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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Winners and Losers At The Republican National Conventions; President Bush Shores Up Base With Conservative Acceptance Speech; Ohio Still Strongly Contested State

Aired September 5, 2004 - 23:00   ET

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


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Carol Lin at the CNN Center in Atlanta and here's what's happening now in the news.
CNN has learned that Bill Clinton will likely undergo heart bypass surgery Monday morning. President Clinton was admitted to a New York hospital Friday after experiencing chest pains and we're told the procedure could be delayed if blood-thinning medication he has received has not made it thoroughly through his system by morning.

Well Frances has weakened and is now a tropical storm but is still lashing parts of Florida with driving rain and gusting winds. The National Hurricane Center predicts it could be two more days before Frances leaves Florida entirely. It could still regain hurricane strength as it heads for the northeastern Gulf of Mexico.

And those are the headlines this hour. I'm Carol Lin keeping you informed, CNN, the most trusted name in news.

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Kate O'Beirne. Our guest is the number two Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. Thanks for coming in, Steny.

REP. STENY HOYER, (D) MD: Good to be here, Mark. I think.

SHIELDS: It is. It is. It better be. In New York, George W. Bush concluded the 38th National Convention of the Republican Party with a 62 minute speech accepting his re-nomination for president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: Because the union of a man and woman deserves an honored place in our society, I support the protection of major against activist judges.

Do I forget the lessons of September 11 and take the word of a mad man or do I take action to defend our country? Faced with that choice I will defend America every time.

In the last four years you and I have come to know each other. Even when we don't agree, at least you know where I believe and where I stand. You may have noticed I have a few flaws. For as long as our country stands, people will look to the resurrection of New York City and they will say, "Here buildings fell, here a nation rose."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, did the President do what he needed to do politically with this speech?

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: Yeah, Mark, he sure did. This was a very effective speech. He was-I think the end was particularly good, the final several minutes, there was some good self-deprecation and also he really I think emotionally connected with both the people in the hall and with the viewers in America. This was a lot about national security and the "War on Terrorism."

It wasn't very much about Iraq. There were passing references to Iraq. This was about 9/11 and this was about the heroes and the victims of 9/11 and George Bush's association. That's the way he started the speech, that's the way he ended the speech and that, they think, and I think, probably with great justification, those are winning issues so I think it was very, very effective.

On the domestic stuff, I thought he was mailing it in. I thought he went through the motions. He wanted to say it was a big bold agenda, he doesn't tell us what any of it is. It doesn't even square with some of what he's done already.

For instance, he said he was going to double the number of job training people the federal government sponsors. He actually proposed to cut that budget. And there was a domestic report out today on unemployment which showed really quite a mediocre job growth, so the domestic -- 144,000, they are more people added to the workforce so if you keep that up you'll keep rising unemployment so I think there are some problems in the substance but boy, it was well done.

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Al, the unemployment numbers down. You're sounding like an economic "girlyman," Al, that Arnold Schwarzenegger warned us about.

HUNT: I think you are a "girlyman" when you are satisfied with 144,000. That's not very good, Kate.

O'BEIRNE: Look, I thought...

HOYER: ...what they said it was going to be...

HUNT: Exactly.

O'BEIRNE: Oh, they all sound like economic "girlymen." I thought it was a terrific speech. Really well-delivered. He was extremely confident. He was very relaxed. I thought the speech specifically played to some of the strengths he already enjoyed. A strong leader who is going to hit on that ground when he looked at the camera and said, "I will defend America every time." The likeability- even people who disapprove of George Bush, he has a high likeability. The humor, I agree with Al, used effectively. And the sense of a man who has strong convictions who says, "Even when you disagree you know where I stand. Of course, the contrast is John Kerry himself doesn't know where he stands. Altogether, I think, an excellent speech. He certainly talked about Iraq. He said after 9/11 he could not trust our security to a madman.

SHIELDS: Steny Hoyer. After listening to this-I'm getting diabetes here. All this sweet talk of George Bush in New York. Was it really that great?

HOYER: Well, I think they think it was that great and we'll have to see how great it was but I think it was successful in ignoring, as Al points out, their domestic failures. We have 5 million more Americans without health insurance. We have 4 million more Americans in poverty since this president took over. 2 million more unemployed. Al's right. You need 150,000 to stay evening. They said they were going to get 5 million, they've gotten 1 million. So-but they were successful in not discussing the failures of this administration.

SHIELDS: Well, John Kerry didn't discuss his Senate (inaudible), and George Bush didn't discuss from September 11th until today. Other than Iraq. And Vietnam.

