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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Is The CIA Leak A Major Crisis For The Bush Administration?; Chief Weapons Inspector Kay, No Weapons Of Mass Destruction Found; Is Arnold Schwarzenegger In Trouble?

Aired October 4, 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 the full gang. That's Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.
The Justice Department became a full scale investigation of a CIA officials name in a Robert Novak column.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of. And that's why I welcome the investigation. I'm absolutely confident the Justice Department will do a very good job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The Democrats a demanded a special council.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM DASCHLE, (D-SD) MINORITY LEADER: The conflicts that would exist within in the Justice Department are obvious. John Ashcroft won't even go after Ken Lay, how will he possibly go after somebody who appointed him as Attorney General.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R) ALABAMA: Sometimes the independent council, they go wild. They've got unusual powers. Let's give the Justice Department the opportunity to do their job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Some Democrats said the events put the entire administration at risk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D) IOWA: There is a cancer spreading in this administration.

SEN. KEY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R) TEXAS: I think it has been distorted. And I think it has been blown way out of proportion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, is what we are seeing a crisis of major proportions for the Bush administration.

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Look, I think Senator Hutchison has it right this time. I think it has been distorted. I think gleeful Democrats have blown this up way out of proportion. Ambassador Joe Wilson, in particular, seems to really be enjoying himself. But you can understand why the Democrats are doing that. They badly want the Bush White House to have a character problem and they are tying this leaking of the CIA individual to the fundamental reason we went to war, yellow cake from Africa, which of course is crazy.

But however phony, and partisan the president's critics have been, this could be a problem for the White House. These leak investigations drag on. Even though there's probably no criminal violation, there's a very narrowly drawn statute, it appears that whoever may have acted inadvertently, it's not that easy to meet the demands of this narrowly drawn statute.

So, I could be wrong, but not criminal. But, as I said, if it drags on, it will still take a big toll on the White House.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, our internationally aggressive president sounded strangely passive about the investigation there.

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: Mark, let me tell you what this issue is not. The issue is not about Robert Novak. He ought to tell anyone who asks, including the government, who is source is to go to hell. The issue is not about Joe Wilson's politics. That doesn't matter.The issue is only whether someone at the highest level of the White House, in order to discredit critics, was willing to leak the name of a CIA agent who has worked in undercover operations.

A lot of CIA people and ex-agents, believe that to be the case. Which is why, unlike most leak stories, this one is not going to go away. And it's not going to be answered satisfactorily as long as a politically partisan attorney general, with ties to possible suspects, refuses to name a special council who would have credibility.

That mark is different than an independent prosecutor that Senator Shelby talked about. And there's ample president, both the previous Bush and the Carter administration knew that.

Finally, this is the most top down discipline White House, perhaps, ever. Freelance leaking does not occur. If, say if, there was a political smear here, a strange credulity to say someone with a stature of Karl Rove or Cheney Chief of Staff Lewis Libby didn't do it.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: You know, it's interesting, Bush wants to get to the bottom of it. There was a small window where he could have called in the various possibilities and just asked them. And you would assume that nobody's going to stand in the Oval Office and lie to the president. This is not White Water, with financial records and loans and deeds of trust, it's just, are you the person who called these various people, but he didn't do that. So now we're in the fight over justice department or independent council. I think Al has a point, probably you need somebody with some independence to look into it and not John Ashcroft.

The other thing is, is that there probably won't be a criminal prosecution because this case has the statute has such a high hurdle. And if this were about energy or some such thing it might go away, but it goes into that pile of Iraq, this toxic land fill we have now, where there's so many problems. And if your credibility is entangled in that, I think it makes it much worse for the White House. It won't go away.

SHIELDS: Give us your take on it, Robert Novak.

ROBERT NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Well, to say that this is comfortable for me is one of the great understatements. To be talking about something that I obviously know things about I can't tell both on what Al mentioned of reporters protection of sources and my own lawyers advice.

But, let me say that, what I said in my column last week, and that is, that the information, and the name of the CIA employee, was given to me in an offhand manner by somebody who was not a political -- a partisan John Slender (ph), that's the words I used in the column.

If there was a plot, the giving of the name to me was not part of that plot.

Secondly, when Tom Harkin quote verbatim, John Dean's quotes of a cancer on the presidency from Watergate, I think that is over the top, trying to take this issue and turning into something -- Watergate after all, did destroy the presidency, it was not a minor thing. I don't think this is going to destroy the Bush presidency. I don't think so anyway.

