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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Lott Steps Down; U.S. Declares Iraq in Material Breach of U.N. Resolution; Gore Drops Out of '04 Presidential Race

Aired December 21, 2002 - 19:00   ET

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, and merry Christmas.

I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak, and Margaret Carlson.

Our guest this -- is Republican Congressman David Dreier of California, the powerful chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee.

Thanks for coming in, powerful David.

REP. DAVID DREIER (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, RULES COMMITTEE: Merry Christmas. It's always nice to be here with Margaret.

SHIELDS: Thank you very much.

Fighting to be Senate majority leader in the next Congress, Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi went on Black Entertainment Television.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BET)

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: The important thing is to recognize the hurt that I caused and ask for forgiveness...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about affirmative action?

LOTT: I'm for that. I think you should (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Across the board?

LOTT: Absolutely across the board.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BET)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When someone issues an apology and ask you to forgive them, you forgive them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: While President Bush kept quiet, his secretary of state and his brother did not.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I was disappointed in the senator's statement. I deplored the sentiments behind the statement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Florida Governor Jeb Bush declared, quote, "It doesn't help to have this swirling controversy that Senator Lott, in spite of his enormous political skills, doesn't seem to be able to handle well. Something's going to have to change. This can't be the topic of conversation over the next week," end quote.

On Friday morning, Senator Lott resigned as leader, with Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee quickly tapped as his successor.

Al Hunt, have the Republicans resolved their race crisis by dumping Trent Lott?

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: Well, Trent Lott is not the only Republican ever to play the race card. It was key to the victory in Georgia just last month, and his piety notwithstanding, in 2000 South Carolina primary, George Bush's campaign viciously played it against John McCain.

But you cannot overestimate this triumph. This was a big, big week and a big, big victory for the Senate Republicans and for the White House, which quite skillfully deep-sixed Trent Lott.

Bill Frist is really attractive. He's bright, he's caring, he's closely connected to the White House. Now we'll find out if those skills translate into a Senate leader, taking on an unruly parliamentary body. Different skills.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, are there downside to the Republicans for this beheading of a leader?

ROBERT NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Lots of them. President Bush could have saved Trent Lott if he wanted to. He didn't want to save him. Now, believe me, I am not infer -- I'm not implying anything, but what Al said was precisely the Democratic line that they immediately start attacking.

This is not the only racist, this is a racist party. That's why they're strong in the South. They in -- they brought up the old chestnut of George W. Bush going to Bob Jones University. I heard it on television all over the week. They pummeled the presidential press spokesman on Friday.

And there's going to be a tremendous campaign to intimidate the Republicans. They figure if they intimidate them on Trent Lott, they can intimidate them on affirmative action -- judicial proceedings and on judicial appointments.

SHIELDS: Margaret.

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Sometimes you have to see what you've done in broad daylight. And the way George Bush handled this, seems to me maybe he has regrets about that South Carolina campaign. George Bush working behind the scenes helped remove Trent Lott.

It would have been better had he done it in the open, and had he said that it's not because -- we don't need to get rid of Trent Lott and it wasn't wrong because it's damaging to the Republican Party, but because it's damaging to African-Americans, and what we want to, want, what we want to stand for in this country.

As for other Republicans, there are some who have very similar records. And you wonder what was the tipping point with Trent Lott. Was it the -- loving the Confederate flag, loving Jefferson Davis, going to the Council of Christian Conservatives or -- no, I'm sorry, Christians... Conservative Citizens, and saying, I believe in your principles?

We don't know what it was. But there may be a new standard for how you need to behave towards African-Americans in this country. It's all to the good.

SHIELDS: David Dreier, I just have to ask you, after November 5, there was a sense of euphoria among Republicans, that they were -- they bestrode the earth, they were that powerful, they'd figured out the political -- Now, I mean, we've seen a circular firing squad formed, lost the Louisiana Senate race, and Republicans are starting to look pretty fallible and pretty human.

DREIER: Mark, this has been actually a spectacular week for Republicans. And I will tell you the main reason for that is the fact that Trent Lott, a great guy, made a tough decision. He made a tough decision personally. He's going to stay in the Senate but give up his leadership spot. And I happen to believe that there are a lot of Democrats who are still around today in prominent spots who many in the Democratic Party would like to have them -- don't (ph) like to see leave.

Now, you know, Al, basically, was, as Bob said, following that Democratic line, grasping for straws. We saw this attack on Republicans with no viable alternative whatsoever during the campaign leading up to November 5. And similarly, we've seen people now using this issue. They always try to focus and try to call Republicans racist, which is something that has gone on, and it's ridiculous. It is absolutely preposterous.

