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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Kissinger Weighs in on Iraq; What Does Arab Street Think of U.S.?

Aired April 24, 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 Ken Mehlman, the Bush-Cheney campaign manager.

Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG, Ken.

KEN MEHLMAN, BUSH CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Thanks a lot.

SHIELDS: Good to have you here.

MEHLMAN: Appreciate being here.

SHIELDS: Bob Woodward's new book, "Plan of Attack," raised questions whether Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, was given advance word of the U.S. decision to attack Iraq and promised to deliver lower oil and gasoline prices before the 2004 election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "PLAN OF ATTACK": They describe in detail the war plan for Bandar. According to Bandar, the Saudis hope to control oil prices in the 10 months running up to the election because if they skyrocketed, it would hurt the American economy.

PRINCE BANDAR BIN SULTAN, SAUDI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: I didn't know about the war, actually, except one hour before the attack. On the oil situation, I -- I really don't see what is the big deal there, unless somebody would like to see the oil prices stay high.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: But the Democratic presidential candidate said it was a big deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The American people would have to wait until the election, until November of 2004, the presidential election, until the Saudis lower those prices.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: This week, CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll shows 60 percent approval for President Bush's handling of terrorism but just 48 percent approval of the president's handling of Iraq.

Al Hunt, what is the long-lasting impact, if any, of the Woodward book, Bob Woodward's book, on this current presidential election?

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: I certainly can't see how it would help George W. Bush. First, Mark, it's a remarkable piece of reporting. I think it's probably Woodward's best book. And I think what it -- what it really forcefully demonstrates is the mindless, almost reckless consideration given by the White House of what would happen post- Saddam or when they inherited a Pottery Barn, as Colin Powell puts it. The president didn't consult with Republican skeptics or GOP people who'd been there before, like Brent Scowcroft, Dick Lugar, or really even much his father, generals who were -- who were worried about it, like Tony Zinni. They hid from Congress the fact that they had shifted $700 million from the Afghanistan/Osama account to getting ready for war.

And at one point, the president, I think rightfully, said to George Tenet in a meeting at the White House, That's not very persuasive, the stuff on the intelligence on the weapons of mass destruction, and Tenet said, It's a slam dunk. And apparently, that's the end of it.

It's not a very pretty picture, and I think it helps explain the debacle we're in right now.

SHIELDS: Ken Mehlman, yet the Bush-Cheney campaign site recommends this book as recommended reading. Explain that with Al Hunt's analysis.

MEHLMAN: Well, I think if most Americans read the book, they'll come to a different conclusion than Al -- believe that or not.

(LAUGHTER)

MEHLMAN: Ultimately, I think what the book shows is, it shows a president who's a strong leader. It shows someone who very thoughtfully approached the situation in Iraq, recognizing what had happened on 9/11, recognizing we were dealing with a gathering threat, tried to use diplomacy but also made plans in case diplomacy didn't work. In fact, what it shows is that the president went to the intelligence community and said, I want the strongest evidence. I want you to tell me what you have. If it's not enough, we're not going to go. And I think it portrays the president in a very flattering light, and it -- while there are parts of the book, in any book, that may not necessarily be accurate, overall, it's a very good book, which is why we recommended it to people.

SHIELDS: The flattering parts are accurate and the negative parts aren't?

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: But Bob, no weapons of mass destruction, no connection with al Qaeda.

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Well, the question -- the question you asked was -- is...

SHIELDS: Yes?

NOVAK: ... how much impact it's going to have on the election. And Bush -- I mean, Hunt started off on one of his anti-Bush tirades instead of answering your question...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... answering the question by saying it won't have much effect. Books don't have much effect on campaigns. The Dick Clarke book, which was a runaway seller for a while, nobody even talks about three weeks later. Bob Woodward is an excellent reporter, but it's -- he is -- he is a detail reporter. He is -- it reads like a novel. It's got a lot of anecdotes in it. Doesn't draw that many conclusions. And you can -- you can draw little things, little tidbits about the slam dunk out of it as much as you want. You can take about -- like Shakespeare, Mark, you can find about anything in it to draw a conclusion.

The most -- the most distorted thing in the book is the Prince Bandar connection, that he knew about it before Colin Powell -- not true -- that he promised -- that there was a deal made that Kerry is bloviating about, that -- to cut down oil prices -- not true. There's just a lot of things that are talked about now by people like us -- not me -- that are not in the book.

SHIELDS: Has there ever been a conservative who bloviated?

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Sure.

NOVAK: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Have you ever bloviated, Bob?

NOVAK: I bloviate on occasion.

CARLSON: Yes!