ROBERT NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: This was a good speech. It was an excellent speech. Most acceptance speeches are. I thought John Kerry was one of the most mediocre out of there. I thought that the senior Bush's acceptance speech in '92 was one of the poorest I ever heard. This was a good one.

The reason that Al doesn't like the domestic thing is this was a very conservative speech. This is a conservative president. He talks about things that people in his base and in the Republican Party know about. He talks about protecting the unborn. You don't have to make a long speech about that to know what he means. Then he talked about activist judges. You know exactly what he means. He came out for tax reform and simplification. He came out for private accounts on Social Security. Those are all part of the agenda and I thought that-and Al can appreciate that and I think you said it was, was very well-written and it had some very good emotional lines.

HUNT: Well-said by the...

HOYER: That's because at the end it was certainly very moving at the end and I think he has convictions.

HUNT: It was too long.

NOVAK: It was too long.

SHIELDS: Let me just ask-raise a discordant note in this otherwise harmonious setting. I mean he was resolute but people really have grave doubts about how resolute he is and where he's taking us. Not about whether he's strong but whether his judgement is good. I mean, about Iraq, I mean...

NOVAK: What people are they? SHIELDS: One third of Americans...

NOVAK: He's got about 93 percent of the Republican vote and he's right now in a close race with Kerry. You sound like there's people out in your neighborhood-in your neighborhood they probably are against him...

SHIELDS: Do you want to ask me a question and do you want an answer, Bob, or do you just want to hear yourself?

NOVAK: I just want to hear myself. Go ahead.

SHIELDS: Of course you do. One third of Americans think that Iraq, as of now, was worth the cost in lives and treasure. And I don't know. He presented himself as sort of-basically his message seems to be things have never been worse so I'm the only guy to get us out of the mess we're in.

O'BEIRNE: If you're a Michael Moore Democrat you're not going to be persuaded. I grant you that. But the "L.A. Times" poll heading into the convention had 15 percent of Democrat supporting George Bush, only 3 percent of Republicans supporting John Kerry. He made a very strong case for his leadership on the "War on Terror" and that is the top challenge facing him.

HUNT: I'm not a Michael Moore Democrat, a Michael Moore Republican, or a Michael Moore anything, but you phrased that simple formulation. After 9/11, you couldn't trust a madman. Kim Jong-Il is far more dangerous than Saddam Hussein. Does that mean we take him out next?

O'BEIRNE: I think what it means is the public is going to trust George Bush's leadership on Iran and North Korea more than John Kerry's.

HUNT: Are we going to take out Kim Jong-Il?

SHIELDS: Steny had one quick thing to say.

HOYER: Well, I was just going to say being resolute in the pursuit of failed policies is not a virtue.

SHIELDS: Ay. Oh. I say one thing. Here we have a whip who's a poet. Steny Hoyer and the Gang will be back with "Winners and Losers" out of Madison Square Garden.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Three of the news-making speakers at the Republican convention were the former mayor of New York City, the new governor of California and a lifelong Democrat from Georgia. All of them took aim, at different times, at John Kerry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: President Bush is the only leader who is willing to stick with difficult decisions even as public opinion shifts and goes back and forth and John Kerry, whose record in elected office suggests a man who changes his position even on important issues.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENNEGER, GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: If you believe that this country, not the United Nations is the best hope for democracy than you are Republican.

SEN. ZELL MILLER, (D) GEORGIA: This is the man who wants to be the commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces? U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: OK, Zell? As we did after the Democrats met in Boston, we'll pick the "Winners & Losers" of the Republican convention. Bob Novak. Who in the Big Apple was the big winner?

NOVAK: The biggest winner was Zell Miller. He is so popular in the party now. They hardly knew who he was. He's still a Democrat but he could get elected to almost anything or even President. They love him at Madison Square Garden.

SHIELDS: Steny?

HOYER: Well, I don't know about that. Which party?

The right wing was the big winner. They successfully hid behind their "girlymen" moderates and were not to be seen nor is there record to be talked about.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne. Big winner?

O'BEIRNE: I think New York City was the big winner. It was a terrific convention city. I was in a hotel with the Mississippi delegation. They found New Yorkers there as friendly as they are. Particularly New York's finest. The New York City police did a fabulous job.

SHIELDS: I agree they did. 12 hours on, 12 hours off...

HUNT: I'm going to just go along with Kate O'Beirne. Absolutely. I stayed with the Alabama delegation and they had the same feeling. It was wonderful. Even the New York City cab drivers were absolutely terrific...

