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British prime minister Tony Blair meets with President Bush in advance of the G-8 summit in Scotland; Are Senate Democrats rethinking the deal they cut on judges? Florida's notorious Representative Katherine Harris prepares to run for the Senate against Democratic Senator Bill Nelson; Interview with Tom Foley

Aired June 11, 2005 - 19:00   ET


AL HUNT, HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG. I'm Al Hunt, with Mark Shields, Robert Novak and Kate O'Beirne. Our guest is former House Democratic leader Richard A. Gephardt.

Dick, it's your fifth show, and it's good to have you here.


HUNT: Thank you, sir.

President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair denied that a July, 2002, memo indicated an early decision to go to war in Iraq.


TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We were trying to look for a way of managing to resolve this without conflict.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There's nothing farther from the truth.


HUNT: Prime Minister Blair stressed his aims for the G-8 summit of industrial states next month in Scotland.


BLAIR: I've chosen two tough issues for the G-8 summit, Africa and climate change. But the issue is can we get to a sufficient international consensus on it, that it is important to take urgent action on this issue of greenhouse gas emissions.

If this U.S. isn't part of this -- this deal overall, then it's very difficult to tackle the problem.


HUNT: Bob, Tony Blair's been called George Bush's lap dog. Fair?

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Or poodle. No, not fair at all. I think he kind of bolixed and trapped the president. He's standing there. He's a -- he's -- he's arm to arm with him on Iraq, an unpopular war in both the United States and the United Kingdom. And so he kind of euchres (ph) the president into this aid to Africa, which isn't that important, but very important is the Kyoto protocol because the president is going to this G-S (SIC) summit in Scotland at a golf course, and the -- he's going to find everybody else lined up to try to get the United States in on this, so they can level the field. We have a great advantage because we don't participate in this protocol. They're trying to get us to -- to be involved in that, and so I think Blair is a great menace to the president. The president's going to have to be very staunch to avoid getting trapped in Scotland.

HUNT: Dick Gephardt, a menace? And is there a trap waiting George Bush in Scotland?

GEPHARDT: I don't quite see it the way Bob does. Surprise.


GEPHARDT: I think Tony Blair is a great leader, and I think he will be seen in history as a great leader. He's also a great friend of the United States. I had a meeting with Jack Straw, the former defense minister of Great Britain, at the time we were asking the U.N. to do something about Saddam Hussein. And we were getting great support from the British. And I thanked Jack Straw. And you know what he said to me? The British people remember what America did for Britain in 1940 and 1941, and we will always be your friend. That's what Tony Blair has been to the United States, not just George Bush but to the United States. And we should appreciate it.

HUNT: Kate, do we show our appreciation appropriately?

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: I would certainly second that this prime minister, Tony Blair, represents the latest in this special relationship we have with Great Britain. I know Dick Gephardt is an honest Democrat, so he didn't jump on the -- what was raised in the introduction about this so-called memo talking about American intelligence cooking the books on Iraq, because honest Democrats aren't making much of it.

I do want to point out a fair reading of that memo -- the reason it hasn't gotten more attention is that a fair reading doesn't support this liberal charge about it. That same meeting, among the British, including Tony Blair, went on to discuss the threat that Saddam Hussein could use weapons of mass destruction during an assault, could attack with weapons of mass destruction Kuwait or Israel. It reflects this meeting. This memo is the latest reflection of our intelligence services honestly believing there were weapons of mass destruction.

HUNT: Mark, pick up on any of that, but if you have -- if you would, would you also tell us if Kyoto is a great threat to the American way of life? MARK SHIELDS, CAPITAL GANG: I didn't see it (INAUDIBLE) now that Bob Novak has raised it, I -- you know, I'm sure that a lot of us will lose sleep tonight, Al. I think that Tony Blair has been a great friend, but if there's any -- he was the indispensable ally to the war in Iraq. There was no coalition without Tony Blair. And if this is the way you reward your coalition, your indispensable ally, by this meeting, I -- I don't agree with Bob. I do agree more with Dick Gephardt on it, that Tony Blair went in there, he asked -- he's trying to rehabilitate, quite frankly, the image of his own country and his own image after the debacle of Iraq. And Iraq is a debacle. It remains and continues to be to this moment.

And what's trying to do is double aid to Africa. The president gave him the cold shoulder on that. He gave him the cold shoulder on the greenhouse gases.

As far as honest Democrats -- I mean, read that memo. I have read that memo. It's really chilling to read it in the summer of 2002 and to see what did come true. I mean, they're talking specifically about 250,000 troops...

HUNT: Who's right, Kate or Mark, on the memo?

NOVAK: Well, I -- I don't really care that much about the...


HUNT: ... just answer and then go on?

NOVAK: I don't even know. I don't even know. We were in there and...


HUNT: ... Dick Gephardt and your other five shows...

