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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Bush Administration Continues To Ask United Nations Help In Rebuilding Iraq; Who Will Win, If Any, The California Recall Election? Interview With Madeleine Albright

Aired September 27, 2003 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, Robert Novak, and Kate O'Beirne.
Our guest is Democratic Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. of Tennessee. It's good to have you here, Harold.

REP. HAROLD FORD (D), TENNESSEE: Thank you for having me.

SHIELDS: Thank you for coming in.

President Bush went before the United Nations General Assembly to ask for support on Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America's working with friends and allies on a new Security Council resolution, which will expand the U.N.'s role in Iraq.

The United Nations should assist in developing a constitution in training civil servants and conducting free and fair elections.

I asked the U.N. Security Council to adopt a new anti- proliferation resolution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: On Capitol Hill, the administration's request for quick action on $87 billion in spending was met with demands for more information.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL BREMER, U.S. ADMINISTRATOR IN IRAQ: Every day that we are delayed in getting that money is a day that we do not have better security.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D): There's no reason that I can imagine why this Senate should not get a copy of your August and September modification, just the way you find...

BREMER: Well, maybe you will, sir. I just...

LEVIN: Not maybe. No, no, not maybe.

BREMER: I will keep you informed, sir.

LEVIN: Well, I'm sorry, Mr. Chairman, on that one, that's not good enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: "The Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll shows opposition to president's request by 10 percentage points.

Kate O'Beirne, is the president in big political trouble on his aid request for Iraq and Afghanistan?

KATE O'BEIRNE, CO-HOST: Big trouble for President Bush would be if he failed to get the $87 billion. And I don't think at the end of the day that's going to happen, but there is going to be arguments about it. It is controversial on both sides of the aisle. Some of the individual items in the $20 billion for reconstruction strike some members as gold plated. Some members wonder why it shouldn't be a loan to the Iraqi people, given that it's the cost of liberation and reconstruction, especially if they're paying off those debts incurred under Saddam Hussein, used to repress people. And they'll be an attempt to so-call pay for part of by wanting to increase taxes.

So they'll be all of these different questions and fights, but at the end of the day, I think he gets it.

SHIELDS: Harold Ford, one thing that was shown in this NBC news poll that we mentioned "The Wall Street Journal" was that a big majority of people said to pay for it, they would be willing to repeal the tax break on the top income group. Do you think that's a real -- reality on Capitol Hill, a realistic prospect?

FORD: Increasingly so. I would say last week, it was not. But more and more, I think you're hearing from even my Republican colleagues who agree that to borrow indefinitely and almost in unlimited fashion against the future of the American worker and even some generations that have not been born yet is probably not the route to go, particularly when you look at the $20.3 billion or $20.4 billion or so that will be spend in non-military operations.

I believe you repeal that. You repeal the dividend tax for just one year. The president's asked for sacrifice. We've asked these 180,000 soldiers and their families to sacrifice. The very least we could do is for the five of us here, say we'll give up our tax cut for one year.

I'm willing to give up mine. I support that resolution. And I think that Mr. Cheney, Mr. Bush and the rest of the team should be willing to give up theirs as well.

SHIELDS: Well, I guess it's four to five, Bob.

O'BEIRNE: No, no, don't be so fast, Mark.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Well, far be it for me to tell Harold what's going on the Hill. But I'm going to tell him. And there's not going to be a rollback of the taxes. That is a non starter because you people in the Democratic Caucus were for rolling back that tax before there was any $87 billion proposal.

Now having said that, the president did not do very well in the U.N. speech, in my opinion. Didn't do very well in the speech two weeks before that to the nation. He's a guy who up until now, he's rose to the occasion with speeches when they need it. Didn't do it this time.

You have Republicans I talked to say well, he went hat in hand to the U.N. And people on the other side of the pen said gee, he was too tough on the U.N. So he didn't satisfy anybody.

They're even having trouble raising some money, because they don't -- they didn't -- they don't like this whole -- for the campaign. So they don't like this proposal.

So I think the president is in a little bit of trouble. And as you say, Kate, I think you said, there's a lot of Republicans up there who think there is pork in the $20 billion. And if anybody knows pork, it's congressmen.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, one of the -- the message or the subtext of the president's message to the U.N. was you can share in the burden, but you can share in none of the authority and none of the influence, and certainly none of the glory if there is to be any, of this. There isn't going to be any money or troops coming forth.

AL HUNT, CO-HOST: Bob is right. The U.N. speech was a dud. It didn't accomplish anything. I also -- and Kate's right. He's going to get the ultimate. He's going to get close to what he asked for.

