CNN CAPITAL GANG
Colin Powell Introduces New Resolution To U.N. Seeking International Help; Senator Kerry Returns To First Choice In New Poll; Federal Judge Appointee Miguel Estrada Removes Name From Consideration
Aired September 6, 2003 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Now, from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak, and Kate O'Beirne. Our guest is the Senate Democratic Whip Harry Reid of Nevada. It's good to have you back, Harry.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY WHIP: Glad to be here.
SHIELDS: It's good to have you.
The secretary of state asked for international help on Iraq under a new United Nations resolution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The U.S. will remain the commander of the unified command. Certainly, the United States will continue to play a dominant role, a dominant political role through the work of Ambassador Bremer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: That did not satisfy the leaders of France and Germany, holding a joint press conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACQUES CHIRAC, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): It does appear to be far from the main objective, which is that of transferring political responsibility to the Iraqi government as soon as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Secretary of defense, visiting Iraq, called for creation of Iraqi forces, rather than U.S. reinforcements.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It is their country. They ultimately are going to have to provide the security for that country. SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, is the appeal to the U.N. an admission that the Bush policy in Iraq has been fatally flawed from the beginning?
KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Well, Mark, the Bush policy in Iraq was that the United States wasn't going to let France prevent us from defending our national security interests. That is not mistaken. Going to the U.N. now I think is an admission that the efforts over the past weeks to get other countries to help, like Turkey, or India, with troops that we could use, have been unsuccessful. Although the Poles have been terrific and are helping with troops.
The reluctance to go to the U.N. I think is born of two things. The U.N. is so opposed to the action at all that they could try to extract too high a price we won't be willing to pay, and secondly, the administration, I think, must and wants to avoid any appearance that going to the U.N. means in any way the United States is backing off our own commitment, because nothing would embolden the terrorists more than that impression.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, I mean, call it, this isn't fine-tuning; this is a 180 change in policy. With this administration that bandied the word "irrelevant" about every time the United Nations was mentioned, now hat in hand we go.
ROBERT NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: This is a policy that Secretary of State Powell and Deputy Secretary Armitage wanted from the first. The Pentagon didn't want to bring in the U.N. That was a mistake. The testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by the Pentagon people showed they weren't ready for this, they thought it was going to be a cake walk, so they made a mistake. The question is now, of course, has become a political issue. Democrats think that they can make a lot of political hey out of this mistake, but it was a mistake, and now I think it's being corrected.
SHIELDS: Harry Reid, is that true? That Democrats are going to make hey out of this? I mean, the president really does look like he's just changing policy mid-course, doesn't he?
REID: Well, I often agree with Bob Novak, as you know, and I certainly agree that it was a mistake. What happened initially was wrong. We should have had the United Nations involved. We should have had, of course, we should -- now we need help from not only the United Nations, but I think we should get NATO's help, and as far as Kate saying Poles are doing a good job, we're paying, we paid them over there, we're paying them to eat, we're paying for their equipment. I mean, talk about a mercenary troop. That's what the Poles are.
O'BEIRNE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the bulk of the U.N. corps.
REID: And I would hope that we understand that coming to us next week is a request -- we don't know, I guess we'll learn Sunday night, whether it's 50 billion or 150 billion for more money for Iraq. So American people are concerned.
SHIELDS: What is your own assessment? What do you think it will be?
REID: I think it would be about $85 or $90 billion.
SHIELDS: $85 or $90 billion. From now until election?
SHIELDS: OK. Al Hunt.
AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: A prominent American said this week, Mark, that the policy is a disaster, it's incoherent, there are insufficient resources, and asked, quote, "why in the hell," end quote, the Defense Department, which has botched up reconstruction, was put in charge of the first place, and said, we can't keep breaking our military. This is not Howard Dean, it was Anthony Zinni, former Marine, top Marine Corps general, and Bush special envoy.
Kate, this policy has changed. It's changed now to one I think increasingly of desperation. Rather than see Iraq as a cradle, a model of democracy for the region, they now are talking about surviving for the next 14 months. That's how bad it's gotten. And Mark, you're right, they are going to the U.N. hat in hand. They're going belatedly, and they can ill afford to be rejected. And I don't think there is any question the Americans will still be in charge of the military operation in Iraq, but the key will be the political operation. And to get U.N. support, Paul Bremer either has to be replaced or share power with the U.N.
