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President Bush demands the Arab world take steps toward peace; The Senate passed a tough new bankruptcy law' John Bolton is named U.N. ambassador

Aired March 12, 2005 - 19:00   ET


AL HUNT, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Al Hunt with the full GANG: Mark Shields, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.

In a policy speech, President Bush demanded that the Arab world take steps toward peace.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Arab states must end incitement in their own media, cut off public and private funding for terrorism, stop their support for extremist education and establish normal relations with Israel.


HUNT: He also said Syria's staggered and gradual withdrawal from Lebanon is insufficient.


BUSH: The time has come for Syria to fully implement Security Council Resolution 1559. All Syrian military forces and intelligence personnel must withdraw before the Lebanese elections for those elections to be free and fair.

IMAD MOUSTAPHA, SYRIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: We have to be realistic. The United States is the world unique superpower. Now we are actually helping the United States to focus its efforts on what they really should do, exert the tremendous maximal pressure on Israel to withdraw its troops from the West Bank and Gaza.


HUNT: Mark, is President Bush now in command of the situation in the Middle East?

MARK SHIELDS, CAPITAL GANG: No, he's not in command of the situation. I think it's a little early to take a premature victory lap around the Middle East, Al, and declare victory before we can secure victory in Iraq. I mean, I'd point out that last month, February of 2005, more Americans died than did -- in Iraq than did in February, 2004. We had the largest single attack on -- of the entire war. So -- but we're all cheered and encouraged by the developments. And I commend the president for his support, since the death of Yasser Arafat, of the negotiations and the progress between the Palestinians and the -- and the Israelis.

But I would say this, Al, that Lebanon is a lot more complex than it looks. This is a country that -- its last official census was 1932 -- 51 percent of the people in that census were Christian, 49 percent were Muslim. And they carved up their government that way. The president is Christian in the constitution, the prime minister is Sunni, and the speaker of the parliament is Shi'ite. It's -- believe me, it's not easy.

HUNT: You don't make a lot of money being optimistic about Lebanon, do you, Bob.

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: No, you don't, but -- but you know, I -- the Democrats just hate this good news. They say, you know, We're happy, but they're not happy. They're not a bit happy because this was the weakest spot of President Bush, and things are looking a little better. I thought the -- the big rally that television went to such great extent -- the pro-Syrian rally was a phony. People were bussed in from Syria on that.

So things are -- are looking a little better. And I thought that the words of the Syrian ambassador to the United States that this is the superpower and what the United States says counts -- he was trying to joe (ph) the United States -- goad the United States into being tougher on Israel, but what he was also admitting is that they're going to have to get out of Lebanon because the United States wants them to get out.

HUNT: Are you one of those -- those people who are not happy, Margaret?

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: I took a slightly different message from the demonstration this week, which is...

NOVAK: I'll bet.

CARLSON: ... which is that just as in Iraq, when we took out Saddam Hussein, we had nothing to replace it, by taking the troops out of Syria (SIC) and taking a hard line -- Syrian troops out -- we better know what we're going to get. And now the United States is in the anomalous position of joining France to say, Well, maybe Hezbollah isn't that bad, because there's nothing there, and the people demonstrating are saying, Listen, Hezbollah's been good to us. It's like Hamas. They provide a lot of services, in addition to being a terrorist organization. So does the United States know what it wants there when this happens? I think that's something we should have learned in Iraq to foresee and to prepare for.

HUNT: Kate, she poses a very good question. We said for the past couple years Hezbollah, if anything, is more treacherous than al Qaeda. Now "The New York Times" has an authoritative story today that we are in the process of agreeing to Hezbollah being part of a -- of a government in Lebanon. KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Al, I think that remains to be seen. Prior to 9/11...

HUNT: But that's a big shift, isn't it?

O'BEIRNE: ... no single terrorist group had killed more Americans than Hezbollah. They, of course, have American -- lots of American blood on their hands. The president delivers a very needy (ph) policy speech and people seem to ignore what he says. He's not taking any victory lap. What does he say? He says there's a thaw going on in that part of the world. I think that's exactly the right word. The icy grip of these tyrants is loosening.

What else does he say? Spreading democratic values is in our direct national security interest because stable, free, democratic governments don't breed terrorism. Of course, there are enormous, vicious, powerful forces in the person of Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, opposed to this democratic movement. But we're seeing a wholly different Arab street. We're seeing people taking to the streets against tyranny, in favor of democracy, friendly to us and our allies, and that is a crucial thawing.

