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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Inspectors Discover Empty Warheads Near Baghdad; Is University of Michigan's Admission Policy Constitutional?; Lieberman to Run for President

Aired January 18, 2003 - 19:00   ET

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 THE CAPITAL GANG.

I'm Mark Shields with the full GANG, that's Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne, and Margaret Carlson.

U.N. weapons inspectors discovered 11 empty chemical weapons warheads in a bunker near Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The fact that Iraq is in possession of undeclared chemical warheads, which the United Nations says are in excellent condition, is and of itself a serious and troubling matter.

GEN. HOSSAM AMIN, IRAQI MONITORING DIRECTOR: It is expired rockets, and they were for weapons without any intention to use them, because they were expired since 10 years ago.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

SHIELDS: The U.N. weapons inspectors said this was no smoking gun, but nevertheless criticized Iraq's lack of cooperation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: A lot has been destroyed, perhaps more than during the Gulf War. However, there is not yet confidence, there is not yet certainty that all the chemical, biological weapons and missiles are gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: President Bush and Saddam Hussein both issued threats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The evidence hasn't been very good that he is disarming. And time is running out. At some point in time, the United States' patience will run out.

SADDAM HUSSEIN, PRESIDENT OF IRAQ (through translator): Everyone in (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) intent and action has settled down, will commit suicide at the walls of Baghdad and the Iraqi towns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, on a day when thousands rallied against U.S. military action, do people in favor of war have legitimate reason, given these warheads?

ROBERT NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: I can't imagine that anybody would say, We're going to war because there are 11 empty warheads, probably left over from 10 years ago. These warheads are not the nuclear weapons we've been warned about. They travel about 12 miles.

But this is being used as a pretext for a decision that's already been made at high levels of the U.S. government to change the government in Iraq. It has nothing to do with, boy, we're -- we are really worried about these little chemical warheads that's going to cause a holocaust in the Middle East.

Most disturbing thing is that Secretary of State Powell, a lot of people were relying on to keep some sanity, played the good soldier this week and said that at the end of the month, there would be more evidence. If there's more, if there's evidence, why not put it out now?

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, in the eyes of the Bush administration, is Iraq guilty until proven innocent?

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: No, I think in the eyes of the Bush administration, they've never thought that Saddam Hussein is going to be disarmed through inspections, which is why I -- this is not these 11 or 12 empty warheads are not a smoking gun. If they were particularly menacing, inspectors never would have found them. The really menacing stuff has been long since hidden.

The inspectors aren't really looking for a smoking gun. That's not what they're supposed to be doing there. They're supposed to be confirming that a cooperating state has disarmed. Saddam Hussein is not disarming. False declaration in December, he's already in material breach.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: You know, what was interesting about Colin Powell is, it reminds those of us who wonder if the war is a good idea, a war that seems to have been decided upon, whether, at the base of every hawk's desire to go to war is that Bush has the goods and we just haven't seen it. And has Colin Powell this week been shown what Tony Blair has perhaps seen, and what Bush knows to exist, which is weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein has and is capable of using?

That's what I wonder, because I -- you know, we haven't seen it yet. And what we have here is perhaps a clerical material breach, which is, you know, Saddam Hussein didn't say he had these. And Hans Blix doesn't think it's enough, I don't think the Security Council. And I wouldn't have thought Colin Powell, simply being a good soldier, would have thought it was enough.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, do you think the Bush administration is looking for a smoking gun, or is it just looking for sort of a, you know, a deception and pattern of deception that they can then cite?

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: Well, both. I mean, as Kate suggested, the Iraqis agreed in 1991 to disarm, so really they -- in that sense, they have to prove themselves innocent. I mean, that is true, the burden of proof is on them.

I don't think the Powell-Cheney -- I think increasingly bitter feud has really played itself out yet, Bob. I don't -- I still think Powell wants to go through more international approval of this, you know, before we go into any regime change. And that there's still more to be played out there. And that is an increasingly bitter disagreement.

The other thing that was fascinating this week was that "TIME" magazine and others reported that the Saudis and the Egyptians and others are talking about a coup against Saddam, or getting him to leave. Now, that says two things. That says, number one, that they think there is a probability of war. But it also says, Mark, that it's a war they're scared stiff as to what it's going to mean for them after it's all over.

NOVAK: That's exactly right. But the last thing that the hawks inside the administration, and their friends outside the administration, want is a coup d'etat that would replace Saddam Hussein. They want a war as a manifestation of U.S. power in the world and as a sign that the United States is capable of changing the balance of power and the political map of the Middle East.

There's no question that the last thing they want is Saddam Hussein put on a plane and taken...

O'BEIRNE: Bob, Bob, speaking...

NOVAK: ... to -- taken away.

O'BEIRNE: ... speaking, speaking for this hawk, I want to see a regime in Baghdad that would not be armed with weapons of mass destruction. That might not happen through a coup. If that could happen through a coup, you could avoid war.

SHIELDS: But Bob, that's a pretty serious charge (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You're saying that there are people, I mean, who almost have a blood lust in this administration.