NOVAK: ... just a minute! Just a minute!


HUNT: ... never said I don't know.


O'BEIRNE: ... choice. What's your instincts tell you?

NOVAK: My instincts tell me that -- that it is -- it's not very important.

O'BEIRNE: Thank you!

NOVAK: We are -- we are there, and a lot of Democrats are trying to make a lot of it. Of course, they're trying to get back and make political capital. But we're stuck and -- I didn't think we should have gone into Iraq, unlike you. I think it was a mistake. But we're there, and nothing's going to change it. But you can -- Mark, you can be sarcastic about losing sleep over greenhouse gases, but if the Lieberman-McCain bill had passed when it was overwhelmingly defeated in the Senate, which would change greenhouse emissions by cutting down American industry, it would cost 600,000 jobs. Even in its modified version, it's going to cost six figure in jobs. And this -- this -- this GS-8 at the Glenn Eagle golf course in Scotland is the last chance for the -- just let me finish my sentence -- for the Europeans to trap us on this Kyoto protocol.

HUNT: You mentioned Mark's name, so Mark, go ahead.

SHIELDS: Let's get one thing straight, Bob. Six hundred thousand manufacturing jobs, Bob, have been lost by George Bush already. And if you're talking about someone who has fought for manufacturing jobs in this country, Dick Gephardt's got something to say on that subject.

GEPHARDT: Yes. I think -- I hope Tony Blair has a great influence on George Bush on Kyoto, on Africa, on how we should get help in Iraq. I think Tony Blair really tried to get the U.N. to help us with this. So I think if George Bush would listen more to him, we would have better...


HUNT: Is Iraq a debacle now, Dick?

GEPHARDT: I think we got to win in Iraq. I've felt that all along.

HUNT: But is it a debacle now?

GEPHARDT: I -- I think it's -- it's troubled, but I think we've got to prevail. We've got to leave the place with a democracy.

O'BEIRNE: You're right, Dick, and it should be said that George Bush's administration has led the way in aid to Africa, $15 billion in aid. He's in synch with Tony Blair. Let's see if the other G-8 countries...

NOVAK: What about Kyoto?

O'BEIRNE: Let's see if the other G-8 countries ante up. Kyoto would be devastating. Even the British government...

NOVAK: Thank you very much.

O'BEIRNE: ... can't meet its terms.

HUNT: Six hundred thousand jobs is an industry figure, and I think it's highly suspect, and a number of industry people don't agree with that figure anymore, Mark, and they want something...

NOVAK: Who, Bloomberg?

HUNT: They want something like -- no, that's not an industry, but you check -- you do some reporting, Bob, you will find...

NOVAK: I have done some reporting!

HUNT: If you -- if Bob gets a chance to do some reporting and gets out of Hollywood, he'll find out that the mood is changing.

Are Democrats rethinking the deal they cut on judges? Dick Gephardt and THE GANG will be right back.


HUNT: Welcome back. The Senate, under the compromise bipartisan agreement, confirmed two more judges whose confirmation had previously been blocked by filibuster, with another one on deck for next week.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), MINORITY WHIP: This is truly the trifecta on Civil Rights this week in Washington, to confirm Janice Rogers Brown, William Pryor and to report Terrence Boyle (ph) from this committee, when it comes to the issue of Civil Rights, is a sad week.


HUNT: Democrats complain the Senate has taken too much time on judicial confirmations.


SEN. JOHN KYL (R-AZ), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The filibuster was not the Republicans' idea. We weren't the ones spending weeks and weeks debating these judges. We were ready to vote on them. Last year...


HUNT: Mark, with the confirmation of several conservative judges, has this turned out to be a bad deal for Democrats?

SHIELDS: Al, this is a compromise. It's been a while since we've seen a compromise in Washington. A compromise means I give up something, you give up something. I get something, you get -- the Democrats did get something. They got something very big. That was the pledge that 67 senators are going to be required to change the rules of the Senate, not 51. That was part of the 14 compromise. And the Republicans got something, in turn. They got votes on three of these very, very controversial judges. And they were confirmed, not surprisingly, on -- basically, on party line votes.

I mean, the rush to judgment at the outset was George Allen saying, This is a sell-out for the conservatives. Now liberals saying this is death knell to the liberals. It's a compromise, and we're just not used to it, and we'd better get used to it.

HUNT: I think he's absolutely right, Kate. O'BEIRNE: I think he's wrong, based on the terms of the agreement. They reduced it to writing. If you read it, the Republicans -- seven Republicans -- did not agree that the nuclear option was totally off the table. They reserved the right to use it if the -- if they felt the Democrats who were part of the deal abused their commitment that they would only support a filibuster in case in case of extraordinary circumstances. And both Senator DeWine and Senator Graham have both said if they -- if they -- if they filibuster judges in other than extraordinary circumstances, the so-called nuclear option is back on.

