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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Do Partisan Politics Hurt Mideast Peace Efforts?; Will Five More Years of Musharraf Ensure Pakistani Support of U.S. War?

Aired May 4, 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.
ANNOUNCER: From Washington: THE CAPITAL GANG.

MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Margaret Carlson.

Our guest is that National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman, Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia. Good to have you back, Tom.

REP. TOM DAVIS (R), VIRGINIA: Great to be here.

SHIELDS: Thank you. Secretary of State Colin Powell, after meeting representatives of the U.N., the European Union and Russia, announced plans for an international peace conference on the Middle East this summer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We committed ourselves to the promotion of serious and accelerated negotiations toward a settlement.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm optimistic we're making good progress. After all, a week ago there were -- Yasser Arafat was boarded up in his building in Ramallah -- a building full of evidently German peace protesters, and all kinds of people. And they're now out.

He's now free to show leadership, to lead the world...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Both the House and the Senate passed resolutions emphatically putting Congress squarely on the side of Israel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: The intention of this resolution is to put the Senate of the United States on record in support of Israel's right to self-defense.

REP. TOM DELAY, (R-TX), MAJORITY WHIP: Democracies must never negotiate with terrorists. And for that reason, Yasser Arafat strikes many of us as a highly unreliable vessel to carry the hope for peace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, will Congressional preference for Israel undercut in any way the coming peace conference?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Mark, there was no surprise there. It's just a sideshow that has almost no effect at all. Bush did get them to -- Tom DeLay to wait a week. But it has no relationship to what's going on.

Secretary of State Powell is the one who is taking the lead on this, and I think the Bush White House is letting him so that if it fails, they're not, you know, they're not as responsible. They're playing down expectations.

And yesterday at the State Department, they couldn't figure out what to call it. Is it a meeting? Is it a conference? Is it a confab? Is it a bird, a plane, Spider-Man?

They didn't want to even name what it is. And there's going to be a lot of talk over the shape of the table and who's at it.

And Sharon coming this week saying he has a really, really, really big plan I think is also going to have an effect on how this conference moves along.

SHIELDS: But, Bob Novak, doesn't the resolution -- the resolution on Capitol Hill -- take at least one arrow out of the President's quiver in dealing with Israel. If he's asking for any carrots or sticks.

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": I think it undermines it. I think it is very negative on this peace conference, which I think is a good thing. I think if people do take it seriously, there's nothing else going on. And it's the only hope.

They talked Congressman DeLay out of bringing it up in the House, and then Tom Daschle, in the -- he's a Democrat, you know, Margaret -- in the Senate, he came up with one. And, yeah, they asked him to put it aside, the administration did.

He wouldn't do it. And DeLay said, hell, if the Democrats are going to do it, I'm going to do it. And they're all playing politics. There's no Palestinian lobby.

The oil lobby is insignificant in this case. And I think the President's -- the President has to show a lot of guts to support Colin Powell in this conference to get the kind of deal that's necessary for peace.

SHIELDS: Tom Davis, doesn't the United States involvement, beyond the political considerations, doesn't its involvement raise the prospects of peace, or improve the prospects of a lasting truce in that area? DAVIS: Well I think it helps. Also bring the European Community, the international community in. If you leave this up to Arafat and Sharon, you'll never get a deal. There has got to be international interest and pressure on...

SHIELDS: Why is that? Why will there never be a deal between them?

DAVIS: I don't -- first of all, I don't think Arafat can deliver anything in the Arab world on his own, or even with his Palestinians. You're going to need the support of Saudi Arabia and other countries, I think, to help them out.

And same with Prime Minister Sharon. He's got his own domestic pressures. And negotiations have buried two prime ministers politically over there before when they've come to agreements.

You need international pressure at this point on both sides.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt. This does open up the United States -- open into a dollar commitment, doesn't it? I mean, as far as any peace or resolution? Is the Congress going to be willing to vote that kind of appropriations?

AL HUNT, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, that's way down the, way down the road, Mark. I mean, I think first -- to go to your first question, it seems to be a parlor game in this town, who can undercut Colin Powell the most, whether it's the House, whether it's the Senate, whether it's the Defense Department, whether it's the Bush White House.

Today's "New York Times" -- one top official in the Bush administration anonymously said this is just Colin's ministerial meeting and just sort of dismissed it. That certainly doesn't help.

Tom DeLay says that democracies don't negotiate with terrorists. Nonsense, do all the time. I mean, that's why John Danforth is in Sudan right now. They're terrorists. I mean, you deal with the real world.

