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President Bush Unrolls Plan To Move Troops From Germany, South Korea; Should Alan Keyes Have Entered Senate Race In Illinois? Bill McCollum, Betty Caster Favorites To Win Respective Primaries In Florida Senate Race

Aired August 21, 2004 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Kate O'Beirne. Our guest is John Podesta, former chief of staff of the White House for President Bill Clinton and now president of the Center for American Progress. Good to have you back, John.


SHIELDS: President Bush used the VFW convention as a forum to announce a major withdrawal of troops from South Korea and Germany.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The new plan will help us fight and win these wars of the 21st century. Over the next 10 years, we will bring home about 60,000 to 70,000 uniformed personnel.


SHIELDS: Senator Kerry responded at the same VFW convention two days later.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Nobody wants to bring troops home more than those of us who have fought in foreign wars. But it needs to be done at the right time and in a sensible way.

Why are we withdrawing unilaterally 12,000 troops from the Korean peninsula at the very time that we are negotiating with North Korea...


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, are both presidential candidates perhaps playing some politics with troop withdrawals?

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Mark, on this one, I've got to say, one side clearly is. Don Rumsfeld, secretary of defense, has been talking about redeploying troops stationed overseas for the past -- for years it's been in the works. A third of a quarter of a million troops around the world are going to be redeployed elsewhere. Sixty years after the end of World War II, over a dozen years since the Soviet Union fell, we still have tens of thousands of troops in Germany to keep Germans down and the Soviets out. The public's attitude is no doubt what's taken us so long.

And here's John Kerry, who not three weeks ago was saying, I'm pulling my -- the troops out of Iraq, and saying it's now possible to remove troops from South Korea and Europe, doing a complete flip-flop in the interest of disagreeing with George Bush.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, we do know something about North Korea. They do have weapons of mass destruction. They do have nuclear weapons. What kind of a signal does it send? Because these are the first ones we're withdrawing. We've already taken 3,500, 3,600 out, sent them to Iraq. Going to bring 12,500 out of Korea.

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Mark, if you've been listening to me at this table for years, and I know you do, you'd know that I was for taking the troops out of Korea a long time ago, and everybody said I was wrong. I think we're long overdue on getting these troops out of Germany and Korea. It's just ridiculous. It's senseless to think that this is somehow dangerous to take them out of Korea. I think you can make an argument -- and it was debated, I understand, at the Pentagon -- whether taking them out of Germany takes a -- makes an airlift problem on getting them into the Middle East. That may be a problem.

But the thing that bothers me about this -- I think it's the right decision, but they might have done it for the wrong reason because I know one of the reasons that they did it was that it eases off the pressure on base closing in the United States.

SHIELDS: That's right.

NOVAK: And that is just -- we have too many bases in the United States. That's doing the right thing for the wrong reason, and that's playing to the professional politicians in Congress, where there's a bipartisan agreement to waste money on unessentially bases.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, your take on this? Germany does pick up part of our tab, and it is -- I mean, you look at the trouble spots of the Balkans, Afghanistan and the Middle East -- I mean, Germany's a lot closer to them than is the United States.

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: Well, yes. I have several problems. This is not to save money. I mean, no one suggests that. It's actually going to cost money. And there's a strategic disconnect. I mean, if we're going to be the policemen of the world, which this administration certainly suggests we're going to be, far more than Bob Novak would like and probably even more than I would like, I don't quite understand how this makes sense.

Don Rumsfeld, of course, three years ago, Kate, wanted to cut two divisions from the Army. We know what a disaster that would have been. And Bob, you have been consistent on North Korea and troops there. You've been consistently wrong. I think the message this sends to the North Korean dictator is a very -- he's given us nothing. He's been nothing but trouble, and now we're going to reward him with what he wants. We're going to take out 12,000 troops. I don't understand that.

SHIELDS: Bring some semblance of rationality to this discussion, will you, John?

PODESTA: Well, it's August, right before the election. I think that this plan has been gathering dust at the Pentagon for several months, at least. And I think it was intended to send a signal that at some point, troops would be coming home. Now, that is going to be 2009, 2010 under this plan, but I think that that was an important signal for the president to send.

But you know, the signal it sent to Kim Jong Il was one that we're withdrawing from the Korean peninsula. The signal that it sent to our allies is that we're reducing our commitment to NATO. It gives them a free ride when we're also asking them to make their commitment good in Afghanistan and to do more in Iraq.

O'BEIRNE: Twenty-five thousand troops will remain in South Korea. They were never intended to be a deterrent force. How could they be against a million armed North Koreans? They're intended to be a trip-wire, and 25,000 U.S. troops can serve that function as well as 37,000.

