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CNN CAPITAL GANG
Analysis of Republican Election Wins in White House, House and Senate, and the Future of the Democratic Party; Arafat's Health Creates Concerns On Both Sides
Aired November 6, 2004 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with the full GANG, Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.
George W. Bush became the first presidential candidate since 1988 to win more than 50 percent of the popular vote, but a Bush margin of only 136,000 votes out of 5.5 million cast in Ohio kept Senator John Kerry from winning the Electoral College with a minority of the popular vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've earned capital in this election, and I'm going to spend it for -- for what I -- what I told the people I'd spend it on, Social Security and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror.
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Bush ran forthrightly on a clear agenda for this nation's future, and the nation responded by giving him a mandate.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We must find common cause. We must join in common effort, without remorse or recrimination, without anger or rancor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, is 51 percent of the vote really a mandate?
BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Of course it is. It's a 3.5 million vote margin. But the people who are saying that it isn't a mandate are the same people who were predicting that John Kerry would win. When -- the people who did some kind of studies on it, such as the "Evans Novak Political Report"...
NOVAK: ... which for weeks had been saying that Bush was going to win -- see, the thing is that a lot of people in this town, the chattering class, the politicians, the nice liberals all around the eastern seacoast, they -- they let their heart talk instead of their heads. And I'm afraid some of the people at this -- at this table really thought so. So the people who say there's not a mandate want the president, now that he's won, to say, Oh, we're going to accept the liberalism that the -- that the voters rejected. But Mark, this is a conservative country, and it showed it on last Tuesday.
SHIELDS: I always knew Bob would be very humble in victory, and whatever...
NOVAK: Don't count on it!
SHIELDS: The olive branch just withered in his hand. We're talking about predictions. Let's be very frank. I was wrong in my prediction. I predicted John Kerry'd have 281 electoral votes. Kate O'Beirne was right in every one of the predictions. I mean, she was right in the Electoral College and the House and the Senate, even without being a subscriber to "Evans Novak Political Report"!
KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Now do you want me to give you the right interpretation, Mark?
SHIELDS: Yes. Yes.
O'BEIRNE: Given my track record.
O'BEIRNE: This was -- this was...
SHIELDS: ... the post-mortem.
O'BEIRNE: This was a very, very big win! George Bush boosted his margin in 45 out of 50 states. He won on the issue of terrorism. He won on the issue of taxes. He won on moral values. More voters trusted him on the economy than John Kerry. He won on the personal characteristics of strong leader, crucial, clear on the issues. It was a very big win -- up among Hispanics dramatically, up among women.
Had he not been up against what he was up against -- this is what's especially bad news for the Democrats -- an unpopular war, a sketchy economy, high gas prices and the most slanted media coverage in history, it would have been even a bigger win. It's a big enough win, given the breadth of issues, the -- across the states, that of course, he has a mandate.
SHIELDS: It's gone from a mandate to a big enough win. Al Hunt, if I'm not mistaken -- I don't pretend to be Arnold Toynbee, our great historical scholar -- but I think this is the smallest margin a reelected president has received since Woodrow Wilson in 1916 over Charles Evans Hughes! I don't think the...
NOVAK: ... how about Truman?
SHIELDS: I don't think they call -- he was not a reelected president.
AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: It was also -- it was also...
HUNT: It was smaller than Truman's margin. But you're absolutely right, Mark. Kate, I agree with you. If he had governed well in the first term, it would have been a bigger reelection. And Bob, I just -- I hope someday you'll tell us how we can get that Evans Novak newsletter because...
NOVAK: Pay for it!
HUNT: Would you -- oh. Well, see, I can't afford it. It was only wealthy people, I guess, knew who was going to win the election.
SHIELDS: Corporate fat cats get it!
HUNT: Mark, there were a couple things that made this seem -- that I think made this seem like a huge victory. No. 1 was the surprise, in the sense that Bob Novak, of course, who's always smarter than the rest of us, knew. But I think the weekend polls showed it was going to be a nip-and-tuck race. The early exit polls that were leaked all over the place on Tuesday said that Kerry was going to win. The same thing with the scope, not just a -- you know, a Bush victory, which was not huge, but -- but the Senate and the House.
And so the president starts with a strong hand. There is no question. I would just suggest that when you look at what's ahead that nothing has changed the fact that there is a nightmare in Iraq. I mean, we are -- you know, we may be blowing Fallujah back to the Stone Age, but I don't think those terrorists there are looking at the returns in the Marietta, Ohio, precincts. I think they're going to be as bad as ever.
