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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Congress wrangles over intelligence reform bill/Comings and goings in the Bush cabinet/President Bush visits Canada

Aired December 4, 2004 - 19:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: From Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
AL HUNT, GUEST HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Al Hunt, with Kate O'Beirne, Robert Novak and Margaret Carlson. Our guest is former Democratic congressman Vic Fazio of California.

It's good to have you back, Vic.

VIC FAZIO (D-CA), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: It's great to be with you all again.

HUNT: Thanks for being here.

With Congress resuming it's lame duck session Monday, the president made another plea to pass the intelligence reform bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want a bill. Let's see if I can say it as plainly as I can. I am for the intelligence bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: Supporters refused to add immigration law changes demanded by House Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R-CT), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: I just know that we will lose the bill if he insists on all the immigration portions being there, and then we won't have intelligence reform.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: Senator Kit Bond, a Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, quote, "I think there are enough questions about this bill that we ought to come back and do it right next year," end quote.

The chairman of the 9/11 commission, however, warned of inaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS KEAN, 9/11 COMMISSION CHAIR: Reform is an urgent matter, and reform simply must not wait until after the next attack. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: Bob Novak, why are Republicans ignoring the president's pleas?

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Well, in the first place, the president is realizing that he's a lame duck president. They don't worry so much about him getting reelected. In the second place, he didn't handle this very well. If you're going to be for something, you got to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) all the way. Third place, there's a lot of Republicans who feel that now the election's over, why should they rush into this massive -- massive reorganization of the intelligence system in the middle of a war? However -- and also, they had a private retreat of the House Republicans -- very negative on this.

Nevertheless, if I had to predict, I think they will pass it because the president says he wants it. They think there's no need for it now. They should wait. But that's the way it is in Washington.

I'd say, however, it was a sub-par performance by the president starting his second term.

HUNT: Margaret, does Bob make sense?

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Well, the president might be a lame duck, but if he really, really wanted the bill, he would have gotten it. Dennis Hastert took it off the floor of the House because he didn't have a majority of Republicans, not that he couldn't pass the bill.

The points that they're fighting over are not the real points at issue. The Pentagon wants to keep control, the control they have, and doesn't want to give up any of it. And you know, perhaps President Bush actually is afraid of one person in this town, and that might be Donald Rumsfeld.

HUNT: Kate, you've tempered your enthusiasm for this bill and warn the president shouldn't use political capital on this. But at this point, doesn't he have to win now?

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Al, let me revise and extend my remarks from last week.

HUNT: Yes, ma'am.

O'BEIRNE: The White House wants this bill. The White House has put on a full-court press this week. They are leaning very heavily on House Republicans. They want it far more than I thought they did.

HUNT: They turned around the Joint Chiefs chairman, Dick Myers.

O'BEIRNE: Absolutely. Why do they want it? Two things, I think. Their nightmare is that they would have 9/11 commission members, and/or some 9/11 families, who, of course, don't agree on the merits of this, criticizing them should something happen and this bill not have passed for a political reason. The second reason, I think, is they want to clear the deck. They don't want this hanging around next year, getting in the way of their priority, which is Social Security and tax reform.

The reason why, for its supporters on the merits, of which I'm not one, it has to pass now is if this thing stays around, it gets worse and worse the more people look at it. The senators, the Republican senators, have just as many reservations as House Republicans do, who, in addition to Bob's reasons, have very sincere reservations about denying real-time intelligence to troops in the field. That's their reservation.

HUNT: Vic, you understand legislative politics as well as anyone in this town. What's really going on here?

FAZIO: Well, I think there are a number of things. First of all, these are individuals who have safe seats, have constituencies of their own. There's a turf issue here. Both the Armed Services Committee and DoD want to make sure they keep not only direct tactical intelligence but the budget which they both control.

I think in Jim Sensenbrenner's case, he has his own agenda. He wants to hijack this bill, essentially, to get immigration reforms through that I guess he doesn't think he'd get in a normal legislative process.

So you know, the president's credibility is on the line here. He really didn't want this commission. He had resisted its life extension, so that the report would come out well before the election. He finally went along with it. But you know, when you see his friend, George Tenet, coming out against this, you realize there's more to this than just the couple of issues that the legislature has brought forward...

NOVAK: But Chairman...

FAZIO: ... the members of Congress...

NOVAK: Chairman Sensenbrenner is -- really does believe -- and I think he has a point -- that...

FAZIO: Well, he's very sincere.

NOVAK: ... yes, that the immigration thing is part -- is part of the anti-terrorism...

FAZIO: But you know, this commission, Bob, was created to bring the country together. Hamilton and Kean and all the rest of them, from right to left, did a great job in doing that.