We now are in a position where we can move ahead. The president is going to have a strong State of the Union message. We're going to see, I believe, a terrific leadership coming from Senator Frist. And Senator Frist actually, as a physician, he will be putting forth the Hippocratic Oath, which he knows very well, which we should use in the Congress, that is, to do no harm. And I think that's going to be a beneficial thing. HUNT: Can I just say one thing? Because I think both these people totally misquoted and misrepresented what I just said. I'm sure it was accidental, but it was a distortion, both of you. I did not say the Republican Party is racist. I don't believe that. I said Trent Lott was not the only Republican. Surely David Duke was a racist. You would not disagree with that, Mr. Dreier...

DREIER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) him as a Republican, we wouldn't have anything to do with him, Al.

HUNT: ... and I think maybe we ought to look ahead -- Just a second, David. You know, you distorted what I said, and I just want to get the record straight.

When you look ahead at Bill Frist, which I think is the more important issue right now, he is a really, really attractive fellow. And what I was trying to say earlier was that there are different skills required to lead a Senate body. That's tough to do. Bob Dole had them, we'll see if Bill Frist does.

Very close to the White House, that's a double-edged sword. There are some people who make that -- that makes them a little bit nervous. They don't want Karl Rove to direct economic policy, to plan war strategy, and then on the seventh day run the Senate.

CARLSON: You know...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Here's, here's what's, here's what's, here's what's going on. Terry McAuliffe, the egregious -- can I use that word? -- egregious chairman of the Democratic National Committee...

DREIER: I'm not going to protest.

NOVAK: ... immediately came out on Friday, as soon as there was a -- Mr. Frist was, Senator Frist was determined, attacking Frist as a -- as providing -- as leading racist campaigns in Tennessee -- in Florida and Georgia and in South Carolina. I mean, this, this -- they have, they have tasted blood, and they are after it.

Now, the test is going to be -- I'm going to give you the first big test...

SHIELDS: Minimum wage?

NOVAK: ... is -- No. The first big test is whether they're going to be...

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NOVAK: ... intimidated on intervening in the University of Michigan quota case, and whether they're going to be able to come out, as Ted Olson, the solicitor general, has proposed against the University of Michigan quotas, and secondly is whether they're going to resubmit Judge Charles Pickering for the federal bench, or whether they're going to be frightened by what's happened on the, on the, on the, on the, on the really unfair treatment of Trent Lott.

SHIELDS: Let me, let me just, let me just say in response to what has been said by you and David about Al. For those of us who were lucky enough to cover the South Carolina campaign in 2000, it was as ugly a campaign as any of us has ever lived through. That -- the name Richard Hines (ph), a Bush operative, might be remembered, a man who sent 250,000 "Keep them flying" letters out to self-described conservatives on the, on the, on keeping the...

NOVAK: You're making my point, you know that?

SHIELDS: ... on keeping the Confederate flag up for the very, for the very purpose that, that George Bush had been the only candidate not to call it a racist symbol.

Now, you had that...

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SHIELDS: ... you had that, and you had Ralph Reed, you had Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson doing it, John McCain sired a black child out of birth. That -- those -- that's -- is that not playing the race?

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Let me say why I'm not making your point.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: I want to tell you something...

DREIER: ... more than George Bush.

HUNT: ... as I said last week, Thad Cochran is, is, is one of the most nonracist members of the United States Congress. Bill Frist is anything but a racist, I don't care what Terry McAuliffe says. It's not a, it's not, it's not a racist party. That -- there's no question of that. SO don't say we're saying things...

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER: ... it's not a partisan issue, there is a problem, but...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: But that, but that is, that, that...

DREIER: ... it's not partisan, that's what we need to...

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER: ... yes, in both parties.

NOVAK: ... that, that is, that -- that is the line, and when you drag up... (CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... the South Carolina campaign...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... again...

HUNT: ... that was a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) racist campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... it just, it just, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has no relevance to what's going on, Al.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: It certainly does.

CARLSON: Let me make (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SHIELDS: Margaret.

CARLSON: ... see going forward whether those symbols are used in future Republican campaigns. The White House will prevail over Ted Olson and not intervene in the University of Michigan...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... you're making my point.

CARLSON: Well...

NOVAK: You're Mau-Mauing the president on important issues...

SHIELDS: Bob...

NOVAK: ... because of Trent Lott.