This -- what happened this week, though, put a lie to the kind of ridiculous rhetoric Democrats have been using. They certainly raised the bar on extraordinary circumstances. These judges who've now been confirmed have been called radicals, Neanderthals. We were told they were pro-rape, pro-domestic violence, anti-civil rights, and yet it was agreed that they deserved an up-or-down vote. I don't know how they're ever going to dream up extraordinary circumstances now.

HUNT: Sounds pretty one-sided, Dick.

GEPHARDT: Well, I really think this was a good compromise, and I think the Republicans got a lot. You're going to get a lot of judges confirmed. You've already gotten three. There will be many more. What this really did was return the Senate to the way it used to be, which is when you win the election, you get the president, you get a majority in the Congress, you can pretty well put who you want into judgeships. So the Democrats gave up a lot. They're going to have to only use this in extraordinary circumstances. If they keep faith with that, the Republicans will let the filibuster stay in place. And that's what the Democrats preserved, and that was an important thing to preserve.

HUNT: Bob?

NOVAK: That's a good analysis. That's why -- that's -- that was one of Dick's problems when he ran for president. He's had people like me who thought he'd made a good president (INAUDIBLE)



HUNT: That's unfair! He's been a very good, important guest. He's been a great politician. Would you please -- would you please...


HUNT: Would you please revoke that endorsement?

NOVAK: As a matter of fact, this is a -- increasingly looks like a bad deal for the Democrats for a couple reasons. One thing is, they have looked at the people who have been nominated, and these were the people that -- as Kate -- as Kate says, they were really trashing, Janice Rogers Brown just hated by the -- by the black leadership. And secondly, there is absolutely no -- no agreement under any conditions, in writing or otherwise, that when these other people start coming out of the pipeline -- for example, Judge Boyle from North Carolina, a Jesse Helms appointment, who's been hanging around for about 20 years, it seems like, to try to get confirmed. He was appointed by the first George Bush to the appeals court, didn't get -- didn't get nominated. He is going to be -- he wasn't specified in the agreement. He's going to get confirmed.

So I think it is -- the whole Teddy Kennedy plan to -- to change the way this was done, which we now know from the e-mails that -- that were read -- it looks like it's a failure.

GEPHARDT: But Bob, just remember, when the Democrats win the presidency and get a majority back in Congress, which may happen soon, sooner than later, then these same rules...

NOVAK: Absolutely.

GEPHARDT: ... are going to apply.

NOVAK: Absolutely. I agree with you 100 percent.

HUNT: Well, of course, both sides also have stymied judges by, you know, about an equal amount. The Republicans did the same thing when they had control of the Senate.

SHIELDS: More, actually...

HUNT: Yes, you're right.

SHIELDS: ... if the truth be known. You know, I just -- I don't think this is any part of the agreement that -- that in any way affects the Supreme Court. I mean, I think that the Supreme Court is sui generis. It's going to stand or fall on its own. I don't think Janice Rogers Brown could be confirmed to the Supreme Court, if she's nominated, under any circumstances.


O'BEIRNE: ... the agreement applies to all federal judges, including the Supreme Court! But Mark raises a good point. There are liberal interest groups claiming that every Supreme Court nominee is automatically an extraordinary circumstance, and we'll find out whether or not they hold sway.

NOVAK: If Miguel Estrada, in a disgraceful performance by the Democrats, was -- had a force -- had to withdraw from appointment to the appeals court for D.C. -- if he is named to the Supreme Court, which is a possibility, do you think that the Republican majority would stand for him being filibustered, or do you think they would use the option of (INAUDIBLE) for majority vote?

SHIELDS: I do not know, Bob. But I do know that when I hear Trent Lott stand up there and say that the opposition to Janice Rogers Brown was based on her being an African-American woman, we have reached new levels of hypocrisy and deceit. I mean, so I think we're... NOVAK: But he's right. He's right...


SHIELDS: ... nothing to do -- no, it had -- no! You think Barack Obama opposed her because she was a black woman?

NOVAK: They don't want those kind of blacks on the court!


NOVAK: They don't -- that's why they were against Clarence Thomas.

HUNT: One of the great bogus claims I've ever heard.

Next on CAPITAL GANG: Can you believe Senator Katherine Harris?


HUNT: Welcome back. Congresswoman Katherine Harris, who was Florida's secretary of state, gained national notoriety in the 2000 election recount, announced she will run against Democratic senator Bill Nelson. In 2003, she was asked if she had any interest in running for the Senate in 2004.


REP. KATHERINE HARRIS (R), FLORIDA: It's not on my radar screen. They have me so busy here. I'm loving being in the committee. There's so much to do for the -- back home in my district. I'm very, very happy here.


HUNT: Last year, she had this to say about being in the national limelight.