NOVAK: But the commission should...

FAZIO: So you know, they said, Let's do immigration separately. They've already...

O'BEIRNE: Nobody made them... (CROSSTALK)

FAZIO: They've given Sensenbrenner...

O'BEIRNE: Nobody made them...

(CROSSTALK)

FAZIO: ... most of what he wanted.

NOVAK: Commissions should not...

FAZIO: He wants it all.

NOVAK: Commissions should not dictate legislation. I think you'd be the first to agree with that. I -- one thing I never thought is that Tom Kean, the even-handed sort of Al Hunt kind of Republican...

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: ... former governor- -

CARLSON: Al's a Republican?

NOVAK: Yes. You always liked Tom Kean, didn't you?

HUNT: Very much.

NOVAK: Yes -- that he is demagoging. He is saying, if you don't pass this, there'll be blood on the street! That's not the way you legislate important reforms, to say, do this or everybody's going to die. I resent that!

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: That's the first time that Tom Kean and demagoguery have ever been used...

CARLSON: Right.

HUNT: ... in the same sentence.

NOVAK: I know. I know.

HUNT: And it's totally outrageous.

CARLSON: Tom Kean looked at what happened, and he's alarmed and wants it fixed. Kate, I think the issue about military intelligence has been resolved -- General Myers agrees -- in that it's not battlefield intelligence that's going to be compromised in any way by this bill. This was just one attempt...

O'BEIRNE: Well, look...

CARLSON: ... by the Pentagon not to have any incursions on their turf.

FAZIO: Look, there's a lot of support...

O'BEIRNE: Washington -- Washington...

FAZIO: ... for the status quo.

O'BEIRNE: Washington has a very short attention span. We are not going to soon again reform intelligence. There's another commission that's working. Former senator Chuck Robb and Judge Larry Silverman have 60 staffers working on intelligence and the problems with weapons of mass destruction. What went wrong? They report in March. Why wouldn't you wait to see what that crucially important -- what they say about that crucially important issue? There's every chance that their recommendations will impact exact -- contradict exactly...

CARLSON: Kate, I actually...

HUNT: Bob -- Bob Novak...

CARLSON: ... agree with you on that because I think you should have who's to blame, as well as what was to blame.

HUNT: Bob Novak, is Donald Rumsfeld on board for this bill now? Is he with the president?

NOVAK: Yes! Of course, he's with the president! I've been following Donald Rumsfeld for about 35 years. He's always with the president, in his fashion.

(LAUGHTER)

HUNT: Vic Fazio, do you agree with Bob Novak that, for all of the fire and fury now, that this is ultimately going to pass in this lame duck session?

FAZIO: I think Kate is right because the president has his prestige on the line now. He -- you know, he didn't move much to get an assault weapon ban through. He didn't get Tom DeLay to back off on his last-minute amendments to get an energy bill through. He's beginning to look like, in his second term, that he's already a lame duck.

HUNT: That's the final word, Vic Fazio.

Coming up next, the Bush cabinet shuffle.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUNT: Welcome back. The nation's first secretary of homeland security, Tom Ridge, resigned, and Bernard Kerik, former New York City police commissioner, was named to replace him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I think we've accomplished a great deal in a short period of time. As I said to the president, there will always be more work for us to do in homeland security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: President Bush nominated Kellogg CEO Carlos Gutierrez as secretary of commerce.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: When his family eventually settled in Mexico City, Carlos took his first job for Kellogg as a truck driver, delivering Frosted Flakes to local stores. Ten years after he started, he was running the Mexican business. And 15 years after that, he was running the entire company.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: Nebraska governor Mike Johanns was nominated as agriculture secretary, and John Danforth resigned as ambassador to the United Nations. Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson also announced his resignation.

Margaret Carlson, what does this new look suggest about a second Bush term?

CARLSON: I think that the White House will have even more control over policy because there are a lot of insiders filling this job. And in fact, Scott McClellan's brother, Mark, is going to take over for Tommy Thompson at HHS. And you know, with people like Condi Rice, you think, well, maybe Laura will be secretary of energy.

In any event, if any issue ever rises to a level of importance, it's taken away from the cabinet guy. The most you can hope for is that your issue doesn't become important, otherwise you'll be answering to somebody in the White House about it. But you know, the White House is consolidating control, and these appointments signify that.

Poor Tom Ridge. He was a great governor. I think he goes off to, you know, maybe talk to Crayola about a job because he's known for duct tape and that color-coded security...

HUNT: Kate, do you like this new look?

O'BEIRNE: I suppose Margaret's right. If you're interested in being a rogue cabinet member, doing your own thing, ignoring the president's platform that he was reelected on and the agenda he's laid out...