NOVAK: Listen, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) don't (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SHIELDS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you're saying they want war.

NOVAK: All right. Talking to a senior official, and he said to me, he said, Well, if we don't hit in Iraq, where are we going to hit? And they -- it's a desire that the United States, the superpower, is going to manifest its authority to the rest of the world.

Listen, I just feel that this potential -- this war, I just trust it comes off easily. But I have trepidation that it won't be easy, and there's going to be a terrible consequences from it.

HUNT: Well, my fear is...

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

HUNT: ... not that the war itself won't be easy. It may be harder than we think. But, I mean, I think it's -- you -- one can make the assumption that it may be relatively easy. But that's the easy part, because the aftermath is what I think is what concerns the...

SHIELDS: I agree with you, Al, but I, you know, the wonderful thing, the first thing about war is, all assumptions go out the door and out the window. I mean, they really -- plans in war don't work out. I mean...

HUNT: Well, pundits always do the last war, and '91 was easy, so therefore the assumption is this time's going to be.

SHIELDS: That...

HUNT: One thing, it's a guarantee, it won't be like '91.

SHIELDS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

HUNT: Never.

SHIELDS: ... Margaret, these 11 empty chemical warheads represent no threat to the United States territory in any way...

NOVAK: Or to anybody.

SHIELDS: ... right?

CARLSON: I mean, Hans Blix is...

O'BEIRNE: Nobody's using them as hot checks (ph).

CARLSON: But, but -- well, but Bush said it was serious and troubling, and Hans Blix says, Huh-uh. And no one in the Security Council thinks it's a serious -- serious and troubling.

O'BEIRNE: President Bush said the entire...

CARLSON: Now, when Powell said...

O'BEIRNE: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARLSON: ... at the end, We will have cause by the end of the month, I'm wondering, is it 20 warheads, empty warheads? What is it? We don't know. But it does make me think that, as Bob says, war is what is wanted. SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, is there anything that the Iraqi regime could do to appease you and convince you there shouldn't be a war?

NOVAK: And just, if I could, before you answer, that's what the Iraqis want to know on back channel communications.

O'BEIRNE: Oh, please!

NOVAK: They do, they really do.

O'BEIRNE: They know, they have known since 1991 what the international community is asking for. And since 1991, he's refused to do it. He full well -- he knows full well what he has to do, disarm, voluntarily disarm. And the kind of false report he issued in December shows he has no intention of doing so.

NOVAK: Don't you think if he has to disarm, it obliges the United States and the international community to show what he has to disarm, that he has these things? And what -- and it's just not...

O'BEIRNE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

NOVAK: ... an imaginary...

O'BEIRNE: ... as, as, as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has pointed out, the whole world knows he has these things, Bob. Any country with an intelligence service knows he has the...

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'BEIRNE: Bob, he's used these things.

SHIELDS: I'd just say in closing, saw the president for the first time this week fall under 60 percent in approval polls. He has not made the case to the American people.

THE GANG of five will be back with President Bush jumping into the great battle over affirmative action.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

On behalf of the U.S. government, Solicitor General Theodore Olson told the U.S. Supreme Court that the University of Michigan's admissions policy was unconstitutional. Quote, "The university's discriminatory admissions criteria unfairly burden qualified applicants not subject to its preference by accepting favored minority candidates who have lesser objective qualifications," end quote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I strongly support diversity of all kinds, including racial diversity in higher education. But the method used by the University of Michigan to achieve this important goal is fundamentally flawed. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: National security adviser Condoleezza Rice issued a statement saying, quote, "I believe that while race-neutral means are preferable, it is appropriate to use race as one factor among others in achieving a diverse student body," end quote.

Democrats assailed the Bush position as part of a pattern.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We meet in troubled times. Misguided budget policies, the dismantling of affirmative action policies jeopardize our national investment in education. Judicial nominees are poised to use the courts to turn back the clock on civil rights.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: This week's CNN-"TIME" poll showed opposition, 54 percent to 39 percent, against racial preferences in university admissions.

Kate O'Beirne, did the president take a position that ended up satisfying nobody?

O'BEIRNE: Well, Mark, he clearly sided with public opinion on this one against elite opinion. This is the latest example of where the elites, the media and the academy, are totally out of step with the American public.

The public doesn't think the remedy for racial inequality is racial inequality -- more racial inequality against a disfavored group. So when they see a program like Michigan's, you get plus-12 in your admission process for perfect SATs, and you get plus-20 if you're Vernon Jordan's or Bill Cosby's son.

They see this fundamentally unfair. The president's with them on that. They agree with him. Conservative legal scholars would like him to have gone even further and answered the question, May race ever be a factor in college admissions? And is diversity such a compelling state interest that it would permit for it?

That far he didn't go.

SHIELDS: He did not call for the overturn of the Bakke case, Al, which permitted the consideration of race as a part of a policy of admissions.