And Robert, the tax cut for the very rich, this is what the proposal will be, will probably not be frozen. But I tell you something, the politics of it have changed because most Americans say if we're going to spend that money, this is a sacrifice, as Harold said, that wealthy people ought to make.

You know, the GOP leaders in the Senate have said if we -- if the Democrats try to foot drag on this bill, we'll cancel that October recess. The Democrats are saying, you know, hey, don't throw us in that briar patch, you know, Bill Frist. They love this debate. They love it on the tax cut. They love it on a parody measure. You got to spend on -- at home what you spend over there. They love the anti- Halliburton profiteering stuff.

They won't win on any of those, but it -- but I tell you something, they're going to win politically.

Final point, the weapons of mass destruction continues to haunt this administration. The latest explanation I saw is Richard Pearle said the reason we haven't found them is because our assault was so quick and so effective that the Iraqis didn't have time to go find them and bring them out.

And so that's why we haven't found these weapons. Hey, Richard, it's been six months.

SHIELDS: Harold Ford, on that very question, I mean the reality seems to be, perhaps I'm wrong, you can correct me if I am, that the coalition itself is nothing but a rhetorical fiction. I mean, you know, we have these countries. I mean, we're not going to get help there.

So the only help that's really going to come from the United States financially. We're not going to get troops. We're going to call up Reserves, going to call up National Guard. I mean, we got 29 from Singapore. We got 30 from Kazakhstan. I mean, isn't this just sort of a rhetorical fiction for the president's...

FORD: 90 percent or more of the troops and resources are ours. Having been on the ground when the U.N. mission was exploded, and having met with General Sanchez, as well as Ambassador Bremer, it's clearer and clearer that we're not going to solve this by ourselves.

I agree with you, Mr. Novak and Mr. Hunt, I thought his speech was a disaster. He had an opportunity to reach out in ways in which -- and I said it Ms. O'Beirne because having sat and listened to those troops and listened to families in my district, they deserve better than what he gave us.

O'BEIRNE: Oh, please. Now a lot of people who criticize the U.N. speech wanted him to go there and beg the international community to help us. That's true for many people.

FORD: All...

O'BEIRNE: Germany has already said that the idea of sending troops to Iraq would make Schroeder, he says, want to puke. France has said there will be money and no troops.

FORD: There are no...

O'BEIRNE: In fact, Thomas Freedman this week said in "The New York Times," France clearly does not want America to succeed in Iraq.

FORD: This is much broader.

O'BEIRNE: These are not people who are going to help us out.

FORD: This is much broader. The U.N. is not synonymous with just France and Germany. We have no help from Arab nations. There were those around the globe who all portrayed his speech in a similar way.

We can portray it how we want. The reality is we have a challenge abroad. And we can't solve it by making ourselves fully good. Conservatives talking amongst each other and bragging about how great the president is.

He failed that day.

O'BEIRNE: The people... FORD: And the reality is he failed those troops.

O'BEIRNE: ...the people who are going to help us in Iraq are the same people...

FORD: He failed those troops...

O'BEIRNE: ...who want a free and democratic Iraq. And that doesn't include some of those Arab countries.

FORD: He failed those troops more than he failed us around this table.

NOVAK: Let me go back to what Al talked about, the tax growing by the...

HUNT: Somehow I thought you'd get back to that.

NOVAK: Well, you may be surprised that I agree with you a little bit that it -- the politics of it is not very good right now because all the demagoguery that is going on. We would really be -- the economy would really be in bad shape. The markets would be in bad shape if we didn't have that dividend tax cut.

And the question is are -- this president is going to be as weak as his father and retreat on taxes? I believe he won't. I believe he believes in this. And I don't believe there are votes for -- to have a tax increase in the face of a rising recovery. I just don't think that's going to happen.

FORD: (Unintelligible), Mr. Novak, if we do it that -- what the president wants.

SHIELDS: Let's -- all right, we're out of time. But I have to say something about that, Bob. And that is that is George W. Bush did it, it would be a political ten strike...

O'BEIRNE: Oh.

SHIELDS: ...for him to do it. It really would. And you've got no place to go.

NOVAK: I hope he's not taking advice from you.

SHIELDS: Well, I mean I tell you, he'd be -- if he continues down this road, forget it.

Harold Ford and the gang will be back with Arnold and his first and only California debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. 11 judges of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned its own three judge panel and approved the California recall election for October 7.

