and that the 9/11 report told us about. I mean, it was just far too lackadaisical a response.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, I have to ask you, you know, quite frankly, the House has taken up the flag-burning amendment, constitutional amendment, gay marriage constitutional amendment. What's it going to take, two Hamas guys going to Provincetown to get a marriage license before they held hearings on this?


NOVAK: Politically, terrible statement by the Speaker. And he -- and obviously, he -- the next day -- that was on Thursday. The next day, he says, We're going to have hearings. They said (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you can't do that. And the president was too soft, too. And he -- he got a little harder. They have -- they have to show some -- some urgency on it.

Now, you can say, Why I the world, all of a sudden, just because this commission came out, do they have to get into action? That's something to ponder. But politically, we're in a campaign, and you have to act like, Boy, oh, boy, the firebell has rung, and here we're moving.

Let me just say that I thought the commission's report was an excellent report. I thought it was remarkable that it was unanimous. There was no dissenting views and no additional views.

SHIELDS: Let me endorse what Bob Novak just said. It was -- they did a very mature thing in Washington. They said, We're going to make recommendations rather than try and assess blame. And I think great credit has to go to both Tom Kean, the Republican former governor of New Jersey, and Lee Hamilton, the former Democratic congressman from Indiana.

HUNT: Well, Mark, to both of those, they are two great American patriots, and the other eight members, too. I think it was absolutely an extraordinary achievement.

Bob, I'll tell you why -- I'll tell you -- to answer your question as to why they're going to have to do something -- "they" being the politicians -- whether they want to or not.

NOVAK: Did I ask a question?

HUNT: Yes, you did. You said, Why are they're going to...

NOVAK: I don't think I...


HUNT: You said it's a campaign, but there are other (UNINTELLIGIBLE) And I'll tell you why they have to.

NOVAK: I don't think I asked a question.

HUNT: Yes, you did.

NOVAK: You don't have to answer questions I didn't ask.

HUNT: I'm going to answer -- I'm going to answer the question you asked, Bob. And that's why -- and having asked it, I'll now answer it...


HUNT: ... which is that Lee Hamilton and Tom Kean and the others won't let them get away with doing nothing, No. 1. As Jim Thompson said, the peril, the political peril, is tremendous if anything should happen. Secondly, the families, the 9/11 families, who are an extraordinary presence, as they should be, won't let them get away with doing nothing.

Now, I think the key issue -- the Pentagon and the Armed Services Committee will resist this because they don't want to lose power and clout, which they could in this. And the key question will not be whether they do something but whether they're able to gut it, and can they get it done before the election or will they have to come back after the election.

SHIELDS: Kate, John McCain and Joe Lieberman both said that they were going to immediately incorporate the recommendations into legislation, which forces the hand a little bit of a Congress that says, We're going to out for six weeks. We're coming back for four weeks, and then we're going back out and campaign.

O'BEIRNE: I agree that the tone and substance of the 9/11 commission report was far better than we had any right to expect, given, in all fairness, some of the public performances of members of the commission. The most important thing Thomas Kean said afterwards was, Every single official they spoke to...

SHIELDS: That's right.

O'BEIRNE: ... intelligence official they spoke to, said another attack of greater magnitude than 9/11...

HUNT: That's right.

O'BEIRNE: ... is possible and probably probable -- and probable. Which is why I really don't want to see members of Congress all racing now, under this political pressure to, quote, "do something." It's too important for them to now do something. Plenty has been done. A lot's been done since 9/11. One specific thing this commission unanimously agreed on was how important the Patriot Act is. Well, what's John Kerry's position? I voted for it, but I want it repealed. John Edwards -- I voted for it, I want it repealed. I mean, they did us a real service by going back over and pointing to things that already happened that have been enormously useful, much of which John Kerry and John Edwards criticized.

