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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Former Vice Presidential Jack Kemp Talks About the Senate Power Shift and Tax Cuts

Aired May 26, 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 the Republican vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp.

Great to have you back, Jack.

JACK KEMP (R), FRM. VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.

SHIELDS: Good to have you here. Senator James Jeffords of Vermont returned to his home state to make an announcement that transforms the balance of power in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JAMES JEFFORDS (R), VERMONT: I will leave the Republican Party and become an independent. Control of the Senate will be changed by my decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The basic reason, he indicated, was the election of George W. Bush as president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFFORDS: It is only natural to expect that people like myself who have been honored with positions of leadership will largely support the president's agenda. And yet, more and more, I find I cannot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Moderate Republican senators pleaded with him to stay in the GOP.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFFORDS: I could see the anguish and the disappointment as I talked, so I told them I would not make my final decision until I had time on my way to Vermont to decide, and I did leave it open. But I could not justify not going forward with my decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, was it a principle or personal pique that led Jim Jeffords to this historic decision.

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Mark, Republicans were speed- dialing over town yesterday to try to convince us that Jeffords was such a quirky, odd guy that he did this on the basis of he wasn't invited to the White House for a ceremony honoring a Vermont teacher of the year. But anybody who watched Jeffords and anybody who knows Jeffords, he's never met a camera or a sound bite he likes. He's not a grandstander.

As much as they tried to dress him up in a clown suit and a floppy hat, and one senior White House official said yesterday, there's something funny there, he just isn't that. He's a man of principle and he switched parties, but not identities. He is a man who is a rare breed now, a moderate Republican, and he gave word to what some of us have not been able to, which is that Bush campaigned as a moderate, but he's been governing as an arch-conservative.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, do you agree with Margaret?

ROBERT NOVAK, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Not at all. This was not principle and it was not pique. It was expediency. It was a carefully calculated decision by Jeffords. This was the moment where he could bargain with the Democrats for a committee chairman. If he waited a little longer, perhaps one of the -- Senator Thurmond was no longer around, he's 98 years old, the moment would be gone.

And so while he didn't -- his great friends in the Republican Party, his lifetime home, he did not say a word while he bargained for weeks with the Democrats. He even misled them into thinking they had a chance to keep him when they had the meeting on Wednesday when he went up to Burlington, said he was going to make up his mind. He had already made up his mind.

So, it was carefully calculated decision, and the fact that he is a liberal means that the media says he's a man of principle. If he had been a conservative, they would have looked at it and said it was an act of expediency.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, Richard Shelby, of course, in 1994, after Republicans took over the Senate, became a Republican. I don't recall brother Novak at that point talking about negotiations and power and grabs.

AL HUNT, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Bob -- or Mark, because I revered Bob for so long, I all of keep his clips in my office, and I went back, as a matter of fact, and read those '94 clips on Shelby and '95 clips on Ben Nighthorse Campbell, and they were men of great courage and conviction. I guess, you know...

NOVAK: If you can find I ever called Ben Nighthorse Campbell a man of courage, I will buy you a meal.

HUNT: You're absolutely right. You did not, and you never used the term expedient on anybody becoming a Republican in your whole life. That I will guarantee, and I'll buy you any amount of meals you want if you can find an example of that. This, to call Jim Jeffords a sinister, Machiavellian schemer, is just utterly absurd. It's clap trap, Mark.

This is a guy who's a straight arrow. He's not a very good politician, except in his home state. He's a guy who was deeply offended by a number of things. It wasn't even the White House invitation. He offered amendment to the budget for more money for special education. You can argue that's a good or a bad idea.

The Republicans treated that like pork, like it was giving some tax cut to some fat cat contributor. I mean, this is special education. These are kids, these are retarded kids, and it was just outrageous. It was arrogance on the part of the White House and the administration; the same kind of arrogance that caused Dick Shelby to become a Republican in 1994. And if they want to keep up the arrogance, they could lose Lincoln Chafee and they could lose John McCain, too.

SHIELDS: On that subject, special education, Jack Kemp, I just have to make one point, that was in the Republican caucus, a Republican senator said special education is not a Republican issue, to which Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said, if special education is not a Republican issue, then I'm not a Republican.

KEMP: Yes, it is and it should be a Republican issue, but it isn't the issue of the day or the moment. With all due respect, Jim is a liberal Republican or was a liberal Republican. He was against cutting tax rates across the board, he is against energy production incentives, he is against personalizing Social Security or parts of the Social Security system, he's against missile defense, he's against about the whole DNA of at least the Reagan wing of the Republican Party.