Followed by the only debate with all of the top candidates to replace Democratic Governor Gray Davis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. GOV. CRUZ BUSTAMANTE (D), CALIF. GOV. CANDIDATE: I submitted a plan, a plan that I call tough love for California. In that plan, I raise tobacco taxes. I raise alcohol taxes. I raise the upper income tax bracket on the largest and the highest four percent of all Californians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's certainly tough on taxpayers, that's for sure.

BUSTAMANTE: That's not fair.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, CALIF. GOV. CANDIDATE: They realized they made a mistake and they spent money they don't even have. Then they go out and go tax, tax, tax. That's the answer to the problem?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The News 10 Survey USA poll found viewers thought Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger won the debate with Republican Tom McClintock second and Democrat Cruz Bustamante third.

Meanwhile, Governor Davis challenged Schwarzenegger to a debate, but was turned down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GRAY DAVIS, CALIF.: This -- Schwarzenegger is wrong. He is mischaracterizing the facts and running down this great state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, who has the momentum as we meet right now in California?

HUNT: Mark, it's a Davis-Schwarzenegger race right now, even though they're not in the same ballot question. Both have high negatives. It makes it very uphill to get 50 percent. The advantage for Arnold is he doesn't have to get 50 percent. 40 percent will win it.

Gray Davis blew it again. It took him two days to decide if he wanted to challenge Schwarzenegger to debate or not. First they said I might. And then he came back and two or three days later said I will.

That was terrible. Arnold has had to consolidate Republican support. I think that's happening. I think the establishment pressured on Tom McClintock to get out is enormous. Whether he does or whether he doesn't, he's going to go down, I think, to single digits in the next week.

Kate's publication this week wrote that to go for Arnold is a leap in the dark. Well, if that's the case, I want to tell you, our Robert Novak is the Michael Jordan of the right because he's in there soaring for Schwarzenegger.

NOVAK: That's right. I thought he did a good job. I -- California is not Mississippi. And you're not going to get the kind of people that I really like. And I think he's just fine as a conservative on economics.

What's very interesting is that the -- Al is at the tracking in both the Davis camp and the Schwarzenegger camp now shows Davis losing the recall and Schwarzenegger winning the election. That's going to be a major thing. And I know that the left, they say well just Schwarzenegger's a liberal on social issues. They are scared to death of that because that could really change the political climate in California.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, those of us who watch that debate, there seem to be one consensus, and that was Tom McClintock was the most knowledgeable, along with Peter Camejo, the Green Party candidate, most thoughtful, most reasoned. And for all that great performance, the Republican establishment landed the next day like a ton of bricks and said get out of the race.

O'BEIRNE: Yes, just watching those polls. I can understand how the poll we showed had people thinking Schwarzenegger won it. He had the expectations in his favor because he did okay for a novice politician.

SHIELDS: Low bar.

O'BEIRNE: Tom McClintock is clearly the most competent and most polished performance on that stage. He's that rare principled, very competent politician, but he's trailing. There's every reason to believe he was the only Republican in the race that he would be number one now, instead of Schwarzenegger, but he's not.

It seems to me Schwarzenegger should be talking to Tom McClintock. He's such a political talent. He ought to have a future in California. And maybe Schwarzenegger ought to try to convince McClintock that he could help McClintock have that kind of future.

SHIELDS: One of the reasons, Harold, that McClintock has resisted is that last year when he ran for controller, he only lost by 20,000 votes. And the establishment Republicans cut him off from dough. They poured money into the insurance commissioner's race, which was no hope at all. And they just stiffed him. So the chances of his getting out -- your read on California?

FORD: I was hoping at the debate they would have allowed more of the candidates, because they're...

O'BEIRNE: Oh, please.

FORD: ...the conversation got a little stale between the five of them. I think that Mr. Hunt has it right. It boils down to Davis and Schwarzenegger. I'm not convinced that the recall will pass.

I know the numbers don't look great for Davis, but I think that more and more people hear the Republicans in disarray, and more and more people focus a little bit on what Davis is saying in his challenge to Schwarzenegger. He probably should have it far sooner. I know I would have from the outset.

And one can only hope that voters will pay close -- I just think it's a bad think for democracy. Forget whether or not you think he should be recalled or not, you don't like him or not. I mean, Al Gore could have done the same thing or my governor, my state, his opponent could have done...

NOVAK: Let me say...

FORD: It's just a horrible, horrible practice...

NOVAK: ...I really like the idea of the recall.

SHIELDS: You do.