O'BEIRNE: Well, the problem, the problem there will be it seems to me a number of things. First of all, the Iraqi people appreciate if it were up to the U.N., they'd still be living with Saddam Hussein and they fill up prisons for children in Iraq. Secondly, the U.N. does not have a great track record with respect to establishing, doing the kind of hard work that needs to be done in Iraq. In fact, the U.N., frankly, is ambivalent about the benefits of the democracy over dictatorship. These are the same people who have Libya heading up the Human Rights Commission.
Now, we have to do whatever the costs in order to win in Iraq, to win the peace. That is fundamentally important.
NOVAK: You know they are not going to have some Frenchman or some German or some Russian or some Swahili -- I guess there is no Swahili -- Bengali, whatever it is...
O'BEIRNE: Could be a Syrian.
NOVAK: Some Syrian -- they are going to -- Paul Bremer is going to be in charge of this, and I think they are going to get a U.N. resolution.
REID: Mark, let me...
SHIELDS: Sure, go ahead, Harry.
REID: ... respond to the question that Bob asked. SHIELDS: Yes.
REID: ... I didn't complete that. Democrats believe, the majority of the Democrats, of course, that what happened initially was wrong. I supported the resolution going there. I was told, of course, that they would be throwing bouquets to us, but they've been throwing bombs instead, and I would also say that Democrats believe without any hesitation that whatever it takes to support the troops there, we will come up with that money. The question is whether we'll come up with money to take care of all the reconstruction that needs to be done there, that also needs to be done in our country, where you have a little question as to where the money is going to go, whether it should come here or there.
HUNT: I just want to say, Kate, I don't think internationalizing this is any kind of panacea.
HUNT: Because there is a basic, fundamental problem no matter who runs it. Bob and I may disagree on Bremer, and that is the idea of turning it over to the Iraqis; at the same time we're saying that one of the reasons the policy has been so bad is because we're shocked at what a scarred and criminal society that is. They're not ready to take this over. They have neither the resources nor the institutions to do it, and that's just a fundamental problem no matter who's running the operation.
SHIELDS: Turning it over to the Iraqis sounds faintly reminiscent of Vietnamization, which was a way of saying, let's get out of here. Harry Reid...
NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Democrats haven't...
SHIELDS: Oh, OK, OK. Bob, do you want to give us your theory on FDR causing the Civil War? Now, Harry Reid and THE GANG will be back with John Kerry coming out in the first official Democratic debate.
ANNOUNCER: Senator Harry Reid participated in which sport while he was in law school? Is it A, boxing; B, fencing; or C, bowling? We'll have the answer after this break.
ANNOUNCER: Earlier, we asked, which sport did Senator Harry Reid participate in while he was in law school? The answer is A, boxing.
SHIELDS: Welcome back. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts formally launched his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I voted to threaten the use of force to make Saddam Hussein comply with the resolutions of the United Nations. I believe that was right. But it was wrong to rush to war without building a true international coalition.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Two nights later, Democrats held their first official presidential debate in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president loves to talk about values, faith-based values, but is it really good faith-based values?
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The reason we are in this situation we are in now is because this president has not led.
HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president is going to have to go back to the very people he humiliated, our allies.
KERRY: What we know now is that being flown to an aircraft carrier and pronouncing the words "mission accomplished" does not end the war.
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president is a miserable failure. He's a miserable failure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: This week's CNN-"TIME" poll puts Senator Kerry back in first place as the presidential choice of registered Democrats, with Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut slipping to second. The same poll shows only 29 percent of registered voters are definitely supporting President Bush in 2004.
Al Hunt, has John Kerry's relaunch really propelled him back into the frontrunner's position?
HUNT: CNN poll notwithstanding, Howard Dean is the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination as of today. That was unchanged by the New Mexico debate. I confess, I was at the Redskins game. I only watched excerpts later. But as most debates four months ahead of time, it didn't really change anything, so that helps the frontrunner, I suppose.
