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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Al Gore Endorses Howard Dean; John Ashcroft No Longer Investigating White House Leak; How Are Americans Looking At Mad Cow Scare?

Aired January 3, 2004 - 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 the full GANG: Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.

Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself from investigative the leak to Robert Novak and possibly other reporters identifying former ambassador Joe Wilson's wife as a covert CIA employee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Effective immediately, the United States attorney for the northern district of Illinois, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, will serve as special counsel in charge of this matter.

The issue surrounding the attorney general's recusal is not one of actual conflict of interest that arises normally when someone has a financial interest or something. The issue that he was concerned about was one of appearance. And I can't go beyond that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: President Bush was asked why it took so long for the attorney general to recuse himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know the details which caused him to recuse himself. He doesn't talk to me about it. He doesn't brief me on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, why do you think Attorney General Ashcroft finally recused himself after suggestions for months that he do so?

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: Well, I don't know, Mark, but he should have done it months ago. You never could have a credible investigation with John Ashcroft intimately directing it. Look, this issue makes me uncomfortable and a lot of other journalists uncomfortable not just because Bob Novak is a close colleague, because, like -- but because like, any other good reporter, when the government starts asking about sources, he's going to tell them to go stuff it, as he should, even if, as "Time" magazine suggested today, they're going to ask government sources to waive their confidentiality. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) reporters.

Yet if there were top administration officials who recklessly tried to smear a CIA undercover agent in order to get at her husband, which is what some other less professional journalists have charged happened with them, that's a very serious matter. This guy, Fitzgerald, is an honest and very tough guy, and what remains to be seen is whether Ashcroft's Justice Department will let him conduct an honest and tough investigation.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak?

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Well, I feel very uncomfortable about this, obviously...

SHIELDS: I understand that.

NOVAK: ... because there's very little I can say. And I can only repeat a couple things I have said before, and that is, a lot of people wonder -- I get an awful lot of e-mail and letters -- Why don't you just tell who told you that? Well, we just don't do -- as Al said, we don't do that in this business. We deal with confidential sources, and we don't reveal those sources. And that is the way this -- this system works. There's no legal requirement that I do it.

Secondly, the other factor is -- I'm only saying something I have written in print before, that I said that the person who told me was not a political gunslinger. I mean that literally. And that indicates that this was not a -- some kind of a plot to discredit Ambassador Wilson, that it came about almost incidentally. And that's about all I can say.

SHIELDS: But at the same time, you can't blame somebody for coming to the conclusion, or at least suggesting that it does look like an attempt to discredit Wilson. I mean, whether, in fact...

NOVAK: That's all I'm going to say.

SHIELDS: No, but just...

(CROSSTALK)

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: ... had the effect of being petty and vindictive and mean. Whether or not the person was a gunslinger or not, that was the result. They wanted to get back at a critic of the administration by going after his wife. So that was the effect on it.

The most interesting thing that the new attorney said, James Comey, was that the reason...

NOVAK: Deputy attorney general.

CARLSON: Deputy attorney general -- was -- thank you, Bob -- was...

NOVAK: You're welcome. CARLSON: ... was that it -- the investigation had changed to the point where he didn't want people of interest to know that they were people of interest. So it seems that it's at a high enough level that were the Ashcroft people to -- to be doing that, it would be -- you know, it would in a category of people that were high up.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, let me ask you a question. Why, in your judgment, up to now, has nobody in the White House staff been interviewed under oath? And secondly, wouldn't it just be simple to ask, Did you know or did you have reason to believe that Victoria Plame, Joe Wilson's wife, was a CIA agent or operative? I mean, wouldn't that narrow the pool?

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Mark, I've watched the coverage pretty closely. I'm not sure that those questions haven't been asked. I simply don't know.

I think an awful lot of people are playing awfully loose with the facts, as we know them, it seems, in news stories. I look at the same set of facts, and I don't see any reason to believe that any mention of her was specifically done with the intent of discrediting Joe Wilson. First of all, the guy discredits himself by having such a left-wing agenda.

Secondly, people might be very disappointed -- the administration's critics and enemies are going to very disappointed. This is a very narrowly drawn statute. A crime has been committed only if you knowingly disclose the identity of an undercover agent. Very few people knew that Joe Wilson's wife was an undercover agent. The fact that she's an undercover agent is in itself classified. So it might have been irresponsible, but there might be no crime and no intent.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: ... on the narrow question of legality. Who knows? But there's some point of debate on that. If, however, it ends up that someone at the high levels of the White House tried to smear this woman not to Bob Novak but to other people, as "Newsweek" magazine has reported by name, journalists who say -- say Karl Rove called them -- if that's true, Kate, it may not be a legal problem, but it's a real political problem.