HARRIS: To be in the spotlight was -- was rather uncomfortable. I had never initiated that kind of (INAUDIBLE) no matter what I had done in the senate or secretary of state, or even now in Congress. I really enjoy more the back scene -- behind the scenes and making things.


HUNT: Kate, does it make any sense for Republicans to run such a polarizing figure, albeit one that keeps getting younger, against a moderate Democrat?

O'BEIRNE: Nothing wrong with keep getting younger, Al.

HUNT: For sure!


O'BEIRNE: First of all, Bill Nelson is not a moderate Democrat, he's a liberal Democrat. But I'll tell you what doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense for the Democrats to try this for a third time. In 2002, they were going to take out Jeb Bush because he was responsible for Florida, and he wins by 13 points, overwhelmingly. Then in 2004, Terry McAuliffe told us never say die, 2000 Florida, we're going to mention it daily. And George Bush carries Florida.

It's over. People in Florida want no part of this any longer. And I think Katherine Harris is going to be a strong candidate.

HUNT: How do you size up the race, Dick Gephardt?

GEPHARDT: She'll be a strong candidate, and Florida's really a split state, and so it's going to be a tussle for any Democrat to get elected or retain election. I think Bill Nelson will win the race. I think he's -- I've known him for 25 years. He is a moderate Democrat, and I think he appeals to a lot of independent voters in that state.

HUNT: You agree he's a moderate Democrat, don't you?

NOVAK: No, he's -- he's a guy who poses as a moderate Democrat, and he casts no -- he casts a lot of liberal votes.

O'BEIRNE: Well, I'm glad we settled that. Now that's settled, Al.

HUNT: (INAUDIBLE) the script that Bob wrote.


NOVAK: But I will say this, that George Allen, who is the senator from -- Senator George Allen from Virginia, was the campaign chairman a couple of cycles ago. He has said from the start that she would be the strongest candidate in Florida. A lot of Florida politicians said, Oh, no, she's too controversial. But she is the most (INAUDIBLE) She's going to clear that field. They talk about people running against her. They're not going to run against her. She's going to be the nominee. And she is -- she has got a lot of star appeal. Bill Nelson is a kind of a flat guy. He ran against Bill McCollum (ph) for the Senate. They were both kind of flat. But I think she's going to be a very strong candidate. I don't know who's going to win, but she's -- she -- I agree with Dick. She's going to be a strong candidate.

HUNT: Early line, Mark?

SHIELDS: Al, early line is this, that in spite of what Kate said, the White House in 2004 went to great lengths to discourage her from running for the Senate in 2004 for fear that she would energize Democrats and -- and up turn-out in the presidential race, which they feared would be very, very close in Florida. So that's not going to go away. There'll be people coming into that state to work -- campaign for her. There'll be people sending contributions against her, probably $20 million raised on each side, big, big money. I would say this. As of today, Florida now vies with Pennsylvania and Rick Santorum and Bob Casey as the most important race. And I'll make a prediction. In October of 2006, if Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania, Republican incumbent, is on the defensive and Katherine Harris, as the Republican challenger in Florida, is on the defensive about her own record and positions, then I will say it's going to be a big Democratic year.


NOVAK: Is that prediction going to be of the caliber of your predictions over the years on this program...

SHIELDS: I think it...

NOVAK: ... on election...


NOVAK: ... almost entirely wrong?

SHIELDS: Well, I doubt that. Bob, I think right after you predicted Steve Forbes would win the Iowa caucuses and be elected president...

NOVAK: I never predicted that! I never predicted -- I never predicted...


SHIELDS: It was right after the second...


HUNT: Wait just a second! I don't think any of us want to get into going back over all our predictions. Any of us. Kate O'Beirne?

O'BEIRNE: Bill Nelson spent $15 million last time he ran, which is a whole lot of money, Mark, and he won with 51 percent of the vote against, as Bob pointed out, a far weaker, less attractive candidate than Katherine Harris. I think the Democrats would be wise, given their experience in Florida in '02 and '04 not to kid themselves that everybody's animated over Florida 2000 as the left-wing base of the Democratic Party.

HUNT: Dick, the election is still almost a year-and-a-half away, but any sense now as to -- is it shaping up as a -- as a year that's going to be particularly good for one party or the other, or is it still up for grabs?

GEPHARDT: I think the economic issues are at the fore right now. Could change, but with gasoline prices up, with people losing jobs all over America, I think the economic issues will cut to the Democrats. That can change, but right now, I think that's the case. In Florida, I do think the base of the Democratic Party will really get out and vote in the case of -- of -- of this candidate on the Republican side because of what happened in the 2000 election.

HUNT: Do you think there's any chance, Dick, the Democrats could win control of either the House or Senate?

GEPHARDT: Oh, I think there's a real chance.

