The Web    CNN.com      Powered by
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SERVICES
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SEARCH
Web CNN.com
powered by Yahoo!
TRANSCRIPTS


 

Return to Transcripts main page

CNN CAPITAL GANG

Analysis of 9/11 Commission Findings; Does Bill Clinton's Exposure Threaten Presidential Election; Texas Democrats Angered By Republican Redistricting of State

Aired June 19, 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 Senator George Allen of Virginia, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Good to have you back, George.

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R-VA), NATIONAL GOP SENATORIAL COMMITTEE: Great to be with y'all.

SHIELDS: Thank you.

After Islamic radicals in Saudi Arabia kidnapped and beheaded American contract worker Paul M. Johnson, Jr., President Bush reacted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're trying to intimidate America. They're trying to shake our will. They're trying to get us to retreat from the world. America will not retreat. America will not be intimidated...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Saudi police killed four men believed to have kidnapped Johnson, including al Qaeda leader Abdel Aziz al Muqrin. The U.S. government issued this travel warning. Quote, "The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens to defer travel to Saudi Arabia. American citizens currently in Saudi Arabia are strongly urged to depart," end quote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES OBERWETTER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: The warnings that we have given to Americans, strongly urging them to leave, will remain in effect for the foreseeable future.

ADEL AL JUBEIR, SAUDI FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: We believe that calls for withdrawing people from Saudi Arabia could inadvertently play into the hands of the terrorists, so we don't support moves like this. But it's not our decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SHIELDS: Al Hunt, does the State Department decision play into the hands of the terrorists?

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: Yes, probably does, Mark, but what's the alternative? Because it's absolutely true. There are two larger questions here. One, as far as the Saudis are concerned, are they willing to really crack down on Islamic radicals? That means going into mosques, going into schools. And based on their history, it's questionable whether they have the capacity or certainly the will to do that. And the other larger question is, Are American policies so despised throughout the Muslim world that al Qaeda and other terrorists are really creating, you know, thousands of new recruits, and they can strike anywhere on a freelance basis? I know Asians -- people in Asia, for instance, who will not travel throughout that region on an American passport any longer. I think the world is a less safe place for -- for American travelers. That's just a reality.

SHIELDS: Bob, are we less safe after the war in Iraq than we were?

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: No, I don't think we're less safe. I think it's a very difficult situation. I believe that there is a very troubling contradiction here, that the president says we will not retreat, we will not back down, and they say, Get out of Saudi Arabia. And I -- I really believe that there are risks to be had in this world. You can -- you can get killed here in Washington. People get murdered in the streets and they don't say, Get out of New York, get out of Philadelphia. I think this is really a mistake on their part, but I do believe...

SHIELDS: I'm sorry. On whose part?

NOVAK: On the U.S. part...

SHIELDS: The U.S. part.

NOVAK: ... to have...

SHIELDS: The State Department's...

NOVAK: ... the State Department's part, and there's kind of an ambivalence where the State Department is a disconnected bunch of bureaucrats making this decision. Is this -- is this President Bush's feeling? Is this Secretary Powell's decision? And I -- you have to say with all this that this is, in part, due to our Israeli policy. It's -- I think it's something we have to live with, but the idea we're going to get out of the Middle East because we have a -- a strong pro-Israeli policy I think would be a huge mistake.

SHIELDS: That's the key here, George Allen, that the Israeli policy of the United States is really inhibiting our latitude in dealing with Saudi Arabia over the terrorists?

ALLEN: Absolutely not. You stand with your friends. And to back down because of that would, I think, be incorrect and wrong. You stand with your allies and your friends. The State Department and the Bush administration, our government, is warning our citizens it's dangerous in Saudi Arabia. If they didn't and something happened, you'd have another commission hearing -- Why -- they know all these terrorist activities there, why didn't they warn us not to go there? And so that I think it's a logical precaution.

If one will look at who these terrorists, these al Qaeda and Hezbollah and so forth, don't like, sure, they hate the U.S. They hate the Israelis. They also consider most of the regimes in the Middle East to be infidels, as well, and illegitimate regimes. And so the Saudi government itself is under attack, as well. You see who they're hitting, it's not just us, it's also Europeans, it's also people who live in those countries.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, dependence on Saudi oil, though, does, in fact, limit what we can do, doesn't it?

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: That's right. The United States has coddled the Saudis for a long time. The Saudis themselves have tried to have it both ways. The royal family will do anything to stay in power and so coddles its own terrorists. And the United States has stood by. Fifteen of the hijackers were Saudis. The Saudis -- King Fahd held a telethon in which he raised money, $85 million, for suicide bombers, calling them martyrs.

