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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Can Powell Achieve Peace?; Is Mideast Crisis Doing Damage to Bush's Presidency?; Should Cardinal Law Resign?

Aired April 13, 2002 - 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 a full CAPITAL GANG. That's Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.

Secretary of State Colin Powell's peace mission to the Middle East began with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rejecting the United States president's demand for an Israeli military withdrawal from the Palestinian territories.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Israel is conducting a war against the Palestinian infrastructure of terrorism. And it does hope to conclude this shortly. There can be no peace with terrorism.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I hope we can find a way to come into agreement on this point of the duration of the operations and get back to a track that will lead to a political settlement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Shortly after the Powell-Sharon meeting, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed herself and six Israeli civilians in Jerusalem. The meeting scheduled for today between Powell and Yasser Arafat was called off, but was rescheduled for Sunday, after the Palestinian leader issued this statement in Arabic. "President Arafat and the Palestinian leadership condemn all kinds of terrorist activity and terrorism against civilians as means to achieve political gains. We strongly condemn violent operations that target Israeli civilians, especially the last operation in Jerusalem.

We also strong condemn the massacre and the killing Israeli occupation forces have and are still committing against Palestinian civilians and refugees."

Kate O'Beirne, will the mission of Colin Powell achieve anything?

KATE O'BEIRNE, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Mark, I think it's going to achieve to something, but I think there's a much better chance that it's going to achieve a lot of troubling things than getting back on track to any peace process, which of course, is foolish at this stage.

He could achieve isolating Israel by not permitting Israel to defend itself against terrorism, as we did in Afghanistan, as though terrorists who killed Jews somehow shouldn't be met with the same fate as terrorists who kill Americans. He could achieve a rehabilitating Arafat if the United States actually declares Arafat indispensable, why should he ever make a deal with Israel? And it could achieve letting the Arab states off the hook.

Not only is there no sign whatsoever in response to the president's quote, they're willing to lean on Iran or Syria who corresponds and promotes all this terrorism, but they still call these so-called martyrs legitimate and necessary.

So it could achieve plenty of things that would be a major problem.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, Colin Powell is a unique political figure, the most popular political figure in the United States, a plausible candidate for president before he decided not to run, a general. And yet, this is the toughest mission that he's ever had certainly diplomatically.

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": It is, and with due apology, because of comments like Kate has made, which we find in the Republican Party. We find in this administration, denigrating the peace process. And that's the only real long-range hope for Israel.

When you have Israel, a client state of the United States, because that's what it is. They can't exist without the United States, with the heavy military support that General Sharon contemptuously telling Powell, "No, we're not going to pull back." The president saying to pull back without delay, to pull back now. Israel saying, "Go to hell." And really, nothing that General Powell can do to say no to it.

It is a very disheartening situation for an American. And I'm at least glad that he is sitting down with Arafat, who else is he going to talk to, even though the Israelis, with their arrogance said no, Secretary of State Powell, you shouldn't sit down with Yasser Arafat.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, Bob Novak does make a point. The United States is exposed to us having no power, certainly very little influence over the Sharon administration certainly.

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Right, I mean, President Bush has wagged his finger and repeatedly said, "stop" and as if to a child not listening and doesn't know where to go. What else, you know, he's expended his capital and Sharon simply hasn't listened. And this makes the United States look weak, which something the president truly, truly abhors.

But Powell has tried to weave a line here, because both sides, at this point, are terribly wrong and doing terrible things. He said while Israel's reaction might be justified, it's politically untenable. There has to be some political solution offered or there's no hope and this will never end.

And so he has to negotiate. Arafat is a horrid person, but there's no one else to negotiate with. What else can he do? Otherwise, all the suicide bombers do have the veto power over any talks going forward.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, your own take?

AL HUNT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, I think there is a dilemma here in that Sharon and Arafat are the two leaders of the two warring factions. And I think neither one is capable of putting together anything that really is even temporary. I think Arafat has proven he's untrustworthy. He's timid.

Sharon, why is the administration shocked by Sharon? All they had to do is look at 20 years ago. Sharon believes in brute force. That's all he believes in. And I think -- we -- Bob and I interviewed Joe Biden earlier today.

SHIELDS: Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

HUNT: Chairman -- who I think had an interesting -- now he said you need some kind of a conference, you know, an international conference. The United States has to lead it. It has to have other Arab states. There has to be another venue. And this administration has to be, not just tactical, they have to come up with some strategy here.

