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CNN CAPITAL GANG

David Kay: "We Were Almost All Wrong"; Howard Dean Attacks John Kerry About Effectivness In Congress; John Kerry, New Ad Focuses On National Security

Aired January 31, 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.

President Bush's former chief arms inspector delivered his verdict on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID KAY, FORMER CHIEF WEAPONS INSPECTOR: And we were almost all wrong. And I certainly include myself.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want the American people to know that I, too, want the facts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Who is to blame in this intelligence failure?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAY: I think anyone who was abused (ph) by the intelligence, it was the president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to place the blame on the president. He appoints all the people who are in the intelligence agency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Meanwhile, the White House announced the new Medicare plan signed by President Bush just last month will cost one third more than the estimated $400 billion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Now, I believe that in the coming budget debate, the Republican majority must again demonstrate its commitment to fiscal discipline and limited government.

BUSH: Medicare reform we did is a good reform. Fulfills a long- standing promise to our seniors.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, is President Bush's credibility being eroded?

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Mark, I would say no on weapons of mass destruction. As David Kay says, in this case, the president and others who relied on this intelligence were more sinned against than sinners. And David Kay himself is extremely credible. Every intelligence agency in the world agreed with our own, as did the United Nations, as did, apparently, Saddam Hussein.

But this is not the first time the CIA has been so wrong, which makes Bob Graham and the other congressional overseers of the CIA more blameworthy than the current administration. Typically, they underestimate the capacity of countries with respect to weapons of mass destruction. They did so in the case of North Korea, in the case of Libya, in the case of Iraq in '91, in the case of Iran. So there's a real serious problem here.

George Bush's credibility will be hurt if he keeps saying that he has great confidence in the capacity of our intelligence services to make these kind of estimates, however.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, Ray LaHood, the congressman from Illinois, member of the Intelligence Committee, said politically, the president really needs to explain this to the American people. It undermines his ability to talk to the American people about the war on terrorism.

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Well, I believe that credibility is a very -- it's hard to define exactly what it means. I have seen four -- I have seen three incumbent presidents done in, and before that, Harry Truman was done in (UNINTELLIGIBLE). When people don't believe a president, he's in trouble, no matter whether the economy is -- is doing well, even if the war is going well. So I think this is a very serious time for the president.

I tend to agree with Kate that the -- the credibility with his own base is coming out and saying, I will not sign a bill that is over $400 billion, and then the first -- within weeks, it's over $400 billion. I think that is a really serious, serious problem, and it's one that it's very hard to address, I believe.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, your assessment?

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Well, Kate said that the president was more sinned against than sinned, but he doesn't act as if he was sinned against because he hasn't, you know, said heads will roll. He's not alarmed. And there -- there is evidence that they knew some things. I mean, the Defense Intelligence Agency complained they were being pressured. CIA agents complained to senior officials that multiple visits by Vice President Cheney were not helpful to their analysis. And Condoleezza Rice said this week, Well, clearly, you know, what we found on the ground wasn't what we knew going on.

What about Hans Blix? You know, they had more current information than they were relying in but decided to ignore it because it didn't fit into their preconceived notions. So I think that on weapons of mass destruction, this will be a continuing source of a credibility problem for the president.

SHIELDS: Al, one quick way they could remedy the problem that Bob Novak mentioned, which is the cost overrun already in the Medicare prescription drugs, is to remove that provision inserted by Republicans that prohibits the federal government from negotiating with the drug companies to get a bulk rate on the pharmaceuticals.

O'BEIRNE: It wouldn't help the over -- the...

SHIELDS: I was...

O'BEIRNE: It wouldn't help on the spending...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: I was kind of asking Al, but...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: I appreciate SmithKline and French (ph) coming in!

(LAUGHTER)

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: They could do that, and they won't do that. I want to stay on weapons of mass destruction, though, for a minute.

SHIELDS: OK.

HUNT: Without weapons of mass destruction, there was no imminent or urgent threat. That is absolutely undeniable. I thought ahead of time that they had weapons of mass destruction. I said that on this program. It was based not only on the few sources I have in this administration but on a lot of Clinton administration sources, too. About the only people I know that said they didn't have weapons of mass destruction were Robert Novak and Scott Ritter, and I thought they were, frankly, on the fringe there. And they ended up being absolutely right.

The only thing they can do, Mark, now, they have to have an independent inquiry because there's only one of three possibilities. Either we had really deeply flawed intelligence, and that's got to be disturbing. Secondly, they distorted or they hyped the intelligence. Or thirdly, they lied to us.

NOVAK: Can I just say...

