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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Is Bush's Energy Plan the Best Option?; Are Tax Cuts Destined to Pass Congress?; John Lewis Recieves Profile in Courage

Aired May 19, 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 the full CAPITAL GANG: Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne, and Margaret Carlson. President Bush unveiled his energy plan and set off across the country to promote it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The problems in California show that you cannot conserve your way into energy independence. Advanced new technologies allows entrepreneurs and risk takers to find oil and to extract it in ways that leave nature in disturbed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Democratic critics from Sacramento to Washington attacked the plan.

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: I fault the president for not providing California with any immediate relief. With all due respect, Mr. President, Californians want to know whether you're going to be on their side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: Focuses on drilling and production at the expense of our environment and conservation, and it does nothing to help people who need relief right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, how much political power does this Bush plan have?

KATE O'BEIRNE, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, Congress is the typically unkind to these big complicated packages that typically have something for every one to like, but by the same token something for everyone to dislike, and this package, I think, is no exception. It is well balanced between development and conservation. The liberals of course. They had their talking points out before they even saw the package.

But conservatives were also objecting to provisions of it. They are objecting to a lot of the corporate welfare through the tax code trying to incentivize private investors who have all the incentive in the world to already invest, and they're going to object to the federal grab of power at the expense of local communities and private property owners.

And politically, Republicans are nervous it doesn't do enough in the short term, and of course Democrats don't want to do anything in the short term because they would rather have an energy crisis in 2002.

SHIELDS: A political power outage here at this point, Margaret?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Bush is living on fumes if he thinks that this is going to fly. It's not balanced, first of all. It's not an energy plan. It's a drilling and mining plan with a few sops sprinkled to conservation. And we knew that was what was going to happen when Dick Cheney and no gremlin did it, had in a speech the week before, that conservation may be a sign of virtue, but it has no place in an energy plan.

And Bush said something wrong in that little sound byte there, which is the only way California can get out of its energy crisis at this time is to conserve. That's it.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, you have to admit, and I know you've lived by it, Bob, as a greeny, conservation is not simply a private, personal virtue, it's a public value.

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Oh, it's an attempt by your kind of people to try to tell other people how to live, the lower classes how to live. I only wish that Margaret were correct, that this was a drilling and producing plant. This was a act of panic. They didn't have any idea what they were going to do just a few weeks ago, in the Bush Administration.

They're worried about gas tank prices, the outages. They're worried sick about the political fallout because a Congressman came in, and so they put in this big government plan and it really isn't a very good plan, I agree with everything that Kate said, but it is really a government writ large.

SHIELDS: In trouble, Al Hunt?

AL HUNT, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, Mark, let me just back up for a second. I'm a little bit confused as to why President Bush thought he had to say that we have a crisis. Because, first of all I'm not sure what the politics of that are, because if we have a crisis it's only going hurt him if it's not solved. But secondly, I'm not sure we do have a crisis.

It seems are really rather ample and we have some short term problems here and there. California may have a crisis, but -- and maybe a few other Western states, but I'm not sure the rest of the country does. Prices are lower than they were 1980. People spend 5 percent of their disposable income on energy. They used to spend 8 percent, so I'm not quite sure what the crisis and I think he's setting himself up for a problem here because I don't think there are going to be any short term improvements, and so therefore I think it's only going to be a political loser.

O'BEIRNE: Al, I was intrigued too as to why he was calling it so quickly a crisis, when some are disputing whether it is at all. All I can figure is they learned, they watched closely, Bush won, and learned lessons. You do not ignore a perceived problem. And if he weren't calling it a crisis and acting you know, 24-7 to fix it, I think they figure the Democrats would be saying oh, he's neglecting this huge problem. So I think it's preemptive.

SHIELDS: Quick point, first of all, I think they've been very adroit in calling this an energy plan. This is for oil companies. I mean, it's not -- energy is a euphemism. Nobody says, "Gee, my energy bill went up." My oil bill went up, the gas bill is up, the gas bill is too high. That's the first thing. That's the first thing.