Kerry is off to a very, very bad start. The campaign has been more about biography than any messages, and he stumbled, I think unnecessarily, over his Iraqi war vote last fall, while Dean is riding the anti-Bush tide in the Democratic Party. But I don't think that Kerry is inexorably or in any kind of inexorable slide. And if he can turn this around, I think he would be probably a much better candidate. Still a lot of time left.
SHIELDS: Harry Reid, your own assessment. You know these people. John Kerry, is he getting his footing, or?
REID: Mark, I don't think it really matters who gets the Democratic nomination. People in Nevada recognize that they want a president who will do something about re-establishing credibility of the United States in the world community. They know that something has to be done about the economy. They need, want someone that is comfortable with the environment instead of someone that's an enemy of the environment. They want somebody that will go out and fight for health care reform, and people feel this way all over America. It doesn't matter which of our candidates gets the nomination. They will beat George Bush.
O'BEIRNE: But speaking of credibility, I mean, John Kerry weakens his case that George Bush lied about the war when he's now lying about his vote last fall. He did not vote to threaten the use of force. U.S. has been doing that for 10 years. They voted to give the president authority to use force.
And he has two problems now that it seems to me that he's a war protester again, John Kerry. He needs the public to have a case of mass amnesia. We didn't reject the U.N. help in leading up to the war. The U.N. rejected us. The public saw that. At the end of the whole sorry process, they had a very low opinion of the U.N. and they started boycotting French products.
And also, liberals, invariably, talking about international consensus and cooperation, this has been so for 50 years, is a proxy for doing nothing.
SHIELDS: Kate, Kate, just one second before I got to you, Bob. John Kerry is certainly not the only person relying upon amnesia, as you describe it. George W. Bush, it was the imminent threat and peril that Saddam Hussein...
NOVAK: I thought we were talking about the Democrats.
SHIELDS: ... raised to the United States. No, but if you're talking about amnesia, I mean, what...
NOVAK: I thought...
SHIELDS: What happened to those weapons?
NOVAK: I thought this segment was about Democrats.
NOVAK: I was all confused.
SHIELDS: Oh, I didn't realize, did we get those orders from Atlanta?
NOVAK: No, I just thought that was our subject on this, on this...
SHIELDS: Oh, amnesia was the subject.
NOVAK: No, I thought it was the Democrats.
NOVAK: But what, do you want to talk about something else? You want to talk about...
SHIELDS: I'd like to hear your...
SHIELDS: Let's hear what you have to say about the Democrats.
NOVAK: Thank you. I would say this, that the bashing of Bush, I thought, was almost ludicrous. You see, Al, I went to the Redskins game too, but I watched the whole debate on tape afterwards. And I thought it was just absolutely...
HUNT: You're remarkable, Bob.
NOVAK: Thank you.
NOVAK: I thought it was really -- I thought it was just outrageous. Of course, you're never nice to the incumbent president when you're of the out party, but this was just silly. They can't ever call him "the president," they call him "this president," like he's an inanimate object. And the reason why, they weren't doing that in the first debate. The reason why is that this little governor from Vermont made so much mileage by bashing Bush, and they say, that's the answer. We've all got to bash Bush.
I didn't think that Governor Dean looked very good in that debate. I didn't think any of them looked very good. I thought Dick Gephardt looked like more than a person than the rest of them, but I really believe it was a sorry performance. But the one thing I'll agree with you, it doesn't really make much difference.
SHIELDS: I want to ask you, Harry, because after that intemperate diatribe, I want to get your sense, because I've forgotten just how decently and gentlemanly Republicans spoke towards and about Bill Clinton. And Bob, of course, is very sensitive about the way that Democrats are now speaking about George W. Bush.
REID: You mean that president?
SHIELDS: That president, that's right. REID: You know, I was looking at clips in the room before I came in here, and I thought one said it all, the headline, "Is President Bush going to eat freedom fries with the crow that he's going to eat?"
HUNT: You know, I hate to give away anything that's going to come up later in the show, because I know how viewers eagerly anticipating what's coming up, but I think we may be able to look at one of those earlier debates, and I read the transcript, and you know, I must say, Mark, or Bob, rather, those (UNINTELLIGIBLE) rules that you now so adore, you didn't get upset about when Republicans attacked Bill Clinton in 1995?
