Return to Transcripts main page
CNN CAPITAL GANG
Rice To Replace Powell As Secretary of State; Congressional Republicans Wrestle With Arlen Specter, Majority Leader Tom Delay; Clinton Presidential Library Opens In Little Rock
Aired November 20, 2004 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.
President Bush accepted the resignation of Colin Powell as secretary of state and replaced him the very next day with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. General Powell said he had discussed his future with the president over the past year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We were in mutual agreement that it was the appropriate time for me to move on.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: It is humbling to imagine succeeding my dear friend and mentor, Colin Powell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Democratic senators expressed reservations about Dr. Rice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: People who work in the State Department really want their secretary to stand up for them, to represent also their points of view.
So I have the question, Is she going to do that, or is she going to simply be an appendage to the White House?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: The secretaries of education and energy and agriculture also resigned. The president nominated his domestic policy adviser, Margaret Spellings, to be education secretary.
Al Hunt, what's wrong with the president naming his White House staffers to the cabinet?
AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: Nothing, per se, Mark. Nixon named Henry Kissinger as secretary of state. Jack Kennedy had his brother in the cabinet. But no one doubted that RFK would have looked at his brother and said, You're wrong, Mr. President, or that Kissinger had independent judgment. The issue here is you want loyalty, but you also want -- you don't want sycophants. Some of this is baffling. Why Ann Veneman, who was a perfectly fine agriculture secretary, was pushed out, and Donald Rumsfeld, who's presided over one disaster after another -- post-war Iraq, Abu Ghraib -- somehow stayed in.
Condoleezza Rice is obviously the most important choice. The question is, will she be forceful? Will she be creative? Not a lot of examples of that. One exception. She did, apparently, go to the president and say, We got to ditch Chalabi in Iraq, to the consternation of the VP. But I don't know what she's going to be like, you know, when she gets over there.
I will say one thing, that I think her replacement, Stephen Hadley, who I don't know, sounds like the perfect kind of choice -- a smart, honest broker in the Brent Scowcroft mold.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne?
KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: I think it makes perfect sense for the president to do what he's doing, these trusted advisers, who are perfectly free to disagree, and my expectation is they do, but once the president has made a decision, the disagreement's over. And that's been the problem that we've seen at the State Department.
Supporting -- for State Department bureaucrats to support a conservative president's agenda is as foreign to them as any post they've ever served at, and one thing Colin Powell was never able to do was get State Department bureaucrats in line for the president's agenda. Everybody -- all the liberals in the media have so much invested in Colin Powell, they don't like recognizing he accepted all of the intelligence on weapons in Iraq and he fully supported the war on Iraq.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, the State Department, however, you know, proves that it's very dangerous in Washington to be right about things of which the established power's wrong because they're the ones who gave the big warning about Iraq. They were the ones in their plans that said the post-war is going to be very difficult, and of course, it was green light from Wolfowitz, Cheney and Rumsfeld. There wasn't going to be any problem.
BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Well, Colin Powell went along with it, as Kate says. I think he was a good secretary of state. I think his biggest shortcoming was what Jay Rockefeller says, and a lot of the Democratic senators are saying is an asset, that you become a mouthpiece for the foreign service bureaucracy. I think that's a mistake. Jim Baker, when he came in as secretary of state, said he -- he told the foreign service officers, I don't represent you, I represent the president. And that -- that is the failing that I think Colin Powell had, and I think Condoleezza Rice is going to be OK on that.
Al, if I could correct you on one thing? Ann Veneman, is an old friend of mine -- I like her -- she was very unpopular with the -- with farmers. And if the agriculture secretary is unpopular with farmers, that's a serious problem.
HUNT: Bob, can I just make one response to that? How did George Bush do in the farm belt this year?
HUNT: Pretty well. I don't think she could have been that -- if you have an unpopular agriculture secretary...
NOVAK: That may be...
HUNT: ... you don't do...
NOVAK: That may be...
HUNT: ... you don't do well in the farm belt.
NOVAK: That may be the silliest thing you've ever said, but it's a big competition.
HUNT: No, but you know what? I'll give you election returns because you apparently haven't had time to look at them yet.
MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Listen, anybody who...
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, bring some order to this discussion!
CARLSON: Anyone who disagrees with the president doesn't get listened to, even if they're a cabinet secretary. So if these staffers and aides who are loyal to him come in, I don't think they're going to disagree with him because they'll quickly find out that, like Colin Powell, they get ignored. I mean, the good news about Condi Rice is that she will go around the world and speak for the president, whereas many world leaders knew that Colin Powell did not.
But Condi Rice has some things to answer for. On the aluminum tubes, she said, Oh, there was a disagreement? Oh, yes, I guess there was, but I didn't understand the nature of the disagreement when it was brought up in -- after the 9/11 report. And the mushroom cloud. I mean, she was as excitable about these weapons of mass destruction as anybody and was in on the packaging of the intelligence that Colin Powell saw and based his testimony on.