The second thing as you look at this, they took two separate and distinct items, OK, the rise in gasoline prices and the California electricity shortage and converged that and said this is some sort of a crisis in the country. They're totally distant, they're totally dissimilar, they're totally disjointed. California does need help. There's no doubt about it. We are talking about 4 hours a day 5 days a week from the end of June to the end of September, blackouts every single day.

NOVAK: But those two points were the reason they had the plan. Two-dollar gas and rolling blackouts were the reason they have the plan. But this is not an oil plan. There's stuff about nuclear energy in there. Maybe if you read it, Mark, you would see that there's a lot more than oil in there.

CARLSON: Mark, you know the one reason that Bush calls it a crisis is because like Cheney saying we are heading the into a recession, let us put this on Clinton's head. And the preface to almost every sentence out of the White House is, Clinton had no energy plan. For eight years we floundered and now look where we are. And I think that's why, just to protect them against 3 dollar a gallon gasoline it's Clintons fault.

HUNT: But that dog won't hunt, as they say. I mean, if there's a problem next year it's going to be worse. Let me just say this. For all the criticism of Clinton putting his health care plan together in secret, how did Dick Cheney put this together -- in secret.

SHIELDS: In secret and I just point out, in conclusion, that is that is that the production of oil and gas in this country doubled on public lands under Bill Clinton from what it was under Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Yes, OK, and that's the last word, Bob, I'm sorry. You ought to read something too. The gang of 5 will be back with the big tax cut marching to passage

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SHIELDS: Welcome back. In the Senate Finance Committee, four Democrats broke party ranks to pass a modified version of President Bush's across-the-board tax cut.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R-IA), FINANCE CHAIRMAN: In the end, no one got everything he or she wanted, including the chairman. But I think a lot of us got something that we can support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-MT), FINANCE COMMITTEE: Clearly, this is a result at this beginning stage, which distributes income much more to moderate, low income people compared with the president's bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The Grassley/Baucaus compromise setting the top income tax rate at 36 percent instead of 33 percent as proposed by President Bush displeased many in both parties.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DON NICKLES (R-OK), FINANCE COMMITTEE: The bill we have before us is way too timid, Mr. Chairman, on maximum rates. Way too timid. We didn't do near enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEN, JAY ROCKEFELLER (D-WV), FINANCE COMMITTEE: You are sadly misguided in the path that you have chosen. It is spends too much, it saves too little, and it invests far too little of America's long term needs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The Senate is expected to pass this bill Monday with final Congressional approval of a tax bill targeted for later in the week. Margaret Carlson, have the Democrats lost the fight on taxation?

CARLSON: Well they got the number down a little, but basically they've lost. Some of the Democrats are terrified in their own home states to vote against it, there's a big difference between Republicans and Democrats on taxes. It's the only thing Republicans care about, as Bob says, they're put on this earth to lower taxes. And so all their energy, the unified tax theory of government is, let us put everything into this, and they did.

The Democrats have not fought back as effectively, the Lexus and the muffler, the wealth argument didn't work as well as -- I think what might have worked was look, government is going to end as we know it if the spending cuts get passed, as they're going to have to in order to fund this tax cut, Republicans will get their wish. Bob will get his wish. Government will be drastically reduced.

SHIELDS: Bob, that burdensome onerous 39.6 percent top rate that's supposed to go down to 33 percent. What happened?

NOVAK: Thirty-three is too high. They wanted to get the moderates, Mr. Baucus, to save his seat in Montana. I talked to one of the leading House Republicans about this. I said this was a tax bill that only a mother could love, and he said he didn't know any mother like that because it's a crummy bill, but it's a big tax cut and that's what the headlines are and they get the headlines.

Now, the question is are they going to try to improve it in conference so they get a bill that might pass 51-49, and really have a fight? I don't think so. They'll probably keep it pretty much like the Senate bill and it will pass comfortably in the Senate. But it's better than nothing, but that's about all I can say for it.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, but it's a big victory for George W. Bush isn't it?

HUNT: Huge victory and a huge defeat for the Democrats, none of this stuff about compromises. Now let me tell you something, anyone who is in contract negotiations, a baseball player, television personality, steel worker ought to get Max Baucus to go on the other side. You'll get rich quickly. He's the worst negotiator I've ever seen. He gave away the store basically.

