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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Voting Without Citizenship?; Arnold's First 6 Months

Aired April 17, 2004 - 19:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with the full GANG: Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.

President Bush, in only his third primetime televised news conference was asked whether he should admit mistakes before or after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This has been a tough, tough series of weeks for the American people. The country was not on a war footing, and yet the enemy was at war with us. And it's -- it didn't take me long to put us on a war footing. In the -- what's called the PDB, there was a warning about bin Laden's desires on America. Frankly, I didn't think that was anything new. I don't want to sound like I made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. Just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not quick -- as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld did admit his own error in judgment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I certainly would not have estimated that we would have had the number of individuals lost in the -- that we have had lost in the last week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, with this press conference, did President Bush help himself or hurt himself politically?

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Mark, I think -- I think he did very well at this press conference. I thought he was extremely patient with the series of gotcha questions that the Washington -- the White House press corps seemed to want to be asking. I suspect in those exchanges, the public was with the president, spotting them for what they are, rather than with the press corps. Shame, really. There are some factual questions they should have been asking that are important. But look, the president acknowledged we had some really tough weeks in Iraq. That's obvious. There are some tough weeks ahead. I thought it was very important he remind supporters of the war that getting rid of Saddam Hussein is not the whole mission, that we will only be safer if Iraq is stable and free. And I thought his resolve was also critically important, given all of his critics, domestic critics here, who are certainly sending the wrong message overseas, that he is determined that we -- we can't lose this thing and we're going to stay, not a minute longer than we have to, but we're going to stay until we see it through.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, the president was pressured into this press conference. He didn't want to do it. And it was a hybrid press conference, with a 17-minute speech. I'd never seen that before.

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) never been done. And -- but he had reached the point -- he delayed so long in going to the country and defending himself that he had to have a press conference, and yet he wanted to make a speech. You know, I thought he had to come out to keep his own support from drifting away with an acceptable performance, and I think he did that. But as I talked to several Republicans, the bar has been lowered on George W. Bush's performance. You don't -- you don't expect Ronald Reagan right now.

And I -- I just can't understand how you can go into a press conference and not expect to be asked why you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) insisting on testifying along with Dick Cheney before the commission. And the question was asked twice. He didn't answer it either time. And I really do believe that that is a way of handling tough questions, not answering them. Many presidents did. Bill Clinton did it all the time. But I don't think it's a good way of handling it.

SHIELDS: You know, I suggested that the president knew he was going to get that question, why he just didn't simply say, Margaret, that, You know, the vice president's a little unsure of himself, and he wanted me there to coach him.

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: I mean, just -- I mean, just to say something...

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Yes. Yes.

SHIELDS: ... rather than stiffing it.

CARLSON: And not -- and --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BEIRNE: ... another silly gotcha question, that one.

CARLSON: But it would have been a Reaganesque way of handling it.

SHIELDS: Yes. That's exactly right.

CARLSON: Yes, I'm worried about my opponent's age.

SHIELDS: That's right.

CARLSON: I mean, Kate is right, when it's a -- when it's a question of who do you like better, the president or the press, the president is often going to win that contest. But he didn't perform that well. And in trying to bring the country along, I don't think he helped those people who are now skeptical about the war in Iraq because he -- he described this dream that he has, a calling, and it's the almighty God's wish that freedom be everywhere, including in Iraq. He didn't put out any course corrections. He didn't admit any errors, as -- as Donald Rumsfeld had the wisdom to do a day later.

I think he would have done better to welcome the United Nations, if not begged the United Nations to come and internationalize the thing, or to say, Listen, we -- we didn't have adequate plans for handling the aftermath of Viet -- of Viet -- of Iraq -- excuse me!

O'BEIRNE: You're right.

CARLSON: Oh, my!

NOVAK: I'd call that a Freudian error, but it was a Democratic error.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: And we're still paying the price of not listening to Shinseki about the number of troops and not having planned.

SHIELDS: Wasn't Freud a Democrat? Al Hunt?

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: Well, I thought that opening statement was actually pretty effective. It was too long, but I thought it was -- I agree with Bob. I've never seen anything quite like it, but I thought it was pretty effective. And he peaked at that. It was all downhill. After that, Kate, you and I just watched a -- you know, a different news conference. I thought he wasn't confident. I thought he wasn't inspired. He was all over the lot. He may indeed have solidified his -- parts of his base there, but he certainly didn't persuade any of the persuadable voters out there on the question of Iraq.

Mark, he went and said, basically, when it comes to troops over there, General -- General Abizaid will tell us whether we need troops. And when it comes to the political solution, we're going to have the U.N.'s Brahimi is going to do it. He said that we're going to go on -- we're going to stay on -- on the course. We're not going to deviate from the course. But he didn't tell us what the course is.

