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CNN CAPITAL GANG

ETA Leaders Deny Responsibility For Madrid Bombings; Gay Couple Sues New York For Marriage License; Presidential Campaign Starting Early This Year

Aired March 13, 2004 - 19:00   ET

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

ANNOUNCER: From New York, THE CAPITAL GANG.
MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to a special edition of THE CAPITAL GANG from New York City. I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Margaret Carlson, and in Greensboro, North Carolina, Robert D. Novak. Our guest is Mayor Michael Bloomberg of the Big Apple.

Thanks for being with us once again, Michael.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK CITY: Thank you for having me, Mark. And welcome to New York.

SHIELDS: Thank you.

A coordinated series of bomb blasts in the Spanish railroad commuter system killed close to 200 people. The Spanish government pointed to the ETA Basque separatist organization, but ETA implied that it was the work of al Qaeda.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGEL ACEBES, SPANISH INTERIOR MINISTER (through translator): ETA was trying to attempt this before the elections. They wanted a big dimension and create a big number of deceased and injured using explosives.

ARNALDO OTEGI, ETA POLITICAL LEADER (through translator): This isn't something that can be attributed to ETA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Meanwhile, in Washington, President Bush agreed to spend more than the one hour he had originally allotted to testifying before the independent 9/11 commission after Senator John Kerry accused him of lack of cooperation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the president of the United States can find the time to go to a rodeo, he can find the time to do more than one hour in front of a commission that is investigating what happened to America's intelligence...

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think he's someone who lets the facts get in the way of his campaign. I think I've made it very clear the type of unprecedented cooperation this commission -- this administration is providing to the commission.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, what is the significance for this country of the Spanish terrorist attack?

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: It's a tragic indicator that terrorists can strike any time, any place, in any number of different ways -- airplanes three years ago, trains this week, you know, perhaps ports tomorrow. This is a long-term war, and it can't be fought without a lot of sacrifices being made. It's even worse for America, however, if it was al Qaeda or al Qaeda in conjunction with some indigenous group because the message then would be that this is the price you pay for alliance with the U.S.

SHIELDS: Mayor Mike Bloomberg, you've been through this in your own city. What -- what is your own assessment of the -- both the political and the emotional fall-out of this?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I don't know that I agree with Al. I think it's the price you pay for standing up for democracy, that you will be a target, if it turns out to be al Qaeda. And I don't know any more than anybody else whether it will be or not. The truth of the matter is it's a dangerous world, but the average person has a lot more chance of being struck by lightning than terrorism. And the one thing I know for sure, the way to let the terrorists win is to let them alter our lifestyle, to let them take away our freedoms by not firing any shots or firing only a few shots. You've got to stand up for terrorism. We've seen that in Israel. We've seen that every place throughout this world. Terrorists win if the rest of us are cowards.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, what's remarkable about this one is that we don't get the claim for credit from any of the terrorist groups. In fact, if anything, there's denial. What do you -- do you make anything of that and the importance of it?

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: I think it's baffling. Usually, they're very eager to jump in. As Al suggested, it's a huge difference whether this is just another bloody Basque separatist outrage or whether it's al Qaeda because if it's al Qaeda, it gives the message to the world that you're in big trouble if you stand with the United States. But I agree with the mayor, it is a dangerous world, and we certainly -- I certainly hope that this is not a -- an answer to say, Oh, boy, oh, boy, we haven't done enough in the United States, this could happen to our commuter trains, because you can -- you can never be absolutely safe from this kind of -- these kind of murderous villains.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, the indigenous group that Al spoke of, the Basque separatist group, ETA -- its previous high body toll was 18 in 1987, an attack on a Barcelona supermarket. So -- and they -- for which they profusely apologized that the civilians -- so I mean, any -- you have any sense of who's responsible here and what it means?

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Well, it's not ETA's MO, as you say. And they're used to killing political officials from behind, with their spouses or families, and then announcing that they're celebrating afterwards. But it's three or four people, at most. It's not the Barcelona grocery store. So this would be a departure for them, which makes you think it is al Qaeda, and as others have said, a bad indication for us.

In this -- it's remarkable, too, this week that the president finally agreed to testify for longer than an hour before the 9/11 committee investigating our own terrorist attack. And I don't think it's because Kerry said it about the rodeo. I think it's because Karl Rove watched the Martha Stewart verdict and realized that even though you're not supposed to, people make judgments about people who don't take the stand. And I think that's why Bush is going before that 9/11 commission.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, your own sense? That's an intriguing analysis by our own Margaret Carlson.