NOVAK: I like the idea of referendum, initiative, anything that gets between the politicians and eclipses them. I think it's a great idea. You know, Mark, let me just say one thing that I -- I'm really touched on your concern for a conservative Republican like McClintock and how bad he was treated by the Republican Party. I just -- I never found that before in you.

SHIELDS: He's the only one who took the no tax cut pledge. And you've just dropped him like a bad habit.

NOVAK: Is it possible...

SHIELDS: Honest to goodness.

NOVAK: ...that this is just a plot on your part to give Bush (unintelligible?)

SHIELDS: How much do you believe, Bob? I mean, is pragmatism, principal, where do they clash? What prevails?

Next on CAPITAL GANG, a Democratic debate with the general leading.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Retired General Wesley Clark, in his first debate as a Democratic presidential candidate, hit President Bush while his opponents hit each other.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DICK GEPHARDT (D), MISSOURI: We need a candidate against George Bush that can take the fight to him on it, not someone who agreed with the Gingrich Republicans.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I think Governor Dean is absolutely wrong. And he's wrong in his facts. The fact is that 32 million American couples get about $1000 out of the tax cut. HOWARD DEAN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With all due respect to Senator Kerry and the others from Washington that go to these tax cuts, this is exactly why the balance -- the budget is so far out of balance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Before the debate, the CNN/USA Today poll showed General Clark leading all Democratic candidates and ahead of President Bush in a trial heat.

Bob Novak, is President George W. Bush in trouble against Wesley Clark?

NOVAK: Well, there are some Republicans I talked to who think that the general would be the easiest candidate to beat. They came out, as the Republicans made it clear, that he had been giving speeches and a fundraiser for George W. Bush just last year -- or just...

SHIELDS: Two years ago.

NOVAK: ...two years ago. And I thought he was rather eclipsed by these more experienced people at the debate. I didn't think he was impressive at all. He was giving a lot of words that had been in his mouth by handlers.

I still think that Governor Dean is the strongest candidate. I think he's a tough candidate. I don't think President Bush is in very good shape right now. He's got that third year syndrome that a lot of presidents have. But I would say that General Clark has got a long way to go before he gets nominated, particularly the way the system is in New Hampshire and Iowa.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, Wesley Clark as a general does neutralize to some degree the president's and the Republicans' big advantage they have over Democrats on national security issues, doesn't he?

HUNT: Yes, he conceivably could do that, Mark. But first of all, I don't believe that poll. And who cares about a national poll at this stage? It doesn't mean a thing. Nor does a 10 candidate debate at this stage mean a thing.

I thought Wes Clark did fine, but that's because all he had to do was show up. He wasn't tested. He will be tested, however, in the weeks ahead.

Mark, this race hasn't formed yet. The only thing we know is that Howard Dean will be the front running insurgent, a new breed. We're not quite sure who will be the one or two alternatives and how the race will shape up. And we may not find out until January.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, your take on it?

O'BEIRNE: I think some outlines of this race are apparent. I was for one struck when I saw that Senator Graham and Senator Edwards are tied with Al Sharpton in these preference polls. So I think we're now in something about the viability of their candidacies.

This four star general, Wes Clark, is a war recruit up against seasoned veterans in this battle for the nomination. And it increasingly shows we like our heroes. Of course the public positively responds to a general.

Let me point out in 1983, Ronald Reagan was running 17 points behind John Glenn, another hero, a space hero. So those polls mean nothing at the moment.

I don't think the public's going to be looking for a war time leader, which we need, who panders and flip flops the way Wes Clark already has on the campaign trail.

SHIELDS: That description of Wes Clark from one of America's leading conservatives sounds a little bit like Briar Rabbit. I mean, you know, geez, you know, and this guy has all these weaknesses, but my gosh, he's running against George Bush in the (unintelligible.)

O'BEIRNE: This is my best advice to you.

FORD: I like where we are as Democrats. The debate the other night demonstrated that we're a party that fiscally responsible and smart. We're willing to make tough choices on budget and tax policy. It also showed that we have the only two candidates in the race who actually put on a uniform, took a shot, and fired a shot in defense of this country.

In addition, you heard from other voices in the party, including Sharpton and Braun, and Kucinich and showed the breadth and the diversity of our party. We're not afraid of that.

Now I honestly believe, as a national co-chair for John Kerry, so I bring a bit of bias to this conversation, that Wesley Clark enhances this field, and that I'd love if my candidate selected him, run on the ticket with him.

So they could show -- can you imagine a ticket, John Kerry and Wesley Clark, not having to put on uniforms and pretend that they served, who actually wore them?