HUNT: Serious chance?

GEPHARDT: I mean, the -- you know, 20 years ago, we used to have swings of a much larger number in the House and in the Senate. We haven't had that the last three or four elections. It's been very tight, tightly-strung elections. But I think you could have a bigger movement.

O'BEIRNE: Harry Reid said...

HUNT: Let me ask you a final question...

O'BEIRNE: Harry Reid said it would take a miracle to take back the Senate for the Democrats.

HUNT: Final question. Missouri Senate race also going to be close or Republicans have a big edge?

GEPHARDT: Oh, it'll be a close race. The Democrats haven't come up with a candidate yet, but I think...

HUNT: Will they?

GEPHARDT: ... they will. It'll be a tight race. I think they will.

HUNT: All right. On that note, Dick Gephardt...

GEPHARDT: And it's not going to be me.


O'BEIRNE: Thank God!

HUNT: You have been a terrific...

O'BEIRNE: Thank God!

HUNT: ... guest every time. I cannot tell you how much we've enjoyed it.

GEPHARDT: It's great fun to be here.

HUNT: Thank you so much for being with us.

NOVAK: Thanks very much.

HUNT: Coming up next in the second half: THE GANG's first guest, the then speaker of the House Tom Foley. We'll go "Beyond the Beltway" to question CNN's Mike Chinoy about U.S. relations with North Korea, and our "Outrages of the Week," all after the break.


JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I'm Jacqui Jeras in the CNN Weather Center. The worst weather in the country tonight, not from Tropical Storm Arlene, but from a strong storm system across the upper Midwest. We've had a number of reports of tornadoes with some damage near Hammond, Wisconsin, that's in Saint Croix County, 35 miles east of the Twin Cities. And we also have reports now of funnel clouds, so a possible tornado near Green Bay, Wisconsin. A tornado warning is in effect for Brown County. This was spotted by trained weather spotters near the town of Howard, at the intersection of Highway 29 and 41. It's moving north at 35 miles per hour.

So Brown County, a tornado warning. That includes you in Green Bay. You need to take cover now.

The latest on Tropical Storm Arlene, that's coming up before the top of the hour. Now back to CAPITAL GANG.

HUNT: Welcome back to the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG. As we near the termination of this program on June 25th, we remember our guest on the first CAPITAL GANG broadcast on October 15th, 1998. It was Tom Foley, who actually then was majority leader of the House. A year later, he became speaker.


REP. TOM FOLEY (D-WA), MAJORITY LEADER: There has been a very concerted effort to take the word liberal and turn it into some kind of un-Christian, un-religious sort of, pro-pornography sort of thing. But the fact of the matter is that if liberal means balancing 10 budgets in a row, and if conservative means running up a $1.1 trillion addition to the national debt, then most liberals would be conservative.


HUNT: Tom Foley always will be valued as our first guest, the launchist(sic). Joins us from Seattle. Tom, has your assessment of the political climate changed since you made that analysis 17 years ago?

FOLEY: Well, in some ways it hasn't; in some ways it's the same. It's a little awkward today for fiscal conservatives to watch the Congress have about twice the level of discretionary spending of the Clinton administration, and running up a pretty heavy debt with tax cuts and big spending as well.

HUNT: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Tom, as you look back, as you look on the House representatives now and Speaker Hastert, do you think the Republicans run the House much different than you Democrats ran it for 40 years?

FOLEY: I think it's a little tougher under Speaker Hastert. I like and admire Speaker Hastert a lot, but I think what's happened, of course, we sometimes pushed issues pretty hard in the House -- and the House, by the way, as an institution is where the majority pretty much has the right to run the institution, and push through the program.

But I think Democrats feel today that they've been pretty effectively marginalized, and that the Republican majority is a tight one, it's a disciplined one, and Democrats I think many times feel that they're kind of like the Democrats who were in the last century with Thomas Brackett Reed, who said their function is to make a quorum and to draw their pay.

HUNT: Kate.

O'BEIRNE: Tom, during the Cold War, Republicans had a real advantage, certainly at the presidential level, because they were trusted by the public two-to-one on the issue of national security. Now, we have a war on terror, and the polls show the same thing, the Republicans have a two-to-one advantage on keeping us strong and keeping us safe. What should Democrats be doing to try to address that imbalance on national security?

FOLEY: Well, they have to speak out very clearly in support of a strong national defense. I came out of the Henry Jackson tradition in the Democratic Party, and I think the Democrats have not always perfectly articulated that they stand for a strong defense, and that they believe in it and will support it in the Congress and in the presidency. I think the record is there, but the public impression is still that the Republicans are a little tougher, a little stronger on those issues. And that's very damaging to Democrats.

HUNT: Mark.

