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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Vin Weber Discusses U.S. Economy; How Can the Economic Good Times Keep Rolling?; Ralph Nader Falters Politically

Aired April 21, 2001 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Margaret Carlson. Our guest is former Republican Congressman Vin Weber of Minnesota. It's good to have you back, Vin.

VIN WEBER, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: It's great to be here, and I'm especially happy because I know Bob Novak had to leave his Earth Day activities to be with us.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: It isn't easy being green, Bob. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan surprised and delighted markets in-between its regular meetings. The Federal Open Market Committee dropped short- term interest rates by 1/2 percentage point, or 50 basis points, and stock prices rebounded from a slump.

The Fed statement said, quote: "The risks are weighted mainly toward conditions that may generate economic weakness in the foreseeable future," end quote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER FERGUSON, VICE CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: The downward revisions to earnings expectations have hit the stock market hard since last fall, and declines in equity wealth could begin to show through more forcefully to consumption spending. All in all, I think it is too early to have a strong conviction that the economy is reaching the end of this period of quite slow growth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, well, it turned out that Alan Greenspan has triggered a new burst of economic growth.

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Unfortunately not, and Governor Ferguson had it right. He said that things are tough. We are in a bad economic situation, no little because the Fed was behind the curve. They were seeing the inflation behind every door when there wasn't any, and the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain, Dr. Greenspan, was making a lot of mistakes.

The worst thing about the Greenspan standard is everybody agrees he should have eased, even this time, a little earlier, but he didn't because the central banks don't ease when the markets are going down. They only ease when they're going up a little bit. It's a lot of hokum and nonsense, and we ought to stop giving him a free ride on bad policy.

SHIELDS: Was it a bad idea to cut it...

NOVAK: You didn't listen to what I said.

SHIELDS: I know!

NOVAK: He should have done it -- but...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: And he shouldn't have tightened for all those weeks when there was no inflation.

SHIELDS: Vin.

WEBER: Well, I largely agree with Bob. I think...

SHIELDS: That's it!

WEBER: I think this action is appropriate, but I do agree that Alan Greenspan waited too long. I think the real question that policy makers have to think about is not just, are we into a recession here, but are we really in the middle of a global deflation, anything like that. You know, Japan is in trouble, a lot of countries in South America, like Argentina are in trouble, still got relatively slow growth in Europe, and of course our country is right on -- teetering on the edge of recession.

If indeed, we are in anything approaching a global deflation, then Bob is absolutely right. The Fed didn't act soon enough, or they didn't act strong enough. And nor have the Federal -- the equivalents of the Federal Reserve in Europe and other parts of the world.

SHIELDS: Now, Al Hunt, the confidence index is coming back. I mean, I see polls of people in business, business executives, unlike our commentators and analysts here, who say that they are actually bullish and optimistic about the future. And I've just heard (UNINTELLIGIBLE) right here, and I've heard pessimism, you know Dr. Gloom.

AL HUNT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": You know, we've tried so hard to educate Bob. Bob, you ought to read "The Economist." This will explain to you.

NOVAK: A lefty...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: If you think "The Economist" is a lefty publication, you're -- that's where you're coming from.

NOVAK: That's right.

HUNT: ... but the more problematic thing is some of these chicken littles -- I won't mention any names -- four or five months ago said, by April and May things are going to terrible, Mark. They said it was just going to be awful, and Greenspan made a huge mistake by not cutting those rates back in November and December.

And I know you've been away for a while, so you kind of missed on what's been going on. I think actually Greenspan is managing this thing quite well. We are not in any kind of a terrible recession, as those people predicted four months ago.

In fact, the market has gone down some, so there's clearly some weakness, but it's quite a mixed picture. Companies like IBM, and Apple, and Microsoft had very good profit reports this week -- and most importantly, AOL. But I think there are also some other -- there are some alarming things. I mean, the huge, hot stock of a year ago, Cisco -- the company was supposed to be so big, had a terrible week, and I think Greenspan is responding appropriately, Bob.

SHIELDS: Margaret, who is right here?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, you know, Greenspan bided his time and then he surprised the market and created what I think is some rational exuberance in that the market went up. What Ferguson said was he wasn't worried about the economy overall, he is worried about a decline of, quote, "equity wealth," which is exactly what you're worried about, Bob.

NOVAK: That isn't what he said. That isn't what he said.

CARLSON: He said precisely "equity wealth."

NOVAK: No, he said...

CARLSON: .. which is the sense that people in the market have lost this euphoria they had about incredible gains over the last decade.

NOVAK: Can I, Margaret, just tell you what he said.