So it -- you know, the -- to say that the world is not a more dangerous place -- it's not just the war in Iraq, but it's the failure to secure Iraq after the war that's made the region more dangerous.

SHIELDS: Last word, Margaret Carlson.

George Allen and THE GANG will be back with what the 9/11 commission said about connections, or lack of them, between Iraq and al Qaeda.

ANNOUNCER: Here's your CAPITAL GANG "Trivia Question of the Week." George Allen held the same seat in the Virginia House of Delegates as which other Virginia politician? Was it, A, Thomas Jefferson; B, George Washington; or C, James Monroe? We'll have the answer right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Before the break, we asked which other Virginia politician held the same seat in the Virginia House of Delegates as George Allen? The answer is, A, Thomas Jefferson.

SHIELDS: Welcome back. The independent 9/11 commission said it found no evidence connecting Saddam Hussein with the terrorist attacks on the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS KEAN, 9/11 COMMISSION CO-CHAIR: Yes, there were contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda, a number of them -- some of them a little shadowy, but they were definitely there. But as far as any evidence that Saddam Hussein was in any way involved in the attack on 9/11, it just isn't there.

BUSH: There was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is clear that the president owes the American people a fundamental explanation about why he rushed to war for a purpose that it now turns out is not supported by the facts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Meanwhile, the president of Russia unexpectedly joined the debate by reporting information he had received in recent years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Russian intelligence several times received such information, information that official organs of Saddam's regime were preparing terrorist acts on the territory of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, is the 9/11 commission becoming a political problem, liability, for George W. Bush?

NOVAK: I don't think so. I think these commissions are forgotten soon after their reports come out. I think it has about as much staying power as Dick Clarke's book, which isn't very much. The problem for the president is the war in Iraq. Is it going to come to a favorable conclusion or not? Now, I think that Senator Kerry is trying to make the most of it, saying that the president has to give an explanation of why he went to war. This is a very touchy situation for Senator Clarke (sic). He voted for the war...

SHIELDS: Kerry.

NOVAK: I mean for Senator Kerry. He voted for the war. He says that he supports the war, we have to finish it. But then he says that this indicates we shouldn't have gone to war. I don't think this is a terribly good -- good issue for him to harp on. I think he's got to let the -- the war take its course, and if it goes badly for the United States, it'll be to Senator Kerry's benefit.

SHIELDS: Margaret, let me just read this to you, though. The president said on the Abraham Lincoln, on the "Mission accomplished" day, said, "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11th, 2001. We have removed an ally of al Qaeda and cut off a source of terrorist funding."

He certainly was making the strong suggestion that -- that Saddam Hussein had been an active partner in September 11.

CARLSON: The president and vice president made every effort to make the connection because if it's not for the war on terror that we went into Iraq, then what was it for? And in fact, in a letter to the Congress justifying the war, this is what Bush said. "`I have also determined that the use of armed forces against Iraq is consistent with taking necessary action against those nations who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11."

Can you make a closer connection between going into Iraq and September 11 than that letter? There is none. And that Bush and Cheney both persist this week in saying that there was a relationship just shows that they're very afraid that with the -- with weapons of mass destruction gone as a reason for invading Iraq -- in a hurry, by the way -- that they can't let this one go.

SHIELDS: Al, there is -- it seems to me the credibility seems to be here...

HUNT: Yes.

SHIELDS: ... that that's why the White House came back so strong on this, because if it -- if the argument -- following up on Margaret's point, if that's the case, then it really becomes doubts about the candor in going to war in the first place.

HUNT: Well, it does -- and look, there is no question there was no real collaboration between al Qaeda and Iraq. David Kay, Bush's weapons inspector, said that. Dick Clarke, who Bob referred to earlier, has said that. Tony Zinni, the former CINC commander has said that. And now the 9/11 commission affirms it. The only person left is Dick Cheney, who loves to go out sounding like Spiro Agnew and find friendly venues to repeat this canard and say it's all the press's fault somehow.

But what the 9/11 commission -- it's a very carefully -- it may not have much political effect, as Bob suggested, but it's very carefully prepared. And they say several things. No. 1, this supposed meeting with Mohammed Atta, one of the -- one of the terrorists, and the -- and the Iraqis in -- in Prague -- it just -- which the administration had leaked and pushed -- it never took place. It's totally phony.

