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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Current, Former Cabinet Members Continue Testimony Before 9/11 Commission; Sen. Kerry Unveils New Economic Plan; Ousted President Aristide May Return To Haiti

Aired March 27, 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. That's Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.

Richard Clarke, who was counterterrorism chief for both President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush, kicked off publication of his new book with an interview on CBS's "60 Minutes" which attacked Mr. Bush's policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - "60 MINUTES")

RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER: I think he's done a terrible job on the war against terrorism. I find it outrageous that the president is running for reelection on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism. I think the way he has responded to al Qaeda, both before 9/11, by doing nothing, and by what he's done after 9/11 has made us less safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Three days later, this criticism of President Bush was continued under oath before the independent 9/11 commission.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARKE: Fighting terrorism in general and fighting al Qaeda in particular were an extraordinarily high priority in the Clinton administration.

I believe the Bush administration, in the first eight months, considered terrorism an important issue but not an urgent issue.

By invading Iraq, the president of the United States has greatly undermined the war on terrorism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Senate majority leader Bill Frist yesterday called for declassification of Richard Clarke's sworn testimony to Congress in 2002.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: It is one thing for Mr. Clarke to dissemble in front of the media, in front of the press. But if he lied under oath to the United States Congress, it's a far, far more serious matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, has Richard Clarke's testimony seriously damaged President Bush's credibility as a fighter against terrorism?

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Mark, it certainly seemed this week that the White House disagrees with me when I say that I think, overall, on balance, the president will be helped by all of this attention to how he handled terrorism both pre and post-9/11. The question this November is -- the relevant question on the topic -- who is going to be tougher on fighting terrorism, President Bush or John Kerry? Polls tell us that by a very wide margin, the public consistently thinks they can expect George Bush to be much tougher.

I think Richard Clarke, the single point he's making -- he hurt his own credibility by not being willing to criticize the Clinton administration. So the single point he winds up making is that George Bush should have done in eight months what the Clinton administration failed to do in eight years. And on its face, that's a ridiculous proposition.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, obviously, the White House was really at 24/7 full-court press, attack dogs, everything loose on the guy. If he double parked outside an orphanage, I'm surprised they haven't revealed it, at this point.

(LAUGHTER)

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: This -- they're very upset. They're a panicky bunch over there anyway. But Richard Clarke was considered by the hard-liners outside the administration as the best guy in the Clinton administration on terrorism -- very -- privately he was very critical of the administration. A book called "Losing bin Laden" by Richard Minatur (ph), which is very hard on Clinton -- it wasn't a secret source. Obviously, the main source of the book was Clarke, who tells him how they dropped the ball in not going after Usama bin Laden after the attack on the USS Cole.

Well, he's -- he wasn't treated well in this administration. They aren't very nice to outsiders. He was disrespected, didn't get to see the president, didn't get the job he wanted. He leaves. And he's really like a Democratic operative now! Rand Beers, who was his successor and has -- has become -- left -- resigned to become Kerry's adviser, is his best friend. It's really a -- it's really part of a Democratic campaign right now.

SHIELDS: This is a Democratic campaign?

NOVAK: Yes. Yes, it is.

SHIELDS: OK, now, what about the substance of the charges, Al? I mean, his -- that Mr. Clarke -- I mean, does that have anything to do with it or...

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: I mean, if you're guilty because of your best friend, I guess that -- or a good friend, I guess that some people are going to associate me with Bob Novak, which I'd like to say is not true right away. Look, of course...

NOVAK: That I'm your friend?

HUNT: No, you're a good friend, but...

NOVAK: Oh.

HUNT: ... but I don't associate myself. Look, I want to say that, of course, it was a very effective charge, or otherwise you wouldn't have seen this hysterical scorched-earth reaction. And it was irrational, some of the reaction. Dick Cheney said he was out of the loop, but terrorism was an important priority. Well, if the anti- terrorism chief is out of the loop, how can terrorism be an important priority?

Clarke dealt a lethal blow against what is the central rationale for George Bush's reelection, as Kate said, I'm tough on terrorism. And it came from a guy who was widely respected by people from both parties, as former colleagues in the Bush and Clinton administration have attested. His main sin was he was a zealot against terrorism. Unfortunately, he was right.

A final point I would make, Mark. This is the third high-level Bush appointee who has left and said, basically -- or implied the president was in over his head -- Paul O'Neill, the treasury secretary, John DiUlio, head of faith-based initiative, and now Dick Clarke. And the White House response is that they're all liars, prevaricators or unstable, which raises the question, why does George Bush appoint people to such important posts who are so unqualified, if you take them at their word?