And one of the need issues, maybe tactical is, how long does Colin Powell stay? Does he wait until he gets something? I think the secretary stayed over there for days and weeks and weeks, probably becomes counterproductive.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, you know, it was almost Clintonian this without delay that the Israeli army was without delay, the president said, he wanted them to withdraw.

O'BEIRNE: I think the president's instincts are in favor of his Bush doctrine, which is to permit Israel to defend itself against terrorism, but he's being pulled in a couple of different directions. There are some key differences between these two leaders, Arafat and Sharon. Sharon has a free press. Sharon has an opposition politicians.

Sharon, the other day, was heckled in his own parliament by Arab members of his parliament. It's not just Sharon. The Israeli public overwhelmingly supports what he's doing in defense is Israel. Arafat enjoys none of those. No free press, no opposition. Palestinians taking out in the streets, if there's -- and execute if they're see as in any way cooperating with Israel. So they're really not similarly situated leaders.

NOVAK: Let me just make two...

HUNT: But you certainly agree that Arafat has the support of the Palestinian people right now, particularly after Sharon's done to him?

NOVAK: All right, let me just make two quick points. And that is that the Palestinians are not the al Qaeda. That is something that Kate said and that's the Israeli line. It is not true. Yossi Baelin (ph), the former Justice (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of Israel said it's entirely (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Joe Biden in an interview said it was a different thing.

The other question is what happened in the West Bank town of Jenin? The Israeli -- the Palestinians say there's 200 -- there's about 200 Palestinians dead. The Israelis say they were killed in combat. The Palestinians say it was a massacre. We don't know because the Israelis will not let any international reporters in to take a look at it. That is something that I think is reprehensible. And why doesn't the U.S. government say at least, let's take a look. Let's see who's telling the truth?

CARLSON: You know, the -- there's not moral equivalence between Sharon and Arafat. Sharon doesn't, you know go after civilians on purpose as Arafat does. Nonetheless, if there's a massacre in Jenin, if that's what we find out, it is going to further erode the Israelis moral superiority, which they are clinging to tenuously.

HUNT: Well no one, I don't think, has argued there's a moral equivalency between Sharon and Arafat. What there is, however is, I think an equivalency in the sense that neither one of them is willing to do what has to be done to make progress here, to try to stop this carnage that's going on. That is the equivalency, not a moral equivalency.

SHIELDS: Let me just say, I think that we saw exposed this week was the United States interest and Israeli interest are not identical. We want a Palestinian state. And we're committed to that. And we have been. And what the Israeli army did under Sharon this week was to destroy the civil infrastructure.

Now when you start destroying the population statistics building, the education ministry building, I mean, you're not talking about a military occupation. You're talking about eliminating any possibility of a state. And that's the last word.

The gang of five will be back with American political reaction to the Middle East crisis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. George W. Bush's spokesman separated the president from Secretary Powell's Middle East mission.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And the secretary's gone to maximum flexibility from the president to use his discretion to do what can be done to achieve peace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The Powell mission was criticized in a Capitol Hill speech by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FMR. ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Until last week, I was absolutely certain that the United States would adhere to its principles and lead the free world to a decisive victory. Today, I too have my concerns. I'm concerned that when it comes to terror directed against Israel, the moral and strategic clarity that is so crucial for victory is being lost.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, who invited Netanyahu to the Senate event, is skeptical of the Arafat statement. And it meeting with Secretary Powell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: I think the statement you just referred to is essentially irrelevant. It doesn't appear to say a whole lot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had a recommendation for President Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN JOSEPH BIDEN (D), FOREIGN RELATIONS CHMN.: Do in effect what his father did, and essentially establish and call for new international conference like Madrid 10 years ago, because something drastic has to happen to get us off this dime that we're on now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, is the Mideast crisis threatening to damage seriously the presidency of George Bush?

NOVAK: I think what his problem is is that some -- that a great deal of the conservative base is opposing him, is critical of him. And Bill Bennett, conservative sage, went on the air on CNN Thursday morning. Said the president's policy was incoherent. That means, of course, it wasn't for pro-Israel.

Now down in Brazil, Al Gore's campaign manager said -- used the same word in the afternoon. She said it was -- is incoherent. I think this is a call for political courage by the president to do what is the right thing, to try to I think perhaps follow Senator Biden's advice, to take a position of trying to bring peace in the Middle East and not worry whether he's going to lose Bill Bennett and Jerry Bower and company.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, Benjamin Netanyahu up on Capitol Hill with those senators look like Beatles groupies, for goodness sakes.

