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CNN CAPITAL GANG

Analysis of President Bush's response to the tsunami disaster/Analysis of the position of embattled United Nations secretary general Kofi Anna/Analysis of confirmation hearings for White House counsel Alberto Gonzales for attorney general

Aired January 8, 2005 - 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.

President Bush brought in two former U.S. presidents to help address the tsunami disaster.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our nation has committed military assets and made more -- made an initial commitment of $350 million for disaster relief. We're working with the United Nations and with governments around the world to coordinate the comprehensive international response.

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Clinton and I met with the president in Washington, and we got our marching orders, and -- you might say, in a sense. And then we've gone out and started -- began talking about what we think we can do in encouraging others to give.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Frankly, partly because of the terrific way that the American press has covered it, and the press throughout the world, made this kind of organized effort make more sense to the president and the White House. They asked us to help. I was glad to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Secretary of state Colin Powell was dispatched to the disaster area, along with Florida governor Jeb Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I've been in war and I've been through a number of hurricanes, tornadoes and other relief operations, but I have never seen anything like this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, how would you assess the way President Bush has handled this catastrophe? BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Quite well, Mark. I -- the craziest thing was that some of the talking heads and the lunatic Democrats on Capitol Hill started pounding on him because he didn't -- he didn't speak out in two days. He's -- he's not the fastest guy on the draw, but when he spoke out, he was -- he was generous. He was...

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: The fastest guy on the draw?

NOVAK: Yes. You know, he...

(CROSSTALK)

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: In the draw or on the draw?

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: And I thought -- I thought it was fine that he -- he made a great commitment. The United States, predictably, will give more than any other country by a huge margin. I think it was smart to get President Clinton and the senior President Bush out there and not get nasty little President Carter out there. So I thought it was...

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: I thought he did a good job.

CARLSON: Oh, Bob!

SHIELDS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) charitable just ended. Margaret, take it from there.

CARLSON: Right. Jimmy Carter is a great ex-president. Just let me add that.

But listen, sending Clinton is quite a shift because you remember in the days after, when Bush had not spoken, one of the reasons given by White House aides was that he did not want to be like President Clinton, jumping on a tragedy. So now President Clinton is officially jumping on a tragedy on Bush's behalf. But it's very good to see Bush and Clinton both having roles. I hope they -- that the president gets them to do more.

On the -- you know, the amount of money that's being given now privately may outpace the amount that's been given publicly. It's up to $340 million in private funds. And the president didn't lead on this. The very interesting thing is that the American people jumped on this tragedy, and it struck them -- it struck them deeply, and they began to act. And it was then that the president came out, after three days, which is, you know, to his credit that he did, but -- Bob, I really feel that it was -- people -- the good-hearted Americans that he appeals to with his "compassionate conservative" are more compassionate than he gives them credit for.

NOVAK: You never give him credit. You never give him credit for anything, do you.

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: I would argue...

SHIELDS: Oh, she sure does! She's been -- she's been...

CARLSON: He finally gave $10,000 of his own money, and I say, Thank you, President Bush.

O'BEIRNE: In addition to arguing that Jimmy Carter's been a disgraceful former president, I would argue that President Bush probably didn't have an impulse to immediately go to a microphone -- Colin Powell, of course, was representing the United States response at the time -- because he knew the American public didn't have to wait and see whether or not he recommended we give money to this incredible human catastrophe, that we don't, as Americans, wait to see what government direction comes our way. I'm hoping at some point we'll stop the compassion competition -- because it is, of course, true that, ultimately, America will give most. It always does. But the Europeans have been very generous, too. There's an international human response to this catastrophe -- and instead begin focusing on what exactly do they need.

And I'd hope what's not being crowded out in the media with this competition on compassion is the message from people on the ground to those who want to help. What are their needs? Do they need doctors? Is it cash? That's the crucial thing to focus on now, not where it's coming from.

SHIELDS: Al, do you share Kate's assessment of Jimmy Carter as...

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: And my assessment.

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: No.

SHIELDS: Just disregard Bob.

(LAUGHTER)

HUNT: You know, it's funny, because I agree with most of what both Kate and Bob said, with that very notable exception. Margaret is absolutely right and they're wrong on that score. However, look, George Bush had a fumbling start. I mean, as Bob said, he wasn't the fastest draw on the -- in the -- was it the fastest gun in the draw? But he's recovered very nicely, and I think the effort has been very good. I agree the Powell-Jeb Bush trip has been very constructive. Clinton and Bush 41 was a very, very good idea. And what they're doing over there seems to be constructive. It's not just American financial aid...

