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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Interviews With Jon Kyl, Bill Frist, Warren Fiske

Aired November 3, 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 am Mark Shields, with Robert Novak, Margaret Carlson, and syndicated columnist E.J. Dionne of "The Washington Post." Our guest, Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona. Thanks for coming in, Jon.

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: Thanks, Mark.

SHIELDS: Good to have you here.

The week began with another security alert.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The administration has concluded based on information developed that there may be additional terrorist attacks within the United States and against United States' interests over the next week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Yesterday, there was an update.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR: We're going to keep everybody on Monday alert, that attentiveness indefinitely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: In the meantime, the governor of California issued his own warning about a possible attack on his home state's bridges.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Now, it may not happen. We hope it doesn't happen. We're trying to communicate we're ready. It's our obligation at the same time to inform the public that we're aware of this threat and they need to be aware of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RIDGE: Governor Davis thought that one thing that he could do to enhance the security of people using those bridges was to make a public announcement. We did not encourage him to do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: In New York City, a hospital worker died of anthrax, and medical authorities linked the spores of the bacteria that killed her to attacks on Capitol Hill and the news media in New York.

Bob Novak, what do these heightened alerts accomplish?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Absolutely nothing. I think the first alert caused a lot of people to cancel their plans. It hurt the restaurant business, it hurt the business travel. This one -- this is an indefinite alert. If you are on alert all the time, you're not on alert. Isn't that the metaphysical truth? I really believe that.

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: You existentialist!

NOVAK: I believe that's the case. I think it's really the covering of your posterior syndrome carried to an extreme, but I also love the fact that Gray Davis, who is one of the great politician I've ever seen, one of the superb politicians -- of all the governors who were alerted, he runs out as if he is protecting the people of California. He's running a little bit behind for reelection, so he had to get some publicity. I don't think this is the way you protect the American people, though.

SHIELDS: Jon Kyl, is Bob Novak wrong?

KYL: Partially, and partially not. I think the object here is not to get people to do anything, but rather to ensure that the American people always know the American government will level with them. We had very credible information about a very serious threat which may yet be effected here. And I don't think the American people would like it if our government withheld that information from them. But the object was not to get people to do anything, simply to inform.

SHIELDS: All right. Kyl or Novak, E.J., who's right?

E.J. DIONNE, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I don't think -- if the government just had some information like that and didn't make it public and something happened, we'd be all over them. And while Bob is right, there is a cover-yourself aspect of this, I think they are better off telling us. And in Gray Davis' case, if some governor had this information, had any kind of information like this, and one of those bridges fell and it later emerged that he had some information and didn't make it public, we would sit here and pile on him or her. So I think Gray Davis had to do what he did.

SHIELDS: Margaret, one of the arguments that's made for these alerts and issuing the -- alerting the public to the alert is that the original jet takeover was scheduled for July. And because of a sense of that we were aware of it and that the information had gotten out it was at least postponed to September. I mean, the argument that it somehow upsets and disrupts the attackers of the terrorist plans. CARLSON: Well, in fact, Ashcroft and others attributed the fact that he published the high alert two weeks ago I think it was now for keeping something from happening. But there simply no way to contact A to Z here, you really can't do it.

What was interesting this week was the Office -- what I think of homeland insecurity, because of all these alerts -- criticizing California, California's Gray Davis for issuing an alert about those bridges, when, in fact, he probably felt he was in the same position as the federal government, which is what if we don't say what we know -- and then, you had the White House saying, you know, saying that the alert that Gray Davis got, oh, that wasn't -- that information wasn't any good, that came from some customs agent, how dare he rely on that?

DIONNE: What happened to states' rights? I mean, I thought it was very interesting that one person he defended...

CARLSON: Bush gave a great defense...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Let a governor run his own business.

NOVAK: But this isn't protecting the American people, these are politicians trying to protect themselves. That's the protection that's involved. Now, Jon Kyl is on the Intelligence Committee, and I certainly am not, so he has a lot of information that I don't have. But what I hear is that this was an overheard conversation or an intercepted conversation that said, boy, one of these terrorists say to the other, we're really going to do something this week. They don't know it.