I wonder what the president's role is in this.

NOVAK: Let me -- let me agree with -- with -- 100 percent with Kate on the performance of the press. I don't like to -- to criticize my colleagues, but several of the reporters admitted afterwards that they were trying to ask him the same question over and over again, thinking he'll slip. That is not the role of reporters!

O'BEIRNE: That's really true.

NOVAK: And the role of reporters is to elicit information. For example, there was no -- there was no questions about the handover! Who are we going to hand it...

O'BEIRNE: Right. Right.

NOVAK: I mean, that was a reporter's question. But these...

O'BEIRNE: Bob, that was my...

NOVAK: ... people were -- were advocates instead of reporters!

O'BEIRNE: That was my point. That's why his opening statement had to be as long as it was, because he could not count on the fact that White House reporters would ask him factual questions. Al, you may be weren't listening that closely. He did lay out a plan. He's got the U.N. envoy in there now, who's going to appoint that government they're going to turn sovereignty over to. There are going to be elections by next December or January. He has Armitage going over there to help work it out, and they're going to the U.N. for a new resolution.

CARLSON: But you know what?

O'BEIRNE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) plan.

HUNT: Well, I don't know -- I don't know how you have elections in a place -- in 30,000 venues when you can't have any kind of security. But let me go to the White House press corps. You're absolutely right. This has been an endemic problem, though. It's not new with this press conference. It was true with Clinton. They asked gotcha-type questions. I -- you know, I always said that if the president came out and said, Some day I'm going to declare thermonuclear war, the next question, if he had it prepared, might be, you know, What are you going to do on the Welfare bill? But I -- so I don't think that's a particularly good venue for getting constructive answers.

SHIELDS: I just did sort of think it was fascinating that Mr. Brahimi is now the savior. And this is after the U.N. has been disparaged and ridiculed by the administration leadership as feckless and corrupt.

O'BEIRNE: Well, now they can be helpful.

CARLSON: And he still...

(CROSSTALK)

O'BEIRNE: Well, first of all, they were corrupt in the oil-for- food program. We have -- we have the documentation of that. Now he can be helpful. This sort of thing he can be helpful with.

CARLSON: We still have...

O'BEIRNE: What do you, you think we should turn it down?

CARLSON: We still -- oh, accept the help. Welcome the help.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Beg for the help. And we still have to bring the Security Council along, which is not -- which is -- which is a bigger task.

SHIELDS: Last word, Margaret Carlson. THE GANG of five we'll be back with the intelligence blame game.

ANNOUNCER: Here's your CAPITAL GANG "Trivia Question of the Week." Which president had held the most press conferences at the same point in his presidency? A, Dwight Eisenhower; B, Jimmy Carter; C, Bill Clinton. We'll have the answer right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Before the break, we asked, Which president had held the most press conferences at the same point in his presidency? The answer is A, Dwight Eisenhower.

SHIELDS: Welcome back. The independent commission on the 9/11 attacks heard a CIA admission.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE TENET, CIA DIRECTOR: We lacked a government-side capability to integrate foreign and domestic knowledge, data, operations and analysis. It will take us another five years to have the kind of clandestine service our country needs.

THOMAS KEAN, 9/11 COMMISSION CHAIRMAN: I wonder whether we have five years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Attorney General John Ashcroft, under attack by commission members, declassified a 1995 memorandum that he said had built a wall preventing the exchange of intelligence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I cannot imagine that the commission knew about this memorandum. Full disclosure compels me to inform you that the author of this memorandum is a member of the commission.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: It was Jamie Gorelick, deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration. Republican congressman James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, called for her resignation from the commission.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEAN: She is, in my mind, one of the finest members of the commission, and by the way, one of the most nonpartisan and bipartisan members of the commission.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, did the CIA come out as the losers in this week's hearings?

HUNT: The CIA came out as a loser in this week's hearing, but the real loser was John Ashcroft, with that Joe McCarthy-type appearance this week. He was the only witness, Mark, who refused to give the committee his testimony ahead of time. And then he -- for weeks, he's refused to release classified documents at the committee's request. And then he tried to spring this so-called Gorelick document, and he lied about its meaning and its contents. As Slade Gorton, Republican member of the committee, pointed out, this so- called wall began with the Reagan administration and court decisions. Moreover, if General Ashcroft thought that Jamie Gorelick had done something bad by executive fiat, why in eight months did he not undo it by executive fiat?

Mark, that -- this so-called wall had absolutely nothing to do with the Ashcroft Justice Department's failure to follow up on Colleen Rowley's warning about terrorists on the Phoenix office, saying there are Arabs are going to flight school out there. It really was an attempt to cover up the colossal failures of Mr. Ashcroft.

