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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Special Independence Day Edition

Aired July 5, 2003 - 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 for a special Independence Day weekend program. I'm Mark Shields with the full GANG, Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne, and Margaret Carlson.

Founding Father Thomas Jefferson had his own definition of patriotism. Quote, "The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants," end quote.

American presidents have been invoking patriotism for two centuries.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.

RONALD W. REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No foreign power should mistake disagreement for disunity, or disputes for decadence. Those who are tempted to do so should reflect on our national character, on our record of littering history with the wreckage of regimes who made the mistake of underestimating the will of the American people, their love for freedom, and their national valor.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today we feel what Franklin Roosevelt called the warm courage of national unity.

Our unity is a kinship of grief and a steadfast resolve to prevail against our enemies. And this unity against terror is now extending across the world.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, over these past 227 years, how has American patriotism changed?

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Well, it's changed recently in that we're not asked to do that much for our country, as Jack Kennedy put it. After 9/11, however, there was a great surge of patriotism, and I think of patriotism as more than dressing in red, white, and blue and going to the Fourth of July parade.

And people wanted to do something, and the president and Mayor Giuliani said, Go shopping. That's what Americans should do. Get on a plane, go to Disneyland, go to Broadway. And it was such a letdown, because, as John McCain said during his campaign, people want to be involved in something larger than themselves.

And after 9/11, there was a, you know, call for different kinds of help. And I remember there was things said, listen, we need socks, because the firefighters had those big boots on, and they were going through rubble. So all these socks came to ground zero.

And so they said, Stop, we, you know, we don't need socks, send money. And people sent money, hundreds of thousands of dollars. But they kept sending the socks, because they wanted to do something real.

People want to do something. They need Americorps. They need to be -- they need the Peace Corps. They need to be called to it.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, have you felt called to a higher standard?

ROBERT NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Well, I've be patriotic. I think the country's just as patriotic now as it ever was. It's one of the most nationalistic countries in the world.

Patriotism is willing to serve your country in time of peril. Not everybody does. People bought themselves off from the Civil War. So it's always been some that don't.

But I'll tell you what isn't patriotism. It's not saying, Gee, I'm a patriotic, I want to spend a -- pay a lot of taxes so the government can waste it. Gee, I'm patriotic, I want to be regulated by these bureaucrats.

That's not patriotism, Mark...

SHIELDS: It isn't.

NOVAK: ... that's stupid, it's stupidity.

SHIELDS: Oh, thank you, Bob. I've never heard quite as narrow and ideological definition of patriotism, Al, but maybe you could help us.

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: I think I actually disagree with both Margaret and Bob, because I think patriotism is flourishing in America today. I think Margaret's right that people ought to be summoned more than they are.

And I think it has for, you know, 227 years. It certainly is those people who have valiantly fought in wars, the plains of Europe, Iwo Jima, to Baghdad, and even before. But it's also people who, in their everyday lives, Bob, rise above their own self-interest. They mentor school children, they take care of the disabled and the elderly, faith-based efforts.

That's patriotism.

To be sure, it also is saying what Johnson said, it can be the refuge of scoundrels.

NOVAK: Last refuge.

HUNT: The last refuge of scoundrels. We see it in books now, some who try to group nutbag, nutbags, honest conservatives, some would say liberals are all -- are not patriotic.

But I think Adlai Stevenson had it right when he said, "Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion, but it's a steady and tranquil dedication of a lifetime." I think it's doing quite well in America.

NOVAK: Just to, just to correct myself, I think you misrepresented me. I didn't say patriots, I said we're about as patriotic as we've ever been. That's what I said.

HUNT: I mean, I (UNINTELLIGIBLE), yes.

NOVAK: OK.

HUNT: You were doing fine when you get to the end, Bob.

SHIELDS: Yes. Kate O'Beirne.

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: I think it's important to recognize, when you talk about American patriotism, that all patriotism, narrowly defined, is not necessarily admirable. I mean, the fascists had a great love of Germany when they were imposing their ideology. The Ba'athists, of course, love Iraq.

Edmund Burton reminded us to love our country. Our country ought to be lovely. It's not enough to love it because it's yours, it has to be worthy of that, it has to be good and decent. And we're not perfect, but we are good and decent.