CARLSON: I'm Mau-Mauing...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: ... merely because of, because of the Hispanic vote, there were a number of people, including Karl Rove, who had grave reservations...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

The United States declared Iraq in material breach of the new United Nations disarmament mandate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) POWELL: It should be obvious that the pattern of systematic holes and gaps in Iraq's declaration is not the result of accidents or editing oversights or technical mistakes. These are material omissions that, in our view, constitute another material breach.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Neither Britain nor the U.N. weapons inspectors went that far.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We simply don't know whether Iraq will be found in breach of the United Nations resolution. If it is, and if we discover they've been refusing to cooperate properly or haven't cooperated properly with the United Nations inspectors, then we've always made it clear that we will go back to the Security Council.

HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: It's for the U.S. and the Security Council to determine whether it is a material breach, whether it is so significant as to be characterized as material.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Then, what happens next?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: My guess is that the United States will take some time and will talk to some of our friends and allies around the world about the declaration and share ideas and thoughts about what's in it and what may not be in it.

GEN. AMER AL-SAADI, IRAQI SCIENTIFIC ADVISER: We're not worried. It's the other party that is worried, because there is nothing that can -- that they can pin on us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, if the Iraqis are in material, then why aren't the bombs dropping on Baghdad right this minute?

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) question. I think that guy's seen too many gangster movies (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

CARLSON: Pin it on them.

NOVAK: ... then can pin on us.

The main reason, Mark, is they're not read to go to war. This is not a Northern Alliance guerrilla fight, this is a set piece battle, and they're not ready, won't be ready till February.

Secondly, they'd like to have more allies. They don't like to just go in with a few Brits and a few Australians, they'd like to have more support.

But beyond that, there's also continued debate going on inside the administration. There still are some people who would like this to be settled diplomatically inside the administration, and some Republicans on the Hill. But the odds are still that we are going to war, just takes a little time to get ready.

SHIELDS: Is war inevitable, and is Colin Powell the best chance not to have war?

DREIER: I don't think the final decision has been made, Mark, but I do believe that to have Colin Powell make the statement that he did is a process of building up a case. You asked the question of Bob whether or not, you know, why we're not bombing now, based on this breach.

I think that we will see a multicount case developed over the coming weeks, especially as we lead towards the 27th of January.

SHIELDS: Margaret, this week we saw public opinion, both "The Wall Street" -- "The Washington Post," ABC, and "The Los Angeles Times" say that there was a -- less of an appetite on the part of the American people for war, especially if it was at all unilateral.

CARLSON: Right. The big majority only comes when you say it is going to be multilateral, and the U.N.'s going to be in on it. Now, it -- theoretically, there's not a breach until the U.N. says there's a breach. But the United States is building a case. And if the Security Council doesn't come around, I'm pretty convinced now that we're going to go ahead after January 27, when the timing does become right.

It's, you know, interesting that the date and the weather and the set piece can go at that time.

DREIER: Colin Powell, though, doing this, though, I think was a very, very important thing, because he clearly has pursued the diplomatic route. And this will not be done unilaterally, it'll be done multilaterally, if we only have the Brits and the Australians on board.

SHIELDS: Well, Colin Powell is -- I mean, he's the one figure that reaches out to those who have great reservations, both in this country and overseas, Al, about the war.

HUNT: Yes, but I do think that war is inevitable, Mark.

SHIELDS: You do.

HUNT: I think the only question is whether is whether it's February or whether it's March, and I think how broad and how deep is the alliance. I think that's -- those are important questions.

I think the other reason the administration is, is, is at least waiting a little bit is that there is tremendous indecision inside as to what happens after Saddam. There really has been very poor planning on that. And Chuck Hagel and Joe Biden had a piece this week, and they said, Look, it's going to require 75,000 troops and $20 million a year before you get to the reconstruction.

This is a huge undertaking, and I think Paul Wolfowitz of the Defense Department is a very bright guy, but this Wolfowitzian notion that it can be a model of democracy -- this is a country that Winston Churchill stitched together 80 years ago, and I'm not sure that we're going to, you know, find a Jeffersonian...

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

HUNT: ... democracy.

NOVAK: ... Al, let me back up. I really do believe that if we do not present to the world proof of nuclear development -- that's what we're talking about, we're not talking about mustard gas, we're not talking about anthrax, we're talking about nuclear development. If we cannot prove that, we're going to be in trouble just attacking an Arab country. And I don't -- I believe if we had proof of nuclear development, we would have shown it by now.

SHIELDS: Well, a question, I mean, isn't it, isn't there a certain test right now of the United States sharing the intelligence we do have with the U.N. inspectors? I mean, isn't that -- we've said we will do that, but -- and, you know, they -- in fact, if we do have it and we've said that it's there, it's available, I mean, isn't that our responsibility now to provide it?

