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After Democratic Convention Bush, Kerry Start Dualing Bus Tours; Analysis Of Democratic National Convention

Aired July 31, 2004 - 19:00   ET


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

Senator John Kerry concluded the Democratic National Convention Thursday night with a 45-minute acceptance speech.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty.

I will be a commander-in-chief who will never mislead us into war.

I will appoint an attorney general who will uphold the Constitution of the United States.

Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn't make it so.

I want an America that relies on its ingenuity and innovation, not the Saudi royal family.


SHIELDS: The night before, Senator John Edwards accepted the vice presidential nomination.


SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We know what's coming, don't we. More negative attacks. Aren't you sick of it?




EDWARDS: They are doing all they can to take the campaign for the highest office in the land down the lowest possible road.


SHIELDS: Two big hits of the week were the keynote speaker and a losing presidential candidate.


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), SENATE CANDIDATE: There are patriots who oppose the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

REV. AL SHARPTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I suggest to you tonight that if George Bush had selected the court in '54, Clarence Thomas would have never got to law school!


SHIELDS: A "Newsweek" poll with some interviews taken before the Kerry speech shows the Democratic nominee moving from 47 percent to 49 percent in a three-way race and leading President Bush now by 7 points.

Al Hunt, did this convention do everything the Democrats needed?

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: It was about as close to perfect as politicians could hope for out of a convention, Mark. The party presented a united front. They focused on the bigger issues, rather than divisive issues, and they served up some of the most memorable convention speeches ever, probably, particularly Barack Obama on Tuesday night, with his talk about the red states and the blue states.

The John Kerry speech, I suspect, in lore is going to be -- is going to become even better than it actually was, but it was a well- crafted speech. It was powerfully delivered. He struck for him the right notes of biography, set up by his band of brothers, and of strength. I don't know what the polls mean or are going to show right now, but what I do know is this afternoon in conservative Culvert County, Maryland, I was there, and Don of Don's General Store, who gives me a hard time about being a lefty and all those liberals in Washington...

SHIELDS: For good reason.

HUNT: ... told me it was one of the best speeches he'd ever heard in his life.

SHIELDS: Well, Kate O'Beirne, I have to ask you -- John Kerry -- it was not the John Kerry that most of us had heard on the campaign trail. That was a different, animated, engaged John Kerry.

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: He did a good job with that speech. I didn't even have a problem with the speed of it. You know, he was, of course, trying to hit the 11:00 o'clock mark, but I thought he seemed like he was in command of that speech. He owned that speech. So I think we saw him give a better speech than we typically have seen. Now, of course, in a 45-minute speech, this is his fundamental problem, one of his problems, he spent 26 seconds talking about 20 years of his public career. He acted as though he disappeared after 1971, when he testified against the war in the Senate, and reappeared magically 30 years later. But an object of the exercise in Boston was to try to persuade people that he's not a Massachusetts liberal, and of course, his voting record has him No. 1, the most liberal member of the Senate, so he ain't gonna talk about that much, even though he has 45 minutes. Secondly, to be a strong leader, because the president has such a big lead "do best with the war on terror," "who's a strong leader." There, of course, he invoked his own service. But one question to be asked is, What's the lesson he drew from Vietnam? It appears, based on his record in the Senate, the lesson he drew was that he distrusts the use of American power.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, your own -- this was not your first convention. I know that, Bob.


SHIELDS: But your take? I mean, did John Kerry do what he had to do...

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Well, let me -- let me...

SHIELDS: ... Thursday night?

NOVAK: Let me just say I think it was a perfectly deceptive convention. The platform and the presidential nominee's speech skirted all the important issues. Nothing on -- nothing on things that might be negative, like opposition to capital punishment, support for abortion, support for shutting down industry, for global warming. And I thought that Senator Kerry's speech was bits and drabs of his campaign speeches. I thought that was the same Kerry I ever heard. A lot of people didn't like the speech much that I've talked to, who weren't -- more newspaper people who were oohing and ahing over it, or journalists oohing and ahing or the delegates. And I -- I really do feel that he -- they got a very good review on a convention which was -- this is not original, but it was a "Stepford Wives" convention. They were all sitting there, glazed over and cheering on cue.

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Why are there no Stepford husbands, I'd like to know?


CARLSON: I'm looking for one.

SHIELDS: Margaret, I have to ask you one thing I want you to address, I want your answer. But Barack Obama -- I mean, a new message, which was, Unite and conquer...

