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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Analysis of Presidential Debates & State of Race for White House

Aired October 16, 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, THE CAPITAL GANG: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with the full GANG. That's Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.

In Tempe, Arizona, President Bush and Senator Kerry met for their third and final debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: When the president had an opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, he took his focus off of him, outsourced the job to Afghan warlords and Osama bin Laden escaped. Six months after he said Osama bin Laden must be caught dead or alive, this president was asked, Where's Osama bin Laden? He said, I don't know. I don't really think about him very much. I'm not that concerned.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Gosh, I don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. That's kind of one of those exaggerations. Of course we're worried about Osama bin Laden.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Both candidates took aim at each other's soft spots.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: There's a mainstream in American politics. You sit right on the far left bank! As a matter of fact, your record is such that Ted Kennedy, your colleague, is the conservative senator from Massachusetts.

KERRY: Eleven other presidents -- six Democrats and five Republicans -- had wars, had recessions, had great difficulties. None of them lost jobs the way this president has.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Near the end of the debate, they were asked about the role their faith had played in their lives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I stand on principle, and the principles are derived from who I am. I believe that God wants everybody to be free.

KERRY: I think that he just said that freedom is a gift from the Almighty. Everything is a gift from the Almighty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, we're happy to welcome you back from...

BOB NOVAK, HOST, THE CAPITAL GANG: Thank you very much.

SHIELDS: ... cosmetic surgery. No, it wasn't! But we're delighted to have you back here.

(LAUGHTER)

MARGARET CARLSON, HOST, THE CAPITAL GANG: Didn't work, if it was...

SHIELDS: It was -- no, it was -- no, we're just delighted to have you back. But Bob, tell us, from your -- from your mellow perspective, what was the political impact of these three debates?

NOVAK: The impact of the first debate was it stopped a precipitous drop by John Kerry, brought the race to a virtual dead heat, and nothing has happened since then. I thought the third debate, the one we're talking about, in Tempe, was a dud. I thought that both were repetitive. They were boring. I thought that -- that little thing we showed, Kerry was talking about this urban myth that we could have caught Osama bin Laden. Military authorities know that they couldn't. And then he says, You said we don't worry about him. He said, I never said that. Of course, he said it!

So I thought they were both very unimpressive. I thought it was a hard debate to watch. And I really believe, for the future, they got to find a different format than that. That is not a good format. It lends itself to repetition of memorized sound bites.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson...

CARLSON: You know, I think it's the best we have because everything else is a setpiece. And I think the debates actually work. No matter how prepared they are, no matter how many zingers they have, they're kind of lonely out there, and you get a glimmer of who they really are. And the debates wiped out about $60 million worth of ads conveying Kerry as a wishy-washy guy who didn't know anything and who was scary. So the debates did accomplish something in that regard.

And this debate, in particular, I think, you know, Bush was supposed to have found his demeanor, but I thought the inappropriate laughing and the "heh-heh-heh" and trying to get others to laugh with him -- I think, in fact, he just doesn't have a good persona outside the Rose Garden and outside those campaign events where everybody's hand-picked and if you come in and say anything, you get hauled away.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, let me address an irony to you, as we deal in ironies on this show. KATE O'BEIRNE, HOST, THE CAPITAL GANG: I do irony!

SHIELDS: I know. I know you do. You do irony very well.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BEIRNE: I do. Yes.

SHIELDS: Yes. You're one of the few women I know who still does irony. In fact...

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: But Kate -- and that is that George Bush benefited in 2000 from the fact that Al Gore was actually three people, three different people in the debates. And John Kerry -- and George Bush was the same person. John Kerry this time was the same person...

(SOUND OF CELL PHONE)

SHIELDS: That's Verizon. And they're a sponsor, so that's OK.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: It's his broker.

NOVAK: Somebody not watching the show.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BEIRNE: Well, maybe they are, and they want to answer this question.

SHIELDS: That's right.

O'BEIRNE: You know why? I...

SHIELDS: John Kerry was the same person, but George -- there seemed to be three definitely George Bushes in 2004.

O'BEIRNE: Yes, I was a critic of the president's performance in the first debate because, I would argue, his winning persona, which I think he does have (UNINTELLIGIBLE) John Kerry, wasn't on display in the first debate. I disagree with Margaret. I think this time it was. He is so much more authentic and so much more likable! I can't help thinking if there were a fourth debate, they'd start taking their toll on John Kerry. He's a tough guy to want to be listening to or watch for the next four years.

And talk about -- when he gets off his policy briefing book, when he no longer has memorized data on how many people in Arizona something applies to, he is at his most incoherent and insincere. And that was on full display in the third debate. He's opposed to partial-birth abortion, but he won't vote for the ban. Opposed to gay marriage, won't do anything about it. Has said life begins at conception, but of course, he's pro-choice. His faith guides everything he does except on life issues because I certainly can't be imposing my morality on others. He is embarrassingly insincere and incoherent. And the president came across as a far more genuine individual when he ad libs.