SHIELDS: Well, Margaret Carlson, "Newsweek" has a poll out tonight which says that support for the president -- of the president's handling of the war against terrorism has dropped from 70 percent to 57 percent, which suggests that perhaps the White House knew what they were doing politically by trying to head this off because it apparently has got some traction in the country.

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Yes. I think it's hard to characterize Clarke as a Democratic -- now a Democratic Party operative. He's -- he's been working for Republican presidents. Clinton's the only Democrat he worked for. He's a lifetime public servant. And he doesn't come across as a partisan. He comes across as a serious guy. And to say he was out of the loop -- within the White House, he was the loop. And Condi Rice this week went from saying, you know, he wasn't -- you know, he -- he gave us a plan that we didn't really like. It was just a laundry list -- to saying he was the crisis manager, and yes, they did move to adopt the plan. In fact, she contended there was a military aspect to the plan, and Richard Armitage had to come out and correct her. No, there was no military aspect to the plan before 9/11. O'BEIRNE: The reason he comes across as a partisan is because he's so directly contradicting himself on the record. Two years ago, he was praising the Bush administration for putting enormous new resources into the CIA to fight terrorism. He -- and now he's saying they've done nothing. And his unwillingness to criticize the Clinton administration, when they were ignoring so many of his recommendations, when he now says had under Bill Clinton we'd gone aggressively after Afghanistan militarily, we could have wiped out the conveyor belt. He regrets that didn't happen but won't criticize the Clinton administration.

CARLSON: You know, I have not read the congressional testimony because it's still classified. They'll put it out. Democrats who've read it said that it doesn't contradict. And I read the press briefing, and that was -- that is what any senior administration official doing a backgrounder to the press would say. It wasn't at all...

NOVAK: But it's...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: If I could -- if I could just say that he -- there's no question that he was highly critical to many people of the Clinton administration. And this is a 180 change in direction. And also, he has -- my sources tell me he has tremendous personal contempt for Condoleezza Rice. He considers her a lightweight. It's very personal. And he thinks he was disrespected...

HUNT: The book does have...

NOVAK: ... by the Bush gang.

HUNT: I've read the book. It does have some criticism of Clinton. But I think the most McCarthy-istic attack this week came from someone that I have long admired, and that is Bill Frist, the senator who we had on the intro. And you know, serving as a lapdog for Karl Rove, which is what he was, Senator Frist said -- he accused Mr. Clarke of committing perjury, and said, Let's release his classified testimony, but no one else's. And then, incredibly, he said that Clarke engaged in "theatrical arrogance" when he apologize to the families of the victims of 9/11 for not doing enough.

NOVAK: I think that was...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: I would love to have Senator Frist or Bob Novak go before those families, look them in the eye and say it's wrong to apologize. I'd love -- I challenge you to do it.

NOVAK: I think -- I think -- I think that was a show, and I think that was -- he milking applause from those people. And I think that was what you should be criticizing if you had some worry about those people because he was using them.

HUNT: Why don't you go before the families and tell them that.

SHIELDS: Last word.

NOVAK: Oh, why don't you!

SHIELDS: Last word -- last word, Bob Novak, Al Hunt. The GANG of five will be back with the other witnesses before the 9/11 commission.

ANNOUNCER: Here is your CAPITAL GANG "Trivia Question of the Week." Richard Clarke was advising President Bush on what type of security when he resigned last year? Was it, A, border security; B, transportation security; or C, cyber-security? We'll have the answer right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Before the break, we asked, what type of security was Richard Clarke advising the president on when he resigned last year? The answer is C, cyber-security.

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Senior officials of both the Bush and Clinton administration testified before the 9/11 commission, defending their conduct in the war on terrorism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I think I'm known well enough inside and outside the government as somebody who was always willing to match diplomacy with force. And so I do believe that we used force when it was appropriate, and strongly.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: At no time during the early months of our administration were we presented with a vetted, viable, operational proposal which would have led to an opportunity to kill, capture or otherwise neutralize Osama bin Laden.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: A less defensive position was taken by Bill Clinton's last defense secretary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I believe that we have been complacent as a society. I think that we have failed to fully comprehend the gathering storm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, what has the 9/11 commission really learned?