CARLSON: Colin Powell a rogue?

O'BEIRNE: ... you'd be -- you'd be a little disappointed because it seems to me this -- the speed with which these changes are being made underscores that this president is going to try best he can to avoid the typical pitfalls of a second term. He wants to hit the ground running. He wants experienced hands. He has an aggressive agenda. And he has people who are not going to be just placeholders.

HUNT: Vic, one thing he doesn't have is any new Democrat to come in.

FAZIO: That's true, and we hear rumors that Norm Mineta will also be leaving. And of course, I think we're up to about two thirds of the cabinet leaving, at this point.

I agree with Kate and Margaret. I do think there's been a long- term trend to reduce the influence of cabinet officials. They rarely meet. They really don't deal with issues outside their purview, as advisers to the president, as they used to. More and more, the White House staff calls the tune. And if you're interested in being a policy maker, you want to be in the White House, not in a cabinet slot.

Those are basically salesmen these days, guys who go on the road, deal with constituencies, make the president's program case to the media and interest groups. That's what the modern cabinet has come to. And this president has probably put the capper on that because he has put so many people who are truly White House Bush loyalists into positions of influence.

HUNT: Robert Novak, I want you to address this broader question, which I know you will, and we eagerly await your response. But I also -- when you finish with that, if you would tell us, the one thing that seems to be missing is any dominant economic figure. And this is an administration where Social Security and tax reform would be the two big issues...

NOVAK: Yes.

HUNT: ... and there is no dominant economic official.

NOVAK: Well, let me say that all this talk about the insiders -- there's a couple of outsiders named this week, and one of them really interesting, Bernie Kerik, the former police commissioner of New York City. I think he is a very interesting choice. He is not a White House staffer. I think he's going to be a very powerful figure at Homeland Security. And the new secretary of commerce, Carlos Gutierrez -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) thing about him is, do you know how much money he gave to George Bush's campaign?

O'BEIRNE: Zero.

NOVAK: Zero money. He was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and he raised no funds. He's not a Pioneer. He's not a Ranger. So I think those are interesting ones.

Now, the fact of poor John Snow, secretary of treasury, who was -- was told -- a reporter for "The Post" reported that the White House said that he could stay as long as he wanted, as long as it wasn't too long. (LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: And he is hanging in the wind. And they...

HUNT: To put it charitably.

NOVAK: And he's -- I don't think he's going to leave this week or -- but he -- nobody think he's going to last more than six months. And what they need is a powerful secretary of the treasury.

HUNT: Do you have a candidate?

NOVAK: I have a candidate. I think Phil Gramm would be a terrific secretary of the treasury, but he is a lot of trouble (ph). And whether they are -- they are looking at him, I know, and whether he -- I don't even know if he wants it. But it would be a very interesting thing.

I wanted to say one other thing. John Danforth leaving as ambassador to the U.N. was a surprise, and I think he thinks the U.N. is a mess. He doesn't want to get involved in it. He's 68 years old. That's not what he signed up for.

HUNT: Kate?

O'BEIRNE: Bob just prompted me to -- to say that White House staff I think ought to knock it off with those kind of graceless blind quotes about people who came to serve, served loyally, and they deserve a lot better. And I think some people at the White House can be faulted for those kinds of cracks about -- about people. It's unbecoming and ungracious.

HUNT: Margaret...

CARLSON: You know, Phil Gramm...

HUNT: ... I mean, poor John...

CARLSON: ... doesn't -- Phil Gramm does not fit Kate's description of a good cabinet secretary because he does have his own opinions and he would be a lot of trouble. He'd be in the Colin Powell mode, which Kate disapproves of.

Al, what were you going to ask me? Sorry!

HUNT: No, I was going to ask you what kind of mode Phil Gramm would be.

CARLSON: Oh!

(LAUGHTER)

HUNT: But you anticipated...

CARLSON: See, I anticipate your...

HUNT: You anticipated my question!

CARLSON: ... every need!

NOVAK: You don't think that Bernie Kerik is in that mode, do you, that he's a yes man?

CARLSON: No, I don't know that much about Bernie Kerik. He seems like a tough guy. And it's going to take a tough guy because, remember, Bush didn't even want Homeland Security. It doesn't get the attention it deserves...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... story. Got to keep up.

HUNT: Who can be...

CARLSON: He still doesn't like it.

HUNT: Who would they tap as a top economic -- how would Phil Gramm go over, do you think?

FAZIO: I think Phil has his problems in Congress. He's not someone universally loved, even on his side of the aisle. He's kind of a hammer, not a velvet glove.

