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CNN CAPITAL GANG

New Article Shines Spotlight into Bush White House

Aired June 8, 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 Margaret Carlson.

Our guest is former Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer. It's good to have you back, Gary.

GARY BAUER, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN VALUES: Great to be here.

SHIELDS: Thank you.

President Bush announced a major reorganization of the U.S. government.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I ask the Congress to join me in creating a single permanent department with an overriding and urgent mission, securing the homeland of America and protecting the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The president immediately went on the road to sell his plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: When you take power away from one person in Washington, it tends to make them nervous. And so we're just going to have to keep the pressure on the people in the United States Congress to do the right thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: As the reorganization was announced, the Senate heard from the director of the FBI and an FBI whistle blower.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT MUELLER, DIRECTOR, FBI: An honest and comprehensive examination of the pre-September 11 FBI reflects an agency that must evolve and that must change... COLEEN ROWLEY, FBI WHISTLE BLOWER: We need to streamline the FBI's bureaucracy in order to more effectively combat terrorism.

The worst is micromanaging. And there have been instances in the past where a higher level in the FBI has almost decided to tell an office how to do something, and I can name a few cases where these just became disastrous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, is the reorganization plan intended to squelch criticism, political and public, of the FBI and CIA failures?

ROBERT NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Well, I'm afraid that that was part of the, of the motivation there. You know, there has been so much denial by the administration that anything was wrong prior to September 11. I think that was a mistake. But there's a lot of people behind the scenes who've been saying to the president, you've got to put this on a cabinet level, you've got to have a new reorganization.

And so not coincidentally, on the same day of the big Judiciary Committee hearing on the FBI, this comes out.

It seems to me it's an awful big government department, which I'm not exactly enamored of. But the question I really wonder about is the problem place is the FBI and what, how much it's really going to affect the FBI. I have some doubts, and I think that the secrecy that they did, as they like to do, in putting it out, it leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

SHIELDS: Gary Bauer, Bob Novak raises a very interesting point. I mean, big government conservatism, this is it, isn't it?

BAUER: Well, look, they -- the administration is saying they're going to abolish some bureaucracy, and they're going to create some bureaucracy. I can tell you, having been undersecretary in a major bureaucracy, the Department of Education, it's a lot easier to create bureaucracy than to get rid of it in this town. I mean, bureaucracy's the closest thing to eternal life that you get in Washington, D.C.

But I think there's something more important here. I don't think, at the end of the day, the American people are going to be reassured one way or the other by boxes moving around on a sheet of paper. I think what they want to see is accountability. I think they want to see some people getting fired, and I think they want to see some people getting promoted.

That's what happens in the world they live in, and the jobs and the factories and the businesses they work in. You do a good job, you get promoted. You screw up, you get fired. Somebody needs to be fired for the failures that led up to 9/11.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, Coleen Rowley?

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Let's promote her. BAUER: I think so, absolutely.

CARLSON: Let's make her...

SHIELDS: Whistle blower extraordinaire.

CARLSON: Yes, let's make her Mueller's deputy.

One of the most important things she said is, there's eight layers between her and Mueller.

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: Unbelievable.

CARLSON: So no wonder it -- this warrant, the approval of it, didn't get high enough for, you know, for somebody to review the fact that it wasn't granted.

I think Arthur Andersen is going to have to do the accounting if this isn't going to cost any more money or take any more people, this moving. And it is, it's reconstruction, it's not reform. And the two agencies left out are the two most important ones, the FBI and the CIA.

So how is it going to work?

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, I want your thoughts on it, but I want you also to tell me, will Tom Ridge, who's really suffered under this sort of limbo-like existence for the past eight months, will he get the top job?

HUNT: Well, I don't know that, Mark. I think, I think...

NOVAK: Limbaugh?

SHIELDS: Limbo, limbo.

NOVAK: Limbo, oh...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... all right, yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

CARLSON: Rush for cabinet secretary.

HUNT: Really, why it took them this long to realize they had to do this -- their system beforehand was absolutely insane, inept. And Tom Ridge, I think, suffered for that.

I think there's three things that we can guarantee. Number one, Congress will pass this, and they'll do it this year, but they'll probably reshape it. This was hastily assembled, as Bob said, done in secret. There are things like mad cow disease is in the new agency. I'm not quite sure why that's necessary.

I think secondly, it will involve more government. It is inevitable. It's going to involve more government. Every time you have a new department, as Gary knows, education, energy, veterans, it involves more government. In this case, it's absolutely unavoidable.