O'BEIRNE: You don't mean to insult the National Guard? I'm sure you're proud of the Tennessee National Guard, and you don't mean to insult them?

NOVAK: I like...

FORD: I am, but...

HUNT: (Unintelligible) show up. That was the problem.

FORD: And Dick Cheney didn't put on either.

O'BEIRNE: What about the National Guard?

FORD: Dick Cheney didn't put on either. SHIELDS: Okay.

NOVAK: I like Al Sharpton a lot. I think he shows -- I agree with you. I thought he was very impressive. He's always got good one liners.

I think the problem -- just a minute, listen...

FORD: You can Sharpton and Dean all you want. The reality is...

NOVAK: No, I think...

FORD: ...John Kerry, Wesley Clark, Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt...

NOVAK: Okay.

FORD: ...demonstrated in the strongest of ways that this country's got clear alternatives, clear choices, and ones they can be comfortable with, if they reach the White House to lead this country faithfully to a brighter future than we are right now, Mr. Novak.

NOVAK: Seriously, let me tell you what I think the problem was shown in that debate. And that was -- thank you -- the problem shown in that debate was that Senator Kerry was saying hey, I like some of these tax cuts, but I don't like all of these tax cuts.

FORD: What's wrong with that?

NOVAK: And -- let me explain to you. And Governor Dean says no, I don't like any of the tax cuts. The message that is going to go over to the faithful in these primaries is Governor Dean. And the whole idea of being anti tax cut and for tax increases is the moth and the flame with the Democratic party.

HUNT: That was where Bill Clinton was and he did okay.

SHIELDS: That's right. Hal, 10 seconds.

FORD: The poverty numbers are rising. The country's concerned about jobs. And I can tell you, Democrats and Republicans got a lot of unease about this war. Democrats have a great chance. And I hope we nominate the right person.

SHIELDS: Harold Ford, thank you, congressman, for being with us -- for joining us. And we want you to come back.

FORD: Thank you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a star back in...

SHIELDS: Coming up on the second half of CAPITAL GANG, our news maker of the week, rising superstar you called him, is the former Secretary of State Albright. Beyond the beltway looks at the latest developments in the Texas redistricting wars and our outrage of the week. That's all after the latest news headlines. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

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 news maker of the week is former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, author of the newly published, "Madam Secretary," her memoir. Madeleine Albright, age 66, residence, Washington, D.C. Bachelors degree from Wesley College, Masters and Doctorate from Columbia University. White House and National Security Council staffer under President Carter. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, 1993 through 1996. Secretary of State, 1997 through 2000.

Earlier this week, Al Hunt interviewed Madeleine Albright from Chicago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNT: Madam Secretary, Russian President Putin and President Bush met this weekend. Are Russia and the United States more like allies today or really adversaries with different world views?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FMR. SEC. OF STATE: I think they are more allies, but the fact that we were adversaries for so long, clearly has an effect on both sides.

President Putin is somebody that I think is very smart, pragmatic, but he is very concerned about the identity of Russia.

HUNT: There still is a Russian war in Chechnya. But in the aftermath and 9/11, and our invasion of Iraq, we really don't have much leverage with President Putin?

ALBRIGHT: Well, we don't. And I actually believe it's worse than that, because I think in some ways, we're turning a blind eye to what's happening in Chechnya, because all he has to say is I'm fighting terrorism, as you're fighting terrorism. And this is what I have to do. And I think he gets kind of a blank slate there.

HUNT: On post war Iraq, can we realistically expect much Russian assistance? And is it worth it to assure they get their oil contracts and their debts repaid?

ALBRIGHT: The Russians have experience with Iraq. They know about the system. A lot of it was something that they helped to put in. I actually think that we cannot control all the oil contracts coming out of Iraq. I think that is what worries a lot of people that we now think it's going to be a wholly held American subsidiary.

And I think that some arrangement has to be made about the Russian debt.

HUNT: Let's turn to Iran. Russia is still planning to go ahead with an $800 million deal with build a nuclear power plant reactor in Tehran. How big a threat do you think this is? And what should we do about it?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think we have to be concerned about what the Iranians are doing. They keep saying it's just peaceful uses. We pressed the Russians very hard on not delivering technology for this plant at Bushehr. They need to understand that we are concerned that this may not be peaceful use of nuclear energy.

HUNT: Putin, politically, he continually cracks down on any independent press in Russia, suppresses opposition. In your book, you wrote about the former KGB agent. And you said "his democratic instincts were hard to detect." With the war on terrorism, does the United States simply give him the pass and not care if Putin is an autocrat?