CARLSON: Yes, unite...

SHIELDS: ... as opposed to divide and conquer. CARLSON: Right. Right. I mean, has there ever been a bigger star born than Barack Obama? And he will win a Senate seat and he will immediately...

NOVAK: Did you ask me that question, was there ever a...

HUNT: Rhetorical, Bob.

CARLSON: Yes. Yes. I don't...


CARLSON: I don't expect...

NOVAK: There is one, but I'll tell you about it later.

CARLSON: ... an answer -- I don't expect an answer. To the extent it was deceptive, a deceptive convention, as you said, Bob, it was just like a Republican convention. In Philadelphia, did anybody think that that was the Republican Party on stage? No. It was a show on stage. It was, you know, minorities up there as if the party had suddenly embraced Affirmative Action. So to that extent, it was perfectly choreographed and came off without a hitch. And Bob Kerrey -- John Kerry looked absolutely presidential. When he walked in the hall as if he was giving the State of the Union address, shaking all those hands, that was a good moment. And then he actually sweated, maybe to prove he was human. And he didn't race through the speech, I agree, the way the pundits would have it because now there's no pausing for applause because there's no time because of the networks. They say they're racing through it, but that's exactly the way a speech should be given.

SHIELDS: Just a couple of quick points. One, the first time ever that this -- I've been to a Democratic convention in 40 years, more generals and admirals on the stage than labor union presidents. I mean, just -- I mean, there were differences. Not once did I hear that the...

HUNT: And big-time generals and admirals.

SHIELDS: ... big-time -- presiding officer have to gavel that crowd to order. They were a very disciplined crowd. They were there for a very serious purpose. They were there to support -- they want to win. There was no doubt about that.

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) do what they're told.

SHIELDS: Well, they submerged -- they submerged their little...


SHIELDS: But Kate, just one final point, and that was the convention reminded me of the 1968 Republican convention, in the sense that the delegates' hearts belonged to Howard Dean. There's no question about it. Their votes were to John Kerry. It was a practical decision. They want to win, just as in '68, I think Ronald Reagan had the hearts of many people in that Miami Beach convention and Dick Nixon had their -- had their votes.

O'BEIRNE: This party has come a long way since the Florida recount in 2000, they were trying to throw out overseas military ballots. That's all in the distant past. And yes, he does have those flag officers who were up there. But if this election is to be a referendum on the part of veterans, even Vietnam veterans, or overall veterans, I think the Bush campaign would take that in a heartbeat, and I think the Kerry campaign would rather it not be...


HUNT: But not nearly as much as they did before, Kate, but he's going to certainly close any gap there. And let me just go to your point. I think that -- talk about Kerry's vulnerabilities. His Senate record was, at best, average. There is no question...

O'BEIRNE: And liberal!

HUNT: No, let me also point out to you that George Bush had an eminently forgettable record as governor of Texas, unlike a John Engler or a Tommy Thompson, and didn't -- it didn't impede him. I think the Massachusetts liberal rap is just not going to stick. Flip- flop is a problem, but that's just not going to...

NOVAK: I think -- I think you got to have to say, just briefly...


NOVAK: ... that the tremendous attention for that whole convention, Thursday night, for the whole convention, on his four months in Vietnam is -- is...

HUNT: He was there longer than that.

NOVAK: It was four months and a few days.

HUNT: Yes, second tour.

NOVAK: That's all.

HUNT: Second tour. Second tour.

NOVAK: It was just extraordinary. Extraordinary!

SHIELDS: I just -- all I can say is I look forward to New York, where George Bush's crewmates will undoubtedly appear on the stage with him.

THE GANG of five will be back with a look ahead to Kerry versus Bush.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. As soon as the convention ended, President Bush and Senator Kerry hit the campaign trail, bashing each other.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After 19 years in the United States Senate, my opponent has had thousands of votes but very few signature achievements. During eight years on the Senate Intelligence Committee, he voted to cut the intelligence budget, and he had no record of reforming America's intelligence- gathering capability.

KERRY: We're both so tired, as you are, of politicians who run around and they throw this pablum at you, and you get these 30-second negative advertisements, one-minute negative advertisements. Everybody's busy trying to destroy each other, when what we're really trying to do is build up the United States of America and take this country somewhere better.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, can we expect anything but a negative slugfest ahead?



HUNT: Amen.