HUNT: It was Jon Kyl and Joe Lieberman. And it was outrageous. The Secretary of State was in the Middle East. And the Senate leaders on a mission from the president, the Senate leaders invited somebody up to basically undercut everything the Secretary was trying to do.

Now I think you can criticize whatever Powell's doing and criticize whatever Bush is doing. But in the middle of the trip, to invite somebody from another country up there to do that, I think really, really was just absolutely unacceptable, as Mr. Biden said earlier today.

Bob, the problem is the policy is incoherent. Whether you're coming from the right or coming from the left, whether you're supporting Israel, whether you think there -- you're supporting the Palestinians, who knows what the Bush policy is?

Ari Fleischer basically said, "Hey, it's Colin Powell over there. It's not us." I mean, whatever happened to this don't mess with Texas. I mean what I say and I say what I mean. I mean, this guy seems lost. And it appears that the only policies were against terrorists, were against Saddam, were against bad guys. And unfortunately, the world won't quite conform that easy, nice formulation.

CARLSON: You know, Mark, the reason the policy is incoherent is because there are too many moving parts in this situation, so that good versus evil doesn't work. And as Bush is wagging his finger at Sharon, because he needs to pull back to have any political solution at all, and to have any sort of Palestinian state with sewage and you know, water and water running and anything else. But he would be doing the same thing Sharon is doing. And in his heart, this guy who's cowboys versus Indians, America versus the al Qaeda, would be, you know, sending the tanks in himself.

So it lends itself to an incoherence. And to say that Powell is freelancing is, I think, the worst thing that happened this week, as far as the administration. To be cutting him loose, so that if he fails, his -- you know, he's not going to come back with a great deal in hand, I think, is a terrible lack of courage.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, the criticism I hear over and over again from conservatives is that the president lacks moral clarity now, that he exhibited moral clarity from September 11 forward, but in the Israeli-Palestinian crisis showdown that he has somehow forsaken moral clarity. Is that the indictment?

O'BEIRNE: Well, I think one thing reflected in his terribly approval ratings is the public welcoming the moral clarity he laid out when he laid out the Bush doctrine. I mean, it's actually not that difficult. We have to fight terrorism, countries that support and harbor terrorists should share their fate. I mean, it's a fairly simple test.

And I think he himself takes some pride. And I think the public likes it on the kind of guy who says what I mean and mean what I say. Now this week, he met with members on -- of the leadership and said to them that he's, these days, being more nuanced than he'd like to be. And sometimes you have to be careful because nuance can be just another word for unprincipled. I have no problem with Netanyahu as a private citizen, former prime minister, maybe future, coming over here and meeting with senators and going in the media...

NOVAK: It was disgraceful.

O'BEIRNE: And making (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: I tell you what, I expect from baby, but what -- any kind of outrage, but for the Republican senators who sit there and see the president trashed and not say a word in his defense. You know, I don't mind...

O'BEIRNE: He didn't trash the president.

NOVAK: I don't mind Donna Brazile and Al Hunt...

O'BEIRNE: He didn't trash the president.

NOVAK: ...and Margaret -- he criticized the policy. And Margaret Carlson and Al Hunt calling the president's policy incoherent. But what bothers me is when conservatives are taking the Israeli line. They're letting the Israeli government sandbag the war against terrorism. That was the big danger from September 11 that the policy of the war against terrorism would turn into an alliance with Sharon.

CARLSON: Wait, but Bob, I -- Bush has moral clarity, but moral clarity in this situation doesn't work. This is a political situation. That's why the policy isn't coherent.

O'BEIRNE: There's no reason why it shouldn't work. We should have a worldwide -- and the president laid out a worldwide policy about terrorists. There is never negotiation with them. You can never have a political solution or you'll have more of the same. And we certainly don't want to say that terrorists who kill Jews somehow don't meet with the same fate as terrorists who kill Americans.

NOVAK: Do you think al Qaeda and the Palestinian terrorists are the same -- exactly the same?

O'BEIRNE: I think they've both used the same means that fit into the Bush doctrine of making war on civilians for political ends.

HUNT: So you think the president reneged on his policy when he called on Sharon to withdraw?

O'BEIRNE: I think he is, yes, made an inexplicable exception to the Bush doctrine.