ALBRIGHT: I think we are. The fact that the newspapers are being shut down. Once you have a president who says they looked into Putin's eyes and pressed him, I think there is a question. I think Putin is very smart, very pragmatic, but he certainly is cracking down on what he sees as any kind of opposition. And he wants to get re- elected.

HUNT: Quick question on Iraq. $87 billion request, should the Congress approve it?

ALBRIGHT: It's essential that the administration argue its case well, and not take it as an unpatriotic sign that members of Congress are asking about what the money is for.

During the war in Bosnia and Kosovo, we were summoned to the Hill all the time. And I have no problems specifically with the number. I do have -- I support those who are asking what is it going to be really used for? Is it the real amount? Or is there more coming?

HUNT: Madam Secretary, during the Clinton administration, General Wesley Clark was a divisive figure. In your book, you line up on the pro side. He's no doubt a brilliant general, but what political skills or what feel for this huge diverse country have you seen General Clark display, to suggest he has the requisite skills to be an effective president?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I don't want to comment on his presidential candidacy, because I actually like many of the candidates for the Democratic party. But I can tell you this, is that he is a person, I think, of great character and integrity, who is passionate about the United States and who is a leader. I think that General Clark is a remarkable person. And I personally am glad he entered the race, but he's got a job, as do the others, to persuade the voters.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, based on your conversation, do you think Madeleine Albright will be doing anything differently from President Bush in dealing with Putin and Russia?

HUNT: Mark, not so much on the big geo political issues, but I think she would have been more critical of President Putin's horrible anti-democratic, with a small "d", record.

The other thing is that, you know, Bill Clinton actually had much better relations than most world leaders than does George Bush. Putin is an exception. Clinton and Putin really didn't hit it off. And Putin and Bush do hit it off.

SHIELDS: That's true. Bob?

NOVAK: You know, I was interested in the Secretary of State with the same ambivalence out of office that she had in office. Tell me if I'm misrepresenting her. I think she was saying that to you Al, that Putin was doing a good job, but boy oh boy, we should worry about human rights in Chechnya.

It was one hand this, and the other hand that. And I didn't think it was a very convincing argument that they would be doing anything differently on Putin.

O'BEIRNE: I think we can expect this administration to lean on Russia more, certainly with respect to Iran and their -- the nuclear help Russia has given Iran, which is totally -- we need their cooperation now the Russians.

And I think our hand is strengthened now in that regard for the point Al made. This relationship was relegated to Al Gore during the Clinton administration. And George Bush has made it a personal relationship.

SHIELDS: Al, what about her feelings toward Wesley Clark? Anything come through in her...

HUNT: She likes Wes Clark. You know, Wes Clark divided the Clinton administration almost down the middle. And she was in the pro Wes Clark. They were very close. They agreed on Bosnia. They agreed on Kosovo. And I think she's a genuine Clark fan.

SHIELDS: Okay. Coming up on THE CAPITAL GANG, classic First Lady Hillary Clinton in China eight years ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. As Laura Bush leaves Sunday to Paris and Moscow, we look at First Lady Hillary Clinton's visit to China eight years ago during which she criticized Chinese policies on government forced abortion.

THE CAPITAL GANG discussed this on September 9, 1995. Our guest was then House Democratic Whip David Bonoir of Michigan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, Mrs. Clinton is a profile in courage, isn't she?

NOVAK: What courage is involved? I think First Ladies are supposed to be -- do ceremonial things, not controversial things. And she is whacking the hell out of the Chinese when we have important bilateral relations between those two countries.

HUNT: It would have been a mistake for Hillary Clinton not to go to Beijing, to that U.N. conference. We need to engage this terribly important country. And it would've been an equal mistake for her, once she was there, not to speak out against outrageous policies like force abortion.

O'BEIRNE: Much to her credit, I was pleased to see what she said. The only one who apparently doesn't know what country she's talking about is Bill Clinton, who two minutes later said, oh, come on, it's not directed against China.

I think he wound up undercutting her in a cowardly sort of way.

DAVID BONOIR, DEMOCRATIC WHIP: Frankly, I was in favor of her going when she -- but I think she made the right move. I was wrong. I think she was outstanding representing the values of our country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Well, Bob, you're isolated again. After eight years, can you say your criticism of Hillary Clinton and her condemnation of forced abortion on the part of the Chinese was wrong, your...