SHIELDS: Al...

HUNT: Well, the reason -- let me tell you why I favor a special counsel, as I did in several cases during the Clinton administration. There are all kinds of questions. Did the Justice Department give a heads up to the White House before the formal notification? Who at the White House knew about this woman at the CIA and whether she was an undercover agent? And why did they know?

And did they -- we know what Bob said, absolutely 100 percent. Did they cause the "Washington Post," as reported in several occasion in its news pages and editorials -- did they call other reporters in order to try and smear this woman?

I don't know the answer to those questions, but I don't think if John Ashcroft comes back and says we're clean on all, that's going to have any credibility.

O'BEIRNE: Look, John Ashcroft is not heading up this investigation. I wouldn't have -- there's no reason to believe he couldn't if he were, but he's not. There's a 30 year career prosecutor, whose experienced in leak investigations, and he's heading it up. There's no reason to believe he can't do a good job.

As soon as possible, would be my argument. I never understand why these go on as long as they do. They're still doing the leak investigation for the Capital Hill leak of sources and methods. And that's going to be very frustrating, because it's going to take it's toll.

CARLSON: You know it's interesting, the White House was able to say -- remember when Wes Clark said, Karl Rove didn't return his calls when he was doing commentary on the warrant said, no, no, no, there was no call to Karl Rove, we checked the phone logs. Well why wouldn't you look at the phone logs now, you can't tell who made the calls out.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: What do you find from that?

CARLSON: Just that the phone logs could be check instantly when Wes Clark made that allegation.

NOVAK: And you find Karl Rove made phone calls to reporters?

CARLSON: No, no. He did not. They said no, there was call -- no I'm talking about Wes Clark and they said there was no phone calls. I'm saying, the phone logs can be checked instantly.

SHIELDS: OK, let me just say, I agree with Al, that a special counsel makes sense. Not an independent counsel. An independent counsel means you create a whole new structure and you reinvent the wheel. I'm talking about, you take the career Justice Department attorneys, but you put it under the Robin Fisk (ph) type of person and I just take it -- it answers all the questions and all of the problems.

And they better do it in a hurry, because Tony Blankly, the former Newt Gingrich press secretary and editor of the editorial page of "The Washington Times" said, get on it right now Mr. President. Get it behind you. And he's absolutely right.

The Gang of Five will be back with whether or not the Bush weapons inspector's found anything at all in Iraq.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Former U.N. weapons inspector David Kay conducting a search in Iraq for the CIA reported to Congress that no weapons of mass destruction had been found.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID KAY, CIA CHIEF WEAPONS INSP.: We have found a lot of evidence of the Iraqi regime's intent to continue to acquire weapons of mass destruction. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The Kay Report was interpreted differently by President Bush and leading congressional Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: He says that the WMD program involved thousands of people, billions of dollars, and was elaborately shielded by security and deception operations. In other words, he's saying Saddam Hussein was a threat, a serious danger.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), ARMED SERVICES CMTE.: We've gone over with a fine tooth comb the findings of Dr. Kay that there are at this point no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq. That, despite the intelligence that was given to us prior to the war, by the administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, is the Kay Report a serious blow to President Bush?

NOVAK: Yes, I think it is because I think there were hoping that Dr. Kay would find -- yes, who's kind of a hard liner -- would find some weapons. As you know, from both my column on this show, I never expected them to find these weapons, which is one of the reasons I was not for taking military action while most of the people on this panel were.

But having said that, I think that now it's being used for political reasons to attack the president. They're so shocked by it. And the fact is that Kay does come up with the finding that they were preparing to have nuclear weapons, although they had not -- not nuclear weapons. I'm sorry. Weapons of mass destruction, although they hadn't reached that point.

SHIELDS: On March 30, Margaret, Secretary Rumsfeld testified we know where the weapons of mass destruction are. The president says he has at least seven mobile factories for the production of biological agents. This was all in the run-up to the war to make the case to go to war in a preemptive war of self-defense, let it be noted.

CARLSON: I think people can be surprised, because if you trusted the word of the administration, you thought they knew things we didn't know and couldn't know because it was classified.

Listen, I hope and long and want so many things, like apparently Saddam Hussein wanted to have nuclear weapons. He wished he did. But his intent hadn't materialized into anything.

