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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Reaction To President Bush's Surprise Visit To Baghdad; Congressional Session Ends Today With Mixed Results; Are Democratic Presidential Candidates Destroying Each Other?

Aired November 29, 2003 - 19:00   ET

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

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with the full GANG -- Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and the birthday girl herself, Margaret Carlson. Happy birthday, Margaret.

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Why, thank you, Mark.

SHIELDS: The senior U.S. official in Iraq had a surprise for some U.S. troops in Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL BREMER, U.S. CIVIL ADMINISTRATOR IN BAGHDAD: It says here I'm supposed to read the president's Thanksgiving proclamation, but I thought the deal was it was the most senior person who reads it. Is there anybody back there who's more senior than us?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I bring a message on behalf of America. We're proud of you. And America stands solidly behind you. You are defeating the terrorists here in Iraq so that we don't have to face them in our own country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Was this too great a risk for the president to take?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It was decided that the plane was well defended and that the president could do this, as long as the operational security was maintained, as long as there wasn't advanced notice that he was coming in, and that was the reason for the extraordinary secrecy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Another political visitor arriving in Iraq a day later was asked for her comment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I thought it was terrific. I think any time that a president can meet with troops who are in active conflict situation makes a real difference. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, was this, in fact, a political master stroke by President George W. Bush?

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: It was great political theater, and it's a short-term shot in the arm. But, Mark, several caveats. It doesn't say much about the solidity of opposition that a president has to go in secret, the landing lights have to be off at the airport and you can't venture beyond a secure base.

The last time George Bush pulled off such a great political coup was the mission accomplished, "Top Gun" landing May 1 on the carrier. That has since backfired. And the last time a president pulled off such a clandestine surprise holiday visit was Lyndon Johnson, Camron (ph) Bay, Christmas 1967. Of course less than 100 days later, he bowed out of office.


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