NOVAK: Let me just respond to one thing you said...

SHIELDS: Yes.

NOVAK: ... about being (UNINTELLIGIBLE) under oath. I think I know how these investigations are run, and they are usually run by a team of FBI agents visiting the aide. They are not put under oath ever under those conditions. Of course, lying to an FBI agent...

SHIELDS: FBI agent is a federal offense.

O'BEIRNE: Right. Right. NOVAK: ... is a federal offense, but they are not put under oath. And secondly, you don't know the questions that were asked, whether they were asked if they knew the identify of this woman or not. And just because it hasn't appeared in the paper doesn't mean they were not asked those questions.

SHIELDS: Right.

CARLSON: You know, the silly thing about this is that President Bush could have called in the few people who -- who might have done it...

O'BEIRNE: Oh! No, he couldn't have!

CARLSON: ... and asked them.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BEIRNE: Had he ever done that...

CARLSON: No, before it happened...

O'BEIRNE: ... there would have been screams from Capitol Hill that President Bush was interfering. He would have been accused of interfering with a possible investigation. He actually could not have done that.

I will say, I'm perfectly open to the proposition that it's a terribly serious thing that happened -- if not criminal, serious, although maybe inadvertent -- if Joe Wilson himself were not having the time of his life. Now, I -- he argues that his wife's career is in -- has been shattered, but boy, is he enjoying more than his five minutes of fame. And the photo spread in "Vanity Fair" -- who wouldn't recognize his wife? She was in a very thin disguise.

SHIELDS: I would point out...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: I'd point out to you the only...

CARLSON: ... was already ruined.

SHIELDS: ... reason that there's a photo spread in "Vanity Fair" is because of this leak. That's the only reason.

CARLSON: Yes...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: That's the only reason anybody knows Victoria Plame.

O'BEIRNE: But he's still -- he's still...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... was already ruined.

SHIELDS: Yes.

CARLSON: I mean, it wasn't as if he was exacerbating the situation.

O'BEIRNE: Her picture had not appeared until she posed for "Vanity Fair"!

CARLSON: But it doesn't matter! Her picture can be out there now.

NOVAK: Again, I'm only saying things that I have written before, and that is that I was told, reporting the story, by the press person at the CIA that it was unlikely that she would ever make another overseas trip on business for the CIA.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... as a fact.

CARLSON: That's over.

SHIELDS: Now...

NOVAK: No, no. This was -- this was before...

SHIELDS: Before.

NOVAK: ... the column appeared.

SHIELDS: Well...

NOVAK: Before the column appeared.

SHIELDS: At the same time, I mean, I think we have to acknowledge that getting the name out, if, in fact, that was the intention, certainly confirmed that. If that was the plan, that -- I'll just quote one person in closing, and that is -- I don't know how accurate they are, but I know they scare the hell out of people, Richard M. Nixon suggesting polygraphic tests of White House staffers during a similar investigation.

The GANG of five will be back to ask, Is the only Democrat who can stop Howard Dean named Howard Dean?

ANNOUNCER: Here's your CAPITAL GANG "Trivia Question of the Week." Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald recently led an investigation against which former public official? Is it, A, James Traficant; B, George Ryan; or C, Bill Clinton? We'll have the answer right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Before the break, we asked: Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald recently led an investigation against which former public official? The answer is, B, former Illinois governor George Ryan.

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Former Vermont governor Howard Dean began the week criticizing Democratic national chairman Terry McAuliffe for not protecting him from criticism from fellow Democratic presidential candidates. Dean said, quote, "If we had strong leadership in the Democratic Party, they would be calling those other candidates and saying, Hey, look, somebody is going to have to win here. If Ron Brown were chairman, this wouldn't be happening," end quote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People in New Hampshire are worried that some of the things that Howard Dean has said are going to be turned right back on him by George W. Bush and Karl Rove and make him unelectable.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor, if you can't stand up and answer serious questions from fellow Democrats, how can you expect the rest of us to step aside and watch you lose your cool against George Bush and lose the election?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The latest poll of likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters, taken by the American Research Group just after Christmas, shows Governor Dean losing 8 percentage points but still some 18 points ahead of Senator John Kerry, who's in second place. CNN/"Time's" national poll of registered Democrats, taken over the New Year's weekend, shows the biggest Dean lead yet, with 22 percent, which gives him a 2-to-1 lead over Senator Kerry in second place.

Bob Novak, are all these attacks in any way slowing down Governor Dean?

NOVAK: According to the polls, not very much. Of course, you know, Mark, that in Iowa and New Hampshire, funny things happen at the end, often, and a lot of those people just don't make up their mind until the end.