SHIELDS: So the president's sincere and coherent, and John Kerry...

O'BEIRNE: That's it.

SHIELDS: ... is insincere and incoherent.

O'BEIRNE: That's it.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt...

AL HUNT, HOST, THE CAPITAL GANG: I couldn't disagree with Kate more about George W. Bush. I think nothing was authentic or nothing was sincere about him. I thought it was contrived, and he didn't do it very well.

You know, Peter Hart said what this election was about -- and he said this three weeks ago -- was John Kerry has to show a capacity to connect, and George Bush has to show a capacity to change. Kerry made a little progress -- not much, a little bit. I mean, a Democrat just talking about faith is progress of sorts, even if he didn't do it all that well.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: George Bush showed no capacity to change, none whatsoever, and people want change.

I agree with Bob. I think two-and-a-half weeks ago, this election was slight advantage Bush. Today it is virtually dead even. And I think the irony of these debates was that the rules demanded, insisted upon by George Bush helped John Kerry. The time limits, having foreign policy first -- that really worked to Kerry's advantage.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: He did in the debates what he couldn't do in the campaign.

NOVAK: Let me -- let me disagree with Margaret. I've been gone for two weeks, and nobody's been -- I've been watching, though, and nobody disagrees with Margaret when she says those kind of things.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: And she says...

CARLSON: Oh, and I've missed you for that reason!

NOVAK: Yes, and she says -- she says that this was the authentic John Kerry (UNINTELLIGIBLE) really see what he was. Here's a guy -- he's -- he's obnoxious! I -- you know, I mean, a... CARLSON: Bob, you're obnoxious.

NOVAK: And I'm not running for president, either! But John Kerry -- I thought one of the -- one of the real points in the debate was when Bush says, Freedom is a gift from God, and he's trying to think, you know, what...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... everything is a gift from God!

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... such a phony! And the other thing is, he comes over as such a liberal.

O'BEIRNE: He comes across as seriously unlikable and very liberal. That label's been laid there. But talk about an irony. He spends all night pandering to women, and then in answer to the final question, when asked to say something nice about his wife, he gushes about his mother! There goes the women's vote!

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: You got a choice between Mom and wife, I don't know.

O'BEIRNE: What husband does that, Mark?

CARLSON: I think he did a very good job on that last question and made a joke, which, by the way, made him a little less obnoxious...

O'BEIRNE: About his wife being rich!

SHIELDS: OK. Let me just -- let me just say...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Now, the only thing I've said in this whole discussion is that John Kerry, by every measurement of public opinion, decisively won the debates.

NOVAK: Oh, no!

SHIELDS: He proved -- improved his position substantially (UNINTELLIGIBLE) referred again -- restored again by that New York -- "Newsweek" poll. And -- but the thing is, to convince you that they dropped $60 million of flip-flopping and now have moved to liberal. They said John Kerry was on both sides of every issue for six months. Now they're saying he was only on one side of every issue from this point forward. That's a little bit of a contradiction.

O'BEIRNE: I'll explain it.

SHIELDS: That's a reflection...

O'BEIRNE: I can explain it.

SHIELDS: That's a reflection of what happened to the Bush campaign.

NOVAK: As to who wins debates, you know, this whole thing about coming on the air -- people who are in the same business we're in coming on and saying he's a -- there's no winner or loser in these -- in most of these debates. I don't think anybody but an extreme partisan could have looked at that debate Wednesday night and said, Here's a winner. I don't -- I just don't think you could.

CARLSON: Bob, listen. You're as obnoxious as John Kerry, and he's not obnoxious.

SHIELDS: Hey! THE GANG of five will be back with -- reflect on Margaret Carlson's insight, with political fury over Mary Cheney and stem cell research.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. During Wednesday night's debate, moderator Bob Schieffer asked the candidates whether they believed homosexuality is a matter of choice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was. She's being who she was born as.

LYNNE CHENEY, WIFE OF VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: I did have a chance to assess John Kerry once more, and you know, the only thing I could conclude is this is not a good man.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You saw a man who will say and do anything in order to get elected.

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS: It makes me really sad that that's Lynne's response. I think that it indicates a certain degree of shame with respect to her daughter's sexual preferences.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Senator Kerry issued this statement. Quote, "I love my daughters. They love their daughter. I was trying to say something positive about the way strong families deal with this issue," end quote.

The death of actor Christopher Reeve renewed the stem cell debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, if we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk -- get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Senator majority leader Bill Frist replied, quote, "As a physician, I find that crass. I find it opportunistic to use the death of someone like Christopher Reeve. I think it is shameful," end quote.

Al Hunt, was it a mistake for John Kerry to bring up Dick Cheney's daughter?

