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How will Events In Iraq, Afghanistan Impact Presidential election? Does Anyone Have The Momentum Going Into Final Stretch of Campaign?

Aired October 9, 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, Kate O'Beirne, and sitting in for the recovering Robert Novak, Christopher Caldwell, the senior editor of "The Weekly Standard." Our guest is Joe Lockhart, senior adviser to the Kerry campaign.

Good to have you back, Joe.


SHIELDS: Thank you. Last night in St. Louis, President George Bush and Senator John Kerry tangled over Iraq and the war on terror in their second presidential debate.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This president rushed to war, pushed our allies aside, and Iran now is more dangerous, and so is North Korea. If we'd used smart diplomacy, we could have saved $200 billion and an invasion of Iraq, and right now, Osama bin Laden might be in jail or dead. That's the war against terror.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a fundamental misunderstanding to say that the war on terror is only Osama bin Laden. I saw a unique threat in Saddam Hussein, as did my opponent, because we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. I don't see how you can lead this country in a time of war, in a time of uncertainty, if you change your mind because of politics.


SHIELDS: They also challenged each other on domestic issues, particularly taxes.


KERRY: I'm pledging I will not raise taxes. Join me in rolling back the president's unaffordable tax cut for people earning more than $200,000 a year. That's all. Ninety-eight percent of America, I'm giving you a tax cut, and I'm giving you health care.

BUSH: He's going to raise your taxes! You see, he's proposed $2.2 trillion of new spending. We cut taxes for everybody. Everybody got tax relief.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, last night in St. Louis, was George W. Bush the Comeback Kid he needed to be?

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: I think that his really strong performance last night in St. Louis -- with that performance, George Bush put behind him the first debate, just as Ronald Reagan did in 1984 put his first debate behind him. I think George Bush did exactly what he had to do last night.

Bush aides are utterly convinced -- they'll tell you -- that they think real strength of the president's is his plain-spokenness. He's very down to earth. He's completely natural. I don't think those were apparent strengths in the first debate, when his answers were thin and he was repetitious. Those came back last night and were really strengths again, I think. He seemed to be ad libbing. He came across as one of those attractive conviction politicians. The plain- spokenness did help last night. He showed the only spontaneous humor of the night.

I think, in contrast, John Kerry -- of course, he's very fluid on policy, but I think he came across last night as though he -- as though he had rehearsed too much. It seemed a little less authentic. He seemed like a six-inch-thick walking briefing book. So I think, on style and substance, it was George Bush's debate.

SHIELDS: Christopher Caldwell, the only two networks that we have -- the CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll had Kerry the winner, 47 percent, 45 percent. ABC News had Kerry 44 percent and Bush 41 percent. Your take on last night?

CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, I -- you know, I think these debates are bound to be more about Kerry than about Bush because he's got -- he's got a better command of the issues, and he's going to dominate the air time. He spoke more than Bush did last night. But he -- he has a couple of problems, including the...

SHIELDS: You mean Kerry?

CALDWELL: Yes, Kerry -- including the condescension of talking -- addressing people as "people exactly like you." And he got a little bit out of his depth on a few emotional values questions, particularly the question on abortion. So given that Bush did not lose it, I think it was -- it was a successful -- successful night for him.



SHIELDS: Al Hunt, are we grading on the curve for the president, though?

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: Well, I was going to...

SHIELDS: I mean, because...


SHIELDS: ... poorly in the first one, but the fact that he showed up last night and was semi-coherent or...


CALDWELL: No, he was more than semi-coherent!

HUNT: The St. Louis...


HUNT: ... Bush beat the Miami Bush. But Kate, I saw Ronald Reagan. I covered Ronald Reagan.


HUNT: And let me tell you, George Bush is no Ronald Reagan. He was better than he was in Miami. That's the best you can say for it. He strayed on a lot of issues. He strayed on the environment. You could look at the questioner who had asked the question, who looked kind of quizzical and as if, you know, You're not really saying this, are you? On drug importation, there's no danger of dangerous drugs coming in from Canada. Give us one example of that. Even on the Duelfer -- the Duelfer report.

However, I also -- there was one thing he was right on. He is absolutely right -- and I give him credit for this -- John -- you know, he is right that in the -- Ted Kennedy is the most liberal member of the United States Senate. So he is right when he -- when he asserts that. I think...

O'BEIRNE: Very close, though.

HUNT: I think that John Kerry, though, didn't have a great night, either. There were several chances he had, I think, to put Bush on the canvas, Joe, but he actually didn't do it, didn't -- he didn't deliver on the subjects we talked about before, on the very disappointing jobs report that came out that shows we're not having...