HUNT: Mark, Hezbollah in the Lebanese government -- isn't that a shift?

SHIELDS: Well, it is. It is. I mean, obviously, we're cooperating with France here, Al. And Hezbollah, you know, is not to be confused with Common Cause or the League of Women Voters. I mean, they've done some terribly, terribly bad things. They were formed -- let it be noted -- historically in response to Israel's invasion and occupation of Lebanon. I mean, this place has more history than it can handle, Lebanon. It's a nation of 3.7 million people, and it's got more history, Al, and more pressures and more counter-pressures than any place on the earth that I can think of.

NOVAK: Let me -- let me make a point of personal privilege.

HUNT: You make a point of personal privilege.

NOVAK: A couple, few years ago, I said in regard to Hezbollah that one man's terrorist was another man's freedom fighter, and I just got all kinds of abuse. Ed Koch was ready to send me into exile. But that is the truth. These people are considered -- Hezbollah was considered by some people as freedom fighters. They are part of the real world, and I'm glad we're dealing with them.


O'BEIRNE: ... innocent women and children...


HUNT: And I will tell you, I went to a briefing at the CIA a couple years ago, and they literally said Hezbollah is worse than al Qaeda. And I think -- I think that history is pretty bad. And I will have the last word on that, Robert. When THE GANG of five returns: all-out partisan warfare in the United States Senate.


HUNT: Welcome back. The Senate passed bankruptcy reform legislation 74 to 25, but not before a bitterly partisan debate over what was behind the bill.


SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We're not going to show them any mercy. Absolutely no. Put the wood to them. Veterans? Put the wood to them! Put the wood to them. Single moms who aren't getting their payments of child care and alimony? Put the wood to them!

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: These are not even close calls. They are consistent bipartisan blow-outs. But to listen to the opposition, you would think that this legislation is supported by only a small minority of representatives in the House of Representatives or in the Senate. Nothing could be further from the truth.


HUNT: Senator Kennedy again failed in an attempt to amend the bill by increasing the minimum wage.


KENNEDY: We see the purchasing power of the minimum wage going down to its second lowest, and we see that so many of these individuals that are below the line of poverty end up in bankruptcy.

SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: What we need to do is look at how we provide a responsible floor for workers without having what Senator Sununu suggested, having an impact on the economy which could be inflationary and damaging to all workers.


HUNT: Kate, did Senator Kennedy put the Republicans on the defensive in this debate?

O'BEIRNE: I don't think he has, Al. I think Orrin Hatch had it right. The bankruptcy reform bill, pending for eight years, passed with 74 votes. That's as bipartisan as you can get in the Senate, given the hard-core left among some of those Senate Democrats. If this was such a winning issue, if the Republicans were on such defense on the issue of raising the national minimum wage -- because of course, many states have higher minimum wages -- John Kerry would have mentioned it in the course of the campaign. I don't remember John Kerry ever advocating during this campaign an increase in the minimum wage. That doesn't strike me as a winning Democratic issue.

HUNT: Margaret, but whatever the politics of it, the facts are that almost I think half the people who declare for bankruptcy in America, it's because of some medical catastrophe. And some of those people are going to -- are going to really, really get hit hard, aren't they?

CARLSON: Job loss, medical catastrophe and divorce are the main reason. And some of the worst parts of this bill were fixed, but the credit card and the bank companies got their $24 million worth out of their campaign contributions last time, and this got through.

But you know, the one thing -- they fixed things and kept things for rich people, which is that corporate CEOs going to jail get to have asset protection trusts. They get to keep their mansions. All that was kept in place. But protections for poor people weren't kept in place. And one of the biggest problems wasn't fixed, which is credit cards entice poor people to get the credit cards. Then they pay 30 percent interest and late fees. And there's one case in which a woman in Cleveland paid $3,900 over six years. Let me just give this to you. She was $1,963 in debt. And at the end of the six years, after paying all that money, she was $5,564 in debt, and they didn't fix that.

HUNT: Because of the fees. Bob, you don't have an asset protection trust, do you?