O'BEIRNE: Very friendly.

HUNT: ...this week and I think the city deserved great credit. The city really did plan this thing very well and it worked.

SHIELDS: I have to say the big winner of the convention was Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold Schwarzenegger moved from being sort of this curiosity item to being a major figure and he lighted up the place, I think, more than anybody else all week. It was really phenomenally. But one thing I did have to say, when Rudy Giuliani said on September 11th he said, thank God George Bush was president. I just-that didn't happen. It was like when Jack Valenti said I sleep better nights because Lyndon Johnson is in the White House. OK, Bob, who is the big loser?

NOVAK: The big loser are the pro-choice Republicans. Ann Stone and Jennifer Stockman were roaming around the platform committee, they couldn't even get a vote, much less something in the provision. Of course, they had pro-choice Republicans who addressed the convention but they didn't mention the word "abortion."

SHIELDS: Steny?

HOYER: I think the truth was the loser. I think they misrepresented Bush's record. I think they misrepresented Senator Kerry's record. I think they misrepresented the consequences of the policies they are pursuing. I think the truth was the loser.

SHIELDS: Truth is a casualty. Go ahead, Kate.

O'BEIRNE: My loser is the Democrat's rapid response team. It was in the person of Elliot Spitzer and Frank Lautenberg and some obscure mayors. Nevermind the A-team, like Steny Hoyer, not showing up, when even the B-team Democrats won't come to New York to defend John Kerry, that has to be a really bad sign.

SHIELDS: In any A-team, Democrat or Republican, Elliot Spitzer has to have a place. Go ahead.

HUNT: The big loser was Bob's winner. Zell Miller, whose substantive achievements as governor in education and the like will be forever overshadowed by the bookends of hatred. His start as a racist in the 60s and that vicious, mean spirited speech. What's he so angry about? This is a man who's really got some trouble.

NOVAK: You know what?

HUNT: No, no, no, because I haven't finished. Chris Dodd...

SHIELDS: Bob -- he doesn't really want an answer.

HUNT: Chris Dodd and his Senate colleagues said, you know, I expected after hearing him for a couple minutes, I thought he'd bring out an axe.

NOVAK: I'll tell you why it's so...

HUNT: I'm sorry, Steny, what did you say?

HOYER: Zell Miller would speak for a party that he said was the party of division and diversion. That's what it was at the convention.

HUNT: Zell's passionate, whichever way he goes.

HOYER: He joined 'em. NOVAK: I'll tell you why he was so angry. Because he thinks the Democratic Party has betrayed him. This is a major figure in the Democratic Party in the South and it is so symbolic that this guy is now completely with the Republicans. And you say he's a loser. He's a loser with people like you, Al. But he's not a loser with the Republican Party. They love him.

SHIELDS: Bob, you already had your turn. I haven't had mine.

NOVAK: I'm sorry.

SHIELDS: Now, let's get one thing straight. Zell Miller succeeded in igniting the Democrats in 1992 at Madison Square Garden. He united the Democrats at Madison Square Garden in 2004 as well.

Now, the biggest loser was, I hate to say it, because I like him, enormously, Bill Frist. It was the worst speech. Did you see him? He had been to a famous elocution school and his movements were just like "I Robot" and it was just terrible. It looked like he had six A batteries in a AA toy. It was-I felt so bad for him. He'll recover, I hope, but I'm sorry...

NOVAK: You're exactly right.

SHIELDS: I am right?

NOVAK: Yes.

O'BEIRNE: Mark, if you were to contrast...

NOVAK: That was the worst speech of the convention.

SHIELDS: Well Elaine Chao was close.

O'BEIRNE: If you want to contrast the two conventions, how much more attractive and appealing were John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger than Al Sharpton, Howard Dean, if you want angry, and Ted Kennedy. In 1992, Democrats were hailing Zell Miller as a Southern statesman. He was the liberals favorite governor in 1992. He's now a 9/11 Democrat like Ed Koch, who cares more about national security than partisanship.

HUNT: The last time that Bob and I strongly disagreed on a figure was about three weeks ago on Alan Keyes where you chastised me for saying he was a little bit nutty. This week he called the vice president's daughter a selfish hedonist. Do you agree now he's a little nutty?

NOVAK: I disagree with him on that but let me say one other thing we shouldn't omit is Rudy Giuliani really was a big winner, too. He was-if he could go on the road to Damascus(ph) and get right on abortion he could be nominated for President.

HUNT: And gay marriage and a few other things. John McCain gave a good speech. HOYER: Again, the victim was the truth. You got to get back to what is this all about? And it is about those 5 million people who have lost health insurance. It is about the 2 million unemployed.