HUNT: Well, I think the first thing you have to say, Mark, is the commission established its value, its legitimacy for -- for being. It was a serious, transparent and thoughtful process, and I think we ought to give John McCain credit for forcing this independent commission over -- over President Bush's objection.

The bottom line is that the Clinton administration got it, belatedly, that terrorism was the greatest threat facing us, but they were too reactive and too often ineffective in dealing with it. The first eight months, the Bush administration didn't even get it. Before 9/11, bin Laden and the fight against al Qaeda was considered the folly of Clintonian softness, that basically, real men were for missile defense and let's take on China. John Ashcroft cut the budget for anti-terrorism. The anti-terrorism task force never met. And maybe that's the growing pains of a new administration, but we paid a price for it.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, what's your take on it?

NOVAK: Well, that isn't what the commission learned. That sounded like it comes out of the Democratic National Committee. I know it came out of Al Hunt's fevered imagination instead. But all the -- all these -- I don't think this commission learned much. I think it was pretty much a waste of time. The Pearl Harbor commissions never came to any conclusion, and on a much less complicated arrangement. This is very -- very complicated.

But it was inevitable that they were going to break down into partisan bickering and partisan rancor, which they did on the Dick Clarke testimony. When you got a very mean partisan Democrat like Richard Ben Veniste out there, you know that it's just going to be a pounding on -- on the Republicans. And I don't -- I think -- I didn't -- I don't -- I listened to as much as I could. I didn't learn a thing.

SHIELDS: You thought that Ben Veniste was more partisan than either John Lehman or Jim Thompson?

NOVAK: All pretty partisan.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: All pretty partisan. OK, Bob Novak...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: I don't think Mr. Ben Veniste has ever worked in a Democratic campaign, but maybe Bob could correct this for the record.

O'BEIRNE: I don't know why -- I don't know why...

NOVAK: He does -- he does it 24/7 for the Democratic campaign.

O'BEIRNE: Why would a senior member of the Clinton administration be serving on the commission, who was at the Justice Department, when, in fact, the Justice Department in the Clinton administration bears some of the...

NOVAK: Jamie...

O'BEIRNE: ... blame? Yes, exactly. Jamie Gorelick's a member of the commission. There's got to be a conflict right there.

I supported the creation of the commission despite experience in Washington that tells me they so rarely wind up being all that useful. They so frequently wind up just being political -- deteriorating into political animals. But I think it's so crucial to look at what might have gone wrong before 9/11, in the interests of fixing it to make sure it doesn't happen again, that I was willing to suspend my -- my skepticism. I think they have largely been doing that, the commission. I think we've learned a lot of interesting things about how the CIA and FBI weren't operating correctly. But this week, they deteriorated into that kind of partisan bickering. This week, Democratic members on that commission cared more about boosting Richard Clarke's credibility than about getting to the truth of what might (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fixed.

CARLSON: You know, of all those people, I thought that Jamie Gorelick brought the most cool-headed, level-headed, intelligent questions. You know, she's a -- she's a lawyer, and I thought she did a good job.

O'BEIRNE: To (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the administration!

CARLSON: There was no emotion...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Looking at her questions, I question whether you'd say that she was a partisan...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: She was as -- wait a minute! She was as...

SHIELDS: I spoke for the first time in two segments! (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Margaret speaking.

CARLSON: Yes, she was in the administration, but she's not a partisan political hack, by any means. She doesn't work for candidates. She doesn't do that kind of thing.

OK, now, here's the person who we didn't hear from on -- at the commission hearings that had to retract a couple of things she said before, and that's Condoleezza Rice, because of what the commission has found. She -- she asked to correct the fact that she said there'd never been any mention of airplanes being used as missiles, and in fact, the commission said, Yes, the U.S. intelligence agencies and Richard Clarke had learned of this. So she pulled that back. Same with aluminum tubes.

Now, I think what really hurts the commission is not hearing from Condi Rice, who seems to have all the time in the world to be on every TV program, except for "The Apprentice," saying what she...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Wait a minute! They claim that... CARLSON: And executive privilege...

NOVAK: They claim that's executive -- my opinion, I think that's all a lot of baloney. I think she should testimony. I don't think there's any question about that. But that's -- that's the fault of the -- Bush administration's got a lot of faults, and that's one of them.

But let me say Jamie Gorelick is a lawyer. She really is a lawyer.

CARLSON: Yes.

NOVAK: You're right on that.

CARLSON: Thank you.