SHIELDS: That's -- one of Colin Powell's problems, being very blunt about it -- he was demonstrably more popular than the president. That is an awkward situation for any cabinet officer.
NOVAK: Oh, I don't think that -- I don't think that was a problem.
O'BEIRNE: Why wouldn't it be? Why wouldn't it be, frankly? First of all, we love our generals. We love our generals. And most Americans knew him as a general. Secondly, as secretary of state -- let's remember he was never elected to anything, so we don't know how that popularity would have born out. He's never had to make a tough call on -- on contentious domestic issues or whatnot. Of course, he's popular!
SHIELDS: ... one thing. I'll get right to you. I'd remind you, Kate, that in the 2000 campaign, Colin Powell was indispensable to George Bush's election.
NOVAK: Well, that's...
SHIELDS: He was.
NOVAK: Let me just say this...
O'BEIRNE: So were his conservative supporters!
NOVAK: My information I get from some very good sources is that Colin Powell really did want to -- want to stay.
SHIELDS: Stay for eight months.
NOVAK: Stay for eight months.
SHIELDS: That's right.
NOVAK: And he gave the resignation to the president, and the president says, Thank you very much. He wanted...
O'BEIRNE: ... not invited to stay.
NOVAK: Exactly. And is now...
CARLSON: ... not invited to...
NOVAK: As Al Haig (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you give the president a resignation, some days, he's going to take it.
HUNT: You know what I'm interested in? Does Condi Rice have a private deal that Rummy's gone in six months? I don't know the answer to that, but I know...
NOVAK: ... just speculating?
HUNT: I don't know. I am, yes, because other people are speculating, Bob, and I think it's an interesting question. She may. CARLSON: The president didn't even give Colin Powell one news cycle. He didn't get to hang up his striped pants before he announced Condi Rice.
SHIELDS: Last word, Margaret Carlson, and a good one. It was.
THE GANG of five will be back with the Republican Party wrestling -- wrestling with Arlen Specter and Tom Delay. Think about that.
SHIELDS: They're in a rare Saturday night session of the United States Senate. There's Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana speaking before the Senate adjourns.
After a closed-door meeting of Republicans on the Senate -- on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the -- I think that was the story -- the outgoing chairman announced this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Arlen Specter will be our next chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Senator Specter then read a statement making several commitments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I have not and would not use a litmus test to deny confirmation to pro-life nominees. I have no reason to believe that I'll be unable to support any individual President Bush finds worthy of nomination. If a rule change is necessary to avoid filibusters, there are relevant recent precedents to secure rule changes with 51 votes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Meanwhile, facing the possibility of a Texas grand jury indictment of majority leader Tom Delay, House Republicans repealed their own rule requiring immediate resignation if one of their leaders is indicted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: I understand the Democrat Party's adjustment to their national minority status is frustrating, but their crushing defeat in the elections earlier this month after two more years of Democrat obstruction and vicious personal attacks should show them that the American people are tired of the politics of personal destruction.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: We don't engage in campaigns of personal destruction. The reason that Mr. Delay was rebuked on a number of occasions by the Ethics Committee is because of his own behavior.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Bob, you heard that strong declaration of independence by Arlen Specter.
SHIELDS: But what does the hard treatment of Arlen Specter and the soft treatment of Tom Delay tell us about today's Republican Party?
NOVAK: It tells you that today's Republican Party is not as dumb as the old Republican Party. I think these were two very deft operations. First place, if they had denied the chairmanship to Specter, he would have -- he might have crossed the aisle. He'd certainly have been very troublesome this session. But they got him to give them almost everything. The night before the meeting, he had written out the statement. It wasn't adequate. And Majority Leader Specter -- I mean Majority Leader Frist got Senator Specter to stiffen it up.
In the case of Tom Delay, he is a great asset. He won single- handedly five more seats in Texas. He is -- he runs the House very well. And the idea that some runaway district attorney in Austin is going to decide who the Republican leader of the House of Representatives is -- they said, No, we're not going to have that rule, particularly when the Democrats don't have a rule like that anyway.
SHIELDS: But Al Hunt, the pitbulls of reform in the Republican -- have turned into timid little poodles, just -- and the lapdogs of Tom Delay.
HUNT: Well, Bob is -- Bob is -- Bob is half right. The Specter thing was ingenious. Conservatives ought to be ecstatic. They not only have...
SHIELDS: Oh, I agree.
HUNT: They not only have a lapdog, they have a neutered lapdog as judiciary chairman. He is the most impotent chairman in the Senate.
On Tom Delay -- proves one truism about the body politic, which we've known going back to the French revolution, if not before, and that is entrenched power is a narcotic because Tom Delay is a poster boy for unethical conduct. It's not just the Texas situation, he's been admonished by the Ethics Committee, bipartisan Ethics Committee, four times. That's a record. No one else in Congress...
HUNT: He is -- it's his top aide who's involved in this current sleazy scandal of shaking down the Indians, a scandal that may well lead back to Delay's office.