The thing that worries the Democrats I talk to, however, is his electability not on the basis of any polls right now -- people don't know about him -- but about his loose mouth attitude, the silly things he has said, that he didn't know whether Osama bin Laden was guilty, and then this business about Ron Brown wouldn't let this happen. Ron Brown was chairman when they were savaging Bill Clinton. And there's -- he was asked who was his closest relative in the service, and he said his brother -- his closest living relative. His brother's been dead for many years, and he was never in the service. And these things go on and on, and the question is, this going to be something that is not -- is not electable not on the basis of the polls but on the kind of candidate he is.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, your take on Howard Dean?

CARLSON: Well, the complaint about Terry McAuliffe is to go against the Howard Dean personality. I mean, Howard Dean, say what you will, seems to be his own man. He says what he thinks. He doesn't filter his message through focus groups and polls, he just says it. And then he runs and complains to the teacher about what's going on on the playground. That's not very consistent with who Howard Dean is.

And the other thing is, you know, Howard Dean -- Republicans -- I think 90 percent of Republicans are in favor of Howard Dean running for president. But he will bring new people into the party. I mean, there's the wild-card factor of Howard Dean. He's going to bring all these new people in, and he could be the strongest candidate, despite his obvious drawbacks.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, that same CNN/"Time"/Gallup poll that we cited at the outset...

NOVAK: I'm sorry. That's not the Gallup poll.

SHIELDS: Oh, CNN/"Time" poll. Excuse me -- showed Howard Dean running 5 points behind George W. Bush and running as well as, if not better than, any other Democratic candidate. So the -- his critics' or his opponents' charge that he's not electable certainly hasn't taken root yet.

O'BEIRNE: I'll tell you why I think, Mark, the electability argument about Howard Dean is not going to be enough to stop him. I think for an awful lot of Dean supporters -- and they're not unique in this respect -- once you decide you like your guy, you talk yourself into the proposition that when other people see as much of him as you have, they're going to be as persuaded as you now are. I just think that's a -- that's a dynamic in races like this.

And I also don't think it's enough to stop him because I think an awful lot of Democrats have calculated that no Democrat has much of a chance of beating George Bush. That's clearly the Hillary Clinton calculation. Therefore, it'll feel so good to get a Democrat like Howard Dean. If he can't beat George Bush, at least he'll bloody him and punch him in the nose.

And so I think a lot of Democrats are looking to Howard Dean to only do that.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt?

HUNT: I don't think the calculation is that -- is that fine, Kate. I think these attacks actually may solidify Dean's support among those Democratic primary voters who do hate George Bush. And I think he plays -- Dean plays this establishment-versus-you card very, very shrewdly. So he's a Teflon frontrunner.

But I agree with Bob Novak. If he gets the nomination and this persists, this rhetorical recklessness is going to turn him into Mr. Velcro in the fall. And Joe Lieberman is absolutely right that if he thinks this is tough stuff, just wait until Karl Rove gets his hands on him. And Margaret, I would just say the only candidates who've ever talked about bringing in new voters and enlargening the base for candidates usually get about 40, 42 percent of the vote.

NOVAK: Let me -- let me suggest...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Let me just make one point...

NOVAK: Go ahead.

SHIELDS: ... and that is, first of all, George W. Bush -- I mean, it isn't only Howard Dean's voters who don't have much use for George W. Bush. George W. Bush has less support among members of the opposition party than any president in the history of the country, including Bill Clinton among Republicans, OK? He's at 20 percent among Republicans -- I mean Democrats. Excuse me -- as opposed to -- Reagan was at 35 and so was Nixon, and so forth. That's the first thing. So it's not just limited to his point.

The second point is, things he said -- I can recall, you know, a candidate for president saying trees cause more pollution than automobiles, and you could take...

NOVAK: That's different.

SHIELDS: You could take nuclear waste in a ton and roll it up into a little baseball and drop it in the deepest part of the ocean, and that's how we'd get rid of it.

NOVAK: You're talking -- you're talking...

SHIELDS: That was Ronald Reagan.

NOVAK: You're talking about Reagan, and that -- that is really...

SHIELDS: How's it different?

NOVAK: It is -- it is different because he -- this -- this is saying things that you don't agree with. These are untruths that -- that he says. These are things that are just -- you wonder if this -- if you want this person as president.

Let me disagree, though, what I was going to say, with Kate on one thing. I don't believe the Democrats I talk to have conceded this election in one minute. They hate George W. Bush. I agree with you. And they want -- they want a winner, and that is the potential -- I mean, electability...