CARLSON: Mark, here's the disconnect. George Bush says in every speech, five, six, seven times, America is safer. He says it again and again. And yet we're told that we're going to be attacked by al Qaeda again. Now, who's to blame for that?

O'BEIRNE: Al Qaeda! Al Qaeda is to blame...


O'BEIRNE: ... for that.

CARLSON: No, wait. We haven't -- we haven't broken them up in Afghanistan, and we haven't found Osama bin Laden, and we're completely distracted in Iraq.

O'BEIRNE: Their training camps...

CARLSON: And that's...

O'BEIRNE: Their training camps...

CARLSON: And that is -- rests with the president.

O'BEIRNE: Their training camps are closed in Afghanistan. They're no longer training there.

NOVAK: Mark...

O'BEIRNE: They're no longer collaborating...

CARLSON: They don't need any more training! They know how to do it.

NOVAK: Mark, Margaret completely ignored your question as to the Sandy Berger affair, as if it didn't happen. Now, I tell you why. It's because people of her ilk want to ignore this because it is an absolutely amazing thing that this competent public servant either was acting like an idiot, sticking absent-mindedly top secret code word documents in his briefcase and losing them at home, or he had some sinister purpose of trying to do away with these documents! It's one or the other!

CARLSON: My oak (ph) didn't go to it. He stuffed nothing in his socks and his pants...

NOVAK: In his briefcase, I said.

CARLSON: He stuffed nothing in his socks and his pants. Let us let the record show that.

HUNT: Sandy Berger made a huge...

CARLSON: He put notes -- yes?

HUNT: Sandy Berger made a huge mistake. There's nothing that he had that the 9/11 commission didn't have.

SHIELDS: The 9/11 commission had the whole thing.

NOVAK: That's not true!


HUNT: And if you talk to 9/11...

CARLSON: He did nothing...

HUNT: ... commission members, they will tell you that. And I would take their word for that.

SHIELDS: Last word -- last word, Al Hunt.

Coming up in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG, an interview with Mayor Tom Menino of Boston, the host of this year's convention, our look back and our look ahead at New York and the Republicans in August, and our "Outrages of the Week." That's all after these important messages and the latest news headlines.


LIN: "Capital Gang" will return in just a moment, but first a quick look at what's happening in the news. DNC delegates are arriving in Boston for the start of their convention on Monday. Security is tight.

Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat denies the Palestinian authority is in a crisis. He reshuffled key positions in his government following violent protests by young Palestinians in the west bank and Gaza strip.

And a Federal investigation into Republican Senator Richard Shelby. A Senate Ethics Committee is trying to determine whether he leaked classified information linked to 9/11 and al Qaeda. A separate investigation by the FBI is also underway. Keeping you informed, CNN, the most trusted name in news.

SHIELDS: Welcome to the second half of this special Democratic National Convention edition of the "Capital Gang" direct from the floor of the Fleet Center in Boston. I'm Mark Shields with the full gang, Bob Novak, Margaret Carlson, Kate O'Beirne and Al Hunt.

Our newsmaker of the week is Democrat Tom Menino, the first Italian-American mayor of Boston, now in his 11th year in that office. The mayor was most responsible for bringing the Democratic National Convention to Boston and has been engaged in settling contract disputes with Boston police and fire fighters' unions.

After arbitration forced a settlement Thursday, police union president Thomas Nee said quote, "we risk our lives to protect visitors and we feel betrayed. It's not acceptable. People have to have confidence that they are being treated fairly. That has not happened," end quote. Our Al Hunt sat down with Mayor Tom Menino at the Fleet Center on Friday.


HUNT: Mr. Mayor, Boston's first Democratic convention. How's it going to go?

MAYOR THOMAS MENINO (D) BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS: It's going very well. We're ready for our end of it. We had a lot of planning, a lot of people working together to make it happen.

HUNT: You settled the police strike, arbitration the other day. Yet the -- some of the cops say they're still angry and they're going to picket anything you attend this week. Is that going to cast a cloud on things?