CARLSON: I think some of that is going to come, and they have taken the satellite photos and other things that they have and compared it with what turns out to be an incomplete Xeroxing job put forth as Saddam Hussein's listing of his weapons facilities. So they know that they -- I mean, Saddam Hussein didn't even make any effort, much less a good-faith effort, to put anything on the table.

And I think that's why (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Colin Powell...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... said the things he said this week.

HUNT: The 1991 U.N. resolution requires the Iraqis to show that they have destroyed those weapons.

DREIER: Remember that Sarin and VX are weapons of mass destruction. They can be deployed...

NOVAK: Oh, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

DREIER: Well, no...

NOVAK: ... how do they deliver them?

DREIER: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- How do they deliver them? We know how they can be delivered, and we also know of the tie to al Qaeda to what's taken place in Baghdad. And I think that also is another very troubling sign.

NOVAK: Can't (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that either.

HUNT: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

CARLSON: You don't even need that.

HUNT: ... I was with you till you got to that, that's a reach.

CARLSON: Yes, yes.

HUNT: But, you know, you ask the Kurds, if you want to find out whether chemical and biological weapons are...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Last word, last word, Al Hunt.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, Al Gore bows out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

On CBS's "60 Minutes," former vice president AL Gore announced his decision about a 2004 run for president one month earlier than expected.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 MINUTES," CBS)

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I have decided not to run, and I...

LESLEY STAHL, HOST: You've decided not to run.

GORE: I've decided that I will not be a candidate for president in 2004.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Gore said the next presidential campaign should not dwell on the last one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: In conversations around the country, it is completely understandable, but nevertheless a fact, that the conversations first and foremost tend toward the 2000 race, the Supreme Court decision, the idea of a rematch, and all the rest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: I like his tie.

How will this affect other possible Democratic candidates?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: As I have said to many of you, when you asked me how likely was it that I would run if Al Gore did not run, I said I probably would run if Al Gore doesn't run. And that remains the case.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I said all along that whatever Al Gore did or did not decide to do was not going to affect my personal decision.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: I've said all along that what the vice president did or didn't do would not affect my decision.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: I've never at who else was running as a factor.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, does Al Gore's withdrawal overnight make Senator Joe Lieberman the Democrats' front-runner?

CARLSON: Did or didn't? Joe Lieberman, Senator Lieberman made a promise that he wouldn't if Al Gore is running, kept the promise, showed loyalty and restraint, and now I assume he will run. The one thing he has is, he's a moderate, compassionate moderate, and he has family values worth a million dollars.

He's going to the Mideast this week, to that station of the cross. And for the moment, he's probably got a jump on things.

SHIELDS: Front-runner, Bob?

NOVAK: No, he's a -- he's got the same identity in a smaller degree that Gore has. That's why Gore was ahead in the polls.

You know, the -- I can't find people I talk to who take Joe Lieberman as a serious prospect to be nominated. Now, those people have a kind of a mixed emotions. They would have loved for Gore to run if he lost, because then the guy who beat him would be the giant killer. But there was also a danger he might win. And I couldn't, I couldn't find anybody who wanted him to be the nominee.

SHIELDS: David, I've had a number of your Republican colleagues tell me they were most fearful of Joe Lieberman in the general election.

DREIER: Well, I think that Al Gore made the right decision, and I think it's right in saving the country for this, so I congratulate him for that, and a lot of Republicans said they'd love to run against Al Gore again.

But I do believe that Lieberman is a strong candidate. The problem that Lieberman will have to deal with, Mark, is that he clearly shifted all around when he became Al Gore's running mate on a number of issues. I've worked with him on some issues in the past, and frankly, I think there's a lot confusion as to exactly where he stands.

But I think it's going to be a free-for-all. It's going to be very interesting for us to see. I will tell you that the nominee of my party will be George W. Bush.

SHIELDS: OK. Al Hunt.

HUNT: David, that was gusty.

CARLSON: Oh, wow, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

HUNT: That really, really, really was gutsy.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Do you support him, David?

DREIER: I will be supporting him, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SHIELDS: OK, not Richard Riordan.

DREIER: Yes.

HUNT: You know, Mark, I think that it would have been better for the Democrats if Al Gore had stayed in, because, Bob, if he -- he either would have been beaten by someone, as you said, it would have given them more credentials, or if he was good enough to beat this field, I don't think this is that weak a field. If he's going to have to beat that -- this field, he would have been a better candidate than last time.

But that hasn't happened. Joe Lieberman is the biggest short- term beneficiary, because he wouldn't have run otherwise. And I just think the whole thing is up of grabs right now. Someone's...

SHIELDS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

HUNT: ... going to start to develop a campaign. They haven't yet.