And domestically, the president wants to do Social Security partial privatization, tax reform and make tax cuts for the rich permanent. I would suggest he better pick a priority because he's not going to get all three done. And finally, I would just say that I think he's only going to get some big things done if he has genuine bipartisan cooperation on some of these issues.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, Karl Rove -- Karl Rove, to his credit, came out and said he got more votes than anybody in history. Jim Webb (ph), who was Ronald Reagan's secretary of the Navy, pointed out that there were 65 million more people...
MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Yes, right!
SHIELDS: ... in the country in 2004 than there were in 1984. He beat Ronald Reagan's 1984...
O'BEIRNE: Keep telling yourself that!
SHIELDS: But I mean -- but that, as a percentage -- Ronald Reagan got 59 percent, carried 49 states in 1984. That was a sweep.
O'BEIRNE: And it was a lonely victory. He didn't bring in any -- look at the coattails George Bush had!
O'BEIRNE: He picked up seats...
SHIELDS: Kate, we want you...
O'BEIRNE: ... on -- in a historical
SHIELDS: ... to be humble in victory.
SHIELDS: We just said...
O'BEIRNE: I'm just saying!
SHIELDS: We said you're a prophet, Kate.
O'BEIRNE: Picked up seats in the Senate and the House!
CARLSON: Kate, stop gloating.
CARLSON: Kate, it's not a -- it's not attractive. Listen, despite the scholarship of the "Evans Novak Report," Bob, in fact, was wrong in his predictions. Listen...
HUNT: Margaret, let's chip in together. Maybe we can get it.
CARLSON: Yes. Bush acted as if he had a mandate when he wasn't elected but appointed. So I think he's going to...
SHIELDS: Good point.
CARLSON: ... behave as if he has one now...
SHIELDS: Good point.
CARLSON: ... whether or not...
SHIELDS: Very good point.
CARLSON: ... this 1 percent is historic or not.
NOVAK: One percent?
CARLSON: One percent.
SHIELDS: Over a majority, 51 percent.
CARLSON: Yes. Yes, 51 percent.
CARLSON: So yes...
NOVAK: That's the new math! That's the new math. All right.
SHIELDS: In other words, he won by half as much as Bill Clinton did in 1996.
NOVAK: Oh, Jesus!
CARLSON: Right. Right. But you know, Sam Rayburn said, Watch out for your majorities. They can sometimes hurt you. And this could happen this time if he goes too far. And in fact, you know, people are coming to him and saying, Listen, we want to be paid off, like on judges, and I think he's going to have a hard time with that. I think the hopes rest, in the Senate certainly, on the moderates blocking some of these things like Social Security...
CARLSON: ... and the permanent tax cuts...
O'BEIRNE: The public approved of the job George Bush did in the first four years, and they gave him another four to continue more of the same! Look, a major problem for the Democrats...
SHIELDS: Kate! Kate, Kate, Kate. Easy. Easy.
O'BEIRNE: The major problem is this...
SHIELDS: ... just want other people to have a chance to speak. But go ahead.
NOVAK: I want to just -- I want to just say one thing...
HUNT: She's on high.
NOVAK: ... one more thing. The people (UNINTELLIGIBLE) watching out here in Kansas and other places may not know what's going on in this city, that there's absolute rage that Kerry has lost because they expected him to win. And the columns that have been written -- not Al Hunt's -- not yours, Al -- but the columns have been written in "The Washington Post" op-ed page and "The New York Times" op-ed -- they're just vicious! There's just a rage that the American people have elected this person. And I -- I think it is absolutely funny.
CARLSON: Well, you know, I think it was a little more...
HUNT: Let me just add this about...
CARLSON: ... disappointing that...
HUNT: John Kerry was not the perfect candidate. I agree with that. But you know something? It wasn't John Kerry, the candidate, that lost this election. I mean, I will agree that, basically, Bush won this election. There is no question of that. If Kerry had run a perfect campaign, he would have lost. And the final point I'd make, Mark, is let's do away with exit polls, OK?
CARLSON: The exit polls led us to live out six hours of the Kerry administration, so I think some of the disappointment the next day was -- was keener. But Bush did not run on his record from the first term. So it is not as if it's a validation of that record. If he'd run on the economy and the war, he would not have won.
NOVAK: Get over it, Margaret!
SHIELDS: Quick. Quick.
O'BEIRNE: Hopefully, Democrats and liberals will continue to delude themselves the way we're hearing tonight.
SHIELDS: OK. And I'd simply -- I'd simply say John -- George Bush won this race. The race was about George Bush. It was a referendum on George Bush. He won. No question about it. I never heard Bob say, after Bill Clinton won by twice as big a margin first time, and even -- close to three times as big a margin in 1996, that he had won a mandate. I never heard there was a question...
NOVAK: Because he didn't get half the vote!
CARLSON: There was a third party, Bob!
SHIELDS: That's it. OK. Thank you, Bob.