SHIELDS: The environment.

HUNT: ... a robust recovery. Well, that -- yes, the ones I mentioned before. And I also think that John Kerry has this grating habit of answering something else before he answers the direct question. But if you want to score it, right now, it's 1 Kerry, 0 Bush, 1 tie.

SHIELDS: Joe, I know you're going to give us an objective, nonpartisan take. But seriously, Joe, the -- Senator Kerry did blow, in my judgment, one great opportunity last night, and that was when the president failed to acknowledge any mistake he'd made. And why Senator Kerry just didn't say, "There you've just heard it. You've heard it. It's going to be the same, exactly what we've had for four more years. He's not going to change a thing, folks. If you like the way it is, with people losing health insurance, falling into poverty and the war in Iraq, then he ought to be reelected.

LOCKHART: Well, listen, I think people understand. This is the president's second or third opportunity in front of a national audience to say he's made any mistake, and he just can't seem to find one. And that goes to, I think, the problem that a lot of independent and moderate voters have about him.

Here's what I think on the debates, why John Kerry has won his and why John Edwards won his also. The middle of the electorate just doesn't want to vote for George Bush, but they wanted to see something from John Kerry and from John Edwards in his debate, and they've seen it now. In the first debate, he showed he was presidential, he had what it takes to be commander-in-chief. In this next debate, it was all about the domestic issues, the ideas about jobs, the ideas about health care.

The president had nothing -- the president was playing, once again, to regain his base that he lost in the first debate. So he's -- you know, I guess he's regained that. He can't win with just his base. They're wrong there. And John Kerry and John Edwards have made significant gains among the voters who are going to decide this election. He's won both of these debates. The numbers say it. There's not a single poll out there that says George Bush has won anything yet.

O'BEIRNE: Yes, the fundamental problem John Kerry has -- and the president, I thought, did a good job last night of pressing it -- he has to run away from his record. What he's done -- he has his liberal base. They all hate and despise George Bush, so of course, they're going to vote for John Kerry, however unenthusiastically. He's trying to pretend to be a moderate now because those are the voters he needs. And I think the president did a really good job last night of pointing that out.

When John Kerry made the mistake...

LOCKHART: But the voters don't buy it. Every...

O'BEIRNE: When John Kerry made the mistake...

LOCKHART: Every poll that's come out...

O'BEIRNE: ... of mentioning...

LOCKHART: ... has said he's won the debates.

O'BEIRNE: He had trouble remembering the year that the first World Trade Center bombing took place, '93. You'd think it would have stuck in his mind. But when he made the mistake of mentioning it, the president was right there saying, After that attack, you -- you voted to cut intelligence spending by $7 billion. That record is a major problem for him. HUNT: As did the Republican Senate, but anyway...

O'BEIRNE: No, they -- nobody voted for his amendment!

HUNT: You know, Mark, you put your finger on something very important, the president's refusal to say how he made any mistake. You know, a friend of mine called and said it was reminiscent of the old Somerset Maugham quote, that like all weak men, he laid an exaggerated stress on changing one's mind. And that's what he looked like last night.

CALDWELL: Yes, but I think those questions are pretty cheap, and I think that people recognize them as such. By the way, the question to Kerry about, Will you look in the camera and promise not to raise taxes -- you don't address a future president in that way, or a -- or a -- still less a sitting president.

HUNT: Why not, Chris?


CALDWELL: Because that's an encounter session question -- you know, Name three mistakes you've made. It's not a -- it's not a policy question.

SHIELDS: Last word, Chris Caldwell. Joe Lockhart and THE GANG will be back with U.S. foreign policy in Iraq and in Afghanistan.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. This week, chief weapons inspector Charles Duelfer issued his final report for the CIA's Iraq Survey Group, concluding that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction, nor did he have active programs to produce weapons of mass destruction since the end of the Gulf war in 1991. In spite of the report's findings, the president defended his rationale for going to war with Iraq.


BUSH: I believe we were right to take action and America is safer today with Saddam Hussein in prison. He retained the knowledge, the materials, the means and the intent to produce weapons of mass destruction, and he could have passed that knowledge on to our terrorist enemies.


SHIELDS: Senator Kerry disagreed and accused the president of deceiving the American people.


KERRY: The president this morning was in absolute full spin mode about the CIA report. He cited several new reasons for taking America to war. You don't make up or find reasons to go to war after the fact!


SHIELDS: Today Afghanistan held its first democratic election.

Christopher Caldwell, how will the events in Iraq and Afghanistan impact the American election?

