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CNN CAPITAL GANG

OPEC To Cut Oil Production; Pat Toomey Challenges Incumbent Arlen Specter For PA Seat In Senate

Aired April 3, 2004 - 19:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Margaret Carlson. Our guest is Republican congressman Peter King of New York, whose latest best- selling novel, ``Vale of Tears,'' is now available in book stores.

It's great to have you back, Pete.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Great to be here, Mark.

SHIELDS: Thank you.

SHIELDS: In Fallujah, Iraq, four American security workers were killed in an ambush by machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades. A cheering crowd dragged their burned and mutilated bodies through the streets and hanged two bodies from a bridge over the Euphrates River.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL BREMER, IRAQI CIVIL ADMINISTRATOR: The acts we have seen were despicable and inexcusable. They violate the tenets of all religions, including Islam.

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY: We will respond. We are not going to do a pell-mell rush into the city. It's going to be deliberate. It'll be precise. And it will be overwhelming.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is obviously a reflection of the fact that this administration continues to almost go it alone in Iraq. And the policy remains as flawed today as it has been since the first days of the invasion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, what will be the impact of this atrocity on Iraq, on American policy and American politics?

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: Well, Mark, it gives lie to the theory that we've turned the corner in Iraq or that this is -- the violence is the work of foreign Islamic militants. To watch that vitriolic, vituperative, teeming crowd cheering the mutilation of those Americans, women, you know, throwing things at the body, their shoes at the body, a 12-year-old poking the corpses, was -- was as unsettling about our future as it was repulsive to watch. And the Bush administration, thinking about its own reelection, has come up with this foolish June 30 turnover date. Turn over to whom? The Iraqi governing council, over one third exiles, has no credibility in the country. From talking to people who have been there -- and I certainly have not -- the Sunni triangle is as anti- American as ever. The majority Shi'ites have a virtual veto power, and are willing to use it, over almost anything we want to do. And we're still paying a price because Don Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz ignored General Shinseki, who said we're going to need more troops there afterwards.

The final, ultimate irony is the one Bush hope, the only hope right now, is that the United Nations special envoy, Brahimi (ph), can somehow negotiate something over the next six to eight weeks.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, General Anthony Zinni, the CENTCOM command commander prior to -- prior to the war, Marine four-star general, said this will scare off international participation. We're going to find ourselves increasingly alone in Iraq.

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) alone right now. Anybody who thought that being an occupying power in Iraq hasn't read their history in the slaughter of the British troops in 1918 and 1919. But we are there, and this is not like Somalia under the Clinton administration, where there was a very small commitment, and you could cut and run and it wasn't even much of a political embarrassment. I would think that this would strengthen the resolve of the American people, the outrage over it.

I think, quite frankly, Democrats who take the line that -- who follow Al's line and decide they're going to make this a Bush-bashing -- Bush administration-bashing operation are making a mistake, and I think Senator Kerry, instead of limiting himself to outrage over this, saying, Oh, this is because we didn't bring the U.N. -- I think that's a political mistake.

SHIELDS: Political mistake, Margaret?

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Well, you know, America's there, America must stay. But the people who didn't read about occupying forces and what they might meet is the Pentagon, not the State Department but the Pentagon, who insisted on believing Ahmad Chalabi, who said we'd be met with sweets and flowers. The United States has never recovered from not being prepared for the aftermath of the war and taking over in Iraq. And now the wages of that are haunting us still.

And June 30 is a -- is a mirage. It just -- I don't see how it can happen because the very people that the United States would be turning it over to are the very people who bamboozled us about what we'd find in Iraq, and that's the Ahmad Chalabi and the other exiles on the Iraqi governing council.

SHIELDS: Pete King, let me ask you this. The Marines are outside of Fallujah. There has to be a necessary military response, necessary military response will inevitably involve civilian casualties and Marine casualties. Does that -- doesn't that start again a cycle of violence, I mean, the portraits of this further inflaming anti-American feeling? I mean, there's a sense that you don't know how to get out or really what to do.

KING: Well, there's bound to be some anti-American feeling, but there's going to be more if we do nothing. The fact is, we have to make the tough decision. We do have to go into Fallujah. I think the Marines will do it. It'll probably be done within the next several days.

But I also have to disagree with Margaret and Al to this extent. First of all, we can go back and debate what happened after the war, but all of the things that people said were going to happen, as far as refugees, as far as utilities, as far as these mass uprising -- did not happen. It is confined to an area. I've been in Baghdad. I've been in Mosul. The fact is, there it is relatively under control. Fallujah has been a city which we stayed outside of, and this group made the mistake of going through the town. They were not supposed to. This was an unauthorized -- they were supposed to go around the city. They went through it. It's terrible what happened. But I think we make a mistake if we say this thing is, you know, just collapsing. It's not.