And history, of course, shows that to the present day.

I do disagree with Margaret to this effect. Certainly Americans wanted to do something post-9/11. But pre-9/11, tens of millions volunteer all the time in their communities and for their neighbors. And they're not organized out of Washington, and they don't need Americorps to help them do it. Just add, on 9/11, they didn't need to be directed out of Washington to fulfill their instinct to reach out and help people who'd been so badly hurt.

SHIELDS: Well, let me say that I -- remind me of the great line about, My country, right or wrong, my mother, drunk or sober. I mean, it's the same thing. And...

NOVAK: What did you say about your mother?

SHIELDS: That's it, it makes about as much, My country right or wrong...

(CROSSTALK) SHIELDS: ... I -- to make my country right when it is wrong is the obligation and the charge. I agree with Margaret, I agree with Margaret, and I think that our first president, George Washington, put it best when he said, We must guard against the pretended posture, the postures that pretend patriotism.

And I think that's what we saw an awful lot of that after September 11. I think we saw it with the decals, the flag decals on the SUVs, I think we see it with the lapel pins.

When (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- patriotism without sacrifice really amounts to very, very little, Bob, I'm sorry.

NOVAK: You know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

CARLSON: And being called unpatriotic was very readily and easily done when there was any...

SHIELDS: Dissent.

CARLSON: ... quibbling or dissent with the Republicans in Congress or with President Bush.

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), well, I just want to disagree with a point there, one thing, and that is that I -- teaching a Head Start class or doing some other nicey thing, there's nothing wrong with it, but it isn't what I think of as patriotism. Every good deed you do is -- I mean, when I'm nice to Mark Shield, I don't consider that patriotic.

HUNT: Well, Bob, let me tell you why...

NOVAK: It's just, it's just, it's just...

HUNT: ... you're wrong...

NOVAK: ... good manners.

HUNT: ... because when you try to make a better community and a better country, when you rise above self-interest, that is patriotism. That's what they had in mind in Philadelphia in 1776, and that's what is practiced...

NOVAK: Oh, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the country there.

HUNT: ... across the country, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and it makes it...

O'BEIRNE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 1776...

HUNT: ... a much better country.

O'BEIRNE: ... they sure didn't have in mind Washington, D.C., directing the voluntary...

CARLSON: Yes. NOVAK: No, and they...

O'BEIRNE: ... and they (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

CARLSON: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... in 1776, what they had in mind, and I hope you know this, because you went to Wake Forest, was overthrowing the British government. It wasn't teaching Head Start classes.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: It was about forming a more perfect union, if I'm not mistaken, Bob.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Providing for the common defense...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Let's give Bob copies of some of the Declaration, some of the thing that was written about it. Maybe he'd understand it a little bit better, then, and his country.

SHIELDS: GANG of five will be back to ask, What does America mean to the world today?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

The Founding Fathers conceived the new American republic as a beacon to the world. Thomas Jefferson said, quote, "The preservation of the holy fire of liberty is confided to us by the world, and the sparks which will emanate from it will ever serve to rekindle it in other quarters of the globe," end quote.

President Bush has voiced that same mission.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: By the resolve and purpose of America, and of our friends and allies, we will make this an age of progress and liberty. Free people will set the course of history, and free people will keep the peace of the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: But the Pew Global Attitudes Project shows that citizens of five out of seven NATO countries surveyed prefer a more independent relationship with the United States, led by 76 percent of the people in France. The same survey showed more than 70 percent of the people in five countries, including Russia, Pakistan, and Turkey, are worried about a potential U.S. military threat.

Kate O'Beirne, is the American beacon not shining quite as brightly as it once did?

O'BEIRNE: Mark, it's shining very brightly. That same survey shows around the world a strong support and admiration for American values. People believe in the importance and want it for themselves if they don't have it, of democracy and free speech, freedom of the press, free markets.

And that's America's influence worldwide, clearly.

Three-quarters of people think their children have to learn English in order to survive in the world. That reflects their view of our dominance and our prominence. But people are going to resent that.

