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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Al Gore Endorses Howard Dean; Presiden Bush Admonishes Taiwan On Recent Referendum; Supreme Court Upholds Campaign Finance Reform Legislation

Aired December 13, 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 THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Margaret Carlson. Our guest is Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It's good to have you back, Orrin.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Nice to be with all of you.

SHIELDS: Thank you. Former vice president Al Gore did the unexpected when he went to Harlem to endorse Howard Dean for the Democratic presidential nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALBERT GORE (D), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to do everything I can to convince you to get behind Howard Dean, and let's make this a successful campaign.

We don't have the luxury of fighting among ourselves to the point where we seriously damage our ability to win on behalf of the American people.

He was the only major candidate who made the correct judgment about the Iraq war.

HOWARD DEAN (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Vice President, I want to thank you for your generous and thoughtful words, particularly those words that said that the 11th Commandment now also ought to apply to Democrats. As you know, I've been picking a fair amount of buckshot out of my rear end in some of these debates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The former vice president did not notify in advance his former running mate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was surprised that Al Gore would endorse a candidate who stands for so many things that Al Gore has not stood for or has stood against in his life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, did Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean clinch the nomination for the former Vermont governor?

MARGARET CARLSON, THE CAPITAL GANG: Well, he's got the big money now because the Dean generation is now joined by the Metamucil generation as a result of this endorsement.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: But no one's voted yet, and you know, these people in Iowa and New Hampshire, they kind of like to do that. They consider it their privilege. You know, Al Gore -- Dean looks great. It's good for him. The endorsements are following apace. But Gore could have called Joe Lieberman. After all, Lieberman waited for him. He could have done that. It's just a call. But it did give Lieberman his best week in fund-raising because Joe -- the senator got a little bit of spark in him, as a result of that, and he made some money off it.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, a big lift for Howard Dean.

ROBERT NOVAK, THE CAPITAL GANG: Not necessarily. I think there may be a little bit of backfire on this because Al Gore, who is not that much beloved in the Democratic Party, is getting out there and he's saying, All right, it's over now. I've made up my mind, so stop having this contest. We don't want to have a contest. We want to have a coronation.

And the other thing is I really think that Howard Dean talking about buckshot in his rear -- he's running for president. You know, it's not governor of the People's Republic of Vermont, it's president of the United States. And I thought -- I thought that was really a crummy -- crummy performance by him. So I'm not sure that this is over as much as some of my colleagues do.

SHIELDS: You think the Churchillian syntax of the incumbent president will prevail.

Orrin Hatch, the -- looking at Howard Dean, does he look to you as unstoppable for the nomination?

HATCH: Well, you know, I love the cartoon in "The Washington Post" today, Al Gore and Howard Dean -- Howard, I endorse you. Howard, I'll back you. I'll be there for you. Just ask Joe Lieberman.

(LAUGHTER)

HATCH: I thought it was pretty...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... Wasserman in "The Boston Globe" -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) HATCH: But I think -- you know, I think Dean's a very serious candidate. He's a very smart guy, very articulate guy. You got to give him credit the way he's run his campaign. I think -- you know, as somebody who's been there and who tried to do some Web page stuff, I got to tell you, he's the one who's really mastered that, other than Bill Bradley, who did pretty well on it, too. But he's mastered that. He's raised a lot of money. Frankly, he's somebody you just can't -- you just can't think doesn't have a chance.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, one thing you have to say, though -- Bob says that Al Gore's not a total favorite of the Democratic Party. Among those people who still -- Democrats who still feel that Al Gore was robbed in 2000 of the presidency...

AL HUNT, THE CAPITAL GANG: Well, Mark, that's a majority of the Democrats right now.

SHIELDS: OK.

HUNT: A majority believe that he won the election. That's why this was such a -- one of the reasons this was such a significant boost for Howard Dean. First of all, one of the -- one of the -- you know, the campaigns against him was he can't win. Well, you know, he may well not be able to win, but Al Gore, who most Democrats think won the election last time, is saying, you know, Here I'm for him, and they're going to say, Why would he endorse a guy who can't win?

The other reason it was so important for Howard Dean, to use one of Margaret's favorite football expressions, it froze the linebackers. Dean is ahead, so all these other guys need every day, every week they can get, and this dominated the news, in New Hampshire and Iowa particularly, for the week. So that was terribly important. I think it helped Dean.