Also, John Kerry -- who is he saying we should bring in? I mean, the U.N. won't come in. The French won't come in. The Germans won't come it. So it's not like people are waiting to come in and we won't let them in. And as far as the June 30 turnover date, that was a date insisted upon by the Europeans. They said there won't be any hope of getting help unless we set a date.

Now, we're still going to have our troops there, but we are going to gradually be turning it over to a government. And you know, again, I don't know what the answer is, other than what we're doing now, which I think, in the context of history, will be looked upon as the right thing to have done.

SHIELDS: More of the same, Bob? Is that the answer?

NOVAK: Well, it's -- there's no -- there's no choice to it. You see, the problem is that we're -- we're seven months from a-- from an election. It seems like seven days from an election, not seven months. And-- and there is just a tendency that whatever happens, you-- the politicians are saying, Gee, how can I -- how can I protect myself or how can I bring this to my advantage, when I think ordinary Americans out there are just outraged by this -- by this -- by this barbaric treatment, and the last thing they want is some kind of a bug-out or turning it over to the French.

HUNT: Well, we certainly can't...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Well, we certainly can't bug out, but we have the -- we have-- that what Brahimi is doing over there now, Bob. Bob has this wonderful formulation. He says, basically, anybody who didn't read history wouldn't understand what was going to happen. Terrible things have happened. Obviously, Paul Wolfowitz and Don Rumsfeld didn't read the same history that Bob Novak did. The aforementioned General Zinni said it in February, not afterward, and this week said...

SHIELDS: He did.

HUNT: ...this week again said the fact that...

NOVAK: So what did...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: ...have a post-war plan is shocking. Bob, you have to stay. You can't cut and run.

NOVAK: All right.

HUNT: But what you want to do is basically say, Hey -- but there's no accountability. There ought to be accountability from...

CARLSON: And by the way...

HUNT: ...the people who made this mistake.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ...politics, Al! You know that!

HUNT: That's not politics. That's called accountability.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: First of all, the war was won. Secondly, the fact is, there was no mass migration of refugees out of the country. There was not mass rebellion throughout the country. The fact is, 75, 80 percent of the country wants us to stay. It's 8 to 1 that people say life will be better in Iraq next year than it is now. They're optimistic about the future.

So let's-- let's not say--

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: --Republicans practically dragged Clinton--

HUNT: So why are people getting killed all the time?

CARLSON: --through the streets of Mogadishu after--

KING: Well, so did-- I was in Congress then.

CARLSON: --after we were attacked-- we were attacked there. And so that politics enters into this is not surprising.

SHIELDS: Last word, Margaret Carlson.

KING: I just hoped you would be better. SHIELDS: Pete? Pete! Last word, Margaret Carlson.

Pete King and THE GANG we'll be back with the White House reversing course on Condoleezza Rice.

ANNOUNCER: Here's your CAPITAL GANG ``Trivia Question of the Week.'' Peter King spent a summer working at Richard Nixon's law firm. Who did he work with? A, Rudy Giuliani; B, George Pataki; or C, Michael Bloomberg? We'll have the answer right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Before the break, we asked, Peter King spent a summer working at Richard Nixon's law firm. Who did he work with? The answer is A, Rudy Giuliani.

SHIELDS: Giuliani and King back together again!

Welcome back. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice began the week by maintaining her refusal to testify before the independent commission investigating the 9/11 attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Nothing would be better, from my point of view, than to be able to testify. I would really like to do that. But there's an important principle involved here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Two days later, President Bush made an announcement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today I have informed the Commission on Terrorist Acts Against the United States that my national security adviser, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, will provide public testimony.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I suppose all of the protestation that this would violate separation of powers has gone by the wayside.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Meanwhile, Secretary of State Colin Powell talked to reporters about his speech to the United Nations last year claiming that there were mobile biological laboratories in Iraq. He said, quote, ``It was presented to me in the preparation of that as the best information and intelligence that we had and looked at the four elements that they gave me for that one, and they stood behind them. Now it appears not to be the case that it was that solid,'' end quote.

Margaret Carlson, what new will we learn, now that we know that Dr. Rice on Thursday is going to testify under oath in public? CARLSON: Well, she says that getting al Qaeda was, quote, ``the highest priority'' and that everybody at the White House was at their quote, ``battle stations,'' so maybe she will tell us how that was. But she may clear up the discrepancies that we already know about, that on September 16, she said Iraq was set aside. On September 17, there was a directive to the Pentagon signed by the president saying, Draw up a military plan for Iraq.

She said no one could have imagined that airplanes would be used as missiles to slam into the World Trade Center. Yes, there-- there were intelligence reports to the commission of that. And a few other things, that there was a military plan to get al Qaeda. Dr. Armitage says no plan, no military plan to get al Qaeda at the White House.