SHIELDS: I'll say this, that most -- the last, most -- two recent indelible moments in Al Gore's career, he's been absolutely gracious. I mean, forget all the sighs of the campaign and the debates in 2000. I mean, his withdrawal, and he did -- in December of 2000, and his statement this -- I think they were gracious and they were generous.

NOVAK: Well, I have to dissent from that.

SHIELDS: Really, Bob?

NOVAK: Yes, I do, because...

SHIELDS: In this Christmas season?

NOVAK: Yes, I'm sorry to say that, but, but I, I thought... (CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... I thought all the things that were wrong with Al Gore came out as they usually do. He's self-referential, he can't get by one, one sentence without referring to himself, his feelings and his, his, his family, and his...

CARLSON: At least he has feelings.

NOVAK: ... and all this, it's a -- it's, it, it -- who needs that? And it -- but I mean -- I'll miss the campaign.

HUNT: I'd like to bring, I'd like to bring out some of your personal feelings (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SHIELDS: Later. Later, Al.

We'll be back, we'll be back with our CAPITAL GANG Classic, Al Gore's concession speech just two years ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Two years ago this very week, Al Gore conceded the presidential election to George W. Bush after 36 days of recount and litigation.

Your CAPITAL GANG discussed this on December 16, 2000. Our guest was Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, December 16, 2000)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, did the vice president prove his future political prospects with this speech?

NOVAK: I really don't think so. I think the Democrats have been telling me that he ran a terrible campaign, and they never want to do it again, are not on one concession speech going to change their mind. But it was the same old Al Gore to me on that concession speech...

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: That's a very tough speech to give and keep your spirit up and try to be magnanimous in defeat. And I thought he did a very good job in defeat.

I'll tell you who lost the campaign for him, these radical environmental extremists who voted for Nader rather than for him.

CARLSON: I thought it was such a fine speech. I thought it hurt -- hit the perfect notes. Democrats hate their losers, even their good ones. I don't think his second act is going to be a second chance, but maybe it will.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, looking at Al Gore, you say -- had the sense that if he had given a speech like that, a performance like that, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) any one of the three debates, the outcome might have been different. HUNT: Or any other time between the convention, which was his last good speech, and I think, and the one the other night. But I do agree it was gracious, it was generous.

Mark, he kept alive his, his, his political prospects...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, looking back at that speech and the polls that follow it, that did keep alive Al Gore's political prospects, didn't it?

NOVAK: No, he went into hibernation for two years. He came out, people hated him, he had no support. I was just amazed listening to my colleagues, how wrong they were about him, how soft they were on what was a crummy speech, and the concession, it wasn't a gracious concession speech. He couldn't even say that George W. Bush was elected. He said he became president.

I'll tell you something, I'd give you the Constitution if (UNINTELLIGIBLE) haven't seen it. He was elected president because he got a majority of the votes in the electoral college.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt...

HUNT: Oh, Mark.

SHIELDS: ... didn't, didn't Al Gore -- what did he have in the polls, I mean, did he have 40 percent of the Democrats, or close to it, supporting him?

HUNT: He was at 40 percent two weeks ago. But, you know, Mark, in an ever-changing world, change is difficult. I'm glad there's one constant, Robert D. Novak.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: I think...

DREIER: Including the red vest, that's one constant.

CARLSON: ... both, both concession -- or the concession speech and the speech dropping out were both very good. I'm afraid that the last memory of Al Gore could be in the hot tub on "Saturday Night Live," Saturday night before the "60 Minutes," in which he's in with a champagne glass ridiculing his very loyal vice presidential running mate, Joe Lieberman.

NOVAK: Was that Lieberman with him in that tub?

SHIELDS: David.

DREIER: Unlike Bob Novak, I follow Winston Churchill's edict at the beginning, the moral of the work in each of his volumes, where he said, "In victory, magnanimity." And I believe that Al Gore has clearly been defeated, and he made a decision not to run. It's a right one, and we will move ahead with what I think will be an interesting campaign.

SHIELDS: I've always thought of you rather than Novak as Churchillian, David.

And let me just, let me just say, Al Gore, whatever else you say about him, has written his political epitaph, which is, every American who ever lived other than Ronald Reagan, he more votes than any of them running for president.

NOVAK: You know what he's going to try to do...

SHIELDS: And that's -- I mean, that's...

NOVAK: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

SHIELDS: ... that's amazing achievement, and yet was never president. I mean, that's, that's...

NOVAK: You know what he's going to try to do now?

SHIELDS: What's he going to do?

NOVAK: Something you'll hate. He's going to try to get to be very, very rich.