And what the administration should do now is say listen, Hans Blix, we're sorry. You were right. There weren't any and get U.N. inspectors in there to finish the job, so that the David Kay $600 million does not have to be spent, the request for more money to finish the job.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, you said on this show that the discovery and founding of weapons of mass destruction was central to the Bush administration's argument for war.

O'BEIRNE: Right. It was central to their case for war. Now most critics of war, unlike Bob Novak, didn't doubt that there was stockpiles of weapons.

NOVAK: I did.

O'BEIRNE: You did. But let's make clear that most of the war critics didn't want to go to war, even when they didn't dispute that there was stockpiles of weapons. And the same kind of intelligence that the administration was citing, of course, Capitol Hill. Members on Capitol Hill see the same kind of intelligence or reach the same conclusions.

I think what David Kay has found so far does make a case for war still, that Saddam Hussein was a threat. He wouldn't account for his weapons. He was not cooperating with the U.N. inspectors. There is some evidence of a biological program. Banned missiles, he was trying to get his hands on.

But it was not -- it is a case. It was not the case the administration made with respect to the specific stockpiles. And I don't think the administration can ignore what was wrong. And they have to answer with the specific intelligence that they did cite. I mean, that's a very important question.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, the vice president of the United States said Saddam is actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time. And all we've come up with is a smoking intention. We haven't got a smoking gun.

HUNT: I think this report is really devastating. 1200 people on David Kay's team, 300 man hours, four months later, and they basically have come up with nothing. On biological weapons, George Bush after the war said we have discovered the weapons of mass destruction in these mobile trailers. The Kay Report said the technical limitations really would render those not very effective. There's no chemical weapons, which surprises me, Kate. There's none.

A nuclear -- Dick Cheney didn't say that. He said on "MEET THE PRESS" that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons. What Kay says now is five to seven years later.

I want to just second what Margaret Carlson said. Let's send those U.N. inspectors back. It seems now that they did quite a good job.

NOVAK: Let me just add something. And that is that the Congress passed a resolution during the Clinton administration for a change of regime. Remember that?

HUNT: I do. NOVAK: In Iraq. And the people who believed it was necessary for the United States to play a greater role in the war, wanted to go into Iraq. I didn't approve of that, but there is no question that the reasons for this administration going into Iraq were well beyond the weapons of mass destruction.

And I think you'll agree with me, Al. I think you will that it's all politics now, that this is an effort. We're in the presidential election cycle. And this is an effort to discredit President Bush.

HUNT: No, I wouldn't agree it's all politics. But what I would say, I would say Paul Wolfowitz, when that "Vanity Fair" article noted that Saddam Hussein was a monstrous dictator, who brutalizes people. But he said that in itself is not a reason to put American lives at risk. That's the problem.

O'BEIRNE: (Unintelligible) an awful lot of support. There's a majority of those that supported the war in Iraq would agree with that, that it was the threat he posed to us.

SHIELDS: It wasn't the case he made at the U.N. or the case the Secretary of State made. It was about an imminent threat posed by those weapons.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, is the Terminator in big trouble?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, CANDIDATE FOR CALIF. GOVERNOR: I have misbehaved. And if I offended anyone, I want to just say sorry that people that I've offended. And that was not my intention.

With what was once considered playful behavior on a movie set now is considered something else. So you know, I didn't want to offend anyone or really, you know, do anything that is any harm to anybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al, you've read that non apology apology. Republican actor Arnold Schwarzenegger was leading the polls in Tuesday California recall election for governor, when he was accused of past improper conduct toward women.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: If the comments and the conduct were true, if they actually happened, I find it very disturbing and totally unacceptable.

MARIA SHRIVER, SCHWARZENEGGER'S WIFE: You can listen to all the negativity, and you can listen to people who have never met Arnold, or who met him for five seconds 30 years ago. Or you can listen to me. I advise you to listen to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, how much of these last minute allegations hurting Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign?

HUNT: Well, they've hurt him personally. And I think they've hurt him some politically, too. I talked to California politicians this afternoon. And the overnight tracking poll show Arnold's lead going from double digits to single digits.

But I don't think they've hurt him enough for him to lose the -- to lose on Tuesday. Cruz Bustamante, his rival in that question I don't think is capable of getting up to 40 percent, which is what it'll probably take. The only way Arnold loses, if there is a surge of conservative voters who go to Tom McClintock.