And secondly, as far as al Qaeda having any relation with other -- they had much closer ties with Iran. They probably were together with Iran and Hezbollah on the Khobar Towers bombing. So if we wanted to take someone out because of their links to al Qaeda, we should have gone after Iran.

SHIELDS: George Allen, what's the story here? I mean, we...

ALLEN: The story is we're in the midst of a war on terrorism, and the terrorist fronts are different. Al Qaeda had relationships, obviously, with the Taliban. They even had some with Pakistan. Look at the difference since this military action has occurred. Iraq is on the -- on the way to democracy. It's not going to be easy, but they're on the way. Pakistan has made a decision to be on our side, not allied or condoning al Qaeda or the Taliban. Al Qaeda was involved in getting funds, as you said, through a lot of these charities. A lot of that's been shut down, even if people didn't know they were going to get that money.

For Senator Kerry to be saying the president owes an apology or an explanation -- he ought to have an explanation -- if you want to read quotes, read what he was saying in 1998, when President Clinton was bombing Iraq. And you want to see duplicity and political posturing, read his lines and statements back in 1998, along with Secretary Albright and all these who are now mewing and whining about how awful this is that the Bush administration is not sitting back but taking the offensive to the terrorists and liberating the people of Iraq.

NOVAK: Let's -- let's -- let's be clear what the 9/11 commission is saying. They are saying there is a connection between al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime.

ALLEN: Right.

NOVAK: Didn't say there's a connection with 9/11.

ALLEN: Right.

NOVAK: And that, essentially, is what the president is saying now. And I -- I do believe that the people who were talking about the Mohammed Atta thing, which was mostly neo-cons outside the government, were wrong about it. That meeting never took place. But that isn't -- that isn't what this debate is about. The debate is, if you go so far to say that there was no connection, as you are implying on this side of the table...

CARLSON: No relationship.

NOVAK: ... no relationship...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... the 9/11 commission says there was a relationship!

CARLSON: They said there were...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: What it said was, sure, there were conversations. Al Qaeda at times asked for training grants. It was turned down. And there was actually no substantive collaboration, and there was with other countries. So therefore, there really were not ties between...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Let her respond.

HUNT: Dick Cheney has been the one advancing the Mohammed Atta story.

CARLSON: That's right. And as a result of these contacts, they were rebuffed at every turn. Dick Cheney persists in saying the meeting with Mohammed Atta took place, and that... HUNT: Or might have.

CARLSON: ... he'll produce -- he'll produce some evidence...

NOVAK: Well -- well...

CARLSON: ... that he did not produce to the 9/11 commission. Let's wait and see. But as a result of -- of ratcheting this up, we've captured Saddam Hussein but have not captured Osama bin Laden.

NOVAK: But Tom Kean...

ALLEN: We certainly have disrupted the al Qaeda network.

NOVAK: Tom...

ALLEN: And by the way, Margaret...

CARLSON: Not sufficiently. Not sufficiently.

ALLEN: ... do you think -- do you admit that Saddam Hussein was giving $25,000, $35,000 to parents who would send their sons or daughters into terrorist bombs...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: He was a really bad guy. He was just a separate...

CARLSON: Oh, he was...

HUNT: ... bad guy from al Qaeda. They were both bad guys.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Tom -- we just heard Tom Kean say there was a relationship between them. Let's not exaggerate these...

CARLSON: Contacts!

NOVAK: ... things. It's not -- there's a relationship between them!

HUNT: I read the report, Bob, and I think the report...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Let's get one thing straight. I have contacts with you. I have connections with you. I don't collaborate with you...

NOVAK: Thank God!

SHIELDS: ... on anything that you say on this show, for which I exculpate myself!

Next on CAPITAL GANG: Will Bill Clinton steal the spotlight in the 2004 election? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Bill Clinton, just before the roll-out of his memoirs, had his official portrait unveiled at the White House. President Bush spoke of the expectations of those people who had wanted his predecessor to succeed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Meeting those expectations took more than charm and intellect. It took hard work and drive and determination and optimism.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president, by his generous words to Hillary and me today, has proved once again that, in the end, we are held together by this grand system of ours...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Does the saturation exposure of Bill Clinton threaten this year's Democratic presidential nominee?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: I welcome the president's book and I welcome the president's book tour. I think that both are going to remind Americans about very, very good years...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Senator Kerry offered an economic proposal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: I am proposing that we raise the minimum wage by the year 2007 to $7.00 an hour so people in America can get by and get out of poverty.

BUSH: The definition of "stimulate" means more money in your pocket. That's how you stimulate growth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, is Bill Clinton an asset or a liability for John Kerry's presidential campaign?