CARLSON: The average person haven't made...

NOVAK: Just let me intervene for one second, please.

CARLSON: OK, I will, Bob.

NOVAK: All right.

CARLSON: Now, you remember, next time, I would like to interrupt.

NOVAK: Yes, I just want to say what he said was that the tremendous loss in equity wealth, and it looks like it my impinge on the real economy. That's what he said. WEBER: I get, Margaret -- if I can have my say -- I get a little tired of people sneering at the stock portfolios. For the average person getting ready to retire in the next year or so, maybe got a kid ready to go to college, equity wealth is the economy. And to say that that doesn't matter to us, that all these people that have been depending -- 60 percent of American households now invested in the stock market in one mechanism or another -- that we don't care about it because that's just the stock market...

CARLSON: No.

WEBER: ... is denying what the real economy is.

CARLSON: Many households are, but the bulk of stocks are in the hands of a very few people, and the average family hasn't benefited over the last decade from this boom.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Let me just tell you something. You are a lot smarter than I am. You know what, markets do two things. They go up and they go down, and I'm sorry, you're not going to be able to change that. But I must say, Bob -- Bob, you have potential for growth. Because I'm so pleased that you praise Governor Ferguson, because you had quite a different view of him several weeks ago...

NOVAK: I just...

HUNT: ... and I want to tell you, I'm just so glad that you quoted him glowingly. That shows you can grow.

NOVAK: I just tried to quote him correctly, because Margaret got it wrong. Let me just say this, that Vin said something very, very important that most of you probably didn't understand, and that is there is a global deflation going on, it's very dangerous, and there's one way to fix it immediately...

SHIELDS: What is that, Bob?

NOVAK: ... and that is to fix the price of gold.

SHIELDS: Oh, boy!

NOVAK: If the price of gold were to be fixed, you would immediately have a rise in prices around the world and an increase in equity wealth.

HUNT: Vin, you ought to get a presidential candidate to run on that. Don't you think that would be exciting? Don't you think that?

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... let's just ask one question, don't you think -- follow on Margaret's point -- don't you think so much of the stock market thing was people buying stocks, rather than investing in companies? I mean, they were buying -- Al makes the point about... CARLSON: Yahoo!

SHIELDS: Cisco and Yahoo! I mean, people didn't know what they did, or anything of the sort. And it turns out that Cisco had short of a shell game going.

NOVAK: That's so ridiculous, Mark.

SHIELDS: It's accurate.

NOVAK: The idea that if you put in a stock and hope it will go up, you're making a bad -- instead of investing in a company, that sounds like a socialist would say that. And you're not a socialist.

SHIELDS: Thank you so much, Robert.

HUNT: Those are the sort of people who invest in sometimes Lloyd's of London.

SHIELDS: Oh no, I don't know anybody that silly.

CAPITAL GANG will be back with fruitless U.S.-Chinese talks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Two days of talks between the United States and China involving the return of the American plane held by the Chinese were conducted without any visible progress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER VERGA, DEPUTY UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We had professional discussions. The meetings were very professionally handled, and we are looking forward to getting our plane back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZHANG YUANYUAN, CHINESE EMBASSY SPOKESMAN: We value their relationship. We want to advance the relationship. But we have a problem at hand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, were these talks between the United States and China a total waste of time?

HUNT: No, Mark, but there are not going to be -- there is not going to be any quick successes here. The Chinese have an untenable view here that they probably know is wrong, but they have to worry about face.

They also have to worry about something else, I'm afraid, which is Chinese public opinion. I don't think that's a myth. I don't think we can just say that this is an autocratic country that can decide what they want to do. I think there is a certain sense of anti-Americanism over there.

But in the longer run, we're going to have a problem, because I think the Chinese are going to make it more difficult over the next four to six months. I think there are going to be more crackdowns on human rights, on religion, on Tibet, perhaps, and America has to think of a way to respond to that. It hasn't worked to link it to trade in the past. We have no clout on the Beijing Olympics, and I think we have to find ways, though.

Maybe it's something like we did in South Africa with the Sullivan principles to really make companies that do business in China to let the Chinese know that their behavior is unacceptable.

SHIELDS: Unacceptable, Bob Novak?

NOVAK: I think we have to come to the realization that China is not Iowa, that we are not going to have -- impose our standards on the Chinese. The important thing is it's the biggest country in the world. We need the relations.

There's no question that the individual freedoms in China over the last 12 years have increased dramatically, and that's why there's an anti-Americanism, a lot of the people are saying, what is all this yelling about human rights, they have never had it so good.