Tom Davis is absolutely right, though. It can only be done, some kind of peace is only possible over there with an active U.S. involvement.

And I think there's two things we have to do there, Mark. I mean, number one, we have to try to serve as a broker, who -- the only country that has the power and the respect to be trusted by both sides.

And we have to protect Israel's interest, because God knows, the Arabs won't do it and the Europeans won't do it. And protecting Israel's interests is ending that settlements policy, making them end that settlements policy and not backing Sharon brute force only policy.

NOVAK: And Al, there's another big spot (ph), Al, that obviously Sharon and people to the right of him like Netanyahu want to say that Arafat is irrelevant. And that's been the theme that has been picked up on.

In the Congress, we had a sound bite of my good friend Tom DeLay saying that you can't deal with Arafat. The President, on the other hand -- President Bush is saying he has to lead. He has to -- so that's a big difference.

But that is not the Israeli line that the President is taking when he says Arafat has to lead, because the Israelis are saying, hey, he's a terrorist and we can't deal with him.

DAVIS: Well, Arafat is more relevant now than he's ever been. He is, because of...

HUNT: His popularity is...

DAVIS: ... exactly, right. You have to deal with him now.

SHIELDS: And Margaret Carlson, Radio Israel announced on Saturday that the meetings, that the conference would be held in Turkey. Any significance to that?

CARLSON: Well, Turkey may be the only one on our side in Iraq, and is the country with Muslims that we can kind of deal with. So that may be the reason for that.

NOVAK: I just want to say one thing that the -- this was also a week in which the U.N. gave up trying to do an investigation of what happened at the Jenin refugee camp.

I think it's clear, there was not a massacre as the Palestinians said, but Human Watch said there were human rights violations, as of course, there are with the suicide bombers. And I think Israel looks very bad when they say, you know, and they have in effect blocked the U.N. investigation.

SHIELDS: Last word, Tom Davis, and the Gang will be back, with passage of a big, big farm bill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. The Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly passed the final version of the farm bill to increase government subsidies by 70 percent. President Bush released this statement.

"While this compromise agreement did not satisfy all of my objectives, I am please that this farm bill provides a generous and reliable safety net for our nation's farmers and ranchers."

The President's comments echoed the floor speech by the Republican Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. LARRY COMBEST (R-TX), AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: If the House does not pass this conference report today, there will no strength and safety net for farmers this year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Almost all Republican leaders voted against the bill, but did not address the House rank-and-file conservatives, however, did speak.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: This is a sad day for our country. We're taking a big step in the wrong direction, I would say in the direction of Soviet style agricultural policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: It will cost the average American family over $4,000 in terms of direct taxes and price supports. We are abandoning the Freedom to Farm Act, and in its place putting a Farm Security Act.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, if conservatives really do hate this farm bill, then why will President Bush sign it?

NOVAK: That's an excellent question. I think the answer is, because he's veto averse.

He said he would sign -- he indicated he would sign any education bill drafted by Teddy Kennedy, because he wanted to be the education President. He signed any campaign finance reform bill, even though it has very serious flaws.

And now he's signing the agriculture bill, because he's got the farm state elections coming up.

The problem is that he may lose his base, and I think that Republican leaders were worried about the loss of the base in 1998, when Newt Gingrich had dialogue with the Democrats, were worried about the same thing.

Tom Davis, by the way, was one of those Republican leaders who voted no. J.C. Watts was the only Republican leader who voted for that terrible bill. I mean, it is a horrible bill.

SHIELDS: Horrible bill, Tom Davis?

DAVIS: It's a terrible bill. But it's an election year. You have to remember, the rural areas are also part of the Republican base.

And you have a lot of key House and Senate races there this year. It was an almost veto-proof majority it passed the House by, and I expect you'll see the same thing in the Senate.

So I think the President felt, given those odds, he's likely to sign it.

SHIELDS: Al, fewer than two percent of Americans live on farms, and yet two-thirds of the subsidies under this bill will go to just three percent of the farmers.

We're not talking about, you know, American Gothic and, you know, Grant Cooper (ph), right.

HUNT: Grant Wood.

CARLSON: Yeah. Gary Cooper and Grant Wood, yeah.

SHIELDS: You're absolutely right. Thank you. And Cary Grant.

CARLSON: Yeah.

SHIELDS: I'm sorry, Al.

CARLSON: I like him best.

HUNT: If you guys want to continue this thing...

CARLSON: With regard to the farm bill...