CARLSON: Can I first say the trickle-down Reagan effect in that White House ceremony was quite something to see, and we should hope it lasts for a while.

Listen, Kerry is easily overshadowed because he's -- he's running a safe campaign. He's overshadowed by Madonna changing her name to Esther, the Pistons upsetting the Lakers. Everything... HUNT: Oh!

SHIELDS: Oh!

NOVAK: Oh!

CARLSON: He just -- it's hard...

HUNT: Did you smell that one?

CARLSON: It's hard to make...

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: It's hard to make news. And if Clinton were to only push this book in places where he wants to excite the base of the Democratic Party, that would be fine, but he's going to go everywhere and bring out the Clinton haters. Kerry's in a bind. It's very hard to come up with a solution for the raw wound that is Iraq. Dennis Kucinich and Nader can say, Let's pull out, but a responsible person cannot say that. So (UNINTELLIGIBLE) talk about the economy, but that doesn't necessarily make news for him. So will he be overshadowed? Yes.

SHIELDS: Overshadowed, Bob Novak?

NOVAK: Absolutely. It's a -- it's a disaster. I have to say that that little thing in the White House was one of the nauseating things I've seen in a long time.

CARLSON: Oh!

HUNT: Oh!

SHIELDS: Oh!

NOVAK: It just -- it just...

CARLSON: You are appalling!

HUNT: You hate civility.

NOVAK: I'm not too keen on it, but...

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: But I just -- I just -- I just thought that this -- that this -- this guy, who was impeached and just had a -- dreadful personal ethics, to have the president slobbering all over him and him slobbering over the president, which his minions have been just devastating and -- and denigrating -- I thought that -- I thought it -- it turned my stomach a little bit. But it really diminishes John -- John Kerry. Every time you run something of the two of them together, Kerry looks like a secondary figure. I -- I really do believe that if he thinks raising the minimum wage is going to get the swing vote and going to change it and going to change the economy, he is an old-fashioned liberal, which I knew in the first place.

SHIELDS: George Allen, most neutral observers thought that the president was quite gracious, witty and eloquent at the ceremony at the White House. Did it turn your stomach?

ALLEN: No, it's -- it's the sort of protocol and diplomacy that is appropriate for that type of an occasion. I do think, though, that to the extent people remember the Clinton years, as Senator Kerry was saying, they will recognize that it was President Clinton who vetoed the exploration of oil from the north slope of Alaska and ANWR. And but for his veto, we wouldn't be so dependent on foreign sources of oil. They'll also be reminded on that late-term partial-birth abortion procedure, a gruesome procedure, that that passed, Clinton vetoed it, President Bush signed it.

Senator Kerry will be talking about tax increases and other ideas that are going to harm job growth and the competitiveness of this country, versus President Bush, who trusts free people and free enterprise and wants to allow people and their families and small business owners to keep more of what they earn and create more jobs. So on the economy, things are going in the right direction. Yes, the war in Iraq is tough, but as was reminded from President Reagan's funeral last week, you have to persevere. You need to stay resolved, and freedom will advance.

SHIELDS: Al, that must mean, given George Allen's paean to George Bush and free enterprise, that drugs will be coming in from Canada any minute now.

HUNT: Oh, I'm sure. And also, the government can bargain the free-market price for drugs. I'm sure George will support that.

Look, I don't -- I think, surely, Clinton is going to suck all the oxygen out of the room for a very, very short time, but Bob's wish that it's devastating is just not going to occur. Actually, Kerry's playing it much better than Al Gore did last time. You embrace the Clinton years. And I'll tell you something. If you want to have that debate all across America, compare the Clinton years with an increase in the minimum wage and the effects that it had -- and look at what happened to people's take-home pay. Both the lowly, poorly-paid workers and the very wealthy people, like Bob Novak, never prospered so much as they did. And George, that's a great comparison and a great debate to have.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Well, you mentioned my name...

SHIELDS: I'll give you a chance, but -- Bob, three out of four voters when Bill Clinton ran for reelection in 1996 said that they were better off...

NOVAK: Oh!

SHIELDS: ... than they had been in 1992.

NOVAK: I get -- I get so sick of that!

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... the Ronald Reagan tribute hour!

NOVAK: I thought that week was over.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: And none too soon!

NOVAK: The middle -- the middle-income -- the middle-income people like me really...

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: ... do feel a lot better under this administration.

SHIELDS: You do?

NOVAK: But I just -- I just think -- nobody took me up on that. The idea that coming up with a minimum wage, which puts people out of work, and it doesn't...