Now, as far as the question of these talks, these are all symbolic. There is no plane -- they can't fly that plane back. All the materials have been taken off it, either destroyed by the U.S. or stolen by the Chinese. This is all a symbolic issue, and we are playing to public opinion in both countries. But what's important is to get the relationship back on a good footing.

SHIELDS: In other words, suck up to the Chinese. Anything they want!

NOVAK: I didn't say that.

SHIELDS: Anything at all they want, and just ignore their abuses and the fact that they're imprisoning American citizens on a regular basis?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Bob is right about one thing, that plane has been to a chop shop. We're never -- it's useless. But he's wrong about why we shouldn't concentrate on it. Any talks about the plane keep America from talking about what matters in a way that can change Chinese behavior, and that's trade, or maybe the Olympics. I mean, Al's right, we don't say who gets to do it, but we can put pressure to keep them from having the Olympics. And the arms sale, which I think we should defer, so that at least we have that hanging over them, the arms sales to Taiwan.

SHIELDS: Comes up this week.

CARLSON: But you know, the well-tailored businessmen that run the Republican Party do not want to give up commerce. They don't care what China does, as long as commerce stays lively, and that's the problem. Nothing will ever happen to China because we are not willing to step up on trade.

SHIELDS: Vin Weber, Jim Webb, secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan, a Republican...

WEBER: Good man.

SHIELDS: ... and an authentic American hero said that tragedy of doing commerce with China is that American businessmen who go in there to invest become apologists and defenders of the abuses of the system and lose their critical eye.

WEBER: Jim Webb is a good man. He may well be right about that. It's not the same as saying we ought to have sanctions against them. I do think the American business community makes a mistake by not spending more time with the American human rights community and becoming an advocate, if you will, for changes. But that's a long ways away from saying that we ought to do what some people in this country advocate, in terms of cutting off trade or cutting off the Olympics or something like that.

You know, Al mentioned the South Africans. I was involved in the South African issue. We made a very conscious decision as a country that certain levels of sanctions against South Africa would nudge them toward opening up their society. We had reasons to believe that because we knew they didn't want to be isolated from, pardon me, the white European trans-Atlantic community.

We have no reason to believe that the Chinese will similarly react to sanctions. The way the Chinese react to sanctions is by cracking down even harder.

NOVAK: Can I -- can I ask you...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: ... because I didn't express myself well in that, and Vin makes a good point. I don't think we ought to have sanctions. I think we ought to pressure American companies to do more. When I was talking about the Sullivan principles, I was thinking more of the pressure on companies in that.

NOVAK: Can I ask Margaret, what -- trying to keep -- keeping the Olympics out of Beijing in 2004, what will that accomplish? Can you tell me that?

SHIELDS: 2008.

NOVAK: 2008, I'm sorry.

CARLSON: It would not honor them. It's a privilege to have the Olympics. They should not be honored.

NOVAK: What does that accomplish in our relationship? CARLSON: They should not be honored. It's one of the few pieces of leverage we have over them.

NOVAK: Accomplishes nothing.

CARLSON: I mean, what have we ever done?

NOVAK: You mean, they're going to do something different?

CARLSON: Every time most favored nation or PNTR comes up, they get what they want. We harrumph for a while, and then...

NOVAK: Oh, we get nothing after that. That's just...

CARLSON: ... then they get what they want.

WEBER: If you were running a totalitarian country, the last thing you would want is thousands and thousands of news media people and cameras and everything coming into your country for a long period of time to show what's going on there. That's what the Olympics really is. Maybe they think it's a great international honor, because it is, but in terms of having of having an impact on that society, if there is any, it's probably favorable.

SHIELDS: OK. I think we conclude from this discussion that Iowa is not China, China is not Iowa, and the United States should say nothing about the abuse, the torment and worse that goes on there.

Next on CAPITAL GANG: George W turns green.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. With Earth Day coming up tomorrow, President Bush tried to establish an environmentalist image. He and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman approved Clinton Administration regulations on wetlands protection and on the reporting of lead content.

The president, flanked by Governor Whitman and Secretary of State Colin Powell, next announced the signing of an international treaty against toxic chemicals.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A Republican administration will continue and complete the work of a Democratic administration. This is the way environmental policy should work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, are we seeing a miraculous transformation of George W. Bush turning green before our very eyes?

CARLSON: Chartreuse, maybe. Because it's not easy being green...

SHIELDS: No!