SHIELDS: Tom Foley, it's great to have you on this show, and I just have to ask you, you bring a perspective on this, and looking at -- you were there when Lyndon Johnson faced the voters in '66, and got a reaction. You were there when Richard Nixon felt the wrath after six years in office. Tell us, as you look ahead, 2006, from your perspective, what do you think, A, is the issue the Democrats ought to raise; and B, what do you think the climate and environment will be in that election year for George W. Bush and the Republicans?

FOLEY: 2006? I think Democrats need to raise the issue of what is happening to our society. Most of the Americans today are facing some uncertainties in their future, economic future. During the period from 1947 to 1974, there was a significant increase in the interest of people who are at the bottom of the scale. Today, there is a certain stagnation in many American working families. And as "The New York Times" series is showing, on the other hand, the very richest Americans are getting ever richer. In fact, we're creating a kind of a super rich.

It's delicate because the Bob Novak answer is "class war," but there is a growing disproportionate income in the United States, and I think it's a problem for the future.

HUNT: Tom, in the 1980s in the House, one of your good friends was Dick Cheney, despite your political differences. Would that be possible in today's House?

FOLEY: Well, I'm sure it's always possible, but I think it's less likely today, frankly. There has been a tightening up of the House in the sense of kind of confrontation between the two parties. They don't know each other as well as they did in the past, they don't see each other in a social way as they used to. They don't travel together. There is a degree of tension and hostility that exists. Part of is the problem of redistricting. The districts have been made in most cases into rather strong Democratic or strong Republican districts, and as you know, only a few seats are really competitive. So that produces antagonisms and irritations and problems.

And I'm not sure that we have the cross-party friendships. Bob Michael was another friend of mine, a good friend of mine in the House. I don't know if that is as easy to do today; it's never impossible.

NOVAK: Tom, we got less than 30 seconds left. In that time, could you tell us what you think of the present chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Governor Howard Dean?

FOLEY: Well, I think -- I supported Governor Dean when he was elected to the national chairmanship. I thought he'd do a great job. He was a moderate governor. I think he has to be somewhat careful about the fact that every word he utters is going to be reported, and to some extent criticized. And he wants to energize and create enthusiasm in the core Democratic Party. But at the same time, suggestions that Republicans don't work hard and so on I think is perhaps way over the top. And once in a while, I think the governor gets a little bit over the top in those matters, and it creates a problem.

But basically, he's had a strong career in the -- as governor, and he can be and will be, I think, a great chairman.

HUNT: Tom Foley, you were a great guest 17 years ago; you are a great guest today. And it was a real treat for us to have you. Thank you so much.

FOLEY: Great pleasure. Thank you.

HUNT: Coming up next, the CAPITAL GANG Classic. Republicans name a Democrat to be Russian ambassador.

ANNOUNCER: Here's your CAPITAL GANG trivia question of the week. Tom Foley served as ambassador to which country? Is it, A, Thailand? B, Taiwan? C, Japan? We'll have the answer right after the break.


ANNOUNCER: Before the break, we asked: Tom Foley served as ambassador to which country? The answer is C, Japan.

HUNT: Welcome back. Fourteen years ago, the first President George Bush named as ambassador to the Soviet Union the prominent Democrat, Robert S. Strauss. CAPITAL GANG discussed it on June 8th, 1991. Our guest was Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.


PAT BUCHANAN, CO-HOST: What is Bob Strauss' real mission in Moscow, Robert Novak?

NOVAK: The president named somebody who was perceived on the Capitol Hill and elsewhere as being, Mr. Strauss, someone who was going to sell Congress on a handout for the Soviets.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I have to say, I think it's a marvelous choice by the president.

HUNT: This is a brilliant appointment. The best appointment in a long time. I would just say, Robert, Bob Strauss has nourished and fed you for a quarter of a century. He's fed you more columns than anyone in this town, and in his most important moment, you pander to those right-wing...


SHIELDS: The ultimate pragmatist is what it is, and it says something about Bush. There is no ideological charting to Bush.

NOVAK: What they have to do is disestablish the Communist Party. Gorbachev doesn't want to do it, and do you think that Bob Strauss is going to sit down and say, you have to shape up? I don't think that's Bob's style.


HATCH: I think Bob Strauss is going to sit down and say, you have to shape up, and maybe you should quit sending $4 or $5 billion to Cuba.


HUNT: Kate, was Bob Strauss a better ambassador than Bob Novak suggested?

O'BEIRNE: I wish I could have been on that show with those handsome young guys. It would have been more fun, frankly.

I think it's a wonderful model for a president to tap the chairman of the other party to be an ambassador, and I propose everybody would be happy, both parties, sending Howard Dean to France.

NOVAK: That's a good idea. I like that.

O'BEIRNE: Thank you.

HUNT: You want to do a little mea culpa at your old friend, Bob Strauss?