The third question, going back to your original question, Mark, is, key is not any rhetoric coming out of George Bush, or exhortations, but who's going to head this? What type of people will run it? Can they address some of the CIA and FBI questions that Bob and Margaret have raised?

I don't know if it'll be Tom Ridge or someone else, but that's a critical appointment.

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they've made very clear they have not decided on Ridge.

SHIELDS: They did, but I just had a question, and that was, up until a few weeks ago, they were stifling, they were chilling all questions, all scrutiny, all doubts and questions...

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SHIELDS: ... the vice president was saying, you know, this is bad in a time of war, and so forth. Then the Republicans really gave the Democrats cover. I mean, Dick Shelby, the senator from Alabama, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Jim Sensenbrenner on...

NOVAK: They had to do something...

CARLSON: Well, you know...

SHIELDS: They really had to.

NOVAK: I want to say one thing...

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

NOVAK: ... about Coleen Rowley, if I could. We get a lot of e- mails here at CNN, we've got -- I've got them in my own office, saying make her deputy director of the FBI, make her director of the FBI, you know, she's terrific.

I'll make a little prediction. Her career is going to go into atrophy right now, because whistle-blowers, we're going to talk about it later in this program, whistle blowers don't do well.

SHIELDS: Yes, yes.

HUNT: Well, unfortunately, Bob, I'm afraid you may be right, because last weekend on television, John Ashcroft was given three occasions to say she won't be punished, Gary, and he shamefully would never say it. Isn't that...

(CROSSTALK)

BAUER: ... he ought to say it this way. I mean, Bob may be right, he probably is right. But if he is right, it's a tragedy, because this is the kind of public servant that we need throughout the Washington establishment, particularly in the middle of a war on terrorism.

Let me just say one other thing about the change of position by the administration. I believe...

SHIELDS: It's a flip-flop.

BAUER: Well, those were your words.

HUNT: Wait a minute, Bush said he didn't change here.

BAUER: But -- I know, I thought, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

NOVAK: Mid-course correction.

BAUER: All right, OK, we'll take mid-course correction. I think the president ought to welcome a full inquiry into what happened, because the -- look, George Bush had been president for about nine months when 9/11 happened. Whatever the problems are, they're not George Bush's fault. They go back 10, 20 years, and the Republican Party and George Bush have nothing to fear from a full investigation...

HUNT: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, right?

BAUER: Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

BAUER: ... to Democratic presidents.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Mark, to get back to your point for a minute, Shelby and others did help Democrats, but -- give them cover. But Bush's problem was, he couldn't say that the Republicans were unpatriotic, and it was wrong...

HUNT: That's right.

CARLSON: ... to criticize, as he did to the Democrats. And that's what made them move as hastily as they did.

SHIELDS: Let me just say one word in closing, and that's the defense of Bob Mueller. Bob Mueller publicly said, "I will not tolerate any retaliation against Coleen Rowley." I mean, I've -- it's a long time...

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

SHIELDS: ... since I've been in Washington that I've heard a department chief commend a whistle blower who embarrassed the department (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

HUNT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), in sharp contrast to Ashcroft.

SHIELDS: Yes, he did. BAUER: Put this clip, put this clip in the archives to look at a year from now, we'll see what she's...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Gary, I just pray that we're all here.

Gary Bauer and THE GANG will be back with unexpected comments from the president's chief of staff, really.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

In an "Esquire" magazine article by journalist Ron Suskind, White House chief of staff Andrew Card is quoted as saying this about the imminent departure of presidential counselor Karen Hughes. Quote, "We have a serious problem of replacement costs. She's irreplaceable. The president's in a state of denial about what Karen's departure will mean. The whole balance of the place, the balance of what has worked up to now for George Bush is simply gone, simply gone," end quote.

Card was quoted as indicating that there now would be no balance to the power of presidential adviser Karl Rove.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON SUSKIND, "ESQUIRE" MAGAZINE: Andy talked with great specificity about lifting people to try to challenge Karl as best he can, because Karl Rove clearly speaks for the partisan right of the Republican Party. And if the president's going to stay in that middle where good governing happens and often good electoral outcomes, somehow Karl will have to be contained.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Card said of the article, quote, "They claim that I did things I did not do. I view this story as more fiction than nonfiction," end quote.

Margaret Carlson, was this a direct hit by Andy Card on Karl Rove?

CARLSON: Well, Andy's done a lot for Karl Rove's stock. He's a -- Karl Rove may be a legend in his own mind and in Andy Card's mind, because now he's really, really big.

This is one of the most interesting pieces I've ever read about Washington. Ron Suskind got inside Karen Hughes's house and talked to one of the loneliest men I've ever heard talk on the record, and that was Karen Hughes's husband.