SHIELDS: It does not. It does not.

NOVAK: It doesn't...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Can I -- can I finish my sentence?

SHIELDS: You may. You may.

NOVAK: And what it really does is it just -- it tries to pander to people the Democrats already have their votes. And it's -- it's old-fashioned liberal...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: What Bob, instead, of course, would like to put more money in very rich people, like he is, because you look at the minimum wage increases during the Clinton years, and Bob, it didn't throw people out of work. That's an old canard.

SHIELDS: That's absolutely true.

HUNT: It's no longer true.

SHIELDS: That's true. And it's just a shame that the political action committee -- they don't have a poor people's political action committee...

CARLSON: Right.

SHIELDS: ... minimum wage workers political... CARLSON: Yes, working people.

SHIELDS: ... action committee.

CARLSON: Yes. The working class.

SHIELDS: Don't hit me, Bob! I'll hit you!

(LAUGHTER)

George Allen, thank you for joining us.

Coming up in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG, our "Sidebar" story, a one-term Democrat breaks the seven-year ethics truce in the House by going after majority leader Tom Delay. We go "Beyond the Beltway" to Hartford, Connecticut, where Governor John Rowland is fighting impeachment. And our "Outrages of the Week." That's all after these urgently important messages and the latest news headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

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

The seven-year truce of House Republicans and House Democrats refraining from ethics complaints was broken by freshman Democratic congressman Chris Bell, who filed a complaint against majority leader and fellow Texan Tom DeLay. Under DeLay's redistricting plan, Bell was defeated in this year's Democratic primary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHRIS BELL (D), TEXAS: It's my opinion that Mr. DeLay is the most corrupt politician in America today. It has nothing to do with the election. It has to do with Mr. DeLay's criminal conduct while serving as a member of the House of Representatives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Congressman DeLay responded, quote, "I found it very unfortunate that a disgruntled member of the House who lost his primary has to blame me for his loss. He is using the Ethics Committee to express his bitterness," end quote.

Bob Novak, doesn't every congressman have the basic right to file an ethics complaint?

NOVAK: Absolutely. And I think it was a silly effort being made by Congressman (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to say a lame duck congressman couldn't file it. The question is, is it a wise thing to do? Is it a good thing to continue this politicization of the ethics process, of turning every political dispute into an ethical dispute? Newt Gingrich started it when he got rid of Jim Wright, and it was very questionable whether it was proper to do it at that time. This is all the -- the anger of the Texas Democrats. They have gotten greedy. In a Republican state, they were -- they had gerrymandered in the last election to try to get a majority of the House delegation Democratic. DeLay had this very hard-nosed approach of turning the -- turning it around in the Texas legislature, and the -- and that is what Bell, who got defeated in a primary against an African-American fellow Democratic incumbent -- that's where he -- he is very angry. It's a very unsavory process, and I believe that the Democratic leadership ought to have done with it.

SHIELDS: What about the charges themselves, though, Margaret Carlson?

CARLSON: They're absolutely valid. And the only truce we shouldn't have is this particular truce. In every other way, there's vicious partisanship on the Hill, but they decided to be bipartisan about corruption on the Hill. And just because Gingrich and, in fact, Ken Starr abused this type of procedure is no reason to shut it down entirely.

SHIELDS: Al, it's interesting. What Jim Wright did, or was accused of doing, that was when he gave speeches, selling the book he wrote to the people who were the sponsoring group, seems like -- boy, it seems like double parking outside an orphanage today.

HUNT: Oh, it's mild compared to what DeLay does. I think Bob is right that this guy, Bell, is doing it for really crass personal reasons, and he's not the right messenger. But Tom DeLay is the most ethically challenged leader in our lifetime. It's across the board. I mean, he takes Westar, a big Kansas company, gets a contribution from them, helps them get an amendment through. He goes -- he even wanted to use kids, a so-called foundation for kids, in order to -- to -- you know, prosper at the -- at the GOP convention. He had to cancel that. He lied about getting the FAA involved in Texas. He's just a guy who's got terrible ethical problems.

NOVAK: You know, it's really interesting. As I sit here and listen to my dear colleagues, it seems like all the Democratic mistakes -- Jim Wright's conduct -- it's all excusable. That's politics. But it's really terrible when Republicans do it. It just seems the only really miserable performances, criminal performances, are on the Republican side! I mean, it is -- I mean, if you could just hear yourself, you'd -- you would -- you would be ashamed of yourself!

HUNT: Could I respond to that personal...