CARLSON: ... if you're as pro-business as he is. And Bob, we know you celebrated Earth Day and underneath this table, Earth shoes.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: No, what Bush did when he first came in...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... wasn't flying with suburban moms in particular. And while they don't take their own polls, they knew this. I mean, the administration had not made the distinction between public health environmental issues and the snail darter. You might not get people all upset over endangered species, but they do want the water to be clean and they want to be able to breathe the air, and they don't their kids having hamburgers in the cafeteria that haven't been tested for salmonella.

So, these were -- this were meetings with a lot of opposition. So this week, he came out and did the things that he did, and Governor Whitman, by the way, has always been somewhat green, and maybe she's going to get some influence now because it's not popular among moderate and independents -- moderate Republicans and independents not to be green.

SHIELDS: Vin Weber, George W. Bush is not -- self-deception, he's not delusional. He knows he is never going to be a favorite of environmentalists.

WEBER: Coming from you, that's a high compliment.

SHIELDS: No, but he's not -- he's not going to be the favorite of the environmentalists.

WEBER: Right.

SHIELDS: But at the same time, Margaret raises a point, I mean, if you're a Republican candidate 2002 running in Midwestern districts or Northeastern district, suburban districts, California districts, or Northwest, you're concerned that -- not appear to be immoderate on the subject of the environment.

WEBER: Well, the politics of this is a lot harder than the science of the issue. Let's keep in mind this, I know you usually like to interject fact into this program, but it is worth noting...

SHIELDS: Once, just once every hour.

WEBER: But it's worth noting that the arsenic standards that we've talked about in drinking water under the Bush administration are going to get tougher. We are going to reduce the amount of arsenic in drinking water.

Now, what we are not going to do is do it as radically as the Clinton administration wanted, but there's no talk about going backward, about adding pollutants to water. We are going to have a tougher standard and cleaner water as a result of these policies.

The problem that we face politically is the environmental organizations over the time that I've been in politics have become increasingly militant and increasingly aligned to the Democratic Party, and you can't reasonably talk about some of these issues.

The Bush administration had a very good reason for backing away from an excessive standard under the Clinton administration, which is that the local governments that would have had to implement this standard, simply couldn't afford the 4.5 to $5 billion that it would have cost. So we are going to clean it up somewhat more, but not as much as Clinton wanted to, and it's a pretty reasonable policy and a pretty green policy for most common-sense Americans.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, politically, getting away from the science -- I know you've spent a lot of time in the laboratory on this issue but...

NOVAK: The lavatory?

SHIELDS: The lavatory. Or a laboratory, clean water. But Bob, the real thing is when you say arsenic in drinking water, people say: "What? Arsenic in drinking water?" That was a politically inept move on the White House's part.

NOVAK: Well, it isn't going to defeat him. Let me tell you what I think has happened.

SHIELDS: Please do.

NOVAK: He takes a look at the Gallup Poll, he being President Bush and his people, and they say, oh my God, the suburbanites, the soccer moms, are hugging trees, we're going to lose it. And so, suddenly he turns everything around, he comes out with this volley. He has Colin and Christie arm in arm, and this is exactly the kind of things that made his father a one-term president.

And I know this too, though -- there are people in the White House who have warned free market activists in this town, you better get with the program with us, or you're going to suffer because we don't want any criticism. That's what's going on.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, read my lips, no clean water.

HUNT: You know, actually, Bob is right. Until he gets to his bottom line, he was absolutely -- he was right. This is the greatest transformation since Renee Richards. I mean, this guy is absolutely -- you know, the first six weeks, anything the interests want in the last six weeks, you know, he makes St. Patrick look blue.

But I tell you what else this is, Mark, this is spin without substance, this is poll-driven politics. As Robert said, it's politics over principle, all the things we said we were going to end when Bill Clinton left town. It is being run by Karen Hughes and Karl Rove because they think the politics are lousy. Where Bob is wrong, however, is to say that if you cave into the mining and the timber and the energy industry, that's going to help you. And then, I would point out in arsenic, it was 1962 that the Public Health Service first proposed that.

NOVAK: I am saying you should dance with the girl who you brung (sic) to the dance.

SHIELDS: No, the girl who brung you.

NOVAK: Brung you.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: That sounds like Bush's syntax right there...

(CROSSTALK)

Thank you very much, Bob. Coming up, our grammar lesson will continue. Our CAPITAL GANG classic looks at Oklahoma City two years after Waco.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. April 19 was anniversary of both the fire at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco and the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. This is how CAPITAL GANG looked at both tragedies on April 22, 1995. Our guest on that program was Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, "CAPITAL GANG", APRIL 22, 1995)

NOVAK: To me, one of the great terrorist things happened on April 19 two years ago, when the United States government killed 80 people in the Branch Davidian.