HUNT: Tom Davis is right. This is a terrible bill. There are at least four reasons I can think of why he signed it. They're called South Dakota and Minnesota and Iowa and Missouri -- key Senate races and a couple of key House races there, too.

This is all about -- all about politics. But there are dangers. There are a few good things in this bill, but they're just warped by the bad things.

And it's going to create other problems. It's going to create trade problems. Canada and the EU and Brazil and Argentina are all saying they may go to the World Trade Organization over this bill. It'll make some trade measures a lot harder.

SHIELDS: Is this going to make it tougher, Margaret? I mean Democrats are running for re-election in those states.

CARLSON: Steel, lumber -- steel, lumber and now corn and wheat and the rest of the stuff -- it's a disgrace. It's a bill of bipartisan pork.

And it doesn't help -- you know, they say, the family farmer. It helps the richest farmers, who by the way, are then going to buy up the rest of the little guys, making the situation for farmers even worse. It does nothing to help.

And every time I hear the word family farm, you know, I reach for my wallet, because you know they're just lying.

DAVIS: It helps the family farm. I mean, there's no question, just before, say, the more you grow, the more you're going to get...

CARLSON: Yeah, but there are hardly any left...

DAVIS: ... and so it helps the large ones.

CARLSON: ... and it disproportionately helps the rich farmers.

DAVIS: They are in the right areas...

NOVAK: Let me just say one thing that -- what makes this go so bad is that, I just learned yesterday that, with the passage of this bill, the farmers all over the Midwest are planning to plant crops wall to wall. There's going to be a huge surplus. And they are going to the banks to get loans. Bankers are delighted, because they're going to plant so much.

This is just bad economics. And the worse thing of all, is that they have turned the dairy farm support that Senator Gephardt (ph) wanted into a straight subsidy. Jim Jeffords ought to be the happiest man in America, the defective Republican from Vermont.

DAVIS: It pays to convert. That's...

NOVAK: It does, it really does.

SHIELDS: Tom Davis, just one question. That is, the Republicans, when they won in 1994, this was one of their boldest and strongest acts, to wean farmers from their dependency and this federal checkbook.

Is this the end of the revolution?

DAVIS: I don't think so, but the farm economy has been so far down at this point, and in part of the rural base, which elected George W. Bush.

I mean, he over-performed in rural areas two years ago. This is something you don't want to let slip on economic grounds. And I think that, I think that is what's happened.

SHIELDS: Thank you for candor, and for making the case on the farm bill.

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG, the President goes to California, and the Golden State politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. President Bush visited California, including a joint appearance with the Republican candidate for California governor, businessman Bill Simon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I rejected the old style politics. And that's exactly what Bill Simon is going to do here in California.

I am proud to support this new face in American politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Democratic Governor Gray Davis said the contest for governor was not about George W. Bush, but about Bill Simon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Mr. Simon is trying to lead us in a direction most Californians don't want to go.

He's against the women's right to choose. I'm strongly pro- choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: California's Field Poll shows President Bush preferred in California over Al Gore 48 percent to 41 percent. The same poll shows Governor Davis jumping 14 percentage points ahead of his Republican opponent Bill Simon.

Republican-sponsored surveys show the race much closer, with a poll commissioned by the liberal Republican Leadership Council, giving Governor Davis just a four point lead over Simon.

Al Hunt, is this important race for California governor looking like a loser for President Bush and the Republicans?

HUNT: Well, I have a lot -- I place a lot of credence in the Field Polls. It's got a pretty darn good track record.

Mark, I think in California, that pro-choice and pro gun control is an admission ticket to compete statewide, by and large. There may be a few exceptions, but not very many anymore. And that's why Bill Simon, who I think is potentially a very attractive candidate, has problems.

He also has been sandbagged by the Bush White House, both before the primary and more quietly after he one the primary.

And I don't think they help anyone in doing that, but this is -- this White House relies on an investment banker named Gerry Parsky as their California guy. I don't know what pictures Parsky has, but he has consistently misled George Bush, but it doesn't seem to matter.

NOVAK: I think he'd called himself a venture capitalist.

HUNT: I apologize, I apologize.

SHIELDS: Tom Davis, Al Hunt makes a pretty good point. I just did a quick check of the 17 women members of the California Congressional delegation. Sixteen of them are Democrats. All the Asian and all the Latino and all the African-Americans are -- California has become increasingly a white male Republican party. DAVIS: Well, that's one of the problems. We need different messengers. And the woman is a pro-choice Republican, Mary Bono from Riverside County.

There is a question whether there are threshold issues to get the electorate to look at you. The electorate out there clearly doesn't want Gray Davis. But what's the alternative going to be like?