And what's going to be interesting later, I think, is you see Secretary of State Powell pulling back a little from going into Iraq. When Bob Woodward's book comes out and we hear from Secretary Powell in that book, I don't think they're going to be able to smear Secretary Powell the way they have gone after Richard Clarke and his book. And I think it'll be interesting to see how the White House deals with that.

SHIELDS: Pete King, a flip-- a flip-- one aide (ph), George W. Bush did, back-flip, hey, constitutional principle, can't testify, hey, testify. Republican Senate senators told him that there was going to be a vote on the Senate floor. They were going to lose, that members of theirs were going to vote that she had to testify. How much political pressure was applied?

KING: Probably too much. I felt that, first of all, she should not testify. I do believe in executive privilege. This is the first time ever you're going to have a national security adviser testifying about policy. I think it's something we're going to regret in the future, when it-- there's going to be some future event we're going to say, This shouldn't happen.

However, I think they had no choice. I mean, the media gave Richard Clarke and his raging megalomania such a free ride and such a furor had built up, I think it was important that she come in. Condi Rice will do a great job of testifying. She will answer all the questions. I disagree with Margaret. There was absolutely no intelligence of passenger planes being hijacked. The head of Bill Clinton's counterterrorism in the State Department said after September 11, none of the information they had went toward that at all. There was talks of-- of a Cessna with explosives. There was talk of a plane being hijacked for kidnapping purposes. Nothing ever was said about passenger planes being hijacked for the purpose of having a mass attack in the United States.

She'll be able to answer all the questions and I think really expose Dick Clarke, also.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt? Your own sense?

HUNT: Well, first of all, one huge myth is that George Bush hangs tough for principles. When it comes to political pressure, he's got a glass jaw. He caved on the 9/11 commission, caved on Homeland Security, and he caved on this. I think everybody last week said he was going to, and he did.

I think Dr. Rice will be a very articulate witness, but whether she'll be credible or not, Peter, I'm not sure. I think there are more contradictions than you suggest, including the fact she was giving a speech on 9/11, which excerpts say she barely mentions terrorism, and yet now they say that was a huge issue for them then.

I would just give one-- I would make one just final point, Peter, and that is that one thing that really fascinated me this week was that-- that we found out that they-- that this administration wasn't turning over lots of papers from the Clinton administration until Bruce Lindsey, a Clinton counsel, said, you know, We want those turned over to the 9/11 commission. Now, there's one of two explanations. Either they really are great civil libertarians in this White House who have a-- just a zealous regard for Bill Clinton's privacy, or they're trying to cover up some more stuff.

KING: Well, we'll see. The--

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: In the fist place, I-- I disagree with Pete on executive privilege. I think it's something that was invented in the Eisenhower administration. I don't think it has any place in this government. And most presidents of both parties have used it to a faretheewell.

Secondly, we all knew that-- that she was going to have to testify. And what I can't understand is why they had to look like they were-- they were-- they were kicking and screaming and capitulating. They should have done it in the first place.

Third thing is, Margaret, the partisan Democrats on that commission-- Richard Ben-Veniste has been a Democratic hatchet man for 30 years, is going to go after her very hard with the kind of questions you-- you had. But she-- she has said everything that she's going to say in all these interviews. That's why they're doing it. You're not going to learn very much, and it's going to be a big fizzle on Thursday, even though the Democrats on the commission are going to come after her hard.

SHIELDS: Big fizzle but-- big fizzle, but one of the things I'm looking forward to is the president of the United States insisting on testifying only with the vice president. Can you imagine--

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Can you imagine George Herbert Walker Bush saying, I'm not going to testify unless Dan Quayle is with me?

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: --Dick Cheney, he would. (LAUGHTER)

KING: Let me make one point. Al was talking about the speech that Condoleezza Rice was going to give on September-- she does mention terrorism. Now, you look at Bill Clinton's final State of the Union, his farewell address from the White House, he mentioned-- one word in each speech, in the most tangential, oblique way. And that was the president of the United States, who now says terrorism was the main issue-- didn't mention it at all.

HUNT: Let me just say one more thing. Richard Ben-Veniste has not worked for a Democratic politician.

SHIELDS: Ever.

HUNT: He's been a lawyer. The idea...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: ...hatchet man for 30 years is an absolute slander!

SHIELDS: It's a canard!

HUNT: It's not true.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Only people like you think he is not a Democratic hatchet man because I've been watching him for 30 years...

HUNT: Well, I'll tell...

HUNT: ...I've been watching him in the Whitewater, in the Watergate, and he is a Democratic hatchet man!

HUNT: You are dead wrong! He is not. He hasn't worked for a single Democratic politician...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: I've watched you for 40 years, and believe me, it's been tiresome!

HUNT: He's a lawyer, Mark.

SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG, gas pump politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. As gasoline prices in the United States broke the $2 ceiling, the OPEC cartel meeting in Vienna affirmed its plans to limit the supply of oil.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is disappointed in today's decision. We continue to be actively engaged in discussions with OPEC and non-OPEC producers from around the world.

KERRY: If the gas prices keep rising at the rate they're going now, Dick Cheney and George Bush are going to have to carpool to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: On the day after OPEC acted, the U.S. Labor Department reported that U.S. payrolls grew at their fastest pace in nearly four years by adding 308,000 jobs in March.

Bob Novak, which means more politically in the long run, the good news of more jobs or the bad news of higher gas prices?

NOVAK: Well, the jobs is vastly more important than the higher gasoline prices. People complain about the gasoline prices, but they really don't affect presidential elections. But jobs can do. The problems with the Democrats, Mark, is that we have a rising economy. And you went-- on the-- when these-- when these numbers of jobs came out Friday, Democrats went on the Senate floor, the House floor, saying, This is good news, but it isn't good enough. Well, that's not a very good political argument. And you can't say it's bad news. So I think that's a-- that is a major step forward for the president. As far as the gas prices go, the-- the last thing we need is a gas tax increase, which some of the Democrats are proposing.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, I recall during the '90s, it was said to some conservatives, Cheer up. Eventually things will get worse. I mean, are things getting better now?

HUNT: Well, first of all, I think that the gas issue-- I agree with Bob Novak. It is overrated. I think, actually, this week, largely because of Kerry's ineptitude, that Bush probably got the better of the exchange on-- on gas prices.

But the jobs report is not quite as rosy as the RNC talking points or Bob Novak suggests. Some of this was-- was non-recurring stuff, like grocery workers going back to work. A lot of low-paying jobs, part-time jobs. It's not the stuff of a robust economy. And Treasury Secretary Snow said that we're going to add 2.5 million jobs from last October to this October. Now, if we do that, if we keep at this point and we add the kind of jobs that we added after the Clinton tax increase in 1993, I will say that's impressive.

SHIELDS: Impressive, Peter-- Peter King? I mean, you look at it-- I mean, we're still 2,592,000 jobs lost. We've got 657,000 government jobs that have cut into that a little bit. But you think that the corner has been turned, that from here on it, it's uptown?

KING: It definitely has. All the economic numbers are going the right way. And besides the 308,000, there's also about 70,000 jobs in the previous two months that were re-estimated. So it's almost 400,000 more jobs than we thought were there, which is to me a positive sign. We can debate that three million. The fact is, it was a recession inherited from Clinton. The fact is, we had the September 11 attacks. We had two wars. All things considered, the economy's definitely going in the right direction, and it's due to two people, George W. Bush and Bob Novak for their tax cuts. This man has been leading the charge for years.

SHIELDS: You know, this is the last time that giant sucking sound will be heard on this stage.

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: Honest to God! Peter--

NOVAK: That's very nice of you.

SHIELDS: Peter, you know--

NOVAK: Nice to get some credit for the first time.

SHIELDS: Who's going to play Novak in the movie?

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: Margaret, please, bring some semblance of order to this, will you?

CARLSON: Yeah. Is Bob bulk-buying your book?

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: Geez, I hope so!

CARLSON: Listen, the problem with the-- listen, hey, great, great that the job numbers are going up.

SHIELDS: Absolutely.

NOVAK: But?

CARLSON: Hope it continues.

SHIELDS: Hope it continues.

NOVAK: But?

CARLSON: But--

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Where would this show be without a but?

SHIELDS: YEah.

CARLSON: It's teenagers flipping hamburgers. It's not truckers and it's not middle management. These are people who'll never get back their jobs. And Secretary Snow's prediction is only about half being met, so it's going to have to gallop along to keep up with his prediction. And this idea that there are no manufacturing jobs coming back, you know, bodes ill for the president in some of these states in the Midwest.

So I'm all for it, and Godspeed if the Republicans do it--

NOVAK: You know, Margaret, on this program several weeks ago, I said that the non-partisan economists at the Federal Reserve had said that this year there was going to be about a million new jobs created. That's not 2.5 million, but it's a million, and it was going to be a big plus. It was going to be good numbers every year. Now, if you're interested in politics, and I think you are, that is a big plus for George Bush.

CARLSON: Right. But it's not 2.6 million.

HUNT: Oh, it's a teeny plus. As I say, after the Clinton tax increase, we got a lot more jobs--

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: This is so silly!

HUNT: Twice as many, Bob! Bob, look at the figures.

SHIELDS: Now, I just have--

NOVAK: Bob wants-- the figures don't lie, Bob.

KING: Also got 18 million under Ronald Reagan.

SHIELDS: I have a-- I have a question for you, Peter. I mean, the average-- serious question. The average job lost since George Bush became president paid $41,000 a year. The average job created has paid $34,800. That is a major loss in income for people.