Gore could not have done it in a more clumsy way. I think worse than not calling Joe Lieberman, who he put on the ticket, was not calling Jeanne Shaheen, who bailed him out in New Hampshire...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: ... four years ago, when he was running behind Bill Bradley, and who's now running Kerry's campaign, and not calling Charlie Rangel, whose district, whose Harlem district is where he made the endorsement.

NOVAK: Well, let me...

HUNT: And I'll tell you, Dean -- Gore sees this as 2008 for him. Jeanne Shaheen and Charlie Rangel, I suspect, won't forget this.

NOVAK: Well, let me add a couple other "don't call 'ems." He didn't call John Kerry and he didn't call Dick Gephardt.

SHIELDS: Or John Edwards, who's on the...

(CROSSTALK) NOVAK: John Edwards. And they all supported him. John Kerry supported him in New Hampshire when he was about -- running about double digits behind Bill Bradley.

CARLSON: You know, when asked about it, he said, Well, it might leak. Well, hey, A, it did leak. But a leak is a small price to pay for at least looking loyal to all these people who'd been loyal to him.

HATCH: Well, let me just say this. Gore's still not over having lost to George Bush. He hates George Bush. And frankly...

CARLSON: Because he didn't lose to George Bush.

HATCH: And he's angry -- well, he's -- no, he really did because we have a system called the Electoral College system, which works very, very well to make it a truly national election, not a regional election. And frankly, he's angry, and it's natural that he would support the anger candidate. I mean, let's face it, Dean has been angry about everything. He's mad at this, mad at that. And he's very articulate in the process, but he's taken -- you know, Gore really has moved with Dean to the liberal left.

NOVAK: Exactly!

HATCH: Right to the liberal left. He's no -- no longer -- he never was a centrist. I was in the Senate with him. He never was a centrist.

NOVAK: But he used to -- he used to be -- he used to be -- pose as a hawk on military stuff.

HATCH: Well...

NOVAK: And now -- Gore. Gore did. And now -- and now he is -- he's saying that what he likes about Dean is that he was a dove.

CARLSON: He agrees with Bob Novak on going to war.

SHIELDS: That's right.

CARLSON: Yes.

SHIELDS: Just like the three of you were against going to war in Iraq.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Now, if you look -- if you look at this, though, if you look at this race -- and talk about Howard Dean, is he a lefty, is what -- I mean, you got Dick -- Dick Gephardt is banging him from the right, saying he's a -- he wanted to cut Medicare...

HUNT: Banging him from the left.

SHIELDS: Banging him from the left, saying he wanted to cut Medicare, that he was too friendly to corporations in Vermont...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: That's right, and you got -- now he's being attacked on the right that he's -- he's too far to the right -- I mean, what -- where is this, Bob?

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: This isn't about ideology.

SHIELDS: It isn't about...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: ... Gore was doing -- I think what Gore really was doing was he was taking a shot at Bill Clinton because he wants to...

CARLSON: Oh, yes.

HUNT: He wants to get in the Democratic Party -- he thinks this is the wave of the future, correctly or incorrectly.

CARLSON: Right.

NOVAK: But I -- I find a lot of Democrats I talk to, some of them -- some of them haven't even endorsed anybody, who really wonder whether the strange things that Howard Dean says, which (UNINTELLIGIBLE) crazy people who vote in Democratic primaries and caucuses -- whether this -- whether this is going to be exploited by Bush in the fall.

(CROSSTALK)

HATCH: Gore wanted to escape irrelevance. He wanted to escape irrelevance. I think he wanted to shoot a shot across the Clinton bow and let them know that he's relevant. And frankly, I think he did that.

SHIELDS: We are all in a battle to avoid irrelevance.

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) THE GANG will be back with the Supreme Court endorsing campaign finance reform.

ANNOUNCER: Here's your CAPITAL GANG trivia question of the week. Songs written by Senator Orrin Hatch have been recorded by which musical artists? A, Neil Diamond; B, Gladys Knight; or C, Donny Osmond? We'll have the answer right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: The answer is B, Gladys Knight. But the answer is also C, Donny Osmond. If you guessed that, you get the clock radio. The only one that's missing is Neil Diamond, and he'd better get with it in a hurry.

Welcome back. The Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, upheld the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law barring six-figure soft money contributions. The majority opinion by Justices John Paul Stevens and Sandra Day O'Connor said the law protects democracy from the danger, quote, "that office holders will decide issues not on their merits or their desires of their constituencies but according to the wishes of those who made large financial contributions valued by the office holder," end quote.

A dissent by Justice Clarence Thomas said, quote, "What is to stop a future Congress from determining that the press is too influential, the appearance of corruption is significant when the media organizations endorse candidates or run slanted or biased news stories in favor of candidates or parties," end quote.