HUNT: He was especially disingenuous, though, Mark. First of all, he said that Michigan has quotas. That's just not true, they do not have quotas. Quotas are automatic set-asides where, as the Bakke case said, are unconstitutional, where a certain number of people get in. What Michigan has is preferences. They do -- there's no question that you get a racial preference. You get, as Kate said, 20 points. You get 80 points for a 4.0 GPA, four times as much as you get for that. You get points too if you have special skills, like you're an athlete. You get points if you're geographically diverse. There are all kinds of things you can get.

Michigan decides they -- everybody does better if you have a more diverse student body.

Mark, what gets me is, every year there is a graduating senior from Calvert County, Maryland, who doesn't get into the University of Maryland who has higher test scores than a basketball player who gets in.

Every year there is a kid from the Philadelphia Catholic schools who's denied admission to Princeton, and somebody from the Mainline gets in who has lower test scores, because they -- their father went there, they're a legacy. Princeton admits 35 percent of the legacies, only 11 percent of non legacies.

But these constitutional -- conservative constitutional scholars, and some politicians, want to focus only on the preference that involves race. That really bothers me.

SHIELDS: Does it bother you, Margaret Carlson?

CARLSON: Well, I assume I got a 20-point preference to get on this panel, otherwise there'd be a man sitting here...

NOVAK: I wondered why you are on this panel.

CARLSON: Yes, I bet you do, Bob.

O'BEIRNE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) probably wonder why you are too, Margaret.

CARLSON: Yes, I could be spending my Saturdays someplace else.

Listen, admissions to the universities are subjective and always have been. Do you think that George Bush, had he not been the son and grandson of a Yale graduate, would have gotten into Yale on his high school grades and his SATs? Even he would say that's not the case.

And even Condoleezza Rice, who is an elite, thinks that race should be a factor because she knows that the color of your skin still operates against you. There was a study that came out this week, MIT and University of Chicago sent out 5,000 resumes to answer job ads in the newspaper. Applicants with black names were half as likely to get a call back as applicants with white names.

Now, you tell me there's not discrimination that needs to be corrected. And it's not quotas, it's -- quotas are bad. University of Michigan is not a quota. But however you do it, it's better than not doing it.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, is this -- I want you to address it. But is this a political winner for George W. Bush? NOVAK: Oh, it is, it is a political winner for him. Al, I think we can solve your problem. It's in effect a quota. But I don't want to get into a semantical argument with you. I want to...

HUNT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NOVAK: All right, we disagree. But I want to talk about the...

HUNT: It varies every year.

NOVAK: I'm going to talk about the politics of it. When the Trent Lott affair happened, there was a tremendous hue and cry on the left, magnified by the news media, that now the president couldn't renominate Judge Pickering to the court of appeals, and he could not intervene in the University of Michigan case. Wisely, he did both, because that's where his political base is going.

The problem is that the -- I am told that the original brief that was written by Ted Olson, the solicitor general was modified by the kind of squishy general consul at the White House, Alberto Gonzales, who did not -- who said, Geez, we are for preferences, we just don't want to do it this way. Then Dr. Rice, Condoleezza Rice, even went another step, and she said, It's sometimes OK to have this -- these racial preferences.

The problem is that the Republican base is against racial preferences, and so is America.

SHIELDS: SO you ended up, you ended up, basically, with the president sounding like Mr. Tough Guy on Thursday during the -- Wednesday during the day, and then being Mr. Milquetoast.

Now, you can't say he's manipulated by Alberto Gonzales and Condi Rice. This is the strong, tough, formidable leader now.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... if you want to, if you want to...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Wait a minute. If you want to go on a tirade against the president...

SHIELDS: Tirade? Let's...

NOVAK: If you want to go on a tirade against the president, that's your consequence. But I'm telling you, you've been involved in politics, and you know that politicians fudge and hedge.

O'BEIRNE: Let's remember what we're talking about here. We're talking about a brief before the Supreme Court. Al, the question is, is this kind of race discrimination unconstitutional? is the question.

Preferences for athletes, preferences for geography, other kinds of preferences, do not run up against the Constitution, which prohibits race discrimination. And of course you discriminate based on race. What does Teddy Kennedy care that Asian kids, Polish kids, and Italian kids are discriminated against at the University of Michigan? His kids have a legacy to Harvard.

SHIELDS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'BEIRNE: He doesn't care about those kids.

HUNT: No, no, no. So what did George Bush...

O'BEIRNE: That's exactly true.

HUNT: ... what did George Bush, who's had...

O'BEIRNE: That's exactly true.

HUNT: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- George Bush and Ted Olson's kids are getting into these places, and they're not affected by this. And...

O'BEIRNE: Neither are Teddy Kennedy's kids...

HUNT: ... but they -- because they don't...

O'BEIRNE: ... discriminated against.

HUNT: ... they, they don't really care about them...

O'BEIRNE: Teddy Kennedy's kids aren't...

HUNT: ... for a black...

O'BEIRNE: ... discriminated against.

HUNT: They don't, they don't care about these poor black kids. But (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Condoleezza Rice was involved in an academic institution. Ted Olson has been a conservative activist. And I think they are incredible insensitive to the -- to, to, to minorities.