O'BEIRNE: Right.

HUNT: ... but you know, American military can deliver things that nobody else in the world can deliver. It is terribly important we continue, however, Mark. This is a variation of what Joe Nye, the great Harvard political scientist, has termed "soft power." And you can do a lot militarily, but you can do a lot more sometimes and it can be a lot more durable with this kind of assistance because these people need it. And our standing in that part of the world for the next 10 or 20 years is going to be largely determined...

NOVAK: I just -- I just want to tell...

HUNT: ... by how well we do...

NOVAK: ... Margaret that $350 million is not the -- is not the government figure. I mean, that doesn't include the money for sending the military over there and...

O'BEIRNE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) $350 million, I think.

NOVAK: Yes. It's going to be -- it's going to be double or triple that.

SHIELDS: I would simply point out, in the interest of accuracy, that Australia has committed $800 million, I mean, which is an enormous, enormous contribution for a country of that size.

CARLSON: Yes. Americans -- each of us spends 15 cents of our tax dollars a day on foreign aid in general. So it's a very...

O'BEIRNE: Well, we don't like foreign aid!

CARLSON: ... very, very small part of...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: A year.

CARLSON: A year. Yes.

O'BEIRNE: But you know, what we give willingly, not through our tax dollars, completely dwarfs what tax dollars are spent. We give $34 billion privately every year in international aid, 10 times the entire U.N. budget, three times what we give publicly. We give it freely. We don't want for Washington to take it from us!

NOVAK: I'd like to eliminate...

CARLSON: You know...

NOVAK: ... all that. I think that something like this, you appropriate it. I think most of those ongoing programs should be eliminated.

HUNT: Well, all I can is that George Bush gave $10,000 and was generous. Can you imagine what Bob Novak could give?

O'BEIRNE: Well, maybe he has given!

HUNT: And probably has. O'BEIRNE: Exactly.

CARLSON: You know, TV -- TV turns out to be the best fund-raiser that there is, and...

SHIELDS: That's a good point.

CARLSON: ... you know, let's hope that the cameras can, say, maybe move over to the Sudan.

SHIELDS: Yes. That's a very good point, 800,000 people dead, and uncovered, basically.

THE GANG of five will be back with the secretary general of the U.N. at the disaster area.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. The embattled secretary general of the United Nations visited the disaster area.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: I must admit I have never seen such utter destruction, mile after mile. And you wonder, Where are the people? What happened to them?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, can the disaster -- this disaster -- rehabilitate the reputation of the United Nations and its secretary general?

CARLSON: You know, I think it can help. There's -- there's no way that Kofi Annan can upstage Secretary Powell, who's had a great week there, but the U.N. is much in need of rehabilitation. And the oil-for-food program -- that report isn't out yet, of course, but it does not look good for Kofi Annan or his son. There are blue-helmeted peacekeepers charged with trading in sex and prostitution in African countries. And they're going to be on the line for the elections on January 30 in Iraq. And Kofi Annan worked more or less against President Bush in the election. So he does need to mend some fences. And certainly, being out there in a purely humanitarian way is the best thing that Kofi Annan can do.

There was a meeting last week, actually, where his friends in New York said to him, You need to do everything you can to both administratively clean up the U.N....

NOVAK: Those were your friends, too, I take it.

CARLSON: Well, Ambassador -- former ambassador Richard Holbrooke is a friend of mine.

NOVAK: Sure.

CARLSON: I admire his work.

NOVAK: Certainly.

CARLSON: Yes. And yours?

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) friends of yours.

HUNT: Well, Dick Holbrooke's an old friend of yours.

NOVAK: That's right.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Yes, is this an accusation?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Yes, he's my friend.

O'BEIRNE: One thing that came out of that meeting, some of the leaked details about that meeting are people trying to -- friends of the U.N. trying to help Kofi Annan, was Richard Holbrooke's point to him, a reminder that the U.N. without the U.S. support is a failed institution. Now, many people believe that even with U.S. support, the U.N. is a failed institution. And of course, they're eager to take credit for everything they might be able to do now in the area of humanitarian assistance, but even there, their limitations are on full display.

