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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Should Bush Take Working Vacations?; How Was Al Gore's Reemergence Received?; What Is Congressman Gary Condit's Political Situation?

Aired August 18, 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.
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields with a full CAPITAL GANG -- that's Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.

In the wake of the stem cell research decision, President Bush ruled out further compromise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The statement I laid out was what I -- is what I -- what I -- what I think is right for America and any piece of legislation that undermines what I think is right will be vetoed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The president then declined further discussion and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) forth from his Texas ranch with what was called his "Home to the Heartland" tour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: There's also a grand vision embodied in these mountains and the vision is that we can teach our children right from wrong, and we can teach them good, sound values.

It's so important for us to tear down barriers and walls that might separate Mexico from the United States.

I like being the president of the greatest nation on the face of the earth, because we've got such great people in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, you just returned from a two weeks vacation yourself. How does the president's working vacation look to you in your fresh eyes?

AL HUNT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Mark, I prefer a non-working vacation and I would recommend it to the president, too. SHIELDS: You're right.

HUNT: It sometimes seems like a spinning vacation.

SHIELD: Spinning?

HUNT: Spinning stories every day. I mean, on the stem cell decision -- no matter what you think of the decision, this effort to paint the sort of the American political Rodin, the thinker who's there and come up and weighed all of the moral and scientific consequences and this non-negotiable conclusion. This is a moving target. It may cause problems for him down the road.

And I don't know quite what he was saying -- I mean, the Rockies -- the vision of the Rockies is that you teach children right from wrong. Between us, we've had nine kids. They all were raised in a swamp. I think we tried to teach them the difference between right and wrong. Cool it, Mr. President, have a vacation, you deserve it. If you like Crawford, Texas, who cares what the press thinks.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, the Rockies are a lot more moral than the Adirondacks, because they voted for Bush rather than Gore.

KATE O'BEIRNE, "NATIONAL REVIEW": He's got a much better backdrop than we have -- you've got to give him really high marks for that backdrop.

SHIELDS: Beach Crawford.

O'BEIRNE: There were some criticisms you remember in the spring. I think I echoed some of them. I thought there were -- I thought they were -- the president wasn't apparent enough, he wasn't visible enough. So I think during this month-long vacation from Washington, they are trying to and I think it's effective despite Al's opinion. You've been out of the country, Al, Americans love this sort of thing. I think he looks good. I think he looks comfortable.

I'm not exactly sure what the agenda is during these, policy-wise during this month. He's talking about these sort of softer virtues and character, I guess in anticipation of the new initiative they're going to unveil in the fall. He's got a lot of fights on his hands in the fall, though, on appropriations bills and patients' bill of rights.

I would suggest that his time might be better spent laying the groundwork during August for some of those fights on Capitol Hill in September. But I think his whole -- his vacation so far seems to have been a success.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, you're a product of the homeland -- the heartland -- the homeland -- wherever.

BOB NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": Wherever.

SHIELD: You are a product of it -- the land. But seriously, if Bill Clinton had gone around little schoolrooms and talked to first- graders, what would your reaction have been?

NOVAK: Gee, I think that's what he did.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: What was your reaction?

NOVAK: It's fine, I don't care. There's no -- there's no reason -- there's no way that George W. Bush can do well with people like Al Hunt. I mean, if he's -- if he's down in the rank, he's taking the longest vacation in the history of man since James K. Polk, and it's just terrible -- he's lazy. If he gets out, well, why -- what kind of spin is this -- it isn't really serious. My opinion, he might as well take a vacation. I don't think he has to go running around like this, but I think he looks good.

I agree with Kate, though, that he has to really start approaching some of these issues. And I don't think he has to do it in the month of August, but he has to tell why his programming's better. I don't think he's done a terribly good job of explaining a lot of these issues, and that has to start after Labor Day.

SHIELDS: Margaret, who's right here?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: The problem is why can't any of them take a quiet vacation? You know, rock stars name their tours "Home to the Heartland" or "Bruce Springsteen U.S.A." Presidents don't name their vacations and this one has been given a name. His staff is trying so hard.

And to put him in a tool belt like Jimmy Carter and 45 minutes at a single mother's home pounding in the nails to show that, as tape says, he's attuned to these softer issues.

The problem is, they read the polls and found out he was -- seemed to be in touch with the corporate bosses and out of touch with women and moderates. So he's trying to look a little softer. So he gives these vacuous comments about values and mountains that you can't quite track.