The bill's principal Democratic sponsor and the Democratic national chairman appeared to be on opposite sides.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: No Democrat in his or her right mind would want to go back to the soft money system.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: You've taken the money away from the national political parties. This money's now going to these outside groups with no disclosure about income or expenditure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, which political party benefits most from this Supreme Court decision and this reform?

HUNT: Mark, the Republicans, in the short term, because while soft money was corrupting on both parties, it was more of a narcotic (ph) for the Democrats. That advantage, however, I think has been exaggerated. This was a very good decision. As Justice Stevens and Justice O'Connor wrote, the -- both common sense and an ample record demonstrate conclusively that big bucks either corrupts or gives the appearance of corruption in American politics today.

Actually, everyone agrees with that. The Republicans say that the Democrats are bought by trial lawyers and by labor unions, and the Democrats say the Republicans are in the tank to big oil and HMOs and the like. Both are right. This is a small step to address that.

SHIELDS: Robert Novak, a big decision. And do think the Democrats really are going to be penalized by this decision?

NOVAK: I think so because they relied so much on soft money, as Al said. You know, I -- I was theoretically for campaign finance reform, but it was a big mistake on my part because you -- because you ended up with a terrible bill like this and a terrible decision, with Sandra Day O'Connor again, Ronald Reagan's first appointment, but again coming over on the wrong side of a 5-4 decision. But what this is, is -- on the one hand, it isn't going to solve anything. George Soros is still going to put millions into his left-wing causes. There's plenty of loopholes. And then you're going to find people wanting to close those loopholes and further restrict freedom.

SHIELDS: Orrin Hatch, it does break the sordid, unholy alliance, though, between big money and office holders. No more can office holders -- I don't think we'll ever see anything like $250 million going in soft money -- I don't care, George Soros or anybody else, like we saw in 2000, to the Democrats.

HATCH: Well, the thing that's wrong with it is not the fact that they're trying to get rid of the soft money in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but they've basically hampered the political parties, who should be in the game, and they've allowed any special interest group who wants to to spend any amount of money they want to. And the only restrictions they put on them is they can't do it 30 days and 60 days -- 30 days in front of a primary, 60 days in front of a general election.

But it seems to me we would want, in this process, to have the parties to be the dominant figures. We would not want to turn this over to any special interest group. What we're doing is making it so that more special interest groups can participate.

And last but not least, you know, you're talking about -- you're talking about a situation where -- where the only group that really has complete sway to do whatever it wants to do, spends all the soft money they want to, happens to be the media. Now, whether that's right or wrong, why would we just limit it to the media or to any special interest group that wants to blow as much dough as they want to, like George Soros, or for that matter, the NRA or anybody else? Why wouldn't we just somehow or other have total disclosure and let the American people make up their own minds as to whether a person's being influenced by big bucks or not?

SHIELDS: Well, of course, we never have had total disclosure...

(CROSSTALK)

HATCH: We should have, though.

CARLSON: ... and it's not simultaneous and you can't follow it, and nobody's going to see it ever, probably...

HATCH: You could put it right on the Internet.

CARLSON: ... but certainly not until after the election.

HATCH: Day by day.

CARLSON: You know, it's too bad it's called "soft money" because it makes it sound like it's a good thing. It should be called "ugly money." And it does help that problem. And what the Court has done...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: What the Court has done, Bob -- since I'm a lawyer -- it said that the legislature can self-police. They say we're corrupted by this, and we can -- we can fix it. Now, will the lawyers find a way around it? Money is like water, and it'll -- it'll go -- but for a while -- for a while, before the loopholes are developed, it will work. And yay for Senator McCain and Feingold.

NOVAK: What about what Clarence Thomas says, that this could be -- open the door to something that none of us would like? If you say that nobody -- somebody is gagged for 60 days before an election, why not say that Al Hunt's vicious columns -- I'm sorry -- Al Hunt's columns on Thursday's in "The Wall Street Journal" are -- should be -- should not talk about the election for 60 days?

CARLSON: It's not free speech if you pay for it. Go ahead, Al.

HUNT: Because, Bob, that's sophomoric, that's why. Clarence Thomas says, you know, this is going to -- this is going to really threaten the media. Orrin Hatch and Justice Kennedy say the media will be all-powerful. I mean, they have it both ways.

HATCH: Well, they are now. I mean, so why give them even more power?