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson?

CARLSON: Known for bloviating. The Prince Bandar part, which the Pentagon disputed, Bob Woodward has on tape. Now, the Pentagon put out a different version, scrubbed out the parts they didn't like, and then Woodward had his own transcript of it. I think the White House may be benefiting from Ken Mehlman at this moment, in that the Clarke book had a three-week buzz because the White House went on the offense against it. Just to embrace this book is probably maybe not to give it the prominence that the Clarke book had.

As far as the book is concerned...

NOVAK: Did you read the book? CARLSON: Yes, I did. I thought it was -- the Clarke book was like a novel, if you want to talk about the drama of those first few hours. People internalize books. The buzz may last for a couple of weeks, but they put in the information. And the fact that the president gave almost no thought to telling his secretary of state he was going to war -- and some people liked his decisiveness, but other people will think it's careless and thoughtless.

SHIELDS: Let me pick up on Margaret's point and just get real quickly from you -- to me, Colin Powell comes out as a very diminished figure. I mean, that remarkable scene at Dick Cheney's house, a dinner party, where Dick Cheney and Lynn Cheney and...

HUNT: Made fun of him.

SHIELDS: ... making -- Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby and Ken Adelman are all not simply celebrating the victory in Iraq, but celebrating the conquering and vanquishing of Colin Powell. It's a total repudiation of the Powell doctrine in going to war in Iraq. I mean, talk about going in with 60,000 troops. I mean, how -- how does he survive, Bob?

NOVAK: Oh, I thought you were talking to...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: I think there is a -- you do find Secretary Powell working on the war plans in the book. You got to pick what you want out of that -- that book, and you're picking things that -- that fit your -- your -- your outlook. There's a lot of things you can -- at times -- what it is, it's like life. It's like the inside of any administration. There's ugly stuff in there and there's good stuff there. I don't think it destroys...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: But the isolating of the...

HUNT: Let me just correct -- let me just correct Bob Novak. He said that Bob Woodward was wrong on what he said about Prince Bandar.

NOVAK: No, I didn't say that! I did not say that!

HUNT: Yes, you did.

NOVAK: No! I refuse to have you tell me things, Al, that I didn't say. What I said was that the interpretation of what he said was wrong. And if you -- if you listen to -- to Prince Bandar and Woodward on the Larry King show, where they came to an agreement on it, there was no difference between Bandar and Woodward.

HUNT: Some ghost said that that was wrong. What Woodward said quite clearly was not about the plans but about the decision. And on that, it was quite clear that Prince Bandar was told about that before Colin Powell. It was dead right.

NOVAK: That's nonsense!

CARLSON: And no one disputes that.

HUNT: It's absolutely right.

MEHLMAN: Al, I think that you are -- with all due respect -- missing the forest for the trees. I think what the book shows, ultimately, is a president, a secretary of state, an administration completely focused on protecting our nation, completely focused on making sure we deal with this gathering threat in Iraq, doing it through diplomacy but also having a war plan ready, which was the responsible thing to do.

HUNT: And we can agree, Ken...

CARLSON: Powell...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Everybody ought to read the book.

(CROSSTALK)

MEHLMAN: And that's what most Americans will get out of the book, and we look forward...

CARLSON: Powell was...

MEHLMAN: ... to when they do.

CARLSON: Powell was dragged kicking and screaming into that war.

SHIELDS: OK, last word, Margaret Carlson. And we will find that gathering threat at some point.

Ken Mehlman and THE GANG we'll be back with John Kerry defending his Vietnam war record.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Senator John Kerry was asked whether he would make public his Vietnam war personal records.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: People can come and see them at headquarters and take a look at them. I'm not going to -- but I -- but I'll tell you this. I'm proud of my service and proud of what we did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: However, a campaign spokesman indicated that the senator was referring only to records already released to "The Boston Globe." Meanwhile, the presidential candidates criticized each other in new television ads.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Kerry says, "A lot of people don't really know who I am." Well, actually, a lot of people do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kerry's hometown paper says, "In his continuing effort to be all things to all voters, John Kerry is engaging in a level of doublespeak that makes most voters wince."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE; Under George Bush, three million Americans have lost their jobs. He's given huge tax breaks for the wealthy, and he's appointing far-right judges determined to take away our privacy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The latest CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll shows President Bush with a 5 percentage point lead over Senator Kerry.

Margaret Carlson, is the debate over John Kerry's military service hurting the Democratic candidate?