NOVAK: It's a human interest story.

CARLSON: I -- it -- no, but, I mean, it tells you how these jobs work in Washington. You have no life but the office. She did not see her family. There was no way to make it work.

Now, Andy must have been very, very close to Karen, because he is obviously going to miss her, and I think he must have been emotionally drained, because he was way too honest, when -- in this late-night interview with Ron, and perhaps he thought it was off the record.

But nobody ever talks out of school at the White House the way Andy did in this piece.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, Margaret, Margaret Carlson makes a very good point here. This is a -- conspicuous for being tight-lipped, closed- mouthed White House. They don't leak on each other, you don't see unflattering leaks. And boy, this is about as tough as it can be, isn't it?

NOVAK: Well, I don't care -- Karen's a nice person. I don't care about her husband. That's not my business. But I'll tell you what it is, and that is, this was...

CARLSON: I do, though.

NOVAK: ... and -- this was a direct hit on Karl Rove. And nobody that I've talked to denies that he -- that Andy Card said these things. Of course he said these things.

I thought it was a very dopey article, kind of loopy. But the interesting thing was what Andy Card said, and this was an attack.

Now, I think where this guy Suskind, former "Wall Street Journal" reporter, was coming from, was obvious in this -- not so much in the article, but in this little side -- sound bite on "INSIDE POLITICS," where he's talking about this right-winger, Karl Rove. That -- to any conservative, that's a big joke, calling him a right, right-winger. He's not even as conservative as I am.

And that somehow, and that somehow or another...

CARLSON: Ah, oh, I see.

HUNT: Not even.

NOVAK: Not even.

CARLSON: Well, that explains it.

HUNT: And that somehow or another, he is -- they've got to get to the middle. So you know what the mind -- the ideological mindset of this magazine article was...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: OK, Mark, Franco is to the left of Bob Novak, so let's not let that be the definition.

I work with Ron Suskind, he doesn't write fiction. Bob is absolutely right, the piece is accurate. I don't have any doubt about that. He may have the color of the rug wrong in Andy Card's office, but Andy Card said what he was quoted as saying.

The piece was about, I think -- it was not even so much about Karen, it was about the centrality of Karen Hughes to George W. Bush. And that has been undeniably true, how he adapts just to...

NOVAK: That's not a scoop.

HUNT: Well, fine, Bob, but it was very -- I think the piece was not loopy. I think that was -- in that sense, it was -- it is an important piece abut the way the Bush presidency functions. And I think Karen Hughes was central. I think there is a question of how Bush will function without her. And there's no question that Karl Rove is a right-wing ideologue, a very smart one.

NOVAK: Gee, that's ridiculous!

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Bob, by your definition, when you start from the far right, you think anyone who's not on the ultra-far right is not an ideologue.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: I just want to say one thing.

NOVAK: Gary is a right-winger...

(CROSSTALK)

BAUER: Thank you, thank you, Bob, appreciate that.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: I want to say one thing, and that is, I want to agree with Al's point about the centrality, I mean, of Karen Hughes. I mean, he's...

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

SHIELDS: ... Andy Card -- No, they don't. Andy Card speaks about a mystical bond between her and George Bush, and the fact -- and Karl Rove says nine out of 10 times when there's a showdown between him and her, that he lost and she won.

Now, that does change the balance of the White House.

BAUER: So, look, a couple of things. First of all, the president hates this sort of interview, and we haven't seen a lot of interviews by Andy Card...

HUNT: No.

BAUER: ... and we probably won't be seeing a lot more after this one. The second point that I thought was kind of interesting was the evidence in the article of that well-known Washington disease, hubris. Andy Card says that the president has 79 percent approval ratings, and then he says, now that Karen Hughes is leaving, the president goes down, guess who's going to get the blame? It'll be Andy Card.

Well, I hate to tell Andy Card, presidents don't have 79 approval ratings, or 29 percent approval ratings, because of the people that are on their staff. Presidents succeed or fail because they have a governing vision for America and they show leadership.

This president does have a governing vision. I think he's been incredible in the war on terrorism. And I think this sort of article is of great interest inside the Beltway, but around the country, it doesn't matter very much.

SHIELDS: If he drops below 60 in the next year, we'll say he doesn't have a governing vision for America?

CARLSON: You know what it also shows is that there's no way to hold one of these jobs and have a good family life.

BAUER: No, that's true.

NOVAK: That's not what this was about, this was about...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... you're always worried about these women not -- that they can't -- if they can't run their lives and do the job, they shouldn't take the job.