HUNT: So you disagree with Clarence Thomas. I think both of you are wrong, as a matter of fact.

SHIELDS: Let me just say -- let me just tell you, Bob, because you were a person I know who wanted to beat (ph) the campaign reform. You could just never get -- the perfect was always the enemy of the good. I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: I can write a bill.

SHIELDS: I know you could, Bob. But you're not a legislator.

NOVAK: That's a fact.

SHIELDS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) reminding us that. But I'd say this. At every party luncheon, OK, House and Senate, they would be exhorted, members would be exhorted to go out and raise money, six-figure money. It was legalized extortion from the interests, and they'll be free not to give anymore. And I'll tell you, that's an improvement.

And next on CAPITAL GANG, did George W. Bush kowtow to China?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We oppose any unilateral decision by either China or Taiwan to change the status quo. And the comments and actions made by the leader of Taiwan indicate that he may be willing to make decisions unilaterally to change the status quo, which we oppose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: President Bush's admonition to Taiwan was made with visiting Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao at his side, criticizing the pending Taiwanese referendum on a demand that China remove missiles aimed at Taiwan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEN JIABAO, CHINESE PREMIER (through translator): Such separatist activities are what the Chinese side can absolutely not accept and tolerate. We very much appreciate the position adopted by President Bush towards the latest news and developments in Taiwan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Taiwan president Chen Shui-Bian scolded the Bush administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN SHUI-BIAN, TAIWANESE PRESIDENT (through translator): It should respect the people of Taiwan in its pursuit for democracy and their realization of universal values, including the right to hold referendum.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, is President Bush now abandoning democracy to curry Beijing's favor?

NOVAK: Of course not. What this is, this is the deal that was cut by Richard Nixon, the Shanghai agreement, which was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) play the Chinese card against the Soviet Union -- remember the Soviet Union? It was a big important thing -- in return for a one-China policy. That's the deal we made. It's very important now to continue that deal because we're trying to use Chinese support to put some pressure on the North Koreans, who have nuclear arms. So the whole idea of this guy running for an election in Taiwan, trying to capitalize on this issue of him being dangerous -- of him creating this dangerous situation -- I think the president should just tell him to cut out the referendum because I guarantee you, if the United States told Taiwan to jump over that hurdle, they would jump.

SHIELDS: There's been repeated warnings to China not to threaten Taiwan's autonomy. And now this is what we're going through, Margaret?

CARLSON: Yes. On the one hand, you have Chinese saber-rattling and missiles, and on the other hand, you have little Taiwan with a referendum. And Bush decides to coddle the dictators. Now, he won't do this -- he says he couldn't do that in Iraq, but it's fine to do it in China. It's -- you know, he's just -- we don't have a foreign policy towards China. We have a trade policy towards China. And we need them for North Korea. You know, it's just -- it's just Bush moving around place (ph). It was April 2000 where he said, We'll do whatever it takes to defend Taiwan. Where'd that go? SHIELDS: Where did it go, Orrin? For goodness sakes, I mean, this is -- we're talking about democracy, the spread of democracy in the Middle East, sending Americans into danger and to death to fight for democracy, and over there, a referendum is somehow a threat to world order?

HATCH: Well, the key -- the key words were "status quo," maintain the status quo. I was one of the prime authors of the "protect Taiwan" provision of the Taiwan Relations Act back in the Carter years. We fought very hard for that, and of course, that helped to -- evolved into (UNINTELLIGIBLE) democracy in Taiwan, which has been a great thing. And what Bush has basically said is, Look, we don't want the status quo changed, the one-China policy that Bob mentioned in his remarks. And we also, through his comments, are putting pressure on the Chinese to quit threatening with 500 missiles aimed at Taiwan. And it's also a message to the Taiwan leadership, the current leadership of the DPP, to, you know, not push the referendum the wrong way. Now, I'd be the last one to say that a democracy can't have a referendum, if they want to have one.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... is that a threat to the status quo?

HATCH: Well, of course...

CARLSON: Yes, who needs democracy?

HATCH: Of course, the Chinese interpret the referendum as a threat, but I think Bush, by -- by getting rid of the process of -- of what you call "strategic ambiguity" for a process of clarity, I think -- I think was a smart move on his part, and I think he did a good job.

SHIELDS: Al?

HUNT: I am dazzled the way Orrin walked on both sides of that issue.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... no idea what the hell he said, Bob!

HUNT: One of the reasons I'm dazzled is because I agree with him, and I think...

(LAUGHTER)

HATCH: My gosh, I must be wrong!