If it weren't for American military assets and the Australian military assets, U.N. coordinators would be sitting around some hotel trying to coordinate aid. So even when they have the will, they really don't have the ability without all these assets of the member countries.

And they really -- because of the politics of the U.N., they only respond to humanitarian disasters when they are, you know, acts of nature. They didn't do anything in Rwanda. As Margaret points out, they're unable to do anything in Sudan. They ignored 100,000 Kurds being killed because, invariably, it's a member nation or one of their pals killing all of these people, which is another incredible limitation of the U.N.'s when there's human suffering.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt?

HUNT: Well, as usual, Ambassador Holbrooke is right. The U.N. is a terribly flawed institution, but it's also a very essential institution. That track record, Kate, is undeniable, but there've been successes, too -- Cambodia, for instance.

I think one thing the U.N. can do here is to keep the spotlight on this, to keep -- to keep worldwide attention on it. What often happens in these tragedies, Mark, is after the television cameras have -- have gone, then the support dissipates. Hurricane Mitch back in 1998 wreaked havoc on Central America. Nine billion dollars was pledged. Only a third of that has been delivered. We can't let that happen here.

SHIELDS: And one thing the U.N. can do, Bob, is that -- for example, through countries that are -- their aid would not be acceptable for one reason or another -- they can act as that -- that honest broker in bringing aid. I mean, for example, the United -- Israel can't send aid because of -- direct aid. They won't accept it...

O'BEIRNE: That's disgraceful.

SHIELDS: ... because they're Jewish.

CARLSON: Right.

O'BEIRNE: That's totally disgraceful.

SHIELDS: So -- but I mean -- but you know, the idea of being able to coordinate aid is a -- is a...

NOVAK: The last I heard, Israel was a negative on the aid business, anyway. They're a taker, rather than a giver, so...

O'BEIRNE: Well, they tried to help with the tsunami and it was rejected...

(CROSSTALK)

O'BEIRNE: ... disgraceful.

NOVAK: Instead of taking our money and turning it over, I think we ought to just give the money straight, rather than siphoning it through Israel. That doesn't make much sense to me.

But I don't know what use the -- the U.N. is. I do know that it's -- it's corrupt. It's -- it's anti-American. It's anti-Western. Its ideals are not our ideals. Kofi Annan didn't wear his stuffed shirt there, but he is a stuffed shirt. And...

CARLSON: Who stuffs your shirts?

NOVAK: But by the way, Margaret, with -- with endorsements like yours, he doesn't need attacks.

CARLSON: Well, you know...

NOVAK: But you...

CARLSON: ... we would not be able to run these elections on January 30 in Iraq without...

NOVAK: Oh, well...

CARLSON: ... the U.N. overseeing them.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: It's a very good point, Margaret.

NOVAK: We won't get any help from them.

SHIELDS: Margaret...

NOVAK: I will say -- I will say this, that he is in big trouble, and going to the disaster area with his collar open is not going to help him.

SHIELDS: I will say this, in conclusion, in total rebuttal to Dr. Novak, and that is the president of the United States, George W. Bush, has re-expressed and refortified his own support and the support of the United States for the United Nations. Good for you, Mr. President.

Next on THE CAPITAL GANG, the grilling of Alberto Gonzales.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, at his confirmation hearings to be attorney general of the United States, rejected harsh interrogation of prisoners in the war against terrorism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL DESIGNEE: Contrary to reports, I consider the Geneva conventions neither obsolete nor quaint. This president has said we're not going to engage in torture under any circumstances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: He faced tough questioning from one Republican, as well as from Democrats on the committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Abu Ghraib has hurt us in many ways. I can tell you it is a club that our enemies use, and we need to take that club out of their hands. Guantanamo Bay, the way it's been run has hurt the war effort.

GONZALES: I would respectfully disagree with your statement that we're becoming more like our enemy. We are nothing like our enemy, Senator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The Judiciary Committee chairman assessed the nominee's performance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Some of his answers were not entirely satisfactory, but when you ask a man to recall what specific conversations were three years ago, it's very hard to do that. I think overall, Judge Gonzales acquitted himself well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, is this nominee in trouble, any trouble for Senate confirmation?

HUNT: No, Mark.

SHIELDS: Why?

HUNT: There will not be a single Republican, I would venture, that will buck President Bush on his request for a new attorney general. I don't think -- I think there'll be very few Democrats who are going to vote against the first Hispanic attorney general and someone who promises to be a far more sensitive AG than John Ashcroft.