O'BEIRNE: Now, look, Mark, there -- both candidates are going to be laying out an agenda. The president's beginning to lay out his agenda for a second term this month. John Kerry did some of that at the convention. He wants to raise taxes. He was pretty clear about one of the central things he'd want to do if he was elected. But the candidates are going to go after and criticize each other's records. The difference, it seems to me, we've seen in Boston and since is that President Bush is not running away from his, he's running on his record, and John Kerry is sure as heck running away from his Senate record. But he has to continue going after Bush. Only 40 percent of, according to the polls, John Kerry's supporters are actually pro- Kerry. The majority are anti-Bush, as opposed to over 80 percent of the president's supporters being pro-Bush. So he knows it's the anti- Bush stuff that got him there. He's going to keep up the anti-Bush stuff. He's just going to pretend he's being positive while he slams Bush.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, I mean, Bush-bashing was really very much under control in Boston. Do you think Kerry-bashing...

CARLSON: Totally. It's like pent-up emotion...

SHIELDS: Yes, do you think Kerry-bashing will be excluded from New York?

CARLSON: I wonder! But you know, I think Bush should run away from his record because it's -- it's not very good. And as long as the 9/11 report is out there and as long as troops are continuing to die in Iraq, I don't think Kerry has to do that much Bush-bashing because the record speaks for itself.

As far as, you know, Kerry exciting people, yesterday he had 20,000 people in my home town in central Pennsylvania. You do not get out 20,000 people there...


CARLSON: ... in the heat of July, Mark. I'll tell you!



NOVAK: What town is that?

CARLSON: It's Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where Bush has been 30 times. He's been to Pennsylvania, trying to win it. But the unemployment there also again speaks for itself. And I think that that and the fact that a lot of troops come from Pennsylvania, there are a lot of bases there, makes Pennsylvania Kerry country.

SHIELDS: Kerry country! Bob Novak?

NOVAK: I think Pennsylvania's going to be really hard for President Bush to win. He's fairly far behind there now. Mark, the president's speeches in the last two days have been going back on the Senate record of Kerry, which is very liberal, and the team -- the Republican team that was in Boston kept saying, When are you going to talk about his record? I don't think that works very well, going over his record. They're right, it's a very liberal record. He voted against defense, voted against intelligence. I don't think that goes over all that well.

I think the real problem that Kerry may have made for himself is the fact -- this emphasis on his Vietnam service. I think he opened a door there. I think there are people who think -- who question his Vietnam service. Some of the people -- some veterans are there. There's already a veterans' Web site out, questioning the caliber of that service, some of his -- some of his decorations. That's a dangerous path that the Bush strategists don't want to take, but I think it's going to come out anyway. And -- because I think it is an extraordinary -- I've never seen it in politics, to have that emphasis on something, on a short span of time that happened so long ago and just wipe away everything that's happened since.

SHIELDS: Al, I think it would be a fool's errand to go after John Kerry's military service, especially after Bill Clinton's line in Boston, which was, Privileged people have figured out ways not to go to Vietnam, including the vice president, the president and me. And John Kerry said, Send me. Now, that -- boy, oh, boy, I thought that was a...

CARLSON: That was a great...

SHIELDS: ... one of the -- one of the major...

CARLSON: ... a great line.

SHIELDS: ... lines of the whole week.

HUNT: That's a briar patch that John Kerry would love to be thrown into. I want to tell you something, Bob. I think Karl Rove's hand is involved in this. I don't think there's a split between the people who are trying to raise the issue and the White House on this. And I think it's going to backfire tremendously.

NOVAK: You know that?

HUNT: I talked to Bob Kerrey, Senator Bob Kerrey, Medal of Honor winner, who said, Just let them try. I can't wait to get out there and take them on on this. And he was really angry when he said that. So I think it'd be a huge mistake on their part.

I think the fundamentals of this race clearly are with John Kerry. Most people in America want change. They don't think that this is a very good record. And I don't think Bush is running on his record. We saw from that clip earlier, he's running that the other guy's a bum. That is his only hope. A state like Pennsylvania -- I agree with Bob and Margaret. You look at -- one test, Mark. Look at Gore's vote in 2000. I can't think of a single block in Pennsylvania where Kerry's going to do worse than Al Gore did...


HUNT: ... in 2000, exactly. And I would say the one worry I would have, if it ends up a close election, I think it is -- the Kerry campaign team's pretty good, but they got to fill in some gaps there to take on this Bush team. They are very, very good.