HUNT: Oh, but that doesn't compare to this, Bob. I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERT REICH, SECRETARY OF LABOR: We are talking about acts of violence, Americans against Americans.

NOVAK: Wasn't that an act of violence?

REICH: We are talking about acts of violence that are not sanctioned by the government, that are not official.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not sure I want the government sanctioning acts of violence.

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: Obviously, there are certain instances in which a government has got to act and a government will act. That's what we -- that's why we have a government. HUNT: The first couple of days, most people thought this was a foreign, Middle East terrorist.

NOVAK: A lot of people were ready for a big ground of Muslim bashing, Arab bashing. They had all these so-called experts pontificating on this network, on other networks, about the Arab threat, and it turns out that it was a right-wing loony! It wasn't an Arab at all.

HUNT: I agree with you. I think to blame this on conservatives in Washington is utter nonsense.

NOVAK: Or on Arabs.

HUNT: It's totally irresponsible. You know, I do think, though, there ought to be a better appreciation of some of these federal law enforcement people, you know, the Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, on sober second thought, was it a mistake for you to link Waco and Oklahoma City?

NOVAK: No. Of course, they're linked in the minds of all the crazy, far-right extremists. It's a linkage because one was terrorism by the government, many fewer people, and the other was terrorism by McVeigh and his -- and the people who were aligned with him.

So I think there is a question when we have never, ever -- the government has never admitted culpability at Waco, never had a thorough investigation of that. And the Cato Institute just had an interesting paper out showing some of the facts of the culpability of the government at Waco.

SHIELDS: Excuse me, but we had a thorough investigation led by...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... limited scope.

SHIELDS: Oh, OK, your definition of thorough. It was a pretty thorough investigation...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Oh, OK, go ahead Vin Weber.

WEBER: I know you all love this segments because you get to watch yourselves. I actually went back and read the transcript of this.

But one thing that stunned me is how everybody on this program six years ago said, yes there's going to be some erosion of civil liberties because of this, and none of that happened. The American system worked well in response to this crisis down in Oklahoma City. Took six years, Timothy McVeigh is going to be executed in accordance with this law, but there's been no erosion of the average American's civil liberties in response to this problem.

SHIELDS: Al.

HUNT: I agree with Vin on that, and Bob, you're wrong. Mark is absolutely right. John Danforth had no inhibitions put on him. He's a man of tremendous integrity. A far more serious investigation than some kind of wacky institute will come out with a paper in order to placate, you know, some wacky contributors, and there's no way you can draw any analogy to what happened at Waco, as tragic as it was, and the horror of Oklahoma City.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Oh, absolutely, Bob, and I wish you would occasionally admit you were wrong.

NOVAK: I would be happy, but I'm absolutely right!

CARLSON: It would be so refreshing.

NOVAK: I'll send you a copy of that report, Al.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: You know what's amazing is how easily we've accepted the restrictions that there are to prevent this kind of frightening terrorism that...

WEBER: Do you think there has been an erosion of civil liberties? Do you really?

CARLSON: No, no, but at airports and other places, at buildings, we all have inconveniences now that would have been inconceivable a decade ago. And even on Pennsylvania Avenue, which I think we have to keep closed because of the threat of terrorism.

NOVAK: Why don't you close the whole city, and make it like Gorky in the Soviet Union?

SHIELDS: That's the kind of discussion, Margaret, and...

CARLSON: Thanks, Bob, very enlightening.

SHIELDS: Margaret, I admire you for keeping your decency and restraint.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: And Vin, I thank you for being with us. It's been a treat having you.

WEBER: It's a pleasure always. SHIELDS: Thank you very much. THE GANG will be back. We'll be back with "The Newsmaker of the Week," Ralph Nader. Our "Look Beyond the Beltway" at the Cincinnati racial crisis with mayor Charlie Luken of that city, and our "Outrages of the Week," all after a check of the hour's top news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, Robert Novak, and Margaret Carlson. On the eve of Earth day, our "Newsmaker of the Week" is consumer advocate and environmental activist Ralph Nader. Ralph Nader, age 67, resident Washington, D.C., B.A. Princeton, L.L.B. Harvard Law School. Author, "Unsafe At Any Speed," 1965. Founder, Center for Responsive Law. Green Party Presidential Candidate, 1996 and 2000.

Earlier this week Al Hunt interviewed Ralph Nader.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNT: Is America a greener country today than it was 31 years ago when Earth Day was founded?