And, you know, in fact, he is from Texas. We already know that. He doesn't have to, you know, put on outfits and go out among the trees and pretend like he's an environmentalist when he wants to drill in ANWR, but he loves the trees on his own ranch. These two things don't really equate or balance out each other.

SHIELDS: I'll just say this, that ever since his race against Ken Tienes (ph), which he lost in 1978 for Congress when Tienes (ph) accused him of being Ivy League, Eastern establishment, elitist, and friend of polo players -- George Bush had been proving that he's a Texan. He loves Texas. He is the real thing, and he's going to prove that. Now that's part of it.

CARLSON: It seems genuine.

(CROSSTALK) SHIELDS: I agree -- I agree -- I agree it seems genuine but I will say this, remember the last president who really understood what a vacation was is Ronald Reagan who had the courage and the confidence to take one, and he never once called it the Western White House. Where did that come from?

NOVAK: That's ridiculous. But I think -- I think you just can't win with Margaret. I mean, gee, he likes to wear those clothes...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... he did.

NOVAK: It's totally genuine. It isn't a matter of Al Gore getting a consultant so he can wear beige suits. It's genuine, but it -- but it really doesn't really have much to do with being president. And I just -- I agree with you -- I just wish he would have taken a week off and Margaret and Al would say, "Why isn't he working?"

CARLSON: Wait a minute, Bob.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: He deserves a vacation. I never said that about Ronald Reagan, I never felt that about Ronald Reagan, I covered Ronald Reagan out there, and I wouldn't say it about George Bush.

SHIELDS: Was Ronald Reagan a friend of yours?

CARLSON: I made the point, Bob, that it was genuine. It's the effort...

SHIELDS: The artifice of...

CARLSON: ...that he's naming it. I'm just surprised they aren't giving out tee shirts. That strikes me as diva-ish without having the Reagan as your candidate.

HUNT: I want Bob to get the first tee shirt.

SHIELDS: Last word -- THE GANG of five will be back with a little help on the way from Don Rumsfeld -- very little help.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. The number two Pentagon official was asked whether a reduction in the restructure of the Unites States military is to be expected.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY: It's definitely possible. And again, I need to stress it's possible that it will stay roughly the same. I mean, I think it's fair to say no one is looking at major increases at this point, but...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: That followed slashing by Bush budget makers of Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's money request.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: If somebody wants to characterize it as something less than this department would have like or I would have like -- hell, I could do that. But that's life. That's true of every department of government. It's been true in every administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, what happened to George W. Bush's promise to men and women in uniform that there was help on the way?

NOVAK: Well, some slogans that are said during campaigns -- I think you know...

SHIELDS: Read my lips.

NOVAK: ... come back to haunt you. And this is a little bit embarrassing, but there has been help on the way. They have increased the defense budget, particularly in salary for the service people. They haven't gotten nearly -- not nearly as much money as the generals want, or as Don Rumsfeld wants.

But I am not unhappy about that. I am not a big military spender. I think they could use a little bit of other spending. I'm not sure we want to have a military that is running all over the world intervening in Balkan wars and getting into business that's not our own. So this is a little bit embarrassing for the Bush administration, but it might be good for the country.

SHIELDS: Is this the equivalent of "read my lips?"

CARLSON: The tax cut is what happened to the defense budget. What the Bush people want is to have a tax cut that reduces the size of government and cuts spending. But when that happens, you know, you might have to cut spending some place you don't want to, and that's the pickle that they're in.

It's interesting, you know, Rumsfeld is not having a good time it seems to me, and it's best that he's doing most of this in secret, because whenever we find out what he's doing, it doesn't -- it doesn't fly. And Senator John Warner put him in his place and today -- or yesterday, he came out and said, "Well, I think I'll let the services decide where they want to cut back."

So he's just, you know, throwing it out there and trying to get it away from him, because it was a -- it was a stink bomb.

SHIELDS: Congressman Ike Skelton, a Democratic -- from Missouri, a long time supporter of defense, pointed out that even with the increases Bob mentioned, Kate, it all comes down -- because of the mandated improvements in health coverage -- comes down to $100 million more than last year -- one-forty-fifth of an aircraft carrier or defense budget missile system for six days. I mean, this is a little bit different from the campaign.

O'BEIRNE: Don Rumsfeld at the Defense Department had a huge job cut out for him. And I disagree with Bob. There is a need for a post-Cold War military, a new military based on post-Cold War world. That work has not been done, and that's what I think George Bush and Dick Cheney promised would happen.