HUNT: If I could just finish, please? This is also a guy who is not just criticized by -- this is not a left-wing -- these include some conservative voices like "The Dallas Morning News," columnist...
HUNT: ... David Brooks, who says, basically, that this guy is an ethical timebomb for Republicans. And he is.
NOVAK: That's the funniest thing I ever heard!
SHIELDS: "The Manchester Union Leader," "The Indianapolis Star" -- I mean, it took the Democrats 40 years, Kate, to become this arrogant, this hubristic. How can Tom Delay and the Republicans do it in just 10?
O'BEIRNE: Let me just make a quick comparison to the Democrats. Even the modified rule is far stronger than anything the Democrats have. They have no provision whatsoever to police their members with respect to anything that might happen -- indictments, fines or anything.
Look, it's something House Republicans would rather not have had to do, but what they really don't want to have happen is a partisan state prosecutor -- runs as a Democrat, elected as a Democrat in Texas -- indict Tom Delay. This is a -- this is a fellow who indicted Kay Bailey Hutchinson after she won a special election, and the case was thrown out the very first day at trial because there was no grounds to have indicted her. They're not going to let this state prosecutor with a partisan record decide who's in their own leadership.
SHIELDS: This is a district attorney, just for the record, Kate (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who's indicted 15 sitting politicians, 12 of whom have been Democrats.
SHIELDS: Twelve of whom have been Democrats.
O'BEIRNE: Including Kay Bailey Hutchison...
NOVAK: All his factional enemies!
O'BEIRNE: ... whose case was thrown out the first day of trial!
SHIELDS: The attorney general of Texas...
NOVAK: All his factional enemies.
SHIELDS: ... the speaker of the House. I mean, go ahead, Margaret.
NOVAK: The speaker of the House...
SHIELDS: I mean, that's hardly partisan. Go ahead.
CARLSON: Yes, 12 out of 15 is not partisan. And the Democrats do have a rule, which is that chairmen and subcommittee chairmen will be removed from their chairs if they are indicted, and now they've added the leaders. And so they now have a stricter rule than the Republicans have. And I want you to know that now murder and treason are still -- if you're indicted for murder or treason, the Republicans will still throw you out.
SHIELDS: They will.
CARLSON: And I think that is -- shows a great deal of ethical standards on their part.
Listen, poor Arlen Specter. Nobody's -- he was nearly Borked. No one has apologized more since Senator Trent Lott wishing that Strom Thurmond had become president, so he's completely...
NOVAK: It was a very good operation.
CARLSON: ... emasculated -- he's completely emasculated.
HUNT: It was.
CARLSON: And he says there's no litmus test. Yes, there is a litmus test now. You have to be...
NOVAK: Look, can I -- can I...
CARLSON: ... against Roe V Wade...
NOVAK: Can I just get in for one...
NOVAK: I just want to -- I just want to say that Al -- Al never likes to be inaccurate, and you didn't want to give the impression that a present aide...
O'BEIRNE: No, it's a former aide.
NOVAK: ... a former aide...
O'BEIRNE: Look, Al...
O'BEIRNE: Look, Arlen Specter...
HUNT: That's what I said.
NOVAK: You didn't say former, you said an aide.
O'BEIRNE: Arlen Specter...
HUNT: I'll give you a transcript.
O'BEIRNE: Arlen Specter wasn't Borked because to Bork somebody means to lie about them. But the Democratic lame-duck congressman who filed the ethics complaint against Tom Delay, who has a huge target on his back by these partisans because he's so effective -- the Ethics Committee just admonished him. They said his ethics complaint misstated the facts and law, used inflammatory language because it was politically motivated in order to get the headlines, and it was improperly designed by left-wing outside groups. That's how the Ethics Committee was abused...
CARLSON: Maybe there was a bit of...
O'BEIRNE: ... and the Ethics Committee just said so...
CARLSON: ... hyperbole -- Tom Delay...
O'BEIRNE: ... by a Democratic congressman!
CARLSON: He stole five seats, so there was a little hyperbole...
NOVAK: He didn't steal five...
CARLSON: ... in the...
NOVAK: The American people -- you know, I think, Mark, you know realpolitik. You know how the real world...
NOVAK: You know how the real world works. And the idea is that Tom Delay is -- in the years I've been here, is one of the most effective political operators...
O'BEIRNE: And that's his real crime!
NOVAK: ... I have seen. And that's...
O'BEIRNE: That's his only crime! NOVAK: And I'll tell you something else. I have never in my years seen a minority leader attack personally the ethics and morality of a majority leader, as Nancy Pelosi has. And she has declared war...
HUNT: You know, the one thing that Bob and Kate don't mention -- I don't blame you for not mentioning it -- is that this guy has been admonished four times...
HUNT: And nobody else in the history of the Congress...
O'BEIRNE: Nobody else has had complaints like that brought against them!
HUNT: Just a second -- for unethical and sleazy...
O'BEIRNE: No, no, no!
HUNT: ... behavior -- wait a second.
HUNT: May I finish, please, Kate?
O'BEIRNE: It wasn't!