RALPH NADER, FORMER GREEN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, in some important ways: The level of carbon monoxide is down; the amount of lead in people's blood is down because tetraethyl lead is no longer in gasoline; there are a number of pollutants in the rivers that are down. But there are always new chemicals, hundreds of them every year that are introduced without adequate testing.

HUNT: But there are big environmental fights going on right now, and some people in the environmental community have been critical of you. Let's just look in the screen for a minute. This is what somebody from the League of Conservation Voters, if you could look right there, said about you, and I'll quote, "The `Where's Nader' question is one I've been asking for a while. Here's a guy who spent a career advocating for the public interest and supposedly for the environment. Yet now, when it's down to brass tacks, when the nation could really use someone out there who's a vocal opponent of the misguided environmental policies of this administration, he's nowhere to be found."

Is the green warrior of yesterday AWOL?"

NADER: Well, you know, unlike Al Gore, I've had 14 press conferences since November 7. I've been in 23 states and had press conferences there. But if the national media doesn't cover what you say, if they don't cover a major letter I sent to George W. Bush on the subject, you get people like Lisa who make those kinds of statements.

HUNT: This week the Bush administration had an Earth Week conversion with a number of pro-environmental measures. Do you think the president has gotten the message on the environment?

NADER: He's gotten it. I mean, I'm talking to massive audiences all over the country and the first question is, look how anti- environmental Bush is. The Bush administration is reading a whole series of polls indicating that no major party today can survive politically without losing votes if they're overtly anti-environment.

And you can see that Clinton laid a trap for Bush by these post- November 7 standards that he issued, you know, on lead, on ergonomics; and so I think Bush fell for it. Then there was a huge backlash. And you know, Al, the environmental groups have never been more dynamic. They no longer have an anesthetizer in the White House who says the right things and does nothing.

HUNT: The Bush administration, as you noted, suspended the Clinton order to lower the level of arsenic in drinking water. Would a Gore administration have acted differently?

NADER: I don't think a Gore administration would necessarily have issued it. I mean, what were they waiting for in eight years? So let's say Gore won on November 7, and in the past eight years they didn't move on it -- why would they move after? The only reason Clinton moved on these 10 standards just before he left the White House was, he wanted to burnish his historical record and lay a political trap for the Republicans. They fell into it.

HUNT: Did George Bush also backtrack on his own pledge to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants? Would a President Gore have acted differently?

NADER: Vice President Gore did not campaign on reducing carbon dioxide in power plants. Bush chastised him during the campaign, saying, hey look, I want to reduce carbon dioxide. So Bush -- Gore was the cipher and Bush broke his promise.

HUNT: Bush says a top priority should be to drill for energy in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Would Al Gore have held the same position?

NADER: No, he would not have drilled in ANWR. But Clinton and Gore did open up territory in northern Alaska for drilling, and they went along with exporting this oil that we supposedly need so badly in the United States to Japan from Alaska.

HUNT: Two related political questions: In 2004, will the Green Party run a presidential candidate, and will Ralph Nader run again for president?

NADER: I think the Green Party will run a presidential candidate. It's too early to say, as far as I'm concerned. I don't like long campaigns.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, did we hear Ralph Nader making an argument here that president Al Gore would be worse on the environment than President George W. Bush?

HUNT: Well he certainly makes the arguments better for the environmental community to have Bush than Gore, because he says that Bush has energized the environmental community.

The problem he has is that most environmentalists don't agree with that -- we saw the clip there from the League of Conservation Voters. And the other thing that Ralph Nader has lost is he had long- time alliances on Capitol Hill. For instance, Henry Waxman, the very powerful congressman from California. His office told me that he has not spoken to Ralph Nader since November 7.

SHIELDS: Margaret, your assessment as a former ally of Ralph Nader?

NOVAK: Employee of Ralph Nader.

CARLSON: My old boss has changed. He's a politician now, because he would have celebrated some advances that have been made and he wouldn't be the equivalent of a direct-mail fund-raiser, trying to exaggerate what's going on as a way of getting money-slash-votes for the Green Party and for another candidacy of his own.

SHIELDS: Let me ask you, Bob Novak: Democrats blame Ralph Nader for Al Gore's defeat, yet Ralph Nader didn't stop Al Gore from carrying Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin and Minnesota. And we can't blame Ralph Nader for Al Gore not carrying West Virginia and Tennessee and Arkansas, can we?

NOVAK: But he's smarting from all the attacks he's getting from the Democrats, as Al said. I thought it was an ingenious thing in the interview, where he is saying that if Al Gore had been nominated, Bill Clinton having not put those edicts into effect on the environment for eight years wouldn't have done it then.