This may be a Jesse Helms situation where negatives are high fro Gray Davis, but he'll beat up the opposition so bad on some of the entry issues, cultural issues, that he'll never get off the ground. And we'll see.

But Gray Davis is in bad shape in terms of his personal popularity and voters wanting a change. But whether Simon's the guy to do it or not, we'll have to see.'

SHIELDS: And overwhelming majority of your House Republican colleagues from California get in (ph) to us Dick Riordan, the former Los Angeles mayor.

DAVIS: Oh, every poll showed Riordan running stronger against Gray Davis than Bill Simon.

But look, there's a long way to go and a lot of anti-Davis sentiment. And I think the administration's been very supportive since the primary.

Coming out there, sticking their neck out, doing a couple of large fund-raisers for him. But it's still a little bit uphill.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, one of Gray Davis' top advisers told me this week that they were delighted, given the reality of their situation right now, that it was Bill Simon instead of Dick Riordan.

NOVAK: Yeah, you know, Al mentioned Gerry Parsky, who is a old, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Bill Simon, Sr. A very good guy, I think a smart guy.

But he is in a lot of trouble with the conservatives in the party. And he was nowhere to be seen this past week when the President was campaigning for Simon.

The problem, I think, with the President's reg (ph) in California, it's all been geared toward his ability to compete in California in 2004. I think putting Riordan up was to help the 2004 race, not to elect a Republican governor.

And I think that's still, with the situation when the President gave this speech at a Simon affair, I read the whole text, and he talks about Simon, and then he goes into his anti-terrorism speech, which he's very effective at.

And all -- and in talking to Latinos, according to the people who were there, the President never mentioned Bill Simon. The President's doing pretty good with the Hispanic vote, but Bill Simon isn't. SHIELDS: Margaret.

CARLSON: The one -- Bush made a little bit of a joke saying that Simon's being dismissed as just a businessman, which is what Ann Richards did to him in Texas, you know, to her dismay and loss -- the aides to Bush were calculating right after this speech, well, if Simon only loses by five points here, maybe we'll be competitive in California, kind of conceding that we was going to lose.

And, you know, Karl Rove was right to want Riordan to be the candidate. He would be a better candidate in California. But to be referring to him as Governor Riordan and to show so much support before the primary and before there was a candidate, I think has just undermined Simon, you know, and he can never come back from it.

DAVIS: Let me say one thing. Off-year elections are all about intensity and turnout.

And one thing Simon does do is he does energize the Republican base, what base there is out there. And Gray Davis does not.

So we have a long way to go in this race before it's over, right now.

SHIELDS: I think that's a good point. But I would point out that no Republican has won a statewide election in California for governor, United States senator or lieutenant governor or attorney general since 1994, or for president since 1988.

So, that's a...

NOVAK: That's only eight years ago. You sound like it was...

SHIELDS: No,...

NOVAK: ... the Dark Ages.

SHIELDS: ... no, I'm talking every election. It's every election. I'm talking governor, senator, lieutenant governor and attorney general, and president since 1988.

HUNT: The other problem is that the last one who did win was Pete Wilson, and he left a terrible legacy for the party out there, because it is a state that is becoming increasingly non-white. And with his anti-immigration stand, it's hurt.

SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt. We'll be back with our CAPITAL GANG classic -- President Bill Clinton's post-Oklahoma City declaration that hard right talk has serious consequences.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Seven years ago this week, President Bill Clinton talked about causes of the Oklahoma City bombing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must stand up and speak against reckless speech that can push fragile people over the edge beyond the boundaries of civilized conduct, to take this country into a dark place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: On April 29, 1995, your CAPITAL GANG commented on whether President Bill Clinton was referring to right wing radio talk shows.

Our guest, Republican Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois, then the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "CAPITAL GANG," April 25, 1995)

CARLSON: If you listen to these talk show people -- and I'm actually not talking about Rush Limbaugh. He looks like a cool-headed customer compared to Gordon Liddy, who is gun-obsessed, and is telling people how to shoot to kill federal agents.

HUNT: No one should be talking about limiting anyone's right to speech. That's not what we're talking about. We're saying about holding people accountable.

NOVAK: I would tell you what. Once you start to say that what Gordon Liddy says is not protected by the First Amendment,...

HUNT: No, no, no. It is protected by the First Amendment. I believe that. I'm saying he ought to be held accountable. And we ought to say this is outrageous.

NOVAK: What do you mean, held accountable?

CARLSON: You can be criticized by the president.