NOVAK: Well, Margaret will do anything she can to bash the president when she can, and that -- that seems to be one of the great sports here. In all the cover-ups of Pearl Harbor in World War II, President Roosevelt never gave one minute, much less one hour to the many investigating commissions. And I really don't believe that her -- they want -- some of the people on the commission, like Mr. Benveniste, who's a Democratic activist, or former Congressman Romer, want to just give the president a hard time, and that's why his aides made a mistake in saying, Well, we'll only give them one hour, to protect him. But of course, that means that the media jumps in and says, You only have one hour, and John Kerry says, If you can go to the rodeo, you can give us more than an hour.

HUNT: Let me ask the mayor something, Mark. I'm glad, first of all, to see the full moon is out in Greensboro. Bob's still talking about Pearl Harbor cover-ups. But that was a pretty sophisticated operation over in Spain. And isn't -- doesn't Margaret have a point that it has all the earmarks of a group that's pretty darn good at this sort of horrible stuff?

BLOOMBERG: Well, the ETA has -- the Basques have lots of experience at terrorism. There are lots of organizations around the world that have experience at terrorism. What we've got to worry about is what can we do to make sure our cities, our country is safe in this kind of a world, without infringing on our rights to go about our business. You can't stop everything, go back into your house and lock the door. The terrorists will have won. That's not right. And the truth of the matter is, you really don't have that kind of risk. Most of us are going to be safe throughout our lives, and the odds are very much against anything happening.

SHIELDS: Last word, Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Mike Bloomberg and THE GANG we'll be back with an ugly week of Bush versus Kerry.

ANNOUNCER: Here is your CAPITAL GANG "Trivia Question of the Week." What is Mayor Michael Bloomberg's estimated worth? Is it, A, $40 million; B, $400 million; or C, $4 billion? We'll have the answer right after the break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Before the break, we asked, What is Mayor Michael Bloomberg's estimated worth? The answer is C, $4 billion.

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Prospective Democratic nominee John Kerry, speaking off camera and thinking he was not being recorded, attacked what he called "attack dogs."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group of people I've ever seen.

REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: To call people liars and crooks and particularly thinking that you're off-mike, just shows you who the real person is, not the person that is set up...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Meanwhile, the Bush campaign ran its first negative ads.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP - BUSH-CHENEY RADIO COMMERCIAL)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kerry would have delayed defending America until the United Nations approved, raise taxes, weaken the Patriot Act, delay defending America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry, wrong on taxes, wrong on defense.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - KERRY TELEVISION COMMERCIAL)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once again, George Bush is misleading America. John Kerry has never called for a $900 billion tax increase. He wants to cut taxes for the middle class.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak in Greensboro, North Carolina, is it too early for both candidates to begin throwing everything they have at each other?

NOVAK: Well, actually, they've been throwing -- the Democrats have been throwing everything they can at George W. Bush for well over a year, and he is just now -- just now belatedly starting to fight back, after his poll ratings have fallen. So the Democratic strategy is the minute he has a comparison ad showing the different record by Senator Kerry on defense and on taxes, they say, Oh, you're attacking us.

Now, I think that what John Kerry was caught saying by a microphone shows what the -- the way Democrats talk to each other when they refer to their opposition as liars and crooks. And I -- I don't think that really works very well in the general election. Maybe there has to be a little modification on the part of the Democrats.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, does Bob Novak make sense?

HUNT: Bob Novak, like Tom DeLay, is just shocked at that kind of language, and I can understand why. I think John Kerry better learn that there's always an open mike when you're running a presidential campaign. And Novak's probably right, that didn't help him a great deal.

But there also has to be some truth, Bob, in these -- in these various charges. And let me just give you one that the president made this week, in which he said that John Kerry wanted to propose to cut intelligence spending by $1.5 billion. Sounded pretty bad, two years after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. In fact, what it was, was for a spy satellite agency that had -- had $1.7 billion of unspent money, spent $300 million on their headquarters, and the Republican Congress cut that agency by $3.8 billion, twice as much. If you're going to make charges, that's fine. They ought to be truthful, however.

SHIELDS: Mike Bloomberg, this campaign really is heating up awful early...

BLOOMBERG: Every media...