So the environment -- and now we've got Bush falling over and endorsing some of the those so the environmental movement is better off that Gore lost. I don't know if I buy that, but it's an ingenious argument.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: You like a specious argument.

No, Gore was totally sincere on the environment and would have done all of these things much better than President Bush.

SHIELDS: Last word Margaret.

Next on CAPITAL GANG: a look at Cincinnati's racial crisis with that city's mayor.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Our look beyond the beltway goes to Cincinnati: rioting by African-Americans following the police shooting of an unarmed man ended, but the bitterness remained.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KENNETH LAWSON, ATTORNEY FOR TIMOTHY THOMAS: I think the only way things are going to change is is once police officers are properly disciplined or put in prison or personally lose their jobs or their money through civil suits. But right now you've got police officers who do wrongs that don't get disciplined, they're not prosecuted.

KEITH FANGMAN, CINCINNATI FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: I think the righters and the looters owe the decent, law-abiding citizens of this city an apology. I think they owe the innocent citizens who were dragged from their cars and targeted because of their race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Mayor Charlie Luken joins us now from Cincinnati.

Thank you for coming in, Charlie.

MAYOR CHARLIE LUKEN, CINCINNATI, OHIO: Thank you for having me on.

SHIELDS: Mayor Luken, who is right in this case, the lawyer for Timothy Thomas or the police union leader?

LUKEN: Well, you've heard from Ken Lawson and you heard from Keith Fangman, and frankly they're both a little bit right. I mean, we have had some police shootings under questionable circumstances that deserve to be investigated, and we've done that. And when you have those kinds of situations back-to-back, as we have had, all of the unemployment and poverty and lack of education issues just kind of boil over together, and we've had trouble in the streets here.

SHIELDS: But tell us this, I mean, what is it about Cincinnati that makes it different from other cities where similar tensions don't seem to be right at razor's edge.

LUKEN: Mark, I have heard from mayors all over this country and they have pretty much said the same thing to me: "There but for the grace of God."

I mean, we have attacked issues of racial profiling in this city; we've attacked issues of police-community relations. We've had, in rapid succession, a couple of cases where unarmed African-American men have been shot by Cincinnati police. But this notion that has been out there in the national media that 15 African-Americans have been killed by police without justification is hogwash. In most of these cases these police officers were under fire, where people were pointing guns at them. In three cases police officers died.

SHIELDS: I don't mean to minimize the comment made by the union chief, the police union chief, but there was only an instance of one truck driver, is that right -- a man from Louisville -- who was actually pulled from a vehicle?

LUKEN: Well yes, we've had that situation here. I mean, we have had people targeted who drive down the street and white people pulled out of cars and beaten up; and the prosecutor's considering an indictment of those. I mean, it's been a horrible situation.

NOVAK: There were several of them, were there not -- similar cases like that?

LUKEN: There are several cases under investigation. One that you will see played over and over again is a Louisville truck driver who was pulled out.

SHIELDS: OK -- Bob Novak.

NOVAK: You know, several years ago when they had the riots in '60, a very wise man said, why do people riot? They riot for fun and profit. There's nothing ideological about this; they're looting, they're stealing and they're having a good time at it. And the other rule that we learned in the '60s was it never stops until a strong hand is taken.

And once Mayor Luken imposed the curfew, the rioting stopped. He was under criticism for imposing the curfew, but that had to happen. And I think -- the point that the mayor just made, I think should be reiterated because you would never know that most of these people who were -- these African-American men who were shot, were armed, some of them in the commission of a crime, some of them shooting at police. So I think there's been a very distorted coverage of these disturbances.

(CROSSTALK)

LUKEN: I just don't want anybody getting their politically correct card punched at the expense of Cincinnati. We've had a bunch of people come in here and make outrageous statements about this city. We have problems; I am the first to acknowledge them, and we've been working on them the year-and-a-half I've been in office. But, you know, some of the things people have said are absolutely outrageous, and the Justice Department is all over this city right now.

But you know what? When we had a questionable shooting a couple years ago where an unarmed African-American man died, we couldn't get them to pay any attention. Now they're all over the place.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: I wanted to say to Bob, I think five of the 15 recent killings of black men, the victim fired first. That's five of 15, so lets not say that they were all armed and shooting.

But I wanted to ask the mayor if the complaints that there's not a way to discipline officers in Cincinnati similar to other police departments is accurate.

LUKEN: Well, what is accurate is that we've fired 10 police officers under some really outrageous circumstances. They've done very, very bad things, and they have been ordered rehired in the arbitration process that we have with the Fraternal Order of Police. We'd like to change that, and we'd like to change the union contract. Unfortunately, it is part of the contract, and we'll have to wait until the next negotiation.