HUNT: We ought to say this is hate, this is violence, this is encouraging violence. And it's terrible.

HENRY HYDE, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, I think the credentials of those criticizing conservative talk radio would be enhanced or legitimated if they were equally critical of some of the venom that has come from the left.

SHIELDS: You've got to hold someone accountable who says, I shoot up cutouts of the President of the United States and the First Lady.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, with the benefit of seven years' hindsight, can you absolve the President from trying to make political capital hay out of the Oklahoma City tragedy?

HUNT: Mark, I think -- I still believe that all speech is protected. I believe that words have consequences, and I think that people ought to be held accountable, whether it's Gordon Liddy or Cynthia McKinney.

NOVAK: I'm so distressed that Al hasn't learned anything in seven years.

SHIELDS: There's a lot of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in seven years.

NOVAK: Well, what I do is, I see the President's speech -- I just cherish the thought that he's not president anymore, because what a demagogue, talking about some talk show host -- because that's what he was talking about -- putting America in a dark place and get McVeigh so upset that he killed all these people.

I think that was just outrageous, and I really think that the idea that he was incited to violence by Gordon Liddy is obscene.

DAVIS: You don't think Gordon Liddy's irresponsible.

NOVAK: No.

SHIELDS: Boy, OK. Well, Margaret.

CARLSON: He speaks well of you, too, Bob.

Congressman Hyde said that, you know, I wouldn't mind the President doing this if he also criticized the venom from the left.

A lot of dribble comes from the left, but I don't know of any left wing talk show hosts saying to go out and shoot people, shoot to kill. And that's the difference.

SHIELDS: Tom Davis.

DAVIS: It's clear the radio talk show hosts had nothing to do with the Oklahoma City bombings. And I think this was the beginning of the President's political resurrection at that point.

I was a freshman member at the time. At Oklahoma City he gave a very eloquent speech out there.

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS: It was.

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS: ... this was raw politics, and the president was very good at that.

HUNT: Mark, can I say the madrassas do terrible things and encourage people in the Arab world -- you know, hate...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: That's right. You can't have it both ways.

NOVAK: I can have it any number of ways I want it. SHIELDS: And the Kama Sutra of political philosophy.

OK, thank you for being with us Tom Davis.

We'll be back with the second half of CAPITAL GANG. Democratic senior statesman Robert S. Strauss is our "Newsmaker of the Week." "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the Pakistani referendum for President Musharraf with CNN correspondent Ash-Hur Quraishi. And our "Outrage of the Week."

That's all after the latest news following these urgent messages.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

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

SHIELDS: Our newsmaker of the week is prominent Texas and Washington lawyer Robert Strauss. Robert S. Strauss, age 83, residence, Dallas, Texas, religion, Jewish. Undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Texas at Austin, Democratic National Committeeman, national treasurer, and national chairman, 1968 through 1976.

In the Carter administration, trade negotiator, Middle East negotiator, and anti-inflation czar. U.S. ambassador to Russia under the first President Bush.

Al Hunt sat down with Bob Strauss earlier this week at his law offices at the Robert S. Strauss Building here in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNT: Bob Strauss, you've been a fixture in the capital for 35 years. How has political Washington changed?

ROBERT S. STRAUSS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Oh, I think it's changed substantially, and I'm not sure it's for the better. I think it was much -- I think it was much better when people, for example, on the Hill, on both sides of the aisle, had a drink together at night, saw -- stopped in for a beer together, went to each other's homes. They don't do that any more.

HUNT: Of all the politicians you've known over the years, who was the best?

STRAUSS: Oh, it's impossible to say who's the best politician. I think two of the most attractive ones I've ever known, one was Jack Kennedy. He had that star quality. He -- when he entered a room, he lit the room up, and everyone knew it. Another one, interestingly, was John Connolly of Texas. John Connolly lit up a room when he walked in as if a searchlight was on him, and by the way, Kennedy and Connolly were great admirers each of the other.

HUNT: What's been the -- your greatest moment?

STRAUSS: I don't know that any one thing meant most to me. I -- strangely, the one thing I really didn't want to do added a richness to my life, and I think I accomplished more, and that was under a Republican president, George Bush Senior, when he asked me to go to the Soviet Union for a couple years. And I didn't want to go, refused, turned him down, but you just don't turn down a president very long.

As I have told president -- former President Bush many times, it was a lousy appointment when he made it. I landed in the middle of the coup, and accomplished what he wanted me to go over there for anyway. One of the primary reasons was to establish a relationship, and -- with President Gorbachev and others, and that I -- that played to my strengths.