SHIELDS: Bob, for goodness sakes...

DREIER: And he'll succeed.

SHIELDS: ... then all of a sudden you'll be licking...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... we got to be consistent.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: He may pick up, he may pick up Bob, then.

SHIELDS: That's right.

David Dreier, thank you very much...

DREIER: Merry Christmas.

SHIELDS: ... for being with us.

DREIER: Nice to be with you all.

SHIELDS: Thank you, David.

HUNT: Merry Christmas.

SHIELDS: Coming up in the second half of CAPITAL GANG, our "Newsmaker of the Week" is humor columnist and author Art Buchwald. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at Christmas in Bethlehem with CNN's Kelly Wallace. And our "Outrages of the Week," that's all after the latest news following these important messages.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

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.

Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is humorist Art Buchwald.

Art Buchwald, age 77, residence Washington, D.C. United States Marine Corps enlisted man, Pacific Theater, World War II. Attended the University of Southern California 1945 to 1949.

Columnist, European edition of "New York Herald Tribune" starting in 1949. Returned to the United States as a syndicated columnist, 1962. Author of 31 books, including "We'll Laugh Again," published this year.

Earlier this week, Al Hunt sat down with Art Buchwald.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNT: Art, you've been a guest on the Christmas week show of "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT, AND SHIELDS" program for the past 20 years. We would have invited you this year, except they canceled the show last month.

ART BUCHWALD, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Yes, you know, I was thinking about Bob Novak, and I was thinking about Christmas. And I always thought of Bob Novak as Scrooge, very conservative guy, he wants to make money, and he's Scrooge. Tom Cratchitt and Tiny Tim were liberals, lefties. And so Scrooge was really mean to them until he went into the dreams.

So that's the way I think of Bob. And I'm sorry we're not doing the Christmas show for that reason.

HUNT: Your new book, "We'll Laugh Again," after 9/11, the Bush administration, who's funny?

BUCHWALD: Well, the president's funny. Don Rumsfeld's funny. Attorney General Ashcroft's funny. And Karl Rove and Card are sort of funny.

So -- but I wanted to make one point to you, which is very important, and that is, all of the media keeps referring to the White House. The White House did this and the White House did that. The White House didn't do anything, it's a building! It's just a structure. I think blaming the White House for all the things that people inside are doing. HUNT: Art, I don't want to bring up sore subjects or embarrass you during the holiday season. But in your annual interviews on CNN, it's been noted every year that you were not invited to the White House Christmas party. Did George W. Bush change history and invite you this year?

BUCHWALD: No. I wasn't invited. And it really -- it hurts, it hurts terribly. Every year I've said the same thing on this show, I wasn't invited, and no one picked up on it.

HUNT: Do you have any idea why you are stiffed so repeatedly?

BUCHWALD: I don't know. I think they don't like my looks.

HUNT: Now, Bob Novak claims it's because you're really part of the left-wing Georgetown elite conspiracy.

BUCHWALD: Yes. Oh, I am that, of course. But Bob Novak claims everybody is that he doesn't agree with. Bob is wonderful. When I went on the Christmas shows all the time, I was hero. And Evans and Novak were the villains, because they're not beloved.

HUNT: Now, you have enjoyed an extraordinarily successful career, but are you a little jealous of Novak? Do you wish you could be a little bit more like him?

BUCHWALD: No. No. I pray to the heaven that I'm not like Bob Novak. I -- you know, when people come up to me, they say nice things to me, they like me. And I want that. And since I wrote the book, as you pointed out, people buy it because they got to take their mind off all the garbage that's going on the world now.

HUNT: All of these corporate scandals this year, are there any financial skeletons in your closet?

BUCHWALD: Probably a lot. But since I'm not running for anything, they won't find out about it.

By the way, it's not a scandal, but it was kind of -- I was hoping to have Kissinger to kick around again.

HUNT: Oh, that must have been a disappointment when he...

BUCHWALD: Yes. I look at it a little differently than most people. If they're copy, I like them. If they're not copy, I don't care about them.

HUNT: Any final observations this holiday season?

BUCHWALD: Well, I don't know where we're going or what we're up to, but I thought of Martin Luther, who said, Even if I knew the world would end tomorrow, I'd still plant my apple tree.

HUNT: Oh, that's nice. Art Buchwald, happy holidays.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SHIELDS: Al Hunt, I can remember Art Buchwald at a Spina Bifida roast of Robert Novak saying he remembered Novak in Joliet, Illinois, as a young boy taking interest in government. So to do -- to express his interest, he became an informant for the FBI (UNINTELLIGIBLE) spying on his relatives.