But the other point I'd make is, Bob, you're probably right about the politics. The race card usually worked. We saw that in Georgia and elsewhere this year.

But I'll tell you this much, they're going to have harder time getting, getting Latino votes, because one thing I -- we have done is surveys, and Latinos feel just as strongly on this issue...

NOVAK: Look, look...

HUNT: ... as African-Americans.

NOVAK: ... you mentioned, you mention something, you mention me. I'll tell you this, the people who have been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) playing the race card all year are your people, after the Trent Lott thing, where they threw Pickering and the University of Michigan in the face of the president and said, Now you don't dare do this. He did dare do it.

HUNT: Do you think George Bush played the race card in Trent Lott?

NOVAK: No. If you don't understand what I said...

HUNT: No, I don't.

NOVAK: ... I have -- I'm sorry, I'll write you a brief.

HUNT: I don't understand (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NOVAK: ... and try to explain it to you.

HUNT: Good, good.

SHIELDS: All right. And Ted Olson will present it.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, another presidential candidate who says he's a different kind of Democrat.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I intend to talk straight to the American people and to show them that I'm a different kind of Democrat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: So what sets him apart from other Democrats?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIEBERMAN: I'm going to leave it to you and even the voters to decide who among the Democratic candidates, and then who -- and then to compare us with President Bush can best lead this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Is he running as the candidate of faith?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIEBERMAN: I'm not running on my faith or face, but the fact is that my faith is at the center of who I am. I'll not hesitate to talk about faith when it's relevant or to invoke God's name when it comes naturally out of me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SHIELDS: This week's CNN-"TIME" poll shows Senator Lieberman leading all other Democrats, 9 percentage points ahead of Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, who's in second place.

Margaret Carlson, is Senator Lieberman the front-runner because he is running as a moderate, or primarily because of his name identification?

CARLSON: Well, both things help him in the long run. You know, the best thing Lieberman has going for him is that he ran before, and the worst thing he has going for him is that he ran before, because he has the name ID, but he may also, you know, have the Gore -- be heir to the Gore-no-more feeling in the country.

He may be too moderate to get through the Democratic primaries. If he got through the Democratic primaries, he might be the best person to go up against Bush, because he is center to right, and he's a hawk. He leads in money, he leads in stature, he leads in personality. I mean, Kerry has a personality problem, Edwards is a rookie, Gephardt is identified with labor.

He may, you know, transcend all those things and be the best package at the moment.

SHIELDS: Sounds like the nominee, Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: I do think he brings some real strengths that Margaret mentioned in as a general, as a candidate in the general election, in addition to having strong national security credentials, where he's the kind of Democrat people likely would trust as being serious and tough enough on national security issues.

He also might help the Democrats close the religion gap. The religion gap, how religiously active voters vote, is now broader between the parties than gender gap, than income gap.

And I think that was an appeal he had in 2000 that he could have again. He's a religiously active, religiously serious man, and that's very appealing. Might not be as appealing, either, either attribute, in Democratic-liberal primaries.

SHIELDS: One thing, Bob, Joe Lieberman had expressed earlier strong criticisms or reservations about affirmative action. He was one of the first out of the box criticizing the Bush position and the Bush administration on its University of Michigan position. So is that playing to the Democratic primary, or is that too moderate (ph)?

NOVAK: Well, the problem is on all these things, affirmative action, capital gains tax, school choice, he goes about halfway. He doesn't come out against it, but he doesn't come out for it. Republican senators behind his back talk about the old Joe and the new Joe, and it's really -- that's wrong, it's a kind of an in-between Joe.

I think he's strictly a creation of name ID. I don't think he's a strong primary candidate. I don't even think he's a strong general election candidate. And when somebody else gets the name ID, I think you're going to see him drop in the polls.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, who's right here?

HUNT: That's the definition of a moderate, they go halfway, that's what the do. I think Joe Lieberman is a very appealing candidate, and I think he is just further proof of what I've argued for a while, that it's a pretty, pretty strong field. This is not a bad field, these are not, you know, six or seven dwarfs.

But I think Joe has two problems, and I don't think they're especially ideological or theological. One problem is the calendar. The first two tests are Iowa and New Hampshire. Those are not strong states for Joe Lieberman. And I don't think someone can get the nomination who loses both of those...

NOVAK: Excuse me, and then South Carolina next.

HUNT: Right, but I'm saying...

NOVAK: And that's not a good state either for him.

HUNT: Well, if you don't win Iowa or New Hampshire, if you don't win one of those first two, I think it's virtually impossible to get the nomination. That's tough.

The second problem...

NOVAK: Bill Clinton didn't.

HUNT: ... the second -- Well, because Iowa wasn't contested that year. But when they're both contested, it's all, it's almost unprecedented.

And the second problem he has is the Iraq war. If it goes, if it goes poorly, it's going to energize that Democratic base, and he is the candidate most associated with it. If it goes well, it helps George Bush in the general.

SHIELDS: All right, let me ask, let me ask a question. You know, the McCain primary, that is, the 40 percent of voters who are independents, does Joe Lieberman have a shot at them rather than any other Democratic candidate? If there's a -- I mean, they're going to be up for grabs.