CARLSON: You know, as was said in another context, bring it on. Any time that Republicans want to discuss Kerry's war record, I think he should be willing to do it. And when they came out, even the critic from that period of time, the lieutenant commander, Grant Hibbard (ph), at the time gave Kerry high ratings in several categories. And if his wounds were significant enough, he was there. He served. He was wounded several times. And the doctor who looked after him one time said if the one piece of shrapnel had hit his eye, he would be blind. So I think it's a great discussion for Kerry to have.

SHIELDS: Ken, I know that there are major military figures like Rush Limbaugh who support the president who raise this as an issue, but it really isn't in the campaign's interest because every time I hear a Bush spokesman, they begin with a disclaimer of saying, We respect and admire Senator Kerry's military service.

MEHLMAN: Well, we do respect Senator Kerry's service, but here's the question. The question is his judgment. The question is his votes as a United States senator, his repeated votes against key weapons systems needed to win the war on terror, his votes to cut intelligence two years after the first attack on the World Trade Center, his vote, which he admitted would be irresponsible before he did it, to not provide our troops the support they need in Iraq and Afghanistan with body armor. The problem is not what happened 30 years ago. We honor that service. The problem is what President Kerry would be like, as reflected in Senator Kerry's record.

SHIELDS: What about this argument, debate about the military records, Bob?

NOVAK: Well, I think the way Senator Kerry -- and I even think Margaret would agree with me on this -- the way he handled it has really been very poor, the idea that, I'm going to -- he tells Tim Russert on "Meet the Press," I'm going to release the records, and they say only the records that went to "The Boston Globe." "The Boston Globe" has run some very tough stories on this. Doesn't -- a lot of things about his -- his service were not kosher. He was home in four months. He was never hospitalized. The first wound, there's some question about it. When you say all those things, this is really a bogus issue because he was in combat, he was wounded. And the problem is it's -- when they started attacking President Bush for not going to National Guard drills in Alabama, other people started probing into Lieutenant Kerry's war record. So I think it's irrelevant, but I don't think Kerry has handled it very well.

SHIELDS: Al (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that was John Kerry's second tour in Vietnam. He went back. He requested to go back for a second tour, in which he got the three Purple Hearts and the Silver Star and Bronze Star.

HUNT: He reenlisted. I agree with Bob that it's not a front- tier issue, by any means. But I think Margaret's absolutely right. To the extent that it becomes an issue, there's not going to be a debate about it, it only helps Kerry. Here were two young men of privilege, Yale graduates, late '60s. One chose not to go to serve in Vietnam, one chose to serve in Vietnam. That's not a partisan comment. In 1992...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Well, Bob -- Bob, if you would listen for just a second. I know you hate to hear stuff like this because the facts can be very ugly sometimes. In 1992, if the issue had been over Bill Clinton and George Herbert Walker's military record, it would have been a rout. George Herbert Walker would have won. Same thing this year.

As for how Kerry handled it, it took him, what, 72 hours to put out those records. Maybe he should have done it in 24 hours. Maybe he should have done it in 12 hours. I would point out "The Boston Globe" wrote the first story about George Bush allegedly being AWOL in Alabama four years ago. So it took four years to release those records. I'd say 72 hours is a little bit better.

NOVAK: Well, I think -- I think anybody who reads carefully this thing has some questions about Kerry's record. I don't think it should...

HUNT: What? What are the questions?

NOVAK: I mean, the whole -- the whole -- I mentioned them before. I'm not going to repeat it. If you want to read the transcript...

HUNT: I do read transcripts.

NOVAK: You weren't listening...

HUNT: I wasn't as insightful as you.

(CROSSTALK) NOVAK: But you weren't listening the first time to me...

HUNT: I did. I just didn't understand it.

NOVAK: But what I -- what I am saying -- what I'm trying to say to you is that I think it is -- it is a foolish effort, and it's started by people, some of whom sit at this table, with this hacking on, What did you do in the war, Daddy, which I think is irrelevant to politics. And Kerry brings it on himself when he starts talking about Karl Rove and Dick Cheney not having served. That -- that is -- that is irrelevant to -- to what's going on.

MEHLMAN: I think Bob is right. I think the real question that the American people are going to answer is -- fundamentally is, who understands the terrorist threat we face? Who has a plan to deal with it, a viable plan to deal with it and make this country safe? And on that question, there's a huge difference. The president has proven his leadership. Senator Kerry, as recently as on "Meet the Press," said this war on terror isn't mostly a military effort.

CARLSON: The word "viable" is the one I would question, in that the war so far, certainly in Iraq, or the peace so far, certainly in Iraq, we're still paying the price for there being no plan...

MEHLMAN: Well, I -- I think you...