HUNT: And that only can be resolved with an independent inquiry.

NOVAK: Let me just say, of course, that this is -- this is -- we are in the political year. Seems like we've been in it about three years, but we are really in the political year now. And of course, everybody -- the Democrats want to use this against the president. It isn't a, Gee, this is very important to the national welfare, they want to nail him on this and say, You misled us, when of course, Carl Levin, who was -- who was just browbeating Dr. Kay, trying to get him to say things that he didn't want to say about the president pressuring the intelligence people -- Carl Levin -- you and I interviewed him on the -- on the -- on our old program, and he said we shouldn't go in there because they have weapons of mass destruction that are going to knock...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: As I said, every Clinton administration official I talked to said the same thing. So I agree with you on that. I'm saying I agree with John McCain and David Kay there has to be an independent inquiry because this is serious stuff.

SHIELDS: Following up on that -- I mean, just -- if we're talking about the doctrine of preemptive war -- that does demand a level of certitude in intelligence that is quite beyond ordinary, Gee, this is what the Clinton administration...

CARLSON: Right, and...

SHIELDS: ... or This is what the French...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: And Mark, just because there's some partisan advantage to the Democrats in a political year doesn't mean that the country doesn't need to know for the country's own purposes, for when it goes to war.

O'BEIRNE: We should recognize there actually is a much larger danger in underestimating countries' capacity with respect to weapons of mass destruction than there is in overestimating. And at any time, Saddam Hussein could have come clean, right -- he wanted the sanctions lifted -- could have come clean to the United Nations and shown the world that he didn't have...

HUNT: But Kate, the reason this becomes...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: ... such a huge issue is not just because of what happened in the past, what's happening now.

SHIELDS: That's right.

HUNT: "The Financial Times" reported this month there were 36 American soldiers killed in January, up 50 percent from December, when Saddam was captured and we thought it was going to get better. This July 1 thing is a farce. And when people -- when this continues, people are going to say, Now, wait a minute. What was this all about? That's serious.

NOVAK: I just want to...

O'BEIRNE: Well, it was... NOVAK: I just want to...

O'BEIRNE: ... to make the world safer, which the world is safer with Saddam Hussein, including us. We're safer.

NOVAK: I just want to say one thing, that the president's problem with his own base is on this runaway cost of this drug program, that they didn't like in the first place, and this huge budget.

SHIELDS: I'll just close with one quote, and that was from Paul Wolfowitz last year. "For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on." Boy, if that doesn't ring.

THE GANG of five we'll be back with who's ahead in Tuesday's primary.

ANNOUNCER: "Question of the Week." Which president appointed George Tenet to head the Central Intelligence Agency? Is it, A, George Herbert Walker Bush; B, Bill Clinton; or C, George W. Bush? We'll have the answer right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Before the break, we asked: Which president appointed George Tenet to head the CIA? The answer is B, Bill Clinton.

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, fresh from his decisive win in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, came under criticism from the runner-up, former Vermont governor Howard Dean, as they began campaigning for Tuesday's seven presidential primaries.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD DEAN (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Kerry's the frontrunner, and I mean him no insult, but in 19 years in the Senate, Senator Kerry sponsored 9 -- 11 bills that had anything to do with health care. Not one of them passed.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the things that happens in Congress is you can, in fact, write a bill, but if you're smart about it, you can get your bill passed on someone else's bill, doesn't carry your name.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Now to the horse race. In Tuesday's primary states, polls show Senator Kerry ahead in Missouri, Arizona, Delaware and North Dakota. In Oklahoma, the Insider Advantage poll shows a clear Kerry lead, but the Zogby poll has General Wesley Clark narrowly ahead. In South Carolina, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina leads Senator Kerry in all polls, including a new CNN/"Los Angeles Times" survey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: We're going to have to win, eventually, but the question was, do we have to win on February 3. And of course, we want to, but we don't have to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, is Howard Dean right that he doesn't have to win any primaries this coming Tuesday?

CARLSON: This is the newest strategy ever. And some candidates have decided not to compete in Iowa, but now Howard Dean's not going to compete in seven primaries, and he says, Well, I don't need to. I don't like them. I don't want to go there. I might not win. And so...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... don't like him.

CARLSON: ... I'm not going. Now, his new campaign, Al Gore's former chief of staff, said that -- you know, admitted this is a very new strategy.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: It's never been tried before. You know, I think he's got a few problems. One is that he was running an insurgent campaign, and it was like a dot-com bubble that burst, and he's bringing in the establishment. And it looks like a campaign in disarray. He wasn't himself at the debate. You know, he wasn't aggressive enough. And I think -- by February 7 and February 13, when he says he wants to win, I think it could be too late.