NOVAK: No, I certainly don't. I'm not in bankruptcy, and I hope you're not, either, Al. The -- Margaret made an interesting little speech there, but the trouble is, I heard it all on the Senate floor, and it's -- it's the far left wing conspiracy into the media and on the Hill, with all this class warfare. It doesn't work. It was a 3- to-1 vote. And I'll tell you something. Teddy Kennedy's an old friend of mine. I like old Teddy. But when he gets up there -- "Put the wood to them" -- and screaming and shouting, this -- this is the Democratic Party in a losing streak deciding the way to break the losing streak is to do the same dumb thing they've been doing.

HUNT: Mark, Kate says the minimum wage doesn't resonate because Senator Kerry didn't talk about it much. The people in Florida had a chance to vote on it, and I think they voted, what, about 4 or 5 to 1 for increasing the minimum wage.

SHIELDS: Both Nevada and Florida had referenda, where they went 70 percent to increase the minimum wage, Al. And Senator Kerry did endorse the minimum wage. I heard him do it...

NOVAK: He talked about it a lot, did he?

SHIELDS: ... during the -- no, I mean, I heard him do it during the campaign.

O'BEIRNE: Very quietly!

SHIELDS: But I'd just -- I'd just point out...

NOVAK: Maybe in his pillow.

SHIELDS: ... I was reading -- Bob has his own readings. I was reading last night the papal encyclical (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in which the pope wrote the wage paid to the worker must be sufficient for the support of the worker and the worker's family. That says it about as clearly -- we have not had a raise in nine years in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) one for ten. And the argument seems to be if -- the rich won't work because we don't give them enough money, and the poor won't work because we give them too much. And I mean, there's -- somewhere, there's a total disconnect here. And I would just quote to Bob the great Republican mayor of New York, who said an industry or an enterprise that cannot pay its workers a decent wage has no right to exist.

NOVAK: Who was -- who was that?

CARLSON: And Al...

SHIELDS: Fiorello LaGuardia.


NOVAK: Well, he was a great Republican.

SHIELDS: A great Republican.

HUNT: He was.

NOVAK: He's your kind of Republican! I tell you, that was for damn sure. He was an FDR Republican, who endorse Roosevelt for president. But we don't want to get into that.


HUNT: No, no, no, Bob! Don't go there! Margaret...


HUNT: Margaret's got a point...

NOVAK: She brought up -- she brought up -- he brought up...

HUNT: It's a he.



NOVAK: I'll tell you something. There is -- there is a certain school of thought that says that -- that we want to turn this into a -- a euro socialistic state with high minimum wages, long vacation times...

O'BEIRNE: And high unemployment!

NOVAK: ... and high unemployment. And most Americans don't want that!

HUNT: Margaret? CARLSON: Yes...

NOVAK: Just keep up that kind of stuff!

CARLSON: One of the more curious things is that Senator Rick Santorum introduced a bill to raise the minimum wage by $1.10, and then argued against his own bill.

O'BEIRNE: No! He argued against...

CARLSON: Is he running for reelection?

O'BEIRNE: He argued against putting it on the bankruptcy bill because it would be a poison pill because most people disagree, including 18 Democrats. But the bankruptcy bill -- it's very -- it's ridiculous for people, the minority in the Senate, to argue that they're somehow defending consumers by -- by opposing these modest changes and not letting people who can afford to pay some of their bills pay them in bankruptcy. Consumers pay the bill for phony bankruptcies and people who...

CARLSON: But why go to...

O'BEIRNE: ... duck out on...


CARLSON: ... the trouble to protect all the wealthy people in this bill?

HUNT: Kate, you brought up the politics of minimum wage. I'll make a prediction. This fall, when Rick Santorum runs against Bob Casey and they debate the minimum wage, I will bet you Rick Santorum will not say what you just said, We don't want to increase the minimum wage because it'll be a job-loser.

O'BEIRNE: No, no, no! I think the...

HUNT: That will not happen.


O'BEIRNE: He supports it!

HUNT: Oh, yes, you're darn right. He'll move more...


SHIELDS: I'll say this -- I'll say this about Rick Santorum and the minimum wage. It was the best bill that Bob Casey, who's yet to get to the Senate, has ever introduced...


HUNT: That is the final word. Next on CAPITAL GANG: Will John Bolton be a uniter or a divider at the United Nations? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUNT: Welcome back. President Bush surprised Washington by nominating undersecretary of state John Bolton, a strong conservative, as U.S. ambassador to the United States.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: John Bolton is personally committed to the future success of the United States, and he will be a strong voice for reform.