O'BEIRNE: People -- people who aren't lawyers shouldn't play on one TV, Al. Look...

HUNT: Kate, the truth is a difficult thing.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BEIRNE: The commission would have known -- the commission would have known about that memorandum that Jamie Gorelick signed when she was deputy attorney general had she told them. It was clearly relevant to the work they're doing, but she didn't tell them. Look, saying that Jamie Gorelick should recuse herself says nothing about her skills, her work ethic or her integrity. This is appearance of a conflict 101. She was a policy maker during a period -- the policy during that -- devised then, implemented then, is under investigation. Judges don't get to judge behavior that they took part in. It's simple. Of course she should recuse herself.

SHIELDS: Tom Kean, the Republican...

NOVAK: Recuse herself or remove herself from the commission?

O'BEIRNE: Remove herself from the commission.

HUNT: She has recused herself... (CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Tom Kean, the Republican governor of New Jersey, was -- called her one of the least partisan, one of the most bipartisan members of the commission.

CARLSON: And Slade Gorton. And by the way, speaking of gotcha, that was gotcha by Attorney General John Ashcroft, by putting this out there, trying to embarrass somebody in real time on TV. The only thing about that memo is the one she wrote actually expanded the ability of one group to talk to another, not restricted...

O'BEIRNE: No, it was restricted!

CARLSON: ... not -- not to restrict...

O'BEIRNE: Talk to the prosecutors!

CARLSON: ... it any further.

O'BEIRNE: It restricted it!

CARLSON: And the statute was from the '80s, and John Ashcroft had a chance to change it, and his deputy attorney general reinforced it.

NOVAK: Can I say what's going on here?

SHIELDS: I'd like to hear it.

CARLSON: By the way -- can I just say -- I had one more thing to say, which is these are the same people that think it's fine for Justice Scalia to go on Dick Cheney's plane and duck hunt and then decide whether his energy task force should release names.

NOVAK: Let me say what's going on here. The buzz around Washington was that, We're going to get John Ashcroft. If you will remember, on this program a week ago -- and if I misquote you, Mark, I apologize, but you said he's going to -- looks like he's going to be the fall guy in these hearings. Ashcroft is hated by the left, and he is -- and his personality is a little -- it's become a little abrasive there. And he came into that hearing saying, I am not going to get kicked around by Richard Ben-Veniste, who has been a partisan Democrat all his life, representing Democrats, representing Terry McAuliffe. It's a disgrace that Daschle put him on -- on the commission! And so Ashcroft came in with both guns firing.

Now, when you have Tom Kean named as the chairman -- Tom Kean is a liberal Republican. He has never been a -- he has never been hard on Democrats. And for him to say that Jamie Gorelick is the least partisan -- she has contributed more to Democratic candidates than any other member of the commission, $30,000 in the last -- in the last -- in recent years!

O'BEIRNE: Bob, I think something else is going on here. I think there's something -- I think human nature explains the commission's attitude towards Jamie Gorelick leaving the commission more than partisanship does. They bonded. They're -- they're -- they're closing the circle around her because she's a fellow commission member. They see she's a hard worker, which I'm not disputing. They've seen she's bright, which I'm not disputing. And they refuse to recognize that she has a conflict. But I -- but if they don't, people who want to dismiss their report that they've worked so hard on are going to have all the more grounds to dismiss it if...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: ... politically inspired effort to try to discredit the commission. She doesn't have any conflict, and it's clear that she doesn't. But you know, Bob, your Captain Queeq-type weekly effect -- or attack, rather, on Richard Ben-Veniste -- you don't mention Fred Fielding, who's been a Republican all of his life. I'm not questioning his credentials to go on that committee.

But what you don't do, and what Kate didn't do, is look at the record for John Ashcroft. It was -- it is quite clear he didn't hear about counterterrorism prior to 9/11.

O'BEIRNE: Not true.

NOVAK: Not true.

HUNT: It is absolutely true. Louis Freeh said, He never asked me to be briefed on it. Thomas Pickard...

O'BEIRNE: Not true.

HUNT: ... the next FBI director -- it is true -- said he didn't want to hear about it...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Ashcroft denied it, and there is reason to believe Ashcroft lied and Pickard told the truth because he told people that contemporaneously. There are memos where he didn't list counterterrorism as a priority. This guy was asleep at the switch!

CARLSON: He wanted to change the subject. And you're wrong, the buzz around Washington was, Let's get Jamie Gorelick...

NOVAK: Oh!

CARLSON: ... the right-wing talk radio was ready to go.