HUNT: Kate, do you mind if I get a word in? It is by a bipartisan -- Republicans as well as Democrats. It's never happened...
O'BEIRNE: He wasn't admonished...
HUNT: ... to anyone...
O'BEIRNE: ... for sleazy behavior! That's just not true!
HUNT: You can make any kind of apologist you want to for him...
O'BEIRNE: That's not true!
HUNT: ... but that's the record.
O'BEIRNE: It's not true!
NOVAK: It's people like you, having decided long ago, before there was -- you even knew -- We're going to get Tom Delay. There -- there is a...
NOVAK: There is a coolly calculated plot to get rid of Tom Delay.
HUNT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to the Republicans on the Ethics Committee and then explain them. I don't think you all will do that. I don't blame you.
SHIELDS: This is a man -- this is a man who used his power and abused his power to direct Homeland Security, protecting us from foreign threats, to trace down a legislator in Texas?
SHIELDS: I mean, that was a real...
O'BEIRNE: The inspector general had an investigation and said that didn't happen!
SHIELDS: ... Ethics Committee...
HUNT: Kate, you deal with...
SHIELDS: ... reprimanded him for.
HUNT: ... half truths...
SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG, President Bush and Bill Clinton making nice over each other.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BONO (singing): When the rain comes, they run and hide their head. They might as well be dead when the rain comes, when the rain comes. When the sun shines...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Welcome back. The William J. Clinton Presidential Center opened in Little Rock, Arkansas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the White House, the whole nation witnessed his brilliance and his mastery of detail, his persuasive power and his persistence.
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm a little red and a little blue.
What it is to me is the symbol of not only what I tried to do but what I want to do with the rest of my life, building bridges from yesterday to tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: After the ceremony, Bill Clinton revealed a somewhat different side when Peter Jennings of ABC News mentioned the former president's treatment by the news media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: You don't want to go here, Peter. You don't want to go here, not after what you people did and the way you, your network, what you did with Kenneth Starr, the way your people repeated every little sleazy thing he leaked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, which is the real Bill Clinton, conciliatory or angry?
CARLSON: Who's the real anybody, Mark, I ask you?
SHIELDS: We know who the real Bob Novak is!
CARLSON: You know, I -- I'm afraid we do!
CARLSON: Angry. Listen, I -- there was a flash of anger in there. And you know, I've always been surprised that he's not angrier and bitter about it and he's managed to cover it up, for the most part. Certainly, he's right about what Ken Starr did, and Ken Starr behaved badly enough that it killed the special prosecutor law. That's how bad he behaved. And Tom Delay talking about the politics of personal destruction, when he led the posse...
NOVAK: Oh, we're back to...
CARLSON: ... to impeach -- yes, we are.
NOVAK: We're back to Delay?
CARLSON: He led the posse to impeach Bill Clinton on the basis of, you know, a sexual affair, whereas Tom Delay's ethical lapses have to do with the country, and Bill's had to do -- Bill Clinton's had to do with his own soul. And I think the former's much worse.
Listen, I thought that the library -- everybody spoke just right...
NOVAK: Oh! CARLSON: ... at that library ceremony.
SHIELDS: It was beautiful, wasn't it.
CARLSON: Yes, I thought it was...
SHIELDS: Kind of moving, didn't you think, Bob?
CARLSON: I thought it was quite -- I thought it was...
NOVAK: Oh, I'll tell you something. I...
CARLSON: Bob, I'm still...
NOVAK: She is?
SHIELDS: I'm sorry. Go ahead.
CARLSON: No, he did, but that was a big mistake on his part.
SHIELDS: Yes, it was. And I apologize...
CARLSON: You know, I thought the most interesting thing about the coverage was...
NOVAK: How long is this going to go on?
CARLSON: ... that -- yes, until I'm done -- that the camera stayed on Hillary Clinton much of the day because she's the future. And there's an apartment at that library...
NOVAK: Maybe she'll stay there.
CARLSON: ... where I think Hillary's going to be spending a lot of time trying to get a little red and away from the blue state of New York.
CARLSON: Before she runs for president.
SHIELDS: Go ahead.
NOVAK: I thought that was a -- that whole day was...
SHIELDS: Was moving?
NOVAK: ... as disgraceful...
SHIELDS: Oh. NOVAK: Can I -- can I answer...
NOVAK: I'd like to answer my own -- your question.
SHIELDS: OK. Sure.
CARLSON: It was rhetorical, Mark.
NOVAK: If you want to answer them yourself, you don't have to ask me.
SHIELDS: OK. All right.
NOVAK: I would say that there was a disgraceful performance for a presidential library to open as a political -- a Democratic political rally. I was very disappointed in President Bush's participating in this, with all this stuff about what a wonderful president President Clinton was, when most of his -- his base doesn't think so at all. And the idea -- the whole -- the whole library has all this attacks on Ken Starr and attacks on the -- on the impeachment process. Most of these -- these libraries say that there are problems with these presidents. They don't -- they don't make these political arguments. I thought it was a bad day. And of course, it was -- the anger by the man was incredible...