CALDWELL: I think the Duelfer report is a real opportunity for the president. The bad news for him in it, that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, is very old news. We've heard this for a year. The new news about Saddam's zeal to break the sanctions and his success in doing so through oil bribes really allows the president to say that the real enemies of a resolution in Iraq were John Kerry's allies, rather than the administration.

SHIELDS: Boy, that's an interesting angle on it, Al. Do you agree with the Duelfer report assessment of our visiting guest lecturer, Chris?

HUNT: I think Christopher made the best you could out of that, but I don't think that dog's going to hunt, Christopher. I think -- look, it certainly demonstrates Saddam is an awful, terrible person who tries to do crooked things. We knew that all along. And that's not exactly news, either. The Duelfer report was bad because it goes to the heart of what the whole rationale for the war was, including, The Duelfer report said, not only did he not have him, but he really didn't have any active program to make them.

But I think, as to how it plays out -- Mark, you can have all the rhetoric you want to. You can have all the spin you want to. Iraq is going to play out according to conditions. If the next three-and-a- half weeks are awful over there, it's going to be a liability for the president. If they should get better, then it may be a plus for him.

SHIELDS: Joe Lockhart, reality does trump the best campaign strategy. I mean, there's no question about it. I mean, we had economic news. We have the reality of Iraq. And now democracy in Afghanistan. What part will it play?

LOCKHART: Well, listen, I mean, I wish I could suspend reality as well as this president did. I could have used that during the Clinton years and we might have avoided some of our problems.


LOCKHART: But let me tell you, the story here is not that Saddam Hussein was trying to avoid sanctions. Everyone knew that. The story isn't that he was abusing and bribing. Everybody knew that. The story that the president just can't get his head around, because it's devastating to him, is that sanctions were working and we had de- toothed Saddam Hussein. They absolutely were working. Read the report. They go to one little section, and then -- and it is, it's deceiving the American people because that's not what the report said. It's not what the weapons inspectors were trying to get across. But what it does is it undercuts everything he said, every -- all of the reasons for going to war no longer exist, and he's standing there as the -- the vice president and the president are the only people in the world who think that, Now, this was a good idea.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, what is the -- I mean...

O'BEIRNE: The report...


SHIELDS: What's the justification for going to war now?

O'BEIRNE: The report reminds us that -- the report reminds us that just before the invasion, Saddam Hussein told his surprised generals that, I don't have those weapons of mass destruction. What the report concluded was the "guiding theme," in quotes, of the Saddam Hussein regime was to get rid of sanctions, which were -- which were porous, the international community, because he paid for what he got...

LOCKHART: If they were so porous...

O'BEIRNE: They were...

LOCKHART: ... why didn't they...

O'BEIRNE: They were...

LOCKHART: Why didn't he reconstitute...

O'BEIRNE: They were shaky. The status quo was too shaky to sustain. the guiding theme of his administration was to begin reconstituting as soon as possible, in as short a period of time as possible. The most revealing question last night -- and this is -- this is why, as George Bush says, John Kerry in a dangerous world can't be commander-in-chief -- when George Bush said John -- if John Kerry were president, Saddam Hussein would still be in power. What was John Kerry's answer? Not necessarily. Maybe yes, maybe no. We know he'd still be in Kuwait because John Kerry, even though it passed his "global test," of course, opposed the -- the first Gulf war. Maybe he'd be in power, maybe wouldn't...


HUNT: ... say is that, you know, he had designs on getting those programs back. The North Koreans and the Iranians have them, Kate.

O'BEIRNE: I know!


O'BEIRNE: I know!

HUNT: And what's this president done about it? Nothing.

CALDWELL: You're demanding a degree of omniscience, though, from the president that just no one could have had. LOCKHART: Oh, but no, we're not. The president said...


CALDWELL: Apparently, we had penetrated the Iraq government enough to know what these generals thought, what the higher-level people thought, and they all thought he had weapons of mass destruction.

LOCKHART: But that's not the point. The president has said that even knowing what he knows now, if he knew there were no weapons...

SHIELDS: That's right.

LOCKHART: ... and he knew there was no connection to al Qaeda, he'd do it exactly the same way. He put the issue on the table. He put his judgment on the table. And increasingly, Americans are saying that judgment can't be trusted.

HUNT: And Christopher, it pains me to acknowledge this, but one member of our panel, who's not here tonight, Mr. Novak -- he had the omniscience to see it back then.

SHIELDS: Last word, Robert -- Robert Novak from Al Hunt. No more sycophantry on this show!

Coming up: One more debate to go. We'll assess the state of the presidential race with just 24 days left. Twenty-four days!


SHIELDS: Welcome back. With a little more than three weeks until election day, the candidates outlined a clear choice for November 2.