SHIELDS: Margaret's absolutely right. I don't think I said that, Bob. I said the question was, was it -- was John Ashcroft going to be given up. That was the question.

Next on CAPITAL GANG...

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) same thing.

SHIELDS: ... Ariel Sharon gets what he wants. There's a big difference. You know that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I have never met a leader as committed as you are, Mr. President, to the struggle for freedom and the need to confront terrorism wherever it exists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The Israeli prime minister's praise of George W. Bush came after the president had endorsed Sharon's plan supporting most Jewish settlements and rejecting the Palestinian right to return.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I commend Prime Minister Sharon for his bold and courageous decision to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. I call on the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors to match that boldness and that courage.

YASSER ARAFAT, PRES., PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY (through translator): Our fate, which we will never escape, is to defend our land, our holy shrines in Jerusalem Islamic, and to defend our Jerusalem and our right to live in freedom and national independence and to our self- determination and the right of the refugees to return to their land.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Today Hamas leader Abdul-Aziz Rantisi was killed by an Israeli air strike on his car in Gaza. That followed a suicide bombing hours earlier.

Bob Novak, have President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon taken a major step toward peace in the Middle East?

NOVAK: Away from peace. This was...

SHIELDS: Away from peace?

NOVAK: This was a catastrophe, in my opinion. George W. Bush became the first president to endorse settlements. He took the United States away from any guise of being the disinterested broker. He put his arm around Israel and saying, We are on your side. That is a message for the -- that the Arab world, the extremists, have been saying. And now it was -- it was validated. The -- the problem is that the assassination of Rantisi by Israeli gunships indicates that Sharon is following, like Bismarck, a policy of "blood and iron." And he felt that with the embrace at the White House this week, they can get away with anything. Now, the State Department and the White House put out a little mild rebuke on this barbaric assassination, but nobody really takes that seriously. And Sharon thinks he has a free pass to do anything he wants.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, by endorsing the Sharon plan, doesn't the president basically legitimatize this land grab on the West Bank, and as well, just in total violation of all U.N. resolutions, which I think were one of the reasons we went to war in Iraq?

O'BEIRNE: Let me point out what this land grab, as you call it, is. It is giving back 85 percent of the West Bank. Now, it is true that at Camp David from Barak, Arafat could have had 95 percent of the West Bank back, but he said no because, of course, what he really wants is the destruction of Israel. So three years later, following more terrorist attacks, the best they can now get is 85 percent. Bob's upset that this president's breaking with six former presidents. Six former presidents, I might point out to you, Bob -- there's been no peace in the Middle East. We've had an intifada for the last years. Arafat visited Clinton's White House more than any other single foreign leader, and we got 9/11 out of it.

This president recognizes the realism on the ground. And no, he's not going to be neutral between Hamas terrorists and the democratic state of Israel. He doesn't see any neutrality there.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, as Shimon Peres has pointed out, for six years under the Oslo agreements, there weren't any -- there weren't killings. I mean, there was -- the intifada picked up again, right, six years later.

HUNT: Mark, I don't think the substance is as bad as Bob thinks it is. This is an opening bid. This is not a final plan of any sorts. And this was about politics this week. And Ariel Sharon knows for six-and-a-half months, he can get away with anything because George Bush is not preoccupied or concerned with Hamas or the Middle East, he's preoccupied with the November election. That's the game he's playing.

This White House and Condoleezza Rice have abdicated on the peace process over there. That's why the Palestinians are so mad. They have been absolutely shut out. And finally, I think one danger, though, Bob, that I do think that George Bush is courting here is he may have picked the wrong prom partner. I mean, people who have good sources in Israel tell me there's at least a 50-50 shot that Ariel Sharon is going to be indicted in the near future, and that's going to create a problem, I think, for George Bush.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson...

CARLSON: You know...

SHIELDS: ... bring some semblance of order.

CARLSON: Bush ignored the Mideast for nine months after his election, in part because he thought that Clinton paid too much attention to it. I mean, Bush had to do many things different than Clinton, including ignoring Osama bin Laden. The problem with this is that there's a road map from which this departs. And there's no reason to break with the road map at this point. And there's no reason to give Sharon his way and give up being not a completely neutral force between Israel and Palestine -- the United States is Israel's ally -- but to provide the services of a mediator, which you can't do if you start giving Sharon exactly what he wants.

O'BEIRNE: We don't negotiate with terrorists! Is there a single doubt that we would do the exact same thing?

NOVAK: I don't -- I don't -- I don't think...

O'BEIRNE: The head of Hamas is a mass murderer on a regular basis!