SHIELDS: One thing that surprised me this week, Bob, was that the -- in Florida, the whole electronic voting fiasco and debate raged, and Governor Bush said, Oh, it's OK. Don't you worry about it, even though there's no record, while the Republicans in Dade County are saying, Vote absentee, which suggests that maybe Florida's not flawless.

NOVAK: I think there are plans under way by the Democrats to try to steal this election...


NOVAK: ... in Florida. No, I think they are, and I have some -- some factual material which will come out in...

CARLSON: Oh, sure.

NOVAK: ... in due -- in due course because the plans are being laid, have been laid for four years. But I do believe this, that the -- Kate said it, that there is a -- there is a tremendous amount of spending that's being laid out in this program, and no way to spend it. You can -- you can tax Al Hunt and the rich people all you want, there's not enough blood in that turnip to finance it.

HUNT: You don't think Republicans would want to steal this election, do you, Bob?

CARLSON: Mark...

NOVAK: I haven't seen it yet.

HUNT: Yes, just -- just the Democrats who want to steal it. I just want to get that on the record.

CARLSON: And by the way, if Republicans do attack Kerry's record of service, I think you'll see Senator John McCain won't be hugging Bush much longer.

O'BEIRNE: Look, John McCain is not going to defend him smearing everybody who served in Vietnam by accusing them of war crimes!


HUNT: John McCain has already said -- and I want to quote to you, Kate...


HUNT: ... "John Kerry earned the right to dissent on the war"...

SHIELDS: Yes, he did! Yes, he did!


HUNT: That's exactly what Wes Clark said, too -- General Wesley Clark.


O'BEIRNE: He slandered...


SHIELDS: General Wesley Clark...

HUNT: ... what they said.

SHIELDS: ... Admiral Al Hunt, Gunnery Sergeant Shields...

Next on CAPITAL GANG, winners and losers at the Fleet Center.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Winners and losers of the Democratic national convention -- Bob, who was the big winner in Beantown?

NOVAK: Barack Obama, the biggest working (ph) debut since William Jennings Bryan in 1896. They want Obama to run for president. He may do the party as much damage as Bryan did it.

SHIELDS: Margaret?

CARLSON: Al Gore, the comeback vice president, who was -- who's given a few very harsh speeches, but with great grace reminded us that every vote counts.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne?

O'BEIRNE: Michael Moore is a big winner, enthusiastically embraced for his vicious anti-American propaganda!


O'BEIRNE: He was a rock star in Boston! Sat with former president Jimmy Carter. He, of course, tells Europeans all the time Americans are the stupidest people on the planet! Well, they were smart enough to kick out Jimmy Carter!

HUNT: Vanessa and Alexandra Kerry. They were poised, funny...

SHIELDS: Two daughters.

HUNT: ... eloquent and moving and a great tribute to their parents.

SHIELDS: I'll tell you who the big winner was in Boston. In spite of the Cassandra-like prophecies of some conservative syndicated pundits, Senator Max Cleland gave a stirring introduction, and General Wesley Clark gave a wonderful warm-up speech, as well. Two great speeches by -- go ahead. Who was the big loser, Bob?

NOVAK: Big loser was President Jimmy Carter. He proved to be an 80-year-old mean-spirited old man. He had a -- they had to tone down his speech twice. Even the third version, he was personally abusive of President Bush.

CARLSON: Oh, he's a wonderful ex-president, Bob.

HUNT: That's right, Margaret.

CARLSON: The balloon drop. Don Mischer (ph), this great Emmy Award producer, found that the balloons weren't dropping. There was an open mike. He said, Go balloons. Move the balloons. All the balloons, and then said the F word. But it's now OK because Dick Cheney says if it makes you feel better, you're allowed to use it.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne?

O'BEIRNE: Men and women in uniform with a mission were losers. The only speaker who actually praised our armed forces for liberating Afghanistan and Iraq was Joe Lieberman. The liberation word was the other L word, along with liberal, that you couldn't speak in Boston.


HUNT: The three big television networks, Mark, who didn't even broadcast... SHIELDS: You are so right!

HUNT: ... Barack Obama's speech. As Jay Leno said, the networks commit less -- one tenth the time that they commit to "American Idol."

SHIELDS: Boy, oh, boy. I'll tell you who the big loser was, this guy John O'Neill (ph), this sour veteran who wants to go after Kerry. I'll tell you, Bob, if the Republicans follow that pursuit, that line, they are going to lose, and it's going to be -- we won't need any recount. We won't need any Supreme Court this time.