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: There is no question that this is inconsistent with the administration's push for democracy and self-determination. That's just a given. But China is an incredibly important ally -- or not -- or country, whether it's an ally or it's a force...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: It's not just -- not just North Korea, it's the whole Asia, it's the battle -- it's the battle against terrorism. This is a country -- my only complaint is -- this is a country that's made extraordinary strides with economic liberalization. It's a totally different China than it was 10 years ago. They do a pretty lousy job on human rights, and I wish both the Clinton and the Bush administration would keep on the pressure more than they do on that area.

NOVAK: But I'll tell you -- I'll tell you, they are -- they are telling them to improve on -- on human rights, but the -- but the -- the idea, Margaret -- I can't believe that you're that naive that you think the Chinese are going to -- are really interested in attacking Taiwan. They are not, of course! But Taiwan is provoking them. And this one guy...

CARLSON: Bob, wait! Provoking? With a referendum?

NOVAK: One guy -- one guy who is trying to get votes in this election.

CARLSON: Yes. That's all he's trying to do.

SHIELDS: Provoking! Provoking! A referendum, a democratic exercise, free democratic -- that's a provocation?

HATCH: Well, almost anything provokes them. The point is...

CARLSON: Yes!

HATCH: ... is that Bush made it very clear that we want to maintain the status quo, and I think that was a very smart move on his part.

CARLSON: In what sense...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: The status quo.

CARLSON: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

HATCH: One-China policy.

HUNT: ... many Chinese who think that the Communist Party there is irrelevant, to use your word, Mark, but they say Taiwan is China.

(CROSSTALK)

HATCH: ... KMT is...

NOVAK: Taiwan...

(CROSSTALK)

HATCH: The KMT and the other party are combining for the next presidential run, and they would support the one...

SHIELDS: I made the mistake of believing George Bush when he talked about his commitment to democracy.

Orrin Hatch, thank you for joining us.

Coming up in the second half of CAPITAL GANG, in our "Sidebar" segment, we'll look at the political fall-out from Congressman Bill Janklow's conviction on manslaughter. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at HUD secretary quitting to run for the U.S. Senate in Florida, with Tom Fiedler (ph) of "The Miami Herald." And our "Outrages of the Week." That's all after the latest news headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

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 Margaret Carlson.

Congressman Bill Janklow, the former governor and longtime Republican office holder in South Dakota went on trial for second degree manslaughter in a traffic fatality.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BILL JANKLOW (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: I'm 64 years old, and I've never dealt with anything. You can't prepare in life to deal with the enormity of what I'm dealing with and what I've put other people through.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The jury took less than five hours to convict Janklow, who announced his resignation from Congress effective January 20 of next year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His resignation was a surprise to us. We weren't expecting that, but at the same time, it now enables us to move forward and put that behind us. SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: In public life, I would hope that a person is remembered not for the last thing he or she did, but for the best thing he or she did. And I believe that Bill Janklow has done a lot of best things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, what does Bill Janklow's conviction and resignation mean for politics in South Dakota?

NOVAK: Let me say first, I agree with Tom Daschle.

SHEILDS: It was gracious.

NOVAK: It was very gracious, and it was a very sad thing, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Janklow's had it with career, and it's a very sad way to end it, and he may go to prison now, because he will probably go to prison.

What it means is it's the question is John Thune is the hardest (ph) Republican candidate. He formerly held the seat that Janklow had, then gave it up when he ran for the Senate last time. The White House has been after him to run for the Senate against Daschle, but there is a lot of talk that Thune would rather go back and run for his House seat against a very strong candidate, Stephanie Herseth, whose grandfather was governor of South Dakota. I knew him. And -- I did know him.

SHIELDS: And Stephanie's no grandfather.

NOVAK: That's right. And so, it's a complication for the Republicans because they want to hold off Thune to run against Daschle, and it's much more important for him to win the Senate seat than the House seat. They don't need that so much. But Ms. Herseth may win the House seat, if Thune doesn't run.

SHIELDS: And Al, if Thune does run against Daschle, it's a tougher race for him, isn't it?

HUNT: I think Thune is under tremendous pressure, Bob, from Republicans. Washington Republicans want him to run for the Senate, because they hate Daschle. South Dakota Republicans want him to run for the House, because if he doesn't, Stephanie Herseth is one of the best candidates, first campaigns I've ever seen.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Absolutely. Did very well. And I think they'll definitely lose that seat. So there is tremendous pressure on Thune. Uphill to beat Daschle. I'm not sure he could beat Daschle. I rather doubt he can. And Stephanie Herseth will be a tough race, so John Thune is not in an enviable position.