NOVAK: Well, of course, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) all that rhetoric. I don't think -- of course, I don't -- I don't -- I don't think this whole -- the whole question of using force at all times -- I think I've been consistent on that, pretty much on a lot of issues. I didn't like bombing Serbia. I didn't -- and I think the whole idea of assassinating leaders with gunships -- I think it's obscene.

And let me just give you a historical note. In 1956, Eisenhower, seeking reelection, came out against the Israeli land grab against Egypt -- remember that -- and the Suez war.

SHIELDS: Yes.

NOVAK: And he won in a landslide.

HUNT: Yes, Bob, but don't you agree that it's not the Jewish vote now, what Karl Rove is playing to is evangelical Christians, who he thinks one of the most important issues for them is Israel, right or wrong.

O'BEIRNE: Maybe George...

SHIELDS: Greater Israel.

HUNT: Right.

O'BEIRNE: Maybe George Bush sees this as part of the war on terror. Look, Israel's taking unilateral steps, Mark, because they're getting out of the Gaza strip and they're pulling out of 85 percent of the West Bank, even though the Palestinians have not delivered on any of their promises.

NOVAK: You -- you approve of...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Have they frozen settlements?

O'BEIRNE: They're not controlling terrorists.

NOVAK: You approve of the -- of the...

O'BEIRNE: Which is a priori!

NOVAK: You approve of the assassinations?

O'BEIRNE: I approve of killing terrorist leaders who are guilty of mass murder, if you have the opportunity to do so.

NOVAK: Do you approve of assassination of Rantisi?

O'BEIRNE: I approve...

NOVAK: Yes or no.

O'BEIRNE: I think we would -- we would -- there's no doubt we'd kill Osama bin Laden. Why wouldn't this terrorist leader, guilty of mass murder...

SHIELDS: Quickly.

O'BEIRNE: ... be a valid target?

SHIELDS: Margaret?

CARLSON: You know, Bush is to Sharon as Blair is to Bush, which is to do his bidding. Only Blair does it at political cost, and Bush does it to curry political favor among the evangelicals.

SHIELDS: I'll say this. It's a road map not to peace but it's a road map to paralysis. And this greatest playing to the extremist side on any foreign policy issue since the China lobby captured foreign policy a half a century ago.

There's still much more ahead in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG. Should legal immigrants get the vote? We'll go head to head in our "Pro and Con" segment. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the governator's first six months in office in California. And our "Outrages of the Week." That's all after these messages.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: More CAP GANG in just a moment. I'm Carol Lin at the CNN Center with the top stories.

An Israeli air strike killed Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the leader of Hamas, in Gaza. Two bodyguards were also killed when Rantisi's car was hit. The Israel Defense Forces said in a written statement: "Rantisi was directly responsible for the killing of scores of Israelis in numerous terror attacks, including the Passover massacre two years ago." Hamas is vowing revenge.

The father of Dru Sjodin says the family needs time to think about the next stage of their lives. He made the comment after the body of the 22-year-old college student was discovered today in Minnesota. She disappeared nearly five months ago from a North Dakota mall. Convicted sex offender Alfonso Rodriguez has pleaded not guilty to her kidnapping, he remains in jail.

And Vice President Dick Cheney is set to address the National Rifle Association's convention tonight in Pittsburgh. CNN will have highlights and details tonight at 10 p.m. Eastern on "CNN SATURDAY NIGHT."

I'm Carol Lin, more news at the top of the hour. THE CAP GANG continues right here.

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

A drive to allow legal immigrants to vote has been launched in several cities, led by New York City, Roberto Ramirez, the former Democratic leader in the Bronx has declared: "At a time when voting participation is declining, it would be a great injection of new voters, newcomers having greater appreciation of the electoral process."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who will reelection next year, disagrees.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK CITY: There has been an awful lot of people over the years that have fought and died for the right to vote. If you want to have full rights, and voting is a very big part of full rights, become a citizen."

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Pro or con, should legal immigrants vote even though they are not yet citizens. Margaret, you go first.

CARLSON: Con. It's an honor to be a citizen and you undermine citizenship by saying you can have this other privilege which is to vote. It's not an onerous process, you apply, you learn who George Washington is, and then you go to this wonderful ceremony and you raise your right hand and you become -- it's very, very moving to see these immigrants become United States citizens. And I don't see why we should undermine it by giving them the right to vote without doing it.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Con. Non-citizens shouldn't enjoy one of the most important privileges of being a citizen. As an aside, some of the most important things to explain are self-evident truths and this is one of them. But I'll try, citizenship, if we all agree it's important, you don't want to give the privileges of citizenship to something shy of that. We want immigrants not to be permanent visitors, we want them to be fully American, which means we want to encourage them to become citizens. And to give them privileges not connected to citizenship I think would have fewer and fewer bothering to becoming a citizen, and that's a bad thing.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Pro. If legal immigrants pay taxes, which they do, I just think taxation without representation is wrong, Mark. I also would point out that up until 80 or 90 years ago, they could vote. And what happened was in the immigration-bashing era back in the '20s or before, when we started to admit to a lot of Irish and immigrants, they said, no, we're going to take it away. Well, I'm going to tell you, this is a better country because we had Irish and Russian immigrants. And this is a better show because of that, too.