CARLSON: Bob, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SHIELDS: Yes, women (UNINTELLIGIBLE) men, should they...

NOVAK: She's talking about women.

CARLSON: No, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: No, she was talking about the husband that was a sad.

CARLSON: No, in fact, I thought that maybe the piece...

SHIELDS: Jerry (ph).

CARLSON: ... you know, a long time in the works, made Karen think she did have to resign because of all the stuff that was on the record from her husband.

SHIELDS: Last word, Margaret Carlson.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, Bush versus his own EPA on global warming.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

The Bush administration's report to the United Nations prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency declared, quote, "Greenhouse gases are accumulating in earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing global mean surface air temperature and subsurface ocean temperature to rise," end quote.

Had President Bush changed his position on global warming?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I read the report put out by, put about by the bureaucracy. I do not support the Kyoto treaty. The Kyoto treaty would severely damage the United States economy. And I don't accept that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, is the president at odds with his own Environmental Protection Agency?

HUNT: I think we have a multiple choice question on what the president thinks about this. He's got his talking points. Mark, look, this -- the "bureaucracy," it's his agency. This is, this is a president who wants to make sure he throws a sop every now and then to the environmentalists, because there are a lot of suburban voters who are environmentalists.

But basically, when it comes down to the crunch, he is not going to take on the corporate interests, on this or any other matter, and that's what this is about, as far as (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SHIELDS: Boy, that's a pretty serious indictment, Bob Novak.

NOVAK: That's really terrible. A Republican president that's supporting American business, I hate to see that sort of thing, Al.

HUNT: Teddy Roosevelt.

NOVAK: And, and -- well, I'm not a Teddy Roosevelt fan, I hate to disabuse you.

HUNT: Aren't you?

NOVAK: I would say this, that the president has himself to blame for having, having appointed Christie Todd Whitman, governor of New Jersey, as head, and then let -- and she didn't clean out all the Clintonites and all the liberals from the EPA. His father had the same -- President Bush's father had the same trouble with the EPA.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Now, the point of the matter is, the point of the matter is that global warming is, it's still questionable. But quite apart from global warming, the Kyoto treaty would not help it. It would -- what it is, it's an anti-capitalist, anti-industrialized country attack by the, by the left, and the -- I commend the president for saying that, at least.

SHIELDS: All right, now, Gary Bauer...

BAUER: Yes.

SHIELDS: The "Washington Times," hardly an unfriendly newspaper to George W. Bush said, "Mr. Bush cannot persuasively distance himself from a report because this is, after all, his own administration."

BAUER: Well, that's -- they're stating the obvious. Look, the report, the report that came out...

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

BAUER: ... was based, was based, first of all, on a fatally flawed climatic study that has been totally discredited. So...

SHIELDS: By?

BAUER: ... it -- well, by all sorts of people. I mean, it -- there isn't even any question about that. I'm not saying that the question of global warming has been discredited, but the climatic projections that were made in the report have been discredited a long time ago.

The weather -- they can't tell us what it's going to do tomorrow. The idea that they can tell us 75 years from now what the temperature's going to be is a -- is more than a leap of faith.

This was not a good 24 hours for the administration. First of all, the report undercut him with conservatives, and then the president, when he tried to do a reversal on it, looked inconsistent. And I think it goes back to a bad cabinet decision (UNINTELLIGIBLE) many months ago.

HUNT: This report is absolutely consistent with the National Academy of Science and every other major...

CARLSON: Right, yes...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... lefties (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

HUNT: And the lefties like Japan and Germany, anti-capitalist countries...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: But Margaret, just one question, it said -- they admitted that there is scientific evidence that global warming does exist, that global warming is caused by industrial activity, and it's harmful to Americans' health, but we're not going to do anything about it.

CARLSON: Well, one of the things that administration said is, Well, we're going to give access to more air conditioning. They actually said that. It reminded me of -- remember Interior Secretary Watt, who said, when the ozone layer hole was discovered, he was going to hand out sunscreen and hats.

They just make a joke out of it, and it is not a joke. And Bob, by the way, beach erosion, two words for you, beach erosion. That's one of the many things that is going to happen...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... have to reconsider.

CARLSON: Bush has said...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... Bush has said, We're waiting for sound science. The sound science is in. He smeared it with the "bureaucracy"...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Time out, Dr. Carlson's the last word.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: We're back with a CAPITAL GANG classic about agreement four and a half years ago on the Kyoto treaty.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Four and one-half years ago, the 38-nation member Global Warming Conference in Kyoto, Japan, agreed to require industrialized nations to reduce gas emissions.