O'BEIRNE: He's extremely -- he's so bright, though. He's -- he could be extremely reassuring talking about personal accounts in Social Security and fundamental tax reform...

FAZIO: There's no question he has the intellectual...

O'BEIRNE: ... because he's fiercely smart...

FAZIO: ... ability.

NOVAK: He even understands...

FAZIO: There's no question about that.

NOVAK: He even understands monetary policy.

HUNT: Uh-oh! Uh-oh!

CARLSON: You know, something that...

HUNT: We'll go to the gold standard, then, Bob!

Next on CAPITAL GANG, though, the president's tour of the great white north.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUNT: Welcome back. President Bush got a stormy greeting from protesters in Canada and from one back-bench member of the Canadian parliament. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAROLYN PARRISH, CANADIAN MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: I think the reason Mr. Bush didn't address the parliament was they were having a hard time finding common ground that he could talk about. We do not support the war in Iraq. We are not impressed with 100,000 dead Iraqis. We're not impressed with 1,000 dead American soldiers. So what would be the basis of the conversation?

BUSH: I want to thank the Canadian people who came out to wave -- with all five fingers -- for...

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: -- for their hospitality.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: In closing ceremonies, the president and Canadian prime minister Paul Martin attempted reconciliation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Sometimes even the closest of friends disagree. And two years ago, we disagreed about the best course of action in Iraq.

PAUL MARTIN, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: We're in a war against terrorism, and we are in it together, Americans and Canadians! We must defend this continent, secure its borders, guard its ports, and Canada is absolutely committed to doing whatever needs to be done!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: Kate O'Beirne, does Bush -- does Bush's visit signal a thaw in our relations with Canada?

O'BEIRNE: I think a number of things signal that thaw, Al. It's well to remember they've always been left (ph) in Canada. Ronald Reagan was heckled when he addressed Parliament in 1987 during a visit to Canada. But with the new prime minister there, Paul Martin, far friendlier, I think a decision's been made -- his predecessor, of course, wanted to appease left-wing types by going after us and Bush so much. This prime minister understands, I think, there's more to lose than to gain by doing so.

The decision to go to war in Iraq has been made. It's over. I think a growing number of our allies recognize now it's crucial, however they felt about the initial decision, to win. And I think the president, as a result, had a very well-received speech. The demonstrations wound up not being very much at all. And they were reminded, Canadians and other allies, that this is not just George Bush. He just won a big reelection because a majority of the American public backs George Bush's approach.

HUNT: Margaret, I think of Canadians as such an accommodating people. Why would any wave with less than five fingers at the president?

CARLSON: I think it's very hard to get our good neighbors to the north, who are so accommodating -- they're like neighbors in a sitcom, you know, they just want to help and loan you the garden rake -- to be waving with one finger. You know, it is the high-handed way in which the United States treated all its allies, from "old Europe" to Canada.

When he was up there, the president had a backdrop that reminded me of the USS Abraham Lincoln "Mission Accomplished." It was the picture of Churchill and Roosevelt that the White House put up, and then George Bush is sitting in front of it. I think that's a little overdrawn, especially when you're in a country that doesn't think you've won the war, by a long shot.

O'BEIRNE: Just quick (UNINTELLIGIBLE) point, though. He gave a big thank-you to Canada for the crucial role they played in World War II! And reminding them of that kind of thing is extremely helpful!

HUNT: Bob, do you hate Canada?

NOVAK: Yes, I sort of hate it.

(LAUGHTER)

HUNT: How did I know he was going to say that!

NOVAK: I will say this, that the Americans who love the Canadians, including some sitting at this table, are people who really don't like this country very much...

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: ... because they -- they know how -- how unpleasant the Canadians are treating -- bunch of socialists. They don't -- they don't -- they don't like private enterprise. They are one big blue state...

(LAUGHTER)

HUNT: Kind of a Vermont -- kind of a Vermont north.

NOVAK: Writ large. And those people out there represent -- that -- nasty little back bencher who Paul Martin was decent enough to kick out of the liberal caucus -- she represents a lot of -- a lot of Canadians. On the other hand, I thought the president did very well up there. I thought -- and I give a lot of credit to Prime Minister Martin. Saying -- saying that we're in a war against terrorism was not popular politically in Canada because there are lot of dweebs there who liked that -- his predecessor better.

HUNT: I don't want poor Vic to have to talk about dweebs, but you understand some of these substantive differences on lumber and meat.

FAZIO: Sure.

HUNT: I mean, there really are some...

FAZIO: Beef and lumber. I mean, this is our largest trading partner, and also our biggest energy source. The natural gas we get from Canada is a huge issue in this country, in terms of pricing right now. So you know, if the president needs to begin to start mending fences -- and we all know he does -- the logical thing to do is start next door with Canada.

