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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Are Israelis Going to Move Troops Into Gaza?; Is Bush Winning on Domestic Policies?; Interview With Letitia Baldrige

Aired May 11, 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: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

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

Our guest is Republican Congressman David Dreier of California, chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee. Good to have you back, David.

REP. DAVID DREIER (R), CALIFORNIA: Just came to wish Margaret a happy Mother's Day.

SHIELDS: Well, having done that, take it easy, David.

DREIER: OK.

SHIELDS: OK. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's visit to Washington was interrupted by a Palestinian suicide bombing that took 15 Israeli lives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Today, in the face of all our sincere efforts to move forward on the political path, we received another proof of the true intentions of the person leading the Palestinian Authority.

Israel will act strongly. I depart now to Israel with a heavy heart, heavy with grief and heavy with rage.

YASSER ARAFAT, PRESIDENT, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY (through translator): And I have issued my orders to the Palestinian National Security Forces to confront and to prevent any terror attacks on Israeli civilians...

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

SHIELDS: Israeli tanks positioned themselves for a possible attack on Gaza, but the U.S. State Department urged caution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: No matter how many military operations one conducts, or how many suicide bombs are delivered, at the end of the day we have to find a political solution.

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We do not in any way give Israel a green light for military action.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, have the Israelis been dissuaded from perpetuating this cycle of violence?

AL HUNT, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Mark, I think world opinion and very mild U.S. pressure has been a factor in holding off so far. But Gaza is 140 square miles and 1.2 million inhabitants. It's teeming with poverty, with hatred, and with terrorism.

And a full-scale incursion into Gaza -- and I think there still could be a limited surgical strike of some sort, from what other people say -- but a full-scale incursion would be Jenin duplicated many times over. It would be bloody. There would be lots of civilian casualties, and there would more than a few Israeli military casualties.

But I think -- let's not read too much in this and think this is a new era. Ariel Sharon is not going to change his habits. He's still an eye for an eye, massive retaliation kind of guy. And those footsteps he hears over his right shoulder are Bebe Netanyahu, the former prime ministry, saying, If you won't do it, just let me in and I'll rout them all out.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak?

ROBERT NOVAK, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Prime Minister Sharon left here in a rage. He said he was full of rage. He obviously intended to make an attack at that time on Gaza. Why he didn't, I think, has to do with the Israeli military. I think they -- the generals said, Mr. Prime Minister, this is going to be a disaster, it's going to be a humanitarian disaster if we go in there with guns shooting.

What I think we ought to say right now is, this whole military campaign, which has so entranced conservative Republicans on the Hill, has been a disaster. I think it has not stopped the suicide bombings. The idea that you knock out the infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority and you don't get suicide bombings is -- was proved false last Tuesday.

I think since the whole prime ministership of Sharon has escalated the violence without accomplishing anything. And Colin Powell has got it right, you must have a political solution.

SHIELDS: A political solution, Margaret Carlson in New York?

MARGARET CARLSON, TIME MAGAZINE: Bob has a point. But when Sharon went into Jenin, he crossed the line between legitimate self- defense and retribution. He bulldozed a whole community and left children and women without a home and no hopes of even minimal standard of living. If he were to do the same in Gaza, it would be Jenin times 1,000. You simply can't go into Gaza and even do a millimeter of what was done in Jenin, because of, as Al says, how tightly wound -- how tightly packed in the people are there.

You know, suicide bombers send a message, and it -- and Arafat thinks they work, Hamas thinks they work. But look what's happened. It's the greatest amount of violence that Israel has unleashed in 20 years. It's not -- nothing is working for either side here, and it looks like it's going to take a miracle in the Holy Land for this to stop.

SHIELDS: David Dreier, it's hard to argue that either strategy -- side's strategy has been very effective. I mean, certainly the suicide bombers have provoked greater massive retaliation on the part of the Israelis with greater force, and which in turn has provoked probably greater resentment and more suicide bombings.

DREIER: Mark, we all know that this is a very difficult situation. We have one clear ally in the region, the democratically elected government of Israel. And I think that we were horrified, we were just getting ready to have a leadership meeting with Ariel Sharon when we got the word of the horrible attacks in the pool hall.

Having said that, let me say that I believe that it was a very interesting interview today, two of the three members of that great triumvirate, Novak, Hunt, and Shields, interviewed Shimon Peres. And I think that Peres was very, very bold in the statements that he made, in which he made it clear, as has been made by a number of other leaders, if there is going to be a Palestinian with whom you're going to deal, there's little choice other than to deal with Yasser Arafat.