European nations are no longer world powers. They believe that they are morally and intellectually superior to Americans, and they resent the fact that now we are the sole world power.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, is that your assessment as well?

CARLSON: Sole superpower, but criticized as being a hyperpower, when the United States wants to impose its vision on the world, backed by the biggest military, without according other countries the respect and the multilaterism that they should. I mean, without the U.N. as a world body imposing certain strictures on other countries, what is the United States going to do when it needs to create a rationale, when there are real threats, imminent threats, against the United States?

If, for instance, in Iraq we don't find weapons of mass destruction and find that it was always regime change, that the United States wanted the United Nations to go along with as opposed to going into Iraq because there was an imminent threat against the United States.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, the interesting thing about that Pew Global Project's survey is that it's a significant and really total change in the past three years in attitudes of other countries to the United States.

NOVAK: Well, I have to take issue with Kate, as much as I hate to. We're despised around the world, enormously.

SHIELDS: Why?

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They think we're butting into everything, that we think know what's good for everybody. You know, the original Founding Fathers thought of the beacon as an example, that we would lead by example. We would have a great free republic, and the rest of the country -- world would copy us.

The guy who came along and changed that was Woodrow Wilson, when he decided he was going to butt into everybody. And almost every president since then has been to a lesser or greater degree Wilsonian. And my goodness, when we're sending troops to Liberia, if there was ever a dysfunctional country, to set Liberia straight, I think Woodrow Wilson must be smiling in his grave, but the Founding Fathers must be frowning.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Mark, I think there is a distinction between global attitudes about Americans and American values, and global attitudes today about American policy. Around the globe, American culture, music and theater and athletes, are celebrated. I mean, they're going to be wearing LeBron James jerseys from Beirut to Bangkok within a few months.

And most people want to be like Americans. They want to emulate Americans.

What they don't like today is American hegemony, this our way or the highway, go it alone, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Cheney approach. And it's not help when George Bush comes out this week talking about the threat our troops face in Baghdad with his macho "Bring 'em on."

We need the rest of the world whether we like it or not.

O'BEIRNE: Well, how -- if -- how can the rest of the world, though, profess to be so suspicious of the use of American power? All we've ever asked is to be left alone, and we've only responded either to save others, as we did twice this century, or to -- and defend ourselves from threats.

This is not how an imperial (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- a country with imperial aspirations behaves. And there are interesting character differences between Americans and -- in many survey throughout the world that I think explain the difference in multilaterialism and going it alone.

The American character is terribly distinct, according to this survey. Two-thirds of Americans believe it's up to the individual and your success is totally in your own hands. And the potential's limitless.

That view is not held by people with a more collectivist view around the world, who rely on governments more.

SHIELDS: Margaret?

CARLSON: The United States needs a rationale for when it's going to invade another country, and that...

O'BEIRNE: Self-defense.

CARLSON: ... got muddied -- that got muddied with Iraq, because why Iraq as opposed to North Korea or Syria or Iran? We need a rationale for it, because other countries, we want other countries to behave in certain ways. NOVAK: I have to say, Margaret, we've been going every place lately, and I'm being bipartisan now. George, the senior George Bush into Somalia, Bill Clinton into Haiti, we got a worse government in Haiti now than we had before, where every (UNINTELLIGIBLE), everybody's busybody.

So it's a -- it's -- we don't worry about (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

CARLSON: Well, you know, I'm delighted Saddam Hussein is gone. But I still think that it is important for the United States to say why...

O'BEIRNE: Self-defense.

CARLSON: ... to distinguish that.

SHIELDS: And just say, it's not our affluence, our airports, or our crowded traffic that will be the beacon of the world, it's our values. If we live up to those values, then -- and at times we don't...

NOVAK: By...

SHIELDS: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the world turns...

O'BEIRNE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

NOVAK: ... by example, we lead.

SHIELDS: By example, Bob, and by the example you've led for all of us, Bob, and I just want to say...

NOVAK: Thank you.