NOVAK: Well, you're on message, aren't you?

HOYER: You betcha, because that's what this is about. It's not about who performed well, who spoke well, who's glitzy, who was sexy, it's about, "Are the policies working for America's people?"

SHIELDS: There's a reality out there, Steny. Next on CAPITAL GANG, the Democrat strikes back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Barely minutes after President Bush completed his acceptance speech, Senator John Kerry responded from Springfield, Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me sum up my response to the president's speech in four words -- all hat, no cattle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The Democratic candidate specifically struck back at attacks on his national security credentials.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: I will not have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have, and have misled America into Iraq.

Vice president -- the vice president called me unfit for office last night. Well, I am going to leave it up to the voters to decide whether five deferments makes someone more qualified than two tours of duty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: First national poll taken through the first three days of the Republican National showed President Bush over the 50 percent mark for the first time this year, with an 11-point lead over Senator Kerry.

Bob Novak, is John Kerry now responding effectively to the Republican attacks?

NOVAK: Well, he's responding. This is -- he is following the James Carville course of hit back. Mr. Carville has been very critical of Mary Beth Cahill, the campaign manager, as being too soft, and but I thought the -- I thought the speech in Springfield, Ohio -- you've been there many times. SHIELDS: I have. Clark (ph) County.

NOVAK: And that place I thought was a stupid venue. It was in the middle of the night. The audience was not responding. He gave a very disorganized, disjointed speech.

I think the last thing he wants to do is to revive this business about going back into people's records and to talk about Dick Cheney's draft deferments it's -- is chintzy. And I'll tell you something else, is that he talked about health care, then he went to Iraq, then he went back to health care. I thought it was a disjointed speech, and Democrats that I talked to say this guy has got to get his campaign in shape. It's not doing well.

SHIELDS: Steny Hoyer, just so I understand it. Chintzy to talk about Dick Cheney's five deferments, but not chintzy to attack John Kerry's service?

HOYER: From Bob's perspective, apparently. The fact of the matter is, though, that what John Kerry did was unprecedented and I think is going to be reflective of the next 60 days. John Kerry isn't going to take being attacked lying down or in the back room. He is going to be out there talking to the American public. He did it immediately. I thought he did it effectively. I think he's going to tell America that he has every intention of being as forceful as America needs to be in defending us against terrorists and going after terrorists, and also making America strong here, and talking about the problems that this president said he was going to solve that still remain not only unsolved but worse.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, Bill Clinton said two years ago, at a time when Americans are concerned and worried about their security, they prefer a leader who's strong and wrong, than one who's right and weak. I mean, has Kerry come across as weak, do you think, in all of this?

HUNT: Yeah, let me just correct Bob a little bit. James Carville has been critical, but it hasn't been to have him hit back, this is a candidate and a campaign that over the last three or four weeks have been slow, they've been sluggish, they haven't been able to make decisions. The campaign talks about focus groups before they do anything, and I did a story Tuesday morning at the convention saying that there are a number of Democrats that thought there should be a shake-up with the candidate and the campaign. And that they really had to if they wanted to be competitive in this race, Steny. And their response was that this was just a Carville plan -- in fact, I talked to a dozen people about that story, including three in the campaign, and that secondly, everything was fine. They didn't have any problems. August had gone very, very well for them.

If they believe that, they're in deep trouble. This is still a race John Kerry can win, but he has had a bad month.

O'BEIRNE: If that performance at midnight on Thursday night is an example of the product of this campaign that's been shaken up, that is a very bad sign for John Kerry.

HUNT: It wasn't a shake-up, though.

O'BEIRNE: Well, then they badly need one, although their fundamental problem is their candidate, of course. He looked desperate. He wouldn't even give the president one night to himself, unrebutted, unfiltered? He looks whiny. He's trying to tell us all what a war hero he is, and he looks whiny and wimpy. The only person who said that he didn't have a sufficient commitment to defend America, based on his voting record, was a former Marine, Zell Miller. Those who actually do say he's unfit to be commander in chief are 250 fellow decorated Vietnam vets. But as long as he is so whiny, complaining about what people are saying about him, he's talking about the past.

He thought he could carry himself to the White House based on a tiny little band of brothers. His problem is a brigade of brothers who served with him have now come on the scene, and he won't confront the fundamental case they're making.

HUNT: Because they've lied, and every time -- every time anyone has looked at what they have said, whether it's "The Chicago Tribune," "The Los Angeles Times," "The New York Times," they have proven that every single one of his medals is demonstrated...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: As John McCain said, what these people have done is smear the records and the medals and the ribbons of everybody over there, not just one -- that's Senator John McCain.