But I think his answers this week on the torture memos were not only disappointing, but you wonder if he gets it. As Republican senator Lindsey Graham pointed out -- and I think there are POWs like -- ex-POWs, rather, like John McCain who agree -- Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have really been -- they've hurt us. They've been really -- it's not only wrong, they've been terribly injurious. And I think it's clear that those memos and some other high-level decisions set that in motion.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, your take on the Gonzales hearings and Gonzales's answers.

NOVAK: Well, Gonzales is not a guy who really sends me...

SHIELDS: Doesn't light up the room.

NOVAK: He doesn't light up the room. He -- I thought he had a bad record on abortion when he was in the supreme court of Texas. I don't think he's been terribly impressive as chief counsel at the White House. But the president likes him. He wants to make him his attorney general, that's fine.

I thought that this -- this -- I couldn't get a handle on this odd hearing. I thought that they were sort of pretending that he was John Ashcroft, you know, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Well, is this as terrible as Ashcroft? What do you say to that? And his answer, in effect, was, I'm not Ashcroft.

But he doesn't impress me a lot, but he -- but the president likes him, and he's entitled to his own attorney general.

SHIELDS: Kate, are you equally unimpressed as Bob is by Alberto Gonzales?

O'BEIRNE: You know what I'm impressed by? The Democrats' willingness to run the risk of running under a banner of prisoner rights for terrorists. This is why they're now backing off. They wanted to mess him up, mess around with him a little bit, but I don't think they are willing to stake their political futures on fighting for Khalid Shayk Muhammed's right to commissary -- the mastermind of 9/11 -- commissary privileges, a sports uniform, musical instruments.

Look, some public servants get to sit in committee hearing rooms, OK, and make speeches. Some public servants are on the front lines, living in the real world, who have to make very tough decisions. Torture? No. Stress techniques? Yes. That happens to yield valuable intelligence. The Schlesinger committee report found no connection between the depraved, illegal, abusive behavior at Abu Ghraib and anything to do with this memo. The apparent mastermind of Abu Ghraib, may I remind you, was accused of abusing prisoners right here in the U.S. of A. That's who that guy was.

SHIELDS: But FBI -- FBI -- subsequent FBI reports have indicated that torture was not by any means limited to Abu Ghraib.

O'BEIRNE: There have -- 50 -- Schlesinger also found -- I'll quickly explain. We've actually investigated this. We ought to at least take benefit of what we've learned. The Schlesinger report said 50,000 have come into our -- into our hands in Afghanistan and Iraq -- 50,000. There have been 300 reported case of abuse. Shouldn't happen. Every one is being investigated, and we prosecute them. Torture has never been the position of this administration. Ever!

SHIELDS: Margaret, there was on the books for two years a memo to Alberto Gonzales from the Justice Department saying that physical pain akin to that caused by organ failure and death were -- were considered appropriate measures to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

CARLSON: Right.

O'BEIRNE: That's -- that's considered torture! Not appropriate!

SHIELDS: No, no. That was for two years the operative memo.

CARLSON: Up to that is OK, though. And they just walked back from that. The most disturbing question at the hearing was, Well, is torture allowed now? What -- what exactly is -- is going on now? And Mr. Gonzales said, I'll have to get back to you on that. So we don't know exactly what the -- what the rule is now. He also said that he was representing the White House. Now he'll be representing all the people in this, quote, "great nation of ours," which is a striking difference. I mean, I didn't know that when you were White House counsel, you would -- you would advise that the Geneva conventions were quaint and obsolete because you're not representing all the people in this great nation.

The hearings were epitomized for me by Senator Biden saying, "Old buddy" to -- to Mr. Gonzales as he was questioning him, and I felt that -- you know, they really didn't bring out -- other than -- Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican, was sharper in his questioning and more impassioned about the torture and what it's done to America's standing in the world than any of the Democrats.

NOVAK: So you were really upset that they didn't do an auto da fe. You know what an auto da fe is? CARLSON: I do. And I thought the...

NOVAK: And -- and...

SHIELDS: Why don't you explain to our listeners, Bob.

NOVAK: The Spanish Inquisition, they used to pull out fingernails and tear out the eyes of people they didn't like. I mean, it was -- I thought it was a fairly tame confirmation hearing, even...

CARLSON: Very, very tame.

NOVAK: ... even a guy who can be very thuggish, like Senator Schumer, wasn't too thuggish.