HUNT: So then it's incoherent, the policy is?

O'BEIRNE: Yes.

HUNT: Great.

SHIELDS: Last word, Kate O'Beirne. Al Hunt. Next on CAPITAL GANG, the cardinal doesn't quit.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Bernard Cardinal Law announced he will not submit to demands that he resign as Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston because he protected priests who have sexually abused children. The cardinal admitted "we were too focused on the individual components of each case, when we should have been more focused on the protection of children....This would have changed our emphasis on secrecy as part of legal settlements.

We now realize both within the church and in society at large that secrecy often inhibits healing and places others at risk."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS MENINO, MAYOR, BOSTON: The cardinal's made that decision. And I think it's time for us to get, you know, to get on with it and get on with supporting, like I've said, the pastors, the priests and the victims.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Part of Cardinal Law's announcement sentiment for his resignation was rising among prominent Catholic laymen in Boston.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS O'NEILL, FMR. MASS. LT. GOVERNOR: It's really incumbent upon him to step aside and allow this church to breathe easier and to kind of reclaim itself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, what is the impact of Cardinal Law's refusal to resign?

CARLSON: I think the faithful in Boston are astonished that he's hanging maybe for only one more weekend. Cardinal Law thinks he above the law. And it is just astonishing to see him hang on like Nixon or like Enron, and the Pope behaving like Arthur Andersen, silent, complicit. He should -- if he won't resign, he should be removed, because now we find out about Father Shanley this week with just adds, you know, fire to this in that Father Shanley, he -- Cardinal Law might as well have procured little boys for Father Shanley because he was sent to California without telling the parish that anything had ever happened.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak?

NOVAK: I thought, I don't know what you were listening to or reading, but I thought he apologized. He admitted that the truth was in here, that he was in error. Whether he should resign or not, I don't think him as a lieutenant government of Massachusetts. It's a political office. I think that's something with a -- the concern of the Vatican and maybe even Cardinal Law and God, but there's a lot of people who don't like him because he's a conservative, because he's pro-life. And they got other agendas in going after him.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne?

CARLSON: The church is a political institution in this case.

O'BEIRNE: It's not that people were expecting Cardinal Law to always exercise perfect judgment. There are often lot of people who think, and even including pro-life traditional Orthodox Catholics that Cardinal Law has been caught lying about how the archdiocese handled these cases in the past. And even now, there's a fear that he just doesn't get it. He thinks maybe better record keeping on personnel in the Boston archdiocese would be helpful.

Well, the 800 pages in Father Shanley's personnel file stunned the public when it was made public. There's been plenty of record keeping.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt?

HUNT: Kate's absolutely right. Cardinal Law's behavior was immoral, if not criminal. This was a pervert priest, a person who advocated man-child...

SHIELDS: Father Shanley.

HUNT: ...sexual relations. Father Shanley was. And there was a cover-up, which Cardinal Law, I think was complicit in. And I think Margaret Carlson's right too. It's only a matter of time. Cardinal Law cannot survive. The question is whether it's weeks or whether it's months.

SHIELDS: Father Paul Shanley was at the founding meeting at the North American Man Boy Love Association, a group that defends homosexual relations between adult males and young boys. If he had given a sermon endorsing the ordination of women, he would've been called on the carpet and probably lost his parish. But I mean, the fact that this man -- this depraved man, probably the most depraved man to wear to collar, I hope, in this country in its history went on and continued to function and be moved to parish to parish is indefensible...

HUNT: Letters of resignation from Cardinal Law.

SHIELDS: That's right.

CARLSON: And Mark, in this case, it is a political institution. It's the crime, the sin, and the cover-up.

SHIELDS: And the fact that you forget the children. That's what has happened consistently in all this movement around is to get the children.

NOVAK: Well, he did mention the children in that...

SHIELDS: Yes, but I'm talking about the whole process of 25 years of this handling this.

NOVAK: Well, something went wrong. Something went wrong.

SHIELDS: Yes. We'll be back with a CAPITAL GANG classic, pondering who would blink first, Milosevic or NATO on Novak? No...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Three years ago this weekend, predominantly American NATO forces were bombing Serbia, seeking to force Serbian strong man Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw from Kosovo. This is what the CAPITAL GANG had to say on April 10, 1999. Our guest was Congressman David Bonior of Michigan, then the House Democratic whip.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNT: As NATO entered its third week, Slobodan Milosevic said he ordered unilateral cease-fire in Kosovo. Kate, who's going to blink first, Milosevic or NATO?