SHIELDS: Too late, Bob Novak?

NOVAK: Absolutely too late. You know, in the first place, he fires the guy who brought him where he got to, Joe Trippi, and he brings in this Roy Neel, and he says he's not a lobbyist. He's a registered lobbyist! It's right in black and white. That's not an arguable point. Then in this debate -- we just showed this clip -- he has the oldest saw in the world. I saw that 40 years ago. How many bills did you pass? Every -- it's silly!

SHIELDS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Kennedy.

NOVAK: Huh?

SHIELDS: Lyndon Johnson used it against Jack Kennedy.

NOVAK: It's the silliest thing in the world. And then Senator Kerry answers with the most process answer you can think of, Well, what we do is, we put our little amendment on the bill and we give credit -- you know, the eyes glaze over. But as a matter of fact, I think that Governor Dean is in really bad shape, and the idea of skipping all these and taking seven losses looks ridiculous to me. SHIELDS: Al Hunt, John Kerry -- we know he has a lantern jaw, but we don't know if he has a glass chin because in that Thursday night debate, nobody laid a glove on him.

HUNT: Right.

SHIELDS: I mean, were they all auditioning for vice president?

HUNT: No, they've all got -- they all got hit by the John Edwards schtick that worked so well in Iowa, Let's be positive. And these guys are dying. They don't want to be positive.

SHIELDS: But John Edwards...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: But they -- but they had absolutely no choice. Look, Kerry -- the Kerry people privately said, Boy, we could run the table (ph) Tuesday night, win all seven. I doubt they will, not because I know much of what's going on in Oklahoma or South Carolina, but I think voters at this stage really kind of -- Let's keep it alive for a little bit more, and an Edwards or a Clark -- and when -- the problem I see, though, Mark, is I can't see anyone other than Kerry -- I don't see the scenario for anyone else getting the nomination.

Margaret and Bob are absolutely right. The Dean thing is just silly. Howard doesn't play well with voters. I mean, it's just silly. Wesley Clark I think is an impressive guy, but he's not ready for primetime, and I'm not sure that's going to change. And John Edwards may well win South Carolina, then do well in the South the next week, but where does he go after that? And he doesn't have any money.

SHIELDS: Kate, one of John Kerry -- one of Howard Dean's principal rivals for the nomination, a strategist, told me he thought this was the best thing for Dean to do, to try and make it a one-on- one with Kerry in places like Michigan and then try to keep it alive in Wisconsin and states that are more hospitable to his candidacy.

O'BEIRNE: Mark, I agree with the others that it just doesn't make any sense, but I can see how people on his team try to pitch it. It's the only choice they have. February 3 serves up, based on where these primaries are being held, a bunch of lemons to Howard Dean, so he's got to try to make some lemonade by saying, Oh, I'm going to straight to Michigan. Well, maybe not Michigan, maybe Wisconsin. Oh, you know what's going to be great for me, and then he goes further down the road -- New York, California. Nobody's ever done it, and I don't think Howard Dean's going to be the first to.

And I agree about John Kerry's competitors this week not going after him, but on what grounds would they? His chief asset seems to be electability. I mean, they all agree with each other on the issues, essentially. I think what's helping him is Democratic primary voters...

NOVAK: Well, Dean -- Dean... O'BEIRNE: ... convincing themselves that he's electable.

NOVAK: Dean went after Kerry today on special interests, but it's...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: But they all agree on everything, so it's very hard for them to -- to really...

HUNT: And Bob, it's hard to go out there on special interests because, as you said, when he's got a Washington lobbyist...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: One thing that I think political reporters forget about every four years is it isn't organization that counts. It's not even money that counts. It's momentum. And that's why Iowa and New Hampshire are so hugely important, that once you get that going, people don't study these things. They say, Gee, Kerry's the winner. I'll go with him.

O'BEIRNE: Right.

NOVAK: And it -- and he could run the table (ph). It's -- I think he leads in -- he's going to win six states, and the seventh, South Carolina, is going to be a lot closer, I'll bet, than...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... he's going to win Oklahoma?

NOVAK: Yes. I'm sure he's going to win Oklahoma. And -- and -- it is -- it is something that -- that you can't control, and that's why New Hampshire -- that's why they spend so many hours in New Hampshire. And even that doesn't count because the momentum from Iowa's what's important.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak has always had the pulse of Tulsa. And I think if you're saying they're going to -- he's going to win Oklahoma, that's pretty serious stuff.

HUNT: My wife was born in Tulsa, and I don't have the slightest idea who's going to win Oklahoma.