This is a big victory for Bush. It's a big tax cut. It is a tax cut that's going to mean almost nothing to that $21,000 thousand a year waitress, to that middle income working couple. But it's going to mean an awful lot to the wealthiest of Americans, but I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to Phil Gramm who explained to us the rationale.

And that is the last vestige of bigotry in America, Mark, Senator Gramm explained, was against the successful. And I just hope all those minorities and gays and disabled people who have been feigning prejudice against them will go out and realize the real bigotry is against the CEOs the investment bankers and the coupon clippers, Mark.

SHIELDS: Tough to argue with that, Kate.

O'BEIRNE: Look, Senator Baucus is a red state senator. Pitch that electrical map. George Bush -- yes, took Montana overwhelmingly. Max Baucus...

NOVAK: You don't mean a communist state?

O'BEIRNE: No, no, a Bush red state. Although the Democrats made every one of those arguments, Margaret. They first argued the class warfare stuff which the American public, to their undying credit, don't buy. They also argue that you're going to have to cut and slash government. You cannot plausibly argue that when government is now going to limp buy on $2 trillion a year.

They tried all these arguments, and they have lost, except they've done enough damage to the overall amount that George was looking for that now it's hard to shoe-horn those individual tax cuts into this smaller package. Some people are hoping that one discrete popular one, like marriage penalty, could be put aside and passed later.

NOVAK: And they put a a lot of stuff in like the educational tax credit to get Senator Torricelli's vote, and Chairman Thomas of the Ways and Means Committee has said publicly that you can't put all this stuff in that package. You either have to increase the package, which they can't do, or start deciding what their going to throw overboard.

HUNT: So you do is you put off all the stuff that helps working class people, and you keep in all the stuff like the inheritance tax and the...

NOVAK: I hope so.

HUNT: So the rich people do well. That's what they're going to do, Mark.

NOVAK: So we can have growth and investment.

HUNT: Right, right, but people are discriminated against,like Bob.

SHIELDS: And I will say this, as soon as it passes, it is George W. Bush's economy and you can forget blaming anything more on Bill Clinton. I'm sorry, folks. Next on CAPITAL GANG, another Senate confirmation fight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. The Senate Judiciary Committee split, nine to nine, along party lines on the confirmation of Theodore Olson to be solicitor general of the United States. The vote was taken after Republican Chairman Orrin Hatch refused further investigation of Olson's involvement with "The American Spectator Magazine's" so-called Arkansas project, investigating Bill Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I have become increasingly concerned that he's not shown a willingness or ability to be sufficiently candid and forthcoming with the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: I am convinced that these responses show no inconsistencies or evidence that Mr. Olson misled or was less than truthful to the committee in any way. Rather, they show him to be forthright and honest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Under White House urging, Chairman Hatch agreed late Friday to discuss a limited staff inquiry into Olson's statements. Bob Novak, is this going to balloon into a real threat to Olson's confirmation?

NOVAK: You never can tell. When they start mucking around sometimes it gets out of hand. It's absolutely outrages. Senator Leahy changes the demands. He answered truthfully to the questions then he gave him new questions and said he wasn't forthcoming. The whole idea is that any conservative is going to be attacked by the Democratic senators. They vote at against them, my friend, Joe Biden, votes against any, any controversial opponent if he's a liberal, and this is a travesty to have a fine lawyer like Ted Olson even be questioned for the solicitor general thing on these trumped up charges.

SHIELDS: Al, certainly Russ Feingold couldn't be accused of voting...

HUNT: Well, that's what I was going to say, Mark. I think you're right. Look, we have a very strong, we have a great difference of opinion on Ted Olson, I'm sure on this, among this group. But two things, number one: One of the charges is that Democrats are just trying to pay back for Florida. Well, let me tell you why that's true. Jim Baker meant a lot more to George Bush's victory in Florida than Ted Olson and Jim Baker whatever the feelings, would be confirmed like this if he were nominated for anything.

And I think this is a case of Ted Olson's candor or lack of the same. Bob says that Pat Leahy keeps changing the questions, well Ted Olson keeps changing his answers, depending on which day you ask. And Russ Feingold does not fall into that category that Bob mentioned earlier -- Senator from Wisconsin -- who has said that unless there's something that there is something really bothersome, a nominations ought to be approved by the Senate.