And I think that Yasser Arafat has -- there've been some positive signs, in that he's stepped forward and, in Arabic, as President Bush and many of us have said for a long period of time, he denounced the suicide bombings.

We also, with an end to the standoff at the Church of the Nativity, have seen some positive signs. It's going to be very difficult. We're standing by our ally, Israel. But I think that Colin Powell was right on target in what he said.

NOVAK: Another thing that the foreign minister said in our interview was that you have to have a Palestinian state, no ands, ifs, or buts. So what was fascinating, he said that Oslo years ago, they made a mistake in not -- in offering a Palestinian state right then.

DREIER: And President Bush has said the exact same thing, that -- not about Oslo, but he said that an independent Palestinian state is the goal here.

But I'll tell you, we still have to stand by Israel, and we're going to.

SHIELDS: But as much respect and admiration as I have for Shimon Peres, a Nobel laureate, he ain't in charge. Ariel Sharon is, and Ariel Sharon...

NOVAK: Unfortunately.

SHIELDS: ... is not -- no, but is not as passionately committed to a shorter timetable, Al, on this negotiation.

HUNT: Well, and I think the other problem, as I said a moment ago, is that the pressure from Sharon, I'm afraid, comes not from the Peres supporters in Israel, but I'm afraid right now, because it's been such a besieged country -- I mean, you know, Lord knows you can understand why, comes from the right, and Netanyahu, I think, would be worse.

But I'll tell you something else Peres says, since you -- One of the really popular notions (UNINTELLIGIBLE), let's build a fence, let's build a wall around the West Bank. Gaza proves that doesn't work. Gaza's in the -- it's in the desert surrounded by Israeli troops...

NOVAK: One thing I'd like...

HUNT: ... if you can get a suicide bomber in from Gaza, you can get him in from (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

NOVAK: One thing I'd like to correct is that no -- that neither side is working. I think the extremists on the Palestinian side, the -- have got exactly what they want, and that's a complete breakdown in the peace process.

SHIELDS: I just, I just, I just meant for the people, the Palestinian people. Their lives aren't...

NOVAK: Oh, OK, all right.

DREIER: I do think it's very important for some kind of independent entity, which both Sharon and Bush talked about, to punish those terrorists within the Palestinian Authority is the right thing for us to do.

SHIELDS: One question, Margaret Carlson, did you know anything about this, that "The New York Post" reported earlier this week that President Bush had agreed with Ariel Sharon, and Ariel Sharon's people had reported that there was -- that they were going to fire Yasser Arafat, they wouldn't deal with Yasser Arafat. I mean, isn't it pretty apparent at this point that Yasser Arafat is the de facto leader of the Palestinians?

NOVAK: De jure leader.

CARLSON: Yasser Arafat's popularity is so high now, he's unassailable among the Palestinian people. And Sharon has been talking about, quote, "alternative Palestinian leadership." It's a dream. And Sharon doesn't even give Palestinian moderates anything to hold onto as far as, you know, influencing Arafat or having anybody at his side who's at all less violent than Arafat himself.

SHIELDS: OK, let's...

CARLSON: I mean, Sharon has actually said it's going to be 20 or 30 years before there's any autonomy in Palestine, much less a Palestinian state.

SHIELDS: Last word, Margaret Carlson. David Dreier and THE GANG will be back with George W. Bush's Congress and domestic politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

The Senate approved 64 to 35 a House-passed bill to increase farm subsidies. President Bush promised to sign that bill, which was opposed by the Senate's Republican leader in Agriculture.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If in fact you are an ingenious farmer and a big farmer, this is a bonanza. I would say to a few American farmers, very few, as a matter of fact, and they will do very well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If this bill fails today, think of the uncertainty for our farmers.

They need this bill, and they need it now.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

SHIELDS: Shortly thereafter, the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Bush administration reached a deal on aid to 65,500 workers unemployed because of foreign imports.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: Unprecedented health care coverage for harmed workers, a 70 percent COBRA subsidy to a tax credit for employers or other institutions, and benefits that match the two-year training period...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Meanwhile, President Bush went on the road with a much greater emphasis on domestic issues, especially education.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we spend federal money, we, we, we, we going to see some results. This business about just shuffling kids through the system has got to end.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Margaret, is President Bush winning or losing this battle on domestic politics?

CARLSON: Well, he's still hugely popular. We may not know until the midterm elections whether he is or whether he has coattails.

I think that Bush may have information we don't, which is that we're not going to -- we're not winning the war on terrorism, and he should change the subject. I thought it was going to be Democrats that were going to have, that were going to have to change the subject.