SHIELDS: Last word. It's one of the few honest things you'll hear on this panel.

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG: Is John Kerry electable?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KERRY: Our security is at risk. And what's astonishing is, you know, after World War II, Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt himself wanted accountability for what happened. This administration has been fighting that accountability, and that runs against the interests of the security of Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: As the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator John Kerry is stressing national security. His new television ad in South Carolina points up his war record and brought a response from George W. Bush's campaign manager.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the bullets began to hit the side of the boat -- the boom, the pow-pow-pow -- we found out that John Kerry can lead.

KERRY: There's a sense after Vietnam that every other day is extra, that you have to do what's right.

KEN MEHLMAN, BUSH CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Even after the first World Trade Center bombing, Senator Kerry voted to gut intelligence spending by $1.5 billion for five years prior to 2001. In 1996, he voted to slash defense spending by $6.5 billion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, is Senator John Kerry vulnerable on the issue of national security?

NOVAK: Well, the Republicans think he ought to be. Look, let me say one thing, that -- I don't want to get on a sidetrack here, but citing President Roosevelt's a mistake, when he had a tremendous cover-up on what happened at Pearl Harbor.

HUNT: Oh, my God.

NOVAK: So we don't want to get involved in...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... book in here?

NOVAK: But as a matter of fact, the Republicans look at him. He votes against all these -- these spending proposals. He was a Vietnam protester who threw away his ribbons. He was a -- he's got a 95 percent average liberal voting record that say this guy ought to be as easy as Dukakis. He was Dukakis's lieutenant governor. But he's not Dukakis! And he's frustrating because he is -- he is a war hero, which George W. Bush certainly is not. And it is a frustrating thing on how you get a handle on him. I know this is what the Republicans are talking about. How do we -- how do we say that he is weak on national security, when you have ads like that showing him as not a -- not a war wimp but a war hero? SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, is Bob Novak right?

O'BEIRNE: Well, I think there's a -- there is a vulnerability in John Kerry's other Vietnam war record. His first Vietnam war record, of course, he deserves great credit for. I admire it. He volunteered for service in Vietnam. It took courage. When he came back, of course, he joined Vietnam Vets Against the War, which, frankly, took less courage, given that he was looking to run in a liberal district for Congress. But in protesting the war -- and he had every right to, and he had earned the right to -- he slandered his fellow Vietnam vets.

If you look at his Senate testimony in 1971, he said, not on an isolated basis, but widespread war crimes, daily basis, officers up and down the chain of command aware of it. Now, either he doesn't know about the reality of combat because that was, frankly, not true, even though he fought there. Secondly, he was willing to slander the majority of Vietnam vets, who, of course, served honorably and decently, as cheap political theater for his own career. I think that second Vietnam war record is a real problem.

SHIELDS: So who's right, Bob Novak or Kate O'Beirne?

HUNT: Chuck Hagel, Republican, Vietnam veteran from Nebraska, said that is -- that is a dog that won't hunt. That is a flimsy thing to say. This man earned the right to say what he wanted to say over there. And any -- I would love some Republican try to say that John Kerry didn't understand combat. Is George Bush going to say that? Is Dick Cheney going to say that? Who's going to make that argument? That's a wonderful issue.

I think there are issues Republicans have against John Kerry -- you know, liberal voting record, you know, maybe tax-and-spend, maybe not a very effective senator. But boy, if they try to play the national security card against a guy like that, who brings -- not only was he a war hero, but a lot of the guys who served with him travel with him. And that's going to be a tough one, Kate.

O'BEIRNE: The public does not agree with him! They do not believe the majority of people who served in Vietnam committed war crimes!

HUNT: John Kerry doesn't, either.

O'BEIRNE: That's just what he said!

HUNT: No. No, he did not.

O'BEIRNE: He did!

HUNT: That's a distortion. That is a...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Margaret! Margaret!

CARLSON: Listen, Kerry was courageous to go when people in his station didn't have to go and got out of it. And he was...

NOVAK: His station?

CARLSON: His -- his college -- college kids did not go to Vietnam willingly, Bob. And he was wise to criticize it when he came back, based on what he saw when he was there. The White House will attach the word "Massachusetts" to his name every time it's said, but he's not a typical Dukakis Massachusetts liberal. And Governor Bill Weld found out when he ran against him and lost in the end because Kerry came back at him as hard as he could, and he won the debates in the end, and he won the election.

NOVAK: All I was trying to say is that I do believe he has a bad national security record. But I say that he is hard for the Republicans to get at.