SHIELDS: That's a very good point. I'm going to say pro on a very specific ground. And that is that anybody who cares enough about this country, who is a legal immigrant who volunteers to serve in the United States military and does so honorably and does so bravely and does so in fulfillment of that duty is entitled to vote. For God sakes if somebody is old enough to die, they're certainly old enough to vote. If we're going to put his or her life on the line for this nation, they sure as hell ought to be able to vote.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

CARLSON: Maybe they should become citizens.

NOVAK: Con. All four of my grandpas, from various parts of Czarist Russian Empire, were immigrants and they did not vote before they became citizens. And my mother's parents immigrated in the 1880s, and my father's in the late 1890s. And when I was a little boy they told me the big thrill they had becoming American citizens so they could vote. It was one of the great moments of their life. And let's not kid ourselves what this is all about. This is an attempt by some of the political bosses to try to get a whole bunch of voters in there, more votes to defeat Republicans, even ersatz Republicans like Bloomberg, who are probably will get defeated for reelection if this gimmick goes through.

CARLSON: Mark, you know, I take your point and I wonder why citizenship can't be taught and the process gone through as they join the military.

SHIELDS: Well, I mean, they do. I mean, citizenship is taught in the military.

O'BEIRNE: But Mark we're not talking about...

CARLSON: To take to oath...

O'BEIRNE: ... these proposals in California and New York in other places, I'm talking about people who serve in the military as legal immigrants. In fact those people do enjoy -- we've seen this with respect to Afghanistan and Iraq, as they should, a speeded up citizen process. We're not talking about them. We're talking about legal immigrants who haven't served in the military, have no intention of serving in the military, and it's important that they join us fully as citizens.

SHIELDS: Kate, the move now is to give posthumously citizenship to non-Americans who died fighting in Iraq.

O'BEIRNE: That would be fine.

SHIELDS: Posthumously. I mean, that's...

NOVAK: They vote posthumously too in Chicago. HUNT: Mark, just a couple of quick points. I have a daughter who was born in a foreign country and became a citizen, and I agree with what everyone said, it's one of the most moving things you ever will see in your, to see someone to become an American citizen. But politically, Bob, I just disagree with you. I'm not sure I -- there's no reason to think that immigrants are going to vote any different than the rest of the populous. You look at Asian immigrants, they have tended to be a little bit more Republican, as a matter of fact.

NOVAK: Oh come on. You know Roberto Ramirez, the old Bronx boss?

O'BEIRNE: He thinks he knows how they're going to vote.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: I have, I have.

SHIELDS: Yes. Is that why Governor Bush in 2000 spent more on mariachi bands than any other candidate did on cotton candy?

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: That's fine.

SHIELDS: Coming up, "THE CAPITAL GANG Classic": President Clinton giving a rare press conference five years ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Five years ago amidst the Monica Lewinsky controversy, President Bill Clinton authorized U.S. air strikes against Serbia because of its aggression against Kosovo. And he held his first press conference in nearly a year. Your CAPITAL GANG discussed this on March 20, 1999.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FROM THE CAPITAL GANG , MARCH 20, 1999)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, how did the president handle this press conference after such a long layoff?

NOVAK: I really believe that of all the presidents I've seen, he is least worth coming at a press conference. He doesn't answer any questions. The main purpose was to convince us that we should go to war over a Balkan ethnic disagreement. I don't think he was any more convincing to the public than he was on Hill.

HUNT: I think on substance, I'd give him at best C-minus. On Kosovo he has talked too much and acted too little. But I think politically, Mark, you'd have to give him an A. I think the message that was sent out in that press conference is that we're not going to wallow in Whitewater anymore.

CARLSON: The press conference overall, it's his forum, he does well in it. And that he doesn't have more is a mystery because he usually dominates. The press is less popular than he is, so the press is not going to win.

SHIELDS: I think Bill Clinton does this about as well as anybody I've ever seen, except Jack Kennedy. I mean, he really -- I think he knows a breadth of information. But all you can think of is wistful melancholy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Wistful melancholy. Margaret Carlson, if President Clinton was so good at press conferences, why did he hold so very few of them?