And I disagree, Margaret, you're a friend, but George Bush is not arch-conservative. He added $513 billion of federal spending to education over the next 10 years. They moderated the tax bill to suit Jim Jeffords and Teddie Kennedy. This was not principle. I think the committee assignment did have something to do with it, but I make the point to Al, never in our history have we had one member of Congress switch parties in such a way after two months after being elected as a -- from his own party and throw the House or the Senate into the hands of the Daschle-Gephardt wing of the Democratic Party. I think it's a disaster for Jim. I say it out of sadness not anger.

SHIELDS: I will say this -- go ahead, Margaret.

CARLSON: I was going to say that Jeffords had power in his own party. He wasn't bargaining for something he couldn't otherwise have.

NOVAK: But he didn't tell his own colleagues about it, and Margaret, I tell you, I talked to a lot of people at the White House and a lot of people in the leadership, nobody said -- nobody at all said he did it out of pique because he wasn't invited to the teachers league. That's one of the silliest things in the world, but the idea was that he had this in his mind even last year. He has been torpedoing his own party for years. He torpedoed them when he had that ridiculous October Surprise investigation, how Reagan stole the 1980 election. He was the one Republican vote on the Foreign Relation Committee. If this wasn't a 50-50 Senate, you'd say good riddance. Good riddance.

HUNT: Have you ever heard Bob Novak talk about Zell Miller torpedoing the Democratic Party?

SHIELDS: I hadn't heard that, and I'm kind of fascinated because I hadn't heard this litany of misbehavior and treason about Jim Jeffords before this. I will say this. This is the ugliest...

NOVAK: I've written about it, you just didn't read it.

SHIELDS: Bob, I try to read everything...

NOVAK: I tried to send it to you.

HUNT: I collect all the clips.

SHIELDS: Do you? OK. I will say this: This is the ugliest time imaginable in D.C. because the social suck-ups and the power groupies...

NOVAK: Are you calling me a social suck-up?

SHIELDS: ... are all of a sudden just -- the Democrats are now in control, and oh, my God almighty, they're rearranging...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: I'll tell you, you watch it in Washington, D.C. right now.

HUNT: And I'm glad to know, as Jack Kemp has now pointed out, that special education for poor retarded kids is not essential to the Republican Party.

NOVAK: It isn't a central issues.

KEMP: It isn't a central issue. It's an important issue.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: He says it's not.

NOVAK: He's saying it's not central.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: You changed the parameters.

KEMP: Bob, Al will not be happy until George Bush leaves the Republican Party and follows Jeffords into the Daschle-Gephardt party. SHIELDS: Last words, Jack Kemp. Jack Kemp and the gang will be back to look at the new Democratic-controlled Senate. It's not a Republican issue?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. With Senator Jeffords joining the Democratic caucus as an independent, Democrats will now take control of the Senate no earlier than June 5, with committee ratios and committee chairmanships changing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: To say we are excited would be an understatement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: What does not change with this new balance of power is the need for principled compromise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: The people's agenda is the same, and that's what we're here for. Our priorities are the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al, how different will the Senate be come June 5, or June 6? D-day, Al, Democrat day!

HUNT: Mark, substantively none at all. Procedurally, however, it will be quite different, and procedure sometimes matters, as we saw when the Republicans controlled the Congress for the last six years. There were a record number of judgeships that were just sat on, weren't acted on, there were bills that weren't scheduled on the floor. Daschle, who is the Democratic leader, has that kind of power if he chooses to exercise it.

I think there's a danger for Democrats in raised expectations, the idea they can suddenly pass a new agenda I think is wildly unrealistic, but this White House is going to have to deal with Tom Daschle right now, whether they like it or not. For two-and-a-half months George Bush has stepped, Daschle has not talked to him once. That will no longer be -- that will no longer be allowed, and I think that we are going to see a whole number of very interesting machinations over the next few weeks.

SHIELDS: Bob, "The Washington Times" said George Bush charms the nation after the first 100 days. Is he going to have to charm offensive against Tom Daschle and the Senate Democrats? NOVAK: Well, I certainly hope not. Lincoln Chafee, another one of these liberal Republicans from Rhode Island, says that Jeffords getting out means the president now has to move to the left. And if Chafee doesn't like the party, he should get out too. I don't see anything wrong, on a straightforward basis, without sneaking behind the scenes and negotiating, by people who don't believe in anything the Republican Party stands for, should get not, and maybe in the people's public -- Vermont, maybe they shouldn't have a Republican senator.