And I don't think it's going to have much of an effect on the first question, which is the Democrats' best hope, which is defeat the recall. But if Arnold does survive, as I suspect he will, I think he'll owe a lot of it to his wife, Maria Shriver, who I think very, very effectively came to his side today.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, my own reporting today said that the margin had come down between the margin of error on the recall question overnight, just in the one night overnight.

But I ask you the point that Al makes, what about the conservative coming back to serious questions now about Arnold's commitment? Isn't it, to the conservative cause?

O'BEIRNE: I don't know -- I give them more credit than you do, conservatives from California. I assume this didn't come as a big shock to them that Arnold Schwarzenegger, being an indulged Hollywood star, is crude and immature by Hollywood standards. You know, they probably figure it's not -- most Californians probably figure it's not all that bad.

And there's probably a negative reaction that benefits Arnold Schwarzenegger at "The L.A. Times," bringing something like this, based largely on anonymous sources. Only a few of them put them their names to it, just a few days before the election.

So I think it would be a wash.

SHIELDS: Hollywood standards are one thing. What about conservative standards?

O'BEIRNE: I don't think they're surprised. A lot of conservatives aren't supporting Schwarzenegger anyway.

CARLSON: The conservatives must be sorry they didn't stick with their principles and support Tom McClintock at this -- right now, because he could have probably have won it.

Listen, Schwarzenegger is an equal opportunity crude and boorish man. I mean, he did this, if you look back, to men as well. He was awful to the 97 pound weaklings. He loved practical jokes. He's just crude and boorish, period. The Kennedy women have had many crosses to bear. And Maria Shriver is in that tradition. I agree with Al. He -- staying solid in the polls is, I think, largely due to her coming out full boar for him.

And you know, David Dreier says that his internals went up overnight. And there must be a pro groping, pro you know Hitler vote out there in California.

NOVAK: No, it isn't pro groping. It isn't pro Hitler. It's just that people aren't as dumb as you think, Margaret. It's just that people are not surprised that in the last week of the presidential campaign, a DUI story on George W. Bush comes up, that in the last week before this recall election, which is a big important election with national significance, that all the stuff about Arnold we were going to hear comes up, including the Hitler nonsense, that Gray Davis, who has always campaigned with a dirty brush, suddenly is our spreading this.

And Al and Mark, I don't what overnight you're talking about, but the overnights I've been reporting is the same thing as Margaret, that the recall vote went up and that Schwarzenegger went up, and that there's a huge reaction against "The Los Angeles Times."

SHIELDS: "The Los Angeles Times," let it be noted just for clarification's purpose, had editorially and in its story said that it talked to no candidate. None of these charges came from any candidate on the campaign.

O'BEIRNE: On their own, their enthusiastic (unintelligible.)

SHIELDS: No. But the suggestion that Gray Davis was behind this.

CARLSON: And Mark also, this is a short campaign. It's not as if they're holding it to the last minute. It took this long to do...

NOVAK: Oh, Margaret...

CARLSON: ...a credible and check them out.

NOVAK: Margaret, the minute -- long before he announced, they said there was a lot of dirt. Wait 'til it comes out.

CARLSON: But there is!

NOVAK: And just a minute, and I knew and you knew, you're a very savvy political observer, that it would come out the last minute. You knew that.

CARLSON: Well, you said one right thing. Yes, I am savvy.

NOVAK: Okay.

CARLSON: And in fact, you know, they did good solid reporting. And that women don't put their names on these things is not surprising.

O'BEIRNE: Well, what about the ones who didn't put their names?

CARLSON: Well, no. Many women did.

NOVAK: One of them is a Democratic activist who's doing all this.

HUNT: Bob, last minute smears are not just directed against Republicans. I mean, there were last minute attacks against Jimmy Carter, against Bill Clinton. It has no ideological boundaries, Robert.

NOVAK: And you like them all.

HUNT: No, I don't.

NOVAK: Oh, you don't like them?

HUNT: No.

SHIELDS: The point is, is whether they're true. And certainly the DUI charge of George W. Bush was true.

NOVAK: You think that was really nice politics in a presidential election, that the Democrats held that for all that time? And they pull it out at the end?

SHIELDS: I don't think they did hold it. I'm...

NOVAK: They hold it all.

SHIELDS: I think the main newspaper that published...

NOVAK: Yes, come on.

CARLSON: And had it been out there earlier, I think it would have had more effect.