You know, we haven't had any successes lately, and when Tom Ridge took reporters on a tour of the homeland security, it wasn't all that impressive. And it may be that the Mideast is still in flames, there's no Osama bin Laden, there's warlords have taken over Afghanistan. Maybe he would rather the subject be farmers and Ted Kennedy's education bill and his own tax cuts, which constitutes his domestic policy to this point.

SHIELDS: David Dreier, the Republican polling for public opinion strategy sent a poll to leading Republicans (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they said...

DREIER: I saw it.

SHIELDS: ... domestic issues trump foreign affairs in congressional elections. Is this a reflection of that, the new president's new policy?

DREIER: Well, really, it's having -- it's not a new policy. We know that obviously since September 11 and the problems in the Middle East, the focus has been on foreign policy issues. During that period of time, we passed the greatest education reform in a generation. We put into place those tax cuts, we passed an economic stimulus bill.

And so we've done a lot of things. But they haven't gotten any attention. And I think the president is very correctly saying, We need to put some attention on these issues that we have been working on.

This week, Mark, we're going to have a welfare reform bill which is going to be encouraging work. We're going to build on the great successes that we've had in welfare reform. We're going to try and get the Senate to get trade promotion authority through, which is an important domestic and foreign policy issue, so that we can pry open new markets with 90 percent of the world's consumers outside of our borders.

So we are going to see an expansion of the correct agenda here, but we all know the number one priority is still winning the war on terrorism, and we also are obviously working hard to resolve this problem in the Middle East.

SHIELDS: Bob, Bob Novak, when I hear these issues in Republicans, the Republicans used to disparage a lot of these as Mummy issues.

NOVAK: They are Mommy issues.

SHIELDS: Is that what they are? NOVAK: Yes, they are.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: See, here, let me tell you where it's at. The president, like many -- most of the Republican presidents I've ever mentioned and his White House staff, really has very little interest in the midterm elections. And so the things the president...

DREIER: That's not true, that's just not true.

NOVAK: Well, can I finish, please?

DREIER: I'm just saying it's not true.

NOVAK: What he is interested in is his reelection in 2004, so they get a very little dip in his very high popularity, and they go off the road, talking about education, a bill that was not popular with the Republican base, it certainly wasn't popular with me, and he's saying the same things he said as a candidate in the year 2000, you know, we got to have responsibility. They've already passed that bill.

But he wants to build up his support in the polls on the education issue. The question is, he has retreated on the farm bill, he says he's going to sign this terrible bill, really a tremendous retreat on the...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Just, just, just let me finish. A tremendous defeat on the trade bill, that they've given all these...

DREIER: Hasn't been done yet.

NOVAK: ... all these benefits away to the unemployed workers so they can get a trade bill, and the worst thing, as you know, David, if it wasn't for the heroic activities by your speaker, Dennis Hastert, to try to put a control on the appropriations, there's no effort from the White House to really put a lock on appropriations spending.

DREIER: We know that the president has tried his doggondest to keep spending down, and we also know, Bob, that he's working hard to get a balanced trade promotion authority bill. And this welfare reform package is the right thing for us to do. And very little attention went onto education.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, you have to say, he certainly does want this trade authority, because, I mean, Tom Daschle basically stole the store on him.

HUNT: He sure did. He sure did. I'll give David an A for loyalty, and I'll tell you this. Bush -- Margaret, when it comes to the midterm elections, there'll be coattails. It's an Eisenhower jacket. This Bush...

SHIELDS: Tank top.

HUNT: ... this Bush popularity at 74 percent is incredibly wide and about two inches deep. There is no fear factor in the Capitol, no one's afraid to vote against George Bush. Ronald Reagan at 37 percent had more of a fear factor than George Bush has at 74 percent.

And the Bush White House loves to say, This is a guy of principle who really stands up for what he believes in. What's the principle? Wasn't free trade, he sold out of free trade on steel. It wasn't...

DREIER: He's going to get free trade, he's going to get...

HUNT: ... it wasn't...

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER: ... the farm bill.

HUNT: I mean, I happen to think what the Senate's doing on trade is right, Bob, but...

NOVAK: I'm sure you do.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: I'm sure you like the education bill.

HUNT: ... but there certainly wasn't any principle on that.

DREIER: Oh, my gosh.

HUNT: And, you know, Democrats come back from meetings with the White House saying that Bush doesn't really understand a lot of what's going on.

NOVAK: Well, let me...