But I would say right now that the worst thing the president could do now is change his agenda, and appease them. They are still the same senators you had before, but I think it's going to be -- Al is exactly right, procedurally, with the committee chairmanships and the control of schedule, it's going to be tough.

SHIELDS: Margaret.

CARLSON: Bob might be willing to let them all go, but what I hear is that Olympia Snowe's calls will be returned now. Yesterday -- or Thursday at an armed services meeting, Pat Roberts goes and gives Republican Senator Susan Collins a big hug, and says, you know, we have been told to do this, and Lieberman goes over and hip checks him, and hugs Collins himself.

The moderates, not the liberals, the moderates will get a little more attention than they have gotten, and Bush will move a little bit to the center. He's been feeding the base and starving the middle since he got elected.

SHIELDS: Jack Kemp, there's a difference between you and Bob Novak, two tribunes of the conservative movement. You're always looking for converts. Novak is always looking for heretics. I mean, that's -- isn't it time the Republicans started looking for converts?

KEMP: Well, we have to, and we always have had to. What bothers me about this idea that Bush has to moderate -- he moderated his tax bill, he moderated the education bill.

NOVAK: Ruined the education bill.

KEMP: Yes -- he has Secretary of State Colin Powell in Africa, talking about the issues of trade, economic development, AIDS. This is a president who is in the center, albeit leaning right, and then John McCain, bless his heart, hero that he is, says there's no room for moderates in the Republican Party, you've got to grow up. That's a Barry Goldwater line, given the conservatives back in the old days when they had to grow up.

I think George Bush should continue to move forward on his agenda. He obviously has to work with Daschle. He's got to work with Republicans and Democrats, but he has a good agenda. In fact, if anything, we have to speed up the tax cut to get more growth, because if we don't have growth, Al, you can't get the revenues necessary to finance the programs that you're in love with.

CARLSON: Democrats tried to speed it up, to get it to the people who are going to spend it, but that didn't work.

KEMP: Oh, that is...

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, let me just ask you: will George W. Bush be able to do to Tom Daschle what Bill Clinton did so effectively to Newt Gingrich, that is to become the foil against whom he runs for re- election?

HUNT: I doubt that because Daschle is a much more skilled inside politician than Newt Gingrich ever was, and of course, all I can hope for Jack Kemp is we have the kind of growth that we had after the 1993 tax increase. We had unprecedented growth...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: ... we've gone eight years.

KEMP: If you are going to a recession, would you raise taxes?

HUNT: We have had eight fat years since that tax increase, as I recall, and you know something?

KEMP: Would you raise taxes now?

HUNT: I will say Bush has gotten...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: ... Bush has gotten through both the tax cut, his tax cut, and the Olson appointment. The duds have gotten through, but it's going to be a lot tougher to get through in the future.

NOVAK: Let me say something about Daschle. Al and I interviewed him on "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS" today. He's a very clever man. He does not come over like Newt Gingrich. He comes over as sweet reasonableness, bipartisanship. There is nothing bipartisan about Tom Daschle. He wants surrender, and I would say that President Bush should treat him, should approach him with courtesy and lots of caution, because he's a dangerous fellow.

SHIELDS: Dangerous?

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Oh, dangerous for the Republicans, OK.

CARLSON: Because he's so good.

HUNT: That's not what John McCain says. John McCain says he has an easy time working with him.

NOVAK: Well, he's a dangerous fellow, too.

HUNT: Oh, I see!

NOVAK: He's more dangerous than Daschle! SHIELDS: I want to get this straight. We've got Jeffords, we've got Chafee, McCain and Daschle, all dangerous. Anybody else wants to ride out of...

NOVAK: I'll tell you who I admire. One of my heroes is Zell Miller. I think he's really -- he's being a principled Democrat...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Zell Miller went to the Democratic caucus on Thursday after Phil Gramm, who is like a missionary -- talk about trying to make converts -- been trying to pull him over for weeks. Zell Miller is not leaving.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Larry Craig, one of Bob's heroes says he used to sing with that quartet...

SHIELDS: The singing senators.

HUNT: I'm not singing with Jeffords anymore.

CARLSON: I'm not singing.