He voted for John Ashcroft, he voted for John Gault (ph). Took a lot of flack. I talked to Russ Feingold the other day as I think Bob did, and he said he is really troubled by Ted Olson's lack of candor.

SHIELDS: I talked to Russ Feingold and he confirmed what you said.

Kate O'Beirne, isn't there something almost Clintonian about these answers that Mr. Olson gives? I mean, I wasn't involved in the origin in...

O'BEIRNE: If there were, Senator Leahy and Senator Finegold have not made that case. They had a put out a six-page -- anonymously, I don't blame them for not putting their name on it -- supposedly a record of discrepancies. There are no discrepancies in the six pages. I think on this one the Democrats have gotten themselves out on a thin limb. You had Bill Safire in "The New York Times" who calls Pat Leahy the best Democrat -- Senate Democrat -- among the senators, and he says come back to the Constitution, Pat.

We have "The Washington Post" editorially endorsing Ted Olson saying there's no evidence of any of this misleading discrepancy stuff. I think they got themselves out on a then limb. Senator Feingold out of loyalty followed Senator Leahy out there, and the Republicans see it in their interest to help the Democrats walk back off this limb.

Now the democrats enjoy this. It is payback for Florida. They're also sending a message to George Bush. If we are willing to do this over a solicitor general, on trumped up charges, you better be careful about your judicial nominees. And they also, I think, they wanted to rough up Ted Olson. They don't mind if he's solicitor general, but they don't want to see him on the Supreme Court.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: There won't now be a Justice Ted Olson. There is likely to be a solicitor general and that's because fortunately for Ted Olson, there's no Arkansas project on the Democrats side so he won't be vilified the way so many were in the Clinton Administration. Bill Lann Lee, the only reason he didn't get a vote was because he agreed with Bill Clinton on affirmative action. You know, Republicans were partisan and Republicans were personal.

The way I read what Ted Olson said, actually it's fairly straightforward. I was not involved in the project in its origin or its management. I mean, that's pretty straightforward and somebody came forward and said well, yes, he was involved.

NOVAK: See, I happen to be -- in opposition -- the only person sitting at this table who was on the board of "The American Spectator Foundation" at that time. I sat at the same table with him and I was as much at a loss to know what was going on as he was. And it was absolutely -- see this is what's called a red herring. They were against Bill Lann Lee because of his opinions.

They are against Ted Olson because of his opinions and his record but they throw this "American Spectator" Arkansas nonsense out. It's a classic red herring.

CARLSON: But you know, it's not that he did it. It's whether he was forthright about it. It think that now he's embarrassed about it now.

HUNT: Bob Novak's law firm, because Bob Novak does not have a law firm was not paid money back in 1993 and 1994 the way Mr. Olson's was. He may have a good explanation, but he changes his explanation all the time, according to the days. And this is a guy, you know, people say let's not have this politics of smear and vilification anymore.

OK, fine. If you want to change it, Ted Olson was one of the perpetrators to this kind of politics and has been for 5 years. He's been a smear artist.

SHIELDS: Not only did the guy, the guy was involved. I mean, now you could argue that he's an able lawyer. He is. But let's get this -- right on the table right now. For him to say he didn't know what was going on there is like the piano player in a cat house not knowing what's going on upstairs. I mean this was pretty obvious. Anybody who went near the toxic lousy "American Spectator" knew what it was about. It was about the destruction of Bill Clinton. That's what it was.

NOVAK: You're just showing your prejudice. Anything to do with the right you hate.

SHIELDS: Is that an objective reading of that magazine?

HUNT: That was project that was funded by a right wing nut. I think we all agree that was improper, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Bob agrees with that.

NOVAK: And nobody knew it was funded by him.

CARLSON: And it's quite all right for Bob Novak to be there, but we are not voting for you for solicitor general...

SHIELDS: You better believe it!

CARLSON: ... and you're not hedging in a Clinton way.