Now, the president would like a missile defense agreement with them. I'm not sure that's going to be forthcoming. The war in Iraq did undermine a lot of the rest of the agenda for this country, even in places like Canada. So even though Martin is far more accommodating than Chretien ever was, the president still has more to do than just do a visit.

NOVAK: Speaks better English, too, doesn't he.

FAZIO: Well, I think that's a subject that in Quebec, we probably wouldn't want to talk about there, Bob.

I think this president needs a little bit more ongoing, continual emphasis on solving these problems, not episodic drop-by visits.

NOVAK: Let me just say...

HUNT: Bob's got a short (UNINTELLIGIBLE) coming up.

NOVAK: I'm just saying the missile defense thing I thought took a lot of guts to say it. It didn't -- it wasn't popular there. But Vic, you're not going to have -- George Bush has his defects, George W. Bush has his -- but he's not going to go there and crawl on his belly and say, I'm sorry we went into Iraq. That's not going to happen.

FAZIO: No, no, no.

NOVAK: You may want it to happen, Vic...

FAZIO: No.

NOVAK: ... but it's not going to happen!

FAZIO: I think the tone he set this time was a good start. I just don't think it's enough.

HUNT: I've known Vic Fazio for 20 years, and he's never asked anybody to crawl like that, Robert Novak. And I want to thank you for being on our show today.

FAZIO: Thank you, Al.

HUNT: It was good to see you, Vic.

FAZIO: Good to see everybody.

HUNT: Coming up next, in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG, our "Pro/Con Debate": Should the medicinal use of marijuana be sanctioned by the courts? We'll go "Beyond the Beltway" to New Jersey to look at the coming governor's race, and our "Outrages of the Week," all after a check of the hour's top stories.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

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

This week the Supreme Court heard an appeal regarding patients who use medical marijuana.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it wasn't for Canada I really would not be here today talking to you and fighting for my rights.

RANDY BENNETT, ATTY. FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA USERS: The idea here is that the existence of states and state's laws protects liberty and in this case it's the liberty of people to use medical cannabis.

CALVINA FAY, DRUG FREE AMERICA FOUNDATION: None of this is being driven by doctors. It's not. It's been rejected. Marijuana is rejected as a medicine by all of the major medical associations. It's a handful of people who want to see not just marijuana but all drugs legalized.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: Should medicinal use of marijuana be sanctioned by the courts, pro or con -- Bob Novak?

NOVAK: It shouldn't be. This is a scam. This is people who want to legalize marijuana want to ride in under this medical marijuana thing. The idea that you smoke something to get well, I understand there are pills. The idea in this day and age, the fact that I'm alive shows the wonderful thing of American medicine. That you have to go to marijuana to relieve pain is ridiculous. This is all a scam to legalize marijuana. If you want to have a fight to legalize marijuana go ahead. Welcome to it. I don't think you'd win it.

HUNT: You know that you'd be cheering her if you had marijuana Bob.

CARLSON: Bob, when you broke your hip and the doctor said take two tokes and call me in the morning you would have been much better off, much better off. Listen, another reason for people to go to Canada, sick people to go to Canada. Of course that may be the administration's...

NOVAK: Pro or con?

CARLSON: I'm pro in that I think it's been shown to relieve people's pain and there's no reason, you know, not to do it. It's just that politicians don't want to be seen in a Cheech and Chong category of people so they don't want to stand up and be for it.

HUNT: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: I am pro, provisions, referendum to permit the medical use of marijuana have passed in almost a dozen states, not because all of the people who voted in favor of it favor drug legalization. I don't for one favor drug legalization.

I think a credible case has been made that the use of marijuana as prescribed by a doctor can relieve people's suffering and I think that the drug -- one of the most ridiculous aspects of this drug war, which we are conspicuously not winning, is denying people who are suffering the use of something that might provide some relief in the name of fighting the drug war.

HUNT: I associate myself very much with the gentle lady, Ms. O'Beirne from the "National Review." I think that if you have tight controls, I think you have to have tight controls.

I don't want everybody to be able to go over the counter and buy pot but with tight controls, with doctor supervision, it seems to me if there is a medical case for it, I see absolutely no harm. We have actual drugs that are given to people that are far more lethal than marijuana and I see no reason why marijuana should be different.

CARLSON: The side effects of marijuana are less than the side effects say for morphine.

NOVAK: As the years go by I am stunned by the naivety I encounter at this table.

HUNT: Really are you?

CARLSON: Do you think we're all going to work high...

HUNT: Is it universal?

CARLSON: ...with medical marijuana?