JOHN BOLTON, U.N. AMBASSADOR NOMINEE: I have consistently stressed in my writings that American leadership is critical to the success of the U.N., an effective U.N., one that is true to the original intent of its charter's framers.


HUNT: The secretary general of the United Nations greeted the appointment without enthusiasm.


KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: It is the president's prerogative to name his ambassadors. And I have worked well with all previous representatives from the U.S., and I look forward to working with Mr. Bolton.


HUNT: The second and third-ranking Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chuck Hagel and Lincoln Chafee, expressed reservations about the nomination, and the committee's ranking Democrat, Senator Joe Biden, said, quote, "My experience with him on matters relating to arms control and proliferation and his stated attitude towards the U.N. gives me great pause," end quote.

Bob, is John Bolton's confirmation in doubt?

NOVAK: I don't think so. I think there's going to be a lot of hooing and hawing and yelling about it in the Senate, but I think he will get confirmed. John Bolton is an extremely able man. He did brilliantly, I think, in the last four years in his job. He is a conservative. And there are some people, such as Joe Biden, who can't abide a conservative being named to those -- to those posts. This was Condoleezza's idea to put him at the U.N. The president accepted it, and it shows that the president believes that there should -- that he is a conservative president and there should be a conservative element in -- in foreign policy.

I do believe that John Bolton is somebody who is not -- he's been called a neo-conservative. He's not a neo-conservative. He doesn't believe we have to spread democracy all over the world. But he is going to be the worst nightmare for Kofi Annan, who -- who wanted somebody who was soft and loving, like John Danforth, and not like John Bolton.

HUNT: Margaret, is that what it's all about, soft and loving versus tough and...

CARLSON: Soft and loving? No. He looked unemployable because Secretary Rice did not want him at the State Department, was -- and wanted to get him in a non-policy role, which U.N. ambassador is. However, that doesn't mean he can't do damage and that he isn't about the worst appointment you could have, unless you believe in the philosophy to save the village, you must first destroy it, because his -- his laugh lines in his speeches are, you know, about how to get rid of U.N. influence. He couldn't even get along -- I mean, he's the least diplomat -- diplomatic of diplomats. He couldn't even get along with Colin Powell.

HUNT: Is that like putting a pacifist at the Pentagon, Kate?

O'BEIRNE: He made -- as head of the non-proliferation office at the State Department, he had some major breakthroughs in negotiating with other countries. Look, the best thing the American public says about the U.N. is that they're ineffectual. That's the best thing they say. Many appreciate how corrupt and morally bankrupt the U.N. is. If the Democrats want to argue that John Bolton is too pro-U.S. and not deferential enough to world opinion, they're free to do that. John Kerry says he's the wrong choice for the world community. John Kerry, had he been elected president, presumably would have found a U.N. ambassador with maybe joint French-U.S. citizenship. John Kerry made that argument during the campaign and lost. The U.N. ought to be flattered John Bolton's willing to go there as ambassador. He's a guy who likes to get things done. Maybe he'll finally be able to at the U.N.

HUNT: Is that what it's all about, whether you're pro or anti- U.S., Mark?

SHIELDS: I guess it must be. I mean, it's interesting. We've gone through the Bill Clinton blame for everything. Now it's John Kerry being blamed for everything stage. I don't know when we'll possibly get back to FDR. Later in the show, perhaps. But...

NOVAK: Would you like to?

SHIELDS: ... he's a -- Bob calls him...



SHIELDS: Bob calls him a tough guy. You know, I have never known a combat veteran of the United States military service who had on his desk as an ornament a grenade with the pin half pulled out. That's -- you know what that is? That's just -- that's just pretense. That's just phony swagger. But beyond that, would you put somebody -- would you put Bertrand Russell at the Pentagon in charge of the U.S. military? This man...


SHIELDS: This man is critical and censorious of the United Nations.


SHIELDS: He's going to an institution that is important -- important. The president had pledged in the second term to coalition politics, to reaching out, to including our allies. And he sends a message -- John Danforth is replaced by John Bolton? You explain that to me.


NOVAK: Listen to me because I wanted to say...

SHIELDS: I was asking Al.

NOVAK: ... that he is in the -- he is in the -- he is -- he is in the mold of Pat Moynihan and Jeane Kirkpatrick, who were -- just a minute! -- who were very censorious of the United Nations. Nobody -- and I heard it personally -- felt that this was a more corrupt institution than Pat Moynihan did. And so we -- we want somebody like that and not a striped-pants diplomat...