HUNT: Most Democrats wish he would have used another example, but it was perfectly fair. He didn't say anything critical about Mary Cheney. All he said was that she would say that her lesbianism was -- she was born with. That's the question that Bob Schieffer asked. Parents of gay children, like Dick Gephardt, gay Republicans like Steve Gunerson (ph), said it was perfectly fine. He didn't out Mary Cheney. Four years ago, it came out that she was a lesbian, head of gay and lesbian outreach for Coors. She brings her partner to public events, as she should. Her father on the campaign trail has talked about the fact that she's a lesbian. Her father has been marvelously supportive, apparently -- well, publicly, and apparently privately, too. Four years ago, her mother, Lynne Cheney, who brought this issue up, apparently was in some kind of denial when she was asked about it.

And finally, if it really was offensive, right there during the debate, George Bush should have said, That's really offensive. He didn't say that. You know why? Because it wasn't. This is feigned indignation.

SHIELDS: Bob, is this sort of a smokescreen after the fact? You lose three debates and, you know, you say things like Osama bin Laden, which he contradicted on -- so let's get...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: I don't accept that cliche that they lost three debates. I think they lost one debate, and the others were draws. Now, I don't -- I -- this is -- I've been watching debates a long time. This is one of the worst things I've seen in a debate. And the Democrats I talk to, Al, are really outraged. A lot of people tried to get some word into the plane to try to issue an apology. As far as I know, there was only one staffer said they should do an apology. They didn't do an apology because they said that the Republicans are even worse.

I am told by sources that are pretty that this was not planned, it was not in the -- in the -- in the rehearsal, but that Senator Kerry -- Senator Kerry's a mean guy! He didn't talk about Dick Gephardt's daughter. He didn't talk about Barney Frank. He talked about Dick Cheney's daughter. And what he was saying is, You guys on that gay marriage thing, you're hypocrites.

But the meaner thing -- the meaner thing -- was this goody two- shoes Mrs. Edwards saying that Lynne Cheney was ashamed of her daughter! Shame on Mrs. Edwards! That -- that was -- that was absolutely inexcusable.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: You know, Dick Cheney didn't get mad for 24 hours, and part of it was focus groups didn't like it, and so he didn't like it. And he was fine with it, at least on the outside, during the vice presidential debate.

Listen, the Cheneys think they're the only ones who can use their daughter on this issue, and maybe that's right. Maybe you only get to exploit your daughter yourself because...

HUNT: The 35-year-old daughter.

CARLSON: A 35-year-old daughter, who's an adult and who is not hiding her homosexuality. But when somebody else brings it up, it's totally wrong. Now, I think, you know, Dick Cheney is going along with something that anyone who is homosexual would hate, which is to put a gay constitutional amendment out there -- totally unnecessary. And the discussion on the floor about that made homosexuality sound like a perversion that we have to keep out, put something in the Constitution to get it out of there.

O'BEIRNE: Look...

CARLSON: And if he'd said something about Liz Cheney and her three daughters, we would not be having...

O'BEIRNE: Look, but he didn't...

CARLSON: ... this conversation.

O'BEIRNE: ... did he! Look, not for the first time, public opinion overwhelmingly disagrees with Margaret and Al. People found it completely inappropriate, including -- polls say, including 4 out of 10 Democrats.

Mary Beth Cahill, John Kerry's campaign manager -- she explained exactly what was afoot when she said immediately after the debate Mary Cheney is, quote, "fair game." What's fair game?

NOVAK: That was outrageous.

O'BEIRNE: That's a word for a target. What she is saying is Mary Cheney is a target. How did she get to be a target? Just because you're out of the closet doesn't mean John Kerry and John Edwards get to drag you up on a debate stage! That's her choice, and she didn't make that choice. And I agree with you about Elizabeth Edwards. John Edwards this time says -- he must thinking he's talking to one big dumb jury instead of the electorate -- if John Kerry's elected, people will stand up and -- out of their wheelchairs? And then Elizabeth Edwards shamefully psychoanalyzes the Cheney family? Let me return the favor! Elizabeth and John Edwards, it seems to me, get along so well because they're both shameless!

NOVAK: I got to say, you know, for someone with a broken hip in a wheelchair, that's pretty good news, that if Kerry is elected, I can get out of my wheelchair.

O'BEIRNE: Unbelievably exploiting people!

HUNT: Well, let me say something about -- let me say something. I have a child who's in a wheelchair, and like Christopher Reeve, he believes that someday he will walk. That's his hope. And he thinks medical research is going to help him do that. Now, I've talked to experts who know a hell of a lot more than Bill Frist knows. He's a surgeon. And they say there's nothing on the horizon now, but medical research can do all kinds of things. And for my kid to walk in 4 or 40 years, you got to have medical research, including stem cell.

And I'll tell you what I find crass. I find crass Bill Frist saying, We're not going to give him that hope. That's crass!

NOVAK: All, what did you think of the way Edwards put it?

HUNT: Well, I thought that was a silly way to put it, but I am far more offended by Bill Frist. I'm really offended by that!

SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt.

Coming up: looking at the final stretch of the 2004 election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

In the two national surveys taken over the last two days, the "Newsweek" poll shows a 5-point Bush lead and the "Time" magazine poll shows a 2-point lead for Bush.