HUNT: Well, I'll tell you something, my 12-year-old could take lessons from that.

SHIELDS: Last word. Next on CAPITAL GANG, the tax bill passes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. The Senate's scheduled passage of President Bush's tax cut was slowed as Democrats offered 54 amendments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DASCHLE: How long will we go? We'll go until we've decided that we have been able to, as clearly as we can articulate, what the priorities should be in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOTT: It appears now that we're having a filibuster by amendment. I hope that at some point today we will work through any remaining amendments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The point was reached shortly after it became clear that Senator Jeffords was leaving the Republican Party. The tax cut bill passed the Senate 62 to 38, paving the way for final passage by Memorial Day. Bob Novak, isn't this tax triumph by President Bush overshadowed by losing control of the U.S. Senate?

NOVAK: Absolutely, in the front page news and all the stories. And all the stories...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... yes and what it was it was a great win, nobody, of course people around this table get a lot of things wrong -- I never thought it would happen. They said, the tax cut's going nowhere. The dirty secret is it's not a very good tax bill. It doesn't have a capital gains cut, it probably -- they will not get a 33 percent top rate. That is too high for me, and they're doing nothing on basic tax reform.

But you know what I say about that bill? It is better than nothing and nothing is what you get by the Democratic leadership who couldn't even keep their own troops in the Senate in line, what with their 12 Democratic votes for the bill.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, is Bob Novak right?

HUNT: Well, just about everything is, as a matter of fact. This is a great victory for George Bush. This is a bad bill. The only thing he's wrong on is that there should have been more. Everybody who goes to a Republican fund-raiser has gained from this bill. This is quid pro quo big time, I want to tell you. This is the most tilted, the most -- everybody who's privileged in America ought to be celebrating tonight because it is a bill that does almost nothing for the working poor, and it is tremendous for those people that Jack and I ski with in Vail, Colorado.

SHIELDS: Jack, shall we pop the champagne corks for all the wealthy?

KEMP: Well, Bob's right. And Margaret, now I seldom say you're wrong. You can't sit next to Margaret Carlson and call her wrong. Last week I watched her and she said oh, this is the end of government as we know it.

And I said, Margaret, lowering the rates across the board every time it's been done in this century has lead to an increase in economic growth, higher revenues for government with which to spend some of the money it needs to spend, and instead of giving tax relief to the rich, rich people will pay higher tax revenues into the federal government at a lower rate than they are or will at a rate at which they're encouraged look for shelters. And would you, Al, raised taxes in a recession? Is that what you're saying?

SHIELDS: Well, let's let Margaret, because you just praised her. You've (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) praise.

KEMP: When you're on this show, you've got to go in a lot of different directions at once.

SHIELDS: It's nice to know that Jack watches the show.

CARLSON: Yes, and I'm glad you hang on my every word, Jack.

NOVAK: And that's what you'll do on your words, you'll hang.

CARLSON: Even if you get them wrong.

KEMP: Did I get that wrong?

CARLSON: Yes.

KEMP: In what way? This is the end of government as you knew it.

CARLSON: What we don't know yet is which parts of government are going to suffer most. The only parts that Bob Novak or perhaps you, Jack, would care about is air traffic control, or beach erosion, but you know, if air traffic control doesn't grow over the next 10 years...

KEMP: What does that have to do with the tax cut?

CARLSON: But there's no money. There's going to be no money for it.

KEMP: There's a $6 trillion surplus.

CARLSON: In 10 years when the bill comes due there's not going to be money for basic services. We don't know where it's come from. The other part of it -- no, that bill was slightly improved -- slightly improved -- by adding things like the refundable tax credit for children of poor people who were going to get nothing in this tax bill.

SHIELDS: Do we know if that's going stay in?

CARLSON: We don't know.

SHIELDS: The president's glorious speech at my alma mater last Sunday up at Notre Dame, OK, about leaving no child behind in poverty, the White House has been silent on keeping in that credit.

NOVAK: It's a bad provision.

SHIELDS: It's a bad provision? For a single mom, Jack, making $20,000 thousand a year with two kids.

NOVAK: It's welfare.

(CROSSTALK)

KEMP: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) debate, you guys.

SHIELDS: It's the only poverty provision in that entire tax bill.

HUNT: Why are you trying to help the working poor?