NOVAK: And when she cross-examines Don Rumsfeld, she is looking for -- for -- for something she can put her -- her teeth in. She's like a cross-examining lawyer! You have to be a partisan Democrat to look at her and say, Gee, she's fair!

HUNT: And you thought Jim Thompson was totally fair, right, Bob?

NOVAK: Of course not! I told you...

HUNT: All right...

NOVAK: ... they went down into (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

HUNT: All right, let me -- I think that was rare, as a matter of fact. I think all of them on both sides, by and large, did a good job. Let me just say one thing about Rice. You have to go back to John Poindexter to find a national security adviser whose veracity is under such attack as Dr. Rice's right now. And I'll tell you one thing...

NOVAK: What about Dick (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

HUNT: One reason she is not testifying before that committee is not because of executive privilege, or not principle. This is about politics. That's what it's about. And they're afraid that they'll ask the question, What did George Bush know? When did he know it, or what did he not know?

O'BEIRNE: Except she's testifying in private!

HUNT: And eventually -- eventually, she has to testify in public.

SHIELDS: The only person this week that had a worse week than the administration was Condi Rice. I mean, not only that, Margaret's right, she was available on MTV, on ESPN II...

O'BEIRNE: She's been available to the commission!

SHIELDS: She was available anywhere you looked. She...

O'BEIRNE: She's available to them!

SHIELDS: Not under oath! Not in public. And not to understand -- the dumbness of that political operation not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) understand you got two secretaries of state, two secretaries of defense, national security adviser -- it's a big event, folks. It's a major...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: And you know what it is? It has become an auto da fe on Bush and the administration.

CARLSON: Oh!

NOVAK: Let's not say that this is a careful, non-partisan investigation.

SHIELDS: Are you using French again?

CARLSON: Yes!

(LAUGHTER)

O'BEIRNE: Having said that, I think -- I think she would help her cause and the administration's if she appeared in public.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: She will have to or...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: You have the right not to testify, but it's always held against you.

SHIELDS: Last word -- remember Jerry Ford testified? Next on CAPITAL -- when he was president -- on CAPITAL GANG, John Kerry's big tax cut.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Senator John Kerry, the prospective Democratic presidential nominee, unveiled his economic plan as President Bush also went on the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we are willing to close loopholes and abuses in our tax system, then we can afford to lower taxes in the right way.

We can and we should reduce the corporate tax rates by 5 percent. Everything that the Bush campaign is trying to do is designed to distort one clear fact. My plan doesn't raise taxes on the middle class. My plan cuts taxes for the 98 percent of Americans who make under $200,000 a year.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks to being the most productive workforce in America, and I might say, thanks to good policies, this economy is strong and it's getting stronger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The two campaigns released duelling television ads.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH CAMPAIGN COMMERCIAL: John Kerry's plan will raise taxes by at least $900 billion his first 100 days in office. And that's just his first 100 days!

KERRY: We need to get some things done in this country -- affordable health care, rolling back tax cuts for the wealthy, really investing in our kids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, has Senator Kerry preempted the Republicans with his corporate tax cut?

NOVAK: No, of course not. The only people who are interested in that are corporations, and they're smart enough to look at it and know it's a Rube Goldberg invention. You got to jump through about three or four hoops to get the tax cut. It's a typical Democratic kind of tax cut, where instead of just saying, Let's cut taxes, they've got to have all these conditions -- If you do that and if you do this.

But what was very interesting is that John Kerry, who was so tough in the primary election campaigns, much more -- much softer in this speech. You know, I really want the -- to -- for the corporations to love me. It's typical. After you clinch the nomination, you turn toward the middle.

CARLSON: Bush likes a simple -- I mean, Bob likes a simple tax cut, which is one that goes to him and his, quote, "ilk." Yes, this is complicated because, you know, maybe -- maybe some...

NOVAK: Why do you personalize everything with me?

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: ... someone in the middle class is going to get it, and someone in the working class. The atmospherics of those two pieces of video -- you have Bush, who his entire economic program for job growth is to make the tax cuts permanent -- which, by the way, haven't worked yet. Three million jobs are gone. And then you have Kerry, who does want to create jobs and does want to help the middle class, look like he's dressed by "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: It's all wrong!

SHIELDS: Wrong! Al Hunt, looking at this, is John Kerry, though, playing into the Republican game of saying, I can cut taxes, because you know that the Republicans will always -- if you get into that fight, they'll always double it and triple it and say, We're going to cut taxes more?

HUNT: No, I don't think so. Look, let me tell you, I'd give John Kerry a B-plus for this week. He gave...