Now Don Rumsfeld finds himself in a position where there's insufficient money to maintain the current force. I agree with you, Bob, they shouldn't be deployed in certain places, but we still have responsibilities they must be able to meet. They don't -- there's not enough money to do that. They've been in a downward spiral owing to the neglect of the Clinton years.

Yet -- and there's not enough to fund this new military strategy, which I -- George Bush led us to believe could happen by cutting outdated weapons systems, which Congress won't let you do.

So in the absence of presidential leadership -- he's been very good on missile defense but otherwise hasn't spoken much about defense at all -- I think Don Rumsfeld is in an impossible fix.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, no money for missile defense. No money for prescription drugs and defense is left unequipped and underpaid.

HUNT: General Carlson had it exactly right -- you can -- you can thank the tax cut for that, Mark. And if you want more money for it -- if you really need more money for it -- quite easy to get it. You just do something about those subsequent big tax cuts...

NOVAK: Raise taxes.

HUNT: No, no -- you don't -- you just don't have your scheduled tax cut.

NOVAK: That's a tax increase.

HUNT: No, no -- not if it hadn't taken effect, it isn't.

NOVAK: Oh, come on.

HUNT: But I think the issue really is one of priorities more than it is big spending. And I think that's something that Donald Rumsfeld -- to my great surprise -- whatever you think of his policies, I thought he would be a tremendous success, a man of great background and expertise -- he's struggling, he's really struggling.

NOVAK: You know, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) there it -- is people who like government and people don't care for government that much. And the people who don't care for government that much are essentially the Republican Party, and they want to have tax cuts and less spending. And if you have less defense spending, I'm not going to cry. SHIELDS: I'll just say this, George Bush said during the campaign, "This is not the way a great nation should reward courage and idealism."

NOVAK: Oh, come on.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, Al Gore returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. After eight months out of the public eye, Al Gore emerged in Nashville. He attended political workshops for most of the week, all behind closed doors, and then announced he will address the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson Day dinner in Des Moines September 29.

The CNN-"USA Today-Gallup poll shows all registered voters by a 10 percentage point margin would prefer that the former vice president not run again. Among Democrats by two to one they want another try by Al Gore.

Margaret, was Al Gore's reemergence a success?

CARLSON: It was a clumsy reemergence, it seems to me. One of the things that tripped Al Gore up was the earth tones and the alpha male and the different guises that he wore. So he comes out in a beard, and a kind of a Faustian one at that. The next headline on Al Gore is going to be "Al Gore Cuts Beard Off." And it just reminds you of one of the problems that he had during the campaign -- he just didn't seem to know who he was.

One the other hand, when you look at the Democratic field, he doesn't look that weak. He's got a strong base. The more of them who run, you know, the more he might be able to gather people under him. And you can't underestimate the feeling that people have that Gore was robbed. And just as it was on the playground when it doesn't seem fair it's quite an intense emotion I think that lasts.

SHIELDS: Well, Gore was robbed, right, Bob?

NOVAK: No, he wasn't robbed. And that's -- the people who think he was robbed -- the Democrats -- want him to run again. But the reason that most Americans don't want him to run again -- they thought he was a lousy candidate, an unattractive candidate, and they didn't think he was robbed.

I thought that was a terrible re-emergence. It was like it was in a silent picture realm -- he didn't say anything, you never heard his voice, you just saw him walking around with Lamar Alexander. It wasn't very good.

And then he comes up -- the first thing he's going to do, he's going to go to Iowa to the Jefferson Jackson dinner, which is a kind of coming out party for unknowns, guys you haven't seen before. And so, he puts himself down to this level. I think he's got a rough road ahead. SHIELDS: Iowa was pretty good to him, though, in 2000. He beat Bill Bradley there -- it may have been the key to the nomination, and he carried it against George W. Bush.

HUNT: Mark, this is going to shock you, but I just got back from a two-week Norwegian cruise line tour, Russia Scandinavia -- not a single soul mentioned Al Gore. Not a single soul.

CARLSON: Even though he looks like a sea captain now?

HUNT: Exactly. But last month, before -- back in July, I talked to about a dozen or so Democrats around the country, and I think there really is a political schizophrenia about Gore. Margaret is right, the overwhelming majority of these activists think he was robbed, that he really won the election. He certainly won the popular vote.