But now, I got to ask you, is Art Buchwald really a political philosopher kind of passing and posing as a columnist?

HUNT: Oh, well, the best humor columnists, Buchwald and Russ Baker, certainly are. But I want to ask Margaret, who's the real sex symbol, Art Buchwald or Bob Novak?

CARLSON: Men in red have never quite come, you know, appealed to me that way. I sort of go for Harrison Ford or, say, Mark Shields, not in red, but...

SHIELDS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NOVAK: You know, I have to get a little serious here, because I thought your probing questioning, it was really a terrific interview.

HUNT: Thank you, Bob, I appreciate that.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: I thought you dug out the fact that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) beneath it, behind that facade of being a funny man, he is a member of the left-wing conspiracy, the vast left-wing conspiracy...

HUNT: Vast.

NOVAK: ... and he's been attacking me for 30 years.

SHIELDS: And you've given him a lot of material, Bob.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, Beyond the Beltway looks at Christmas in the Holy Land with CNN international correspondent Kelly Wallace.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Talks are under way between Israelis and Palestinians about a possible Israeli troop pullout before Christmas Eve from Bethlehem, which Christians revere as the birthplace of Christ.

Palestinian officials last week made a request.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAEB ERAKAT, CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: I have personally approached the Israeli government asking them not to put any obstacles in President Arafat's attempt to reach Bethlehem and to participate in the mass services of Christmas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Israel said no. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman said, quote, "Arafat has nothing to look for in Bethlehem after what he has done to the Christians in Bethlehem. There is no moral justification for his presence there. It would be an insult to humanity and a slap in the face to Christianity," end quote.

Joining us now from Jerusalem is CNN international correspondent Kelly Wallace. She was in Bethlehem earlier today but could not join us from there because of the Israeli curfew.

Kelly, great to have you with us.

Kelly...

KELLY WALLACE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mark, great to be with you.

SHIELDS: Thank you. Kelly, does the presence of Israeli troops in Bethlehem ruin the Christmas pilgrimage?

WALLACE: Well, Palestinian Christians would say yes, but you will still have Christians from all over the world coming here, making that annual pilgrimage from the Old City here in Jerusalem on Christmas Eve to Manger Square in Bethlehem.

The big thing, though, is Israeli forces I talk to know that they have a public relations nightmare, really, on their hands. They know the presence of Israeli troops inside Manger Square on one of the holiest days for Christians could really be a big problem.

So the sense we're getting is that Israeli troops are likely to withdraw, at least from the town center, to allow the midnight mass and other services to go on.

SHIELDS: Robert Novak.

NOVAK: Kelly, what is it like in Bethlehem right now? I understand the Israelis, for reasons I don't quite understand yet, do not permit any Christmas decorations. Does it have a military presence right there now? Is that the sense of what's going on?

WALLACE: Well, there is a military presence, and the town faces a curfew daily. Today there was no curfew, meaning people could go out of their homes from 8:00 to 5:00 p.m. But in the evening, there is a curfew, in which case people have to stay inside their homes.

The Israelis, though, Bob, are not kind of banning decorations. It is the Palestinians. The local officials have decided, in a form of protest, not to have any holiday decorations around Manger Square and not to light the Christmas tree or the tree outside the Church of the Nativity. We are told that this is the first time ever there won't be any holiday decorations. Again, they're protesting the Israeli occupation of the town of Bethlehem.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson. CARLSON: Kelly, moving away from Christmas for just a moment, in the upcoming Israeli elections, the Bush administration has, you know, publicly, you know, been hands off, and we assume supports Likud, but is said not to even be speaking to General Mitzna and ignoring his calls. Is that a sensible way of dealing with other personages there?

WALLACE: Well, Margaret, as you know, this would really be the first time the American administration not really backing or supporting in any way the Labour Party candidate. There has really been no sort of contact, we understand, with Amram Mitzna. He is the Labour Party candidate. And you also know that the Bush administration kind of sided with the Israelis, in particular Prime Minister Sharon, in terms of not making public this road map for Middle East peace until after the Israeli elections.

I can tell you Palestinians and even some others within the country of Israel here say this is really a way for the Bush administration to step into domestic politics, because by putting off the road map, many believe it strengthens the hand of Ariel Sharon.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Kelly, first of all, you're missed in Washington, but we're glad you're there. Let me just ask you the...

WALLACE: Well, miss you too.

HUNT: ... the backdrop this Christmas, of course, is the likelihood of war in Iraq in a couple months. And what is the feeling there as to the effect it's going to have on Israel in general, and on the Israeli-Palestinian issue?