In an interview with "The Des Moines Register" after the last debate, Senator Kerry said, quote, "With George Bush, the plan for Iraq is more of the same and the great potential of the draft because if we go it alone, I don't know how you do it with the current overextension," end quote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED GILLESPIE, RNC CHAIRMAN: This is plain and simple scare tactics. It is desperation. They do not want to talk about John Kerry's record or his policies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, who has the momentum going into these last 17 days?

O'BEIRNE: Well, the recent polls you quoted, Mark, might make it look as though George Bush does, but I think it's awfully close. And in a couple of days, there could be a little flip the other way. It would seem to me John Kerry might think that George Bush has the momentum, given his desperate, ridiculous use of the draft again. So that doesn't seem to be the work of a confident candidate. The military, as you know, wants no part of a draft. Specifically, they want no part of draftees. They will buy every volunteer a condo and a Corvette before they -- before they recommend a draft of people who don't want to be in the military.

CARLSON: Of course, they're drafting the people who are in the military...

O'BEIRNE: No, they volunteered!

CARLSON: ... by overextensions and...

SHIELDS: Stop loss orders.

CARLSON: ... stop loss orders. You know, the Bush people are looking for an issue, but a lot of them were erased by the debates. You know, he's not a scary character.

NOVAK: Scares me!

CARLSON: He's -- well, you scare easily. He looked presidential. You know, he's not a raving liberal. He certainly can't...

NOVAK: He is a raving liberal!

CARLSON: He cannot spend any more money -- there can't be any higher government spending than Bush has indulged in these last four years. You'll have to agree with that, Bush -- I mean, Bob. I called you Bush, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Bob Bush!`

CARLSON: Bob Bush!

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Because -- hey, in the Bush administration, deficits don't matter.

SHIELDS: The only thing bush about Bob is his eyebrows. Go ahead, Bob.

NOVAK: I don't know if there's any momentum or not. I mean, I find it beyond my capabilities to know where this country's going. But I do know this, that after this Mary Cheney thing, in the -- in the Zogby poll -- or the nightly survey and the battleground, they had this blip upwards for Bush. I don't know how permanent it is. Frank Luntz, who has been very critical of Bush, found that his -- that the soft Kerry voters really pushed hard down on that thing. So that may be a little thing, but to say that that is a huge momentum swing, I couldn't say that. I don't -- I think it's just a close race. It's going to be hard to figure out how it comes out.

And the interesting thing is the Democrats think that there's all kinds of -- of minority groups and radicals and leftists and... (LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: ... and young people who are going to come out of the woodwork...

CARLSON: Young people! Those awful young people!

SHIELDS: Oh, my God! Those young people!

CARLSON: Oh, my God!

NOVAK: ... and old people...

SHIELDS: That's right! Old people and the young people, all of them...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: ... vote for Kerry.

SHIELDS: Al, all these people who are irregular, who don't want a tax cut for Bob, are going to vote...

HUNT: It all -- it all went downhill when we gave women the right to vote. I mean, Bob, it's been terrible ever since then!

Look, I don't -- I look at state polls a lot, and I've just looked at a couple in the last couple days -- New Hampshire and elsewhere. And what it tells you is this is a dead-even race, that nobody has any real momentum. I think if I were Kerry, the one thing I would be encouraged about is the -- if you look at the headlines. There's not likely, unless there's some unforeseen event, to be much good news. Iraq gets worse every day, it seems. There's violence. We now have a Guard unit over there that refused to -- that refused to fight. The jobs news isn't going to be good. The state unemployment figures come out this week -- health care. So that might work slightly to his favor, but I agree with Bob, we don't know what's going to happen. This is an election I think that probably will go right down to the wire, and it will depend on who turns out.

NOVAK: Can I correct you?

HUNT: You may.

NOVAK: Factually. It wasn't a Guard unit that refused to fight. It was members of a Reserve unit that -- members of a Reserve unit refused to do -- to carry some trucks, and they got other members of the same Reserve unit to do it.

O'BEIRNE: What we're going to be hearing over the next three weeks is that John Kerry would be, by far, the most liberal politician ever elected to the White House -- by far, Margaret! And the thing to watch is where are the candidates spending their time. That is the most precious commodity over the next weeks. SHIELDS: I could not agree with you...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... Bush is leaving Pennsylvania.

SHIELDS: ... but I would point out, there's nothing -- the great thing about the last two weeks of a campaign is everything's transparent. There's no feinting. You don't go into California if you're Bush.

O'BEIRNE: Yes. Exactly.

SHIELDS: And you don't go into...

O'BEIRNE: Right.

SHIELDS: ... Louisiana if you're Kerry.

O'BEIRNE: Where are they?

SHIELDS: You go where you're going -- and I thought it was revealing that Kerry right after the debate went from Arizona to Colorado to Nevada to Ohio, four states that -- he campaigned in all four of them...

O'BEIRNE: That has not been typical!

SHIELDS: ... that Bush -- that Bush had carried...

O'BEIRNE: He's been to...

SHIELDS: ... that Bush had carried in 2000.