SHIELDS: Let me just follow up on what Bob Novak said. If I were John Kerry (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on Tuesday night, after he does win Oklahoma, say, I want to say to those brave young Americans who are standing watch tonight in South Korea and the Persian Gulf and the Balkans, I, too, was a volunteer. I know what it's like to be a volunteer. If I'm president of the United States, you will always have a brother in your office. You're my brothers and sisters because you are volunteers.

O'BEIRNE: Mark, he ought to apologize for smearing volunteers in 1971!

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: See, the problem -- the problem is one of -- one of -- one of George Bush's supporters told me off the record -- I mean, not for quotation -- that the problem that the president has is he was drinking beer in Alabama when this guy was -- was fighting in the war.

SHIELDS: Going backwards...

NOVAK: That's a problem!

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: When Chuck Hagel and John McCain, Kate, say that that's dead wrong, boy, Republicans...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Going back...

O'BEIRNE: They're wrong! They're wrong!

SHIELDS: Going back for his second...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: They were there!

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Al Gore was unable to use that against Bush in -- in their fight, but Kerry will, if it becomes an issue.

SHIELDS: Last word...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Last word, Margaret Carlson.

Coming up in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG: Our "Newsmaker" on this Super Bowl weekend is Steve Sabol, president of NFL Films. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at Howard Dean's chances to make that comeback in Michigan with political analyst Bill Ballenger. And our "Outrages of the Week." That's all after the latest news headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

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

On the eve of Super Bowl XXXVIII, we are joined by our annual "Newsmaker of the Week," NFL Films President Steve Sabol. Talking about NFL Films brings back memories. Memories of the famous narrator, the late John Facenda. He was as much a fixture of NFL Films as the slow motion, heart-pumping music and the bone-crushing footage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN FACENDA, NARRATOR: The autumn wind is a pirate, blustering in from sea with a rollicking song he sweeps along, swaggering boisterously. Its face is weather-beaten, he wears a hooded sash, with a silver hat about his head, and a bristling black moustache.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: John Facenda is missed, he really is.

Earlier this week, Al Hunt sat down with his former classmate and football teammate at the Haverford (ph) school in Pennsylvania, Steve Sabol, who was at the Super Bowl site in Houston.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNT: Steve, Super Bowl XXXVIII, as big as ever. Why?

STEVE SABOL, PRESIDENT, NFL FILMS: Al, I think the Super Bowl is big because it's a combination of the four horsemen of our cultural landscape, and that being violence, artistry, celebrity and noise. You bring those four together, and we have a Super Bowl.

HUNT: Patriots versus Panthers, no great superstar on either team. Is that coincidence, or does that tell us something?

SABOL: Well, I think in a way it tells us something. But my medium is a director's medium, the NFL is a coach's medium. And coaches today make or break teams. Dallas gets the right coach, Cincinnati gets the right coach, they go on to win. Washington gets the wrong coach and loses. Coaches today, to be successful, have to be like Dr. Victor Frankenstein, assembling all these different parts from free agency, from the trades, acquiring free agents, and then they've got to bring it to life in at least two years. It's not like the old days where you have four or five years, like Chuck Noal (ph) had, like Lombardi had. Now, to build a winner, you've got two years to do it, or you're out.

HUNT: Well, the Carolina Panthers, one in 15 two years ago, is that all John Fox?

SABOL: It's John Fox, it's smart acquisitions, it's also really good defense. I think what you see in the Panthers - the Panthers are like something that gets caught in your garbage disposal, and you grind it and you grind it and the damn thing won't go down. And that's the kind of team they are. They play defense, they have a good running game. They have the game with cards face up. You know exactly what they're going to do, but they executive well, and they're well prepared.

HUNT: Steve, we used to think of top football coaches as guys who had really played at the high level. Lombardi was one of the seven blocks of granite. But Bill Belichick, a scrub at Weslian (ph). Even your alma mater, Colorado College, could beat Weslian (ph). Is this guy a genuine football intellectual?

SABOL: Oh, he is. He has developed the most impenetrable, unfathomable Rubik's cube of a defense. And just the way Bill looks. I mean, when you see him with a hood, he looks like a character from Middle Earth. He's very, very unique, and every team is a reflection of their coach. And the Patriots are single-minded, they are very cost-efficient, they're unselfish, they're cerebral. That's an exact reflection, that's a perfect character description of Coach Belichick.

HUNT: You know, Lombardi was about simplicity. Great execution. When you read about Belichick's operation, it's quite complex.