Let me say one quick word about Bill Janklow. I think that was a very courageous decision by that jury, a correct decision. No man's above the law. I hope that judge does not send him to prison. I hope instead he sentences him to community service. For the next year or two, he's got to go to every single high school in South Dakota and talk about reckless driving.

SHIELDS: That would be a very imaginative and responsible sentence.

CARLSON: Yeah, I mean, you have to feel some sadness for, you know, that statement he just made, because, you know, the last thing is, unfortunately, the thing that many of us will remember, but he did have a career of speeding and accidents, and he was never punished for it. And this is what happens when, you know, people don't get punished and they are above the law. He was above the law for a while, as someone said.

That being said, you know, Thune only lost by, what, 500 votes or so...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: It was probably stolen, for all we know.

CARLSON: Oh, Bob...

NOVAK: The Indians, they got the phony Indian votes out there...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: This is a broken record. It's Woody Jenkins (ph) in Louisiana, it's John Thune in South Dakota.

NOVAK: What did I just hear, Gore was elected president?

CARLSON: I'm just saying, he won the popular vote. He won the popular vote, OK? But in any event, you're right, the pressure, White House on Thune, and I think he's going to run for Janklow's seat.

SHIELDS: Larry Pressler, the former congressman and senator has mentioned as a Republican candidate. Serious candidate?

NOVAK: I don't think -- I don't even see him beat Herseth or Daschle. I disagree with you. I think the Daschle race is a very close race. Daschle against Thune. I don't know who would win it, but maybe if you had an honest vote, maybe Thune would win it.

HUNT: There was an honest vote, there was an honest vote in 2002, and he -- and he was defeated by...

NOVAK: You think so, but nobody else does.

HUNT: Oh, yes, they do, and every bit of evidence indicates that, and he was beaten by a person who's not nearly as strong as Tom Daschle.

SHIELDS: That's absolutely true, and if I'm not mistaken, the Republicans were in total control of the governorship and the legislature in South Dakota. It's hard to believe that elections get stolen (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but hey, who am I to say? Coming up on CAPITAL GANG...

NOVAK: I agree with you. Who are you to say?

SHIELDS: Thanks so much, Bobby, you (ph) got the Christmas spirit. Capital classic -- CAPITAL GANG Classic. Tension in the Taiwan Strait seven years ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Nearly eight years ago, China began military games with live ammo off the coast of Taiwan, and President Bill Clinton ordered two U.S. Navy aircraft carriers into the area. CAPITAL GANG discussed this on March 16, 1996. Our guest then, as it was this evening, was Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Margaret, do these developments threaten war in the Taiwan Strait?

CARLSON: No, China wants to rattle Taiwan, not bomb it, and rattle the United States. They'd like to intimidate the Taiwanese, not to give President Lee a huge margin of victory in these -- because he's holding democratic elections, and the last thing China wants is democracy to spread to the mainland.

HATCH: What started a lot of this was when the secretary of state said that he wouldn't let President Lee in to go to Cornell, and then had to flip-flop and let him in. Well, he should have let him in to begin with and just let China know that we live with this country and that we're going to support them.

NOVAK: President Nixon made a deal with the Chinese communists, the Shanghai communique of 23 years ago. I think we ought to sit down with the Chinese leaders and say, we are not going to recognize Taiwan as an independent country.

HUNT: Well, but part of the deal was not to say that China could attack -- could attack Taiwan. I think it's a time now for patience and a lot of tough private diplomacy. I don't think we ought to be the softies that Bob recommends.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, have two U.S. administrations been those very softies you said that Robert D. Novak had recommended?

HUNT: Well, on human rights, yes, Mark, but I think the relationship is terribly important, and let me say, Colin Powell deserves enormous credit after that jet plane incident two and a half years ago, at the beginning of this administration. I think he has helped put back together a very constructive relationship with China.

SHIELDS: Margaret, you made sense then, you make sense now.

CARLSON: Bob, you're so consistent you're repetitive.

In this instance, China is like a cheap car alarm, going off now on the basis of a referendum, a little civic vote.

NOVAK: Well, I'd have to say, accusing me of advocating softness because I don't want to offend China on the question of Taiwan's independence, you don't even believe that, Al, and -- because we had followed my policies that I recommended, for the last seven years, and as a result, we're in a lot better relationship with China than we were before.

SHIELDS: Are the people of China better off, Bob?