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: We will be back with our "CAPITAL GANG Classic," the last time a U.S. senator changed parties.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. And now for the "Capital Gang Classic." The last change of parties by a U.S. senator occurred six years ago when Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado switched from Democrat to Republican. This is what the CAPITAL GANG said on March 4, 1995, with Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas as our guest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MARCH 4, 1995)

SHIELDS: The loss of Ben Nighthorse Campbell to the Republicans makes Democrats' chances of recapturing control of the Senate in 1996 a lot more difficult, doesn't it?

CARLSON: It's much worse although Senator Mark Hatfield may go down for voting against the balanced budget amendment.

SHIELDS: Dick Shelby was not a big loss for the Democrats because he never voted with them, but Ben Campbell did vote with the Democrats.

HUNT: Well, he's a very independent, maverick sort of a fellow. He will continue to be a very independent maverick sort of a fellow and it may actually position him better in the state of Colorado than he would have been were he to have faced a tough Democratic primary in 1998.

SHIELDS: Not good news for the Democrats.

CARLSON: No, not good news for the Democrats and it will position him in Colorado but he will vote with the Democrats any number of times. And he does not look at home in the Republican party.

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: I think it is a big deal. I think that Ben Nighthorse Campbell made a courageous decision. It's difficult to switch parties but he made that decision and he did it on principle and I think it's terrific.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, who was correct about how well Senator Campbell would fit into the Republican Party? Now it was nice to hear Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator Hutchison, say he's a man of principle and did it on principle.

NOVAK: I disagree. He was a courageous person but she was right and you were wrong that he would fit in very well. And Al referred to him as a maverick. He's not a maverick. He's been a down-the-line Republican.

Margaret said that he would be uncomfortable in the Republican party and he'd vote a lot with the Democrats. He never votes with the Democrats, and I'll tell you a little thing, as much as Jim Jeffords voted with the Democrats as a Republican, he will vote with them even more as a Democrat and hell move even further to the left just as Ben Nighthorse Campbell moved to the right when he changed parties.

SHIELDS: Margaret.

CARLSON: He does vote at time with the Democrats, Bob. And the last time I had occasion to think about Ben Nighthorse Campbell was the time when he changed.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: I will say this, when he did switch, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut observed, you know the Democrats are in trouble when the guy driving the motorcycle with the pony tail becomes a Republican.

(LAUGHTER)

HUNT: Just to add a fact, Bob, I did a little research which I'll be glad to share with you after the show. Forty budget votes, 10 times he voted with the majority Democrats two months ago. And the tax bill that just went up -- his office just told me he was, they bragged -- he was the only Democrat to vote for an after tax credit. So he is still a maverick...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: See, Al, he's much more comfortable in the Republican Party, but he remains a maverick, Mark.

CARLSON: So, I wasn't wrong.

KEMP: I'm glad he came over to the Republican Party. Trent Lott did it. I want to say, Margaret Carlson looks younger today than she did on that clip.

(CROSSTALK)

KEMP: Your economics are terrible but you are gorgeous.

(CROSSTALK)

KEMP: You make the best case for the worst ideas I've ever heard.

SHIELDS: Jack Kemp, thank you for being with us. We'll be back in our second half hour with the "Newsmaker of the Week," Marine Corps Commandant General James Jones.

"Beyond the Beltway" looks at the impact of the Mitchell Report on violence in the Middle East with CNN's Richard Roth in New York and our outrages of the week. All after a check of the hour's top news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: From Washington: THE CAPITAL GANG.

SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Margaret Carlson.

Our "Newsmaker of the Week" on this Memorial Day weekend is the commandant of the United States Marine Corps, General James Jones.

James L. Jones: age, 57; residence: Washington, D.C.; graduate: Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. Thirty-four years in the Marine Corps, including combat in Vietnam; became 32nd Marine commandant on July 1, 1999.

Al Hunt sat down with General Jones earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNT: General, this is Memorial Day weekend. What, to you, is the meaning of Memorial Day?

GEN. JAMES JONES, COMMANDANT, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Well, Memorial Day is one of our special holidays, as you know, in this great country. For those of us in uniform and for all Americans it gives us an opportunity to pause and reflect on the heroic accomplishments of our nation and of our men and women in uniform.

HUNT: This weekend, also, we'll see the premiere of the big new movie, "Pearl Harbor," which celebrates the sacrifices Americans made after that Japanese attack. Your father, your uncle were World War II veterans, part of what Tom Brokaw's called the greatest generation. Would Americans today make the same sort of sacrifices if called upon?