O'BEIRNE: Some of them do, Bob, but maybe enough of them don't, if they're willing to go with Howard Dean. I take your point that left-wing Democrats are not going to vote for George Bush. I take your point. If they're weak on defense, like Howard Dean, and tough on the middle class, as Joe Lieberman says about Howard Dean, fine, they're not going to vote for George Bush.

But look at "Washington Post" poll that showed who's better on protecting and defending America, on national security, George Bush or Howard Dean? Mark, 67 George Bush, 21 Howard Dean!

SHIELDS: I'm simply saying, Kate, that this is left-wing...

O'BEIRNE: Not good!

SHIELDS: You might call it any pejorative you want as a prefix. It isn't left-wing Democrats. Democrats really don't -- I mean, you just -- that's the Gallup throughout the history.

O'BEIRNE: If Bush is at 67 on national security, I submit a lot of Democrats see George Bush as stronger on national security than Howard Dean!

HUNT: Well, of course they do right now, and they probably will on election day. The question is, can he narrow that gap if he gets the nomination.

And I disagree with Bob slightly. I don't think that his -- that he lies more than other candidates. He's just -- there is -- I said earlier there's almost kind of a Gingrich quality about his...

O'BEIRNE: The recklessness, yes.

HUNT: ... recklessness. He's so smart -- he is smart. Some guys make mistakes because they're dumb. He makes them because he's smart. There's a little bit of arrogance about it.

O'BEIRNE: Yes.

NOVAK: You know, the thing I just wonder is why -- why would he say, when he's given a questionnaire by the paper in Davenport, Iowa, Who is your closest relative -- I mean, it's not a big thing, but why would he put down somebody who was not even in the service and is not living? Why would he do that?

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Well, Ronald Reagan would, you know, talk about being over after World War II in a film crew and watching the terrible victims of the Holocaust. I mean, sometimes -- I don't think Ronald Reagan was a liar. I just think sometimes you...

(CROSSTALK)

O'BEIRNE: Dean's instincts are all wrong. His instincts had him saying that he doesn't want to prejudge Osama bin Laden!

HUNT: Terrible! A terrible mistake, just -- I mean, right, but terrible mistake.

O'BEIRNE: No, wrong!

HUNT: No, right.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Hey, listen, he says, Are we safer than we were when we got Saddam Hussein? You know, that's -- I think that's a question that's open to answer yet, and...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Wait. So is, Trees cause more pollution than automobiles.

Next on CAPITAL GANG: What's the politics of mad cow disease?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN VENEMAN, AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: We are doing everything we can to protect the food supply. And I can tell you that we're making decisions based upon sound science and good public policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: After the secretary agriculture's attempt to reassure the country about the first incident of mad cow disease in the United States, President Bush was asked whether Americans can feel safe eating beef.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: They should be. As a matter of fact, I ate beef today and will continue to eat beef.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, what are the political and the economic implications to mad cow disease in the United States?

CARLSON: Well, the economic ones could be bad. I'd feel better if, say, the colonel at Kentucky Fried Chicken said eat beef, rather than -- a disinterested party, rather than the president from Texas and the beef industry, which has been saying it all week.

But the United States has a lot of information that Britain didn't have when they had their outbreak of mad cow disease and the government kept saying, Don't worry about it, and thousands of people contracted the disease. And while the system of branding and numbers and all that isn't what it should be, it's a lot better than it used to be, better than it is in Britain. And the testing is so much better. So it might be contained, and then there'll be very little political fallout.

SHIELDS: Very little political fallout, Bob Novak?

NOVAK: I really don't know. I've been asking people I like and respect what they're worried about...

SHIELDS: You didn't ask me.

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: Exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: Whether they were upset about -- about this and would be less inclined to eat beef, and they say yes. And I think it is the pounding by the cable news networks, by the -- by the media. But it's also I think we're turning into a -- a country of wimps and whiners who think -- people who think they're going to live forever. And I think it just -- the chances of anybody having trouble with this is ridiculous, but the kind of country we're coming in, there could be an economic fallout. I can't believe there's a political fallout, although the Democratic candidates are claiming it's all George W. Bush's fault, Mark.

SHIELDS: I didn't -- did I say it was George W. Bush's fault?

NOVAK: No, I said -- I'm just...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt?

HUNT: Mark, look, I think -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ask why such a tepid response. And I don't think any previous administration has been any better. We only inspect one tenth of 1 percent of livestock that go to market. Japanese, 100 percent. We don't need to do that. Only the apparently older cattle. I've become an instant expert in older and younger cattle. Older cattle are susceptible to this, and you ought to inspect them. You know, 10 million of them a year. Costs less than $500 million a year. All it would add is a nickel to a McDonald's, even less than a half buck to Bob's sirloin. And you could go and you could assure people that we are if not totally safe, as safe as we could possibly be. And there are -- there will be real ramifications if there's one more case. Panic will set in. And just ask the Brits what happens when people won't buy your beef.