And about Germany -- to keep tens of thousands of American troops there, and their families, more vulnerable in Germany to terrorist attacks, I might say, than bringing them home here, in order, which was John Kerry's argument, not to annoy the Europeans -- I wouldn't want to be making that case to the American public, who, as I said, has been wondering, Why are they there 60 years after the end of World War II?

NOVAK: Let me -- let me add to what Kate said about Senator Kerry changing his position. On April 2 on the Stephanopoulos program on ABC, he said, I think we can significantly change the deployment of troops, in the Korean peninsula perhaps, in Europe perhaps. I mean, how -- how can you be so shameless to have put this forth? He wasn't asked about it. He volunteered -- from these two places -- and now he's as bad as Al Hunt in misunderstanding the power realities of Korea.

O'BEIRNE: It helps to have no shame! That's the answer, Bob.

SHIELDS: Al? You've been -- your name has been used here and (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

HUNT: A matter of personal privilege?

SHIELDS: Yes, personal privilege.

HUNT: Well, look, Bob's always had a soft spot...

SHIELDS: Don't say Bob!


HUNT: Bob has always had a soft spot for Kim Jong Il. We know that.


HUNT: He thinks he's a closet supply-sider. But Bob, I think it was John's publication that said that -- that called this a "preemptive concession." That's exactly what it is!

SHIELDS: Preemptive concession? That's good.

NOVAK: Well, John, how -- how do you...

SHIELDS: No, Bob -- Bob, Bob, Bob...

NOVAK: How do you explain what the -- what Kerry said?


PODESTA: Look, I think that there's -- you know, if you do this in a sensible, orderly way, I think, particularly in Europe, by the way, I think we're on the opposite side of that, and project some greater force into some of our new allies in Eastern Europe makes sense. But doing it now is political, and it's -- you know, it's no...


SHIELDS: Let's be very candid in closing. This is -- there is great restlessness, great unhappiness among military families in this country, and this was a signal, We're going to bring people home.

John Podesta and THE GANG will be back with the continuing debate over John Kerry's war record.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

John Kerry responded personally and in his television ads to attacks on his war record.


KERRY: Over the last week, a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has been attacking me. Of course, this group isn't interested in the truth. They're not telling the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people attacking John Kerry's war record are funded by Bush's big money supporters.


SHIELDS: Two new ads were released this week.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Bush used his father to get into the National Guard, was grounded and then went missing. Now he's allowing false advertising that attacks John Kerry.

KERRY: ... randomly shot at civilians...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it hurt me more than any physical wounds I had that...

KERRY: ... cut off limbs, blown up bodies...


SHIELDS: "The Washington Post" reported that an award citation report referred to enemy fire in an action in which Lieutenant Kerry had won the Bronze Star. This was contrary to criticism from a fellow swift boat commander, Larry Thurlow.


LARRY THURLOW, SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH: At no time were we under fire then. This isn't true.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, is either candidate winning this debate?

HUNT: Mark, I've been in Alaska for the last two weeks, and I want to tell Kate and Bob, you know, rest assured that that state's going to remain in the red column. So I want you to feel a little bit better right now today.

But I will say this. If this election's going to be fought over what these two sons of privilege did in the late '60s, it's going to be a Kerry landslide. I think both "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" since I've gotten back have documented the total fraudulent -- what a totally fraudulent campaign this is against Kerry. Charges are fabricated. Guys changed their stories. They're riddled with inconsistency. And they don't square with both the naval records, and in some cases, their own previous statements.

The co-author of the book, it ends up, is a vicious -- is a -- of the anti-Kerry book is a vicious bigot. And there's more than passing connections to some people who've been associated with President Bush.

So I think if they want to debate John Kerry on national security, that's obviously very legit. If they want to debate what John Kerry said when he came back from Vietnam, I can disagree with them, but that's very legit. But to pretend that he is not a -- was not an honorable and heroic veteran in Vietnam is a big lie.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, President Bush says that, you know, he honors John Kerry's service, that it was honorable. These ads really go after that. O'BEIRNE: Yes. Right. As the Democrats never stop reminding us, George Bush wasn't in Vietnam. These 60 people who served directly with John Kerry think he's unfit to command, versus the 13 people who served with him who think he is. They've certainly got the numbers on their side -- 254 overall who were in Vietnam with John Kerry condemn his service. Both Vietnam records -- this is just getting worse for John Kerry. The only one who's most conspicuously changed his story is John Kerry himself. He has famously talked about his Christmas in Cambodia, his Christmas in Cambodia, "seared in my memory," and he's had to back off because he didn't spent Christmas in Cambodia. In fact, it appears he was never in Cambodia. So he's the one who's most conspicuously backed off of an allegation.