JONES: Oh, I think so. One of the things I'm always very enthusiastic about is when I talk to the young people who voluntarily join the Marine Corps; and their motivation is the same as it was for me and, I think, for my father, my uncle, and people of that greatest generation: love of country, a desire to serve and make a difference.

HUNT: Over the past years-or-so, senators and veterans Bob Kerrey, Chuck Robb, Dale Bumpers and the late John Chafee all have left and been replaced by non-veterans. Neither the president nor the vice president have seen active military duty.

Does it matter that our political leaders don't have much military experience?

JONES: What matters, Al, I think is that the leaders that are, in fact, involved in national security issues do passionately care about it. Although, in some cases, it makes it easier because you have a different frame of reference to start from; but it can certainly be an acquired experience. And it's the role of people like myself to make sure that we communicate that importance. HUNT: The priorities of the Pentagon now, it is widely reported, are space, missile defense and intelligence. Does that suggest that the current level of American ground troops is passe in today's world?

JONES: I don't think so, Al. I think that the process of developing our future strategy is very much embryonic. We are discussing it actively in the -- within my community, the joint chiefs, with the secretary of defense and, of course, ultimately with the Congress and the people of the United States.

We think that being engaged in the world is not so much being there to win wars all the time, although that's what we have to do if we have to, but it's to engage, and it's to shape, and it's to prevent conflict as much as it is to fight an win wars.

HUNT: One of the thorniest problems you face is the Osprey helicopter-airplane hybrid. As you know, 23 Marines have died in two crashes. Critics say that you've already spent $12 billion in 18 years of development, $30 billion more projected.

In the current defense review, possibly is it time to pull the plug on the Osprey?

JONES: I don't think so; and I think the independent panel that just reported its findings has really validated the technology as being, not only mature technology but, to quote one of the panel members, "a national asset." Regrettably, aviation is still not a zero-defect science; accidents are going to happen. We mourn our losses, but we should not be afraid to embrace the technology if it's mature. And this panel validated that maturity.

HUNT: General, all the other services have had difficulty meeting their manpower quotas, yet for years the Marine Corp has not had trouble. What lessons could the other branches learn from the corp?

JONES: Our recruiting force is composed of very dedicated United States Marines and their families. We compete amongst each other, we compete with a vibrant economy. And so, what convinces young people to join has to be for reasons other than the paycheck. It has to do with the quality of life, the quality of service, the sense of mission, the desire to belong to an organization that values the contributions of the whole rather than the individual.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, does General Jones convey something that's just inherent Marines, or is it just superb public relations?

HUNT: No one would ever accuse the Marines on lagging on PR, Mark, but General Jones is authentic, a man of great courage and character as well as considerable intellect. He also told me in that question about why they are so successful in recruiting, that one of the real secret weapons in the Marine Corps is the alumni, distinguished alumni like Corporal Shields.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, there has never been a Marine to head the joint chiefs of staff. And I mean...

NOVAK: The other services will conspire all they can to prevent that from ever happening. I think there is a special quality. One of the special qualities is that there's less co-educational treatment in the Marines than in the other branches of the services. There is a ruling in the other services, and they are keeping the sexes, the genders separate.

But I rarely admit I am wrong, particularly that you were right and I was wrong, but I used to be a great advocate of all volunteer force, and I really do believe when you asked him about our present political leaders never having worn the uniform, I think this is a corrosive problem, and I think the fact that all the young people, people who work here, none of them will ever serve in the military, I think the all volunteer service has been a mistake.

SHIELDS: Takes a big man to admit you're wrong, Bob, and I hate to admit you're a big man. Go ahead, Margaret.

CARLSON: I absolutely agree with Bob on that point. I don't agree with you on the co-ed nature, I think -- do you disagree with the co-ed nature of this panel or just the co-ed nature of the military?

NOVAK: I'd rather not say.

CARLSON: All right, I'll let you pass on that one. There aren't enough Corporal Shields in the Marines or any branch of the service now, and what a good thing would be would be to recognize that a volunteer military is fine, but that we would all benefit, women and men, from having two years of service to something larger than ourselves.

SHIELDS: Very good. Margaret Carlson, last word.

Up next: our look "Beyond the Beltway" at the Mitchell report and the reaction in the Middle East, with CNN's senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth in New York.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. "Beyond the Beltway" this week looks at the report of the international committee headed by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell and established at the October 2000 summit in Sharm El-Sheikh.