NOVAK: ... young fellow on the Dick Cavett show. I thought he was a lot more attractive than young John Kerry.

SHIELDS: Did you really, Bob?


O'BEIRNE: ... defending his colleagues...


SHIELDS: Was he your kind of guy, Bob?

HUNT: You were the only person...

NOVAK: ... defending his comrades!

HUNT: You were about the only person...


HUNT: ... who thought he won that debate.

NOVAK: There were a few others who carried 49 states for...


HUNT: Chuck Colson. That's right.

O'BEIRNE: I thought he won that debate.

NOVAK: I just -- I just want to say something about Barack Obama that wasn't clear. You know, I wasn't at the convention where William Jennings Bryan did his...

HUNT: No, you weren't.

NOVAK: ... cross of gold speech. But they nominated him three times. He was a loser three times. I had people tell me, We're going to nominated Barack Obama for president. He's the most left-wing member of the Illinois legislature. I hope they do it.

HUNT: Bob, as he said, they go and they send their -- they pray in the blue states and they send their kids to ballgames in the -- and they go to Cub Scouts in the blue states...

O'BEIRNE: I thought he gave...

HUNT: ... as well as the red states.

O'BEIRNE: ... an excellent speech, but it was not a speech that any member of the Congressional Black Caucus would ever give. In fact, he actually disagrees with John Edwards. Barack Obama, to his credit, thinks we're one America. What's going to happen to him -- and he looks like an extremely talented political figure -- he's going to go to the Senate, and within years will have a very liberal voting record which will make him a less attractive political prospect.

HUNT: Oh, Kate, there's more...

SHIELDS: Boy, I got to tell you...

HUNT: ... to politics than ideology alone.

SHIELDS: ... listening to Kate and Bob, I got to tell you, it's five minutes to midnight. I mean, things are so bad, I don't know what we're going to do!

CARLSON: I think the Kerry campaign, having listened to this, is just saying, Bring it on. Let's go back to Vietnam.

SHIELDS: Thank you, Sergeant Carlson!

Coming up in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG, the latest news headlines. "The CAPITAL GANG "Classic" goes back to the '92 election. "Beyond the Beltway" visits Colorado to question whether a member of the Coors family can move straight from the brewery to the U.S. Senate. And Robert Novak "On the Beat," covering his 23rd national political convention, a conservative beat behind liberal lines.




SHIELDS: Thank you, Carol Lin, and welcome back to the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG.

Our own Robert Novak has been covering political conventions since Hector was a pup, or for over 40 years, his first Democratic convention in Los Angeles in 1960. Here he is in 1968 at the Democratic convention in Chicago. This week he reported from Boston on his 23rd convention.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wyoming's vote will make the majority for Senator Kennedy.

NOVAK (voice-over): The delegates that nominated John F. Kennedy in 1960 sure look different, older, more men, more coats and ties. That doesn't mean the Democrats have gone down scale.

Now they come out of the brie and Chablis set. One poll shows 42 percent of this year's delegates earn more than $100,000 a year and 14 percent are millionaires. They are not your old familiar politicians.

On the floor, I bumped into Congressman Sandy Levin of Michigan who has been going to these conventions as long as I have. He said he once could roam the floor and meet lots of old political comrades. Now he doesn't know anybody. Neither do I.

The delegates seem to me more passive, more easily controlled, not apt to make a fuss over the platform in the ferocious Democratic tradition. They are quieter, more willing to stay in their seats, to get out of the aisles when the marshals say so.

And the music, no more "Happy Days are Here Again," no more band music, no more marching bands coming out of nowhere to lead demonstrations, no more floor demonstrations. Today's delegates don't have the fun they did in the old days. They don't really have much to do and they do what they're told.


NOVAK: I spent less time on the convention floor than formerly partly because at age 73 it's too hard on my legs. Some delegates asked what I was doing on the floor of a Democratic convention but most were polite, nice people with nothing to do but cheer on cue.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, do you agree with Bob Novak's assessment of this year's Democratic delegates?

CARLSON: No. Listen, conventions are set pieces now. They're choreographed. When they come off well the party comes off well. I have never seen you so annoyed, and that's saying something, as you were this past week at the fact that, hey, everybody was happy. Happy days were there again.

SHIELD: Kate O'Beirne, I've never heard Bob Novak complain over any group earning more than $42,000.