CARLSON: ... after the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

MEHLMAN: I think if you look at where we are in Afghanistan, in Iraq, I think what's happened in Libya, with international cooperation, with the financial war on terror, you've seen an incredible effort by this president...

SHIELDS: This is a tough week...

(CROSSTALK)

MEHLMAN: ... democracy debate in Iraq...

CARLSON: It's a tough week to make...

SHIELDS: This is a tough week -- a tough week...

CARLSON: ... that argument.

SHIELDS: ... to argue international cooperation, as the Spains and the -- and the Thais and the Hondurans.

MEHLMAN: You've got more than 20,000 troops...

SHIELDS: I'd just say one thing. Bill Clinton phrased it pretty damn well. Bill Clinton said, look, the time of Vietnam that I chose and the vice president and the president of the United States all figured out consciously how to avoid going to Vietnam, and John Kerry said, send me. And that -- that's -- that is a profound and significant difference. NOVAK: You still -- you want -- you want a...

SHIELDS: That's a profound difference.

NOVAK: You know -- you know what bothers -- bothers me is that this was not an issue in '92.

CARLSON: Oh!

NOVAK: Nobody was talking about it...

CARLSON: It was an issue!

HUNT: I resent that!

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: He lost New Hampshire!

HUNT: I was the editor of "The Wall Street Journal" in Washington. We broke the story about Bill Clinton's draft record and the way he had not told the truth about...

SHIELDS: It was a big issue.

HUNT: ...that, and it -- as a matter of fact...

NOVAK: Well...

HUNT: Just a second, Mr. Novak! You're going to let me talk for a minute. That actually cost him the New Hampshire primary. Now, go back and do some reporting. You'll find out.

NOVAK: Oh, I -- I wrote about it, too. I can get the transcripts of...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Wait a minute! Wait a minute! I can get the transcripts of what was said at this table on it and...

SHIELDS: I will be happy...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: You wrote about it, Bob, after we told you about it. I'm glad we were able to help you.

SHIELDS: Last word.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, a controversial political rescue mission to Pennsylvania by George W. Bush.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a little bit independent-minded sometimes. There's nothing wrong with that. I can count on this man. See, that's important. He's a firm ally when it matters most.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: That was President Bush in Pittsburgh campaigning for Senator Arlen Specter in Tuesday's Republican primary against Specter's conservative challenger, Congressman Pat Toomey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I'm very proud to have at my side two great Americans, the president and Senator Santorum.

REP. PAT TOOMEY (R-PA), SENATE CANDIDATE: And I'll be reinforcing the president's message. Arlen Specter runs a totally different kind of message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Personal attacks are featured in the opposing ads of the two Republican candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's the Hong Kong deal maker who moved to Pennsylvania just to open a nightclub. He's not far right, he's far out!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arlen Specter has voted for five of the largest tax increases in history. This year, Specter was rated the most wasteful spender in the entire Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Franklin and Marshall College's Keystone poll this week gave Senator Specter a 6 percentage point lead.

Bob Novak, can Congressman Pat Toomey spring the big upset next Tuesday?

NOVAK: I think he can. Now, the consensus by all the insiders is he can't do it, but I think he can. I think in any race, when an incumbent senator is only 6 points up in a poll, anything can happen. Senator Specter is not popular with Republicans. The question is, do President Bush and Senator Rick Santorum, the other senator, who's quite conservative -- do they drag him over the finish line? And the problem is it's the only reason that the White House and the Republican National Committee and all of those -- the establishment is for him, he's got an "R" by his name, they're afraid they're going to lose the seat. But there are a lot of conservatives around the country who don't think he's much of a Republican, and they're going to be for Pat Toomey.

SHIELDS: Quickly.

CARLSON: Bob is so right! For once, you're so right. When George Bush says, "I can count on him" -- for what? He's pro-gay marriage. He's pro-choice. He didn't vote for most of the tax cuts. He's a big spender. They don't agree on much.

NOVAK: Voted against Bork (ph).

CARLSON: But there is this desire just to keep control of the Senate, just -- just to have the safe guy win. So he's out there. And I think conservatives do want to teach the party a lesson.

SHIELDS: Ken, what's the president doing getting involved in a primary fight?

MEHLMAN: Well, I -- I would respectfully disagree with your characterization. This is someone who has supported the tax cuts the president's put forward, unanimously supported the judges the president's put forward, strong supporter of what we're doing in Iraq. I'm confident that I think Senator Specter's going to win. Obviously, there's a competitive race up there, but at the end of the day, he is a reliable ally to the president.

SHIELDS: Al?