I just think to get -- I think this adds to a state of tension and anxiety. And people are supposed to be alert -- you know, I'm always alert when I'm with you, Mark.

SHIELDS: I hope so, but not anxiety, Bob. Jon Kyl, is Bob right? I mean, can't you over do the anxiety in the sense that people -- we already had the October 10 alert, that isn't off yet?

KYL: My view is that Governor Davis overdid it. The government had a whole series of bits of information that suggested that there was going to be an attack of major proportions. Each individual element of that contradicted something else, but they all amounted to a big threat. To focus just on one aspect of if, which I understand the governors were asked to keep confidential because it could jeopardize an FBI investigation, I don't think was appropriate action on behalf of the governor.

CARLSON: You know, a few people are going to be surprised if something happens now. We are on alert. What would help is if the government had something specific to tell us that we could do something about, which is not where we are now.

NOVAK: Don't go out of your homes for the next two weeks.

CARLSON: Well, I mean, if we were really on high alert, we'd stay in listening to our radios and eating tinned food.

SHIELDS: Let me just say one word about Gray Davis. I mean, Gray Davis at least issued a specific warning and allowed people to take an alternative course of action. You could take the ferry in or you could not go across that bridge. No, seriously! I mean, this bridge -- this bridge is a target. And it gives you on option, as opposed to just this sort of generic heightened alert.

NOVAK: Isn't it interesting, though, Mark, that the other governors who got the same kind of information didn't rush out and had a press conference and get a full color picture on page one of "The New York Times"?

CARLSON: They didn't get information about the Bay Bridge.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... I know, those ones in the Midwest.

SHIELDS: That's it for the first segment of CAPITAL GANG. Jon Kyl and the GANG will be back with the war on Afghanistan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. B-52 bombers intensified attacks on Taliban front line troops north of Kabul, and fighting was reported between Taliban and Northern Alliance forces. In Washington, leaders called for patience.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The smoke at this very moment is still rising out of the World Trade Center. It seems to me that Americans understand well that despite the urgency and the questions that were posed at the last briefing, we're still in the very, very early stages of this conflict.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're in for a long struggle. We're making it harder for the enemy to communicate. We're making it harder for the enemy to protect himself. We're making it harder for the enemy to hide. And we're going to get him, and them. And, you know, there's some that say, well, shouldn't this have happened yesterday? This is not an instant gratification war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: E.J., as the president suggests, is the news media impatient for success in this war?

DIONNE: Actually, the really impatient people are the president's conservative allies. They are the ones who have been criticizing the war efforts, saying it's not -- it didn't go fast enough, it wasn't tough enough. They are the ones who are saying that this war should be expanded elsewhere. The press is simply asking official spokespeople why one week we had essentially wiped out the Taliban's capacity to make war, and the next week we hear, well, the Taliban is a really tough ally. And I think at the end of that, they had a lot of explaining to do.

SHIELDS: Bob, I think that's absolutely right, a lot of explaining to do.

NOVAK: Well, I really worry about this war. Each week, I worry a little bit more about it, because as far as I can understand, the whole strategy of this war is to bomb the hell out of them, and then, when you really bombed them, this rag-tag bunch called the Northern Alliance comes in to clean up.

Now, we have had bad experiences bombing people who are in holes for a long time. We had bad experience in Vietnam, we had bad experience in World War II, in the islands where the Japanese were getting in these holes -- and you know, we would bomb the hell out of them, we put the Marines on the beach, and they were shooting us down.

I still wonder, can we win this war with this plan of using these indigenous forces with some irregulars without putting in a division- strength American expeditionary force? And then, you really got trouble in River City.

SHIELDS: Big trouble in River City, Margaret. But I mean, they are talking about American troops on the ground; now they're saying we need boots on the ground, we've got to have American troops there to really do this thing. Put them in a totally hostile environment, with snipers, indigenous resistance and all the rest of it, is that the next step?

CARLSON: Well, eventually, you're going to have to have ground troops because of how the Taliban are dug in and arrayed in that country. I don't think there's any other way.