NOVAK: Just because you say that in a loud voice doesn't mean it's true. But let me -- let me -- let me get...

SHIELDS: Am I going to get a chance to speak on this story?

NOVAK: I know you don't want me to get in there...

SHIELDS: I'd like to have you, Bob, but I'd like you to respond to me too, and that is I thought that what Kerry did was the right thing. I thought it was the wrong setting. I thought a rally at midnight -- I mean, this is a serious thing. What you want to show is a controlled (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You want to show a sense of determination. You can't show that at a rally, quite frankly. You can't show it with an open (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- but I do say he did say in that statement what I think is the vulnerable part, and that is misleading the nation into war. If he's willing to make that case, and it's going to be, you know, I think that could really change the dynamics of this race.

NOVAK: I agree with you, and he's still recovering from having said even if I knew now...

SHIELDS: That's right. I agree.

NOVAK: ... I'd still vote for it. The thing -- you talk to more Democrats than I do. I talk to a lot of Democrats. They're beginning to have doubts about the guy as a candidate, not just the staff around him.

HUNT: You know, we agree on that.

SHIELDS: OK. Steny.

HOYER: A lot of people had doubts, as I recall, before January of last year. They thought John Kerry had disappeared. He came back strong and won.

SHIELDS: Good point, Steny Hoyer. And Steny Hoyer, thank you for being with us on this Labor Day weekend.

Coming up on the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG, the "Classic" looks back at George W. Bush's acceptance speech four years ago. "Beyond the Beltway" goes to Ohio, to look at Bush versus Kerry in that key, Buckeye, battleground state. And I go behind enemy lines at Madison Square Garden to take a look at the affluent Republicans in convention assembly.

That's all after these important messages and the latest news headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG. Like my esteemed colleagues, I too was in New York for the 2004 Republican Convention. It brought back memories of the very first Republican Convention I watched, which was the 1952 party gathering in Chicago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS (voice-over): That was a titanic struggle between the conservative champion, Ohio U.S. Senator Robert A. Taft and General Dwight David Eisenhower.

Ike was the favorite of the Republican moderates, particularly party members from the northeastern United States.

CROWD: We want Ike! We want Ike!

SHIELDS: The moderate Republicans who nominated Ike that year were mostly internationalist in outlook, what we would call today environmentalists and very big on fiscal responsibility and balancing the federal budget.

My, how the Grand Old Party has changed.

While half the United States population and two-thirds of Democrats believe it is important to work through the United Nations to solve world problems, a grand total of just 7 percent of this year's Republican delegates agree.

Should the federal government do more to regulate the environmental and safety procedures of American business? Three out of five voters say yes, but not these delegates in Madison Square Garden. Fewer than one out of six, just 15 percent, want the government to further protect birds, bunnies and human workers if it means inconveniencing business.

When it comes to choosing between balancing the federal budget or cutting taxes, these Republicans overwhelmingly choose cutting their own taxes, even if it means more debt for their grandchildren. Not surprisingly, 27 percent of the Republican delegates in New York were millionaires.

But New York was still mostly fun, and the New York police, who worked 12-hour shifts with only 12 hours off before going back on duty, were truly phenomenal. They deserve praise, and more important, they deserve a raise.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: When it comes to convention keynote speakers, the Democrats in Boston with the youthful, optimistic and unifying message of Barack Obama had a huge edge over my geriatric contemporary, the carping, crotchety and frankly sour Zell Miller.

Kate O'Beirne, do you agree with my assessment of the Republicans gathered in New York?

O'BEIRNE: I am so encouraged that half the public now sees the U.N. as feckless and corrupt. That's really encouraging.

I agree with the Republicans in New York. I too oppose job- killing environmental regulations. I too support tax cuts that will boost economic growth. These people and I recognize the most important thing we can do for our children and grandchildren is to spend whatever it takes to defeat this scourge of terrorism. They are my people, as were the cops outside Madison Square Garden, based on those I talked with. They were all my people.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, how about that 27 percent who were millionaires?

NOVAK: I wish it was more. Mark, you don't like the Republicans. And you don't like these Republicans, because they've controlled the Congress, kicked your people out of there for the last 10 years. You liked those Eisenhower Republicans because they -- Eisenhower fought tax cuts. Republicans after Eisenhower even fought Kennedy's tax cuts, and they were a minority party.