SABOL: Well, I think Belichick is devilishly clever in the way he devises his schemes, and also, Al, he is a very unique motivator. You wouldn't think it when you hear him in the press conferences, but in front of a team, he's very good. In fact, last summer, he showed the Patriots a movie, and it was the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton, and he was the Arctic explorer that navigated 800 miles across the Arctic Sea in a rowboat to rescue some of his shipwrecked comrades. And he showed that team - he showed that film to the team. The message being, when a group of men work together, they can overcome any obstacle and succeed.

HUNT: All right, let's go to the tape. Two years ago, the Patriots were in the Super Bowl. Here was the wisdom of Stephen Douglas Sabol. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: In reality, do the Patriots have any shot?

SABOL: No.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: All right, last year, a little bit better. You said?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SABOL: If you want a prediction, I am going to go with defense wins championships, and I'm going to go with the Bucks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: The rubber match prediction. Super Bowl XXXVIII. Who's going to win?

SABOL: I am going to rely on that famous football pundit, Gandalf, from "Lord of the Rings," and he said that all great quests are rarely fulfilled in the way they are imagined. And using that as my guideline, I am going to pick the Panthers winning this game, not by running, not by defense, but by a couple of big plays.

HUNT: Steve, thanks a lot. Have a great time on Sunday.

SABOL: OK, Al.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, why are even non-football fans apparently hooked on the Super Bowl?

HUNT: Mark, at the Haverford (ph) school, we had 71 boys who graduated. Steve Sabol was third. Let me just say, I ranked a little bit behind him, and so therefore I can't top him. I think he's absolutely right. It's the four pillars of our culture - violence, artistry, celebrity and noise, and people love it.

NOVAK: Let me disagree with that. I think that people have parties. I think a lot of women go to these parties, don't even watch the game. They want to drink and eat, so it's - it has very little to do with football.

SHIELDS: Not like our women.

CARLSON: Yeah, we love to drink and eat, and we don't know anything about throwing. Listen, I have a prediction. The NFC team has won in the last four Super Bowls in which there was a presidential election. So I'm picking the Panthers.

(CROSSTALK) O'BEIRNE: Given the track record of political pundits this election year with Iowa and New Hampshire, I am just grateful to see experts like Steve making predictions about football and know that he can be sometimes as wrong as some of us have been.

SHIELDS: I'll just close with one thought, and that is Bob Kraft has been a great owner of the New England Patriots. I'm a Patriots fan. But I have to have excessive admiration for Jerry Richardson, the owner of the Carolina Panthers, who had brought 550 employees and their wives and husbands, secretaries and security guards, to the game on his own expense, put them up, given them a ticket and given them meals. Bob, isn't that the kind of capitalism you'd like to see?

NOVAK: That's the first time I've ever heard you say anything nice about a rich person.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Bob, you do that, and I'll say nice things about you. Coming up, THE CAPITAL GANG Classic. Debating weapons of mass destruction just two years ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. A little less than two years ago, President Bush was asked whether Iraq was the next target in the war against terrorism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One thing I will not allow is a nation such as Iraq to threaten our very future by developing weapons of mass destruction. We are going to deal with them. And the first stage is to consult with our allies and friends.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: CAPITAL GANG discussed this on March 16, 2002. Our guest was then Senator Majority Whip Don Nickles of Oklahoma.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNT: I really don't think the president was reckless. I think we're going to try some other things first, and it will probably ultimately lead to force.

SHIELDS: Margaret, we have absolutely no evidence that Iraq was involved in any way in September 11, right?

CARLSON: No, and the way the president phrases it, we don't need to, that if they are developing weapons of mass destruction, and if they harbor terrorists of any kind, then we are able to go in.

NOVAK: The people I talk to in the Senate who get the briefing say there has been no reports of any substantial evidence of increased capability or intentions on the part of Iraq with weapons of mass destruction. The idea that the United States is going to take unilateral action to get rid of them has consequences in the world.

SEN. DON NICKLES (R-OK), MAJORITY WHIP: I don't think the United States is going to take unilateral action. I think you've seen the president say that he's going to be consulting with allies.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, didn't we have a pretty good idea two years ago that Iraq was the next target?

HUNT: Yes, on this issue, Mark, but -- and this is something that I've said on this show for more than 15 years, on the issue of Iraq, Bob Novak was more right than the rest of us.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: I didn't think they had weapons of mass destruction, but I didn't think they were going to attack Iraq, so I guess I was right on those scores. I think it's a good thing that Saddam Hussein is gone, but it's a great problem, political problem for the president as long as people die there. But this was - this - when Don Nickles said he wasn't going to do this unilaterally, he was wrong. It was bilaterally, with U.S. and the U.K. and nobody else.