HUNT: I agree with Bob Novak. I think he's absolutely right. I think the Toomey voters will turn out. I think it's going to be -- if you talk to experts like Terry Madonna (ph) from Franklin and Marshall, Ken's alma mater, a distinguished university, he thinks Specter will win close. I don't think the Specter people are going to turn out the way the Toomey people are going to turn out...

CARLSON: There's a lot of...

HUNT: ... and I think it's the changing nature...

CARLSON: ... Specter fatigue.

HUNT: There is Specter fatigue.

CARLSON: Yes.

HUNT: It's the changing nature of that state Republican Party. It used to be, Ken, in the old days, that those Philadelphia suburbs -- you know, Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Chester -- they would determine the Republican primary. I think now, look west. Look to places like Westmoreland and Butler, used to be old Democratic areas. I bet you Toomey gets a big vote out there.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, I have a question that comes to me. Now, Rick Santorum led the fight for -- to stop partial-birth abortion. He said partial-birth abortion is infanticide. And then -- but he stands up in the ad and says, "Arlen is with us on the votes that matter most."

NOVAK: Well, that's not true. He voted against... SHIELDS: Exactly.

NOVAK: He voted against Bork.

SHIELDS: He voted against -- so he's the most -- he's the most -- but he's the most pro-choice -- what does that say about Rick Santorum?

NOVAK: Well, I tell you, it is -- I am a great admirer of Senator Santorum. He was a rising star in the conservative ranks. And this has really hurt him, Ken, with conservatives around the country, not just in Pennsylvania, say, Where is this guy going? Now, the other thing is the Democrats, and maybe some non-Democrats, some journalists, are just having a -- dancing a jig over the idea they're going to -- they might nominate Toomey and you'd get a Democratic seat up there. Don't be so sure of that! They got a very weak Congressman Heffler (ph), a weak Democratic candidate. I think it's a competitive race.

CARLSON: Yes. Listen, I'm not dancing under the -- under the desk. And I think Toomey...

NOVAK: You're not dancing?

CARLSON: I think Toomey -- I was going to be dancing later -- that Toomey would be a very strong candidate against the Democrats.

HUNT: Let me just say one thing about Arlen Specter...

SHIELDS: Quickly.

HUNT: ... that -- you know, he's not the easiest guy in the world, but he's been great on some issues, like medical research for -- for people...

(CROSSTALK)

MEHLMAN: Look, Rick Santorum is not alone. The fact is, the Senate leadership, the Republican leaders in the Senate, Senator Frist and others, unanimously, along with the president, support Senator Specter because he's right on the most important issues we face, the war on terror in (ph) Iraq, making sure we keep the economic recovery going forward through tax cuts...

SHIELDS: OK...

MEHLMAN: ... and making sure we have qualified judges on the bench.

SHIELDS: It's a great concession speech.

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: No, thank you very much for being with us, Ken Mehlman. Thank you for joining us. There's much more still ahead. Don't you go anywhere. That's in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG. Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is former secretary of state Henry Kissinger. "Beyond the Beltway" looks at Arab sentiment toward the U.S. with CNN's Ben Wedeman in Cairo. And our "Outrages of the Week." That's all after these messages.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: THE CAP GANG returns in a moment but first here's a look at the hour's top stories.

The remains of the U.S. Army sergeant missing since April 9 have been identified. Sergeant Elmer Krauss (ph) of Greensboro, North Carolina, had been listed as missing since an attack on a fuel convoy west of Baghdad.

Meanwhile five U.S. troops are dead and another six wounded after a rocket attack today on their base north of Baghdad.

Boat attacks off the southern coast of Iraq killed two U.S. Navy sailors. It happened when three boats exploded shortly before a coalition was about to board one of the suspicious vessels. Four other U.S. sailors were wounded in the attack.

And track star Marion Jones, seen here with ex-husband C.J. Hunter, denies knowledge of a $7000 check to the owner of a California lab. The lab is at the center of an illegal steroid investigation. "The New York Times" reports people familiar with the check say it was signed by Hunter. Before the 2000 Olympics, testing showed Hunter had high levels of illegal steroids in his system.

Those are the headlines this hour, now back to 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.

Our newsmaker of the week is Henry A. Kissinger, former U.S. national security adviser and former secretary of state. Our own Al Hunt sat down with Dr. Kissinger this very week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNT: Dr. Kissinger, this has been the worst week of the war, casualties have mounted, violence has spread beyond the Sunni Triangle to Basra and elsewhere. Is this American policy teetering on the brink right now?

HENRY KISSINGER, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: We were never going to be able to achieve the objective we set ourselves without a period of upheaval because Iraq is not one country, Iraq is really three -- at least three communities and probably more.