HUNT: Bob, you have...


HUNT: Bob, wait a minute. You have conveniently skipped over a lot. You said he wasn't a neocon, a debatable point, but he's an interventionist far more than you are. Almost everything you've said on this show about the U.S. not meddling in other people's business around the world John Bolton disagrees with you on.

NOVAK: You -- you don't understand what a neocon is!

HUNT: No, but John Bolton...


NOVAK: I'll be -- I'll be happy -- I'll be happy to...

HUNT: No, my question is...

NOVAK: ... explain it to you...

HUNT: Don't you agree John Bolton...

NOVAK: He doesn't...

HUNT: ... disagrees with you on most of those issues?

NOVAK: No, he doesn't because he agrees with me that we cannot spread democracy around the world!

CARLSON: Listen, Al, she wants to be tough, just like Bolton.


CARLSON: But we are going to need a multi-national force, possibly in Lebanon. And I don't think we should be dissing the United Nations right now.

HUNT: All I can say is, what a dis on -- on her.

Coming up next in the second half of CAPITAL GANG: our "Sidebar" story of the week, Dan Rather steps aside. We'll go "Beyond the Beltway" to look at the Los Angeles mayor's race. And our "Outrages of the Week" all after the break.


HUNT: Welcome back to the second half of CAPITAL GANG.

Dan Rather signed off on Wednesday after exactly 24 years as anchor of the "CBS Evening News."


DAN RATHER: To a nation still nursing a broken heart for what happened here in 2001, to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in dangerous places, to the oppressed and to those whose lot it is to struggle in financial hardship or in failing health and to each of you, courage.


HUNT: His predecessor at CBS, Walter Cronkite, welcomed Bob Schieffer, who is temporarily replacing Dan Rather. Cronkite said this about Rather's low ratings.


WALTER CRONKITE: It's quite a tribute to him that he -- that CBS held onto him so long under those circumstances.


HUNT: Talk about a knife. Margaret, how do you explain Walter Cronkite's hostility towards his successor?

CARLSON: I thought that was so ungracious as were the comments by other Rather colleagues in a piece by (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the "New Yorker" until Kate reminded me that 24 years ago Dan Rather said of Walter Cronkite, "He held onto the microphone way too long."

It taught me two things. One is we may all be hanging on to our microphones long, pry it out of our dead fingers. But, you know, in tribute to Rather actually he did one thing that we should all be grateful for. He got anchors out of their chairs and said, "Listen, reporting is a good thing. Get out there and do it."

HUNT: I want you to keep your hand on that microphone. Kate, what do you think of this?

O'BEIRNE: Al, it was my colleague Byron York who found that -- who found that quote from Dan Rather from 1980 saying the 63-year-old Walter Cronkite at the time had held on too long. Now, 73-year-old Dan Rather, of course, is on his way out.

The past 24 years under Dan Rather have not been kind to CBS but the past quarter century has not been kind to any of the networks. CBS is in third but they've all sunk, lost so much audience, a lot of trust on the part of the American public.

People who really care about the news have found other more satisfying places to learn that which they want to learn. It's a really challenging time for the networks, I think, and Dan Rather's particular recent problems is only one small symbol of that.

HUNT: Mark.

SHIELDS: Dan Rather's a great reporter and a terrific reporter and he really did go to the story. He put himself in harm's way more than once. And, I will say this that ironically the undoing of his career was that he as a reporter, as using himself as a reporter for a story he hadn't reported, which was on the Bush record.

So, I mean that was -- I want to just identify with Margaret on the remarks. Anybody who tap dances on a grave at this point is less than unseemly. You know it just, you know, the guy is down. He's out. It's not a glorious exit but for goodness sakes why not say something positive about him?

HUNT: That's always been your philosophy, hasn't it Bob?

NOVAK: No, it hasn't. I don't even say it when they actually die and, you may have missed this Mark, but he's not dead. He's still on the CBS payroll at more money than all of us combined make.

SHIELDS: Well, four of us combined.

NOVAK: And I think that Walter Cronkite was upset, not only about his remarks of 25 years ago but also about all this pomposity, this saying "courage." I don't want him telling me -- "to all of you courage," I don't need admonition in courage.

And the other point is that Dan Rather has raised -- has waged a long war against Republicans and against Republican presidents and the members of the media can't understand it because they're waging the same way. You say well isn't he -- isn't he biased? You ask the people who are biased but the people in America know he's biased.