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

HUNT: He gave -- I'll tell you what. As a college professor, I'd give him a B-plus. He gave a very pedestrian speech at a Democratic unity dinner Thursday night. I didn't -- I was at a basketball game -- truth in packaging -- but I read it and I saw excerpts on it. It wasn't very good. It was silly to unveil a big economic plan on a Friday afternoon, a bad -- a bad news day. But substantively, that plan gets an A. It was very good. First of all, it was assembled by Bob Rubin and Roger Altman, Gene Sperling, as well as some of the young people. The grown-ups are back and making economic policy.

And Bob, it's really quite easy to understand. What you do is, you say, We're going to take away that provision in the code that creates an incentive for people -- for companies to go overseas, and instead, we're going to give tax credits for people who create jobs here at home.

SHIELDS: Creating jobs at home!

HUNT: And I'll tell you something. That's something that's going to resonate with people, and that's a debate they ought to have every day of the week.

O'BEIRNE: Look, the plan's not going to have the effect that John Kerry claims it is. He's sort of using to address the outsourcing of jobs problem. It's not going to have an effect on that. But it's far better he's talking about cutting corporate -- taxes on corporations than he's talking about backing off of free trade policy. So that's welcome.

I think the Republicans ought to see him and raise him, sure. Now that he's figured out that corporations actually hire workers and are owned by shareholders, let's cut corporate taxes. But if he raises taxes on people who make more than $200,000, he's going to be hitting small businesses. They create more jobs than corporations. It's no time to be raising taxes on small businesses.

SHIELDS: Well, I know an awful lot of people whose taxes are going to be raised if John Kerry wins, and unfortunately, a lot of them are sitting at this table. But I will say...

NOVAK: How about you?

SHIELDS: I will say this. Will my taxes be raised by John Kerry?

NOVAK: Yes.

SHIELDS: I hope so. I hope to be making as much as you are, Bob, some day. But I will say this. John Kerry had a great week. Why? Because he didn't say a word all week!

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: As long as the Bush people had this -- this circular firing squad they had -- he's out in Idaho! He ought to stay there!

Coming up in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG: a "CAPITAL GANG Classic," Bill Clinton's war on terror six years ago. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at what the assassination of the Hamas leader has done to the peace process. And coming up next, Robert Novak in Haiti, looking at the state of that troubled country after the deposition of Aristide.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Carol Lin. More of CAP GANG in just a moment, but first these headlines. Five Iraqis are nursing moderate wounds from a roadside bombing in Baghdad. The U.S. military says their SUV was passing by just as the bomb went off today.

Guerrilla violence reportedly killed 4 other Iraqis around the country this weekend.

Mounting political pressure in Taiwan. After massive demonstrations in the capital, Taiwan's president cleared the way for a recount of last weekends razor close presidential election. The president faces he staged a failed assassination attempt to get sympathy votes. And that's a charge he strongly denies.

U.S. weather forecasters are helping track a rare storm stystem spiraling off the coast of Brazil. They say it's a category 1 hurrican and could make land fall this weekend. A hurricane has not been recorded in the South Atlantic since satellite tracking began in 1966.

Those are the headlines. Now back to the CAPITAL GANG.

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

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

Bob Novak was in Haiti earlier this week reporting on the Western Hemisphere's poorest country three weeks after the departure under pressure of elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An international force, including 1,400 U.S. Marines has brought some order to Haiti but not before pro-Aristide demonstrators went on rampages of looting and destruction.

Some 200 armed men wrecked a five-building apparel factory complex in the slums of Port-au-Prince. It employs 700 workers in city Soleil, the core of Aristide's political support, the cost to the factory owners over $3 million in damages.

This container storage area was stripped bare by pro-Aristide looters who had to be driven off by the Marines when they arrived. The country's financial reserve was also looted in the last days of Aristide.

GERARD LATORTUE, HAITIAN PRIME MINISTER: The Aristide people before leaving the country took whatever they could take from the reserve of this country. The number of checks issued to the order of their friends, lobbyists and others is enormous.

NOVAK: According to provisional Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, Aristide left the government of this desperately poor country in a state of bankruptcy. The prime minister spoke to me in his private office in the prime minister's building.

LATORTUE: We believe that in the last four weeks before the departure of President Aristide the country has lost over $1 billion.

NOVAK: I asked the provisional president, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Boniface Alexandra, about demands by Aristide supporters for his return from exile currently in Jamaica.