O'BEIRNE: He's been defending Iowa, Wisconsin...

SHIELDS: Bush went to -- well, no, Bush went to Iowa and Wisconsin and to Nevada and to Colorado...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: But you never know when there's going to be a drunk driving conviction of Bush -- some -- some -- that they had four years ago, something like that. You never know.

HUNT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Franklin County, Ohio. That's where to watch.

SHIELDS: Franklin County, Ohio, which Al Gore carried in 2000.

HUNT: By about 4,000 votes.

SHIELDS: That's exactly right. And I can tell you...

NOVAK: I'm not going to watch it.

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, I could say it's good to have you back, Bob...

(CROSSTALK)

O'BEIRNE: ... they're watching you, Bob.

SHIELDS: I did take a vow of candor.

NOVAK: I'm going to be here for the second half.

SHIELDS: Coming up in the second...

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: Are you sure?

CARLSON: Oh, darn.

SHIELDS: Dammit! Coming up in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG: Sinclair Broadcasting's decision to run an anti-Kerry documentary is our "Sidebar" story of the week. We'll go "Beyond the Beltway" to Colorado for a look at elections there that could determine the control of the White House and the U.S. Senate. And our "Outrages of the Week." That's all after these urgently significant messages and the latest news headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Carol Lin. More of THE CAPITAL GANG in just a moment. But first, here's what's happening right "Now in the News."

U.S. warplanes are again dropping bombs on Falluja, and small arms fire is being reported in the eastern part of the city. And three U.S. troops and an Iraqi were killed last night in a suicide car bombing in Qiam. Another American soldier has been killed in Mosul.

And on the campaign trail President Bush spoke about the importance of firm response to terrorism. Meanwhile, John Kerry said the Bush administration should have taken action to prevent a flu vaccine shortage.

And that's what's happening right "Now in the News." I'm Carol Lin.

Keeping you informed, CNN, the most trusted name in news.

And now back to THE CAPITAL GANG.

SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG.

Sinclair Broadcasting Group has ordered its 62 owned and operated television stations to run before the election "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," a 45-minute special attacking the anti-Vietnam War activity of John Kerry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK HYMAN, SINCLAIR BROADCAST GROUP: Our goal here is to get John Kerry to sit down and talk with these guys, get a chance to tell them why he branded them as war criminals, why he accused them of committing wartime atrocities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: This is a group that is going to preempt their airtime to run a 90-minute documentary attacking Senator Kerry. This is a use of corporate funds. And under the law, you cannot use corporate funds to go out there and advocate for a party or for a political candidate.

KEN MEHLMAN, BUSH CAMPAIGN MANAGER: It's a little bit interesting and amusing to me to hear this, having endured a CBS report based on false documents, having endured "Fahrenheit 9/11," having endured the Kitty Kelley book that was entirely false.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, should the Democratic National Committee be trying to stop the broadcast of this show on Sinclair Broadcasting?

CARLSON: If the FCC were still alive they should try. But since it isn't, there's no recourse. And the equal time doctrine, I think, has passed by the boards.

What the Kerry people should have asked for -- they offered Kerry time -- is to show going "Up River," which is a documentary by George Butler which shows the Winter Soldiers meeting and the testimony of these soldiers about what had happened in the free fire zones and other places in Vietnam in order to correct that part of the Swift Boat Veterans charges against him. I mean, they're angry because he turned against the war when he returned and because he said there were atrocities. And if you don't call a free fire zone a war crime, which is to kill everybody in the village, then they're right.

But I think Kerry had those points. They're angry. They've changed the record. They ignored the Navy records awarding Kerry the medals.

O'BEIRNE: We haven't seen the Navy records.

SHIELDS: OK.

Bob Novak, should there be at least a fairness doctrine here?

NOVAK: No, absolutely not.

SHIELDS: No. NOVAK: I don't want to get into the -- to the POW question. That's not what we're talking about. We're talking about Sinclair Broadcasting.

Is this fair on their part? No, it's not fair. It's obviously an anti-Kerry thing.

SHIELDS: Not fair.

NOVAK: But let's just think. Quite apart from -- as Ken Mehlman said, the Dan Rather atrocity that everybody seems to have gone over, we have the news director of ABC News putting out a memo which everybody ignored saying we've got to be tougher on the Republicans than the Democrats because they're meaner?

You listened, I listened up in my hospital bed to all kinds of news. It's all slander in favor of the Democrats, in my -- in my opinion. And I look at newspapers. One newspaper after another endorsing Kerry, a huge -- they write editorials.

Is that fair? No. But this is America, Margaret and Mark. That's the way it goes. If Sinclair wants to be pro-Bush, let them be pro-Bush.

CARLSON: But the airwaves are regulated. The airwaves are regulated.

O'BEIRNE: I do want to talk about "Stolen Honor," the documentary that's going to be shown, which I have seen. And in my opinion, if it got the wide audience it deserves -- I can understand why the DNC doesn't want it to have that audience -- I don't think John Kerry would be electable even in Massachusetts.