They're not going to vote in the Republican contest because there's not going to be a Republican contest. I mean, places like New Hampshire, independents will probably decide the winner there.

Does Joe Lieberman have a...

CARLSON: He's a soccer mom's dream. He's got the family values, compromise is not a bad thing among independents. And he's just an appealing guy. If anything, he's too nice. He lost that debate to Cheney by humanizing Cheney by being too nice to him.

NOVAK: I've had a lot of Democrats tell me that what they really can't stand about him is Holy Joe, that he's religious, that he talks about God, that he talks about faith. That tells a lot about some of these Democrats, but it also is a problem for him.

CARLSON: Soccer moms like that.

O'BEIRNE: He's extremely, he's extremely genial and likable, so could have an appeal to such independent voters, Mark. His appeal, though, will be so different from John McCain's. John McCain rallied people. He had a crusade. I sort of can't imagine Joe Lieberman having a strong enough, as likable as he is, a strong enough personality to be seen as that kind of a leader.

HUNT: His independent streak gives him some of the McCain vote, but John Kerry will get some of it, and Governor Dean will get some of it.

SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt.

We'll be back with the CAPITAL GANG Classic, when Al Gore tapped Joe Lieberman for vice president just two and a half years ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Two and a half years ago, Joe Lieberman was tapped by Al Gore to be his Democratic running mate. THE CAPITAL GANG discussed it on August 12, 2000, from Los Angeles, the site of the Democratic National Convention.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, August 12, 2000)

HUNT: Absolutely renders moot the Republican argument, Let's restore dignity and honor to the White House. I mean, Gore and Lieberman do that just as well as Bush and Cheney do it.

CARLSON: It does get people taking a second look, and that's, and that's a very important thing, because people tend to turn the TV off when Al Gore comes on. And Joe Lieberman actually has this, you know, really quite wonderful countenance.

O'BEIRNE: Frequently people say he's the conscience of the Senate, certainly the conscience of the Democratic caucus. Let me just say that in the modern Democratic Party, to get Thomas More status by merely criticizing the immoral behavior of a president, or pointing out his blatant lies and doing nothing about it, is a pretty sad commentary.

SHIELDS: He gave Gore the best week he's had since (UNINTELLIGIBLE), no doubt about it...

O'BEIRNE: Had a good week.

SHIELDS: ... he preempted the news and put the Republicans on the defensive. Republicans are not sure how to handle this, you know, run against a... HUNT: That's an important point.

SHIELDS: ... Democratic ticket with a Jew on it, and they -- they're a little tentative.

NOVAK: Joe Lieberman, on the impeachment question, after he made his speech, he never, ever said another word about, about President Clinton. And he voted in lockstep with the other Democrats on procedural questions, against calling witnesses for a real trial. And that's the way he usually is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, did it turn out that Joe Lieberman was a terrific selection?

HUNT: Yes, he was, with the exception of what Margaret mentioned earlier, the debate, where he gave a really poor performance, he did a terrific job. He helped Al Gore and helped himself.

SHIELDS: Bob?

NOVAK: He was Mr. August, and what you have to be in politics is Mr. November. You understand that...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Oh, a "Playboy" calendar thing.

NOVAK: Yes, that's right, that's right. I don't think he hurt the ticket. He sure didn't help it. I think if they'd have put John Edwards on, Al Gore would have been likely president.

HUNT: Bob, you're Mr. February.

CARLSON: Oh, Mr. January. You know, it was a shot in the arm for the ticket, and, you know, the fact that Joe Lieberman didn't work to impeach the president that the American people did not want impeached, is not a strike against him. And if the Florida primary were earlier, Joe Lieberman would have those blue-haired ladies and the early bird special people, and he'd win it.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne?

O'BEIRNE: Mark, I think he helped the ticket. He's extremely likable, extremely comfortable in his own skin. I think people took a second look when they realized that the android Al Gore had a human friend at his side.

SHIELDS: Given the fact that, I mean, Dick Cheney was probably as vulnerable in that debate, based upon his voting record in the House, and that he lost -- do you think he lost the debate? Did Lieberman lose the debate?

NOVAK: He lost it big-time.

CARLSON: Yes, yes.

SHIELDS: Big-time.

NOVAK: Yes, and no...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: He human, he humanized...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: He humanized Dick Cheney, and he made him out to be a nice guy.

SHIELDS: An amazing achievement.

CARLSON: Yes.

NOVAK: And wait, and wait, wait till he starts debating John Kerry, who's a mean, vicious guy and a trial lawyer.

CARLSON: Kind of like you.

NOVAK: A trial lawyer like John Edwards.

HUNT: As opposed to Dick Cheney, who's a really nice, laid-back guy.

SHIELDS: Being called, being called mean by Bob Novak's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) like a frog.

Coming up on the second half of CAPITAL GANG, our "Newsmaker of the Week," the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Boston's Mayor Tom Menino. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at U.S. war preparations in Kuwait with CNN correspondent Martin Savidge on the scene. And our "Outrage of the Week," that's all after the latest news following these important and significant messages.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of CAPITAL GANG.