The things that keep the Republican Party very close to a majority party now are abortion, tax cuts and anti-gun control. And those are the issues that are the unifying things in the Republican Party -- I don't care what the speakers say -- and those are the things that you have a great deal of trouble saying, hey, this is the Republican Party, because it wasn't Eisenhower's Republican Party.

SHIELDS: I don't know how to thank you for that analysis, Bob.

NOVAK: Anytime.

SHIELDS: You know, Dr. Novak. Go ahead, Al.

HUNT: Back in those days, Bob Novak associated himself with...

SHIELDS: He was an Eisenhower Republican.

HUNT: ... Eisenhower and fiscal responsibility. But you know, Robert, also after the -- after the Boston convention, you said with some merit that there was a truth in packaging travesty, that they didn't present the real face. This made Boston look positively honest. This was so duplicitous.

It wasn't just the speakers. Let me give you just one example. The most oft cited presidents -- not Eisenhower, not George Herbert Walker Bush, not even Ronald Reagan. It was Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. They're getting it right on that, at least.

NOVAK: Well, I think that's (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but I'll tell you, I'll tell you, you've got to be more honest than that, Al.

HUNT: It was.

NOVAK: Because if you look at the platforms, the Republican platform is a genuine...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... platform...

SHIELDS: Let me get...

NOVAK: While they -- listen to this -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and the Democratic platform was a lot of nothing. That's the problem.

SHIELDS: Let me make one point about the Republican platform. The biggest cheer that George W. Bush got was he was going to make our tax cuts permanent. That is what holds Republicans together.

O'BEIRNE: Not true.

SHIELDS: It's what holds them together. It is the defining holy grail of the party, and...

NOVAK: That's fine.

SHIELDS: OK, but let's get one thing -- you look at that, and what does that say? They commit themselves to a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget! How can you have the two?

O'BEIRNE: No, no, they do agree about economic policy, but it wouldn't be enough for them to be a majority party. One place where the Republican delegates are far closer to public opinion than Democratic delegates in Boston is on the abortion issue, because the vast majority of Americans are much closer to the kind of restrictions Republicans want, and on the gay marriage issue, which was something never mentioned in Boston. SHIELDS: A principled conservative I know told me that if it came to a crunch time between cutting taxes and abortion, cutting taxes takes precedent.

NOVAK: I know what that's like, you're talking about me, and that's like saying, which child do you like better, your son or your daughter?

HUNT: Well, you made a choice when that came, and unfortunately...

NOVAK: Because I'm foolish.

HUNT: I'm not quite sure what we're going to tell Mary Cheney and people like that, that they can't fall in love?

O'BEIRNE: They can't marry.

HUNT: Oh.

O'BEIRNE: The party opposed gay marriage, as does John Kerry and John Edwards, although they claim to oppose gay marriage.

HUNT: So you want them to live in sin if they fall in love?

NOVAK: I'll tell you something, Al, you're for gay marriage, and just keep pushing that on the Democrats, and they'll have a disaster like they had in Missouri.

HUNT: Bob, I know principle bothers you.

SHIELDS: Thank you so much, Al Hunt. Thank you, Bob Novak. Thank you, Kate O'Beirne.

Next, the CAPITAL GANG "Classic" looks at George W. Bush's acceptance speech four years ago -- eloquence personified.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. At the Republican Convention in Philadelphia four years ago, Texas Governor George W. Bush accepted the presidential nomination, with a speech calling the GOP the party of ideas and innovation, and stressing conservative proposals.

Your CAPITAL GANG discussed this speech on August 5, 2000. Our guest was Scott Reid, the manager of Bob Dole's 1996 campaign for president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Did the Bush-Cheney ticket get everything they could out of the Philadelphia convention?

HUNT: Mark, it was near perfection. But moderates and independents love the horse d'oeuvres of compassion and kindness, and the political right and my friend Bob Novak think they're real neat, trickle-down Republicanism, tax cuts. NOVAK: This is my 10th Republican Convention. It was the first one where everything they planned came out right. There was no discord. I would say that the most interesting thing about the convention is that he was able to bring in the conservative base program while sounding moderate.

SCOTT REID, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR BOB DOLE: The real value of this convention is Bush gave a great speech, and in his speech, he showed confidence, he showed wisdom, he showed humility.

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: The speech, aside from the 30 percent tax cuts, hit general themes and showed that, actually, he is a good man. It was almost a rebuke to the Christian right, because one of the things he said was that we should not judge our neighbors, which the Christian right always did.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, how did George W. Bush's first acceptance speech compare with his performance in Madison Square Garden this week?