NOVAK: Yes, they are. Yes, they are. You wouldn't know that, because you don't like private enterprise, and that's what they're having there.

SHIELDS: And human rights?

NOVAK: They're coming along.

SHIELDS: Very, very slowly.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the president's hand-picked candidate to run for the U.S. Senate in Florida, with Tom Fiedler of "The Miami Herald."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Mel Martinez, resigned from President Bush's cabinet to make an expected run for the United States Senate from Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEL MARTINEZ, FORMER HUD SECRETARY: I've heard there's a vacancy in Florida. Delaney Park (ph) Little League needs a coach, and I'm going back to coaching Delaney Park (ph) Little League.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: But will he face opposition for the Republican nomination from Congresswoman Katherine Harris? Last summer, she didn't say no about running for the Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KATHERINE HARRIS (R), FLORIDA: It's not on my radar screen. I've been told to never say never, but I can tell you all my efforts are focused right here, right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The most recent Florida poll shows Harris leading among Republicans, with an 18 point lead over Mel Martinez, who is running third.

Joining us now from Miami is Tom Fiedler, executive director of "The Miami Herald." Thanks for coming in, Tom.

TOM FIEDLER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, "MIAMI HERALD": Glad to be here.

SHIELDS: Tom, is Katherine Harris really expected to defy George W. Bush and run against the president's own Senate choice, Mel Martinez?

FIEDLER: Well, we'll probably know the answer to that in four to six weeks, because time, obviously, is going to force her to make a decision. But I think the betting is that she is going to get in. There is no particular -- although she has a great deal of regard for President Bush, I don't think she has a great deal of regard for the White House political people, and she's ambitious, and I think that the numbers are so persuasive. It will be, I think, difficult for her to say no.

SHIELDS: She'd be the favorite?

FIEDLER: Oh, she's clearly the favorite. As you saw those poll numbers show that she has nearly triple the support right now that Mel Martinez has. In fact, I think that Mel Martinez may have a tough time fighting it into second place against Bill McCollum. It's almost certainly that she would get the Republican nomination.

SHIELDS: Wow. Bob Novak.

NOVAK: You think -- you think McCollum would stick it out in this race, Tom? He didn't -- he didn't have a terribly good race when he ran against Bill Nelson for the Senate, and if he's got a contested primary, do you think he would stick in there? FIEDLER: Well, it's hard to know. I think he's got no particular reason not to stick in there, but, you know, you know how these things work, Bob. It's probably Bill McCollum could be lured out of the race with a promise of an appointment somewhere else. But if he sticks in the race, and I think he's a proud man, and I think he's got some -- some sense of ego on the line here, if he sticks in the race, frankly I think he's -- he's going to finish ahead of Mel Martinez.

SHIELDS: Margaret.

CARLSON: Hey, Tom, did the White House try to pressure Jeb Bush to clear the field in this race and if so, what -- how did that -- how did that conversation go?

FIEDLER: Well, it didn't -- if they did try to pressure him, I think they actually know better than to try to do that. It wouldn't have gone well. And the decision to try to clear the field for Mel Martinez didn't go over well with Governor Bush either. You may be aware that the statement that he made when Mel Martinez's name came up was that he pointedly said that there were some people who had enough courage to get in this race before Senator Graham made the announcement that he would get out, the incumbent Democrat got out.

I think that that was a pretty clear signal back to the White House and particularly, I think, to Karl Rove that he wasn't happy with the attempt by the White House to -- to pick Mel Martinez for that seat.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Tom, let me ask you this, then. If Jeb Bush isn't enthusiastic about the Martinez candidate, if he has problems with the candidate, which you've enumerated tonight, what's Karl Rove thinking in trying to get him into the race?

FIEDLER: I think it's probably something like the Hippocratic oath, first do no harm, and Mel Martinez is a candidate that doesn't hurt President Bush in his reelection chances next fall here in Florida. Obviously, the concern that the White House would have with Katherine Harris is that she would really excite the Democratic base, so to speak, because she is considered in many ways like evil incarnate, and that is not what George W. Bush needs. He doesn't need anybody to remind voters here about what happened in November of 2000.

Mel Martinez is a relatively innocuous guy, he's got a decent base in Central Florida, which may help the Republican Party, and of course he's got a bit of a base down here in Miami-Dade County, with Cuban- American voters. Again, I think he's the candidate that the White House would like to see as being -- perhaps doing the least damage. And if he loses, you know, that's not a big deal for the White House either. SHIELDS: Tom Fiedler, who would be the strongest Democratic candidate, and at the same time, second, who would be the most likely to win the Democratic nomination in 2004?