KERRY: Everything you care about is on the line in these next three-and-a-half weeks. Prices are going up! Health care's up! Tuitions are up! The gasoline prices are up! The prescription drugs are up! But the wages are down, and George Bush thinks everything's OK. I don't! And we're going to change that on November 2!

BUSH: On issues from jobs to taxes to health care to our national security, much as he tried to obscure it, on issue after issue, my opponent showed why he earned the ranking of the most liberal member of the United States Senate.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, taking a page out of his father's playbook from 1988 is the president. But polls taken just before the debate showed the candidates deadlocked. Does anyone have the momentum going into this final stretch of the campaign?

HUNT: Mark, everything that I've seen over the last three or four days, and particularly state polls, private as well as public, show this is a dead-even race today. If that's true, I think there's a couple things going for John Kerry. Usually, the persuadables, the small band of persuadables break for a challenger in the last three- and-a-half weeks. And secondly, I don't know this, but I suspect this, the so-called ground game to get out to vote -- I think the Republican effort's much better than it was four years ago. I think the Democratic effort is even better. And that'll give a small margin to Kerry.

Two things Bush has going for him. No. 1 is the possibility of an external event, most of which, we can hypothesize, would redound to the president's advantage. And secondly, that he's going to keep trashing John Kerry, which you saw in the Wilkes-Barre speech and you saw on the stump today, that he knows that a majority of voters don't like that record, so you just have to convince them the other guy's a bum.


O'BEIRNE: I think one thing George Bush did last night was set the predicate for the next -- for the remaining weeks. When somebody says labels don't matter, that person was just called a liberal. They're the only ones always announce labels don't matter. John Kerry is, of course, liberal on spending and liberal on taxes and weak on -- he's a liberal! Despite his four months in Vietnam, where he seems to have learned to be suspicious of U.S. power -- you don't have to take my word for it. You can look it up. He has a 20-year Senate voting record. I think the president is going to keep hitting on that, and he's going to remind the American public that John Kerry has too crimped a view of the war on terror. He fundamentally doesn't understand it. It's far bigger than Osama bin Laden. And I think those are the two issues between now and November.

SHIELDS: Chris Caldwell, what Kate is describing is hardly "morning in America," as a Bush campaign theme. It's, I may be no day at the beach, but the other guy's no month in the country. Right?

CALDWELL: That's right. That's...

SHIELDS: Yes. That's -- that's apparently the Bush approach going into the last three weeks?

CALDWELL: That's the campaign you're seeing. Kerry is getting more comfortable on the campaign trail, which is to his benefit. But it's funny. As -- undecided voters might not be breaking the way they usually do in an election. A poll -- a CNN poll after last night's debate showed the candidates even on absolutely everything, except it showed a bump for Bush on Iraq. I don't know exactly why that is, but I think as people think about Iraq, it's going to help Bush.

SHIELDS: Joe Lockhart.

LOCKHART: I think what's happened here is George Bush and the Republicans spent an awful lot of money creating a caricature of John Kerry. And what happened was the real John Kerry showed up at the debate, and the public gave him a real good look. And they want to know now why -- Who's this thing George Bush is talking about? All these charges that Kate has just repeated -- more eloquently than George Bush ever could, by the way. All these charges, when we're in these debates and you look at the data afterwards, the data is all of John Kerry's traits have gone up. These charges, these attacks are not working. He has made the case now to the swing voters in this country, and we are moving in the right direction. And I think we've got the momentum, and this looks like it's going to be a John Kerry election.

SHIELDS: Chris, how important, then, is the third debate? Is it not important?

CALDWELL: I -- I -- well, it depends on how they do. I think Bush has to perform competently. But on this question of Kerry as a liberal -- Kerry is one of the most gifted politicians in the country of conveying the policies of the let in commonsensical language, but he is on the left, and you see it in questions like the abortion question last night, where he -- which he just did not understand. He said, I'm a Roman Catholic, but I don't think I should impose my theology on other people, as if the only reason to oppose abortion were Roman dogma. It's -- so he does have a lot of -- he's great at conveying these progressive positions, but he is a real liberal.


HUNT: Well, look, John Kerry's no Bill Clinton. I mean, I talked about George Bush not being Ronald Reagan. I mean, can you imagine what Bill Clinton would have done to George Bush in that debate last night? But I think Kerry has gotten better as a candidate over the last 10 days. Still got a way to go, Joe, but he has gotten better. I think the biggest need for him -- I disagree with Kate's ideological assessment of this. I think the biggest thing that John Kerry has to do -- there has to be some kind of lift. There has to be some kind of an inspiring message at the end. I think he's lacked that so far, a reason to vote for him...