SHIELDS: And Kate O'Beirne, to get metaphysical about this, do you want to live forever?

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Yes, we just don't want Bob to live forever.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BEIRNE: We apparently have taken precautions that -- that Canada didn't take, given that this one cow that we're aware of did come from Canada. I do think that there's a problem to this extent. I do think the administration will be credited with responding affirmatively and aggressively, so I don't think there's going to be much -- much benefit to Democrats in trying to somehow pin something on the Bush administration. But the more you read about the care and the feeding and slaughtering of beef, the better you feel about your chances of somehow having out food supply infected by mad cow, but the less you feel like eating beef because you are now much too familiar with...

(CROSSTALK)

O'BEIRNE: ... exactly how they get to...

NOVAK: That's the -- that's the...

O'BEIRNE: CARLSON: ... get to your...

NOVAK: ... whining and wimping that you get about -- people wringing their hands about, My goodness, I might get sick eating beef! It's just ridiculous!

CARLSON: You want a 6-year-old to die from a hamburger?

HUNT: There was a quote in "The New York Times" yesterday that one of the issues is whether the older cows that are crippled, whether they should, you know, still be taken to slaughter. And the government came out and said, No, we're going to stop that. And one slaughterhouse manager complained to "The New York Times." He said, Look, if your wife was really sick and you could get $500 for her, would you bring her in here or would you kill her at home? That's a mindset that we need government to check, Bob!

CARLSON: And this cow was a downer, the kind you're not supposed to slaughter and eat.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BEIRNE: ... government, the beef industry has a huge incentive to take all necessary and even unnecessary precautions to reassure consumers...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: And the beef industry is more than amply represented in the administration. So I think that's probably...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: And inspect those 10 million cows. There's the technology to do it easily.

SHIELDS: I like to see the public interest versus the private interest versus...

NOVAK: Always against...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Coming up in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG -- Bob will be quiet while I do this -- our sidebar story is the great American smokeout. We'll hear from Bob again, I'm sure. The state of Maine becomes the fifth state to ban smoking in taverns, Bob. "Beyond the Beltway" looks with CNN correspondent Mike Chinoy at Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, the recent target of assassination attempts. And our "Outrages of the Week." That's all after the latest news headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome to the second half of CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with the full GANG. That's Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.

In the state of Maine, a ban went into effect on New Year's Day, which prohibits smoking in bars and in pool halls. Dora Mills, the director of the Main State Bureau of Health said, quote, "Other states have passed these laws, and there have been no states that reversed them. Our polls show that majority of smokers and non-smokers alike in Maine want indoor workplaces and public places to be smoke free," end quote.

Maine thus becomes the fifth state to ban smoking in drinking places, joining California, Delaware, New York and Connecticut. Similar legislation is pending in Maryland and Massachusetts.

Kate O'Beirne, is the state of Maine showing America the wave of the future?

O'BEIRNE: Mark, I think Maine has joined blue state America, Al Gore's America, to crack down, use the power of the government to crack down on personal behavior that liberals disapprove of. Although, having said that, I do think it is beginning in blue state America, but it's going to spread. I mean, it began with movie theaters and planes. Now, you can see how in the case of both, you couldn't sort of leave it up to the market to determine whether or not people wanted to smoke or not smoke.

But that's not true of bars and restaurants. So it strikes me that the impulse is more totalitarian, than wanting to protect either customers or staff, because, presumably, the majority of bars and restaurants would outlaw smoking, and people who wanted that atmosphere would go there, but a bar or a restaurant owner would have the option of allowing smoking and let the market dictate how well he does. But they won't permit that. It has to be a total ban, because, as I said, it's a totalitarian impulse.

SHIELDS: It's OK to use the power of the federal government or government to ban behavior that conservatives don't like?

O'BEIRNE: Like what?

SHIELDS: Well, gay marriage.

O'BEIRNE: The federal government is not banning gay marriage. States don't recognize gay marriage.

SHIELDS: The constitutional amendment was one of the things being...

O'BEIRNE: A constitutional amendment will prohibit a judge from imposing gay marriage, which is the only way it's happened any place...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: No, I'm just interested in the power of the government to ban certain behaviors that groups don't find...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Everyone was predicting, anecdotally, bar owners, that, oh, this is going to be the end of their business, and every survey that's been done shows that just hasn't been the case. The one thing that has happened is that, say, New York may be losing some people who are right on the line in New Jersey, crossing the line. There is some evidence that that happens, but there are more jobs, there are more restaurants opening in the surveys done in New York since this happened, and you know, we ban smoking, but it's that what non-smokers are doing is the passive activity. I mean, you can't, you know, it's not pro -- anti-smoking, it is to protect people who aren't smoking.