O'BEIRNE: Look, two -- two of Pat Leahy's own legal experts, when they were -- when they were pressed, explained that, yes, they agreed, these terrorists do not fall under the Geneva convention. And I think what's really startling as you watch this Republican candidate to be attorney general is the fact that a former Democratic attorney general, Ramsey Clark, is going to be defending Saddam Hussein. And instead, Al Gonzales has been doing the really hard work of trying to figure out how to fight the war on terrorism and save American lives!

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Can I just make one point here, though? If these memos were so benign, why were -- why were they withdrawn the minute -- almost the minute they became public? And why did so many military officers, including Colin Powell, and so many -- so many CIA agents and so many FBI agents find them unacceptable?

O'BEIRNE: Do you want me to answer that?

HUNT: Because they weren't acceptable. That's why.

O'BEIRNE: I thought you were asking me!

CARLSON: Wait!

(CROSSTALK)

O'BEIRNE: I thought you were asking me!

CARLSON: OK, wait...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Let her answer the question!

(CROSSTALK)

O'BEIRNE: They were written for the benefit of the CIA, in particular, and they were never operative with respect to the Defense Department or anywhere else.

CARLSON: Listen, Kate, I don't think there's sympathy for the terrorist, the mastermind of 9/11.

O'BEIRNE: You could sure fool me!

CARLSON: But there are thousands of detainees rounded up who've done nothing. Charges -- there are no charges against them. There's nothing specific that are...

O'BEIRNE: And there have been a number...

CARLSON: ... sitting there.

O'BEIRNE: ... released from Guantanamo Bay who went right back to fighting American troops, Mark! And these are the hard calls people have to make in the real world!

NOVAK: Politically, those hearings were a dud, as far as...

O'BEIRNE: Right.

CARLSON: Total dud.

NOVAK: ... as the Democrats are concerned.

SHIELDS: Would you say, Bob, in conclusion that Alberto Gonzales is no John Mitchell?

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: He's not even -- he's not even a John Ashcroft.

SHIELDS: Is he an Ed Meese?

NOVAK: He might be.

CARLSON: He's not a John.

SHIELDS: He might be an Ed Meese!

Coming up next in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG, our "Sidebar" story of the week, maneuvers in the House over ethics charged against House majority leader Tom DeLay. We'll go "Beyond the Beltway" to CNN correspondent Mike Chinoy in Indonesia for the latest on tsunami relief efforts. And our "Outrages of the Week." That's all after these latest news headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

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

House Republicans reversed their month old decision that would have allowed Tom DeLay to continue as majority leader if he were indicted by a grand jury on campaign finance issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. DAVID DREYER (R), RULES COMMITTEE CHAIR: Minority Leader Tom DeLay stood up at the very outset and made a determination and asked unanimous consent that we modify the conference rules that would go back to the provision that we had. The issue of character assassination is something that has been very, very troubling but Tom DeLay understood that this issue has been a distraction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: However, the House leadership pushed for the removal of Congressman Joel Hefley of Colorado as House Ethics Committee chairman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D) MINORITY LEADER: I find the Hefley removal very disturbing. What it says is that if you honor the ethics process you're out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, does all this point to Tom DeLay's days in the leadership as a strong, decisive, hammer-like leader being numbered?

O'BEIRNE: First, a correction for the record. Congressman Joel Hefley is looking for an exception to policy because he served for four terms on the Ethics Committee. He's not being kicked off. He's just looking for a waiver of sorts.

Look, Tom DeLay is very popular among Republican members. They credit him with watching out for them, their interest. He's been a very effective whip, a very effective majority leader but the very effectiveness that gives him ironclad job security among his colleagues has made him a huge target for liberals and they keep throwing all of these charges against him.

The House Republicans had no intention of permitting state prosecutors, as opposed to federal prosecutors, a federal indictment, to interfere with who might be in their leadership. They meant federal indictments. They all, many of them share suspicions about state indictments when they adopted that rule years ago.

But there is a state prosecutor in Texas who I don't think he has a case that would hold up but many critics think he's been -- is capable of a politicized prosecution, could indict Tom DeLay and, if so, under the House Caucus rules, Tom Delay would have to step aside as leader so his fate to that extent is in the hands of a state prosecutor in Texas, an elected Democrat.