MENINO: I don't think so. The question has to be, what's the agenda of the patrolmen association? They got their contract. They got 14.5 percent over four years. That's a good contract. Why are they picketing? What's their agenda item?

HUNT: Some delegations as you know, California and Ohio and everything say they're going to follow -- they're not going to cross picket lines. They're going to follow the police. They may even walk out when you speak. You're a life-long Democrat, a highly elected official. Does that offend you when people do that?

MENINO: No, because they don't know the facts. We've settled with the SEIU, with AFSCME, teachers, the municipal police, all the other unions except for the police -- well we got the police now, the fire union, only one that's left out there. What's the issue?

HUNT: This was going to be an economic boom for Boston and this is really, you were very much for this convention, but I saw the other day a Suffolk University study that said only 11 percent of the businesses think they're going to have -- they're going to do well in the convention and the convention itself may lose $8 million.

MENINO: Well, let me just say that the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hasn't said a good thing about anything in the city of Boston in 20 years and their economic numbers are wrong. We had a study done by an economist from BC and University of Mass which just contradicted everything they said.

They're based on a tall ships trip that came in here with 100 ships for 10 days. While we cancelled that because of the convention, that was only three days and 10 ships. So their numbers don't work. Our numbers show $154 million, $14 million in new taxes, 11 that go to the state, 2.6 to go to the city.

So I imagine it's going to (UNINTELLIGLBE) just the four days. You look at what goes out years (ph). You know Mayor Daley tells me, because of the convention he had in the '80s, he's still getting business from that. That's how I look at it too.

HUNT: How about all the horror stories about transportation snafus. You can't get around. People are going to leave town.

MENINO: Well, I think there will be some confusion with the traffic patterns changing. It's because of 9/11. It's because of the Secret Service.

HUNT: Heavier security.

MENINO: That's right, much heavier. I-93 is only two feet away from the Fleet Center, we have to make sure you deal with that security issue. So I'd say we got a good plan out there for the info line out, which we got 60,000 hits on a web page and 165 calls a day to get information about traffic patterns. So we're working on those issues.

HUNT: Tuesday night, big gala tribute to Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Your take on the state's senior senator.

MENINO: He's the best. There's nobody better than him. When he goes, the whole institution goes, the whole way of getting things done in politics goes, a real -- a man, a giant amongst us goes. He's just the best of all. I tell you, I wish I could be as good as Senator Kennedy.

HUNT: And your take on the state's junior senator, the Democratic standard bearer, John Kerry?

MENINO: Well he's tested. He's a veteran. He's been in the Senate for a while. He's been in the war. He didn't go sit in the easy job when he went to the military. He went out in the front lines. He's battle worn. He's got the badges to prove it and so I say we have a guy who's ready for the battle, ready to bring back America to the people.

HUNT: Have he and the mayor made peace? There a little bit of friction when he refused to cross that police picket line in the mayor's campaign.

MENINO: It wasn't the mayor and John Kerry. Some individuals on the staff who didn't understand the issue and didn't understand this union. This union is not about John Kerry, they're about themselves and that's why I was angry about -- if they care about John Kerry, they take him down the line and let John Kerry go into speak. When he spoke, put the line back up but they didn't. It was all about their issue.

HUNT: Is that group, is that campaign ready to take on the Bush/Cheney juggernaut?

MENINO: Oh, no question about it. I think John Edwards a great addition to this campaign and will give a lot of time to the campaign, bring back some constituencies to John Kerry.

HUNT: Those delegates coming to Boston, advise for them for next week.

MENINO: Enjoy the city. It's a great walking city. You're only 2.5 miles the furthest delegate from any -- from the Fleet Center. Just enjoy our city. It's a walkable city. It's one of the original cities. It's a real city.

HUNT: Mr. Mayor, it's great to be here in Boston. Thank you so much.