But I think there's also a sense that this guy -- that it was outrageous that it was even close, he should have blown Bush away, Clinton surely would have. And my guess is that he's going to run and that he's going to be a formidable frontrunner, but that the person who beats him -- and someone will beat him -- will be -- will be helped by being depicted as a giant slayer.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne?

O'BEIRNE: I think ever since December -- I think Al Gore's concession speech was gracious. I think he was exactly right. A lot of politicians wouldn't do it, they wouldn't just leave the scene. And not to be nitpicking and whatnot, I think he's handled the past eight months really well. I think it's going to be tough to deny him a nomination.

I think the liberals in the party don't want to recognize the fact that the Democratic candidates who crack the electoral college are those who crack into the vote in the South, like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Al Gore has shown he cannot get a vote in the South. There's going to be a bloody primary, though, among the Democrats...

SHIELDS: Oh, boy.

O'BEIRNE: ... which is something that George Bush won't have to face. And remember Al Gore in 1988? He just doesn't come across that well. The unattractive, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Al Gore is on display during those intramural battles. So I don't think he's going to look all that attractive in 2004 following a primary.

SHIELDS: Let me take just a little different take. I think, first of all, the disparaging of Al Gore is mostly from insiders and it's the -- it's the professionals.

O'BEIRNE: Yeah.

SHIELDS: They think -- they think he really blew it. Among rank and file Democrats, they think he was robbed -- an awful lot of them. And I'll tell you, one Democratic pro said to me, "He's going to be very formal for a very simple reason. When you get to any state with a large African-American vote -- you get to Illinois, you get to New York -- Al Gore has a hold on them that none of the other Democrats in the field begin to approach." And there's a sense they are the most anti-Bush and the most pro-Gore of the entire electorate.

O'BEIRNE: You talk about a base -- that's a base that holds.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... New Hampshire or Iowa?

NOVAK: I disagree -- I disagree with Margaret that the more people get in, it's easier for him. I think it's harder for him, the more people that come in -- it sizes up the vote. And the poll that's been running shows one-third of the Democrats would like -- favor him for president. I think it's a very poor showing. Adlai Stevenson, after getting beat twice after the '56 race, had a better showing than that.

I think two out of three Democrats polled say they'd rather have somebody else. I think he's got a steep hill to climb.

HUNT: There's nothing Al Gore can do that would please...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Did Adlai Stevenson ever get 500,000 more votes than anybody that got elected president? We'll be back with a CAPITAL GANG classic -- the George W. Bush cocaine watch.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Two years ago, presidential candidate George W. Bush was under pressure to reveal whether he had ever used cocaine. After refusing to answer the question, Governor Bush was led by a reporter's questioning into saying he had not used cocaine in the last 15 years. This was the reaction of your CAPITAL GANG on August 21, 1999. Our guest was Republican George Allen, one year away from being elected to the United States Senate from Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNT: Susan, has George W. Bush dug himself into a hole?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dug a hole and seems to be still digging. And at this point, I think he's better off telling the truth, whatever it is. He'll at least get points for candor and see what the voters make of it.

NOVAK: I don't think he goes any further than this. I think this is the kind of thing that the press is having a frenzy on. I am not sure whether this is of that great of an interest to the voters, and particularly to the Republican politicians.

CARLSON: He said he wasn't going to play the game and then since Bob's interview with him he has been playing the game. And the game is pick a year -- any year -- seven years, 10 years -- do I hear 20 years.

GOV. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: What somebody did as a teenager isn't really all that relevant I think to most voters. And I think that George Bush obviously feels that he wants to draw a line in the sand on this issue.

HUNT: But I think the way George Bush has handled this has really unnerved some Republicans this week.

CARLSON: He actually could have scored points with the public cleanly if he said at the very beginning of his run, "I'm not going to entertain any of these questions." And shut the door and not come out and proudly boasted on the issue of drinking and adultery, that he was pure as the driven snow. But he opened the door in that way.

NOVAK: That's nonsense, Margaret, he had -- he had -- he had to open the door, because everybody was writing not about cocaine use -- they were using about his drinking and the fact that he was a wild guy. He had to answer those questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we haven't heard the end of this and neither has George W. Bush. And he's not going to be able to talk about other issues until this question gets settled.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, you weren't on this program, neither was I, so from that objective standpoint, do you think THE GANG was a little over-exorcised about the cocaine issue?

O'BEIRNE: Yes, some of its members were, as was the rest of the media. The media -- a shocking number of reporters really thought there was something to this cocaine thing with George W. Bush, despite the fact that having been running since '94 in Texas, and with local reporters all digging into it, there was never any evidence of it.