FIEDLER: Right.

SHIELDS: Is it the same person?

FIEDLER: It is the same person. I think it is Betty Castor. She is most recently the president of the University of South Florida in Tampa, but she'd had a statewide base before for Florida commissioner of education. She's been out of state politics for a few years, but I think very quickly will -- will reintroduce herself to Florida voters, and I think that a race between Betty Castor and Katherine Harris would draw a lot of national attention, would be a lot of fun to watch, and frankly, I think would be -- frankly would be a real toss-up. I wouldn't at all be surprised to see the Democrats hold on to Florida if that's the result.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Before we do away completely with Mel Martinez, let me -- let me pose to you the things that I am told about him. That he was the county executive in Orange County, which is Orlando.

FIEDLER: Right.

NOVAK: He does have a connection with the Cuban-American base, that is important. And if you get a lot of money behind him and a lot of activity, there is a long time to go. And you can't really write him off, can you, as just a sure loser in either the primary or the general?

FIEDLER: Well, I -- obviously I wouldn't want to write him off, but I would tell you, I think, Bob, one thing that people need to keep an eye on is that there a lot of people here, a lot of Republicans in Florida who don't look at Mel Martinez as having been particularly loyal to the Republican Party. When the Orange County executive position, which is equivalent to the county mayor there, is non-partisan, he enjoyed a lot of Democratic support. He's a trial lawyer, so trial lawyers have backed him. This is anathema to many people in the Republican Party.

And other Republicans are very quick to point out that he has contributed to Democratic causes in the past, including being a contributor to Bob Graham, so you're going to have, I think, even within a Republican primaries a lot of dirt thrown at him, and it's going to be fairly easy, I think, for if he did get the Democratic (sic) nomination for this kind of thing to have hobbled him, so it's going to be tough.

CARLSON: Tom...

SHIELDS: We have 20 seconds.

CARLSON: Twenty seconds. Did I hear you say that the White House would rather lose with Martinez than win with Katherine Harris?

FIEDLER: I -- this is my opinion on this, Margaret, but I think the answer is yes, because Katherine Harris brings up a lot of bad feelings in Florida, and I think could throw the state into the Democratic column in 2004.

SHIELDS: Tom Fiedler, thank you so much for being with us.

FIEDLER: Always a delight.

SHIELDS: It's a delight for us. THE GANG will be back with "The Outrages of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Now for "The Outrage of the Week." President Bush ruled that Iraqi contracts can only go to companies from countries that supported the military invasion and occupation of Iraq. Corporations like Dick Cheney's alma mater, Halliburton.

I never thought that the brave young Americans were risking their lives to make the world safe for corporate profits. Marine General Smedley Butler, the only American to twice win the Congressional Medal of Honor, asked this timeless question, quote: "How many of these millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights ducking shells and shrapnel? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?" End quote.

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: The lame-duck New Jersey Assembly is set to make history Monday, legalizing a procedure that President Bush's council on bioethics says permits human cloning. The bill passed the state Senate early this year, but was pulled off the Assembly floor in February as opposition grew. The plan, wait until after this year's legislative elections, then bring up the bill during the Christmas season.

Of 80 assemblymen, 11 are lame ducks, and 69 don't face reelection for two years. New Jersey, getting ready for human fetal farms.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, remember how Arnold made charges of sexual harassment go away, by vowing to investigate himself? Well, now that he's elected, he's called that off. He wouldn't want the left hand to know what his right hand was doing.

Worse, he's balancing the budget on the backs of the weakest among us, in particular the disabled, whom he used to champion and whom his mother-in-law, Eunice Shriver, has made her life's work.

Conservatives were once worried he wasn't one of them. Let's hope he adds "compassionate" to the conservative that he is.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Mark, before skipping town, this Congress handed out goodies to most vested interests. HMOs, drug companies, and of course, the wealthy who benefit from still more tax cuts.

There was, however, one group left out. Those half-million Americans whose unemployment benefits are expiring over the holidays. Congress refused to act on a proposal to extend fees that are paid out of an existing fund for another 13 weeks.

The message the lawmakers gave to these struggling Americans? Let them eat cake, if they can afford it.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields, saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS": "A Flyboy's Story." At 9:00 p.m., "LARRY KING LIVE" looks back at Hollywood legend Ingrid Bergman. And at 10:00 p.m., "CNN SATURDAY NIGHT," a national outbreak, preventing and treating the flu. Thank you for joining us.

END

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