HUNT: Bob, any regrets?

STRAUSS: I don't have any regrets about anything. A friend of yours asked me just within the last couple of months, "Bob, what do you lie best about your entire career?" And I said, "This is sort of crude, but to tell you the truth, I like the whole damn deal." And so I don't have any complaints.

HUNT: President George W. Bush, is he as spectacular as his poll ratings, or as mediocre as a lot of Washington insiders think?

STRAUSS: I suspect somewhere in between. He's a sensible fellow. He knows what he doesn't know, which is a big advantage, and he knows what he does -- has confidence in what he does know. I think he is rather well equipped to be the leader at a time of war. He handles that role exceedingly well. Some of his domestic policies, I don't think quite as well of.

He has good people around him, you know, on the foreign policy front, even though they don't get along too well.

HUNT: You were envoy to the Middle East. The situation really looks dire when you pick up the morning paper. Now, is there any reason not to be pessimistic?

STRAUSS: Well, only one reason, it's so bad it can only get better. Neither one of those leaders are great favorites of mine. I take a dim view of both of them in their conduct. I'm not sure we can make peace with the two of them there.

HUNT: Thirty-five years you have been a friend and a source to Robert D. Novak. How hard has that been?

STRAUSS: I think it's an outrage that you bring out that publicly here, because somebody may be looking at this show, and no one wants to be known they've been Novak's good friend for 35 years. But I'll hang in there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, is Bob Strauss really embarrassed to be your friend and your news source?

NOVAK: Well, I hope he's not embarrassed to be my friend, but I think he's a little embarrassed to have been my source all these years, now that the news is out. And I met him at the Democratic convention in 19687 in Chicago, when he told me that Lyndon was going to dump Humphrey and run himself, Lyndon Johnson, if they didn't fit -- if Humphrey didn't get straight on Vietnam, which he did.

But, you know, I was fascinated in that interview, Al, that he said his greatest accomplishment was being George Bush's ambassador to Russia. This very great Democratic leader really was a person who -- in which patriotism trumped partisanship, because he was so proud of doing something for his country, not just his party.

CARLSON: It shows how you should sometimes get what you don't want, and it's though -- it's the wisest thing to do. He is one of the more charming people around, and it is sad that the age of having a drink at the end of the day has passed, and I think that passed with Newt Gingrich when it became totally open warfare on the Hill.

And it's great to hear him say, and I hope we can all someday say, you know, we like the whole damn deal.

SHIELDS: Well, I say this about him, he is a committed, and he's been a loyal Democrat throughout his entire life, but he practiced what he preached. All the way through his career, he had friends across the aisle, he had Republicans, who were among his closest friends, and, I mean, he went to their house for dinner and had drinks with them. And the example he set was -- made for a lot more civil and congenial Washington. I'm not sure, a better Washington, too, I think.

Al?

HUNT: Oh, I think it did, Mark. You know, there are so many Bob Strauss stories, and most of them are funny. I was traveling with him in 1974, and because of the weather we got stuck in Texas, and I had to spend the night at his house. And he came in a quarter of 6:00 in the morning with a breakfast on a table, and he called to his wife, "Helen, come on here, because when I buy this sumbitch I want him to stay bought." He gave me breakfast in bed.

You know, Bob Strauss, though, he's very people-oriented person. But you don't see him these days, Mark, at Washington dinners or functions because his wife of 60 years, the love of his life, Helen, has had some tough times, and Bob goes home to her every night. That's character.

SHIELDS: That is character. And the only character missing out of the whole piece, Al, was that he was born and raised in Stanford, Texas...

HUNT: The home of...

SHIELDS: ... the home of Ann Hudson Shields. Next on CAPITAL GANG, Beyond the Beltway looks at Pakistan, moving toward or away from democracy? We'll be joined from Islamabad by CNN's Ash-Har Quraishi.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Beyond the Beltway looks at Pakistan's referendum confirming General Musharraf for another five years as president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

PRES. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTAN (voice of translator): This is the victory of the people and of the reforms, of the silent majority, which has finally expressed its opinion.

FAROOQ HASSAN, PAKISTANI OPPOSITION: There is no procedure in the constitution by which a referendum can be sought. We are now under military rule, direct military rule, and that totally explodes the hypothesis that this government has been giving to the world, that it's a democratic government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The U.S. government appeared to accept the referendum.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: He has confirmed repeatedly the elections on a national and provincial level to be held in October, so as long as this course is followed and the elections proceed as planned, we would consider that to be movement towards return of democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Joining us now from Islamabad via videophone is Ash-Har Quraishi, CNN's bureau chief in Islamabad.