And now, of course, they're also, because it's both Vietnam records they object to, his record as a Vietnam vet against the war -- he's now calling them liars owing to their challenging of his service in country, but they've been called far worse by John Kerry back in 1971. He was calling them all war criminals. And the new ad is about those outrageous charges!

SHIELDS: "I am not going to say anything negative about him. He's a good man," said Rear Admiral Roy Hoffman. "It took guts, and I admire what he did" when he won the Silver Star. Now he's one of the guys -- now, talk about a guy changing stories, Bob.

NOVAK: Mark, that is -- that is -- the line is to attack all the people, the credibility of everybody who is criticizing him, say that this book was a -- was financed by some political -- political people. There's no proof of that, no indication that that is even the case. When this book came out and when this whole thing came out, there was a kind of a shrug of a shoulders, who cares. It came out. It became politically -- had political gravity because there was such an emphasis in the campaign, in the Boston campaign, of Senator Kerry's war record, overemphasizing it, emphasizing it much more than his Senate record.

I thought the most interesting development, to show you that this thing has become a big story, was the story in "The New York Times" on Friday, a big, long -- it was a lawyer's brief. It was a lawyer's brief for John Kerry. It was one-sided. It was distorted. It's the kind of thing I expect to read in "The New York Times," which is a Democratic propaganda sheet right now.


NOVAK: So -- but this is -- I don't know how this is going to come out, but I don't know whether this changes any votes, but this is going to -- this is a very -- this is the first really interesting thing in the campaign, and I find it very interesting.

SHIELDS: Let me -- let me just say...

PODESTA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fair and balanced.

SHIELDS: John...


SHIELDS: Let me just -- let me just -- before I go to John Podesta, let me (UNINTELLIGIBLE) if this were a scene of a crime, it would not be Bush fingerprints on this or Rove fingerprints or footprints, it would be their DNA all over the place. I mean, you've -- they're underwriting the thing. They're -- they're into it...


NOVAK: Tell me where they underwrite the book!


NOVAK: Give me any evidence.

SHIELDS: I'm talking about the commercials...


SHIELDS: Go ahead, John.

PODESTA: The facts in the book are now falling apart, as more and more documents come out about the senator's service record in Vietnam. And I think Al's exactly right. It's despicable that they're going after the question of whether he served honorably. He earned three Purple Hearts. He earned a Silver Star. He earned a Bronze Star. And the documentation from that era is there, in contrast to the president's -- documentation of the president's record.

HUNT: Well, Kate -- Kate...


SHIELDS: Let John finish.

PODESTA: Bob Perry -- you ask what the connections are. Bob Perry's the largest contributor to the Republican Party in Texas.

SHIELDS: Bob Perry, yes.

NOVAK: So what? What has he got to do with the book?

PODESTA: He has put the money behind these advertisements...

NOVAK: So what?


PODESTA: Merrie Spaeth...

NOVAK: So what?

PODESTA: ... who is the person who put this little group together...


PODESTA: Guess what? When did we last hear from her? In 2000, when she was...

SHIELDS: John McCain...

NOVAK: So what?

PODESTA: ... in an independent expenditure attacking John McCain.

O'BEIRNE: Look, speaking -- speaking of records...

PODESTA: I wonder whether she was down in Georgia...

O'BEIRNE: Speaking of records...

PODESTA: ... attacking Max Cleland's record.

O'BEIRNE: Speaking of records, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, 254 of them, want all of the Navy records released. John Kerry refuses to sign a form that would permit that. Which party seems more fearful of what the Navy records would show?

HUNT: Well, first of all, Kate, they won't release their own records. But you have this...

O'BEIRNE: That's not true!

HUNT: You -- absolutely true. Thurlow won't. You have this incredibly unique view of proximity. You claim John McCain, who says this is dishonest and dishonorable...

O'BEIRNE: He wasn't there!

HUNT: Right, he wasn't there.

O'BEIRNE: Right.

HUNT: But you say the guys who were there...

O'BEIRNE: Right.

HUNT: ... the guys who were closest, who served with Kerry...

SHIELDS: In his boat.

O'BEIRNE: Right...


HUNT: ... his boat, they're lying. Whereas you say...

O'BEIRNE: I said...

HUNT: ... those people -- wait a minute... (CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Wait a minute! Let me finish. Those people...


HUNT: ... who, as Colonel Hackworth, David Hackworth, a much decorated Vietnam veteran, said, were anywhere from 100 yards to 300 miles away...

O'BEIRNE: He wasn't there!

HUNT: ... and any -- and any court of law would call them liars...

O'BEIRNE: OK, no...


HUNT: As he says, if those brown -- those brown-water warriors say John Kerry -- the guys who actually served in the boat with him is OK, that's good enough for him.