Vice President Al Gore was there representing the United States. THE CAPITAL GANG discussed this development on December 13, 1997. Our guest was Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

Margaret Carlson, is this the first preventive step against stopping global warming?

CARLSON: Well, it's a first baby step. Senate Republicans have already said that they're not for it. And Al Gore was pretty brave...

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: It would cost the American public $200 billion a year. It would be passed on to consumers. It would be a tremendous, tremendous cause of our heavy industry leaving this country for other countries.

I have to say, these people are zealots.

HUNT: Every time there is a big environmental measure, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, those nefarious Novaks of negativism tell us, Chicken Little's here! It's going to destroy the economy, it's going to cost jobs.

And you know something, Mark? Never has.

SHIELDS: Bob, I -- last time I think the American automobile industry looked pretty good, and we got 99 percent of the lead out of the air. Explain.

NOVAK: The treaty would let -- would have emissions much lower (UNINTELLIGIBLE), reduction of emissions much greater than you have in any recession. We have a terrific recession.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Margaret, has this debate advanced since 1997?

CARLSON: See, just a few minutes ago (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Because actually global warming has eroded my hair, apparently.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, do you want to kind of revisit your (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

NOVAK: I think we're just where we are, we can't have this cree (ph), you will have a recession. And I'll tell you something, Mark, if you keep pushing for the Kyoto treaty, your precious blue-collar workers will be on the slag heap, because they won't have jobs.

SHIELDS: Certainly won't, because there's no CEO responsibility in the code of ethics that you folks promulgate.

Al?

HUNT: We are very consistent, Mark, in our lack of edification.

SHIELDS: Gary Bauer.

BAUER: The treaty is a lemon that only Al Gore could like.

NOVAK: Very good.

HUNT: Boy, I got to tell you, I mean, it just really is kind of sad, I mean, that we haven't gone anywhere with this.

CARLSON: Still waiting for sound science.

HUNT: National Academy of Science, you'd think that would mean something...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... we haven't wrecked the country yet, and that's good news. HUNT: Did the Clean Air Act wreck the country, Bob?

NOVAK: It didn't make it any better.

SHIELDS: Oh! Ninety-nine percent of the lead out of the air -- your grandchildren's lives and lungs...

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

SHIELDS: ... are healthier and happier because of it, and you ought to get down and thank Richard Nixon...

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

SHIELDS: ... for creating the Environmental Protection Agency.

BAUER: Look, I love all you guys on this, but every one of these environmental issues becomes an excuse to regulate business and grow government. And that's why the American people doesn't buy it.

CARLSON: And get lead out of the...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Doesn't buy clean air, I'm sorry, Gary.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: We'll be back with the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG. We look at whistle blowers. We'll have Newsmaker of the Week, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Beyond the Beltway looks at Al Gore on the political hustings with Wisconsin political reporter Jeff Mayers, and our Outrages of the Week.

Thank you for being with us, Gary Bauer.

BAUER: Great to be with you.

SHIELDS: THE GANG will be back after a check of the hour's top news following these urgently significant messages.

(COMMERCIAL AND NEWS 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 Margaret Carlson.

Our newsmaker of the week is Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, the leading advocate of protecting whistle blowers.

Charles Grassley, age 68, resident, New Hartford, Iowa. Religion, Baptist. Undergraduate and master's degrees, University of Northern Iowa, elected to the United States House of Representatives 1974, the United States Senate in 1980. Former chairman and currently the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, he runs his family farm with his son.

Earlier this week, our own Al Hunt sat down with Senator Grassley on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNT: Senator, you're a champion of whistle blowers and have legislation that would extend that protection to the FBI, which hasn't been covered. Will it pass Congress, and will it make any difference?

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Well, it ought to pass Congress, because the FBI is the only agency that has its special set of whistle-blower rules. And quite frankly, they were 10 years adopting them after we passed the law. So they really did not want to do it until we put pressure on them.

And I expect, with the FBI situation the way it is, that we will be able to get the legislation passed.

HUNT: History hasn't been very encouraging. The private sector, some, like Karen Silkwood, even have been killed. And the public sector, whistle blowers seem to often disappear into the bureaucracy.

No matter what laws you pass, can you avoid having whistle blowers treated like a skunk at a picnic?

GRASSLEY: No, I'm sorry to say. I wish I could say yes, that they're absolutely going to have the full protection of the law. It's my job to make sure that they do. But you really need a new culture. And that's why I suggested way back in the Iowa caucuses to President Bush that -- and he indicated to me then that, you know, whistle blowers contribute a great deal.