So Susan Page (ph) -- see, some people make this look easy, but Susan Page (ph) found out that it's not that easy. Of course, it went away, because there was nothing to it, and the president was right to draw a line and refuse to even deny it.

SHIELDS: But the president -- the president declared he was wrong to draw the line saying 15 years.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: That was a trap, that was a trap. That was a trick question.

CARLSON: It wasn't nonsense because he got into that back and forth and that's what was hurting him.

HUNT: That was a trick question.

SHIELDS: Yeah.

CARLSON: I think the whole thing would have gone away if he hadn't played the game.

SHIELDS: Bob, you have always said cocaine was nothing to turn up your nose to...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: The cocaine did go away. This was a media feeding frenzy. This was a little sample if it. Nothing went -- nothing happened. George Bush was exactly right that if he just didn't say anything more it would go away, he could talk about other things. I think that's a -- that's a good lesson. That tape ought to be watched by journalists when they cover the next campaign as a preventative for being silly.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, I did the arithmetic quickly. Senator Allen said what he did as a teenager -- I think was what he was referring to. Fifteen years...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Look, I think George Bush was heavy into booze and probably drugs well into his 30s. I don't think it has anything to do with his fitness to be president in his 50s. I think it would have been much better, however, if he had leveled with the American people. And, in fact, it did come back to burn him on that last minute issue on the drunken driving ...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: I think because of his inability to deal with it -- if he had been -- if he had leveled earlier on, that would have been a non- story.

CARLSON: May I just contradict Bob and say, let us burn the tape and not send it forth for journalists to see.

SHIELDS: Last word, Margaret Carlson. We'll be back with the second half of CAPITAL GANG. "Newsmaker of the Week," presidential counselor Karen Hughes. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at Gary Condit and trouble back home with Gale Hammons of the "Modesto Bee" and our "Outrages of the Week." That's 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 THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson. Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Karen Hughes, counselor to President Bush. Karen Hughes, age -- 44, residence -- Washington, D.C., religion -- Presbyterian.

News reporter for the NBC affiliate in Dallas-Ft. Worth after graduating from Southern Methodist University. Entered politics as Texas press coordinator of the Reagan-Bush 1984 campaign, executive director of the Texas Republican Party before joining George W. Bush as communications director in 1994.

Earlier this week, Kate O'Beirne talked to Karen Hughes on the White House lawn.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BEIRNE: Karen, the president, now in Crawford, says it's important to get out of town to avoid inside the Beltway thinking. Now that you've been here since January, what kind of Washington mindset is important to avoid?

KAREN HUGHES, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: I think you can tend to be trapped here in a very workaholic environment and forget what real Americans think about and talk about and discuss at their dinner tables. And so I've found with myself I have to make an effort to get out of the White House and go home and talk to my neighbors and walk the dog and go to the grocery store and live the way everyday Americans live.

I mean, we do that at home, but here at the White House I think there's a tendency -- because there are so many issues and so much going on all the time -- there's a -- there's a tendency to get caught up in that all.

O'BEIRNE: Have you had any pleasant surprises since you've moved to Washington -- something that's...

HUGHES: Actually, I love the city. I love the weather. The people are very friendly. I just moved into a new neighborhood I the District of Columbia, and all of the neighbors have come by. Somebody brought me scones. They've all knocked on the door and said hello. And it's very friendly. I've really been pleasantly surprised by that.

O'BEIRNE: Only Texans love the month of August. What's your reaction to the widespread observation that you're the most powerful woman to have ever served on a White House staff?

HUGHES: You know, I sort of cringe when I hear that. And I don't know why. Maybe my faith teaches me to shun power, to be a little weary of power. I also think it probably overstates things a little bit. I mean, I think I am clearly one of the president's circle of close advisers, but we're a team and we really operate as a team. And that's one of the things I think makes him such a great leader, is that he builds teams of people.

O'BEIRNE: Has all of your clout here at the White House made a big difference at home?

HUGHES: No. The first time I saw that Hon. abbreviated in front of my name I thought, "If I went home and told my son that he could call me honorable mom." And looked at me like, "Get out of here, I don't think so, it's not going to happen." It doesn't happen.

O'BEIRNE: President Bush, just before the recess, reached a compromise on the patients' bill of rights -- goes to conference. When a bill comes back from conference with changes made in agreement with the Senate, does he intend to veto that conference bill if it doesn't meet his priorities?