O'BEIRNE: I think at some point Milosevic might well be damaged enough and have, unfortunately, achieved much of what he wanted in Kosovo, that he comes up with some sort of a face saving negotiating stance for NATO, who may have wearied of this. And it might wind up in some sort of a negotiation.

SHIELDS: My bets would now on be on NATO rather than Milosevic. And I really do think that the punishment being administered has to take its toll. I think Kate makes a good point about Serbian television, which of course, has been the exclusive propaganda tool and Milosevic.

NOVAK: So they were negotiating with him three weeks ago, but he's a thug today. All the information I have is that the Serbian people, who were very divided about him, now are supporting him because they're outraged about this bombing. I don't know what's going to happen, but I would bet that NATO blinks first.

HUNT: And I think we also may have overestimated Milosevic. This guy's the thug. He doesn't have the support of the people the way, you know, Ho Chi Minh, as bad as it may have been, did 30 years ago.

REP DAVID BONIOR (D), MICHIGAN: There were some mistakes that were made initially, I think in this endeavor, but I think generally, we've come together quite well now. We've gotten rid of the communications. We've gotten rid of transportation for the Serb troops.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, did some of our colleagues on this panel overestimate the popularity, the stature, the staying power of Slobodan Milosevic?

HUNT: It pains me, Mark, but I have to say yes, some did. And I'll tell you, I think that Bill Clinton and Dick Holbrooke, Madeleine Albright, Wes Clark and NATO deserve credit. They did not blink. And Milosevic is gone. They didn't blink. And when some of their some, you know, previous President Bush, Cheney and pal did blink. And I think Europe's a lot better off.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak?

NOVAK: Well, I'm wrong occasionally. I was wrong on that occasion. I overestimated Milosevic. I didn't really believe you could win a war just through air power, without putting U.S. troops in. And that was an interesting precedent and one that maybe is going to have dire consequences for the future when we rely entirely on air power.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne?

O'BEIRNE: I certainly didn't think even then that Milosevic enjoyed the undying support of the people. But since then, I've learned plenty. When Bob Novak agrees, you know, on foreign policy, I'm wrong. So I've taken -- I've learned.

CARLSON: Well, there's no agreement tonight. So well, the thug...

O'BEIRNE: In fact of being right.

CARLSON: You know, the thug blinked and former U.M. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke has said Bosnia should be a model for how to go forward that multilateralism, which this administration rejects for the most part, is the way to go.

HUNT: Nation-building, yes.

CARLSON: Yes.

SHIELDS: Last word, Margaret Carlson. We'll be back with the second half of CAPITAL GANG. Georgia Republican state chairman Ralph Reed is our newsmaker of the week, discussing religious conservative support for the state of Israel. Beyond the beltway looks at New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's first 100 days. And our outrage of the week. That's all after the latest news following these momentous messages.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Our newsmaker of the week is conservative Republican operative Ralph Reed. Ralph Reed, age 40, residence, Duluth, Georgia. Religion, Presbyterian. B.A. degree from University of Georgia. Ph.D. in history from Emory University. Executive director of the Christian Coalition, 1989 to 1997. Founded Century Strategies, a lobbying and campaign management firm, 1997. Elected chairman of the Georgia Republican Party the year 2001.

Al Hunt sat down with Ralph Reed earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNT: Ralph, the greatest support for Israel in America, other than from Jews, comes from evangelical Christians. Is this primarily a scriptural or a biblical basis?

RALPH REED, FMR. EXECUTIVE DIR. CHRISTIAN COALITION: No, I think there's a number of reasons. I mean, number it's humanitarian. After the Holocaust, after World War II, I think there was a broad recognition, particularly deep in the Christian community, that there had to be a place where Jews could go, where they could be free from persecution.

I think the second is geostrategic. Israel is a democracy. Israel shares our democratic ideals and the notion of represented government. And I think the third is the unique role that Israel has played in the Jewish and Christian faith. So I don't think it's any one thing.

HUNT: Is there a feeling among many evangelicals that the West Bank or Judea and Samaria, as some call it, it is the land of Israel, is the land of Isaac, and that there's a biblical basis for that?

REED: Right.

HUNT: And the existence of the state of Israel is part of the prophecy of...