HUNT: Do you think it was a legitimate story, Robert?

CARLSON: Yes.

SHIELDS: What -- all right, what's going to happen, Bob, on Tuesday in California?

NOVAK: Well, to the dismay of the Democratic establishment, Davis is going to be recalled. Schwarzenegger is going to be elected. And the politics of California are going to be transformed.

CARLSON: And it should be, to the dismay of conservatives, Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to be the Republican governor of California.

O'BEIRNE: I think it'll be the Schwarzeneggers of Sacramento.

HUNT: Yes, I agree with Kate. It will not transform California politics.

SHIELDS: I will say this, if it does happen, I don't think it will, I think -- I will bet a six pack that the recall will in fact fail. Closely, but if it does succeed, then he owes his fate, fortune and future to Maria Shriver, who was eloquent and persuasive in his defense.

Coming up in the second half of CAPITAL GANG, Al Hunt is on the beat reporting on Wesley Clark's popularity in New Hampshire. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the future of the papacy, amid the concerns about the pope's health with CNN Vatican analyst Delia Gallagher. And our "outrage of the week." That's all after the latest news headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

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.

The 10th Democratic presidential candidate, retired Army General Wesley Clark, paid his first campaign visit to New Hampshire. In a town meeting, he attacked the United States war against Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WESLEY CLARK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I saw it was wrong. I said at the time there was no imminent threat. I said there were other ways to handle to the problem. I warned that there weren't enough ground troops. And I suspected there wasn't a good plan for what happened afterwards. Tragically, it's all true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: This week, our own Al Hunt was on the beat in New Hampshire. Al?

HUNT: Mark, ignore national presidential preference polls. Focus instead on the early contest, especially New Hampshire.

Howard Dean has surged ahead of John Kerry in the critical first primary, while others have been mired in single digits. All candidates nervously eye the new kid in the block, the general.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLARK: Thank you.

HUNT: Only days after announcing, Wesley Clark shot ahead of everyone but Dean and Kerry in New Hampshire. In his first candidate foray last week, in this retail rich state, he won plaudits.

At the Merrimack (ph) restaurant in Manchester, waitress Jane Lynch, who has waited on five presidential candidates this season, including Clark, ventures the general may have been the most direct and articulate.

The draft Clark headquarters in Dover bubbles with enthusiasm. Organizationally however, the novice candidate and campaign are light miles behind the command and control Kerry and Dean outfits.

Generals have had a mixed political fate here. Ike won in '52. Al Haig bombed in '88. In 1966, an obscure commander with the unlikely name of Harrison Thing got 46 percent of the vote against a popular incumbent.

Only two or three presidential hopefuls will survive the January 27 primary. Will Wes Clark be one? Flash or phenom?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Thanks, Al.

Margaret, do you think General Wesley Clark can survive and succeed in New Hampshire?

CARLSON: You know, the fact that no one but Dean has broken out of pack, I think gives Clark a much better chance, you would think, starting this late. You know, he just couldn't possibly catch up.

But it's almost like he is a -- he's a blank slate. He hasn't campaigned for a year like the rest of them, and not, you know, come out -- come up to challenge Dean.

SHIELDS: Good point, isn't it, Bob?

NOVAK: Yes, I think it's stunning that he goes up there and he -- is immediately third. He may go higher. They're scared to death in the Dean camp that he's going to take their people away from them.

I think it tells one thing about the Democratic party, that they're so desperate for some of candidate, they take this guy sight unseen. They don't know what he stands for.

It tells a lot about this military guy, that he's never been a Democrat. And now he's down into everything. He's even campaigning for Gray Davis. He's a Democrat with rapport.

SHIELDS: Well, there's two kinds of political movement. You either -- you're seeking converts to your side, or you're looking for heretics. I guess Bob would prefer to look for heretics.

But Kate O'Beirne?

O'BEIRNE: Well, I've been wondering all along whether or not the strategy that McCain used in 2000 to skip Iowa and stake everything in New Hampshire, which I think had a real appeal to New Hampshire voters, was available to one of the Democratic candidates this year.

And I wonder if it might be available to General Clark. Now one problem with that is he, of course, would be trying to appeal to independents in New Hampshire. And he's so desperate to convince Democrats that he's a Democrat, having said nice things about Republicans and voted that way in the past, that he really could over pander as a Democrat and turn off those Independent voters.