HUGHES: It's hard to answer until we see the bill. I think the president has been very clear about the patients' bill of rights and about his principles on a patients' bill of rights. He looks forward to working with members of that conference committee. We have some very strong allies in the Senate, Senator McCain is somebody who has assured President Bush from the beginning that he wanted to work with us on this bill.

I know he's committed to getting a patients' bill of rights. I hope that some of the Democrat leaders in the Senate are also committed to protecting patients, because there's widespread agreement on the good parts of this bill, on the important patient protections.

He's said in the past that he would veto a bill that he did not think improved health care.

O'BEIRNE: Year to year, former President Clinton threatened to veto bills if he didn't get enough money in them from the Republican Congress. Does President Bush intend to veto bills when Congress spends too much this fall?

HUGHES: I think President Bush is prepared to make sure that Congress spends wisely and spends in an effective way. He's been very clearly from the beginning in his speech to a joint session of Congress about the importance of the federal government using taxpayer money wisely.

O'BEIRNE: Karen, during the Bush campaign, you top aides were famously leak-proof, much to the frustration of the media. Do you all really get along so well that there's no back biting to the media? And just between you and me, what's Karl Rove's most irritating characteristic? I'll give you Bob Novak's in exchange to Karl Rove's.

HUGHES: Let's see, most irritating. Karl is -- Karl is like the energizer bunny. He is constantly upbeat, constantly thinking, constantly -- Joe Alba used to get very irritated with Karl in an elevator, because Karl could say, "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" And that would drive him crazy. But other than that, Karl is a wonderful person.

O'BEIRNE: You're a very cohesive group.

HUGHES: We are a very cohesive group.

O'BEIRNE: Where does that come from?

HUGHES: The president. It comes from the top. He sets the tone and we all believe in him and believe in what he's doing for the country. And we're here I think for the right reasons, that is to help him try to make a difference. And so, I think that permeates from the top down. And we all try to follow the president's lead.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SHIELDS: Kate, is Karen Hughes another close adviser in the mold of Bob Haldeman, Hamilton Jordan and Mike Deaver?

O'BEIRNE: Mark, Karen Hughes seems genuinely uncomfortable when you point it out, but she does in fact break the mold by being the most -- the woman with -- being the top aide with the most clout as a woman for the first time in the history of the White House.

And when you think of both Karen Hughes in that unprecedented spot, Condoleezza Rice as national security adviser, briefing the president first thing every morning, Margaret Lowell-Montaine (ph) runs domestic policy. If those three women were working for a liberal Democrat in the White House, they would be icons of American womanhood.

But because it doesn't fit the media line and they're working for a conservative Republican, not much is made of it.

SHIELDS: Just the way Hillary Clinton became an icon for so many conservative commentators, right? Bob Novak.

NOVAK: I think -- I think she is in the Deaver, Jordan, Haldeman mode, in that she is really not interested in big ideological questions or even I think some broad design for the Republican Party -- she's there for George W. Bush, which is good for him. But some conservatives I think are a little suspicious of her of not being conservative enough.

SHIELDS: Are you?

NOVAK: No, because I don't think that's where she's coming from. She is just a Bush person and she's going to be for him all the way.

SHIELDS: Margaret?

CARLSON: Kate, I'm quite prepared to make a lot of Karen having that job. I think it's terrific that a woman has that job.

SHIELDS: But.

CARLSON: But -- we wouldn't have a show if there were no "buts."

SHIELDS: I know.

CARLSON: You know, she never says anything. She serves Bush very well, but she doesn't serve the press very well at all, because you can't even get color out of her. And this is no failure of Kate's, not to crack her open, but when she says, "What is Karl Rove's flaw," it was like saying, "Oh, he's just so smart and he just walks so many old ladies across the street."

O'BEIRNE: I even offered to make a trade to get that.

CARLSON: All right. I know. But Bob's faults are on full display here every week, and she knew that was a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) offer. HUNT: Oh, I think that shows how smart she is, Kate, because she knew that was an uneven trade.

SHIELDS: Right, right.

HUNT: Look, I don't think that Karen Hughes gets as much press as Carl Rowe but she is his equal in influence. I think she clearly is the most influential woman in this White House staff and an exceptionally able one.

SHIELDS: She wants to -- she wants to expand her influence beyond the White House. I would give one piece of unsolicited advice and that is -- I don't like to be called a member of the Roman Church. If she would stop using the word "Democrat" as an adjective. It's Democratic leaders -- it's not Democrat leaders.