NOVAK: Well, if I could say that I really -- I really am particularly stunned by Kate who is a savvy politician, understands how things go and this is all a scam. It is all -- they don't care about these sick people. What they want is they want to change the culture of America, make them pot smokers, to change -- to change the young people into all good blue voters and it's all...

CARLSON: If you're high you're going to vote blue?

HUNT: Kate, have you really put on beads and sandals?

O'BEIRNE: Bob, you have to excuse my naivety, chalk it up to my youth, Bob. I'll just -- I'm not quite as experienced as you are yet. All of those people, those people who voted to permit this medical use of marijuana do not favor drug legalization. Whatever, now some people who make the medical marijuana case obviously want to go much further but that shouldn't discredit the case on the merits that people make on behalf of suffering patients.

NOVAK: But that's a naivety. It's not that they're for medical marijuana. It's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) them. It's bringing them into this drug legalization thing through the back door through this thing of gee we got to be nice to the sick people.

CARLSON: Not everything (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

HUNT: You don't believe -- you don't believe we should be nice to sick people necessarily, right?

CARLSON: No. Yes, these bleeding heart liberals with their sick people.

HUNT: On the record.

CARLSON: Yes.

HUNT: You know (UNINTELLIGIBLE) want to be nice to sick people.

CARLSON: Yes.

HUNT: You know, I am not for legalizing drugs in general either, Kate, but I do think we waste a lot of time trying to bust people for pot. That just is not what law enforcement...

NOVAK: Let them go. Let them break the laws just as much as they want, right?

HUNT: Is that what you're for?

NOVAK: No, is that what you're saying?

HUNT: No.

CARLSON: No, but not using law enforcement to enforce a law that doesn't...

O'BEIRNE: I agree with Al that it has to be strictly regulated and what we're learning in the states that have permitted is you'll see examples of what state does it right, where are patient registries kept, where are there not abuses? It's one of the wonderful things about (UNINTELLIGIBLE) system.

CARLSON: And there haven't been any runaway states (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NOVAK: I think when your daughter after you legalize marijuana she goes down to the corner marijuana store for a toke, I think you'll say Novak was right.

HUNT: Bob, is that where you go for marijuana you go to the corner store?

NOVAK: Under legalization you will.

HUNT: Oh, okay.

NOVAK: Under legalization.

O'BEIRNE: Marijuana is not available -- it won't be available or isn't except for the medical use.

NOVAK: You can get anything. You can get cocaine. You can get heroin.

HUNT: Right. I just want to say speaking for Margaret and Kate that we are pro sick people but in any event, pro taking care of sick people.

CARLSON: Pro getting better.

HUNT: Exactly.

Coming up THE CAPITAL GANG classic, Bush's new economic team named two years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Here's your CAPITAL GANG trivia question of the week. How many states have active medical marijuana programs; a) 7; b) 10; or c) 15? We'll have the answer right after the break.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Before the break we asked how many states have active medical marijuana programs. The answer is B, 10.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: Welcome back.

Two years into President Bush's first term after dumping his top economic advisers, the president tapped railroad executive John Snow to be treasury secretary and investment banker Stephen Friedman to be his national economic adviser.

THE CAPITAL GANG discussed this on December 14, 2002.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BEIRNE: This new team is going to push the Bush agenda. Some people on this panel would like to see different people surrounding the president but this president's agenda is not an anti tax cut deficit phobic agenda and so I think the new team members are going to be on his team.

HUNT: Oh, you see (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he was a rather average CEO. As for Mr. Friedman, honestly I talked to a number of people all of whom say this guy is an exceptional talent. He's too conservative for my taste.

NOVAK: When I hear you saying Steve Friedman is a terrific guy it makes me wonder why he named somebody who contributed so much money to Chuck Schumer's campaign and is a vice chairman of the Concord Coalition. I think these are very strange picks.

CARLSON: Either it doesn't matter what they believe, these two guys, and they're just front men or Bush is going to become a deficit hawk and be more like his father and Clinton and we're going to have surpluses again at some time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HUNT: Margaret Carlson, how did President Bush's picks measure up to our expectations?

CARLSON: Well, we don't hear that much from any economic team because Bush keeps economics, you know taxes and deficits closer than any president. He's not going to let some guy from Wall Street who is a deficit hawk come in and say, listen, we can't have these deficits. John Snow, you know, Bob's quote earlier which is you can stay as long as you want as long as you don't stay too long, how much did we hear from him? He's a Concord Coalition kind of guy.

HUNT: Did we get what we expected Kate?

O'BEIRNE: I think we did with respect to the fact that George Bush had an agenda and he wasn't looking for idea people to tell him what they ought to be doing. John Snow gets very high marks from members of Congress. They'll tell you that he was among the best cabinet members to work with.