KING: Also, the taxes are a lot lower, too, so it helps them there. But also, let's get back to the manufacturing. You know, in Bill Clinton's last month, we lost 82,000 manufacturing jobs. This is something that began before George Bush became president. It's something that's going to continue. It's going to be very hard to bring manufacturing jobs back to this country.

NOVAK: Yeah, but the--

(CROSSTALK)

KING: The economy is changing. That's the reality of it.

SHIELDS: Oh, I see. I see.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: OK, let's run on that. And then Ohio--

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: It was Newt Gingrich added those jobs in the Clinton years.

CARLSON: Making the tax cuts permanent's going to bring back those jobs?

KING: It's going to bring back more jobs--

CARLSON: That's what the president says.

KING: It's going to bring high-tech--

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: If you didn't have a tax cut, we'd really be in trouble.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Well, you wouldn't be as rich as you are now. That's for sure.

SHIELDS: Hey! All right, that's it.

CARLSON: How many jobs have you created?

SHIELDS: We're out of here. We're out of here, OK? Peter King, thanks for being with us.

KING: I'm out of here.

SHIELDS: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: I hope you'll be back, if you make up-- and God, you got an act of contrition you got to do.

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: Coming up in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG, a ``Sidebar'' story on liberal talk radio challenging Rush Limbaugh; ``Beyond the Beltway'' looks at a conservative challenge to Senator Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania in the Republican primary; and our ``Outrage of the Week.'' That's all coming up after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Carol Lin at the CNN Center. Cap Gang continues in just a moment. But first, here's a look at the hour's top stories.

A police stand-off outside Madrid, Spain takes a deadly turn. Three suspected North African terrorists blew themselves up inside a building surrounded by police. Spain's interior minister says all the suspects were killed. One police officer also died in the blast. 11 others were wounded. The suspects may have had ties to last month's train bombings in Madrid.

A French pharmaceutical firm is recalling thousands of doses of a human rabies vaccine it says could cause the deadly disease, instead of preventing it. Aventis Pasteur acknowledges that their filter failed at its Imovax (ph) product manufacturing plant, allowing live virus into the lot.

Investigators say money was the apparent motive behind the abduction of a nine-year old girl on Mercer Island, Washington. Christopher Larson allegedly called the girl's family demanding ransom money. She was found yesterday riding inside an SUV after a high speed police chase. Larson is said to - is being held for attempted kidnapping.

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

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

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

A new liberal talk radio network called Air America Radio was launched this week. The featured program was "The O'Franken Factor" with humorist Al Franken.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL FRANKEN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Today is both an ending and a beginning. An end to the right wing dominance of talk radio, the beginning of a battle for truth, a battle for justice, a battle indeed for America itself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: One of Al Franken's early guests was Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: I actually will be doing this radio show for about 20 or 30 years. So...

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: That's excellent news. We need you to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, are you, but more important is America ready for liberal talk radio?

NOVAK: I don't really think so. If they did, they would be - the market would have worked. They've tried one of these liberal shows and it just - and nobody likes to listen to them. Liberals don't like talk radio. Conservatives do.

I know Rush Limbaugh. And Al Franken is no Rush Limbaugh. I mean, he is - I don't think he's very funny. He's a little bit boring. He's a little bit mean. And I think the whole idea that they're going to turn around what that - the market of the radio networks has been by this artificial operation with only five radio stations carrying it. SHIELDS: Well, this would be a start though, I mean - I guess you'd have to say that it's true, your statement about Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken because there's never been any allegations about Al Franken and his housekeeper, have there?

HUNT: Not that I'm aware of. I'm not sure this thing is going to work. I find it interesting that Bob thinks the marketplace works for talk radio, but yet he charges the network television is liberal, which of course it's not, but somehow the marketplace doesn't work there.

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

HUNT: But let me tell you. Basically there is, you know, there ought to be something more, because there is a conservative bias in the press today, not because most outlets are conservative. They're not. But because those that are, Fox News talk radio, they don't, as Grover Norquist say, they - will say - they had no conflict. They don't want to give the other side. They - and they play a disproportionate role in setting the agenda.

I suspect talk radio is not going to be the answer. What may be more of the answer that creates an equilibrium is the Internet. I think actually the progressives have done a better job in the Internet than conservatives have. Witness the Kerry fundraising this past quarter.

SHIELDS: Margaret, I would add this, that - and get your reaction to it, that Al Franken, I think will be successful to the degree that Al Franken is not only informative, but is entertaining.

CARLSON: Right.

SHIELDS: I mean, whenever I think about Rush Limbaugh...

NOVAK: You think he's entertaining?

SHIELDS: I think he's quite entertaining. I think that Limbaugh is entertaining. I mean, I think he is absolutely one sided. There's no pretense of fairness. But he's an entertaining broadcaster.

I think that's been one of the failings in the past has been a sort of a somber solemn excessively serious presentation...