SHIELDS: Al, skip Iowa? Go directly to New Hampshire?

HUNT: I think Clark would be a fool not do that. And I think he is going to skip Iowa and go straight to New Hampshire. New Hampshire is his shot.

If you talk to smart politicians in New Hampshire, they think it's much more likely that the general will falter, that he'll be a flash. One told me, he said I would expect him to get five percent. And then he said, but I wouldn't be stunned if he got 25 percent. They don't know what to make.

NOVAK: I got a trivia question. Do we ever know of another presidential candidate who gave -- who spoke at a fundraiser two years before the president of the opposite party that he's running against? Is there any case of that ever?

SHIELDS: John Lindsay.

NOVAK: I had a fundraiser for Nixon. I guaranteed you not.

SHIELDS: And remember, John Connolly, running Texas successfully for the Democrats. I mean, certainly, you know, for Hubert Humphrey.

HUNT: He is (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NOVAK: Because he was defecting...

SHIELDS: Yes.

NOVAK: ...to Eisenhower in '52. But that's a long story.

SHIELDS: It is, Bob. It certainly is.

O'BEIRNE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Bob.

CARLSON: Spare us.

SHIELDS: Yes, we can expect to hear it, yes.

Coming up in the CAPITAL GANG, THE CAPITAL GANG classic, when Janet Reno, remember her, rejected a special counsel some seven years ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Seven years ago, attorney general Janet Reno rejected Republican demands for an independent counsel to investigate questionable Democratic campaign contributions.

CAPITAL GANG discussed this on November 30, 1996. Our guest was Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NOVAK: Everybody since the election is saying we've got to rid of this woman. She has appointed all those special counsel. She's been just too independent. She wants to stay. Where nobody's going to notice, everybody's out of town, she pulls this and says there shouldn't be an independent counsel, when obviously there's a lot of justification for one.

O'BEIRNE: I favor a strict reading of the independent counsel statute. And I wonder whether or not Janet Reno might regret doing what she's doing. Her job status is precarious. People are going to be paying an awful lot of attention to the Justice Department Task Force Investigation. Watch and make sure they're aggressive enough and independent enough.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: As far as the law is concerned, and I know Bob this may be an inconvenience, it wasn't even a close question. There was no basis for an independent counsel. Janet Reno did absolutely the right thing legally here in not having it.

HUNT: Justice is perfectly capable of handling this investigation. Still, I think Janet Reno missed the boat here, because I think she could have named an outside counsel.

SHIELDS: Janet Reno has established her bona fides as an independent person?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, in retrospect, do you still think Janet Reno would have been better off with a special counsel?

HUNT: I sure do, Mark, because her investigation didn't have any credibility. And I think that Bob and Kate were right. There was call for an outside counsel. It would have been better to have a special counsel than an independent prosecutor. Same situation today. If you want her to credibility, John Ashcroft better name an outside counsel.

SHIELDS: One of the few things we've had consensus on in this city, which has been polarized in the late '90s, was the between Democrats and Republicans about the abolition of the independent counsel, as opposed to the -- I mean independent...

O'BEIRNE: Yes.

SHIELDS: Yes.

O'BEIRNE: I was saying back then that she couldn't have appointed an independent counsel because it -- there was no evidence, no credible evidence that somebody had done something wrong within the meaning of the statute. She didn't have any grounds to.

I supported the proposition that the Justice Department itself should look at it, just as I think now the Justice Department can look at this leak.

NOVAK: Can't we all be honest about this and say it all depends who's ox is getting gored? There's just absolutely no intellectual consistency by either party on this issue on not having a (unintelligible) the Justice Department.

SHIELDS: Well, certainly an independent prosecutor, I mean I had Orrin Hatch and Arlen Specter arguing against it, and Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman arguing for it.

O'BEIRNE: An awful lot of conservatives opposed it, Bob.

CARLSON: Bob, I have to -- I so agree with you. The hypocrisy level on independent counsels is just so high.

O'BEIRNE: An awful lot of conservatives always opposed it, Bob. My magazine always opposed it.

HUNT: I was for a special counsel back then, not an independent prosecutor.

NOVAK: Well of course...

HUNT: And I'm for one today.

NOVAK: I've screwed you, Al, of course.

HUNT: Thank you, Robert.

NOVAK: You're never hypocritical.

HUNT: And Robert, I appreciate that.

CARLSON: I was talking about the parties.