SHIELDS: Al, that elected Democrat, Ronnie Earle, has indicted -- of the 17 politicians indicted, 14 of them have been Republicans -- 14 have been Democrats, excuse me and he's a Democrat himself, so it hardly looks like a partisan witch hunt.

But on this one, in particular, Tom DeLay had become a little bit of a political lightning rod for criticism and his own spokesman put it very well as I said. This gave the Democrats an issue that they could use against us and I think he was speaking candidly.

HUNT: Well, I will say, Mark, that Kate, as usual, has taught me something tonight. It used to be conservatives thought the state and local government was better than the federal government but now we find when it comes to prosecutions it's much better on the federal level so that's good to hear.

BEIRNE: Well, you're right the federal level is politicized.

HUNT: But I also would say on Tom DeLay I think everything that Kate said is right and I think it's starting to change. I think he's now becoming an albatross for these guys and I think all you need is one or two more incidents and they'll drop him and you know, this is -- to paraphrase Lord Acton, the longer you're in power the more your ethical guardrails start to erode and this is an erosion.

SHIELDS: Lord Novak what do you think?

NOVAK: In the first place, Ronnie Earle, the indicting district attorney down in Austin has indicted his political enemies whether they're Democrats or Republicans and, of course, his worst was when he indicted Kay Bailey Hutchison for nothing and tried to drag her out of office.

O'BEIRNE: Three times.

NOVAK: Secondly, the fact of the matter is with Tom DeLay he is losing strength in the House Caucus. I think he's been a very effective leader but politicians are a very nasty breed. When you're down they love to kick you and they started to kick away.

HUNT: Is he down?

NOVAK: He's -- he is -- if Ronnie Earle indicts him, he is out and he'll never get back in my opinion and they're talking about somebody as the next guy is John Baynor (ph) of Wisconsin who's made a spectacular...

PANEL: Of, Ohio.

NOVAK: Of Ohio, I'm sorry, who has made a spectacular comeback after he was defeated by J.C. Watts for his -- as conference chairman.

SHIELDS: It would be a heck of a comeback -- Margaret.

CARLSON: You know it's very hard to find a chair of the House Ethics Committee and they would keep Hefley on if he weren't an honest guy who had tried to do the job fairly. You know, I thought not only is Tom DeLay losing some of his power but there's some shame among members. They did not want to live with a rule that said you can be indicted and keep your leadership position.

NOVAK: Shame? Shame?

CARLSON: Yes. Are you familiar with that?

NOVAK: Not among politicians.

CARLSON: How about among pundits, Bob?

SHIELDS: Last word Margaret Carlson and a tough one it was.

Coming up, THE CAPITAL GANG classic remembering Congressman Bob Matsui.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Here is your CAPITAL GANG trivia question of the week. What did Rep. Matthew Lyon of Vermont do in 1798 to earn the first conduct complaint in the House of Representatives? Was it a) an extramarital affair; b) engage in a fistfight on the House floor; or, c) spat on another Congressman? We'll have the answer right after the break.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Before the break we asked, "What did Rep. Matthew Lyon of Vermont do in 1798 to earn the first conduct complaint in the House of Representatives?" The answer is C, he spat on another Congressman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

After 26 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrat Bob Matsui of California passed away on New Year's Day. He was 63 years old. Bob Matsui appeared six times on THE CAPITAL GANG sharing his views on issues from the Clinton impeachment to Social Security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ROBERT MATSUI (D), CALIFORNIA: Ross Perot doesn't really exist except for the money that he has and frankly the only reason they're pandering to him now is because they want a two person race not a three person race with Ross Perot in the race.

I frankly think that the president really has not committed any impeachable offenses. I think this is a lot of paper, a lot of nothing.

When you're attacked like this in a time of international crisis when your country is being threatened, there's an issue of questioning one's loyalty and when one is branded a potential enemy to one's country, I think that has some deep implications.

The president wants to privatize Social Security. He says that he's going to privatize Social Security and if you do that because Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system, you're going to put the American public in a position where you're going to have to cut benefits even further.

I think the American public though, as the murders of our U.S. troops continue on will insist that we get out at some time and we'll have to make a very, very difficult decision because the Middle East is so volatile.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, after 26 years in the House, what is Bob Matsui's legacy?

HUNT: One of the most decent men to ever serve in American politics. At that memorial service on Thursday in Statutory Hall in the Capitol speakers included Denny Hastert and Bill Clinton, Republican Senators as well as Democratic House members.