The air war is meant to secure the ground for a ground war. And I do think Bob has one point, which is they went too slow at the beginning and may have been waiting for some kind of political settlement for a government to be formed that can move in when the Northern Alliance gets into Kabul. Now, that was an awfully rosy situation to be contemplating, which is, oh, my goodness, we're going to win this thing before we have a government to go in.

That seems to be put aside now. They are not waiting for the king or any other alliance to come in, and just bomb the hell out of them. Even the Northern Alliance gave a compliment for the first time to the bombing, saying we think it's working.

SHIELDS: Jon Kyl, the idea of putting troops on the ground is a -- you know, is really a major step of order of magnitude. And maybe you as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee are privy to this. One out of three members of the U.S. Army and the U.S. volunteer military does not complete his or her first enlistment. I mean, we're talking about thousands and thousands of people -- contrasted with one out of 10 during the draft who do not finish their enlistment.

KYL: Well, I'll tell you, enlistment is up as a result of this conflict. Patriotism is up. Everybody wishes that this conflict could be resolved very quickly, and I think everybody involved wishes that we had been able to do more right at the beginning.

But remember that this all happened without any preparation on our part. We had very bad intelligence -- I'm just going to say it, that's the fact -- and we're only now beginning to get people in there who can give us the kind of intelligence that can coordinate the kind of air strikes with the kind of targets that we need to do some good. And so, this is going to take longer than I think most people thought it would, because of that lack of intelligence.

We're also going to have to use people coming in from Pakistan in helping to get the Pashtun people of the southern part of Afghanistan riled up against the Taliban. It's not going to happen just with American ground troops on the ground, it's going to also have to include people rebelling from within the country.

DIONNE: Senator, some of your very close conservative allies, people like Bill Kristol have argued along the lines that Margaret was talking about, that we thought that we could sort of gauge this bombing, pull it back a little bit in anticipation of creating a government before we actually let the Northern Alliance win. And they are criticizing Colin Powell's State Department for mixing military strategy with political strategy. Do you agree with that criticism?

KYL: Well, I'll tell you, I'm not going to comment on it, because part of what has happened is a factor of our capability. And I just ask you to think about this one thing: We all wish things could have gone better. But if you stop and think for a moment, maybe there were some capabilities lacking that caused us not to do what everybody thought we were going to be able to do. Now, I'll leave it at that, except to add, intelligence was not as good as it needed to be.

NOVAK: There's a disconnect here, too, because now people are saying it's going to take years to win this war in Afghanistan. Jon, that was not the word from the Pentagon that I received in the early part of this -- of this war. The word was the war against terrorism would take years to fight, yes, but Afghanistan -- they were talking about finishing by Ramadan.

SHIELDS: We wanted to have it over by Ramadan. That was -- go ahead, Margaret, I'm sorry.

CARLSON: Well, now you hear military people saying, well, it's even better to do it in the cold, because you are going to be able to tell where the caves are heated.

(CROSSTALK)

KYL: ... we're going to do OK in the cold, not that it's better. Everybody would have rather had it over by now.

CARLSON: You're one of those honest senators. SHIELDS: Jon, unless you have different facts than I do, the Department of Defense told me on Friday that enlistments were lower in September of 2001 than they were in September of 2000.

KYL: I could be wrong, but about two weeks ago I heard that they were...

SHIELDS: Yeah, there were stories to that effect.

CARLSON: And the other thing that hasn't happened is they are not getting Taliban defections to provide intelligence, and nobody wants to leave because they are going to die if they don't have the protection of the Northern Alliance.

NOVAK: Well, the Northern Alliance said today that the Taliban is deserting. And I take their word just about as seriously as I take the word from the Taliban.

CARLSON: We need a Southern Alliance.

SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG, a partisan vote on airport security.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. A 218 to 214 party-line vote in the U.S. House rejected the Senate-passed airport security bill that would require that luggage screening be done by federal employees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: The companies that have the contracts, the lowest bidders don't want to give up the contracts, and so they hire Washington lobbyists to come and lobby the administration and lobby the Congress to try to hold on to their contracts. In the name of God, it's time to end those contracts and to do what's right to make people safe!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DON YOUNG (R-AK), TRANSPORTATION CHAIRMAN: The president of the United States, all he's asking us to do and what my bill does is give him some flexibility. My bill does federalize. It doesn't nationalize, it's not a total requirement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, why such an epic battle over who does the screening of baggage on airplanes?