O'BEIRNE: Hackworth wasn't there...


SHIELDS: Let Kate -- Kate...

O'BEIRNE: Sixty of them were there! They served...


O'BEIRNE: ... 10 yards away, they served 20 yards away, they served in convoys!

HUNT: And 300 miles away.


NOVAK: Al, listen to me just one minute...

O'BEIRNE: If the critics would read the book, which most of them won't do -- I met with 40 of them on Tuesday. If you met with them, you'd know it's ridiculous...


SHIELDS: What do you want to say, Bob, quick?

NOVAK: Calm down, Al.

(CROSSTALK) NOVAK: I just want you no to be so sure that there wasn't somebody in a boat with John Kerry on the first incident, when he got the first Purple Heart. And let's see how that develops.

HUNT: Yes. And Bob, why would he lie about the first Purple Heart?

O'BEIRNE: Because he wanted a Purple Heart!

HUNT: Why -- just because...


O'BEIRNE: He wanted a decoration!

NOVAK: You're running -- you're jumping from one thing...

HUNT: No, I'm asking you.

NOVAK: No, no, no, no. I'm just saying...


NOVAK: I'm telling you...


SHIELDS: Please!

HUNT: No, I want a rationale. Bob, why did he lie about the Purple Heart?

NOVAK: I just want -- I just want you to...

HUNT: There is no rationale.

NOVAK: You made a statement that there was nobody in the boat who was against him. Don't be so sure of that.

HUNT: Mark, Bob won't answer the question.

SHIELDS: There is no...

HUNT: I can see why.

SHIELDS: There is no rationale.

HUNT: Because there is no rationale.

SHIELDS: What is most fascinating is that people who served with John Kerry in the boat attest to his courage and...

NOVAK: Well, I'm saying...

(CROSSTALK) SHIELDS: Let me just -- just hear me through. Hear me through. I'm going to say something on this show, OK? Secondly, people who didn't serve with him now -- they want -- they say they did serve with him. The problem is, we can't find anybody who served with George W. Bush. Now, isn't that rather remarkable?

NOVAK: Oh! That's ridiculous!

SHIELDS: It's absolutely true.

NOVAK: That's just...


NOVAK: That's just Democratic propaganda!

SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG, the Jim McGreevey saga in New Jersey.



GOV. JAMES MCGREEVEY (D), NEW JERSEY: My truth is that I am a gay American.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. That statement by James McGreevey as he announced his intention to resign as governor of New Jersey was followed by a sexual harassment charges announcement against him.


CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: If the governor were to step down today, he would allow the people to make a decision in a special election that would be held in November. That's time enough for them to hear from the candidates and to be able to pick who they want for at least the next year, and then that person really should, if we're going to have continuity, be someone who's willing to stand for reelection for the next four, as well.


SHIELDS: Another blue collar Republican.

The president of the state Senate, who will replace Governor McGreevey when he resigns November 15, defended the delay.


RICHARD C. CODEY (D), NJ STATE SENATE PRESIDENT: He made the decision. He made it without any input from me. He informed me of that decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SHIELDS: U.S. senator Jon Corzine, who had been mentioned as a candidate for governor in a special election, issued a statement saying his priority is the U.S. Senate and accepted the governor's decision as final.

Bob Novak, what is wrong with Jim McGreevey preferring an orderly transition?

NOVAK: And to get a dynamic new governor, like the state Senate president!


NOVAK: Just straight out of -- straight out of...

SHIELDS: Wait a minute...


SHIELDS: We had one of those last time, when Christie Whitman left.

NOVAK: ... DeFrancesco (ph)...

SHIELDS: That's right.

NOVAK: Terrific system. What it is, it's a -- the New Jersey Democrats are very tricky. They had a senator, an incumbent senator, all ready to be beaten, and they put in some old guy named Lautenberg to run against him at the last minute. And so what they -- there's a chance -- I don't say it will happen -- that if you had a special election, the Republicans, with all the people upset about McGreevey, they could have won this election. So they say, Well, we're not going to have an election until -- until '05. So it's -- it's typical dirty tricks that we know from the New Jersey Democrats, but they're -- they're in the driver's seat, and they -- they're going to -- they're going to be able to pull it off.

SHIELDS: John, an orderly transition?

PODESTA: I think this is "The Sopranos" meets "Sex and the City."


PODESTA: It's like -- I can't think of anything to say about this, other than I think that Governor McGreevey has made a statement he's going to serve until November 15. I don't think that's going to change. And we're going to have an election in -- you know, they have the off-year elections, so we're going to have an election in 2005, and they'll have a new governor, and I think it might be Senator Corzine.