SHIELDS: Unless he goes to night school in a hurry. That's the last word Margaret. We will be back with our "Capital Gang Classic:" the last congressional fight over energy proposals by a new president eight years ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Our "Capital Gang Classic" goes back eight years, when first-year President Bill Clinton was proposing a tax on energy as part of his budget. Democratic Senator David Boren of Oklahoma pushed for spending cuts instead of the Clinton energy tax. This is what your CAPITAL GANG said on May 22, 1993, with the then House Minority Whip, Newt Gingrich, as our guest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 22, 1993)

NOVAK: What the president says is that this is the is the big oil lobby doing it. It's the same old populist politics. What David Boren is trying to do is trying to avoid him from a disaster economically and politically.

SHIELDS: Bob, is of course a believer that a rising tide lifts all yachts. He always declaims against populism. Bill Clinton is on the right track, David Boren is the important to the discussion, but I think Bill Clinton cannot embrace that plan right now. For one thing it includes a $29 billion windfall for the richest 1 percent of Americans including Mr. Novak.

REP. NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA), MINORITY WHIP: The energy tax is the weakest part of the president's whole package. It hits every American, hits senior citizens, hits working Americans, hits everybody who drives to work. And I think in that sense the country's against the energy tax.

HUNT: The Boren plan would, now this is undeniable, it would cut proposed increases for food stamps for poor kids and it would cut in half the earned income tax credit for working poor people -- not welfare -- working poor people while giving a huge tax break for wealthier Americans.

There's no doubt that would happen. Isn't there a fairness issue there?

NOVAK: I'll tell you something very interesting that you don't realize and I don't think the president realizes and a lot of journalists don't realize, is that socialism is dead.

SHIELDS: Newt Gingrich has put his finger on it. What the key is Al, that the oil patch members of the House of Representatives from Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma are nervous.

HUNT: I think Clinton could win this on the fairness issue but I think there's serious questions whether he has the guts to really stick it out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, President Clinton eventually abandoned the energy tax to save his economic package. Was that a mistake on his part?

HUNT: And we still haven't learned if socialism is dead.

NOVAK: You can say that again.

HUNT: Yes, I think that Clinton sold out a few people on this but there's one thing that I must acknowledge eight years later, that that package that he ultimately got through was the greatest economic growth package we've ever seen in this country. For eight years we've had unrivalled economic growth and Bob Novak has gotten richer than he ever thought in his wildest dreams.

SHIELDS: You are right. I said at the time he was in the top one percent, you must be in the top one tenth of the one percent. Thank goodness.

NOVAK: That is not what the subject id about. You know, Al Hunt just glossed over the program that he gave his usual bad advice because Al never saw a tax increase. He said stick with that terrible BTU tax. They didn't stick with it, but it's very interesting that at that time the big liberal Democratic thing was higher taxes on energy. What a bad idea.

SHIELDS: Kate.

O'BEIRNE: Actually, had they listened to Bob Novak and Senator Boren they did abandon the BTU tax, but the damage had been done. It was one of the issues that cost the Democrats the House in 1994, passing that tax increase.

SHIELDS: And it saved America, didn't it, Margaret.

CARLSON: It saved Clinton. I mean, he was reelected. He abandoned the House. SHIELDS: Do you think that's what Bush is doing on energy?

CARLSON: Yes. Kay Bailey Hutchison in fact is proposing her own tax incentives for energy.

SHIELDS: Last word Margaret Carlson. We will be back. In our second half hour with the news maker of the week, Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, our look beyond the beltway at what's happening in Russia, with former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, 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 the full gang: Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson. Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, the chief deputy Democratic whip.

John Lewis, age 61; residence, Atlanta; religion, Baptist; graduate of American Baptist Theological Seminary; civil rights activist starting in 1959; director of Action Program, Carter administration, 1977-1980; Atlanta city councilman, 1981-1986; elected to U.S. Congress 1986. Al Hunt interviewed Congressman John Lewis earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNT: Congressman, you're going to receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage for lifetime achievement on Monday. Tomorrow was 40 years ago that you were beaten and bloodied in Montgomery, Alabama during the freedom rides. What are the most vivid lessons that you take from those civil rights days?