NOVAK: ... in the interview with Jennings.
SHIELDS: I wanted you to respond, Al. But just one...
HUNT: No, I just want to ask one question. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Bob, have you been to the Clinton library?
HUNT: You haven't? Well, I've been there, and maybe you ought to, before you criticize...
NOVAK: You ought to stay there.
HUNT: You know, you ought to go to it, and then maybe you'll know what's in it. Look, I thought...
NOVAK: That's so silly!
HUNT: I want to say something. I thought that having those four presidents up there, all of whom were very gracious in the pouring rain, was -- it was moving and it was a very good symbol for America around the world.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.
O'BEIRNE: I would just remind my friend, Margaret, that committing perjury and lying under oath and abusing the office of the presidency by doing things like claiming a Secret Service privilege is not all that private.
I was reminded, watching the Clinton library opening, what a remarkable political personality he is. He's such a talent. He defies, like, the law of gravity when it comes to being a politician. And I'm reminded that -- it strikes me that Hillary Clinton is going to have all of the baggage and none of the skills, the incredible skills her husband has to overcome all of...
NOVAK: Well, what did you think...
NOVAK: What did you think of that performance with Peter Jennings, though?
SHIELDS: I have to say...
O'BEIRNE: That's also Bill Clinton. He is prickly and defensive. He's never accepted...
O'BEIRNE: ... responsibility...
SHIELDS: We're going to wrap.
O'BEIRNE: ... for what happened to him!
SHIELDS: We're going to wrap. But I -- Bob, I've heard you say absolutely ludicrous things on this show, but you're saying that George Bush shouldn't have gone there because so much of his base doesn't like Bill Clinton -- he's supposed to parrot his base? I thought he was a leader.
CARLSON: Right. And he...
O'BEIRNE: I don't think they mind he was there.
HUNT: Bob, that was awful silly.
NOVAK: You can say it was silly, but I was -- I was upset by the -- not by his going there but by gushing about what a wonderful president Bill Clinton was. He wasn't a wonderful president at all!
SHIELDS: How many -- Al, how many jobs were created?
NOVAK: Oh, please!
HUNT: I think it was 26 million, wasn't it?
SHIELDS: OK. Coming up in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG, our "Newsmaker of the Week" is newly elected Republicans senator Mel Martinez of Florida. We'll go "Beyond the Beltway" to look at Iran's nuclear program. Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations will join us. And our "Outrages of the Week." That's all after these messages and the latest news headlines.
HUNT: And deficits went down every year.
CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Carol Lin. More CAPITAL GANG in just a moment, but first a quick look at what's happening right now in the news. President Bush addresses the APEC summit in Chile and meets with leaders of China, Russia, Japan and South Korea. He wants them to urge North Korea to give up its goal of having nuclear weapons.
And Secretary of State Colin Powell will head from that summit in Chile to the Middle East tomorrow. The aim of his trip, to ensure a smooth election for a new Palestinian leader. A January election is schedule to replace Yasser Arafat.
An American soldier and eight Iraqis were killed in three attacks across Iraq's capital today. Among those who died, a civilian killed in a car bombing and three Iraqi national guardsmen who were killed by a roadside bomb. That's what's happening right now in the news. I'm Carol Lin. Now back to the CAPITAL GANG.
Welcome back to the second half of the CAPITAL GANG. Mel Martinez, who was President Bush's secretary of housing and urban development, became the first Cuban-born U.S. senator when he was elected this month from Florida. Earlier this week, our own Kate O'Beirne interviewed the Republican Senator-elect from the Russell Senate Office Building.
KATE O'BEIRNE, THE CAPITAL GANG: Welcome and congratulations. Are you expecting a new spirit of cooperation and compromise from the new Democrat leadership in the Senate?
MEL MARTINEZ (R) FLA SENATOR-ELECT: I sure hope so. We've been together with the newly elected Democrat freshmen senators and there's been a great friendship that's developed among us all and I believe that all of the participants in the orientation, all of the existing senators, have all suggested that we've got to move to a better place and I'm hopeful that that spirit will continue in the first months of the new session.
O'BEIRNE: A top priority to Senator Frist has been tort reform. He's talked about being one vote shy of the 60 votes he's needed. Are you going to be that extra vote he's been looking for?
MARTINEZ: I think there will be about four extra votes actually, but I'll be one of them. I believe we do need to do tort reform, class action reform, asbestos litigation reform and malpractice reform. Some of those will be a little easier than others and I think malpractice will be the most difficult. But tort reform is coming. I don't think there's any question about that.
O'BEIRNE: Would you vote to prohibit the ability to filibuster judicial nominees?
MARTINEZ: The filibusters cannot continue. My fervent hope is that the Democrats have realized that it's not been productive, certainly not to the country and certainly not politically. And I hope a new day will come and we won't have to go to draconian measures but the majority vote will be to move forward and give them a fair hearing and an early vote.