O'BEIRNE: The reason -- the reason why Joe's giving bum advice to the Bush campaign is George Bush is a self-described conservative. And when he's accused of wanting to...

HUNT: A "compassionate" one.

O'BEIRNE: ... put conservative judges on the bench -- conservative judges are a good thing, in most people's mind. He doesn't duck the label. He doesn't scream, Labels don't matter, when somebody calls him a conservative. Liberals don't want to be called liberals because they know it's poison at the ballot box. And if George Bush defines him, which I think is better than flip-flopping -- we know he does that, but a lot of politicians change their mind. The liberal charge...

LOCKHART: The last time I checked...

O'BEIRNE: ... is something he's been running away from since the... LOCKHART: A conservative, the last time I checked, is someone who is fiscally conservative. Five trillion dollars in surpluses when he started, two trillion in deficits now. He's no conservative.

CALDWELL: You know, Joe, one of the funniest things about last night's debate is it showed just how little George Bush has got out of the "compassion" in "compassionate conservatism" because one of the things that Kerry kept hammering him on is that he did not sufficiently fund No Child Left Behind, the largest expansion of federal education power in years.

SHIELDS: Last word, Chris Caldwell. Joe Lockhart, thank you for joining us.

Coming up in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG: Should foreign- born citizens be allowed to run for president? Hello, Arnold! We'll debate the pros and cons. We'll go "Beyond the Beltway" to Raleigh, North Carolina, for a look at the Senate race, which is locked in a dead heat. And our "Outrages of the Week." That's all after these urgently important messages and the latest news headlines.


CAROL LIN: More of THE CAPITAL GANG in just a moment, but first a look at what's happening right now in the news. John Kerry declares himself a winner of last night's debate, then campaigns in Ohio and Florida. President Bush holds a victory rally in St. Louis and then heads for appearances in other parts of Missouri, as well as Iowa and Minnesota.

And in Australia, conservative Prime Minister John Howard has been elected to a fourth term. His win came despite widespread anger at his decision to send troops to Iraq last year. President Bush was quick to praise the victory.

And people in Britain paused for a moment of silence today to honor slain British hostage Kenneth Bigley. Bigley was beheaded after being held hostage in Iraq for three weeks. U.S. officials tell CNN they believe he was killed after he tried to escape.

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

MARK SHIELDS, THE CAPITAL GANG: Welcome back to the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG. The Senate held a hearing this week on amending the constitution to allow foreign-born citizens to run for president.


SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: This restriction has become an anachronism that is decidedly un-American.

REP. DAN ROHRABACHER, (R) CALIFORNIA: This hearing would certainly not be complete unless the name of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was not mentioned at least once, but of course he is just one famous example.


SHIELDS: Dissenters of the proposal say the constitutional requirement should not be taken lightly.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: There is this basic reserved right of birth as a major qualification for the presidency. It may not be a bad thing. It may be a strengthening thing.


SHIELDS: Pro or con, should we change the constitution to allow naturalized citizens to run for the highest office in the land? I will go first, absolutely we should. Where somebody is born has nothing to do with their qualifications. The fact that they come to this country, want to be Americans, let them run for president and lose like everybody else who runs for president does. Kate O'Beirne.



O'BEIRNE: I would definitely oppose a constitutional amendment that would make someone eligible after only being a citizen for 20 years. I don't think that's enough. I'm open to the proposition that if one had been a citizen for 35, another version, in addition to 14 years a resident, I think then it would guarantee people came in young enough that they formed the deep attachments I think we all want to see in somebody who aspires to be president.

SHIELDS: Get junior up, get him over to the states and (INAUDIBLE) 35 year clock. Chris Caldwell.

CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I'm against it. I sympathize with some of the impulses behind it, but it's not an important enough matter to justify messing with the constitution.

SHIELDS: Is gay marriage?

CALDWELL: Well, I don't think anyone who thinks that gay marriage is not sufficiently important to change the constitution should think that this is.


AL HUNT, THE CAPITAL GANG: I'm one of those people Christopher, I'm sorry. Yes, I don't like to amend the constitution but in this case I would say yes, absolutely you're right Mark. We're a nation of immigrants. I don't think there should be any restriction on running for president other than age and I will tell you something, let someone run Kate, if the voters decide that they're happy with someone who's been here for only 20 years rather than 50, that's called democracy.

SHIELDS: Just because I was lucky enough that grandparents and great grandparents, the potato famine in Ireland was too much for them. They said, hey, let's try the new country. I mean so I've got an advantage. I've got a plus.