WALLACE: Well, there's a lot of concern, Al, definitely, and especially in the Palestinian territories, a lot of anxiety about what the consequences could be. When you talk to average Israelis, though, they kind of have a -- they're used to dealing with anxiety, they're used to dealing with fear, so there's not as much of a great deal of concern about any possible attack by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein if there is a war.

We know there's great coordination between the Israelis and the Bush administration. We also know that the Bush administration is going to do everything it possibly can to prevent the Israelis from getting involved if there is any Iraqi attack on Israel.

But you do have a great concern about what this will mean for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are those who believe it will really put this issue front and center after any war. But many others are fearing the consequences, and believe it could only lead to more violence in this region, Al.

SHIELDS: Kelly, are your sources in the Israeli side mindful of just what a public relations disaster Christmas and Christmas Eve could be for them in Bethlehem if all we see are armed troops and without the traditional freedom of pilgrims visiting the birth site of Christ? WALLACE: They're very aware of it, Mark. I talked to one source who said that there was a meeting in the prime minister's office earlier this week discussing this very thing, that they are aware, the Israelis are aware of this picture that the world would see of Israeli troops when you have Palestinian Christians and Christians from all around the world on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. They know, in the words of this source, that would be a, quote, "horrible picture."

So they are trying to discuss the risks of staying and the risks of leaving. There's a lot of concern, Israeli source say they're still concerned about the security situation, one source saying there's still a lot of, quote "terror activity" going on inside Bethlehem.

But the sense we're getting, again, is that the Israelis will withdraw, at least from the town center, and will allow services to go on as much as possible, even possibly still with a limited Israeli presence.

NOVAK: On that point, Kelly, we had a report, I think it was a CNN report that we started out the -- this segment with, that there are negotiations going on. What's the quid pro quo? What do the Palestinians have to do to get the Israeli troops to move out of Bethlehem for Christmas?

WALLACE: Well, it's interesting, Bob, because Israelis believe the Palestinians aren't very interested, really, in seeing the Israelis out, because they believe they have a kind of public relations win here. The Palestinians will not accept any partial withdrawal. So they want full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Bethlehem. That's all they will take. They won't take just sort of a partial withdrawal from the town center.

And also, the Palestinians know, and they believe that, you know, the Israelis could suffer, could suffer a price on the international stage, could again suffer a public relations nightmare.

So the Palestinians, according to Israelis, are not very inclined to strike a deal. Of course, though, you also have Palestinians who want to have Christmas, who want to have the freedom to do and go where they want. So again, it's a balancing act there. But right now, it is not clear what deal will be reached over the next two days.

SHIELDS: Kelly Wallace, you've been terrific. We are proud of you. We thank you very much for being with us.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been universally praised for his leadership after 9/11. Giuliani is now a success in the private sector, and New York City faces a budget crisis and tax increases. So then why should New York taxpayers still pay for 15 police detectives at $100,000 a year to provide personal private security round the clock for Rudy and his fiancee, Judith Nathan?

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Democrat Parris Glendening is the most unpopular governor ever in Maryland, leading to the rare election this year of a Republican, Bob Ehrlich, as his successor in the heavily Democratic state. Ehrlich inherits a $550 million budget deficit, and Glendening's making it worse with what "The Washington Post" calls a last-minute spending spree, including higher wages for state workers, called by Democratic state controller and former governor (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Schaefer (ph) "the dirtiest trick I've ever known any governor to do."

The new Democratic slogan, spend and spend, tax and tax, lose and lose.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, guess who got the FBI's award for distinguished performance? Agent Spike Bowman (ph), who denied the Minneapolis office a warrant to search the 20th hijacker Moussaoui's laptop. Guess who didn't get one? Coleen Rowley, who had the goods linking Moussaoui to Osama. She later joked that resistance from Washington was so great there must be a mole from al Qaeda there.

Bowman said there were probably lots of Moussaouis in the phone book. There was only one. And she had trouble linking him to just the precise group that's Bowman thought she should. He gets up to 35 percent of his salary and a signed letter of gratitude from the president.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Parading as a corporate reformer, President Bush said on retirement benefits, quote, "What's fair on the top floor should be fair on the shop floor," end quote.

John Snow, Mr. Bush's new Treasury secretary, will get pension benefits from CSX, where he was CEO, based on 44 years of service, though he only worked there for 25. In the spirit of Christmas, Mark, let's let Mr. Snow keep his rich pension if CSX, instead of cutting benefits for its shop floor retirees, also gives them credit for 75 percent more time than they actually worked.

SHIELDS: Good point.

CARLSON: Good (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

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

Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS: Al Qaeda, the New Threat."

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