O'BEIRNE: Tax reform is a major agenda item for President Bush. What is tax reform?
MARTINEZ: Well, I think anything that simplifies the tax code, that makes it easier for folks to comply, anything that makes the tax rates lower, which is also good for the economy. I believe that continuing to make capital gains lower and lower and making the debt taxes a thing of the past, those are some of the reforms that I believe should be made permanent and I think should be coming.
O'BEIRNE: Do you expect the Senate to take up the president's proposal for a guest worker program for illegal aliens this year?
MARTINEZ: I believe we need to look at immigration reform. I don't think there's any question that we need stronger border enforcement and we need to stay away from anything that is amnesty, because we don't want to reward illegal behavior. But for those that are here and there are millions of them that are working, that are making a contribution, a temporary worker status I think is a good idea and we want to look at the details of a bill, but I think it's a good thing to move forward on it.
O'BEIRNE: What are your other priorities for the next year or two?
MARTINEZ: I want to make sure that I stand up for the principles that elected me. I want a strong national defense. I want to make sure that we defeat the terrorists, that we win the war on terror. That's going to be number one. I think secondarily, what I heard from people is that we need to reform Social Security and reform our health care system. Those are going to be two top agenda items for me from the domestic standpoint.
O'BEIRNE: Are your constituents nervous about the idea of introducing private accounts for Social Security?
MARTINEZ: I believe that for younger workers, while ensuring continuing benefits to those that are now retired or those approaching retirement age, that allowing younger workers to invest a portion of their retirement for their future I think has a lot of favor in Florida.
O'BEIRNE: There are lots of changes in that cabinet you used to serve in. Do you think the president is losing the benefit of independent opinions by putting White House staff in such key spots in the cabinet?
MARTINEZ: I don't think he's getting his yes people. I believe he's getting very strong and very strong and qualified people in the new cabinet he's putting together. It's a taxing job. I love my colleagues that I served with. They're good people. They've done a terrific job for the country.
O'BEIRNE: Supporters of Arnold Schwarzenegger have launched a campaign to promote a constitutional amendment that would permit their foreign-born governor to run and serve as president. As someone born in Cuba, do you think that amendment is a good idea?
MARTINEZ: Well, I'm intrigued about it. I actually think that it's not something that will impact my life, but I do think that patriotic Americans who give of themselves just by the happenstance of being foreign born, the ones that are committed to this country and after a long period of residence, it probably wouldn't be a bad limitation. You know, I've always loved America because there are no limits on what one can do, except there is one limitation. Someone foreign born could not be president.
SHIELDS: OK, well, Mel Martinez from that interview will be an automatic vote for the White House?
O'BEIRNE: No, Mark. There's no such thing, but he ran a good race in Florida on those issues, tax reform, the war on terrorism, tort reform, private accounts in Social Security and he's come to Washington and on behalf of the people who elected him, he's going to support those initiatives of the president's.
ROBERT NOVAK, THE CAPITAL GANG: (INAUDIBLE) represents the Cuban- Americans in Florida, a small but very, very important constituency. He's going to be a strong force against softening up on Castro and he's also I think most of the time going to be for the president.
SHIELDS: You got to get tougher on Castro and softer on China.
AL HUNT, THE CAPITAL GANG: I would hope he'd steal away from John McCain and John and Bob Kerrey and be the guy who tries to leave their sensible normalization relations with Cuba, because Castro is gone soon.
MARGARET CARLSON, THE CAPITAL GANG: No one will be more loyal to George Bush and perhaps a rubber stamp because George Bush won that seat for him. He owes him a lot.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, once again trenchant, timely. Coming up, CAPITAL GANG classic, Colin Powell named secretary of state four years ago.
ANNOUNCER: Here's your CAPITAL GANG trivia question of the week. Mel Martinez was a campaign volunteer in 1978 for which current U.S. senator? Was it A, John McCain; B, Kit Bond or C, Bill Nelson? We'll have the answer right after the break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ANNOUNCER: Before the break, we asked Mel Martinez was a campaign volunteer in 1978 for which current U.S. Senator? The answer is C, Bill Nelson.
SHIELDS: Welcome back. Four years ago, President-Elect George W. Bush named retired Army General Colin Powell to be his secretary of state. The CAPITAL GANG discussed this on December 16th, 2000. Our guest was the then newly elected Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia.
CARLSON: Colin Powell is the worst kept secret among his appointees and it's good he did it and it's a wonderful thing and Colin Powell will come down to the mere mortal level as secretary of state but I think he'll be good.
SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R) VA: I think the appointment of General Powell is a tremendous appointment.
HUNT: I think the Powell appointment is going to be incredibly well received by Democrats and Republicans. He's the darling of the press establishment, so I think that will certainly help.
SHIELDS: There is a sense of good feeling toward George W. Bush. I was surprised. First of all, he got no criticism for appointing a pro-choice, pro-affirmative action, pro-gun control as his first major nominee and the right has been pretty muted with the exception of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.