NOVAK: I never knew that.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: That's it. Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at Gary Condit's political trouble at home.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. "Beyond the Beltway" -- Congressman Gary Condit at home. Democratic Congressman Gary Condit returned home to California's San Joaquin Valley to read a call for his resignation in the "Modesto Bee," the newspaper that has always supported him.

Its editorial said, quote: "While showing little concern for the missing former intern, he has spun, stalled and stonewalled, refusing to face the media or his constituents whose questions have been spurred in part by his our bizarre behavior," end quote.

That evoked a rare written statement by Congressman Condit, quote: "'The Bee's' conclusion that my refusal to publicly disclose details of this case as a violation of the public trust is an unfortunate misunderstanding of the difference between my cooperation with the police and my unwillingness to give in to media demand that I immediately bear all parts of my and my family's private life," end quote.

His chief of staff promised that the congressman will publicly discuss the disappearance of Chandra Levy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE LYNCH, CHIEF OF STAFF FOR GARY CONDIT: I suspect it will be sooner rather than later, but let me make very clear, this is not a change in Congressman Condit's position or his strategy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Joining us now is Gale Hammons, associate editor of the "Modesto Bee" and the principle author of the editorial calling for Gary Condit's resignation. Thanks for coming in, Gale.

GALE HAMMONS, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "THE MODESTO BEE": You're welcome.

SHIELDS: Gale, how has the district's attitude toward the congressman changed over these last three months?

HAMMONS: Well, the attitude really has shifted from one of deference, even adulation, to one of skepticism and condemnation. It's really become acceptable for the first time in many, many years to criticize Gary Condit openly and publicly.

People for a long time felt Gary was beyond reproach and those who disagreed with that assessment were very reluctant to say so, because Gary does not abide detractors. So the shift has been very striking, in terms of how much criticism has come about of Gary Condit.

I also would say that there is an abiding sense of sadness here, because Gary has represented this area for a long time, and he has been one of the brightest lights here, and now that's extinguished.

SHIELDS: Now what has been the reaction since you editorial last Sunday?

HAMMONS: The reaction has been overwhelming. We have received more than 500 letters to the editor from all around the country and a lot from our local area as well. Those letters have run at least 90 percent -- well, at least 80 percent -- between 80 and 90 percent, I would say, supportive of the position and reasoning of our editorial.

SHIELDS: OK, Bob Novak.

HAMMONS: Obviously, the reaction...

SHIELDS ; I'm sorry -- go ahead.

NOVAK: Gale, the thing that amazes me is that he has gone so long without saying anything. He put out this written statement and now they say that sooner or later he's going to say something. Can you give any explanation for that? And was that -- you know him a lot better than we do -- his role in Congress and the way he handles himself. Was that in his method of operation that he would go that long without going public?

HAMMONS: Well, Gary has never been one to seek out the camera. He has wielded his power behind the scenes for a long time. He's not one who gives a lot of press conferences. He doesn't go on a lot of the shows. He doesn't really seek out the limelight. He prefers to operate quietly and wield his power behind the scenes.

So it is sort of fitting that he would go this long without speaking. However, this is such a different situation than his general routine business as a congressman that I think it really is abhorrent, as we said in the editorial, that he has been silent for this long. I think it's partly probably a legal strategy, but as a political strategy it's obviously a failure.

SHIELDS: Margaret?

CARLSON: Gale, wasn't the "Modesto Bee" slow to criticize Gary Condit? I understood at one time that they asked him to come in and talk to the editorial board, and at that time he -- I think he did speak, but wouldn't say anything, and at that time he wasn't even cooperating with the police. It took him a month to really cooperate with the police. Did you try to give him a chance?

HAMMONS: Oh, absolutely. I think we've cut him a lot of slack. We gave him a lot of time to come forward. The initial editorials we wrote about this situation urged him to speak publicly. We just wanted him to come forward and tell us what he knew about the situation -- obviously to tell the police what he knew about the situation.

So, we really gave him the benefit of the doubt for a long time, as did most of his constituents, because, as we have remarked before, he has served this area for a long time and he's done some good things for our area.

SHIELDS: Kate?

O'BEIRNE: Gale, Gary Condit over the past three and a half months hasn't seemed to much care what the national media has been saying. But this week, Mike Lynch, his chief of staff, told Wolf Blitzer that in June he did sit for an hour in a private meeting with the managing editor of your newspaper and a couple of members of your editorial page to explain his position, his rhetoric -- reticence about speaking publicly.