REED: Right. Evangelicals in the United States have a fairly expansive view of the sovereignty of God. And they don't believe that whatever negotiations or machinations are going on because of diplomacy or geopolitics are going to affect what God wants to do. So I think it's a bit of a caricature to suggest that the reason why evangelicals are strongly for Israel...

HUNT: Yes.

REED: Is because of their notion of the end times. That may be true for some. I've not really found it to be true of the vast majority.

HUNT: This support, the solid support is greater than it was several decades ago. Was there a catalyst or something that produced the change?

REED: I think a lot of it has been the general improvement in relations between Jews and Christians in the United States. I think that's been a big factor. Millions of Christians from the United States go to Israel and visit. And once you see it, if you've stood on the Golan Heights, or you've stood, you know, by the border with Jordan, or you've visited the West Bank, it's a whole different understanding of the true security dangers that Israel faces.

HUNT: You cited the generally improved relations between Christians and Jews. There are exceptions though. Tim Lahay has criticized Jews. There was the famous comment of Bailey Smith, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention some years ago, that God doesn't hear the prayer of Jews. Is there some dichotomy here between support for Israel and feelings about Judaism, at least among some?

REED: I don't think so. I really don't.

HUNT: There has been some criticism of Islam coming from some evangelicals. And basically, citing the gospel of John. They say if they don't believe in a God where Jesus was his son, it's a different God.

REED: Right.

HUNT: By that rationale, couldn't the same charge be leveled against Jews?

REED: Well, I think again, in the case of the relationship between Christians and Muslims, there is a lot of commonality. I have never felt that the problem in relations between Christians and Muslims was the faiths. I felt the only problems were any perversions of those faiths.

The president's spoken very eloquently about that. And I think that's right.

HUNT: The president has been a strong supporter of Israel. In recent days, however, he has been much tougher on Prime Minister Sharon, insisting that he must pull back. Does the president risk alienating his conservative Christian base if he persists?

REED: I'm not sure I agree with the characterization of his posture. I think he has been very tough on Arafat. He has probably stated as explicitly and transparently as any president of our lifetimes that Arafat had an opportunity to be a legitimate leader of Palestinian aspirations and has failed utterly to do so.

He has also said to the Prime Minister Sharon that while he understands there are legitimate security interests, that going as far as they have at this time is counterproductive to both sides. And thirdly, he had engaged moderate Arab states.

Not only do I not feel that that would jeopardize his support among American Christians, I think it's exactly the right policy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, does Ralph Reed's support of the president's Middle East policy really represent conservatives, especially conservative Christian position?

HUNT: I'm having trouble getting over the fact that Ralph Reed's only 40-years old. SHIELDS: I know.

HUNT: Mark. No, I think Ralph is more politically connected and shrewder than some others. I think there is simmering resentment in the Christian conservative movement about George Bush the last week or two. Karl Rove said the reason that the 19 -- the 2000 election was so tight was because we didn't turn out enough Christian conservatives. I think that that's going to be a factor as George Bush waives his policy and pronouncements in the Middle East now.

SHIELDS: Voting issue though, Bob, for Christian conservatives?

NOVAK: I don't think it is. I think that Ralph Reed probably better represents the Christian conservatives than Gary Bauer does. I think particularly if the president decides he is going to really say to the Israelis you cannot continue this brutal policy, choosing -- given a choice between the president and Israel, I think the Christian conservatives go with the president.

SHIELDS: Margaret?

CARLSON: I'm sure it's a voting issue. Ralph Reed does a very good job of papering over the problem. I think Tom Delay in House is more representative of how the right feels about Bush putting a red light up to Sharon.

SHIELDS: But Kate O'Beirne, when Gary Bauer speaks, it almost sounds with an Old Testament fervor and intensity, as though there is a religious component to his...

O'BEIRNE: Ralph is not representing a idiosyncratic view. The American public overall supports Israel. A great majority of Republicans support Israel, most of whom are neither committed evangelicals or neo-Coms (ph) because they think it's critical we stick with the only democracy in the Middle East. They sympathize with the Israelis. And since 9/11, I think they think Israel recognizes fighting our war against terrorism.