The GANG of five will be back with the Republicans recrowned as kings of the Hill.
SHIELDS: This is -- Welcome back. Republicans kept their majorities in both houses of Congress. In the Senate, Republicans now enjoy a 55-to-45 edge after gaining four seats, including that of Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R-VA), NATIONAL GOP SENATORIAL COMMITTEE: I said during this campaign that if John Thune could beat Tom Daschle, that would be like winning three votes or three seats. And indeed, it is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a governing coalition with the president and the House and the Senate that is going to be right of center.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: The election's high point for the Democrats was Barack Obama becoming the new United States senator from Illinois.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), SENATOR-ELECT: It's important for us to be able to work across party lines and build up from the places we agree to, rather than just assume that we can steamroll whichever side is not in power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: In the U.S. House, Republicans expand their advantage by at least two seats, thanks to five seats picked up in the Texas redistricting. Three races still remain undecided.
While Senator Daschle is gone, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of California remains the House Democratic leader.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM REYNOLDS, NATIONAL GOP CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE: She lost seats. This is a demoralizing loss for House Democrats, and it's personally damaging to Leader Pelosi.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: We had campaigns that will now hold the Republican members, if they are new or if they are reelected, to a different standard, that they have to honor the commitments they are making to their -- their own constituents and that the spotlight will be on them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Al Hunt, does this election result in a significant change in the balance of power on Capitol Hill?
HUNT: Well, for Democrats, Tom Daschle's loss does hurt three times as much. George Allen is right on that. Mark, in the House, I don't think it really changes anything. They may gain two or three or four more seats, but they had working control anyway, and I don't think that's going to be any different in the next Congress. But the Senate, it does change the landscape, and it's a very difficult environment for the Democrats. They face a Republican leader who is principally interested in himself running for president in four years. They...
SHIELDS: Bill Frist...
HUNT: They have Democrats like Chris Dodd, who, after watching the election returns, are now talking about running for governor of Connecticut to get out of Dodge, if you will. You look at that 2006 line-up, and there's just no way the Democrats are going to pick up six seats and re-take control two years from now. So it's a pretty bleak picture.
There are only two things that could change that. One, if there's -- if the handful of Republican moderates in the Senate have any backbone. That's not something you usually rely on. Or secondly, if the majority overreaches.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, Tom Daschle, big loss, in part because the charge made against him was he was an obstructionist? Does that then sort of send a little fear through the ranks of the...
SHIELDS: ... remaining Democrats?
CARLSON: He'd become an obstructionist and he'd become a creature of Washington because he got a homestead exemption on his property here. I think it would be a good task for a reporter to find out how many Republicans have those, and I think it's quite a few.
Listen, it is, as Al says, not a friendly place for Democrats right now. But remember in Bush's first term when Charles Grassley, no moderate himself, told Bush, No, I'm not going to push through that tax cut, and cut it in half. You can count on some people to push back as a point of -- of honor, that it's not right to do such big tax cuts, and it's certainly not going to be right to make them all permanent when we are at war.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak?
NOVAK: Dream on, Margaret. The -- in the first place, the Tom Daschle game came to an end. I would say conservatives are even more delighted by -- or just as delighted by Tom Daschle's defeat as George W. Bush's victory because he was playing this phony game of being a gold old boy in South Dakota, and he was a left-wing obstructionist in Washington. And they're just delighted to see that come to an end.
Secondly, Al, there has been a shift to the right in both chambers. In the House, a couple of Republican liberals have gone out, and we have a lot of -- much more conservative bunch of new people coming in. But really, in the Senate, when you have Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn -- Jim DeMint from South Carolina, Tom Coburn from Tennessee -- I mean, from Oklahoma -- I'm sorry -- those people coming in, you really have a change in the whole climate in the Senate. I would say that this -- this is a disastrous election for liberals.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, to show the strength of the Republican pull and the president's own coattails, I guess -- I mean, Tom Coburn in Oklahoma said that girls should not -- in high school should not go to the restroom by themselves because of "rampant lesbianism" and...
O'BEIRNE: Is it OK for me to talk now?
O'BEIRNE: If it's OK for me to talk now, let me say this.
SHIELDS: No, no. But I mean...
O'BEIRNE: For the third election...
SHIELDS: ... it's showing the strength...
O'BEIRNE: For the third election in a row, Democrats have lost seats to Republicans. What caught up with Tom Daschle is he's a Washington liberal who pretends to be otherwise back home. There are a lot of Democrats who are Washington liberals who pretend to be otherwise back home. There are 12 Democratic senators who are serving in states that George Bush carried by more than 5 points. They're all vulnerable. They were punished in 2002 for obstructing the president's agenda. They were punished again in 2004. And now we'll see whether or not they want to continue doing this.