SHIELDS: ... out of all humility, take a hike.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, taxation without representation in America's capital.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Protesting the absence of voting representation in Congress for the District of Columbia, its license plates carry the American revolutionary slogan, Taxation Without Representation. The slogan is also going on the District of Columbia flag.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS, WASHINGTON, D.C.: You talk about the war in Iraq, you know, the District, we've suffered more casualties than just all but six states. And I think if we're out fighting for democracy in Iraq, we ought to have democracy here in our city.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SHIELDS: Republican Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia is proposing a voting House member for Washington, D.C., saying, quote, "It's hard to make a straight-faced argument that the capital of the free world should not have a vote in Congress," end quote.

Bob Novak, does the way the District of Columbia is ruled dishonor 1776?

NOVAK: Nonsense. We all know what this is about. This is an effort to get two more Democratic senators in a tightly held United States Senate. And I think it's grotesque and profane to use "Taxation Without Representation," the revolutionary slogan, for the District of Columbia, which is a special case.

I won't put it on my -- I'm a voting resident, taxpaying resident of the District of Columbia. I won't permit that on my license plate. And I have representation on the city council, which decides local things, and I pay my taxes here.

SHIELDS: I just want to make one point. Tom Davis, the congressman, Republican congressman there, that was chairman of the Republican congressional Campaign Committee, a dedicated partisan, but a very honorable man who spoke very candidly about the sense of injustice, Margaret.

CARLSON: Right. I too am a resident of the District. I remember when the mayor of the District of Columbia was appointed.

NOVAK: It was a better-run city then too.

CARLSON: Well, I mean, you have a point there, in that the District has not distinguished itself many times in its own self- government, and it -- well, we all know Mayor Barry, that the (expletive deleted) set him up, and other things.

And Mayor Williams, who is a reform mayor, has had just a string of embarrassing corruption charges, so much so that the teachers' union was -- his main supporters that put him over the top -- the president's home was invaded and to find $2 million worth of luxury goods that were charged. And the teachers' union assistant, who was on his staff, made it necessary to have a write-in vote for him because there were so many forgeries on the renominating petition.

So the District has a lot of problems, not the least of which is potholes as, you know, big as the Grand Canyon...

NOVAK: Oh, I'm glad you're on my side.

CARLSON: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE). So I'm sympathetic to that.

But certainly the District should be brought into the modern age and have its own representatives. But let us prove ourselves by electing people who can run the city.

SHIELDS: Al, if local corruption were a disqualification, it's hard to say that many states would have a quorum in the Congress of the United States.

HUNT: Well, you can't quarrel with any of those problems that Margaret's outlined. But Bob, you're dead wrong. This place was not run better when the segregationist Southerners ran Washington. It was a segregated city. It was worse than it is today.

NOVAK: Were you there?

HUNT: And -- Yes, I was, I was here back...

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

HUNT: ... I arrived here at the end of it, and it was terrible. And home rule has, on balance, been better. Segregated places don't work very well.

We should have home rule. We're not going to have it, I'm afraid, Mark.

But let me just say one thing. I think, you know, since 1776, taxation with representation has served America very well, and I want to pay homage to some Republican presidents, Abraham Lincoln, who instituted the income tax to fight the Civil War, and Teddy Roosevelt, the father of the modern progressive income tax...

NOVAK: And the estate tax.

HUNT: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- and the estate tax...

NOVAK: And the estate tax.

HUNT: ... which has enabled this country to flourish so well over the last century.

SHIELDS: Thank goodness for those two Republican leaders, Kate.

O'BEIRNE: How well Washington, D.C., is governed really does fundamentally matter to the federal government, given its special status as the federal city. The functioning of the federal government, it is no small part dependent upon the quality of life and how D.C. is governed. So the problems Margaret highlighted actually are national problems.

But if it's -- if it doesn't seem to be right according to license tags, these popular license tags, you shouldn't pay taxes, if you are permitted to have (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a vote in Congress, what about the reverse of that? Should people who don't pay federal income taxes be able to vote? And I don't think an awful lot of liberals would want to explore that too far.

I think one solution is to address the other half of the equation. People in D.C., residents, shouldn't pay federal taxes. Then you don't have a problem...

CARLSON: Oh!

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Bob, Bob would be very happy.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: No, I don't want any more of them. I want to correct Al, because he usually doesn't make (UNINTELLIGIBLE) mistakes. Segregation ended in the District of Columbia immediately after the '54 decision. There was no more segregation. Certainly there was no segregation when you got there, there was no when I got here in '57.