HUNT: And I told one Republican that today, and his response was really fascinating. He said, "That's not totally fair."

NOVAK: I just want to say one thing. And I think, David, you've got to admit this, that the president did not draw the line on the supplemental appropriations bill, with the appropriators, and the guy who drew that line was Speaker Hastert.

DREIER: Speaker Hastert has done a great job...

NOVAK: He -- he's been a (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

DREIER: ... in doing it, but he's working with the president...

NOVAK: ... and he's doing the thing that...

DREIER: ... he's working with the president to make...

NOVAK: ... he did the things the president should have done. DREIER: ... it happen, and I will tell you, the president's number one political priority is the reelection of a Republican House of Representatives and taking back the Senate. So you're wrong on that one, Bob.

HUNT: David, did he stand up for principle on steel and on lumber with trade?

DREIER: He -- he...

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER: ... I believe he was wrong on those things. But I'll tell you, he's done it...

HUNT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) principle.

DREIER: ... in the quest to get trade promotion authority through so we can pry open new markets.

SHIELDS: Margaret, quickly.

CARLSON: David, if President Bush wanted to keep down spending, wouldn't he have vetoed that farm bill? I mean, Reagan used 70 vetoes...

DREIER: The Congress would override the veto.

CARLSON: ... and Bush 41, 40.

DREIER: Congress would override his veto, Margaret.

SHIELDS: OK.

DREIER: He doesn't like it, I'll tell you...

CARLSON: But he should...

DREIER: ... he doesn't like it.

SHIELDS: Next on...

CARLSON: He should stand for not -- for lower spending.

DREIER: I voted against it, and I happen to agree...

O'BRIEN: Good for you, David.

DREIER: ... with you (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG -- thank you, Margaret -- death of the Crusader.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. The secretary of defense announced a decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: After a good deal of consideration, I've decided to terminate the Crusader program.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The Crusader is a new mobile artillery system with major support in Congress. The Army tried to mobilize that support before Rumsfeld announced his verdict. One civilian official who led lobbying for the Army resigned yesterday after Secretary of the Army Thomas White was himself exonerated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

THOMAS WHITE, ARMY SECRETARY: We support religiously the president's budget, and we will support religiously the amendment to the president's budget that reflects the decision that was just made.

RUMSFELD: But if something happens in the Army, it's his responsibility. On the other hand, he was without knowledge of what took place. And in my view, he has addressed the subject...

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

SHIELDS: The defense bill passed by the House yesterday authorized funds for the Crusader. Bob Novak, is Don Rumsfeld in a little bit a trouble on this issue?

NOVAK: I'd say he's at risk. He has to convince the worthy members of Congress that the president will veto this bill if it includes ...

SHIELDS: The whole bill.

NOVAK: ... this -- the whole bill -- if he -- if it includes the Crusader, and then they'll vote, then they'll vote against and take the Crusader out. So he's in a little trouble with the Army. He fired Kenneth Steadman (ph), who was a good friend of Rumsfeld. They thought that was a little bit of a harsh reaction to this. They're very happy that he exonerated Tom White, who is very popular with the uniformed military.

But the -- what the Army is really worried about is that the present thinking at the Pentagon is that infantry is going to go into combat without any tube artillery at all, they're going to just do it by the air. They said that's what they learned from Afghanistan. The Army thinks in future battles you're going to need, if not the Crusader, which is probably not a good system, some kind of new artillery system.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson in New York, I mean, Don Rumsfeld has really got into a straight mano-a-mano struggle with the Oklahoma Republican delegation, that's Don Nichols, the Republican Senate whip, J.C. Watts in the House. I mean, this is a weapons system that is very dear to the hearts of Okies.

CARLSON: Right, very -- the Oklahoma economy is counting on it. Rumsfeld was courageous to -- it's very hard to kill a weapons system. This one has been shown not to be what's needed in the new reality of what our military needs are.

I'm surprised that Secretary White is still standing. He's got nine lives. Even though Ken Steadman was resigned, you know, White's in charge, and he's, you know, he's taken aircraft on vacation, he's -- he didn't sell his Enron stock, and on and on.

And this is, you know, going to the Hill and giving talking points in which you're accusing anyone who's not in favor of the Crusader of not being patriotic and putting our soldiers at risk, you know, there were some Republicans who went against Democrats saying that they were unpatriotic if they uttered a word of criticism about Bush's foreign policy.