O'BEIRNE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) restaurants would permit it.

CARLSON: No, that's not true. You go to restaurants and you can't -- you can't regulate the smoking inside the restaurant you go to. You just have to put up with people like Bob Novak.

NOVAK: I don't smoke.

CARLSON: When he smoked.

NOVAK: It's -- I haven't smoked in over 40 years.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I know, and you quit cold turkey.

NOVAK: It is such a liberal, big government thing. That (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we were able to have restaurants and bars with non- smoking area. A guy goes into a bar and out of his own volition -- I don't see anybody taking guys and dragging them in and saying, you must go into this smoke-filled room and get cancer. Isn't there any self-restraint or individual responsibility? I think this is the most depressing thing that's happening in American life, of the do-gooders talking about...

SHIELDS: Do you really?

NOVAK: Yes, I really hate it.

HUNT: He's a guy's guy. Let's hear it -- let's hear it -- here's a guy's guy. He stood up for guys...

NOVAK: You can insult me because you disagree... HUNT: I'm not insulting you.

NOVAK: Yes, you are. You are being very insulting. But I get sick of you talking about kids and we got to keep them away from cigarettes. I smoked cigarettes when I was a kid; it never hurt me.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: I'm disappointed you didn't tell us the story about how you quit, because that's one of the most inspirational stories that we periodically hear on this show, but I want to say, I want to give credit to the state of Maine who cares about the health of their bartenders. They care about the health of their bartenders...

SHIELDS: They don't have the -- they don't have the option.

HUNT: Let's give them credit for that, Mark.

NOVAK: Yes, they do. They don't have to work as a bartender. What you want is you want to regiment everybody in America to the morals and the behavior patters that you think is correct.

SHIELDS: No, Bob, I don't. I'll tell you why, Bob, what I really want is an America where everybody lives forever.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BEIRNE: ... is a terribly dangerous occupation. Should people not be permitted to do that? I mean...

SHIELDS: What is, what is...

O'BEIRNE: I mean, there are far more dangerous places to work than in a bar. Why don't we get rid of that?

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: It's assumption of risk. I mean, why should -- why should I impose assumption of risk upon you? If I decide to fish, I decide to fish. And that's the difference.

O'BEIRNE: But (UNINTELLIGIBLE) decides to work there. He does not have to work in a bar that permits smoking.

CARLSON: No, he needs a job.

SHIELDS: Yes. That's right. Not everybody is born into a trust fund.

CARLSON: Yes.

SHIELDS: Coming up, the CAPITAL GANG Classic. Presidential candidate Al Gore three years ago giving President Bill Clinton the cold shoulder.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SHIELDS: Welcome back. A television ad for Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark this week showed him as NATO supreme commander being decorated by President Clinton. Four years ago, Vice President Al Gore was not mentioning President Clinton in his own campaign to replace him. The president admitted he did not see much of his vice president anymore.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obviously, he's not around as much. We don't have lunch every week, and I miss that terribly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: CAPITAL GANG discussed this on December 11, 1999. Our guest was then White House press secretary, Joe Lockhart.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNT: The Clinton-Gore relationship is complicated, and it's conflicted. I think they both genuinely admire each other in one way, and they both really resent each other in some other ways, and there is no two ways around that.

NOVAK: I think the really interesting thing is that -- is that Al Gore is running away from him, and I think that bothers Bill Clinton. And I'm not a psychiatrist, but I thought the language on how I miss him, I thought it had a little barb to it.

O'BEIRNE: Maybe George Bush, Governor Bush, can't name the president of India. Al Gore can't name the president of the United States.

JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The public knows he's been vice president. They know he's been the president's partner over the last seven years, and they've done a terrific job together. But there's more to Al Gore.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Did Al Gore shy away from Bill Clinton because President Clinton was a lot less popular then, four years ago, than he is today, when Wesley Clark is invoking his own connection to Bill Clinton?

HUNT: Wes Clark is also trying to take a subtle dig at Howard Dean in raising the commander in chief issue there. If Al Gore, however, had not run away from Clintonomics, he would have won the electoral college as well as the popular vote in 2000.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: I think that that was one of the strangest things about Al Gore, and he's a guy who has got a lot of strange things about him, that he didn't embrace this guy. I think he was as popular with Democrats four years ago as he is now. Just made a big mistake. Gore made a big mistake.