And secondly, this was a superbly run system under the three commissioners. It was a colonial government, but it was...

HUNT: It was not...

NOVAK: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE), very well run.

HUNT: ... it was not, and the Southern segregationists in the House ran the District of Columbia, and they were racist, and it was a terribly run city.

O'BEIRNE: How (UNINTELLIGIBLE) no taxes for D.C. residents?

CARLSON: Yes. Yes, Bob, you're not for that?

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Well, no, I've wanted to pay my taxes...

CARLSON: You like to pay taxes?

NOVAK: ... but I would -- I have...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... I have a plan for giving the vote for the District of Columbia that I've been developing for years, and someday I'll re -- re -- re -- someday...

SHIELDS: Someday you'll reveal it, Bob...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... but as you pointed out...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... the mayor made a very good point in that clip, and that is that the people from Washington, D.C., get called to fight, to serve, and to die for this country. And that's...

O'BEIRNE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SHIELDS: ... that's real representation.

O'BEIRNE: ... freedoms of this country.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... that's real representation.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Old enough to fight, old enough to vote.

NOVAK: Puerto Rico too.

SHIELDS: Yes, coming up in the second half of CAPITAL GANG, our "Newsmaker of the Week" is historian Joseph Ellis talking about the Founding Fathers. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the special relationship between the American colonials and the original mother country with former British ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer. And our "Outrage of the Week." That's all after the latest news headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

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

Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is historian Joseph Ellis.

Joseph J. Ellis, age 59, residence Amherst, Massachusetts, religion Roman Catholic.

B.A. from William and Mary, Ph.D. from Yale, faculty of Yale, West Point, and currently Mount Holyoke College.

Author of seven books. "Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation," won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for history.

Al Hunt interviewed Joseph Ellis from Springfield, Massachusetts, earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNT: Joseph Ellis, that remarkable July 227 years ago, what was the outlook after the Declaration was adopted?

JOSEPH ELLIS, AUTHOR, "FOUNDING BROTHERS": Well, on July 4, 1776, the situation was actually bleak. And when those fellows signed this document pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, they really knew that the prospects of their being caught and hung as traitors was quite real.

The notion that 13 colonies could defeat the major military land and naval power in the world was really, like, one in 1,000, if that. And so -- and at the very moment that they were signing this, the British expeditionary force of 32,000 troops and sailors was about ready to land on Staten Island, the largest amphibious force ever to cross the Atlantic up till that time. And it did, under General Howe, drive Washington right out of New York.

And things looked bad indeed.

HUNT: Why didn't the British then proceed and wipe out the Continental Army?

ELLIS: Well, the British general -- I think you're right, Al -- could have pursued the Continental Army, which was fleeing across New York and on into New Jersey and Pennsylvania. If he had, it seems almost certain that the army would have been annihilated and the Revolution would have ended.

One reason is that Howe had a mistress in New York, and he stopped to go into winter quarters to be with his mistress. So I've always thought that in addition to statues to these great heroes like Washington, we might want to thank that woman back in New York for the service to her country.

HUNT: ... were vastly different from the South and New England, brothers, maybe, but of different philosophies and generations. Franklin was 70, Jefferson was 33. How tough were the personal dynamics in Philadelphia?

ELLIS: Oh, really tough. And both in 1776, when we're talking about the Declaration, and then later in Philadelphia with the Constitution, these were passionate times, these were passionate men.

I think that one of the reasons that the Revolution succeeded was the diversity of personalities and ideologies present in the mix. These people collided and colluded together in a way that is like the free market, if you will, or a kind of invisible hand.

But it was the differences between and among them, the imperfections, not the perfections, the relationship between the different imperfections that made this become a stable place called the United States.

HUNT: In your view, was there any single most towering figure of those June and July days, Jefferson, maybe?

ELLIS: Well, Jefferson is not very (UNINTELLIGIBLE) towering at six-two-and-a-quarter, and he is the draftsman of the words, the magic words of American history.

Within the Congress, the most towering figure was John Adams. He was called the colossus on the floor, the person who had led the debate towards the conclusion that a radical break with Britain was inevitable.