O'BEIRNE: It's not a matter of being lucky enough. It's very interesting if you talk to some people who are naturalized citizens, who maybe came over here as older teenagers, in their 20s. Very often they will tell you that there was something fundamental about that they missed, about the shaping of an American, an American personality, an American temperament, because they didn't grow up here.

CALDWELL: It's like those POW movies from World War II in which they find the German spy by asking who won the World Series last year? I think the logic of this, which is opening up the franchise to more and more people, would seem to compel us to overturn the 22nd amendment, the FDR amendment to the constitution, in which case, the greatest beneficiary of this might be Bill Clinton, who could be our first six-term president.

HUNT: Or George Bush gets reelected. It could be George Bush, but listen, Kate, I go just the other way, I think people who come here sometimes have a greater appreciation of the virtues and the strengths of America than those of us who sometimes take (INAUDIBLE) for granted.

O'BEIRNE: There is an injustice.


O'BEIRNE: The constitution says you must be natural born. There are American citizens who were born to American parents overseas, who the weight of opinion seems to suggest don't qualify for being natural born. I would want to address the eligibility of a child of a military parent or somebody serving their country overseas, before I worried about somebody who came here as a 25-year-old.

SHIELDS: Or working for Halliburton. But tell us, will it be ratified? Will it?

CALDWELL: Oh, no, I don't think it has a chance, but you would think that the applicant pool was already big enough.

O'BEIRNE: It's too big frankly. Did you watch the primaries this year?

SHIELDS: I think this is a great country, I really do Al. I think we ought to have more people. I think - Americans will decide. That's what makes democracy wonderful. That's why you're right about the 22nd amendment. Limiting a president to two terms, Ronald Reagan was against it. I'm against it. It's a terrible idea. It was posthumous vengeance on Franklin Roosevelt by some small-minded conservatives.


HUNT: Basically you're not penalizing (INAUDIBLE) voters decide (INAUDIBLE) if the voters say someone's been here for 19 years, that's insufficient.

O'BEIRNE: Somebody - I feel the same way as Chris when it comes to my constitution, our constitution. Somebody suggested that this looks like it's politicizing because the Arnold Schwarzenegger bid. Some people suggest that no amendment should take effect for 10 years to eliminate the possibility of it being viewed as a political move.

SHIELDS: Last word, Kate O'Beirne, next THE CAPITAL GANG classic, Dick Cheney debates four years ago.

ANNOUNCER: Here's your CAPITAL GANG trivia question of the week. How many Americans were not born in the United States? Is it A: 6 million; B: 9 million; or C: 12 million?


ANNOUNCER: Before the break, we asked how many Americans were not born in the United States. The answer is C, 12 million.

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Four years ago, vice presidential candidates Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman faced off in their first and only debate in Danville, Kentucky. Your CAPITAL GANG discussed this on October 7, 2000. Our guest was Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts.


O'BEIRNE: Those who tuned in saw our two political (INAUDIBLE) with a real grasp on the issues have a cordial exchange.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D) MASS: I was distressed at the new cult of niceness. I mean they get personal, but if being nice (INAUDIBLE) switch profession.

ROBERT NOVAK: The nicest - a lot of people - Joe Lieberman is really - he's a different kind of person. He's going to mean a lot to this ticket. But he did came over, was a very amiable nice person is just another liberal Democrat.

SHIELDS: A number of Republican office holders I talked to after the vice presidential debate thought Dick Cheney had done very well, but they could not name a single state where Dick Cheney would help George Bush in this election.

HUNT: I think the debate was high minded. It was serious. It was irrelevant to the outcome.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, was the Lieberman/Cheney debate really irrelevant, because they were too nice and it was too nice? HUNT: I don't know if that's why it was irrelevant because vice presidential debates are almost always irrelevant. The only relevance I can see out of that old clip is anything that brings Barney Frank and Bob Novak together I suppose is worth it.

SHIELDS: Chris, you buy us a fresh set of eyes to this historical document.

CALDWELL: Yes, I can see why Barney Frank is upset with this. Generally when candidates are too nice and civil to each other, one candidate benefits. In the vice presidential debate before that, you remember Al Gore and Jack Kemp were very nice to each other and Gore was talking about how Kemp was an exception to his radical party's views and Kemp said thank you. That hurt Republicans. This one hurt Democrats in retrospect, so Barney Frank was right.

SHIELDS: It's interesting, you know, Kate, one of the points that's been made, denied by some of Lieberman's people is that Lieberman did not do what John Edwards did this past - bring up Dick Cheney's congressional record at all and they just been sort of just kind of easy going and amiable with him and did not draw any differences.