MENINO: Thank you. Thank you.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, if he had it all to do over again, given all the headaches and all the complications, do you think Tom Menino would have been just as happy if this convention had come to Detroit?

HUNT: Oh, I think only about 24/7 Mark. I also think he might have been a little happier if the nominee had been the senior senator rather than the junior senator.

SHIELDS: And far more amusing.

HUNT: From the Bay State, but I have a prediction and that is if you can get through the suffocating security of next week, this convention is going to be great for Boston and the reason, as the mayor said, this is one of the great, fascinating cities of the world.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, one of the great fascinating cities of the world?

BOB NOVAK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I love Boston. Tom Menino lives in the real world (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Democratic mayor as he knows that these -- the police and fire fighters' unions are greedy. They're nasty, but the Democratic politicians are so much in hock to organized labor, to special interests, whatever labor does they will do. Tom Menino, I know has crossed picket lines, hasn't bothered him a bit. I belong to three labor unions and I don't mind passing a picket line ever.

SHIELDS: When you take the oath it doesn't mean much. OK, go ahead.

MARGARET CARLSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bob, you enjoy crossing a picket line, don't you? It's fun. It's fun for you.

NOVAK: It doesn't bother me.

CARLSON: Listen, Tom Menino, that's about as warm and fuzzy as he ever gets, but he's just going to stop grousing and switch over to being a total enthusiastic about this convention. Remember, Mayor Ed Rendell hosted a convention in 2000 and he's now governor of Pennsylvania, so Tom Menino.


KATE O'BEIRNE, NATIONAL REVIEW: Boston is a great old city and I'm delighted to be in Boston. My favorite factoid about the police strike, police offices have racked up $100,000 in overtime keeping an eye on other police officers on the picket line. Now that's great if you can pull that off.

SHIELDS: I would just say this, that all the people who have made all the wonderful speeches about the 343 fire fighters who walked into the jaws of death and the fires they held on September 11th, the police who gave their lives, it's nice to see that someone like Mayor Menino is willing to pay them.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, the CAPITAL GANG classic, our pre- convention program from 1992.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. In 1992, as Democrats assembled in New York City for their national convention, the polls showed Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton taking the lead for the very first time with just 28 percent to 26 percent each for President George H.W. Bush and independent candidate Ross Perot. Your CAPITAL GANG discussed this on July 11, 1992 from New York's Madison Square Garden. Our guest was the late Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York.


NOVAK: I can guarantee you that Mr. Clinton is going to start being under attack again very soon now that he's reemerged. I think he has improved himself and should be given credit, but this election's a long way from being over.

LATE SEN. DANIEL PATRICK MOYNIHAN (D) NEW YORK: We are so alike. I mean we are here. This place is going to be rocking for four days. We sense it. We haven't sensed it before for a long time, feeling good.

MONA CHAREN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What killed the Democratic candidate in 1988 was not as everybody is fond of saying, the negative campaign that George Bush ran. It was really what Michael Dukakis was. He was too liberal for the American electorate and with this ticket stronger than last time, yes, is still vulnerable on exactly the same grounds.

SHIELDS: Bill Clinton has to say this is who I am and these are the three things that I want to do and no more, no 33-point program.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about racial healing? How about improving the education system of this country.

HUNT: Fox says if Bill Clinton hasn't been attacked recently. There is no candidate in memory who has withered as many assaults, who has weathered...


HUNT: Bill Clinton did for the first three or four months this year...


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, was it only Pat Moynihan on our program who understood that Bill Clinton was on his way to the White House?

O'BEIRNE: I just have to mention, Daniel Patrick Moynihan of course in '92 was at home in New York, but I think he would have loved the convention in Boston, Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

I think Al Hunt mentioned something very important back then. Bill Clinton was really strengthened, he had put up with all of those charges, womanizing, draft dodging, pot smoking and he had a fairly high unfavorability rating, quite a high unfavorability rating, but he was stronger for having survived all that.