HUNT: Mario Cuomo.

SHIELDS: ...on radio - on liberal radio.

CARLSON: Yes, I listen to Rush Limbaugh if I happen to be in the car between 12:00 and 3:00. I think he is entertaining. Al Franken is a cheerful liberal, which is a good thing to have.

NOVAK: Cheerful?

CARLSON: Yes, I think - and he's funny. And he's clever. And he's a good writer. So if anybody were going to do it well, I think it would be him. That was a fairly somber sound byte that was chosen to show. I mean...

SHIELDS: Yes.

CARLSON: ...Senator Clinton may be many good things, but she's not particularly a barrel of laughs.

So I think it could succeed. It is something different, but the daily news - "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart I think is the funniest show...

SHIELDS: It's a very clever show.

CARLSON: ...on TV. And it gets both conservatives and liberals.

NOVAK: Just like THE CAPITAL GANG.

CARLSON: So funny, Bob. You're a riot.

NOVAK: But you don't understand what I was saying. I was saying that if there was a demand in the market for this kind of program, it would be done through normal channels, as the Rush Limbaugh and these other programs are.

But you know, when you say that the media is not liberal, I would say - I think you were smiling because I know you couldn't say that with a straight face. When you know our brothers and sisters - I mean they will vote with Democratic and presidential elections 95 percent.

HUNT: No, I don't know that and you don't know that.

NOVAK: Oh, I know.

HUNT: You don't know it and I don't it, but I'll tell you this. I teach a class at the University of Pennsylvania. And those kids up there, other than THE CAPITAL GANG, which they watch because their professor gives them, you know a "D" if they don't, "The Daily Show" is where they get most of their news. They just - they watch "The Daily Show" every night. It is a real phenomenon in this country.

SHIELDS: Let me just say...

HUNT: Liberal or conservative.

SHIELDS: ...one of the few times I really disagree heartily with Margaret Carlson. I think Hillary Clinton is really quite humorous. And I recall a line of hers giving advice to the Bush administration where she said you ought to use some of the statistics, for example, we used during the Clinton years. They said we created 23 million jobs in eight years. You could say since 1993, with - created in this country, 21 million new jobs. You know, and that's a good way of putting it.

NOVAK: I think it is very funny that she's a senator from New York. I've been laughing about it for years.

SHIELDS: Well, she's got one more vote in the Senate than you do, Bob.

Coming up on THE CAPITAL GANG, classic guest pump politics from four years ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Four years ago in the presidential election of 2000, gasoline prices went over $2.00 a gallon in the Midwest. THE CAPITAL GANG discussed this on June 24, 2000. Our guest was Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: What is the political fallout of $2.00 gasoline?

HUNT: If it stays at that level, it's a problem for Al Gore, but I think the issue may well be overrated. My guess is that by Labor Day, that we'll be -- they'll be a return to close to normalcy.

NOVAK: I think it's a big issue in the Midwest if it stays at $2.00. I really love politicians who don't understand the market, and don't understand how the world works when they set up on their little hill in Washington. And they're screaming when there's too much demand for oil. They don't let the oil be produced in Alaska.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH DAKOTA: I'm still sitting here in shock at the -- Bob Novak talking about the OPEC countries representing the market system. I mean, that's not a market system. That's a monopoly.

O'BEIRNE: The administration might have done better to have focused on busting up OPEC and leaving Microsoft alone.

SHIELDS: Five hundred and fifty thousand Americans went to save that damn OPEC's fanny just nine years ago. You have forgotten that. You think it's...

NOVAK: I was against it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Now that is a good question that Byron Dorgan raised, I thought. But Margaret, anything change regarding gas prices in the last four years, except but really which party is in the White House?

CARLSON: Well, not that much. And it's not especially a voting issue. It hurt Carter, the gas lines hurt President Carter among many other things. But you don't necessarily solve it. And you don't get blamed for it because Americans are in love with their cars. And the Republicans don't put any rules on the -- how much miles per gallon you need to get. So the demand keeps going up. But other than that, no one's to blame.

SHIELDS: Bob?

NOVAK: Well, I compliment Margaret because she hit upon what the real issue is. It's lines. It's the inability to get gas. What gets people mad is when they're sitting in the car for an hour and they can't get any gasoline. This is -- gas at $2.00 a gallon is very cheap compared to what it is in the rest of the world.

SHIELDS: But Al, you know, one interesting thing, gas in Europe has gone up four percent in the last two years. And it's gone up 51 percent here. And that's because...

NOVAK: It's about $5.00.

SHIELDS: ...the weak dollar, too. I mean, the dollar is weaker. And that's been a deliberate policy of this administration.

HUNT: Yes, as a political issue, it was overrated in 2000. It's overrated in 2004.