And I said, "You know, you really need to have -- if you get to be president, a Rose Garden ceremony honoring whistle blowers."

But generally what happens to a whistle blower, they aren't necessarily dismissed, but they're hurt professionally and economically. They're shoved off in the attic, no work.

HUNT: You heard this week from that very courageous Minneapolis FBI agent, Coleen Rowley. Director Mueller did say that she wouldn't be punished. But last weekend, the attorney general, John Ashcroft, on national television, pointedly refused to say that her career would not be hurt because she was a whistle blower. Have you talked to the attorney general?

GRASSLEY: I have not talked to him, and I should. But I'm very disappointed in what he said. We got to make sure that she's not hurt professionally or economically. But not just for her, because we need to protect whistle blowers because Congress cannot get adequate information unless whistle blowers feel free to come to us.

It's essential for our job of oversight.

HUNT: Sir, how do you distinguish between a whistle blower and a self-promoter? There for instance is a Chicago agent named Robert Wright who says the FBI has prevented him from investigating terrorist. Critics say he's just trying to promote a book.

GRASSLEY: Well, quite frankly, I've had a lot of people who are trying to blow the whistle who've come to me that did not have the credibility or the information that made them credible. And I have to make a determination.

HUNT: You talked about President Bush earlier. Yet this administration on these issues seems to have a -- place a great premium on secrecy. Isn't that contradictory with the whole spirit of whistle blowing, which is to tear down that veil?

GRASSLEY: There is no justification for secrecy in government expect to protect private lives of individuals, or, number two, national security.

HUNT: Why is this administration so determined to be -- remain secretive?

GRASSLEY: I think that there's always not just a particular administration, I think that organizations like the CIA and the FBI under any administration tend to be too protective.

HUNT: You earlier said you were very disappointed in the attorney general. How do you assess FBI director Mueller on this issue?

GRASSLEY: I think he got on the job one week before September the 4th (ph). He should not be judged by just exactly how he's reacted to the immediate situations with the September the 11th. I think his heart's in the right place. I think if he gets an adequate team of new people around him that he will be able to turn the battleship around.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, Senator Grassley did not sound very optimistic about a more hospitable atmosphere for whistle blowers. Did he too you?

HUNT: No, Mark. Unfortunately, history doesn't give us much cause for optimism, and that's why we got to watch carefully what happens to Coleen Rowley.

Let me say one word about Chuck Grassley. I've been in Washington for 33 years, and I don't think I have ever underestimated a politician as much as I underestimated Chuck Grassley. Bob Novak and I went to dinner with him about 20 years ago, both of our wives thought we misbehaved badly. I don't think either one of us thought he was good -- you know, a terribly impressive new senator. And boy, were we wrong, or I was wrong.

Because he was -- he is one of the most dogged, honest members of the Senate. I disagree with him a lot, but he's a heck of a public servant. And this issue just underscores that. SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the Defense Department. He's been -- and on spending.

One thing I would like to say, though. You mentioned Bob Wright, the FBI agent from Chicago. We had him on "CROSSFIRE" Thursday night. I thought he had a credible story to tell. I don't worry -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) if you begin to look at the whistle blowers and say, Gee, he's got a manuscript, or, He did something wrong, there's always -- they're always going to make an effort to smear the whistle blower.

Look at his story rather than his background.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: You know, whistle blowers are a thousand points of light. And surely that -- you know, cabinet secretaries and members of Congress can sort out the self-promoters from the ones that have a real story to tell. And it -- they're a substitute for the oversight that just can't be done by Congress.

I don't think we need to worry about Coleen Rowley as much, because she's now...

SHIELDS: High profile.

CARLSON: ... high profile. But there are lots of ways to suck the heart out of a job without firing somebody. And there should be somebody to just keep an eye on these people to make sure that they aren't isolated and put in Siberia in the jobs that they get to keep but don't really have any authority any more.

SHIELDS: In any institution, it's always a lot easier to go along with the status quo rather than the courage required to blow the whistle, and that's...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... public opinion.

HUNT: There are many champions, but Chuck Grassley is a persistent champion of people.

SHIELDS: He is that, and I endorse exactly what you said (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

CARLSON: I want to blow a whistle on Bob.

SHIELDS: I think so too.

Time out on Bob Novak. Next on CAPITAL GANG, Beyond the Beltway looks at Al Gore working the political grass roots with Wisconsin political reporter Jeff Mayers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Beyond the Beltway looks at Al Gore working the grass roots, today addressing the Wisconsin Democratic State Convention in Madison.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: It's not too much to ask of President Bush that he start putting politics aside. He ought to stop using the war as a political wedge. It is not the right thing to do, and it hurts (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

You're right when you say the surplus went to tax cuts or the very wealthy. It -- the rich got tax cuts, the middle class got peanuts, and the balanced budget went out the window, and the American economy was left holding the bag.