SHIELDS: Last word, Kate O'Beirne. Next on CAPITAL GANG, beyond the beltway looks at Mayor Bloomberg's first 100 days with "New York Daily News" city hall reporter, David Saltonstall.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Beyond the beltway looks at an early milestone for New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg. What did he do during his first 100 days?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, MAYOR, NEW YORK: I think the answer is got ready for the next 1000. People always want to rush to the end game, but the most important thing is to lay the basis, the framework, build the infrastructure, get the tools in place and then I guess sit back and let the people that you pick, actually do the job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Attracting more attention was a full page newspaper ad by a group seeking decriminalize marijuana. It featured Michael Bloomberg's answer when asked a year ago whether he ever smoked marijuana. "You bet I did. And I enjoy it."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLOOMBERG: I am a believer that we should enforce the laws. And I do not think that decriminalizing marijuana is a good idea. I never lie. So somebody asked me a question, I told them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Joining us now from New York is David Saltonstall, a city hall bureau chief for "The New York Daily News." Thanks for coming in, David.

DAVID SALTONSTALL, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Nice to be here.

SHIELDS: David, if the pro-marijuana ad is not the most memorable single event in Mayor Bloomberg's first 100 days, what is?

SALTONSTALL: Well, it might not be the most memorable, but it was certainly the most entertaining. You know, here's a politician who was ready to concede that not only did he inhale, but that he enjoyed doing it. So I think he underscored that he is, you know, he's not an average politician. And at the end of the day, I think he probably won more votes than lost here in New York City.

But you know, people talk a lot about tone. And I think one thing that got a lot of talk is when he first arrived at city hall, the first thing he did is declare that no one was going to get a private office. He cleared out a large, sort of, underused hearing room and essentially turned it into a bull pen, a very open style office. He's got all his deputy mayors in there, all of his senior staff. And I think it speaks to this sort of open style of management that he's always believed in, and I think open style of politics as well.

You know, this is a person, who at this point, has broken bread with just about every ethnic group in this town. He celebrated Martin Luther King Day at Reverend Sharpton's headquarters, which you know, a man that Rudy Giuliani never met with.

So you know, there seems to be an openness about him, which you know, in the first 100 days is certainly very remarked upon.

SHIELDS: OK, a kinder, gentler Rudy. Bob Novak?

NOVAK: David, tell me if I've got this right that Giuliani came in to make New York livable again, to crack down on crime, to make sure that the productive elements of society wouldn't be discriminated against. And Mayor Bloomberg, riding on that wave, has come in to make the city nicer. Is that about right? SALTONSTALL: Well, I mean, I think you do have to realize that that city that Rudy Giuliani inherited was very different. I mean, crime was out of control. One of out seven people were on welfare. So you know, I think to a degree, the city may be did need a kick in the pants. And it got one. You know, on a daily basis for eight years.

But you know, this is a different city now in a lot of ways as a result of September 11. It's still very much sort of a wounded city. And you know, I don't think anybody really needs a kick in the pants right now. I think they need to know that there's a sensible manager there who is, you know, dealing with problems and is trying to solve them as best he can.

He's certainly, you know, not backing down at all on Rudy Giuliani's crime policies, his welfare policies. So you know, yes, it's a little nicer, but it's also much the same.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson?

CARLSON: David, he seems to have gotten the atmospherics right in the way that Bush got them right after Clinton, the billionaire who takes the subway. He doesn't seem to be in our face everyday. But isn't he on a high wire in trying to get control of the schools, which is just, you know, who can really fix the schools? He's going to -- if he does get control, he is going to responsible. And who in his right mind would want to take that responsibility?

SALTONSTALL: Well, I think a lot of people have certainly asked that question. I mean, school control is something that every mayor, since Ed Koch, has tried to get. It has just been politically unfeasible in that, you know, he needs to get the approval of the state legislature, which is always a very difficult place to figure politically.

So you know, he is asking for a huge problem. And I think the best guess now is that he's probably going to get it. And then the hard part will begin. You know, so we'll just see. I mean, he seems to think that it just needs better management and freer management. And if he's right, then you know, God bless him.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne?

O'BEIRNE: In addition to schools, and anybody's who watched education reform efforts now for 20 years realizes turning around schools is far easier said than done, the mayor seems surprised he said at the ceremonial duties that came with the office, that are very time consuming. He seemed to be surprised that Albany had so much to say about how the city is run.

Has this sort of naivete been much on -- in evidence in his first 100 days? I mean, is he really learning on the job?