Clearly, your senior editors were dissatisfied with those explanations he offered in June. And were your constituents in the area aware at the time of that hour-long meeting with the "Modesto Bee"?

HAMMONS: I'm not sure if our constituents were aware, because it was a private meeting. I was not at that meeting. It was between Gary and I think Mike Lynch and Dick LeGrand, our editorial page editor and Mark Vashe, our executive editor.

My understanding is that Gary's explanations during that meeting were similar to what he had said publicly, that he doesn't want to be dragged into a media circus, that he just simply refuses to comment on the situation until he feels it's appropriate, whenever that might be.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt?

HUNT: Gale, I think that Gary Condit is toast, it's just a matter of how. But let me get -- you're much closer to it than I am on that. And I gather a deadline probably will be late September or early October when the state legislature starts drawing up districting maps. Is it your sense now that this guy is going to quit or not run for reelections? Or will he try to tough it out and take on the media, including "The Bee"?

HAMMONS: No, I think he probably will run for reelection. I think, first of all, because of his ego and, second of all, because he doesn't have any money. He has no reported assets and he can't start collecting his congressional pension until April of 2003. And that's only going to start at $20,000 a year, so I don't -- I don't think he has anywhere else to go.

I also think as far as redistricting goes, he has some advantages there because he's got the Democrats in charge of the situation and he's got two very powerful allies that can help him draw the lines in his favor. Dennis Cardoza is his former chief of staff, and Dennis is now chairman of the Rules Committee in the Assembly, and Dennis controls the flow of legislation. And, as you know, the new district lines will come forth as legislation.

Also, he's very close to Gray Davis. He went out on a limb for Gray Davis in the last gubernatorial election when it looked like Gray was not going to win. He endorsed Gray. And therefore, Gray has since hired both of his children to work for him and Gray is very loyal to Gary.

So he has also to sign into law any districts -- any new districts that the legislature comes up with. So I think Gary has a lot going for him in the redistricting process.

SHIELDS: Gale Hammons, thank you for being with us. THE GANG will be back with the "Outrage of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: And now for the "Outrage of the Week." American public school teachers are woefully underpaid. John McCain is right when he says that a good teacher ought not to be paid less than a bad congressman. But the cause of justice for teachers is hurt by educators who argue that dodge ball, musical chairs and duck- duck/goose-goose must be abolished from school because they pit the strong against the weak, they are humiliating and they foster aggression in the young. Dodge ball? Musical chairs? Duck- duck/goose-goose? Please -- a little judgment. Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Irish Republican Army thugs have been welcomed as heroes into the fair arms of Manhattan and Washington, but they just show their true colors in withdrawing a bogus Northern Ireland disarmament offer. The IRA has not given up a single gun, not one. Three IRA gunmen this week were arrested in Columbia training narco-terrorists in explosives. IRA mouthpiece Gerry Adams is off to Cuba to meet arch-criminal Fidel Castro. To quote "The Washington Post," "Mr. Adams used to have friends in Washington, but their band is dwindling now."

SHIELDS: Some ex-Republicans also meeting arch-criminals in Beijing. Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: The U.S. finally agreed to pay its long overdue U.N. dues, thanks to an agreement hammered out between former Ambassador Richard Holbrook and Jesse Helms. But now Republicans have found another reason to stiff the world body: Holding the dues hostage to backing out of a treaty giving the International Criminal Court in Hague authority to prosecute war crimes. Linking this treaty to U.N. dues is just one more stick in the eye of an already alarmed international community. Undermining the U.N. only undermines the U.S. Pay the bill.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Nervous swimmers wonder what has cause the recent increase in shark attacks, which in Florida were three times more frequent last year than several years ago. Well, at the insistence of environmentalists, who apparently confine their own swimming to pools, federal and Florida regulations have drastically cut into shark fishing to protect these fragile creatures and leave fishing-free zones near shore. It's time to fight back. If you plan to be swimming off Florida's coast, take an environmentalist with you.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Mark, a theme and a celebrated hit to producers is that on Broadway you can make a bundle by producing a lemon. In the corporate suites of America too often that also is the reality -- an example, the troubled Lucent Corporation fired its chief executive, Richard McGinn. This week, the company revealed that the unsuccessful former CEO is getting a golden parachute of $12.5 million in cash and stock, $9,000 a month in office expenses and an $870,000 a year pension. Marxism lives in the corporate suites.

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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