You look at their budget. It's dishonest. The numbers are intentionally misleading.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Joining us now from Madison is Jeff Mayers, the president and editor of wispolitics.com, an online political and government news service. He is former political writer for "The Wisconsin State Journal."

Thanks for being with us, Jeff.

JEFF MAYERS, EDITOR, WISPOLITICS.COM: My pleasure.

SHIELDS: Jeff, was the reception that Al Gore received from the Wisconsin Democrats today enough to encourage him to run again?

MAYERS: Well, it was a very, very good reception for Al Gore. He was the keynote speaker today, and he roused the Democrats. They -- we did a straw poll last night before his speech, and he finished second to the favorite son, Russ Feingold, and far ahead of the rest of the field.

So the speech may have even elevated his numbers. So he's -- he had a good reception here. This is a friendly audience to him. And he won here, he won here in 2000, narrowly, but he won here.

So it should be encouraging to him, and I think it was to his people and his supporters here in Wisconsin.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Jeff, I notice he's still sighing a little bit, he sighed when he'd talk about the balanced budget, which didn't help him in the debate. You know, I find it incredible that he didn't seem to be -- he doesn't seem to have changed his style from the campaign that was highly criticized, and, of course, he's the faithful partisan. Do they really like that? Do they think that's the ticket to beat George W. Bush next time around? MAYERS: Well, this is a very partisan audience, and this is a very partisan year in Wisconsin for Democrats. They're trying to retake the governor's office for the first time in 16 years because Tommy Thompson held it for so long, and now his former lieutenant governor is a very vulnerable incumbent.

So this crowd wanted to hear this message, and he gave it to them. Plus, I think when you're doing what he's doing, exploring whether he's going to run for president again, he's got to hit the right note with this crowd, because they're shopping around right now for a candidate. He's in the mix, certainly, but they're shopping around. So he has to appeal to their partisan senses.

SHIELDS: OK. Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Maybe Democrats like sighing, Bob.

Jeff, Wisconsin is really hot. It's the new California. Bush has been there five times in the last year. Is he trying to help himself, or Governor Scott McKellum (ph), who seems to be one of the more vulnerable gubernatorial candidates out there?

MAYERS: Yes, well, I think a little bit of both. Yes, I think he's going to learn how to serve bratwurst at the White House pretty soon. Yes, I mean, he's helping himself and McKellum. The Republicans still think that the upper Midwest is a key region for them, and the phalanx of Republican governors they had is crumbling. There's a Democrat now in Iowa. It doesn't look so good in Illinois or Michigan or Wisconsin.

And the White House, Karl Rove's been here too, they think, from all signs, that Wisconsin is part of the package to winning the upper Midwest.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Jeff, I want to go back to Gore for a moment. And among those Democratic activists there, is there a sense when you talk to them privately that Gore blew what should have been a winning race into 2000, or is it more that he got robbed?

MAYERS: It's more -- this was the sense out of today's speech. Boy, if we had heard this Al Gore, he would have won in 2000. So there's -- part of it -- it's a mixture of all that. They think that he underperformed and they think he got robbed, and that's, again, part of the reason why these kind of speeches are so important for him.

SHIELDS: Jeff, you know, one Democrat pointed out to me that in the past 120 years, major candidates for president, both parties, Al Gore got more votes than any of them except Ronald Reagan. He got more votes than either of the Bushes, more votes than Bill Clinton, but all of them were president.

So doesn't it become almost impossible for him not to run again? MAYERS: Right. I mean, I think the momentum is there for him to run. Terry McAuliffe was out here also, again to show the importance that the Democrats place on Wisconsin, and this governor's race, they're trying to have a majority of governors in the country.

And so Terry McAuliffe said right out that he thinks Al Gore will run.

SHIELDS: He did. OK. Bob?

NOVAK: You know, I just -- I just -- it just -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hard to comprehend how they would want to go down that road with him again when he was such a bad candidate, and it was just the Demo -- the Republicans nominating Bob Dole in 1996, when you knew he was going to be a bad candidate.

When you're talking to these Democrats, do any of them come up with a new face, any -- show any interest in any of the other people, any other names come up in your conversations with Wisconsin Democrats?