There's no fog of war involved here. Juxtaposed as John Kerry's testimony in 1971, and finally 33 years later these POWs are having their say. They couldn't talk then because they were rotting in jails in North Vietnam, being tortured to confess to the war crimes that John Kerry was busy accusing them of.

Now, I know for Kerry supporters the only Vietnam vets whose opinions matter served on one tiny little boat for a mere four months in Vietnam. But there are 2.5 million Vietnam vets, and most of them agree with "Stolen Honor."

SHIELDS: Al, Ken Mehlman...

HUNT: Well, Mark, let me just say, I don't believe in prior restraint, period, under any circumstances.

SHIELDS: OK.

HUNT: But this a journalistically-fraudulent company. And Kate, people with less ideological axes to grind than you say this is just a propaganda film.

O'BEIRNE: Well, we'll see. HUNT: And it's written, hastily assembled by the guy -- the last time we heard from the guy who did it, he was writing a book praising the Reverend Moon, the right-wing publisher of "The Washington Times," who says he's the messiah. So I think he's not very credible to begin with.

But, you know, let me tell you this, if these are publicly owned airwaves, and if CBS or GNet put on "Fahrenheit 9/11" or "Going Upriver," Kate, you would be outraged. And you know something, Kate? You would be right.

Put it in the movie theater. Put it on cable.

SHIELDS: Yes.

HUNT: But this is absolutely propaganda. It really is.

SHIELDS: We're out of time. But I'd just -- I'd just make one point, and that is Ken Mehlman, who's a Harvard Law graduate made a very illogical statement. He said Michael Moore's "9/11" was -- you had to put down $8 to go see it, Kitty Kelley's book was for sale. If they want to put it in the theater...

O'BEIRNE: These -- they have never been interviewed by network news.

SHIELDS: If they want to put it in the theater -- if they want to put it in the theater, God love them.

O'BEIRNE: These POWs have earned the right to talk. And the networks...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: OK. Let's see what John McCain says about it.

SHIELDS: That's right. I'm waiting for John McCain's...

O'BEIRNE: There are actually 700 POWs beyond McCain.

SHIELDS: OK.

Next, "THE CAPITAL GANG Classic," John Kerry in a tight race eight years ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Here's your answer. Welcome back.

Eight years ago in Massachusetts, Senator John Kerry was engaged in debates with Republican Governor Bill Weld. Your CAPITAL GANG discussed this contest on October 19, 1996. Our guest was the then White House press secretary, Mike McCurry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM THE CAPITAL GANG, OCTOBER 19, 1996) O'BEIRNE: Because John Kerry has a real attractive opponent in the person of William Weld, popular governor, Massachusetts voters are beginning to say, hey, wait a minute, we're not sure we ever really liked John Kerry all that much, and we're not even sure what he believes in or what he's been doing for us.

MIKE MCCURRY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In the case of John Kerry, he had a very strong debate performance this week. He's now inched back up in the polls.

NOVAK: Weld is very popular. You know, people in Massachusetts, who I've never understood anyway, keep -- keep voting for him for governor. They like to vote for him.

CARLSON: They're very much alike, both very wealthy, appealing wives. People may want to keep Weld there. And so he'll stay as governor for two more years, and they'll just barely send Kerry back to the Senate.

HUNT: Well, a week ago I would have predicted Weld. I think Kerry has gotten his act together since Bob Shrum joined. And I think he's turned it to economic issues. Kerry's going to win now in the -- in a cliffhanger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, what saved John Kerry in 1996?

NOVAK: Well, first, let me say that Al was completely wrong. It wasn't a cliffhanger. It was a landslide. He won very, very easily. And the reason he won is that Massachusetts is an extreme leftist state. And it's very hard for anybody who's not a liberal to win.

Now, Bill Weld ran for governor as a tax-cutting liberal, two things that were very popular. Tax-cutting is popular everywhere. But why he -- why he lost this time is that John Kerry in debate after debate kept saying what are you going to do in the Senate? What are you going to do about Jesse Helms? What are you going to do about these right-wing conservatives? And they -- and they -- and he killed him.

SHIELDS: Margaret.

CARLSON: Also, Weld was unsuccessful painting him as a liberal on crime. And, by the way, if they -- if they -- if they only liked liberals, how did Weld win? Not just by tax cutting.

NOVAK: He's a liberal.

CARLSON: No.

O'BEIRNE: My theory is they sent John Kerry back to Washington in order to make Kennedy look a little more moderate, because John Kerry's lifetime liberal ratings in the ADA is even higher than Ted Kennedy. So it worked.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Kate, I just want to tell you, John Kerry down in the polls, underdog, goes into a debate, beats his opponent, and pulls an upset win in the end. It's deja vus all over again, Kate.

O'BEIRNE: And Bill Clinton helped.

SHIELDS: As Dan Payne of the "Boston Globe" says, John Kerry's slogan ought to be "Refuse to lose." He's already had 412 slogans, but it is, it's refuse to lose. But he won by only just a little over 7.5 points, Bob.