NOVAK: A hundred thousand.

SHIELD: A hundred thousand, 42 percent earning $100,000 a year.

CARLSON: And 14 percent are millionaires. You must have felt at home.

SHIELDS: Your people.

O'BEIRNE: Look at the issues that the liberals in that -- among the delegates, the delegates were overwhelmingly liberal, look at the fate of the issues they care most passionately about, gun control, abortion, gay marriage, race preferences, liberal judges, all banned in Boston. Not one of those issues mentioned during prime time.

What does the Kerry campaign think? They think they're all loser issues. They're right actually. So, it was a whole mirage. They were all pretending to be something they're not, which is mainstream, culturally conservative voters. That's not them.


HUNT: That's a caricature of what they believe. They believe first and foremost about decent jobs for most Americans and about whether you send people to war or not. They do have different views on that.

O'BEIRNE: Those are not their passionate issues.

HUNT: They do care about those issues quite passionately. Look, I agree with Bob that it would be nice to hear "Happy Days are Here Again." I think that's a wonderful song. I missed it a lot. But, Bob, you know, there hasn't been -- every convention has been scripted over the last 30 years.

NOVAK: Not like this one.

HUNT: Over the last 30 years. The only suspense we've had in the last 30 years was the 1976 Republican convention in Kansas City but because of the television networks, Mark, I think they're probably going to have to think about changes and maybe have conventions the Friday, Saturday, Sunday beforehand and Monday and Tuesday (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SHIELDS: Interesting. The 1972 Republican convention in Miami Beach, Bob, you remember that, that was down to every microsecond for goodness sakes.

NOVAK: But this is the great Democratic party.

SHIELDS: The 2000 Republicans.

NOVAK: The party of Jackson. I mean, you know, these are people who are...


NOVAK: Andrew Jackson. My reporter, Tim Carney, talked, spent a lot more time on the floor than I did. He says, and the little time I spent I confirmed it, the people, the things these people were interested in were judges, judges to go for gay rights, civil rights and all that and they wouldn't even let them. They didn't even mention them.

SHIELDS: They're interested in winning, Bob, and that's what drove you bananas.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, the CAPITAL GANG closet, we'll turn back time to our post convention program to 1992 when the Democrats first nominated Bill Clinton.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

The Democratic National Convention in New York 12 years ago nominated Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton for president and Senator Al Gore of Tennessee for vice president.

The CNN-Time poll showed a huge bounce for the Clinton-Gore ticket coming out of the Madison Square Garden leading Bush-Quayle by 20 percentage points. Your CAPITAL GANG discussed this on July 18, 1992. Our guest was chief Clinton campaign strategist the unassuming James Carville.


SHIELDS: Sometimes post convention polls are written like the figures in the sand at the edge of the water's edge but this time it's different. These are chiseled in cement. He might go to 65.

NOVAK: I would say President Bush has huge troubles. He's a very unpopular person. This is very shaky Democratic coalition that we have now that could come apart. But I'll tell you, if I had the two sets of problems to choose from, I'd rather have the Democrats' problems than the Republicans.

HUNT: The last four elections the Democrats were up an average of ten points after the convention was over and they lost by an average of eight points. Now that means if you take that CNN poll it's going to be almost a dead heat. I think that may be fairly accurate.

CARVILLE: The Perot people wanted change. That was what the Perot phenomenon was about. They wanted to change the country and the Clinton-Gore ticket represents change and that's why I said it used to be two change candidates and one status quo candidate.


SHIELDS: James Carville put his finger on it that Ross Perot had pulled out and that obviously inflated it. But 65 percent, what was I drinking that night, Bob? He didn't get 65 in the two elections. I guess he did. He got 92 in two elections. Go ahead.

NOVAK: You know, I think in that program 12 years ago we were all much more certain that that President Bush was going to lose than this one is. I think most people think he's going to lose but they're not quite sure and Al thought it was going to be a dead heat.

HUNT: Close. Close. Yes.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne you weren't here but how foolish did we look?

O'BEIRNE: It seems to me I thought you all looked stunning, Mark. The most interesting thing it seems to me to note about 1992 was that Zell Miller was the keynoter for Bill Clinton, who was running as a moderate southern governor. Zell Miller, of course, has endorsed George Bush. He's so disgusted with his fellow Democrats. SHIELDS: I'd be willing to bet that Zell Miller is not going to have much competition to be chairman of Democrats for Bush but go ahead, Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: I think Bob was right and it has some applicability this time because I think Bush -- Bush's problems are far worse than Kerry's. Kerry can run on service to his country and that he would do a better job keeping us safe from al Qaeda. He will finish the job in Afghanistan against al Qaeda and Bush has to run on his record, which is, as I said earlier in the show, just not something you want to defend.