It is at least good to see that when a Republican does it against a Republican, that a head will roll for it.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Three cheers for Don Rumsfeld, he's absolutely right, the Crusader was designed to counter Soviet tanks rolling across the plains of Europe. I don't think that's a very real threat now. Both this president and Don Rumsfeld said, we're going to leapfrog over current tech -- you know, to a new era of technology. If you do that, you have to make choices, and you got to get rid of antiquated systems.

And it took on a real special interest. This was controlled by the -- the tank was controlled by a company that was, that was, that was run by the Carlyle Group, which consists of a lot of former very important Republicans, including former president George Herbert Walker Bush.

So I think Rumsfeld deserves a lot of credit for this. I think that he'll probably win, but let's hope the president will hang tough on this one, unlike trade and those other issues, David.

DREIER: A year ago, a year ago, Mark, we saw Don Rumsfeld come to one of our leadership meetings talking about the fact that on his second tour of secretary of defense, what is it he's going to do? He's going to bring about reform of the Pentagon. Obviously September 11 took place, and a lot of other things.

I met with him just a couple of weeks ago, and he's still very committed to that. And I think his decision here is one which, at the end of the day, will have been a right one. We need, as Bob said, artillery capability, no doubt about that. But the fact of the matter is, this guy is very committed. He's standing up to a lot of forces. And I congratulate him for doing it.

SHIELDS: Will he prevail on Capitol Hill?

DREIER: I think that at the end of the day, there's a good chance that he'll prevail.

SHIELDS: Boy, oh, boy, there's that qualified...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: THE GANG will be back with a CAPITAL GANG classic, the appearance eight years ago of Paula Corbin Jones.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Eight years ago this week, former Arkansas state employee Paula Corbin Jones filed a $750,000 sexual harassment against President Clinton. THE CAPITAL GANG talked about it one day later on May 7, 1994. Our guests were erstwhile presidential candidate Patrick J. Buchanan, and Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

The discussion began with moderator Al Hunt questioning whether the lawsuit meant serious trouble for the president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, MAY 7, 1994)

NOVAK: I think it's very serious, and I think it is a different category than the allegations of sexual liaisons made by the former state trooper guards. This is a woman who is making a very detailed, very embarrassingly detailed proposal.

CARLSON: The details, the level of detail doesn't make it true. These cases come down to he said, she said, whether it's the president or anybody. And I think at least the American people are more likely to believe the president than they are to believe, you know, a -- someone without a job from Arkansas.

PATRICK J. BUCHANAN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If it is a false charge put up by Republicans and she's been put up to that, they ought to be put in prison. But if it is true or there is truth in it, I think it is -- could be mortally damaging to Mr. Clinton.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: There is a chance that the effort may be made to show a pattern of conduct on other matters, and it is a very unfortunate matter. But any citizen has the right to challenge any other citizen, and the president is a citizen. So I think it's potentially quite serious.

HUNT: This woman clearly has become a pawn or a puppet of a lot of right-wing Clinton haters. And that doesn't mean it's wrong, but it also, I think, detracts from her credibility.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, would you and Al like to apologize for questioning Paula's credibility?

CARLSON: In a word, Mark, yes, but I'll let Al speak for himself. SHIELDS: Al Hunt?

HUNT: Absolutely not. Her case was totally baseless. It obviously hurt President Clinton's for other issues. It was a 39-page opinion by Judge Susan Weber-Wright, it was totally -- it was tossed out of court because it was a baseless charge, she said.

NOVAK: I think it was really embarrassing to hear my dear friend Margaret talking about a jobless person from Arkansas, out of work. That's the elitist voice of Georgetown there talking.

CARLSON: No, oh, God!

NOVAK: And -- but I -- but I -- wait a minute, let me, let me finish, because I give Margaret a lot of credit for apologizing. I'm so disappointed in Al that after all these years he won't say -- we know who was telling the truth. We know that President Clinton was lying and she was telling the truth. Why won't you admit it?

HUNT: Bob, you disappoint me so much, because you're a bigger man than that. You knew that -- you didn't read that 39-page opinion, did you?

SHIELDS: And Bob's always had so many kind words himself in encouragement for people who don't have jobs. Right? Yes. David Dreier.

DREIER: Those were the good old days, but I have to tell you all that we had remote control back then. Your television set shouldn't just be a channel-switcher that you've got on the screen there. And I will say that I, like most everyone else, very happy that we've moved beyond it.

NOVAK: What could, what's, what -- you don't have a comment to make? You don't join that elitist...

DREIER: No, no, no, of course not...

NOVAK: ... attack on poor Paula, do you?

DREIER: ... but I'm just -- Bob, I'm very pleased that we've moved beyond it, and of course I don't.