SHIELDS: Yes, you sure can.

HUNT: Thank you very much, Mark. Book on Jim Wright -- in that book, Jim Wright accuses me, as the bureau chief of "The Wall Street Journal," for ginning up the ethics charges against him, and "The Wall Street Journal" was the most aggressive coverage of the Jim Wright -- I was critical of Tony Coelho. So I'm sorry, Bob, your history is just...

NOVAK: I'm not talking about...

HUNT: ... dead wrong.

NOVAK: ... history, I'm talking about what you just said here...

HUNT: No, no. You said...

NOVAK: ... a minute ago!

HUNT: You said you distinguished between Democrats and Republicans...

NOVAK: Right here at this table.

HUNT: I do not, Bob. The Jim Wright, Tony Coelho -- I mean, what you do -- I have never heard you talk about a congressional Republican who you think is engaged in ethical...

NOVAK: Well, I...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Can you name one?

NOVAK: I'll tell you what -- I'll tell you what I think. I think this whole...

HUNT: Is there an example of that?

NOVAK: I think this whole question of going after a congressman you disagree with because you don't like Tom DeLay because he's a tough Republican and a conservative on ethical grounds is as bad as going after Jim Wright because he was tough Democrat on ethical grounds. I think there's a -- there's a complaint against Congressman Martin Frost already out, a retaliatory thing. I think this turns a miserable House of Representatives (UNINTELLIGIBLE) partisan into an absolutely unlivable state!

HUNT: You didn't defend...

NOVAK: That's -- that's the doctrine you're going to down right now!

HUNT: You did not defend Jim Wright when -- during his ethics charges, Bob.

NOVAK: I did not -- I had told -- I had -- I had said and I had written that I didn't think it was a good idea...

SHIELDS: Margaret?

NOVAK: ... to take that approach.

CARLSON: There are lots of other tough Republicans against which we're not urging ethics complaints. But if no outsiders and no lame duck congressmen can bring an ethics complaint, who's going to police...

NOVAK: What do you think about the ethics complaint...

CARLSON: Who's going to police...

NOVAK: ... against Frost?

CARLSON: The Congress -- the Congress...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Margaret raises a point. The House -- the House insulated themselves...

CARLSON: Yes.

SHIELDS: ... by saying that outside groups or individuals could not bring charges against any member. And so then they stopped that avenue of criticism. And now they've stopped the avenue of criticism of...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: I'm going to ask you a question. What do you think of the ethics charges against Martin Frost?

CARLSON: I think let's study it and let's look at it.

NOVAK: But you -- you already have convicted, indicted and put to prison DeLay! You know all that, why don't you know about Frost?

CARLSON: No, I haven't. No.

SHIELDS: Tom DeLay is grateful, Bob.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, the "CAPITAL GANG Classic," an ethics complaint against Newt Gingrich with commentary -- get this, ironically -- from Tom DeLay 10 years ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Ten years ago, just before the Republicans assumed majority status in Congress, the new House Democratic whip, David Bonior of Michigan, called for an investigation of alleged ethics violations by the new Republican speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DAVID BONIOR (D-MI), MINORITY WHIP: Newt Gingrich has masterminded a multi-million-dollar personal slush fund, some of which was subsidized at taxpayers' expense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: THE CAPITAL GANG discussed this on December 10, 1994. Our guest was the new House majority whip then, Tom DeLay of Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: I thought that Dave Bonior looks pathetic trying to dredge up those old ethics charges.

SHIELDS: Did Dave Bonior look pathetic...

CARLSON: No.

SHIELDS: ... or did he look like Newt Gingrich revisited?

CARLSON: No, Bonior doesn't look pathetic. And in fact, he brought up that Gingrich himself went after Jim Wright for some of the same things. And so he looks hypocritical by trying to avoid an ethics investigation.

REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY WHIP: Bonior is talking about an independent investigation, when the Democrats have controlled the Ethics Committee for months and had this charge in their committee for months and have chosen not to do anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, looking back 10 years, was there justification for bringing ethics charges against Newt Gingrich?

HUNT: Well, Mark, there was subsequently a special House investigation, a special House outside counsel, who found that Newt Gingrich had engaged in those ethical violations, plus more.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak?

NOVAK: I think the things that he was convicted for, finally, had to pay a fine, were quite different from the allegations that David Bonior brought at the time. And I -- and I thought that there was a -- it was a tremendous mistake. The Democrats were so mad that the Republicans had finally won control over their property, the House of Representatives -- first time in 40 years, they only thought it would last for two years, it's lasted for 10 years -- that they had this mean-spirited attack on Gingrich. And it just -- it has led to this -- this -- this whole uncivil discourse in the House of Representatives, Al.