SHIELDS: I'm getting diabetes here from the sweetness, okay?

Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at Pope John Paul II, marking 25 years in the papacy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. With the 25th anniversary of his papacy approaching, Pope John Paul II named 30 new cardinals. Cardinal Joseph Ratzenger of Germany said the pope is "in a bad way."

After missing last week, the pope this week delivered his regular address in St. Peters Square.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POPE JOHN PAUL II: Dear brothers and sisters...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Joining us now from Rome is CNN's Vatican analyst Delia Gallagher, managing editor of "Inside the Vatican" magazine. She was one of two reporters who met with the pope this week.

Delia, from your first hand observation, was Cardinal Ratzenger's assessment of the pope's fragile condition accurate?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well first, Mark, let's clarify the cardinal's comment. When I was up to see the pope on Thursday morning, I talked to his personal secretary, who's the man closest to him, who told me that the cardinal had been in the day previous to say that his comment had been taken out of context, that he in fact was asked if the pope was in a bad way. And the cardinal replied, "if the pope is in a bad way, then we should pray for him."

That being said, yes, the pope is in a bad way. He is the first to admit it. He has himself said on several occasions, pray for me as the time draws near when I will meet God.

Now what I saw was a pope unchanged in past few weeks. What you see on television physically, the debilitation. He is not able to stand. He has limited mobility of his right arm. He can't keep his head up is all still there.

What you don't see on television is that his mental faculties are still intact. It's interesting that he Australian foreign minister came in after our visit. And he said afterwards he was surprised at the depth of the conversation that he had with the pope about the Australian church and about the pertinence of the pope's questions.

And just this morning, Roan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, met with the pope. And he echoed those same sentiments. And he said that the pope talked to him about the recent nomination of gay bishops.

So a pope that can still address the issues of the Anglican communion and the Australian church is a pope who is mentally still quite alert. And that is the important question at this point.

But of course, the problem is that his body is failing him.

SHIELDS: Okay, Bob Novak?

NOVAK: If people tell me that the pope has spent a great deal of time, more than usual, talking, appearing, if that is true, what do you think he's trying to do in these -- in this final period of his life?

GALLAGHER: Well, that is true, Bob. He keeps up a very public schedule. And I think he does it on purpose. I think what we are seeing now is almost the pinnacle of this pontificate, if you will. It's the suffering pope.

And this is something that the pope is very aware of. He has become the symbol, at the same time, of a sort of suffering Jesus. And -- which is sort of elevates him to this mythological status. And at the same time, is able to suffer with the common man, identify himself with the common man. And so, I think that he realizes that there is great power in this. It's almost a poetic summation of his whole pontificate that he is able to symbolize and personify this suffering. And I think that that is the main reason why he continues to make these public appearances, and continues to risk humiliation. People talking about his drooling, and so on in front of the world.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson?

CARLSON: Delia, to leave the suffering of the pope aside for a moment, when you said earlier that the Vatican said oh, cardinal Ratzenger's comment was taken out of context, it makes it sound like a politician in America.

It's almost -- I wonder is the Vatican like covering Enron, trying to cover up the pre-sexual abuses and other things like that?

GALLAGHER: Well, I think there is this impression that the Vatican and some Vatican aides are sort of pumping up the pope and carting him around, and that really, he's not in charge anymore.

And I think that's a mistaken impression. There have been several testimonies to that that I mentioned earlier, that the pope is still mentally capable of controlling the church.

But as far as comments and the like, that are going around in these past few days, you know, with the 25th anniversary coming up, a lot of cardinals are talking, giving interviews, and looking at the whole of the pontificate. And within those interviews, of course, they say as he nears the ends of his days, and now that we're in the autumn of the pontificate. And so, as you know, in journalism, that gets taken out and made into a headline. Cardinal Schoenberg (ph) says pope is dying.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne?

O'BEIRNE: Delia, what do the 30 new cardinals named by the pope tell us about the future of the college of cardinals or about a future conclave?

GALLAGHER: Well, the interesting thing about this recent nomination is that the first time in the history of the college of cardinals, you have a balance of cardinals, which is non European.

I think 69 to 66 in favor of non European cardinals. It's the first time in the history of the Catholic church. So this will certainly be interesting in a future conclave.

Now when it comes to conclaves, of course, we always have to remember that a lot would depend on the individual pope elected, but there is a great chance now, greater chance, that that pope might come from Africa, from South America, from India.