SHIELDS: And at the end of the day, there's a good chance (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

DREIER: A reasonably good chance...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: We'll be back with the second half...

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Novak.

SHIELDS: ... we'll be back with the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG. Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is former White House social secretary Letitia Baldrige. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at political assassination in the Netherlands with Dutch correspondent Mark Chavannes and our "Outrage of the Week." David Dreier, thank you for being with us.

DREIER: Nice being with you. And happy Mother's Day again, Margaret. Thanks.

SHIELDS: Thank you.

THE GANG will be back after a check of the hour's top stories, following these messages.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

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

Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Letitia Baldrige, White House social secretary and chief of staff for first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

Letitia Baldrige, age 76, residence, Washington, D.C., religion, Catholic, psychology degree from Vassar, worked at U.S.embassies in Paris and Rome before entering the Kennedy White House, founder of Letitia Baldrige Enterprises, marketing and public relations firm, author of 18 books, including her latest, "A Lady First," an autobiography.

Margaret Carlson sat down with Letitia Baldrige earlier this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON: First lady Laura Bush is about to embark on her first foreign trip alone this week. This is a woman who said to her husband, "I will marry you only if you promise I never have to give a speech."

Do we blame Jackie Kennedy for this?

LETITIA BALDRIGE, AUTHOR, "A LADY FIRST": Jackie Kennedy gave speeches everywhere, everywhere she went, and she was the shyest person in the world before she became first lady.

Laura Bush is so poised, she can speak so well, she's not going to have any trouble at all.

CARLSON: JFK famously said, "I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris." Does the first lady as first diplomat really have any impact on foreign affairs?

BALDRIGE: Oh, she certainly does. She sits next to the head of state at every dinner and she sat in the...

CARLSON: Whispers in his ear. BALDRIGE: And she sat next to Khrushchev in Vienna when we were having the presidential summit there. And I'll never forget the luncheon given the next day. All the people in the Platz were shouting, "Jackie, Jackie!" No one mentioned Nina's name.

Jackie went over to the windows, threw open the casement windows into this great Platz, piazza. The crowd shouted, and she waved, and then she rushed back to the sofa and grabbed Nina Khrushchev and made her stand up and brought her to the window and held her arm up like this. And the crowd immediately became polite. They shouted, "Jack- ie, Ni-na, Jack-ie, Ni-na!"

Everyone felt better, because Jackie's innate intelligence had told her to do that. That's not something the State Department's going to tell her to do. She just reacted in a kind way. And that's what the first ladies all have to do, and which they usually do.

CARLSON: And the Cold War thawed a little.

BALDRIGE: Momentarily.

CARLSON: Yes.

In your latest book, "A Lady First," you say you had to push a sometimes reluctant Mrs. Kennedy to go out there. And she said to you one day, "Listen, I don't have your energy." And you tried to quit, and the president begged you to stay.

BALDRIGE: She had so much power out there to do good and to bring votes and to help the United States that I kept pushing. Finally she rebelled, and I don't blame her.

CARLSON: There are two first children in the news this week. "Vanity Fair" has dubbed Chelsea Clinton, "The New JFK Jr." And there's a book about JFK Jr. himself, despite...

BALDRIGE: Yes.

CARLSON: ... the author having signed a confidentiality agreement. We seem to have laid off the first twins lately. What do you make of children as fodder for the media?

BALDRIGE: If they have a drink and if they flunk out of school, all the things that children normally do, it's unforgivable in the first family's children.

CARLSON: Had you been advising Hillary Clinton during the impeachment scandal or Monica, what advice would you have given her?

BALDRIGE: I would have just said, Keep quiet, or, as we say in the vernacular, Shut up. That's the best.

CARLSON: You are what writer Marie Brenner would classify as a grand old dame. You were on the cover of "Time" magazine in 1978. Few women get on the cover of "Time" magazine, or -- As "Time" magazine's arbiter of manners, do you think that George Bush has done as he said he would, which was to restore a better tone in Washington?

BALDRIGE: You can't talk about manners when you're being pushed back and guns in your back to keep you move here and move there, because it's against security. No, he hasn't had a chance to go into that changing the tone of Washington. And we also don't entertain in Washington any more the way we used to.

The great class of grandes dames, Katherine Graham and Lorraine Cooper, Mrs. John Sherman Cooper, Perle Mesta in her own time, everyone copied them, appeared in the newspapers, on television, magazines, so you copied their recipes, their table settings.

CARLSON: A glass of wine and rare roast beef at night, I think, did a lot to raise the one of politics.