HUNT: Well, I'm going to respond to that. First of all, I'm a great fan of Walter Cronkite. I've interviewed him for this show. I was terribly disappointed, not only in what he said and I don't think he was petulant, but when he talked about low ratings.

Walter Cronkite says what's supposed to be about journalism and I just thought that was very unbecoming. And let me tell you something. Dan Rather has made his mistakes but everything Bob Novak said about his ideological bias is nonsense. He is a great...

NOVAK: I expect you to say that.

HUNT: As Mark said he is a great journalist and he's made a real contribution to America.

SHIELDS: Al, and it behooves those who talk about, who revere the market to complain about somebody making money.

HUNT: I couldn't agree with you more, Mark. Coming up...

NOVAK: I'm just saying he's not dead. That's what I was saying.

HUNT: No, you're right but, you know what, Bob? Bob, I would remind you that your wonderful mother told you never speak ill of the dead. You should listen to the advice that your mother gave you.

CARLSON: Yes but, Al, she's still being tough.

HUNT: I know. Coming up, the CAPITAL GANG "Classic," Dick Cheney goes to the Pentagon.


ANNOUNCER: Here's your CAPITAL GANG trivia question of the week. Who co-anchored the "CBS Evening News" with Dan Rather in the mid- 1990s? A) Connie Chung, B) Cokie Roberts or, C) Judy Woodruff, we'll have the answer right after the break.




ANNOUNCER: Before the break we asked who co-anchored the "CBS Evening News" with Dan Rather in the mid-1990s? The answer is A, Connie Chung.


HUNT: Welcome back.

With the Senate's rejection 16 years ago of Senator John Tower, Secretary of Defense, the first President Bush surprised Washington by naming Congressman Dick Cheney. The CAPITAL GANG discussed it on March 11, 1989. Our guest was former Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin.


HUNT: Dick Cheney is a terrific choice. He's a formidable conservative. He's respected by Democrats as well as Republicans. He's very experienced and versed in government and politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And tough. Don't forget tough. This will be the first time in the modern era at least that the entire national security team is not fighting with each other, as we had throughout the Reagan years and the Carter years.

NOVAK: I don't think Sam Nunn should be that happy. There's no question that he and his little crew of wreckers on the Senate Armed Services Committee didn't want to Tower in there because he was going to be too powerful. But I think they underestimate how good and how effective Cheney will be and these two fellows underestimate just how conservative Dick Cheney is. He's more conservative than Tower.

WILLIAM PROXMIRE, FORMER SENATOR: I don't think that Cheney is at all qualified to be secretary of defense. He has no background in procurement, no background in military personnel. I just don't think that this is a reasonable appointment.


HUNT: Bob, was there an expectation that Dick Cheney would be less conservative than he was?

NOVAK: Yes, there was and the problem is that you and your ilk, Al, thought he was a pet Republican, you know one of those kind that go to your dinner parties and are civilized and all that. And you thought, sure he makes -- he's a Congressman from Wyoming and he has this conservative voting record but he's really one of us. Boy, were you wrong.

CARLSON: I got you. We're wrong, Al. I hate to tell you. In looking back, you know, Bush won like to make surprises as much as Bush 2 by he wasn't -- Dick Cheney wasn't on the original list. They just popped -- his name popped up and the concerns were the same partly, his heart.

HUNT: Kate.

CARLSON: This guy has got one strong ticker.

O'BEIRNE: Let me first say, Al, I always think Judy Woodruff's is the right answer. Let me just say that.

HUNT: All right.

O'BEIRNE: Dick Cheney, I think people did appreciate. I think people, like Al, appreciated that he was an awfully conservative guy, how incredibly talented he was. That you did get because he is.

HUNT: Mark.

SHIELDS: Al, whatever it was, it was a career maker for him. I mean he was in the minority party in Wyoming, in the House. I mean perspective but not going anywhere. This gave him the forum and the opportunity to be considered eventually to be a running mate for the vice president of the United States.

HUNT: Right. And as a matter of personal privilege, I did say on that show he was conservative. I thought he was conservative. I think the only thing that's changed with Dick Cheney is Dick Cheney used to be able to reach out across the aisle. He could also as defense secretary. As vice president, he has not shown that ability, which is a shame.