CARLSON: Because on one day four planes were hijacked simultaneously, and the people began to feel very insecure about airport security. I seldom agreed wholeheartedly with Dick Gephardt, and I don't want to call God into it... NOVAK: Seldom?

CARLSON: Seldom. I don't want to call God into it. But he's absolutely right; it is just a disgrace that on September 12, when the rest of us were reeling of what has happened to the country, this group of lobbyists come in to represent these companies that we already know can't do the job. It's not like, well, let's have an experiment with privatized baggage screeners. We already know it doesn't work.

What we know about that group of people that got this bill passed is that they know how to lobby, but they don't know how to screen luggage, and it's all over about having baggage screeners who might be unionized.

KYL: Margaret, I'm in the United States Senate, Margaret. Nobody lobbied me...

CARLSON: And you know what? And the vote was 100 to zero against those lobbyists.

KYL: Yeah, that's right, only because we wanted to move the bill on and give the president the capability of getting this thing done before Christmas time. Not a single lobbyist contacted me -- and to suggest that this was behind this is irresponsible as well as wrong. As a matter of fact, the company that had the monopoly of contracts is going out of business. They're not going to get a bit of this business. So, that isn't what it's all about.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... that he was quite successful.

SHIELDS: Well, I guess you have to look at this, though, Jon and say -- at this particular fight -- that absent the president, absent Dick Cheney making calls to the Washington State Delegation, telling them Boeing is going to be free of liability in this, bringing in the New York Delegation, the House delegation, and saying that Port Authority isn't going to have to face any liability in what went on -- I mean, this was a massive lobbying job done.

DIONNE: Tom DeLay was totally candid about it. He basically said he'd put in whatever it took to get this vote through if it had taken subsidies for Belgian farmers, those subsidies would have been in this bill.

SHIELDS: Let's hear it, Bob.

NOVAK: I think we can all agree that God has nothing to do with it. In the name of God...

CARLSON: We can agree, yes, I've already conceded that point.

SHIELDS: I won't. I won't. But go ahead. I think that God had a lot to do with this one.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Second -- secondly, this is strictly a political issue. Democrats want to add 30,000 new government jobs, government unions. Republicans don't want to add 30,000 new government jobs. A lot of countries use government-regulated, privately employed screeners who are not the minimum-wage idiots that have been doing the screening -- and are still doing the screening -- around the country. You don't have to have them on the government payroll.

But all this fake and phony outrage indicates that it is -- it is only partisan, Mark, when the Republicans do it. When Dick Gephardt makes a partisan speech, it's bipartisan.

SHIELDS: Let me just, a personal privilege here, I want to rise in defense of Phil Gramm who doesn't want to put 28,000 federal employees on who voted for this legislation, of Jesse Helms, of Strom Thurmond.

NOVAK: Oh, that's so phony.

SHIELDS: Of Jon Kyl, of Don Nickles, all of whom -- you just...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: You just paint it with a big brush, Bob!

NOVAK: I'll tell you what...

SHIELDS: OK.

NOVAK: Just a minute. That was on the final passage. There were not 100 votes for federalized screeners, were there?

KYL: No. It's divided in the Senate about half and half, it's divided in the House about half and half. And by the way, there is nothing wrong with the president lobbying members of the Congress last time I checked.

SHIELDS: The president is the commander-in-chief in this war. This became an issue of such order of magnitude here that I think Margaret put a finger on it. As of September 12, this didn't become public employees versus private jets, this became a matter of national security.

DIONNE: And most people who screen the baggage aren't minimum- wage idiots; they are people who are paid the minimum wage because these companies pay them that, because they were lowest bidders on these contracts.

NOVAK: Oh, and people can't get jobs any other place!

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: But I just don't want to smooth over what that -- that Democratic propaganda that Mark -- just a minute. That Mark just put out about 100 to nothing. I've heard that -- just a minute, just a minute! I've heard that from so many people, and Jon just says it's 50/50 on that issue in the Senate. It isn't 100 to nothing!