And so what we are watching is an opposition to occupation in general. And then a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) within the various groups -- between the various groups. And as soon as date was established for the transfer of sovereignty, that struggle was going to accelerate. HUNT: Are you optimistic that the United Nations, Mr. Brahimi, can put together a post-June 30 interim solution that all parties over there and the Americans and the United Nations will find acceptable?

KISSINGER: Not in the American sense. I mean, not in the sense where you establish a government on June 30, and then on July 1 everybody obeys it. You may be able to create a group that will be tolerable to the various contending forces for a transition until there is an election. But I think the process of getting to a democracy in Iraq is going to be quite a prolonged one.

When you talk about democracy in the United States, you think of a government that protects all citizens. In Iraq, the communities have protected the people against the government.

HUNT: Is democracy an unrealistic goal in Iraq, at least for the foreseeable future?

KISSINGER: It's a worthy goal, but it's not one that is achievable within a time period that the American political process feels comfortable with.

HUNT: How about the tension between some kind of an interim with any kind of sovereignty, and yet America has to supply most if not all of the security, the American troops aren't going to go away, what's going to happen when Fallujah occurs six months from now?

KISSINGER: Hopefully we will reach a situation -- and incidentally I support the administration, what we have to work for is a situation where the central government is accepted enough by the population and where we are perceived to be protecting objectives that the Iraqi population shares, but that's a huge assignment. And that's easier put into a theoretical statement than implementing it.

HUNT: American forces will be in Iraq for years, decades?

KISSINGER: Well, in Germany it took seven years before full sovereignty was granted. And in Germany the population was not opposed to us and working with us was the only way back to respectability. I think for a number of years, either American or some international forces. But in practice, the backbone will have to be American.

HUNT: Just as a quick aside, do you approve of delegating to Brahimi and the United Nations?

KISSINGER: He's an experienced man. He's done this before. I personally -- I think it's sort of dangerous (ph) to use a Sunni Muslim, and so that affects the perception of it in Iraq. I think we will have to get countries like India, Russia, Algeria, France, that have a lot to lose from radical Islam, involved in the formation of the government and in the supervision of the political process. Otherwise it is us against the world when the only proper (ph) is the secretariat.

HUNT: Bob Woodward's book this week was out. It revealed enmity between the secretary of state, Colin Powell, and the White House. Does that kind of public row affect the conduct of foreign policy?

KISSINGER: Well, it's not helpful. Conflict between the State and Defense Department are inherent in their mission. That happened even when I was...

HUNT: Sometime even between State and White House.

KISSINGER: Indeed, between State and the White House. What is unusual is that two or three years after the event, the players in the middle of an election period appear as contestants.

HUNT: Secretary Powell has made clear that he will close out his stewardship at the end of the Bush administration. If the president is reelected, who would you think would be a strong secretary of state that George Bush could appoint?

KISSINGER: Well, Condi Rice has a lot of experience. If they want to go outside, Senator Lugar is somebody that I have high regard for.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Al, strictly on the basis of what we've just heard in that rather portrait that the former secretary painted for us, was that a vote of approval for the Bush policy that we just heard from Henry Kissinger or not?

HUNT: Mark, as Robert knows, Dr. Kissinger speaks and thinks on levels -- several levels above we mere mortals, but I think the realpolitik, his trademark he was conveying was that it's going to take a lot longer in Iraq. It's going to be a lot more costly. We're going to need lots more allies. And don't look for any Jeffersonian Democracy in Baghdad.

NOVAK: Reminds me of the old statement by V.I. Lenin that he supports something like a rope supports a hanged man?

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: But in fact I think it was a brilliant analysis by Dr. Kissinger. I don't think Dr. Kissinger is trying to destroy George Bush, I think he wants him elected. But so it has a different flavor to it than the hysterical rantings by the Democrats right now.

CARLSON: And your fellow panel members.

NOVAK: I didn't say that.

CARLSON: If you doubt that Kissinger thinks Iraq is a disaster, look at the answer to the last question, when he said that Senator Richard Lugar and Condi Rice should be considered as future secretaries of state, but the person he did not mention was Jerry Bremer, his former colleague who is heading up the -- Iraq at the moment.

SHIELDS: Last word, Margaret Carlson. Coming up, "THE CAPITAL GANG Classic," remembering Richard Nixon 10 after his death.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back, 10 years ago this week the thirty-seventh president of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, four days after suffering a stroke, died in New York City at the age of 81. THE CAPITAL GANG discussed this on April 23 1994. Our guest was Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM THE CAPITAL GANG, APRIL 23 1994)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, what is President Richard Nixon's place in history.