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: More than anything else, the movement taught me never ever to give up, to give in or to give out, but to be faithful to what I believe in, keep pushing, keep moving, not to become bitter, not to become hostile; don't become hateful because hate is too heavy a burden to bear.

HUNT: You had a very clear-cut agenda in those day, equal rights for all Americans. Is there a clear-cut agenda for African-Americans today?

LEWIS: I think there is a clear-cut agenda for, not just for African-Americans, but for all Americans. We must continue to move toward the building a truly interracial democracy. When we see racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism, we must speak out.

HUNT: Certainly, over the last 40 years, blacks have made an enormous progress in voting and in employment, housing, politics but the criminal justice system today, one in three African-Americans, young African-Americans are somehow involved in that system; only 12 percent of the population, but 74 percent of people in jail today for drugs are African-Americans. Is this a pathological problem for blacks or is it a civil rights issue? LEWIS: I think this is a major civil rights issue for blacks, but for all Americans. We cannot have a peaceful and orderly society if we continue down this road where hundreds and thousands of our young African-Americans, especially young African-American males, become victims of the criminal justice system.

HUNT: Some say there's a void of leadership in black America today, compared to the days of Martin Luther King and others. Do you think there is, and if not, who are the leaders of African-Americans today?

LEWIS: There's no one person that comes close to a Martin Luther King Jr., but we have many fine individuals, national, regional leaders, but local and indigenous leaders, and there's plenty of people. You see some in the Congress. You see black mayors. You see college presidents, black ministers.

I've always felt that you do need someone or somebody who is the essence or the personification of that movement, of that cause, and we don't have that one person, but people tend to emerge and I think in due season, maybe someone will emerge.

HUNT: The campaign finance bill passed the Senate. In the House, I think it's called the Meehan-Shays bills, and the Congressional Black Caucus is divided over it. You have been a primary proponent. Does campaign finance reform -- should it matter to black voters?

LEWIS: Campaign finance reform should matter to black voters and especially black elected officials and those who would like to become elected officials. Too many of my colleagues, black and white, spend too much of their time dialing for dollars. That's not the way to run a government.

HUNT: The majority of African-Americans were not born when you were being beaten in Montgomery, Alabama and marching across the Edmund Pettis bridge. Do you think that the majority of African- Americans will fully appreciate and understand the sacrifices that your generation made?

LEWIS: I don't think the great majority of black youth or any group really understands what we did. You know, we believed in an idea. We didn't have a cellular telephone. We didn't even have a fax machine. We never heard of the Internet. We went out, and we put our bodies on the line to change America, to make America something better and different.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, nobody in America in public live more deserves the Profile in Courage Award more than John Lewis, but was he indicating a lack of agenda, a lack of leadership in the civil rights movement.

HUNT: I think, to some extent, if you read between the lines, he was saying that, certainly on the agenda. It was interesting, he talked about the fact that there is no one really prominent one African-American leader. He mentioned a group of people in different professions, Congress and mayors. One person he didn't fit into any of those groups was Jesse Jackson, who was not mentioned. I would just add to what you said, though, he does deserve -- this is one of the most courageous men of all time, a really wonderful, wonderful American.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: The courage that John Lewis showed in fighting racism and racist laws in the South, we don't have that situation now. That's why there's no agenda and no leadership because all the black caucus is coming out for is more government, more spending, more racial quotas in favor of blacks. It isn't anything that creates John Lewises or Martin Luther Kings.

SHIELDS: Margaret.

CARLSON: Well, there isn't anything as dramatic as the hoses and the dogs and all of that; it's much more subtle and much harder to get at because it isn't right there on the surface and it isn't right in your face. But surely, the number of blacks in jail as opposed to going to college; all these things are terrible problems that remain. Look at the voting in florida. You know, only poor black people had the voting machines that didn't work.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: What ought to be at the top of a new civil rights agenda, of course, ought to be school choice for low-income, largely minority kids trapped in failing schools, but the black community is not well-served by this incredible loyalty to the Democratic Party. They ought to have the parties fighting over their support. When it came time to appoint a senator to fill the seat of Senator Coverdell, John Lewis should have been appointed. This civil rights hero, an experienced Washington hand, but the bill never becomes due for the loyalty blacks give to the Democratic Party.