CARLSON: I don't think Bob had to remind us he's not a psychiatrist in that segment.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: But listen, for Al Gore, it was an emotional decision, not a rational decision. He was so put off by Clinton's behavior. You'd think that Monica had delivered the pizza to Al Gore. He just couldn't get near it.

SHIELDS: Gore's people were very clear about it at the time, though, Kate. They said that the undecided voters were not pro- Clinton. They were not sympathetic, and that was the target they were going after.

O'BEIRNE: Mark, I think you nailed it. I don't think it was an aberration. I think four years ago, the polls told Al Gore to run away from Bill Clinton, and now the polls are telling Al Gore to embrace Howard Dean, even though Howard Dean is trashing the Clinton- Gore legacy, and of course is no friend of the DLC. I think it's typical of Al Gore's behavior.

SHIELDS: Well, I think Al Gore is probably thinking more about Al Gore in both instances.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at Pakistan in crisis, with CNN senior Asia correspondent Mike Chinoy, direct from Islamabad.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. President Bush telephoned Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf after the second attempt on the Pakistani leader's life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Told him how much I was hopeful that, you know, that he -- he continued to join us in the war on terror. Obviously, terrorists are after him, and he sounded very confident that his security forces would be able to deal with the threat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: President Musharraf defended his security guards.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTAN: They protect me and my life by -- with their own lives. I have no (UNINTELLIGIBLE) against them at all. And security measures were taken. Suicide bombers secure -- total security against suicide bombers really cannot be guaranteed by any force.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: "The Washington Post" reported today that the United States government is increasing its efforts to protect President Musharraf. Pakistan's leader received a vote of confidence this week, enabling him to stay in office until 2007 without ever standing for election. Today, the prime minister of India arrived in Islamabad for the South Asian summit, marking the first such visit in nearly four years.

Joining us now from Islamabad is CNN senior Asia correspondent Mike Chinoy. Thank you for coming in, Mike. Mike, how this danger -- how much danger is there of an overthrow of President Musharraf and a creation of the first radical Muslim nuclear armed state?

MIKE CHINOY, CNN SR. ASIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is certainly a question that policy makers in Washington and elsewhere have to be wrestling with right now. The two assassination attempts on President Musharraf came very close to succeeding. There are a lot of people in this part of the world who would like to see him dead. There are certainly some serious questions about the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. So, even though President Bush and President Musharraf both profess that the thing -- the situation is under control, it is, in fact, a very worrying situation here.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Mike, with the President Musharraf's support of the U.S. on the war against terrorism and his attempt to make some negotiations with India, is there a danger of his losing any of his support in the Pakistan army which plays such an important part in the politics of Pakistan?

CHINOY: Well, President Musharraf is definitely alienating some elements in the Pakistani military. What retired military officers and others here say that as an institution, the army is still loyal to President Musharraf and that his control is fairly effective, but the Pakistani military was deeply involved with the Taliban until just after September 11. The Pakistani military has assisted the Kashmiri Islamic separatists who've been fighting Indian troops in Kashmir, and there are certainly elements in the military, especially military intelligence, who are not happy with the direction that President Musharraf is trying to go in.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mike, we learned today that President Bush is trying to help with Musharraf's protection. With this second assassination attempt, and coming so close, are there fears that it's an inside job?

CHINOY: Well, that's one of these things that you hear a lot of people talking about. Nobody knows for sure, but the way that second attempt took place -- I was out at the site the other day on a very busy main street, it goes from here, Islamabad, to his official residence in Rawalpindi. And the sophistication of that attack -- there were two suicide bombers, they must have had very detailed knowledge about when his motorcade was going to pass. They move -- they blew themselves up at each end of the motorcade, and came very close to killing Musharraf.

So there is certainly a lot of speculation about that, and there is a lot of people here who believe that those two attempts are going to be followed by other attempts, that whoever is doing this has made a commitment that they're going to get Musharraf, and that they're going to keep trying.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Mike, Pakistan has admitted that its nuclear -- some of its nuclear experts have in the past cooperated with Iran and North Korea. How confident can we be that that kind of proliferation is over, and that the current leadership has real control of nuclear technology and weapons?

CHINOY: Well, the leadership insists that they do have control, and the diplomats here believe that at the moment, that's the case. But those episodes do raise very troubling questions. The Pakistanis insist that what you had were, in effect, a couple of rogue elements in their nuclear program, who were independently offering assistance to Iran and North Korea. On the other, although, there are a lot of people who don't find that credible, who believe that this must have had some kind of official sanction.