Thank you for joining us, Ash-Har.

ASH-HAR QURAISHI, CNN ISLAMABAD BUREAU CHIEF: Thank you, Mark.

SHIELDS: Ash-Har, does five more years of General Musharraf guarantee Pakistan's support for the U.S. war against terrorism?

QURAISHI: Well, some people here like to think that that's the case. President Musharraf has a tough battle here domestically as well as internationally. There are a lot of parties here that are angry with what he's done here in the referendum, there are a lot of parties, a lot of the religious parties that are angry with what he's done as well.

So there is that sort of -- what people call the vocal minority, the people who say that they don't support Musharraf, and they don't support the United States in this war against terror. Now, recently we've seen, obviously, the U.S. movement along the tribal area, that's somewhere that the government doesn't have too much control. But the popularity of President Musharraf in those areas is not expected to be high in the next coming weeks when these operations become more apparent.

So when most people say that they'd like to think that President Musharraf will be supporting the war on terrorism, and he has for, you know, as long as it's been happening here in Pakistan, some people are unsure about how he's going to balance between domestic pressure and international pressure.

SHIELDS: Does his promise of free -- his promise of free elections ring hollow, though, after this referendum?

QURAISHI: Well, some people like to say that that's the case. A lot of people think that the fact that the referendum actually took place is going to be sort of a precursor to what actually happens in October. I spoke to opposition leaders now. As you know, all the opposition parties here in Pakistan opposed this referendum. They said that this was unconstitutional and illegal. It was challenged in the supreme court. But the supreme court held that the referendum was legal, and it went on.

But what we are hearing from opposition leaders is they expect that the elections in October are going to be rigged. They say that the referendum is something that they -- you know, there are accusations and allegations that this referendum was something that was orchestrated by the government. The numbers were very high in terms of turnout, higher than we've ever seen in a regular democratic election here in Pakistan.

So a lot of opposition leaders are mobilizing, and they're preparing for those October elections.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak?

NOVAK: Ash-Har, there's a lot of people in this country with a fetish for imposing democracy on everybody all over the world, and I just wonder, considering the bad experience Pakistan has had with democracy bringing corruption, turbulence, whether, from the standpoint of the United States, trying to have stability, it would be very dangerous for U.S. interests if you had a free-for-all political process where some supporters of the al Qaeda might take control of the Pakistani government.

QURAISHI: Absolutely, and that's something that President Musharraf has used as a strong point in speech announcing the referendum. He basically said that Pakistan is not ready for democracy, that it needs training wheels, and he is going to serve as those training wheels until Pakistan is able to handle democracy itself.

So he says that the corruption that we've seen in the past in the government, that's something that's not going to change unless there's one constant, that constant being him. Now, obviously that's something that, you know, for the United States, that's going to be in their best interests, because Musharraf has been such a strong supporter of the United States, and has basically took a stand against the Taliban, you know, former allies of Pakistan, and he's basically done what most people think other leaders won't be able to do, because he does stand up, and that he's very blunt about his position. He pulls no punches in that sense.

And whether or not he's a military leader or a democratically elected leader, the fact is that right now, he's in the best interests of the United States.

CARLSON: Ash-Har, can you...

SHIELDS: Margaret.

CARLSON: Ash-Har, can you describe for us any of the up-and- coming leaders there? I mean, after all, Musharraf did stand up to the Taliban. He has spoken out against Islamic radicals. I mean, he looks almost like a profile in courage, the one person throughout all this who actually endangered his -- not just his career but his life by doing what he did after September 11.

Is there anybody as friendly to the United States in the political leadership who might come up and replace Musharraf if there were a democratic election?

QURAISHI: That's a really good question. The fact of the matter is that most people don't think that there is somebody that can replace Musharraf. At this point, he's got a lot of people supporting him inside the government, here, already established.

But whether or not somebody could step up to the plate if Musharraf wasn't there is a question that most people say is difficult to answer. There's nobody that really sticks out. Now, you know, the past two leaders here, Benazir Bhutto and Noan Sharif (ph), both had good relations with the United States. Benazir Bhutto had very good relations with the United States.

But whether or not she would stand with the United States in the same way that President Musharraf has, some people doubt that, a lot of people doubt that.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Ash-Har, reports I read in my newspaper and elsewhere suggest that this referendum really was a fraud, that they had tourists who had come in to vote, they did everything they could. And if that's the case, one thing about democracy, it does give a certain legitimacy. I mean, you know, 25 years ago we said, We're better off having the shah in Iran. We paid a huge price for that policy.