CARLSON: Wistfully let me ask Bob, the least forthcoming, until President Bush.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: And I think the reason that President Bush doesn't have more is similar, although the person is different, than President Clinton did. And he didn't want to hear questions about Monica Lewinsky. He was embarrassed. And the president now doesn't want to hear open-ended questions about Iraq or about why, when he got a memo saying Osama bin Laden plans to attack within the United States, he didn't get upset and put us on some kind of red alert.

NOVAK: No, I think I'd still give the prize to Clinton on being least forthcoming. I think he beats Bush. But I think it's different. I don't think it's a matter they got tough questions. I believe they listen to their staff and they get all tied up in knots and they say all the things bad could happen to them, and they make a bad decision and don't go on the air.

SHIELDS: Kate.

O'BEIRNE: Well, I think the reason we didn't see more of Bill Clinton at press conferences is as Margaret said, because he didn't want to be asked questions about Monica. But I think it was probably one of the things he missed most as a result of the Monica scandal because I think he really enjoyed them. I mean, he's sort of a show- off. He was facile, he was glib, but he gave being facile and glib a bad name, I think, and that has helped George Bush.

SHIELDS: Well, boy...

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: See, there you go.

CARLSON: Boy.

SHIELDS: There's a left-handed compliment.

CARLSON: That's a...

(CROSSTALK) HUNT: I was with Kate right until the very end. But Bob's right. They do listen to staff, and they make a mistake, they being presidents. But to compare Bill Clinton and George Bush is kind of like, Mark, comparing Pedro Martinez and Tippy Martinez. They're both...

O'BEIRNE: ... smooth talking...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: They're both pitchers but that's all they have in common. They play in a different league.

SHIELDS: Totally in a different league, I've got to tell you.

CARLSON: I don't know either Martinez.

SHIELDS: I mean, I'd want to get Bush on some factual questions like name the NATO countries. Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's first six months in office with Dan Weintraub of "The Sacramento Bee" who joins us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Arnold Schwarzenegger is celebrating his first six months as the Republican governor of California, after winning passage of workmen's compensation reform. While attempting to save billions of dollars and reduce high premiums, it was opposed by Democrats as soft on the insurance companies. But most of them reluctantly went along.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: I'm a very, very happy governor. When I came to Sacramento in November, the first thing that I heard was that it can't be done, that it's impossible, that the legislators are fighting amongst each other, Democrats against Republicans. We will now create again more jobs, we will reduce the costs, and people will come back and want to do business here in the state of California.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Joining us now from Sacramento, California, is Dan Weintraub, columnist, the editorial pages of "The Sacramento Bee." Thanks for being with us, Dan.

DAN WEINTRAUB, "THE SACRAMENTO BEE": Thanks for having me.

SHIELDS: Thank you. Dan, how big a victory for the governor is passing this workmen's compensation bill?

WEINTRAUB: Well, it's a victory not necessarily got everything he wanted. He didn't. He had this ballot measure standing by that went a lot further than this bill will do. But it's a win for him, a political win because it's another demonstration, I think, to the people of California that he's moving the ball forward. He's stabilized the budget situation. Now he's got some major progress on this big problem in the economy. And I think he's giving the perception that he's bringing people together and moving things forward.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: The editorial opinion of "The Wall Street Journal" has said that Governor Schwarzenegger may be bailing out on his promise or his commitment against higher taxes. Looking down the road, which way is he going to go, do you think? Do you think he's going to accede to the taxers or do you think he's going to try to hold a firm line on that?

WEINTRAUB: Well, he's definitely going to try to hold the line. But he's still got a major gap to close. He stabilized the situation with this bond measure that he got people to pass in March. But he's got a $15 billion gap between what the state expects to spend and what would come in in tax receipts over the next 12 months. I think he can close that to about $3 billion or $4 billion with cooperation of the Democrats. But then it's really going to be tough going. And in June and July they're going to have a showdown. He might give on that. But he's going to try to hold out, at least until the very end.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Dan, the governor has gotten so much of what he wanted. And to those of us who were skeptical of "The Terminator," we wonder, is he just a brilliant politician? Is he living off celebrity fumes? What accounts for this?

WEINTRAUB: Well, he hasn't necessarily gotten everything he's wanted. He's very good at negotiating and knowing when to declare victory and walk away. The worker's comp deal, this was a real bipartisan deal and didn't get really close to everything he wanted. But he knew when it was time to close the deal and say, this is enough, let's move forward. So in a way he's sort of creates the perception of success even when it's not all there. But he's definitely a good politician and a good negotiator. He's building relationships across party lines. Everybody in the capital likes him and likes to work with him. And so I think you're going to see more deals like this.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Dan, the governor, as we've noted, seems to have bent the liberal Democratic legislature to his will, I guess owing in part, as you said, to his skills, in part his popularity. Is his popularity likely to rub off on Republican candidates this November?