O'BEIRNE: I love Dick Cheney's congressional record. There's a conservative, conservative can love (ph). I think it was relevant to this extent. I think it established Dick Cheney as this incredibly valuable addition to this team in the minds of lots of Republicans and that benefits him to this day. He is an extremely popular figure and many people will trace it back to loving his performance in that debate.

SHIELDS: I would say that Dick Cheney was an enormous asset to George Bush in 2000. I don't think he's an enormous asset, by three to one independents say it makes them less likely to vote for George Bush with Dick Cheney on the ticket. So that, we'll find out whether it makes a difference.

Coming up next, beyond the beltway looks at a dead heat Senate race in the Tarheel State.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. In North Carolina, Republican Congressman Rickard Burr and former Clinton chief of White House staff Erskine Bowles are in a dead heat to succeed the retiring senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards. Both candidates are trying to appeal to the state's tobacco farmers.


ERSKINE BOWLES, (D) NORTH CAROLINA SENATE CANDIDATE: Our tobacco farmers just can't compete and pay the rent anymore with the foreign tobacco that's coming in here. So yes, I want to see a tobacco buy out happen. I don't care if it has FDA regulation or not. We've got to focus on the farmer, because the farmer has to have this. The farmer cannot stand another cut in that quota. REP. RICHARD BURR (R) NORTH CAROLINA SENATE CANDIDATE: We absolutely need a tobacco buy out regardless of what the make up is. But history, history proves something, that there's somebody that's been there for 10 years and there's another candidate that's not in there during that time.


SHIELDS: Joining us from Raleigh, North Carolina is Rob Christiansen, political reporter for the "News and Observer." Thanks for coming in Ron.


SHIELDS: Rob, the House of Representatives did pass the tobacco buy out bill this week. What is the impact if any on the North Carolina Senate race?

CHRISTIANSEN: Well, Mark, Christmas has come early for Richard Burr. He was very instrumental in lobbying for its passage. This tobacco buy out, assuming it passes the Senate on Sunday, could help something like 76,000 struggling tobacco families and that's $3.6 billion into the state. That's huge and what's most interesting about this is the area where most of the tobacco farmers live, which is in the eastern part of the state. That's a Democratic, traditionally Democratic area. It's a swing state. It's a must win for Richard Burr. So it helps him in the very area where he needs the most help.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Rob, of course Erskine Bowles ran against Elizabeth Dole two years ago, so he has a statewide race under his belt and I guess just a couple of months ago, he was ahead of Richard Burr by double digits. With the polls now showing Richard Burr slightly ahead, does that mean Burr now has the momentum and why is that?

CHRISTIANSEN: Well, there are a couple things. First of all, the state is always very competitive in Senate races. I mean John Edwards beat (INAUDIBLE) by a very narrow margin. Part of what was on Bowles leads was the fact that he had all this name recognition left over from the Elizabeth Dole race. So it was going to close. Also what's happening is Burr has been going after him in TV advertising, very heavy, tying Erskine Bowles to Bill Clinton in ads about, that deal with issues like trade and which deal with issues like defense. So that's really begun to eat into Bowles' lead. One of the reasons Bowles was in the lead was because the state's had some real economic dislocation, particularly in textile areas. That has helped the Democrats.

SHIELDS: OK, Chris Caldwell.

CALDWELL: Rob, I was wondering what the role of transplants to North Carolina is in this race, those sort of famously liberal voters from the northeast who were supposed to give the state to Harvey Gant a couple of times in the '80s and '90s and wound up giving it to Jesse Helms. Are they - how are they thinking about this race? CHRISTIANSEN: Well, these are - they tend to be the suburban voters in places like Research Triangle Park and Charlotte and they tend to be more Republican than the state overall, but they tend to be more moderate Republicans. The Republican party in the south is a very conservative party and a lot of these Republicans actually helped elected John Edwards and Governor Mike Easley, a Democrat to the governor's office. So they saw a lot of these swing voters are Republicans, but they're moderate Republicans or at least by North Carolina standards.


HUNT: Rob, does the presence of John Edwards on the national ticket have any effect on this Senate race at all?

CHRISTIANSEN: Sure it does Al. It certainly has helped to keep the race tighter than it normally would have been. In 2000, Bush won the state by 13 points. He has never been in double digit leads here I don't believe. It's always been single digits. He's helped make it a much closer race being on the ticket and the fact that there are all - we've had all these plant closings. North Carolina is one of the most industrialized states. We don't think of it as industrialized, but it is because of textiles, furniture and so forth. So there's a lot of unhappiness out there among a lot of workers.

HUNT: How about the Senate race? Does Edwards affect the Senate race at all?