HUNT: Right.

O'BEIRNE: That's a...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Who did you pick to win, Bob?

NOVAK: I picked Kerry.

HUNT: Oh, you did?

SHIELDS: Yes.

Coming up next...

CARLSON: Who did you pick to win this time?

HUNT: Or is this a sound bite?

SHIELDS: "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the control of the U.S. Senate, probably its stake in Colorado. T.R. Reid of "The Washington Post" joins us from Denver.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

In Colorado, the latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll shows a dead heat for president. And in the Senate race, Republican brewery owner Pete Coors trails Democratic state attorney general Ken Salazar by 11 percentage points. "The Denver Post" shows just a 2-point lead for Salazar.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," they were asked whether they would have voted for the Iraq resolution knowing now that there are no weapons of mass destruction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEN SALAZAR (D), COLORADO SENATE CANDIDATE: I would have voted for the resolution to give him the authority to move forward. We have a mess on our hands, so we need to figure out the plan on how exactly we're going to move forward. And I have a plan on how we're going to do that.

PETE COORS (R), COLORADO SENATE CANDIDATE: I don't think it's appropriate to second guess what -- what decision would be made today based on the information we have. I suspect that given -- given what we know today, it would be a much different outcome than we had a couple of years ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: On November 2, Colorado will vote on Amendment 36. That would divide the state's electoral votes based on the popular vote, limiting the winner to a net one electoral vote instead of nine from Colorado.

Joining us now from Denver is T.R. Reid, the respected and distinguished Rocky Mountain bureau chief of "The Washington Post."

Tom, thanks for coming in.

T. R. REID, "WASHINGTON POST": Hi, Mark.

Novak, good to see you back.

NOVAK: Thank you.

SHIELDS: Up until then, you were terrific.

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: Tom, I'm fascinated by Ken Salazar. I can't figure him out. He is against the gay amendment of the Constitution, gay marriage. He's against drilling in ANWAR. He's for importation of drugs from Canada.

But at the same time, he would have voted for the Iraqi war. And he's supported experimental school vouchers. Where -- where does this guy fit on the spectrum politically?

REID: I think you figured him out, Mark. He plays down the middle. And that's why people that liked him as an attorney general. And he's got a reputation of straight shooter; he can work with either side.

I think he's been ahead from the very beginning. But, you know, Pete Coors has a magic name in Colorado, Mark. On a Saturday night in Colorado, you go to Coors Field to the game, you go to Coors Pavilion to a rock concert. You pop a Coors Light.

Man, life is sweet.

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Tom, I wanted to ask you about this crazy amendment. It is so counterintuitive, a state kind of taking itself out of the national scene. It's lowering its impact on Capitol Hill.

Do you think after -- obviously these arguments have been made -- do you think this ballot proposition to divide up Colorado's electoral votes, do you think it might pass?

REID: I think it's going to lose, and I'll tell you why. There's a very small smidgen of the electorate, which includes me, who are going to vote for it on good government grounds.

You know, the electoral college and the winner-take-all rule, they're anachronisms. If Colorado can lead the country in getting rid of them, all the better. But for everybody else, it's totally partisan.

The Republicans were against this measure for a long time because they were sure Bush was going to win. And they wanted him to get all nine of our electoral votes. The Democrats liked it, because they thought, well, Kerry will get at least four.

Now the Democrats are so confident here they think Kerry's going to win. So now the Democrats are going to vote against 36 because they want to give Kerry all nine electoral votes. And us good government types, we're a very small minority.

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Same here, Tom.

REID: Thank you.

CARLSON: Despite the kind of Rocky Mountain high aspect of having a Coors candidacy, a lot of Republicans have abandoned Coors. I think at least one elected official, if not more. What do you make of that?

REID: You know, the -- and I think the Republican Senate Campaign Committee is cutting back on its spending. I think there are a couple of reasons.

In the first place, Pete Coors, he could throw a couple of million dollars in there without even breathing hard if he wanted. He doesn't need money from Washington. But the other thing is, you know, he's a charming guy, great name. But let's face it, he's not been a good candidate. In fact, I'd say he's the least prepared Senate candidate I've come in -- run into in decades.

You know, he said that he wanted to cut federal spending and eliminate the budget deficit. And I said to him, "Well, that's a lot of cuts. Do you know how big the federal deficit is?" And the Senate candidate says to me, "Gosh, no. What is it?"

I mean, maybe my standards are too high. I think a guy running for Senate should know that.

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Oh, I don't know, Tom. I don't anything about brewing beer.

REID: That's right.

O'BEIRNE: Tom, John Kerry and John Edwards have been in Colorado, what, nine times, 10 times?

REID: Yes. Yes, they're here all the time.

O'BEIRNE: And Ken Salazar always seems to find something else to be doing when either one of them are visiting Colorado. Yet, he's recently, very recently finally shown up with John Edwards.

REID: Yes.