I'm Mark Shields with the full GANG, that's Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne, and Margaret Carlson.

Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Mayor Tom Menino of Boston, the president of the United States Conference of Mayors, which meets in Washington next week.

Thomas M. Menino, age 60, residence Boston, Massachusetts, religion Roman Catholic. Community planning degree from the University of Massachusetts at the age of 46, Boston city councilman, 1985 to 1993, city council president, 1993, mayor of Boston since 1993.

Al Hunt sat down with Mayor Menino earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: Many mayors facing fiscal tough times. Isn't the reality, however, that most big cities are governed by Democrats, populated by Democratic constituencies, and Republicans run the federal government, and they're not going to be all that sympathetic?

MAYOR THOMAS M. MENINO (D), BOSTON: That's very true. We used to have a partnership with federal government, and it's not there. The federal government has pulled back even from state government. What should happen is, you know, talk -- president talk about economic stimulus package. Well, one of the things they should do is help the states with Medicaid payments. If they did that, it would help cities.

But that partnership does not exist any more that was there in the past. And we have to try to bring that back, and that's what the mayors are trying to do in Boston and Washington this week.

HUNT: Well, in that environment, you have criticized the president's economic plan and said it is time for Washington to step up to the plate. Realistically, what do you think you can get?

MENINO: Well, first of all, you know, the plan he announced doesn't do anything for the people who live in the neighborhoods of Boston, Chicago. What we hope to get from him is, you know, Medicaid payments, some housing stimulus. That's important. And some revenue- sharing back to our cities.

And homeland security, I mean, we've talked about this homeland security issue for the last 17 months, and we're all ready to do it, but, you know, the president talked about 1.5 coming back to the state -- is the -- to city government, and we still haven't got a penny of it.

HUNT: Your city, of course, was the point of origin for some of the 9/11 terrorist acts. Do you think you're getting sufficient assistance to sufficiently protect the homeland?

MENINO: Well, we're doing our own, on our own. We're taking it out of our strained budgets we have today. You know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), when nine -- when the red light goes on, you know, the switchboard in Washington, D.C., doesn't answer, the White House, doesn't answer at the statehouse. It answers at city halls throughout America.

We're the first responders. We're not getting assistance.

HUNT: Food and shelter needs, I read, in major cities are greater than ever. Is this becoming an endemic problem, a more severe endemic problem for the working poor?

MENINO: Why, it sure is. You know, it's -- this conversation's like a doom and gloom, but really, the problem is they've walked away from us. Twenty-one percent more people need shelter this year than the last year, need food over last year. Why? Because HUD has pulled back from putting housing there in the country. Used to do 250,000 units of housing, now we do a mere trickle of it.

Programs -- health care, that's a big issue, two-thirds of the people who are on the streets of Boston are mentally ill, have mental problems or abuse problems. But because of the cutbacks in the health care, they go out into the streets. And who is expected to take care of them? Cities, the shelters. You know, that's a problem for all of us.

HUNT: You've talked about perhaps just eliminating the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Why?

MENINO: Well, first of all, they're not in the housing business any more. They have about a $230 million problem, they can't find the money. It just disappeared. Well, you know, when that happens to the local housing authority, they put us into court receivership. I think we should put HUD into receivership.

HUNT: Let me ask you a question about politics, which is a topic of some conversation in your city of Boston. The Democratic convention is coming for the first time to Boston next year. Some people who have worried about this highly controversial Big Ditch project, the huge construction, and they say it's going to impede the ability of people to get around. Will it?

MENINO: No, let me tell you, the Big Dig will not be a problem in 2004. You know, it won't be finished, but the roadways will be clear, and people will get around the city. Boston will be ready for the Democratic National Convention.

HUNT: Do you think Boston's going to celebrate this convention by nominating its native son?

MENINO: Well, it'll be interesting. John's doing very well right now, and -- excuse me -- he's one of the front-runners.

HUNT: Talking about John Kerry, of course.

MENINO: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), John.

HUNT: Right, right.

MENINO: John Kerry, because of the front-ending of the caucuses in elections, that -- presidential primaries, the convention will be -- the nominee will be picked in February. And so I think as we come into the convention, it's how we sell it. The problem we need right now is the message for our party.

Also, I think politics has changed drastically. It's not about Democratic, Republican, it's what you stand for.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SHIELDS: Al, the mayor, Tom Menino's criticisms of the Bush administration policies, you think, reflect the attitudes of most big- city Democratic mayors?

HUNT: Yes, I do. I think that the whole principle of devolution, the government closest to the people governs best, doesn't seem to apply to big-city mayors, as far as Washington is concerned.

NOVAK: I want to congratulate Al on another probing confrontational interview.

I would say that he -- Mayor Menino represents, typifies the mayors and governors who have wasted money over the years on programs, and now that times are a little hard, they can't tax their own people any more, they get kicked out of office, so they want the government, which can deficit spend, to bail them out. And to his credit, President Bush isn't going to bail them out.