NOVAK: They haven't criticized Colin Powell. He's secretary of state. He isn't attorney general. He isn't HHS secretary. If he named a pro-choicer to one those, he's be in trouble.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, did the gang fail to anticipate the conflicts between Colin Powell's State Department and the White House?
O'BEIRNE: It may not have been mentioned in that clip, but of course Colin Powell's fans in the media anticipated a conflict. They were rooting for a conflict and hoping it would only be a matter of time before Colin Powell got that president in line.
SHIELDS: Margaret, you made sense even then.
CARLSON: I had no idea how mortal he would become in the Bush White House. If Bush had listened to him, we would not be in this situation in Iraq today, especially in dealing with the post-war Iraq, because the State Department was precisely right.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak.
NOVAK: I think the gang was right in that going into this kind of thing. You know, the secretary of state is not an independent office. You may think it is, but it isn't. William Jennings Bryant had to resign. Cyrus Vance had to resign. Al Haig had to resign, because they thought they were independent. They're not. They work on the orders and at the pleasure of the president, and Colin Powell did. He really did.
HUNT: Cyrus Vance chose to resign. I think Colin Powell...
NOVAK: So did William Jennings Bryant.
HUNT: ... has some great achievements. He diffused tensions with China at a very important time, India, Pakistan, but he was demeaned and deprecated by this White House, so it ended up a rather tragic tenure.
SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt. Next on CAPITAL GANG, beyond the beltway looks at Iran's diplomatic dance over its nuclear program, with Ray Takeyh of the Council of Foreign Relations.
SHIELDS: Welcome back. Secretary of State Colin Powell reported on intelligence about Iranian nuclear development. Quote, I have seen some information that would suggest that they have been actively working on delivery systems to deliver - I'm not talking about uranium. I'm not talking about fissile material. I'm not talking about a warhead, end quote. An Iranian opposition group said it had discovered a secret nuclear cite in Tehran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOHAMMAD MOHADDESSIN, NATL COUNCIL OF RESISTANCE OF IRAN: (INAUDIBLE) how many (INAUDIBLE) of this regime (INAUDIBLE) is to achieve all necessity facilities for making nuclear bomb for which to this point in middle of 2005.
SHIELDS: The Iranian nuclear negotiator denied this report. Earlier in the week, he had reached out to Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUSSEIN MOUSSAVIAN, IRANIAN NUCLEAR NEGOTIATOR: ... looking for a situation of no tension between Iran and United States. We do not like to continue the process of hostilities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Joining us now is Ray Takeyh. He's the senior fellow on Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Thanks for coming in Ray.
RAY TAKEYH, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Thank you.
SHIELDS: Ray, tell us, is Colin Powell correct that Iran is actually developing a nuclear delivery system and why, if he is right is that so significant?
TAKEYH: I think it's very difficult to look at a delivery system, a missile or a warhead and make a conclusive determination that this is designed to carry a nuclear device as opposed to conventional ordinances. But nevertheless, this has to be placed in a context, an Iranian context, a context that has seen Iran developed a very sophisticated nuclear research program with both uranium conversion facilities and plutonium conversion facilities on both ends of the fuel cycle and also over the years, it has invested considerably in (INAUDIBLE) advanced missile fleet. We put all these together and it suggests that on this indicator of Iran's intentions.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak.
NOVAK: Well, just to continue on the word intentions, what do they plan to do with that? Is that a deterrent? Is it an attempt to blackmail their neighbors? Do they actually want to use the weapons against their neighbors? What do you think their intentions are?
TAKEYH: I suspect that Iran wants a nuclear weapon for purposes of deterrence as opposed to power projection, deterrence against whom, well, an entire range of actors, but most specifically at this point, against the United States. In a sense, Iranians have drawn certain lessons from operation Iraqi freedom and one of those lessons is, that a determined American president cannot be deterred when he perceives the country that he has designs on possess conventional or biological weapons. The United States (INAUDIBLE) had those weapons and nevertheless militarily intervened.
So one of the lessons of operation Iraqi freedom is that the only way that a super power like the United States can be deterred is the possession of the strategic weapon. In the meantime, North Korea offers its own lessons for Iran and one of those lessons is that possession of that weapon can actually invite potential security and economic concessions from the international community and the United States. So in that sense, nuclear weapons play an important role in a potential deterrence posture that Iranians are trying to craft.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
CARLSON: Ray, but isn't there another lesson from Iraq in that the United States has spent its moral authority and its military resources there and so the United States has to rely on Europe and a series of interim agreements to try to keep the lid on Iran.
TAKEYH: The solution to Iran's nuclear challenge has to involve Washington. The Europeans can offer interim arrangements that sporadically fall apart, but ultimately, given the fact, given the centrality of the United States in Iran's nuclear calculation, indeed in its entire defense calculations, for Iran to dispense with the, at least the perceived deterrent value of atomic weapons, it requires a different type of a relationship with the United States.