He was very hands on passing the tax bill. Whether or not he was on television he was doing an important job there and he also got very high marks from management, wound up being a better manager of the Treasury Department than his predecessor.

HUNT: Robert.

NOVAK: That wasn't hard. Paul O'Neill was a disaster.

HUNT: As a manager?

NOVAK: I think that -- yes, as a manager. He was a horrible manager. I think the problem that I envisioned that they wouldn't be loyal or at least the three of them wouldn't be loyal that was not true. Neither one of them, unlike O'Neill, ever undercut the president.

HUNT: Right.

NOVAK: They just didn't accomplish very much in pushing the program. They had a program presented for them in advance. They were supposed to promote it and they just (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

HUNT: Well, I confess... (CROSSTALK)

HUNT: I was surprised. I thought Steve Friedman would be a heavyweight like his -- like his Goldman Sachs colleague Bob Rubin (ph). He just didn't leave much of a mark.

THE CAPITAL GANG always leaves a mark and next Beyond the Beltway assesses the candidates running for New Jersey governor, joining us Tom Turcol of "The Philadelphia Inquirer."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUNT: Welcome back.

Senator Jon Corzine entered the race for governor of New Jersey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY: A return to American values, the concern for community, believe in each other and integrity in public life must begin somewhere. I believe they need to begin right here in New Jersey.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: Republican contenders include Doug Forrester, a businessman who lost the 2002 U.S. Senate race and former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler defeated for governor by James McGreevey in 2001 who said, "I don't have as much money as Jon Corzine. I want him to know New Jersey is not for sale."

The latest Quinnipiac poll shows Corzine with a 20-point lead over his likely Republican opponents. The acting governor, Democrat Richard Cody won't announce his intentions until January.

Joining us from New York is Tom Turcol who covers New Jersey politics for "The Philadelphia Inquirer." Tom thanks for coming in.

TOM TURCOL, "PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER": You're welcome.

HUNT: Tom, does Jon Corzine have this race all sewed up?

TURCOL: Well, his enormous wealth clearly makes him the 800- pound gorilla of New Jersey politics. He goes into the race with enormous advantages starting out with his money. Remember this is the guy who spent nearly $70 million of his own money to win his Senate seat in 2000, so although Republicans are attacking him now, he's the one Democrat that they feared facing in the governor's race this year.

Not only does he have the money, he's also well liked. He has very high voter approval ratings. His left of center politics is in line with the sentiment of New Jersey voters, which is a very moderate to liberal state.

And, add to that the fact that he was a CEO on Wall Street makes it hard to attack him as anti-business, you know, like a lot of Democrats get attacked. So, he's got big advantages.

On the flipside, you know, Republicans like Tom Kean and Christy Whitman have shown that moderate Republicans can win in New Jersey and although George Bush lost by seven points this time it was a big improvement over his showing in 2000 when he lost by 16 points.

HUNT: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Tom, is the acting governor who is going to have all the power of the state behind him is he just chopped liver? Is he that -- does he have no chance at all in a primary from the time that he's able to travel the state and be able to generate some support?

TURCOL: Well, there's no question that the power of the governor's office would give Richard Cody, you know, a big boost in a primary but most Democratic insiders don't believe he's -- don't believe he's going to challenge Corzine. There is this aura surrounding Corzine like, you know, like I said before he is the power, the big power in state politics.

Dick Cody is a very savvy politician. He's been in the legislature for 31 years but most insiders don't think in the end he'll do it. If he does, it could be a treacherous path for Corzine.

HUNT: OK. Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Hey, Tom, not that New Jersey is only "The Sopranos," but it does have a reputation as an equal opportunity state for corruption. Is Corzine going to be saddled with the McGreevey administration in a way that the Republicans might have their own problems for their past politicians there?

TURCOL: Yes, the Republicans are certainly going to do everything they can to hang Jim McGreevey around Jon Corzine's neck. You know, if you remember in Boston at the last day of the convention when there was a lot of talk about Corzine running against McGreevey in a primary before McGreevey's problems, you know, came to the surface, Jon Corzine stood on stage with Jim McGreevey, hugged him, said he's a great governor, you know. I support him to the hilt. So, certainly they'll try to do that.

But the thing, you know, in New Jersey in the last three election cycles four frontrunners for statewide office, two for governor and two for the U.S. Senate, including two incumbents, have had to drop out because of ethics problems, so it's just been a continuing circle of scandal, you know, surrounding these elections and because of the volatility, because of the volatility of New Jersey politics you just don't know.