SHIELDS: OK. Let me just -- I guess disagree with Margaret and I'll just agree with Al on this point. It's not a plus for the Democrats, but I think it could be a minus for George W. Bush, who boasted in that 2000 campaign I know these folks. I know OPEC. I can go to them. Yes, thanks. OK.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, beyond the beltway looks as the Pennsylvania Senate race with political reporter Pete DeCoursey.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. In the Pennsylvania Senate Republican primary on April 27, four term Senator Arlen Specter is being challenged by Congressman Pat Toomey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He fought to slash the Bush job creating tax cut. He voted for eight huge tax hikes. Arlen Specter, fact is, nearly 70 percent of the time, Specter and Kerry voted the same way. And that makes Arlen Specter 100 percent too liberal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Toomey was the lone Pennsylvania Republican to oppose using the military to guard our ports and borders from terrorists. Arlen Specter voted for the military pay raise and wrote the death penalty for terrorist law. Arlen Specter puts America's security first. And Pat Toomey? He's not far right. He's far out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: They debated this afternoon in Altoona.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAT TOOMEY (R), PA. SENATE CANDIDATE: Arlen Specter represents a set of liberal views that are just outside of the mainstream.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I'm a better Republican than my opponent. And I can prove it. He makes Rick Santorum look like a liberal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: "The Philadelphia Daily News"/Keystone poll of likely Republican voters by Franklin and Marshall College shows a 13 point lead for Senator Arlen Specter.

Joining us now from Altoona is Pete DeCoursey, political writer and columnist for "The Patriot News" of Harrisburg. Thanks for being with us, Peter.

PETE DECOURSEY, THE PATRIOT NEWS: Mark.

SHIELDS: Pete, with a four to one money advantage that he enjoys, is it possible that Arlen Specter could actually be beaten in the Republican primary in just some three weeks?

DECOURSEY: It's possible, but the chances are fading, Mark, because Pat Toomey has run a very good campaign, but he hasn't done what you have to do to win as a conservative in this state, which is to run not only a good campaign, but a great crusade.

SHIELDS: OK. Bob Novak?

NOVAK: Pete, I watched the debate from Altoona on the feed this afternoon. And it seemed to me -- I expected that Specter was a veteran political operative and had been around a long time. I thought he would really be really tough, but he seemed to be very defensive, referring to his notes and really didn't -- I thought he was very passive in lashing back at Toomey. Was that your impression? Or would you disagree with that?

DECOURSEY: I would disagree with it. I thought Arlen made a good point. I thought the Santorum line has a good resonance in Pennsylvania. I thought calling him an ideologue -- Specter for Specter I thought came out spitting. And I thought what was interesting was that Pat Toomey, for the first time showed us a little bit of Pat Toomey.

So far, Bob, this race has been sort of like a debate between the club for growth and Arlen Specter, resolved Arlen Specter is too liberal. Mr. Specter arguing in the negative. Pat Toomey for the club for growth arguing in the affirmative.

Today, we actually saw a little bit of a real campaign. Pat Toomey started to talk about stuff beyond the just fiscal issues. And you have to talk about more than taxes and spending to win a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania.

Like Rick Santorum, you have to challenge people to join you in a crusade. Santorum had a huge grassroots effort and acted more like a band leader sometimes than a candidate. Toomey is running a very good technical businesslike campaign, but he's not getting all the conservative groups from around the state to come out, play their instruments, and join the band.

SHIELDS: OK. Margaret Carlson?

CARLSON: Pete, the president and Karl Rove are rooting for Arlen Specter to win this primary, thinking that Pat Toomey would be a drag on the presidential ticket in November. Is that how you see it? And are they abandoning the conservative in favor of the liberal on that basis?

DECOURSEY: I think that's part of it. I'm not sure that I agree with them, though, because you have to remember the district that Pat Toomey comes from around Allentown is a very, very swing district. That's a district that President Bush and Senator Kerry will both visit several times each. Senator Kerry's already been there. President Bush has already been there this year.

So Toomey is an odd conservative in that he votes like Santorum, but he has a very businesslike manner. He comes across very matter of fact, very reasonable. And so, he seems a good deal less conservative than he is. And that's how he got elected to Congress.

The problem with that, though, is that while that would help him in the fall, it's hurting him now because he's not reaching out to the home schoolers, to the gun groups, the abortion folks. These folks are all for him, but they're for him in the sense that they will vote for him. They're not for him in that they're not running around to their neighbors and taking time off from their work and school the way they did for Santorum, the way they did even for Mike Fisher's attorney general campaigns.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt?

HUNT: Pete, let's talk about the Senate general election. From your Democratic sources, they're going to nominate Congressman Joe Hoeffel. Would they rather run against a battered Arlen Specter who narrowly squeaks through? Or would they rather run against Pat Toomey? And your -- how would you size up the odds in either race?