SHIELDS: Well, that has -- it wasn't -- it wasn't Newt...

CARLSON: It wasn't that he actually did it. Is it mean if it's true? By the way, I wonder if we'll be able to get Tom DeLay back on the program after this particular show.

NOVAK: Well, I -- the way we treat him, so nastily, I -- I think he (UNINTELLIGIBLE) want to come on.

HUNT: Bob -- Bob, I'm confused. Can I say -- are you for civility in the House or against it? I'm a little confused.

NOVAK: I am for civility and partisanship and polarization.

HUNT: You are? I see!

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: You're not for civility in the White House. And if based upon how people are treated nastily, they didn't come back, you'd be doing a solo show.

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the Connecticut governor fighting impeachment. Chris Keating of "The Hartford Courant" joins us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. The Connecticut state supreme court ruled 5 to 2 that three-term Republican governor John Rowland must testify before the legislative committee considering his impeachment on charges of corruption. The impeachment hearings began with Steven Reich, special council for the impeachment committee, declaring, quote, "Today is another historic step in the process that the House of Representatives undertook in January this year. Never before has the state conducted an impeachment inquiry relating to its governor," end quote.

Governor Rowland's lawyer, Ross Garber (ph), denied reported attempts of a negotiated settlement. Quote, "The governor has been consistent throughout this process that he is not resigning, that he is not stepping aside," end quote.

Joining us now from Hartford, Connecticut, is "The Hartford Courant's" capitol bureau chief, Chris Keating. Thanks for coming in, Chris.

CHRIS KEATING, "HARTFORD COURANT": Thank you.

SHIELDS: Chris, if Governor Rowland does not resign, can he really avoid impeachment?

KEATING: It's not looking good at the moment. There's a huge public sentiment against him, and there's huge sentiment on the committee against him. There have not been any votes yet, but there's been eight days of public hearings, and there's a lot of evidence piling up against him.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak?

NOVAK: Chris, can you divine what his strategy is, what -- he's not going to resign, and apparently, he's not going to testify, even if he's subpoenaed. What is his game plan? Do you have any sense of that?

KEATING: I think his game plan at the moment is to try to beat the two-thirds Senate vote, basically. It's very similar to the federal system. The committee would have to vote, then the full House, and then you need a two-thirds vote in the Connecticut state Senate for conviction. And if he can beat it there, that would be his strategy.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Hey, Chris, during Governor Rowland's campaign, his opponent, Bill Curry (ph), brought out much of the things that he's being impeached for -- the bid rigging, the $227 million Enron scandal, and on and on. Yet most of those stories were buried or -- and I think your paper actually endorsed Rowland. What -- what took so long for this to kind of reach a point where "The Hartford Courant" would actually, you know, turn against Rowland?

KEATING: Actually, most of the stuff that's the subject of the impeachment is new since the campaign. The Enron scandal that you mentioned was there, but the impeachment, the tripwire of the impeachment was only on December 12 of this past year, when Rowland admitted that he had lied about gifts that had got from politically connected contractors who not only had state contracts, but they worked on the governor's vacation cottage. That was the tripwire. So basically, most of the impeachment stuff is post-2002 election.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt?

HUNT: Chris, you noted earlier that the requirements for impeachment are the same -- the votes are the same as they are in the federal system, basically. I don't know what the threshold is to justify legally the impeachment up there, but one thing, in reading about, it strikes me that this guy became -- he -- he really started to think that this was an entitlement. He'd go out to get shirts, and he wouldn't get just normal shirts, he'd get the most expensive shirts possible, courtesy of some of these special interest lobbyists. He really did -- did he change, or was he -- had he always been that way?

KEATING: Well, I think most of his stuff came from his staff members. Part of his defense is that most of the gifts that he got were from friends. He really didn't get too much from lobbyists. He did get some Cuban cigars and French champagne from a convicted felon. He got a $3,600 hot tub from his scheduler. He got the suits that you mention, and the ties, from one of his other aides. So it's kind of been a build-up of all of these things.

SHIELDS: Chris, looking at it, I'm trying to figure out, if I were a Republican state senator in Connecticut, what the political advantage to me would be of standing by John Rowland? I mean, of being -- constituting part of that one third. And I guess the companion question to it is, is this going to have a spill-out for other Republicans? Chris Shays is being targeted, Republican member of Congress, by Democrats. I think they have a shot at his seat. I mean, he has a reputation for sort of independent integrity. But does it become a Republican Party problem, at some point?