HUNT: Well, Mark, they were both very effective. They know how to do scripts, and they did it well both times. 9/11, of course, changed the dynamics, so there is no comparison. However, one thing, back in 2000, we weren't quite sure of what to make of compassionate conservatism, and now we know it's only a political ploy.

SHIELDS: A political ploy, Bob, is that what it is?

NOVAK: Well, I've never considered myself all that compassionate, to tell you the truth.

SHIELDS: Pretty conservative.

O'BEIRNE: Don't be modest, we do, Bob.

NOVAK: But I am interested that in this whole discussion, the civility with which Al and Margaret treated George W. Bush. They treated him like a human being, like a fellow American, didn't treat him with contempt and loathing, and that just shows how much degeneration there has been. I don't know what he's done so bad to deserve the treatment he's getting from the liberals now.

O'BEIRNE: Looking back at the convention speech in 2000, though, you remember what they were saying about George Bush at the time? He's a lightweight, he's untested. The comparison is tough to do now, Al's right, he's a war president now, and a reminder, it seems to me, is you elect the man, because you're never sure what the moment is going to be he'll have to face.

SHIELDS: War president, Al, war president now?

HUNT: We elect the man, you know. Who's the better man? As Mr. Carville says, that's an easy call. He's certainly going to campaign as the war president, but let's see how this war turns out in the next two months.

SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt. Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at Bush and Kerry vying for votes in the key battleground state of Ohio.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. When Senator John Kerry went to Ohio Thursday and Friday, he was in a state the two presidential candidates have visited repeatedly, and have also targeted with television ads.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: It's America's heartland that has been hit hard. In the past four years, Ohio has lost 230,000 jobs. President Bush insists the economy is just fine. We know America can do better.

BUSH: We have come through a lot together. During the next four years, we'll spread ownership and opportunity. Need to make our economy more job-friendly, to keep American jobs here in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Joining us now is Joe Hallett. He's the senior editor of "The Columbus Dispatch." He is in New York City, where he covered the Republican National Convention. It's good to have you back, Joe.

JOE HALLETT, COLUMBUS DISPATCH: I'm happy to be here with you guys.

SHIELDS: Joe, tell us, as of today, who has the edge in Ohio, John Kerry or George W. Bush?

HALLETT: Well, we had a poll before the convention, on Sunday before, that showed it tied at 46. I think that Bush got some -- a bump out of the convention, and to tell you the truth, I think that momentum was starting even before the convention to break for Bush in Ohio.

And it surprises me a little bit, because by all marks, Kerry should be leading on the two big issues of the day, the economy and the war. But the economy is still bad in Ohio -- 33,000 jobs were lost last year; inflation-adjusted family income is down from 2000. Poverty is up. Cleveland is the most impoverished city in the country now.

So all of this stuff should be breaking for Kerry, but it's not right now.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Yeah, Joe, that's what's interesting. Some of the polls, as you know, show that a five-point lead for Bush in Ohio, and isn't it a fact that the Republican Party is in bad shape in Ohio, is very divided? That Governor Bob Taft is very unpopular, and that JoAnn Davison (ph), who is the Bush chair, is very unpopular with a lot of conservatives? Are all those things really in Kerry's favor in Ohio?

HALLETT: Well, they would seem to, but I don't think they do. I mean, the party is splintered at the state house, the conservatives are mad at the moderates and vice versa, but I think they really are coming behind -- coming together behind Bush, and I think we see that. When he comes to Ohio, the crowds have been amazing. I talked to Senator DeWine the other day, and he was with Bush before the convention. Bush took a bus tour. They took the back roads from Lima (ph) up to Toledo. And DeWine said in all these little hamlets along the way, people were lined up 10 deep.

And I think what that tells you is that Bush, once again, is going to over perform in the rural areas of Ohio. He won 72 of the 88 counties in 2000. His father only won about 56. And Kerry is going to have to -- have to overachieve in the big cities. We'll see if he does that. He too is drawing big crowds. I mean, the electorate in the state is very much engaged.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Joe, you talk about the big, enthusiastic crowds that come when the president campaigns in Ohio, but of course the key is to make sure they show up to vote in early November. What are -- what are the parties doing with respect to getting out that crucial vote in November? Does either seem to have an edge?

HALLETT: Well, they're both registering a whole lot of voters. I think so far this year, we've had about 140,000 new voters registered in the state, and they are both testing their get-out-the- vote campaigns.