The other towering figure, of course, who's not in the Continental Congress but leading the Army, is Washington. HUNT: Is there any contemporary American politician that you could envision participating in those Philadelphia sessions?

ELLIS: That's a tough question and designed to, you know just elicit my own political prejudices. But the person most like Adams in a modern political context to me, a real contrarian, feisty, and, to me, a person who takes the public interest as the highest priority, is John McCain.

And I think that the notion that there is some sort of long-term public interest, which is frequently not the same thing as what the polls and popular opinion at the moment suggest, that's one of the guiding principles throughout this generation of founders. And to me, McCain embodies it better than anybody else.

HUNT: Final question. What lessons of those times can we learn and profit from in today's problems?

ELLIS: Well, that -- this was a truly desperate threat to the survival of the republic in 1776. I think that it was the greatest crisis in American history. If we didn't survive this, we didn't survive at all.

It should give us some perspective on our own time, the terrorist threat post-September 11, and should make us feel more confident and perhaps to recognize that the terrorists cannot bring down the republic. The republic itself will endure, largely because it was constructed so ably back there in the 18th century.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, who's your favorite founding brother or father?

HUNT: Unsung hero General Howe's mistress. My favorite founding brother was James Madison from my home town, the best pol in the group.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: I have to say George Washington, not just because of my weakness for tall men. There would not have been a republic without him.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Ben Franklin, not just because I'm from Pennsylvania, but he's the subject of a great new biography by Walter Isaacson, who will be opening the Constitution Center in Philadelphia this weekend.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: I'm the last of the Jeffersonians. He's been getting a bad press lately, but he understood the evil of government, and he was a great writer. SHIELDS: I'm a Jeffersonian myself, because -- not because he understood the evil of government, because he understood the dignity and equality of humankind.

Coming up, the CAPITAL GANG Classic, the flag-burning debate eight years ago this very weekend.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Just before the Fourth of July eight years ago, the House of Representatives adopted a constitutional amendment to prohibit the burning of the American flag. CAPITAL GANG discussed this on July 1, 1995. Our guest was then-speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich of Georgia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, July 1, 1995)

SHIELDS: Jodie Allen, why is it necessary to amend the Bill of Rights for the very first time?

JODIE ALLEN, CAPITAL GANG: This is a drastic solution in search of a nonexistent problem. I mean, as far as I know, I've never heard of any army of flag arsonists rampaging across the countryside.

NOVAK: Well, let me just correct one thing. The Bill of Rights has been amended about 100 times by unelected nine people called the Supreme Court of the United States. That's why we have to have all these constitutional amendments, because these fools over there down the street at the Supreme Court building see things in the Constitution that didn't exist.

CARLSON: All these conservatives who want to amend the Constitution, stop us before we amend again, should be the new bumper sticker. Why hang these ornaments on the Bill of Rights? It makes no sense.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: There's no problem...

SHIELDS: Mr. Speaker, tell us this isn't patriotism on the cheap, and a lot of people proving that they're really tough and anticommunist.

REP. NEWT GINGRICH (R), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: A nation wants to defend and protect one symbol, and there's a sense of the scent of fascism, of dictatorship, of loss of freedom of speech. I think a country ought to be able to say, We have one symbol we care about enough we're going to protect it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, through more than eight years of Republican control in Congress, this amendment still has not passed. Will it ever pass?

HUNT: I don't think so, and shouldn't. The vast majority of Americans revere the flag. This was classic Gingrich, a demagogic solution without a problem.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: The issue has burned itself out. They don't even drag it up any more.

SHIELDS: It has kind of lost a little bit of its oomph, hasn't it, Kate?