MAYERS: Yes, and I want to point out too that McAuliffe also said he thought it'd be a crowded field. So I think if Al Gore wants it, he's going to have to fight for it, he's not going to have a -- he's not going to be the only Democratic candidate in the primaries.

I mean, we asked about Hillary Clinton, she finished third to Feingold and Gore in the straw poll. Then there was Daschle, John Kerry, John Edwards, Joe Lieberman, Dick Gephardt. And that was the order.

So -- and they all got -- the only ones in triple figures, though, were Feingold, Gore, Hillary Clinton, and Tom Daschle. And John Kerry.

SHIELDS: OK. Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Has Hillary Clinton been to Wisconsin?

Isn't Wisconsin -- it's a little like California politically, because it's -- everybody wants to go there? Aren't there a lot of scandals besetting what used to be the cleanest state in the Union, making it like, say, New Jersey?

MAYERS: Right, yes.

CARLSON: Sorry, New Jersey.

MAYERS: Well, you're not doing much for the Wisconsin tourism bureau here. The -- there are changes in the wind here in Wisconsin. You know, we've had a pension scandal in Milwaukee County. There is a brewing legislative scandal in the capital. You know, there's a soft economy. There's all sorts of reasons why change is in the air.

And so it's a tough environment for incumbents here this year. SHIELDS: Jeff, just quickly, what issues turns those people on at this convention? Is there any issue that they think are going to be particularly good for them in 2004 that we can't see now?

MAYERS: Well, I don't know, you probably have seen them, but, I mean, what's big in Wisconsin with Democrats, and Gore touched on it today, the environment. He spent a good part of his speech on global warming. You folks were talking about that earlier today. And health care. Those two issues are very key for Wisconsin Democrats. All the candidates talked about those issues.

SHIELDS: OK. Quickly, we've got about 10 seconds, Jeff, would Russ Feingold be the best Democrat to carry Wisconsin in 2004?

MAYERS: Well, I don't know. When he was up there today, he introduced Gore. And some people said, you know, that might be a good ticket right there, Gore and Feingold, in that order.

SHIELDS: OK. Hey, Jeff, thank you very much for being with us.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Now for the Outrage of the Week.

The Reverends Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, both political active in their home state of Virginia, used their bully pulpits to condemn Democrat Bill Clinton's unacceptable behavior with women.

We will now find out if their moral outrage was partisan. The Republican speaker of the Virginia State Legislature paid $100,000 to settle a sexual harassment charge brought by a 26-year-old woman who said the speaker repeatedly made unwelcome advances upon her.

Senator George Allen (ph) was clear, "Sexual harassment is not acceptable," end quote. No word yet from Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: An emergency appropriations bill passed the Senate this week, supposedly to finance the war on terrorism and homeland security. In fact, it was loaded with pet projects by senators from both parties. Senators John McCain and Phil Graham slowed the process to reveal the pork. That displeased Senate majority whip Harry Reed (ph).

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Do we really care about those people who are dead? That's what this legislation's all about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Senator Reed, you know better than to invoke the sacred dead to defend congressional pork.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, this week brings three new examples of the powerful not playing by the rules. Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski was indicted for shipping empty boxes of art rather than pay $1 million in sales taxes. Still, he has a $100 million severance package coming to him.

Another CEO, Sam Wagshaw (ph), was being investigated for tipping off family members and Martha Stewart to dump ImClone stock before bad news came out to the public.

And to avoid $54,000 in taxes, Olympics chair Mitt Romney claimed his $3 million Utah home as his primary residence and then covered it up.

But you can't become governor of Massachusetts, as he would like, if you don't live there.

Sometimes justice prevails.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Right on, Margaret.

Mark, in Iowa this week, President Bush called for permanent repeal of the estate tax, quote, "for the good of American agriculture," end quote. Certainly help families of rich corporate agricultural executives, about 98 percent of this levy is paid by estates of more than $5 million. But not too long ago, a prominent agricultural economist, looking, couldn't find any real farmers who paid estate taxes, the exemptions are so high.

Repealing the estate tax will hurt, not help, family farmers, just as it would hurt charities. This is nothing but a sop to rich contributors.

SHIELDS: Boy, oh, boy. Isn't that the truth? (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

CARLSON: YEs, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NOVAK: Marl -- Karl Marx lives again.

SHIELDS: Thank you...

NOVAK: Soak, soak people so they can't pass Al Hunt's money on to his children.

SHIELDS: Right, how about Chico Marx? Groucho? Groucho Novak.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. If you missed any part of this show, do not despair. You can catch the replay at 11:00 p.m. Eastern and 4:00 a.m. Eastern.

Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS: Hurricane -- When the Big One Hits."

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