NOVAK: Well, my name was just mentioned just now..
NOVAK: As a matter of fact, they had differences of opinion in that debate, they were debating tax policy. Senator Dole had differences from Steve Forbes, whether you go to flat tax. There was some meat in there besides bashing Clinton. All of this is bashing Bush.
O'BEIRNE: A problem...
O'BEIRNE: Let's talk about the message. The problem coming from the whole field as a message is: Democrats are not interested in defending our interests unless the French agree. This is why the same CNN polls you talked about show 66 percent of the American public think that George Bush is doing a good job on the war on terrorism.
I don't think the Democrats want to be giving France a veto over our national security.
SHIELDS: Kate, I didn't see the same debate you did, but let me just say this, I think the biggest disappointment the Republicans had is that the Democrats didn't go after each other. They criticized the incumbent president. And you were kind of counting on a civil war (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Didn't materialize. Sorry.
Next on CAPITAL GANG, a nominee for judge bows out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Today we've received this message that Miguel Estrada's name has been withdrawn from further consideration by the United States Senate.
Today is a shameful moment in history, in the history of this great institution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: That statement announced the ending of President Bush's 29-month effort for his nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Bob Novak, what do President Bush and the Republicans do next?
NOVAK: Mark, there is not much they can do. When a group of willful men want to obstruct the Senate and distort the historical process, they can do that, under the Senate rules. There is very little that can be done. What they will do, Mark, is they'll keep putting up good conservative judges, and saying, how many of these are you going to filibuster, four filibusters, five filibusters, six filibusters? It is really a denigration of the entire process.
I'd like to say one word for Miguel Estrada. Came here as an immigrant a great American story, a fine lawyer. He has been for no reason whatever except the fact that they do not want a conservative Latino on the court, they don't want any Latino to say "I can be a conservative," they have rejected his nomination, and kept him for 29 months, his life disrupted, and I don't blame him for wanting out.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt.
HUNT: Mark, it's hogwash to say this is anything other than a continuation of the 15, 16-year partisan battle over judges. The charge is that the Senate Democrats won't nominate a -- won't confirm a conservative Hispanic -- George Bush has nominated 13 Hispanics, 12 have been confirmed. The charge is, Clarence Thomas' wife said, unless you agree with Teddy Kennedy or Hillary Clinton, don't apply to be a federal judge -- 146 Bush judges have been confirmed. I don't think any agree with Hillary Clinton or Ted Kennedy. The charge is that this is an unprecedented blockage of federal judges. During the Clinton time, Orrin Hatch and company blocked 60 judges, didn't even give them a hearing, including over 20 for circuit courts, including some that were highly qualified, even more so than Mr. Estrada, and were held for longer than Mr. Estrada.
SHIELDS: Well, that's a pretty compelling case that Al makes, Kate.
O'BEIRNE: Federal judges have never been filibustered on the floor. That's a first the Democrats gave us. Make no mistake, a majority of senators would confirm Miguel Estrada to the bench, but they are not being permitted to vote on the floor. That's never happened before.
And look, it's clear what the Democrats are doing. They're targeting conservative minorities and women. That's who they singled out. Because they are the candidates, conservative minorities and women, judicial candidates, who are most apt to be promoted. The fear was Miguel Estrada, as a brilliant young lawyer and successful judge on the court, could be a candidate for the Supreme Court, and the liberal base of the Democratic Party -- this is not a partisan tit- for-tat, this is more important than that -- demands that Senate Democrats not put judges who are not activists on the bench, because the left gets so much from courts they can't get otherwise. Abortion on demand, race preferences, blocking capital punishment, and soon gay marriage. That's what this fight is about.
SHIELDS: Harry Reid, bring some semblance of coherence to this discussion.
REID: I would agree with one thing that Bob said. Miguel Estrada is a victim, but he is a victim because of the White House, not because of the willful men. In fact, people who were thinking well, men and women, voted against him. This, as we have already heard here today, 146 to three. We have approved 146 judges for this man. We've turned down three.
Miguel Estrada, he would have -- all we asked is that he'd give us some of his memoranda from the solicitor's office and answer a few questions after we get those.