SHIELDS: ... with eight months to go.

BLOOMBERG: ... company loves it. This is the way they pay the bills.

SHIELDS: What about the voters?

BLOOMBERG: I think the voters always complain about long election campaigns, but then they pay attention. Gives you something to talk about. And it's probably healthy, get your chance to -- a very quick campaign doesn't give people time to reflect and to see the candidates in different scenarios, as the Zeitgeist changes, as events unfold around the world.

SHIELDS: The only thing that kind of concerns you is, if you're running for reelection, there's only two ways you run. One is to run sort of the high road and say, This is what we've done, these are our achievements. The other is to say the other guy, you know, would steal a hot stove and go back for the smoke. And the Bush campaign seems to be adopting the second tactic.

BLOOMBERG: Well, you always start out by saying, I'm going to talk about what I did. Then the other side always attacks because they're there to argue that you should make a chance and that what's done is not acceptable. And that forces you into, If you attack me, I'm going to attack you. And every single campaign, you can write the script, we go through all the same cycle again and again and again. And you always say the same thing every year, "you" being every one of the columnists: Why is this campaign more vicious than the others? If you look back, they're all vicious.

SHIELDS: All vicious? Was Reagan vicious in 1980?

CARLSON: No! He had this lovely Rose Garden strategy, and then he -- and he had "morning in America" earlier. You know, the danger in going this negative this soon is that the guy with the most money wins. And in that case, you know, Bush has the upper hand. He spent $16 million last week. But of course, if he spends $16 million every week, even George Bush can't go into deficit spending in his campaign, the way he has with the country.

And the other advantage to Bush is that, as he did this week, he can go lay a wreath at the Spanish embassy and look presidential, and while at the same time saying to John Kerry, Your mother wears combat boots. So he gets to do both, whereas Kerry just has to stay negative because he doesn't have a Spanish embassy or a Rose Garden.

SHIELDS: Bob...

NOVAK: I just...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Go ahead, Bob.

NOVAK: I just wonder if somebody here besides me can see the difference between getting John Kerry's votes against defense appropriations -- they're all documented, they're all laid out over the years, that's the way he felt, he didn't want to spend that much money on defense and intelligence and saying that -- giving that to the people to make a judgment -- and calling people liars and crooks! I think there's a huge difference.

Now, I don't think he intended to do that publicly, but when you really think of your opposition as liars and crooks, that's going to make for some of these things bursting out in public.

CARLSON: But Bob, Tom DeLay called the president a liar, as I recall. When he's president, he's calling him a liar. John Kerry said Republicans. And the other thing is that, you know, a lot of that defense money wasn't spent very well. And as Al says, you can characterize these votes any way that you want. This was a spy satellite. It wasn't against all intelligence spending.

HUNT: You also -- George Bush doesn't have the "morning in America" option. You can't go to Ohio, you can't go to Wisconsin, you can't go to upstate New York and say it's morning in America. Reagan had that option because in 1984, people thought it was morning in America.

SHIELDS: That -- that, to me, Bob, just strikes me as the key to this election. I mean, there's a -- in 2000 -- in the year 1984, people thought the country was considerably better off than it had been in 1980. In 1996 -- when Ronald Reagan won reelection in 1980 -- in 1996, people thought the country was a lot better off after Bill Clinton had been there for four years. And George Bush does not have that option. Isn't that true? NOVAK: No, I -- I think that is -- that isn't really the point. The point -- the point is that -- that at the -- if you're going to take the James Carville approach to politics, to pound on George W. Bush constantly, and that's the way you get elected president, it may work, but you're going to have little outbursts of things that the candidate didn't mean to say.

SHIELDS: OK. Mike Bloomberg and THE GANG we'll be back with gay marriage in New York.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - MARCH 4, 2004)

BLOOMBERG: My message is very simple. If you want to change the laws, don't grandstand. Go to Albany and get it done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Two same-sex couples filed suit in New York City against the state after they were denied marriage licenses. The state attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, earlier said New York law does not permit such marriages to be performed in the Empire State.

Margaret Carlson, is such a liberal state as New York now saying no to gay marriages?

CARLSON: Well, like the mayor, the state is saying no until gay marriages are legal in New York, which one day they will be. That's where we're going. Too many people know too many gay people to write discrimination into the Constitution. The president is grandstanding by proposing a constitutional amendment. It's never going to pass. And I think it's cynical on his part, but that doesn't make it any -- any better.