He responded that the former president cannot return now because it would provoke disorder. The Minister of Justice Bernard Grousse said Aristide could come back under one set of conditions.

BERNARD GROUSSE, HAITIAN JUSTICE MINISTER: If he would return to Haiti, he would return because we would have asked for his extradition and that the conditions for a fair trial would be (unintelligible).

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOVAK: Nevertheless, the possibility of a second return by Aristide is a cloud over Haiti inhibiting investment which is urgently needed there.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, can the Bush administration be criticized for supporting the ouster of Haiti's democratically elected president?

MARGARET CARLSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can criticize the Bush administration for just about anything but I think it's Clinton who really lost Haiti by not doing more after restoring Aristide to power and then the Bush administration comes in and they don't like nation building, except in Iraq, and they don't do anything to help Haiti until it's too late to do anything and it's taken over by armed thugs.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

KATE O'BEIRNE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The democratically elected Aristide, can you knock that off given that the last elections no one thinks were on the -- were on the up and up. He's a thug who has ripped off the country, as Bob pointed out. How long are our troops going to have to remain there Bob?

NOVAK: I think for a very long time to maintain order. Everybody I talked to really believes that they should restore the army. They should have a reformed army that isn't trying to have coups all the time.

But as a matter of fact what you have now, I talked to students who used to be pro-Aristide, he has no support there right now and I thought it was interesting. The justice minister wants to put him on trial and there's plenty of crimes, particularly the looting of the financial reserves of the country.

SHIELDS: Al, isn't a democrat election though necessary for legitimacy, the leadership in the country that has had in the past free elections, democratic elections?

AL HUNT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Eventually, yes, but this is nation building and we're going to have to build institutions. We're going to have to get investment there and we're going to have to try to pressure those people, those acting presidents and prime ministers not to play around with the thugs and murderers who are every bit as bad as anybody, anybody associated with Aristide. If we don't do that then all we're going to have is continued violence again.

NOVAK: They're not as bad. The prime minister, acting prime minister...

HUNT: I didn't say the prime minister.

NOVAK: The prime minister is a very distinguished nation's technocrat. He was in development work in Africa and he regards these people as freedom fighters.

I talked to Guy Philippe who was the leader of the forces and I think he was the police commissioner of (unintelligible). He's not a thug. If you went down there, Al, and you met him I think you would find he's a very reasonable young man who does not -- who wants democratic elections.

SHIELDS: Wasn't he convicted of murder?

NOVAK: No.

SHIELDS: He wasn't convicted of murder? I thought he was.

NOVAK: No.

CARLSON: You can be sure that the American military is going to stay there to be sure that Haitian boat people do not wash up on the shores of a swing state. NOVAK: Of Florida.

CARLSON: Florida.

SHIELDS: And if nation building then maybe we could get Archbishop Sistani to come over and give a hand in writing a constitution.

Coming up on THE CAPITAL GANG Classic, Bill Clinton's war on terror six years ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Nearly six years ago in retaliation for terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies, President Bill Clinton launched missile attacks against Osama bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan and against an alleged nerve gas factory in the Sudan. The attacks came two days after Mr. Clinton's grand jury testimony on the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Your CAPITAL GANG discussed this on August 22, 1998. Our guest was then Republican National Chairman Jim Nicholson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON: It was irresistible to say that he was doing it in order to divert attention but then when we read that everybody rallied round the flag and said that, yes, this was a good thing that he was doing, some of the cynicism died down.

NOVAK: There's no proof yet that bin Laden was the person who did the dastardly deed in Tanzania and Kenya and we had a very responsible Judge Louie Freeh, the FBI Director, going there. He hadn't found out who did it, so I think this is a very fishy operation.

JIM NICHOLSON, REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRMAN: It's a welcome departure for the president to take some decisive action like that.

HUNT: The CIA for the last year and a half has thought this guy is the preeminent terrorist in the world. He's got $250 million. He's going to -- he's going to strike again. This was a risky but a bold and right decision.

SHIELDS: This isn't wag the dog because there are 257 graves that have been opened and filled by victims of the bombing in both Kenya and Tanzania. This is not some fabricated response.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, in retrospect, would you still describe President Bill Clinton's reaction as bold?

HUNT: In retrospect I'm very comfortable with what I said six years ago. SHIELDS: Bob, are you comfortable with yours?