KEATING: Well, it is an issue. Chris Shays and Rob Simmons, two Republican congressmen in Connecticut, have both called upon Rowland to resign. Eleven out of the fifteen state senators have called upon him to resign. Now, those 11 state senators have said there's a completely different separation between asking him to resign and voting to convict him on the impeachment. So they've pulled back on the impeachment and said they haven't made a decision. But 11 out of the 15 GOP senators say Rowland should resign.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Chris, there's another aspect of this, and that is, there's federal prosecutors who pretty much in Connecticut, as elsewhere, operate on their own without much direction from Washington, seem to be going after him very hard. Is this one of the considerations that Governor Rowland has, that if he were to make some kind of a plea bargain with the legislature, leading to his resignation without impeachment, it might impinge on the -- and help the federal prosecutors who are trying to put him in prison?

KEATING: Yes. The federal investigation is overhanging this entire impeachment situation. A lot of people in Connecticut don't believe that Rowland will testify. Even though the state supreme court said he has to, they don't believe he'll testify because he could say something that could be used against him by the federal grand jury.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Chris, isn't it true that without the federal prosecutors, Rowland might be getting away with everything, in that it was their investigations, since almost everyone involved with Rowland and in the state was kind of in on it? I mean, two mayors, I think, are in jail, secretary of state, his chief of staff and on and on.

KEATING: Some of those -- right. Some of those cases are unrelated. The two mayors' cases are unrelated to Rowland. But yes, Rowland's deputy chief of staff pleaded guilty to accepting gold and cash bribes for steering contracts. After he got the gold, he buried it in his back yard, and the FBI dug up the gold, and he has since pleaded guilty.

HUNT: Chris, we only have about 30 seconds left, but has this, obviously, I would think, soured the once fairly close George Bush- John Rowland relationship?

KEATING: A little bit. Rowland has not gone to several events where Bushy was in town. Bush, as you know, was very close to Rowland. Rowland was chairman of the Republican Governors Association and raised a lot of money in 2002 to help Jeb Bush win in Florida, so -- but Rowland, on the flip side, has still been to Washington, has been to the White House since all this came out, and has met with Bush. But publicly, there does seem to be a bit of a cooling of the relationship.

SHIELDS: Hey, Chris Keating, thank you so much for being with us.

THE GANG will be back with the "Outrages of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: And now for the "Outrages of the Week."

If politicians want to understand why 85 percent of American voters say they have little or no confidence in corporations, all they have to do is listen to Enron officials laugh and talk openly about manipulating the West Coast power market and disrupting the lives while gouging California families of millions in rigged prices.

First man, "All that money guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?" Second man, "yes, Grandma Millie, man. Yes, now she wants her" -- censored -- "money back for all the power you've charged -- jammed up her" -- censored, rear end.

Former Enron chairman Ken Lay today remains uncharged.

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: The liberal kidnapping of Ronald Reagan entered its second week when bipartisan lawmakers headed by Democratic senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland introduced bills to double research funding for Alzheimer's disease as a living memorial for Ronald Reagan. It is a tragedy when this disease visits anybody, but it should not be Ronald Reagan's epitaph. John Kerry's demanding that this Reagan memorial include embryonic stem cell research, contrary to President Reagan's anti-abortion principles. The process offers little promise against Alzheimer's but seeks substantial progress in Democratic politics.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, in about 60 minutes, we'll all be sick of the former president, but you should still see "The Hunting of the President" and be outraged again at Ken Starr, who abused his power not just against the president -- who deserved some of what he got -- but against Susan MacDougal, who deserved none of it. Starr demanded that she swear false testimony against the Clintons. She refused, and Starr locked her up for two years. She got no Senate seat, no money, no thanks. "60 Minutes" should give her 60 minutes.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: In more than three decades of covering American politics, I've never known a more able, insightful or decent participant than Bob Teeter, who passed away this week. He was a leading adviser to four Republican presidents. He was George Herbert Walker Bush's campaign chief and a pollster and strategist for more victorious GOP governors than anyone in the past century. And I've never known a Democrat who didn't respect him and didn't like him. He was simply the best, and politics won't be the same without him.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS: SUMMER OF FIRE." At 9:00 PM, "LARRY KING LIVE," the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. And at 10:00 PM on "CNN SATURDAY NIGHT," the latest news.

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


International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
SEARCH
   The Web    CNN.com     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser.
CNN.com does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.