So long as there is tension and hostility and animosity between Washington and Tehran, it is unlikely that Iran will categorically dispose of its nuclear ambition. So Washington has to be involved in this process at some point in a sort of a multilateral approach to Iran that involves the Europeans, but also some of the regional states as well as east Asians, Russians, Chinese and maybe in that framework, Iran's nuclear ambitions can be restrained.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.
O'BEIRNE: Ray, speaking of lessons, isn't there a lesson from 9/11, given that so many people rightfully regard Iran as really the mother of Islamic terrorism, that it could have some sort of a nuclear capacity, given its aggressive support for Islamic terrorism. Doesn't that pose a post-9/11 problem for the world?
TAKEYH: I think it poses a threat for the international community, for regional stability. Should Iran obtain nuclear capability, it will destabilize the region. It may provoke arms races. It may provoke some of Iran's neighbors to seek similar weapons as a means of counterbalancing Iran and if Iran actually crosses a nuclear threshold in violation of its treaty commitment, that brings the end to NPT and the non-proliferation regime that has governed the international system for the past 30 years or so. So the ramifications of Iran having nuclear weapons for the region, for the international community, for non-proliferation norms, are significant and substantial. That's why this is a problem that has to be dealt with urgently and immediately.
HUNT: Ray, it would seem that the idea of any kind of military invasion is geo-politically impossible. What is the efficacy of any kind of selective or surgical strike against Iran?
TAKEYH: Well, first of all, when we talk about Iran's nuclear program, we have to recognize that this is a program that has been dispersed throughout the country, so we're not talking about a single strike, but a series of strikes potentially over a period of time. And for a military strike to work beyond the logistical difficulties of having that sort of an operation, you require very precise intelligence about where these facilities are and I'm not quite sure if the United States does possess that kind of intelligence.
Second of all, what you need is a propensity by the American people to accept civilian casualties, because one of the things that Iranians have done is not just to harden these facilities and take them underground, but also to urbanize them. Tehran, (INAUDIBLE) all these cities have now nuclear research plans and nuclear research facilities. So we would have to accept civilian casualties as part of a military operation that may not necessarily succeed in disarming Iran. In that sense, it's a very difficult and risky thing to do.
SHIELDS: Ray Takeyh, thank you so very much for being with us. You've been terrific. Again, we'll be back with the outrages of the week.
TAKEYH: Thank you.
SHIELDS: And now for the outrage of the week. John McCain, the Arizona maverick, blew the whistle on the Air Force's secret $30 billion sweetheart deal with the Boeing company to lease 100 jet transports, an explosion that eventually led to the imprisonment of the Air Force's chief procurement officer who admitted she had steered billions of dollars in contracts to Boeing before going to work for the company for $250,000 a year.
Now John McCain goes after the Air Force and defends department honchos, refusing to believe one person alone, quote, can rip off taxpayers out of possibly billions. Keep going, John. Bob Novak.
NOVAK: (INAUDIBLE), the new director of central intelligence is doing a tough job that should have been done years ago, cleaning up the CIA, purging the old boys club. The agency is dysfunctional. It doesn't work and our own organization that tried to prevent George B. Bush's reelection. But every day, Democrats, led by Congresswoman Jane Harmon, attack their former colleague for disrupting the wonderful gang at the CIA. But weren't these the same Democrats who attacked the same agency for its poor record? What hypocrisy.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
CARLSON: Mark, what should you do with a journalist who exposes corruption that indicts a big city mayor? Give him an Emmy? How about put him in jail. That's what's about to happen to NBC affiliate reporter Jim Tericani in Rhode Island. He's refused to reveal the source of a video showing the mayor taking a bribe, a huge scoop. The real crime is jailing reporters for doing their jobs, whether it's Teraconi or in the CIA leak case, my colleague Matt Cooper at "Time" magazine, whose jail sentence is on appeal.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.
O'BEIRNE: Condoleezza Rice is the latest black conservative to be treated viciously by newspapers supposedly devoted to the politics of diversity and tolerance. Cartoonist Pat Oliphant depicted Rice as a large lipped parrot perched on George Bush's finger. Gary Trudeau has Bush referring to her as brown sugar. Editorial cartoonist Jeff Danziger mocks intelligence on Iraq by portraying Rice as the illiterate black slave Prissy from "Gone with the Wind," who knew nothing about birthing babies. What a disgrace that ugly racist stereotypes heralded the first black woman to be secretary of state.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt.
HUNT: I love the NBA. I even believe that this will finally be the year the Washington Wizards make the playoffs. But the fight which halted the Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons game last night, with players going after and punching fans in the stands, was unconscionable. There is no provocation that justifies athletes brawling in the stands. Commissioner David Stern, one of the best of the sports czars, needs to deal out unprecedented penalties, like a season-long ban on the worst culprits.
SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields, saying good night for the CAPITAL GANG. Coming up next, CNN presents the fight over faith. At 9:00 p.m., LARRY KING LIVE, a crooner for the ages, Tony Bennett and at 10:00 p.m., TNT sports analyst Kenny Smith with the latest news on last night's NBA brawl in Detroit. Thank you for joining us.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com