SALTONSTALL: I think there's clearly a steep learning curve. But you know, I think he has shown that he's able to absorb and synthesize an enormous amount of information. You know, among other things, the city has a $5 billion deficit that he's got to fill, which is a huge gap. And I think a lot of people are worried that he wasn't going to be able to get his arms around that as quickly as he needed to.

And while he still has a long way to go, he, you know, developed a plan which seems to have gotten a fair amount of support from many different quarters, including, you know, Wall Street credit agencies, which never take a very positive view of deficits like that.

HUNT: David, let me just ask you. We've touched on the contrast with Rudy Giuliani. I think that Mike Bloomberg's done a good job of correcting some of the excesses. He's not going to bilk the taxpayers for Yankee -- new Yankee Stadium, the outreach you talked about earlier, fiscal discipline.

But Rudy Giuliani is still a presence in New York. Tell me how you think the Bloomberg/Giuliani relationship is going to evolve the next couple of years?

SALTONSTALL: I think there's a suspicion that within, you know, a few months, maybe a year, Rudy Giuliani finally weighs in on what Mike Bloomberg has done. And in a lot of ways, Mike Bloomberg has rolled some things back.

I mean, you mentioned the stadiums. There was another business here about a courthouse that Rudy wanted to turn into a museum. And Bloomberg has decided it's going to be a school. So these are sort of pet projects that Bloomberg has turned around.

And you know, I can see Giuliani having some fairly choice words for the mayor. But right now, he seems to be holding his tongue. I think Bloomberg is trying his best not to offend him in any way. You know, he often praises Giuliani as, you know, having left the city much better than when he found it.

So he's walking a very fine line with him. But I think right now, he's still up on that tightrope.

SHIELDS: David Saltonstall, thank you so much for being with us. The gang of five will be back with the outrage of the week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Now for the outrage of the week. Representative James Traficant, the nine term Democrat from Youngstown, Ohio, who was convicted this week on 10 felony counts, including taking kickbacks from his own staff and gifts from businessmen now faces a long prison sentence.

Republicans, who invited Traficant to the 2000 convention that nominated George W. Bush and rewarded him with appropriations goodies and generally sucked up to him, have lost their moral compass and their moral voices about Traficant resigning from the House.

Dick Gephardt's called for it. Newt Gingrich would've. He wouldn't have gone mute on this one. Bob Novak? NOVAK: Monday is April 15, income tax day. And that is a perennial outrage, based on the graduated income tax first proposed by Karl Marx. The federal taxism forces people to make stupid decisions and waste their time and money. It is unfair, depresses economic growth, and benefits only the accountants.

The secondary outrage, after more than seven years of Republican controlled Congress, not one step, not one, has been taken toward a radial reform of our miserable tax system.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson?

CARLSON: I pay my taxes proudly, Bob. The Citizens Against Government Waste issued their oinkers, that's as in pig, awards this week. Conrad Burns gets the "sheer waste" award for his $400,000 grab for the Montana Sheep Institute. Richard Shelby gets the monumental waste award for $2 million to clean a Birmingham statue. The "flipping the bird" award goes to the senator of the same name for sending an astonishing $388 million to West Virginia. And that includes $2 million to the Center on Obesity. And for nailing $15 million for senators named after him, the narcissist award goes to Senator Fritz Hollings. Shame on all.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne?

O'BEIRNE: Well said, Bob. Your tax dollars at work. As you finish your tax returns and race to the post office Monday, rest assured that the so-called rich pay more than their fair share. According to the Associative Press, the top 1 percent of earners pay a third of taxes, although their share of taxable income is only 19 percent.

The top 5 percent paid 55 percent of taxes and would include couples making $120,000. Like a school principal married to a cop who works some overtime, some members of this gang must be thrilled. The so-called rich are being soaked.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt?

HUNT: Mark, I'm proud to pay my taxes, too. And I wish they'd be soaked a little more, Kate.

NOVAK: You can pay mine.

HUNT: And Bob, I know you're proud to be an American, too. My old friend and ex "Time" magazine reporter Dave Beckwith, now the press secretary to Texas Senatorial candidate John Cornan blasted the Lone Star state's Democratic ticket. Hispanic Tony Sanchez for governor, Anglo John Sharp for lieutenant governor, and African- American Ron Kirk for senator. Beckwith said that's a racial quota system.

He conveniently ignored that these nominees were selected by the voters in primaries. Of course, more than a few Texas Republicans think these serious offices ought to be reserved for middle aged white guys. SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for the CAPITAL GANG.

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