It's crazy to think that if George Bush had somehow surrendered on judges or taxes that, what, the Democrats in the Senate would have passed tort reform or stopped pounding him on Iraq? That's madness! The president has a mandate from the public to continue his agenda. I think that's what they're going to be doing with a stronger Senate.
NOVAK: The other thing, Mark, is this is -- the Republican control of the Congress is now moving into its second decade...
NOVAK: ... and as Al said, no -- no relief in sight. So really, the Democratic Party is really in a position of being the minority party.
SHIELDS: This election is an endorsement for George Bush's policy in Iraq?
NOVAK: I think it is. I think it really is.
O'BEIRNE: Well, the majority of people saw Iraq as part of the war on terror. That's true. And the majority of people barely approved going to Iraq. That's true.
O'BEIRNE: I do think Iraq in general overall hurt him, despite that.
SHIELDS: Last word, Kate O'Beirne.
Next on CAPITAL GANG, Democrats look to the future.
SHIELDS: Welcome back.
Democratic leaders in Congress assessed the future direction of their party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: Democrats are united. We're united around core principles of a secure and growing middle class. We are prepared to go into this next Congress with an initiative, and not just a complaint.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY WHIP: The president called me this morning. We had a private discussion, but it was a nice discussion. And as you know, yesterday I was working against him. Today I'm working with him. Part of my Republicans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Party chairman Terry McAuliffe said, quote, "This party is stronger than it's ever been. We're in the best financial shape. We now have, unlike four years ago, millions and millions of new supporters of this party. We're debt-free for the first time ever, and we're beginning to build towards 2008."
Former Clinton White House chief of staff Leon Panetta voiced concern. Quote, "We cannot ignore the swath of red states across the South and the Midwest. The party of FDR has become the party of Michael Moore and `Fahrenheit 911,' and it does not help us in big parts of the country," end quote.
Margaret Carlson, who is right, Terry McAuliffe or Leon Panetta?
CARLSON: Well, Terry's right about money. They have a lot of money, although, certainly, the 527s spent more on the Republican side than on the Democratic side. But Leon Panetta is right in that -- listen, Karl Rove was able to make the election about things other than George Bush's performance. It was about, as they say in exit polls, "moral values," as if everyone in the blue states has immoral values.
You know, the idea that people in the blue states want Britney Spears and Paris Hilton coming into their houses on TV is preposterous, but that government is going to change that is also preposterous. You know, Bob Dole was the first person to do Viagra ads on television.
So the cultural thing I think is something we all agree on but don't think that government can stop it. On the other hand, the people who voted on "moral values" don't think government can help them with a job or health care, only thinks the government can help on things like, you know, abortion and gay marriage and the culture.
O'BEIRNE: The majority of Americans think we're safer under George Bush. That's his record. The majority of Americans trust him on terrorism, and more Americans trust him on the economy than trust John Kerry. That's all his record. The Democrats -- Leon Panetta's exactly right. The Democrats have got to stop being so contemptuous of social conservative voters. Long -- many years ago, they wrote off Christian evangelicals, and they paid a very high price for that. Now they run the risk of writing off huge numbers of other voters. The Democrats nominated a Catholic veteran. Catholics and veterans voted against him. Massachusetts Catholics voted against him. Massachusetts Catholics supported John Bush by -- George Bush by 17 points over what they did in 2000.
Now, are they going to write off traditional Catholic voters, like they've written off evangelicals?
SHIELDS: Al Hunt.
HUNT: Well, the Catholic vote almost split even. Bush barely won it. Mark, I have...
O'BEIRNE: But they...
HUNT: ... never seen -- I've been in this town now for 35 years. I've never seen Democrats as down as I've seen the last three or four days. There is no question of that. They really are depressed, not just because -- because it was a bit of a surprise that they lost as convincingly as they did, but as I said earlier, as they look ahead, they don't see anything that's particularly good on the -- on the horizon.
So I think they have a lot of problems that I think Terry McAuliffe glossed over a lot. There are a couple things, though, that are -- that he said that are right. They do have a financial base that they didn't have before. Before, they relied on the fat cats. That got them every -- they now have a direct mail. They have huge numbers of contributors. The Internet is to Democrats what talk radio has been to Republicans. That isn't going to help them in 2006. I don't know how it's going to help them in 2008. But it builds a base.
They do, however, have to figure out some way -- I agree with Kate on this -- to talk to people out there in middle America. They have not done that. I think the debates over the next couple weeks are going to be largely ideological. I think that misses the point.
SHIELDS: Let me go to you, but let me just make one point on that. The Democrats, quite frankly -- you know, they are dispirited and disappointed, but I think there's a couple of very bright spots. The party was unified. They put aside factionalism this time.