CARLSON: He's likely to get a fourth term, like James Michael Curley, very successful mayor. And the mayors and the governors are on the front line, and George Bush puts his arm around firefighters, but then cuts money for homeland security.

O'BEIRNE: The most important Washington can do to help the mayors and governors is cut all the federal mandates that drive up state and city costs. There is $3.5 billion in the pipeline for homeland security that's going to go out to the states, but this is an old problem, the mayors want the money directly from Washington. They don't want to have to go to their governors. And I don't think this administration's going to permit that. The governors are going to get the money, he's going to have to fight for it back home.

HUNT: But shouldn't they? Because the government closest to the people governs best, right?

NOVAK: Yes.

O'BEIRNE: No, I think Washington should have relationships to the states and let them fight this out in Albany and in Trenton and in Boston...

NOVAK: They do a real good job, as the Big Dig shows.

SHIELDS: I will say this, that if they really wanted to help, picking up the Medicaid costs and coming up with their share.

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) everything.

SHIELDS: A dayo (ph), a dayo, the dayo, it's a federal program. That would be a positive step for American cities.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Thank you, Al.

HUNT: Thank you, Mark. CARLSON: Yes. Mark, you're right.

NOVAK: ... bail-out, bail-out, bail-out.

SHIELDS: Thank you, Margaret. I think we got a quorum here.

CARLSON: Thank you, Mark.

HUNT: Mark is right.

SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the U.S. war buildup with CNN national correspondent Martin Savidge in Kuwait.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

As the buildup of U.S. military forces in the Persian Gulf accelerated, a ship carrying food, ammunition, and medical supplies for U.S. forces arrived in Kuwait this week. Troops continue to land in Kuwait. Of an estimated 45,000 U.S. troops in the Gulf region so far, 16,000 are in Kuwait.

Joining us now from Kuwait City is CNN national correspondent Martin Savidge.

Marty, are the Kuwaiti people welcoming the U.S. troops as rescuing them once again from Saddam Hussein?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Mark, that depends on who you talk to.

I mean, publicly, when we go out on the street, when we talk to people in the various marketplaces, when you talk to them in the malls here, they come up to us and they say, Yes, they're very happy to see the American troops. They say the welcome the troops with open arms. They're very pleased that they are positioning themselves up there in the desert, and they say that Saddam Hussein has to go.

But keep in mind, though, of course, what they may be telling us, realizing that we're going to an American audience, is probably perhaps what the Americans want to hear, and they also may be publicly making their statements for general consumption in the media.

There are a few people on the side -- and this is a very small minority who have said, No, this time we don't welcome the troops, and this time the United States is not right in what it's doing.

SHIELDS: OK.

SAVIDGE: Generally, though, a vast majority say they welcome the troops.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak. NOVAK: Marty, you mentioned the troops in the desert. Is that what they're deployed as soon as they get there? Or are there some of them hanging around Kuwait City?

SAVIDGE: No, you don't see anybody hanging around Kuwait City, and certainly not anybody in uniform. What happens, if they either come in by the airport or land at any of the air bases that have been established here, is, they're quickly then deployed to the northwestern part of the country. That's the area obviously up near the border with Iraq.

They set up their tents, they set up shop, they go to work. And they also get into the training mode. There are live-fire training exercises that take place usually several times a week. And they've been practicing a number of different scenarios. One of them is street fighting, house-to-house fighting, and the other one is trench warfare.

The trench warfare might strike you as sort of a throwback to the ancient days of fighting war from, say, over 100 years ago. However, the Iraqis used that kind of warfare during the last Gulf War.

And then it's interesting about the urban combat. They used some old abandoned mining facilities. But now they've moved on and almost constructed their own Hollywood back-lot set, complete with prefabricated buildings, huts, and also street lighting. Street lighting important because much of the operations would be conducted at night, and street lights play havoc with your night vision goggles.

And we are told that the sets were actually constructed by soldiers that were in Somalia, and we already know what a difficult campaign that was for U.S. soldiers, fighting house to house.

So they're taking it very seriously, and they're practicing quite regularly, Bob.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Marty, what are the living conditions like in the northwestern part of Kuwait? How are the barracks set up? What is it like to be shipped there and be in training?

SAVIDGE: Well, a lot of these facilities up there actually were in place or prepared for the soldiers to arrive some time ago. When I was up there two months ago, there was a great deal of building and construction preparing the infrastructure up there.

Now when you go up there, you see a lot of tent cities that are popping up, row after row, very similar to what you may have seen, and we did see, in Afghanistan. It is very cold out in the desert, particularly in the nighttime hours, and the wind blows out there quite fiercely. So unlike here in Kuwait city, where the temperatures tend to be quite mild during the daytime, it's still very, very chilly up there.

The living conditions, I would say, are not that bad. They're obviously not the same as living back on base in the States. But they could be a lot worse. In fact, in some parts of Afghanistan, they were a lot worse.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Marty, should the United States and its allies attack Iraq, surely there's a danger that Saddam would launch strikes against Kuwait. How vulnerable are they to that sort of an attack?