SHIELDS: Mayor Mike Bloomberg, is your position substantially different from that of California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said, I have nothing against California -- against gay marriage, as long as the people pass that law?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I think whatever the law is, I, as mayor, am going to uphold the law. I've said that I don't think a constitutional amendment is the right ways to go. I don't think tampering with the Constitution for any of these things make any sense. It's too dangerous, and we don't have to. It should be up to each state.

In New York City, we have domestic partner benefits, so that you get many of the same benefits if you have a civil union or a recognized legal marriage. My company, for many years, we've done exactly the same thing. And I am in favor of giving the same rights to people, no matter what kind of a relationship they have. The term "marriage," that's up to the state legislature. That's the appropriate place to change the law. I'm a believer in a rule of law, and if you want to change it, go there.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak in Greensboro, North Carolina, Mayor Bloomberg make sense?

NOVAK: Well, yes. I believe that the -- see, I think Margaret's wrong. I don't think the people do want to make gay marriage legal in any state, even in -- even in Massachusetts, Mark. And...

SHIELDS: Thank you.

NOVAK: The people who are -- who are making it legal are not the people and are not the legislators, they're the judges. And so you're going to have, eventually, in a short amount of time, I believe, this is going to get to the U.S. Supreme Court. Predictably, they will vote 5-to-4 that it's unconstitutional to bar gay marriages, and then where are you? The Supreme Court has overruled the people, and that's why there's a need for an amendment to the federal Constitution.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt?

HUNT: Well, I mean, that's just batty (ph) to say that there's a need for a constitutional amendment when he doesn't even know what the case is, much less how the Supreme Court's going to rule. I mean, that -- that's absurd!

SHIELDS: Bob knows certain things, Al.

HUNT: We could -- we could -- we could have another 47 amendments to the Constitution. Couple thoughts. I think Mayor Bloomberg is absolutely right, and we ought to follow the rule of law here. I think, eventually, people will accept gay marriage, as well as civil unions, because you know why, Mark? It's not a threat to any of those of us that are not gay. And that's really the central issue here. I think, however, gay and lesbians make a huge mistake if they engage in any kind of civil disobedience. It is quite different than Selma, Alabama, and blacks in 1965, who had no other recourse. There is a legal recourse here, and they ought to follow it, otherwise, there will be a backlash.

BLOOMBERG: I think Barney Frank said it right, that if this is a cause that you favor, civil disobedience in this day and age does not further that cause. And Barney Frank certainly knows what he's talking about. He's been an openly gay congressman for a long time. He's a very smart guy. He's very well respected on both sides of the aisle. He certainly speaks from personal knowledge of discrimination against homosexuals. And I think that his point is well taken.

SHIELDS: Margaret, how would it play out politically, though, if Bob's point about constitutional amendment, that there is a ferment in 2004? I mean, doesn't it help George W. Bush and the Republicans?

CARLSON: You mean, I have to treat Bob seriously on this question?

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: Let me -- let me -- let me ask...

CARLSON: Hey, Bob, I think Mark asked me a question. SHIELDS: Yes. Go ahead. How do you think it plays out politically?

CARLSON: I think there'll be a slight cost to it, in the end, for Bush. He doesn't see that things are moving along. He had his base. He alienated the Log Cabin Republicans, who had been with him. So it is not a free piece of discrimination anymore.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak...

NOVAK: You know, Margaret...

SHIELDS: Go ahead, Bob.

CARLSON: Yes, Bob?

NOVAK: I'd like to...

CARLSON: Tell me, Bob.

NOVAK: I'd like to bring you down to North Carolina and you tell the people here that the -- that the courts -- some judges somewhere in Washington or New York or Massachusetts say that they have to have gay marriage, when they -- when they want to make it illegal. I'll bring you down to North Carolina, if you'd like, and you could talk to these real people down here.

CARLSON: Can I -- can I go to North Carolina without you? Then I'd go to North Carolina.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: I'm just pleased that Bob's with the real folks at the ACC (ph) basketball tournament.

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: Mike Bloomberg, before we let you go, we understand you've been doing a little moonlighting. We caught you filming an upcoming episode of "Law and Order," playing none other than Mike Bloomberg. Now, is this -- is this -- is this truly, I mean, a theatrical option, if things get too hot in New York?