HUNT: He will get, I think, high grades, justifiably, for his bold move to open channels with China. Though I think the rest of his foreign policy, frankly, will be viewed much less favorably.

CARLSON: What a comeback Nixon had, making himself respectable again. And he certainly is the most interesting president we've had. On "TIME" covers, he was on the cover 56 times.

NOVAK: It was a failed presidency because he adopted liberal Democratic domestic policies. His foreign policy, except for China, I think was a failure. I thought his Vietnam policy, all the blood that was expended, we lost the war.

SHIELDS: One legacy's of Richard Nixon's which can't be overlooked, in spite of the achievements, is the level cynicism and pessimism in the United States.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Watergate was a turning point in American politics. The intra-party kind of fratricide that goes on between the two parties really developed at that point. And it's lasted to this day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: In the 10 years since Richard Nixon's death, how has his reputation changed? How has your perception of him changed?

NOVAK: Well, I think it's gone down. Dead presidents and former presidents, their reputations go up and down. And there has been very little talk about Nixon in the last 10 years, with what there has been. But I think, when we discussed it 10 years ago, I was probably the most critical there and I think it stands up better than any of the other critiques, casting modesty to wind.

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: Because I really do believe he was a terrible president. He was not a conservative, by any means. He was a big government Republican. And I thought his foreign policy was dreadful.

SHIELDS: Margaret. SHIELDS: In life we're more fascinated by failure and Watergate and darkness than in death. And whenever Republicans are talking about their recent past presidents, it's always about Ronald Reagan. They don't hold up Nixon as their hero.

HUNT: Mark, I've never been accused of being a Nixon admirer, but I still marvel at the 20 years between the time he had to leave office, forced out of office, and he died. There really was -- he made a lot of contributions during that time. I think that was -- that's still rather striking.

SHIELDS: I have to give him one postscript, though I didn't mention it at that time, the Environmental Protection Agency, amazing, amazing achievement. Our children's lives and lungs are healthier and fuller because of it. And even Bob Novak's life has been extended. So it's a mixed blessing.

SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway," what is the Arab view of the U.S. CNN's Ben Wedeman joins us directly from Cairo.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back, one week after their meeting in Washington, President Bush was explaining and Israeli Prime Minister Sharon was changing his policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ariel Sharon came to America and he stood up with me and he said, we're pulling out of Gaza and parts of the West Bank. In my judgment, the whole world should have said, thank you, Ariel

ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I told the president the following. I told him in our first meeting three years ago I accepted his request not to harm Arafat physically. I am now releasing myself from this responsibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said: "After what has happened in Iraq, there is an unprecedented hatred, and the Americans know it. There exists today a hatred never equaled in the region."

The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt reflected that hatred.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOHAMED AKEF, MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD LEADER (through translator): There will be no place for the Americans, no future for them among us. We will wage war against them and them against us until they perish.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Joining us now from Cairo is CNN's Cairo bureau chief Ben Wedeman.

Been, you've been reporting on the Arab world's reaction. Is it truly as intensely hostile as President Mubarak of Egypt says it is?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CAIRO BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Mark, I've lived in the Middle East for the last 20 of the 30 years, and I must say that emotions are about as high as I've ever seen here.

Now we have to keep in mind that President Mubarak had just finished a visit to the United States when this announcement of, basically, an historic shift in U.S. policy on settlements and the right of Palestinian refugees was announced.

And he was personally humiliated. I know from Egyptian officials, he was very angry. But I must say that probably his statement is fairly accurate, unfortunately -- Mark.

NOVAK: Ben, do you think the hatred, the animosity was there because of Iraq in the first place, and the president's change of policy on Israel was irrelevant? Or has this created -- his position on the right of return and the settlements by President Bush, has this brought the anti-American feeling to a new level?

WEDEMAN: Well, I think it has. But really it has been a gradual ratcheting up of anti-American sentiment basically since the year 2000, which was the year when the Palestinian uprising erupted. And since then there has been gradual disillusionment with the United States.

And it was exacerbated, of course, by the war on terror, which many people in this part of the world saw as a war -- continued to see as a war on Islam. And of course, the whole situation in Iraq has exacerbated that even more.

So it really has been a gradual process. This is really just the latest development, President Bush's statement and the Sharon visit. Really just -- it's accumulating to a point where now it's rather disturbing.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Ben, U.N. special envoy Brahimi said last week that Israel's repressive policies and Washington's support are poisoning the situation in the Middle East and aggravating the situation in Iraq.

Brahimi is supposed to help us out of the mess in Iraq. He's Bush's new best friend. What impact does that statement and what do you make of Brahimi at this moment?