But in either case, what it shows is a lack of really strict controls over the people involved in the nuclear program. And so that is very, very worrying. And, of course, the nightmare scenario is that something happens to President Musharraf, and there are questions marks at that who controls the nuclear arsenal, and if there are people in the nuclear program who had sympathies with the Islamic radicals. Then you've got something very serious to worry about.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Mike, you know, we talked about the military, but there have been so many reports that Pakistani intelligence, the ISI is just rife with fundamentalists, and when you describe how sophisticated that operation was the other day that almost assassinated the president, is there a suspicion that the intelligence agencies, that some people in there were involved? And how do you weed that out?

CHINOY: Well, it's not clear. We simply don't know. And as I said, there are a lot of other people who would like to do harm to Musharraf, and of course, al Qaeda, which does have operatives in Pakistan and has gotten help and cooperates with some of the local Islamic groups may also have had a hand in it. But certainly, the sophistication of the attack has at least raised the question of was there some kind of inside help or a tip-off or a leak? His movements are very closely guarded. They are not known publicly. There is tremendous security around him. So that is a question that's out there, for sure.

SHIELDS: Mike, the Bush administration seems to be betting that Musharraf is the one really bulwark against a radical Muslim takeover of Pakistan. Are those the two options, really, as you see them? Musharraf or a radical Muslim fundamentalist government there? CHINOY: No, I think in fact it's a much more complicated situation, but it is true that the Bush administration has put all its eggs in Musharraf's basket, and if something were to happen to him, it's not necessarily the case that you would have a radical Islamic group taking over, but there is no clear cut successor to Musharraf within the military, and one of the things that Musharraf has done to consolidate his own power is that he has systematically marginalized the secular political parties that would be his normal allies against fundamentalism, because they were the parties that held power before, and Musharraf really dislikes them.

So he has made an internal political alliance with a coalition of Islamic parties, even though they don't support his backing the United States on the war on terror. He's done this to keep himself in power. So if he goes, there will be a lot of confusion, a lot of uncertainty, and possibly an opening for Islamic forces to take power, although it will be very, very unclear and it will be a very dangerous time if that should happen.

SHIELDS: Mike Chinoy, thank you very much for being with us. THE CAPITAL GANG will be back with "The Outrages of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: And now, for "The Outrage of the Week." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was adamant. Quote: "There is no need for it" -- the draft -- "There is no need for it at all. We have people serving today, God bless them, because they volunteered, they want to be doing their -- what it is they're doing." End quote.

I yield to no one in my admiration and affection for brave Americans who serve their country. But the Bush-Rumsfeld Pentagon since November has frozen on active duty more than 110,000 active duty soldiers, involuntarily. It is unjust to retain on active duty involuntarily young, patriotic Americans who have fulfilled their voluntary obligation to the country. We have a draft now.

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: When an earthquake killed 30,000 people and destroyed the ancient Iranian city of Bam, the White House offered a humanitarian mission, headed by Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, the former American Red Cross president. That's pullback from President Bush's unwise rhetoric two years ago locking Iran into an axis of evil. But the hard-line clerics who run Iran said no, claiming the Dole mission symbolizes hostile U.S. policy against Iran. Humanitarian considerations mean nothing to the mullahs who exert iron rule in Tehran.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, according to "The L.A. Times," Senator Ted Stevens has pushed through legislation that has enriched him and his son, including forcing crab fishermen to sell 90 percent of their catch to processors for whom his son -- to a processor for whom his son works. And getting a $450 million Air Force contract for a developer pal, who then cut Stevens in on a building, yielding Stevens about $1 million a year.

Of course, there is a brother-in-law involved in the activity. Stevens says he did it all for Alaska and fishermen. The Ethics Committee should find out for itself.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Well, well, well. It seems that a certain relentless critic has a glass house problem of nuclear proportions. Howard Dean pledges to do a better job keeping us safe than President Bush. But Vermont residents were the least safe among states with nuclear power plants. After years of warnings about security problems during Dean's tenure, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission rated Vermont's plant the nation's worst. With a negligent record that could have turned Vermont into the glowing Green Mountain State, Dean's thrown stones miss the mark.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Mark, with the world's problems and the holiday season, God has his hands full. But he's not too busy to tell Pat Robertson, according to the televangelist, that George Bush is going to quote, "win a blowout election in 2004," end quote.

Now, previously Robertson said God confided to him about stopping a hurricane from hitting the preacher's headquarters, and threatening the hurricane to punish supporters of gay rights. Maybe the rev could get the almighty to give us an inside look at where the Dow is headed, or who's going to win the Oklahoma LSU game tomorrow night.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields, saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS: Antarctica: Harsh Continent." At 9:00 p.m., LARRY KING LIVE, weekend with Betty Ford. And at 10:00 p.m., an auto show preview. The hottest things on four wheels for 2004.

Thank you for joining us.

END

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