SHIELDS: They -- Bob, do you want to hear me, or do you want to just make...
NOVAK: ... comment on it.
SHIELDS: ... sighs, and so forth? In addition to that, they won a majority of the young voters. They won a majority of the independents. And Terry McAuliffe is absolutely right. This party is no longer narcotically dependent upon the six-figure soft money contributions. They have as many small contributors as the Republicans.
NOVAK: Mark, you may feel that way, but the Democrats I talk to are -- are despondent. And the real problem, which they won't recognize, is they are a liberal party in a conservative country. That is a real problem.
Now, I want to say a word about Terry McAuliffe, who is a wheeler-dealer in Washington, never should have been party chairman. He was foisted on the party by Bill and Hillary Clinton. And all he thinks of is money! That's the way he operated in Washington. And what he did was, he forced through that accelerated primary schedule, which meant that the minute John Kerry won in Iowa, he was the nominee, whether he was a good candidate or not. And I think he's been a disaster for...
HUNT: ... because he was a lobbyist, I assume you think that our friend, Ed Gillespie, is a wheeler-dealer, too.
SHIELDS: Yes, and Haley Barbour, and then go right through -- do you want to do that, Bob? Do you want to do that?
NOVAK: If you think Ed Gillespie has been running the Republican Party the last two years, you're more delusional than I thought.
HUNT: No, I think...
SHIELDS: I've been...
SHIELDS: I've been critical of Terry McAuliffe on certain policy things, but let's -- he had 250,000 contributors to the Democratic Party...
NOVAK: Oh, that's just wonderful.
SHIELDS: ... when he came there. When he came there! There are now -- there are now several million that contributed, and it was -- it's the first time in history that the Democratic Party has been solvent.
NOVAK: Well, congratulations that he did such a wonderful job in the last -- in the last four years. They really -- they really had a great four years! More four years like that, there won't be -- they'll be like the Whig party!
SHIELDS: Is that the end, Bob?
NOVAK: That's all.
SHIELDS: That's all? Boy, that's all you have to hear. You can tell how humble Bob Novak is in victory. He's a wonderful -- you've seen bad winners? This is a sore winner.
Coming up in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG, our "Sidebar" story, Senator Arlen Specter's unsolicited advice to President Bush on his nominations to the Supreme Court. We'll go "Beyond the Beltway" to look at Yasser Arafat's declining health and the future of Palestinian leadership. And our "Outrages of the Week." That's all after these messages and the latest news headlines.
SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG.
Chief Justice William Rehnquist did not appear at Supreme Court oral arguments and is gravely ill. President Bush was asked about his future choices for the Supreme Court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll pick somebody that knows the difference between personal opinion and the strict interpretation of the law. You might have had that several times. I meant what I said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Republican Senator Arlen Specter, in line to become chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee after his reelection in Pennsylvania Tuesday, discussed restrictions on President Bush's selections.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose and overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely. And I have said that bluntly during the course of the campaign and before. When "The Inquirer" endorsed me, they quoted my statement that "Roe v. Wade was inviolate."
SHIELDS: In a later statement, Senator Specter said he was not warning the president, and added, "In light of the repeated filibusters by Democrats in the last Senate session, I am concerned about a potential repetition of such filibusters. I expect to work with President Bush in the judicial confirmation process in the years ahead."
Kate, will President Bush be forced to take Arlen Specter's advice?
O'BEIRNE: But for President Bush, Arlen Specter would be cleaning out his office this week because he would have lost that -- in a primary in Pennsylvania. No, of course he's not, and he won't take Arlen Specter's advice.
I anticipate battles over judges will become more intense following Tuesday. Liberals now appreciate we cannot win at the -- at the -- in the voting booth. It's more important than ever now that they have the kind of judges who will impose gay marriage, because every time voters have had a chance to adopt it they've said overwhelming no.
Who will say the Boy Scouts are a discriminatory organization? We've passed bans on abortion supported overwhelmingly by the public. That they want federal judges knocking down. So the stakes have risen even higher for the left, because the only place they can get what they want is if it's imposed by judges.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, what about -- I mean, Kate's right that George Bush and Rick Santorum, his very -- his pro-life colleague in the Senate, Arlen Specter's, went to bat for him in a difficult primary against Congressman Pat Toomey, and they could get some credit for making him acceptable to conservative Republican voters in Pennsylvania.
NOVAK: Exactly. But Arlen Specter doesn't know what gratitude means. And just in his -- in his exuberance, in his hubris over winning the reelection to a fifth term, he comes out with a warning. It was a warning to the president, and it was a litmus test.
His position on abortion and judges is indistinguishable from John Kerry's. Now the question is, there's a firestorm created, and there's tremendous pressure on Santorum, what he's going to do. Tremendous pressure on Senate Majority Leader Frist.