BLOOMBERG: Mark, I don't want you to speculate, but my schedulers have saved the night of the Emmy Awards just in case.

(LAUGHTER)

HUNT: We thought we had a mayor, we got a matinee idol!

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Senator Thompson was there. If Fred can do it, I can do it, you know? SHIELDS: There you go. But he had to leave office to do it. Don't forget that.

BLOOMBERG: Yes, well, I'm going to stay for another six years, and then I'm going to need a career.

SHIELDS: All right. There, we just got the announcement. Thanks for joining us, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and good luck on your budding theatrical career.

Coming up on the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG, our "Sidebar" story is the maverick John McCain flirting with a Kerry-McCain ticket. And "Beyond New York," what does the new Iraq look like nearly one year since the war began? We'll get the view on the ground from CNN's own Walt Rodgers. And our "Outrages of the Week" all after the latest news headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: From New York, THE CAPITAL GANG.

MARK SHIELDS, CO-HOST: Welcome back to the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG from New York City. I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt and Margaret Carlson and in Greensboro, North Carolina Robert D. Novak.

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" and was asked whether he would even entertain the idea of being John Kerry's running mate on the Democratic ticket or would he rule it out?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: John Kerry is a very close friend of mine. We've been friends for years, so obviously I would entertain it, but there is -- I see no scenario, no scenario, no scenario.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SHIELDS: Senator McCain's comments came during a week during which he joined with Democrats in the Senate to pass a budget amendment that would have the effect of making it very difficult to cut taxes in the future.

Bob Novak, should a Kerry/McCain ticket in any way be taken seriously?

NOVAK: No, don't take it seriously at all. The idea of John McCain, who he said in that interview, is a pro-life, anti- protectionist, free trade.

(INTERRUPTED BY CNN COVERAGE OF BREAKING NEWS)

SHIELDS: Walter, is this interim constitution really the beginnings of democracy or is it simply an imposed solution?

WALTER RODGERS, CNN SR. INTL CORRESPONDENT: Well let's have a reality check first Mark. One of the provisions of that constitution says that none of the legislation adopted here in Iraq can contradict the tenants of Islam. Now, I looked (UNINTELLIGIBLE) around the Islamic world and I looked for an Islamic democratic prototype and that sounds like something that might be written in Iran.

Look at the Saudis, just to the south here. They're not a democracy. They're governed by 11 ruling princes, the country's ruling family running a business. Again, it's difficult to see how this is going to germinate into a democracy, the kind that the administration has promised and not for want of trying.

But having said that, how does democracy bloom in a country where you've got armed gangs running around. No U.S. civilian official is allowed to go anywhere in this country now without wearing a Kevlar helmet and body armor and they're advised to take military escorts wherever they go. Two Americans were killed here this last week.

Insecurity is not conducive to democracy. There are intelligence experts in this part of the world who will tell you flatly, privately that this country may be closer to civil war than it is to the kind of democracy the Bush administration is promising in Iraq.

And finally, let's look at this fact. The Bush administration is pretty well trapped here. You can have American troops in Iraq for five to 10 years. That means they're necessary to provide security and stability here in the hope somewhere democracy may germinate here. And the Bush administration is caught between a rock and a hard place.

The rock is their promise that there will be a new democracy in the Middle East in Iraq. And the hard place is Islam, which is not traditionally conducive to democracy -- Mark.

SHIELDS: OK, Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Walter, the Iraqi army was disbanded, which I think was a mistake ultimately, but so that the United States could clear and approve a new police force and wouldn't have people with weapons that they hadn't. And yet, this attack on the Americans was Iraqi policemen who had infiltrated the police force. What's the United States going to do about that?

RODGERS: It's going to sweat a lot because there are at least 70,000 policemen and the vetting process obviously wasn't that good. Margaret, I think most people here would agree with you in hindsight and I heard some senior officials suggest as much, that in retrospect it wasn't a very good idea to totally disarm the Iraqi army and put them out of business. That they might in fact have been co-opted and they might have been very useful in pacifying this country and in fact establishing some sort of law and order, which is almost non-existent now. It's a tough place -- Margaret.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Walt, back to this constitution and the process, the June 30 date when there is supposed to be a handover, what do the Shias, as you've reported, comprise, what, 60 percent of the country. What game or what is that powerful Ayatollah Sistani up to and how is it going to play out between now and June 30?