NOVAK: One question is would the Republicans have taken over the House of Representatives in 1994 if he was in there instead of Newt Gingrich?

O'BEIRNE: Al, but people across the aisle have changed.


HUNT: He would have been the leader rather than Newt Gingrich though.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, who will be the next mayor of the City of Angels? We'll go "Beyond the Beltway" when we come back.


HUNT: Welcome back.

In the Los Angeles mayor's election, incumbent James Hahn finished a poor second with 24 percent of the vote to City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa's 33 percent.


ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, LOS ANGELES MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I think yesterday was an indictment of the Hahn administration. Seventy-five percent of the voters spoke out in favor of a new direction for Los Angeles. I think the results reflect that voters want a mayor who will restore trust and confidence in their government.

MAYOR JAMES HAHN, LOS ANGELES: I'm grateful to all the people who respected the fact that I had to make some tough decisions as mayor of this city, decisions that weren't popular with a lot of people but I think they were the right choices for this city's future.


HUNT: The run-off between the two leading candidates will be held May 17.

Joining us now from Los Angeles is "L.A. Times" political reporter Matea Gold, who has been covering this race. Matea, thanks for joining us.


HUNT: After that poor showing, does Mayor Hahn have any chance in the May 17 run-off?

GOLD: Well, you know, he absolutely does. This, after all is a man who has won six citywide races and never lost. As he says, he's often underestimated and never been defeated. That said, most of the political analysts here agree that the mayor has a very tough road ahead of him. He lost the two main constituencies that really helped him get into office four years ago. Those are San Fernando Valley residents and African Americans. And, overall, the city has a negative impression of him, so it's going to be a rough road ahead for Mayor Hahn.

HUNT: Robert.

NOVAK: Matea, does this mean that the Hispanic American Latinos are going to be in the driver's seat in politics in Los Angeles in the future as the dominant ethnic group?

GOLD: Well, you know, this is something that a lot of people have been waiting to see for a long time. Obviously, Latinos are a prominent group here in Los Angeles in terms of numbers.

We've yet to really see; however, Latinos flex their political muscle when it comes to the executive office obviously. In Los Angeles, they've elected a lot of local officials but this is kind of obviously the key that a lot of people in the Latino community would like to see.

We still haven't, however, seen the numbers among Latinos in the turnout despite the fact that there's a lot of excitement about Antonio Villaraigosa being the first Latino mayor of Los Angeles in modern times. The turnout among Latinos is still hovering around a fifth, so we're still waiting to see people really get engaged and excited at that level.

HUNT: Margaret.

CARLSON: Is Hahn going to pay a price for pushing out the black police chief when he first came into office last time? Councilman Parks ran and lost but he could, you know, still campaign against Hahn in this run-off.

GOLD: Absolutely and I think everyone is waiting to see what Parks is going to do here now. There's no love lost between the former chief and the mayor and it's clear that Mayor Hahn's decision to oppose a second term for Parks as police chief really cost him politically.

His support among African Americans plummeted from around seven in ten to about a fifth in this last election we just had and it's clear that he's going to have to really work hard to rebuild some of that. If Parks does endorse Villaraigosa, a lot of people believe that that will be kind of a sign that a lot of African Americans as well might gravitate towards the Councilman.

HUNT: Kate.

O'BEIRNE: With the incumbent's negative ratings so high, Matea, it seems to me from this distance Los Angeles might have a really negative campaign on their hands. His only choice might be he'll sink to drive up the other guy's negatives or do you expect these candidates to stick to the issues?

GOLD: Well, I really would love to always anticipate a race focused on the issues. Most people here though expect it to get pretty nasty. When Hahn and Villaraigosa headed off four years ago, it got to be a very negative loaded campaign. The last two weeks really of this first round of the election got very tense. There were a lot of charges flying back and forth.

One of the problems for Hahn is that there's an ongoing criminal investigation into city contracting and, while nothing has been proven, all of his opponents in the first round of the race, Villaraigosa included, made a lot of charges about corruption at City Hall, obviously a very loaded term and Villaraigosa's campaign said they plan to talk about that a lot in the coming weeks.

HUNT: Mark.

SHIELDS: Matea, I was out there four years ago in the first Hahn/Villaraigosa race when Hahn was able in the run-off to make Villaraigosa sort of a little scary or maybe an unconfident alternative for voters.