HUNT: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Tom, four years ago nobody knew who Jon Corzine was. As you remind us, he spent $70 million to get himself elected to a Senate seat. Now he's changed his mind because apparently he wants to be governor. You also have Senator Lautenberg serving who had retired from the Senate, changed his mind, decided to go back, any backlash to these kind of seemingly opportunistic decisions being made by these New Jersey Democrats?

TURCOL: You know there could be a backlash but there hasn't seemed to have been that in the past. I mean the New Jersey voters have been pretty forgiving about those kinds of things. The Republicans are already on the attack with that now and Corzine will have a difficult time defending against that but in the end, I think that the issues of, you know, property taxes and things like that are going to come -- are going to, you know, override that.

I think Corzine's main problem is going to be a potential backlash he faces over the money issue. You know, in his announcement yesterday he said that by spending his own money he is the candidate who can say that he's un-bossed and un-bought and that he's beholding to no one and that's going to be a strong line.

But in 2000, although he, you know, trounced his opponent in the primary, he only won the general election by three points. Toward the end of that campaign in the closing weeks there was a growing backlash and many analysts believe that if that race lasted two weeks longer that he would have lost that election.

HUNT: Tom, New Jersey is a blue state but as you pointed out Tom Kean, Christy Whitman have demonstrated that moderate Republicans can do very well in the Garden State. Handicap the Republican field now. Who would be the strongest candidate?

TURCOL: Well, the two frontrunners right now are Doug Forrester who is -- you know, some people describe him as Corzine-like. He's a -- he's got -- he's worth several million dollars and he's already started spending his personal wealth on the campaign. He's running about $1 million worth of TV commercials as we speak.

Forrester is the kind of moderate Republican that a lot of establishment figures are hoping to coalesce behind in order to put a moderate centrist candidate on the ballot in the fall.

His main opposition is Bret Schundler who is a more conservative -- who is a more conservative candidate. He got labeled in the 2001 campaign as his stance is against gun control and against abortion rights, did him in from the very start. His campaign never got off the ground. He ended up losing by 16 points.

But Schundler has a very committed base of supporters in a Republican primary, so this primary is going to be basically between those two, the more moderate candidate versus the conservative. The strongest Republican candidate who many felt was the strongest, the U.S. attorney decided that it was too big a risk and he decided not to run.

HUNT: Tom thanks for joining us.

The gang will be back with the Outrages of the Week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUNT: And now for the Outrages of the Week. Now he tells us. The independent counsel's office never should have investigated the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky relationship. That's not the view of some Clinton (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It's what independent counsel Kenneth Starr himself, much too belatedly, admitted to the Santa Barbara news press after a speech on Wednesday. He should have focused instead on his mandate, Clinton's role in that failed Whitewater land deal. So, we wasted years, tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on a political miscalculation -- Bob.

NOVAK: Believe it or not, the Reverend Jesse Jackson's call for a recount of Ohio presidential vote has picked up support. It wasn't that close. John Kerry would have to gain an astounding 60,000 more votes to carry Ohio and the Electoral College.

Nevertheless, there are demands now backed by the Kerry campaign for a recall based on bogus claims of fraud. This is in the same piece with bitter enders who are still displaying Kerry buttons, posters and bumper stickers. The best advice for them the election is over and you should get over it.

HUNT: Margaret.

CARLSON: Ouch. With Jason Giambi and Marion Jones now known to have taken steroids and Ron Artest being criminally angry, I wonder is there any sports figure who doesn't take steroids and what is noble about sports any longer?

It's a collection of pampered, pumped up brats ready to switch teams for a higher payout. No wonder fans spray beer on them when they don't perform up to their gazillion dollars or when they're attacked in the stands by 6'7" galoots.

Now, when Washington gets its stadium, what do you think is going to be cut, libraries. I'm all for giving the city something to cheer about with a baseball team but can't we both read and play ball?

HUNT: Kate.

O'BEIRNE: Whoever thought we'd see the day that the International Red Cross played a destructive role in the quest for humane rules to govern the violent business of war? Thoroughly politicized the once venerable organization is now only aroused of alleged abuses by the United States.

It objects to the centuries-old practice of holding enemy combatants until the end of hostilities and wants POW status conferred on an enemy who violates the Geneva Conventions by viciously waging war on civilians. Why exactly does the United States contribute $200 million a year to this left-wing interest group?

HUNT: This is Al Hunt saying goodnight for THE CAPITAL GANG.

Coming up next "CNN PRESENT: FAT CHANCE, THE GROWING PROBLEM OF OBESITY."

At 9:00 p.m., "LARRY KING LIVE," Donald Trump. And, at 10:00 p.m. "CNN SATURDAY NIGHT."

Thanks 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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