SHIELDS: So what should they do, deny him the chairmanship?
NOVAK: Deny him the chairmanship. What they'd love to do is to get the guy who's ahead of him seniority, Senator Grassley of Iowa, to take it. But Grassley would rather stay as chairman over Finance Committee.
SHIELDS: Finance Committee.
NOVAK: He's not a lawyer. But it is a -- a lot of people -- I talked to Senator Hatch, who's term limit -- he's chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
NOVAK: Senator Hatch said, "Oh, this will blow over." But it isn't. There's an enormous firestorm from people who voted for George Bush on family values. And this guy is putting a litmus test on abortion.
CARLSON: But, you know, I just want to note this one thing that kind of passed by in this election. George Bush, the Monday before the election, came out and said he was in favor of civil unions and he was against the Ohio ban on gay marriages.
NOVAK: What's that got to do with this?
CARLSON: I'm just saying that this conservative, you know, judges going and approving gay marriage, let us just note that the president...
NOVAK: I thought we're talking about abortion.
CARLSON: We are. But I'm -- Kate brought up gay marriage, and I thought I would just insert that for the record.
Listen, Bush didn't want Pat Toomey to win that primary. It was in his interest to have Arlen Specter, who's a huge vote-getter in Pennsylvania in the general election.
HUNT: He didn't...
CARLSON: Arlen Specter is not a gracious -- a gracious man. But I think it would be a terrible mistake to push him aside over this.
SHIELDS: But Al, isn't there going to be pressure? Rick Santorum has national ambitions. And he took a lot of heat for supporting him in the...
NOVAK: He's still taking a lot of heat.
SHIELDS: Still taking a lot of heat from my immediate left, for one place. But I mean is -- can he just kind of quietly go along and support Arlen Specter as chairman?
HUNT: I don't know what Mr. Santorum will do. I'll defer to Kate and Bob on that. But I think if they do strip Specter of that chairmanship, that makes him -- that makes him absolutely a Democratic voter on a number of these top issues because he'll feel no institutional responsibility.
I think there's going to be some ferocious battles over some court nominees. Not as many as there have been probably -- there haven't been very many to begin with. There have only been a handful.
NOVAK: How about chief justice?
HUNT: And I -- also, I would disagree with Kate. I mean, if that were the agenda, Kate, then I think your side would be winning. But I think the agenda really is not to let them viciate the Americans for Disabilities Act, which is...
NOVAK: Oh, please.
HUNT: ... which is part of the conservative agenda, not to let them overturn Roe v. Wade; which is part of the agenda; not to let them do away with affirmative action, which is part of the agenda. If they nominate -- if the Republicans nominate an Antonin Scalia to be chief justice, there will be a ferocious battle.
O'BEIRNE: And he would be -- and he would be confirmed, because he is so obviously fit to be chief justice. He would ultimately be confirmed and embarrass any Democratic senator who tried to take him on during the hearings.
SHIELDS: Last word, Kate O'Beirne. It would be a great fight, Antonin Scalia.
O'BEIRNE: It would be a great fight.
SHIELDS: Coming up in "The Capital Gang Classic," the last time a president named George Bush was elected with a popular vote, that was 16 years ago.
SHIELDS: Welcome back.
Sixteen years ago, George Herbert Walker Bush won a decisive victory over Democrat Michael Dukakis. CAPITAL GANG discussed George Bush's election on November 11, 1988. Our guest was then Congressman Jack Kemp of New York, soon to be named to the cabinet as secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAT ROBERTSON, CO-HOST: It looked like presence (ph) for the Reagan revolution.
HUNT: Hey, Pat, to steal a phrase from Mike Dukakis, the issue with the Bush administration is -- is competence, not ideology.
NOVAK: These people in the Democratic Party, like Tom Foley, Tony Coelho, even Speaker Jim Wright, who had been trashing Bush, say now that it's over come to us, baby. Pass our programs, enact a water-downed version of the Dukakis platform and everything's going to be OK. And that's just the kind of music a moderate Republican like Bush dances to.
REP. JACK KEMP (R), NEW YORK: Let me -- George Bush knows not only what's happened in the last eight years; he knows exactly the way he won this election. He recognizes, as you said, Pat, that he won on conservative values, conservative ideas and Reaganomics and the Reagan agenda for foreign policy.
ROBERTSON: But seriously, does it make any political sense for him to ditch his strong conservative wing to carry this point (ph) in August and September?
SHIELDS: I don't think that's what he thinks he comes from. I think you're absolutely right that that is -- that's the key to the Reagan revolution, but I don't think that's what George Bush thinks his strength, his mandate, whatever else comes from.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Who were all those young people?