SAVIDGE: Well, you know, no one really knows how vulnerable you are to weapons of mass destruction, since at least major civilian populations in this part of the world outside of Iraq have not really been subjugated to it. It's a great concern, there's no question about it. They are very, very worried about that. There is a level of anxiety that continues to increase for the Kuwaiti people.

There has been a distribution of gas masks, several thousand of them, to the Kuwaiti population, and they are afraid that if Saddam does launch some of his weapons, that Kuwait's a likely target, because it is being used or could be used as a basing area for U.S. troops.

They have an active civil defense plan. They've had a number of rehearsals. They send off the sirens, people go to shelters. But the truth is, no one will know until it happens, and hopefully it won't.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Marty, what kind of access do you have to the military there? And what limits are being imposed on the media and the people's right back here to know what's going on?

SAVIDGE: Well, Al, it's kind of a mixed bag of things. First of all, the Kuwaiti government has put the -- well, the -- almost the entire area up there in the northwest, about a third of the whole country, off limits to the civilian population, and that is kind of a setback for the people, because on the weekends, one of the favorite things to do here is to go off with your family and go camping in the desert.

As far as journalists, the same rules sort of apply. If you're not invited to go up there, if you're not going up in what the military describes as an embed (ph), then you're technically not allowed to go up there. And if you cross over the line, then you are likely to face possible arrest by Kuwaiti authorities.

When you do get these embeds, and they are relatively frequent, once every two weeks, maybe once a week, then you go up there and spend a couple of days, you get to talk to any soldier you want, talk to the commanders, you get to physically be right there as the training takes place.

So some days the faucet's on, some days it's not.

SHIELDS: Marty, we just got less than a minute. But Kuwait fascinates me. It's got Iraq on one side, Saudi Arabia on the other. Only a little over 2 million people there. Half the people are from -- are non-nationals. Now, what part do they play in this whole, in this whole episode?

SAVIDGE: Well, those are the people that are probably worried the most. You have a lot of people that had come from, say, India, Pakistan, and also the Philippines. They supply a lot of the manual labor for this nation. And they probably outnumber the total population of Kuwaitis.

They are very concerned for a number of reasons. They had their families back home saying, you know, You got to come home, this is getting out of hand, there could be a war over there. So they're being pulled emotionally to come back to their homeland. And they're also worried about how -- the last war, it was that population that suffered the greatest, as far as when the Iraqi invasion took place.

So they have reason to be very fearful.

As far as specific plans as to, are they treated differently from Kuwaitis, the Kuwait government would say, No, everyone is treated exactly the same. Those folks, though, would probably have a different opinion.

SHIELDS: OK. Marty Savidge, thank you so much for being with us.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

For complaining that the Republican Party has used African- Americans as window dressing, Shannon Reeves, the highest-ranking black Republican in California, was attacked by a California GOP colleague, Randy Rigel (ph). Rigel also endorsed an essay which had argued the benefits of a Confederate victory in the U.S. Civil War. He wrote, quote, "Most of the poor devils had no experience fending for themselves, so they fared worse than before the war," end quote.

Mr. Rigel, before the war, most of them had their humanity denied by slavery.

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: The last sticking-point in negotiations to permit victorious Republicans to organize the Senate was a demand by Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, now the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He wanted a separate Democratic staff, ending 26 years of a bipartisan professional staff for the committee.

That showed Democratic intent to make intelligence capabilities a partisan issue for 2004. The new Republican chairman, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, fought off Rockefeller. But this showed how partisan the U.S. Senate will be all this year.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Republican leaders just killed a rule that kept lobbyists from sending catered meals to congressional offices. The excuse? Staffers should be able to, quote, "eat pizza ethically," close quote.

Fifty dollars a person buys a lot of extra cheese. "The Washington Post" reported that a drug firm routinely sent dinner to the speaker's office when they were working on a prescription drug bill, and that congressional offices sometimes phoned lobbyists ordering a rare prime rib and creamed spinach from The Palm.

Also allowed now, the send-a-member-on-vacation perk.

Doesn't Congress have anything better to do than scam free meals and trips?

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: There may be a case for bringing back the draft, but the claim that without it, minorities will bear a disproportionate burden of any war is wholly false. Blacks being disproportionately at risk in the military wasn't true in Vietnam, when a black fatality rate of about 13 percent neared blacks' representation in the general population. And it's not true today, when blacks make up a large share of patriotic volunteers but not a disproportionate share of combat troops.

Going to war shouldn't be an occasion for ugly racial politics.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Mark, since on the CAPITAL GANG we all believe in equal treatment, let's make sure that Bob's favorite Democratic presidential contender, Al Sharpton, receives the same treatment as all the other Democratic aspirants. Thus the press and public need to pay attention not only to Reverend Al's views, but also to ask why he didn't pay taxes, including the indictments (UNINTELLIGIBLE) guilty pleas on tax charges. Ask who pays for his wardrobe and other perks, like his kids' education.

Ethics is one area that should be race-neutral.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG.

Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS: Showdown Iraq -- Five Questions."

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