(CROSSTALK)

DIONNE: If the vote had been held about a week or a half earlier, and if all these goodies hadn't been added to the bill, would not enough Republicans have joined with the Democrats and passed the alternative bill?

NOVAK: Wait a minute! Wait a minute! He asked me a question. The question is, if the president hadn't gotten involved would they have done it? The president, as Senator Kyl says, has the right to be involved. I can't understand why you want to take a moral tone to this issue when it's strictly political.

SHIELDS: Margaret.

CARLSON: Because it is a national security issue. Your filibustering, the comparison with European airlines does not work. It has been taken apart any number of times. The Capitol Police, which protect you guys, is unionized, and I don't hear any complaints about that.

SHIELDS: Now, are we going to outsource, Bob, the defense of the country, too? Is that the idea?

NOVAK: Well, you know, in the 30-Year War, almost all the troops were mercenaries, and they did pretty well. So, there is a historical...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: And El Al, by the way, has military -- ex-military people doing the baggage screening. They are not -- they are by no means...

NOVAK: But this is a trivial issue, isn't it?

KYL: This a trivial and political issue. The fact of the matter is, about -- at least a fourth of the people will be federal employees because they will be the supervisors. That's the way the president wanted. I wish we could do it that way. I don't know that it will end up that way. Either way, we're going to have more secure airports, and this will be over with in a week.

(CROSSTALK)

KYL: There are ways to compromise.

SHIELDS: If President Bush had really wanted to restore confidence in flying, he could have passed it and had a signing ceremony Friday. You could have been there.

NOVAK: Do whatever the Democrats want. That's what you always want, Mark!

(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: We'll all be thankful on Thanksgiving Day in those airplanes.

SHIELDS: That's right. And I thank you for being with us, Jon Kyl. We'll be back with the second half of the CAPITAL GANG. Senator Bill Frist is our "Newsmaker of the Week." "Beyond the Beltway" looks at Tuesday's election for governor of Virginia, with Warren Fiske of "The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot." And our "Outrages of the Week," that's all after the latest news following these important messages.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields with Robert Novak, Margaret Carlson and syndicated columnist E.J. Dionne of the "Washington Post."

Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Republican Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee.

Bill Frist: Age, 49; residence, Nashville, Tennessee; religion, Presbyterian. Graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Medical School; performed 250 transplant operations. And author of a book not surprisingly entitled "Transplant." Elected to the Senate in 1994 in his first attempt at public office. he is chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Earlier this week our Margaret Carlson interviewed Senator Frist on the balcony of the Russell Senate Office Building.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON: Senator Frist, Dr. Frist, I'm so glad you're here. You scare me to death, and I want to thank you for it because the -- so many of the terrorist ombudsmen issue false reassurances. And yesterday you said, had the anthrax in the Tom Daschle letter been delivered better, everyone in the Senate Hart Office Building would have been infected.

Is that your policy now: honesty?

SEN. BILL FRIST (R), TENNESSEE: You know, it's very clear that we don't know everything. And you need to tell the American people that all of the assumptions that we had a month ago, they are thrown out the window. And what I've found is, give the facts to people, let them make their own conclusions, but at the same time try to put this overall scare in a perspective of what's going on around the world.

CARLSON: What do you make of the House closing down? Would you call them wimps after hearing that there's weapons-grade anthrax in the Daschle letter?

FRIST: The House made a decision I believe not on entirely accurate data at the time, although now, in retrospect, indeed it was probably the right decision to make.

CARLSON: They were lucky in some ways. FRIST: Even my statement yesterday that, indeed, the dosage and the power of the anthrax that was in the Hart building, that dosage is sufficient to infect everybody it's exposed to -- that's exposed to it, if it's introduced into a ventilation system. But there's somebody out there right now with some anthrax that has the intent to kill, and they can very well do that.

CARLSON: Now, we've been told to get flu vaccine so that there's no confusion between the sniffles of flu and the symptoms of inhalation anthrax. Yet then it came out that, no, healthy people -- like me, I've never had a flu shot -- shouldn't do it because we'll tax the system. Which is it?