If this guy really, really is in on illegitimate means, over the long run, isn't it going to be a real problem internally?

QURAISHI: Well, absolutely. Politically it's something that most people say is going to destabilize Pakistan. It says -- you know, in the short run, having Musharraf in power, a lot of people say, is going to be in the best interests of the country and the best interests of this U.S.-led war on terrorism.

But what it means for Pakistan politically in the long run may be something that's a lot more damaging than most people are taking into consideration. But there have been widespread reports that this referendum was a little on the shady side. I mean, we witnessed some polling locations where the ballot boxes weren't sealed properly before the polling began. Some people proudly said that they voted more than once.

Musharraf, President Musharraf even mentioned in a press conference the other day that one woman said she voted for him 60 times. He said that just proves how much they love him here.

SHIELDS: He'd do well in Chicago with that approach.

Ash-Har, the -- Bob obviously doesn't subscribe to Churchill's doctrine that the only known cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy. And I guess what -- I just wanted to make the point that it's sort of been a bipartisan tradition in America to encourage democracy all around the world, Bob.

NOVAK: Well, I don't think Pakistan is Iowa, and very close to it right now, it's a very difficult country. We have gone through this whole conversation, Ash-Har, without mentioning Kashmir and the nuclear weapons of India and Pakistan. Is there a feeling now that Kashmir's on the back burner and the horrors of a nuclear confrontation or a conflagration between India and Pakistan are less dangerous than they seemed a while back?

QURAISHI: Well, absolutely. I mean, the attention, the focus has shifted away from that border. The fact of the matter is that there are hundreds of thousands of troops still massed on both sides of that border, and this is the largest troop movement that we've seen in almost 30 years, here in Pakistan, on both sides of the border. And it's something that hasn't gotten a lot of attention lately, because of everything else that's going on with the al Qaeda on the other border and President Musharraf trying to legitimize his rule in Pakistan right now.

So that's something that he's sort of taken the attention off of, and a lot of people are noticing that, especially the militant groups, a lot of the jihadi groups. Kashmir is a very, very strong point here for Pakistan, because they feel very strongly about that issue. And the fact that it's been put on the back burner may be something that will hurt President Musharraf in the long run.

SHIELDS: Ash-Har Quraishi, thank you so much for being with us.

THE GANG will be back with the "Outrage of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week." Away from public scrutiny, the Air Force and airplane manufacturer Boeing have been putting together a sweetheart deal whereby the U.S. would lease Boeing 767 jetliners to be in-flight refueling tankers at a cost of $26 billion, with the details to be provided later, all in the name of national security.

Bob Novak, to his credit, broke this story. But Arizona Senator John McCain, whom no one dares accuse of being a sunshine patriot, has blown the real whistle here, stating, quote, "This has nothing to do with national defense and everything to do with taking care of Boeing," end quote.

Robert Novak.

NOVAK: Thank you, Mark.

This week, "The New York Times" reported federal authorities concluding there is no evidence that Mohammed Atta, ringleader of the September 11 terrorist attacks, met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague early last year. There goes the single supposed Iraqi connection with 9/11. There goes one justification for a military attack on Iraq.

But advocates of attacking Baghdad now still cite the imaginary meeting in Prague, and presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer yesterday refused to comment on the basis of what he called "conflicting media accounts."

What conflict, Ari?

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, during his presidential campaign, President Bush proposed curbing mercury, sulfur, and carbon dioxide emissions. But two weeks before a decision was made, Vice President Dick Cheney got a letter from lobbyist Hayley Barbour in which Barbour warned that Bush would look like an environmental softie, just like Clinton, if he clamped down on energy interests.

Groups spewing emissions paid Barbour $500,000 and gave a half million dollars to Republicans in 2000. Bush did hat Barbour wanted. No need to worry now, Bush will never be accused of being soft on the environment.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Mark, Bill Clinton is still considering offers to be a TV talk show host. Now, that certainly would give him the money and visibility he apparently craves, but he can forget about the respect and standing that he also desires. It would reinforce the charge of Clinton critics that he's not a serious political figure.

It also wouldn't help Senator Clinton.

Which raises the question, who does this brilliant man listen to, and how do such matters even get on his radar screen? SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. If you missed any part of the program, I'm sincerely sorry, but you can tune in at 11:00 p.m. and again at 4:00 a.m. Eastern to watch the entire replay.

Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS: FAT CHANCE."

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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