O'BEIRNE: I would have agreed with Margaret back then. I don't favor amending the Constitution every time the Supreme Court makes a wrong decision. A better remedy, by a simple majority vote in Congress, they can take issues out of the jurisdiction of the federal court, and this ought to be one of those issues.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a terrible decision by the Supreme Court, which we discussed last week, and they read things that are not in the Constitution, and that creates a dilemma. Do you put in a lot of baggage into the Constitution that shouldn't be there to correct the Supreme Court? Or do you just say, Boy, this is the form of the American government, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SHIELDS: I missed the epidemic of flag-burning which apparently invaded the country at the time, but I do remember Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska making the most impassioned plea against this constitutional amendment on the Senate floor, where it was, in fact, defeated, playing out that he, from the combat experience, knew of no one who had ever fought for the flag. They fought for each other, they fought for their unit, they fought for something larger, but never just for the flag, and that that was just missing the real point.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway," the view from Great Britain of its breakaway colony with former ambassador Christopher Meyer in London.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

After independence, the Americans fought another war with the British, and then a century later forged an alliance and then a special relationship. This year, troops of the two nations were and are together in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This is a strong alliance. We're strong allies. And I think day by day, the proof of the wisdom of that alliance grows. BUSH: Our two countries are joined in large tasks because we share fundamental convictions. We believe that free nations have the responsibility to confront terrorism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Joining us now from London, Mr. Christopher Meyer, who was British ambassador to Washington for six years and now is chairman of the independent watchdog authority that oversees the British press.

Thank you very much for coming in, Christopher.

CHRISTOPHER MEYER, FORMER BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: It's great to be here, great to be here. Nice to see you all.

SHIELDS: Thank you so much.

Christopher, is the American relationship more special, actually, with the British government now than with the British people?

MEYER: Well, I think the British people have a very deep and abiding affection for the American people. There are some people in the U.K., quite a few, many of them to be found in London, who have some problems with American governmental policy.

But as for the basic relationship between British people and American people, I don't think that that has been touched by the events of recent weeks and months.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Well, don't you think that the support for the war among the British people was much less, and it just seems like Prime Minister Blair is in a lot more trouble with the British people than President Bush is with the American people? There seems to be on the same war, and the same facts available, a totally different outlook by the British people as compared to the American people.

MEYER: Well, the perspective from this side of the Atlantic is, of course, is very different, and it is one of the ways in which you can say there's a cultural difference between the United States and the United Kingdom.

But nonetheless, in the face of considerable skepticism, Tony Blair won a majority in the House of Commons, which was the basis on which he was able to go to war. And I have to tell you, with a majority of the British people, and a majority of those who are Labour Party supporters, right now agree that it was a good thing to have removed Saddam Hussein in Baghdad.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mr. Ambassador, when you were here, you were in charge of, partly, of the care and feeding of the American press, and now, I take it from the description, you're in charge of the -- of Fleet Street, which is more often known for headless corpse in topless bar than it, than, say, "The New York Times" headline.

What does your job entail, and how can anybody oversee Fleet Street?

MEYER: Well, it is a job that you do with some difficulty, but it can be done. In fact, it is a system of self-regulation-plus, if I can put it like that. And I'm responsible for all newspapers in Britain, not only the nationals and the tabloids, which are the ones which are notorious in the United States, but for all the regional and local newspapers, about which you hear very little in the U.S.

And we have a very strict code of practice. We impose it strictly. And newspapers abide by it. So this is a do-able job, and I'm having a great time doing it, I can tell you.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: There was a great deal of criticism here, Mr. Ambassador, that the BBC in particular's recent coverage was slanted anti-America and antiwar. How difficult did that make it for the Blair government to make its case to the British public in the face of such hostile media?

MEYER: Well, it all depends on your point of view. I mean, if I were a BBC representative, I would be telling you that my coverage of the war was entirely impartial. There has been a lot of hoo-hah and fisticuffs over the last two or three weeks between Number 10 Downing Street and the BBC about the coverage of the war. Some of this has calmed down a bit now. But we've been having fun and games in the last two or three weeks.

But if you're saying to me, Has that been, in effect, a serious obstacle to the government getting over its message, I have to say, and I'm no longer representing the British government, I have to say I don't think that is the case.

I think people here have understood pretty well what the issues were, what the issues are, what they're going to be, because I think they're going to be in Iraq for a long time to come. People may not agree with the government always, but on the whole, people do understand what is going on.

And I've been traveling all around the U.K. in the last three months, and that is the message I've heard from people I've been speaking to.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Sir Christopher, Tony Blair and George Bush were together on Iraq, but if the United States were to seek support for another military action now, say in North Korea or Iran or Syria, could Washington assume there'd be British support?