I interviewed Bob Matsui in that post 9/11 clip, Mark, and as a child he spent four years in a Japanese American internment camp and he so passionately articulated why that, such behavior is not American.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: In my experience back when I was even at HHS in the '80s, Bob Matsui did the hard work of legislating. It probably surprises people to learn that an awful lot of members of Congress don't and he did and he was a very strong partisan and, of course, a loyal Democrat but always gracious, never disagreeable. He was a gentleman.

SHIELDS: Margaret.

CARLSON: Yes. The most gracious and somebody who I think sometimes who suffered, knows what's really important and he didn't get involved in petty fights. He came in in that post Watergate group so he was a reformer and as we're reviewing the Tom DeLay and all the ethics, a clean government guy, never a whisper of anything about him or actually that group that came in with him.

NOVAK: You should never speak ill of the dead but I have to tell you, I'm going to tell you a secret...

SHIELDS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE.)

NOVAK: I'm going to tell you a secret. Bob Matsui was a big source of mine, a secret source of mine and the Bob Matsui I talked to was not the Bob Matsui on CAPITAL GANG. He told me a lot. He was always accurate. He never exaggerated. He told me some things he probably shouldn't but guys like Bob Matsui, rest in peace Bob because you made my life easier and better.

SHIELDS: He made the country better too.

HUNT: He sure did.

SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG we go "Beyond the Beltway" to Banda Aceh, Indonesia for live update on the tsunami aftermath with CNN's Mike Chinoy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

The U.S. government was helping out in stricken Indonesia last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BAK, USAID: Some of the cases are so severe doctors said that if we hadn't had plucked them they probably wouldn't have made it another few days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The shortage of hospital beds, however, has limited the number of people that can be evacuated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAPT. LARRY BURT, U.S. NAVY: Issues that our air crew are having a hard time dealing with, you know. You see children out there and, you know, young people that are seriously, seriously injured that you know they need help and there's, it's hard to leave them there until we get this problem fixed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Reporting on this situation is CNN's Senior Asia Correspondent Mike Chinoy. He joins us now from Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Mike, by coming to the rescue in Indonesia are the United States and the west earning any gratitude from the world's largest Muslim nation?

MIKE CHINOY, CNN SR. ASIA CORRESPONDENT: I think there's no question that this is a huge opportunity for the U.S. American relations with Indonesia have been complicated for all sorts of reasons.

The presence of a large number of American military forces in the role that they're been playing, especially the helicopter relief flights unquestionably generating a lot of good will for the United States here. The impression is that the U.S., whatever may be going on in Iraq or elsewhere, is willing to put out to help the world's largest Muslim country. It's not gone unnoticed.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: What do you think the position of the United States in Indonesia with the population was or has been up until the time of this disaster and the entrance for the first time of Americans as a helpful hand, helping hand?

CHINOY: Well, it's been kind of ambiguous. On the one hand, the U.S. has had reasonably good relations with the Indonesian government in recent years. We have a new democracy here.

On the other hand, the American war in Iraq has been very unpopular here and there have been also tensions between the U.S. and Indonesians about how aggressively Indonesia was pursuing Islamic terrorists. Indonesia has been the center for Jemaah Islamia, which is the Southeast Asian offshoot of al Qaeda.

So, in a popular sense, the U.S. in terms of the Indonesian public the U.S. wasn't wildly popular but unquestionably this will have some impact in terms of how folks here view what the U.S. is willing to do because the United States has really come through in a big way.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mike, one of the biggest problems this week is the thousands of orphans that relief organizations can't even identify. Some of them are being looked after by other adults who want to help them and, as I understand it, others are being snatched away by people with nefarious things on their mind. They want to sell them on the black market or sell them into sex trade or whatever. Is there a way to get a hold of that and control it?

CHINOY: It's a very difficult issue. We have had these reports of trafficking, although it's hard to tell how widespread. There are a huge number of orphans, a huge number of kids whose whole families have been broken up.

One of the problems here is that the whole fabric of the society has been shattered and not just here in Banda Aceh but for hundreds of miles in either direction. The international aid agencies are doing what they can. The Indonesian authorities have banned all adoptions in Aceh for fear of trafficking.