SHIELDS: Kate, has Jim McGreevey actually made Bob Torricelli look good?

O'BEIRNE: There's a question!


O'BEIRNE: Bob's calling New Jersey Democrats tricky. How about corrupt, Bob, because indictments, of course, criminal indictments are flying all around...

SHIELDS: But indictments aren't convictions.

O'BEIRNE: ... McGreevey, too.

SHIELDS: We know that.

O'BEIRNE: Exactly. Although there's been a guilty plea this week from one of his top guys. Look, he made coming out of the closet sound so -- tried to make it sound so noble. We're not talking about a case of private behavior in Governor McGreevey's case. It's a case of public behavior and public corruption. He put his boyfriend -- made his boyfriend head of homeland security for the state. The taxpayers of New Jersey have paid twice, both the salary of his boyfriend, and secondly, by having this totally unqualified person responsible for the safety of New Jersey residents. They seem willing to put up with an awful lot.

SHIELDS: Al, this was after Louis Freeh, the former FBI director, offered himself pro bono as the homeland security director and was turned down in favor of Mr. Golan.

HUNT: We just (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with John's observation, "The Sopranos" meets "Sex and the City."


HUNT: I must say I think that McGreevey ought to resign. He ought to resign right now. There is absolutely no case to stay to November 15. It is pure politics. It's to try to deny the voters of New Jersey a chance to elect a Republican or a Democrat. And it's an indefensible position.

SHIELDS: I am old enough to remember when Wayne Hayes was caught for putting on the payroll somebody totally unqualified, Elizabeth Ray, who couldn't type, couldn't answer the phone...

NOVAK: Did you know her?

SHIELDS: I'd rather not talk about that, Bob.


SHIELDS: But the fact of the matter was, Wayne Hayes, a man not known for a great capacity for shame, ended up resigning from the U.S. House. I mean...


NOVAK: Those were different times. SHIELDS: Yes, different times. And that was not homeland security.

John Podesta, thank you for joining us...

PODESTA: Nice to be with you.

SHIELDS: ... and bringing some semblance of order to this show.

Coming up in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG, we'll debate whether it's a good idea or a bad idea for Illinois Republicans to go to Maryland for their Senate candidate. We'll go "Beyond the Beltway" to Florida, to preview the stormy scramble for U.S. Senate nominations there. That's all after these messages and the latest news headlines.


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR, CNN SATURDAY: I'm Carol Lin. More of CAPITAL GANG in just a moment. But first a look at what is happening now in the news.

Nine days later Florida is still struggling to clean and recover from Hurricane Charley. More than 240,000 residents remain without power. And the death toll has been raised to 25.

In Najaf, will the fighters turn over the Imam Ali Mosque? Fighters loyal to radical cleric Muqtada Al Sadr are cleaning the holy shrine while others continue their battle with coalition and Iraqi forces. And then you have Al Sadr's representatives saying they can't leave the shrine until the fighting calms down.

In Pakistan, officials say they arrested five people and prevented a series of terror attacks. Police say the suspects were planning a weeklong siege on targets like the U.S. embassy and the Pakistani president's house.

And that is what is happening now in the news. I'm Carol Lin, keeping you informed. CNN the most trusted name in news. Now back to the CAPITAL GANG.


SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG.

Two-time Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes became his party's candidate in Illinois for the U.S. Senate against Democratic State Senator Barack Obama even though Alan Keyes has never lived in the state of Illinois.


ALAN KEYES (R), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Hillary Clinton did what she did for the sake of her agenda of personal ambition. I, on the other hand, have responded to the call of the people of Illinois, who have asked me to come and help them with a crisis situation. BARACK OBAMA (D), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: I think that the Republican Party has mistook the reason why we have been doing well in this campaign. They, perhaps, have seen it through a racial lens. But that is not a perspective that I viewed it in.


SHIELDS: "Pro or Con", was it a good idea of the Illinois Republican Party to cast Alan Keyes for the United States Senate?

Kate O'Bierne, tell us it was a good idea.

O'BEIRNE: Mark, I fear I don't want to disappoint you, Lord knows. I think it is a bad idea.

Look, Barack Obama made a real splash in Boston. And certainly in that environment, he looked arresting and articulate and compelling. Up against Alan Keyes, who is arresting, and articulate and compelling, he is going to look less so in this race in Illinois.

I think, though, it is a really bad trend for people like Hillary Clinton, or Alan Keyes, to go picking places around the country where there might be a seat they can win. I do not think American democracy will be well served by having us look increasing like the British system, where members of Parliament, you know, just pick a friendly district and stand for office.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, doesn't Kate make sense?