But this time, I noticed in your exit polls that 78 percent of Bob Hertsberg, the third place finisher, the former assembly speaker, the strong candidate in San Fernando Valley, 78 percent of his voters had an unfavorable impression of Mayor Jim Hahn. And two-thirds of Parks voters had an unfavorable opinion of Hahn.

I mean is it a matter of endorsements? I mean the endorsements don't seem to be crucial in this. I mean isn't Villaraigosa in pretty good shape right now?

GOLD: He is but it's by no means kind of a given that he's going to be able to win this race. His challengers are the 43 percent of voters that cast ballots for other candidates in Tuesday's election, primarily Hertsberg and Park supporters really are constituencies he's going to have to aggressive win and he has challenges winning both those groups.

Moderate and conservative whites are going to have to be persuaded that this Councilman who has a left of center reputation really represents them. That's something we didn't see them persuaded of four years ago.

And, African Americans that largely backed Parks have historically shown some reluctance about supporting a Latino. There's a lot of tension, especially in South Los Angeles, between those two groups when it comes to the growing Latino political power and declining cloud among African Americans. So, go ahead.

HUNT: Matea, let me just ask you quickly, we only have about 20 seconds, we talked earlier about the issues. Apart from the personalities and the ethnic differences what is one or two issues that they will debate out there?

GOLD: Well, public safety is going to be the number one issue. That's clear. Mayor Hahn touts his hiring of Chief Bratton to replace Parks and he says that he's brought violent crime down. And Villaraigosa is going to make the case that more needs to be done. That's going to be the number one issue.

HUNT: Well, Matea, thank you for joining us. You brought a lot of enlightenment for what will be an interesting race.

And the gang will be back with our "Outrages of the Week."

THE CAPITAL GANG FACT: Voter turnout in Tuesday's Los Angeles mayoral election was 26 percent making it the lowest in 16 years.


HUNT: And now for the "Outrages of the Week."

If not the outrage, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) award of the week goes to Manuel Miranda, former top aide to Senate GOP Leader Bill Frist. Miranda was dumped after a Senate Sergeant in Arms investigation disclosed that he had clandestinely read private memos of Senate Democrats, which later were leaked to the press. Mr. Miranda now is protesting the Democrats complained about his fitness to a law firm and cost him a job. Gees, I wonder why they would do that?

NOVAK: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on ABC's "This Week," ordained a diet for his state's school children.


GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: I said, "Bring me a bill that says we should not be allowed to serve junk food in the schools. Then I'll sign that bill.


NOVAK: He would substitute vegetables, fresh fruit and milk. Liberal status in Washington were in rapture. Left-wing Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon called for all 50 states to regulate students' diets. George Orwell worried about Big Brother ruling the world. Instead, Arnold Schwarzenegger brings us Big Mother.

HUNT: Better than Big Mac.

CARLSON: Al, a foreign agent -- a foreign agent paid for Tom DeLay and his wife to visit Korea, which is totally verboten. DeLay claims ignorance but the group was set up by his former chief of staff.

DeLay always pleads ignorance. He didn't know infamous lobbyist Jack Abramoff helped pay for DeLay's $28,000 tab at the Four Seasons in London. He didn't know his Texas pack was accepting illegal corporate donations until documents show he did know.

He claimed to have verbal approval from the Ethics Committee for the Korean trip. They don't do verbal at the Ethics Committee, a cover-up worse than the crime. HUNT: Kate.

O'BEIRNE: Not content with their last abuse of the First Amendment with their handiwork on campaign finance reform, Democrats and Republicans alike now want to prevent independent groups, the infamous 527s active in the last election, from running ad campaigns.

Commentators marvel that in these partisan times on this issue there's common ground. What's the big surprise? Politicians agree across party lines they don't want to be criticized so the rest of us should just shut up.

HUNT: Mark.

SHIELDS: Al, forced to choose between authorities on physical well-being between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bob Novak, I'll come down with the governor.

Florida Republicans give hypocrisy a bad name. Conservative populists you know just want to do the will of the people. Well, last Election Day, 770 percent of Florida voters endorsed a constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage by $1 to $6.15 an hour and to index the minimum wage to inflation.

The people spoke loudly and unequivocally. Now Republican legislators in Tallahassee conspire, conspire to weaken the amendment's provisions and to exempt employers who exploit workers by not paying them what they are owed for being sued. Respect the voice of the people.

HUNT: This is Al Hunt saying goodnight for the CAPITAL GANG. Thanks for joining us.


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