After seven more months of death, the Mitchell commission called for an immediate cease-fire, resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks, a freeze on Jewish settlements and end to Palestinian attacks and the use of lethal force by both sides.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE MITCHELL, CHAIRMAN, MIDEAST COMMISSION: End the violence, that must be the immediate aim. The cycle of violent action and violent reaction must be broken. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Richard Roth, CNN's senior U.N. correspondent joins us now from New York. Thanks for being with us, Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Mark.

SHIELDS: Richard, did the Mitchell report have any immediate impact on the violence, or on the U.N.?

ROTH: Well, there was a bit of a lull in the violence on a day such as Wednesday when one flash point said not a single bullet was fired, but by week's end, it was business as usual. Two car bomb attacks in central Israel, one of them Hamas, Islamic Jihad claiming responsibility, Palestinians saying that Israeli soldiers fired on Palestinians in the Gaza section, and two youths were killed there, one of them a deaf bystander who the Palestinians say, couldn't hear that the fighting had started.

At the U.N., there's a lot of discussion but it has not moved back into the security council, Palestinians hopeful that the U.S. can pull off something, but they're ready to try for a third attempt to back into the council.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Of course, the big supporters of Israel just hated the Mitchell report, because it did not say that Israel is the victim of the Palestinian terrorists. It said both sides have to stop the violence.

But I just think that, as I expected with Ariel Sharon as the prime minister in Israel, that the idea of using F-16 sophisticated warships going into inhabited areas to fight terrorism is just outrageous. It hurts the United States, and it hurts Israel. I don't know, Richard, do you think that there's ever been a point where the Israelis were any weaker at the U.N. than they are today?

ROTH: There have been, I think, worse moments for them there, but certainly after a flouring of relations and hence of that in the '90s, the Zionism racism resolution was annulled in the General Assembly, and Israeli diplomats were seen quite openly talking to some of the Arab delegations, the big freeze is on.

The Israelis are hoping that something could happen here, but they have a very low profile there, and of course, Israel is the focus of many resolutions, much more than Russia on Chechnya or China on Tibet, or the U.S. on other issues. Some have alleged a deep double standard there. Not a big moment for Israel there, but they are quite used to it.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Richard, Clinton was criticized for being so intimately involved in the Israeli peace talks right to the very last moment he turned out the lights in the White House. Bush has been criticized for not being involved enough. In fact, I think there's only been two phone calls between Bush and Arafat and Sharon since he took over. Is he going to get more involved? Does he need to get more involved to bring an end to the violence?

ROTH: Well, I think that's going happen. It's hard to avoid. I think every president comes into office saying they're going to do maybe things a little bit differently. Bush wanted to distance himself from Clinton's total involvement, personal and the government involvement and start fresh, but the big spate of violence in the last few weeks has forced the Secretary of State Powell to get more involved, or at least his department.

Though he's been tip-toeing away from personal involvement, William Burns, U.S. ambassador to Jordan, is going to be meeting with Yasser Arafat on Sunday. This is what everyone hopes will get things going. The Mitchell report could be the basis, or give both sides a way to say, all right, let's start talking -- but we've heard this before.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Richard, let me just follow up on that. I mean, I can understand why Colin Powell wants to tiptoe away from deep involvement, because it looks like a quagmire so often, but isn't it true that the U.N. can debate resolutions and they condemn things and not condemn other things, but only -- the only way you force action in the Middle East is for an active United States involvement? Isn't Colin Powell and Dennis Ross' successor going to have to get really actively involved?

ROTH: It's still the only, quote, "honest broker." The Europeans, of course, would dearly love to get involved more, and Russia is always there on the sidelines, but it always turns out this way. I mean, look back at the Camp David accords, Jimmy Carter and other breakthroughs, it is always the U.S. political muscle, the backing.

It will be the U.S. that in the end, if there's any type of agreement that's going rally support to get countries to contribute troops, perhaps to be there as some part of a buffer zone or a peacekeeping force in the making. Right now, Israel doesn't want to see any type of international force, the Palestinians would love it.

The U.S. is always going to have to be there. Maybe things are going to have to get a lot worse, though, before the Bush administration decides they can be there, but they don't want to get involved in a losing bet right now.