NOVAK: No her history is bad. Sam Houston went from Tennessee to Texas. Ned Baker, who was killed in the Battle of the Ball's Bluff in the Civil War, went from Illinois to Oregon. So it was -- in earlier dates of the republic, more than 100 years ago it was done a lot.

I think it is a very good idea to have this, because the Republican Party of Illinois is a basket case. It's people who don't believe in anything, who had -- they had 20 years of Republican governors who were moderates. They missed the Reagan Revolution. The reason that they have one of five states with no job -- with no economic increase, is because they have such high taxes.

And so to get some body who believes in there -- he's not going to win that race. You know that.

SHIELDS: Alan Keyes isn't?

NOVAK: No, he's not going to win it. But at least he's going to be able to tell the people of my state -- I was born and raised in Illinois, a Republican ...

SHIELDS: You're in the Land of Lincoln.

NOVAK: Absolutely. And to have somebody out there who is preaching the gospel instead of this pabulum they have been getting from Republicans for the last several years, it would be wonderful. SHIELDS: Al, I never thought I'd live to see the day when Republicans had to outsource in Illinois, they have to fill that job from Maryland. And, Al, let us be very frank about it. It was a cynical ploy to say, well, we'll get our African-American against their African-American.

HUNT: Isn't it? But you know, that doesn't even bother me. And I'm not bothered by people coming from other states. If the Illinois Republican Party had gotten Colin Powell that would have been a 10 strike and we all would have acknowledged it as such.


But let me tell you something, this guy has a long way to go. First of all, he shouldn't wear a red and blue tie, Bob. The Illinois colors, as you know, are orange and blue. And ...

NOVAK: I'm glad you finally figured that out. They're not orange and black.

HUNT: Right, which is when you wear your Princeton tie.


HUNT: But this the problem is Alan Keyes. He's never been elected to anything. He's a fringe figure. He's really a little bit nutty. And he's going to get clobbered, two to one.

O'BEIRNE: Hillary Clinton had never been elected to anything when she ran in New York. At least I'm consistent. I didn't think Hillary Clinton should have done it in New York and I did not think ...

SHIELDS: Did you think Sam Houston should have done it in Texas? Or Ned Baker?


O'BEIRNE: I don't think it should become routine. And we better watch carefully, or it's going to become more and more common.

NOVAK: I resent -- I'm a personal -- for calling Alan Keyes nutty. I really hate it when liberals, anybody who is a strong conservative is nutty. I really, I think you ought to take those words back or we're going to have your words taken down.

HUNT: Can you do that?

SHIELDS: He's absolutely gone around the bend. He thinks he's in the House of Representatives.

HUNT: Bob, I did say a little. I didn't say a lot.


O'BEIRNE: Bob, if you want to reach -- I agree about the need to rebuild the Republican Party in Illinois. You don't import somebody. Why wouldn't they find bright, attractive person ...

SHIELDS: Good point.

O'BEIRNE: ...who can't win this time, but could build and build a profile and begin building the party in Illinois.

SHIELDS: Does anyone think that Alan Keyes is going to be there after the election?



NOVAK: At least...

O'BEIRNE: He's out of there.

NOVAK: At least you hear the gospel from him. I don't know, he might like Illinois. Illinois is a great state, but I really do believe that there is nobody there. There has been such stagnation over the years.

SHIELDS: I want to know one thing: Did Alan Keyes buy a roundtrip ticket to Chicago?

Next on CAPITAL GANG, the CAPITAL GANG "Classic", George W. Bush and Al Gore debating troop strength four years ago.

ANNOUNCER: Here's your CAPITAL GANG trivia question of the week. Illinois Senate candidates Barack Obama and Alan Keyes both did post- graduate work at which university? A) Howard; B) Harvard; or C) Northwestern.

We'll have the answer right after the break.


ANNOUNCER: Right before the break we asked, which university did Barack Obama and Alan Keyes both do post-graduate work? The answer is B, Harvard.

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Four years ago in appearances before the VFW convention, presidential candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore debated the state of the United States military.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The next president will inherit a military in decline.

AL GORE, FRM. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our military is the strongest and best in the entire world.


SHIELDS: Your CAPITAL GANG discussed this on October 26, 2000. Our guest was political consultant Mike Murphy, Republican.


NOVAK: Generals, admirals that I have talked to privately have said the money is not spent correctly. It is too thin. We are stretched thin on these deployments and moral is terrible.

JAMES WARREN, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": The fact is that we have, by far, the most capable and powerful military in the world. We spend about $275 billion a year on it. That, Kate, is more than the next nine countries on the planet combined.

MARGARET CARLSON, THE CAPITAL GANG: Cheney was involved in the cutbacks, so you don't just have the Bush administration being a part of the peace dividend. You have the very guy who did some of the cutting running and debating Bill Cohen who is a much more likable guy, I think, than Dick Cheney in the end.

MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The good news for Bush is the facts are on his side. It is a disaster. So, if the Gore campaign continues to engage in this debate, on that issue, it will make it a more important issue, which will help Bush.

O'BEIRNE: The Clinton administration, now recommending a surprise increase in military funding. That to me is evidence that they think they are vulnerable on this front. So, George Bush could be on to something.


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, looking back from a vantage point of four years, not only who was right about the state of the military, but I think you said then, we're stretched thin and our deployments are too long. Could the same thing be said today, Bob?

NOVAK: Absolutely. I was right. It is embarrassing, but I usually am right on these classics.

SHIELDS: It's remarkable.

NOVAK: They were stretched thin.

SHIELDS: And we're stretched thin today?

NOVAK: Yes. And that is why I was very concerned by -- one of the reasons I was concerned by this intervention in Iraq. So, I think we are stretched thin, but we are stretched thin before. I get that from talking to the military.

But the idea that the military, all that baloney that Jim Warren -- whatever happened to Jim Warren?

SHIELDS: He's in Chicago. NOVAK: He's in Chicago, all right.

SHIELDS: At "The Chicago Tribune".

NOVAK: That's right.

Well, the other paper in Chicago, yes.

SHIELDS: A big cheese.

NOVAK: That we were the greatest power in the world, nothing to it, baloney.

O'BIERNE: I would remind our friend Jim Warren that our military obligations are more than the next nine countries on the planet, combined. The Joint Chiefs were saying in 2001, the ragged edge of readiness would have been far worse if the Republicans had not spent the '90s adding billions to Clinton's requests for the Pentagon.

HUNT: I would suspect if Bob went back to some of those admirals and generals who told him back then how bad morale was, that they would today look back on those as the salad days, because I think morale is getting worse today.

SHIELDS: Final word, Al Hunt.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond The Beltway" looks at the mad scramble for a vacant United State Senate seat in Florida, Tom Fielder of "The Miami Herald", will join us.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

In Florida, both parties will hold multi-candidate primaries a week from Tuesday, to fill the U.S. Senate seat now held by retiring Democrat Bob Graham. The two most prominent Democrats are former state education commissioner Betty Caster and Congressman Peter Deutsch.


ANNOUNCER: For Betty Caster honoring America's armed forces is a personal commitment. Castor will fight for Florida's military bases and a strong defense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are many Americans who still believe that the results we are going to certify today are illegitimate.

MICHAEL MOORE, MOVIE PRODUCER: I sat there and I saw that Congressman Deutsh, and I was so proud of you.


SHIELDS: The two leading Republicans are former HUD Secretary Mel Martinez and former Congressman Bill McCollum. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Chosen by President Bush for his Cabinet, Mel Martinez is a natural leader: conservative, pro-life, fierce defender of our American values.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American dream is alive and well, and Mel Martinez represents it all.

ANNOUNCER: Long before 9/11, a lone voice warned Bill Clinton about Osama bin Laden, Bill McCollum.

Congress Bill McCollum, founder of the Task Force on Terrorism, member of the Intelligence Committee.


SHIELDS: Joining us now from Miami, is Tom Fiedler, executive editor of "The Miami Herald".

Thanks for coming in, Tom.


SHIELDS: Tom, who is likely to win these two primary elections a week from Tuesday.

FIEDLER: Well, I think on the Democratic side it is fairly clear, or at least it would be a major upset if Betty Caster didn't win. The polls have showed her really consistently for the past couple of months to be double digits ahead of Congressman Deutsch, and trailing in a very distant third is Miami Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas.

The Republican race, though, I think is going to be a bit of a heart thumper there. The polls have showed Bill McCollum, former congressman from the Orlando area, as being consistently ahead. But Mel Martinez is very, very close. And I think it could really turn on whether there is a disproportional turn out in South Florida, which there is apt to be, because there is a very hot mayor's race going on here. That could benefit Mel Martinez.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Explain why Mel Martinez seems to have had some trouble. He has run for office before. He is handpicked by the White House. He was President Bush's candidate down here, whether he was endorsed or not. And Bill McCollum just didn't run a very good race when he got beat up by Bill Nelson a couple of years ago.

Why is he having that -- why is Martinez have that trouble, do you think, Tom?

FIELDER: That's a good question, Bob. Because he certainly has a compelling story to tell also, that I think does resonate. But he just -- he hasn't been a very effective grassroots campaigner. You know, so much of the effectiveness of a Republican candidate is to do well among the local Republican clubs and so forth.

Now that is territory that Congressman McCollum has been working for years and years. In fact, he really never stopped after losing in 2002. And he picked up a lot of commitments that have stayed with him, including here in South Florida, from the Diaz-Ballard Brothers, Lincoln and Mario. That matters a lot.