NOVAK: No. I was wrong, obviously with Osama bin Laden. I was very suspicious of two days after his grand jury testimony. I won't mention a lot of the names but there was a lot of Democrats who were suspicious but that wasn't bold, Al. Let's -- since we're having confessing time, let's just say that wasn't bold to hit some abandoned camps and a commercial factory that wasn't producing nerve gas.

HUNT: If he'd had been in one of those tents it would have been bold.

SHIELDS: Margaret you were close to the president because you were in Martha's Vineyard at that time any of this...

CARLSON: Right, yes. Ask me if I was comfortable, yes I was.

SHIELDS: Yes.

CARLSON: I was in Martha's Vineyard. You know it was the right thing to do. He reacted. He did -- and this is -- and some of what is coming out you have the Clinton administration maybe not being all that effective but doing more than the Bush administration did against Osama bin Laden. Rumsfeld calls it bouncing the rubble but it was something.

O'BEIRNE: A series of attacks happened on Bill Clinton's watch. Good for Jim Nicholson on behalf of Republicans for supporting Bill Clinton finally doing something. And, may I point out, at the time Richard Clarke defended the attack on the al Qaeda factory by saying Iraqi scientists are cooperating with creating nerve gas there so we get another link between Iraq and al Qaeda.

SHIELDS: Let me just ask Dr. Novak a quick question. You mentioned Louie Freeh. Why weren't the former FBI directors before the 9/11 commission?

NOVAK: That's an interesting question and I think the whole idea of making this, sending the FBI like a crime scene like where somebody who murdered somebody in the library I think that was a mistake too. It's not (unintelligible).

SHIELDS: But they did investigate.

NOVAK: Yes.

SHIELDS: I mean I'm just curious.

NOVAK: No, you had a point.

SHIELDS: Oh, thanks Bob, first time. I'm sorry.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the impact of Israel's assassination of the Hamas leader, CNN Correspondent Chris Burns joins us from Jerusalem. CAPITAL GANG FACT: The 1998 strikes against suspected terror training camps were the only military strikes launched against Afghanistan prior to the 9/11 attacks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Missiles fired by Israeli helicopters assassinated Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder and spiritual leader of the militant Palestinian organization Hamas. His successor vowed vengeance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABDEL AZIZ RANTISI, HAMAS LEADER: It's an open road. I know that they will succeed in assassinating the political leaders, the military leaders, but they will not keep security.

SILVAN SHALOM, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER: We have done it because we have decided to put an end to this phenomena that these leaders have an immunity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: At the United Nation, the United States veto to Security Council resolution rebuking Israel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would point out that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Sheikh Yassin was personally involved in terrorism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Joining us from Jerusalem is CNN Correspondent Chris Burns. Thanks for being with us again, Chris.

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You bet.

SHIELDS: Chris, is the total silence of any criticism from any Republican or Democratic leadership in this country considered a green light for Sharon's policy?

BURNS: Well, that's a very good question. The criticism that did come was rather muted from Washington and that seems to give a message to the Israelis that they are fully within their right to have done what they did.

Of course, Washington would look like hypocrites if they condemned it because they are going after a war on terror and so are the Israelis, so the Israelis argue that this man was very much behind waves of suicide attacks that killed hundreds of Israelis and they had to kill him.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak. NOVAK: There have been reports, Chris, that Prime Minister Sharon has also been, has been targeted by Hamas in a retaliation and revenge, is there a feeling among the Israelis, particularly some of the opposition people that this assassination of Sheikh Yassin is going to open up a retaliation and a reign of terror both ways?

BURNS: Well, if you do see what some military sources are saying and it's been published in papers over the weekend is that they believe that they have quite to some degree emasculated the Hamas leadership by knocking them out, by so many of these targeted killings or assassination and by their incursions going into Gaza and in the West Bank, going after their weapons, going after their weapons factories and so they believe that Hamas is weakened to some extent by what the Israelis are doing.

The Palestinians would come back and say, look, these people they act on faith. They act on religion. There's no way you're going to stop them.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Chris, but this makes Hamas stronger than ever. Does this mean that now Sharon will target the new Hamas leader Mr. Rantisi who is an equally -- equally a hardliner?

BURNS: Well, the Israelis have made no secret about that. They say that all of the leadership of Hamas and the other militant groups are in their crosshairs, not only the military side but also the political side of Hamas and Mr. Rantisi is seen as being that political side.