So Pope John Paul II has opened up the Catholic Church to the rest of the world, and in the college of cardinals in particular.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt?

HUNT: Delia, let me pick up on that, because whether the pope's tenure is measured in months or a year or two, there already is speculation about who might be his successor.

One of the names making it, you said it could be someone from the third world. Cardinal Arimsey (ph) of Africa is mentioned. What do insiders say? Who do they think are the two or three leading candidates now? They're often wrong, but who do they think might be?

GALLAGHER: Yes, well, no one really wants to take a chance on that because of course, the difficulty is that we can all guess, and then we'll all be wrong. One possibility is Arimsey (ph), as you mentioned. He is the cardinal here in Rome. And is quite popular, especially coming from Nigeria, he would add that element and make a very interesting future church.

But the thing to remember is that well, the cardinals themselves don't know each other, necessarily. So when they come together, they are going to have to talk amongst themselves, and get to know each other.

And then there are different voting blocks. Obviously, some of the South Americans might vote, for example, with the Germans, which is something people don't think of, because the Germans get a lot of money from the South American churches. And so there is a connection between those cardinals.

In terms of top candidates, you can look at South Americans Humus (ph) from Brazil, DeGaulle (ph) you have from Argentina, Diaz from India. These are the sort of third world candidates, if you will. But again, who will be elected is anybody's guess.

SHIELDS: Delia Gallagher, thank you so much for joining us. And thank you for informing us of the Berlin Brazil access, which I hadn't been aware of.

But the gang will be back with the "outrages of the week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: And now for the "outrage of the week." The Council on American Islamic Relations took out a full page ad in "The New York Times" to condemn the attacks of September 11. And on that date since, has sponsored an interfaith day of National Unity in Washington.

But nine term Republican Congressman Cass Ballenger of North Carolina says his marriage broke up because he lived next door to the Office of the religious group, which was so close to the capitol, he worried "they could blow the place up."

If stupid bigotry were a felony, Congressman Ballenger would be doing long, hard time. Margaret Carlson?

CARLSON: Mark, in letters uncovered in an FEC proceeding, former Republican National Committee Chair Jim Nicholson wrote Bristol Myers Squibb, asking what changes the drug giant might like in healthcare legislation. And by the way, for a contribution of $250,000

Qwest Communications founder Phil Anschuetz was thanks for $100,000 with a P.S. "Hope your meeting with Trent Lott was productive."

Haley Barber wrote to currency dealer and big donor, Lewis Bacon, to say how very impressed Newt Gingrich was by his thoughts on the Mexican peso.

Turns out Republicans are in fact regulating campaign finance. They're regulating the price at which they'll put the fix in.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak?

NOVAK: Shocking, shocking. Three Democratic candidates for president, Wesley Clark, Howard Dean and Al Sharpton not only attacked Rush Limbaugh, they called on ESPN to fire him.

Heaven help us if they think they caused Rush's demise. Where is the ACLU if self appointed political leaders think the First Amendment means so little they can get rid of any commentator that they consider politically incorrect. That's bad news for the people of this table, who make their living the way we do. It would be worse news for the American people.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne?

O'BEIRNE: Of course Rush Limbaugh enjoys the same First Amendment rights as the rest of us. But that's not why he shouldn't have been forced to resign. There was nothing racist about Rush's remark that some people are rooting for McNabb because he's black.

Some especially welcome the success of the Williams sisters, or Tiger Woods. Nothing wrong with that. And nothing wrong with noting that.

The media, players and management have rejected raising to the NFL. When others are race obsessed, you can't fault someone for noticing.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt?

HUNT: I don't know if Limbaugh, in charging the media went easy on quarterback Donovan McNabb, because he's black, was bigoted. I do know he's ignorant. The Philadelphia media are equal opportunity slashers. The NFL long discriminated against black quarterbacks. But today, a third of the QBs are African American. And four of the top dozen are black, including McNabb.

The last three years with McNabb, the Eagles won 38 games, lost 17. The three years before he arrived, they were 19 and 29.

And charging McNabb is overrated. Rush deserved to be canned for incompetence. SHIELDS: Amen, brother. This is Mark Shields saying good night for the CAPITAL GANG.

Thank you for joining us.

END

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Administration?; Chief Weapons Inspector Kay, No Weapons Of Mass Destruction Found; Is Arnold Schwarzenegger In Trouble?>


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