Al, did George Bush set a bad example for his son, George W.?
HUNT: George Bush four years later had Bill Clinton as an opponent. If his son had had Bill Clinton as his opponent, he would have lost last Tuesday.
NOVAK: Al is exactly right. And Jack Kemp and Pat Buchanan were wrong.
George Bush betrayed Reaganism. He raised taxes. He fudged around on all kinds of legislation. And he thought he could move to the left and be successful. His son is a lot shrewder.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, you saw "Father Flanagan's Boy's Town" there before you and Margaret graced our panel.
O'BEIRNE: I am so nervous when I see how this show ages people.
O'BEIRNE: It makes me very nervous.
Look, the first President Bush tried to appease liberals in the Congress, and look where it got him. And I'm sure his son appreciates that.
CARLSON: Listen, George Bush did two things that were very right. He raised taxes when he needed to, and he didn't go into Baghdad. It would be so good if his son followed his example.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson gets the last word.
Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at what Yasser Arafat's health means for the Middle East peace process. CNN senior international correspondent Walt Rodgers joins the gang from London.
SHIELDS: Welcome back. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat clings to life today in a French hospital.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NABIL ABU RUDEINEH, ARAFAT SPOKESMAN: I can assure you that the doctors till now couldn't diagnose exactly what he is suffering from. And this is the real problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei met today with rival factions in Gaza to talk for the first time about a post-Arafat era. Immediately after President Bush's reelection, British Prime Minister Tony Blair called for action in the region.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I have long argued that the need to revitalize the Middle East peace process is the single-most pressing political challenge in our world today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: After false reports of Arafat's death, President Bush was asked his reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: My first reaction is god bless his soul. And my second reaction is -- is that we will continue to work for a free Palestinian state that's at peace with Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Joining us now from CNN's London bureau is Walt Rodgers, senior international correspondent.
Walt, will the departure of Arafat improve prospects for the roadmap to peace in the Middle East?
WALTER RODGERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If you had a perfect confluence of events, yes. But remember, the Middle East is the one theater and arena in which no one ever lost a nickel by betting on the pessimistic side of the things.
The perfect confluence of events would be George Bush, newly- elected American president, reelected, would have to become fully engaged in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. To do that, he would have to probably pressure Israel. If he pressures Israel, the president of the United States then alienates his core support in the United States, the evangelical Christians, who are 150 percent pro- Israel.
Ariel Sharon would have to come out for a Palestinian state to appease -- you know, to make this work. The last thing he wants to talk about is a Palestinian state at this point. I've heard Sharon say he didn't want to talk about any of that for 25 years.
Then there's the last thing. The Palestinians would have to come together, and right now there will be a power struggle, if not a civil war, among fractious politicians once Arafat passes from the scene. Not likely. SHIELDS: Bob Novak.
NOVAK: Walt, is there a feeling there that -- of course the -- President Bush and his administration totally rolled off Arafat. They will have nothing to do with him. Is there a feeling there that whoever his successor is that the United States, President Bush will reach out to Arafat's successor, which would at least be a step in the right direction?
RODGERS: Well, I'm not sure that's -- I'm not sure I can say this. Perhaps that question should be better asked of the White House.
I think it would be the wise thing to do. I think it would be a very, very good thing for a reelected George W. Bush to do.
Does he have the commitment and energy necessary to recommit? We also saw how hard Bill Clinton worked and how close he came at Camp David in -- I guess it was 2000, to come up with an Israeli- Palestinian peace process. And that fell flat on its face.
The difficulty in the Middle East is, just when you think you're passed a corner, something comes back and slaps you on the back of the head. Only George Bush can do it. Let's see if he has the political will.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
CARLSON: Well, if Arafat could speak, you'd expect him to say, "Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated." Everything about his hospitalization has been mysterious. And we don't know -- his condition has gone back and forth, the hospital today said, "We'll give you a diagnosis tomorrow."
What's up with that?
RODGERS: Well, this is -- this is typical Palestinian -- Palestine Liberation Organization operations. You have factions fighting for who becomes prominent there.
What you have is Suha Arafat, Arafat's wife. She'll tell you one thing; it will be contradicted by the official Palestinian spokesman. The Palestinians closest to Arafat, the men, hate Suha. Suha hates them.
You know, it's like trying to juggle five balls in the air with two hands and never having done it before. The Palestinians have a very difficult time getting their message across because of all the factional infighting between Mrs. Arafat and the aides closest to Yasser.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.
O'BEIRNE: Walt, when Yasser Arafat does go on to his eternal reward, where is he apt to be laid to rest?
RODGERS: That's a good question. And they're still talking about it.
Arafat, by his choice, would like to be buried in east Jerusalem, within site of the Al Aqsa Mosque. The Israelis say flat no, they're not going to do that.