FRIST: Well, it's everybody; if everybody goes out and gets a flu vaccine, we're simply not going to have enough this year. I will say that people in the news media who are targeted by these terrorists, politicians who are targeted, mail workers who may have been exposed, if they get the flu vaccine it will likely minimize the flu that they get, which can be confused. So for those populations at risk, they should get the flu vaccine.

CARLSON: Now you're the Marcus Welby of the Senate, and you're -- I think you helped save Strom Thurmond, you said, you're going to be OK.

FRIST: In the field of medicine, where I was for 20 years, I did trauma surgery. I took care of people with gunshot wounds, people who were shot, on a routine basis. I transplanted hearts, pretty much every week of my life in medicine. So it is a little bit unusual, I think, to be out in Washington, D.C. and have so many emergencies around.

CARLSON: Now, how many of your colleagues have tried to boost Cipro from you?

FRIST: I get lots of questions -- now should I take that Cipro? The No. 1 question to me is that...

CARLSON: Tried to get prescriptions from you?

FRIST: That's right, well they say, Bill Frist, now do you have Cipro on you right now? And the answer is no. Do you have it at home stockpiled? The answer is no. And then they say, should I? And again I say the answer no.

A prescription -- you know, I still practice medicine a few weeks every year somewhere around the world. Still actively licensed.

CARLSON: You've got some script in that pocket there?

FRIST: And so I can pull a prescription out anytime. I have to go to the drug store to do it, but can pull it out anytime and write it. So far, zero.

CARLSON: Now, amidst all these type As up here, you are a super- type A. You're a doctor, you're a surgeon, you're a pilot, you run the -- you ran the marathon last Sunday. Do you think you're slightly an overachiever?

FRIST: Well, you know, it is interesting. When you put all that together and you go down this lists, people say, you know, overachiever, what happened to you when you were young and that sort of thing. In truth, people look at me as a pretty laid-back fellow. On the other hand, I have a very competitive spirit. I'm running the National republican Senatorial Committee. Republicans are going to take back the majority based on that competitive spirit.

CARLSON: Well, I hear that you ran slower than Al Gore ran the marathon, and we couch potatoes are very grateful for that.

FRIST: Now wait just a minute though. I did run, I think nine or 10 seconds slower this year. But if you go back three years ago, I wiped him away.

CARLSON: I rest my case; you're a No. 1 type A. Thank you, Senator Frist.

FRIST: Thank you, good to be with you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, in the current climate, does the unofficial Senate doctor, which Bill Frist is, outrank party leaders?

CARLSON: Well, he's said to be President Bush's favorite Republican. And if, God forbid, anything happened to Dick Cheney, he'd be at the top of the list.

SHIELDS: Really?

CARLSON: It was disturbing, though, to hear him say that if that Daschle anthrax had been delivered in other than that letter, if it had gotten in the ventilation system, no one would have been able to handle the resulting infections up there.

SHIELDS: Bob.

NOVAK: You know, he has passed Fred Thompson as the most likely presidential prospect in the Tennessee delegation right now. But...

CARLSON: Oh, no, Fred's still doing very well.

NOVAK: Oh, Frist is a hot article because he's got the right subject. But he looks so much better when he comes out with Trent Lott and gives the briefings, than the official spokesmen of the government do. They always seem like they're not really telling you what they know, and he looks like he is. And that's what government officials and politicians seldom do, is come over as if they're being candid and honest.

DIONNE: Well, I think Margaret put her finger on it when -- he is somebody who actually says, I don't know. I think that people around the city right now need to repeat those words to themselves about 10 times in the morning, because on so many of these issues... SHIELDS: I beg your pardon.

DIONNE: I wasn't thinking of you, Mark.

(CROSSTALK)

DIONNE: We would be in less trouble and these guys would have more credibility if they had said I don't know at the right moments.

SHIELDS: Well, the other thing about him, I think, that can't -- it goes without saying almost is that this is somebody who does things when things do happen. The shooting -- the terrible shooting outside of minority -- House Republican Whip Tom DeLay's office where the security guards in the Capitol over there were shot, he was the one that rushed to it and did it and saved lives. I mean, so it's very rare when somebody in Washington really does something tangible.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: We hurt people's lives.