SHIELDS: Bob, he survived it.

NOVAK: That was a three-way tie when we were in Madison Square Garden and if we had a feeling -- we had about 25 percent undecided, and we had a feeling that the campaign was just starting. Right now we feel like the convention is nearly, like the campaign is nearly over and there's just the small amount of undecided votes.

SHIELDS: Margaret?

CARLSON: His presidency was like the campaign, what didn't kill him made him strong. Boy, do I miss Senator Moynihan. There just aren't enough of him left anymore.

HUNT: I just want to join Kate and Margaret on that and I just hope that Terry McCullough, the party chairman will pay tribute this week and this convention will pay tribute to two giants of this party who have left us since the last convention, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Mike Mansfield, two of the great giants in the history of the world's oldest party.

SHIELDS: Amen, brother, amen. Next we go to beyond the beltway in the CAPITAL GANG, from Boston to the Republican convention in the big apple.


SHIELD: Look at that shot. Welcome back. The Republican high command, under criticism for naming too few conservatives to address the national convention in New York next month, named nine additional speakers. They included House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senator Majority leader Bill Frist, as well as two prominent social conservatives, Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas.

Al Hunt, compared to the uninterrupted Democratic unity here, are the fissures and splits in the Republican Party going to become obvious in New York?

HUNT: Well, it's great news for people like Bob Novak and me who have to write a daily column. There's something to write about, but I don't think it will matter much Mark. But I would note that Bob says that the conservatives are proud to be called conservatives. We're going to have Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger and John McCain in prime time. Where's Bill Owens? Where's Chris Cox? Where's John Kyle if they're so proud to be conservatives?

SHIELDS: Good question. Bob.

NOVAK: Of course you didn't understand...


...they are proud to be called conservatives whether they are conservatives or not, I don't know. The Democrats don't want to be called liberals, but they are liberals. I think right today the Democratic Party is such a monolithic, left-wing party, I think the Republican party does have splits. It does have fissures. I think they want to win this election so bad they'll be held together in New York. But if they lose this election, there's going to be a deluge.

CARLSON: Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger and even Governor George Pataki, who's nominating Bush, pro-choice, pro-gay, they don't call themselves conservative Republicans.

NOVAK: They sure do.

CARLSON: Well, I haven't heard it and they surely don't act like conservative Republicans. I mean this is a show, not a party, that's being put on.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, you were one of the people who said, where are the conservative voices? Is this the response to your strong clout within the conservative circles that Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback.

O'BEIRNE: George Bush is presiding over a extremely united Republican party, unlike what his father had in 1992. But I did think that the initial list of featured speakers didn't represent the modern Republican Party. John McCain of course is a hawk on Iraq as is Arnold Schwarzenegger. John McCain is pro-life, but none of them represent the Bush/Cheney ticket as well as Democratic Zell Miller so they've now added I think some Republicans, more conservative Republicans who represent I think far more accurately the modern party.

SHIELDS: Who is a bigger plus for the party involved, Ronald Reagan Jr. speaking to the Democrats or Zell Miller speaking to the Republicans?

NOVAK: Zell Miller, Zell Miller. Ronald Reagan is just a chintzy, sleazy operation, putting the late president's son out addressing the Democratic National Convention. I don't care whether he's talking about stem cell research or anything. His brother Michael made it clear in a radio interview this past week that Ron never even voted for his father. He demonstrated against him. He opposed him. This is a disgrace to the Democrat to give him a...

HUNT: Zell Miller, Zell Miller counts for absolutely nothing. He won't help George Bush at all and I would say to Bob, I agree with you about the Republicans, but let me tell you something. If John Kerry and John Edwards lose, don't think there's going to be any kind of kindergarten party at the Democrats after this election. O'BEIRNE: Ronald Reagan represents nobody, but himself and has always had this troubled relationship with his father. Zell Miller represents why the Kerry/Edwards ticket is not competitive in the south and that is a big story for the Democrats and for Zell Miller.