NOVAK: Let me say, I think -- I don't want to compliment myself, but it shows what a personal high principle I was to... SHIELDS: Used to be.

NOVAK: ... to make that -- to make that criticism of a person who did give me a lot of columns. I felt very badly about criticizing him. He felt badly about me criticizing him.

HUNT: Worse than you did.

NOVAK: Worse than I did. But what I was wrong, it didn't really matter who was ambassador, because it was a force majeure, Communist Party was dead, and if -- they could have even put Howard Dean there, and they would have -- they would have been gone.

HUNT: Mark?

SHIELDS: You know, Al, it's fascinating, the Republicans, they've got a president whose personal favorability is now at 51 percent highest it's ever been, it's five points higher than Hillary Clinton's, so you all you can do is beat up on Howard Dean, which is fine. I mean, I guess that's great.

O'BEIRNE: I want to promote him.

SHIELDS: Party chairman -- party chairman -- and Bob -- Bob -- that's Bob's -- Bob's football this week. Bob Strauss was a great party chairman. Al Hunt and Orrin Hatch were right; Bob Novak was wrong once again, and it was an interesting combo, you and Orrin. Have you worked since together?

HUNT: We wear the same kind of shirts usually, though not tonight.


HUNT: ... on CAPITAL GANG. CNN's man in Asia, Mike Chinoy, on North Korea nuclear costs.


HUNT: Welcome back. Both Washington and Pyongyang indicated that the North Koreans were ready to sit down to six-party talks over nuclear arms in communist North Korea. But North Korea's Foreign Ministry announced, quote: "As for the resumption of the six-party talks, it entirely depends on the U.S. response to North Korea's call for creating conditions and an environment for their resumption." End quote.

President Bush met in Washington with South Korean President, Roh Moo-hyun.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president and I both agree, the six-party talks are essential to saying to Mr. Kim Jong Il that he ought to give up his weapons.


HUNT: The North Koreans object to U.S. officials' descriptions of their leader such as this one by Vice President Cheney.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Kim Jong Il, who's the leader of North Korea is, I would describe, as one of the world's more irresponsible leaders. He runs a police state.


HUNT: In response, the North Koreans called Vice President Cheney, "the most cruel monster and bloodthirsty beast," end quote.

Joining us now from Hong Kong is CNN senior Asia correspondent Mike Chinoy.

Mike, what are the North Koreans really up to?

MIKE CHINOY, CNN SR. ASIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, with North Korea, you never know for sure what they're up to. The signals just in the past week had been very mixed. Earlier in the week, North Korean diplomats told U.S. officials at the U.N. that Pyongyang was committed to the six-party talks process, but then the North Koreans announced a couple of days later that they were moving full speed ahead with building more nuclear bombs.

So it's really not clear. I think one thing that has happened is in the last few weeks, there has been some muscle-flexing on the part of the United States; the U.S. deploying F-117 stealth bombers to South Korea, B-2 bombers to Guam, some very tough language coming out of Washington, and so the North Koreans may be signaling an interest in getting back to these six-party talks as a way of easing that pressure, and also possibly stalling for time, but whether or not they'll get back to the negotiations in fact is very hard to judge. And for its part, the Bush administration keeps talking about wanting to come back, wanting to get North Korea back to the negotiations, but has not been willing to engage in the kind of horse trading over a nuclear deal that the North Koreans have signaled they're interested in. So even if they do get back to these six-party negotiations, it's far from clear they'll go anywhere.

HUNT: Bob.

NOVAK: Mike, the Bush administration clearly says that it really depends on the Chinese helping us out in getting the North Koreans back. What's your feeling on the role of the Chinese? Are they -- are they at all interested in playing that role?

CHINOY: Well, the Chinese have a lot at stake here. They don't want to see a nuclear North Korea, but they also don't want to see North Korea collapsed. The Bush administration is right, that the Chinese have some leverage. They provide a lot of North Korea's fuel and food, and if they really pulled the plug, it would create tremendous pressure on North Korea. The Chinese, though, have indicated that they are not prepared to exert that kind of pressure. In fact, in recent weeks, Beijing has signaled a lot of frustration with the Bush administration. The Chinese want to see the United States come forward with a much more detailed proposal for these negotiations, and they've indicated that while they're encouraging the North Koreans, they are pressing the North Koreans to come back to the table, they are not prepared to impose the kind of pressure or to support sanctions that the Bush administration, or at least some in the Bush administration, would like to see going ahead.

HUNT: Kate.

O'BEIRNE: Mike, what is South Korea up to? Is the same true of South Korea? What do they fear more, a nuclear-armed North Korea, or the collapse of the North Korean regime?