NOVAK: Very seldom on these classic things do I ever find myself standing by every single word and every single inflection I had but I do now miss. I have made this clear. I have made it clear in Nancy Reagan, and make it clear that I don't think the First Lady is a government position. They shouldn't be taking negotiating positions. It's ceremonial. Now that she's a U.S. senator, she can say anything she wants.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne?

O'BEIRNE: Bob, she wasn't -- Hillary Clinton was not over in China negotiating some sort of a bilateral treaty. Maybe the forum shouldn't have been held in China, a woman's rights forum. That's a separate question, but there was no way she could have gone there and not said exactly what she did. And I still say she deserves credit for having done so.

SHIELDS: Al?

HUNT: See, Mark, this is virgin territory for me. I've looked good in two classics in a row. That's never happened before. Hillary Clinton should have gone to China. And she should have criticized those outrageous actions on the Chinese government's part. It was a moral imperative.

SHIELDS: I'm proud to stand with Kate O'Beirne and Al Hunt.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, beyond the beltway looks at what may be the last round in the Texas redistricting wars with Wayne Slater of "The Dallas Morning News."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SHIELDS: Welcome back. The Texas House and Senate this week picked legislators to write the final version of the Republican bill to redistrict the state's congressional delegation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF WENTWORTH (D), TEXAS STATE SENATOR: The state that overwhelmingly elected the governor of this state to be president of the United States, we also have a congressional delegation that is made up of a majority of people who are opposing President Bush and his administration.

ROYCE WEST (R), TEXAS STATE SENATOR: They will score in terms of the legislative process. And once the legislative process is over, we're headed to court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The Scripps Howard Texas poll shows Texans are slightly against congressional redistricting. But overwhelmingly opposed Democrat senators who left the state to block the legislation.

Joining us now from Austin is Wayne Slater, Austin bureau chief of "The Dallas Morning News." It's good to have you again, Wayne.

WAYNE SLATER, "THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS": Great to be here.

SHIELDS: Wayne, is there any way this will be stopped? Or is this extraordinary redistricting now a done deal?

SLATER: You know, anything can happen. But it looks like it is a done deal. It's only a matter of days, probably now. I mean, we've been at this for about almost five months. The Democrats in the House ran off to Oklahoma to break a quorum. And Democrats in the Senate ran off for five weeks to New Mexico to break a quorum.

Now it's up to the Republicans in the legislature and the House and Senate to come to terms on a new map to -- for the congressional delegation in Texas. The governor told me yesterday that he thinks it's only a matter of a few days. He's confident that the house and Senate can reach agreement by about Wednesday or so. If that's the case, they'll be a map within about a week.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak?

NOVAK: Wayne, there was talk a while back about picking up five seats in the House of Representatives as a result of this redistricting. That's a lot of seats in a House that is tightly held as it has been in the last several elections. Are they still talking about a five seats or the Republicans scale down their ambition somewhat?

SLATER: Well, the real fight -- they're still talking about four or five seats possibly, even six seats. Obviously, it depends on what the voters do next year, but you can draw these things. You know, Bob, in a way that you can pretty well predict who's going to win. The Republicans have targeted about five white Anglo male Democrat incumbents. And they think that, whether it's the House map or the Senate map, they think that they can get rid of those white Democrats.

So I think it's going to pick up -- they're going to pick up about five seats if this map goes through. And that's all the more reason that the White House, Karl Rove, and Tom Delay have been so intimately involved in pushing the governor to do this.

Picking up five seats in one election day in one state is big stuff.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne?

O'BEIRNE: How important, Wayne, was Governor Perry's role in this essentially legislative fight? And he was in Washington this week, where he was pretty popular among Republicans. Do you think he's helped himself?

SLATER: Yes, well, depends on what you mean by helped himself. Certainly not among Democrats and moderates in Texas. The most recent polls show that his poll ratings have fallen to about 50 percent.

His unfavorables are almost the same. So he's not in the ideal situation, but you have to understand the dynamics of Texas politics. This isn't Republican state now. All the games are in the Republican party.

And what the governor has done, very carefully, by pushing the redistricting fight is burnished his credentials in the Republican party. So when it comes time for re-election, he doesn't have to worry as much. He can show himself to be the true Republican in the race.

And that's important because it's no secret that Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson would like to come back to Austin, if the conditions are right, and challenge this governor, or even the comptroller, sort of a neo Ann Richards, brassy, very savvy comptroller named Carol Strayhorne, who happens to be the mother of White House spokesman Scott McClellan. Both of those candidates would like to challenge Perry for re-election. Right now, he's pressed the case. I'm a great Republican in hopes that Republican voters in the primary will return him as the nominee.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt?