And so in some respects I think Bill McCollum built himself a fairly strong wall and that has kept Mel Martinez from just knocking it over and running away from this race.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Tom, following what I'll call "the past unpleasantness," Florida has spent a lot of effort fixing their balloting problems. Do you expect these elections to be a fair test of how well they've done?

FIELDER: It will be a test and I think it will be a fair test, whether Florida will pass the test is the question.

We have tried to do, in Florida, something to go from being really the laughing stock of the country to being a best practices case. Moving from the old punch cards, you know the pregnant chads and so forth, to purely electronic balloting.

I think the problems that you continue to read about are being driven by changing so quickly and so dramatically there. It is a question of voters not being used to the new technology. Even the people in the precincts that are there supposed to help you, are in many cases only now becoming familiar with it.

So, in many ways people are holding their breaths going into this. We think the technology generally is pretty good, but whether the people are -- whether voters are going to be able to make that adaptation is really uncertain.


HUNT: Tom, let me try to sneak in two questions relating to the presidential race in Florida. One, will this, will the outcome of the Senate contest in 10 days have any effect on the Kerry/Bush race in Florida? And, secondly, will the -- are there any political aftereffects of the hurricane devastation down there?

FIELDER: Let me take the second first. I don't think there will be any political aftereffects here, as many people thought there were after Hurricane Andrew in '92. Although, I remind people that even in '92, where President George Herbert Walker Bush was criticized, he still won Florida. So it didn't hurt him all that badly.

In this case, I don't think that Hurricane Charley will have that kind of resonance in November. On the larger issue, if -- I do think it can have an impact if you have Betty Caster as the Democratic nominee. She is Emily's List's biggest -- biggest figure out there this campaign. And so to the extent that that may energize liberal Democratic women that could certainly help buoy the Kerry campaign.

And on the other side of it, if Bill McCollum holds on and beats Mel Martinez, there could be a little bit of a reduction in the enthusiasm that particularly Cuban-American voters may have for the Bush ticket.

So, that is possible. I haven't seen poll numbers on it, but I think it is something we need to look at.

SHIELDS: Tom, we have 10 seconds. A Caster/McCollum race, who is the favorite?

FIEDLER: I think easily it would be Betty Caster, there. She is -- women do very well in statewide elections in Florida here. And coming out of an education background, I think she tends to be the favorite.

SHIELDS: Tom Fiedler, thank you again for joining us.

The GANG will be back with our "Outrages of the Week".


SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week". An ol' political maxim holds a recession is when my neighbor loses his job. A depression -- a national crisis, is when I lose my job.

In recent years when thousands of Americans have lost their manufacturing jobs, which have moved offshore by their employers, the reaction of this nation's editorial writers has been, "this is progress", "we must adjust to change". It is time for job retraining.

Now comes news that Reuters, the global news service, plans to cut editorial jobs in London and New York and move them to Bangalore, India. What? Editorial writers losing their jobs to lower-paid foreign workers? Let's see if that becomes a real problem now.

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Tom Harkin, the leftist senator from Iowa, has been delivering daily, incoherent speeches from the Senate. Most of what he says is ignored, but not his response to Vice President Cheney's criticism of Senator Kerry's war policies.

Senator Harkin said, quote, "when I hear this coming from Dick Cheney, who was a coward, who would not serve during the Vietnam War, it makes my blood boil.", end quote.

Calling the vice president a coward because he took a draft deferment? And coming from somebody who falsified his own war record.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne. O'BEIRNE: John Kerry touts his service on the Senate Intelligence Committee as a major qualification for the presidency. But he rarely reported for duty. A Bush campaign ad charges that in eight years on the committee, Kerry was absent for over 75 percent of its public hearings.

The Kerry camp calls the ad misleading, because it doesn't account for his attendance at private sessions. Did he report for duty there? We don't know, because as with his full Navy file, Kerry refuses to ask that the records be released.


HUNT: All of us without a country in the fight ought to be cheering for the Iraqi soccer team in Athens, but President Bush goes too far in not only embracing by trying to claim credit for their success.

The star Iraqi mid-fielder complained to "Sports Illustrated" that the team, quote, "does not want Mr. Bush to use us", end quote, for his own presidential campaign. And the Iraqi Olympic soccer coach complains, America has not brought freedom to his country when, quote, "I go to the stadium and there are shootings."

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. Be sure to join us next week as we will report from New York's Madison Square Garden, the site of the Republican National Convention.

Coming up next, a special edition of "Paula Zahn Now: A Town Hall Meeting, The Undecided Vote"

Thank you for joining us.


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