The Egyptians are acting as intermediaries here. The Egyptians have offered Egypt as a possible solution to the dilemma of where to bury Arafat.
Remember when the Shah of Iran died nobody wanted him. I believe the Egyptians buried the Shah of Iran.
So they are an interlocutor. They're -- I think the -- the greatest probability is that Arafat would be buried in Gaza in the Khan Yones area. But again, right now that's not been publicly announced. And we're only -- we're only speculating.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt.
HUNT: Walt Rodgers, whether Arafat goes today or tomorrow, it seems like something is reasonably imminent. How different would his legacy have been if he had said "yes" four years ago rather than rejecting the Clinton-orchestrated effort, the Israel-Palestinian issue?
RODGERS: Enormous, Al. That's a good question. His legacy would have been extraordinarily different.
But Yasser Arafat could never cross the bridge, could never stop being a self-perceived revolutionary and freedom fighter and become a statesman. He was incapable of it. He didn't know how to do it, and that's the worst part of his legacy. He failed the Palestinian people.
He could have done so much more for them. If he had accepted at Camp David, they would have had 97 -- Camp David, plus Taba, they would have had 97 percent of the West Bank, they would have had a piece of Jerusalem. Arafat could have been buried in Jerusalem. They would have had piece with Israel and a Palestinian state.
Arafat screwed up. He just screwed up. And he -- just by way of footnote, he's an icon an, anachronism whose day has long since come and gone.
This is a guy who was friends with Andropov, friends with Leonid Brezhnev, friends with (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Eric Honecker. He's the -- this leaves only Fidel Castro in that old Cold War pantheon of the other side's warriors.
SHIELDS: Hey, Walt Rodgers, you've been terrific. We thank you for being with us.
THE CAPITAL GANG will be back with our "Outrage of the Week."
SHIELDS: And now for the "Outrage of the Week."
Frequently during this past campaign President Bush boasted about the coalition of troops from many nations supporting the U.S. and its occupation of Iraq. That coalition is shrinking by the hour. This week, Hungary became the latest coalition partner to announce withdrawal of its troops.
The following countries have withdrawn or announced a date certain to withdraw their troops: Spain, Portugal, Norway, New Zealand, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and yes, Poland, too. By the day, Mr. Bush's multinational force in Iraq is becoming significantly less multi -- Bob Novak.
NOVAK: Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary-general, has warned the U.S.-British-Iraqi coalition to stop the impending military offensive against the terrorist stronghold of Falluja. Mr. Annan is removed from reality. He must think John Kerry, not George W. Bush, won the election.
President Bush will not pay attention to the hypocritical leader of an organization drenched in corruption. Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi makes the point that if the U.N. secretary-general could dissuade Falluja terrorists from murder and mayhem he should do so. But that's not on Kofi Annan's agenda.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
CARLSON: Mark, President Bush won fair and square. But that doesn't mean our voting is fair and square, especially for the working class.
My voting place is well staffed. Fifteen minutes there is a long wait. But not so everywhere.
The longest recorded wait was 10 hours in Gambier, Ohio. Four hours in urban precincts was not uncommon. It's a thrill to see so many people voting. But we are not all equal when it comes to having our vote count if we can't vote in a more equitable amount of time.
SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.
O'BEIRNE: Our foreign allies' reaction to their candidate's loss is ugly and revealing. A London "Daily Mirror" headline screeched "How can 59 million people be so dumb?" One of its columnists calls Americans "frightened, clueless, gun-toting, military-loving, non- passport-owning rednecks."
The "International Herald Tribune" compared Bush voters to Muslims who vote for their clergy. Britain's "Guardian" calls them "racists." One German newspaper wants President Bush at a war crimes tribunal.
Make no mistake, European elites don't hate America because of Bush. They hate Bush because they loathe Americans.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt.
HUNT: There weren't many silver linings. So thank god for Alan Keyes.
Leaving his Maryland home to run for the Senate in Illinois, he got clobbered. Then he refused to congratulate the winner, Barack Obama, who Mr. Keyes said represents "a culture evil enough to destroy the very soul and heart of my country."
Over seven in 10 residents in Bob Novak's native state embraced Senator-Elect Obama in this "culture of evil." Democrats gleefully await which state Alan Keyes picks next.
SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying goodnight for THE CAPITAL GANG.
Coming up next, "CNN PRESENTS: The Mission of George W. Bush." Then at 9:00 p.m. "LARRY KING LIVE" interviews first lady Laura Bush. And at 10:00 p.m. "CNN SATURDAY NIGHT" assesses the pending offensive in Falluja with retired Marine General Terry Murphy -- Gary Murray -- excuse me.
Thank you for joining us.
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