SHIELDS: Last word Margaret Carlson. Next on capital -- I'm sorry.

HUNT: I'd like to associate myself, Mark, if I may totally with what Margaret Carlson just said.


HUNT: No. I'm just going to absolutely say amen to Margaret and we will quote Bob Novak in '92. I'd much rather have the Democrats' problems than the Republican problems.


NOVAK: Since they've been (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SHIELDS: I told you not to do that. Don't mention his name, personal privilege.

NOVAK: I don't take that position this time. I think they both have problems but they're about even. I don't know which side is tougher.

HUNT: Carlson said it best.

SHIELDS: Mea culpa, Al.

HUNT: Oh, that's OK. There's nothing personal.

SHIELDS: How could I do that? It was personal.

CAPITAL GANG "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the Colorado Senate race. We'll be joined by Gwen Florio of the "Rocky Mountain News."


SHIELDS: Here we come. Welcome back.

With Republican Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell not seeking reelection in Colorado this year brewery owner Pete Coors is seeking the GOP nomination in his very first run for public office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COORS: I learned about business from the ground up, from sweeping floors to running the company. I'm Pete Coors. I'm a Colorado businessman, a jobs creator.


SHIELDS: Until Coors entered the race, former Congressman Bob Schaeffer appeared to be the Republican nominee. In an earlier debate, Schaeffer asked Coors if he agreed with Paul Martin, the Prime Minister of Canada that the U.S. borders should be opened to Canadian beef.


COORS: I don't know Paul Martin's whole position on this issue. I'm not sure I know who Paul Martin is.

SCHAEFFER: What I'm disappointed and shocked about is that you don't know who Paul Martin is. When you walk on the floor of the United States Senate, friends, you need to know who the prime minister of Canada is.


SHIELDS: Colorado Attorney General ken Salazar is the favorite to win the Democratic nomination and the Senate seat itself.


SALAZAR: For too long there have been two Colorados. No matter who you are, no matter where you're from, you ought to be able to live the American dream.


SHIELDS: The Tarrance Group's mid-July poll taken (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the Coors campaign showed a 19-point Coors lead over Schaeffer in the Republican primary.

Joining us from Denver now is reporter Gwen Florio of the "Rocky Mountain News." Thank you for coming in, Gwen.


SHIELDS: Gwen, does that 19-point lead for Pete Coors seem realistic and does his universal name recognition make him an unbeatable general election candidate?

FLORIO: You know a couple weeks ago I would have said, especially considering that the poll was done for the Coors campaign, I would have said that seemed fairly optimistic but in the lat week, Coors has just spent megabucks on television advertising. He's written a check of $400,000 of his own money, so I think that's going to give him quite an edge over Schaeffer.

SHIELDS: And in the fall? FLORIO: In the fall, Salazar, all the polls are still showing him running pretty well ahead.

SHIELDS: OK. Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Gwen, the former governor -- former Senator Bill Armstrong was very popular among conservative Republicans.

FLORIO: Right.

NOVAK: Has been waging this campaign against Coors. Is the conservative movement, the grassroots conservatives, are they really anti-Coors considering all the old connections with the right wing of the Republican Party by the Coors family?

FLORIO: You know, it's pretty interesting that we've managed to find someone who can come out as more conservative than a son of Joe Coors but Schaeffer has done that mostly with ads financed by Armstrong sort of pointing out Coors' positions saying that people ages 18 to 21 should legally be able to drink. He's called the Coors beer ads pornographic that sort of thing.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Gwen, Colorado is reliably a Republican state for the most part but this year it's looking a little different and Ken Salazar is a very strong Democratic candidate for the Senate.

FLORIO: Right.

CARLSON: Can he pull Kerry along in Colorado?

FLORIO: Well, that's what we're all sort of wondering and given how much both campaigns, both presidential campaigns have already advertised here, so it's looking like that's a possibility.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Gwen, Joe Coors has no public record.

SHIELDS: Pete Coors.