SHIELDS: He would have been a better Democratic vote than Zell Miller.

HUNT: It was government that solved the civil rights problems, that gave blacks the right to vote, the right to go to public accomodation; it was government that did that.

NOVAK: It was government in the South that was createing the oppression.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Absolutely.

SHIELDS: And it took national leadership to do it and to ratify the bill of rights.

(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: No, it was local government that was doing it, Bob.

HUNT: Up next, our look "Beyond the Beltway" at the state of affairs in Russia with former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, who just returned from Moscow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. "Beyond the Beltway" this week looks at what's happening in Russia under President Vladimir Putin, including a crackdown on the news media. The country's only private national news broadcast outlet, NTV, was seized last month. Secretary of State Colin Powell indicated his concern with that development after his meeting yesterday with the Russian foreign minister.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I emphasized our interest in Russia's advancement along a path of democracy, rule of law and economic reform. We also discussed the strong support we have for the independent media in Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Joining us now is James Schlesinger, former secretary of defense, CIA director and secretary of energy. He recently was in Russia on a visit arranged by the Nixon Center. Thanks for coming in, Jim.

JAMES SCHLESINGER, FRM. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Glad to be here.

SHIELDS: Jim Schlesinger, is Putin's Russia descending into dictatorship?

SCHLESINGER: Well, of course, we can't judge what the future is, but one is always interested in the alarms in the American press. What Putin is playing with is the constitution that Yeltsin put in place, which essentially privided an elected czar, and the simple reality is that when Yeltsin put it into place, we thought it was just grand.

A year ago, when putin came into office what was the American press saying? That he had to curb the oligarchs, he had to end the fragmentation represented by the independence of the governors. He has proceeded to do so and then we say that it's autocracy or possibly dictatorship.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak?

NOVAK: Jim, they are making out Gusinky, the guy from the NTS, the independent thing as a hero. He's somebody, I believe, who lives in Spain or pays taxes in Spain, is not a clean figure exactly. Isn't there some overdramatization by the media in this country about our brothers and sisters in Russia as to making heroes out of people who shouldn't be heroic? SCHLESINGER: Absolutely right. Gusinsky was one of the oligarchs that a year ago we said that Putin should curb, and he did not have a majority of stock in NKD. We keep telling the Russians they have to understand the rule of law and the capitalist system, and the majority of the stock was owned by Gazprom and others, and as a result, he was turned out. That's the capitalist system which we have certainly prosyletized in Russia.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Jim, despite the dramatic political changes in the old Soviet Union, aren't we now having frequent reminders that much has not changed about Russia? There's no tradition of a free press. You couldn't criticize the czar; you certainly couldn't criticize leaders of the Soviet Union, and now we're finding out that lack of tradition we're seeing on display in post-Soviet Russia.

SCHLESINGER: Well, I think that that is a telling point. There is no tradition of democracy, and aside from the oligarchs and the governors, there was nothing in the way of a civil society, and as a consequence, when Putin did what we urged him to do, which was to end the fragmentation and to curb the oligarchs, he suddenly begins to appear like an elected czar, which the Yeltsin constitution says he should be.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Jim, let me just follow up on Kate's observation. There was a survey a few weeks ago I read in "The Financial Times" from something called the Center for Political Technology in Moscow, which I think is an independent think tank, they said 79 percent of Russians, of Russian people think that the break-up of the USSR was a mistake; over half see NATO as an adversary; they have real reservations about free markets or democracy. Is that a source for concern?

SCHLESINGER: Well, I think it's a source of concern, but with regard to NATO, one must recall that we told The russians that it was all right to expand NATO because NATO had always been a defensive alliance and then when Milosevic misbehaved, we started bombing Serbia, which has historic connections to Russia. We had reassured them.

We now talk about expanding into the Baltic states. If I were a Russian, I would not be completely at ease about that, and when we were in Moscow, one of the questions that was put to us, how would you like to have NATO troops 60 miles from St. Petersburg if you were Russian?

SHIELDS: Jim Schlesinger, nine years of national impoverishment, business dominance by mobster, a dramatic decline the Russian military, privatization scandals galore; where is there good news. whether its Putin or Yeltsin or anywhere else, in Russia today?