And I would also say to Kate, someone gave you some bad information, because there have been a lot of filibusters. You know, we have a number of people who were filibustered by -- led by Senator Hatch. We have...
O'BEIRNE: Never of a federal judge.
REID: ... Paez (ph), Berzan (ph), and of course we've had Supreme Court justices that were filibustered.
O'BEIRNE: Never. Never (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
REID: Just because you don't have a vote doesn't mean -- and we had votes on Paez (ph), we had votes on Berzan (ph). We broke the filibuster. They've been unable to do that.
NOVAK: Look, let me, let me say this, that the question that the strategy of what the Republicans do now is they think that the American people are going to be appalled by this process. I don't think this is -- I don't think they can get the American people interested in it, particularly when the media gives it so little coverage as they've given it, but I would compliment you, Harry. I think you've been one of the most effective whips in the history of the country, and I think that Senator Daschle has been very effective, but Teddy Kennedy has also been effective at carrying out this coolly calculated plot to avert the public will and...
REID: I would say that Senator Kennedy has been very ineffective, if it's 146 to three.
HUNT: But there is absolutely no difference, Kate, in bottling up a nomination in committee -- Enriquo Marino (ph) of the 5th Circuit who Clinton nominated was held for a year and a half. They wouldn't even bring him to the floor. Clearly, the majority of senators would have voted for him. Kathleen McCray Lewis (ph) of Michigan. Father was a federal judge. She was highly recommended by the ABA.
NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). How many filibusters?
HUNT: They would not grant her -- they would not bring her to the floor. Is that because they were bigoted and anti-African- American? It was because they were playing partisan games, and there was no difference, and there is no difference at all.
O'BEIRNE: There is a difference. And the next one they will be filibustering if a conservative -- if a conservative woman from California...
SHIELDS: You didn't complain when they did it to the Clinton judges.
O'BEIRNE: They never -- we never -- Republicans never filibustered Clinton's judges.
SHIELDS: That's it.
HUNT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) wouldn't let the Senate vote.
SHIELDS: That's it, gang. Harry Reid, thank you very much for joining us.
Coming up in the next half of CAPITAL GANG, our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Hans Riemer, the Washington director of Rock the Vote. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the first debate of the California recall with Mark Barabak of "The Los Angeles Times," and our "Outrages of the Week." That's all after the latest news headlines.
ANNOUNCER: Live, from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak, and Kate O'Beirne.
Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Hans Riemer, the Washington director of Rock the Vote. Hans Riemer, age 31. Residence, Washington, D.C. Religion, Methodist. Graduated from University of California Santa Cruz, 1995. Founder and director of 2030 Center from 1996 through 2001. Senior policy analyst, Campaign for America's Future, 2001 to 2003. Currently, director of Rock the Vote.
Earlier this week, Al Hunt sat down with Hans Riemer.
HUNT: Most young people are tuned out of politics. Fewer than one in three vote even in presidential elections. How can Rock the Vote change that?
HANS RIEMER, ROCK THE VOTE: Well, the climate, the political climate for this upcoming election is dramatic, and I think that we're going to see a surge in young voter participation. In 1992, when Rock the Vote first launched, we saw a 20 percent increase in young people coming to the polls, and I think that's definitely in the cards for this upcoming election.
HUNT: Well, some politicians in recent years that have done well with young voters were John McCain, Bill Bradley and Jesse Ventura. Any commonality there?
RIEMER: Well, they're outsiders. And they run against the establishment. But there are other candidates. Tammy Baldwin (ph) in Wisconsin, she got over half of young people to vote in her district, which is a phenomenally...
HUNT: Madison, Wisconsin.
RIEMER: Madison, Wisconsin. So it can be done.
HUNT: Which politician today most excites young voters?
RIEMER: Well, I think right now Howard Dean is certainly at the cutting edge. It think McCain is still an appealing figure, and I think a lot of people still have a place in their heart for Bill Clinton, but they're not tuned in with a lot of politicians.
HUNT: And George Bush?
RIEMER: He's an appealing figure. I think, you know, he got -- Clinton had a 20-point margin with young voters, and Gore and Clinton almost split. Gore won the vote, but they almost split.
HUNT: Hans, you have said that you want to make young voters, 18- to 24-year-olds, a demographic that the 2004 candidates cannot ignore.