CARLSON: Bob, you're right, it's a political problem, but it's actually a real problem if the United States went to war preemptively, unilaterally, nearly unilaterally, for weapons of mass destruction program related activities, which is what Bush is now calling it.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Well, most of the conventional wisdom in 2002 actually wound up being wrong, you know? George Bush is accused of not being willing to go to the U.N.; he did go to the U.N. and tried to get them on board. He wasn't supposedly going to go and get congressional authorization; he did go and get it. And we weren't going to have any allies, supposedly, and of course we had allies. Britain was, of course, central, but we had other allies too, Bob.

NOVAK: But also, what we went in there for was regime change. And I'm not saying - I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but it wasn't for weapons of mass destruction.

HUNT: Yeah, we also were saying at that time, Kate, that Saddam was bottled up. I don't know how he got unbottled in the next two years.

SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt. Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at Howard Dean going for broke in Michigan. We'll be joined by Bill Ballenger, of "Inside Michigan Politics."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. A week from today, Michigan will pick 128 Democratic convention delegates, more than any state voting on this coming Tuesday. Sidestepping the Tuesday primaries, Howard Dean is campaigning in Michigan against Senator Kerry. Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts came into the state to help his Massachusetts colleague.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We'll stand up for you. A Washington insider who shifts back and forth with every poll...

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: John Kerry is the man. John Kerry is the man.

The eyes of the country will be on Michigan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The latest Epic-MRA (ph) poll showed Kerry, 23 percentage points ahead of Howard Dean in the Wolverine State.

Joining us from Flynt, Michigan is Bill Ballenger. He's editor of "Inside Michigan Politics." Thanks for coming in, Bill.

BILL BALLENGER, EDITOR, INSIDE MICHIGAN POLITICS: My pleasure, Mark.

SHIELDS: Bill, is it possible for Howard Dean to stage that comeback in Michigan and overtake John Kerry?

BALLENGER: Well, Mark, in Michigan, anything is possible, but I doubt it.

SHIELDS: OK. Bob Novak.

NOVAK: How would it be possible, Bill? I mean, it's 23 points down, would it be - would Kerry have to make some kind of a mistake (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

BALLENGER: Well, he probably either would have to make a mistake, or Howard Dean somehow, with the attention he's given to Michigan so far, he is the only candidate who's been in Michigan personally since the New Hampshire primary, will have to kind of tap into some underdog feeling in the Michigan electorate and pull off a last-minute John McCain style upset. That seems to be very unlikely. The most recent poll shows Dean 23 points behind Kerry.

Michigan is famous for its upsets in presidential primaries. George Wallace in 1972. George H.W. Bush over Ronald Reagan in 1980. Jesse Jackson pulled a shocker in 1988 over Mike Dukakis. And of course, four years ago, McCain over George W. Bush. But this time, everything seems to be coalescing and coming together for John Kerry at the right moment.

Just two hours ago, Governor Jennifer Granholm endorsed John Kerry.

SHIELDS: OK, Margaret Carlson. CARLSON: Bill, Governor Granholm endorsed Senator Kerry today, but she was very clear about not supporting him on his call for the domestic auto industry to get 36 miles per gallon on its cars. How is that going to play out?

BALLENGER: Well, there is a real question about John Kerry and his acceptability to the auto industry here in Michigan, both management and labor. When you look at the auto industry, on the labor/Democratic side, they obviously were more enthusiastic about Dick Gephardt when he was in the race, and even Howard Dean, and there were several endorsements that Dean has gotten here.

John Kerry, of all the candidates, is probably the most suspect, because of his positions on CAFE standards and other issues relating to the auto industry.

So Jennifer Granholm, who has long had problems within her own party with organized labor, didn't want to send the message too early for John Kerry, that would make her look even more wobbly to organized labor on the issues they really care about.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Bill, how serious is the effort on the part of many to have Michigan replace New Hampshire as first in the nation come 2008, and is there any sense that next Saturday might be sort of a dress rehearsal for Michigan?

BALLENGER: That's a good question, Kate. Carl Levin, U.S. senator from Michigan, has spearheaded an effort for the last four years to make Michigan the first state, or to get some other states ahead of New Hampshire and Iowa. He thinks it's an atrocity that those states consistently lead off the voting. He thinks they are unrepresentative.