SCHLESINGER: The good news is that the oil market has turned up and that there has been improvement in this last year of the standard of living in Russia. If one goes to Moscow or St. Petersburg, the people there are better off than they were a year ago, and in addition, they are a lot happier than they were under the Soviet system. One can see that in the streets. One cannot believe the change in the attitude of the people between Soviet days and today if one vistis those cities.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: We mostly hear the bad news about what's going on there. Now, Putin and Bush are meeting next month, and with so much going on and their first meeting, what would you or the Nixon Center put at the top of the agenda for President Bush?

SCHLESINGER: Well, I think that the Russians are going to put the question of strategic stability at the top of the center. I believe that was the central feature of Minister Ivanov's conversations with the president and with Secretary Powell.

The overall relationship is something that we should be concerned about. The administration did not start off in responding to Russian pleas to meet with Putin at an early point. That is now corrected. The president will meet with Putin in june. He will see him again at the G7 meeting in July, and then at the APEC meeting I believe in August.

So there will be three meetings, and they will begin, I think, to eliminate some of the concerns on the Russian part that there was an attitude of hostility and a new Cold War. Actually, if you compare this with previous transitions between the parties, from the Republicans to Democrats under Carter, or from Carter -- from Democrats to Republicans at the start of the Reagan administration, this has been a comparatively smooth adjustment with regard to our American-Russian relations.

NOVAK: Let me just make a brief comment, I think the big problem is too many Americans want to do the same thing with Russia that they want to do with China, make it look like Iowa, and we're just never going to make that happen.

SHIELDS: That's the final word. Jim, we appreciate what you told us. Novak is another matter altogether. Thank you very much, Secretary Jim Schlesinger, and THE GANG will be back with the "Outrage of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week." Last January, the dean of conservative columnists wrote, quote: "The unprecedented trashing of White House offices by departing Clinton aides included cut wires, pornographic pictures in fax machines, and garbage in refrigerators, sabotage of telephone, fax, and e-mail communications, blocking out the White House for the Bush takeover's first days," end quote.

Malicious conduct if true, but the only malice were totally made- up chrages fabricated by Bush aides who claim they want a new, civil tone in Washington. People who spread these ugly untruths owe the public an apology to Clinton staffers and American voters -- Robert Novak.

NOVAK: Janet Reno gave a TV interview in Miami last night that became front-page news nationwide this morning. She talked about running for governor of Florida next year; this by one of the nation's worst attorney generals ever, who was always out of touch and never in control. She actually might be frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. Would Florida Democrats nominate the woman who ordered the seizure of Elian Gonzalez, costing Al Gore the state and the presidency? Perhaps Democrats deserve this fate, but it's still an outrage.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Go girl. Mayor Rudy Giuliani declared eternal love for and came to the defense of his mistress in a press conference. Quote: "I feel very bad for her, more than anyone else, because she deserves it the least." Oh, really? What do his children deserve? A father who trashes their mother?

Rudy's lawyer said his estranged wife was, quote, "howling like a stuck pig" because she didn't want Rudy bringing his mistress home. This one-time morality czar tried to shut down strip clubs and museums offensive to Catholics. He's become offensive to Catholics. Can someone shut him down?

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: During her first weeks in office, Attorney General Janet Reno made a precipitous decision that resulted in the death of 80 Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. Now, new Attorney General John Ashcroft has a controversy of his own, with liberals complaining that Ashcroft begins each day at the office with a short Bible study session. The left's criticisms reflect a mindless hostility to religious expression when it's clear that Janet Reno might have benefited from a little divine guidance.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Janet Reno did not trash the White House. I just want that on record. Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott, in a desperate procedural effort to kill campaign finance reform, refused to send the Senate-passed bill to the House. His fellow conservative, Mississippi Republican Thad Cochran, called this action arbitrary and a violation of the rules. The Senate then voted 61-to-39 vote to slap down the majority leader. Republican Congressman Chris Shays said this was just a, quote, "stupid play," end quote, by Lott. Stupid may be charitable.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. "CNN TONIGHT" is next.

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