That's a very sensitive issue. There have been some more radical Islamic groups that have been talking about how to make sure that Acehnese kids don't end up turning into infidels by being adopted by westerners. It is a very fraught, volatile situation which the government and the aid agencies are trying to get a handle on.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Mike, in addition to having a tense relationship with the United States, Indonesia has had its own internal problems, real civil unrest. Some of those rebel areas in Indonesia have been particularly hard hit. How has the Indonesian military responded to the real need in those rebel areas?

CHINOY: That's a very good question. Aceh has been the scene of a bloody war for a long time, separatist rebels fighting the Indonesian Army. The Indonesian military is not popular among many Acehnese. The last couple of weeks both sides have sort of agreed to stop shooting because of the scale of the disaster.

There are some questions about what kind of aid may get through to areas where the rebels are strong because at the moment a lot of the aid effort is being funneled through official channels and here that means to a large degree the Indonesian military and the civilian authorities that work with them.

The other big question mark, of course, is how long the ceasefire will last. The political tensions haven't been resolved. The Indonesian military was not visible on the streets for several days after the tsunami. When I first got here they certainly weren't.

So, there may well be some public resentment over that and it's not impossible that before too long you'll have these political tensions emerging and possibly the resumption of the guerrilla war in one form or another and that, of course, would greatly complicate the whole aid effort.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Mike, I'm going to ask you what might be an offbeat question but amid all this devastation and tragic loss of human life we read reports here that most animals eluded the tsunami. Do you know are those reports true and, if so, did the experts there have any reason why?

CHINOY: You know to be honest I don't know the answer to that one. It's hard to imagine that anything that was alive right on the coast eluded the tsunami. It's possible that because of the quake and the shaking on the ground and so on that disrupted animal life and had a lot of them on the move. But I've been -- I'm not aware of that and my guess is that the human tragedy is so great that that's not something that a lot of folks have focused on.

SHIELDS: Mike Chinoy, you're terrific. We are grateful for you joining us.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: And now for the "Outrages of the Week." Bob Novak will go first.

NOVAK: George W. Bush's reelection was a firm despite a misguided Congressional Black Caucus challenge of the vote in Ohio. They tried the same thing four years ago in Florida but couldn't get any Senator to go along. This year leftist Senator Barbara Boxer of California agreed to force debate and a vote in both Houses. No other Senator joined her. In the House, 20 Black Caucus members voted no but eight colleagues, including the past and present caucus chairs refused to go along. Those really are profiles in courage.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: The chair of Bush's inaugural was asked if $40 million might be better spent on the troops. She said no because the theme of the events is "honoring service." The soldier who asked Secretary Rumsfeld about his armor will no doubt feel better if lobbyists are eating canapes in his honor.

Retched excess looks especially wanton now in the face of massive human suffering in Asia. FDR, whom Bush so admires, cancelled inaugural balls during the war and depression. Couldn't Bush cancel a few balls and donate $20 million?

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: The most recent example of our neighbor to the south's disdain for our laws is the Mexican government's release of its 32- page guide for the Mexican migrant. It tells its citizens how best to sneak into the U.S. and how to avoid detection when they've made it.

The Mexican government has an official guide on how to break the American government's laws. Rather than discourage illegal, dangerous crossings of the border, Mexico merely wants to help make them less dangerous. How's that for being neighborly?

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: This is like shooting fish in a barrel. The Department of Education gave TV pundit and columnist Armstrong Williams $240,000 to plug No Child Left Behind. This was a secret from his viewers and readers until it was revealed this week by "USA Today."

Now there are two outrages here, one the continuing erosion of the wall between journalists and partisan advocates and, two, the Bush administration's willingness to use taxpayers' money for such nefarious purposes. Query, how many more Armstrong Williams have been on the take?

SHIELDS: Since his premature death at the age of 63 this week, the California Democratic Congressman has been accurately praised for being the respected and superb legislator he was. What made Bob Matsui so exceptional was neither his keen intellect nor political skills but instead his decency.

Those on the other side politically were opponents but they were never enemies. Bob Matsui listened to and respected those who disagreed with him. He was a strong partisan but he never got personal. Our national life will miss his civility and will miss his values.

This is Mark Shields saying goodnight for THE CAPITAL GANG.

Coming up next, "SAVING THE CHILDREN" tsunami devastation through the eyes of children.

At 9:00 p.m. Eastern on "LARRY KING LIVE," former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton.

And at 10:00 p.m. heartbreak in Hollywood, Kevin Frasier (ph) from entertainment on the break up of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. Thank you for joining us.

(NEWSBREAK)

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