BALDRIGE: Sounds delicious to me.

CARLSON: Yes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Margaret, I loved the story of Nina and Jackie that Letitia Baldrige told. But she really does think that a first lady can accomplish something in international affairs, doesn't she?

CARLSON: Well, if that were the case, Laura Bush should be going to the Middle East this week instead of Prague.

But in fact, Laura Bush is going to talk about aid to Afghanistan, which is, you know, far afield from what Laura Bush thought she would be doing. You know, I don't think first ladies really change -- they go to friendly countries, they don't change America's standing in the world, really. But it does help a president. It makes a president human, and it -- look, it created for JFK a Camelot.

SHIELDS: That's right. Bob Novak, your own take?

NOVAK: You know, it's a charming little story about Nina Khrushchev. What it overlooks the fact is, that was the famous Vienna summit, which was a disaster for the United States. I think you can argue it led to the Cuban missile crisis, probably led to the hasty and not-thought-out intervention in Vietnam. It was -- it was ...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... led to that, and her little nice little thing with Nina didn't have anything to do with it. And, you know, the -- Miss -- Ms. Baldrige can talk about how wonderful this was, but I think this is part of the overexaggeration of the importance of first ladies, some of them try to have their advice taken.

My model for first ladies was Mrs. Truman and Mrs. Eisenhower. I think they were good wives, but they didn't try to hog the spotlight.

SHIELDS: Margaret? CARLSON: So, Bob, you don't approve of Mrs. Bush?

NOVAK: I think she's a fine lady.

HUNT: All I can say is, thank goodness that Bob Novak does not marry differently than he, than he, than he preaches, because my model would be a Geraldine Novak type, which would not be...

NOVAK: She would make a good first lady.

HUNT: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Yes, she would.

NOVAK: But I'm not -- I wouldn't make a good president.

SHIELDS: And you'd make a lousy president (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the assassination of a Dutch political leader with correspondent Mark Chavannes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

"Beyond the Beltway" this week goes to the Netherlands, were anti-immigration candidate for prime minister Pim Fortuyn was assassinated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

RUUD LUBBERS, U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER: And as a Dutchman, this is a disaster. It's very un-Dutch. We never had any politician assassinated in the Netherlands since the last 400 years.

MATT HERBEN, FORTUYN FAMILY SPOKESMAN: His ideas are very vivid among us, and, well, his death is for us an extra incentive to give all we have to realize his ideas.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

SHIELDS: Those ideas had caused Pim Fortuyn to be purged from his old political party, in particular this judgment of Islam.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PIM FORTUYN, FORMER DUTCH CANDIDATE: It is a backward culture (UNINTELLIGIBLE) defects. From our point of view, don't you have discrimination of woman? Is that backward, or is that forward?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: In a television interview shortly before his death, Fortuyn said, quote, "If something happens to me, the government is co-responsible. They created this climate," end quote.

Joining us now is Mark Chavannes, U.S. correspondent and former political editor of the Dutch daily newspaper, "NRC Handelsblad."

Mark, did the Dutch government actually create a culture or violence or ...

MARK CHAVANNES, "NRC HANDELSBLAD": It's a bit over the top, but that was typical Pim Fortuyn. He was always over the top. That was part of his political package. I think you can say that the government, if anything, created a climate of tolerance, of closing the eyes. For instance, the major reality that big cities like Rotterdam and Amsterdam now are close to 50 percent non-Dutch. That's a topic to discuss, at least. And they didn't, because it was a political taboo.

SHIELDS: Is that what accounted for the -- I mean, this political (UNINTELLIGIBLE) emerged in just a matter of months, to the point where he was a very, very serious candidate?

CHAVANNES: He was a serious candidate, he has never held any political office. But he -- I don't think he would have been the next prime minister, because the old parties are not giving in. They are playing the game. They have been trying to vilify him, which only increased his meteoric rise.

But he was to play a major role, and they would have tried to accommodate him, because that's Dutch politics, it's always -- in the end, it's accommodating, it's consensus, and thereby you can't have political debate, no real political debate is -- has ever been heard in the Netherlands.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: So you're saying accommodating, you mean with a seat in the cabinet, possibly.

CHAVANNES: Yes, not prime minister, but transport or something like that.

SHIELDS: Mark, is the -- is this meteoric rise from an unknown person to perhaps 30 percent of the vote, if he had lived, is that just strictly a rejection of the immigrants, or is there some deeper dissatisfaction in Dutch life, do you think?