O'BEIRNE: Pete Coors, unlike Bob Schaeffer who was a pretty popular Congressman, so Pete Coors has said that there's not much disagreement on the issues between myself and Bob Schaeffer. How are primary voters on the Republican side going to choose between this veteran and businessman?

FLORIO: Well, again, I think that's where all the advertising comes in. I think in the last week alone you could watch Coors ads on TV 300 times in one week just in the three Denver television stations and I think he's going to use his huge name recognition and his, you know, his big wallet to put him over.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt. HUNT: Gwen, I usually found that people who run for political office for the first time and they aim high aren't very good candidates. Ronald Reagan was the notable exception. I looked at that ad earlier where Pete Coors said, "I worked from the ground floor up sweeping the floors." That's the funniest thing I've heard since Pierre DuPont IV said he was a populist. Tell me about Pete Coors. Does he understand this game? Is he real?

FLORIO: You know, he -- in his ads and in person he's sort of a very low key affable guy. In debates he stumbled, as you saw with that Paul Martin clip, pretty badly and pretty consistently and that's where I think he's got his biggest problem. He's not a seasoned campaigner.

SHIELDS: Gwen, tell us if you would about Ken Salazar's Democratic opponent whose sort of a gad fly but sort of intriguing, isn't he?

FLORIO: Intriguing is a good word and he's sort of the Howard Dean of Colorado. His followers are just kind of rabid in their intensity. They love the guy and so he's actually managed to become more of a presence than popular wisdom would have dictated.

SHIELDS: Go ahead quickly.

NOVAK: Gwen, here in Washington, the Democrats have already sworn in Ken Salazar to the Senate but it seems to me that a Coors running in Colorado you can't really call that a lay down for Salazar, can you?

FLORIO: No, of course not but Salazar is, you know, he's held statewide office now for a couple of, you know, a couple of terms. He's very popular. He's very moderate and he hasn't had to spend any money yet.


FLORIO: He's been able to kind of sit back and relax.

SHIELDS: Thank you so much Gwen Florio. The Gang will be back with the "Outrage of the Week."


SHIELDS: And now for the outrage of the convention. Speaker after speaker at the Democratic convention paid tribute to Boston as the birthplace of American dissent where courageous revolutionaries led the young nation's opposition to the British Empire first spoke truth to power.

Protest in Boston last week was restricted to a remote no man's land underneath the interstate highway surrounded by razor wire and remote from most delegates and the press. This from Democrats, the political party that offers itself as the defenders of the First Amendment, they dared to call it the free speech zone. Bob Novak. NOVAK: At the Democratic convention, Planned Parenthood made clear it is not merely pro choice. It's pro abortion, seen at the Fleet Center a young woman wearing tee shirts with lettering "I had an abortion."

They're for sale on Planned Parenthood's website for $15. "I had an abortion" is also the title of a documentary featuring women who don't regret having abortions. The documentary maker says abortion is safe, legal and very common, so much for politicians who say they want to make it rare. That's not what their supporters want.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, the Democratic convention police vetted and scrubbed very speech until they were flat as pancakes, bad enough, but then when Al Sharpton invoked the late, blind Ray Charles, who like so many had to trust that America was beautiful and played the song, the most moving moment of the evening, all the pundit police can talk about was how he disobeyed the rules. I say bravo, reverend. Now if you just apologize for Tawana Brawley, you can come back into the family of man.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: This week John Kerry's passionate progressive supporters let loose all over Boston but the Fleet Center was a liberal crackpot free zone. The hateful tirades delegates loved was strictly off camera.

At a Tuesday forum, Howard Dean said the Bush administration: "Is an administration where they like book burning better than reading books." He did counsel Democrats not to call the president a fascist saying, "You're not supposed to do that this week anyway." When's the right time to call the president of the United States a brown-shirted book burner, Howard?


HUNT: A political party needs institutional memory. Two of the most influential and profoundly good Democrats of the past generation or any other generation, Michael Joseph Mansfield and Daniel Patrick Moynihan died since the last Democratic convention yet they were only cited in a brief litany of many Democrats who had passed away since then. They deserved a more special tribute from the world's oldest political party which they both served so magnificently.

SHIELDS: Amen, Al Hunt.

This is Mark Shields saying goodnight for THE CAPITAL GANG.

Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS: BORN TO RUN," a John Kerry profile.

And at 9:00 p.m. on "LARRY KING LIVE" an encore interview with former President Bill Clinton and at 10:00 p.m. the latest news headlines. Thank you for joining us.


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