WEINTRAUB: I think it will but probably not dramatically. California still has a fairly large Democratic plurality in the voter registration. And they're probably more likely to get benefit from Schwarzenegger if there's a major conflict on the ballot between Schwarzenegger and the Democratic legislature that would really focus people's attention. There was a chance that worker's compensation was going to be that issue. And Republican legislators were actually pushing hard to get it on the ballot because they wanted that issue out there. Right now there doesn't appear to be such an issue. The budget might create one. But if there's no conflict between Schwarzenegger and the Democratic majority, I think the coattail effect sort of, will be limited.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Dan, let me ask you about the role of his exceptional wife, Maria Shriver, who was so instrumental in his electoral victory six months ago. For example, he came in with this hardhearted budget director who was going to cut funds for the mentally retarded, quickly realizes the error of his ways and backed away. Was that Maria? And generally what type of influence does she exert on California governing right now?

WEINTRAUB: I think that might have been Eunice Shriver as much as it was Maria, but definitely he heard from all of the Shrivers on that issue. She exerts quite a bit of influence. She was very involved in helping him choose the first staff members that he got on board to run his personal staff, and I think some of the cabinet members as well. I think she definitely moderates him. But he's still definitely a Republican and a fiscal conservative. And he's supporting George Bush. And he's very open about how he disagrees with his wife over the presidential choice. So she doesn't control him. But I definitely think that she softens his edges a bit.

SHIELDS: All right. Dan, we just have 30 seconds, but let me ask you, the governor did take a stand in the Republican primary, backed Secretary of State Bill Jones for the Senate nomination. Jones won. Does that signify that he's going to play an active role? Do you think Jones has a real shot at beating Democrat Barbara Boxer in November?

WEINTRAUB: I think that's still Boxer's to lose. I think it will have probably more to do with the presidential campaign than anything Schwarzenegger does here. If Bush somehow pulls everything together and starts to open a big lead over Kerry, I think there could some spillover effect. But absent that, I think Boxer hangs on to that seat.

SHIELDS: Hey, Dan Weintraub, thank you very much for being with us. THE CAPITAL GANG will be back with our "Outrages of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Last week at the end of one of our heated discussions, I interrupted my colleague Kate O'Beirne by saying something dumb and rude, namely, "women talk too much." To Kate and anyone else who was offended by my words, I apologize. In fact, scientific research indicates conservatives -- no, men talk too much.

And now the "Outrage of the Week." Nelson Lichtenstein of the University of California reminds us that barely a generation ago the biggest corporation in the U.S. was General Motors who's unionized workers earned enough to buy the automobiles they built, and who were provided with health insurance by their employer.

Today the biggest corporation in the world is Wal-Mart which pays its non-union workers without health insurance so little that they basically can shop and afford to shop only at Wal-Mart. Every company must be judged by how it treats its workers.

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: John Kerry, campaigning in Pittsburgh this week, complained that Republicans questioned his patriotism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm tired of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney and a bunch of people who went out of their way to avoid their chance to serve when they had the chance, I went.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Kerry and other Democrats were whining when Republicans brought up draft avoidance by Bill Clinton who ran against war heroes in 1992 and 1996. All sides should forget this issue because no future candidate is likely to have worn the uniform.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, the Center for Public Integrity has documented telecom and TV executives footing the travel for FCC officials to sunny places during cold months to the tune of nearly $3 million over eight years. This includes Chair Michael Powell's trip to Las Vegas last year for a trade show.

Powell promised Congress he would end such travel in '04. But since then there has been $90,000 in free trips, $10,000 by Powell's senior legal adviser and broadcast licensing chief. Is it any wonder that what the industry wants from the FCC the industry gets?

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Woe is me, or rather, woe are we, Virginia tax-payers. In our naivete we have elected Republicans to a majority in the house and senate for the first time since Reconstruction. Those Republicans are now deconstructing their party's commitment to lower taxes and smaller government by helping our Democratic governor impose a big tax increase.

Spending under the GOP has risen in recent years and could increase by another 11 percent this year with no tax increase. Let's hope Republican primary voters have an elephant's memory.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: More than three decades ago, Major League Baseball gave its word to congressional leaders that it would locate a franchise in the Nation's Capital. There now is one about to relocated, Montreal, owned by the league. The word is that Las Vegas may have the inside track.

No I have no trouble with Vegas getting a baseball team. And it's mayor, Oscar Goodman, may be the most enterprising and engaging mayor in America, but if Washington is bypassed again, it will demonstrate anew that the people who run Major League Baseball have no integrity.

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

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