WEDEMAN: Well, Lakhdar Brahimi has really been quite active in the region on a variety of things. He was special envoy to Afghanistan. He has been going to Iraq now for more than a decade trying to work out a variety of problems. He's widely respected.

Now these statements obviously have somewhat complicated the situation. He is supposed to be an envoy of the U.N. secretary general and therefore take a somewhat neutral position on the issues.

But he's been working this region for quite a long time and this statement, though many people might not necessarily agree with it, does reflect, I think, the opinion of many of the people he is talking with in Iraq and outside Iraq as well, throughout the Middle East.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Ben, the view of the hawks in the Bush administration, the Dick Cheneys, the Paul Wolfwitzes, is if you're resolute and you hang tough that ultimately those leaders in the region will respect American power and we'll be better in the long run. Tell me how that looks from your perspective?

WEDEMAN: Well, there is no question that the United States has a lot of power, a lot of influence over people like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah.

But at the same time -- and this is as a result of economic aid, military aid and what-not. But at the same time, these leaders are feeling humiliated and embarrassed by the latest moves by the Bush administration.

And this humiliation is very much seen on the street as just another instance of embarrassment for the Arab leaders. And this sort of thing has a knock-on effect and it really does contribute to undermining their authority in their own countries.

And it does, by and large -- for instance, you heard that statement from the head of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, many of the radicals are saying to the leaders and to the people, we told you so. That these leaders who have invested so much time and effort and political capital in developing their relations with the United States, are coming back and saying, we don't have anything to show for it.

So on the ground here, it's not a question of U.S. resoluteness and somehow the leaders are going to come around, these leaders are being undermined in many respects with their own people.

SHIELDS: Ben Wedeman, thank you very much for being with us. The GANG will be back with our "Outrages of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: And now for the "Outrages of the Week." The Bush Pentagon has gone to great lengths to ban all photos of flag-draped coffins of fallen American heroes. This week, after a tastefully, respectful photo appeared in "The Seattle Times," the woman who took it was fired by her military contractor employer.

These pictures, which are a profound reminder of the incalculable cost of war, are banned by the White House, allegedly out of respect for the families. Yet, the dead bodies of brave Americans who perished at ground zero on 9/11 were prominently featured in the Bush campaign commercials. Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Back in February when John Kerry was seeking primary election votes in Michigan, he was asked, what kind of vehicles his family drives? He replied: "We have some SUVs. We also have a Chevy, a big Suburban."

But this week he told reporters: "I don't own an SUV." How's that, Senator? He explained that his wife Theresa owns the Chevrolet SUV, adding: "The family has it, I don't have it." Just like Theresa owns the imported German Audi, not "buy American" John.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: When football start Pat Tillman, killed in Afghanistan on Thursday, gave up celebrity, riches, and an athlete's best years to join the Army, he said he was only doing his duty.

Contrast that with those less gifted who avoided that duty, like Vice President Cheney who had, "other priorities," like grad school, and President Bush, who joined the then-safe National Guard and couldn't always be bothered to report for duty.

Republicans questioning whether Kerry was sufficiently brave to deserve his medals should look inward at those in power who send others to serve without ever having done so themselves.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Attorney General John Ashcroft, in a pathetic effort to cover up his tragic neglect of anti-terrorism in 2001, falsely tried to smear former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, a member of the 9/11 Commission.

Now some Republican senators, led by Alabama's Jeff Sessions, are continuing the phony attack on Ms. Gorelick for one reason, a desperate attempt to discredit the ultimate report by the bipartisan 9/11 panel.

This is the same Jeff Sessions who was rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986 because of character deficiencies. They haven't been corrected.

SHIELDS: A personal note on behalf of my colleagues and myself. The nation and American journalism lost a giant this week: Mary McGrory, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for commentary, died.

She was never a pundit, she was reported who pounded the pavement, haunted the halls of Congress, and instead of private lunches with cabinet secretaries, Mary McGrory interviewed ordinary Americans.

Asked if she ever had trouble maintaining her objectivity, Mary McGrory answered yes, "yes, about 85 percent of the time. I was very much against the Vietnam and I don't like the way we treat children." Her commitment to children went beyond her column. She spent countless days, make that years, with the residents of St. Anne's Infant & Maternity Home. These are children who have been abused, abandoned and neglected.

Mary McGrory knew each child's name, that child's personal history and special needs. Mary McGrory was a voice for the voiceless, and a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for the powerless. And by her brilliant writing and by her generous life, she taught us all that God's children, all of God's children, deserve a place at the table.

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

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


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