NOVAK: But the bad part right now is the failure of the last years of the 1999 -- the last year, 2000, the last-ditch peace attempt by President Clinton has left a situation now where the present Israeli government and their very ardent Jewish supporters in this country are playing the blame game against former Prime Minister Barak, saying he gave away the whole store and Arafat turned him down cold, and there's the lead article of the current issue of "Commentary" Magazine. I read "Commentary" from cover to cover. CARLSON: Congratulations.

NOVAK: Thank you, and it is a piece saying that you can't do business with the Palestinians, and they have all these quotes by Palestinians saying, we have to get rid of the Jewish homeland. Most of them are dug back to 1947, of course, but nonetheless, they've all been dredged out, and I just find just find such an era of pessimism. Do you find any more optimism, Richard, that the Sharm el-Sheikh report, the Mitchell Committee will have any effect, any of its points will be acted upon in the current climate?

ROTH: Well, I've got tell you, somewhat surprisingly, the Palestinian envoy at the U.N., Nasser Al-Kidwa, seemed almost surprised himself at what he said. The Mitchell report was fair, and that's what the Palestinians are looking for, and they were impressed that it was an international panel, not a U.N. body, and they think it has some clout behind it.

NOVAK: That's good.

ROTH: But yes, things can change overnight. But they're looking now at the Mitchell report as a document. The Palestinians and others say there are security council resolutions on the books, and Israel is not complying with them.

NOVAK: And Israel...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: I'm sorry, Israel didn't like the Mitchell report, though.

SHIELDS: The Sharon government.

(CROSSTALK)

ROTH: They don't like the settlement aspect of it, but they still gave grudging support, at least, and both sides cooperated with it, according to Mitchell, but they couldn't go anywhere without the support of these governments. So, they weren't able to subpoena power witnesses.

SHIELDS: I agree with Bob about Sharon, but don't think we ought to let Arafat off the hook. I think everyone, Richard, I think you would agree that Arafat really did fail to step up to the plate last year and that's a real -- that's a problem over there.

ROTH: Well, there's the famous quote, of course, that Palestinian opponents say they never failed to miss an opportunity, but it's a long game there. He's used to it. He got out of Beirut under Sharon, and who would have thought nearly 20 years later Sharon would be leading Israel and Arafat is still commanding the Palestinians and no agreement.

I guess a lot of people would have agreed and predicted there would be no agreement, but you don't hear people at the U.N. condemn Arafat. The U.N. General Assembly membership, 189 countries, most of them predominantly supporting the Palestinians, and will be happy when there's a peace accord, but are not going to be looking, running through the security council, saying we need a peace accord now.

SHIELDS: Richard Roth, thanks for being with us. The gang will be back with the "Outrage of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week." Thanks to "The Washington Post"'s Al Kamen, we know that when one Oregon congressman tried to enter the United States Department of Energy to give a speech which he had been invited to give, he was denied admission by two guards. Why? Could it be that David Wu is the only Chinese-American ever elected to Congress? Sadly, that is the apparent and ugly explanation.

Massachusetts Congressman Michael Capuano, a Caucasian, faced no questions, no hold-up. This is truly an outrage in our proudly color- blind America -- Bob Novak.

NOVAK: As Republican control of the Senate neared its end, Ted Olson this week was confirmed as solicitor general of the United States by a 51 to 47 vote. Forty-seven votes against a supremely well-qualified lawyer, and only two Democrats, Zell Miller of Georgia and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voting for him. Here is a signal of hard times ahead for judicial nominees who, like Olson, are qualified but conservative. That's bipartisanship, Democratic style.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, Republican sugar daddies came to collect their goodies last week at the Vice President Dick Cheney's mansion. They dined grandly and drank fine wines. But this wasn't a fund-raiser, just an event attended by donors. Sound a little Clintonian? But Bush and Cheney dare to go where no Democrat has gone before; their fattest cats got face time with the Cabinet secretary of their choice. Three cabinet secretaries, still able to feel shame, canceled those meetings. Maybe a controlling legal authority could keep the rest of them from being auctioned off.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: And there's more, Margaret. Curtis Hebert, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, tells "The New York Times" he got a phone call from Kenneth Lay, chairman of Enron, the huge energy company and a big contributor to George Bush. Mr. Hebert says he was told, quote: "Change your views on electricity deregulation, and I'll help you keep your job," end quote.

Another FERC candidate says he was, quote, "interviewed," en quote, by Enron's Mr. Lay. The Clinton administration's pandering to contributors was a scandal; Bush-Cheney apparently permitting fat cats to help pick regulators friendly to them is even more obscene.

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

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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