HUNT: Wayne, I think almost everyone can agree that this is a blatantly partisan act. They have the votes. It's very unusual to redistrict after you've already done it once, following a census.

Is there any chance that the courts will stop this Republican power grab?

SLATER: Sure, there's a chance of that. I think that the legal eagles I talked to, and we hear from around, say the odds are not good. Essentially, the case is this. As you know, this is a southern state. And so the most fruitful potential challenge would be the issue of voters rights. Does the new map violate the integrity of the rights of racial minorities in Texas?

And Republicans are doing everything they can in writing this new map, and everything I've seen, to make sure they don't cause that problem there. So that when they go to the Justice Department for pre-clearance, and when this issue is litigated in federal court, there is no problem, that essentially all they're really doing is rearranging the deck shares among Anglos. And they're by and large leaving the two blacks and the minority Hispanic districts alone.

If they are successful in doing that, the Republicans, then a court challenge, I think, is anything but possible.

SHIELDS: Wayne, in looking at this, that Scripps poll we mentioned earlier showed that independents were 53 to 32 against this redistricting plan. Is there any legs politically in your judgment to this being an issue that haunts the Republican party or Republican candidates in 2004?

SLATER: The real problem for any Republican, it seems, with respect to this, whether the Republicans are seen as overreaching in this redistricting process, whether the governor, lieutenant governor and House Speaker, all Republicans, are seen as too harshly partisan, the real problems will be in regional races in the legislature.

And frankly, in most of those seats that are Democrat, they're Democrat. And the people in those districts don't like the idea. In the Republican districts, they're Republicans. And they're likely to return their good solid Republicans to office.

While those -- while the people in that poll, Texans, said they don't like the idea of this redistricting, they just assume the legislature would be doing something else, the other numbers that you showed are telling, that also Texans didn't like the idea that Democrats, first the House then the Senate, ran away, rather than fought the issue.

That's taken a sort of a bite out of the Democrats' position in this, and made them look weaker than they otherwise might be. So the overall outlook, I think the Republicans are in better shape.

NOVAK: Wayne, we're almost out of time, but as Charlie Stenholm, the old bulldog Democrat, is he gone in this? It looks like he can't win that new district. Is that your feeling?

SLATER: It looks like that may very well happen. It's one of the fights that's going to happen. Right now, the big fight is between the oil men and cattlemen in west Texas, where the Republicans will have to decide if the agriculture interests win and Charlie Stenholm stays.

SHIELDS: Yes.

SLATER: If the oil interests win, like the movie "Giant," then Charley Stenholm very likely will be gone.

SHIELDS: The loss of Charley Stenholm would be a serious one. It really would. And Wayne Slater, thank you very much for joining us. The gang will be back with the "Outrage of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week." In the wise words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, "The measure of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have little."

From 1979 to 2000, the average after tax income of the top one percent grew by $576,000 a year. The income on the bottom one-fifth of Americans in the same years increased by just $1100 a year. From 2000 to 2002, the number of Americans living in poverty grew by three million.

The U.S. is tragically failing the FDR standard. Bob Novak?

NOVAK: Those people who believe that neo Marxist demagoguery rampant in Washington may not understand what I am going to report. New data from the IRS shows the government got $66 billion fewer tax dollars in 2001 from the top one percent of income earners. You blame tax cuts for the rich? No, there were no tax cuts in 2001, just a recession inherited by George W. Bush from Bill Clinton.

We got less revenue because the rich did worse. And it would be nice if these demagogues understood that fact of life.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne?

O'BEIRNE: The president of Red Lobster has been fired because piggy customers ate far too much at the chain's recent "all you can eat" crab fest. Such is the private sector.

The same week, two arrests of a Muslim chaplain and an Air Force translator, for alleged espionage at Guantanamo Bay came to light. What do you want to bet no one will lose his job if this shocking breach of security proves true? Do we take our seafood more seriously than our security?

SHIELDS: Al Hunt?

HUNT: Mark, Chris Ricks, the Florida state quarterback traffics in trouble. This week, he was caught by students illegally using a handicapped parking sticker. All he got was a light slap on the wrist. Illegally using slots reserved for people with real disabilities seems common in the athletic world. At every Redskins game, I see people in handicapped parking spots sauntering out of their car. They and Chris Ricks are hurting the truly disabled who need that access. There ought to be a special place in hell for those who do that.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. Thank you for joining us. END

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