HUNT: But unlike, say, Mexican-Americans are evangelicals, some think there are no two or three core issues that appeal or unite most of that demographic.
RIEMER: I disagree wholeheartedly.
HUNT: What are they?
RIEMER: This economy is one of the worst economies that we have seen for young people trying to get a job, whether you're coming out of college, coming out of high school. I think the environment and its connection with energy and national security is a very big concern. I think tolerance issues are very big. Young people want a government that understands the value of diversity, the value of tolerance.
HUNT: You didn't mention Iraq. Would that be a big issue?
RIEMER: I think it will be a very big issue. I think America's role in the world, the war on terrorism, Iraq, is going to be a very big issue in 2004.
HUNT: Like Vietnam was 30 years ago? RIEMER: Well, I think there may be some time to evolve something that big.
HUNT: You have enlisted in this effort the Dixie Chicks, who aroused controversy, as you know, with their criticisms of President Bush and the war. And critics say that rather than wanting to increase the young voter franchise, what you really want to do is to get more liberal young voters, and you wouldn't be pleased if it ended up turning out conservative voters. Is that a fair rap?
RIEMER: It's not a fair rap. We are definitely a non-partisan organization. We want young people to vote. We think the candidates should compete for young voters.
The Dixie Chicks took a lot of heat for their stance on free expression, and we believe that they should be able to say who they -- what they want to say, by virtue of just being a citizen in this country. The Dixie Chicks are looked to by young women all across this country for their music, their leadership, and I think their politics are going to come into play.
HUNT: Your organization has said it's going to focus more on some substantive issues, as well as elections. In California, you're going to oppose Prop 54, which prohibits the collection of data by race. It's opposed by most civil rights groups. Will you also get involved in the recall effort?
RIEMER: We're steering clear of the recall. We just want young people to vote, and we are definitely working against Prop 54, which -- this is a good example of how diversity issues are coming into play. Prop 54 would make the state unable to rectify or address discrimination in society.
HUNT: How about Arnold? Does he have any special appeal to young people?
RIEMER: He could. I think he could, but he has to be able to show he can solve the state's problems.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt, is Hans Riemer really shooting straight when he insists that Rock the Vote is a non-partisan organization?
HUNT: Oh, absolutely, Mark. It's bipartisan for lefties, but it's bipartisan.
Look, I hope he succeeds, though. Because just imagine in 2004, Robert Novak, the dean of American political correspondents, face to face with the Dixie Chicks.
SHIELDS: Oh, boy, oh, boy. Bob, what's your own take?
NOVAK: I have no objection to partisanship. I love partisans on both sides. What I hate is sniveling people who are partisans and claim they're non-partisan, like this guy. This guy is fraudulent! This is a left-wing organization opposing the initiative, the anti- racial initiative in California.
And let me just add one other thing. Anybody who thinks that you should get a lot of people between 18 and 24 voting has got dementia.
O'BEIRNE: Actually, you know, since the 18-year-olds got the vote, they -- they got it, they overwhelmingly supported Richard Nixon. In fact, young people are not a liberal monolith. In fact, a growing, increasing number of them, for instance, are pro-life. They're jut not very reliable voters. But they are very important workers on campaigns, and my prediction, safe prediction is, President Bush will have every bit as many young people working for him as the Democratic nominee will.
SHIELDS: Let me just say this, anybody who works against the racial initiative really must be a left-winger, right? Is that the conclusion that we're drawing from it?
NOVAK: But it's not non-partisan! I hate that, when they say they're non-partisan...
SHIELDS: You have to be, what 110 percent...
HUNT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) dementia.
SHIELDS: Honest to God, I don't know where you're coming from...
NOVAK: I'll tell you something...
SHIELDS: ... but I wish you'd head back.
Coming up, the "CAPITAL GANG Classic" -- the first Republican presidential debate of the 1996 election.
SHIELDS: Welcome back. A little more than eight years ago at Manchester, New Hampshire, 10 Republican candidates seeking the nomination to oppose President Bill Clinton debated for the first time. THE GANG discussed the event on October 14, 1995. Our guest was then White House press secretary Mike McCurry.