But, yes, I think people are frustrated when they see 10 officers fired for misbehaving and then get ordered back on the force.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Well, you know, first, Mark I want to say that I think Mayor Luken deserves a great deal of credit. I think he and some others out there have really, really tried to be peacemakers in this incredibly difficult situation. But I also want to add -- you know, I want to pick up on something else.

Mr. Mayor, as outrageous as rioting is, don't you think, on something like this latest episode, Timothy Thomas, who was a victim who was unarmed and his own record was driving records -- that when something like that happens that, as outrageous as rioting is, it's not just doing it for fun. It really is kind of igniting some deep- seeded passions in a community that feels that it's alienated?

LUKEN: Look, we don't excuse violence and I think Mr. Novak's comment that a lot of people were just out having fun is correct. At the same time, there is no question that the rioting in Cincinnati is related to the deep frustration and anger that many of our citizens feel about the police department. There's a relationship, I'm not excusing it, but there is definitely that relationship.

And frankly, this isn't over here. I mean people treat it like it came and it went. The grand jury is meeting about the officer as we speak and depending on what the outcome of that is, you know, we are not out of this by a long shot.

SHIELDS: Mayor Luken, just one thing, Scotty Johnson, the president of the Sentinel Police Association, which is black police officers, said that the city would get credibility on its racial profiling commitment if in fact officers who continue to racially profile and really persecute members of the African-American community if one was even prosecuted on it. Is that a fair criticism?

LUKEN: Well, let me just point out, Mark, that the last questionable shooting, the one before this one, two of those officers are under indictment now and their trial as not been held. I think it's a fair criticism similar to what I said before. When 10 officers are fired for outrageous conduct and an arbitrator order them reinstated, and a lot of this misbehaving was done at the expense of the African-American citizens this frustration and anger is understandable. The violence is certainly not.

NOVAK: Mayor Luken, what was your reaction when national figures come in, national so-called civil rights leaders and say that, boy, this, this violence, this is the result of all this, as if, and you listen to it, they're kind of saying, we don't like the violence, but it's justified. How do you react to that?

LUKEN: I think some of the people that have come into town have just been feathering their own nest. I mean, I think some legitimate points have been made, but when people come into town and start talking about 15 deaths, you know, the police have murdered 15 people, I mean some of these statements are irresponsible. And I, frankly, tire of reading national media reports about my city, portraying it as the most racist city in America, or whatever the characterization might be.

SHIELDS: Charlie Luken, the mayor of Cincinnati, thank you for being with us, and the gang will be back with the "Outrage of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Charlie Ward is that most remarkable of American athletes: A Heisman Trophy winner as a college football player, and a Professional basketball player today for the New York Knicks. Known for his clean living and his Bible studies, Charlie Ward fouled out. An on-the-record religious discussion where he said, quote, "Jews had blood on their hands" close quote, for the crucifixion of Christ.

Charlie Ward, you're tragically wrong. Jews have suffered far more at the hands of Christians than vice versa -- Bob Novak.

NOVAK: What about those millions of kids who are raised in child care rather than by their mothers? A study just released by the National Institutes of Health, shows that they are three times as likely to behave badly in kindergarten exhibiting aggression, defiance and disobedience. What a blow for the feminists, who defend dumping their children in a day care center. What an outrage. But the bleeding heart liberals, who profess their love for kids are attacking this study.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Bob, you must have been in day care -- disobedient -- Mark.

SHIELDS: Yes, Margaret.

CARLSON: Excuse me for a moment there -- an accident at Washington D.C.'s Children's Hospital claimed the life of a nine- month-old baby last week. Through a tragedy of errors involving a doctor, a transcriber and a nurse, the baby received two five- milligram doses of morphine instead of two- 0.5 milligram doses -- 10 times the right amount into that little baby. The hospital expressed regret but refused to explain how they could keep such a massive mistake from happening in the future.

Children's Hospital's guilty of the kind of arrogance and medical malpractice suits and tort lawyers absolutely necessary.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Mark. President Bush has nominated Mary Sheila Gall to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission. This is the same Ms. Gall who voted against regulating baby bath seats which resulted in some 67 infant deaths, and opposes flammability standards for upholstered furniture to reduce the risk of fires. Let's hope the Senate will hear from some of those families that have been afflicted by these defective products and we'll have a real debate on the value of these regulations. The Gall appointment is truly galling.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for the CAPITAL GANG. "CNN TONIGHT" is next. Stephen Frazier has a preview.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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