I ran into Kent Mayor Janet Craton (ph) last night, and she told me something very interesting. She said she ran for mayor last November, for the first time. She was the county auditor in Stark County. And before the election, Karl Rove called her and said, look, I want to come to Kent and test our 72-hour program, the 72-hour get- out-the-vote, in your mayor's race. And he did that. And she won.

So I think we're going to see an unprecedented ground effort by both campaigns. Their troops are very energized for this, and I think we're going to see a huge turnout in the state.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Joe, there's a lot of talk about your home county, Franklin County, being the key battleground in the key battleground state, but Ohio is an extraordinarily diverse state. Give us a sense of the dynamics of what both people have to do as far as the geography of Ohio.

HALLETT: Well, your right, Ohio is not a one-size-fits-all state. I mean, you got the Northeastern portion dominated by Cleveland, might as well be on a different planet from the Southwestern portion dominated by Cincinnati. In the Northeast, the economy is huge. In the Southwest, the war, and the cultural issues are big. Southeastern Ohio, Appalachian Ohio, that is very much a swing part of the state. People in Appalachia, and about the 20 counties of Southeast Ohio are chronic party switchers. And the reason for that is their always angry, because the job situation never improves for them. They're lot in life, economically, never gets better. So they always tend to throw the incumbents out.

Northwest Ohio, Toledo, very heavily union area. And it also, oddly enough, is the swing area, the bellwether area of Ohio, because the 14 county Toledo area has gotten it right in the last 11 elections. So, keep your eye on that region, the Northwest region.

SHIELDS: Joe, it just strikes me in looking at this campaign, that John Edwards would be a natural fit with those river counties, those Appalachian counties. Has the Kerry campaign deployed him, or used him well there? Am I wrong? Would there be a chemistry fit between Edwards and voters in that area that Jimmy Carter did so well in?

HALLETT: Well, I think he would be a good fit. I don't think he's been deployed there yet. Kerry has gotten into that region. And I think they'll both be going back. The candidate will be -- Bush and Kerry and I would suspect Edwards will go there.

Those voters in 2000, when the economy was pretty good, the underlying issue there that many of it -- much of it were guns. The NRA did a very effective job in 2000 of telling people who are culturally conservative in Southeastern Ohio that Al Gore was going to take their guns away. And they believed them. And I think that hurt Gore in places like that, and also in West Virginia.

So, I do think that Edwards would be a good fit down there. And I think you're right, they'd be wise to get him down there.

SHIELDS: Hey, Joe Hallett, once again, thank you 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 convention.

Alan Keyes, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Illinois is an embarrassment to the party of Abraham Lincoln. He called homosexuality quote, "selfish hedonism." end quote. And said, by definition, Mary Cheney, the vice president's daughter would be a selfish hedonist and a sinner.

Now Alan Keyes may have left for another planet, but what about a public apology from U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald, that called Keyes quote, "a great spokesperson for core Republican values" end quote. And GOP leader Jim Overweiss (ph) who called Keyes against Barack Obama a debate between good on the right and evil on the left. Figure it out.

Bob Novak. NOVAK: The NYPD was terrific in towing (ph) hard-eyed radicals who tried to ruin the Republican convention. The police arrested demonstrators who broke the law. Protesters whined about their impediment, and Mayor Bloomberg made clear, this was not Club Med.

But a local judge named John Cataldo decided the agitators had to be released immediately. A typical liberal judge, Cataldo forced release of almost 600 lawbreakers when he threatened to fine the city $1,000 a day for each prisoner. For Judge Cataldo, there's no law and order in New York.

SHIELDS: You know who appointed him?

Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: I did not appoint Judge Cataldo.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BEIRNE: The theme of the Democratic convention was strength in a determined effort to convince voters that the modern Democratic Party is unflinching and resolute in the face of all enemies. What happened to all those tough guys in Boston?

Following Senator Zell Miller's angry speech, DNC chairman, Terry McAuliffe declared, he scared me. The fact that a 72-year-old disgusted Democrat causes Terry McAuliffe to tremble is not reassuring. Get made Terry. Get even. But Terry, be not afraid. We all face far scarier threats than Zell Miller.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Virginia Republican committee man and Karl Rove buddy, Morton Blackwell distributed fake Purple Hearts on the convention floor Monday to mock Vietnam combat hero John Kerry, another saga in a despicable Republican-led effort which, as Senator John McCain says, smears the medals, ribbons and service of all those who fought in that tragic War.

There are many legitimate issues and criticisms in this campaign, but those of us who didn't serve in Vietnam rarely are justified in criticizing the service of those that did.

SHIELDS: Amen.

This is Mark Shields saying good night for the CAPITAL GANG. Thank you for joining us.

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