O'BEIRNE: There's this crowded field standing in stark contrast to the Democrats in '88 and '92. They clearly think that Bill Clinton is in trouble, and are anxious to be the one to take them on.
MIKE MCCURRY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: These early debates, early debates are always like that. You guys are always ragging on them, because they're having a conservation with right-wing voters in the Republican Party. That's what primary politics is about. NOVAK: You can't put 10 candidates out there, for eight minutes apiece and have them look good, particularly when they're getting a lot of inane questions asked of them. I would say it was absolutely meaningless.
HUNT: My first thought was, this was Bob Novak's kind of debate -- darkness. All darkness. I can't remember any debate that was held four months before New Hampshire that had any consequence since I've been covering politics.
SHIELDS: When you go into a debate and somebody's 30 points ahead or 25 points ahead and nothing happens that changes that equation, it helps the guy who's 25 points ahead. So I think Bob Dole was the winner of the evening, because he clearly was the winner.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, didn't that early debate suggest the Republicans would, in fact, have lots of trouble defeating Bill Clinton in 1996?
O'BEIRNE: Mark, we're picking (ph) soft spot for a senor statesman, thus Bob Dole's 25-point lead, signaled trouble for the Republicans defeating Bill Clinton. That and Maury Taylor's (ph) inability to break out of a pack.
SHIELDS: How quickly we forget. Bob, did you interview Maury Taylor (ph)?
NOVAK: No, I never made that one. But I'll tell you, I thought Steve Forbes was excellent in that, but it didn't make any difference. I mean, unless you really fall on your face or just do something, come up with something that's very unusual, those debates don't make much difference.
SHIELDS: Remember Steve Forbes, I'm rich as hell I'm not going to take it anymore?
HUNT: I have forgotten about the polo populist until Bob just mentioned him...
NOVAK: That's really not fair.
HUNT: You know, you know, that I do agree with Bob, when it's four months before the New Hampshire primary, no debate has ever mattered. Didn't in 1995, won't in 2003.
SHIELDS: I just have to say, again, though, that unless you really do shake things up a little bit if you're behind, then it's a lost opportunity for you.
NOVAK: Well, how do you do it? How could they have gotten -- all of them wanted to catch up with Dole, but there was no way to do it. HUNT: But that can happen later. My point is, that can happen later. That happens, you know, in the weeks before New Hampshire.
SHIELDS: All right, well, will you keep up posted then?
HUNT: I will.
SHIELDS: All right, thank you. Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway." This is the first debate of the California recall, with "Los Angeles Times" crack political reporter Mark Barabak.
SHIELDS: Welcome back. Arnold Schwarzenegger skipped the first debate in the California recall election and campaigned on his own.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R ), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I can promise you, I will not raise the taxes to pay for the politicians' mistakes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: At the debate, the Hollywood actor's lack of experience was hit by his principal opponents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM MCCLINTOCK (R ), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: We have got to have a governor who knows every inch of the state bureaucracy.
LT. GOV. CRUZ BUSTAMANTE (D), CALIFORNIA: People want to know, what have you got to say and what are you going to do in our behalf? The first thing they're going to want to know is, what have you done?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: The debate format gave Governor Gray Davis a chance to make his case against the recall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: This has been a humbling experience.
I think I was too slow to act on the energy crisis.
The Republicans took this position: They would not raise taxes at all costs. They would rather shoot their mother.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Joining us now from San Francisco is Mark Z. Barabak, "Los Angeles Times" political reporter. Thanks for joining us, Mark.
Mark, will Arnold Schwarzenegger pay any political price for ducking the first debate?
MARK BARABAK, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Yes, I think he already has. I think it was a big mistake for a simple reason. There is one big fat question surrounding Arnold Schwarzenegger's candidacy, and that is whether he's up for the job of governor. And far from dispelling the doubts, I think he compounded them by skipping the debate and by agreeing to participate in just one other in which he gets the questions fed to him in advance.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak.
NOVAK: Mark, the internal polls of the Schwarzenegger campaign show that he is slightly ahead of Bustamante in the second part of the recall election, and that the vote against Governor Davis for recalling him is much higher than "The Los Angeles Times" poll shows. Do you think that maybe "The Los Angeles Times" poll is wrong and this poll is correct?