RODGERS: Al, it's all about power and the Shias are between 60 and 65 percent of the population of this country. They were one of the most oppressed people here during the dominant Sunni rule of Saddam Hussein and they want their share of the pie now. Now what's very interesting is the game that Ayatollah Ali Sistani has been playing. The Bush administration through Paul Bremer has tried to give the impression that he acquiesced to the constitution. But remember, Sistani still has yet to meet with the American administrator here in person, Paul Bremer.

And Sistani has given every indication outside of the administration's spin that he did not acquiesced. He still opposes it. He's just laying low for the time being. The U.S. has got plenty of problems here and as I say, there are intelligence analysts who suspect that this country and I'm talking about Arabs as well, who think this country could just as easily spin in the direction of civil war. That's not inevitable, but it certainly is possible.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak in Greensboro.

NOVAK: Walt, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as I am to seeing the brighter side of things, I just wonder if something ought to be said for the fact that we don't have a brutal dictatorship that is murdering people that is imprisoning people. That -- I visited Iraq during the days of Saddam Hussein and it was a police state. Isn't that - this is not going to be Iowa, but it is a lot different than it was and shouldn't a word be said for that?

RODGERS: Well, yes, Bob you're right, but remember, the unemployment here is much, much higher than when Saddam was here. And people don't care just as long as they've got jobs and they can eat as to who's sitting on the throne here in Iraq. And remember, how much security - the thing everybody in this part of the world wants is security. And how can you talk about stability and I'm not defending Saddam here. What I am saying is that people feel generally less secure now than they did before. They feel certainly less economically secure and there are armed gangs roaming around the country and it was less than a week -- or a week and a half ago that you had bombs going off in mosques here on a holy day that killed close to 200 Shias praying. It's not an either or proposition. It is bad on both counts and it's bad now too is all I'm saying.

SHIELDS: Walter Rodgers, I want to thank you on behalf of us. Once again, you brought to us not only on the scene, but just incredibly thoughtful reporting.

"The Gang" will be back with the "Outrage of the Week".

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week". There are two ways for Democrats to respond to George W. Bush's becoming the first president since Richard Nixon to refuse to accept federal campaign spending limits. The right way is what the Kerry campaign is doing, seeking to raise $80 million legally and individual contributions before the July convention.

The wrong way is for Democratic palls, labor unions, and feminists and environmental interest groups to evade the federal law by raising millions in soft money simply to beat Bush/Cheney. Add to that the Democratic reformers who prefer to look away while soft money, millions are being raised -- Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Mark, Tony Raimondo, a Nebraska industrialist, was chosen by President Bush as manufacturing czar, but never will serve. The word was leaked to Senator John Kerry who in his new generalist mode attacked Raimondo for opening a factory in China, which actually only serves the Chinese market and helps support sales jobs in America. Democrats pledged to kill the confirmation of Raimondo and the nomination was killed. But President Bush is not blameless. He failed to alert Republicans, Nebraska's Republican Senator Chuck Hagel and Governor Mike Johanns, who could have helped win confirmation.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, conservative Judge David Sentell has decided that his pal Ken Starr was very, very good and Bill Clinton was very, very bad. Why else would the Clinton folks ensnared by Starr's investigation get only two percent of their legal fees reimbursed and Republicans in Democratic probes like Iran Contra get most of theirs despite convictions? Sentell applied the appropriate rule entirely backwards. Career prosecutors would have gone after Reagan/Bush White House aides for selling arms to Iran, but career prosecutors would never spend $70 million chasing Monica Lewinsky and her mother. Justice Lynn Partisan (ph) is always blind.

CARLSON: Al Hunt.

HUNT: The chief Medicare actuary, Richard Foster, says his boss, Bush appointee Tom Scully, threatened to fire him if he told Congress the truth last year about the cost of the Medicare drug bill. When confronted Scully, now a lobbyist to the healthcare industry, referred a night (UNINTELLIGIBLE) reporter to a Senate staffer for reputation. Her response, Scully -- quote -- "is a liar" -- end quote.

The drug bill would not have passed if the administration hadn't cooked the books. There needs to be a full investigation, perhaps even a criminal one.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG.

Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS" "True Believers", life inside the Dean campaign, at 9:00 p.m. "LARRY KING WEEKEND" and an interview with Donald Trump and at 10:00 p.m. the latest news headlines.

Thank you for joining us.

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Couple Sues New York For Marriage License; Presidential Campaign Starting Early This Year>


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