We did have an interview, I had an interview with him about a week before Yassin was killed and he seemed to be moderating his position. He was talking about elections. He was talking about working with the Palestinian Authority. He even raised or we discussed the idea of a possible ceasefire, at least from Gaza, toward the Israelis if the Israelis pull out of Gaza as they're promising.

So, there were signs of moderation. The question is will the Hamas go in a more radical direction or in a more moderate direction because their backs are against the wall anyway?

Money is cut off from the United States, from Europe. Also the Israeli attacks on them. Perhaps they are going to be forced to cooperate with the Palestinian Authority anyway. On the other hand, you could have some of these factions within Hamas that break away and become even more radical.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne. Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Chris, initially following the death of their leader, Hamas vowed to take retaliation against the United States and urged other terrorist groups to do the same. They seemed to have withdrawn that threat against the United States. Why is that?

BURNS: Well, you got to look really closely at how that threat was made. It was made by a statement or two by a Hamas official but this was not an official declaration. This was not a declaration in writing threatening the United States.

They had criticized the United States previously for supporting Israel, for providing the weapons, the Apache helicopters and other weaponry that is used to strike at the militants but there was no direct threat and it was made clear by Mr. Rantisi just a day or so ago that they want to focus on their struggle against Israel and they do not want to internationalize this conflict.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Chris, this was predictably criticized by other Arab leaders in the region. One expected that but what is the -- what is the feeling beyond that public criticism? Is this considered a serious issue for them or is this just another round of the continuing violence in the Middle East?

BURNS: Definitely a serious issue. This was the spiritual leader/founder of a group that is a militant group but is also a very strong political and social force in the territories, especially in Gaza, and the fact that the Israelis killed this man who was an invalid in a wheelchair as he was coming out from prayers in a mosque is certainly bad public relations and is resonating throughout the Arab and Muslin world.

But, keep in mind also there is this effort to try to push ahead with some kind of dialog between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We even saw King Abdullah of Jordan meeting secretly with Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister in this past week here indicating that there are still efforts to push ahead with some kind of dialog as Israel talks about a possible pull out from the territories in exchange, in exchange for possible annexation of some of those settlements.

SHIELDS: Hey, Chris Burns thank you so much for being with us. The gang will be back with out "Outrage of the Week."

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SHIELDS: And now for the "Outrage of the Week." Ignoring wise counsel and warnings, the U.S. last year became the first western Christian arguably pro-Israel country ever to invade, conquer and occupy a Muslim holy land.

While many who voted to go to war have since expressed misgivings about that decision, West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, who did vote to go to war, is the most candid.

"I've admitted that my vote was wrong. We had this feeling we would be welcomed as liberators. Americans don't know history, geography, ethnicity."

It is true success has many fathers and failure is truly an orphan -- Bob Novak. NOVAK: Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle yesterday issued a warning because of President Bush's recess appointments of two federal judges whose confirmation was blocked.

"Any more of this" said Daschle "and we will block all judicial nominations." Now that's a new constitutional development. Senate Democrats have set a precedent in preventing confirmation of judges that they oppose ideologically.

Tom Daschle in his soft-spoken way is saying any nominee with whom I seriously disagree will never serve on the federal bench even if a majority of Senators wants to confirm him and that's not in the Constitution.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, the military has dropped its persecution of Captain James Yee but refused to admit its mistakes. First they threw the Muslim chaplain into solitary confinement in leg irons for 76 days for removing classified papers.

When that charge didn't pan out, they coerced a fellow officer into testifying in open court about a past affair humiliating Yee in front of his wife and child. Instead of an apology for malicious prosecution, Yee got a rare reprimand for adultery. What the military did to Yee is shameful. What the military did to itself is incalculable.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: "God save the United States and this honorable court" were the words that opened the Supreme Court hearing this week to consider a Federal Appeals Court ruling that it is unconstitutional to encourage school children to say the Pledge of Allegiance owing to its reference to God.

Meanwhile, Democrats are frustrated that the kind of liberal judges responsible for this bad decision and others that seek to secularize the public square are not being appointed by President Bush. Thank, you know who, for that.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: At a Washington press dinner this week, President Bush tried to joke about the administration's inability to find the weapons of mass destruction it had insisted were in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those weapons of mass destruction got to be somewhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: Self deprecating humor can be a great political weapon. Ronald Reagan joked about the budget deficit and Bill Clinton made fun of his Monica scandal. Two differences, Reagan and Clinton were good at this humor and nobody died as a result of the budget or Lewinsky miscues.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying goodnight for THE CAPITAL GANG. Thank you for joining us.

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