O'BEIRNE: Is -- does that say anything about what he thinks the Kerry-Edwards strength is in Colorado, or was it just becoming sort of embarrassing that he was avoiding them?

REID: I think he got embarrassed. I mean, if you saw him on "Meet the Press," he dissed Kerry. He said, oh, I'd love to campaign with Kerry but I don't have time to change my schedule for that kind of thing. And I think -- yes, I think the Democrats leaned on him pretty hard. So when Kerry comes back here, I think Salazar is going to be required to show up.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Tom, I just want to add to what Mark Shields said. You're also renowned. And it's terrific to have you on.

REID: You're my guy, Al. Thanks.

HUNT: Let me go back to what you said about Coors in the beginning, about what a renowned name it was in the state. Is it all -- is it altogether a plus? Obviously, as you say, Coors Field, and everything else. The father was terrible conservative; the company now has a great gay and lesbian outreach. Is that an altogether -- a plus for Pete Coors, or is it a mixed bag?

REID: That's a really -- that's a good question. Pete Coors has run into some trouble with the most conservative Republicans because they don't like his company giving money to gay groups. They even complained about the bikini ads, you know, the Coors bikini team. You know, that's salacious.

And at the same time, he's come out -- in order to win the Republican primary, he came out for -- you know, in favor of banning gay marriage, et cetera, et cetera. And his own company issued a statement saying, "We don't favor discrimination against gays, like some people."

So, yes, he's been caught in the middle. I think it's been a tough road for him.

SHIELDS: Tom Reid, quickly -- we're down to our last 30 seconds -- is -- if George W. Bush loses Colorado in 2004, a state he carried in 2000, what would be the reason?

REID: Largely the economy. We've lost a lot of jobs. And the other thing is, the Democrats this year have done a fantastic job of registering our immigrants who are largely Hispanic, you know.

In the Southwest, the immigrants are coming in here for low-wage jobs in the tourist industry. And those people tend to be Democrats. A lot of them are Hispanics.

They're going to turn out for Salazar. And his brother, John Salazar, is running for Congress. And that Democratic turnout could do it.

SHIELDS: OK. Tom Reid, thank you very much for being with us here.

REID: Delighted, Mark. Thanks.

SHIELDS: THE GANG will be back with our "Outrage of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week."

President George W. Bush has repeatedly made clear his all-out opposition to any government regulation to control the skyrocketing cost of health care. Trust the magic of the market to control costs, the president lectures us. So now, with a severe national shortage of the flu vaccine, we see the sleazy side of the free market.

In Wichita, Kansas, a hospital pharmacy was told that for a vial of 10 flu shots that ordinarily costs $80, the gouging supplier wanted $600. As for me, I choose regulating government to be the cop on the beat.

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Ultra-liberal Democrat Mark Dayton, an eccentric millionaire from Minnesota, was elected to the Senate in 2000 thanks to a weak Republican incumbent. He is known for incomprehensible statements and incoherent questions. And this week, he shut down his Capitol Hill offices until after the election because of terrorism.

But there are no new warnings. And the other 534 members of Congress keep their offices open. There's no apparent political gain for senator chicken little, just anger from those of us who live and work downtown in the District of Columbia.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Brave man. At the debate, for the 98th time, Bush shouted, "John Kerry has raised taxes 98 times." Bush counted everything that ever happened in the Senate over 20 years: procedural votes, motions, the chaplain's prayer that might conceivably raise a tax.

By that token, next week Bush will be raising taxes 63 times when he signs, as expected, the GOP pork-filled corporate tax bill. At that rate, Bush in 20 years will have raised taxes 1,260 times.

At the debate Bush called it an exaggeration when Kerry quoted Bush saying he no longer things Osama is much to worry about. But we have that on tape. So who's the exaggerator?

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Teresa Heinz Kerry filed her tax returns last year, reporting an annual total income of $5 million. With about half of it untaxable, she paid only 12.7 percent in federal taxes. A typical family pays about 20 percent. The president and Mrs. Bush paid 27.7 percent.

In addition to her five homes, Teresa clearly has another shelter for her income. No wonder John Kerry said he didn't need Bush's tax cut. Before Kerry next lectures us about paying our fair share of taxes, let him explain whether he thinks his billionaire wife paid hers.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: John O'Neill, who first appeared as a Chuck Colson pawn to discredit John Kerry 33 years ago has reemerged, this time as the pawn of rich Bush backers. He's co-authored a book with a vicious bigot that tries to smear Kerry's Vietnam record again.

ABC's "Nightline" sent a crew to Vietnam and actually found a few Vietnamese who corroborated some of the official counts and all first- hand witnesses of Kerry's heroism. Given a chance by Ted Koppel to respond, O'Neill just pouted, protested and dissembled.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying goodnight for THE CAPITAL GANG.

Coming up next: "CNN PRESENTS: The Mission of George W. Bush."

At 9:00 p.m. Eastern, "LARRY KING WEEKEND," a tribute to Christopher Reeve.

And at 10:00 p.m. the latest news headlines.

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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