CHAVANNES: I think it's deeper. It's a deeper rejection of politics as we had known it since the war. You should realize, in the Netherlands, there is never a majority. I mean, in this country and in Britain and in France, they hate the word "coalition." We have always had to live by that, Roman Catholics, Protestants, communists, socialists. Nobody had a majority, thank God. They had to work together.

But at a price. You have to reveal, you have to soften differences of opinion, and that system has now lived its day, and Pim Fortuyn came to explode that.

SHIELDS: Right. Margaret Carlson in New York. CARLSON: Mark, Pim Fortuyn has been laid out in the cathedral like Queen Wilhelmina in 1962. He seems to be become enhanced in death, almost a martyr. Is this going to aid the movement? Is there going to be a huge sympathy vote? Is the right going to gain ever more power as a result of this murder?

CHAVANNES: You can't even say he belongs to the right. It's -- his funeral yesterday was like Lady Di's funeral. It -- he was a pop figure. He was a latter-day Clinton rather than a Le Pen. He was a star. And so if he belonged to the right, well, he was a libertarian, and libertarians have left-wing elements in them as well. He was a circus figure.

And maybe his effect has been maximal. He could not have hoped to reach any further than this fantastic death.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Well, I want to pick up on that, Mark, because in America we need an ideological scorecard as we read about this story. I mean, here you had this environmentalist, animal rights-loving, gun-toting left-winger who killed a gay pro-tolerant right-winger. Now that doesn't all quite parse for us. Are there any ideological ramifications that flow out of this? Or is that just something that Americans get caught up in?

CHAVANNES: Well, I keep coming back to the Clinton comparison. Was Clinton left-wing? Was he right-wing? He was a '60s kid. He was sort of dreaming about, you would say power, maybe. Pim Fortuyn in that respect was even more of a flower kid.

HUNT: Is that right?

SHIELDS: Just quickly, because we're about out of time, does he have a successor? Is somebody going to pick up this...

CHAVANNES: No, his party will disappear.

SHIELDS: So it was personal...

CHAVANNES: It was a phenomenon.

SHIELDS: It was a phenomenon.

CHAVANNES: Yes.

SHIELDS: Mark Chavannes, that's enormously helpful, and I -- we -- I thank you for being with us.

THE CAPITAL GANG will be back with our "Outrages of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week."

A passion for secrecy is a national obsession invoked by those in high places dedicated to covering their own assets. Thanks to "The Washington Post"'s James Grimaldi, we now know that the National Zoo has refused to provide the autopsy record of a popular giraffe, a late 17-year-old named Ryma (ph).

Why? Zoo officials say the release would violate the privacy rights of animals, which they compared to the physician-patient relationship.

Who was the veterinarian, Dr. Doolittle? Is Mr. Ed one of his patients?

Not all the zoo's dumb animals are in cages or behind bars.

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Billionaire investor Warren Buffett addressing 10,000 shareholders of his Berkshire Hathaway Incorporated, declared that a nuclear attack on the United States is, quote, "virtually a certainty."

Now, Warren Buffett is a world-class stock picker, but what he does not know about national security could fill volumes. The difficulty of developing nuclear weapons remains very high, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggested this week when asked about Buffett's warning.

A brilliant investor should not make unsubstantiated predictions that scare the devil out of people just because they come from a great stock-picker.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: The fitness chain Jazzercise (ph), Mark, refused to certify 240-pound Jennifer Portnick (ph) as an instructor because she was, quote, "not fit enough."

Well, Miss Portnick was fit to be tied. She announced on International No-Diet Day last week that the San Francisco Human Rights Commission had forced Jazzercise (ph) to drop its fitness requirement, and she called it a civil rights victory.

Should Bob Novak get to sue for not getting the role of Spiderman? Me for not getting to play Erin Brockovich? There's a real victim of these frivolous claims, those who genuinely need the protection of civil rights laws.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: I can see Margaret as Erin Brockovich, but Spiderman?

The Reverend David Lee, an African-American minister in New Haven, is called dangerous and a captive of special interests by some of the Yale University elite. His offense? The Yale graduate is running for the university's corporation board, not as a choice of the alumni establishment but as a petition candidate. He is supported by labor unions and community activists, not corporate interests. The philosophy of his Yalie critics seems to be, they're all for liberal institutions as long as it doesn't inconvenience them.

SHIELDS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Al, I think that's an unfortunate criticism.

This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. If you missed any part of our show, you can catch the replay at 11:00 p.m. Eastern and at 4:00 a.m. Eastern.

Up next, "CNN PRESENTS: The Mystery of the `Arctic Rose.'"

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