SHIELDS: Except for Bob.

Next on CAPITAL GANG: "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the Virginia elections with Warren Fiske of the "Norfolk Virginian-Pilot."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at Tuesday's election for governor of the commonwealth of Virginia. Republican Mark Earley and Democrat Mark Warner fired away in TV ads.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Leadership matters now. That's the issue with Mark Warner. He says he's a fiscal conservative, but he won't sign the "no new tax" pledge. He says he won't raise taxes, but admits his plan might.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: In these challenging times, with Virginia facing a budget crisis and real economic uncertainty, all Mark Earley can offer is more negative attacks. The press says Earley is lying. Warner isn't proposing a tax increase.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The most recent poll by Mason-Dixon gives Democrat Mark Warner a 6-point lead.

Joining us now is Warren Fiske, he's the Richmond bureau chief of the "Norfolk Virginian-Pilot."

Thank you for coming in, Warren.

WARREN FISKE, "NORFOLK VIRGINIAN-PILOT": My pleasure. Thank you.

SHIELDS: Warren, what is the problem for the Republican candidate in this Republican state that no Democratic presidential candidate has carried since 1964?

FISKE: Well, there's a number of problems. To start with, the leader of his party, Governor Gilmore, has helped create a little bit of an uncomfortable situation by failing to compromise on a car tax cut last year, which created a budget impasse which left teachers and public employees without raises right now and froze cultural funding.

There's been some backlash to that, and it played into Warner's hands in that he's a businessman who can provide bottom-line leadership. Warner himself has been a very disciplined and effective candidate who's raised record amounts of money, not including the $4 1/2 million dollars of his own money he's put in. And the, finally, Mark Earley has been a little bit unfocused on message. And it's created some inner turmoil in his campaign.

SHIELDS: OK, Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Warren, you know, it still baffles me how a Republican can lose in that state. And there's a lot of fingers being pointed -- of course, he hasn't lost yet, but he's running behind. And according to the Mason-Dixon Poll he's starting to go further behind. But there's a lot of fingers being pointed, and some of the fingers are being pointed at the White House -- the fact that George W. Bush did not come down across the Potomac and campaign for Mark Earley. The heart of World War II, FDR never hesitated to campaign, and I know Bill Clinton would have campaigned.

Do you think that President Bush would have made a difference if he had campaigned?

FISKE: I'm not certain at this point that he would have. It certainly would tighten it up a little bit. But it's always hard to figure out how transferable these things are in a gubernatorial race. I know that they've got Bush -- a taped message they're expecting from Bush, where they're going to call and try to get out the votes with Bush urging them -- Republicans to vote. They've got Rudy Giuliani right now in Bush's loop, but it's tough to figure that one out.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Warren, Earley is, I guess, a good Democrat, but he -- Warner, sorry. The Marks, I get them confused.

He goes around saying, you know, in the 21st century, politics isn't about being and R or a D. And, you know, he's for guns and he kept the NRA from endorsing the Republican candidate. He waffles a little bit on abortion. He's -- when all the attack ads ran against him he said, no, no, no, I'd never raise a tax. What do you make of this kind of neo-Democrat? FISKE: Well, it's been a skillful campaign tactic in that nobody can figure out where the difference is between him and Mark Earley, and he's been able to mute a lot of the differences on that. He has no record, and so it's been very difficult to find where he is.

I mean, I think that there's been a little bit of reinvention. He sounds to me like he's a little more conservative than he was four or five years ago. Some of the language that he used four or five years ago was language that Democrats were using in opposition, or to raise questions about George Allen's no-parole program, for example. But he's been very skillful in positioning himself.

SHIELDS: E.J. Dionne.

DIONNE: Warren, Democrats got hammered in rural areas in the 2000 election, and Warner has been very aware that he can't afford to get hammered. What has he done to strengthen his hold on that vote? Not that he is going to win it, but if he wins, he'll probably lose it by a much more narrow margin than a lot of Democrats. What's he done?

FISKE: Well, what has he done to strengthen his...

DIONNE: Rural vote, that in the countryside.