NOVAK: And he also represents why there's going to be a Republican replacing Zell Miller in the Senate from Georgia.

O'BEIRNE: Much bigger story.

CARLSON: Stem cells are the huge weakness in the Republican Party and I think Ronald Reagan talking about it is going to be a good thing for Democrats. Independents care about it.

SHIELDS: I'd be willing to bet that Ronald Reagan's speech at the Democratic convention gets more coverage than does Zell Miller's at the Republican convention. That's my take on it and I think it probably just shows -- I just hate to hear that kind of harmony on this story.

Al, I don't know how to thank you so I won't. The gang of five is back with the outrages of the week.


SHIELDS: And now for the outrages of the week, this week South Carolina psychiatrist Charles Hamm (ph), who wore an Army uniform for 41 years and is now 67 years old, was called back to active duty. Why? Because of the increased suicide rate in Iraq.

The Army is now forced to call to duty Americans who had signed up to enter the service next year, 43 percent of the American troops in harm's way in Iraq are activated National Guard members and reservists. The all-volunteer military is stretched to the breaking point. War demands truly equality of sacrifice, not more simply tax cuts for tax campaign contributors. Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Former Senator Max Cleland of Georgia was named to give the nominating speech for John Kerry. Cleland has been whining ever since losing for reelection in 2002. He recently said Democrats were quote, flat out lied to about the war in Iraq, end quote and he said the president went to war quote because he could (UNINTELLIGIBLE) daddy was a failed president, so he would be mister macho man by ruining (ph) Saddam Hussein himself, end quote. Is that what John Kerry really wants in his nominating speech or will he censor Max Cleland?

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, the Army investigated itself and this week issued a whitewash, finding its officers blameless in the 40 deaths and 20 homicides at Abu Ghraib and for the sexual abuse and general inhumanity at the prison. It was they say, just a few rotten apples. Torture isn't wrong only because it's wrong. It's that it rarely yields useful information, especially when 95 percent of the Iraqis in prison committed no crimes. It's now left to Senator John Warner, who's resisted White House pressure to drop his investigation to get to the bottom of this.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Some of our front line troops are having their front lines improved at our expense. In the past three years, Army surgeons have performed 496 breast enlargements and over 1300 liposuction surgeries on soldiers and their dependents. Now sure Army surgeons have to practice so they can do reconstructive surgeries on wounded soldiers, but breast enlargements? Drill sergeant used to bark, chest out, shoulders back, stomach in. Now cosmetic surgery makes sure that chest is out.


HUNT: Vice President Cheney in Ohio claimed that 250,000 cap on medical malpractice awards is the panacea for accessible and affordable health care. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office earlier found that such a cap would reduce health insurance premiums by less than 1/2 of 1 percent and the respected Rand Corp. just released its study on what the real effect is of a similar cap in California, mainly that it really hurt severely injured or paralyzed patients like the baby who was left in a vegetative state because of an incorrect breathing tube was not detected.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, let me endorse your outrage tonight. It was just absolutely right. This is truly an outrage to have performing liposuction and breast enlargements.

O'BEIRNE: Right.

SHIELDS: Don't you agree?

CARLSON: Let them go do volunteer surgery, yes.

SHIELDS $417 billion defense budget and you just wonder when we don't have enough for up arming our humvees in Iraq.


SHIELDS: No, you're absolutely right. OK, this is Mark Shields saying good night for the CAPITAL GANG but not good bye. We'll be back throughout the week, live from Boston. Tomorrow night, the gang will be part of America votes 2004, the Democratic National Convention preview edition at 10:00 p.m. with Wolf Blitzer.

Also on Sunday Chris Heinz joins Wolf on "LATE EDITION" at noon Eastern. Stay tuned to CNN all next week for full convention coverage from Boston. Thank you for joining us.


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