The Michigan Democrats want to make this a big statement election this year. The problem is, I don't think it's going to quite turn out the way they'd hoped. Even though they'd moved their caucuses way up, to February 7, about a month earlier than they were ever before, still nine states are before Michigan. And again, this is not a primary, closed or open. They're caucuses. And it looks at this point, despite their best efforts, Internet voting and ballot voting for a month before the actual caucuses that probably may be in the neighborhood of only about 150,000 people are really going to vote in this election.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Bill, let me pick up on that, though, because you can explain things in a succinct fashion better than most people can. I don't understand this. It's kind of part caucus, but a little bit primary? Internet voting. Who does that advantage and what effect is that going to have over the next week?

BALLENGER: Very good question. It was earlier thought that it would help Howard Dean and Wesley Clark the most, because they were the two candidates who had worked the hardest to raise money and had the best Internet capability. And in fact, seven candidates thought Michigan's effort to allow Internet voting - only Dean and Clark supported it.

At this point, that seems almost irrelevant. Believe it or not, today, there had been 105,000 applications for Internet ballots and paper ballots, and only 16,000 people have voted up to this point. Now, obviously, people are waiting to vote in the last few days before February 7, but the fact of the matter is that it doesn't look like that's going to be much of a factor in the result, and it looks like Kerry is going to have the nomination pretty much wrapped up by next Saturday, and Michigan is going to be a rubber-stamp this year.

SHIELDS: Bill Ballenger, thank you very much for joining us. THE GANG will be back with our "Outrages of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Now for "The Outrage of the Week." Humorist Garrison Keillor describes his fictional (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as the place where all the men are strong, all the women are good-looking and all the children are above average. Don't laugh. National school system is abolishing the academic honor roll, under pressure from parents who cite a state privacy law and the potentially hurt feelings of non- honor roll pupils. To avoid hurt feelings, what must go next? Spelling bees? All competitive sports involving a winner and a loser? The school play? The school newspaper? You see, not all children are above average. And academic achievement does deserve recognition.

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Senate Democrats, led by Ted Kennedy, were caught in the act last year. Internal e-mails revealed them conspiring with left- wing pressure groups to block confirmation of conservative judges. The plot was published in my column and "The Wall Street Journal," and now is available on www.fairjudiciary.com. But the Republican leadership granted Democrats an investigation, and may actually fire Republican staffers. What should be investigated are the corrupt practices revealed in the e-mails. This is a gut test for Majority Leader Bill Frist to see whether he capitulates to the Democrats.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Judge Gene Stephenson looked at the photo of a battered victim and announced the "too ugly to be raped" defense. Quote, "why would he want to rape her? She doesn't look like a day at the beach," close quote. He also offered the defendant a lenient plea deal, rejecting the prosecutor's insistence on a trial, where the defendant could get life in prison for robbing, beating and kidnapping his rape victim. Stephenson apologized. Chief Justice James Perry says that's enough, there will be no official reprimand. In Florida, a woman gets raped a second time by the judicial system.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne. O'BEIRNE: In Britain, Lord Hutton's report on the death of Dr. David Kelly, the expert on Saddam's weapons programs who committed suicide after he was named as the source of BBC's claims that he government sexed up intelligence estimates to justify war with Iraq, completely exonerated Tony Blair. The exposure of the BBC as sloppy and dishonest prompted the overdue resignations of top officials and the guilty reporter. British taxpayers pay for the BBC's liberal propaganda masquerading as news. Unlike the BBC, the poor late Dr. Kelly cared about the truth.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: One reason Medicare will cause the elderly and taxpayers more is the administration and congressional leaders killed provisions that would have let the federal government bargain for lower prices and let seniors buy cheaper prescription drugs in Canada. Now, Tom Scully, the administration's pointman on the bill, joined a firm lobbying for the drug industry. And Congressman Billy Tauzin, after protecting the industry's interests at the expense of seniors, has been offered a multi-million-dollar job as the drug industry's chief lobbyist. And people wonder why the public gets so incensed about special interests.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, you predicted last week the one and two finish in New Hampshire, congratulations. But who's going to win the Super Bowl?

NOVAK: Super Bowl is going to be won 14 to 13 by Carolina.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: The Patriots are going to win, but the Panthers are going to cover the spread.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Oh, I'm quitting when I'm behind, Mark. I'm behind on my political predictions.

SHIELDS: Margaret.

CARLSON: My heart is with the Patriots, but I think the Panthers are going to win.

NOVAK: And I will make another prediction. I think Kerry is going to sweep all the - all seven primary states.

SHIELDS: That's it. That's it. We've got enough predictions. Can we have the envelope, please? This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS: Harsh Continent." CNN's Kyra Phillips travels to the South Pole. Followed by "LARRY KING WEEKEND," a full hour with country singer Toby Keith. And at 10 p.m., what is the right diet for you? Matching diets to personality type. Thank you for joining us.

END TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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