MEYER: I don't think Washington should ever assume anything. We know -- we have this phrase in English English, I don't know whether you have it in American English, you know, horses for courses. We judge these cases case by case.

I think the likelihood of armed conflict against Syria or Iran or North Korea to be extremely remote, and I don't think this eventuality will arise. I think the issue of 9/11, the Taliban, al Qaeda, Afghanistan, and now Iraq were very special, and the justification for them very precise. I had no qualms myself about our going to war in those two cases.

But I think the notion of taking on Iran, say, before we've even finished Afghanistan, still less Iraq, is absolutely fanciful, and I don't think this case will arise.

SHIELDS: Mr. Ambassador, as an Irish American who's never been accused of being an uncritical fan of all things British, I do stand in some admiration of the fact that your royals serve in the military, and, in fact, that the mortality rate among the British upper class and royalty in both world wars was higher than among the working classes.

How do you explain that sort of commitment? And what is apparently evaporated to a considerable degree here in the States?

MEYER: Well, I -- you know, one of the things that I have never been able to do, and I regret it, is serve in our armed forces. I have been one of those who have benefited from the sacrifices of our parents and our grandparents. And my own father was a pilot in the Second World War, and was killed in action.

But the tradition was always that officers lead from the front. They set an example to their men. And that is one of the enduring traditions of the British armed forces and of the British army.

And so particularly in the First World War, which, as you know, was a hideously bloody thing, I think the British army suffered in one day of fighting on the Somme the totality of American casualties in Vietnam.

And so the attrition rate was absolutely huge.

But we haven't lost this, and I don't think you have lost it either, to be perfectly frank.

SHIELDS: OK. Thank you so much for being with us, Sir Christopher Meyer, in celebrating our own Independence Day.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: And now for the "Outrage of the Week."

Republican Senator John McCain, a patriot who bears the scars of battle, had the courage and credentials to condemn the smear his party used to beat Georgia Democrat and wounded Vietnam veteran Max Cleland, showed Cleland with pictures of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. McCain, who was himself smeared viciously by Bush backers in the South Carolina primary states, quote, "Putting pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden next to a picture of a man who left three limbs on the battlefield, it's worse than disgraceful, it's reprehensible."

Thank you, John McCain.

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: An investment banker, a Senate aide many years ago, recently visited Washington for the first time in a while. He was stunned by the changes. So many policemen, police cars permanently parked at corners in the city, streets permanently blocked off, sirens screaming as police escorts race through the city ushering some unknown dignitary, or just for the fun of it.

Does all this make the nation's capital safer? I don't think so. It does make Washington seem much less than it used to be.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, Homeland Security now reports that Homeland Security did nothing wrong when, prodded by Tom DeLay, it went searching for a, quote, "missing plane."

All the records have been destroyed, classified, you see. But it's known that a furious Texas official gave Homeland Security the tail number of the plane so they could track down the Democratic occupants and return them to Texas, so Governor Rick Perry's grab for more congressional seats could proceed.

Shouldn't the president be outraged that the office created to track suspected terrorist planes was hijacked for all political purposes?

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: As we celebrate the nation's founding, it's depressing to learn how many Americans have a shaky understanding of American history. A poll by Colonial Williamsburg found that only 30 percent adults and school children know that the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is in the Declaration of Independence.

One in six parents didn't even know the purpose of the Declaration, and only one in eight 9- to 12-year-olds could identify any of the Founding Fathers. What exactly are they celebrating on the Fourth?

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: The Founding Fathers brilliantly constructed institutions and safeguards that have enabled a democratic republic to flourish for more than two centuries, a rule of law, checks and balances, and separation of church and state. This week, a federal appeals court told Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore he was not above the Constitution, and ordered him to remove the Ten Commandments from his courthouse.

The Ten Commandments offer a moral guide to people of all different faiths, but in America, they cannot be used for governmental propaganda.

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

Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS: Summer of Fire." At 9:00 p.m., a "LARRY KING WEEKEND" classic, President Ronald Reagan. And at 10:00 p.m., the latest news headlines. All that in much more right here on CNN.

Thank you for joining us.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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