CHRISTIANSEN: I think it does. I think it's one of the reasons this race is going to be competitive I think to the end. A, John Edwards is going to help keep it from being too large a Bush victory in the state and also we had a Democratic governor who looks to be in very good shape to win reelection and that's going to help polls.

SHIELDS: If Erskine Bowls does win and take a seat the Republicans really had hoped for, I thought they had, what would you say right now would be the reason for that victory if it does occur on November 2nd?

CHRISTIANSEN: Well, a couple things. One is Bowles for a Democrat is fairly well positioned. He's a fiscal conservative. He's running on his claim to balance the budget, not claim, but he actually did in 1997 when he was Clinton's White House chief of staff. He's got a business background so he's very much of a pro-business Democrat and also he's also very much - he's from the largest metropolitan area so geographically, that's helpful for him.

SHIELDS: OK, we have just a little over a minute. Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Are those swing voters in North Carolina, are they open to voting for Bill Clinton's chief of staff, a little more open minded maybe than more traditional North Carolina voters?

CHRISTIANSEN: Well, there's a couple different swing - groups of swing voters. The one we were talking about earlier was the eastern North Carolina, this is the area that's most like the old south. It's the most rural, but it's also most Democratic and a Republican has to make a sell there. They do not normally just vote Republican and so Richard Burr's doing that now. The other group of swing voters are your more typical suburban voters who are not very different from suburban voters in other parts of the country as well.

SHIELDS: Chris Caldwell, last question.

CALDWELL: I've heard that Erskine Bowles is trying to use his experience with the Oklahoma City bombing to portray himself as tough enough on the war on terror. How's that working?

CHRISTIANSEN: Well, he actually did that to a greater extent in his 2002 race with Elizabeth Dole. He ran ads saying when I was White House chief of staff, I was in charge of the Federal response. He uses that - he's not used that so far in his TV advertisement, although it's part of his stump speech. It helps inoculate him on whether he's tough enough against terrorism issue.

SHIELDS: Al quick.

HUNT: Rob, there's no better political reporter in North Carolina. Who's going to win this race?

CHRISTIANSEN: I'm not in the prediction business.

HUNT: Shows why you're so smart.

SHIELDS: That's right. You're an (INAUDIBLE) man and you're a hell of an interview. Thank you very much, Rob Christiansen, thank you for being with us. We're going to be back with our outrage of the week.


SHIELDS: Now for the outrage of the week. For the fourth time, the House Ethics Committee, the only congressional panel composed of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, has rebuked Republican House Majority Leader Tom Delay for ethical failures.

The committee votes have been unanimous against Delay. Choosing fiction over the facts, Tom Delay erroneously blames partisanships for the troubles his own actions have caused him. Where now is the outrage from decent Republicans at Delay's smearing of Republicans on the Ethics Committee. For that matter, where's the Republican outrage at Tom Delay's conduct, which has stained both the House and his own party. Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Lost in the gleeful headlines about Tom Delay being admonished were the House Ethics Committee's unanimous findings about the lack of support for the complaint filed by Democratic Congressman Chris Bell of Texas. Bell lost a primary challenge when his seat was redistricted and blames Tom Delay for his unpopularity back home. The Ethics Committee found his sour grapes complaint against Delay quote, unsubstantiated end quote, with a quote, significant gap, end quote between his overblown rhetoric and reality. The committee will now decide if Bell's unsubstantiated charges violated its rules. Has there been sore loser abuse?

SHIELDS: Chris Caldwell.

CALDWELL: The Cannes film festival jury that honored Michael Moore now has company. This week the Nobel Prize for literature went to the Austrian dramatist Elfriede Jelinek. German speaking critics don't think much of her writing. What they like is her politics, which are radical feminist, communist and critical of the Iraq war. Increasingly, prize committees are sending the wrong message that art takes a back seat to ideology.


HUNT: Federal Judge Thomas Hogan is threatening "New York Times" reporter Judith Miller with jail, involving disclosure of CIA under cover operative Valerie Plane (ph). This has nothing to do with the "Times" which some conservatives dislike or Judy Miller, who was used by the administration in some bad stories before the Iraq war. This is about a free and unfettered press. Ms. Miller never even wrote about the Plane case. The government is simply on a fishing expedition to find out the identity of her sources. That is chilling.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG and wishing every good speedy recovery to our colleague Robert Novak.

Coming up next, CNN presents John Kerry, born to run. At 9:00 Eastern, Larry King weekend, an encore interview with Martha Stewart and at 10:00, CNN military intelligence analyst Ken Robinson of the practice of beheading among Islamic militants.

Thank you for joining us.


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