FISKE: Well, he's been out there. I mean, he's been campaigning pretty much non-stop since he lost the Senate race in '96 to John Warner, and he started some investment funds out there, he's got programs out there to help seniors learn how to use computers. He's just been out there. He's been there time and again, and he hasn't left it to the end of the campaign, as many candidates do, to introduce himself.

SHIELDS: Warren, you mentioned Rudy Giuliani, and I have to admit that my knowledge of Virginia is not exhaustive, but the idea of Rudy Giuliani in Williamsburg is a little bit jarring. And I was wondering...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: How much appeal -- I mean, he's obviously a towering national figure after September 11, but how much appeal will he have in south side?

FISKE: Well, one wonders. I mean, it was only about a year and a half ago that Giuliani and Gilmore were at odds with each other because New York was sending its garbage down to Virginia, and Giuliani told Gilmore that Virginia ought to be happy to get New York's garbage in return for their cultural offerings.

SHIELDS: Let me ask you one other thing. If Mark, if only Mark Earley loses, you can say it's a bad candidate and a quirky election, but if the Republicans lose the legislature, which they've held for only about four years, I believe, and if they lose the attorney general's office where the National Republican Party are really pushing Kilgore, the Republican candidate for attorney general, then you have got some kind a national trend. What's your feeling on the legislature and the attorney general races?

FISKE: The legislature is going to become more Republican than it is now. It was only a couple years ago that Republicans got their first majority in the House of Delegates, which has 100 members. This year, because of redirecting and retirements, they may get 60 members. On the down ticket races, it's generally expected that Tim Kane who is...

SHIELDS: Democrat for lieutenant governor.

FISKE: Right, will probably get in on Warner's coattails, if nothing else. And in the AG race, Kilgore looks like he's going to be...

NOVAK: The Republican.

FISKE: ... able to -- yeah, Kilgore the Republican looks like he is going to be able to resist the coattails and win.

SHIELDS: Warren Fiske, thank you so much for being with us. It was very helpful. The GANG will be back with the "Outrage of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: And now for the "Outrage of the Week." In the days following the September 11 massacre of civilians, the airwaves and the newspapers repeatedly told us of military recruitment centers filled with young Americans eager and ready to join the Army, the Navy, Air Force and the Marine Corps. Not for the first time, the press had it wrong. In fact, with the nation under attack and the country's economy in recession, fewer Americans volunteered to join the United States military in September of 2001 than did one year earlier in September 2000 -- Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Amidst national peril, lame duck Ann Brown has fired a parting shot as the Clinton-appointed chairman of the Consumer Products Safety Commission. The commission is asking for the recall of 7.5 million Daisy air rifles, all because some kids violated safety rules. The dissent by commissioner Mary Sheila Gall makes clear that this was a typical political stunt by Chairman Brown. It is also an effort to take air rifles out of the hands of American boys on the way to a single-gender nation.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... the bizarre award. Go ahead.

CARLSON: Yes. Recently, Pat Robertson told viewers, quote, "we have not yet seen the Lord's judgment on America." I wonder what the Lord would think of Robertson's Freedom Gold company, partly owned by Liberia's President Charles Taylor. Besides torturing and gang raping anyone who criticizes his corrupt regime, Taylor has armed the Sierra Leone rebels, who in 1999 alone reaped some $75 million from diamond sales to Osama bin Laden. Robertson's aide told the "Post's" Colby King that he was just trying to spur economic activity and spread the gospel. What gospel would that be?

SHIELDS: E.J. Dionne.

DIONNE: The continuing outrage is that so few people have joined with postal workers in asking why big media people, Congress and their staffs were tested for anthrax, but postal workers were at the back of the line. Two in their ranks have died. We shy away from discussing the unfairness because if you talk about inequalities of class, you get accused of class warfare. Of course, nobody has anything against the good souls in the post office. Most of the time, we act as if they're not even there.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for the CAPITAL GANG. If you missed any part of this program, shame on you, but you can catch the replay at 11:00 p.m. Eastern.

And tomorrow at 6:30 p.m., an all new edition of CAPITAL GANG. Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS: Airport Insecurity."

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