DECOURSEY: Joe Hoeffel would much rather run against Pat Toomey. Pat Toomey is much, much easier to -- and -- to characterize as being to the right of most Pennsylvania voters, even though he's right solidly where Pennsylvania Republican primary voters are.

A battered Arlen Specter still is the first give for most of Hoeffel's donor base. Where Joe Hoeffel's Montgomery County District has been the wallet for Pennsylvania politics. And Arlen Specter has first call on it. Hoeffel's best hope I that he could share that money with Specter and be the second give.

But if he's running against Toomey, all of that moderate to liberal Montgomery County, Philadelphia suburban money, not all, but a great deal of it will go to Hoeffel, because those are folks who are concerned about the social conservatism of Mr. Toomey. And to be honest, I think the strategy for the Hoeffel folks was to let Toomey damage Specter, let him make him spend a lot of money. And they say that they can beat Specter. But when you talk to the strategists, what they say is the man they want to run against -- the Democrats want to run against is Pat Toomey.

SHIELDS: Pete DeCoursey, first of all, let me apologize to you and to our viewers for the technical difficulties we've had in audio, but thank you for some great insights and real understanding of that Pennsylvania situation. And thanks for being with us.

THE CAPITAL GANG will be back with our outrages of the week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: And now for the outrage for the week. Since the historic heroism on September 11 when 343 of their brothers walked bravely into the jaws of death and into the fires of hell, the American firefighter has been the nation's icon courage. Sought after for photo ops by politicians of both parties.

But I wonder how many of those Republican politicians want firefighters and nurses and police officers and eight more million more working American families to know that they support the Bush administration's latest crusade. This one, to rob them of overtime pay, which has been the law of this land since the 1930s. Bob Novak?

NOVAK: The House of Representatives ignored President Bush's veto threats and passed a so-called highway bill, with massive bipartisan support. I say so-called because the bill is filled with non-highway items, museums, biking trails, parking lots. Look at some of these items.

$4 million for graffiti elimination in Queens in Brooklyn. $1 million for historic depot and bus station in Jessup, Georgia. $2 million for a high speed catamaran ferry in Massachusetts. Congress again has failed the pork test with George W. Bush pass it by casting his first veto?

SHIELDS: Good question. Margaret Carlson?

CARLSON: Senator Ted Stevens held a $2 million dinner to honor a great American, himself and himself's foundation. Now lobbyists can give as much as they want to the powerful appropriations chair in secret and deducted. Tom Delay perfected this shakedown with his children's charity, which has little to do with children and everything to do with tax deductible donations to buy time with officials at the GOP convention.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt?

CARLSON: Just Mark, I have one more point to make.

SHIELDS: A good point it is, Margaret.

HUNT: I'd like to hear that point, too, Margaret. CARLSON: And it better be good. Just because lawmakers get around ethics law is no reasons for ethics laws not to catch up with them.

NOVAK: Really needed it.

SHIELDS: Margaret, mea culpa. And it was a good point. And damn it, am I glad you made it.

HUNT: Oh, boy, thank goodness we got that.

CARLSON: Thanks, Mark.

HUNT: Thank you, Margaret.

SHIELDS: Al, why don't you take it from here?

HUNT: Mark, I have something to say, too. The Treasury's tax office, traditionally a non-partisan respected center, did the bidding this week for Tom Delay and the Republican National Committee with a very political and very selective analysis of John Kerry's tax plan.

Ronald Reagan's top tax officials suggested this was over the line. But now if that's the game the Treasury is playing, why not do the requested analysis of the beneficiaries of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts?

SHIELDS: Good question.

HUNT: Could it be they would be embarrassed by the findings?

SHIELDS: What's your sense, Al? Do you think they would be?

HUNT: I think they might, Mark.

CARLSON: Yes.

HUNT: But I tell you somebody who wouldn't be embarrassed, Robert D. Novak.

NOVAK: I wouldn't but Mark, I tell you something. You know on this overtime -- and I don't want to get into great debate on that, but I think you will agree with me that the heroic...

HUNT: ...firefighters...

NOVAK: ...firefighters in New York are not applicable to this because they are union. And the change in overtime does not affect union contracts.

SHIELDS: And Bob, of course, 90 percent of the workers in the country in the private sector are, in fact, non-union. OK? And that's...

NOVAK: But not the New York firefighters.

SHIELDS: ...but not the New York firefighters. We're talking about a lot of firefighters.

NOVAK: That's all.

SHIELDS: Firefighters all around the country. But they, listen...

CARLSON: But those firefighters also ran back into burning buildings. Unionized or not.

SHIELDS: Thank you.

HUNT: I think you're unfair to criticize Bob...

CARLSON: Yes.

HUNT: ...because I know he pays overtime.

SHIELDS: Thank you very much for joining us. This is Mark Shields saying good-night for THE CAPITAL GANG.

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