CHINOY: Well, neither of them are very palatable possibilities. It would in fact be South Korea that would bear the brunt of any North Korean collapse or descent into armed conflict. That's why the South Koreans have been pushing the Bush administration very strongly to engage North Korea. At the White House in their meeting on Friday, President Roh Moo-hyun and President Bush said that they both agreed that North Korea had to end its nuclear program and that Pyongyang should come back to the negotiating table, but in fact, there are very sharp differences between the South Koreans and the U.S. South Korea's President Roh has moved full speed ahead in engaging North Korea, giving them economic aid, promoting investment and trying to restrain Washington from taking a tough line. And the meeting in Washington on Friday I think just papered over those differences. The South Koreans don't want to see a hard line towards North Korea from the United States.

HUNT: Mark.

SHIELDS: Mike Chinoy, what about the unasked question in this whole equation? What about the South Koreans and nukes? You know, that's been rumored for a long time. What does your own reporting tell you?

CHINOY: Well, the South Koreans have toyed with this in the past. There is no evidence that they are pursuing a nuclear option. But you raise an interesting question. Psychologically, in South Korea, there has been a kind of sea change in the way South Koreans view North Korea and view the United States. Many South Koreans, instead of seeing the North Koreans as mortal enemies, now see them as kind of wayward cousins who need to be coaxed back into the fold, and among some South Koreans, there is a kind of a quiet sense of pride, perhaps, that the North Koreans have gone ahead and developed nuclear weapons. And there may be some in South Korea who feel that if there is an eventual reunified Korea, those nuclear weapons would belong to South Korea. So there is a lot of ambiguity in the way many South Koreans think about North Korea and this nuclear issue.

HUNT: Mike, another member of those six-party talks, in addition to China, is Japan. A lot of reports recently of the tension between the Chinese and the Japanese in that part of the world. Give us your sense, does that have any impact of any of this?

CHINOY: Well, the Japanese are definitely closer to the U.S. position on North Korea. There is a tremendous amount of anger in Japan at North Korea, mainly because of North Korea's history of kidnapping Japanese citizens, taking them to North Korea for years. So there is a lot -- there is a lot of bad feelings towards North Korea and more sympathy for a tougher line.

The whole East Asian landscape is very complicated. You've got tension between China and Japan over World War II history, and the two Asian powers jostling for position. You've got tension between Japan and South Korea as well, largely over the legacy of World War II. And the way this has worked out now is that you've got China and South Korea advocating a more conciliatory, kind of pro-engagement line toward North Korea. The Japanese somewhat more sympathetic to the U.S. But the Japanese too don't want to see conflict, don't want to see confrontation, because it's in their neighborhood, it's in their backyard, and they're the ones who would stand to lose.

HUNT: Hey, Mike, thank you. As always, you were a terrific guest. THE GANG will be back with our "Outrages of the Week."


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

Several years ago, the Bush administration paid a prominent Florida family for oil and gas rights on lands in the Everglades. The president and his brother, Governor Jeb Bush, hailed this as an environmental victory.

Now, it's revealed -- first, I may say by "Bloomberg" News' Ryan Donmeyer (ph), and then by the Interior Department inspector-general that the Collier family, big campaign contributors, were paid as much as $80 million than the land was worth. The deal was, quote, "at best foolish, and at worst, complicit," end quote, the IG said. Some environmental protection.

NOVAK: Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean can't help embarrassing his party whenever he opens his mouth. He recently said of Republicans, quote, "They all behave the same. They all look the same. It's pretty much a white Christian party." End quote.

Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman responded, quote, "I think that a lot of folks who attended my bar mitzvah would be surprised that we are a party of white Christians."

House Chief Deputy Majority Whip Eric Cantor, also Jewish, demanded that Democrats in Congress call on Dean to apologize. They're still waiting, Howard.

HUNT: Kate.

O'BEIRNE: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, confirmed by a 96-3 vote only two months after being nominated to the Supreme Court by Bill Clinton, is considered mainstream by Democrats. The former ACLU general counsel was on record believing that Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts perpetuate damaging sex stereotypes, and that Mother's Day and Father's Day should be changed to Parents' Day. She favored co-ed prisons, lowering the age of consent for statutory rape to 12, and taxpayer funding of abortion on demand. Mainstream? Oh, happy Father's Day.

HUNT: Mark.

SHIELDS: Al, Ohio Republican Bob Ney is at the center of a major congressional controversy involving lobbyist-paid trips and whether Bob Ney did legislative favors in exchange for major contributions from Indian tribes.

So what does Bob Ney do? He pushes out of his House committee an anti-campaign finance reform bill that would repeal the limits on campaign contributions imposed after the Watergate scandal 30 years ago. Today, an individual can contribute a maximum of $4,200 to any congressional candidate. Under Ney, billionaire or millionaire lobbyists, like Tom DeLay's friend Jack Abramoff, could legally give $1 million to a favored candidate's campaign. An outrage.

HUNT: This is Al Hunt, saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. Thanks for joining us.


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